CONTAINS

Charlie Feathers - The Legendary Demo Session(s) (ZZ 1001)
Charlie Feathers - Rock-A-Billy - Rare and Unissued Recordings 1954-1973 (ZCD 2011)
Charlie Feathers - Gone Gone Gone (SNAP 230)
Charlie Feathers - Can't Hardly Stand It! (ETCD 1020)
Best Of The Charlie Feathers Sun Records Sessions (ORGM 2090)

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CHARLIE FEATHERS - The Robert Johnson of rockabilly and a prince in his own cotton patch, Feathers has enormous respect for the sound that Sam Phillips achieved in his old studio (in fact, he even goes so far to take credit for the sound). In an interview he once said that going from Sun to Meteor and King was like going from a Cadillac to a Chevrolet. Feathers had a sound in his head and Sam Phillips stood the greatest chance of capturing it.

The stunning quality of "Peepin' Eyes", "I've Been Deceived" and "Defrost Your Heart" attest to the special magic of Charlie Feathers at 706 Union. It was a chemistry that he rarely, if ever recaptured.

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

Eventually he fetched up and then moved to Memphis in 1950 and promptly got married, and worked in a box factory before he contracted spinal meningitis and spent the greater part of a year in hospital.

"I felt OK but they kept me in hospital the longest time. I had a guitar in there and that's when I started to write a few songs. I was just drawing on the music I had heard growing up. Down there you could walk through the streets or down the road on a weekend night and you'd walk upon a coloured group or a guy with a guitar. That's the music I was familiar with. I also liked bluegrass. Bill Monroe came to town once while he was traveling with a tent. I loved his music but I couldn't play bluegrass".

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

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

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

Everybody agrees that Feathers recorded a lot of material at 706 Union Avenue that was never released. Evidence shows that most of it was probably recorded-over. Feathers claims that Sam Phillips planned a third single and even went as far circulating dubs but there are no notes in the files to corroborate this assertion.

Stan Kesler used Feathers to make demos of at least two songs, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" and "We're Getting Closer To Being Apart". Once again, though Feathers' version is at variance with everyone else's account.

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

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

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

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

Charlie Feathers' career after he left Sun had been fairly well documented. He was racing cars and playing the local honky tonks for many years before he started a late blooming career as a perpetuator of his own mythology. Most of his shows had a stunning intensity that often nonplussed the local bar crawlers who had come to the cool dark place for a little slow dancing and a night of serious drinking.

"You gotta feel the people when you get out", asserted Feathers. "If you know ahead of time what you're gonna play then you're giving the people second hand stuff. It'd be like turning a jukebox on. You'd know what you're about to get. A show shouldn't be that way. The talent comes out when e person don't know what he's gonna do. He just does it. A musician plays his best when he doesn't know what he's playing".

In 1985 British television viewers were able to get a look at Charlie Feathers resplendent in a Hawaiian sport shirt and lank greasy hair. Sitting in his garden, he played a tortuous version of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" with such agonized intensity that his voice alone could have stripped paint off the wall. The truth is that when Charlie Feathers settles down to play, the bullshit comes to an abrupt halt. The man is a genuine original with an awesome talent.

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

Unflinching and unique Charlie Feathers worked through everything life threw at him. Diabetes, loss of a lung, even being confined to a wheelchair didn't end his passion for performing. When he died of a stroke on August 29, 1998, he left a formidable artistic legacy for his coterie of devotees. But for one serendipitous moment Feathers finally went global in 2003 when another maverick, Quentin Tarantino, included ''The Certain Female'' on the soundtrack to ''Kill Bill 1'' and in 2004 "Can't Hardly Stand It" on the soundtrack to "Kill Bill 2".

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1986 Zu-Zazz Records (LP) 33rpm ZZ 1001 mono
CHARLIE FEATHERS - THE LEGENDARY 1956 DEMO SESSION(S)

Let's face it, rockabilly is a limited style at best and it can very easily degenerate into a pool of clichés, most of them absurd exaggerations of Elvis Presley's mannerisms. Real originality is as rare as a three dollar bill. The true originals were in touch with the well-springs of ethnic American music that fuelled Presley, Carl Perkins and those who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Charlie Feathers never even enjoyed Perkins' fleeting success but he was - and is - a genuine original.

Contains
Side 1
1 - Bottle To The Baby (Take 1) (2:32) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
2 - So Ashamed (Take 1) (2:47) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers)
3 - Frankie And Johnny (Take 2) (2:32) > Demo <
(Traditional Arranged Charlie Feathers)
4 - Honky Tonk Kind (Take 3) (2:36) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers)

Contains
Side 2
1 - Frankie And Johnny (Take 5) (2:45) > Demo <
(Traditional Arranged Charlie Feathers)
2 - So Ashamed (Take 2) (2:45) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers)
3 - Honky Tonk Kind (Take 4 & False Starts) (2:54) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers)
4 - Bottle To The Baby (Take 2) (2:43) > Demo <
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)

Recorded January 31, 1956 at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and acoustic guitar), Jerry Huffman (guitar),
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), Probably Johnny Black or Jody Chastain (bass),
and Jimmy Swords or Johnny Bernero (drums)

Note: According to Colin Escott, the drummer was probably not Jimmy Sword, but Johnny Bernero, who worked across the street from the Sun studio at the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Company and left his drums permanently set up in the studio. His firm but unobtrusive drumming can be heard on early cuts by Elvis Presley, Warren Smith and others. 

Saturday night in Holly Springs, Mississippi might find Charles Arthur Feathers, fifteen years old and already more than five years out of school, wandering down a street. A black blues singer would be singing with a tin cup in front of him. There might be a bluegrass tent show. High pure harmonies piercing the night air and little speakers strained to the limit by the fierce intensity of the music. Sunday morning would find nothing but gospel on the radio. screaming of the preachers, both black and white, could make the radio sweat. "He will set your fields on fire! No comfort at the cross of the silent sea''! Faith beyond faith. The faith that could make a poor unlettered farmer hold a snake or drink rat poison and fear no harm.

By the time Charlie Feathers arrived in Memphis he had soaked up the music and the concentrated weirdness of the Deep South. Feathers was ready but who was ready for Feathers?

By Feathers' own account, he first met Sam Phillips in 1950. If that is true, Phillips had other sounds in his head and Feathers did no more than odd jobs such as hauling recorders to weddings and the like. Eventually, as Phillips' blues artists moved out of town he began to rely more heavily on hillbilly music. After his initial success with Elvis Presley he made a costly mistake. He turned down the master of ''Daydreamin''', a hillbilly classic from the pens of Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell. The success of that record on the rival Meteor label convinced Phillips that he should take on Cantrell and Claunch. They arrived at a loose and largely informal arrangement and one of the first artists they were asked to work with was Charlie Feathers. Phillips wanted more hillbilly classics.

