Rock and roll music, if you like it and you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me, I can’t help it.
Rock and roll music, if you like it and you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me, I can’t help it.
Our latest menswear editorial featuring 20 year old male model Casey Jackson, from the New York Model Management. Men’s grooming by Walton Nunez, from the Brooks Agency New York, using hair products by Victory Brand Products; skin products by Dermalogica. Photography and menswear styling by Alexander Thompson. Thank you to Ammon Carver Studio in New York City for grooming location services. https://www.instagram.com/caseyljackson/
Blue Velvet’s is the brilliant Japanese barber shop that is owned by master barber Hideki Kakinouchi. Stumbling upon his Instagram page, we were enthralled with hundreds of photos that he has posted of Japanese rockabilly men (and a few woman) in super glossy, perfectly groomed pompadours. Upon deeper inspection it seems that his shop is decorated with loads of hubcaps and Blue Velvet’s merchandise. We only wish that we had immediate plans to travel overseas to his country to meet him in his shop. But until we do, Kakinouchi has invited us to share some of his many images with our Ponyboy readers. One day we’ll make it to his fantastic shop and walk out with the trademark Blue Velvet’s pompadour. Wouldn’t that be incredible! All photography courtesy of Blue Velvet’s/Hideki Kakinouchi. Thank you to Scott McKeeman for translation. http://bluevelvets.com/ https://www.instagram.com/bluevelvets1950/ https://www.facebook.com/Aobetsu/
PONYBOY: Hello, Hideki. We really love the images from your Blue Velvet’s barber shop social media. Please tell our readers where you are located and how many years your shop has been in business.
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: Thank you for your kind words! I take a lot of photos of my customers. The before/after transformations are pretty drastic at times! We are located in central Hiroshima, Japan and have been operating since 1990.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your background with cutting hair.
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I went to school to learn about the trade when I was 18. After graduating, I got a job in a regular shop. However, I was interested in old-style haircuts, so I started researching about the techniques that were used to do these kinds of cuts. As I learned more about these styles, I was amazed at the unlimited number of variations and options for hairstyling. At the time, there weren’t many shops that specialized in that kind of haircut, so I decided to start my own shop.
PONYBOY: Your barbershop is very specific. Do you primarily only specialize in 1950s pompadours?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: Yes, I specialize in pompadours, but I can do all kinds of cuts to match the needs of a broad range of customers. People from all over Japan visit my shop, and even some customers from overseas come to my shop especially to get me to cut their hair.
PONYBOY: Is there a certain technique that you use when cutting to achieve the Blue Velvet pompadour?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I use an original self-taught electric cut style which results in a shine that is difficult to duplicate. There are probably only 4-5 guys in Japan that can do this. The photos that you see on my SNS sites are taken with an iPad camera and no special lighting or editing is done. I cut hair in such a way that customers can style it themselves at home the next day. Come here someday and I’ll show you how I do it!
PONYBOY: What about pomade? Which do you recommend to achieve the best height and shine?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I use Layrite and Reuzel a lot.
PONYBOY: How many barbers do you employ at your shop?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: Two. I run the shop with my son.
PONYBOY: How long have you been into the 1950s rockabilly lifestyle/aesthetic?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I’ve been into this culture since I was a high school student.
PONYBOY: What is the rockabilly scene like in your area? Is there a following?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: The culture itself is not that popular, I don’t think, but there are a good number of people who have the pompadour hairstyle.
PONYBOY: We’ve visited the Pink Dragon rockabilly store in Tokyo. Are you a fan of this business?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I’ve been there many times. The store owner was truly a pioneer of spreading rockabilly culture in Japan.
PONYBOY: And please tell us your opinion of the Tokyo Rockabilly Club scene in Yoyogi Park. We are very intrigued with it, but have never been. Is this sort of a tourist thing? Or would you say it’s authentic Japanese rockabilly?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: I don’t know much about that scene, but I’ve been to Yoyogi Park a few times. I don’t think it’s a tourist thing. I think they are just having a good time. It’s been going on since the 80’s, I think.
PONYBOY: Does Blue Velvet’s ever do any of the rockabilly weekenders, like Viva Las Vegas. etc.?
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: About 20 years ago I used to do events every three months or so. I’m getting older now, so it’s tougher to do events, unfortunately.
PONYBOY: And finally, tell us what films and music inspire Blue Velvets.
HIDEKI KAKINOUCHI: American Graffiti, Streets of Fire (I used to own one of the cars, a 1950 Mercury that appeared in the film), The Outsiders, and Rumble Fish to name a few.
As for music we usually play Neo-rockabilly in the shop. I think it completes the experience for my customers.
THE STOMPIN’ RIFFRAFFS! FROM JAPAN! The Stompin’ Riffraffs are the kind of band that makes you feel like you’re in a 50s B-movie while watching them on stage. The band consists of three very attractive women in 60s style silver mini-dresses and one male lead singer in a tuxedo style suit. They’re young and talented, […]
The Midnite Monster Hop is the long-running monthly event, helmed by Mike Decay, and operated from our favorite New York City tiki bar, Otto’s Shrunken Head. This party been a mainstay of psychobilly music on the east coast of America for thirteen years. We caught up with Mike after a practice with Phantom Creep Theatre, a New York City based spook show troupe that he has been working with for several years. Photographs courtesy of Mike Decay and the Midnite Monster Hop, with photographic contributions by Elisa Gierasch, David Blumenfeld, Gregory Pacheco, Norman Blake and Kogar.
PONYBOY: Let’s start with your name. Why Mike Decay?
MIKE DECAY: The namesakes from my short lived first horror punk zine, Today’s Decay. It was only one issue from twenty years ago. I guess I have a personality to just run with things.
PONYBOY: You have a monthly event in New York City, the Midnite Monster Hop. How long have you been doing this?
MIKE DECAY: The Midnite Monster Hop started in 2003. Mad Sin was booked to play at CBGB’s, and Mike Mortician and I thought since there were going to be a lot of people traveling to New York City to see the band, let’s book an overflow show. Although really, the Midnite Monster Hop was an extension of what I had already been doing in Philadelphia. I booked Phantom Creep Fridays at La Tazza, in Old City, the first Friday of every month from 1998 through 2002. And I’ve been booking Psychobilly bands for over seventeen years now!
PONYBOY: How did you get into booking these events?
MIKE DECAY: My intro into booking shows was with Stephanie Chapman from Spindrift Records, as well as Kenny Kendra. We booked the Klingonz in 1997, as they were doing a mini US tour with the Nocturnal Teds from Sweden.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the psychobilly scene in the US.
MIKE DECAY: The psychobilly scene was a very different place in America back then. Hardly anybody knew what it was! And those that were into it were spread out all over the country. Definitely small pockets of people in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Texas, and we were all linked by a Yahoo email list. As far as the East Coast went, I knew about a half dozen people into it, from Boston down to Baltimore. I randomly met a handful of people at various shows or on St. Marks street, and we’d exchange contact info and send mix tapes to each other. There was basically nowhere to buy or even hear records! I actually made a psychobilly mixtape and placed an ad in the back of Maximum R’n’R, saying that I’d send people a copy of it if they sent me a dollar for postage. And it worked! I made some friends and penpals out of it! That said, it’s not as if anyone was strictly into psychobilly, as everyone was going to rockabilly and punk shows as well. It’s just psychobilly was like a secret club or something.
When I was living in Philly during my college years, it wasn’t easy to get into punk shows. And at bars there were rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll shows at places like Upstairs at Nicks. But it wasn’t easy to get into 21+ places with huge hair and a baby face! So I decided to put on my own shows. I started at the Killtime, a punk rock squat in West Philly. Since it worked so well at the Klingonz show, I mixed local psychobilly, lo-fi horror r’n’r, and punk rock bands on the bill. And I was able to get a friend, Tim Swisher (Elvistein from the Pits) to pick up kegs for me. I wrote on the flyers at the time something like, “There will be kegs, and it’ll cost a $6 entry fee , and that’ll mean you can drink all night for free and we won’t card you!” Anything to get punks to a psychobilly show!
I remember a bunch of young punk kids joking about the Brimstones’ matching uniforms, or the Pits’ monster make up. But by the end of each show, those punk kids would be drunk and dancing around to the bands, and they’d show up at the next shows too! I was booking bands like TR6, Hillbilly Werewolf, the Pits, the Brimstones, Photon Torpedoes, just to name just a few!
I then moved to an actual bar and live venue, La Tazza. The owners, Frank and Tammy, were so great to me. I guess that was the official start of Phantom Creep Fridays, since before that at the Killtime, I hadn’t named my shows yet. I brought all the bands I was booking at the Killtime shows to Phantom Creep Fridays, and was able to get a lot more band, now that we were in a more convenient space. The same goes for the crowd. We were now getting packed rooms full of Philadelphia punks, skinheads, rockabillies, etc. because word of mouth was traveling I guess. And we’ve always mixed the bill, because when it’s good, it’s all just genre-less rock’n’roll. This was about the time I saw the Boston Blackouts, just before they changed their name to the Kings of Nuthin. Gregg and Joanne Van Vranken booked them at one of their legendary Rodeo Bar nights, and the band blew my mind! I was lucky enough to book them many times as well. It never got old seeing them pull up in their vintage bread truck, and struggling to bring their upright piano down two flights of stairs!
PONYBOY: Tell us about your involvement with the 2000 New York Psychobilly Big Rumble?
MIKE DECAY: It was a Spindrift Records’ event. I was the band coordinator and stage manager. Nearly thirty bands over three days and nights at the Birch Hill in New Jersey, with shuttle coach buses to a local large hotel where everyone was staying. We also booked overflow shows at CB’s on the days before and after. What a crazy weekend that was! People flew out from all over the country, all over the world really. There had never been anything attempted on this level in the USA, so everyone came!
It helped that we had a killer line up. Batmobile’s “last show ever,” Nekromantix, Quakes, Caravans, Calavera, Tim Polecat, Hangmen… tons more! I’m proud to say this was the first introduction of the Kings of Nuthin’ to the world beyond the East Coast shows they’d played up until that point. Although really I’d say everyone was there to see Demented Are Go, which turned out to be a problem since Spark was in jail! The Scum Rats (who were only booked to play our Thursday pre-show at CBGB’s) were a last minute fill in! And what a fill in they were!
If that wasn’t enough, our Monday night overflow show was in the CBGB’s gallery, which was in the basement next door to the historic CB’s. I don’t remember the complete line up, but definitely the Gettin’ Headstones from Atlanta Georgia, and Tim Polecat & Jet Black Machine were on the bill. When Tim got on stage, maybe two songs into his set, he jumped up and grabbed onto a pipe that was right above the stage. He took one good swing on it, and all of a sudden, the pipe broke! Tons of water started gushing all over the stage, all over the floor, and within minutes it had covered the floor and was rising! The water was already past our ankles by the time the Fire Department arrived and they were able to shut it off. Everyone scattered like rats and we were left shaking our heads over what had just happened. What a weekend! And to make matters worse, I was only 20 years old and not allowed to drink!
