early February 2013 fortnight’s favourites

Welcome for a new serie of honky tonk/bopping hillbilly recordings.

A certain Lyle recently asked me if I know Red Smith. Of course I know him. He was a D.J. On several stations, in New Orleans and Shreveport, then for KLLL in Lubbock, Tx, and even for WCKY in Cincinnati, Oh. He cut a very nice version of Luke McDaniels‘ « Whoa Boy » (issued on Trumpet out of Jackson, Ms) on Coral 61312 (1953). Snare drums, energetic fiddle and steel. I believe he never recorded anything else. But he wrote “All Because of You” for Rocking Martin (Starday 658). Could it be him?

Now in Indianapolis, In for the Nabor label (many rockabilly goodies, « Speed Limit » by Tommy Lam for example). Bob Hill and his Melody Boys had « This Old Train (Is Leaving My Blues Behind) » (# 105) : a fast fiddle led song, train effects done by the steel and a good guitar.

Then to Texas, and very probably out of Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas, a nice honky tonk, « Foolin’ Women » by Neal Jones. It’s shuffling, it’s solid. Columbia 21292.

From Franklin, Pa, a completely unknown Ralph Ryan and the Country Boys on the rare Process label # 132 does the very sincere ballad « Cry A Million Tears ». Intimate guitar.

1959 on the Georgia Country Jubilee label # 541, Richard Morris & the Morrisettes (!) has « Rosetta », apparently an Indian love song – strumming drums and fiddle. An haunting side.

Finally Ken Marvin on Mercury 6391(1954) has an husky voice for a good honky tonk « I’ve Got My Love » over fiddle and steel backing.

As usual, have a listen and send comments, please…

late October 2012 fortnight’s favourites

Let’s visit the “contact me” page: I am selling albums and CDs – some 45s too – at very reasonable prices!

This time I will focus on an unknown Hillbilly/Rockabilly singer, who cut only 4 sides between 1953 and 1957. His story was covered in depth on the Rockabilly all of Fame site. So all I have to do is to let Shane Hughes speak. The singer is BILL BLEVINS. So here we go:

Biographical facts on Bill Blevins are pretty well scant. The meager details that have surfaced indicate that Bill was born in 1932, but exactly where is not known. His influences and inspirations are open to conjecture. Aurally, he draws an uncanny similarity to Jimmy Swan and, from a broader perspective, Hank Williams. This is borne out in Bill’s first recordings made for Lillian McMurray’s Jackson, Mississippi based Trumpet label in 1953. McMurray had arranged a series of sessions at Bill Holford’s ACA studio in Houston during the first week of February 1953. She had recorded a handful of masters by Werly Fairburn (sub-credited as The Delta Balladeer on what would be his debut recordings), Jimmy Swan, R. B. Mitchell (Jimmy Swan’s guitarist) and ‘Lucky’ Joe Almond on February 3. The following day, Bill Blevins was brought into the studio to record four sides, followed by brief sessions by Tex Dean and Glen West. Exactly how Bill came to the attention of McMurray is not known, but he was teamed with an aggregation of studio musicians, most of whom were well known Houston players. Indiana born steel guitarist Herb Remington, who had arrived in Houston three years earlier, led this group of top flight musicians, that included guitarist Bill Buckner, fiddle player Douglas Myers and seasoned bass player ‘Buck’ Henson, who had earlier worked with Dickie McBride, Deacon ‘Rag Mop’ Anderson, Richard Prine and Cliff Bruner. Of the four sides cut, McMurray chose to release only two numbers on Trumpet 200. ‘An Hour Late And A Dollar Short’ is reminiscent of Jimmy Swan’s lightly swinging ‘Juke Joint Mama’ (recorded for Trumpet the previous year) and is an interesting precursor to Billy Barton’s ‘Day Late And A Dollar Short’ (Billy Barton 1007).

After one release on Trumpet in 1953, Bill was not heard of again until ’57 when he surfaced on the one off Houston based National label. According to Andrew Brown, two titles were cut during the early months of ’57 in a garage somewhere in Houston. The backing on both tunes is fairly sparse, indicating only lead guitar and bass accompaniment. Brown continued, “Bill was drunk at this session, hence the excessively abused phrase ‘drunken southern rockabilly’ actually is applicable for once”. After listening to the National disc, particularly « Baby I Won’t Keep Waitin’ », it’s easy to hear in Bill’s slurred pronunciation that he had more than just a tipple before kicking off the session. Both tunes, however, are premium examples of lazy Lone Star rockabilly. ‘Baby I Won’t Keep Waitin” is as salacious as the title suggests and the second cut from the session, the self-penned ‘Crazy Blues’, is a slow burning moody piece that draws from the rich musical melting pot of Texas. In ‘Crazy Blues’, a well cultured listener will detect hints of early country blues, like those hollered by Texas Alexander, Blind Lemon Jefferson or Ramblin’ Thomas during the nineteen twenties. Indeed, ’30’s steel guitar wizard and one time Jimmie Davis sideman, Oscar Woods, could have laid down a version of ‘Crazy Blues’ that would not have been unlike Bill’s. Both titles were mastered at Bill Holford’s ACA studio on April 8 and released shortly after on the short lived National label. National may have been a vanity label that Bill established solely for the release of this disc, as no other releases on this label have been traced. Subsequent discs by Bill are unconfirmed, although rumor suggests one further release appeared sometime during the nineteen sixties or seventies. If this disc does exist, discographical data is unknown. Bill is now believed to be deceased, but his National sides are still very much cherished by collectors of the Big Beat, who have been treated to the occasional reissue of ‘Crazy Blues’ and ‘Baby I Won’t Keep Waitin”.

I’ve included in the podcasts all that is available by BILL BLEVINS.

Not more known is RICHARD MORRIS on the Country Jubilee label (# 541) with “Rosetta“. Insistent fiddle and guitar, heavy Indian style drumming make this a gem.

Finally Texan J.B. BRINKLEY, whose career goes back to the ’30s, when he was guitar player for the Crystal Spring Ramblers, or the ’40s for the Light Trust Doughboys. Here he delivers the fine, powerful  “Buttermilk Blues” , piano-led, scintillating guitar on the Majestic label (# 7581). Indeed he had also “Guitar Smoke”, instrumental on Lin. It is believed however that this J.B. Brinkley was Jr. to the ’30’s artist.