Friday, April 22, 2011

String-A-Longs - Best

Famed for their instrumental smash "Wheels," Plainview, TX rock & roll combo the String-A-Longs was formed in 1956 by singer/guitarist Keith McCormack, guitarist Richard Stephens, and bassist Aubrey de Cordova. High school classmates who originally joined forces under the name the Patio Kids, the group expanded to a quartet with the addition of drummer Charles Jay Edmiston, and in early 1957 changed their name to the Rock 'n' Rollers to coincide with the arrival of second guitarist Jimmy Torres. Their growing local popularity inspired McCormack's mother to fund a recording session at producer Norman Petty's Clovis, NM studios, and after replacing Edmiston with drummer Don Allen, the band -- which had again changed its name, this time to the Leen Teens -- recorded the tracks "So Shy" and "Dreams About You," later issued on Imperial. The record stiffed, and although Petty produced several more sessions in the years to follow, none of the material saw an official release.

While cutting a 1960 date, McCormack's voice gave out, and Petty suggested they record his Tex-Mex-influenced instrumental composition "Wheels" backed by the Leen Teens' own instrumental "Tell the World." At Petty's insistence, the name "String-A-Longs" was installed prior to the single's release on Warwick; when both sides began earning airplay, the label split the disc into two A-sides, although "Wheels" (newly backed by the vocal performance "Am I Asking Too Much") became the far bigger hit, reaching the number three spot in the U.S. in early 1961. The follow-up, "Brass Buttons," also hit the Top 40, a distinction narrowly missed by the String-A-Longs' third release, "Should I." A series of singles as well as an LP, Pick-A-Hit Featuring "Wheels", followed before Warwick filed for bankruptcy in 1962; the group then signed to Dot, where efforts like "Twist Watch," "Replica," and "Myna Bird" failed to attract much attention. After 1965's "Caravan" met a similar fate, the String-A-Longs disbanded, with McCormack -- who'd earlier penned the Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs chart-topper "Sugar Shack" -- replacing Gilmer three years later.

This is an excellent disc featuring the greatest hits of the String-A-Longs, a wonderful but sadly little-known instrumental group that recorded in the same Norman Petty Studios that Buddy Holly did. The style is reminiscent of The Ventures, Santo & Johnny, and other great bands of the late 50's/early 60's era. Pop this into the CD player and go back to the days of drive-ins, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and the Eisenhower/Kennedy years. A great sampler from a truly great band. More on the mellower side - great for those late night listens ”

(01) Wheels
(02) Sentimental Journey
(03) Harbour Lights
(04)Are You Lonesome Tonight
(05) Perfidia
(06) Torquay
(07) Panic Button
(08) Red River Twist
(09) Nearly Sunrise
(10) Bulldog
(11) Walk Don't Run
(12) Save The Last Dance For Me


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