45 Friday: BILLY LEHMAN & THE ROCK-ITTS – Black Derby



By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

For their second single these Southtowns rockers moved from the Hamburg-based “Prime 1” label to a new label created by WKBW disc jockey Art Roberts, ARP (“Art Roberts Presents”). This was ARP #13 and has no address. The followup was ARP #14 which carried a Buffalo address and was credited to a somewhat different group – Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men. These two are the only records on ARP. Maybe it wasn’t so lucky starting the series off with #13!

Black Derby has a sound that’s a little dated for 1959, though I could see a Bill Haley group tackling it. This one was co-written by Clyde Dickerson so I’ll assume once again he’s on the record, providing the sax. The co-writer on this side is the sole writer of the flip, Barbara Voorhies. I don’t know who she is. Perhaps her name was used just to give the copyright to a party who wished to not use their own name. That wouldn’t be the only instance of this on a Buffalo record.

The vocals on both sides are credited to bass player “Mousie” Gage, who was to become “Mousey” on their next release. We can also assume the guitarists are Lehman and Junior Schank are on the record, since Schank gets a label credit on their next/last record.

I’m not sure why they’re saying  ‘a Black Derby is the thing to wear on a date’. I never saw any 1950s Rock’n’Rollers, BeBoppers, hipsters or hoods wearing one. It seems like they were purposely doing nostalgic, or archaic – a strange choice. Maybe it has some significance that it’s audience of the time would have caught, that’s now lost to the sands of time.


Black Derby is no great shakes as a song but it’s decent enough. The flip, Lollie, is actually the old children’s/ singalong song hey Lolly Lolly. It had been recorded most recently by Oscar McLollie & The Honey Jumpers; before that Woody Guthrie, and probably by others before that. Later on Chubby Checker had a hit with it as Hey Loddy. Western New Yorkers may know it from John Valby’s X-rated versions and it appears in risque versions on 1950s party records. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that when Lehman’s group played it live the lyrics changed a little!

The 1950s were winding down and these guys had two releases under their belts, with one more to come before the turn of the decade.   (Note: the pics on this video are of the Jesters, the related group with some of the same members.)  

2 thoughts on “45 Friday: BILLY LEHMAN & THE ROCK-ITTS – Black Derby

  1. Mr. Paxon, names you mention here seem to have been large part of a family history I’ve never been aware of. I’m quite curious if you have information about my grandmother. She played music with these guuys in the late 50s.. drums, stand up bass among other things.

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