What Time Is The New York Giants Football Game Today 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 1950s was often called hillbilly music. With the rise of rock and roll in the early 1950s, there was a fusion of rock, hillbilly, western swing, blues, and boogie woogie known as rockabilly. Its most popular singers included Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran.

Rockabilly faded during the British Invasion of the 1960s, though groups like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and The Who covered some of the classics. The 1970s, a decade of disco and punk rock, saw a rockabilly renaissance sparked by artists like Dave Edmunds and Robert Gordon. Gordon’s 1977 version of “Red Hot,” which achieved some success, inspired Brian Setzer to form the Stray Cats, a million-selling rockabilly hits in the 1980s that had their roots in the 1950s.

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

While “Red Hot” is often associated with Riley, the song was written and recorded in 1955 by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, a singer-songwriter for Sun whose version met with little success. Emerson was reportedly inspired to write “Red Hot” after hearing cheerleaders at a Florida football game chanting, “Our team is red hot, your team ain’t squatting.”

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

While traveling with his band in Canada, Riley on a gamble decided to call DJ Alan Freed and ask him to join an upcoming tour. Riley contacted Freed on WINS radio in New York City and learned that “Red Hot” was breaking out across the country; Freed told Riley that he had a hit on his hands and that he could join the tour.

Thrilled, Riley called Sam Phillips at Sun Records to give him the good news. Philips told Riley to return to Nashville to record another single before the tour.

Upon his return, Riley learned that Phillips had contacted Alan Freed’s manager and asked Jerry Lee Lewis to replace Riley on tour. Phillips had also canceled record dealer orders for tens of thousands of copies of “Red Hot.” Instead, Phillips would send out Jerry Lee’s “Great Balls of Fire.”

Riley was understandably furious; he broke into Sun Studio in a drunken state and vandalized the studio. But for Sam Phillips, the decision to promote Jerry Lee over Riley was just business. As a small record company, Phillips said, Sun could only afford to promote one artist at a time.

“I had to pick the one artist that I felt at the time could really make it to the top. And that cat back then was Lewis.”

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