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A Tribute to
Malcolm Yelvington

September 14, 1918 - February 21, 2001
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the righteous judge shall give me that day."
II Timothy 4:7-8a


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I was born and raised in Memphis, and was personally acquainted with Malcolm, since he married into my family. As a child in the 50's I remember one night when he played at a party out in Frayser on Sunrise St in Westside. The adults wouldn't let us inside, but we could stand on the front porch and peep through the screened door. Malcolm was tearing it up inside, playing electric guitar, singing, and I remember he shook his leg sort of like Elvis did. Every once in a while, an adult would get up and shoo us away from the door, but we kept returning, mesmerized by his performance.
       At home we had the Sun 45 with "It's Me Baby" on it. I don't remember what was on the flip side. But we played "It's Me Baby" every chance we got. What a blessing it is to have grown up in Frayser, to have known Malcolm, Carl Perkins, Dewey Philips, Rufus, and others who helped shape the music scene.
       The last time I saw Malcolm we were in Helen Crigger Cemetery in Munford, TN. It was in the mid to late 90's and we were burying Clyde Kuykendall, the uncle of mine who's sister (I believe it is) was married to Malcolm. We chatted briefly about my session work as a blues harmonica player. When Malcolm learned that I had moved to Conway, Arkansas, he asked me if I'd heard Billy Lee Riley lately. I had completly forgotten about Billy Lee. I'm glad, though, that I got that chance to chat with Malcolm. Randal Byrd
Houston, TX
rbyrd@rbyrd.net




I can't believe it has been over five years since you passed. I am a lucky man to have became your friend. There are a lot of people like me that miss you like I do. You taught me a lot about being a man, some of which took a while to sink in. God Bless Malcolm Yelvington and his family!
Devin Miller
Carbondale, Illinois




Dear Friends, I am saddened to find out that Malcolm has passed on ... I have just discovered more of his Sun tracks on the 50th Aniversary Box Set ... I have always loved 'Drinkin Wine Spo-Dee-o-Dee' ... but to discover ' Its Me Baby' and the fantastic rock'a'billy track 'Rockin with my Baby' is a real treat! From what I have read about this great artist, he was loved and liked by everyone who met him or interviewd him. I offer my very best wishes to you all in the family ... and just to let you know his music is still enjoyed by his fans here in Wales, being a performing singer and guitarist myself I can really pick up on Malcolm's feel on those great recordings ... what a man!.
Your friend,
KELVIN L SMITH (age: 52)




I am saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Yelvington. I always called him Mr Yelvington as I was just a teenager when we lived next door to them. His daughter Bettye and I were best friends and spent much time listening to him and the band practice in their front room on Thomas St. I always enjoyed his music and believed he would attain the fame he so desired.
       I was directed to this website today (April 24, 2003) by an email from a high school classmate and was very surprised to see his name among the members of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and to learn of his passing.  I lost touch with the family over the years as we all moved from the old neighborhood in North Memphis.  My condolences to Miss Lou Ella and all the children.
       If anyone out there knows how I might get in touch with Bettye or Patsy please let me know.
Patricia Billingsley Hill
Thomas St friend - Mailforpat@aol.com




It was about january 1995, after visiting "sun studio" museum I felt very happy to see on the wall the same original 45 rpm I had home. Right after, I went to the "sun café" close to the museum and there, I saw the museum's guide talking with an old man He said hello to me and added, Malcolm Yelvington. I answered yes, yes, but I really didn't understand what he meant He insisted twice, and showing the old man sitting at the table he repeated Malcolm Yelvington.
       As I came to their table, he presented me Mr. Malcolm Yelvington. This one was very friendly. As I asked him an authograph, and shook his hands, he wanted me to sit down and have a drink with him. I just asked for a coca cola as I was all shook up to be sitting so close to him, who was a legend. l He told me how much he was happy to meet a Frenchman and made a recommendation: be careful in listening the real American music, rock n roll, rockabilly, hillbilly and country so that the story of that music could be preserved.
       As I knew this music I understood very well what he wanted to say and I could agree with him. We were talking about 3 hours. As he liked my ZIPPO cigaret lighter, I gave it to him. and I promised to send him a copy of what I got with my movie camera. This day is for  ever, printed in my memory. Thank you Malcolm for that intensive moment of happiness. I'll keep you always in my heart. patrick ramskindt (France).




