ans who believe rockabilly music is strictly a Southern phenomenon haven't heard The Raging Teens. Formed in 1997, the New England-based band forge a raw, high-spirited sound incorporating classic New England rock'n'roll with the shuddering, seductive feel of the Sun Records era.
The constantly touring, hard-charging quartet - vocalist/rhythm guitarist Kevin Patey, bass slappin' Matt Murphy, drummer Keith Schubert and lead guitarist Amy Griffin - released their second album on New York's Rubric Records in February.
A more polished effort than their debut, "Rock'n'Roll Party" boasts the production expertise of roots music maestro Deke Dickerson.
According to the British-born Patey, The Teens were born out of last minute desperation.
A former member of Miss Xanna Don't & The Wanted, Patey played "for fun" in a honky-tonk band with the Amazing Crowns' Jack Hanlon, The Loudermilk Brothers. When Hanlon couldn't make a gig at the last minute, Patey called up some guys he had been jamming, quickly figured out a playlist and played a rough set of rockabilly classics.
Figuring the performance to be both their first and last, the hastily formed group were pleasantly surprised when their appreciative audience wanted to hear more. They knew they were on to something, but a few changes had to be made.
After their first real tour, the group's initial bass-player discovered he preferred music as a fun part-time activity and left. Stuck for a replacement, Patey put up fliers, eventually choosing Murphy, a student at the Berklee School Of Music. "Matt played jazz and had never really heard of rockabilly, but he was a great player. He picked things up really quickly."
Doubling as lead guitarist and vocalist, wishing to concentrate on the latter, Patey began asking around about guitar players.
Bandmates introduced him to Griffin, whose chances of getting into the band were not readily apparent. "She showed up with an earring in her nose, dressed like a total slob, and she had this crappy guitar and even crappier amp. She played -- it sounded terrible, but I knew she could play."
Supplied with Patey's Telecaster and Fender amp, Griffin's sound improved markedly and continues to grow.
With a name taken from a series of Norton Records New England rock'n'roll compilations, an easy-on-the-eyes guitarist, and a lot of personal ambition, the Teens have toured to great response in the U.S. and England.
The Los Angeles-based Dicker-son became friendly with the group when they opened a show for him in Boston. Impressed by their rough, raw style, the skilled slinger of the doublenecked Mosrite offered to produce them should they ever make it out to California.
According to Patey, the Raging Teens leader, Dickerson is a full-service producer. "Deke's got a lot of know-how. Every day when we were arriving over there to record, he was out with a soldering iron fixing stuff. This old stuff is always going to break -- so he's continually mending it and making it work."
Describing recording with Dickerson as "fun and a real challenge," Patey and crew quickly learned that doing an old-style 13-song LP in 4 days required some compromise.
Schubert was constantly instructed to play his drums softer. Patey and Griffin were reminded that if they made little mistakes, they'd have to live with it because "that's what makes records great, those little imperfections."
Upon hearing the finished product, the Teens wholeheartedly agreed.
Dickerson says he feels the group's first CD was "an altogether too common occurrence of a traditional styled band recording with modern recording techniques with a not-so-pleasing outcome."
Explaining his production philosophy, Dickerson adds, "I always start by listening to the band and determining in my own highly opinionated mind how their record should sound. For the Raging Teens, that meant playing live with no overdubs and generous amounts of slapback tape echo."
Such an approach suited the vintage equipment-toting Raging Teens just fine. On stage, Patey strums a 1953 D-18 Martin, Murphy rides a '50's Kay bass, Schubert pounds a Big Band-era Gretsch drum kit and Griffin pulls saucy bop from a '56 Gibson 225.
However, Dickerson's Eccofonic Studio was a wonderland of old time equipment that left the group in awe.
"Amy got to use a lot of Deke's equipment," an impressed Patey reported from his home in Beverly, Mass. "He has an Echosonic amp, the one that was built for (Elvis Presley's original guitarist) Scotty Moore with the tape delay in it. (These amps were also used by Sun Records alumni Carl Perkins and Roland Janes) There were only like 10 of them made. He had us using different amps and guitars in order to get different sounds. We didn't realize how important that was, but it helped each song become more distinct."