NUVO Interview: Sleepy LaBeef 

Rockabilly guitarist and vocalist Sleepy Labeef started in Louisiana and Texas, gunning the same rockabilly circuit as Elvis. A half-century later, he’s still touring, bringing his brand of “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” to Radio Radio.

“The Lord has been good to me,” Sleepy tells me in a deep Southern drawl. “I tell myself that if I stop enjoying what I’m doing, then I might think about slowing down in the next 12 to 15 years.” Seventy-three years old last month, LaBeef is still doing upwards of 200 shows a year, many before an insatiable European audience. “I just do what I gotta do,” Labeef chuckles, referring to his upcoming European tour. “And what I got to do is take rock and roll to the people who otherwise wouldn’t ever get it.”

Through the decades, Labeef flirted with mainstream success without ever quite reaching the charts. He was a country star for Columbia in the ’60s, hitting the charts briefly with “Every Day” in 1964 and “Blackland Farmer” in 1971. He has played with and been pals with people like Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and George Jones. 

Then, in the mid ’80s, when The Stray Cats kicked open the door to a rockabilly revival, Labeef embarked on a steady, never-ending tour, earning himself (or newly burnishing) nicknames like The Human Jukebox, The Bull and The Road Warrior. He also continued recording new material, including his latest, Reach.

“I’m having a ball doing what I do,” LaBeef says. “And it’s gotten easier the longer I do it. Man, when we first started, we didn’t even have highways.”

Gut-busting honky-tonk opens the show, courtesy of Hoosier honey Mandy Marie and her irresistible Cool Hand Lukes

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