Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Crew Cuts

I wish I could remember the name of the clerk that worked at Comic World, the one who played in a blues band and who claimed to base his style on an obscure British blues group called The Groundhogs. And I wish I could find the article that I cut out of Uptown, a free weekly Winnipeg paper, one like Montreal’s Mirror or Hour, but without the pornography or anti-Semitism.

I’d strike up a conversation with him now and then, then I saw the column with his picture and I said hey! I know that guy!. And I cut it out and kept it, but it’s not where it should be.

So Comic World sold comics, but I went there for the LPs; their first store had a rack in the centre with hundreds of high priced collectors items, surrounded by piles of chaos, LPs and 45s in no order whatsoever, usually unpriced, and it wasn’t hard to spend hours going through pile after pile.

When that section of Portage Avenue was expropriated to make way for Portage Place Shopping Centre, Comic World moved to the Birks Building, a few blocks down. And the format of the store changed slightly. They still had the comics of course, but they integrated the LPs, cheap and expensive, and separate section for 45s.

And when Groundhog boy wasn’t around, the boss’d be behind the counter, the boss being a young guy named Doug. And I’d talk to him too. He’d lecture me on which type of LP is sought after, what kind carry big prices. I remember him picking up a copy of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and saying nobody’d pay more than a buck or two for this. But then he’d grab Hurdy Gurdy Man and say see? People pay for this.

And when Doug wasn’t around either, then Doug’s mom would take over. Sometimes they’d both be around. She was tough, didn’t like to bargain, but Doug was easier, I’d make deals with him all the time.

So that’s where I got The Crew Cuts. The name of the album is Rock And Roll Bash, and it’s best of collection, released long ago. 10 of 14 top 100 singles are here, supplemented by Mostly Martha, which comes from a single.

The Crew Cuts, by the way, were Canadian, a vocal quartet not unlike The Ames Brothers, but they are considered to be within the rock and roll universe because their repertoire consisted of R & B covers. They didn’t really have a clue, musically, but their records were very popular.

The Crew Cuts:

Sh-Boom – This was huge. The original by The Chords actually made the pop top 10, but this version was number 1 on Billboard for nine weeks. I read a book that made a major case for this being the “first” rock and roll record.
Earth Angel – The original by The Penguins is so beautiful; this one sounds a bit stilted in comaparison. From early 1955.
Two Hearts – Doesn’t appear to have been a chart single, this.
A Story Untold – The original of this was by The Nutmegs. This was from the summer of ’55.
Oop Shoop – Not sure who did the original though I probably have it somewhere. From autumn ’54.
Do Me Good Baby
Ko Ko Mo – Not The Beach Boys’ song. This was a popular song in early ’55, there is a similar version by Perry Como
Seven Days- From early ‘56
Chop Chop Boom – From spring ’55. The a side was Don’t Be Angry, a Nappy Brown cover.
This Is My Story – I’ll update this when I remember who did this one.
Gum Drop – From fall ‘55
Angels In The Sky – From early ’56, a bit of religion here I think. Walter Brennan covered this.
Mostly Martha – The flip of Angels. This also made the pop charts. The only Martha I ever knew was a girl I went to law school with. I think she still has an office on Mountain Avenue, but I’m not saying what city.

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