Pop Archives

Alan Dale And The Casuals - Crackin’ Up (1959)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Australia Australia
#35 Sydney

B-side on Columbia, September 1959.

Pioneer Sydney rocker Alan Dale (Alan Ramsay, c.1935-2021) was singing with dance bands in Sydney as long ago as 1951. He later recalled labouring through Jimmy Lally charts.., doing a poor man’s Frank Sinatra.1

In 1956 he responded to the impact of rock’n’roll by forming The Houserockers (later known as The Casuals), with guitar, piano, sax, upright bass, and drums after the style of Bill Haley’s Comets. Beginning in February 1957 at Maroubra Memorial Hall, they played at rock’n’roll dances organised by Dale at numerous venues, notably the long-running Alexandria Town Hall dance from May 1957. Appearances followed on radio and on Accent on Youth, an early TV music show on Sydney’s Channel 9.

David McLean’s Collected Stories notes that there was fierce competition with the only 3 rock’n’roll bands in 1957: Johnny O’Keefe & The Dee Jays, Col Joye & The Joy Boys, and Alan Dale & The Houserockers.2 It was a busy and exciting scene, where a band could play six nights a week. Alan Dale even ran a Sunday night dance at a hall in Newton at one stage. At some dances, things got wild, the cops were called, dates were cancelled. According to Michael Sturma, Dale hired footballers and boxers as bouncers, and Col Joye recruited leaders of teenage gangs.3

Meanwhile, demand for live entertainment in hotels had increased when New South Wales extended opening hours in 1956. The Houserockers’ engagement by the Rockdale Grand Hotel in December 1957 marked their move into playing at hotels. This was better paid and no doubt more stable than the dance scene, and the band was eventually contracted to a 5-year residency at the Pagewood Rex.2 Their name was changed to The Casuals along with some personnel changes.

By the time the major TV pop show Six O’clock Rock came along in 1959, the band had appeared on several Sydney TV shows. Alan Dale appeared six times on Six O’clock Rock, with Johnny O’Keefe starring and (after the first few editions) compering. Dale and O’Keefe were the same age, and had become friends around 1951 when Dale was apprenticed to a printer in same building where O’Keefe was working in his fathers’ furniture shop.4

In September 1959 Alan Dale And The Casuals released the first of four singles for EMI (1959-60). The first single had cover versions on both sides, Bo Diddley’s Crackin’ Up and Chuck Berry’s Back In The U.S.A, but the following three singles carried five Australian originals:
  • two by Elaine (aka Laine) Goddard on one single (see here for some of her other compositions);
  • one song written by 2SM Sydney disc jockey Alan Lappan, later a radio star on Melbourne’s 3UZ;
  • two on one single by married couple Rose and Dan Lawrence. The sheet music for one also credits Ida Lawrence.)

A curious sidelight to Alan Dale’s career is a series of soundalike cover versions that he released under various aliases on a budget label called John Mystery. Michael Sturma writes that they were “turned out on varnished cardboard”: They were sold at newsagents for 2s 6d [25c] and were usually worn out after a couple of dozen plays.3 Making cheap replicas of current hit records was a well-documented practice in the US and Britain, as I have outlined over at PopArchives: The Blog.

Some sources, further reading: 1. Alan Dale, liner notes to LP Crackin’ Up (Raven Records, 1984). 2. David McLean (ed.) Collected Stories On Australian Rock ‘N Roll (c.1991). 3. Michael Sturma, Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll: The First Wave (c.1991). 4. Damian Johnstone, The Wild One: The life and times of Johnny O’Keefe (2001) p.8 and throughout Chapter 1. 5. Ian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop (1999) p.158.

Thanks to Terry Stacey for suggestion and resources.

Alan Dale is a maddeningly common name to search for. There is a New Zealand actor called Alan Dale (b.1947), for example, and Alan Dale the 1950s Australian Rules footballer.

Apart from Crackin’ Up by Alan Dale, there are two other Alan Dales who had songs on the Sydney charts, in 1953 and 1954.

The Alan Dale on (The Gang That Sang) Heart Of My Heart (1954, #3 Sydney, a trio with Don Cornell & Johnny Desmond) was an American crooner (Aldo Sigismondi, 1925-2002). He also moved across to rock’n’roll when he appeared in the film Don’t Knock the Rock (1956), and released a single of the title track which he sang in the film.

The other record by an Alan Dale is an Australian cover (with Toni Curtis) of Outside Of Heaven, with orchestra conducted by Les Welch, Festival’s Sydney A&R man and music director. It co-charted in 1953 with Eddie Fisher’s American recording (#4 Sydney). Although I haven’t seen it mentioned in any account of rocker Alan Dale, it is plausible that this is him, in his pre-rock’n’roll danceband crooning phase.

Bo Diddley - Crackin’ Up (1959)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Original version

Single on Checker, May 1959 by Ellas McDaniel (1928-2008), known as Bo Diddley, Mississippi-born rhythm & blues guitarist-singer-songwriter raised in Chicago. His distinctive, deeply rhythmic style had a big influence on the development of rock’n’roll, and on the Rolling Stones and their contemporaries in 1960s Britain.

Earliest pressings of this single show the writer as B. McDaniel.

Further reading: It’s easy to find sources on Bo Diddley, but I recommend the All Music biography by Richie Unterberger which nicely conveys his sound and appeal.

Rick West - Crackin’ Up (1966)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Later version

Single on Sully, label formed in Oklahoma, by this time based in Amarillo, Texas after being acquired by Ruff Records and Checkmate Productions owner Ray Ruff. February 1966.

Rick West remains a mystery to me. By way of compensation for fans of obscure pop knowledge, Garage Hangover has posts on the Ruff and Sully labels, and on The Checkmates, a Buddy Holly soundalike group fronted by a bespectacled Ray Ruff [discography].

The Gants - Crackin’ Up (1966)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Later version

Writer credit has Elias instead of Ellas although this appears to be a common, if inaccurate, variation.

Single on Liberty, April 1966, by Greenwood, Mississippi band with British Invasion influences and garage rock tendencies. The Gants were fronted by singer-guitarist Sid Herring whose original songs enhanced their repertoire of cover versions from both British and American sources. They are fondly remembered in Australia for their Top 30 version of Bo Diddley’s Road Runner (1965) which didn’t quite make the Top 40 in the US.

Further reading: 1. Gants biography by Richie Unterberger at All Music. 2. The Gants article at Wikipedia has more information. It appears to have been edited by someone close to the band. That doesn’t worry me as much as it should, but it is one of the “multiple issues” it has been flagged for.

Famen - Crackin’ Up (1966)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Later version

Single on X-Pose. Also released with misspelt name as Faman (1967).

Studio musician and songwriter Wayne White (possibly a keyboardist) was behind this obscure garage band from Atlanta, Georgia. His songs were recorded by Famen and by Atlanta artists The Apolloes and Johnny Carlton With The Escorts. The Apolloes benefited from his guidance and contacts. Bird Youmans of The Apolloes remembers White as a memorable character I loved.

That’s all I can find, except that famen means “fame” in German.

Sources: 1. Note on Famen at Discogs.com. 2. Bolt24 Hot Sounds at Youtube 3. Reminiscence by Jim ‘Bird’ Youmans of The Apolloes. 4. The Apolloes at Garage Hangover.

Paul McCartney - Осколки – Crackin’ Up (1988)

(Ellas McDaniel [Bo Diddley])
Russia Russia
Later version

Track on album CHOBA B CCCP (Сно́ва в СССР) aka Back In The USSR or The Russian Album. It was initially released only in the USSR, in 1988. The song is sung in English, in spite of the Russian title Осколки.