According to Claunch, Cantrell and Feathers, our man recorded prolifically during 1955, his first and only year with Sun as a contracted artist. Unfortunately, his prolificacy coincided with near bankruptcy at Sun and once the chosen cuts from a session had been mastered, Phillips recorded over the session tapes. All the unissued titles from those early sessions have been lost with the exception of ''Runnin' Around'' which was found by Martin Hawkins at the tail end of a tape that had been reused by Bill Cantrell. (See the Sun Country Box on Bear Family.) Feathers' first single which coupled ''Peepin' Eyes'' and ''I've Been Deceived'' was issued in April 1955 and made a brief appearance in the Memphis country charts during May. Its total sales of approximately 2900 copies ensured that Feathers would get another shot on Sun.

On June 24 there was a follow-up session but the tapes were completely recorded-over. At some point during 1955 Feathers recorded two demos for Stan Kesler that were intended for the ears of Elvis Presley. Both ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' and ''We're Getting Closer To Being Apart'' were recorded by Kesler on a little quarter track tape The demo of ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' was clipped from the tape years ago but ''We're Getting Closer'' was still sitting on Kesler's demo tape when it was transferred to Shelby Singleton in 1969. It features a haunting vocal from Feathers and some rudimentary fiddle playing from steel-guitarist Stan Kesler.

In November Feathers his last official session for Sun. Cantrell and Claunch were pushing a ''Daydreamin''' sequel called ''Wedding Gown Of White''. It was a fairly dippy song but Feathers' wonderfully hard-edged vocal rescued it from mediocrity. The flip side, ''Defrost Your Heart'', was achingly pure hillbilly music. coupling sold just over 900 copies and virtually ensured that Feathers would not get another shot on Sun.

The first term of Feathers personal service contract with Sun was up at the beginning of 1956. He had recruited new band members and had worked more rockabilly material into his repertoire. Feathers was anxious not to be typecast as a hillbilly singer. He sensed that the furor Presley was causing presaged a new wave in music and he was as qualified as anyone to sing it. He booked a session at the Sun studio to preview his material for Sam Phillips, hoping above all that Phillips would be impressed with the new material and pick up the contract for another term.

The album holds most of that demo session. After Feathers got word from Phillips that his contract would not be renewed the tapes were given to Feathers' manager and were hawked around to various companies. complete seven inch reels were recorded over but the rest is available here for the first time.

Together with Presley's Sun recordings and Carl Perkins' early sides, this music stands as a clear-eyed statement of what rockabilly is all about. The finished version of ''Bottle To The Baby'' is markedly superior to even the King cut. Not only does it have a cutting edge that could rip through steel plate but it also has Feathers' original lyrics with their wonderful images of southern lowlife: "Back in those days at the foot of the hill. We'd get our juice from a liquor still" or "Me and the wife and the little kitchy-koo. We in Apartment East 42. When we get sluiced we get a little loud. The landlady up and she throws us out.." Wonderful stuff! On a par with ''Dixie Fried''.

''Frankie And Johnny'' is an even bigger surprise. It was never known to have been part of Feathers' repertoire but these two versions (and another five unissued cuts) show that Feathers had put a considerable amount of work into his arrangement. The sustained trailing high notes betray Feathers' debt to Bill Monroe and the walking bass part played on the electric guitar shows the influence of Johnny Cash, but the overall result is pure Feathers. This is just about a working definition of rockabilly. It comes no purer or more exciting than this.

''So Ashamed'' and ''Honky Tonk Kind'' are closer to the style of Feathers' two Sun/Flip singles but the drums lend an additional drive to the proceedings. The drummer was probably Johnny Bernero who worked across the street from the Sun studio at the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Company and left his drums permanently set up in the studio. His firm but unobtrusive drumming can be heard on early cuts by Elvis Presley, Warren Smith and others. Feathers' vocals are straight out of hillbilly heaven. His pure, keening hillbilly wail could strip paint off the walls.

Meteor Records actually issued two of the demos that Feathers was peddling at this time. ''Tongue Tied Jill ''and ''Get With I''t were released in May 1956. Versions of them may have been on the tapes that were recorded over. Feathers recalls Phillips rejecting ''Tongue Tied Jill'' because it made fun of the afflicted. The Meteor single sold quite well in Memphis but was never covered by a contract. King Records, one of the larger independent labels before rock and roll exploded, had a sales branch in Memphis and they contacted Charlie Feathers with a view to taking over his contract. In July or August 1956 Feathers signed with King and he went to Cincinnati during the middle of August to cut his first session.

Possessed of as much talent as anyone, Feathers nevertheless failed to make any impression on the national marketplace during the 1950's. Success came with twenty years hindsight. It gave Feathers a second career, that of an assiduous perpetuator of his own mythology. However, no amount of bullshit can obscure two very clear facts: Feathers had an enormous respect for Phillips and the sound he achieved at 706 Union (he later said that moving from Sun to other labels was like going from a Cadillac to a Ford). More importantly, no amount of nonsense can obscure the fact that when Charles Arthur Feathers settled down to sing, he was indisputably the real thing. These recordings, sequestered away for thirty years, make it clear that Feathers had an enviable intuitive musicality and that his place in the pantheon of rock and roll greats may not be secured by virtue of Hot 100 placings but by sheer originality.

And these are quite possibly his greatest recordings.

- Colin Escott

Issue Produced by Colin Escott
Mastered by Bob Jones at CTS
Special thanks to Martin Hawkins and Bill Legere
Jacket Design by Look Out
© Zu Zazz Records, 1986
Distribution by Redneck Records, 18 Greystones Road, Bearsted, Kent, England

Charlie Feathers' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1990 Zu-Zazz Records (CD) 500/200rpm ZCD 2011 mono digital
CHARLIE FEATHERS - ROCK-A-BILLY - RARE AND UNISSUED RECORDINGS 1954 - 1973

Compact disc. An Zu-Zazz Special Product. Silver label. Zu-Zazz logo from center. Catalog number right from center. On the back cover Zu-Zazz logo right at bottom, catalog number in upper right. The definitive Meteor and Sun recordings, previously unissued recordings with studio chatter. Also included in the box, 8-page booklet biography with liner notes by Peter Guralnick. The booklet also features previously unpublished photos.

