Jump, Jive, and Wail

After 50 years on stage, vintage rocker Jimmy Cavallo gets his due

"They contacted my record company up in Syracuse, and then they called me and said, 'Jimmy, they took an interest in you up in England! They wanna do a revival of you and the Teenagers up in England, called Rock Rock Rock Revival.' And that's how it all started."

The festival gig was his first trip to play in Europe in his 50-plus-year career and his first time playing to crowds as large as 10,000. He's played a few more European festival dates since, including one in Italy.

And it's not just Europe calling these days. Just a couple of weeks ago, Cavallo played to 3,500 rock faithful at Green Bay's Rockin' Fifties Fest, a six-day, 150-act showcase of rockabilly, doo-wop, and early rock 'n' roll. He shared a bill with legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, Ruth Brown, Link Wray, and Wanda Jackson and with modern revivalists Los Straitjackets and Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys.

Jimmy Be Good: Cavallo rocks the house at Doogie's.
Colby Katz
Jimmy Be Good: Cavallo rocks the house at Doogie's.

Details

8:30 p.m. every Friday and at 9 p.m. every Saturday. The show is free on Friday; tickets cost $5 on Saturday. Call 954-428-6438.
Doogie's Jazz and Blues Cafe, 1025 E. Hillsborough Blvd., Deerfield Beach

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Last year, in response to the success of The Houserocker, his label Blue Wave issued Rock the Joint!, a compilation of material from 1951 to the early 1970s. For film buffs, Rock, Rock, Rockwas released on DVD in '03.

"These big things just came now in the last four years, and it's just revived my whole career," Cavallo beams. "They've been playing my records on the radio again and saying, 'Jimmy, thank God you're back on the scene.' [It's] rejuvenated my career. They don't see my gray hair or that I'm a lot older than I was in the '50s. They see me as I was."

So do the crowds at Doogie's. On almost any night Cavallo's band plays, you'll find a full house of whooping, exhilarated retirees and jump-blues mavens. Some are fans who saw him play in Syracuse or Wildwood, New Jersey, throughout the '50s. Many end up dancing up a storm in front of the stage.

"It's inspiring to watch somebody that still loves what he does and is pretty close to the top of his game," Blue Wave's Spencer says. "He doesn't sound like a 79-year-old guy. He sounds like he's 55. A lot of guys you see like that, like Jerry Lee Lewis, he looked frail in that [Rock 'n' Roll] Hall of Fame induction ceremony."

"I'm in very good shape, and I keep [playing two nights a week], week after week," Cavallo enthuses. "Whenever my name is mentioned now, it's mentioned along with Bill Haley and Elvis and Buddy Holly."

You don't spend more than 50 years chasing stardom without thinking big.

"I think they overlooked me at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame too!" If there's any justice in rock 'n' roll -- and Cavallo's tale suggests there just might be -- that oversight won't last long.

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