Another Bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin!
A lot of this is going to be speculative based on my knowledge of the way things were in 1963 - 1966 at Mercury Records. The Two Albums presented here are the first and third LP's that were released on Mercury Records between mid-1964 and early 1965.
Billy Lee Riley was at this time doing session work on the West Coast and the three albums were produced by leading Capitol Records producer Nick Venet, who also did some outside producing on spec and placed those on various labels.
Mercury signed Jerry Lee Lewis to their Smash label in 1963 and Bill Justis as well, Charlie Rich also in 1965. Shelby Singleton was a major producer at Mercury and an executive with the label who more than likely influenced the pick up of the Billy Lee Riley sides for Mercury. Singleton, as you know, later bought Sun Records and carried forth with their catalog and newer recordings for many years and mined it for all it's worth.
The first Riley LP was an intriguing set of instrumentals mixing oldies and a few new cuts as well. The stereo versions were strange, but the mono versions had a superior mix down that was in effect a wall of sound and the results are a mixed bag.
"Page One Funk" in my opinion the best cut on the LP. The second LP a cover of the Beatles early hits was also a wall of sound but at the time everyone was also covering the Beatles from Bluegrass to whomever. I no longer own this LP as I sold it for major money several years ago. The third LP and the best of the three, hands down, was "Live At The Whisky A' Go- Go". It showcases a much more subdued but excellent version of Billy Lee's talents.
At this time, both Trini Lopez and Johnny Rivers were producing hit singles and large selling Lp's for Reprise and Imperial Records respectively to great success. Billy Lee's effort to cash in on this trend failed miserably.
Only two singles in support of these LP's were released by Mercury to complete apathy on the part of the D.J.s of the time, with no support.
The Sun era had passed a few years previous to this and except for Johnny Cash, Roy Orbision and Elvis, himself, the Sun roster couldn't give away a record. It was five full years before Mercury could get things right with Jerry Lee Lewis on Smash. His first five LP's all went into the cut-out bins with a year of release with short pressings at that.
That brings me to the point about Billy Lee Riley. All three of his LP's were released in fairly rapid succession of each other and did not sell enough to warrant a second pressing. Indeed, by 1966-67 all the three were in the cut-out bins at Woolworth-Woolco, all drilled and cheap. Why they are now so scarse is due to the fact that the practice was that all unsold vinyl was melted down and recycled at that time.So this fills in a piece of the puzzle. Enjoy. Bobsluckycat
Download: Billy Lee Riley's Big Harmonica Special
Download: Whisky a Go Go presents Billy Lee Riley live!