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Billy Lee Riley

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Biography

Billy Lee Riley was a rockabilly singer and multi-instrumentalist. An alumnus of Sun Records, he was one of the most crazed, unabashed rockers that label had to offer -- in the company of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Sonny Burgess, that's saying a lot. Proficient at harmonica, guitar, bass, and drums, Riley contributed as a sideman to many a classic Sun session, and his combo, the Little Green Men (most notably guitarist Roland Janes and drummer J.M. Van Eaton), in time became the Sun house band. Riley recorded for a number of labels in a variety of styles, especially effective with blues. Though never commercially successful, Riley's Sun recordings of "Flying Saucer Rock 'n' Roll" and "Red Hot" (both covered in wooden renditions by Robert Gordon) remain landmarks of the genre. Billy Lee Riley died of cancer in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 2009; he was 75 years old. ~ Cub Koda
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