This article (and the following ones about the same musical label) is based on the Hillbilly Researcher’s article from 1992 written by expert Phillip. Tricker, and mostly on the notes of other experts Andrew Brown and Kevin Coffey for the compilation « Heading back to Houston » (Krazy Kats CD12) issued ca. 1998. Important additions have been made by bopping’s editor.
The style of Honky Tonk music that Starday commenced to issue in 1953 had developped over the years following the end of WWII and a thriving recording scene had expanded in the Houston area with much of the recorded output appearing on labels like FOUR STAR and more locally labels like MACY’S, NUCRAFT, OPERA, HUMMING BIRD and PHAMOUS to name but just a few. Some, like MACY’S issued over fifty releases while others scaled down to a mere dozen or so and yet others a solitary lone release. One of the most important of these labels was FREEDOM : little was known about the artists and bopping music. However, since 1992 and Phillip Tricker’s article, an important amount of research has been done and we can now have a far better overview of both the label, its owner and the artists.
For this Xmas 2015, as a gift, you faithful visitors of bopping.org will get 13 (yes, thirteen) selections, instead of the usual only 6 ; although for several months I gradually posted more and more tunes. Merry bopping Xmas to y’all !
« Deep Elem blues » was first recorded by the SHELTON BROTHERS (Bob & Joe on vocals and mandolin/guitar) in February 1935 in Chicago (Decca 5422), before the Prairie Ramblers gave their own version in August of the same year. The song refers to the black quarter in Dallas, where you need 50 $ because of the red headed women there. It was an immediate success, revived by others over the years, namely by JERRY LEE LEWIS, whose 1957 version remained unissued in the Sun archives for 40 years ! Same year saw the WILBURN BROTHERS‘ version (Decca 29887) : Doyle & Ted do a fine job on this song. Later on Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead) and Levon Helm had their versions too, outside the scope of this blog, as they say.
The location is the Trail ’80’ Courts, a motel in Mineola, about 90 miles east of Dallas, Texas. Inside a bunch of good ole boys have gathered for a songwriters’ jam session convened by the motel’s owner, Jack Rhodes. After various jobs, among them moonshiner and a back accident, he began writing country songs and putting on his first band, Jack Rhodes’ Ramblers, in 1947. They made their first professionnal recordings the same year, backing Rhodes’ brother-in-law Leon Payne. The acetates were sent to Jim Bulleit in Nashville, who issued 6 singles during 1947-48 by Payne. But in 1949, Payne switched to Capitol Records, forming his own band,the Lone Star Buddies, which led to a failure between he and Jack Rhodes. Rhodes’ Ramblers, later also named Lone Star Buddies did include the three Hayes brothers : Joe ‘Red’ and Kenneth ‘Little Red’ on fiddles, and Leon on bass. (suite…)