Charlie Gracie’s Rockin’ and Rollin’

11th February 2016

Title: Rockin’ and Rollin’

Label: Jasmine

Adopting a rockabilly-styled guitar technique, this rock’n’roll star from Philadelphia – the first from the city – who would be signed by Cameo in 1956 and would be seen on TV’s American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, would be best known for his hit single, Butterfly, backed by Ninety-Nine Ways.

Gracie was more widely known than people first think. In addition to his American TV appearances (which included Ed Sullivan – host of the seminal Beatles performances later on), he grew popular in the UK where his work was admired and sung by Paul McCartney, Van Morrison and Graham Nash. In fact, a later single release, Fabulous followed Butterfly in the spring of 1957, reaching No 16 in the US but surged to No 8 in the UK.

Of interest to many rockabilly/rock’n’roll fans is the Gracie persona which was different from many of his contemporaries. He was not your typical aggressive, posturing performer type. Neither was he raucous in his presentation. You wouldn’t want to compare him to the likes of Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran, for example. Gracie remained a likeable performer and a great professional.

Of further interest was the man’s guitar style. Again, this set him apart from many of his contemporaries, who could be accused of being a little one-dimensional in flavour. Not Gracie, who offered a combination of rockabilly, jump blues, swing and country boogie. This gave him options in terms of his performances but also added a certain depth to his output that other guitarists of the age may have lacked.

This excellent 2CD collection collects all of Gracie’s A-sides and B-sides from 1951 to 1962 along with a selection of six live cuts plus six demos and alternative takes. A brilliant overview of a man whose music deserves  a lot more attention.