By Phill Marder
From the first guitar blast of “Tallahassee Lassie” in 1959, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon served notice he was a true rock and roller, releasing one big blast from Boston after another.
If he ever recorded a ballad, he kept it well hidden. He reached the Top 10 three times with his singles: “Tallahassee Lassie,” “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” and “Palisades Park.” Cannon registered a total of 23 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and cracked the Top 40 on eight occasions.
A crowd pleaser, he appeared on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” more than any other artist, and he remains a popular attraction today. He began listening to rock and roll during the heyday of the 45, which accounts for the music he says changed his life.
1. Chuck Berry, Chuck Berry Is On Top
Chuck was the greatest lyric writer. He could rhyme anything. I don’t know how he did it with that many songs, but that’s why he’s a legend. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone else play lead, rhythm, sing and dance all at the same time. Who can do that? He was the ultimate rock and roll artist, and my favorites were “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Too Much Monkey Business.”
2. Big Joe Turner, The Best of Big Joe Turner
He was my idol along with Chuck Berry. I only knew of his singles. I worked at a record store in Revere, Mass., and the owner gave me the 45 “Shake, Rattle And Roll.” I couldn’t believe the sound on that record. That and “Flip, Flop And Fly.” There was something about that sound. Whatever it was, it got me hoping and dreaming I’d get into the music business some day. It inspired me.
3. Jackie Wilson, My Golden Favorites
“Reet Petite,” “Lonely Teardrops”… he made some great dance records. He was one of the greatest live performers I’ve ever seen. I worked with him once for eight weeks, and he got three to five standing ovations every night. And he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
4. Elvis Presley, Elvis’ Golden Records
His early records, from 1955-56 to the beginning of the ‘60s … what talent. He had just three guys (Scotty Moore, guitar; Bill Black, bass; D.J. Fontana, drums) backing him, and they made such great, hot records: “Jailhouse Rock,” “That’s All Right,” “All Shook Up,” “Hound Dog.” What an incredible artist. And it’s like he never passed away. He’s still around.
5. The Drifters, Up On The Roof: The Very Best of The Drifters
This was a great doo-wop group. I never worked with Clyde McPhatter, but I did work with Ben E. King, and “Stand By Me,” which he did on his own, is one of my favorites. I loved all their songs. The black artists really knew how to make records. There wouldn’t be anything today without them.
6. The Four Tops, Greatest Hits
I have to put a Motown group in here, and the one that stands out the most for me is The Four Tops. Levi Stubbs was such a great singer, and he was such a nice guy backstage, talking with me. I love all the black acts and commend them all. We copied them.
7. Little Richard, Here’s Little Richard
He’s one of those as well known as the national anthem. He just stands out. You mention his name and everyone knows who you’re talking about. I worked with him a few times. He’d have 11, 12 guys on stage, play all his hits. Then he’d play them again with just him and his piano, and they sounded just as good. He could really play. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be “Long Tall Sally.”
8. Fats Domino, Fats Domino Sings Million-Record Hits
I worked with Fats, and here’s something a lot of people don’t know: He loves to cook. When he played, every song was a hit. There were no misses. He didn’t even talk to the crowd. It was just one hit into the next. And then he would finish by pushing the piano across the stage with his stomach!
9. Jerry Lee Lewis, Greatest Hits
I loved “Great Balls Of Fire” and “Drinking Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee,” but there was a song he did later that I absolutely loved more than any. I don’t even think it was a hit. It was called “Boogie Woogie Man From Tennessee.” I didn’t like the movie they did on him. That wasn’t him. He was friendlier toward me than anyone. Any time I worked with Jerry, he’d greet me with a big hug and invite me to come sit with him in his trailer, and we would talk and talk.
10. The Five Keys, The Best of The Five Keys
One of my favorite doo-wop groups. One of the favorites of my wife (Jeanette) and myself is “Close Your Eyes.” They were so good, other groups admired them. There was something about that sound. I really liked “Ling Ting Tong,” too.