Great Guitars at Sun (BCD 16148
Great Drums at Sun (BCD 16273)
A New Focus

People who love Sun Records - and that includes us - have favorite recordings and favorite performers. And almost all of that dedication is concentrated on the singers. But thinking about that, we realized that many, if not most, of the records we love have great music surrounding the vocal. Many people view the instrumental work as mere background. But let's face it: very few of our favorite records are a cappella performances.

So in these two collections of recordings from the Sun label in Memphis (''Great Guitars At Sun'' and ''Great Drums At Sun'') we're going to change all of that. We'll focus on the guitarists and drummers who provided much of what was great about our favorite Sun records. We 've selected some of the best musical performances at Sun and, at least this once, put the musicians at the center of our attention.

Not Casual Choices

The job seemed pretty straightforward. Take the best guitar playing and the best drumming recorded at Sun Records, compile it onto two CDs, and release them as a tribute to the fine musicianship at Sun. Done. Over and out.

Even if it had been that simple, this was no easy task. Fun, yes; easy, no. There were approximately 230 singles released by Sun. Add to that another nine on Flip and about 70 on Phillips International. Call it 310 in round numbers. Now double that number since singles have two sides. So we started with 620 tracks to consider.

The 20 LPs issued by Sun and Phillips contained more material not issued on singles. On those 20, let's say there were maybe 80 new tracks to add to the list. We were up to about 700 released tracks to keep in mind while we were compiling these two CDs. A wonderful but somewhat daunting task!

Here's where it gets interesting. For everyone of those 700 released tracks, there are, on average, maybe three alternative takes (sometimes zero, sometimes 15). That takes us up to about 2800 tracks. Then there are the originally unissued titles and artists. The bottom line is, the number of Sun releases is a lot less than the totality of Sun tapes. When we selected the 56 tracks for these two CDs, we considered a lot of material.

It was a true embarrassment of riches - well over 10,000 tracks - to get to the finished product. We can't say we sat down from scratch and listened to every Sun recording made from 1952 until they closed the doors in the mid-1960s. But we can say we've probably heard damn near all of them, some of them hundreds, if not thousands of times. We can still spot a Carl Perkins (or Ernie Chaffin or Johnny Cash) outtake at 40 paces. This is what it means to be a Sun fan/collector/historian. Many of these tracks are etched into our memories. At the end of the day, these were not casual choices we made in compiling these CDs. We'll do our best to share the reasons behind each choice.

An Unexpected Problem

We expected to have two non-overlapping categories: Great drumming and great guitar playing. We 've been hearing terrific guitar solos and tasty drumming as long as Sun records have been part of our lives and we thought these two CDs would pretty much compile themselves. To some extent, that was true. But not entirely. We hit an unexpected snag.

We'd take a record like Carl Perkins' ''Matchbox'' or Roy Orbison's ''You 're My Baby'' and we knew it had to be included. The trouble was, we couldn't figure out which collection it belonged on. Both the drumming and the guitar work were memorable. One simple solution would have been to include it on both CDs, but that didn't seem fair. A lot of the buyers of one CD would likely be buying the other and we didn 't want to put the same material on both. Our options were limited and we hope you'Il understand why on one occasion we used the released version on one disc and an outtake of the same song on the other.

In discovering this problem, we learned something important. When the playing got hot at Sun, it often inspired everyone in the room. A great guitar break raised the energy level and fired up the drummer. In return, hot drumming lit a fire under the guitar player. Of course, it didn 't stop with them; their work plainly had an impact on the vocalist, not to mention the piano player and the bass player. Maybe some day those guys will get their own CDs too. For now, we'll keep the spotlights on the guitarists and drummers.

Hank Davis & Scott Parker 


For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

© February 2017 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16148 mono digital

1-CD Digipak (6-sided) with 60-page booklet, 28 tracks. Total playing time approx. 70:19 minutes. Compilation presenting the most exciting guitar playing on Sun putting the musicians at the center of attention. From stylists like Luther Perkins to legends like Scotty Moore and Little Milton. Track-by track notes, 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. But dazzling string work at Sun was not limited to records by these three famous artists. 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 Guitars at Sun.

''Great Guitars at Sun'' includes some breath-taking playing: from legends like Scotty Moore to stylists like Luther Perkins. Some, like Carl Perkins, Little Milton and Roy Orbison, were far better known as singers. Other guitarists we selected - men like Eddie Bush and Pat Hare and Roland Janes - worked in near obscurity, but their brilliant playing illuminated recordings by better known vocalists. Sam Phillips, the founder and guiding hand of Sun Records, knew how to listen and he knew how important the musicians were.

