Sunday, December 29, 2013
Billy Lee Riley - Sings The Blues
Billy Lee Riley recorded TROUBLE BOUND for Jack Clement and Slim Wallace. Sam Phillips of SUN Records obtained the rights and he released TROUBLE BOUND b/w ROCK WITH ME BABY on September 1, 1956 (Sun 245). His first hit was FLYIN’ SAUCER ROCK AND ROLL b/w I WANT YOU BABY, released February 23, 1957 (Sun 260).
Billy Lee Riley told me that he was never happy with the way he was treated by Sam Philips, who according to Billy, stopped marketing him when he was on a break through with his 3rd record RED HOT b/w PEARLY LEE released September 30, 1957 (Sun 277). Both sides of this record were backed by Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. RED HOT promised to be a big hit record, but Sam Phillips switched the marketing to GREAT BALLS OF FIRE by Jerry Lee Lewis. RED HOT was pulled without a lot of sales. Riley recorded some more SUN Records but could not get a hit, much to Riley's frustration as the promotion for him had stopped.
Billy Lee Riley was an excellent harmonica, guitar player and singer and always drew large crowds with his driven, wild performances. Riley had a brief solo career with his backing band "The Little Green Men" and left SUN in 1960, starting the Rita record label together with Roland James. Together they produced the national hit record MOUNTAIN OF LOVE by Harold Dorman and then started two other labels--Nita and Mojo.
In 1962, he moved to L.A. and worked as a session musician with the Beach Boys, Dean Martin and many others. In the early 70’s, Riley quit the music business and returned to Arkansas and went into construction.
In 1978, RED HOT and FLYIN’ SAUCERS ROCK ‘N ROLL were covered by Robert Gordon and Link Ray, which led to Riley’s comeback and further recording at SUN Studio and a full-time return to performing. His album "Hot Damn" (Capricorn, 1997) was nominated for a Grammy. In 2006, he released a country CD, Hillbilly Rockin' Man. The album “Billy Lee Riley Sings The Blues” (see photo) was released in The Netherlands in a limited edition. This album along with the original “stampers” is on display in the Rock' n Roll & Blues Heritage Museum in Clarksdale.
Billy Lee Riley played rock and country, but he was a blues man at heart.
Not something I would usually post but there are some excellent blues tracks from the 60's that have been mistakenly attributed to black American blues artists.
Posted by Xyros