Obscure Rockabilly Musicians Beat Around the Edges

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

I suppose you could say that rockabilly itself is obscure, but even many of  us who know and love the wild form of early rock and roll music really know only  the most famous rockabilly performers. But as with anything, underneath the  stars is a whole world of lights that, though they didn’t shine quite as  famously, certainly didn’t shine any less brightly or with any less intense  heat! This article takes a look at a few lesser-known rockabilly pioneers who  turned out some great music of their own.

  1. Ersel Hickey: Not all rockabilly cats came from Memphis or even from  the south for that matter. Ersel hailed from New York and had a hard young life.  His father died when he was four, his mother was institutionalized, he  eventually ran away from one foster home after another, and at 15 ran off with  his sister, an exotic dancer who travelled the carnival circuit. Eventually he  landed in a home for troubled kids where he was introduced to gospel and  R&B. Then he heard Elvis and found his career. His very cool 1958 “Shame on  Me” sounds ahead of its time and should have made him a star. He did have some  chart success both for himself and with songs he wrote for others.
  2. Don Terry: I couldn’t find much information on Don Terry, but he had  a couple of pretty cool songs that, while they might not be classics, certainly  add to the wealth of rockabilly treasure. “Knees Shaking” was (I think) backed  by the b-side “She Giggles” on the obscure Lin record label out of Gainsville.  Terry may have been a DJ at a Gainsville radio station.
  3. Carl Mann: On the strength of the rockin’ “Rock and Roll Tonight,” on  the Jaxon Records label, Mann was eventually signed to Sun Records. Although he  only flirted with any real success, Mann cut some great-sounding rockabilly. His  “Baby I Don’t Care” (not to be confused with Elvis’ “I Don’t Care”) has a real  Jerry Lee Lewis feel to it.
  4. Johnny Powers: Powers was another northerner (from Michigan) drawn to  rockabilly when he heard Elvis’ early songs. He recorded for several small local  labels and his “Long Blonde Hair” backed with “Rock, Rock” is a fabulous  rockabilly 45. He eventually landed a deal with Sun Records and recorded one  record for Sun in 1959 (“With Your Love, With Your Kiss”), but by that time  music was beginning to change, rockabilly was on the wane, and Sun’s star was  beginning to set. He never released another Sun record. Interestingly enough,  Powers was eventually signed to Mowtown records and is the only white artist to  have been signed by both Sun and Mowtown.
  5. Fred Neil: Yet another northerner (Ohio), Neil was a staff writer and  wrote songs that were recorded by the likes of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison.  During this time he recorded a handful of rockabilly songs of his own, but never  had any success as a performer. “You Ain’t Treatin’ Me Right” is a Big  Bopperesque number that shows he had potential that was never really realized as  a performer. He went on to have success as a writer of folk songs.


Fame never really came to any of the artists on this list. And there are many  others like them. But still, their contributions to the richness of rockabilly  can’t be denied when you listen to their records… if you can find them!

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.
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2 Responses to Obscure Rockabilly Musicians Beat Around the Edges

  1. Pingback: Obscure Rockabilly Musicians Beat Around the Edges | Rockabilly | Scoop.it

  2. noirbgirl says:

    Excellent! I approve, and not just cause I have an autograph of Johnny Powers hanging over my bed 😉
    Ersel Hickey’s “Goin Down That Road” may be my favourite of his.
    I’ll give a holler for Tyrone Schmidling, as well.

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