Sonny Fisher

Rockabilly 'Wild Man from Texas'
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Sonny Fisher was one of several American rockabilly artists who had been unable to break out of their regional markets in the Fifties but greatly benefited from the upsurge of interest in the genre at the tail end of the Seventies and subsequently acquired a new following in Europe. Nicknamed the "Wild Man from Texas", Fisher cut a distinctive figure with his jaw-length sideburns and raven pompadour.

In 1980, Ted Carroll and Roger Armstrong gathered eight sides Fisher had recorded in 1955 and 1956 for the Houston-based Starday label and reissued them on a 10" LP. Entitled Texas Rockabilly, the album came complete with an old-style brown paper inner sleeve and proved a steady seller for Ace records.

Born Therman Fisher in 1931 on a farm close to Chandler, Texas, "Sonny" grew up listening to his father playing guitar and singing cowboy songs and was also influenced by the country singer Hank Williams and bluesmen Joe Turner and B.B. King. In the early Fifties, he put together a hillbilly band which became the Rocking Boys after Sonny Fisher saw an Elvis Presley show at the Texas Korral in Houston in 1954.

Following an appearance at the Cosy Corner nightclub in Houston, Fisher was offered a one-year contract with Starday Records by a local entrepreneur, Jack Starnes, who was looking to capitalise on the new rock'n'roll craze. In January 1955, Sonny Fisher and the Rocking Boys cut four titles including "Rockin' Daddy", a Fisher composition which became his first release.

He also wrote "Sneaky Pete", the follow-up single, and recorded "Rockin' and A'Rollin'" (September 1955) and the excellent "Pink and Black" (1956) but, when he received a royalty cheque for only $126 for the four releases, he refused to sign another contract. He tried to set up his own label, Columbus Records, and kept on playing until 1965, but subsequently dedicated himself to his floor-laying business.

When the people at Ace tracked him down in 1979, Sonny Fisher visited the UK and played gigs backed by Johnny and the Roccos. Following the release of Texas Rockabilly, he recorded an EP of new material for Ace in May 1980. The following year, he cut another 10" album, Texas Rockabilly Tear Up, paying a corny tribute to Presley on "I Miss You Elvis" and recording eight of his own compositions, including "Sweet Sixteen", "Rockabilly Tonight", "Shake It Around" and "I'm Flyin' In".

Between 1981 and 1983, Fisher played shows with Eddie Fontaine, Gene Summers, Billy Hancock and Jack Scott, and was in fine voice. Indeed, he had retained his black sideburns and quiff and all the swagger of his Fifties appearances. In 1993, he recorded Rockabilly Fiesta with a fellow rockabilly pioneer, Sleepy LaBeef, but then vanished from public view again.

Pierre Perrone