Of all the musical styles associated with Sun Records, country music is the least well recognised and the least well documented. This is surprising because country music appeared on the magic yellow label from the first full year of operation until the last. Moreover, most of the artists primarily associated with Sun Records began their careers in country music or went on to carve out a career in country music. 

However, when we came to compile the SUN COUNTRY BOX we encountered some special problems. 

Sam Phillips and his producers recorded a lot of country music. Even before the birth of Sun Records, Phillips was recording country music for Chess and 4-Star Records. If we included every country performance from those seventeen years the box would be an unmanageable size. 

So, the first delimiter we decided upon was a cut-off date of 1960 which corresponded roughly with the opening of the new studio on Madison Avenue, Memphis and the end of Phillips' full-time involvement. 

The second major problem was to decide upon who and what should be included. We could have gone in either of two directions:
Include every country performance regardless of artist, or
Include every performance by artists who where predominantly ''country'' artists. 

We decided upon the latter because we thought that most collectors would prefer to have the complete Sun recordings of, say, Charlie Feathers or Warren Smith rather than just the country performances. In this way we have also avoided dangerous judgement calls about were ''country'' stops and ''rockabilly'' begins. 

Even using those guidelines, there are still some anomalies. These will usually be made clear in the text. We have, for example, included some sample cuts by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. All three have boxed sets of their work currently available but we decided to include them for two reasons. Primarily because there are still some out-takes of inclusion, but also because their exclusion would distort the overall picture of country music on Sun Records. 

A final problem centred around the use of demo recordings. As Sun's fame grew, hundreds of artists made the trek to Union and Marshall Avenues, hoping that they would be discovered in the same way as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Hundreds more mailed in demo tapes, many of which remain unheard to this day. Some of those tapes were shipped to Nashville with the Sun tape inventory and we have included a few examples of them. Perhaps a couple were not recorded at 706 Union but we judged them to be of sufficient interest that they warranted inclusion. 

We started listening to this music many years ago and it seems as though each major project, in particular the Sun Box series, deepens our appreciation of the music, the environment which gave birth to it and the actual recording industry during those far off years. Despite the plethora of Sun reissues it is really hard to believe that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you can uncover previously unknown Charlie Feathers recordings or bring some of the previously unknown or little known artists into the spotlight. 

The music scene has changed out of all recognition in the years since the first of these performances was recorded. In technical terms alone, the changes have been dramatic. The acetates that Phillips used in 1950 were supplanted by tape which has now been supplanted by computer scans of the audio signal. The 78rpm disc, the primary medium for sound recordings in 1950, was supplanted by microgroove which is, in turn, being supplanted by compact disc. It is now commonplace to fit one hour's worth of music onto a disc that is several inches smaller and several ounces lighter than the old 78s that held the fruits of Phillips' first efforts. 

Yet, somehow, the music that Phillips recorded in his tiny studio in an era so different from the present has survived to sound better with each passing year. As country music surrenders its soul in the quest for the Holy Grail of crossover, it becomes necessary to look back over your shoulder. It will be a sad day when there is no place for Charlie Feathers or Doug Poindexter singing their hearts out with a painfully simple, pure hillbilly backing. This music is very special and we're betting that much of it will be around long after most of today's country music is forgotten. 

Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins, Hank Davis
Toronto, Canada and Maidstone, Kent, England, August 1986

© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-11 mono

Sun Country 11 LP Boxed Set. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. Bear Family Records logo pressed in light brown at bottom. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in upper right.

Original Sun country recordings and demos many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter. Also included in the box-set, 128-page booklet contains biographies of the artists, discographies with details of all recording sessions, and many rare and unpublished photo's. Also in the booklet a chronology of information relevant to country music in Memphis and to the musicians included. Special songs Elvis (off mike singing) of ''How Doy You Think I Feel'' with Scotty Moore and Johnny Bernero. Two never before released Carl Perkins masters, ''Forever Yours'' and ''Breakin' My Heart''. The box contains 193 performances, inclusive 82 previously unissued masters. Liner notes and biographies by Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins and Hank Davis.


Record 1 Side 1/2
Slim Rhodes
Record 2 Side 3/4
Harmonica Frank - Bob Price - Red Hadley
The Ripley Cotton Choppers - Earl Peterson
Record 3 Side 5/6
Howard Seratt - Doug Poindexter - Scotty Moore - Elvis Presley
Johnny Bernero - Carl Perkins
Record 4 Side 7/8
Bill Taylor - Smokey Joe Baugh - Clyde Leoppard - Snearly Ranch Boys
Therman Enlow - Johnny Bernero Band - Malcolm Yelvington
Record 5 Side 9/10
Charlie Feathers - Maggie Sue Wimberly - Jimmy Haggett
Record 6 Side 11/12
The Miller Sisters - Cast King
Record 7 Side 13/14
Warren Smith
Record 8 Side 15/16
Warren Smith - Ernie Chaffin
Record 9 Side 17/18
Mack Self - Onie Wheeler - Jerry Lee Lewis
Record 10 Side 19/20
Johnny Cash - Tommy Black - Jack Clement -
Gene Steele - Mississippi Slim - Hardrock Gunter - The Rhythm Rockers
Wanda Ballman - The Dixieland Drifters
Bones Record Side 1/2
Carl Perkins - Johnny Cash - Jerry Lee Lewis - Onie Wheeler

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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

THE SUN COUNTRY YEARS - Of all the musical styles associated with Sun Records, country music is the least well recognised and the least well documented. This is surprising because country music appeared on the magic yellow label from the first full year of operation until the last. Moreover, most of the artists primarily associated with Sun Records began their careers in country music or went on to carve out a career in country music. However, when we came to compile the Sun Country Years we encountered some special problems. Sam Phillips and his producers recorded a lot of country music.

Even before the birth of Sun Records, Phillips was recording country music for Chess and 4-Star Records. If we included every country performance from those seventeen years the list of recordings would be an unmanageable size. As Sun's fame grew, hundreds of artists made the trek to Union and Marshall, hoping that they would be discovered in the same way as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Hundreds more mailed in demo tapes, many of which remain unheard to this day. Some of those tapes were shipped to Nashville with the Sun tape inventory and we have included a few examples of them.

Perhaps a couple were not recorded at 706 Union but we judged them to be of sufficient interest that they warranted inclusion. We started listening to this music many years ago and it seems as though each major project, in particular the Sun Boxes series, deepens out appreciation of the music, the environment which gave birth to it and the actual recording industry during those far off years. Despite the plethora of Sun reissues it is really hard to believe that you are scratching the bottom of the barrel when you uncover previously unknown Charlie Feathers recordings or bring some of the previously unknown or little known artists into the spotlight.

The music scene has changed out of all recognition in the years since the first of these performances was recorded. In technical terms alone, the changes have been dramatic. The acetates that Sam Phillips used in 1950 were supplanted by tape which has now been supplanted by computer scans of the audio signal. The 78rpm disc, the primary medium for sound recordings in 1950, was supplanted by microgroove which is, in turn, being supplanted by compact disc. It is now commonplace to fit one hour's worth of music onto a disc that is several inches smaller and several ounces lighter than the old 78s that held the fruits of Phillips' first efforts.

Yet, somehow, the music that Sam Phillips recorded in his tiny studio in an era so different from the present has survived to sound better with each passing year. As country music surrenders its soul in the quest for the Holy Grail of crossover, it becomes necessary to look back over your shoulder. It will be a sad day when there is no place for Charlie Feathers or Doug Poindexter singing their hearts out with a painfully simple, pure hillbilly backing. This country music is very special and we're betting that much of it will be around long after most of today's country music is forgotten.

It is probably fair to say that there was a classic period for country music on Sun Records. It fell between 1954 and 1956 when most of the country music that emanated from Sam Phillips' little studio was achingly pure and almost totally untouched by rhythm and blues. Success, of course, came with the rockabilly boom that dawned in 1956 and most of the classic country music recorded on Sun sold abysmally. When Sam Phillips calculated Earl Peterson's royalty statement in May 1955, SUN 197 had sold five copies in the preceding six months, bringing the total sales to 2868, but 196 copies had been returned. Total royalties amounted to $94.17 but Peterson had already purchased $60 worth of records, reducing the total amount owed to $34.17 peanuts - even in 1955.

It is hard to pinpoint the reasons for the dismal sales. Some artists such as Slim Rhodes had strictly local appeal. Slim's radio and, later, television, appearances ensured that his product would sell well in Memphis and the surrounding area. The Ripley Cotton Choppers, only seemed to sell well in Ripley (population 450). Charlie Feathers briefly cracked the Memphis charts with "Peepin' Eyes" thereby ensuring that he would at least see a follow-up but, in general, it seems as though Phillips had a hard time selling his country titles.

Perhaps one reason lay in the nature of the country music industry. It was dominated by the major labels. In April 1955, for example, Decca held five of the fifteen slots in the country charts. The only smaller labels to get a look-in were Dot, Imperial and Fabor. Initially, Phillips had geared his operation to the rhythm and blues market which was dominated by independent labels with strong distribution channels to support them. By the time Phillips cracked the country charts with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in the late months of 1955, the entire picture was starting to chance; the boundaries were starting to blur. Moreover, it is possible that Sam Phillips, with his limited resources, spent too much time getting Elvis Presley and later Johnny Cash off the ground, and that Earl Peterson, Doug Poindexter, Hardrock Gunter, Charlie Feathers, Jimmy Haggett and the Miller Sisters suffered as a result.

Sam Phillips was also afflicted by a desperate lack of Cash flow in 1954-1955. Sun had seen their main blues hits in 1953 and by 1955 distributors were still playing for new Presley product with returned blues titles. Sam Phillips was also trying to buy back his brother Jud's share of Sun (which Jud had probably bought from Jim Bulleit) and repay an unrecouped advance from Chess Records. Little wonder therefore that he found neither the time nor the money to promote his unknown country acts into a fiercely competitive marketplace that was dominated by Decca, Columbia and RCA. He could not neglect Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash but the inevitable result was that other artists suffered. Jud Phillips was back in Alabama and Sun was reduced to a two-person operation during this critical period.

However, sales are not the only criteria by which music is measured. If that were the case we'd be preparing the Four Lads or Hugo Winterhalter boxed sets. The country music that Phillips produced was difficult music. It is not easy on the ears, nor does it have the immediately appealing frenetic drive of rockabilly. It can take repeated exposure to see the tormented and primitive beauty in Charlie Feathers "I've Been Deceived". However, it is the same rawness that has enabled the music to survive these many years. When Charlie Feathers was settling down to record "I've Been Deceived", the pop and country markets were gripped by Davy Crockett mania. "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" sold seven million copies on 20 labels. Feathers' single barely crept into four figures. However, 30 years later, Davy Crockett is a long forgotten crazy, and "I've Been Deceived" survives to sound better than ever. Pure country soul counts for something after all.

The first country record on Sun was out-of-date before the cutting stylus left the lathe. The Ripley Cotton Choppers represented a throwback to the pre War era. Their sound owed more to the Carter Family than to prevailing trends in country music. The same could be said of Howard Seratt. But then Phillips could never be accused of being mainstream. But the left-field approach brought its rewards when Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash cracked the country charts with smartingly original music.

Much of the music that Sam Phillips recorded, especially between 1954 and 1956, betrayed some of the influence of country music's lately departed king, Hank Williams. Unlike many labels, Phillips was not slavishly Williams' style. Artists such as Doug Poindexter, Carl Perkins and Charlie Feathers used Williams' style as the basis of their own but it was still very much the artist's personality that shone through.

Sam Phillips was also fortunate to have a country house band of stellar quality. Perhaps if they had played together as long as their Nashville counterparts their music would have become formula-ridden and humdrum. As it was, every performance seemed to be minted afresh. The intensity of Stanley Kesler's steel guitar matched with Bill Cantrell's fiddle and the deadened bass string sound of Quinton Claunch adds so much to these sessions.

In fact, Claunch and Cantrell offered Sam Phillips the major country hit to emerge from Memphis before Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The song was "Daydreamin'" by Bud Deckelman. It was finally released on Meteor after it had been mastered in Sam Phillips' studio which must have it doubly galling. Meteor's triumph was short-lived, however, because Deckelman departed almost immediately for MGM, leaving both Sun and Meteor with "Daydreamin'" sequels by other artists. Deckelman was closer to Hank Williams than any of Phillips' artists which is probably the reason why MGM were so pleased to secure him. Unfortunately, no-one had told MGM that there was only one Hank Williams.

Within a few months, the limited success of "Daydreamin'" was swept aside in the rockabilly revolution. However, Sun never forsook country music even after the success of "Blue Suede Shoes". Ernie Chaffin, Mack Self and others produced delightful country music that was almost an anachronism as the trend towards crossover product gathered momentum. Even beyond the scope of the recordings, Sun recorded country artists but none could even come close outselling the long departed Johnny Cash. Finally, when it seemed as though the bottom of the barrel has been reached for Cash repackages, Sun signed Dane Stinit, an artist who modeled his style on Cash. Unfortunately, just as no-one seemed to have told MGM that there was only Hank Williams, so it seemed that no-one told Sun that there was only one Johnny Cash. Stinit reportedly lured Sam Phillips back into the control room, but to no avail.

Sam Phillips recorded some truly excellent country music. It was original, it was profoundly soulful and some of it crossed the fine line between uptempo hillbilly music and rockabilly. Perhaps more than anything else, this highlights the fact that virtually all of the rockabillies would have been singing hillbilly music if they had auditioned a few months or a few years earlier. They all left something behind in little 7" tape boxes that resembled country music. Only Sonny Burgess and Billy Riley veered towards rhythm and blues and, of course, Roy Orbison always had his sights set filmly on the pop charts. Harold Jenkins (Also known as Conway Twitty) left behind a pure and gentle country ballad. Warren Smith left a large and hauntingly beautiful legacy of country music that presaged his move to country with Liberty Records. Jack Clement, whose mind moved concurrently in half a dozen directions, never forsook his country roots. Even Charlie Rich, the most urbane and musically eclectic of them all, left some title in the can (as well as on record) that predated his own monumental success with country music. Country music was the common wellspring. When Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered together in Phillips' studio at the end of 1956 they came together musically on common ground: country gospel and good old country music. It might not have paid for the Cadillacs and the diamond rings but it was never too far beneath the surface.

Colin Escott


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-1 mono

Slim Rhodes

It was inevitable that Sam Phillips and Slim Rhodes would come together. The Rhodes family had been a potent force in the Memphis country scene since the 1940s, and Slim's radio (and later television) show ensured that there would be a consistent market for his product. Moreover, Slim had a chameleon-like ability to change with the seasons. He made the transition from the primitive hillbilly boogie heard on the Gilt Edge cuts to the flat out rockabilly of ''Do What I Do''. The final cut shows that he was working towards a country-pop sound.

This album includes all known recordings that Slim Rhodes made with Sam Phillips except ''Rockabilly Gal''. Although this was technically a Slim Rhodes session (the session costs were deduced from Slim's royalties), it was more a vehicle for the emerging talents of Hayden Thompson.

Slim Rhodes may never be regarded as a major talent (indeed, we hear very little from Slim himself), but he had the ability to draw talented people around him. These sides really show Rhodes' skills as an entrepreneur and his facility for adapting with the changing times. In a sense, it is fitting that we begin with Slim Rhodes because he represents the changes in Memphis country music over an eight year period. The major themes of the boxed set are all here in microcosm. (CE)

Record 1 Side 1 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 1''
1.1 - WNC Radio Extracts (Slim Rhodes)
1.2 - Skunk Hollow Boogie (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5015)
1.3 - Save A Little Love For Me (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5015)
1.4 - Memphis Bounce (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5026)
1.5 - Sixty Days (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5026)
1.6 - Hotfoot Rag (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5034)
1.7 - Time Marches On (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5034)
1.8 - Ozark Boogie (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5044)
1.9 - Red White And Blue (Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5044)
Original Sun Recordings

1.1 - WNC Radio Extracts (Slim Rhodes Band) (1986)
(Slim Rhodes)

The short excerpts from the Mother's Best Flour show on WMC which appear at the beginning and end of this side give an indication of the type of ''live'' country music show that was common on local radio throughout the 1940s and early 1950s. The mixture of music, jokes and downhome sincerity reinforces the pattern we have heard on other records such as the Hank Williams Health and Happiness shows. (MH)

1.2 - Skunk Hollow Boogie (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5015) (1950)

Slim Rhodes' Memphis recordings commenced in 1950 with this driving and bluesy instrumental. It is really a showcase for the distinguished lead guitar work of Brad Suggs, but both steel and fiddle take solos which are of interest throughout. The tune had been a Rhodes' band staple for over a decade. It is interesting that the repeated guitar lick was adapted by Scotty Moore for Elvis' ''Good Rocking Tonight'' some four years later. Sam Phillips may have been very new to recording for records when these sides were made, but he managed nevertheless to capture a powerful sound from the five man Rhodes band. (MH) (CE)

1.3 - Save A Little Love For Me (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5015) (1951)

The first of Slim Rhodes' Gilt-Edge discs set a pattern, with this western swing vocal item backing a boogie instrumental. Although not credited on the record label, it appears that Brad Suggs is the vocalist here. It is a very pleasant swing number that owes rather more to Texas than to Tennessee. (MH)

1.4 - Memphis Bounce (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5026) (1950)

The,second Gilt-Edge release contained another grabby instrumental theme, this time played in unison by the ''take off'' guitar of Brad Suggs and the steel guitar, probably played by Danny Holloway. Suggs' solos has a hint of jazz, and he then settles into a riff on the bass strings through the steel and fiddle solos. This is music of some urbanity and in a different league from the hillbilly recordings Rhodes would make later on for Sun. (CE) (MH)

1.5 - Sixty Days (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Stevenson) (Original Gilt-Edge 5026) (1950)

This interesting western swing item with its laconic vocal from Dusty Rhodes could almost have been a follow-up to the Hot Rod Race saga which had been started by Arkie Shibley on Gilt-Edge. The straight-as an-arrow vocal contrasts nicely with the jazzy lead guitar. (CE) (MH)

1.6 - Hotfoot Rag (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5034) (1951)

Again it was probably more than coincidence that this title bears a passing similarity to ''Hot Rod Race''. This is another powerful guitar-led piece by Suggs who plays some jazzy licks that came from the French gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt, either direct or via the nifty escending runs of Arthur "Guitar Boogie'' Smith. (CE) (MH)

1.7 - Time Marches On (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Gail Daniels) (Original Gilt-Edge 5034) (1951)

Maintaining the bouncy ballad style of the vocal sides of his records, Slim Rhodes himself stepped before the mike to render the philosophical statement penned by the unknown Gail Daniels. Brad Suggs plays some dazzling guitar fills behind Slim's vocal. (MH)

1.8 - Ozark Boogie (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5044) (1951)

Apparently recorded at the first Rhodes session along with Gilt-Edge 5015, this title was not issued until 1951. This is somewhat surprising since it is arguably the best juke-box material here. Brad Suggs again provides the boogie dynamics while Speck and Slim lay down a powerful rhythmic foundation. Dusty gives us some gypsy fiddle in between two strong steel guitar solos. (MH)

1.9 - Red White And Blue (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Original Gilt-Edge 5044) (1951)

Departing somewhat from their usual format, here we find the Rhodes boys in patriotic mood. This kind of record may have gone down well with some sections of the American public during the cold war era, but it is of little more than academic interest today. It marked the last Rhodes' release on Gilt-Edge although some titles were repackaged on 4-Star disc jockey albums. (MH)

Record 1 Side 2 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 1''
2.1 - Don’t Believe (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 216)
2.2 - Uncertain Love (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 216)
2.3 - House of Sin (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 225)
2.4 - Are You Ashamed Of Me (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 225)
2.5 - Bad Girl (Slim Rhodes) (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 238)
2.6 - Gonna Romp and Stomp (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 238)
2.7 - Take And Give (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 256)
2.8 - Do What I Do (Slim Rhodes) (Original Sun 256)
2.9 - I’ve Never Been So Blue (Slim Rhodes) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

2.1 - Don’t Believe (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs ) (Original Sun 216) (1955)

Returning to the Sun studio after a four-year absence, Slim Rhodes rejoined Sam Phillips in 1955 with a sound based on hillbilly music more than the stripped-down western-swing sound of earlier years. His musicians were essentially the same, apart from John Hughey who had joined the group on steel guitar. Brad Suggs takes the vocal on ''Don't Believe'', which is a fairly ordinary country song. Billboard reviewed the disc in May 1955 describing. it as a ''routine plea for proper understanding''. (MH)

2.2 - Uncertain Love (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-G. Rhodes) (Original Sun 216) (1955)

For the first time on disc, Dusty and Dot Rhodes combined to deliver this very pleasant hillbilly vocal. The theme of uncertain love was nothing new and the composition itself was almost a generic Hank Williams song. However, the years that Dusty and Dot had sung together obviously bore fruit here in the unerring harmonies. The new boy on the block. John Hughey, contributed some lovely work on steel guitar. Billboard showed the disc in the Memphis country Top 5 that May along with Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold and Charlie Feathers, and decided that the group had strong talent. (MH)

2.3 - House of Sin (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Original Sun 225) (1955)

A ''Sunday morning'' record if ever there was one. ('The father drinks/the family pays). Dusty and Dottie Rhodes have worked up a lovely vocal harmony on the chorus, which is repeated three times, but there is a problem when Dusty goes into his solo spot. It sounds as though he had intended to narrate it and then decided to sing it at the last minute. However, his fiddle playing is first rate; it has real bite and a beautiful tone. (CE)

2.4 - Are You Ashamed Of Me (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Original Sun 225) (1955)

Guitarist Brad Suggs takes the spotlight on this title. His singing has almost no trace of hillbilly in it; only the wonderful fiddle playing from Dusty Rhodes takes us back into the country. This is supper club country music. Perhaps the more sophisticated city listeners that Slim catered to demanded this type of material. From thirty years' distance, it's hard to tell. At its best, the country music that Phillips recorded can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up with its chilling backwoods intensity. On that count, this recording fails but it probably sold well to Slim's established clientèle. (CE)

2.5 - Bad Girl (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Original Sun 238) (1956)

This is not a song to be neutral about. It is temting to the glib and say that ''Bad Girl'' is a ''bad'' record. However, highly moralistic song-sermons have always had a place in country music. It can also be tempting to lapse into pop psychology and theories about the reasons why people need to hear little homilies about those who have fallen by the way. However, it is probably safer to say that those of us from a different cultural background simply lack the equipment to render judgement on the ''Bad Girl'' and her friends. John Hughey's steel guitar playing is a delight for all ears and all seasons, though. (CE)

2.6 - Gonna Romp and Stomp (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Garnet Leath Rhodes-Perry Rhodes) (Original Sun 238) (1956)

Dusty and Dot come back into the spotlight for a side that reflects the changing times. All of the lead instruments take spirited breaks and there is a rockabilly consciousness underpinning the hillbilly harmonies. By early 1956 Slim had obviously grudgingly accepted the fact that Elvis and the rockabillies were a force to be reckoned with. There is some fire on this side and it has helped ''Romp And Stomp'' to survive better than the sermonettes. (MH)

Note: The song ''Gonna Romp And Stomp'' of Slim Rhodes can you hear on the soundtrack of the American neo-crime drama TV series ''Breaking Bad'' (January 20, 2008, to September 29, 2013), season 5, episode 11 with the title ''Confession'', when Todd, Uncle Jack, and Kenny exit the cafe and head down the road.

