© February 2017 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16273 mono digital
1-CD Digipak (6-sided) with 60-page booklet, 28 tracks. Total playing time approx. 64:48 minutes. Compilation presenting the most exciting drumming
on Sun Records. From legends like W.S. Holland, Billy Weir and Jimmy Van Eaton to one-of-a-kinds like Joey Riesenberg. Track by track notes and liner notes by Sun historians Hank Davis and Scott Parker.
Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Records is famous for guitar-toting stars like Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, and a wild piano man named Jerry Lee Lewis. But along with those hot guitar licks and piano
solos was some solid and often memorable drumming that made Sun records even more special. This is a CD for musicians as well as record collectors. We’ve saved you the trouble of going through hundreds of original sources to find the best of the best.
It’s all here, in one place, culled from hundreds of hours of listening. Whether you want to bask in it or learn from it, this truly is the definitive collection of Great Drums at Sun.
Great Drums at Sun includes some breath-taking playing: from legends like WS Holland, Billy Weir and Jimmy Van Eaton to one-of-a-kinds like Joey Riesenberg, whose story has never been told before. Other drummers we selected
- men like Bobby Crafford, Johnny Bernero and Houston Stokes - worked in near obscurity, but their brilliant playing illuminated recordings by better known vocalists.
to imagine ''Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On'' or ''Ubangi Stomp'' without the drums and you’ll see what we mean. Sam Phillips, the founder and guiding hand of Sun Records. He knew how to listen and he knew how important the musicians were. He went so far
as to create a ''house band'' during Sun's Golden Era.
A group of wonderful instrumentalists he would routinely call upon to play at vocalists’
recording sessions. We'll listen to these records like Sam Phillips did. To get a deeper appreciation of the music that came out of the Sun studio.
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Davis and Scott Parker
Photos and Illustrations
Richard Weize Archives, The Showtime Music Archives (Toronto),
Jimmy Van Eaton, Gene and Bruce Reisenberg, Bobby Crafford,
Jimmy Van Eaton, Gene and Bruce Reisenberg, Bobby Crafford,
Ron Harkavy, Billy Weir, Kenneth Herman,
Philip Cole, Martin Hawkins, Colin Escott, Barry Kaplan
For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <
1 - Lovin' Up A Storm (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1959) 1:50 > Sun 317-A <
By the time Jerry Lee, Roland Janes and J. M. Van Eaton (Billy Riley's
presence is uncertain) cut this track at the end of 1958, J.M. and Jerry Lee had been together for about two years and had recorded countless takes of more than 100 different titles together at Sun. To say they had a telepathic musical bond would be putting
it mildly. They encouraged each other to let down their inhibitions and take chances, a gift both men fully indulged.
It's interesting that while many Sun sessions (especially
those run by Jack Clement) were calming down considerably by January 1959 and sweetening the results with strings and voices, Jerry Lee (and Roland and J.M.) were still pounding away as if the calendar on the wall said 1957. ''Lovin' Up A Storm'' is a particular
showcase for J.M. The powerful stop-rhythm drum intro and those two-bar single-stroke rolls into the chorus mark this record as special.
Everything else becomes
secondary, from Jerry Lee' s dramatic vocal to the lyrics. Speaking of which, can anybody figure out what they are? For a while we thought we had the opening lines figured out: "When kisses fly like oak leaves / Caught in a gust of wind''. But then we listened
to some of the outtakes on Bear Family's ultimate Jerry Lee Box (BCD 17254) alongside the single and we came away knowing less than we did going in. The good news is, it doesn't matter. Jerry might as well be spewing gibberish or talking trash. Who cares?
Just listen to those drums!
2 - Forgot To Remember To Forgot (Elvis Presley) (1955) 2:27 > Sun 223-B <
Johnny Bernero didn't play drums on many Sun records. He was older than most Sun musicians and did not come from a rock and roll tradition. But, my god, the man could play. When Sam Phillips called him in to
beef up the sound of this July 1955 session (which turned out to be Elvis's last at Sun), it was an inspired choice. Elvis, Scotty and Bill did not usually need a drummer, as the flipside of Sun 223 (''Mystery Train'' - heard on the companion volume, ''Great
Guitars At Sun'') plainly showed. But when you added a tasty and minimal accompanist like Bernero, it all came to life.
What Bernero does on this clever country ballad
is make explicit the rhythm that drives the record. Bill Black's slap bass was capable of carrying the band but the addition of an actual drum kit left him and everyone freer to play around the beat. Sam Phillips didn't love drummers and found them a challenge
to record in his small storefront studio. You can hear his ambivalence on many of the blues records and on early recordings of the Perkins Brothers Band. Does ''Blue Suede Shoes'' have a drummer? If so, does the drummer really contribute anything to the record?
Surprisingly, the answers are Yes and No. Early on, Sam did not even mike drummers directly, allowing the drums just to bleed through other microphones on the floor.
on ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'', dating from the same era as ''Blue Suede Shoes'', the drums are both prominent and crisply recorded. And what a contribution Bernero makes! The vocal portions of the song ale performed against a shuffle beat played on
drum and cymbal. This is distinctive because ringing cymbals were not typically part of the Sun sound. And when Scotty steps forward to play his solo - that wonderful guitar solo - Bernero shifts to a 2/4 backbeat. The whole sound changes. And just when you've
started to get comfortable with the solid backbeat, it's Elvis's turn to sing and the shuffle beat starts again. Maybe Scotty and Bill could have handled that shift on their own, but it wouldn't have come across this clearly. This record really did need a
drummer and it couldn't have found a better one.
