SUN VIDEO CLIPS

Contains

Billy Riley
''Sun Records Rockabilly Giant''
Charlie Feathers
''Charlie Feathers Family Shots''
Hardrock Gunter
''Conversation Part 1''
Hardrock Gunter
''Conversation Part 2''
Jack Clement
Legendary Song Poets
Jerry McGill 1
''Reasons Why We're Here''
Jerry McGill 2
''No More Tears''
Johnny & Jack
''Steel Guitar Rag''
Johnny Powers
''The Johnny Powers Story''
Little Milton
''Remembers''
Malcom Yelvington
''It's Me Baby''

- BILLY LEE RILEY -
Sun Records Rockabilly Giant

A tribute to rockabilly legend Billy Lee Riley,
presented at the Center for Southern Folklore's September 1-2, 2012
Memphis Music and Heritage Festival.

BILLY LEE RILEY - Billy Riley only had six records issued under his own name on Sun Records. Sparse as his output may haven been, in rockabilly annals he remains a titan. His recordings of "Flyin' Saucer Rock And Roll" and "Red Hot" are by themselves sufficient to ensure his immortality. The other recordings - both issued and unissued - are evidence of a man with catholic taste and talents versatile enough to match them. Riley a product of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, born on October 5, 1933 in Pocohontas, Arkansas although the family moved often throughout the rural Mid-South. "Back when I was a kid growing up, we lived on a plantation with mostly black people on it. Every Saturday and every Sunday you could usually find a little group of dudes under the trees playing blues. A white guy, Tommy Hamblin, who came from a family of string musicians, taught me how to play three or four chords on the guitar. We started playing with the black musicians, going the blues with them. He and I man, we were black as the rest of' em".

Billy Riley had bought a Sears-Roebuck Silvertone guitar at the age of nine from his girlfriend. "She had lost interest in the instrument after it had been sprayed by the termite control people. So I bought it off her, refinished it and learned how to play it". By that time he had already mastered the harmonica, an instrument that his father had taught him.

The family grew up in what can only described as abject poverty. "We lived in a tent. A big ol' Army tent. My dad put a floor in it and built walls around it. Then he built two log cabin rooms adjoining - kitchen and dining room". Billy Riley dropped out of school at age 10 and started working to help support the family. In common with every other family in the vicinity, the Riley's owned neither records nor a phonograph. Electricity was uncommon in rural areas at that time but battery radios were available and very popular. Riley fondly recalls listening to and being influenced by Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell via the radio in the late 1940s. However, he heard no blues on the radio as the advent of black radio programming was still a few years distant.

One of the seasonal highlights for the Rileys and neighboring families was the traveling tent shows. The cost was 25c. "We wouldn't see them if they were too far away", Riley recalled, "cause we had no car. About the only way we could get to any place was to walk or find a ride".

Halfway through his thirteenth year, Billy Riley's family left the plantation in Arkansas and headed southeast to Tupelo, Mississippi bringing their tent with them. Riley's father was working as a painter but after a year with work at a premium the family pulled up roots again and headed back to Arkansas - this time to Osceola. While in Tupelo though, Riley had made his first public appearance, performing live on radio station WELO. In 1948 Billy Riley tried to enlist in the armed services. Only 15 years of age, he was rejected. By 1949 the family had moved back to Pocohontas although his sister stayed in Osceola. Riley tried again to enlist and with his sister signing the necessary papers attesting that he was 18 (Riley had no birth certificate), he became an employee of Uncle Sam.

For Riley, the Army was just a way out of grinding rural poverty although he eventually saw some benefits: "While I was in the service I got more interested in music because I won some talent shows at the service club". Playing in these talent shows, singing hard country music along the lines defined by Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson, Riley first performed in a full band context. He was even offered a position in Special Services but surprisingly turned it down due to stage fright. During his hitch in the service, he made his first private recordings including the Hank Williams weeper "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy".

It is unclear exactly how long Billy Riley spent in the service. He recalled to Bill Millar that he returned briefly to civilian life and then re-enlisted for three years. In any event, Riley probably found himself back in civilian duds around 1953 or 1954.

Music was now much more than a hobby and upon discharge he joined a couple of country bands that worked in and around Jonesboro, Arkansas - C.D. Tennyson and the Happy Valley Boys and the KBTM Ranch Boys. While supporting himself and his first wife with a day job in a shoe factory, Billy Riley could be heard regularly on three local radio stations - KBMT and KNEX in Jonesboro and KRLA in Paragould. Both the bands with whom Riley worked taped their shows on Sunday for broadcast during the week. At the same time, Riley together with the bassist and the bassist's wife from the KBTM Ranch Boys rose early in the morning to perform live on a gospel show.

Not making a lot of money in the shoe factory or with his music, Riley was talked into moving to Memphis by his brother-in-law. Together they opened a restaurant and Riley briefly forsook music. After the restaurant failed, Billy Riley worked as a meat cutter and than as a truck driver for Industrial Coverall. "That's when my mind was on music. When I wrecked that truck I was singing 'Trouble Bound'. I worked there until I wrecked two trucks".

Riley joined Slim Wallace's Dixie Ramblers. Wallace was a local truck driver who played bass in a band which also featured Jack Clement, then attending Memphis State University. Wallace and Clement got the notion to start a record label, Fernwood Records, named after the street upon which Wallace lived. The studio was a primitive affair, literally situated in his garage.

The Dixie Ramblers consisted of Roland "Slim" Wallace, Jack Clement, Billy Riley, Wayne McGinnis and Ramon Maupin, they played straight ahead hard country music, mostly on the weekends. Its interesting to note Riley's first playing experience - at least on guitar - was with black blues musicians on the plantation where he lived with his parents. yet, up to this point in his semi-pro career, he had only publicly played country music. As with many other future rockabillies he never realized that he had an option. He was white, therefore if he wanted to play music, he played country. That was simply what white Southern musicians did. Riley explained: "After hearing Elvis and seeing what was happening, a lot of us guys got away from the country stuff. We wanted to get with what was happening. When it was new it was something completely different from what anybody had ever done. It was something that fit me because it sounded black. It was still country but it had that black feel and that was what I wanted. It was something I was brought up on". After Billy Riley had played a couple of months with the Dixie Ramblers, Jack Clement had the idea that the first release on Fernwood should be by Billy Riley. Surprisingly in view of Riley's growing infatuation with the new music, the Dizie Ramblers first attempted a country song, a Riley original entitled "Think Before You Go". At that point the group consisted of Riley, Wallace, Bob Deckelman on steel guitar and a fiddle player.

They recorded two songs, "Trouble Bound" and "Think Before You Go". in a primitive studio Clement had built in Wallace's garage. Clement took the masters to Sam Phillips, who responded to the eerie, bluesy intensity of "Trouble Bound" and offered a job to Clement and a contract to Riley. Sam Phillips counseled against releasing the countrified "Think Before You Go", so Riley concocted a rockabilly novelty, "Rock With Me Baby", that he recorded at the WMPS studio in Memphis. Purchasing the masters from Fernwood, Sam Phillips issued Riley's debut single in May 1956.

With a record on the market, Riley needed to put a band together, Clement was too busy at Sun to be playing clubs and Bernero had always been temporary. That left only guitarist Roland Janes. Riley and Janes had met a teenage drummer, J.M. Van Eaton, when Van Eaton had been down at Sun with another group. He was quickly drafted into the fold, as was upright bassist Marvin Pepper. By the end of 1956, Riley's group had been co-opted as the house band at Sun Records.

After a four year involvement with Sun, Riley decided to quit again, Jack Clement and Bill Justis had been dismissed in early 1959. Both started their own labels. Riley did some work for Justis, cutting an instrumental record pseudonymously for Jaro/Top Rank under the name "Spitfires". By this point he had reunited with Roland Janes and they held down a steady gig at the Starlight Club in Memphis. It was there that they came up with the idea for Rita Records settled in the old Sun studio.

One of the first moves was to bring Harold Dorman to the label. Dorman had been languished around town since 1856, trying to hustle a deal for himself and his writing partner Wiley Gann. Riley and Janes took Dorman and Gann to the Hi studio, paid Jack Clement to handle the board and emerged with "Mountain Of Love" which became a nationwide hit in 1960.

Rita Records was a short-lived venture and Riley's involvement in it was even shorter. Commercially, none of Riley's records had much impact. Sam Phillips has more than once lamented this fact, stating that he does not understanding why Riley never broke through. To Riley though, its simple: "Jerry Lee and Sam got too this what happened to me".

Through the 1960s and 1970s, Riley persevered in the music business. He recorded under his own name and a host of pseudonyms including the Megatrons, the Rockin' Stockings and Sandy & the Sandstones. The list of labels for whom he recorded is even longer. He even achieved a small breakthrough on the Entrance label in 1972 with the Chips Moman produced "I Got A Thing About You Baby" that later Elvis covered. Immediately preceding his deal with Entrance, Riley had returned to the re-born Sun label owned by Shelby Singleton in Nashville, launching it in fine style with "Kay". Both "Kay" and "Red Hot" were - in their way - definitive performances but the gulf between them highlighted Riley's real problem: he lacked an identifiable style. With all the talent in the world, Riley would not stick in one groove long enough to reap the rewards. His versatility was his greatest asset and his greatest drawback.

Since 1983 Billy Riley has refused to gig, recorded little and released nothing. If the right offer under the right conditions came along he would probably give it one last go-round. In the meantime, he supports himself as a contractor, rarely dwelling upon his impressive - if less than successful - past. All of us involved with this project revere Billy Riley for his music. When Joyce met Billy on April 11, 1975, she knew nothing about Billy's music or Sun Records. She fell in love with a hard-working man who was raising two daughters, ages 3 and 6, by himself. Only later did Joyce discover the music featured here. Joyce and Billy were married just about two weeks after they met, on April 26, 1975. Joyce was still with Billy 34 years later when he died of colon cancer on August 2, 2009. The final years of Billy's life were a medical and, consequently, a financial nightmare.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- CHARLIE FEATHERS FAMILY SHOTS -
Courtesy by Wanda Vanzant Feathers

CHARLIE FEATHERS - The Robert Johnson of rockabilly and a prince in his own cotton patch, Feathers has enormous respect for the sound that Sam Phillips achieved in his old studio (in fact, he even goes so far to take credit for the sound). In an interview he once said that going from Sun to Meteor and King was like going from a Cadillac to a Chevrolet. Feathers had a sound in his head and Sam Phillips stood the greatest chance of capturing it. The stunning quality of "Peeping Eyes", "I've Been Deceived" and "Defrost Your Heart" attest to the special magic of Charlie Feathers at 706 Union. It was a chemistry that he rarely, if ever recaptured.

Feathers' hillbilly credentials were certainly come by honestly. Charlie Feathers was born Charles Arthur Lindberg, June 12, 1932, just outside Blackjack, nearly Holly Springs, Mississippi, in that stretch of country between Stayden and Hudsonvilly. His family were sharecroppers and their culture was a predictable mishmash of the usual elements - church, Grand Ole Opry and, in Charlie's case, occasional forays in the direction of the local Rossville Colored Picnic. He had a predilection for black music, the raw sounds of the delta country and, like Hank Williams and so many other good old boys he learn the rudiments of guitar from a blues man, in his case, Junior Kimbrough who remained a lifelong friend. Before coming to Memphis, Charlie Feathers had left Mississippi on his seventeen, working on a pipeline from Cairo, Illinois, all the way down to Texas, playing juke joints as he went.

