Friday, September 18, 2009

Rockabilly Guitar Solo Gems: The 1950's

The unique sound forged by rockabilly musicians became so contagious by 1957 that most country and western musicians were drawn at least temporarily into the rave that had become nothing short of a full blown cultural phenomenon. Country swing musician who had already dabbled in jazzier boogie woogie rhythms were also drawn into the vortex, and their jazz influenced guitar work left a distinctive imprint of several rockabilly recordings. In fact, the electric guitar solo itself, usually spaced after the second vocal verse, becomes a distinctive feature of rockabilly's two to three minute bursts of R&B inspired energy. Aside from the select few rockabilly guitarists whose fame is already assured: Cliff Gallup, Grady Martin, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Al Casey, Ralph Roe, Hank Garland and Larry Adair, many of the guitarists that are showcased on the recordings here are unknown and have remained in total obscurity today. Whenever possible, I have included the featured guitarists, but in several cases information about particular musicians is simply unavailable. I assembled this collection of classic rockabilly guitar solos after spending considerable time listening to solos attentively for sound quality, fluidity, and overall fit or contribution to the song's integrity. Enjoy these gems of 50's rockabilly, They constitute a truly unique and pivotal slice in the evolution of the electric guitar. Once again, many thanks again to the collectors on youtube who make this possible.

1) Harvey Hurt: "Big Dog Little Dog," is a completely obscure gem by Harvey who was probably from northern Kentucky or southern Ohio. The sound seems to indicate late rockabilly, probably 1960 or 61. The guitar work is simply extraordinary, the jazz influenced playing is obvious. Unknown player.

2) Sammy Masters: "Whop T Bop" from 1956. Sammy was from guitar rich Oklahoma and true to the region he conflated jazz with his own unique brand of rockabilly. His guitar player, Ralph Roe, is absolutely on fire on this gem, jazz and be bob like Charlie Christian runs are heard throughout.

3) Coldy Coldiron: "Rockin Spot" from 1956. This is a sizzling rock n' roll based number with a red hot guitar solo, but also listen to the guitar comping throughout. Exceptional. Totally obscure.

4) Wes Holly: This gem, "Shufflin Shoes," is a great example of the confluence of country swing and rockabilly that was in full swing by the mid 1950's. From Iowa, Wes was a successful country swing musician drawn to rockabilly's irresistible rhythms.

5) Gene Vincent: "Who Slapped John?" Gene gives Cliff Gallop plenty of space on this one, a two part lead in fact. Remarkable phrasing and tone by Cliff, one of the true greats of the decade.

6) Del Reeves: "My Baby Loves to Rock" is a classic, echo laden rockabilly cut with a horn section. The short guitar solo is classic in tone and economy. Very nice cut by Del, primarily known for success in country music.

7) Bash Hofner: "Rockin and a Bopin" has a unique chord structure for rockabilly and the guitar solo is in two parts and extended. Very fluid, jazz like playing here on this gem of Texas rockabilly. Altogether, a fascinating cut. Unknown guitar work.

8) Wolf Opper: "Stompin to the Beat." Another unique arrangement with a very sweet guitar solo by a totally obscure deejay. Unknown session guitarist.

9) Bob Temple: "Vim Vam Vamoose" is another peculiar rockabilly recording that incorporates elements of the jazz jive sound with a short but searing guitar solo with great tone. Not much known about Temple, unknown guitarist.

10) Jack Lewis and the Americans: "Tood A Lou " is another classic crazed and frenetic rockabilly cut with the echo turned up full throttle. Also a classic because of the guitar solo by legend Eddie Cochran is excellent in tone and style. Not much known about Lewis, other than his work with Cochran.

11) Don "Red" Roberts: "Only One. " Absolutely classic rockabilly from 1957 with a wonderfully conceived guitar break. Great energy on this obscure recording, unknown guiatrist.

12) Gene Maltais: Gene's first recording"Crazy Baby" for the famous Decca label is raw unbridled rockabilly energy at its best. Guitar solo by legendary Hank Garland is superb, it has has typical phrasing and fine tone and fits the feel of the song perfectly.


  1. Thank you for another great post.
    Its always entertaining and informative.

  2. The guitar player on Sammy Masters' 4-Star sessions is Jimmy Bryant, that's why it's so jazzy. That includes Pink Cadillac, Some Like it Hot, Flat Feet and 2-Rock-A-4...

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  4. Oh these guys are true legends of the rock. Pioneers in all the meaning of the word. On the other hands, current and self-proclaimed rockstars cause shame to me. They obligate me to Buy Viagra for resisting their mediocre music.

  5. Nothing I enjoy more than discovering a great rockabilly solo. Great stuff-- thank you!

  6. Who is the guitarist on Shufflin Shoes?