Re-Issue Producers
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Marcus Heumann
Liner Notes
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Frontcover Cartoon
Athena Gubbe
Photos and Illustrations
Richard Weize Archives, The Showtime Music Archives (Toronto),
Greg Wolske
Photo Scans
Photo Restoration
Sam Malbuch
Mychael Gerstenberger
Thanks to
Steve Eckstein, Dick Penner, Greg Wolske

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <


1 - I've Got Love If You Want It (Warren Smith) (1957) 2:08 > Sun 286-A < 

Warren Smith's first record, ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'', was his biggest hit on Sun. Before they could record a follow-up, he and the Snearly Ranch Boys had a falling out. Warren quickly assembled a new band that featured his old high school friend, Al Hopson, on guitar. Good choice. Hopson is joined on this session by Arkansas-born guitarist Roland Janes who came to Sun as a member of Billy Riley's band and stayed on to play on many Sun records (notably Jerry Lee Lewis' s early hits) and worked for the Phillips family managing their publishing interests and running the studio until his death in 2013.

Here Hopson and Janes create a simple repetitive call-and-response guitar riff that grabs the listener light at the start and never lets go because it never ends. We don't know whose guitar is the call and whose is the response. It hardly matters; the combination works perfectly. Warren sometimes sings over the "call" part but the "response'' comes right back anyway. That unrelenting pattern goes on for just over two gripping minutes. We leave it to you to decide whether the vocal or the guitar figure is the central feature of the record. 

In addition to being a first-rate guitarist, Al Hopson was also a fiddler and a gifted songwriter. He wrote the beautiful country ballad ''I Fell In Love'', the flip side of ''I've Got Love If You Want It''. 

2 - Cotton Crop Blues (James Cotton) (1954) 2:57 > Sun 206-A <

The aggressive guitar playing on ''Cotton Crop Blues'' raises eyebrows even today, more than sixty years after it was recorded. Can you imagine how it sounded back in 1954? The barely controlled violence that ran through Pat Hare splaying was part of his life as well, much of which was spent in prison for murder.

With all due respect to vocalist James Cotton, it is Hare's slashing guitar inserts and 12-bar solo that raise Cotton's record to its iconic status among Sun fans, blues collectors and students of 1950s Memphis music. It also underscores the fact that a collection of great Sun guitar playing need not be confined to rockabilly.

3 - Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) (1955) 2:48 > Sun 232-B < 

Luther Perkins was known for his limitations more than his expertise on the guitar. Johnny Cash's stage show frequently chided Luther in a good natured way for those limitations, although the routine probably wore a bit thin on Luther over the years. That two-note background and those simple scales that Luther called solos were all part of his charm and the undeniable power of Johnny Cash 's earliest records.

On ''Folsom Prison Blues'', Luther has outdone himself, playing one of the most memorable yet simple guitar solos in country music. In fact he plays it twice. Even more remarkable is the fact that Luther uses the top three strings on his guitar, suggesting he had mastery of the entire instrument. This was Johnny Cash' s second record for Sun and that mastery never surfaced again, over 19 mote releases and nearly 60 more titles. It's a rarity indeed, but Luther never played better than he does here. There is no telling how many young guitar players in the formative 1950s cut their teeth on this solo. Such was the beauty of Luther Perkins' playing: good enough to inspire, but not so good as to intimidate. It was almost a mantra: If Luther did it, so can you. 

When the Johnny Cash Broadway musical (''Ring Of Fire'') opened in 2006, it included a performance of ''Folsom Prison Blues''. The first four bars of Luther's solo, recorded half a century earlier, were duplicated note for note. 

4 - We Wanne Boogie (Sonny Burgess) (1956) 2:23 > Sun 247-B < 

''We Wanna Boogie'' wasn't an immediately obvious choice for ''Great Guitars At Sun''. But what it lacks in melodic construction and dazzling fretwork, it makes up in aggression. Sonny Burgess might as well have been hitting his guitar with a piece of wood as a flat pick, This style is from a different universe than, say, finger picking. The results are percussive, not melodic. It's raw and attention getting: two qualities that serve a band well when the hall is full and the juice is flowing. Sonny simply took what worked well at the clubs and brought it to the tiny confines of 706 Union. Bless his heart.