Eventually he fetched up and then moved to Memphis in 1950 and promptly got married, and worked in a box factory before he contracted spinal meningitis and spent the greater part of a year in hospital. "I felt OK but they kept me in hospital the longest time. I had a guitar in there and that's when I started to write a few songs. I was just drawing on the music I had heard growing up. Down there you could walk through the streets or down the road on a weekend night and you'd walk upon a coloured group or a guy with a guitar. That's the music I was familiar with. I also liked bluegrass. Bill Monroe came to town once while he was traveling with a tent. I loved his music but I couldn't play bluegrass".

From the point when Charlie Feathers left hospital, the story becomes a little confused. He claims that he worked for Sam Phillips as far back as 1950 hauling portable tape recorders. Phillips does not share that recollection. One fact is certain, though, Feathers had been hanging around 706 Union a long time when he was finally paired with Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch. However, according to Feathers, he was not merely present at the creation of rock and roll, he was an integral part of it.

"Even though I was doing rockabilly, Sam had Elvis recording it. For a while it looked as though rockabilly was selling and then it slacked off a little and Sam said that he wanted to record me doing country. I always liked country music but I couldn't feel it like I could feel rock and roll. I think I was worth more to Sam to arrange the music. I could hear people. I worked with Johnny Cash before we recorded him. We got this slapback. People think it's the bass but it's the tape delay. People in Nashville couldn't compete with the sound. There ain't a sound today can compete with it when it's done right. I could probably have done better elsewhere but those places didn't have the Sun sound".

According to Feathers, he hung out with Elvis Presley in a local park and awakened him to the possibility of goosing up country music, showing him guitar runs and vocal inflection. Then he cut a demo of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" with Scotty Moore - Moore has no knowledge of it - and joined Presley in the Sun Studio during July 1954 to record the finished product and kick start a career. If you believe Feathers he did the same thing for Presley's waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" and then sometime in 1955 he wheeled our boy into a West Helena radio station to cut "some tough goddamn stuff". Perhaps Feathers really did remember a long lost session in West Helena.

Everybody agrees that Feathers recorded a lot of material at 706 Union Avenue that was never released. Evidence shows that most of it was probably recorded-over. Feathers claims that Sam Phillips planned a third single and even went as far circulating dubs but there are no notes in the files to corroborate this assertion. Stan Kesler used Feathers to make demos of at least two songs, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" and "We're Getting Closer To Being Apart". Once again, though Feathers' version is at variance with everyone else's account.

"Some boys around here had "Daydreamin" and Sam didn't think too much of the song so they took it to Meteor Records. The next time they come by they had "I've Been Deceived" and Sam wanted me to record it. I went out to their house and listened to the song and Stan Kesler dropped by. He had a song called "You Believe Everyone But Me" and asked me if I would get Elvis to do it. I said that the song didn't do much for me and later that night he said he had a song called "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". I liked that idea. The title. Next morning, I got up real early and went out to Kesler's house and we finished the song. We put it on tape and I took it down. Sam didn't like it but Elvis did. He wasn't singing it right at first. They cut it about fifteen times and couldn't get the bridge right. We went out for lunch and while we were driving around I was explaining to him in the car hot it should be done. After we come back, we cut it one time and that was it", recalled Charlie Feathers.

Stan Kesler recalled he wrote the song in its entirely and only gave Feathers 50% because he sang the demo. He also remembered playing the song to Elvis Presley on a quarter track tape machine. Phillips did not have a quarter track machine so Kesler had to bring up his own tape deck and set it up in the lobby to play the demo.

The end of Feathers' association with Sun is clouded in even more mystery. He appears to have cut a demo session early in 1956 to preview his new rockabilly material for Phillips. In the fall of 1958 Feathers left Sun Records, he was determined to pursue his antic disposition with archetypal rockabilly like "Tongue Tied Jill" (Meteor 5032), a song so unhinged that Sam Phillips missed the humor and took offense. Immediately after this sole flirtation with Lester Bihari's Memphis-based label, Feathers looked elsewhere. Between June 1956 and January 1957 he recorded in Cincinnati and Nashville for Syd Nathan's King label. In the process he was able to bring his amusing and unintentionally liberated "Bottle To The Baby" to fruition and cut timeless classics like "One Hand Loose" (King 4997) where he could finally indulge all his stuttering, whooping trademarks with manic glee.

"Me and Jody Chastain and Jerry Huffman wrote "Tongue Tied Jill" and some other material. We took the demo to Sam but he thought "Tongue Tied Jill" was making fun of the afflicted. My contract was up about that time and he hadn't mailed me a renewal notice or anything so I went to King. The place I had cut the demo of "Tongue Tied Jill" asked if they could have it. I thought 'Why not?'. After Sam didn't like it, I thought the song might not be any good but it broke real big here. We cut it on one mike. Because we were at King, we didn't even get a contract for it", recalled Feathers.

Charlie Feathers' career after he left Sun had been fairly well documented. He was racing cars and playing the local honky tonks for many years before he started a late blooming career as a perpetuator of his own mythology. Most of his shows had a stunning intensity that often nonplussed the local bar crawlers who had come to the cool dark place for a little slow dancing and a night of serious drinking. "You gotta feel the people when you get out", asserted Feathers. "If you know ahead of time what you're gonna play then you're giving the people second hand stuff. It'd be like turning a jukebox on. You'd know what you're about to get. A show shouldn't be that way. The talent comes out when e person don't know what he's gonna do. He just does it. A musician plays his best when he doesn't know what he's playing". In 1985 British television viewers were able to get a look at Charlie Feathers resplendent in a Hawaiian sport shirt and lank greasy hair. Sitting in his garden, he played a tortuous version of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" with such agonized intensity that his voice alone could have stripped paint off the wall. The truth is that when Charlie Feathers settles down to play, the bullshit comes to an abrupt halt. The man is a genuine original with an awesome talent.

Feathers ploughed his own furrow over five decades of recording, seldom leaving Memphis and evolving in the most natural way. Unwavering and genuine courtesy was the real measure of a man who was frequently misunderstood. An illiterate field hand who had in all innocence sung about "darkies creeping through the trees" on "Jungle Fever" (Kay Records 1001) in 1958, he was still genially asking after "nigras" on a visit to cosmopolitan London in 1977. There was no disrespect implied. He was simply using the only word he knew for black people. And on the very same evening the stood up and brought Mississippi into a London room with an eerie, heartfelt testament to the blues as he treated us to a rendition of "That's All Right" which totally eclipsed Crudup and Presley.

Unflinching and unique Charlie Feathers worked through everything life threw at him. Diabetes, loss of a lung, even being confined to a wheelchair didn't end his passion for performing. When he died of a stroke on August 29, 1998, he left a formidable artistic legacy for his coterie of devotees. But for one serendipitous moment Feathers finally went global in 2004 when another maverick, Quentin Tarantino, included "Can't Hardly Stand It" on the soundtrack to "Kill Bill 2".

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- HARDROCK GUNTER 1 -

A CONVERSATION WITH HARDROCK GUNTER PART 1 (OF 2)
Recorded at his home, fall 2008

Hardrock Gunter, the rockabilly singer, guitarist, songwriter from the 1950s and early 1960s, shares stories about how he got his name, being the first to name music "rock and roll", his friend Hank Williams, the song ''Birmingham Bounce'' (recorded in 1950, it has been mentioned as possibly the first rock and roll song), playing in Europe in the 1990s, and a comparison to Elvis Presley (Hardrock recorded on Sun Records before Elvis did.)

SIDNEY LOUIS GUNTER - Hardrock Gunter was born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 27, 1927. He attended Robinson School, Barrett, Central Park and Woodland High Schools between 1930 and 1939, returning to Woodland in 1943 shortly before entering the armed services. Prior to entering the Army Gunter had amassed a variety of experience working in sales and entertaining over WAPI, Birmingham (1939-40) as part of the Golden River Boys, which featured himself and Happy Wilson. By this point, Gunter had already acquired his nickname which did not refer to his 'hardrockin' style but rather to his head which remained impervious to a clout from a car trunk lid.

Happy Wilson had departed for the service at the outbreak of war. Gunter gigged around locally before his own stint in the Army. After discharge in 1945 Gunter and Wilson reformed the Golden River Boys, and worked as a unit until 1948. From that point Gunter worked as a solo but continued to book the Golden River Boys. He also had a steady gig as a childrens' entertainer on the television affiliate of WAPI (which has been variously reported as WAFM-TV and WABT-TV). Manipulating a puppet named 'Ernest Tubb', Gunter would work it to one of Tubb's records thereby engendering some good taste in the wee ones of Birmingham, Alabama.

Hardrock Gunter made his recording debut in 1950 for the newly-formed Bama label. Both label and artist never saw a hit as large again. Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce" was an astounding success and was covered by artists as diverse as Red Foley, major country music star, it rose to number 1 on the country charts, and Amos Milburn. In fact, the Foley version easily eclipsed Gunter's original by virtue of Decca's superior distribution. Bama soon found that a major hit was more a curse than a blessing and issued two more Gunter 78s before leasing some other titles to Jim Bulleit. The problems at Bama allowed Gunter to sign with Decca in January 1951. (The second Bama disc and the Bullet singles were issued after he signed with Decca).

Gunter's entertainment career was interrupted by the Korean War. He was called up again and served until November 1952. While on leave Gunter would resume his promotional activities and ensured that the trade papers always cited his impressive rank of 1st Lieutenant. Nevertheless, military decorations could not compensate for an endless round of PA's and Gunter found his career back in the basement when he was demobbed for the last time.

An old publishing friend, Nat Tannen of Tannen Music, suggested that Gunter contact the Wheeling, West Virginia Jamboree and that initial contact landed Gunter a steady gig on the show from 1952(*) until 1953. From that point he moved to WJLD in Birmingham, Alabama, before moving back to WWVA in 1954 for a ten year stint.

The recording scene was not so bright. Decca had not picked up his renewal at the end of the first term and after one or two abortive sessions with MGM in 1953 Gunter found himself label-less. The short stay at WJLD had given him one valuable contact, though. Programme director Jim Connally was Sam Phillips' brother-in-law and Connally knew of Phillips' ambition to enter the country market, so he suggested that Gunter and Phillips get together. Gunter could not spare the time to come to Memphis and recorded his single in Birmingham. Sam Phillips mailed the session cheques in February 1954 suggesting that the session had been held late in 1953 or early 1954. However, the coupling of "Gonna Dance All Night" and "Fallen Angel" did not revive Gunter's career, nor do much for the flagging fortunes of Sun Records.

Hardrock Gunter moved on to King Records for one session at the tail end of 1954 but King also refused to pick up their option. Gunter had moved to the morning slot on WWVA at the time he signed with King. In this way he met Bobby Durham, an old time fiddler who also worked at the station and on the Jamboree. Gunter recorded the wonderful "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" in the WWVA studios early in 1956 just as Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins were changing the face of country music. Durham and Bob Tuston then dubbed in the rhythm track. Gunter later claimed that the song was about drug usage (presumably by virtue of the line "some monkey's got my baby..."), but if this is to be believed, it marked Gunter's first and last venture into the murky world of 'double entendre'.

In any event, Hardrock Gunter and Durham (the latter had contributed the flip side, "Fiddle Bop"), found themselves with an eminently saleable master that was languishing unnecessarily on the Cross Country label.

