It's hot outside, as the music included in this post. As usual, very various things for your own enjoyment.
As on early August I’ll be far from home (holidays), I post this fortnight with two days before the actual date.
On the Kentucky Acme label first, JESSE COATES does provide us with a fast fiddle-led ditty, his personal version of the old-timey « Columbus Stockade Blues » (# 1235A). He goes on, this time for both sides of his solitary Headine issue (# 101) in 1955 : the fast bopper « Nobody Can Take My Baby » and flip « You Gotta Be Good » : nice fiddle and steel. Barre, Vt.
Next artist is not an unknown one. JACK CARDWELL (1927, Georgiana, Alabama – then Mobile) made many fine sides during the early ’50s for King. Here he is with one of my faves « You’re Looking For Something » # 1269 (rec. Dec. 2Nd, 1952, probably cut at WCAB radio in Shreveport or at a Mobile station). A nice steel throughout . 5 years later he was back on Starday # 310 for the medium uptempo bopper « Once Every Day », very nice to be heard. During his stay in Mobile he became good friends with Luke McDaniel and even had a television show.
en from Kentucky on the very small Dixiana concern, launched around 1953 and which seems to have disappeared within several months. Nevertheless the owners released some first class Hillbilly music by the likes of Cliff Gross, Odis Blanton or this JIMMY SMIH and his « It Ain’t No Fun To Say I Told You So » (Dixiana 107) : good steel, rinky dink piano and fiddle. A brutal ending, sorry..
It Ain't No Fun To Say I Told You So
by Jimmy Smith
Down in Florida with JIMMY KELLER and « Brush Pile Burn » on Trail 1777 (also seen as #288) from 1964. It changes hands for $ 400-500 and it’s a real piece of hard Rock’n’Roll ! Great vocal and urgent guitar.
The never warysome CLIFF CARLISLE, who’d yodel, to quote Nick Tosches (« Unsung Heroes of Rock’n’Roll ») « the longest and the best» was also an acomplished lap-steel guitar player and produced very strange sounds, i.e. In « Shanghai Rooster Yodel # 2 » on Conqueror 8140 (don’t miss the sublime steel solo, alas too short near the end). Carlisle was also ahead of his time with the use of a wild slapping bass player in the classic « Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad » (Oriole 2860).
A complete change now in Philly on the Arcade label (1957) and the TRAVELAIRES, « Chopped Liver (part 1). Not really spectacular : a tight combo (with sax) doing a strong dance rocker. For more Arcade, see the excellent «AnorakRokabilly – Small independant 45rpm labels », the blog of Dean C. Morris (Drunken Hobo)
Fred (Frederick Austin) Kirby was born on July 19, 1910 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father worked as a preacher and he had nine brothers and sisters. When he was a kid, Fred’s mother taught him to play the guitar, and she later also helped him to master the fiddle. Fred became involved in the music business by accident: in 1927, while living in Florence, South Carolina, he joined his nephew to visit a friend at local radiostation WBT, and while singing some of his songs in the lobby of the station, Fred got noticed by a WBT employee. Fred was hired on the spot to make regular appearances on one of the station’s shows, and would remain to work for almost 20 years. In the early 1930s Fred lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked with people like Cliff Carlisle and with bands like “The Briarhoppers”, “The Smiling Cowboys” and “The Carolina Boys”.
Fred’s first recordings date from 1932 for the ARC label, but none of them have ever been released. In 1936 Fred signed with Victor’s Bluebird. His first recordings with Bluebird were “I’m A Gold Diggin Papa” and “The Lonesome Lullaby“. Next year he’d cut a session for Bluebird with Cliff Carlisle, which saw him duetting with Carlisle for « Cowboy’s Dying Dream ». It was even released in U.K. on Regal Zonophone. In 1938 Fred got signed by Decca where he recorded 16 songs. Quite a prolific artist in those days..Everyone then was yodeling, from Jimmie Rodgers to Gene Autry; so also did Kirby.
In 1939 he and Don White, a musician from West Virginia with whom he had gotten acquainted in the early 1930s, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work for radiostation WLM as the “Carolina Playboys”. The following year, Fred moved to St. Louis to join radiostation KMOX. In St. Louis he gained local fame for selling over 5 million dollars worth US War Bonds during the war
In 1943 Fred moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina and returned to his previous employer : WBT radio. Shortly after, he and Don White regrouped as the Carolina Playboys and in the years after the War they both recorded for the Sonora label, both as the Carolina Playboys and separately. It was with Sonora that Fred recorded his most successful song, “Atomic Power” (Sonora 7008) in May 1946: that song was later recorded by many other artists, including Rex Allen and Red Foley. Later on Kirby released a Decca issue, « Precious Lord I’ll Be There » (Decca 46083), giving an indication of his forthcoming career, secular as well as religious.
