❉ Get the drinks in, enjoy your burger, and – most of all – listen.
Hey, youngster. Haven’t seen you in here before. Then again, not too long ago, this place wasn’t a bar. Just a diner. But Lux and Ivy, they decided to take the plunge, get themselves a liquor licence, and flex their muscles a bit more. So far, the results have been kind of favourable. Oh, don’t worry about the clientele. Or the bar staff. Sure, they might look a bit foreboding, but they’re friendly enough. Main eye on the good times, you could say.
I think that you need a bit of a beginner’s guide here. Look, here’s a ten-spot. Get yourself a beer, and a chaser. Do the same for me. Then bring them over here, sit down, and the education can begin. Keep the change. That’s the first lesson.
What you got? A Budweiser and a Jack Daniels? Fair enough. And I see you got the same for me. Oh dear. Look. Next time, you get me a Heineken and a Sailor Jerry. And you pay for ‘em. Always ask the other guy what he wants to drink. Second lesson.
Alright. You’ll need some food to line your stomach before the serious drinking starts. Grab that menu, order yourself something. I recommend the half-pound burger with everything. Just finished one myself. Word of advice: specify that they go heavy on the spunky onions, boy. What? What are spunky onions? Don’t ask. Just enjoy. And that’s lesson number three.
All ordered? Okay. You’re doing well here. Don’t sweat it. It’s time for the fourth and fifth lessons. Go and get us another round of drinks. What do I want? I already told you. But good to know you remember lesson two, at least. Don’t sweat it if old Lux acts a bit short with you at the bar. He’s a busy man, but he gets the job done – and with a decent enough heart, usually. Impressive if you know about his past. No, that can wait for later. It’s not another lesson. Lesson four? Learn how to make repeat trips to the bar.
And the fifth lesson?
Ah. Get the drinks in, get back here, and I’ll teach you that one.
Good, you got the drinks right, I see. Get ready, because here’s lesson five. See this silver dollar I’m holding up? Take it. It’s yours. And then carry it over to the juke box. Ten plays for a dollar. Take a little time if you like. Check out the titles, the artists. Find some old favourites or put something on just because it’s a new one on you, or you like the sound of it. Lux and Ivy have an engineer friend who played a neat trick on the old Victrola: records don’t start playing till you’ve made all your selections. Don’t ask me how it’s done. Remember the third lesson.
And then, sit yourself back down over here, have a drink, enjoy your burger when it arrives, and – most of all – listen.
Okay. Your burger’s here, by the way. Apart from the spunky onions, hot sauce goes well with the fries. What did you put on the juke?
Hot Rod Lincoln by Charlie Ryan and the Livingston Bros
Hot damn! A good starter with this tale of a backroads epic. Listen to that deceptively deadpan vocal. Johnny Cash eat your heart out! This isn’t so much rockabilly as the talking blues, and it’s winningly different, while that lolloping bass beat just speaks of speed. Very good choice indeed. Keep chowing down on that burger. What’s next up?
Wampus Cat by Howard Chandler
Heh. Kid, do you even know what a Wampus Cat is? Let you into a secret: it’s a near-mythical beast of American folklore, an unseen critter that yowls around villages in the dead of night. Barrelhouse piano is extremely well-suited to the swaggering tale of such a feline, and he’s right – dancing away the blues is always a damn good move. Yap shut, son.
I Can’t Find The Doorknob by Jimmy and Johnny
Oh, don’t take offence. I was just asking you not to hang your burger in my face. Your musical taste is good so far, and this is a masterwork of rattling drums and urgent guitars for an urgent assignation! Is it about someone too horny, too drunk, or just too damn excited to get into the party that he wants to? The eagerness of the vocals has its own tale to tell…
Let’s Get Wild by Rudy ‘Tutti’ Grayzell
Did you know Rudy took his stage name in honour of his German great-grandmother? Or that he ended up advertising Pine Brothers Softish Throat Drops? All you need to know is that this is the party tune sans pareil. Knows what it wants and it knows how to get it. That guitar lopes and bounces to a piano that sings, topped off by machine-gun vocals.
