© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
 
STUDIO SESSION FOR BILLY RILEY
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1957
 
SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: MONDAY NOVEMBER 25, 1957
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER - SAM C. PHILLIPS / RECORDING ENGINEER - JACK CLEMENT
 
Those expecting Billy Riley's vocal to be a repeat of "Red Hot" or "Flying Saucer Rock And Roll" were stunned by his style on "Wouldn't You Know". At the time, few fans realized how much of a chameleon Riley truly was. Even the instrumental sound of "Wouldn't You Know" was a departure. Everything from chord structure to tempo was a departure from typical Riley-Sun fare. Yet it all worked, highlighted by Martin Willis' highly melodic sax solo.
 01(1) - "WOULDN'T YOU KNOW" - B.M.I. - 3:15
Composer: - John Marascalco
Publisher: - Robin Hood Music Company
Matrix number: - Non - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1982
First appearance: - Sun England (LP) 33rpm CFM 512-5 mono
THE SWINGIN' BLAST
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444-2-9 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 – 1960
 
Billy Riley was unhappy with "Wouldn't You Know". "We should never have cut that record. It was something that we used to do on stage. It just wasn't a good record". In the absence of Ronald Janes, Billy Riley plays lead guitar and the solo spots are taken by Martin Willis' tenor sax. However, the highlight of the recording is Jimmy Wilson's ringing piano accompaniment. Note Riley's imitation of Jerry Lee Lewis' lascivious "Mmmm's".
01(2) - "WOULDN'T YOU KNOW" - B.M.I. - 2:46
Composer: - John Marascalco
Publisher: - Robin Hood Music Company
Matrix number: - U 292   - Master
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - February 1958
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single SUN 289-B mono
WOULDN'T YOU KNOW / BABY PLEASE DON'T GO
Reissued: - 1996 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15803-1-22 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 3
''WOULDN'T YOU KNOW'' 
 
This comes from the pen of John Marascalco, an unlikely source for Sun material. We may never know exactly how this song found its way to Riley. On at least one occasion, Riley commented that Marascalco had "written the song, for me". The truth takes a less personal but more interesting path. Sometime in 1955, promoter Bob Neal suggested to Marascalco that he look into securing a booking for Elvis in Grenada, Mississippi, Marascalco's home town. On April 20, 1955 Elvis played the American Legion Hall there and during a backstage chat, Marascalco, a then-aspiring songwriter, played Elvis a song he had recently completed called ''Rip It Up''. Elvis liked it a lot and told Marascalco to talk to Sam Phillips who, according to the singer, had final say in what was recorded. Marascalco drove up to Memphis and met with Phillips who turned down the song ("We want to take Elvis in another direction'', Marascalco recalls Phillips telling him), but Phillips did encourage the songwriter to keep submitting material.
Marascalco took Phillips up on his offer, and one of the demos he sent to Sun included ''Wouldn't You Know''. The disc presumably sat in the vicinity of Sam Phillips' office, drawing occasional interest from Phillips and his stable of singers. Eventually, and we can't know how long it took, it caught Billy Riley's attention. It may have been love at first hearing - there's no way to tell at this point. In any case, Riley became adamant about recording Marascalco's tune, even though it was some distance from the style in which working.
 
Phillips gave the project the green light, perhaps in an attempt to pacify Riley, who by then had become incensed at Phillips for his lack of promotion of Riley's last two singles (''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' and ''Red Hot'').
 
By the time Riley got around to recording the song, Marascalco had become a national success story with hit records like ''Ready Teddy'', ''Good Golly Miss Molly'', ''Goodnight My Love'', and ''Send Me Some Lovin'' Elvis had gotten around to recording ''Rip It Up'' , the tune that Marascalco pitched to him back in April, 1955 and that Little Richard took to the top 20 in June 1956, along with the flipside of the Little Richard record, Marascalco's ''Ready Teddy'', for his second RCA album. In fact, Elvis had already performed ''Ready Teddy'' in his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan TV show in September 1956. Sam Phillips was by now so resigned to releasing Marascalco's song that he never protested the fact that Marascalco retained both the composer and the publishing share of the song. "Robin Hood Music was mine'', Marascalco proudly proclaims today. Did Phillips put up a fight over the publishing? "He never mentioned a word'', Marascalco confirms.
 
Most of Riley's fans neither knew nor cared about these backstories back in late 1957 or the start of 1958 when ''Wouldn't You Know'' appeared on Sun 289. However, Riley's fans, certainly those who had come to him from ''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' and ''Red Hot'', didn't know what to make of this latest single. Many of them were, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. After all, Riley had shed his raucous, Little Richard vocal chops and the song did not rock along in Riley's customary groove.
This is by far the most melodic and musically complex song Riley had recorded for Sun to date. Martin Willis' sax solo leaves little doubt that Riley had found a completely different style with this record. And by the way, the Sun Records Discography has it wrong: That's Jimmy Wilson on piano, not James `Luke' Paulman. Paulman, discussed later in these notes, was a guitar player. It's a lot easier to appreciate the sophistication of this track a half a century later even if, back in the day, few of us were beating down the doors of our local record store.
 
