Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BIG AL'S JOVIAL JUKEBOX #5: "Hey Mae" by Rusty and Doug Kershaw, 1958... Swamp-a-billy!


Rusty and Doug Kershaw were actual  Louisiana-born "French-as-a-first-language" Cajuns still in their teens when they began their recording career in the mid-1950s.   After a few reasonably successful charted country records they went to Nashville in 1958 to record some sides with a band of A-grade session pickers.  The resulting sessions have become legendary for the brothers' ventures into composing and performing true Rockabilly-- with a Cajun flavor!


The legendary "Hey Mae" failed to chart for the boys, although in the '80s English Rockabilly revivalist Shakin' Stevens would sell a million copies in the 'Billy-lovin' European market with a slightly harder rocking re-make.  I actually first knew this song from Stevens' version, but later found the original on an old Ace vinyl compilation import album.  [God bless those English fans and labels!  They literally kept these great American sounds alive-- and available-- for decades!]  When I first heard the Kershaws' raw reading of it I was absolutely blown away by its sound.  Shaky's version was fine, but it really did lose a certain swampy vibrance and swing that can only be found in the Kershaw's wild original. 

I will now let Craig Morrison, author of the indispensible history "GO CAT, GO!: ROCKABILLY MUSIC AND ITS MAKERS," handle the description:

Of the Nashville recordings, their self-composed "Hey Mae" from 1958, produced by Wesley Rose and made with an all-star session band, is their finest Rockabilly song.  Here is the recipe for its haunting sound: take hypnotizing vocals, insistent eighth-note rhythms, and lots of the tonic chord.  Blend in a fascinating interplay from three guitarists (Hank Garland,  Ray Edenton, and Chet Atkins) and add a tasty dash of piano work (Floyd Cramer).  Beat with powerful drumming (Buddy Harman)and cook over simple half-note bass playing (Floyd T. Chance). Serve beautifully recorded. Satisfies discriminating tastes. [taken from Morrison, GO CAT, GO, University of Illinois Press 1998, page 137]
Take a listen:



The boys did eventually hit it big at Hickory in 1961 with their brilliant, often-covered theme song "Louisiana Man," which cracked the country top ten earned them a fortune in writing royalties.

Rusty [1938-2001] eventually departed the act and Doug [born 1936 and still kickin' it as a live act] went on as a solo, eventually becoming embraced by hippies, record collectors, and the wider country audience as a true national "roots music" treasure. 

I'm still glad they took the time to Rock a little, though.



HEY MAE  (Rusty & Doug Kershaw)
RUSTY & DOUG (HICKORY 45-1077, 1958)


Hey Mae, hey Mae

Won't you come on out, and let's play

Please say, okay

I say today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day to play

I asked the weather man

How does the weather stand

He say the sun is a-gonna shine

And I say, that'll be fine

Hey Mae, hey Mae

Won't you come on out, and let's play

Please say, okay

I say today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day to play



Hey Mae, hey Mae

Won't you come on out, and let's play

Please say, okay

I say today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day to play

We'll drink a soda pop

Go to the record hop

Where we can do the bop

Till we're about to flop

Hey Mae, hey Mae

Won't you come on out, and let's play

Please say, okay

I say today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day

Hey Mae, today is a good day to play
 

.
PEACE

2 comments:

Oscar said...

I saw Doug Kershaw at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego some years ago, and I have to say he was a "violin-playing fool" to put it coarsely. He put on a heckuva show, a true artist in my book.

Albie The Good said...

OSCAR: No arguement there, brother... a true legend. Saw him last year on THE MARTY STUART SHOW and he was still going strong. Ragin' Cajun!