Bill Justis

Bill Justis

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Biography

William E. “Bill” Justis Jr. (October 141926 – July 151982) was an American pioneer Rock and Rollmusiciancomposer, and musical arranger best known for his 1957 Grammy Hall of Fame song “Raunchy.”

Bill Justis was born in Birmingham, Alabama but grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and studied music at Christian Brothers College (high school department) and Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. A trumpet and saxophone player, while in university he performed with local jazz and dance bands. He returned home to Memphis in 1954 and was eventually taken on by Sam Phillips atSun Records where he recorded music for himself as well as arranged the music for Sun artists such as Jerry Lee LewisRoy OrbisonJohnny Cash and Charlie Rich. Released in November 1957, his song “Raunchy” was the first Rock and Roll instrumental hit and its popularity was such that it reached No.2 on the American Billboard record charts and to No. 1 on the Australian charts. Justis had one other significant hit record, “College Man”, that went to No. 42.

In 1961, Bill Justis moved to Nashville where he became a successful record producer and music arranger for both Pop and country musicperformers at Monument and Mercury Records and other labels. He played saxophone on the soundtrack for the 1964 Elvis Presley film, Kissin’ Cousins and that same year took over as manager of the singing group, Ronny & the Daytonas.

Bill Justis had a number one hit in Australia in 1963 with “Tamoure”. The song did not chart in the USA on the Billboard hot 100. In the early 1960s he produced a successful series of instrumental LP’s on the Smash label. Justis is credited by Ray Stevens in the TNN special The Life and Times of Ray Stevens for giving him the phrase “gitarzan” for which became a million selling pop hit for Stevens in 1969.

Justis also wrote the music for several Hollywood motion pictures including the 1977 Burt Reynolds / Sally Field hit Smokey and the Bandit and the acting duos 1978 film, Hooper.

Bill Justis died of cancer in Nashville in 1982 at the age of only 55 and was interred in the Memorial Park Cemetery, Memphis.

2 thoughts on “Bill Justis

  1. I am searching for some information on Alto Saxaphones and I’ve just found your blog! A good read which I enjoyed and found to be of use. I will return be able to take in more.

  2. Raunchy was an amazing hit in the fact it competed with cover versions by Ernie Phillips and Billy Vaughn all reaching the top ten on the pop chart!!!

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