Of course, the years between the release of Gunter's Sun record and the Cross-Country venture had been very good to Sam Phillips and after Bill Randle at WERE, Cleveland, started playing the record, Gunter contacted Phillips about a lease deal. Phillips agreed and "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" appeared on Sun in September 1956 horn of 20 seconds of prime bass thumping. Despite the incredible prestige of Sun Records in the fall of 1956, Gunter's little opus died.

To his credit, Hardrock Gunter did not give up. He recorded consistently for years for country labels great and small, although mostly small. He started a business, the Gunter Music and Insurance Agency based in St. Clairsville, Ohio and continued his musical activities in the face of changing times (for example the "Hillbilly Twist", (Starday 581).

Hardrock Gunter was not a significant performer in the history of Sun Records, not least because he never actually went to Memphis to record. However, nothing can detract from the primitive drive of "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" and it is doubtful whether Sam Phillips himself could have done a better job. Gunter was a journeyman. A hardworking artist who always gave the audience their moneysworth with jokes, music and little which for his own records.

Gunter's significance to Elvis Presley's music was in his ability to incorporate a black boogie woogie piano style into his music. It was the feeling and direction of Gunter's music that prompted Elvis Presley to unwittingly incorporate a rock sound in his country tunes. In sum, it was the ability to switch from country to rhythm and blues music that distinguished Gunter's style. it provided the bridge that Elvis Presley needed to infuse traditional country songs with an rhythm and blues feeling. On March 15, 2013, Hardrock Gunter died of complications of a pneumonia at the age of 88.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- HARDROCK GUNTER 2 -

A CONVERSATION WITH HARDROCK GUNTER PART 2 (OF 2)
Recorded at his home, fall 2008

This is the second part of an interview with Hardrock Gunter. Hardrock's first record on Bama Records, ''Birmingham Bounce'', was recorded in 1950 and has been mentioned at possibly the first rock and roll song. (Red Foley later recorded it and it became a number 1 song.) Hardrock followed that up with "Gonna Rock And Roll, Gonna Dance All Night" (also in 1950), possibly the first recording that used the phrase "rock and roll" in a musical context. Hardrock singed on the Sun Records label before Elvis Presley and is known as a pioneer of the Rockabilly sound.

SIDNEY LOUIS GUNTER - Hardrock Gunter was born in Birmingham, Alabama on February 27, 1927. He attended Robinson School, Barrett, Central Park and Woodland High Schools between 1930 and 1939, returning to Woodland in 1943 shortly before entering the armed services. Prior to entering the Army Gunter had amassed a variety of experience working in sales and entertaining over WAPI, Birmingham (1939-40) as part of the Golden River Boys, which featured himself and Happy Wilson. By this point, Gunter had already acquired his nickname which did not refer to his 'hardrockin' style but rather to his head which remained impervious to a clout from a car trunk lid.

Happy Wilson had departed for the service at the outbreak of war. Gunter gigged around locally before his own stint in the Army. After discharge in 1945 Gunter and Wilson reformed the Golden River Boys, and worked as a unit until 1948. From that point Gunter worked as a solo but continued to book the Golden River Boys. He also had a steady gig as a childrens' entertainer on the television affiliate of WAPI (which has been variously reported as WAFM-TV and WABT-TV). Manipulating a puppet named 'Ernest Tubb', Gunter would work it to one of Tubb's records thereby engendering some good taste in the wee ones of Birmingham, Alabama.

Hardrock Gunter made his recording debut in 1950 for the newly-formed Bama label. Both label and artist never saw a hit as large again. Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce" was an astounding success and was covered by artists as diverse as Red Foley, major country music star, it rose to number 1 on the country charts, and Amos Milburn. In fact, the Foley version easily eclipsed Gunter's original by virtue of Decca's superior distribution. Bama soon found that a major hit was more a curse than a blessing and issued two more Gunter 78s before leasing some other titles to Jim Bulleit. The problems at Bama allowed Gunter to sign with Decca in January 1951. (The second Bama disc and the Bullet singles were issued after he signed with Decca).

Gunter's entertainment career was interrupted by the Korean War. He was called up again and served until November 1952. While on leave Gunter would resume his promotional activities and ensured that the trade papers always cited his impressive rank of 1st Lieutenant. Nevertheless, military decorations could not compensate for an endless round of PA's and Gunter found his career back in the basement when he was demobbed for the last time.

An old publishing friend, Nat Tannen of Tannen Music, suggested that Gunter contact the Wheeling, West Virginia Jamboree and that initial contact landed Gunter a steady gig on the show from 1952(*) until 1953. From that point he moved to WJLD in Birmingham, Alabama, before moving back to WWVA in 1954 for a ten year stint.

The recording scene was not so bright. Decca had not picked up his renewal at the end of the first term and after one or two abortive sessions with MGM in 1953 Gunter found himself label-less. The short stay at WJLD had given him one valuable contact, though. Programme director Jim Connally was Sam Phillips' brother-in-law and Connally knew of Phillips' ambition to enter the country market, so he suggested that Gunter and Phillips get together. Gunter could not spare the time to come to Memphis and recorded his single in Birmingham. Sam Phillips mailed the session cheques in February 1954 suggesting that the session had been held late in 1953 or early 1954. However, the coupling of "Gonna Dance All Night" and "Fallen Angel" did not revive Gunter's career, nor do much for the flagging fortunes of Sun Records.

Hardrock Gunter moved on to King Records for one session at the tail end of 1954 but King also refused to pick up their option. Gunter had moved to the morning slot on WWVA at the time he signed with King. In this way he met Bobby Durham, an old time fiddler who also worked at the station and on the Jamboree. Gunter recorded the wonderful "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" in the WWVA studios early in 1956 just as Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins were changing the face of country music. Durham and Bob Tuston then dubbed in the rhythm track. Gunter later claimed that the song was about drug usage (presumably by virtue of the line "some monkey's got my baby..."), but if this is to be believed, it marked Gunter's first and last venture into the murky world of 'double entendre'.

In any event, Hardrock Gunter and Durham (the latter had contributed the flip side, "Fiddle Bop"), found themselves with an eminently saleable master that was languishing unnecessarily on the Cross Country label.

Of course, the years between the release of Gunter's Sun record and the Cross-Country venture had been very good to Sam Phillips and after Bill Randle at WERE, Cleveland, started playing the record, Gunter contacted Phillips about a lease deal. Phillips agreed and "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" appeared on Sun in September 1956 horn of 20 seconds of prime bass thumping. Despite the incredible prestige of Sun Records in the fall of 1956, Gunter's little opus died.

To his credit, Hardrock Gunter did not give up. He recorded consistently for years for country labels great and small, although mostly small. He started a business, the Gunter Music and Insurance Agency based in St. Clairsville, Ohio and continued his musical activities in the face of changing times (for example the "Hillbilly Twist", (Starday 581).

Hardrock Gunter was not a significant performer in the history of Sun Records, not least because he never actually went to Memphis to record. However, nothing can detract from the primitive drive of "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" and it is doubtful whether Sam Phillips himself could have done a better job. Gunter was a journeyman. A hardworking artist who always gave the audience their moneysworth with jokes, music and little which for his own records.

Gunter's significance to Elvis Presley's music was in his ability to incorporate a black boogie woogie piano style into his music. It was the feeling and direction of Gunter's music that prompted Elvis Presley to unwittingly incorporate a rock sound in his country tunes. In sum, it was the ability to switch from country to rhythm and blues music that distinguished Gunter's style. it provided the bridge that Elvis Presley needed to infuse traditional country songs with an rhythm and blues feeling. On March 15, 2013, Hardrock Gunter died of complications of a pneumonia at the age of 88.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- 'EGENDARY SONG POETS -

Jack Clement (Sun Records Producer)
Tells Story About Jerry Lee Lewis

JACK HENDERSON CLEMENT - Jack Clement is one of the few people associated with Sun Records who are more famous for what they did after the Sun years than during the heyday of rockabilly. Clement is a highly talented record producer, musician, occasional recording artist and genuine "character", known as "the minstrel", or "cowboy". Clement had made his name largely in country music, discovering Charly Pride and Don Williams and delivering their music to a world audience.

Jack Clement played an important but, for him, subordinate role at Sun Records between 1956 and 1958 as songwriter, studio engineer and musical catalyst. Through this time, he was constantly at odds with Sam Phillips about wanting to "develop" the Sun sound, to make it more "musical". It is entirely possible that Johnny Cash would not have broken through to the pop market in such a big way without Jack Clement.

Born in Memphis in 1931, Jack Clement lived there until 1948 when he signed up for a four year stint in the U.S. Marines. At home, he'd loved music of all kinds but especially the radio broadcasts of Roy Acuff and Merle Travis. The guitar wizardry of Travis taught him that music could be either simple or complicated but that it had to be good. He would never tolerate second-raters even when recording the simplest of three-chord rockers. He couldn't get to see Merle Travis perform, but he did go down to Smilin' Eddie Hill's "High Noon Roundup" show which took place in a Memphis department store window every day and went out over radio station WMC. He would join the crowd around the store and listen to Hill, Harmonica Frank, Slim Rhodes, Wayne Raney and the Delmore Brothers, and especially to the Louvin Brothers' light harmonies and plaintive hill-country songs.

In Jack Clement's view, Sun was not making records quite musical enough. He was responsible for getting Johnny Cash into the pop market and for trying a range of experiments with vocal backings and steel guitar sounds. What he did like at Sun Records was firstly the depth of talented artists, and secondly the relaxed atmosphere. He could do what he liked. Work all night on a session, write songs in Taylor's Cafe next door, like Cash's "Guess Things Happen That Way", and even built a bathroom in the control room. He once told Sam Phillips he could build an office for promotion girl Barbara Barnas for a hundred dollars. He cancelled sessions and set to with the woodwork. He also spent time helping to master recordings for his buddies on rival labels, and on developing his own musical sound as a performer. On April 16, 1954, Jack Clement met Elvis Presley at the Eagle's Nest, and Elvis Presley made one unadvertised appearance with Clement at the Bel-Air Club in Memphis.

Leaving Sun Records early in 1959 with his part in a string of million-selling productions behind him, Jack Clement used the proceeds of his song copyrights to buy equipment and set up Summer Records on Main Street in Memphis. Apart from an atrocious novelty called "Motorcycle Michael", Summer bombed. Jack Clement kept busy, though, fooling around with productions for Pepper Records (Tommy Tucker's "Return Of A Teenage Queen") and for Echo Records, which he formed with Stanley Kesler and Clyde Leoppard and for which he built a studio on Manassas Avenue in Memphis.

In the fall of 1959, Jack Clement had blown all his money and, in his words, "decided I had to do some work". He called Chet Atkins in Nashville and was hired as RCA's most junior producer. Jack Clement still works as a producer in the Nashville production area.

On April 10, 2013 it was announced Jack Clement would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A virtual jack of all trades in the entertainment businesss, Cowboy Jack Clement, 82, died Thursday August 8, 2013 at his Nashville home following a lengthy illness from liver cancer.