When I saw the PBS show "Good Rockin Tonight." I was amazed to see and hear Malcolm because he was one of the older cats at Sun, when he recorded there in the 50's. The same holds true for Rufus Thomas. Does some know what Malcolm's cause of death was?
David - DavidRabkid@aol.com




Just a little missive from an old musician (bass player) who played for Malcolm in England and Holland in 1988 The recording of the live show which was put on to CD is one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences of my career. Not only that, but being with the man, on the tour bus and especially on the ferry, I remember sitting and talking with him alone for hours, he was very interesting, new a lot of stuff, but he wanted to know about me, my family, what was it like where I came from....had I lived there all my life? I remember saying 'not yet' he thought I was funny, he did laugh! and I shall miss him very much.
Regards
Alan Wilson (alwilsona1@aol.com)




I didn't know Malcom personally, but thru his wonderful music. It's a pity life isn't forever, but we can still enjoy the music he made. My dream was to meet him once and ask for his autograph - it will still be a dream. I know one day we will meet again and then I will ask. I send him love ... and warm regards to all his loved ones.
Your friend forever,
Nol Voorst




I was actually shocked to belatedly learn of Malcolm's passing.  I only got to hear him once, but being a Yelvington myself it was a great experience.   My heart goes out to his family and friends.
BYelvington@aol.com




Hello again! Like I said before I did´nt knew Malcolm, before I visit at Sun Studio in 1994, and I bought that studio collection where was couple of Malcolm´s song performed with Reverend Horton Heat. What I try to say that now I remember that it was definitely Malcom who held that tour for my wife and me. Wish I would knew it then, what I know now. Anyway I´m always friend of his music.
Antti Pasanen




I played Malcolm Yelvington records when I first got into radio in 1969.   What a great talent.  Guess what?  I'm still playing Malcolm Yelvington records to this day on the radio on  WNHU 88.7 FM Connecticut.  He is at the "Great Big Record Hop In The Sky"  God Bless Him.
          Yours, Rockin' Richard




I never forget the first time I visited the Sun Studio about seven years ago. Malcolm did the tour for us wich was such an honour! He took all the time and was very nice to us. I still enjoy his recordings. Thanks Malcolm!
Marcel Verbass
(Holland, Europe)




It is very heartening to see all of the special comments and memories of my grandfather. He was a very special man to all of us and it eases our hearts, just a little, to know how many lives he touched, both as a Christian and a musician. Thank you to all who have kept us in their prayers. I would like to say a special thank you to Mark Bell for everything you did to help my grandfather and for being a friend in his time of need.
We love you "Papaw"
Cheryl, Michael, Tyler, and Dylan Dilks
cdilks@infi.net




I only talked to Malcolm twice - each time he was happy to speak to me and talk about the late 50's!  I did see him quite frequently at the Sun Studio Cafe - I'll miss his smile & wave as I walked by!  I also want to thank everyone who called WEVL FM90 during the 1 hour tribute to Malcolm on Friday nite (2/23).  It's not possible to list everyone who called, but each caller wanted to express their condolences to Malcolm's family & friends.  They also had a favorite Malcolm Yelvington tune they wanted to hear!  Can you imagine Charlie Feathers & Malcolm together?!?!
Brian K. Stuhr
MEMPHIS ROCKABILLY




A smile could not help but cross my face this Saturday at 10:00 A.M. As I glanced at the clock I realized it was the time and day that Malcolm would drop by the Sun Studio Cafe for coffee and a "visit" after dropping his wife Lou Ella off down the street to get her hair "fixed". Because this was well known, I am sure that many reading this, met him on one such occasion. Malcolm was/is a great friend to many, his memory and his Music keep him near us in our hearts.

