"The Billy of Rock-a-Billy"

< Reading ambitious Memphis native Billy Burnette's resume', you'd expect it to belong to an 80 year old rather than a handsome raven-haired rocker. This is hardly the case. He just started his whirlwind career at a very young age. His list of accomplishments in the music arena is both impressive and diverse. Billy is the son of rockabilly legend Dorsey Burnette, who formed the pioneering "Rock N' Trio" with brother Johnny and Paul Burlison. Johnny had such hits as "You're 16" and "Dreamin" and Dorsey had such hits as "Tall Oak Tree" and "Hey Little One." Together they wrote "Believe What You Say" for Ricky Nelson, "Tear It Up" (Rod Stewart) and "Lonesome Tears In My Eyes" (Beatles).

Music was very definitely ingrained in Billy. Even the name "Rock-A-Billy" was a result of combining his name (Billy) and his cousin Rocky from the '53 Burnette Brothers hit "Rockabilly Boogie." Dorsey and Johnny lived close to Beale Street and would rehearse in the basement of the Memphis Lauderdale Courts in the laundromat. Along with Beale Street's jazz, gospel and R&B sound, the Burnette Brothers loved the styles of Hank Snow and Hank Williams. It seems the rockabilly duo even influenced the fledgling Elvis Presley. At the time, Elvis was just another neighborhood kid who always wanted to hang out and play with them. "Years later, I remember my dad telling me a story about seeing him driving around in a Cadillac convertible giving out teddy bears," recalls Billy.

Young Billy embarked on his own career

performing "Hound Dog" with the trio when he was only three and a half years old. His first single was a Christmas song, "Hey Daddy," recorded on Dot Records at the age of seven. He recorded his sophomore album when only eleven for A&M Records, including a Dr. Seuss song called "Just Because We're Kids", which featured Herb Alpert playing trumpet. It was really grass roots at the time A&M was such a small label. "We'd all get together and lick stamps and mail singles out to radio," remembers Billy. By thirteen, the young entertainer was entertaining the troops with Brenda Lee on a USO tour to Japan and the entire Far East. But, it wasn't until he was fifteen or sixteen when Billy picked up a guitar and began writing and getting into the Beatles, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, and his dad's rockabilly music. At eighteen, he was only a week out of high school when he recorded his Columbia Records album with famed Memphis hit-making producer, Chips Moman (Elvis - "Suspicious Minds" and "In The Ghetto" as well as multiple hits for the likes of Aretha Franklin and BJ Thomas). Burnette continued to write and recorded numerous records as a solo artist as well as a band member. By 1985 he was on MCA/Curb and was nominated Best New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. His burgeoning country career took another twist with an offer he couldn't refuse, a chance to tour with his favorite rock band "Fleetwood Mac."

Billy tells the story: "I was in an LA studio with Roy Orbison cutting one of the songs I had written for the Mystery Girl album when Mick (Fleetwood) called and asked me to join the band because Lindsey had just left." Fleetwood and Billy met at the 25th Anniversary Dick Clark Special and remained friends even playing together in the group "Zoo." Billy toured worldwide with fleetwood Mac from 1987-1995 and sang on their greatest hits albums, two studio records and a box set. "It was an incredible experience. The audience never stopped screaming - never sat down hit after hit - it was amazing" remembers Billy.

He continued to write and his songs were recorded by a wide range of hit makers including Fleetwood Mac (eight cuts to date), Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Cher, Rod Stewart, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Gregg Allman and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) to name a few. His natural good looks and ease on stage also did not go unnoticed in Hollywood and he easily landed parts in several feature films including; Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Not Like Us, Saturday Night Special and The Adams Family Reunion. Billy is currently finishing his first screenplay and working with old friend and producer, Mike Elliot. His most exciting project is his new rockabilly album for FreeFalls Entertainment. Burnette has assembled a stellar band including: Dave Rowe (Johnny Cash) on stand-up slap bass, Ian Wallace (Bob Dylan, Don henly, Humble Pie) on drums and Kenny Vaughn (Lucinda Williams, Trish Yearwood, Patty Loveless) on guitar. Rafe Van Hoy is producer and also co-authored several of the songs. The result is an upbeat, raw combination of rockabilly music with a contemporary feel and driving urgency. The projects represents a kind of tribute to the "Rock N' Roll Trio" combined with Burnette's own fresh, creative edge.

"I wanted to do a quick, spontaneous album without a lot of overdubbing or vocal comping," explains Burnette. "This is my strongest work to date. FreeFalls has allowed me this freedom to record with no boundaries. I'm really proud of it. We want to record like the days with more rawness and emotion. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to make the record I want to make and enjoy creative license. I'm fortunate to still be doing it." "I guess I can't imagine doing anything else but music. There was never any question. I love playing live - it's my favorite thing."


