Born Loren A. Dowd, 27 January 1940, Iowa City, Iowa
In the summer of 1959, the Dutch Delahay label released a single (DS 5005) with "Five Minutes More" by Jimmy Doyle (a rather old-fashioned crooner) on the A-side and "Blue Swingin' Mama" by Larry Dowd on the B-side. Delahay was a small label, started by Hans Kellerman from The Hague in January 1959. Kellerman would soon acquire the Dutch rights to the new Top Rank label. Delahay scored a # 1 hit in Holland with the original version of "Marina" by Rocco Granata, but it would remain the company's only hit and things went downhill in 1960. In October 1960 Delahay was sold to the much bigger CNR label in Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague. CNR reissued the "Five Minutes More"/"Blue Swingin' Mama" single in April 1961 (CNR UH 9512), but for some unknown reason the B-side was now credited to "Rockin' Richard and the Gang" instead of Larry Dowd and the Rock-A-Tones.
The record completely escaped my attention at the time. I listened a lot to the radio in those days, but I don't think "Blue Swingin' Mama" was ever played on any Dutch station, including Radio Veronica, the first North Sea pirate station. It was not until 1966 that I first heard the record. Cees Klop gave it a spin on his 30-minute radio programme Studio Rock and Roll, which ran from August 1966 until April 1967 on Saturday afternoons. "Blue Swingin' Mama" became a cult favourite in the Netherlands and in Belgium. Little did we know then that the original American reverse of "Blue Swingin' Mama" was at least as good, if not better. I think that even Cees Klop, the world's greatest expert on obscure rock n roll, didn't know that back in 1966.
There exists very little biographical information about Larry Dowd. He was born and raised in Iowa and had formed his own band, the Rock-A-Tones, by 1958. Apart from Dowd, the original members were 24-year old guitarist Ivan Rousseau, 22-year old drummer Ron Fiscel, 21-year old bassist Don Archer and 17-year old pianist Mickey Montgomery, a high school sophomore. The group wrote much of its own material and rehearsed as often as they could. After winning a Battle of the Bands contest (promoted by a local radio station) in Des Moines, Iowa, the group was signed to the Spinning label, in March or April 1959. Spinning Records was a Chicago label owned by Norman Forgue, who did not release any records of significance apart from the two Larry Dowd singles.
Four tracks were recorded in the spring of 1959, at the Vic Blacketer Studio in Des Moines. Though "Blue Swingin' Mama"/"Pink Cadillac" has a later catalogue number (Spinning 6009) than "Forbidden Love"/"Why Oh Why" (Spinning 6004), it seems that the former coupling was the first release (reviewed in Billboard of June 8, 1959, both sides three stars) and that "Forbidden Love" came later (reviewed in Billboard of August 3, 1959, both sides two stars). "Blue Swingin' Mama"/"Pink Cadillac" is one of the great unknown singles of rock n roll, both sides featuring exciting guitar / piano work and powerful vocals. Or perhaps I should say WAS an unknown 45 during the heyday of rock n roll. Both sides have been reissued heavily in the CD era. "Pink Cadillac" is not the same song that Sammy Masters did in 1956, BTW.
Though the first Spinning single sold only in moderate quantities (except in Miami, where it was a local hit), Dowd and his group were booked on a six-month road tour in 1959 as opening act and backup band for Frankie Ford, Santo and Johnny, Troy Shondell and Preston Epps. But before 1960 was over, the Rock-A-Tones were history. It seems that Dowd did not record again until 1965, when he cut "Mama Say Blue"/"Tell Me No Lies" (Damion 6532) fronting a band called First Garrison. This record is completely different from the four Spinning sides and has more of a 60s sound. "Mama Say Blue" was included on the CD "Rockin' In Wisconsin : The Cuca Records Story, Vol. 3" (Ace CDCHD 1136) in 2006.
In 2005 Larry Dowd, along with the other living members of the Rock-A- Tones (drummer Fiscel died in 2004), was inducted into the Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association's Hall of Fame. He died the next year, of unknown causes.
More info :
For the availabity of his recordings on compilation CD's see :
Acknowledgements : Henk Gorter, Rob Finnis, Paul de Bruycker
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