Personnel: Jamie James (vocals, guitar); Rex Roberts (drums, background vocals); Michael Rummans (background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Jamie James.
The American heartland was reminded of the existence of rockabilly in 1982, when the Stray Cats compilation Built for Speed finally broke the Long Island hepcats in the United States, but some of that credit should have gone to the Kingbees. In 1980, "My Mistake," a lean and grooving bit of updated rockabilly with a "Peter Gunn" bassline, became a regional hit in the Midwest, and the band toured hard behind the single and their self-titled debut album, despite the fact their label, RSO Records, was starting to crumble after the soundtrack to the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band proved to be a major commercial disaster. If RSO had been in better shape, "My Mistake" might have been a major hit nationwide (it peaked at 80 on the Billboard singles charts), but it was a fine bit of proto-rockabilly, as was the album that spawned it. Kingbees leader Jamie James was an avowed Buddy Holly fan, and their debut album showed they learned their lessons well from the bespectacled master; the band was a three-piece with no frills and plenty of energy, and James' lively, concise guitar leads were given excellent support by bassist Michael Rummans and drummer Rex Roberts, and the three delivered solid harmonies. James could write in the rockabilly idiom without drowning his songs in clichés, and "My Mistake," "Shake-Bop," "Once Is Not Enough," and "Fast Girls" demonstrate they could push the style into the present day without robbing it of what made it memorable. (They also knew just what to do when they were covering Buddy Holly or Don Gibson.) Jamie James and the Kingbees may not have been major advocates of rockabilly as a fashion statement, but they knew how to make a hot rock & roll record, and The Kingbees is a strong and satisfying set from a combo whose members knew how to make the sound connect in their own way. ~ Mark Deming