Here, Koko the Clown takes the spoken word part that Red Sovine does on the record.
Webb Pierce and his Wondering Boys, wonder how they’re all gonna fit in the Sputnik III.
Webb Pierce was the first country artist to tour Uranus, seen here in his tour bus Sputnik III
Webb Pierce (born Webb Pierce, Aug. 8, 1921, died Feb. 24, 1991) had a long and successful career as a country singer of the hard core honky tonk variety. He had thirteen #1 Billboard country hits (Hank Williams only had nine) between the years 1952-1957 and Lord knows how many top forty hits. This hot streak included such #1’s as I Ain’t Never, There Stands The Glass, Back Street Affair, and a cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ In The Jailhouse Now, all great records. What was the last great record to go to #1 on Billboard’s country chart? I honestly can’t remember, it’s been decades. Webb Pierce had a Buick customized by haberdasher to hillbilly royalty– Nudie, it had silver dollar inlays all over it, saddles for seats and real guns for door handles. I once smoked a joint while sitting in it at the the Country Music Hall Of Fame Museum at a party I went to there. The mid-50’s rise of rock’n’roll as a commercial entity sent a panic through the world of country music and some singers, like Webb Pierce, tried to respond in some fairly desperate ways. Pierce himself took a few stabs at rock’n’roll, all of them worth hearing. He added words to Bill Justis’ instrumental classic Raunchy, released a pretty cool cover version of The Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love and of course there was his rockabilly classic Teenage Boogie (here’s the obligatory, for this blog, alternate take) which would be appropriated by T. Rex in 1974 who took it to the top of the U.K charts retitled I Love To Boogie, giving writing credits to little Marc Bolan. Not rock’n’roll but perhaps the strangest record Webb Pierce made in his attempt to regain chart dominance was this 1956 attempt to merge two trends, one the maudlin child snuff ballad, a musical genre that has thrived in country music since its earliest days, and that peculiar trend– the “wop song”, which are tunes done in a strange stereotyped Italian accent similar to that of Chico Marx and the character Mr. Bacciagalupe on the Abbott & Costello TV show. One record, Little Rosa, issued by Decca (of course, here is an alternate take), the spoken part is done by Red Sovine, king of both the trucker song and the kid snuff ballad, two trends he fused in his, well, not really classic, but
certainly fascinating hit– Giddy Up Go, which you can still hear on juke boxes in truck stops in West Virginia around Christmas time. Off the track but worth mentioning is Sovine’s follow up Getty Up Stop. Getting back to Little Rosa, in the above clip (sent in by Donna Lethal, thanks), Koko The Clown takes Sovine’s role as the poor old Wop dad, Webb Pierce, of course, appears as himself. Before anyone writes in to complain about my use of the term wop, the surname on my original birth certificate was Antonicello and my grandparents on one side were born in a town in the heel of Italy’s boot called Iricino, the other side of my family is from Palermo, in whose harbor sits a statue of Antonino Giammona, my great, great, grandfather. So I get to say wop. Also guiniea, greaseball and dago if I choose. Other artists to record “wop songs” include Big Walter Price (Hello Maria, the flip of his R&B classic Pack, Fair and Square), Norman Fox & the Rob-Roys (Pizza Pie) and of course Louis Prima (Bacciagalup Makes Love On The Stoop, Picco-Lena Lena, amongst others). As late as 1980 Wop songs were still a commercially viable genere as seen when Joe Dolce’s Shaddup You Face
topped the Austrailian charts. Perhaps now is a good time to revive the ahead of its time attempt to fuse country music and the wop song. I bet David Allen Coe could come up with a doozie.
22 thoughts on “Webb Pierce– Little Rosa”
I was always confused by the Red Sovine accent – it seemed like a combination of Mexi-Wop … his version of “generic immigrant” perhaps? I love the fact that Red fittingly died in an accident.
His song, “Slowly” was the first SIGNIFICANT example of the evolution from steel guitar to pedal steel guitar.
How did Antonicello evolve to Marshall? Also, your bio says you were born in Paterson,NJ. I thought your roots took you to East Harlem, maybe Pleasent Ave. Very Italian in its day.
“How did Antonicello evolve to Marshall?”Adopted by my mom's 2nd husband…..” I thought your roots took you to East Harlem, maybe Pleasent Ave. Very Italian in its day.”Grandparents lived in Harlem at 115th & Lex in the 20's, Paterson was very Italian where we lived when I was a little kid.
