Editor's Note: This is the first of two posts on Mississippi's rock history by Mr. Sumrall. This post takes you back to the heady days of the most successful local band of the time, Andy Anderson and the Rolling Stones.
When you think of the history of rock and roll in Mississippi, the first thing that comes to your mind is, naturally, Elvis, The King of Rock and Roll. While Elvis left the state to make his claim to fame, a number of Mississippians stayed home to make it big here, playing what the fans wanted to hear.
One such group was The Rolling Stones—not Mick Jagger and company---but a group who thrilled the South in the 1950’s. It all began at Mississippi State College (later Mississippi State University) in 1953 where three freshmen—Andy Anderson, William “Cuz” Covington and Joe Tubb—got together for jam session in their dorm. The sessions prompted more than one reprimand from the Dean of Students, but history was not to be denied. Bobby Lyon, James Aldridge and Roy Estes joined Andy, Cuz and Joe to form a group that began playing around the campus and then moved to other college campuses and neighboring towns. As Joe Tubb is quick to point out, the band was “gathering no moss”, just experience and fans—thus the name, The Rolling Stones.
After winning the Mid-South Talent Contest in Memphis in 1957, the Rolling Stones signed a recording contract with Felsted Records, the rock and roll subsidiary of London Records, and soon pressed their record, “Johnny Valentine” and “I-I-I Love You”.
But that record didn’t come easy. When the band arrived at the Bradley Studios in Nashville, they were told that studio musicians would have to be used because the band members did not belong to the musicians’ union. Andy could sing, but wasn’t allowed to play rhythm guitar.
The record holds a unique place in musical history—it was the first rock and roll record to be distributed world-wide. And Mississippians did not fail to take notice. The release of “Johnny Valentine” in Jackson marked the first time a rock and roll band had been honored with a parade down Capital Street. An autograph party followed at Wright Music Company and the day ended with a performance at The Rock House in North Jackson.
This launched the band to regular performances in Jackson. They were in heavy demand at the American Legion Hut on Woodrow Wilson, Jackson Country Club on Clinton Boulevard, and The National Guard Armory on Northwest Street. The fans were wild about the band and when Andy would drop a guitar pick a mob would scramble to get it, most of the time breaking it.
Certain of those fans went on to become Rock and Roll Stars in their own right and will be the subject of my next post. - Johnny Sumrall