Rockabilly Rages Strong Almost 60 Years Later

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

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.

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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, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Culture, Elvis, Elvis Presley, History, Music, Music History, Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Rockabilly Bands & Music, Roy Orbison, Sam Phillips, Sun Records and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rockabilly Rages Strong Almost 60 Years Later

  1. Buster Fayte says:

    You guys are awesome! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Sad Man's Tongue: Rockabilly Bar & Bistro - Prague says:

    No Mate you are awesome!

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