- BEAR FAMILY RECORDS -
Sun Records Compact Disc Reissues
 
CONTAINS
For music (standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <
 
The Sun Years 1956 - 1958 (BCB 15461) Roy Orbison
The Definitive Edition - Volume 1 (BCD 15460) Howlin' Wolf
The Definitive Edition - Volume 2 (BCD 15500) Howlin' Wolf
Just Walkin' In The Rain (BCD 15523) The Prisonaires
The Classic Recordings 1956 - 1960 (BCD 15444) (1-2) Billy Riley
Onie's Bop (BCD 15542) Onie Wheeler
The Classic Sun Recordings 1956 - 1959 (BCD 15525) Sonny Burgess
The Classic Sun Recordings 1956 - 1959 (BCD 15514) Warren Smith
The Be-Bop Boy (BCD 15524) Joe Hill Louis
Rockin' Daddy (BCD 15708) Eddie Bond
Rock Baby, Rock It 1955 - 1960 (BCD 15928) Johnny Carroll
Did You Tell Me (BCD 16220) Narvel Felts
Sun Gospel (BCD 16387) Various Artists
Let's Get Wild (BCD 16837) Rudy Grayzell
Only Believe... (BCD 16893) The Prisonaires
Sun Ballads (BCD 17213) (1-3) Various Artists
Sun Shines On Hank Williams (BCD 17504) Various Artists  
 

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1989 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15461 mono digital
ROY ORBIDON - THE SUN YEARS 1956 - 1958

Compact disc. Bear Family Special Product. 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 logo and catalog number on the disc left at center. On the back cover, Bear Family logo right on bottom. Catalog number in upper right. Contains the complete Roy Orbison's Sun recordings with 19 unissued or rare masters for the first time. Also included an 12-page booklet with liner notes and Orbison's complete session files by Colin Escott.

Producers
Sam C. Phillips and Jack Clement
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Mastered
Jorg Siemer
Photos
Jerry Huffman, The Showtime Music Archive
Thanks to
Dave Booth, and Bill Millar

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

Contains

Roy Orbison's version of "Ooby Dooby" from the Petty sessions was quickly released on Je-Wel Records, the name a rough acronym from Jean Oliver and Weldon Rogers. The label was underwritten by Oliver's father, Chester, an executive at Gulf Oil. The Teen Kings had met Jean, who played accordion and sang, and her boyfriend, Weldon Rogers, at some of the Friday night jamborees they played in West Texas. Sensing that "Ooby Dooby" might break like "Blue Suede Shoes", Sam Phillips moved fast and brought the Teen Kings to Sun Records to re-record the song.

According to Weldon Rogers, Sam Phillips called him during the ''Ooby Dooby'' session: ''After all of this, Sam Phillips had the nerve to call me one night home when they were doing the session down there. He couldn't get the sound in his studio that Norman Petty had gotten. He told me, ''This is Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Weldon, I understand you cut a record with Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings'. And I said, You ought to know about it'. He said, 'I hope there's no hard feelings... By the way, do you still have the master for that'? Yeah, I've got it'. I'm recording these boys down here and we can't get the sound that they had at Norman Petty's studio and I wonder if you would sell me that master'? I said, 'Yeah, I'll be happy to sell it to you'. 'What would it take to buy it'? I just pulled a figure out of the air: 'I'll take $1,100 for it'. Oh my, he said, 'You ain't got nothing like that much in it'. I said, 'It's not any of your business what I've got in it. You asked me what I'd sell it for. So I'll just keep it''.

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

1 - Ooby Dooby (2:13) 1956 > Sun 242-A <
(Wade Lee Moore-Allen Richard Dick Penner) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

"Go! Go! Go! was copyrighted in 1956 as a co-write between Roy Orbison and his drummer Billy Pat Ellis. In just a matter of months the song yielded further spoils when it was reworked as "Down The Line", the flipside of "Breathless" by Jerry Lee Lewis. By this stage, Roy had waved goodbye to The Teen Kings and Ellis' contribution was ungraciously erased. Sam Phillips wanted one of his own copyrights on the flip-side "Go!, Go!, Go!". The coupling was released in April 1956. Billboard praised its "spectacular untamed quality" and surmised that it would "cash in for plenty of loot in the rural sectors". In fact, it did good business everywhere, eventually reaching number 59 on Billboard's Hot 100.

2 - Go! Go! Go! (2:08)1956  > Sun 242-B <
(Roy Orbison-Billy Pat Ellis) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

There was a welcome surprise on MCA's recent Conway Twitty box: the original version of "Rock House". It really existed, and it revealed, among other things, that Roy Orbison had earned his half-share of the composer credit. He had more-or-less rewritten Twitty's theme song, although that did nothing to stop Twitty from griping at the time and for years after. The tune became the title track for Orbison's lone LP on the original Sun label, a compilation the singer reviled to his dying day.

On ''Rock House'' Jack Clement put plenty of slapback on it (''It was really a sound effect, it was the only effect we had''), but Sam Phillips seemed satisfied with it. Jack took a somewhat dim view of Roy Orbison at the time. ''I thought he and his band were kind of pissy'', he told Memphis music writer John Floyd. ''Roy always had these crazy ideas. He wanted production numbers like he ultimately wound up doing. I told Roy he'd never make it as a balled singer. He never let me forget that either... But me and Roy got to be big buddies later''.

3 - Rockhouse (2:04) 1956 > Sun 251-B <
(Harold Jenkins-Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

The first artist Sam Phillips' let Jack Clement work with on his own was Roy Orbison. Like Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison was unable to find a follow-up to his first hit. He recorded "Rock House", a song that another aspiring Sun act, Harold Jenkins (a.k.a. Conway Twitty), had worked up as a theme song for his group, the Rockhousers. It was coupled with Johnny Cash's execrable song, "You're My Baby", originally "Little Woolly Booger". Billboard once again was effusive in its praise of Orbison's "sock showmanship", but its recommendation failed to take account of the fact that "Rock House", released in September 1956, was already behind the times.

Roy Orbison makes a return engagement as a rockabilly singer here, but failed to capitalize on the momentum of "Ooby Dooby". Despite his prowess as a songwriter, Orbison turned to outsiders for this both sides of this disc. Its plain that he knew his way around the bluesy stop rhythm of "You're My Baby". In contrast, there is nothing funnier in the Sun archives than listening to Johnny Cash stumble his awkward way through the original demo of this tune.

''You're My Baby'' was an uncharacteristic song for its writer, Johnny Cash. Its verses consist of 8 bars of stop-rhythm and then proceed into the chorus. At the end of the stop-rhythm segment, Ellis's rimshots announce that the chorus is about to start. Otherwise, his drumming is pretty subdued - keeping time, marking the stops, and little else until the second guitar solo. But as that solo progresses, the drumming gets more energized, and reaches a peak behind the final vocal verse. That dramatic crescendo brings the record to an exciting climax, and it's all due to Billy Pat Ellis's drumming.

4 - You're My Baby (2:04) 1956 > Sun 251-A <
(Johnny R. Cash) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

1-4 Recorded March/April 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Johnny Wilson (guitar), James Morrow (mandolin),
Jack Kennelly (bass), Billy Pat Ellis (drums)

Roy Orbison sought to rectify that problem when he returned to the studio to cut his third Sun single, "Sweet And Easy To Love", backed with "Devil Doll". Taking his cue from Elvis Presley and The Jordanaires, Orbison had brought a vocal group, the Roses, in from Odessa, Texas for the session. The group consisting of Robert Linville, tenor; Ray Rush, baritone; and David Bigham, bass. They performed at high school dances, community events and on local television.

The midpaced ballad "Devil Doll" allowed Orbison's true musical soul to come up for air for the first time. By this point, Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings had parted company and Roy was working with session musicians and Sun's new engineer, Jack Clement.

5 - Sweet And Easy To Love (2:10) 1957 > Sun 265-A / Sun 353-A < 
(Sam C. Phillips-Roy Orbison) (Knox Music Incorporated)

6 - Devil Doll (2:08) 1957 > Sun 265-B / Sun 353-B <
(Sam C. Phillips-Roy Orbison) (Knox Music Incorporated) 

5-6 Recorded December 14, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), James M. Van Eaton (drums),
Stan Kesler (bass), The Roses (vocal chorus)

7 - Chicken Hearted (2:15) 1957 > Sun 284-B <
(Roy Orbison-Bill Justis) (Knox Music Incorporated)

8 - I Like Love (2:30) 1957 > Sun 284-A < 
(Jack Clement) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

7-8 Recorded October Unknown Date(s) 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
or Sid Manker (bass), Otis Jett (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
or Jimmy Smith (piano), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone)

9 - Ooby Dooby (Alternate Take) (2:12) 1989 > Not Originally Issued <
(Wade Lee Moore-Allen Richard Dick Penner) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

Even stranger was the fact that Roy Orbison had recorded "Tryin' To Get To You" for Je-Wel Records. Never a real lover rhythm and blues, Orbison had latched on to an obscure song by the Eagles and recorded it at roughly the same time that Elvis Presley recorded a version for Sun Records (that remained unissued until 1956). The most likely scenario is that Elvis Presley sang the tune on one of his forays through Texas and that Roy Orbison learned it from Elvis Presley.

Orbison used Presley's shuffle rhythm and makes the same minor lyrical change that Elvis Presley made. An additional wrinkle was added to the story when Orbison's Je-Well record was leased to Imperial for a B-side to a Weldon Rogers single in 1956.

At the suggestion of Johnny Cash, Orbison approached Sam Phillips at Sun Records, but Phillips rebuffed him saying "Johnny Cash doesn't run my record company". However, Orbison had a stronger ally in Cecil Holifield who operated the Record Shops in Midland and Odessa and had booked Elvis Presley into the area. Holifield sent a copy of the Je-Well record to Sam Phillips who heard something unique in the strangely fragile voice and invited the group to Memphis.

10 - Trying To Get To You (Undubbed) (2:39) 1989 > Not Originally Issued <
(Margie C. Singleton-Rose Marie McCoy) (Motion Music Company)

When designated as "Cat Called Domino", this untypical mumblefest from Roy Orbison nowaday's carries a co-writer credit for Norman Petty. Petty was Roy's original producer down in Clovis, New Mexico, and this tenuous sharing of the spoils is attributable to Roy recutting the song during a return visit to the Petty studio in 1957. Despite the strong performance here, the track was released - albeit with unnecessary overdubs - only after Roy Orbison had achieved international success.

11 - Domino (Undubbed) (2:14) 1973 > Not Originally Issued <
(Sam Phillips) (Knox Music Incorporated)

12 - It's Too Late (Unubbed) (2:47) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Chuck Willis) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

13 - You're Gonna Cry (Undubbed) (2:05) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Sam C. Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

14 - This Kind Of Love (Undubbed) (2:07) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Sam C. Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

9-14 Recorded March/April 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Johnny Wilson (guitar), James Morrow (mandolin),
Jack Kennelly (bass), Billy Pat Ellis (drums)

15 - Mean Little Mama (Undubbed) (1:55) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Sam C. Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

15 Recorded October Unknown Date(s) 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
or Sid Manker (bass), Otis Jett (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
or Jimmy Smith (piano)

16 - I Never Knew (Undubbed) (2:20) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

16 Recorded March/April 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Johnny Wilson (guitar), James Morrow (mandolin),
Jack Kennelly (bass), Billy Pat Ellis (drums)

17 - Problem Child (Undubbed) (2:19) 1988 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

18 - Fools Hall Of Fame (2:26) 1974 > Not Originally Issued <
(Danny Wolfe) (Golden West Music-Warner Chappell Music Limited)

17-18 Recorded October Unknown Date(s) 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
or Sid Manker (bass), Otis Jett (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
or Jimmy Smith (piano), Unknown (chorus)

At this juncture Roy Orbison was also following the mesmeric lead of Elvis Presley. Small wonder then that his petulant "The Cause Of It All" abounds in a sea of vocal hiccups that bounce all around the slapback. To drive the point home one can sense he even curls his lip. Although undocumented, Roy's band The Teen Kings were almost certainly present on this occasion, which was likely to have been little more than a run through at demo level. This would account for the song's haphazard conclusion.

19 - The Cause Of It All (2:23) 1974 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy K. Orbison-Sam Phillips) (Knox Music Limited)

19 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

20 - A True Love Goodbye (2:18) 1974 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison-Norman Petty) (Copyright Control)

20 Recorded October Unknown Date(s) 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
or Sid Manker (bass), Otis Jett (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
or Jimmy Smith (piano)

As a writer, Roy Orbison scored a fleeting Hot 100 hit for Warren Smith with "So Long I'm Gone". He had done even better when Jerry Lee Lewis revamped what he could remember of "Go!, Go!, Go!" as "Down The Line", giving Roy a free ride to the top of the charts on the back of "Breathless". He also submitted a few songs to the departing Johnny Cash, who recorded Orbison's "You Tell Me" during the final crush of sessions that marked his exit from Sun.

Sun fans looking for a fix in October 1958, or simply seeking reassurance that the Phillips International label would occasionally give them some of the real stuff were in a state of ecstasy when this record (PI 3534) appeared in stores. Perhaps more than any previous PI release, this one contained the maniacal raw energy one expected to find in a Sun recording.

This side, a duet of Ken Cook with Roy Orbison, shows that even the ballad - or at least less frenzied side - of a good Sun record can also be inspiring. "I Was A Fool" is a really fine song; its simple, melodic and memorable. After a few listening, you really want to hear that chorus. The amusing thing is that now that Orbison's voice has become a cultural icon, and we've learned its Orbi harmonizing with Cook (something that nobody knew prior to the first wave of Sun archaeology in the 1970s), it seems so obvious. Try listening to the chorus and not focusing on the familiar quality of Orbison singing as loud and clear as he did on "Only The Lonely".

21 - I Was A Fool (Ken Cook) (2:24) 1958 > PI 3534-B < 
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

21 Recorded September 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ken Cook (vocal), Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (guitar),
Jack Clement (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Charlie Rich (piano), Bill Justis (tenor saxophone)

22 - Lovestruck (1:21) 1976 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

23 - You Tell Me (1:31) 1984 > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny R. Cash) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated

24 - I Give Up (1:55) 1984 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

25 - One More Time (1:15) 1976 > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

26 - The Clown (1:42) 1976 > Previously Unissued Alternative <
(Roy Orbison) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

27 - Claudette (2:10) 1974  (Vocal/Guitar Demo) > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Warner Chappell Music Limited)

In January or February 1958, Roy Orbison worked a show in Hammond, Indiana, to pitch some songs to the Everly Brothers. ''I just said hello and headed for the door when they asked if I had any material'', Roy said later. ''I said I had one song and played them ''Claudette''. They said, 'Write down the words, Roy', so I tore off this cardboard box top and wrote down the words''.

Years later, in a deposition taken in conjunction with his lawsuit against Acuff-Rose, Orbison recalled that the Everly's manager, music-publisher, Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose, had sent him a contract for ''Claudette'' in care of Sun Records. ''Sam Phillips got onto the phone'', Roy said, ''and it was a three-way conversation. I remember Sam saying that he wanted to get something out of it because I was his artist. But, I wasn't signed as a songwriter to Sam Phillips. I remember Wesley Rose saying, 'Why do you want part of Roy's money'? And that impressed me. The next morning, I signed the contract for ''Claudette''.

Sam Phillips remembered it differently, insisting that he had the publishing on ''Claudette'' and was being asked to surrender it. If true, that would be because Roy had signed a music publishing deal with Phillips' Hi-Lo Music at the same time he has signed a recording contract with Sun, and this was almost certainly not the case because Roy had written songs that had been demo'd at Norman Petty's studio on which Petty not only half of the composer credit but all of the music publishing. Songs like ''An Empty Cup'' and ''You've Got Love'', both recorded by Buddy Holly in September 1957, would have been co-published by Hi-Lo Music if Roy had been signed to an exclusive Hi-Lo contract.

''The next thing I know'', said Phillips, ''Roy came to me like a gentleman and said he had an opportunity to record for someone else if it was alright with me. Well, we had to sit down and have a little prayer meeting. I considered everything in my interests and hopefully in his and we worked out a deal on the songs which enabled him to do this''. In all likelihood, the discussion played out in a far less friendly fashion. During the threeway conversation with Wesley Rose, Phillips used the threat of dropping Roy from Sun, but when Roy seemed very interested in that prospect, Phillips decided to hold Roy to his Sun option. As part of the deal under which Roy eventually left Sun, he had to sign away the composer's royalties on all the Hi-Lo songs he had written, the most lucrative of which was ''Down The Line (Go! Go! Go!).

One of his infrequent outings took him to Indiana for a concert appearance with The Everly Brothers, and it was there that he played Don and Phil the basis of "Claudette", a eulogy to his then-new wife. As the flipside to their multi-million selling "All I Have To Do Is Dream" it became Roy's dream ticket into Nashville. His full band demo is presented here.

28 - Claudette (1:56) 1988 (Vocal/Group Demo) > Not Originally Issued <
(Roy Orbison) (Warner Chappell Music Limited)

22-28 Recorded January 4, 10, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Roy Orbison (vocal and guitar)

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Roy Orbison's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

ROY ORBISON - Born in Vernon, Texas, on April 23, 1936. His parents, Orbie Lee and Nadine, gave him a guitar for his sixth birthday and taught him the chords to "You Are My Sunshine". Orbie was an auto mechanic in Vernon, but during the war he moved the family to Fort Worth so he could find work in the defense plants. An outbreak of polio in Fort Worth during the war caused his parents to send Roy back to Vernon. After V-J Day they moved back to Vernon as well, soon moving on to the West Texas town of Wink, an oil-boom town close to the Mexican border where Roy grew up in a shotgun shack. His father worked for Olson Drilling, across the state line in Jal, New Mexico.

When he was thirteen Roy Orbison formed his first band, the Wink Westeners, and later renamed as the Teen Kings. His talent had never been in doubt: he had his own radio shows from the age of eight, and when he was ten years old he had played his first paying gig - a medicine show, where he sang the Cajun novelty "Jole Blon". After the Wink Westeners won a talent contest organized by the Pioneer Furniture company in Midland, Pioneer sponsored a weekly television show for them on KMID-TV.

"My first music was country", he recalled to David Booth. "I grew up with country music in Texas. When I was about six, I used to sing Bob Wills "Dusty Skies". Ernest Tubb used to advertise milk back in those days, singing off the back of a truck in Fort Worth when I was there". Hardly surprising that when Roy became a rock and roll singer and sought out the attire to accompany his new image, he drew his inspiration from the Hispanics rather than the blacks. Otherwise though, the music and culture of the Hispanics and even the poor whites of West Texas barely influenced Orbison's style. There was conspicuously little southernness in his music.

The character of the Westeners' music can be judged by their name and the Roy Rogers bandanas they tied jauntily around their necks. "We played whatever was hot", recalls mandolin player James Morrow. "Lefty Frizzell, Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, we did all of their numbers. We also played a lot of Glenn Miller, style songs like "Stardust" and "Moonlight Serenade", which we adapted for string instruments".

Immediately in 1954 after graduation, Orbison worked in the oil fields, playing music at night; then he went to college at North Texas State, transferring to Odessa Junior College for his second year. Ever conscious of security, Roy Orbison studied geology, preparing to follow his father into the oil fields if all else failed.
While at North Texas State, Orbison visited the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. It was there that he saw Elvis Presley for the first time. "First thing", he recalled to Nick Kent, "he came out and spat out a piece of gum onto the stage. He was a punk kid. A weird-looking dude. I can't over-emphasize how shocking he looked and sounded to me that night. He did "Maybellene", and the kids started shouting. There was pandemonium 'cause the girls took a shine to him and the guys were getting jealous. Plus he told some real bad crude jokes. Dumb off-color humor. His diction was real coarse, like a truck driver's. But his energy was incredible and his instinct was just amazing".

One of Roy Orbison's contemporaries at North Texas State was Pat Boone, who had been raised in Nashville but had eloped to Texas with Red Foley's daughter, the one wild-ass move of his life. After a false start on Republic Records, Pat Boone resumed his recording career for Dot Records shortly after he arrived in Denton, and achieved immediate success with his insipid versions of the rhythm and blues hits of the day.
"All these people were doing what I wanted to do", recalled Orbison, "but it seemed as though I was in the wrong place at the right time. I wanted to get a diploma in case I didn't make it in the music business. In the end, though, I decided I didn't want to do anything halfway so I jumped into the music business".

It was Elvis Presley's sound that finally inspired Roy Orbison to contact Sun Records. In 1956 Orbison and his band the Teen Kings, recorded "Ooby Dooby" at their own expense at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. It was the first record ever cut at the now famous recording studio. The release, On Je-Wel Records (JEW-EL 1001) was not successful. But on the insistence of Johnny Cash, Orbison sent Sam Phillips a copy of "Ooby Dooby". Sam Phillips liked the record and had Orbison re-record a slightly different version on his Sun label (SUN 242), with Carl Perkins on lead guitar. The flip-side of "Ooby Dooby" on the Je-Well label was "Trying To Get To You", which Elvis Presley recorded in 1955.

In 1958 the Everly Brothers recorded an Orbison composition titled "Claudette" named after Orbison's wife. (On June 7, 1965, his wife Claudette was killed in a motorcycle accident during a lakeside ride and was crushed by a truck. Then, in September of 1968, while Roy Orbison was touring in England, his two sons died in a fire at his home in Henderson, after playing with gasoline). Like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison went to RCA Victor after leaving Sun Records, but he stayed with RCA for only one year (1958). Orbison departed Sun Records because Sam Phillips wouldn't let him record any ballads. He came into national prominence in 1960 with his first million-seller, "Only The Lonely", on Monument Records (Monument 421). That song and most of his hits were written with Joe Melson. Orbison was Elvis' chief rival from 1960 to 1964, charting a number of hits. Singer Bobby Goldsboro was once a member of Orbison's backup band, the Candymen. (Several members of the Candymen became the Atlanta Rhythm Section in the 1970s, while others joined B.J. Thomas' band Beverteeth).

In May and June 1963, Roy Orbison toured in England with an up-coming British group called the Beatles, making Orbison the only artist to have toured with both Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Elvis Presley greatly admired Orbison's singing. During one of his Las Vegas concerts, Elvis Presley introduced Roy Orbison in the audience and then sang a segment of Orbison's 1964 hit song "Its Over" (Monument 837) Roy Orbison was ignored by the Grammy Awards. He had to wait until 1981 before he received his first Grammy and that was for a duet with Emmylou Harris, "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again". Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne recorded and toured as the Traveling Wilbury's in 1988. Roy Orbison composed and recorded several songs for the 1980 Elvis-related movie "The Living Legend".

When Roy Orbison lost his final about with heart disease, on December 6, 1988, Roy Orbison died of a heart attack in Henderson, Tennessee at the age of 42, an important slice of pop music history died with him. The fact that his fans included Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other apostles of the new age exemplifies the fact that his music had a truly ageless quality. He was the lonely boy out on the weekend without a date. His little pop operas, rife with subdued angst and heartbreak, bore remarkably little evidence of his grounding in southern music. They were indeed timeless and place-less in their appeal. However, unlike many of the true stylists who emerged with their sound fully formed, Roy Orbison was malleable and took almost a decade to find himself.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1989 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15460 mono digital
MEMPHIS DAYS - THE DEFINITIVE EDITION - VOLUME 1

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo left from the center, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Howlin' Wolf Chess/Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter, demos, false starts. Also included in the box, an inlay booklet biography with liner notes by Colin Escott. The inlay also features a detailed session file information by Colin Escott.

Producer
Sam C. Phillips
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Photos
Ernest C. Withers, Steve LaVere Collection
Mastered
Jorg Siemer
Thanks to
Dave Sax

Contains

1 - Oh Red (Take 1) (1989) (Chester Burnett)
2 - My Last Affair (Take 1) (1989) (Chester Burnett)
3 - Come Back Home (Take 1) (1989) (Chester Burnett)

1-3 Recorded July 10, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

4 - California Boogie (1975) (Chester Burnett)
5 - California Blues (1975) (Chester Burnett)
6 - Look-A-Here Baby (1978) (Chester Burnett)
7 - Smile At Me (1978) (Chester Burnett)
8 - My Baby Walked Off (1978) (Chester Burnett)
9 - Drinkin' CV Wine (CV Wine Blues) (1975) (Chester Burnett)
10 - My Troubles And Me (1975) (Chester Burnett)

4-10 Recorded December 18, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), Albert Williams (piano)

11 - Chocolate Drop (1978) (Chester Burnett)
12 - Mr. Highway Man (Cadillac Daddy) (1975) (Chester Burnett)

11-12 Recorded January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), L.C. Hubert (piano)

13 - Bluebird Blues (1978) (Chester Burnett)
14 - Color And Kind (1989) (Chester Burnett)
15 - (Everybody's) In The Mood (1978) (Chester Burnett)
16 - Dorothy Mae (Number 2) (1989) (Chester Burnett)
17 - I Got A Woman (Sweet Woman) (1978) (Chester Burnett)
18 - Decoration Day Blues (1975) (Chester Burnett)
19 - (Well) That's All Right (1975) (Chester Burnett)

13-19 Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal), James Cotton (harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

20 - How Many More Years (1989) (Chester Burnett)
21 - Baby Ride With Me (Ridin' In The Moonlight) (1989) (Chester Burnett)

20-21Recorded May 14, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums)

Original Chess/Sun Recordings, licensed by Bellaphon Scallplatten

1-21 - Not Originally Issued
Howlin' Wolf's Chess recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) - Also known as "Big Foot, 'Bull Cow", born Chester Arthur Burnett had been a farmer, blues singer, and soldier by the time he first recorded. His adopted nickname, though far from original, fittem him with made-to-measure precision.

Born in West Point, Clay County, Mississippi, on June 10, 1910, Burnett developed a fondness for the music of the primordial Delta bluesman Charley Patton, who lived near the Burnett family after they moved to Ruleville, Mississippi.

His father was Dock Burnett (He wasn't no blues singer, but he was a great country ballplayer) and his mother was Gertrude, he was one of 6 children and he frequently sang as a child in the Life Board Baptist Church in Aberdeen, Mississippi. He grew up listening to Charley Patton, Son House, Willie Brown, and the Jackson school of Tommy Johnson with its delicate falsetto moan, in the midst of a Mississippi blues tradition.

In 1923, Burnett moved to the Young and Myers Plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi to work outside in music. In 1928 to 1930s he frequently worked on the local dances, suppers, Saturday-night hops, fish fries, juke joints and the street in the area of Drew, Cleveland, Penton, West Point, and Ruleville, Mississippi. In 1933, Burnett moved to the Nat Phillips Plantation in Twist, Arkansas to work outside of music, but he frequently worked in the local juke joints such as Will Weller's Place, Will Smith's Place, Vandy Cobb's Place as well as frolics and in the streets in Hughes, Arkansas.

During the 1930s Burnett married Willie Brown's sister and his second wife was Lillie Handley until his death. Chester Burnett had 4 children. His half-sister, Mary, was married with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) circa 1937. His nickname "Howling Wolf" was given him as a child for his pranks (or) assumed pseudonym from John "Funny Papa" Smith's hit song of the same name during early 1930s.
"My grandfather give me the name, 'fore he died, John Jones", recalled Howlin' Wolf. "He used to sit down and tell me tall stories about what the wolf would do, y'know, cos I was a bad boy. I was always in devilment. So he told me the story about what the wolf done to Little Red Riding Hood. Every time the girl'd ask him, 'Mr Wolf, what makes your teeth so big??' he said, 'What makes your eyes so red??' "The better I can see you, my dear".

"And then they finally killed a wolf, and drove it up to the house, and I told 'em was a dog. He said, 'No, that's a wolf'. I said, 'What's a wolf do?'. He said, "Howl, y'know. Whoo-oo-oo'. So I got afraid of the wolf and every time I'd kill some of my mother's chickens she'd go "Whoo-oo-oo", and that scared me and made me mad. And that's how they called me Wolf, and I gets mad about this. So they just kept on calling me Wolf and so I got so I didn't care what they called me. But first I was afraid of the wolf, y'know".
"I was three years old when they started calling me Wolf. You know how it is, when people find out you get mad about something they always slip that in. The Wolf, it upset me. I didn't know it was going to be a great name for me".

Howlin' Wolf is influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) and he influenced artists as Woodrow Adams, Butterfield Blues Band, Cream, John Fogerty, Birmingham Jones, Floyd Jones, Little Wolf, John Little john, the Rolling Stones, Sidney Semiens, Johnny Shines, The Tail Dragger (James Jones), Amos Wells Jr., Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds.
Occasional he toured with Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller), with Texas Alexander and others working in juke joints through the states of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi from the mid-1930s. In 1938, Chester Burnett worked with Robert Jr. Lockwood, Baby Boy Warren and others on Beale Street and the Church Park (WC Handy Park) in Memphis, Tennessee. From 1939 to 1940, Burnett worked on Dooley Square in Tunica, Mississippi.

After four years in the service, between 1941 and 1945, Burnett settled in Twist, Arkansas to work outside of music as a farmer. In 1946, he returned to continue farming near Penlon, Mississippi, and formed his own band to work in the juke joints of Lake Cummings, Mississippi. In 1948 before deciding to move to West Memphis, Arkansas. Soon after coming to West Memphis, Wolf secured steady work playing whorehouses, black baseball parks, and other spots that catered to country folk in search of a little diversion. The feral energy with which he sang added a new dimension to the traditional Delta blues upon which he based his style. Wolf landed a spot on KWEM in 1950. Monday through Saturday, he appeared between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m., lacing his blues with pitches for grain and fertilizer. In his fortieth year, he became a hot item among the rural blacks around Memphis. He worked with his own group in Jukes and toured with his own group barrelhouses, smallclubs through the South and appeared as disc jockey, singer, producer, and advertising salesman for KWEM-radio in West Memphis, Arkansas.

"A disc jockey from West Memphis told me about Wolf's show", recalled Sam Phillips to Robert Palmer. "When I heard him, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies". "Then the Wolf came to the studio and he was about six foot six, with the biggest feet I've ever seen on a human being. Big Foot Chester is one name they used to call him. He would sit there with those feet planted wide apart, playing nothing but the french harp and I tell you, the greatest sight you could see today would be Chester Burnett doing one of those sessions in my studio. God, what it would be worth to see the fervour in that man's face when he sang. His eyes would light up, you'd see the veins on his neck and, there was nothing on his mind but that song. He sang with his damn soul!".

From 1951 to 1953, Chester Burnett recorded for Sam Phillip's, Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee were his recordings where released to Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois. A 1951 session with the Wolf playing harmonica as well as singing, guitarist Willie Johnson, drummer Willie Steel and on the b-side, Albert Williams or Ike Turner on piano, produced the single "Moanin' At Midnight"/"How Many More Years". This at least is how discographies usually chart this session, but harmonica player James Cotton, who was also to journey up to Chicago in the 1950s but who was at this time playing with the Wolf in Memphis, and was certainly present on later sessions, recalled in conversation with Paul Trynka being in on the Wolf's recording career from the start.

Later Howlin' Wolf in Chicago, the Chess brothers tried to recreate the sound that Sam Phillips formulated, even to the point of re-recordings some of the unissued titles from Wolf's Memphis sessions. After a few missed cues, Wolf evolved a slightly modified sound in Chicago for Chess, and eventually brought Willie Johnson to join him. He became one of the seminal figures in postwar blues, which ensured that he spent his last years touring college campuses, where he looked strangely out of place amid a sea of freshly scrubbed, young white faces.

Chester Burnett recorded for the RPM label in Memphis, in 1952 appeared on the weekly show on KXJK-radio in Forrest City, Arkansas and moved in 1952 to Chicago, Illinois to work as s single in the 708 Club and other bars and recorded for the Chess label. He worked at the Rock Bottom Club in Chicago in 1953, the Club Zanzibar in Chicago in 1953 to 1954, worked at the Silkhairs Club in West Memphis, Arkansas in circa 1954, at the Hippodrome Ballroom in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1956, Burnett moved back to Chicago and worked at the Sylvio's Lounge and formed his own band for working at the 708 Club in Chicago, worked at the Big Squeeze Club, Chicago in 1959, the Pepper's, Chicago in 1959, and toured with the American Blues Festival for working on concert dates through England and Europe from 1961 to 1964 (portions of his 1964 Musikhalle concert in Hamburg, West Germany are released on the Fontana label. He worked at the First International Jazz Festival in Washington, DC., in 1962 and worked frequently and appeared on the Big Bill Hill Show for radio WOPA in Oak Park, Illinois, and extensive residency at the Sylvio's Lounge in Chicago during 1963 to 1968.

From 1963 to 1965, Burnett worked at the Copa Cabana Club, Chicago (portions released on the Chess label. In 1964 he appeared on the International Jazz Jamboree at the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw, Poland, appeared at the Shinding TV-show for ABC-TV in 1965, worked at the Pepper's in Chicago and worked at the Club 47, Chicago in 1966, at the Newport Folk Festival, Newport, Rhode Island (portions shown in the film "Festival), appeared in Big John's Bar in Chicago, 1966, Cafe A-Go-Go in New York City, 1967, Mother Blues, Chicago in circa 1966, at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1968, and appeared on the TV-show "For Blacks Only" for the local TV-station in Chicago in 1968.

In 1968 to 1969, Burnett appeared at the Club Key Largo, Chicago, and at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto, Canada, at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, the Scene in New York City, appeared on the local show for WNUR-FM-radio in Evanston, Illinois. In 1969, Chester Burnett toured in England and worked on club concert dates and recorded for the Chess label in London, England.

Back in the United States, Burnett worked at the Electric Circus in New York City, toured on and worked on club dates on the West Coast, worked at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New Yersey, at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan 1969 through 1970. He also appeared at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago in 1969 and appeared at the Flamingo Lounge in Chicago during 1969, The Colonial Tavern in Chicago, The Riviera in Chicago, the Quiet Knight in Chicago, the Sutherland Hotel Lounge in Chicago, the Washington Blues Festival, Howard University, Washington, DC., during 1970.

He frequently worked at the Cellar in Chicago, Big Duke's Blue Flame Lounge in Chicago during the early 1970s. In 1971, Howlin' Wolf appeared in the film "Wolf", worked at the Star Dust in Chicago, and the Hunter College in New York City in 1971. Appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana, at the Alice's Revisited in Chicago in 1972 (portion released for the Chess label).

In 1972, Burnett appeared on the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada, at the Esquire Showbar in Montreal, Canada. In 1973, he also performed at the Joe Place's, Cambridge, Massachusetts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, Max's Kansas City in New York City, at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.
Through 1973 to 1975, he appeared and recorded for, El Mocambo Tavern in Toronto, Canada, recorded for Chess in Chicago, appeared and worked for Grendel's Lair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the High Capparral in Chicago, the Pepper's Hideout in Chicago, Sandy's Concert Club in Boston, Massachusetts, the International Blues Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, at Easter Concert in Cocoa Beach in Florida, the Egress in Vancouver, Canada, the Urban Blues Festival, Auditorium Theater in Chicago, and recorded for the Chess label in London, England.

From 1974 to 1975, Chester Burnett appeared and worked at the Concert Club in Montreal, Canada, the Richard's Club in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Sting in Chicago, with B.B. King at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, at the University of Chicago Circle Campus in Chicago, the New 1815 Club in Chicago, the Eddie Shaw's Place (old New 1815 Club) in Chicago all in 1975. Chester Burnett awarded honourary as Doctor of Arts degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois in 1972, and he won the Montreux Festival Award for his album "Back Door Wolf" (Chess 50045) in 1975.

In 1975 inactive in the music Chester Burnett entered Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, where he was operated on cancer. On January 10, 1976, Chester Burnett died of cancer at Hines, Illinois. Burnett is buried at the Oakridge Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

Chester Burnett is one of the major shapers of the electrically amplified modern blues style that has been so dominant an influence on all popular music since his time. Howlin' Wolf's voice, dark, brooding, is vibrantly rich and immediately recognizable, and easily transcended the most banal material, and he is a true artist in every sense of the word.

Talking later about Wolf to biographers James Segrest and Mark Hoffman, Sam Phillips said, ''He had such a soulful sound that even though his words were good blues words, he didn't have to say a sound. Like ''Moanin' At Midnight'', it was a everything just stopped. Time stopped. Everything stopped. All you heard was the Wolf''. Phillips often applied retrospective spin to his reminiscenses, but recently discovered correspondence from 1951 shows that Phillips truly saw the specialness in Wolf right away. He got it first.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15500 mono digital
MEMPHIS DAYS - THE DEFINITIVE EDITION - VOLUME 2
 
Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo left from the center, catalog number in upper right. The Howlin' Wolf Chess/Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued from acetate demos, complete with studio chatter. Also included in the box, an 8-page booklet biography with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features a detailed. Session file information by Colin Escott.
 
Producer
Sam C. Phillips
Re-Issue Producers
Colin Escott and Dave Sax
Mastered
Jorg Siemer
Disc Tape Transfer
Mark Wilder and Richard Weize
Liner Note
Jim Dickinson
Illustrations
Colin Escott
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg
 
The first time I saw Howlin' Wolf I was still too young to know any better. It was the early 1950s. I was with my father at a warehouse in West Memphis, Arkansas. My father and the warehouse manager were counting cartons of clothes pins. Over the hum of the big fans built into the wall I could hear what sounded like jungle drums. I followed the pounding up wooden stairs to an office. Painted on the glass door was a lightning bolt and red letters K-WEM RADIO. The door was open. Four negro men in sunbleached work clothes were playing music. One man - bigger than the others - was growling words I could not understand into a silver microphone. I watched until my father found me.
 

The music stuck in my head and wouldn't go away. I found it later on the radio. K-WEM-1070 WDIA 'The Black spot on Your Dial' WLOK 1340 with Hunky Dory Dewey Phillips Red Hot And Blue on 56 WHBQ.

I had an older friend with a 78rpm copy of Wolf's ''I Love My Baby''. I listened to it over and over. Then one day in Ruben Cherry's Home of the Blues record shop on Beale Street, I saw the gray album cover with the drawing of a lone wolf howling to the moon. I took it to the check-out counter, and Ruben said, "Boy, you got the blues there''.

I was hooked. In 1958 my high school combo was playing versions of ''Evil and Killing Floor'' to our white teenaged Memphis audience. By the mid-'190s the Rolling Stones were playing Howlin' Wolf songs to the world.

I have heard Sam Phillips say that his discovery of Wolf was more significant than his discovery of' Elvis Presley. The only artist to share the surreal darkness of Robert Johnson, Wolf brings out of his band an ensemble counterpoint unlike anything else in the blues. His voice seems to hang in the air, and make the room rumble with echo. His singing is so powerful that between the vocal lines the compressor-limiter through which the mono recordings were made sucks the sound of the drum and the French harp up into the hole in the audio mix. Notes blend together and merge into melody lines that are not being 'played' by any one instrument. Wolf is not bound by the three-chord blues pattern, and often seems to erase the bar lines of western music. He is a Primitive-Modernist, using chants and modal harmonies of the dark ritualist past brought up from mother Africa and slavery through electric amplifiers.

Like the unsolvable mystery of 'smokestack lightning' , Howlin' Wolf's contribution to the blues goes beyond musical phrases. The 'idea' of Howling Wolf makes blues history somehow deeper and richer.

Bloody but unbowed, Chester Burnett is forever frozen in the time-space of these first recordings made by Sam Phillips. Howling Wolf sings out his frustrations, never surrendering to the hopeless situation of existence. This same giant pulled a plow like a man-mule in the Mississippi Delta, and lived to ride a Shriners' mini-motorcycle on-stage at the Newport Folk Festival. He toured the world playing the blues, and would sit in his hotel room in his boxer shorts and do-rag, and imitate Senator Everett Dirkson. His life is a legend. His legacy is a treasure as unique as the man himself.

Share his vision of love, sex, death, and man's predicament in the Universe. Heed the call of the Wolf, the haunted cry of an animal alone in the night.

- Jim Dickinson, Hernando, Mississippi, June 1990
Special Thanks to: Jerry Rappaport and Sam Phillips 

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

Contains
 
1 - Baby Ride With Me (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)
 
1 Recorded May 14, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums)
 

2 - How Many More Years (1990) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1479-B <
3 - Moanin' At Midnight (1951) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1479-A < 

2-3 Recorded July 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Albert Williams (piano)

4 - Howlin' Wolf Boogie (1951) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1497-A < 
5 - The Wolf Is At Your Door (1952) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1497-B <

4-5 Recorded December 18, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), Albert Williams (piano)

6 - Mr. Highway Man (1952) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1510-B <
7 - Getting Old And Grey (1952) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1510-A <

6-7 Recorded January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), L.C. Hubert (piano)

8 - Worried All The Time (1952) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1515-B <

8 Recorded May/June 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
William Johnson (piano)

9 - Saddle My Pony (1952) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1515-A <

9 Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal), James Cotton (harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

10 - Oh Red (Take 3) (1953) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1528-A <
11 - My Last Affair (Take 2) (Chester Burnett) > Chess 1528-B < 
12 - Come Back Home (Take 2) (1990) (Not Originally Issued)

10-12 Recorded July 10, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

13 - Dorothy Mae (1978) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)

13 Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal), James Cotton (harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Unknown (bass), Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

14 - Oh Red (Take 2) (1989) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)
15 - Come Back Home (Take 3) (1978) (Not Originally Issued)

14-15 Recorded July 10, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
Williams ''Strutcher'' Johnson (piano)

16 - How Many More Years (1990) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)
17 - How Many More Years (1990) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)
18 - Baby Ride With Me (1990) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)
19 - Baby Ride With Me (1990) (Not Originally Issued) (Chester Burnett)

16-19 Recorded May 14, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee's
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums)

Original Chess/Sun Recordings
 
Acetates courtesy of Marion Keisker MacInnes (1, 16-19)
Original 78rpm discs of courtesy of Dave Sax and Cilla Huggins
Original Chess and Phillips licensed from Teldec Record Service (2-11)
 
Most of the repertoire on this collection was dubbed from acetate or disc source resulting in an unavoidable level of surface noise. Many of the original master tapes have been lost.
  
