September 14, 1918 - February 21, 2001

Tribute Comments Regarding Malcolm

Update: April, 2004

Scottish rock 'n' roll fan Graham Knight sent me a neat story about a Sun cheque that was made out to Malcolm Yelvington. Graham is a friend of his hero Jerry Lee Lewis and over the decades has spent time with the Killer at his various homes in the Memphis area. One one such visit, Jerry Lee took Graham to Tom Phillip's shop on Chelsea Avenue to buy old Sun records. As well as records, his warehouse was jam-packed with Sun memorabilia, like contracts, cheques, invoices etc. One of the items that Tom Phillips (brother of Sam) gave Graham, was a 1955 cheque to Malcolm Yelvington for $37.43.
         A couple of years ago, Graham heard from Memphis Commercial Appeal's music editor, Bill Ellis that Yelvington was gravely ill. Graham thought it would be a nice gesture and would help cheer him up during this period, if he returned the cheque to him, all these years later. Sadly, Yelvington died soon after. Below is a copy of the letter, together with the cheque. (Shaun Mather -

14 November 2000
Dear Mr Yelvington,

         I am a rock n'roll fan from Scotland and I have great pleasure in sending you something that you have not seen 45 years - your royalty cheque from Sun records.
         Last week I got the book "An Oral History of Sun Records" by John Floyd and it says you only ever got one cheque from Sun. I have had it framed on my wall for years but when I read your comment, I thought that you really ought to have it - then you can put it up on your wall at your home. You certainly deserve to have it.
         I am a real Jerry Lee fan and stayed at his house in Memphis, on East Shore Drive, a few times - back in the sixties. Jerry used to take me down to Tom Phillip's shop on Chelsea Avenue to buy old Sun records. Tom Phillips was a great person and he gave me lots of things that were just lying around as junk in the back warehouse.
         I notice that you took a whole week to cash your cheque. Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee used to cash their cheques on the day they were issued!
         I read Bill Ellis's music pages on the Internet and check the Memphis Commercial Appeal everyday. I hope he has your address is able to pass this on to you. Sun 211 is still a favourite of mine. I wish you all the best and hope this has been a pleasant surprise.
         I hear you have been a bit unwell - so I hope this cheers you up. If you ever want anything Scottish - just let me know.

         Yours sincerely,
         Graham Knight

Note: As well as continuing to help keep the name of Jerry Lee Lewis in the limelight, Graham is the webmaster for Scottish piano player Kyle Esplin, whose site includes a Scrapbook with some interesting bits and pieces from our music's past. Be sure to check out these pages;

Date: SATURDAY, February 24, 2001
Source: By Donnie Snow
         Sun Records star Malcolm Sales Yelvington - best known for his minor rockabilly hits Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee and Yakety Yak (for the Meteor label) - died Wednesday of heart failure at Baptist Memorial Hospital East. He was 82.
         Yelvington was overshadowed by fellow Sun stars Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins. Born in Tipton County, Tenn., on Sept. 14, 1918, Yelvington grew up in the county seat of Covington and moved to Memphis as a young man. First playing solo at the Gem Theatre in Covington in 1943, it wasn't until 1954 that he first found a break in the music business, when Malcolm and The Star Rhythm Boys went into Sam Phillips's Memphis studio and recorded Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee, a cover of a Sticks Mcgee song.
         The song was released on Phillips's Sun record label as Sun single 211. Sun single 210, Good Rockin' Tonight, was recorded by a young Elvis. Still under contract to Sam Phillips at Sun, but with all the studio time going to Presley, Yelvington recorded Yakety Yak for the Meteor label under the pseudonym of Mack Sales and the Esquire Trio.
         He retired from music in 1961 and was a welder for Buckman Laboratories. Recording sporadically, Yelvington eventually outlasted the King, Carl and Roy with one last splash in the musical pool. Yelvington's 1998 release "There's a Little Life Left in This Old Boy Yet" won the Best Traditional Rock category that year in the Memphis Area Music Awards.
         At the age of 80, Yelvington began to receive a little more adulation, due in large part to the popularity '50s and '60s musical stars have been finding in Europe.
         Services will be at 1 p.m. today at Decatur Trinity Christian Church in Bartlett, where he was a member, with burial in Covington Memorial Gardens. Maley-Yarbrough Funeral Home has charge.
         Mr. Yelvington, the husband of Lou Ella Yelvington for 62 years, also leaves two daughters, Betty Lou Poore of Centerville, Ga., and Patricia Ann Kueider of Memphis; three sons, Malcolm Sales Yelvington Jr. of Memphis, Anthony Ray Yelvington of Nashville and Phillip Randall Yelvington of Rosemark; two half-sisters, Margie Delany of Simonton, Tenn., and Janie Jarvis of Memphis; a half-brother, Herbert Yelvington of Munford, Tenn., 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
         The family requests that memorials be sent to the American Cancer Society or Decatur Trinity Christian Church.

