CONTAINS
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1956 SESSIONS (2/2)
February 1, 1956 to February 28, 1956

Studio Session for The Kirby Sisters, February 5, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Billy Riley, Early 1956 / Fernwood Records
Studio Session for Mary Johnson, Early 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Rudy Grayzell, Early 1956 (1) / Starday Records 

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 - ©

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Until fairly recently, the only thing known for sure about the Kirby Sisters was that three tapes of theirs, containing multiple takes of four titles, had gathered dust in the Sun archives for nearly fifty years. There was no further information available.

And then the pieces began to fall together. Guitarist Clarence "Tonk" Edwards was inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame in 2000. The biography of this accomplished jazz guitarist who had toured with Sarah Vaughan makes passing reference to playing with the Kirby Sisters, Bette and Mary, in a Texarkana club in 1956. In fact, Edwards credits Bette Kirby (who sings solo on one of the four Sun titles) with instigating his unusual stage name.

STUDIO SESSION FOR THE KIRBY SISTERS
AT MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: SUNDAY FEBRUARY 5, 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

In his last interview from Malcolm Yelvington just a couple of weeks before his passing in February 2001, he offered the possibility that his piano man, Reece Fleming, might have been involved in the recording of "Blond In Red Velvet" by The Kirby Sisters. Despite a distinctive boogie in the solo, Malcolm was unable to shed any further light on the subject. The girls themselves showed promise with their well-drilled harmonies on this records and demos dating from February 1956.

Clarence Edwards recalls the Kirby Sisters as being very professional: "They were good musicians, man. I was very taken with them. I mean, they played standards! Just about everybody I knew back then was playing country. But Bette and her sister could play standards.

They'd play tunes like "Body And Soul" and "Stardust" and then mix them in with Chuck Berry tunes. It opened up my eyes to a lot of music. I have to give them credit for that".

Edwards recalls that Bette, the younger of the two, was a piano player and her sister Mary play clarinet. "She'd play down in that lower range. Mary had spent some time in Memphis and she had absorbed a lot of blues feeling".

The Kirby Sisters band also included Bette's husband, drummer Bill Fairbanks. Edwards recalls: "I was real impressed with him as well. Bill was from up in Chicago. He had a large record collection and he used to let me listen to it. I learned a lot of music in a very short time. I had grown up listening to nothing but Hank Williams and western swing. We didn't even have a record player. Being around the Kirbys was just unbelievable. I was still wet behind the ears. They gave me a chance to play and to listen".

Tonk Edwards put me in tough with two other musicians who had worked with the Kirbys: sax player Del Puschert and guitarist Gene Harrell. Puschert's contact with the Kirbys had been a lot more personnel. ''I was in love with Bette, man. I was just crazy about her. I was q 22 year old kid in love with a married 24 year old piano player. I followed her all over the country. That's how I ended up in Texas''.

To this date, Puschert maintains a discreet Bette Kirby archieve of memorabilia. Puschert, himself, went on to a notable career as a blues-playing saxman, whose touring and recording history was recounted in a 'Washington Post'' feature on March 26, 2001.

He fronted a black group called the Van Dykes, who recorded for Atlantic Records in the early 1960s. Some 40 years later, Puschert notes, ''I'm retired now, but I still blow the hell out of the horn''.

01(1) - "BLOND IN RED VELVET - 1*/**" - B.M.I. - 2:22
Composer: - Johnny Chaylor
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-5-13 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002
Reissued: - August 2002 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-1-3 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

"Blond In Red Velvet" deserves special mention. It is both a memorable and sexually confused song. Reference to a "blond in red velvet" normally conjures up images of a woman. Yet, the Kirby's (or Johnnie) are plainly pining away for this mysterious figure in their dreams. It seems almost an afterthought to turns this red velvet apparition into a man in order to keep the song in the mainstream.

After all, we can't have girl singers lusting after a blond woman in red velvet; at least, not in 1956. The situation becomes even more amusing when one listens carefully to some of the alternate takes in which the Kirbys can plainly be heard changing the sex of the pronoun ("There must be some reason / she haunts me in my dream".

Just what was going on here? It's not all that surprising that this little streak of Arkansas bizarro would have appealed to Sam Phillips' search for something different.