Howlin' Wolf's Chess recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) Also known as "Big Foot, 'Bull Cow", born Chester Arthur Burnett had been a farmer, blues singer, and soldier by the time he first recorded. His adopted nickname, though far from original, fittem him with made-to-measure precision. Born in West Point, Clay County, Mississippi, on June 10, 1910, Burnett developed a fondness for the music of the primordial Delta bluesman Charley Patton, who lived near the Burnett family after they moved to Ruleville, Mississippi. 
 

His father was Dock Burnett (He wasn't no blues singer, but he was a great country ballplayer) and his mother was Gertrude, he was one of 6 children and he frequently sang as a child in the Life Board Baptist Church in Aberdeen, Mississippi. He grew up listening to Charley Patton, Son House, Willie Brown, and the Jackson school of Tommy Johnson with its delicate falsetto moan, in the midst of a Mississippi blues tradition. 

In 1923, Burnett moved to the Young and Myers Plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi to work outside in music. In 1928 to 1930s he frequently worked on the local dances, suppers, Saturday-night hops, fish fries, juke joints and the street in the area of Drew, Cleveland, Penton, West Point, and Ruleville, Mississippi. In 1933, Burnett moved to the Nat Phillips Plantation in Twist, Arkansas to work outside of music, but he frequently worked in the local juke joints such as Will Weller's Place, Will Smith's Place, Vandy Cobb's Place as well as frolics and in the streets in Hughes, Arkansas. 

During the 1930s Burnett married Willie Brown's sister and his second wife was Lillie Handley until his death. Chester Burnett had 4 children. His half-sister, Mary, was married with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) circa 1937. His nickname "Howling Wolf" was given him as a child for his pranks (or) assumed pseudonym from John "Funny Papa" Smith's hit song of the same name during early 1930s. 

"My grandfather give me the name, 'fore he died, John Jones", recalled Howlin' Wolf. "He used to sit down and tell me tall stories about what the wolf would do, y'know, cos I was a bad boy. I was always in devilment. So he told me the story about what the wolf done to Little Red Riding Hood. Every time the girl'd ask him, 'Mr Wolf, what makes your teeth so big??' he said, 'What makes your eyes so red??' "The better I can see you, my dear". 

"And then they finally killed a wolf, and drove it up to the house, and I told 'em was a dog. He said, 'No, that's a wolf'. I said, 'What's a wolf do?'. He said, "Howl, y'know. Whoo-oo-oo'. So I got afraid of the wolf and every time I'd kill some of my mother's chickens she'd go "Whoo-oo-oo", and that scared me and made me mad. And that's how they called me Wolf, and I gets mad about this. So they just kept on calling me Wolf and so I got so I didn't care what they called me. But first I was afraid of the wolf, y'know". 

"I was three years old when they started calling me Wolf. You know how it is, when people find out you get mad about something they always slip that in. The Wolf, it upset me. I didn't know it was going to be a great name for me". 

Howlin' Wolf is influenced by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) and he influenced artists as Woodrow Adams, Butterfield Blues Band, Cream, John Fogerty, Birmingham Jones, Floyd Jones, Little Wolf, John Littlejohn, the Rolling Stones, Sidney Semiens, Johnny Shines, The Tail Dragger (James Jones), Amos Wells Jr., Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds. 

Occasional he toured with Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller), with Texas Alexander and others working in juke joints through the states of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi from the mid-1930s. In 1938, Chester Burnett worked with Robert Jr. Lockwood, Baby Boy Warren and others on Beale Street and the Church Park (WC Handy Park) in Memphis, Tennessee. From 1939 to 1940, Burnett worked on Dooley Square in Tunica, Mississippi. 

After four years in the service, between 1941 and 1945, Burnett settled in Twist, Arkansas to work outside of music as a farmer. In 1946, he returned to continue farming near Penlon, Mississippi, and formed his own band to work in the juke joints of Lake Cummings, Mississippi. In 1948 before deciding to move to West Memphis, Arkansas. Soon after coming to West Memphis, Wolf secured steady work playing whorehouses, black baseball parks, and other spots that catered to country folk in search of a little diversion. The feral energy with which he sang added a new dimension to the traditional Delta blues upon which he based his style. Wolf landed a spot on KWEM in 1950. Monday through Saturday, he appeared between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m., lacing his blues with pitches for grain and fertilizer. In his fortieth year, he became a hot item among the rural blacks around Memphis. He worked with his own group in Jukes and toured with his own group barrelhouses, smallclubs through the South and appeared as disc jockey, singer, producer, and advertising salesman for KWEM-radio in West Memphis, Arkansas. 

"A disc jockey from West Memphis told me about Wolf's show", recalled Sam Phillips to Robert Palmer. "When I heard him, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies". "Then the Wolf came to the studio and he was about six foot six, with the biggest feet I've ever seen on a human being. Big Foot Chester is one name they used to call him. He would sit there with those feet planted wide apart, playing nothing but the french harp and I tell you, the greatest sight you could see today would be Chester Burnett doing one of those sessions in my studio. God, what it would be worth to see the fervour in that man's face when he sang. His eyes would light up, you'd see the veins on his neck and, there was nothing on his mind but that song. He sang with his damn soul!". 

From 1951 to 1953, Chester Burnett recorded for Sam Phillip's, Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee were his recordings where released to Chess Records in Chicago, Illinois. A 1951 session with the Wolf playing harmonica as well as singing, guitarist Willie Johnson, drummer Willie Steel and on the b-side, Albert Williams or Ike Turner on piano, produced the single "Moanin' At Midnight"/"How Many More Years". This at least is how discographies usually chart this session, but harmonica player James Cotton, who was also to journey up to Chicago in the 1950s but who was at this time playing with the Wolf in Memphis, and was certainly present on later sessions, recalled in conversation with Paul Trynka being in on the Wolf's recording career from the start. 

Later Howlin' Wolf in Chicago, the Chess brothers tried to recreate the sound that Sam Phillips formulated, even to the point of re-recordings some of the unissued titles from Wolf's Memphis sessions. After a few missed cues, Wolf evolved a slightly modified sound in Chicago for Chess, and eventually brought Willie Johnson to join him. He became one of the seminal figures in postwar blues, which ensured that he spent his last years touring college campuses, where he looked strangely out of place amid a sea of freshly scrubbed, young white faces. 

Chester Burnett recorded for the RPM label in Memphis, in 1952 appeared on the weekly show on KXJK-radio in Forrest City, Arkansas and moved in 1952 to Chicago, Illinois to work as s single in the 708 Club and other bars and recorded for the Chess label. He worked at the Rock Bottom Club in Chicago in 1953, the Club Zanzibar in Chicago in 1953 to 1954, worked at the Silkhairs Club in West Memphis, Arkansas in circa 1954, at the Hippodrome Ballroom in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1956, Burnett moved back to Chicago and worked at the Sylvio's Lounge and formed his own band for working at the 708 Club in Chicago, worked at the Big Squeeze Club, Chicago in 1959, the Pepper's, Chicago in 1959, and toured with the American Blues Festival for working on concert dates through England and Europe from 1961 to 1964 (portions of his 1964 Musikhalle concert in Hamburg, West Germany are released on the Fontana label. He worked at the First International Jazz Festival in Washington, DC., in 1962 and worked frequently and appeared on the Big Bill Hill Show for radio WOPA in Oak Park, Illinois, and extensive residency at the Sylvio's Lounge in Chicago during 1963 to 1968. 

From 1963 to 1965, Burnett worked at the Copa Cabana Club, Chicago (portions released on the Chess label. In 1964 he appeared on the International Jazz Jamboree at the Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw, Poland, appeared at the Shinding TV-show for ABC-TV in 1965, worked at the Pepper's in Chicago and worked at the Club 47, Chicago in 1966, at the Newport Folk Festival, Newport, Rhode Island (portions shown in the film "Festival), appeared in Big John's Bar in Chicago, 1966, Cafe A-Go-Go in New York City, 1967, Mother Blues, Chicago in circa 1966, at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1968, and appeared on the TV-show "For Blacks Only" for the local TV-station in Chicago in 1968. 

In 1968 to 1969, Burnett appeared at the Club Key Largo, Chicago, and at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto, Canada, at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, the Scene in New York City, appeared on the local show for WNUR-FM-radio in Evanston, Illinois. In 1969, Chester Burnett toured in England and worked on club concert dates and recorded for the Chess label in London, England. 

Back in the United States, Burnett worked at the Electric Circus in New York City, toured on and worked on club dates on the West Coast, worked at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New Yersey, at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan 1969 through 1970. He also appeared at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago in 1969 and appeared at the Flamingo Lounge in Chicago during 1969, The Colonial Tavern in Chicago, The Riviera in Chicago, the Quiet Knight in Chicago, the Sutherland Hotel Lounge in Chicago, the Washington Blues Festival, Howard University, Washington, DC., during 1970. 

He frequently worked at the Cellar in Chicago, Big Duke's Blue Flame Lounge in Chicago during the early 1970s. In 1971, Howlin' Wolf appeared in the film "Wolf", worked at the Star Dust in Chicago, and the Hunter College in New York City in 1971. Appeared at the Notre Dame Blues Festival in South Bend, Indiana, at the Alice's Revisited in Chicago in 1972 (portion released for the Chess label). 

In 1972, Burnett appeared on the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada, at the Esquire Showbar in Montreal, Canada. In 1973, he also performed at the Joe Place's, Cambridge, Massachusetts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, Max's Kansas City in New York City, at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. 

Through 1973 to 1975, he appeared and recorded for, El Mocambo Tavern in Toronto, Canada, recorded for Chess in Chicago, appeared and worked for Grendel's Lair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the High Capparral in Chicago, the Pepper's Hideout in Chicago, Sandy's Concert Club in Boston, Massachusetts, the International Blues Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, at Easter Concert in Cocoa Beach in Florida, the Egress in Vancouver, Canada, the Urban Blues Festival, Auditorium Theater in Chicago, and recorded for the Chess label in London, England. 

From 1974 to 1975, Chester Burnett appeared and worked at the Concert Club in Montreal, Canada, the Richard's Club in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Sting in Chicago, with B.B. King at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, at the University of Chicago Circle Campus in Chicago, the New 1815 Club in Chicago, the Eddie Shaw's Place (old New 1815 Club) in Chicago all in 1975. Chester Burnett awarded honourary as Doctor of Arts degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois in 1972, and he won the Montreux Festival Award for his album "Back Door Wolf" (Chess 50045) in 1975. 

In 1975 inactive in the music Chester Burnett entered Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, where he was operated on cancer. On January 10, 1976, Chester Burnett died of cancer at Hines, Illinois. Burnett is buried at the Oakridge Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. 

Chester Burnett is one of the major shapers of the electrically amplified modern blues style that has been so dominant an influence on all popular music since his time. Howlin' Wolf's voice, dark, brooding, is vibrantly rich and immediately recognizable, and easily transcended the most banal material, and he is a true artist in every sense of the word. 

Talking later about Wolf to biographers James Segrest and Mark Hoffman, Sam Phillips said, ''He had such a soulful sound that even though his words were good blues words, he didn't have to say a sound. Like ''Moanin' At Midnight'', it was a everything just stopped. Time stopped. Everything stopped. All you heard was the Wolf''. Phillips often applied retrospective spin to his reminiscenses, but recently discovered correspondence from 1951 shows that Phillips truly saw the specialness in Wolf right away. He got it first. 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15523 mono digital
THE PRISONAIRES - JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN
 
Compact disc boxed set. An Bear Family Special Products. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Prisonaires' Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter. Also included in the boxed set, 26-page booklet biography with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Colin Escott.
 
Producer
Sam C. Phillips (except 1-4)
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Disc Dubs
Rebecca Everett
Mastered
Bob Jones
Liner Notes
Colin Escott
Discography
Colin Escott
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg
 
Photos and Illustrations
Johnny Bragg, Colin Escott, Ebony Magazine,
Dave Booth, The Showtime Music Archive
 
For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <
 
Contains

''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was a song Johnny Bragg had written just months earlier with the help of Robert Riley, a more musically organized fellow inmate but not a member of the group. According to Johnny Brag, ''Well, I called myself a singer. I'm not going to say I was a singer. I tried to sing. One day it was raining heavy, and me and Robert Riley was walking to the laundry, and Bob said, 'Johnny, I wonder what the little girls are doing now'. And I said, 'I don't know what the little girls are doing, but we better hurry and get out of this rain'. And I started singing that song. Now Riley was a smart man, I wasn't too smart myself, just had a little talent, and we put some more lyrics to it. In fact, we had a lot of lyrics. I couldn't write mine down, I ain't had no education, see? I just had that talent. Ain't that strange?''.

1 - Just Walkin' In The Rain (1971) (Not Originally Issued)
(Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

The first unissued take is one of their earliest, a version of ''Baby Please'' that probably comes from the first tape Red Wortham recorded to tout around the record companies. The song was re-recorded by Sam Phillips with an added bluesiness provided by the electric guitar and drums of Joe Hill Louis and issued as the A-side of the group's first Sun disc. This version we hear retains William Stewart's quieter acoustic guitar backing the softly pleading vocal that prevailed when the song was first conceived by its writer, Robert Riley, and realized by the group. The lead singer here is John Drue who may well have been considered the main vocalist in the group in the days before ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' became a hit. A different alternative version previously issued by Bear Family has Drue opening with ''Darlin' please''.

2 - Baby Please (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Robert S. Riley) (Warner Chappell Music Limited)

3 - Dreaming Of You (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

4 - That Chick's Too Young To Fry (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Tommy Edwards-Jimmy Hilliard) (Copyright Control)

1-4 Recorded Possibly 1953 at WSIX Radio, Nashville, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)

It is unclear how the Prisonaires came to be heard outside the prison walls. A contemporary report stated that Joe Calloway of WSIX, Nashville, was at the prison for a newscast, heard the group and arranged for them to have a regular show on WSIX, and on the local black station, WSOK. Calloway's approach came as a wind of change was blowing through the prison. Previously known as "Swafford's Graveyard" after the previous warden, the jail was now being managed by James Edwards, a friend of Governor Frank Clement, who wanted to prepare the inmates for their return to society.

Southern record mogul Jim Bulleit, who had helped bankroll Sun just a few months prior to this next recording, was the intermediary who put The Prisonaires together with Sam Phillips. Bob Stanley Riley was, like the group, an inmate at Nashville's State stockade and could take credit for "Just Walkin' In The Rain" along with lead vocalist, Johnny Bragg. For the next recording, the flip side of their launch vehicle, Joe Hill Louis was brought in to adds his chunky guitar phrases to Riley's beseeching lyric. To add to the growing plot, heartthrob crooner Johnnie Ray puts out a fresh version some three years after the original and this time, "Just Walkin' In The Rain" becomes an international success. Soberingly, by then the group had split, their glory days already history.

Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley were walking to the prison laundry when Bragg remarked to Riley, ''Here we are walking in the rain. I wonder what the little girls are doing''? ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was the song that stemmed from that observation, and it played to Bragg's strengths as a vocalist. The bridge (''People come to windows...'') perfectly captured the yearning and regret he must surely have felt on so many occasions during his long incarceration. Although no lover of close harmony groups, Phillips released ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' on July 8, 1953.

''We used to practice, practice, practice'', Johnny Bragg said. ''We didn't have no microphones, so we used an echo with buckets. Everybody would get a bucket, and you could put that bucket up to your ears and, you know, a sound would come out. I wanted to be the Ink Spots, and I thought I could be the Ink Spots. I was young, crazy, I didn't know. I used to sing sitting in the cell. People be hollering and clapping their hands, this was the black wing at that time. 'Listen to the nigger'. 'Listen at him'. 'Well, let the nigger sing a little bit'. 'He can sing, can't he?'''.

To Sam Phillips the demo possessed a delicate, quavering beauty, admirably seconded by William Stewart's classically spare guitar, but Sam thought it could achieve a greater intensity. And that's what they spent all day and well into the night looking for. They worked and worked on it. ''Sam Phillips wanted everything to be perfect'', Johnny Bragg said many years after the fact. ''Ain't nothing wrong with that. We started early in the morning, and now it's four o'clock, five o'clock, six o'clock. Mr. Sam was something else''.

Sam Phillips also got great joy from watching the orders roll in. Ebony magazine reported that the record sold over 200,000 copies, and the group started making personal appearances on day passes throughout the state, and, with considerable complication, outside the state. Although it didn't chart, ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was a hit. One who took notice was Joe Johnson who worked for Columbia's country artist and repertoire man, Don Law. Johnson soon moved to California to work for one of Law's acts, Gene Autry, and told him about ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. Autry acquired the music publishing from Wortham, who probably thought the song had run its course.

5 - Just Walkin' In The Rain (1953) > Sun 186-B <
(Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

After the Prisonaires had sung ''Baby Please'' for Sam Phillips, he called over the vending machine operator, Drew Canale, to ask if his houseboy, Joe Hill Louis, could come and sit in on guitar. Louis was at the poor opposite extreme of black music: raw, unsophisticated and bluesy. It took until 8:30 p.m. to finish the two songs. Louis imparted a tough, bluesy edge to ''Baby Please'', for which he was paid $10.00, but the group persuaded Phillips that Louis should sit out ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. They didn't wants its poignancy destroyed by his slash-and-burn guitar. Upon release, Phillips saw ''Baby Please'' as the plug side, and was surprised when ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' became a hit.

6 - Baby Please (1953) > Sun 186-A <
(Robert S. Riley) (Warner Chappell Music Limited)

5-6 Recorded June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar on 6)
Producer - Sam Phillips

In August 1953, the Prisonaires came back to Memphis to cut a follow-up session that comprised "Softly And Tenderly", "My God Is Real", "Prisoner's Prayer", and "No More Tears", featuring Ike Turner in the unaccustomed role of church pianist. Note how Turner's intro to "Softly And Tenderly" is cloned from his intro to "Rocket 88". Releasing the two religious numbers, Sam Phillips neatly shot himself in the foot. The record sold poorly, and oblivion was beckoning when the group came back into the studio on October 17, 1953.

Sam Phillips thought enough of this record to release it as The Prisonaires, July 1953 follow-up to their hit "Just Walkin' In The Rain". It was a risky venture that paid few commercial reworks, and did little to convince Sam Phillips that he could sell gospel music. Track 1 on this session radiates an undeniable energy and "live" feeling that nearly a half a century has done little to dilute. Two things of note: - one is the appearance of Ike Turner in the unexpected role of church pianist. The other is the joyous uptempo arrangement. Listen to a hundred other versions of "Softly And Tenderly" and you'll be lucky to find a single one that doesn’t' approach it as a pious dirge.

Recorded through the years by Elvis Presley (1956 Million Dollar Quartet), Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, and Countless others, ''Softly And Tenderly'' was written by Ohio businessman, Will Thompson, in 1880. The hymn remains immensely popular among white concregations, but was sung at the memorial service for Martin Luther King at the Elbenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 8, 1968. It's hard to know who or what inducted the Prisonaires to record it jubilee style for their second single.

7 - Softly And Tenderly (1953) > Sun 189-B <
(Will Thompson-Public Domain) (Babb Music)

In its way, the Prisonaires version of ''My God Is Real'' this classic is as good as any other, and others who've recorded include Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Al Green. The piece was written in 1944 by an African American minister and hymnodist, Kenneth Morris, as ''Yes, God Is Real''. ''There are some places I cannot go'' was one of the most awfully true lines on a Sun record. That said, the Prisonaires were getting out of the prison gates on a fairly regular basis, and on one of their Sunday forays into the free world they attended a service with the legendary Clara Ward and her choir. Ward had recorded ''My God Is Real'' in 1949 and made it her own until Mahalia Jackson took ownership of it. Inspired by Ward, the Prisonaires h olds a unique place among gospel records. Out of every hundred versions of this classic title, ninety nine of them are dirge like, but, with Ike Turner in the unaccustomed role of church pianist, the Prisonaires approach the tune with uncommon energy and enthusiasm that must have raised a few sanctified eyebrows. The recording has a strong live feel, abetted by handclapping and shouts. This may have truly been a one take wonder, a warm-up effort that became a contender for release simply by the spontaneous joy it projected. That feeling is undiminished sixty years later.

8 - My God Is Real (1953) > Sun 189-A <
(Kenneth Morris-Public Domain) (Babb Music-Morris Music)

Only in the most technical sense is this a gospel recording. The subject matter is only remotely spiritual. More cynically, this is a pop record designed to capitalize on the unique status of the group. Johnny Bragg delivers an impassioned lead vocal. There must have been special meaning to singing lines like "There are some places I can not go".

Written by Jim Proctor, a white Tennessee Bureau of Investigations official, the song gave Sam Phillips a change to garner more attention and airplay by capitalizing on the group's unusual status. At some point, it would have been desirable to establish the Prisonaires in the marketplace, and let them stand on the merits of their music, not the novelty of their situation. A "Prisoner's Prayer" with its hokey reference to 'cell-block 23', was a step in the opposite direction.

The vocal performance owes little to the classic quartet tradition, and equally little to then-current vocal group music. It centres more upon the lead singing of Johnny Bragg, dueting with bass singer Marcell Sanders. Sparse and effective instrumental support was provided by Ike Turner on electric guitar and William Stewart on acoustic guitar. The problem was that Sam Phillips had seen the coverage of ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', and decided that the Prisonaires' story was more significant than their music. In pandering to that, he got it wrong. After a gospel single pairing ''Softly And Tenderly'' with ''My God Is Real'', this was another commercial mis-step.

9 - A Prisoner's Prayer (1953) > Sun 191-A <
(James Proctor) (Memphis Music)

10 - No More Tears (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Johnny Bragg) (Copyright Control)

7-10 Recorded June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Ike Turner (piano on 7, guitar on 9), Unknown (bass)
Producer - Sam Phillips

On this date, the Prisonaires recorded "I Know" and re-cut "No More Tears". Sam Phillips decided to capitalise upon the group's novelty appeal by releasing the hockey "Prisoner's Prayer" (composed by a white Tennessee Bureau of Investigations employee, James Proctor) and "I Know", on November 1, 1953. Surprisingly, Sam Phillips released "I Know" without holding the publishing; it was originally recorded by the Jubalaires for Decca in 1945 - and was later revived by Johnny Moore and the Drifters in April 1957.

Revives a 1946 hit by the Jubalaires that may have needed reviving like a fish needs a bicycle. Johnny Bragg gives a credible reading in a style that was almost self parodying when the Inkspots' Bill Kenny worked it a decade earlier with its soaring falsetto, controlled vibrato.

11 - I Know (1953) > Sun 191-B <
(Jennings-Brook) (Memphis Music)

12 - No More Tears (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Johnny Bragg) (Copyright Control)

13 - If I Were King (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

11-13 Recorded October 17, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)
Producer - Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips certainly brought an idiosyncratic approach to recording vocal group. It was one style for which he had little feeling, possibly accounting for some of the incongruous, if pleasant results. This may be the finest unreleased track the Prisonaires left behind at Sun. ''Don't Say Tomorrow'' is a lovely, melodic performance with strong harmony and driving rhythm. Basser Marcell Sanders is the standout performer here, although everyone was in fine shape. One can only guess at the joyous sounds that flowed from the car as the Prisonaires and their guard drove back to the Nashville pen after the session in Phillips' studio. If this track had been recorded in New York the simple acoustic guitar would probably have been replaced by a riffing sax section and some piano boogie. As it is, the sound owes more to earlier quartet styles than the uptown sound of the Drifters or the Clovers. ''Don't Say Tomorrow'' is a little masterpiece caught out of time. The song was composed in 1953 by Robert Riley, but not registered with BMI until 1957 when Riley pitched it to the Hollyhocks on Excello's teen-slanted labels, Nasco.

14 - I Wish (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

15 - Don't Say Tomorrow (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Robert Riley) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

16 - No More Tears (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Johnny Bragg) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

14-16 Recorded February 2, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)
Producer - Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary with his portable recording equipment and cut what would be their last Sun single, "What'll You Do Next" and "There Is Love In You". It was released on July 1, 1954, a few days before Sam Phillips found the path towards commercial salvation with Elvis Presley. If Phillips had his ear a little closer to the ground, he would have known that the sound of doo-wop was changing.

Governor Frank Clement was running for re-election, and his political opponents, not to mention the newspapers, had been jumping all over him for his irresponsible ideas on prison reform ever since the Prisonaires had starting making outside appearances the previous July. Sam Phillips entered the prison gates not without a certain amount of trepidation, it was a maximum-security prison designed to hold twelve hundred with a population of a thousand more. But Sam knew that if he were to show fear, he would only be drawing further attention to himself. So, with the warden accompanying him, he ate in the prison chow line. ''Man, I can tell you, I didn't eat a whole lot.

Because I tried to speak with as many of the men as I could'', said Phillips. And Sam put forty or fifty prisoners to work hanging canvas with him to deaden the sound in the prison's concrete-block movie theater. Sam didn't want any extra guards. He just wanted as many prisoners as possible to participate in the process. And he left the prison at 2:30 the following morning with two songs for the Prisonaires' next and, as it would turn out, last single release.

Sam Phillips also left the prison with an acetate that had been set aside for him by Red Wortham, the song publisher who had steered the Prisonaires to Sun Records

A devotional, if you will. Love, faith, hope, trust, peace... all those qualities most of us wish we had a little more of in our lives. Whether we get them from lovers of friends or deities differs from person to person. Bragg's lyric is unusual only because he seems to shuttle back and forth within the same song until we don't know just whom he's adoring. And so the lyric stands in all its unorthodox ambiguity and honesty. Just the way Sam Phillips would have liked it.

The Prisonaires saw three singles issued from sessions in Memphis, but the two songs that appeared as their fourth and final Sun single were made on portable recording equipment in the auditorium of the penitentiary. The alternative take of ''What'll You Do Next'' has never been issued before and is marginally slower than the issued version while retaining the bongo beat probably provided by prison band drummer Hubbard Brown and the clever interplay between the bass voice and the tenors.

17 - What'll You Do Next (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Johnny Bragg-William Stewart) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

Is worth a long second listen. The big question is simply, is this a secular or a religious recording? To whom is Bragg singing? His girlfriend or God? While artists like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin have made careers of blending gospel and secular music, it has been done like this. Initially, it seems a safe bet that Johnny Bragg is singing about God. There is joy, there is peace, there is hope, and there is rest in the object of his affection. These are not usually qualities associated with one's girlfriend, at least in popular music. The idea that he follows in the footsteps of his adored being, further suggests a religious theme.

By then, suddenly, the other shoe falls, "There is rest in you/When you're in my arms". Hardly the place one expects to find the Big Gut: in Johnny Bragg's arms. The version of the slow ballad ''There Is Love In You'' is similar to the issued version but with the group's voices more prominent behind Bragg's heartfelt lead vocal. Music writer Hank Davis has pointed out the confusion in the lyrics, which never make clear whether this is a secular or religious love Bragg's heart feels. The song was written by Bragg with co-composer, guitarist William Stewart.

Is worth a long second listen. The big question is simply, is this a secular or a religious recording? To whom is Bragg singing? His girlfriend or God? While artists like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin have made careers of blending gospel and secular music, it has been done like this. Initially, it seems a safe bet that Johnny Bragg is singing about God. There is joy, there is peace, there is hope, and there is rest in the object of his affection. These are not usually qualities associated with one's girlfriend, at least in popular music. The idea that he follows in the footsteps of his adored being, further suggests a religious theme.

By then, suddenly, the other shoe falls, "There is rest in you/When you're in my arms". Hardly the place one expects to find the Big Gut: in Johnny Bragg's arms. The version of the slow ballad ''There Is Love In You'' is similar to the issued version but with the group's voices more prominent behind Bragg's heartfelt lead vocal. Music writer Hank Davis has pointed out the confusion in the lyrics, which never make clear whether this is a secular or religious love Bragg's heart feels. The song was written by Bragg with co-composer, guitarist William Stewart.

 

18 - There Is Love In You (1954) > Sun 207-A < 
(Johnny Bragg-William Stewart) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

19 - What'll You Do Next (1954) > Sun 207-B <
(Johnny Bragg-William Stewart) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

17-19 Recorded May 8, 1954 at Tennessee State Penitentary, Nashville, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Unknown (bongoes on 19)
Producer - Sam Phillips

A alternate version of ''Two Strangers'', a song that Sam Phillips planned to release as a fifth single on Sun, but shelved in October 1954 under the weight of his new workload promoting Elvis Presley's first two discs was a really strong ballad, written by Robert Riley and sympathetically sung by Bragg and the group.

20 - Two Strangers (1990) (Not Originally Issued)
(Robert Riley) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

21 - What About Frank Clement (A Mighty Man) (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

A fifth single, comprising "Friend Call Me A Fool" and "Two Strangers", was scheduled for release in the Fall of 1954, but was never shipped.

22 - Friends Call Me A Fool (1990) (Not Originally Issued) (Not Originally Issued)
(Johnny Bragg-Robert Riley) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

The Prisonaires only recorded one version of ''Lucy, You Know Want You'' but it has never before been issued with its correct title. It is a rocking little number driven ahead by bass, guitar and drums and the vocalists leave us in no doubt what they want from Miss Lucy. At some point after this song was recorded it catalogued as a song about a woman named ''Lucille'' and it was issued as such on compilation LPs twenty years later. Johnny Bragg even copyrighted it using the title under which it had been released. But the group is clearly singing about someone called ''Lucy'', not ''Lucille''. To sing a song, that might have been released, full of lustful yearning about ''Lucille'', which happened to be the name of the wife of the Governor, would not have been a smart move for any prisoner let alone a group of singers who owed so much of their lifestyle to her and her husband.

No such restraints applied to the writer from 'People' magazine of 27 August 1956 who said: "After the huzzas and groans of the Democratic Convention in Chicago died away, there was almost unanimous agreement that the Democrats' choicest doll is Lucille Clement, wife of Tennessee's give-em-ellfire Governor Frank G. Clement, the convention's bombastic keynoter. Mother of three boys, Lucille, 36, whose figure is one of modern politics' most attractive gerrymanders, took time out to model some cute creations for a Hearst lensman''.

23 - Lucille, I Want You (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Probably Johnny Bragg) (Copyright Control)

20-23 Recorded September Unknown Date(s) 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Unknown (guitar), Hubbard Brown (drums), Henry Jones (piano),
George Williams (trumpet)
Producer - Sam Phillips

As Sun entered the rock and roll era, the Prisonaires recorded several songs with 3 more prominent beat and we have included a version of ''Rockin' Horse'' from one of their last, undated Sun sessions, probably held in the penitentiary in the late summer of 1954. They were backed by trumpeter George Williams, pianist Henry Jones, drummer Hubbard Brown, and a guitarist, probably L.B. McCollough, all from the prison band.


The Prisonaires Sun career has another postscript, though. At some point in late 1954, or possible early 1955, the group returned to Sun Records with a tougher rhythm and blues stance and their own backing group to record "Surleen" (written by Bragg about his first girlfriend), "All Alone And Lonely" and the sexually charged "Rockin' House".

Short of tape as unusual, Sam Phillips pulled a reel of Elvis Presley's out-takes of "Good Rockin' Tonight", and recorded over the top. Little taste of "We're gonna rock, rock, rock...", can be heard between the Prisonaires' cuts. Around this time, the group started breaking up. Drue and Sanders were released, followed by Steward and Thurman.

Seven years later, Johnny Bragg formed Elbejay Records in partnership with Raymond Ligon and Cyril Jackson, and recorded three singles for them. By his account, he forgave Red Wortham for cheating the Prisonaires out of publishing royalties on "Just Walkin' In The Rain", and brought him in as Artist and Repertoire manager at Elbejay.

Bragg's troubles didn't end upon his re-release, though. He was returned to prison for shoplifting, and released on parole (for the third time) following the death of his wife, leaving him a single parent. With his faith and his health still more-or-less intact, though, he has done better than the other members of the Prisonaires. They all died in varying degrees of poverty or distress. The saddest case was that of William Steward who died of alcohol poisoning in a cheap motel room in Florida. Only Robert Riley managed to eke a more-or-less successful career in the music business. Before his death he became a contracted writer at Tree Music and cranked out country-soul songs for Nashville-based labels such as Dial, Todd and Sound Stage Seven.

The Prisonaires gained their moment of fame as a novelty act, but, their work transcends more novelty appeal. Bragg had a stilling lead tenor that ranks alongside that of his idol, Bill Kenny of the Inkspots. The music they cut for Sun Records was quite unlike anything else on the label - sophisticated and urbane, largely lacking the raw edge that Sam Phillips cherished.

Certainly, there were some performances that missed the mark, but there's also "Just Walkin' In The Rain", a classic by any criterion. There is fierce pride in Johnny Bragg - evident in the way he spits out the word "Penitentiary". There is also darkness within him, which he laid aside to produce some hauntingly beautiful music.

24 - Surleen (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

25 - All Alone And Lonely (1986) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

26 - Rockin' Horse (1976) (Not Originally Issued)
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)

24-26 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1954/1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Johnny Brag (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Unknown (guitar), Hubbard Brown (drums), Henry Jones (piano),
George Williams (trumpet)
Producer - Sam Phillips

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.  

The Prisonaires' Sun recordings can be heard on their playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
THE PRISONAIRES - Johnny Bragg, 27-years-old from Nashville, was the lead singer in the Prisonaires, and convicted on 6 counts of rape, and sentenced 594 years in prison. Other members of the group are, John Drue, 29 years-old from Lebanon, lead tenor vocal, sentenced 3 years for larceny; Marcel Sanders, 29-years-old from Chattanooga, bass vocal, sentenced 1 to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter.

And finally 30-year-old Williams Steward, baritone vocal and guitar who has been imprisoned since he was 17 years old, got to crying, his mother was crying, because he was sentenced 99 years for murder; and Edward Thurman, 36-years-old from Nashville, tenor vocal, also sentenced 99 years for murder.

The group was made up of inmates from the Tennessee State Penitentiary. They wrote and recorded for Sun Records. According to prison records, Johnny Bragg was a bastard kid, born in Nashville, Tennessee on January 18, 1926, and jailed on May 8, 1943 on six counts of rape. According to Bragg, he was born on May, 1929 (the earlier date is his brother's birth date, which he used because the City had no trace of his own birth), and the prison term was the result of a frame-up and terrible misunderstanding. "My troubles started when I was twelve years old", said Bragg cagily. "My friend was dating my girlfriend, we got to fighting, and she said I tried to rape her. While they had me, they put all these unsolved cases on me, told the peoples I was the one. Later some of them said they was wrong, and wanted to clear their consciences before they died. A lady goes to my church, and she shakes her head and says, 'We sure did you wrong, John'".

Once inside, Bragg joined a gospel group with Ed Thurman, William Steward, Clarence Moore and another whom Bragg recalls only as 'Sam'. They subsequently argued, and Bragg formed another group called the Prisonaires. He later brought in 36 year-old Thurman (99 years for murder) as manager, and 30 year-old Steward (99 years for murder) as music director. Guitarist Steward had a convict since his seventeenth birthday. They were joined in the early 1950s by John Drue (3 years for larceny), and Marcel Sanders (1 to 5 years for involuntary manslaughter). Incidentally, it appears as though Steward was not the same William Steward who recorded country blues for Sun. The William "Talking Boy" Steward tapes were recorded in 1951, and Bragg recalls that William Steward never played country blues.

It is unclear how the Prisonaires came to be heard outside the prison walls. A contemporary report stated that Joe Calloway of WSIX, Nashville, was at the prison for a newscast, heard the group and arranged for them to have a regular show on WSIX, and on the local black station, WSOK. Calloway's approach came as a wind of change was blowing through the prison. Previously known as 'Swafford's Graveyard' after the previous warden, the jail was now being managed by James Edwards, a friend of Governor Frank Clement, who wanted to prepare the inmates for their return to society.

According to Johnny Bragg, he had already made contact with the outside world - in particular with hillbilly singers, who would come to the penitentiary to buy songs. "Word go around there was a nigger who could write any kind of songs", said Bragg. "Hank Williams come out there, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmie Dickens... they all come". Among the songs that Bragg claims to have sold was "Your Cheatin' Heart", and it is at least possible that Williams bought the genesis of the song from Bragg, as he bought other songs that he made uniquely his own. One of those who came to the prison looking for copyrights was Red Wortham, owner of Wortham Music.

Johnny Bragg says that Wortham came to buy songs from him; according to the 'Commercial Appeal' report, Wortham came to the prison to check out a hillbilly songwriter (possible Clarence "Two Hats" McKeel who later wrote songs for Hugh X. Lewis and others, and helped write the lead-sheet for "Just Walking In The Rain"), but was asked to listen to the Prisonaires.

Not regarding himself a judge of rhythm and blues acts, Wortham sent a tape of the Prisonaires made at WSIX to his cousin, Jim Bulleit. By that point, Bulleit had a long career in the Nashville music business - as a partner in Bullet Records, as manager of his own labels, and representative of others. Early in 1953 he bought himself a minority holding in Sun Records, and one of his first moves was to forward Wortham's tape to Sam Phillips with the recommendation that the group be signed. That tape is probably the one that contains earlier versions of "Just Walking In The Rain" and "Baby Please", together with the Louis Jordan tune "That Chick's Too Young To Fry". The songs were tapes over a WSIX radio show, "Youth On Parade", starring Pat Boone.

Johnny Bragg recalled that he had written "Just Walking In The Rain" (SUN 186) in conjunction with Robert Riley, an inmate who couldn't sing. They were walking to the prison laundry, when Bragg said, "Here we are walking in the rain. I wonder what the little girls are doing?". Riley said it sounded like a good song title, and they quickly worked up the song.

Bulleit evidently persuaded Phillips to record the group, while Wortham retained the music publishing rights. Sam Phillips released "Just Walking In The Rain" on July 8, 1953. On July 28, Jud Phillips went to Nashville to meet Bulleit and the Prisonaires. Jud had joined Sun a few months earlier, and was learning the fine art of record promotion and distribution. "They boys (Prisonaires) are getting from 10 to 25 letters a day from all over the country", wrote Jud. "They plan to bring all of them to you when they come over. They make me think of a bunch of baby birds. They are fine boys all of them. I get great joy out of helping people like that... I know you do too".

Phillips also got great joy from watching the orders roll in. Ebony magazine reported that "Just Walkin' In The Rain" sold almost a quarter of a million copies, and heaped praise on the Sun label. If Sam Phillips was able to press 50,000 of this song he was lucky, but the publicity was important to Sun.

The Prisonaires' lead singer, Johnny Bragg, told a number of reporters that Elvis Presley helped with the lyrics to "Just Walkin' In The Rain". Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins, in Good Rockin' Tonight, published in 1991, report Braggs' claim that Elvis Presley was in the studio when the Prisonaires recorded "Just Walkin' In The Rain". It is unlikely that Elvis Presley was hanging around Sun Records during the Prisonaires recording sessions. "It was hard to keep Elvis Presley from the studio", Marcus Van Story remembered. "He loved the Prisonaires gospel sound". Despite this, Bragg's claim remains unsubstantiated. "I don't remember Elvis watching the Prisonaires record", Ronald Smith commented. The Prisonaires were nevertheless an important influence upon both Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips. Elvis Presley was mesmerized by Bragg's vocals, and Sam Phillips was intrigued by the crossover sound the Prisonaires produced.

The group making personal appearances on day passes throughout the state, and - with considerable complication - outside the state. They were held up by warden James Edwards(*) and Governor Clement as shining examples of rehabilitation. "The hopes of tomorrow rather than the mistakes of yesterday", gushed Clement, who brought the group to the governor's mansion, and bought William Steward a new guitar. His enthusiasm earned him the unissued paean "What About Frank Clement (A Mighty, Mighty Man)", which had "Parole - Please" written all over it.

Sam Phillips found it impossible to continue the Prisonaires' success, however. As the follow-up record to "Just Walkin' In The Rain" Phillips selected "Softly And Tenderly" (SUN 189). Billboard reviewed this release enthusiastically, but it failed to sell in large numbers. Sun Records then released two more pop Prisonaires records before the group faded into obscurity. There remain a number of unreleased Prisonaires recording, years later, released by Bear Family Records in Germany.

Around early 1955, the group started breaking up. Drue and Sanders were released, followed by Steward and Thurman. Surprisingly, Thurman's release excited some controversy in the local press, "The people of Tennessee can only hope that the killers still behind bars are non singers", said the editorial in the Nashville Tennessean on April 29, 1955. Bragg re-formed the Prisonaires as the Marigolds with a new set of faces including Hal Hebb (Bobby Hebb's brother).

Unknown to Bragg, though, events were taking place that would help to secure his future once he got outside. In May 1954, Joe Johnson (later president of Challence Records, then working for Gene Autry's publishing company, Golden West Melodies) arranged for Autry to acquire the copyright of "Just Walking In The Rain" from Red Wortham, shortly after, Autry recorded a dismal version for Columbia, but Don Law, Columbia's head of country Artist and Repertoire, saw something in the song, and when he was in New York he ran into Mitch Miller who was scouting songs for a Johnny Ray session. Ray recorded "Just Walking In The Rain" on June 29, 1956 in his usual petulant style, and it provide to be his commercial rebirth after a year or two in the wilderness.

Johnny Bragg claims to have had a premonition of Ray's recording, but he had no premonition of the vast amount of money it would bring him. "The first cheque was for $1400", recalls Bragg, "and I told the warden to go ahead and put the cheque in the commissary so I could buy some candy and so on. I thought the amount was $14.00! The next cheque was for $7500". Johnny Bragg received and invitation to the Annual BMI Awards dinner in New York for December 3, 1956. The invitation specified that he could bring a guest, who - had he gone - would probably have been an armed guard.

