Starday Records was mainly a country and western label when the rockabilly craze hit in 1954. Seeing an opportunity to cash in on the new music craze, Starday signed many rockabilly artists. These musicians created some of the greatest classic rockabilly records of the era. If you thought all the greatest rockabilly came out of Memphis’ Sun Records label, you were wrong! In this article I’ll talk about five Starday rockabilly songs that you should listen to.
- “Duck Tails”: This crazy tune by Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell has become one of the seminal rockabilly tracks of all time. Its goofy lyrics and the nonsense “motorboat” lip sounds that Grayzell made a trademark part of many of his songs somehow work beautifully with the great guitar work and impassioned vocal delivery. The song ends with Grayzell pleading with his girlfriend in a mumbling voice to leave his hair alone. Classic.
- “Rockin’ Daddy”: Another great song with a few goofy lyrics sung by Sony Fisher, Starday’s first rockabilly artist. This song has a wonderful rockabilly sparseness to it and is one of the few rockabilly recordings in which you can really clearly hear what the bass is playing. And it’s playing all over the place!
- “All the Time”: At 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Sleepy LaBeef may have been the tallest rockabilly cat of all time. He also recorded some of the most compelling rockabilly tunes of all time! The thus-appropriately-named “All the Time” is a rollicking rocker that chugs along wonderfully. It’s another case of a rockabilly song being totally convincing rock and roll even though recorded without drums. This record was distributed by Mercury Records (who’d signed a distribution deal with Starday).
- “Ice Water”: This one, by Glenn Barber, is a little more hillbilly than the others on this list, but still great early rockabilly from 1954. It features nice piano work as well as a steel guitar solo. Maybe some would say this is more hillbilly boogie than rockabilly, but who’s really to say? Those lines did blur at times!
- “Jitterbop Baby”: This is simply one of the coolest rockabilly songs ever recorded. Hal Harris’ smooth vocals set against a great backing combo with cool guitar work that features back-to-back solos in different pickup switch positions, easy but steady snare drum, and chugging slap bass. Background vocals come into the picture during the chorus and it just makes it all complete.
Starday records released some of the greatest rockabilly tunes of all time. No rockabilly story would be complete without including Starday and these fantastic records. These five recordings are just a small sampling of what the Starday library has to offer.