Thursday, May 08, 2008
Levi Dexter & the Rockats
a blonde whispers in Levi Dexter's ear
In May of 1978, a young Englishman made his way across the Atlantic, like so many others before him - to check out America and its music and start to forge a career in music in the land that gave the world Elvis. Levi Dexter's first stop was Los Angeles, and then he made his way around the country, including stops at Willie Nelson's annual picnic in Texas, and of course, Memphis - home of all things Elvis - Graceland, Sun Studios and all that... just shortly after Elvis's 1977 death.
Levi wasn't the first young musician or the first Englishman fascinated with American roots rock culture. Luckily for him, Los Angeles was already rich in roots music culture.
The local king and queen of the scene - John Doe and Exene Cervenka fronted X which featured Billy Zoom on guitar. Zoom had quite the rockabilly pedigree, having played with Gene Vincent.
X, with Billy Zoom on guitar, on the left
John Doe's commitment to American roots music has been evident through out his career. Among other things, he and Exene joined forces with Blasters co-founder, Dave Alvin in the rootsy Knitters. Doe also played the role of Jerry Lee Lewis's band mate and father-in-law in the movie Great Balls of Fire. His solo albums salute the American roots and in recent years, Doe toured with fellow punk-gone-acoustic-singer/songwriter Peter Case, founder of the Plimsouls.
Los Angeles was a studied choice for Levi Dexter, indeed. So was his trip to Memphis. By November of 1977, Levi & the Rockats made their US debut by opening for The Cramps at Max's Kansas City in New York.
Levi's timing was impeccable. By the time he returned to Los Angeles, he and the Rockats were riding high on the wave of a rockabilly resurgence. Ever the scene-maker, Levi started dating LA's very own It Girl, Pleasant.
Pleasant sure did know how to pick a future star! Before she and Levi met, Pleasant's mind and eye were on one Billy Idol, another Englishman with perfect hair.
As coincidence would have it, it was also in May 1978 that Billy Idol made his first record promotion trip to Los Angeles... laying the groundwork for the release on Chrysalis of Generation X's eponymous and astounding debut. During the next few days, we'll be featuring photos from Billy's first trip to LA, 30 years ago this month.