Eddie Jackson & his Swingsters: Detroit Hillbilly rock (1950-1960)

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Detroit’s country music scene of the 1950’s featured a solid mix of talents and clubs where folks could stomp ’till two o’clock every night of the week, with some of the wildest sounds this side of Mason-Dixon Line. One man who was there in the thick of the good times was Eddie Jackson, who assembled the hottest bands and shows in town for two decades straight !

He was born in Cooksville, Tennessee, and Eddie’s family, like many Southerners, moved to Detroit during a period a growth in automobile manufacturing. As a youngster during the 1930s and 40s, he took up guitar and singing, and idolized musical giants such as Hank Penny, Milton Brown, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan (he even met Wills and Duncan in Stockton, CA, while Eddie served with the Navy during WWII). Upon his honorable discharge by Uncle Sam in 1947, Jackson returned to Detroit, and was offered to lead a band the same night he arrived ! From then on, Eddie Jackson and his various combos were crowd-pleasers at shows all over Michigan, parts of Ohio, and Ontario. Around 1950, Eddie’s first group, the Melody Riders, cut a record in Detroit. The song « I’m willing to forget » was his first composition (Fortune 134).

I’m willing to forgetfortune jackson willng

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New set of blues

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BB 14-1-50 jackson

Billboard Jan 14, 1950

(Accompanying the Riders was Hal Clark on guitar, who later changed his name to Hal Southern and co-wrote « I dreamed of a hillbilly heaven ».) Hal Clark sang his comp on the flip “New set of blues“. fortune jackson bluesAs the scene got cooking, Jackson’s band started sizzling, and they found

Hal Clark (Fortune 146) “I don’t mean a thing to you

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fortune clark mean hal-southern-Sage sleevethemselves booked nightly. Ted’s 10-Hi Bar, on the east side, was the sight of Detroit’s first C&W Jamboree, as hosted by Eddie Jackson and his Cowboy Swingsters (including Tracey White on guitar, and ‘Smitty’ Smith on bass). For several months, the trio performed 15-minutes radio broadcasts from WMLN-FM in Mount Clemens.Eddie Jackson also led a country music variety show, « The Michigan Barn Dance » on Detroit NBC affiliate Channel Four TV, during the early 1950’s.
“Baby doll”(first version)

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Throughout his career, Jackson performed with the finest musicians available in Detroit. Among the more famous were steel guitar players Chuck Hatfield (from Hank Thompson’s band) and Billy Cooper (from Ferlin Husky’s). When Elvis Presley brought rock and roll craze to country music, Eddie was sharp enough to add the big beat to his repertoire, and he wrote « Rock and roll baby » around 1956 (Fortune 186), with a fine accordion.

fortune jackson baby

Rock and roll baby

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« Baby doll »(second version) (Shelby 297) and « Please don’t cry » were recorded after that, and through the 1950’s the Swingsters played regular shows at a nightclub called the Caravan Gardens.
Baby doll

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Please don’t cry

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caravan Jackson hide caravan jackson learning

Eddie Jackson solidified the band’s line-up with Joe Magic on bass & drums (played at the same time!), ‘Uncle’ Jimmy Knuckles on piano, and Tracey White on take off guitar. This group attracted big crowds, as well as popular country singers like Webb Pierce, Jean Shepard, Lefty Frizzell, Red Foley & many other top artists who often stopped in to perform songs with the Swingtsters ! Jackson also had his own program on Royal Oak radio station WEXL-AM, where he spun records and sometimes broadcast from the Caravan. In 1959 the Swingsters cut their most popular record record in Detroit : « I’m learning » backed with the rocker « Blues I can’t hide »(Caravan 101). Even though Jackson says he preferred « Blues… », the ballad « I’m learning » went through the roof of WEXL’s country & western charts. As a result, Eddie was able to pay cash for a new ’59 Cadillac with a convertible top !