5 - Trouble Bound (Billy Riley) (1956) 2:42 > Sun 245-A <

''Trouble Bound'' is a gem: it is brooding, dark and menacing. There is not a wasted note, from the bottom string boogie-ish figure to the tense chords in the solo. The only surprising turn here is guitarist Roland Janes's use of 6ths rather than flatted 7ths. That may sound technical but you can hear it easily. Listen to what Roland plays after Riley sings "Drinkin' wine together" or "Laughin' and having fun''. Flatted 7ths are the heart of the blues. 6ths don't sound very bluesy and they might have undercut some of the tension of the song. But that doesn't seem to have happened; the record works perfectly. Roland was a fine musician and he knew just what he was doing.

There was no doubt ''Trouble Bound'' belonged on this collection of Sun's greatest instrumental work. We just didn't know which disc to put it on: Drumming or Guitar playing? The decision sort of made itself for us. Drummer Johnny Bernero does essentially the same thing here (changing from shuffle beat in the verses to 4/4 in the guitar solo) that he did on Elvis ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget''. Since that track is already on ''Great Drums At Sun'', no sense showing off the same artistry twice. And so trouble ''Bound'' resides on this disc with other Sun guitar mastery. 

6 - Miss Froggie (Warren Smith) (1957) 2:23 > Sun 268-B <

For this outing, unlike ''I've Got Love If You Want It'', Al Hopson is listed as the only guitarist and he doesn't entirely rely on a single repeated figure. He has a good one and returns to it often, but he also does a lot of improvising be hind the vocals. Those improvisations fit perfectly as background to Warren 's vocal and they also reward a shift of attention to the guitar. But it's in the two wonderful solos that Hopson really gets to show off. With his volume appropriately turned up, he plays intense rockabilly with a piercing tone. The second of the two solos is extremely melodic, unlike ''Miss Froggie''. But a puzzling thing happens during that second solo (at about 1:42 into the track). For a moment it sounds like a second guitarist has joined in for a note or two and then vanished. We have no explanation for it, and don't know if there were truly two guitarists on the session.

As we said earlier, there are tracks in this collection with drumming as noteworthy as the guitar playing. This is one of those. Drummer Jimmy Lott's energetic (OK, manic) work on this track deserves a mention and your attention. 

7 - Mystery Train (Little Junior's Blue Flames) (1954) 2:24 > Sun 192-A <

Little Junior, the leader of the Blue Flames, is Little Junior Parker who went on to have a very successful career at Houston's Duke Records. The guitar work on ''Mystery Train'' is by Floyd Murphy'', a Memphis native. Sam Phillips said that Floyd had an amazing ability to make one guitar sound like two, and that ability is in evidence on this track. While Junior is singing and Floyd is accompanying the vocal with a simple figure, the record sounds quite full. But when Floyd plays the melodic single-note lines in his solo, the sound thins out as if some band members had stepped out for fresh air. Those simple melodic lines are a variation on the song s tune and they fit integrally into the record.

The flip side of this release, ''Love My Baby'', appears as Track 27 of this disc. 

8 - Mystery Train (Elvis Presley) (1955) 2:26 > Sun 223-A <

Scotty Moore was the guitarist who backed Elvis during his earliest (and best) years, both on stage and on record. He contributed more than his share of memorable guitar moments to the music of his era. In 1964, Billy Sherrill arranged that Scotty record an album of instrumentals called ''The Guitar That Changed The World''. It's an immodest title, but it's appropriate.

''Mystery Train'' provides one of Scotty' s most notable outings. In part, its effectiveness comes from his brand new custom-made Echosonic amplifier, an amp that could add a little echo to the sound of the guitar. The filled-out sound coming out of that amp helped energize his performance and the entire record. Where Little Junior's record was a subdued blues, Elvis's record is an unstoppable train at full throttle. The distinctive figure that Scotty plays behind it is a dramatic revision of what Floyd Murphy had played behind Junior Parker. It caught on as a signature riff, Al Casey recreated it behind Sanford Clark's record of ''Lonesome For A Letter''. Scotty's solo is not complicated but has a perfect contour starting mid-high and rising to an apex before descending so that the guitar line returns smoothly to its place under the return of Elvis's vocal. Simple but elegant. 

9 - You Made A Hit (Ray Smith) (1958) 2:21 > Sun 308-B <

Ray Smith had two stints at Sun: the first consisting of a series of sessions at 706 Union during 1958 and the other, three years later, in Nashville. ''You Made A Hit'' resulted from one of the earlier Memphis sessions. The lead guitar work was handled by Stanley Walker, a mainstay in Smith's road band. It's easy to see why he wasn't replaced for the session as road musicians often were. Walker was a fine picker. You can hear the rapport between the two men. It's hard to know whether the guitar drives the vocal or vice versa. There sure is a lot of energy and interplay, whichever it is.