01(2) - "BLOND IN RED VELVET - 2*/**" - B.M.I. - 2:19
Composer: - Johnny Chaylor
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Take 2 – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-2-20 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2-6 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

02(1) - "I'VE GOT THE CRAZIEST FEELING" - B.M.I. - 2:47
Composer: - Floyd Tillman
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-3-5 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS
Reissued: - 2011 License Music Internet iTunes MP3-20 mono
QUEENS OF COUNTRY

02(2) - "I'VE GOT THE CRAZIEST FEELING" B.M.I. - 2:40
Composer: - Floyd Tillman
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - Take 2 – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-3-24 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

"I've Got The Craziest Feeling", Floyd Tillman tune that had originally appeared on 4-Star Records (1520) in 1950. The original release was by Jessie James & All The Boys, vocal by Hub Sutter.

03 - "YOU'LL ALWAYS BELONG TO ME*/**" - B.M.I. - 1:32
Composer: - Gene Harrell
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-3-6 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2-7 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

"You'll Always Belong To Me" was composed by Gene Harrell, guitarist of the group at the time, later to be replaced by Scotty Johnson and for a while Tonk Edwards.

04(1) - "SO TIRED - 1*" - B.M.I. - 2:03
Composer: - Bette Kirby
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-4-4 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

"So Tired", a 12 bar blues is probably composed by Bette Kirby. Tonk Edwards remembers it being a regular part of their live set. Guitarist Gene Harrell recalls a fifth title from the session called "Hello Stranger", but there is no record of the song among the Sun tapes.

04(2) - "SO TIRED - 2*" - B.M.I. - 2:32
Composer: - Bette Kirby
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Take 2 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-4-22 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2-8 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

"I remember three things very clearly about that session", recalls Gene Harrell. "One is how nervous I was. Sam was very nice to all of us but I kept thinking 'That's Sam Phillips! They don't get any bigger than Sam Phillips'. I remember how Sam took us all out to lunch. He bought me a cheeseburger and a beer. It's funny how things like that stick in your mind. I also recall that Sam had just received an acetate copy of "Heartbreak Hotel". Elvis had sent it to him just after his first RCA Victor session. The record wasn't even out yet. Sam played it for all of us and asked us what we thought. We were all very impressed and told him it was sure to be a hit. He seemed pleased. I remember Mary, who was older than most of us, she was probably in her mid-30s, saying something like 'It even makes an old grandmother like me perk up her ears'".

Harrell's final memory is far less pleasant: "While we were recording, Sam received a phone call. It was from Johnnie back at Chaylor's club. She was just screaming and yelling at Sam, telling him that she had written the song and if he ever released anything by the Kirby Sisters, she'd sue him for every penny he was worth. She went on and on and by the time Sam got off the phone, she just came back into the studio and told us he was sorry, but the session was over''.

''We were all in shock. I'm surprised that we even got four titles down. I didn't think we had even gotten that far before Johnnie called and everything stopped".

Tales of this phone call remain clear in everyone's minds to this day. In Tonk Edwards words: "Johnnie raised a lot of cain on the phone". Others descriptions are more vivid. Most agree that Johnnie was at best jealous, and at worst downright mean. Some suggest that Johnnie wanted to save the material for herself, or for her son Lloyd to record. Harrell's version is even simpler: "Johnnie wanted to be a big star. She was very jealous of Bette and Mary. She threw a monkey wrench into it to keep the girls from becoming stars. It was as simple as that".

In any case, the message was loud and clear: Sam Phillips better not release anything by the Kirby Sisters if he knew what was good for him. Phillips, no stranger to law suits, decided that he had enough adventure in his life without agitating this hornets nest down in Texarkana. He politely passed on the deal, terminating the session before their work was complete. And so the Kirby Sisters' brief fling with fame, fortune, and a career with Sun Records came to a screeching halt.

There is no telling how the repercussion played themselves out back in Texarkana, but it is known that the Sisters and their entourage were back on the road shortly afterwards, although they did return to Chaylor's club when the smoke had cleared.

Postscript: For all her dreams of wealth, fame and a passport out of Texarkana, Johnnie never hit the big time with "The Blond In Red Velvet". There is no indication the song was ever recorded by anybody else, much less published. Who knows how history might have unfolded had Johnnie resisted the impulse to call Sam Phillips and block the Kirby Sisters' success (See below).

