Jukebox: Cast Iron Arm

Peanuts Wilson, apparently so nicknamed because he was a small man (5 feet tall), was definitely no midget in the talent department, with a career spanning from his teens to his death in 1980. By 1956 he was playing guitar in the Teen Kings, which was Roy Orbison’s second group formed in Texas while Orbison was studying geology in college and working oil fields at night (Pat Boone was there at the same time, and soon left to start his own recording career).
The Teen Kings recorded Ooby Dooby, under their first contract with Sam Phillips, and for a brief time rode a decent-sized wave, touring with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, writing and recording Go Go Go (Down the Line) and (the great song) Rockhouse. However, a scrap between band members in the Sun studios during a recording session led to Orbison breaking away, and the remaining Teen Kings limped along before Peanuts went solo in 1957.

Peanuts recorded Cast Iron Arm that year, dropping his name Johnny to avoid confusion with another singer already going by that name. Orbison gets co writing credit on the song, and apparently played on Cast Iron Arm, as well as some other tracks Peanuts recorded that session. Cast Iron Arm is a gritty rockabilly ditty, about Peanuts and his girl going out a-rockin at a joint that’s a-jumpin and jivin, a place called Joe’s where they went “ballin” and NOT the tamer “bowling” as some covers and internet lyrics have transcribed it, and anyway back in those days it seems they had no “g”s so it would have been bowlin. When a bold customer dares to approach his girl (well, she did turn every face in the place, after all), Peanuts is all agrowl, warning, “when you mess with me, that only ring my alarm.” It’s a classic brawling anthem, on top of being simply a great catchy song, rough and full of attitude.

Peanuts did a few more solo tunes before venturing into the lucrative (for him) field of country songwriting, racking up moderate hits like “It’s too Late” by Jeanne Pruett, “Love the World Away” by Kenny Rogers (a song that hit the year Peanuts died), plus songs for Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee and many others. There’s a story about Peanuts being such a good golfer he called hitting the letter R on an RCA records sign, and then nailed it with one swing. Kinda like he did with Cast Iron Arm.

Enjoy! (but don’t mess with Peanuts)

or check out this cover by Demented Are Go which is how I first discovered the tune

1 thought on “Jukebox: Cast Iron Arm”

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