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Jimmy Wages

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Biography

In a genre jammed full of artists who made one brilliant record and vanished into the mists of obscurity, rockabilly singer Jimmy Wages may be one of the most fascinating of all of them. Following his fellow Tupelo, Mississippi musicians the Miller Sisters up to Memphis, he landed a session in 1956 with Sun Records. Like many of his contemporaries, he wrote his own material, but unlike them, he didn't play an instrument. He was accompanied on his 706 Union Avenue recordings by stalwart Sun players like J.M. Van Eaton on drums and Ray Harris on lead guitar. Produced by Jack Clement (who also utilized Wages' string bass player Jesse Carter, acoustic guitar and steel guitar on Wages' sessions), the music from Wages' lone brush with fame is Southern music in the extreme — full of quasi-religious images and tales of recrimination that were at total odds with the sunnier, "gonna bop tonight" lyrics of the rockabilly tunes that were actually seeing release on Sun. Sam Phillips was hot to release "Mad Man" from these sessions, but Clement reportedly talked him out of it, sensing that nothing from the sessions had true commercial appeal. The session remained unreleased until some 25 years later, when the music of Jimmy Wages was finally heard by the worldwide rockabilly community and lauded as raw genius. Wages record fed again for Hi Records and Sun producer Stan Kesler, but never saw an actual release on any of his material until his Sun material was reissued.

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