PONYBOY: Tell us more about the Midnite Monster Hop…
MIKE DECAY: By the end of 2002 I had moved back to New York City. And I had also filmed a documentary, Psychobilly: A Cancer on R’n’R, in England and Europe at about this time. We started the Midnite Monster Hop up in the relatively newly opened Otto’s Shrunken Head. In part I guess from filming the documentary and my work with the NY Rumble, I had connections throughout the world with touring bands. I was lucky enough to get Girard from Deja Voodoo (with Bloodshot Bill on drums), Reverend Beat-Man, Nigel Lewis from the Meteors & Tall Boys, Sasquatch, Memphis Morticians, Zombie Ghost Train, Gutter Demons, Lonesome Kings, Tombstone Brawlers, Butchers, Nikki Hill…I can go on and on! Some of my personal favorite times were early on when we brought a full size Egyptian mummy to the bar, and welcomed the audience to rifle through the mummy’s bandages in search of treasures, and we waived all legal responsibility as to where, when, or how, the mummy would awaken to retrieve its stolen property! We also hosted Troma Studios 30th Anniversary party, where the original “Welcome to Tromaville” sign was displayed across the length of the bar on the banquettes. It was huge and we schlepped that all the way from Hell’s Kitchen on the subway! We had a bunch of people dressed as Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD, the Toxic Avenger, and even the Toxic Crusader. Lloyd Kaufman even showed up! Both bands that night, Sasquatch & the Sickabillies, and the Party Wreckers from Philadelphia, loved all the insanity. I know we had a mop battle next door in Kennedy Fried Chicken between foam rubber versions of real life-Toxie & cartoon-Toxie! Then there was that time we set up a tattoo parlor on one side of the room, and had the Butchers play in the other corner, surrounded by a heaving crowd! The tattoo artist was doing “1960’s images for 1960’s prices!” Famous Monster-type imagery for like $15 a piece! People were lined up till 4AM!
PONYBOY: Have you ever considered moving to a larger venue?
MIKE DECAY: On occasion we have booked larger venues when touring bands are coming through. But in general, I don’t like doing that. I have an affinity for Otto’s Shrunken Head. Plus, I really appreciate the intimacy the venue offers.
PONYBOY: What can you tell me about Phantom Creep Radio?
MIKE DECAY: This is a really exciting development! About two or three years ago, Mike Mortician moved on to other things and I had an offer to have a spook show group, Phantom Creep NYC. They mainly put on larger sold out events at Coney Island USA, Bowery Electric, Nitehawk Cinema, and Morbid Anatomy Library. They wanted to put on a radio show at the Midnite monster hop. I was not too sure how it was going to work, because I’m used to taking the lead on a lot of our events. But there’s the Mighty Moloch, Greg-Gory, Isadora Spivey, Ek the Ghoul, and a bunch more characters. I don’t even know which ones are showing up or not but I’m honored to host them! Their back library of podcasts is on iTunes and getting a lot of really incredible press! I don’t know if a group of monsters, basically like classic 1950’s/1960’s TV horror hosts have ever hosted a radio show before. The only one that I can think of would have been Pete “Mad Daddy” Myers. If we’re continuing his legacy, then I can die a happy guy!
PONYBOY: How has the content of the Midnite Monster Hop evolved?
MIKE DECAY: We book the same style of bands that we always have. I think the Phantom Creep guys compliment the atmosphere provided by the bands. The bands are definitely an important part of the success of the Midnite Monster Hop. There are other dj nights, but combining the Phantom Creep craziness with the specific live bands, that’s what I think is the main audience draw. We just booked a great new horror-surf band, the Primitive Finks, and it turns out they’re ex-members of Full Blown Cherry, a rockabilly band from Philly I used to book all the time, over fifteen years ago! I had no idea! We’ve had some colossal bands play in recent years, and often times we’ve been contacted by bands looking to travel great lengths to meet the Phantom Creep guys and take part in Phantom Creep Radio. The Delusionaires traveled up from Florida the other month, and the Surfin Wombatz (and the Loveless) are flying in from England specifically to play our Halloween show! That’s insane to me, but I couldn’t be more honored!
From a musical perspective, we’ve always spun anything from rhythm & blues, rockabilly, garage, teddy boy, punk, psychobilly, to trash – as I’ve said before, I think genres disappear when the music is good enough! In recent years we’ve been inspired by a lot of original novelty/rock’n’roll 45’s recorded by regional horror hosts, as well as the viewpoint of rock’n’roll held by a lot of Teddy Boys. I don’t think a good dj needs to spin strictly as obscure tracks as possible. There’s something special in the classics. That’s the stuff that gets the whole room singing along! I think you could compare the relationship between rock’n’roll & rockabilly to the differing takes on DC and Marvel comics. Jerry Lee Lewis has had documentaries made on him, he was all over television, the newspapers, has had lots of books written about him – he’s like Superman! All the DC heroes are like a pantheon of gods! Compare that to someone like.. Jack Starr! Who? Exactly! He’s like your friendly neighborhood Spider-man! The original 1960’s Marvel take on superheroes was to make them troubled, flawed kids. That’s rockabilly! Does that make any sense? Aaaah work-in-progress theory!
PONYBOY: How do you see the future of the Midnite Monster Hop?
MIKE DECAY: I’m pretty inspired by the likes of Billy and Miriam from Norton Records, Gaz Mayall ,and Dan Coffey. Crazy men and women that have just been plugging away doing what they love for years and years. My grandpa imparted this insight to me: It’s tricky how quick time passes. One day you blink, and realize you’ve spent your entire life doing what you love, so you better get to it!
Rebel Night, the long standing New York City rockabilly monthly dance party, celebrated it’s ten year anniversary this past July in Brooklyn with a weekender dubbed “Hula Rock Vol 2.” We’ve long been fans of this fabulous party, which was started in 2005 by four Japanese music lovers. Passionate for 1950’s-60’s rock ‘n’ roll, the four friends drank, spun 45’s, and did their wild Japanese twist ’til the wee hours. We were lucky enough to attend the very first year, gawking at the sharply dressed jive dancers in vintage fashions. Of course, we became regulars of this extremely entertaining gathering, camera in tow!
In 2010, the Rebel crew, which also included the lovely Katie Bickert, hosted their first live music event held at the Warsaw in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This was quite monumental to greasy New Yorker’s, as it was the first rockabilly weekender in New York City. And this summer’s 2015 Hula Rock weekender was just as fantastic with some of our favorite musicians including Will & the Hi-Rollers and Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim. Take a look at the photos below and share in the fun time had by all! Photography by Alexander Thompson.
Ponyboy loves a blonde! We photographed our favorite East Coast rockabilly gal, the lovely Miss Katie Bickert from New York City’s Rebel Night dance parties. Katie, also known as RockDollNYC on instagram, is always dressed to the nines in beautiful mid-century vintage fashions at the fabulous events that she throws with her boyfriend DJ Sei and the rest of the Rebel Night Crew. No one can deny that Katie is the “face” of this party, with her trademark glowing smile and fabulous rockabilly jive moves on the dance floor. http://www.rebelnight.nyc Photography by Alexander Thompson.
PONYBOY: Katie! Where were you raised?
KATIE BICKERT: I was raised in New Hampshire. I grew up partially on a farm where my dad raised emus and horses. I’ve been living in New York for the past eight years.
PONYBOY: What brought you to New York City?
KATIE BICKERT: I came to New York to pursue an education and career as a hairstylist. There’s not much opportunity in creative fields or diversity where I was raised, so New York offered all of that, plus the excitement of events, music and the chance to meet and work with new people.
PONYBOY: When did you start getting into vintage clothing?
KATIE BICKERT: In my late teens I was really getting into the vintage aesthetic, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2007 that I started lusting after more and more beautiful vintage dresses. And it’s evolved from there! I collect everything from fun dresses and prints (that are perfect for wearing out dancing), to older workwear, motorcycle sweaters and even little boys vintage clothing that I can fit into! Ha! Ha!
PONYBOY: How long have you been dressing in 1940’s-50’s clothing?
KATIE BICKERT: Well, when I was eighteen years old living in New Hampshire, the choices for vintage shopping were few and far between. There was an antique mall in my town that a vintage vendor had opened up. I wandered in one afternoon while she was there and she looked at me and said, “Now that’s the kind of girl who should be shopping at my store!” We became instant friends. She taught me a lot about clothing, and got me started on the addiction that I have today, which still continues to grow.
PONYBOY: Where do you find all of your fabulous clothing?
KATIE BICKERT: I find my vintage clothing at lots of places! Ebay, of course, and other online venues. I also shop at local boutiques and flea markets. I think most people would assume that it’s hard to find affordable good vintage in a city like New York; but it’s here, you just have to dig for it a bit. I’m lucky to have a great friend with a car, and we travel to places outside of the city often, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Long Island to hunt for treasures. Half of the fun of collecting vintage for me is finding it, as well as the memories you make along the way. We’re planning a road trip to the “World’s Longest Yard Sale.” I can’t wait!
PONYBOY: How long have you been involved in the Rebel Night party?
KATIE BICKERT: I’ve been attending Rebel Night since the moment I turned twenty-one! Ha! Ha! And I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere. I feel that the party is really something special. I was so shy to learn how to dance, but the Rebel Night host DJs literally dragged me onto the dance floor and I was totally hooked. There’s a very small community of people who dance rockabilly jive in New York City, and Rebel Night is definitely the place to go to dance! I started getting really involved with the party in 2005, when we created the Rebel Night Weekender. I had to take a much bigger role at that point, since it required constant communication with venues, bands and attendees. Our host DJs are all native Japanese speakers, so this was much easier for me to take the roll on.
PONYBOY: Your next weekender is approaching soon. Tell our readers about this event.
KATIE BICKERT: It’s this upcoming weekend, July 17th-19th in Brooklyn. We’re celebrating Rebel Night’s ten year anniversary! I think that’s quite a big accomplishment for any party to last ten years in this city. It’s taken a lot of dedication and tight friendship from all of us involved. Friday the 17th is at the Grand Victory in Williamsburg. And we have The Bothers playing, as well as Silvertooth Loos, who are flying in from Los Angeles. Then the record hops will go on until 4am.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s events are at The Shop, a newly opened BBQ place/live music venue in Bushwick. It’s called “Hula Rock” and it’s a Hawaiian themed event featuring Johnny Farina, who is famous for his 1959 hit with Santo and Johnny, “Sleepwalk.” We’ll also have two Wild Records acts performing, Will & The Hi-Rollers and Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim, as well as more local bands playing surf, garage and rockabilly. All kinds of other fun stuff is planned, including guest DJs from as far away as Germany, burlesque, a pig roast, limbo contest, photo booth, tiki drink specials, etc. It’s a labor of love, but we’re all so excited for the big day to be here this Friday!
PONYBOY: How does this event compare to the your first weekender a few years back?
KATIE BICKERT: Our weekender in 2010 was the first live show Rebel Night had ever done. I’m not sure how many people even know that! We went from doing only record hops, to a three day live music event with bands and DJs from all over the world. We probably should have worked up to it first, but it was a fantastic time. And we still have people that come up to us at other weekenders and tell us how much they enjoyed ours. This show will be different in some ways; however, as we have a lot more experience now and have used that to create events that absolutely anyone can enjoy. Not only are there live bands, DJs and dancing, but also other treats and visual things happening at the same time!
PONYBOY: What performers are you especially excited to see?
KATIE BICKERT: I’m really excited to have Will & The Hi-Rollers back at Rebel Night, as they’re really celebrating their anniversary, too, and are one of our favorites. We loved The Clams last year at Hula Rock Vol 1, as well. I know Johnny Farina will blow us away! Also, our friend Jodi Ham is debuting her band’s new line up at this show. I guess that’s the best part about doing the booking, you’re excited about every band on the line up!
PONYBOY: We bet you’ll be dancing all weekend!
KATIE BICKERT: Oh, you know it! We try to make ourselves as organized as possible before the show, so that we can relax and enjoy the music while we’re there.
YOUNG, RAW AND WILD! We are thrilled at Ponyboy to feature the release of Stray Cats: Live at Rockpalast, a double CD and DVD release from music label Made in Germany. Available July 7th in the U.S., this incredible release features footage/recordings from concerts in Germany, in both 1981 & 1983. We are also in awe of the terrific imagery provided by photographer Manfred Becker. So we thought we would ask Ponyboy pal Dylan Patterson, longtime Stray Cats fan and drummer of band Reckless Ones, to write our review!
“I was fifteen the first time I heard the Cats, and I was hooked! I finally knew what music tripped my trigger. I was just about to get my driver’s license, and I bought a ’65 Ford and drove around singing every word of Built for Speed. I truly felt like Brian Setzer was singing about my life.