One final curio: if you want to hear what this song sounded like in its original version, check out HI 2005 by Joe Fuller. We'll save you the suspense. You won't find a more insipid piece of pop drivel. Kudos to Smith, Walker and company for turning it into a rockabilly showcase. 

10 - Matchbox (Carl Perkins) (1957) 2:07 > Sun 261-A <

Carl Perkins was one of the founders of rockabilly, seamlessly blending blues and country music into a new art form. And this record is one of the peaks of that development. Carl opens with a snarling attack that quickly merges into a seamless duet with Jerry Lee Lewis's piano. But what sets this record into unique and uncharted territory is Carl's soloing, spurred on by his own vocal encouragement. The solos are long free-flowing tunes that would be no less at home on a jazz record, and there is nothing else remotely like them in the rockabilly of the era. Once you've heard them a few times, the impulse to sing along with them is almost irresistible. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say; when the Beatles covered ''Matchbox'', George Harrison chose to recreate Carl 's solos note-for-note.

We put this track on the ''Guitar'' disc but we were strongly tempted to put it on the companion disc, ''Great Drums At Sun'', because of W.S. Holland 's work, especially the extended drum roll that takes us into the first guitar solo. It is slightly too long and absolutely perfect another highlight of this remarkable record. 

11 - I Done Told You (Gene Simmons) (1958) 2:19 > Sun 299-B <

Between late 1955 and early 1957 Gene Simmons and his brother Carl (lead guitar) and bass player Jesse Carter were frequent visitors at 706 Union Avenue. They arrived, they spent the day in the studio laying down tracks, and they drove back down to Tupelo. Over and over, and they had nothing to show for it.

When Gene finally decided to try his luck at Hi Records and enjoyed some success in 1958, it was time for Sam to go through the mountain of tape boxes with Gene Simmons's name written on them. At a Hi Records party, well lubricated as ever, Sam announced that Gene was "the most patient man I've ever worked with" and released ''I Done Told You'' backed with ''Drinking Wine'' (which appears on ''Great Drums At Sun''). 

The guitar playing on this side is highly unusual, to say the least. For one thing, the whole record is like a time warp. If it had been released in a timely manner (not nearly two years later) it would have appeared around the time of ''Dixie Fried'' and ''We Wanna Boogie''. So sitting there among the slightly more polished early 300 Sun number series, it sounds a bit raw. And this comes at a time when the pop music industry was starting to slick itself up and leave any hint of redneck menace behind. The lyric here, with references to a hard drinking jilted lover carrying a gun were commercial suicide. But Sam saw it as the best of what he had in the can and, besides, he liked how it sounded. 

The verses are done as a talking blues and there aren't many of those on Sun. But mostly it' s the guitar playing on the solos that draws attention. Carl Simmons is a good picker. He uses interesting chord inversions and jazz-based sequences. He pushes the simple chord changes. This could have easily been a three-chord record but in Carl's hands, it isn't. Just listen to the first four bars of the first solo. A lesser player could have just hammered away in that I-chord before he ever thought of the next chord change. Carl has already been through five chords. And when he gets to the IV-chord (A in the key of E) he's turned it into a minor chord! Whose idea was that? Unlike many Sun recordings that feature a second guitar break, Gene turns things around here and plays an entirely different solo. The man was bursting with ideas. 

12 - I Feel So Worried (Sammy Lewis) (1955) 2:34 > Sun 218-A < 

The productive and all-too-brief meeting between vocalist/harp player Sammy Lewis and guitarist Willie Johnson produced one of the best blues records issued by Sun. In the eyes of many collectors and Sun blues fans, there is no finer release for this period (Spring 1955) than ''I Feel So Worried''. (Elvis is at his peak; Cash is just arriving, and the blues are going out).

Just about everything works to perfection on this record, Sammy's half-talked vocal, that memorable stop tempo intro; and Willie Johnson's simple but powerful guitar work. The most obvious hook is that wordless moan from the flatted seventh (G) up to the tonic (A). But the biggest hook lives right below the surface - it's the tension between the major and minor key in which this song lives. In that regard it is the true follow-up to Sun's enormous blues hit from nearly two years earlier: ''Feelin' Good'' by Little Junior's Blue Flames. 

13 - Cindy Lou (Dick Penner) (1955) 2:18 > Sun 282-B <

For a while, Sun record labels told us something about the artists in tiny print, just below their names. Carl Perkins was "The Rockin' Guitar Man'', Jerry Lee Lewis played a "Pumping Piano" and Wade and Dick were "The College Kids''. Dick Penner stayed a "college kid'', going on to write a treatise on Fiction of the Absurd (1980) as a Professor of English Literature at the University of Tennessee. It was a long way from ''Ooby Dooby'', which he co-wrote with Wade Moore.

