- - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon is a lot of things: singer, songwriter, rock ‘n’ roll survivor. Just don’t call him a teen idol. Even though the 1950s singer often gets lumped in with people from the era like Fabian and Frankie Avalon, Mr. Cannon is more at home with folks like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran (whom he toured with) than any perfectly pompadoured crooner.

Need proof? Just listen to the raw power of his hits “Tallahassee Lassie,” “Palisades Park,” “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” and “Okefenokee”. “Tallahassee Lassie” was even covered by The Rolling Stones.

At the age 79 Mr. Cannon is still going strong with a tour and the “creep-tastic” Halloween tune “Svengoolie Stomp,” the theme to the campy MeTV horror show. I caught up with Mr. Cannon over lunch to discuss the new record, why he was never a “teen idol” and the night Elvis Presley used his karate skills on him.

Question: You weren’t born Freddy Cannon. Where did the name come from?

Answer: I was called Freddy Carmen. I had a band called Freddy Carmen and The Hurricanes. Bernie [Binnick] at Swan Records said, “We don’t like Carmen. We’re changing your name to Cannon.” The “Boom Boom” came from a radio disc jockey in Boston.

Q: Why do you hate the term “teen idol”?

A: I hate that title. That era that I’m from is all bubblegum. Rydell. Avalon. Fabian. I’m not those kind of people. They sang cute pretty songs. I’m a rock ‘n’ roller!

Because I was in that era, they put me in with those guys. I don’t like it. Not then, not now. Being associated with that is stopping me from getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. My records were rock ‘n’ roll records. “Tallahassee Lassie” is a pure rock ‘n’ roll record.

Q: Where did that song come from?

A: My mom wrote a poem about this girl here (points to wife of 60 years, Jeanette) that I was dating. It was first called “She’s My Rock and Roll Baby.” Later, producer Bob Crewe [of the Four Seasons] changed the title.

Q: How did it feel to have The Rolling Stones cover your song?

A: Great! That’s why I think I should have been in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If these guys were influenced enough by me to record my song, than why can’t I get in there?

Q: How did your big hit “Palisades Park” come about?

A: Chuck Barris of “The Gong Show” wrote it. It was called “Amusement Park,” but they changed it.

Q: Who decided to add roller coaster sound effects?

A: Crewe did that. Put it in after.

Q: What was your relationship like with Bob Crewe?

A: I hate to say, but I have to be honest — we didn’t get paid. “Palisades Park,” I should have got paid real well. I got nothing. Not a dime. I got a sweater from Bob Crewe.

But then I lucked out. In 1971 Warner Bros. returned all my masters. My reward for not having been paid.

Q: Is it true that you were on tour with Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran when Cochran was killed?

A: In 1959 I went to England to do a 10-day tour with them. My dad came along. We went to England, Scotland and Ireland. I opened the show. Eddie was a wonderful guy. After the 10th show we were back in London packing our bags. Eddie was downstairs with Sharon Sheeley and called up to my room. He asked my dad, “Is Freddy ready to go? My dad said, “No. You go ahead; we’re still packing. We’ll see you at the airport.”

Little later we knew we got in a cab and heard on the radio that there had been a car crash and he was dead. I would have been in that cab.

Q: Is it true that Elvis once used karate on you?

A: I did a show in Memphis and there were 10 acts. We were all staying at the Peabody Hotel. Bob Marcucci, who managed Frankie Avalon and Fabian, said, “After the show, we want everybody to come up to our suite on the 12th floor.” We go up to the suite and all the acts are sitting around. Bob says, “Somebody is coming to visit. Have a drink. He’ll be here soon.” I asked, “Who’s coming? He said, “Elvis Presley.” I said, “You’ve got a thousand kids in the lobby. How the hell is Elvis gonna get through that to come up?”

Next thing you know, the window opens up, and in comes Elvis. He climbed the fire escape. The next thing he does — he was into karate then — is he grabs me out all these people. Avalon, Fabian, Chubby Checker. He grabs me and he flips me over. Almost broke my back. He killed me, I’m telling you.

I’m on the floor, and they were all laughing at me. Elvis helped me up and says, “Freddy, I’m sorry that I hurt you, but I gotta tell ya, I just bought ‘Tallahassee Lassie,’ and I put it in my jukebox. That’s a great rock ‘n’ roll record.”

When he said that, I was high as the ceiling. My back got better right away. [laughs]

Q: How did your new single “Svengoolie Stomp” come about?

A: I like to watch any old horror movie. I found this guy on MeTV, this host Svengoolie. He knows all about the movies and he’s funny. One day I was watching this and thought maybe I should write a song about him. Then the idea of writing a dance called the stomp came to my head. I took my guitar and started fooling around.

A radio guy I know sent it to the producer of the show. They loved it. They then invited me to Chicago to do a video.

“Svengoolie Stomp” is available on iTunes, CD Baby and at Amazon.com. The 7-inch is available at WonderCapRecords.com.

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