Originally Published: January 13, 2011 5:30 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Elvis may have left the building, but Sky Daddy and the Pop Rocks have stepped in to fill the void with their surf and rockabilly music.
"Take bluegrass, gospel, rhythm and blues, and the energy of rock and roll, put it all in a pot and stir it up. That's rockabilly," said Sky Conwell, lead singer and guitarist.
Coming on the heels of Christmas, Sky Daddy is ready to offer a present to rockabilly fans. The band is releasing its first full-length CD chock-full of the sounds of a long-gone era, "The Two Sides of Us."
"The title is a throwback to the days of LPs, when you had two sides on a record," Conwell explained. "I wanted to give the impression that it's two full albums."
The 14-song disc is indeed divided into two "sides:" side one is pure rockabilly, and surf's up on side two. Conwell wrote every song on the 47-minute album, including the opening rockabilly song, "You Left I Cried."
"I wrote that when I was 15 years old," Conwell, 40, said. "It's about my first girlfriend. When she broke up with me, she broke my heart."
The Pop Rocks - Brandon "Sparky" Sparks on bass, Neil "Sticks" Neideffer on drums, and Weston "Skippy" Aviles on keyboards and rhythm guitar - are known throughout the county for their high energy 1950s and '60s rockin' surf-a-billy music.
Although his heart may be stuck in the '50s and '60s, when it came to recording a CD, Conwell's mind was set firmly in the present. The group spent two days in the high-tech recording studio of Mark Anthony's Prescott Recording and Sound.
"The studio recording was nerve-wracking," Conwell said. "I insisted on a live recording. Some songs we got on the first take, and others we had to start over."
Conwell, who formed the Pop Rocks three years ago, dresses the part of a rockabilly star: cuffed blue jeans, Hawaiian shirts with rolled up sleeves, and flashy, Buddy Holly-like sunglasses. And when he steps up to a microphone and sings, it sounds like Elvis may actually be in the building after all.
"Elvis is the best," Conwell said of his No. 1 hero. "I just dig the way he sings."
In "Rockabilly Heaven," Conwell paints a picture of being in heaven on chrome-plated streets with three of his heroes: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ritchie Valens.
Although Conwell and the Pop Rocks play music embodied by 1950s and '60s "greasers," they are devoutly religious. In fact, Conwell formed the original band with members of his church.
"God gave me these songs, the band cooked playing them, and the audiences loved them," he said referring to the CD. However, one song he wrote for his wife, "Oh, Chandra," came straight from his heart.
Conwell is known for doing concerts in a big way, and he is planning a big-time CD release party from 6-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30, at the Heights Church, 2121 Larry Caldwell Dr., in Prescott. The concert is free, and Conwell promises some surprise guest appearances as well as those "very cute, bubblegum-chewing, poodle skirt wearing, doo wop singers," the Pop Rockette girls.
"The Pop Rock dancers are going to teach the audience the 'Shammy Jammy' dance," said Conwell, who invented the dance based on his surf song, "Shammy Jammy."
"It's going to be a fun, fun night," he said of the CD party. "And we're playing every song on the album."
To read more about the Pop Rocks or listen to music samples of the band, visit skydaddy.net.