3 - Today Is A Blue Day (Alternate Take) (Vernon Taylor) (2017)
1:52 (Not Originally Issued)
Vernon Taylor doesn't get much respect as a Sun artist. His two Sun releases did not inspire
many major reissue projects or invitations to European festivals. Taylor came a little too late (1959) and brought too little to the party (a tepid sax-based remake of ''Mystery Train'' wasn't likely to stir up the troops.) Too bad some of the other titles
he recorded were never released at the time. The verdict might have been different.
The "popified" folk-country version of ''Today Is A Blue Day'' that was released on
Sun 310 gave no hint of the unissued versions in the vault that lay awaiting discovery. Vernon Taylor was one of Jack Clement's projects and, truth be told, one of his less successful ones. Of greatest interest here is the powerful drumming by Jimmy M. Van
Eaton that drives this alternate take. In particular, the way the drums come thundering in for the second half of the verse ( "Maybe there will be...'') brings this alternate take to life.
Although Van Eaton was also around for the session that spawned the issued version, none of the energy that happens here so effortlessly appears there. If you know Sun 310, you can't help but marvel at what was passed over
in the interest of catering to a changing marketplace that wanted the edge taken off its music. That seems to have been a major loss in general, but especially at Sun.
4 - Tiger Man (Rufus Thomas) (1953) 2:47 > Sun 188-A <
Houston Stokes was Sun's versatile all-purpose house drummer in the early days, He played
behind hillbilly piano player Red Hadley and bluesmen Jimmy De Berry and Walter Horton, as well as rhythm and blues icon Rufus Thomas. In ''Tiger Man'', after an introductory scream, Rufus proudly announces himself to be the "king of the jungle''. What sort
of drumming does that call for? Probably something that sounds like what got played in the era 's B-movies about jungles - steady beats on tom-toms. And that is just what Houston Stokes provides - an unrelenting series of eighth notes with accents on all four
beats in every measure. Once it starts, it just doesn't stop. Occasionally, toward the end of the record, Stokes puts some accents in some other (by this time, more interesting) places and he even gets to have something of a drum solo at the record's end.
Once the sound of the drum grabs you, it becomes almost hypnotic. Four years later, Jerry Allison would take the same approach to drumming when he accompanied Buddy Holly on ''Peggy Sue''.
Houston Stokes was one of the few drummers who was also a vocalist, and he made several unissued blues recordings at Sun as a singer. When not recording, Stokes played in a Memphis jazz band led by Al Jackson and taught the leader's young
son something about drumming. That worked out well for Al Jackson Jr. He grew up to become the drummer in Booker T's MGS - the house band at Stax Records who also had some hits under their own name (the first and biggest being ''Green Onions'').
5 - You're My Baby (Roy Orbison) (1956) 2:04 > Sun 251-A <
Superstar Roy Orbison started out leading a band in high school, the Wink (Texas) Westerners. His pal, Billy Pat Ellis, was the drummer. The Wink Westerners became the Teen Kings and arrived in Memphis in March 1956 to record
their only hit, ''Ooby Dooby'' (featured on the companion disc). By the year's end, Billy Pat and the rest of the Teen Kings had left Orbison. But luckily that was after they recorded ''You 're My Baby''.
''You 're My Baby'' was an uncharacteristic song for its writer, Johnny Cash. Its verses consist of 8 bars of stop-rhythm and then proceed into the chorus. At the end of the stop-rhythm segments, Ellis's rimshots announce
that the chorus is about to start. Otherwise, his drumming is pretty subdued keeping time, marking the stops, and little else until the second guitar solo. But as that solo progresses, the drumming gets more energized, and reaches a peak behind the final vocal
verse. That dramatic crescendo brings the record to an exciting climax, and it's all due to Ellis's drumming.
Red Hot (Billy Riley) (1957) 2:29 > Sun 277-A <
This non-stop rave-up has deservedly achieved classic status among Sun and rockabilly
enthusiasts although it did not get the popularity it deserved when it was first released. Everybody on ''Red Hot'' performs brilliantly, none more than Jimmy Van Eaton. His quick roll brings us from the a capella introduction into the body of the record.
In the verses he gets into a call-and-response with the vocalist (as in "well she walks all night" bang bang-bang), injects some counter-rhythm accents, plays emphatic eighth-notes leading to the beginning of the chorus, marks the transition from verse to
chorus with bass drum and cymbal crash - that last being quite an oddity for a Sun record.
If you listen closely (which you have to do because the drums were not well
miked, as was often the case at Sun) you can hear that Van Eaton hits the ride cymbal throughout the record. The drums mark the transitions into and out of solos and enliven the solos as well (the added hand-claps during the solos help fill out the sound,
but somewhat mask the drumming; too bad). Van Eaton makes this one of the most energetic and compelling records in the Sun catalog. It's not that he was playing loud, but that he was playing tasty. In his own words, "People assume we were playing real loud
on those records but we weren't. It was a small studio and we had to hear each other. The rule I always used was, If you couldn't hear the unmiked piano, you were playing too loud''.
