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1956 SESSIONS (11)
November 1, 1956 to November 30, 1956

Studio Session for Johnny Bernero, November 4, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Jerry Lee Lewis, November 14, 1956 / Sun Records
A Little Story About That Session
All About The Jerry Lee Lewis Sun Tapes

Country Music In Spotlight - Disc Jockeys Wonder Why 

Studio Session for Harold Jenkins (Conway Twitty), November 16, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Rufus Thomas, 1956 / Meteor Records

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Playlists of the Artists can be found on 706 Union Avenue Sessions of > YouTube <



Singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett is born in Klein, Texas. Following his 1986 debut album, his eclectic music reaches a national audience, making him one of the ambassadors for the Texas red-dirt scene.

Elvis Presley purchases a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Memphis and goes for a ride with film star Natalie Wood, escorted by local police.

Blues singer Tommy Johnson dies in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. His ''Cool Drink Of Water Blues'' is named in the Country Music Foundation's ''Heartaches By The Number'' among country's 500 greatest singles.


The Tulane Hotel is demolished at 8th and Church Street in Nashville. Home of the Castle Recording Studio, the building was a recording site for Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Carl Smith, The Louvin Brothers, and others.

Jerry Lee Lewis gives his final performance at the raunchy Blue Cat Club in Ferriday, Louisiana. The next day, he heads to Memphis in search of a deal with Sun Records.


Johnny Bernero played drums on Sun Records by Elvis Presley, Warren Smith, Barbara Pittman, Billy Riley, Smokey Joe, and many more. His kit was set up in the studio, and Sam Phillips would place a call across the street to Bernero's place of employment, Memphis Light Gas & Water. Seeing fifteen bucks for records that sold hundred of thousands of copies. Bernero's unweird sound was deeply rooted in western swing and his tapes were shelved immediately after the sessions. Perhaps his music fit no known definition of rock and roll, but its contagious energy and innate musically counts for something. Bernero always spoke highly of Hugh Jeffrey's steel guitar playing, and now we understand why. He was barely outclassed by Joaquin Murphey, Leon McAulife and the other giants of western swing steel guitar.

Stylistically, the Kirby Sisters' exquisite harmonies belonged with Johnny Bernero, and neither of them belonged on Sun. It's Bernero we hear again on Barbara Pittman's first Sun single.



When Elvis chose to use drums during the latter stages of his time at Sun Records, Johnny Bernero was one of the players who fulfilled the task. Apart from his musical capabilities Bernero was easy to hire because he worked right across the street from the studio at The Memphis Light, Gas and Water Corporation. On a couple of occasions he was given the chance to flex his wrists as a possible artist and the high-tailed "Cotton Pickin' Boogie" represents an area of excitement that Sun rarely covered.

Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued (3:15)
Recorded: - November 4, 1956
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - 2002 Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-4/4 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2/1 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

According to vocalist/pianist Thurman Enlow, this next and six other tracks recorded by The Johnny Bernero Band were never leased by Sam Phillips simply because they were "too good". By "good", Phillips was no doubt referring to the distance between Bernero's style and the more promitive rock and roll sounds that were sweeping the marketplace. And who knew this better than Sam Phillips?

In an interview with Colin Escott, Bernero reflected that he'd sat in Taylor's Café next door to Sun. "I looked at the jukebox and there were maybe five or six Sun records on there and I'd played on all of them. All the guys were driving Cadillac's, making big money and I was getting $15 a session. That's when I got the idea of bringing my own band in".

Even if Bernero's perception of his Sun brothers' fortunes was a bit exaggerated, this was plainly not the music Sam Phillips was looking for in 1956. These guys were too good.

Their style was firmly rooted in western swing and big band music. Nevertheless on this track the band comes as close as it could to the sound Phillips was after. Enlow's vocal may be a bit laid back, but there is a real edge to the playing here, with a fine sax break by Dick Horton and a wonderful guitar solo by Buddy Holobaugh when he comes in for the final eight bars.

Composer: - Bishop-Herman
Publisher: - B.M.I. -  Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued (3:19)
Recorded: - Probably November 4, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CPCD 8302-10 mono
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2/2 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

Composer: - Johnny Bernero
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued (3:47)
Recorded: - Probably November 4, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CPCD 8302-11 mono
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2/4 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

The 1947 Spade Cooley classic is dressed up fit to kill on this stunning version by the Bernero Band. Probably dating from 1956, it was delightfully at variance with the rockabilly trend that was sweeping Memphis and, of course, stood little or no chance of getting released. At the very least, it shows that the high regard in which Hugh Jeffries was held by local musicians was well justified. His steel playing is outstanding and the ensemble work is very tight and swings beautifully. Johnny Bernero was a powerhouse on drums, always to be found accenting and pushing at the right moments. This was the music that he loved to play, even though many of the rockabilly classics from 1955 and 1956 bear his imprint. Ted Enlow recalled that Jack Clement asked him to sing half a tone higher than he wanted on this cut, but he doesn't sound uneasy. This is compelling music and there is little doubt that the group would have seen some releases on Sun if they had arrived a couple of years earlier. Phillips loved this style of music to, but he also had a fine grasp of what was selling.

Composer: - Spade Cooley-Jay Milton
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued (3:32)
Recorded: - Probably November 4, 1956
Released: - November 1987
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-4/10 mono
Reissued: - February 15, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17311-3/1 mono
SUN COUNTRY BOX 1950 - 1959

Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - False Start - Not Originally Issued (3:08)
Recorded: - Probably November 4, 1956
Released: - November 1986
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-2/11 mono
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-2/5 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

Composer: - Al Lewis-Larry Stock-Vincent Rose
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Victoria Music Publishing Corporation Limited
Matrix number: - None - Sun Unissued
Recorded: - Probably November 4, 1956

''Blueberry Hill'' was originally recorded by Gene Autry in 1940 for the film ''The Singing Hill'' but was soon picked up by other artists and producers who realised the simple little song had the makings of a classic. Countless artists have put their own stamp on the song but it is the version of Fats Domino, released in 1956, which had best stood the test of time. Domino's influential oeuvre has compassed pianobased rhythm and blues, rock and roll, zydeco, Cajun and boogie woogie. It was almost certainly his version - lilting rock and roll which the quartet was best acquainted with. According to several reports, Elvis started the session with this song. Needless to say the piano parts would have been put in Jerry Lee's hands. ''Blueberry Hill'' has been recorded by numerous acts over the years, from the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1940 to Led Zeppelin, who performed it live at the Los Angeles Forum in 1970 at a concert from which a bootleg album called ''Live At Blueberry Hill'' subsequently appeared.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Johnny Bernero - Drums
Thurman Enlow - Vocal and Piano
Hugh Jeffries - Steel Guitar
Herman "Hawk" Hawkins - Bass
Johnny "Ace" Cannon - Tenor Saxophone
Hank Bowers - Trumpet

For Biographies of Johnny Bernero Band see: > The Sun Biographies <
Johnny Bernero Band's Sun recordings can be heard on their playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <



Future Sun artist Ray Smith started with his group the Rock And Rollers on radio at WMOK in Metropolis, Illinois, and became one of the hottest bands in the Ohio Valley and the mid-West. ''We did mostly one-nighters, concerts and night clubs in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, California, as many states as there are in the USA... we worked them all. I also had my own TV show for two and one half years on WPSD, channel six, in Paducah'', recalled Ray.

Charlie Terrell owned a lime and fertilizer company in Sikeston, Missouri, but he'd detoured into artist management with Onie Wheeler. ''Charlie saw my TV show'', said Ray, ''and gave me a call at the station after my show was over, asking me if I had a manager. He also asked me if I was a recording artist. I replied 'No' to both questions and he asked me if I would like to have one. I replied, 'I don't know I'm working seven nights a week and doing a TV show as it is'. He said, 'When can I meet you for discussion regarding management and a recording contract'? He came to my home three times, and on the third time I drove into my driveway and there was a car sitting in front of my home. The man got out of the car with an attache case in his hand, walked up to me and said, 'Are you Ray Smith'? I said, 'Yes'. We proceeded to talk business. After a conversation and everything was settled, the final words were, 'If I can get you a contract from Sun Records signed by Sam Phillips. Charlie Terrell was my manager for fifteen years''. Not so fast says Gerald Nelson, who later wrote ''Tragedy'' and a slew of Nashville hits. ''Ray was from Paducah where Fred Burch and I are from'', Nelson told Jim Newcombe, ''and he fooled around there for many years and was quite a big local name. We grew up with him. The internet says his manager took him to Sun but I'm the guy who got him on Sun, me, myself, and I... When Fred and I first went to Memphis we lived with Jack Clement for a long time. Jack was an engineer at Sun, so we knew them all... The Sun studio was wall to wall cigarette butts and Thunderbird wine. It was a fun place''. Nelson's account isn't entirely inconsistent with Terrell's, but Terrell certainly didn't mention that Nelson and Burch were involved.


As Sam Phillips told Malcolm Yelvington's guitarist in 1953, he was willing to listen to anybody who walked in off the street, for a fly years, at least. He discovered Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis that way. All that was required was to be in the right place, which Phillips evidently was.

Some of those who came to the little storefront studio were invited back to cut a session. They were usually backed by the nucleus of the Riley band, unless the had their own musicians. Some, such as Ed Bruce and Dickey Lee, saw a release or two before going on to carve out a career elsewhere. Others, Conway Twitty, tried hard to secure a Sun contract, but fell short. Very few had ever recorded before; some would never record again.

