When, during the early birth pains of R&R, Lenny Dee came out with Plantation Boogie featuring his big, driving organ sound (# 19 Billboard Pop Top 100 that spring), he was continuing a tried-and-true formula that went back to the big bands of the 1940s - the pure instrumental - designed either for your dancing pleasure, or to set a suitable mood for the evening. And themes on the boogie woogie, which dates back to 1928 and Clarence "Pinetop" Smith, were always popular.
The bands of Billy Vaughn, Don Costa, Frank Chacksfield, Percy Faith, Les Baxter, Nelson Riddle, Bert Kaempfert, Henry Mancini, Dick Jacobs and, yes, Lawrence Welk, would continue that tradition throughout the 1950s and well into the 1960s. But it was Bill Doggett who set the tone for the rock instrumental with his legendary Honky Tonk Parts 1 and 2 in 1956 [see Volume 5 in this series].
Quickly following his lead were the likes of Sul Austin, Bill Black, Paul Gayten, Bill Justis, Ernie Freeman, Lee Allen, Sandy Nelson, Duane Eddy & The Rebels, Lonnie Mack, Link Wray, The Ventures, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Cozy Cole, Dave "Baby" Cortez, The Fireballs, Santo & Johnny, Preston Epps, The Wailers, The Rock-A-Teens, Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, Doc Bagby, The Fendermen, Noble "Thin Man" Watts, Bill Haley & His Comets,and many, many more, most of whom you will find somewhere in this fabulous 5-volume (so far) series from Ace of London.
With all due respect to the Vintage Instrumentals series from Stardust of Canada (a pretty good sequence of CD's itself), it still comes a distant second to these releases, not only from the point of view of the 30 tracks in each, but also the sound quality and the copious liner notes. As in their Golden Age Of American Rock & Roll series, Ace also sprinkles the insert with vintage photos, LP/EP/45 rpm/poster reproductions and, as usual with their products, a discography of the contents.
A quick scan of the contents will reveal, to collectors familiar with the era, that the majority are tunes that have appeared in countless other such compilations, but with Ace you can rest assured that these are all original hit renditions (where applicable that is, as not all were hits), and that no one has presented them in a better-quality release. The non-hits here (but still sought after by hard-core collectors of the R&R Instrumental) are at tracks 2, 12, 14, 16, 18, 28 and 29. Swanee River Hop (track 2) comes from the 1956 LP/EP Fats Domino Rock & Rollin', Twitchy (track 12) is by the same Rene Hall whose orchestra backed the great Sam Cooke on many of his hits, while Fast Freight was a 1958 Del-Fi release by Ritchie Valens using the pseudonym Arvee Allens.
I picked up this particular volume when it came out primarily to get quality copies of three extremely hard-to-find instrumentals (at that time) - Bulldog by The Fireballs (# 24 Hot 100 early 1960 on Top Rank 2026), The Clouds by The Spacemen (# 41 Billboard Pop Hot 100 late 1959 on Alton 254 and their only hit), and Rockin' Crickets by The Hot-Toddys Featuring Bill Pennell/The Rockin' Rebels (# 57 Hot 100 in spring 1959 on Shan-Todd 0056 and # 87 Hot 100 in spring 1963 on Swan 4140 - note the error in the group name in the listing above - Toddys not Teddys). The notes contain a fascinating story about this particular number..