By this point, Johnny Bragg was far less keen to sell compositions. He successfully pitched a few of his songs, including "Don't Bug Me Baby", recorded by Milton Allen for RCA in 1957 (and reissued on Bear Family BFX 15357). Ernie Young, owner of Ernie's record Mart and Excello/Nashboro Records, signed the Marigolds and they cut four singles, including "Two Stranger", first recorded by the Prisonaires at Sun. At roughly the same time, another unissued Prisonaires song, "Don't Say Tomorrow" was cut by the Hollyhocks on Nasco Records. Detail hounds may care to note that the Marigolds also cut an unreleased version of the song.

Johnny Bragg was finally released from prison in 1959, and he started recording for Decca Records in Nashville and writing for Tree Music. However, he was back behind bars again the following year for robbery and attempted murder, charges that Bragg asserts were setup. "A man whose name I can't say, said 'If that Bible totin' governor turns that nigger loose, I'll get him back inside even if I have to frame him", said Bragg darkly. "They charged me on three counts and finally got me on a charge of stealing $2.50 - and I had all kinds of money. It was pitiful". UPI reported that Johnny Bragg had indeed been indicted on harges of stealing $2.50, but that he had done so at gunpoint, whereupon two other white women identified him as the man who had tried to attack them. One of the charges finally stuck, and Johnny Bragg went back inside in May 1960.

A few months later, the Elvis Presley connection had its final postscript. Bragg was visited by Elvis Presley, who had just returned from West-Germany. "He asked repeatedly", said Bragg, "Did I need a lawyer, was there anything he could do for me". Needing help so bad he could taste it, Bragg nevertheless declined. "They said if I didn't take the case to the Supreme Court, they'd get me out in nine months", asserted Brag, "but I didn't get out in nine months, and that messed me up a little bit".

An article in the ''The Tennessean'' local press in Nashville reads: ELVIS VISITS PRISON. On March 8, 1961, route home to Memphis after Wednesday's visit to the State Legislature, singer-actor Elvis Presley stopped for approximately 45 minutes at the State Prison. He toured the various workshops, dining hall, and death-house, and talked briefly with song-writer Johnny Bragg, who is doing time for a parole violation. "It was Elvis' idea to drive by the penitentiary", one of his traveling companions - buddy-guard - said. "He has known Bragg from back when he was starting out as an entertainer; scrounging for a living".

According to Ann Ellington, daughter of Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington. ''One of the people that he (Elvis) wanted to meet while he was up at that particular time was a gentleman by the name of Johnny Bragg. Johnny was incarcerated at the Tennessee State Prison at that time. And John had a group called the Prisonaires, who sang a lot of gospel songs, incredibly talented people. And there were times when we had state functions at the state, at the Governor's residence, that we would have them come out and perform. And because of their mutual love of music, Elvis wanted to meet him. So my dad arranged for, Elvis and Joe and Alan to go out to the state prison and meet, have time with Johnny Bragg. And we drove out there and the warden at that time came out to meet the car. And we started to get out to get in, and the warden says, 'I'm sorry, but Ann can't come in'. And so Joe and Elvis went inside to meet with Johnny, and Alan, bless his heart, got the chore of sitting in the car with me while all of this was going on inside. Both of us would love to have heard the conversation, but we weren't allowed to do that''.

Upon his re-release seven years later, Johnny Bragg formed Elbejay Records in partnership with Raymond Ligon and Cyril Jackson, and recorded three singles for them. By his account, he forgave Red Wortham for cheating the Prisonaires out of publishing royalties on "Just Walking In The Rain", and brought him in as Artist and Repertoire manager at Elbejay Records.

Johnny Bragg's troubles didn't end upon his re-release, though. He was returned to prison for shoplifting, and released on parole (for the third time) following the death of his wife, leaving him a single parent. With his faith and his health still more-or-less, intact, though, he has done better than the other members of the Prisonaires. They all died in varying degrees of poverty or distress. The saddest case was that of William Steward who died of alcohol poisoning in a cheap motel room in Florida. Only Robert Riley manager to a more-or-less successful career in the music business. Before his death he became a contracted writer at Three Music and cranked out country-soul songs for Nashville-based labels such as Dial, Todd and Sound Stage Seven.

The Prisonaires gained their moment of fame as a novelty act, but, as his music proves convincingly, their work transcends more novelty appeal. Johnny Bragg had a stilling lead tenor that ranks alongside that of his idol, Bill Kenny of the Inkspots. The music they cut for Sun Records was quite unlike anything else on the label - sophisticated and urbane, largely lacking the raw edge that Sam Phillips cherished. Certainly, there were some performances that missed the mark, but there's also "Just Walking In The Rain", a classic by any criterion.

There is fierce pride in Johnny Bragg - evident in the way he spits out the world "Penitentiary". There is also darkness within him, which he laid aside to produce some hauntingly beautiful music.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15444 (1-2) mono digital
BILLY RILEY - THE CLASSIC RECORDINGS 1956 - 1960

2 compact disc set. An Bear Family Special Products. 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 logo and catalog number left from the center on the disc. On the front cover photo, Billy Riley performed at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. On the back cover Bear Family logo at bottom left on bottom. Catalog number below center.

For the first time, the complete Billy Riley's Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter, demos, false starts. Also included in the boxed set, 40-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Rob Bowman, Ross Johnson, and Colin Escott. The booklet also features photos and a detailed session file information by Colin Escott.

Producers
Ernie Barton, Owen Bradley, Jack Clement, Bill Justis,
Sam C. Phillips, Billy Riley
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Photos
Colin Escott, Dave Booth, The Showtime Music Archive, Billy Riley,
Tommie Wix, Roland Janes, Martin Hawkins, and
Richard Weize Collection
Liner Notes
Rob Bowman, Ross Johnson
Digital Mastering
Bob Jones
Special thanks to
Jimmy M. Van Eaton, Edwin Howard, Roland Janes,
Bill Millar, Billy Riley, Hans-Peter Zdrenka

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

Disc 1 Contains

The top side of Riley's first Sun record, and a gem. This one comes pretty close to defining what rockabilly is all about It's tense, edgy, sexy and driving. This is not mindless, teen dance music. It can send shivers down your spine. There's not a wasted note here. The vocal is perfect. The band work is stellar, not overly complex, but perfectly orchestrated. When the guitar solos take off, you just have to stand back. Those beautiful singlestroke drum rolls by Johnny Bernero let you know when to take cover as the two guitars played by Ruble Shaw and Roland Janes, just soar. One slides into the chord while the second hits just the right notes to maintain that bluesy countryish feel. Some critics tell you that real rockabilly needs a stand-up bass, the kind Bill Black used to slap behind Elvis back in 1954. If that's true, then this record contains a double dose of rockabilly drive. One slap bass was played by Slim Wallace, the second by Jan Ledbetter.

''Rock With Me Baby'' was recorded at the studios of WMPS. Sadly, having explored every inch of Billy Riley recording tape known to exist at Sun, it seems thru second tide from this session - the countryish ''Think Before You Go'' - is irretrievably lost.

"Rock With Me Baby" is likewise a standout track, with its guitar interplay between Billy Riley and Roland Janes, and soaring drumwork during the solos. SUN 245 clearly promised that Billy Riley was capable of producing memorable work within the tense and impassioned style Sun Records was beginning to forge.

1 - Rock With Me Baby (1956) > Sun 245-B <

1 Recorded Early 1956 at WMPS Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and acoustic guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Ruble Shaw (guitar),
Slim Wallace (bass), Jan Ledbetter (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)
Producer - Jack Clement

According to Roland Janes, once Sam Phillips decided to release ''Rock With Me Baby'' he wanted a flipside that came closer to the rock music that was selling around Memphis at the time. Putting the tapes for ''Think Before You Go'' aside, he turned Jack Clement loose in the studio at 706 Union Avenue to come up with a second recording. The result was this classic side.

Good luck finding a category for this music. Country? Blues? Rockabilly? It's hybrid music at finest. The beat is incessant. The sound is bluesy. The vocal is vaguely country. Just when you think you've got the arrangement figured out, it does something to confound you. The vocal is backed by a driving shuffle beat, courtesy of drummer Johnny Bernero. But don't get too comfortable with it. All of a sudden, it turns into a hard 4/4 backbeat during the instrumental solos. And the guitar fills around Riley's vocal are also hard to pin down. Everything is bluesy enough so you'll expect some flatted 7s chords (flatted 7s are the heart of the blues. You may not know them by name, but you'd recognize them in a heartbeat). Instead the fills consist largely of 6s, which don't sound very bluesy, and undercut some of the tension in the song. Listen far them, for example, after lines like "Drinkin' wine together..." or "Laughin' and having fin...".

This track features Riley on that prominently miked rhythm guitar, with Roland Janes on lead guitar. We've found three alternates and a false start. They're not massively different, but if you listen closely, you'll hear the differences. They show up in the singing and playing. There's always the possibility in situations like these that you'll hear an alt take and think, "Why wasn't that one released? I like it better''. There seems little chance of that happening here.

2 - Trouble Bound (1956) > Sun 245-A <

2 Recorded Early 1956 at Fernwood Studio, 158 Fernwood Drive, Memphis, Tennessee
or Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Slim Wallace (bass), Johnny Bernero (drums)
Producer - Jack Clement

When Sam Phillips pressed the red button on his Ampex tape machine to record Billy Riley's single, he was taking the plot of a sci-fi drive-in movie and turning it into a mesmeric rock and roll classic. The elements that he'd gathered together were right on target. Riley's hoarse throat vocal, Jerry Lee's freestyling at the studio upright and Roland Janes, with his eerily-echoed whammy bar, were enough to frighten anyone's horses.

No wonder they were dubbed "The Little Green Men". Billy Riley performs what has become a rockabilly anthem. His raspy vocal on "Flying Saucer Rock And Roll" soars over a frenetic musical sound anchored by newly recruited session pianist Jerry Lee Lewis.

The guitar breaks by Riley and session man Roland Janes have become models for aspiring rockabilly guitarists, but it is James M. Van Eaton who steal the show with some of the tastiest drumming in rockabilly history.

His work during the spacy four bar intro, with that brief foray on to the tom-tom are permanently ingrained in the consciousness of most Sun fans. Similarly, the last ten seconds of this record are an eye-opener. The snare roll during the last sustained chord might have been enough, but the unexpected bass drum stomp raises the record to brilliance.

3 - Flying Saucer Rock And Roll (1957) > Sun 260-A <

If you were a song, even one as sweet as ''I Want You Baby'', how'd you like to get stuck on the flipside of- ''Flyin' Saucer Rock And Roll''? Talk about being invisible! It is very easy to underestimate to this record.- The lyrics won't make anybody forget about Cole Porter. The sound has that "live in the studio, cooked up- spontaneously" quality. The results are endearing but just as easy to discount. Sun couldn't have picked a- more perfect B-side for ''Flyin' Saucer Rock And Roll''. It would have been a rare disc jockey who listened- to this and decided to divert his attention from the A-side.

Ask yourself: What category of music is this? Everyone knows that Sun produced hybrids, but how would- you label this track? Is this country? Rock and roll? Pop? A large part of that confusion stems from- Roland's wonderful guitar playing. Some of the alternate takes push the results closer to either country or- rock, but the original 45 contains just the perfect measure of confusion.

On the master of "I Want You Baby", Riley and company also shine on this undervalued mid tempo gem.- The smooth guitar work and pleading vocal reveal an exceptionally talented performer. Once again, it is- James Van Eaton, whose tasty licks and accenting raise this fine record to excellence.

4 - I Want You Baby (1957) > Sun 260-B <

3-4 Recorded December 11, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Marvin Pepper (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jerry Lee Lewis (piano 18-22)
Producer - Sam Phillips

Riley returned to the studio to start work on a rockabilly version of an old Sun copyright, Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Red Hot". As always, the rhythm section, featuring Roland Janes and drummer James M. Van Eaton, played with teletathic cohesion. Win, lose, or draw, Riley always had one of the hottest working bands in the Mid-South. By the end of 1957, "Red Hot" had sold only thirty-seven thousand copies, and Riley was furious.

Billy Riley's third instance in the studio represents one of the last times when Jerry Lee Lewis would muster as a sideman. This incandescent recording reading of Billy "The Kid" Emerson's "Red Hot" based on a cheerleaders' chant, "Our team is red hot..."). It was the closest Riley came to scoring a hit in the 1950s. The band was essentially the same, except that Jimmy Wilson had become the permanent pianist and Johnny "Ace" Cannon had been added on saxophone. The song was suggested by Sam Phillips (the fact that he owned the publishing probably accounted for some of his enthusiasm). The original version had appeared on Sun Records in June 1955.

Billy Riley is absolutely frantic. Whether his gal is "red hot" or not becomes a matter of life and death. He sounds as though he is pushing the recording needle well into the red as he does permanent damage to his larynx. "That's what the song needed - and that's what I gave it", Riley asserted.

James M. Van Eaton and Jimmy Wilson are extremely prominent, the former nearly maniacal, continually walloping the backbeat and thundering through bars three and four of each verse, creating a much heightened sense of tension. All the instruments are pushing, playing slightly ahead of the beat. The song actually has a relatively complex structure as Emerson mixes 6/4 and 4/4 bars in the chorus. Riley smiles, "That's what makes it happen. Most bands get it wrong". The whole song verged on hedonistic, almost violent chaos but Billy Riley and his band had crafted a truly definitive rockabilly performance.

But, If you listen closely (which you have to do because the drums were not well miked, as was often the case at Sun) you can hear than Van Eaton hits the ride cymbal throughout the record. The drums mark the transitions into and out of solos and enliven the solos as well (the added hand-claps during the solos help fill out the sound, but somewhat mask the drumming; too bad). Van Eaton makes this one of the most energetic and compelling records in the Sun catalog. It's not that he was playing loud, but that he was playing tasty. In his own words, ''People assume we were playing real loud on those records but we weren't. It was a small studio and we had to hear each other. The rule I always used was, if you couldn't hear the unmiked piano, you were playing too loud''.

5 - Red Hot (1957) > Sun 277-A <

"Pearly Lee" meanwhile, was furnished with handclaps and a chorus overdub to- arrive at the kind of gloss normally lavished on a A-side. That distinction went to- "Red Hot". Pearly Lee is probably better known as the flip side of Red Hot than as a great record in its own right. Nevertheless, those listeners who are familiar with its released version on Sun 277 are in for some surprises and some treats as they hear the alternate versions included here.

One inspiration for Pearly Lee is obviously Little Richard's record, ''The Girl Can't Help It'' (Specialty 591) which broke into the Billboard Top 100 just about the time that ''Pearly Lee'' was recorded. On both, the lead vocalist sings a line and several voices respond in unison to remind him of the song's title. The responding voices do not appear on the four all versions here, but they are part of Sun 277. Riley also adopted a word from ''The Girl Can't Help It''. Little Richard begins, "If she walks by the menfolks get engrossed". On all the alternates (but not- Sun 277), Riley sings, "When she walks by the menfolks stop and look'. Are there any other rock and roll songs that include the word, 'menfolks'? Luckily, Riley didn't decide to use the word ''engrossed''.

6 - Pearly Lee (1957) > Sun 277-A <

5-6 Recorded January 30, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Marvin Pepper (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
John ''Ace'' Cannon (saxophone)
Producer - Sam Phillips

Those expecting Billy Riley's vocal to be a repeat of "Red Hot" or "Flying Saucer Rock And Roll" were stunned by his style on "Wouldn't You Know". At the time, few fans realized how much of a chameleon Riley truly was. Even the instrumental sound of "Wouldn't You Know" was a departure. Everything from chord structure to tempo was a departure from typical Riley-Sun fare. Yet it all worked, highlighted by Martin Willis' highly melodic sax solo.

Billy Riley was unhappy with "Wouldn't You Know". "We should never have cut that record. It was something that we used to do on stage. It just wasn't a good record". In the absence of Ronald Janes, Billy Riley plays lead guitar and the solo spots are taken by Martin Willis' tenor sax. However, the highlight of the recording is Jimmy Wilson's ringing piano accompaniment. Note Riley's imitation of Jerry Lee Lewis' lascivious "Mmmm's".

7 - Wouldn't You Know (1958) > Sun 289-B <

"Baby Please Don't Go" is much successful. James M. Van Eaton opens it with an atmospheric shuffle augmented by Riley's girlfriend banging two drumsticks together. Riley plays the electric lead on a Bird land guitar and uses his raspy voice in marked contrast to the smoother 'A' side. Riley felt that the absence of Sam Phillips from the studio had a noticeable effect. "We weren't as comfortable in the studio with Jack at the controls. Sam was always coming around and listening. He was in there making you feel good. He'd say like 'OK man, that was great. Gimme more black in it'. Jack never been happy with a cut on anything he's ever done. Sam knew when the record was cut". The record that would supposedly fulfill Riley's promise was released in February 1958. By June it had sold a dismal 3210 copies.

Riley's vocal and guitar work on "Baby Please Don't Go" was closer to expectations. There is a considerable tension to this record; it feels just on the verge of breaking free. Riley sings and plays with restraint, yet there is an unmistakable edge to his performance. Its a fine recording.

Billy Riley spent too much of his Sun career eclipsed by Jerry Lee Lewis. The story has often been told of how "Red Hot" was held back in order to focus Sun's meager promotional and pressing resources on "Great Balls Of Fire". What is often overlooked is the fact that this cycle of neglect continued with Sun 289. While perhaps not as commercial as "Red Hot", this recording was similarly overwhelmed by Jerry Lee's latest (Sun 288). Again. Riley was relegated to the back burner and watched this single sell barely over 3000 copies. It was at this point that Billy Riley quit Sun and went off looking for greener pastures. He never found them and would soon return to the familiar confines of 706 Union.

8 - Baby Please Don't Go (1958) > Sun 289-A <

7-8 Recorded November 25, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Martin Willis (saxophone)
Producer - Sam Phillips

9 - Rockin' On The Moon (1958)

Billy Riley summarily quit Sun Records and signed a one-off deal with Brunswick which resulted in the Owen Bradley produced single ''Rockin' On The Moon'' and ''That All To The Ball Mr. Hall'' (Brunswick 55085). The awkward contrivance of the Brunswick single was in marked contrast to the spontaneity and vitality of even Riley's least distinguished Sun recordings.

Not even the change in label could spark a little action in Riley's career, although expressions of interest were coming from some unlikely quarters. In mid 1958 Dick Clark brought Riley to Philadelphia with a view to recording him for Swan (one of the labels in which Clark had a covert interest that he was forced to divest before and during the payola hearings). A little later, Steve Sholes, RCA's corpulent head of A&R, approached Riley with the prospect of recording for RCA in Toronto, presumably during Riley's extended engagement at the Flamingo Lounge in Hamilton, Ontario.

On both occasions, Riley left town without cutting anything. ''We were going to the studio to cut for Dick Clark'', recalled Riley to Bill Millar, ''and I said, 'Aw, let's go back to Sam. He’s the only one that understand us'. I just didn't trust people from the North''. Similarly, Riley was booked on the Arthur Godfrey Show but failed to show up. ''I don't understand why I did those crazy things'', said Riley, trying to account for the fact that he was becoming his own worst enemy, a trait that would gather momentum. At the end of 1958, Billy Riley going back to Sun Records. Riley soon defined the groove in which he remained for the balance of his tenure at the label.

10 - Is That All To The Ball (1958)

9-10 Recorded May 21, 1958 at Bradley Film & Recording Studio, 804 16th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone0
Producer - Owen Bradley

Billy Riley is featured on what is probably his strongest instrument, harmonica. On "Itchy" he exhibits a fair amount of Little Walter's influence while Burgess' guitar work on sections of the more laid back "Thunderbird" (named after the wine that flowed during the sessions) is somewhat reminiscent of Link Wray's "Rumble".

"Every session we got drunk", asserted Riley to Bill Millar. "It was fun getting in there and getting drunk. Sam usually got tight with us. We had respect for each other, but we never did get along too well. I didn't appreciate the lack of promotion, but I appreciated his talent. He knew I had the band that could work with anybody, and he needed us".

Things sound pretty spontaneous and chaotic here, except for the fact that two sessions were actually held during the summer of '58, about a month apart. The master versions of "Itchy" and "Thunderbird" were recorded during July. Billboard was pretty impressed with both sides of this outing by "the Burgess combo" and cautioned to "Watch this one. Either side can click". It was wonderful advice but, unfortunately, a poor prophecy.

11 - Itchy (1958) > Sun304-A <

Jack Clement, Billy Riley, and Sonny Burgess were sitting around the Sun studio and the wine was flowing. We can only surmise from the title that it wasn't an important Chardonnay. (Thunderbird was available in supermarkets in quart bottles for under a dollar in 1958). Jimmy Van Eaton and Charlie Rich, rarely an abstainer in those bygone days, joined them for the session. Riley provided the harp; Clement the bass, and Burgess the stinging guitar solos.

12 - Thunderbird (1958) > Sun 304-B <

11-12 Recorded July 22, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Sonny Burgess (guitar), Billy Riley (harmonica), Jack Clement (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Charlie Rich (piano)
Producer - Jack Clement

The original idea for a rocked-up version of "Down By The Riverside" came from Memphis Press Scimitar reporter Edwin Howard who had recorded one single for Sam Phillips in order to document the process of recording. In the first flush of enthusiasm after its release, Howard re-wrote the lyrics to "Down By The Riverside" and was given 50% of the song after Riley subsequently copped the idea. Bill Justis overdubbed a chorus and a second sax part over the bed track which went some distance towards disguising Riley's somewhat lackluster vocal.

Billy Riley reworked the traditional anti-war song into a suitably rocking style for the 1959 marketplace.

13 - Down By The Riverside 1959) > Sun 313-B <

Even though "No Name Girl" portrays a spirited and carefree atmosphere, the record required considerable thought and energy to get right. True, it was a simple formula, alternating eight bar verses with sax breaks, while modulating keys up and down. However, the released version came from the third session devoted to getting it right. Things finally clicked on January 19, 1959. A session held twelve days earlier on the same two titles had produced nothing releasable. Neither had a December 16 date the previous year, "No Name Girl" was attempted for the first time. The final work, a "driving countryish effort with blues and hoedown overtones", to quote Billboard, was the brainchild of Riley and Jack Clement.

14 - No Name Girl (1959) > Sun 313-A <

13-14 Recorded December 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Charlie Rich or Jimmy Wilson (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone)
Unknown (vocal chorus)
Producer – Jack Clement and Bill Justis

This title is a jewel in the crown of Riley's Sun titles - a judgement shared by fans, Sun studio musicians, and the singer, himself. The song's origins are a bit obscure. Its composer / singer was Carolina Slim a.k.a Country Paul a.k.a Edward P Harris. The version that found its way to Riley was recorded in New York either on July 24, 1950 or December is, 1951 (or both). One version appeared on Acorn 319 - a label not at the fingertips of many collectors. The 1951 version was released on King 4532. A side-by-side comparison of the two versions is not available to us. In any case, Riley described the recording as rough and out of meter. A sort of 'John Lee Hooker thing' in Riley s words. How it got to Riley or was transformed into this beautiful piece of decidedly in-meter performance is anybody's guess.

Billy Riley had first heard "One More Time" on an old blues record: "I listened to that thing and it was real raw", he recalled. "It was like John Lee Hooker, out of meter and everything. It just sounded so good to me I wanted to do it. It happened. Its a great song, man". Quite where or how Riley came to hear "One More Time" is something of a mystery. It was a wholly obscure single by Country Paul (a.k.a. Carolinea Slim and Eddie Harris) issued on King in 1952 and owing, as Riley said, a considerable debt to John Lee Hooker. Riley's performance truly is a masterful. He turns in a plaintive reading of the lyric complemented by responses on both the guitar and sax. The record is capped by a beautiful understated sax solo by Martin Willis. Riley's chameleon-like ability to alter his voice has been evident throughout his career, and has been as much of an impedance as it has been an advantage. "It was the mood of the song", counters Riley. "To me a song like "Red Hot" was screaming but then "One More Time" was a laid back saxophone song. I thought I was a saxophone on it. I don't think I really had control over it. It just happened. That's the only way I could sing "One More Day". I just did it natural. The way the song told me to do it. It goes back to what Sam and Judd both said about me: 'I'm not a voice, I'm a saxophone".

15 - Come Back Baby (One More Time) (1959) > Sun 322-A <

"Got The Water Boilin'" was a cover version of a record by the Regals on Atlantic and features Riley in his Little Richard mode. As was the case with most Riley sessions, the material was not rehearsed prior to entering the studio. Consequently, both "One More Time" and "Got The Water Boilin'" were tried a number of different ways during the session.

This was Riley's final Sun single and it is also the first time he appears on a Sun label billed as "Bill". The man was a chameleon in both name and musical style. On this disc, he attacks two pieces of potent (and derivative) rhythm and blues material, one a rocker and one a deep blues. On "Got The Water Boilin'", Riley offers his version of a highly obscure Atlantic single by the Regals. The issued version has Riley in his Little Richard incarnation, shouting above Martin Willis' tenor sax. Jimmy Van Eaton's drumming is the highlight here. The man can barely contain his energy.

16 - Got The Water Boilin (1959) > Sun 322-B <

15-16 Recorded June 4, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone)

"Open The Door Richard" was a slice of black vaudeville, and on immense hit record in the 1940s, crossing over into the pop marketplace. Interestingly, many of the competing versions were quite different. Black music hall star Dusty Fletcher popularized the number, which dated back to a much earlier routine by John "Pider Bruce" Mason. Jack McVea's record became the biggest hit, though, and it was McVea's record that was generally copied, albeit with more variations, by the likes of Count Basie. All versions returned to the same chorus, which provided instant recognition, and the selling point.

The tale of this record by Ernie Barton could keep a team of archaeologists in business. Among out most recent discoveries. First, the wonderful free spirit that you hear on this release did not emerge spontaneously off the floor; rather, it was layered together piece by piece - first the band track, then Barton's vocal, and finally the chorus. Second, many knowledgeable Sun collectors will recognize "Open The Door Richard", credited to Ernie Barton, has previously been released on several occasions as a Billy Riley title. The mistake is understandable. For one thing, Barton sounds a lot like Riley - two southern white boys talking and singing in jivey black style. For another, according to the Sun Records Discography by Escott and Hawkins, Billy Riley recorded a version of this title on November 25, 1957, over a year before the Barton session. It didn't help the confusion when the Barton version was stored on a Riley reel in the Sun vault.

It now appears that if Billy Riley ever recorded a version of "Open The Door Richard" at Sun, the tapes haven't survived. As if this puzzle needed more complications, consider the fact that Barton's record has never been seen by Sun collectors. It may have simply been assigned a number and never released for reasons that have been lost to time. Interviewed by Colin Escott in 1987, Ernie Barton insisted that "Richard" had indeed been released, but the fact that not one copy has surfaced doesn't seem to bear this out. To confuse matters yet more, Riley has never once suggested that the version issued under his name was not his.

17 - Open The Door Richard (Ernie Barton) (1959) > PI 3541-A <

17 Recorded February 25, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Barton (vocal), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley (bass and vocal), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Charlie Rich (piano), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone)

Surprisingly, neither Billy Riley nor Roland Janes recorded prolifically for Rita. "We were so involved with trying to record everyone else that we forgot about ourselves", said Janes. "I guess we wanted to be producers and moguls". Riley saw two releases on Rita.
"Dark Muddy Bottom" and "Reposession Blues" was released under the pseudonym of Lightnin' Leo. Its authentic down home flavor fooled many blues fans into thinking that Leon had emerged from the Delta around 1960, cut one record and returned to the cotton patch.

18 - Dark Muddy Bottom (1960)
19 - Repossession Blues (1960)

By the time "That's What I Want To Do" was released, Billy Riley had quit Rita Records, reportedly selling his share for $1000 just as Harold Dorman's "Mountain Of Love" was breaking. He promptly started Mojo Records and covered "That's What I Want To Do" for Mojo with Billy Garner handling the vocals.

20 - That's What I Want To Do (1960)

18-20 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Pepper Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
or Fernwood Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (Vocal, guitar and harmonica), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)
Producer - Roland Janes and Billy Riley

21 - Too Much Woman For Me (1960)

21 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959/1960 at Royal/Hi Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal), Roland Janes (guitar), Unknown (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone)

Dubs off discs: CD 1, tracks 1,2,20 and 21

Original Sun Recordings

Disc 2 Contains

1 - Flying Saucer Rock And Roll (1990)
2 - I Want You (1990)
3 - She's My Baby (Red Hot) (1987)
4 - Pearly Lee (1990)
5 - She's My Baby (Red Hot) (1974)

1-5 Recorded December 11, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Marvin Pepper (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jerry Lee Lewis (piano 18-22)
Producer - Sam Phillips

6 - Pearly Lee (1990)
7 - Red Hot (1990)

6-7 Recorded January 30, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Marvin Pepper (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
John ''Ace'' Cannon (saxophone)
Producer - Sam Phillips

8 - Rock With Me Baby (1971)
9 - Wouldn't You (1985)
10 - That's Right (1975)
11 - Searchin' (1974)

8-11 Recorded November 25, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Martin Willis (saxophone)
Producer - Sam Phillips

12 - Chatter & College Man (1985)
13 - Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash (1985)

12-13 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal), Bill Justis (tenor saxophone), Unknown Group
Producer - Unknown

14 - Down By The Riverside (1990)
15 - Swanee River Rock (1974)

14-15 Recorded December 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Charlie Rich or Jimmy Wilson (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone)
Unknown (vocal chorus)
Producer – Jack Clement and Bill Justis

16 - Betty And Dupree (1974)
17 - Let's Talk About Us (1974)
18 - Got The Water Boiling (1990)

16-18 Recorded June 4, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Ray ''Luke'' Paulman (guitar) Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone)
Producer - Jack Clement and Bill Justis

19 - Saturday Night Fish Fry (1985)
20 - Folsom Prison Blues (1985)
21 - Billy's Blues (1985)
22 - Dark Muddy Bottom (1985)
23 - When A Man Gets The Blues (1985)

19-23 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar where heard)
Producer - Unknown

24 - Sweet William (1964)

24 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and guitar)
Producer - Unknown

25 - Red Hot (1988)

25 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Pepper Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (Vocal, guitar and harmonica), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)
Producer - Roland Janes and Billy Riley

26 - Mud Island (1988)

26 Recorded Unknown Date(s) at Sonic Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (vocal and harmonica), Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Tommy Bennett (piano), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone)
Producer - Roland Janes and Billy Riley

27 - My Baby's Got Love (1988)

27 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Pepper Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (Vocal, guitar and guitar), Wylie Gann (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Tommy Bennett (piano)
Producer - Roland Janes and Billy Riley

28 - That's What I Want To Do (1988)

28 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1959 at Pepper Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
or Fernwood Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Riley (Vocal, guitar and harmonica), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)
Producer - Roland Janes and Billy Riley

Original Sun, Rita, and Brunswick Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Billy Riley's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Billy Lee Riley only had six records issued under his own name on Sun Records. Sparse as his output may haven been, in rockabilly annals he remains a titan. His recordings of "Flyin' Saucer Rock And Roll" and "Red Hot" are by themselves sufficient to ensure his immortality. The other recordings, both issued and unissued, are evidence of a man with catholic taste and talents versatile enough to match them.

Riley a product of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, born on October 5, 1933 in Pocohontas, Arkansas although the family moved often throughout the rural Mid-South. "Back when I was a kid growing up, we lived on a plantation with mostly black people on it. Every Saturday and every Sunday you could usually find a little group of dudes under the trees playing blues. A white guy, Tommy Hamblin, who came from a family of string musicians, taught me how to play three or four chords on the guitar. We started playing with the black musicians, being the blues with them. He and I man, we were black as the rest of' em".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

''Trouble Bound'' would eventually form one side of Riley's first release on Sun. First tough, Riley joined Slim Wallace's Dixie Ramblers. Wallace was a local truck driver who played bass in a band which also featured Jack Clement, then attending Memphis State University. Wallace and Clement got the notion to start a record label, Fernwood Records, named after the street upon which Wallace lived. The studio was a primitive affair, literally situated in his garage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Since 1983 Billy Riley has refused to gig, recorded little and released nothing. If the right offer under the right conditions came along he would probably give it one last go-round. In the meantime, he supports himself as a contractor, rarely dwelling upon his impressive, if less than successful, past.

All of us involved with this project revere Billy Riley for his music. When Joyce met Billy on April 11, 1975, she knew nothing about Billy's music or Sun Records. She fell in love with a hard-working man who was raising two daughters, ages 3 and 6, by himself. Only later did Joyce discover the music featured here. Joyce and Billy were married just about two weeks after they met, on April 26, 1975. Joyce was still with Billy 34 years later when he died of colon cancer on August 2, 2009. The final years of Billy's life were a medical and, consequently, a financial nightmare.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1991 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15542 mono digital
ONIE WHEELER - ONIE'S BOP

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Product. Red label. 3 Bear Family logo's left and right from center. Catalog number on the disc left at center. On the back cover, Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in upper right. Contains Onie Wheeler's Okeh, Columbia, and Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued. Also included in the box, 22-page booklet biography with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Richard Weize and Colin Escott.

Producer
Don Law (Columbia), Jack Clement and Bill Justis (Sun)
Re-Issued Producers
Richard Weize and Colin Escott
Photos and Illustrations
The Wheeler Family, R. Andreas, A.J. Nelson,
Charlie Terrell, Colin Escott
Mastering
Duncan Cowell
Liner Notes
Colin Escott
Discography
Richard Weize (Columbia)
Colin Escott (Sun)
Thanks to
Jean and Karen Wheeler, A.J. Nelson, Charlie Terrell,
Nick Shaffran, Big Al Turner

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

Contains

Onie Wheeler was steppin' out with some of the most unregenerate rockabillies to walk the planet. Starting in March this year, Bob Neal had booked Onie Wheeler and the Nelson Brothers onto his Stars Incorporated, 1916 Sterick Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee, package shows with Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

By the end of 1957, Onie was pretty tight with the Memphis crowd and went to Sun to cut a record that November. Onie's opinion of Sun was that it was a bush-league operation in terms of recording, but he gave them "Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox", one of his best songs - and best performances. It didn't lack novelty appeal, but was unaccountably held back until February 1959. Unlike most records with a novelty slant, though, it had enough solid musicality to sustain listening.

Two other cuts, "That's All" and "Walkin' Shoes" were cut from pretty standard rockabilly cloth circa 1957, but the tempo was too fast for Onie to feel comfortable. In fact, Onie told Martin Hawkins that even the tempo on "Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox" was twice as fast as he would have liked.

The undubbed track of ''Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox'' reveals that Onie Wheeler overdubbed his harmonica 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.

The master of ''Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox'' 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 charmingly hybrid sound produced by Onie and Sun.

This is a perfect Sun record. Deep voiced, bluesy, echoes countryish rockabilly. What Sun fan could ask fore more? The trouble is, this classic mid-1950s record was released in February 1959. It missed the peak market by nearly three years.

Mind you. none of this was Onie Wheeler’s fault. Wheeler cut these sides in late 1957 when they were a little closer to the mainstream. In fact, Onie had been cutting Sun-sounding records since 1953. The only trouble was they were being issued by Columbia, who viewed his music as lying somewhere between quaint and enigmatic. Onie's music is wonderfully represented in a 31 track compilation titled Onie's Bop (Bear Family BCD 15542), a collection that makes a case for Wheeler as a true original. While it would be comforting to say that he finally found his niche at Sun, the truth is that Onie didn't enjoy his experience at 706 Union, finding it too chaotic and disorganized for his taste. "Unprofessional" was the word he used. Nevertheless, Onie's unusual voice and style seem ideally suited to the classic Sun sound of these sides. His harp, heard in support of Roy Acuff for many years, is a nice tough here as well. A trouper to the last, Onie died on stage at the Opry house in 1984.

1 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (1959) > Sun 315-A <
(Onie Wheeler) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)

His one Sun outing, "Tell 'Em Off" was held back to over a year, by which time the veteran singer was working at a shoe factory in his home state of Missouri. Fortunately the respite turned out to be temporary, proving that you couldn't keep a man down who had a voice like s spilled barrell of tar. His distinctive vocal is enhanced by the slapback echo which also fattens up the echoey low string guitar figure.

Having Memphis agent Bob Neal as his representative, Onie often shared the bill with local rock and roll acts and although "Walkin' Shoes" never secured a place in the catalogue, this was the closest his got to the genre. Once again, Onie lays into some straight ahead 1950s country rock. The charm of his mid-tempo recording 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.

2 - Tell'em Off (Master) (1959) > Sun 315-B <
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Incorporated)

3 - I Wanna Hold My Baby (1956)
(Betty Jean Wheeler)

After five singles on OKeh, Onie's releases were moved to the parent Columbia label in April 1955. In that year, Onie went out on tour with Elvis Presley and other Sun artists. His Columbia contract was extended for two years in August. The amusing "Onie's Bop", recorded in April 1956, was Wheeler's first attempt to come to terms with the new rockabilly music.

4 - Onie's Bob (1956)
(Onie Wheeler)

5 - A Booger Gonna Getcha (1956)
(Onie Wheeler)

His last Columbia single appeared in May 1957, "Goin' Back To the City", another rockabilly flavoured number, recorded with the Nashville A-team.

6 - Going Back To The City (1956)
(Betty Jean Wheeler) (Peer Music)

The last Columbia single appeared in May 1957. It couplet the rockabilly flavoured ''Going Back To The City'' with ''Steppin' Out''. One of only two non-originals that future Sun artist, Onie Wheeler recorded while he was with Columbia. The rockabilly recordings were fine in their way, but Onie functioned best at a slower or mellow mid-tempo. It allowed all the subtle shadings in his voice to come to the fore. Somehow, there was a more compelling drive to the mid-tempo ''Run 'En Off'' than to the faster numbers.

Billboard's obituary called Onie, ''one of the pioneers of rockabilly'', but even though he was quick to spot the potential in Elvis Presley, his heart lay where it always had, in stone country music.

7 - Long Gone (1986)
(Onie Wheeler) (Peer Music)

Onie Wheeler had quit playing with the Nelson brothers again at some point in 1956 because Charlie Terrell had landed him a gig with Flatt and Scruggs who were hosting a syndicated television show and travelling far and wide. Terrell lent Onie a truck for the move to Nashville, and found him a house near the Cumberland River. It could have heralded a very successful period for Onie, but he did his best to self-destruct. ''He was getting calls from all kinds could move back to Sikeston and handle his career out of there. When he appeared at my door with all his stuff in a U-Haul, I gave up. I was looking for bigger things''. Terrell soon took over the management of Ray Smith, another Missourian with bags of talent and self-destruct buttons implanted all over him.

By the time the Columbia deal ended in 1957, Onie Wheeler was steppin' out with some of the most unregenerate rockabillies to walk the planet. Starting in March that year, Bob Neal had booked Onie and the Nelson Brothers onto his Stars Inc. package shows with Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. By the end of 1957, Onie Wheeler was pretty tight with the Memphis crowd and went to Sun Records to cut a record that November.

8 - Steppin' Out (1957)
(Eddie Star) (Peer Music)

9 - I'll Love You For A Lifetime (1986)
(Onie Wheeler) (Peer Music)

10 - A Begger For Your Love (1956)
(Betty Jean Crowe)

11 - Walkin' Shoes (Take 2) (1986)
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Limited)

''That's All'' 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. One works in a few more flashes of falsetto but this was essential a skimpy piece of material that ends up sounding better than it should have.

"I didn't play with Onie on Sun", recalled Onie's friend and guitarist A.J. Nelson. "Onie did that one himself with their own studio musicians. See, Onie would work with our trio for a while, then he would break off and do things by himself, then come back again. So Sun was one of those things he did by himself. I think he was living in St. Louis at the time. I heard Sam Phillips pay Onie a nice compliment. Sam was talking to someone and Onie walked up and Sam reached up and put his arm around Onie's shoulder, and said 'This man right here, if I could have had him ten years ago, he would have been the biggest star going'".

"But Onie was a simple man. He wouldn't have changed his style. If you wanted him to do a session one way, like a producer might, you might as well forget it. Onie wouldn't do it. Sam did that with Elvis, got him to do it his way. He couldn't with Onie, by the time he got to him. But he thought he might have been able to if he had got to him ten years sooner".

12 - That's All (1986)
(Onie Wheeler) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)

13 - Cut It Our (1955)
(Betty Jean Wheeler)

14 - That's What I Like (1955)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

15 - She Wiggled And Gliggled (1955)
(Onie Wheeler-T, Lee)

16 - I'm Satisfied With My Dreams (1955)
(Betty Jean Wheeler-Billy Strange)

17 - No, I Don't Guess I Will (1956)
(Betty Jean Crowe-Denny)

18 - Would You Like To Wear A Grown (1954)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

19 - I Saw Mother With God Last Night (1954)
(Betty Jean Crowe-Sherry)

20 - My Home Is Not A Home At All (1955)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

21 - Little Mama (1954)
(Betty Jean Crowe-Billy Strange)

22 - Hazel (1986)
(Unknown)

23 - Closing Time (1954)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

24 - I Tried And I Tried (1956)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

25 - I'll Swear You Don't Love Me (1954)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

26 - Love Me Like You Used To Do (1954)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

27 - When We All Get There (1953)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

28 - Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep (1953)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

29 - A Million Years In Glory (1953)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

Wheeler did radio shows in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Michigan, but didn't give up his day job until 1952, when he settled back in Missouri and started a band with drummer Ernest Thompson and the Nelson brothers, Doyal and A.J., both guitar players. In August 1953, they signed with OKeh/Columbia Records in Nashville and had their first recording session at the end of that month, under the supervision of Don Law. The session included two of Wheeler's best-known songs, "Run 'Em Off" and "Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep". Both were covered by other Columbia artists: "Run 'Em Off" by Lefty Frizzell (number 8 country hit in February 1954) and "Mother Prays Loud" by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.

