"The Class of 55"

by LeeRoy Bown - leeroybrownlrb@aol.com - Posted January 19, 2003

Heyas Rockabilly Amigoes! Just been listening to my copy of "The Class of 55" which was produced 30 years later in 1985 Memphis. It is quite a body of work and portrays the "uniqueness" of the four major players and showcases many other industry talents. Just cannot get over Carl's rockin' licks (...reminds me of the story of when George Harrison picked up his guitar to help Carl on a gig and then just as quickly put it down again. When asked why, George replied, "There was nothing I could add, Carl had the whole song covered by himself!"), Jerry's fluid piano (...no wonder Elvis just shook his head after an impromptu session at Graceland with Jerry saying, "That man is a genius, a genius!"), Johnny Cash (..."The ORIGINAL Man in Black!") and the prophet who taught us how to "Cry", Roy Orbison (...we will not hear his like again!).

           "These "homecoming sessions" were hardly over prepared. Songs were often picked and arrangements were fashioned in the studio. Producer Monam led with the simple faith that given respect and freedom, the best music in these men's hearts would flow as surely as the Mississippi heads for the delta. The character of the music made isn't easily relegated to one style or a certain audience. Here folk and country, blues and gospel, pop and rock n roll flowed together into a sound best called simply American music. There's no doubt that during this historic event, Cash Lewis, Orbison, and Perkins singing alone together reconnecting with Memphis great musical history and summoned up the spirit of their own greatest work. But what was created was deeper than just hit records. You can hear it in the wistful melancholy of Lewis version of the Crest's "doo-wop classic "Sixteen Candles" it's there when Perkins recalls long-lost high school love in the "Class Of 55" and Ace Cannon blows a sad and Smokey sax solo right through your heart. And it's there when Roy Orbison raises his sweet and exquisite tenor in "Coming Home" a promise that soul of this record.
           What this music is about is a refusal to let the best of our American past our best music, deepest tradition and truest friendships simply slip out of our lives. It's a gospel ballad, "We Remember The King with Johnny Cash's baritone rumbling with the force of the ages, that most forcefully reminds us that our past and our losses remain a living a living part of our present. It's not just the aching remembrance of things sad and past that marks the spirit of this record, though. There's also the pure rowdy fun of Memphis rock n roll kicking and swinging in these grooves. Whether it's Lewis storming with swaggering bravado through "Keep My Motor Running" or Perkins ripping off those mean spluttering guitar solos in "Birth Of Rock N Roll" the Memphis beat live, forever young.
           This record also marks a new beginning for Memphis and the joy of that rebirth is heard in "Big Train" (from Memphis) the seven-minute celebration that ends this record. Written by John Fogerty, the song was a big hearted invitation to join in and helping these four Memphis legends out were country artists (the Judds, and June Carter Cash) three great producers (Sam Phillips Cips Moman and Cowboy Jack Clement) and three great rockers (Ricky Nelson, John Fogerty and Dave Edmunds.)
           It was a fitting ending a revelrous tribute to Memphis incredible musical legacy of jazz, blues, country, gospel, rock n roll and soul music. This album is now part of that legacy..."

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