What Channel Is The Florida Football Game On Tonight Rockabilly Is "Red Hot" (Your Gal Ain’t Doodly Squat)

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Rockabilly Is "Red Hot" (Your Gal Ain’t Doodly Squat)

Country music in the 1940s and 50s was often referred to as mountain music. With the advent of rock and roll in the early 1950s, a fusion of rock, hillbilly, Western Swing, blues and boogie woogie came to be known as rockabilly. Its famous performers included Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.

Rockabilly faded during the British Invasion of the 1960s, although bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who covered some of the classics. The seventies, the decade of disco and punk rock, saw a revival of rockabilly, led by artists such as Dave Edmunds and Robert Gordon. A cover of Gordon’s “Red Hot” in 1977, which achieved some success, inspired Brian Setzer to form the Stray Cats, who in the 1980s played rockabilly hits rooted in the 50s. went on sale.

In 1956, rockabilly pioneer Billy Lee Riley signed with Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and joined a group of artists that included Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins. Billy Riley and guitarist Roland Janes, bassist Marvin Pepper and drummer JM Van Eaton became Sun’s house rhythm section. The band played behind Jerry Lee Lewis on all his sunshine hits; Lewis, in turn, played piano on two of Riley’s most popular songs: 1957’s “Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll” (the Ray Scott song that inspired “Little Men”) and “Red Hot.”

While “Red Hot” is often associated with Riley, the track was written and recorded in 1955 by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, a Sun singer/songwriter whose version was not very successful. Emerson was reportedly inspired to write “Red Hot” after hearing the cheers chant at a Florida football game: “Our team’s red, your team ain’t brown.”

Riley put his own stamp on “Red Hot” with a stronger delivery that’s rockier than Emerson’s original. Riley was convinced that “Red Hot” was the hit that would make him a national star. The promise of the greatest disc jockey of the era appeared to guarantee his success.

While on tour with his band in Canada, Riley made a bet to call DJ Alan Freed and ask him to join the upcoming tour. Riley reached out to Freed at WINS Radio in New York City and learned that “Red Hot” was spreading across the country; Free told Riley that he had hit his arm and could join the trip.

Riley excitedly called Sam Phillips at Sun Records with the good news. Philips told Riley to return to Nashville to record one more single before the tour.

Upon his return, Riley learned that Phillips had contacted Alan Freed’s manager and had Jerry Lee Lewis replace Riley on the tour. Phillips also canceled orders from record distributors for tens of thousands of copies of “Red Hot.” In their place, Phillips sends Jerry Lee’s “Great Balls of Fire.”

Riley was understandably angry; he broke into Sun Studios in a drunken rage and trashed the studio. But for Sam Phillips, the decision to nominate Jerry Lee over Riley was all business. As a small record company, Phillips said, Sun can promote only one artist at a time.

“I had to take an artist that I felt at the time could really go to the top. And that cat at the time was Lewis.”

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