Thanks to Bob Timmers for setting up this page. The words written here have brought great comfort to the family. So, I would like to thank everyone for posting and thank everyone for reading. Malcolm was/is a great friend to many, his memory and his Music keep him near us in our hearts. One wants to somehow express the thought ....., that as long as in our memories he remains, he is still with us. But I guess Wordsworth said it better ...

And when the stream
Which overflowed the soul was passed away,
A consciousness remained that it had left
Deposited upon the silent shore
Of memory images and precious thoughts
That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed

Sincerley,
Mark Bell




Malcolm Yelvington was one of the sweetest, kindest men I knew. What a pleasure it was to be around him. I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone that I can remember. He loved singing and performing. He loved the musicians he worked with and songwriters. He talked about the old days, which was always fun to hear, and about his church. He loved his wife wife Lovella very much and spoke of her often. When she was with him their years together and that love showed. I will miss him very much. Memphis music has lost a legend. I will remember him fondly and he will always be one of my heros.
Repectfully,
Billy Swan




I knew Malcolm because we were both from Covington, Tipton County, Tennessee.  We played music together and I was a background singer on his recording of "Drinking Wine".  We shared a common love for music and it was the main topic of conversation when we visited.  I last spoke to him about the first of this year, after he has suffered a stroke and was in declining health.  He was the genuine article.  His voice was still strong and commanding even as he grew older.   The "old rockabilly" is still singing even though we can no longer hear him in person.
Charles Yoakum, Mukaoy@aol.com




I WAS SAD TO GET THE NEWS OF MALCOLM'S DEATH. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF PLAYING ON SOME OF HIS  SUN RECORDS. OUR PATH'S CROSSED SEVERAL TIMES OVER THE YEARS. I ALWAYS ENJOYED HIS COMPANY. WE SHARED MANY TIMES OUR FAITH IN CHRIST AND OUR LOVE FOR GOSPEL MUSIC. IT WAS ALSO A REAL JOY FOR ME TO SEE HIM AND THE DEMPSEYS WORK TOGETHER. HE TRULY LOVED HIS MUSIC ... I WILL MISS HIM. MY CONDOLENCES TO HIS FAMILY.
J.M. VAN EATON 

 

  God bless you Malcolm, Rest in Peace.
Matt & Barbara Lucas




Malcolm and I were on the SUN label at the same time in the fifties but I never met him until 1995 while I was recording at the Sun Studios. But after meeting him we became the best of friends. I even wrote some songs for his last album and sang with him on a couple of tunes on it. When you loose a friend like Malcolm you've lost a lot. I will certainly miss him. No matter how bad you felt, or how low your spirits were being around Malcolm made you feel better. My wife Joyce and I are deeply sadden with his passing and he will always live in our hearts.We extend our deepest symphaties to his family.
BILLY LEE & JOYCE RILEY




Sat., Feb. 24, 2001. I just attended Malcolm's funeral service at the Decatur Trinity Christian Church in Bartlett, TN. J.M. VanEaton, The Dempseys, Mark Bell and another musical related friends and fans were in attendance. The was church was almost filled to capacity. As Malcolm had a wonderful career in gospel, many of those followers were present also. The service included recorded performances of Malcolm's Christian standards. It was noted by Mark Bell that Malcolm was a great bowler on top of his many other talents. Nothing but kind words were spoken today as another great legend was laid to rest.
God bless Malcolm, his wife Lou Ella, children, grandchildren and great-granchidlren.
Bob Timmers




