Monday, January 25, 2010

Big Boy Crudup's Atomic Bomb Blues


For originating the song that first broke Elvis, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup sometimes got called the “Father of Rock’n’Roll.” For Crudup it was a dubious distinction, one that sure didn’t pay. By the mid-50s, as his young white imitator climbed the charts with his rendition of “That’s All Right, Mama,” Crudup had already quit recording for a spell, tired of getting stiffed for royalties by RCA, Checker, Ace, and Trumpet records.


Of course Crudup eventually came out of retirement. He cut a few singles and a long-player for Bobby Robinson’s Fire label, who released “Mean Ole Frisco" b/w "Rock Me, Mama” and “Katie Mae" b/w "Dig Myself a Hole" both in 1962. The last of these sides, “Dig Myself a Hole,” takes Gemini Spacecraft’s top spot in the category of atomic bomb blues, right up there with Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War” from the Arms Race 80s.

These releases placed Crudup in a good position to reap some limited exposure on the folk revival scene then emerging. But misfortune dogged the Big Boy, and none of his records earned him any money. Crudup never escaped poverty, and to the end he earned his meager living as an agricultural laborer and small-time moonshiner.

4 comments:

The Hound said...

The Fire recording is a remake, Crudup originally recorded the tune for RCA in August of '51 (RCA 50-141) issued on 45 and 78. Robert Jr. Lockwood also recorded it for Mercury that same year. I'm not sure whose version came first.

Bob Pomeroy said...

I knew I'd heard at least one other version by Crudup, probably on the Radio Hound archives.
'51, eh? Man, that's getting the drop on the atom bomb theme, wouldn't you say?

The Hound said...

I'm sure I played the RCA version on the radio as that's the one I know, I think the first bomb was dropped in '55 and Russia exploded theirs around '50. What happens to the old ones that are sittin' in silos all over the midwest getting all rusty and leaky? Someone's sure to figure out a way to set 'em off. The "Big Boy" hydrogen bombs, which the US, Russia and China have hundreds of are said to be 1,000 more powerful than the ones dropped on Japan. Can't wait.....

Bob Pomeroy said...

Seemed like nuclear war anxiety was more rampant in the 80s, with the arms race in full swing, than it is nowadays. Back then I heard Gregory Corso read a few times, and he would always break out this one poem about John Wayne dying of cancer resulting from all that radiation he surely must have absorbed while witnessing tests at the NV Proving Ground. (My own mother, who grew up outside of Vegas, in Blue Diamond, NV, also saw the big mushroom clouds, which might explain a few things.) Corso was right about one thing: We've already dropped the Bomb on ourselves about 100 times.

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