''Sam was totally involved in what he was doings'', recalls Edwin Howard, who worked across the street at the Memphis Press Scimitar. ''He was very enthusiastic. He played that control board like a musical instrument and talked a lot back and forth between the control room and the studio. He'd do a take, talk about it, do another, talk about it. Over and over and over''. All the while the tape was rolling. ''I remember Sam telling me'', says Roland Janes, ''that nothing was cheaper team tape''.

By 1957 Phillips had begun to delegate the task of checking out tapes and aspirants to Bill Justis and Jack Clement. In the two years that followed, Sun's recorded output would increasingly bear their stamp. Unlike Sam Phillips, they were practicing musicians, and their tastes were more sophisticated than his. Yet they sometimes recognized a raw talent for what it was worth, as Jack Clement proved one afternoon toward the end of 1956, when he was asked to audition a young man who had just arrived from Ferriday, Louisiana.


Don Gibson signs with RCA Records.

Elvis Presley attends the opening of the Beginner Driver Range in Memphis, the first driving school in the nation sponsored by the police department.

Jerry Lee Lewis scores an impromptu adition at Memphis' Sun Records, with engineer Jack Clement. In less than 10 days, he makes his first record.

NBC debuts ''The Nat King Cole Show'' making the former country hitmaker the first African-American host of a national TV show.

Decca released Kitty Well's double-sided hit ''Repenting'' and ''I'm Counting On You''.


Webb Pierce recorded ''I'm Tired'', ''It's My Way'' and ''Cryin' Over You'' at Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville.

Stonewall Jackson moves to Nashville from North Carolina. Just three days later, he makes his Grand Ole Opry debut.


Ferlin Husky recorded ''Gone'' in Nashville at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio.

Stonewall Jackson makes a rough demo tape of three songs, including ''Don't Be Angry'', at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, seeking an evaluation. Even better, it results in a guest slot on the Grand Ole Opry.


Patsy Cline recorded ''Walkin' After Midnight'' and ''A Poor man's Roses (Or A Rich Man's Gold)'' at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville.

Merle and Bettie Lou Travis remarry in Los Angeles after a judge had declared their Tijuana wedding invalid. The ceremony is witnessed by Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle.


Stonewall Jackson debuts on the Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, singing ''Don't Ne Angry'', backed by Ernest Tubb's band.

Drummer Bruce Rutherford is born in Birmingham, Alabama. He joins Alan Jackson's Strayhorns in 1990, appearing on such hits as ''Chattahoochee'', ''Mercury Blues'' and ''Tonight I Climbed The Wall'.


Stonewall Jackson and The Wilburn Brothers join the Grand Ole Opry, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.


Billy Smith is born in Reidsville, North Carolina. He becomes a singer and bass player with The Osborne Brothers.


Johnny Horton recorded ''I'm Coming Home'' during a night-time recording session at Nashville's Bradley Film and Recording Studio.

Columbia released George Morgan's ''There Goes My Love''.

(Above) Alis Lesley (born Alice Lesley, April 20, 1938) is an American former rockabilly singer, once billed as "the female Elvis Presley''.

Lesley was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Her family later moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she attended Phoenix Junior College. She majored in television and radio, and began singing rockabilly while a student. She was discovered by Kathryn Godfrey, a popular Phoenix television personality and the sister of Arthur Godfrey. With Ms. Godfrey's help, Lesley became a local favorite following her appearances on television station KTVK and in local night clubs.

Lesley achieved brief national celebrity with the 1957 release of her Era single, "He Will Come Back To Me" b/w "Heartbreak Harry" (Era Records 45-1034). Lesley's stage persona as "The Female Elvis Presley" included a guitar slung around her neck, greased-back hair, and combed-down sideburns. She toured Australia in October 1957 with Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and local rocker Johnny O'Keefe. The tour was cut short when Richard underwent a "religious experience" and he retired from rock and roll for several years.


In his first session, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded ''The End Of The Road'' and Crazy Arms'' at Sun Recording Studio in Memphis (See: below).

Bassist Alec John Such is born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He becomes a member of the rock band Bon Jovi, evetually leaving in 1994. The group is mentioned in the lyrics of Joe Nichols' 2005 country hit ''Tequila makes Her Clothes Fall Off''.


When musicians sit around and trade heir stories of wildness, onstage and off, the conversation almost inevitably turns to Jerry Lee Lewis. In a profession founded on excess, Lewis has made his name as one of the most excessive. Tortured by an unfathomable religion and driven by an ego as big as all outdoors, he has built a legend around himself that eclipses mortal bounds. He is the self-created Killer, defying God to come and reclaim him with his feats of debauchery, defying the law and the Internal Revenue Service to take him alive, and defying every singer who fancies himself a showman to follow Jerry Lee Lewis on stage.

The legend of Jerry Lee Lewis had its humble beginnings when the young singer, barely in his twenties, stood at the door of Sun Records in November 1956, waiting for a chance to sit at the tired studio spinet and ply his wares, a chance conspicuously denied him at other studios. Sam C. Phillips would later look into the singer's eyes and see a craziness that matched his own. More than that, Phillips saw an artist who could do all the things that he would have done if he could have sung and played. It's difficult not to believe that Sam Phillips and Jerry Lee Lewis were destined to come together, and together they defined all that is best in rock and roll.

Lewis s musical reputation rests on the strength of his Sun recordings. The Top 20 hits were only four in number; few legends in popular music have been grounded in such low gross sales. Lewis is prone to brag about the sales of ''Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On'', but the fact remains that not merely one but two versions of ''The Banana Boat Song'', together with some thirty or forty other records, out-sold ''Whole ditto Shakin''' in 1957. And by the middle of the following year Jerry Lee Lewis's career in the Top 20 was over. All of which goes to show that even in popular music chart placings aren't everything. God-Given Talent, as Jerry Lee Lewis will be the first to tell you, counts for something.

It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that the full picture of what Lewis recorded at Sun became clear. The rejected masters and outtakes, unearthed from Shelby Singletons basement, revealed a wonderfully consistent body of work, every take minted afresh. Even the session chatter and jive between songs was entertaining. In terms of capturing the sheer joy of performing, nothing can match Jerry Lee Lewis's recordings at Sun.


At some point in (end of October) 1956, after a demoralising sojourn in Nashville, Jerry Lee Lewis read an article about Elvis Presley in Country Song Roundup. He decided that his music might fall upon more receptive ears in Memphis. He and his father, Elmo Lewis, sold 13 dozen eggs and drove north to Memphis. Sam Phillips had gone out to work on a new radio station in Marked Tree, Arkansas. Jack Clement was in the control room and said: "I was working with Roy Orbison, and Sally Wilbourn brought Jerry Lee back to me''.

''She said, 'I've got a fella here who says he play piano like Chet Atkins' and I believe he was playing piano with his right hand and drums with his left. I finally made a tape with him because he was different. We recorded "Seasons Of My Heard", but I told him to forget about country because it wasn't happening at that time. I took his name and told him I'd let Sam hear the tape when he got back. After Jerry left, I started listening to the tape and I found that I liked it. It really grews on me".

A LITTLE STORY ABOUT THAT SESSION - ''Sam was burned out on this engineering stuff'', Jack Clement remarks. ''He had been doing it for years, so he hired me as his assistant and pretty soon he was letting me work with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and all the rest of them''.

Nevertheless, when Clement played Phillips the tape of Jerry Lee Lewis performing country standards, following the studio owner’s return from his Florida vacation, it piqued his interest.

''I really was looking for an artist who could be a lead piano player and hopefully a vocalist, too, and damn if Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t like that'', Sam Phillips recalled. ''I really do think that the guitar is the greatest instrument on the planet, but there were so many guitarists by that time that I wanted a piano. So, when I heard this demo of Jerry Lee Lewis, I said, 'Where is that cat? Get a hold of him and get him in here! I want to talk to him'''.

Jack Clement picks up the story: ''Jerry Lee’s phone number was on the back of the box of tape, but one day he just walked in with his daddy and I said, 'Well, I’ve been meaning to call you'. This was on a Monday, and I told him that if he could come back on Thursday we'd cut some tracks. When Thursday arrived, Sam Phillips had gone to the annual Disc Jockey Convention in Nashville, so I took charge of the session. Jerry Lee played me this song he had written called ''End Of The Road'', and I liked it. Then he had a rocking version of the old Gene Autry country song ''You’re The Only Star In My Blue Heaven'', and he sat down at the piano and played the heck out of that in a whole different way. I said, 'That’s great'. So, we cut ''End Of The Road'', and just as we were about to quit I asked him, 'Do you know ''Crazy Arms''?. That song had been out for quite a while''.

Recorded by Ray Price and released in May 1956, ''Crazy Arms'' had topped the Billboard country music chart the following month and remained there for 20 weeks. ''Jerry Lee said, 'I know a little of it''', Clement continues, ''so I said, 'Well, let's do it'. I'd been messing with that little old spinet piano, putting thumb tacks on the hammers that made it sound a whole lot different, especially the way Jerry Lee Lewis played it. I wasn't the first one to do that, but I found out that if I pulled off the piano’s panel down below and stuck a mic under there instead of miking it from the top, it sounded really good. That’s the sound you hear on all of his big hits. It was a big day when he finally got a small concert piano, but most of the stuff was done on the little old spinet. He could play the heck out of that thing''.

Clement can't recall the microphone that he used to record the piano, but he says ''we had some Shure and ElectroVoice mics; nothing fancy. One day, we got three new RCA 77s, and for us that was a big deal''.

For the ''Crazy Arms'' session, guitarist Roland Janes was recruited, along with drummer Jimmy M. Van Eaton. At one point, while Janes was in the bathroom, Billy Lee Riley walked in and picked up Janes' guitar, so Janes then played an upright bass. However, since Riley only played a chord at the very end of the song and Janes wasn’t near a microphone, the only instruments that can really be heard on the finished record are the piano and drums. Jay W. Brown was Jerry Lee's bass player on the road, but Lewis solid left hand on the keyboard made the bass superfluous in the studio.

''Sam came back over the weekend and on the Monday I played him ‘''Crazy Arms'', said Jack Clement. ''Well, before we even got to the singing, he told me to stop the machine and he said, 'Now, I can sell that!' as if to say, 'You young whippersnapper, you’ve finally done something I like!'''.

''I was just blown away'', Sam Phillips recalled in 1998. ''The guy was different... The expression, the way he played that piano and how you could just feel that evangelical thing about him, man, was I looking for that, and there it was''!

''Sam made a disc in the control room and took it down to local radio disc jockey Dewey Phillips that night'', Clement adds. ''Dewey played it and people responded to it, they loved it. By the following Thursday, it was in the stores, and it did very well for a record by a new artist''.

''Crazy Arms'' was released on December 1, 1956. It wasn’t a hit, but it sold respectably and for several weeks after its release Jerry Lee Lewis took work wherever he could find it, both on the road and in the studio. This often consisted of backing Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, while developing the onstage persona for which he would become famous/infamous, unable to dance around with a guitar, he would kick away his piano bench, slam the keys with his feet and, when said piano was big enough to support him, burn off more unbridled energy by standing on its lid and gyrating to the music.


Jerry Lee Lewis At Sun Records: The Collected Works, gathers together every authentic, original recording that Bear Family Records has been able to find Jerry Lee at work, on his own account, in the Sun studios. It's as simple as that; a straightforward, sonic encyclopedia of every traceable note he sang and played at Sun, just as they were electronically etched onto magnetic tape between November 14, 1956 and August 28, 1963. Many of the recordings are interspersed with vignettes of studio chatter, preserved for posterity as the spools kept rolling between rehearsals and takes; from the mildest self-rebuke at a false start, to the legendary, emotional confrontation with Sam Phillips during which Lewis contemplates the dangers to his immortal soul having embarked upon the recording of ''Great Balls Of Fire''.

Thus CDs 1 to 15 (BCD 17254) comprise, in a chronological sequence, all extant recordings Jerry Lee made at Sun, including a small number of damaged and clipped tapes, exactly as cut in the studio. Any recording that proved to be available at source in stereo only have been down-mixed to mono to achieve the desired continuity in sound, thereby enabling the systematic delivery of everything concerned as a coherent body of work. It will be noted that this continuum includes eleven recordings which, in the accompanying discography, are designated ''undubbed masters'', a term that some readers may, with some justification, consider paradoxical. The expression merely reflects the fact that the basic tracks concerned are the original studio tapes of recordings that were subsequently reinforced with a vocal chorus and/or instrumentation prior to their initial release.

Complementing the main presentation, all the stereo mixes dating from 1960 to 1963 that have come to light in the Sun archives then follow, commencing on the latter part of CD 15 and continuing on CDs 16 and 17. Save only for minor repairs being applied to one or two damaged items, the tapes concerned have been reproduced faithfully; no stereo remixing has been undertaken by Bear Family. CD 18 then draws together the masters, as originally issued, of those recordings that were overdubbed, or otherwise re-engineered, for release during Lewis's tenure at Sun. These encompass not only the tracks from 1957 to 1960 that feature dubbed vocal choruses but also the spliced master of both ''High School Confidential'' and ''I've Been Twistin''', as released on the singles Sun 296 and Sun 374 respectively. All these records as first issued are, of course, rather better known than the unadorned performances featured in the main concatenation; although the accent in this set is on authenticity, the exclusion of these embellishments on a point of principle simply couldn't be justified. And those who do wish to be reminded of a rather less well judged application of the technique of splicing, when Sam Phillips and his fellow producer Jack Clement conspired in cobbling together snippets from Lewis's hit records to synthesise the novelty item ''The Return of Jerry Lee'' will find this at the very end of the set.

The eighteen CD also covers a selection of less familiar augmented recordings, where a vocal overdub or instrumentation was added to the original work on an experimental basis. Foremost amongst these is a tape of ''Settin' The Woods On Fire'' embellished shortly after Lewis had finished his work in the studio. This, and the other overdubs featured, pass muster on the grounds that these alterations were generated contemporaneously by the original studio personnel. In the case of ''Settin' The Woods On Fire'' the recording dubbed with guitar, bass and drums, was first released in 1971 amongst the series of albums issued by Sun International Corporation following Shelby Singleton's purchase of the Sun catalogue. A not insignificant number of such tapes were concocted, many burdened with unappealing supplements that add little of interest to the raw productions. IN one or two instances, the items in question have been published on latterday CD Sun compilations but, given that the underlying original recordings are made available within this set, the enhanced tapes have not necessarily been included here. Rather, it has been decided to select a representative sample of such overdubs simply to unveil the process.

It should be also noted that a number of other tapes corrupted with added instrumentation, when leased in the mid-1960s to the budget label Pickwick, have been left to gather dust on the obscure vinyl on which they emerged fifty years ago. Adhering to the same principle, any tarnished material that Shelby Singleton contrived to transform from the original without, it might be said, a great deal of subtlety, will not be found in this box set. The only duets accommodated here are entirely genuine. And for the avoidance of any doubt, this set does not, of course, incorporate anything of the so-called ''re-processed stereo'' effect exhibited on Sun International LPs released between 1969 and 1972.

There is a further qualification. We are not concerned here with Jerry Lee's several engagements at Sun as a session musician during late 1956 and early 1957, when he played piano on the recordings of Billy Riley, Carl Perkins and others. The observation both of this principle and, it has to be said, issues of copyright, explain why the celebrated ''Million Dollar Quartet'' tapes, dating December 4, 1956, likewise do not feature in the box set.

Since the discovery in the late 1980s of tapes from a 1960 session that revealed ''The Great Speckled Bird, ''Don't Drop It'' and ''Keep Your Hands Off Of It (Birthday Cake)'', no ''new'' distinct titles as such by Jerry Lee Lewis have been found in the Sun storeroom. Since that time, in terms of unreleased material, fans have had to be satisfied by the occasional unheralded first outing of an alternate take, such as those of ''It'll Be Me'' and ''How's My Ex Treating You'' which slipped out on obscure US CD issues in 1996 and 1999 respectively, or an extra few seconds of a recording prematurely faded out on earlier releases, cases in point being ''Ramblin' Rose'', ''Hong Kong Blues'' and ''Money''. The full-length tapes of the latter have, of course, been used in compiling this collection.

Rumours of undiscovered titles nonetheless persist. The first to be mentioned in this connection is invariably Lewis's interpretation of ''We Three'', a 1940 hit for The Ink Spots. When introducing the song at a live show in Memphis in June 1961, Lewis stated ''...we intend to have it coming out on record pretty soon'', but was it recorded at Sun? The indications are positive. The surviving performance, familiar to fans thanks to an audience tape made public on a bootleg LP in 1972, bears witness that ''We Three'' had been worked on diligently; Jerry Lee's arrangement and a memorable piano solo suggest that it was well practised. Were it to have been recorded professionally, it would certainly have been worthy of a release. Noticeably, it possesses the hallmarks of Lewis's reading of another 1940s pop song, ''My Blue Heaven'', recorded in the Sun studio at 369 Madison Avenue on June 14, 1961. Moreover, on the ''live'' tape, ''We Three'' immediately precedes a jaunty recital of ''Hello Josephine'' which mirrors the arrangement of the song as cut at the same June 14 session. So it's not inconceivable that ''We Three'' was recorded in the studio and that the tape was lost or, heaven forefend, re-cycled. Perhaps it lies forgotten in a box abandoned in someone's attic outhouse, having been purloined from the official repository decades ago.

However, leaving aside that enigma, what have we actually got here that's ''new''? More than one hundred items included in this set are being issued officially for the first time, albeit as many as forty of these have been circulating privately on home-copied CDs amongst a few of Lewis's hard-core fans over the last twenty years or so, having somehow slipped out of the archives. Even so, at least fifty of the recordings here presented have escaped prior detection and have remained unheard until now.

Listening to these ''new'' takes, it is hard to understand quite how and why such an eccentric cut of ''It'll Be Me'' (BCD 17254-2-22) remained unacknowledged and unreleased. Equally, there are some remarkable prototype cuts of ''High School Confidential'' that have, it seems, lain undiscovered or been ignored for more than half a century. The tape boxes involved were examined by at least one authority back in the 1970s but it appears that these alternates were overlooked. One might argue that these earliest readings of the song are representative of a different, experimental, version of the song rather than being simply ''alternate takes'', which makes their fate in remaining unreleased until now all the harder to explain.

It has also been possible to accommodate a number of previously unheard false starts, fragments of incomplete ''lost'' takes and snippets of conversation and banter in the studio. At the same time, published examples of the latter have, where necessary, been restored to their rightful places in the continuum; for whatever reasons a number were, on earlier releases, re-edited with a cavalier disregard for their true origins and placed ahead of recordings to which they were wholly unrelated.

A great debt is owed to the producers of the several progenitors of this collection, including the first box set of Lewis's Sun recordings, the twelve LP set ''The Sun Years'', released in 1983 by Charly Records in the UK. Charly's ambitious approach which, for fans of early rock music, took the idea of a retrospective of an artist's work at a single company to an unprecedented level, established a template that was later adopted for the even more extensive eight CD box set issued during 1989 both by Charly Records and by Bear Family. At last, the collector could find almost every Lewis Sun recording thought worth having in one, or another, convenient package, the painstaking assembly of a library of scores of LPs, involving the repeated purchase of the same recordings of familiar songs for want of a particular title or an alternate take, was made a redundant exercise.