Eight years later I’m playing in Reckless Ones, a neo-rockabilly band, whose style was influenced heavily by the Stray Cats. Setzer lives in Minneapolis, as do I, and we also have mutual friends. I’ve been lucky enough to chat with him on several occasions. He’s truly a great guy, and still a total badass!
This DVD brings the wildest (and best) era of the Cats alive. The ’81 Cologne show has always been a huge band favorite, and I can’t get enough of Slim Jim going apeshit on the sound engineer, screaming “Can I get some fucking bass??!!” Raw attitude! My favorite songs from this performance include Storm the Embassy, Ubangi Stomp, Somethin’ Else and Gonna Ball.
Now I hadn’t seen much of the ’83 show before, so most of it was a total surprise to me – and a real treat! The vibe of this show is a bit more relaxed, and the tempo a bit slower. But in my opinion it’s still in the golden era. They jump off stage and engage bystanders within reach, dancing and bopping to their own music. The crowd shots are really amazing, showing off the rockabillies and teds, peppered throughout the sea of Germans. Favorites from this show are Lonely Summer Nights, Runaway Boys and Stray Cat Strut. Buy this now!”
Tim Polecat Worman is the red haired vocalist for the legendary neo-rockabilly band The Polecats. The Polecats were formed in the UK in the late seventies and still perform around the world. Successful chart songs include “Make a Circuit With Me” and “John, I’m Only Dancing.” We were very excited that this talented musician agreed to a photo session and interview for Ponyboy, as we have been big fans for years. Tim also allowed us access to images from his own personal collection of photographs from over the years. Read our interview with this extraordinary musical icon. Portraits by ALEXANDER THOMPSON. Additional photos courtesy of Tim Polecat.
PONYBOY: Tim, please tell us about your childhood and teen years in the UK.
TIM POLECAT: I was born in 1963 and grew up in suburban North London. I guess I am a product of that era of U.K. pop culture. I remember the 1966 World Cup final, as well as the Moon landing. I grew up obsessed by American comic books, British sci-fi TV and most of all rock ‘n’ roll music. And to be honest, nothing much has changed.
PONYBOY: How did The Polecats come about?
TIM POLECAT: I got an electric guitar for my 12th birthday. A few days later a kid from my boy scout troop knocked on my door and asked if he could have a go on it. This was, of course, Boz Boorer. We exchanged all our guitar playing knowledge and he soon also acquired an electric guitar. Boz and I jammed with various local musicians until we ran into Phil Bloomberg, who I knew from primary school. Phil was just switching from cello to bass guitar, and we soon recruited him. Chris Hawkes, another primary school friend of mine, was just learning drums. So, we learned a bunch of rockabilly and punk rock covers, and pretty soon had some of our own songs, which were mostly written by Phil and Boz. At first our band was called The Cult Heroes (which was supposed to be ironic), but this became problematic when we tried to get gigs in rock ‘n’ roll clubs, who presumed that we would not fit in. Chris had recently found a bunch of stickers with a picture of a stretched out cat and the word ‘Polecat” on them. So, we decided that this sounded a lot more in keeping with the direction of the band, and we started using it and very soon we were playing the U.K. teddy boy circuit. After a lot of saving up, Boz got a Gretsch guitar and Phil switched to a double bass, which was inspired by American acts like Ray Campi. I moved from guitar to lead vocals. And that was the basic prototype and we just took it from there. The Polecats have remained basically unchanged since the addition of John Buck around 1983. We have a few squad players, but the team is still the same.
PONYBOY: What was the rockabilly scene like back then in the U.K.?
TIM POLECAT: The rockabilly scene in the U.K. grew out of the teddy boy scene. I think it was a lot of younger Ted’s searching for a new identity of their own, separate from the Ted movement, which was at this point getting a little stale and was very narrow-minded. Newly discovered raw sounding fifties music was being discovered and I think it was only natural that it would develop it’s own visual style. In hindsight though, it was very expensive to dress like a Ted and to do it properly without being a “Plastic” and very hard for the younger audience, many of who were still in school. The “Rockabilly Rebel” look was a very DIY thing and was within the reach of a creative jumble sale and charity shop patron. A short time later the rockabilly scene got more elaborate, fashion wise, with reproduction versions of the more flamboyant fifties attire popping up on King’s Road and in Kensington Market. Also, shops like Flip were buying real vintage items from the USA by the masses and shipping them over. The music on the scene was always based around the rediscovery of forgotten gems, and later on bands that reinvented the raw sound of those fifties records.
PONYBOY: Did the Polecats have a bigger following back then in the rockabilly scene or more so in the punk/new wave scene?
TIM POLECAT: The Polecats started playing exclusively in the teddy boy/rockabilly scene in Europe. It wasn’t until we saw bands such as Levi and the Rockats, Whirlwind and American acts like Robert Gordon (playing in mainstream venues) that we thought it would even be possible to play outside our own scene, let alone play on the same bill as a punk or new wave band . It was only when we started playing in colleges and mixed venues that we started to pick up a more diverse audience. We toured with Rockpile, which put us in front of their mainstream audience and got us out into previously unexplored territories like Scotland and Wales. As soon as we had a record deal we were playing in Scandanavia and Europe, where the market for rockabilly was opening up. In Finland in the eighties, The Polecats, Stray Cats and Crazy Cavan all had records in the mainstream charts at the same time.
PONYBOY: How did that incredible style evolve for the band? Was there a lot of thought put into the look?
TIM POLECAT: We did put a lot of thought both into our style and our sound, but it was something that developed organically and wasn’t an overnight thing. I have to admit that after seeing Levi and the Rockats, we made a conscious decision to up our game visually. We also had a bit of a rethink in the performance department after seeing The Cramps for the first time. We would borrow and adapt from a wide range of influences, both visually and musically. Of course, it was much harder to do in those days because we did not have the access to information that is taken for granted these days and also did not have unlimited funds to bring our ideas into reality.
PONYBOY: The band eventually broke up in the mid-eighties and you ended up in Los Angeles. What was that like for you as an artist and on a personal level?
TIM POLECAT: Actually, The Polecats had only really become nonoperational between 1984 and 1988. We have been playing constantly since then, despite my move to the USA. Our fan demographic became increasingly international, so meeting up on foreign soil from different base camps works very well. I have always been interested in Americana and it made sense to move to Hollywood when the opportunity arose. My day job was in the film industry and there was a lot of work in the late eighties for a British production designer. I have worked on hundreds of projects in the visual medium, but mostly work as a producer these days.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the band 13 Cats and how that formed. It’s an incredible ensemble of musicians.
TIM POLECAT: 13 Cats started after a successful double bill tour of Japan with The Polecats and The Rockats. Smutty Smith and I both lived in Hollywood and wanted to keep the party going. He had just reconnected with Slim Jim and I had been in touch with Danny Harvey ever since the late seventies. We got together for a jam session and it developed from there. At first we just intended to do covers with 13 Cats, but very quickly we had an entire set of original songs. The vibe of 13 Cats was a darker, black leather rock ‘n’ roll, which was in contrast to the sugary sweet swing movement that was going on around that time. We crossed over into the surf/garage scene and even had a track on a Dionysus compilation. We played shows with The 184.108.40.206’s, Guitar Wolf, The Bomboras and Hasil Atkins. The band only lasted a few years, but we did one LP that I am very proud of and we still perform together on very special occasions.
PONYBOY: What bands are you playing in now?
TIM POLECAT: Right now I am playing live with the regular Polecats and my own Tim Polecat Trio, which has rotating members, depending on availability and location. I also play with Slim Jim in his trio. Recently I have done a few shows fronting Polecats tribute bands, which although sounds like a strange concept, works really well. In more recent years I have been concentrating on playing lead guitar (with a thumb pick), while singing at the same time. This is possibly to prepare for the day when I can’t drop kick and stage dive anymore!
PONYBOY: You left Los Angeles recently, after so many years, and moved to Palm Springs. What brought that about?
TIM POLECAT: In this day and age, being an artist and musician has two big requirements–the internet and an airport! Palm Springs has both of those facilities and is very mid-century modern looking, which I am totally into. I’m setting up a small recording studio and an art facility here.
PONYBOY: Lastly, you’ve probably been asked this a million times before, but please tell our readers what musicians have really inspired you in the past, and what newer bands you enjoy now.
TIM POLECAT: The bands and musicians that most inspired me were essentially fifties rockabilly, seventies glam and seventies punk. Also, add to that the teddy boy bands of the mid- seventies. The early influences of The Polecats came a lot from our original drummer Chris Hawkes, who had two older brothers that would buy rockabilly records frequently. In the mid- seventies during school lunch times (which would often extend into afternoon truancy), we would sit around Chris’s house and listen to all the rediscovered gems that were surfacing during this time. It seemed like every week a major record company would delve into their archives and release a compilation of killer tracks. MCA, Capitol, Mercury, RCA, MGM, Imperial and Chess all had their own “rockabilly” LPs. The Polecats also added to our musical repertoire by frequenting clubs such as The Royalty, and memorizing our favorite tracks. We would sometimes even sneak in a cassette recorder to tape the songs we wanted to play. I think our musical influences as a band are quite self-evident from the cover versions we pick. However, some are hidden quite deep. For example, a lot of the songs that I wrote with Phil are inspired by northern soul and 1977 punk. Unless I pointed out the specifics, no one would know. I am very bad at keeping up with current trends, but I have to say that Furious and The Ceazers seem to be the stand out newer bands to me from the rocking scene. As for mainstream music, nothing has really caught my attention for decades, apart from Die Antwoord, who have an audio visual style that is impossible to ignore.
From the Ponyboy collection of books, we feature the highly collectible Teddy: Japanese 50’s Rollers in 80’s. Originally printed in 1981, publisher Daisan Shokan showcased brilliant images of youth on the streets of Japan, hanging out and dancing in 1950’s style clothing. Everything about this publication is visually electrifying. For starters, we are mad for the pop art photo cut-outs on the front and back book covers. Inside, we flipped out over images of extremely stylish adolescents, dressed in leather jackets and full skirts, dancing in various parks across Japan. The cities where the photographs were taken include Tokyo, as well as Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Unfortunately, the photographers appear to be uncredited in this publication.
For our latest menswear editorial, we booked newcomer Mike Winchester from the Fusion Agency New York. Mike’s classic looks fit incredibly well with the 1950’s rockabilly style vintage clothing selected by stylist Xina Giatas, who matched the colorful carnival setting with vivid and bold pieces. For a trouser, she went with classic Levi’s 501 button up jeans. This traditional piece embodies the 1950’s time period perfectly. And groomer Walton Nunez not only lent his terrific men’s styling skills, but his keen eye for scouting locations and creative art direction.
We are passionate about all things from the Los Angeles based record label Wild Records. So, we are very pleased to feature Reb Kennedy, the UK born founder of the flourishing record company. Reb’s incredible knowledge and great taste for underground music gives his label the upper hand. And the bands on Wild Records are not only talented, but extremely smooth and stylish as well. Some of our favorite acts include Furious, Luis & The Wildfires, The Rhythm Shakers, Santos, The Hi-Boys, Will & The Hi Rollers, Omar and The Stringpoppers…well there are too many to name. The growing, family owned company is the focus of the highly acclaimed documentary Los Wild Ones. And we have now learned that another movie is in the works. We chatted on the phone with the busy record label founder to catch up on all things “Wild.” Wild Records band photos courtesy of DANIEL FUNAKI. Flyers courtesy of Reb Kennedy.
PONYBOY: We are big fans of Wild Records. Reb, please tell us how your label came about.
REB KENNEDY: The record label came about because I wanted to put out some music that I liked. I lived in Europe, but I was fed up with what I call “jukebox” rock’n’roll, or bands really only doing all cover versions. That, to me, was pointless and boring. I discovered Luis & Los Wild Teens. They were doing a hybrid of rhythm and blues, and early 60’s rock’n’roll. I thought that it was really fresh. So, we began with the “La Rebel Donna” 45.
Then I got lucky with our second act, Omar and the Stringpoppers. They did all original rockabilly. And the label really just progressed from there. Each act we found for our label was doing something original. My intention was to make a record label that was relevant today. I always wanted the label to be about now, and not about the past. I thought music influenced by the 1950’s could be contemporary. And that’s how we set the studio, to have a sound that was much “tougher” than most 50’s type record labels. Basically, we wanted to create a sound that was a little closer to punk, as opposed to 1950’s or 60’s rock’n’roll.
PONYBOY: You were raised in the UK. Tell us what your upbringing was like.
REB KENNEDY: I was born in London, but my mum and dad are from Dublin. I only lived in London until I was about five or six years old. Then I returned to Ireland. So, my upbringing was mainly in Ireland. I came from a very tough neighborhood in Ireland with a lot of violence, a lot of fighting, and too many gangs. I really never wanted to have any part of that. So, I made a point to stay away from it. And, luckily, a few years later in my early teens, punk rock first wave happened. I was in the UK during 1976-77. I was very lucky to see most of the first wave punk bands, which pretty much got me away form the gang mentality. I then ended up forming my first band in Ireland in the mid 70’s. They were called System X. We played a lot of great shows, with a lot of great bands. This really allowed me to be an individual. And I found a few great friends in Dublin, who still remain my friends. They basically thought very like-minded to me. So, it was music that really was my savior.
PONYBOY: What kind of records did you favor as a young teenager?
REB KENNEDY: Elvis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison are what my mum and dad listened to at home on our record player. We also listened to some 1960’s beat stuff. But my own stuff that I really developed into was glam rock like T. Rex, Marc Bolan, and that sort of early 1970’s glitter stuff including Rod Stewart. I’m still a big fan of his, but not the “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” kind of disco shit. I like his early, classic stuff. I also loved the Buzzcocks, Penetration, The Fall, and Magazine. During that time I still listened to rock’n’roll and rockabilly. And it was a bit of an enigma on the punk scene, because very few punks would acknowledge that they were also into rockabilly and rock’n’roll, as well as punk. To me punk was always about being an individual. But it was also rock’n’roll music. That early stuff I listened to still influences me. And I still listen to Marc Bolan, Bowie, first wave punk, blue beat ska, reggae, soul, rock’n’roll and rockabilly.
PONYBOY: The record industry is quite a hard business. What is the key to your success?
REB KENNEDY: Well, we don’t really fall into that classic record label format because we’re an independent label. We have distributors and wholesalers in every country in the world. But they’re sort of unique as they reach to the underground market, not specifically rock’n’roll, punk or blues. They cater to everybody. Those distributors and wholesalers get our records to people who have small record stalls, tattoo shops, car shows, clothing stores, etc. and anywhere that subculture might go hangout, have a drink, shop for clothing, get a haircut, or that sort of thing. We try and have our stuff there. That’s really what’s been successful for our label.
So we don’t really follow the norm of the record business. Also, I must point out that the business relationships that we have with our bands are unique. The priority is a good trusting relationship between the label and the musicians. So, we don’t really fit that record industry format. We have a distinct format for selling Wild Records merchandise.
PONYBOY: People sometimes stereotype your label as “rockabilly.” However, it seems that you take a stance to point out that you are not. Why is that?
REB KENNEDY: We’re obviously not a rockabilly label, because our acts are not all rockabilly performers. We have magnificent rockabilly performers that we are extremely proud of, but we’re really just a rock’n’roll label. If there’s a guitar in it, we like most music and most genres of music. It’s just incorrect to label us as one thing.
PONYBOY: Of all the terrific acts on your label, tell us who you think has the most potential for a crossover hit.
REB KENNEDY: Wild Records really isn’t about being a main stream success. What we want and what we aim to achieve is to be able to be seen as a contemporary rock’n’roll genre. Within the label we have punk bands, soul bands, blues bands, rockabilly bands, rock’n’roll bands, and even a bit of gospel. Basically, all of my own musical influences are on the Wild label. So we’re not chasing mainstream success. I’d like to see our bands be more successful and make some money, so they wouldn’t have to work other jobs.
PONYBOY: What new, fresh band have you recently signed that we should all buzz about and take an interest in listening to?
REB KENNEDY: Furious, the teddy boy band from Liverpool, is quite popular. Australian musician, Pat Capocci, is a great one to catch. Another Australian band to pay attention to would be The High Boys. We just recorded their new record last week. Bebo is a tough rockabilly act from the West Coast. Josh Hi-fi Sorheim is late 50’s rhythm and blues. And The Downbeats are a great late 50’s rock’n’roll band. Black Mambas are first wave punk. Jake Allen is a contemporary rockabilly performer from the UK. Terrorsaurs, a guitar instrumental band from the UK, are another one to catch as well. We have some great new acts.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the highly acclaimed 2013 documentary about Wild Records titled Los Wild Ones. Was that your idea?
REB KENNEDY: It was not my idea. It was the idea of the producer’s. They had come across our label while putting music together for another movie. They liked both what they saw and heard. Based on that, they asked if I would be keen on having a documentary made on the label. I said yes, not believing they would ever raise the funds. But, to my surprise, they did. Fast forward, the documentary was released and has done extremely well. And it’s sill in the festival circuit. We’ve won many Best Documentary awards, as well as Best Audience awards, which is truly amazing to us all.
What’s unique about the movie is that it’s unscripted. Everything is real and nothing was rehearsed. The cameras just rolled for about nine months, seven days a week. We had very long twelve hour days. The crew just basically shot behind me , filming whatever I was doing, mundane things, exciting things, sad things, happy things and, of course, rock’n’roll things. Everything was captured. And as stated, it is still in the movie circuit, and there really are no plans to do a DVD sort of thing. But, hopefully everyone will get to see it soon enough.
PONYBOY: We hear that there is a sequel being filmed at the moment.
REB KENNEDY: There is no sequel being made to Los Wild Ones. It’s worth pointing out to your readers that the film primarily focused on our 1950’s type acts. Obviously, as I’ve stated, we have many different types of bands on our label. So, other ideas of making more movies covering the full spectrum of Wild Records, is something I hope would happen. But right now there are no plans for this. Los Wild Ones does not cover everything that Wild Records is about musically. The person making that movie was only interested in the 50’s Wild Records acts, which left out three quarters of our other music.
There is no sequel being filmed. However, we are heavily involved in a fantastic new movie which will have three major artists from Wild Records as the main stars. And, of course, all the music will be from acts on our label. We start shooting at the end of September through October. This is a very exciting thing for us all. Plus it’s somewhat of a “road” movie.
PONYBOY: Who does Reb Kennedy put on his turntable when relaxing at home with friends over cocktails?
REB KENNEDY: On my turntable, I listen to every type of music like Otis Redding, Charlie Rich, Elvis Presley, Warren Smith, and Solomon Burke. I listen to rockabilly music and lots of soul. I really like live soul albums. I also enjoy listening to rhythm and blues, as well as some mod sounds. So really, I enjoy a little bit of every genre of music. I actually collect electrified gospel music. I’ve been collecting gospel for twenty five years now. I don’t really listen to contemporary artists. There’s no one out there that I’m really excited about. But, I do like a bit of The Black Keys.
PONYBOY: It sounds like you have a lot of records! Lastly, will your son be the heir to the Wild Records label?
REB KENNEDY: Yes, of course, my son Hayden and my wife Jenny-Lin, are part of the business. The company is a family owned business and they are part owners. And, also the extended family on the label are the Wild Records artists.
Pat Capocci is a young Australian rockabilly sensation on the Wild Records label out of California. We caught his much anticipated performances at Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender this past April. We were also able to squeeze in a quick shoot with the talented musician and his bandmates. His guitar playing is unreal and demands a presence on stage.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Pat, how did you get into playing music?
PAT CAPOCCI: My folks had a super huge influence on my musical tastes when I was growing up. Dad played guitar and had a pretty epic collection of Chicago blues and early folk records. So, from as early as five years old, I dabbled with the guitar and was hip to the right kind of tunes.
When I hit my early teens, I had been playing for a while and grew a little bored with the guitar until I discovered punk rock. My love for skating and surfing all tied in with my musical taste/lifestyle and renewed my love for it. When I was around fifteen years old, I made a solid decision that I wanted to become a better player and get serious. So, I spent every moment in my room listening and jamming to the records I loved. When I wasn’t busy doing that, my dad took me to the local pub and I would jam with whomever was there. These were the best lessons, as I had to think quick and use everything I had been learning to get through the sessions. I’m still super thankful for all the guys who let me stumble my way through their tunes. And from there, I just kept working hard, listening, learning and playing.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: And, so how did you get into the genre of rockabilly music?
PAT CAPOCCI: I guess, at that same time I decided to get super serious about the guitar, I started digging deeper for guitar-orientated records. The genre really didn’t matter as long as I could learn something from the music and apply it to my playing. I used to hunt through the “roots” section at the local record shop and dig through R&B, western swing, bebop, country, hillbilly and then eventually found a few rockabilly records. At the same time, the only “new” rockabilly records I could get were by Deke Dickerson and Big Sandy with T.K. Smith and Ashley Kingman pickin’ on them. And those guys really helped bridge the gap between past and present and taught me to embrace all those great genres.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: What’s the rockabilly scene like in Australia? Is it small?
PAT CAPOCCI: Over the years the scene in Australia had dwindled. In the 80’s and early 90’s there was a solid crew. And for me, some of the musicians from these eras were my earliest inspiration and still are. But in the last fifteen years things have definitely picked up and there are a lot more bands and folks from all walks of life who have embraced the scene, which is a great thing.
I also feel that vintage fashion has been a catalyst for a lot of people discovering rockabilly music. I guess well made, stylish and timeless clothing has struck a nerve in the trendy hipster circles. Funny enough, through clothing and digging a little deeper, this crew now has a soft spot for the music as well. That all said, compared to Europe and the US, the Australian scene is tiny, but it’s definitely growing.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: How did you get signed with Wild Records?
PAT CAPOCCI: We had released three records, two split cds and we played on countless sessions with Australian label Press-Tone Music over an eight year period. The relationship we had was great, and still is. But, it was time for a change.
A lot of the work we were doing was moving overseas, so we needed a label that covered a lot of ground internationally with a strong name and a good reputation. The fact that we were friends with a lot of the Wild bands made the decision to team up with Wild Records super easy.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Do you have a camaraderie with the other Wild acts?
PAT CAPOCCI: For sure, I’ve know a lot of the guys for years now. We all seem to cross paths and end up at the same festivals when we’re touring Europe or the States. Viva Las Vegas was great for that this year, as we got to reunite with a lot of old friends and meet some of the new younger acts that are on the Wild label.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: We think you’re part of the next wave of younger musicians in the rockabilly genre, bands that are talented and will have longevity. What other bands would you consider to be in this group?
PAT CAPOCCI: Thanks for the kind words, and also for using the word “young” in the same sentence as I’m thirty this year. So I’ll take any compliment about age that I can get at this stage! Ha! Ha!
I guess for some folks we’d be considered “new” as people are still discovering our music. But the reality is that we’ve been playing for over fifteen years already, and that’s a lot of gigs, tours, recording, and travel under our belt. I think longevity comes with being true and honest to yourself. Just stick to your guns! And that’s why I dig guys like The Walters, The Zazou Cowboys, Mary Simich, Nico Duportal, The Rhythm Shakers, JD and The Doel Brothers–all killer and no filler!
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: We saw you play at Viva Las Vegas this past year and are really impressed with your guitar playing. It seems to almost crossover to a heavy rock at times. Is it safe to say this, even though the genre of music is different?
