Elvis Presley – Good Rockin Tonight

When I think of Elvis …I admire him on one hand and on the other I pity him for how he ended up. When the big E was coming out of the Memphis radios on Sun Records…there was not anyone around that could touch him as a live rock and roll performer. Then came Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis became a huge star but with a steep cost.

Roy Brown first wrote and released this song in 1947. Elvis covered it and released it in 1954. His release was his second Sun Record release and the B side was a song called “I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine.” I wish Elvis could have stayed on Sun a little longer. Soon he would be gone to RCA. Great records but he had a sound on Sun that he never got back. His band was Scotty Moore on lead guitar and Bill Black on the double bass. The song didn’t chart many places but it did peak at #10 in Sweden.

His first single for Sun was “That’s Alright Mama.” On June 7, 1954, WHBQ Radio in Memphis became the first station to play this song when their disc jockey Dewey Phillips aired it on his Red, Hot and Blue show the day after Elvis recorded it. It soon built up regionally after that.

A Sun Records Tribute Assembles Old Timers of Rock & Roll - Frank Beacham's  Journal

On November 20, 1955, Elvis signed with RCA and after that, his records were everywhere. RCA could give him distribution all over the world but I wish they would have kept recording the Sun Studios with Sam Phillips. Mr. Phillips owned Sun Studios since 1952 and he would have a star-studded roster of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and more.

He was also an early investor in the Holiday Inn chain of hotels and an advocate for racial equality, helping to break down racial barriers in the music industry.

The B Side I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine

Good Rockin Tonight

Well, I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight
Well, I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight
I’m gonna hold my baby as tight as I can
Tonight she’ll know I’m a mighty, mighty man
I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight

I said, meet me and a-hurry behind the barn
Don’t you be afraid ’cause I’ll do you no harm
I want you to bring along my rockin’ shoes
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna rock away all our blues
I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight

Well, we’re gonna rock
We’re gonna rock
Let’s rock
Come on and rock
We’re gonna rock all our blues away

Have you heard the news, everybody’s rockin’ tonight
Have you heard the news, everybody’s rockin’ tonight
I’m gonna hold my baby as tight as I can
Well, tonight she’ll know I’m a mighty, mighty man
I heard the news, there’s good rockin’ tonight

Well, we’re gonna rock, rock, rock, rock
Come on and rock, rock, rock, rock
Let’s rock, rock, rock, rock
Well, let’s rock, rock, rock, rock
We’re gonna rock all our blues away

Carl Perkins – Blue Suede Shoes

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go

This song could be the definition of rock and roll.  One of the many great Sun records that were released. Carl Perkins is a guitar hero to me with his rockabilly style that he never lost. I see why George Harrison and a generation was such a fan of the man. This song is up there with Johnny B Good as a Rock and Roll standard.

This song was written by Carl and it soon became a rock and roll anthem. This is another song that by law…you have to know if you are in a rock band. It’s probably better known by a singer from Memphis…named Elvis. I always favored this version…it has Carl playing guitar and that is all I need.

Carl recorded this in Memphis in 1955 for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. As he was driving to make his first national appearance to promote it on the Perry Como Show, he got into an accident that seriously injured him and killed his brother.  He later said he was 85 miles away from being the first rockabilly on national television.

Perkins never fully recovered, either emotionally or career-wise. With Perkins unable to touring and promote it, Elvis’ cover version became a massive hit. Presley’s copy was done at RCA studios in Nashville. Perkins did have some hits after this but nothing like Blue Suede Shoes. Interestingly enough…Elvis’s version only made it to #20 in the pop charts.

This single was released in 1956. The B side was Honey Don’t. The single peaked at #2 in the US Charts and #1 in the Country charts.

I always wondered about blue suede shoes and what was so special about them. Blue suede shoes were a luxury item in the South…you would only wear them on a special night out. . You had to be careful with them though, since suede isn’t easy to clean.

Perkins never owned a pair, but Johnny Cash told him a story about someone who did. Cash told Perkins a story from his days serving in the Air Force in Germany. Cash’s sergeant…C.V. White. He would wear his military best when he was allowed off base, and at one point said to Cash, “don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” The shoes were really just Air Force-issued black, but white would say, Tonight they’re blue suede!

The story Perkins told is that later on, he was playing at a high school sorority dance when he came across a guy who wasn’t paying much attention to his date, but kept telling everyone not to stop on his “suedes,” meaning his blues suede shoes. At 3 a.m. that night, Perkins woke up and wrote the lyrics based on what happened that night and the story he heard from Cash. He couldn’t find any paper, so he wrote it on a potato sack.