''Cindy Lou'', one side of Penner's only Sun single as a soloist, is a strange mixture featuring his gentle, decidedly non-macho singing backed by some extraordinary guitar work that lands the disc filmy on this collection. The guitar playing by Don Gilliland works because it is everything Penner's vocal isn't: aggressive, stinging, disturbing. Put them together and you have a rather unsettling hybrid, just the kind of music Sam Phillips liked. There's an amazing amount of understated tension on the disc, fueled in part by the fact that the whole thing never leaves the I-chord and, as in the previous track (''I Feel So Worried''), we're never sure if that chord is a major or a minor. You keep waiting for something to happen, and it doesn't: just Gilliland trying to punch his wayout of that chord with all his metallic jabs. The rest of the rhythm section electric bass and cowbelled drums - keeps everything rock solid and focuses the attention on Penner and Gilliland, just where it belongs. 

14 - Bear Cat (Rufus Thomas) (1953) 2:50 > Sun 181-A <

 ''Bear Cat'' was an "answer record" to Willie Mae Thornton's far more famous original record of ''Hound Dog''. The guitarist, Joe Hill Louis, was a singer and multi-instrumentalist (he also played harmonica and drums, who spent some time performing in Memphis as a one-man band calling himself ''The Be-Bop Boy''. He was the first black artist to contact Sam Phillips when the Memphis Recording Service opened. He had some records under his own name that were recorded at Sun and re leased variously on Sun, Modern and Chess. On ''Bear Cat'', Louis provides guitar responses to Rufus Thomas's vocal lines. But the showpiece of Louis's work is his marvelous three-chorus solo. Any one of those 12-bar constructions would have been a standout solo on an ordinary record, yet Louis strings three of them together here. They stand as important forerunners of Carl Perkins' s solos on ''Matchbox'' (Track 10 of this compilation).

15 - Laughin' And Jokin' (Ernie Chafin) (1957) 2:05 > Sun 275-B <

We're sort offending the rules here by including Ernie Chaffin's ''Laughin' And Jokin'''. The stellar guitar playing here is performed by Ernie Harvey on the pedal steel. Yeah, it's got more strings than a Fender Stratocaster, and the tuning is different, and you use your knees and your feet in addition to your hands. But at the end of the day, it's still an electric guitar.

Chaffin made records before and after his brief time at Sun in 1957/58, but never came close to the glory of his best Sun work. Sam told them to keep it simple and Pee Wee Maddux, who put these sessions together, took it to heart. In typical Sun fashion, vocal and lead guitar are driven by acoustic guitar and bass. It had been less than two years since Elvis was in the studio and, plainly, little had changed. Harvey's lead guitar work actually suggests he had done his share of listening to Luther Perkins, which is an odd thing to say about a steel player, but Johnny Cash 's popularity was growing by the day when Chaffin arrived for this session in January, 1957. 

16 - The Hucklebuck (Earl Hooker) (1977) 3:04 (Not Originally Issued)

''The Hucklebuck'' is a jazz/rhythm and blues number with a long and complicated history that can be traced back to Lucky Millinder and perhaps to Charlie Parker. The Paul Williams instrumental recording with that title was a big hit in 1949. It spawned a dance craze and, not surprisingly, cover versions, many of which including the one by Frank Sinatra contained instructional lyrics about how to do the dance. Earl Hooker learned to play the guitar as a child in Chicago. He recorded widely in the early 1950s, sometimes as a sideman and sometimes under his own name as either guitarist or vocalist. Hooker came to Sun and ran through his on-stage repertoire hoping to impress Sam Phillips and get a recording contract. He got his contract but never had a release on Sun. Happily for us, Sam kept that audition tape where it could be discovered decades later.

On this purely instrumental version of ''The Hucklebuck'', after Hooker runs through the tune straight, "his wonderful virtuoso performance moves fluently and seamlessly through jazz, rhythm and blues, and proto-rock and roll. 

17 - Rode That Train ( Lookin' For My Baby ) (Little Milton) (1985) 2:47 (Not Originally Issued)

Little Milton Campbell was "discovered" by Ike Turner who brought the teenage guitarist/singer to Sun. He was barely 20 years old when he recorded ''Looking For My Baby''. We are presenting an alternate take on this anthology, rather than the version released on Sun 220, because its guitar solos have much greater emotional intensity. Some of that intensity surely comes from the overdriven distorted stinging sound of the guitar, notably absent from the released version. But the bulk of the intensity comes from the soulful music itself. The guitar is playing music that sounds anguished and desperate.