30 - Run 'Em Off (1953)
(Onie Wheeler-T. Lee)

''Bonaparte's Retreat'' 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 a tape loop than a jam session. It is a pity that someone did not dig into the chord changes and take a good solo.

31 - Bonaparte's Retreat (1986)
(Pee Wee King-Redd Steward) (Copyright Control)

1, 2, 11, 12, 31 Original Sun Recordings
Recorded November 11, 22, 1957 and
December 6, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal and harmonica), Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano), Smokey Joe Baugh (drums)
Producer - Jack Clement and/or Bill Justis

3-10, 13-30 Original Columbia Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Onie Wheeler's Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

ONIE WHEELER – Born Onie Daniel Wheeler on November 10, 1921 in Senath, Missouri. Onie Wheeler had one minor hit, "John's Been Shucking My Corn", which peaked at number 53 on the country charts in 1973. But there was much more to Onie than that solitary hit. A career that began in the mid-1940s and ended tragically in 1984. In between there was some great music. One of thirteen kids, Wheeler worked on the family farm until he went into the service in 1940.

He played a harmonica and guitar around the house, but never considered music as a career option until his discharge in 1945, when entertainment seemed a livelier option than farming. His favourites were the Delmore Brothers and Ernest Tubb.

An accident while he was in the Army meant that the harmonica became Onie's major instrument, he had injured the index finger on his left hand and could only play guitar in open tunings. In 1946 he married Betty Jean Crowe; their oldest child, Karen (1947), went on to achieve some success as a country singer in the 1970s.

Wheeler did radio shows in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Michigan, but didn't give up his day job until 1952, when he settled back in Missouri and started a band with drummer Ernest Thompson and the Nelson brothers, Doyal and A.J., both guitar players. In August 1953, they signed with OKeh/Columbia Records in Nashville and had their first recording session at the end of that month, under the supervision of Don Law. The session included two of Wheeler's best-known songs, "Run 'Em Off" and "Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep". Both were covered by other Columbia artists: "Run 'Em Off" by Lefty Frizzell (number 8 country hit in February 1954) and "Mother Prays Loud" by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.

After five singles on OKeh, Onie's releases were moved to the parent Columbia label in April 1955. In that year, Onie went out on tour with Elvis Presley and other Sun artists. His Columbia contract was extended for two years in August. The amusing "Onie's Bop", recorded in April 1956, was Wheeler's first attempt to come to terms with the new rockabilly music. His last Columbia single appeared in May 1957, "Goin' Back To the City", another rockabilly flavoured number, recorded with the Nashville A-team.

By the time the Columbia deal ended in August 1957, Onie and the Nelson brothers were playing on package shows with the Memphis rockabillies, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. It was only natural that Sun would become his next label. Onie's opinion of Sun was that it was a "bush-league operation" in terms of recording, but he gave them "Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox", one of his best songs. Recorded in late 1957, it was unaccountably held back until February 1959. By that time, musical tastes had changed considerably and the record (Sun 315) never stood a commercial chance, excellent as it was.

Perhaps Sam Phillips was too busy trying to salvage something from the ruins of Jerry Lee Lewis's career. Two other up-tempo Sun cuts, "That's All" and "Walking Shoes", were held in the can until 1986, when they were saved from oblivion by Bear Family Records. According to Colin Escott, the tempo on these two songs was too fast for Onie to feel comfortable. His heart (and strength) lay in slow country numbers and his rockabilly numbers for Sun and Columbia lack conviction, in Escott's opinion.

For the remainder of his career, Onie Wheeler flitted in and out of the music business. Between 1960 and 1966 he recorded for a variety of labels, had a slot on George Jones's package show for two years and worked with Roy Acuff. He did not record again until 1971. "John's Been Shucking My Corn" was initially released on Old Windmill Records in late 1971, and re-released a year later on Royal American. Onie's only hit brought in a few show dates, but he couldn't find a follow-up. During the late 1970s and early 1980s he owned and operated a guitar repair shop. He was operated on for an aneurysm in January 1984, but started to work again a few months later. While performing at Jimmie Snow's Grand Ole Gospel radio show at the Grand Ole Opry on May 26, 1984 in Nashville, he collapsed on stage and died of a massive heart attack.

Onie Wheeler was a true original, with an immediately recognizable voice, but he never achieved much recognition, in spite of his many talents. A mixture of stubborness, uncommercial attitude and sheer bad luck may explain why he never really made it. According to Charlie Terrell, Onie's songwriting was "too far ahead of its time. His best material was written ten years too soon. He could have been as big as Tom T. Hall later became''.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1991 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15525 mono digital
SONNY BURGESS - THE CLASSIC RECORDINGS 1956 - 1959

2 compact disc boxed set. An Bear Family Special Product. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in upper right. Contains the complete Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter, demos, false starts. Also included in the boxed set, 32-page booklet biography with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Colin Escott.

A cursory listen to some of Sonny Burgess's records suggests a life lived close to the edge - nights spent playing gin mills followed by drunken chases down dirt roads, firing off bottle rockets and puking over the neighbour's car at dawn. In person, though, Burgess is a somewhat shy and self-effacing family man. The occasional comment will hint at more turbulent waters but he hasn't lived the life one might anticipate from some of his lyrics, which is just as well, otherwise there might not be a Sonny Burgess to talk to.

Producers
Sam C. Phillips and Jack Clement
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Photos and Illustrations
Bo Berglind, Sonny Burgess, Colin Escott
The Showtime Music Archive
Mastering
Duncan Cowell
Disc Dub
Mark Wilder
Biography
Colin Escott
Thanks to
Sonny Burgess, Jack Nance
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg

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

Disc 1 Contains

Allowing for some serious competition, Sonny Burgess boasted one of the wildest stage acts of all rockabilly performers. He endorsed this first Sun single by dying his hair a full-blooded crimson and working up an outlandish routine to get the message across.

"We Wanna Boogie" and "Red Headed Woman" stand among the rawest recordings released during the first flowering of rock and roll. The lyrics were almost unintelligible (although they repay close attention with some very funny couplets), and the instrumentation teetered on the edge of atonality. It was a record that sported an air of total abandon, sounding as if it had been created under the heavy burden of alcohol, although Sonny Burgess remembers that everyone was stone cold sober, and nervous to the point of apprehension. Despite being almost unmarketable according to established precept, "Red Headed Woman" reportedly sold over 90,000 copies. It did especially well in Boston, although Burgess was unaware of that fact until Jack Nance and Joe Lewis toured there a few years later with Conway Twitty.

1 - We Wanna Boogie (1956) > Sun 247-B < 
2 - Red Headed Woman (1956) > Sun 247-A <
3 - The Prisoner's Song (1988)
4 - We Wanne Boogie (Alternate Take 3) (1991)
5 - Red Headed Woman (Alternate Take 2) (1988)
6 - The Prisoner's Song (Alternate Take 2) (1991)

On ''All Night Long'' the six feet, Joe Lewis cut an imposing figure as the joint frontman of Sonny Burgess' Pacers. He picked a solid rhythm guitar and carried the reputation of being a popular figure whitin the band. In other words it made good sense for Sam Phillips to investigate his capabilities when he brought Sonny in to tape his maiden sides, and the finesse rolled over into this wild high-stepper. Sadly the title proved to be portentous, as the gangly musicians lost his life in a car wreck during the 1970s.

While it is immediately clear that Joe Lewis was not going to take away anybody's job as vocalist, the sound of the track just bristies with energy. The lyric is surprisingly rural ( a reference to round and square dancing that immediately calls to mind Carl Perkins "Gone, Gone, Gone"). Yet it also quotes "Womp Bomp Alooma..." from Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti". Rock and roll was truly becoming a cultural melting pot. But if Lewis' lyric is semi-rural, the instrumental work surely isn't. Following a tame, almost Orienttal 4-bar intro, Burgess's hard edged electric guitar virtually tears through the speakers during his first solo.

The second break is even more dramatic. The solo starts with four empty bars that leave you wondering if someone forgot to turn on his amplifier. Then suddenly, Wham! Sonny is again putting your tweeters at risk. This is precisely the approach that Carl Perkins used on "Gone, Gone, Gone" - a record that seems to have influenced this track in more ways than just its lyrics.

On Sun 224, Perkins actually scats his way through the first four bars of his final solo, seemingly going nowhere on guitar, before tearing into a startling 4-7 chord and bringing the track back to life. Joe Lewis and Sonny seem to have borrowed the tric perfectly here. Through it all, Russ Smith's drumming is all over the place. His playing crosses the line between assertive and aggressive, yet the sound of his snare is curiously dead - the same sound we hear on the early session that produced "We Wanna Boogie".

Joe Lewis joined (and named) Burgess' band The Pacers and was on hand for their second audition at Sun and their earliest recording sessions. He and fellow band member (trumpet and drums) Jack Nance later toured with Conway Twitty. Nance made more of the affiliation, co-writing a number of Twitty releases including the mega-hit "It's Only Make Believe". Before leaving Sun, Joe Lewis recorded seven vocal duet titles with Jack Nance.

7 - All Night Long (1988)
8 - Life's Too Short To Live (1988)

1-8 Recorded May 2, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), Joe Lewis (guitar and vocal (7-8), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Russell Smith (drums), Kern Kennedy (piano), Jack Nance (trumpet)
Producer - Sam Phillips

"Restless" was Sonny Burgess his first stab at a balled. The lyrics were written by Mitt Addington, a consulting pyschologist in Memphis who had demo'd a number of songs at Sun over the years - and even had two cut by Big Memphis Marainey, and another by RCA artist Wade Ray. Jack Clement handed Sonny a little sheet of paper with Addington's lyrics, and Sonny Burgess set them to music, for which he thought he would receive a fifty percent share of the song, a share that never materialised. The record died on the vines, and Burgess was disappointed - but there was worse in store.

Perhaps there was even greater sales potential on the lilting flipside "Restless". Sonny Burgess' whistling, the subdued and effective male chorus, and a rolling tempo might have made for big crossover sales, but nothing materialized. Burgess would take two more shots at fame and fortune on the Sun label, but this defeat was dispiriting for everyone involved.

9 - Restless (1957) > Sun 263-B <

Sonny Burgess still rocked on "Ain't Got A Thing", although not at the frenetic pace of his previous outing. In addition, the track featured a clever, not to mention intelligible lyric. The key modelation during the instrumental break lets Burgess soar during the final verse.

Sonny Burgess believed that his second record, "Ain't Got A Thing", would break through. The lyrics had the anarchic throwaway humor of Chuck Berry and Louis Jordan: "I got a check, but it won't cash. I hot a woman, ain't got no class". It was catchy and melodic, featuring a nicely worked up modulation during the break, but all to no avail. Sonny Burgess later thought it might have flopped because it was a little too fast for dancing.

10 - Ain't Got A Thing (1957) > Sun 263-A <
11 - Daddy Blues (AlternateTake 2) (1988)
12 - Fannie Brow (Alternate Take 2) (1991)
13 - Ain't Gonna Do It (Alternate Take 1) (1971)
14 - Daddy's Blues (Alternate Take 1) (1978)
15 - Fanny Brown (Alternate Take 1) (1971)
16 - You (1978)

9-16 Recorded Unknown Dates 1956/1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), Joe Lewis (guitar), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Russell Smith (drums), Kern Kennedy (piano), Jack Nance (trumpet)
Producer - Sam Phillips and/or Jack Clement

''Ain't Gonna Do It" and "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane" are on the same session reel. Rockabilly icon Sonny Burgess invested one take on "Hand Me Down My Walking Gane" or "All My Sins Been Taken Away" on this traditional gospel song in 1957. This is obviously a very rough recording and for from Sonny's best work for Sun, but it marks the only time he ever veered in the general direction of gospel music. The song, which renounces worldly goods and rejoices in imminent death and rebirth, was also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. Like Sonny, Jerry Lee also gave the song one take before moving on to other material.

17 - One Broken Heart (1991)
18 - Ain't (Alternate Take 2) (1980)
19 - Hand Me Down My Walking Cane (1975)
20 - Please Listen To Me (Undubbed Recording) (1988)
21 - Gone (1980)
22 - Please Listen To Me (Overdubbed Recording) (1985)

17-22 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Kern Kennedy (piano), Jack Nance (drums)
Producer - Jack Clement and/or Sam Phillips

23 - My Babe (1988)
24 My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (Undubbed Recording) (1991)
25 - Sweet Misery (Undubbed Master) (1988)
26 - Whatcha' Gonna Do (1991)
27 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (Alternate Take) (1988)

23-27 Recorded August 14, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), Jack Clement (acoustic guitar), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Kern Kennedy (piano), Jack Nance (drums)
Producer - Jack Clement

Disc 2 Contains

If you're used to the issued version, when Burgess shouts ''Aw, get goin''' it is Clement's acoustic guitar that responds. Indeed, it is dispiriting to learn that an unreleased outtake features Burgess shouting his encouragement to an empty sky. Clements's solos were overdubbed. The earlier alternate takes is almost startlingly sparse. It features an electric guitar where Jack Clement's acoustic guitar solos appear on the single. It also reveals an intensity missing altogether from the original single with its overdubbed vocal chorus.

For Sonny Burgess' third single, Burgess revived Clarence Williams' jazz hokum novelty "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It" which dated back to the 1920s. Hank Williams had made the song his own, though, and it was probably Williams' version that Sonny Burgess remembered. Sonny was the closest approximation of black rhythm and blues on the market, and, in a swift kick of irony, he suffered the fate of the rhythm and blues singer: he was covered by a white pop act, in this instance Ricky Nelson. Sonny's version was released in December 1957; Ricky recorded his in January 1958 and reached number 18 on the Billboard charts. Burgess did not even have the satisfaction of having written the song - thereby seeing some composer royalties.

Best known by Hank Williams, "Bucket" was taken for such a fine rockabilly ride by Sunny Burgess that fledgling rocker Ricky Nelson rushed out and recorded a cover version which revealed all his limitations as a Sun wannabee. Burgess' version is an even better record than many of us realized at the time. Discovery years later of the original undubbed track pointed out two things: first, an even more powerful and driving performance had been buried under the overdubbed chorus; second, this overdub had not been done to a poor, unwilling Sonny. He was a willing participant in the process, as we hear him shout "yeh, get going's" to 16 bars of empty space awaiting Jack Clement's overdubbed guitar solo.

1 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (1957) > Sun 285-A < 

Probably the less said about "Sweet Misery" the better. Having established their presence on "Teenage Queen", the shrieking Gene Lowery singers were beginning to establish their dreaded presence on Sun overdub sessions under Jack Clement's aegis. Commercially speaking, it was probably a move in the right direction, but arrangements like this were beginning to undermine the musical purity and quirky tension that had drawn fans and critics to those yellow Sun record in the first place.

2 - Sweet Misery (1957) > Sun 285-B <

1-2 Vocal Overdub Session May 13, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Producer - Sam Phillips

3 - Oh Mama (1985)
4 - Truckin' Down The Avenue (1978)
5 - So Glad You're Mine (1988)

Sonny Burgess and The Pacers loved rhythm and blues music and probably listened to more of it than most rockabilly singers (with the exception of Elvis, of course). On ''What'cha Gonna Do'' they've taken a vintage track by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, recorded in February 1954, and made it their own. Sonny was no match for Clyde, but his band retains some of the raw enthusiasm of the original. Of necessity they've turned more adult concerns into teen fluff about dating. And they've made a telling change in Clyde's original: ''What you gonna do / when the church is on fire'' has become (probably at Sam's insistence) ''What you gonna do / when your house is on fire''

There's no harm in those changes since McPhatter's original was not going to cross over into the pop market and somebody had to ''translate'' it for the white folks, so why not Sonny and his pals from Arkansas? In any case, all that is academic since Sam Phillips never saw fit to release the track. It became one of many worthy Sonny Burgess tracks that remained in the vault for 20-30 years awaiting the Sun archeologists from Europe in the 1970s and 1980s.

Drummer Bobby Crafford does a fine job on this track. His work is driving, which is precisely what the track needs. During the final 12 bars, his backbeat nearly pushes the needle through the top of the level meter on Sam's tape machine. Today (2017), old friends Bobby Grafford and Sonny Burgess still perform together.

6 - Whatcha' Gonna Do (1991)
7 - Feelin' Good (1978)
8 - So Glad You're Mine (1978)
9 - One Night (1978)
10 - Always Will (1988)
11 - Little Town Baby (1975)
12 - You're Not The One For Me (1978)
13 - Mr. Blues (1978)

3-13 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), J.C. Caughron (guitar), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Kern Kennedy (piano), Bobby Crafford (drums)
Producer - Sam Phillips or Jack Clement

With the exception of Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Burgess probably left more prime material unreleased in the Sun vaults than any other artist. Even given the high stabdard of what Burgess left behind, the next track is a gem - eminent worthy of release back in 1957 or so when it was recorded. What stands out for us today is the wonderful Chuck Berrysque lyric (rhyming radio stations with United nations); the great instrumental sound, and, not least, Roy Orbison's vocal support behind Burgess. Any student or Orbi's career will recognize that its a short distance between the "bop bop badi do wah's" here and "Dom dom dom dombie doo wah's" - that began Phase 2 of Orbison's career in 1960 with "Only The Lonely". The great chord changes here are anchored by an all but ordinary flatted 6 chord - a touch introduced to rockabilly by Carl Perkins in "Honey Don't". And that memorable guitar figure that drives this record also makes a brief appearance in Joe Maphis's stellar guitar solo on Rockey Nelson's "Waitin' In School".

14 - Find My Baby For Me (False Start) (1978)
15 - Find My Baby For Me (1978)
16 - Tomorrow Nigh (1978)

14-16 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957-1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), J.C. Caughron (guitar), Johnny Ray Hubbard (bass),
Kern Kennedy (piano), Bobby Crafford (drums), Unknown (vocal chorus)
Producer - Sam Phillips or Jack Clement

"Skinny Ginny" cloned from Larry Williams' "Bonie Maronie", a hit in the early months of 1958. Possible recorded with "Mama Loochie" next session below.

17/18 - Tomorrow Never Comes (with False Start) (1980)
19 - Skinny Ginny (1988)
20 - So Soon (1978)

17-20 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), J.C. Caughron (guitar), Billy Riley (probably bass),
Kern Kennedy (bass), Bobby Crafford (drums)
Producer - Probably Jack Clement

21 - Mama Loochie (1) (1980)
22/23 - Mama Loochie (False Start & Complete) (2) (1988)

21-23 Recorded Probably 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (bass or guitar), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Unknown (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone)
Producer - Probably Jack Clement

24 - Itchy (1958) > Sun 304-A >
25 - Thunderbird (1958) < Sun 304-B < 

24-25 Recorded July 22, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (guitar), J.C Caighron (guitar), Jack Clement (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Billy Rilay (harmonica), Charlie Rich (piano)
Producer - Jack Clement

"A Kiss Goodnite" reveals the romantic, or at least the less frenetic side of Sonny Burgess. History has shown this to be a fine, engaging track. The shuffle rhythm works to perfection and guitarist J.C. Caughron has some fun with the vibrato arm of his guitar. It is disappointing that no more Sonny Burgess material was issued in the three years of life still remaining in Phillips International (and six years in Sun). In particular, Sonny's "Find My Baby For Me", recorded with Roy Orbison, would have made a wonderful and worthy single.

26 - A Kiss Goodbye (1960) > PI 3551-A < 

The Sun log books show that Sonny Burgess returned to Sun in 1959 and cut another single that was issued in January 1960 on the Phillips International label: "Sadie's Back In Town" b/w "A Kiss Goodnite". However, Sonny believes the single was recorded earlier, and released on Phillips International to try and breach a new market, was his last for Sam Phillips. With the unpredictability of Sun paperwork, he could be correct. Oddly, the record sported a thin, poorly balanced sound but was nonetheless true to the Burgess credo.

Spirited as ever, Sonny turns in an enthusiastic piece of nonsense, surrounded by a group of sidemen who had obviously never seen the inside of a Prozac bottle. Sonny recalls that his brother-in-law, Harry Adams, came up with "Sadie's Back In Town", although Jimmie Rodgers might very well recognize a good portion of the words and melody as belonging to his 1928 song "My Little Lady".

For some reason, the pianist had a very hard time with these chord changes (several out-takes confirm his repeated difficulties) and he manages to blow his solo here as well. But, again, feeling prevailed over perfection. A final note: That little spoken intro was not accomplished by speeding up the tape in the style of David Seville's "Chipmunks". One of the guys in Sonny's band, drummer Raymond Thompson, could actually speak that way. It seemed to work at gigs, so they decided to include it on one of their records.

The idea for "Sadie" was given to Sunny Burgess by his brother-in-law, Harry Adams. For some reason, the single caught the attention of someone on the Albert Embankment in London, England, and was released on Decca's London subsidiary (the only Sonny Burgess Sun record released in Europe while he was more-or-less under contract).

27 - Sadie's Back In Town (1960) > PI 3551-B <
28 - Smoochin' Jill (1988)
29 - A Kiss Goodbye (Alternate Take) 1975)

26-29 Recorded Possible 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sonny Burgess (vocal and guitar), J.C. Caughron (guitar), Frankie Siddeth (electric bass),
Raymond Thompson (drums and Woody Woodpecker noises), Unknown (piano)
Producer - Probably Jack Clement

30 - My Baby Loves Me (1991)

30 Recorded Unknown Date 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Lewis (vocal and guitar), Jack Nance (vocal and piano0
Producer - Jack Clement

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Sonny Burgess' Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

SONNY BURGESS - When Sun's crop of rockabilly singers forsook the shaking music they unusually reverted back to their first love, country music. Sonny Burgess was the exception. His passion was rhythm and blues. He had a true rhythm and blues voice like a tenor sax in full cry. It was short on subtlety and delicate shadings - but a magnificent rock and roll instrument. Soon after he quit the music business, Burgess took a salesman's job in a store, and still talks with enthusiasm of an old black guy who used to bring in his guitar, and play loping Jimmy Reed riffs. Sonny would sit and jam with him. Perhaps a blues album is the great Sonny Burgess album that has yet to be made.

Born near Newport, Arkansas on May 28, 1931, Albert "Sonny" Burgess grew up on a farm, and developed his musical tastes listening to the Grand Old Opry and the Memphis country stations, taking in rhythm and blues from WLAC in Nashville and WDIA in Memphis along the way. Sonny did his hitch the Army, and returned to Newport with the thought of a career in baseball, or failing that, farming. He worked for a spell in a box factory, and slowly put together a semi-pro band that went under several names and through several incarnations, eventually calling themselves the Moonlighters. He was back working on the farm when, as he put it, "farming started interfering with my music". In an early version of the group, Sonny was the guitarist, Paul Whaley handled the vocals in a Hank Thompson style, Kern Kennedy played piano, Russ Smith was on drums, Johnny Ray Hubbard played bass, and Bob Armstrong handled the accordion.

After Whaley went back to California, Sonny Burgess took over the vocals, and Armstrong eventually quit. There was no shortage of venues because Newport in Jackson County permitted liquor to be sold but was surrounded by dry counties; hence a number of nightclubs out of proportion with Newport's population.

They played local nightspots like the Silver Moon, Bob King's and Mike's club. They often played at King's on Friday night; Saturday night belonged to Punky Coldwell, a saxophonist who led a racially mixed jazz dance band.

On December 19, 1955, Sonny Burgess and the Moonlighters played in Swifton, Arkansas, with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. After a few years at Sun Records, in 1959, Sonny Burgess joined in Conway Twitty's band, and Bobby Crafford took over the Pacers, his band at Sun. Burgess stayed with Twitty until the move to Oklahoma City, when Twitty decided to re-cast himself as a born again hillbilly. Sonny returned to Newport, Arkansas, took a day job for a while before resuming his career as a professional musician with the Kings IV (subsequently the Kings V). He played clubs in and around Newport, and on Sundays he and his group would drive to Memphis to check out the rhythm and blues bands at Sunbeam Mitchell's Paradise Club.

"There was us and maybe a table of college kids", remembered Sonny Burgess, "and the rest of the room would be blacks. Willie Mitchell, Bowlegs Miller and the musicians made us feel real welcome, but then toward the end the racial thing got real tense and we stopped going. We never saw rhythm and blues bands in the 1950s - and that was the only chance we got to see the real good rhythm and blues acts". It was not until 1970 that Sonny Burgess gave up music as his primary source of income.

The are a raft of reasons why Sonny Burgess never made it. Part of the problem may have been that he was never tempted to leave Newport. Nashville never crossed his mind; Memphis and Los Angeles did, but he stayed put with his 'little town baby'. Part of the problem may have been that he was too raw - his natural sound shaded too close to rhythm and blues. There was also a measure of sheer bad luck. If a disc jockey in a trend-setting market had picked up on one of his singles for Sun and spun it relentlessly, Sonny could have had a hit. As it was, he accepted the verdict of the marketplace with relatively good grace and became a salesman. Interviewed in 1971 he could see no place for himself in the then current music scene.

However, fifteen years later, Burgess became one of the founding members of the Sun Rhythm Section band with whom he has toured far and wide and enjoyed some lately come acclaim. The long hiatus from the business ensured that Sonny Burgess had not burned himself out. His music still sports the contagious quality that we find on his career.

Despite the fact that Sonny Burgess dislikes all but a few of his Sun recordings, it is upon them that his reputation rests. Sam Phillips' enthusiasm for him was well placed. Sonny did not owe an obvious stylistic debt to anyone and he captured the freewheeling spirit of early rock and roll. It is a truism (perhaps never truer): They simply do not make records like this any more.

In 1999, Sonny Burgess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Europe. In 1998, the Smithsonian Institute made a video called ''Rockin' On The River'' that brought Burgess and the Legendary Pacers together again. In addition to Kennedy, the group now included Bobby Crafford, Jim Aldridge, Fred Douglas, J. C. Caughron, and Charles Watson II. They made two album-length recordings in the late 1990s, ''They Came From The South And Still Rockin And Rollin''. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tennessee. In 2005, they performed at numerous events in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee and toured Europe.

Between performances, Sonny Burgess and his wife live in Newport, where he has spent most of his life. He currently hosts a radio show, We Wanna Boogie, for KASU in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Burgess was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro on May 7, 2011. He made an album with Dave Alvin of the Blasters in 1992 that featured an unrecorded Springsteen song. He's out there for the right reasons: he loves it. There's no escaping the fact that Sonny's entire career has been predicated by those few singles he made at Sun. His feelings about the label are understandably mixed. His original singles didn't sell, and Sun's licensees have issued material that he considers unworthy. It still comes down to just three or four singles. Forty years ago, they brought two pallid Englishmen to Newport, Arkansas, they still take Sonny Burgess wherever wants to go.

Burgess had two brothers and three sisters. He married Joann Adams in 1956 and they had two sons, Peyton and John. In July 2017, Burgess suffered a fall at his home. He died the following month on August 18, 2017 in a Little Rock, Arkansas hospital, at the age of 88.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1992 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15514 mono digital
WARREN SMITH - THE CLASSIC RECORDINGS 1956 - 1959

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Warren Smith Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter, demos, false starts. Also included in the box, 32-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Colin Escott. On the front cover photo Warren Smith performed at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee.

The irony of being voted among the Most Promising New Artists of 1960 was probably not lost on Warren Smith, who had been beating his head against the wall, trying to get a decent break for the previous five years. He chose a mythic place to start and - for a while - it looked as though Smith would follow some of his illustrious label-mates and become a household name. He had the looks, the talent, the will to succeed and was indisputably in the right place at the right time. However, for most of his affiliation with Sun Records, Warren Smith 's career represented more promise than fulfillment.

Producers
Sam C. Phillips and Jack Clement
Re-Issue Producer
Colin Escott
Photos and Illustrations
Colin Escott, Al Hopson, Now Dig This,
Michael Ochs Archive,
The Showtime Music Archices
Doris Waggoner
Mastering
Bob Jones
Biography
Colin Escott
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg
Thanks to
Al Hopson, Stan Kesler, Jimmy Lott, Jean Smith,
Marcus Van Story and Doris Waggoner

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

Contains

The provenance of "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby" is in some doubt. It is credited to Cash but Smith asserted that George Jones had written the song and sold it to Cash for $40.00. Johnny Cash cut a primitive demo in the breathless baritone he reserved for uptempo numbers at some point in late 1955 or early 1956. The acetate ended up in the hands of Clyde Leoppard, probably in order that he could rehearse the band. By the time Smith and the Snearly Ranch Boys (with Johnny Bernero replacing the barely proficient Leoppard on drums) wrapped up "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby", it was obvious that Sam Phillips had, as Billboard put it, "another contender in the Rock-a-Billy sweepstakes".

''Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips came in one night when I was playing with Clyde Leoppard'', recalled Warren 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''.

This is a highly important record and a two sided gem. Here are the sides that launched Warren Smith's career at Sun. Even though "Ruby" has become a rockabilly anthem, we can hear today how precariously perched it is on the edge of country music. Smith's vocal is appropriately sexy and southern, but it has an unmistakable country twang that is absent from the stylings of rockabilly confrères like Elvis Presley or Gene Vincent. The instrumental work also blows Smith's cover. The roots of this band are especially apparently during the solo breaks: not exactly a plethora of stinging guitar here. Billy Riley and Roland Janes were still months away from being available for session work.

"Ruby" hit the Memphis charts on May 1 and was sitting pretty at number one by May 26. Among the most notable were Johnny Cash'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.

1 - Rock "N" Roll Ruby (1) (1956) > Sun 239-A <

In that turbulent month of February 1956 it was still far from clear whether Rock and Roll was a passing fad. Sam Phillips hedged his bets by recording a stone country flipside, "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry". He possibly thought that he might be able to breech two markets and would have himself a fine new country singer if rock and roll blew over. "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", is one of Smith's finest outings. The presence of this 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 other crazes, like 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 on the way that he sounded before Elvis Presley turned his head around.

Stan Kesler said that Smith was supposed to be the front man for Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys, and it's certainly the Ranch Boys backing him on his first single, possibly with Johnny Bernero replacing Leoppard. According to Kesler, Smith was housed with the Ranch Boys in West Memphis and they paid him money to live on. After ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' took off, Smith quickly reneged on the deal, and went solo.

2 - I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (1956) > Sun 239-B <
3 - Rock "N" Roll Ruby (2) (1956)

1-3 Recorded February 5, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Johnny Bernero (drums), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano)

"After "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby" about 6 months later Sam called me for another session", recalled Warren Smith. "I met Charles Underwood who was also in Memphis. Well he had a song he wrote called "Ubangi Stomp", and Sam said give it a listen. I did, and seemed like the more I heard it the more I liked it. We cut it and it became a fair hit too, I guess you could call it a hit".

Once again, Sam Phillips hedged his bets by coupling a rockabilly anthem with a hillbilly tune. Reportedly originating in Scotland circa 1600, ''The Gypsy Laddie'' began: ''The gypsies they came to my lord's castle/And O but they sang so bonnie/They sang sae sweet and soe complete/That down came our fair ladie''. And of course off went the lady. The first to chronicle the song's tortuous history was Francis James Child in his nineteenth century tome ''English And Scottish Popular Ballads''. After crossing the ocean with the early settlers, it changed in the hollows of Appalachia. Bits of another song called ''Seventeen Come Sunday'' were added as the woman lost her nobility along with her virginity. The first recording was by a folklorist, Professor I.G. Greer and his wife, in 1929. Another folklorist, John Jacob Niles, recorded ''The Gypsy Laddie'' for RCA in 1939. Cliff Carlise cit it that year, although he said he learned it from T. Texas Tyler, and Tyler copyrighted it in August 1939, one month after Carlise's recording. The Carter Family recorded it in 1940. Tyler's adaptation became the first post-War recording, and probably led to Warren Smith's recording. While unaware of the song's origins, Smith was undoubtedly aware that it was far from original. In fact, his lyrics were considerably less salty than the Carter Family's. In a 1956 interview in 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 a divorce or something before she goes with him''. Of course, Warren. This is a stellar performance that needs no apologies. Sparse, achingly pure, and haunting in the best tradition of hillbilly music. A standout cut on every front. And, as on Johnny Cash's ''Folsom Prison Blues'', the hook is provided by a repeated guitar solo, in this case played by Bradd Suggs or Buddy Holobaugh.

On "Black Jack David", Smith takes the old folk ballad for an unexpected bluesy hillbilly ride. The bass string guitar figure had nascent pickers running for their instruments, sure they could duplicate what they heard. Smith's vocal is powerful throughout, and the drummer - although listed as "unknown" - sounds alone like Johnny Bernero. Who else went so effortlessly from the 4/4 backbeat of the instrumental breaks to the delicious shuffle beneath Smith's singing?

4 - Black Jack David (1956) > Sun 250-A <

Charles Underwood, then a student at Memphis State University, contributed "Ubangi Stomp". ''I didn't like it, you know'', recalled Warren Smith. ''Then one night we were cutting, it was around 12:30 at night and I was up against the wall, really biting the bullet trying to find the fourth song. Charles came through the door and he changed four or five things I didn't like in the song and we went to work on it''. In a later era, Charles 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 a common dialect to American Indians and Africans (''...heap big jam session'') and in all honestly, 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 'N' 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 the 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 has enabled it to survive the years well, and even survive a beleaguered and belated cover version from Alice Cooper.

With "Ubangi Stomp", Warren Smith showed what he could do with the right material. This tune offered the singer a fine piece of politically incorrect rockabilly and despite the group's misgiving about making "nigger music", Smith and his tight little band drove this ditty for all it was worth. The October 6, 1956 Memphis charts showed Smith's efforts in second place, eclipsed only by Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues".

Charles Underwood, then a student at Memphis State University, contributed "Ubangi Stomp". ''I didn't like it, you know'', recalled Warren Smith. ''Then one night we were cutting, it was around 12:30 at night and I was up against the wall, really biting the bullet trying to find the fourth song. Charles came through the door and he changed four or five things I didn't like in the song and we went to work on it''. In a later era, Charles 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 a common dialect to American Indians and Africans (''...heap big jam session'') and in all honestly, 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 'N' 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 the 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 has enabled it to survive the years well, and even survive a beleaguered and belated cover version from Alice Cooper.

With "Ubangi Stomp", Warren Smith showed what he could do with the right material. This tune offered the singer a fine piece of politically incorrect rockabilly and despite the group's misgiving about making "nigger music", Smith and his tight little band drove this ditty for all it was worth. The October 6, 1956 Memphis charts showed Smith's efforts in second place, eclipsed only by Guy Mitchell's "Singing The Blues".

Marcus Van Story recalls, "I used to hang a small skull from my bass when we did "Ubangi Stomp" and everybody wants to know what I did with it. Well I put it away in the closet but I still have it". "People used to mistake Bill Black and I for each other you know. Yea, him and I was like twin brothers. I was playing bass before Bill was, and we'd be playing some of the honky tonks around, and after the people got loaded dancing and drinkin', Bill'd say 'Let me have that bass for awhile, I wanna learn to play that thing like you do', besides, that'll give you a chance to get a drink and dance with some of the good lookin women! So Bill and I had a great time down through the years. A lot of records have been recorded and well, some people think Bill did them, and others think I did. So you would never really tell who was playing that big "Bull Fiddle" and I'm really proud to say that Bill was a darn good friend of mine".

Johnny Bernero played here on ''Ubangi Stomp'' just about one year after he backed Elvis Presley on ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget''. During that year, when rock and roll took over American popular music, Bernero showed that he could be a rock and roll drummer in addition to his more country work. halfway through that year, he played on Warren Smith's ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' and moved some distance toward rock and roll from his country starting point.

By the time of ''Ubangi Stomp'', those Western swing band origins are thoroughly subordinated to the new style. Here, Bernero is aggressive in a way very different from what he did behind Elvis. He creates a stop rhythm for the introductory guitar lines and a drum roll takes us into the song. During the song, Bernero inserts occasional brief decorative rolls and, especially during the guitar solos, he puts some variation in the rhythmic accents. And for the vocal line ''Heap big jam session 'bout to begin'' he beats the tom-tom appropriately for a cowboys-and-Indians movie. And a few times (the first comes after the line ''I seen them natives doin' an odd-lookin' skip'') he gets to play a one-stroke drum solo.

Sam Phillips was slow to adapt to having drummers as a cornerstone of the music he produced and often did not record drummers well. That sadly deprives us of getting to hear clearly just how Bernero added some drama with the crash cymbal in the reprise of the intro that ends the record.

5 - Ubangi Stomp (1956) > Sun 250-B < 

4-5 Recorded Probably August 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar) Al Hopson (guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar),
Marcus Van Story (bass), Johnny Bernero (drums),
Smokey Joe Baugh (piano)

For a song that wasn't a hit, ''I Had A Dream (The Darkest Cloud)'' got around. In 1961, Elvis Presley was recording is Nashville when he spontaneously began singing the bridge. At the time of its release by composer Jimmy Swan in 1952 it was covered by Billy Walker, Ann Clark, and Jean Chapel. Warren Smith's hauntingly lovely version dates to around 1957. Swan was a dee-jay in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and recorded for Trumpet Records in Jackson, and Smith lived a few miles outside Jackson. He almost certainly heard ''I Had A Dream'' on the radio when it came out. The three-part harmony on the chorus was ragged but haunting in its way. Only the guitarist can be identified for certain on this track (and the earlier version of ''So Long I'm Gone''). Smith identifies Al Hopkins in the session chatter, but the others can not be identified with certainly.

6 - The Darkest Cloud (1986)

This alternate take 1 is a fair distance from the issued version, both in terms of arrangement and instrumentation. Simply put, this is country music whereas 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 bit 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. Sam Phillips was obviously correct to try the fuller instrumentation but this is a lovely version nonetheless.

7 - So Long I'm Gone (Take 1) (1986)

For many years it had been assumed that Warren Smith's sole chart entry on Sun sported some piano work from Jerry Lee Lewis to help it along. However, there was never a piano solo to really put the matter beyond doubt. Finally, here a take that does indeed contain a piano solo and it is so fair distance from even Jerry Lee's most uninspired work. The 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 micking the piano so that the basic boogie riff that Lewis and Wilson employed sounded fairly similar no matter who was playing it.

8 - So Long I'm Gone (1986)

''Who Took My Baby'' has a very early sound to it and may even date from Smith's association with the Snearly Ranch Boys. The drummer, probably Johnny Bernero or Clyde Leoppard, announces the guitar solo with some well-timed gun raps on the snare. The overall performance is quite accomplished. In fact, it gives the song a touch of class that is slightly more than its due.

9 - Who Took My Bab (1978)

'I Couldn't Take The Chance'' is 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 mixed brushwork. This may have been a contender for a flipside but no-one could have held out great hopes for it.

10 - I Couldn't Take The Chance (1986)

With its quasi-military marching band beat, takes a simple Roy Orbison composition to unexpected heights. "So Long I'm Gone" sat just behind "Gone" and "White Sport Coat" on the Memphis charts in June, and actually made it to the pop charts in that far off summer of 1957, thus giving Smith a passing taste of fame. Unfortunately for him, Sun's meagre promotional efforts were redirected into the whirlwind success of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On". In any case, the final sustained 1-7 chord of "So Long I'm Gone" is a stroke of understated brilliance and retains its power nearly four decades later.

"So Long I'm Gone" made a fleeting appearance in the Hot 100 but had the misfortune to start breaking at the same time as Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lot Of Shakin' Going On". Sam Phillips placed his eggs in one basket, much to Smith's disgust. There was now constant squabbling on the Stars Incorporated, tours about who should top of the bill. Jimmie Lott remembered: "Warren and Carl Perkins constantly fought Jerry Lee Lewis. They'd sit around in the dressing room before the show on steel chairs with a fifth of Old Crow. Jerry would say, 'I got a big record out now. I'm going on last'. Clayton Perkins would stick his jaw out and say, 'If you're going on last, we're gonna fights".

Six months after the ''Ubangi Stomp'' session, Johnny Bernero was once again back in the studio playing behind Warren Smith. But now Warren was singing a pure country song, ''So Long I'm Gone''. And so Bernero didn't need to play straight rock and roll; he could go back to the style he'd begun with. In some ways, on this track he reprises the shuffle beat he brought to Elvis's record of ''I Forgot To Remember to Forget''. But he doesn't do exactly that. The tempo is fater and Bernero plays that shuffle harder, once again using the snare and hi-hat. Sometimes on the hi-hat he explicitly fills the triplets that tacitly underlie the shuffle beat. On Elvis's record, Bernero's shuffle was the background behind the vocal and guitar. But here it's the central ingredient that moves the record along and makes it danceable. He'd become something of a rock and roller, and there was no going back.

11 - So Long I'm Gone (1957) > Sun 268-A <

The group had concocted this song while driving back from Dallas one night, although Smith took sole composer credit. Both Al Hopson and Jimmie Lott were on sparkling form. "I always had problem unknowns playing the shuffle that Johnny Bernero used on "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby", asserted Lott, "and my drumming on "Miss Froggie" was almost unsyncopated. The inspiration for my playing as Al's guitar. The kick-off was unbelievable. I could have put Bo Diddley out of business". For his part, Smith hardly appeared to strain. The energy that flowed from the record bordered on maniacal but appeared totally effortless.

With lines like "She oughta been a go-rilla, boy, she sure is wild", the song was hardly calculated to win awards for profundity, but as Phillips would be the first to say, it was sound and the feel that were important, and he caught Hopson's lightning in a bottle. There was no contrivance in his style, the energy flowed from the song rather than being imposed upon it.

