Johnny Burnette

Johnny Burnette Sings/The Johnny Burnette Story

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After Johnny Burnette broke up the legendary and revolutionary Rock and Roll Trio, he turned to songwriting, and after co-writing (with his brother, Dorsey) some great rockabilly songs like "Believe What You Say" for Rick Nelson, Burnette entered the world of pop music and the cloying sounds of cute lyrics, simple melodies, strings, and vocal choruses. On his first solo album, Johnny Burnette Sings, released in 1960 on Liberty, you'd never know he was the same guy responsible for some of the wildest rockabilly imaginable. Here Burnette totally immerses himself in the warm embrace of the easygoing pop sound of the toothless early '60s. Well, almost. If you stripped all the studio sweetness and gloss off one or two of the up-tempo numbers, the songs still would be great rockabilly. On songs like "Mona Lisa" and "Little Boy Sad," Burnette sings and growls like a tamer version of the unhinged rockabilly maniac he so recently was and ex-Cricket Tommy Allsup makes a ruckus on guitar. Sadly, moments like this are few and far between. Most of the album is taken up with syrupy ballads like "In the Chapel in the Moonlight" and featherweight pop tunes like "Red Sails in the Sunset." The Johnny Burnette Story was released posthumously and the 12 songs include his big hits "Dreamin'" and "You're Sixteen," "You're Beautiful (And You're Mine)," and some of his more memorable tunes, like the tougher-than-his-usual-fare "Little Boy Sad" and the country tearjerker "Clown Shoes." The rest of the songs are the usual, over-orchestrated pop with smothering strings and choruses. The real Johnny Burnette story is a tragic tale of talent wasted. To go from king of the rockabilly hill to a mediocre crooner who makes Fabian look like a madman probably made financial sense, but to anyone who found his early sides life-changing, it is enough to make them cry.

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