There is more to Miami's music scene than meets the eye. But surely, no one thinks, Rockabilly!, when the Magic City is mentioned. What a damn shame, because our city's seen its fair share of quality rockabilly acts.
Showing its Southern roots, Miami was home to a thriving rockabilly scene in the '50s and '60s. There was local talent. There were homegrown record companies. And there were bands arriving from all over America to tear apart our world class hotels. Even the King of Hunch, Hasil Adkins himself, had some of his whacked-out seven-inch platters released by South Florida labels.
Here are Miami's ten best rockabilly acts of all time.
See also: Miami's 20 Best Punk Bands of All Time
10. Wally Deane & the Flips
Wally Deane, also billed as Wally Dean, had a strong recording career, issuing a handful of singles on labels like ART and Artic. His catalog offers much confusion that way, but this "cool cool daddy" was the real deal. Inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2006, Wally was known as the "Elvis of Miami Beach." He passed away in 1986.
9. Ray Pate and the Rhythm Rockets
Formed in 1956, the Rhythm Rockets made their bones as one of the opening Miami acts for Carl Perkins' appearance on the Old South Jamboree radio show in '57. One of the most active local outfits of the era, they split up sometime in the early '60s. But renewed interest, mostly from Germany, has seen the Rockets' music continuously reissued and represented in compilations.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
8. Tommy Spurlin and the Southern Boys
Along with his half-brother George Dumas, Tommy Spurlin began making music in the early '50s and relocated to South Florida from Elba, Alabama. Originally interested in pure honky-tonk country, they successfully transitioned into rockabilly when rock 'n' roll exploded. After getting tired of rock, Spurlin was fired from the band in 1957 and Dumas impersonated him, touring the Southern Boys act for a couple more years.
7. The Roxsters
Formed in '57 by Don Ward and Jerry Johnson, this outfit was initially from Palm Beach, but then the group became heavily involved with Harold Doane's ART label in Miami. As such, the band's members also served as session musicians for many other acts of the time that cut slabs with Doane. Despite having enjoyed one of the longer careers of the bands on this list, the Roxsters' full recorded catalog remains relatively unknown, because all of the original masters were dealt away by Doane when he sold his company in 1999. However, Ward, Johnson, and company are always represented in area compilations, so a good portion of their work can still be tracked down.
6. Buck Trail and the Dead Enders
Recorded in 1958, the Buck Trail single "Honky Tonk on 2nd Street"/"Beneath Miami Skies" is an absolute must for any rockabilly collector. However, this killer slab of wax often goes for about $600. So you might just want to stick to compilations until you win the lotto.
5. Frantics Four
Along with singer Bobby Shane, the Frantics Four unleashed "TV Mama"/"Down by the Old Mill Stream" in 1960. And in full accordance with the frenzied nature of their nomenclature, imagine a slightly mellower Ralph Nielsen & the Chancellors' "Scream" and you'll get the picture. Unfortunately, save for this one single, there is very little known of the band. Both songs are usually paired up in comps, though.
4. Larry Joe Miller and His Rockabilly Rockets
Originally from teen garage punks The Thingies, Larry Joe Miller is a key figure who brought Miami's rockabilly into the modern era. Larry maintained an active performance and recording career in the Magic City. And the Rockets' full-length cassette album, Rub a Bucket, released by Jeterboy Records, is a perfect centerpiece for any collection of underground South Florida music.
3. Ross Minimi
An easy, straight shooter of a rocker, Ross Minimi's 1959 single "Baby Rock"/"Oh Janet" on the Gulfstream label is pure rockabilly. Label owner Vince Fiorino co-wrote both tracks and we are, unfortunately, unsure of where Minimi's career wandered after the single was released.
See also: Miami's Five Best Record Stores
2. Jim Voytek
Whether by himself or backed by the Knights, Jim "Jimmy" Voytek's short career produced some memorable numbers. One of the few on this list who was actually born in Miami, Voytek's life path took him from rockabilly to pure country, with a stint as a City of Miami police officer. He began as a member of the Old South Jamboree and then he lent his powers to other acts while also doing solo work. Voytek relocated to Nashville in 1976 and died of a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 42.
1. Steve Alaimo and the Redcoats
While studying medicine at the University of Miami (and before becoming synonymous with disco, Miami's TK Records, and KC & the Sunshine Band), Alaimo was a rockabilly singer and teen pop sensation. He best represents Miami's rich musical history and its long, entwined roots, which actually date back to an era that is, unfortunately, being forgotten by the current crop of musicians plying their trade within the Magic City.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.