On all three occasions the compliers decided to present everything in a simple chronological order insofar as the dates of origin could reasonably be ascertained, it having been stated in the notes accompanying the 1983 vinyl set that a number of assumptions had been made to fill in the extensive blanks where conclusive information was unavailable, i.e. for almost entire two year period from November 1956 to the end of 1958. Notwithstanding this and similar disclaimers upon the release in 1989 of the rival CD products, Charly's ''The Sun Years'' and Bear Family's ''Classic'', such assumptions have subsequently come to be regarded by many as facts.

Thus the prevailing wisdom surrounding the chronology of Lewis's work at Sun dates from the materialisation of Charly's twelve LP collection and the dispositions arrived at in 1983 which since that time, subject only to minor revision in 1989, have remained largely unchallenged. To be fair, those involved were at pains to quality the vast majority of the quoted recording dates during the period concerned with either of the words ''probably'' or ''possibly''. Furthermore they conceded that much of their understanding, not only in respect of the allocation of particular recordings to discrete sessions but also the attribution of the names of backing musicians to specific events, amounted to nothing more than guesswork.

In 1993, Charly withdrew from sale its 208-track 1989 set and averred that it had produced ''The Ultimate'' collection of Jerry Lee's work at Sun, spread over twelve CDs nominally containing 318 separate tracks. Although the size of the box was increased by some fifty per cent it was again a case of simply adding to the inventory numerous alternates of familiar songs, the vaults having been emptied of any new titles per se with the release of ''Don't Drop It'' and others some four years previously. However, rather than proffer six or seven consecutive takes of ''Great Balls Of Fire'' or ''Breathless'', in ''The Ultimate'' Charly adopted an atypical course compared to that taken in the compilation of the earlier sets. The modus operandi was the marshalling of songs by reference to express themes; a collection of rock titles here, ''country roots'' there, ''rhythm and blues covers'' on the next CD and so on and so forth. This neatly avoided the tricky question of the assumed chronology, serious doubts about which, with the benefit of hindsight, were already beginning to surface.

The problem with ''The Ultimate'', leaving aside the misidentification and repetition of several recordings and the inadvertent exclusion of two titles altogether, was that from a fan's perspective the concept just didn't produce the goods. Amongst the well intentioned jumble, with different takes of individual titles scattered at random across the twelve CDs, there was no opportunity to make sense of how a particular song had been worked on by the musicians in the studio and how it had evolved into a finished master, something which the earlier sets had selectively allowed; rather, both the listener and, as it had turned out, the compilers, could become all too easily confused in trying to assess the distinctions between take ''x'' and take ''y'' of a particular title.

And so, to the current set, ''The Collected Works''. It has already been pointed out that the filing of session details at Sun had been notoriously lax, or, for much of the time, had been subject to deliberate obfuscation on the part of Sam Phillips. The rules of the American Federation of Musicians specified that recording sessions might comprise up to three hours work, involving work on four titles, but no more than that. Sam was required to submit returns to the union demonstrating compliance with these rules and it would seem that he wasn't averse to producing paperwork that would somehow stand up to official scrutiny, no matter that it bore little relationship to what had actually gone in the studio. As Colin Escott put it in his 1989 essay accompanying the ''Classic'' box set, Sam's reports were, to all intents and purposes, ''largely a work of fiction''. So, during the years 1956 to 1959, a key discipline had effectively been disregarded at Sun. And this was, of course, the period in respect of which such information would have proved most useful to the archivist, given that it was when Jerry Lee was at his most prolific in the recording studio, working intensively and regularly on the development of his hit records.

To complicate matters further, Phillips habitually used up any remaining free space at the end of previously recorded tapes and sometimes re-cycled them completely; this is yet another of the underlying causes of confusion about how sessions evolved, given that certain recordings had a habit of ending up in tape boxes where they bore no obvious relationship to many of the other contents. This consideration also begs the question of just what was lost by the indiscriminate erasure of many rehearsals and outtakes. What price just one ''alternate'' of ''Mean Woman Blues''?

In the absence of any definitive indication about exactly when particular recordings had been made, it was felt that there was every justification in trying to reassemble the jigsaw puzzle of the hundreds of tapes that have survived. The intention was to examine and where appropriate re-evaluate, though certainly not to traduce, any earlier studies of the subject. For the greater part the work of the 1983 team of experts has been revalidated. But it is deemed appropriate to amend the nominal chronology at certain points, in view of some fairly obvious anomalies in the 1983 list and with the benefit of thirty years hindsight.

The starting point was a conspicuous misunderstanding about the recording of Frankie And Johnny''. Having analysed various aspects of the performance it was realised that this track could not, as had been supposed by those involved in the compilation of the 1980s box sets, date from March 1958 but that it was much more likely to be the product of a session some nine months later. Listen to the drums and guitar; the much fuller sound indicates that this tape is out of place when set amongst relatively unpolished jewels such as ''Hello Hello Baby'' and ''Your Cheatin' Heart'', whereas it does share many of the atttributes of ''Lovin' Up A Storm'' and ''Big Blon' Baby'', songs with which it has now been realigned.

Prompted by that reflection, what else might be amiss? This narrative will not explain every change to the chronology; listeners accustomed to the 1983 running order can make comparisons and assess for themselves the conclusions put forward here. Perhaps some cherished notions have been subjected to what may be regarded by some as inappropriate revisionism, but the team which worked on this project throughout much of 2013 and 2014 is confident of the outcome of its findings.

It's only fair to acknowledge that one facility the pioneering researchers lacked was the luxury of time, a benefit granted in rather greater measure to those reassessing their work some thirty years later. The compilers of this set have been listening to the antecedent publications countless times over the course of several decades, rather than being new to much of the material and then having to make appraisals in a period of just a few weeks. Moreover, the ease of communication afforded by the internet, with the ability to exchange sound files instantaneously across vast distances, fostered the creation of a ''virtual'' committee that could pore over the details of each track with relative ease.

Modern technical conveniences not available to original researchers in the comfort of their own homes in the 1980s have provided other advantages. For example, the comparison of tapes from different sources is made possibly by listening at the same time to two recordings, with appropriate adjustment of their respective speeds as separate channels, in one test stereo track. In this way an undetected minor variation between successive takes may suddenly be made very apparent. Conversely, the existence of a supposedly distinct recording may be disproven; the dismissal of the identification of a bogus third take of ''Ramblin' Rose'' being an example of this.

Equally, for all the sins ascribed to digitalised sound files there's no doubt that ''flac'' files and MP3s provide an immense convenience when it comes to analysing subtle distinctions between successive takes of the same song. The fact that we can now enjoy no fewer than nine takes of ''Little Green Valley'', rather than the three previously determined, may well be down simply to the six new additions having been overlooked by the 1983 team, due both to time pressures and to the remarkably analogous sound across the entire suite of recordings. Is it possible that some alternates were dismissed by those erstwhile investigators in the belief that the tracks in the ''newly found'' batch were merely copies of other tapes found in another box? The nine variants of ''Little Green Valley'' also give a lie to the maxim that Lewis never recorded a song the same way twice; eight of nine are superficially consonant and one can spend hours poring over the detailed differences to tell them apart. Similarly, the manifold examples of ''Great Balls Of Fire'', ''Milkshake Mademoiselle' and High School Confidential'', though usually more recognisable as distinct entities, still require analysis of the slightest detail, be it a glissando buried in the mix during a guitar solo, or the substitution of an endearment such as ''sugar'' in place of ''honey'' somewhere in the lyric, to tell them apart with complete confidence.

The underlying methodology employed to arrive at the new timeline is much the same as that used hitherto, with the few irrefutable facts, such as the release of Lewis' singles, being taken as pointers to the recording dates of specific titles. Although an attempt has been made to define a calender of events, it often remains necessary to qualify the supposed date with an appropriate reservation. Consequently the emphasis is very much on treating the period concerned ''in the round'', and on simply charting the evolution of the Lewis sound over periods of months and years rather than trying to reconstruct what, given the deficiency of source date, will inevitably be an imprecise diary.

In so doing, we chart progress not simply in respect of individual titles, for example across the more than twenty takes of ''High School Confidential'', but also from one song to the next, as in the cases of ''Ubangi Stomp'', ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' and ''So Long I'm Gone'', a trio which are obvious bed-fellows. This is an important principle to follow given that there are so many songs of which only one performance was recorded. In this way, we can accommodate everything into the story of the development of the Lewis sound and highlight, where appropriate, the significance of a notable aspect of one recording to other titles in a linked sequence.

The written analysis is purposely selective. A few of the songs that Lewis performed once only at Sun, or at least where only one take has endured, will not necessarily receive a mention here; the accompanying discography is the authoritative guide to the content. Nor does this text furnish comprehensive details of the origins of all the songs that Lewis recorded; it is reasoned that such facts will be known to many readers by virtue of earlier releases while in the twenty-first century online resources can easily be referred to for this information. A core function of this text is simply to emphasise the slight distinctions between separate takes of the same song where the listener might not be expected, without spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort, to be able to segregate recordings with confidence. But those who independently wish to analyse each track to establish their singularity may, of course, chose to leave this essay aside!

In providing this commentary it is hoped that the listener will become all the more cognisant of the often painstaking work undertaken, on the part of Lewis, the backing musicians and the recording technicians, in arriving at the finished product. This thought prompts a further word of explanation. The authors of the first detailed account of Jerry Lee's work at Sun, Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott, having invited Jerry Lee to help in trying to establish the facts, had been told ''I played on them, what the hell else do you need to know''? It remains difficult to offer definitive pointers to who else was actually involved on specific occasions, although some guidance is offered in the accompanying discography. The presence of Roland Janes as guitarist on most of the early sides is not in doubt, not least thanks to Jerry Lee habitually identifying him at the start of each guitar solo, while Jimmy Van Eaton is likewise an almost constant companion on the recordings made at 706 Union Avenue.

