An Internet Search For A Rockabilly Guitarist.

The Internet is a wonderful thing when it comes to connecting people. When I first discovered rockabilly music very much of it was still shrouded in mystery. I was fascinated to read the little snippets that were available on sleeve notes and in magazines like New Kommotion and Now Dig This. The music that pumped out through my cheap club-book record player from those vinyl groves that I so loved was often performed not by people and faces but just names on the record label. I wanted to know about Sonny Burgess with his red hair that pre-dated punk by 20 years and Billy Lee Riley and his fabulous Little Green Men. Luckily since those early days those guys have been well documented. I’m still keen to know the stories behind the songs I have loved and put faces to the names.

One song I have always really enjoyed was ‘I Fell In Love’ by a mysterious artist called Ken Cook. It was recorded at Sun Records but never released at the time. One of many gems that lay hidden for years, a victim of Sam Phillips’ glut of talent. Not only did the song have great lyrics that just ooze the sort of 1950’s which involved drive-ins, drug stores and rockin’ chicks, but that guitar. Now I am no musician so have no idea if that guitar riff that runs through the song is hard to play, but it is one that simply rocks. I loved it then and I love it now, a real ear worm which so compliments the lyrics and the images they conjure up. it’s on YouTube, have a listen

On this particular post of the tune, someone mentioned that they had heard that the vocal was actually Roy Orbison. A guy named Carl Watson replied that no, it was Ken Cook, he was there. I replied ‘You were there?’. Now for what ever reason, I’m at a loss now, I didn’t go back to that track for another five months. Carl had replied to me that he had played guitar on all Ken’s Sun recordings. Yes that guitar I have loved for 30 years. The guy that played on it had actually spoken to me via the Internet. I was gutted that I’d not seen it until now. I have been lucky enough to have interviewed several of my heroes in the past year or so. Either through contacts made through Vive Le Rock and Big Cheese magazines for whom I write on a freelance basis. Heads up given by psychobilly band leader Bernie Bilko or just via the Internet. Now I had a contact with Carl I really wanted to talk to him about that Sun session that produced a great song but didn’t result in a release. Ken and the guys must have entered that studio in awe and in the knowledge that they were treading the path once  and indeed at the time still trod  by rockabilly legends. There was the real chance this could be the big time if they nailed it. Like so many others at Sun they did nail it, but for some inexplicable reason the fantastic music they made never surfaced until the 1970’s. By which time Ken and the guys had no doubt gotten over the disappointment. Carl obviously remembered the session with some pride. I’d love to hear his story, and these days due to the Internet he could well be a few clicks of a keyboard and a phone call away.

I set to work on Google looked for Texan Carl. It didn’t take me long to find him, though when I did my heart sank.

I was too late to talk to Carl. I felt a lump in my throat, I was in mourning for a guy who hadn’t even been a name in my mind for those 30 odd years, just a riff. But what a riff. I’m glad that Carl was able to tell me who he was personally, it’s still there in the comments on the first video. I’m so sad I never got to speak to Carl in person, but now for ever more I know, and thanks to you for kindly reading this, so do you. That guitar riff on Ken Cook’s ‘I Fell In Love’ was played by Carl Watson. Thanks Carl and R.I.P.

(c) Simon Nott

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