Longtime readers of our other blog — AM, Then FM — may recall a regular feature from its first year. Every Sunday was Sleepy Sunday, on which we rolled out a tune from one of our faves, roots legend Sleepy LaBeef.
Born in Smackover, Arkansas, he stands a solid 6-foot-6 and belts out rockabilly, roots, blues, country and gospel tunes in a deep, smoky baritone while raking away on his guitar. He’s 73 and still touring, albeit at his pace.
When I last saw Sleepy live two years ago, I chatted with him briefly and told him what I was doing, putting his songs out there on the Web for all to hear. “Keep it up!” he roared.
So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we bring you a Sleepy summer night. It’s a live side, and live is the only way to experience Sleepy LaBeef, American treasure.
Sleepy’s great live album, “Nothin’ But the Truth,” was recorded live at Harper’s Ferry in Allston, Massachusetts, on Oct. 22, 1985 — a Tuesday night, just like tonight.
It’s Side 2, so we’re arriving midway through the show. Sleepy’s starting to crank it up on the first tune, a cover of an Otis Blackwell song. Listen for him to holler for “Piano!” about 2 minutes in. Then — bang! bang! bang! — he covers Bo Diddley, Rockin’ Sidney Simien and Johnny Cash. Now you know why Sleepy is called “The Human Jukebox.”
Sleepy’s in high gear by the time he wraps up the show with a closing medley of “Jambalaya,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Let’s Turn Back the Years,” “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
You will find it anything but sleepy.
“Let’s Talk About Us,” “Gunslinger,” “My Toot-Toot,” “Ring of Fire” and “Medley,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Nothin’ But the Truth,” 1987. It runs 23:47.