New Jerry Lee Reissue, 2002

By Patrick Wall - - Posted Sept. 6, 2002
           A new Jerry Lee CD has been issued recently by Westside. It is called "I've always been country" and collects many of JLL's finest Sun recordings that only those with the box sets would hear.
           Ever tire of looking at all those Sun greatest hits reissues with no conceptual base? I know that if I had only access to these recordings and nothing else, I wouldn't have been a fan of JLL. I don't like "Sweet little 16" now or either did I in 1990. Getting into JLL through his Sun Greatest hits cheapie CDs and tapes is like getting into Sinatra for "High hopes" or Jim Reeves for "Bimbo"!
           So, how I got into JLL was via his Mercury recordings. Thankfully, great sampler CDs of both a country and blues/soul/R&B emphasise have existed for this era. Thankfully, a good cross section of JLL's best Elektra cuts are on one CD. Thankfully, there are other collections of even later recordings. But, very few truly great Sun Samplers existed - there was "Rare and rocking", "Rare tracks" and a few others. Now, thankfully that is changing and it is possible to sample what JLL's Sun work is REALLY like without getting the box sets. I got the box sets because I believed in JLL's early work through the greatness of his later work. I have always maintained that JLL was always, as the current title goes, country and that is what he is basically all about. Country and hillbilly blues, western swing, bluegrass gospel and Delta blues [sometimes all mixed up in one, with a smattering of Cajun, too].
           This Westside release is a nice complement for their 2 excellent Moon Mullican CDs. A Sun CD that features JLL's country roots is something a non-JLL orientated Moon Mullican fan [god knows, I have met many who will not get into JLL because they think he is just a rock singer] needs to establish a link and liking for Jerry Lee.
This CD contains songs such as Moon's "I'll sail my ship alone", Gene Autry's "You're the only star in my blue heaven", the old bluegrass warhorse "Little green valley", JLL's classic blues drenched revamp of the hillbilly/bluegrass blues "Deep Elem blues", Jim Reeves' "Home", Ralph Mooney's "Crazy arms", etc. Also, there are originals of a very high calibre like "Fools like me" [which was covered by Moon Mullican - who was a big Jerry Lee fan as well as being a big influence on JLL], "I'm the guilty one" [an excellent ballad that could easily have made JLL as big as Jim Reeves], "Invitation to your party" and "One minute past eternity". These were all sacrificed in later years at Sun in favour of hastily picked novelty tunes like "Sweet little 16", "Bonnie B" and "Baby baby bye bye". Just like Moon found with the release of "Jole blon's sister" & "New Jole blon", JLL found records like "SL 16" and "Bonnie" made hits for now but were more damaging longterm. JLL's career in country music was cut short a good 10 years by Sun's mismanagement of what they had. "Sweet little 16" and "Baby bye bye" and "Good Golly" were minor Britsh hits and even more minor American hits. The only things that really sold for JLL in later Sun times was a move towards a new genre (soul) with "What'd I say" as well as the persistent local and even minor national hits with country songs that were originally intended as b-sides.
           This CD is the place to begin for those who want to sample in one CD what JLL's early work is really like when the man was allowed to be what he was. For every commercial session set up at Sun [take the "Bonnie B"/"Baby bye bye" one as an example - JLL jammed around (and someone was wise to keep recording it thankfully) with tracks like "Keep your hands off of it", a blues version of "Hound Dog" (either learned from Big Mama Thornton or Tommy Duncan versions), multitempoed takes of Roy Acuff and Gene Autry songs, and adding new genres to his repertoire (in this case, Negroe spirituals - "Old Black Joe")], JLL recorded the commercial takes of the tracks for Sun [and for Mercury as well later] and then jammed out what he really likes himself
           I think that JLL treats his concerts often in the same way. He pounds out boogified renditions of the novelty tunes some of his lesser fanatic fans want to dance and get drunk to but then he will always throw in a blues song like "Trouble in mind" or a country song like "Another place another time" to satisfy his own tendancies and those of his greater fans. He could also - live or in studio - take a song from anywhere. Here are a few examples of them and why:
           1. Songs he loved as a child ("You are my sunsine", "Old pal of yesterday").
           2. Songs by his greatest influences ("I'll sail my ship alone", "The leaves mustn't fall" [unrel.*], "Muleskinner blues" [unrel.*], "I was sorta wondering", "You win again", "Waiting for a train", etc.).
           3. Songs of his competition that he respects and sometimes envies ("Don't be cruel", "Hard headed woman" [unrel.*], "Today I started loving you again", "Waterloo" [unrel. - the Stonewall Jackson country hit, NOT the ABBA song!!=]).
           4. Song by artists he feels that the public make a big deal about that JLL may feel he has to cover to stay in the game ("Johnny B. Goode", "Little queenie", "Hard day's night" [unrel.+]).
           5. Songs he hates others do and he does a version just because he is sick of hearing someone elses' one ("Bobby Mc Gee").
           6. Songs he was told to do ("Bonnie B").
           7. Songs he certainly did despite protest from others ("Big legged woman", "Keep your hands off of it").
           8. Signature hits ("GBOF", "Shakin' ").
* these are among songs JLL reportedly did at almost every Sun sessions but wasn't allowed to record. He forced through persistence to be let do others like that such as "Waiting for a train" and "I'll sail my ship alone" and eventually "I was sorta wondering". Other such songs JLL did at Sun have turned up on live bootlegs ("Wee 3", written by Robertson/Cogane/Mysels ("There's a chill on the hill tonight"), and "My babe") and in much later concerts ("Lovin' Cajun style" and "Blues like midnight").
= JLL recorded this song reportedly at the recording session for the "Session" LP in 1973.
+ JLL has done this live in concert on some occasions.

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