Saturday, March 28, 2015

VLV Interview: Del Villareal

Tom Ingram may be the bossman who gets the Viva Las Vegas train on the tracks and moving, but one of the main guys that helps keep it on the tracks once the event starts is the man with the clipboard, DJ Del Villareal of Motorbilly Radio. If you've hung around enough bands and musicians then you know they can't be trusted with policing their own stage times. That's where Del comes in. All weekend long you'll catch a glimpse of him frantically moving between the stages, bringing the bands on and off, calling for encores, etc. One minute he's in the ballroom, and you decide to go check what's happening in the pub, and before you even finish your beer you arrive in the pub to find him on that stage too! How he does it, we're not sure. But his nickname is the Aztec Werewolf so maybe there's some supernatural powers involved! We're so glad that Del was able to set aside some of his very busy pre-VLV time and talk with us. Enjoy! 

Zack: When and how did you get your start as a DJ?

Del: I first started DJing at “clubs” in Detroit venues back in the mid 1990’s. I remember doing many early rockabilly shows with a half-assed DJ rig consisting of an old Radio Shack home turntable, a SONY shelf CD player (with dual cassette!) and a gigantic mixing board that I purchased used, all connected with cheap “Realistic” brand cables and electrical tape! My CD’s were carted around inside a huge light blue American Tourister suitcase! Before I had my first weekly radio show, I would “volunteer” to DJ (and sometimes emcee) bar shows where local rockin’ bands & touring acts would appear. I remember driving my parents old Chevy Caprice to Hamtramck where I’d show up early (and stay very late) DJing shows for Detroit rockabilly bands such as Rumble, Dangerville, The Twistin’ Tarantulas and Nobody’s Business, national acts like Ronnie Dawson, The Planet Rockers, The Go Getters, Hi-Fi & The Roadrunners, The Belmont Playboys and The Frantic Flattops plus so many others that my brain strains to remember! By DJing I was able to get into the shows for free and often acquire new recordings to play and sometimes review for local fanzines. I eventually was hired to DJ every Friday night in the Garden Bowl, a part of the legendary Magic Stick/Majestic Theatre entertainment building in Detroit. I hosted ‘Bowl Kat, BOWL!’ for a little over 5 years!

I first became a radio DJ through the fault of friend Craig Maki who was the host of WCBN FM’s long running “Rockabilly Show,” while we both were enrolled at the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor. I was probably his most annoying fan/listener because I remember calling him EVERY week to make a request or suggestion! One time he had to miss the program because of a commitment, so he asked me to guest-DJ for him. I was incredibly excited and nervous, but I remember planning for it pretty enthusiastically (I think the very first song I ever spun on the radio was Elvis’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight”). Well, I believe that Craig was finally about to graduate from U of M, so he asked me if I would like to take over as host for the show as he was going to do his rockabilly program on a “real” Detroit radio station that spring. Of course I said “YES” and started radio DJing straight off without having to train or go through a long apprenticeship. I’ve been hosting my “Go Kat, GO! The Rock-A-Billy Show" every week since, both on 88.3 WCBN FM and more recently on MOTORBILLY RADIO.

Z: How did the idea for Motorbilly Radio come about? 

D: I think sometime back in my early college days (mid-to late 1990’s) I came up with the name “Motorbilly” as a neat sounding hybrid of “Motor City” and “rock-a-billy.” Since I've always been a big fan of classic radio programming and vintage music (especially 1950’s era rock & roll styles), I wanted to create my own station which would program traditional and authentic styled “rockin” music 24/7. When a Grand Rapids friend (whose wedding reception I was hired to DJ) told me about Live365 and how easily you could stream any music you wanted for listeners all over the world AND that you could DJ “live" though your computer, I was intrigued and immediately investigated it. There really weren’t many good quality rockabilly radio channels available, so I jumped in. It was a bit expensive at first, but I eventually found a comfortable package that allowed my friends & fans to listen in easily. Motorbilly has been Live365’s number one “rockabilly” station ever since (12 years and running!) and we’re continually in the top 150 most popular stations hosted by Live365.

Z: I've always imagined that getting into DJing must be difficult due to the large amounts of music you have to own. Was this a challenge for you in the beginning? 

