Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rock'n'Roll, The Primitive Culture

All the intellectual drivel about the roots of rock'n'roll has always left me bored and annoyed. When radio programmers or critics mention my "encyclopedic knowledge" of rock'n'roll I find myself cringing, shuffling my feet or just changing the subject.

When Hank Williams sang on the radio, it stirred my blood. I recorded on a little direct to disc machine in a shoe store in downtown Birmingham my own version of Hey, Good Lookin' when I was about four.

Mom took me to see Bo Diddley at the armory in Tampa when I was nine years old and I've not yet fully recovered.

African American culture and hillbilly life in the South are remarkably intertwined. The lack of self consciousness regarding sexuality is what rolled over Western civilization beginning in the mid- fifties.
Oh, music communicates at the deepest level. Always has. Dancing? A good way to have physical contact without getting slapped.

Let's face it, though, you can enjoy Duke Ellington and you can trip any light fantastic to Rachmaninoff but it's not anything at all like the unbridled joy of being swayed in a crowd caught up in a Little Richard show.

It's no coincidence that most of those giggly white kids would give Dick Clark the answer, "It's got a good beat, Dick. I like it," when queried about some new 45 that the crook was pushing down our throats. It is the beat. It's the rhythm.

Sex is not just good, it's holy. Cultures that don't mix morality and sexuality in terms of good and evil will always appeal to a repressed society. Hey! That was us.

Those heroes took it from everywhere. Hank Williams got it from Tee Tot. Sam Cooke took it from the church. Elvis took it from everything out there; blues, what we now call bluegrass, Mario Lanza, rhythm and blues, Dean Martin, Gene Autry.

When the music business finally appropriated the whole thing and turned it into a financial commodity they finally choked it.

Folks will find a way to get their music, though. The sexier, the better. Oh, I don't mean disrespectful, misogynistic junk. I'm talking about high art and culture, holy stuff. I'm talking about Work With Me, Annie and Sixty Minute Man. I'm talking about Great Balls of Fire and Double Shot of My Baby's Love.

You'll have to excuse me. I've got a sermon to preach and dirty songs to write. I've got a world to help save and love in my heart.


  1. Who is that handsome rocker in the picture with you? Looks more than somewhat familiar.

  2. Your pal, the charming Ramsay Midwood. He was asked to leave the Guthrie family.