Led by the legendary General Norman Johnson, The Showmen’s It Will Stand (from 1961) was a little gesture of defiance. As well as explaining the appeal of rock and roll (“Hear those drums beat, loud as thunder”), it was also a call to arms that, at the same time, poured scorn on those who didn’t get it:
“Some folks don’t understand it
That’s why they don’t demand it
They’re out tryin’ to ruin
Forgive them for they know not what they’re doin'”
(That last line, invoking the bible, must have caused a bit of a stir at the time.)
He had a very distinctive, soulful voice, Johnson (which he used to great effect with his later group, Chairmen of the Board – particularly on the brilliant Give Me Just A Little More Time). On It Will Stand his voice gives the song, and its meaning, real gravitas. So that it becomes something more than merely the wishful thinking of your average rock ‘n’ roll obsessed teenager. Mind you, Johnson was only 18 himself when he sang this.
One of the best things about It Will Stand is that it’s proof that the spirit of rock and roll didn’t die when Buddy Holly did (or when Elvis went in the army, or when Little Richard embraced religion, or when Chuck Berry went to jail, or when Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin). But it’s also proof, by the sheer fact of its existence, that what America needed was someone to come along and remind them how good this stuff was and how they’d be fools to let it die.