Early SUN Records: The Transition – Sonny Burgess

This was the start of change from black to white musicians.  Elvis was around at that time, so it was just Rock and Roll that had an influences in Delta Blues, Country and so on.

(You know, Rock and Roll is getting kind of a rebirth, mainly because all of the people who grew up with it are now at the front of this huge wave; a generation of people who have money, are active and want their own music.)

The transition of Rock ‘n Roll to white artists started in the early years of Sun Records. As Billy Lee Riley once said, “We just called it Rock and Roll”; it was many years later when they told us it was called Rockabilly – the Rock and Roll (Rockabilly) Era at Early Sun.

In our area (Toronto, Canada) in 54/55/56 we listened to Your Hit Parade with “Snooky Lanson”, Gisele McKenzie, Guy Mitchel, etc. Meanwhile, in Memphis the Sun Records cats where blowing the walls out.

Just another note, most of the musicians who worked for Sun, played on many other recordings; for example, Jerry Lee was their resident/session piano player.

Think back to 1956 in Toronto, Sonny Burgess was a local group playing around town.

Sonny Burgess and the Pacers!

Sonny Burgess and The Pacers

Sun #247 Sonny Burgess – Red Headed Woman (1956)

Sun #247 Sonny Burgess – We Wanna Boogie (1956)

Sun #263 Sonny Burgess – Restless / Ain’t Got A Thing (1957)

Sun #285 Sonny Burgess – My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It / Sweet Misery (1957)

Sun #304 Sonny Burgess – Thunderbird (1958)

Sun #304 Sonny Burgess with Billy Riley – Itchy (1958)

Sonny Burgess – Sadie’s Back in Town/Phillips International (Sam’s new Company) (1960)

Birthplace – Newport, Arkansas
Birth date – May 28, 1931 / Aug 18, 2017

Current Residence – Newport, Arkansas

Sonny Burgess has been through the music evolution and the revolution. His music spans five decades of air play, concerts, dance parties, and radio shows. An original Sun recording artist, he and fellow band members put on a Rock and Roll show that was so full of energy that it became legend.

He still does concerts, plays dance clubs, and he still has records on the charts. What’s more, he still puts on a Rock and Roll show that you won’t forget.

Sonny’s first releases on Sun were “Red Headed Woman” and “We Wanna Boogie“. These were enthusiastically accepted by the young rockers who were flocking to the dance parties that were held around the Delta.

In the 50’s, record companies would send their talent out to play regional gigs to promote their records and Sun was no exception. Sonny Burgess, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Rich and many others were out playing their music in the local school gyms to promote their releases on Sun.

“The Pacers” was Sonny Burgess’ first band. They performed all over northeast Arkansas. Their 50’s releases made the youngsters wanna dance and their parents have apoplexy. There was gyrating, stage sliding, and acrobatics. They would build a human pyramid in the middle of the dance floor climbing on top of each other and continuing to play all the while.

Like so many 50’s Rock and Rollers, Sonny found a new audience in the 80’s. Europe wanted to hear that good old Rock and Roll the way it was played by those who invented it. For Sonny it meant touring with the Sun Rhythm Section which he still does.

Ain’t Got A Thing – How he sounds today…

Now that it’s popular in Europe, U.S. audiences are starting to think it’s cool to get back to Rock and Roll roots and Sonny Burgess is there to teach them all about it.

I found a couple of videos.  Sonny is 79 years of age and shit he’s still rockin’.  I just can’t believe it.

Sittin’ In With the Band: Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers

Those boys from “Arkansas” can still play.  Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers, I just love them.

– Gary

See also our post: Sonny Burgess – Gary


4 responses to “Early SUN Records: The Transition – Sonny Burgess

  1. see you sunny at 4 june 2011

  2. to tell the truth I have never heard of this chap and admit my early rock education is sadly amiss because of this omission.


    Gary: I really enjoy your history and musicology about the great BLUES and ROCKABIILLY singers. Most of them grow up in the SOUTHERN STATES where the famous RECORDING STUDIOS where located. SONNY BURGESS was relate to another FAMOUS singer. Sorry if I am thoughtless. The PACERS have a great sound like MEMPHIS STEW.
    Hope the SUMMER is kind to you in CANADA. IT MOOSEHEAD TIME in PITTSBURGH, Pa.

    Your D.J. friend and SUMMER CAR CRUISE SHOWMAN


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