As a record collector, one of the biggest thrills is digging for 45’s. It encompasses an entire world of unknown – from groups who cut one single and disbanded, to a plethora of small independent labels that put out a few records before vanishing or making the big-time. It is a rich, diversified field of endless fascination, and there is always an audible gasp when you find an ultra rare single or “Holy Grail.”
Dickie Damron’s 1958 debut single “Rockin’ Baby” with “Gonna Have A Party” on the flip is considered a top three for rarity in Canadian first generation Rockabilly, and is truly a “Holy Grail.” The single is so rare it has sold online for $1613. Look in any record pricing guide and it is valued from $1500 – $2000, audible gasp! The original pressing on Laurel Records is a blue label with silver text. Recent reissues are a black label. What a once in a lifetime experience to find this original buried in a box at The Inner Sleeve record store. It’s a rockin’ debut evoking innocent times, and is nearly impossible to find in good playing condition.
Damron was born in Bentley, Alberta, half way between Calgary and Edmonton. At age 14, he put a band together with his brother and girlfriend (future wife) playing old-time fiddle and accordion music at weddings, graduations and local events. They evolved a Rockabilly sound; a blend of Rock ‘n Roll meets Country Western meets Rhythm and Blues.
The first sessions were recorded in 1958 on a Crown two-track recorder at the C.K.R.D. studio in Red Deer. The tape was sent to King Plastics in Ohio, the only pressing plant Damron was aware of, and released on his custom label, Laurel Records. The name Laurel was inspired by his brother’s girlfriend. Coincidentally, when Elvis’ movie “Jailhouse Rock” came out, a Laurel Records was mentioned in the film and the band feared they would be sued by Hollywood big wigs! The single received good promotion as it was distributed for jukebox play throughout central Alberta. Not a lot of Rockabilly was played on the radio, so the band was thankful. People would hear the tune on the jukebox, go to a dance, and buy the record. How many couples danced to this very single at the local soda shop? If only records could talk… Every pop and click tells a tale.
Damron cut a couple more singles in 1960 but didn’t have a hit until 1970. His recording career has spanned over 30 years with 27 albums. His exceptional contribution to Country music landed him induction into the International Country Music Hall Of Fame in Texas. He now lives in Mexico, but rumor has it you may spot him during the summertime visiting his old home in Bentley, a true country boy at heart.
– Leasa Podloski (The Inner Sleeve)
Great Article and what an amazing find. He lived across the street from my Grandparents in Bentley. I remember when I was very young, them sending me over to get his autograph on a 45 while the family all looked on through the window. I wish I knew what happened to that 45?(ha ha)