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November 17, 2009

Rockabilly show at Malco on Friday, November 20

HELENA-WEST HELENA – It’s time to get out your cat clothes, comb your duck tail just right, and make sure nobody steps on your blue suede shoes!

The Delta Cultural Center presents a rockabilly revue featuring Helena-West Helena great Jimmy Evans at the historic Malco Theatre at 422 Cherry Street on Friday, November 20. Also featured will be Sun Records recording artist Carl Mann ("Mona Lisa"), and W.S. Holland, drummer for Sun artists Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

The event begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

A Marianna native, Evans has a long and varied musical career, both as a backing musician and as a solo performer.

Sam Phillips at Sun Records turned Evans away at an early audition as too young, with too high of a singing voice. He urged Evans to complete his education and return, which the young musician did, later impressing Phillips with his abilities. He soon began playing sessions – primarily audition tapes – at Sun, performing with pianists Jimmy Wilson and Charlie Rich, as well as Helena’s Conway Twitty. He would also play upright bass and sing high tenor on “Mad at You” for another Helena rockabilly sensation on Sun, the great Mack Self.

From 1956 to 1958, Evans played bass in Twitty’s touring band -- which also included Jimmy Ray “Luke” Paulman on lead guitar -- and wrote “Why Can’t I Get Through to You” for Twitty in 1956. Evans next served as half of the rhythm section for Ronnie Hawkins’ Hawks, laying down the bass lines as Levon Helm drove the beat on drums. Evans would play on Hawkins’ hit singles “Mary Lou” and “Ruby Baby,” as well as his albums “Meet Ronnie Hawkins” and “Mr. Dynamo.” He left The Hawks in 1960 (replaced by a young Robbie Robertson) and began pursuing his solo recording career in earnest.

Fellow rockabilly artist Jumpin’ Gene Simmons (“Haunted House”) recommended to Evans in 1962 that he visit Memphis’ Clearmont Records to see if they’d be interested in a song Evans had penned a few years earlier, “The Joint’s Really Jumping.” The record was cut with Evans’ old friend Wilson on piano, Simmons’ brother Carl on lead guitar, Jesse Carter on bass, and James Van Eaton on drums. Though sales were less than desired at the time, the track is now considered a classic by rockabilly aficionados. Other tracks followed, meeting a similar fate, including “Messy Bessy” on Shimmy and “Dudley Do-Rite” on the Rebel label.

Later, Evan released several country singles and became well-known in the local area for his performances at the Arkansas Jamboree in Marianna. As interest in rockabilly has progressed through the years, so too has the interest in the music of Jimmy Evans. His classic cuts have become staples on several collections that delve deeply into small labels and rare singles to recover great performances and expose them to new audiences. Interestingly, one Evans song popular with fans was actually recorded more than two decades after the genre’s initial popularity. Evans’ “Pink Cadillac,” recorded for the Twin TR label in 1982, harkens back to that earlier era Evans’ knew well.

Huntington, Tennessee native Carl Mann turned heads in 1959 when the 16-year-old’s rockabilly rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” on Sun Records hit the Top 25 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Mann would later serve in the Army and released several country singles in the 1970s.

W.S. Holland began his musical career as the drummer for fellow Jackson, Tennessee, rockabilly cat Carl Perkins, playing on “Blue Suede Shoes” and other Perkins classics. Holland is considered a pioneer of the rock and roll drum sound, performing on the road with Perkins some time before Elvis Presley and other performers began the practice. He can be heard accompanying Presley, Perkin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and future boss Johnny Cash on the impromptu performances that became known as the “Million Dollar Quartet” sessions on December 4, 1956. In 1960, Holland, known to friends and fans as “Fluke,” joined Cash’s Tennessee Three and would go on to perform on Cash hits such as “Ring of Fire” and accompany him for four decades.

Gallery hours at the DCC Visitors Center at 141 Cherry Street and the nearby DCC Depot at 95 Missouri Street are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. “King Biscuit Time,” the nation’s longest-running blues radio program, is hosted each weekday at the DCC Visitors Center by “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. “Delta Sounds,” hosted by DCC Assistant Director Terry Buckalew and Payne, is broadcast each Friday at 1 to 1:30 p.m.

For more information, interested persons can call the Delta Cultural Center at (870)-338-4350 or toll free at (800)-358-0972 or visit the DCC online at

The Delta Cultural Center shares the vision of all seven agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage – to preserve and promote Arkansas heritage as a source of pride and satisfaction. Other agencies within the department are the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Arts Council, and the Natural Heritage Commission.

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