BOB JAXON: 'COME ON DOWN TO THE BEACH PARTY'
(By Klaus Kettner with Tony Wilkinson)
Born Robert Jackson, 30th April 1930, New York City, New York
Bob Jaxon made some mighty fine teen rock 'n' roll during a recording career that spanned from 1955 through to the mid-sixties but, up to now, has been unjustifiably overlooked. Robert Jackson was born in New York City on 30th April 1932 and was educated at the P.S. 90 & Taft High School. He joined the US Army and saw active service in the Korean War. Somewhat amusingly, he stated out as a tank gunner but ended up as a cook. It was during this time that he started to entertain his buddies with his singing and this wetted his appetitive for a post army show business career. Upon being discharged in 1952, he adopted the stage name of Bob Jaxon and made his national television debut on the Georgia Gibbs NBC Show on 22nd July 1952. It was with contacts developed from this appearance that he managed to secure a recording contract with Archie Bleyer's Cadence Records in 1955. This label had started releasing records in early 1953 with the first being 'Anywhere I Wander' by Julius LaRosa. Bleyer had used LaRosa's birth date of 2nd January 1930 as the record number for this initial release (#1230). For virtually the first year of operations, all Cadence singles were by LaRosa and Archie used the same series to issue a couple of E.P.s by Julius. For the first non-LaRosa Cadence release in October 1953, the numbering series commencing with 1420 was adopted. Supported by The Hi-Tones, Jaxon's release for the label was 'Why Does A Woman Cry/Ali Baba' which, in all honesty, is typical sterile fifties pop music. The catalogue number of 1264 for this issue shows that, for some unknown reason, Bleyer had reverted back to the original LaRosa numbering series. There are rumours that Jaxon had previously recorded four tracks, including the aforementioned, for the New York based Barclay label and that these two sides were then passed on to Bleyer. Whilst it has proved impossible to substantiate this, we have ascertained that Barclay Records (not to be confused with the French record company of the same name) did exist in New York in 1955 and was in operation for about one year. The record must have made some waves as it saw a release in Great Britain on the London American label (#8156) in August 1955 and was also covered by Kitty White on Mercury Records (#70638).
Jaxon was astute enough to ensure that his recording contract stipulated that he could record his own compositions. However, with this record failing to achieve national success, Bob determined that to make the big time, he had to board the rock 'n' roll train that was coming out of the sidings on to the main line of American consciousness. After all, he was still young enough to identify with this new wave of music that was sweeping across the country and thus gain street credibility. As a native New Yorker, it was relatively easier for him to knock at the doors of the big record companies based in the Big Apple. And what better company was there to call upon than that that had the hottest property (namely Elvis Aron Presley) than RCA Victor Records? He secured a contract with the label and whilst he never became a second Elvis, never even coming close, it is an indisputable fact that with the three discs issued for RCA, Jaxon laid down some excellent teen fifties rock 'n' roll music. At his first recording session for the company, three tracks were laid down with the musical accompaniment being provided by the Jesse Stone orchestra.>From these, 'Beach Party' and 'I'm Hanging Around' (#6945) were culled for release around June 1957. Whilst failing to make the big break through, the disc secured localised chart placings and was issued in Germany on RCA # 6945 and in Sweden on an E.P. on the Spangle label (#SP 74). Its impact was sufficient for RCA to extend Jaxon's contract and so in August 1957, the novelty song '(Gotta Have Something In The) Bank Frank' was issued (#7006). The flipside, 'Come On Down' is a very tasty piece of rockin' music. 'Bank Frank' was a near breakthrough and saw several cover versions, the most notable of which in the USA was by Steve Allen. In Great Britain, a version by Frankie Vaughn ad The Kaye Sisters reached position # 8 on the UK Hit Parade in November 1957.
For his third RCA release, recorded in late 1957, Jaxon laid down 'Declaration Of Love/I'm Hurtin' Inside' (#7106) but again this was a commercial failure as was the next single issued in 1958, namely 'Me! Please Me!/All About Me'. At the same session as the last to mentioned titles, Bob recorded the 'Well, It's) No Lie', a song penned by the legendry Otis Blackwell. Otis and/or his publisher must have been hawking the song around various A&R men at major labels for at the same time as Bob cut his version, Gene Vincent was also recording the song for Capitol. Gene's treatment was included on the classic album 'Gene Vincent Rocks and The Blue Caps Roll' whilst Bob saw a release on RCA (#7232).
Without a hit, RCA declined to renew Jaxon's contract and so he was back on the streets seeking a new deal. These efforts came to fruition in mid 1959 when he signed with the American arm of the British record company Top Rank. However, there was a name change to Bobby Jack with the release 'Tempting Me/Early Morning' (#2009). This disc was also issued in the UK.>From hereon, it was a series of label hops. In late 1959, Bob signed with Sherman Edward's New York based Joy label and reverting back to the name of Bob Jaxon, saw a solitary release with 'The Gift (Of You)/The End Of The World' (#45NS-239) in February 1960. After this record went nowhere chart wise, there ensued a lull in his recording career until he signed with ABC Paramount Records in mid 1962. The fruits of this relationship saw the release of his self penned 'One Way To Love Me/It's A Cruel Cruel Thing' (#10364). Again, sadly this was to be another commercial failure. In January 1963, Bob pacted with 20th Century Fox Records and recorded 'Do The People/Weep, Mary, Weep' (#441) but this did not gain a release until October of that year. Both of these titles were co-written by Bob with Virginia Cleary who had supplied the previously mentioned 'The End Of The World'. It is worth noting that three out the last four record companies that Jaxon recorded for were off-shoots of firms whose basic business was making movies. Effectively this was the termination of his recording career, apart from a release later in the sixties with 'Cajun Sax Man/Haunted Mind' under the name of The Bob Jaxon Band on the Big Name label (#03747). Whilst it bore grandiose nomenclature, this was in fact a small company with limited distribution.
Whilst pursing a recording career, Bob played dates in and around New York City at bars, clubs, functions and dances. He built up a solid reputation as a good musician and was in constant demand for live appearances. Whilst it has not been possible to establish his current whereabouts, it is beyond doubt that Jaxon's musical legacy, despite being a small imprint in the encyclopaedia of rock 'n' roll, is nevertheless an important (and above all) entertaining chapter of musical history.
© Klaus Kettner with Tony Wilkinson, April 2007
With thanks to Wayne Russell and Dieter Moll.
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