Git it

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

The tracks Bullington possessed were recorded in 1958 at Sellars Studio near downtown, which hasn't existed in decades. They feature mostly second-generation Blue Caps or none at all. Most original members, including guitarists Cliff Gallup and Willie Williams and bassist Jack Neal, had long grown tired of touring and had become frustrated with the lack of chart success following "Be Bop A Lula," which had been released in 1956. They quit, taking session work or leaving the business for good.

Vincent had been left without a band and, shortly afterward, without a manager. Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson, the man who recorded all of Vincent's tracks for the label, suggested he contact McLemore in Dallas. McLemore ended up not only bringing Vincent to town in 1957, but he also provided the band with new uniforms and a place to live--a ranch-style home on Dyke's Way near Forest and Hillcrest, where Gene, his girlfriend, and the Blue Caps lived for a few months.

For the Sellars sessions and his road band, Vincent and McLemore hired such players as bassist Ken Cobb, pianist Cliff Simmons, drummer Clyde Pennington, and guitarist Johnny Meeks. They demo-ed such tracks as "Hey Mama" (which later became "Say Mama"), "The Night is So Lonely," "Lonesome Boy," and "Lady Bug," which appear on The Lost Dallas Sessions and were later recorded again in Capitol's Hollywood studios. "Hey Mama" also features Ronnie Dawson on guitar.

Dude Kahn doesn't appear on any of the recorded demos; indeed, he only played with Vincent for about three months in mid-1957. Kahn had been Sonny Curtis' drummer--Curtis was a Capitol labelmate of Vincent's and was also managed by McLemore--and filled in only after original Blue Cap Dickie Harrell quit the band because of the rigors of touring. Kahn, who joined the Blue Caps when he was just 16, gave the same reason for his departure.

"Sonny let me go after two years, because I was getting as much attention as he was," says Kahn, who was indeed quite the teddy boy back in his day. "That's the truth. He said, 'Go get your own show. You're gettin' all the chicks.' He didn't need me. So then I went on the road with Gene and the Blue Caps. I always liked the band, because it was a funky band. All the other bands were just rockabilly bands, but Gene's band was like a blues band, an R&B band, with the bass player playing a four-beat instead of a two-beat.

"It was a funky band, but on the other side of the coin, it was a funky band. Whoo. I mean, they toured in a 1957 Ford wagon and threw all the trash on the floor, and they trashed motel rooms. At the end of my third month with them, I had had enough."

Kahn quit and then rejoined the Blue Caps for a short time, until he was replaced in the fall of 1957 by D.J. Fontana--better known as Elvis' drummer. Dickie Harrell was convinced to return to the band in December 1957, and he stuck it out till March 1958, when he quit for good--right before the band was scheduled to appear in the rock and roll B-picture Hot Rod Gang. Vincent needed a drummer and quick; he had been impressed by a 15-year-old kid named Juvey Gomez, who was playing with Johnny Carroll.

"Gene said he was looking for a drummer and approached me, and then I went to ask Johnny Carroll if it was OK, since we had been working together six or nine months," Gomez recalls. "The whole group sounded great, and Johnny said, 'I hate to lose you, but I'll tell Gene [you're joining]."'

Juvey, with his mother's blessing and his teachers' permission, was snatched right out of his classes at Spence Middle School in East Dallas and plunked down behind the drum kits in Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. He played with Vincent for only a few weeks--but long enough to appear in Hot Rod Gang (the cover photo for The Lost Dallas Sessions was taken from the movie), then record with Vincent in Los Angeles (he plays on, among other tracks, the astonishing "Git It"), and perform a few West Coast dates with a few R&B musicians as Vincent experimented with playing in front of black audiences.

"I was hardly in the movie because of child-labor laws," Gomez recalls. "I enjoyed it all, recording in Frank Sinatra's studio, Studio B at Capitol Records. But the biggest thrill was right next door: [jazz pianist] George Shearing was recording, and by then I was already into jazz. One night, as I walked out, I heard this beautiful piano and guitar, and I looked up, and there was George Shearing. That was cooler than playing with Gene Vincent. Without a doubt. And Gene knew it."

Juvey lived a teenager's fantasy: He played with Gene Vincent and became friends with Ricky Nelson and Eddie Cochran. He played in front of packed houses and met his jazz idols. He recorded in the house Sinatra built and branded his name in the history books by laying down the drum tracks on some of Vincent's finest, most underappreciated material.

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