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Bette Kirby - Vocal* and Piano
Mary Kirby - Vocals** and Clarinet
Probably Sandy Kirby - Unknown Instrument
Clarence "Tonk" Edwards - Guitar
Gene Harrell - Guitar
Ivan Greathouse - Steel Guitar
Bill Fairbanks - Drums
Del Puschert – Saxophone
Other Musicians Unknown

For Biographies of The Kirby Sisters see: > The Sun Biographies <
The Kirby Sisters' Sun recordings can be heard on their playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

FEBRUARY 6, 1956 MONDAY

George Jones joins The Louisiana Hayride.

Columbia released ''Keep A Lovin' Me'', The Everly Brothers first single.

Capitol released Tennessee Ernie Ford's ''That's All'', and the double-sided Hank Thompson' hit, ''The Blackboard Of My Heart'' backed with ''I'm Not Mad, Just Hurt''.

Decca released Red Sovine's ''If Jesus Came To Your House''.

FEBRUARY 8 1956 WEDNESDAY

Buddy Holley sings a recording contract with Decca Records, ignoring the misspelling of his last name, ''Holly''. He mentors Waylon Jennings, and one of his songs, ''True Love Ways'', becomes a country hit for Mickey Gilley.

Wynn Stewart recorded his first hit, ''The Waltz Of The Angels''.

FEBRUARY 10, 1956 FRIDAY

The movie ''Hidden Guns'' makes its worlds premiere at Indianapolis Lyric Theatre. It marks Faron Young's first on-screen appearance, giving him his nickname, ''The Young Sheriff''. Also making a cameo role, fiddler Gordon Terry.

Little Richard recorded ''Slippin' And Slidin'''at J&M Studio in New Orleans, Louisiana. The song becomes a rock and roll standard, and earns a new country treatment in 1963 from Billy ''Crash'' Craddock.

FEBRUARY 11, 1956 SATURDAY

Elvis Presley sings ''Blue Suede Shoes'' and ''Heartbreak Hotel'' in his third appearance on The Dorsey Brothers' ''Stage Show''. Ella Fitzgerald is guest host.

Houston-based music publisher Curt Peeples sends a letter to Sun Records' Sam Phillips claiming he owns the copyright to ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Phillips sends back a letter stating that Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash co-wrote it. Peeples never responds.

Gene Vincent marries 15-year-old Ruth Ann Hand. They stay together two years.

George Jones reaches number 1 on the Billboard country chart for the first time as the writer of Red Sovine' and Webb Pierce's ''Why Baby Why''.

FEBRUARY 11, 1956 SATURDAY

The Platters appear on "The Perry Como Show" on NBC-TV singing "The Great Pretender".

Perkins first performed ''Blue Suede Shoes'' on national television on the ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee.

FEBRUARY 13, 1956 MONDAY

Decca released a double-sided Webb Pierce hit, ''Yes, I Know Why'' backed with ''Cause I Love You''.

Capitol released Sonny James' ''For Rent (One Empty Heart)''

FEBRUARY 18, 1956 SATURDAY

Elvis Presley makes his fourth appearance on The Dorsey Brothers' ''Stage Show'', singing ''Tutti Frutti'' and ''I Was The One''.

Carl Perkins signs a long term contracted with "The Big D Jamboree" a nationwide radio show.

FEBRUARY 19, 1956 SUNDAY

Gospel singer Robert Bailey is born in Middle town, Ohio. He provides backing vocals on such hits as George Strait's ''You'll Be There'', Reba McEntire's ''Why Haven't I Heard From You'' and Carrie Underwood's ''Something In The Water''.

FEBRUARY 21, 1956 TUESDAY

The Browns recorded ''I Take The Chance''.

FEBRUARY 22, 1956 WEDNESDAY

Patsy Cline tells fan club president Treva Miller in a letter that she ''still can't say I'm satisfied'' after moving into a new 33-foot trailer, and that she may leave Gerald Cline. If they divorce, she says, ''I'm certainly not going to marry again''.

Elvis Presley opens for Little Jimmy Dickens at City Auditorium in Waycross, Georgia. In the front row, future Byrd Gram Parsons, who goes backstage to collect The King's autograph.

Frank Sinatra holds the inaugural recording session at the Capitol Recording Studios in Los Angeles. The cylindrical building hosts sessions for numerous future country hits, including recordings by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Glen Campbell.

FEBRUARY 23, 1956 THURSDAY

Elvis Presley collapses after a concert at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. A doctor tells him to slow down, but Presley performs again the next night.

Red Foley hears Brenda Lee for the first time, when both perform at Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia. He becomes a mentor, and she receives a contract that night to become a regular on ''The Ozark Jubilee''.

