First version of the song was cut by JIMMIE DAVIS in February 1937, backed by Milton Brown (actually deceased a year before) Musical Brownies. Out of them Lefty Perkins takes two solos on the steel, Papa Calhoun is at the piano and the fiddle duties are taken by Buck Buchanan. It’s a medium paced blues ditty typical of Davis’ work. It was issued on Decca 5349. Jimmie Davis, “High geared daddy”
In August 1949 WEBB PIERCE, after having obviously heard Davis’ tune, revived it (taking the credit to him). Nice honky-tonker (Buddy Attaway on steel?)[Shot Jackson is on steel; Buddy Attaway played the lead guitar – note from March 23, 2018]. The lyrics were a bit different from Davis’. Here they are Pierce’s ones:
Come on here girls and hear my song
I’ll tell you my troubles as I step along
I’m a high geared daddy and there’s nothing I won’t do
I’m a two time papa when you leave me at home
I’ll call another momma on the telephone
I’m a high geared daddy that’s never been made blue
If you leave me at home well that’s allright
I’ll take a new momma with me tonight
[continued this style] this perfect example of honky tonk machism was issued on 4 Star 1413, and many times reissued (e.g. 4* 1601), then was the model for other versions.
TOMMY LITTLE & the Sunrise Rangers, from Durham, N.C. recorded the song, although actually it’s a completely different one same time as Pierce’s and Davis’, because it is an old warhorse of the Thirties, frequently known as « Sweet mama put him in low », first recorded by KARL & HARTY (Karl Davis/Hartford Taylor) in Chicago, January 1941 (Okeh 06066). Not surprisingly the song was credited to “Davis”! Fairley Holden had his own version on King 771 in 1947. Tommy Little’s version, first issued on Tommy’s personal label, Tommy’s, was picked up by Colonial, a sub-label to Hollywood giant Modern diskery. Little gives the song a superbly energetic treatment with the mandolin giving it a wonderful old-time flavour.
Returning to Webb Pierce’s « HIGH GEARED DADDY‘, the song found a new life in the hands of JIMMY WALKER on the West coast Intro label # 6025 in July 1951. He was backed on this occasion by Joe Maphis and Noel Boggs, augmented by George « Crazy » Tracy on harmonica and did offer an fine, relaxed although energetic version. Finally in a novelty style it was revived as a RCA LP track in 1956 by HOMER & JETHRO. Jimmy Walker “High geared daddy”
First selection is a fine bopper (sincere vocal, strong rhythm and good fiddle, even pizzicato played) : « I was standing too close to a heartache » (sounds familiar?) by BILLY TIDWELL, who cut a very good version of « Folsom prison blues » on the White Deer, TX Ko Co Bo label in 1964.
Billy Tidwell, “I was standing too close to a heartache”
Second odd issue is first ever Tommy Collins‘s song, « Campus boogie », when Collins was still known as LEONARD SIPES in his native Oklahoma. The song can be found on Morgan 106, and is very Hank Williams styled.
Then we enter in back-to-back series. JIMMIE DAVIS, also politician for Louisiana Governoship, cut a whole string of early boppers in the ’30s. Here I selected « You’ve been tom cattin’ around », issued on Bluebird in 1933.
A good 22 years later, CARL STORY had his own version, although the mandolin player is himself, on Columbia 21444 (1955). The flipside is the equally good, Rockabilly style, « What a line ». Strong boogie guitar, a fiddle solo. Really a masterpiece.
« What a line » derives from the original by JIMMIE WIDENER, who had this on his first King session in 1946 (# 536B) on the West coast, backed by such luminaries as Joaquin Murphy on steel or Jimmy Wyble on electric guitar. Harold Hensley is also present on fiddle, and co-wrote the song with Merle Travis. Widener had had been vocalist for Tex Williams, Spade Cooley and Bob Wills.
The song was revived first in 1953 by CLYDE MOODY on Decca. Usual style. Moody does it fast, with fiddle and guitar solo. Then in the mid-60s by GLENN THOMPSON, the most obscure artist of them all, who came from North Carolina. Guitar player is modern, but has a fine bluesy solo.
