Friday Song: ‘Love Me’ by THE PHANTOM
I’ve had some kind of sinus thing going on this week; stuffed up head, dull throbbing headache, plugged sore ears…and I need to do something about it. And I think this song right here might just do the trick. I’m talking about the 1958 blast of rockabilly insanity known as “Love Me” by the mysterious masked rocked known to the world only as THE PHANTOM.
Rockabilly’s one of the earliest forms of music that came to be known as rock and roll, started in the South during the early 1950’s, combining elements of rhythm and blues and country music (which was referred to as “hillbilly” music back then). Rockabilly broke nationally in the wake of Elvis Presley’s visit to Sun Studios in 1954. Other Sun artists like Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash popularized the rockabilly sound, with its’ driving rhythms and distinctive reverbed vocals…But under the surface, an army of rockabilly artists left behind dozens, hundreds, thousands of little-heard regional rockabilly tracks. And it’s these wild, raw, desperate rockabilly sounds that I dig the most. And there’s no rockabilly record more untamed, unhinged, than ‘Love Me‘ by THE PHANTOM, recorded in Mobile Alabama in 1958.
THE PHANTOM was in reality country artist Jerry Lott; after hearing Elvis in 1956, like a lot of other young Southern fellas, Jerry wanted to punch up his country sound into something a little, well, a little louder. Searching for something to record for the flip side of another song, Jerry wanted something that sounded a little bit like Elvis. In an interview, Jerry remembers, “They said, ‘See if you spark rock ‘n’ roll a little bit’… so that’s when I put all the fire and fury I could utter into it. I was satisfied with the first take, but everybody said, ‘let’s try it one more time’. I didn’t yell on the first take, but I yelled on the second, and blew one of the controls off the wall.” And brother, he ain’t kiddin’.
Jerry continues, “I’m telling ya”, Lott continued, “it was wild. The drummer lost one of his sticks, the piano player screamed and knocked his stool over, the guitar player’s glasses were hanging sideways over his eyes.”
And thus was born one of the wildest tracks ever. It sparked all right; ‘Love Me‘ crackles with more energy than a 1.21 gigawatt lightning bolt. It’s raw, it’s explosive, it’s dripping in Eisenhower era teenage hormonal rage…
As for the name THE PHANTOM? You’re not going to believe this, but it’s true. Jerry Lott took his newly recorded song to Los Angeles, and somehow managed to get it in the hands of the white-bread enemy of all things rockin’, Pat Boone. After a church service, no less. Pat Boone apparently heard something he liked in the off-the-rails song, and signed Jerry to his record label. And it was Pat “Love Letters in the Sand” Boone himself who suggested the PHANTOM moniker, as well as the mask. ‘Love Me’ was finally released on Dot Records in 1960; it sold little and went nowhere. Thankfully we live now in the internet age, where nothing is ever truly lost or forgotten.
Enough talk…let’s get down to business. The 1958 psychotic explosion that is ‘Love Me.’ THE PHANTOM LIVES!!!