Just after the 2nd World War white folks invented their first form of Rock ‘n’ Roll known as Country Boogie, or a more degrading name would be Hillbilly Boogie. Hillbilly Boogie music was almost always based upon a Boogie Woogie feel, with a repeating of musical phrase overlaid say by a Shuffle Rhythm and yet more rhythm supplied by a double bass, guitar and maybe a Lap Steel, yet more instruments could enhance this fine music; a fiddle, mandolin, banjo, Dobro and harmonica. Add a lazy and laid back Cowboy time and motion to this music and see here….we got…..Hillbilly Boogie!
W-e-l-l……a Heart Breakin’ Mama…..
One name stands out so proudly in the progression from Hillbilly Boogie music to out and out Rock ‘n’ Roll music…. that name is Skeets McDonald. It’s well documented that back in the 1930s and 40’s Western Swing music gave way to Country Boogie which gave way to Rockabilly, in the mid-fifties.
But see here; there is little mention in books on the subject of the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll of artist’s such as Skeets McDonald He’s an artist who’s recordings are alive with passion and true Rock ‘n’ Roll phrase delivery and attitude!
Enos William McDonald was born in Arkansas State come 1915. The monika of ‘Skeets’ stuck when Enos was just a boy, and came from the fact that he used to call mosquitoes skeets!
When still a kid Skeet’s mum and dad bought him a guitar and he took to it…… just fine!
By 1935 Skeets had joined a country boogie band called ‘The Lonesome Cowboys’ and later he formed his own outfit which performed on radio stations in Pontiac and around Flint.
By April of 1943 the world was at war,Skeets McDonald joined up with the U.S Army and saw service in the Far East and North Africa. He was proudly awarded a Bronze Battle Star on his return to civilian life in 1946.
Straight out, Skeets joined up with ‘Johnny White and his Rhythm Riders, as lead vocalist and recorded with them in 1950. In 1951 Skeets headed out west to L.A. were he knocked on the door of Hillbilly entrepreneur Cliffie Stone.
Skeets performed at shows organised by Cliffie Stone and he also got Skeets signed to Capitol Records,but Skeets did not choose to record the standard straight Country Music that all others did….. hell no. Instead his very first recording was called ‘Scoot Git and Begone’ which didnt sell well, because a weird and remarkable thing had happened to his music…..it had started to Rock and Roll! At this time the record buying public was not ready for this music! Nothing happened with Skeets second release either and Capitol records were at a loss.
As 1952 began Skeets appeared in a movie called ‘Smokeless Powder’ after which he went back into the studio and laid down a song called ‘Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes’. It was a straight Country-music release, at last thought Capitol, and it ended up at number 2 in the Country-music charts! But Skeets had passion and drive and was bound by the Rhythms of a music with no name yet but which would eventually become rock’n’roll
In 1956 Skeets McDonald recorded in a totally Rockabilly way, shockingly so! Basically, Skeets had been recording in this style for years but finally this style had a name….Rock ‘n’ Roll! His recordings of ‘You Oughta See Grandma Rock’ and ‘Heart Breakin’ Mama’ are pure Rockabilly which is an essential part of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Recorded with the echo of reverb and crazy vocals combined with an unsophisticated and down-to-earth feeling….Rockabilly! A fusion of Country music with a shot of Rhythm ‘n’ Blues….Rockabilly! Skeets was no greasy teenager and wild exponent of ‘Rockin’ rhythms, like the new kid on the block Elvis Presley. Elvis had pompadoured splendour and Skeets was 40 something years of age which was nothing but an old man to kids. More recordings for Capitol records followed but Skeets time had been and gone.
Skeets went into Country Music obscurity and passed on in 1968 but Skeets McDonald was one of the first white guys to walk down the beat up but precious road along which Rock ‘n’ Roll music runs….
Dig…dig….dig….Skeets McDonald and his f-i-n-e birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll releases on CD Skeets McDonald. Heart Breakin’ Mama