Monday, July 15, 2013

Keeping rock'n'roll WILD: Wild Records and the upcoming Wild Records Weekender

An Irishman walks into a bar and ... saw some "Mexican rock'n'roll" that changed the landscape of L.A.'s music scene. Oh, not the punchline you expected, huh? Well, this is the story of what happened when Reb Kennedy caught a show by 'Lil Luis y Los Wild Teens. He was impressed with the energy they had on stage: "Their attitude just blew me away. They're weren't particularly skilled at their craft at that time, but it didn't matter. Their energy was fantastic!" He realized that they were a band he wanted to promote and record, and so began the story of Wild Records.

Kennedy had spent years honing his ear for new talent. He had always been interested in rock'n'roll - he remembers his family listening to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison. He started searching the back catalogues of Elvis and began collecting records at the age of 12 (he estimates that his collection is about 50,000 strong at this point, and is stored in at least three different countries). He eventually moved from Dublin to London and worked at Rough Trade Records; he was there when The Smiths were signed to the indie label. He witnessed the highs and lows of the rock'n'roll scene there, and when he felt like it had started to die out he made his way to the U.S. He ran Demarco's 23 Club in San Francisco for a few years, a club legendary for showcasing acts like Patsy Cline and Jerry Lee Lewis. He focused on booking original rockabilly acts - like Hayden Thompson (after whom Kennedy named his son), Johnny Powers, and Eddie Bond - to round out the Western Swing and Honky-Tonk vibe of the club. But he was also keeping an eye out for young rockabilly bands: "But that was very difficult there because there weren't any artists that really fit what I wanted."

Luckily, 'Lil Luis Y Los Wild Teens did have that special sound he was looking for....


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