Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Billy Lee Riley - Two Albums


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!


See "Billy Lee Riley - No Name Girl" and "The Spitfires on Jaro Int." for further reading on Billy Lee Riley.

7 comments:

zephyr said...

Thank you for this info I sometimes wondered whether there was two Billy Riley's and now I know he was one and the same.Thank you also for the Harmonica album.

iggy said...

Thanks so much for these amazing albums. Had no idea that Billy Lee even did this kinda thing. Made my day. All the best,

Iggy

jim said...

Thank you, thank you, thank. Whiskey A Go Go presents
Billy Lee Riley was one of my all time favorite albums in my younger days. I some how lost it over the years. Can't wait to listen to it again. Many thanks.

Timmy said...

Great stuff. A shade different from Toots. I can't seem to figure out how to D/L that Beatles cover album of Billy's... Is it available here? Thanx...........

jose said...

Hello! your blog is great, I'm your fan from now, I wonder if you can reupload

Billy Lee Riley's Big Harmonica Special

my email is josenosenada@yahoo.com.ar
thanks from Argentina

Mellow said...

Timmy, that one isn't available here. @Jose: link should work, RS changed it's design!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! It´s very nice to have some 60´s Riley album. Sadly the track 1 and 3 are missing.