  • A native of Memphis, BILLY BURNETTE, began his musical career at the age of three by performing "Hound Dog" with Dorsey Burnette, Johnny Burnette and Paul Burlison's group known as the "Rock N' Roll Trio."

  • "Rock-A-Billy is a result of combining the name BILLY with his cousin's name Rocky from the '53 Burnette Brothers hit "Rockabilly Boogie."

  • At the age of seven, BILLY BURNETTE recorded his first single, a Christmas song, "Hey Daddy" on Dot Records. He recorded his sophomore album at the age of eleven on A & M Records.

  • By the age of thirteen, BILLY BURNETTE was performing on the Brenda Lee Tour in Japan and the Far East.

  • From 1987 - 1995, BILLY BURNETTE toured with his favorite rock band "Fleetwood Mac."

  • BILLY BURNETTE has written songs that were recorded by a wide range of artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles, Faith Hill, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Cher, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Gregg Allman and Bob Weir (Greatful Dead).

  • BILLY BURNETTE has been in several feature films including: Richie Rich, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Not Like Us, Saturday Night Special and the Adams Family Reunion.

  • BILLY BURNETTE's upcoming album produced by Rafe Van Hoy is the result of an upbeat, raw combination of rockabilly music with a contemporary feel and driving urgency.

  • BILLY BURNETTE has assembled a stellar band including; Dave Roe (Johnny Cash) on stand-up bass, Ian Wallace (Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Humble Pie) on drums and Kenny Vaughn (Lucinda Williams, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless) on guitar.

    BILLY BURNETTE Important Links:

    For more information on Billy Burnette and his career, please click on the following links!!

    The Penguin: Everything That Is Fleetwood Mac []

    Click here to read Billy's Biography on The Penguin (written by Billy's sponsor, Michele Mategrano)

    Click here to read Billy's Discography on The Penguin

    Click here to read Billy's Q&A on The Penguin from March 2000

    Click here to go to Billy's section of the "Second Hand News" page on The Penguin. All the latest Billy news (album releases, T.V. appearances, live performances, etc.) can be found HERE

    The Fleetwood Mac Legacy []

    Click here to view the "Tribute Poem to Billy Burnette" (also written by Billy's sponsor, Michele Mategrano) on The Fleetwood Mac Legacy

    Click here to view the Billy Burnette Photo Gallery on The Fleetwood Mac Legacy


    "Burnette's ultra cool, sings sweet, strums hard, looks good and has got that honky tonk feeling' coursing through his veins." Country Star Magazine

    Billy Burnette has always been a country rocker at heart, and he lets his heart show with pretty honky tonk ballads." - Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

    "Burnette's music is undeniably catchy - catchy rhythm, catchy melodies, catchy hooks in the lyrics and in the crisp acoustic/electric guitar interplay." - John Morthland, Country Music Magazine

    "Burnette now fits more comfortably into the country music scene than he ever has, and with out sacrificing his soul to do it." - Brian Mansfield, freelance journalist, USA Today

    "Billy is an ardent team player who gets his inspiration from the song. He has actually rekindled the electric spirit of music." - Pete Brown, Guitar Magazine<p> "The immaculately groomed Billy Burnette, has an incredible solo catalog, and has generated much well crafted country, R&B and rock material." - Timothy White, Billboard Magazine

    "I love the way Billy sings, he's great at coming up with perfect rhythm parts." - Rick Vito, guitarist, Fleetwood Mac

    "Are You with Me Baby"

    MAY, 2000 -- CUT BY CUT

    "Are You With Me Baby?" (Written by Billy Burnette and Rafe Van Hoy) - driving rock n' roll-relentless. Make up your mind, you only live once.

    "Believe What You Say" - This was a #1 Ricky Nelson song written by Dorsey and Johnny Burnette.

    "To Get Next To You" - This is the most jazzy thing I've ever done. I wrote it with Chris Rodriguez.

    "Didn't Start Living 'Til I Started Living With You" - My version of "Honey Hush" - there's a lick from the "Rock N'' Roll Trio" - I admit I used a bit of creative license.

    "What A woman Feels" - I co-wrote this song with Annie Roboff and Dennis Morgan. I've done a lot of writing with Dennis. He had the title and I like the big loping guitar lick. Jimmie Griffith (BREAD), as well as George Hawkins sang on it. Jimmie used to live across the street from me in Memphis.

    "A Matter of Life & Death" - Co-written with Rafe Van Hoy - this is my version of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" - Losing someone you love feels like a matter of life and death.

