Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Rockabilly Roadhouse Route: Highway 67 in Arkansas

Running north from Newport, Arkansas toward the Missouri border, a little known stretch of U.S. Highway 67 runs through the small towns of Swifton, Walnut Ridge and up to Pocahontas. Seemingly insignificant, this 60 mile stretch of road is on the verge of being recognized by the Arkansas State Legislature as a historically significant route to be named "Rock "N" Roll Highway 67," whose importance can be compared to the legendary Highway 61 in Mississippi. During the mid to late 1950's the small towns along the highway became the touring core of the "rockabilly roadhouse circuit" that many of the genre's most storied players traversed numerous times. If the Sun Studios in Memphis recorded the music for posterity, the venues along the highway; The Silver Moon Club in Newport, Bob Kings B&I club in Swifton and several other long since destroyed roadhouses constituted the live staging ground for the new and energetic sounds of live rockabilly that Elvis, Roy Orbison, Warren Smith, Johnny Cash, Scotty Moore, Billy Lee Riley, Bobby Lee Trammell, Carl Perkins, Harold Jenkins (Conway Twitty) Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny Burgess and many other lesser known players cranked out on many a Saturday night. The Arkansas State Legislature's proclamation is a cultural heritage move designed to promote and encourage tourism to the region, and rockabilly festivals are also planned. Still rockin after fifty years. Posts on Arkansas, "the cradle of rockabilly" are forthcoming this month.

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