Rockin' Town Hall Boogie w/ Larry Collins & Deke Dickerson, with a Special Tribute to Lorrie Collins, and a record release party for Kyle Eldridge & the Rhythm Rounders with Dakota Collins!
The following is an excerpt from Deke Dickerson's original article titled THE KID WHO RECORDED THE FIRST PUNK ROCK RECORD (AND INFLUENCED SURF GUITAR) in which Deke Dickerson charts the path of the energetic & talented 13-year-old hillbilly named Larry Collins, who recorded the first punk rock record in 1958, and influenced Dick Dale with his invention of surf guitar.
Larry and his sister Lorrie were Okies who moved to Southern California with their family in the first half of the 1950s, looking for their own piece of the American dream. Lorrie was one of the best-looking women in history, and the fact that she had an amazing, mature singing voice in her early teens made her a shoo-in for show-biz success.
Larry was a precocious little kid who played guitar and sang, tremendously talented and full of youthful energy. Boy, was he full of youthful energy! When Larry and Lorrie (now renamed The Collins Kids) got hired on as regulars on the popular Los Angeles live country music television show , Larry (9 years old at the time they joined the show) was mentored by two of the greatest guitarists in American music history—Joe Maphis and Merle Travis. Joe’s huge, unwieldy custom-built Mosrite doubleneck guitar was his signature instrument, and by 1956 Larry had one built for him, too. Although the doubleneck Mosrite was one of the heaviest and most cumbersome guitars ever built, the visual impact of Joe Maphis and Larry Collins on dueling doublenecks was pure electricity on live television of the era. Joe Maphis was the Eddie Van Halen of his day—fast, fleet-fingered, dizzying—but by 1956 the 11-year old Larry Collins was no slouch, either. He could play the living hell out of that doubleneck Mosrite guitar, all the while dancing and jumping around like an escaped monkey on helium, literally running circles around his sister, singing harmonies and backing her up on guitar.
The Collins Kids were signed to Columbia Records, along with many of the Town Hall Party cast (Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Freddie Hart, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Bond). Columbia tried pushing the Kids into a corny “kiddie” corner with pre-teen novelty material like "Hush Money" and "Oh Ma Won't You Make him Behave?" but as early as 1955, Larry and Lorrie were among the first white acts on the West Coast to play rock and roll music. Columbia Records didn’t really know what to do with them, and label honcho Mitch Miller famously hated rock and roll. Eventually, the businessmen at Columbia knew they had to do something to compete with Elvis Presley’s sales, and The Collins Kids were allowed to cut more rocking material. Some of the resultant recordings by Larry and Lorrie are among the best rockabilly records of the era, with an undeniable high energy charm complete with hot guitar licks and hot vocals. "Hop Skip & Jump," "Hoy Hoy", "Mercy," “Hot Rod” and “(Let’s Have A) Party” were all solid killers, and probably would have been hits if Columbia had known how to promote them properly.
In retrospect, The Collins Kids were considered a little too hillbilly for the rock and roll crowd (they always dressed in rhinestone Nudie suits, the de facto ornamentation for country stars of the era) and too rock and roll for the hillbilly crowd—though the West Coast country music people seemed to be much more receptive to rock and roll than their Nashville counterparts.
Dick Dale, guitar hero of “Miserlou” fame, began his music career in the late 1950s. Before he became known as the ‘King Of The Surf Guitar,’ Dale was another aspiring Elvis-influenced singer, playing rockabilly and occasionally guesting on Town Hall Party. Like any other red-blooded, pompadoured teenage kid who stood a chance and had any wits about him, he had a big crush on Lorrie Collins.
Dick Dale wanted to be a guitar hero. He played upside down and backwards, and in the late 1950s was playing a Magnatone guitar flipped over left-handed and customized, much like Larry and Joe Maphis’ Mosrites. Dale idolized the guitar theatrics of Larry and Joe, and would hit up Larry for picking tips at the same time he was hitting up Lorrie for a date. Joe Maphis was an experienced, blazing fast picker who would play one quick note per pick stroke, enabling him to play fiddle parts on guitar with a speed unmatched at the time. Larry, on the other hand, played a mixture of Joe’s alternate picking and what would technically be called ‘staccato’ picking, or playing one note with a bunch of quick pick strokes. The former was done with a quick wrist; the latter with elbow strokes. The former was hard to master; the latter was simple and perfect for rock and roll.
In addition to influencing the invention of surf guitar, Larry was an unstoppable whirling dervish, the most visually memorable part of the Town Hall Party television show. The kid had so much energy, watching him today makes you marvel at how good he was at such a young age, while simultaneously filling you with the impulse to slap him to get him to settle down. Knowing the backstage environment of country music’s stars of the 1950s, I had to wonder—were they giving this kid drugs? Why was he jumping around like that? Larry remembers: “We toured with Johnny Cash, Gordon Terry, Merle Travis, all those guys, legendary hell raisers, so I saw all that. It was all around us. There was alcohol, there were pills, and cigarettes—god, I can still remember that smell. Bob Wills once vomited on my cowboy boots! But no, I wasn’t on pills. I never did that stuff.“
They said I came out of my mama with one leg shakin’. They thought I was crazy! I had so much energy they didn’t know what to do with me. When I started playing guitar, they just said, now he’s got somewhere to focus all that energy. It’s a good thing I never did any of those drugs, if I had, I think my heart would have exploded. I was already flyin’ all on my own. I couldn’t keep still!” At this point, many of you readers, accustomed to clickbait articles built around a gnat’s attention span, are wondering: What does this have to do with punk rock? It came out of nowhere—the first punk rock record—a raw slice of energy, teenage angst, and pure hormonal overdrive. Released in 1958 as a Collins Kids record but featuring a solo vocal by Larry, the record was called “Whistle Bait.”
Larry: “I’ve never told anyone this story, but one day my dad was driving me home from school, and he saw a real good looking girl standing on the corner. He turned to me and said, ‘you know, you need to write a song called “WHISTLE BAIT.”’ He didn’t play any instruments, hell he could barely play the radio, and he never wrote any songs, but he loved women. And the title of that song came from him. Luckily, my mom (Hazel ‘Hurricane’ Collins) isn’t around to hear this story. I’ve never told anybody about it until now.” Larry went home, and with his dad’s song title suggestion, wrote a song called “Whistle Bait.” It was….different. It was really different, even with the radically changing world of rock and roll music in the late 1950s.
Besides the title, where did Larry get the inspiration to write it? Larry: “When we drove home on Saturday nights from Town Hall Party, we’d have the radio in the car tuned to Wolfman Jack, on his [Mexican] border radio show. We used to love listening to him. He had that cool, weird personality, and it rubbed off on me, I guess. We played country music, but we loved rock and roll, too.”
“Whistle Bait,” even sixty years later, is one of the weirdest goddamn rock and roll records ever created.
Read more of Deke's article on Collins here: https://pleasekillme.com/larry-collins/
See both of these amazing artists perform with Kyle Eldridge & The Rhythm Rounders (with Larry's nephew Dakota Collins playing double bass) on Sat. Nov. 3 when they appear together at the Yost Theater in beautiful downrtown Santa Ana at 307 N. Spurgeon Street.
Seats are limited - Advance tickets highly recommended!
There will be a dance floor, but this is mostly a seated show with your name at the door - and also on your seats.
Info and even more roots shows at www.StellarShows.net
Questions text 714-809-6146