Saturday, September 09, 2017

Rockabilly Is Elvis, Orbison, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash Says Horace Wee

"I always pick the bass player when playing rockabilly..."

Horace Wee, a professional guitarist, and saxophonist writes about 'rockabilly' and its true meaning in his capacity as a musician. I must thank him for the explanation he provides and the songs he uses to exemplify the genre.

I beg to differ on this subject.  Rockabilly was the forerunner of rock and roll. And examples should be taken from the Sun Records era.

This particular type of music had its derivatives from country and country swing of that day. Characterized by swinging loping four beat bass line and a snappy back beat. 

Examples would be That's Alright My Mama, Baby Let's Play House, and other early Elvis, Carl Perkins of course with Blue Suede Shoes and no one mentioned, Gene Vincent - Be Bop A Lula. Conway Twitty also contributed with more of his country background.
Brian Setzer is the one that keeps rockabilly alive these days. Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock was rockabilly starting to evolve. Further change came when Chuck Berry, Sweet Little Sixteen, and Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, started to add a more driving rhythm of eight notes.

From there Little Richard used the same eighth note driving rhythm and added the line up of horns giving it a black RnB flavor. Roy Orbison's earlier background is rockabilly. His progress in pop music was more to utilize the glorious tenor voice of his for more lyrical songs.
The closest today of rockabilly is from Brian Setzer who is from England.

I would add that Elvis soaked up a lot of these musical influences and was fortunate to be the one to bring that amalgamation of country, hill billy and black gospel to the white American mainstream. 

And that started the Rock Train.

Your 5 songs are not really rockabilly. They may have some roots but essentially it was rock/pop that evolved. Roy Orbison is already rock n roll. To see his rockabilly era you have to go to his Sun Records days where he sounded like a cross between early Elvis and Gene Vincent. Go Go Go, Rock House, Ooby Dooby for example. 
Rockabilly existed commonly in the early to late mid-fifties. The closest today of rockabilly is from Brian Setzer (as mentioned earlier), who is incidentally from England. Rockabilly caught on in England and you have here influences in the Beatles and Dave Edmunds for example. 

Horace Wee
Here goes with your list: 
1) Orbison was evolved, it's 80's rock and roll. 
2) Joan Jett is 80's rocker; 
3) Hollies were late 60's, a British rock pop group. 
4) Chuck Berry already evolved. Earlier songs like   Memphis Tennessee had more rockabilly links. 
5) Elvis Presley - 70's Las Vegas type era. Sort of swamp rock. He had changed. And the closest to the old Elvis,     the 60's return TV Special.

I always pick on the bass player when playing rockabilly. They play a sooth four note per bar when actually it should be a bouncy semi staccato execution. Like a thumping acoustics double bass beat. Correctly played, it should not be a bass guitar. However delivery of the bass line is important. There is a swing to the feel.

Images: Google
YouTube Video: Gene Vincent: Be Bop A Lula.



It’s a wonderful review by Horace Wee and memories of “Rockabilly” through the lens of Sun Records.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Al, thanks for the greetings from Perth, Australia. Mighty nice of you to write in.


Wonderful memories from your Blog.


Horace Wee gives great info of Rockabilly music.


Hi, Andy -

I was too young to be well versed with rockability. My music life started at the age of 6 in 1955 with the likes of Elvis and Chuck Berry etc to the sound of a classic upright double bass which started the ball game rolling. Cheerio.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi, Michael
Thanks for telling us your personal experience with rockabilly. Yes, the double bass, f-hole guitar, and piano, instruments with their own amplification, were the order of the day on stage.

BERT FERN said...

May this day bring you all the best wishes and feelings.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Bert, for the good wishes. I hope you enjoy reading the articles on the blog too.

Henri Gann said...

Congratulations to Horace for an interesting writeup on Rockabilly !
Here's some of my favorite Rockabilly Pops with a Good Slapped Bass Beat...
Folsom Prison Blues
Hello Mary Lou
Don't Be Cruel
Crazy Things Called Love
and the signature Scotty Moore Rockabilly Riffs with the Guitar
That's All Right Mama
Mystery Train


Very educational!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all for the comments and others for liking this post. Like Soo Khoon, I find the article educational too and coming from practising musician Horace Wee, it is a learning experience for some of us.

Leslie said...

Loved the review, and Horace Wee nailed it. Another Brit singer I came across in the early 80s, was Shakin' Stevens. Some of his early songs were close to the Rockabilly genre.

Monica Demsky said...

I had the good luck to watch a musical of the one night Carl Perkins and Elvis and Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis singing and playing together at Sun Records. That was rockabilly at its finest before they left Sun Records and went their separate ways. Before I was born but so entertaining and educational. Not many people realize that Blue Suede Shoes was Carl Perkins' song and taken over by Elvis when he sang it at I think the Ed Sullivan show. Excellent article!

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Horace not only gives good musical info but also writes beautifully.

matt tan experimental rock creator said...

late comer here, ..hey, it's cold like the ice age and we move very slowly these days.. (hate the winter). i came in here and notice Horace Wee, so i never leave without reading about my ex boss and studio mate. Yes, i too am a rockabilly fan. as Horace already mentioned, the bass marks the genre. the other characteristic of rockabilly is the slapback reverb. jeff beck was nuts about that. he puts slapback even today when he's playing bad Lady Gaga "music". he did a great rockabilly album "Crazy Legs" and i still wonder why he left Bozzio and Hymus, or even not go back to playing with those Playboys. oh well, he has to finance his hot rod car collection so he plays what ppl pays to watch him play. it's a shame, isn't it? i used to remember how heartbreaking it was here, to hear Jeff's concerts were cancelled due to lack of ticket sales and that was during the time Jeff was playing great jazz fusion music. go figure? sorry to digress; then again, i could never stay in one place too long, as you know...just like i do with my music LOL HAPPY 2018 ALL