Gravy Train: Hillbilly Meets R&B Before Elvis

Various Artists

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Gravy Train: Hillbilly Meets R&B Before Elvis Review

by Steve Leggett

When Elvis Presley mixed black blues and R&B with white country in the mid-'50s, essentially bringing a new genre called rock & roll to the attention of the whole world in what was the pop equivalent of the Big Bang, few realized how long this little musical chemistry experiment had been fermenting. Presley had the looks, skill and charisma to make the kinetic hybrid of rock & roll reverberate in the public consciousness, but countless artists had been working this same territory since at least a decade earlier, as this extremely interesting collection makes clear. Songs like Billy Starr's startling and ramshackle version of "Hound Dog" falls wonderfully between Big Mama Thornton's original and Presley's sleek hit like the proverbial missing link, and there are countless other gems here, as well, like Hardrock Gunter and Roberta Lee's take on the Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man," Zeb Turner's treatment of Peppermint Harris' "I Got Loaded," and Link Davis mowing through Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight" as "Have You Heard the News?" The joy and energy of new ground is obvious in every track, making Gravy Train more than a history lesson, and much more than a simple grafting together of stylistic genres. These hybrids rock, they swing, and they point the way to rock & roll in a manner that should have been as obvious as a train pulling into a station. A mystery train? Not if you had your ear to the ground.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 The York Brothers 02:42
Hank Penny 02:19 SpotifyAmazon
3 Bill Haley 02:34 SpotifyAmazon
4 Moon Mullican 02:36 SpotifyAmazon
Link Davis 02:34 SpotifyAmazon
6 Hardrock Gunter / Roberta Lee 02:19 SpotifyAmazon
7 The York Brothers 02:39 SpotifyAmazon
8 Chuck Murphy 02:23 SpotifyAmazon
9 Moon Mullican 03:10 SpotifyAmazon
Homer & Jethro 03:05 SpotifyAmazon
11 02:48 SpotifyAmazon
12 Kenny Roberts 02:54 SpotifyAmazon
13 Merrill Moore 02:19 SpotifyAmazon
T. Texas Tyler 02:46 SpotifyAmazon
Zeb Turner 02:58 SpotifyAmazon
16 Jack & The Ranch Boys Hardy 02:36 SpotifyAmazon
17 Hardrock Gunter 02:46 SpotifyAmazon
18 Tennessee Ernie Ford 02:35 SpotifyAmazon
19 Billy Starr 02:24 SpotifyAmazon
20 Red Kirk 02:38 SpotifyAmazon
Tommy Duncan 02:45 SpotifyAmazon
22 Melvin Price 02:16 SpotifyAmazon
Cotton Thompson 02:31 SpotifyAmazon
24 02:32 SpotifyAmazon
25 02:29 SpotifyAmazon
Wayne Raney 02:23 SpotifyAmazon
27 Bill Haley 02:16 SpotifyAmazon
blue highlight denotes track pick