“Cornfed Fred”: the story of boppin’ FRED CRAWFORD (1953-1960)

Every region of the country had their local star- that person that teetered on the brink of stardom. Radio deejay. Recording artist. Performer. Promoter. Talent scout. Music Publisher. Maybe they ran their own label. Sometimes a studio.

They ALWAYS seemed to be one step away from finally making it…. just one step away.

Our local guy was Fred Crawford.

Billboard June 2, 1956

Like many I was first ushered to Fred through the 1956 Starday release “Rock Candy Rock” (# 243), a steady little piano/guitar jiver that has unfortunately overshadowed his stronger country/hillbilly efforts. On the same disc, the B-side “Secret of my heart” is back to Crawford’s hillbilly roots: it is a solid medium paced very strong opus.

Rock Candy Rock” (Starday 243)

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Secret of my heart” (Starday 243)
Fred Crawford "Secret of my heart"

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I’m not sure when Fred first began his professional career. His obituary mentioned that as an 11 year old he had “You Are My Shine“‘d his way to a talent show victory on Shreveport’s KWKH. Also mentioned in the same obituary is that by age 25 his recording career was underway. Would assume this would have included his incredibly rare 4-Star custom press, « My inky Dinky baby/Empty feeling in my heart » (Promotional OP-163, from 1953) – it may even appear this record was never issued, as no one has ever seen a copy.

Not mentioned is that Fred had a decent string of excellent releases on the infamous Starday label, all of which are WELL worth tracking down. The rockabilly of “Rock Candy Rock” stands in contrast to his other releases for the label. As does the pop effort “By The Mission Wall“, notable for being recorded in Clovis with Norman Petty producing, Buddy Holly playing guitar, and the Bowman Brothers providing back-up vocals.

Fred Crawford "By the mission wall"By the mission wall”(St 314)Fred Crawford "By the mission walls"

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. Obviously he had great hopes in “By the Mission Wall” as it was recorded again for AOK. While a song « Hey little waitress » (AOK 1034) was an inspiring song which was cut once more on Westex in 1966. His swan song, full of emotion, came in 1974 with « The life of an old DJ » released on Tic Toc, probably when Fred hung up deejaying. 

Fred’s debut. Feb. 2, 1954

Fred Crawford "Hey little waitress"Hey little waitress

KERB radio station in Kermit, TX

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Life of an old DJ”

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Not included in the podcasts (altho’ fully downloadable) upon request)  are the following Starday tunes: Time will take you off my mind  (St. 124), “Empty feeling in my heart” (124)[also done six months before on the elusive Promotional label OP-163,] “I’ve learned something from you” (St 272),”You’re not the same sweet girl” (# 314) Then A- side of ‘D’ label #1158 “Im all alone”, easily available elsewhere this site.   As other tracks on AOK being less interesting. Being so much a country boy, Fred Crawford has not been reissued until now (except for the odd tune on compilations), which is a shame, as his music, specially that cut for Starday, is of very high standard.

Fred was born F. Benjamin Crawford on January 24, 1928, and died on January 13, 1998. He’s buried in the veteran’s corner (because of his activities during WWII) in the Colorado City cemetery out of Mitchell County, Texas.

Largely inspired by the posts of two blogs, Lone Star Stomp and Westex, both from Texas and done in the 2007/2010 period (same Summer period).

My most sincere thanks go to Armadillo Killer for sending many a side. Without his help, the article couldn’t be done – at least this way.

(Fred Crawford: a personal appreciation (bopping’s editor)

You Gotta Wait” (# 170) is just an outstanding uptempo hillbilly call to action, while the flipside « I just need some lovin’ » (written by labelmate Jimmy Walton) is just equally good.

You gotta wait”

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I just need some lovin'”

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Fred Crawford "Can't live with 'em"Fred Crawford "What's on your mind"Fred Crawford "You gotta wait"

Fred Crawford "I just need some lovin'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t live with ’em” (St 199)

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What’s on your mind”(St 199

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But I feel that Fred’s crowning achievement is “Can’t Live With ‘Em” (# 199) : never has a white boy had such a bad case of the blues. Note that the songwriter is Mineoloa ‘local guy’ Jack Rhodes. Classy backing : a bluesy lead-guitar, a rinky-dink piano, a strong bass.

Billboard July 2, 1954

Other notable records from this era include : the very solid and macho inspired « Never gonna get married again » (# 156), the great Fred Crawford "Never gonna get married again"Fred Crawford "First on your list"uptempo « First on your list » (# 145 : here’s a wild steel guitar over a Hank Williams‘ typical uttering), also cut by Jack Tucker (released on « X » 0193) – no one can say for sure who came first, and the composer of this small classic, Tom Lancaster, doesn’t give any clue.