Warren Smith cuts loose here with a two-sided gem. "Miss Froggie" has virtually become a rockabilly anthem. In retrospect, it is as close to rock and roll as Smith ever came, bordering on the vocal territory staked out by Billy Riley. The song is just a string of blues cliches, into which new life has been breathed. Al Hopson, glimpsed in the Sun Records Discography with a country fiddle in his hand, cuts loose with some fine guitar work here. Curiously, things start rather slowly: Hopson's 4-bar intro is followed by one of the least assertive drum entrances in Sun history. But Jimmie Lott more than finds his way and by the last 30 seconds has contributed one of the most memorable single stroke drum rolls in rockabilly history.

"The first record I wrote", recalled Warren Smith, "was "Miss Froggie", even though a few verses were borrowed from another song (like "Drinking Muddy Water" and "Sleeping In A Hollow Log"). Yea, the Sun days were real good days and there'll never be any more like that. I had some real good times with some of the people who were on Sun. When I was there Sun was strictly a rock and roll label, with the exception of Johnny Cash".

12 - Miss Froggie (1957) > Sun 268-B <

6-12 Recorded January/February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Lott or Johnny Bernero (drums)

In terms of Sun's chart legacy, "Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache" was unquestionably the Warren Smith success that got away. Its vacuous relegation to the back burner can be part-explained by the presence of Bob Luman's rival version on Imperial, but only just. Originally entitled "Who You Been Lovin' and written by amateur tunesmith Lilly May, with cursory help from one Wriston Auguste Thompson, the song was hook filled and brimming with hit potential: It was not meant to be. Quintessential rockabilly. Smith really excelled at this breezy mid tempo; the quality of his voice shone through. The guitarist, probably Al Hopson, covers a lot of ground and takes a solo that veers back to his finger picking roots. A fair amount of the tape was expended on this title but it was ultimately abandoned.

13 - Red Cadillac And A Black Mustache (1972)

The writer(s) on ''Stop The World'' is/are unknown, but it was a polished performance ready for release. 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 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 outtake box, this track surely deserved a better fade.

14 - Stop The World (1985)

13-14 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story of Will Hopson (bass),
Jimmie Lott (drums) Unknown (piano)

As on his first Sun outing, Smith's rockabilly stylings are paired with a country effort. Only this time, the sound of country music has been softened to welcome the burgeoning pop crossover market. In its own way, "I Fell In Love" is, as Billboard used to say, "potent stuff". Smith's vocal is beautiful recorded, surrounded by a tastefully arranged male chorus. This time, drum support is confined to rather assertively miked brushwork. In a somewhat daring step, Smith's singing is left to stand a cappella during the last line. Its a rather eyeopening way to close a highly effective arrangement. During the first verse, Smith sings the curious phrase "Just to be made feel blue", a form of English spoken nowhere on the planet, including the deep south.

15 - I Fell In Love (1957) > Sun286-B <

For the second time in less than three years, a Sun rockabilly artist turned to the Nashville Excello label in search of rhythm and blues material to transform. Obviously, those orange and blue Excello releases were a source of inspiration throughout the deep south, and Warren Smith was as easily compelled here as Elvis Presley had been back in 1955 when he transformed Arthur Gunter's "Baby Let's Play House" into a rockabilly anthem.

This is not so much a cover, this was more a spirited revival of the Slim Harpo tune from six months earlier which had caught Warren Smith's ear over radio station WDIA in Memphis. Taken in a higher key and with a major hike in tempo, the arrangement was purposely detailed for teenage ears. For once all of the elements seemed to be in place for Warren to break through, except to say that most of Sun's promotional energies by late 1957 were totally geared towards the latest singles by Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Among the song that Warren Smith heard on the car radio was Slim Harpo's "Got Love If You Want It". In Harpo's hand it was a mellow mid paced blues, delivered in a laconic bayou country drawl to a pseudorhumba beat. In Smith's hand it became another celebration of joyous, primal rockabilly. Al Hopson and Roland Janes trated licks on the intro and the solo (Hopson taking the lead and Janes the response). Smith contributed a hugely confident vocal and made some minor lyrical changes in deference to prevailing mores: "Your fine brown frame" became "You fine looking thing", for example.

Warren Smith omitted Harpo's final verses and substituted lines adapted from another Slim Harpo record, "I'm A King Bee". Coupled with a lovely ballad by Al Hopson, "I Fell In Love", there was no reason that the record should not have been a hit - except that it was issued in the same month as Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls Of Fire".

According to Sun's royalty statement, the record had only sold a shade over 7000 copies by the following June. Warren Smith was disgusted, and his band began to lose the faith. Marcus Van Story dropped out, to be replaced by Al Hopson's brother, Will. Jimmie Lott also packed his bags and headed back to Memphis.

Here, Warren Smith and company transform Slim Harpo's debut single on Excello (both this and its flipside "I'm A King Bee" were hits in 1957) into a storming uptempo rocker. In fact, Smith has taken lyrics from both sides of Harpo's single, turning this into the ultimate cover record. He's also reshaped the material for a white audience. Gone are such lyrical treasures as "Quit teasin' me baby / with your fine brown frame". Harpo's rhumba-tinged original version, while highly distinctive, had none of the fury of Smith's cover. From the opening four bars of Smith's record, you can tell these country boys have their own vision of the song. Roland Janes and Al Hopson have a wonderful time trading guitar licks, while the rhythm is propelled by Jimmie Lott's powerhouse drumming and Will Hopson's prominently miked acoustic bass.

16 - Got Love If You Want It (1957) > Sun 286-A <

15-16 Recorded October 16, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Will Hopson (bass), Jimmie Lott (drums)

Stan Kesler recalls that Warren Smith was working on "Old Lonesome Feeling" shortly before he left Sun Records, which is born out by the fact that he recorded it shortly after arriving at Liberty Records. The presence of the electric bass would also appear to date the session to 1957 or later.

17 - Old Lonesome Feeling (Incomplete) (1992)

Warren Smith or someone in his camp probably discovered ''Tell Me Who'' on the flip-side of Big Maybelle's 1955 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 with ''The Joker''.

18 - Tell Me Who (1978)

The writer and one-time rockabilly Ray Scott submitted a demo tape to Sun and Sam Phillips wrote for ''Tonight Will Be The Last Night'' ''Ray Scott - good song'' 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 with twin lead guitarist that must have been a serious contender for release in 1956 or 1957. 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 early 1960s.

19 - Tonight Will Be The Last Night (1978)

This minor hillbilly classic was first penned by Aubrey Gass in 1949. Hank Williams revived it two years later and 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 meanders for another 12 bars which suggests that a sax overdub was contemplated. Smith's vocal performance is first rate and a fair amount of tape was expended on this cut, suggesting it was a candidate for release at some point. Perhaps it was consigned to storage when Phillips realised that he was not recording a Hi-Lo copyright but, rather, stood to give 3 cents a side to another publisher.

20 - Dear John (1976)

A lifelong opponent of rock and roll, Hank Snow was nevertheless one of its most important precursors. His songs obviously made a deep impact upon many rock and rollers with their contagious rhythm and nonsense lyrics (''While Madam Mazonga was teaching the conga...''). This tribute to the diminutive Canadian cowboy is a medley of ''I'm Movin' On'', ''The Golden Rocket'' and ''The Rhumba 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''.

21 - Hank Snow Medley (1992)

''Do I Love You'' features an unusually full sound for Warren Smith. The sax lends an added dimension to the proceeding 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 a tail? Will Ike play golf tomorrow''? These questions were from a long tradition of folk saying that included ''Is the Pope a Catholic''? and ''Does a wild bear shit in the wood''.

22 - Do I Love You (1978)

17-22 Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group,
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), John ''Ace'' Cannon (tenor saxophone)

23 - Uranium Rock (1988)

23 Recorded February 23, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

''Goodbye Mr. Love'' was always a favourite Sun single, and to hear an even more countrified version complete with steel guitar is a real pleasure. Warren's vocal is perhaps a little more restrained than on Sun 314 but this was always a fine song and the lyric changes and markedly different approach allows us to look at an old favourite through new eyes. The song was written by Billy Byrd, a singer and guitarist from Belzoni, Mississippi (not Ernest Tubb's guitarist Billy Byrd). Byrd was a sharecropper who joined the Marines during the war and moved to Jackson in 1946. He played guitar in Emmitt Hawkins' band for a while and then he formed his own group, the Home Towners, who were on WRBC in Jackson for some years. Byrd recorded briefly for the local label, Delta Records, and had some success in 1954 with an event or disaster song about a child, Carol Ann Moses, trapped in a building after a tornado hit Vicksburg. Byrd wrote several good songs and was visited by Faron Young and other singers as well as Warren Smith. He remembered: ''Warren heard about the song and he came by here at after midnight one day to get the song off me. He turned up in a red Cadillac, I'll never forget that''. When the song was issued, Byrd saw that Smith's name was on it too, and he didn't forget that either.

24 - Goodbye Mr. Love (1986)

Uranium Rock'' now this is a mystery that will probably remain unsolved. Warren Smith recorded ''Uranium Rock'' in 1958, but it wasn't released until 1973, when it appeared on the first ''Sun Rockabilly's'' LP. How then can we account for the appearance of a very similar song, ''Sing Real Loud'', by Lloyd George, recorded on March 18, 1962 for Imperial Records and released later that year? The songs are so close that the similarity cannot be accidental. Lloyd George (his real name) aka Ken Marvin aka Lonzo of Lonzo & Oscar recorded between 1947 and 1962, scoring just one hit (''I'm My Own Grandpa'' in 1948). He was based in Nashville when Smith recorded ''Uranium Rock'' and was still there when he recorded for west coast-based Imperial Records. After Imperial dropped him, he eased performing and booked Bill Monroe. Most of Marvin/George's songs were novelties (''Cornbread And Lasses'', ''Tickle The Tom Cat's Tail'', ''There's A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea'', etc.), and ''Uranium Rock'' is consistent with those. There's even a tape in the Sun vaults of him singing ''You Spurned A Love'' and ''Little Red Wagon'', so it's just possible that Marvin/George submitted ''Uranium Rock'' to Sun and that Warren Smith recorded it. Anyone who might remember anything about what happened is now dead, so the mystery will probably remain such. ''Uranium Rock'' is a nuclear age gold rush song. Buy a Geiger counter and head for the hills. Return to town with a truckload of radioactive uranium ore, cash out, and go visit the Cadillac dealer. Clearly Ken Marvin/Lloyd George or whoever wrote this song thought 'uranium rock' was a pretty good pun. Guitarist Al Hopson keeps the show together with a Bo Diddley lick that almost functions as the song's hook. In fact, the session could have used another guitarist to take a solo over the riff.

25 - Uranium Rock (1972)

24-25 Recorded March 17, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

Many versions of ''Sweet Sweet Girl'' remain on tape, and it is clear that it was worked out leaving one or two spaces for a vocal chorus to fill. Nevertheless this early take alternate take 1, free of chorus, retains arguably a more country feel than the finally 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.

26 - Sweet, Sweet Girl (1992)

26 Recorded Possible Late 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar) Unknown Group, Included Billy Riley (guitar)

"Goodbye Mr. Love", was a song that Warren Smith had written with veteran country picker Billy Byrd. It was also attempted in at least two sessions. The first was a throwback to pre-crossover hillbilly music but the finished version was simply excellent current country music.

''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 double 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. Once again, Warren Smith had the profound disappointment of watching a single die of neglect after Billboard had called it "ultra commercial", speculating that "Smith have the top money making coupling of his career". On the day that Billboard published their review, Sun prepared a royalty statement showing that Smith was unrecouped to the tune $634.00. At roughly the same time, Warren Smith's three year term with Sun was up. A change was due.

The confusion is natural. The first line of "Goodbye Mr. Love" is the same as the title of Warren Smith's previous record on Sun. Moreover, there are numerous alternate versions in the Sun vaults showing how differently this song was conceived at various stages.

Even the version released on this disc reveals some curious glitches. Despite its slickly produced exterior (good instrumentation, fine choral overdub), the second verse is a lyrical mess. It is awkward rhythmically and it doesn't rhyme. Was the wrong version chosen for overdub?

27 - Goodbye Mr. Love (1959) > Sun 314-A <

Don Gibson was so extraordinarily prolific during this period that a song as strong as "Sweet, Sweet Girl" was used as album ballast. Over the course of at least two sessions, Smith worked up a very strong arrangement in conjunction with Jack Clement, Bill Justis and the Riley band.

"Sweet Sweet Girl", shows how powerful a force Don Gibson was at this point in his career. This title was a throwaway track on a Gibson album, yet it was deemed strong enough material for a Warren Smith release on Sun Records. The lyrics contain a rare sentiment in country music: I ain't gonna talk about you when you're gone. You were good to me and that's good enough for me. I was the jerk, not you. How many times have you heard that message expressed in country music? Billboard failed to pick up on this one. They gave the side a mediocre two-star review, missing the Don Gibson connection altogether. Instead they called it "a wild rocker". Given Smith's past flirtation with "Miss Froggie" and trip to "Ubangi" country, this hardly quality as "wild". What it was, sadly, was Warren Smith's last release on Sun Records before starting a successful career on Liberty as a mainstream country vocalist.

28 - Sweet, Sweet Girl (1969) > Sun 314-B <

''Dear John'', this minor hillbilly classic was first penned by Aubrey Gass in 1949. Hank Williams revived it two years later and 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 meanders for another 12 bars which suggests that a sax overdub was contemplated. Smith's vocal performance is first rate and a fair amount of tape was expended on this cut, suggesting it was a candidate for release at some point. Perhaps it was consigned to storage when Phillips realised that he was not recording a Hi-Lo copyright but, rather, stood to give 3 cents a side to another publisher.

29 - Dear John (1992)

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 of Phillips obviously saw ''I Like Your Kind Of Love'' as a potential candidate for release. It is delivered at a brisk mid tempo, has a sizeable 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 was not networked until August 1957). This is not the Melvin Endsley song of the some title that Andy Williams made a hit in the summer of 1957.

30 - I Like Kind Of Love (1978)
31 - My Hanging Day (1992)

27-31 Recorded January 7, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar), Cliff Agred (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Charlie Rich (piano)

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Warren Smith's Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

WARREN SMITH - Smith was born in Humphreys County, Mississippi near Yazoo City on February 7, 1933, as his birth date, although hospital records would indicate that he lopped a year off his age. His parents, Ioda and Willie Warren Smith, divorced when he was young; his mother stayed in the Louise -Greenwood area and his father went to Lexington, Mississippi to work as a truck driver. Smith was brought up by his grandparents near the toen of Louise, Mississippi, where they farmed and operated a small country store.

After a spell as a machinist, Smith went into the Air Force in 1950. Stationed in San Antonio, Texas he took up the guitar to while away the evenings. By the time of his discharge, Smith was fairly determined to make a career out of music.

It certainly represented a more attractive option than most of the others open to a poor white Mississippi boy with little formal education. With music on his mind, Warren Smith headed for the bright of Memphis and the brighter lights of West Memphis, Arkansas.

Soon after he arrived, Warren Smith went to the Cotton Club. Stan Kesler, who was playing in a band norminally led by Clyde Leoppard remembered Smith's arrival: "Warren came in and auditioned for us. I saw a lot of potential and brought him over to Sam Phillips together with the rest of the Snearly Ranch Boys. Sam thought he was real good too and asked me to work up some material. I'd already written "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry" when Sam called and said that Johnny Cash had brought in "Rock And Roll Ruby". We went over and recorded with Warren and it was supposed to be a co-op deal because we'd discovered him and supported him".

Stan Kesler refutes the story propagated by Smith in his last years that he was discovered by Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips at the Cotton Club, although it is entirely possible that Cash and Phillips visited the club to see Smith perform after he had already been signed a contract and he was already a star on the Sun label.

In 1957 Warren Smith married Doris Gannon from Holly Grove, Arkansas. They had met the preceding year in Memphis where she was working as a telephone operator. When he drove by, resplendent in his white suit, she thought he was Elvis Presley and was surprised to learn that the performer of "Rock And Roll Ruby" was not black, as she had surmised. At that time, Smith was living in the Holiday Towers apartment block although he and Doris, when Smith career was quit at Sun Records, eventually moved back to his mother's house in Greenwood, Mississippi. From there, Smith and his family went to Jackson, Mississippi before finally deciding to try their luck in California when the Sun contract expired. The band had gone their separate ways and Warren was working as a single around Jackson when he moved. They settled in Sherman Oaks, near Johnny Cash who moved to Van Nuys a few moths earlier.

Smith cut three singles for the new Warner Brothers label. But not until he aligned himself with the newly formed country division of Liberty Records in 1960 did Warren Smith find both a style with which he could sell records and a company willing to make a sustained commitment to him. Between 1960 and 1964 he scored a series of hits in the country charts that were refreshingly free of the choruses and overproduction that were beginning to plague Nashville.

Surprisingly, Sam Phillips did not reach back into the vaults after Smith started scoring consistently with Liberty. He had mixed feelings about his protege: "He was probably the best pure singer for country music I've ever heard", he remembers. "He had a pure country voice and an innate feel for a country ballad. With that music he was as good as anyone I've heard before or since. 'So Long I'm Gone" was just a wonderful country record".

"Warren had a lot of emotional problems, though. I don't think he ever got on dope or anything, but he was the kind of character that needed to be loved a lot. He needed recognition more than the average person... A lot of people didn't like Warren, and he perceived that. And if they didn't, in essence it was his fault in a lot of cases. He was a difficult personality, but just interesting enough that I liked him a whole lot".

Sam Phillips was apparently unaware of Smith's problems with prescription drugs, a dependency that would come to hamper his career in the years ahead. But Warren's contemporaries agree that Sam Phillips assessment of his psyche is accurate. Unfortunately for Warren Smith, his affiliation with Sun never resulted in the kind of success he had envisioned for himself. His rancor subsided for a while when it seemed as though the country music world was falling into his lap, but it eventually resurfaced as Smith pondered the inexplicable loss of success.

Warren Smith entered a sad personal and professional downslide. There were a few more short-lived label affiliations, a jail term for stealing drugs, and a succession of mundane day jobs. When the rockabilly revival craze hit Europe in the late 1970s, Warren Smith was called upon to tour overseas and record again in the rockabilly style, but he couldn't harness the reflected glory from his Sun years to build a new career. Warren Smith died in Longview, Texas, on January 30, 1980, of a heart attack.

Warren Smith was not a major influence upon Elvis Presley, but his style and energetic rockabilly records were a subtle reminder to Elvis Presley that he would have to continue his rockabilly direction with a high degree of professionalism.

"I came out of the Air Force in 1950", recalled Warren Smith, "and moved to Memphis where I worked in some of the bars around town for a while. I heard that Clyde Leoppard was looking for entertainers so I went and auditioned for him and was hired. Clyde put me to work at a place called the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas. I ended up working there for over a year. Anyhow, one night Sam Phillips and Johnny Cash came in, I think Carl Perkins had told them that there was a singer over at the Cotton Club they might be interested in. Anyhow, I was playing straight country music then and I hadn't any releases on the market at the time. Sam and Johnny invited me back to their table, and Johnny said he had a song called "Rock And Roll Ruby". "He asked me to come over to the Sam Phillips studio, and give it a try. I think that was a Sunday night if I'm not mistaken. Well I was over there bright and early in the morning. I mean, I was there before they were even open! Well, I waited around for a while and finally Sam, Johnny and Carl Perkins along with a couple other musicians came in the studio. I was nervous as heck! You know how that goes! I mean Elvis Presley had been at Sun, and Sun was a heck of a good label at that particular time", recalled Warren.

"Johnny brought out "Rock and Roll Ruby" and gave me an idea how he wanted it done, and just like magic all the boys started clickin together, so I fell into it and started singing along with the band. Yea, we worked it up pretty good! Well, when we finished they said come on back tomorrow and we'll cut it. I decided on Clyde Leoppard's bunch of guys to accompany me, as I had been working with them a year or so and we all knew each other pretty well. We got to the studio the next day, cut the record and it came off a pretty good sized rock hit.

"Rock And Roll Ruby" started hitting in the South pretty good then and Bob Neal who was Elvis' manager, booked me for personal appearances, so I had to get a band together to travel with. Well, Marcus Van Story happened to be one of the guys I chose. He's a great bass man and he stayed with me the duration that I was on Sun Records, five years. I got Al Hopson and a few others and we were all set. That reminds me, there was a story going around about who actually wrote "Rock And Roll Ruby". Well, I found out a little later on that Johnny Cash bought it from George Jones! I bumped into George after I left Sun and was cutting records for Liberty, so naturally I started traveling with the country group. Yea, I was booked on shows with I guess everybody who was on the Grand Old Opry at one time or another. Anyway, I bumped into George when we were playing down in Texas, we were on his bus and he said that he wrote "Rock And Roll Ruby" and sold it for $40,00. I said Aww come on now, and he said, 'No I really did!'. Well, as time went on I began to talk to other people and they said George wrote it and Johnny bought it from him. That's what I heard! I wasn't there so I can't say for sure, but that's what I heard".

In April 1977, Warren Smith arrived in Britain to play a rockabilly show with Jack Scott, Charlie Feathers and Buddy Knox. Smith was completely overcome by the reception he received and was invited back the following November with fellow Sun artist Ray Smith. Again, the shows went well and a rejuvenated Smith was scheduled to return in April 1981.

Unfortunately this tour never materialised as on the last day of January 30, 1981, Smith was admitted to hospital in Longview, Texas with chest pains. Before the day was over, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 47.

706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1992 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15524 mono digital
JOE HILL LOUIS - THE BE-BOP BOY

Compact disc set. An Bear Family Special Product. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom, catalog number in upper right. Contains Joe Hill Louis, Walter Horton, and Mose Vinson's Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued. Also included in the box, 24-page booklet biography with liner notes by Stephen C. LaVere. The booklet also features unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Dave Sax, Steve LaVere, and Colin Escott.

Joe Hill Louis was an exceptionally gifted, totally self-taught musician, playing harmonica, guitar and drums to accompany his vocals of original, as well as uniquely arranged traditional blues stanzas. His time and meter, as well as his playing and singing, were also of an unusually personal nature, and resulted in the creation of a framework on which he molded a statement completely his own. There was no one quite like him, and needless to say, probably never will be again.

Producer
Sam C. Phillips
Re-Issue Producer
Dave Sax and Colin Escott
Photos and Illustrations
Steve LaVere, Colin Escott, Brian Smith
Mastering
Bob Jones
Liner Notes
Steve LaVere
Discography
Dave Sax, Steve LaVere with Colin Escott
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg

Introduction To This Collection

The music contained in this collection represents most of the recording activities in which Joe Hill Louis was involved during a small window of time in the early 1950s. He frequented the small studio facility of the Memphis Recording Service a great deal during that time, and between March 31 , 1952 and September 9, 1953, the period of time which coincides with Sam Phillips' decision the commercial record field and his initial attempts to debut Sun Records, Joe Hill Louis participated in a number of sessions, both as leader and sideman.

Representative selections from every session held under Joe Hill ' s leadership during this time frame are included in this collection and supplemented with a sampling of the better tracks from those by the great blues harmonica virtuoso Walter Horton and boogie woogie, blues and jazz pianist Mose Vinson. There was a great deal of musical cross-fertilization during these sessions and collectively they present to the listener a delectable slice of the downhome blues pie from a time that represents the state of that music in Memphis when it was still the home of the blues.

The Music

Although recorded by Phillips, ''She Treats Me Mean And Evil'' and ''Dorothy Mae'' are both sides, and then some, of Joe Hill ' s Checker record. Due to time restrictions inherent in the 10" 78 rpm record format, the former side was faded out and edited at the end of the guitar solo and the result was retitled ''When I Am Gone''. It contains some rather basic, but effective drumming by Nolen Hall , which along with the extreme echo of the guitar, lends a haunting, lonesome quality to the entire track. latter, evidently a song to the woman Joe married exactly one week following this session, although one would not to have predicted it based on his lyrics, is performed by an all star quartet. What a dream band this is, each member a leader with records released under his own name, all of which are highly prized collectors' items today. The punctuating harp is that of Walter Horton, whose history goes back to his days as a teenaged member of the Memphis Jug Band. The only occasionally audible, but tasty piano is by Jack Kelly, whose records date from the 1930s, the earlier ones with the legendary South Memphis Jug Band. The rather functional drums were played by the otherwise kick-ass Willie Nix, one of the finest percussionists, vocalists, and blues songwriters of the post-war era. What a shame it is that these men were in Phillips' studio on three separate occasions and that only six selections were recorded, two of which were vocals by Jack Kelly, and which, except for an acetate dub of half of one of them, are believed to be lost to etemity.

''Sweetest Girl In Town'' and ''Keep Your Arms Around Me'' date from a double session in December 1952 which Joe Hill shared with Walter Horton. On his own vocals, where we find the one-man band in full bloom, expertly keeping time while interweaving his harmonica and guitar, both to good advantage. Albert ''Memphis Al'' Williams fills what little space Joe leaves him with some terrific blues piano. Both are alternate performances of compositions which were recorded at the previous November session under
alternate titles.

The ''She Comes To See Me Sometime'' (which as half of Joe's Sun 78 as ''She May Be Yours'', ) and the latter as ''Make My Love Stay Warm'', recordings which sacrificed the dominance of Joe' s wonderful guitar work, especially on the former title, for the added bonus of drummer Willie Nix. One of the performances of the title was originally to be released as the other half of Joe's Sun 78, and while yet another, later recording of the piece by an even smaller Memphis label, House of Sound, was issued. Phillips inexplicably replaced it at the last minute with ''We AII Gotta Go Some Time'', two takes of which are presented here, and for which we have no precise session information. The instrumentation and sound are very similar to the aforementioned, all of which are dominated by Joe's amplified vocals, but supplemented in this latter instance by one of the earliest examples of ''slapback'', a distinctive echo (in this case, on the drums), which was not added later to the master, as is often the practice, but rather was incorporated into it at the time of recording. (It is an aural quality which became identified with Sam Phillips and Sun Records in the 1950s and trademarks all of his best and most successful recordings. It alone may be the cause of tie last-minute substitution.) Although the title was credited to ''(Louis)'' on the Sun record, the composition evolved during the December session Louis shared with Walter Horton. Six aurally consecutive, and somewhat fumbled readings by Horton yet exist which detail the genesis of the song, with the end result being, except for the initial verse, nearly identical in lyric content to what Louis sings here. Apparently, Horton 's performances didn't satisfy Phillips' demand for uniqueness, leaving the door open for minor changes by Louis and the creation of what at least one of them felt was an essentially new song. In any event, the second of the Horton renditions, presented here as ''Grandmother Got Grandfather Told'', is wonderfully energetic and down-home. Joe Hill doesn't have worry about the harmonica and vocal and is able to concentrate on his guitar work, which very effectively punctuates the swing and verve with which Horton informs this recording.

''Got A New Woman'' and ''I'm A Poor Boy'' are the last of Joe's vocals from the aforementimed double December session and find him performing, what Marion Keisker noted was like Wolf' and ''Wolf-styled''. Simply, they are Joe Hill Louis' impressions of what he felt The Howlin' Wolf sounded like. With Albert Williams accompanying him admirably on piano again, Joe sings a little further back in his throat, though still through his harp mike, and the result does proach what Wolf sounded like. Yet, while he tunes are very enjoyable today , and certainly not for their oddity alone, they remained unissued for many years. It might be noted here that a pair of instrumental tracks which Joe recorded a couple of months later for one of Phillips' remained unissued until the LP when they were released with no explanation or credit on Howlin ' Wolf albums! ''In The Mood'' is Horton's instrumental contribution to that double December session and finds him cautiously leading the little trio through the foreign territory of a swing standard. However, within the first chorus, probably unknowingly , he returns Wingy Manone' s original ''Tar Paper Stomp'' being downhome blues it probably once. Although Joe Hill tries maintain the melody on guitar in the next few choruses, neither of them ever get back to it totally until the very end. Meanwhile, Albert Williams is left to fend for himself, which he does with his usual aplomb. The end result is a fine example of what great blues
musicians can do with even tie most mundane material.

1 - She Treats Me Mean And Evil (1952) 3:47
2 - Dorothy Mae (1952) 2:06 > Checker 763-A < 
3 - Sweetest Gal In Town (Take 1) (1992) 2:58
4 - Keep Your Arms Around Me (1969) 3:03
5 - Got A New Woman (1969) 3:03
6 - I'm A Poor Boy (1969) 3:03

Joe Hill Louis' Modern/Checker/Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Joe Hill Louis had been the guitarist on Rufus Thomas' recording of ''Bear Cat'' in March of 1953 and it was doubtless due to his familarity with all the parties involved that he composed''Tiger Man''. Despite not releasing either of Louis's renditions, Phillips saw value in the composition anyway and recorded Rufus performing it the following June. It became his second and last Sun record. It is uncertain exactly when or with whom Joe Hill Louis laid down his initial demonstration of the tune - he was a pretty regular visitor to 706 Union during this time, either borrowing a little pocket change or picking up a royalty check for his Sun record - but the informality of the session is unquestionable. A number of times, a voice or two is heard in the background responding to his lyrics, which, by the way, are unaccompanied by his harmonica and sung directly into the studio microphone. He record this song again under more formal conditions , but again the details are undocumented. What information we have, has been interpolated from the recordings themselves... and a fine trio of recordings they are! Accompanied again by Walter Horton, whose harp and amp on this session have attained one of the fiercest, richest and dirtiest sounds he would ever get, and Albert Williams, whose always welcome pianistic contribution is, as usual, kept to the background, as well as by an unidentified drummer, Joe Hill Louis presents us with not only a more polished version of his ''King Of The Jungle'' song albeit flawed by an uncertainty coming out of the instrumental chorus, but an excellent rendition of ''Hydramatic Woman'', another composition which went unissued by Phillips and wound up being rerecorded and released by one of his competitors. It is uncertain whether Louis is actually saying ''automatic'' or ''hydramatic'' - it sounds at various times like one or the other or a cross between the two - but it's the same on both versions. Regardless of his diction, this record is a great one, with his use of the automobile euphemism being a welcome addition to the long list of sexy car songs. The cracking of his voice at the very end of the piece is it only flaw and may be one of the reasons it was never seriously considered for release. The backing Walter provides to Joe's voice comes close to sounding like an entire saxophone section and the interplay between the harp and guitar (on both selections) is a modem blues wonder. The last recording of the three is without a doubt among the most unique on which Phillips ever spun tape. ''Shine Boy'', with speech and shine rag popping by an unidentified, yet obvious professional is absolutely marvelous. Granted, it's a little uneven, the musicians a little unsure, but the idea is a great one and should have been pursued further. The sound is wonderful and Walter, Joe Hill and Albert dynamically mesh their musical contributions through two sets of the romping boogie choruses unhampered by having to give space to a vocalist and a lyric.

7 - In The Mood (Walter Horton) (1972) 3:04
8 - West Winds Are Blowing (Take 1) (Walter Horton) (1987) 3:06
9 - Little Walter's Boogie (Take 1) (Walter Horton) (1990) 2”38

Walter Horton's Unissued Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Now, ''West Winds Are Blowing'', ''Little Walter's Boogie'', and ''Walter's Boogie'' are another matter entirely! They all feature the talents of Walter Horton again and were recorded previous September in one of those all star sessions on which he was accompanied not only by Joe Hill Louis, but Jack Kelly on piano and the drumming of Willie Nix! (God, what I'd give for a picture!) What a band! And what a sound Walter gets on these numbers! This was definitely one of his greatest days in life. His harmonica sound is exquisite and approaches at certain times a quality one can only describe accurate by as warbling. The former title is taken at a relaxed tempo which, with Walter's vocal and harp sound instilling such controlled intensity and strength to the recording, setup the stark duality of mood which characterizes many of the greatest blues. The two boogies are actually two consecutive takes of the same instrumental idea, the former containing more improvisation and a good deal more intere play between the harp and the piano than the later track. After the first by , Phillips must have selected the most desirable ideas from the many the musicians set forth and asked them to concentrate on only those for their a no suing attempts. As a result, the latter take displays Walter taking fewer chances, riffing rhythmically and sticking closer to basics. Two of the performances from this session were scheduled for issuance by Chess Records, the release even getting as far as having a catalog number assigned to it, but it was never released. The Chess brothers had already issued ''Juke'' by Muddy Waters' harmonica player, Little Walter Jacobs and it was on its way up the charts. They cancelled Horton's record and concentrated their efforts on Jacobs.

10 - We All Got To Go (Sometime) (Take 2) (Walter Horton) (1992) 2:44
11 - We All Gotta Go Sometime (1992) 2:41
12 - Little Walter's Boogie (Walter Horton) (1992) 2:33

Walter Horton Unissued Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Mose Vinson, familiarly known by music fans and clubgoers around Memphis as ''Boogie'', a name with aptly describes what he does best, is the solitary survivor among the musicians we know participated in this set of recordings. Long a staple of the central Memphis blues scene, his earlier contributions to its recorded legacy, for Phillips and others, were never released during the 1950s and he remained to most aficionados an unknown quantity as late as 1970. Recorded a good deal since that time, he was also the subject of a short documentary video in the late 1980s and still performs occasionally around Memphis. Really more of a jazz pianist who excels in boogie woogie than a pure blues musician, he can nevertheless turn in a reputable blues performance and provide unique vocal contributions as well. The second of Phillips' two sessions with Mose produced two finished recordings, which were even assigned master numbers, but never scheduled for release. The take of ''44 Blues'' presented here was one of them. Initially composed as a piano blues in the highly irregular meter of 13 1/2 bars, it was doubtless used as a test of any self-respecting pianist's mettle and is probably as old as the blues itself. Traceable history and our knowledge of its origins extend back to the early years of the century and one Lee Green, the pianist who, long before he recorded it in 1929, had taught it to Little Brother Montgomery, who put his own lyric to it and recorded it as ''Vicksburg Blues'' in 1930, and who, in turn taught it to Roosevelt Sykes, who recorded it before either one of them! It' s been a staple in the repertoire of blues pianists ever since and Mose Vinson is no exception. This more uniform rendition of the piece is notable for Joe Hill's guitar punctuations, as well as the rhythmic accents provided by handclaps and string bass. Another version of the same composition with slightly different lyrics which is hereentided ''Worry You Off My Mind'', harks back to the original irregular meter of the piece, probably due to the fact that the guitarist on the earlier session that produced it, Joe Willie Wilkins, was adept at playing the odd and old country blues. It was among selections initially recorded in what was probably an experimental session in the summer of 1953. His recollection confirmed by Vinson, it was Joe Willie, by the way, whore called with certainty the identity of the personnel of this, yet another undocumented Phillips recording session. In addition to Joe Willie's matchless up stroking and single note finger picking, accompanying Mose here on lyrics much more suitable to his thick tongued delivery, are also Walter Horton, whose harp sound on this session nearly matches that just previously discussed, and the capable and highly rated, but under recorded drumming of one of Memphis' blues bands' favorite percussionists, Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman. The same personnel is responsible for another selection in this set, ''Reap What You Sow'', which finds Mose, and only Mose, on thoroughly familiar turf. Joe Willie is very uncharacteristically out of sorts while Walter lays so far back he sounds like a saxophone riffing in the next room. Perhaps they did more that day than sample the musical horn-of-plenty. In any event, only Beale Street is left to accompany Mose on what has been titled ''Mistreatin' Boogie'' and even he gets lost at one point! Nevertheless, here we have an opportunity to enjoy Mose doing what he does best. Musically, it's a version of Pine Top Smith 's original ''Pinetop's Boogie Woogie'' - on which Tommy Dorsey had Deane Kincaide do an arrangement for his big band and it became a monster hit of the swing era - but it's given a new suit of clothes by Mose, with an original set of lyrics, among which please find his notable reading of "please cool back to me" in the last verse of the piece.

13 - Tiger Man (Mose Vinson) (1969)2:56
14 - 44 Blues (Take 3) (Mose Vinson) (1992) 2:48
15 - My Love Has Gone (Take 1) (Mose Vinson) (1992) 2:21
16 - Mistreatin' Boogie (Mose Vinson) (1987) 2:35
17 - My Love Has Gone (Take 3) (Mose Vinson) (1992) 2:45
18 - Worry You Off My Mind (Take 2) (Mose Vinson) (1992) 2:35
19 - Reap What You Sow (Mose Vinson) (1987) 2:49

Mose Vinson's Unissued Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on  > YouTube <

The other finished recording of Vinson's, of which mention has already been made and to which Phillips assigned a master number, was to be a selection entitled ''My Love Has Gone''. Also known as ''Come See Me'', three takes of two distinctly different renditions of it were recorded and one of each is presented here, neither of which is the take Phillips selected for mastering. Only the first attempt however, which is taken at a moderate tempo, sports a slashing and expressive guitar solo by Joe Hill Louis that is certainly among the best he ever recorded. The other rendition included here must have been a product of Phillips striving for something commercial... its fast march tempo is the rhythm of ''The Hucklebuck'', a dance that had initially gained popularity in 1949 and was still popular at the time of this recording.

20 - Walter's Instrumental (Walter Horton) (1970) 2:56

Walter Horton Unissued Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

Somewhat of a reverse situation to what is described above in discussion of undocumented sessions occurs in the case of Walter Horton's May 1953 session. The date and musicians are definite, but no indication of the material recorded was made, and now here in the remnants of the Phillips and acetates is there anything that can be matched to it except possibly ''Walter's Instrumental''. If this guess is accurate, we find Horton in the company of one-time Muddy Waters guitarist - and longtime prison sentence server (for murder) - Pat Hare, who shares the spotlight with, an uncharacteristically laid back Albert Williams on piano, and Joe Hill Louis on drums. In any event, the star of the track is without a doubt Big Walter Shakey Mumbles Horton, who takes himself through his paces and as if it were his opportunity, many of harmonica tricks with which he gained the great reputation to which he so rightfully deserved.

21 - Hydramatic Woman (1969) 2:33
22 - Tiger Man (1969) 3:14
23 - Keep Your Arms Around Me (1992) 3:14
24 - She Comes To See Me Sometime (Take 3) (1953) 3:03 > Sun 178-B < 
25 - We All Gotta Go Sometime (Take 2) (1953) 2:43 > Sun 178-A < 
26 - Shine Boy (1987) 2:25

Joe Hill Louis' Modern/Unissued Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

From all reports, Joe Hill Louis was a wonderful little guy. He always had a smile on his face and a humorous remark on his lips. He made a better life for himself out of sheer willpower and taught himself to sing and play the harmonica, guitar and the drums. He was smart and talented and earned the respect of his and his public, and became a credit a blessing to the whole of American music. He made some wonderful records and these are some of them. Enjoy them.

Stephen C. LaVere, Los Angeles, March 1992

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

JOE HILL LOUIS - Also known as "Chicago Sunny Boy", "Johnny Lewis", "Little Joe", Joe was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill, September 23, 1921, one of four children (3 boys and a girl) in Froggy Bottom, out from Grant's Corner, near where Whitehaven, Tennessee is now, just a few miles south of Memphis, and lived there until about a year after his mother died. His father was Robert Hill and his mother was Mary Wilson. Joe Hill Louis learned some harmonica and the guitar from Will Shade in his youth in the early 1930s.

At the age of 14, after frequent beating by his step-mother, he ran away from home to work outside the music with frequent work in streets and dives in Robinsonville, Mississippi area from circa 1935, and fell in with Billy and Drew Canale, the younger members of a well-to-do Memphis family. The Canales cook welcomed the responsibility of looking after the young lad and he continued to live with and work for the Canales in one household position after another for the rest of his short life.

Early in his lifelong stay with the Canales he was put up to fighting a local ruffian named "Prince Henry" and came out the better, a victory which inspired the Canale boys to name him after the then heavyweight champ. Hence the moniker which was to serve him well and stick with him to the end.

Joe Hill Louis' natural musical aptitude was first manifest itself upon the jew's harp, which eventually was replaced by the harmonica, his primary and dominant instrument. The guitar and drums were added in the course of time but not without a great deal of ear-shattering displeasure from the Canales and their friends. At first, of course, his manipulation of the three was very uncoordinated, but he eventually got it all together to the amazement of his friends and the consternation of would-be accompanying guitarists and drummers. Rufus Thomas, the well-known record star and disc jockey reported that Joe was envied by many local musicians for his ability to earn the same amount of money that it would have taken three or four other musicians of singular talents to make. Joe could make all that money by himself; he didn't need anyone else.

Joe Hill Louis worked outside the music at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 1930s and frequently worked with Eddie Taylor, Willie Borum, Will Shade, Lockhart Hill and others in gambling houses, the streets in Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas area and frequently worked as one man band in Memphis, Tennessee. He also frequently hoboed through the Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi on working in dances, suppers, ballgame intermissions in the late 1940s into the early 1950s. He recorded for Columbia Records in New York City in 1949.

He through his appearances on street corners and in Handy Park in Memphis and in juke joints and roadhouses in the surrounding countryside, Joe Hill Louis became a popular entertainer in the mod-south area in the late 1940s and it eventually opened the doors of WDIA-Memphis, the local black radio station, for a 15-minute show for a patent medicine called Pepti-con (from B.B. King) on which he was known as the Pep-ti-con Boy. This appellation was later replaced by "The Be-Bop Boy", as indicated by the accompanying photograph.

He through, by an informal union, Joe is reported to have a son named Leslie Hill who was living in Chicago, Joe Hill Louis married his only wife, the former Dorothy "Ruthy" Mae Pearson, on July 25, 1952 and the following year their son was born. Named Robert, he later took Louis as a surname for himself and took name "Joe Louis" in honour of the boxing champion. His brother was Lockhart Hill and was also an great musician. Despite Dorothy's statement that they lived together until Joe died, the marriage may not have been one of constant satisfaction for Joe, for he was soon back with the Canales, who always had a need for a chauffeur or a houseboy, or a bartender at their frequent gatherings. He also worked intermittently for Drew in his vending machine business, packing pennies in cigarette packages by day and playing music in the countryside juke joints and roadhouses at night.

