Dean Carter and the link between Elvis and Chrome

Dean Carter! It was Wayne Rogers, guitar shredder for Major Stars/Crystalized Movements/Twisted Village label who first pointed me to the wild sounds of this nutzoid Illinois shoulda-been-a-rockabilly legend; upon first listen of his 1967 take on “Jailhouse Rock” and its overloaded guitar destruction I can understand Wayne’s being stoked. Carter’s psycho-beat approach not only reflected a crossover into some of the more fuzzified primitive garage rock of the era, but a wider worldview that mirrored (intentionally or not) the expansive basement soundworld of Joe Meek.

Right off the bat, Dean’s demos for Fraternity in the early 60’s ran the gamut from ballads to gospel to rockabilly with a trademark approach being to take covers and gut ’em from the inside out to different form altogether. Eventually the focal point of operations became Danville, Illinois, at a studio (side of a house) set up by Carter and cohort Arlie Miller that churned out material for the Milky Way label (output of which neatly compiled on the Midnite Sounds compilation on Ace); while artists like Kookie Cook and George Jacks put in killer sides, it was Dean’s stuff that was most manic/unhinged. While his pipes sound like a younger, thumbtack-gargling Lemmy on the “Jailhouse Rock” take, it’s the instrumental aspect that defines the sound of doors flying off: barely-pulsed electric piano buried under piles of fuzz and drums, the destructo midway guitar solo apparently a 12-string dobro being gnashed against a mic stand (supposedly there’s accordion and uke in there somewhere). Carter and the label never caught fire sales-wise (and by 1967 the rockabilly revival was years away), he ventured out west to work with Gene Vincent sideman Jerry Merritt and eventually settled into country-folk terrain. But the pure punkoid rockabilly bomb detonations of some of Dean’s 67-69 need serious revisiting; the best place to do so is on the Big Beat UK anthology Call of the Wild.  – (Brian Turner)