Red Sovine recorded ''Hold Everything (Till I Get Home)''.

FEBRUARY 25, 1956 SATURDAY

Elvis Presley collects his first number 1 record as ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' reaches the top of the Billboard country singles chart.

Alan Freed is chairman for Teenagers March for Childhood Nephrosis fund drive. In New York 11,000 rock and roll fans turn out in a downpour to distribute 1/2 million pledge cards. RCA Victor announces that Elvis Presley has six singles among the company's top selling twenty five records.

On 8:30 to midnight, Carl Perkins performed at the Big D Jamboree at the Sportatorium, Dallas, Texas. Also on the bill where Hank Locklin, Jimmy and Johnny, and the Big D Gang, the show was broadcast coast-to-coast on CBS' KRLD.

Memphis disc jockey Bob Neal (WMC) open his disk shop. Music distributors and operators welcomed popular WMC disc jockey Bob Neal into the fold this week. Bob opened the Bob Neal Record Shop in the heart of Memphis. It's the only walk-in record shop on 50 South Main Street in town. Formal opening is set for March 1, 2, and 3.

Bob is also personal manager of Elvis Presley, country and western singer who appears on TV's Saturday night ''Stage Show'' with the Dorsey Brothers. Bob, who has a 5 to 7:30 a.m. radio show, will spend much of his time in his record shop after his radio work each day. His shop will handle all top pop tunes, country and western, rhythm and blues, and a representative line of EP and LP albums.

FEBRUARY 26, 1956 SUNDAY

Carl Smith recorded ''Doorstep To Heaven'', ''You Are The One'' and ''Before I Met You'' in an afternoon session at Hollywood's Radio Recorders on 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard.

FEBRUARY 27, 1956 MONDAY

Capitol released Faron Young's double-sided single, ''Ive Got Five Dollars And It's Saturday Night'' and ''You're Still Mine''.

Future Sun recording artist Roy Hall's first two Decca discs sold reasonably if unspectacularly. A lot was riding on the third session, which came on this date and trod in the considerable footsteps of Carl Perkins' ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Hall cut both ''Shoes'' and a novelty follow-up song, ''You Ruined My Blue Suede Shoes''. His recording of ''Blue Suede Shoes'' was issued on Decca in March 1956, only a couple of weeks after Carl Perkins' version started to sell on Sun. It is possible that the intention was to back a version of ''Shoes'' beat and theme, Hall's song takes the story on a few verses. Hall's shoes are already ruined by the time the story starts, and it is he who has the blues, not the shoes. What is fascinating is that Hall's song contains some lines Carl Perkins himself used in his own (unissued) sequel, ''Put Your Cat Clothes On''. Perkins' opening verse ''They took my blue suede shoes down to ol' Mobil, etc'' comes from Hall's song. Did hall send it to Sun as a potential follow-up to ''Blue Suede Shoes'' and did Carl lift bits of it? Both Perkins and Hall liked a drink. Maybe they took one together at some point? We'll never know.

The Memphis Press-Scimitar ran an article on Carl Perkins' success, two weeks after the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. ''Blue Suede Shoes'' had already sold 250,000 copies, Elton Whisenhunt reported, with 75,000 more on order, which represented twice as many sales as Elvis Presley's biggest seller on Sun, ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky''. Perkins had recently signed a one-year contract for weekly appearances on the Big D Jamboree at $350 a week. There was more about Carl's and Sun's success (''Sun records are the hottest thing in the country and western business now'', said Sam, ''the first time anything like this has ever happened in Memphis''), but the unexpected upshot was that Carl got thrown out of the $32-a-month public housing apartment in Parkview Courts in Jackson, where he lived. He had received no royalty payments to date because the record was so new, but as he told the paper some months later, he never had any doubt that Mr. Phillips would advance him whatever he needed.

FEBRUARY 28, 1956 TUESDAY

Elvis Presley has a minor fender-bender, when another driver runs into his Eldorado convertible in a Memphis parking garage.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Some of the most sought after honky-tonk and rockabilly recordings of the 1950s were cut in garages around Memphis. Truck driver Slim Wallace started Fernwood Records in this garage before moving to Main Street. Slim Wallace put up most of the 450 dollars they needed to buy an old Magnecord tape deck from disc jockey Sleepy Eyed John, and Jack Clement built himself a studio in the garage.

Billy Riley is known as a multi-talented session musician and vocalist. He is a virtual chameleon in the studio, recording in a variety of voices and styles. In many ways (and against formidable competition), this first record is his best. "Trouble Bound", recorded at Fernwood, so impressed Sam Phillips that he imported it, turning Riley loose in the Sun studio to produce a worthy flipside. That he did.

STUDIO SESSION FOR BILLY RILEY
AT FERNWOOD RECORDS 1956

FERNWOOD STUDIO
158 FERNWOOD DRIVE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
FERNWOOD SESSION: EARLY 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER - JACK CLEMENT
RECORDING ENGINEER - ROLAND "SLIM" WALLACE

''TROUBLE BOUND''

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 Bare 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 us finest. The beat is incessant. The sound is bluest' 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'd 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 bluely, and undercut some of the tension in the song. Listen for them, for example, after lines like ''Drinkin'wine together... "or Laughin' and havingfun...''.

01(1) - "TROUBLE BOUND" - B.M.I. - 2:42
Composer: - Billy Riley-Roland Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - F 10 Master
Recorded: - Early 1956
Released: - May 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 245-A < mono
TROUBLE BOUND /ROCK WITH ME BABY
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-2-9 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

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.

01(2) - "TROUBLE BOUND" - B.M.I. - 2:46
Composer: - Billy Riley-Roland Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Early 1956
Released: - 2011
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17122-1-8 mono
BILLY RILEY - THE OUTTAKES

01(3) - "TROUBLE BOUND" - B.M.I. - 2:47
Composer: - Billy Riley-Roland Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take 2 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Early 1956
Released: - 2011
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17122-1-9 mono
BILLY RILEY – THE OUTTAKES

01(4) - "TROUBLE BOUND" - B.M.I. - 0:24
Composer: - Billy Riley-Roland Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - False Start 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Early 1956
Released: - 2011
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17122-1-10 mono
BILLY RILEY – THE OUTTAKES

01(5) - "TROUBLE BOUND" - B.M.I. - 2:45
Composer: - Billy Riley-Roland Wallace-Jack Clement
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take 3 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Early 1956
Released: - 2011
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17122-1-11 mono
BILLY RILEY – THE OUTTAKES

02 - "INTERVIEW BILLY RILEY" - B.M.I. - 0:50
It was quite an event when Billy Riley performed his inaugural British concerts in June 1979. We conferred about the route he'd taken to Sun Records just prior to his shows, and he quite clearly shared the same air of anticipation as the crowds who turned out en force to see him strut his stuff. Anointed with an abundance of musical talent, a striking profile and an ability to generate an optimum response, Billy kept this foundational piece of moodiness in his live set for several years.
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-8-3 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002

"Trouble Bound" is a brooding, acoustic guitar-led blues, with the trademark Johnny Bernero shuffle beat. In fact, it is Bernero's understated drumming, shifting in and out of the shuffle following the guitar break, that elevates this record to brilliance.

Jack Clement was engineering and, as told Martin Hawkins, "Riley was doing country but he was one of these rockabilly types - he had a beat, Fernwood had a tape recorder but no real studio then so we rented time at WMPS studio and cut the masters there. We were going to make it (the Riley record) the first record on Fernwood but I took it to Sam Phillips on the off chance and he called me one day, said he liked it and we worked out a lease deal".

03 - "THINK BEFORE YOU GO" - B.M.I.
Composer: - Jack Clement
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Tape Lost
Recorded: - Early 1956

Jack Clement taking the countryish "Think Before You Go" and the bluesy "Trouble Bound" to Sam Phillips the next day, with Phillips rejecting the country side and suggesting that they replace it with a rocker.

"Sam said, 'Cut something rockabilly", remembers Riley, "and I went and wrote that real quick". However, Roland Janes has insisted that "Trouble Bound" was cut at Sun as the replacement for "Think Before You Go" and Clement has stated that both sides were recorded at WMPS with just himself and Riley using overdubs.

The evidence afforded by the tape boxes would seem to suggest that Billy Riley is correct. "Trouble Bound" was recorded on cheap tape (Phillips used pro quality Scotch Audiotape) over the top of Jack Clement's original demo of "I'm Feeling Sorry", suggesting that it was cut at Fernwood. The sessions were assuredly not cut using overdubs as Clement suggested otherwise the tape hiss would be overpowered.

After working on the songs Jack Clement needed somewhere to have his tapes mastered for transfer to disc. On the advice of Bill Fitzgerald at Music Sales Distributors, Jack Clement went to Sun Records. Sam Phillips heard Clement's tape of Billy Riley singing "Trouble Bound" and offered both Jack Clement and Billy Riley a job.