Copyright UCFTV

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- JERRY MCGILL -

One of the more mysterious musical legends in Memphis history, Jerry McGill returns in thirty years to town for a special performance at the Hi-Tone Café in Memphis. A former garage-band great, a onetime Sun recording, ''Lovestruck''/''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'' (SUN 326) artist (January 21, 1959). A longtime foil for Waylon Jennings, and a notorious hell-raiser during the Bluff City's mid-1970s music scene, as vividly captured in William Eggleston's film ''Stranded In Canton'', McGill will play a miniset at the start of a bill that includes local burlesque group The Memphis Belles as well as scuzz-rockers The Dirty Streets and Tanks. McGill's performance is being filmed by director and author Robert Gordon (It Came From Memphis) as part of a documentary being made with Irish filmmaker Paul Duane.

- ''REASONS WHY WE'RE HERE'' -
(Jerry McGill)

- ''NO MORE TEARS'' -
Jerry McGill

This are two of the songs that will be on his forthcoming release from Playground Records, songs he wrote himself. An unreleased, unrecorded, unheralded songs from Jerry McGill, filmed for a new documentary ''Very Extremely Dangerous'' on his life and wild times. (See: Jerry McGill 2)

JERRY MCGILL - a singer, songwriter and guitarist spent a short period of time at Sun Records, recording a pair of songs, ''Lovestruck'' and ''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'', with his band the Topcoats on January 21, 1959. He also began to rack up a long list of criminal offenses during this period and claimed that he was arrested 97 times in Memphis on charges ranging from public drunkenness to armed robbery. During the 1960s and 1970s, Jerry McGill went out on the road with Waylon Jennings, often working under the pseudonym Curtis Buck as the country star's rhythm guitarist and road manager, and co-writing songs including ''Waymore's Blues''. For a long period beginning in the late 1970s, McGill had largely disappeared under a string of criminal charges including illegal weapons possession and attempted murder.

Jerry McGill changed his name several times, but reappeared in 2009 to star in ''Very Extremely Dangerous'', a feature-length documentary about Jerry McGill's life and his battle against cancer. Jerry McGill, the famous felonious character had suffered from cancer and kidney trouble, he died on Thursday, June 30, 2013 in Alabama at the age of 73. ''He was charming, but the kind of charm where he'd smile at you, said Jim Lancaster, who had worked with McGill as a producer and songwriter partner, ''and then run off with your wife. He really was like the last of the bad-guy cowboys. He was an outlaw down to his souls.

- HOOCHIE COOCHIE MAN -

This is a Jerry McGill song, recorded circa 1974 and never released, produced by Waylon Jennings & featuring him, Jim Dickinson on piano, the Memphis Horns and many other country-soul luminaries. The video uses footage shot for William Eggleston's ''Stranded In Canton'' in 1975, and includes cameos from a young Jim Dickinson, Jim and Jill Lancaster and Randall Lyon. The film was finally released in 2005 but most of this material hasn't been seen anywhere until now.

Additional material shot by John T Davis, Paul Duane and Robert Gordon.

JERRY MCGILL - A TRUE JERRY MCGILL TESTIMONIAL FROM RONALD RICH, HIS DRUMMER IN THE TOPCOATS IN 1959 - ''I played drums with Eddie Cash and The Madcaps, Dickie Lee, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, The Marvels, Jerry McGill and The Topcoats, and a few other Memphis groups plus my Sun sessions. I knew George Klein, Elvis, Sam Phillips, and a few of the other Memphis music influencers''.

''I played with Jerry McGill (the only name I knew him by) when he was starting out as a singer and until The Topcoats finally disbanded. Honestly, I don't remember why we disbanded but I went away to Georgia Tech for college and that's all I can remember. Jerry was a really great guy and very friendly to me. The girls were all over him whenever he played live.

He had a musical soul and was destined to do well. At the time, I was doing session work playing drums at Sun Studios at the age of 17. If you recall the drums in ''Lovestruck'', you know my work''. ''The musicians playing on ''Lovestruck'' and I Wanna Make Sweet Love'' were Charlie Rich on piano (I think), Bill Black on bass, Martin Willis on sax, and I think Brad Suggs on guitar. The session ran about 3 hours as far as I can recall. None of Jerry's other band members played on the actual record. For some reason, they wanted me on both A and B sides. I remember giving Charlie Rich (no relation) a ride after a recording session to the Holiday Inn in Memphis one night and this might have been the one, but this was over 50 years ago. Charlie was not big yet but very talented''.

''I definitely remember Martin Willis, a Sun powerhouse, playing sax with me on Jerry's only Sun record. The backup singers on ''Lovestruck'' were Opal Green, Twila Taylor, Nanci Drake and Carolyn Maharrey. All of the girls were juniors at Treadwell. Jerry McGill was very talented and was really great to his entire band. Jerry was totally dedicated at the time to making it in the music business. I understand after I moved away he became very involved in producing records as well but I lost touch with him''.

''Here are the names of all the Topcoat musicians who played with Jerry McGill on all live performances around Memphis. You may remember some of them. The group was tight and put out an amazing sound for a garage type band in 1959. Jim King was lead guitar and band manager, Ronnie Rich on drums, Frank Thomas on bass and keyboards, Bobby Scott rhythm guitar, Dwayne Fowler sax''.

''Jim King ran the band very well and kept us really booked. Some of the live appearances got "quite lively'' including an occasional fight in the parking lot. There is a Commercial Appeal newspaper photo of the Topcoats playing at the National Guard Armory with Jerry standing on a round stage but I don't know how to get it posted. George Klein cooked up this huge "dance" at the Armory to promote a teenage dance club according to what I heard and Barney Sellers did the photography for the newspaper promotion''.

''Unfortunately, the entire band never got in the photo since Jerry was the real focal point. By the way, the girls backing Jerry on ''Lovestruck'' are also on the Jerry Lee Lewis song "Let's Talk About It''. Not sure what happened to all the Topcoats. Jim King is alive and well and living in Texas. No idea what happened to the others. Most people assume Jimmy M. Van Eaton played on Jerry McGill's session but that is not true. I stopped by to see Jimmy M. Van Eaton in Memphis a couple of years ago during a visit from California. He was working out in Germantown for an investment company and gave me some new drumsticks from his line of Jimmy M. VanEaton drum products. What a great guy! He has a wonderful history with Sun and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in my opinion. JM is the only session drummer that actually has his picture on the Sun Studios wall and it is certainly earned. Jimmy Lott was another Sun session drummer I knew. He also went to East High while I was a student there. I understand Jimmy died. We had a few "battle of the drums" on stage for the kids which was always fun. I think I won. And he thinks he won. The one that really won was the student...they had great fun''.

''I still have the original ''Lovestruck'' 45rpm in my collection. It is one of my prized possessions. If Jerry sees this message, I wish him continued success with his new music coming out. I live in San Diego and have been in California since 1968. Don't know if Very Extremely Dangerous will ever get a viewing out here but if it does, I'll be the first in line. Wish I could get my hands on a DVD if one comes out''.

''Glad to hear Jerry is alive and hanging in there. He may remember me. It has been 53 years since we cut his only Sun Record but maybe he will. I had no idea he would take the path he did with crime and all the other crazy stuff but it sounds like he finally came back to his roots and love of music which is really his calling in life in my opinion. If you ever see or talk with him, please tell him Ronnie Rich, his old drummer from the Topcoats said hello. And let him know his guitar player, Jim King, asks about him as well''.

Testimony by Ronnie Rich, June/July 2010

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

PROMO JERRY MCGILL & VERY EXTREMELY DANGEROUS
Published on August 21 2013 by Chris Morris

A few years ago, during a footloose time in my life, I went down to Memphis, where some knew me as ''Peaches'', to attend a couple of music festivals. I soon found myself in the company of a young woman about thirty-five years my junior who had an ill-defined role in one of the city's many garage-rock bands. I believe she played keyboards. Or something.

One afternoon, we were engaged in desultory, fully-clothed conversation at her place when she admitted two agitated young men - dreadlocked, filthy, wearing grimy clothing and redolent of marijuana. It became swiftly apparent that these lowlifes were there to drop off a significant quantity of drugs, on consignment. One of them began loudly bragging about taking off some local dealer for a large amount of dope, cash, and guns. Expecting either armed thugs or representatives of the Memphis Police Department or the DEA to crash through the door at any second, I muttered something regarding seeing a man about a dog and exited with all deliberate speed.

I recount this sorry-ass tale only to support my hypothesis that in Memphis there is frequently less than one degree of separation between the music and criminal communities. This may well be quite true in other places as well, but the connection seems to be writ large in the Bluff City. And one new documentary feature has writ it even larger.

''Very Extremely Dangerous'' contemplates the unhinged and occasionally nasty life of musician-felon Jerry McGill, who died on May 2013 at the age of 73. The work of Irish filmmaker Paul Duane, the feature surveys the remarkable re-appearance of McGill, a shadowy and menacing presence on the Memphis music and art scene during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, who vanished into the criminal netherworld for decades. Duane charts McGill's scorched-earth progress as he returns to recording and performing in 2010, his many stormy personal relationships, and his battle with lung cancer (he was diagnosed as filming began). It's a portrait as terrifying and sobering as it is sometimes affecting.

McGill did not lack musical bona fides. In 1959, the Memphis native cut a lone 45 for Sam Phillips's Sun Records, ''Lovestruck'' b/w ''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'', backed by a group that included his better-known label mates Charlie Rich and Billy Lee Riley. It was competent if feeble rockabilly, but McGill was a magnetic enough performer to sustain a local career (and to hang out with Elvis, too).

Over time, the police got to know the name Jerry McGill well, so well that he adopted several aliases, but he kept plugging away as a musician. An apotheosis of sorts took place in the mid-1970s, when he cut a few powerful, still-unreleased sides, most of them produced by arch-maverick Jim Dickinson, including a moving, near-definitive reading of Guy Clark’s ''Desperados Waiting For A Train''. Gunfire can be heard on one number.

During that period, McGill was filmed extensively by Memphis photographer William Eggleston, who employed an early portable video unit to document the lives of his companions in the local demimonde. A frightening confrontation between a grinning, pistol-wielding McGill and artist Randall Lyon became an indelible highlight of Eggleston's video work Stranded in Canton, which in 2005 was finally edited into a 77-minute feature from thirty hours of footage by Memphis writer-filmmaker Robert Gordon (the producer of ''Very Extremely Dangerous''). Deconstructing that scary footage in Duane’s documentary, Memphis music vet Jim Lancaster, a friend and frequent sideman, says that in the day McGill was ''a cross between Lee Marvin and Mick Jagger ... He was a charmer. He’d also stab ya''.

Later in the 1970s, McGill, then a.k.a ''Curtis Buck'', became road manager, sometime rhythm guitarist, dope bagman, and producer for Waylon Jennings. As ''Buck'', he is credited as co-writer of Jennings'’s 1970s song ''Waymore's Blues''; apparently the two musicians were so high at the time that it took the both of them to rip off Furry Lewis's ''Kassie Jones'', previously a staple of Dickinson's set.

McGill probably could have continued to fiddle around on the fringes of music, but crime apparently held more appeal. ''Johnny Cash ain’t never been to prison in his life'', the unrepentant McGill says in ''Very Extremely Dangerous''. ''He ain’t no criminal. Neither was Waylon. And they called 'em outlaws. I'm an outlaw''.

Roland Janes, Jerry Lee Lewis's longtime guitar player and the house engineer at Sam Phillips Recording for decades, and a sideman on the Topcoats session of 1959, evaluates McGill's career trajectory this way: ''He's got charisma, he's got everything you need. His timing and his choices were always suspect''. McGill himself bears out Janes's estimation when he says, ''We played nightclubs, beer joints all over Memphis. I played every one of 'em. I knew every burglar, dope dealer, armed robber, forger, and I liked 'em. That's how I got involved in it''.

