Billy Lee

Billy Lee Riley and Sonny Burgess
Join Forces Once Again

45 years after their first meeting, legendary producer/engineer "Cowboy" Jack Clement and Sun Records veteran Billy Lee Riley joined forces once again. The occasion for the reunion is the start of a new recording for Riley and Sun veteran Sonny Burgess, their first collaboration. Executive Producer Dan Griffin had put together Scotty Moore & D.J. Fontana's Grammy-nominated CD, "All the King's Men", Paul Burlison's comeback recording, "Train Kept A Rollin'" and Sonny Burgessā' self-titled Rounder release. Griffin figured that a collaboration between the two artists and their Sun Records producer could rekindle the magic from their early days. Also, a film crew under the guidance of award-winning director, Bruce Sinofsky ("Brothers Keeper", "Paradise Lost") are capturing the sessions for inclusion in the first comprehensive Sun Records documentary.

The recording was nearly sidelined the day before the sessions began. Sonny Burgess, on his way to Nashville from his Newport, AR home, suffered a mild heart attack and had to be hospitalized in Little Rock. A film crew, the backing musicians and several special guests were alerted that a delay might be inevitable. After meeting with Clement, Riley and film director Bruce Sinofsky, Griffin decided to go ahead with the sessions, hoping to add Burgessā' tracks on his recovery.

Bassist Garry Tallent from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Mark Horn from the Austin band The Derailers, guitarists Bill Lloyd and Tim Carroll and pianist Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five we all on hand for the recordings. Even Cowboy Jack joined in adding acoustic guitar as well as guiding the musicians and Riley through the four new original tunes. The highlight of the day was a sing-a-long to Billy Leeā's "Walk, Talk & Sing" anthem for world and personal peace. Waylon Jennings, John Carter Cash and Jordanaire Ray Walker joined in for a rousing chorus and lots of shared memories. Jennings was sporting an injured leg so the vocal overdubs were moved to Cowboy's office and wired for sound. The new century has seen a renewed interest in Sun Records and the men who played a big part in the music of the era.

In recent years, new recordings by Johnny Cash and other from the Sun era had garnered awards, critical praise and respectable sales supported by a new generation of fans. A recent A&E biography of Sam Phillips told his side of the Sun story while new documentaries on Sun Records is being produced by The Shooting Gallery, the film company who produced Billy Bob Thornton's "Sling Blade".

Also, Dan Griffin is producing the first film to tell the story of Elvis Presley's backing band - Scotty Moore, Bill Black & D.J. Fontana. The latter two projects are being completed to premier in 2001, making the time ripe for more new recordings. The soundtrack to the Sun documentary includes a lineup of rockā's biggest names and will be presented on two CD's of tribute material to the label that started it all. Artists contributing to the film and recording including Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Chrissie Hynde & Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler and many others. Several of the sessions included Scotty Moore & D.J. Fontana as guest musicians on the tracks, all Sun recordings - some well known and a few obscure surprises.

The next session for the Burgess/Riley project will be a live recording and film date taking place on September 12. The venue is the legendary club owned by 84 year-old Bob King in Swifton, Arkansas. The club is a private venue that hosted Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Hawkins and many other legends during the touring circuit days of the fifties. Special guests from the Sun era and contemporary artists will join Sonny Burgess and Billy Lee Riley in a celebration of their careers. The finished recording will feature four new studio tracks each by Riley & Burgess and six tracks from the live duo show.