It is a typical Saturday night at every Hilltop Lounge on the not-too-respectable outskirts of any town. Beaten-down men and women cling to each other: factory girls in tight hiphuggers do the bump; skinny bald-headed old men in overalls jitterbug decorously with stout middle-aged women in sequined glasses; strangers huddle together against the cold.

In this particular Hilltop Lounge on Memphis's Lamar Avenue - not far from the old Eagle's Nest, where Elvis Presley first started out - the featured performer takes it all in with a mixture of good humor and genial contempt. Although he doesn't sing much, he is constantly involved in the performance, jumping up, grabbing for a mike, fiddling with the dials of the Peavey PA system, throwing in a bass harmony from the rickety table where he sits beside the darkened bandstand, ceaselessly expounding upon his theories of music, his plans for the future, his unending quest for the breakthrough hit record. He wears an open-necked white shirt. hounds tooth coat, and his white hair is slicked back in an impeccable DA. Once in a while he will strap on his guitar and do a song or himself, and then it is as if the room is transformed with his energy, carried away by the irrepressible squeals, inspired asides. and manic enthusiasm of the singer,.Everyone is having a good time, and only the the featured performer with his restless commentary, abrupt shifts of mood, and feverish memories of the past, seems to be thinking of anything but a Tennessee Saturday night. The featured performer is Charlie Feathers, sometime ambulance driver, stock car racer, semi-pro ballplayer, shuffleboard hustler, and rockabilly legend.

Charlie Feathers never achieved celebrity or fame, and his role at Sun remains somewhat unclear. but everyone agrees that he was present from the beginning, and that he made several of the most influential, if not popular, early rockabilly recordings. According to Charlie, he also taught Elvis his style, gave Jerry Lee Lewis the idea for his ''pumping piano'', and was generally Sam Phillips's right-hand man in the development of the whole rockabilly sound.

All of which sounds distinctly improbable, except that throughout our conversation Charlie Feathers constantly reinforces his point with musical illustrations. detailed stylistic references, and specific examples from a tape library which he says even includes a session he cut on Elvis at a West Helena radio station in 1955. "Some taugh goddamn stuff, baby" he says matter-of-factly with a certain glumness that seems at odds with the brash nature of his claims. Thats the way it is with Charlie Feathers, though, a proud, suspicious. Stubborn, and single-minded man who becomes passionate only when he is talking about music. On that subject he is generous in his enthusiasms, passionate in his likes and dislikes, and fatalistic about his chances of ever setting the record straight.

It seems incongruous somehow to be discussing so casually a past that is littered with the promise of greatness, a past peopled with figures who have gone on to acquire the status of legend. With anyone else it might well sound like empty boasting, but Charlie carries it off with a tone more accepting than and even one natural skepticism is to some extent overcome by his mastery of names. dates, technical details. and all the minute particulars of the tangled history of an era.

Charlie Feathers was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi - actually in the country out from Holly Springs around Slayen and Hudsonville - on June 12. 1932. He grew up working the land his parents tenant-farmed, but his sharpest memories are of music. He sang in church, listened to the Grand Ole Opry and snuck around to the Rossville Colored Picnic, out in the woods just across the road from his family's home. He learned guitar from a local black sharecropper named Junior Kimbrough, ''the blues singer in the world. Chuck Berry had nothing on him. I had him teach my son how to play, and what little I learned I got from him. too. To be honest with you, I never did do a whole lot of country. And Bill Monroe, he used to come through Hudsonville, set up tents and all, man I thought it was the greatest thing ever heard. Well, you see, I loved bluegrass all my life, but never did know how to play it. There wasn't nobody around who could play that type of music, only colored artists thumping on their guitars. Oh man, there wasn't anything to beat it. Them colored get out there on the weekend, they get together anywhere there was a guitar, just tune that guitar way down and whom on it. Sam, he always said I was a blues singer, but I was really singing bluegrass and rapping on the guitar like heard them colored artists do. Bluegrass rock. that's what it really was. Bill Monroe music and colored artists' music is what caused rock and roll''.

At sixteen or seventeen, he left home to work on an oil pipeline with his father. He worked around Cairo. Illinois, and then in Texas, taking his guitar with him and playing the saloons and joints at night. After a couple of years he moved back to Memphis and got married, driving a muck, working in a box factory, always fascinated by music.

Charlie claims to have started hanging around Sam Phillips' studio almost from the moment it first opened in 1950, and remembers the great blues singers that Phillips was recording then as a nameless procession of colored artists who created a powerful, exciting music and received little or no pay for it, He also recalls Elvis Presley as a teenager hanging out at Suzore No. 2 movie theater. In his recollection, Elvis was just a kid who started to drop by Sun studio long after Charlie Feathers had established himself there. Charlie insists he did the arrangement on ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'', working with Scotty Moore and Bill Black (a recollection not shared by Moore). He was ready jump into the new style, but, he says, he never got the opportunity. "I was stuck doing country'', says Charlie by way of explanation.

After two singles on Sun and Flip, a Sun subsidiary he came to Sam Phillips in 1956 with ''Tongue Tied Jill''. Phillips turned him down, and Charlie went to Les Bihari's Meteor label, where he had a fair-sized local hit with the song. "It would have been number one'', he says, "if we'd cut it at Sun''. It did serve to introduce him a larger audience, though, and impressed the local representative of King Records, the Cincinnati-based country and rhythm and blues label who signed Charlie as their answer to Elvis Presley. "It was: like getting out of a Cadillac and into a Ford'', says Charlie of the switch.

Of the records he made for King, which are considered classics in the rockabilly mold and remain much of basis for Charlie Feathers' reputation today, he has nothing - but scorn. "Aw, they was never right'', he says regretfully. ''We just didn't have the sound, man, I was dissatisfied with all of them, every one''.

Why, the question naturally arises, didn't Charlie Feathers ever really make it? '"He had the talent'', said Sam Phillips' brother Tom, "and he was real good on stage, too. But Charlie back then, he had to much have things his own way. King prey mated him pretty good. you know, but he didn't like the way they did. and he just let them know. Well, he's still pretty well like that. I believe if he'd just had a little more patience''.

Sam Phillips never that Charlie "really had it, but he was a little difficult, and that was how I never managed to get the best out of him. He always felt he knew more than anyone else, He was a damn talent. Though''. A talent that Phillips felt belonged to country music, "in the blues feeling he put into a hillbilly song Charlie should have been just a superb top country artist. He could have been the George Jones of his day - a superb stylist''.

