Indiana is not the first American state you’d associate wih primitive Rockabilly, but it was there, hidden away among the steelworks and the industrial areas. Indianapolis was seething with young, spotty hopefuls, all wanting to be Elvis and looking more like the greek next door. Eddie Smalling, Tommy Lam, Van Brothers, Tex Neighbors, Dennis Puckett…All true blue Indiana boppers.
The Blankenship Brothers certainly weren’t the next « Teenage sensation ». Hell, this small but tightly packed band didn’t even pretend to cut Rockabilly. Led by Floyd and Dennis Blankenship, this small outfit cut some of the best primitive rock north of Tennessee, but to them it was more like country and bluegrass music., blended with a little rough Johnny Cash edge. They played all the local honks and jukejoints, entertaining the masses of factory workers who were looking for entertainment after a hard week of being frazzled by the burning steel mills. Hell, maybe these guys worked there too…
Howdy, folks! Here we go with 6 « new » Hillbilly Bop goodies from various sources, spanning nearly 20 years from 1949 to 1967. Let’s begin with Indiana’s BLANKENSHIP Brothers. They were a group doing Bluegrass and Rockabilly, as late as 1960. I’ve chosen « I Just Got One heart« , the B-side to their most famous and best tune « That’s Why I’m Blue » (Skyline 106). Way up North in the Detroit, Michigan area. Hillbilly was concentrated on Fortune Records (Jack & Devorah Brown), and the label saw many, many fine releases by Southerners who did entertain the Ford car workers. Many good Fortune sides are to be found in the excellent NL Collector serie « Boppin’ Hillbilly« (« Detroit in the 50’s« , 3 volumes), and here we have one of the earliest sides (Fortune 141, 1949) by EARL SONGER, « Mother-In-Law Boogie« . Songer himself was from West Va. and came to Detroit in the late 30’s; being a fan of Bill Cox, he was a one-man band (vocal/guitar/harmonica), before teaming with Joyce (born in Tennessee). Together they recorded many songs on Fortune: 7 disks within 2 years. Immense success.
Next we have TOMMY JACKSON and « Flat Top Box » from Lexington, KY (Sun-Ray 131) as late as…1967. Great guitar, very modern in style, altho’ the Hillbilly spirit remains untouched. Back to Indiana with the prolific Hodges Brothers Band, fronted by RALPH HODGES for a little classic on Whispering Pines 201, « HONEY TALK » with the buzzing guitar and swirling fiddle. That’s a crossover between Hillbilly and Rock’n’Roll, what they call sometimes Hillbilly Rock. They had a good amount of albums recorded by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie in the 1970’s.
And then we have a woman – and God knows they were THAT uncommon in Hillbilly! JEANIE CHRISTIE on the Blue Sky label out of St. Cloud, FLA from 1958: « Flying High« . Great and firm vocal, a solid steel-guitar throughout. A nice record!
Finally in Virginia for the tiny Liberty label (no connection with the California concern), HENDER SAUL, « I Ain’t Gonna Rock-Tonite« , one of my all-time faves in Hillbilly Rock. Forceful vocal, nice lyrics, great interplay between guitar and fiddle.
I really hope you will enjoy the selections, and you will comment after a listen or two. You can download everything, of course!
« Lâche pas la patate » (Don’t loosen the potatoe) to quote Cajun Jimmy C. Newman, and keep on Bopping!
Sources: various CDs. Pictures as usual from the excellent Terry Gordon’s site « Rocking Country Style ». Take a look at it!