Monday, July 6, 2015


Years ago when my brother was in a surf band, the Evasions, like other surf bands, they did a few vocal numbers. My guess is that Richard "Skid Roper" Banke, the other guitarist, was the one who suggested the covers. He'd already been collecting vintage records for years, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of early rock and roll. Whoever it was that suggested they do "Bertha Lou" deserves my utmost gratitude. The song been a favorite of mine ever since, not necessarily because their version rocked the house, which it did. It wasn't even the complete song itself. What got me was the line "I want to conjugate with you". Surely one of the all time best uses of a weird word in a rock 'n' roll song. The rest of the lyrics are almost as good. How are you gonna beat "You wear your hair in a poodle cut, you're walkin' down the street like a semi-truck, and everybody knows that you're so sweet, you tickle me from head to my athlete's feet."? Pure poetry.

From what I've browsed online, of which the accuracy can be questioned, the timeline went something like this. Sometime around 1957, after the Rock 'n' Roll Trio broke up, Johnny and Dorsey Burnette had designs on a career in songwriting. They'd hang around outside of Ricky Nelson's house and pitch songs as Ricky Nelson would come and go. "Believe What You Say" and "It's Late" are two that Nelson would end up recording. Around that time Johnny Burnette wrote "Bertha Lou". He ended up selling the rights to a guy named John Marascalco, reportedly because he needed the money for rent. After that it gets convoluted. Johnny Faire appears to be the first to record it, but Clint Miller's version was rushed out and heavily promoted, and it became the hit. The Dorseys' version, under the name Dorsey Burnette, was later. Whatever. It's a great song that you should dig the shit out of.

Clint Miller - Bertha Lou mp3 at Mp3 Rockabilly
Johnny Faire - Bertha Lou (streaming) at YouTube
Dorsey Burnette - Bertha Lou (streaming) at YouTube
Tav Falco's Panther Burns - Bertha Lou (streaming) at YouTube
Robert Gordon - Bertha Lou (streaming) at YouTube
Rick Lee and the Barons - Bertha Lou mp3 at 60s Garage Bands
Bertha Lou lyrics
at Rocky 52

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