Sonny Burgess, The Complete Sun Recordings, Vol. 1

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

"Red Headed Woman" b/w "We Wanna Boogie," Burgess 'debut single, fulfilled every promise Sun ever made; it was primordial, crazy-ass Saturday-night music that tried to prevent Sunday from ever arriving.

Flamboyant, rip-roaring rockabilly from a man who never got his due in his day.

Burgess, a shouter whose virile style was often likened to a tenor sax solo, was perhaps the greatest Sun rockabilly who didn't get his due in his day — raw and virtually unintelligible on "Woman," which featured a most sleazy trumpet solo, of all things, by Jack Nance, and equally fast and floozy on "Boogie" (whose second take sports even wilder solos than the version that was released). As his covers of Junior Parker's "Feelin 'Good" and Roy Brown's "Fannie Brown" attest, Burgess had a singular feel for R&B. If he showed a willingness to make himself slightly more accessible on his follow-up single "Ain't Got a Thing" (which owes more than a small debt to Clarence "Frogman" Henry) and "Restless" (on which he whistles), he still rocked true and hard. And throughout his stay at the label, he continued to throw out casual, off-handed nuggets like "All Night Long," "Don't Be That Way" and "Life's Too Short" that went unreleased at the time though lesser singers would have been happy for such a record.

Finally, check out all four takes of "Goin 'Home" (which is actually his reading of Smiley Lewis '"Ain't Gonna Do It"). This song was his set-closer to what was acknowledged as one of the most flamboyant live acts in the South, and Burgess and his band worked hard to translate the excitement to vinyl. With the second version especially, they succeeded.