There is nonetheless cause to mistrust previously published session lists detailing the supposed involvement of certain personnel; and to be candid, good reason to be wary of some of the revisionism presented here! This work is not devoid of speculation. But much of that now postulated reflects the careful analysis of individual performance traits, while any obvious anomalies in earlier works have been addressed. For example although the Charly discographies stuck resolutely to the idea that Sidney Manker was the sole guitarist involved in the session which produced ''Ooby Dooby'', this suggestion openly disregards the fact that Jerry Lee is heard calling Roland to attention in the usual way before the delivery of his readily identifiable contribution.

It also needs to be said that the assertions of some of those directly involved have been treated with a degree of circumspection, given that all too frequently they contradict one another, and the statements volunteered sometimes don't tally with the few documented facts. In Rick Bragg's exposition' (''Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story'' - Rick Bragg: Harper Collins Publishers, 2014), Jerry Lee claims not to have known the name of the drummer on the ''historic recording'' of ''Great Balls Of Fire'', while his recollection of the bass player's identity, ''Sidney Stokes'', is at odds with that of Jay W. Brown, who suggests in his own book (''Whole Lotta Shakin''' - J.W. Brown with Rusty Brown: Continental Shelf Publishing 2010) , that it was Al Stanger. As Lewis also told Bragg, ''...people like to remember things in a certain way''. In this instance, though, they might both be right; the most positive lead we can follow out of the melee of memories is that these rival stories lend weight to the proposition that the recording of ''Great Balls Of Fire'' was by no means as straightforward as many would have us believe.

by Andrew McRae, 2015 (*)


Whatever the truth may be about Jerry Lee's first recordings in the Sun studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, it would amount to heresy to propose that anything other than ''Crazy Arms'' could possibly open this set. Even if one had incontestable evidence to legitimise a re-write of this chapter of events, to do so now wouldn't be appropriate. There are grounds to suspect that ''Crazy Arms'' may well have been preceded be either or both of the two nominally contemporaneous performances of ''You're The Only Star (In My Blue Heaven)'', or, possibly, by that of ''Born To Lose'', but the story is too well ingrained in folklore; ''Crazy Arms'' was Jerry Lee's ''first'' Sun recording and duly became the A-side of his first release. For the same reason ''End Of The Road'' is always going to be at number two on the list; Sun 259 is were the story starts.(*)

Leaving that matter aside, the chronology reflects the findings of a comprehensive reassessment of the entire body of work. The analysis has taken into account the similarities and variations in guitar work, bass, drums, piano, along with the balance between them and Jerry Lee's voice, the amount of echo used, and other production values. The sound of the cymbals, for example, and the way they are struck, has many a time proven to be the defining quality in the differentiation of sessions.(*)

For example, on practically all the songs of the early sessions, one can hear cymbals being played by the drummer Jimmy Van Eaton in what is essentially the same way. This factor alone helps to place both ''Honey Hush'' and ''Singing The Blues'' as products of the earliest sessions and the latter, having previously been ascribed to a date in the late summer of 1957, has now been brought forward in the running order. The song's popularity in late 1956, when Guy Mitchell's version topped charts worldwide, provides another hint that it may have been recorded rather earlier than formerly supposed, but the decision to make the switch is based on the sound alone. Moving the opposite way, two titles which hitherto have been allocated to late 1956 or early 1957, namely ''I'm Throwing Rice'' and ''I Love You So Much It Hurts'', are now believed to be from much later sessions, in 1958; aural clues suggest that the latter was effectively part of a number of ''warm up'', balancing exercises prior to the recording of ''Breathless'' in February 1958, while ''I'm Throwing Rice'' is thought to have been cut at the March sessions that produced the single master of ''High School Confidential''. Thus it's contended that ''I'm Throwing Rice'' is at least a year younger than the 1983 findings allowed.(*)

To appreciate the logic, listen carefully to the titles identified below, in the sequence followed on BCD 17254-4; as the session progresses, one can hear the instruments backing Jerry Lee gradually coming to the fore, with the engineer trying out his settings during the course of the recording of three songs. In ''I Love You Because'' the bass and drums gradually get a little louder; in ''I Love You So Much It Hurts'' the guitar becomes audible; finally, in ''I'm Sorry, I'm Not Sorry'', both the guitar and bass become more prominent.(*)

The pace in then stepped up a few gears with ''Sexy Ways'' aka ''Cool Cool Ways''. Now, they're ready to craft one side of the next million selling hit, ''Down The Line''. Along the way Jerry Lee tries his hand at a Hank Williams favourite, ''Jambalaya'', perhaps to help him relax a bit. The work on ''Down The Line'' is followed by an unsatisfactory attempt to fashion a worthwhile cut of ''Milkshake Mademoiselle'' before attention centres on ''Breathless''.(*)

It's also feasible that ''Cold Cold Heart'' was recorded somewhere in and amongst the nine takes of ''Breathless'', all of which are here presented consecutively to help demonstrate the evolution of the song. Turning to the Hank Williams selection may again have been an exercise to get Jerry Lee back into the swing of things following a break in the proceedings, given the likehood that the ''Breathless'' session extended over two or more days. It is, however, felt that ''Cold Cold Heart'' sounds quite at home in its place at the end of this series of takes.(*)

It has to be acknowledged that many a time it's night on impossible to define with absolute certainty the order in which the songs were recorded at any particular session, or even where one session ends and the next begins. If the tape boxes define a reputable running order this has usually been followed, but if there are clear aural indications that point to another interpretation then appropriate adjustments have been made.(*)



A landmark session. Jerry Lee's first Sun recording session would be important even if it were bad. And this one is far from bad. The legend of Jerry Lee Lewis had its humble beginnings when the young singer, barely in his twenties, stood at the door of Sun Records in November 1956, waiting for a chance to sit at the tired studio spinet and ply his wares - a chance conspicuously denied him at other studios.

When Jerry Lee Lewis entered Sun Records for the first time, he was twenty-one years old. He was barely educated, twice married, once jailed, and good for nothing much other than pounding the piano - which he had been doing every day for eleven years.

Sam Phillips was in Florida, taking his first vacation in many years, and Jack Clement decided to cut a complete demo session on Lewis while Phillips was gone. He called in the musicians he had met during his brief stint at Fernwood Records.

"Jack phoned me", Roland Janes recounted to Bob Bowman and Ross Johnson, "and said, 'Man, I got this piano player, cat from down in Louisiana. He's pretty good. I'm gonna put a few things down on him. Do you want to come in and help us out?'. I said, 'Yeah, sure'. He said, 'Man, could you drop by and get Van Eaton? Think you can get him to come out?'. I said, Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can'. Van Eaton didn't drive at the time, that's how young he was. During the course of the session, I got up and went to the bathroom, and Jerry started doing "Crazy Arms".

''I don't think Jack was even in the control room. He was out in the studio and just left the machine running. Billy Riley had walked in about that time and he picket up my guitar''. ''Right on the end of the song he hit a chord... I came out of the washroom about halfway through the song and pucked up an old upright bass and started playing it - and I don't play upright bass. Fortunately, I wasn't close to a microphone. On that song, there are technically only two instruments, drums and piano".

In the months leading up to his arrival at Sun, Jerry Lee Lewis had tried out unsuccessfully as a staff pianist at The Louisiana Hayride and was given short shrift by label bosses when he visited Nashville. Producer Jack Clement, then only just ensconced at 706 Union himself, had a more charitable attitude and he auditioned the piano man the moment he saw him. "Crazy Arms" was taped in an equally Impromptu manner and its pre-holiday release marked the beginning of a whole new era.

Composer: - Charles Seals-Ralph E. Mooney
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 229 Take 1 - Master (2:43)
Recorded: - November 14, 1956
Released: - December 1, 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single Sun 259-A mono
Reissued - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-3/11 mono

The young wildman from Ferriday tears into Ray Price's hillbilly weeper with verve and style, bringing a maniacal energy that Price never intended nor anticipated. Sixteen year old drummer James M. Van Eaton matches Jerry Lee's enthusiasm and the two launch a musical synergy here that would remain intact for literally hundreds of recordings. Like all the best music, this record is timeless. Its unbridled energy remains contagious even in an era where listeners expect overproduction and electronic sophistication. It pays to remind ourselves that "Crazy Arms" was performed by two very young men playing acoustic instruments nearly forty years ago.

"Crazy Arms", originally recorded by Kenny Brown and Marilyn Kay for the small Pep label, "Crazy Arms" had been at or near the top of the country charts for months in the hands of Ray Price. Although it was late in the game, Phillips decided to test the waters with Jerry's version. Ralph Mooney wrote the lyrics of "Crazy Arms" after his wife temporarily left him because of his drinking.

And another story is: it didn't take long for Jerry Lee and teenage drummer Jimmy Van Eaton is forge a musical alliance. They had it here, the first time they met and recorded. Exactly which titles were recorded and in what sequence is a matter of conjecture at this point. One thing we can be sure of is that by the time they reached ''Crazy Arms'', which became Jerry Lee's first Sun release, they were soaring together. There was nobody there to fill in the blanks: no bass, no guitar, no strings, no voices. Just Jerry and Jimmy, whose combined ages at this point didn't total 40 years.