More than anything else, though what seems to have held Charlie Feathers back was an absence of polish, an inability to adapt, the same forthright and unsophisticated manner that creates a wall of isolation around him even today. He has no gift for small talk, he is deadly serious about his music, and in areas where he is unsure of himself, he draws back, creating by his defensiveness an appearance of hostility. His music, too, retains a strange parochialism and a steadfast refusal to either its terms or its manner. He is an unreconstructed rockabilly in a countrypolitan age, continuing to sing about ''Stutterin' Cindy'' and ''Tongue-Tied Jill'' and never for a moment abandoning his belief in the essential craziness of a crazy music that long ago moved to the suburbs. He is, with his raw hillbilly sound, lonesome country voice, and freakish vocal effects, a traditionalist in a music that sought to overthrow tradition. He has become a rough reminder Of another age and some- thing of an embarrassment to those who would like to forget it.

Not to his fans, though, to the regulars at the Hilltop, Charlie Feathers is a genius. To his brother Lawrence, a smaller, neater lookalike who will sing Charlie's songs at the drop of a hat, but who fiercely disputes his older brothers musical superiority, Charlie is nonetheless an example. "I compare his talent to his education. I got third grade myself, and Charlie had less than that, 'cause he can't read or write. I think he's ten times better than any sonuvabitch that went to school; if he was educated, you think how great he would be''.

At the end of the evening, while he is packing up the mikes, Charlie allows himself a rare moment of satisfaction. "You know, we was really playing 'em, buddy. I tell them to freewheel it. I tell Bubba, if he feels a lick, to go ahead and hit it. Cause that's where it all begins''.

"That's right'', the piano player throws in. "I don't care what you say, you get the best music in the world in these little juke joints and holes in the wall. I'm telling the truth. you better believe it. Buddy, because this is where they always sing, from the heart. Charlie here, he's the best guy in the world, you ask anybody, because he's singing from the heart''.

Outside Charlie sits in the driver's seat of a pale late-model car and revs up the engine while the band climbs in. He rolls down the window to say his goodnights, flashes that quick, not quite certain smile, and peels out of the parking lot. He looks almost jaunty at the wheel.

- Peter Guralnick, 1990

Contains

1 - Bottle To The Baby (2:46) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
2 - So Ashamed (2:51) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers)
3 - Honky Tonk Kind (2:57) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers)
4 - Frankie And Johnny (2:50) 1986 Sun
(Traditional Arranged by Charlie Featers)
5 - Defrost Your Heart (2:57) 1955 > Sun 231-A <  
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
6 - Runnin' Around (2:08) 1986 Sun
(Traditional Arranged Charlie Feathers)
7 - I've Been Deceived (3:17) 1955 > Sun 503-A < > Flip 503-A <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
8 - Corrine, Corrina (2:15) 1990 Sun
(Sam Chatman-J. Mayo Williams-Mitchell Parish)
9 - Wedding Gown Of White (3:09) > Sun 231-B <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
10 - Defrost Your Heart (Previously Unissued) (2:23) Sun
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
11 - Bottle To The Baby (2:41) 1956 King 4997
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
12 - I Can't Hardly Stand It (2:43) 1956 King 4971
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
13 - One Hand Lose (2:23) 1956 King 4997
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
14 - Everybody's Loving My Baby (2:19)1956 King 4971
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
15 - Dinky John (3:19) 1960 Wal-May 101 (as Charlie Morgan)
(Charlie Feathers-Quinton Claunch)
16 - South Of Chicago (2:43)1960 Wal-May 101 (as Charlie Morgan)
(Charlie Feathers-Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
17 - I'm Walking The Dog (Previously Unissued) (1:56)
(Charlie Feathers)
18 - Today And Tomorrow (2:42)
(Charlie Feathers)
19 - Wild, Wild Party (2:58)
(Chgarlie Feathers)
20 - Where's She At Tonight (1:52)
(Head)
21 - Don't You Know (2:44)
(Head)
22 - Wild Side Of Life (2:06)
(A. Carter-W. Warren)
23 - Long Time Ago (Previously Unissued) (2:30)
(Charlie Featers-B. Allison)
24 - Tongue-Tied Jill (2:10) 1977 Redneck
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
25 - Folsom Prison Blues (3:11) 1977 Redneck
(Johnny Cash)
26 - Gone! Gone! Gone! (3:19) 1977 Redneck
(Carl Perkins)

1-10 Original Sun Recording
16-19 Licensed from Buford Cody by Travis/Ridgetop Music, 1990

Charlie Feathers' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 2005 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm SNAP 230 mono digital
CHARLIE FEATHERS - GONE GONE GONE

Compact disc. An Charly Record Special Product. Yellow label. Charly logo pressed in red on top of the label. Photo of Charlie Feathers pressed on disc. Catalog number below Charly from center. On the back cover Charly right above. Contains original all the important Sun recordings.

Forget the received wisdom about rebellious teenagers and the post-war rise of rock and roll because frankly it's a crock. Even when rock and roll in whiteface dominated singles sales courtesy of increasingly pretty, bland, anodyne middle American youth - delete according to taste - an alternative universe continued to flourish a wormhole away. The fifties were just as much about the jazzily proficient ministrations of the Four Freshmen, aided and abetted by guitarist Barney Kessel and bubbling, farting horn sections. They were about supremely talented saloon singers like Sinatra, Bennett, Greco and Torme, not to mention the supperclub delights wrought by Lena Horne or Abbe Lincoln poured into a sheath dress. There was breathless seduction from Peggy Lee, urbane lyrics courtesy of Sammy Cahn, the sheer exotica of Yma Sumac. To call them easy listening does them no service at all because they were the seriously accomplished cream of a long tradition and their audience was undeniably adult.

But back to the future with rock and roll, rhythm and blues, doo-wop and the achievement of youth, if you bought the myth, and the same incontrovertible fact loomed large - this revolutionary music was no such thing. It too had deep roots and was simply the latest slant on music a nation was intent on forgetting.

And there was no one less visible than Charlie Feathers, the Robert Johnson of rockabilly and a prince in his own cotton patch. But then no one in the record business had today's purchase on the possibilities of niche marketing and no one called anything Americana. This collection contains all the important Sun titles and gives some indication of the considerable talent of a man whose whole life was a work in progress. Also included in the box, 8-page booklet with biography information and annotated by by Clive Anderson.

