I’ve been getting into Rockabilly for a short while..
And I have some thoughts about what I’m hearing.
Now, I’ve been into music in a big way all my life and I’m getting good at recognizing the next listening and collecting sensation as it approaches. I still love my Reggae, but for a while 40s and 50s Rhythm and Blues and then late 50s Rockabilly has been featuring heavily on my Mp3 player, cd player and more infrequently on the turntable/s here at Murphy Towers.
Just recently having listened to Warren Smith’s Ubangi Stomp and Miss Froggie I purchased Essential Rockabilly – The Sun Story on the cheaper than cheap One Day Music label. It strikes me that you can hear some interesting stuff on it. I have listed five of them below in order of interest to me.
1. Elvis Presley was trying to cover the bases with his first release ‘That’s All Right Mama’ b/w ‘Blue Moon’ (of Kentucky). Interestingly he seems most comfortable singing the Crudup classic, rather than the country number Blue Moon.
On the country/bluegrass tune he sings in a lower register superimposing a character on the song that isn’t like anything you’ll ever hear again. He’s playing, pretending he’s country, giving it some, hamming it up just a touch. Listen to it, check it out and you’ll see what I mean. In the first few bars you’ll not even be sure it’s him if you listen with open ears.
Of course this isn’t anything that isn’t already know. But you can really hear it on the shellac, it’s there audibly, history in the recording. Elvis on his first attempt and record release was trying to find his feet. Sam Phillips was trying to cover the angles by putting out a two sider, one R&B tune and one Country; in the hope that if the Black crowd or God help 50s ‘ society’ the teenagers didn’t like the Bluesy number their white and parental counterparts might prefer the 4/4 re-working of Monroe’s classic ode to Lunar tint.
2. It’s a good thing that Roy Orbison developed that lonesome high sound of his, because frankly at this stage of his career he was on a wrong ‘un. Orbison sounds like all the rest, there is not a great deal to distinguish him from the crowd of singers. In fact he sounds pretty weak at times. Orbison you sucked big time, but you did Okay in the end, for a speccy four eyes.
3. Charlie Feathers is good and needs more listening to, write that one down in the notebook. He’s quite obviously a full on redneck.
4. Johnny Cash is about the most mature temporally transcendant sounding artiste that Sun had. There is a developed confident, ‘I’ve made it already’ sound to Johnny’s output that impresses heavily. Listening to him, even more so than Elvis you are certain that out of all the artists you are listening to, he was the one who was going to make it big.
5. A lot of Rockabilly is badly played and amateurish at best (but great for it), and many of those lauded as great guitarists of the Rockabilly age wouldn’t have been fit to tune Jimi or Jeff’s Strat.
Oh… and 6. just for fun.. Jerry Lee Lewis has the fullest and most hypnotizing energy of all of those I’ve listened to so far, and yet, he’ll worry you on record, let alone up close and personal. Christ I’d be scared to rub him up the wrong way. He sounds like a man who’d shoot first and wouldn’t ask any questions whatsoever. Dangerous.