Drew Canale, who was to become Tennessee state senator from Shelby County (Memphis and its environs) (1966-1970), was dabbling in recording in the late 1940s and claimed to have been the first to record Joe, a session which, if ever issued, has yet to be identified. Surprisingly, it was Columbia Records, that was the first to release recordings by Joe Hill Louis.

Over a period of more than three years, between March 31, 1952 and September 9, 1953, Joe Hill Louis recorded a number of sessions for Sam Phillips, alone and with accompanists, which reached release on Modern and Checker as well as on his own labels The Phillips and Sun Records. Sometimes during the mid-1950s, Drew Canale produced a rather curious solitary release on his own Vendor record label. The vocal was credited to Les Vendor Keyboards and contained a spoken introduction by Canal, who later confirmed that the artist was indeed Joe Hill Louis. Made exclusively for use in Canale's own jukebox and vending machine distribution business, no more than a couple of copies are known to exist today. It was reissued from the original stampers for collectors in the mid-1970s on the Mimisa label.

Canale recorded him again, however, but by that time, Joe Hill's recording career included sessions for Meteor, Big Town, Ace, Rockin' and House Of Sound and among them are some remarkable records, the Rockin' sides being especially notable. However, this later session for Canale is believed to be Joe Hill Louis' last. A number of attempts, different approaches, were made on a single tune, ironically entitled "late date" and though most of the session still exists on tape, it remains unissued to this day. Joe Louis worked for the Blue Light Club in Memphis; the Brown Jug in West Memphis; the Tennessee House in West Memphis, Arkansas in the early 1950s; recorded for the Rockin' label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1952; recorded with Walter Horton for the Checker label in Chicago in 1952; recorded with Billy Love for the Sun label in Memphis, Tennessee; recorded for Meteor label in Chicago in 1953; recorded for Bigtown label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1954; recorded for the Ace label in West Memphis, Arkansas circa 1954; recorded for the House Of Sound label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1957.

Joe Hill Louis had a great sense of humor and was definitely a ladies' man. He had a different woman for every day in the week. His Sunday gal was Dorothy Houston who said Joe would take her to nice quiet places: church, nice restaurants, quiet bars. He wouldn't take her to gigs as he said they were rough places where the men didn't respect the woman. Perhaps for one of these 'dailies' Joe was doing yardwork when he badly cut his thumb and it became infected with fertilizer. Eventually he contracted tetanus infection with which he collapsed a few days later in his car on Beale Street, beyond help. He was taken to John Gaston Hospital in Memphis, where he died August 5, 1957, loved by his friends and fellow musicians, mourned by many women, and admired much too belatedly by the music public around the world. Joe Hill Louis is buried at the Ford Chapel Cemetery in West Junction, Tennessee. From the late forties until 1956, Joe Hill Louis was among the most popular figures in Memphis and the rural areas of Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1993 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15708 (1-2) mono digital
EDDIE BOND - ROCKIN' DADDY
 
2 Compact disc set. An Bear Family Special Product. 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 logo left from the center on the disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. Contains Eddie Bond's complete Ekko and Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued with studio chatter. Also included in the boxed set, 18-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Howard Cockburn. The booklet also features previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Howard Cockburn, Colin Escott and Richard Weize.
 
Producers
Red Matthews, Dee Kilpatrick, Pappy Daily, Jack Clement,
Len Rossi, Eddie Bond
Re-Issue Producer
Richard Weize
Tape Research
Colin Escott
Mastering
Duncan Cowell
Biography
Howard Cockburn
Discography
Howard Cockburn, Colin Escott,
Richard Weize
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Colin Esott, The Showtime Archive (Toronto),
Dave Travis
Artwork
Hoffmann Nienburg
Thanks to
Eddie Bond, Trevor Cajiao, Dave Travis
 
Disc 1 Contains
 
1 - Double Duty Lovin' (1955) Ekko 1015
(V.Claude)
2 - Talking Off The Wall (1955) Ekko 1015
(E.Brooks)
3 - Love Makes A Fool (Everyday) (1955) Ekko 1016
(Hews-Kuchie)
4 - Your Eyes (1955) Ekko 1016
(Hews-Carter)
 
1-4 Recorded 1955, Nashville, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Hank Garland (guitar), Edward Hill (guitar),
Jerry Byrd (steel guitar), Floyd T. Chance (bass), Buddy harmon (drums),
Marvin Hughes (piano), Producer Red Matthews
 
5 - I Got A Woman (1956) Mercury 70826
(Ray Charles)
6 - Rockin' Daddy (1956) Mercury 70826
(Sonny Fisher)
 
5-6 Recorded February 1956 at WMPS Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Reggie Young (guitar), John Hughey (steel guitar),
Johnny Fine (drums), Producer Dee Kirkpatrick
 
7 - Slip, Slip Slippin' In (1956) Mercury 70882
(R. Belyew-C. Wright)
8 - Baby, Baby, Baby (What Am I Gonna Do) (1956) Mercury 70941
(R. Newton)
9 - Flip, Flop Mama (1956) Mercury 70882
(C.Edens-Eddie Bond)
10 - Boppin' Bonnie (1956) Mercury 70941
(Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
 
7-10 Recorded March 1956 Nashville, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Reggie Young (guitar), Johnny Fine (drums)
Producer Dee Kirkpatrick
 
11 - You're Part Of Me (1957) Mercury 71067
(D. Scaife-G. Scaife)
12 - King On Your Throne (1993) Mercury Unissued
(Gladys Bond)
13 - They Say We're Too Young (1957) Mercury 71067
(Quinton Claunch-Bill Cantrell)
14 - Backslidin' (1957) (Mercury 71237
(Quinton Claunch-Bell Cantrell)
 
11-14 Recorded January 10, 1957 at Goldstar Recording Studio, Houston, Texas
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Phil Baugh (guitar), Unknown (rhythm guitar),
Unknown (steel guitar), Unknown (bass), Unknown (drums),
Unknown (fiddle), Doc Lewis (piano),
Producer Pappy Dally
 
15 - Love, Love, Love (1957) Mercury 71237
(Roger Miller)
16 - Loving' You, Lovin' You (1957) Mercury 71153
(Darrell Edwards)
17 - Hershet Bar (1957) (Mercury 71153
(Eddie Bond)
18 - One Step Close To You (1960) Mercury Unissued
(Unknown)
 
15-18 Recorded Juli 1957 at Goldstar Recording Studio, Houston, Texas
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Phil Baugh (guitar), Unknown (rhythm guitar),
Unknown (steel guitar), Unknown (bass), Unknown (drums),
Unknown (fiddle), Jimmy Smith (piano),, Unknown (sax),
Unknown (organ), Pee Wee Wamble (trompet),
Producer Pappy Dally
 
20 - Broke My Guitar (1978) Sun Unissued
(Eddie Bond)
 
20 - Recorded January 25, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
(Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), More Details Unknown
Producer Jack Clement
 
19 - Show Me (Without Sax) (1978) Sun Unissued
(Eddie Bond)
21 - This Old Heart Of Mine (1975) Sun Unissued
(Eddie Bond)
 
19, 21 - Recorded April 2, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), More Details Unknown
Producer Jack Clement
 
22 - Show Me (with Sax) (1978) Sun Unissued
 
22 - Recorded May 5, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar), Unknown (saxophone), More Details Unknown
Producer Jack Clement
 
1-4 Original Ekko Recordings
5-18 Original Mercury Recordings
19-22 Original Sun Recordings

Disc 2 Contains
 
1 - One More Memory (1993) Sunbox 106
(Unknown)
2 - I Can't Quit (1975) Sunbox 109
(Marty Robbins)
3 - My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (1993) Sunbox 109
(Clarence Williams)
4 - Back Home In Indiana (Instrumental) (1993) BCD 15708
(MacDnald-Hanely)
5 - They'll Never Take Her Love From Me (1993) Sunbox 109
(Leon Payne)
6 - The Day I Found You (1991) BCD 15708
(Unknown)
7 - Standing In The Window (1991) BCD 15708
(Hoyt Johnson-Jim Atkins)
8 - Back Street Affair (1972) 6641 180
(V. Claude)
9 - Our Secret Rendezvous (1993) BCD 15708
(Unknown)
10 - Your Eyes (1993) BCD 15708
(Hews-Carver)
11 - Double Duty Lovin' (1975) CR 30128
(V. Claude)
12 - I'd Just Be Fool Enough (1993) BCD 15708
(Melvin Endsley)
13 - You Nearly Lose Your Mind (1993) Sunbox 109
(Ernest Tubb)
14 - I Thought I Heard You Call My Name (1993) BCD 15708
(Lee Emerson)
15 - Big Boss Man (1993) BCD 15708
(Al Smith-Luther Dixon)
16 - Rockin' Daddy (1975) 6641 180
(Sonny Fisher)
17 - In My Solitude (1993) BCD 15708
(Duke Ellington)
 
1-17 Recorded January 29 & February 13, 1962 at Sam Phillips Recording Studio, 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar, John Hughey (steel guitar), Toomstone Hawkins (bass),
Morris Tarant (drums), Gilbert Mickle (fiddle), Jimmy Smith (piano and organ)
Producer Eddie Bond
 
18 - Most Of All I Want To See Jesus (1966) PILP 1960
(Naomi Nix)
19 - Where Could I Go But To The Lord (1966) PILP 1960
(J.B. Coats)
20 - Satisfied (1966) PILP 1960
(Martha Carson)
21 - Where They Ring Those Golden Bells (1966) PILP 1960
((D. de Marcelle) PD
22 - If We Never Meet Again (1966) (PILP 1960
(Albert E. Brumley)
23 - Will I Be Lost Or Will I Be Saved (1966) PILP 1960
(James Parker)
24 - Just A Closer Walk With Thee (1966) PILP 1960
(Trasitional)
25 - Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Saviour PILP 1960
(Prblis Domain)
26 - I Saw The Light (1966) PILP 1960
(Hank Williams)
27 - Letter To God (1966) (PILP 1960
(Len Rossi)
28 - Precious Memories (1966) PILP 1960
(J.F.G. Wright) PD
29 - Hallelujah Way (1966) PILP 1960
(James Parker)
 
18-29 Recorded January 29, 1952 at Sam Phillips Recording Studio, 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Bond (vocal and guitar, John Hughey (steel guitar), Toomstone Hawkins (bass),
Morris Tarant (drums), Gilbert Mickle (fiddle), Jimmy Smith (piano and organ)
Producer Len Rossi & Eddie Bond 
 
© 1-29 Original Sun/Phillips International Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Eddie Bond's Sun/PI recordings can be heard on his playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
EDDIE BOND - Country and rockabilly singer, disc jockey, promotor, radio and televisionstation impresario, song-writer, charity worker and law enforcement officer, all parts of themulti-faceted person that is Eddie Bond. For over forty years now he been completelyimmersed in the southern musical culture that spawned the likes of Elvis Presley, JohnnyCash, Roy Orbison et all. Whether he is performing in Memphis, Tennessee, Drew, Mississippior prudhoe, Tyne and Wear, England, Eddie Bond continues to be a living embodiment of thetraditional sounds of country and authentic rockabilly music.
 
Born in Methodist Hospital, Memphis, on July 1, 1923, Eddie James Bond grew up in anessential non-musical family, which still provided some encouragement to the young memberof the family who, at the age of eight, had put together enough nickels and dimes to buy hisfirst guitar. His initial interest had been aroused by listening to Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubbwho, at the time, the early 40s, were widely heard on the radio and records; his early experience of performing developed through his teenage years as he gigged around the beerjoints of Memphis.
 
On leaving school in 1950, he held down a variety of jobs including furniture factory worker,paint sprayer and, a job common amongst Memphis rockabillies, truck driver. After aneighteen month stint in the Navy, Bond returned to work in paint, this time selling notsprying. The time had now moved on to 1952 and the formation of his band the Stomperstook place over the ensuing months. Well-known members would be Reggie Young, John Hughey, Jimmy Smith and Johnny Fine. Earlier incarnations of the band had included RonaldSmith, Enio Hopkins, Curtis Lee Alderson and future Musical Warriot for Charlie Feathers,Jody Chastain there led to occasional work with Elvis Presley.
 
The rounds of the South and Southwest were made taking in Tucson, Arizona, Birmingham,Alabama and Dexter, Missouri, where Eddie and the Stompers together with Roy Orbison andthe Teen Kings and Narvel Felts with Jerry Mercer's Rhythm and Blues Boys played on top ofa concession stand at the local drive-in a typical for the priode 1954-1956.
 
Following failed auditions at Sun Records and Meteor, Eddie secured a recording deal withEkko Records which, although an Los Angeles company, had a Memphis office which waslocated at 36 North Cleveland. Although not certain. Eddie now believes the Ekko sessionwas held at a Murray Nash Associates-connected studio in Nashville. No fabulous sales wereachieved but they formed the basis for the next session which saw Eddie move further towards the big-time and a major label deal for Mercury Records.
 
Other developments during this time including appearances on the Louisiana Hayridealongside Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and Sonny James, and further touring alongside CarlPerkins, Johnny Cash, Harold Jenkins (later to become Conway Twitty), and CharlieFeathers.
 
Concurrently a move to develop links with radio were set up when the Eddie Bond Show wastransmitted on KWEM, beginning a relationship with the airwaves that continues today. Sonow touring was joined by broadcasting as well as recording in the continually broadening ofthe Bond career. At the same time Eddie signed with Bob Neal's Stars Inc., then looking afterthe interests of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash with Warren Smith and Roy Orbison soon to beadded to the ranks.
 
Four sessions were recorded for Mercury Records, the first of which he poses a mystery.Held at WMPS in Memphis, and produced by Mercury artists and repertoire man, DeeKilpatrick, four songs were recorded but only two were issued on Mercury. Nashville was the location of the next session that produced Bond's strongest rockabillyperformances used by Mercury on two singles in June and September of 1956, which soldwell enough for Mercury to organise two more sessions held in Houston, Texas in 1957.
 
Following the Mercury deal, Eddie began label-hopping through the South, particularlyaround Memphis. First stop was 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, where Jack Clementproduced three titles.
 
None were issued at the time having to wait for the rockabilly revivaland subsequent glut of compilations released in the 1970s and 1980s. There followed aplethora of recordings for "D", Stomper Time, Wildcat, MCCR, Decca (through his friend WebbPierce), and United Southern Artists. All were basically country releases.
 
Early 1962 saw Eddie back in Memphis recording at the 639 Madison Avenue or re nearlythirty sides were recorded for Sun during January and February, and gospel items wereeventually used on an album in 1963. Although not strictly recorded by Sun or PhillipsInternational, these recordings were all bought in and have been embraced as Sun tracks asa result of the Phillips International album release.
 
Further stopping-off places on the label circuit included Memphis, Pen (leased on Decca),Diplomat, Millionaire, Goldwax, Memphis, MCCR and Tab, which took Eddie to the end of thesixties during which time he had expanded his radio operations and achieved great successby increasing his listening audience noticeably to the extent that a 64% share was achievedand a plaque presented to him by Billboard to honour the achievement.
 
The Tap recordings of 1969 inaugurated the Buford Pusser Years, when Eddie was involved inwriting and recording about the dubious character of Sheriff Pusser who became a southernhero when Hollywood portrayed him in the film Walkin' Tall. Bond later admitted to havingmixed feelings on the subject but there was a certain fame that was achieved through theassociation. Many country fans were first introduced to the exploits of Buford Pusser through the recordings of Eddie Bond. In the wake of his meetings and ventures with Pusser, theoffice of Chief of Police in Finger, Tennessee, was achieved by Eddie Bond. Coincidentally,Finger was the birthplace of Buford Pusser himself!
 
The following years saw more country sessions on Tap in the States and, following the firstUnited Kingdom visit in 1982, rockabilly recordings were issued on Rockhouse Records inHolland produced by Dave Travis, whose band always supports Bond on tour, as was the casein 1982, 1985 and 1992.
 
The retrospective of his associations with Ekko, Mercury, Sun and Phillips International,documents his genesis as a country and rockabilly singer, a role perfected over his longcareer in the recording and broadcasting industry.
 
One of the first clubs that Eddie Bond hired Elvis Presley to play was at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall in nearby Hernando, Mississippi, rural town, half an hour from Memphis. Hernando was home to a long, white VFW building with a huge parking lot, one often used by moonshine whisky drinkers. It was located on the outskirts of town and, according to Bond, "drew a hell of a crowd".
 
Saturday night dances were a tradition, and people of all ages showed up for the music. The young men dressed up and the girls had on their finest dresses. At intermission time, theparking lot was filled with refreshment seekers. "Elvis Presley was nervous that hot summer night in Hernando", Edythm Peeler, a local resident recalled. "He wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a plaid jacket. We had no idea who he was". "They surrounded him at the intermission. He sure was a good-looking boy. Now that I recall, I also liked his singing". Comments like these were repeated by a number of other Hernando residents, all of whom had found memories of the night Elvis Presley performed in their little white VFW Hall. Elvis' appearance with the band provided some insights into his future career. When Elvis Presley arrived in Hernando and got out of his car, he was horrified at the dance site. "Elvis' hand't played any country honky-tonks", Eddie Bond recalled. "He was stunned by the drinking in the parking lot". Moonshine whisky was in abundance and it was not unusual for a gun to fire followed by a rebel yell. The VFW dance was a place where the farmer, the small businessman, and local workers could let loose. Young girls, not so young women with big breasts, and the traditional-looking army couple crowded the dance floor. To Elvis Presley, it was a strange environment to sing romantic ballads. Elvis Presley told Eddie Bond that he would convert the crowd to his kind of music. Bond had no idea what Elvis Presley meant. When Elvis performed Guy Mitchell's 1950 classic "The Roving Kind" and Johnny Ray's 1951 hit "The Little White Cloud That Cried", it was clear that he selected songs the locals liked. "I saw those tunes on the jukebox inside the hall. I knew those folks would like those songs", he told Eddie Bond.
 
During his performances, Elvis Presley sang two sets of songs. No one was really sure why Elvis repeated his songs, considering how many he knew. The reason was simply. He used these small shows to perfect his delivery of a particular tune. Since he favoured pop ballads, no one really cared if Elvis sang a song more than once - he was able to work the girls into a frenzy with anything he sang. What it amounted to, though, was that long before Elvis became the first rock and roll superstar, he was consciously practising the act that would take him to the pinnacle of show business success.
 
Through it all, the consensus is that Eddie Bond made more friends than enemies. In the late 1990s, he moved east to Bolivar, Tennessee where he opened a store and a club that he was anxious to mention was not a nightclub. Morbidly obese, Bond moved to an assisted living facility for a time.
 
On Wednesday morning, March 20, 2013, Eddie Bond died from complications of Alzheimer's disease and dementia at his home in Bolivar, Tennessee, at the age of 79.
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© April 16, 1996 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15928 mono digital
JOHNNY CARROLL - ROCK BABY, ROCK IT 1955 – 1960

Johnny Carroll's 1956 recording of "Wild Wild Women'', with its lean rockabilly arrangement and exciting  vocal performance that owes little debt to Elvis Presley, is one of the greatest early rock and roll singles.  Unfortunately, the record wasn't a hit and Carroll bounced from label to label without much success, making  a little rockabilly and several Gene Vincent-style rockers along the way. Rock Baby Rock It: 1955-1960 is a  complete summary of Carroll's early career, beginning with a generous helping of hot but rough demos made  in 1955 and continuing through his complete recordings for Decca, Warner Bros., and Sun Records. The  collection wraps up with a novelty single recorded by his backing band, the Spinners; a pair of indie label  waxings; and the four songs Carroll performed in the 1957 film ''Rock, Baby, Rock It''. The half-dozen Decca  recordings, including "Wild Wild Women'', are the essential cuts and have been anthologized elsewhere, but  exemplary rockers are scattered throughout the track list. It is a shame that Decca didn't record Carroll more,  but the work he did in those two days has given him a reputation among rockabilly aficionados that has only  grown. 
 
Producers
Various
Re-Issue Producers
Bob Jones and Richard Weize
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
Bob Jones
Tape Research
Dave Travis
Mastering
Bob Jones
Biography
Bill Millar
Discography
Adam Komorowski and Richard Weize
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Gaby Maag, Dave Travis
Artwork
Sven T. Uhrman
Thanks to
Colin Escott, Adam Komorowski,
Judy Lindsey, Ian Wallis
 
For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

Contains
1 - Hearts Of Stone (1989)
2 - Why Cry (1989)
3 - Love Is A Merry-Go-Round (1989)
4 - Stingy Thing (1989)
5 - Crazy Little Mama )1989)
6 - Sexy Ways (1989)
7 - Cut Out (1989)
 
1-7 Recorded 1955 at Top Ten Recording Studio, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Jay Salem (guitar), Billy Buntin (bass)
 
8 - You Two-Timed Me Two Times Too Often (1985)
9 - You Made Me Love You (1985)
 
8-9 Recorded November 1955 at Top Ten Recording Studio, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Jay Salem (guitar), Billy Buntin (bass),
Dude Cohn (drums), Bill Hennen (piano)
 
10 - Hot Rock (1957)
11 - Rock 'N' Roll Ruby (1956)
12 - Wild Wild Women (1956)
13 - Corrine, Corrina (1956)
14 - Crazy, Crazy Lovin' (1957)
15 - Tryin' To Get To You (1956)
 
10-15 Recorded April 26-27, 1956 at Bradley Studios, 804 16th Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Grady Martin (guitar), Harold Bradley (guitar),
Owen Bradley (piano), Producer Paul Cohen
 
16 - That's The Way I Love (1958) > PI 3520-A <
(Johnny Carroll)
17 - I'll Wait (1958) > PI 3520-B <
(Johnny Carroll)
18 - Rock Baby, Rock It (Sun 603) Bootleg (1979)
(Johnny Carroll)
19 - You Made Me Love You (Sun 603) Bootleg (1979)
(Monaco-McCarthy)
 
16-19 Recorded June 23, 1957 at Cliff Herring Studio, Forth Worth, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Jay Salem (guitar), Billy Buntin (bass),
George Jones (drums), Bill Hennen (piano)
 
20 - The Swing (1959)
21 - Bandstand Doll (1959)
 
20-21 Recorded October 1958 at Sellers Recording Studio, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Howard Reed (guitar), Marvin Montgomery (mandolin),
Grady Owen (Fender bass), Artie Glen (bass), Royce McAffe (drums),
Bill Hennen (piano), Producer Johnny Hicks
 
22 - Sugar (1959)
23 - Lost Without You (1959)
 
22-23 Recorded February 1959, New York City
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Howard Reed (guitar), Grady Owen (Fender bass),
Royce McAffe (drums), Bill Hennen (piano), Producer Johnny Hicks
 
24 - Rag Mop (1959)
25 - Little Otis (1959)
 
24-25 Recorded May 14, 1959 at Bradley film & Recording Studio, 804 16th Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Howard Reed (guitar), Grady Owen (bass),
Royce McAffe (drums), Bill Hennen (piano)
Producer Grady Martin
 
26 - Trudy (1960)
27 - Run Come See (1960)
 
26-27 Recorded 1960 at Oil & Gas Buildin, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar) Unknown Musicians
 
28 - The Sally Ann (1960)
29 - Run Come See (1960)
 
28-29 Recorded 1960 at Pam's Studio, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Howard Reed (guitar), Grady Owen (bass),
Royce McAffe (drums), Bill Hennen (piano)
 
30 - Crazy Crazy Lovin (1957)
31 - Wild Wild Women (1957)
32 - Rockin' Maybelle (1957)
33 - Sugar Baby (1957)
 
30-33 Recorded May 1957 at Sellers Recording Studio, Dallas, Texas
Johnny Carroll (vocal and guitar), Jay Salem (guitar), Billy buntin (bass,
Possible Juvie Gomez (drums)
 
(10-15) Original Decca, (20-25) Warner Bros., Duchess, WA and (16-19) Sun Recordings
Johnny Carroll's Sun/PI recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
JOHNNY CARROLL – Born John Lewis Carrell on October 23, 1937 in Cleburne, Texas. Johnny Carroll grew up in Godley, Texas, a very small town, some 400 people, near Cleburne. As a youngster he listened to country music on the radio and got himself a guitar to practice on. When he was 10 years old his mother had taught him enough for him to appear over Cleburne's KCLA on Saturday mornings. He was later introduced to rhythm and blues by a cousin who was co-owner of a jukebox company and handed down 78's of Joe Turner and others.
 
During his school days he and his school fellows were very much into coloured music and groups such as the Clovers and the Charms (of "Heart Of Stone" fame). At 15, Johnny organized his first band, the Texas Moonlighters; they had their own show on Cleburne's KCLA radio. In 1955, the band won first prize in a talent contest, and enrolled second prize winner guitarist Jay Salem in the band along the way. They opened for Ferlin Husky and were spotted by Jack "Tiger" Goldman, owner of the Top Ten Recording Studio in Dallas.
 
The band cut several demos there, among them "Why Cry", "You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often" and "Crazy Crazy Lovin". A deal was arranged with Decca's Nashville division on the strength of the latter, and a two-day session was organized there on April 25 and 26, 1956 for Johnny, without his band. The backing group was composed of well-known session men, with Grady Martin on lead guitar. They cut the fantastic "Crazy Crazy Lovin", "Trying To Get To You", "Rock And Roll Ruby", "Hot Rock", "Corrine, Corrina", and "Wild Wild Women" that make up the three magical Johnny Carroll Decca 45s. Two of these were also released in the UK, on Brunswick, but there were few sales on either side of the Atlantic.
 
Nevertheless, this is rockabilly at its most intense, and these six sides alone assure Carroll's place in musical history. To promote Johnny, Tiger persuaded Sonny Friedman to shoot a quickie rock 'n' roll movie, "Rock Baby Rock It", featuring 4 songs by Johnny Carroll and appearances by Rosco Gordon and others. Johnny was subsequently dropped from the Decca roster and in 1957 found himself accompanied by no less than Elvis' musicians, Scotty Moore and Bill Black (who had left Elvis following a dispute over salary).
 
It was Bill who introduced Johnny to Sam Phillips who bought a couple of demos Johnny had recorded in Forth Worth, Texas on June 23, 1957. Sam issued "That's The Way I Love" b/w "I'll Wait" as one of the five first (simultaneous) releases on Phillips International, leaving "Rock Baby Rock It" and "You Made Me Love You" unreleased. Of these five records, "Raunchy" by Bill Justis turned out to be the hit and Phillips concentrated all his promotion on that disc, leaving Johnny's record out in the cold. His career at Sun was over before it had even begun.
 
In 1958, Johnny got himself a new manager, Ed E. McLemore, who ran an agency in Dallas that booked Gene Vincent, Jimmy Bowen, Buddy Knox and Sonny James. Johnny finally met Gene Vincent and they went on to become very close friends. Johnny wrote "Maybe", recorded by Gene in the autumn of 1958 for his "Sounds Like" LP. They both used more or less the same band at the time, and it is not surprising that the sides recorded by Johnny bore a strong resemblance to Gene Vincent's sound. The demos were sent to Warner Bros in New York who released "Bandstand Doll" b/w "The Swing" which sold quite well and became Johnny's biggest seller. Sadly, the second single "Sugar" b/w "Lost Without You" didn't follow the same path and sank without a trace. The third WB single, "Rag Mop"/ "Little Otis", produced by Grady Martin, contained two instrumentals (with a few vocal interjections), by Johnny's group, The Spinners. When this didn't sell either, Warner dropped Carroll and his band. The hard life on the road paid its dues and Johnny quit touring in 1959, though he had two more singles released in 1960 and 1962, two different versions of "Run Come See" for two small labels.
 
During the 1960s, Carroll's recording career lay dormant. Johnny worked as a booker and fixer at a Fort Worth nightclub owned by Bill Sellers, until good old Ronny Weiser persuaded him to cut a Gene Vincent tribute, "Black Leather Rebel"/"Be Bop A Lula" for his Rollin' Rock label in 1974. "Black Leather Rebel" is also known under the title "Gene Vincent Rock". A Rollin' Rock LP, "Texabilly" was recorded in 1977 and released in 1978. Johnny then teamed up with model and singer Judy Lindsey and went back to making music full-time. They played the night clubs in Texas and have been appearing regularly in Europe in the 1980s. They recorded for the Gipsy label, issuing numerous singles and an LP.
 
Johnny has always been a great and appreciated performer until his untimely death (of liver failure) on February 18, 1995 in Dallas, Texas.
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 1997 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16220 mono digital
NARVEL FELTS - DID YOU TELL ME
 
Compact disc. 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.  On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in upper right.

Contains 1-10 original Sun recordings and demos many of them previously unissued complete with studio chatter; 11-24 original Mercury recordings, and 32-34 original MGM recordings.  Also included in the box, 20-page booklet biography, rare photo's and liner notes by Narvel Felts, and Howard Cockburn. The 1957-1960 discography by Narvel Felts, Howard Cockburn, and Richard Weize.
 
Producers
Jack Clement, David Carroll, Bob McCloud, Art Talmadge,
Walt Maynatd, Jim Vienneau
Re-Issued Producer
Trevor Caliao, Howard Cockburn
Disc Transfer
Bob Jones
Mastering
Bob Jones
Biography
Narvel Felts, Howard Cockburn
Discography
Howard Cockburn, Narvel Felts, Rochard Weize
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Abdreas, Trevor Cajiap, Howard Cockburn, Narvel Felts
Artwork
Sven T. Uhrmann

Contains
1 - Did You Tell Me (You Don't Care) (1981) 2:22
2 - My Babe (1976) 1:50
3 - Cry Baby Cry (1995) 1:51
4 - Tour Touch (1997) 2:32
5 - Foolish Thoughts (1985) 1:38
6 - Kiss-A-Me Baby (1981) 2:02
7 - Lonesome Feeling (1997) 2:28
8 - Lonely River ((1985) 2:07
9 - A Fool In Paradise (1975) 2:29
10 - A Teen's Way (1995) 2:28
11 - Kiss-A-Me Baby (1957) 1:50
12 - A Fool In Paradise (1987) 2:04
13 - Cry Baby Cry (1957) 2:01
14 - Your Touch (1987) 2:35
15 - Foolish Thoughts (1957) 1"47
16 - Lonely River (1987) 2:02
17 - A Teen's Way (1987) 2:06
18 - I'm Headin' Home (1987) 2:07
19 - Lonesome Feeling (1957) 2:35
20 - Little Girl Step This Way (1958) 2:07
21 - Your First Broken Heart (1987) 2:06
22 - Vada Lou (1958) 2:05
23 - Dream World (1957) 2:28
24 - Rocket Ride (1957) 2:24
25 - Three Thousand Miles (1959) 1:56
26 - Cutie Baby (1959) 1:51
27 - Honey Love (1959) 2:04
28 - Genavee (1959) 2:40
29 - Tony (1959) 2:38
30 - Darling Sue (1959) 1:59
31 - Cindy Lou (1959) 2:07
32 - Why Don't You Love Me (1987) 1:56
33 - Come Back Baby (1987) 2:40
34 - Remember Me(I'm The One Who Loves You) (1987) 2:49
1-10 Original Sun Recordings
11-24 Original Mercury Recordings
32-34 Original MGM Recordings
 
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
Narvel Felts' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 

NARVEL FELTS - Composer, rockabilly and rock and roll singer. Born on November 11, 1938 on a farm in Keiser, Arkansas, Narvel Felts was thirteen years old who still lived in Arkansas and he traded an BB gun for a beat up Gene Autry guitar that was held together with a Prince Albert tobacco can and some bailing wire. A year later, Felts was fourteen, he moved to Missouri and pickin' cotton and ordered a new guitar from Sears & Roebuck for $15.98. The teenaged Albert Narvel Felts had moved with his parents to Powe, Missouri in 1953 and he went to school in Bernie.

In 1956, when he was seventeen he entered the high school talent contest at Bernie, Missouri, and sing "Baby, Let's Play House" and when they wanted an encore there was a new song by Carl Perkins, called "Blue Suede Shoes".

Narvel Felts played at the KDEX radio in Dexter, Missouri on the Saturday afternoon radio shows, and played gigs at night in the Four way Inn nightclub in Dudley, Missouri. A music store owner, Calvin Richardson, had become Narvel's manager, and in 1956, Narvel Felts performed in Jerry Mercer's band a lot of the local clubs in southeast Missouri, north-east Arkansas and some gigs in Illinois and played a package show in mid-1956 with Roy Orbison. During December of 1956, Felts worked with Jerry Mercer and played with Roy Orbison and Eddie Bond at Dexter, Missouri and within a couple of weeks, Calvin Richardon arranged an audition with Sun Records in Memphis and formed the band called Narvel Felts and The Rockers. The rockets were Leon Barnett on lead guitar; J.W. Grubbs on bass; Bob Taylor on drums, and Jerry Tuttle who doubled on steel guitar and saxophone.

Before Sun could get anything organized, a man with connections to Mercury heard the Rockets playing in St. Louis and a partner who booked Narvel into theaters and in March 1957 Narvel Felts was playing the Fox Theatre in St. Louis and then he auditioned for Mercury Records. Narvel saw several releases on Mercury but real success did not come until 1959 when he signed with Hi Records. In 1958 Narvel Felts did recorded at RCA Studio B in Nashville in October 1957 featuring Jerry Tuttle on saxophone. In late 1958 Conway Twitty recommended Felts for the club circuit in Canada and on January 5,1959 Felts opened with Conway Twitty the Flamingo Club in Hamilton, Ontario, and played Pop Warner's in Malden, Missouri on the Saturday nights.

In 1960, Felts signed with Pink Records in New York, and it was the second Pink release that started it all for Felts, the rhythm and blues ballad ''Honey Love'', that became a minor seller in both the country and pop markets. Big enough to lead Felts to record again for Mercury, MGM, RCA and he signed for a series of sessions for Roland Janes featured on the Bear Family release Memphis Days. His big national hits came along in the seventies when "Drift Away" was recorded by Cinnamon in 1973. It was Felts' thirtieth single.

A string of hits followed ''Drift Away'' and when his contract was picked up by ABC Dot, Narvel scored even better, his 1975 single ''Reconsider Me'' placing at number 2 on the country charts. Narvel Felts pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Back in 1962 he had married to the former Loretta Stan field. Two children resulted from the marriage, but Felts lost his only son, Narve lJr. (known as Bub) in 1995. At one time, Bub played drums for his father. One of his albums is dedicated to his son.

For a time the hits kept on coming but the last top 20 country hit, ''Everlasting Love'', came in 1979, the last chart entry in 1988. Narvel Felts continued to play shows both a home and in Europe and he has become a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He currently resides in Malden, Missouri. where he continues to perform on occasion.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 2000 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16387 mono digital
SUN GOSPEL

Compact disc. 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. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in upper left.

Without Sun Records, the face of popular music, indeed popular culture, would be markedly different. Record collectors know Sun Records as the birthplace of rockabilly, and a source of valuable early 1950s blues, country and rhythm and blues records. But gospel music?

Not surprisingly, no one has singled out this segment of Sun Records for systematic attention until now. Despite the fact that Sun made its home in a hotbed of gospel music activity, relatively little of it was recorded by label-owner Sam Phillips. He had his reasons. Phillips learned early on that it was difficult to promote and sell gospel records unless that was your only business. "It certainly wasn't intentional neglect," Phillips explained years later. "But you have to compromise. There's no telling what I could and should have done with gospel music from the Memphis area. I'm ashamed to say I barely touched the surface''.

This collection examines, for the first time, just what that ''surface'' looks like. Although not very extensive, it has a surprisingly rich texture. Gleaned from a;relatively brief period (1950-1962), this is a cross section o the gospel recordings that lie within the Sun tape archives. There is some wonderful music here in a truly dazzling array of styles. The most obvious differences are racial, stemming from a segregated southern society. But race does not tell the whole story. Men and women, white and black, urban and rural, alone and in groups are all here for a common purpose: to praise the Lord and testify to their faith. And in the process, to see their names on a yellow Sun label. Here, together for the first time, are their stories and their music, and Sam Phillips himself narrating ''Would Anybody Care''. Also included in the box an 36-page booklet biography with liner notes by Hank Davis.

Producers
Sam C. Phillips and others
Re-Issue Producer
Hank Davis
Tape Research
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Tape/Disc Transfer
Don Powell, Tom Ruff
Mastering
Asja Ehrke
Compilation
Hank Davis and Scott Parker
Biographies and Track Notes
Hank Davis
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Hank Davis, Colin Escott, Terence Peach,
Dean and Jud Phillips, Mike Smythe
Artwork
Wolfgang Taubenauer
Thanks to
Peter Guralnick, Martin Hawkins, Kip Lornell, Bill O'Neal,
Jay Orr, Don Powell, Ronnie Pugh, Dave Sax,
Mike Smythe, Charles Wolfe

Contains

It is easy to forget that many of our favorite musicians at Sun Records, who recorded in fields as diverse as country, blues and rockabilly, were profoundly religious. Their backgrounds predisposed them to sing gospel music, although the economics of their careers often precluded it. Sun label-owner Sam Phillips was in much the same position. Hardly a stranger to religious training, Phillips was nevertheless in a poor position to sell gospel music. He tried early on and, almost without exception, he failed. Ultimately, Phillips adopted a policy of dissuading his artists from recording too much gospel music. When LPs became part of Sun's release schedule, Phillips occasionally included one gospel track as a concession to religious sensibilities - both the artists' and his own.

Here, then, is a look at the gospel music that Sun records did record. sadly, some of it - perhaps some of the best of it - has been lost. There is no longer any trace of the sides Phillips recorded in June 1 950 with the Gospel Travelers, although we do know that Modern Records rejected the samples Phillips sent them. Similarly, nothing remains of the five sides featuring Cicero Levis and the Gospel Tones that Phillips recorded in December 1951 Presumably, there were no takers for that music as well. Of the tracks we are able to present here, it is important to remember that the vast maiority of them were never originally released. Nevertheless, in many ways these recordings remains the forgotten root of roots music.

1 - Just A Little Talk With Jesus (The Million Dollar Quartet) (1992) 3:55
(Clearant Derricks)

From his earliest days in Tupelo, Elvis was entranced by gospel music - both white and black. Growing up in Memphis, he was literally surrounded by it. It blared from the radio, echoed from storefront churches, concerts and programs all over the city. Elvis did what he could to be close to the gospel sound. He hung around backstage when J.D. Sumner and the Blackwood Brothers performed all-night singings at Ellis Auditorium. At one point, Elvis had his heart set on joining the Song Fellows, the junior quartet of the Blackwood Brothers, and was devastated when they turned him down. He had to be literally shooed away from recording sessions with the Prisonaires and the Jones Brothers at Sun.

Gospel music was a source of both comfort and recreation to Elvis. His official studio dates for RCA rarely began or ended without a spontaneous gospel jam session. Music making at Graceland often featured gospel tunes to the exclusion of other styles. It is no surprise, then, that when he found himself in the middle of an unplanned reunion at 706 Union Avenue in December 4, 1956, gospel music was the order of the day. Sun artist Carl Perkins had just finished recording his classic ''Matchbox'' when Elvis walked in with girlfriend Marilyn Evans in tow. It didn't take long for the ''Million Dollar Quartet'' to start making music. On this track, Elvis is joined by Jerry Lee Lewis (working as a session pianist, whose first record had yet to be released and Carl Perkins on vocals and guitar.

2 - Softly And Tenderly (The Prisonaires) (1953) 2:30 > Sun 189-B <
(Will Thompson)

Sam Phillips thought enough of this record to release it as the Prisonaires' July 1953 follow-up to their hit ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. It was a risky venture that paid few commercial rewards, and did little to convince Sam Phillips that he could sell gospel music. This track radiates an undeniable energy and ''live'' feeling that nearly a half a century has done little to dilute. Two things of note: - one is the appearance of Ike Turner in the unexpected role of church pianist. The other is the joyous uptempo arrangement. Listen to a hundred other versions of ''Softly And Tenderly'' and you'll be lucky to find a single one that doesn't approach it as a pious dirge.

3 - Troublesome Waters (Howard Seratt) (1953) 2:58 > Sun 198-A <
(Rippletoe)

It is hard to deny the beauty and poignancy of this recording, or the sheer talent of its artist. Certainly these things did not escape Sam Phillips. "Oh, that man! I never heard a person, no matter what category of music, could sing as beautifully'', Phillips proclaimed. But then he added in frustration, "All he wanted to do was record gospel music''.

Howard Seratt was born on a farm near Manila, Arkansas, the twelfth in a family of 17 children. Along with the pain of rural poverty, Seratt contracted polio when he was 18 months old. He has never walked without crutches. Music became central to his life early on. In 1943 he landed a job in a hillbilly band on KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas. After the war Seratt moved to California, where he experienced a religious conversion that led ultimately to this record.

Sam Phillips doubted that he could sell records like this, but was so compelled by the sincerety of Seratt's music that he felt compelled to try. Phillips even phoned his friend, Tennessee Governor Frank Clement and arranged for him to meet this unusual artist. "I took Howard up to the Governor's office and he unpacked his guitar and harmonica and proceeded to sing. Frank Clement was as impressed as I was. He told his secretary Cancel my afternoon appointments'. It was a thrilling experience for all of us''.

Doing everything in his power to bring Seratt to a wider audience, Phillips arranged for a photographer to record the historic meeting, and included the photo, backed with a specially written Seratt biography, with 78rpm copies of Sun 198 mailed to radio stations. Despite his best efforts, the record barely sold and Seratt returned to singing in church. Although he has returned to the recording studio on several occasions, he has never recorded anything but gospel music.

