Rock-A-Billy: (N) An intense and rhythmic blend of (hillbilly) Country Music, Bluegrass, Rhythm and Blues, Southern Gospel and African-American spirituals. Originally performed by White musicians from the Mid-South region of the United States. Characterized by assertive, confident single vocal performance, moderately fast tempos, and  three to four musicians using acoustic rhythm guitar, upright "slap" bass, electric lead guitar and sometimes discernible studio echo-effects to enhance the recordings.

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Ersel Hickey

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Sam Phillips

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Ray Smith

  Ersel Hickey and Ray Smith the personification of early rock and roll

A brash, lively, unselfconscious hybrid of blues and country that became rock and roll. It came from Sam Phillip's Sun Studios in Memphis, where Phillips recorded small bands - slapping string bass, twanging lead guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar - with plenty of echo while singers made astonishing yelps, gulps, hiccups and stutters as they sang about girls, cars, slacks and even little green men from outer space. The original rockabilly style ended with the fifties.
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Elements of Rockabilly Elvis Presley Female Rockabillys Other  Rockabillys

"We shook the devil loose!" We bopped those blues!"

It's uptempo, it's rhythm. You ain't sitting there worrying about car payments or house notes. You're out there shakin" dust loose on those honky-tonk floors."
Carl Perkins

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jpg courtesy Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Sun Artists

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Sonny Burgess
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Johnny Cash
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Ray Harris
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Roland Janes
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Jerry Lee Lewis

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Roy Orbison

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Carl Perkins

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Elvis Presley

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Charlie Rich

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Warren Smith
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Hayden Thompson

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Malcolm Yelvington

Warren Smith   Malcolm Yelvington   Hayden Thompson Sam Phillips was a white man who genuinely love black music and in 1950 he opened the Memphisrrneon.gif (7563 bytes) Recording Studio. There blues legends B.B. King, Howling' Wolf and Elmore James made some of their first recordings. After first leasing  recordings to other labels Phillips  began his own label Sun Records in 1952. Phillips often said "If  I could only find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a million dollars".

July 5, 1954 was a warm summer night in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black were recording that night at the Sun Records. According to Scotty Moore "we were taking a break, I don't know, we were having Cokes and coffee, and all of a sudden Elvis was singing a song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up the bass and he began acting the fool, too, and you know, I started playing with them. Sam had the door to the control room open- I don't know, he was either editing some tape or doing something -  and he stuck his head out and said, "What are you doing?" and we said, "We don't know." "Well back up," he said "try to find a place to start and do it again'"

Rockabilly was invented that night in Memphis. It's rough southern edges were an exciting contrast to the group oriented rhythm and blues produced in the Northern cities.  Fading from the scene by the late nineteen fifties, Rockabilly for many remained the "purest" form of rock and roll. Though it only last a few brief years it provided a crucial sound, image  and rebellious spirit for rock's initial wave.

"We were young, you know, we didn't really know what we were doing. But I'll tell you buddy, we really did something!"
Charlie Feathers

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