    "Can't Get Over You" - Co-written by David Malloy. This tune was originally cut by Gregg Allman. It was a big rock hit for him.

    "Highway of Love" - My song that Rafe Van Hoy co-wrote. This is my tribute song to Delaney Bramlet (one of my mentors.) Becca Bramlett is singing background.

    "Gimmie You" - This was co-written with Larry Henley and Larry Keith. This song was influenced by Carl Perkins.

    "Too Much Information" - This is a song about small town talk. People talk about other people you love. It's happened to me once or twice in Nashville.

    "Love Me Back" - Co-written by Rafe Van Hoy. Simply means love me back before I snap.

    "Edge of Love"- Co-written by Rob Royer. To me it means take a chance and if we go too far, we will turn back.

    "Rock In My Shoes" - Co-written with Kostas. This song is basically my life story.

    From the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Files

    The 'Billy' in Rock-A-Billy: The "ROCK N' ROLL TRIO" was pounding out a wild new mixture of redneck Country and Howlin' Wolf Blues licks on a tune Johnny and his brother Dorsey Burnette had just written called "Rock-A-Billy Boogie". The year was 1956 in Memphis, Tennessee and the "Rock N' Roll Trio" was making history with a song penned after Dorsey and Johnny's young sons - Rock(y) and Billy Burnette. Dorsey's primal scream in that song became an anthem for a new generation of post World War II kids and the start of what would soon become the Rock N' Roll industry.

    The Burnette Brother's influence: Those tough Burnette kids were the envy of their peers in the Memphis housing project they lived in, especially their neighbor Elvis Presley. Elvis was trying to break into Country music, but soon discovered that emulating the Burnette's music style always brought the house down. A move that got the attention of Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. But Dorsey and Johnny had bigger dreams and headed to New York City to audition for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour on national television. They won it 3 times and attracted a recording contract. Rock-A-Billy was spreading it's wings for a brief enigmatic period, but by the late 50s it was over. Elvis had became a movie star, and "The Rock N' Roll Trio" disbanded to pursue separate careers. However the impact of that group still lives on to this day, as their songs were recorded by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Rick Nelson and others, as well as directly influencing a whole new generation of Rock-A-Billy purists throughout the world.

    The Next Generation of Rock N' Roll: After the "Rock N' Roll Trio" broke up, Johnny and Dorsey Burnette moved to Hollywood to pursue separate careers, putting out records and writing hit songs such as "You're 16, You're Beautiful and You're MIne", "Dreamin", "It's Late" and others. Dorsey procured his son a record deal with DOT Records, and at the age of seven Billy Burnette scored a Hit with the single "Hey Daddy". By the age of eleven, Billy was traveling worldwide as part of Brenda Lee's show and the late Roger Miller's band as guitarist and singer. During the 1970's Billy signed with Columbia, turning out a substantial body of original Rock N' Roll. During the early 80's Urban Cowboy phase in Country Music, Billy moved to Nashville and signed with Curb Records. He also continued his prolific songwriting output, penning hits for Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Greg Allman, Cher, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers and many others. By 1986 Billy Burnette was so popular that he was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year Award by the Academy of Country Music.

    Fleetwood Mac Era: Fate prevailed in a big way, as Mick Fleetwood asked Billy Burnette to replace the departing Lindsey Buckingham in the supergroup Fleetwood Mac. For the next ten years, Billy toured the world with Stevie Nicks, Christine and John McVie, Rick Vito and Mick as part of one of the world's biggest Rock bands. His songs also became part of three multi-platinum records, music videos and television shows. In 1993, on a Mac hiatus, Billy Burnette recorded a solo record for Capricorn. Part of that album became the soundtrack for the Roger Corman film "Saturday Night Special", the flick that became a video and cable classic and was Billy's first feature role. The revamped 1994 Mac tour this time included Bekka Bramlett, daughter of the 60s group "Delaney & Bonnie", taking Stevie Nicks place. In 1996 the Mac called it quits as a full time band for good, re-grouping the "Rumors" era tour for strictly financial reasons in 1998. Billy Burnette Recently: In 1997, Billy Burnette joined Bekka Bramlett on a duet project for Almo Sounds (a division of the late A&M Records) called "Bekka & Billy" to rave critical reviews, a brilliant mixture of R&B and Country soul that was mistakenly pushed by the label as Young Country. At present, Billy has gone back to his roots, performing concerts with his band, continuing his song writing, appearing in the "Casper" and "Adams Family 3" movies, and working on his own new Movie about the 1950's Rock-A-Billy era in Memphis.


    Rockabilly Hall of Fame