Billy Riley & His Little Green Men
"RED HOT" - B.M.I. - 2:31
Composer: - William Robert Emerson
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 265 - Featured Overdub
Recorded: - January 30, 1957
Memphis Recording Service
706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Released: - September 14, 1957
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single SUN 277-A mono
RED HOT / PEARLY LEE
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records
(CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802 DI-4-23 mono digital
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2
Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Billy Riley - Vocal and Guitar
Roland Janes - Guitar
Marvin Pepper - Bass
James M. Van Eaton - Drums
Jimmy Wilson - Piano
John "Ace" Cannon – Saxophone
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''. (HD) (MH) (SP)