Billy Lee Riley

Rock with Me Baby: 1956-1960

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One of the true unsung architects of rock & roll (no less than Bob Dylan once called him “my hero”), Billy Lee Riley may have done as much or more than even Elvis Presley to shape the early sound of rock. A strong, edgy singer with a growl in his voice, Riley was also a multi-instrumentalist, perfectly skilled at guitar, harmonica, drums, and bass, and he was a session player at many of the legendary Sun Records recording dates in the 1950s and early '60s, and his band, the Little Green Men, led by guitarist Roland James and drummer J.M. Van Eaton, became the virtual house band for the studio. Riley had a couple of influential hits for the label, too, including the blistering “Flyin’ Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Red Hot,” and he gave old standards like “Betty and Dupree” and “Down by the Riverside” fine new coats of rockabilly paint as well, always performing with energy and passion. This rollicking 26-track set collects the best of his Sun recordings cut between the years 1956 and 1960, and it will be a revelation to those new to what Riley had to offer. Presley and others may have gotten the fame, but Riley and his band were there behind the scenes making sure it all was rocking exactly right.

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