John Kennedy

1 May 2012 | 7:58 am | Michael Smith

Sons Of Sun Vol 2, the companion to last year's Vol 1, is for the most part covers of tracks originally recorded by artists whose careers began in the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis in the mid to late 1950s – Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and, of course, Elvis – by local singer/songwriter John Kennedy. An obvious passion, neither record would have happened if it hadn't been for an invitation to do something a little different, as he explains.

“I'm with the label – Foghorn – and they asked if any of their artists would be interested in recording a Roy Orbison cover version for possible inclusion on a Roy Orbison tribute album, so I did a recording of Only The Lonely. It never made the cut for the compilation, but they said to me, 'Do you want to put it up on iTunes, see if you can sell a few copies?' So I said why not put together a couple of other covers from the same era and call it Sons Of Sun? And that's how it started.”

While Kennedy has always prided himself in being a totally original artist, even right from his very first band, JFK & The Cuban Crisis up in Brisbane back in 1980, he did the odd cover. One that has been with him from the start is Johnny Cash's I Still Miss Someone, which he's now recorded for Vol 2.

“That's just one I've grown up with. My parents had a Johnny Cash greatest hits cassette back in the late '60s and it's been one I've been meaning to record for many, many years. It's a lot of fun doing these songs, but the main impetus behind it is that I've been doing the singer/songwriter for many years and still enjoy that, still write, but through that Roy Orbison cover invitation, it was an opportunity to actually enjoy myself as a vocalist in the studio, not having to worry about producing my own original material and just either have fun doing a cover or reinterpreting some classic songs or finding some more obscure music, but enjoying the challenge of approaching them as a vocalist.”

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So Kennedy threw himself into recording some of his favourite songs by some of his favourite artists and while it might seem an odd sort of digression, his own musical niche can best be described as urban and western, so the nod back to the progenitors of rock'n'roll through the streams of rockabilly, country and blues through the conduit of Sun Studios makes a lot of sense.

“I'm more of a '60s child,” Kennedy admits, “and like many or most music fans of the period influenced by The Beatles, but obviously became aware over the years of the fact that a lot of their influences came from that early rock'n'roll period – not necessarily all Sun, but certainly Carl Perkins is a huge hero of George Harrison and The Beatles covered a lot of his tunes and then my version of the Carl Perkins song, Honey Don't, is pretty much from The Beatles influence. So I'm basically tracing my roots, filtering them through what were my immediate influences, back to their source, which was very early rock'n'roll from Memphis.

“I keep the umbrella pretty wide on Volume 2 in that I'm not actually doing cover versions or paying homage to songs that were necessarily recorded at Sun, but by artists that started at Sun, went a little bit further with it with this current Sons Of Sun Vol 2, with a couple of obscure Sun artists and even had the cheek to throw in one of my original songs into the mix there.”