Sanford Clark Rocks


Continuing their long-running series of albums, Sanford Clark is the next artist to be given the Rocks treatment by Germany’s Bear Family Records. The album focuses primarily on Clark’s material recorded for Dot Records along with a couple of cuts for Ramco and unreleased (at the time) recordings. The album features thirty-one tracks recorded between 1956 and the late 1960s; Is it worth picking up?

I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t heard of Sanford Clark before listening to this CD, but this series has a knack for introducing hidden gems. The compilation begins with the catchy Ooo Baby, a familiar-sounding bop that gives me vibes of early Ricky Nelson. Tracks following this stay on a similar path, with Modern Romance, Cross-Eyed-Alley Cat and Usta Be My Baby featuring a number of recognisable traits of popular music of the late 50s; Hot yet clean production, slapback-style echo and the occasional use of doo-wop style backing vocalists.

Sanford’s recording of The Fool, released on Dot Records in 1956, is the most well-known track on this compilation. The song was written by Producer Lee Hazlewood, and featured session musician Al Casey on lead guitar. Over a simple yet memorable motif (inspired by Smokestack Lightnin’ by Howlin’ Wolf) and light backing, Sanford delivers a surprisingly laid-back vocal performance soaked in echo. It’s pure early understated Rockabilly. It has become a familiar track due to its usage in a number of media projects over the years. The compilation also features a later version of the track, released on Ramco in 1966, which was produced by Waylon Jennings.

In this writer’s opinion, the track Nine Pound Hammer is a bit of a hidden gem. The backing is surprisingly heavy, sounding literally like someone is using the song’s namesake! Other highlights are the two inclusions of A Cheat, Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Don’t Care, Don’t Cry and Swanee River Rock.

The tracks recorded in the 1960s give a small glimpse of Sanford Clark’s later career. Hazlewood’s Just Blusin’ is a funky number featuring an excellent backing band including Wrecking Crew musicians including Al Casey, Glenn Campbell, William Everett “Billy” Strange, Bert Dodson and Hal Blaine. A small representation of the artist’s Country career is also present, with a few tracks including The Fool, It’s Nothing to Me and Black Jack Country Chain. The style is different, more akin to the likes of Roger Miller (who gets a shoutout), and Waylon Jennings (who plays guitar on the re-recording of The Fool) that predates Outlaw Country by a few years. As someone who consumes large amounts of Country from this era, I really appreciated the switch in the genre that compliments his laid-back vocal style, which gets deeper in these recordings.

Sound Quality:

The main chunk of the material was produced by Lee Hazlewood, who wrote a number of the tracks. For such material of this vintage, the sound quality is just about what you would expect. Some tracks have that clean quality that comes with having access to the master track, while others may have been sourced from less-than-ideal sources. Unlike other entries in this series, it is more difficult to tell the difference due to some tracks having the “hot” recording aesthetic that tracks from this period sometimes had as standard. It is fair to say that tracks like Nine Pound Hammer benefit from having that punchy sound.

A Little Something Extra…

Inside a nicely printed digipak is a 36-page booklet featuring a well-researched biography by Bill Dahl, photographs and related discography. For someone who hadn’t heard of this artist previously, the attention to detail is welcome in helping to provide further context to the music.C


Listening to this compilation was a complete joy. Hearing several modes of early Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly executed superbly by Sanford Clark was really pleasurable, each one feeling like an old friend despite never hearing them before. Each track sounded like it should have been a hit in its own right, and that isn’t a bad thing. The only thing I would have changed is the order of the tracks; Opting for a chronological approach. Hearing Sanford’s 50s and 60s material alongside each other can feel like listening to two different artists; as Sanford embraced a more contemporary Country flavour in the latter decade. However, Along with Link Wray and Scotty McKay and others, this album ranks up there as one of my favourite entries in this series.

If you’re a fan of this artist, you will enjoy having a large number of his early recordings on one compilation, with a small sprinkling of different but cool later material. If you’re just discovering him, this seems like the perfect place to start! Sanford Clark Rocks is available to order from Bear Family Records.

Track Listing:

  1. Ooo Baby
  2. Modern Romance
  3. Love Charms
  4. Cross-Eyed Alley Cat
  5. The Fool
  6. It’s Nothing To Me
  7. Nine Pound Hammer
  8. Lonesome For A Letter
  9. Houston
  10. Usta Be My Baby
  11. A Cheat (With Snare Overdub)
  12. Don’t Care
  13. Lou Be Doo
  14. Till My Baby Comes Home
  15. Guess It’s Love
  16. Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens
  17. Just Bluesin’
  18. Every Minute Of The Day
  19. Tennessee Walk
  20. Travelin’ Man
  21. Give The Boy Love
  22. That’s The Way I Feel (Ooh Wee)
  23. The Fool (Ramco Version)
  24. (They Call Me) Country
  25. The Man Who Made An Angel Cry
  26. Hard Feelings
  27. Swanee River Rock
  28. Don’t Cry
  29. Black Jack County Chain
  30. It Hurts Me Too
  31. A Cheat

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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