I know; when you think cars and music, chances are your mind flashes images of Corvettes, GTOs, and Mustangs, not your (Great-Grand)Father’s Oldsmobile…..
But when the ‘Rocket 88’ came out, it was the 409 of its day. It sent many a heart a flutter with its promise of more bang for the buck, and some of those hearts also could belt out a mean cord or two.
Among them was a young man from Clarksdale, Mississippi. In 1951, he and his band, The Kings Of Rhythm, loaded up a car whose make and model has been lost to history and headed for the Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue to show its owner, Sam Phillips, what they had cooked up.
Only there was a problem with the amp. Popular legend has it falling off the roof on the way there, but Ike always claimed that rain seeping in did the damage, which sounds more likely to me. They didn’t have the money to buy a new one, so they stuffed the case with newspapers to mitigate the damage.
Mr. Phillips liked what he heard, probably telling them “hell, folks would buy that,” and remarking how the broken speaker gave that raw sound he liked. The record was soon released on the Chess Label in Chicago under the name Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (Jackie being the vocalist and saxophone player) to avoid a legal issue, and the result is now regarded by most as the first rock-n-roll record.
And times being what they were, a tamer copy (with an intact amp) soon appeared, but times were changing, as two years later, a teenager named Elvis Presley walked in the door at 706 Union and told Marion Keisker, the receptionist, that he “didn’t sound like nobody.”