D: Yes and no. I've never been a rabid “record hound,” but I've always been a collector of some sort. I read and collected comics since I was a kid and when I started acquiring 45s and LPs, it was right around the same time when CDs were first introduced. My ingrained "collector habit" prevents me from throwing stuff away, so I just find, buy and save the music I love! Since I’ve been a radio show host almost as long as I've been a club DJ, I've been fortunate in that many bands have “donated” their music to my collection. I've always championed the new and better modern rockabilly acts, both in my weekender and club DJ sets, so I've always had access to the latest and greatest rockin’ recordings. Since my wife and I waited a while before we had children, I was also able to indulge and purchase/accumulate MANY box sets and various artist compilation CDs from the best reissue labels. My obsessions all feed into one another! LPs, CDs, box sets, 45s (and to some extent, even MP3 files!) fall into my personal orbit and so I try to utilize a bit of every type of musical vehicle in all of my radio shows.

Z: How did you become one of the emcees for Viva Las Vegas?

D: It’s a good story! My wife Shannon and I attended the very first Viva Las Vegas Weekender together back in 1996 at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino and I believe that I was one of the featured DJs. I remember that the original emcee (or “compere” as they are referred to in the UK) was a very funny and fast talking British bloke with a shaved head. Tom had hired him because he was comfortable on stage and also very gregarious! He had an extremely heavy English accent. As he drank a bit more throughout each night, it became harder and harder to understand exactly what he was saying. I distinctly remember Tom asking me near the end of the event (maybe Sunday night?) if I would come back next year to be a co-emcee for Viva Las Vegas #2. At the time I had already performed emcee duties for JoAnne and Greg Van Vranken’s “We Wanna Boogie Weekender" in New Jersey and also at David Loehr’s “Rockabilly Rebel Weekender" in Indiana. I’m not sure if Tom saw me at one of these events or if he decided to hire me because of my radio work, but either way, I’ve been a featured emcee every year since! The prestige and popularity of the Viva Las Vegas event (and the rockabilly subculture that it represents) has boosted me tremendously in my professional life and I owe Tom a big “thank you” for the continued opportunity.

Z: As someone who works closely with VLV, how do you respond to complaints about the event? i.e. "It's not about the music." or "It's only a fashion show.” 

D: I say to these complainers, “Yes, you’re right.” The festival’s main purpose will always be about celebrating rockabilly music, both vintage and modern, but because of the event’s incredible popularity and success, it has become THE focal point and the default representative of the USA’s (and possibly the entire world’s) ROCKABILLY SCENE. For good or bad (mostly good in my opinion!), Viva Las Vegas encompasses all aspects of our “rockabilly” or “rockin” scene’s culture. In addition to the music, which is experiencing more quality neo, psycho & revival styled bands, VLV inculcates retro and vintage fashion (of which I’m a HUGE fan!), hot rod, tattoo, pin-up, burlesque, tiki and Americana into it’s entire rockabilly repertoire and it does this well. There’s a good reason why the rooms & tickets sell out every year! For me, how you look has always been extremely important in the “rockabilly scene,” even in the genre's mid 1950’s era. The clothing can never be separated from rockabilly and therefore, it will always be an important aspect of Viva Las Vegas.

Z: What do you think of VLV compared with some of the other weekenders you work at? 

D: Bigger. Harder to get around. More exhausting! Extreme. More detailed. Basically, still the best at doing what it does and that is provide COMPLETE entertainment. The backdrop of the city of Las Vegas (and all that that encompasses) can never be underestimated. Better.

Z: Record hops and rock 'n' roll shows are often full of intoxicated people by the end of the night, what's the most bizarre or funniest thing you've seen from behind the booth?

D: In my old Detroit DJing days at The Magic Stick, I remember rushing out to protect my turntables and CD decks from being crushed by some drunken fighters. I didn’t hesitate to throw myself into the mix, grabbing them both and putting myself between them to prevent any damage to my equipment. I seem to remember effectively scaring them both semi-sober with the threat of physical harm! Later on, I realized that it was probably kind of stupid, because they might’ve shot or stabbed me! Thankfully it all ended well.

Z: What's a song you play that never seems to fail at packing the dance floor? 

D: Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Boys' “Chalk It Up To The Blues” is a perfect jive set starter as well as Go Cat Go’s “Who Was That Cat.” Johnny Burnette’s version of “Honey Hush” seems to get the bopper’s attention very well!

Z: What are some of your most requested songs? And are there any songs you're so sick of that you really don't like playing anymore? 

D: JD McPherson’s music, The Sirocco Brothers 45s and many of the Rhythm Shakers popular numbers get requested regularly. No, I usually never get tired of song requests. Since I’m always trying to introduce hot “new” music into my sets, I tend not to get burned out on any one song in particular. I may get bored playing the same Wanda Jackson or Jerry Lee Lewis tune, but it’s never for very long and if the listener/dancer truly enjoys it, then I tend to enjoy it as well.

