Rockabilly Legend Sonny Burgess Dead At 88

08-28-2017
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Sonny Burgess

(Gibson) Sonny Burgess, Sun Records veteran and legendary rockabilly guitarist, has passed away at the age of 88. While not one of Sun's most famous mid-'50s six-stringers, Burgess was integral to early rockabilly, sharing bills with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Burgess' 1956 debut single for Sun - "Red Headed Woman"/ "We Wanna Boogie" - was one of Sun's most raw, unpolished rockabilly tunes.

Rockabilly historian Colin Escott described Burgess'1956 debut as "punk before punk, thrash before thrash." Although their music was classified as rockabilly, Burgess' band, the Pacers, owed more to the horn-driven jump R&B of the 1950s: Burgess delivered an explosive over-amped guitar solo on "We Wanna Boogie" that became famous in its own right.

The Pacers' shows were just as wild as their records - they formed a human pyramid onstage, and often dragged each other across the stage by their instruments. When Burgess attempted to dye his hair blond with peroxide, it turned bright red, enticing him to purchase a new, all-red wardrobe. "We had one of the greatest stage shows there was," he once said. "It was like a three-ring circus. People couldn't watch just one of us." Read more here.

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