Johnny Burnette: Rockabilly Pioneer

Born 80 years ago today, Johnny Burnette was one of the first musicians to fold country and rock ‘n’ roll into the foot-tapping new sound of rockabilly. After performing early in his career with his brother Dorsey and their friend Paul Burlison as the Rock and Roll Trio, Burnette later moved on to a successful solo career. In between, he wrote songs made famous by Ricky Nelson and covered by artists ranging from the Beatles to Aerosmith to Motorhead. Growing up in Memphis he became friendly with Elvis Presley; he toured with Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent; and he was the father of musician Rocky Burnette.

Burnette was just 30 when he drowned in a boating accident in 1964. Before he died, he helped pave the way for the rockabilly sound that still seems effortlessly cool today. Here are two of the songs that made him a legend.

The Rock and Roll Trio recorded "Rock Billy Boogie," one of the first uses of the term "rockabilly"

Burnette's solo career included the hit "You're Sixteen." The 1960 tune gained new life when it was featured in the 1973 movie American Graffiti

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Written by Linnea Crowther. Find her on Google+.