Perkins based the beginning of this song on a nursery rhyme One For The Money: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go.”

Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, came up with the idea of changing the line “Go, man, go” to “Go, cat, go.” He thought the change would make it seem like less of a country song and more of a rocker…it worked!

From Songfacts

Sam Phillips discovered Elvis Presley but sold his contract to RCA for $35,000. The money helped Phillips finance this and other records by artists like Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, but Elvis became The King. Elvis recorded this later in 1956. His version hit US #20 and UK #9.

This was the only Top 40 hit for Perkins on the pop charts, but his influence reaches much further. He was extremely influential to other artists, including Elvis, The Beatles, and Johnny Cash. Perkins was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

The lyrics describe some of the things that Perkins would prefer over getting his shoes scuffed, and the list includes some derelict behavior: stepping on his face, stealing his car, burning down his house and drinking his liquor. Some in the Sinatra-loving older generation were horrified, and used the song to back their case that rock ‘n’ roll was the Devil’s music.

This was the first song to hit the US Pop, Country, and R&B charts at the same time. Released on January 1, 1956, the song made a slow climb up the charts, appearing on all three in May, which is when it reached its peak of #2 on the Pop charts.

In Perkins’ original version of this song, there are two deliberate beats after each of the first two lines: “One for the money… bomp, bomp; two for the show… bomp, bomp.” The Elvis version eliminates the pause between the lines and speeds it up considerably.

Dave Edmunds, who later toured with Perkins, tells a story about recording the song with the rock legend for a segment to air on The South Bank Show, a UK program. According to Edmunds, Perkins played the intro without the beats between lines, insisting that when he recorded it, that was a mistake. Edmunds began pleading with him to do it as he did on that record, but then realized the absurdity of explaining to Carl Perkins how to play “Blue Suede Shoes.”

In later appearances, Perkins did play the song in line with his original recording, often with Edmunds by his side. One of his last appearances was with Edmunds performing the song on The Jay Leno Show in 1997 (Perkins died the next year).

The B-side of the single was “Honey Don’t,” which was covered by The Beatles.

This song was a family affair: Perkins’ brother Jay played rhythm guitar on the track, and his other brother Clayton played bass (W.S. “Fluke” Holland was Perkins’ drummer). Jay died from a brain tumor in 1957, and Clayton took his own life in 1974.

The charting versions of this song in America were by:

Carl Perkins – #2, 1956
Elvis Presley – #20, 1956
Boyd Bennett – #63, 1956
Johnny Rivers – #38, 1973

Pat Boone, Conway Twitty, The Dave Clark Five and Merle Haggard are among the many to record it. A version by Buddy Holly surfaced in 1964 on an album of outtakes called Showcase.

The “better not step on my shoes” trope found its way back to the zeitgeist when Spike Lee included a scene in his 1989 movie Do The Right Thing where a character gets very upset when someone steps on his Air Jordan sneakers.

Perkins, backed by Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats, recorded a new version of this song in 1985 for the soundtrack of the movie Porky’s Revenge! The soundtrack was produced by Dave Edmunds, who also got Willie Nelson, Jeff Beck and George Harrison to record songs for it, leading to a gaping disparity in quality between the film and the soundtrack.

Later in the year, Edmunds spearheaded the “Carl Perkins and Friends” concert special, recorded October 21 in London and aired January 1, 1986 on Cinemax. Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Rosanne Cash were among the “friends.”

The Count performed this song on an episode of Sesame Street. It became a counting exercise (one, two, Blue Suede Shoes).

Blue Suede Shoes

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go
But don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

But you can knock me down, step in my face
Slander my name all over the place
And do anything that you want to do
But uh uh honey lay off of my shoes
And don’t you step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Oh let’s go cat!

But you can burn my house, steal my car
Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar
Do anything that you want to do
But uh uh honey lay off of them shoes
And don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Rock!

Well it’s one for the money, two for the show
Three to get ready, now go cat go
But don’t you, step on my blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Well it’s blue, blue, blue suede shoes
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes yeah
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes baby
Blue, blue, blue suede shoes
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes

Billy Lee Riley – Red Hot

I first heard this song by the ‘Beatles in Hamburg on the Star Club album. They took the song and injected it with steroids…George ripped through it. The quality is terrible but the energy is not.

“Red Hot” featured Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. The song was written by Billy “The Kid” Emerson. Emerson had already had a minor hit when Elvis Presley recorded “When It Rains It Really Pours“. “Red Hot” was showing a lot of promise as a big hit record, but Sam Phillips pulled Sun Records promotion for the single and switched it to “Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

Riley earned notoriety throughout the South with his wild live performances, and in the late’50s his shows were banned by various town councils and college administrators who worried that Riley’s raucous “devil’s music” would corrupt the souls of innocent teenagers. Riley’s backing band, The Little Green Men, were the main Sun studio band. They were Riley, Roland Janes, J.M. Van Eaton, Marvin Pepper, and Jimmy Wilson, later joined by Martin Willis.