Thanks. I knew there was a “near Pleasant Avenue” connection. I remembered how you and Menster Phip had similar geographic roots, mentioned in your '93 interview. It's amazing what sticks to ones mind.
Never heard Webb Pierce do “Raunchy”, thanks. I think the Eddie Bond version is still my favorite.
Great post. Love Webb Pierce; his “nasal” singing drives squares crazy. You forgot to mention his guitar-shaped swimming pool.
Somewhere around here I have a whole CD of wop songs compiled by Dick Blackburn and, I think, Nick Tosches. Ah, here it is: Goomba Party: Broken English Jive 1907-1989. Contents include all the ones you've listed except for the Webb Pierce tune, as well as “Hey Wop,” by Rhoda Bernard, “Me No Speaka Good English,” by Isabella Patricola, “Italian Martians,” by Pasquale & Luigi, “I'm a Spaccone,” by Bobby Bracciola, and many pizzasploitation tunes. It is a “limited collector's edition,” it says here. I bet!
“Somewhere around here I have a whole CD of wop songs compiled by Dick Blackburn and, I think, Nick Tosches. Ah, here it is: Goomba Party: Broken English Jive 1907-1989.”I remember that one, I'm sure I have a copy somewhere (where does one file a compilation of Wop songs?), maybe good for a future posting. I was also thinking about doing some of David Allen Coe's more offensive material since he's added at least one of those songs to his set list right after the verdict in the first OJ trial? Does anyone out there know if DAC is still doing “that song”?
(Paterson was very Italian where we lived when I was a little kid.)As the statue of homeboy Lou Costello will attest. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2164I always felt that Jack Scott's “Greaseball” fits the Wop song genre nicely too.
“As the statue of homeboy Lou Costello will attest. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2164I always felt that Jack Scott's “Greaseball” fits the Wop song genre nicely too.”I spent my earliest years in the same neighborhood.I think Greaseball doesn't fit into the “wop song” genre because he doesn't attempt the broken English wop accent that defines the genre, at least in my mind.BTW over at Uncle Gil's there's an amazing Jack Scott recording from 1961, try doing a search as I downloaded it years ago (I've never seen it on vinyl or CD). Jack Scott's who's real name is Giovanni Scafone first LP was issued in a strange type of stereo (w/the word stereo in felt letters across the left side of the cover) you'll find one channel has vocals and lead guitar, the other channel has bass and drums, so you can turn the balance all the way to one side and play along with his rhthym section! The mono sounds better and is easier to find, but the stereo is a lot of fun if you play guitar (or any instrument for that matter).
Thanks, Hound. Little Rosa is one crazy-ass song. We must be thinking along the same lines this week — my latest post touches on a few other honky-tonk heroes, including Rubber City native and world-class nutball David Allan Coe: http://rubbercityreview.com/2010/10/bring-back-the-honky-tonks/
Will be sending an interesting Coe tune via e-mail….
The Webb Pierce version of “Raunchy” was released under the pseudonym Shady Wall. The alternative and better version of Teenage Boogie featured was actually the one released in the UK. They probably just sent the wrong tape over.
“The alternative and better version of Teenage Boogie featured was actually the one released in the UK. They probably just sent the wrong tape over.”Odd that the record was released in the UK and Bolan could get away w/such an obvious plagerism. I wonder is he got sued when it was a hit?
Bear in mind it was released in 1956 and probably sold no more than a couple of hundred copies. Apparently though Marc Bolan was a pretty enthusiastic record scrounger and may have come across a copy junking. More likely he heard it on one of the MCA reissues that were coming out about that time. As for getting sued the chances of a music biz executive or lawyer listening to 50's Rock, especially then, would have been pretty remote.
<<I think Greaseball doesn't fit into the "wop song" genre because he doesn't attempt the broken English wop accent that defines the genre, at least in my mind.Fair enough. On that basis, I guess the Wop Song genre made it to the big time at least once via Rosemarie Clooney's “Come On a My House”, and maybe even Dino's “That's Amore”. I'd love to see a post featuring that Wop Song LP.
1/2 Italian Ken: Dino did a ton of Wop Songs, not only stuff like “Mambo Italiano,” but even his version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” where he goofed on the wop-genre.DL the Mick
High Geared Daddy came up on shuffle today. That's some innocent sounding pedal steel there.Bonomo (Italian, “Good Man,” huh)
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Thanks so much for your article, very helpful info.
Where did you find that amazing Sputnik picture??? Hilarious!!!