Sunday, March 6, 2011

Johnny Burnette

Johnny Burnette It’s so easy now, go to Amazon, search for Johnny Burnette, you get two or three good collections to choose from, and there are new and used copies, imports and domestic. That’s in addition to all the Rock And Roll Trio CDs.

It wasn’t like that when I was on the hunt for Johnny Burnette. It was a bit odd, because Burnette recorded for Liberty, and he was produced by Snuff Garrett, and the others with those credentials – Bobby Vee, Gene McDaniels, Gary Lewis & The Playboys – weren’t so hard to find. But Burnette, couldn’t find him for trying.

I don’t remember where I finally came across this LP, it might have been Pyramid, but I remember how incredulous I was when the proprietor of Into The Music wasn’t interested in buying it. It’ll sell in a second I told him. Not from here it won’t, he answered, because I’m not buying it from you.

The LP was called The Best Of Johnny Burnette, it was a cheap years-later vinyl reissue, and it only had 2 of his 4 top 40 hits on it. I got the other two here and there, one on a single, one on a various artists Rhino compilation, the same one that had Rockin Round The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee, and DOA by Bloodrock.

Burnette was a rock and roller who sang lead the Rock And Roll Trio (aka Johnny Burnette Rock And Roll Trio) and then refashioned himself as a teen idol. His second career seems to have been so-so, he only put 5 records into the top 100, 5 in the top 20. He died young, at the age of 30, in 1964.

Johnny Burnette:

Little Boy Sad – Here’s a good illustration of the problem: Johnny sounds like he’s squeezing himself into a space that’s too small for him. Listen to him do Train Kept A-Rolling or Tear It Up with his brother Dorsey and Paul Burlison as the Rock And Roll Trio and you’ll hear what I mean. This tale of a hapless lover was a hit in the winter of 1961.
God, Country And My Baby – Religion, patriotism, and romance all rolled into one ball of melodrama. His last hit, from the fall of 1961.
Dreamin’ – His pièce de la resistance. This is producer Snuff Garrett at what he did best. Johnny's debut solo hit, from the fall of 1960.
Lovesick Blues – Johnny does Hank.
Finders Keepers – Not The Beach Boys song. This is alpha-male competition, and I hope real people aren’t like this.
You’re Sixteen – His best known song, easily. It was on the American Graffiti soundtrack, and Ringo Starr did a remake in the early 70s. Johnny was 26 when he did this, so you have to wonder. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
Mona Lisa – Surprising how many rock and rollers, or quasi-rock and rollers, had a crack at this – Carl Mann, Conway Twitty, Pat Boone (yes, I know…) The original was a hit for Nat King Cole, and that’s where it should stay.
The Fool Of The Year – He sings here of the relationship between dignity and heartbreak. Heady stuff.
Clown Shoes – Another song about being made to feel ridiculous in matters of the heart. In this one his true love is sending him a very clear message when she gives him clown shoes for his birthday. The fact that he doesn’t get it lends gravitas to the emotional atmosphere.
Big, Big World – Searching for a girl he once knew, and he can’t find her. This is before Facebook. From the summer of 1961.
The Poorest Boy In Town – We’re not talking finances here…
In The Chapel In The Moonlight – A romantic ditty about getting married. It was a hit for Dean Martin and for The Bachelors, but Johnny version was earlier than either.

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