November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-12 mono

An 12 album boxed set The Rocking Years an whole range of rock and roll music recorded in Sun's famous studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis. The set featuring issued, previously unissued, alternate versions of about nearly 200 songs including Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Sonny Burgess, Gene Simmons, Billy Lee Riley, Barbara Pitman, Ray Smith, Bill Justis, Ace Cannon, Kenny Parchman, Ray Harris, Hayden Thomson and many more. Also included in the box set a glossy 50-page LP-size book with a feature on Sam Phillips and every artist included on the discs with liner notes and session information. Compilation and liner notes by Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott. Each album has its own title (a song in the respective album).

November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-1A/B mono

In the years that have elapsed since these recordings were made, rockabilly has become an industry catchphrase, not to mention catchall. Every so often you just have to go back to basics to remind yourself of just what constitutes rockabilly music. Fortunately Carl Perkins is on hand to remind us of the solid and lasting virtues of real rockabilly.

Born of the same wellsprings that nourished Elvis Presley, Perkins' music was consistently brilliant and inventive during these three years that he recorded for Sun. With a style that owned an obvious dept to no-one, Carl Perkins was well placed to take his brief sojourn in the spotlight at the dawn of 1956. One of the first true stars of rock and roll, Perkins was also its first casualty. Too much has been made of the car accident. His career was not doomed when his Chrysler slammed into a poultry truck; it was doomed because you simply could not take the country out of Carl Perkins. The mass market has never accepted roots music with the exception of the occasional novelty. Perkins epitomised roots music as surely as Mississippi Muddy Waters. And that is the reason why we should still approach his early recordings on bended knee and accord him pride of place in this collection.

Jack Earls also epitomised roots music. With a voice so determinedly rural that Carl Perkins sounds uptown by comparison, Earls recorded some quintessential rockabilly during his two years hanging around Sun Records. Only one record resulted and the reasons are not too hard to discern. For a start, Earls was simply too countrified for the market that Phillips was searching for. However, Earls also lacked the dedication to his music that might have ensured him another shot on Sun. He had a wife and a young family to support and was simply unable or unwilling to tour. He could not sustain a musical career from a weekend gig at the Palm Club. However, that is no reflection on the quality of the music. Earls epitomised raw and untutored rockabilly at its best.

On the Other hand, the rawness in Glenn Honeycutt was harder to find. Coming to Sun Records at the dawn of the rockabilly era, Honeycutt had a smoother approach than most of his contemporaries. He might have fared better a few years later with Jack Clement behind the glass but with the intransigent face of Sam Phillips looking for something that would make the hair stand up on the back of his neck, Honeycutt was also condemmed to one single. However, with the Sun session mafia and the seamless harmonies of the Miller Sisters behind him, his sole outing on Sun was a sweet anomaly.

Colin Escott

Glenn Honeycut, ''The door was always open. You could go in and sit around. The piano would be sitting there, you could piddle around with that if you wanted to. I remember that I bugged Sam to death to put my record out. Of course, it didn't do any good when it came out but you have this dream in your mind. My whole idea every waking hour was to get a hit record. It was foolished but a young mind can think of a lot of foolishness. As a result, I missed out on a lot of things. We'd be playing on weekends and New Year's Eves and Christmas Eves. I was a married man and I should have been at home. I always leaned more torwards the slow songs, pretty songs, you know. I like serious lyrica even though I'd written a bunch of junk myself''.

Glenn Honeycutt interviewed by Colin Escott, February 1986

Carl Perkins, ''It's one thing to be picking cotton in a cotton field and looking at a new Cadillac going down the road. It's another when it's you in that Cadillac and you're looking back at that cotton field. That should humble you but – being human – you just think the hits will keep coming. We all went wild''.

Carl Perkins to Joel Sasfy (Washington Post 29/9/85)

Recommended further listening
The Carl Perkins Sun Box (Sunbox 101)
Jack Earls: The Complete Sun Recordings (Bear Family)

Record 1 Side 1 ''Put Your Cat Clothes On''
1.1 - Carl Perkins In Memphis (Not Originally Issued)
Is an announcement for an appearance at Overton Park Shell in Memphis, Tennessee.
1.2 - You Can't Make Love To Somebody (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
1.3 - Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby (Carl Perkins) (Not Originally Issued)
1.4 - Dixie Fried (Carl Perkins) (Not Originally Issued)
1.5 - Put Your Cat Clothes On -1 (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
1.6 - Put Your Cat Clothes On - 2 (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
1.7 - That Don't Move Me (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
1.8 - Only You (Carl Perkins) (Originally Sun LP 1225)
1.9 - Pink Pedal Pushers (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
1.10 - That's Right (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
Original Sun Recordings

