A kids’ party for grown-ups

Town Hall Party, a DVD from the Deep Rockabilly specialists at http://www.stompertime.com/ , is pure gold as far as the Vinyl Anoraks Circle is concerned, even if grand-daughters are inclined to just curl up laughing – with the honourable exception of my own, who is a bit of a wheel in her Year Three Cowboy Music and Funk Movement, I am proud to say.
It includes live uncut film, from a Los Angeles ballroom, between 1954 and 1959, of Eddie Cochran, Wanda Jackson, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, Merle Travis, Joe Maphis, George Jones, Hank Snow … all as they were when still working the dance gigs.
Along with them are a number of decent performers you never heard much of; a rocking house boogie band, including the original vamp with a violin, Fiddlin Kate Warren; and one sensational forgotten act, the Collins Kids, who have become a current internet interest with the help of the DVD.
Larry and Lorrie Collins were nine and 11 respectively in 1954, when they got a residency at the rockabilly equivalent of Nashville’s Ryman Theatre … after their parents sold their Oklahoma dairy farm and moved to LA to give them the chance.
Promoter William Wagnon, an old western swing impresario, sold tv and radio rights for hundreds of concerts under the franchise up to 1961. A lot were filmed for distribution by the Armed Forces Television Service and there are other compilations to be found, under the titles Town Hall Party or Ranch Party, including performances by Lefty Frizzell, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry and Jim Reeves.
On this album, we see Larry from 13 to 15 and Lorrie from 14 to 16, but looking a lot older and with a rockabilly growl to match. Before she was 16, she was Ricky Nelson’s girlfriend, although she usually had Larry in tow when they met, she has pointed out since.
Larry looked younger than his years but played double-neck guitar good enough to jam with Joe Maphis , even before they both got on the show. He could holler good and when he dances with his guitar, you wonder why there was all that fuss about Michael Jackson, let alone Chuck Berry.
Lorrie and Larry both had adult careers, and have reunited to tour in recent years, but went their separate ways at the end of the 1960s.
As a grown-up, Larry went a bit bland, and worked part-time as an attorney, but continued to record as a session man and wrote a couple of tolerable hits – Delta Dawn for Tanya Tucker, a 70s imitation of Wanda Jackson, and the hard-core country soppy You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma, which was used in the film Any Which Way But Loose.
Those useful German obsessives at Bear Family have a remastered DVD of Collins Kids performances, on offer for a very reasonable 20 Euros. Read all about it at http://tinyurl.com/c2psu8e/
Any of the following YouTube clips leads to plenty more –
Shake Rattle & Roll – http://tinyurl.com/ckc8wq9/
Blue Moon Of Kentukcy – http://tinyurl.com/dy7govr/
I Got Stung – http://tinyurl.com/d85znwk/
Great Balls Of Fire – http://tinyurl.com/cbm9s5x/
And Lorrie is one of the stars of a documentary by Beth Harrington, published in 2001, Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly, which appears to be only available on American-format DVD . However, it is possible if you are dedicated enough, to get translations for about £15. See http://www.dvdoverseas.com/foreign_video.htm/
The LA Record files include a 1998 interview at http://tinyurl.com/bl8czrm/

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