PAT CAPOCCI: Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you dug what we did. I’ve never really thought of my picking like that before. But, yes, I guess it does touch on a heavier shredding style when we lock into a groove and start jamming. All of my favorite musicians are all round players, not slaves to any particular genre. I like to keep to that frame of mind on all gigs, keep my ears and mind open, and just play music.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: What artists did you grow up listening to? Who were your influences?
PAT CAPOCCI: I’ll try and be brief on this one because I could talk about my influence’s all day long.
I guess, if I really had to pinpoint who the main guys are that shaped my playing and pointed me in the right direction, it would be Johnny Guitar Watson, Dave Biller, Charlie Christian, Elmore James, TK Smith, Junior Watson, Deke Dickerson, Hollywood Fats, Merle Travis, Dan Nosovich, and Jimmie Vaughan & The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The T-birds and Jimmie are still a massive influence for me. I bought their first record “Girls Go Wild” when I was fifteen and it blew my mind. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I could say similar things about all the guys I’ve mentioned, though. They’ve all had a massive roll in the way I play my music today.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: Do you have a day job or is music your full-time profession?
PAT CAPOCCI: Yes, I’m a barber. I work at Captain Sip Sops in the beach suburb of Manly. We’re one of two shops located on the East Coast of Australia, the other being in Noosa. I guess the concept of the store is a first, for Australia anyway. The Noosa store was the first shop to open, and then two years later expanded to Manly. We share the retail space with Thomas Surfboards and have a selection of shred sleds, clothing and apparel. For me, this is a dream job as it’s basically an extension of the lifestyle I already live.
PONYBOY MAGAZINE: What plans do you have for the band and yourself in the upcoming future?
PAT CAPOCCI: We’ve just released our fourth record and are about to start an East Coast tour of Australia to promote it. We’ll also be making a film clip for the title track Pantherburn Stomp over the next month, which should be super fun. We have a new 45’ coming out in four weeks, a firey little duet with the incredible Marlene Perez from The Rhythm Shakers. I’ve also started writing some new tunes for a possible on-line only release that I’m hoping to do with our good friends from Sweden, The Domestic Bumble Bees, while we’re in Scandinavia in December. That should be a fun tour. We’re just locking it in at the moment. It will be five countries in five days with the Bumblebees. Other than that, we practice, do gigs, work, record and repeat!
Thank you for your time and great pics, Ponyboy magazine!
Ponyboy considers twenty-five year old Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim to be part of the next wave of up-and-coming rockabilly musicians to take the world by storm. With a rural midwestern upbringing and classic good looks, Josh signed with Reb Kennedy’s Hollywood based Wild Records and now considers California his new home. We met up with Josh in Las Vegas where he was booked to play the “Young and Wild” musical showcase for Wild Records at the annual Viva Las Vegas 17 Rockabilly Weekender.
PONYBOY: Josh, tell us about your upbringing in Minnesota.
JOSH SORHEIM: I grew up on a small, hobby farm in very rural Minnesota. My family owned a small concrete business where I had worked since I was a small boy. We are a very close family and we love working and hanging out together. It’s great that they are so supportive and are behind me 100 percent.
PONYBOY: How did you get into music?
JOSH SORHEIM: We had a piano in the house and I used to play little tunes I heard on the television. One time my mom noticed this and she asked me if I wanted to play an instrument. I chose the violin and took lessons, but abruptly quit because I hated them so much. So, I moved on to the piano and quit again because I hated taking lessons. I gave up music until my senior year in high school, when I found a piano under the bleachers. On my free hour I would go plunk on that piano and eventurally I got addicted. I looked up everything musically and I stumbled upon rockabilly. Naturally, I saw that upright bass that Bill Black was playing and I just had to have one! I got an upright and taught myself how to play, then eyeballed that guitar player. Needless to say, I got stuck on the guitar.
PONYBOY: Would you say your music inspiration is primarily 50’s rock-n-roll?
JOSH SORHEIM: Well, 50’s rock-n-roll is a big part of the music I love and play. My true love is American music from the 1890’s to the 1960’s. I love western swing, jazz, ragtime, jug bands, rock-n-roll, rockabilly, blues, swing, gospel, country, and honky tonk. I like to pull from every which way, so everybody gets something they like and some people can get introduced to music styles and songs that they haven’t heard before.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your sound?
JOSH SORHEIM: I’d say fast, fun and you can dance to it! I like songs that have a good boogie beat and people can really cut a rug to it. It’s all about having a great time at a show, so I like to play songs that are a lot of fun. I try and mix in some boogie woogie, western swing, blues, rockabilly and rock-n-roll in my songs because that’s the stuff that I think we all get a real kick out of.
PONYBOY: You relocated to Los Angeles recently. How has that been for you?
JOSH SORHEIM: It’s been a blast, besides the traffic and earthquakes. The friends I’ve met out here have been instant family and there is something fun to do every day and night. I was terrified being a country boy from the mid-west moving to the big city, but so far, I’ve loved every second. It also helps having Disneyland and the movie studios down the street. For a Disney, history and movie buff this is practically heaven for me.
PONYBOY: And, you also signed with Wild Records. Tell us how Reb Kennedy discovered you.
JOSH SORHEIM: One of the Wild guitarists saw some of my videos I was posting online, showed them to Reb and the next day I got a call. He asked me if I could fly out to LA for a tryout show and I said heck, yes! I flew out, did the Wild Weekender, and I was accepted into the Wild Records family. It’s been a real honor to meet, hangout and play with all the amazing and talented musicians on the Wild label.
PONYBOY: Is playing music your primary occupation?
JOSH SORHEIM: I’d say music is one of my occupations. I can’t sit still, so currently I’m starting my own business. I also freelance in handyman services, as well as being a car mechanic that makes house calls. And, I do restoration and sales of all kinds of vintage goodies. I have big plans in the works for other ventures, as well.
PONYBOY: Who would you say are your favorite musicians?
JOSH SORHEIM: That’s like asking what breath is my favorite to breathe. I love them all because each one is different and keeps me going.
PONYBOY: How many instruments do you play?
JOSH SORHEIM: I dabble in guitar, piano, clarinet, upright bass, harmonica, accordion, and lap steel.
PONYBOY: Do you have a release date for your Wild Records album? And, do you have any touring planned?
JOSH SORHEIM: We just recorded some tracks for a new 10 inch record coming out, as well as having a new 45 in the works. And I have a few European tours coming up this year, which I’m really excited about!
PONYBOY: Will you settle in California or eventually go back to Minnesota?
JOSH SORHEIM: I love California, but I also love a good road trip. I have plans to get a 1940’s trailer and hit the road for a while. I have family and friends in Minnesota, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as on the East Coast. So, my home is all over the United States. There is way too much to see and too many people to meet to settle down anytime soon.
We can never get enough of Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. Year 17 was chock full of tremendous music! Classic favorites of Ponyboy’s were the 80′s neo-rockabillies legends including Robert Gordon, The Rockats and Tim Polecat. The original “teddy boy” band Crazy Cavan and The Rhythm Rockers played for the first time in the US in over 30 years…well worth the wait. The next generation of UK Teddy’s known as Furious were a smashing success with their debut VLV performance. And we are sure that many more are to follow for these extremely talented gentleman. Imelda May, the Irish export that has risen to rockabilly fame more recently, played to a packed lot at the Viva car show. We are extremely passionate about anything that is brought to us by the genius of Reb Kennedy’s Wild Records. The heavily anticipated Australian trio known as Pat Capocci did not disappoint, the boy can play guitar like no one else can. Other Wild Records standouts included the elegant Mary Simich on guitar and vocals, the angst-ridden youth of The Desperados, wholesome new comer Josh Hi-Fi Sorheim, soulful 60′s garage band The Hurricanes, the always electrifying Luis and The Wildfires, the young emotional lead singer from The Blancos, and we also must mention the intensity of rebelious rock-n-roll known as Will & The Hi-Rollers. Also, Wild Records “buzz” band The Rhthym Shakers kept the crowd invigorated with the strong willful voice of lead singer Marlene Perez , swinging that big beautiful red hair all over the ballroom stage. The Wednesday night pre-party had Japanese legends Stompin Riff Raff’s; we’ve seen them before and just can’t get enough, with an exhilarating lead singer whom seems high on music, and three kick ass female musicians singing backup and playing instruments. Of course we also love The Rip’ Em Ups with the newly svelte Javier tearing up the stage and Jittery Jack’s slapstick moves. BUT one plea from Ponyboy: PLEASE bring back Bloodshot Bill next year! By MARIA AYALA. Photography Alexander Thompson.
Dollie Deville. The blond and beautiful West Coast based 5o’s gal you see at most weekenders has the biggest smile and is always dressed head to toe in great vintage attire. In her highly popular website known as The Rockabilly Socialite, she offers tidbits to the world which range from vintage style tips to the best rockabilly bands. She recently expanded her site to include a men’s perspective from her husband and writer Zack Simpson, who is now known as The Rockabilly Gentleman. We caught up with Dollie to find out about her background, how she met Zack, and what she has in store for the future. Photos courtesy of Dollie Deville.
PONYBOY: Dollie, please tell us your background. Where were you raised?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I was born and raised in Southern California. I’ve been here my whole life. I really am a California girl. I don’t think I could live anywhere else!
PONYBOY: When did you first start getting into vintage 1950’s fashion and music?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I didn’t realize it until I was an adult, but I was influenced at a young age. I remember my grandma would play 50’s songs, specifically “Papa Loves Mambo” by Perry Como, to wake us up in the morning. My grandpa had wired speakers all around the house so you could hear it everywhere. My grandma grew up during the great depression, so she always taught me to treasure and care for what you have. And she did this with all of her vintage glasses and dishes. I also remember another family member having a 50’s Chevy, which he adored. I wore a vintage dress to my 8th grade dance and recall being happy that I was unique. I really starting getting into it as a lifestyle after meeting my husband Zack. He took me on dates to Bob’s Big Boy in his ’55 Ford Fairlane. Those were great times!
PONYBOY: How and when did your successful blog “The Rockabilly Socialite” come about?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I actually started the website at a recommendation from a fellow rockabilly blogger. I never thought my life was unique or interesting until someone pointed it out. Then I realized that it might be a great way to get involved in the rockabilly “scene” and help support the music, especially since I am not a musician. I think it started about five years ago and has grown beyond my wildest dreams. It’s actually the #1 rockabilly blog on Google now!
PONYBOY: We love the site. It is definitely knowledgeable for both insiders and outsiders of rockabilly culture. Where does the inspiration come from for your site?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I hardly even need inspiration really. I just write about what I do, what I want to do, or about the things I like. They say “do what you love” and that’s really the case with my site. I never run out of things to talk about. Instead, I run out of time to write it all!
PONYBOY: How would you describe your personal style now?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: My moto is “live colorfully”! I love colors and prints. I wear way too many accessories and a bow much too often. But, that’s how I like it!
PONYBOY: Tell us about the controversial “Wives with Beehives” pilot that you were heavily featured in. That’s how we first became aware of you.
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I don’t really know what to say that hasn’t already been said a hundred times. Basically, it was pitched like it was going to be a cool show, but in the end Hollywood just ruined it like they always do. It turned into “The Real Housewife’s of Vintage”. It was a great disappointment. It’s probably the thing I am most embarrassed about in my life thus far. However, I have come to peace with it. Nothing keeps me up at night.
PONYBOY: How and when did you meet your husband Zack Simpson?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: I met him in 2005 at a pet store he used to work at. I used to go in just to see if he was working. I didn’t even have a pet! I didn’t know his name, so I called him the “pet store boy” when I mentioned him to my family. We joke that I gave him a “forever home” like he was the pet I rescued. I was only seventeen at the time, and never thought I would meet my future husband at a pet store, but life is funny like that. The first thing he ever said to me was that I was rockabilly and I didn’t even know it yet. Boy, was he right!
PONYBOY: Tell us about his band The Outta Sites.
