November 12, 2011, The Jackson Sun

Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame inducts Burnette, Clement
Star musicians flock to Jackson as fellow legends are honored

Rockabilly legends came to Jackson Saturday afternoon to pay a tribute to Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist, singer songwriter and actor Billy Burnette.

"Today we have had more talent on this stage than there is in the whole state of Tennessee," said Henry Harrison, founder of the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame. "It's a marvelous tribute to Billy for all of these musicians to come together in one area."

Burnette and Sun Records producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement were inducted into the hall of fame in downtown Jackson on Saturday. Burnette was accompanied by several rockabilly legends, including Rayburn Anthony, J.M. Van Eaton, Shawn Camp, Pete Pritchard, Charlie Rich, David Roe and Carl Mann, as well as Burnette's son Billy Jr. Several musicians also performed Saturday afternoon.

"Each performance was filled with renowned musicians who have made rockabilly and country music history," Harrison said.

Burnette said he felt honored during the induction and performances.

"It's such an incredible honor," he said. "I'm just blessed to have made a living by doing this my whole life. The best part of performing live is being in front of the people. I play for the people."

Burnette said he has been performing since he was 3 years old. His influences include many artists.

"I made a Christmas album when I was 7 for Dot Records in Hollywood," he said. "My dad was a big influence. I was also a big Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis fan. I love all kinds of music."

"He deserves (the induction) more than all of my idols," said Billy Burnette Jr. "He's not only a great dad, but he's one of them."

Harrison said Pritchard flew all the way from London to perform with Burnette on Saturday. Pritchard was named an honorary member of the hall of fame.

"I came over here to honor these fantastic musicians," Pritchard said. "It's the best music I've ever heard. Good music transcends all ages. Young people don't realize it, but they sing along to these songs."

Harrison said bass player Roe played with Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Jerry Reed.

"He was selected to play with each of these outstanding vocalists for five to seven years each," Harrison said.

Clement said he has been playing music for a living since the 1950s.

"I never was a cowboy although I had a pony when I was a kid," he said. "It feels good to be here. I've been very lucky to be playing music for a living. My big break was with Sun Records in 1956."

Jolene Kay, an aspiring singer, songwriter and filmmaker, said she works with Clement.

"Jack has produced music for U2, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride, the first black country singer," Kay said. "He was inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame of Songwriters."

Charlie Rich accompanied Burnette on the piano. Rich said he has performed with rockabilly and country musicians.

"We had a good time playing today," he said. "It was fantastic. J.M. Eaton played with my dad, who also played piano."

Harrison said that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips called Eaton the most versatile drummer to ever perform. Eaton performed with Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Cash and Lewis, Harrison said. Eaton was presented with the Samson award on Saturday.

Rockabilly fan Virginia Singleton said she prepared certificates for the performers.

"All of them being here today — it was priceless," she said.

Eaton said he was inducted into the Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame in 2009.

"It's a great place," he said. "I hope we get to continue having performances here."

— Priya Narapareddy