Born George Crockett, 18 September 1928, Carrollton, Mississippi
The total recorded output of G.L. Crockett comprises only four singles, one of which was a minor hit. But that hit is not the recording for which he is best remembered.
Nothing is known about Crockett's early years in Mississippi, except that he came in this world on September 18, 1928, according to the Social Security Death Index, and not in 1929, as most websites and a few printed sources will have us believe. By the mid-1950s he was living in Chicago, which was the place to be for blues singers at that time. Crockett was evidently keen to make his mark among the musicians who flourished in the city's West Side clubs. It was here that Crockett played with Freddie King and Magic Sam, another black blues musician whose work strayed close to rockabilly.
Towards the end of 1957, Crockett recorded "Look Out Mabel" for the Chief label, owned by Mel London (1932-1975), a fine producer who had worked with Elmore James, Junior Wells and Otis Rush before he discovered Crockett. The record (spelled "Look Out Mable" on the label) came out on Chief 7010 in early 1958, and was credited to 'G. Davy Crockett' to cash in on the popularity of the Davy Crockett figure. For some reason it was not reviewed in Billboard until the week of June 23, 1958 : "Crockett packs a rocking wallop on this driving blues side", wrote the anonymous reviewer. "Bright sound and good reading by the cat gives this a chance. Interesting wax". The review also praised the "hard working piano player" on the bluesy flipside. This is Henry Gray, whose contributions on the 88 keys really make "Look Out Mabel" stand out ; the guitar solo (by Louis Myers) is a bit of a mess. But in spite of Billboard's praise, the record sank like a stone and Crockett's big break was still a long way off.
He would not record again until 1965, for Jack Daniels's newly-formed Four Brothers label. The first of his three releases on Four Brothers, the "Big Boss Man"-styled "It's A Man Down There", peaked at # 10 on the R&B lists and # 67 on Billboard's pop charts. It even spawned two answer records : "I'm the Man Down There" by Jimmy Reed (Vee-Jay 702) and "I Am the Man Downstairs" by Prez Kenneth (Biscayne 005). (Both are available on YouTube.) This upturn of fortune revived the interest of Mel London, who leased the Chief version of "Look Out Mabel" to Paul Glass's USA label (USA 816, released 1965) and an even better alternative take to Checker Records (Checker 1121). Charlie Gillett, in his classic book "The Sound Of the City", calls 'Look Out Mabel' "an extraordinary out-of-time record for 1965 when there was no known market for what sounded like a black rockabilly record, complete with blistering electric guitar solo" (p. 320, footnote). Though the reissues didn't sell, there was again a reaction from Prez Kenneth, "Messin' With Mabel" (Biscayne 015).
Crockett recorded two follow-up singles to "It's A Man Down There" for the Four Brothers label. The A-sides, "Every Goodbye Ain't Gone" and "Gonna Make You Mine" were virtual clones of "It's A Man Down There". The B-sides, "Watch My 32" and "Think Twice Before You Go", were more adventurous, featuring a blaring sax in the style of Junior Walker. (In fact, "Watch My 32" makes reference to Walker's big hit "Shotgun" and other then-current soul numbers.)
According to his producer, Jack Daniels (!), Crockett's drinking habits made him difficult to deal with. Crockett stopped making records when Daniels's patience ran out. On February 14, 1967, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage brought on by hypertension. He would not live to see his popularity in Europe, where the Checker version of "Look Out Mabel" was discovered in the 1970s. During that decade, it was reissued on three different compilation LP's in Holland, the United Kingdom and Germany and also as a single in the UK (Record Mart 1026, 1978). Since then, "Look Out Mabel" has been included on countless other compilations, almost always the Checker version, though the recent 2-CD set "Great Rock 'n' Roll - Red Hot! Just About As Good As Its Gets" (Smith & Co, 2010) features the Chief version.
In a poll to a "New Kommotion" questionnaire of 1977, 31% of all respondents thought "Look Out Mabel" was a rockabilly record. Gene Vincent's "Bluejean Bop" attracted a smaller percentage of votes!
Discography : http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/glcrockett.htm (By Pete Hoppula)
Acknowledgements : Bill Millar, Liner notes for "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 10 : Rockabilly From the Vaults Of Chess Records" (Bear Family BCD 16123, released 2000).
CD : Crockett's complete recordings (two versions of "Look Out Mabel", two versions of its flip, "Did You Ever Love Somebody" and the three singles on Four Brothers) have been assembled on a CD called "Rockin' With the Blues" (Official CD 5679, Denmark, 2003), supplemented by 18 recordings by Big Walter Price.
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