Contains

1 - Peepin' Eyes (2:11) 1955 < Flip 503-B < > Sun 503-B <
(Charlie Feathers)
2 - I've Been Deceived (2:40) 1955 > Sun 503-A < > Flip 503-A <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill cantrell)
3 - Defrost Your Heart (2:31) 1955 > Sun 231-A <  
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
4 - Wedding Gown Of White (3:03) > Sun 231-B <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
5 - Bottle To The Baby (Early Demo) (2:35) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
6 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (2:41) 1986 Sun
(Stanley Kesler-Charlie Feathers)
7 - The Man In Love (1:54) 1958 Sun
(Charlie Feathers-Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
8 - Runnin' Around (2:08) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers)
9 - So Ashamed ((2:52) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers)
10 - Honky Tonk Kind (2:57) 1986 Sun
(Charlie Feathers)
11 - Frankie And Johnny (2:51) 1986 Sun
(Traditional Arranged Charlie Feathers)
12 - Corrine, Corrina (2:16) 1990 Sun
(Sam Chatman-J. Mayo Williams-Mitchell Parish)
13 - Someday You Will Pay (with The Miller Sisters) (2:19) 1955 > Sun 504-A < > Flip 504-A < 
(Roy Miller)
14 - I've Been Deceived (Alternate Version) (3:17) Sun
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
15 - Defrost Your Heart (Alternate Version) (2:57) Sun
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
16 - Bottle To The Baby (Later Demo)
17 - I Forgot To Remember To Forget (2:26) 1979 Redneck
(Stanley Kesler-Charlie Feathers)
18 - Uh Huh, Honey (3:07) 1979 Redneck
(Eddie Bond)
19 - Mound Of Clay (2:36) 1979 Redneck
(Roy Acuff)
20 - Tongue-Tied Jill (2:13) 1977 Redneck
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
21 - Gone, Gone, Gone ((3:28) 1977 Redneck
(Carl Perkins)
22 - Two To Choose (2:33) 1979 Redneck
(Charlie Feathers)
23 - Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On (2:20) 1979 Redneck
(Hank Locklin)
24 - Folsom Prison Blues (3:36) 1979 Redneck
(Johnny Cash)

1-16 Original Sun Recordings
17-24 Original Meteor/Redneck Recordings

All titles licensed from Licensemusic.
1-16 are courtesy of Sun Entertainment Corporation

Charlie Feathers was born Charles Arthur Lindberg, on June 12, 1932, just outside Blackjack, near Holly Springs, Mississippi, in that stretch of country between Stayden and Hudsonville. His family were sharecroppers and their culture was a predictable mishmash of the usual elements - church, Grand Ole Opry and, in Charlie's case, occasional forays in the direction of the local Rossville Colored Picnic. He had a predilection for black music, the raw sounds of the delta country and, like Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and so many other good old boys he learnt the rudiments of guitar from a blues man, in his case Junior Kimbrough who remained a lifelong friend.

And when Charlie wasn't listening to coloured boys banging on their box, as Elvis might have put it, he was soaking up the lonesome bluegrass cry of Bill Monroe whenever the great man passed through Hudsonville. Feathers always saw himself as someone who fused bluegrass with pure blues to produce something so new yet so natural you couldn't call it a hybrid. Call it rockabilly, country rock, bluegrass boogie, anything you want, it really didn't matter because it felt so right and all across the South in a swathe from Mississippi to Florida and then north as far as Tennessee individuals like Benny Joy, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and the Burnette brothers were working the same alchemy.

In 1948 Charlie left home to work as a pipeliner from Cairo, Illinois, all the way down to Texas, playing juke joints as he went. Eventually he fetched up in Memphis sometime in 1950 and promptly got marned.

The following year, according to Feathers, he arrived at Sam Phillips' studio at 706 Union Avenue with his rockabilly sound more or less fully formed although there is no recorded evidence for this. More likely, but also woefully undocumented, is his claim that he was regularly involved in production and session playing. It's the extent of his claim that makes him sound like the king of hyperbole, the Munchausen of rock.

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

And, unlikely though it sounds, there are moments to give one pause. Until recently no one knew that Presley made any studio recordings between 1953 and 1955 outside of those taped at Sun. Then Johnny Prye, front man with the Jones Brothers, a black gospel septet, revealed that Presley had cut acetates with them. Most recently, in 1992, RCA unearthed a recording of Presley singing The Clovers' ''Fool, Fool, Fool'' recorded for a radio station in Lubbock, Texas, during 1955. And so goes. Perhaps Feathers really did remember a long lost session in West Helena.

Maybe the clincher for those inclined to give Feathers the nod is one inescapable fact: it was ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' (Sun 223), a song he fashioned with Stan Kesler, which really put Presley on the map when it topped the country chart in September 1955 and stayed in the listing for a phenomenal forty weeks. Kesler has confirmed that there was a demo, now taped over or lost. He also confirmed that they were working with Presley on ''We're Getting Closer To Being Apart' when he left for RCA.

Despite Charlie Feathers penchant for rockabilly Sam Phillips passed over material like ''Corrine, Corrina'', an old Bo Chatman blues which found Feathers talking in tongues, and insisted instead on hardcore country.

Feathers had been working with composers Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell on ''Defrost Your Heart'' (Sun 231) from late in 1954. Owing more than a little to the tune of Hank Williams' ''I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow'' and sharing some of its bleak intensity, it must have struck Phillips as ideal when it was finished in 1955.

Coupled with ''Wedding Gown Of White'' from the same team, it trickled out in January 1956 and sold less than a thousand copies. Listen to either side and they could just as easily have been recorded in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1927, which would hardly recommend them to the chrome dreams of post-war America. That said, they remain stunning artifacts and a ringing endorsement of Sam Phillips' aesthetic judgment at least when he said that Feathers was a hugely talented country singer. ''Wedding Gown Of White'' was an especially cunning celebration of something which hadn't happened yet and typical of the quirkiness which would define Feathers' life. His singing is purest sound, some miraculous instrument ringing changes, and yet he neveiloses sight of meaning!

While Claunch and Cantrell supplied the Bible Belt gloom of ''I've Been Deceived' (Flip 503) it was Feathers who composed the sly and sometimes sinister ''Peepin' Eyes'' on the reverse. Remove Bill Cantrell's fiddle and switch Kesler from steel guitar and the result would be rockabilly of a very strange kind.

In a way Feathers was odd from the outset and he had an old soul. His two singles for Phillips, one on Sun, the other on its Flip subsidiary, taken with all the material he stockpiled at that time, do not come trom the parallel universes mentioned earlier but from some third anterior dimension. ''Wedding Gown Of White'' would sit quite easily on Harry Smith' s antiquarian Anthology Of American Folk Music' alongside Clarence Ashley's curious ''The Coo Coo Bird'' while ''I've Been Deceived'' could rub shoulders with the Reverend Gates' ''Oh Death''.