7 - Everything I Do Is Wrong (Charlie Rich) (1959) 2:14 > PI 3552-B <
If ''Lonely Weekends'' hadn't taken off like a rocket, its flipside ''Everything I Do Is Wrong'' might have stood
a chance of chart success on shock value alone. Records simply didn't sound like this in January 1960. If you want a one-word description of this record it's "relentless''. It just keeps coming at you. The song is built around just two chords - which is quite
a rarity. Its chorus or release, if that's what it is, involves the same two chords. There's no movement other than the key changes. Just verse after verse after verse separated by key modulations (it starts in G and ends up in A) that are signaled by the
wonderful extended single-stroke drum rolls of Jimmy M. Van Eaton.
The song is based on essentially the same recipe as ''Lonely Weekends'', minus the romantic angle and
the commercial overdubs. The anchor is, once again, Jimmy M. Van Eaton working his bass drum front and center in a dum / da dum beat that drives everything and keeps the tension intact. Charlie's vocal is as virile and dramatic as it's ever been; his piano
is solid; the lyric is clever, even if it's about a loser, and Martin Willis's baritone sax, played directly into the bass drum mike, rivets our attention for the eight bars it's on display. Charlie knew what he wanted and sang the solo to Willis beforehand,
and Willis proceeded to bring it to life on his horn. It's the approach Dave Bartholomew often used on Fats Domino records like ''Blue Monday''. Keep the solo simple; keep it melodic. Then give the song back to the singer.
Charlie re-recorded this song in 1965 for his first album on Smash. Despite the big production values of a Mercury/Nashville session, the results don't hold a candle to what you have here.
8 - Crazy Arms (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1956) 2:43 > Sun 259-A <
It didn't take long for Jerry Lee Lewis and teenage drummer Jimmy Van Eaton to forge a musical alliance. They had it here, the first time they met and recorded. Exactly which titles were recorded
and in what sequence is a matter of conjecture at this point. One thing we can be sure of is that by the time they reached ''Crazy Arms'', which became Jerry Lee's first Sun release, they were soaring together. There was nobody there to fill in the blanks:
no bass, no guitar, no strings, no voices. Just Jerry and Jimmy, whose combined ages at this point didn't total 40 years.
Van Eaton is doing so much more than keeping
time, it's almost comic. He's kicking and prodding, and providing drum rolls and counter-rhythms. It's like having Jerry Lee accompanied by a marching band. When Jerry launches into his 16-bar piano solo, Jimmy M. follows suit and begins to solo on his drums.
Much of what Van Eaton does here he would continue to do for the next seven years in the Sn studio, but never so much of it in such a compressed time and place. ''Crazy Arms'' runs under three minutes (2:45, to be exact) and there's enough drumming to fill
a dozen records. The amazing thing is neither of these young men knew exactly what they were "feeling doing. They were each other out" musically, taking risks, seeing if the other would follow.
They did, and we get to listen to it happen all over again, 60plus years after it ignited spontaneously that afternoon in November 1956.
9 - Ubangi Stomp (Warren Smith) (1956) 1:58 > Sun 250-B <
Johnny Bernero played on ''Ubangi Stomp'' just about
one year after he backed Elvis on ''I Forgot To Re- member To Forget'' (Track 2 on this compilation). During that year, when rock and roll took over American popular music, Bernero showed that he could be a rock and roll drummer in addition to his more country
work, Halfway through that year, he played on Warren Smith's ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' and moved some distance toward rock and roll from his country starting point.
time of ''Ubangi Stomp'', those western swingband origins are thoroughly subordinated to the new style. Here, Bernero, in 1954) is aggressive in a way very different from what he did behind Elvis. He creates a stop rhythm for the introductory guitar lines
and a drum roll takes us into the song. During the song, Bernero inserts occasional brief decorative rolls and, especially during the guitar solos, he puts some variation in the rhythmic accents. And for the vocal line "Heap big jam session 'bout to begin"
he beats the tom-tom appropriately for a cowboys and Indians movie. And a few times (the first comes after the line "I seen them natives doin' an odd-lookin' skip ") he gets to play a one-stroke drum solo.
Sam Phillips was slow to adapt to having drummers as a cornerstone of the music he produced and often did not record drummers well. That sadly deprives us of getting to hear clearly just how Bernero added some drama with the
crash cymbal in the reprise of the intro that ends the record.
10 - Drinkin' Wine (Gene Simmons) (1958) 2:39 > Sun 299-A <
record should have hit the streets in January, 1957, when it was recorded, not in April 1958 when it finally did. The reasons for the delay are unimportant. What matters is that what little chance for success it might have had were now all but gone.
There weren't a lot of talking blues records issued by Sun, and certainly not by a white man in 1958. What might have been some downhome backporch music was turned by Gene Simmons and his
band into something quite unusual. Carl Simmons was a fine picker and his guitar work is highlighted on our companion disc, ''Great Guitars At Sun''. However, it's the drumming, most likely by session man Jimmy M. Van Eaton, that lands the record here. "After
all this time I'm about 70% sure that's me playing on there. I know that's not my usual style but I was pretty adaptable and that song required something different''.
M. works the hi-hat and snare during the verses and, following some deft two-bar drum rolls, switches to backbeat for the chorus and guitar solos. It's not clear how else Jimmy M. (or any drummer) could have approached ''Drinking Wine''. Something had to distinguish
the recitation from the chorus, and whatever playing you did under the spoken verses had to be tasty yet unobtrusive.