Record 1 Side 2 ''Put Your Cat Clothes On''
2.1 - Crawdad Hole (Jack Earls) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
2.2 - If You Don't Mind (Jack Earls) (Previously Unissued)
2.3 - Slow Down (Jack Earls) (Originally Sun 24))
2.4 - A Fool For Loving You (Jack Earls) (Originally Sun 240)
2.5 - Sign It On The Dotted Line (Jack Earls) (Nor Originally Issued)
2.6 - Rock All Night (Glenn Honeycutt) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
2.7 - I'll Be Around (Glenn Honeycutt) (Originally Sun 264)
2.8 - I'll Wait Forever (Glen Honeycutt) (Originally Sun 264)
2.9 - Be Wise, Don't Cry (Glenn Honeycutt) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

Name (No. Or. of Instruments)
1.2 to 1.10 (Various Dates, July 1955 to March 1958)
Carl Perkins - Vocal and Guitar
Jay Perkins - Guitar
Eddie Starr (Guitar)
Clayton Perkins - Bass
W.S. Holland - Drums

2.1 to 2.5 (Various Dates 1956)
Jack Earls - Vocal and Guitar
Tiny Dixon - Steel Guitar
Johnny Black - Bass
Danny Walquist - Drums

2.6 to 2.9 (December 1956)
Glenn Honeycutt - Vocal and Guitar
Jimmy Wilson - Piano
Roland Janes - Guitar
Jimmy M. Van Eaton - Drums
The Miller Sisters - Vocals

All titles at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.
Musicians listen to not all appear on every song.

Cover Photo: Carl Perkins


November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-2A/B mono

1956 held more delights than Carl Perkins and Jack Earls. It also marked the recording debut pf industry stalwart and genial crazy man Ray Harris. If ever a record can be said to sweat then that record was ''Come On, Little Mama''. There is a palpable ferocity to it. Sun 254 was, as Billboard noted, a ''dangerous record''. Possessed more enthusiasm than singing ability, Ray Harris nevertheless managed to record two luminous singles that are virtually a working definition of everything that is best in rockabilly.

To many and varied contribution of Johnny Bernero to the history of Sun Records have been customarily attributed to someone else. He played drums on Elvis Presley's Sun recordings, the early sides by Warren Smith, Barbara Pittman, Billy Riley, Smokey Joe, Conway Twitty and many more. The drums already set up, Phillips would place a call across the street to the Memphis Light Gas & Water two or three times a week inviting Bernero to come over for a session. Only seeing $15 for a record that went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies, Bernero finally convinced Phillips to record his own combo. Unfortunately, Bernero's own music was firmly rooted in western swing and the little 7'' reels were consigned to storage immediately after the sessions and they remained there for thirty years before they were finally slated for this collection and the Sun Country Box. A fair distance from rockabilly, there is nevertheless a wonderful musically and innate swing Bernero's music that has helped it to survive the years with aplomb.

Barbara Pittman fared better. She recorded inconsistently for Sun over a four year period, and saw a clutch of singles hit the market to mixed acclaim. She seemed to be better suited to the demands of rock and roll than her contemporaries the Miller Sisters, and brought some genuine enthusiasm to her early cuts. Vocal control was not a hallmark of her style but with the nucleus of the Snearly Ranch Boys behind her and some solid material she could hardly fail to fare well.

Recommended further listening
The Sun Country Box (Bear Family) contains more recordings by Johnny Bernero.
The majority of Barbara Pittman's Sun recordings can be found on The Original Sun Sides (Rockhouse LPM 8037)

''Ray wanted to be another Elvis. He couldn't sing and he wasn't good to look at but he didn't care. You would go to visit him and you would hear him practising from two blocks away. He would open the door wearing nothing but his overall and dripping with sweat. In the studio he'd throw himself around, arms going like windmills. That record ''Come On, Little Mama'' is a triumph for the guitar man, Wayne Powers, and the drummer Joey Reisenberg. They had to keep up with the guy. Man, he was crazy''.

Bill Cantrell interviewed by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, 1973

''I thought if Presley could do it, I could do it. We kept the neighbourhood disturbed every night. I told everyone I'd give them a copy of the record when it came out. There was me and Wayne Powers. He came up from the north – said they didn't play music up there the way he liked it so he came to Memphis with his wife and 4 or 5 kids. Sold Kirby vacuum cleaners. Joe Reisenberg played drums. He owned a junk yard and used to smoke cigars all the time. Quinton Claunch used to call them 'flush mounted'. He'd be playing drums and the cigar would burn plumb up to his lips. Red Hensley played rhythm guitar. He was in the air conditioning business''.

''We always saw ''Come On, Little Mama'' as the top side of the first single but it never was anything close to being a hit. Then everyone told me that ''Greenback Dollar'' was going to be a hit so I went out and bought a new car. Had to dig ditches for six months to pay for it''.

''The other songs were just written when we took a break for lunch or something. Me and Powers and Hensley would think up new stuff. You've got to give Sam Phillips credit for being in the right place at the right time. He knowed something different. The man amazed me. Look at the bushel barrel of top talent that came out of there. You've got to know talent in this business – and Sam knowed talent. I remember when we could do no wrong at Hi and times when I couldn't buy a hit''.