I was sad to learn of Malcolm's passing Friday evening and I regret not being able to go to his funeral in Memphis as he was a man I had a great deal of respect for. I had the honor of working with Malcolm Yelvington during the production of a student documentary of his life that I directed. Mac had a ton of patience dealing with this inexperienced long-haired yankee filmmaker and did everything he could to help me out. He was always a gracious host and treated me and my wife so well. I have a 100 Malcolm stories thanks to Malcolm and former Sun Studio manager Marc Bell who was a great friend to Mac. I recently completed a 3 month internship at the Memphis newspaper and went to see Mac on my last day in town. Despite his medical condition he still had his typical firm handshake and we had a great talk. Mac was so excited that a fan from Europe had sent his first and only Sun royalty check to him. He wasn't bitter about his past: getting gypped on royalties, and watching his fellow label mates (Johnny Cash once OPENED for Malcolm) achieve super stardom while Mac went back to his dayjob. He had found Christ and had the love of his family and friends, which to Mac, was much more important. "I am always doing things for free, I don't mind," he said to me once. Malcolm was a link to our rich musical history, and as he said, borrowing a line from Carl Perkins, "I outta know, I was there" was a witness and participant to the birth of rock'n'roll. Check out Mac's song "It's Me Baby," it is one of the greatest rockabilly songs ever. He will be missed ... My condolences to his wife Lou Ella and his family.
Devin Miller/Devinmil@aol.com




I met Malcolm when I was 7 or 8 years old. His youngest son Phil and I became best friends at church. I have golden memories of staying with the Yelvingtons 2 or 3 weeks out of every summer. In my youth it was kinda like my second home. Phil, his brother Tony and I always had a good time. Most of you know the musical side of Malcolm. You may have even seen the gentle, genuine side of Malcolm. That's the side I'll always remember. The man who loved God, his dear wife LouElla, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and his church family. I never heard Malcolm say an unkind word about anybody. He was not a negative minded man. He was fun to be around and always made people feel welcome in his life. Some people call him Mac. I will always call him Malcolm out of respect. Malcolm, I will miss your big smile, your rich silky voice, your humor, your interest in me as a person, and the relaxed atmosphere I felt when I was with you (and all your family). My heart holds a special place for those years when you let me be part of your family and your life.
Respectfully,
Your "adopted" son, Bill Goodwin.
Arlington, TN




I met Malcolm for the first time just last summer, along with Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess, Rufus Thomas, Smootchie Smith I talked to him about being in a film I was making about Sun records. I had the most wonderful time with him. He was generous and kind. Later i filmed him over at the Blues City Cafe in Memphis with 9 of his Sun buddies. What a time it was! He did maybe for the last time some Blues riff and then broke out with Drinkin' wine spo-dee-o-dee.... history, man history. He lives in the film I am making and he touched my heart. I talked to him last Wednesday....he sounded well..... what a shock when Sally Wilbourne and J.M Vam Eaton called me at the Memphis airport to tell me of his passing. God Bless!
Bruce Sinofsky




I met Malcolm once when we were at the Sun Studio in 99, got to shake his hand, as you always say we lost another great one. When I would call my mom every sunday she would tell me who had passed on back home, she used to say I'll always tell you who died until somebody calls you and tell you I did and they did, I guess that kinda like our business. I was in Cades Cove in the Smokies at an old cemetery and on one of the head stone was written "as you are now I once was, so make the best of it". Take care.
Gerlin Hackney




The sound of Malcolm Yelvington's voice on record is a beautiful thing, but when I first had the unexpected pleasure of hearing him sing 'live' at the Paul Burlison rockabilly reunion sessions at Sam Phillips studios on Madison Ave., the effect was profound and unforgettable. When his voice came through the studio speakers, it filled up the entire studio, and everyone there stopped what they were doing and just looked at each other awestruck. He had the power, tonality, and the delicacy of grand opera. When I saw him last year at the SUN studios street show at 706 Union Ave. in Memphis, he sang a very lovely song and sounded sterling as ever. My hat is off to a southern artist of the highest stature.
Sincerely,
Tav Falco
New York 2001




What you saw was exactly what you got with Malcolm and his music was as real as he was. Malcom was the quintessential southern gentleman, a true star in the most meaningful sense of the word. You will be missed my friend.
Dodd S. Douglas
aka Buck Wylde




Angie and I met Malcolm once. With Billy Lee and Mark (Bell) over at the Diner attached to Sun. What a warm, Godly, lovely man. My great blessing to have met him, all of our great loss in losing him . Malcolm is home with His Savior now. Angie and I send our deepest prayers for his family. All God's comforts to you.
Guy Gilchrist
Nancy and Mudpie comic strip




