When Sam Phillips released the first Elvis singles, what followed was the heyday of rockabilly and Sun Records. Even more stripped down than rock’n’roll, rockabilly was fast and aggressive with snappy drumming, sharp guitar licks and wild country piano; the sound of kids from all over the south coming together to make records for Phillips and the hatful of independent labels that sprang up in his wake.


Rockabilly came and went so fast that even with the addition of Elvis’s Sun single’s, all the records put together sold a lot less than Fats Domino. But it was far more important than sales alone, because rockabilly fixed that crucial image of rock’n’roll; the sexy, half crazed, rockin’ teen, standing on a stage, swinging his hips and singing his guts out.


Most of the first rock’n’roll styles had been variations on black forms shaped long before the white audience moved in and moulded them to their own insipid taste. Unlike rock’n’roll, rockabilly was always self contained in its own little world. It was a place of freedom, a place to take chances, overflowing with an exuberance, determination and urgency impossible to resist.


‘Maybe someday your name will be in lights’ Chuck Berry promised all the young, rockabilly hoodlums, but most didn’t even get past the ‘maybe’ and ended up paying a horrendous price for all their early vitality and flash. Chasing Elvis’s pot of gold, Carl Perkins, still billing himself as ‘The King of Rockabilly’ off the back of one hit and a score of failures, slipped into alcohol. Gene Vincent found himself exiled to England where he would die of a bleeding ulcer before he was forty, while Eddie Cochran and Johnny Burnette would die in land and sea accidents.


The rest simply faded away and were soon forgotten, falling back into the predictability of country music or the day to day sameness they’d fought so hard to escape. All they left behind was a brilliant record or two, and an audience that over fifty years later continues to find some much needed revolution and excitement in their ghosts.


01 ELVIS PRESLEY ‘Mystery Train’ (B Side August 1955)

02 SID KING & THE FIVE STRINGS ‘Sag, Drag And Fall’ (A Side October 1955)

03 JACK EARLS ‘Crawdad Hole’ (A Side April 1956)

04 JANIS MARTIN ‘Drugstore Rock’n’Roll’ (A Side April 1956)

05 JOHNNY BURNETTE & THE ROCK’N’ROLL TRIO ‘Tear It Up’ (A Side May 1956)

06 CURTIS GORDON ‘Draggin’ (A Side May 1956)

07 JOE CLAY ‘Sixteen Chicks’ (B Side May 1956)

08 EDDIE BOND ‘Slip, Slip, Slippin’ In’ (A Side June 1956)

09 CHARLIE FEATHERS ‘I Can’t Hardly Stand It’ (B Side October 1956)

10 EDDIE COCHRAN ‘Skinny Jim’ (A Side October 1956)

11 RIC CARTEY ‘Ooh Eee’ (A Side November 1956)

12 SPARKLE MOORE ‘Skull And Crossbones’ (A Side November 1956)

13 HAL WILLIS ‘My Pink Cadillac’ (A Side November 1956)

14 CARL PERKINS ‘Dixie Fried’ (A Side November 1956)

15 GENE VINCENT & HIS BLUE CAPS ‘Bop Street’ (Blue Jean Bop LP November 1956

16 SONNY BURGESS ‘Ain’t Got A Thing’ (A Side March 1957)

17 JOHNNY POWERS ‘Long Blond Hair, Red Rose Lips’ (A Side June 1957)

18 HOWIE STANGE WITH JIM FLAHERTY’S CARAVAN ‘Real Gone Daddy’ (A Side June 1957)

19 EDWIN BRUCE ‘Rock Boppin’ Baby’ (A Side September 1957)

20 LEE TRAMMELL ‘Shirley Lee’ (A Side January 1958)

21 DWIGHT PULLEN ‘Sunglasses After Dark’ (A Side March 1958)

22 JIMMY LLOYD ‘I Got A Rocket In My Pocket’ (A Side May 1958)

23 WANDA JACKSON ‘Mean Mean Man’ (A Side August 1958)

24 THE COLLINS KIDS ‘Whistle Bait’ (A Side August 1958)

25 STEVE CARL ‘Curfew’ (A Side August 1958)

26 RONNIE SELF ‘You’re So Right For Me’ (A Side September 1958)

27 KIP TYLER & THE FLIPS ‘She’s My Witch’ (A Side November 1958)

28 JACKIE MORNINGSTAR ‘Rockin’ In The Graveyard’ (A Side April 1959)

29 JEFF DANIELS ‘Switch Blade Sam’ (A Side May 1959)

30 JACK SCOTT ‘The Way I Walk’ (A Side June 1959)

31 RONNIE DAWSON ‘Rockin’ Bones’ (A Side September 1959)

32 THE PHANTOM ‘Love Me’ (A Side December 1959)