Van Eaton is doing so much more than keeping time, it's almost comic. He's kicking and prodding, and providing drum rolls and counter-rhythm. It's like having Jerry Lee accompanied by a marching band. When Jerry launches into his 16-bar piano solo, J.M. follows suit and begins to solo on his drums. Much of what Van Eaton does here he would continue to do for the next seven years in the Sun studio, but never so much of it in such a compressed time and place. ''Crazy Arms'' runs under three minutes (2:45, to be exact) and there's enough drumming to fill a dozen records. The amazing this is neither of these young men knew exactly what they were doing. They were ''feeling each other out'' musically, taking risks, seeing if the other would follow.They did, and we get to listen to it happen all over again 60 plus years after it ignited spontaneously that afternoon on November 14, 1956.

In the combination of Jerry Lee Lewis, Roland Janes, and J.M. Van Eaton, a magic formula had fallen into Sam Phillips' lap. Janes and Van Eaton happened to be friends of Jack Clement, and Clement just happened to be running the board while Sam Phillips was away; but Jerry couldn't have hoped for two more sympathetic accompanists. Janes, or "Roland Boy" as Jerry would call out to him on sessions, read Jerry like a book, and knew better that to try and dominate his sessions; in fact, it was never in his nature to do so.

J.M. Van Eaton quickly developed a rapport with Jerry comparable to that between Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison. He had a telepathic ability to know in which direction Jerry was heading, as his subtle tempo changes and perfectly judged rolls and accents eloquently attest.

Though Jay W. Brown would travel with him as a bassist on the road, Jerry's solid left hand made a bass superfluous in the studio. With Roland Janes and J.M. Van Eaton, Jerry Lee Lewis had the core of his studio band that would bring him to the turn of the new decade.

Composer: - Jerry Lee Lewis
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 230 - Master (1:46)
Recorded: - November 14, 1956
"End Of The Road" probably recorded at a later date.
Released: - December 1, 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single Sun 259-B mono
Reissued - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-3/12 mono

This tune, long thought to be that rarest of species, a Jerry Lee Lewis composition, is in fact a loose adaptation of Irvin Berlin's "Waiting At The End Of The Road", first a hit for Paul Whiteman in 1929, then a minor hit for Frankie Laine twenty years later. Although Jerry did a “solo” performance at the end of the famed Million Dollar Quartet session on December 4th 1956, there’s only been one released studio re-cut and that was for the 1963 ‘Golden Hits’ album, he also cut an interesting version of the song for Elektra in 1980 but this remains unreleased.

Moments like this in music history don't come about very often. What Billboard called "distinctively smart wax" launched a career that has transcended time, style and personal tragedy.

Composer: - Frankie Brown (aka Ted Daffen)
Publisher: - B.M.I. -Peer International
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued (2:39)
Recorded: - November 14, 1956
Released: - July 1974
First appearance: - Sun International (LP) 33rpm 6467 029-B4 mono
Reissued: - September 1989 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15420-1/4 mono

''Born To Lose'', his superb mid-tempo country performance wasn’t released until 18 years later on the U.K. Phonogram ''Rockin’ & Free'' LP. The 1969 re-cut from the album ''Country Music Hall Of Fame Hits Volume 1'' is slower and more refined, but beautifully sung and played. It’s a very difficult choice, but if push comes to shove then I think the Sun cut has the edge…

Composer: - Gene Autry
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Shapiro Bernstein & Corporation
Matrix number: - None - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued (2:07)
Recorded: - November 14, 1956 - Not Originally Issued
Released: - 1970
First appearance: - Sun International (LP) 33rpm Sun LP 121-A6 mono
Reissued: - September 1989 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15420-1/3 mono

Written by Gene Autry and recorded by the Delmore Brothers and Roy Acuff. It was also recorded by Jerry Lee during the Million Dollar Quartet session on December 4, 1956 at Sun Recording Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

Composer: - Gene Autry
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Shapiro Bernstein & Corporation
Matrix number: - None - Take 2 - Not Originally Issued (2:37)
Recorded: - November 14, 1956
Released: - 1978
First appearance: - Sun Star (LP) 33rpm SS-002-A7 mono
Reissued: - 1989 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CD Sun Box 1 mono

An obvious early favourite of Jerry’s, ''Blue Heaven'' was recorded at three separate sessions during the first couple of years of his career (four if you include the playful run-through at the end of the Million Dollar Quartet session), though none were released until years after he left the label. The 1956 version (actually 2 takes) was taped here at his very first professional session (along with both sides of his first single and ''Born To Lose''). Sounding a little hesitant compared to later versions, this wasn’t released until the ground-breaking ''The Sun Years'' vinyl box-set in 1983.

Much better (and faster) is the 1957 version, first released on ''Olde Tyme Country Music'' in 1970, unlike the 1958 version (which features a couple of additional musicians to the earlier takes) which again wasn’t released until ''The Sun Years'' in 1983.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Jerry Lee Lewis - Vocal and Piano
Roland Janes - Guitar off-mic on "Crazy Arms".
James M. Van Eaton - Drums
Billy Riley - Guitar last note on "Crazy Arms"

Billy Riley claims to have played the single guitar note at the end of "Crazy Arms". Roland Janes plays acoustic bass off mike. When Sam Phillips returned, Jack Clement played him the tape. "I don't know if I'd told Jack this", Sam Phillips told Robert Palmer, "but I had been wanting to get off this guitar scene and show that it could be done with other instruments. They put that tape on and I said, 'Where in hell did this man come from?'. He played that piano with abandon. A lot of people do that, but I could hear, between the stuff that he played and didn't play, that spiritual thing. I told Jack, 'Just get him in here as fast as you can'".

As it happened, Jack Clement didn't have to call Lewis. Before the end of the month Jerry Lee was back in the studio, bringing along his uncle Jay W. Brown and one of the few songs Lewis ever took credit for writing. taking Clement's advice to forget about country music, Lewis had reworked an old jug band tune - in which others heard shades of Irving Berlin - into a darkly obscure original boogie called "End Of The Road". Sam Phillips decided to couple "End Of The Road" with a song from Clement's demo session, "Crazy Arms".

"Crazy Arms" wasn't a hit, but it sold respectably. Lewis took work where he could find it. Jack Clement got him a gig in West Memphis, Arkansas, substituting for the ever-unreliable Smokey Joe Baugh in the Snearly Ranch Boys; Bob Neal got him a pair of gigs in Alabama; Sam Phillips gave him a little work in the studio, backing Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, Johnny Cash, and some others. Roland Janes and Billy Riley took him out of some of the dance halls they played in Arkansas. Jay W. Brown let him sleep on the couch.

For Biography of Jerry Lee Lewis see: > The Sun Biographies <
Jerry Lee Lewis' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <



Dixie Dialing -


By Henry Mitchell
Radio and Television Editor

NASHVILLE, Nov. 11 - The national disc jockey convention here is the only large gathering in the country where a thousand people show up for breakfast before schedule. Something of his tremendous energy has been reflected at Nashville since Thursday when platter spinners arrived by plane, train and blue-nose mule. They came from stations so big the whole world knows of them and stations so little it would take the Federal Communications Commission two days to trace them.

Although called the National Disk Jockey Festival and sponsored by WSM, its concern is strictly country music - what used to be called hillbilly. The spinners, the artists, the record firms, the promoters of all types, departed late Sunday after 72 hours of congratulating each other on the country music outlook.

Some saw trends. Like the less-sharp distinction between country and popular music, the appearance of a more insistent beat and maybe less importance attached to songs that tell a story. Something is happening when tunes like "Singing The Blues" and "I Walk The Line" have jockeys puzzled where to spin them. On country music shows? Pop shows? One platter spinner from Worcester, Mass., told me, "I Walk The Line" is the only record he's ever worn out and its because it fits into almost all disk shows.

Great Deal On Air

This kind of music accounts for a great deal heard on radio. It accounts for four out of every 10 records sold. It accounts for literally millions of viewers for such shows as Ozark Jubilee and Grand Ole Opry. Country music fans require several things. The music must come "from the heart". It must tell a story and it must have guitars.

Among Memphians taking in the Hayride i've seen Slim Rhodes and some of his men from WMC; Pappy Lambert from KWEM and record-cutter (Elvis was the boy) Sam Phillips. But the hottest offering from our town is Johnny Cash. He collected a batch of awards as the most promising new country music artist. He's also been talked about as much as any other artist in the convention's informal and important casual players.

I asked him what he considered the main glory of his current record, "I Walk The Line", and he says its instrumentation. Elsewhere, disc jockeys like Johnny Talley of Minneapolis say its the hum 'n it. Some jockeys like it because its so simple. Others like it because its message is so deep.

Label Boys Don't Know

The label boys - RCA Victor, Dot, Decca, Capitol, Sun and so on - tell you just can't tell what makes country music go over. They are content to just cut the disks and hope fervently the public will request jockeys to repeat. A few reorders of records and the labels begin to promote.

Our Johnny Cash, speaking of promotion, has just, returned from a tour of 50 one-night stands. He grew up in Dyess, Arkansas, and now lives in Memphis with his brother Roy and his wife Vivian. He was telling me he entered this green country music through a back gate. He bought a guitar in Germany (he was in the Air Force four years) chiefly to annoy four Yankees he shared living quarters with. They ribbed him about being a Southern country boy.

He had wanted to be a disk jockey - still has an eye on it if his singing ever drops off. His first music was hymns. He wrote four overseas, without any particular thought of publication. His - and Sun's - first album comes out in a few days. This album, long-play, and general package angle is something we'll be seeing more of in country music they say here. A few years ago only the very top names had albums and they didn't sell too well. Elvis has had something to do with this new look in packaged music in the country field. As one contented Mercury man said: "People go in to buy Elvis. Its like you go in a store to buy a shirt - you may buy some socks while you're about it".

