Gene Summers

The Ultimate School of Rock and Roll – 1997 (Crystal Clear)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

CDs by Gene Summers

The Dallas-based Gene Summers was a latecomer to rockabilly. While Elvis was recording his first sides for Sun Records in 1954, the earliest track here is a 1957 home demo of Dale Hawkins's "Susie Q" and, in fact, Gene's great regional hits for the Jan label - "Nervous" and "School of Rock & Roll"- were recorded the following year.

To Summers's credit, he changed with the times when many of his peers couldn't or wouldn't, managed to sustain a degree of fame in the Dallas area throughout the '60's and '70's in spite of his lack of national success, and continues to perform to this day to worldwide audiences. An unreleased 1964 cover of "The Great Pretender," - one of a dozen or so unreleased tracks included - though far removed from his rockabilly roots, is terrific nevertheless, owing to Summers's great Elvis-ish vocals. The only real complaint is that, given the 20-year timespan of the recordings and their huge stylistic differences, the songs should have been arranged chronologically.

This probably isn't the first reissue you need if flat-out rockabilly is what you're looking for, but it's a welcome portrait of a regional talent probably deserving more than he's gotten.