2.7 - Take And Give (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Ronnie Hesselbein) (Original Sun 256) (1956)

Sandy Brooks turns in a totally impassioned vocal performance. The record has a commanding presence from its driving intro to the final major 7th chord. It features a surprisingly pounding rhythm, virtually none of which is due to the drumming! What the drummer does contribute is a memorable but almost throwaway rimshot on the snare right before the first steel solo. The steel playing throughout is delightful, with sweet swelling chords complementing Brooks' vocal. The song itself features an almost completely expendable lyric, but a full assortment of 6-minor chords to give it that haunting quality that might have carried it over into popular success. (HD)

2.8 - Do What I Do (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes-Ronnie Hesselbein) (Original Sun 256) (1956)

Now this is out-and-out rockabilly. Sandy Brooks (aka Ronnie Hesselbein) contributes another strong vocal and Brad Suggs turns to the Carl Perkins guitar manual for his solo. Slim was obviously intent upon being a survivor and he was probably featuring rockabilly acts on his new WMC-TV show. This is unrecognisable as a Slim Rhodes record of you're but, taken on its own terms; is a fine record for its time and season. Ronnie Hesselbein currently runs Hesselbein's Tire Company in Jackson, Mississippi.'(CE)

2.9 - I’ve Never Been So Blue (Slim Rhodes Band)
(Slim Rhodes) (Not Originally Issued) (1975)

This anomalous title from a February 1958 session features a sound that is redolent of Johnny Cash's later Sun recordings. The vocalists are probably members of the Rhodes clan, but are not immediately recognisable. This marked the Rhodes band's swansong at 706. A comparison with the cuts on side 1 shows the distance that country music had come in eight years. (CE)

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-2 mono

Harmonica Frank & Bob Price

After the relationship with Gilt-Edge fell apart, Sam Phillips turned to RPM/Modern in Hollywood (to whom he sold no country titles) and, in March 1951, he switched allegiance to the Chess label in Chicago. Chess scored a huge hit with ''Rocket 88'' by Jackie Brenston and, with his credibility high, Phillips pitched some country music to them. Chess had previously considered getting into the country market but, arguably, Harmonica Frank and Bob Price were not the place to start. Certainly, they were ''different''. Both had quirky and highly individualistic vocal styles but Frank Floyd's style barked back to an era beyond the War and Bob Price had very little going for him other than the fact that be sounded different.

Frank Floyd seems to have scored some success with ''Step It Up And Go'' but it appears as though Chess were quick to abandon their attempts to crack the hillbilly market, Indeed, they would have to wait until Jimmy and Johnny's ''If You Don 't Someone Else Will'' in 1954 before they saw any real success in this market, so far removed from their area of expertise. (CE)

Record 2 Side 3 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 2''
3.1 - Swamp Root (Harmonica Frank) (Original Chess 1475 A)
3.2 - Goin’ Away Walkin’ (Harmonica Frank) (Original Chess 1475 A)
3.3 - Step It Up And Go (Harmonica Frank) (Original Chess 1475 A)
3.4 - Howlin’ Tomcat (1) (Harmonica Frank) (Original Chess 1494)
3.5 - She Done Moved (Harmonica Frank) (Original Chess 1494)
3.6 - Howlin’ Tomcat (2) (Harmonica Frank) (Not Originally Issued)
3.7 - The Great Medical Menagerist (Harmonica Frank) (Original Sun 205)
3.8 - Rockin’ Chair Daddy (Harmonica Frank) (Original Sun 205)
3.9 - How Can It Be (Bob Price) (Original Chess 1495)
3.10 - Sticks And Stones (Bob Price) (Original Chess 1495)
Original Sun/Chess Recordings

3.1 - Swamp Root (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Chess 1475 A)

After hearing this cut, it is impossible to imagine how anyone could ever have thought that Harmonica Frank was black. This title was based on Buddy Jones' 1937 recording of ''Hunting Blues'' also reworked in 1950 by Joe Stewart on Star Talent. It turns into a little paean to the virtue of insobriety. "The wine goes in, the truth comes out / Two more shots and I'll tell it all..". Frank contributes some wonderful noises that most of us renounced at the age of five, but no matter; it adds to the sloppy drunk charm of .the tune. (CE)

3.2 - Goin’ Away Walkin' (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Chess 1475 A)

This title, which is basically a patchwork of blues cliches, shows that Frank had a genuine feel for blues cadences and rhythms. Probably no more than a few lines were freshly minted for this recording but Frank delivers it all with real conviction. It is not hard to see the delight that Phillips must have taken in recording the man because there is a real intuitive musicality underlying every performance. (CE)

3.3 - Step It Up And Go (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Chess 1475 A)

When the first incarnation of Chess 1475A was snatched off the market after a few weeks, it was replaced by ''Swamp Root'' b/w ''Step It Up And Go''. The provenance of the latter song was uncertain but it was a minor hit at that time for Big Jeff & The Radio Playboys on Dot. Frank's version features some spirited interchanges between the guitar and harmonica and possesses a wonderful drive. Frank Floyd was a tight little rhythm section. He sounds like both Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee rolled into one. (CE)

3.4 - Howlin’ Tomcat (1) (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Chess 1494)

This is not so much blues as a loving parody of a blues. It was. an anachronism even in 1951 with its folky overtones. It is true that folk blues were still selling in 1951 but this is much more folk than blues. It seemed to belong in either the 1930s or the ersatz folk blues revival of the 1960s but barely at any point in between, The animal noises that Frank used must have given Phillips a sense of deja vu in 1953 when he was grafting similar noises onto Rufus Thomas's first hits. (CE)

3.5 - She Done Moved (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Chess 1494)

A straight blues rendering without even a harmonica. Nevertheless, there are still flashes of Frank's wonderfully idiosyncratic phrasing together with some playful touches in' the phrasing where his vocal crosses bar linese. Once again, the provenance of the song is uncertain but Frank manages to make it his own by virtue of his quirky individualism. (CE)

3.6 - Howlin’ Tomcat (2) (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Not Originally Issued)

This alternate version was basically similar to the issued version and, aside from a couple of minor vocal fluffs, it was a serious candidate for shipping to Chess. In fact, in the days before tape, Phillips may well have recorded a second version in order to have a safety master in case the version he shipped was damaged during shipping or plating. This may be 'a lone survivor of those safety masters. (CE)

3.7 - The Great Medical Menagerist (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Sun 205)

What is a medical menagerist? Most of us long ago stopped wondering. Frank apparently wrote this song about his days in the Happy Phillipson Medical Show although parts of the song seem to derive from Chris Bouchillon's ''Born To Hard Luck'', which was supposedly a hit in 1927.

Frank runs through his schtick, throwing in a few humorous couplets to -get the folks gathered around. Just a few years before Frank recorded this tune, Hank Williams and a galaxy of stars were participating in the Hadacol Caravan so perhaps it is not quite as anachronistic as it seems. In any event, this is a fascinating little glimpse back into a past that none of us will ever experience. The blues may have a timeless relevance but ''The Great Medical Menagerist'' is charmingly locked into a departed culture. (CE)

3.8 - Rockin’ Chair Daddy (Harmonica Frank)
(Frank Floyd) (Original Sun 205)

Sun 205 was delightfully at variance with every prevailing trend. A bizarre combination that harked back to the past but, at the same time, pointed towards the future. Frank used to say that this was the first rock and roll record, which, of course, it wasn't. However, its natural fusion of black and white styles certainly showed the direction in which Phillips' thoughts were heading. There is a wonderful drive and contagious energy here that has survived the yearswell. Phillips maintains that he recorded these titles in 1954 and not 1951 as had been supposed. Certainly, aural evidence would bear out that assertion. The sound quality is markedly improved and Phillips has obviously used two tape machines to achieve the slap-back effect on Frank's performance which he could not have done in 1951 when he was recording to acetate. (CE)

3.9 - How Can It Be (Bob Price)
(Quinton Claunch-Bob Price) (Original Chess 1495)

Quinton Claunch was certainly not joking when he said that Bob Price had an unusual voice. Price and Harmonica Frank marked Chess Records' inauspicious debut into the country market. Both were a long way from mainstream but, unfortunately, this outing has none of the period charm of Frank Floyd, nor does it have any of these searing hillbilly emotionalism of Phillips' later efforts. In fact it has not weathered the years at all well although Roy Cooper's dancing guitar fills are quite pleasant and Price's vocal has some interesting moments. Price had previously recorded for Decca in 1949 together with Eddie Hill, which suggests ,that he may have been part of the same troupes although Claunch recalled that Price rarely sang except at home, On the scant evidence afforded by this recording, Price's modest view of his talents was not unjustified. (CE)

3.10 - Sticks And Stones (Bob Price)
(Bob Price) (Original Chess 1495)

This up-tempo side has a folky, almost nursery rhyme, quality, enhanced by the instrumental break which sounds like a musical box. Released to little acclaim in January 1952, this single represented the beginning and end of Chess's involvement in hillbilly music until they allied themselves with Stan Lewis in Shreveport. However, shortly after this record was released, Billboard announced that Leonard Chess was heading south to secure more country talent. Perhaps the dismal sales of this outing convinced Chess to stay clear of the country market until Lewis started providing him with sale able product. Note that the master tape from this session was recorded over. Only the very last cut on the tape, a fragment of ''Why So Blue'' remains from the original tape. (CE)

Red Hadley & The Ripley Cotton Choppers & Earl Peterson

After the experiments for Chess in 1951, Sam Phillips recorded very little country music during 1952 and 1953 and concentrated on blues and on establishing his new Sun label. Virtually the only exceptions were Red Hadley, a talented honky tonk pianist and singer, and the Ripley Cotton Choppers in whom Sam must have heard the country music of his youth. The Choppers had the distinction of making the first country record on the Sun label. Moving into 1954, Earl Peterson's ''Boogie Blues'' took Sam Phillips one small step nearer to the blues and country amalgam he cherished and one big step nearer to commercial country music. (MH)

Record 2 Side 4 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 2''
4.1 - Tennessee Drag (Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)
4.2 - If I had As Much Money (As I Have Time) (Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)
4.3 - Boogie Ramble (Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)
4.4 - Blues Waltz (Ripley Cotton Choppers) (Original Sun 190)
4.5 - Silver Bell (Ripley Cotton Choppers) (Original Sun 190)
4.6 - Roses and Sunshine (Ripley Cotton Choppers) (Previously Unissued)
4.7 - In The Dark (Earl Peterson) (Original Sun 197)
4.8 - Boogie Blues (Earl Peterson) (Original Sun 197)
4.9 - Nothing To Lose But My Heart (Earl Peterson) (Previously Unissued)
4.10 - I’m Leaving My Heart Up To You (Earl Peterson) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

4.1 - Tennessee Drag (Red Hadley)
(Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)

Recorded in the winter of 1952, Red Hadley perhaps sought to emulate the successful honky tonk piano solos coming out of Nashville from artists like Del Wood and Johnny Maddox. Dave Simmons comes in halfway through with a welcome steel guitar variation on Red's piano theme while the guitars and some fairly minimal drumming provide the rhythm. (MH)

4.2 - If I had As Much Money (As I Have Time) (Red Hadley)
(Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)

The addition of Red's raw vocalising toughens the sound of his band considerably. ''Money'' was written by Red as an answer to the series of hits by Lefty Frizzell which were performed on a similar theme in this Texas honky tonk style. The steel guitar weaves in and out of Red's vocal and piano above a solid foundation. This is provided somewhat unusually by just an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar played on the bass strings. This latter device is one which Quinton Claunch and other guitarists picked up on Sun sessions and which Luther Perkins took to the ultimate with Johnny Cash. (MH)

4.3 - Boogie Ramble (Red Hadley)
(Red Hadley) (Previously Unissued)

Returning to his instrumental format, Red again leads throughout on the top range of his piano while steel and rhythm join in enthusiastically. This tune was something of a theme song for Red's band for several years until the onset of rockabilly made ''Rockin' With Red'' seem more appropriate. (MH)

4.4 - Blues Waltz (The Ripley Cotton Choppers)
(Mrs. R.M. Lawrence) (Original Sun 190)

Sun's first country release was hardly typical of Memphis country music of the 1950s. Rather, this side harks back beyond the era of the honky tonks to a time when country music was performed at church socials and family gatherings.

This track features Ernest Underwood and Jesse Frost in a vocal duet backed by guitars, bass and James Haggard's mandolin (an instrument that was not over-represented at 706 Union). The original 78rpm credited the composition to Mrs. R.M. Lawrence, a resident of Ripley, Tennessee. This record was already doomed to obscurity by virtue of the fact that it was twenty years out of date on the day of release but Phillips' lack of experience in marketing country music banished it to a distribution network that barely exceeded the Ripley City limits. (HD) (CE)

4.5 - Silver Bell (The Ripley Cotton Choppers)
(Percy Wenrich-Edward Madden) (Original Sun 190)

This tune, composed by vaudevillian Percy Wenrich in 1910, was already a minor standard when the Choppers took it to Sam Phillips. The record is really a showcase for the the guitar of Bill Webb who is backed by guitarists Raymond and James Kerby and the driving bass of Pete Wiseman. The back country charm of the record, one of Sun's rarest releases, compensates for some technical flaws; not the least of which is Webb's slightly out-of-tune instrument. (This song was originally issued as ''Silver Bells'' which is the old Christmas standard. (HD) (CE)

4.6 - Roses and Sunshine (The Ripley Cotton Choppers)
(Mrs. R.M. Lawrence) (Previously Unissued)

The spirit of A.P. Carter and his family clearly presided over the 1953 session that produced this previously unissued track. Once again, the Choppers prove that they belong to an other era. Indeed, it is only the presence of an electric guitar that dates this recording from the last 40 years.

Vocal honours were shared by Jesse Frost and the Ripley heartbreaker Jettie Cox. It is ironic that Sam Phillips would have begun his country release programme with this group. Tapes of the session have long since disappeared and only a single acetate, stored away by Raymond Kerby, has preserved the moment. (CE) (HD)

4.7 - In The Dark (Earl Peterson)
(Oliver McGee) (Original Sun 197)

According to Sam Phillips, Earl Peterson and his mom arrived at the front door of 706 Union with this and a clutch of other songs brought down from Michigan. This ballad allows Peterson to show off his smoother side, and is close to the twilight on the trail style which was apparently Peterson's first love. This is a lovely song and Peterson turns in a finely crafted performance. Oliver McGee registered the song with BMI on February 26, 1954. By that point, he was probably living in Nashville but had been a friend of Peterson's from the old days in and around Lansing, Michigan. (CE)

4.8 - Boogie Blues (Earl Peterson)
(N. Peterson) (Original Sun 197)

This wonderfully idiosyncratic tune was Phillips' first serious entry into the country market some three months, before Presley's debut. Peterson apparently despised this version of ''Boogie Blues'' but his vocal performance is very strong and the innate drive of the song lends an astringent edge to Peterson's creamy style. The song derives from a number of pre War songs including Gene Autry's ''Lowdown Blues''. However, Columbia seemed to think that it had a place in the post War market. They signed Peterson just a few months after his Sun debut and re-recorded two versions of ''Boogie Blues'' that were much closer to Peterson's heart. However, to these ears they lack much of the sparkle of the Sun version. (CE)

4.9 - Nothing To Lose But My Heart (Earl Peterson)
(Oliver McGee) (Previously Unissued)

This is the first of two unissued songs that made up Earl Peterson's one and only 4-song session for Sun. ''Nothing To Lose'' is on a par with many a hillbilly recording from 1954, but it just lacks the drive of ''Boogie Blues'' or the quality of lyricism contained in ''In The Dark''. Peterson sings pleasantly and the musicianship is adequate without ever really catching fire. (MH)

4.10 - I’m Leaving My Heart Up To You (Earl Peterson)
(Oliver McGee) (Previously Unissued)

The final song from Earl's session is another weeper, again tending towards the cowboy sentimentality that Peterson would have heard in many country recordings from the 1940s. The only person still having real success with this vocal sound and style in 1954 was perhaps Marty Robbins, and it is interesting to note how close Peterson's unissued titles were to Robbins' earlier Columbia recordings. (MH)

Photos Courtesy
Bear Family Archive color painting by Rainer Stolte
Back Cover: Bob Lewis, Earl Peterson

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-3 mono

Howard Seratt, Doug Poindexter, Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley, Johnny Bernero & Carl Perkins

Acoustic to electric. The gentle, timeless country gospel of Howard Seratt and the primitive approach of the Ripley Cotton Choppers were already anachronisms on that Phillips released them. Tastes in country music were changing. The move uptown had already started. Earl Peterson reflected the newer sounds but Doug Poindexter was yet another throwback to an earlier era. His vocals were so determinedly rural that Phillips could have had scant hopes of selling him outside the hinterlands. However, the backing on one of Poindexter's songs pointed the way unerringly into the future. The Starlite Wranglers held Scotty Moore and Bill Black who were more than willing to experiment. Hardly surprising, then, that Phillips asked them to work with Elvis Presley. One of those experiments, a very early version of ''How Do You Think I Feel'' is included here. Carl Perkins represented a parallel development but his country roots are on display here in an ''Instrumental Medley''. (CE)

Record 3 Side 5 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 3''
5.1 - Make Room In The Lifeboat For Me (Howard Seratt) (Original St. Francis 100)
5.2 - Jesus Means All to Me (Howard Seratt) (Original St. Francis 100)
5.3 - Troublesome Waters (Howard Seratt) (Original Sun 198)
5.4 - I Must Be Saved (Howard Seratt) (Original Sun 198)
5.5 - Now She Cares No More For Me (Doug Poindexter) (Original Sun 202)
5.6 - My Kind Of Carryin’ On (Doug Poindexter) (Original Sun 202)
5.7 - How Do You Think I Feel (Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley, Johnny Bernero) (Previously Unissued)
5.8 - Instrumental Medly (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

5.1 - Make Room In The Lifeboat For Me (Howard Seratt)
(Howard Seratt) (Original St. Francis 100)

From the very first harmonica notes it is clear that this is going to be no ordinary record. It is not that harmonica players were rarity in the mid-South, for Howard Seratt is merely adapting the music of Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney who had been firm radio favourites for many years. It has more to do with the reassuringly solid execution of both guitar and harmonica styles and the convincing tone in which Howard delivers the moving lyrics. This recording was made in 1953 by Sam Phillips as a custom order for the short-lived St. Francis label of Forrest City. Arkansas. It would not be long before Phillips would invite Howard back to record for Sun. (MH)

5.2 - Jesus Means All to Me (Howard Seratt)
(Howard Seratt) (Original St. Francis 100)

Again adapting the harmonica style of Lonnie Glossori and Wayne Raney, this time at a brighter tempo, Howard Seratt leads into another deeply felt religious message that is so attractively delivered and yet so, disarming as to momentarily convert even the most confirmed of a atheist sat is at this faster pace that one can particularly see the reasons why Sam Phillips was so taken with Howard's music and so anxious to open negotiations about the recording of some secular music. This is an enormously rare record, here issued outside of Forrest City, Arkansas for the first time. (MH)

5.3 - Troublesome Waters (Howard Seratt)
(Ripetoe) (Original Sun 198)

One of the joys of being the sole proprietor of a record company is that one can issue titles that are commercial suicide but nevertheless deserve to be issued. Surely Phillips could not have held out great hopes for this title but its painful simplicity is so moving that it cried out for release. Even after the passage of 30 years, Phillips remembered Seratt, "Oh that man. I never heard a person, no matter what field of music, could sing as beautifully. The honesty! The integrity! The communication! He had such an unpretentious quality, It had a depth of beauty about it in its simplicity. Oh God Almighty, that sad thing because I could have recorded him l'ad infinitum ' and never got tired''. (Phillips to Escott and Davis).