Busted more than ninety times in Memphis alone, and God knows how many times elsewhere under other names, for offenses including assault, armed robbery, and attempted murder, McGill spent years on the lam and did at least three jolts in state prisons. He was newly released from a Florida jail in 2009 when a post on a music blog reunited him with an old Memphis sweetheart, Joyce Rosic, with whom he settled in Huntsville, Alabama.

Impressed by Gordon's depiction of McGill in his 1995 book ''It Came From Memphis'', Paul Duane undertook a fly-on-the-wall observation of McGill as he careened through his renewed career and cancer treatment. The documentarian notes with welcome honesty that he initially viewed his subject as ''a dying outlaw looking for redemption'', but he came away with a movie about a man who was, in large measure, unredeemable. First seen as he attempts to throttle his girlfriend while she’s driving on the interstate, McGill emerges as a sociopath; a selfish, manipulative, conniving liar; and a thief. Though he is purportedly on the road to recovering his music career, all the behavior that landed him in stir is still vividly present onscreen. Drinking hard, loaded on prescription pain medication (which, in one hackle-raising sequence, he shoots up in the back seat of a moving car), and usually armed to the teeth, he rips through people’s lives like the tornado you read about in twelve-step literature.

McGill’s closest friends, all of them invariably supportive, are portrayed as victims in front of the camera, a point of view that leads us to contemplate McGill's demeanor as one might warily eye the movements of a cornered rattler. His good-time buddy Paul Clements, now dead, was his partner in a thirty-year drinking and drugging bromance, though Clements tells Duane that he felt threatened enough by the increasingly erratic McGill to sic the police on him. During his attempted comeback, McGill's affairs were handled by one Dr. Herbert Brewer, an Alabama chiropractor who served as his manager-enabler; by the end of the film, ''Doc'' has been dumped by his ungrateful charge. Jim Lancaster and his wife Jill display nearly infinite patience as McGill tears through their Florida recording studio for chaotic sessions; the couple, who relieved him of several items he attempted to steal from a home he was staying in, finally drove him nearly four hundred miles to be rid of him. Even director Duane took a hit, paying several hundred dollars for McGill’s cab ride from Huntsville to the Florida Panhandle burg of (swear to God) Niceville.

''McGill has this tendency to believe that everything belongs to him'', Lancaster tells Duane. ''So, if he sees anything he likes, he'll take it''.

McGill’s interaction with Joyce Rosic is especially hard to watch. Very Extremely Dangerous reaches its boiling point with a protracted, screaming argument on the highway between the abusive McGill and his increasingly agitated and incensed significant other, filmed by Duane from the back seat. “The Indians said that if you fuck with somebody that’s nuts, bad shit’ll happen to you,” McGill warns her. And then it does. After his attempt to strangle her behind the wheel, Rosic deposits him and his belongings in the parking lot of a Mississippi casino.

Ugly? Definitely. But if Jerry McGill were nothing more than a hooligan and a bum filled with rage and braggadocio, there would be no reason to watch ''Very Extremely Dangerous''. Time and again during the film, we find that beneath his bruised, beat-up, track-marked surface, McGill has an artist’s heart beating within.

In the immediate aftermath of his cancer diagnosis, McGill sits with a teary-eyed Clements in front of Duane's camera in a seedy hotel room. He says with impassioned sincerity, ''My whole attitude changed about life, because I might not have much longer. If I crash, I wanna do somethin'''. Then, weeping and speaking haltingly, he adds, ''I asked God. . . to let me . . . make some good music''.

It is during the film’s musical moments when one acquires some sympathy for the devilish McGill, as in his gleeful first recording session in thirty-five years at Memphis's Phillips Recording, where he is produced by Janes and joined by Jim Lancaster and Cody and Luther Dickinson (Jim Dickinson’s sons). Later, as he struggles to complete a vocal at Lancaster's studio, one catches a glimpse of his great will, and something of his still-present creative gift. Finally, there's an exultant moment captured at McGill’s comeback show at Memphis's Hi-Tone where the musician, though plainly addled by drink and drugs, gets the young audience to sing along with him on ''No More Tears'' He may have shown up at the club with no pick and a guitar strap resembling a strip of police tape, but he can still nail a crowd.

Another such moment wraps up the movie. By this point it is mid-2011, about a year after McGill's successful cancer surgery (which was nearly interrupted by a visit from some bounty hunters). He is back with the ever-forgiving Rosic, who explains, ''You get attached to Jerry, he's crazy, but you do''. A title tells us that the old crook threw his shotgun into the Tennessee River.

He is shown playing, solo, softly, in front of a banner displaying his various aliases, a self-penned composition called ''Reasons Why We're Here''. He sings in his battered voice, ''Is there anybody who knows all the reasons that we're here''? And then he cocks an eye to Duane's camera, laughs in his throat, and asks, almost daring the audience to judge him, ''Well, do ya''? There's the basic question that ''Very Extremely Dangerous posits. Why was Jerry McGill placed on earth, to rob and con people, or to make rough-hewn, raucous, and often poignant music? It hangs over the movie like a huge, dark nimbus, and it is not easily sorted out. Things are complicated that way in the Bluff City.

JERRY MCGILL - a singer, songwriter and guitarist spent a short period of time at Sun Records, recording a pair of songs, ''Lovestruck'' and ''I Wanna Make Sweet Love'', with his band the Topcoats on January 21, 1959. He also began to rack up a long list of criminal offenses during this period and claimed that he was arrested 97 times in Memphis on charges ranging from public drunkenness to armed robbery. During the 1960s and 1970s, Jerry McGill went out on the road with Waylon Jennings, often working under the pseudonym Curtis Buck as the country star's rhythm guitarist and road manager, and co-writing songs including ''Waymore's Blues''. For a long period beginning in the late 1970s, McGill had largely disappeared under a string of criminal charges including illegal weapons possession and attempted murder.

Jerry McGill changed his name several times, but reappeared in 2009 to star in ''Very Extremely Dangerous'', a feature-length documentary about Jerry McGill's life and his battle against cancer. Jerry McGill, the famous felonious character had suffered from cancer and kidney trouble, he died on Thursday, June 30, 2013 in Alabama at the age of 73. ''He was charming, but the kind of charm where he'd smile at you, said Jim Lancaster, who had worked with McGill as a producer and songwriter partner, ''and then run off with your wife. He really was like the last of the bad-guy cowboys. He was an outlaw down to his souls.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- STEEL GUITAR RAG -
Johnny Cash & Jack Clement

From the documentary
"Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan''
Cowboy Jack Clement's Home Movie

JOHNNY CASH - Country singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born in the remote rural settlement of Kingsland, Arkansas, on February 26, 1932. His birthplace was almost directly across the Mississippi from Lake County, Tennessee, where Carl Perkins was born six weeks later. Cash is the father of singer Rosanne Cash (1955), as well as the father-in-law of singer Rodney Crowell. Cash was born John Ray Cash, and it was only when he joined the U.S. Air Force that he was given the name Johnny.

In the mid-1940s Cash started work in the fields, habitually listening to Smilin' Eddie Hill on WMPS, Memphis, during the midday break. Hill's "High Noon Roundup" show featured the cream of the local hillbilly talent. Unlike almost all of his later Sun colleagues, Johnny Cash grew up without the influence of black music: his parents had settled on a government colony in Dyess when he was three years old, from which blacks were specifically excluded. His parents kept the radio tuned to the hillbilly stations, and when Cash went into Dyess with a few nickels to put in the jukebox, it was Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb that he wanted to hear.

When Cash's voice broke, he realized that he owned something that might get him out of Dyess. He practised at every opportunity, singing in school and at home. Yet when he left tow, it was not to become a hillbilly singer but to work in the auto plants in Pontiac, Michigan. Like many others who took that route, Cash returned home, although he made his return somewhat sooner than most - after three weeks. Still determined to get out of Dyess, he joined the Air Force on July 7, 1950.

By his own account, Cash's 'four long, miserable years' in the Air Force were relieved only by playing music with fellow southerners. While stationed in Germany, they formed a group called the Landsberg Barbarians, and Johnny Cash started writing material for them - including the quintessential lament of the homesick southerner, "Hey! Porter", which was published as a poem in the servicemen's magazine Stars & Stripes.

Before leaving for overseas duty, Johnny Cash had gone roller-skating in San Antonio, Texas. On the rink, he crashed into Vivian Liberto, then seventeen years old and in her last year of high school. They dated during his last weeks in the States and wrote to each other constantly while he was overseas. John and Vivian decided to get married after he returned. Cash probably harboured the dream of being able to make money playing music, but up to that point his largest audience had been a gathering of a few dozen Italians who had listened to the Landsberg Barbarians on a drunken furlough in Venice.

On July 3, 1954, Johnny Cash left the U.S. Air Force. On August 7 he married Vivian Dorraine Liberto, and they set up home on Tutwiler Avenue in Memphis. Cash's older brother Roy had found him a job selling appliances for the Home Equipment Company, but Cash was, by his own admission. Cash's trips into the black neighborhoods of Memphis gave him his first exposure to black music. Trying to break into music any way he could, Cash auditioned for a job as a radio announcer at a station in Corinth, Mississippi, but was turned down because of lack of experience.

Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Cash enroled at the Keegan School of Broadcast in Memphis. Attending on a part-time basis, he had completed half of the course by the time his first Sun record was released in 1954 with the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant).

A few days after getting out of the service, Johnny Cash visited his brother in Memphis. Roy Cash had forsaken a musical career and was working at the Hoehn Chevrolet dealership on Union Avenue. He introduced his younger brother to three mechanics who played together at home, at small benefit concerts, and on Sunday morning radio. Marshall Grant was twenty-six years old, sang tenor, and played guitar. Luther Monroe Perkins, also twenty-six, played guitar as well. A.W. "Red" Kernodle, ten years older than Perkins and Grant, played steel guitar.

For all his musical shortcomings, it was Luther Perkins who developed the guitar sound that complemented Cash's stark baritone. Perkins was born in Memphis on January 8, 1928. His father drove a taxi at the time, but soon returned to farming in Mississippi. The Perkins family, including Thomas Wayne (Perkins), who later scored a hit with "Tragedy", grew up in Sardis and Como. "Finally, one day, we decided that we were ready for a shot at the record business", recalled Cash.

"I had met Elvis Presley's guitarist, Scotty Moore, and I called him and asked him about the possibility of getting an audition with Sun". Moore probably told Cash that the best approach was simply go to the studio. It was an approach that had worked for Presley.

In an interview with Peter Guralnick, Cash described how he came to audition. "Sun Records was between my house and the radio announcing school. I just started going by there and every day "'d ask: Could I see Mr. Phillips. And they'd say, 'He's not in yet', or 'He's at a meeting'. So really it became a challenge to me just to get inside that studio. Finally, one day I was sitting on the stoop just as he came to work and I stood up and said, 'I'm John Cash and I want you to hear me play'. He said, 'Well, come on in'. I sang two or three hours for him. Everything I knew - Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Flatt and Scruggs... I even sang "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen".

"I had to fight and call and keep at it and push, push, push to even get into Sun Records. I don't feel like anyone discovered me because I had to fight so hard to get heard".