Milton went to do work as a producer and eventually had considerable success as a soul singer starting in the mid 1960s. For people who are familiar only with his later work, his guitar-playing or this track will be a revelation. 

18 - Dear John (Warren Smith) (1992) 1:53 (Not Originally Issued)

In ''Dear John'', the last of the three Warren Smith vocal tracks in this disc, we have someone doing wonderful guitar work but we don't know who is playing it. We think it's Al Hopson but it might be Billy Riley. Whoever it is does a wonderful job and creates another simple riff that runs throughout the record. This one is played in a lower register than the one on ''I've Got Love If You Want It''. And interestingly, this one somewhat resembles the riff that James Burton had played on Dale Hawkins' record of ''Susie Q'' only a few months earlier. (Some years later, Riley adopted the figure on several tracks of his ''Live At The Whisky A Go Go'' album). It's a great riff, and it hooks you right from the beginning of the record. The guitar solo is a grand hybrid while the notes are solidly in the blues tradition, the "feel" is rooted in country music. That's just the right combination for a rockabilly cover of a pure country song first recorded by Jim Boyd in 1948 and covered by Hank Williams in 1951.

19 - Come Back Home (Howlin' Wolf) (1978) 2:08 (Not Originally Issued)

The first two bars set the tone for the entire record. That very countryish guitar figure will work its way through the chord changes of this 12-bar blues. It' s the glue that holds this performance together. If you listen closely, you'Il recognize the tone on that guitar (a pleasant blend of acoustic and amplified) from Track 12. It's blues combo man Willie Johnson, who made his greatest mark as Howlin' Wolf' s lead guitar player. And the vocalist here is none other than Chester Burnett, a/k/a The Howlin wolf.

The track is called ''Come back Home'', a title that could have been replaced by half a dozen other phrases from the song. This is little more than a string of vocal blues cliches. Made distinctive by the Wolf's vocal styling (he could have recited the Helena phone directory and gathered a crowd) and the repetitive force of Johnson's guitar figure. The truth is, the continuity of that figure is the only thing to suggest this performance is a ''song'' and not merely a blues jam. 

20 - Tennessee (Carl Perkins) (1986) 3:05 (Not Originally Issued)

''Tennessee'' is the Carl Perkins single you never got to hear because ''Blue Suede Shoes'', slated to be released in the same batch, caught fire so quicldy that Sun didn't want to jeopardize its success. And so the elusive Sun 235 sat in the can until making an appearance as filler on Carl's first album. We include it here on the strength of Carl's flowing, skillful and melodic solo. The playing is fluid and combines pure country touches with elements of dissonance that would become a hallmark of Carl's best rockabilly work. The second time through his solo Carl emphasizes chords over single notes, but again manages to integrate country and rock elements without breaking a sweat. Playing in the honky tonks prepared Carl Perkins to be as adept a country picker as he was a rock guitarist.

21 - Scott's Boogie (L B Lawson And James Scott's Blues Rockers) (1989) 2:22 (Not Originally Issued)

Admittedly, this is a selection straight out of left field. It was originally unissued and even as unreleased Sun blues tracks go, it is hardly a title on everybody's lips. But we thought it was perfect for this collection, and not because of its obscurity. Here's the back story: Some time in 1952 vocalist L.B. Lawson recorded a session at 706 Union backed by a Mississippi group called the Blues Rockers (not to be confused with the Blues Rockers who recorded ''Calling All Cows'' for Excello Records). Lawson's three vocals were preceded by an instrumental jam to shake loose some of the jitters from the small combo (Sam knew how to keep his artists loose). Guitarist James Scott, Jr. offered an instrumental duet with fellow guitarist Charles McClelland and percussion man Robert Fox. It was probably untitled at the time but has since become identified as ''Scott's Boogie''.

Rather than sink into 12-bar blues obscurity, the tune actually stood out. Part of that had to do with the scratchy sound of the three instruments which Sam did a fine job recording. But the part that interests us more has to do with the guitar playing. James Scott finds some mighty melodic stuff to play within those boring old three chords (D, G and A) and he does it enough times for the figure (especially during the A chord) to become a hook. As the notes to the ''Sun Blues Box'' (BCD 17310) suggest, there's a clear connection between this track and the "endless boogie" style of groups like Canned Heat, who took it all to the bank some 25 years later. 

