by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate two great producers: THE MAN who gave us Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, and was instrumental in the careers of BB King, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas, James Cotton, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf, and one of the pioneering producers on the West Coast who gave us Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens, and Bobby Fuller.
First, Sam the MAN! From AllMusic:
Although he first made his mark (and a very deep one) with electric blues by Black performers, he will be most remembered for his rockabilly stars, particularly Elvis Presley. With singers such as Elvis, he was fusing the best of White and Black, and of R&B and C&W -- the main ingredients in the recipe that gave birth to rock & roll. In the mid-'50s in Memphis, when much of America and most of the South was racially segregated, this took not just artistic vision but personal courage.
When Sam Phillips (January 5, 1923 – July 30, 2003) finally founded Sun Records, the world was shaken like never before, as that was the label of the “Million Dollar Quartet” mentioned in the first line of the article. Those classic Sun Records sessions opened the doors for thousands of great rock and roll artists to do their thing.
From 1953, Rufus Thomas answering “Hound Dog” with his legendary "Bear Cat”
Also from 1953, Little Junior Parker and the Blue Flames doing the original version of "Mystery Train"
Also from 1954, Elvis’ second single for Sun, the classic "Good Rockin’ Tonight”
The original! From 1955, here’s Carl Perkins in his Sun recording of his classic "Blue Suede Shoes.” Here’s his Sun recording of "Boppin’ The Blues.” We’ll close Carl’s Sun contributions to rockabilly with his tune made famous by the Beatles as sung by Ringo, ("Rock on one time for me....,") "Honey Don’t.”
From 1955, Ray Charles doing "I Got A Woman.”
From 1956, Johnny Cash doing "I Walk The Line.”
For an extra treat, from sometime in the 50s, “the man in black” in a great live tv performance of “I Walk the Line” (Sorry about the audio, but back then television sound technology wasn’t very good!)
And from 1959, “the man in black” (not wearing black) in another live tv performance of “I Walk the Line”
We’ll close today’s birthday tribute to Sam Phillips with two of the biggest and best! From 1957, “the Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis doing his classic "Great Balls of Fire.” Also from 1957, the original JLL version of "Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.”
For our encore, here’s Jerry Lee rocking in Melbourne, Australia, in a 1989 live performance cranking out a wild version of “Great Balls of Fire”
And here’s the Killer in a 1957 tv performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” generating a LOT of heat for the late 50s!
Thanks for everything, Sam. You kicked the doors down and let rock and roll grow into a force that shook the world!
We now turn to our other celebration for today. It’s also the birthday of the legendary producer Bob Keane (January 5, 1922-November 28, 2009), creator of Keen and Del-Fi Records. He’s the one that gave us Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens, and Bobby Fuller, along with countless other talents. We begin our tribute with the great Sam Cooke in the original 1957 studio versions of
Here’s Ritchie Valens, the first true Latino superstar, doing the 1958 studio originals of “Come On Let’s Go” (Yes, that’s Ritchie lip synching the tune for an Alan Freed jukebox movie way back when!)
To close this set, we have Bob’s last big find! Please check out the recent birthday post on Bobby Fuller if you want the best of west Texas rock in the finest tradition of the genre! A meteoric rise, a tragic and mysterious death, his story is one of legend.
For now, the encore! The Bobby Fuller Four live on Hullabaloo doing “I Fought the Law”
RIP Bob. I gather you ran with some pretty shady characters, but I suppose anyone who made it in LA in the 50s had to. Thanks for the tunes.
ps - I almost forgot to honor one of the greatest "producers" in history, the venerable Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893 – March 7, 1952). Author of Autobiography of a Yogi, he introduced tens of thousands to Kriya Yoga, meditation, and a line of gurus including Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar. He was one of the best. Thanks for one of the best books I've ever read, and great fellowship and meditations in Southern California. Aum Namah Shivaya! Aum Namah Mahabodhisattva!
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson