This fortnight’s favorites feature will be separated in two sections. First we will be wandering between some artists of various importance. Second we will hook up on a familiar theme in 1954-55, that of « Daydreamin’ »…
First comes the very unknown from the early days, WALLY MOORE& His Tennesseans. He cut seemingly first for the R&B indie Acorn (a subsidiary of N.J. giant Savoy label), which had its Hillbilly serie : « A dream lives on » (# 317-B) in 1951. A sweet little jumping bopper with good voice from Moore. The steel is uninspired, but the guitar takes a fresh short solo. Earlier he had been on the big concern Savoy – again in its 3000 Hillbilly serie – for the proto-Rockabilly « Down at the picture show » (# 3025). He had also a good disc on # 3023, “Tie a little string around your finger” (announced by 7th Jan. 1950 Billboard issue); I include the reverse side, “A vision of yesterday“, a weeping ballad for a change, because of the mandolin accompaniment and the Hawaii style steel (which sounds like Jerry Byrd, according to the provider of this 78rpm, Ronald Keppner). Finally Moore had another record on Regent 170 [unheard] then he disappeared from my researching antennas.
Galen Gart’s ARLD gives the date of Savoy 3024 (wedged in between the two Wally Moore issues) as issued in January 1950, and Acorn 316 on March 1951.
Billboard Feb. 18, 1950
The name CURLEY SANDERS surely rings a bell to many. He had first waxed for Dallas’ Star Talent label (« Last on your list », # 749), then he came to Imperial in 1951, Concept later, finally on Jamboree. That’s when in 1956 he cut his most famous track « Brand new Rock’n’Roll », a fiery slice of wild Rockabilly (# 590). I’ve chosen his second issue on Jamboree (# 1833A) « Heartsick and blue », again with the Kentucky Rangers : backing of piano, a rockabilly picking guitar solo, a good steel solo and a welcome mandolin solo over a urgent vocal. Sanders story was told in this site in March 2013.
From West Monroe, La. comes the back-to-back Dos record by AL DOSS (# 944). Fine uptempo of « That’s my baby ». Quieter is the double-voiced flipside « Everytime you waltz again ». A nice little record. Doss had another good record on Dos # 945 with two boppers: “Why do dont” and “Everytime you waltz“.
Both sides have a “GS” written in wax; so a Gold Star recording location (Houston) is probable.
In 1954 on Meteor # 5014 BUD DECKLEMAN had a mammoth hit with « Daydreamin’ », the quintessential Hillbilly bop heard even in New Orleans [n° 2 in Cashbox charts], or Des Moines (Iowa), not to say Memphis [n° 1] of course. Sam Phillips had previously turned down Deckleman and was bitterly biting his fingers..Les Bihari (Meteor label’s boss), who had renamed Daydreamers the label’s house-band (for Jess Hooper, Barney Burcham and Jimmy Haggett), was very cutup when Deckleman agreed to the offer made by M-G-M, still in the hunt for another Hank Williams. Bud Deckleman waxed a dozen sides [all were released] between 1955 and 1956, and athough he had a small success with « No one dear but you » (M-G-M 11952, March 1955), his style really out of date at the time being eluded him the renewal of his contract with M-G-M. Here it is « I gotta find a way », the very last song he cut for M-G-M on October 18, 1956 (# 12419), and the penultimate issue (before # 12552, « I done fell too fer/As long as I can dream », a prophetically title !). Good, excellent bopper, very confident and driving. The story of Bud Deckleman can be found in this site, as it has been told in May 2009. Unfortunately Deckleman’s career gradually came at its end in 1957, because he was out of date and, according to Q. Claunch « You’d never be quite sure you could rely on him ». Final record in 1961 on Stompertime # 1400, « I’ll be the one/I’m sorry now », a fine swansong in the M-G-M days mould. Deckleman died in February 1998.
And that’s when the story of « Daydreamin’ » begins, thanks to its writers, Mrrs. Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch. (respectively guitarist and fiddler on the « Daydreamin’ » session) : led by Sam Phillips in astray, they wrote the follow-up, « Daydreams come true » for Maggie Sue Wimberly at Sun (# 229) and Buddy Bain, Kay Wayne and Merle (Red) Taylor at Meteor (# 5027). Note that both of them played on the two sessions!
In the meantime « Daydreamin’ » had been covered at least 7 times, first by Jimmy Newman (Dot), who hit to # 7 in early 1955 with it; then by Wanda Jackson, Carl McVoy, and later by Tibby Edwards (on Todd) or Warren Storm. I include the version made very early by DOUG BRAGG on Coral (# 61364) – recorded January 1955, it’s a carbon copy of Deckleman’s, which went unsuccessful. He liked the theme, as he even had also his sequels to « Daydreamin’ » on Houston, Tx. D Records 3 years later : « Daydreaming again » (# 1018)[with little yodels..] and its reverse, « If I find my dream girl » ! Of course Bragg also recorded for Dixie and Skippy. His story was told in this site in December 2012.
Sources : my own archives ; notes by Martin Hawkins to Ace CD « The complete Meteor rockabilly and hillbilly recordings » ; 45cat and 78rpm-world. Michel Ruppli’s « The M-G-M label » (session details). As usual thanks to Ronald Keppner for his precious help on Wally Moore 78rpm. Thanks DrunkenHobo for the press snippet.