Never gonna get married again“(St 156)

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First on your list”(St 145)

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Eddie Noack‘s written « Me and my new baby » (# 218), and « Lucky in cards » (# 272) are other winners. And there’s no filler or weak track : every B-side is of high standard too, as the fast « Each passing day » (# 156), « Just another broken heart » (# 218) and the great ‘Starday swan song‘, his last on the label : « You’re not the same sweet girl » (# 314)

Billboard December 10, 1956

Eddie Noack: “Me and my new baby“(demo)

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Fred Crawford: “Me and my new baby”
(St 218)

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Lucky in cards”(St 272)

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Each passing day”(St 156)

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“Just another broken heart”(St 218)

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downloadFred Crawford "Lucky in cards"Fred Crawford "Each passing day"

There was also at least one waxing for the D label : fine 1960 honky tonkers (# 1058) « I’m all alone » and « Charlies gone ». After that Fred was strictly local, recording for Tommy Allsup/Max Gorman’s Westex/AOK stable, Spiral (which was housed in the former AOK studios), Tic-Toc, Lobo, and a label or two more. Among those efforts are a couple of records supporting his beloved Monahans High School football team and an odd little tribute to coin collecting [untraced].

Charlies gone”

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Fred was a songwriter for others too : I found once a song he gave to Smilin’ Jerry Jericho in 1954, the fine uptempo «I Can’t Give You Anything But Me » (Starday 133). Surely there may have been other Fred compos for others. If a visitor finds one, please do advise me of the find with the « contact me » button!

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late November 2010 fortnight’s favourites

Howdy, folks. Sometimes it is easy to assemble a “fortnight” feature, sometimes not. This time it has not been that easy, I don’t know why. I tried to vary tempos, origin, labels, and I am not sure I did succeed. Only your visits and interest could say I was O.K.

First in this new serie, CECIL CAMPBELL, backed by the Tennessee Ramblers. He was steel player (born 1911) in the Virginia/North Carolina region, and found moderate but constant success with his records on RCA-Victor. Here I’ve chosen his 1951 “Spookie Boogie“; he explains in his own words what he wanted to do with this tune:

cecil capbell

Cecil Campbell

He was looking for an “…unusual hollow type of rattling sound designed to send cold chills rushing down the spine.” He couldn’t find that sound on the musical instruments. But as fate would have it, one of the members of the Tennessee Ramblers had false teeth and that mysterious sound that appears on the tune “Spooky Boogie” was made by a pair of chattering false teeth.” Later on, he was to have a minor Rockabilly classic in 1957 on M-G-M (12487) called “Rock and Roll Fever“.

king osborne automobile

From Kentucky comes now JIMMIE OSBORNE, the “Kentucky Folk Singer”. He had a string of releases on KING, with strong success, among them the amusing “Automobile baby“. Osborne played the Louisiana Hayride, as well as the Opry, until his suicide in 1957, at the early age of 35.

jimmie osborne pic

Jimmie Osborne

On to Texas. FRED CRAWFORD is a relatively well-known artist, whose 9 Starday singles were of constantly highest musical level. “Cornfed Fred”, as he liked to be called, was a long-time D.J. on KERB radio station of Kermit, and considered himself more a radio man than an artist. Here below is “You Gotta Wait“, a very nice 1954 Bopper. He later went to D, and committed a pop song, “By The Mission Walls”, whose main claim to fame is the backing by no one but Buddy Holly.

fredcrawford

Fred Crawford

starday Crawford waitThen TEXAS BILL STRENGTH, who had on Coral Records “Paper Boy Boogie“. Another version does exist by Tommy Trent on Checker 761 from 1952. I don’t know which one came first. The song was even revived by Hank Williams as a demo. Strength (1928-1973) had a long carreer, beginning on radio KTHT, Houston, in 1944, and recording for 4 Star, Capitol, Sun and Nashville. He re-recorded “Paper Boy Boogie” on Bangar as late as 1965.

texas bill strength pic

During the Sixties, ARK records from Cincinnati did issue many a fine disc, mainly in Bluegrass or Sacred. In a past fortnight I included a Jimmy Murphy song, which I consider one of his best, “I Long To Hear Hank Sing The Blues“. Here we have a pseudonym, and there is not any chance, I’m afraid, to discover who really was TEXAS SLIM. A very superior double-sided “When I’m old And Gray” and “Look What You Gone And Done To Me” (ARK # 309). Stunning association of banjo and steel. Hear it!

k-ark texas-slim old

Finally a classic R&B rocker: “Flat Foot Sam” by T.V. SLIM & His Heartbreakers. Hope you enjoy the selections! Bye.

checker slim flatfoot