Git it

After years of detective work, Gene Vincent's Lost Dallas Sessions resurface

Dude and Juvey--even now, their names sound made-up, like characters in some B-grade, blackboard-jungle teen exploitation film made in 1958; they would have played slicked-back bad boys, leather-clad rockers, rebels without a...well, you know. But these are real people and their real names: Dude Kahn is tall and imposing, wearing short sleeves and blue jeans; his hair is dark and only slightly thinning, and his voice is deep and rumbling, like a distant thunderstorm. Juvey Gomez is short and unassuming, clad in a sport coat and a tie; he is gray and almost bald, and he wears thin, tinted glasses. The two men could not look more dissimilar, yet they're very much alike: Both make their living drumming in ballroom bands, paying the rent by playing private parties and society balls. They're musicians for whom keeping the beat is a lifelong occupation, professional musicians ever since they were teenagers in the late 1950s.

And once upon a time, Dude and Juvey were real-life rock-and-rollers who drummed for one of the greatest of all the bad boys, a cat named Gene Vincent. That's right: Dude and Juvey were, at one time, members of Vincent's be-bop-a-lula Blue Caps, keeping time for one of the few musicians worthy of being called Legend.

Kahn and Gomez have been brought together this late March evening by David Dennard, the man responsible for releasing the first albums by Tripping Daisy and Hagfish on his Dragon Street Records label earlier this decade. But Dennard isn't so interested in finding the hottest, newest thing anymore. Indeed, he has spent the past few years digging up music long since buried and long thought forgotten--music recorded by Vincent right here in Dallas during the late 1950s, when the rockabilly idol briefly lived here to be near his manager, Ed McLemore.

It was a quest that began in a North Dallas closet and ended in a Washington, D.C., basement. For a music fanatic like Dennard, just to be around men such as Gomez and Kahn is a thrill, like touching the hem of history.

On April 7, Dennard will release the fruits of his labor: a 19-song collection titled The Lost Dallas Sessions, 1957-'58, featuring tracks Vincent recorded at Sellars Studios, the Big "D" Jamboree at the Sportatorium, and, believe it, a North Dallas home. It's a remarkable record, not just odds and sods and other scraps swept from the studio floor and packaged for profit on disc, but a bona fide treasure--the sort of record that fetishists crave and even the casual fan can understand and appreciate.

The disc contains classic rockabilly and then some, offering proof that Vincent--who was, in truth, really a one-hit wonder whose time came and went quick enough for him to become immortal rather than insignificant--wasn't just a myth but a wonderful musician with a gut-shot voice and a bluesman's fingers. The opening track alone proves worth the 40-year wait: Titled "My Love," it features Vincent all by his lonesome, strumming and moaning like a back-porch preacher. It's a thousand miles away from the hopped-up rock and roll that made him a sensation in 1956, and proof that even now, decades-old music can still offer a revelation or two beneath all that dust.

"Gene was the original punk-rocker," Dude says now. "He was really talented and had a super ear. He had more black blood in him than any other white guy around, even more than Presley. Gene was a soulful cat. He was in-your-face and real skinny and had that messed-up leg [from a childhood car accident] and drank, but he had soul."

David Dennard's discovery of these lost Vincent tracks began by accident: During the course of assembling the 1996 two-disc Ronnie Dawson anthology for Crystal Clear Sound, where Dennard worked till a few months ago, he had reason to call a woman named Jeanne Bullington, the daughter of Ed McLemore. McLemore had become famous around town for booking wrestling into the Sportatorium, and he also ran the Big "D" Jamboree there, bringing in country and rock acts and broadcasting them nationally over the CBS radio network. McLemore also managed, for a brief time, Gene Vincent.

Dennard was looking for photos of the young Dawson performing on the Sportatorium stage, and Bullington told him that she did indeed have some old pictures of the teenage Ronnie Dee. Moreover, Bullington said, she also owned some old tapes featuring Dawson and other musicians who used to work with her father and his Big D Music publishing company. She asked Dennard if he'd like to see and maybe hear the tapes. He answered with a breathless yes.

When Dennard arrived at Bullington's Northwest Highway apartment, she presented him with a box of master tapes featuring a handful of unreleased Dawson tracks. Then, Dennard says, "at the bottom of the tape was written 'G. Vincent,' and I went, 'Oh, my God, this is Gene Vincent.'"

It turned out Bullington was sitting on the mother lode, storing in her closet dozens of tapes featuring artists who worked with Ed McLemore, including Johnny Carroll and myriad country artists who played the Jamboree. Over time, Dennard worked out a deal to license the material from Bullington. When she died last summer of cancer, her son Michael took over.

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