The assumption underlying a lifetime pact with Sun, however' was that Seratt would have to switch to secular music and perhaps that would have been self-defeating because it is Seratt's faith, expressed in the understated gentleness of his style, that makes this performance outstanding. (CE)

5.4 - I Must Be Saved (Howard Seratt)
(Coats) (Original Sun 198)

Despite Phillips' affection for Seratt, there is not a single artifact in the: Sun files to suggest that he was ever there. The tapes were probably recorded over when the cruel God of Mammon failed to provide Phillips with the funds to buy new stock. The session details were never entered in the log book and the record itself is as rare as a hot day in January.

This side, while surprisingly melodic for its simple chord structure, does not have, quite the impact of ''Troublesome Waters''. Somehow the simplicity in Seratt's style is less in evidence here. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful recording. Even on another label or in an other era, this would be a standout record. (CE)

5.5 - Now She Cares No More For Me (Doug Poindexter)
(Scotty Moore-C. Hefley Moore-D. Deckelman) (Original Sun 202)

This recording features determinedly backwoods vocal that it makes Poindexter's hero, Hank Williams, sound uptown by comparison. The melody is lifted almost note-for-note from Williams' ''I'm Lonesomes I Could Cry'' but no matter. This is pure country soul with some real pain, in the vocal. A truly wonderful record. (CE)

5.6 - My Kind Of Carryin’ On (Doug Poindexter)
(Scotty Moore-Doug Poindexter) (Original Sun 202)

Well, I took my baby out to the park
We fussed and we fought til it dark
You wanna give me a little sugar
You cute li"l booger
Then it will be so plain to see
That you gonna like my kind of carryim' on

When Martin Hawkins and I first contacted Doug Poindexter back in 1972 it was hard to square the image of the fairly successful insurance salesman and his taciturn wife whom we met in a Memphis suburb with the raunchy images engendereg by this song.

Despite appallingly low sales upon release, this was an important record. It went beyond country boogie and captured a proto rockabilly sound. There is a lot of fire in this recording, perhaps due less to Poindexter's vocal than to the backing group led by Scotty Moore and Bill Black. From the evidence afforded by this song, they were already marching to the beat of a different drummer.

It would have been good to say that this record deserved to be a massive hit but, of course, it did not stand a prayer of succeeding. Billboard identified the major problem in their review: "Okay chanting from nasal voiced Poindexter. Big city buyers might not go big for this but it should do well in the back country''. (CE)

5.7 - How Do You Think I Feel (Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley, Johnny Bernero)
(Wayne Walker-Webb Pierce) (Previously Unissued)

This previously unissued tape is an early indicator of how Elvis and Scotty intended to approach their recording of this number. The song, composed by Wayne Walker and Webb Pierce and registered in May, 1954, must have been fairly fresh in everybody's minds at Sun when they settled down for this rehearsal.

Although the off-mike vocal on the tape prevents its ranking as a highlight of the boxed set, the tape is still of major historical importance. It is now clear that Elvis and the boys had it in mind to record this song at least a year or two before it was eventually committed to wax. The chord structure sand timing are a bit ragged here, and Scotty muffs a few phrases, but his approach, especially the closing figure, is identical to what he would bring to the RCA recording in September 1956. Note also that Scotty's opening figure (derived from the Delmore Brothers' ''Blues Stay Away From Me'' is identical to the opening he used on the stunning alternate take of ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone''.It is interesting to reflect on what had transpired between this early session and the subsequent RCA date in Nashville that produced the known version of this song. Presley had become the biggest phenomenon in American entertainment. Johnny Bernero was back across the street at the Memphis Gas, Light and Water Company (he had turned down Presley's offer to go on the road). Only Scotty Moore remained much the same, sitting in the studio chair impassively working away at his licks. (CE) (HD)

Carl Perkins

Acoustic to electric, with vengeance. Nobody could be more rooted in country music than Carl Perkins but at the same time no-one, really no-one, took to rockabilly music more readily than Carl. Sam Phillips had it right when he described Carl as someone whose voice could have revolutionised country music, if his jumping guitar style hadn't revolutionised rock and roll first. Carl had a way of ''pushing'' a song, according to Sam. The country songs we have chosen here illustrate this well. Carl's voice is raw cotton country which blends so well with his rhythmic sense and his idiosyncratic guitar adventures, which at once contain elements of blues guitar and country steel guitar solos. Of the nine titles included here, the last two are previously unknown recordings of country ballads. The first seven are previously unissued alternative takes of known and loved Perkins' standards. And like the true original he was, Carl's alternative takes are always fascinating, Carl Perkins rarely played a song exactly the same way twice. (MH)

5.8 - Instrumental Medly (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

There is every indication that Carl Perkins recorded this little medley at homes, perhaps to test or demonstrate his home tape recorder. His young children can be heard in the background at various points and, of course, there was never any intention of releasing these little informal jam sessions. There are basically three solos here, containing elements of several tunes including ''Red Wing'', ''The Old Spinning Wheel'' and ''Listen To The Mockingbird''. On the first variant Carl shows his penchant for bending the strings at certain well-chosen junctures but it is the spirit of Chet Atkins that looms large over all versions. Carl was unique among rockabilly singers, and country singers for that matter, in that he was both the lead singer and the lead guitarist, and reason it is good to hear these extended workouts on guitar without Carl needing to think about the next verse.

These little cameos of Carl's guitar style are a tasty hors d'oeuvre to the main course on Side 6. (MH) (CE)

Record 3 Side 6 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 3''
6.1 - Honky Tonk Gal (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.2 - Gone, Gone, Gone (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.3 - Dixie Bop (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.4 - Sure To Fall (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.5 - Tennessee (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.6 - Everybody’s Tryin’ To Be My Baby (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.7 - Forever Yours (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.8 - Breakin’ My Heart (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
6.9 - Try My Heart Out (Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

6.1 - Honky Tonk Gal (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

This is apparently the first surviving take of the first song Carl Perkins laid down at 706 Union Avenue sometime in October 1954. At that time, the Perkins Brothers Band was purveying a kind of infectious, animated hillbilly swing music for consumption at dances and honky tonks. Vocal to make you cry, music to make you jump around. Either way, you'd need to buy another drink. This early version of ''Honky Tonk Gal'' contains some previously unheard lyrics and it is also clear that the original title was ''Honky Tonk Babe''. This is only a short song but in words and music it is typical of Carl Perkins. When he first heard it, this light from the honky tonks must have put a gleam in Sam Phillips' eye. (MH)

6.2 - Gone, Gone, Gone (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

From the opening yell, this is a powerful if unpolished slice of hillbilly bop. This song was the first real example of the scat singing style Carl favoured on uptempo songs. The truly remarkable feature of Carl's style was that his voice and guitar blended and complemented each other in a way that could never have been achieved if Carl had not played lead guitar. Clayton and Jay Perkins and W.S. Holland provide solid support as ever, but there is no doubt about the identity of the star of the show. (MH) (CE)

6.3 - Dixie Bop (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

Back in Jackson, Tennessee the Perkins Brothers Band had developed a signature tune variously remembered as ''Perkins Boogie'' or ''Dixie Bop''. When this was recorded at Sun some years later, Sam Phillips wrote down the title ''Perkins Wiggle''. This version favours the ''Dixie Bop'' line and starts with a very different opening lyric to that previously issued. The verses were obviously interchangeable in Carl's mind. He plays a deliberate but still driving solo and it is surprising that this song was never worked up for release in the 1950s. (MH)

6.4 - Sure To Fall (Carl Perkins)
(Bill Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Previously Unissued)

The exact circumstances surounding the scheduling but eventual non- appearance of Sun 235 (''Sure To Fall''/'' Tennessee'') are hard to piece together after some thirty years. ''Sure To Fall'' was at one time scheduled to appear on Sun 234 but was replaced with ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Perhaps Sam Phillips saw Carl Perkins the rocker and the Perkins Brothers hillbilly band as distinct units, each capable of appealing to a different sector of the market and justifying the release of two very different singles back to back. The overwhelming success of ''Blue Suede Shoes'' must have convinced him that there was only one road to take, and ''Sure To Fall'' was withdrawn from single release at the last minute. The song had been written by Claunch and Cantrell and is in their very best hillbilly tradition. On this slightly different version, Carl replaces the older fiddle and steel sounds usually associated with a Claunch/Cantrell song with a lead guitar part which effectively offsets the rough hewn vocals of Carl's brothers, Jay and Clayton. who combine with Carl in some real back country harmony. (MH) (CE)

6.5 - Tennessee (Carl Perkins(Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

Carl's brother again joined him on the chorus of this sprightly rockabilly tribute to the virtues of the state of Tennessee. If Eddy Arnold's singing and the manufacture of atomic bombs don't seem quite as worthy of praise today as then, it is nevertheless easy to identify with Carl's intention to draw attention to the music of his home state and to enjoy his powerful rhythm guitar and pushing solo. Carl may not have realised it at the time-but recordings like this helped to Create an entirely new tradition in Tennessee music. (MH)

6.6 - Everybody’s Tryin’ To Be My Baby (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

This is another bopping song that Carl' recorded with many interchangeable verses. Perhaps he recorded more polished versions than this one, but this contains as much jumping country guitar music as any and is a standout for all its raw edges. Some of the lyrics may be traced back to Roy Newman's Dallas western swing recordings of 1935 and, no doubt, beyond those. Where Carl first heard them is anybody's guess. (MH) (CE)

6.7 - Forever Yours (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

This is not a very alternate alternative to be sure, but it is such a lovely country recording that any reprise is always welcome. This is the voice that Sam Phillips was convinced would shake the Nashville establishment, and the fact that it never really did remains one of the tragedies of country music. (MH)

6.8 - Breakin’ My Heart (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

There are few things in the world more satisfying than discovering an unissued Carl Perkins Sun recording. Despite the slight intrusion of the voices of Carl's children at the start; this vocal and guitar demo is a real treasure. Carl's vocal contains one fluff and the odd hesitant moment but the lasting memory is of a beautifully impassioned performance which cracks, soars and swoops at all the right moments. (MH)

6.9 - Try My Heart Out (Carl Perkins)
(Carl Perkins) (Previously Unissued)

By contrast, this is a previously unknown master recording. It lacks the rough hewn charm of ''Breakin' My Heart'' but possesses an undeniable beauty nonetheless. It is a country ballad which was probably recorded at the same time as ''Y.).U''. In commercial terms it might have made a better choice for release in the 1950s than some of Carl's established favourites. (CE)

Photos Courtesy:
Hans Peter Zdrenka (Front Cover)
Carl Perkins
Martin Hawkins (Back Cover)
L to R: The Perkins Brothers Band, Jay, Carl and Clayton, Bemis, Tennessee, 1954

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-4 mono

Malcolm Yelvington, Bill Taylor, Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe, Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys,
Smokey Joe Baugh, Thurman ''Ted'' Enlow & Johnny Bernero Band

On a personal level Sam Phillips loved western swing music. However, he recorded very little of it. The sound was already falling from favour when he started his operation and the big western swing units were undeniably more expensive to record. However, several artists captured the western swing flavour in their music and most of that music has been gathered together on this side.

We have also brought together all of the solo recordings by Smokey Joe Baugh (except two titles where the tape was wrecked). Joe had an effortless command of many styles but usually gravitated towards western swing when he had the choice. His naturally gravelly voice sounded black and he combined it with a genuine feeling for the blues. Joe's music was underpinned by Johnny Bernero whose work can be heard on early sides by Warren Smith, Elvis Presley and many others: He made a few recordings at Sun with his own band featuring Thurman Enlow and we have included one sample cut. Both Smokey Joe and Johnny Bernero worked with the West Memphis group, the Snearly Ranch Boys who made one record for Sun's non-union subsidiary, Flip Records. Once again the western swing influence is present in abundance here. (CE)

Record 4 Side 7 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 4''
7.1 - Drinkin’ Wine Spo Dee O Dee (Malcolm Yelvington) (Original Sun 211)
7.2 - Just Rollin’ Along (Malcolm Yelvington) (Original Sun 211)
7.3 - Lonely Sweetheart (Bill Taylor & Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys) (Original Flip 502)
7.4 - Split Personality (Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe & Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys) (Original Flip 502)
7.5 - Hula Bop (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Previously Unissued)
7.6 - She’s Woman (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Previously Unissued)
7.7 - The Story Of Paul Revere (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Not Originally Issued)
7.8 - Listen To Me (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Original Sun 228)
7.9 - The Signifying Monkey (Smokey Joe Baugh) (Original Sun 228)
7.10 - Red Hair And Green Eyes (Thurman Enlow & Johnny Bernero Band) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

7.1 - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (Malcolm Yelvington)
(J. Mayo Williams-Grancilly McGhee) (Original Sun 211)

Issued on Sun in November 1954, this was the first disc to appear on the label after the two record debut of Elvis Presley that summer. This song and Yelvington's treatment of it was certainly consistent with Sam Phillips' approach to country music at that point. However, Yelvington was some ten years older than Presley and, he had learned his music in a different era. The Star Rhythm Boys were essentially a western swing outfit no matter how hard Sam tried to disguise the fact.

As it turned out, the western swing treatment suited the song quite well. Stick McGhee's timeless little paean to drunkenness had been developed from an unprintable tune that McGhee had learned in the Navy, ''Drinkin' Wine Motherfucker''. He had first recorded it for Mayo Williams' Harlem label in 1947 and subsequently sold half of the copyrights to Williams for $10. McGhee re-recorded the song for Atlantic in 1949 and it became one of the first hits on that label.

Yelvington and the boys whoop it up in fine style with the help of a chorus that Phillips had literally brought in off the street. Yelvington sounds a little uncomfortable at this tempo although his bullfrog baritone gets a chance to shine on the wine, wine, wine refrain. The group show a little more affinity for the material. The guitarist was obviously proud of his solo because he used it twice for the intro and the first break. However, he had lifted some of the most memorable licks from Brownie McGhee's solo on his brother's original version. Reece Fleming's piano solo is rooted in the ''Your Red Wagon'' theme that became the a base of ''Rock Around The Clock'' and countless other boogie tunes. Nevertheless, it is not hard to see why Phillips gravitated towards this song. It capture ff a proto-rockabilly feel and was a very natural blend of black and white styles. (CE) (MH)

7.2 - Just Rolling Along (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Reece Fleming) (Original Sun 211)

Now here we have the real roots of the Star Rhythm Boys. Pure honky tonk swing from west of the Mississippi river. The successor to the trail songs of an even earlier era, this lyric is delivered in unison by Malcolm and Reece Fleming. As a member of Townsend and Fleming back in the 1930s, Reece Fleming was not new to recording and he and Yelvington had gathered a more than competent band led by fine steel and electric guitar players. There was little chance of ''Just Rolling Along'' becoming hit, but ''Wine'' sold quite well and Yelvington was perhaps unlucky that Sam Phillips was able to compare his sales figures with those of Presley. It would be a year and a half' before Sam found time to put out another Yelvington disc. (MH)

7.3 - Lonely Sweetheart (Bill Taylor & Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys)
(Stan Kkesler-Bill Taylor) (Original Flip 502)

Following Malcolm Yelvington's ''Just Rolling Along'', Clyde Leoppard's band made its recording debut with another throwback to the 1940s, this time a straightforward country weeper. Delivered in an almost crooning style by the band's songwriter and trumpeter, Bill Taylor, ''Lonely Sweetheart'' comes complete with a heartrending narration of the type common in this form of music and later brought to the world by Elvis Presley with ''Old Shep''. At least Bill's ''Sweetheart'' appears to be a lady and not a ''hound dog''. 'The Snearly Ranch Boys provide a minimal rhythmic backing on a song that gains in charm with a few play, but it is clear that Bill Taylor is a more interesting songwriter than vocalist and that Clyde Leoppard had more likely vocal contenders in his band. (MH)

7.4 - Split Personality (Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe & Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys))
(Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Original Flip 502)

This charming piece of nonsense features Bill Taylor (aka William Tell Taylor) as Dr. Jekyll and Smokey Joe Baugh as Mr. Hyde. As a novelty record, it has more than most. The unison part may feature a third vocalist in place of Smokey Joe unless Joe disguised his gravelly voice for the duet. Clyde Leoppard, the nominal leader of the group contributes some rudimentary drumming and Buddy Holobaugh plays his usual aggressive guitar part.

In a later era, Bill Taylor went on to become part of Jerry Lee Lewis's touring group and he wrote a fair number of filler songs on some of Jerry Lee's later albums. Smokey Joe and Buddy Holobaugh went to Texas and lapsed into obscurity. Clyde Leoppard was last seen serving 99 cent lunches at a greasy spoon behind the Greyhound terminal in Memphis before his little operation fell a victim to urban renewal. Co-composer and steel guitar player Stan Kesler is still working for Sam Phillips as resident engineer/producer at the Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. (CE)

7.5 - Hula Bop (Smokey Joe Baugh)
(Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Previously Unissued))

Probably recorded in August 1955, this appealing song may well have been considered for single release. In fact, Jimmy Knight, another Snearly Ranch hand, released a version of the song on Crystal Records the following year,. The Hawaiian theme certainly had some mileage because August 1957 Buddy Knox would score with ''Hula Love''. On Joe's recording, Stan Kesler contributed a lovely steel solo that owed more western swing than to any song of the islands. It contrasts nicely with Joe's coarse and animated vocal'. (CE) (MH)

7.6 - She’s Woman (Smokey Joe Baugh)
(Stan Kesler-Joe Baugh) (Previously Unissued)

Joe recorded at least three different versions of this song, a slow and bluesy version, a fast version and a jazzier version. This is the bluesy variant and it shows that Joe not only had a blues singer's voice but he also had a feeling for the music. Buddy Holobaugh shines in his guitar solo. (MH) (CE)

7.7 - The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere (Smokey Joe Baugh)
(Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Not Originally Issued)

This is really a very funny reworking of the old Paul Revere legend. The tag line ''listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere'' probably derived from an old nursery rhyme. The rest seems to be a Stan and Bill original though, and the verse featuring the church mouse is especially good. 'There is a very full sound here considering the backing only consists of Johnny Bernero on drums and Buddy Holobaugh on guitar someone drumming their fingernails on something to simulate hoofbeats. (CE) (MH)

7.8 - Listen To Me (Smokey Joe Baugh)
(Stan Kesler-Joe Baugh) (Original Sun 228)

There is a wonderful drive to this performance. It barrels along at a fast clip, powered by Johnny Bernero and Buddy Holobaugh. Stan Kesler contributes some tasty work on steel and Bill Taylor can be heard on trumpet at various points. It is a straightforward '12 bar blues and the lyrics are hardly groundbreaking but, once again, the Snearly Ranch gang reveal a genuine feeling for this type of music. It is a matter for conjecture whether the patrons of the Bel Air lounge or the VFW club knew what a treat they were getting when this combo climbed on to the stage. Overlooked in the rush to deify the rockabilly musicians who leaped put of Memphis the following year, this group nevertheless recombined black and white styles with as much verve and enthusiasm as the rockabillies. In many ways, they comprised the best that Memphis had to offer at that point. (CE)

7.9 - The Signifying Monkey (Smokey Joe Baugh)
(Joe Baugh-Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Original Sun 228)

Now, of course, Smokey Joe, Stan Kesler and Bill Taylor can no more take credit for writing this song than anyone else. Its origins are rooted way back in black folklore, in the dozens. Smokey Joe's contribution was to clean up the song, although Johnny Bernero remembered that Joe would sing the uniexpurgated version from time to time. Lines like "I'd climb over 52 women for one fat boy's ass" were not calculated to garner a lot of airplay in that or any other era.

Once again, the backing is disarmingly simple. Johnny Bernero sustains the show with some rock solid drumming while Buddy Holobaugh works a repeated boogie riff. Stan Kesler makes fleeting appearances on steel -guitar.

There had been other attempts to get the ''Monkey'' onto record, most recently by the Big Three Trio (featuring Willie Dixon) back in 1953. Joe's version appears to have sold quite' well, certainly in success of 25,000 copies and the song even gained him an invitation to play at the Apollo Theatre in New York. (CE)

7.10 - Red Hair And Green Eyes (Thurman Enlow & Johnny Bernero Band)
(Spade Cooley-Jay Milton) (Previously Unissued)

The-old Spade Cooley classic is dressed up fit to kill on this stunning version by the Bernero band. Probably dating from 1956, it was delightfully at variance with the rockabilly trent that was sweeping Memphis and, of course, stood little or no chance of getting released. At the very least, it shows that the high regard in which Hugh Jeffries was held by local musicians was well justified. His steel guitar playing is outstanding and the ensemble work is very tight and swings beautifully. Johnny Bernero was a powerhouse on drums, always to be sound accenting and pushing at the right moments. This was the music that he loved to play, even though many of the rockabilly classics from 1955 and 1956 bear his imprint.

Ted Enlow recall that Jack Clement asked him to sing half a tone higher than he wanted on this cut but he doesn't sound uneasy; This is compelling music and there is little doubt that the group would have seen some releases on Sun if they had arrived a couple of years earlier. Phillips loved this style of music too, but he also had a fine grasp of what was selling. (CE)

Malcolm Yelvington

Malcolm Yelvington was well placed to see it all. He started recording at Sun in October 1954 and his were held almost exactly three years later. In October 1954 Phillips was scuffling, selling a few Presley records and getting paid in blues returns. In October 1957 he had two records in the national top ten and a couple of others bubbling under. Yelvington reflected the changing musical values of that tiny studio, despite the fact that he only saw two releases during those three years. (CE)

Record 4 Side 8 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 4''
8.1 - Yakety Yak (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.2 - Way Down Blues (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.3 - Rockin’ With My Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) (Original Sun 246)
8.4 - It’s Me Baby (Malcolm Yelvington) (Previously Unissued)
8.5 - Goodbye Marie (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.6 - Mr. Blues (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.7 - First and Last Love (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.8 - Did I Ask You To Stay (Malcolm Yelvington) (Previously Unissued)
8.9 - Trumpet (Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)
8.10 - Going To Sea (Malcolm Yelvington) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

8.1 - Yakety Yak (Malcolm Yelvington)
(W. Mashburn-Reece Fleming) (Not Originally Issued)

Long thought to have been recorded after the Meteor version, this title probably stems from May 1955 when it was copyrighted by Hi-Lo Music. For some reason, Phillips chose not to release this - or anything by Yelvington in 1955.

Despairing of another release on Sun, although still under contract, Yelvington took the song to Phillips' competitor, Les Bihari at Meteors who released a version of ''Yakety Yak'' pseudonymously. The Sun version features an appealing blend of hillbilly and western swing, not far removed from the sound of ''Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee''. The rhythm is driving and the steel solos plentiful and deftly played. (CE) (MH)

8.2 - Way Down Blues (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Reese Fleming) (Not Originally Issued)

There is a delightful old timey sing-a-long quality to the ''Way Down Blues''. It was a fair distance from anything that Phillips was selling in 1955 which is probably why it had to wait almost thirty years for release. The western swing feel predominates and there is some strong vocal harmony. According to Yelvington, Reece Fleming originally titled this song ''Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes''. (CE)

8.3 - Rockin’ With My Baby (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Malcolm Yelvington) (Original Sun 246)

"Yelvington is one of the more recent of Sun's string of talented rockabillies'', said Billboard in September 1956, unaware that the man had been recording for the label since 1954. However, they were unfortunately correct when they concluded that "Jumpen... may not break out of the territories". ''Rockin' With My Baby'' went on to sell approximately 8500 copies, a respectable but unspectacular sale considering that Cash and Perkins could move 20,000 or more copies a day. But that is no reflection on the quality of the music. There is a really stinging sound to this cut and that is primarily due to the standout guitar work, Yelvington, his false teeth removed, seems to be slightly ill at ease with the tempo but turns in a supercharged vocal performance. There is barely a level at which this record does not succeed and it makes an interesting comparison with thereafter version, ''Have Myself A Ball'', which was issued on SUN ROCKABILLIES. The guys had worked at a bard-edged sound in the interim. It was as though they had listened to some Carl Perkins cuts and decided to take their cue from those. There is some fine drum work to be heard as well. (CE)

8.4 - It’s Me Baby (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Reece Fleming) (Previously Unissued)

This is an alternative take of the flipside of Sun 246, and it is obvious that the group had the jumping blues on their mind when they cut this tune. Yelvington's sounds a little uneasy with the blues inflections and recalled that a reviewer had noted that his band had come to terms with the blues but he (Yelvington) had not. Once again, there's some very tasty accenting from the drummer some stinging lead guitar. Was the final "Inside, Baby!" a sly piece of sexual innuendo? we'll probably never know. (CE)

8.5 - Goodbye Marie (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Reece Fleming) (Not Originally Issued)

This is a strong, extremely melodic and bluesy song. Unfortunately, this version does not keep pace with the material, despite the presence of session stalwarts Roland Janes and Jimmy Van Eaton. The lack of planning is clearest during the pointlessly extended guitar solo and thereafter. It is really a shame that this song never received the careful reading it deserved. (CE)

8.6 - Mr. Blues (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Louie Moore) (Not Originally Issued)

Yelvington essays this countryish ballad in his gentlest bass voice. The track's pop intentions are signalled by the triplet-wielding piano (similar to Carl Perkins' ''I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry''). This piece of material was not the strongest in Yelvington's repertoire although the title is certainly repeated enough times to ''hook'' half a continent. Yelvington thought it was commercial at the time of recording. He recalls there being some dispute about this at Sun "Sam liked it. But Bill Justis was the session producer and he talked Sam out of issuing it''. (HD) (MH)

8.7 - First and Last Love (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Malcolm Yelvington) (Not Originally Issued)

Quite an interesting track. The instrumental backing has a surprising amount of drive and energy to it but Yelvington's vocal is decidedly laid back. In fact, it is quite mismatch with the instrumental support. Perhaps a different lyric or a more animated vocal might have made this track a total winner. Lord knows, it comes close in many ways. The opening echoey 5-chord, repeated between verses, is rivetting and the guitar track is redolent of the understated chord work on Billy Riley's ''Trouble Bound''. All in all, this track is quite a little gem. (HD)

8.8 - Did I Ask You To Stay (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Malcolm Yelvington) (Previously Unissued)

This track, together with other material from the same period, confirms that Sun was considering Yelvington for a wider audience. The overall sound here is certainly not out of line with mid 1950s country crossover material and the surprisingly heavy backbeat might have garnered some rock and roll interest. Yelvington's vocal is a little shaky in places, as is the guitar support. Had this track been worked through and perfected, then released to moderate success, Yelvington and his group might have appeared on Bandstand or played the record hops in New York. A new set of false teeth, a new rug and ol' Malcolm would have been all set for a career as a late blooming teen idol. (HD) (CE)

8.9 - Trumpet (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Louie Moore) (Not Originally Issued)

By Yelvington's own recollection, this was one of the strongest tracks that he recorded at Sun. Produced by Bill Justis, it was apparently considered as a single but, in the event; left in the can. Certainly, Justis expended a lot tape on the song.

The overall performance bears an uncanny resemblance to some of Onie Wheeler's Sun output recorded at approximately the same time. Yelvington's vocal takes on an echoey and plaintive feel evoked by Wheeler. Also, the timbre of the lead guitar is virtually identical to the guitar on ''Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox''. Indeed, ''Trumpet'' is a fine bluesy rocker with enough primitive energy end country charm to have appealed to many different markets. (HD)

8.10 - Going To Sea (Malcolm Yelvington)
(Malcolm Yelvington) (Previously Unissued)

Yelvington left two vocal/guitar demos behind at Sun and they are the least typical of any songs he ever cut there. This also sounds wholly unlike any composition that ever emanated from Sun's little pool of writers. It is possible that Yelvington was demoling material for another writer or that ''Going To Sea'' and ''Let The Moon Say Goodbye'' were songs that he recalled from way back. The best that can be said about this little discovery is that it is interesting. (CE)

Photos Courtesy: Martin Hawkins
L to R: Miles ''Red'' Minn, Gordon Mashburn,
Malcolm Yelvington, Reece Fleming & Jake Riles

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-5 mono

Charlie Feathers

Charlie Feathers was one of the first country artists to audition at Sun after the initial success of Elvis Presley, although Feathers insists that he was at Sun before Elvis Presley. From this distance, it is impossible to piece together the true story of Feathers' association with Sam Phillips. A generous portion of bullshit certainly clouds Feathers' version. Only the quality of the music is not in doubt and the great pity is that so little of it has been preserved. The session tapes of the last three sessions have been recorded-over, although, by way of compensation there are three previously unissued gems on this collection. (CE)

Record 5 Side 9 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 5''
9.1 - Runnin’ Around (Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)
9.2 - I’ve Been Deceived (1) (Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)
9.3 - Peepin’ Eyes (Charlie Feathers) (Original Flip 503)
9.4 - I’ve Been Deceived (2) (Charlie Feathers) (Original Flip 503)
9.5 - We’re Getting Closer To Being Apart (Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)
9.6 - Defrost Your Heart (Charlie Feathers) (Original Sun 231)
9.7 - Wedding Gown of White (Charlie Feathers) (Original Sun 231)
9.8 - Bottle To The Baby (Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)
9.9 - Man In Love (Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

9.1 - Runnin’ Around (Charlie Feathers)
(Charlie Feathers) (Previously Unissued)

The ghost of Hank Williams clearly presided over the composition and performance of this song. The melody is lifted almost note-for-note from ''Honky Tonk Blues'' and the backing has more than a few shades of the Drifting Cowboys. However, this should not undermine the importance of a newly discovered Charlie Feathers track. It shows that Feathers had assimilated everything that Hank Williams had to offer and distilled it into his own style. This is simply a wonderful performance that was not even suspected to have existed. It was discovered at the tail end of a tape containing material by Bill Cantrell who had recorded over one of Feathers' session tapes but not quite reached the end. Phillips' wretched financial shape in 1954 and 1955 surely had no more distressing consequence than his need to re-use session tapes after the chosen cuts had been mastered. (CE)

9.2 - I’ve Been Deceived (1) (Charlie Feathers)
(William E. Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Previously Unissued)

This recently discovered alternate take shows that Feathers already had a very good idea of how he intended to deliver his vocal but the backing group were still feeling their way through the song. Kesler's standout steel-guitar work underwent some changes before the final version was committed to tape. In fact, this take is primarily a duet between Kesler and Feathers. (CE)

9.3 - Peepin’ Eyes (Charlie Feathers)
(Charlie Feathers) (Original Flip 503)

Ah! The first voyeuristic hillbilly song. Deservedly the top side of Feathers' debut single, this song became a local hit in May 1955 and displayed everything that we could expect from Feathers during the next couple of years: the wonderfully idosyncratic phrasing, the intense hillbilly vocal and the mastery of the back country rhythms. In this case, the song is powered by Feathers' acoustic guitar and the beautifully recorded acoustic bass of Marcus Van Story, This is deservedly a classic and its success in Memphis ensured that Feathers would be moved to Sun for at least one single. (CE)

9.4 - I’ve Been Deceived (2) (Charlie Feathers)
(William E. Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Original Flip 503)

Perhaps more anything, this song is a vehicle for Feathers' wonderful phrasing. He would add any number of little filigrees and embroider the lyrics in ways that are truly surprising. There is not a level on which this song does not succeed. The lyrics are pure gold, full of recrimination and self-pity, the vocal is first rate and is matched note-for-note by the backing. Once again, Stan Kesler is outstanding. The bassist on this occasion is William Diehl, a friend of Phillips who had even considered buying a stake in Sun Records but lacked the upfront cash that Phillips needed. (CE)

9.5 - We’re Getting Closer To Being Apart (Charlie Feathers)
(Charlie Feathers-Stanley Kesler) (Previously Unissued)

It seems as though the Sun vaults never cease yielding up treasures. This sat for over thirty years on a quarter track tape marked 'Stan Kesler' that featured, among other things, Stan's own attempts at singing. Stan realised that if he was to stand a chance of selling his material, he needed to have a good demo so he enlisted the help of Charlie Feathers and gave him 50% of both this song and ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' in exchange for singing the demo.

Feathers certainly earned his cut on this song. It is a beautiful hillbilly lament, despite the contrived title, and Feathers handles it to perfection. His phrasing on "please tell me ..'' during the chorus is wonderfully bizarre, The' chorus is followed by Stan Kesler's hesitant attempts, at playing the fiddle.

Little gems such as this help to compensate to a small degree for tile many Feathers cuts that were recorded-over during 1954 and 1955. Interestingly, Feathers remembered the song and recorded for Vetco twenty years later. (CE)

9.6 - Defrost Your Heart (Charlie Feathers)
(Quinton Claunch-Williamd E. Cantrell) (Original Sun 231)

Although consigned to the flipside of ''Wedding Gown Of White'', this song was better by far. The Song is truly beautiful, lacking all the contrivance of the top side. It is matched by Feathers' vocal, which is masterfully phrased. He worries word or syllable in the same way as Lefty Frizzell but, at the same time, has the desperation of Hank Williams in his voice. Once again, Kesler is outstanding while Cantrell limits himself to the intro. The melody owes some debt to Hank Williams' 1951 hit ''I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow'' but if all plagiarism were as sweet as this, it would no longer be a crime. Surprisingly, one of 900 copies sold ended up in Canada where it was covered by Bob King On RCA. (CE)

9.7 - Wedding Gown of White (Charlie Feathers)
(Quinton Claunch-William E. Cantrell) (Original Sun 231)

In a sense, this song was more of a follow-up to ''Daydreamin''' than to ''Peepin' Eyes''. This time, our hero has moved on to daydreamin' about his marriage and the results are fairly maudlin. Claunch and Cantrell certainly thought that this was a vein they could mine indefinitely. The dismal sales (a shade over 900 copies) obviously proved them wrong.

Feathers rescues the material with a wonderfully hard-edged vocal that could strip paint off the wall. Kesler's steel guitar is also outstanding although the gratuitous quotes from the ''Wedding March'' can become a little grating, The bass player is either Bill Black, augmenting his meager earnings with Presley, or his brother Johnny Black. Bill Black's name was filed with the AFM but Johnny recalls playing the session and was not a member of the AFM, which would have necessitated substituting his name with an AFM member on the session log. (CE)

9.8 - Bottle To The Baby (Charlie Feathers)
(Charlie Feathers-Jerry Huffman-Jody Chastain) (Previously Unissued)

This is a very different version of the song that Feathers recorded for King in August 1956. All the verses are different and the tag line is ".. if you want me to stay with you" rather than "if you want me to baby you''. This is an authentic slice of Southern lowlife with a lot of humour and some genuinely bizarre images:

Back in those days at the sorghum mill
We'd get our juice front the foot of the hill
Well things have done changed, I'm tellin' y'all
When yon squeeze your woman you can hear her squall
My little woman and the little kitchy-koo
We're in Apartment East 42
When we get sluiced we get a little loud
The landlady up and she throw us out
Me and my woman, she's as sweet as two
And when we get a family, we'll know just what to do
I'll sit right down and feed 'em candy too
And when one hollers, I'll know just what. to do

It is entirely possible that Chastain and Huffman's contribution to this song was to remove those lovely folksy images and replace them with something that better belonged in a rock and roll song. If Sam Phillips witnessed the taping of this demo it is surprising that he did not appreciate Feathers' potential for the new music. He let Feathers' contract lapse at the time this was recorded although it is possible that the problem of dealing with Feathers, who was already a legend in his own mind, outweighed the potential for success. (CE) (HD)

10.9 - Man In Love (Charlie Feathers)
(Charlie Feathers-Quinton Claunch-William E. Cantrell) (Previously Unissued)

Feathers and an unidentified second guitarist (probably Quinton or Claunch) turn their hands to one of the mellowest and most affecting ballads in the Sun vaults. It was a demo that was pitched to Tommy Tucker who recorded it for Hi in 1959. Claunch claims to have written the song single-handedly and then given 33% to Cantrell because of their longstanding agreement and then given away another 33% to Feathers in exchange for singing the demo.

Feathers' vocal is noticeably free of the vocal gimmickry that became his trademark when the results might be destined for release. This is simply a wonderful performance that has a plaintive, almost folky, quality. (CE)

Maggie Sue Wimberly & Jimmy Haggett

Perhaps more than any other side of this collection, the performances gathered here show the depth of the musical ferment in the early months of 1956. Maggie Sue Wimberly and Jimmy Haggett are almost unrecognisable in their new suit of clothes. Both produced pure country music for Sun Records in 1955 and went back to find that the world had changed around them. Jimmy Haggett's titles are especially interesting because they show a man coming to terms with the new music while remaining desperately uneasy with it. Soon after these sessions he solved his dilemma by hiring Buford Peak to front his group. In early months of 1956, though, he traded in his fiddler for blistering rock and roll guitarist. (CE)

Record 5 Side 10 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 5''
10.1 - How Long (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Original Sun 229)
10.2 - Daydreams Come True (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Original Sun 229)
10.3 - No More (Jimmy Haggett) (Original Sun 236)
10.4 - They Call Our Love A Sin (Jimmy Haggett) (Original Sun 236)
10.5 - They Who Condemn (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Previously Unissued)
10.6 - Call Me Anything (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Previously Unissued)
10.7 - Rock and Roll Simmon Tree (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (Previously Unissued)
10.8 - How Come You Do Me (Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)
10.9 - Rhythm Called Rock and Roll (Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)
10.10 - Rock Me Baby (Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)
10.11 - Rabbit Action (Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

10.1 - How Long (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
(Quinton Claunch-William E, Cantrell) (Original Sun 229)

Probably recorded in October 1954, this was saved from premature retirement by the need to find a flipside for ''Daydreams Come True''. Arguably; Maggie Sue was on safer ground here. Her vocal control is used to good effects especially on the melodramatic title phrase. The song is a pure delight and the backing, led as usual by Stan Kesler, is first rate.

The song was plucked from obscurity by Rita Robbins who recorded a cover version in the early months of 1956. However, young Maggie Sue saw her own version fall by the wayside. Times were already changing by the point this was released and its fortunes stood or fell with the continuation of the ''Daydreamin''' saga. Unfortunately, the public seemed to have other things on its mind. (CE)

10.2 - Daydreams Come True (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
(Quinton Claunch-William E. Cantrell) (Original Sun 229)

''Daydreamin''' was the surprise country hit to emerge from Memphis in early 1955. Rejected by Sam Phillips a year earlier and dismissed by Billboard as a 'B' side ("capable rural waxing..") it nevertheless gave Phillips' competitor, Lester Bihari, his second-major hit. In New Orleans, for example, it spent over 30 weeks in the Top 10. However, the good news for Bihari ended there. Deckelman moved to MGM and the team that had written ''Daydreamin''', Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, pitched the follow-up to both Sun and Meteor. Meteor's version featured Buddy Bain, Kay Wain et al, and Sun's version marked the debut of Maggie Sue Wimberly. Maggie Sue's performance betrays her tender years and exhibits the peculiarly American trait of having juvenile performers sing about adult emotions. That said, this is still a fine record that, to a degree, transcends the problems inherent in the material and the performer. The instrumental backing is nothing short of superb; yet another showcase for Stan Kesler's steel guitar and Bill Cantrell's fiddle. (CE)

10.3 - No More (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Original Sun 236)

Jimmy Haggett drew his inspiration from different wellsprings than those that fed most of his contemporaries at Sun Records. His major influence was Jim Reeves and this is apparent in his phrasing. However, the backing is pure, unadulterated hillbilly. The guitarist J.L. ''Speed'' Moody contributes some tasty fills and there is some very pleasant interplay between the steel guitar of Billy Springer and the fiddle of Bernie Gualtney. The long nights of working together obviously paid dividends here.

The real mystery surrounding the song is its origin. Haggett freely admits that the song was not original but denies all knowledge of a previous version by Luke McDaniel, recorded for Trumpet in 1952. The McDaniel version has some different lyrics and it would be easy to say that the man who gave Haggett this song simply ripped it off from McDaniel. However, there is another wrinkle in the story provided by yet another out-take box where an unidentified artist sings McDaniel's lyrics to ''No More''. It is possible that this third version is indeed by McDaniel who may have auditioned at Sun earlier than bad been thought. (CE)

10.4 - They Call Our Love A Sin (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Original Sun 236)

Both this song and ''No More'' were reportedly given to Haggett by a musician in his band. "I can't remember his name now'', recalled Haggett. ''I changed a few words and the melody and he said that all he wanted was to get his songs on record. He told me that they were unpublished and he released them to me''.

As it happened, these were not especially valuable copyrights. Sun 236 had sold 448 copies a year after release. It was the rockabilly sound of Carl Perkins that pointed the way into the future for Sun Records - and Jimmy Haggett. (CE)

10.5 - They Who Condemn (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
(Unknown) (Previously Unissued)

Returning to the Sun studio, Maggie Sue turns her hand to a honky tonk ballad for the younger set. Her performance is quite accomplished but comes nowhere close to the affecting quality of ''How Long''. The backing group sounds familiar but is nevertheless hard to place. Phillips was certainly correct to nix this one. (CE)

10.6 - Call Me Anything (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
(Addington-Dubrover) (Previously Unissued)

In search of new material for the young Ms. Wimberly, someone hit upon the idea of revising Big Memphis Marainey's sole Sun recording from 1953. That someone was undoubtedly Sam Phillips because he held the publishing and was one of the few people to have actually heard the original, which sold as poorly as this would have.

The overall feel of this recording approximates Elvis Presley's early ballads such as ''Love Me'' and ''Anyway You Want Me'' but the moppet's tender years are no match for the material. Her valiant attempt to reach and sustain the final note speaks well of her enthusiasm but poorly of those who had dreamed up this endeavour. (CE)

10.7 - Rock and Roll Simmon Tree (Maggie Sue Wimberly)
(Unknown) (Previously Unissued)

This uncompromisingly silly song was obviously an attempt to bring Maggie Sue into line with musical developments since her sole release. However, the transition to rock and roll was not without its problems and they begin with the song. The fact that cinnamons grew in trees and could be knocked down like the coconuts certainly comes as a surprise to those of us who had always thought cinnamon came from bark. A more serious problems comes from the backing group. Only the guitarist (who sounds distinctly like Roy Orbison) has much feeling for the proceedings. The song's melody is lifted note-for-note from Al Dexter's 1940s smash ''Pistol Packin' Mama'' which, ironically, had been revived by Dexter for the Memphis and L.A. based Eklo Records in 1955. (CE)

10.8 - How Come You Do Me (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)

This is an alternative take of a track that led to some confusion a few years ago when it was at first thought to be by Junior Thompson. A song called ''How Come You Do Me'' was copyrighted by Thompson on December 14, 1956 and released at approximately the same time on Tune Records. It was, therefore, assumed that this title was by the same artist despite the fact that the lyrics are different. However, an article in Country Song Roundup indicated that Haggett had cut a second session for Sun including this title. Jimmy recognised it immediately when he heard a dub and matched it against the acetate that Phillips had given him after the session in June 1956. So, thirty years after it was recorded, this song is finally released with the correct artist credit. The only surprise is that Phillips did not release the track. It would have fitted right in with the current crop of releases on Sun in the summer of 1956. (CE)

10.9 - Rhythm Called Rock and Roll (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)

This track really says it all. If closely, you can hear a country musician's frustration at dealing with the new rockabilly music. The guitarist has adapted well to the new sounds, although he sounds as though he would be at a loss without Carl Perkins to draw on. Haggett sounds a little uneasy, as he does on all four titles from this session. This is very primitive rockabilly music without the desperate - often contrived - excitement of other artists working the same territory. (CE)

10.10 - Rock Me Baby (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)

Haggett and his band sound much more comfortable with the emerging rockabilly style on this wonderful slice of primitive jumping music. Haggett shares the honours with his guitarist who literally dominates the recording from his supporting role. He is bursting with ideas, many of them borrowed or developed from Carl Perkins, but he nevertheless generates real excitement and, like Carl. was not afraid to venture onto the bass strings. This track, together with ''How Come You Do Me'', show that Haggett and his band could play very decent rockabilly music. (CE)

10.11 - Rabbit Action (Jimmy Haggett)
(Jimmy Haggett) (Not Originally Issued)

The major fault that one can find with this track is that the lyrics are somewhat contrived to reflect the rockabilly lifestyle of sharp clothes, sharp cars and an endless round of boppin'. Carl Perkins was obviously the godfather of this performance; Haggett's vocal owes a clear debt to Perkins, as does the guitarist. Even the drummer achieves an approximation of W. S. Holland's tubby drum sound. Nevertheless, there is a contagious energy here and some genuine good timing music. (CE)

Photos Courtesy by Martin Hawkins
Front Cover: L to R: Jody Chastain, Charlie Feathers & Charlie Huffman
Back Cover: Maggie Sue Wimberly

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-6 mono

The Miller Sisters & Cast King

It was always a mystery to everyone connected with Sun's little operation why the Miller Sisters were not a resounding success. The portents seemed to be good: singing sister acts were in vogue in both country and popular music, the girls could handle almost any type of material and they were good! In fact, they were exceptionally good. Their harmony was unerring. This first detailed retrospective of their work shows that Elsie Jo and Millie were a top class act who just could not fulfill their promise. Their siren song has never been more than a by-word among the few. (CE)

Record 6 Side 11 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 6''
11.1 - Someday You Will Pay (Miller Sisters) (Original Flip 504)
11.2 - You Didn’t Think I Would (Miller Sisters) (Original Flip 504)
11.3 - Look What You’ve Done To My Heart (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
11.4 - I know I Can’t Forget You (But I’ll Try) (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
11.5 - There’s No Right Way To Do Me Wrong (Miller Sisters) (Original Sun 230)
11.6 - You Can Tell Me (Miller Sisters) (Original Sun 230)
11.7 - Woody (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
11.8 - Finders Keepers (Miller Sisters) (Original Sun 255)
11.9 - My Isle of Golden Dreams (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
11.10 - Ten Cats Down (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

11.1 - Someday You Will Pay (Miller Sisters)
(Roy Estes Miller) (Original Flip 504)

The top side of the Millers' debut single is a total delight. It is simple, honest, spirited and rural attributes that have all but disappeared from country music. The entire proceedings have the sound and feel of a back country dance. Unquestionably part of the side's flair and drive come from Charlie Feathers just happened to be hanging around the studio (wasn't he always in 1954?) with a couple of spoons he didn't mind playing. Ironically, uptempo material like this, while winning in its own right, is not the ideal showcase for the girls' harmonies. Nevertheless, this song was chosen as the top side of the Millers' first release. (HD)

11.2 - You Didn’t Think I Would (Miller Sisters)
(Roy Estes Miller) (Original Flip 504)

Although credited to Roy Miller, this song was written by Jo and Millie in Roy's car on the way back from a local gig. It's a fairly conventional country weeper with some nascent feminist sentiments. The only surprise is that potent material such as this could have come from the heart and mind of sweet seventeen year old Millie Miller. Despite its origins, the girls perform it quite convincingly to the patented Claunch/Cantrell
hillbilly backing. (HD)

11.3 - Look What You’ve Done To My Heart (Miller Sisters)
(Roy Estes Miller) (Previously Unissued)

Millie and Jo offer solid chanting on a weeper destined for rural juke action. May not break out of the hinterlands but waltz tempo adds to back country feel. Strong cleffing and usual Sun back shack sound make this disking a winner. (CE) (HD with apologies to Billboard)

11.4 - I know I Can’t Forget You (But I’ll Try) (Miller Sisters)
(Roy Estes Miller) (Previously Unissued)

The first Colin Escott and I heard this track was on an acetate played for us by Marion Keisker in Memphis. We were struck by its pure country charm and lamented the fact that music like this was unlikely to find its way into commercial release, Fortunately, that problem has been solved and this wonderful track takes its place in the legacy left behind Sun by the Miller Sisters. (HD)

11.5 - There’s No Right Way To Do Me Wrong (Miller Sisters)
(Gabe Ticker-Smokey Stover) (Original Sun 230)

Billboard incorrectly described this in January 1956 as an effective weeper, which suggests that they had not listened to it. Despite its theme, the track moves along at a sprightly pace that belies its subject matter. As he did on all of the girls' releases, Phillips pulled true weeper nith some uptempo material and he must have thought very highly of this, song because it was one of the very few non Hi-Lo copyrights released by Sun in 1956. (HD)

11.6 - You Can Tell Me (Miller Sisters)
(Homer Eddleman Jr.) (Original Sun 230)

This is a powerful piece or country material written by Homer Eddleman, Jr. who had submitted a tape from Rte. 1, Marianna, Arkansas. Elsie Jo and Millie turn in a stellar performance on the material that keeps pace with their stylings. The storyline is grabby telling the tale of another woman who is all too eager to demean her friend's man because she will be the beneficiary once her gossip breaks up the couple. About ten years later, blues singer Bobby Bland recorded an interesting variant on this theme called ''Your Friends''. Separated by miles, race and audience, Bland's record shows that some themes are timeless and can be reworked into any style. (HD) (CE)

11.7 - Woody (Miller Sisters)
(Roy Estes Miller) (Previously Unissued)

This is one of' the few extant takes of ''Woody'' without Woody Woodpecker sound effects grafted onto it. There are at least ten takes of this tune in the vaults although it is ironic that, after all the work on Roy's novelty song, nothing was released. Despite the trite and dated lyric, the girls turn in a really splendid vocal, considerably better than the material deserved. (HD)

11.8 - Finders Keepers (Miller Sisters)
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell) (Original Sun 255)

Possibly the Millers' best side. This is a simple yet beautiful pop/country ballad that surely belonged in the charts in 1956. The girls offer their usual seamless vocal crystalline harmonies. The backing is an unorthodox combination of sounds. Stan Kesler's beautifully played steel guitar predominates and is abetted by Bill Taylor's totally affecting trumpet which shines through in an unexpected 4-bar solo. There is an interesting similarity between this record and ''No Matter Who's To Blame'' by Barbara Pittman which appeared in the same release schedule. That song also featured an unusual trumpet/steel guitar mix. Both also had their sights firmly set on the pop and country charts and failed to reach either. (HD)

11.9 - My Isle of Golden Dreams (Miller Sisters)
(Gus Kann-Walter Blaufuss) (Previously Unissued)

Despite appearances to the contrary, this is not a traditional Hawaiian song nor was it composed for the Miller Sisters by one of the resident Tupelo or Memphis tunesmiths. Rather, the song comes from Tin Pan Alley in New York and dates from 1934 rather thin 1954. It has been recorded by Marty Robbins and innumerable others. Nevertheless, it is hard to outclass the Miller Sisters and their stellar performance showcases their clairvoyant vocal rapport. Performers have either been scared away or attracted by the yodel in the song's release ("I'll hear the voice .. ") and it is clear that the girls rose to the occasion. As Millie said nearly thirty years later, "We had to do some tall singing on that one''. Indeed they did. Unfortunately, the only flaw in the recording is the band's uneasiness with the song's unconveptional chord structure during the lines "Somebody cries, somebody sighs..''. The bass player in particular loses his way completely. (HD)

11.10 - Ten Cats Down (Miller Sisters)
(Bill Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Previously Unissued)

Sam Phillips hedged his bets on the Millers' last record by pairing the lovely ballad ''Finder Keepers'' with the girls' one attempt at a solid rocker. ''Ten Cats Down'' pas as close as the ladies came to rockabilly but their sound was really ill equipped for it. It seems as though women and rockabilly have always had an unsteady romance, despite notable exceptions such as Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin. Arguably, the Miller Sisters were too country, too pure sounding to sound convincing on this type of song. The song needs a raging river and the girls are like a crystal stream. Nevertheless this track is of considerable interest because it, represents a previously unissued alternative to the version issued on Sun 255. If anything, this version is closer to jazz than rock and roll and pushes the proceedings in the direction of western swing, which was surely not Phillips' intention in 1956. (HD)

Record 6 Side 12 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 6''
12.1 - It Only Hurts For A Little While (Miller Sisters) (Previously Unissued)
12.2 - Got You On My Mind (Miller Sisters) (Not Originally Issued)
12.3 - Chains of Love (Miller Sisters) (Not Originally Issued)
12.4 - I Can’t Find Time To Pray (Millers Sisters & Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.5 - When You Stop Loving Me (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.6 - Like A Weed In A Garden (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.7 - Satisfied With Me (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.8 - Please Believe Me (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.9 - Round and Round (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.10 - Destiny (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
12.11 - Baby Doll (Cast King) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

12.1 -It Only Hurts For A Little While (Miller Sisters)
(Mack Davis-Fritz Spielman) (Previously Unissued)

This song was a sizeable pop hit for the Ames Brothers which was obviously well known to both the girls and the band members from the radio exposure. The Millers' version features a marvellous pop/country hybrid of steel guitar and trumpet that was pushed further towards mass market acceptance by the piano triplets. However, the exercise was academic. As he had on many previous occasions, Sam Phillips chose to release material on which he owned the copyright and songs like this were relegated to the storage box. (HD)

12.2 - Got You On My Mind (Miller Sisters)
(Joe Thomas-Howard Biggs) (Not Originally Issued)

Although neither Millie nor Jo was aware of it, ''Got You On My Mind'' had been a sizeable rhythm and blues hit in 1951 by John Greer. In fact, the song has since become something of a standard with barely a decade passing that doesn't see a handful of cover versions or revival attempts. Greer's own version ups redolent of Ivory Joe Hunter's style: an easy lilting melody, repeating itself through a 12-bar blues progression and lending itself easily to two-part harmony.

lnterestingly, when the Millers recorded it, they omitted the song's 8-bar middle segment and a piano-led instrumental break was subsituted for the song's release. Arguably, the song didn't really need a release and the version we hear hasn't been weakened by its exclusion. Whether the Millers' non-release arrangement represented a conscious decision on somebody's part, or a collective lapse of memory in the studio is another
musical question that the passing years have rendered unanswerable. (HD)

12.3 - Chains of Love (Miller Sisters)
(Gene Simmons) (Not Originally Issued)

This is not, of course, the old Big Joe Turner hit but rather a composition from the pen of Gene Simmons. At that point,Simmons (who also hailed from Tupelo) was trying to get his recording career off the ground. He had cut a number of songs at Sun during 1956 but none of them were released until 1958. In fact, his version of this song was unreleased until 1986.

The Millers' version probably dates from 1957and features a blend of old and new. Stan Kesler brought in his trusty steel guitar for the occasion but the drums and boogie piano licks point unerringly into the future. The results are a little ragged in places but quite pleasant. The girls sound comfortable at this tempo but the material was probably not strong enough to merit much more work. (CE)

12.4 - I Can’t Find Time To Pray (Millers Sisters & Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

Thirty years after this session, Jo Miller commented, ''I still find myself singing that song. It was beautiful''. Indeed it was. Everyone connected with the session must have believed that they had a winner here because a considerable amount of time was invested in its production. The result is a convincing religious narration that should have been given a chance in the marketplace but never was. It appears here for the first time. Cast King's understated narrative is very powerful and the whole track jells magically's, especially during the deceptively simple punchline delivered in the last four bars. (HD)

12.5 - When You Stop Loving Me (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

History has shown that San Phillips made surprisingly few mistakes in deciding which tracks to release and which to leave for future generations of music archae logists. This track may represent one of his biggest mistakes. It is a splendid song and must have stood a fair chance of success. Although neither the composition nor the performance are really polished, the end product is quite spectacular. The song is melodic in fact, adjectives like menorable and beautiful don't seem out of place, Moreover, it has a hookstrong enough to get the Titanic off the ocean floor. Instrumentally, the performance is a gem, featuring standout steel guitar work some nice dobro. As a matter of interest, an alternate take (with a somewhat flawed vocal) shows this beautiful country waltz to gain it strength with the tempo slowed a little. This stands alongside Sun's finest country records and its non-appearance is a mystery. (HD) (CE)

12.6 - Like A Weed In A Garden (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

Another spectacular cut from the mysterious Cast King. For this occasion, King's group was augmented by drummer Johnny Oberon and possibly by the Miller Sisters. The presence of Oberon dates this cut prior to 1957 and the fact that it survived on tape without being recorded over could seem to date it from after 1955. It merits inclusion because it is an awesomely beautiful performance. The lyrics have elevated self pity, to idizzying height but in King's hands the group and material achieve a magic blend. (CE)

12.7 - Satisfied With Me (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

A mountain of tape was expended on this title. Take after take recorded and then the little 7" boxes were stored away: Once again, Johnny Bernero recognised his drumwork but could offer no recollections of the group. There are some appealing bluegrass styled harmonies and some fairly nifty picking from the guitarist. However, it is the song itself that is so instantly attractive. One can see why Phillips did not want to give up on it but there areno clues left, other than the tapes, to tell us anything about Cast King or his group. (CD)

12.8 - Please Believe Me (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

This is yet another strong entry from the anonymous and accomplished Cast King band. It is clear that this and the next three songs date from a different session than cuts four through seven. Cast King had obviously decided that he needed to bring his. sound into line with prevailing trends but he probably stayed too close to country music to stand a chance in the. musical ferment of 1956 or 1957. (CE)

12.9 - Round and Round (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

Perhaps the closest approximation of rockabilly that the group recorded. The references to "rock and roll to the break of day" certainly date the song to the early days of the rock and roll era but, in charming throwback, the steel guitarist resurfaces for some very tasty interplay with the lead guitarist. This is very accomplished music and if Jo Miller is correct in thinking that King came from Liuka, Mississippi; the local bar, crawlers had a real reason to stay until closing time. (CE)

12.10 - Destiny (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

Another exceptionally strong piece of writing and singing from the King band. Some of the lines such as ''a parasite living on love ..'' are quite arresting but the real clincher comes with the approach of the chorus. The group joins King on the last syllable of the verse and then extend their support through the chorus. The steel guitar solo is followed by a little Luther Perkins style and picking. This is wholly out of context with the pattern of Sun releases in 1956 and 1957 -the rawness is not in the performance but in the striking hillbilly images and stone back country vocal of King himself. It is rawness that must be searched out rather than rawness that leaps out of the grooves. Perhaps Phillips' was looking for the latter and Cast King's tapes were tied together with an elastic band and stored away. (CE)

12.11 - Baby Doll (Cast King)
(Cast King) (Previously Unissued)

There is a distinct pop flavour to the cuts of ''Baby Doll''. However, the light folky leanings still render the song an outside contender by the standards that Phillips was setting. Surprisingly, this title has a sound that is distinctly redolent of Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen. The steel guitarist sits out this cut but it is still a fair distance from the Sun releases of that period. The unaccompanied intro was difficult to handle and there are several false starts where the group lacked a beat to their efforts.

This is wonderful music and it is surprising that King did not make more efforts to get his group on record. Perhaps he felt that he just could not a accommodate the changes that had occurred in country music. (CE)

Photos Courtesy: Hank Davis
Front Cover: L to R: Jo and Milly in Memphis City Park during a break from recording at Sun, 1955
Photo Courtesy: Hank Davis
Back Cover: Millie, 30 years later

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-7 mono

Warren Smith

Early in 1956 Sam Phillips hailed Warren Smith as the third all market contender he had signed. Smith seemed to have limitless potential. He was good looking, he had stage presence, he had a desperate will to succeed and, best of all, the man could really sing. However, his success on Sun was limited to a few local chart entries, a fleeting entry into the Hot 100 and then an swift decline at the very moment he should have consolidated his initial success.

The limited success or Smith's Sun recordings is no reflection on their quality. This boxed set gathers together at least one take of every recording that Smith made for Sun, and, as such, represents the first detailed retrospective on his early work. (CE)

Record 7 Side 13 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 7''
13.1 - Rock 'N' Roll Ruby (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 239)
13.2 - I’d Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 239)
13.3 - Black Jack David (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 250)
13.4 - Ubangi Stomp (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 250)
13.5 - Tonight Will Be The Last Night (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
13.6 - Tell Me Who (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
13.7 - I Couldn’t Take The Chance (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
13.8 - The Darkest Cloud (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
13.9 - So Long I’m Gone (1) (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
13.10 - So Long I’m Gone (2) (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued Alternate Take)
Original Sun Recordings

13.1 - Rock 'N' Roll Ruby (Warren Smith)
(John R. Cash) (Original Sun 239)

''Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips came in one night when I was playing with Clyde Leoppard'', recalled Smith. "They invited me to come back to their table and sit down. To begin with, I thought it was some kind of fluke, then Sam Phillips asked me to come over to Sun the next day, and Johnny Cash said he might have a song for me''.

It Smith's performance of ''Rock And Roll Ruby'' / belies his lack of professional experience. It is a supremely confident debut. Sun 239 was released in March 1956 and entered the Memphis charts on May 1. It reached the number one slot on May 26. By that point it had climbed onto some other local charts and there were a surprising number of cover versions considering that the record never hit the Hot 100. Among the most notable were Johnny Carroll's Decca version, Lawrence Welk and Dave Burton's big band versions. Even a black vocal group, the Saints on Salem Records, covered the song. There was also a Canadian cover version.

It appears as though the song was not from the pen of Johnny' Cash, but was bought by Cash from George Jones for $40. A solid investment, as it transpired.

Despite all of the activity surrounding the song, Smith's national breakthrough was still over a year away. However, this did not impede him from acquiring the attitudes and demeanour of one whose place in the pantheon of rock and roll was already assured. The portents were extraordinarily good. Neither Carl Perkins nor Elvis Presley had done so well with their debut release. (CE)

13.2 - I’d Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (Warren Smith)
(Stanley Kesler-William E. Taylor) (Original Sun 239)

The presence of an out-and-out hillbilly weeper on the flip side of Warren Smith's debut single shows how uncertainly Sam Phillips was feeling his way through the confusion in the early months of 1956. Perhaps he was hoping for airplay on the country stations in case the whole rock and roll craze went the way of the calypso craze a year or so later. Perhaps he simply did not appreciate that the mass audience beyond Memphis would have preferred a pop ballad to a slice of unadulterated hillbilly music. However, the mass audience's loss is our gain. This is very pure country music - and astonishingly beautiful. Smith's vocal is perfectly pitched and it allows us to eavesdrop the way that he sounded before Elvis Presley turned his head around. (CE)

13.3 - Black Jack David (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Original Sun 250)

Once again, Phillips hedged his bets by coupling a rockabilly anthem with a hillbilly lament. The family, tree of ''Black Jack David'' has been traced with detailed scholarship by Nick-Tosches (in Count"). While unaware of the mediaeval origins of the; song, Smith bas undoubtedly aware that this song, which he credited to himself, was far from original. In fact, the lyrics were considerably less salty than the Carter Family's, version from 1935. In a 1956 interview with the Memphis Press Scimitar, Smith hurriedly pointed out that, even though ''Black Jack David'' was a rake and philanderer, "the lyric is fixed so there's time enough that she could have gotten g divorce or something before she goes with him''.

Nonsense like that aside, this is a stellar performance. Sparse, achingly pure and haunting in the best tradition of hillbilly music. A standout cut on every front. (CE)

13.4 - Ubangi Stomp (Warren Smith)
(Charles Underwood) (Original Sun 250)

The quintessential racist rock and roll song. Smith recalled that Chartie Underwood had pitched the song to him months earlier. "1 didn't like it, you know. Then one night we were cutting, it was around at night. and was up against he wall, really biting the bullet trying to find the fourth song. Charles came through the door and changed four or five things I didn't like the song and we went work on it'.

In a later era, Underwood became a producer at Sun and, even later, engineered the ''Monster Mash'' and Herb Alpert's debut hit ''The Lonely Bull''. In 1956 he was a struggling student. He seems to have cheerfully assigned common dialect to American Indians and Africans (''...heap big jam session") and, in-all honesty, the song is as close to denigrating as anything released on Sun. However, it entered the Memphis charts and helped to sustain the momentum of ''Rock And Roll Ruby''. Rather than make a big splash, it appears to have sold over 100,000 copies throughout an eighteen month period.

The guitarist is Brad Suggs, stalwart of Slim Rhodes Show, and the drummer is Johnny Bernero. Other musicians are somewhat unclear although the bassist may be Jan Ledbetter. Smith's interpretation of the song has all the contagious enthusiasm of' pure rockabilly which bas enabled it to survive the years well and, even survive a beleaguered and belated cover version from Alice Cooper (CE)

13.5 - Tonight Will Be The Last Night (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)

The writer and one-time rockabilly Ray Scott submitted a demo tape to Sun and Sam Phillips wrote "Ray Scott good songs" on the tape box. When it came time for the next Warren Smith session, Phillips played the tape of this song, which he had already identified as the best of the crop. Smith and the band worked up a very decent arrangement that must have been a serious contender, for release in 1956 or 19S7.

The real surprise is that Phillips did not overdub tracks like this and issue them when Smith finally gained a measure of success in the country market in the earls 1960s. (CE)

13.6 - Tell Me Who (Warren Smith)
(Billy Myles) (Not Originally Issued)

Smith probably discovered this song on the flipside of Big Maybelle's 1956 hit ''Mean To Me''. His treatment is a very tasty excursion into early rockabilly that veers back into the country by virtue of some deftly executed steel guitar work. The empathetic drumming seems to suggest that Johnny Bernero sat in on this session, which would also tend to date it from 1956. Smith dispenses with Maybelle's growls and drum rolls and delivers a very straight reading of the song. Incidentally, the composer, Billy Myles. later scored a huge hit with ''The Joker''. Note that this song was erroneously titled ''Who'' on previous compilations. (CE)

13.7 - I Couldn’t Take The Chance (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)

Only previously available on a bootleg, this track is a hardly a major contender but has a pleasant countrified charm to it. Smith is in fine voice but the tentative nature of the performance is betrayed by the guitarist (probably Al Hopson) who takes a hesitant solo. A piano is buried in the mix and doesn't add a lot to the proceedings. The drums are either absent altogether or confined to poorly miked brushwork. This may have been a contender for a flipside but no-one could have held out great hopes for it. (CE)

13.8 - The Darkest Cloud (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)

The ghost of Hank Williams hangs heavy over this beautiful country ballad. The sparse instrumentation suits the mood of the song in the same way that he sad-eyed guitar riffs lend so much to Williams' ''I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry''. However, it is the three part harmony on the chorus that really makes this track stand out. It lends an unearthly backwoods sound to the track, a sound that was becoming desperately out of place. Only the guitarist can be identified for certain on this track (and the earlier version of ''So Long I'm Göne''). Smith identifies Al Hopson in the session chatter, but the others can not be identified with certainty. (CE)

13.9 - So Long I’m Gone (1) (Warren Smith)
(Roy Orbison) (Previously Unissued)

This is a fair distance from the issued version, both in terms arrangement and instrumentation. Simply put, this is country music the issued version was rockabilly. It provides as clear a statement of the difference between the two as you could hope to find.

Either the composer, Roy Orbison, or Smith himself changed around the lyrics a little before the song finally hit the streets in the spring of 1957. This version almost certainly dates from the preceding year and shows Smith's high, pure country tenor to great advantage. Phillips was obviously correct to try the fuller instrumentation but this is a lovely version nonetheless. (CE)

13.10 - So Long I’m Gone (2) (Warren Smith)
(Roy Orbison) (Previously Unissued Alternate Take)

For many years, it had always been assumed that Warren Smith's sole chart entry on Sun sported some piano work tom Jerry Lee Lewis to help it along. However, there was never a piano solo to really put the matter beyond doubt. Finally, me have found a take that does indeed contain a piano solo and it is fair distance from every Jerry's most uninspired most likely conclusion is that, as Al Hopson said, it is Jimmy Wilson on piano. The confusion may have arisen because Phillips had arrived at a very distinctive way of miking the piano so that the basic boogie riff that Lewis and' Wilson employed sounded fairly similer no matter who was playing it. (CE)

Record 7 Side 14 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 7''
14.1 - So Long I’m Gone (3) (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 268)
14.2 - Who Took My Baby (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
14.3 - Miss Froggie (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 268)
14.4 Stop The World (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
14.5 - Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
14.6 - Got Love If You Want It (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 286)
14.7 - I Fell In Love (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 286)
14.8 - Hank Snow Medley (Warren Smith) Previously Unissued)
14.9 - Do I Love You (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
14.10 - I Like Your Kinda Love (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

14.1 - So Long I’m Gone (3) (Warren Smith)
(Roy Orbison) (Original Sun 268)

This breezy mid-tempo rocker provided Warren Smith with his only Hot 100 entry. It was a neat synthesis of the pounding rockers and restrained country ballads that had represented the two extremes of Smith's recording career to that point is short, deftly and profoundly catchy which probably accounted for its success.

The ragged instrumental work had been tightened up and Smith's vocal is supremely confident. This song also gave Roy Orbison his first chart entry as a songwriter. (CE)

14.2 - Who Took My Baby (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)

This title has a very early sound to it and sounds as though it might have been a contender for one of Smith's first few singles. The drummer is unmistakably Johnny Bernero who announces the guitar solo with some well-timed machine gun raps on the snare. The pianist may well be Jimmy Wilson and the guitarist could be Al Hopson or Buddy Holobaågh. The overall performance is quite accomplished. In fact, it gives the song a touch of class that is slightly more than its due. (CE)

14.3 - Miss Froggie (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Original Sun 268)

This was the B-side of Smith's only Hot 100 entry but to a generation of rockabilly fans it was the A-side to end all A-sides. This is prime rockabilly that just about defines the style. Smith could sing uptempo numbers such as this without coarsening his voice or screaming. His deftly controlled excitement is matched note-for-note by Al Hopson's dazzling guitar work and Jimmy Lott's drumming. Hopson's solos are truly lightning in a bottle. The man was possessed on the day he cut this side. One can trace the lyrics back to a clutch of blues standards but, in the final analysis, it doesn't matter because Smith and his group had come up with something stunningly original that is an entire dimension beyond its roots and head and shoulders above its derivatives. (CE)

14.4 - Stop The World (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)

This updated composition obviously derives from the period when Smith saw himself as an unregenerate rockabilly. The song is of uncertain provenance but the idea at least seems to owe a debt to the Carl Belew/W.S. Stevenson composition ''Stop The World [And Let Me Off'' which dates from early 1957. This song and the arrangement needed a little more work but it is hard to see why they gave up on it. It was an ideal vehicle for Smith's vocal talents and the backing bristles with energy. There is a piano buried deep in the mix although it is hard to see how Phillips could mix any instrument so far back when he was working in such cramped surroundings. Lost for upwards of thirty years in an out-take box, this track surely deserved a better fate. (CE)

14.5 - Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (Warren Smith)
(Willie Bae Thompson-Lillian May) (Not Originally Issued)

This title is almost quintessential rockabilly in terms of its lyrics and execution. Smith really excelled at the breezy mid tempo employed here. The guitarist, probably Al Hopson, covers a lot of ground and takes a solo that veers back to his. fingerpicking roots.

A fair amount of tape was expended on this title but it ultimately abandoned. The existence of a previous version (by Bob Luman on Imperial) and the fact that Phillips did not hold the publishing may have been factors that came into consideration. However, when Martin Hawkins and I were assembling the first SUN ROCKABILLIES album in 1972 convinced that there would never be another, this track made it effortlessly to the final selection. (CE)

14.6 - Got Love If You Want It (Warren Smith)
(James Moore) (Original Sun 286)

When Smith re-entered the Sun studio to try to recapture the success of ''So Long, I'm Gone'', he employed the same formula: a rocked up blues and a ballad. This time, the guitar of Al Hopson was paired with Roland Janes. The duo provided a dazzling intro with Hopson taking the lead role and Janes making the response.

The song was originally recorded by James ''Slim Harpo''Moore at a mellow mid tempo. Smith cranked up the tempo and made at least one telling lyric change when he substituted "you fine looking thing'' for "your fine brown frame". He also omitted Slim's final two verses and substituted a verse loosely adapted from the flip side of Slim's original, ''I'm A King Bee''. This was by no means a slavish copy of the original. (CE)

14.7 - I Fell In Love (Warren Smith)
(Al Hopson) (Original Sun 286)

With the pop charts within their grasp, Sam Phillips and Warren Smith decided that a pop-slanted ballad might be more appropriate for a flip side. Surprisingly, that ballad came from the pen of Smith's guitarist, Al Hopson, who was rooted in country music. The end product was a gentle countrified ballad that veers into pop music by virtue of the chorus that was overdubbed a couple of days after the session. As Phillips obviously perceived, it provided a nice contrast to the storming ''Got Love If You Want It''. Surprisingly, ''I Fell In Love'' has never been reissued on an album until now. (CE)

14.8 - Hank Snow Medley (Warren Smith)
(Clarence E. Snow) (Previously Unissued)

A lifelong opponent of rock and roll, Hank Snow nevertheless one of its most important precursors. His songs obviously made a deep impact upon many rock and rollers with their contagious rhythms and nonsense lyrics (''While Madam Mazonga was teaching the conga.. "). This tribute to the diminutive Canadian cowboy is a medley of ''I'm Move On'', ''The Golden Rocket'' and ''The Rhumha Boogie''. Smith even imitates Snow's high-pitched nasal vocal in places. The lightly stated beat of Snow's originals has been replaced by a sledgehammer but, for all that, Smith has retained the ''fun'' element in Snow's writing. This is an alternative take to those previously issued as ''The Golden Rocket''. (CE)

14.9 - Do I Love You (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)

This track features an unusually full sound for Warren Smith. The sax lends an added dimension to the proceedings but the song is not an unqualified success. The major problem is the gimmick embodied in the song itself. In fact, one of the little catch-phrases used in the song, "Has a cat got a tail''? was used in a trade paper advertisement for ''Raunchy'' towards the end of 1957. Is 'Raunchy' big? Has a cat got g tail? Will Ike play golf tomorrow". (CE)

14.10 - I Like Your Kinda Love (Warren Smith)
(Frank Carter) (Not Originally Issued)

Never a prolific composer, Warren Smith depended largely on submissions from other writers for his material. Frank Carter dropped into 706 Union one day to record a set of demos and Clement or Phillips obviously saw this song as a potential candidate for release. It is delivered at a brisk mid tempo, has a sizable hook and actually bears a distinct similarity to Elvis Presley's 1960 recordings. The guitarist has worked up a decent opening riff but hasn't given much thought to his solo.

There are few clues to enable us to date this performance. Only the reference to Bandstand would seem to imply that it was recorded in 1958 or later (the show "as not networked until August 19571). (CE)

Front Cover: L to R: Marcus Van Story, Warren Smith, Al Hopson
at Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee, Mid-1950s
Back Cover: Warren Smith
Photos Courtesy: Colin Escott

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-8 mono

Warren Smith & Ernie Chaffin

If Sam Phillips had intended to retain his place in the country market after Johnny Cash departed, he had two prime contenders in the shape of Warren Smith and Ernie Chaffin. Neither may have reached the dizzying heights that Cash attained but they both had the potential to carve out very solid careers for themselves in country music. Neither, artist scored a major hit on Sun although that was certainly no reflection on the quality of the material they had on offer. This side gathers together Warren Smith's later recordings, which show that he was already. moving back towards country music, together with the earlier recordings by Ernie Chaffin. (CE)

Record 8 Side 15 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 8''
15.1 - Uranium Rock (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
15.2 - Goodbye Mr Love (1) (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
15.3 - Sweet Sweet Girl (Warren Smith) (Previously Unissued)
15.4 - Dear John (Warren Smith) (Not Originally Issued)
15.5 - Goodbye Mr Love (2) (Warren Smith) (Original Sun 314)
15.6 - Feelin’ Low (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 262)
15.7 - Lonesome For My Baby (Ernie Chaffin) (Original 262)
15.8 - I’m Lonesome (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 275)
15.9 - Laughin’ And Jokin’ (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 275)
Original Sun Recordings

15.1 - Uranium Rock (Warren Smith)
(Al Hopson) (Not Originally Issued)

Hopson's contribution to Warren Smith's repertoire was limited to ''I Fell In Love'', a few lines to ''Miss Froggie'' and this song. The song actually says - more about the lifestyle that Smith had adopted than it does about nuclear fission. The arrangement is worked around a very catchy lead guitar riff played against repeated bass figure on the string bass and piano. With its topicality and primitive energy this song must have been a serious candidate for release.(CE)

15.2 - Goodbye Mr Love (1) (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith-Billy Byrd) (Previously Unissued)

Here is one of the real finds of my 1981 trip to Nashville go listen to the original Sun session tapes. ''Goodbye Mr. Love'' was always a favorite Sun single, and to find an even more countrified version complete with steel guitar was a real pleasure. Warren's vocal is perhaps more restrained than on Sun 314 but this was always a fine song and the lyric changes and markedly different approach allow us to look at an old favourite through a new set of eyes. (MH)

15.3 - Sweet Sweet Girl (Warren Smith)
(Don Gibson) (Previously Unissued)

Warren and the boys certainly worked hard on this song, another version of which was to be his last single on the label (Sun 314). Many versions of they song remain on tape, and it is clear that it was worked out with one or two spaces left for a vocal chorus to fill. Nevertheless this early take, free of chorus, retains arguably more country feel than the finally issued version. The scatological chatter and the false starts that precede this version show us that recording at Sun may have been hard work but was not an ordeal. It has been said that Warren Smith was not easy to work with but the boys seemed to be having a fine time on this occasion. (CE) (MH)

15.4 - Dear John (Warren Smith)
(Tex Ritter-Aubry Gass) (Not Originally Issued)

This minor hillbilly classic was first performed by Aubry Gass in 1949. Hank Williams revived it two years later and Smith probably discovered it on the flip side of ''Cold, Cold Heart''. The song's roots are well and truly obscured by Smith's treatment which replaced the jaunty hillbilly beat with a liberal dose of the blues, especially from the lead guitar. At first the bluesy intensity of the guitar carries the song but there is a hole after the first 12-bar solo. The song was meanders for another 12-bars which suggests that a sax overdub was contemplated.

Smith's vocal performance is first rate and fair amount of tape was expended on this cut, suggesting that if weak candidate for release some point. Perhaps it was consigned testorage Phillips realised that he, was not recording a Hi-Lo copyright but, rather, stood to give 3 cents a side to another publisher. (CE)

15.5 - Goodbye Mr Love (2) (Warren Smith)
(Warren Smith-Billy Byrd) (Original Sun 314)

Perhaps more than any other song on this collection, ''Goodbye Mr. Love'' , proves the truth in Jack Clement's assertion that Smith was the ''closest approximation of a mainstream 'Nashville' singer ever to enter 706 Union''. It also disproves Smith's assertion that he could not record country music at Sun. The overall sound on this recording is very close to the product coming out of Nashville in 1959, particularly in view of the chorus. All of this makes Smith's lack of success on Sun after 1957 doubly incomprehensible. In retrospect, this was far from Smith's best work but, coupled with ''Sweet Sweet Girl'', it was an exceptionally strong double sided contender. Smith's, co-composer, Billy Byrd, had worked with Ernest Tubb as lead guitarist for ten years when this was record. However, it is unclear how they came to write this little tune together. (CD)

Ernie Chaffin

Ernie Chaffin brought a totally unique sound to Sun. Certainly, his earlier recordings for Hickory and Fine were no predictor of what lay in store at Sun. In its way, Ernie's style was every bit as unique as Johnny Cash's. In fact, both depended upon a repeated, percussive rhythmic pattern arid minimal instrumentation. Unlike Cash's' work, however, Chaffin's songs (most often composed by Pee Wee Maddux) were highly melodic and his voice had considerable range. While the songs were lyrically more conventional than the stark lonesome ballads of Cash, Chaffin's songs drew much of their power from unusual and arresting chord changes. (HD)

15.6 - Feelin’ Low (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Original Sun 262)

Chaffin began his Sun recording career with a standout performance. The instrumental intro establishes the 1-6 minor chord sequence, although the song actually begins on the 5-chord. From there it shuttles back and forth between 1 and 5 until Ernie hits the powerful line "Might as well...'' and the chords run from 1 to 4 behind him. The title phrase is anticipated by a desent into the 6 minor, giving the song its catchy, almost cowboy like sound. Billboard described ''Feelin' Low'' as ''folk''! and noted that Chaffin's voice possessed an ''Elvisy'' character. lnterestingly, Harvey's steel solos almost always focus on single note work whereas his backup to Chaffin's vocal returns more conventional swelling chords. Apparently, the song garnered some unexpected pop interest in the north east states but, for whatever reason, Sun failed to capitalise on it. (HD)

15.7 - Lonesome For My Baby (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Original 262)

In ''I'm Lonesome For My Baby'', Chaffin first established the use of the flatted 7-chord in his material. We don't have to wait too long for it. "Pretty girls all around" and we've slipped from A to G. The song feature a repealed 1-5, 1-5 musical riff throughout that serves as every bit as much of a ''hook'' as the title phrase. (HD)

15.8 - I’m Lonesome (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Original Sun 275)

Although Sun's reputation is rooted in rockabilly and blues, it is hard to imagine a stronger or more beautiful country record than ''I'm Lonesome''. It is as near to a perfect record as one can imagine or want in its genre. Once again. Ernie has drawn on the flatted 7-chord, this time in the key of D.