The little historical town of Natchitoches lies on the banks of the beautiful Cane River (Louisiana), and it was there that Bill Nettles was born on 13 March 1903 (another source mention 1907)
Natchitoches town (red button) in Louisiana
Bill was a member of U.S. marine and he took a part in World War I. Then he got a job as brakeman on the Pacific railroad line and around this time he met his future bride, Emma Lou Rich from Arcadia, Louisiana: on 19 December of 1922 in Shreveport they were married. He and his wife had four children, the eldest of whom, Bill Jr. (1926), enlisted in the Marines in 1943, reported missing at Okinawa albeit surviving and returning home in 1945. He was the inspiration for Bill writing « God bless my darling he’s somewhere ».
Emma Lou Rich was Bill’s dream maid, tireless manager and director of his Fan Clubs, she wrote the paper “Nettle ’em” which would significantly support his success.
Bill’s interest in music was initially satisfied by purchasing records of his favourite singer Jimmie Rodgers, as well as buying platters by Jimmie Davis, Gene Autry and Cliff Carlisle.
Then in 1934 Bill teamed up with his brother Norman to form the Nettle Brothers, with Norman on guitar and himself on mandolin. Unlike many popular duos of the time (Shelton Bros, Monroe Bros, Callahan Bros or Blue Sky Boys, etc.) Bill and Norman refrained from duetting on vocals, which made them stand out from the run of the mills outfits trying to imitate the well known names. Thus it was not long before an offer came their way to appear on radio in Shreveport on KWKH, at that time starring a favourite artist of Bill’s, Jimmie Davis. It was he who got their recording contract with Vocalion (1937).
The first session, held in Dallas in June 1937, yelded their first single, « Shake it and take it (like the doctor said – on later issues) »/ »My cross-eyed Jane » which saw Bill vocalising as well as playing mandolin. Augmented by brothers Norman on guitar and Luther on bass with Doc Massey on fiddle, Bill produced a lively performance, reflected in the sales of the record.
The group recorded another session in San Antonio as well as another in Dallas, and all in all eleven singles (a total of 22 sides) were recorded between 1937 and 1938. While their record sales did not set the world alight, their popularity on the radio continued to increase with appearances on KRMD and KXBS (both out of Shreveport, La.), KALB (Alexandria, la.) and KVDL (Lafayette, La.)
Gradually the membership of the band increased to the stage where it became known as the Nettles Brothers String Band, and early in 1941 they were signed to the Bluebird label, cutting their first session on June 3rd. Once again the venue for recordings was Dallas with Lonnie Hall (violin), Reggie Ward (string bass) and Jim King (steel guitar) making up the five pieces band. By the time of the second session in October, the line-up had changed to the extent that the steel was gone, Hershell Woodall was on bass instead of Reggie Ward. A lead guitarist and a banjo player were also featured.
Bill had started writing songs as early as 1924 when trying to appease his wife after a domestic tiff and writing « My sweet pot of gold ». His pen gained more prominence as his group’s name spread, and other artists started recording his songs. Among the first were Red Foley and Wilf Carter who, as Montana Slim, cut « Too many blues » on Victor (20-2364). Bill’s original version came on Bullet 637 in 1946. Despite being a prolific writer, Bill had failed to copyright any before « Just before we said goodbye ». Too many blues (Bullet 637):
It is worth noting that whilst the first records to appear on Vocalion in 1937 were credited to « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys », the Bluebird recordings were credited to « the Nettles Brothers ». Bill had in fact played mandolin on a Vocalion session as early as 1935, backing Jimmie Davis and Buddy Jones. Also the Jimmie King who played steel guitar on the first Bluebird session was the father to Claude King, the C&W singer/songwriter of « Wolverton mountain » fame.
Nettles’s beautiful “Have I Waited Too Long?” was introduced at KWKH in 1943 by Radio Dot and Smoky, and later became Faron Young‘s theme song. Along with Harmie Smith, Bob Shelton, Dick Hart, young Webb Pierce, and host Hal Burns, Nettles & His Dixie Blue Boys helped to launch a twice-weekly Louisiana Hayride program on KWKH in the summer of 1945 that predated the more famous auditorium show by almost three years.
