US jazz singer Kay Starr was the third person to have a UK number 1 back in 1953, and had added some much needed light relief after the previous two chart-toppers with the poppy Comes A-Long A-Love.
Starr was ahead of her time and one of the main influences for the early rock’n’roll acts. So she must have seemed a natural choice when the older generation decided to have a stab at this new genre that Bill Haley & His Comets had got so many teenagers all fired up over. ‘Just imagine the crossover appeal such a song could have!’, writers Shorty Allen and Roy Alfred must have thought. ‘We’ll stick the genre in the title, get Kay Starr to sing it, and the teens AND their parents will go out and buy it!’
And while it seems that was the case (after all, (The) Rock and Roll Waltz did knock It’s Almost Tomorrow off the top for a week) it’s a big missed opportunity.
For a start, apart from perhaps the bass, this tune is sadly lacking in both rock and roll. It’s just a cheesy novelty waltz. Starr sings of coming home late one night after a date, to hear a ‘jump tune’ coming from the front room. What the hell are her parents doing in there? Oh, don’t worry, the silly buggers are just trying to waltz to one of Starr’s rock’n’roll records! The chorus is exceedingly naff:
‘A-one, two, and then rock
A-one, two, and then roll
They did the rock and roll waltz
A-rock, two, three, a-roll, two, three
It looked so cute to me
I love the rock and roll waltz’
Apparently Starr wasn’t a fan of (The) Rock and Roll Waltz either,but gave it a bash anyway, and it paid dividends, so who am I to criticise?
It was her final hit in the UK, as rock’n’roll continued to grow, with no further charting singles. She left Capitol Records in 1966 and from then on worked with smaller independent labels, recording mostly jazz and country material.
In addition to performing in revue-style tours, Starr duetted with Tony Bennett on his 2001 album Playin’ with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues.
Starr died from complications of Alzheimer’s on 3 November 2016, aged 94. Despite her second number one, she will be remembered as an important part of the genesis of rock’n’roll.
Written by: Shorty Allen & Roy Alfred
Producer: Joe Carlton
Weeks at number 1: 1 (30 March-5 April)
Writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley – 30 March