Sonny Burgess

Biography

Albert Austin “Sonny” Burgess (born May 28, 1931, on a farm near Newport, Arkansas to Albert and Esta Burgess) is a guitarist and singer of classic rockabilly music.

In the early 1950s, Burgess played boogie woogie music in dance halls and bars around Newport. Burgess, Kern Kennedy, Johnny Ray Hubbard, and Gerald Jackson formed a boogie-woogie band they called the Rocky Road Ramblers. In 1954, following a stint in the US Army (1951–53), Burgess re-formed the band, calling them the Moonlighters after the Silver Moon Club in Newport, where they performed regularly. After advice from record producer Sam Phillips, the group expanded to form the Pacers.

The band’s first record was “We Wanna Boogie” in 1956 for Sun Records, in Memphis, about 60 miles east of his birthplace. The flip side was “Red Headed Woman.” Both were written by Burgess. The songs have been described as “among the most raucous, energy-filled recordings released during the first flowering of rock and roll.”[1] Their onstage antics in performance were similarly described.

Burgess disbanded the group in 1971 but later found a new audience in Europe.[2]

Burgess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Europe in 1999. His group, now called The Legendary Pacers, was a hit that same year in a rockabilly concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. It recorded Still Rockin’ and Rollin’ in 2000, voted the best new album in the country and roots field in Europe.[3]. The group was inducted in 2002 into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Jackson, Tennessee.

Sonny Burgess & The Legendary Pacers performed at the 2006 National Folk Festival in Richmond, Virginia to large, enhusiastic audiences.

Sonny Burgess hosts a weekly radio program called We Wanna Boogie with co-host June Taylor. The program, named after his first record, airs Sunday nights from 5-7pm Central Time on 91.9FM KASU in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

2 thoughts on “Sonny Burgess

  1. I’m looking for info on Sonny Burgess’ recent album. I don’t know what its called, but was presumably cut within the last 1-2 years. Do you have info on this? It could be an import.

  2. @Jim Miller If it’s a studio album, you’re probably thinking of “Tupelo Connection.” Of course, he has recorded several live albums in recent years as well. Sonny has self-released several albums which are only available on his own label. Be warned, many of these are CD-Rs with pro artwork, not real CDs. For this reason, you probably won’t see these being sold through online music retail outlets, since their product standards don’t allow CD-Rs and usually require titles to be real CDs unless a deal is made with a specific site to sell MOD (made on demand) CD-Rs which are burned and artwork printed when an order is placed for a particular title. I wish Sonny would’ve released all of these as real silver CDs and it probably would’ve been more cost effective for him.

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