In The Hot Seat of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Submitted by Michael E. Williams
Never have I been considered a Good Ole Boy! Wrong color and background at first glance. But I am a country music fan forever with the collection, radio show and production credits to prove it.My birthday gift, courtesy of Cambria and Fordham PR’s, Glenda Fordham, was a once in lifetime meeting and interview with W.S. “Fluke” Holland. (Aka: Drum Daddy, Father of the Drums). He is the man that gave the backbeat to Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes”, the Million Dollar Quartet and, in 1960 he joined Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two became the Tennessee Three for the next 35 years. Also sitting with us at the Hard Rock Café in Toronto to talk music history is rock legend, and my good friend, Mr. Ronnie Hawkins. So today I became an honourary “Good Ole Boy”!
MW: Ronnie Hawkins introduce me to your friend!
The Hawk: The greatest legendary musician I have ever heard of who never took drugs, drank, snorted or chewed anything ever! Nobody out of Memphis ever did that.
WS: So I have not had very much fun! But I might start.
MW: I gotta say you were the drummer and the backbeat to the soundtrack of history of Rock n Roll!
The Hawk: They started Rock n Roll I think!
MW: Prior to Rock n Roll and joining Carl Perkins, what were you doing?
W.S.: I was fresh out of high school in Bemis, Tennessee. I was never interested in music or playing any kinda music. I was into cars as a mechanic. I started work in an air conditioning company in the same little town of Bemis. Just happens that Carl Perkins lived there too and had a band playing local clubs that were the size of this booth. I would show up to where they were playing mostly looking for a girlfriend. Now, remember, I told you music was not my interest. I had never played any kind of music; it never crossed my mind.
MW: Because you had a job.
The Hawk: A real job, something most musicians never had back then!
W.S.: One night, I don’t know why I did this, I was sitting up by the bass player Clayton. Carl did mostly Hank Williams back then, do you know Hank Williams? ”Hey Good Lookin”? Not Hank Junior, but Hank!
MW: The Hank Williams? Of course!
(At this point W.S. starts tapping the rhythm on the table that got him hired with Carl Perkins and all three of us start singing the song in perfect harmony I might add!)
W.S.: One Saturday night I was hanging around when the band finished and Carl came up to me and said “we have appointment at Sun Records on Thursday Morning, borrow some drums and go with me”. I said, “What would I do with drums? I don’t play. He said “you keep time on that bass. you can play drums”. This is all ironic cause the next day I went and borrowed a set of drums from a guy I knew. I told him what I wanted and he said “you can’t play”. I said, “if you let me borrow them I will be playing by Thursday”.
I set up in my mother’s living room. I had never seen a drum set up before which is why I set up backwards with the high hat to the right. I thought I was wrong but later found I was right because it could get in the way. Anyway, we get in my car and drive over to Sun records in Memphis on Thursday morning.
We go in and play a song called “Movie Mag”. Sam Phillips liked us. He gave a contract that day. It became was the first Sun record, and, the first time I ever sat on a drum stool!
Now the third record was “Blues Suede Shoes”. Back to the drums. Nobody had drums way back then. Elvis didn’t have drums, no drums at the Grand Ole Opry, nobody had drums. I was the first drummer to play at the Grand Ole Opry.
And no one had used the phrase “Rock n Roll” yet! In describing the music we had country and western, jazz, hillbilly, pop, gospel, etc,, but nobody had said the words “Rock n Roll” till “Blue Suede Shoes”. Marketing wise somebody said “Rock n Roll’.
MW: Probably Alan Freed. How did the Million Dollar Quartet Happen?
W.S.: Just about the time Sam Phillips wanted to record the follow up to “Blue Suede Shoes” he hired Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. Until then, he was musician that was just hanging around.
Sam Phillips had a booking agency and he booked most of the musicians in Sun Studios so we all knew each other and hung out at Sun Studios. Johnny Cash and Elvis and Carl Perkins had travelled together in 55. So Johnny and Elvis heard we were in town. They stopped by the studio to say hello and it became the Million Dollar Quartet.
MW: So it all began with Carl?
W.S.: I was with Carl till 1960 and I was gonna retire. I figured it was all over for me. I had done Rock n Roll, been on the “Blue Suede Shoes” record, was in the movie “Jamboree”.
I was retired and was driving around Jackson, Tenn., in my Cadillac. I met Joyce. She had a good job, house and car paid for and she finally talked me into marrying her, so I did. And just as I was getting into retirement I got a call from Johnny Cash.
He knew I couldn’t play too good and he asked me to go on a two week trip with him because he knew I could make some noise! That lasted nearly 40 years. Then it was over in 97. When they created the movie “Walk the Line”, I was a consultant on it.
MW: Saw “Jamboree” and “Walk the Line”.
W.S.: You saw that? If you look at it again I am right in it. The Million Dollar Quartet was not real famous til they did the stage show. Then people wanted to see anyone again that played with Johnny Cash. So I had a great time touring the world with Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. Me and Ronnie Hawkins can’t stop we just keep on going.
MW: Damn you are the drummer on “Ring of Fire”, Wow!
W.S.: Before Johnny recorded ‘Ring of Fire”, Anita Carter recorded it! Johnny called the producer and said he had a dream that he recorded the song with Mexican Mariachi horns and he did and it is til this day one of his greatest hits. We are on the stage in San Quentin and Johnny had a poem he recited and we just started to play with him and finished when he did. It was “A Boy Named Sue”.
MW: To me a lifelong country, rock and Johnny Cash fan what a birthday present to meet W.S. “Fluke Holland” an architect of Rock and Roll!
Needless to say it was a pleasure.