DOLLIE DEVILLE: The Outta Sites are the 60’s Mersey beat band he formed with Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, Pete Curry (both of Los Straitjackets) and Jason Eoff. I love this band because there is no one out there doing exactly what they are doing. I see so many of the same types of bands all of the time, so it’s great to see something so fresh and unique to change it up. Each of the members are insanely talented, and they have great chemistry on stage. They ‘re really a pleasure to see play. The guys are all really nice and even let me travel with them. I have gotten to go to so many new places. I even got to tag along to New England where they played The New England Shake-Up this past weekend. And they will be playing Spain in February for The Rockin’ Race Jamboree. My husband works so hard on his music while also working full time. And I couldn’t be more proud of him!
PONYBOY: You recently added Zack as The Rockabilly Gentleman on your site. That’s a great idea. What brought that about?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: Necessity, really. I needed help. He has always been my right hand in the past, so it just made sense. I trust him more than anyone. He is a creative writer, knowledgeable of the music from the inside, and he knows his fair share about fashion. He was just the perfect fit. I am enjoying working on the site more now that he is on board. We also get to have dates disguised as meetings, which is fun.
PONBOY: What do you have in store for yourself in the future?
DOLLIE DEVILLE: Who knows! I am kind of up for anything. Zack and I have big plans for the site in the next few years. I am just starting a cookbook that I want to self-publish by the end of next year. I am also in talks with a clothing company to guest design a line for them. Hopefully it all works out!
Ponyboy goes crazy for redheads! So we were thrilled to photograph West Coast beauty Lola Devlin for our “Ponyboy Loves” section. Lola is not only a 1950’s styled siren, she is also a lingerie designer. We always catch Lola in the most amazing vintage get-ups, as well as some of her own creative over-the-top designs.
PONYBOY: Tell our readers about your upbringing. Where were you raised?
LOLA DEVLIN: California woman, born and raised. I grew up in Los Angeles, then Lake Tahoe and I have been happily living in San Francisco for the past ten years.
PONYBOY: How did you get into designing clothing?
LOLA DEVLIN: My Grandmother first taught me how to sew when I was six and I have been making what I want to wear ever since. After a few attempts at different career options, I quickly realized that what I can do best for the world is make clothing. For my company, I am both the designer and the seamstress, which is a blessing and a curse, as I spend most of my time chained to the sewing machine. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, it is an amazing process to make something for someone that they will wear in their everyday life, for a special occasion, up on stage or just romping around the house. Nothing makes me more excited than to see a client or a friend wear a garment I’ve made for them. It’s always icing on the cake when they feel as good as they look. It’s almost hard to describe why I do what I do, but the thrill of someone loving what they are wearing, if I’ve made it for them, is something nobody can ever take away from me.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your Lola Devlin designs. Is it exclusively lingerie?
LOLA DEVLIN: A little bit yes, a little bit no. Lingerie is the heart and soul of my company. It’s what I can design solely for, what I want to make and sell, and frankly, makes me giggle the most to create. I will occasionally do a custom clothing piece for a client and have done things like create a line of perfect pencil skirts for select stores, and so on. Lingerie will forever be my favorite type of garment to design and sew. Nothing quite compares to the attitude that comes with creating and wearing lingerie, and most certainly the attitude that comes with a good piece of house attire.
PONYBOY: Where do you get inspiration for the pieces you design?
LOLA DEVLIN: I am lost in my own cheeky world, I’m afraid. I am constantly looking for and pulling inspiration from many different places, mostly from the past when lingerie and house attire were celebrated the most. It’s not only a lost art, but also a lost lifestyle that I am hoping to bring back in a small way, one woman at a time. The books I read are old pulp fiction, most of them saucy. I am always on the hunt for old photography from way back when, of people in their normal clothes, erotica, smut and all the wonderful occasions in between. Most of my inspiration I find comes in the form of the attitudes and personalities of people I meet, or if there is an occasion in particular the ideas just dream up themselves. I have found that I can’t decide what to design until I see the fabric in front of me. It is usually then the fabric gives me the idea for what it wants to be and I just have to chop it out with my trusty pair of scissors.
PONYBOY: So, primarily the 1950’s aesthetic is your thing, design wise?
LOLA DEVLIN: The 1950’s aesthetic is my favorite for several reasons, although overall I sway between the mid 40’s to mid 60’s. I fell in love with the glamour of that time a long time ago; women’s figures were celebrated the most in fashion and fashion was both simple and extravagant. But mostly, I appreciate the effort that women had during that time period.
PONYBOY: You’re also personally very into 1950’s culture. When did you start getting into that?
LOLA DEVLIN: I have always said I was born in the wrong time period, but really only if we are musically or aesthetically speaking. I have loved the music, the dancing, the clothing, the look and design of that era for my entire life. I have a preference for clothing cut from that era or designed similar as that fits my figure best. I have a preference for the music of that era because it makes me wiggle around the most. I love films from that era for their simplicity and everything from architecture, automobiles, and everything in between – and for my design mind, it all makes sense to me. The first color lipstick I ever bought was red because that is the only color I believed women should ever wear. Still to this day I don’t know why I thought that when I was a kid, but I still believe it now.
PONYBOY: Who would you say are your favorite clothing designers from the past to the present?
LOLA DEVLIN: My favorite clothing designers are actually a mix of clothing and costume designers: Madeline Vionnet, Adrian, Edith Head, Gussie Gross, Ceil Chapman, and Schiaparelli. And may I just add that I absolutely hate Chanel – not my kind of woman.
PONYBOY: As far as music is concerned, what music is on your turntable?
LOLA DEVLIN: Nothing but the good stuff! If it makes me wiggle, then I dig it. My favorite genres of music are early R&B, blues, rockabilly, rock & roll, but I also fancy some soul, some jazz, some western and always exotica.
PONYBOY: Of the modern day bands out there, who are your particular favorites?
LOLA DEVLIN: There are some incredible musicians out there who I am lucky enough to call good friends, and I will travel the world to see them play. In no particular order or type: Nikki Hill, Furious, Eddie Clendening, Bebo, Bloodshot Bill, Josh Sorheim, The Shadowmen, Dollar Bill, JD McPherson, The Rattle Rockin’ Boys, The Caezers, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, The Bellfuries and The Reckless Ones.
PONYBOY: We see that you are buying up all the vinyl that you can get your hands on these days. Are you an aspiring DJ, as well?
LOLA DEVLIN: I never planned on it actually. I have always bought vinyl for friends who are DJ’s and record collectors, if I ever came across a song I knew they were after. Or, if it was something that I personally love to dance to, it was my selfish way of sneaking in songs I wanted to wiggle around to at shows. I swore that I would never let myself start collecting until a few weeks ago I came across a record that I could not live without and have been crying mercy ever since. I want to play the songs I love to wiggle around to and suppose the only way for you all to hear them is if I DJ them somewhere. Watch out! I might be out on the loose soon enough, clawing my way right out of the jungle!
We are fanatics of Tom Ingram’s Viva Las Vegas rockabilly event and all of the terrific style that it brings every year. One thing we’ve noticed on social media in the last few years is the abundance of critics that claim that it’s all about the clothing and not the music. Well, we agree that it can be a bit of a fashion show at this annual bash, but we are infatuated with the top-notch attire that many attendees don. We applaud music fans for expressing themselves through the art of dressing.
That being said, we noted many vintage classics for both men and women. For the women, we are passionate about the following: floor length gowns, full skirt dresses, leopard, gold lame, oversized hand bags, elaborate updos, spring-o-lators, lucite purses, bakelite jewelry, floral patterns, bold sunglasses, head wraps and false eyelashes. For the gentleman, we applaud: fleck suits, gabardine shirts, tuxedo jackets, teddy boy drape coats, rayon hawaiian shirts, spectators, colorful argyle socks, 1940’s ties, knit pullovers, western wear and closely cropped pompadours. Viva la Rock-a-billy style! By Maria Ayala. Photography Alexander Thompson.
LEVI DEXTER: Modern Day Rockabilly Phenomenon. A British born teddy boy, Levi became the founding frontman for the late 1970’s band Levi and the Rockats, when he was discovered by clever music visionary Leee Childers. Though he has changed bands throughout the years, he always stayed true to the musical influences of 50’s rock’n’roll. Living the good life in Portland with wife Bernie Dexter, we reached out to Levi and asked him about his upbringing as a British ted, coming to America, leaving The Rockats and his musical evolution. All photos courtesy of Levi Dexter.
PONYBOY: Levi, please tell us about your early years in the UK?
LEVI DEXTER: I was raised in Chelsea in London by my mother. My father was a drummer from Venezuela who left us when I was 5 years old. I really had no interest in the music of the 1960’s when I was a boy. I always gravitated toward music of the 40’s and 50’s that was still being played on the radio. By 1972 I was very into 50’s rock ‘n’ roll. Malcolm Mclaren had opened a teddy boy shop on Kings Road in Chelsea called LET IT ROCK. And it was just around the corner from my home, so I spent a lot of time there. This was years before he managed the Sex Pistols and the punk rock movement. When I was 15 we moved to Southend-On-Sea in Essex on the south east coast of England. There was a huge teddy boy movement there. That’s where my rock ‘n’ roll roots really began.
PONYBOY: That must have been such an exhilarating experience being a ted back in 1970’s England. Tell us a bit about that.
LEVI DEXTER: Yes, by 1974 I had found The Pier Bar in Southend. We called it the Long Bar. It was strictly for teddy boys and teddy girls. You couldn’t get in if you were a square as there was a strict code. You had to wear the right clothes, have greasy hair, listen to nothing after 1959 and show respect for all other teddy boys and defend them when there were fights with outsiders. I used to see Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers and also Flying Saucers play there quite often. Then one day I was singing along as the band played and Cavan asked if I’d like to come up and sing a song with the band. This was the start of it all for me. Pretty soon every time Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers and Flying Saucers played I would be asked to jam. I owe so much to Cavan Grogan and Sandy Ford for giving me the opportunity to learn to have faith in myself at such an early age.
PONYBOY: The feud between the teds and the punks must have been very chaotic looking back now?
LEVI DEXTER: Basically, the teddy boy style had always struck fear into people on the street, with a reputation of violence and a commitment of defending 50’s rock ‘n’ roll music and lifestyle. Once the punks were on the street the increased shock value made teddy boys seem less scary. Added to this, some punks were disrespecting our places and fighting teds when we were in small numbers. This escalated pretty fast. Malcom Mclaren had closed LET IT ROCK and had opened his shop called SEX at the same location selling bondage gear and punk rock fashion. The punks there mocked the teddy boys and the final straw was when a photo of Elvis Presley that was on the wall had a dagger drawn in his back. The punks also had a show at the Queens Hotel in Essex, another bastion of the teddy boy scene, and burned the confederate flag that hung on the wall. They took it as racist, but to us it represented rockabilly music as the rock ‘n’ roll of the south. It stood for rockabilly rebel. Dozens of teddy boys would gather at Sloan Square (at one end of the King’s Road in Chelsea) and then march together down to Malcolm’s store and fight with any punks that cared to show up. The newspapers had a field day exaggerating the trouble that was going on and printing extreme headlines and stories. For a while if you were a teddy boy, rockabilly or punk you had to watch yourself on the street or move around in numbers. It was exhilarating but it was also quite stupid and became a drag. In 1977 I jammed with Shakin’ Stevens band the Sunsets at a show in London. There were teds and punks there and the atmosphere was tense. I did my couple of songs and everyone came together to the front of the stage, both teds and punks enjoying the good energy. It was at this show that I met Leee Black Childers. He had been involved in the music scene for many years and was a famous photographer. He had worked with Mott the Hoople (“All The Way To Memphis” is dedicated to him on their LP). He also had done the image for the “after the apocalypse” inside centerfold on David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album. At the time I met him he was managing the Heartbreakers (ex-New York Dolls), featuring Johnny Thunders. He approached me and asked me if I’d ever thought of fronting my own band. I told him it wasn’t possible as none of my friends could play music. He told me it could be done. Within weeks, myself, Smutty Smith on double bass, Dibbs Preston on guitar (known as Eddie Dibbles back then), Mick Barry also on guitar and English Don on drums became Levi and the Rockats. We practiced as much as we could but knew we could never play the teddy boy scene as they were so strict about bands sounding exactly like the 1950’s recordings. Leee made plans for us to play at punk rock shows which was a very daring concept in 1977.
