I can’t remember exactly where I first heard about Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio. It might have been during my Cramps phase or it could have been in one of the 1950’s rock n roll/teenage delinquent flicks I used to (and still do) love. All I know is that when I heard this version of “Train Kept A-Rollin'” I about knocked myself over. I kinda liked Aerosmith’s version along with The Yardbirds but Johhny Burnette and the Rn’R Trio put those covers to shame.
Originally Tiny Bradshaw and his band first recorded “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” in 1951. It was more of a mid tempo jump blues but it did not chart. Johhny Burnette and the Rn’R Trio (brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette along with guitarist Paul Burlison) reworked the 1951 song into a rockabilly arrangement and some experts consider this song the first use of guitar distortion. Even though some gave Paul Burlison credit on the guitar, many others (including this writer) believe that Nashville session guitarist Grady Martin played guitar on this track and gave it it’s distinctive sound. On October 13, 1956, Coral issued “The Train Kept A-Rollin (the bands 3rd single) but again, it did not chart. Eventually the band disbanded in 1957 and Johnny Burnette went on to have a successful solo pop music/teen idol career in the early 1960’s until his death from a boating accident in 1964. But Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio’s version of this classic song will continue to live on.
Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio- “Train Kept A-Rollin'” (Coral Records- 1956)