JOHNNY BERNERO

Born 22 September 1931, Memphis, Tennessee
Died 28 July 2001, Fulton, Kentucky

It was only discovered in the 1970s that the drummer on Elvis' later Sun recordings (Mystery Train, I Forgot To Remember To Forget, Trying To Get To You, When It Rains It Really Pours) was Johnny Bernero and not D.J. Fontana. Because Bernero dropped out of Sun at an early stage, his contribution was long obscured.

Born and raised in Memphis, Bernero got involved in music through Smokey Joe Baugh. For a while he played in a dixieland / jazz band led by Jack Hale, which occasionally performed at the Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue.

During the day he worked at the Memphis Light Gas & Water company, which just happened to be right across the street from the Sun studios, and one thing led to another, he got to know Sam Phillips, and was soon playing on sessions (for Harold Jenkins, Barbara Pittman, Billy Riley, Warren Smith, Smokey Joe and of course Elvis). He soon realised that a minuscule session fee did not equate to the earning potential of a hit record, and worked on Sam to allow him to record in his own name. This he did, but the tapes were consigned to a dusty corner of the Sun vaults and did not see the light of day until 1987, when "Bernero's Boogie" and "Rockin' at the Woodchoppers Ball" were finally released. There is more than a tinge of western swing about these numbers. And so Bernero formed his own band to record on Sun that included Thurman Enlow on piano, Hugh Jeffries on steel, Hawk Hawkins on bass and Ace Cannon on sax. The personnel varied with the passage of time, but Ace Cannon was in the group when the band split.

Adapted from Adam Komorowski's liner notes for the CD "706 Union Instrumentals" (Charly CPCD 8302, issued in 1997), which includes the two Bernero tracks mentioned above.

 
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