Dean Carter was a true oddity of '60s rock. He was a singer-guitarist with the heart and much of the sound of a '50s rockabilly wildman, yet he recorded music that updated that rockabilly spirit with '60s garage rock and dashes of soul, and even a bit of psychedelia here and there. Carter didn't put out a whole lot of records in the '60s, and those he did put out were heard by few. Yet one of those singles in particular, 1967's "Jailhouse Rock"/"Rebel Woman" (on the small Milky Way label), is highly valued by '60s garage collectors, even if its rockabilly influence made it a little anachronistic. Carter also did a good deal of unreleased sessions of considerable quality, whether he was playing relatively straight rockabilly or his freakier hybrid of rockabilly with late-'60s sounds. Much material from those sessions came to light on the fine Big Beat 2002 CD release Call of the Wild.
Carter was born Arlie Neaville and began playing rockabilly in the late '50s in Champaign, IL, where he remained based for much of the '60s. He recorded for the Ping label in 1961 under his real name, on the more established Fraternity label in 1962 as Arlie Nevil, and then for Limelight as Dean Carter in 1964. That same year, he and Arlie Miller, a member of his band the Lucky Ones, started a home studio in Danville, IL to record both Carter and other musicians. The pair also ran the small Milky Way label, which released product by Carter and others. At times the sessions got pretty strange even by garage rock standards, with ukulele, accordion, dobro, and clarinet all heard in addition to the usual crunchy guitars on his outrageous cover of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock."
Carter went to the West Coast for a while in the late '60s, recording a couple of singles in Washington State with Gene Vincent guitarist Jerry Merritt, for Merritt's Tell International label. He returned to the Midwest at the end of the decade to resume recording with Miller, and went back to billing himself as Arlie Neaville on record. In the early '70s, he went into gospel music, where he's remained ever since. ~ Richie Unterberger