Carl Mann

Brandon Cook - -February 2, 2004
           I never really thought much of Carl Mann until a few years back. Sure ... Mona Lisa had some nice picking. But it wasn't RAW, SAVAGE rockabilly. It was fairly tame pop in the whole scope of Sun's(and Phillips) output. I had an album that I had picked up. A Sun job from back in the 70s. Decent output, but just not as crazy as the Jerry Lee Lewis comp I had that Sun put out also. This was '94 maybe. Parts of college are a haze for various reasons... studies, gals, trips. That would have been "nickle night summer". I can't quite remember most of it ... but damn it was a good few months.
           Back to Carl... sorta. A few years back I caught Ray Condo and his combo down in Austin. They tore the place up. I had seen Ray a few years earlier, but at that time the group was in a fairly straight western swing vibe. Cool, but didn't really catch me(I was a few years off from appreciating such things). This second time I caught them was right after the release of "High And Wild" and right after their appearance at the second VLV. Hot night at the Continental with the Bellfuries, Haystack Hi-Tones, Starliners, Ray and his Combo, and High Noon. Each band was hot and tight. I think back and am blown away at how each band, as great as they were, were bested by the next. Ray was second to last.
           The boys were in a locked down groove for their set. I distinctly remember a take of Mose Allison's "Parchman's Farm" that was sooooooooo in the pocket that it was damn near, uh, hypnotic. But the cop that really got me was "Baby I Don't Care". I had Ray's new cd, might have even picked it up that same weekend. But the way it was played that night was so hot that the recorded version just didn't click in as being the same song.
           So... get to the point, already!!!! A few months later I found Ray's slowed-up "Baby I Don't Care" to be a Carl Mann track and that ol' Sun comp got a dusting off. I blasted the damn thing. And caught on to Eddie Bush's guitar playing. Every single track on that lp was driven by Eddie's guitar. Sure, Carl's the star and it's his piano, but you take away the guitar and it ain't quite the same. So I walked about in an Eddie Bush hangover daze for a few weeks.
           Well ... jump ahead to the now, man. To today. I did a record hunt yesterday and turned up some decent blues/doo wop/r&b (Tarheel Slim and Little Ann on Flame, Jerry Reed's killer "Laughing At the Blues" on VEE Jay, and a wacky Corsairs 45 on Tuff), Johnny Carroll's "The Swing" on WB(nice cop on Dean Beard, Johnny boy!), and Carl's "South of the Border" on Phillips. What's Carl got to keep me up rather than snuggled down resting for the week?
           He's got the flip to "South of the Border". "South" was on the Sun lp and it's a decent enough number with it's border tones, but those damned "ay ya ya"'s just come off as hokey pop marketing rather than rock 'n roll. So I flip the son-of-a-gun over and get an amazing side. "I'm Comin' Home" kicks in with Eddie's guitar and takes off. nice big beat just screams for playing this one loud.
           After listening to this a few times through I dug out the Carl Sun comp for the first time in a few years. Played "Ubangi Stomp". Incredible break and a great version (sure... Warren's got a 'supper' voice and Carl's is more like 'dinner'). Played "Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes". Most rockin' version ever waxed of this oft-covered classic. "Baby I Don't Care" got dusted off. Forgot about the Anita Kerr-ed back up vocals, but it's still the amazing thing I remember it was.
           Then back to the 45 ... damn ... what a player. Eddie always played tight. Sure, he cops some of the same runs again and a again, but style, a personal style, comes in somewhere. This track has "dj-play me" written all over it (Del, Bill S., Shorty - ya'll tried this one out?). W.S. Holland's beat is all out and flat out.
           Had more that sprung to mind as I was on my Carl Mann bender earlier but I've lost it. Carl Mann and Eddie Bush are so looked over when it comes to talk of rockabilly. If you've overlooked Carl because of "Mona Lisa" and "Pretend" give Carl a spin, please. Sure... there's much hep'er hosses in the Sun/Phillips stable, but Carl's combo sound was a good as any. I can imagine them blowing even the Pacers outta the water.
           Is Carl still alive? And if so why hasn't his name come up for any weekenders? What about Eddie? And whether it's purposeful or not, just some chance happening, I want to thank Jack Baymoore and his Bandits for keeping that Carl Mann sound alive. Every now and again you guys nail it!
b cook - Odessa, WEST Texas

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