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Billy Recalls ...
My full name is Billy Wayne Rolison. I was born in Hardeman Co., Tennessee on Nov. 13
1941. I am the youngest of 8 children. My family moved to Bemis TN. In 1942 and that's
where I grew up. I was raised on country music, but became a hugh fan of rock-billy & rock
& roll music in
the mid 1950's while in high school. I have an older brother (James (Red) Rolison), who
had a country band. I really looked up to those guys and they influenced me to start my
own band in 1955. I began playing in some of the local clubs at the early age of 14. I
played the same clubs that Carl Perkins, Carl Mann, Rayburn Anthony, Kenny Parchman,
Curtis Hobock, W.S. Holland and others played. I guess you can say we all grew up in the
In 1959, I recorded Walking And Strolling/Love My Baby on Hillcrest Records. This record
was recorded in Lu Studio on North Royal Street in Jackson, Tennessee. My manager thought
we should use my first and middle name only, since my last name was not that easy to
pronounce. Some of the things I did to promote the record was to appear on the Top Ten
Dance and The Big Beat television Shows, both in Memphis. I hooked up with
DJ/Singer/Booking Agent, Eddie Bond that same year and my first two bookings were at
Danny's Club in West Memphis Arkansas and Porky's Club in New Port Arkansas. I was suppose
to meet with Eddie after those two bookings to discuss a business relationship, but due to
an auto wreck coming back fron Porky's Club, I never talked to Eddie again. We also played
Dixieland Jambroee, which you already know about.
I continued to play the local clubs in the 60's & 70's, and for about a year played with
Little David Wilkins at the 120 Club in Parsons TN. In 1963 I went to Fort Worth Texas and
recorded four original songs that were to be released on Hillcrest records, but they were
never released. These four songs were not Rock-A-Billy, they were country flavored and maybe
Pop. Lonely Wind is one of those songs that Dave Travis released On Stomper-Time Records.
Sometime in the 70's (can't remember exactly) I also recorded two songs on the Magic Label
located in Middleton, Tennessee. The names of those songs are Again/Expert on The Blues
and they were record at American Studios in Memphis with Bill Black at the control board.
These songs never had much exposure so therefore nothing ever happened with them. I guess
the last real gig I played was at the Loretta Lynn Duke Ranch one summer in the 80's.
Since then I only played occasionally at local community centers until about 1995 when I
quit for good.
I knew Carl Perkins and his brothers and played with Carl a couple of times in the early
days. Carl's brother, J.B. lived on the same street that I lived on and they use to get
together on Jay's front porch in the summer time and practice and I would listen to them.
Carl was one of a kind and he sure left a void here in Jackson. There were not many
pictures made during that time ... (sorry)
"Walking and Strolling" with Billy Wayne
Here I come with a story of mine who started in the late 70's when Record Mart,
a record label from England lead by Derek Glenister, re-issued many rare
Rockabilly sides from the 50's. With a friend, "WALKING AND STROLLING" WITH BILLY WAYNE
They made up the Record Mart logo as opposed to putting them on their original labels in
a kind of bootleg ways. Derek tried to made deal with the label owners when know,
money was paid up front and then the records were pressed in the States and shipped
over England. The first four issues came out in 1975 and, Billy Wayne record numbered
RMA 1038 came out in 1977. By then you buy your Record Mart copy for £ 1.50 and,
if you can find an original one, you had to pay around £ 100.00. Good deal for
the always short of money collectors. On those wax, we can find well know Rockabilly
cats like Sonnee West ("Rave On" original composer), Gene Wyatt from Shreveport,
Big Al Downing (One time Wanda Jackson's piano player), Corky Jones (better know
as Buck Owens) or The Strikes, a fabulous combo from Texas. But what about Billy
Wayne who had just one single out on Hill Crest, a Jackson (Tn) label, in 1959.
Funny to know each Record Mart record sold from 1500 to 2000 copies when
the original Hill Crest pressing sold maybe around 1000 copies way back in
the 50's. So, it took years to know more about the performer behind that
legendary record. But, thanks to the new century and Internet, Billy Wayne
came out from the shadow and his story can be told. Before start my ramblings,
I would to thanks Virginia, Dave Travis and Jimmy for them valuable help.