Every element of the performance is flawless and the elements coalesce perfectly into a memorable and timeless performance. It is arguably Chaffin's best work and one of the gems of this collection,'

''I'm Lonesome'' begins and ends on an instrumental figure of almost awesome power and beauty given its sheer simplicity. Ernie"s vocal is complemented by Harvey's finely crafted steel fills which are minimal but add immeasurably to the strength of the performance. Notably, there are no fills around the lines that Ernie moans rather than sings. In these cases, only rhythm adds to the stark impact of the vocal. The steel solo has a stark simplicitynstraight from the Luther Perkins mould. (HD)

15.9 - Laughin’ And Jokin’ (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Original Sun 275)

Once again, Ernie Chaffin contributes a 1- flatted 7 chord pattern to good effect, this time turning it into an uptempo, almost jaunty mood. Of Ernie's first four sides for Sun, this was probably the most conventionally country. The song has a wonderfully rhythmic- drive, abetted by the percussive strumming of Pee Wee Maddux. Harvey helps himself to two 8-bar steel solos. played in a style that was reproducible by non-steel players. A thoughtful gesture! (HD)

Record 8 Side 16 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 8''
16.1 - Linda (Ernie Chaffin) (Not Originally Issued)
16.2 - Heart Of Me (Ernie Chaffin) (Not Originally Issued)
16.3 - I’ll Walk Alone (Ernie Chaffin) (Previously Unissued)
16.4 - Be Faithful To Me (Ernie Chaffin) (Previously Unissued)
16.5 - Got You On My Mind (Ernie Chaffin) (Previously Unissued)
16.6 - Born To Lose (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 307)
16.7 - (Nothing Can Change) My Love For You (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 307)
16.8 - Miracle of You (Ernie Chaffin) (Previously Unissued)
16.9 - Please Don’t Ever Leave Me (Ernie Chaffin) (Original Sun 320)
Original Sun Recordings

16.1 - Linda (Ernie Chaffin)
(Ernie Chaffin) (Not Originally Issued)

Sun always pushed its artists or allowed them to evolve in new directions. This is surely the most uncharacteristic track in Ernie Chaffin's Sun repertoire and most of his fans would probably fail to identify it in a blindfold test. It is essentially a pop blues and features an appropriately bluesy from Ernie. The backing is led by some equally high string guitar work and rather thin sounding rhythm section.

Chaffin himself was unimpressed by the track. Indeed, with almost thirty years separating him from the session, he could not even recall recording it. Verdict: an interesting experiment but little more.(HD)

16.2 - Heart Of Me (Ernie Chaffin)
(Ernie Chaffin) (Not Originally Issued)

This track had first been recorded (albeit in a different key) by Ernie for Fine Records in Biloxi. The new arrangement goes beyond the distinctive rhythmic style of Chaffin's first two outings on the Sun label and under less the entire production might have been embalmed in strings. Here it is adorned only by guitar, bass and ''surprise'' fiddle! This is the only Sun cut by Ernie Chaffin that features this traditional country instrument, played here by Pee Wee Maddux. Once again, Ernie's distinctive vocal shines through. This must have some close to being a serious candidate for release. (HD) (CE)

16.3 - I’ll Walk Alone (Ernie Chaffin)
(Jules Stein-Sammy Cahn) (Previously Unissued)

Here, as on ''Linda'', Ernie Chaffin ventures into alien stylistic territory. While Ernie turns in a melodic ballad- like vocal performance, the band offers a strongly contrasting shuffle blues. The backing track is anchored by brushwork from the drums and the piano but the highlight is the aggressive lead guitar.

Ernie recalled, ''I thought we had a real good cut on ''I'll Walk Alone''. We left the studio thinking that it would be released but it never was''. Perhaps Sam Phillips and Jack Clement made the correct decision. It is interesting to hear tracks like this but, in the final analysis, Ernie's talents were best showcased in classic tracks like ''I'm Lonesome''. (HD)

16.4 - Be Faithful To Me (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Previously Unissued)

Sometimes it is best not to look too deeply into the vaults. Unissued material is usually surprising - but not all the surprises are delights. This rather tedious ballad might have been used if Ernie's career had ever taken him into the Las Vegas lounge act circuit . The piano solo says it all. Unfortunately, this previously unissued track does little to enhance Ernie's stellar reputation. (CD)

16.5 - Got You On My Mind (Ernie Chaffin)
(Ernie Chaffin) (Previously Unissued)

By contrast, this unisued track is an out-and-out delight. It is obviously a demo, a simple vocal/guitar version of a delightful melodic country tune. Maybe the lyrics needed a little polishing but the innate drive and joy of the effort transcend the technical limitations. It is unfortunate that this engaging little snippet was never worked into a full arrangement during Ernie's golden period at Sun, (HD)

16.6 - Born To Lose (Ernie Chaffin)
(Frankie Brown) (Original Sun 307)

After Sun 275, it took over eighteen months for Sun to release another single on Ernie. Unfortunately, the product was not worth the wait. Granted ''I'm Lonesome'' was a tough act to follow but this represents an artistic lowpoint in Chaffin's Sun career.

There was certainly nothing wrong with the song. Ted Daffan had composed it during the early years of the second World War and later copyrighted it under his mother's maiden name. "I always loved the song'', recalls Ernie. "Even when I was a young kid I used to sing it in clubs around Gulfport and I thought it would be a good time to bring it back. But as soon as we released it Johnny Cash came out with it and so did Ray Charles and Dean Martin. Ray Charles' record as copied almost to a 't' from mine. I felt he heard my version, recorded it and knocked me out of the saddle''. (It is just conceivable that Charles heard Ernie's version but it strains credibility a little to suggest that he stole the thunder. Sun 307 was issued in September 1958 and Ray Charles did not have a hit with ''Born To Lose'' until the late months of 1962. (HD)(CE)

16.7 - (Nothing Can Change) My Love For You (Ernie Chaffin)
(Helen Hall) (Original Sun 307)

This was another maudlin excursion that probably said a lot about the way Jack Clement perceived the country market in 1958. Unfortunately, it has not survived the years nearly as well as the stark under produced recordings that still retain their elemental charm, regardless of season.

Ernie recalled, "I understand that (composer) Helen Hall was from Texas. We were recording and I think Bill Justis asked me to listen to this song and I loved it. He asked me if I would record it and I said yes. So, he called Texas and got permission from Helen Hall to use the song. She had heard some of my records and she said she'd be thrilled. I think we could have done a better job on it than did. I was disappointed, I had so many people trying to tell me how to sing it and you know that if you don't sing from your heart, it doesn't work''. (HD)

16.8 - Miracle of You (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Previously Unissued)

This is the bed-track for the song which appeared on one side of Ernie's final Sun outing It is a pleasant but undistinguished pop-country ballad although Ernie's distinctive vocal style retrieves some country interest. The finally issued version contained contributions from piano and a vocal chorus. (HD)

16.9 - Please Don’t Ever Leave Me (Ernie Chaffin)
(Murphy Maddux) (Original Sun 320)

What a joyous surprise to have Ernie depart from Sun in style every bit as memorable as his arrival - perhaps even more countrified! After the pop experiments and excesses ''Please Don 't Ever Leave Me'' was a blessed return to fundamentals. Ernie's vocal is unadorned country and Ernie work is mainstream country steel guitar. Interestingly, this final offering, by virtue of being so uncompromisingly country, lacks some of the brooding intensity of Chaffin's earlier work but makes up for it in pure country charm. (HD)

Photos Courtesy:
Front Cover: Ernie Chaffin
Back Cover: L to R: Ernie Chaffin & Pee Wee Maddux, 1954

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-9 mono

Mack Self

Mack Self was always a stone country singer at heart and several of the songs on his side of this set are as good as any country music you will hear. Mack also tried a variety of other styles at Sun with varying degrees of success, but he always retained a country purity in his vocals and his band was never going to let anyone knock off too many rough edges. The ''take-off'' lead guitar of Therlow Brown is a delight and combines with the slap bass playing of Jimmy Evans to support Mack in giving us all that was best in 1950s hillbilly music, Memphis style. (MH)

Record 9 Side 17 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 9
17.1 - Easy To Love (Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)
17.2 - Goin’ Crazy (Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)
17.3 - Everyday (Mack Self) (Original Sun 273)
17.4 - Easy To Love (2) (Mack Self) (Original Sun 273)
17.5 - Mad At You (Mack Self & Jimmy Evens) (Original Phillips International PI 3548)
17.6 - Vibrate (Mack Self) (Not Originally Issued)
17.7 - Little One (Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)
17.8 - Lovin’ Memories (Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)
17.9 - Willie Brown (Mack Self) (Original Phillips International PI 3548)
Original Sun Recordings

17.1 - Easy To Love (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)

Now this is a real alternative version. Instead of the featured steel guitar runs and the drum-strengthened rhythm Of Sun 273, we have the fiddle of Bill Cantrell playing the song with an altogether different overall sound. This was probably the way the song was first meant to be heard. Mack Self came up from Arkansas to see Bill Cantrell with the song in 1955 and the two worked the tune up for Sam Phillips to hear. ''Easy To Love'' was always one of the very best Sun records ever made. Now we have two .sequally fine versions to savour. (MH)

17.2 - Goin’ Crazy (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)

From the same 1955 session as the previous tracks, this is a marvellous amalgam of hillbilly and rockabilly. The slap bass drives things along behind some fairly intricate guitar and fiddle work. Self''s vocals are pure country right from the Lefty Frizzell imitation at the start – It's my - bay-ay-bee''. Very few songs contained in the hundreds of Sun session tapes were as welcome as ''Easy To Love'' and ''Goin' Crazy'' when the boxes were finally opened again after some twenty or thirty years. (MH)

17.3 - Everyday (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Original Sun 273)

Mack Self must have been dreaming in waltztime when he recorded this original flipside to ''Easy To Love''. Again, Self contributes a catchy and engaging, performance that features very basic instrumental support. There is simple low string guitar line throughout arrangement that serves as the song's underpinning. The second guitar part, featuring more complex high string playing, works in harmony with Self's vocal to good effect, The brief instrumental lead-in to the song, which is repeated prior to and midway during. The solo, is especially effective. (HD)

Note: The song ''Everyday'' of Mack Self (Sun 273-A) can you hear on the soundtrack of the American neo-crime drama TV series ''Breaking Bad'' (January 20, 2008, to September 29, 2013), season 5, episode 11 with the title ''Confession''.

17.4 - Easy To Love (2) (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Original Sun 273)

It is hard to listen to ''Easy To Love'' a quarter century later, and not be struck by its sheer beauty. Surely Sam Phillips shared this view because something persuaded him to release it in 1957 when the record had little chance or commercial success. Within the context of Sun's release schedule, ''Easy To Love'' fell smack in the middle of rockabilly items like Carl Perkins' ''That's Right'' and Ray Harris's ''Greenback Dollar''. It was flanked by even less countrified rockers like Tommy Blake ''Lordy Hoody'' and Wade Dick ''Bob Bop Baby''. In short ''Easy To Love'' was a pure country outing, the very thing from which Sun was progressively shying away. All-of which underscores just how direct its impact must, have peen on Phillips for him to schedule its release.

Commercialism aside, what has contributed to the beauty of ''Easy To Love''? Self's vocal, while not powerful, is rather idiosyncratic. His line "I 'm turning you loose" is followed only by wordless humming in the first verse: Two bars without a lyric. This tension is resolved in the last verse when the same line is finally completed with "I'm letting you go''. A nice touch, especially surrounded by the drama of the sustained chord and cymbal at the finale.

Rhythmically, the song achieves a surprising momentum from the echoey drumming and acoustic guitar. In fact, if it can be said that a waltz is driving, then this one surely qualifies. The instrumental work seems serviceable, not flashy throughout, with its simple Luther Perkins-like lead guitar. Even the steel, an instrument often given to tasty riffs and virtuosity, is played in flawless but rudimentary style. The record simply has an understated charm that asserts itself almost immediately.

Fore some reason, one throwaway. feature (absent from the recently discovered alternate take) has always focussed my memory of this song. The band hits a passing 2-minor chord between halves of the verses. It comes right after the lines ''Like they're brand new" and "between you and me". One would expect a conventional 5-2-5 transitional sequence, but instead there's that implied 2-minor chord. A mistake? I've long since stopped caring. It's simply beautiful. (HD)

17.5 - Mad At You (Mack Self & Jimmy Evens)
(Mack Self) (Original Phillips International PI 3548)

The vogue for gunfighter ballads gave Mack Self his last gasp at Sun (see ''Willie Brown''). For a flipside they headed back in time for this charming anachronism which lay amouldin in the vaults. The evidence points to the second vocalist being bassist Jimmy Evans not Charlie Feathers as had been thought. In any case the rural lyric was hardly a match for the pop market in 1959. Purists might like to note Self's lyric fluff immediately following the second guitar solo. (HD) (CE)

17.6 - Vibrate (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Not Originally Issued)

Some hillbilly artiste made an effortless transition to rockabilly. For others the rites of passage were more difficult. As this track reveals, Mack Self was among the latter. Other than Jimmy Van Eaton's stalwart drumming, little seems to go right here. One exception is a simple repeated two-chord part that lends an element of charm throughout.

Self sounds a tad uncomfortable with the tempo and in his hands ''vibrate '' becomes a three syllable word. At one point he rhymes it with ''hibernate''. Ironically, Selfs confrere from,' the. Arkansas Cotton Choppers, Conway Twitty also recorded a song in 1958 " it the word ''Vibrate'' in the title. (CE) (/HD)

17.7 - Little One (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)

Issued here for the first time, this country ballad seems to be no more than an early run-through. The song was never worked up for release, perhaps because it is essentially just re-juggled cliches. It certainly lacks. the stunning images of ''Easy To Love'' and in comparison it is easy to see why Sam Phillips decided to a leave it on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, from this distance it provides a welcome addition to the unfortunately small legacy of Mack Self recordings. (MH) (CE)

17.8 - Lovin’ Memories (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Previously Unissued)

This early take of ''Lovin' Memories'' (a song erroneously released in the past as ''Love Love Memories'') retains a strong country feel despite the presence .of Jimmy Van Eaton on drums and Martin Willis on saxophone. It has the same genuine rockabilly (hillbilly song with a rocking beat) feel as some of the Warren Smith items such as ''Hank Now Medley'' and ''Dear John''. (MH)

17.9 - Willie Brown (Mack Self)
(Mack Self) (Original Phillips International PI 3548)

The Kingston Trio have a lot to answer for here. This track has obvious connections not only to Tom Dooley, but also to assorted gunfighters spawned by Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. About the only redeeming feature musically, other than Self's powerful vocal, is Brad Suggs' 3-note lead-in to each chorus. Martin Willis's madly hopping sax adds a note of incongruity to the proceedings: ''Yakety Ya''k meets Tom Dooley. (HD) (CE)

Onie Wheeler & Jerry Lee Lewis

Although long thought to have recorded for Sun in 1959, it now appears as though Onie Wheeler actually recorded at the tail end of 1957. At that time Onie was touring with the hot Sun acts of the day including Jerry Lee Lewis who had just shot from the supporting cast to headliner. Most of the songs on this side, probably recorded within a few weeks of each other in the later months of 1957, show two artists coming to terms with the ferment in pop and country music. Each is playing the new music in a distinctive and uncompromising way. Only ''I'm The Guilty One'', a sweet anomaly from 1959, is untalented by shades of rock and roll. (CE)

Record 9 Side 18 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 9
18.1 - I’m Feelin’ Sorry (1) (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Previously Unissued)
18.2 - I’m Feelin’ Sorry (2) (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Previously Unissued)
18.3 - I’m The Guilty One (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Not Originally Issued)
18.4 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (1) (Onie Wheeler) (Previously Unissued)
18.5 - Walkin’ Shoes (Onie Wheeler) (Not Originally Issued)
18.6 - That’s All (Onie Wheeler) (Not Originally Issued)
18.7 - Tell ‘em Off (Onie Wheeler) (Original Sun 313)
18.8 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (2) (Onie Wheeler) (Original Sun 313)
18.9 - Bonaparte’s Retreat (Onie Wheeler) (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

18.1 - I’m Feelin’ Sorry (1) (Jerry Lee Lewis)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

This stellar alternate versions of ''I'm Feelin', Sorry'', together with the second version that follows, lay in a tape box assigned to Billy Riley for almost thirty' years. As such, they were not considered for the Jerry Lee Lewis ''Sun Years' boxed set. For some reason, Jerry' has chosen to deliver his vocal in a strangulated near-falsetto key. The backing track is a little ragged in places but, once again. Jerry Lee and Jimmy Van Eaton constitute a working definition. of "empathy". This was an interesting approach to the song but understandably soon abandoned. (CE)

18.2 - I’m Feelin’ Sorry (2) (Jerry Lee Lewis)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

The standout feature of this version is Jerry's phrasing. He is taking amazing liberties - and pulling it off. The tempo is borderline frantic but no-one loses it. Roland Janes turns in a lovely little solo with some help from his tremolo bar and,as always, Jimmy Van Eaton outstanding. Once again, it sounds as though this was an experiment that someone (probably Jack Clement) decided had little commercial merit. (CE)

18.3 - I’m The Guilty One (Jerry Lee Lewis)
(Jack Clement) (Not Originally Issued)

Although this is identical to the version issued on ''The Jerry Lee Lewis Sun Years'' box, one does not really need an excuse to reprise this neglected classic. Details surrounding it's origins are hard to come by. It appears to have been committed to tape almost one year to the day after .Jerry was chased out of England and it stood no chance in the pop marketplace of mid 1959. It may even have been ''too'' country for the country market. The vocal in particular is rich with the iruensity of his best Hank Williams interpretations. There is not too much distance between this and the country superstardom that lay a few years ahead. (CE) (HD)

18.4 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (1) (Onie Wheeler)
(Onie Wheeler) (Previously Unissued)

This undubbed bed-track reveals that Onie Wheeler overdubbed his harmonie part during both the solo and the fadeout. The little duet on the fade is particularly nice. Onie's vocal is also a sheer-delight (even his pre-song count-off is entertaining). The song is essentially a joyous piece of nonsense, taken for a ride by Onie and the stalwart Sun backup trio. (HD)

18.5 - Walkin’ Shoes (Onie Wheeler)
(Onie Wheeler) (Not Originally Issued)

Once again, Onie lays into some straight-ahead 1950s country rock. The charm of his mid tempo recordings has been replaced by a driving sound. The rhythm section of Stan Kesler on bass, Jimmy Wilson on piano and Jimmy Van Eaton on drums is outstanding but it is the guitar of Roland Janes rather than Onie's harmonica that grabs the solo honours. In the vocal department, Onie's little flashes of falsetto are especially effective. (CE) (HD)

18.6 - That’s All (Onie Wheeler)
(Onie Wheeler) (Not Originally Issued)

This is a conventional stop-rhythm rocker that bears a marked similarity to the previous cut. On this occasion, the pianist sits it out and Roland Janes takes two wonderful little solos. Onie works in a few more flashes of falsetto but this was essentially a skimpy piece of material that ends up sounding better than it should have. In fact, Onie handles this material with surprising finesse considering that he spent damned near every Saturday night on stage at the Ryman auditorium with Roy Acuff playing music that was a fair distance from Sun rockabilly. (CE) (HD)

18.7 - Tell 'Em Off (Onie Wheeler)
(Onie Wheeler) (Original Sun 313)

Onie had a sizeable hit during his CBS days with ''Run 'Em Off''. Here he picks up the same theme in a different place and time. Onie works well within the context of the Sun sound. His distinctive vocal is enhanced by the slap-back echo which also fattens up the echoey low string guitar figure. (HD)

18.8 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (2) (Onie Wheeler)
(Onie Wheeler) (Original Sun 313)

It appears as though this single was held back for almost one and a half years before it finally saw the light of day. Perhaps it had been considered to be too countrified for 1957. Despite his misgivings about the unprofessional atmosphere at Sun, this recording really showcases Onie's idiosyncratic style. The March 2, 1959 issue of Billboard rated the song with two stars and said that it had ''fair prospects''. Their review may have been commercially astute but failed to notice the distinctive and charming hybrid produced by Onie and Sun sound. (HD) (CE)

18.9 - Bonaparte’s Retreat (Onie Wheeler)
(Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart) (Not Originally Issued)