These are the kind of singles that the Beatles liked to cover…not massive hits but good songs that not many bands were covering.

Red Hot

My gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Yeah, my gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Well, she ain’t got no money
But man, she’s a-really got a lot

Well, I got a gal, six feet four
Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet out the door, but

My gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Yeah, my gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Well, she ain’t got no money
But man, she’s a-really got a lot

Well, she walks all night, talks all day
She’s the kinda woman who’ll have her way, but

My gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Yeah, my gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Well, she ain’t got no money
But man, she’s a-really got a lot

Well, she’s the kinda woman who louds around
Spreadin’ my business all over town, but

My gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Yeah, my gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Well, she ain’t got no money
But man, she’s a-really got a lot

Well, she’s a one man’s woman, that’s what I like
But I wish she wasn’t gonna change her mind everynight, but

My gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Yeah, my gal is red hot
Your gal ain’t doodly squat
Well, she ain’t got no money
But man, she’s a-really got a lot

Elvis Presley – Mystery Train

Listen to the slap back echo on this song. I could just listen to the intro guitar on a tape loop for eons and eons. Sun records had the best echo of anyone. Everyone since has tried to capture that sound.

“Mystery Train” was written and originally recorded by Junior Parker in 1953 for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records…Phillips got a co-writing credit. Phillips would later claim that he made three major changes to the song, and that these were why he got the co-writing credit. The first was to give the song the title “Mystery Train”, which has been a big part of the song’s appeal ever since. The second was to insist that the number of coaches for the train should be sixteen . Parker had been singing “fifty coaches long”. And the final one was to suggest that the band start the song slowly and build up the tempo like a train gathering steam.

Elvis covered the song. There is a good chance he heard Jr. Parker perform it live.

The song was released as the B side to “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.” One of the best B sides ever. The song peaked at #11 in the Country Charts and #25 in the UK in 1955. RCA bought Elvis’s contract and reissued this single.

Scotty Moore who played guitar on the rack: ‘Mystery Train’ became like a signature thing for me” “That was the first one I played through my custom-made amplifier. It had the same slapback effect that Sam had been using on the overall record.”

Sam Phillips: When Elvis came in I found out that Mystery Train was so embedded in Elvis’ mind that when he started to sing it, it was a natural as breathing. If it’s natural it’s awfully hard to beat, like you’re just rolling off of a log. That’s the feeling you get with Mystery Train.” 

His version was ranked #77 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

From Songfacts

Parker was a renowned Blues musician from Memphis who is best known for this song. He was known more for his singing than for his guitar playing, and never achieved the popularity of players like Buddy Guy and B.B. King. Parker was just 39 when he died in 1971 of a brain tumor.

Elvis Presley recorded the most famous version of this song, also on Sun Records, in 1955.  and is his best-known song that was never a hit – it was released as the B-side of “I Forgot To Remember To Forget.” Other artists to cover the song include Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Ricky Nelson, Tom Fogerty, and The Doors.

Neil Young’s 1983 version on his album Everybody’s Rockin’ has an interesting story behind it. After all, there’s never a short story behind a Neil Young song!
Young came to cover “Mystery Train” by way of performing one of the most sarcastic take-that’s in rock history. As told in Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History, Young had tried to make up for the PR nightmare that was the Trans album with an album even more countrified than Hawks & Doves, which would become Old Ways. However, Geffen’s record executives rejected Young’s new excursion, demanding that he make an album of “rock ‘n’ roll” songs instead.

Can you imagine someone with the audacity to think that they can tell Neil Young what to do? So, Young gave them exactly what they asked for, with the same kind of acidulous derision with which Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground delivered Loaded when Atlantic executives demanded an album “loaded with hits.” Young put together an album of ’50s-style rockabilly songs with a band he assembled and called “the Shocking Pinks.” And what jukebox classics they all are!

Geffen’s reaction was to slap Young with a $3.3 million dollar lawsuit alleging that his music had become “unrepresentative of his previous output.” This is also why Everybody’s Rockin’ is so short – Geffen literally pulled the plug on Young and the Shocking Pinks in mid-recording-session. Young responded in an interview with Musician magazine: “To get sued for being noncommercial after 20 years of making records, I thought was better than a Grammy.” He even told Q magazine that he told Geffen to back off, or his threat was that he was going to play country music forever. Is there a single Neil Young fan out there who doubts – for a fraction of a second – that just to go ‘nyah!’, he would have stuck to his guns and played nothing but country music to this day, had Geffen not backed down? Anyway, it’s a nice little cover of “Mystery Train,” isn’t it?