In June 1951 Columbia prolonged Fred’s recording contract for another year, but it wasn’t until July 9, 1952 before Fred did another recording session. During that session, eight songs were recorded and six of them were actually released by Columbia., among them the religious bopper « My Soul Is Not For Sale », also « When The Devil Sends His Calling Card » (Columbia 21056) ; “We’re No Longer Sweethearts” and “A Pocket Full Of Candy” remained unissued. This 1952 session turned out to be his last one for Columbia: due to the lack of success of his records, Columbia decided not to renew his contract. Later on Fred had a release on Gotham (a NYC/Philadelphia label) with the evergreen “Wreck Of The Old 97” (# 404), a very good version.l
In the early 1950s Fred again started working for WBT radio, but this time he mainly concentrated on radioshows for the younger audience. Later, when television became more popular he was very successfully as a producer and presenter of specialised kiddie shows: his “Junior Rancho” would run for over 20 years. Nevertheless, Fred’s radiowork lasted even longer: his shows were broadcasted until the spring of 1991. In the 1990s, Fred’s health progressively declined: he suffered from Parkinsons disease, which eventually forced him to move to a nursing home where he died on April 22, 1996.
Sources: biography mainly from W. Agenant “Columbia 20000 serie”; additions from “hillbilly-music.com”; pictures from google. Soundfiles and label scans from the indefatigable Ronald Keppner: my warmest thanks to him, whom the feature could not have been written and completed without. ; also some help from UncleGil Rockin’ archives. The rest is a matter of time and…love! Please leave a comment below!
A blues with a yodel : it may not sound much now, but in the 1920s a lot of careers were carved out of that curious amalgam. Jimmie Rodgers started it, and after him went Gene Autry, or Jimmie Davis, or Cliff Carlisle. The latter yodeled the longest and the best.
Raised in the countryside outside Louisville, Kentucky, Carlisle would say later : « My music is a cross between hillbilly and blues – even Hawaïan music has a sort of blues to it. » Teaming first in the early Thirties with the singer-guitarist Wilbur Ball, he went on the vaudeville tent show circuit, and afterwards he told they had actually been the first yodeling duet.
Then in 1930 he recorded in a Jimmie Rodgers vein (« Memphis yodel »), but with a distinctive touch on the Dobo resonator steel guitar. At this point he was also making a name on Louisville stations (WHAS and WLAP), billing himself and Ball as the « Lullaby Larkers ». That’s how his career took off.
In 31 or 32, he was in New York, extending his own port-folio, and recalling Jimmie Rogers singing a number about a rooster : « What makes a Shanghai crow at the break of day ? To let the Dominicker hen know the head man’s on his way.. » Ralph Peer wouldn’t let him record that, because it was kind of a risqué tune at that time, but finally he let Carlisle go. Hence « Shanghaï rooster yodel n°2 ».
In 1932 Carlisle was working solo, but in the years that followed he was often partnered by his younger brother Bill. On one of their records they even staged a fight over who would do what. « Hold it, buddy, » says Cliff indignantly as Bill starts to yodel. « This is my « Mouse’s ear blues », and I’ll do the yodeling. » It isn’t the only unusual feature. « Moose’s ear blues » is, probably uniquely in the corpus of recorded hillbilly music, a song about defloration. « My little mama, she’s got a mouse’s ear, but she gonna lose it when I shift my gear. »
By the mid-’30s, when he was working on WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina, and recording for Bluebird and Decca, Cliff was making a fair bid to corner the hillbilly disc market in sniggery songs about roosters and ashcans (there was an occasional double entendre loitering in this vicinity), and humorously violent tales of marital discord like « Hen pecked man », « Pay day fight » or « A wild cat woman and a tom cat man », where Cliff’s boisterous flights of fancy are powered by the twin engines of his Dobro and Bill’s inventive flat-picked guitar. By the end of the decade he had been on four record labels and made almost 200 sides. He and Bill had a cross-section of country music just prior to WWII. So it was hardly surprising that their family group, the Carlisles, with various sons and dauhters, was popular on the Grand Ole Opry and had hits in the ’50s with « Too old to cut the mustard » and « No help wanted ».
In the mid-’50s Cliff retired to a quiet life of painting, fishing and church work. He did the occasional comeback on not very memorable albums for small labels, even reuniting with Wilbur Ball and playing for college audience or folk festivals.
(Freely adapted from the chapter devoted to Cliff Carlisle in Tony Russell’s « Country music originals – The legends and the lost »)
Here are some selections of Carlisle’s work in very different styles.
