Paul Burlison

As a member of Johnny Burnette's Rock 'n' Roll Trio, guitarist Paul Burlison essentially pioneered the art of feedback. His solo on the classic "Train Kept a-Rollin'" is the first known deliberate example of six-string distortion on record, pointing the way for multiple generations of sound sculptors and noisemakers. Born in Brownsville, TN, on February 4, 1929, Burlison was raised in Memphis, learning to play guitar from his brother-in-law Earl Brooks and frequenting the blues joints along Beale Street. After designing his own electric guitar by taping a telephone pickup to his acoustic, he was hired to back Shelby Fallon on Memphis radio station KWEM. He sometimes collaborated on air with future blues legend Howlin' Wolf, but a tense racial climate meant the white Burlison could not join Wolf's all-black band full-time. Burlison concurrently pursued a career in boxing, even winning the local welterweight championship. While competing in the 1949 Golden Gloves tournament, he met fellow boxer Dorsey Burnette, and the two became fast friends, united in their similar musical tastes. With Burnette's younger brother Johnny they began performing throughout Memphis, and after Burlison fulfilled his U.S. Army obligations, they officially formed the Rock 'n' Roll Trio in mid-1952, cutting their first record, "Go Mule Go," for the tiny Von label two years later. The single sold fewer than 200 copies, and Burlison spent the next several years working as an electrician for Crown Electric, which also employed a then-unknown Elvis Presley.

More Paul Burlison