Elvis Rumors Thick

And speaking of Elvis, his rumoured appearance here almost broke up the convention. Saw Scotty Moore (musician with Elvis) and his appearance may have sparked the rumour that Presley would show. Teenagers sprang up in lobbies like a cover crop. School Principals here blamed unusual absenteeism on pupils determination to see Elvis. At least three sideburned disc jockeys were mistaken for him and got the once over from fans.

Hotels cleared lobbies by announcing on loudspeakers that Presley had signed in at a rival hotel. Weary police dreamed of other jobs. Presley was here in spirit if not in person. Whole handfuls of jockeys have made their way through Presley gimmicks. One broke a Presley record on the air. The result convinced his sponsor people were listening. He wound up with a pro-Presley disk show and an anti=Presley show. Does he like Presley?? Do people like dough?

There's been a lot of strictly business talk, about the number of grooves leading in, the gripes about distribution, but we can skip it now. These platter spinners have been having themselves a time, on the whole. There have been a lot of receptions and feasts. Everybody had tickets.

Three Crash Gates

Because most of the men showed up well before printed times, the ticket collectors rarely had much to collect. Three lads from Springfield, Mo., just fans, dined sumptuously at the Maxwell House without the ghost of a ducat. For three days the marble halls of this solemn city have been jammed. They have two kinds of elevators here. One runs by jet power. The other relies on a tranquillized battery in the basement. But all have been packet at all hours.

Hosts of various events have been surprised; I think - if not bruised - by the hearty entrance of guests the instant doors opened. But one place nobody went without a ticket was the Grand Ole Opry. This classic show of country music celebrated its last birthday. The Governor of Tennessee (a great fan of country music) spoke. They do the show in an auditorium built they year the waters receded.

Downstairs, if you get very far back of the front edge of the balcony you can't see much of the stage. The balcony chops off the view better than any other in the country. They say country music will last forever. I tell you one thing, you'll find yourself dropping perfectly good dimes in boxes to hear it. Once it bites you, something happens to the brain. It is very pleasant. Or maybe its the heart, like they say.


Above, Kay Wheeler at front of Bob Neal Record Shop, 50 South Main Street, Memphis, Tennessee, November 15, 1956. Memphis disc jockey Bob Neal (WMC) open his disk shop on February 25, 1956. Music distributors and operators welcomed popular WMC disc jockey Bob Neal into the fold that week. Bob opened the Bob Neal Record Shop in the heart of Memphis. It's the only walk-in record shop in town. Formal opening is set for March 1, 2, and 3, 1956.

KAY WHEELER - who among other things, is "the very first white female who was ever headlined as the "Queen Of Rock And Roll'', in the starring role of the cult 1957 rock movie called "Rock Baby, Rock It''. The vintage film is currently available through Rhino video. Rhino advertises the film as, "The most sought after of all the 1950s rock and roll films featuring early rock legend, Kay Wheeler". Kay was originally "discovered" by a rock promoter named J.G. Tiger when she danced at a Johnny Carroll rock and roll concert at the Palace Theater in Dallas, Texas in 1956.

One of the most outspoken representatives of the first American Rock Culture of the mid-1950s, Kay Wheeler formed the very first documented National Elvis Presley Fan Club in the world. She was a teenleader in the early rock and roll movement who stepped out in the media and dared to represent Elvis and the scandalous new rock and roll to the outraged adults of the boring, sterile Eisenhower generation in the mid- 1950s. Kay was also a girl friend and a promoter of Elvis Presley in his early career - whom Gladys Presley, Elvis' mother favored as a candidate for Elvis, with the comment "Kay reminds me of myself when I was young''.

As if all this excitement was not enough, Kay was imported to Hollywood at the tender age of 17 to make films for American International studios and to be the "Hollywood/West Coast Editor" of Cool and Hep Kats Magazine, a contributing editor to Dig Magazine and Modern Screen Movie Magazine, among others.

But above all, Kay loved to dance-developing her own style of rock and roll dancing, she called, the "Rock And Bop - with dance steps that she taught to the early Elvis himself (who was then only known for shaking his leg) when they met at San Antonio, Texas. Kay was the very first white female to ever do a rock and roll tour when she traveled with the Johnny Carroll band in a promotional tour in major Texas cities for the movie, ''Rock baby, Rock It''. Kay had a center stage dance number dressed in hot pink velvet pedal pushers with a blue spotlight - while Johnny Carroll sang!

But before all the notoriety and media whirlwind hit Kay's life - in 1955, she discovered rock and roll when she first heard "Little Mama" by the Clovers and "Sexy Ways" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Later that year, Kay transferred from the elite (and very boring) Highland Park High School (called a tea-sipping school located in the more exclusive area of Dallas) to attend Dallas' version of a "Blackboard Jungle" High School, Crozier Tech, in order to be closer to her "greaser" 1950's boyfriend (who had been kicked out of every other High School in Dallas).

During this time of "Rockabilly Heaven" in Texas, when Elvis was knocking them dead in country and western juke joints in places like Gladewater, and other rockabilly greats like Gene Vincent and Roy Orbison were just getting started, Kay hosted several teenage local TV shows as well as an "All Elvis DJ'' show on radio station WRR in Dallas. She had a very high profile in the media with newspapers articles on her appearing in associated press national stories published throughout America. One national newspaper story in particular angered Colonel Parker when Kay called Waco, Texas - "The Squarest Town In America", because they hardly clapped or screamed for Elvis during his concert there in 1956. The screaming newspaper headline stated, "Elvis Head Hits Squares''. Waco was in an uproar over Kay's proclamation. Colonel Parker rushed Tom Diskin, Elvis' road manager, to Dallas to get Kay to apologize to the city of Waco. But Kay refused - even though Parker sent Kay one of Elvis' shirts, a type of bribe. Diskin made the comment, "We Can Control Elvis, But We Can't Control You"! This Waco escapade signaled the break in the relationship between Kay and Colonel Parker.

All this media attention attracted Gene Vincent to Kay when he played the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. They became friends and he visited her house on several occasions. Later in Hollywood, in 1958, she was featured in a rock and roll movie with Gene called ''Hot Rod Gang'', produced by American International Films. Kay also designed Elvis Presley products, prepared national advertising for teenage products, did artists and repertoire work for record companies and appeared regularly on the local KCOP television talk show. She met Ricky Nelson in Hollywood as well as Eddie Cochran. Elvis was also in Hollywood at that time completing "Jailhouse Rock." Kay attended the press premiere of "Jailhouse Rock" with Elvis Presley. When asked about her background, Kay likes to say that she was born at age 15 when she heard her first rock and roll record! It was the Clovers singing "Little Mama." However, in the world outside of rock and roll, Kay was actually born December 22, 1938, in Houston, Texas, the largest city in the southwest which is the hometown of original blues and rock pioneers such as Johnny Ace, Big Mama Thornton, Lightning Hopkins, among others. Kay's musical heritage is rooted in listening to her mother's favorites like, Fats Waller playing boogie woogie, King Cole Trio, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, etc... However, her father favored the raucous country and western honky tonk music. Kay's father moved the family away from Houston when Kay was a baby. For the most part, the family settled in Dallas where Kay , the eldest, and her two sisters and brother grew up.

She has written, with the help of writer W.A. Harbison, her autobiography titled ''Growing Up With The Memphis Flash'' which was published in Europe and sold out immediately. Kay tells her story in Kodachrome detail of what it was like to grow up in the days of rockabilly heaven! A screenplay has also been written of Kay's story titled, "That's All Right Little Mama", which Kay hopes will be the most exciting, authentic, true rockabilly story of all time with the real life characters including Gene Vincent and the King himself - and a soundtrack made in rock and roll heaven!

But for now, Kay Wheeler is alive and well and living in Northern California. She has raised a son and a daughter. She has been through 2 marriages and is presently single because she says, "I think I'm just too darned independent, that's just the way it is, plus I still play my record player too loud. It would plumb kill anyone else my age''! She still loves rock and roll and has an extensive collection of early 1950s memorabilia. She was recently featured in a 1997 Hollywood movie called "Elvis Is Alive". Kay's comment on her life during the beginning of rock and roll and Elvis, "There will never be another time like that, I promised myself back in the 1950s that I'd never be a square and that I would always be, “”Cool Until The Living End''. I hope I've kept the promise''!


Elvis Presley attends Liberance's opening at the Riviera Theater in New York and is introduced from the stage.

Bobby Helms recorded ''Fraulein'' in an afternoon session at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville.

Elvis Presley makes his film debut, as ''Love Me Tender'' opens at Paramount Theater in New York.

Buddy Holly has his third Nashville recording session for Decca Records. Like the previous session, it's commercially unsuccessful.




Harold Jenkins completed his US Army service in March 1956. He heard Elvis on the radio and decided he wanted to do that too. So he assembled a band called The Rockhousers, named for a song Jenkins had written and that he recorded Mid-1956 and Roy Orbison later recorded for Sun.

Composer: - Ben Oakland-Herb Magidson
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - (A) Take 1 – Not Originally Issued (2:39)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/20 mono

Composer: - Ben Oakland-Herb Magidson
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - False Start - (A) Take 2 - Not Originally Issued (2:48)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1-21 mono

Composer: - Ben Oakland-Herb Magidson
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - (A) Take 3 – Not Originally Issued (2:42)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/22 mono

Composer: - Ben Oakland-Herb Magidson
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - (B) Take 2 – Not Originally Issued (2:41)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/2 mono

Composer: - Ben Oakland-Herb Magidson
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - (B) Take 3 - Not Originally Issued (2:45)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/14 mono

Composer: - Harold Jenkins
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Take 1 – Not Originally Issued (2:02)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1977
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30128 A-5 mono
Reissued: - 1997 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/15 mono

The Rockhousers' drummer was Billy Weir, a local kid still in high school. In 1957, the band had a date in Canada but Weis's parents wouldn't let him leave school before graduation and so Jimmy M. Van Eaton was engaged to replace him for that gig.

