The First Garage Band?
A question probably impossible to answer but I have to believe that Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps must have come about as close to having that distinction of any I could imagine. Bill Haley and the Comets were not a garage group but definitely a forerunner and influencer with their driving back beat sound, and of course they landed on the Billboard charts early on, first with “Shake, Rattle and Roll” which charted in the summer of 1954, peaking at number 7. Interestingly, “Rock Around the Clock” was first released as a “B” side to “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town”) in the Spring of 1954, and was met with indifference. That all changed with the motion picture release of “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955. The song soared to the top of the charts in May of 1955, firmly holding onto the number 1 position for eight weeks.
The Blue Caps would first hit the charts about two years later with “Be-Bop-A-Lula” also going to number 7. The Blue Caps run with Gene was very short-lived, with four more appearances on the charts, the final being “Dance to the Bop” in December of 1957. Gene’s life was full speed ahead, having experienced a crippling motor cycle crash in 1953 and then a near-fatal car crash in the U.K. in 1960, the same crash that took fellow rocker’s life – Eddie Cochran.
Elvis Presley’s combo formed at Sun Records could certainly be given a nod toward the Garage genre, but only four of the Sun tracks managed to find their way onto any national chart – those being the two-sided hits “Baby Let’s Play House” b/w “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone” which both managed a number 5 country peak position in mid 1955, followed by “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” b/w “Mystery Train” charting at number 1 (for five weeks) and number 10 respectively. Elvis had a long run on the all the nation’s charts including R&B, Country and Pop where he obtained number one’s in each. Haley, on the other hand, was completely snubbed by the country crowd and often scorned by the genre’s elite. Haley’s first hit record on the R&B charts was “Dim, Dim the Lights” in early 1955.
The original Blue Caps were put together by Vincent probably in early 1956, in the Norfolk, Virginia area. These rock-a-billy cats were mostly children born from the 1930’s and – as so many of the very early rockers – pre-dated the baby boom generation by 15 years or more. Another early rocker who could certainly have risen from the garage was Eddie Cochran, born in 1938. He formed a band early on during his junior high school years in California and soon after joined up with Wayne Cochran as the “Cochran Brothers” – (no, they were not related). Eddie moved quickly on to a solo career.
An instrumental group fitting the early Garage genre were the Orbits out of Toledo, Ohio. They were headed up by Johnny Paris and soon were to become “Johnny and the Hurricanes”. They were typical of raunchy instrumental groups which emerged all over the U.S. and with many proponents in the U.K. On the West Coast the Versatones surfaced in Seattle in 1958. They would become a long running instrumental successful group called The Ventures. Speculation could go on and on, but a given inspiration for the formations of thousands and thousands of garage bands had to be the arrival of the Fab Four over the U.S. airways.
So first are sampling of some garage groups as presented on the very interesting web site “Southern Garage Bands”.
That is followed by an interesting collage of groups of little notary. Visit my new set of Garage Group pages – featuring over 3,000 groups in alphabetical order, with dates listed and State of residence when known.
The Continentals from Mississippi
The Malibus form Georgia
Mama’s Boys from Florida
The Melody Makers from South Carolina
Mike and The Dimensions from South Carolina
The Mor Loks from Florida
Mouse & The Boys (Florida)
Ounce of Time from Florida
The Ramrods from Alabama
The Reverbs from Florida
Rhonda & The Chessmen from Georgia
The Rovin Flames from Florida
The Satins from Florida
The Shags from Florida
The Souls of the Slain from Louisiana
The Spades from Florida
The Strange Bedfellows
The Strawberry Birdcage from Georgia
The Tasmanians from Florida
The Teddy Bears from Florida
The Torquays from Florida
The Upper Hand from Kentucky
We The People from Florida
The Words of Love from North Carolina
The Wrong Numbers from Florida