To tie in with three great new EPs that arrived from Sleazy records this week, we thought we’d take you on a little rockin’, rollin’ road trip through America’s Midwest. Although often overlooked in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the 12 agricultural and industrial states that make up the Midwest region cranked out more than their fair share of wild Rock ‘n’ Roll during the 50s and early 60s. For this little ramble, we’ll take you from South Dakota, through Minnesota and Iowa and onward to the prairie state for a trip up to the windy city of Chicago. For the last night of the tour, we will sip margaritas at the ritzy ‘Casablanca’ club, just over the Illinois border in Indiana.
Fantastic new mini three-track EP from the Sioux Falls sensation Myron Lee. Lee blazed a trail through South Dakota during the late 50s and early 60s and although he never enjoyed a big national hit, he certainly mixed in esteemed company, touring with American Bandstand Host Dick Clark as well as Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee, the Everly Brothers and Conway Twitty. Volume 1 of this two EP series digs deep to bring us some lesser-known goodies. Limited edition of only 300 copies, so don’t snooze.
The second volume of this great Sleazy records series sees our hero teamed up with his trusty backing band – The Caddies as they take a trip to the famed Minneapolis, Minnesota Kay Bank studio. The floor-filling bopper Magic In A Summers Night was Myron’s third release on the St Paul, MN ‘Hep’ label and comes from one of the many sessions cut at the legendary studio. Again this is a limited edition so don’t be tardy.
Iowa is probably better known for corn on the cob farming than Rock ‘n’ Roll but the Velaires (aka The Screamers aka The Flairs) most definitely shook up the Hawkeye state during the tail end of the 50s and into the early 60s. These four fiery tunes were actually cut at Floyd Ramsey’s studio in Phoenix, Arizona as part of a 13-song 1961 session but remained un-released until they finally saw a CD issue back in 1997. Now, at last, they make their vinyl 45 rpm debut right here.
The short-lived Lucky label was based in the scenic city of Danville, Illinois, about 140-ish miles South of Chicago and issued a handful of killer 45s during the year of 1960, including this moody pounding double-decker as well as Arlie Miller’s smouldering masterpiece Lou Ann. Original copies of this rare 45 will easily set you back four figures, so most of us will have to be happy with this great repro.
Jump on the freeway out of Danville and about two and a half hours later, we’re in Chi-Town, in the southern suburb of Olympia Fields, home of Banana records. Chicago had a large Eastern European / Czech community and polka music was huge in the windy city suburbs in the 50s. Banana Records, which boasted one of the best ever record label tag lines; ‘Hi-Fi Music With Appeal’, was a sister label to Jay Jay records, a predominately polka label. Jay Jay label owner Walter Jagiello set up Banana as a pop label to try and grab a few bucks from the local teenagers and picked this boppin’ country Rockabilly 45 as the label debut. Walter’s foray into ‘pop’ music didn’t last long, as the next Banana release was … yes you’ve guessed it, a polka record!
A very short hop over the Illinois border and we’re in the Hoosier state, on the last stage of our six-record road trip arriving at the Casablanca club in East Chicago. Confusingly, this is actually in Indiana. Mar-Vel head honcho, Harry Glenn, toted his portable tape machine 15 minutes up the road from the label offices in Hammond to record Carl Newman’s wild and frantic twin-spin live in the upstairs ballroom of this Mexican restaurant, sometime in 1964. Harry was a real character and a genuine old fashioned record man, driving around state to state, flogging his Mar-Vel releases out of the back of his van like an old-timey snake oil salesman. We have just a few new-old-stock copies left of this legit Mar-Vel pressing and when they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Incidentally and amazingly, the Casablanca restaurant is still open in East Chicago and gets 4.1 stars on Google reviews.
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