Veteran entertainer Mike Berry was there at the start of rock’n’roll in the UK and, partly thanks to his sister, had the US records to prove it. His soundtrack is stacked with classics from Elvis, The Beatles, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and more…

Rock Island Line – Lonnie Donegan, 1956

I reckon Lonnie Donegan’s unmatchable performance of this song influenced more wannabe British rock’n’rollers than any other British singer, me not the least of them. Only when we heard the American greats were we influenced more, but I’m sure all us singer/guitarists from that era would agree Lonnie ‘set the seal’. If a DNA test was to be carried out on all British guitarists playing today, be they wannabes or has-beens, there’s no doubt that almost all of them would be traced back to Lonnie – he was that much of an influence.

I’m In Love Again – Fats Domino, 1956

I bought this 10″ 78rpm disc on London-American records and played it until it was grey with wear. Just loved the sax and piano combination and Fats’ perfect, understated vocal. I recorded a ‘live’ version with my band who are: Ron Beynon (guitar, aka The Welsh Wizard), Alan Jackman (drums), Brian Hodgson (bass) and Pete Wingfield (piano). I felt this great band really captured the feel that excited me so much with Fats’ version. I’ve never heard a Fats Domino track truly equalled by any other than Fats himself. 

Long Tall Sally – Little Richard, 1956

In 1957 my big sister, Val, took me to our local ‘fleapit’ to see the movie Don’t Knock The Rock, the sequel to Rock Around The Clock. One recurring memory for me that has been indelibly imprinted on my mind to this day, was when Little Richard exploded onto the screen, standing at the piano, playing and singing this track. My jaw was on my chest, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Richard’s voice, with its unmatchable feel and energy still has the same effect today. Listen to Good Golly Miss Molly on a jukebox and I know you’ll agree.

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley, 1956

I guess I heard Elvis Presley for the first time, when my sister bought Hound Dog on a 10″ HMV single and played it on our Regentone record player – the poor man’s Dansette! – and, just as with Little Richard, I was bowled over by the sheer charisma and effortless energy. He had the perfect rock’n’roll voice which, in my humble opinion, has never been bettered or even matched since. Later on, Elvis became a huge Tom Jones fan which was an irony as Tom Jones, like the rest of us, had modelled himself on Elvis.

Move ItCliff Richard, 1958

This is the only other 50s UK record featured on my list. I seem to recall first hearing Move It in a booth at Imhoff’s record shop in Holborn, London, in my lunch break as a compositor’s apprentice… a supposed ‘job for life’? I was eventually sacked from my apprenticeship for coming in late following gigs with my band The Outlaws who included the genius and my mentor on the bass, Chas Hodges. I first saw Cliff perform it on Oh Boy! and just had to buy it… and eventually played it to death on that Regentone record player.

Rave OnBuddy Holly, 1958

Rave On was written by Sonny West who also wrote Oh Boy!. Along with True Love Ways, it was recorded in New York, thus becoming the first of Buddy’s tracks not produced by Norman Petty. It didn’t take long however for Rave On to become my all-time favourite Buddy Holly rock track which has stood the test of time as it still does. I can’t remember hearing Sonny West’s version, but you can bet your boots it was nothing like Buddy’s with that unique, powerful vocal and terrific percussive guitar. It’s got Buddy’s trademark uniqueness written all over it.

Bonie MoronieLarry Williams, 1958

A great track by ‘the poor man’s Little Richard’… A touch uncharitable maybe, although there was a similarity. Our skiffle group, The Rebels, did this, and the great sax riff between vocal lines was emulated (vocally) by our guitarist, Peter Chilks. At the time, we thought it was OK as it filled a noticeable gap but, on reflection, he sounded like a market trader flogging bananas. I played a washboard that was strung round my neck as I tried to make myself heard over the racket of thimbles on corrugated iron… No mics in those days!

Gonna Send You Back To Georgia – Timmy Shaw, 1964

If you haven’t heard this record yet, and I doubt that you have, do yourself a big favour and download it. Timmy Shaw is a little-known gem of a performer, in the UK anyway, except by the likes of Eric Burdon, Paul Jones, Cliff Bennett and other members of the blues fraternity. This was Timmy’s only chart hit, I think, but he had plenty of fans – this record, on Pye, was on ‘John Lennon’s Jukebox’ (the actual KB Discomatic jukebox Lennon bought in 1965 and took on tour with 40 of his favourite ever singles loaded on it – Ed).

Western MoviesThe Olympics, 1958

This was the group’s first UK release, on Demon, and in keeping with its title, the track incorporated background gunshots and ricochet sound effects. The artists of the 1950s were often in a league of their own compared to those of today, and The Olympics were amongst them. I tend to think of The Olympics as being in the same vein as so many other ‘goosebump- generating’ black singers who turned in soulful performances that us whites can only dream of aspiring to (myself included). As hard as we try, it always sounds so contrived… maybe because it is.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand – The Beatles, 1963

The first Beatles track I really loved. It sounded so exciting when I first heard it on the radio in my 1959 VW Beetle on either the BBC’s Light Programme or Radio Luxembourg – I’m sure your more mature readers will remember as it used to fade in and out! I first met The Beatles at The Cavern in 1961-’62, they were the biggest thing in Liverpool and the north, while back then we, Mike Berry & The Outlaws, were the ‘big deal’ from London with one hit record,
A Tribute To Buddy Holly, plus one TV appearance on Thank Your Lucky Stars.