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Sid King & The Five Strings

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Sid King & the Five Strings were, for about five years, one of the hottest rock & roll acts working in Texas -- the funny thing about that was that the group hadn't started out to play rock & roll (which, at the time, didn't even have a name). Indeed, they'd started out in junior high school in Denton, TX, in 1953 as the Western Melody Makers, making...Western melodies, mostly country boogie and Western swing style music. Sid King (born Sid Erwin) played guitar and sang, Melvin Robinson doubled on steel guitar and saxophone, while Sid's brother Billy King played lead guitar, and Ken Massey and David White handled the bass and drums, respectively. It was in this guise that they cut a half-dozen sides for Starday in 1954. But such was the ferment of the times, that they didn't confine themselves exclusively to country & western sounds. They listened to a lot of R&B sides that started to influence not only their repertory but their approach to music-making; in a way, they were like their fellow Texans the Four Mints, who started out doing gospel and quickly found themselves coming under the spell of R&B outfits such as the Treniers. So, when Sid King and the group went into the studio later in 1954 -- changing their name at that point to Sid King & the Five Strings -- under the auspices of Columbia Records, they were doing numbers like "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight" and "Sag, Drag and Fall," superb rockabilly classics that defined a sound that hadn't even been named yet. They got enough attention with their records to tour extensively across the United States and also into Canada, and Billboard named them "one of the best show bands" of 1956. They played on the same bills as Elvis Presley on the Louisiana Hayride and issued a version of "Ooby Dooby" that competed with Roy Orbison's Sun Records single. They never did find much in the way of lasting success outside of Texas, however, and the group disbanded in 1958. Melvin Robinson remained active on the Dallas music scene at least into the '60s, but it was Sid King who enjoyed the longest career of the five, working in music into the mid-'60s. He also saw some belated stardom come his way amid the rockabilly revival of the 1980s, in the wake of latter-day practitioners such as Robert Gordon and the Stray Cats. ~ Bruce Eder

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