Sonny Burgess (rockabilly artist)

~ Person


Albert Austin "Sonny" Burgess (born May 28, 1931, on a farm near Newport, Arkansas to Albert and Esta Burgess) is an American rockabilly guitarist and singer.

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 80 miles southeast 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." Their onstage antics in performance were similarly described. Like other artists such as Ray Harris, Hayden Thompson, Billy Lee Riley and Warren Smith, chart success largely eluded him.

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

In 1990 (possibly before and afterward), Burgess toured with The Sun Rhythm Section. This group was composed of former session musicians from the Sun Recording Studio. Beside Burgess, band members included Paul Burlison (electric guitar), J.L. "Smoochy" Smith (piano), Stan Kessler (bass), Marcus Van Story (acoustic guitar & lead vocals), and D.J. Fontana on drums. Fontana was a member of Elvis Presley's band (1955-1968).

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. The group was inducted in 2002 into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

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

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.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2006 Stronger Sonny Burgess 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1992 The Classic Recordings 1956-1959 Sonny Burgess 1
Arkansas Wild Man Sonny Burgess 1
The Razorback Rock & Roll Tapes Sonny Burgess & Bobby Crafford and the Pacers 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1992 Tennessee Border Sonny Burgess & Dave Alvin 1

Unspecified type

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
We Wanna Boogie Sonny Burgess 1

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