ELVIS PRESLEY and his friends Scotty Moore and Bill Black were in Sun Studios in July 1954 recording some tracks. During some down time they started “goofing around” with a tune called ‘That’s All Right (Mama )’.
They played fast and loose with this black blues number, speeding it up and injecting it with a good dollop of white country. They knew the end result was something different but it was producer Sam Phillips who recognised that they had created something revolutionary - rock’n’roll was born.
This famous story is recounted in detail in Rockabilly - The Twang Heard ’Round the World by Michael Dregni (Voyageur Press ), a richly detailed, lavishly illustrated, and magnificently produced, history of rock’n’roll/rockabilly.
Yet as singer Sonny Burgess points out in his foreword, this new kind of music was going under several names at the time, ‘rockabilly’ was certainly one of those terms for this pop hybrid, but it did not catch on until much later.
The music however caught on instantly and its arrival was no less than a cultural and social watershed in post-war society.
This book is a treasure trove of rock’n’roll/rockabilly. There are detailed biographies of key players like Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, etc. Elvis himself looms large over the entire book and is covered in detail throughout, making Rockabilly... a great survey of the King in the 1950s.
There are also new interviews with Scotty Moore and Wanda Jackson, plus contributions from such leading rock writers as Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick. The book concentrates mostly on the music’s 1954 - 1959 ‘golden era’ but also covers its revival with sections on The Stray Cats, The Cramps, and our own Imelda May.
Rock’n’roll’s history is one that also needs to be told in visual terms and Rockabilly... does not dissapoint as with it numerous reproductions of album covers, 45” labels, period photographs (promo and live ), posters, and all kinds of other memorabilia that prove to be as absorbing and as fascinating as the text.
One quibble - it is a pity Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard receive little attention here and that the vital input of black musicians is covered only in general terms of influence and inspiration.
Nonetheless Rockabilly - The Twang Heard ’Round the World remains an engrossing study/encyclopaedia of the genre and an absolute must for any fan of the music. A wonderful book