Recording information: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (01/07/1957); Montreal, Quebec, Canada (02/15/1956); Montreal, Quebec, Canada (05/09/1958).
Illustrators: Dave Barnes; R.A. Andreas; Larry Delaney.
Photographers: Dave Barnes; R.A. Andreas; Larry Delaney.
Part of Bear Family's ongoing Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series -- a set that shines the light on unheralded rockabilly cats and country badgers from the '50s and '60s -- Rockin' the Jukebox showcases the earliest recording from Bob King, a native of Ottawa, Canada who cut some good sides in the style of Hank Williams, plus several records that rock a whole lot harder. Bear Family has spent some time on King before -- once in 1990, for a 26-track collection of '60s Rodeo/Banff singles, then once again in 1993, covering folkier story songs from the same era -- but this is the first time they've delved into his late-'50s recordings. Often, he comes across like a cheerier version of Hank, sounding bright even when he has a tear in his beer, and this sunniness served him well when he dabbled in rockabilly, which isn't as often as its inclusion in Gonna Shake This Shack might suggest. The title track and silly, swinging "Party Hop" are it as far as rock & roll goes, and although there a couple of numbers that suggest dreamy slow dances at a sock hop, most of these 21 songs are good-hearted honky tonk. With his innate friendliness, it's little wonder he wound up in children's music, and while that same quality means this isn't as gritty as some '50s country indebted to Hank Williams, it is still a pleasant listen. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine