In 1961 the Velaires had a Hot 100 hit with a revival of Roll Over Beethoven, but little else was heard from them. This set reveals that they should be spoken of in the same breath as Bobby Fuller.
They were playing tight, aggressive, garagey rock 'n' roll in the era of the teen idols. All the Velaires' Kay Bank, Palms, and Jamie singles are here, plus 14 unissued titles. In total, there are 26 titles including their great instrumental Brazil, and Ubangi Stomp, Sticks And Stones, Scotch & Soda, Mule Train, Tragedy Train, Locomotion, and Johnny B. Goode. Everything from 1959-1963!
Roll Over Beethoven has been covered by almost every band that started playing Rock and Roll in the 1960s. Some records were not too well done, while others were true to the spirit of the original, and became best selling records. One of these best-sellers that made the Hot 100 was by a band from Sioux City, Iowa, the Velaires.
We go back to the beginning, May of 1958. Danny Matousek recalls, “Four of us formed a band called The Screamers. We entered a contest at Shore Acres, Iowa, won, and I’ve been playing ever since.“ The original group was made up of Danny on rhythm guitar, Bob Dawdy-lead guitar, Don Bourret-drums, and Jerry DeMers-bass. All four were vocalist although Jerry and Danny did most of the singing on their recordings. These four original members remained together as the Screamers, the Flairs and finally the Velaires. Danny remembers buying an acoustic guitar for $25 and spraying it gold. “Jerry held the mic and Bob taught us how to play.“
Their first record was a do-it-yourself effort recorded at Kay Bank studio in Minneapolis by The Screamers in 1959. The titles were I Dig and What Did I Do Wrong? This got some local and regional air play and helped promote bookings for the band. Danny’s brother Dick was booking the band through his C & M Enterprises along with a roster of other local talent. “‘I Dig’ has become a very collectable disc these days', Danny relates. 'We were the Screamers for only a year, and it’s funny to think that our first record is the most collectable.' It’s very representative of the Midwestern Rockabilly sound of the late 50s.
'Those early days were wild. Our first job was through a booking agent in Minnesota and it was for a dance in Lane, South Dakota. We bought a used station wagon and set out. We were going to be stars. Only one problem, we got there and there was no dance. We’d been had.' Dan remembers that jobs were infrequent in the early times, so the group sometimes found themselves in a strange town and hungry with no money. 'One night the four of us were trying to sleep but we were starving. All of a sudden we heard the rustle of a candy bar wrapper. One of the guys had held out. We pounced on that candy and split it four ways. I remember another time when we finally got paid for a job. We were so hungry, we all ran to the first smorgasbord and ate for an hour and a half until they threw us out.'
But then in early 1961, the lean years got better shortly after they drove to Oklahoma City and cut a tape with a version of Roll Over Beethoven. The band were headed for Norman Petty’s Clovis, New Mexico studio. They never made it that far South, stopping in Oklahoma City for a session at Gene Sullivan’s studio there. They recorded five songs, but still had twenty minutes remaining on the clock, so the Flairs cut Roll Over Beethoven. It was a song they played so often on stage, that they dismissed it’s hit possibilities.
'In 1960 I moved from Omaha to Phoenix', Davis recalls. 'The Flairs were playing in a place called ‘The Cave Under The Hill’, at the Hill Hotel, which was in downtown Omaha. A guy named Hap Heflinger called me from Omaha and said he was sending me a copy of the tape they recorded in Oklahoma City. That’s how that happened, after I moved they got a hold of me in Arizona.'
'I was from the Mid-West, so I was familiar with the Screamers from back there.' Davis recounts. 'At that time (1959) Bobby Vee and the Screamers/Flairs were the two biggest groups in the area. When they played me their tape with ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ on it, I decided to try and put it out, so Floyd Ramsey and I made a deal to start Palms Records,' Davis adds, 'My father had a swimming pool where I worked called Palm Beach, on Baseline Road in South Phoenix, and that’s how we came up with the Palms name.'
Jerry Davis started writing songs with a friend in College and in 1959, while still in Omaha, recorded a single for Dolton Records in Seattle, To Prove Our Love Is True. 'After moving to Phoenix I made a record for Floyd’s Ramco label called ‘I Sold My Heart To The Junkman’, which was my second release and it gave me a chance to see how the music business worked' The record was a flop but it did get Davis together with Audio Recorders studio owner, Ramsey.
In March of 1961 Roll Over Beethoven and the instrumental Brazil were released as Palms 726. Later that year Davis was working with two other groups. 'We had two other Palms releases in 1961, Don Sohl an the Roadrunners had ‘Ticker Tape’, he was from Sioux City and managed by Dick Matousek. The other was a soul record ‘She Wants To Be A Lover’ by Louis Johnson, which was a master I picked up in Los Angeles.'
More information about The Velaires on Wikipedia.org