Recently, I noticed that I'd accumulated a few records over the past couple of years with a common theme, namely that of the rockin' grandma. I have no idea how many records explored this subject matter but here are three that rest in my collection.
First, from 1956 we have The Midnighters, led by the criminally undervalued Hank Ballard. Those really in the know realize his importance to the development of rock and roll but your average joe is lucky to have heard "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" on the radio. On "Rock, Granny, Roll" we learn that somebody put a jumping bean in grandma's rocking chair that quickly got her to her feet. Later, the family's sitting in the parlor listening to the radio when granny sweeps through the kitchen jumping like a jitterbug. So now everybody is watching her cut the rug. The song features some excellent early rockin' guitar and a cool sax break. The flipside, "Open Up The Back Door" is slower but no less compelling, with still more good guitar. Anyone who wants to know where Chubby Checker picked up his singing style should check out Ballard for the answer.
Next up is Billy Bland, who released a string of records for the Old Town label beginning in 1956. About a dozen of his sides rate as great and, as luck would have it, his best material seemed to get paired up on 45. Today's record, from 1959, has the outstanding "What's That" on the flipside, plus our feature song, "Grandmaw Gave A Party". Here we have an up-tempo rocker, with a big beat, yet another sax break and a bit of guitar. Bland sings about granny's party where everyone was rockin' all night and having a ball. Pretty soon, even granny's left her rocking chair and is doing everything from the jive to the bunny hop. Must have been a Geritol night.
Finally, here's Solomon Burke from 1961. He's another guy with little radio recognition in relation to his wealth of great recorded material. On "Be Bop Grandma" he's peepin' through the window watching grandma do the rock and roll. She's thinks she's sweet 16 and is a fan of Bandstand. Sounds like our kind of granny. The song is upbeat and has a true Chuck Berry flavor, including the guitar playing. Burke would reprise the song a few years later on his "Peepin'", pretty much the exact same tune, with a more bluesy guitar and added horns. This time granny's a fan of Lloyd Thaxton but hey, you have to stay current, don't you?