Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88”

Jackie Brenston was a sax player and singer, working with his band The Delta Cats.  In 1951 he recorded, for Sam Phillips Sun Records in Memphis, the song “Rocket 88” which is widely credited as the first rock and roll classic.  It was hard-driving r&b, and it’s lyrics and music reflected not only a super cool and powerful automobile, the space age, but also the independent youth spirit of postwar youth in the early 1950s.  Ike Turner was the producer.

So how did the car that inspired such a great song become an oldster’s car, a vehicle to be driven slowly by fossilized drivers?  Even lowrider connoisseurs love the classic Rocket 88 fiesta hubcats, the two-tone paint.  But the brand became tamer and more conservative as it aged, and it finally aged itself right out of the U.S. auto market.  Just look at the picture of the later model.  It was as plain and insipid as can be.  Sad ending.

Here are the lyrics to Brenston’s song:

You women have heard of jalopies,

You heard the noise they make,

imgresimgres-2imgres-4imgres-3Let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88.

Yes it’s great, just won’t wait,
Everybody likes my Rocket ’88.
Baby we’ll will ride in style,
Movin’ all along.

V-8 motor and this modern design,
Black convertible top and the gals don’t mind
Sportin’ with me, ridin’ all around town for joy.
Blow your horn, Rocket, blow your horn

Step in my Rocket and-don’t be late,
We’re pullin’ out about a half-past-eight.
Goin’ on the corner and havin’ some fun,
Takin’ my Rocket on a long, hot run.
Ooh, goin’ out,
Oozin’ and cruisin’ and havin’ fun

Now that you’ve ridden in my Rocket ’88,
I’ll be around every night about eight.
You know it’s great, don’t be late,
Everybody likes my Rocket ’88.
Gals will ride in style,
Movin’ all along.

These are hardly lyrics for octogenarians.  This was a car that was all about freedom and liberation, postwar style.    But who knows, perhaps these later aging drivers had a Olds Rocket 88 as their very first car, shared their very first kiss in a drive-in theatre in it,  went for burgers in the drive-in malt shoppe.

here’s a youtube video featuring the song.   Does this beat an ipod or what?

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  • tom

    American cars are starting to look better now. And Hyundai's are looking more and more like Mercedes!!!!

  • tom

    thanks for your lengthy comments. glad you're enjoying the posts. I try to write posts that are of continual, not just temporary, interest to readers…..more coming.

  • tom

    thanks..glad you like it.

  • tom

    check out david byrne and barry white: what cars they drove.

    also wrote an appreciation for Sergio Pininfarina on my tomschnabel.com blog….

  • tom

    glad you enjoyed it. those 50s and early-mid 60s Oldsmobiles were great American cars. too bad they devolved so much.

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