|30 Years Of Red Hot Rockin', Red Hot Max
Scana, SNCD 024
Someone once said that it takes 20 years for a trend to become trendy again. This was proven in the late 1970's when the 50's styled rock'n'roll had a great revival. Although it was in the era of disco and punk music, artists like Shakin' Stevens, Matchbox and Stray Cats had huge successes in the charts with their revival-rock'n'roll / neo-rockabilly.
The rockin' scene in Sweden during the 70's was mostly dominated by showbands like Rockfolket and Rohdes Rockers that maybe didn't capture the authentic feeling from the 50's… But in 1979 a gang of young lads from a Stockholm suburb formed a band with the ambition to play pure rockabilly music. The band was named Red Hot Max & Cats and included Mats Olsson (vocals/guitar), Kjell Olsson (guitar), Bo Salmonsson (slap bass) and Arnulf Ibsen (drums). They started to rehearse next to a joiner's bench and the central heating in the cellar of Mats' and Kjell's fathers house. Soon some recordings were made with a minimal studio, which was also placed in the cramped cellar.
In 1981 Red Hot Max was signed to the label Wildcat Records, and that same year saw the release of both an EP and an LP from the band. The records were well received by various rock'n'roll magazines and not at least by the Swedish rockers. “Finally a revival band that plays with a slap bass!” one critic wrote. Offers for gigs started to turn up and Red Hot Max soon became known for their wild and energetic shows. The band supported Stray Cats at their Stockholm gig in April 1981.
At the beginning of 1982 the talented steel-guitar player Åke Banksell was recruited. He had already played in a few country and bluegrass bands, so the rockabilly thing probably didn´t seem too strange to him. After participating in the popular TV-show Måndagsbörsen Red Hot Max's fame grew drastically, with even more offers for gigs. In the end of the year the recordings of the second album Lonesome rocker started. This time they left their own cellar studio for a more professional one. In spite of that the recordings maybe were a little too hurried, Lonesome rocker sold very well and even the Dutch label Rockhouse released the record on licence.
The international record licence led Red Hot Max to take the step outside of Scandinavia. In September 1983 they were booked on a tour in the Netherlands which included a gig at The International Rock Meeting in Eindhoven. Another show with the now famous Swedes was live broadcasted by the Dutch radio. At some gigs the audience got so enthusiastic over the band, that the action almost ended in riots!
Back in Sweden the touring continued without any slowdowns all over the land. Red Hot Max rocked every crowd no matter if it was at the jailhouse Hall or at a local hotel somewhere out in the countryside. Often they acted as back-up unit for original 50's artists like Eddie Bond and Johnny Carroll when such made shows in Sweden. Around this period, in the mid 80's, some band members got tired of all the touring and were replaced by new cats.
A sax-player was taken onboard and the music took a new direction into a more swinging beat a'la Bill Haley. Through the years Red Hot Max have had a tendency to involve truly gifted musicians. On the album Why change from 1986 the soul and blues singer Sven Zetterberg contributed with harmonica. Since the second half of the 80's the piano-rocker Per-Erik Jonsson also has been a pounding musical support.
In 1989 the single Svartbäckens ros was released featuring the 60's artist Gert Lengstrand (famous with the band Streaplers). Although it was a nice and catchy production the record didn't get the attention that it really deserved. This however didn't make the band surrender… And so in the year of 1993 Red Hot Max contributed to the soundtrack of the success movie Sunes sommar with some songs that suited for the action. Through the years even more records have been released and festival gigs have been played in several countries like France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia.
During the years people have tried to categorize the music of Red Hot Max in a lot of different ways. Some have called it rockabilly – rock'n'roll, others would rather name it boogie woogie – swing or even use the term country – blues. Well, you'll probably find all the mentioned styles, if you listen to a record by Red Hot Max. But instead of further analyses I'd finally rather say: Well, now dig this!
Used with permission, 2011
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