Gene Summers

On the subject of all things Dallas, Gene Summers seems to be as important to the city's history of rock & roll as the grassy knoll is to assassination theorists. Speaking of big bands, some sort of implosion of creative forces occurred in the spring of 1961, when Summers left a combo called the Rebels in order to bolster the membership of another that had been known up until then as Tommy & the Tom Toms. Tommy -- as in Tommy Brown -- had decided to leave Texas for Florida, a drift so common that a Texas rock band from a later era would be inspired to write a song about it, "Goin' to Florida." In the meantime, Summers had already made two records of his own for the regional Jan label and was an excellent choice as replacement frontman for what then logically became Gene Summers & the Tom Toms. Membership in the latter outfit included bassist David Martin, later to become a member of the hitmaking Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, as well as lead guitarist Eddie Wayne Hill and drummer Joel Colbert. The group played on shows with performers such as Elmore James, Chuck Berry, and the original Drifters -- traveling many a mile, not all of them pleasant. Hill and another bandmember, Donny LaGrone, died in 1962 after smacking into a gravel truck outside of Decatur, TX. Summers and associates made recordings from the early days of the band through inevitable personnel changes, not all of them the result of road mishaps. The late Hill wrote "Taboo" -- not so much banned as regionally distributed, which often amounts to the same thing -- while James McClung sold Summers on the idea of a "School of Rock & Roll" even before McClung became a full member of the Tom Toms. Summers kept the band active through the fist half of the '60s, recording an illustrious single entitled "Big Blue Diamond" and becoming an essential part of any song title smorgasbord with the lip-smacking instrumental "Peanut Butter." The Dallas Guthrey Club represented something of a house band situation for the group in 1965. Free from the beat of a regular Tom Toms band, Summers has remained an active performer whose status has only been bolstered by resurgences in rockabilly hysteria. In 1997, Summers was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and had a collection of his recordings reissued on the Crystal Clear Sound imprint. Do Right Daddy, a new studio album for the Eviken label in 2004, was the appropriate move for a historic Dallas rocker standing on the threshold of a half a century in the music business. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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