Along the way, we’ll find artists who cause some discussion back and forth or even some debate. No, not about their music, but about the details of their career. We’ve already seen some discussion on this fellow in an exchange of emails. But, somehow we stumbled across an issue of Cowboy Songs from December 1957 that had a column written by Imogene Ellwanger who provides some tidbits. And a few other mentions elsewhere, too.
It has proven difficult to find something other than this short biography taken from hillbilly-music.com site. Black Jack Wayne (real last name : Shults) was a native of Oklahoma who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was 14. He started guitar playing as a hobby but later on down the road, it became part of his career. He had an injury of some type and came back to the Bay Area and decided to join his brother’s band, the “Rattlesnake Ramblers”.
In 1950 he and his younger brother Chuck « Charles » bought the « Garden of Allah » nightclub, located in Niles, north of Hayward-Oakland Highway. They hired country artist Ed Cima to transform the Garden by painting cartoon cowboys and western scenes in a whimsical mural over the walls. He also hand painted the ceiling to look like the Taj Mahal. They tried to change the name but people wouldn’t accept it, so it remained the Garden of Allah.?In its heyday, the Garden catered to rock and roll fans on Friday nights, country western lovers on Saturdays and square dancers on Sundays. In mid-1956, he had three daily shows over the all-western radio station KVSM out of San Mateo, California. And a one hour show over television station KOVR with the “Bar 10 Ranch Boys”.
Black Jack and the Bar-10 Ranch Boys had several recordings in 1954 on the Cavalier label. Back then their latest release was “A Dream Just Won’t Do” along with “Nip or Two” (# 839) or Jack’s brother Chuck Wayne‘s « Mean Mean Mean » (# 836). The latter seems to be the Bud Hobbs song.
Later on in her column, Ms. Ellwanger mentions that KOVR, Channel 13 in Stockton, had two Western music shows on the air. One show had Glenn Stepp and his band. The other had Black Jack Wayne and his “Bar 11 Ranch Boys”. Black Jack had also started a live radio show from the Garden of Allah nightclub he owned that was broadcast over KEEN every Saturday night. She also wrote that there was a possibility that the “California Hayride” might start a show originating from the Garden of Allah every Friday night over Channel 13 in Stockton.
In 1955 on the Spur label we found Charles (Chuck) Wayne for two solid Hardrock Gunter type hillbilly rockers (hillbilly bop with a dose of western swing), « Rockin’ Rollin’ Rhythm » and “Rodeo Time Is Here » # 1245), and maybe more with « The Golden Key » (# 1248).
In 1957, per a column in Cowboy Songs by Imogene Chapman, we find that Black Jack had his own record label – Black Jack. And around that time, had put out his first recording, “Time Stole My Empire” b/w “Shallow Water Blues” : the latter being a strong fast bluesy number. Tom Hall and Terry Fell helped on the record with their guitar and harmonica. At the time, they mentioned that you could order the record from Black Jack in care of radio station KVSM in San Mateo, California. No coincidence that Ms. Chapman might mention Black Jack, for in the same issue featuring “Stars on the Horizon”, she is listed as the president of his ‘fast-growing’ and ‘real-active’ fan club.
Later on, we found a mention on Channel 2, KTVU, now of the Fox Network, on the Bayinsider.com… “Not all of KTVU’s local programming was noteworthy or long-lasting. There was The Black Jack Wayne Show, a western variety show…”
In the KVSM studio (San Mateo), Black Jack Wayne cut in 1957 his next record « What Makes Me Hang Around » and backed Rose and Cal Maddox on « Gotta Travel On » (Black Jack 104). Medium honky tonk (nice guitar), with Jack vocally fronting, backed on chorus by Rose. His cooperation with the Maddoxes led him to offer them « Ugly & Slouchy » (Columbia 40836)
In 1959 Chuck Wayne had « Wishing/Thank You Call Again » on Ozark 963, both pop country. Incidentally the latter was written by two comperes of the Rural Rhythm days, Johnny O’Neal and Johnny Tyler. Black Jack Wayne and the Roving Gamblers backed Bill Carter on « Baby Brother ». B-side, « Ride, Gunman, Ride », was a Jack Wayne original. Chuck Wayne had his last known recordings in 1959 on Black Jack 106 with « I’m Sending You Some Roses /Blue Moon Waltz » (untraced record).