Faron Young: Have I waited too long (Gotham 415-A)
After the Bluebird sessions Norman retired from the band, which late in 1945 was signed to RCA-Victor, reverting his name to « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys » with brother Luther back on bass. However the rest of musicians were local Dallas sidesmen from the musicians’ union. « They were long haired usicians and did not fit in with Bill’s style. He hated these Victor records », wrote his widow Emma Lou. RCA’s and Bill’s personal conceptions differed completely, in fact recordings were by then “mainstream pop ». So greatly was he disillusioned with RCA that Bill broke his contract and went to Bullet Records.
It’s not clear whether this experience with RCA persuaded Bill to reform his own band, but he went to Bullet with a radically new line-up. Danny Dedmon joined as lead guitarist and became a mainstay of the Dixie Blue Boys along with fiddle player Robert Shivers. In between changing of recording labels, Bill moved the family from Shreveport to Monroe, La., where with the exception of short breaks he woud live for the rest of his life. He also started appearing at the local radio station KMLB, where he was to record sometimes. By this stage Bill and his wife had four children. The eldest, Bill Jr. never got deeply involved in his father’s musical career. However one of the remaining children, Loyce (born 1929), became a featured singer in her dad’s band, billed a « The Little Dixie sweetheart ». She became a permanent along with her piano playing husband, Pal Thibodeaux, when the Dixie Blue Boys recorded for Imperial.
Nettles & His Dixie Blue Boys helped to launch a twice-weekly Louisiana Hayride program on KWKH in the summer of 1945 that predated the more famous auditorium show by almost three years.
Bill cut three sessions with Bullet from Nashville. The first date for Bullet was already on 7 July 1946, probably at Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas, as Beck had a tie with Jim Bulleit. « High falutin’ mama » (# 637) was a prime example of uptempo bluesy country. “Too Many Blues” was recorded by Wilf Carter, as told earlier. Other two songs of the session, « You’re breaking my broken heart again » and « Hungry » (#638) were equally good. Both later sessions held in Jackson, Ms., and in Houston, Tx. remained unissued.
After a fleeting stay with Red Bird, an affiliation which failed to produce any released material, Bill Nettles then signed with Imperial, as did Danny Dedmon, recording in his own right with a band credited as « The Rhythm Ramblers », actually the Dixie Blue Boys. Dedmon recorded 19 sides for Imperial, albeit only 9 were with Bill Nettles, all cut in Beaumont, Tx. On a couple of Bill Nettles’ singles, daughter Loyce was allotted the vocal duties.
Euell was the third of the Nettles’ off-spring. He too was born in Shreveport in 1935. Thus he was barely fourteen when he played on Bill’s first Mercury session in April 1949, giving the family a 50% share in the group personnel. Not only did he pay guitar, but Euell also doubled as chauffeur and handyman. His versatility extended to playing bass, fiddle and drums. During his three years stint in U.S. Army in Paris, France, he met his Spanish wife to be.
At the first Mercury session Bill recorded the highly promising « Hadacol boogie ». Covered by Jesse Rogers on RCA (32-0001), whose version outsold Bill’s, It had also a version by Professor Longhair (Roy Byrd), who combined it with Bill’s third Mercury session « Hadacol bounce ».
A tune he wrote and recorded for that label, “Hadacol Boogie“, in a Monroe radio station in 1949, was a celebration of Dudley LeBlanc‘s restorative elixir. It went to # 9 on the country charts. (“Hadacol Boogie” is alleged to be the first song that Jerry Lee Lewis performed in public, in 1949. Occasionally Jerry will perform the song on stage, though he never recorded it.)
Presumably encouraged by this hit, Mercury had on 3 February 1950 ensured in Cincinnati, Ohio that their musicians parade horses (Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Zeb and Zeke Turner) were sent into the ring for « Push and pull boogie » (Mercury 6330). Turner’s guitar intro is similar to that of the Delmores’ “Blue stay away from me” or early Hank Williams’.
Yet another recording session could not bring more hit. Bill took his residence at radio station KLMB, Monroe on with their own group. The only new name was Sam Yeager who played the guitar. Although “Hadacol bounce” should been even better than the “Hadacol boogie” according to Mercury, it failed.
