Rocky Burnette Biography

Jonathan Burnette, 12 June 1953, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Burnette was the son of pioneering rock ‘n’ roll trio member Johnny Burnette and nephew of fellow member Dorsey Burnette. Dorsey’s son Billy Burnette (later a solo performer and member of Fleetwood Mac) was born within a few weeks of Rocky and some sources claim that Johnny and Dorsey coined the term ‘Rockabilly’ in their honour. This does seem to be unlikely, however. Like his father, Rocky is a keen fisherman who claimed that when his father died in 1964 (drowned in a boating accident), he went fishing himself rather than attend the funeral. He had also been a close friend of Elvis Presley until his father had fallen out with him over a publishing agreement, and the family had moved to California.

Burnette started out in the music business around 1967 as a teenage songwriter, working for Acuff-Rose Music publishers. His songs were later recorded by the Osmonds and David Cassidy, for whom he wrote on a production line basis. After graduating in 1971 he studied theatre, cinematography and the Bible at college, before returning to music to release his first solo album for Curb in the early 70s, which was only available in the USA. His one solo hit was ‘Tired Of Toein’ The Line’, written in less than 20 minutes and recorded at Rockfield studios in Wales. A surprise Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Burnette nevertheless declined to provide a follow-up and was further hampered when his record label EMI America went bankrupt.

The singer re-emerged in 1982 with Heart Stopper before putting together his New Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio, which comprised original Johnny Burnette Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio bass player Paul Burlinson (b. 4 February 1929, Brownsville, Tennessee, USA, d. 27 September 2003, Horn Lake, Mississippi, USA) and Johnny Black (brother of original Presley bass player Bill Black), and Tony Austin, to record Get Hot Or Go Home! at Sun Studios, Memphis. A second album recorded with this trio failed to gain a release, and Burnette spent the remainder of the decade working on the live circuit. He re-emerged in the 90s with a new studio recording Tear It Up, but record company problems helped consign the album to the bargain bins. Several years later Burnette teamed up with fellow rockabilly artists Darrel Higham to record Hip Shakin’ Baby, a tribute to his father and uncle.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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