You can listen to “Rock & Roll Medley” by Carl Dobkins Jr on our audio page , and there is an audio player in the left hand column of this page as well.
Carl Dobkins Jr. was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on 1/13/41. While in high school at the age of 16, he made a demo record of two of his own compositions. He was introduced to a popular local DJ Gil Sheppard, by some neighborhood friends. Gil was impressed with the recording and became his manager. Gil and his wife Kay started promoting the young performer, dubbing him “The Teenage Rage”. He started singing at local dance parties and record hops and in a short time landed a contract with Cincinnati based Fraternity Records. “Take Hold of My Hand” and “That’s Why I’m Asking” was his first and only release on the label. Carl wrote and recorded two more of his songs at King studios in Cincinnati. His manager arranged for the sale of the master to Decca Records (“Love Is Everything” and “If You Don’t want my Lov’in”). “If You Don’t want my Lov’in” became a regional hit (#1 for six 6 weeks in Charleston, West Virginia. Later it was released again, this time hitting the national charts). This regional exposure lead to recording sessions for Decca at Owen Bradley’s studios in Nashville. It was there that “My Heart is an Open Book” was recorded, with a Martin Flat Top guitar, drums, bass and two female back up voices from the Anita Kerr Singers. “My Heart is an Open Book,” went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959 and stayed on the charts for 24 weeks.
Cincy Groove: So what is on your new cd?
Carl Dobkins Jr: Its all oldies, songs originally done by Dean Martin, Buddy Holly, and there is a great melody of songs called “Good Old Rock and Roll” that took me forever to find out who originally wrote it.
Cincy Groove: What did it take to make a record in the 1950’s – 1960’s?
Carl Dobkins Jr: Well there’s an expression I just mentioned to my wife the other day, “Being in the Can”. I also had a song called In the Can. What they were referring to is that songs originally used to be on reel to reel tapes that you would put into flat round cans. There wasn’t stereo at the time, so you would take several cuts of the same song and they would literally take a razor blade and splice the good parts together and take the bad parts out.
Cincy Groove: Who did you have playing with you on your new cd?
Carl Dobkins Jr: My son-in-law played with me, there was a guy Jack Whitewine (saxophone) who I went to high school with, he has played in bands around Cincinnati for years. Another guy Rodney Wright played keyboards, and Ricky Veeneman (my son in laws nephew) played the drums. Ricky is also a really good guitar player, he happened to win the Jimi Hendrix guitar contest when he was 15. He also played when Jimi Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cincy Groove: I understand you were on American Bandstand quite a few times. How did you get hooked up with that gig?
Carl Dobkins Jr: Well what happpens when you don’t have a hit record is that no one will talk to you. In order to get a hit you need your record played and in order to get your record played you need a hit, its a real catch 22. Luckily there were a lot of DJ’s back then that would put together these record hops. As an artist you would go out and do these record hops for free to promote your record. I ended up going up to Detroit to do a couple record hops and not even a month after that I did 4 hops in one night, 2 of them over in Canada.
What the problem really is getting that initial play. But once you got to play, then a booking agency like GAC Corp. out of New York, called you on the phone. Then someone like them would end up booking you on American Bandstand. Prior to that they wouldn’t take your call.
Cincy Groove: What was the first instrument you learned to play?
Carl Dobkins Jr: The ukulele, my first one cost $9 from Willis Music. It also had this Arthur Godfrey attachment on it where you would press these buttons to play the chords. To play C you would press the button that had a C on it. Eventually I took it off and learned where to put my fingers to play certain chords.
Cincy Groove: How many shows would you play in a year when you toured full time?
Carl Dobkins Jr: Back then you would go out for about a month at a time on a bus that may or may not have air conditioning (laughing). Shows would get done about midnight, 1 o’clock, then you would have to drive for an hour or so to get away from the kids following the bus. You would pull into some mom and pop roadside diner, because back then there weren’t a whole lot of expressways. They were used to taking care of 3-4 truckers at a time and here comes 25 people off a tour bus. I would say I would do about 4-5 of those 1 month tours a year. I also did 6 months of active duty in the Army as well. I missed out on some tours in Europe and Australia but I did get to play up in Canada often.
Cincy Groove: What music did you listen to growing up?
Carl Dobkins Jr: Elvis, Dean Martin, Patti Page, Theresa Brewer, Bill Haley. Back when I was a kid the only place you could hear Rock and Roll was on WCIN. Mainstream stations would not play Rock and Roll.
Cincy Groove: What kind of guy was Dick Clark? I’m sure you got to talk to him a few times.
Carl Dobkins Jr: I did. One thing about Dick Clark was , what you saw is what you got. He was a super nice guy, he would always come by the dressing room after the show and thank you for playing. I also made an appearance on Alan Freed’s show and the Bob Braun Show here in Cincinnati.
If you are interested in contacting Carl Dobkins Jr, you can reach him at [email protected]
Carl Dobkins Jr has just released a brand new cd this past July called “Cruisin with Carl”. You can buy a copy and download straight to your computer by going here: Cruisin’ With Carl.
If you prefer a physical copy of Cruisin With Carl, you can buy one here – http://www.dbwsound.com/cdsales.html (cd’s also come autographed by Carl himself).
Track Listing for “Cruisin with Carl”
Memories are Made of This
Lost in the Fifties
My Heart Is An Open Book
Think It Over
Sea of Love
Little Bitty Tear
It Doesn’t Matter Anymore
Raining in My Heart
Rock and Roll Medley