The Big D Jamboree Live, Vol 1 & 2 (Dragon Street)
Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., Feb. 4, 2000
The Big D Jamboree Live, Vol 1 & 2
(Dragon Street)These two discs were culled from countless Library of Congress radio transcriptions (complete with Falstaff beer commercial) and document the mid-Fiftiesí honky-tonk and rockabilly scene at Dallas' Sportatorium. With a total of 54 songs and a detailed 32-page booklet, this is an exhaustive collection with songs by artists ranging from Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, and Johnny Cash to Texas locals such as Johnny Dollar, Orville Couch, and country's answer to Errol Flynn, Werly Fairburn. Many songs are pretty fevered-sounding, with a huge and enthusiastic audience; check out Warren Smith's wild-eyed version of "Hound Dog," Perkins' heated "Slippin and Slidiní" or Sid King and his Five Strings' wacky "Booger Red." Gene Vincent, a wet-behind-the-ears Ronnie Dawson, Dallas' Johnny Carroll, and country bad-girl Charlene Arthur turn in raw, rabid performances, all sweat and nerves inside the cavernous Sportatorium full of Falstaff-fueled rockabillies. Jerry Reed's "Mr. Whizz" is a reminder that he had an entire career and rockabilly alter ego years before "Amos Moses" broke him into the national consciousness. It's an excellent historical piece and goes a long way toward capturing the excitement and energy of the time; the booklet contains copious photos and bios of each star, as well as a history of the Sportatorium itself. Unfortunately, Big D's downfall is its somewhere-down-the-street sound quality as 30-watt amps and puny PA's struggle to be heard. Admittedly, most radio transcriptions from the era are spotty soundwise and certainly there wasn't a lot to work with in remastering these songs from 78s, but it's even difficult to discern individual instruments at times. The Big D Jamboree Live stands as more of an archival collection than one suited for casual listening, but it's still a fascinating snapshot of the time, loaded with great (and not-so-great) songs by familiar and obscure Fifties stars.