Phillips liked what he heard and invited Cash to return with his group. "When they came in", recalled Sam Phillips, "Cash apologized to me for not having a professional band but I said that he should let me hear what they could do and I would be able to tell whether they had a style I would be able to work with. At that first audition I was immediately impressed with John's unusual voice. I was also interested in Luther's guitar playing. He wasn't a wizard on the guitar. He played one string at a time and he wasn't super good - but he was different,
and that was important".

"Their material was all religious at that time. Songs which Cash had composed. I liked them, but I told him that I would not at that time be able to merchandize him as a religious artist and that it would be well if he could secure some other material or write some other songs. I told him that I was real pleased with the sound we were getting from just the three instruments. If I'm mot mistaken, I think it was the third occasion in the studio that I actually commenced seriously to get Johnny Cash down on tape. He continued to be very apologetic about his band. However, I told him that I did not want to use any other instrumentation because of the unique style they had. They would practice a lot, but I told them not to be overly prepared because I was interested in spontaneity too".

"Sam Phillips had a vision", confirmed Cash in an interview with Bill Flanagan. "Nashville in 1955 was grinding out all these country records. If you took the voice off, all the tracks sounded the same to me... All the arrangements were calculated and predictable. It's kinda that way with my music - but (at least) it's my music. It's not done to try and sound like someone else in Nashville".

According to Marshall Grant, Red Kernodle came to the first session, froze and went back to his day job. According to Kernodle, he played the first session and then quit. "There was no money in it", he recalled with little apparent regret, "and there was getting to be too much staying up late at night and running around". It is probably that his halting attempts at playing the steel guitar can be heard on an early version of "Wide Open Road". If so, his disappearance was no great loss. Luther Perkins' oldest daughter, Linda, recalled that Kernodle's wife had threatened to leave if he concentrated upon music. He also held a better paying job than the other members of the group which he was unwilling to jeopardize. His disappearance was viewed with some relief by the others.

Needing some secular material in a hurry, Cash resuscitated "Hey! Porter" and previewed "Folsom Prison Blues" - a song based closely on a Gordon Jenkins tune, "Cresent City Blues", which formed a segment of a 1953 concept album called "Seven Dreams". Both the melody and finally dawned upon Jenkins after Cash re-recorded the song for his hugely successful prison album in 1968. Cash's earliest version of "Folsom Prison Blues" were delivered in a curiously high pitched voice, although those early takes show that Luther Perkins had already worked out his guitar solo that would later become a model of minimalist country picking. However, Sam Phillips did not want to couple "Folsom Prison Blues" with "Hey! Porter" for the first record.

The essential elements of Cash's music were in place from the start. The stark, lonesome vocals were front and centre, with Luther doing little more than keeping time - even during his solo. Where most guitarists relish the opportunity to solo, Luther seemed to dread it. The fear of failure - messing up an otherwise good take - seemed to haunt him every time he entered the studio during the early days.

For his part, Sam Phillips challenged the established precepts of recording balance, placing Cash's vocals more assertively in the mix than had ever been the case in country music. Phillips fattened the sounds of the vocals and the rhythm track with carefully timed slapback echo that gave a compelling syncopation to some of the faster numbers.

Cash recorded a number of hit records for Sun, including "I Walk The Line" (SUN 241), "Folsom Prison Blues" (SUN 232), and "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" (SUN 283). His first major public appearance after singing with Sun Records was at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis on August 5, 1955. Elvis Presley was also on the bill. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley toured together on the Jamboree tour from Abilene, Texas, to St. Louis, for two weeks in October 1955.

Johnny Cash became one of the participants in the famed Million-Dollar Quartet session. Years later he filed a lawsuit to try to prohibit the session's release on record. Cash left Sun Records in 1958 to record for Columbia Records. Berely two weeks after his last Sun session, Johnny Cash was in Nashville cutting his first Columbia session. Without Sam Phillips second-guessing the repertoire, cash was able to record a selection of religious or quasi-religious material. The first Columbia album, The Fabulous Johnny Cash, was released in time for the Disc Jockey Convention in the middle of November 1958.

On December 12, 1958 Johnny and Vivian Cash hosted a housewarming party in Encino, California. Cash's life - both inside and outside music - would acquire some new dimension as the '50s gave way to the '60s. At times he seemed to be the most focussed artist in country music, recording concept albums, and bringing a variety to his bare-bones sound that Sam Phillips never envisaged. At other times Cash seemed - like Hank Williams - to be heading ninety miles down a dead-end street.

At a live concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August 1969, Elvis Presley jokingly introduced himself by saying, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", before singing "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk The Line".

The Sun recordings maximized the effective contrast between the hustling rhythm of the bass/acoustic guitar and the enigmatically ponderous vocals and sparse lead guitar. Phillips' achievement was to keep Cash's sound at its bare essentials and then fatten it up with the use of tape delay echo. Subsequent producers and engineers could never quite recapture Phillips' formula. At Columbia, Cash's little trio was placed in the cavernous Bradley's studio where the sound leaped around, giving a cavernous echo where Phillips had imparted a tightly focussed slapback. The difference was especially evident on Cash's vocals. The repertoire was as strong, the backings were still commendably simple - but the booming assertive presence was partially lost in the swampy echo.

The ultimate judgement on Cash - at Sun and Columbia - though, is that the whole represented much more than the sum of the parts. Cash's limited vocals, Luther Perkins' bare-bones picking and Marshall Grant's bass playing jelled magically to produce a unique and compelling blend, one of the most original, innovative and immediately recognisable sounds in country music.

The late career regeneration was ongoing. The last album released during Cash's lifetime, ''American IV: The Man Comes Around'', was a fitting epitaph, and the video accompanying his version of Trent Rezner's ''Hurt'' might well be the most moving music video ever made. It was life laid bare.

Johnny Cash Lived to be seventy-one, although he looked and sounded considerably older toward the end. Parkinson's disease, diabetes, glaucoma, and respiratory problems took a terrible toll. After his second wife, June Carter Cash, died on Mat 15, 2003, many believed that John would not last long, and he did not. The end came on September 12, 2003 and Johnny Cash dies at the Shy- Drager Syndrome of the age of 71 in the Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. He'd been to the brink so often, but lacked the strength for more fight. It had been nearly fifty years since Sam Phillips captured the surprisingly confident opening notes of ''Wide Open Road''. (CE)(MH)

JACK CLEMENT – Is one of the few people associated with Sun Records who are more famous for what they did after the Sun years than during the heyday of rockabilly. Clement is a highly talented record producer, musician, occasional recording artist and genuine 'character', known as ''the minstrel'' or ''cowboy''. Clement had made his name largely in country music, discovering Charley Pride and Don Williams and delivering their music to a world audience. Clement played on important but subordinate role at Sun between 1956 and 1958 as songwriter, studio engineer and musical catalyst.

Through this time, he was constantly at odds with Sam Phillips about wanting to develop the Sun sound, to make it more musical. It is entirely possible that Johnny cash would not have broken into the pop market in such a big way without Jack Clement.

Born as Jack Henderson Clement on April 5, 1931 in Memphis, Tennessee, raised and educated in Memphis, Jack Clement was performing at an early age. Clement lived there until 1948 when he signed up for a year stint in the U.S, Marines. At home he'd loved music of all kinds but especially the radio broadcasts of Roy Acuff and Merle Travis. The guitar wizardry of Travis taught him that music cold be either simple or complicated but that it had to be good. He would never tolerate second-raters even when recording the simplest of three-chord rockers. He couldn't get to see Merle Travis perform, but he did go down to Smilin' Eddie Hill's ''High Noon Roundup'' show which took place every day in a Memphis department store window and went out over radio WMC. He would join the crowd around the store and listen to Hill, Harmonica Frank, Slim Rhodes, Wayne Raney and the Delmore Brothers, and especially to the Louvin Brothers' light harmonies and plaintive hillcountry songs. The Marine base where Clement was stationed was just outside Washington, D.C., and here in 1948 he was first exposed to bluegrass music. ''That was when I fell in love with the five-string banjo'', he recalled, ''and I just had to get one and practice on it straight away''. Soon, he was proficient enough to play duets with Roy Clark, later a country superstar but then a resident artist at a Washington club called ''The Famous''. On Saturday nights, he would travel down to Maryland with Scotty Stoneman's band. Scotty was the mainstay of the popular Stonemans. He played fiddle, with mandolin, banjo and bass support from Jack Clement, Buzz Busby and Jimmy Stoneman. The group was completed by Ralph Jones on dobro and Clement recalls Jones being one of the finest oldtime country musicians he ever knew. In 1952, Jack returned briefly to Memphis. Soon, he was off to Wheeling, West Virginia with Buzz Busby doing, ''a bluegrass comedy duet thing, kinda like Homer & Jethro''. Also at that time Jack played in Baltimore and Boston and he made his first record in 1953, for the Sheraton label in Boston, Massachusetts. ''This was in 1953. We had been playing a radio show in Baltimore when Aubrey Mayhew, who managed Hawkshaw Hawkins, asked us to do a show in his WCOP Hayloft Jamboree in Boston. While we were doing that James Daliano, a famous french horn player, came in and said he wanted to record us for his Sheraton label. Daliano was the owner but he let Aubrey run the label. We recorded my first two published songs, ''I can't Say Nothing At All'' and ''I Think I'll Write A Song''. They were by Buzz and Jack, and we did them in the style of Webb Pierce''.

Sheraton Records only distributed locally in the north-east, so nothing came of this development and Jack got tried of the duo. Being a developing ''crazy'', he went off to join an Hawaiian band in Washington. He then wound up back to Memphis in 1954. That year he answered an advert for training dance instructors and he became an employee of the Arthur Murray School of Dancing on Main Street and to study English at the Memphis State University from 1953 to 1955.

On evenings and weekends, Jack Clement shows with a western-swing influenced country band run by a pal of his, truck driver Slim Wallace. Wallace's Dixie Ramblers played a regular spot at a club in Paragould, Arkansas, and while returning one night Jack and Slim plotted their entry into the record business. Slim put up most of the 450 dollars they needed to buy an old Magnecord tape deck from disc jockey Sleepy Eyed John, and Jack built himself a studio in Slim's garage. The garage was on Fernwood Drive, so the label was to be called Fernwood Records.

The first Fernwood disc does not exist. It was to be ''Trouble Bound'' and ''Rock With Me Baby'' by Arkansas wild man Billy Riley. After working on the songs, Jack Clement needed somewhere to have his tapes mastered for transfer to disc. On the advice of Bill Fitzgerald at Music Sales Distributors, Jack went to Sun Records. Sam Phillips reward Clement's tape of Riley singing ''Trouble Bound'' and offered both Jack and Billy Riley a job. Clement joined Sun on June 15, 1956. His only remaining interest in Fernwood was to use Sun's facilities to make masters, and to add the echo to the number one hit ''Tragedy'' by Thomas Wayne. This had been recorded at Hi Records since the garage studio was still incomplete. ''Sam Phillips always wondered how they got that echo'', says Jack with a grin, ''but I figured it didn't take but a few minutes so why should I tell him''.

