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Jerry McCain: Choo Choo Rock

[photo of Jerry McCain]Jerry McCain is an inexplicably obscure harmonica player who was most active in the 1950s. His first recordings were on Trumpet Records for Lillian McMurray (who also discovered Elmore James) in 1953; they were decent but unremarkable blues sides. In 1955, however, he put together a band with his brother and went uptempo, recording eleven raucous rock and roll demos in his living room, all original compositions. On the strength of these recordings he got a contract with Excello and issued several tracks, all great rockers but not up to the level of the insane, crude demos.

He’s been active on-and-off since then; his biggest hit was a 1970 cover of Guy Drake’s right-wing anthem “Welfare Cadillac”. He retired from his day job — private investigator — in the 1980s and later opened a nightclub, where he still performs occasionally.

The living room recordings have been reissued a few times, originally on a European bootleg called “Choo Choo Rock”, then later on another boot and then finally on a legit-looking reissue that also included his complete Excello sides. All are long out of print.

These tracks are all great, but be sure to check out “My Next Door Neighbor”, which is in my Top 5 Best Song Lyrics of All Time list (he would record a tamer version for Excello a year later, with the the line about the Devil removed), and “Bell in My Heart”, where McCain is accompanied by an alarm clock that is starting to wind down by the third verse.

  1. A Cutie Named Judy
  2. Geronimo Rock & Roll
  3. It Must Be Love
  4. Rock & Roll Ball
  5. I Want Somebody to Love
  6. Turn Your Damper Down
  7. I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from a Rock & Roll City
  8. Choo Choo Rock
  9. Bell in My Heart
  10. My Next Door Neighbor
  11. Crying Like a Fool

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One of the best Chic-A-Go-Go guests ever – his advice to the kids was to brush your teeth before you play a harmonica as nothing ruins a harp like cornbread crumbs.



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