Jimmy Wages, Rockabilly Soul
Jimmy Wages

Jimmy Wages had recorded at least four unreleased sides for Sun in the middle 1950s but little is known of him. His music suggested that, even by Sun's standards, Wages was a rather unorthodox individual. Like several of his Sun confreres, notably Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Wages music has a tortured side. Bizarre, quasi-religious images are mixed with disturbing personal themes. Jimmy's vision of women (conveyed in Miss Pearl and Mad Man) is unsettling to say the least. The conflict between good and evil and ritualized moral judgements are embodied in Take Me (originally titled Garden Of Evil). If anything, Wages' songs are even more revealing than Lewis's since Wages, unlike Jerry Lee, wrote all of his own material. Jimmy Wages is a true musical primitive, his voice, never a trained or precision instrument, is adequate to deliver his often strange lyrics, The musical accompaniment on his recordings is undisciplined and unorthodox, despite the presence of several stalwart session men. The sides project a wild, out of control charm, including a totally out of place steel guitar, The lyrics to Wages songs are often raw, unpolished folk poetry. They are far from commercial pop songs, but are nevertheless quite effective because of the obvious urgency with which he delivers them.

Jimmy's soul was very close to the surface when he wrote and performed this material. As producer Jack Clement surmised when he decided not to release any of it, few people would have had an easy time connecting with Jimmy Wages' music. Even when rockabilly was at its peak, this was not mainstream music. Certainly it was out of place in an era of "Teenage Queens". But in an entirely different sense, this is both compelling and revealing music. For all its chaos and pain and sheer drive, Jimmy Wages' small recorded legacy is what the best southern music is all about: blues, hillbilly, gospel morality plays, pain, conflict, nightmares and, most of all, unbridled honesty.