Rockabilly from the Sun, Women, and the Wild, Wooly Northwest
Written by Randy Black on June 14, 2016
Merrilee and the Turnabouts
Viking Twang Episode 89 June 14, 2016
Good morning, friends, and welcome to Viking Twang Episode 89. My name is Randy Black, happy to be here for the first week of summer. Grades come out today and I hope you get the grades you want, if not the ones you deserve.
We’re going to rock out a bit today. The third set will feature some of the earliest rock and roll in the Pacific Northwest, while in the second set, we’ll play some of the best women rockabilly performers. To start with, we’ll go back to Sun Records in the 1950s. Here’s Charlie Rich, getting us off to a fast start.
1 – Turkey Red; W.C. Beck & the Portland Country Underground.
2 – Whirlwind; Charlie Rich. Charlie had a busy summer in Memphis 1958; this is from
his seventh session in Sun Studios, in August.
3 – T Model Boogie; Rosco Gordon. One of Sun’s earlier stars; this is from 1953.
4 – Ooby Dooby; Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings. This was the flip side of his first single,
5 – What’d I Say; Jerry Lee Lewis. Jerry Lee recorded this Ray Charles classic in January,
6 – Red Headed Woman, Sonny Burgess. The Arkansas-based performer’s first hit; this
was the B-side of his first single in 1956.
7 – Mona Lisa; Carl Mann. Carl was 16 when this song hit the charts in 1959, topping at
8 – Raunchy; Bill Justis. Bill was an arranger for Sun and credited with discovering
Charlie Rich. This 1957 recording was his only hit and is a Grammy Hall of Fame song.
Rockabilly was a male-dominated genre, but there were many great women performers, too. Our friend Beth Harrington, who gave us the Carter Family biography “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone,” made a great movie about rockabilly women called “Welcome to the Club” in 2004. We’ll start with Joyce Green, telling her man to watch out.
9 – Black Cadillac; Joyce Green. Joyce was 19 when she recorded this as the flip side to her
10 – Everlasting Love; Barbara Pittman. One of the few women to record at Sun Records;
this is from 1958, when she was 19. and was backed by “Cold Cold Heart.”
11 – Bang Bang; Janis Martin. Martin was billed as the female Elvis. This was recorded in
12 – He’s A Real Gone Guy; Anita Carter. The youngest of the Carter Sisters; she recorded
this in 1959.
13 – Mercy; Lorrie Collins. With her guitar prodigy brother Larry, Lorrie had several hits in the
1950s. This is from 1958.
14 – Rock A Bop; Sparkle Moore. Sparkle had a short but influential career before she
retired to raise a family; this was her first record from 1956.
15 – Looking At The Moon and Wishing On A Star; Charline Arthur. Another great with a
short career; she recorded this in 1953 but her star faded after she and producer Chet Atkins couldn’t get along.
16 – Whipper Snapper; LaVern Baker. Baker had a long career as an R&B singer with hits such as Jim Dandy and Tweedle Dee; this is from 1958.
We don’t normally think of the Pacific Northwest as a hotbed of early rock and roll. But in fact, there was quite a bit of rocking on the upper left coast. Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project museum put out an album in 2000 that features early Northwest rock. Here’s some of the earliest.
17 – Rock and Roll Radio; Joe Boot & The Fabulous Winds. From 1958, considered the
Northwest’s first rock and roll song.
18 – Everybody Boppin’; Clayton Watson and the Silhouettes. From 1958; this was
released on Lavendar Records out of Centralia.
19 – Fog Cutter; The Frantics. Recorded in West Seattle in 1959.
20 – Tall Cool Ones; The Wailers. One of the scene’s major bands; this was recorded in
Tacoma and went to #36 nationally in 1936.
21 – Granny’s Pad; The Viceroys. This was released in 1963.
22 — The Witch; The Sonics. A couple of years before the basketball team, this Tacoma
band released this in November, 1964.
23 – Party Song; Merrilee & the Turnabouts. The biggest thing out of Seattle until Paul
Revere & the Raiders; Merrilee Rush and her band had a hit with their first song in 1966.
24 – Twang Theme; The Countrypolitans.