Nothing at all is known about MACK HAMILTON, (not even a picture), except he came probably from the Gulf, between Port Arthur, a mere 90 miles East of Houston, TX, and nearby Louisiana. And that is asserted only by the location of the two record labels he got to wax on between 1953 and 1954.
His first ever record was cut in Port Arthur for the Diamond Recording Company in 1953. To add much more confusion, a Diamond diskery was active during this period, which emanated from Beaumont, TX (on the Gulf too) and issued Country records, for example one by Morris Mills (Diamond # 101, “Jumbalaya answer“), a rather prolific regional artist (also 4* and Macy’s). Although you may say it’s the same company with two locations, which has nothing to do with two other Diamond Co. in New York. This « Diamond Recording Company » was also a short-lived concern with only two issues, one therefore by Mack Hamilton (vocal and guitar): (Diamond CW-1001/1002) : the lugubrious mid-tempo « Moaning in the morning » (fiddle and steel prominent) and the self-conscious very Hank Williams styled « Sweet little Rosebud », a solid bopper, with even a short accordion solo, but steel and fiddle are once more well present.
The second issue of the label was cut by Roland (R.A.) Faulk, as « Roland and his Rythm Boys » (sic). Sides CW 1003/1004 : « Send
me someone/I’d own the world ». are pleasant waltz tempo hillbillies. Nothing special, except a heay bass, a steel and a good piano and guitar. The singer is firm and confident : he was active on the Port Arthur area, and was to record in October 1956 the great Rockabilly « My baby’ gone » on Big State 592, a Starday custom, out of Port Acres, TX.(valued $ 700). But I am wandering from Mack Hamilton.
His next offerings were commited to wax in late 1953 for the Feature label, which was located in Crowley, La. and run by J.(Jay) D. Miller. Hamilton’s sides however were recorded at radio KTRM in Beaumont, TX. seemingly as a 4-tracks session. Backing Hamilton were Rusty (guitar) and his brother Doug Kershaw on fiddle, plus Louis Fourneret on steel. The tracks included two great Boppers : « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », completely Hank Williams styled with thudding bass and hot steel (Feature 1087A), and in the same pattern, « Will you will or will you won’t ?» (Feature 1095A).
Less fast were the flipsides, although very good on their part : the weepers mid-tempo « In a world without you » and « A girl with too many sweethearts ». And that was it. J. D. Miller wrote every Feature song, and must have had faith in « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », because he offered it to Wink Lewis on the very following number (# 1088). Lewis did a great version too. Later on he cut the great piano led Rockabilly « Zzztt, zzztt, zzztt » on the Texas Tone label (with Buzz Busby & his Band). I am wandering once more from Mack Hamilton, but there’s no more to relate about him : he disappeared completely from the music scene.
Hank (real forname S.A.) Harral was no newcomer in the music business in 1957 when he launched Caprock records in Big Spring, Tx.
Before recording for his own label, he had releases on T.N.T. and Talent (see elsewhere on Bopping for the label’s story), for which he cut amongst other tunes « Dream Band Boogie » in 1951. He re-recorded the song, in a more rocking way, for Caprock. Backing is provided by Weldon Myrick (steel and lead guitar), Deana Hall (bass), Helen Helso (piano) and Red Stone (rhythm guitar). He had 4 issues on Caprock, the two best being « Tank Town Boogie » and «The D.J. Blues » (102). the latter being a cross between Hillbilly and Rockabilly. Probably the most well known disc to rockabilly collectors is « Tank Town boogie » (104) with « Sweet Memory » on the flip. Right from the intro by Weldon Myrick on guitar and Mr. Burkett on piano, one is treated to a solid piece of rockin’ Texas good time rockabilly. Driven along at a fair pace by Deana Hall’s powerhouse bass lines, it is a classic of its type and one can only be impressed by the sense of enjoyment that was captured. At least 3 takes were made with the third one being issued on a White label LP pictured here. It is a slower, more bluesier treatment. During this time, Hank cut some more rockin’ material, which included « She’s Gone » and an extremely good re-working of « Dream Band boogie », which has the bonus of fine rompin’ piano from Mr. Burkett and Deana Hall again shining on the bass. Harral’s fourth and final release on the label finds him with yet another self penned tribute to his birth state, « Oklahoma Land » (114), a solid bopper with, as usual, excellent back up from the band. The flip is « (I’ve Got A) Mortgage On Your Heart », a song he had co-written with Billy Harbet back in 1953 (Harbet had recorded it then for Starday 119), and it is a good country weeper. Harral also recut a nice version of “Dilly Dally Doodle” which remained unissued at the time.
A number of local artists wanted to get released on the fledging new label, so Caprock 101 was issued by ex-Snyder High School Senior Dixie Rogers, from a town some 35 miles North East of Big Spring. Both « I Will Miss You » and « What Then Will You Say » (Caprock 101) are quick paced country numbers, with Harral’s band providing the backing. Myrick is in particularly good form. She returned with the curiously titled « When The Frost Is On The Punkin » (106). Dixie sounds a little more assured on this one and it is a nice country bopper; the same good uptempo style is carried onto the flipside, « Our First Date ». She had a third release (112), « Only You/World Of Broken Hearts », unheard, so cannot comment.
Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys made their debut on the label with « My Wasted Love/Kelly Waltz » (103). Ben, the brother of Hoyle, takes the vocal on the former, a slowish tempo’d Western swing number with a nice, uncluttered instrumental on the flip. Hoyle and his band were a well established outfit in the area, having already made records for Star Talent at the turn of the ’50s and for the obscure Queen label in Snyder, Tx (including the excellent « Real Rockin’ Daddy » (to be found under the “WINK LEWIS” entry in this site)) before arriving at Caprock in 1958. He was later to have « Coming Down From Pecos” (105), another instrumental with once again Ben doing the vocals on yet another waltz time flip, « My Mary ». For the final release of 1958, he returned to Ben Hall’s studio and cut probably his strongest coupling on the label with a re-working of « Big Balls In Cowtown » (109), the song that had kicked off his recording career back on the old Star Talent label. Many different stylings lent themselves to Western swing, and one of them was the jazzy big band swing songs and Artie Shaw’s « Summit Ridge Drive » is a perfect composition to show off the band. Taken at a nicely relaxed but swinging pace, Hoyle puts the band through its pace with Mr. Burkett’s piano followed by Dusty Stewart’s fine snappy steel, and Eldon Shamblin‘s lead guitar through to Red Hayes’ fine mandolin pickin’ until, as calls Hoyle out « Now all together boys », and the band sail through to the climax. Hoyle was to go on to record for a number of small Texas labels like Bo-Kay, Winston and Stampede, even having an LP on Oil Patch in the ’70s.
During the end of 1958, Hank Harral was persuaded to handle more recordings as a custom service with the artists providing their own tapes already cut, and of course the material became of a more variable standard. Jimmy Haggett had recorded for Sun, Meteor and Vaden, and was deejaying in Arkansas at the time of his release on Caprock (107), two hillbilly weepers, « Without You/All I Have Is Love ». At the same time Durwood Daly (rn Haddock) was also a DJ in Kermit, Tx, and he had his own Johnny Cash‘s influenced « That’s The Way It Goes » (108)
Ace Ball (Batch) had known Hank for many years prior to his one release on Caprock 110. He had played rhythm guitar on Hank’s Star Talent releases. He was from a farming community south of Portale, NM, and had at least one release on Ace-Hi (his label?). It seems that « I’ve Lost Again/High School Wedding Band » was cut in Nashville. The latter being a typical late ’50s rock ballad, spoiled by the chorus, while the A side is a pleasant enough pop rocker. The totally obscure Jack Tate is on Caprock 111, with « Casanova » being a fast and superior quality bopper. Jack has a rural vocalising and the Sandy Land Playboys create the impression of being together for quite a while.
Jimmy Simpson had a solitary issue on Caprock 113, recorded in Nashville while he was on leave from the oil fields of Alaska. His « Breaker Of My Heart » bops nicely, while « I’m An Oilfield Boy » is set to a quick waltz pace.
Penultimate release is by the unknown Roy New with his Trans-Pecos Melody Boys (115). The song « Blue Tomorrow » is way above average, and Roy is putting his heart and soul in what is possibly his one and only record ever. A slightly slower song, « Heartaches For Sale » on the flip. Finally Caprock 116, Max Alexander coupling « Little Rome /Rock, Rock, Rock Everybody » backed by the Hi-Fi’s Combo, offer two of the best Rock’n’Roll records ever. It is firmly placed in the Bill Haley format, with Max on bass and vocal, until the late Frank Fierro comes in on a honkin’ sax break, before the arrival of a blistering guitar solo. The guitar player could be Cecil McCullough who recorded for Bo-Kay and Manco. Flipside is instrumental. And so the Caprock label came to an end. They had no big national hits, only helping people to either try or further careers.
Label story based on two main sources: first, Phillip J. Tricker, “The Caprock Story” (Roll Street Journal n° 7, Spring 1984); second, notes to White Label LP 8831 “Tank Town Boogie”. Some additions and corrections from Bopping editor. Thanks to Tony Biggs for the loan of label scans.
WINK LEWIS w/ BUZ BUSBY & BAND- Zzztt, Zzztt, Zzztt (Tone 1121)
For a very brief period of time in the mid-50s, between stints as a radio DJ in Lufkin and Cameron, Wink Lewis’s voice could be heard over KSNY out of Snyder, Texas. It was from this location that Wink began his Queen record label. Many of the releases on the label were from Big Spring’s Hoyle Nix who was noted by John Ingman as a co-owner of the label.
Collectors today are aware of the Queen label because of the tune “Real Rockin’ Daddy” which was released twice by the label, with one version credited to Jay Bob Howdy with Hoyle Nix and His West Texas Cowboys and the rerelease noting the involvement of only Hoyle and his crew. Both feature the same vocal by the song’s co-writer Jay Bob Howdy who was actually Wink Lewis. Few people are aware that the song’s roots, and other co-writer “Miller”, are based in east Texas and Louisiana from whence Wink came. Wink would actually release one single 45 on his own label under his own name featuring a nice honky tonk boogie titled “Low Down Blues” with backing from Buzz Busby and his Band. It’s Buzz who could probably be given credit for kick-starting the state of Maryland’s fascination with bluegrass music in the 1960s. Not sure how Buzz wound up in West Texas.
At some point in early 1956 Wink left KSNY in Snyder and headed east of I-35 to work radio in Cameron, Texas. A few short months later he again recorded with Buzz Busby’s band, this time producing one of the oddest rockabilly tunes ever- “Zzztt Zzztt Zzztt”. The rhythm is almost too much and the lyrics too hep with the result being a country boy just trying too hard and the disc received a lackluster Billboard review in August of 1956.
Allmusicguide’s Eugene Chadbourne mentions “Zzztt” being recorded in Snyder, but unless it was recorded at the same session that produced “Low Down Blues” and the master carried to Cameron I doubt this. And I doubt it was recorded at the same session. Perhaps the Queen-ette publishing is a homage to Wink’s brief stay in Snyder.