Z: Boppers, strollers or Jivers? Rockabilly or R&B? What's your preferred? 

D: Jivers for certain! They always move me! Rockabilly forever! But I have to have a healthy diet of ALL the essential rockin’ genres & sub-genres each and every day or else I get scurvy.

Z: How has what people want to hear changed over the years, or has it? 

D: Just the fact that there’s always a bit more music than there was the year before means that there’s a deeper well to draw from. I might admit that many people’s definition of “rockabilly music” has widened over the years to include more rockin’ electric blues and some harder edged “psychobilly” or “teddy boy” styled music. What dancers will want to hear will always be paramount to me. 

Z: Any advice for VLV first timers? 

D: Get into the ballrooms a half set early in order to see favorite bands. Drink water between rounds of alcohol. Comfortable yet fashionable shoes. Buy your favorite DJ and MC beers often. Get out to see the strip at least once. Visit the Hoover Dam if you have the time. Check out Bonito Michuacan on Decatur & Twain for fantastic Mexican food. Squeeze in a visit to Frankie’s Tiki Room. Come to my LIVE radio show broadcast on Wednesday afternoon in Brendan’s Irish Pub!

Big thanks again to Del for talking with us! Be sure to stop by Brendan's Pub on Wednesday, April 1st at 4pm (before the pre-party) to catch his live at Viva Las Vegas radio broadcast of Motorbilly Radio. Or listen online at Live365. VLV is only days away and we look forward to saying "hey!" to Del and all our friends, as well as meeting plenty of new ones. 

The Rockabilly Gentleman

Friday, March 27, 2015

Companies In My Social Circle: March

Welcome our my monthly Companies In My Social Circle post! In this post we pay tribute to all of the  advertisers that keep this site going. Where would we be without them? Nowhere! Please show your support to us by showing these companies support!

I'm actually kind of sad that Viva Las Vegas 18 is already next week. Can you believe it? Time flew! Half the fun is the planning and talking about it. What are we going to do now? I guess there is nothing else to do but go to Vegas and have the time of our life.

If you haven't yet committed to visiting Viva Las Vegas, there may still be time. At this moment they still have a few tickets available but they are selling quickly. There is no guarantee that they will have tickets available at the event. If you plan on attending, get one now before they sell out. Next month will be all VLV wrap up posts around here, so stay tuned! 

I am so glad to have Wearing History as a continued advertiser! I am so happy to be able to support this awesome small company run by an amazing woman. If you have never heard of Wearing History, it started over 5 years ago with high quality sewing patterns for vintage style enthusiasts.  Due to high demand, the owner and designer Lauren, started a ready to wear collection. These garments are now made by skilled seamstresses in the USA. Wearing History prides themselves on making these pieces ethically. So you can feel good supporting this business! I know I do! They are adding new items all the time, including the cutest arrow print tops. I can't wait to get one! They are also having a really cool contest on their website right now. Click the link above to check it out!


New Arrivals

I am so happy to welcome Unique Vintage as an advertiser on The Rockabilly Socialite! Unique Vintage has been around for so long, so I know you have heard of them. Heck, I bought my prom dress from them! Not only do they have their own line of formal wear and casual wear, but they also carry other brands like Hell Bunny, Stop Staring, Queen of Hearts and more. They also offer free shipping on orders over $150. You can't beat that! Check them out now!  


I  still have some great stuff listed in my Etsy store: Rockabilly Socialite Vintage. I recently re-listed everything in my shop with new SALE prices! I am basically giving stuff away because I have too much! I need to get rid of things. so feel free to look around and make an offer on anything you may like! 

Cats Like Us

Welcome back to Cats Like Us! I'm sure you have heard of Cats Like Us before, but if not, Cats Like Us is a retro style clothing boutique selling new fashions with classic styles from the 1940's, 50's and 60's in modern fabrics and contemporary sizes ranging from XS to XXXL. They offer a unique selection of hand picked styles and gifts for men, women and children in modern sizing. They are based out of western New York but have a great online store also! They have lots of great new items right now, including items from Sourpuss, Heart of Haute, Sparklelux and Nicole Katherine Designs. I picked out these items to show you because I thought they were so cute and would be really fun to wear. If you are just getting into retro styles, Cats Like Us is a great place to start. The owners are so nice too, so you can feel good buying from them! They also have a fun blog, including one post where you may recognize someone, so check it out! 