In his youth Charlie Feathers was drawn to tent show performers like ''Jam Up & Honey'' in blackface and at Sun he must have known about the medicine show ramblings ot his stablemate Harmonica Frank Floyd. By the time he left the label he was determined to pursue his antic disposition with archetypal rockabilly like '''Tongue Tied Jill'' (Meteor 5032), a song so unhinged that Sam Phillips missed the humour and took offence.

Immediately after this sole flirtation with Lester Bihari's Memphis-based label Feathers looked elsewhere. Between June 1956 and January 1957 he recorded in Cincinnati and Nashville for Syd Nathan's King label. In the process he was able to bring his amusing and unintentionally liberated ''Bottle To The Baby'' to fruition and cut timeless classics like ''One Hand Loose'' (King 4997) where he could finally indulge all his stuttering, whooping trademarks with manic glee.

This collection contains all the important Sun titles and gives some indication of the considerable talent of a man whose whole life was a work in progress,

In the course of a chequered and undeservedly hand to mouth existence Feathers left a trail of fine recordings like ''Wild, Wild, Party'' (Memphis 103) in 1961, the Barrelhouse sessions from the early seventies and the superlative Elektra Nonesuch album which came out in 1990 when he was finally getting some recognition beyond his devoted fan base.

But, like most great artists he lived off his repertoire, a body of work in which he had great faith and which he constantly reworked. The closing eight sides in this collection, waxed in Memphis during February 1973, find him revisiting ''Tongue Tied Jill'', trifling with Johnny Cash's ''Folsom Prison Blues'', being more like Carl Perkins than the man himself on ''Gone, Gone, Gone'', rampaging through the rockabilly lexicon on Autry Inman's ''Uh Huh, Honey'' and reasserting his absolute mastery on Roy Acuff's tear-streaked ''Mound Of Clay''.

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

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

Compiled & Annotated by Clive Anderson

Acknowledgements: Colin Escott, Peter Guralnick, Martin Hawkins, John O'Toole, Jerry Ferrera Quan, Tapio Vaisanen 

Charlie Feathers' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 2009 El Toro Records (CD) 500/200rpm ETCD 1020 mono digital
CHARLIE FEATHERS - CAN'T HARDLY STAND IT!

2 Compact disc. An El Toro Record Special Product. Photo Charlie Feathers and band pressed on disc. Catalog number on disc left from center. On the back cover El Toro logo left on bottom. This two CD collection that contains the complete 1950s recordings from Charlie Feathers for Sun, Meteor, King, his known demos, alternative takes and even the tracks which feature Charlie as a session musician on guitar and spoons. Also included in the box, 8-page booklet with biography and some session information with liner notes by Dave Penny.

Disc 1 Contains
1 - Peepin' Eyes (2:17) 1955 > Flip 503-B < > Sun 503-B <
(Charlie Feathers)
2 - I've Been Deceived (2:47) 1955 > Sun 503-A < > Flip 503-A <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
3 - Defrost Your Heart (2:36) 1955 > Sun 231-A <  
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
4 - Wedding Gown Of White (3:09) 1955 > Sun 231-B <
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
5 - Tongue-Tied Jill (1:58) 1956 Meteor 5032
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
6 - Get With It (2:02) 1956 Meteor 5032
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
7 - Everybody's Lovin' My Baby (2:19) 1956 King 4971
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
8 - Can't Hardly Stand It (2:52) 1956 King 4971
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
9 - One Hand Loose (2:26) 1956 King 4997
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
10 - Bottle To The Baby (2:24) 1956 King 4997
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
11 - When You Decide (2:30) 1957 King 5022
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
12 - Nobody's Woman (2:20) 1957 King 5022
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
13 - Too Much Alike (2:23) 1957 King 5043
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
14 - When You Come Around (2:13) 1957 King 5043
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
15 - Why Don't You (2:23) 1960 Kay 1001
(Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
16 - Jungle Fever (2:44) 1960 Kay 1001
(Charlie Feathers-Vic Maupin)
17 - One Hand Loose (Alternate Take) (2:23)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
18 - Can't Hardly Stand It (Alternate Take) (2:45)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
19 - Bottle To The Baby (Alternate Take) (2:43)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
20 - Bottle To The Baby (Alternate Take) (2:12)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
21 - Everybody's Lovin' My Baby (Alternate Take) (2:16)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain)
22 - Too Much Alike (Alternate Take) (2:21)
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
23 - My My (Jody Chastain) (2:39) 1958 Kay 1002
(Jody Chastain)
24 - Jody's Beat (Jody Chastain) (2:51) 1958 Kay 1002
(Jody Chastain)

Disc 2 Contains
1 - I've Been Deceived (Demo Version) (3:19) Sun
2 - Runnin' Around (Demo Version) (2:09) Sun
3 - Defrost Your Heart (Demo Version) (2:59) Sun
4 - Runnin' Around (2:03) Sun BFX 15211
5 - I've Been Deceived (Alternate Take) (2:59) Sun BFX 15211
6 - Someday You Will Pay(with The Miller Sisters, Charlie Feathers on Spoon) (2:22) 1955 > Sun 504-A < > Flip 504-A < 
7 - Defrost Your Heart (Alternate Take) (2:22) Sun
8 - Wedding Gown Of White (Alternate Take) (3:12) Sun
9 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (2:45) Sun BFX 15211
10 - Bottle To The Baby (Demo Version) (2:37) Sun
11 - Bottle To Baby (Demo Version 2) (2:01) Sun
12 - Frankie And Johnny (Take 2) (2:34) 1986 Zu-Zazz
13 - Frankie And Johnny (Take 5) (2:47) 1986 Zu-Zazz
14 - Bottle To The Baby (Take 1) (2:37) 1986 Zu-Zazz 
15 - Bottle To The Baby (Take 2) (2:01) 1986 Zu-Zazz 
16 - Honky Tonk Kind (Take 3) (2:42) 1986 Zu-Zazz
17 - Honky Tonk Kind (Take 4) (3:01) 1986 Zu-Zazz
18 - So Ashamed (Take 1) (2:53) 1986 Zu-Zazz
19 - So Ashamed (Take 2) (2:52) 1986 Zu-Zazz
20 - Corrine Corrina (2:16) Sun
21 - The Man In Love (1:56) Sun BFX 15211
22 - This Lonesome Feeling (3:00) Norton ED-246
23 - Johnny Come Listen (2:45) Norton ED-246
Original Sun, Meteor, King Recordings

Charlie Feathers - Can't Hardly Stand It! - The Complete 1950s Recordings

It's always thrilling to follow the steps of a comparatively new artist who is well on his way to achieving the goals already attained by many star personalities who have tread the same path. Charlie Feathers certainly is now in the process of gaining the success he well deserves for his untiring effons in the field of country music. On every rendition that Charlie does, whether it's a tear-jerker or a bouncy rhythm and blues, he pours his heart out on each note; for his great love for music stems from the heart. It's a great thing to hear him, as well as to see him perform. Charlie is now recording with Meteor Records; his latest release being "Tongue-Tied Jill", backed with ''Get With It". Many of the critics predict this to be the "one" for Charlie, and we're hoping it is; for it couldn't happen to a more wonderful person.