In 1953 Bill had one of his short spells away from Monroe when he was sponsored by the Surety Gas Co. To appear on WRBC out of Jackson, Miss. Whilst there he cut a session for the local Trumpet label. Sadly nothing was ever issued from these recordings and undoubtedly « When my kitten starts cattin’ around » sounds intriguing. Maybe it was due to the fact that Bill moved on to another radio station elsewhere that caused Trumpet to lose interest, for it was around this time that he moved to KOGT in Orange, Texas, then to KOBX inBeaumont, Texas, finally KFRO in Long View, Texas. It seems likely that this exposure around the Texas area brought Bill to the attention of Starday Records, where he cut the fine « Wine-o-boogie » and « Gumbo mumbo » (# 174). The session included an unissued re-recording of « Shake it and take it » and was probably held at Gold Star studio in Houston (1954), with regular local musicians, Hal Harris (lead guitar), Doc Lewis (piano), Red Hayes (fiddle) and Herbie Remington (steel) providing the backing.
Whilst the advent of rock’n’roll put a brake on Bill’s recording activities, perhaps inspired by his youngest daughter Shirley (born 1936) married to Rev. Gerard Lewis (a first cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, and a fine piano player in his own right), Bill was « saved » and
baptized in 1958, subsequently becoming a devout Christian. Around 1957/58 The Dixie Blue Boys were performing on radio as a sacred group, before Bill disbanded the group and effectively retired from business.
Early 60s he cut in Monroe a whole lot of tracks for an unknown label (private recordings?), all of which do remain untraced and unissued.
In 1965 he was talked into a comeback and appeared on his own Nettl label. His preoccupation with the Vietnam War caused him to re-do his old song as « God bless my darling he’s somewhere in Vietnam ». Sadly this revival (3 singles) was short lived : Bill Nettles died on April 5 1967.
Throughout his life he wrote over 300 songs, and had 155 published by leading publishers. It is worth looking at some of the artists who made use of Bill as composer :
Be nobody’s darling but mine – Roy Acuff
Old age pension check – Roy Acuff
Old age pension blues – Shelton Brothers
I just can’t say goodbye – Pete Pyle
Louisiana moon – Gene Autry
I still believe in you – Charlie Mitchell
It’s nobody’s fault but my own – Will Johnson
Our last goodbye – Stanley Brothers
Honky tonk blues – Al Dexter
Just forgive and forget – Jimmie Davis
Nobody’s darling but mine – Jimmie Davis (huge 1941 hit)
Answer to blue eyes – Johnnie & Jack
No time for tears – Bill Boyd
Too many blues – Montana Slim, Red Foley
Have I waited too long – Faron Young
I just don’t know why but I do – Jenx Carman.
Of the Dixie Blue Boys, Danny Dedmon, Pal Thibodeaux and Norman Nettles recorded in their own right.
Nettles loved to write “answer” songs, such as “Answer To Blue Eyes”, “It’s Your Turn To Walk The Floor For Me”, “I Hauled Off and Loved Her”, and even answered his own songs: “(I Want To Be) Somebody’s Darling” and “Hadacol Bounce”.
Reprinted (with written permission) from Adam Komorowski’s article in Hillbilly researcher n° 7 (1988), based on a unpublished text written by Emma Lou Nettles for the 60’s magazine « Western Coral ». Many thanks to Ronald Keppner (Germany) for the loan of rare 78 rpm.
Howdy folks. If you are there, you’re in for a musical journey in Hillblly bop music. Here we go for more obscure or lesser known names, who one cannot know anything about, except what it’s in the grooves, or what I gathered – and most of the time the harvest is a meager one. Talking about harvests, let’s not forget the “contact me” section: here are for sale excellent CDs or vinyl records (very nice condition) for sale from my collection. Don’t overpass this occasion!
Chuck Bowers did hail from Arkansas, where he was born in 1921. He was a regular of the St. Louis, MO. Ozark Jubilee and had a spot on KWTO. His acclaimed shuffler “Pig Pen Boogie” on the Kansas City Choice label (# 845) is one of the serie he did for radio or TV appearances. Actually you can find 3 songs by him that contain “boogie” in the title on Youtube! Later Bowers was on Decca for two Nashville produced pop rockers, the better being “Blabber Mouth Sidewalk Stroll” (# 30578) from 1957. I don’t know anything on Bowers afterwards.
Way up North and Michigan, on the Bart label. One Billy Martin has the really fine Hillbilly bop ballad “Tears I Couldn’t Hide” on the Bart label (# 7G28). Prominent steel over a very sincere vocal. The same Billy Martin had also « Angel »/ « If It’s Lovin’ That You Want » (Lucky 0009, 1960) and « I’m Home Again » (Fortune 198). . There were also issues on Happy Hearts, D, Cannon and Misty in the 70’s.