Malcolm Yelvington was born in Tipton County in West Tennessee on September 14, 1918. He grew up in the county seat, Covington, and remained there until moving to Memphis as a young man. Malcolm's first professional performance was as a solo act at the Gem Theatre in Covington in 1943. He sang and accompanied himself on guitar. Later, Malcolm met keyboard player and composer Reece Fleming and steel guitar player Red Wynn and formed a group, The Tennesseans, which played dances and honky tonks around West Tennessee. Eventually bassist Jake Riales and lead guitarist Gordon Mashburn joined the group and they changed the name of the band to Malcolm Yelvington and The Star Rhythm Boys.

In 1954, Malcolm and The Star Rhythm Boys went into Sam Phillips' Memphis studio and recorded "Drinkin' Wine Spodeeodee," a cover of a Sticks Mcgee song. Sticks was the brother of blues great Brownie Mcgee. The song was released on Phillips' Sun record label as Sun single 211. The song released just before "Drinkin' Wine Spodeeodee" was Sun single 210, "Good Rockin' Tonight," by a young man named Elvis Presley.

Malcolm's version of "Drinkin' Wine Spodeeodee" became a minor hit. Sun later released the single "Rockin' With My Baby" written by Malcolm Yelvington. On the flip side was "It's Me Baby" written by The Star Rhythm Boy's keyboard player Reece Fleming. With Malcolm on vocals and rhythm guitar both sides became regional hits. Still under contract to Sam Phillips at Sun, but with all the studio time going to Elvis, Malcolm recorded a hit single "Yakety-Yak" for the Meteor label under the pseudonym of Mack Sales and the Esquire Trio.

Malcolm Yelvington spent about thirty years out of the music business, only continuing with his musical career after retiring. In 1988, Malcolm toured England and Holland playing to sold out houses every time he performed. One of his shows in Holland was releasesed as a live album on a Dutch record label. American artists, Malcolm Yelvington's biggest musical following is Like many seminal in Europe where it seems many American musical treasures are honored and revered while being virtually ignored in their own country.

Malcolm Yelvington - 706 Records

Recorded at the Legendary Sun Studio (1977)

The release of "There's a little Life Left In This Old Boy Yet" marks Malcolm Yelvington's first domestic release in over 40 years and hopefully will introduce a whole new audience of American listeners to Malcolm Yelvington's music and they'll discover what European fans have known for years: Malcolm Yelvington's warm, rich voice is a special treat not to be missed. Malcolm is respected and revered by a younger generation of musicians, as well as by his old Sun label mates. The title track was written especially for Malcolm by rockabilly artist Mack Stevens. It's a fitting song for Malcolm. There's a whole lot of life left in the old boy as you can hear on this disc.

Former Sun rockabilly star Billy Lee Riley contributed four original songs to this album: "Born To Be A Hillbilly Rockin' Man," the heavily gospel influenced "Walk, Talk, Sing," "Fast Living" with a great honky tonk piano played by Memphian Rick Steff, and the tear jerker "Little Girl of Four." Riley also contributes vocals and harmonica on "Born To Be A Hillbilly Rockin' Man."

Top songwriter, fan and close friend Billy Swan wrote another original for the album, a hardcore country song called "Make Yourself At Home In My Heart." Tommy Burroughs provides a fiddle track while Rick Steff plays a piano reminiscent of Floyd Cramer's work. Malcolm covers two songs recorded by Elvis Presley: "My Happiness" and "Love Me Tender" on which Malcolm sings a duet harmonizing with himself.

While out of the music business for years, Malcolm was never completely away from music. He sang with a gospel group, The Carpenter's Crew, and covers one of their songs in "I'm Thankful For." "Disappointed," one of "The Star Rhythm Boys' songs written by Reece Fleming, is a truly beautiful number which is indicative of The Star Rhythm Boys stellar original songwriting talents.

"One Rose" is a favorite pop song from Malcolm's youth which he's long wanted to record. It was also the first song Malcolm ever sang in public at his debut gig at Covington's Gem Theatre. Listen to what he does with the song and take note of Rick Steff's accordian playing. Until just recently, Malcolm has been a lifelong smoker and has had a devil of a time quitting. His version of the western swing classic "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette" is kind of an inside joke for those who know Malcolm.

Malcolm covers two of his hits from the 1950s on this album: "It's Me Baby" from Sun and the Meteor hit "Yakety-Yak." "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy" is an old Red Foley song. Malcolm was heavily influenced by Foley and pays a more than fitting tribute here. Guitarist James Lott and bassist Roy Sanders, in addition to Malcolm Yelvington, are the musical backbone of this recording. They've frequently recorded and played live with Malcolm and all together they make one tight musical unit.

This is a very eclectic and, thus, a very personal recording for Malcolm as it accurately reflects Malcolm's very eclectic musical tastes. Malcolm's influences range from popular music of the 30s and 40s, Big Band, Bob Wills, and Jimmy Rodgers to Elvis Presley and even more contemporary musicians. Malcolm never stops growing musically and his voice, unlike some of his contemporaries, has only improved with age.

Malcolm's 82nd Birthday Party Photos

Rockabilly Hall of Fame