- Hillbilly Harmony (1956 article).

Poor tenant farmers, Leonard and Lucy Feathers lived and worked in Marshall County in North Mississippi near the townships of Blackjack and Slayden, just south of the Tennessee border and just north of historic Holly Springs which lay on US Highway 78, an important road that ran from Birmingham, Alabama, through Tupelo, Mississippi, and straight into Memphis, situated barely 40 miles to the North-West. On June 12, 1932, their son Charles Arthur Lindbergh was born; named in celebration of the nation's great hero and pioneering aviator. How could they know that, in later years, their baby boy little Charlie Feathers would come to be a hero of a different sort to succeeding generations of rockabilly music fans the world over.

One of seven children born to Leonard and Lucy, Charlie's earliest musical inspirations were divided equally between the spiritual music at church and country music on the radio. As a child, Charlie became interested in the guitar and an aunt showed him the rudiments of playing country music when he was about ten years old. His first musical hero was Bill Monroe and his dextrous bluegrass, but like many of his generation, as Feathers entered his teenage years black music began to exert an irresistible influence, and the twin focus of that magnetism was embodied in neighbouring sharecroppers Obie Peterson and David Kimbrough Jr. Little is remembered today about Peterson, but due to his comparative fame in the years before his death in 1998, Junior Kimbrough is a known quantity. A singer and guitarist two years older than Feathers, Kimbrough began to teach the awestruck youngster how to play the blues on his guitar and, uncharacteristically, Charlie would later admit that Kimbrough basically taught him all he knew. He never lost his admiration for the Mississippi bluesman he dubbed "the greatest blues singer in the world", and even arranged for Kimbrough to teach his son, Bubba, when the lad began to take an interest in learning to play the guitar.

Having left school by the age of ten to help his parents on the farm, Charlie found work in the local area hard to come by and left home to travel north to Illinois to lay oil pipes in the late 1940s. It was while playing for the other itinerant pipeliners after work that Charlie discovered his musical talent and he began to toy with the idea of making music his vocation. Around 1951 he decided to return to Memphis, where he met his wife-to-be, Rosemary Hardy and discovered that his new brother-in-law, Dick Stuart, was program director of radio KWEM across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas; Dick introduced Charlie to a host of new influences in the pursuit of his business, notably bluesman Howlin' Wolf who made a big impact on Feathers. In order to support his new family, Charlie was working in a local box factory but lost his employment when a bout of spinal meningitis laid him up in hospital for several months. It was while convalescing that he wrote his first song, "Peepin' Eyes" , and made a deal with himself that he would seriously give his music a go as soon as he was discharged. He was aware that Howlin' Wolf and many of the other KWEM blues musicians had begun recording over at the Memphis Recording Service on Union Avenue, so from late 1954 Charlie began hanging around the Memphis Recording Service building which was now also home to Sam Phillips' latest business venture: Sun Records.

At this time, Charlie teamed up with local musicians and songwriters Bill Cantrell (fiddle) and Quinton Claunch (guitar) and began to make home demos of their jointly-composed ballads, such as "Defrost Your Heart" and "I've Been Deceived". By the early months of 1955, Sam Phillips had been persuaded to let Charlie loose in the Sun studio and, backed by Cantrell, Claunch and steel-guitarist Stan Kesler, Feathers recorded his own song "Peepin' Eyes" along with "l've Been Deceived" for his debut single (Flip/Sun 503) which Phillips released on both Sun and on the doomed subsidiary, Flip Records. It sold reasonably well but even so, Phillips waited almost a year before releasing a follow up single. In the meantime, Feathers made himself available to Sun by composing original, wittily-titled songs, cutting demos and once even displaying an unusual talent for playing the spoons, when he backed The Miller Sisters on their debut release, "Someday You Will Pay" (Flip/Sun 504).

Most successful was a song written by Feathers and Stan Kesler for Sun's hottest new property, Elvis Presley. Although their "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" (Sun 223) would prove to be Presley's swan song for the label, it also proved to be his biggest success yet, reaching the top of the country chart early in 1956 after he had left the label. Sadly, Charlie's demo of the song has never been found and is now believed destroyed, but the demo of another wordy song the pair wrote for Elvis as a follow up, 'We're Getting Closer to Being Apart" fortunately survives as a rough acetate. In November 1955, as they waved Elvis off to RCA, Sam took another chance on Feathers, yet strangely, two stone country ballads by Cantrell and Claunch were chosen for his second single (Sun 231) rather than something in the rockabilly style that Elvis had popularised and with which Charlie had already begun experimenting. The second single sold poorly and, as 1956 dawned, Charlie made the decision to try rock and roll. His demo sessions at Sun in early 1956 display a beatier, more uptempo performer trying out such material as "Frankie And Johnny" and the first of his attempts at his later rockabilly classic "Bottle To The Baby". Sadly for Feathers, Sam Phillips regarded him as simply a country artist and, by this time, had his hands full with Carl Perkins, who was generating big business with his anthemic "Blue Suede Shoes"; he consequently had little time to develop or even listen to Charlie's experimental rockabilly. To add insult to injury, most of what Charlie recorded at Sun during this period seems to have been recorded over by Sam when recycling old tapes.

By early 1956, Charlie had jettisoned the fiddler and was employing a new, leaner aggregation, the Musical Warriors, who consisted of new pals Jody Chastain (steel guitar), Jerry Huffman (lead guitar) and Shorty Torrance (bass), and was managed by brother-in-law radio announcer, Dick ''Poor Richard" Stuart. Taking Elvis' core group as a blueprint, Feathers next step was to trim the group further into that of a hepcat-friendly rockabilly quartet, so out went their short, bald bass-player and the steel was dumped being no longer derigeur. Jody Chastain took over on bass and young Jimmy Swords came in periodically on drums. This line-up cut the lively demo of "Corrine Corrina" at Sun in February or March of 1956, just before leaving the indifferent Phillips to sell their services to the local rival Meteor Records. Jody and Jerry didn't want to risk upsetting Sam by jumping ship, but Charlie placated them by insisting they would just use the Meteor studio to record some demos of their hot new rockabilly songs, "Get With It" and ''Tongue-Tied Jill". Whether this was true or not, these demos were released in June 1956 as Meteor 5032 and sold reasonably well in the local area for an independent label rockabilly release, but the royalties earned were much less than expected so, certain that they were being duped by the tiny label, the Warriors decided it was time to aim a little higher.

