When Sam Phillips opened up the Memphis Recording Service studios on Union Street in Memphis, Tennessee and started his own independent record label, Sun Records, 60 years ago, he could not have known the impact that he, his studio, and his new label would have on the world. He simply wanted to record and distribute good music and mostly concentrated on Blues music the first couple of years. And yet, his influence has stretched fully across the years and around the globe as the music that came out of his stable and the artists that played it went on to have a profound effect on the music that followed it in both the rock and roll and country markets.
When Elvis started goofing around between recording takes of various country ballads that he’d been struggling to make sound right, he started hamming it up with a wild version of the old R&B number, “That’s All Right.” Elvis thought he was simply goofing off and blowing off some steam, but Phillips recognized that what he was hearing was revolutionary. He had Elvis and his session musicians, Bill Black on Bass and Scotty Moore on guitar, record the song for real and it became perhaps the seminal moment in rock and roll history.
Elvis recorded many other songs for Sun Records in the style that came to be called rockabilly and as he began to realize commercial success with songs like “Mystery Train,” “Milk Cow Blues Boogie,” “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,” and others, other musicians across the country were inspired to write and record songs in the same style.
Eddie Cochran, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, and many others picked up their guitars and started cranking out fantastic rockabilly. The last half of the 1950s saw an explosion of rockin’ tunes and brought fame and success to many energetic kids who’d found an exciting new musical expression to apply their skills to.
All of this success by other artists only added to Elvis’ considerable mystique as he quickly became the King. Ironically, many of these artists–particularly those on Phillips’ Sun Records label like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Orbison, Charlie Rich, and others–became too famous too fast and Phillips couldn’t hold them. His record company was just too small and his organization just too overpowered. He began to sell off his contracts and the heyday of Sun Records drew to a close almost as quickly as it had appeared. The bigger companies demanded a more widely accessible sound from their new artists and the rough edges began to be polished off of the raw rockabilly music. Then also, came the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran to strike a terrible blow to the rockabilly world.
While Sun Records figuratively disappeared from the scene, and rockabilly along with it by the very early 1960s, the influence never died. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many other bands were profoundly influenced by rockabilly and rockabilly musicians like Carl Perkins and Elvis, and they kept the rockabilly legacy alive (if just barely) by incorporating not only classic rockabilly songs into their acts, but also rockabilly style into their own songs.
By the late 1970s, most folks had forgotten about rockabilly. Modern pop music had evolved quite far away from its rockabilly roots. Elvis had sadly become a bit of a parody of himself up until his 1977 death at an early age. But still the music never died. A rockabilly resurgence began in America, but especially in Europe where the music had never died out to the same extent as it did in the states. Rockabilly began bubbling up from under the surface again with performers like Robert Gordon, Matchbox, and The Blasters until suddenly the scene exploded into popularity again when the Stray Cats, who’d become quite popular in Europe, hit the charts with their American release “Built For Speed” in 1981 and ’82. It was a bit more stylized rockabilly, with Setzer and the boys donning poofed-up pompadours, tattoos, and ear rings. It had a rougher, nastier, more distorted edge to it than the original music due to the influence of modern punk music, but at its core it was rockabilly nonetheless and really gave the genre a shot in the arm.
And rockabilly has never faded away again. It’s still not the most popular form of music these days, but there are many fantastic rockabilly bands throughout America, Europe, Australia, and even Japan. 60 years later, the music that started a revolution still rocks the world over. Not bad for a trend started by a bunch of brash young kids with guitars and a few new ideas about what music could be!
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.
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
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