Rockabilly: A Forty-Year Journey
In the foreword to Rockabilly: A Forty-Year Journey, the late guitarist Danny Gatton says of author Billy Poore: “Nobody could write a book on it like he could, ’cause he’s got an honest, blue-collar style of writing and he calls it like he sees it.”
That pretty much sums it up. Poore’s new book amounts to a lengthy, almost diary-like account of his lifelong love affair with rockabilly and the roots music — blues and country — that spawned it. The volume is arranged by decades, beginning with the ’50s and continuing through the ’90s. Entertainingly opinionated, Poore considers Elvis Presley’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” the greatest rockabilly record of all time and loathes Neil Young’s foray into the genre, the 1983 release Everybody’s Rockin’, which Poore mistakenly labels Pink and Black.
Occasionally, as in his rehashing of Presley’s career, Poore covers ground that’s all too familiar, and he sometimes gets bogged down in facts about release dates and chart position that are easily available in Joel Whitburn’s reference works. The charm is in his passion for the music and in his personal asides, as in the revelation that his will stipulates that he be “buried in the same garb” that Elvis Presley wore in his 1957 movie, Loving You.
Poore has managed Charlie Feathers, published Rockbilly Revue magazine, made records as an artist, founded his own label and written some rockabilly songs. Tucked into his text are little sidebars, under the heading “Forgettin’ to Remember to Forget”, that are first-person accounts of everything from a Wanda Jackson performance on the Ozark Jubilee to Poore’s first meeting with English pub-rocker Dave Edmunds.
This is not the first book-length account of rockabilly. Craig Morrison explored some of the same ground, historically speaking, in Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music And Its Makers. And Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins have chronicled the rise and fall of Sun Records, the quintessential rockabilly label, in Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records And The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. But Poore’s account comes from the heart and from experience. For the rockabilly fan, it’s an essential read.