Back in 1953/54, at the very dawning of what would be categorized as Rock `N' Roll, two distinct sub-genres also began to form with the fusion of R&B and Hillbilly (Country), one that would be termed Rockabilly and the other Swamp Pop. The latter, however, also blended in elements of the traditional Cajun (Acadian French displaced by the British from Atlantic Canada) Louisiana bayou and black Creole music.
There would be many fine examples of Swamp Pop put to record over the years, but because many - if not most - were confined to small local labels without the funding for distribution and promotion available to the giants of the industry, not many became national hit singles. That, however, never deterred its small but fiercely loyal cadre of fans to cherish those records to this day - most of which were slow ballads - and with new fans added as the younger generations experience the unique sound.
Among the few exponents of the sound lucky enough to experience the thrill of a national hit were Louisiana natives Jimmy Clanton (& The Rockets) with Just A Dream (# 1 R&B/# 4 Pop in July/August 1958 on Ace Records out of Jackson, Mississippi), Warren Storm and his 1958 cover of the 1925 Vernon Dalhart hit, The Prisoner' Song (# 81 Pop that same August on the Nashboro Records subsidiary Nasco), Phil Phillips - real name John Phillip Baptiste - with The Twilights and his Sea Of Love # 1 R&B/# 2 R&B in July/August 1959, first on the local Louisiana label Khoury but turned into a hit when picked up by Mercury), Joe Barry's cover of the Les Paul & Mary Ford 1954 hit, I'm A Fool To Care (# 15 R&B/# 24 Pop in May 1961, first on the local Jinn label but turned into a hit when picked up by the Mercury subsidiary Smash), and Dale & Grace's cover of the Don & Dewey record I'm Leaving It Up To You (# 1 Pop/# 6 R&B in Nov/Dec 1963 on the Baton Rouge label, Montel).
To many of its most devoted fans, however, THE signature tune in Swamp Pop history is Mathilda (sometimes listed as Matilda), which first came out in 1958 on George Khoury's Lake Charles label, and became a # 47 Pop hit in January 1959 when picked up by Sam Phillips' brother Judd and released on his Judd label. But while I'm not about to argue against that claim - it is a personal all-time favourite of mine - I also stake a claim for Rod Bernard's 1959 hit as being the unofficial Swamp Pop anthem since This Should Go On Forever says it all about that distinct and enduring genre. First released on Jin 105 in 1958 as by Rod Bernard & The Twisters, it began its climb to # 12 R&B/# 20 Pop in April 1959 after being picked up and released on Argo 5327 b/w Pardon, Mr. Gordon.
Rod would only ever have one more national charter, that coming later in 1959 when he recorded a song written by J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper, who had died in that fateful February plane crash that also took Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. In November, One More Chance reached # 74 Pop on Mercury 71507 b/w Shedding Teardrops Over You. Unfortunately, those are not among the 28 tracks you get here from Ace of London. But that first hit and its B-side are here, along with sides cut at Jin, Argo, Hall-Way and others, with their usual excellence in sound reproduction, discography and informative liner notes, here written by Rod's son Shane.