If you’ve followed my posts from Atlanta, you know how much I enjoy rockabilly music. I have been searching for the same kind of music scene since I moved back to the D.C. area. I’d heard that D.C. was an epicenter of rockabilly music in the ’70s and ’80s, with Link Wray and Robert Gordon headlining the clubs. At last night’s Rockabilly Ranch Party in College Park, Maryland I saw the bands keeping it alive today.
As soon as I heard of the Rockabilly Ranch Party event, I knew I had to mosey on down to the College Park American Legion to see what the area’s acts were all about. The show featured Maryland’s own rockabilly band the Rock-A-Sonics. They include Willie Barry (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Eric Hurtt (vocals, electric guitar), Louie Newmyer (upright bass, vocals), Kim Reynolds (piano), and Tommy Bowes (drums, vocals).
According to Willie, tonight’s set was a little more country than usual, and pedal steel player Lynn Kasdorf lended a Western touch. Willie was joined by Wendy LaBeau, singer and upright bassist of the Flea Bops. They looked just like regulars on the 50s hit country music show Ranch Party. Willie had the dapper retro look down pat and Wendy LaBeau gave off serious June Carter vibes!
The Rock-A-Sonics and Wendy LaBeau’s take on George Jones’ 1958 “No No Never”
They even played one of my favorite standards, based on the Merle Travis-Tennessee Ernie Ford version of the Delmore Brothers’ 1949 hit “Blues Stay Away from Me.” Love this duet!
Next up were Ryan Cain and the Ables, all the way from Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. A multi-instrumental crew, they are led by charismatic pompadoured frontman Ryan Cain, (lead vocals, guitar–including, according to his website electric, acoustic, upright bass, AND piano), Brandon Ellmore (upright bass), Travis Evans (drums), Kevin “BedHead” Stokes (vocals, lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitar, and trumpet). They had the dance floor rockin’ with country and rockabilly classics as well as their own clever material such as “My Pistol Rides Shotgun” and “Feelin’ Mighty Sharp in Nothin’ Flat.”
Ryan Cain and the Ables’ original “Feelin’ Mighty Sharp in Nothin’ Flat.” It’s rockin’!
Ryan Cain and the Ables version of the Possum’s 1956 “One Woman Man”
Throughout the night, the bands and different singers and musicians took turns onstage, with the Rock-A-Sonics consistently in place as the headliners. What a great show of talent and artists dedicated to the classic rockabilly and country sound as well as a few cha-cha numbers thrown in for flavor. These videos are just a taste of what I found in my first foray into DC’s rockabilly scene of today, which is full of friendly people and devoted fans. I will leave you with one last video, a beautiful rendition of Lefty Frizzell’s “Stranger,” originally released in 1962 and featured on the 1964 album “Saginaw Michigan.”
Lefty Frizzell’s “Stranger”
Stay tuned for more videos and posts that rock coming soon!