I read that your earliest influence was Elvis Presley.
Elvis was my inspiration in the beginning. I had 5 brothers and 4 sisters. All my brothers played guitar and sang. They were country singers. I was the only one that didn’t play. I was 14 when I saw Elvis on the Steve Allen Show sing “Hound Dog”. That blew me away to the place where I said “I’ve got to do that!”
You later signed to Del-Fi Records. How did that happen?
Ritchie died February 3, 1959. He was my next inspiration after Elvis. When he died, a friend of mine that was a DJ…Don Redfield…told me that I reminded him of Ritchie Valens. He sent a tape of some songs I had written down to Bob Keane at Del-Fi and that’s how I got signed.
Didn't you do some demos there on that same recorder Ritchie used?
I went to Bob’s house after we had recorded at Gold Star. He had a little 2-track machine and he said it was the machine he recorded “Donna” on. It came out so good that they released it that way and it went top 10.
The Beatles were impacted by "Hippy Hippy Shake" in those early days performing in Hamburg and then at the Cavern Club and even performed it on the BBC. Paul still puts it in his set periodically. Did you ever have any contact with those guys?
No I never had any contact with The Beatles or The Swinging BlueJeans but they sure did a lot for my music.
Did you ever have any idea how that song would make an impact when you wrote it?
No, I tell people all the time that I wrote 600 or 700 songs and most of those songs are so much better than “Hippy Hippy Shake” but it was the one that caught hold. It was just recently in X-Men: First Class. One of my sons called me from the theater and said "they're playing your song!". I asked him which version they were using and he said it was my version
Around 1964 you were a touring member of The Crickets for several months. How did this come about?
I’m surprised you found out about that one (laughs). A friend of mine Jerry Naylor took over for Buddy after he was killed. He sounded a lot like him. He didn’t play an instrument but was a really good front man. He became a good friend of mine. When he moved to LA, I got together with him one time and he had brought Glen Campbell in to town from Albuquerque. He got him going too. Jerry asked “is there any way you could come work with the Crickets for a while?” Glen D. Hardin and his wife were having a baby and he didn’t want to go out on the road. They had a Midwestern tour getting ready to go and they needed someone to cover for him. I talked with my band and they were able to continue on with the gigs we were playing then. I really enjoyed working with Jerry Naylor, Sonny Curtis and Jerry Allison. (names). We had quite a time. The first gig we did in Sacramento with 4 Seasons and The Beach Boys.
What is really interesting to me is that at the height of your popularity, you gave it all up after you dedicated your life to Jesus.
Yeah, I had my band and we were up in Quebec. It was around Christmas time and I was going to come home for the holidays to be with the family. My wife and I had 3 kids at the time. My wife had come to the Lord. She and her sister were really hungry for a spiritual movement of God in their life. The family all got saved and I had no desire to leave my new experience with the Lord and go back to Canada to continue the lifestyle I was in there. It wasn’t really bad but I just knew it wasn’t right. I called the guys in the band and said I won’t be coming back. They said, “What’s wrong are you sick?”. I said "no, I met the best friend that I've ever had and his name is Jesus. I’ve decided to follow Jesus." They thought I had lost my coins (laughs). When I left there I had a bunch of instruments and a trailer full of equipment. I said I’m just giving this to you guys as a sacrifice to the Lord. I had just signed a recording contract with a couple of producers in New York (Jeff Barry and Shadow Morton) and signed a contract with the same label the Four Seasons were on. I had recorded 4 sides and left the whole thing to follow the Lord. I started my own label Warrior Records and started releasing my own gospel material. I’ve been recording right along and written a lot of songs. The Lord has been good to us.
I'm sure your popularity also gave you a bigger platform to spread the good news.
Yeah that’s true. There’s not as much interest in the music now as there was back then. I’m currently working with a ministry called Twin Eagles Ministries. I’m one of the pastors there. We’ve pastored 7 churches so far. We’re thankful for what the Lord has done.
How can people reach you if they are interested about your music or ministry?
I have a couple of addresses and an email address:
Po Box 43
Billings, MT 59103
104 Paseo Laredo
Cathedral City, CA 92234
If anyone is interested in our music, they can contact us at either one of these or email. We could send a brochure of our recordings.
Do you still get requests to come out and play your rock & roll tunes?
I get a call every once in a while to do a rockabilly venue or a rock and roll oldies show. We’re getting ready to do one October 23rd. We do those occasionally or if they call us from Europe or overseas. We’ve been to Austraila 3 times. We had a top 10 record there. It’s amazing where those sounds and that music will take you to.
Chan Romero- "The Hippy Hippy Shake"
Chan Romero- "My Little Ruby"
The Beatles- "The Hippy Hippy Shake"
The Swinging Blue Jeans- "The Hippy Hippy Shake"
Paul McCartney- "The Hippy Hippy Shake"