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Walnut Ridge in Lawrence County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Sonny Burgess

— Rock 'n Roll Highway 67 —

 
 
Sonny Burgess Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
1. Sonny Burgess Marker
Inscription.  Rock' n' Roll Highway 67 is more than a collection of venues for Albert Austin "Sonny" Burgess. It is home. The rockabilly pioneer has always made his home in Newport, and it was there that he first made his name as an outstanding musical entertainer.

Sonny grew up listening to, and playing, the country music he heard on the Grand Ole Opry, but his taste and talent always leaned toward rhythm and blues. Listening to the blues artists on WDIA in Memphis and befriending black musicians he met along the way, Sonny developed a rockabilly style all his own.

His first professional gigs came in 1954 with a band called the Moonlighters, named for the Silver Moon nightclub in Newport where he and a host of other popular musicians performed regularly.

At the suggestion of Sam Phillips at Sun Records, the band added some new members in 1956, creating a more robust rock sound and renaming itself the Pacers. The group often performed with Elvis Presley in the mid '50s.

Sonny and the Pacers recorded "We Wanna Boogie" and "Red Headed Woman” for Sun in '56, projecting a raw and energetic sound that heralded

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what early rock music was all about. They followed with "Ain't Got a Thing" in early 57.

Sonny's distinctive, bluesy voice and his masterful guitar picking, combined with the stage antics of the Pacers, made their concerts some of the most entertaining ever staged on'Rock 'n' Roll Highway 67. Fireman's Hall in Walnut Ridge was among the many local venues he played.

He retired from the music business in the early 1970s, but his music developed a following in Europe, leading him and the Pacers to start touring again in the '80s.

With a revival of interest in rockabilly music, he has continued to find, audiences the world over who are anxious to see Sonny Burgess play and sing.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainment. A significant historical year for this entry is 1954.
 
Location. 36° 4.035′ N, 90° 57.438′ W. Marker is in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, in Lawrence County. Marker can be reached from SW Front Street south of West Elm Street, on the right when traveling south. Located at Guitar Walk near the Walnut Ridge Train Station. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 109 SW Front St, Walnut Ridge AR 72476, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Conway Twitty (here, next to this marker); Wanda Jackson (a few steps from this marker); Billy Lee Riley

Sonny Burgess Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
2. Sonny Burgess Marker
(a few steps from this marker); Roy Orbison (a few steps from this marker); Johnny Cash (a few steps from this marker); Jerry Lee Lewis (a few steps from this marker); Carl Perkins (a few steps from this marker); When The Beatles Came to Town (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Walnut Ridge.
 
Guitar Walk at Walnut Ridge image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
3. Guitar Walk at Walnut Ridge
The markers are arrayed around an epiphone casino shaped guitar.
Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park with Sonny Burgess marker to right of amp. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, April 3, 2021
4. Guitar Walk at Cavenaugh Park with Sonny Burgess marker to right of amp.
The Guitar Walk is a 115 foot long concrete guitar, complete with frets, and strings. Along the edges are interpretive markers that pay tribute to the early legends that gave birth to Rock n’ Roll, at venues along Rock n’ Roll Highway 67 that runs through the area. The free walk includes audio narration by none other than legendary Sun Studio recording artist, Sonny Burgess.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 7, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 133 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 7, 2021, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Feb. 23, 2024