Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin-When The World Imitated Elvis, Circa 1956

Click on the headline to link to a Youtube film clip of Carl Perkins performing Bopping The Blues.

CD Review

The Rock and Roll Era: 1956, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1989

Nobody in the whole wide Western world wanted to be the be-bop max daddy king hell king of rock and roll more than Billie (not Billy, not regular old ordinary vanilla Billy) Bradley. Well, nobody except maybe the king himself, Elvis, but Billy was a close second. What Billy was first at, and maybe more first than Elvis, was the desire to use whatever musical talents he had (and they were promising) to be the king hell king of the projects where he grew up. And so whenever Billie (don’t spell it the other way even now, even now when he is long gone from king hell king strivings) was not in school, was not humoring his corner boys (including me) with some song or skit, or was not robbing some uptown Olde Saco merchant of his earthy goods or planning to, he was before the mirror (vanity thy name is Billie or one of thy names is Billie) singing some song but more importantly developing that certain look that was to drive the girls wild.

And it worked for a while, a while around the Olde Saco projects for a while with the local girls (junior division about age twelve or under) who wanted their Elvis moment even if it was once removed. Not that Billie’s look was anything like Elvis’ (in tense moments Billie would call Elvis’ style pure punk, nothing , nada). Every time Olde Saco South Elementary School put on a charity talent show during the period from, say 1956 to 1958 Billie was there. And for several shows running he was the be-bop king hands downs. The girls would flock around him and his “rejects” would wind up with his corner boys (including me) and so for all the Olde Saco days and nights of that period we were his biggest promoters. Praise be king Billie.

Then one night one 1958 night at a church benefit held in the basement of Sainte Brigitte’s Billie came unglued. See he had become something of a local kid celebrity by then and so Alabaster Records, the big label for new talent, had sent an agent to see Billie do his stuff. Naturally Billie wanted to impress so he tore into his best cover, Carl Perkin’s Bopping The Blues. What nobody knew, at least nobody in the audience (except said corner boys), was that his suit, his sweet Billie suit, had been quickly made by his mother on the fly from material purchased at some bargain discount joint. About half way through the performance first one arm of his suit jacket came flying off and then the other. Needless to say the Alabaster agents wrote Billie off without a murmur.

Here is the funny part. The girls, those giggling teeny-bopper girls, thought that the arm gag was part of Billie act and so for many, many months Billie was followed by a bevy (nice, word, huh) of adoring girls from school and the neighborhood. And we, his loyal corner boys gladly took his “rejects.” Here is the not funny part though. After than night, after that rejection something, and I don’t know what and I was closest to him at that point, snapped in Billie. Something about the world being fixed a certain way, a certain not Billie way and it ate at him. From that point on the wanna-be gangster began to take over. I stayed with him through part it and then moved on. But when he was in his Elvis moment, yes, when he was in his Elvis moment, he made the earth move.

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