4 - Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Eddie Bond) (1962) 2:48
(Traditional)

There is some irony in the fact that Eddie Bond did everything in his power to become one of Sun's rockabilly stars and came up empty. Nearly empty, that is. In 1962, the ''Rockin' Daddy'' from ''Ding Dong, Tennessee'' had a country gospel LP issued on Phillips International, thus sort of satisfying his desire to see his name on the Sun roster.

The twelve tracks on PI 1980 (''Eddie Bond Sings Greatest Country Gospel Hits'') have been reissued in their entirety on Bear Family's Eddie Bond double-CD, ''Rockin' Daddy'' (BCD 1 5708). The set reveals that Bond and his backup group, The Stompers - although not billed as such on his gospel LP - do a fine job. Bond's vocals sound like a cross between Faron Young and Carl Smith, and backup work by John Hughey (steel guitar), Morris Tarrant (drums), Jimmy Smith (keyboards) and Gilbert Mickle (fiddle) are both slick and sensitive. The uncredited choral support here is particularly effective.

5 - Sermon (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1989) 1:00
(Jerry Lee Lewis)

Collectors of Jerry Lee's recorded output will recall this segment of the discussion between Jerry Lee and Sam Phillips (with vocal punctuation by session man Billy Riley). The original tape runs for an additional three minutes, during which Sam and his fledgling artist debate the virtues of fundamentalist religion. Like most discussions of this nature, neither participant persuades the other to change his mind. The amazing thing about this particular exchange is that it was followed, almost immediately, by the recording of Jerry Lee's rock and roll anthem, the decidedly urn-Christian ''Great Balls Of Fire''.

6 - I'm Working On A Building (Unknown Male Quartet) (1985) 2:13
(Traditional)

This track has previously been credited inaccurately to ''Hunki Dori". Despite extensive research with gospel scholars of international repute, we can still not identify the quartet. We can, however, tell you that it was not Hunky (or Hunki) Dori. The confusion was natural. Hunky Dori was a Memphis radio personality and disc jockey, whose broadcasts appeared regularly over WLOK. Apparently, at some point around 1956, he brought a quartet into Sun to audition for Sam Phillips. At least two sessions were held - one a cappella and one featuring a small combo. Both secular and rhythm and blues/doo wop material were recorded. If Sam Phillips ever knew the identity of the quartet, he does not now recall it. The tapes were stored in a box bearing Hunky Dori's name, presumably as contact person.

This quartet has remained resistant to identification over the years. It may simply be the case that they did not exist as a discrete recording group. There were a number of quartet trainers active in Memphis's burgeoning gospel scene, and these singers may simply have been one of their projects. At the least, it is clear from this and other session tapes that they were well rehearsed. Their performances, however, may have been confined to Wednesday night prayer meeting in long disappeared neighborhood churches.

7 - I Was There When It Happened (Johnny Cash) (1957) 2:14
(R. L. Jones-Jimmie Davis)

Johnny Cash's reasons for leaving Sun Records in 1958 included prominently among them his inability to record more gospel music. This wonderful track, which originally appeared on Cash's first LP in 1957, is a very notable exception. Featuring minimalist backing vocals by Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, Cash performed this tune as part of his traveling show for years after he left Sun. It was one of the few non-originals in his repertoire, further suggesting how important this particular song was to Cash.

8 - When The Saints Go Marching In (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1958) 2:07
(Traditional)

Dashed off in one take in December' 1956, this is one of the first titles Jerry Lee recorded for Sun. At this point, Sam Phillips was still coming to terms with the ''human jukebox'' ' side of Jerrys nature, and simply encouraged him to perform whatever came to his mind in the studio. This title appeared during a gospel interlude that also featured ''Will The Circle Be Unbroken'' and ''Old-Time Religion''. This is by far the best of the three recordings. While it is unlikely anyone knew they were working on a master record, it soon became obvious that the results were very special. The male chorus was rapidly overdubbed and the results are among Jerry Lee's best early work (the track appeared on his debut LP). Although the undubbed master remains available (issued on Bear Family BCD 15420), this is one of the few times that a vocal overdub actually enhanced the original, echoing Jerry Lee's fervour and helping to create a real tent meeting feeling. Roland Janes' two bar guitar coda is priceless, although Jerry Lee still gets the last word/note.

9 - Until I Pray For You (Rudi Richardson) (2000) 2:14
(Unknown)

Rudi Richardson remains an enigma to Sun Records fans. His 1957 release ''Fools Hall Of Fame'' seemed stylistically out of place at the time, although 40 plus years have allowed a more charitable view of Richardson's music. With some hindsight, it is easy to see how Sam Phillips was drawn to the slick professionalism and retro (1940s) sound he heard here.

Whether recorded at Sun or bought from outside production, Richardson's tape box contains four titles. This marks the first time an additional title has been released. It is a sweet and loving ballad - a secular song with a religious twist, crooned in the smooth style associated with pop black quartets of the 1940s.

10 - Big Man (Charlie Rich) (1998) 2:46
(Dale Fox)

This extremely soulful alternative version of Rich's second single was only recently discovered and issued as part of the Bear Family Charlie Rich box (BCD 16152). Arguably one of the finest white soul singers ever, it was only natural for Rich to take on gospel music like this. True to form, he really lets the melisma fly. Rich fans will note that things are a bit rougher on this early take than on the original single. It is also interesting to hear Rich's performance without the chorus that was overdubbed for single release back in
1958.

Sam Phillips was duly impressed with the driving and intense style of this recording and following the session called Rich over for a private chat. In essence, he told him "This record sounds great Charlie, but I doubt we can sell a lot of it. Keep this feel and write me a pop song and we can make a ton of money for you''. Charlie went home thinking about Phillips' words. The next time he appeared in the studio it was to record ''Lonely Weekends'', which went to the top of the charts and made Sam Phillips look like a prophet.

11 - Rainbow Of Love (Evans Family Singers) (2000) 2:10
(Unknown)

Although it mightn't surprise anyone to hear that the Evans Family recorded this track in 1932, the truth is it was recorded as part of an audition for Sun in April 1962. Extensive research has yielded some tantalizing hints about the Evans Family, but little substantive information. We know from aural evidence that they spent a lot of their time listening to the ''Chuck Wagon Gang'', whose numerous recordings for Columbia almost define a plaintive and delightfully primitive form Of white gospel music.

Here is what we know about the Evans group. Other than this previously unreleased Sun audition, their only appearance on record is one side of a Rimrock LP issued around 1 965 (flipside by Red Smiley). Rimrock Records, an Arkansas label, was owned by Wayne Raney. Raney's widow, Lois, recalls that the Evans Family were hired to record their sides for an LP to be sold via Rimrock's extensive mail order catalogue. No royalties were paid beyond the one-time recording fee. Lois believes that the group consisted of three men and a woman (perhaps in their 1930s). According to notes found in the Sun tape box, John Addison was the leader. Whether that means lead singer, guitarist, or manager is unclear some 40 years later. The final piece of information recalled by Lois Raney was that the group left her a Memphis address when it came time to mail copies of their LP.

This record, released here for the first time, is a delightful introduction to a form of gospel music rarely heard anymore, and certainly not associated with Sun.

12 - Gospel Train (Jones Brothers) (1980) 2:16
(Traditional)

The Jones Brothers were a performing aggregation for at least twenty years before they recorded for Sun in the early 1950s. In fact, their four Sun recordings (two sessions dating from December 1953 and January 1954) may mark their entire studio experience. This track, from their first session, was never issued by Sam Phillips. Although their personnel changed over the years, the Jones Brothers aggregation that came to Sun for this session featured six singers (a liberal approach to quartet singing) and one guitarist. This track is a
direct re-working of a song made famous by the Golden Gate Quartet, performed by them in the 1938 Carnegie Hall ''Spirituals To Swing'' concert.

The Jones Brothers deserve a special footnote in Sun Records history. In 1981, group arranger Johnny Prye recalled that a young and eager Elvis Presley had appeared at their recording sessions during one of his frequent visits to 706 Union.

He eagerly accepted an invitation to sing with them and, according to Prye, both Elvis and he received an acetate copy of their impromptu get-together in the studio. Prye professed to still have his copy tucked away in the attic, along with assorted artifacts of his career as a part-time gospel singer. He declined to rummage around for the disc at the time, however, owing to the summertime heat. The temperature in Prye's attic at the time must have been well into three digits.

The story does not end well. Johnny Prye died several years later and shortly after his death, there was structural damage to his house resulting in the contents of his attic collapsing into a downstairs bedroom. In the course of making the necessary repairs, the contents of Prye's attic were unceremoniously carted off with shards of plaster, wood and other rubble.

13 - All My Sins Been Taken Away (Sonny Burgess) (1975) 1:46
(Unknown)

Rockabilly icon Sonny Burgess invested one take on this traditional gospel song sometime in 1957. This is obviously a very rough recording and far from Sonny's best work for Sun, but it marks the only time he ever veered in the general direction of gospel music. The song, which renounces worldly goods and rejoices in imminent death and rebirth, was also recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis. Like Sonny, Jerry Lee also gave the song one take before moving on to other material.

14 - Round-Up In Glory (Sun Spot Quartet) (1953) 2:55
(Unknown)

Although he has made far less of a mark on history than his brother, Jud Phillips was no stranger to the music business. perhaps best known for his own Judd label (started in 1958), Jud was an essential part of Sun's earliest success, working behind the scenes with disc jockeys and distributors. But before there was even a Memphis Recording Service, Jud Phillips was actively involved in gospel music. By the early 1950s, Jud and Dean Phillips were living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Dean recalls, "We were both very involved with gospel music when we met and married. Jud was booking and MCing shows. He managed the Sun Spot Quartet and I played piano when they performed''.

Through his involvement with Sun, Jud had become familiar with the workings of the record business. Recording the Sun Spot Quartet seemed the next obvious step. However, brother Sam was skeptical about their sales potential. Undeterred, Jud started his own label, which bore the name of the Quartet. The choice of name seemed natural enough. Sam already had an emerging record company (although still pre-Elvis) with a related name. perhaps equally important was the fact that Jud owned the Mississippi distributorship for Sun Spot - an extremely popular soft drink in the south. Dean Phillips notes, "They didn't finance the label at all, but they were quite happy to see the name of their product on those records''.

Dean Phillips, who played piano or organ on all the Sun Spot recordings, recalls a total of 16 sides being recorded at 706 Union and is certain that eight singles were released. The records were almost certainly pressed in very limited quantity and distributed largely in and around Mississippi. Numbering began with Sun Spot 1000 and - if Dean's recollection is correct - may have reached 1007, although 1005 is the highest number accounted for. There were no other releases on the Sun Spot label. Jud and Dean Phillips' involvement in gospel music did not end with Sun Spot. Several years later, Jud managed and Dean provided piano accompaniment for a Quartet featuring Troy Daniel and gospel legend Jake Hess.

Perhaps most intriguing about the Sun Spot records are the spoken introductions offered by Jud, himself. Not all selections included this feature, which provide a glimpse of Jud's MCing technique when the quartet was on the road. We have selected a track in which the entire personnel (including Jud's wife) was introduced. According to Dean, singer George West was last known to be living in Jackson, Mississippi, and Gerald Howell in Nashville. C.M. Lingle died a number of years ago and bass singer Bill Wilson passed away during the fall of 1999, just a month before learning that his music from nearly half a century ago was to be reissued.

15 - House Of God (Unknown Female Trio) (2000) 2:59
(Hank Williams)

I dentifying the song is the easy part. This is Hank Williams' beautiful gospel ballad left to his fans on one of his heart rending demos. The trick is to name the singers. This track is part of a Wally Fowler session recorded in Nashville at Sam Phillips new studio around 1961. The tape box simply identifies them as "unknown chicks" which stops well short of useful information. Extensive research has confirmed that Fowler routinely appeared with two female trios during this time period. In all likelihood, we are listening to one of them. The first contender is the White Sisters, who went on to record gospel music for Word and other labels and were part of ''The Caravan'', a nationally syndicated gospel TV show in the 1960s and 1970s. The second candidates are the Johnson Sisters, who bear a considerable musical pedigree. The Johnson Family cut numerous sides for Columbia in the 1940s and RCA in the 1950s. Betty Johnson (of 1950s and 1960s pop music fame) was one of them and may indeed be singing on this record.

Regardless of who they are, these singers perform well on a tightly arranged, well recorded arrangement of Williams' classic. They represent the upscale/modern side of gospel music as it was emerging in the country-politan early 1960s Nashville style.

16 - Lord Lead Me Home (George Klein) (2000) 1:11
(Traditional)

George Klein was a long-time Memphis disc jockey and member of Elvis's inner circle. Klein actually had releases on Sun - one the Jerry Lee Lewis novelty record (The Return Of Jerry Lee) created to make light of his 1958 British tour debacle. Klein's second Sun release was the forgettable March 1961 ''U. T. Party I & II''.

What we have here is an entirely different matter. Although it may have been something of a theological stretch for him, Klein performs a traditional southern Baptist hymn in the very style that served as nightly entertainment at Elvis's house. In all likelihood, Klein has simply taken a bit of Graceland and transported it to 706 Union. This tape fragment, probably a spontaneous warm-up track, also features the dynamic piano work of Ed Thomas, another Memphis media personality, whose records with younger brother Cliff were released on Phillips International.

17 - Forgive Me Lord (Southern Jubilee Singers) (1980) 2:58
(Ford)

These classic quartet sides, recorded in December 1 951 , tell us something about the kind of black gospel music that surrounded the Memphis Recording Service in the early 1950s while Sam Phillips tried to eke out a living. Phillips recorded four sides with this quartet and probably expected some kind of payday to result. After all, he had succeeded in selling two similar sides by the Brewsteraires to Chess just three months ago. But Phillips was unable to catch gospel lightning in a bottle a second time.

Nevertheless, this was a powerful, emotionally charged performance, even if a bit subtle for the marktplace. From the opening line ("Sinful days are now behind me") there is a compelling quality to the recording. The sustained chords behind the lead vocal are kept in meter by the bass notes which seem to throb through them. When the lead sings "You know I promise" the quartet hits the kind of gloriously churchy I -7 chord that Ray Charles built his early career around. The emotionally taut style of this arrangement has been all but lost to modern gospel music in a sea of electric guitars, organs, and intrusive drumming.

18 - Nobody's Looking Back (Wally Fowler) (2000) 2:00
(Wally Fowler)

Born in Possum Trot, Georgia, Wally Fowler was the youngest of 1 6 children born to a sharecropper. Fowler became a mainstay of gospel music beginning in the 1940s when he first appeared in the John Daniel Quartet and later founded the Oakridge Quartet. Fowler was as much an entrepreneur (publishing, record companies) in the gospel field as a practitioner. His recording of ''Gospel Boogie'' was a major hit and drew attention to gospel music beyond its traditional barriers. Along with appearances on his own labels, Fowler also recorded for Bullet, Mercury, Decca, Dot and Capitol. His all-night gospel shows on WSM were a major source of exposure for gospel music and many of its practitioners.

It is not altogether clear how this Nashville session, probably dating from 1961, came to reside in the Sun archives. Undoubtedly recorded at Sam Phillips' new studio, the session was either an independent production for his own label, or an audition tape that Fowler hoped to see released on Sun. The session features some slick arrangements and fine guitar picking. Aural evidence suggests that Hank Garland or Chet Atkins may have played lead guitar here.

19 - Where Can I Go? (Bother James Anderson) (2000) 3:11
(James Anderson)

Brother James Anderson was recorded by Knox Phillips in May 1962 and had to wait five years to see a Sun record with his name on it. When Sun 406 finally appeared in February 1967, it bore the inscription ''Gospel Series''. Only one more Sun record was ever released, and by the next year the original Sun label had ceased to exist. Brother Anderson thus has the dubious distinction of being the first and last item in Sun's only official Gospel Series. In addition to his lone single, Anderson left 29 unreleased tracks in the can, of which
this spirited outing is one.

The session featured some stalwarts from the early 1960s Memphis music scene, including guitarists Chips Moman and Roland Jones, as well as drummer Al Jackson. Not much is known about Anderson. He is believed to have been a Chicago-based evangelist whose style - on the evidence of these recordings - transcends carbon dating.

20 - Will I Be Lost (Eddie Bond) (1962) 2:40
(Unknown)

Although there is a strong country fiddle sound on this track, it also features a prominent organ which tends to de-countrify the overall effect. In contrast to many 1962 productions, the vocal background here is a lot closer to authentic country or bluegrass harmony than the formulaic studio groups used on many sessions.

21 - There's A Man In Jerusalem (Southern Jubilee Singers) (1977) 2:21
(Ford)

This track was probably the most commercial Of the four sides Phillips recorded by the Southern Jubilees.

It builds power and intensity as it moves along. In fact, so engaging is the performance that it is easy to overlook the fact that the song is virtually free of lyrics. The group simply repeats the lines "There's a man in Jerusalem / They call him the mighty king" to a simple 16-bar chord progression. In many ways, the performance draws its power from the work of bass Eddie Henderson. Initially he sings words along with the group. Then he begins to sing notes, weaving around the lead singer and backup chanting. Ultimately, he sings the part of a string bass. Even a cappella groups who did not imitate the sound of musical instruments were not averse to having their 'basser' simulate the part of a stringed instrument.

22 - Can't Find Time To Pay (Cast King & The Millers Sisters) (1986) 2:52
(Cast King)

Cast King was one of the major discoveries on the Bear Family Sun Country Box (BFX 15211). There is no artist in the history of Sun Records who left a stronger, more consistent series of recordings in the archives, yet never enjoyed a single release on the original Sun label. On this track, King works with the simple duet harmonies of Millie and Jo, who left their own recorded legacy in the Sun vaults (see AVI CD 5022). Surprisingly, there were over twenty takes made of this song. Obviously, producer Jack Clement took the proceedings quite seriously, although ultimately all the work came to nothing as Cast King's recordings waited 30 years to appear. We have selected one of the earliest (and previously unreleased) takes for this collection. It is performed at a leisurely tempo before repetition began to take its toll, The basic construction of King's narrative is masterful. In less than three minutes he literally convinces himself to go to church. The sound of King's voice blended with the Miller Sisters is a reminder of how wonderful pure country harmony can sound.

23 - Night Train To Memphis (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1969) 2:07
(Beasle Smith-Marvin Hughes-Owen Wadley)

This overlooked gem dates from the same 1959 session that produced Jerry Lee's semi-hit ''Let's Talk About Us''. It shares with that track an almost eerie understated passion. Jerry's vocal is disarmingly laid back, yet the music just seethes with tension. The song was a major hit for Roy Acuff in 1942 and led to his appearance in a 1944 movie bearing the song's title.

24 - I Need Jesus (Song Fellows) (2000) 2:03
(Unknown)

The Song Fellows were the ''junior quartet'' - the minor league training ground, if you will - for the Blackwood Brothers. The group was started by Cecil Blackwood, nephew of James, who had founded the senior Blackwood Quartet. Joining Cecil in the Song Fellows was Jimmy Hamill, son of the founding pastor of the Assembly Of God Church, a Memphis institution known for its Pentecostal fire. Elvis had his heart set on joining the Song Fellows until he was turned away, rather unceremoniously, by Jimmy Hamill who didn't hesitate to share his low estimate of Elvis's singing style.

Within a year or two, when Cecil had moved 'up' to the Blackwoods Quartet, there was an opening in the Song Fellows and some possibility that Elvis might be a candidate. By this time, however, Elvis's first Sun record had come out and his ambition to join the quartet that had once snubbed him had cooled considerably.

The three tracks left by the Song Fellows in the Sun tape archives have never before been released. Although the tape box is undated, it is almost certain that these recordings were made between 1952-54. While better rehearsed than many, The Song Fellows represent a style of white southern gospel music that remains essentially unchanged a half century later. There were literally hundreds of groups performing in this manner, playing local church programs and traveling the south in beat-up station wagons. Often at the mercy of poorly tuned church pianos, their vocal arrangements can be described as complex or cornball, depending on your point of view.

25 - My God Is Real (The Prisonaires) (1953) 2:29 > Sun 189-A < 
(Kenneth Morris)

This uncommonly melodic record was originally released on the flipside of ''Softly And Tenderly''. It features an impassioned lead vocal from Johnny Bragg, who must have found special meaning in lines like "There are
some places I cannot go''.

26 - When I Walk On Streets Of Gold (Evans Family Singers) (2000) 1:52
(Unknown)

This track Offers another look at the archaic and delightful brand of gospel music practiced by the Evans Family. Although it held virtually no commercial promise in 1962, one cannot help but wonder how a release by these artists would have been received by Sun fans. Where are the Evans Family Singers today? Is music like this still being performed on Sunday mornings down south?

27 - Gonna Make Myself At Home (Wally Fowler) (2000) 2:54
(Wally Fowler)

In case you missed Fowler's mega-hit ''Gospel Boogie'', here is its first cousin. Recorded some 15 years after the original made the charts, the ''Gospel Boogie'' idea is still alive and kicking here. The brief guitar break here is a standout.

28 - Amazing Grace (Jones Brothers) (1980) 3:27
(John Newton)

This hymn stands as one of the best known and most widely recorded gospel selections in the world. What is amazing about this ''Grace'' is the fact that of the 30-plus tracks on this collection, this is really the only glimpse of the hard gospel style that would be a mainstay of black church music for decades to come. It is, of course, a direct antecedent of soul music. From the opening notes of this track, played by an electric guitar, it is clear the Jones Brothers are from a different gospel tradition than other quartets on this collection. There is little of the jubilee harmony style here despite the fact that Johnny Prye purported to be deeply influenced by the Golden Gate Quartet.

This version of Grace is done entirely in free meter. During the first verse, the group stays close to the original material. However, things change radically during the second verse when their performance loses its debt to the classic hymn. It is nearly as free of traces of ''Amazing Grace'' as it is of meter. Rather than sing any of the lyrics from the Dr. Watts original (and there were verses galore!) the singer chants a personal testimonial to calling on God in the midnight hour.

Had this record been released in 1953, it would have flirted with being ahead of its time - a circumstance not unknown by Sam Phillips and Sun Records. But Sam was not struck by this sound and chose to wait instead for the Jones Brothers to soften their style somewhat in their January 1954 session before issuing their material on Sun.

29 - My Heart Is A Chapel (Mary Johnson) (2000) 1:55
(Mary Johnson)

This track will, of course, be a complete surprise to Sun collectors. Only a scrap of address in Corinth, Mississippi offers any clue about Ms. Johnson. The reverb suggests that the recording might have been made at 706 Union rather than submitted as a home demo. This is the only gospel material on Johnson's tape. All her other material is quite secular.

This track may be too easily discounted. Repeated listening reveals a surprisingly effective vocal with plenty of flatted thirds (blue notes) and effective phrasing. The song is probably an original by the singer/pianist and, with her, has disappeared info the mists of time. Pop/gospel music like this was probably widely performed in informal social (maybe even church social) settings but almost never recorded. As such, this brief demo gives us a glimpse into a bygone era.

30 - Where Shall I Be? (The Brewsteraires) (1951) 2:43
(William Herbert Brewster)

Reverend Brewster was a kingpin of the Memphis gospel scene. The quartet bearing his name was formerly known as the Mt. Pisgah Gospel Singers and dates back to 1943. The Brewsteraires that appear on this recording consist of Odell Rice, Nathaniel Peck, Henry Reed and Solomon Ouston. They performed widely on Memphis stage and radio. In fact, Reverend Brewster had his own program on WHBQ, further evidence that he was the man in black gospel in Memphis.

It is likely that Reverend Brewster had already employed the services of the Memphis Recording Service for special events at his church and their relationship simply evolved from there. In any case, arrangements were made for Sam Phillips to record the Brewsteraires on September 26, 1951.

Following the session, Phillips sent samples of four tracks to the Chess Brothers in Chicago, who accepted two titles for release on Chess 1502. This track reveals everything you need to know about the power, passion and musicality of a cappella black gospel from its golden age. The first time through, the quartet offers an emotional free-meter reading rich in the kind of mannerisms that soul singers would be taking to the bank in ten years. The second time through, the syncopation kicks in and a really brilliant and varied arrangement ensues. The ''vocal trumpet'' solo is an unexpected pleasure, borrowing from a well established tradition regularly employed by secular groups such as the Mills Brothers and Four Vagabonds. Prior to their recordings For Sam Phillips, the Brewsteraires had recorded for Gotham. Following their lone Chess single, they went on to record for Dot, while enjoying their own regular show over WDIA in Memphis.

31 - Jesus Means All To Me (Howard Seratt) (1953) 2:11 > St. Francis 100-B <
(Howard Seratt)

Of all the previously released material on this collection, there is surely no rarer record than this track by Howard Seratt. The most likely scenario is that Seratt traveled to Memphis in early 1953 to record a custom session for his own St. Francis label. Sam Phillips was struck by what he heard and invited Seratt back for another try. Undoubtedly, Phillips tried his considerable persuasive skills to get Seratt to record something secular. When it was obvious that Seratt wouldn't budge, Phillips went ahead under Seratt's rules, leaving only regrets and a stack of unsold 78s to be hungrily sought by collectors 50 years later.

32 - Would Anybody Care? (Sam Phillips) (2000) 2:23
(Stamps)

Herein lies the sleeper in this collection. Deep in the Sun tape archives lies an uncredited tape box, marked only "Sam's poem - Do not erase''. The inscription is old and almost surely in Marion Keisker's hand. It contains the recitation on this final track.

A duly surprised Sam Phillips had little trouble identifying the artist.

He recalled, "l had a friend named Mary Lois back in high school in Florence, Alabama. I was very fond Of her and one night I took her to see the John Daniel Quartet. They were playing nearby and we borrowed my brother's car and drove to see them. The highlight of the show for us was when Troy Daniel, John's brother, recited that poem from the Stamps-Baxter hymnal. We were both very impressed with it.

"Anyway, Mary Lois went off and got married to a guy in the Air Force. He was killed quite young and she moved around a bit, finally settling in Texas. Years later after I came to Memphis I got to thinking about Mary Lois and all that had happened to her so I decided to surprise her with that tape. I recited the poem in my best ''announcer's voice'' and sent it to her. That was around 1950. She was delighted with it. It was still her favorite poem. It's one of mine too. I really think it does a fine job of revealing the things that matter in
life''.

And so Sam C. Phillips, record producer before there were such things, talent scout and architect of careers too numerous to mention, finally makes his debut as a recording artist. His efforts took a half a century to appear, but were worth the wait.

- Hank Davis, November 1999

Credits:

Special thanks to Scott parker

Hank Davis interviews with: Sam C. Phillips; Dean Phillips; Lois Raney; Millie (Miller) Bowerman
Thanks to: Peter Guralnick, Martin Hawkins; Kip Lornell, Bill O'Neill, Jay Orr, Don Powell, Ronnie Pugh, Dave Sax, Mike Smythe, Charles Wolfe

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© 2010 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16837 mono digital
RUDY GRAYZELL - LET'S GET WILD

''Let's Get Wild'' is the first comprehensive anthology of one of the original legendary rockabilly stars, Rudy Grayzell. It includes the previously unissued complete version of ''Let's Get Wild'', plus four other unreleased recordings. The original version of ''Duck Tail'' is now widely regarded a rockabilly classic. Rudy's Grayzell's story is told in the liner notes of the accompanying 52 page booklet by Colin Escott and a complete discography session notes by Andrew Brown and Richard Weize. This superb 32 track set includes his complete recordings for the Abbott, Capitol, Starday, Sun, and Award labels.
 
Producers
Fabor Robinson, Ken Nelson, Pappy Daily, and others
Re-Issue Producer
Stefan Kohne
Mastering
Christian Zwarg
Disc Transfer
Christian Zwarg
Biography
Colin Escott
Discography
Andrew Brown and Richard Weize
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Andrew Brown, Nico Feuerback, Rudy Grayzell,
Klaus Kettner, Diethold Leu, Billy Miller, Norton Records,
Big Al Turner
Photo Scan
Andrew Brown, Andreas Merck,
Horst Zimmerman
Artwork
Rettrograph.de
Thanks to
Rudy Grayzell, Andrew Brown
Tom Ingram

Contains
1 - Let's Get Wild (Complete Version) (2010) 2:48
2 - I Love You So (1957) 2:09
3 - You're Gone (1956) 2:00
4 - Duck Tail (1956) 2:32
5 - Jag Ga Lee Ga (1956) 2:17
6 - You Hurt Me So (1956) 2:56
7 - Please Big Mama (1955) 3:03
8 - Yes Daddy Yes (2010) 2:28
9 - There's Gonna Be A Ball (1954) 2:48
10 - You Better Believe It (1954) 2:19
11 - Ca-razy! (1954) 2:37
12 - My Spirit Is Willing (1955) 2:41
13 - Hearts Made Of Stone (1954) 2:58
14 - Be Mine Forever (2010) 3:02
15 - Judy (Take 2) (2010) 2:08
16 - Remember When (1996) 2:03
17 - Judy (Take 3) (2010) 2:08
18 - I Won't Be The Fool (1997) 2:02
19 - Judy (Sun Master) (1957) 2:04 > Sun 290-A <
20 - I Think Of You (Sun Master) (1957) 2:32 > Sun 290-B <
21 - You'll Be Mine (1959) 2:31
22 - It Ain't My Baby (And I Ain't Gonna Rock It) (1954) 2:41
23 - The Moon Is Up (1956) 3:01
24 - Ocean Paradise (1954) 2:46
25 - Bonita Chiquita (1953) 2:32
26 - I'm Gone Again (1953) 2:56
27 - The Heart That Once Was Mine (1953) 2:40
28 - Looking At The Moon And Wishing On A Star (1953) 2:53
29 - Day By Day (1956) 2:18
30 - Should I Ever Love Again (1997) 2:33
31 - Jag-Ga-Lee-Ga (2010) 2:14
32 - F.B.I. Story (1959) 3:05
Original Starday Recordings
Original Award Recordings
Original Abbott Recordings
15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 Original Sun Recordings
 
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 
Rudy Grazell's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
RUDY GRAYZELL - Born Rudolfo Jiminez on June 8, 1933 in Saspamco, Texas, just south of San Antonio, Rudolfo Jiminez was of Spanish ancestry on his father's side and Italian on his mother's. As a youngster he was exposed to a wide range of music, pop, country, rhythm and blues and Mexican music.
 
His Hispanic hertage melted into his early grounding in country music and his love of rhythm and blues to create a sound that one reviewer likened to Roy Orbison on a three-day drunk in Tijuana.
 
His father worked for a pipeline company, and Rudy grew up in San Antonio listening to Hispanic music blasting in from south of the border and country music blasting in from all around. He loved it all, but he especially loved Ernest Tubb on the Grand Ole Opry.
 
''I liked this chick named Norma'', he told Dan Davidson, ''but she liked some guy who played guitar and that just tore me up. So I had my folks buy me a guitar and I learned to play it''.
 
Aged seventeen, he assembled a combo called the Silver Buckles and they played the clubs and bars. ''They allowed you to play in clubs if you were underage'', he explained. ''You just couldn't drink. We did all the songs that were popular. Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Floyd Tillman''. At South San Antonio High School (known locally as South San), it was compulsory to pass algebra in order to graduate, so Rudy aced the subject by dating the math teacher. From that point he left school, music was his sole meal ticket. For someone with no charted hits, that's beyong improbable.
 
Band members came and went. Sometimes, Rudy led his own band; sometimes he played with Eddy Dugosh's Ah-Ha Playboys or Johnny Olenn; sometimes, they worked with him. Dugosh has faded from view, but Olenn had a log career ahead of him in music, film, and lounges. Doug Sahm probably fits into the story around this point. Rudy says that Sahm was eleven, (which would by 1952 and 1953) when Rudy showed up at his high school and told the teacher that he was Sahm's uncle and needed to take him out of school. No one seemed to question how a short Hispanic guy could be a lanky German kid's uncle. Sahm was proficient on steel guitar, electric guitar, and fiddle, but played steel for Rudy.
 
Doug remembered that Rudy was still in school as well, which seems unlikely. In Sahm's unfocused recollections, he remembered playing steel guitar for Hank Williams in September 1952 on what would be the hillbilly king's last birthday... the last of twenty-nine. Hank celebrated his birthday at The Barn, a club booked and co-owned by Charlie Walker, a San Antonio disc jockey and recording artist. Walker was a pivotal figure in Rudy Grayzell's career, so it all eems to fit together somehow.
 
As of mid-1953, Rudolfo was an Abbott recording artist. Abbott's owner, Fabor Robison, changed his name to Rudy Grayzell, figuring that the country market wasn't ready for someone called Jiminez. Rudy's first Abbott single, "Looking At the Moon And Wishing On A Star" was clearly inspired by the recent hit "Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes". It was covered by Skeets McDonald and Charline Arthur and even saw a belated United Kingdom release, on London HL 8094, in November 1954. After two more singles on Abbott, Rudy either quit the label or was dropped after one year.
 
Charlie Walker then landed Grayzell a contract with Capitol, where Ken Nelson produced his recordings and he was billed as "Rudy Gray". "Hearts Of Stone", the first Capitol single, was a cover of a number by the Jewels from Los Angeles, but Rudy's version was outsold by the Fontane Sisters (number 1 pop) and the Charms (number 1 rhythm and blues, number 15 pop). His flip-side, "There's Gonna Be A Ball", was hillbilly with rhythm and blues overtones. By this time Grayzell had changed the name of his band to the Texas Kool Kats. Two further Capitol singles went nowhere and in early 1956 Rudy signed with Starday, run by Pappy Daily in Houston.
 
It was here that he cut his best rockers. "Duck Tail"/"You're Gone" was an excellent rockabilly two-sided, but a cover of "Duck Tail" by Joe Clay for RCA's Vik label stole much of its thunder. The fourth Starday single, "Let's Get Wild", released in mid-1957, had Grayzell almost going over the top, but it was probably too wild for most radio stations and didn't get much airplay.
 
On three of the four Starday singles, Rudy was credited as Rudy "Tutti" Grayzell. He says that the nickname came from Elvis Presley, who called him "Rudy Tutti", but, like several other tall stories from Grayzell, this has to be taken with a grain of salt.
 
His next stop was at Sun Records in Memphis and again, Charlie Walker was the intermediary. As a rule, Sam Phillips didn't record artists who had already recorded for other labels, but he made an exception for Rudy (and also for Onie Wheeler around the same time). There was one session spread over two days in October 1957, arranged by Bill Justis, which resulted in the single "Judy"/"I Think Of You" (Sun 290), plus two slow numbers that now see the light of day for the first time on the Bear Family Record label.
 
It was probably in 1958 that Grayzell moved to San Jose, California, and signed with Award Records. His first recording there was an unreleased cover of Wynona Carr's "Should I Ever Love Again". A 1959 session yielded the novelty "The F.B.I. Story", credited to "Rudy Grayzell and his Thunderbirds, accompanied by the Sparkles". It was his last record for several decades.
 
By 1960, former Sun recording artist Rudy Grayzell was in Las Vegas at the Fremont Hotel, and insists that Wayne Newton was his supporting act. He stayed eighteen months before heading to Seattle when the World's Fair was there. It was the same story for years. Booking agents would see him and offer him an extended gig somewhere, and he'd go. He was even back in San Antonio for a while. For the last thirty or more years, Rudy has been based in Portland, Oregon. It might have been Eddy Dugosh who got him to Portland. One of Dugosh's former band members, Frank Wood, said that Dugosh's Redtoppers moved from Redding, California to Portland in 1959 to take up a residency at Elmo's Supper Club, and so it's likely that Rudy replaced Dugosh at Elmo's. Photos of Dugosh, Johnny Olenn, and Rudy Grayzell from that time show neatly turned out guys in check jackets and bow ties, so it's pretty clear that rockabilly had given way to supper club music.
 
Slowly, though, Rudy Grayzell reclaimed his unruly rockabilly roots. An undated review from a Portland newspaper said Rudy's then-regular gig at the Jolly Rogers club: ''A compact, barrel-chested man with a mop of wavy brown hair and a wide, friendly grin. Rudy never failed to take the place by storm. He sang a lot of poorly-chosen covers, mainstream country stuff or maudlin ballads mostly, but when the mood would strike him he'd let loose with one of his own badass compositions, ''Let's Get Wild'', ''Duck Tail'', or ''Judy''. He’d plant his feet wide like he was getting ready for a stiff wind, square his shoulders and squint into the ether. As he sang, he'd rock back and forth and the veins would stand out in his neck. He could still really let it all hang out. The Jolly Rogers' owner, and old fellow with a ten gallon stomach and a yen for endless Seven-and-Sevens en menthol lights, once climbed up onto the bar and did an impromptu boogaloo during a particularly fiery rendition of ''Let's Get Wild''. During breaks Rudy would cruise the room, talking to all the regulars, shaking hands with an iron grip. He was old school show biz''.
 
For many years, recording sessions were few and far between, but in 1987 Rudy Grayzell's comeback began with a session for Sundial. In 1990, he began appearing in Europe and became a familiar face at festivals. Audiences encountered the same manic energy that impressed the reviewer in Portland ten years earlier and the kids in Texas twenty-five years before that. In 1991, he recorded for Billy Miller and Miriam Linna's Norton Records and in 1998 he recorded for Sideburn. He announced that he planned to open a club that would serve Tutti Tacos, but the first Tutti Taco has yet to be served. Lately, Rudy Grayzell has been working with the husband-and-wife team of Victoria and Rider McDowell. Victoria was a schoolteacher in Carmel, California when (shades of Fabor Robison) she concocted a dissolvable tablet called Airborne designed to boost the body's immune system, thereby preventing colds and flu. Without proof that Airborne prevented anything, she eventually had to pay the Federal Trade Commission a fine of $23.3 million and settle another class action suit for $6.5 million. Her husband, Rider, had been an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, and developed a stage show featuring Rudy Grayzell. Anyone near Monterey this fall should check out Zombie Voodoo Scream Party. Rudy plays an evil Elvis clone, Teddy Corn. It's a new millennium, but the weirdness continues.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
© 2011 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16893 mono digital
THE PRISONAIRES - ONLY BELIEVE...
 
Compact disc. 1 digipac, with comprehensive booklet, 28 tracks. This exciting CD reveals a completely unknown chapter in the already implausible, though true, story of the Prisonaires, the prison inmates from Nashville who got onto Sun Records in Memphis in 1953 and whose best song, ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', became an international pop hit for Johnny Ray.
 
In this CD, eleven astonishing songs from an unissued concert recorded at the Tennessee State Penitentiary, featuring several Prisonaires members never heard until now! Fascinating spoken introductions to the songs by second tenor Alfred Brooks, and a message from the penitentiary warden Lynn Bomar! Six alternative versions of songs recorded for Sun Records. All eleven vocal group tracks by The Solotones and the Marigolds (renamed versions of the Prisonaires led by Johnny Bragg). A comprehensive booklet by Sun Records expert Martin Hawkins containing many new interviews and insights into the story of the Prisonaires, one of the first rhythm and blues vocal groups to record and have hits in the South. It explains the background to the unissued recordings, and contains many rare and fascinating photos and illustrations. The new Prisonaires titles reveal an even wider range of vocal harmonies and musical abilities, influences and styles than the Sun recordings. The Prisonaires rock with ''Caldonia'' and ''Bony Moronie'', they sing sincere versions of ''Suppertime'' and ''Gentle Hands'', they reprise their best-known songs including ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', and they make fun with ''The Boastin' Texan'' and other titles.
 
This CD and hear the Prisonaires as never before; you'll have completed your Prisonaires collection; and you'll have the complete story of the Marigolds/Solotones. This CD is one of three discs telling the complete story of the Prisonaires and of their lead singer, Johnny Bragg.
 
Producers
Red Wortham, Sam C. Phillips, Ernie Young
Re-Issue Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc Transfer
Christian Zwarg
Tape Research and Comparison
Martin Hawkins
Mastering
Christian Zwarg
Biography
Martin Hawkins
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Colin Escott,
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto)
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Este
Artwork
Retrograph.de
Thanks tp
John Tefteler for the unissied live conceret.
Special Thanks to
Bill Millar

Contains
The Prisonaires
1 - When The Saints Go Marching In (2011) 3:11
2 - In The Garden (2011) 1:56
3 - Bony Moronie (2011) 2:42
4 - Suppertime (2011) 3:58
5 - Caldonia (2011) 3:07
6 - Gentle Hands (2011) 3:17
7 - Just Walkin' In The Rain (2011) 3:36
8 - The Boastin' Texan (2011) 2"19
9 - Message From Prison Warden Lynn Bomar (2011) 1:08
10 - A Prisoner's Prayer (2011) 3:22
11 - Only Believe (2011) 2:55
12 - Senor Siskin (20110 1:52 
Live Recordings Probably 1961 Various Dates at
The Tennessee State Penitentiary, Nashville, Tennessee. Producer Unknown

The Marigolds
13 - Rollin' Stone (1955) 2:53
14 - Why Don't You (1953) 2:48
15 - Don't Say Tomorrow (1995) 2:50
16 - Rollin' Stone (Alternate Take)  (1996) 2:58
Original Excello Recordings

The Solotones
17 - Front Page Blues (1955) 2:39
18 - Pork And Beans (1955) 2:52
19 - Two Strangers (1955) 2:37
20 - Love You, Love You, Love You (1955) 2:53
21 - Juke Box Rock And  Roll (1956) 2":32
22 - It's You Darling, It's You (1956) 2:37
Original Excello Recordings

The Prisonaires
23 - Baby Please (2011) 2:43
24 - What'll You Do Next (2011) 1:35
25 - There Is Love In You (2011) 2:53
26 - Rockin' Horse (2011) 2:28
27 - Two Strangers (2011) 2:47
28 - Lucy You Know I Want You (1979) 2:37
Original Sun Recordings
 
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 
The Prisonaires' Sun recordings can be heard on their playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© April 26, 2011 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17213 (1-3) mono digital
SUN BALLADS 1953 - 1962 - VARIOUS ARTISTS
 
3 CD digipac. The first-ever in-depth look at the ballad side of the Sun Records legacy. Surveys a 10-year period from the earliest blues and hillbilly days to the golden age of rockabilly and into the early 1960s. Contains 78 tracks featuring Sun's best-known artists, as well as obscure and rarely reissued artists and titles. Contains in-depth historical material and detailed track-by-track commentaries.

