From “Uptown Swing” to “Clickety Clack”: and “Hillbillly Boogie”: a story of JERRY IRBY, a Texas entertainer (1941-1965) — 1rst part

Gerard « Jerry » Irby ‘s career in Country music spanned almost forty years. The list of the artists he worked with during that time reads like a Who’s Who of Western swing. It ranges from the links of Thero Eugene « Ted » Daffan to less known Western swing performers such as Bill Mounce And The Stars Of The South. In 1937 Irby was « pickin’ and singin’ » with The Bar-X Cowboys, a first rate Houston based outfit which featured among its number Elmer and Ben Christian, and singer/guitarist Chuck Keeshan, the latter having worked with Leon « Pappy » Selph, and who is to be found, along joined Ted Daffan’s band The Texans.
During his tenure with The Bar-X-Coyboys, and the Tune Wranglers, Irby recorded with these outfits for Decca. He was also the featured vocalist on at least one of Bill Mounce’s Bluebird releases.

America’s entry into the WW II in 1941 heralded the end of an era. A number of Western swing outfits disbanded as members of those bands were drafted. The recording ban that followed in 1942 further compounded matters. However, all was not gloom and doom. With industry on a war footing, the economy boomed. The public at large, having shrudded off the last vestiges of the depression, wanted to be entertained. As the way drew to a close the recording industry, which hitherto had been monopolised by a handful of record companies, started a grind in action again when the recording ban was lifted. Small independant record companies sprang up across the country to challenge the monpoly that major labels like Decca and RCA-Victor had once enjoyed. It was these small independant companies who more or less set the trend in the post-war years.

One of the first recording companies to be set up in Texas was Bill Quinn’s Gulf label. Based at 3104 Telephone Road in Houston, Gulf made its debut on the scene in the fall of 1945. Quinn, who later ran the legendary Goldstar studio, and label of the same name, recorded fairly well-known local Western swing acts, including Al Clauser, Moon Mullican, and Jerry Irby. It was Irby’s waxing of fhis self penned ditty cover. « Nails In My Coffin », a classic song which is now a standard number in country music, was a regional hit, albeit a modest one, for Irby. « Nails In My Coffin » has been recorded, with varying degrees of success, over the years by countless Country singers.

The Los Angeles based Globe label, another newly formed, independant recording company, latched on to Jerry Irby’s success with « Nail In My Coffin » and promptly signed him to a recording deal. They wasted little time in having Irby re-record « Nails In My Coffin » for release on Globe. Irby ‘s band at that time, The Texas Ranchers, including his old compatriot Elmer Christian, steel guitarist « Deacon » Evans,and pianist Pete Burke.

The latter musician is worthy of special mention as his distinctive performance on the pianoforte is to be heard on scores of Irby’s recordings. Burke himself later made some solo recordings for the Hummingbird label. It is also likely that Irby and his band are featured on Elmer Christian’s Globe recordings.

Around this time, Irby made some more recordings for two small concerns: Cireco, in 1947. “You Can’t Take It With You”, an old favorite, and “49 Women”, a tune that he re-recorded later at least two times. Then for the microscopic record label Hillbilly Hit Parade.

Houston record distributor H.B. Crowe was the next person to take an interest in Irby. In 1947 Crowe recorded Irby, and Elmer Christian, at a session in Houston for Mercury. Guitarist/fiddler Woodrow « Woody »Carter joned the line-up of Irby’s band for this session. Carter was to remain with Irby’s band for a little over eighteen months or so before embarking on his own, short lived, solo career.

When Lewis R. Chudd lauched his Imperial label out on he West coast in 1947, one of the first Country/Western swing artists he recorded was Jerry irby. Dring his relatively bried sojourn with Imperial, Irby cut some twelve sides for the label. He was also the featured vocalist on Elmer Christian’s Imperial release, on which he was backed by The Bar-X Cowboys.

All notes and sources are rejected at the last part of the feature.

Jerry Irby

 

Jerry Irby (from Al Turner’s sleeve notes to « Jerry Irby » Collector CD2851)jerry-irby-propreglobe irby super


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Gerald « Jerry » Irby’s career in Country music spanned almost forty years. The list of artists he worked with during that time reads like a WHO’S WHO of Western Swing. It ranges from the likes of Ted Daffan to lesser known Western swing performers such as Bill Mounce And The Stars Of The South. In 1937 Irby was « pickin’ and singin’ » with the Bar X Cowboys, a first rate Houston based outfit which featured among its number Elmer and Ben Christian, and singer/guitarist Chuck Keeshan, the latter having worked with Leon « Pappy » Self, and who is to found, along joined Ted Daffan’s band, The Texans. Irby also spent sometime, in the late thirties ans early forties, with another Houston based ensemble, The Texas Wranglers. This outfit comprised of a number of noted Western swing musicians, including steel guitarist Bob Dunn, bassist Hezzie Bryant, vocalist/guitarist Dickie McBride, Leo Raley (mandolin), Gary Hester (fiddle) and Johnny Thames (banjo). These boys, at one time or another, had played alongside the likes of Floyd Tilman, Aubrey « Moon » Mullican and Cliff Bruner.

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