''I never did have a hit record but I tried. And There's a lot of people just wanted the chance I had. To make a record in them days and be on the Sun label. It was an honour. I guess the reason I never did have a hit was I had too much country in my style. Sure had a good time tryin' though''!

Ray Harris interviewed by Colin Escott February and June 1986

''I had a regular job at the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Company which was right across the street from Sun Records. I went across one day and got acquainted with Sam and he called me for all the sessions except when the guys brought their own drummer. I had an arrangement with my superintendent that I could get off during the day and make these sessions. I used to make several sessions each week during 1955 and 1956''.

''I watched Sun grow but Sam never changed much. He was a real nice fella. Down the earth and very easy to work for. He'd mostly leave the musicians alone and work with the singers to get the sound he wanted. We'd often do ten takes which was real unusual in that time''.

''I soon got to be real good friends with Sam and I talked him into letting me bring my own band in. You see, I'd been sitting in this restaurant waiting for Smokey Joe one time and I looked at the jukebox and there were maybe five or six Sun records on the jukebox and I'd played on ém all. All the guys were driving Cadillacs, making big money and I was getting $15 a session. That's when I really got the idea of bringing my own band''.

Thurman Enlow says, ''I remember we went back after Jack Clement came in and cut some more but they sat on the shelf. Jack was hot after Sam to release one song we did called ''I Don't Mind'' or some such. Sam said it was too good because rock and roll was just starting. He said, 'If it's not noise, people won't buy it'''.

Johnny Bernero and Thurman Enlow in conversation with Colin Escott, February 6, 1986

''I first went to Sun when I was ten or eleven years old to audition and the secretary told me to go away, and maybe I ought to forget about singing and learn to become a secretary or something. Later, I joined Stan Kesler. He wanted me to do a demo for Elvis because Elvis and I were good friends. The song was ''Playin' For Keeps''. We recorded a demo at the Cotton Club and Stan took it over to Sam Phillips and Sam said, 'Wow! Who's this young girl singing and they said, 'That's Barbara Pittman, the girl y'all told to go away a year ago.''

''So I recorded ''I Need A Man'' with Stan and Clyde Leoppard's band. Smokey Joe and all them. We must've been at it for thirteen hours. That's the way Sam liked to work, I guess''.

Barbara Pittman interviewed by Billy Miller in Kicks No. 4

Record 2 Side 1 ''Come On Little Mama''
3.1 - Come On Little Mama - 1 (Ray Harris) (Not Originally Issued)
3.2 - Where'd You Stay Last Night (Ray Harris) (Originally Sun 254)
3.3 - Come On Little Mama - 2 (Ray Harris) (Originally Sun 254)
3.4 - Love Dumb Baby (Ray Harris) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
3.5 - Greenback Dollar, Watch And Chain - 1 (Ray Harris) (Not Originally Issued)
3.6 - Foolish Heart (Ray Harris) (Not Originally Issued)
3.7 - Lonely Wolf (Not Originally Issued)
3.8 - Greenback Dollar, Watch And Chain - 2 (Ray Harris) (Originally Sun 272)
Original Sun Recordings

Record 2 Side 2 ''Come On Little Mama''
4.1 - Cotton Pickin' Boogie (Johnny Bernero Band) (Previously Unissued)
4.2 - Rockin' At The Woodchoppers Ball (Johnny Bernero Band) (Previously Unissued)
4.3 - It Makes No Difference Now (Johnny Bernero Band) (Previously Unissued)
4.4 - Bernero's Boogie(Johnny Bernero Band (Previously Unissued)
4.5 - I Don't Mind(Johnny Bernero Band) (Previously Unissued)
4.6 - Sentimental Fool (Barbara Pittman) (Not Originally Issued)
4.7 - I Need A Man (Barbara Pittman) (Originally Sun 253)
4.8 - Voice Of A Fool (Barbara Pittman) (Not Originally Issued)
4.9 - I'm Getting Better All The Time (Barbara Pittman) Originally Phillips International PI 3518)
Original Sun Recordings

Name (Or. No of Instruments
3.1 to 3.8 (Various dates 1956 and 1957)
Homer Ray Harris - Vocal and Guitar
Wayne Powers - Guitar
Red Hensley - Guitar and Vocal
Roy Orbison - Vocal
Unknown - Bass
Joey Reisenberg - Drums

4.3 (1955)
Johnny Bernero - Drums
Thurman Enlow - Piano and Vocal
Dick Horton - Saxophone
Buddy Holobaugh - Guitar
Bill Torrance - Bass

4.6 to 4.8 (April 1956)
Barbara Pittman - Vocal
Probably Johnny Cannon - Saxophone
Joe Baugh - Piano
Marcus Van Story - Bass
Johnny Bernero - Drums

4.9 (1957)
Barbara Pittman - Vocal
Jimmy Wilson - Piano
Roland Janes - Guitar
Billy Riley - Bass
Jimmy M. Van Eaton - Drums

All titles recorded at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.
Musicians listed do not all appear on every song.