A must-have for all music historians, as well as die-hard Sun fans and collectors. Sun Records earned its widespread fame as the Memphis-based birthplace of rock and roll pioneers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, as well as icons of American music such as Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich. Sun was also home to blues legends like Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Jr. and Rosco Gordon. Label owner Sam Phillips truly did it all with his little Memphis label, and built a legend in the process.

Although Sun is best known for rockers and rockin' music, it turns out that even rockers had their mellow moments. Sun managed to record a surprising number of them and built a very effective library of ballads as well. This side of Sun's legacy has never been examined in depth, until now. Sun Ballads surveys a 10 year period of Sun's history from the earliest blues and hillbilly days to the golden era of rockabilly and beyond, into the early 1960s. This collection combines some of Sun's best known recording pioneers with a few truly obscure artists and rarely reissued titles; it contains a lavishly illustrated book with detailed track by track commentary by Sun historian Hank Davis. This 3-CD set is an unprecedented treasure trove for Sun fans and collectors.
 
Producers
Sam C. Phillips, Jack Clement, Bill Cantrell, Quinton Claunch
Re-Issue Producer
Hank Davis
Mastering
Jurgen Crasser
Liner Notes
Hank Davis
Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Abdreas, Colin Escott, Hank Davis, 
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto)
Tape Comparisons
Hank Davis
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Este
Artwork
Retrograph.de
Thanks to
Scott Parker, Kat Bergwron,
Len Brown

Disc 1 Contains
1 - Walking In The Rain (1953) 2:21 (Thomas, Rufus) > Sun 181-B <
2 - Just Walking In The Rain (1953) 2:47 (The Prisonaires) > Sun 186-B < 
3 - Beggin' My Baby (Little Milton) (1953) 2:30 > Sun 194-A < 
4 - I've Been Deceived (Charlie Feathers) (1955) 2:44 > Flip 503-A <
5 - Old Brother Jack (Bonnie Turner) (1976) 2:15 (Not Originally Issued)
6 - Seems Like A Million Years (Willie Nix) (1953) 2:44 > Sun 179-B <
7 - No Teasin' Around (Billy Emerson) (1954) 3:02 > Sun 195-A <
8 - Turn Around Carl Perkins) (1955) 3:01 > Flip 501-B <
9 - There Is Love In You (The Prisonaires) (1954) 2:54 > Sun 207-A <
10 - Before Long (Jimmy & Walter) (1953) 2:59 > Sun 180-B <
11 - The House Of Sin (Slim Rhodes Band) (1955) 2:44 > Sun 225-A <
12 - Sitting By My Window (The Five Tinos) (1955) 3:27 > Sun 222-B <
13 - Daydreams Come True (Maggie Sue Wimberly) (1955) 2:57 > Sun 229-A <
14 - I Forgot To Remember To Forget (Elvis Presley) (1955) 2:31 > Sun 223-B <
15 - No Greater Love (Billy Emerson) (1955) 2:56  > Sun 219-B < 
16 - My Treasure (Johnny Cash) (1961) 2:17 > Sun 363-B <
17 - You Can Tell Me (The Miller Sisters) (1956) 2:40 > Sun 230-B <
18 - Bad Girl (Slim Rhodes Band) (1956) 2:28 > Sun 238-B <
19 - Wedding Gown Of White (Charlie Feathers) (1955) 3:09 > Sun 231-B <
20 - Sure To Fall (Carl Perkins Brothers Band) (1956) 2:34 Sun 235 Unissued
21 - No More, No More (Jimmy Haggett) (1955) 2:26 > Sun 236-A <
22 - I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (Warren Smith) (1956) 2:59 > Sun 239-B <
23 - A Fool For Loving You (Jack Earls) (1956) 2:45 > Sun 240-B < 
24 - I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash) (1956) 2:46 > Sun 241-B <
25 - Finders Keepers (The Miller Sisters) (1956) 2:55 > Sun 255-B <
26 - No Matter Who's To Blame (Barbara Pittman) (1956) 3:11 > Sun 253-B < 
Original Sun Recordings

Disc 2 Contains
1 - Take And Give (Slim Rhodes Band) (1956) 2:23 > Sun 256-A <
2 - I'll Wait Forever (Glenn Honeycutt) (1957) 2:39 > Sun 264-B <
3 - Only You (Carl Perkins) (1958) 3:21 SLP-1225 
4 - Don't Make Me Go (Johnny Cash) (1957) 2:29 > Sun 266-A <
5 - Restless (Sonny Burgess) 1957) 2:40 > Sun 263-B < 
6 - Fool's Hall Of Fame (Roy Orbison) (1974) 2:28 (Not Originally Issued)
7 - Just In Time (Harold Jenkins) (1975) 2:46 (Not Originally Issued)
8 - That Depends On You (Jimmy Williams) (1957) 2:22 > Sun 270-B <
9 - Two Young Fools In Love (Barbara Pittman) (1957) 2:25 > PI 3518-A <
10 - Foolish Heart (Ray Harris) (1957) 2:11 > Sun 272-B <
11 - I'm Lonesome (Ernie Chaffin) (1957) 2:46 > Sun 275-A <
12 - It All Depends (Jerr Lee Lewis) (1958) 2:59 EPA 108
13 - Easy To Love (Mack Self) (1957) 2:47  > Sun 273-B <
14 - More Than Yesterday (Edwin Bruce) (1957) 2:37  > Sun 276-B < 
15 - Forever Yours (Carl Perkins) (1957) 2:38  > Sun 274-A < 
16 - Your Cheating Heart (Mary Johnson) (2002) 1:27 (Not Originally Issued)
17 - Give My Love To Rose (Johnny Cash) (1957) 2:45 > Sun 279-B <
18 - It Only Hurts For A Little While (The Miller Sisters) (1989) 2:38 (Not Originally Issued)
19 - I Fell In Love (Warren Smith) (1957) 2:41 > Sun 286-B <
20 - Love Is A Stranger (The Sunrays) (1958) 3:01 > Sun 293-A <  
21 - Trying To Get To You (Roy Orbison) (1989) 2:42 (Not Originally Issued)
22 - You Win Again (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1957) 2:56 > Sun 281-B <
23 - I Was A Fool (Ken Cook) (1958) 2:26 > PI 3534-B <
24 - I'm Getting Better All The Time (Demo) (1989) 1:36 (Barbara Pittman) (Not Originally Issued)
25 - Sweet Misery (Sonny Burgess) (1957) 2:09 > Sun 285-B <
26 - Ain't It A Shame (Charlie Rich) (1998) 2:22 (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings

Disc 3 Contains
1 - One More Time (Billy Riley) (1959) 2:16 > Sun 322-A <
2 - Port Of Lonely Hearts (Johnny Cash) (1960) 2:35 > Sun 347-A <
3 - Part Of My Life (Edwin Bruce) (1958) 2:15 > Sun 292-B <
4 - I'll Make It All Up To You (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1958) 3:05 > Sun 303-B <
5 - Breeze (Vernon Taylor) (1958) 2:08 > Sun 310-A <   
6 - Goodbye Mr. Love (Warren Smith) (1959) 2:40 > Sun 314-A <
7 - Apple Blossom Time (Undubbed) (Charlie Rich) (1970) 2:53 (Not Originally Issued)
8 - Sail Away (Ray Smith) (1959) 2:28 > Sun 319-A < 
9 - The Miracle Of You (Hannah Fay) (2002) 2:38 (Not Originally Issued)
10 - Please Don't Ever Leave Me (Ernie Chaffin) (1959) 2:21 > Sun 320-A <  
11 - Why, Why, Why (Ray Smith) (1958) 2:20 > Sun 308-A < 
12 - I'm Bluer Than Anyone Can Be (Carl Mann) (1960) 2:21 PLP 1960 
13 - To Tell The Truth (Bobbie & The Boys) (1959) 2:12 > PI 3543-B <
14 - How's My Ex Treating You (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1962) 2:38 > SUN 379-B <
15 - River Of No Return (Mary Johnson) (2002) 3:38 (Not Originally Issued)
16 - How Well I Know (Rayburn Anthony) (1962) 2:11 > Sun 373-A < 
17 - Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues (Mikki Wilcox) (2002) 2:57 (Not Originally Issued)
18 - Stay (Alternate Take) (Charlie Rich) (1989) 2:11 (Not Originally Issued)
19 - Cheaters Never Win (Bobbie Jean) (1960) 2:01 > Sun-342-A <
20 - I Can't Forget You (Undubbed Version) (Carl Mann) (1993) 2:34 (Not Originally Issued)
21 - Is It Too Late (Tracy Pendarvis) (1960) 2:10 > Sun 335-B <
22 - I'll Wait Forever (Anita Wood) (1961) 3:02 > Sun 361-A < 
23 - Fools Like Me (Jerry Lee Lewis) (1958) 2:53 > Sun 296-B <
24 - The Quiet Look (Thomas Wayne) (1962) 2:12 > PI 3577-B <
25 - Who Will The Next Fool Be (Charlie Rich) (1961) 2:23 > PI 3566-A < 
26 - I Know What It Means (Mikki Wilcox) (2002) 2:26 (Not Originally Issued)
Original Sun Recordings
 
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
 
For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on  > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© (2019) Bear Family (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17504 mono digital
SUN SHINES ON HANK WILLIAMS

''Sun Shines On Hank Williams'' is a 26 track compilation celebrating the songs of the country music legend through recordings made by artists at Sun Records. From Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to lesser-known artists from the label's history, these vintage recordings from the 1950s and 1960s marry iconic songs with the unmistakable sound of Sun.

With its simple premise, the album soon draws the listener into the world of Sun Records, but things are not that straightforward. The eclectic nature of the compilation is a surprise, a pleasant one. Each artist brings his or her own interpretation of the song, making it an interesting listening experience. There may be several versions of the same compositions included, but none sound identical to one another. Much to the surprise of this reviewer, genres vary from country to rock and roll, jazz, blues and soul; showing the unexpected, varied nature of Sun Studios' output. For those that have only heard the music of Sun's ''million dollar quartet'' (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash), this is a step towards discovering what else Sam Phillips and Jack Clement produced during this period. While Lewis (6) and Cash (5) are represented thoroughly on the collection, some of their other big stars are notably absent because of not having recorded Williams’ songs during their Sun period. While it is sad not to see more major names, it is the rarities and lesser-known artists that make this compilation special.

This set attempts to give fans something different, and it has succeeded. The care and attention to detail is apparent. There are eight previously unreleased masters, including tracks by Sonny Burgess, Cliff Gleaves, Jeb Stuart, Annette McGee, Hank Davis, David Wilkins, Carl McVoy and Ernie Barton; most being rejected demos that have remained unheard until now. Written material includes a warning about the lower audio quality on some recordings, but much work has gone into making them sound remarkable for their age.

Many of the included recordings are alternative versions, originally unissued tracks and undubbed recordings; the latter removing commercial overdubs to reveal what they heard during the song session. This may turn off some who want a single mix of a song, but it is a unique selling point for the collection. Most Johnny Cash fans might already have the released version of ''I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You'', complete with added choral elements. Attempting to give the bare bones of a track is refreshing, and are right for this set. There are also tracks where candid studio chatter remains in the track, a fascinating historical document. Hearing Jerry Lee Lewis jokingly takes credit for his tongue-in-cheek take on ''I Can’t Help It'' (called You Can’t Help it) is a highlight.

The liner notes are an interesting delve into the included artists, many of which may be unfamiliar to a wider audience. Sun historian Hank Davis, who has an unreleased track on the album, has done an excellent job on compiling the information together. There are some fascinating stories contained within the booklet, including the mystery of the whereabouts of singer Annette McGee. It also includes several rare images from the time.

by Jamie Dyer

Producers
Sam C. Phillips and Jack Clement
Re-Issue Producers
Hank Davis, Richard Weize
Tape Research
Hank Davis, Phyllis Hill, Richard Weize
Tape Comparison
Hank Davis
Mastering
Christian Zwarg
Line Notes
Hank Davis
Photos and Illustrations
Bear Family Archive
Photo Restoration
Sven T. Uhrmann
Artwork
Retrograph.de
Thanks to
Roy Forbes, Martin Hawkins, Jim Stewart,
and Scott Parker

Hank Williams

Was born about five years too soon. Had he lived and worked just a little later, and directed his energy to Memphis rather than Nashville, he probably would have found his way to the Memphis Recording Service, soon to be known as Sun Records. And label-owner Sam Phillips would have loved him. There is little doubt of that.

Part of that love might have come from the fact that Hank Williams and Sam Phillips shared some culture. Both men were born in Alabama in 1923. In fact, they were born within eight months of each other. Williams was everything Sam Phillips admired in a musician: he was passionate, honest and most of all, he was unusual. Williams could rivet you with a heartfelt ballad or get your foot a 'tapping to the blues. There was something about his gaunt presence and starkly lonesome voice that captivated audiences, both male and female. And he wrote his own material! That portfolio of original unpublished songs would have taken Phillips' pulse rate up a few notches. Hank Williams would have been a natural fit for Sun Records in those early, pre-Elvis days when Phillips hadn't yet found the singer he dreamed would walk through the door. Of course, the major reason that meeting never came true was that Hank Williams died at just the time Sun was taking its first few halting steps. They literally missed each other by months.

This is not to say that a "Hank Williams at Sun" fantasy would have looked anything like Williams' real bio. It's just as likely that his legacy might have consisted of a few dusty 78s of no particular distinction (much like the early sides Williams cut for Sterling). Sun's lack of promotion and distribution in those early days would have doomed the results even further. And, of course, without Fred Rose to doctor and shape Williams' songwriting efforts, and promote them through Acuff-Rose Publishing, it is unlikely that Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Frankie Laine would have brought his humble hillbilly ballads to a mass audience. But we can still connect Hank's legacy to the musical spirit that inhabited Sun Records during its heyday. Here we have a collection of Sun artists, both major and minor, some unsigned and aspiring, singing the songs of Hank Williams. Keep in mind that most of these recordings were made within five years of Williams' death. His name was still big business and his songs were fast becoming "standards''. They had already proved they could cross over the boundaries of hillbilly music and entertain folks in the big cities too.

One more point: given the time period and southern base of Sun, it's actually surprising that there weren't more recordings of Hank Williams songs by Sun artists. That fact rests almost certainly with the corporate philosophy of Sam Phillips. His margins were tight enough already and he wasn't eager to give away a couple of cents per record to a publishing company he didn't own. Most of his artists were not only singers, but songwriters as well. That suited Phillips just fine; the majority of records by artists like Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich and even Roy Orbison contained songs published by Hi-Lo Music or Knox Music, companies owned by Phillips. Ironically, two of Sun's major artists, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, may have been stylists but they weren't songwriters. That forced Phillips to scramble for in-house composing talent. The alternative was to give away a portion of his slender profits to an outside publisher. And so, Phillips recorded and released material written by Hank Williams sparingly, and only when he believed that the appeal of a Hank Williams song would offset in sales the few cents he'd be reluctantly giving away in publishing royalties.

A final word about the collection. We've tried to give you a look at how things really sounded at Sun during the Golden Age. More than half a century ago some of these tracks were overdubbed with vocal choruses and additional instruments for commercial release. In several cases we've done away with those overdubs and presented things as they originally sounded in the studio. Back in 1958 Jack Clement may have thought it was necessary to doll up Sun records by adding strings or the local version of the Anita Kerr Singers. Maybe he was right at the time, but 60 years later the pop marketplace is no longer our concern. We believe fans and collectors of Sun Records today are more interested in the real deal. We'll give you the details in the notes that follow.

Contains

1 - Hey Good Looking (0:53) (Previously Unissued) 2019 Ernie Barton (2019)

Ernie Barton worked as studio engineer and sometime producer for Phillips. As such, Barton did more recording than his humble talent might have resulted in. He was neither an innovator nor a star at Sun. An album was discussed and two singles were issued under Barton's name on Phillips International (as well as one by his wife, Bobby Jean, on Sun). At least two dozen additional titles were recorded, some from full sessions and some as simple vocal/guitar demos. ''Hey Good Looking'' was recorded in both formats and never released. The occasional guitar chord fluff and brief running time do nothing to diminish the simple power of this track.

2 - Cold Cold Heart (3:08) 1961 (Sun 364) Jerry Lee Lewis (1961)

Jerry Lee Lewis was a human jukebox in the studio, often leaving it to guitarist Roland Janes and drummer Jimmy Van Eaton to catch up, as Lewis tore through his musical flights of fancy. "He wasn't likely to do anything twice, and he rarely mentioned little things like tempo or key to us'', Roland complained to me, good naturally, years later. "We didn't mind because nobody expected these tapes to come out''. Roland makes a good point, of course. History has shown that one man's informal warm up recording is another man's album track.

At rough count, Jerry Lee recorded Hank Williams tunes on nine different sessions. They appeared on singles - both as A and B sides, on EPs and LPs. If his first session took place in November 1956 (in the absence of formal union records, almost everything in the Lewis discography involves some element of speculation), then within two months he was already turning his attention to Hank Williams. By February 1957 he had laid down version of ''I Can't Help It'', ''Cold Cold Heart'' (Track 2) and ''You Win Again''. A few months later he added ''Long Gone Lonesome Blues'' (Track 6).

We offer finished masters here ''You Win Again'' Sun 281 (Track 20 ) and ''Jambalaya'' (Track 12), which appeared on Jerry Lee's first Sun LP (Sun 1230) as well as some "raw" undubbed performances featuring nothing but Jerry's vocal and piano. Unlike Johnny Cash, whose vocal performances were frequently marred by choral overdubs, Jerry's performances often featured restrained, even virile sounding male choruses that enhanced the quality of the recordings.

''Jambalaya'' was recorded in mid-March 1958 with guitarist Roland Janes, electric bass player J. W. Brown and drummer Jimmy M. Van Eaton. Everyone in the room knew immediately they had something special on their hands. The track was slotted onto Jerry's forthcoming LP and over the years has been acknowledged as one of the album's standout tracks. The thing to remember when listening to music like this more than 60 years later is that it was created spontaneously. There were no "charts" to follow. The musicians couldn't even fall back on familiarity; they were not performing this song night after night. Indeed, this may have been the first time they ever played ''Jambalaya'' together.

The one advantage they had (other than familiarity with the song itself), was musical rapport with each other. Jerry Lee and Jimmy M. had demonstrated that rapport from the first time they met in the studio barely over a year ago. Fifteen months later that musical communication was almost telepathic. Jimmy M. shuttles from playing backbeat, to accenting every beat (essentially soloing during Jerry's vocal) to providing counter rhythms on the crash cymbal as Jerry resumes singing following the guitar solo.

About two or three months later, Jerry was back in the studio to work on his next single, ''Break Up''. Before he settled down to work, Jerry tore through what amounts to a marathon solo session. He performed one- take solo versions of eight songs, ranging from rhythm and blues classics to pop standards to Chuck Berry to hillbilly fare. His human jukebox talent was on full display. ''Setting The Woods On Fire'' (Track 24) was recorded during this sequence. Just imagine yourself sitting in Jerry Lee's parlor as he wanders over to the old upright piano with well-worn keys, and tears into this Hank Williams classic. It's a really magic moment, highlighted by Jerry 's catching fire during his piano solo. Some additional instrumentation was later overdubbed on this recording for album re- lease, but we present the original undubbed version here.

''Long Gone Lonesome Blues'' is a prime example of the session dynamic that both Roland and Jimmy M. described. Jerry Lee would simply start to play and it was up to his sidemen to scramble until they caught up with him. The result, as on this track, is that it ends a lot more solidly than it begins. Even if you're not a studio musician, it stands to reason that you can play with more authority when you know the key, the tempo, and the song title.

That being said, this performance still has a lot to recommend it. It also underscores the fact that Hank Williams songs were a part of everyone's musical consciousness, at least in Tennessee in February 1957, barely four years after the singer's death. Two things to help put this track into context: (l) it stems from an early February 1957 session and was only the 22nd song title Jerry Lee recorded for Sun, and (2) if session logs are to be believed, it was followed almost immediately by the master recording of ''Whole Lotta Shaking Goin' On'' (Sun 267). Would you have guessed listening to this Hank Williams title that within minutes the same musicians would produce one of rock and roll's classic recordings?

Jerry Lee turned his attention twice to the Hank Williams classic ''I Can't Help''. The July 1958 session yielded a single lackluster take. The second time around, in January 1960, was a different story. The new Sun studio on Madison Avenue sailed its maiden voyage at the hands of five days of Jerry Lee Lewis sessions. Over 60 recordings were logged in, including a hilarious sequence of takes on which Jerry Lee turned his inimitable personality loose on a somber Hank Williams classic. And so ''I Can 't Help It'' became ''You Can't Help It'' (Track 16). We present it here along with that magic moment when Sam Phillips, engineering the session, innocently asks "Who wrote that? Hank Williams?" Jerry's answer, not surprisingly, is "Jerry Lee Lewis''.

''Cold Cold Heart'' (Sun 364) is an absolutely brilliant record. It is well recorded, arranged and performed. Jerry's vocal, as it usually does, exudes personality. His piano playing is exceptionally strong and assertive. Indeed, it becomes a second voice swirling around his vocal. When the vocal is absent during the 16-bar piano solo, the piano lines are brimming with energy; they soar, almost out of control. If you knew nothing about Jerry Lee Lewis and discovered this record on the radio, it would surely grab your attention. Your first question might well be, "Who is that piano player''? Not "Who is that singer''?

Fortunately, you get them both for the same price.

3 - My Buckets Got A Hole In It (1:54) (Previously Unissued Alternate Take) 2019 Sonny Burgess (2019)

Arkansas-born Sonny Burgess was one of Sun's unrepentant wild men. Still performing rockabilly well into his 1980s, Burgess truly personified what rockabilly' was all about. His sessions just bristled with energy, from his premier date in May 1956 that yielded the classic sides ''Red Headed Woman'' and ''We Wanna Boogie'' (Sun 247). Burgess left a treasure-trove of unreleased recordings at Sun, many of which were simply too raw for the changing tastes of the marketplace.

Burgess and his band, the Pacers, were truly an rhythm and blues outfit at heart. Thus it is odd that he spent time crafting a releasable version of a song primarily associated with Hank Williams. Undoubtedly, Jack Clement's influence hangs over both the decision to record ''My Bucket's Got A Hole In It'', as well as the arrangement itself on the original Sun release, when Burgess shouts "Aw, get goin"' it is Clement's acoustic guitar that responds. Indeed, it is dispiriting to learn that an unreleased outtake features Burgess shouting his encouragement to an empty sky. Clement's solos were overdubbed.

Here we present both the originally is issued version (Sun 285 track 18) as well as a rare undubbed alternate take of ''Bucket'' stemming from a May 1957 session. There is quite a contrast between the two recordings. If you're used to the issued version, the earlier alternate take is almost startlingly sparse. It features an electric guitar where Jack Clement's acoustic guitar solos appear on the single. It also reveals an intensity missing altogether from the original single with its overdubbed vocal chorus. And if you want to enhance your appreciation of Sonny's record - either the issued or unissued version - listen to Ricky Nelson's "cover" version, inspired by and issued three months after Sonny's. It's almost embarrassing. Yet, Ricky's reached number 18 on the Billboard charts and Sonny's never broke the Top 100. If only the Burgess family had had their own weekly TV show.

4 - I Could Never Be Ashamed Of You (2:12) (Undubbed Alternate Take) Johnny Cash (2007)

Johnny Cash recorded his Hank Williams songs in two separate sessions, about a year apart. In August 1957 Cash cut ''I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow'', along with four other non-Williams titles that were destined to appear on Cash's (and the Sun label's) first LP. Sam Phillips engineered and produced the date. It was a happy and productive session. We've chosen to include an alternate version to the one that appeared on LP 1220.

Just nine months later, Cash and his two-piece band were back in the studio on May 15 under very different circumstances. Sam had recently learned that Johnny Cash intended to leave the label when his contract expired at the end of the year. Phillips was hurt and angry and felt betrayed by Cash's back room negotiations with Don Law of Columbia Records. Worse yet, when Phillips confronted Cash with his suspicions, the singer denied everything. When Colin Escott and I discussed the episode with Sam Phillips 25 years later, he still seemed visibly upset.

"The only damn lie Johnny Cash ever told me. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew he was lying to me''.

Johnny Cash worked off his recording commitments to Phillips before leaving the label, but held back his best new material for the forthcoming Columbia sessions. Jack Clement, who sat in the producer's chair, was somewhat desperate for material. In a conversation with writer Peter Lewry in 2004, Clement provides a rare insight into what transpired in the studio. "We were trying to get some songs and he (Cash) was in a hurry. There was a Hank Williams songbook on top of one of the playback speakers I said 'sing me five Hank Williams songs real quick. Just you and the boys and I'll keep the band real low... I'll get some people later to fix the music. 'I said we could do them in 45 minutes and that's what we did... I kept Luther and Marshall back because they weren't that quick at learning songs. I just wanted to get them down and I figured I'd get some other guys in later and fix up the music. That's exactly what did. They weren't' the greatest things but 'hey weren't that bad''.

The recordings focused on Cash's vocals, with Luther and Marshall (guitar and bass) mixed way down. The original recordings came close to a cappella performances and are as stark as anything on this collection. While Clement told Cash not to worry, that he'd bring in other musicians once the boys completed the bed tracks, what he may not have told Cash is that those later overdubs would include the dreaded Gene Lowery Singers. There was little Cash could do once he left the studio. The final EP, ''Johnny Cash Sings Hank Williams'', released in 1958, remains a well-intentioned study in excess. We have attempted to restore the integrity of the original recordings by stripping away Clement's choral overdubs. In any case, not many EPs of the era took under an hour to record. And without Luther's guitar fluffs (documented on the Johnny Cash Outtake Box - BCD 16325), the recording time might have been reduced even further.

We offer these performances in various states, before additional instruments, voices and echo were added.

5 - Your Cheating Heart (2:32) (Previously Unissued Alternate Take) Cliff Gleaves (2019)

Cliff Gleaves was an early member of the "Memphis Mafia" - the inner circle that accompanied Elvis everywhere in his early days of celebrity. Elvis went almost now here alone, whether it was to the movies, on motorcycle rides through town, to Hollywood to shoot the films he so disdained, or to Germany to serve his military obligation in 1958. The "Mafia" procured everything for Elvis - from drugs to pizza and girls. They were loyal and they were compliant.

Cliff Gleaves was among the first to be there. He is often described in books and other media coverage as "rockabilly singer Cliff Gleaves" and some of his early recordings have attained collectability status, although much of that probably stems from his association with Elvis. Indeed, Gleaves traveled west with Elvis in 1957 and 1958 and had minor roles in ''Jailhouse Rock'' and ''King Creole''. Gleaves also landed a recording session at Sun in 1958 during which three unissued songs were recorded. ''Your Cheating Heart'' was one of them and we are including it here.

From the evidence of this session, Gleaves wasn't much of a talent. He had the mannerisms down pat (how could one live that close to Elvis and not absorb something?) But he had no sense of timing, which doomed several of the takes of ''Your Cheating Heart''. In fact, it was finally decided to record a musical bed track, and allow Gleaves to work on overdubbing his vocal later, so as not to waste a perfectly good musical performance each time he came in late or early. A sax solo, probably played by Martin Willis was also overdubbed.

6 - Long Gone Lonesome Blues (2:03) (Original Unissued) Jerry Lee Lewis (1974)
7 - Cold Cold Heart (2:34) (PI 3527-B) Barbara Pittman (1958)

Barbara Pittman debuted on Sun during the label's Golden Age in September 1956 with a flat-out rocker called ''I Need a Man'' (Sun 253). She was promptly dubbed "Sun's answer to Janis Martin" by the trade papers. But Pittman was far more than that and, in fact, resented being pigeon-holed. The production of her second release (Phillips International 3518) was turned over to Jack Clement and the results were far more gentle. Her third release, which we present here, appeared in June 1958 and featured a Hank Williams song
''Cold Cold Heart''. Her performance showed off the "torchy" side of Pittman's ballad style.

Talking to Barbara years later, she was quick to proclaim it her favorite among all her Sun releases. Certainly it featured the fullest arrangement of any of her recordings for the label. She had come a long way from the girl who grew up in the projects with Elvis and sang country and rockabilly with Clyde Leoppard and the Snearly Ranch Boys at the Cotton Club in West Memphis.

8 - I Can’t Help It (2:22) (Previously Unissued) Jeb Stuart (2019)

Jeb Stuart appeared on four singles on the Phillips International label between 1960 and 1962 that in many ways reflects the rise of soul music in Memphis. In addition to his full recording sessions, Stuart also left at least 17 demos behind, often featuring just his vocals and an uncredited piano player. We can almost certainly identify that soulish piano as belonging to Charlie Rich. Rich was coming into his own as a soul singer (and musician) during this period, as his own releases for the PI label amply demonstrate. Stuart's fine vocal on ''I Can t Help It'' gives extra dimension to this collection, showing the range of styles that Sun artists were able to bring to songs associated with Hank Williams. That range also demonstrates that the songs themselves were strong enough to transcend the "hillbilly" stigma and support a host of musical and
stylistic approaches.

9 - You Win Again (2:15) (Previously Unissued) Johnny Cash (2007)
10 - Dear John (1:53) (Original Unissued) Warren Smith (1992)

Warren Smith was a rockabilly icon at Sun, beginning with his very first release for the label, the Johnny Cash composition, ''Rock 'N Roll'' Ruby (Sun 239). If there were any doubt, Smith's next release ''Ubangi Stomp'' (Sun 250) solidified his reputation as one of Sun's premier rockers.

But Smith was a country singer at heart, often pairing his rockabilly classics with country ballads. Indeed, as soon as he left Sun in and moved to Liberty in 1959, he began an unbroken chain of country music hits unimagined in the days of ''Miss Froggie''.

Smith turned to ''Dear John'' on at least two occasions between October 1957 and January 1959, leaving three versions that vary considerably in style. None of these recordings ever reached the status of a finished master. On one session he worked with sax man Martin Willis, turning the Hank Williams song into a frothy rock and roll concoction. However, we have chosen the guitar-based version because of its in tensity and fine guitar work.

11 - Your Cheating Heart (2:31) (Previously Unissued Demo) Annette McGee (2019)

Annette McGee. Another unreleased demo. Annette submitted her tape to Sun around 1957 or 1958. In addition to ''Your Cheating Heart'', the tape also included such non-Annette originals as ''Hound Dog'', ''Don Be Cruel'' and ''You Are My Sunshine''. The singer is surrounded by a fair bit of echo even by Sun's standards. Although her repertoire is drawn from pop, rock and country hits of the day, Annette is plainly at home in a breezy, jazz-based style

The singer might have been in her 20s or 30s when this demo was made. That would put her in her 1980s or 1990s today. As we discovered in compiling the Bear Family box set Memphis Belles (BCD 16609), women have an easier time than men disappearing without a trace. Attempts to locate Annette living anywhere in the mid-South were unsuccessful. In fact, we spread our net to include the Midwest, California and the Pacific Northwest. There are a lot of Annette McGees out there and - over two dozen phone calls later - it turned out none of them had ties to this demo. As one of them said to me, "Nobody in my family can carry a tune in a bucket''.

And although women of a certain age named Annette McGee seem to die on a regular basis, none of the obits we examined were an obvious match to what we'd expect to read about a woman who submitted a jazzy demo of Elvis and Hank Williams songs to Sun some 60 years ago. If the lady is still alive, we missed a chance to bring some unexpected excitement to her life. If she's passed on, RIP, Annette.

12 - Jambalaya (1:58) LP 1230) Jerry Lee Lewis (1958)
13 - Half As Much (2:37) (Previously Unissued Demo) Hank Davis (2019)

Hank Davis, trying to write your own artist bio is not for the squeamish. It's probably safest for me to just direct you to the liner notes that accompany my Bear Family CD one way Track (BCD 17319). At the least, it'll help undo some of the creative fantasies that appear about me on the web (e.g., Hank Davis was born in Dry Heave, Arkansas). You can actually believe what's written in those album notes. Half as much is a demo that I submitted to Sun in the early' 1960s. I got a note back from Scotty Moore (who was in charge of such things at the time) saying basically "We like your style and your sound, kid, but please submit some original material''. He was right at the time, of course, but neither of us could have imagined that 50 years later it would appear on this compilation. I had the further thrill of finding my tape in a pile of rejected demos at Sun when I visited there years later. This recording has never been released before.

14 - Hey Good Looking (2:03) (Previously Unissued) Eddie Cash (2007)

Eddie Cash (no relation to John) was born in Memphis in 1941, which put him squarely in the right place at the right time. He did indeed cross paths, both in and out of the studio, with many famous musicians of the era, including Scotty Moore and Bill Black. Indeed, Cash claimed to have appeared with Scotty and Bill when Elvis was off making movies in Hollywood.

A February 11, 1959 session (identified on the tape box with Roland Janes' name) features multiple takes of two songs by Eddie, one of which we have included here. Confusion surrounds this tape. Was Cash performing with the Janes band, offering several vocals, or did his performances date from an earlier session and find their way on to the same 7-inch tape reel for storage? We may never know. It is clear, however, that Cash's version of ''Hey Good Looking'' offers the late 1950s Sun sound, which will be familiar to Sun fans. Cash turns in a vintage Elvis-sound-alike vocal, complete with hiccups and uh-huh-huh's just where you'd expect to find them. But it's the Sun house band that really shines here, driven by Jimmy M. Van Eaton 's propulsive drumming and Martin Willis's staccato yet melodic sax work. Cash did not have particularly positive memories of the results of the session and none of its product was originally released, although most tracks have since found their way onto Sun archaeology compilations, often mis-credited to Roland Janes. Eddie Cash died in Wisconsir, on September 2016.

15 - You Win Again (2:28) (Previously Unissued) David Wilkins (2019)

David Wilkins recorded 15 tracks for Sun in 1962, about half of which qualify as incomplete demos. One single was issued (PI 3581) in June 1962 and if the demoish recording of ''You Win Again'' is any indication, Sam Phillips took a particular interest in Wilkins.

It's rare to hear Phillips as actively engaged in "producing" a session as he is here with Wilkins. Sam isn't simply offering general advice like "Put more feeling into it"; he's actually instructing Wilkins on how to sing the song. The only other example that remains of such intrusive producing by Phillips occurred on a Charlie Rich session (also dating from 1962) that yielded ''Goodbye Maryanne''. Suffice it to say that Rich did not take kindly to his boss's meddling with his vocal style. Sam was asked to back off in no uncertain terms if he wanted the session to proceed. Here, Wilkins seems more than willing to suffer his boss's suggestions, even though no one ever accused Sam Phillips of being a singer, much less a musician.

"Little" David Wilkins went on to success as both a singer/piano player and a songwriter following this early dalliance with Sam and Sun. During his sessions for Sun, Wilkins turned his idiosyncratic style to four different Johnny Cash songs, all of which Sam Phillips published. Add that to the fact that Wilkins was surely "different" and it's not hard to see his appeal to Sam Phillips.

16 - You Can’t Help It (2:24) (Original Unissued) Jerry Lee Lewis (1989)
17 - I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow (2:21) (Alternate Take) Johnny Cash (2007)
18 - My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It (2:17 (Sun 285-A) Sonny Burgess (1957)
19 - Your Cheatin’ Heart (1:26) (Original Unissued Demo) Jeanie Green (2002)

Jeanie Greene. An unexpected treasure is this endearing 1:25 version of ''Your Cheating Heart'' by white soul icon Jeanie Greene. What's the woman who cut the legendary 1968 Atco single ''Sure As Sin'', and sang backup on Elvis's ''Suspicious Minds'' and Percy Sledge's ''When A Man Loves A Woman'', doing here at Sun? The surprising answer is that when Jeanie was 13 years old (and still called Mary Elizabeth Johnson), her parents drove her up to Memphis from their Corinth, Mississippi home. Just as Elvis had done two years earlier, the Johnsons paid to have a record made for their own use at the Memphis Recording Service. Somebody, perhaps Jack Clement, heard something special in the four songs Jeanie recorded that day and hung on to the tape. We found it 44 years later, covered with dust, in 2000 and included it on Bear Family's Memphis Belles box set (BCD 16609).

It took some sleuth-work to discover that "Mary Johnson / Corinth" was one and the same as soul vocalist/pianist Jeanie Greene. Sadly, Jeanie died at age 75 on August 19, 2018 and didn't fully appreciate the impact her music had on others.

20 - You Win Again (2:55) (Sun 281-B) Jerry Lee Lewis (1957)
21 - There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight (2:16) (Previously Unissued) Carl McVoy (2019)

Carl McVoy was another of Jerry Lee Lewis's piano playing cousins (add Mickey Gilley to the list also). McVoy had several claims to fame in addition to his connection to Jerry Lee). Carl McVoy was the featured artist on the first single issued by the legendary Hi label from Memphis. ''Tootsie'' b/w ''You Are My Sunshine'' was no slapdash production. It was cut at RCA in Nashville reportedly under the supervision of Chet Atkins (although it certainly doesn't sound like Atkins on guitar.) When the record was released, it immediately showed signs of commercial life, which sent label owners Joe Cuoghi, Ray Harris and several others into a mild panic. They had absolutely no knowledge of what to do next. Hi barely had a distribution network in place beyond the city of Memphis. Worse yet, a hit record can devastate a new company. Pressing costs are due immediately and distributors pay in 90 days, if at all. It's a lethal combination.

In desperation, the Hi team sat down with Sam Phillips, a veteran of the hit record/distributor wars. Sam offered to take the whole mess of their hands for (reportedly) S2600. Within days, the record was trans-ferred to the Phillips International label (PI 3526), where it was released in June 1958 and proceeded to die on the vine. Undeterred, Phillips spent time with McVoy in the studio in 1957 and 1958. Whether that was part of the buyout deal with Hi is conjecture at this point. What is clear is that Carl McVoy recorded at least 15 titles in Sam Phillips's studio. It is understandable that McVoy's quirky vocal style might have appealed to Phillips. Carl McVoy was plainly not a typical rock and roll singer, at least in the manner associated with most Sun artists. That was evident even on Hi 1001/PI 3526.

Carl McVoy's major claim to fame - and it is considerable - is as the keyboard player for the Bill Black Combo. In the early 1960s the group enjoyed eight Top 40 hits, appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show in 1964, and was the opening act during the Beatles 1964 tour of America.

We are including ''There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight'' from a May 12, 1957 session. The track is basically a duet between McVoy 's vocal and Ace Cannon's tenor sax. The piano is all but buried in the mix, compared to Jimmy M. Van Eaton's driving presence on drums. All in all, the results tell you just about everything you need to know about Carl McVoy as a singer, and reminds us that Hank Williams songs were still in everyone's consciousness four plus years after his death. For his part, Carl McVoy tired of the music industry in the 1960s and got into the construction business, where he worked until his death in 1992. For any astrologers among us, Carl McVoy died on January 3rd, also his birthday.

22 - I Can’t Help It (1:44) (Original Unissued Alternate Take) Johnny Cash (2007)
23 - Take These Chains From My Heart (1:41) (Original Unissued) Carl Mann (1993)

Carl Mann. There were two singers named Carl from Jackson, Tennessee and both of them made hit records for Sam Phillips in the 1950s. Carl Perkins is more famous these days because his song ''Blue Suede Shoes'' has become something of a cultural landmark. Perkins never recorded any Hank Williams songs for Sun, although his hillbilly ballad style was surely influenced by Williams.

The second singer from Jackson was quite a bit younger than Perkins; in fact, he was barely 16 when he arrived at the label. His name was Carl Mann. The younger Carl hit pay dirt almost immediately with his 1959 recording of ''Mona Lisa'' (PI 3539). Mann's calling card was rocking up old standards or, at least, old Nat King Cole standards. The gimmick wore thin fairly quickly.

Among the tunes Carl Mann tried his hand at in search of another hit was the Hank Williams composition ''Take These Chains From My Heart''. The track was never selected for release, either as a single or as LP fare. In retrospect it is easy to see why: it is almost a perfect clone of both sides of ''Mona Lisa'' (the flipside was called ''Foolish One''). Within the first 16-bars of ''Chains'' you hear everything that made the earlier hit special, without bringing anything new to the table. It would have been commercial suicide to release it: it was simply too close to the original sources. For our purposes, it's a great reminder of what made Carl Mann a successful artist in 1959/60, and it oflers another dimension to how Sun artists brought their own stylistic stamp to the songs of Hank Williams.

24 - Setting The Woods On Fire (2:26) (Original Unissued) Jerry Lee Lewis (1989)
25 - I Saw The Light (1:35) (LP 1980) Eddie Bond (1961)

Eddie Bond was a fixture on the Memphis country and rockabilly scene but despite repeated attempts (including sessions in 1957 and 1958) he never persuaded Sam Phillips to release anything by him. Finally, in 1962, Bond financed his own session (that included steel guitar legend John Hughey) at the nearby Echo Recording Studio, and cut 15 country gospel tracks. He worked out a deal with Sam Phillips (perhaps agreeing to buy half the pressing for sale at his local gigs) and Phillips issued 12 of the titles on a Phillips International LP. It was far from the "Rockin' Daddy" image Bond had portrayed five or six years earlier.

26 - Hey Good Lookin' (1:40) (Original Unissued Alternate Take) Johnny Cash (2007)

Thanks to Roy Forbes, Martin Hawkins and Scott Parker.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

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