I ran into the bar in the pouring rain. The parking lot was filled with classic cars in an array of colors that sat like statues in the midst of the downpour, a typical summer thunderstorm in Georgia that catches you by surprise. “Good thing I wore my fedora,” I thought. I was off to the Rockabilly Reckoning of 2017!
Located at B3 Bar and Grill in Austell, Georgia, it was my first Rockabilly Reckoning. While you may have noticed I’m a frequent attendee of rockabilly-style bands’ performances in the Atlanta area, this was the first large-scale event I’d visited dedicated to the genre, and it felt like Rockabilly Woodstock. The cars outside were part of the car show held annually at the Reckoning along with a pin-up contest and vendors selling all things rockabilly, vintage, car, and bike-related. I did make some purchases–but more on that later, first let’s talk about the music!
I made my way to the stage in the back through the crowd, comprised of bikers alongside women dressed to the nines in circle skirts, red lipstick, and victory rolls. I complimented a guy on his shirt emblazoned with Eddie Cochran’s likeness, and found it pretty nice to partake in an event that not only recognizes but celebrates a style of music that I enjoy; a taste not always understood by others of my age.
Little Lesley and the Bloodshots
Since I wasn’t able to make it until 3:00, I missed the first acts Crypt 24 and Rockabilly Kitty Rose and the Rattlers. However I have seen Kitty and her band at Southern Surf Stomp and they were so good I even took several videos. Here’s proof. Therefore, the first band I saw at the Reckoning was Little Lesley and the Bloodshots, a three-piece outfit from New York City featuring Lesley Swift on upright bass; and does she ever play it! Echoing the theatrics of some of the wilder rockabilly acts past and present, Greenville, SC native Little Lesley sings like a rockabilly Shakira and jumps on her bass–the first female performer I’ve seen to attempt such a feat. Her bandmates include Brian “Swifty” Swift (who is also her husband), and drummer Bobby Lee. The Swifts’ daughter, perfectly decked out in a Western cow print dress and cowboy boots, frequently joined the performance:
I absolutely loved this song, “Tell Me,” and believe it deserves a ton of exposure; it’s so danceable:
Here’s another rockin’ number from the Bloodshots. I love the Link Wray-style guitar by Swifty, and you can tell Lesley is enjoying performing it:
Billy Harlan and the Rockin’ Billys
Billy Harlan’s story is an intriguing one. He is one of the original early rock’n’rollers of the 1950s, and has recorded some very rockin’ as well as heartfelt tunes. However he gave up the music industry in 1959 after his producer, Nashville powerhouse Chet Atkins, refused to release his record over doubts that it would sell. Harlan did not realize widespread fame until quite recently, when he was asked to perform at the 2010 Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, an event billed as the largest rockabilly party in the world. Unbeknownst to him, Harlan’s hits like “Teen Jean Jive” and “School House Rock” are beloved in Europe, and experienced a revival there when rockabilly regained a following in the 1970s and ’80s. Harlan hails from the same county in Kentucky as the Everly Brothers, and he and his bandmate Royce Morgan played with Don and Phil Everly many times when Phil was still alive. See this article for more details on his story, as well as a great childhood picture of Harlan with the Everly Brothers and another young band member named Tom: “Kentucky Rockabilly Musician Finds Fame After Fifty Years.”
Here is Billy Harlan and the Rockin’ Billys performing “I Wanna Bop,” from his album “Boppin’ at Studio B.”
Here is the band playing the classic “Just Because,” which also includes footage of the dance floor:
Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho DeVilles
Last but not least, Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho DeVilles took the stage!
This lightning-fast Atlanta band are described as “super high energy” on their website, known for lighting instruments on fire and inciting riotous energy among the crowd in songs like “Psycho Cadillac” and “Bar Fight.” Consisting of charismatic frontman Hot Rod Walt (Walt Richards), upright bass player Buford T. Ogletree, and drummer Steve “Burnout” Barnett, they were joined by Steve Stone on the pedal steel. They definitely brought the fire, as you can see in the following video, performing “Psycho Cadillac.” Hot Rod Walt is also a classic and custom car aficionado and does hand-painted pinstriping and flame paint jobs for cars as well as instruments.
On a more poignant note is “My Guitar Saved Me,” Walt’s song about the role music and the love of a good woman played in keeping him out of trouble in life:
In addition to enjoying the music, it was fun to see the cars in the show and peruse the booths selling rockabilly-centered fashion. I picked up some fabulous earrings at The Vintage Gypsy, and chatted with the owners who hail from South Carolina. They also have an Etsy shop. Just love the “Doll” hearts!
Some of the ladies decked out for the pin-up contest:
And of course, I couldn’t leave the Reckoning without music in hand:
For more videos, see the Honeysuckle Roads YouTube Channel,
and check out the new Honeysuckle Roads Facebook Page.
Keep Rockin’, Georgia