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.