Cover Photo: Ace Cannon with the Johnny Bernero Combo
Left to right: Johnny Bernero, Thurman Enlow, Johnny ''Ace'' Cannon
Courtesy Johnny Bernero, Colin Escott


November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-3A/B mono

Most Sun artists came from the Tri-State area (Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas). However, a few artists made the pilgrimage to 706 Union from distant points. One of the first was Roy Orbison who made the trek from Wink, Texas. Orbison was possessed of an enormous talent but had two strikes against him: the first was that by no stretch of the imagination was he a good looking boy. Secondly, his talent was arguably unsuited to rock and roll. However, Orbison seems to have moved to Memphis at some point in 1956 and started playing on a number of sessions aside from his own. His voice and/or guitar can be heard on vintage recordings by Sonny Burgess, Hayden Thompson, Warren Smith, Barbara Pittman and many more.

In the wake of Roy Orbison came Wade (Moore) and Dick (Penner). Their calling card was ''Ooby Dooby'', a novelty song they had written in fifteen minutes on the roof of the frat house at North Texas State College. Orbison had scored some success with the song and Wade and Dick secured a contract on the strength of it. They recorded as a duet and Penner recorded also as a solo act, neither managed to recapture the success of ''Ooby Dooby''. Indeed, Orbison had to wait another four years before he could surpass the success of ''Ooby Dooby''. Differences in temperament and lack of success soon rent asunder the partnership of Moore and Penner. Despite Phillips' enthusiasm for their works, Wade & Dick simple could not translate their clean-cut image and catchy songs into commercial success.

Also from Texas was Dean Beard, one of the many young pilgrims who came to Memphis in the wake of Elvis Presley. With his sax player in tow, Beard had a slightly more polished and less countrified sound than many of his contemporaries. However, he failed to see a release on the magic yellow label. After more solo efforts and a spell with the Champs, Beard returned home. At present, he is bedridden in Coleman, Texas.

Another Texan connection was Johnny Carroll, who came to contact Sam Phillips after meeting Elvis, Scotty and Bill in Shreveport, Louisiana. Carroll leased several songs to Phillips, two of which appeared on a Phillips International single in 1957. Another song, ''Rock Baby Rock It'', was the title of a low budget rock movie made in Texas with another Phillips artist, Rosco Gordon.

Colin Escott

Recommended further listening
Roy Orbison: The Sun Years (Charly CDX 4)

''Sam could recognise whether a song was going to be commercial or appealing. For example, I had a tendency to sing ballads in a very sentimental or dreamy way. He wanted something with more of an edge to it. Something sexier. I remember I was sitting on one of the stools in the studio singing a ballad and Sam stopped us and said, 'Imagine you're making love to this woman' but my experience was limited, it was hard to come up with any scenes you could really call romantic''.

''Sam certainly had a charisma about him. He wasn't one for casual conversation. He was very intense in the studio. I remember he had a purple Cadillac convertible and one night he said, 'Come on, I'll take you back to the house'. He was barefooted and he got into this posh purple convertible''.

''It was such spontaneous music. I read an article recently about a producer who had programmed some music into the computer and he had introduced some errors into the coding so that it would sound more human. That all seems so foreign compared with the time in Sam Phillips' studio''.

Dick Penner in conversation with Colin Escott, February 8, 1986

''Ooby Dooby'' was a song I heard at North Texas State when I met two guys there, Wade and Dick. I took their song back and recorded it. Then I called Sam Phillips at Sun, on the advice of Johnny Cash. I told Sam that Johnny had said that I might be able to get on his label. He said Johnny Cash doesn't run my record label and he hung up''.

''Anyway my sponsor called Sam later on. Sam called back and said can those boys be here in 3 days. We dashed off to Memphis and re-recorded ''Ooby Dooby''. That was my beginning, really''.

Record 3 Side 1 ''Ooby Dooby''
5.1 - Bop Bop Baby (Wade And Dick) (Originally Sun 269)
5.2 - Don't Need Your Lovin' - 1 (Dick Penner) (Not Originally Issued)
5.3 - Don't Need Your Lovin' - 2 (Wade And Dick) (Originally Sun 269)
5.4 - Wild Woman (Wade And Dick) (Not Originally Issued)
5.5 - Cindy Lou (Dick Penner) (Originally Sun 282)
5.6 -Honey Love (Dick Penner) (Originally Sun 282)
5.7 - Fine Little Baby (Dick Penner) (Not Originally Issued)
5.8 - Move Baby Move (Dick Penner) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

Record 3 Side 2 ''Ooby Dooby''
6.1 - Ooby Dooby (Roy Orbison) (Not Originally Issued)
6.2 - Go Go Go (Roy Orbison) (Originally Sun 242)
6.3 - Rockhouse (Roy Orbison) (Originally Sun 251)
6.4 - Domino (Roy Orbison) (Not Originally Issued)
6.5 - Rock-A-Billy Gal (Hayden Thompson) (Not Originally Issued)
6.6 - Rakin' And Scrapin' (Dean Beard) (Not Originally Issued)
6.7 - Long Time Gone (Dean Beard) (Not Originally Issued)
6.8 - That's The Way I Love (Johnny Carroll) (Originally Phillips International PI 3520)
6.9 - Rock Baby, Rock It (Johnny Carroll) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