On the question of whether Sam Phillips really controlled the development of the Sun sound, whether he was ''the man'' or just lucky, Jack Clement is in no doubt. ''All of Sam's early success was entirely Sam's. Elvis, Carl, Cash. My work was with developing Cash's sound, and with Bill Justis and Charlie Rich. I was into making things musical. Sam was not, but he understood one thing that I didn't at that time. He understood ''feel in music''. I was interest in machines and the way recordings would be better. Sam liked empty, hollow, tubby sounds, but he knew a thing or two I didn't. He let me do that I liked, but he retained ultimate control of what was issued. The first time Same gave me an artist to work with, it was Roy Orbison. I recorded ''Rockhouse'' with Roy and it was good. But Roy was not into what the Sun studio was capable of back then''. Jack spent many hours working with several artists that he particularly liked. He began to recall them with obvious pleasure. ''Cash. Sam gave me Johnny Cash from ''Home Of The Blues'' onwards. Sonny Burgess. He was a fine artist but he didn't really fit into a groove, same with Conway Twitty who never made anything that sounded much like a record. Then Ernie Chaffin and Mack Self, these were excellent country singers''. In Jack Clement's view, Sun was not making records quite ''musically'' enough. He was responsible for getting Cash into the pop market and for trying a range of experiments with vocal backings and steel guitar sound. What he did like at Sun was firstly the depth of talented artists, and secondly the relaxed atmosphere. He could do what he liked; work all night on a session, write songs in Taylor's cafe next door, like Cash's ''Guess Things Happen That Way'', or even build a bathroom in the control room. He once told Sam he could built an office for promotion girl Barbara Barnes for a hundred dollars. So he canceled sessions and set to with the woodwork. He also spent time helping to master recordings for his buddies on rival labels, and on developing his own musical sound as a performer.

The Jack Clement sound was country, but it was not Sun sound. It was acoustic, with ringing tones instead of the muddy Cash bass sounds. It was worked out with the help of Clement's buddy, Jimmy C. Wilson, Jack says, ''Wilson was nearly as crazy as me. He was a bit of a nut. He lived in rooms above Taylor's and he was a great player if he was in the mood. He had a pet coon which he used to bring in and cain to the piano. He used to dismantle and rebuild old guns up in his room and he set fire to the place one time. After that he loosed off a rocket, a home-made thing, up there and they threw him out. He went to California and married Nudie the tailor's daughter''. In February 1957, Clement and Wilson, plus coon, took off for the RCA Studios in Nashville. They hired bass player Bob Moore and recorded for songs. ''Ten Years'' was the major contender, a light, pleasant country balled with an epic story song feel to it. It's the Jack Clement style, and it was repeated in October when Jack recreated the sound at Sun on ''Black Haired Man''. This was a fast, rhythmic development of the cash beat, a gunfighter balled of real class and a fairly successful record. The flip ''Wrong'', is light singalong country pop with a prominent acoustic guitar from Jack.

There, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. But most importantly, he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida, one of those recordings, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'', was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. In 1957, Clement wrote the song "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" that became a crossover hit for Johnny Cash. Other Cash hits written by Clement included "Guess Things Happen That Way", which was number 1 country and number 11 pop in 1958, and the humorous "The One On The Right Is On The Left", which was a number 2 country and number 46 pop hit in 1966. Clement performed "Guess Things Happen That Way" on the Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute show on CMT in November 2003.

Leaving Sun Records early in 1959 with his part in a string of million-selling productions behind him, Jack Clement used the proceeds of his song copyrights to buy equipment and to set up Summer Records on Main Street in Memphis. Apart from an atrocious novelty called ''Motorcycle Michael'', Summer bombed. Clement kept busy, though, fooling around with productions for Pepper Records (including his own song, ''Return Of A Teenage Queen''), Hi Records (Tommy Tucker's ''Miller's Cave'') and for Echo Records, which he formed with Stan Kesler and Clyde Leoppard and for which he built a studio on Manassas Avenue. In the fall of 1959 Jack Clement had blown all his money and, in his words, ''decided I had to do some work''. He called Chet Atkins in Nashville and was hired as junior producer for RCA, then the most important label in the industry.

After Clement's first stint in Nashville, he went to Beaumont, Texas, to work with music publisher Bill Hall. While there, he pitched ''She Thinks I Still Care'' to George Jones and arranged ''Ring Of Fire'' for Johnny Cash. In 1965, he returned to Nashville, and went on to become a significant figure in the Nashville music business, establishing a publishing business, and his own recording studio, making records for stars such as Ray Stevens and his biggest coup Charley Pride, but he also signed Townes Van Zandt, the Stonemans, and several others left-of-center country artists. With Charley Pride money, he built a studio on Belmont Boulevard next to Shelby Singleton's reconstituted Sun Records before moving a few blocks south

In 1971, he co-founded the J-M-I Record Company, he signed Don Williams to his label, but felt betrayed when Williams wriggled out of the deal to sign with ABC. From the 1970s onward, Jack Clement newly named Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa became Nashville's ground zero for off-kilter country.

Jack Clement wrote a number of highly successful songs that have been recorded by singing stars such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Dickey Lee and Hank Snow. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. He also produced albums by Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings.

Clement was involved in a few film projects as a singer or songwriter on soundtracks, and produced the 1975 horror film Dear Dead Delilah that marked the last film performance by actress Agnes Moorehead. In 1987 Clement was approached by U2 to record at legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. He had never heard of U2 but took the session based on the urging of someone else in his office. The result was a portion of the U2 album Rattle and Hum ("When Love Came To Town" with BB King, "Angel of Harlem" about Billie Holiday, and "Love Rescue Me" with backing vocals by Bob Dylan), as well as the Woody Guthrie song "Jesus Christ," which appeared on 1988's "Folkways: A Vision Shared, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly. Portions of the 2 sessions also appear in the film ''Rattle and Hum''.

In 2005, a documentary on Clement entitled Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan was created by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, pieced together from Clement's home videos and interviews with peers, including Jerry Lee Lewis and Bono. Clement currently hosts a weekly program on Sirius XM Satellite Radio's Outlaw country (channel 60) from 2pm to 6pm (Eastern) on Saturdays. Jack Clement has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Music City Walk of Fame.

On June 25, 2011, a fire destroyed Jack's home and studio on Belmont Boulevard in Nashville. Jack was unhurt, but many priceless recordings and memorabilia were lost. Jack has two children. A daughter, Alison, also a singer and writer, and a son, Niles, an engineer and photographer. Alison Clement has a website also where you can read about her experiences in the music business as the daughter of a renowned Legendary Sun Producer.

On the occasion of Sam Phillips' death, Jake Clement spoke movingly at the memorial service, barely able to staunch tears as he recalled some of their late night telephone conversations.

On April 10, 2013 it was announced Jack Clement would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A virtual jack of all trades in the entertainment businesss, Cowboy Jack Clement, 82, died Thursday August 8, 2013 at his Nashville home following a lengthy illness from liver cancer.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- THE JOHNNY POWERS STORY -

Johnny Powers is a legend in the world of rockabilly music. The film follows Johnny along his career path from his roots in Detroit to Memphis and back; across 5 decades of writing, performing and producing music. His song 'Long Blond Hair' has become an anthem to the generations that embrace the roots of rock and roll music.

JOHNNY POWERS - Born John Leon Joseph Pavlik on May 25, 1938 in East Detroit, Michigan, he was the oldest of five children. The family later moved to the small town of Utica, Michigan, just north of Detroit. Pavlik was exposed to music from an early age by members of his father's family, who all played music for weddings and local dances.

It was country music, however, that first drew Pavlik into music on a personal level; he discovered Lonnie Baron, a veteran country singer with a show on local radio and would listen and try to play along with a guitar that he'd bought for $2.50 from a school mate Tony Lawson who is now a neighbor. He later got some helpful instructions from Marvin Maynard, a musician who moved from West Virginia to Utica, Michigan.

In 1953, at the age of 15, Pavlik met Russ Williams Jr., a guitar player for his brothers band, Jimmy Williams and the Drifters, a local country band that played at a local venue called Bill's Barn and got a featured radio show on WDOG, a radio station out of Marine City, Michigan. They became good friends. Pavlik then joined the band as a rhythm guitar player. He also played rhythm guitar on two single records recorded by the band, "Rainbow Heart'', "Teardrops And Memories'', and "Loveless Kisses'', and " Dream On Little Heart''. But it wasn't long before rock and roll attracted Pavlik; it was Jack Scott's recording, "Baby She's Gone'', that drew him into rock and roll.

Courtesy of Russ Williams Jr., Pavlik discovered Elvis Presley when he was still a Memphisbased phenomenon. He heard his song "Milk Cow Blues Boogie'', which really interested him. It was a country song with a rock and roll beat. Soon after he heard Carl Perkins "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Honey Don't''. Before long he was adding the beat to his own country songs.

In 1955, he got an audition with Fortune Records with Jack and Devoera Brown in Detroit. He paid $100.00 for his own session to record a pair of songs, "Honey Let's Go, To A Rock And Roll Show" b/w "Your Love'', which was released on the Fortune label. When he finished his recording session, Mrs. Brown said to Pavlik, you need to change your name. She then noticed he was eating a candy bar, and said to him, what kind of a candy bar are you eating? He said, Power House. That's it! Your new recording name is Johnny Powers.

He named his band the Rocket's. In 1957, Johnny Powers changed the band's name to the Tom Cats, which consisted of Marvin Maynard on bass, Clark Locker, a.k.a., Johnny Clark on drums, and Stan Getz on lead guitar. They played at Bills Barn and went on to the Fox label with a pair of regional hits, "Long Blond Hair" b/w" Rock Rock''. They recorded a lot of song demos,, some of which have surfaced as bootleg releases in recent years.

Among his strongest work from this period were a pair of originals, "Mama Rock'', and "Indeed I Do'', released on Leedon Records, Lee Gordon's Australian record label. On both recordings, he sounds like the young, wild Elvis Presley that just arrived at RCA, and the group sings uncannily like the Jordanaires.

Things began to happen for Johnny Powers when his manager, Tommy Moers, and a Detroit radio personality, Mr. Don Zee as he would say, "two ee's if you please'', got Johnny a contract with Sun Records on July 6, 1959, heralded with the release of "With Your Love, With Your Kiss" b/w "Be Mine''. A second single never followed. It's been believed that Sam Phillips started losing interest in releasing new product when the music started to change. He later sold Sun Records to Shelby Singleton.

In 1960, Johnny was asked to meet with Barry Gordy. He later became the first white artist signed to Motown Records and the only artist in history to have recorded for both, Sun Records and Motown Records, the two most historic independent, legendary record companies In the world.

Power's reputation as one of Michigan's preeminent progenitors of rock and roll was secured by a May 1999 article in the Detroit News, in which he was included with Bob Seger, Berry Gordy, Jr., and the MC5 in a "Michigan at the Millennium" list of the state's musical heroes. Powers also was the subject of a lengthy profile in the October 1994 issue of New Country magazine.

Powers is perhaps best known as the music legend who recorded a rock' and roll classic seminal hit, "Long Blond Hair'', a song that continues to thrill rockabilly aficionados witnessing Powers' live performances, listening to reissues of the original recording, or tapping their feet while enjoying the song's appearance on the soundtrack to the Show Time Cable Network's film, Reform School Girls. The song's infectious popularity is evidenced by the anecdote Powers relates in which he was approached after a Detroit gig. "I just finished a show with Aaron Tipin, and a guy told me he finally got a chance to hear me do "Long Blond Hair''. It was one of his all-time favorite songs''. The fan turned out to be Ed Salamon, Westwood One's radio network president of programming.

