by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate two great producers and a Master of the Wisdom. The producers include THE MAN who gave us Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, and helped launch the careers of BB King, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas, James Cotton, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf. The second was a pioneering California producer who gave us Sam Cooke, Ritchie Valens, and Bobby Fuller. The Wise guy, Paramahansa Yogananda, was one of the most spiritual Men of the 20th century.
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.
Also from Wikipedia:
Phillips had an open style and insightful guidance that seemed to allow musicians, especially Presley, to search and feel their way to a point to where they would perform beyond Phillips's and their own expectations. He also seemed to have a sense for when the artist was about to reach the point of their best performance. Phillips recorded looking for a feel, not technical perfection. Phillips told Elvis that the worst thing he could go for was perfection. Phillips was always seeking what he called the perfect/imperfect cut. This meant that it was not technically perfect, but perfectly conveyed the feeling and emotion of the song to the listener and gave the song a living personality, partially due to it being technically imperfect.
But there was a life before Elvis, and here’s what Sam gave the world! This song is said to be the “first rock and roll song,” done by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner in 1951, "Rocket 88” Another cleaner version of ”Rocket 88" here.
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”
We’ll close this part of the birthday tribute with a live performance by the King back when he was still with Sun records! From September 1956, an electrifying video called “Tupelo’s Own.” For your enjoyment, here’s Elvis on stage shaking it in a big way and stressing the sound system in bigger ways! Elvis Live in 1956 – “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Long Tall Sally,” “I Was the One,” “I Got A Woman,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and “Hound Dog”
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.” And here's Carl's tune made famous by the Beatles as sung by Ringo, ("Rock on one time for me....,") "Honey Don’t.”
We'll close Carl's Sun contributions to rockabilly with the Sun studio recording from December 1956 (released February 1957) of another tune that was also part of the Beatle performance set, the swinging “Matchbox”
To close Carl’s section, I found a great live performance by Carl Perkins with Ringo singing lead and playing drums to “Honey Don’t,” and from the same gig, they’re joined by Eric Clapton on guitar with Ringo sharing lead vocals on “Matchbox.”
We now move to Ray Charles doing his 1955 smash hit "I Got A Woman.”
From 1956, Johnny Cash doing his breakthrough hit "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, a few good ones for the encore! First, the Bobby Fuller Four live on Hullabaloo lip-synching to the Bob Keane studio version of “I Fought the Law”
Here’s the studio version of their second hit which cracked the Top 30, a faithful offering up of the Buddy Holly classic, “You Know Love’s A Fool of You”
As with most television "performances" back then, even though it appears to be live, they’re only lip-synching to the studio versions of these songs, so it counts as a Bob Keane production! The Bobby Fuller Four – “Let Her Dance” and “Another Sad and Lonely Night”
One of the more beautiful rock and roll songs ever sung! “Only When I Dream”
RIP Bob. I gather you ran with some pretty shady characters, but I suppose anyone who made it in LA in the 50s and 60s would have to deal with such lowlifes. Thanks for the tunes.
And now for the Spiritual Master of the group! Today we honor the birthday and life work of one of the greatest "producers" in history, the venerable Paramahansa Yogananda (January 5, 1893 – March 7, 1952). Author of many spiritual works, his best known is Autobiography of a Yogi, a book of great insight, humility, humor, and wit where he introduced millions to Kriya Yoga, meditation, and a line of gurus that include Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Sri Yukteswar. As we read, in that book he explained “with scientific clarity the subtle but definite laws by which yogis perform miracles and attain self-mastery.” And it is noteworthy that He was “the first great Master of India to live in the West for a long period.”
Our Spiritual Brother was truly one of the best, a shining light for countless Truth Seeking Souls. Thanks for one of the best books I've ever read, and great fellowship and meditations in Southern California at his various centers. Aum Namah Shivaya! Aum Namah Mahabodhisattva!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson