August 11, 2016

Rockaphilly!


The two volumes of Rockaphilly released in the UK on Rollercoaster Records in 1978 and 1980 collect recordings from 1954-1965 on Philadelphia's Arcade Records and show a pretty rich music scene in and around Philly at the time, even referring to the city as "the East Coast's own Little Nashvillle." Well... maybe, but besides the great music, there are some historically interesting artifacts including the original version of Rock Around the Clock, later covered by Bill Haley. Many of the artists revolved in the Haley orbit and various permutations of the Comets show up under different names (but no Joey Welz here). And Al Rex's topical Hydrogen Bomb: "It's a big loud noise and you're real gone.... bomb bomb, the hydrogen bomb...."

All the tracks featured on Rockaphilly are taken from the archives of Arcade Records, a small Philadelphia label launched in the early 50s by the late Jack Howard to cater for a local demand for hillbilly, novelty, and later rock 'n' roll material.
Howard was an ardent country music fan who ran a printing shop in Philadelphia during the late 1940s. A well-intentioned but slightly deluded man, Howard sought a business involvement with the artists whose music he loved and in 1948, in partnership with a more opportunistic businessman named James Myers, he launched Cowboy Records, for which Bill Haley made his first solo recordings. The venture proved unsuccessful however and after a two year lapse during which Howard acted as a part-time manager to the nascent Haley, Howard launched a new label, Arcade, named after the Arcade Music Center, a record shop which Howard ran in Philly's Kensington area.
Taking his artists from local hoedowns, hillbilly radio stations and nightclubs, local sales while modest in scale, were sufficient to encourage a series of intermittent releases which stretched well into the sixties. ...
Jack fancied himself as a star-maker but in truth, apart from Bill Haley, most of the artists he launched--all solid, dependable stalwarts, did not provide Jack with the reflected glory he so earnestly craved. However we must be grateful that he did make the effort to record the wealth of local talent which existed in Pennsylvania during the late 40s and early 50s.
 





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