By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
Billy Lehman’s name appears prominently on three records out of the Western New York area in the 1958-59 period. All of them are good Rock’n’Roll, and they involve a number of local musicians who collectively are responsible for a large chunk of the Rockin’ music that came out of WNY in the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles world. I hope to untangle their whole story out over the next few weeks, as it’s confusing. I’m still pretty confused about it! But it’s a story that needs to be told and will be told.
When recording and playing out, whether as Bill Lehman & The Rock-Itts, Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men, Billy Quad & The Rock-Itts, Billy Quad & The Ravens, The Jesters, or even The Rockin’ Rebels, this bunch of musicians consistently delivered a no-nonsense straight ahead rocking sound that kept the kids dancing until the British Invasion swept the old style away.
Here’s the first record from this crew. Credited to Bill Lehman And The Rock-itts, it appeared on the Prime 1 label and carried an address of The Hotel Hamburg, Hamburg New York.
Take It Easy, Greasy is in a Bill Haley style, and the title sounds like an answer to See You Later Alligator. In reality Bobby Charles wrote both songs, as well as some others that also used that kind of rhyming jive talk. Other R&R artists jumped on the trend with their answer songs but Bobby Charles’ 1956 See You Later Alligator was the original. He recorded it himself after Fats Domino turned it down, only to have Bill Haley’s cover version eclipse his own.
But Take It Easy, Greasy was all Bobby’s. Or was it? Lil Johnson, singer of bawdy Blues tunes, had written and recorded a hit with that title and very similar words back in 1936. Bobby Charles’ version credits his real name (C. Guidry – Robert Charles Guidry) and Bill Lehman’s cover does also.
Musicians in The Rock-Itts at this time were probably Lehman on guitar, Junior Schank on guitar and vocals, Clyde Dickerson on sax (see my recent writeup on PAT AND THE SATELLITES for more on him!), Roy A. “Mouse” or “Mousie” Gage on standup bass. The drummer is unknown to me – it could be Stan Pembleton (aka Stan Robbins) though eventually Tony DiMaria drummed for several of this family of bands.
Lehman and crew worked mainly the area from Hamburg down south to Jamestown and Bemus Point at first, gradually becoming more of a “Buffalo” band. For today, we will leave off with the release of Take It Easy, Greasy / Rock Around The Horn in 1958.