Rockabilly Giants Didn’t Always Become Superstars

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

No one’s about to argue that Elvis is the King of Rock and Roll. While many will argue about who recorded the first song you could label as “Rockabilly,” it was undeniably Elvis who put the genre on the map with the recordings he made at the Memphis Recording Service studios for Sun Records starting in 1954. But who is the “King of Rockabilly?”

Many might argue that Elvis holds this crown too, but it’s not really such an easy question to answer. After all, Elvis moved quickly beyond rockabilly into a more pop-oriented style as soon as he switched from Sun Records to RCA Victor just a couple of years after his early success with straight-up rockabilly. So, let me offer a few other possible contenders for the title of “King of Rockabilly.”

  1. Carl Perkins: A very strong contender indeed! Perkins scored a huge hit on Sun Records with the life-changing “Blue Suede Shoes” and although he never scored another hit that was nearly as big, his impact on rockabilly and the world of modern pop music in general is virtually incalculable. His guitar playing inspired thousands of young rockers including The Beatles (who idolized the man). His song writing was simply amazing. His lyrics defined the rockabilly vernacular. Simply stated, Perkins had amazing influence.
  2. Eddie Cochran: Cochran died far too young. Given the time to develop, he may actually have challenged Presley for the “King of Rock and Roll” crown; he was that good! Where Perkins presented a rough face, Cochran was silky smooth on the outside and all raw energy beneath the surface. He had a beautiful voice, was an amazingly accomplished guitarist for someone so young (he died at the age of 21), and had a natural charisma that captivated male and female fans alike.
  3. Gene Vincent: With his black-leather teenaged tough image, Vincent belted out the songs with an energy no one could match. He had a string of fantastic songs and in the early years was backed by perhaps the greatest rockabilly guitarist of them all, Cliff Gallup. The typical Vincent number was an exercise in wild abandon and like the other guys on this list, his influence touched virtually every rocker that came after him.
  4. Johnny Burnette: The Burnette Brothers Rock and Roll Trio was amazing. With his brother Dorsey on Bass and Paul Burlison on lead guitar, the trio turned out some of the most wonderful and wild rockers of the rockabilly years. Many of their recordings featured some of the most innovative guitar work ever, played either by Burlison or session man Grady Martin (arguments rage over exactly who played on which songs). These guys were unrestrained, unpolished, and wild. Everything rockabilly should be!

So, there you have four strong contenders for the title of “King of Rockabilly.” If you’re not familiar with the music these cats made, then you owe it to yourself to give each of them a good listen. I’m not going to tell you which one is the king–that’s for you to decide for yourself! One thing’s for sure, each one of these guys would perfectly justified in wearin the crown!

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 Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Rockabilly Bands & Music, Sun Records and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Rockabilly Giants Didn’t Always Become Superstars

  1. Pingback: James Burton: The Teen Who Invented American Guitar (Reblogged – Sad Man’s Tongue Rockabilly Bar & Bistro) « Throughhisown's Weblog

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