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A Brooklynite who was equally entranced by R&B and country (claiming his favorite singer was C&W mainstay Tex Ritter), Otis Blackwell began his career with 1953's "Daddy Rollin' Stone," which has been covered repeatedly. But large-scale success as a performer eluded him. "I didn't dig it. Got more into writing," he said. When Elvis Presley recorded one of his songs, the result was 1956's epochal "Don't Be Cruel," which was simultaneously Number One on the pop, R&B and country charts. Blackwell subsequently gave Elvis "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender," and wrote a cluster of hits for other artists, including "Great Balls of Fire" for Jerry Lee Lewis. And even though Blackwell's own singing career never took off, it's been noted that his vocals on demos of songs that Presley recorded were followed faithfully by the King. "At certain tempo, the way Elvis sang was the result of copying Otis' demos," said Blackwell's friend Doc Pomus. Oddly, Blackwell and Presley never met.

James Burton's trademark "chicken pickin'" style – bright, crisp and concise –l is one of the most unique sounds in country music, and a huge influence on rock ...


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