An enduring mystery surrounds the odd fade-out
after the seemingly final bass drum and cymbal crash. During the fade we hear a series of drumbeats and repeated piano notes that lead nowhere. We assumed that this may have been either a rehearsal or an outtake that nobody expected to use. But there's another
possibility, suggested by Van Eaton, himself, during a recent listening session. "That sounds like a bit of reverb that just went on too long; like the drum and piano just got caught up in that slap-back echo''. It's an intriguing idea even if it suggests
some sloppy editing when it came time to master the original tape.
True to his credo, Sam Phillips found something in the "feel" of this track that overrode the
need for technical perfection, and so he chose to release it as is. Actually, subsequent reissues have often rushed the fade so that the odd- sounding piano/drum extras were barely noticeable. Pity. The original single release with Van Eaton 's drum beats
to nowhere sounding crisp and clear were our favorite version.
11 - Foolish One (Carl Mann) (1959) 1:46 > PI 3539-B <
WS Holland had a lot of success playing drums behind singers named Carl who came from Jackson Tennessee. His first successes came with Carl Perkins; later he teamed up
with Carl Mann. And this track, the B-side of ''Mona Lisa'' (heard on the companion disc) connects these two parts of Holland 's work at Sun.
One side of Carl Perkins'
final single at SUN was Lend Me Your Comb. That silly teen-oriented song had a Latin feel attached to it because it used the tresillo rhythm, a pattern that originated in Cuba. That Latin rhythm played behind most of the record - verses and guitar solo. But
when the song gets to the release the first time, the rhythm shifts to straight rock and roll. WS Holland, did most of the work in establishing both those rhythmic patterns on ''Lend Me Your Comb'', but his drumming wasn't prominently featured on that record.
Well, that was the end of the Perkins era at Sun. Fast forward 13 months and we're at the beginning of the Carl Mann era. The era begins with ''Foolish One'', a song that, like ''Lend Me
Your Comb'', uses the tresillo rhythm in the verses and a straight rock and roll rhythm in the release. But on ''Foolish One'', W.S. is on top of it and his drum is light in front of the recording. He establishes the tresillo rhythm as the track begins, and
basically stays in command of the record. It's his drum that carries that tresillo rhythm all through the verses; the guitar just provides enough chords to keep the harmony together. The band becomes more like a team rhythmically in the releases and solos.
And Holland's surprising way of ending the record is exciting and totally unexpected.
12 - Give Me Some Love (Harold
Jenkins) (1985) 2:01 (Not Originally Issued)
Harold Jenkins completed his U.S. Army service in March 1956.
He heard Elvis on the radio and decided he wanted to do that too. So he assembled a band called The Rockhousers, named for a song Jenkins had written and that Roy Orbison later recorded. The Rockhousers' drummer was Billy Weir, a local kid still in high school.
In 1957, the band had a date in Canada but Weil's parents wouldn't let him leave school before graduation and so Jimmy M. Van Eaton was engaged to replace him for that gig.
Rockhousers got an audition at Sun in late 1956 and their first recording session when Weir was barely 16 gave us this track. Weir may have been young, but he provides lots of presence in this performance. His drumming is continuous energy and, despite being
the junior member of the band, he is not inclined just to hit the backbeat and otherwise stay out of the way. In fact, he never goes through two entire bars without playing some rolls or extra accents. All that youthful exuberance provides much of the record
's considerable appeal. It's frustrating to listeners today that the drums were not better recorded by Jack Clement. Weir ls, "They had me sitting all the way over by the door and there was one mike on the drums. The cymbals were lost. Those weren't ideal
conditions to record drums. They actually sometimes had me come in and overdub drums where the original recordings were too muddy. "
The Rockhousers recorded at
least three times at Sun, but Sam Phillips didn't sign them. Not long after their last session, they got a contract with Mercury Records and re-cut ''Give Me Some Love''. By that time, though, Harold Jenkins was using the stage name, Conway Twitty.
13 - What You Gonna Do (Sonny Burgess) (1991) 1:54 (Not Originally Issued)
Sonny Burgess & The Pacers loved rhythm and blues music and probably listened to more of it than most Sun rockabilly singers (with the exception of Elvis, of course).
On ''What You Gonna Do'' they've taken a vintage track by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, recorded in February 1954, and made it their own. Sonny was no match for Clyde (who was?) but his band retains some of the raw enthusiasm of the original. Of necessity
they've turned more adult concerns into teen fluff about dating. And they've made a telling change in Clyde's original: "What you gonna do/ when the church is on fire" has become (probably at Sam 's insistence) "What you gonna do / when your house is on fire''.
There's no harm in those changes since McPhatter's original was not going to cross over into the pop market and somebody had to "translate" it for the white folks, so why not Sonny and his
pals from Arkansas? In any case, all that is academic since Sam Phillips never saw fit to release the track. It became one of many worthy Sonny Burgess tracks that remained in the vault for 20 - 30 years awaiting the Sun archeologists from Europe in the 1970s
Drummer Bobby Crafford does a fine job on this track. His work is driving, which is precisely what the track needs. During the final 12 bars, his backbeat
nearly pushes the needle through the top of the level meter on Sam 's tape machine.
