Monday, March 28, 2016


25 word song review for “Royal Whirl” (New York, 1961, Goldisc)
Relentlessly optimistic / a regal climber that doesn’t lack for ensemble / bruising humility despite the illumination of its achievement / around us: embers & we? / jumping / yeah!

Information on The Royaltones, 1
Founded in Dearborn, Mich., circa 1957, the band would distinguish itself by appearing on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark. Other notable appearances included the Howard Theatre (Washington, D.C.) and Royal Theatre (Baltimore, Md.) The host for the latter? One Redd Foxx.  

Information on The Royaltones, 2
To this blogger’s knowledge, the band exclusively played rock ‘n’ roll instrumental songs. The founder-saxophonist, George Katsakis, drew influences from early R&B saxophone players Sam “The Man” Taylor, Red Prysock, and Lee Allen, among others. It shows, in all the best ways.

Also listen to
“Poor Boy” (1958) (peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100).
“See Saw” (1959).
“Flamingo Express” (1961) (peaked at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Some notable associations + Ace compilation
Legendary guitar player, Dennis Coffey, joined the Royaltones in 1962, along with Bob Babbitt on bass. The Royaltones would become the touring group for Del Shannon before disbanding circa 1965. In 2009, Ace Records released a 30-track compilation of the band’s output on CD.

Blogger’s response to criticism of the band
Allmusic dismisses the band’s sound as having grown passé, implying that saxophone-dominated records such as “Royal Whirl” don’t ultimately reflect the true spirit of (guitar-dominated) rock ‘n’ roll. Wrong. If anything, the band charges forward in pell-mell, uphill fashion not possible without horns. The record inherits plenty from bebop and jump blues, and from these formidable wellsprings, soars in texture and register alike. That a sound might grow “passé” (in the judgment of reviewers) says more about the flawed consumers of the sound than the producers.

How to categorize this here combo

The Royaltones contributed to a fertile, if now largely forgotten period of early rock ‘n’ roll, early R&B, instrumental rockabilly, surf, and early garage: we’ll call it The Shakers Era. Let’s not be afraid to admit this Shaking onto our modern-day queues. The blogger does not contend that “Royal Whirl” shakes the hardest of all Shakers. He knows several hundreds of “noble accents and lucid, inescapable rhythms”, but “Royal Whirl” reminds him that great rock reinvests itself in its own momentum, leaving propulsion and anticipation difficult to separate. Whirl on! 

Sources of information

45cat entry for “Royal Whirl”
Allmusic entry for The Royaltones
Dennis Coffey web site
Discogs entry for TheRoyaltones
Funeral home obituary for band member Michael Popoff
Rockabilly Europe entry for The Royaltones 
Wallace Stevens, quote from “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
Washington Post obituary for band member Bob Babbitt 

Likely personnel on “Royal Whirl”: George Katsakis (saxophone), Mike Popoff (keyboards), Greg Popoff (drums), either Bob Sanderson or Vern Parker (guitar), Ken Anderson (saxophone).