|Russ Be Bop's Roadrunners, Gutsy Rockabilly Blues
Although The Roadrunners have been around for quite some time, I must admit I had never heard of 'em until recently. A friend of mine brought their album "Movers & Shakers" and said I must listen to this. And so I did, and I was swept off my feet the very first time. This is the true meaning of rockabilly. A solid mix of rhythm & blues and hillbilly with a thumping slapping bass, carried by a simple but accurately sharp electric lead guitar.
The sound of the Roadrunners could so easily be the rock 'n' roll that boomed across every fairground you went to as a kid.The smell of candyfloss and fried unions toasting out over the teenage night. And the feel is the bright beckoning future that every rock 'n' roller dreams of. Their music is edging up to it's first half century, nearly 50 years since that young truck driver with the sideburns ventured into Sun Studios and unleashed a revolution.
Growing up in Blackpool, a seaside resort along the west coast of England, during the nineteen eighties can be hazardous. Russ Purdy found that out the hard way, when one night whilst hanging around the wrong night club, some lunatic pushed a pint glass in his face for no apparent reason - sixteen stitches. Russ explains in an interview for Rock 'n' Roll Universe; "This experience made me very paranoid at the time and so I needed something to get my confidence back, so a musical hobby sprang to mind."
Russ's first instrument was a bargain slap bass, but his eighteenth birthday he was bought a red electric Epiphone guitar, the cheapest and nearest he could get to a Gretsch, and he began taking music lessons and decided to start a band. His first attempt was The Jailhouse Rockers. The first solid outfit to hit the stage was "The Roadrunners", playing fifties uptempo blues with a rockabilly bassline. Since Russ was also a dee-jay at that time, he was in a good position to promote his band. He adopted the name Russ The Be Bop Boy for dee-jay use and dropped the boy-bit when he hit 30. Money was getting better and he finally could afford himself a Gretsch Tennessee Rose 6119. He was now armed and ready to hit the scene with his dangerous blues.
A couple of songs recorded in a studio around Burnley way was released as a 4 track EP on a small German label and got lots of dee-jay play in the London clubs. The word was out! Some more tracks were recorded at The Riverside studio in Blackpool and at some point they were approached by Howard Raucous who booked them some gigs. After a not-all-that-great German tour, bad temper, difference of opinion and girlfriend clashes caused the band to break up.
Russ got a call from two mountain men from Whitehaven who played in a blues band, but wanted to do rockabilly. The Roadrunners continued with a more commercial sound, but it was money in the pocket, and they were soon touring again and really living up to their name. The band was quite popular in Germany, which resulted in another 4-track EP release. Soon after, their debut album "Catch Us If You Can" was released on the French SFAX label. UK's own Fury label wanted to release a second album within 6 months after the first, it had to be out before the '98 Hemsby Weekender where the Roadrunners would appear, so they rushed into the studio and recorded 20 tracks for the new "Have We Got Blues For You" album on Fury Records.
The mountain men, Paul and Aaron, suddenly decided that Hemsby was not a priority for them and they left Russ in the shit. Determined to carry on, Russ arranged to play the gig with one time rockabilly gangster Dave Manchin on drums and Wayne Hopkins (a Hemsby regular) on bass. They pulled it off. Dave and Russ got along pretty well and so Dave (who played with Johnny & The Roccos amongst others) was gonna hang in there. Dave knew this guy Ray Walmsley (Deuces Wild, Rhythmaires) and although Ray had family commitments, he was willing to help out where he could.
Again more interest came from SFAX, they wanted to do another album and this was really a turning point for the Roadrunners. The recordings were left in the capable hands of Chris Cummings studios, and this time they meant business! The result "Movers & Shakers" is the album that swept me off my feet to begin with. Another one in the bag!
The band needed to draft yet another bass player, because Ray wasn't always available. They found a real wild man from the Wigan area named Eddie Spaghetti (Red Hot Alligators). His wild antics were just the ticket. He comes with a great showman attitude, acting the goat off and on stage. Russ Purdy: "So these days I find myself switching from bass players, depending on the gigs and recordings, which doesn't bother them either way, there's no ego clashes."
So, The Roadrunners are still on the road, and they are still recording. Both "Down In One" and "Kingsize Rock 'n' Roll Thrills" were released on Vampirella and the band gained great respect in Germany and France, playing wild gigs at biker shows, psycho shows and the such likes. Many are pleased to hear their gutsy blues rockabilly noise, a style Russ says, he will never stray from!
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Adapted from a feature in "Rock 'n' Roll Universe", February 2001.