Saturday, 18 May 2013

Sonny Burgess- We Wanna Boogie B/W Red Headed Woman

There are many unknown heroes in the history of rockabilly music, artists who never gained the commercial success that they deserved, artists like Charlie Feathers and Billy Lee Riley come to mind. Sonny Burgess is also on that list, a formidable rocker who hailed from Newport Arkansas he recorded some firebrand records for Sun records in the mid to late 50's. His sound was loose and ragged but it was set apart by the sheer unrelenting force of Sonny's vocals and the canny use of trumpet in some of his early recordings which gave the songs a New Orleans jazz feel to it.

Sonny had been playing in clubs in and around Newport since the early 50's, he regularly performed at the famous Silver Moon Club and other clubs on the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas circuit. Sonny and his band the Pacers had made the trip to Memphis in 1955 and auditioned for Sam Phillips who signed them to his label, the following year they cut their debut single We Wanna Boogie which had Red Headed Woman as the B side. It's a great 45, certainly one of the most frantic rockabilly records to come out of Sun at the time. We Wanna Boogie sounds like party time, Sonny is in full flight whooping and hollering as the song takes off. What gives it a distinctive flavour is the trumpet which gives it an almost jazz feel, it's quite a mix. Sam Phillips was a unique producer in that he was able to capture on disc the raw nature of the band, he didn't try to dilute their sound. Red Headed Woman is another powerful rocker with that same muted trumpet sound that transforms the record, it also has some pounding keys work from Kern Kennedy. Sonny on guitar gives a romping distorted guitar solo, it sounds like his speakers are about to explode

When released the record sold well in the south and midwest, the band were a popular live drawcard, however Sun struggled beyond it's established distribution network. The record sold around 90,000 copies but Phillips was unable to help break the record further afield. The story goes that Burgess later found out some years later that the single was a number one hit in Boston but he was never made aware. Burgess continued to record for Sun until 1960, he later joined Conway Twitty's backing band for a time before retiring from full time performing. He returned to the music scene in the late 70's and has continued to record and perform.

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