Rockabilly

Sparky & Cowboy, c.1962, Danny Lyon

I love me some rockabilly. I grew up with boxes of 45s from the ’50s, my mom’s and my uncle’s,  with everything from silly novelty records like “The Old Philosopher,” rhythm and blues like Fats Domino and the Jive Bombers, to Hank and bluegrass, and the true kings of rock ‘n roll, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. My uncle Paul also ran a few taverns, and when they dumped the hit singles for the latest batch, he’d bring home a trunkful of everything from KISS, Creedence, to ’80s one hit wonders.

On the other hand, I didn’t hear the Beatles until I was in high school, which is perhaps why I don’t buy into the worship. Great band; they changed history, yes. But it was more as a function of marketing, if you ask me. Same with Elvis. Love the guy, especially his early Sun Records work. But they stood on the shoulders of giants, and we must never forget that. Both of them found early success covering the R&B records that few would play, due to fears of mixing the races. They became their own men sometime afterward, when success allowed it.

Her expression inspired a character. c.1963 Danny Lyon

So, it was with great relish that I wrote a story for an upcoming anthology entitled “Hoods, Hot Rods & Hellcats,” that my friend Chad Eagleton is putting together. I dug deep for this one, through old family stories and ’50s hot rod history, World War 2 realities and human frailty. It’s a long one, at least it is before Chad edits it, and I look forward to sharing it. I could title it “birth of a hellcat,” but for now, it’s called “Red Hot,” after this gem by Billy Lee Riley:

4 thoughts on “Rockabilly

  1. Sounds like it’s going to be a great story. I remember Chad talking about wanting to do a “greaser noir” anthology, so it’s cool he’s getting it together.

    Did you know that Elvis, prior to stepping into Sun, played with the Burnett brothers for a bit, but they scared him. That was before he discovered hair dye.

  2. I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree with your take on The Beatles. As someone who was around when they first made their North American debut, they were not the result of marketing – and their earliest worldwide hits were original material (except for Long Tall Sally, which was their third or fourth big hit).

    Rather, The Beatles hit and then the marketing began. The music definitely came first – and they were doing revolutionary stuff from their very first album – the harmonies of She Loves You, or Please Please Me, for example, or the Moroccan rhythms of Don’t Bother Me were new to pop music in both the UK and North America. They made harmonies out of what should have been discord, right from their earliest work – it’s even apparent on that hideous album of covers they recorded in Germany.

    Sure, they wore their influences on their sleeves, but even when they did have a hit with a cover tune, like Long Tall Sally, they’d take it in unexpected directions (their version was even rawer than Little Richard’s for example, and had undercurrents of anguish that even he never explored).

    Just sayin’…

    • Sheldon, thanks for chiming in. perhaps I was too dismissive. Their harmonizing was revolutionary, but I’ll have to agree to disagree that they could improve upon their influences with their cover tunes. Just as I’d never elevate the thousands of musicians who stood on the shoulders of the Beatles after they broke many barriers, I always give the originator his due.
      They did change the world, and like the face that launched a thousand ships, they started a, million bands, and their influence continues.

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