Talkin' Blues with Keith Wyatt: Grady Martin and the Roots of Rock

by Keith Wyatt
Posted Jan 2, 2014 at 2:34pm

These videos are bonus content related to the February 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

Last month, we looked at Nashville guitarist Grady Martin’s graceful, acoustic Tejano melodies on Marty Robbins’ cowboy classic “El Paso.” This month we’ll go to the opposite musical extreme and examine Martin’s contribution to electric rock and roll.

In the wake of Elvis’ massive breakthrough, 1956 was a year of opportunity for new rock and roll talent, but record companies often called on Nashville session players to replace inexperienced young band members with professional backing.

Among these artists was the Memphis-based Rock & Roll Trio—singer Johnny Burnette, his brother Dorsey on bass and electric guitarist Paul Burlison—who checked into Nashville’s Quonset Hut studio in early July and emerged four days later with a string of rock and roll classics.

Burlison was a raw, energetic player, but the tracks featured highly original and technically sophisticated guitar parts that—as evidence clearly indicates—were performed by studio veteran Martin. His thick, driving sound and the rhythm section’s hard-hitting even, or “straight,” eighth notes point directly to the future of rock.


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