22 - Red Hot (Alternate Take 4) (Billy Riley) (2010) 2:28 (Not Originally Issued)

The released record of Red Hot on Sun 277 was the closest that singer/guitarist Billy Riley ever came to having a national hit. We are presenting here an "alternate" performance, one of the takes that was not selected for release. Although the guitar-playing on the released version is extremely exciting, we selected this outtake because there's even more excitement in this performance.

Despite the fact that Billy Riley was a fine guitarist, the guitar work on this record was handled by Roland Janes. Both of Janes' solos are brilliant. Even in a record that has an energy level set to barely contained chaos, the solos audibly take off and drive the performance further into the stratosphere. That's even truer in the second guitar solo than the first. 

Although the released version of ''Red Hot'' had additional voices overdubbed that answered "My gal is red hot" with "Your gal ain't doodly squat'', this alternate doesn't have them. But don't despair. The released version appears on the companion disc, ''Great Drums At Sun'', to highlight Jimmy Van Eaton's stellar work. 

23 - Sweet Woman (Edwin Bruce) (1958) 2:42 > Sun 292-A <

Edwin Bruce signed with Sun when he was a 17-year-old newspaper delivery boy for the Memphis Press-Scimitar. You might expect that storyline to result in some teen fluff about a high school hop or being jilted at the senior prom. Not here. At least not at Sun and not in 1957.

Bruce's first two records were dark. From the sound of them, you'd never know he was a kid delivering newspapers. We've included his second record, ''Sweet Woman'', and it offers an adult vocal and some minimalist and highly effective guitar playing. In fact, the guitar work features a duet between Edwin Bruce and Billy Riley. Riley provides a solid boogie figure under the vocal and joins forces with Bruce during the 12-bar solo. 

The record's signature guitar figure appears right at the start and continues for the first four bars. It's likely played by Riley himself, but it might have involved interplay between Riley and Bruce, as did the solo. In any case, the figure wasn't quite original (was anything during the Fabulous 1950s?) The same bass notes had introduced Jimmy Bowen's hit record ''I'm Stickin' With You'' just a year earlier and that memorable guitar figure also turns up on Elvis's ''One Night'' in 1958. 

24 - Mona Lisa (Carl Mann) (1959) 2:27 > PI 3539-A <

Texan Eddie Bush, after a stint as a staff guitarist at the ''Louisiana Hayride'', was in Jackson Tennessee, when he got recruited to play on Carl Mann 's first record on the Jaxon label. That record went nowhere but Bush and Mann stayed together long enough to get signed at Sun. ''Mona Lisa'' was their debut record on Phillips International, Sun's sister label.

Bush was an erratic and unreliable band colleague, sometimes disappearing for days at a time and sometimes missing gigs. But when he showed up, he was worth the wait. He covers a lot of ground on ''Mona Lisa''. Behind the vocal verses, he plays the sort of muted rhythmic arpeggio ''rock-a-cha" figure popular throughout the late 1950s (for example, in Paul Anka's ''Diana'') but throws in some more interesting notes. He then punctuates the ends of verses with an assertive chordal attack, doing what a big band might have done. His guitar solo goes off-in multiple directions, sounding at times Mexican-inspired (as in the descending thirds that begin the solo), at other times rock and roll inspired and at still other times like it was inspired by Scotty Moore's solo on Elvis's recording of ''I Don 't Care If The Sun Don 't Shine''. And in Bush is hands all of these elements fit tightly together into one stunningly beautiful solo both the conceptualization and the playing. That solo was so memorable that it became the melodic basis of Carl Mann 's subsequent record, ''I'm Coming Home''. 

W.S. Holland's superb drumming on this record deserves a mention as well. We'll have more to say about Holland's work with Carl Mann on ''Great Drums At Sun'', the companion disc which includes ''I'm Coming Home''. 

25 - How Long Will It Last (Tommy Hodge & Ike Turner) (1976) 2:42 (Not Originally Issued)

Ike Turner was a terrific piano player, record producer, and talent scout in addition to being an excellent guitarist. He was the pianist and producer for Jackie Brenston 's record, ''Rocket 88'', often identified as "the first rock and roll record''. As a scout, he brought Little Milton (heard on track 17) to Sun and turned Anna Mae Bullock into Tina Turner. But here we focus on his guitar work.

''How Long Will It Last?'' is a standard blues but Turner's guitar takes it further. Playing at the top of the guitar's range, Turner answers and embellishes Tommy Hodge's vocal lines in a wide variety of ways. He bends and sustains some notes and attacks others, and varies the dynamics from cries to whispers. The stylistic influence of B.B. King is obvious, but the emotional variation that Turner gets out of the instrument is special. 

