Rockabilly musician Jumpin’ Gene Simmons dead at 69

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rockabilly musician and songwriter Morris Eugene “Jumpin’ Gene” Simmons died Tuesday at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo after a long illness. He was 69.

Funeral services are Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Tupelo chapel of Holland-Harris Funeral Directors. Burial will be in White Zion Presbyterian Cemetery in Pontotoc County.

Simmons was born in Itawamba County on July 10, 1937. He spent most of his life in Northeast Mississippi although he lived for a time in Memphis.

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Simmons worked for more than 50 years in show business, performing for the first time in a backup band for Elvis Presley during an appearance in Tupelo.

Simmons signed with Sam Phillips, owner of “Sun Records,” after performing in a number of Memphis clubs. Simmons later joined the “Bill Black Combo” as lead singer and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “American Bandstand.”

After the death of Bill Black, Simmons signed with “Hi Records” and released “Haunted House” in 1964. It would be his first hit and launch him on a world tour.

He turned to songwriting, writing “Indian Outlaw” with Tommy Barnes in 1994 for Tim McGraw.

Survivors include a son; his mother; a sister; two brothers; and several nieces and nephews.