Albert “Sonny” Burgess, who helped start what would eventually be called rockabilly music, has died at age 88 in Little Rock, Arkansas, according to the Dillinger Funeral Home.
As the Commercial Appeal reports, he became famous at Sun Records, the same label that launched the careers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash:
Known for his frenetic guitar work, gruff singing style and warm persona, Burgess remained an active performer until July, when he fell at his home and was hospitalized. His passing was confirmed by longtime friend and Pacers drummer Bobby Crafford.
Among the many greats who came through the doors of Sun Records in the 1950s, Burgess was universally regarded for both his musical skills and showmanship on stage.
“I always heard my dad say that Sonny was one of the outstanding guys he worked with,” said Jerry Phillips, son of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. “Sonny had his own unique sound – which was the highest compliment Sam could give you. Sonny had a little bit of Howlin’ Wolf in his singing, and of course my dad really liked that.
He served in the Army during the Korean War, then he led a band called the Pacers, which frequently opened for Elvis.
As Jerry Phillips, the son of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, said, “I always heard my dad say that Sonny was one of the outstanding guys he worked with. Sonny had his own unique sound – which was the highest compliment Sam could give you. Sonny had a little bit of Howlin’ Wolf in his singing, and of course my dad really liked that. But Sonny was one of those guys who traveled the world, had a great long life, and had people who loved him all over the place. He’s going to be missed.”
— Sun Studio (@sunstudio) August 20, 2017
Sad News…Rockabilly Legend Sonny Burgess passed away today. He performed along Elvis & Elvis convinced him to sign with Sun Records. RIP pic.twitter.com/NrD04MRGGa
— Elvis in Arkansas (@ElvisInArkansas) August 19, 2017
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) August 21, 2017
Let us pray for Burgess’s family during this difficult time. Rest in peace.