DO THE CREEP!
Written by Peter McLennan
Jay Epae wrote 'Tumblin' Down' for Maria Dallas, had a top 5 hit in Sweden, and created a magnificent Kiwi dance craze with a swinging little number called 'The Creep'.
Born in Manaia, Taranaki, Epae made his way in the local music scene, eventually shifting to the USA in 1957, to further his career. Signed initially to Mercury Records, then to Capitol, he cut a handful of groovy pop singles, including 'Putti Putti', which hit big in Sweden. It got picked up by Radio Nord, a Swedish pirate radio station broadcasting offshore from a ship (a-la Radio Hauraki). It hit the top 5 on the Swedish charts, selling over 50,000 copies, leading Epae to tour there.
Epae came home and released his one and only solo album Hold On Tight! It's Jay Epae in 1966 on Viking Records, the same year he penned the pop hit 'Tumblin' Down' for Maria Dallas. Author Chris Bourke describes Epae's album as "an eclectic showcase of R&B, country and pop styles, showing how adept Epae could be at emulating Arthur Alexander, Fats Domino, Bobby Charles as well as Dean Martin and - on 'The Creep', an Epae original - James Brown."
'The Creep' is arguably his greatest musical contribution. A fantastic dance number, it's a wickedly slinky slab of R&B. The cover of the original single even has a handy diagram of the dance moves. The song got rediscovered when John Baker included it on his Kiwi garage punk compilation Wild Things Vol. 2, in 1995. Epae's album got a digital reissue in 2012.
TRIVIA: Jay Epae's brother Wes was a member of the Maori Hi Five. They topped the charts in Sweden for several weeks in 1963 with their song 'Poi Poi' and toured there as well, alongside Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
Images courtesy of Chris Bourke's excellent Blue Smoke blog. Treat yourself!
This feature taken from Issue #5 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. Check out the full issue and all of our back issues here.