“Lonnie Donegan inspired everyone [to play guitar] because he made it look as though it was possible to do. But who really moved it out of just playing acoustic to electric was all those people that were playing in the 1950s. Initially, it was the rockabilly-style guitar, the Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio. When you heard that, it was just something that inspired you so much to want to play out of the box as it’s so abstract, the guitar playing” (Jimmy Page)
When it comes to the history and roots of rockabilly, Johnny Burnette and The Rock and Roll Trio are considered one of the pioneering bands of their time! This three-piece created some of the wildest and most uninhibited music to ever come out of Memphis and have since influenced an array of artists!
Formed in Memphis, Tennessee during the 1950’s, they were also known as the “Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio” and the “Johnny Burnette Trio” and consisted of three former boxers, Dorsey Burnette, his younger brother Johnny, and a friend Paul Burlison. Dorsey and Johnny Burnette were both natives of Memphis, having been born there in 1932 and 1934 and Paul Burlison was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, in 1929, but moved to Memphis with his family in 1937.
Despite their relative obscurity this band were as inventive and influential as anyone this side of Elvis Presley when it came to early rock and roll, especially in terms of their influence on artists who would go on to create heavy metal and punk. Signed to New York’s Coral Records (also a subsidiary of Decca Records at one point), they released numerous singles in the early to mid-50’s, with (as far as I can see) only one album, which was released in 1956. Had they got on more as a band, perhaps their musical career would’ve continued longer, but after long stints on the road with endless gigging, squabbles broke out and unrest took over. Exacerbated by lack of chart success, these troubles came to a head at a gig in Niagara Falls in 1956 where, after a fight, Dorsey quit the group and handed back his band uniform. This happened a week before the Trio were due to appear in Alan Freed’s movie Rock, Rock, Rock.
Johnny Burnette and The Rock ‘N Roll Trio were a blink of brilliance who recorded for only six years, but left a lasting impression. Backed with Lonesome Train (on a lonesome track) (see below), Honey Hush was an early single released in 1956.
Originally written and performed by Big Joe Turner in 1953, the song was also covered by the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fleetwood Mac and Elvis Costello to name a few, but Johnny Burnette’s version is by far the most superior as far as I’m concerned!! I’d even go as far as to say I prefer this to the original!! Listen above.