posts tagged "rockabilly"

What is Rockabilly?

Don’t confuse the typical radio station, DJ, dance band that claims to play “oldies music” with authentic rockabilly music. Very few of these folks know, understand and actually promote true rockabilly music.

Without saying “it’s just a feeling,” rockabilly is a hard term to pin down. The simplest way may be to describe it as picturing an exciting blend of the blues, country and gospel sounds of American music that were prevalent, up to the mid 1950’s. Mix that in with the heavier beat that was becoming more and more a part of pop music of the day and the result was “rock ‘n’ roll.”

So what then is rockabilly?

Let’s call it a window. Many young musicians found a sound that appealed to the ears and dancing feet of their generation. The older generation stepped back in amazement. During the time frame of 1955 thru 1960 a unique musical historical window was created. All the musical ingredients that came through that window shined into the souls of American teenagers. “Rockabilly music” WAS THE WINDOW.

We will add some name recognition to help illustrate. We’ve all heard about Elvis’ early “Memphis Sound” on the Sun records. This sound captured teen hearts of the fifties and is still recognizable today. Do any of these other names sound familiar? Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley & The Comets, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent. These are just some of the names of rockabilly artists most people have heard. These talents have been admired for over two generations.

Rockabilly is one of the purist forms of American roots music. It was never a watered-down, homogenized sound designed by corporate record companies to build profits. You can’t change something musical that is pure and simple without ruining the result.

This unique music is far from a “thing from the past.” It is alive today more than ever. In the small venues throughout the world you will find legendary performers and younger musicians in their 20’s and 30’s playing strictly rockabilly. The same driving guitar licks, frantic vocals, standup bass slap and heavy snare drum backbeat still sound great!

Many weekend rockabilly shows are drawing big crowds of all ages and from all countries. Some of the veteran performers are no longer with us, but others are still performing regularly in the US, England and in clubs and concerts throughout the world. Many are coming out of retirement (much to the delight of their sons, daughters and grandchildren) to join the movement to a more simple, happier feeling as the century draws to an close.

The writer of “Rock Around the Clock” was quoted as saying, “It amazes me to this day, when I’m at a dance or party and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ is played, six-year-old kids are jumping up and down and 85-year-old grandmas are tappin’ their feet. I don’t believe they even realize why they’re doing it. This sound and music has to be timeless!”

You’ll have to admit that rockabilly, the “launching pad of rock ‘n’ roll,” has become a major part of the current music scene as it often resurfaces in movies and in bits and pieces of today’s songs. Just listen carefully, you’ll hear it and love it.

TO NAME A FEW ROCKABILLY LEGENDS:

Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, Charlie Feathers, Bill Haley/Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison, Wanda Jackson, Eddie Cochran, Janis Martin, Johnny Burnette, Brenda Lee, Narvel Felts, D.J. Fontana, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, James Burton, Everly Brothers, Jack Scott, Duane Eddy, Rosie Flores, Dave Edmunds, Glen Glenn, Barbara Pittman. Dale Hawkins, Johnny Horton, Billy Lee Riley, Buddy Knox, Sleepy LaBeef, Sam Phillips, Lou Hobbs, Billy Swan, Ritchie Valens, Alvis Wayne, Rockin’ Roary, Link Wray, Malcolm Yelvington, Hayden Thompson, Eddie Bond, The Crickets, Collins Kids, Sonny Burgess, Paul Burlison, Ray Campi, Johnny Carroll, Sanford Clark, Ronnie Dawson, Billy Adams, Mac Curtis, Col. Robert Morris, Ray Condo, Stray Cats, Johnny Powers, Huelyn Duvall, Ray Smith, Robert Gordon, Charlie Gracie, Rudy Grayzell, Ronnie Haig, Jordanaires, Matt Lucas, Warren Smith, Bob Luman, Lonnie Mark, Carl Mann, Burl Boykin, C.W. Gatlin, Ray Harris, Grady Martin, Bob Moore, Johnny Preston, Gene Summers and many others.

Wanda Jackson
The Outsiders directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1983)
Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps (1957)
Johnny Cash- Sun Records - Canada Issue LP