Name (Or. No. of Instruments)
5.1, 5.3 and 5.4 (December 1956)
Wade Moore - Vocal
Dick Penner - Vocal and Guitar
Bob Izer - Guitar
Don Gilliland - Bass
Unknown - Drums

5.2 and 5.5 to 5.8 (December 1956 and February 1957)
Dick Penner - Vocal and Guitar
Don Gilliland - Guitar
Unknown - Piano, Bass, Drums

6.1 to 6.4 (1956)
Roy Orbison - Vocal and Guitar
Johnny Wilson - Guitar
James Morrow - Electric Madolin
Jack Kennelly - Bass
Billy Ellis - Drums

6.5 (April 1957)
Hayden Thompson - Vocal
Roy Orbison - Vocal and Guitar
Brad Suggs - Guitar
Roland Janes - Guitar
Slim Rhodes - Guitar
Spec Rhodes - Bass
Jimmy M. Van Eaton - Drums

6.6 and 6.7 (March and August 1956)
Dean Bears - Vocal and Piano
Probably Jimmy Seals - Saxophone
James Stewart - Guitar
Johnny Black - Bass
Johnny Bernero - Drums

6.8 and 6.9 (June 1957)
Johnny Carroll - Vocal and Guitar
Bill Hennen - Piano
Jay Salam - Guitar
Bill Bustin - Bass
George Jones - Drums

Tittles except 6.8 and 6.9 recorded at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
6.8 and 6.9 recorded at Herring Studio, Fort Worth, Texas.
Musicians listed do not all play every song.

Discographical trivia footnote: Although ''Rock-A-Billy Gal'' features Hayden Thompson and Roy Orbison on vocals and guitar, it was originally conceived as a Slim Rhodes session and the session costs were deducted from Rhodes' royalties. It was a cover version of the song written and recorded by the Colby-Wolf Combo on Flip Records in Los Angeles.

Cover Photo: Wade and Dick - The College Kids
Left to right: Don Jenkins (bass), Wade Moore, Dick Penner, Bob Izer (guitar) Roger Berkley (drums) 1956
Courtesy of Dick Penner and Colin Escott


November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-4A/B mono

Jackson, Tennessee, was a fertile source of talent for Sun Records. Carl Perkins and Carl Mann were the two most obvious gifts from Jackson to Memphis. However, there was a complex tie-in between Jimmy Martin's Jaxon label and Sam Phillips' organisation. Phillips seems to have held the publishing on most of Jaxon's releases and several Jaxson' artists ended up on Sun or, in the case of Kenny Parchman, scheduled but not released on Sun.

Parchman made a number of appearances before the mike at 706 Union and his coupling of ''Love Crazy Baby'' and ''Feel Like Rockin''' was assigned a release number (sun 252) but withdrawn after lacquers had been sent to the plants. He eventually saw a release on Jaxon a year or so later but Parchman seemed destined to remain in his home town. Good looks and an undoubted enthusiasm for the music were not sufficient to secure a release although he came very close. Parchman remains in Jackson to this day, running a construction business.

Another artist who came very close to seeing a release on Sun was Luke McDaniel. However, McDaniel had a long career in music behind him when he arrived in Memphis and a longer career ahead of him. His feeling for the new music was genuine and unforced and only a run-in between the spiky McDaniel and the intransigent Sam Phillips prevented the release of his Sun recordings. They were certainly of releasable standard and would have fitted in perfectly with Sun's late 1956 records.

And, of course, no discussion of artists who almost saw a release on Sun would be complete without mentioning Harold Jenkins (a.k.a Conway Twitty). Jenkins' country soul had been rewired when he heard Elvis Presley shortly after leaving the Army. His first stop on the yellow brick road was 706 Union. From the hours of tape that Jenkins recorded only four boxes remained. The original version of ''Rockhouse'' was either recorded-over, never transferred to Shelby Singleton or given back to Twitty at some point. Only the last sessions from the end of 1956 remain on tape in the Sun archive.

Surprisingly, it was Jenkins' confrere from the Arkansas Wood Chopper, Mack Self, who eventually saw a release on Sun and yet another on Phillips International a couple of years later. His wonderfully anachronistic ''East To Love'' should be the cornerstone of any of 1950s country music. However, Self also tried his hand at rockabilly with mixed results. The version of ''Goin' Crazy'' included here makes an interesting comparison with the countrified version and was perhaps his most successful attempt at the new music. His recording of ''Willie Brown'' two years later showed the distance that country music had come in a few short years.

Colin Escott

Recommended further listening:
The complete Sun recordings of Harold Jenkins are on Conway Twitty, ''The Rock & Roll Years'' (Bear Family BFX 15174)
A good selection of Mack Self's Sun recordings are on ''The Sun Country Box'' (Bear Family BFX 15211).