Billy Wayne Rolison was born in Tennessee on Nov 13, 1941 before his family
moved to Bemis (Tn) in 1942. His older brother James having a Country band
lead him, in 1955, to start his own band and to play in local clubs where
he rubbed shoulders with Carl Perkins and his brothers, Kenny Parchman,
Jerry Lee Smith, Carl Mann or The Stewart Brothers. All local performers
looking for big time and big time on the footprints of like Carl Perkins,
the daddy of them all. Billy used to get together on Jay Perkins porch on
the summer time to see Carl and his brothers pratice. Nothing happened until
1959 when Billy got an offer from a Jackson's tiny record label named "Hill
Crest" owned by Charles F. Roach. Himself a steel guitar player he was the
host for the "Farm & Home Hour" on WTJS (Jackson), a Country Music programme
with sponsors, promoting local product and services. With a partner, in 1959,
he started "Hill Crest" record label using a Jackson street name "Hillcrest
circle" as inspiration. The first issue was a teen ballad by Tony Snider b/w
Mike Caradine numbered 200. The follow up, numbered 778, was by Billy Wayne.
Coupling two fabulous Rockabilly songs "Walking and Strolling" and "I Love my
Baby", recorded on "Lu" studios in Jackson, that record must have blow the fuses
of many local jukeboxes. Backed by Billy Mayo (gt), Neil Bennett (bs), Billy
Joe Butler (pno) and Wayne Collins (dms) they deliver a real maverick for 1959
when rock and roll was goin' pop and syrup. "I Love My Baby" rate among the
best echoed Rockabillies from Tennessee and gave Billy a cult status among
records collectors. The record was reviewed in Billboard on 31 August 1959 as
a Blues Rocker and could have made it great on a bigger label. A fabulous waxing with
no future as Charles Roach sold quickly his share on the label to Joe Pitts. Even
without label, Billy made apperances on TV show in Memphis and, with the help and
guidance of Eddie Bond, find booking in Arkansas. On his way back from a gig at Porky's
Club in Newport (Ak), Billy got an auto wreck and it ended his relations with Eddie Bond.
Still in 1959, Billy and his band, The Rockin' Bandits, played the Dixieland Jamboree in
Corinth, Mississippi broadcasted on WCMA. The theatre would seat 1000 customers and bring
on Saturday nites more of the Grand Ole Opry big names. But, by late 1950, it became hard
to mix country crowd and screaming rockabilly hep cats and it was probably part of the
demise of many shows including the Louisiana Hayride. Recently, "Norton" records from
New-York bring to us a fabulous CD rightly named "Wildcat Jamboree" offering live
recordings from 1958 and 1959 by Lloyd Arnold, Curtis Hobock, Wayne & Bobby Pratt and
Billy Wayne. On that CD, Billy Wayne introduced by Charles Bolton, deliver a cooking cover
of Jerry Lee's "High School Confidential" with hot guitar and a cover of Carl's
"Matchbox". Pure Jackson's sound in the footstep of them idol and far more than a cover.
An instrumental titled "Hot Rod" and another cover, "This should Go on Forever"
(originally by Rod Bernard on "Jin" and "Argo"), complete his performance. His band
sometimes featured his older brother Junior Rolison (bs) and David Green (dms).
In the early 60's, Billy Wayne continued to play the local clubs until he was back on a
recording studio, in 1962, at Fort Worth (Tx). Here he recorded four songs from his pen
but they were never released. Only "Lonely Wind", a great country ditty in Claude King's
style, find his way on record thanks to Dave Travis. Issued on Stomper Time CD STCD 22
"Hot Rockin' Music from Tennessee", that's a very good song. The others songs on that CD
varies from furious Rockabilly to Hillbilly and that's a must for all the rockin' cats and
In the 70's, Billy recorded at American studios, in Memphis, "Again" and "Expert on The
Blues" for the Magic label located in Middletown (Tn). As I had never hear those songs or
seen that records, I can't tell you more, but those recordings should have been done in
the 60's. Billy Wayne remenber Bill Black (Elvis sideman) on the control board and Larry
Brinkley had a record on that label in 1964. Larry Brinkley was himself from Jackson and
Bill Black died on October 1965. So maybe those recordings were done in the mid 60's. But,
one thing is sure, Billy Wayne is not the artist who recorded on Orbit 1002 "Coming
Home"/My Dearest Darling".
Billy Wayne played one of his last real gig in the 80's and left the stage in 1995. He
still live in Jackson, with his wife Glendale, and he will be thrilled by his Rockabilly
Hall of Fame induction. He is one of the nicest people you could ever know but you will
never see him back on stage. Those golden 50's are long gone even if fan mail bring him
some pleasant memories. It was time than his friends from Jackson and Bob Timmers bring
him where he belongs Š to The Rockabilly Hall of Fame. And, for me it's time, to find him
a copy of his Record Mart release. As gift and for free, of course!
Interesting link: www.bartemon.net
Dominique "Imperial" ANGLARES
Posted June, 2007
©Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®