Billy Inducted Rockabilly HOF
An induction ceremony will be held today at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, at 105 N. Church St., in downtown Jackson.
The event, from 1:30 to 4 p.m., will be filmed for a documentary about one of the inductees, Jack Clement.
According to a news release, inductees will be Billy Burnette, "magnificent guitarist with Fleetwood Mac and John Fogarty," and Jack Clement, "monumental producer-songwriter-vocalist creating rock and roll sounds with the legendary Sun Record Company." Special guests include Shawn Camp, J. M. Van Eaton, James Lott, Pete Pritchard, Darenda Owens and Billy Burnette Band.
Billy Burnette plays up rockabilly roots
By Mark Jordan
Posted November 10, 2011 at 5:46 p.m.
Billy Burnette has been to the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn., to honor other musicians.
"I've been down there a few times to do the inductions," says the Memphis-born singer and guitarist from his home in Nashville. "In fact, I think the last time I was down there we inducted Sam Phillips."
But when Burnette returns to the 10-year-old Rock-A-Billy hall on Saturday, it will not be to praise others but to be praised.
Burnette and fellow Memphis native "Cowboy" Jack Clement, a producer and engineer for Phillips during the Sun Studio heyday of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, make up the 2011 class of inductees into the hall of fame. They will be ushered in Saturday with a ceremony, and following the induction, there will be performances by original Sun artist Carl Mann and Rayburn Anthony, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley drummer J.M Van Eaton, as well as Clement and Burnette.
Burnette will also celebrate with a free show Friday night at Blues City Café on Beale Street in Memphis.
The honor seems long overdue since, according to some sources, Burnette and his cousin Rocky, born a month apart in the summer of 1953, essentially gave the genre its name. Burnette's father, Dorsey, played bass with his brother Johnny and guitarist Paul Burlison in the Rock 'n' Roll Trio. Founded in 1952, the Memphis group was an early pioneer of the mash of country and blues sounds with which Elvis and others would soon intoxicate the rest of the country.
"I really don't think rock and roll could have happened anyplace else but Memphis," says Burnette. "What my dad and uncle did with songs like 'The Train Kept A-Rollin' and 'Honey Hush," they were just blues songs, and they took them and put that real wild rock beat to it. They were the first of their kind. Nobody had heard that wild rock and roll before. Those records still have a power. I guess when Led Zeppelin first got together, the first song they rehearsed was 'The Train Kept A-Rollin'."
When the Burnette cousins were born, the story goes that the fathers wrote a new song, "Rock Billy Boogie," in their honor. "Rock and roll was just getting started," Burnette says of the song, which was eventually released in 1957. "A lot of people say it comes from rock and roll and hillbilly music, but they were the ones that coined the term."
Burnette's credentials for the hall of fame extend beyond his name, however. He's an original rockabilly-era performer, having made his stage debut at age 3 with the Rock 'n' Roll Trio at the Shell in Overton Park.
At 7, Burnette, then living with his family on the West Coast following the breakup of the Rock 'n' Roll Trio, made his first record, "Hey Daddy (I'm Gonna Tell Santa On You)" as Billy Beau. As a teenager he spent one summer touring with Brenda Lee.
After graduating high school, Burnette returned to Memphis in 1969 to record at the legendary American Sound Studio with producer Chips Moman, who was just coming off making the classic From Elvis in Memphis.
"I lived near Overton Square, which was really hopping in those days and I was 18 and they had just lowered the legal drinking age to 18," recalls Burnette. "It was a great time to be in Memphis, which was just rocking at the time. I got to know Steve Cropper and the guys at Stax. Of course, I was hanging out with Chips and his guys at the height of their careers."
Though always mindful of his rockabilly roots, Burnette evolved his sound over the years, but it never translated into real success as a solo artist; his biggest hit was 1986's "Soldier Of Love," which reached No. 54. The record of the same name got him nominated for Best New Artist -- 30 years after his debut -- from the Academy of Country Music.
The next year, Burnette was working on Roy Orbison's last album when he was asked to replace Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac, friends of his who had previously covered the Rock 'n' roll Trio's "Honey Hush." Burnette stayed with the band through 1991. He has established himself as a successful songwriter for artists like George Strait. Most recently he toured as guitarist for John Fogerty.
Having left Fogerty, this fall Burnette returned to his solo career, making his first record of new material in more than a decade, Rock & Roll With It. The album bears the strong influence of Burnette's rockabilly roots with more modern straight ahead rock and ballads mixed in.
"It's the first time I've ever done this myself where I produced the record and put it out myself, and we entered the Americana chart last week at 30 with a bullet," he says proudly. "I can't escape that sound. I grew up with this kind of music inbred."
Click here for pictures of Billy performing with Shawn Camp and receiving his award.
November 12, 2011
Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame inducts Burnette, Clement
Star musicians flock to Jackson as fellow legends are honored
Rockabilly legends came to Jackson Saturday afternoon to pay a tribute to Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist, singer songwriter and actor Billy Burnette.
"Today we have had more talent on this stage than there is in the whole state of Tennessee," said Henry Harrison, founder of the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame. "It's a marvelous tribute to Billy for all of these musicians to come together in one area."
Burnette and Sun Records producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement were inducted into the hall of fame in downtown Jackson on Saturday. Burnette was accompanied by several rockabilly legends, including Rayburn Anthony, J.M. Van Eaton, Shawn Camp, Pete Pritchard, Charlie Rich, David Roe and Carl Mann, as well as Burnette's son Billy Jr. Several musicians also performed Saturday afternoon.
"Each performance was filled with renowned musicians who have made rockabilly and country music history," Harrison said.
Burnette said he felt honored during the induction and performances.
"It's such an incredible honor," he said. "I'm just blessed to have made a living by doing this my whole life. The best part of performing live is being in front of the people. I play for the people."
Burnette said he has been performing since he was 3 years old. His influences include many artists.
"I made a Christmas album when I was 7 for Dot Records in Hollywood," he said. "My dad was a big influence. I was also a big Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis fan. I love all kinds of music."
"He deserves (the induction) more than all of my idols," said Billy Burnette Jr. "He's not only a great dad, but he's one of them."
Harrison said Pritchard flew all the way from London to perform with Burnette on Saturday. Pritchard was named an honorary member of the hall of fame.
"I came over here to honor these fantastic musicians," Pritchard said. "It's the best music I've ever heard. Good music transcends all ages. Young people don't realize it, but they sing along to these songs."
Harrison said bass player Roe played with Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Jerry Reed.
"He was selected to play with each of these outstanding vocalists for five to seven years each," Harrison said.
Clement said he has been playing music for a living since the 1950s.
"I never was a cowboy although I had a pony when I was a kid," he said. "It feels good to be here. I've been very lucky to be playing music for a living. My big break was with Sun Records in 1956."
Jolene Kay, an aspiring singer, songwriter and filmmaker, said she works with Clement.
"Jack has produced music for U2, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride, the first black country singer," Kay said. "He was inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame of Songwriters."
Charlie Rich accompanied Burnette on the piano. Rich said he has performed with rockabilly and country musicians.
"We had a good time playing today," he said. "It was fantastic. J.M. Eaton played with my dad, who also played piano."
Harrison said that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips called Eaton the most versatile drummer to ever perform. Eaton performed with Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Cash and Lewis, Harrison said. Eaton was presented with the Samson award on Saturday.
Rockabilly fan Virginia Singleton said she prepared certificates for the performers.
"All of them being here today — it was priceless," she said.
Eaton said he was inducted into the Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame in 2009.
"It's a great place," he said. "I hope we get to continue having performances here."
— Priya Narapareddy