The mainstay of this ensemble was Jimmy Lee Fautheree. Born (James Walton Fautheree) on April 11, 1934 in Smackover, Arkansas. When he was 12 years old, his aunt bought him a guitar and he was fortunate that his parents wanted him to be an entertainer : so Fautheree became an accomplished guitarist at the age of 16 He spent many hours and dayspracticing guitar and singing with two of his younger brothers, Lynn and Jackie, both of whom in adulthood would follow him in musical pursuits. Their father was an oilman and moved his family from town to town as jobs became available, but settled in Dallas in 1946. The family was very musical minded, so Jimmy came by it honest.Jimmy liked and was around most phases of music : blues and hillbilly were his favorites, but country and gospel also fell into place. Ernest Tubb and Jack Guthrie were big influences, but Merle Travis left a definite impression on Jimmy with his distinctive finger-picked electric guitar style.
Following a successful appearance on the Big « D » Jamboree, Jimmy Fautheree was soon a regular feature of the Dallas Country music scene. ‘Country’ Johnny Mathis, not to be confused with the pop crooner of the same name, hailed from Maud TX, where he was born in 1935. Mathis is arguably the most notable of the many individuals that made up the other half of the Jimmy & Johnny guise. Mathis had already garnered some experience in the recording field, having waxed a handful of sides for the JB [an extra-Bullet outfit of Jim Bulleit] in 1951 and Talent (Dallas, Texas) (1949) labels. Jim Bulleit acted also as manager for Jimmy Fauthereee (see below Billboard snippet).
In 1951, the boys were invited on to the Louisiana Hayride and very quickly became part of the house band which was then run by bassist Tillman Franks (more on him in the article devoted elsewhere in this site to the early days of Webb Pierce in Shreveport). Recently unearthed tapes of the Hayride concerts stand testament to their talent. Shortly after joining the prestigious show, Fautheree was signed to a recording contract with Capitol records. His first Capitol session took place at the Louisiana Hayride in 1951 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Four songs were recorded – “Go Ahead and Go” (a Jimmy Lee original), the fine uptempo “I’m Diggin’ A Hole To Bury My Heart” (# 2153) and here, Fautheree was also renamed “Jimmy Lee“. He went on to be a great star in the hillbilly field. One of his Capitol records is interesting,”Blowin’ And Goin’” as it includes a muted trumpet, an unusual instrument in early ’50s Country, but in Lee Bond‘s Republic sides, e.g. “How About A Date“, cut at the same time as Jimmy Lee (see elsewhere for this label’s story)
Billboard 1952 snippet
In 1953, the pair Fautheree-Mathis recorded « If You Don’t, Somebody Else Will » for Feature (a Crowley, La. Jay D. Miller label), but it wasn’t until the following year, when they re-recorded the song for Chess, that it made the n°3 spot and became their only hit record. Jimmy Lee continued working and recording under the name of Jimmy & Johnny (Decca), albeit now with his brother Lynn. The new duet cut superb Rockabillies : the furious « Sweet Love On My Mind » (written by Wayne Walker, and shortly thereafter recorded by Johnny Burnette and the Rock’n’Roll Trio on Coral)(# 30061), the lazy uptempo Hillbilly bop bordering Rockabilly « Sweet Singing Daddy » (# 29772), the equally good « What ‘Cha Doin’ To Me » (# 30410), while the latter’s flipside, « I’ll Do It Everytime » was titled « Skiffle-Billy Beat » ! They were featured on Faron Young‘s band – Faron Young & The Deputies, on to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, performing there many times on the famous stage. Jimmy was featured in many shows of Elvis Presley’s early years, with Elvis being Jimmy’s opening act several times. Wow, how many can say that has happened for them ? Fautheree also did teaming up on Chess with Wayne Walker for the major 1955 Rockabilly classic « Love Me » with its furious steel-guitar and Fautheree’s own raucous, gutbucket bluesy guitar. In addition, he made later some solo recordings : in 1958, he cut the out-and-out rocker « Teen-Age Wedding » for the Vin label in New Orleans under the name Johnny Angel.
KWKH was a radio studio, also the only recording studio in Shreveport. Its studio was built as a room within a room : about two ft. away from the outside walls of the building, another wall was constructed stuffed with fiberglass. The only windows faced the annoncer’s booth and an area in front of the studio where the coffee machine and several chairs and tables were situated. The dimensions of the studio were approximately 25×30 ft. with a 12-foot ceiling, which was similar to the Dallas’ Jim Beck’s studio facility. Nevertheless, engineer Bob Sully excelled in being able to make the most out of what was available. For instance, he discovered that an echo effect was possible through feeding the output back into the board. Which he did, with Jimmy Lee & Wayne Walker « Love Me ».
Mathis teamed early in 1955 with a Dallas club owner, Les Chambers, who put on several singles on Starday by himself. The pair issued two nice fast Hillbilly boppers : « Everybody Else Does (Why Can’t I ») (Starday 181), as an answer to « If You Don’t, Somebody Else Will », and « Give Me A Little More » (Starday 206).
Chambers soon disappeared, recording-wise, while Johnny Mathis switched naturally under the protection of Starday, when this label and Mercury went to a common venture early in 1957. There he had «One Life » (# 71273), as several tracks on various artists albums, e.g. « Hillbilly Hit Parade ». He even cut uncredited for the
low-budget Dixie label a nice version of the, I believe he was
the originator, Porter Wagoner song « I Thought I Heard You Call My Name » (# 526). Later in 1958, he recorded Rockabilly on ‘D’ as Les Cole and the Echoes (« Bee Boppin’ Daddy /Rock-A-Bye-Baby», # 1010). He and Fautheree were reunited in the late fifties for a couple of releases on ‘D’, (“My Little Baby” , # 1089 ) and one for the Los Angeles Republic label (« Knock On Wood », # 2014), in 1961 before finally dissolving the act, and once again each one going their own way.
During the 1960s, Jimmy Lee recorded for the Paula label in Shreveport : a more modern version of « Can’t Find The Door Nob » (sic, # 239) (1966) and one very tough, fine guitar-led instrumental: “Box Full Of ‘Git’” Next year, he cut the nice, loud rocker “Overdue ” (also on Paula 279), then on the Lodema label, more instro with “Project X-9” and the awesome country bopper “Laziest Man In The World” (Lodema # LR 101, 1983).
Jimmy produced several Gospel albums, his first in the late 1970’s. Lynn Fautheree died in 1989 from asbestosis. It would not be before 1995 that Jimmy & Johnny performed again together for the first time in 35 years, when they recorded a gospel tune “It Won’t Be Much Longer“, released on the Dallas based TIMA Records in 2000. It was their last recording together. It was however their last recording as Johnny became ill in 1999. He was invited to come back for a reunion on the Louisiana Hayride show on June 27 and 28, 2003, titled “One More Ride“, at the original Municipal Auditorium, 706 Elvis Presley Ave., Shreveport, Louisiana. Jimmy opened the Friday night show by singing one of his recordings, “Unknown Legends“, written by Johnny Mathis. That song was perfect for the night, and as many of the original performers such as Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, Bonnie, Maxine, and Jim Ed Brown, Billy Walker, just to name a few, were present to once again perform their talents, and could say, “we are home once again“.
Also last year (2003), Jimmy performed a Rockabilly Show, “The Ponderosa Stomp”, in New Orleans, Louisiana, backed by Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics Band. That performance went so well that Deke invited Jimmy Lee to his Fort Horton studios in Austin, TX., to record with the band. The result is: “I Found The Doorknob“, Jimmy Lee’s first recording in forty years! The new CD features the hit “I Found The Doorknob” (answer song to “Can’t Find The Doorknob“), and many others including “Gotta Get You Near Me Blues“, “Overdue“, “Box Full of Gits” (Jimmy’s admirous guitar picking), “I’m Diggin a Hole“, “Big Mamma Blues“, “Nine Pound Hammer“, and many more. This CD is available through the web site – dekedickerson.com, his first album for nearly 30 years.
Jimmy went to Rye, Sussex, England, and performed the Rockabilly Rave Show on March 7, 2004, doing an outstanding performance playing his guitar and singing to many a fan who never thought they would get to see their favorite artist in person. This was also the first time he ever did perform in Europe. Three months later, he lost his battle against cancer : he passed away at his home in Dallas TX, on June 29, 2004.
As a solo artist, Johnny Mathis released several singles for D, United Artists and Little Darlin’. His final charting single was “Please Talk to My Heart,” released in 1963. He also encountered significant success as a songwriter, penning songs for Johnny Paycheck, George Jones and Webb Pierce, among others.
Mathis suffered a stroke in February 1999, and was no longer able to perform. He died on September 27, 2011, one day prior to his 78th birthday
There was also a release on TNT which is by a different Jimmy & Johnny duet; a Jimmy Lee has « Look What Love Will Do » on Vin 1010, and a record on Feature is by a Jim & Johnny, once again no relation to Messers Fautheree and Mathis.