As of this writing, old friends Bobby Crafford and Sonny Burgess still perform
14 - Green Back Dollar ,Watch And Chain (Ray Harris) (1957) 2:54 > Sun 272-A <
This was certainly one of the more unusual records issued by Sun in mid-1957. It wasn't as wild or primitive as Harris's previous release, ''Come On Little Mama'' (Sun
254) and it did include some backup singers - a rarity for Sun in 1957. In fact, one of those singers, a guy named Roy Orbison, went on to make a pretty nice career for himself three years later. Although the session musicians were essentially the same as
Sun 254, the results were quite different this time around. Featured again on guitar was Rhode Island native Wayne (aka Winston) Cogswell and the drummer was Memphis resident Joe Riesenberg.
Although Jimmy Van Eaton recalls playing on what may have been an earlier practice version of Harris's song, no tapes of that session remain and there is little doubt that the issued version of ''Greenback Dollar'' features Joe Riesenberg.
In a 1960 conversation with Hank Davis, Ray Harris spoke about his drummer, Riesenberg, and how different he and Joe were. Harris seemed bemused, but proud of the association,
story has never before appeared in the annals of Sun archaeology. Little Joe Riesenberg was born to an immigrant Jewish family in 1912 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He began playing drums at an early age and, according to his son Gene, "would have played 24 hours
a day, seven days a week if he could''. But he couldn't. He had a wife and three kids to support. Sun recording logs show no record of Riesenberg doing any session work other than with Ray Harris. However, he seems to have done semi regular session playing
in Nashville during the mid 1950s, just before Nashville became a major recording hub for so-called countrypolitan music. Riesenberg's younger cousin Ronald Harkavy recalls Joe travelling to Nashville for sessions with mainstream artists including Perry Como
and Kay Starr. There is also a strong indication that Joe played drums with Bob Wills in Texas during the 1940s although we can't back that one up with photographs or recordings.
In an interview with Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, Ray Harris recalled, "Joe Riesenberg owned a scrap yard and used to smoke cigars the time. He'd be playing drums and the cigar would burn plumb up to his lips''.
Riesenberg, who died in 1987, was by all reports an extremely like able man. His cousin Ronald recalls him as being personally "very down to earth and humble'', although larger social situations
he could become the gregarious life of the party.
Gene recalls, "My father loved to joke and dance around and on stage he'd twirl his drumsticks''.
One of Joe's early friends in the music business was the King, himself. "Elvis loved Joe'', recalls Harkavy. "He used to came by the house and give the two sons rides on his motorcycle.
He was very generous with Joe and gave him presents, which really made a difference. Joe wasn't rich and every little bit helped. Joe played drums with Elvis at local shows, maybe in 1954 or early 1955, before Elvis was a star. Elvis asked him to come on the
road with him but Joe refused. He was very devoted to his wife and family (two sons and a daughter) and he wouldn't just pack up and go off with them. He was in his 1940s by then and it just didn't seem right to him''.
''Greenback Dollar'' is the kind of record that purists long for. Everybody did his part live, right off the floor, with no overdubbing. As Wayne Cogswell recalled, "I was singing and playing lead guitar at the
same time, Nothing fancy on that record''. Part of the prodigious amount of energy in the stems from Riesenberg's drumming. The whole record comes close to being a drum solo rather than conventional 2/4 rhythm. You can hear guys shouting and whistling in the
background during the guitar and piano solos. It sounds like a party going on and the drums certainly contribute to the mood. When the piano solo starts, Joe moves to his crash cymbal for emphasis. And then there's that memorable fade on a drum roll! How many
records do you know, Sun or otherwise, that end on a drum roll? If Sam hadn't faded it, Joe might have kept at it until Sun moved uptown in 1960.
- You Can't Make Love To Somebody (Alternate Take 5) (Carl Perkins) (2012) 2:22 (Not Originally Issued)
Perkins and his band began as a hillbilly outfit with a lot of the feel that, over a few short years, evolved into rock and roll - an evolution in which they themselves were central actors. They called their music "hillbilly bop''. Whether this new music needed
drums was a matter of some debate at Sun. Sam Phillips thought it didn't but Perkins wanted a drummer so much that he created one. He recruited W.S. Holland to learn to play the drums and join the band. Holland was a complete novice. He borrowed a set of drums,
set them up incorrectly (reversing the hi-hat and bass drum), and taught himself to play with that arrangement. "Not knowing how to set the drums up or how to play is one of the reasons I've been playing drums for 62 years''.
This wonderful track, recorded after ''Blue Suede Shoes'' was a hit, gives us a fine exhibition of the transition from hillbilly bop to rock and roll. W.S. Holland provides a strong back-beat on the snare drum
and his cymbal work is, uncharacteristically for a Sun recording, prominent in the mix. He also tosses in frequent little accents and short rolls. Those all sound like ad libs, feelings of the moment as if he were silently singing along with Carl. All of that
doesn't add up to a truly rock and roll performance. Holland's drumming, and the totality of the record, is far more free, and swinging than, say, ''Blue Suede Shoes'' which the Perkins band had recorded fully four months earlier. And it's far less a rock
and roll record than ''Boppin' The Blues'' which they recorded at the same session as this track (an unreleased alternate of ''Boppin The Blues'' appears on Track 18 of this compilation). Their authentic country roots were still showing in this country song.
