Born Ralph Joseph Reynolds, 3 December 1932, Denver, Colorado
Jody Reynolds will forever be associated with his 1958 Top 10 hit “Endless Sleep”, which is frequently cited as a forerunner of death rock classics such as “Tell Laura I Love Her” by Ray Peterson and “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning. The key to the ‘Reynolds sound’ was the moody-sounding tremulus guitar of Al Casey, then an exciting new angle on the menace of rock & roll.
Jody Reynolds was born in Colorado but raised in Shady Grove, Oklahoma. He loved the western swing and “race” records he heard on the radio. Around the age of 14 he picked up the guitar. Mentored by lightning-fast country picker Jimmy Bryant, he soon felt proficient enough to start playing professionally. In 1952 Reynolds formed his own band, The Storms, with three friends. By 1955 they were in Texas and fell in love with the new rockabilly sound. Inspired by “Heartbreak Hotel”, Jody wrote “Endless Sleep” in 1956, but he kept it in his pocket for some time, until, the next year, he decided to actively pursue his desire to make a record. After a performance in San Diego he met local music publisher Herb Montei, who encouraged Jody and his Storms to cut some demos. The only song Montei liked was “Endless Sleep”, which he pitched to Joe Greene, owner of the fledgling Demon label. However, Montei and Greene insisted that Reynolds change the song. “Herb told me it was too dark, that the radio stations wouldn’t play it.” The ending was changed [the original lyric had the girl drown] so that it wouldn’t be quite so sad and more radio-friendly. Jody had written the song by himself, but he had to give up half of the rights. When it was released in April 1958, “Endless Sleep” was credited to Jody Reynolds and Dolores Nance. The latter name was just a pseudonym, probably for Montei, who also acted as Reynolds’s manager. It left a bad taste in Jody’s mouth but his focus was firmly upon a record career.
Recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood on March 10, 1958, "Endless Sleep” took only 20 minutes to complete. Though Jody was an accomplished guitarist, he did not play on the session ; neither did the other Storms. The rumbling guitar counterpoint was played by Al Casey and lended an air of dramatic tension to the song. Casey also co-wrote the flip-side, “Tight Capris”, a neat rocker. Within days of release, “Endless Sleep” sold heavily and Jody was invited to perform the song on Dick Clark’s show. On July 7, 1958, “Endless Sleep” peaked at # 5 on the Billboard charts and went on to become a million seller. In the UK, Jody’s thunder was stolen by home-grown rocker Marty Wilde who smashed the charts at # 4 to cement the start of a career which would extend into the next century.
The second Demon single, “Fire of Love”/“Daisy Mae” again coupled a moody piece with an uptempo number, but this time there weren’t so many takers. Stalling at # 66, “Fire of Love” was Reynolds’ second and last national chart entry. Again it was covered by Marty Wilde, this time without chart success. Altogether, Demon issued seven singles by Jody Reynolds, including his best rocker, “Beulah Lee” (1959), which featured the new guitarist of the Storms, 16-year old Don Cole, of “Snake-Eyed Mama” fame. Another fine Demon single is the R&B-styled “I Wanna Be With You Tonight” (1960), quite a deviation from Reynolds’ usual approach. (Not on YouTube, unfortunately.)
Demon was discontinued in 1960, after which Montei placed Reynolds with a variety of labels, like Indigo, Smash and Brent, with ever-diminishing results. The Indigo single coupled two instrumentals, “Thunder” and “Tarantula”, with Plas Johnson on sax (1961). Another instrumental was credited to the Storms, “Makin’ Out”/“Shot Down” (also 1961), on the Titan label. Titan was the label of a former Demon employee, George Brown. The very first Titan single, the instrumental “Caterpillar Crawl” by the Strangers (1959) was produced by Reynolds and reached # 49 on the Billboard charts. Jody reconnected with Titan in 1966 and cut two singles for the label, the second of which contained two duets with a then-unknown female singer, Bobbie Gentry (of later “Ode To Billie Joe” fame).
By the mid-1960s Reynolds had settled in Palm Springs, California, where he focused on raising a family and working as a real estate agent. However, he retained his lifelong love of music, writing and recording songs in a small home studio, occasionally performing in oldies shows and opening a music store.
Despite the lack of a string of chart successes, Reynolds’s one big seller was enough to ensure his place in music history. “Endless Sleep” proved to be a lifetime copyright, with versions over the years coming from a diverse range of performers including John Fogerty, The Judds, Robert Gordon, Hank Williams Jr., Shakin’ Stevens, The Beach Boys, Billy Idol, Don Williams and Jimmy Witherspoon. Jody himself re-recorded the song in 1969 for a harmonica-laden Pulsar single and in 1978 for an album produced by Lee Silver (his last professional recordings). After a long illness, Jody Reynolds died of liver cancer, at his home in Palm Desert, on November 7, 2008, aged 75.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/jodyreynolds.html
Discography : http://wdd.mbnet.fi/jodyreynolds.htm
CD : Jody Reynolds, The Complete Demon & Titan Masters (Ace CDCHD 1474, 2016). 26 tracks, 1958-1966. Liner notes by Alec Palao. http://www.acerecords.co.uk/the-complete-demon-titan-masters There also exists a 53-track double CD (“Endless …”, 2000) on the True-Gems label, but it contains too many sub-standard tracks to be recommended.
Acknowledgements : Alec Palao, Stuart Colman, Wikipedia.
Dik, July 2016
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