Eddie Jackson & his Swingsters: Detroit Hillbilly rock (1950-1960)

eddie jackson

Detroit’s country music scene of the 1950’s featured a solid mix of talents and clubs where folks could stomp ’till two o’clock every night of the week, with some of the wildest sounds this side of Mason-Dixon Line. One man who was there in the thick of the good times was Eddie Jackson, who assembled the hottest bands and shows in town for two decades straight !

He was born in Cooksville, Tennessee, and Eddie’s family, like many Southerners, moved to Detroit during a period a growth in automobile manufacturing. As a youngster during the 1930s and 40s, he took up guitar and singing, and idolized musical giants such as Hank Penny, Milton Brown, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan (he even met Wills and Duncan in Stockton, CA, while Eddie served with the Navy during WWII). Upon his honorable discharge by Uncle Sam in 1947, Jackson returned to Detroit, and was offered to lead a band the same night he arrived ! From then on, Eddie Jackson and his various combos were crowd-pleasers at shows all over Michigan, parts of Ohio, and Ontario. Around 1950, Eddie’s first group, the Melody Riders, cut a record in Detroit. The song « I’m willing to forget » was his first composition (Fortune 134).

I’m willing to forget

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New set of blues

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BB 14-1-50 Fortune 134

Billboard Jan 14, 1950

(Accompanying the Riders was Hal Clark on guitar, who later changed his name to Hal Southern and co-wrote « I dreamed of a hillbilly heaven ».) Hal Clark sang his comp on the flip “New set of blues“. fortune 134 new set of bluesAs the scene got cooking, Jackson’s band started sizzling, and they found

Hal Clark (Fortune 146) “I don’t mean a thing to you

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fortune-146a-hal-clark-i-dont-mean-a-thing-to-you sage373a_hal-southern-sleevethemselves booked nightly. Ted’s 10-Hi Bar, on the east side, was the sight of Detroit’s first C&W Jamboree, as hosted by Eddie Jackson and his Cowboy Swingsters (including Tracey White on guitar, and ‘Smitty’ Smith on bass). For several months, the trio performed 15-minutes radio broadcasts from WMLN-FM in Mount Clemens.Eddie Jackson also led a country music variety show, « The Michigan Barn Dance » on Detroit NBC affiliate Channel Four TV, during the early 1950’s.
“Baby doll”(first version)

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Throughout his career, Jackson performed with the finest musicians available in Detroit. Among the more famous were steel guitar players Chuck Hatfield (from Hank Thompson’s band) and Billy Cooper (from Ferlin Husky’s). When Elvis Presley brought rock and roll craze to country music, Eddie was sharp enough to add the big beat to his repertoire, and he wrote « Rock and roll baby » around 1956 (Fortune 186), with a fine accordion.

fortune 186 rock and roll baby

Rock and roll baby

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« Baby doll »(second version) (Shelby 297) and « Please don’t cry » were recorded after that, and through the 1950’s the Swingsters played regular shows at a nightclub called the Caravan Gardens.
Baby doll

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Please don’t cry

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shelby 297 baby doll
Eddie Jackson solidified the band’s line-up with Joe Magic on bass & drums (played at the same time!), ‘Uncle’ Jimmy Knuckles on piano, and Tracey White on take off guitar. This group attracted big crowds, as well as popular country singers like Webb Pierce, Jean Shepard, Lefty Frizzell, Red Foley & many other top artists who often stopped in to perform songs with the Swingtsters ! Jackson also had his own program on Royal Oak radio station WEXL-AM, where he spun records and sometimes broadcast from the Caravan. In 1959 the Swingsters cut their most popular record record in Detroit : « I’m learning » backed with the rocker « Blues I can’t hide »(Caravan 101). Even though Jackson says he preferred « Blues… », the ballad « I’m learning » went through the roof of WEXL’s country & western charts. As a result, Eddie was able to pay cash for a new ’59 Cadillac with a convertible top !

Blues I can’t hide

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I’m learning

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caravan 101 blues I can't hide
The Swingsters’ next recordings stayed in step with country music trends of the early 1960’s, with Jackson’s version of his buddy Ricky Riddle‘s tune « Ain’t you ashamed » sounding among the best.
Ain’t you ashamed
caravan-102-eddie-jackson-aint-you-ashamed

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They also backed Betty Parker on the Elm label # 742.

