“I really felt like it was time. I really like this music. I didn’t get into my dad’s whole Rockabilly thing until after he died.” Billy Burnette is of course talking about his father Dorsey of The Rock And Roll Trio, along with his uncle Johnny. The Burnette’s are “Rock ‘N Roll Royalty” with monster hits like “Rock Billy Boogie,” 1960’s “You’re Sixteen,” penned Ricky Nelson’s “It’s Late,” and influenced the careers of Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
“I mean that honestly. My dad’s music seems to have an energy all its own. This is the style I enjoy playing the most. And we’re ready for this. We’re giving them what they want. Real Rockabilly!”
Billy should know, he is the “billy” in the term “Rockabilly.” Born in Memphis in May of 1953, with cousin Rocky following in June, Rocky and Billy were the inspiration for “Rock Billy Boogie” recorded by their fathers and released by Johnny Burnette And The Rock And Roll Trio in 1957.
After writing songs like Roy Orbison’s “All I Can Do Is Dream You,” George Strait’s Billboard #1“River Of Love,” Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt’s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” (from the multi-Grammy winning Genius Loves Company duets album,) being nominated Best New Male Vocalist by The Academy Of Country Music in 1986, eight years as a member of Fleetwood Mac, touring guitarist for Bob Dylan and John Fogerty, releasing many of his own albums, and supplying music for some best loved television shows and movies, Billy Burnette is back with a long overdue traditional sounding rockabilly CD entitled Rock N Roll With It.
“I came up with the name; it was just a riff I kinda liked. I wrote the title track, it says it all really. Just go with it, let it go. It should be easy to roll with some good music.” It’s also the name of the recording label he’s started for this record. “There’s a theme. It’s a good time, let’s put on some rock and roll. This describes, for the first time in a long time, who I really am and where I’m at musically.”
“Only the River Knows,” a beautifully moving ballad sure to catch some attention. It’s being used in the movie Blue Crush 2. “It’s kind of my tribute to Roy Orbison. It’s personal for me. It’s one of my favorite songs now.”
Another one to pay special attention to would be “Hot Rod Hillbilly” which Shawn Camp wrote about Junior Johnson, the infamous moonshine runner and the first Nascar driver. “It’s a real hillbilly rockabilly.”
Other tracks include “Armed and Dangerous,” “Karaoke Queen,” “High Rolling,” “My Love Will Not Change,” “Roller Coaster Ride,” and “Keep on Keeping On.”
Billy’s career began early and he began performing at age 3 with his father’s band singing “Hound Dog,” and released his first single “Hey Daddy, I’m Gonna Tell Santa on You” at age 7 on Dot Records.
By 13, he was on tour with Brenda Lee. “She was great. I still see Brenda every now and then,” Billy says, reminiscing about their USO tour dates in Japan and Hong Kong. He clearly remembers performing in Okinawa. It was the last stop for the troops heading into Vietnam. “There were so many bugs they had to have little lizards in all the rooms, to eat the bugs. I remember that.” He even remembers his speech. He’d go on before Brenda Lee, introduce himself, do a few songs including “You’re 16, (You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine) made famous by his uncle. He memorized the speech in Japanese. It said, “Good evening, my name is Billy. I’m 14 years old, this is my first tour of Japan, thank you for having me…”
“And I’ll tell you something else, about one of the only postcards I ever received from my dad.” Billy explains his father played Japan a few years later circa 1965. Before leaving he was talking to Billy about wanting to address the crowd respectfully in their language. Billy offered his speech. He said just switch the names.
“Well I get a postcard that says, ‘Beau, he called me Beau. It says, Beau, thanks for the speech. I finally figured out why people were smiling. I was telling them Hello it’s my first time in Japan and I’m 14 years old.” Billy laughs, but with a genuine reverence.
When Billy is not up on the big screen acting in such movies as Saturday Night Special (which he starred,) The Addams Family, Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish, Carnasaur, and Not Like Us, his music can be heard in movies like America’s Sweethearts (Julia Roberts,) Project X (Mathew Broderick,) Vertical Limit (Chris O’Donnell,) Gleaming the Cube, Clueless, Gung Ho, and Summer School, and on television shows like Desperate Housewives. His writing credentials are literally too long to list, encompassing Ringo Starr, Cher, Ray Charles, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Tom Jones, Charlie Pride, Jerry Lee Lewis, Josh Turner, Tanya Tucker, Fleetwood Mac, Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman, and The Everly Brothers.
Billy Burnette’s Rockabilly Café is in the works, scheduled to open in Nashville this winter, featuring a couple of separate floors for dining, entertaining, and full stage for performances to a largely seated venue. Just imagine who could pop in and take the stage with Billy at any time. This will surely be a place where everyone will kick back and just Rock and Roll With It.
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