By Amy Verdon
Presley was the first international rock & roll
star, and, back in the day, Elvis-mania was bursting at the seams worldwide.
Reports of his wild live shows, innocent defiance and raw sex-appeal
resonated deep within youth culture. This appeal was so strong that it
reached far-off, exotic lands. And in Malaysia, the King of Rock & Roll
was rapidly embraced by young people. Many Malays were not only quick
to align themselves with this new symbol of rebellious freedom but inspired
to pick up a microphone as well. One such lad was Rocky Teoh.
discovered Rocky Teoh when a friend sent me a homemade comp of 60's
beat and garage. Rocky stood out not only because he sounded
like Elvis, but because he had that je ne sais quoi possessed by the
greats like Eddie Cochran, Keith Richards and Star Trek's Mr. Spock.
Born Teoh Beng Hock, in Taiping, Perak, on April 2, 1946, his father
was a successful pork salesman. Hock was the eldest of six boys and
of Hokkien descent.
In the early 1960s, in Taiping (about 50 miles North West of Ipoh),
in the state of Perak, Elvis reigned supreme. Singapore had quite a
happening scene as did neighboring Malay countries. The Western influences
imported by American and European service men who brought their music
with them. Malaysians were both influenced and inspired and many new
bands cropped up, catering to these visitors from the West. Kuala Lumpur
was a common stop for popular touring A Go Go acts
from China, Thailand and Singapore.
Rocky was something of a teruna (Malay slang for an "adolescent
male all up in it") in his late-teens. Around 1962, he began to
associate with the Blue Jean Boys, a notorious gang of bullies about
town. It was
common knowledge that he lived above Tai Chien Coffee Shop where he
could be heard rehearsing with a band.
It was a very happening scene for teenagers around Taiping and Ipoh
in 1963. Central to this scene were Talentime Shows in which bands
matinee performances at cinema houses. It was all the rage for Taiping's
teens to flock to movie theaters to catch a flick with an A Go Go band.
A slew of bands were playing around: The Tornados, The Hunters, Los
Indians, The Exodus, The Telstars, The Flames and later, The Phantoms.
consisted of prison warders and the band was backed by the prison department.
The Hunters played only songs by The Shadows. In those days, these
bands were hot-bookings at all weddings and functions organized by
Town Council. During the 1960s, celebrations of the Merdeka, Malay
independence day from the Britain, would no have been much of a celebration
About this time, Rocky was a local fave at the Talentime Shows and
had many Elvis Champion titles under his belt.
It is reported that more
than once his Blue Jeans Gang booed the competitors. But when Rocky
hit the stage they clapped loudly and gave him a standing ovation -
the Malay equivalent of payola (Mayola?). At age 18, Rocky was even
known outside Taiping for his appearances in Ipoh, where he would often
on stage prior to an Elvis movie. He was backed by many bands around
Taiping, such as, The Blue Diamonds, The Mirages, Los Indians, The
Voltaires, The Castinos and, by Ipoh's biggest OB
Cha-Cha band, The
'65 was a very good year, in late 1964, EAP Recording Company signed
Rocky. He recorded his first 45 two-track single with Ipoh's Fabulous
Falcons. Both songs were his personal Elvis favorites, Crying In The
Chapel b/w There's Always Me. It sold quite well. On There's Always
Me, the combination of cheap recording and Poison-Ivy-Cramps-like guitar
breaks make the track a winner. Rocky's haunting voice is overwhelmed
by the band's raising volume and gets lost in the mix, which devolves
into waves of audio chaos.
In 1965, at 19, Rocky released his 1st EP (extended play) four-track
7" record, featuring: Jacqueline & Your Cheatin' Heart b/w Valley
of Tears & Mean Woman Blues. It was recorded with T.A. and The
Voltaires, also on EAP Recordings. The title tune, Jacqueline, was
composition put to a traditional Chinese song called Yeh Lai Siang.
This tune was written for his childhood sweetheart who later became
and, yes, her name was Jacqueline, and she was a very pretty girl from
Taiping. The record went to #1 locally and was the biggest hit of his
In 1965 Rocky also won the coveted title, 'Elvis Presley of Ipoh'.
The prize included a roadshow contract to tour all over Singapore and
He hit the road with The Fabulous Falcons and performed at Cathay's
Cinemas as far away as Sarawak and Sabah. During a show in Singapore,
the Falcons were booed by Singaporeans. This did not sit well with
these Ipoh bad boys. Later on the tour, once back in Ipoh, there was
in the theater when the local rabid Rocky faithfuls reciprocated with
boos and obscenities directed at The Quest, a group from Singapore.
