Rockabilly Essentials: Five Songs You Have to Know

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By Buster Fayte, Featured Author, Sad Man’s Tongue

With all of the amazing rockabilly music that has been created over the  years, trying to pick the “best songs” is next to impossible. Of course,  everyone has an opinion on the subject and it’s fun to talk to other rockabilly  enthusiasts about which songs they consider to be the best. Everyone agrees that  there are some songs that you simply have to know if you’re going to keep up  with the conversation when it turns to rockabilly music–they just don’t always  agree on which songs those are! In this article I’ll talk about five  songs that I think are essential to an education in rockabilly music.

  1. Mystery Train: Elvis’ version of this song is simply amazing. It may  be the best thing he ever recorded. It’s raw and sparse and it embodies the very  essence of early rockabilly. If you’re not old enough to remember when this tune  hit the airwaves, you’ll have to simply imagine what a departure this was from  anything on the radio at the time. This is as lean as it gets: Elvis and his  acoustic, Scottie Moore on guitar, and Bill Black holding the bottom and  setting the rhythm with his slap bass. That’s right, no drums! And still one of  the greatest rock and roll performances of all time.
  2. Blue Suede Shoes: Yes, after being a smash hit for both Elvis and  Carl Perkins (who wrote it), it has become almost expected over the years and  can get worn out by the commercial oldies stations, but this gem still rocks  like nothing else. Perkins’ version features great guitar work, clever lyrics,  urgent vocals, and trend-setting style. Everyone loves this song!
  3. Train Kept A’rollin’: This Burnette Brothers Rock and Roll Trio  classic features one of the greatest rockabilly guitar solos of all time. The  amazing guitar solo in this song has spawned one of the most heated arguments in  all of rockabilly music! Some say it was played by ace session man Grady Martin,  others say it was the trio’s regular guitarist Paul Burlison, and still others  insist that there are two guitars on the record and both men played on it.  Regardless of who played it, it’s clever and down right nasty. It sets the dirty  tone for this rockin’ heartbroken lament and in his typical fashion Johnny  Burnette slams it home with an equally insistent vocal performance.
  4. Who Slapped John: Classic Gene Vincent, this song lets loose with all  of the abandon that makes rockabilly so compelling. More fantastic guitar solo  work by the incomparable Cliff Gallup alternates beautifully with Vincent’s  trademark unsettled vocals and the screams and yells provided by various Blue  Caps (Vincent’s backing band) makes this a two-minute party that leaves you  breathless.
  5. Rock Around With Ollie Vee: Everyone knows Buddy Holly, but most  people don’t know him like this. This is pure rocking rockabilly and when you  listen to it, it’s easy to see why Holly became such a sensation. In just a  short time after this song was recorded, Holly became the polished and  accomplished performer that we all know from his hits and that just makes it all  the more fun to listen to his early, ragged rockabilly gems. This is Holly in  all his brilliance, but raw.


These are just five songs that I think are essential. Not the only five to be  sure! But if you become familiar with the five, you’ll get a great start on  understanding rockabilly music and what makes it so special.

Buster Fayte is an author and rockabilly musician. He Blogs at “Buster Fayte’s Rockabilly Romp” where he writes about the passion he shares with millions of musicians and fans for rockabilly and oldies music. Buster has written several books including the “Complete Home Music Recording Start Kit”. He writes original songs, sings, and plays both guitar and bass.

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About Sad Man's Tongue: Rockabilly Bar & Bistro - Prague

We are a Bar and Bistro where old school meets the new school, dedicated to preserving the roots of rock and roll and it's modern adaptations as well as preserving the cultural identity of our neighborhood through our food, the the principles of the slow food movement. A little bit of rockabilly and retro combine with the kustom kulture of today, in an atmosphere devoid of Pretension.
This entry was posted in 1950s, Bands, Carl Perkins, Elvis, Elvis 1956, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash, Music, Musicians, Rock Music, Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Rockabilly Bands & Music, Sam Phillips, Sun Records and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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