26 - Ooby Dooby (Alternate Take) (Roy Orbison) (1989) 2:11 (Not Originally Issued)

After Roy Orbison left Sun, he went on to enormous success as a vocalist, scoring nine Top 10 hits in the years 1960-1963. But on his Sun recordings, he played guitar too and he was a superb instrumentalist. We present here an alternate take of his Sun 242 hit, Ooby Dooby. We chose this unreleased version because although it is very similar to the issued version, the guitar solos have a slightly crisper sound quality.

From our point of view, the song is simply there to bracket the guitar solos. The solos, which are essentially identical, are two full choruses long (solos were usually only one verse long back then) and the record is built around them. The solo's first three lines follow the song's melody and then Orbison breaks free. He bends notes creating tension that gets resolved quickly; he attacks staccato chords; he runs up and down; and he closes with a satisfying final chord that leads back into the vocal. It's a well-crafted journey. In later years, Orbison did all he could to disavow his Sun recordings. But the evidence is clear: He was one hell of a guitar player. 

27 - Love My Baby (Little Junior Parker) (1954) 2:35 > Sun 192-B <

There are some who regard ''Love My Baby'', the flip side of Little Junior Parker's ''Mystery Train'', as one of the first legitimate rockabilly records. Again the stellar guitar work belongs to Floyd Murphy, but his approach on this side is different from what he played on ''Mystery Train'' (Track 7 of this disc). The very as restive opening chords lead us into a very upfront and memorable guitar figure that runs through the record. Although we thought that the introduction was just that, to our surprise the guitar solo reprises those opening chords and their transition into the repetitive figure. It's a great hook, and the moments in the third verse when Floyd gets confused about the chord changes aren't nearly enough to derail the record.

Three years later, Sam Phillips decided that singer Hayden Thompson should redo the song. And for that purpose he directed guitarist Roland Janes (who we discussed in the notes to Track 1) to reproduce Floyd Murphy' s performance on the new recording. Sam knew he had something worth keeping. 

28 - Bob Train (Bill Justis) 1958) 2:01 > PI 3535-A <  

What's this countryish guitar doing in the middle of a big band session? Go ask Sid Manker (the guitar player. Better yet, go ask Bill Justis, the guy who put this session together. Justis had already enjoyed success at Sun with this kind of genre bending when his record of ''Raunchy'' went to number 2 on the charts in late 1957. This session from exactly one year later was a further attempt to mesh Justis's almost comically hip sensibilities with countrified rock and roll.

''Bop Train'' is a strange record that doesn't seem quite sure what it wants to be. It begins with a lovely, countrified 4-bar guitar intro in the key of B. Not many songs are in that key and there might not be another one on Sun. Then the band comes in playing a 12-bar blues at a lazy rolling tempo with pleasant sax work by Justis in the style of Billy Vaughn. Only now they're in the key of A-flat. Huh? We never lose that 12-bar structure from here on. It' s a train, rolling down the track, although the journey doesn't come close to ''bop'' by anyone's definition. (Then again, neither did Elvis when the critics called his music "hillbilly bop'' back when he started.) The first verse is led by the mellow sax. The next two verses feature a lead guitar with a lot more edge and sting than any playing that comes before. This is as close to rock and roll as the record gets. Then there's one more sax-led verse (the Vaughn sound again) and we're out, back to that lovely hillbilly figure we started with. 

And somehow it all works just fine. (A final question to musicians: Might the song have been played in G and Bb and the tape sped up for commercial release?) 

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 < 


© 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.

Try 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.

Re-Issue Producers
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Marcus Heumann
Liner Notes
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Frontcover Cartoon
Athena Gubbe
Photos and Illustrations
Richard Weize Archives, The Showtime Music Archives (Toronto),
Jimmy Van Eaton, Gene and Bruce Reisenberg, Bobby Crafford,
Billy Weir
Photo Scans
Photo Restoration
Sam Malbuch
Mychael Gerstenberger
Thanks to
Jimmy Van Eaton, Gene and Bruce Reisenberg, Bobby Crafford,
W.S. Holland, 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. 

Yet 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. 

6 - 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.

By the 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 <

This 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''. 

Jimmy 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.

The 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 and 1980s. 

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 together. 

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, 

Riesenberg's 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. 

15 - You Can't Make Love To Somebody (Alternate Take 5) (Carl Perkins) (2012) 2:22 (Not Originally Issued)

Carl 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)

This 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.

Van 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)

Here's 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 level.

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 roll'').

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 < 


> Page Up <