There is a bit of notable rock ‘n’ roll history from the golden era of the 1950s right here in Texoma. Sherman’s own Willie Jacobs wrote a song, titled “If You Can’t Rock Me,” that legendary singer Rick Nelson recorded back in 1957.
Jacobs, who is now retired, is probably best remembered around his hometown of Sherman as a friendly and helpful insurance agent.
Jacobs’ son, Dennis, recently recalled a story his dad told him about his first brush with rock ‘n’ roll.
“As I recall dad telling it, as a student at NTSU, he and bunch of other guys occasionally would meet together to ‘pick and grin,’” Dennis Jacobs said. “They would go to some burger place early in the morning before resuming the jam session. One day one my dad’s ‘pickin’ buddies’ told my dad that he was going to Lubbock to be a rock star and asked if dad wanted to go. My dad turned down the offer saying something like, ‘I’m going to finish my degree and get a real job.’ The picking buddy was Roy Orbison.”
Willie Jacobs formed a band around 1956, while still in college, called the Strikes. They recorded some songs at a Fort Worth studio that were eventually licensed to Imperial Records, the recording label of legendary recording artists such as Fats Domino and Rick Nelson.
To say the least, the Strikes were not only keeping good musical company ,but they were also a pretty tight little rockabilly band with a sound all their own. Willie Jacobs was their lead singer and also functioned as a very capable songwriter. Even when hearing those old songs today, one listen and you know the Strikes had real potential.
So, what happened?
Willie got drafted and the band broke up — and that was it. Somehow, Rick Nelson got a hold of Willie’s “If You Can’t Rock Me” and recorded the tune. Like everything else that Rick recorded during those years, it was a big hit. According to Willie, he and his wife came home one day in 1957 to a $1,500 royalty check. In 1957, that was a fortune. Willie said the amount of the royalty check has fluctuated over the years.
“If you can’t rock me, gonna find me somebody who can / Well, if you can’t rock me, gonna fined me somebody who can / I’ll get me another woman, you can find another man. / Well, there’s one thing baby I want you to know / There’s one thing, baby, now before you go, / Well, if you can’t rock me, I’ll find me somebody who can.” — Willie Jacobs’ “If You Can’t Rock Me.”
But the story doesn’t really end there.
In 2011, British record label, One Day Music, produced a series of CDs commemorating some of the legendary record labels of rock ‘n’ roll’s golden era. Among them, of course, was Imperial Records. So, for the first time ever, four of the Strikes’ recordings were released on CD. The official title of the disc is Essential Rockabilly: The Imperial Story.
One also might say that Willie Jacobs has something of a legacy — an adult granddaughter named Clarice Davidchik credits her grandfather as the inspiration for her interest in musical theater.
“My grandfather is honestly the only reason that I started singing professionally,” Davidchik said. “He was a member of the Strikes back in college, and he also always had his guitar with him. So whenever we would have Christmas together, or any family gathering, he would bring his guitar, and he would just start playing it.”
Davidchik said her grandfather’s musical performances got to the point where she would begin singing along with him whenever he was playing a song she knew.
“He’s the one that told my mom I needed to have someone give me professional lessons,” Davidchik said. “Now that he’s in such poor health, it’s always a treat to have him come out and hear me sing, especially when it’s out of town. He always has the biggest smile on his face when he hears the older music being played, and he loves to sing along to it.”