Mystery Train

Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Train I ride, sixteen coaches long
Well, that long black train got my baby and gone

Train, train, comin’ ’round the bend
Train, train, comin’ ’round the bend
Well, it took my baby, but it never will again
No, not again

Train, train, comin’ down, down the line
Train, train, comin’ down, down the line
Well, it’s bringin’ my baby ’cause she’s mine, all mine
She’s mine, all mine

Train, train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
‘Round, ’round the bend
Train, train, comin’ ’round, ’round the bend
‘Round, ’round the bend
Well, it took my baby, but it never will again
Never will again

Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire

The wild man Jerry Lee Lewis. There is no mistaking who this is…they call him The Killer for a reason. Pam from All Things Thriller wrote a great piece about Jerry Lee… here.

This song became Lewis’ signature tune, as well as the title of the movie about Lewis. Otis Blackwell, a prolific songwriter who wrote many hits for Elvis Presley, wrote this song with Jack Hammer.

This was released in England the same month that Lewis married 13-year-old Myra Gale Brown, who was the daughter of his cousin (and bass player) J.W. Brown. At the time, Lewis was headlining shows with Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry, but when the UK press found out, public outrage forced Lewis to leave the country.

Back in the States, his career started to spiral as radio stations refused to play his records and stores refused to sell them. Jerry Lee turned to country music in the late sixties and made a very successful comeback and started to appear on the charts again.

The peaked at #2 in teh Billboard 100, #1 in the Billboard Country Charts, and #1 in the UK in 1957.

Eric Clapton: “I remember the first Rock & Roll I ever saw on TV was Jerry Lee Lewis doing ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ That threw me – it was like seeing someone from outer space.”

From Songfacts

Like Lewis’ previous hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” this song is filled with sexual innuendo (” let me love you like a lover should…”), which was shocking for a southern musician in 1957. Lewis grew up in a religious household and was conflicted over whether or not he should record this. He and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips argued as Phillips tried to convince him to sing it. Tape was rolling during the spat and the exchange can be heard on some Sun Records collections. “I thought it was funny because I could see both of them,” recalled house drummer JM van Eaton to Uncut magazine April 2012. “Sam’s as serious as he could be, and Jerry’s as heated as he could be.”

This song made the Top 5 of the Pop, R&B, and Country charts simultaneously with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Both hit #1 on the Country charts, and while this sold 5 million copies, which was less then its predecessor, it still charted higher.

In the UK, a similarly raucous version by the female singer Georgia Gibbs was released in 1957 before Lewis’ version was issued. It didn’t chart, and Jerry Lee’s recording became a huge hit, topping the UK chart and becoming the first Sun Records recording to score there.

In 1989, Dennis Quaid portrayed Lewis in the movie Great Balls Of Fire, which told the story of his life.

The film took a few liberties, including a scene where Lewis sets his piano on fire while performing this song – a tale often told by Lewis but never verified.

In America, the song was released on November 11, 1957, just one day before the movie Jamboree hit theaters. Lewis performed the song in the film, which gave it great exposure. Other singers appearing in the movie were Carl Perkins, Fats Domino and Frankie Avalon.

In the movie Top Gun, “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) and “Maverick” (Tom Cruise) sing this while “Goose” plays a piano that still sits at the Kansas City Barbeque Restaurant in San Diego, California where the scene was filmed.

Dolly Parton made “Great Balls Of Fire” the title track to her 1979 album. Her cover was used in the 1985 Miami Vice episode “Golden Triangle (Part I).” Other artists to cover the song include Conway Twitty, Sha Na Na, Mae West, Rolf Harris and the Misfits.

Great Balls of Fire

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

I learned to love all of Hollywood money
You came along and you moved me honey
I changed my mind, looking fine
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

You kissed me baba, woo…..it feels good
Hold me baba, learn to let me love you like a lover should
Your fine, so kind
I’m a nervous world that your mine mine mine mine-ine

I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb
I’m really nervous but it sure is fun
Come on baba, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

{ piano solo }

Well kiss me baba, woo-oooooo….it feels good
Hold me baba
I want to love you like a lover should
Your fine, so kind
I got this world that your mine mine mine mine-ine

I cut my nails and I quiver my thumb
I’m real nervous ’cause it sure is fun
Come on baba, you drive me crazy
Goodness gracious great balls of fire

I say goodness gracious great balls of fire…oooh…