Rockin' with My Baby

Rockin' with My Baby

by Malcolm Yelvington



Malcolm Yelvington was just a little too old and a half second late to the dinner table when he recorded his first single, a version of Sticks McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee," in Sam Phillips' famed Sun Studios in Memphis in 1954. Yelvington was already in his thirties at the time, an experienced singer and musician who had played his own brand of Western swing and honky tonk in Memphis clubs for some time while still working his day job as a welder. He was quick to realize that audiences loved the stepped-up beat of rockabilly that was just starting to emerge at the time, and he simply grafted that beat on to what he was already doing, coming up with a neat country-rockabilly hybrid. The single, however, got lost in the firestorm wake of another Sun Studios singer who released his first singles that same year -- Elvis Presley. Yelvington didn't have a chance. He released one other single for Sun, the joyous "Rockin' with My Baby," which name-checked a whole litany of rockabilly-era singles from "Maybellene" to "Tutti Frutti" in its lyrics, but it, too, tanked commercially. Yelvington still had his day job and he kept playing the Memphis clubs at night, but his deserved moment in the rockabilly spotlight never really happened. He did manage, though, to record a dozen songs or so, including several originals, at Sun between 1954 and 1957, and all of those are collected here, along with alternate takes and demos. It's quite a revelation to hear these tracks, which are a neat blend of country and rock & roll with hints of jazz and Western swing. That Yelvington never had even so much as a large regional hit, let alone a national one, seems hard to imagine -- he seemed forever doomed to the dustbins of pop history. His odd name intrigued collectors and scholars looking into the history of Sun Records years later, though, and Yelvington's stock rose to minor cult status by the 1990s and he actually recorded an album in the old Sun Studios called There's a Little Life Left in This Old Boy Yet, which was released in 1998 when Yelvington was nearly 80 years old -- he died three years later in 2001, leaving behind a slim but solid and unique little legacy.

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