Betty ParkerCouldn’t see

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elm 742 betty parker - couldn't see

Eddie cruised down to Nashville and recorded two more singles, including « You put it there » (Caravan 1004), a song from his last session in a recording studio. By the late 1960’s he quit performing regularly, in favor a starting a successful business. Knuckles, White and others have since passed on. But whenever Eddie Jackson sings and entertain people, the crowd’s humor rises, and sparks fly.

You put it there

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caravan 1004 eddie jackson - you put it there

 

Notes by Craig Maki to « Eddie Jackson and the Swingsters – « Music with a Western beat » (Woodward LP WD-100, 1996). Reproduced by courtesy © Craig Maki. Additions from bopping’s editor. With appreciated help fro Drunken Hobo: thanks Dean!

 

pochette face2

 

 

“I’m a whip crackin’ daddy”: the story of Ricky Riddle (1950-1971)

rick riddle 1969 picWith a mellifluous, deep voice often compared to western singer Rex Allen, Ricky Riddle was an Arkansas-born, Detroit-bred vocalist who gravitated to the western side of country music. His surname was apt, as he was a restless character, always on the go and never satisfied with life in one place for very long. Born Arvin Doyle Riddle on Aug. 22, 1920, in Rector, Ark., his parents moved him, two brothers and one sister to Hamtramck, Mich., around 1933. The Riddle family eventually settled in a house on McClellan Street in Detroit.

During World War II, Riddle enlisted with the Navy in Chicago, Ill. He served aboard the U.S.S. Adair in the Pacific Theatre. After an honourable discharge in 1946, He returned to Detroit and found a booming country music nightclub scene waiting for him; a result of thousands of new migrants from the South who moved north to build Detroit’s “Arsenal of Democracy.” Riddle pursued the life of a singing cowboy in earnest, writing songs and performing in nightclubs and showcases, sitting in with other entertainers and headlining his own shows.

In 1949, Drake’s Record Shop, located on East Jefferson Avenue, sponsored appearances by Hank Williams, Cowboy Copas and others at the convention center on Woodward Avenue. When Riddle’s friend, singer Eddie Jackson, was hired to open for Williams, Riddle shared the stage with him. Riddle was probably living in Nashville, Tennessee, by then.

Jackson visited Riddle in Nashville during ’49, and Riddle took him to witness his new buddy Clyde Julian “Red” Foley record what became a major hit for Decca Records, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.” Compared to the size to which it grew a decade later, the country music business in Nashville was small, thriving through the projects of independent record labels, music publishers and promoters who tapped local artists working at Nashville clubs and radio stations; particularly members of the “Grand Ole Opry” barn dance at clear-channel WSM. In January 1950, Riddle’s first commercial recording appeared as the premier issue of the Tennessee label, a record company created by three Nashville businessmen, including a jukebox serviceman. Riddle’s “Second Hand Heart” on Tennessee no. 711 (numbered for luck, no doubt) was a good seller, and a hit in Detroit. Riddle cut several more releases for Tennessee over the next two years:

Second hand heart download
“Second Hand Heart” and the song on the record’s flip side, “Somebody’s Stealin’ My Baby’s Sugar,” were both covered by several artists, including Houston’s Benny Leaders (4-Star), Bill Johnson and the Casanova Boys (London) and, more than a decade later, Everett “Swanee” Caldwell remade “Second Hand Heart” for King.

Somebody’s stealin’ my baby’s sugardownload

By 1950, Riddle was operating a nightclub in Nashville. He befriended Arizona singer Marty Robbins, whose first appearance at the “Grand Ole Opry” occurred in early 1951. Probably in 1950, Riddle bought author rights to Robbins’ song “Ain’t You Ashamed,” (# 715) which became Riddle’s second release on Tennessee, # 713. (Detroit musician and Capitol Records distributor Bob McDonald purchased a share in the song from Riddle.) Cowboy singer Bob Atcher covered the song for Capitol. The flipside of “Are you ashamed” was a good honky-tonk, a version (later by Skeets McDonald) of “Smoke comes out my chimney just the same”.