16 - It I'll Be Me (LP Master) (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1958) 2:13 SLP-1230
Early in 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded what would prove to be both sides of his first hit record ''Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On'' and ''It'll Be Me''. The two songs were done in a
very similar style. That original performance of It'll Be Me was a nonstop rocker played at breakneck speed. For reasons we don't know, Jerry Lee, Roland Janes and Jímmy M. Van Eaton returned to the song approximately a month later and
gave it a very different interpretation. This version is a comparatively easy-going, loping performance with an understated shuffle rhythm. And Van Eaton provides lots of additional decoration. For instance, the song is structured so that every time Jerry
sings the title line it's followed by more than one full measure in which nothing happens. Van Eaton decorates those moments with a brief roll that fills the gap (although he does miss one). He marks the end of every verse, the release, and every
solo with a roll. And he gets very lively in the second appearance of the release that follows the solos, making the shuffle rhythm explicit.
When Sun released the
single in March 1957, the fast version was on it. But sensibly, Sam Phillips did see fit to include this track on the first Jerry Lee Lewis album in 1958. It deserved to be heard.
17 - Lonely Weekends (Alternate Take) (Charlie Rich) (1998) 2:05 (Not Originally Issued)
By the time they got through overdubbing ''Lonely Weekends'' with voices and added percussion, most of the recording's original power was lost. The basic recordings were made at 706 Union in October 1959, which
may have been Charlie's final session at the old Sun studio. Then the tapes were carried over to the new studio at 639 Madison for overdubbing for release. Fortunately, the tape we present on Track 17 remained untouched. You may not like this vocal as much
as the one you're used to, but you do get to hear what a clean and tight little recording the undubbed performance was.
Sam had asked Charlie to compose a secular version
of ''Big Man'' . This was Charlie' s response to Sam's request and it was a stunner. Arguably, the record benefitted commercially from the addition of a screaming chorus and echoey rim-shots during the sax break. But here you get to hear the drums more clearly,
and that is the focus of this collection. Stalwart session man Jimmy M. Van Eaton didn't let anyone down with his driving bass drum work which created such a powerful sound that Sam actually chose to use a separate microphone to make sure that bass drum stayed
as hot in the mix as it sounded in the studio. In conversation with Hank Davis, baritone saxman Martin Willis recalled how he had to lean over awkwardly so he could play into "his" mike, which was now located at floor level to pick up the bass drum.
18 - Boppin' The Blues (Alternate Take 1) (Carl Perkins) (2012) 2:31 (Not Originally Issued)
Although we could easily have used the version of ''Boppin' The Blues'' that was released as Carl Perkins' follow-up single to ''Blue Suede Shoes'', this rarely heard alternate
from that same recording session has much to recommend it. Although the two are taken at essentially the same tempo, this one feels more relaxed. W.S. Holland's drum work in the released version is dominated by an insistent backbeat. The drumming in this version
seems more casual. Holland is much freer here, moving between the snare and the tom-tom m the first guitar solo. Often during the verses, Holland's added accents sound almost like a dialog with Carl's vocal, as if he's playing on the drums the rhythmic pattern
that a backup vocal quartet might have sung. The entirety of the performance has more country feel than does the released version of the song, but it has more rock and roll feel than does ''You Can 't Make Love To Somebody'' also from the same session (Track
15 of this compilation). This track is a snapshot of W.S. Holland and the Perkins band adapting to and creating a new musical form.
19 - Fire Engine Red (Alternate Take) (Jimmy Williams) (2017) 2:08 (Not Originally Issued)
ode to a pyromaniac may not be the greatest record on the compilation, and Sam Phillips may have been right to pass it over for release, But for historical reasons alone it earns a place on this collection. People assume that ''Crazy Arms'' was teenage drummer
Jimmy Van Eaton' s first appearance in the Sun studio. Actually he had been there previously, in the company of band leader/entrepreneur Jimmy Williams. ("Jimmy Williams was just a couple of years older than me but he was a real go-getter. He was putting together
bands - like 15 or 16 pieces - and they were playing in hotels and sorority dances. He used me as his drummer even though I was that young. ''Fire Engine Red'' came from the first session I did at Sun although none of it was released at the time. I remember
that Sam engineered it'').
The session probably dates from December 1955 or January 1956, by which time Van Eaton had been playing regularly with Williams for a while.
Several months later, in April 1956, Jimmy Van Eaton was back in the studio with his high school group, The Echoes. "We had a couple of guitars, a stand-up bass and drums and we played Elvis songs. We were in the right place at the right time, that's for sure.
The session with the Echoes was something we did on our own. It wasn't for Sun. We were using the Memphis Recording Service. We paid our money just like everybody else and walked out with an acetate dub of our songs. This time Jack Clement cut the session.
Roland (Janes] was there too. They were looking for a bass player and a drummer to work with Billy Riley. They must have liked how we sounded 'cause they hired us (Van Eaton and bass player Marvin Pepper) on the spot.
Van Eaton spent time on the road with Riley as well as Hayden Thompson and became something of a fixture at 706 Union over the summer of 1956, both in the studio and hanging out at the coffee shop next door.
("I was constantly there and I got along real well with Jack''). It makes perfect sense, then, that when a brash young piano player from Ferriday, Louisiana showed up unannounced for an audition in November 1956, Jack was quick to call Jimmy Van Eaton to accompany
Jerry Lee Lewis (see Track 8).