PONYBOY: And how did you actually start performing?
LEVI DEXTER: Leee had booked us to play the end of term Christmas party at the Royal College Of London on November 10th 1977. We had made friends with many of the punks and had been accepted by them and even borrowed amps from Marco of Siouxsie and the Banshees. We went on stage and struggled through our show, and came off feeling very defeated. It was not the show we had always imagined. As we came off stage Johnny Thunders told us to go back out for an encore even if it wasn’t called for. We went back on stage and Johnny did a 3 song Chuck Berry medley with us and everyone there went wild! We came off stage saying, “We’re awesome! We rocked it!” Of course, it was Johnny who was awesome and rocked it! Our third show was at the Music Machine in London on December 26th, 1977 with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants and many other punk bands. We had to go on last and it was our first really good show. It was a real party and everyone really accepted us and enjoyed the show.
PONYBOY: Leee Childers discovered you and was the visionary for Levi and the Rockats. He brought the band over to the USA and knew all the “right” people, like Andy Warhol and all those fabulous types in the back room at Max’s Kansas City. It seems like you owe him a lot. Are you still in touch with him?
LEVI DEXTER: Yes, Lee was the reason for all of our success! He is a man with vision and faith. He is fearless and never gives in. He’s the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll spirit. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for him. I learned so much from him and I will always be extremely grateful. He worked with Andy Warhol in the stage play “Pork” in New York and was very “in” with the Warhol crowd. He got us into Andy’s INTERVIEW magazine and also the Andy Warhol cable TV show where Debbie Harry from Blondie interviewed us. He also got us on the first ted/punk tour with Wayne County and the Electric Chairs in 1977. This would mark the end of the ted/punk wars. Lee brought us over to the U.S. in July 1978. Our first show was November 10th, 1978 (our 1st year anniversary) at Max’s Kansas City in New York City opening for the Cramps. We were selling out clubs in New York like Max’s and C.B.G.B’s, and then clubs in Los Angeles like the Whiskey-A-Gogo, the Starwood and the Troubadour. We performed live nationally on the Merv Griffin T.V. show and also played live on the Wolfman Jack Midnight Special. One of the other acts on the show was the Jackson’s without Michael. Leee and his long time friend Tom Ayres got us on the Louisiana Hayride (the first rockabilly band to play there since Elvis in the 50’s). I could go on endlessly listing the great things Lee did for me. We chat now and then on FaceBook and email. Sometimes he will send me photos of Levi and the Rockats. He is still active and creative and still working in rock ‘n’ roll and art.
PONYBOY: Shortly after living in the US you departed from the Rockats to stay loyal to your manager Lee, which was very honorable of you. It seemed at that moment that Levi & The Rockats may have perhaps been on the brink of “pop” stardom. Looking back, are you fine with your decision to leave the Rockats? And are you still in touch with Smutty, Dibbs and the others?
LEVI DEXTER: It was a hard time. We had gone as far as we could but still had been unable to get a recording contract. Most record labels didn’t see rockabilly music as a form of music to be respected. Many times I was told “if only you didn’t play THAT kind of music” and “Haven’t you heard of Duran Duran? Couldn’t you sound more like them?” My answer was “Would you say this to B.B. King or George Jones?” I have always been a devoted defender of real rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly music and demanded that it be given the same respect as so many of the other original American music styles like country western, blues, jazz, etc. All had been handled respectfully. And I would demand the same respect. For my stubbornness, I would be rejected for not “playing the game”. Eventually the guys in the band looked for who to blame for not getting a record deal and going further. They wanted to have a new manager. I wouldn’t sell Leee out. Leee and I insisted on being West Coast based in Los Angeles. The Rockats wanted to be based in New York. Of course, once we broke up in December 1979, they moved to New York, signed to R.C.A. records and recorded the very poppy “Make That Move”. They were willing to compromise to get ahead, and the record went nowhere. They did well, but not as well as Levi and the Rockats. Whenever there’s a Rockats reunion they only go back to 1980, therefore, excluding me. We have only ever done one reunion show and that was at the Green Bay Rockin’ Fest III in 2007. One show together in 35 years! Smutty and I are like brothers and will always be close. The others I just say “hi” to once in a while on FaceBook.
PONYBOY: After leaving the Rockats, you went on to form Levi Dexter and the Ripchords, Levi Dexter and Magic, and Levi Dexter and the Gretsch Brothers. It’s all an amazing evolution and was probably fun to reincarnate yourself in different bands and musical projects. Looking back, what period or album would you say has been your favorite part of your musical career so far?
LEVI DEXTER: The time spent with Levi and the Rockats was the most exciting of all. I was young and wanted to turn the world on to rockabilly music. It was my first time in the U.S. and we were breaking ground and reaching new nights every month. It was the biggest thrill-ride ever. There was no Stray Cats yet. There was nothing in the way except the stubborn suits at the record companies. We turned the world on to rockabilly music and the scene has gotten bigger every year since then. I’m very proud of what we did for rockabilly music.
I am most proud of my new album Levi Dexter – Roots Man that I have produced myself and has just been released on my own Dextone Records label. It is distributed by Rhythm Bomb Records in Europe . I recorded it at Moletrax West / Danalog recording studios in California and mixed it at Roseleaf Recording in Portland with mixing engineer Jimi Bott (drummer for the Fabulous Thunderbirds). I’ve had total control over this album and consider it to be a great rockabilly album.
PONYBOY: Being inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame is such an amazing achievement as an artist. Congratulations. The high must have been incredible.
LEVI DEXTER: It really means so much to me! I am in there with all my peers and friends. For years to come new young people discovering rockabilly music will see my name and check me out. I’m far from done, but after so many years devoted to rockabilly music, it feels really good to be honored in this way. I will always consider it a special achievement in my career.
PONYBOY: You’re now in Portland, Oregon with your wife Bernie Dexter, the legendary pin-up model and clothing designer whom you shoot constantly. We love the images that you take of her. Tell us what daily life is like with your glamourous wife.
LEVI DEXTER: Bernie and I live a very normal life in Oregon. We work together every day and live in a lovely English manor house, spending every moment together. I am so proud of her! She’s such a hard working woman who always has a positive attitude, and friendly and good spirited to everyone she meets. She works tirelessly on her clothing company and photo shoots. I’m always happy to shoot the photos as it’s some of the most fun we have, it’s always a party. When we’re not working we just spend time together and enjoy every moment we have. We’re still both madly in love with each other and are never tired of each other’s company.
PONYBOY: We read that your favorite thing to do is perform at rockabilly weekenders/festivals. We love weekenders as well. Tell us your favorite festivals in the past. And also, do you have any performances scheduled at any upcoming festivals?
LEVI DEXTER: My favorite festivals that I’ve played at are the Green Bay Rockin’ Fest in the U.S., the Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender, the Americana Festival, the Ace Cafe in England, the Good Rockin’ Tonight festival in France, the Valencia Hall Party, and the Screamin’ Festival in Spain. Strangely, I’ve never been asked to play the Viva Las Vegas weekender?
I’ll be playing the Good Rockin’ Tonight festival in France in March, as well as playing in Milan and Italy in April. Bernie will be at the Atomic Festival in England in April. And May 31st – June 1st, I’ll be playing at the Kustom Kulture Festival in Washington State. I’ll also be attending the Rockabilly Rave with Bernie in England in June. Bernie has a fashion show there. And I’ll be touring Japan with the Gretsch Brothers (one of my favorite bands to play with) for most of September.
The Levi Dexter -Roots Man album will be out this year on CD and vinyl. Later in the year, the Levi Dexter & the Gretsch Brothers album will also be out on CD and vinyl. It’s out now on CD in Japan. It’s going to be a busy year!
PONYBOY: Lastly, we know you’ve been asked this before, but please refresh our memory. Tell us your favorite musicians, past and present.
LEVI DEXTER: There are so, so many great rockabilly artists. My advice is to dig as deep as you can and give a listen to everything! My favorites from the 50’s (in no particular order):
Gene Vincent & his Blue Caps
Bill Haley and his Comets
The Collins Kids
Johnny Kidd & the Pirates
My favorites from the present:
The Blue Cats
Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers
Cherry Casino & the Gamblers
Marc & the Wild Ones
Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys
PONYBOY: Do you have any last comments or thoughts?
I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported my music and rockabilly music in general. It’s been underground for over half a century now and is bigger and the scene is stronger than it has ever been. It’s strange that many music styles have come and gone over the years, but rockabilly music has always been there and has always been an alternative to other styles of music. I love seeing the new young generation coming up and getting into the scene. It makes me feel good to know new people are discovering rockabilly music and living the rockabilly lifestyle. For me, singing rockabilly music is like dancing. It’s a celebration and I do it because I can. Apart from Bernie, it’s the most important thing in my life! I truly feel that the best days are yet to come and it will only get bigger and stronger as time passes. Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this and thank you Ponyboy for including me! Levi Dexter
This trio hail from the streets of Liverpool and are being tipped as the UK’s break-out band. With a relentless touring schedule, Furious have been cemented as one of the hardest working and wildest live acts around. Their appeal crosses so many borders and with their self penned songs about teenage life today, they are turning the world’s kids onto a wild rock ‘n’ roll beat.
Even from their early days playing in youth clubs around Liverpool, they caused a big stir. They have starred on MTV as ambassadors for the Liverpool music scene. Their debut album reached number 10 in the UK vinyl charts (above Elton John & Thin Lizzy). They have been featured on the computer game ‘Rock Band’ with one of their songs ‘All Night Long’. And more recently, they’ve just joined Wild Records label with a new album From the Cavern to California destined to cause a stir.
They have played countless gigs abroad, all over Europe. And following two successful tours of Russia and America, it looks like Furious are about to take Viva Las Vegas by storm. The critics are already comparing it to the arrival of The Beatles. So, prepare yourself. This isn’t for the faint of heart. This is the real roots of rock ‘n’ roll!
Editor’s note: Ponyboy was pleased to have Mike Lewi, co-creator from New York City’s infamous “Midnite Monster Hop” as our guest interviewer, as well as photo contributions by the very talented Elisa Gierasch.
MIKE LEWI: You’re on the eve of performing at the 2014 Viva Las Vegas festival to thousands of people, a primarily American audience. How do you anticipate a teddy boy band being accepted by that audience?
FURIOUS: If it’s anything like our shows around New York or California, it’s going to be crazy! We haven’t been let down by American audiences yet, so we’re expecting “crazy” on a big scale!
MIKE LEWI: What do you bring that may be considered new to American audiences?
FURIOUS: Ugly, out of control rock ‘n’ roll! We’re the anti-pretentious, anti-poser rock ‘n’ roll that seems to be everywhere these days.
MIKE LEWI: Can you explain for Ponyboy readers the history of Edwardian culture?
FURIOUS: Teddy boys were working-class teenagers who bought expensive threads on layaway to better themselves when they had nothing, and to show the upper classes they wouldn’t bow down and be quiet – to then go and drink and brawl in them. Basically, they were the scallies of the 50’s and it’s been going right through the years since then as an underground sub-culture.
MIKE LEWI: You’ve met and been inspired by many men and women that grew up in the bombed out rubble of post WWII England, at the birth of the original teddy boy movement. How did those originators of the first teenage rebellion wave define themselves at a time that actually even preceded rock’n’roll?