The Rockhousers got an audition at Sun in late 1956 and their first recording session when Weir was barely 16 gave us this ''Give Me Some Love''. Weir may have been young, but he provides lots of presence in this performance. His drumming is continuous energy and, despite being the junior member of the band, he is not inclined just to hit the back beat and otherwise stay out of the way. In fact, he never goes through two entire bars without playing some rolls or extra accents. All that youthful exuberance provides much of the record's considerable appeal. It's frustrating to listeners today that the drums were not better recorded by Jack Clement. Weir recalls, ''They had me sitting all the way over by the door and there was one mike on the drums. The cymbals were lost. Those weren't ideal conditions to record drums. They actually sometimes had me come in and overdub drums where the original recordings were too muddy''.

The Rockhousers recorded at least three times at Sun, but Sam Phillips didn't sign them. Not long after their last session, they got a contract with Mercury Records and re-cut ''Give Me Some Love''. By that time, though, Harold Jenkins was using the stage name, Conway Twitty.

Composer: - Harold Jenkins
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Take 3 - Not Originally Issued (2:01)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/3 mono

Composer: - Harold Jenkins
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued (2:00)
Recorded: - November 16, 1956
Released: - 1997
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16112-1/4 mono
Reissued: - 1999 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16311-4 mono

"I Need Your Lovin' Kiss" which also sounds as though it might have been titled "Love And Happiness", Sam Phillips was right on both counts when it came to Twitty: he definitely had talent, but didn't display it at Sun. This is good journeyman rockabilly with all the energy and contagious enthusiasm that Twitty brought to his work, but it lacks the spark of originality that informs the very best Sun recordings, and would later inform Twitty's best recordings.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Harold Jenkins - Vocal and Guitar
Jimmy Ray Paulman - Guitar
Bill Harris - Bass
Billy Weir - Drums
Martin Willis – Saxophone

For Biography of Harold Jenkins see: > The Sun Biographies <
Harold Jenkins' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <



Rufus Thomas spent 1954 and most of the next two years entrenched in his radio work and personal appearances and he did not record again until the end of 1956. He retained some kind of a national profile, being featured in the trade press occasionally. He was mentioned as part of the publicity for the 1954 and 1955 Goodwill Revues but he had no record to promote at a Revue until 1956 when he joined Meteor Records, owned by Lester Bihari and situated in a black neighbourhood of Memphis.

Little is known about the short-lived Meteor episode and only two titles have survived from the session or sessions Rufus made at their rudimentary studio on Chelsea Avenue. Nevertheless Meteor 5039, which coupled ''The Easy Livin' Plan'' and ''I'm Steady Holding On'' is a mighty record. As far as people can remember the band was basically the musicians who played with Rufus regularly around Memphis, billed usually as the Bearcats. They included tenor saxophonists Evelyn Young, who had been on the Star Talent disc, and Harvey Simmons, along with a rhythm section of Lewis Steinberg on bass and Jeff Greyer on drums. The band sets up a storming shuffle as Rufus delivers a clever lyric about how to live life on the ''The Easy Livin' Plan''. The almost chanted list of the teachers, preachers, and the gambling men, the chauffeurs, stenographer girls, and Alabama bound sisters in the corner, all living life to the full, is an unforgettable moment in rhythm and blues lyricism. In contrast the slower paced ''I'm Steady Holding On'' is at once both a boastful and plaintive blues. Rufus told Peter Guralnick. ''I wrote one of the first songs that Bobby Bland ever sung: 'I got a new kind of loving that other men cant catch on/While they losing out I'm steady holding on'. It was a good tune. Bobby sang it on the Amateur Show and won first prize''.

Session Published for Historical Reasons



Composer: - Rufus Thomas-Joe Bihari
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Meteor Music Publishers
Matrix number: MR 5064 - Master (2:51)
Recorded: Unknown Date November 1956
Released: - November 1956
First appearance: Meteor Records (S) 45rpm Meteor 5039-A mono
Reissued: -2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-27 mono

Rufus Thomas came up with two really excellent songs with fine lyrics particularity evident on ''The Easy Livin' Plan''. This has a verse pattern song over just the drums which brings to mind Little Richard's ''Rip It Up''. Rufus and the band are really cooking here. ''I'm Steady Holdin' On'' is more classic Rufus, with sly lyrical boasting of his prowes, for just one of his many fine but generally overlooking slow blues. In spite of technical defects both of these recordings qualify as classics.

Composer: - Rufus Thomas-Joe Bihari
Publisher: - B.M.I. - Meteor Music Publishers
Matrix number: MR 5065 - Master (3:24)
Recorded: Unknown Date November 1956
Released: - November 1956
First appearance: Meteor Records (S) 45rpm Meteor 5039-B mono
Reissued: -2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-28 mono

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Rufus Thomas - Vocal
Evelyn Young – Tenor Saxophone
Harvey Simmons – Tenor Saxophone
Willie Dee – Trumpet
Billy Morrow – Piano
Unknown – Guitar
Lewis Steinberg – Bass
Jeff Greyer - Drums

For Biography of Rufus Thomas see: > The Sun Biographies <



Marty Robbins takes over the number 1 position on Billboard's country singles chart with ''Singing The Blues''.


A young Robert Blake makes a guest appearance on NBC-TV's ''The Roy Rogers Show'', alongside cast members Dale Evans and Pat Brady in an episode titles ''Paleface Justice''.


Fats Domino sings Blueberry Hill on CBS-TV's Ed Sullivan Show.


National US release of Elvis Presley's ''Love Me Tender''.

Gene Vincent cancels a month long engagement at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas after three weeks due to pains in his leg. The leg had been injured while he was in the Navy. He will remain in the hospital three months.

The singles, Sun 256 "Take And Give" b/w ''Do What I Do'' by Slim Rhodes and Sun 257 ''Cheese And Crackers'' b/w ''Shoobie Oobie'' by Rosco Gordon released.

"Train Of Love" b/w ''There You Go'' (SUN 258) by Johnny Cash is released as Cash returns from a tour of California.

Six days after its premiere in New York, Elvis Presley's first movie, ''Love Me Tender'', opens across the nation.

Actress Cynthia Rhodes is born in Nashville. Best known for her appearance in 1987's ''Dirty Dancing'', she is destined to marry singer/songwriter Richard Marx, who authors several Keith Urban hits and Kenny Rogers' ''Crazy''.


An unemployed sheet-metal worker in Toledo, Ohio, punches Elvis Presley, claiming the singer caused the break-up of his marriage. The attacker is found guilty of assault.


After more than two years on Broadway, the musical ''The Pajama Game'' closes at Manhattan's Shubert Theater. The production introduced Jerry Ross and Richard Adler's ''Hernando Hideaway'', a country hit when parodied by Homer and Jethro.

Billboard of November 24, 1956 listed Rufus Thomas record ''The Easy Livin' Plan''/''I'm Steady Holdin' On'' (Meteor 5039) as among the New Rhythm And Blues Releases, alongside Little Richards ''The Girl Cant Help It'', LaVern Bakers ''Jim Dandy'', and ''Love Is Strange'' by Mickey and Sylvia. It was as good as any of them, but Meteor didn't have the distribution or organisation to make it a hit.

The following week (December 7), Rufus Thomas introduced Elvis Presley to the crowd at the annual Goodwill Revue and was pictured with a sharp-looking Presley while wearing thu costume that went with the Indian theme of the Revue that year neither man sang his latosi release at the Revue but Rufus was one of the first black disc jockeys to play Presley's records.

In terms of recording success, and as far as his name and influence beyond Memphis are concerned, Rufus Thomas's best days were still ahead of him when he left Meteor Records. But that's a whole other story, about music that has been more readily available than the product of Rufus's Rhythm and blues years.


Gene Autry and The Cass County Boys perform ''Back In The Saddle Again'' and ''Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer'' on an installment of NBC-TV's ''The Steve Allen Show'' that also features singer and disc jockey Jim Lowe.


Big band figure Tommy Dorsey dies in Greenwich, Connecticut, after taking sleeping pills on top of liquor. The death comes after Elvis Presley made five appearances on The Dorsey Brothers ''Stage Show'', Elvis' first national TV exposure.


First broadcast videotape recording. Douglas Edwards and the News is recorded in New York by CBS on the Ampex machine and played back with three hours’ time difference on the West Coast. Two simultaneous video recordings are backed up by 35mm and 16mm film recordings all played back together to insure against disaster.


Twentieth Century-Fox makes a $30 million licence deal covering television distribution of its pre-1948 films. During the year most of Hollywood’s pre-1948 film library stock - a total of 2,700 titles has been released for television screening; at the same time, the possibility of the studios launching pay TV is a hotly debated subject.

FALL 1956

During the fall of 1956, Jack Clement is also on hand when Jerry Lee Lewis undergoes an impromptu audition at the Sun studio on 706 Union Avenue.

During the fall of 1956, Memphis-grown rockers Johnny Burnette and Paul Burlison, who had signed with Coral Records and were touring the Northeast with Johnny's older brother Dorsey as the Rock and Roll Trio, recruited Johnny Black to play bass. Dorsey left the group in a huff after the promoter gave his brother top billing (as Johnny Burnette & The Rock and Roll Trio). Johnny Black appeared with Burnette and Burlison in New York City disk jockey Alan Freed's movie ''Rock, Rock, Rock'', playing bass left-handed on ''Lonesome Train (On A Lonesome Track''), the trio's latest release.

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