Born 17 April 1940, Lima, Ohio
Today is the 64th birthday ofJimmy Crain, a somewhat obscure rock and roller, best known for his two pounding rockers "Rock-A-Socka-Hop" and "Shig-A-Shag".
Jimmy was a multi-talented youngster. By the age of seven, he was able to play several musical instruments, including guitar, banjo and mandolin. Less than ten years later he was playing regularly at county fairs, dotted about Ohio and neighbouring Indiana. In addition to this, Jimmy was also employed on an ad-hoc basis as a session musician at a studio in Dayton, Ohio. Shortly after his seventeenth birthday, Jimmy signed a recording deal with Floyd Whited, owner of the Springfield, Ohio based Spangle label. Jimmy's first and only release on Spangle was "Shig-A-Shag", which was recorded at Bradley Studios in Nashville. Crain insists that he wrote the song himself, though the label credit reads "M. Whited / R. Fisher". The record caught on in the Mid-West and the East Coast. This led to a string of radio and TV dates, as well as the odd package tour, where he played alongside such rock 'n' roll notables as The Big Bopper, Link Wray and Dion and the Belmonts. "Rock-A-Socka Hop" was recorded in the autumn of 1957 and sounds a lot like "Shig-A-Shag", though I rate it even higher. The track, which came out on another tiny Ohio label, Prism, never lets up from start to finish. Strangely, Terry Gordon mentions 1962 as the release date for "Rock-A-Socka-Hop" (on his RCS website), which looks like a mistake to me. Also, Gordon dates "Why Worry" (Vincent 5048) in 1961, whereas Bo Berglind, writer of the sleeve notes for the Various Artists comp "Rock-A-Socka Hop" on Classics, tells us that this song was cut in 1956. Anyone who can clear this up?
Jimmy went on to record for a succession of small independents, but very little, if in fact anything at all, was released at the time, until Cees Klop issued two White Label LP's in 1974 (Rock in' With Jimmy Crain) and 1977 (Jimmy Crain Rocks On) respectively. When his first son was born in February of 1960, Jimmy decided to quit the road and went into semi-retirement, playing only local shows. In April 1975, Jimmy suffered a severe spinal injury in an accident, but by early 1979 he had recovered sufficiently to start his own record label (Lodestar Records) and publishing company (Lodestar-Springfield Music Co).
The CD "Rock-A-Socka-Hop" (Collector 4478, released last summer) is a mix of the two White Label LP's. It received a rather harsh review from Jim Raper in NDT 245 (August 2003) : "Lack of good material was a curse, as no less than 12 instrumental fillers on this CD shows." "Though all were cut in the late '50s/early '60s, many of them sound like demos." "Apart from 'Shig-A-Shag' and 'Rock-A-Socka-Hop', this is for Crain aficianados only." I agree with most of the criticism, but must admit that I like some of the "filler" instrumentals, especially the piano numbers and the final track, the guitar instro, "J.C.'s Boogie", at 4:53 by far the longest thing on the CD.
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