Pin Me Vintage 

I am super glad to have my friend Xtina at Pin Me Vintage as an advertiser on The Rockabilly Socialite. We have known each other since high school. If you need a vintage hairstyle for a special event, photoshoot or wedding, she is your gal! If you need a last minute appt for Viva Las Vegas, she will be there but she may be all booked up. You could always contact her to see if she had any last minute openings or cancellations. Her prices are great too! Please give her facebook page a like to show her some support!

I just love Hedgehog & Owl's colorful and fun little ad! I feel it perfectly represents the colorful and fun pieces the owners have lovingly curated for their shop. There are so many cute things in the shop that I am eyeing. I especially love these four pieces below! Hedgehog & Owl are local to me in Los Angeles, which is totally hep. Please support this small local business and buy some new-to-you vintage home goods. It's green after all!

Milly Bridal 

Wedding Collection

I am so thankful to have the UK's Milly Bridal as a new advertiser. I love all of the diversity we have with our advertisers! Milly Bridal is not only an online bridal boutique, but they also have prom dresses. These dresses are almost too pretty for prom though. I could totally see a glam girl or a burlesque babe rocking a gown like this. Check out the site and let me know if you find anything you like!

Prom Dresses

Thank you again to all of our advertisers, new and old! Do you need to advertise your products, sale or special event? Would you like to reach a targeted audience of thousands to advertise your business? Then why not advertise with The Rockabilly Socialite! If you would like to see your ad on this site, and your business featured in my monthly post, check out my Advertise Page. Prices are very reasonable, starting at just $20. What other marketing can you do now-a -days for just $20? You can have your ad up in just minutes! 

Dollie and Zack 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Interview: Joe Clay

This past weekend I had the extreme pleasure to talk to Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Joe Clay on the phone. I got to hear him tell his stories and even got him to answer a few questions for you all. For this rockabilly fangirl, it was the chance of a lifetime! If this is your first introduction to Joe Clay, in short, he is a true legend. Joe has been playing since age 12. Performing as a backing musician in the 50's and 60's allowed him to play with some of the biggest names in music. However, marginal success as a front man lead him to be a school bus driver near his home in New Orleans while only working as a musician on the side. Thanks to the modern rockabilly weekender circuit, he has been given a second chance at music. He now travels the world playing huge festivals, making all of the girls swoon. All the while he  remains humble and grateful to the fans for his continued success. It was great to talk with him and hear his point of view on the music and to be able to tell him how it is from my generation's point of view. 

D: You started playing really young. How did you get into the music industry?
Joe: Well, when I was 12 years old or a little earlier I always got in a lot of trouble because I played my pencils on the desk like you play the drums. My parents always took me to a hillbilly place on Sunday. I watched this hillbilly band and I told my dad, I said, I think I can play those drums that guy is playing. My dad asked the guy and the guy said, can he play? And my dad said yeah, I think he can. So I got up and I played just like I do now. It came so natural. Like I had been playing my whole life.

D: Do you remember what that hillbilly place was called?
J: Hmmm...come on…. come on…..The Moonlight Inn!  

D: People from my generation envy people like you for getting to be a teen in the 1950's. What do you think about when you think back to the 50's?
J: Well Dollie, trying to compare it to today, I think it’s better today. During my days we were kinda laid back. They had the jitterbug and all that, but the fans today are really into it, really strong. Especially overseas, it’s crazy. Every time I go there it’s getting bigger. I remember I started in ‘86 and it was like 150 people. I kept going like twice a year. Then there was 500, then 700, then this year in June I went to England it was 20,000. I said, WHOA! I noticed, over my career, going there, the parents would bring their kids and now they are grabbing this today. The kids are getting into this music just like the parents did. It’s great man, it’s cool.

D: You are right that more people are getting into it. When you said you have played for 20,000 people, that is like Viva Las Vegas. That many people go to that weekender. It’s crazy!
J: Well let me tell you this little story while it is in my mind. The first time I went to Europe in ‘86 they took me to a parking lot and I saw all of these 50’s cars and I saw all the boys and girls were dressing like the 50’s. It was like, for a moment I went back in time. Ya know I said, my god, is this real or am I dreamin’? Is this true, is this really happening? I finally came to my senses and I said, this is unbelievable, it’s like I am back in the 50’s! They brought me backstage and introduced me. Before then the lights were off on the stage and then when they introduced me they put the spotlight on me. When I walked out on stage the girls and even the guys were like, passing out. They thought I was dead! They couldn't believe it was really me, really Joe Clay. I will never forget that scene. That was pretty awesome.

