Mystery Solved

By Uncle Bill - - June 28, 2005

           There have been two mystery's that have been bugging me for years. One has been solved at last, and it has a link to thw Rockabilly Hall of Fame discussion list.
           When I first joined the list several years ago, there was a conversation about the sidemen who recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun. I ask specifically, "Who played bass on Great Balls a-Fire."
           I had always loved the bass line in the song because it followed and flowed so well with the drums and Jerry's left hand. Well, I was told in no uncertain terms by several people on the list that no one played bass on Great Balls a-Fire. That it was the low boogie woggie walking rhythm from Jerry Lee that sounded like a bass.
           I spent hours playing the re mastered Sun CD's of Great Balls and try as I did, I heard a bass line. I may not be a expert musician, but I have a good ear for instrumentation. I forgot all about it until one day on the Rock-a-Billy road trip on XM radio, the host mentioned that Billy Lee Riley played bass on Great Balls. I slammed the brakes on my big blue van, jumped out and did a war dance in the medium of the Mass Pike. That is until a trooper stopped by to see what was going on.
           So I gets my chance and I Emailed Billy Lee and ask him specifically if he or anyone else played bass on Great Balls a-fire. His answer follows ...

Hi My Friend,
Yes I did play bass on that one. I was either on bass or guitar on almost everything Jerry did at Sun. Roland was the guitar player most of the time. Sometimes Roland and I both played guitar when J. W. Brown was on bass. J. M. Van Eaton, (drummer in my band "the Little Green Men") Roland Janes, Guitar player in my band, "The Little Green Men" and myself was the sound behind all of Jerry Lee's records on Sun. As a matter of fact, Sam Phillips, on the record) admitted that we were the Sun Sound. My piano player Jimmy Wilson, played on most everything that used piano including Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash after he started using drums and piano J. M. of course being the drummer. All of us or individually played on 90% of the Sun masters. Them were the good ole days.
Billy lee Riley

           So you see, Uncle Bill's ears did not fail him, and those of you "You know who you are" who insisted that Jerry Lee could play piano and bass at the same time were wrong, wrong, wrong. I feel better now. Now if someone wants to ask me what the second mystery is, I will share it with you ... Sigh. Uncle Bill:
I'm always rite: in NY

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