In their liner notes to BCD 15444, Rob Bowman and Ross Johnson quote Billy Riley as saying that he was unhappy with ''Wouldn't You Know''. "We should have never have cut that record. It was something that we used to do on stage. It just wasn't a good record''. It is hard to reconcile. Riley's words with his statement elsewhere that his live performances of the era typically consisted of the dart's biggest hits, rather than his own records. So why include ''Wouldn't You Know'' on stage? It not only wasn't a hit, but it had yet to be recorded by anyone else. Riley may have grown not to like the record over the years (poor sales can do that), but it's hard to imagine that's how he felt at the time. Moreover, if he truly didn't like the recording, then whose insistence drove its release?
 
The only alternate take of ''Wouldn't You Know'' that has survived reveals a completely different approach to the song. In fact, its barely the same song. Alternate Take 1 strips the song of all of its melodic advantages and forces it into a routine 12-bar blues structure. Putting it bluntly, if this is what the song originally sounded like, why bother to pay Marascalco or Robin Hood Music for the composition? Riley and the boys could crank out one of these concoctions in their sleep. Somewhere between this early take (Alternate Take 1) and Sun 289, this baby came to life. You may not have liked it back then, but what this became showed some distinction as well as some melodic flair. That's the kind of stuff you pay a publisher for. Sam Phillips must have agreed. Never one to piss away publishing revenue, he nevertheless agreed to issuing this outside composition.
 
Sax player Martin Willis has suggested that this was not an alternate take in the conventional sense, but rather an informal run-through of the title prior to recording. Willis claims that the tape was occasionally running under such circumstances with Jack Clement in the studio and Alternate Take 1 might have been the result of exactly such circumstances.
 
John Marascalco and Billy Riley finally did cross paths, although not until the singer had left Sun Records and moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s. "We finally got to know each other back then'', Marascalco recalls. ''Toward the end of of his life, after he went back to Arkansas, Billy recorded another one of my songs. He sent me a CD of 'Blue Collar Blues and it had 'Back Door Sally''' on it''.

''BABY PLEASE DON'T GO'' 

This is a remarkably simple song. Its got one chord, uncomplicated lyrics that don't tell a story, and a tune that you won't be whistling for days after you hear it. But it has great intensity, and its adaptable to a wide variety of musical arrangements. Under this title, the song goes back to Big Joe Williams'' 1935 record (Bluebird B-6200). Williams himself recut it twice during the 1940s. And since then it's been recorded by (among many others), Muddy Waters, Lightnin Hopkins, Mose Allison, Bob Dylan, the Animals, Them, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Beausoleil, AC/DC, John Mellencamp; Webb Wilder, Aerosmith, and most recently (2010) Lorenza Ponce. Billy Riley did it at Sun (he took writer's credit on Sun 289) and again on his 1965 Mercury album, 'Whisky A Go Go Presents Billy Lee Riley' (MG 20985). On that latter appearance, the song was credited to Jimmy Reed who, so far as we know, never sang it.
 
Billy Riley greased up this next old blues standard to suit his sandpapered larynx and with Roland Janes away on tour backing up Jerry Lee Lewis, he played lead guitar himself. The cornerstone of his arrangement was a muted riff in the verse, which is mighty close to a similar deal on Gene Vincent's "Dance To The Bop" - a hit single at the time. Inspired though it was, the record's sales didn't elevate Riley's status any higher in the company pecking order.
 
02(1) - "BABY PLEASE DON'T GO" - B.M.I. - 2:06
Composer: - Billy Riley
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 293  - Master
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - February 1958
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single SUN 289-A mono
BABY PLEASE DON'T GO / WOULDN'T YOU KNOW
Reissued: - 1996 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15803-1-21 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 3
"Baby Please Don't Go" is much successful. James M. Van Eaton opens it with an atmospheric shuffle augmented by Riley's girlfriend banging two drumsticks together. Riley plays the electric lead on a Bird land guitar and uses his raspy voice in marked contrast to the smoother 'A' side. Riley felt that the absence of Sam Phillips from the studio had a noticeable effect. "We weren't as comfortable in the studio with Jack at the controls. Sam was always coming around and listening. He was in there making you feel good''. 
 
''He'd say like 'OK man, that was great. Gimme more black in it'. Jack never been happy with a cut on anything he's ever done. Sam knew when the record was cut". The record that would supposedly fulfill Riley's promise was released in February 1958. By June it had sold a dismal 3210 copies.
 
Riley's vocal and guitar work on "Baby Please Don't Go" was closer to expectations. There is a considerable tension to this record; it feels just on the verge of breaking free. Riley sings and plays with restraint, yet there is an unmistakable edge to his performance. Its a fine recording.
 
Billy Riley spent too much of his Sun career eclipsed by Jerry Lee Lewis. The story has often been told of how "Red Hot" was held back in order to focus Sun's meager promotional and pressing resources on "Great Balls Of Fire". What is often overlooked is the fact that this cycle of neglect continued with Sun 289. While perhaps not as commercial as "Red Hot", this recording was similarly overwhelmed by Jerry Lee's latest (Sun 288). Again. Riley was relegated to the back burner and watched this single sell barely over 3000 copies. It was at this point that Billy Riley quit Sun and went off looking for greener pastures. He never found them and would soon return to the familiar confines of 706 Union.
 
02(2) - "BABY PLEASE DON'T GO" - B.M.I. - 1:07
Composer: - Billy Riley
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Incomplete Take - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 2011
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17122-2 mono
BILLY RILEY – THE OUTTAKES
 
We present a fragment of an alternate take here - all that is known to exist other than the released version. This version begins during Martin Willis' sax solo and continues to the end. It's clearly from the same session as the master and sounds similar in every way, although Jimmy Van Eaton's drumming coming out of the guitar solo is a bit more assertive than on the released version.
 
The entire song is performed over a repetitive background riff that is almost identical to the one played during the verses in Gene Vincent's ''Dance To The Bop'' (Capitol 3839). ''Baby Please Don't Go'' was recorded only one week after Vincent's record was released. Vincent's riff may itself have been inspired by the figure in Fats Domino's ''I'm Walkin'' (Imperial 5428), which was high on the clans nine months earlier. The complete released version of ''Baby Please Don't Go'' opens with the simple repetitive background figure played first by the bass, then as a duet with the guitar and finally with another guitar line making it into a trio. That build-up of a background riff from solo-line to trio also starts the Cleftones' record ''Little Girl Of Mine'' (Gee 1011). They say imitation is the sincerest from of flattary.
Speaking of imitation, Billy adopts a distinctive vocal style on this song, more obviously on the released master than on this alternate. He combines his raspy voice with an end-of-line squeal. What might be the source of that vocal gimmick? Fans of vintage rhythm and blues and old-time rock and roll will recognize it as a trademark Little Richard trick, appearing on rockers like ''Tutti Frutti'' (Specialty 561) and showing up even more prominently on ballads like ''Send Me Some Lovin'' (Specialty 598).
 
Reportedly, Billy's record sold fewer than 3000 copies, further inspiring him to leave Sun, however briefly, and look for greener pastures.
03 – "OH TONIGHT (ROCK WITH ME BABY)"* - B.M.I. - 2:26
Composer: - Billy Riley- Ronald Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1973
First appearance: - PhonoGram Records (LP) 33rpm 6467 025-9 mono
SUN ROCKABILLYS - VOLUME 1 - PUT YOUR CAT CLOTHES ON
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCED 15444 BH-2-8 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960
 
* - Incorrectly titled ''Rock With Me Baby'' in previous discographies.
 
04 - "THAT'S RIGHT" - B.M.I. - 2:01
Composer: - Winfield Scott
Publisher: - Chappell Music Limited
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1974
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30131-10 mono
SUN THE ROOTS OF ROCK VOLUME 8 - SUN ROCKS
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444-2-10 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960
 
05 – "SEARCHIN'" - B.M.I. - 2:33
Composer: - Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller
Publisher: - Carlin Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1974
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30115-B3 mono
SUN THE ROOTS OF ROCK VOLUME 8 - SUN ROCKS
Reissued: - 1991 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444-2-11 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960
06 - "CHATTER AND COLLEGE MAN" - B.M.I. - 2:44
Composer: - Bill Justis
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1985
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CDX 9 mono
RED HOT RILEY
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444-2-12 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960
07 - "YOUR CASH AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT TRASH" - B.M.I. - 0:58
Composer: - Charles Calhoun
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - November 25, 1957
Released: - 1985
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CDX 9-24 mono
RED HOT RILEY
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444-2-13 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960
Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Billy Riley - Vocal and Guitar
Roland Janes - Guitar
Pat O'Neill - Bass
James M. Van Eaton - Drums
James Paulman - Guitar
Jimmy Wilson - Piano
Martin Willis - Saxophone
Bill Justis - Saxophone
 
Billy Riley stayed on at Sun Records until sometime in 1958 when his growing frustration with Sam Phillips putting all (or most) of his promotional resources behind Jerry Lee Lewis and not Billy Lee got the best of him. Several volatile encounters between Sam and Riley occurred. Riley recalled, ''Sam Phillips and I both had respect for each other, but we didn't get along too well at times. Mostly it was just words, but I did get a little riled one time and tore his studio up a little''.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©