Incredible video from our friends at the Oxford American: Billy Lee Riley honored by his friends and comrades at the Silver Moon club in Newport, Arkansas, on August 30th, 2009. In attendance a roster of Stomp veterans – Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, W.S. Holland (from Johnny Cash’s and Carl Perkins’ bands), Carl Mann (“Mona Lisa and “Pretend”), Ace Cannon (“Tuff”), Dale Hawkins (“Suzie-Q”), and Travis Wammack (“Scratchy”) among others.
“That hillbilly music was so slow. It was music that was putting me to sleep. I had no clue what rockabilly was. It was just something that I felt, so that’s what I did.” – C.J. Cheramie, a.k.a. Joe Clay
Dr. Ike and I visited rockabilly wild man Joe Clay, a Rockabilly Hall of Famer and Ponderosa Stomp regular, at his home on New Orleans’ West Bank in the spring of 2007. In the hour-long interview below, listen to him discuss his anticlimactic pre-Elvis turn on the Ed Sullivan show, how he changed his name, and why Marrero’s Gay Paree nightclub was the hot spot for the New Orleans country and rockabilly scene in the 50′s.
On the afternoon of Sunday, August 30th, at the Silver Moon Club in Newport, Ark., Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, W.S. Holland, Smoochy Smith, former Little Green Men drummer J.M. Van Eaton and Carl Mann will join forces to celebrate the life of fellow Sun Records alumnus Billy Lee Riley, who died at the age of 75 on August 2nd.
Also appearing: Ace Cannon, Travis Wammack, Dale Hawkins, Teddy Riedel, J.R. Rogers, Teddy “Thunderbird” Hill, Larry Don, Warren Crow, C.W. Gatlin and Silver Moon house band Jeannie & the Guys. Admission is $10, and the show starts at 1PM.
Riley was one of the most crazed rockabillies Sam Phillips ever recorded — which is quite a statement considering the Sun roster included the likes of Charlie Feathers and Jerry Lee Lewis. Despite successes like “Red Hot” and “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the sharecropper’s son from Pocahantas, Ark. was ultimately one of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” who occupied Phillips’ Memphis stable, too brilliant and too raw for teenagers content listening to Perry Como and Patti Page.
A frequent performer at the Ponderosa Stomp, Riley will certainly be missed. Go here to see footage of him performing at the 2003 Stomp, backed by Deke Dickerson and Slim Harpo’s band.