The Rockin' South

The Rockin' South

CD

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Overview

The NRC group of labels -- including not just NRC, but also Wonder, Scottie, Judd, and others -- put out a bunch of obscure rock & roll recorded in the Atlanta region in the late '50s and early '60s. The Rockin' South has 30 tracks from those rare 45s, just one of which was a substantial national hit (Tony Bellus' "Robbin' the Cradle," which made number 25 in 1959). Like other Ace compilations gathering up odds and ends from small regional rock & roll labels, you're kind of glad this CD exists, if for no other reason than to ensure the company is documented instead of vanishing into the deepest bowels of collectordom. At the same time, it's not something you can muster too much excitement about, even if you're a big fan of the late-'50s white rock & roll and rockabilly that fills up most of this disc. It's largely devoted to adequate and largely generic efforts in those styles, not as out-there as the rawest rockabilly, but not as diluted as much mass-marketed rock & roll was getting around the time the '50s turned into the '60s. The most interesting cuts are the very early efforts by artists who eventually became big names, with three tracks by a teenage Joe South (including his small 1958 novelty hit "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" and the Bo Diddley-influenced "Chills") and Wayne Cochran's strollin' 1959 shuffle "The Coo." Also on hand are a couple 1960 Tommy Roe singles, including the rare and fine original version of "Sheila," which rose to number one in a re-recorded version a couple of years later that much more explicitly brought out its similarity to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue." This much lesser-known original -- plenty of rock & roll fans don't even know Roe did a different earlier version of "Sheila" -- has a much more even and straightforward beat and female backup vocals, without a hint of the rolling "Peggy Sue" beats added on the hit rendition. Other cuts of above-average value are the fairly bluesy, forceful "Congratulations to Me" by Darrell Glenn (most famous for writing and recording the original version of "Crying in the Chapel" in 1953); the very Elvis Presley-like "That's All Right" by Ray Smith, one of the more obscure veterans of Sun Records; and the Shades' "Splashin'," a very good twangy guitar 'n' honkin' sax instrumental.

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