We all know that 1954 was the year of Elvis Presley’s famous and influential Sun recordings, but 1954 was also highly noteworthy for the combined impact of these 3 particular tunes — all instrumentals:
1. “Stratosphere Boogie” by Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant: phenomenal, blazing twin guitar work – rock and roll by any other name (although some might call it “hillbilly jazz“). Recorded September 2, 1954. Bryant is using a “Stratosphere Twin” double-neck guitar with 6-string and 12-string necks. The 12-string neck, curiously, is tuned in thirds, thus sounding like twin lead guitars playing lines in harmony.
“Stratosphere Boogie” Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant 1954
2. “Space Guitar” by Johnny ‘Guitar‘ Watson: unhinged guitar paired with playful production (and unpredictable reverb) – as Larry Nager so adroitly dubbed it, “punk blues.” Recorded as ‘Young John Watson’ in Los Angeles on February 1, 1954 and released on Syd Nathan‘s Federal Records.
“Space Guitar” Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson 1954
3. “Pork Chop Stomp” by Grady Martin and His Wingin‘ Strings – crisp production, great chops (so to speak) and a little humor go a long way. That’s Bud Isaacs on pedal steel, with Grady Martin and Hank Garland both playing lead on this spirited piece of western swing – recorded January 13, 1954.
“Pork Chop Stomp” Grady Martin & His Wingin’ Strings 1954
Johnny Echols of seminal Los Angeles folk-punk band, Love, would be seen playing one of those rare Stratosphere double-necks originally made famous by Jimmy Bryant: