Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sonny Burgess RIP

Sonny Burgess, one of the last surviving original Sun recording artists, has died at the age of 86. Born in Newport, Arkansas, Sonny was the original wild man of rock and roll, dying his hair red to match the rest of his outfit. His double sided 45, his first for Sun, combined Red Headed Woman with We Wanna Boogie and just about defines what rockabilly was all about. Together with the Pacers, which included Bobby Crafford on drums, Jack Nance on guitar, Ray Kem Kennedy on piano and Johnny Hubbard on bass, Sonny recorded five singles for Sun, including Restless, Ain't Got A Thing and My Bucket's Got A Hole In it.  His final Sun single was Sadie's Back In Town, released on the Phillips International label, which also got a UK release on London (now a very collectable 45).
Sonny toured extensively while at Sun with the likes of Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison but his record sales were relatively modest at the time. After leaving Sun he recorded a number of singles for labels such as Arbus, TSBS, Ara and Rolando, plus several for Razorback in which his friend Bobby Crafford had an interest. He continued to play a mixture of rock, country and R and B and recorded occasionally in later years, including the albums They Came From The South and Still Rockin' and Rollin'.
Sonny appeared in the UK several times and I caught him at festivals in the States on a number of occasions, the most recent being at Viva Las Vegas in April of this year (pictured above) when he appeared, as on many other occasions, with Bobby Crafford. He was on good form and included his Sun hits in his short set. with Bobby singing Ain't Got No Home. At the King Biscuit Festival in Helena, Arkansas, in 2014 (pictured below) he included several blues and R and B numbers in his set, including Just A Little Bit, Caldonia, Sweet Home Chicago, Ronnie Hawkins' Odessa, Long Tall Sally, The House Is Rocking and Fulsom Prison Blues. He put on an excellent show and showed what a fine guitarist he was, as he always did when I saw him, and it's sad to see him go. RIP Sonny.


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