''I knew I wanted to be around that label. The studio was like a hole in the wall but it looked like Radio City in New York to us. You used your own band and you played. We were trying to create in the studio. We'd start at, say 10.00am and Sam would say, 'Have you written anything? And I'd say, 'Yes, I've written this and that, mostly country material'. Sam would say, 'Well we can take a good country song and put a new beat to them, do a new vocal thing'. But the only vocal licks you had were what Elvis had done... We'd write songs in the studio. We'd play four or five hours without a break. We were so wrapped up in it''.

''I never really did write the right song at Sun, although there were times when I thought I had. I really felt that Sam Phillips didn't treat me right – that I had something to offer that he didn't see, but I found out I was wrong. Sam said, 'I knew you had something or I wouldn't have spent as much money as I did recording you all those hours, week after week but it just didn't come together for you and I'''.

''While I was recording at Sun I received a letter from Don Seat who had been told about me by this guy in the Army. Seat wanted to know if I was doing this rock and roll music that was happening down around Memphis. I wrote back and told him that I was. He wrote back and asked for a demo tape... A couple of weeks later I got a letter back saying that he could get me a contract with any company I wanted. I said that I wanted to go with Sun. Seat said, 'No, not Sun, they're just a small label'. So, he got me a contract with Mercury''.

Conway Twitty quoted in ''Conway Twitty: The Rock & Roll Years'', by Colin Escott, Bear Family Books.

''We just went to Sun and Sam Phillips had made all the arrangements for the musicians. ''Huh Babe'' was interesting because of the first licks on the guitar. I arranged those myself. I had never heard that particular sound before''.

''When I came out of the studio Sam Phillips was there and I was expecting to get paid for the sessions. I needed the money! Sam looked at me and said, 'We don't pay any of the artists for the sessions. We take care of the musicians and then it's taken out of any money that is due to you'. I said, 'What do you mean you don't pay 'em. We're entitled to Union scale'. That made me mad and Sam knew it. We just didn't see eye-to-eye at all and I let him know. And Sam let me know! He said, 'Well, if we can't come to an agreement then we just won't the record out'. And that was that''.

Luke McDaniel interviewed by Derek Glenister

''God man, I don't know why Sam Phillips never released that record. My manager left town shortly before the record was due to be released. Jimmy Rhodes was his name. Maybe Phillips didn't want to release a single if I didn't have a good manager behind me. I don't know. I felt for sure that we were going to have a record released on Sun, though''.

Kenneth Parchman interviewed by Colin Escott, July 1986

Record 4 Side 1 ''I Feel Like Rockin'''
7.1 - Tennessee Zip (Kenny Parchman) (Previously Unissued)
7.2 - I Feel Like Rockin' (Kenny Parchman) (Previously Unissued)
7.3 - Love Crazy Baby(Kenny Parchman) (Not Originally Issued)
7.4 - Treat Me Right (Kenny Parchman) (Not Originally Issued)
7.5 - Get It Off Your Mind (Not Originally Issued)
7.6 - What's The Reason (Kenny Parchman) (Previously Unissued)
7.7 - You Call Everybody Darlin' (Kenny Parchman) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

Record 4 Side 2 ''I Feel Like Rockin'''
8.1 - Go Ahead Baby (Luke McDaniels) (Not Originally Issued)
8.2 - Huh Babe (Luke McDaniels) (Not Originally Issued)
8.3 - High High High (Luke McDaniels) (Not Originally Issued)
8.4 - My Baby Don't Rock (Luke McDaniels) (Not Originally Issued)
8.5 - That's What I Tell My Heart (Luke McDaniels) (Not Originally Issued)
8.6 - Born To Sing The Blues (Harold Jenkins)(Not Originally Issued)
8.7 - I Need Your Lovin' Kiss (Harold Jenkins) (Not Originally Issued)
8.8 - Goin' Crazy (Mack Self) (Not Originally Issued)
8.9 - Mad At You (Mack Self) (Previously Unissued Alternative)
Original Sun Recordings

Name (Or. No. of Instruments)
7.1 to 7.7 (Various dates 1956, 1957 and 1958)
Kenneth Parchman - Vocal and Guitar
Jerry Smith - Piano
Richard Page - Guitar
Willie Stephenson - Bass
Lemon Carroll - Bass
Bobby Cash - Drums
Ronnie Parchman - Drums

8.1 and 8.2 (September 1956)
Luke McDaniel - Vocal and Guitar
Unknown - Guitar, Bass, Drums

8.3 to 8.5 (January 1957)
Luke McDaniel - Vocal and Guitar
Jimmy Wilson - Piano
Roland Janes - Guitar
Marvin Pepper - Bass
Jimmy M. Van Eaton - Drums

8.6 (January 1957)
Harold Jenkins - Vocal and Guitar
Unknown - Piano
Jimmy Luke Pashman - Guitar
Bill Harris - Bass
Johnny Bernero - Drums

8.7 (November 1956)
Harold Jenkins - Vocal and Guitar
Martin Willis - Saxophone
Jimmy Luke Pashman - Guitar
Bill Harris - Bass
Billy Weir - Drums

8.8 and 8.9 (1956)
Mack Self - Vocal and Guitar
Stan Kesler - Steel Guitar
Therlow Brown - Guitar
Jimmy Evens - Bass and Vocal
Johnny Bernero - Drums

All titles recorded at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.
Musicians listed do not all play on every song.