The show was interrupted and cancelled and the Quest had to be escorted
to their hotel to avoid a retaliatory pummeling.
A Rocky Teoh Fan Club was started in Ipoh that same year and two
more EPs appeared on EAP Recordings. They were: (1) Good-bye & Rainbow
b/w Blue Suede Shoes & Donna; and (2) Blue Moon Turns Gold & Playing
For Keeps b/w Selina & Dog's Life. EAP soon after compiled all
the recordings and released Rocky's 14 Greatest Hits LP.
The following year, 1966, Rocky signed with another label, got a
new band and toured Thailand. He recorded his next two EPs with a
of Taiping bands for Supersound Records. First with The Castinos,
churning out Lonely Night & I Will Wait For You b/w I Gotta Know & My
Love Will Never End. This was followed by Sorrowful Memory & Little
Sister b/w Pretend & I Really Don't Want To Know, with The Mirages.
That same year Rocky released yet another 4 song EP on a third label,
Tung Po Records. This EP featured: Memphis Tennessee & What'd I Say
b/w Thinking of You & Kiss Me Once. Tung Po Records compiled
this EP with the two on Supersound, which was released as the LP
During 1967, Rocky kept on TCB-ing . He ditched crediting his backing
band and recorded two more EPs for Tung Po: Call Me Lonesome, You're
Sixteen b/w House that has Everything, Cool Wind, and King Drummer,
Never Ending b/w Little Girl, Ready Teddy. Both of these recording
of a lounge feel, although Ready Teddy really rocks. King
Drummer is from a popular Chinese soundtrack from a terribly famous movie of
same name. Rocky adds his smooth voice and simple lyrics to this classic
1967 Rocky's history becomes vague. He continued to record, but with
whom, when and where are speculation. The cover of Rocky's
Kristin shows him looking slicker than Rick surrounded by four
men with cool coifs and black pegged pants. My guess the band
is Los Indians, as this appears on Golden Horse Music. Other
a wild version of Wolf Call (in Chinese) b/w Fifty Years & Lonely
Three more four song EPs were released by yet another label,
Malaysia Musical Industries. The first, (still associated with
featured Go On Your Way & I'm Thinking b/w Memories & Tomorrow Night.
On the second of these releases, the image of four shaggy haired men
clad in paisley donning big belt buckles coupled with Elvis' signature
song, Suspicious Minds, leads one to conclude that it was produced circa
1969. On the last four song EP, there's no Elvis but plenty of CCR, including
Bad Moon Rising b/w Lodi & Proud Mary, and the odd title
track, Bonnie and Clyde (Serge?).
At that time in Asia, it was not uncommon for music to be pirated and
bootlegged immediately. Artists received a flat rate to record and made
their money performing live. In addition to the hassle of trying to get
paid, Rocky was plagued by drug problems. He got into trouble with the
law sometime in the mid-seventies and split Taiping for Kuala Lumpur
with his devoted wife and their daughter, Anne.
Rocky led the invisible life until Sept. 8, 1990, when he was invited
to perform at Selangor Club KL for the Taiping Georgian Reunion Dinner
in Kuala Lumpur. Many attendees described Rocky as looking slim and
fit. His performance was energetic and entertaining. He had not lost
appeal, and he verbally expressed his feelings of gratitude for the
warm reception. After leaving the grand affair that night, Rocky Teoh
killed in a automobile accident. Some suggested that he left intoxicated,
which may have played a role in his demise.
Ipoh: Second Largest City in Western Malaysia (1st being
GO GO: Means "Rock & Roll". In Asia in
the 1960's there was no word for Rock & Roll, so Asian countries
created their own word for Rock & Roll.
Champion Titles: Accept it, Elvis was the king of R&R all over
the world. Malay teenagers went mad for the Memphis man. There were,
and still are, legions of Elvis impersonators and tribute
acts all over Asia.
Cha Cha: Off-Beat Cha Cha: up-tempo dance beat ... fox
Falcons: Ipoh instrumental teen combo.
Drummer: The song, I am Drummer, by King Drummer,
appears on Steam Kodak, which is an excellent comp of SE Asian 60's pop,
psych and garage on Gray Past Records.
for this article were gathered via online interviews. Thank you to
H.T. Long, the Teoh
family, Joe Chin from the Fabulous Falcons,
Richard Joseph and Taiping Talk
Group. Also the most honorable Toshi
listening material and images.
Teoh Podcast (192 kbs - woo hoo!)
track listing, visit our podcast page, here.