April 1, 2003

Grady Martin
“Here’s a guy that, although not a household name, played on more records than you could ever name. He’s the guitar genius on such hits as ‘El Paso’ by Marty Robbins and ‘On the Road Again’ by Willie Nelson, but my favorites are the rockabilly sides he cut at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville between 1955-60. The solos he played during that time are simply some of the most imaginative ever. Some of Martin’s best playing is on obscure tunes such as ‘Alligator Come Across’ by Arlie Duff and ‘It Would Be a Doggone Lie’ by Autry Inman—a song I cover on my new album. He did most of his early country and rockabilly stuff on a Bigsby doubleneck guitar through a Magnatone amp.

“Also, one of the greatly debated topics in the rockabilly world is whether Martin played on much of the Johnny Burnette Trio’s Rockabilly Boogie sessions. I say use your ears and decide for yourself.”
Go Get! That’ll Flat Get It Vol. 2 and Vol. 6 [Bear Family].

Cliff Gallup
“Although his tenure with Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps lasted less than a year, Gallup set the bar for virtuoso rockabilly playing. He’s the perfect example of a rockabilly guitarist who had killer jazz chops—and probably hated rock and roll—yet when put in the studio, he rose to the occasion. His use of jazzy 13th and 6/9 chords was revolutionary in the rockabilly world. Gallup created the vocabulary that bands are still trying to copy to this day.”
Go Get! The Screaming End: The Best of Gene Vincent [Razor &Tie]; The Gene Vincent Box Set [EMI].

Joe Maphis
“Although still highly regarded in country and bluegrass circles 17 years after his death, Maphis was also one of the preeminent rockabilly guitarists as evidenced by many of the records he played on, including sides by Wanda Jackson, Ricky Nelson, the Collins Kids, and Skeets McDonald. Plus, if you’re into fast country picking, Maphis’ instrumental stuff will tear your head off. Check out his tune ‘Flyin’ Fingers.’ If that doesn’t throw your hat in the creek, nothing will! Joe used a rig that should sound familiar: a Mosrite doubleneck—the very first one—through a Standel amp.”
Go get! Fire on the Strings [Sony-Columbia].

George Barnes
“Here’s another jazz cat who played some of the best rockabilly guitar solos ever. And although a highly schooled musician—he published his own guitar instruction manuals in the early ’40s—Barnes didn’t turn his nose up at the noise that was rockabilly. Instead, he jumped right in and made guitar history. George was truly one of the most versatile guitarists that ever lived. He played with artists as diverse as Doris Day and Homer &Jethro, but his best rockabilly stuff was backing up Janis Martin on many of her RCA sides. ‘Ooby Dooby’ and ‘Drugstore Rock and Roll’ showcase two of his greatest solos. He also cut an amazing instrumental album in the mid-’50s called Country Jazz, which features some of the hottest rockabilly playing you’ve ever heard. Unfortunately this album has not been reissued. George used a variety of electric archtop guitars, but was best known for his Guild signature model ‘Guitar in F’ archtop electric.”
Go get! Janis Martin, The Female Elvis: The Complete Recordings [Bear Family]; The Complete Standard Transcriptions [Bloodshot Soundies].

—Deke Dickerson

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