Merle Taylor, also known as Mason Dixon, was from the little town of Glen a few miles north of Tupelo, MS where he was born in May 1927. He started with a group called the Country Gospel Singers and then joined the Blue Seal Pals in 1949.
« Merle was one of the best country fiddle players around », says Quinton Claunch. « He was a good bluegrass singer too, and a super, super guy. He worked with all the big acts in Nashville, Bill Monroe, Cowboy Copas, people like that. I first me him when he joined my group the Blue Seal Pals when we moved from WMC Nashville to WJOI in Florence, Alabama. Bill Cantrell had gone to Chicago for a while and Merle – we called him ‘Red’ – came in. He worked with Buddy Bain’s band on WOMA in Corinth, MS too and Buddy came with us on Meteor’s session ».
Behind Taylor’s assured vocals on « Don’t worry ’bout nuthin’ », there is a classy band kicked off by Bill Cantrell on fiddle [so Merle Taylor is confined to vocal duty] and featuring solos by Terry Thompson on guitar and Kenneth Herman on steel guitar . Ronald Smith also played guitar using the percussive rockabilly effect achieved by damperin’ the strings with paper or a matchbox, and Dexter Johnson played the bass.
“When Rockabilly came in, Red used to do a little section of club dates under the persona of « Mason Dixon ». recalled Quinton Claunch: “Because he was well known as a country fiddler, he did not want people to get confused. So, when it came to this recording, Red said he wanted to use the name Mason Dixon on the record too. It was not a style he was normally associated with. In fact, Les Bihari, boss of Meteor Records] liked the idea so much he called the band the Redskins, after Merle’s nickname.”
It should be noted that another singer popular in the Memphis area, Walter « Tex » Dixon from Alabama, also used the name « Mason Dixon » – which still had huge resonance in the South – on the Reed label in the late 1950s. [research on Walter « Tex » Dixon is on its way for future feature in bopping.org…]
The much more country-oriented « I’ll never fall out of love with you» sees Quinton Claunch add his walking bass style on electric guitar to the mix, underspinning Merle Taylor’s high tenor voice. Kenneth Herman takes a wonderful steel solo.
Merle Taylor had previously recorded two discs for Decca in 1952 (session probably held on Oct. 18) and 1953 (On March 23, 1953) in Nashville, largely with local musicians but including guitarist and songwriter Buddy Bain. Both records paired a slowie and a shuffler. Taylor’s wife Martha Jean Ellis wrote the songs for the second session. Then Taylor toured with Hank Williams at this time and was billed to appear in Canton, Ohio on 1rst January 1953 for the show the latter never lived to give.
“You can’t be a bride without a groom“(Decca 28496)
Merle’s career in Nashville had many high points. He wrote the melody and played fiddle on Bill Monroe‘s classic « Uncle Pen » in October 1950 for Decca. Taylor also toured with the Monroe band for at least two stints between 1950 and 1955, with an interim sojourn with Little Jimmy Dickens. Then he worked with Jimmie Martin and later Ferlin Huskey. Merle played on sessions for M-G-M by Jimmie Martin and the Osborne Brothers. Fiddler Gordon Taylor has said about Red’s work with Monroe : « He did a slow brow with a lot of finger work and a funny reverse. I don’t think there would be the tunes there are now had he not played fiddle because he did something nobody else did ».
Taylor continued at a high level for a few years before he quit playing with the top bands. People say that he had a really bad driking problem and that he had a serious altercation with singer Little Jimmy Dickens one time when he was drunk.
After the Meteor recordings, Merle Taylor had cut two songs [in a more poppish vein] for the Bill Justis enterprises, which were issued only in 1989s on the U.K. Zu-Zazz label (# 2005) « Memphis Saturday Night ». One can forget « There’s a light », full of choruses and frankly pop; sole remains of interest the second song, « Love fever », embellished by some fine bluesy guitar and piano. These two unissued songs – not demos- do go stylistically back to 1957 or 58.
Taylor also made various sessions as a sideman in Memphis and Muscle Shoals over the years, and was involved in half a dozen bluegrass and fiddle Lps on Old Homestead, Atteiran and Mississipi Trace labels. He also made a solo album produced by Bill Cantrell for Hi Records’ short-lived Hi Country label.
Merle Taylor died on May 3, 1978 in Tupelo, MS.
With thanks to American Music Magazine (Bo Berglind) for the permission given to freely use the Martin Hawkins’ article (AMM # 136, September 2014) on the Meteor label. Pictures were taken from 78rpm-world or from the AMM Magazine, or the Ace CD 885 « The complete Meteor Rockabilly & Hillbilly Recordings ». Thanks to Imperial Anglares for his help. Thanks to Ronald Keppner, who provided both label scans and music of a rare Decca 78. Thanks to Uncle Gil for the loan of Bill Monroe’s music, as the Zu-Zazz LP. Thanks to 45-cat member “Excello-2101” for the sound to a rare Decca Merle Taylor issue. I have also used Michel Ruppli’s indispensable book : « The Decca labels – A discography, volume 5 » for details on Bill Monroe sessions from 1950 to 1954, and the two Merle Taylor sessions.