FURIOUS: It was the clothes and the attitude, to look smart and answer to no one. They had no blueprint or predecessors to base themselves on. These were the first “teenagers” to leave bomb-raids and rationing behind and they were going to make the most of it.
MIKE LEWI: You started your band at a very young age. Please tell us how that came about.
FURIOUS: We were just kids in school dying to hear some rock ‘n’ roll, but there was none about so we started a band. There was never a plan, we were just lads having a bit of fun. And that’s what it still is. We’d play the dives and dirty clubs around Liverpool, anywhere that would pay an underage band in beer. And then the word spread.
MIKE LEWI: I have heard that your parents grew up within the ted culture, so is it safe to assume you’ve lost touch with the world outside of rock’n’roll?
FURIOUS: That’s not really the case. Rock ‘n’ roll was the soundtrack to our childhood, but we were just scallies growing up. We looked like skin heads as well, because there wasn’t much money back then and our grandad would “style” our hair with his old army clippers. It was a skinhead every time!
MIKE LEWI: Are your parents proud of you?
FURIOUS: We hope so, but they party every time we leave the country. Don’t know what they’re trying to tell us!
MIKE LEWI: Considering the amount of original teds still regularly supporting rock’n’roll events, and many of the original rock’n’roll revival bands consistently still playing live, what has been the reaction towards Furious by UK and European audiences?
FURIOUS: It’s been great! Better than we could have ever expected. Right from day one, the original teds took us under their wing. And wherever we go, there will be a good crowd of them going crazy til’ the early hours.
MIKE LEWI: I know over the years you’ve had some various line-up changes. Tell us about Jimmy.
FURIOUS: We met Jimmy at a gig in an old ted pub in London where he was playing with another band. We were going through drummers like bog roll at the time. So after a few pints, he foolishly agreed to play some shows with us in Sweden and that was him trapped! He slotted in like an old mate we’d known for years.
MIKE LEWI: Is it strange to bring what, in some respects, is American music back to America?
FURIOUS: There’s so much talent stateside, we were surprised there was room for us. The music we go mad for happens to be rock’n’roll and that just happens to be American. So as strange as it is, we enjoy the challenge and look forward to dodging the old tomatoes and beer cans!
MIKE LEWI: You’ve just recorded your second album. How was that process different from recording with Nervous Records?
FURIOUS: Well, this was a strange thing for us! Normally, we record locally or wherever Roy Williams can book us into a studio in between our live shows. So, every time it’s been a different process. But we gained some attention from the gigs we played up and down California last summer, which lead to an exciting invitation by Reb Kennedy from Wild Records to join his label! The entire experience was mental! One day we were in Liverpool, and then all of a sudden, we were in his studio recording new tracks at a lightning pace (16 songs in 10 hours). Hours later, we were flying out of Hollywood back home! We haven’t heard the mixes yet, but Reb is really excited and we hope you’re all going to love it.
MIKE LEWI: You’ve recorded a cover on your first LP, Punk Bashin Boogie, originally recorded by Don E. Sibley, who wrote the song at the height of the teds versus punks war in the 1970’s. Have you ever met Don? Are there teds that still hold these views?
FURIOUS: Yeah, we met Don. He came to a show we played in Southampton years ago. The drummer out of the Dixie Phoenix was a punk as well, so the song was just a bit of fun back then, like it is today. And I can’t say we know of teds who still get wound up by punks. A lot of the anger towards punks came from them wearing signature ted clothing (creepers, drapes), and covering Eddie Cochran songs and claiming them as their own. Today teds, punks, mods and skins have got a lot more in common with each other, than not.
MIKE LEWI: Are we living through the rock ‘n’ roll revival revival?
FURIOUS: We’re not sure if anything is being revived, but we’re living through some amazing times. We’re playing shows right across the world with the music and people we love! We can’t get any more lucky than that, can we?
MIKE LEWI: How do you feel sharing the bill with Crazy Cavan at this upcoming Viva Las Vegas?
FURIOUS: We’ve been lucky enough over the years to share the stage with these ted legends on loads of occasions. But this feels a little more special. Not only were these rockers a massive weapon in orchestrating the 70’s revival, they have played a big part in what we are and the music we play too! So, seeing our name on the same bill in Las Vegas is a huge honor!
MIKE LEWI: Do you have any future plans for Furious?
FURIOUS: We just want to make that perfect rock ‘n’ roll record. We might never do it, but we’ll keep on trying until it kills us!
Upon first meeting Bloodshot Bill at the 2006 Drop Dead Festival in New York City, we were enamored by his musical talent. A Montreal-based rockabilly one man band, Bill has a raw and wild 50’s style, which has often been compared to the great legend Hasil Adkins. Shortly after that festival, Bill was no longer able to gain admittance into the United States, in fact, for five long years. Luckily for all American rockabilly fanatics, he is now able to tour freely throughout the U.S. Bloodshot Bill is also now on the Norton Records label.
PONYBOY: Bill, please tell us about your background.
BLOODSHOT BILL: I’m Trinitalian (half Italian, half Trinidadian, that is) and born and raised in Canada. I started playing music in high school – the drums first – and only started playing guitar in my early 20’s. I play with many bands, as well as doing my own solo/one man band shows. I have many recorded releases and hope you pick one up.
PONYBOY: At what age did you start getting into music?
BLOODSHOT BILL: I was pretty young. My best friend in First Grade had an older brother with cool records, and an older cousin who actually played in a rockabilly band. We thought it was pretty cool. I recently played a show with the older cousin (George Stryker). It was the first time I’d seen him in about 30 years! Also around that age, when my family would go on little weekend trips in the car, we’d always have this one Conway Twitty tape on. And we’d all sing along! I knew all the words and never got sick of it. I guess I was 6 or 7 years old.
PONYBOY: You toured in the United States for a while, then were forbidden to re-enter the U.S. Please tell us a bit about that.
BLOODSHOT BILL: I crossed into the States without a proper work visa. That’s it. And I was banned for 5 years. Now, I’m allowed back in and have the proper visa, etc. All is well, but what a pain it is to get that visa going. Eeef!
PONYBOY: Did you feel it set your career back at the time?
BLOODSHOT BILL: I don’t know. My expectations aren’t too high considering the kind of stuff I do. I was really bummed to not be able to play, see friends, travel, etc
PONYBOY: Since you’ve been able to enter the States and play, it seems like you are now touring more than ever. Is this correct?
BLOODSHOT BILL: No, I used to tour much more than I do now. I still get around. I’m just more selective of where I go. Before, I used to just hop in the car and be gone for months and months at a time. Now, I try to just head out on weekends, or for two weeks tops.
PONYBOY: You are now signed with Norton Records, a great American label. How has that been for you? It seems a perfect fit.
BLOODSHOT BILL: It’s a really great feeling to be on my favorite record label, and a huge honour to be one of the very few modern acts to release albums with them. I love everything they’ve done. And they really are the greatest people, too.
PONYBOY: How many records have you done with Norton? And many have you done in total?
BLOODSHOT BILL: With Norton, I’ve released 5 albums (as Bloodshot Bill, Ding-Dongs, and Tandoori Knights), 7 singles/EPs (as Bloodshot Bill, Tandoori Knights, and Bollywood Argyles), and have a new album planned for release this year with them. In total, with various labels (and not counting tracks on compilations), I have had 40 releases.
PONYBOY: That’s quite an extensive music library at a young age. We also love that you have your very own Bloodshot Bill Pomade Nice’N’Greasy. How did that come about?
BLOODSHOT BILL: I played a weekender in Kansas City years ago called Greaserama. The organizers also ran American Greaser Supply. We hit it off really well, and they sponsored me. They made me my own Frankenstein blend of their greases. It was the best. I still have some left but am hanging on to it hoarder-style, since they sold the company years ago.
PONYBOY: You now have a family. Please tell us about your daughter.
BLOODSHOT BILL: My daughter is the best! I love her so much. Her name is Penny Lee. She’s turning two next week. I smile everytime I look at her.
PONYBOY: What are your plans as far as recording and future touring?
BLOODSHOT BILL: I’m gonna “keep on keepin’ on”. I’ve got lots of new recordings coming out this year and plenty more touring. I’m heading to Florida next week, France, Belgium, and maybe the Yukon at some point this year. I’ve got lots of fun stuff planned.
Boston based New England Shake-up founder Beck Rustic has launched her first East Coast Rockabilly weekender. And it’s all about the music, including incredible performances by bands such as the Racketeers, the Rip’em Ups, Bloodshot Bill, Jittery Jack and the Screaming Rebel Angels. We caught up with the very busy Miss Rustic for questions about her weekender and the East Coast rockabilly scene.
PONYBOY: Please tell us your inspiration for starting this weekender?
BECK RUSTIC: Well, I’ve always loved music and have been booking shows around Boston for quite a while, just one–off regular shows. This seemed like a natural progression for me to do something that stretched out over a weekend, in a larger venue, to a larger group of people that are excited about the music that I love. And to be honest it’s nice going to a weekender that I can drive to instead of hopping on a plane!
PONYBOY: Prior to yourself, who do you feel on the East Coast has been the most successful at doing something steady in this genre?
BECK RUSTIC: DJ Easy Ed has been booking great shows in Boston for years, and has a radio show as well. Laura Rebel Angel in New York puts on great shows. And Rebel Night is a great monthly event in NYC.
PONYBOY: Who are your past favorite rockabilly bands/musicians?
BECK RUSTIC: Mac Curtis, Glen Glenn, Warren Smith, Al Ferrier, Billy Lee Riley, Carl Mann, Buddy Knox, Dale Hawkins. There are so many, I could go on and on really!
PONYBOY: And present day rockabilly bands?
BECK RUSTIC: I got really lucky the first year of the Shake-Up. I was able to book bands that I really love like the Bloodshots, Jittery Jack, Rocky Velvet, the Racketeers, and the Garnet Hearts. Everyone on the bill that played year one are bands that I listen to regularly. I also booked acts that aren’t really rockabilly, but are really high energy, like the Rip ‘Em Ups, Bloodshot Bill and Dollar Bill. There are a TON of great bands out there right now. Everytime I get asked this sort of question, I feel bad as I can’t list everyone. The list would be pages long!
PONYBOY: Why do you think the 50’s rockabilly movement is so big on the West Coast, and not on the East Coast?
BECK RUSTIC: I’ve thought about this a lot. I think quite a bit of it is because there seems to be a lot of younger kids experiencing the music scene on the West Coast. We have had less of that happening here the last few years. Those young kids that come out are really excited as they discover this type of new music. Unfortunately many of us take the scene for granted and we need these kids to help us from getting jaded. I think without that youth, things start to feel stale and people don’t go out as much. This hurts ticket sales for touring bands to justify hitting the East Coast cities. But recently I have been seeing some new faces out at shows and I think the East Coast is on the beginning of an upswing. So that’s good!
PONYBOY: Can you give us a hint of any bands/dj’s you might have booked for next years Shake-up?.
BECK RUSTIC: Nope! I’ll be announcing that in January. But I will say that I got really lucky again with the line-up for the second year. There are going to be fantastic musicians on the Shake-Up stage in 2014, as well as really good DJs for the late night record hops.
PONYBOY: Do you go abroad for any of the big weekenders?
BECK RUSTIC: I haven’t as of late, what with airfare costs being so expensive. The Shake-Up eats up all of my time, as well as everything in my wallet!
PONYBOY: Have you been to every Viva Las Vegas?
BECK RUSTIC: I’ve been to the last ten Viva’s. I’m 32 years old, so I wasn’t old enough to attend the first few years!
PONYBOY: Is Tom Ingram aware of you? Has he shown any support to your event?
BECK RUSTIC: He and I have emailed back and forth.
PONYBOY: Lastly, who would be your ultimate dream band for the Shakeup?
BECK RUSTIC: I’m not saying, as I don’t want to jinx it!