From 1932, backed by a wild slapping-bass, for the evergreen « Goin’ down the road feelin’ bad ».
‘Cat’ has been used as a term in popular music since the Jazz years of the 1920’s. Revered by the ancient Egyptians, cats have a mystique and grace all over their own – no wonder these independent and mysterious animals became such a byword for ‘Cool’ in music from Hep Cats, jazz be-boppers of the ‘40s, and right through into 1950’s Rock’n’Roll.
Born 19 December 1908, Wakefield, Kentucky
Died 17 March 2003, Nashville, Tennessee
One of country music’s founding fathers, Bill Carlisle’s 70 (yes, seventy!) years in the music business began in 1931 when he made his first impromptu performance on the local radio station in Lexicon, Kentucky.
When discussing or writing about Bill Carlisle, it is impossible to ignore the influence of his older brother, Cliff, who at four years Bill’s senior, both encouraged Bill and joined him on many early recordings. Cliff’s own career, while cut short by his premature retirement in the late 40’s, had seen him record some of the finest early hillbilly sides and proving an inspiring figure in his slide guitar style.
Following his brother’s lead, Bill started recording in July 1933 on the Vocalion label (an offshoot of the ARC group of labels, to which Cliff had been signed). Bill’s first release, Rattlin’ Daddy, would prove to be one of his strongest and, in its 1947 guise (re-named Rattlesnakin’ Daddy) showed more than a hint of the rockabilly style that would follow.
Recording details from this period are sketchy, although a number of recordings were released on Vocalion, some with support from Cliff, and others that appeared on Bluebird, while the labels would also list Bill variously as “Smiling Billy Carlisle”, “Bill Carlisle’s Kentucky Boys”, or “The Carlisle Brothers”. Mainly these recording would fall into the Jimmie Rodgers genre, although Bill was as happy, if not happier to be recording both humourous and slightly risqué lyrics.
Moving to Decca in 1938, the brothers output slowed, but continued in a similar vein with much interplay between Billy and Cliff, with some tracks credited to Billy which were mainly Cliff, and vice versa! Just to make matters even more confusing, several tracks would also feature Cliff’s son, Tommy.
With the outbreak of WW2, it wasn’t until 1944 that both Cliff and Billy were signed to the fledgling King label, and hits followed in 1946 with Rainbow At Midnight, which peaked at number 5 (as The Carlisle Brothers), and in 1948 when ‘Tramp On The Street’ peaked at number 14.
A lean period then followed, which may have been coincidental with Cliff’s retirement, and it was only when Bill tempted Cliff to return to the business in 1951, with the formation of The Carlisles, that the hits returned, this time on the Mercury label, where they now performed in a more energetic style and had hits with Too Old To Cut The Mustard in 1951, and had their most successful year in 1953 with the brilliant No Help Wanted (featuring Chet Atkins on guitar) which peaked at number 1, Knothole, T’aint Nice, and Is Zat You, Myrtle?
Busy body boogie
Cliff retired in 1953, before recording the quartet of hits, and would pass away in 1983.
Bill last success on Mercury came in 1954 with two hits which followed in the same humourous vein, but the lack of further chart success prompted the bands departure from Mercury in 1956.
Continuing to record on various labels, The Carlisles saw only one more chart entry, when the innuendo filled ‘What Kind Of deal Is This’ reached number 4 in 1965.
As far as stage performances were concerned, Bill kept The Carlisles format running, despite numerous personnel changes, which would eventually see his children included in the act.
Rattle snake daddy
Always famed for his energetic stage act, which would see Billy doing the splits while singing, the nickname ‘Bounding’ or ‘Jumping’ Billy Carlisle were well earned. The act would continue thus through to the 90’s when Billy slowed down on personal appearances, although he would occasionally appear on stage, complete with zimmer frame, where he would perform a couple of songs holding on to the frame, before throwing it over his shoulder and marching off stage to rapturous applause.
Bill was inducted into the Country Hall Of Fame in November, 2002 and was the oldest regular performer at The Grand Ol’ Opry – his final appearance there (in a wheelchair) coming in February 2002.
Billy died, aged 94 on March 17th, 2003 following a stroke.
What kind of deal is this
Recommended listening –
Rough & Rowdy Hillbilly of the 1930’s (Collector) – Bluebird/Vocalion recordings
Tramp On The Streets (Cattle) King/Decca sides
Duvall County Blues (BACM) – Bluebird/Vocalion recordings
Hickory LP of Bill Carlisle (I DID own, but sold!)
Busy Body Boogie (Bear Family) – Mercury/RCA/Columbia sides