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.


• Jack Turner recordings available here.
• Update on Les Randall acetate.
• Thanks to Bob more info on Bill Harris.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ricky Coyne story

I featured Boston Rockabilly singer Mel McGonnigle in a post last year and here we have the guy whose band backed up McGonnigle on his famous song "Rattle Shakin' Mama:" Ricky Coyne. Coyne had a string of Rock'n'Roll releases on the New England based Event record label, which are by now collector favorites. Here is his story.

Ricky Coyne was born in 1943 in Newton, Massachusetts, but grew up in Waltham and Watertown. He became interested in music in the early 1950s and was influenced by Country artists. When the Rockabilly sound came from Memphis, Tennessee, in 1956 and the famed Sun Records artists like Carl Perkins, Sonny Burgess, Warren Smith, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bill Justis rose to fame with this new brand of music, Coyne was amazed. Another big influence on him was Johnny Burnette's Rock'n'Roll Trio that recorded for Coral Records.

Ricky Coyne (standing) and his Guitar Rockers
That same year, he formed a Rockabilly band at the age of 13 with himself on vocals and lead guitar, Rich Valletta on rhythm guitar, Brian Duffy on drums and Randy Martin on piano. Coyne recalls: "[...] It seems [it was] the day after I began hearing the amazing music of blues and country mixtures, i.e. Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, early Ray Charles on Atlantic etc." He called his band "The Guitar Rockers", named after Bill Flagg's 1956 hit "Guitar Rock" and soon they were performing a lot of local dances with then popular DJs in Boston. One of the young vocalists that appeared with the band sometimes was Mel McGonnigle, who used the Guitar Rockers as his backing band when he recorded his first single at the Ace Recording Studios in 1958. Coyne and the Guitar Rockers caught the attention of Event Records' executives and were signed to a contract. Their first single was "Rollin' Pin Mim" b/w "I'll Love You Forever." He remembers his first record as follows:
The ass-backwards story I've gotten over the years is the Fenwick story that "Rollin Pin Min" (or "Mim") was released on Fenwick before Event. I remember it in the opposite. Fenwick became aware of the Event release and perhaps test marketed in Philadelphia."
Fenwick was a local Philadelphia label owned by Dick Clark, who hosted the popular music show "American Bandstand" in Philadelphia. Perhaps we will never know which single was released first. However, two more records followed on Event, including the songs "Little Darlene" and "Angel from Heaven." The latter was originally written by Mel McGonnigle but he gave it to Coyne because McGonnigle had no more interest in a music career. After the first Event record, piano player Randy Martin was replaced by Dave Randall, while Kenny Paulson played lead guitar on "I Want You to Know." Coyne's singles became local hits in New England and he and his band had the chance to play at the Boston Ballroom and perform on some TV shows like the Record Shop Hop and the Gerry Kearney Show from Manchester, New Hampshire. They also shared the stage with such acts as Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Clanton, Lillian Briggs, Freddy Cannon, Conway Twitty, Link Wray, Bobby and the Orbits, Sleepy LaBeef, and many more.

Billboard review on May 4, 1959
After the Guitar Rockers split up, Coyne kept his solo career running. In 1966, he held a session in Nashville, which produced a couple of singles that were released on MGM Records in 1967 and 1968. He charted at #72 on the Billboard country charts with his only release on the San Antonio based BGM label in 1988.

Two of the original Guitar Rockers already passed away. Dave Randall died at the young age of 27 in 1969 in an automobile accident, while Rich Valletta died around 2006 in Arizona. Coyne is still well alive and from time to time he can be seen on stage. With a string of records out, he is perhaps the most successful New England rockabilly artist that emerged from the 1950s local Boston scene.

Sources: Rockin' Country Style, Billboard, special thanks to Mr. Ricky Coyne and his son


Bob The Scared Data Miner said...

There was also a single on the Bon-Bon label (Boston) as by the Rickochets.

Mellow said...

Yes I know Bob but somehow never added it to the write-up. I'm planning to rewrite it for some time now but did not find the time yet. I have a label scan of the record somewhere, it was send to me by Ricky Coyne last year.

neil mac nevin said...

Ricky, when just getting started performed at many of my Boston area record hops..I worked as a dj at WCOP Boston at the time and was really happy to be able to play his records...particularly Kawliga.. I remember his drummer Brian Duffy who I always liked...they were a great bunch of guys...Sorry that two of them have passed on.. All the best to Rick if he runs across this comment... Tom Evans

kenneth elgin said...