iTunes

Opening the iTunes Store.If iTunes doesn’t open, click the iTunes icon in your Dock or on your Windows desktop.Progress Indicator
iTunes

iTunes is the world's easiest way to organise and add to your digital media collection.

We are unable to find iTunes on your computer. To preview and buy music by Sleepy LaBeef, download iTunes now.

Do you already have iTunes? Click I Have iTunes to open it now.

I Have iTunes Free Download
iTunes for Mac + PC

Sleepy LaBeef

View In iTunes

To preview a song, mouse over the title and click Play. Open iTunes to buy and download music.

Biography

Sleepy LaBeef became the ultimate rockabilly survivor, his live performances retaining the same raw power as he approached his eighth decade that they had in the years when he was among the music's pioneers. He was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff in Smackover, AR. The 6'7" singer has heavily lidded eyes which make him appear half-asleep, hence his nickname. He was raised on a melon farm and grew up hearing both country and blues music. LaBeef moved to Houston at age 18, working at several odd jobs before beginning to sing gospel music on local radio shows. Soon he was working with a band of his own at local bars, and he appeared on the Houston Jamboree and Louisiana Hayride radio programs. The new rockabilly style fit his blazing voice perfectly, and in the late '50s he recorded about a dozen sides in that style for various labels. His first single, "I'm Through," was released in 1957 on Starday. Sometimes he was billed as Tommy LaBeff or Sleepy LaBeff.

LaBeef moved to Nashville in 1964 and soon was signed to Columbia. In the 1960s he recorded mostly straight country music. His sixth single for the label, "Every Day," provided LaBeef with his chart debut in 1968, and after moving to Shelby Singleton's Plantation label in 1969, he hit the Top 20 with his version of "Blackland Farmer," Frankie Miller's heartfelt ode to the soil. The late '60s also saw the towering baritone's film debut in the bizarre Southern drive-in horror musical The Exotic Ones; LaBeef played a swamp monster.

LaBeef moved to Sun Records in the mid-'70s after Singleton acquired that original institution of rockabilly, and there he reconnected with his rockabilly roots. Singles such as "Thunder Road," "There Ain't Much After Taxes," and "Boogie Woogie Country Girl" saw little chart action but helped form the beginnings of the LaBeef legend as his indefatigable touring exposed audiences to his wildman energy. LaBeef remains more popular in Europe than in the U.S. and appeared at England's Wembley Festival twice. Among his U.S. fans was soul-music historian Peter Guralnick, who saw LaBeef perform in Massachusetts in 1977 and praised his performances in a widely read article.

That plus the general revival of rockabilly around 1980 at the hands of such groups as the Stray Cats paved the way for the emergence of Sleepy LaBeef, rockabilly revivalist.

He signed to Rounder in 1981 and released It Ain't What You Eat (It's the Way How You Chew It) in the U.S. and in Europe. The live album Nothin' but the Truth gave CD buyers a taste of the booming vocals and slashing guitar that had made LaBeef a prime club attraction. LaBeef returned to regular recording in the mid-'90s, releasing several more albums on Rounder: Strange Things Happening (1994) and I'll Never Lay My Guitar Down (1996) contained a variety of country and blues tunes and revealed the depth of LaBeef's musical experiences. Four years later, he issued Tomorrow Never Comes, which featured guest vocals from Maria Muldaur. Compilations of the numerous unissued tracks from earlier in LaBeef's career began to surface in the early 2000s, and by that time Sleepy was nothing less than a rockabilly legend.

Top Songs

Birth Name:

Thomas Paulsley La Beff

Born:

20 July 1935 in Smackover, AR

Genre
Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Contemporaries