Pink Pedal Pushers by Carl Perkins
Ah, one of the undeniable greats. You’re on safe ground here, kid. Perkins’s music always sounded cool, creepy, and stylish. Even when he was singing about a girl’s choice of foot wear. But then, a fetish is a fetish, right? Whatever gets you hot, even if it’s just – just! – a pink pair of plimsolls. Sometimes, that dash of difference is all and everything that you need.
Well, son, on the evidence of your first five choices, I can’t find a lot to disagree with. All very promising. But here’s the sixth lesson: never pass final judgement until all of the evidence is in. Nearly finished that half-pounder? Spunky onions and all? Good work, kid. Now take a drink and let’s hear the rest of your choices.
Curfew Cops by Sonny Cole
Course, as Sonny tells us and we all should know, there’s always folk who want to slow things down. But let this be the seventh lesson: in this burg, even the cops are kind enough to turn a blind eye once in a while. This is one relaxed, chilled song. As it were, a tune to refuel by, all ready for the next round. Honk, honk!
The Joint’s Really Jumpin’ by Jimmy Evans
Hot damn, boy, but you got good taste! In less than two minutes on the clock, Jimmy lets us know that we’ve all got a of shakin’ still to do. This song is filled with the urgency and zest of a life lived well, fast, but which isn’t too short. Meanwhile, that pounding piano is guaranteed to keep those shoulders movin’.
Did We Have A Party by Billy Brown
Hoo boy, Billy! From ‘Drunk’ to ‘Drunk Again’, no one sings about boozing and partying quite like this obscure Dionysus of Rockabilly! In a quick, no-nonsense blast, he gives you on record the best bash you’ve ever attended in capsule form: drink, dancing, dalliances…all of this and one of the down and dirtiest saxophones that you’ll ever hear, too!
Black Cadillac by Joyce Green
And of course, Rockabilly ain’t just for the boys. Lesson number eight. And, more than cops, marines, parents or even goddamn God, this song teaches, be good to your woman, ‘cause Hell has…you know the rest. And girls round here, just like Joyce, don’t take no shit. Proud, peremptory, pulchritudinous. Live well, or die – or at least expect a dose of female power!
Bump! By Jay Cee Hill
Tenth tune, and it’s a doozy. Female power, if necessary, by the frying pan. The clang of harsh Reality, you could say! Ol’ ‘Lux has had it a few times from Ivy, and – like the song says – it’s flying saucers and atomic bombs wrapped up in one. What a paramour, huh? But, just like Lux and Ivy, get back on track, and there’ll be one hell of a make-up session. Bump!
So, that was your first ten on the juke. I think it’s safe to say that you’ll fit in here just fine, son. Passed that test with flying colours. Here’s another ten-spot. Get us both another round, you know what to buy. And, on the way back, you put another dollar in that juke box. Pick another ten tunes.
Because there’s another forty-odd tracks for you still to discover. Slow, fast, sad, joyous, deadly earnest or downright silly. All human life, as the old cliché has it, is there. And that’s the ninth and final lesson of Lux and Ivy’s place: when it comes to the good things in Life, you get out what you put in.
And sometimes, if you’re lucky, then you even get a bit more.
Who am I? I’ll tell you later. For now, it’s enough to know that I’m a friend. And you only make the best friends here, in Lux and Ivy’s bar. You say that you’ll be coming back here again?
I knew you would. I think that you’ll fit in just fine.
Now, go get that booze. And let the music play.
❉ Various Artists: ‘Lux And Ivy Dig Insane Rockabilly’ (Righteous PSALM23103D) is released 16 April 2021 by Cherry Red Records, RRP £10.95. Click here to order directly from Cherry Red Records.
❉ Ken Shinn is a lifelong fan of all things cult and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His 55 years have seen him contribute to works overseen by the likes of TV Cream and the British Horror Films Group, as well as a whole batch of short stories of the fantastic, with his first novel on the way. Whatever the field, he intends to enjoy Cult in all its forms for many years to come.