NEW YORK (Top40 Charts/ Eagle Records) - Elvis Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis. Carl Perkins. Roy Orbison. Buddy
Holly. Billy Lee Riley. Gene Vincent. These are the names one thinks of as the architects of rockabilly: distinguished by those hiccupping vocals and that slapback bass. It sprouted up in the mid-1950s as the bastard child of country music and rhythm'n'blues. DJ Alan Freed called it rock'n'roll and the name stuck.
Not too many Americans noticed that overseas, in France, there was one more major rock'n'roll artist who took that original spark and made it uniquely French. Johnny Hallyday, after 100 million albums sold, 400 tours, hit movies and status as a national icon, is all but unknown in the States. When he retired from live performances last year at the age of 64, an era had ended.
On May 20, Eagle Records will release Johnny Hallyday Live At Montreux 1988 on CD [pre-book date April 30, Retail List Price $13.98]. The 10-song set is aural proof of Hallyday's tremendous appeal and a solid reason why he is to be thought of as the French equivalent to the above-named pioneers.
Born Jean Philippe Smet on June 15, 1943 in Paris, he was an immediate sensation when his 1959 Hello Johnny debut had him rocking out in French (He would go on to have 18 platinum albums.)
Although he first came to the attention of stateside television audiences when he performed with Connie Francis on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1962, he never really took off in America. Yet his concerts abroad became major events and he seemed to get stronger onstage as the years rolled by. His peak came with the 2000 100% Johnny concert (the French Woodstock) with a live audience at The Eiffel Tower estimated at 500,000 and another 9.5 million watching on live television.