Saturday, October 08, 2011

Willie Egan's Old Fashioned Rock and Roll

Willie Egan was one of the less known rhythm’n’blues/rock & roll pioneers whose recordings were reissued on European vinyl LPs in the 1970s and 1980s. The UNI distributed Empire Musicwerks label hopes to lift him from his ‘obscurity’ with the release of Wow Wow: The Complete Vita/Mambo Sessions.

Egan, who died in 2004, was a Louisiana native whose family moved to the L.A. area when he was 9 years old. The liner notes suggest that he was a rocker in the vein of New Orleans legends Fats Domino and Smiley Lewis. Egan himself referred to Amos Milburn, Hadda Brooks, Camille Howard and Nellie Lutcher as his main influences while he had a vocal style akin to Little Willie Littlefield. J.R. Fulbright recorded him in 1949 (at the age of 16) for the Elko label, but it wasn’t until he was living in Watts and playing in clubs as the House Rocker that he was noticed by the A&R man for the Pasadena based Mambo/Vita label.

Paired with guitarist Lloyd Rowe, he produced 12 sides which, with four alternate takes, produces the 16 tracks on this somewhat short (about 32 minutes) CD. There is the loping instrumental Potato Stomp, where both get to display there skills, or the title track with echoes of the New Orleans sound perhaps filtered through the West Coast Jump Blues, itself a source of inspiration for Egan. Then the hard rocking blues, I Don’t Know Where She Went, as well as Willie’s Blues and Wear Your Black Dress.

Nothing fancy about the music here as it is a healthy dose of that old-fashioned rock and roll.

This review appeared originally in the November 2005 DC Blues Calendar and then the June 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 283). It is still available on CD as well as downloads. I likely received a review copy from Jazz & Blues Report.

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