Now here is an oddity. Onie's harp finally gets its workout on this old warhorse - but there's a new wrinkle. The song is in a major key, a secret that no-one seems to have shared with the guitar player. Or, it is possible that he is well aware of it but chooses to play in the style that Sid Manker used to such good effect on ''Raunchy''. It features an abundance of flatted thirds that blur the tonality between major and minor. There is an unquestionable amount of instrumental tension here, pushed even further by the incessant rhythm but, ultimately, the track suffers from a lack of variety. It begins to sound more like loop than a jam session, It is a pity that someone did not dig into the chord changes and take a good solo. (HD)

Photo Courtesy Front Covert: Martin Hawkins
Mack Self

Photo Courtesy Back Cover: Hank Davis
Onie Wheeler
Jerry Lee Lewis, Jack Dempsey, and Jud Phillips

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-10 mono

Johnny Cash, Tommy Blake & Jack Clement

Johnny Cash and Jack Clement worked closely together at Sun Records for about a year from mid-1957 when Sam Phillips found he was becoming too busy to supervise all Cash sessions personally. Clement was influential in widening the appeal of Cash's sound. The two men started from somewhat different points, however. Cash had a country gospel background and brooding,intensity while Clement favoured a lighter feel to his music born of earlier days playing bluegrass and then western swing steel guitar. Clement's aim was to make Cash's sound more musical. Here we trace the original Cash sound through its transformation taking in several interesting demos on the way. Jack Clement then gives us his own version of Sun country - a lighter acoustic style but, like Cash, rooted in the story song tradition of country music. (MH)

Record 10 Side 19 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 10''
19.1 - Train Of Love (Johnny Cash) (Previously Unissued)
19.2 - Home Of The Blues (Johnny Cash) (Previously Unissued)
19.3 - Ballad Of A Broken Heart (Tommy Blake) (Previously Unissued)
19.4 - Story of A Broken Heart (Johnny Cash) (Previously Unissued)
19.5 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)
19.6 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Johnny Cash) (Previously Unissued)
19.7 - Quinch My Thirst (Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)
19.8 - Ten Years (Jack Clement) (Original Sun 291)
19.9 - Your Lover Boy (Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)
19.10 - The Black Haired Man (Jack Clement) (Original Sun 311)
19.11 - Wrong (Jack Clement) (Original Sun 311)
Original Sun Recordings

19.1 - Train Of Love (Johnny Cash)
(Johnny Cash) (Previously Unissued)

This remains one of Johnny Cash's most powerful and striking train songs. The overall effect of this slightly faster alternative version is perhaps less brooding, but the guitar part from Luther Perkins is more interesting. The simple guitar figure he uses is borrowed from the song's melody. He opens and closes with it and bases his solo on it as well. Although it's not what we're used to hearing, this approach is certainly not without merit. (HD)

19.2 - Home Of The Blues (Johnny Cash)
(Johnny Cash-G. Douglass-L. McAlpin) (Previously Unissued)

This song marked Jack Clement's debut behind the glass for a Johnny Cash session. Clement has said that he found the original Cash sound a little ''tubby'' and there is already one subtle addition here a second electric guitarist. Sid Manker plays the treble strings while Luther Perkins sticks to safer ground after his guitar manual intro. By the time the song was released in 1957, Clement had taken a different version and overdubbed a piano and subdued chorus which themselves produced a curiously muddy sound. This undubbed version finds Cash singing marginally higher than he often did and there may be a slight loss of intensity, but it is a pleasure to hear the song without the piano and vocal additions after all this time. The song itself may have been inspired by the record shop of the same name which was a feature of downtown Memphis until urban renewal took its toll. (CE) (MH)

19.3 - Ballad Of A Broken Heart (Tommy Blake)
(Sam Phillips) (Previously Unissued)

It appears as though Tommy Blake gained his entre to Sun by recording a set of demo tunes sometime late in 1957. By this point, Johnny Cash was hoarding all his new material for his Columbia sessions some eight months distant, and Sun's little army or songwriters had a golden opportunity to pitch material at the departing superstar. Sam Phillips, listened to the demo tape and wrote "Ballad of a broken heart, real good" on the slip of paper that' accompanied the box.

It was indeed real good. Blake had the good sense to demo the song with an approximation of Luther Perkins' guitar part so that it would not require much imagination to see how the finished product would sound. (CE)

19.4 - Story of A Broken Heart (Johnny Cash)
(Sam Phillips) (Previously Unissued)

By May 1958 Cash was recording on almost a daily basis at Sun to work off his commitment. There was a double session on May 15 and it appears likely that this previously unissued take derives from that session. Blake's "ballad .." had by now become the "story of a broken heart" and there were a couple of other lyric changes but Cash obviously did not have the commitment or the time to change too much.

By the time the issued version (Sun 343) made its way onto a budget album in the mid 1960s, Sam Phillips had bought the copyright from Tommy Blake and it remains in his name. (CE)

19.5 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

Presumably, this is the original version of Jack Clement's homey little mid-American saga. It contained a few couplets that didn't make it to the final version. These include "She was queen of the senior prom/ She could cook just like her mom''. Did Jack Clement have his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek when he congested this sugary-little epico We may never know,

Clement had the slapback working for this demo. The tape delay gives all of Clement's s's a sibilant quality that is probably a little overdone . It certainly shows that Phillips was not the only person at Sun fascinated with tape delay. (CE)

19.6 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (Johnny Cash)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

Following Clement's demo pretty closely, this is an early Cash reading of a song that would take the country boy to a wider teenage market. The song was always a calculated shot at the pop market but this version, with its stripped down backing has considerable country charm. (MH)

19.7 - Quinch My Thirst (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

Clement was writing a lot of songs during 1957, many of which appeared on Sun discs. This one didn't quite make it although it is virtually certain that Johnny Cash was invited to render it in his gentle baritone. There is an undeniable musicality lying beneath Clement's work but the visceral quality that Sam Phillips cherished, and which sets apart the music he recorded, is nowhere in sight. (CE)

19.8 - Ten Years (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Original Sun 291)

Clement displays his penchant for story songs with this traditional-sounding ballad. There are some rather weak rhymes and the chorus certainly shows where Clement's musical soul lay. He wanted to make records that were both pretty and musical. This is both, but it somehow lacks the impact of the earlier country music recorded for Sun. (CE)

19.9 - Your Lover Boy (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Previously Unissued)

The undubbed bed track of ''Your Lover Boy'' shows that Clement and his buddies had cranked up a rocking opus from a slender premise. If you listen to the lyrics, you can see that they are almost totally nonsensical, full of non-sequiturs etc..

However, the undubbed master gives us a clearer view of the innate drive and simplicity that was diluted by the overpowering chorus. Clement obviously intended to overdub a chorus because there are gaping holes in the arrangement but, with almost thirty years perspective, the song probably sounds better in its nakedness. (CE) (HD)

19.10 - The Black Haired Man (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Original Sun 311)

"In spite of a lot of good natured kidding from his co-workers, Jack has delved seriously into a study of traditional folk ballads as a background for his efforts at creating new stories to he told in updated folk style''.

Thus wrote Barbara Barnes in an attempt to sell Jack Clement as part of the great continuum of folk balladry. He was obviously straddling two stools; country music and the ersatz folk revivalism of the Kingston Trio and their ilk. As a story-song this does not have a great deal of merit and hardly justifies the hours of research that Ms. Barnes seemed to think Clement had devoted to it. Quite simply, it sounds as though Clement had concocted the tune for Johnny Cash and then decided to record it himself. He kept the chorus under control and there is an undeniable drive -to the song but its prettiness was so markedly different from the country music that Phillips had recorded in the same studio a few years earlier. (CE)

19.11 - Wrong (Jack Clement)
(Jack Clement) (Original Sun 311)

This must have stood a fair chance of success in the pop sweepstakes. The prominently miked brushwork provides a fine drive to the record in much the same way that the deadened acoustic guitar underpinned many of Johnny Cash's best recordings with a similar sound. (CE)

Gene Steele, Mississippi Slim, Hardrock Gunter, The Rhythm Rockers,
Wanda Ballman & The Dixieland Drifters

On the final side of this set we have collected together several fine recordings associated with Sun Records, which were either recorded elsewhere or about which there is some question as to recording date. (MH)

Record 10 Side 20 ''The Sun Country Years, Volume 10''
20.1 - Alimony Blues (Gene Steele) (Previously Unissued)
20.1 - Daisy Bread Boogie (Gene Steele) (Previously Unissued)
20.3 - Try Doin’ Right (Mississippi Slim) (Previously Unissued)
20.4 - Fallen Angel (Hardrock Gunter) (Original Sun 201)
20.5 - Gonna Dance All Night (Hardrock Gunter) (Original Sun 201)
20.6 - Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby (Rhythm Rockers) (Original Sun 248)
20.7 - Fiddle Bop (Rhythm Rockers) (Original Sun 248)
20.8 - Honky Tonk Girl (Wanda Ballman) (Previously Unissued)
20.9 - I’m Gonna Find Her (Dixieland Drifters) (Previously Unissued)
20.10 - Maybe Tomorrow (Dixieland Drifters) (Previously Unissued)
Original Sun Recordings

20.1 - Alimony Blues (Gene Steele)
(Gene Steele) (Previously Unissued)

This song was once issued on a bootleg under the name of Earl Peterson. However, the vocal styles of the two men seem wholly dissimilar except for the yodel. That left us with the problem of determining the identity of the mystery artist. We started by playing the song for anyone we could find who was connected with the country recording scene in Memphis. Sam Phillips, Quinton Claunch, Bill Cantrell, Doug Poindexter and many others wished us well but offered us no real leads. Although the artist appeared very assured before the microphone, the song was never registered with BMI and a comparison of the voice with a multitude of post-War Memphis recordings still left us nowhere. Finally, Bill Diehl, a bass player and country bandleader in Memphis came up with the opinion that this artist was undoubtedly Gene Steele. Subsequent enquiries of the Steele family seem to support this, though unfortunately Steele himself died in 1985. Steele was known as the ''Singing Salesman'' and appeared on Memphis radio for over 20 years. His only records were made back in the 1930s, and it was to the 1930s style of Jimmie Rodgers that Steele returned on the day sometime in the early 1950s when he recorded this song for Sam Phillips. ''Alimony Blues'' is a very fine country performance that would have sat very nicely on a yellow Sun 78 in about 1953. The accompanying guitarist and bass player as yet remain unidentified. The alimony theme had first been recorded in 1928 by Buddy Baker on Victor, and then in 1933 by Bill Cox and by Jimmie Davis. None of these songs is the same as Steele's however, and this may be to some degree an original song. Either way, it is one of the best country performances in this set. (MH) (CE)

20.2 - Daisy Bread Boogie (Gene Steele)
(Gene Steele) (Previously Unissued)

Like ''Alimony Blues'', this recording had us thrown for several years and the reference to "Pennington" had us checking out a string of Memphis and Cincinnati based singers to no avail. Also, there was a Pennington Milling Company in Cincinnati but no-one remembered the ''Daisy Bread''. It is clear that Gene Steele is also the artist on this song, so the mystery is to a degree solved. Whether Sam Phillips recorded this as a potential record release or as a radio advertisement, we will probably never know. No matter, really, for it is a fine country boogie that makes welcome contribution to this set. (MH)

20.3 - Try Doin’ Right (Mississippi Slim)
(Ausborn-Garner) (Previously Unissued)

The date of this demo recording is not clear, but it was probably made in the middle of the 1950s when Slim, real name Lee Ausborn, was resident in Memphis. A few years earlier, Slim had recorded for the Tennessee label of Nashville in a variety of honky tonk and hillbilly styles. This demo recording has rather more energy than the Tennessee discs, and it is easy to see how Sun could have turned this into an interesting record either in an uptempo style or as a rockabilly item. Sim's lyrics are in the best tradition of country laments about cheating partners, but they contain a humorous and lighthearted approach that lifts the song out of the ordinary. (MH)

20.4 - Fallen Angel (Hardrock Gunter)
(Sidney Gunter) (Original Sun 201)

Only the sax break distinguishes this side from the country mainstream of 1954. The theme is familiar in fact, Bob Wills issued an unrelated song called ''Fallen Angel'' in March 19541 and Gunter's vocal owes a heavy debt to western swing balladry. This is a very straight performance with none of the off-the-wall character of Phillips' best work. It actually stood a fair chance of garnering some action in the country market of that far-off year. Gunter was a known quantity and the single as a strong double-sided contender by the standards of the time. It was probably Phillips' lack of promotional capital and the unfamiliarity with the market that doomed it. (CE)

20.5 - Gonna Dance All Night (Hardrock Gunter)
(Sidney Gunter) (Original Sun 201)

This title, sold to Sun in January 1954, is a fusion of rhythm and blues and country music, yet very different from the fusion that Phillips achieved during the same year with Elvis Presley. The reasons are clear: Presley was drawing from hillbilly music and country blues; Gunter was drawing from uptown rhythm and blues and western swing. This uptempo side was very close to the sound that Bill Haley was peddling with increasing success on Essex Records but, despite the fact that the group has a nice feel for the rhythm, Gunter's vocal is very white.

Nick Tosches (in ''Country'') asserted that these titles were recorded in 1950. This is possible but unlikely, although Gunter had recorded another version of this song in 1949 or 1950. Phillips' cheque register shows a series of cheques made payable to Gunter's then current band and the song was copyrighted with Tannen Music on June 24, 1954. (CE)

20.6 - Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby (Rhythm Rockers)
(Sidney Gunter (Original Sun 248)

This fine recording was essentially a home made record that, for a short period, looked set to break and then unaccountably died. Hardrock Gunter, Bobby Durham and Bob Tuston of the Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper band, recorded this song in the WWVA studio in early 1956. Gunter laid down the basic track with vocal and guitar and then Gunter, Durham (who is beating on a cardboard box with a letter opener) and Tuston added the rhythm track before the finished tape was fed through an echo chamber. They employed a number of novel effects, especially during the second chorus in which Gunter imitates a bass. At some point, Gunter contended that the lyrics referred to drug addiction (presumably by virtue of the line 'some monkey's got my baby ..), but, if that is indeed the case, then it was his only journey into the murky water of double entendre.

The completed tape was leased to Cross Country label, and the song was picked up by Bill Randle on WERE (Cleveland, Ohio). It looked set to break when Sam Phillips made some enquiries through Nat Tannen (the publisher) about the possibility of picking up the song on a lease deal. Gunter and Phillips struck a deal but the momentum of the record was lost. Phillips also edited out about twenty seconds of prime bass thumping and imitating. Perhaps he thought that the single was to long or perhaps he thought that the cheap speakers on most radios would not able to pick up the bass playing which would give the illusion that the record had died for 20 seconds. There was a cover version (by Tommy Mitchell on Mercury) but, to all intents and purposes, the record flopped after it was picked up by Sun. The Midas touch had worked in reverse. (CE)

20.7 - Fiddle Bop (Rhythm Rockers)
(Buddy Durham) (Original Sun 248)

In its own way, ''Fiddle Bop'' has as much disarming appeal as ''Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby''. Old time fiddler Bobby Durham, whose act was a staple of WWVA, was obviously trying to bring his music into line with prevailing trends. Straddling two camps, he may have succeeded in getting neither pop nor country airplay. In any event, his efforts were destined to be overshadowed by Gunter's. Despite the presence of the magic buzzword bop, this tune really succeeds as a charming country novelty. It was probably pieced together as a primitive exercise in overdubbing at the WWVA studios. (CE) (MH)

20.8 - Honky Tonk Girl (Wanda Ballman)
(Wanda Ballman) (Previously Unissued)

Wanda Ballman is primarily known to Sun fans as the composer of Carl Perkins' ''I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry''. In fact, the Denver, Colorado DJ was actively pursuing a songwriting and a recording career of her own and sent a number of tapes, such as this, to Sun.

Old Miss Wanda obviously had her Kitty Wells songbook on the night table when she made this demo tape. Wanda brought the appropriate feel to the proceedings and the lyric certainly contains all the requisite images of cheatin', hurtin' and lyin'. Her performance has a homey charm despite some rough edges, but the lyric betrays a stunning lack of originality. When Wanda submitted this demo her chief claim to fame was that she had placed third in a songwriting contest sponsored by Jamboree magazine. At that point, she was a 32 year old musician working at the Bandbox Ballroom in downtown Denver. (HD) (CE)

20.9 - I’m Gonna Find Her (Dixieland Drifters)
(Unknown) (Previously Unissued)

The final tracks on this album are by no means an afterthought or throwaway items. Indeed, theses two recordings by the Dixieland Drifters are in the grand tradition of Sun's hybrid music. Just as Sam Phillips moulded Elvis Presley's style from elements of country music, blues, gospel and pop, here Jack Clement has encouraged an unusual hybrid of bluegrass and rock. These were seen by both Clement and the group as finished masters, not simply experiments.

The Dixieland Drifters were organised by Norman Blake when he and the other band members were still in high school. Blake's dobro was augmented by Hal Culpepper on vocal, Cecil Powell on mandolin, Robert Johnson on banjo, fiddler Bradford (who apparently forsook his instrument on this session) and Sun session stalwart Jimmy Van Eaton. Blake has since become a star on the periphery of country music. His stylish and uncredited picking has adorned countless Nashville sessions. There are also numerous albums available that feature Blake's dobro in variety of sympathetic solo settings.

There is an interesting footnote to ''I'm Gonna Find Her'', Blake was obviously disappointed that these tracks never found their way onto a Sun single circa 1957 and, several years later, a record appeared on the obscure Do-Re-Mi label featuring a Norman Blake group called the Dixielanders. The A-side was ''The Trot'' and it sported an identical musical riff to that used on ''I'm Gonna Find Her''. That record barely sold a copy but it found its way into the hands of Chet Atkins who promptly recorded a cover version by the Browns for RCA. Thus, in barely five years, an •unissued Sun session began a chain of events leading to a mainstream Nashville release and a solid career for Norman Blake. (HD)

20.10 - Maybe Tomorrow (Dixieland Drifters)
(Unknown) (Previously Unissued)

Try an exercise in imagination. Remove the banjo figure and replace it with the identical figure played by RoIand Janes on lead guitar,.Reinforce the acoustic guitar/mandolin backing with Jimmy Wilson's piano. What do you have? A fairly anonymous but quite accomplished Sun rock-a-ballad from 1957. It is really the banjo and the gentle, understated bluegrass harmonies that make this experiment stand out.

The Drifters had apparently drifted in from Chattanooga in the far southeast corner of Tennessee. They had arrived at the invitation of Jack Clement who had worked in a bluegrass unit during his military service
and retained the light folky feel in his own music. He wrote a little note for the tape box saying that the band could be reached c/o their manager, R.L. Blake at Combustion Engineering in Chattanooga. He then presumably played the results of the afternoon's work for Sam Phillips who decided that it was not an experiment he wanted to back commercially. Thirty years later, he would probably agree that it deserves a place in this compilation because it underlines the point that Sun Country was always just a little bit different. (CE)

Photo courtesy: Bear Family Archive
Front Covert : Johnny Cash

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Photo Research Colin Escott
Mastering by Bob Jones

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Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on  > YouTube <


© November 1986 Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-11 mono

Record 11 Side 1 ''The Sun Country Years - Bonus LP''
1.1 - Honky Tonk (Carl Perkins) (Carl Perkins) (1986)
1.2 - Perkins Wiggle (Carl Perkins) (Carl Perkins) (1986)
1.3 - Y.O.U (Carl Perkins) (Carl Perkins) (1986)
1.4 - Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) (Johnny Cash) (1986)
1.5 - If The Good Lords Willing (Johnny Cash) (Jerry Reed) (1986)
1.6 - I Was There There When It Happened (Johnny Cash) (Jimmie David-R.D. Jones) (1986)
1.7 - I Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow (Johnny Cash) (Jimmie Davis-Hank Williams) (1986)
Original Sun Recording

Record 11 Side 2 ''The Sun Country Years - Bonus LP''
2.1 - Goodnight Irene (Jerry Lee Lewis) (John Lomax-Huddie Letbetter) (1986)
2.2 - Ole Pal Of Yesterday (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Jack Clement) (1986)
2.3 - Fools Like Me (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Jack Clement) (1986)
2.4 - I'll Sail My Ship Alone (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Henry Bernard-Lois Mann) (1986)
2.5 - Settin' The Woods On Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis) (Fred Rose-Edward Nelson) (1986)
2.6 - Hazel (Onie Wheeler) (Onie Wheeler) (1986)
2.7 - Long Gone (Onie Wheeler) (Onie Wheeler) (1986)
2.8 - I'll Love For A Lifetime (Onie Wheeler) (Onie Wheeler) (1986)
Original Sun Recordings
2.1-2.5 Original Sun Recordings
2.6-2.8 Original Columbia Recordings

Re-Issue Produced by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins
Executive Production Richard Weize
Special Thanks To Sam Phillips
Mastering by Bob Jones

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