Gene Summers' CD
"Reminisce Cafe"

Posted April 24, 2008
From "camilledad58"

Have you heard the news? There's good rockin' tonight with that new CD coming from Garland, TX. Released on February 1st, 2008, exactly 50 years after the release date of Gene's and his Rebels first single, "School of Rock'n'Roll" (Jan 11-100), that CD is accurately titled "Reminisce Cafe". Produced by Phil York with nice liner notes from DJ Ron Chapman, that CD offer 100% Texas rockin' music shaped with the support of great musicians as Bobby Rambo or Joey D'Ambrosio. It's very interesting to note the presence of Red Callendar, Plas Johnson, Rene Hall and Earl Palmer, all legendary session musicians, who backed Gene on his "Jan" sessions in 1958.

The booklet is a neat one with some 50's old pictures and two nice records labels shoots. But a record is at first music so let's talk a little about the first song who give his title to the CD "Reminisce Cafe", a nice ballad were you will meet Elvis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley or Jerry Lee. A nice place to be! Next song is a cover of the great "She Bops a Lot" first recorded by Ronnie Pearson, in 1958, for "Herald" records. Next three songs are originals from Gene and his wife Dea's pen and cover the whole spectrum of 50's music from ballad to guitar lead rockabilly and sax/vocal chorus movin' rockin' ditty. "I Won't Take Any Less" carries the shades of Elvis and "(It's Love Baby) 24 Hours a Day" is a moving cover of the Ted Jarrett's song first recorded by Louis Brooks, in 1955, for "Excello". From Gene's own pen, "Heartbreak City Limits" offer a more country feeling before Gene took a stroll on Elvis Presley repertoire with "Love Me Tender". Next songs are all strong rockers, the four last coming from a 2002 session cut in Sweden and already issued on his album "Do Right Daddy".

Those cuts bring a more 50's sound `cause those "ice cold northern cats" were feed with vintage 50's rockabilly since them prime. He sure wish all to be there at The School of Rock'n'Roll in 1958. For those of you who don't know what happened then in Dallas, let me give you a ride on Gene Summers early days.

Gene was born in Dallas (Texas) on January 3, 1939 and started to play at civic clubs and dances around 1955/56. He formed his first band, The Dixie Rebels, when at Arlington State College. The band featured Gene on vocal and guitar, James McClung on lead guitar, Gary Moon on drums and Benny Williams on bass. Around 1956, they come with two demos recorded in Duncanville "Flippin'" (an instro) and "Suzy Q". They were also welcome in April 28, 1956 to WFAA-TV program "Hi School Hi Lites" and started to play on a Dallas KTTK-TV show named "Country Picnic Show" when they were spotted by a talent scout for "Jan" records. That tiny label started by a Texas oilman named Tom Fleeger will live for two years, opening offices in Dallas and Hollywood, with a handful of artists. Two sessions will be set in California in 1958 and will give birth to "School of Rock'n'Roll"/"Straight Skirt" (Jan 11-100), "Nervous"/"Gotta Lotta That" (Jan 11-102) and "Twixteen"/"I'll Never Be Lonely" (Jan 106). The band took the name of "The Rebels" and Gene's first record got good review in Cashbox and Billboard and he will soon work with Duane Eddy, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Gene Vincent, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry or Jimmy Reed to name a few. By mid 1959, the band split from Jan records and Gene and James McClung got day jobs before becoming, for three years, the house band at Guthrey, a popular nightspot in Dallas.

On July 22, 1961, Gene married Deanna and they have three sons. One of those, Gregory Shawn even joins on that new CD.

After leaving the "Jan" label, Gene recorded for "Chess" and "Alta". His sides "Dance, Dance, Dance"/"Juke box Memories" (Alta 106) and "Almost 12.00 O'clock"/"Chapel Bells Ringing" (Lafayette 645) were recorded at Bob "Git It" Kelly's Top Ten Studio, in Dallas, in 1962. Bob was then working as DJ on WRR radio with Jim Lowe, then program Director, who owned Alta records.

In October 1963, Gene got his second regional hit for Donnybrook Records (556) with "Big Blue Diamond"/"You Said You Loved Me". Those two songs were re-issued in 1964 on Capri 502 and Jamie 1273. "Big Blue Diamond", a country-pop number, was probably his greatest success. Back in studio in 1964, Gene cut the ultimate and late rockin' classic record "Alabama Shake"/"Just Because" (Capri 507). "Alabama Shake" was already cut in 1958 as "Rock-a-Boogie Shake" but stayed in the vaults. That raucous song is a vintage piece of Rockabilly music but went nowhere. Through the 60's and 70's, Gene recorded for various labels and even had two LP's produced by Michel Cattin in 1976 and 1977.

The songs were recorded on Texas and were issued on the Swiss Records label Lake County (502 & 504). In February 1980, Gene played is first gig in France, at Mons, for The Rockabilly Cat's Club. That night Gene sung School of Rock'n'Roll, Rockin' Daddy, Great Ball of Fire, Rip it Up, Mystery Train and Alabama Shake to name a few I remember. Soon Gene was back in France with Sonny Fisher, Eddie Fontaine, Jack Scott and Billy Hancock to headline the 1st International Rockabilly tour in that country. Gene played also in England, Holland, Finland and was back in France in 1993, in 2006 (with Billy Hancock and Sleepy LaBeef) and played again in 2008. Gene also staged the legendary Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekender in 2004 with his long time friends Sid & Billy King and Huelyn Duvall, another great rocker from Texas.

Few 50's and 60's recordings were issued on vinyl on "White Label" (8826), a Dutch label, and new recordings were issued on two 10 inches LP's by "Big Beat", a French label, around 1981. Since CD's coming, many Gene's songs came in various CD but the best to buy are probably "The Ultimate School of Rock & Roll" (Crystal Clear Sound 9723) or "School of Rock & Roll" (Roller Coaster 3035) who offers a lot of unreleased stuff from Tom Fleeger's vaults.

But, if like me, you are a vinyl and pictures addict, don't miss the fabulous EP issued on Roller Coaster records (RCEP 127) in 1999. That EP with some great pictures will bring you "School of Rock'n'Roll", "Straight Skirt", "Nervous" and the fabulous unreleased "Fancy Dan". Here's an ultimate rocker recorded for "Jan" who get along with Gene Vincent's "Rollin' Danny" saga recorded for "Capitol". Don't forget than in 1958, Gene Vincent was the hottest act in Dallas Big D Jamboree. Here he won a lot of followers like Gene and Bobby Rambo or The Catalinas.

Then many local singers traded Elvis licks to follow the steps of Gene Vincent for his vocal abilities and his wild stage antics. Listening to him and his Blue Caps ravin' on "Blue Jean Bop", "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'", "Dance To The Bop" and "Lotta Lovin'" helps you understand how they got the Dallas crowd in the palm of them hands. "Man", recalls Gene Rambo, "After I saw Gene Vincent I said forget Elvis - It was pure excitement from the start to finish". His brother Bobby remembers too: "All of us were Vincent Nuts, Man! If he made some wild stage move, we'd pick up on it and do it too!".

On that brand new CD " Reminisce Cafe", Bobby Rambo play guitar for Gene Summers and Bob "Git It" Kelly help for the promotion. That CD will probably enjoy Bobby Crown, another Fort Worth great Rockabilly cat, too. Seems 1958 is back again. I have heard the news - There's good rockin' tonight!

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Autographed copies are available upon request.

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