While at Motown, Powers worked with producers and songwriters Eddie Holland, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder's producer, mentor and author of "Fingertips'', Clarence Paul. His five-year tenure at Motown enabled Powers to develop his talents as a songwriter and producer, abilities that flourished at Sound Incorporated and Sidra/Drew Records, the Detroit-area studios and record companies he co-owned in the 1960s and 1970s. He also oversaw the label's recording-pressing and distribution operations. The many recordings he mastered for such labels as Epic, Capital, Warner Brothers, Roulette, Private Stock, Philly Groove, Ariola America, and many other labels evidence Power's brilliance as a producer of rock and roll, rhythm and blues and soul-tinged music. In his long and varied career, Powers also performed selective independent music promotion in Michigan and Ohio.

In addition to his successes as an artist and producer, Power's entrepreneurial skills resulted in the publishing companies begun by him. Powerhouse Music and his current enterprise, Jet-Eye Music, Inc. With Jet-Eye, Powers played a pivotal role in revitalizing the career of his friend George Clinton by licensing Clinton's music to various labels around the world. Jet- Eye is also responsible for reissuing classic recordings by numerous rock, jazz and doo-wop acts of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with internationally recognized labels in the United States, Europe and Asia. Powers negotiated and placement his performance of "Say It" in the Hemdale Film's production of Mosquito which aired originally on USA Cable Network and it continues to air on U.S and international television networks.

While becoming a musical jack-of-all-trades, Powers confesses that his first love is performing this music in front of live audiences. Each visit he says results in a growing legion of international fans. One of his favorite memories is playing a country music festival in France, which was hosted by a TV star, Patrick Duffy. The enthusiastic audience response resulted in Powers receiving an invitation to the event's VIP tent, where high-ranking French politicians and celebrities entertained him.

Johnny Powers boasts a career that encompasses every facet of the music industry. The ever-youthful Powers continues to tour the United States and Europe today, performing new and classic recordings with a voice recently Described by the LA Time's music critic Mr. Robert Hilburn as "big as Lake Superior''.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- LITTLE MILTON REMEMBERS -

The Mississippi Blues Trail
Copyrights 2010 Mississippi Blues Foundation

LITTLE MILTON CAMPBELL - one of the world’s leading performers of blues and soul music for several decades, was born on the George Bowles plantation about two miles southwest of this site on September 7, 1933. Acclaimed as both a singer and guitarist, Campbell was a longtime crowd favorite at Mississippi festivals and nightclubs. His hits included “We’re Gonna Make It,” “The Blues Is Alright,” and “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” He died in Memphis on August 4, 2005.

There was nothing “little” in stature or physique about Milton Campbell, whose nickname served only to distinguish him from his father, “Big” Milton Campbell. As a vocalist Campbell was equally effective with powerful anthems and soft ballads, and as a guitarist he had few peers. He was also a savvy businessman who demanded professionalism from his bands and insisted on maintaining a consistent musical identity throughout his long career. Campbell produced many of his own records and booked other artists through Camil Productions, a company he ran with his wife, Pat.

Campbell was born near Inverness but spent most of his early childhood with his mother in Magenta in Washington County. He built a one-stringed guitar on the side of his home and around age twelve he bought his first real guitar via mail order with money he had made by working in the cotton fields. He returned sometimes to stay with his father in Inverness and later performed at the town’s top blues venue, the Harlem Club, owned by Wallace Bowles (brother of plantation owner George Bowles, Jr.). Milton, however, always cited Leland blues bandleader Eddie Cusic as the first to give him experience playing for audiences. By his late teens Milton had moved to Greenville, where he performed with local luminaries including Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, Joe Willie Wilkins, and Willie Love. He also hosted a radio program there on WGVM.

Campbell first recorded in Jackson as a sideman with Love in 1951. In 1953 talent scout Ike Turner helped Campbell land a recording contract with Sun Records in Memphis. Milton started to develop his own distinctive style after relocating in the mid-’50s to East St. Louis and later to Chicago. In St. Louis he recorded for Bobbin Records and also recruited talent for the label, including then little-known Albert King. Campbell moved on to Chicago’s Checker label, where he began to blend his blues with soul music and rose to national prominence with a long string of hits. In 1971 Campbell signed with the Memphis soul label Stax, where he scored further hits, and in 1984 he joined the Jackson-based Malaco label for a long and productive association that resulted in fourteen albums. He moved to Las Vegas, though he kept an apartment in Memphis in order to be closer to the Southern soul and blues performing circuit where he remained a major attraction. During his career Little Milton had a total of twenty-nine singles and seventeen albums on the Billboard magazine charts. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988. Campbell suffered a stroke on July 27, 2005, and died a week later.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

- IT'S ME BABY -
A 10-minute film about Sun artist Malcolm Yelvington
from Devin Miller

This was a non-sync sound project for Devin Miller junior year of cinema way back in 1997. This film was physically cut, before the days of readily available non-linear editing systems. Malcolm Yelvington was a great man and one of the unsung heroes at Sun Records.

MALCOLM YELVINGTON - Born September 14, 1918 to Frank Yelvington and Sarah Edwards, in Covington, Tennessee, and growing up with the hit sounds of Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams, started singing in the late 1930s, Malcolm was able to move his band through hillbilly to honky tonk to a kind of laid-back rockabilly. Yelvinton's songwriting partner and chief collaborator was singer, guitarist and pianist, Reece Fleming, the only man who recorded for Sun Records who had a genuine Memphis-based recording pedigree.

As half of the duo Fleming and Townsend, Reece had first recorded with Raspers Townsend for Victor in May 1930 and went on to see releases on Victor, Bluebird, ARC and Decca. Mostly they made vocal and yodelling duets with Fleming on guitar and Townsend on harmonica. Drawing on blues and hillbilly traditions, they often used a salacious approach - "I'll Tell You About Woman" and "Bad Reputations" - but were capable of good, original country music like "She's Just That Kind" and "Blue And Lonesome".

After the war he joined Reece Fleming's Tennesseans, playing schoolhouse dates around Covington. One of the key figures in the Memphis music scene in 1952 through 1955. Yelvington's Star Rhythm Boys employed a growling rockabilly sound and secured a daily gig on a local radio station. With a honky-tonk piano (Frank Tolley), electric guitars (Gordon Mashburn and Jake Ryles), steel guitar (Reece Fleming), and acoustic bass guitar (Miles Wimm), the Star Rhythm Boys were Memphis most innovative sound.

Yelvington's musical direction on "Gonna Have Myself A Ball", "Drinkin' Wine Spidee-O-Dee" (SUN 211), was an old rhythm and blues tune made famous by Sticks McGhee in 1949. At some point in the winter of 1953-54, the Star Rhythm Boys guitarist, Gordon Mashburn learned that there was a record company in Memphis that had just issued a disc by another local group, the Ripley Cotton Choppers. "We went down to see Sam", recalls Yelvington. "He asked us what type of music we played and we said, 'Country'. He said he wasn't interest, so I asked him what he wanted. He said, 'I don't know, but I'll know when I hear it'. Gordon said, 'Mr. Phillips, that means you'll have to listen to every single person who comes in off the street'. Sam said, 'I intent to'".

Yelvington and his group eventually persuaded Phillips to take a listen. "We couldn't come up with anything that Sam wanted", recalled Yelvington. "I wanted something like Hank Williams or Moon Mullican, but Sam kept saying no. Then I decided to try "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee". Sam poked his head around the door and said, 'Where did you get that from?'. I said, 'Man, we've been playing that every week for a long time".

In 1955 Yelvington sidestepped his Sun contract and recorded pseudonymously as Mac Sales and Jack for Meteor Records in Memphis "A Gal Named Joe", with equally poor response. The following year, Yelvington returned to Sun Records with a rockabilly novelty, "Rockin' With My Baby" (SUN 246). Sounding a little uncomfortable with the brisk tempo - and slurring the lyrics because he had removed his dentures - Yelvington nevertheless turned out a very creditable piece of the new music. Other cuts on Sun and Meteor are, "Trumpet", "Mr. Blues", "First And Last Love", "Goodby Marie", "It's Me Baby" and "Yakety Yak" provided some of the most interesting moments in Memphis rockabilly history.
Yelvington's sides on Sun and Meteor are some of the finest cuts in rockabilly history.

Talking about his Sun days, Malcolm's recollections in August 1971 to Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott were as follow: "I guess I can say I started in recording at the same time as Elvis. That's something isn't it! He got his first record out in the summer of 1954 and I got mine in the fall. The problem was that when I got mine out rock and roll was getting going pretty good and mine were mostly country and western, but we picked an rhythm and blues song to do, though we did it more oarless country style. It sold a few - I can't remember exactly - around Memphis. If you got one of 'em you got more'n I got. That one was "Drinkin' Wine".

"Drinkin' Wine" was a song that we had done for dances years before I ever recorded it. I could sing it in my sleep. The way we got onto doing it, we were down in the studio one day and we were going through some material that we had, and we couldn't come up with anything that Sam would like. He was after rhythm and blues or something with a solid beat to it, and I said to the boys 'let's try "Drinkin' Wine" we don't even have to rehearse that', we were playing it at dances every week anyhow. So he was sitting back in the control room there and my lead man he took off on it. We had lead, piano and steel and I started singing, and Sam poked his head round the door and said, 'where'd you get that?', and I told him, 'Man, we been doing that thing for a long time'. It was first done by a feller the name of Sticks McGhee, and then I think I was the first white artist ever to record it. And then Sam said, 'let's cut that, it sounds good'. So we cut it and it took about six or seven hours to get it like he wanted. He was most particular. He went out and got some boys to sing in the background. And the group was Reece Fleming, he's dead now, he played piano on et and Myles Winn, we called him "Red", played steel, and Jack Ryles on bass, Gordon Mashburn on lead and me on rhythm. We didn't have drums on.

In 1961 Yelvington finally gave up his club dates to concentrate on his day job, his bowling, and family life. In 1988, Malcolm Yelvington toured to England and Holland, where several thousand fans gathered to hear him play the old songs. Yelvington was one of a very few musicians to encourage Elvis Presley to continue his guest for a musical career. Many times Yelvington urged the roughs and the less-talented musicians to leave Elvis Presley to his music. This was partially due to Malcolm Yelvington's respect for Elvis Presley, but the lanky rockabilly artist also performed a similar type of music.

Yelvington recorded his signature song after Elvis Presley finished cutting Sun Record number 210, "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine". The previous year, Elvis Presley listened to "Drinkin' Wine Spodee-O-Dee" many times in local clubs. "Elvis stood out in the crowd, but he never talked to me", Yelvington recalled. "He was a fine singer. The boy was always looking for a piano player. He liked our man and that's why he hung out around us". Yelvington also re-emphasized that he had never played with Elvis Presley. "I understand there's a book that says that, but it's not true".

During his last years, Malcolm Yelvington lead tours at the re-born Sun studio in Memphis, most Saturdays and greet the tourists. He'd tell his stories, and they were good ones because he really had been there. In 1997, aged 79, he released his first full-length album. Malcolm Yelvington died at Memphis Baptist Hospital on February 21, 2001, press reports variously blaming cancer, heart failure, or pneumonia but in truth it was all three. His funeral service in Bartlett, Tennessee, included recordings of Malcolm's Christian songs, and was attended by his five children, eleven grandchildren as well as friends and fellow musicians.

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