D: Wow! And that was already back in 1986…. 28 or 29 years ago. You are still going and still playing for fans.
J: Yeah, in fact, while they were searching for me, I was playing lots of hotels. I did a lot of hotel work through my teenage years, for conventions. I was playing with a guy and his son had been overseas with his own little band and someone had told him that Joe Clay was really hot over there. He told the people overseas that I played with his dad. So when he came home he called me and told me that I was big overseas. I told him no, that was 30 years ago, that's impossible. That can’t be me. That's somebody who is using my songs and my name. That’s not me. Anyway, about a year later the agent in Europe called me. He said, oh god I finally found you. He told me he put an ad in every newspaper in the United States looking for me. I didn’t believe it was me, I said, it can't be! That was 30 years ago man! I asked him which songs are they, and he told me. I didn’t quite remember them.  They had to send me the record!

D: So you didn’t even remember your own songs and you had to have them send you the record? That’s such a funny story, I love that. At that time you were recording those albums did you have any sense that the music you were making was revolutionary?
J: No. I had an idea that it would move a little bit but then it didn't. So I lost faith in it. I stopped being Joe Clay and I got a little trio called the CJ Trio and did top 40. We did that until ‘86. We played conventions and on bourbon street six nights a week.

D: If you had to name a moment in time when you felt you "hit it big", when was it? Was it in ‘86 when they found you again?
J: Yeah, it was when I went for the first time overseas in ‘86 and found that scene. I said, oh my god, these kids are into something here. But I didn’t think it would get as big as it’s getting. I knew it would get big, but every year it gets bigger. More people are getting into the music.

D: Was that the first time you went overseas?
J: Yeah, in ‘86, that was my first time ever. Since then I have been all over the continent. I would say one of the biggest so far is that this September I am going to Japan. That is really crazy. I didn't think rockabilly was doing anything over there, but I hear it is really big.

D: Yeah Joe, I hate to break it to you, but if you think the Europeans are crazy, wait until you see the Japanese. You are not going to believe it. It’s going to be crazy. They are going to jump and do crazy dances…..
J: Oh god, yeah, that great!

D: So, who would you say was the biggest name you have played with in your career?
J: Are you ready? Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, George Jones…because when I played in hillbilly bands we had a house band and once a week one of these guys from Nashville would come in. Like George Jones, Jimmy Newman, Faron Young, and it goes on and on. I backed all of them! Fats Domino…wow! It’s crazy when I think about it.

D: That's awesome. So I heard you played on the Louisiana Hayride. Tell us about that.
J: That was a just a regular job. The guys I played with there were just getting started. It was a gig we played once a week. One of my thrills in life was when I played in my hillbilly band. We played in Mobile, Alabama, at a lounge. So when me and the bass player went on break, I told him, let’s walk across the street and listen to that other band. So we did. This guy was singin’ and I said, this guy sings very good, and it was Hank Williams! It was pretty crazy, jeez.

D: Wow! That’s awesome because he really didn't get to play that long. So the fact that you got to see him in that brief amount of time is really cool.
J: Yeah, he was really just starting!

D: So you are getting ready to play Viva Las Vegas. What songs can we look forward to hearing?
J: I’m going to be doing Duck Tails, 16 Chicks, You Look That Good to Me, Jellybean, Dog Gonit, Goodbye Goodbye. It’s gonna rumble, I can tell you that!

D: I will be there, in the front row! You will see the blonde girl with the curly blonde hair, jumping up and down, that will be me.
J: All right, yeah! Before I get out on stage the crowd is ready. I don’t even have to start them up, they are ready! You can’t miss, man.

D: Yeah, we are all there to see the legends. We want to see as many legends as we can. We are honored to be in the presence of a legend, someone who was making music in that time period. Ya know, I am only 27 so of course I didn’t get to see any of those bands back in the day. So I am always really excited to see them now.
J: Oh wow. That’s great Dollie. That’s something else that freaked me out, that story that I told you about when the girls passed out...well I was singing 16 chicks and they were all singin’ and that blew me away!

D: Yeah, we know all the words! Because really, no new music is coming out from that time period, so we have been listening to these same songs for so long. So to be able to see them live is surreal to us. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I hope that at Viva Las Vegas I can snag a picture with you after your set when you are out signing records in the hall.
J: Oh that would be great babe. No problem. I am so glad you called. I get all stoked when we start an interview like this because everything starts coming back and it starts revving me up. I am so ready! I’m counting the days! See ya there hun! 

We are definitely counting the days also Joe! See you there!


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