Ain’t you ashamed download

Smoke comes out my chimney just the samedownload

 

Tennessee 711 second hand heart

Tennessee 711B somebody's been stealin' my baby's sugartennessee 715A ain't you ashamedTennessee 713B smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riddle recorded Robbins’ “Heartsick” for another Tennessee release. He attempted to present Robbins with a recording contract, but the company’s artists and repertoire man passed on the deal. Robbins went on to launch a storied career with Columbia Records in May 1951.

Among other releases on Tennessee, Riddle sang a duet with Anita Kerr, leader of the Anita Kerr Singers, on a heart song called “The Price Of Love,” again attributed to Riddle and McDonald. On “Boogie woogie Tennessee”(# 717) (a take-off to “Tennessee saturday night”), Riddle had Ernie Newton, the bassman who wrote much later “Country boy’s dream” for Carl Perkins. He seems far from young on this recording, and the suave assurance of both Riddle and the backing group is almost at odds with the subject matter. Riddle made 8 records for Tennessee, one of them being “Heartsick”, the first Marty Robbins’ song he recorded commercially. After the label’s biggest hit played out in 1951-52

(Del Wood’s “Down Yonder” of 1951), the Tennessee label closed its doors. 

Boogie woogie Tennessee download
I got other fish to fry
http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-732A-Ricky-Riddle-I-got-other-fish-to-fry.mp3download

The tall, easygoing Riddle persevered; he worked on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance as Wayne Turner, but was canned for habitual drunkeness. He then cut a single for Decca’s subsidiary Coral Records in 1953, the fine double-sider “What do you do” and “You belong to another” (# 64157). In early 1954, he recorded the bouncy “Steamboat Boogie” for M-G-M Records # 11741, with steel guitarist Don Helms and Chet Atkins on electric guitar. Framing the clever lyrics of the song was the refrain: Steamboat boogie / Rock, rock, rockin’ along. But for the fiddles, the song rocked like BillRock Around The ClockHaley’s earliest efforts. The flip side, “A Brand New Heart,” was written by Riddle as a follow-up to “Second Hand Heart.”
Remaining Tennessee sides of interest: “Cold icy feet” (# 758) and the fast “I’m so lonesome” (# 801).
What do you dodownload

You belong to anotherdownload

Steamboat boogiedownload

Cold icy feetdownload

I’m so lonesomedownload

tennessee 717-A ricky riddle - bw tennesseetennessee 732 I got other fish to fryTennessee 758A cold icy feetTennessee 801B I'm so lonesome

Coral 64157A what do you doCoral 64157B you belong to anothermgm 11741 steamboat boogiemgm 11741 a brand new heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1956, Riddle cut two releases for Decca Records. The first featured the trucker’s “Drivin’ Down The Wrong Side Of The Road,” backed with “I’m A Whip Crackin’ Daddy.” The single sounded like it was recorded at Owen Bradley’s Quonset hut in Nashville. Riddle’s second Decca single featured the Anita Kerr Singers for a country-pop production, “The House I Used To Live In,” and a song with religious content (he had cut similar material for the Tennessee label) called “If Jesus Had To Pray (What About Me?)” During the 1950s, while living in Nashville, Riddle performed as a guest at the “Renfro Valley Barn Dance” in Kentucky, and as a guest on the “Grand Ole Opry.”
His parents moved from Michigan to Tempe, Ariz., and Riddle traveled the country, visiting friends and family while singing in nightclubs along the way.
decca 29813 ricky riddle - driving down the wrong side of the roaddecca 29813 dj icky riddle - I'm a whip crackin' daddy

Driving down the wrong side of the roaddownload
I’m a whip crackin’ daddy
http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/decca-29813-Ricky-Riddle-Im-A-Whip-Crackin-Daddy.mp3download

