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Fuller Up, The Dead Musician Directory
 
   Charlie Feathers
 Stroke.............Aug 29, 1998
  Age 66
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OBITUARY 
       
       Charlie Feathers, 66, a Rockabilly Original

                By BEN RATLIFF 

                Charlie Feathers, one of the great original rockabilly singers, died Aug. 29 at St. Francis 
                Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. He was 66 and lived in Memphis. 

                The cause was complications from a stroke, his wife, Rosemary, said. 

                On his best records of the mid- and late 1950s, released on the Sun, Meteor and King labels, 
                Feathers' voice is completely original -- a trembling, high, humid plaint. 

                He sang classic songs that defined the meeting place of honky-tonk, bluegrass and rockabilly, 
                including "You're Right, I'm Left, She's Gone" (which Elvis Presley recorded for Sun), "Defrost Your 
                Heart," "One Hand Loose" and -- perhaps the most prized record of rockabilly enthusiasts -- 
                "Tongue Tied Jill." 

                That song -- about a "real gone chick" with a speech problem, which Feathers demonstrated in its 
                babbling chorus -- was born from his conversation with a stammering telephone operator. 

                But his records sold poorly, and historians of American music have recounted Feathers' career as a 
                question: Why didn't Feathers, with all his talent, attain any of the fame of Sun records label-mates 
                like Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis? 

                It could have been his voice, which was slightly too hiccupingly and shriekingly radical for mass 
                consumption. 

                It could have been his rudimentary education; he was barely literate. 

                Some thought it was his character, often described as brash and aggressive. 

                Feathers always insisted, contrary to other accounts, that he was intimately involved in many of 
                Presley's early songs, as arranger and sometimes as writer. His only writing credit for a Presley song 
                was a shared one, on "I Forgot to Remember to Forget. 

                There was no question, however, of his talent. 

                "In the blues feeling that he put into a hillbilly song," Sam Phillips, the head of Sun records, has said, 
                "Charlie should have been just a superb top country artist. He could have been the George Jones of 
                his day -- a superb stylist." 

                Feathers was born near Holly Springs, Miss., and grew up in a family of tenant farmers. He took 
                guitar lessons from Junior Kimbrough, the blues singer, who lived on a nearby farm. 

                Having left school by the age of 10, he worked on oil pipelines with his father in Illinois and Texas. 

                He settled in Memphis in 1950, and his first recording, on the Flip label, was "I've Been Deceived," 
                in 1955. By 1960, after about a dozen singles, his career was lagging. 

                He persevered, and eventually European rockabilly fans discovered him. After the broadcast of a 
                British television documentary, he did a concert at the Rainbow Theater in London in 1977 that was 
                recorded by EMI; this raised his stock considerably, but by then he was classified as an oldies 
                performer. 

                In later years, Feathers played locally around Memphis, often in a band with his son and daughter. 
                His final album, self-titled, was recorded in 1991 for Elektra/Nonesuch as part of the label's Explorer 
                series. "Get With It: Essential Recordings 1954-69," a reissue of his greatest moments, was just 
                released by Revenant. 

                In addition to his wife, Feathers is survived by his sons, Charles (Bubba) Jr., and Ricky , both of 
                Memphis; a daughter, Wanda Vanzant of Memphis; five brothers, Olton, of Memphis; V.A., of 
                Pottscamp, Miss.; Herbert, of Holly Spring, Miss.; Lawrence, of Olive Branch, Miss., and Darnell, 
                of South Haven, Miss, and three grandchildren. 

      Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company 
       
 

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BIOGRAPHY
         

        Charlie Feathers 
        (b. Charles Arthur Feathers, 12 June 1932, Holly Springs, Mississippi). 

        The work of rockabilly legend Feathers becomes more elevated during 
        each revival of interest in the genre. Feathers is now an enigmatic superstar, 
        although in reality his influence totally overshadows his commercial success. 
        His upbringing on a farm, being taught guitar by a cotton picking black  
        bluesman and leaving home to work on an oil field gave Feathers a wealth 
        of material for his compositions. In the early '50s, together with Jody Chastain 
        and Jerry Huffman, he performed as the Musical Warriors. He was an early  
        signing to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. He recorded his first song Defrost Your 
        Heart in 1955, and claimed to have co-written Elvis Presley's debut Blue Moon 
        Of Kentucky. He did however co-write Presley's first hit I Forgot To Remember 
        To Forget. Over the years he has continued to record for a number of labels,  
        still unable to break through the barrier between ‘cult’ and ‘star’. But among  
        his early rockabilly sides was One Hand Loose on King, regarded by many  
        collectors as one of the finest examples of its kind. His highly applauded  
        performance at London's famous Rainbow theatre in 1977 gave his career 
        a significant boost and brought him a new audience; notably the fans who  
        were following Dave Edmunds and his crusade for ‘rockabilly’. Feathers 
        recent recordings have suffered from the problem of being helped out by  
        younger musicians who are merely in awe of his work and his best material 
        is from the '50s. Influential but spartan, full of whoops and growls but irresistible 
        country/rock, Feathers ‘light comedy’ style has been an ‘invisible influence’ over 
        many decades, from Big Bopper in the '50s to Hank Wangford in the '80s. His 
        1991 release contained a reworked version of his classic I Forgot To Remember 
        To Forget. He now performs with his son and daughter on guitar and vocals 
        respectively. His best work will endure.  
         

MUSIC CENTRAL '96 
 
 
 

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