Black Jack Wayne had several interesting records on Cheyenne, among them « Dancing With A Stranger » (# 114) in 1960, before a couple on Big West and a solitary issue in 1962 on Decca. Charles Wayne also backed Mel Dorsey (« Little Lil » rocker) on Black Jack.
sources: main source was “hillbilly-music.com” site. Many Youtube label shots. And a lot of research! I am not THAT satisfied with this article.
Bakersfield, Ca. Sound: the Pep, Tally and Bakersfield labels
(from the notes of Bo Berglind for the CD « Just Around Bakersfield »(2009)
The Bakersfield’s sound could also be called the story of the Buck Owens’ sound.It developed during the 1950s in smoke-filled honky-tonk bars that offered music seven nights a week and of course on radio and television stations in Bakersfield and throughout California. The town, known mainly for agriculture and oil production, was the destination for many Dust Bowl migrants and others from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and other parts of the South. The mass migration of « Okies » to California also meant that their music would follow and thrive, finding an audience in California’s Central Valley.
This music was brought to the public by a myriad of small Bakersfield labels such as Audan, Bakersfield, Fire, Global, Hunco, Impact, Indio, Kord, Millie, Pike, Rose, Rural Rhythm, Super-Sonic and Tally. From nearby cities came Pep (Pico Rivera, later Los Angeles) and Chesterfield (Los Angeles) to name a few. Of these only Tally became real big in the 1960s: Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard for example.
The label was formed in 1956 by R.B. Christensen; it had a 100 and 500 series. It lasted until 1959.
Formed in the early months of 1956, the label had twelve releases, the most well known being done by the veteran Tommy Duncan, « Daddy Loves Mommy-O », but also had Dusty Payne, later on Rodeo/Excel labels.
The label made its debut in 1955 with its owner J.E. Swarr, later Claude Cavener.
Among its roster was a young Alvis Edgar « Buck » Owens. Already a seasoned performer and recording artist (La Brea label), Owens cut three first class records for the label including classic rockabilly under the alias of « Corky Jones ».
Another claim to fame was the very first version of « Crazy Arms » by Kenny Brown: the song, heard by Ray Price, rised up to # 1 in 1956, before being revived by Jerry Lee Lewis the same year. Other good Pep artists included Ronny Branam.
Said to have been Bill Wood’s own label, it issued Terry Fell‘s « Truck Drivin’ Man », which Capitol re-released in 1962.
Founded by Lewis Talley in 1955, its roster included Fuzzy Owen. It was in the little crampted building, not bigger than a bathroom, of Tally that Buck Owens cut « Hot Dog » b/w « Rhythm And Booze ». Fuzzy Owen also cut there « Yer Fer Me ». The biggest star on Tally was of course Merle Haggard, between 1962 and 1964.
The artists: I have concentrated on the more Country and Rockabilly artists.
Bill Carter (born in 1929 in Arkansas), was at one time stationed in U.S. Army in northern part of California. There he met Big Jim DeNoone and had even records on Gilt-Edge and Republic. His sides on Tally were cut in 1957-58 and the best is « I Used To Love You » (Tally 115). He later went to Black Jack and later moved to Nashville to form his own Bill Carter singers.
Charles « Fuzzy » Owen, also from Arkansas (1929). He picked cotton with relatives in California during the day and played three nights a week at the Blackboard, then just a hole-in-the-wall tavern. They were inspired by Ernest Tubb: Fuzzy was on steel, his first cousin Lewis Talley on guitar and vocal and an accordion player. After a stint in the Army, in 1952, Fuzzy and Bonnie Owens recorded the Hillbilly Barton’s song « A Dear John Letter », with a very limited distribution. The same year however, Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard picked up the song to #1 position. Fuzzy Owen also cut the fine « Yer Fer Me » In 1955 Owen and Tally formed Tally. They cut rocker Wally Lewis, and later went to higher grounds with Merle Haggard.
George Rich didn’t became rich with his « Drivin’ Away My Blues » (Tally 105), then disappeared completely.
Lynn Billingsley recorded (Bakersfield 107) his « Childhood Boogie » with Johnny Cuvellio Orchestra (Red Simpson on lead guitar, Johnny on drums). Record came late in 1956.
Custer Bottoms cut his claim to fame (« Stood Up Blues », Bakersfield 108) with a band that must have included Buck Owens on these very hot lead guitar licks, ca. early 1957.
Sid Silver is another unknown musician that made the terrific « Bumble Rumble » on Bakersfield 510). Bill Woods in on guitar with Johnny Cuviellos band.
Phil Brown recorded on Bakersfield (# 130) with Bill Wood’s band, « You’re A Luxury », which stands as the nearest to Hillbilly Bop of all the selections. He disappeared afterwards.
Buck Owens was born in 1929 in Garland, Texas. He came to Bakersfield in 1937-38 making a living harvesting vegetables, picking peaches, before switching to music: first, mandolin in 1940, before guitar in 1951 (having in the meantime married to Bonnie, before divorce). Bill Wood’s sideman Tommy Duncan noticed Buck’s guitar picking, which led him to join Bill Wood’s Orange Blossom Playboys at the Blackboard Café. It was to become Buck’s home base until 1957. 1953: first recording (« Blue Love »). He played with Bud Hobbs on « Louisiana Swing » (see earlier: the debut of Bakersfield sound). In 1955 he cut his first sides for Pep, real country music, before his rockabilly classics from 1956, « Hot Dog » and « Rhythm and Booze ». The rest is a Capitol contract and international history.
Charles « Kenny » Brown, part Choctaw indian, was from Little Rock, another from Arkansas (1928). When he was 13 he went to California where his mother has settled after divorcing. He started his own band, after discharge from U.S. Army, Kenny Brown and the Arkannsas Ramblers. In 1955, he got in touch with Pep which issued their first record by him.. He cut « Crazy Arms » on Pep 102 (written by young Ralph Mooney), later picked by Ray Price, who sent it to # 1 in April 1956. He later had two other records on Pep, « Throw A Little Wood On The Fire » being the better, before leaving to Sundown (co-owned with his third wife Geanetta). Kenny Brown died in 1996 due to a bad medical treatment.
Louise Duncan, from Waco, Texas, moved early in California with the desire to become a country entertainer, but had to wait the age of 24 to cut her first sides on Bakersfield. A pleasant Hilbilly, « Wherever You Are », which attracted the ears of Ken Nelson at Capitol records and gave her a national distribution.
Bill Woods, musician and disc jockey, the real « Father of the Bakersfied sound » went from Denison, Texas (1924). His father, an itinerant preacher, settled in 1940 in Arvin, Ca., just south of Bakersfield. After several moves, and beginning to play guitar, he became bass player for Tommy Duncan, ex-Bob Wills’ Playboys singer. In 1949, he founded his own band, the Orange Blossom Playboys,
not long before recruiting Buck Owens on guitar, himself playing the piano on his first record (« Trusting You », Cliff Crofford, vocal) for Modern. Many musicians passed through his band, in much demand on records cut in Bakersfield, and even on Capitol. As for himself, he cut great rockers like « Bop » and « Phone Me Baby », as well as great country tunes like « Ask Me No Questions ». He also liked stock-car racings, until an accident in the early ’60s. He later played piano for Merle Haggard, but suffered more surgeries and died in 2000.
Cliff Crofford fronted first Bill Wood’s band on Modern (“Trusting You”) before cutting for Tally some Rockers, “There Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin’ To Me” or “A nght For Love” (Tally 104). He wrote several songs by himself, and later went duetting with Billy Mize on Town Hall Party (search for him on Youtube).
Bonnie Blue Bell (who sounds male) had a good rocker with “Let’s Go” on Bakersfield 105.
For more information, get the CD “Just Around Bakersfield” (2009) as shown below:
Thanks to Bo Berglind for loaning some rare label scans. Also to Terry Gordon’s “Rockin’ Country Style” site