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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Rock > Nov/Dec 2019 > TOP 100 ROCKABILLY TRACKS

TOP 100 ROCKABILLY TRACKS

The infectious thumping rhythm, that unique upright bass thud, the exhilarating guitar solos that cut through it all … rockabilly is quite simply, the greatest music in the world. Weeeeeeeell… let’s rock!

Start searching for the crème de la crème of rockabilly tracks from the 50s and early 60s and the further down you dig the harder it gets. Such was the intense difficulty of the task that the Vintage Rock team set themselves with this definitive list of 100 rockabilly classics, that on a different day this list could have looked very different indeed. There are just so many exemplary examples of the rockabilly sound – from chart-topping mainstays to deeply-buried treasures, emanating from right across the length and breadth of the United States during that period – and a fair few good ‘uns from the UK.

For starters, in this list you will find a plenitude of recordings to have come out of Sam Phillips’ celebrated Sun Records studio in Memphis, from the well-known Sun standards made by artists like Carl Perkins, Billy Riley and Elvis through to lesserknown morsels from those that sunk below the radar such as Ray Smith, Jimmy Wages and Dick Penner, much of it unissued at the time and brought to fruition by the revival of the late 70s and 80s – but all of it priceless listening for the devout rockabilly fan. Of course, there’s plenty from the wider realm beyond Sun too, including pioneers such as Sid King, Gene Vincent and Buddy Holly, plus the ultimate purveyors of raw primal greaser rock: Johnny Burnette and the Rock’n’Roll Trio.

On top of that we’ve tried to shine a light on some of the lesser-known artists that missed the boat for some reason or other, but could easily have been giants of the scene. Add the oft-overlooked cast of exceptionally talented female rockers, from the luckier ones – namely Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin – that got some attention, and on to those that were either denied the further exposure they clearly deserved, or worse, ignored altogether. Whether it’s Sparkle Moore’s playful sounds or Barbara Pittman’s booming rock, we give them their rightful plaudits here.

One thing that has arisen from this project: if any fan of rockabilly has a little spare time on their hands to conduct a similar list, we heartily recommend the endeavour. There’s a vast array of incredible music out there, and beyond the pillars of the scene there’s a litany of genius: works that reflect the rebellious, raucous cultural shift of the time. We guarantee you’ll find gems you haven’t heard before. Take the trip and you won’t regret it – and be sure to send us your personal rundowns!

In the meantime, get online or plug in your turntable, turn up your stereo and work your way through this playlist of rockabilly classics from the golden era. Enjoy!

100

Stutterin’ Papa

BUCK GRIFFIN

Utilising a speech disorder as a hook was fine for the times, but Buck Gri. n’s rocking mainstay did little to trouble the charts on release. He tried his luck on Lin with Let’s Elope Baby, before signing with MGM and cutting this gem.

99

Miss Pearl

JIMMY WAGES

This unissued Sun cut made by Tennessean Jimmy Wages in 1957 harbours some wonderfully coarse vocals (albeit with troubling lyrics), augmented by various sessioneers providing the unique urgency heard in much of Sun’s early output.

98

Move Baby Move

DICK PENNER

Dick Penner and Wade Moore met at North Texas State University, and when fellow student Roy Orbison found success with their track Ooby Dooby, they too signed with Sun. Penner’s solo recording of Move Baby Move was unearthed in 2005.

97

Welcome To The Club

JEAN CHAPEL

Jean Chapel’s sole release on Sun was this jazz-flecked slice of sunny rockabilly. A sea change for Jean, who initially sung hillbilly alongside her sisters, this cover of Mae Boren Axton’s song announced her updated persona. 1957’s Oo-Ba La Baby is another great example.

96

Love My Baby

HAYDEN THOMPSON

Thrifty guitar work underpins this e. ortless re-run of Junior Parker’s 1953 Sun side. Thompson was another Sun alumnus and this top drawer example of primal rockabilly features members of Billy Riley’s Little Green Men as well as the piano strokes of Jerry Lee Lewis.

95

School Of Rock’n’Roll

GENE SUMMERS AND HIS REBELS

Rattling, raucous charm from obscure Dallas rocker Gene Summers, whose recordings grew in stature with the rockabilly revival of the early 70s. This tasty morsel was written by band-member James McClung and was issued by Jan Records on 1 February 1958.

94

Long Blond Hair, Red Rose Lips

JOHNNY POWERS

This 1957 single is one of two released by East Detroit hotshot Johnny Powers on Fox, a teenage rocker given his nickname from a PowerHouse candy bar he was seen eating in the studio.¢The track was recorded with lead guitarist Stan Getz and the Tom Cats in support.

93

Wake Me Up

NORMAN WITCHER

At the obscurer end of things, Norman Witcher released this top-class double-decker in 1958, his sole release through Indiana independent Poor Boy. A-side Somebody’s Been Rockin My Boat is another catalogue highlight making this 45 well worth adding to your playlists

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About Vintage Rock

In this issue of Vintage Rock we reveal our definitive Top 100 Rockabilly Tracks from classics of the genre through to lesser-known gems in the catalogue. With Halloween upon us, this issue we brush aside the cobwebs to step inside the spooky world of ghoul-rock pioneer Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and David West navigates his way through the zombie-loving ranks of Psychobilly with the help of The Sharks' frontman Alan Wilson and Dutch psychobilly giants Batmobile. 60 years on from it's release, Randy Fox investigates this month's classic album, Bo Diddley's big-selling second offering Go Bo Diddley, we hear from 21st century roots rockers The Delta Bombers who discuss their new material, and David Burke looks into the fascinating story of Hank Ballard, the rhythm and blues mastermind behind The Twist. Much more inside too, including the Jive Aces' Summertime Swing live, news – including an upcoming Netflix animation with Elvis cast as a spy, and all of the latest music reviewed! Enjoy the issue!