Biography based on Dik De Heer work (www.rockabilly.nl), Walter Stettner’s own, from « Steel Guitar Forum » (published on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame site), and, most of all, from the very fine and indispensable book « Cowboys, Honky-tonks and Hepcats » written and published by my good friend Tony Biggs. Nearly all pictures were provided by Tony, too. And all the music comes from his fabulous collection…Thanks-a-lot, Tony!
Dixie – The very name evokes pictures of the Southern areas of the USA. Dixie records have been fascinating collectors for over 35 years now . Of course the word Dixie was used by many different labels throughout the States, anyway it is the main 2000 series that I am interested. Formed as an offshoot of Starday in late 1957, the idea seemed to be trying out new artists who, if successful, were transfered to Starday or using label as a custom one. Shelby Singleton seems to have been the man in charge at the beginning. Three of the first five discs were recorded in Daz Dood’s TRI-DEC label studio (Miami, Florida) and BENNY JOY’s « Spin The Bottle » was actually released on TRI-DEC 8667 in ’57 with « Hey High School Baby » on the flip. The Dixie release (2001) does sound slightly different, but as the vocal comments are same, it would appear that Starday re-mastered and the bass and drums sound more muffled on this hot slab of Rockabilly. Of a number of tracks recorded at this session, « Steady With Betty » was placed on flip of the Dixie issue and has some outstanding guitar in the break.
The other two discs recorded at TRI-DEC were GENE WATSON’s I’ll Always Love You/Little Valley (2003), a couple of ballads of little interest, and the marvelous rockin’ JIMMIE LEE « Three Little Wishes » (2005), one of the better but lesser known items on the label. With his band « The Playboys », Jimmie lays down a fine rocking opus that has a superb break split between a hot pumping piano and a very biting guitarist, and with handclaps and vocal comments, all making for a quality item.
Sandwiched between these Florida recordings are the first Texas recordings, both by DOUG BRAGG and probably recorded at Seller’s Recording Studio in Dallas. Issue 2002 couples « Red Rover/Lovin’ On My Mind », both tracks being slowish pounders of which the latter is the better of the breaks which combines piano and guitar, although to be fair the vocal is tougher on « Red Rover ». It is the second Bragg release that is the better of the two with « Pretty Little Thing » (2004) being an excellent fast rocker that has a very good break from the guitar and piano. There is a chorus in this that fits in well and the guitarist solo’s on to the end of the record. Doug recorded for quite a few Texas labels such as D during the 50’s and 60’s.
The next three releases on Dixie are all by Texas artists. DEE (Mullinax) & PATTY (Timmons) have a nice duet Bopper with « Don’t Tease Me » (2006) on which the band are very solid behind their relaxed vocalising. They were also on D and Mercury. ORVILLE COUCH, a Country singer from the Dallas/Fort Worth area had discs on boty Starday and Dixie in 1958 and his « Easy Does It » (2007) can best be described as a Rock ballad with obstrusive chorus, but he has a good voice and the guitarist is excellent on this one, although he always sounds more at home on Hillbilly material he cut for Starday and I assume that the Dixie release, probably arranged by local producer/manager Jim Shell, was a deliberate attempt to sell to the teenage market.
The very next release is one of the all-time Rockabilly greats with DERRELL FELTS & The Confederates : « Playmates/The Weepers » (2008). A crashing guitar intro and Derrell’s urgent vocal supported by driving bass and frantic drummer all combine to make « Playmates » so damn good with a superb guitar break. Texan Derrell Felts slows it down for the flipside « The Weepers » but it’s still top quality Rockabilly with lead and rhythm guitars combining for a really fine break. KEN HAMMOCK (also on Starday) offers an instrumental « Blue Guitar Jump» (2009).
The next disc is one of the least known, and arguably one of the best on the label with BILL CARROLL’s brilliant « Feel So Good » (2010) which came out at the end of 1958. I am very intrigued by the songwriting credit of Shuler/Hunter (Eddie Shuler of Goldband, and Pete Hunter, a Southern D.J. ?). The sound on this one is very similar to many of the classic rockabilly platters on the Goldband label. A real ‘lived in’ vocal on this an dit is a very catchy song with a piercing guitar break as Bill tells his tale helped by a couple of backup voices.