The career of the man, who ultimately played drums on more Sun records than anyone else, began right here. As first efforts go, it's
quite a credible one with Van Eaton navigating the stop-rhythm with ease and accenting the instrumental solos.
The song is something else again. We don 't know
if this girl actually sets the fires, but once the fire fighters are there in full regalia, she's in a full swoon. Forget money, forget fine cars. Just let her see that uniform and she's gone. Van Eaton recalls them carrying a large fire bell into the studio
so they could get an authentic sound for the record. Sorry to say, but the effect, some 60 years later, sounds almost comic. The bell at the closing, in particular, sounds more like they borrowed a 10-year old kid's bike for the session. But far more important,
we learn that Jimmy Williams (who went on to be an airline pilot) wasn't much good at singing rockers and Jimmy Van Eaton (who went on to be a studio drummer) was very good.
20 - Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1957) 2:52 > Sun 267-B <
''Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On'' gave Sun its second Top 10 hit and catapulted
Jerry Lee Lewis to stardom. It sounded exciting; it sounded different. And it became a smash hit.
The standard Sun Discographies do not identify the drummer on Sun 267.
But in an interview with Hank Davis, Jimmy M. Van Eaton confirmed that he is playing on this record. That information is no surprise, but it's reassuring to have certainty about it.
On this track, Jerry Lee's piano establishes the incessant and captivating rhythm before Van Eaton joins in, and at first his drum serves only to add backbeat emphasis to Jerry Lee's left-hand piano figure. Jerry Lee keeps playing it, the
guitar enters, and Van Eaton is freed to embellish the rhythm as he sees fit. And he does that, including a drum roll that leads into the instrumental solo and goes on too long, much as W.S. Holland had done on ''Matchbox'' (which appears on the companion
volume ''Great Guitars At Sun''.
There is more of an " arrangement" on this than on most Sun records. When Jerry Lee says, "easy now" and goes into his instructions
on how to "shake baby shake'', the musicians play softer but, even so, that rhythm never stops. At the end of that section, it falls primarily to Van Eaton to emphatically announce that the high energy performance is coming back (joined by a glissando in Jerry
Lee's light hand). And the coordination of the piano and drum in ending the record is just lovely.
21 - Right Behind
You Baby (Ray Smith) (1958) 2:23 > Sun 298-B <
The sidemen on Ray Smith's sessions, including this one from March 1958, are a bit difficult to document because they often included a mixture of Smith's road band and
Sun studio guys. Having said that, Jimmy Van Eaton assures us that it's he on the drums (and not Gary Diamond, Smith's road drummer.) We can also be sure that it's Charlie Rich at the piano. (That opening chord with its flatted 6th owes far more to Duke Ellington
than Jerry Lee Lewis). ''Right Behind You Baby'' was written by Charlie and he was in charge of the proceedings, at least as far as his non-assertive ways would allow.
Eaton does a fine job. Stop rhythms like this are usually a showcase for the drummer, but the playing here is par- ticularly assertive. The record absolutely takes flight during the double-length guitar solo and the drum syncopation has everything to do with
it. And that final assertive drum beat announces in no uncertain terms: this record is over!
22 - I'm Coming Home
(Carl Man) (1960) 2:31 > PI 3555-B <
Arguably, this was Carl Mann's best record for Sun. Certainly ''Mona Lisa'' sold more copies and defined Mann' s career, but musically speaking there is nothing better in the Mann tape archives than his March 1960 recording
of ''I'm Coming Home''. The piano playing was measurably improved, as it should have been, once Charlie Rich took over the keyboard. This allowed Mann to concentrate on his singing, and he offers a fine vocal. Eddie Bush again provides a memorable and distinctive
guitar solo. W'.S. Holland is in peak form here, offering tasty drum rolls to mark the start and finish of most of the 16-bar segments (the song has no "release" or chorus). Some of those rolls are preceded by a visit to the crash cymbal. The piece de resistance
is the perfectly synchronized final four bars when the band daringly slows down in unison. A moment to cherish, anchored perfectly by Holland.
Elvis expressed his own
admiration for this record by recording a cover version released in 1961, It borrowed this arrangement virtually note for note. Carl Mann obviously took pride in being covered by the King, and composer Charlie Rich reaped a modest financial harvest by having
one of his songs in the Elvis Presley catalogue, even if it was consigned to being an album track.
23 - Your Lovin'
man (AlternateTake) (Vernon Taylor) (2017) 1:57 (Not Originally Issued)
another Vernon Taylor track that, had it been released in 1958, might have made him a star. ''Your Lovin ' Man'' is vintage Sun rockabilly that could have been recorded two years earlier than its October 1958 session date. The guitar solo has echoes of the
''Love My Baby'' sound we encountered on ''Great Guitars At Sun''. But what makes the track a lock for this collection is the stellar drumming of Jimmy M. Van Eaton. His thundering rim shots take the song s release ( "Why should I worry... '') to a whole other
If this session had taken place in 1956, there seems little doubt that one of the multiple takes of ''Your Lovin' Man'' would have seen the light of day. But this
was the end of 1958 and Jack Clement was running the show. Clement had his eyes on the prize and with Frankie Avalon, the Kingston Trio and the Teddy Bears on the charts, it's unlikely that straight-ahead rockabilly with heavy drum work like this was going
to make it on to Sun's release schedule.
