Some folks consider rockabilly one of the earliest styles of rock ’n’ roll. In the mid-’50s, Carl Perkins, Bill Haley and even Elvis Presley were among the first to embrace the genre, which mixes traditional country music with the raw edge of rock ’n’ roll. The Stray Cats brought the sound to the MTV generation of the ’80s, and today there’s a new group of bands carrying on the tradition.
Meet the Phantom Shakers. The Detroit band is not only making noise locally but has also taken Detroit rockabilly to the West Coast.
Fresh off a high-profile performance in Las Vegas at the annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the group is set to celebrate the release of its new single, “Gloss My Lips,” with a gig Saturday at the New Dodge Bar in Hamtramck.
“I grew up listening to rockabilly but I didn’t know what it was,” says singer Elle Mae, who was exposed to acts like Duane Eddy, Elvis and Johnny Cash at a young age. “I didn’t really know it was a genre.”
Elle Mae (born Ellen Marie Hobart) and guitarist Mark Longsdorf founded the Phantom Shakers in 2008 after Elle Mae was encouraged to start a band by her famous friend Jimbo Mathus of the modern swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers.
“I wanted to start a band since I was a teenager, but I couldn’t find any girls to do it,” she says. “Jimbo was the one that suggested I pursue it. I found Mark’s ad on Craigslist, and he was looking for a male singer but I messaged him anyway and said, ‘How about a girl?’.”
After their first meeting, “Mark gave me a stack of CDs to go home and listen to,” she says. “The first song I heard was ‘Fujiyama Mama,’.” (by rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson). “Everything that I had lived up to that point had prepared me to sing this stuff.”
The first time I saw the band was during the 2010 Metro Times Blowout, and I recall being captivated at how Elle Mae — in her Bettie Page-inspired hair and pin-up dress — commanded the stage.
The Phantom Shakers released its debut EP “The Ghetto Session” during the 2011 Blowout and things have been on the upswing since.
The band believes a review of that EP in Ol’Skool Rodz Magazine led them to the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender Stage earlier this month, where it played to rockabilly fans from all over the world.
“It was amazing,” says Elle Mae of that performance. “It was really refreshing to play in front of people that actually understood what we were doing. It’s very liberating. I think that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Ever.”
“Gloss My Lips” is the debut single from the band’s forthcoming LP, which it plans to release early next year. It was recorded at Ann Arbor Recording with engineer Erik Alderink and features work from well-known local rockabilly guitarist Bones Maki from the Treble-Aires.Copies will be available at Saturday’s show.
Also performing Saturday are burlesque dancers the Hell’s Belle’s Girly Revue, all-girl surf trio the Aquanettes (playing with a fill-in drummer while Kelly Franks recovers from a recent car accident), female-fronted rockabilly band the Motor Inns and Detroit cheerleaders the Motor City Rah Rah’s.
Doors at 8 p.m. Saturday, music at 8:30 p.m. New Dodge Bar, 8850 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck. 313-874-5963. $10 advance, $12 at the door for ages 21 and older; ages 18-20 pay an additional $5.
Detroit blues guitarist Johnnie Bassett has been making music since 1953. For his latest release, “I Can Make That Happen,” due June 19 on Sly Dog Records, Bassett is supported by members of the Brothers Groove (Chris Codish, James Simonson, Skeeto Valdez) and the Motor City Horns (Keith Kaminski, John Rutherford, Bob Jensen, Mark Byerly).
The new album follows his 2009 gem, “The Gentlemen Is Back,” and highlights his excellent guitar work with elements of jazz, R&B and soul. It also features a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” Many years ago, Bassett hosted a Sunday-night jam session in Seattle, where a young Hendrix regularly attended and performed.
For more: www.johnniebassett.net
Brothers Chad and Keith Thompson of Detroit band Johnny Headband have released a new video for the song “And Then Again,” which comes from the group’s new LP, “Who Cooks for You,” released Tuesday. You can check out the video at www.vimeo.com/39989534
Meanwhile, Detroiters Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s new video for “We Almost Lost Detroit,” - a Gil Scott-Heron cover - debuted earlier this month and can be viewed here: www.vimeo.com/39505582