The very small – Kentucky based, as said in an old Hillbilly Reserarcher issue – Dixiana label was launched in 1953, and do seem to have only lasted six months or so. From his 7 issues I chose The Renfro Brothers‘ “Just Over A Girl“, a fast romper led by a boogie pianist and showcased by an accordion (# 103). On the same label was issued Odis Blanton & his Blue Star Rangers, who I will post later the great “Steppin’ High Wide And Handsome“. On Dixiana 105, there is still a Cliff Gross to be found yet (both titles sound interesting).
Walter Scott‘s great “I’m Walking Out” (see Ruby # 240, elsewhere in this site) was cut in 1968 by a L. C. Angel with Coye Farmer on the microscopic Baron label (no # number) out of Trenton, OH. The record gives full personal (steel-guitar-bass); so which instrument was played by Farmer or Angel? Incidentally the very same record was reissued twelve years later on the A & A label (still no #) out of Hamilton, OH. A fine version nevertheless, but the artist is completely out of sight!
Ben Hall has the fine “Moo Mama” Rockabilly on the Cord label (# 101). Very rare one; even rarer is the unissued at the time “Be Bop Ball“, saved from oblivion by the Dutchman!
Finally from a February 1932 session do come the very sexual “Red Nightgown Blues“, cut by Jimmie Davis for RCA-Victor (with sublime slide guitar by Oscar Woods) and issued in the Bluebird serie (# 5699). A tune that suits exactly to Jerry Lee Lewis‘ way of life, and one may wonder how he has not recorded this song (remember “Long Legged Woman” cut for Sun?)
Flash (January 23rd, 2012). I received a mail from JIMMY RENFRO. His Dad Jim had not heard their songs within a very long time, so he was stunned and happy. His uncle Raymond did the same. Thanks Jimmy! I include in the posts the flipside of their Dixiana 103, “Ever Ready“. Alas, I don’t know any other record by them.
For this new rendez-vous, I’ve chosen three tracks from the ’50s, then one from…1978, the remainder being from the ’30s.
First, JOHNNY NELMS on Azalea 015/016 (Houston label), “After Today” is his finest hour, raw, emotional honky tonk. The uncredited backing band here is Peck Touchton‘s Sunset Wranglers, which includes Doug Myers (fiddle), Herman McCoy (guitar), Hoyt Skidmore (steel guitar), and George Champion (piano). I add in the podcasts his Starday offering, “Everything Will Be Alright” (# 228) from 1956. He already had records on Gold Star, Freedom, and later (briefly) on Decca. Nothing but a plain Country boy, who never made it…
Then, from the Cincinnati area, one JIMMIE WILLIAMS, I know nothing about, except this little record on the Acorn label (# 153). Here it is his original “Hey, Hey Little Dreamboat“, a nice, uptempo Hillbilly bop. Apparently the man had nothing to do with later Arkansas rocker of “You’re Always Late” fame.
From Nashville TN, April 1954, when young ERNIE CHAFFIN entered the Hickory studios, nothing really happened with his four sides; I somehow find some freshness in his “I Can’t Lose The Blues” (# 1024). Shortly after, he was to launch, with his steel player Pee Wee Maddux, the Fine label in Biloxi, MS. before moving in 1956 to Sun in Memphis.
That’s it for the ’50s! Now with a legend, ROSE MADDOX, taken live from Youtube (I just kept the sound track), for an old Jimmie Rodgers’ song, “Muleskinner Blues“. The Lady does it perfectly!
Onto the ’30s. First with ex-Governor of Louisiana (twice!) JIMMIE DAVIS. He sang Hillbilly as early as the late ’20s. Here you get his rendition of the traditional “When The Saints“, under the title “Down At The Old Country Church” (recorded Charlotte, NC, 1931), with Ed Shaffer on the lap-steel guitar. Full of emotion…
Finally, from 1936 comes a one-time associate to Davis, his Black bottleneck guitar player, OSCAR WOODS. Here he sings, on a funny cartoon, “Don’t Sell It – Give It Away“. The whole thing, recorded in New Orleans, sounds very much Western swing! Magic of internet to find those gems…