Around 1968 Riddle settled in Arizona for a spell. There he recorded the finest vocal performances of his career for the Rio Grande label, based in Glendale. For starters, he cut a version of the traditional cowboy song, “Streets Of Laredo,” as well as “Reata Pass,” his own western composition. Riddle reprised “Ain’t You Ashamed” and “Second hand heart” besides coming up with some swinging shuffles like “Don’t You Worry” a cheeky ode to overdoing it at the bar, and “(There’s ) Something In Your Future.” and finally “Jo Ann”. The band was top-notch, delivering punchy performances with quality production and arrangements, including a stellar steel guitarist.
Something in your futuredownload
Jo Ann”
http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Ricky-Riddle-Jo-Ann.mp3download

dixie 107 hankg on bill

an untraced 45 by Riddle

rio grande 1001 something in your futurerio grande 1001 jo ann
With a broad, toothy smile, Riddle had a likeable personality and visited Michigan often, to see his siblings and their families, and check up on musician friends he grew up with in Detroit. While in town, he made the rounds of local radio stations and sat with country music disk jockeys for on-air interviews. At some point during the 1970s, Riddle moved back to Michigan and took a job as a security guard in Hamtramck. Late one night, Riddle walked out the door of a Detroit bar and was mugged. When police found him, he stank of liquor and the officers mistook his condition for simply being drunk. They placed the unconscious Riddle in a jail cell for the night. When he didn’t respond to attempts to wake him in the morning, Riddle was admitted to the Veterans Administration hospital. Doctors found that Riddle had suffered a stroke resulting from a blow to his head; he was paralysed on his right side.
Riddle’s brother, E. Marvin Riddle, arranged for him to live at the Clintonview Care Convalescent Home in Clinton Township. Relatives and friends visited regularly. Mentally, Riddle was the same person, but he was unable to sing and play guitar. To cheer him up, a niece often called a local country music station to request Riddle’s records, and they played them late at night when he enjoyed listening to his radio. Riddle passed away on Aug. 8, 1988. His ashes were interned at the top of the hill in St. John’s cemetery in Fraser, Mich.
© Craig “Bones” Maki, 2010

Thanks, as usual, to Ronald ’78rpm’ Keppner for scanning the rare Tennessee/Coral/Decca labels. Rest of the tunes do come from Internet, as: Ricky Riddle discography (Praguefrank)

early March 2011 fortnite favorites

Howdy folks! Here is a new batch of Hilbilly Bop goodies, even the odd Rock’n’Roll!

We are beginning on the West Coast with CASEY SIMMONS and his “Juke Box Boogie” on Crystal records from 1950. Call and response format, fine saxophone and a lot of electric guitar. The whole thing romps along lovely!

eddie jackson

Eddie Jackson

crystal 289 simmons

Fortune records offered many a Hillbilly Bop song in its 100 serie. EDDIE JACKSON, famous for his “Rock and Roll Baby“, turns up there with “Baby Doll“, dominated by a good piano.

Sol Kahal’s Macy’s Records had many fine discs, either in Blues field, either in early Hillbilly bop, i.e. by Ramblin’ Tommy Scott or Harry Choates. ART GUNN & his Arizona Playboys cut the decent “Cornbread Boogie” in 1949. Fine harmonica throughout.    macy's 106A art gunn cornbread boogie

They also had on the same label “Boogie Woogie Blues” (for a future fortnight), and later, on own Gunn label Arga in 1958, the superior “Pickin’ and A-Singin’“.

sam nichols pic

Cowboy Sam Nichols

Cowboy Sam Nichols had written (and recorded for Stanchell) the classic “That Wild And Wicked Look In Your Eye“, before he got a contract with MGM records. It was early to mid-fifties and the beginning of truck drivers‘ songs (Terry Fell for example); here the shuffle “Keep Your Motor Hot” from 1954. No label scan available, as I sold the 78 rpm, having only kept the music! Nichols was backed by West coast top musicians: Porky Freeman on guitar, Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Red Murrell on rhythm and Curley Cochran on steel.

From trucks to trains. Grady CURLEY COLE was a resident D.J. in Paducah, KY, but he cut his fine “I‘m Going To Roll” for L.A. Gilt-Edge label. Nothing more is known about him. Let’s stay in Kentucky for TOMMY HOLMES, backed by Pat Kingery & the Kentuckians. A certain Mr. Vance asked Holmes a record for his politician career ca. 1954. The tune “Jam On The Lower Shelf” is pretty average, mostly when you hear Holmes six years later in an out-and-out Rocker on the Cherry label, “Wha-Chic-Ka-Noka“. Enjoy the selections!

tommy holmes piccherry 112 holmes