Cover Photo: Kenny Parchman


November 1987 Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-5A/B mono

This album gathers together some of the lesser known artists who recorded for Sun during 1955-1957. Jimmy Williams only saw one release on Sun but he recorded quite prolifically starting in 1956. He returned in January, May and June 1957 and eventually saw a Sun release later that year. Williams has enjoyed dual careers in both music and aviation. At the time of his Sun recordings he was living in Little Rock, Arkansas but was last heard of in St. Louis, Missouri.

Rosco Gordon's affiliation with Sam Phillips predates Sun Records. Before the birth of Sun, Phillips had recorded Rosco for RPM, Chess and Duke. Throughout the rock years, Rosco remained a sweet holdover from the earlier era, peddling his loping, good timing music. ''The Chicken'' was a big seller for Flip-Sun but not even a classic slice of black rockabilly, ''Sally Jo'', could sustain the momentum. It would take a move to Vee-Jay to get Rosco's career back on track.

The Miller Sisters enjoyed a long career with Sun stretching from 1954 until 1957. The two girls (who were really sisters-in-law because Elsie Jo married Millie's brother, Roy) journeyed to Memphis from Tupelo on countless occasions and saw three singles released to scant acclaim. Despite the fact that singing sister acts were in vogue and despite the high quality of the material and the performances the Millers simply seemed unable to realise their potential.

Rudi Richardson recorded one session for Sun (or one session that was leased to Sun) in late 1956 or early 1957. ''Fools' Hall Of Fame'' was obviously seen as a song to watch because Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash also recorded it. Richardson, whose recording career dated back into the 1940s, turns in a beautifully swinging performance that was delightfully at variance with the pattern of Sun releases at that time.

There was also a delightfully understated swing to the work of Malcolm Yelvington. However, the inspiration came from a different source: western swing. Yelvington was really caught out of time and switched to rockabilly because he had an astute grasp of what was selling. He managed to come up with a wonderful combination of styles that was quite uniquely his own.

Most of the Sun recordings of Gene Simmons with be found on Side 13 of this box. The songs included here date either from Simmons first audition in 1955 or even perhaps from a home-made tape in the case of ''Shake Rattle And Roll''.

Colin Escott

Recommended further listening:

The complete Sun recordings of the Miller Sisters and Malcolm Yelvington can be found on the ''Sun Country Box'' (Bear Family BFX 15211). A cross-section of Rosco Gordon's recording for Sam Phillips can be found on the ''Sun Blues Box'' (Charly Sunbox 105). There is a more detailed look at his Sun career on ''The Legendary Sun Performers'' (Charly CR 30133) and his Vee-Jay career on ''No More Doggin''' (Charly CRB 1044). Many of his early recordings for Sam Phillips are on two volumes of Modern/RPM cuts (Ace CH 26 and 51).

According to Jimmy Williams, ''Like Elvis, I came out of a government housing project in Memphis. After a while, seeing the way Elvis was received (girls by the thousands) and the way I was received (tomatoes and coke bottles) I decided to pursue a career in flying instead of music. I always try to live up to a coinage from a number of my friends. That Jim Williams is still the biggest unknown in the music business''.

(Millie) ''When I was a kid we listed to Hank Williams We used to listen to the radio at night. On weekends we listened to the Opry. If the battery went dead on the radio, God forbid, it was a catastrophe! We got started singing on the front porch, singing here and there. We got a few engagements after we got a little better and a little older. Roy (Jo's husband) had a lot of ambition for us. He pushed us a lot. Roy always managed us but at that point, Col. Tom Parker saw us perform and came over afterwards. He wanted to manage us and take over out careers. Roy turned him down because he thought he could do a better job of it himself''

''We did three sessions for Sun, in addition to the backup work we did on other peoples' sesessions. The arrangements for us to record at Sun were made by Roy. He, Millie and I had a daily radio program over WTUP in Tupelo. So the disc jockey gave him Sam Phillips' telephone number. He called to get an audition. Actually, the audition turned out to be our first session''.

''On the drives up to Sun we'd take Roy's old Buick. Roy would have his acoustic guitar and the three of us would make the drive. We'd sing, all the way up. Not just what we were going to record, but anything. Out of the blue, whatever came to us''.