Eddie Skelton, courtesy Dennis West
EDDIE SKELTON had three Dixie records as well as at least two on Starday itself. Strangely they being issued at the same time too. Eddie who was from the Virginia’s had formed a band with his brother called the Rhythmtones and their first one on Dixie « Keep It Swinging » (2011) is a much sought after rocking gem that has a hot guitar behind a good vocalist and a cat who jumps all over the piano in the second break. Great one. Dennis West says (December 2015) Eddie was from Kingsport, TN.
Yet another elusive disc has been DEE JOHNSON’s « Just Look Don’t Touch » (2012) which has been described to as a solid Country rocker. There is no (2013) : unlucky number ?
Following the gap comes « Your Lying Ways » (2014) by BILL GOODWIN & His Western Ramblers. This is not as strong as his « Teenage Blues » (Starday) but is none the less a solid Country rocker with fine steel guitar, an dis a lot better than the later 60’s releases he had on Bandbox in Denver, Colo.
EDDIE SKELTON returnsfor an instrumental work out on« Rebel’s Retreat » that rocks along showcasing guitar/piano/sax and has a slow rocker « Love You Too Much » (2015) that has a nice brooding sound to it with some excellent bluesy piano and guitar.
The disc by MEL PRICE that comes next « Little Dog Blues » (2016) is the best rocking record I’ve heard by him. The first important ingredient is that the song has something going for it. Mel’s voice suits this self penned song and the backin, was the Santa Fe Rangers, is of high standard with brilliant guitar. I wonder why two of the tracks cut at this session were issued in Dixie 800 series. Mel had a number of releases on Starday, Blue Hen and Regan, and despite the name of his band, appears to have been active along the North Eastern seaboard of the USA.
CATHY KELLEY’s « Blues Hanging Around » (2017) is a Country rocker that sounds very Nashville and lives up to its title, and came out in mid-59.
Right from the opening notes of GROOVE JOE POOVEY’s famous « Ten long Fingers » (2018) with C.B. Oliver’s piano pumpng behind Joe’s assured vocal and a growling sax player who gets a good and dirty sound from his horn. An absolute classic whose rarity pales when one considers how rare his « Move Around » (Dixie 733) just a year before.
Use of the word rare, very overused with records brings us nicely to ART ONTARIO and his « It Must Be Me »(2019) which is a very fine bluesy rocker with an unusually toned guitar that has two excellent breaks. Mind this one is certainly not as rare as this son of Ohio’s « Queen From Bowling Green » issued under the name of ART BUCHANAN (Dixie 823).
For a chunk of good old Rock’n’Roll you’ll have to go a long way to beat « Blast Off » (2020) by the unknown ALDEN HOLLOWAY. Set at a fast jive pace, this one has some blisering guitar work and a good old honking sax before the guitar returns. The other side is an instrumental « Swinging The Rock » featuring both the above ; I wonder is his « Loving Is My Business » (Starday 714) was cut at the same session. Holloway was a Virginian.
I have been unable to throw any light on HUGHEY BUNCH & The Bradley Farm Hands and their « South Wind » on Dixie 2021. It is not the same « South Wind » that was cut by the late Billy Wallace on REPUBLIC, but is a nice Hillbilly Rock side that has a very prominent banjo on this side and also on the flipside « Cry Tomorrow » which just gets the edge with me as the guitar work is better. Bunch was from Morristown, TN. according to Dennis West.
By now, the latter months of 1959 signs of pop rock begin to show up as on DEE JOHNSON’s « Back To School » (2022), which was probably cut at an earlier session. A basic line up of guitar and rhythm section aided by handclaps, a chorus and tinkling piano ; it is quite pleasant.
I was impressed by JAY GALLEGHER and his « Crazy Legs » (2023). A fast tempo’d rocker opened by a heavy drummer, a rocking guitar and a really pumping piano. There is a chorus on this but it suits the song and the guitarist cuts loose a great break amidst the handclapping. The flip is a bit of a shock too : « Steady Flame » is not so fast but I almost prefer this side with it’s clever guitar break that is followed by the pianist who is really enjoying himself. Dixie 2024 (Larry Streeter) unheard.
EDDIE SKELTON goes instrumental once more with « Curly » (2025). Mid paced guitar/piano/sax that is pleasing rather than exciting as it takes too long to get into its stride. And so we come to the end of the DIXIE 2000 series with BOBBY MACK and his « Who Put The Blues In Your Heart » (2025) which is a nice piece of Nashville Country.
(reprint from Phillip J. Tricker’s article in Roll Street Journal # v8, Summer 1984)
Recommended listening: Collector CD 4411 and the Dixie Collector series (2222 to 4444)