At first, Mr. McGonnigle gave a us an insight about his early days as a rock’n’roller:
“It amazes me when I learn of any interest regarding something I did some 52+ years ago.
Immediately following the distribution of "Rattle Shakin’ Mama", the producers booked me on a big Rock n' Roll Show in Boston. I distinctly recall Bill Haley and The Comets appearing, as well as Shirley and Lee, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers among others and my nervousness about following Frankie Avalon. I think I was petrified! In fact, I know I was!! […]”
He then spoke of how his career came to an early end:
“Shortly after recording this, the producers wanted me to follow up by recording two more originals. I had songs but really didn't feel comfortable with them and more importantly realized I had little interest in doing any more than what I had done. They coaxed me to do a "cover" of one of Chuck Berry's hits. The session was set up, all were there and I walked out of the studio. I then made a spur of the moment decision to join The United States Marine Corps […].”
Can you tell me more about Rocket Records, the label that you recorded for? Who was the owner and how long lasted this label?
“With regard to Rocket Records, it was created by Herb and Milton Yakus, the owners of Ace Recording Studios in Boston, Ma., who were the producers of my recording session. I believe that one of them was also a co-writer of the song "Old Cape Cod", made famous by Patti Page. I am personally unaware of any recordings on prior or subsequent to 1958, but that doesn't mean there weren't any.”
Did you had a career before you recorded "Rattle Shakin' Mama"? Which were your musical influences?
“I graduated from high school in 1957, shortly after my 17th birthday and much to the chagrin of my parents did not take advantage of basketball scholarships permitting me free 4years of college. Although I had absolutely no idea of what I was going to do, I simply rejected further, formal education.
My memory of what transpired between June of '57 to when I recorded in 1958 is hazy other than working at a Variety Store part time and participating in some gigs once in awhile with Ricky Coyne.
The very first record I ever purchased was Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti". It knocked me out…as did Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" and "Roll Over Beethoven", the latter of which was always the first or second song I'd sing at a gig…the other was "Boppin’ The Blues" recorded by Carl Perkins... after those songs… the list goes on and on…“
Mr. McGonnigle also told me about his later life:
“Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962 when I met my present wife. This September we celebrate our 45th Anniversary. From 1962 to 2008?? Bill Collector for a Consumer Finance Company, Collection Manager, Loan Manager, Supervisor of Loan Offices, Home Improvement Financing Manager for a bank, Originator of a state wide Personal Loan operation for a large corporation, Founder and President of a residential Mortgage Company, Executive Vice President and Director of a Boston based bank and finally, Founder and President of a Real Estate sales
Company… prior to retiring December, 2008.“
Are you planning to do a "come back" in music?
“Am I planning a comeback in music??? No...Why I'm too old and very likely too much out of what is considered by the pro's to be saleable... So! Why did I have to write, sing and have produced 4 original songs in August of 2009 when I was 69 years old??? Because I wanted to do it…Why???? Well, why the hell not…?”
I wish to express my gratitude to Mel McGonnigle for his kindness and patience to answer all of my questions.