Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Lookie, Lookie, Lookie"

Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico
Norman Petty produced many acts out of his studio in Clovis, New Mexico, most notable Buddy Holly. When Holly died on Febuary 3, 1959, Petty searched for an alternative to compensate the loss of his hit maker. One of his tries to score another hit record was the song "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie", written by Carl Bunch and Ronnie Smith.

The Poor Boy in 1956, from left to right: Richard Porter,
Eddie Williams (back), Bob Hardwick, Ronnie Smith,
Carl Bunch (front)
The Poor Boys originated from West Texas and were based in Odessa, Texas. Richard Porter and steel guitarist Eddie Williams founded the band in 1955 and after the two boys listened to drummer Carl Bunch at a high school dance, they asked Bucnh to join them. Also around this time Bunch's friend Bob Hardwick became the bass player. The name "Poor Boys" actually came from Elvis Presley's first film "Love Me Tender", in wich the band was also called "Poor Boys".After some local gigs singer Ronnie Smith joined the band and later sax player Brent Clark and Roy Licon on trumpet were added. From the beginning, the boys were playing rockabilly music with Williams switching from steel to electric lead guitar. In 1956, they replaced Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings on KOSA-TV and recorded their first demos in Fort Worth, Texas, and at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis.

Ronnie Smith's first single "My Babe" b/w "I've Got a Love" came out on the California based Hamilton label in 1958. It was probably recorded in Clovis with the Poor Boys and pitched to Hamilton Records by Petty. This was his usual strategy. He used to record artists and bands and then tried to bring them to a label. In case of Buddy Holly, it was the major Decca, but often the songs appeared on smaller labels, just as it happened to Smith.

The song "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" was penned by Ronnie Smith and Carl Bunch. Norman Petty is also credited but it was common in those days - and Petty was no exception - that producers received songwriter credits and the composers received money in return. Petty also bought his name into the songwriter credits for "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" and so was able to cash on the royalties.



Hear "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" by K.C. Grand and the Shades:




The first to record the song was K.C. Grand and the Shades. Possibly the Poor Boys or one of their members were hiding behind this name because it was released on the Odessa based Matt label and was produced by drummer Carl Bunch. It also seems likely that this version was - like the following renditions - cut in Norman Petty's studio.

Derrell Felts in the 1970s
Hear "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" by Derrell Felts:





Still looking for a comparison to replace Buddy Holly, Petty called Texas rockabilly singer Derrell Felts and let him record "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" in early 1959 along with "It's a Great Big Day", Felts' own composition (he had already recorded a version in 1956 at Jack Rhodes' studio). To keep the typical sound, Petty brought in the Crickets, Holly's original backing band, to back Felts on the two recordings. Petty was able to sell the master to OKeh Records and in May 1959 released it on a single. However, the record soon went nowhere.

Billboard review from July 1959
Hear "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" by Ronnie Smith:





Petty's last try to bring the song into the charts was started with Ronnie Smith, who had replaced Buddy Holly during the Winter Dance Party Tour of 1959. Carl Bunch also played on that tour: he was Holly's last drummer in his new backing band. In the summer 1959, Ronnie Smith's version of "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie", coupled with "A Tiny Kiss" appeared on Brunswick Records. As the other versions by Grand and Felts, Smith's record failed to reach the charts. Never again, any artist tried his hand at "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie".

Concerning Felts and Smith, they went their own ways. Felts remained on the Texas music scene and recorded for various small labels, switching to country. He had a hit record with "Calling Johnny Rodriguez" on MSA in the 1970s. Ronnie Smith had not such good luck. He kept on performing but was struggling with drug problems and went into a state hospital in Texas in 1962. There, he hanged himself in the bathroom on October 25, 1962.

Discography
  • Matt MRC-0003/4: KC. Grand and the Shades - Lookie-Lookie-Lookie / That's the Way the Cards Fall (February 1959)
  • OKeh 4-7118: Derrell Felts - It's a Great Big Day / Lookie, Lookie, Lookie (May 1959)
  • Brunswick 9-55137: Ronnie Smith - Lookie, Lookie, Lookie / A Tiny Kiss (July 1959)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool someone has written about one of my favourite West Texas 50's songs, Lookie,Lookie,Lookie.
Actually K.C. Grand was Carl Bunch, and his version was not the first of the three, but the last.It was done in 1964.
First was Ronnie's, from 1959 (just written by Bunch and himself whwn came back from the '59 WD Party. Then, soon later came Felts', also in 1959. finally came Grand's last one in 1964.
Have info on personel and locations. Hope this is of interested to someone.

Mellow said...

Of course I'm interested. You can find my email adress on my profile page!