The Roots Of Rockabilly…Sun Rockabilly Meltdown #1


When Sam Phillips welded country, R&B, and blues together in the mid-’50s in his Memphis-based Sun Studios, releasing the explosive result on his legendary Sun Records imprint, he changed the face of pop music forever, largely because of Elvis Presley‘s first recordings, but also because of the early work of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison, along with dozens of other lesser-known artists who never quite became household names, like Charlie Feathers and Billy Lee Riley. It was a noisy revolution, full of fun and bravado, and it worked more often than it didn’t. This extremely generous three-disc, 107-track box set of Sun offerings kicks off with Presley‘s seminal “Mystery Train” and keeps on rolling from there, with the tracks running right through the heart of the Sun Records catalog, a fun and raucous trip through the historic backlist of one of the coolest and most influential labels ever to hawk a record.(AlllMusic)

Our 1st installment of this excellent compilation will focus on some of the lesser know stars of Sun Records.

Move Baby, Move…Dick Penner


Dick Penner isn’t exactly a household name, even in rockabilly circles, but any man who could co-write a classic like “Ooby Dooby” has carved some kind of a place for himself in the history of the music. Despite his having been born in Chicago, Dick Penner got a shot at being an authentic country music and rockabilly legend when he was a year old and his family moved to Dallas, TX. It was there that he was exposed to country music on the radio, and by age 16 he’d taken up the guitar. At 18 he entered North Texas State University in Denton, TX, where he hooked up with Wade Moore and later met Roy Orbison, who at that time was leading a group called the Wink Westerners, who subsequently transformed themselves into the Teen Kings.

                                        In collaboration with Moore, Penner co-authored a song called “Ooby Dooby,” which Orbison and his band later turned into one of the best-selling rockabilly singles of all time at Sun Records. Making the switch from country music to rock & roll, Penner and Moore formed a duo and recorded for Sun in 1957, sometimes as Wade & Dick and sometimes as the College Kids. Wade & Dick recorded six songs, and Penner did a handful of songs on his own, all of which displayed a hard, youthful edge and were aimed at the new teen market, but none of them were notably successful. Penner‘s three singles (on at least one of which he shared guitar chores with Don Gilliland), “Move Baby Move,” “Fine Little Baby,” and “Someday Baby,” all seemed to hook around a certain thematic similarity. They weren’t in a league with “Ooby Dooby,” however, which made a respectable showing on the national charts in Orbison‘s hands and has since come to be regarded as a classic of the genre. Moore continued working in music with Orbison, but Penner decided on a career in academia and reportedly became a professor of English.

Baby, I Don’t Care…Carl Mann


One of the last discoveries on Sam Phillips‘ legendary Sun label, piano player Carl Mann was best known for his rockabilly reworking of the Nat “King” Cole pop standard “Mona Lisa.” That million-selling hit positioned him as something of a softer, smoother Jerry Lee Lewis, possessed of a crooner’s instincts and a velvety vibrato. Unfortunately, Mann was never able to land another hit on the level of “Mona Lisa,” despite waxing a fair amount of high-quality rock & roll. Like many early rock vets, he eventually moved into country music when the rockabilly market dried up, but never successfully established himself in that arena, and gradually drifted out of music.

Carl Mann was born in Huntingdon, TN, on August 22, 1942. He grew up in a strongly rural area, where his family ran a lumber business, and fell in love with country music as a child. He began singing in church at age nine and soon moved on to performing country songs at area talent contests. He learned guitar at age ten, and piano at 13, by which time he’d already become a regular on local radio. He also formed a band with several other young musicians, and soon took an interest in the R&B and rockabilly records that some of his DJ friends played on the radio, especially those of Elvis Presley. In 1957, Mann successfully auditioned for the Jaxon label and cut his debut single, “Gonna Rock and Roll Tonight” b/w “Rockin’ Love”; those sides marked his first collaborations with guitarist Eddie Bush, who would become an important member of Mann‘s band, and assisted him on his rearrangement of “Mona Lisa.” Mann cut several more unreleased sides for Jaxon over the next year, and caught a break when Carl Perkins‘ drummer Bill “Fluke” Holland offered to become his manager. Holland brought Mann to Sun Records in 1959, and Sam Phillips signed him to a three-year deal. Mann cut his take on “Mona Lisa” early that year, and while Phillips wasn’t keen on releasing it as a single, Conway Twitty heard the demo tape and quickly cut his own version, which began climbing the charts. Phillips hurriedly issued Mann‘s, which battled Twitty‘s all the way up the pop charts. Both hit the Top 30, and while they tended to cancel each other out in terms of placement, Mann‘s wound up selling over a million copies; and he wasn’t even 17 years old. (More at..

Drive-In…Mack Vickery


Mack Vickery never let adversity stand in the way of his ambition. Left motherless at an early age, he lived an itinerant life with his father for a decade, from the early 1940s through the early ’50s. He developed a love of country music in the course of growing up, and while still in his mid-teens started his own honky tonk band. Successfully deceiving people about his age, Vickery eked out a living playing music in Michigan and Ohio. His major influence, apart from Hank Williams, was Ernest Tubb, whose 1948 hit “Have You Ever Been Lonely” became part of Vickery’s repertory. At age 19, he made it to Memphis and an audition for Sun Records, on which he tried to straddle the gap between honky-tonk and rockabilly. He was rejected by Sun, and Vickery later bounced around different companies, including Gone Records and Jamie, earning little for his trouble; he never did enjoy success as a recording artist, despite a decade or more of trying. Vickery did sing and play harmonica backing Jerry Lee Lewis during the latter’s years on Mercury Records, but much more important were the songs that he wrote, including “Meat Man,” “I Sure Miss Those Good Old Times,” “Ivory Tears,” “Forever Forgiving,” “That Kind of Fool,” and “Rockin’ My Life Away.” His songs also became hits for Faron Young, Tanya Tucker, Sammi Smith, and Waylon Jennings, and his collaborations have included “She Went a Little Bit Farther,” written with Merle Kilgore, which was recorded by Vickery’s one-time idol Ernest Tubb, among other artists. In the mid-’80s, songs from Vickery’s rejected Sun demo tape, Fool Proof, were released by Charly Records as part of their reissue of the Sun Records library. After suffering a heart attack Mack Vickery passed away December 21, 2004 at the age of 66. (AllMusic)

stay tuned for part 2……

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Co-founder of 50thirdand3rd, stepped away to spend time with family and write. From Pittsburgh, now in Florida, Cool Canadian artist wife, 4 great kids, and two granddaughters!! I'm a lucky guy!

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