24 - Flying Saucer Rock And Roll (Billy Riley) (1957) 2:02 >
Sun 260-A <
Jimmy Van Eaton makes his presence felt right at the beginning of this record with introductory
cymbal crashes accompanied by bass drum. And after that fanfare, a roll on the tom-tom leads us into one of Sun's most exciting productions. ''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' features Billy Riley's rasped Little Richard inspired vocal, Roland Janes's stunning
guitar solos, and a large supply of screams (some of them overdubbed at a later date). And a big part of the record's success is Van Eaton's drumming. He uses drum rolls to lead us into stops and to take us out of them. And he intersperses lots of occasional
accents, some of which become intrinsic parts of the song itself. It's hard to sing the title line to yourself twice without thinking of Van Eaton s way of filling the space between them ("flying saucer rock and roll, ba-doom ba-doom, flying saucer rock and
25 - That Don't Move Me (Carl Perkins) (1956) 1:53 (Not Originally Issued)
The origin of this track is somewhat mysterious; we don't know when it was recorded. We do know that there were five complete recorded performances (all available on BCD
17240) and Sun didn't release any of them.
The performance and arrangement are even more mysterious. ''That Don 't Move Me'' is a catchy and lively track. But listen
to Carl's lead guitar line - there 's nothing to it. It consists entirely of one short repetitive figure that serves as background to his vocal and becomes foreground as a guitar solo. The vocal itself is mostly calm, except for the occasional raspy note.
And based on that, this record might have been a mid-tempo folky ballad. But it isn't even close to being that. And the reason is the drumming. The rhythm section stays part of the background - the focus is on Carl's vocal and guitar figure. But W.S. Holland
(with a little help from Clayton Perkins' slap-bass) totally controls this track and makes it the infectious high-energy record it is.
26 - So Long I'm Gone (Warren Smith) (1957) 2:10 >
Sun 268-A <
Six months after the ''Ubangi Stomp'' session, Johnny Bernero was once again back in the studio playing
behind Warren Smith. But now Warren was singing a pure country song, ''So Long I'm Gone''. And so Bernero didn't need to play straight rock and roll; he could go back to the style he'd begun with. In some ways, on this track he reprises the shuffle beat he
brought to Elvis's record of ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' (Track 2 on this disc). But he doesn't do exactly that. The tempo is faster and Bernero plays that shuffle harder, once again using the snare and hi-hat. Sometimes on the hi-hat he explicitly
fills in the triplets that tacitly underlie the shuffle beat. On Elvis 's record, Bernero 's shuffle was the background behind the vocal and guitar. But here it's the central ingredient that moves the record along and makes it dance able. He'd become something
of a rock and roller, and there was no going back.
27 - Big Man (Charlie Rich) (1959) 2:42 < PI 3542-B <
This track began as an attempt to create a demo for the song's composer (Dale Fox) to use. But very soon it was obvious to all the participants that it was good enough
to release. Charlie Rich 's vocal has deep religious intensity during the slow and free tempo verses. And the intensity of the drumming in the fast choruses matches it. Jimmy Van Eaton's steady pounding of the bass drum is a reminder of a Salvation Army marching
band, while his work with the rest of his kit creates the kind of passionate fervor that can enthrall a Pentecostal church service. The drum work inspires strong urges to dance and either clap or wave your hands. It's not only the vocal that is spiritual here.
When this session was done, Sam loved it but had grave misgivings about trying to sell gospel music. It was a battle he'd fought with many of his artists, from Johnny Cash to Howard Seratt
to Jerry Lee Lewis. The solution here seemed simple. Sam would release ''Big Man'' to prove his point but sent Charlie home to recreate everything good about this record, while keeping the Deity out of it. Charlie obliged, and thus we have the story of how
''Lonely Weekends'' (Track 17 on this compilation) was born.
28 - Red Man (Billy Sheridan) (1960) 2:14 > Sun 354-B <
A little background before we talk about the music. In October 1960 Floyd Cramer hit the charts with his piano instrumental ''Last Date''. It stayed there for 20 weeks, climbing as high as in October 1960,
Charlie Rich and his musical confrères at Sun had a "We can do that stuff too" moment and knocked off a pop confection called ''Sad New''s, to which strings and voices were hastily added. So as not to compromise his vocal career at Sun, Rich's nom du
disc was changed to "Bobby Sheridan''. So far, so good.
For the flipside, Rich/Sheridan went into the studio on October 24, 1960 and knocked off a Rich original called
''Red Man''. The title was a pun, whose meaning has probably been lost over the years. ''Red Man'' was, in addition to an obvious reference to a Native American, also the name of a highly popular brand of chewing tobacco in the south.
We've chosen the track to show off Jimmy M. Van Eaton's drumming in an unusual context. Sun didn't do jazz. Charlie Rich did, especially on weekend and evening gigs at clubs like the Vapors,
where he could allow the Stan Kenton part of his soul to come up for ail. On ''Red Man'' Charlie has composed a jazz tune. Or at least a poppish tune with some decidedly jazzy chord changes. After 16 bars of the minor key "Indian'' chords and war-party drumming
by Van Eaton, the band switches to a 16-bar chorus that would have been at home on a ''Blue Note Or Riverside'' jazz album of the era. Guitarist Sid Manker, whose work at Sun was usually in company with Bill Justis, shows that he was utterly comfortable with
Charlie's jazz changes.
Original Sun Recordings
Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions
on > YouTube <
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©