Our Top 10 Johnny Burnette songs looks at ten of the greatest songs that he released throughout his tragically short career which was cut short when he was killed in a boat accident in 1964 at the age of Thirty. Burnette was one of the most crucial players of the rockabilly genre. Rumored to be a former schoolmate of Elvis Presley, fans of Burnette would argue that he is just as essential to Rock n Roll as the King himself. Two former Beatles, Ringo Starr and John Lennon have recorded songs by him, as have rock bands such as Aerosmith and Motorhead.
Burnette’s career started when he formed the Rock n Roll trio with his brother Dorsey and Paul Burlison in 1951 and they released their self-titled debut in 1957. However, due to inner tensions, they disbanded soon after and Burnette embarked on a solo career where he released his debut Dreamin in 1960. Until his tragic death just a few years later, Burnette would release some of the most classic and underrated Rock n Roll music ever written. Had he not he had the premature death that he did, he would have arguably gone on to be recognized as a classic artist who would have likely made so much more great music.
Burnette was very prolific over a short period of four years, releasing five albums in that time. In 2004 a posthumous collection of all of his recordings was released titled The Complete Recording 1955-1964. He also released many singles during his solo career and a few with the Rock N Roll Trio who also were dubbed the Johnny Burnette Trio. Hopefully for people reading this who may not be familiar with the man’s work, this list will be an educational and pleasurable experience. From then on, you can go on to discover his work beyond this list and listen to his fantastic albums. He was a brilliant artist and deserves far much more recognition, so here is ten of his best individual songs. This list looks at all aspects of his career from the rawer sounds of the Rock n Roll Trio, through to his more polished solo work and even includes a couple of tracks that he wrote with teen idol Ricky Nelson.
# 10 – Believe What You Say
Kicking off this top ten Johnny Burnette songs list is a song that Johnny wrote and originally performed with Dorsey which was then performed by Ricky Nelson. It peaked at number four on the Billboard 100, as well as number six on the R&B chart and number ten on the Country chart. It appeared on Nelson’s 1959 album Ricky Sings Again as well as In Concert at the Troubadour 1969. This recording came about after the Burnette brothers sat on Nelson’s doorstep so they could meet him. He agreed to record the song after being impressed by their persistence.
# 9 – Ricky Nelson- Waitin’ In School
Here is another Nelson track that Johnny and Dorsey both wrote together. Upon its release in 1958, it reached number eighteen on the US Billboard 100. The track is considered to be one of the best things that Nelson did that was in the Rockabilly genre. Playing guitar on the track is Joe Maphis. Nelson would be seen playing it in an episode of the sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”
# 8 – Ricky Nelson- Just A Little Too Much
Here is the final Nelson song on our top Ten Johnny Burnette songs that Johnny Burnette wrote which was another hit reaching number nine on the Billboard and number eleven in the UK when it was released in 1959. It was included on the album released that year titled Songs By Rick. The Billboard magazine ranked it at number seventy-nine in the 100 best songs list of that year.
# 7 – Kentucky Waltz
This is a cover of a song by Bill Monroe that was originally released in 1946. This version released in 1959 was the B-side to the single “Settin The Woods On Fire.” It is one of several cover versions with others being by Eddy Arnold, Rosemary Clooney and Bob Davenport.
# 6 – Settin’ The Woods on Fire
Next up is the aforementioned A-side to the previous entry, which is also a cover, this time originally being by Hank Williams. This is a song that also been recorded by several other artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Peter Wagoner, Chris Le Doux, The Tractors and Matchbox. It is one of Burnette’s, less successful singles having failed to chart in both the UK and the US.
# 5 – Dreamin
Up next is the debut of Burnette’s solo career released in 1960 and written by Barry De Vorzon and Ted Ellis. It got to number eleven on the Billboard and in the UK it reached the high position of number five. It is the title track of his album released the same year. It was produced by Snuff Garret and was ranked at number eighty-six on the Billboard’s top 100 songs of 1960.
# 4- You’re Sixteen
This song was written by The Sherman Brothers, Robert B Sherman and Richard M Sherman. It got to number eight in the US and in the UK it reached the very impressive position of number three. In 1973, Ringo Starr would record his own version and for him it was a number one hit. That same year, this original version got recognition when it was featured on the soundtrack to the movie American Graffiti.
# 3 – Little Boy Sad
At number three is this cut that was produced by Snuff Garret and written by Wayne Walker. It appeared on the 1961 album Johnny Burnette Sings. There have been covers of it by Paul Peterson, M.P.D Limited, The Giants, Herman’s Hermits and Ben Phillips.
# 2– God, Country and My Baby
This next entry was written by John Dolan and Choco Holiday and originally released and recorded by Holiday in September 1961 with Burnette recorded his version a month later. This version reached number eighteen on the Billboard and was a part of the album Johnny Burnette’s Hit and Other Favorites.
# 1- Train Kept A Rollin
At number one is a track taken from the Rock n Roll trio days which was originally by Tiny Bradshaw and released in 1956. Unlike the original, this cover is a guitar-driven number which is an early use of distorted guitar. It would later be popularized by The Yardbirds as well as being covered by Aerosmith.
Top 10 Johnny Burnette Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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