''I remember Johnny Bernero. I had a crush on him at the time. He played locally with Gene Steele. Gene was known as the Singing Salesman. He was very popular in Memphis, had a show on WMC. We toured around Memphis with Gene and Johnny Bernero. He was a very good drummer. I think he played on ''Ten Cats Down''. It was a fun song. Either Bill or Quinton wrote it. We were living in Memphis when they wrote it. We got together and decided to do it. We auditioned it for Sam and he decided to try it, then to put it out''

''Sam didn't produce in a modern sence. I recall him mostly being in the background listening. I don't recall him advising or telling us what to do, although I guess he was in charge. Just being there, you knew it. If he ever said 'Try this' or 'do it this way' it was very subtle. Roy did most of the arrangements for the songs he wrote''.

''After we began recording for Sun we sang on the Louisiana Hayride once and that was a thrill. I had laryngitis so bad that night I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it. I got up on stage and it suddenly disappeared. That was a nice experience. Lots of famous people were there, George Jones, Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton had a radio show and he interviewed us''.

Excerpts from 1985/1986 interviews with Millie and Jo Miller by Hank Davis

Record 5 Side 1 ''Rockin' With My Baby''
9.1 - Good Lookin' Woman (Jimmy Williams) (Previously Unissued)
9.2 - Rock-A-Bye-Baby (Jimmy Williams) (Previously Unissued)
9.3 - Sweet Rocking Mama (Jimmy Williams) (Previously Unissued)
9.4 - Sonny Boy (Jimmy Williams) (Not Originally Issued)
9.5 - Fire Engine Red (Jimmy Williams) (Not Originally Issued)
9.6 - Tomorrow (Jimmy Williams) (Previously Unissued)
9.7 - Please Don't Cry Over Me (Jimmy Williams) (Originally Sun 270)
9.8 - That Depends On You (Jimmy Williams) (Originally Sun 270)
9.9 - All I Want Is You (Jimmy Williams) (Not Originally Issued)
9.10 - My One Desire (Jimmy Williams) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

Record 5 Side 2 ''Rockin' With My Baby''
10.1 - Down On The Border (Gene Simmons) (Previously Unissued)
10.2 - Don't Let Me Down (The Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
10.3 - Shake Rattle And Roll (Gene Simmons) (Previously Unissued)
10.4 - It's Me Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) (Originally Syn 246)
10.5 - Rocking With My Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) (Originally Sun 246)
10.6 - It's My Trumpet (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
10.7 - Ten Cats Down (The Miller Sisters) (Originally Sun 255)
10.8 - The Fools Hall Of Fame (Rudy Richardson) (Originally Sun 271)
10.9 - Cheese And Crackers (Rosco Gordon) (Originally Sun 257)
10.10 - Sally Jo (Rosco Gordon) (Originally Sun 305)
Original Sun Recordings

Name (Or. No. of Instruments)
9.1 to 9.5 (June 1956)
Jimmy Williams – Vocal
Unknown – Sax, Guitars, Bass, Drums

9.6 to 9.10 (Various dates 1957)
Jimmy Williams – Vocal
Jerry Smith – Piano
Jimmy Wilson – Piano
Roland Janes – Guitar
Billy Riley – Guitar
Marvin Pepper – Bass
Stan Kesler – Bass
Jimmy M. Van Eaton – Drums

10.1 (1955 or 1956)
Gene Simmons – Vocal
Carl Simmons – Mandolin and Vocal
John Green – Fiddle
Talmadge Hesler – Guitar
Jesse Carter – Bass

10.2 (1956)
Elsie Jo Miller, Mildred Wages, Ray Miller, Gene Simmons – Vocals
Carl Simmons, Gene Simmons, and Roy Miller – Guitars
Jesse Carter – Bass

10.3 (1956)
Gene Simmons – Vocal and Guitar
Carl Simmons – Guitar
Jesse Carter – Bass

10.4 and 10.5 (February 1956)
Malcolm Yelvington – Vocal and Guitar
Frank Tolley – Piano
Gordon Mashburn – Guitar
Jake Ryles – Bass
Billy Weir – Drums

10.6 (1957)
Malcolm Yelvington – Piano
Roland Janes – Guitar
Sid Manker – Bass
Otis Jett or Jimmy M. Van Eaton – Drums

10.7 (1956)
Elsie Jo Miller and Mildred Wages – Vocals
Johnny Cannon – Saxophone
Buddy Holobaugh – Guitar
Jan Ledbetter – Bass
Johnny Bernero – Drums

10.8 (1956 or 1957)
Rudi Richardson - Vocal and Guitar
Unknown Musicians
Vocal Chorus - Jimmy Hart, Steve Spear, Mike Gardner,
James Tarbutton, David Beaver

10.9 (October 1956)
Rosco Gordon – Vocal and Piano
James Jones – Saxophone
Lionel Prevest – Saxophone
Phillip Walker – Guitar
L.W. Canty – Bass
Joe Payne – Drums

10.10 (July 1957)
Rosco Gordon – Vocal
Freddie Tavares – Guitar
Unknown Band

Titles exept 10.8 recorded at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.
10.8 Location uncertain.
Musicians listed do not all play on every song.

Cover Photo: Jimmy Williams