< 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."