Ken Hammock is certainly not a household name in music history – even in collector scenes he is an obscure figure. Only two record releases – one on Dixie and the other on Starday – were his contribution to American music but nevertheless, these recordings are now sought after collector items.
Hammock first appeared in the late 1940s, when he was a member of the Tennessee Valley Boys led by Clyde Grubb. This group was possibly the same that was a featured act on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded on Victor sometimes after 1942. May it as it be, Hammock left the band around the summer of 1948 and founded his own act, which he called the “Tennessee Valley Gang.” Members of the gang included H.J. Keck (fiddle/guitar), Ray West (guitar), Jimmy Wisher (“hot guitar” as called in Billboard), Jimmie Brewer (guitar), Johnnie Brewer (bass) with Hammock possibly on lead guitar.
In 1948, they performed on a tent show and joined WGAP in Maryville, Tennessee, in January 1949. The next nine years are a blanket in Hammock’s career since there is no mention of him performing. He appeared in 1958 on the Dixie label with a rockabilly instrumental called “Blue Guitar Jump” with Hammock taking over the lead guitar. By then, a singer called Hugh Lewis was a member of the group and he is the one who can be heard on Hammock’s second single, “Now or Never” b/w “Gotta Find Some Way” for Starday. Both tracks were solid Country performances. These tracks were possibly recorded in Ashland, Kentucky.
Hammock again disappeared for a while. In 1970, there was a Ken Hammock who accompanied the Bailey Brothers on some of their recordings in Knoxville, Tennessee, backing the duo up on string bass. There’s no indication that this is the same musician.
Dixie 45-2009: Blue Guitar Jump / Angel in Person
Starday 45-370: Now or Never / Gotta Find Some Way
Recordings with the Bailey Brothers
These recordings were released on Old Homestead LP OHCS 138 in 1982
Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 1970
Charlie Bailey (vcl/mand), Danny Bailey (gtr/vcl), Ken Hammock (bs)
“Mary of the Wild Moor”
“Jack and Mae”
“The Sweetest Gift”
“Where No Cabins Fall”
“He’s Still Knocking”
“Step Out in the Sunlight”
“I’d Rather Have Jesus”
“Blow Your Whistle Freight Train”
Beside that, nothing is known about Ken Hammock. The Starday issue (“Now Or Never”, # 370) is a great mid-tempo Hillbilly bop side. Electric bass, guitar constantly chanting around Hugh Lewis’ vocal. A great tune!
I really don’t know where I picked this story up! Someone can help? Yes, Alexander Petrauskas did! The article was first published in his site: http://hillbillycountry.blogspot.com. but without pictures and sounds. Thank Alexander!