What Radio Station Is The Gator Football Game On Rockabilly Is "Red Hot" (Your Gal Ain’t Doodly Squat)

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Rockabilly Is "Red Hot" (Your Gal Ain’t Doodly Squat)

Country music in the 1940s and ’50s was often called hillbilly music. With the emergence of rock and roll in the early 1950s came a fusion of rock, hillbilly, Western Swing, blues, and boogie woogie known as rockabilly. Its most popular singers included Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran.

Rockabilly faded during the British Invasion of the 1960s although groups like the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Who covered some of the classics. The seventies, a decade of disco and punk rock, saw a rockabilly revival sparked by artists like Dave Edmunds and Robert Gordon. Gordon’s 1977 cover of “Red Hot,” which achieved some success, inspired Brian Setzer to form the Stray Cats, who went on to sell millions with rockabilly hits in the 1980s that were rooted in the fifties.

In 1956, rockabilly pioneer Billy Lee Riley signed with Sam Phillips’ Sun Records and joined a stable of artists that included Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins. Billy Riley and the Little Green Men-guitarist Roland Janes, bassist Marvin Pepper and drummer J.M. Van Eaton-became Sun’s house rhythm section. The group played behind Jerry Lee Lewis on all of his Sun hits; Lewis in turn is heard playing piano on Riley’s two best known tracks: 1957’s “Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll” (a Ray Scott tune that inspired the name “Little Green Men”) and “Red Hot.”

While “Red Hot” is often associated with Riley, the track was written and recorded in 1955 by Billy “The Kid” Emerson, a Sun singer/songwriter whose version had little success. Emerson was reportedly inspired to write “Red Hot” after hearing cheerleaders at a Florida football game chanting, “Our team is red hot, your team ain’t doodly squat.”

Riley placed his own stamp on “Red Hot” with a stronger delivery that’s more rock than the countrified Emerson original. Riley was convinced that “Red Hot” would be the hit that would make him a national star. A promise from the biggest disc jockey of the era appeared to guarantee his success.

While traveling with his band in Canada, Riley on a bet decided to call DJ Alan Freed and ask to join an upcoming tour. Riley reached Freed at WINS radio in New York City and learned that “Red Hot” was breaking out across the country; Freed told Riley he had a hit on his hands and could join the tour.

Excited, Riley called Sam Phillips at Sun Records with the good news. Philips told Riley to get back to Nashville to record another single before the tour.

Upon his return, Riley learned that Phillips had contacted Alan Freed’s manager and had Jerry Lee Lewis replace Riley on the tour. Phillips had also canceled orders from record distributors for tens of thousands of copies of “Red Hot.” In their place, Phillips would ship Jerry Lee’s “Great Balls of Fire.”

Understandably, Riley was furious; he broke into Sun Studio in a drunken rage and trashed the studio. But for Sam Phillips, the decision to promote Jerry Lee over Riley was just business. As a small record company, Phillips said, Sun could only afford to promote one artist at a time.

“I had to take the one artist I felt at the time could really go all the way to the top. And that cat back then was Lewis.”

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