Lost and Found: The Unreleased 1956 Recordings documents some live, local television appearances by The Teen Kings, the country/rockabilly group in which a young Roy Orbison honed his skills for nearly a decade. Although the group (which, at the time of this recording, comprised Orbison, Billy Pat Ellis, Jack Kennelly, and James Morrow) started to come together in 1948 and lasted through Orbison’s first couple of recordings for Sun Records in 1956, little recorded material by them has seen the light of day.
Just as fanatical fans of The Beatles have eaten up low-grade bootlegs like the Decca rehearsals or the live Star Club recordings, Orb-heads longing to hear more of the late crooner will find Lost and Found to be a must-have. Due to the age and primitive recording methods used on the material, it’s hardly top-notch quality. Still, it documents a much-overlooked period of the career of one of the most enduring singers of rock’s early years.
That said, The Teen Kings’ songs and playing are hardly groundbreaking. Basically, Lost and Found documents a competent young rock group of the ‘50s. Orbison sounds just fine throughout, but there’s no overwhelming evidence of the great things to come from him. Just as he did on his first few Sun recordings, including “Ooby Dooby”, which is included here, Orbison pushes his voice into a cool rocker mode; while he proves competent as a rockabilly hepcat, his voice is much better suited to the melodramatic, melancholy style for which he is famous.
However, there are several highlights among the sixteen songs. “Racker Tacker” and “Jam” are hot instrumental rave-ups, while the original composition “Rock House” shows Orbison to be an able rock ‘n’ roll songwriter, even if it is somewhat derivative of “Baby, Let’s Play House”. On the weepy “Singing the Blues”, Orbison is free to embrace the melancholy crooning that made later songs like “Crying” such a success.
One major caveat is that the final track is an interview conducted with the surviving band members in the 1990s that makes up over half of the disc’s 72-minute running time—and it’s of no better sound quality than the music. Still, it’s fun to hear the surviving Teen Kings reminiscing about the band’s rise and fall. Some of their stories are notable, such as Jack Kennelly’s reminiscence about making his debut as a bass player during a show with Chuck Berry, the band members’ admission to being successfully hypnotized by Johnny Horton, and their recollection of being paid 75 cents and a pack of spearmint gum for a gig. Still, the interview is nothing any fan will want to listen to repeatedly, and it’s more notable for being a chronicle of a working band in the 1950s than for any offering any insights into Orbison’s early sound.
// Notes from the Road
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