Meet the 20-foot legends on the Rockabilly Highway: Rich Gilbert and Eileen Rose
You might picture the “Rockabilly Highway” as a yellow-brick road stretching between Buddy Hollyland and Bill Monroeville. But it really exists, in McNairy County, TN, where it’s also known as Route 45 South. Not only did Elvis meet Carl Perkins at an Elvis show at Bethel Springs, two giant murals by Brian Tull capture the period feeling with current artists, the latest of which are The Legendary Rich Gilbert and Eileen Rose.
That Perkins/Elvis meeting led to Perkins venturing to Sun Studios in Memphis, which of course led to the impromptu Million Dollar Quartet session with Elvis, Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Some locals recall that Cash played a barnburner of a show in Stantonville just days before signing to Sun. And Perkins made his first recordings in Eastview. But Tull’s murals, and the rockabilly festivals that grew out of the first mural’s dedication ceremony, cemented the county’s place in rockabilly history.
Rich Gilbert and Eileen Rose, two Boston natives who moved to Nashville years ago, perform original material as Eileen Rose and the Holy Wreck and ignite classic country songs as The Silver Threads. Both have earned their “legendary” status. Eileen came out of Boston’s indie scene and moved to London, releasing well-received solo records on Rough Trade. Rich was a Boston guitar hero playing with one of the most original Boston punk bands, Human Sexual Response. He went on to guitar work with The Zulus, Concussion Ensemble, Frank Black and Tanya Donnelly and others. His blazing fingerpicking and soulful pedal steel got immediate notice in Nashville – which is quite an achievement in a town where every bartender plays better than the guitarist on stage. The Silver Threads just released a live record that captures the sound of their long-time residency at Robert’s on Nashville’s Lower Broad.
So if you’re cruising down the Rockabilly Highway and happen to look up at a 20-foot-tall guitar picker and honky-tonk angel, now you’ll be able to put names to the faces.