Jack Clement's only remaining interest in Fernwood was to use Sun's facilities to make masters, and to add the echo to the number one hit "Tragedy" by Thomas Wayne. This had been recorded at Hi Records since the garage studio was still incomplete. "Sam Phillips always wondered how they got that echo", says Clement with a grin, "but I figured it didn't take but a few minutes so why should I tell him".

On the old question of whether Sam Phillips really controlled the development of the Sun sound, whether he was "the man" or just lucky. Jack Clement is in no doubt. "All of Sam's early success was entirely Sam's. Elvis, Carl, Cash. My work was with developing Cash's sound, and with Bill Justis and Charlie Rich. I was into making things musical.

Sam was not, but he understood one thing that I didn't at that time. He understood feel in music. I was interest in machines and the way recordings could be made better. Sam liked empty, hollow, tubby sounds, but he knew a thing or two I didn't. He let me do what I liked, but he retained ultimate control of what was issued".

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Billy Riley - Vocal and Acoustic Guitar
Roland Janes - Lead Guitar
Roland "Slim" Wallace - Bass
Johnny Bernero - Drums
Bob Deckelman - Steel Guitar

The master were either sold or leased to Sun Records in April 1956 and released in May. Although he is credited as sole composer, Riley's share was only 50% (Clement and Wallace split the remaining 50%). Riley and Clement had conceived of "Trouble Bound" as the A-side but with the Memphis area starting to rock like crazy, Sam Phillips had other ideas.

For Biographies of Billy Riley see: > The Sun Biographies <
Billy Riley's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

BILLY RILEY – THE OUTTAKES - Billy Riley will need no introduction to buyers of this Box Set. The numerous Sun's Greatest Hits or 1950s rockabilly packages may serve as a general introduction to Riley's work, but the collection in your hands right now constitutes deep Sun vault by any reckoning. This is stuff for collectors and fans who want more than just another fix of Riley's best known titles. The truth is, Billy Riley never had anything resembling a hit – ''greatest'' or otherwise. Chalk it up to one more injustice in the record business. At his considerable best, Billy Riley was making records for the Sun label that deserved the status of national hits.

''Top Ten'' or not, Riley's music had a strong impact on many people. Years later, Bob Dylan publicly proclaimed Riley as ''My hero in the music business''. Fortunately, Billy Riley lived long enough to bask in some of that glow. He deserved a lot more of the acclaim, the attention, and the money - not to mention everything else that rained down on rock's biggest stars from the Fabulous 1950s. But he never found anything like it.

He coped with it about as well as anyone might have under the circumstances - which is to say, fine on most days, with occasional flare-ups that went duly noted by journalists and historians. You can read all about those days on-line or in Rob Bowman and Ross Johnson's book that accompanies Bear Family's two-CD set of Riley's recordings of the era (BCD 15444).

We're not going to retell those stories here, or retread the ground that Bowman and Johnson covered so well. Instead, we're going to dig more deeply into the music. For every ''Red Hot'' or ''Flying Saucer Rock And Roll'' released to the public, there were five or ten unissued versions that give some perspective into the energy and ideas that went into creating them. False starts, aborted takes, and inferior completed takes. Most of them are really here in one place. Put them together with BCD 15444 and you've got about as deep a look at vintage Billy Riley as we are likely ever to see.

Completing a flawless Billy Riley discography is a nearly hopeless task. It isn't that Riley was more elusive than his fellow Sun artists. It's that Sun didn't keep accurate records. Union logs were reluctantly and inconsistently filed. Although today's historians take Sun Records very seriously, Sun was never run with an eye towards history.

The music we know and admire was often created under spontaneous and informal conditions that are the kind of events that give nightmares to historians. Piecing together fragments long after the fact can be a thankless task performed against insurmountable odds. For example, a single Sun tape reel may contain takes from different sessions held days, weeks or months apart.

We owe an enormous debt of thanks to discographers who have previously attempted this job, but not surprisingly their results are incomplete and occasionally inaccurate. In fact, this collection contains more alternate takes than the 1987 Escott/Hawkins discography even lists; a credit to the persistence of Sun archaeologists.

Even setting aside the organs session information, there's the additional problem that Billy Riley's music appears on approximately 200 LPs and CDs as of this writing. These collections were issued in Europe, Asia and North America often in limited press runs.

