Rockabilly Sweeps the Nation

Carl “Cheesie” Nelson was one of the first in the region to find rockabilly and Elvis, according to some credible reports even doing a duet with him in 1954 at the AMA. Left to right as Cheesy stands in for the tardy Elvis on April 22, 1955 are Jimmy Day, Scotty Moore, Carl “Cheesie” Nelson, DJ Fontana and unidentified bass player on stage at the Municipal Auditorium.

Rockabilly is intimated tied to boogie woogie, and in the 40s began to morph towards rock n’ roll as we know it today. Of course, it is Elvis Presley that comes to mind for most people when they think of the birth of modern rock n’ roll, but he was not operating in a vacuum. There were those in our own region who were his contemporaries and some locals even preferred to Elvis. While we want to include all of them, like much of this site at the moment we are just hitting the high points and will fill in as time allows.

One of those was Carl “Cheesie” Nelson. Well remembered KOSY personality Jim LeFan was quoted in Billboard Magazine’s May 21, 1955 issue “A youngster named Cheesie Nelsonbrought down the house here Nelson has a stylesimilar to Presley’s and he’s just as great.” Cheesie filled in for Elvis with Elvis band when Elvis was delayed. Nobody seemed to mind. Cheesie went on to get his PhD and served as head of Texarkana College for three decades. Some reports have Cheesie and Elvis double dating local girls after the show. Another report says Elvis heard part of Cheesie’s performance and told him he could do well in the business. Clearly, the future Dr. Nelson had other plans.

Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and others graced the AMA stage in those great days just before they all ascended to national prominence. The RMHC wishes the Arkansas Memorial Auditorium Commission full success in restoring this great hall so old memories can be relived and new ones made.

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