Blues I can’t hide

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I’m learning

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The Swingsters’ next recordings stayed in step with country music trends of the early 1960’s, with Jackson’s version of his buddy Ricky Riddle‘s tune « Ain’t you ashamed » sounding among the best.
Ain’t you ashamed
caravan jacksonashamed

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They also backed Betty Parker on the Elm label # 742.

Betty ParkerCouldn’t see

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ELM parker see

Eddie cruised down to Nashville and recorded two more singles, including « You put it there » (Caravan 1004), a song from his last session in a recording studio. By the late 1960’s he quit performing regularly, in favor a starting a successful business. Knuckles, White and others have since passed on. But whenever Eddie Jackson sings and entertain people, the crowd’s humor rises, and sparks fly.

You put it there

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caravan jackson  put

 

Notes by Craig Maki to « Eddie Jackson and the Swingsters – « Music with a Western beat » (Woodward LP WD-100, 1996). Reproduced by courtesy © Craig Maki. Additions from bopping’s editor. With appreciated help fro Drunken Hobo: thanks Dean!

 

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Early December 2014 fortnight’s favorites

Howdy folks, over a period of 15 years, here are the selections of this fortnight.

The earliest track on a strange label, Atlantic, mostly known for R&B and Jazz. They had a short-lived (1 year, 1949-1950) « Folk and Western series », and the very first issue was by LOY GORDON & his Pleasant Valley Boys, for a revamp of the then-popular Sticks Mchee’s original « Drinkin’ wine spo-dee o-dee » (Atlantic 721). Here they are very true to the original. No solo taken by any instrument, but a fine Hillbilly romper. A mean fiddle and steel, and a fine boogie guitar. This was billed as « Folk ballad » on the label !

atlantic 721 loy gordon

 

Loy GordonDrinkin’ wine spo-dee-o-dee

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From Marion, Ohio, 1960. The ROUND UP BOYS (hidden identity) do offer « Rock and Roll baby » on Hark 504. Like the title says, it’s rockabilly with a chugging rhythm. The composer, a Mz . Edna Bright, doesn’t help much.

Round Up Boys “Rock’n’Roll baby”

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hark 504 Rock and roll baby

Next is by two brothers who had a career of at least 30 years, Bob & Joe, the SHELTON BROTHERS. They recorded as early as 1935 a first version of « Deep Elem blues » [the Red Light quarter of Dallas]. The song had been done in 1933 by the Lone Star Cowboys (Leon Chappelear), and was cut by numerous artists later, including a second version (there) by the Sheltons in 1947 on Decca 46008.

On the flip side they had their own « Just because », revived in 1955 by Guess Who. Chugging rhythm, great mandolin. Next Decca 46009 was another nugget : « Ida Red » later renamed « Maybelline » by Chuck Berry. That’s how popular the Sheltons were.

Shelton Brothers “Deep Elem blues”

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Shelton Brothers “Just because”

download decca 46008B shelton deep elem blues

decca 46008A Shelton Just because

A Gene Simmons production then from Memphis on the Tupelo label (# 2984) from 1964, a good rockabilly by CHARLES K. « The Right bird ».

Way up North in Detroit on the Michigan label Elm 724 : BETTY PARKER does offer « Love is even colder », a fine Bopper backed by Eddie Jackson & Swingsters (of « Rock’n’roll baby » fame on Fortune). Piano led, steel, guitar, an organ solo. Whole thing reminds me of another artist of the area, Palford Brady.

Finally PAUL MIMS, from Louisiana. He delivers « I blowed my top », a call-and-response format, medium paced ditty (long guitar solo and fine steel) on the Shell 121 label.(March 23, 2018. I add a clip (1mn31) of his 1950 issue on Echo (New Orleans), “My New Career Is In Korea“)

Charles KThe right bird

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Betty ParkerLove is even colder

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Paul MimsI blowed my top

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Paul Mims, “My New Career Is In In Korea“(clip)

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tupelo 2984 charles K - right bird babyElm 742bshell 121 paul mims I blowed my top