A Good Rockabilly Tune Delivers a Punch

By , Featured Writer, Sad Man’s Tongue

What makes a good rockabilly song? I guess you could come up with a million  answers to that question, but to me one answer kind of sums it all up: A good  rockabilly tune delivers a punch. The interesting thing though, is that  different songs deliver different types of punch. It’s not completely  predictable. While the rockabilly label conjures up distinct images, when you  look more closely, you see that there are really many facets to the rockabilly  diamond. So, what is this “punch” that rockabilly delivers? Let’s take a look at  a few possible answers.

The Beat

First and maybe most recognizable punch the music delivers is the beat.  Typically rockabilly tunes have a strong, steady backbeat provided by the  drummer. Normally it’s the single snare shot on the twos and fours that drive  the tune. Many times the snare hits resemble pistol shots that ring out and  leave no doubt as to the beat of the song. But if you dig a little deeper into  the genre, some interesting things begin to develop.

Some rockabilly tunes don’t follow the powerful backbeat rule. Some have more  of a shuffle feel to them that makes these songs a little more easy flowing and  laid back. And yet, this rhythm makes these songs no less rockabilly than songs  in the first category.

If you’re really paying attention, you realize that the snare drum is  actually not absolutely essential to rockabilly at all. In fact, much of the  first rockabilly didn’t even feature drums on the recordings! Elvis’ very early  Sun Records recordings are the perfect example. Johnny Cash’s early Sun  recordings and songs by other artists were also drumless. So, it can’t be just  backbeat provided by the drums that delivers the punch.

The Guitars

OK then, it must be the guitar work and distinctive guitar sounds that  provide the punch. Heavily county-influenced guitar riffs and solos are really a  hallmark of rockabilly. Lead guitar work is usually based around chords with  lots of single-note licks thrown in for seasoning. The hollow-body electric  guitar sound is a dead giveaway, although lots of classic recordings feature  solid-body electric guitar work too. And, not to be left out, many songs were  based around an acoustic guitar not just for rhythm, but also for leads. So  that’s it; rockabilly relies on the lead guitar for the punch.

Hold on though…What about Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, and other  rockabilly greats whose songs were built more around the piano than the guitar?  Right; that proves you can make a great rockabilly song without the guitar  taking front and center.

The Slap Bass

Well, it’s got to be the bass then. A big stand-up bass fiddle played with a  slapping, snapping style to create lots of string noise and thus a rhythm.  Indeed, it was this slap-bass style that enabled those early Elvis and Johnny  Cash recordings to rock out completely even without drums. Yep; it’s got to be  the slap bass that gives the music the punch.

The Vocals

But wait; what about the vocals? Usually the vocals are sparse with just a  lead singer wailing away. The trademark hiccup style that so many rockabilly  singers perfected is just the start. Total vocal abandon is really what  rockabilly’s all about. A guy didn’t have to have the greatest voice in the  world, he just had to have good command of it and then let loose with no  reservation and an overabundance of energy. A few well-placed screams, growls,  moans, and other assorted vocal noises could really ratchet a song up a notch or  two. Yes, it must be the vocals that provide the punch.

All of the Above!

So, what is it? From where does rockabilly music get its punch? Naturally,  the answer is “all of the above” and more. Honestly, I think it’s really just  the attitude, the energy, and the sincerity of the music that gives it such a  punch. Rockabilly music is just good, pure fun. If you let yourself go with it  and let rockabilly take you where it will, then whether you can define the punch  or not, you’ll feel it! That’s the beauty of rockabilly music.

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: Ezine Articles


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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1 Response to A Good Rockabilly Tune Delivers a Punch

  1. Pingback: A Good Rockabilly Tune Delivers a Punch | Rockabilly | Scoop.it

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