Home » Rockabilly/ Psychobilly guitar players you need to know

Rockabilly/ Psychobilly guitar players you need to know

Rockabilly Girls

Rockabilly-style guitar players are different animals not only because of their rockabilly hairstyles and hot chicks in rockabilly dresses. Since the inception of Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two coming out of Memphis on Sam Phillips Sun Records and of course Elvis with his group, the rockabilly groove has been played all over the globe. With theme bars and clubs in many countries outside the USA.

Luther Perkins and Scotty Moore didn’t know They will still be inspiring players not yet born.

I found the music through my Dad’s record collection. I found the reaction to that music on an 8 track tape in his Old Green Pick Up Truck. Johnny Cash’s version of “Rock Island Line” was a build in tempo gradually in synch with his right foot on the accelerator.

By the time Cash would declare “I fooled you”, “I fooled you” we were somewhere in the 90 mph range heading south on rt 104. 

Johnny Cash-Rock Island Line

That Sound Melted and Morphed into many different variations each year to create a subculture that thrives in most countries in the world. It was The beginning of a different type of Guitar Hero and in my mind was the first Rock N Roll that was Guitar based. Eddie Cochran , Cliff Gallup from Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps, Bo Diddley and  Buddy Holly also played a hand in the sound to varying degrees. Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats brought it back to the masses. Now let’s look at a few you might not know about.

The Reverend Horton Heat

Jim Heath is a Bad man!! The Muhammad Ali of pickers. His Trio popped up out of Dallas Texas in 1986 and is still a Whoopin and a Thrashing with over a dozen albums as of 2018. From the clothing to the Gear he properly represents the 1950’s while bringing the overdrive and humor that also call in the Psychobilly style. His “Psychobilly Freakout” is a high water mark of speed and ferocity . (I am including at the Bottom of this article pt1 and pt 2 of his Lesson on how to play it.)  Depending on your age, His albums might be in your Dad’s record collection too.

The Reverend Horton Heat – Psychobilly Freakout (Live on KEXP)

Carl Perkins

Another Sun Records alumni Carl influenced everyone and of course had a string of songs like “Dixie Fried” and of Course “Blue Suede Shoes”. His call of “Go Cat Go!” Launched bands in the States and England and the full length video here will demonstrate those he inspired. We’ll let the Music do the Talking in this case. I’m still trying to figure out Jerry Lee’s Headband. I think he stole it from Hillary Clinton.

Rockabilly Session With Carl Perkins and Friends

Hasil Adkins 

The Wildman one man Band . ( Warning if you are easily offended by the Strange Truth, skip this )  Hailing from Boone County West Virginia Hasil was recently inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame . Myself and a dear friend were there and at first didn’t know that Hasil  was part of the inductee’s list. Then approaching the entrance I saw a Polka dotted Cadillac and knew immediately what was going on.

 Hasil is important as much as anyone as his youth was a lesson in Rockabilly music. The Subjects were the thing that stood out. Songs Like “Peanut Butter Rock N Roll” and “Chicken Walk” Made the HAZE stand out. His music inspired The Cramps who covered “She Said” and As Hank III said “There was nobody writing songs about cutting your head off in the 50’s, and to me that’s as Punk Rock as it gets”. 

 He also brought in the one man band genre on accident because hearing an artist on the radio named Hank Williams he didn’t catch the part the Drifting Cowboys were there too. He thought Hank was playing it all himself, so he devised the ways to do it all himself. He was inducted by Rick Miller of Southern Culture on the Skids and after the event I got to hang around with Rick and talk about The Haze and the fact he was as much a Rockabilly artist as he was plain wild. 

Hasil Adkins Documentary

Hasil Adkins 2018 West Virginia Music Hall Of Fame Induction Vignette

Flat Duo Jets ‘ Dexter Romweber 

Flat Duo Jets

Flat Duo Jets – Athens, GA: Inside/Out

There would have been no “White Stripes” and Jack White would tell you that , were there no band called The Flat Duo Jets. Dexter was and is a walking encyclopedia of all things Rockabilly and Rock n Roll. He is, I personally believe, the most passionate man on the mission to keep the old music new and Vibrant. A Genius level talent. Coming out of North Carolina he was forming bands at age 11. He eventually met and formed the Jets with Chris “Crow” Smith and in 1985 they released their first effort  “In Stereo”.

 The band’s full-length debut LP, the self-titled Flat Duo Jets, was not released until 1990. In support of the album, the Flat Duo Jets went on a national tour opening for The Cramps, whom Dexter has cited as an early influence. 1990 also saw the band make an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, where they performed a high-energy cover of Benny Joy’s “Wild Wild Lover”.

1998 saw them on Major Label Geffen Records but shortly after the band had run it’s race. Since 2001 Dexter has worked with his Sister Sara and Have kept productive in making Brilliant music.

Recently Jeff Beck , an avid fan of old school rockabilly , released his performances from “Ronnie Scott’s” and included was yet another ongoing tip of the hat to the players who started it all.

The transition of Rockabilly to Psychobilly and other forms is never a far stretch.I’m personally not a purist of anything musical . I think the evolution of music has to continue. I have a personal favorite in our last fellow.

Bloodshot Bill 

Banned for a long period of time in the United States for sneaking over from his home is Canada without proper work documents and a general disregard for laws and conventional thinking, Bill’s all kinds of different. He plays now with a full band, but initially was very much in the one man format. His music strikes that twisted humor I enjoy, but the instrumentation is merely a wilder version of the classic players we have mentioned. It’s just wild enough for me. I get some cross eyed looks but I find redeeming qualities in the mad house approach. 

Bloodshot Bill live at ToBeScene Studios, Toronto

Rockabilly and Psychobilly are a global reach and have reached a full lifestyle and culture all their own. You need to look no further anywhere in the United States and even Japan to know it’s alive and kicking.  Rockabilly is a Beautiful Rebellion and its forces number more each year.

Teaching the rockabilly/phycobilly guitar

There is no brakeman on the Train but each new player is pouring on another round of Coal.

Psychobilly Freakout As Taught By Jim Heath – Part 1

Psychobilly Freakout As Taught by Jim Heath Part 2

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Jimmy Flemming