Now a tight, exciting, professional rockabilly combo, The Musical Warriors attracted the attention of the major independent label, King Records, which had its eye fixed on Memphis for some of that Sun/Presley action, and in July 1956 they travelled to the label's headquarters in Cincinnati feeling for all the world that they were on the cusp of hitting it big. They would later complain about the terms of the contract, the unnecessary vastness of the studio and, even, about Charlie's propensity for overdoing his now-trademark shrieks and hiccups, but the fact remains that the King recordings - particularly those cut at that first session - were arguably the finest rockabilly sides Charlie Feathers and his Musical Warriors ever laid down. The much-rehearsed "Bottle To The Baby" found its defining moment, the powerful "One Hand Loose" was the pinnacle of hot rockin' cool and even the eldritch "Can't Hardly Stand It" still manages to chill the spine and make the small hairs stand to attention.

The rockabilly sound was polished further (some would say, it was a veneer too much) at their second King session. Recorded at the RCA building in Nashville in January 1957, drummer Swords was replaced by the late Buddy Harman and the vocal group backing - which was becoming increasingly ubiquitous in rock and roll - was provided by an unnamed black group led by Johnny Bragg. Jerry Huffman is said to have hated the session because he was denied the expensive studio equipment and had to use his beat up old amplifier instead, but the distorted roughness of his lead guitar tone actually imbues the session with much more rockabilly attitude than it would otherwise have achieved. Two more singles resulted from this session, but they too sold poorly and whether dealing with pure, unvarnished rockabilly or the commercial rock and roll sound, the King label - more used to promoting rhythm and blues - seems to have been out of its depth; whoever should shoulder the blame, the Feathers group was dropped at the end of their contract period.

The next few years were lean ones for Charlie, when his rockabilly group split up in 1958 after one final throw of the dice with Charlie Kahn's new Kay Records recorded at Radio WHBQ. Actually it was more like two throws of the dice with a back-to-form rocking coupling by Charlie on the inaugural Kay 1001 and a more orthodox novelty rock and roll single issued under Jody Chastain's name on Kay 1002, on which Charlie played rhythm guitar. After an engagement with the new Hi label proved fruitless the work quickly tailed off. Rockabilly's brief moment in the sun was swiftly drawing to a close and, without a recording contractor a band, Charlie went back to cutting the odd demo and, back with Cantrell and Claunch, his next single released in 1960 on Walmaywas issued under the pseudonym "Charlie Morgan".

Unable to fit in comfortably with the new, smooth countripolitan sound, Feathers 1960s releases became more infrequent with one-shot deals for the Memphis label (1961) and Holiday Inn (1963) preceding an arid spell until he cut his great version of the Memphis rockabilly anthem "Tear It Up" for Philwood (1968), while the following year he even took the time to record a session with his old mentor, Junior Kimbrough.

By the early 1970s, Charlie had become a hero to a small, informed band of European rockabilly collectors, like Breathless Dan Coffey, who paid huge amounts for the privilege of owning copies of his rare Meteor and King singles. Coffey, indeed, made pilgrimages to Memphis to record Charlie again in the old rockabilly style, and in Europe Charlie Feathers' star would continue to rise with the release of the LP shared with Mac Curtis on Polydor in 1974, entitled ''Rockabilly Kings'', which would help to ignite an unlikely popular revival in the forgotten music style which spread like wildfire throughout Europe. Revitalized himself by these events, Charlie began touring again, playing local gigs with a band featuring his son Bubba and daughter Wanda, and they travelled to California at the invitation of Ronny Weiser for a whirlwind session that resulted in "That Certain Female" (Rollin' Rock 025) - a sparkling return to form. European tours, TV appearances, documentaries, more hero worship and many more fine recordings would follow in the two decades left to him, but sadly he didn't live long enough to witness his acceptance by the mainstream, when his recordings were prominently featured in the soundtracks of the Quentin Tarantino Kill Bill blockbusters; Charlie died aged 66 on August 29, 1998 in a Memphis hospital following complications of a stroke he had suffered a few days earlier. His friend and blues tutor, Junior Kimbrough, had died in Holly Springs just six months before.

"Rockabilly is different. Nothin' can touch it, man; and it don't take a big band to do it. .a lead (guitar) man and a good acoustic rhythm and a big slap bass. Can't beat it, man! The simpler, the better..." or in other words, you pick the tune, and you slap the bass; I'll play the rhythm and I'll set the pace, but we gotta get with it- got no time to waste''!

I doubt that anyone who loves Charlie's seminal rockabilly music would argue with any of those sentiments, nor with those he once expressed as, "Rockabilly - hey man, they can say what they want about the blues, but blues is in rockabilly, bluegrass is in rockabilly, country is in rockabilly. When you hear it, you hear it all, Jack! That's the reason I say it's the beginning and the end of music''. Amen, brother.. and without further ado, let's all get with it - gonna rock it tonight!

- Dave Penny, September 2008 

Charlie Feathers' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 2017 ORG Music (LP) 33rpm ORGM 2090 mono
BEST OF THE CHARLIE FEATHERS SUN RECORDS SESSIONS

This newly compiled collection of recordings from rockabilly pioneer Charlie Feathers showcases the influential Memphis performer’s work at Sun Records (and related labels). Feathers started his musical career as a session musician at Sun Studios under Sam Phillips. His theatrical, hiccupping vocal style inspired a later generation of rock vocalists, including Lux Interior of The Cramps and Tav Falco, who contributed extensive liner notes and photos for the insert of this release.

Side 1 Contains
1.1 - So Ashamed
1.2 - Runnin' Around
1.3 - Bottle To The Baby
1.4 - Honky Tonk Kind
1.5 - Wedding Gown Of White
Original Sun Recordings

Side 2 Contains
2.1 - Peepin' Eyes
2.2 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart
2.3 - Frankie And Johnny
2.4 - I've Been Deceived
2.5 - Defrost You Heart
Original Sun Recordings

Charlie Feathers' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

> Page Up <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©