Jimmie Logsdon: the early years (1951-1958)

Jimmie Lloyd Logsdon was born on April 1, 1922 in Panther, Kentucky. His father was a self-taught man who made it through a Methodist seminary. He was a circuit rider in Kentucky during his early years as a preacher and was then posted to several towns while Jimmie was growing up.

The beginnings

Music for the first 15 years of Jimmie’s life was gospel, the only music he had heard around his gospel surroundings. He and his sister sang in the choir. They put on shows and entered amateur contests. When the family lived in southeastern Kentucky, he heard blues singers and secular country music at ice cream parties and other social events. Later, he was impressed by rhythm & blues and especially remembers Erskine Hawkins’ “After Hours” as a record that made a deep impression on him. Glenn Miller, Gershwin and the popular music of the day also had an impact but not as much as blues and country.

The 1940s

In 1940, he was graduated from high school in Ludlow, Kentucky, and in the fall he married his first wife. He started working in Cincinnati installing public address systems. In 1944 he went to the service in the Air Corps, but never got further than technical training school in Madison, Wisconsin and an air base near San Antonio where he repaired the wiring on B-17s. Down in Texas, he heard Ernest Tubb and other Texas honky tonk singers. Locked up in the stockade for a few days, he remembers singing to a fellow inmate who was facing a term in Leavenworth. “That is where it all began, “Jimmie said.”

In 1946 Jimmie and the service parted ways. He then started a record and radio shop in La Grange, Kentucky, 25 miles northeast of Louisville. He picked up records from the Jimmie Skinner Record Center in Cincinnati to re-sell in his own store, and, after two years, decided that he would get into the music business. In 1948, he borrowed a guitar from some friends for a while and finally broke down and bought one from a pawn shop for 12 dollars. He learned a few basic chords, then cut some demos on an old recording machine he had in the back of the shop.

The first record

He got together a band and went to Cincinnati and cut his first record for Harvest Records, his own label : « It’s All Over Now (Harvest 401B) is a good uptempo bopper, well in the manner of the era (fiddle prominent, steel solo over a thudding bass). The flipside « Road of regret » is a real weeper. He did the recording at Herzogs which was the same studio where Hank Williams Sr. had cut “Lovesick Blues” about two years earlier.

The Decca years

He eventually wound up performing on a show in Louisville where the great Hank Williams was headlining. Hank told Jimmie that he would speak to someone in Nashville about getting Jimmie a contract. Meanwhile, Jimmie, in addition to doing shows and nightclub appearances, had a daily radio show. He interviewed lots of stars including Jim Reeves, Porter Waggoner, Merle Travis, Elvis Presley, Boyd Bennett, Les Paul and Mary Ford among others.

His career received a boost in 1953, when he became the host of a live country show on WHAS-TV, which also featured his backup group, the Golden Harvest Boys. Logsdon’s work for Decca was predominantly composed of country songs, but some of them verged on rockabilly. After Decca had dropped him in late 1954, Logsdon’s career took a dive, when the aftermath of a messy divorce drove him to drugs and a six-month stay in hospital. Vic McAlpin, his agent (also a prolific songwriter), got him onto Dot Records where he cut four songs in September 1955, the best being the bluesy « Cold Cold Rain »(Dot # 1274). He then went to Starday for one release : »I Can’t Make Up My Mind » is a rockabilly in essence, because the hiccups of Logsdon and the prominent steel (# 286, released March 1957).

Thus he was then ready for the next skip: his friend in Nashville, Vic McAlpin, called and said he had a possible recording deal for Jimmie with Roulette Records. By this time Rockabilly was coming into full swing and hardly any label wanted a country singer on their roster. Jimmie had gotten an idea for a song called “Where The Rio De Rosa Flows” when he was in San Antonio during the war. In August 1957 he recorded this rockabilly song for Roulette ( # 7001 in the short-lived Roulette C&W serie) and it was a big hit in several markets including Memphis where Carl Perkins heard it and covered it on a Columbia album («  Whole Lotta Shakin’ », Columbia 1234) shortly after Jimmie’s version was released.

Jimmie and Vic McAlpin also wrote “I’ve Got a Rocket in My Pocket.” To some, this might seem like a dirty song, but Jimmie insists that it was just a nonsense thing. It is still a standard and was used in the sound track of the movie, “the Right Stuff.” The reason Vic McAlpin and Jimmie decided to use the pseudonym “Jimmie Lloyd” when recording for Roulette Records was that Jimmie knew that country fans are loyal and maybe would not forgive him for singing rock and roll if they knew it was really him singing. Hardly any of his country fans knew that Jimmie Lloyd was in reality, Jimmie Logsdon.
He was released from his Roulette contract after the 2nd record and he realized that at this age, he might be a little old to be rocking and rolling.

Sources : my own archives ; HBR for Selective ; 45worlds for Tommy Sargent, Ray Whitley and Tommy Magness label scans.

Please see the follow-up to this story in: Jimmie Logsdon, the later years (1962-1982)