Rockabilly pioneer Sonny Burgess, who shared a label with Elvis and Johnny Cash, dies at 88

Albert "Sonny" Burgess, who was an early pioneer of what became known as rockabilly music, has died in his native Arkansas.

Burgess died Friday in Little Rock, according to the Dillinger Funeral Home in Newport, Ark. He was 88.

Burgess was among a group of singers in the mid-1950s who mixed rhythm and blues with country and western music. The sound became known as rockabilly and included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.

He eventually signed with the legendary Sun Records in Memphis, where Presley, Cash and Lewis were among the artists under contract.

Burgess toured under the name “Sonny Burgess & The Pacers,” transitioning from honky tonk to what became rockabilly.

According to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Burgess’ high-energy performances were on par with the antics of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Burgess would sometimes dive into the audience, and he occasionally dyed his hair a flaming red to match his guitar and sports jacket.

Sun Records founder Sam Phillips told the Rockabilly Hall of Fame that Burgess "could have been one of the greats but he never got the right break."

Burgess is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

A Times staff writer contributed to this report.

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