Born Paul Edward Peek Jr, 23 June 1937, High Point, North Carolina
Paul Peek will primarily be remembered as a member of Gene Vincent's Blue Caps, then (1956-58) the hottest backing band in rock n roll. Though Peek was a competent vocalist, he never made the big time on his own, partly due to an alcohol problem that grew worse as he grew older.
Paul Peek was born in High Point, North Carolina, but grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. Around age 14 he took up the steel guitar and would soon join Cousin Wilbur and the Country Store Gang, a popular hillbilly band from Asheville, NC. Not much later he joined Country Earlís Circle E Ranch Boys, a group that would serve as training school for no less than five Blue Caps. In September 1956 Peek was playing steel guitar "in lousy clubs" in Washington, D.C., when he had a chance meeting with Gene Vincentís manager, Sheriff Tex Davis, who was looking for a new rhythm guitarist for the Blue Caps to replace Willie Williams. Paul passed the audition and only two days after his recruitment he was on a plane to Hollywood with Gene and the other Blue Caps for a cameo appearance in the now classic rock n roll movie "The Girl Canít Help It". Peek is the gum-chewing hoodlum on the right, strumming a red Gretsch like a man possessed (see first YouTube link below) during a lip-sync performance of "Be Bop A Lula".
The Blue Caps had a relentless touring schedule during the 15 months that Paul stayed with the group, including a tour of Australia. With fellow member Tommy Facenda he developed the famous "Clapper boys" routine on stage. Paul also co-wrote three songs recorded by Gene Vincent, "Pink Thunderbird", "Time Will Bring You Everything" and "Yes I Love You Baby".
In December 1957 Paul left the Blue Caps to pursue a solo career, but he (and Tommy Facenda, who had quit at the same time) would return temporarily to play with Gene in the film "Hot Rod Gang", as the clapper boy routine was such an important ingredient of the Blue Capsí stage act.
Early in 1958 Peek signed with Bill Loweryís new NRC label in Atlanta. In fact, Paulís debut solo single, "The Rock-A-Round"/"Sweet Skinny Jenny", was the first release on NRC. Both sides were out-and-out rockers, featuring Esquerita and Ray Stevens hammering away at each end of a piano. Though credited to Paul Peek and Esquerita, "The Rock-A-Round" was in fact an update of Ray Charlesís "Mess Around" (1953), which in its turn was derived from the boogie woogie classic "Cow Cow Blues" by Cow Cow Davenport (1926). The record did well in the Atlanta region, but virtually nowhere else.
The second NRC single was the novelty-styled "Olds-Mo-William", which Peek performed on American Bandstand on October 11, 1958. Altogether, NRC released six Peek singles during 1958-60, making him the most prolific artist on the label after Joe South and Tony Bellus. The twelve NRC recordings were assembled on a K-Tel CD ("The NRC Years") in 2011.
In May 1961, Paul had his first chart entry, when "Brother-In-Law" (sort of an answer to Ernie K-Doeís # 1 hit "Mother-In-Law") reached # 84 on the Billboard charts. It was the first of two singles for the Fairlane label in Atlanta. Next came a stint at Mercury (1962-63) with three singles, the best of which was the first one, "Young Hearts", produced by Jerry Kennedy and Shelby Singleton in Nashville. Peekís second and last chart entry came in the spring of 1966, with "Pin the Tail On the Donkey" (# 91) on Columbia. The second 45 for that label, "Iím Movin' Uptown", showed Paul in a completely new style, which would later be called Northern Soul.
Peek made no new recordings after an isolated single for the 123 label in 1969, but he never left the music business and remained a central figure on the Atlanta music scene. In 1982 Peek and some former members of the Blue Caps made the first of several trips to rockabilly festivals in Europe, where the Blue Caps have always been very popular.
It was only after his health begin to decline in the later 1990s that Paul gave up performing publicly. He succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver in 2001, aged 63. In 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Peek as a member of the Blue Caps by a special committee, aimed at correcting the previous mistake of not including the Blue Caps with Gene Vincent (who was inducted in 1998, long overdue).
Tribute page : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/PaulPeekTribute.html
Article : "The Paul Peek Story" by Roger Nunn. In Now Dig This, issues 41 and 42 (1986).
Sessionography / discography :
CD : Rockiní Through the Teenage Years (Eagle EA-R 90123, Germany). Released 1997. 30 tracks, almost complete solo recordings. Short anonymous liner notes.
Acknowledgements : Rob Finnis, Steve Aynsley & Roger Nunn, Bruce Eder.
Dik, March 2015
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