By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 1999
he Raging Teens aren't exactly teens any more, but they do have a certain amount of musical rage in blasting out their lively brand of rockabilly.
Steeped in the Sun Studios sound of the '50's, Chuck Berry guitar riffs and country, the New England-based quartet has helped lead the charge in increasing the popularity of the decades-old musical style.
And after two years together, the band - lead singer Kevin Patey, bassist Matt Murphy, drummer Keith Schubert and rarity of rarities, a female lead guitarist, Amy Griffin - recently released a self-titled CD.
"People are bored," says Patey, from his Salem, Mass. home, explaining the resurgence of the Fifties musical form. "So much of the (modern) stuff is forced. They are getting force fed with this mediocre stuff."
While praising the recent grunge alternative music movement, "some of it became watered down after that. But even the good stuff wasn't exciting."
Patey, 28, thinks music fans "want to hear something that's honest and more real. They don't want to stare at their shoes any more. We kind of accommodate that in both ways. It's pure fun music."
"There's a big movement these days with fads. It was heavy metal. Then it was grunge, Then it was ska. Rockabilly is very honest. It's not taking on something different."
"The swing thing is really squeaky clean," Patey says. He thinks the rebellious attitude of rockabilly "is appealing to a lot of the younger kids."
"It's hard to be a rebel and be an indy rocker. You can buy nose rings at the mall."
Patey acknowledges rockabilly could become faddish also.
"The first and most important thing for me was the music," Patey says. "The person who greases their hair up and doesn't know anything about the music, that's where the fad comes in."
And while it was passed over in earlier generations, Patey says he would not be surprised to see history repeat itself.
"It doesn't make me feel bad, but rockabilly will be passed over again. I'll still be into it."
Patey was born in England where his parents got him into music.
"They were actually big rock and roll fans and also big country music fans," says Patey. "The rock and roll that was big in England was a little different than on the Oldies shows here. Buddy Holly was a superhero there. I grew up listening to early Beatles stuff. That, mixed in with Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams. "
"For awhile I disowned that stuff because it wasn't cool to be what your parents were into," Patey says.
"I got into regular rock and roll, punk rock, American rock and roll," says Patey, who moved to Massachusetts at 13.
He later joined a variety of bands - not necessarily country - though he logged time with a campy country outfit Miss Xanna Don't.
But success at selling used cars put music in the background. "I just basically stopped playing," says Patey.
But one layoff later, Patey wanted in again. His friend, Dana Stewart, was forming a band, which eventually became Boston area rockabilly stalwarts, The Racketeers. Patey wanted to join, but with two lead singers, that wouldn't work. "I was out of the loop," Patey says.
Patey eventually teamed up with a friend doing Hank Williams and Johnny Horton covers plus some originals in a low-key duo, the Loudermilk Brothers.
During this time, Patey went to a rockabilly fest in Indianapolis where he met Keith Schubert and Jim Gove, both from New Hampshire. The three later met again at a bar there.
"We had some beers one night, and we decided we were going to get together and jam," Patey says.
Enter Griffin, now the lead guitarist. While rehearsing in Gove's basement, Patey says, "this girl arrives. She has Misfits (a DC hard core band) patches all over, a ring in her nose, a Les Paul guitar with metal pickups. It was awful. I thought here we go. She started playing. I could tell she was good, but it was masked in this lousy equipment."
"She hadn't mastered her craft, but you could see she was really good."
Nothing serious was planned - just hanging out, drinking some beers.
But a cancelled Christmas gig by the Loudermilk led to the debut of Patey's nameless band.
Stewart, who organized the show needed a name for flyers, so he put "The Raging Teens" as the name of Beantown's newest rockabilly outfit. The name was taken from a Fifties compilation put out by Norton Records.
"It was really rough," Patey says of the gig. "It was awful. But you could see the blossoms. The people were blown over by Amy. The guys fall in love with her, and the girls want to be like her."
"I thought we were onto something here. Within three months, we were getting calls...to play."
In stepped Mary Lou Lord, Patey's love interest, who was about to release her major label debut. She got Patey to quit another car sales job to serve as road manager, while Griffin came aboard to play keyboards. The other Teens came on as well with the band opening for Lord.
But three weeks before the tour started, Gove opted against touring. In a pinch, they took on Murphy, a Berklee College of Music student, who did not know how to play slap bass, a rockabilly staple.
A month into the tour, he had honed the skill.
The successful tour led to the album, cut live last summer.
Patey had a hand in writing 7 of the 11 songs with Lord contributing "Move Move Move," something very different for her. She was in England writing songs for her album with rockabilly aficionado Nick Saloman of The Bevis Frond. Her song was inspired by Cliff Richards' "Move On." "She thought it was really cool," says Patey, who adds, "I fine tuned it a little bit."
"Beantown Bop" originally was called "Fried Chicken" when penned by Griffin. "It was about a girl going on a date, and all she wanted was to have the guy buy her fried chicken," Patey says. "I don't know about that."
One of the most humorous songs is "Grandpaw,"about a rocking grandfather. Inspired by a Mac Curtis song, Patey said his grandpaw also was an inspiration. "My grandfather still has a pompadour. He's in his 70's. I kind of wanted to write it for him."
With the CD increasing the band's profile, The Raging Teens will step up their touring pace, hitting the midwest, Atlantic Coast and West Coast over the summer months. They take their music abroad this fall with a trip to a British rockabilly rave, which could increase their prominence overseas. And next April is Viva Las Vegas, the premier rockabilly event in the U.S.
"I'd like to see how far we can take it. It's so crash and burn in that world," says Patey.