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'Rockin' Bones' Celebrates Rockabilly's Rebels

Just as the Ramones, the Clash and Sex Pistols broke the rules in the 1970s, so did a slew of equally rebellious singers and their groups a generation earlier. Rockin' Bones, a new CD collection, features the music of 1950s rockabilly artists who were the iconoclasts of their day.

Ronnie Dawson's "Rockin' Bones" is the title song on a set that also features Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and other rock 'n' roll stars.

Well when I die, buried six foot deep / With a rock 'n' roll record at my feet / A phonograph needle in my hand / I'm gonna rock my way right out of this land.

"That's really great poetry," says James Austin, who produced the Rhino set.

Austin says the idea for the compilation was inspired by a song he discovered in a record store -- in the orgasmic, over-the-top "Little Girl" by John and Jackie, recorded in 1958.

"I could not believe what I heard, and I started thinking, these are really oddball songs," Austin says. "They're rockabilly but they're so hardcore. And I came up with literally hundreds of them."

The women of rock 'n' roll, including pioneer Wanda Jackson, held their own against the men who dominated the genre, Austin says. Their message of "I'm as tough as you" was a stark contrast in an era of poodle skirts and saddle shoes, he adds.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.