"If hillbilly music was 'three chords and the truth,' then rockabilly was three chords and testosterone ... [beginning] as a yawp in the Southern night," writes journalist/archivist Colin Escott in the 66-page book accompanying Rhino's four-CD box Rockin' Bones: 1950s Punk & Rockabilly. Well, it wasn't entirely simmering in testosterone, as a quick glom at the estrogen detonations of Wanda Jackson (her classic "Fujiyama Mama") or Joyce Green (who gleefully threatens her straying boyfriend with all manner of mayhem 'n' dismemberment in "Black Cadillac") will evidence.
Teenage rebellion and North-South class divisions certainly fueled the rise of rockabilly, and boy, do these 101 tracks ooze that twinned, primitive tension. As one might expect from a Rhino genre study -- this one housed in a swank 5" x 8" box that folds open to look like a leather jacket -- a number of usual suspects are on hand, including hitmakers Charlie Feathers, Link Wray, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette and Elvis Presley.
Yet it's the weirdos, obscuros and no-hit wonders that gives Rockin' Bones its lingering heft, from Freddie & the Hitch-Hikers (the creepy "Sinner" -- with, improbably, a theremin -- later covered by the Cramps) and Tommy Bell (horror-flick twanger "Swamp Gal") to Danny Dell (a positively insane take on "Froggy Went A Courting") and Corky Jones (aka a pre-fame Buck Owens making a mercifully brief detour into the format for the goofy "Rhythm and Booze"). These sounds ain't just underground. They're positively subterranean, daddy-o.