Sonny Burgess  1929-2017

He played frantic, jangling guitar
One of the most electrifying stars
In the Sun Records galaxy in Memphis
He fell, met mortality and left us

He played lead with full-tilt loco
Growled and shrieked a manic vocal
Though crowds went crazy as he tore it apart
He and The Pacers never made the charts

“Out to the dance hall, cut a little rug
We’re runnin’ like wildfire, and hittin’ that jug”
He shouted out on “We Wanna Boogie”,
Records remind us of how good he could be

Punk before punk, thrash before thrash
Sex Pistols drunk, crossed with Cash
Mr. Sam Phillips said, “Yeah, Sonny was wild
But man he could rock it like I never saw

Played in the minors, couldn’t hit the curve
A stint in the Army, and after “Yes Sir!”
Started a band playin’ rhythm and blues
Opened for Elvis and heard the Good News

Changed it all up, ya gotta love this:
Added a trumpet – I mean, who does this?
Wild and free,  walkin’ in Memphis
Made Jerry Lee look sorta pensive

Rockabilly played like you never seen
From insane to crazy with no in between
Splits, back flips, no limits allowed
And when they quit, leapt to the crowd

But eventually entropy will have its way
And then energy’s  enemy: it don’t really pay
Backed Conway Twitty on his way down
It wasn’t pretty and he didn’t stick around

Done with living in an unraveling maelstrom
For St. Louis Trimming was a traveling salesman
For this sewing-supply company he’d load up his car
I don’t know but wonder if he sold his guitar

Did he think to himself “Where am I goin’?
I once was Elvis but now I am Loman.”
European fans resurrected his name
Inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

He saw it all on his three-chord ride
Complications from a fall is how he died

 

We go to work and on our darkest days
We question our worth and we are afraid
That we will not be famous, we won’t be rich
But that’s just how the game is and so we don’t quit

Our complicated lives will end in a fall
But while on this drive, it might help to recall
No one can tell us where we are goin’
We are Sonny and Elvis, and we’re Willy Loman
 
 
Thanks to William Grimes, New York Times obituary of Sonny Burgess
and Colin Escott, “Roadkill on the Three-Chord Highway: Art and Trash in American Popular Music”

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