Riley left numerous alternate takes in the Sun vaults. To say that this one first appeared on Charly CDX 9 or AVI 5007 or P-Vine 318 or Bopcat 100 is speculative at best. What the Escott & Hawkins discography refers to alt-1 may have a different designation elsewhere. As we learned the hard way, making clear distinctions between alternate take of, say ''Red Hot'' or ''Got The Water Boiling'' can be grueling work involving painstaking comparisons. It is unlikely such comparisons were often made and, without them, we can only guess at which alternates appeared where.

We have created a careful and thorough discussion of Billy Riley alternate takes. We have coordinated it with Bear Family's 2-CD box set of Riley's Classic Recordings (BCD 15444 BH). Taken together, the two sets provide almost all of what Billy Riley recorded at Sun, organized in a way that makes comparison and cross-referencing about as easy as it's likely to get.

Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins, Scott Parker, Hank Davis, Richard Weize, 2010

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

This tracks 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 suggest that the recording might have been mate 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.

It deserved no less after spending nearly a half century in a dusty tape box. There also decided to try one more time to find out who the singer was and what she had done with her life before disappearing. This time we succeeded, and what we found was a much bigger story than any of us anticipated.

STUDIO SESSION FOR MARY JOHNSON
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS EARLY 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: UNKNOWN DATE EARLY 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - JACK CLEMENT

Mary Johnson (aka Jeanie Greene) was born in Mississippi in 1943. Mary filled the house with music to the delight of her family. Some time in 1956, the Johnsons decided it wasn't enough to listen to her performing live in the living room.

They wanted to have a record of her music. And so off to the Memphis Recording Service they went, making the 45-minute drive to that small studio on Union Avenue where - despite the growing success of the Sun label - you could still walk in off the street and make a record for your own use. $3 for one side. $5 for a two-sided 10-inch disc.

Mary had just celebrated her 13th birthday. She sat herself down at the piano and went through a small portion of her repertoire. She began with her favorite song, the theme from "River Of No Return", a 1954 movie starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe, that had thrilled her romantic soul. She then launched into Duke Ellington's 1931 tune "Mood Indigo". Then turning her attention to country music, she completed a brief version of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart". Finally, she turned to a gospel tune called "My Heart Is A Chapel". And then she was done. Four tunes in barely ten minutes. Four unself-conscious performances in styles ranging from pop to country to jazz to gospel. Her piano work was rudimentary, but her vocals revealed a confidence and ability way beyond her years. The Johnsons paid their money, packed up their discs and drove back to Corinth.

The story might have ended there except Jack Clement, who had recently gone to work for Sam Phillips, decided that this bright-eyed youngster from across the state line had something. Rather than recycling the tape, as was customary, Clement stored it away in a carefully marked box.

Perhaps Sam Phillips listened to it at some points; perhaps he never did. In any case, the dust on the tape box probably hadn't been dissturbed for 44 years when we carried it up to the studio and sampled the tracks.

01 - "RIVER OF NO RETURN" - B.M.I. - 3:35
Composer: - Lionel Newman-Ken Darby
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date Early 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-5-7 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

02 - "MOOD INDIGO" - B.M.I. - 2:02
Composer: - Bigard Barney-Duke Ellington-Mills Irving
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date Early 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-6-3 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

03 - "YOUR CHEATIN' HEART" - B.M.I. - 1:26
Composer: - Hank Williams
Publisher: - Acuff-Rose Publishing Corporation
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date Early 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-6-18 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS
Reissued: 2019 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17504-19 mono
SUN SHINES TO HANK WILLIAMS

04 - "MY HEART IS A CHAPEL" - B.M.I. - 1:55
Composer: - Mary Johnson
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date Probably 1953
Released: - 2000
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16387 AH-29 mono
SUN GOSPEL
Reissued: - August 2002 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-5-14 FK mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

This track may be too easily discounted. Repeated listening reveals a surprisingly effective vocal with plenty of fratted thirds (blue notes) and effective phrasing. The song is probably an original by the singer/pianist and, with her, has disappeared into 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.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Mary Johnson - Vocal and Piano

See Video Clips: Mary Johnson

For Biographies of Mary Johnson see: > The Sun Biographies <
Mary Johnson's Sun recordings can be heard on her playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Mary Johnson's work appears anonymously on a host of Elvis Presley records recorded during the 1960s. "The first session we ever did with Elvis was "In The Ghetto", recalls Mary Johnson. "That was at American Sound. We also did "Suspicious Minds". We never did appear with him on his stage shows.

