3D Great Rock Bible

Hank Mizell

A rockabilly rebel who built his career and put all his eggs into one basket for one song: `Jungle Rock’, American HANK MIZELL was already in his mid-thirties when he – and lead guitarist geezer Jim Bobo – unfettered the swamp-riddled `Jungle Rock’; Hank would be in his fifties when it was discovered by British explorers, who untangled the near “knocked-out beat”/ one-that-got-away into the Top “tree” in 1976!
Born William M. Mizell, November 9, 1923, Daytona Beach, Florida, seasoned singer “Hank” turned professional after being discharged from the U.S. Navy. Adopted early in his life, and moving from Asheville, North Carolina to settle in Montgomery, Alabama, the aforesaid song found its way on to the radio when released in November ’58 for EKO Records. Picked up by King Records (home to JAMES BROWN et al), Billboard gave it the thumbs-up, but lack of promotion led to it sinking under a mire of music streaming out from the airwaves.
Cut from the same cloth, further dirges such as `Two Minds So Different’ and `My Old Used To Be’ (both from 1961) suffered the same fate, leaving only one option for the man to take – retire! MIZELL married a year later and subsequently settled down to raise four children; his only sustenance coming through the channelling of Jesus in his preaching as minister for the Church of Christ. Belatedly, his prayers were finally answered when UK re-issue company Charly Records decided to give the song a spin, re-releasing the track in the Netherlands where it topped the charts, in turn, giving rise to its healthy response back in Old Blighty in spring 1976. When played on Top Of The Pops and introduced by host Tony Blackburn, dancers Pan’s People had to choreograph some “jungle antics” when the powers that “Beeb” couldn’t track safari Hank down. Irony, indeed.
Putting a call through the grapevine thereafter, MIZELL was only too happy to resurrect his career, although Charly could not achieve similar results for `Kangaroo Rock’ and `Rakin’ And Scrapin’’, plus an EP in 1977 that consisted of `Higher’, `Ain’t Got A Thing’, `Flatfoot Sam’ and a freshly-peeled `Jungle Rock’. And whether the JUNGLE ROCK {*5} LP actually came to be released in 1976/77, was one that’s baffled Livingstone-type discographers the whole world over. When 1979’s `Burning Eyes’ registered zilch in the indie-rock Richter scale, and a German-only follow-up, HANK MIZELL and Mystery Train LIVE (1980s?) {*5} – recorded between 27-31 August 1979 – went awol, it was indeed time for MIZELL to hang up his mic. Hank died on December 23, 1992 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; his legacy – or at least the song’s – was to be covered by The FALL, whose spokesman Mark E. Smith transformed it into a “jungle” electro-dance arrangement for their `Levitate’ album in 1997.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2016

Share this Project

Leave a Comment