I've never really been attracted to most of what was popular rock music in the 1950s. During the seventies when the whole 50s nostalgia thing was happening I never understood why people were so turned on by the music. Most of it seemed like really lame imitations of black music from the time, and the rest of it, Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons for example, just didn't make any sense at all.
One of the few white acts I liked from that time period was Jerry Lee Lewis, or the "Killer" as he was known. There was something about him that gave him that spark of danger that none of the other packaged acts seemed to have. He had a connection to the music that verged on the spiritual and he played like he was almost possessed.
But it was his style that really enthralled me, not just his playing with his elbows or feet either, but the heavy bottom end that pounded out the beat while his right hand rang out the melody. I've heard a lot of other rock keyboard players of various styles since I first heard Jerry Lee and although some of them have been good, not a one has had the same feel for the music that the "Killer" did.
It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I heard someone whose playing was similar enough that it reminded me of the way Lewis would attack a song. The thing is, Barrelhouse Buck McFarland died in 1962 just eight months after he recorded the tracks that Delmark Records has released under the title Alton Blues
Buck McFarland was born in Alton Illinois in 1903 and was part of a group of Blues musicians from the twenties and thirties who were referred to as the Alton school. This was in reference to the similarities they all had in their piano playing and the fact they all came from Alton. (A later graduate of Alton, Illinois was this guy called Miles Davis who was supposed to have been a half decent trumpet player)
In the years between World Wars One and Two Buck and other Alton natives, plus some others, made up the core of a thriving Blues scene in St. Louis. Somehow or other, St. Louis never achieved the fame as a Blues centre that Chicago or Harlem obtained but in between the wars and in the immediate aftermath of World War two it was just as potent.