Rockabilly and country performer Joe Rickman was born in Corinth in 1943 and has lived in Glen for fifty years. As a child, he listened to the Grand Ole Opry, and in 1955 he found his musical direction when he heard “some of the prettiest music I ever heard” by rockabilly artists including Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and, his main inspiration, Johnny Cash. Cash, Rickman says, had “a voice like homefolks,” and he was also inspired by the distinctive work of guitarist Luther Perkins. Today Rickman specializes in the music of Cash and also performs songs by honky-tonk artists including Merle Haggard and Ernest Tubb.
Rickman first began performing when he was 14, playing rhythm guitar with local group Bobby Hardin and the Wildcats on Friday nights at the Dixieland Jamboree, held at the Coliseum Theater in downtown Corinth. Running from 7:00 PM to 10:30 PM, the show allotted half an hour to out-of-town acts and fifteen minutes to local groups. Rickman received further musical instruction from fellow artists at the Opry and met stars including Carl Mann, Warren Smith, and Billy Lee Riley. With the Wildcats and, beginning in the ‘60s, his own group, Rickman performed at various venues across the border in Tennessee, where alcohol was legal. Now retired, Rickman worked full-time for the Dana Corporation for 29 years, performing mostly on weekends.
In 1962 Rickman recorded a single, “Lonesome Love/Lonely Heart,” for Westwood Records of Jackson, Tennessee. The songs, both written by local rockabilly artist Bobby Hardin, have been reissued on CD by European labels. Rickman recorded another single for the Thomasine label in 1988, and in recent years various homemade CDs. He also played guitar on an album by the gospel family band the Smilin’ Eight from the Booneville area.
He currently leads a band, Country Classics, which features his son Brian on drums, lead guitarist B.L. Shaw, and bassist Johnny Shoffner. With his band and others, Rickman regularly performs at the annual rockabilly festival in Jackson, Tennessee, and bi-monthly at both the Dry Creek Community Center in Booneville and the Sparta Opry, where he has been a regular for 10 years. He also performs occasionally at the North Mississippi Opry in Banner, as well as at hospitals, homes for the elderly, parties, and benefits.
Rickman also performs religious songs at various functions, as well as on a weekly television show on a station in Booneville. He doesn’t see a conflict in performing secular and sacred music and takes many of his songs from Johnny Cash’s gospel repertoire. “I don’t do worldly songs,” he explains. Rickman is devoted to the rockabilly style and is honored at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Mississippi. “I wish I could go back to 1959 and just stay there,” he says.
– Scott Barretta
For more information:
A bio on Rickman is listed on the Traditional Country Hall of Fame website
Rickman’s discography on the Rockin’ Country Style website