They used The Sweet Inspirations instead because they were quite a draw in person. I originally got the job singing backup for Elvis because of my recording for RCA. Felton Jarvis, who was Elvis's producer, handled my last session at RCA''. '' Some time later we had done some work at American Sound and I found out that Elvis was coming in. I remember we spent the night at the Holiday Inn on the river after our session and the next morning as we were checking out I called Felton. That's the boldest thing I think I ever did in my life. I said to him, 'We just found out from Chips that you're bringing Elvis in for a session and we really want to be on it'. He said, 'Well, I'll talk to Elvis about it' and sure enough we got to do it. We almost fainted".

Mary's group, The Southern Comfort, also recorded widely (and performed live with) Neil Diamond. They were seen with Diamond when he appeared on the Johnny Cash TV show. As her original Sun recordings suggested, Johnson was not restricted by musical categories. Her vocal group also appeared on recordings with country artist Bobby Bare, and soul singer Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman), Joe Tex and Joe Simon.

In 1972 Mary Johnson appeared with Marlin Greene on George Harrison's landmark Concert For Bangladesh album. Mary's group also appeared on 1960s albums by Boz Scaggs and Cher; 1970s albums by Don Nix, Albert King, Lonnie Mack, Gerry Goffin, Dan Penn, Willie Nelson, Leo Sayer and Peter Yarrow.

In 1971 Mary again recorded solo, producing an LP on Elektra called "Mary Called Jeanie Greene" (EKS 74103). A live recording of an tour called "The Alabama State Troupers" was issued on Elektra 75002 in 1972, featuring Jeanie, Don Nix, and blues singer Furry Lewis.

In 1984, Mary recorded as backup singer for Carl Perkins, but she never did get paid for it. After that, things began to wind down. In 1993 her husband Max died, Today Mary-Elizabeth- Jeanie Johnson-Greene-Lee lives in Corinth, Mississippi, not far from where she grew up. She lives a quiet life enjoying none of the material benefits or notoriety one might expect from such as a productive career in the music business. She is not looking for international fame and fortune, but neither was she expecting to be forgotten. Her voice, has graced numerous gold and platina records. She has been heard by millions who never knew who she was.

Jeanie Green has recently been tranferred to Shepherd's Cove (Hospice of Marshall County) in Albertville, Alabama. Among her assorted afflictions, congestive heart failure has taken the biggest toll on her body. The doctors have not been optimistic that her condition will omprove - as heart will continue to become progressively weaker. Jeanie Greene passed away on August 19, 2018.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Session Published for Historical Reasons

STUDIO SESSION FOR RUDY GRAYZELL
FOR STARDAY RECORDS 1956

GOLD STAR RECORDING STUDIO
5628 BROCK STREET, HOUSTON, TEXAS
CAPITOL SESSION: UNKNOWN DATE EARLY 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER – H.W. PAPPY DAILY
RECORDING ENGINEER – BILL QUINN

01 – ''THE MOON IS UP (THE STARS ARE OUT)'' – B.M.I. - 3:01
Composer: - Norma Grimm
Publisher: - Starrite Music
Matrix number: - 2399
Recorded: - Unknown Date Early 1956
Released: - March 1956
First appearance: - Starday Records (S) 45rpm standard single Starday 229 A mono
THE MOON IS UP (THE STARS ARE OUT) / DAY BY DAY
Reissued: - 2010 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16837-23 mono
RUDY GRAZELL - LET'S GET WILD

02 – ''DAY BY DAY'' – B.M.I. - 2:18
Composer: - Norma Grimm
Publisher: - Starrite Music
Matrix number: - 2340
Recorded: - Unknown Date Early 1956
Released: - March 1956
First appearance: - Starday Records (S) 45rpm standard single Starday 229 B mono
DAY BY DAY / THE MOON IS UP (THE STARS ARE OUT)
Reissued: - 2010 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16837-29 mono
RUDY GRAZELL - LET'S GET WILD

Name (or. No. Of Instruments)
Rudy Grayzell – Vocal
Herb Remington – Steel Guitar
Harold Harris – Guitar
Unidentified – Bass
Ernie Hunter – Fiddle
Earl Caruthers – Fiddle
Charles Lewis – Piano

For Biographies of Rudy Grayzell see: > The Sun Biographies <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

> Page Up <

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

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