Sad sad thing, last thing I heard on him, was from two german fans, who went to visit him, and that he was going to put out an album filled entirely with Hank Williams songs - of which I made mention in my last Rocket 88 Show - great loss.
Otto




I am saddened to hear the news of Malcolm's passing. Great artist and one of the links between western swing and rockabilly. He had excellent taste in music as well and loved Moon Mullican's music. Malcolm was the first and maybe only truly western swing band to record at Sun Records and his version of "Drinkin' Wine Spodee Odee" is pure Piedmont blues (I bet Blind Boy Fuller would have been proud). Rest in piece - a great artist and a nice person as well.
Patrick Wall




Well, I´m from Finland so I didn't knew Malclm personally, but love his music definitely.  I found him first time when I visit in 706 Union Street at 1995. There I bought his cassette and that was it.
      Antti Pasanen
      from Nine Lives




I remember my trip to Memphis in 1991 or so. We'd spent the morning just walking the streets of downtown Memphis. I was in awe of it all -- we'd found such incredible places! I just couldn't believe I was finally there -- Mecca. So....we tour Sun Studios, and of course I just had to visit the shop upstairs...guess who was minding the store? Malcolm!!
       I was in hog-heaven!! He signed some stuff for me, and chatted freely about his career and about Sun. I had promised my sister a quick stop in the store, but it just wasn't to be! :-) It was one of those perfect afternoons I shall always remember. The planets aligned, the sun was shining, and all was right with my world.
      Thanks, Malcolm
      Jill Martin
      rockinruby@juno.com
      Tyngsboro, MA




The passing of Malcolm hit me personally very hard this morning when I got the news from Mark Bell in Memphis. Mark used to manage the Sun Studio operation at 706 Union and was like a son to Malcolm the last few years, taking Malcolm out for rides, visiting Sun, to doctor appointments, to the hospital, etc. Some people, like Mark, are true heroes of this world. God bless you Malcolm and Mark as well. It's rare, but I'm at a loss for words today. Another giant has entered rockabilly heaven and I'm privileged to have had him as a friend ... and thanks, Malcolm, for inviting me to your last birthday party, an evening I'll never forget.
      Bob Timmers
      Rockabilly Hall of Fame




"Mac" was the sweetest man and he had great stories to share. Jimmy and I spent time with him in the Sun Cafe two years ago, where he always went to have a hamburger and chat with fans and old friends. He was so kind to our granddaughter Gayle....she knew exactly who he was as "Granny" was always a "fan" of Mac's from the early days at Sun. When I asked him for an autograph, he said, "Little lady, you get over there and BUY my new CD and I'll sign it, and then you get your husband over here to give me HIS autograph!!" Jimmy and I are deeply saddened by this news this morning. "Mac" is on "There's A Little Life Left In This Old Boy Yet" recorded at Sun Studio in 1997. R.I.P.
      Lee Strohm
      Harrell and Jimmy Harrell


E-mail your comments regarding Malcolm



Malcolm Sales Yelvington, Sr.

    

In Loving Memory

DATE OF BIRTH
September 14, 1918
Covington, Tennesse
to Frank and Sarah Edwards Yelvington

DATE OF DEATH
February 21, 2001
Baptist Hospital East
Memphis, Tennessee

SURVIVORS
Wife - Lou Ella K. Yelvington - Memphis, TN
Daughter - Betty Lou Poore - Centerville, TN
Daughter - Patricia Ann Kueider - Memphis, TN
Son - Malcolm Yelvington, Jr. - Memphis, TN
Son - Anthony Yelvington - Nashville, TN
Son - Phillip Yelvington - Rosemark, TN
Half-Sister - Margie Delany - Simonton, TN
Half-Sister - Janie Jarvis - Memphis, TN
Half-Brother - Herbert Yelvington - Munford, TN
ELEVEN Grandchildren and TWO Great-Children

PALLBEARERS at FUNERAL
Len Causie, Bill Sisk, Paul Moore,
Chuck Fitzgerald, Rick Bailey and Richard Martin

INTERMENT
Covington Memorial Gardens
Covington, TN



Saturday, February 24, 2001