Hello, people ! Let’s begin this new July 2017 fortnight’s favorites selection with EARL PETERSON (b. 1927, d. 1973), a well-known figure out of Michigan. Apart from an early issue on his own Nugget label in 1949, he cut two sessions for Columbia in 1955 ; one of the songs involved was « I ain’t gonna fall in love » (# 21467). Light vocal, bass guitar, piano, all these combine for a fine bopper written by Vernon Claud. Peterson’s story is to be found in this site, was published January 2016.
Next artist KENNY ROBERTS was an ubiquitous one : Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, although he was born (1925- d. 2012) in Tennessee as George S. Kingsbury. His speciality was yodeling, and more than one of his songs showed this : « I was born to yodel », « She taught me to yodel » or « The Arizona yodeler ».
The song I chose of him is the fine « Hillbilly fever », issued February 1950 on the Coral label (# 64032) : his puffed vocal comes to a good effect, and he yodels lovely, mentioning Hillbilly songs of the era. Main instruments are harmonica and fiddle.
Now two Rockabillies by DANIEL NIX on the Zion, IL N&R label (Starday custom) from 1959. « Compensation blues » (# 741) is a medium-paced opus ; strong vocal and guitar to the fore. The follow-up is « Unlucky man » (# 756), the fastest of both tracks.
Way up North in Indianapolis with BOB HILL & his Melody Boys on Nabor 105. « This old train (is leaving my blues behind )» is a fast Rockabilly from 1959, lot of echo and a prominent fiddle. The second issue, « Empty dreams and empty arms » (Nabor 114B) is a shuffler from 1961-62, which has a lot of nice steel, a loud bass and a prominent rhythm guitar. A good record for this era. The song was revamped by Eddie Hill, unknown label. (The muddy sound, I’m sorry, comes from an old Tom Sims cassette).
Despite a long career that spanned almost 45 years, comparatively little is known about Earl Peterson. He was born in Paxton, Illinois, on February 24, 1927 and moved to Michigan when he was 18 months old. He apparently became proficient on both guitar and drums and formed his own band, the Sons of the Golden West, when he was still in high school. The group secured a regular spot on WOAP, Owosso, then moved to WMYC in Alma, Michigan, before settling at WCEN, Mount Pleasant. WCEN gave Earl and his group a regular show, Earl’s Melody Trails, and made him the talent director, staff announcer and farming news editor. Earl was to study Law after high school but he switched to a musical career instead.
Earl made his debut in the record business when he formed a record label, Nugget Records, with his mother, in January 1950.
Peterson also undertook road trips to publicise his record and, at the same time, worked guest dee-jay spots at various stations. It seems as though his mother, Pearle Lewis, was the driving force behind Peterson. Sam Phillips recalled that the pair arrived on his doorstep early in 1954 pitching « The Boogie blues ». Phillips located some country session musicians to work with Peterson and the result of the session was released in the Spring of 1954. “Boogie blues“(Sun 197)
The story becomes more convoluted from that point. In October of that year Peterson, with a healthy disregard for contracts and AFM regulations, re-recorded the same song for Columbia. The song was re-copyrighted and probably sold more than the 2500 copies that Phillips had shipped.
In 1960 Peterson and his family established radio station WPLB in Greenville, Michigan. In 1962, they switched to the FM frequency and the following year saw Earl’s retirement from the performing side of the music business. By that point there was an undeniable quotient of rock and roll in country music and, in Bob Lewis’ words, « Earl wasn’t crazy about that stuff ». In 1965 Earl learned that he had cancer but he continued to work at the station until his death in May 1971.
any Columbia issue coupled an uptempo and a slowie. The vocal is firm and assured, and the backing is on a par with the best what Nashville did offer at the time. Although unknown musicians, there was a steel, a fiddle and on « Boogie blues » (remake of the Sun version) a welcome rinky-dink piano. I posted the tracks side-by-side to let yourself judge.
« Boogie blues » on Sun 197 has sewing fiddle, steel and drums. Peterson’s voice is very reminiscent to that of Jimmie Rodgers, and the song itself derives from pre-war country songs, like Gene Autry’s ‘blues’ songs. Its flipside « In the dark » is a strong shuffler.
« Alimony blues », although in the past (N.L. Redita LP) credited to Peterson, is in fact done by Gene Steele.
« You just can’t be trusted », found on Youtube (Mr. Honky tonk chain), is evidently a ’60s recording, nice done, although I don’t know the original label neither the flipside.
Sam Phillips never had much chance with Country music. From 1950 to 1956 he cut Blues and Black R&B; from 1956 on he cut Rockabilly and Rock’n’Roll. Here below are his only attemps in the early years to record Hillbilly Bop. In the second part however, we will see names like Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers, Malcolm Yelvington, Ernie Chaffin, Warren Smith, Mack Self doing Hillbilly Bop or Country music with much more success than Sam had had in the early days of SUN Records….
Harmonica Frank Floyd (1909 in Tacapola, Mississipi ; died 1984). A phenomenon, who spent 30 years with medicine shows all around the South. He went in 1951 to see Sam Phillips and recorded several Country Blues : Swamp Root, the traditional Step It Up And Go, Goin’ Away Walkin’ and Howlin’ Tomcat, soon sold to Chess in Chicago. He sounded black, and many Blues collectors until the seventies (his rediscovery by Steve LaVere) were wrong with him…In 1954, Sun issued two sides (Sun 205) : Rockin’ Chair Daddy and The Great Medical Menagerist. « …Daddy » from 1951 is proto-rockabilly with strong rhythm guitar, wild vocal, and mouth harmonica. He had a strong career when rediscovered in 1974 and recorded for Adelphi.
“Step It Up And Go”download
Earl Peterson (Feb. 24, 1927 in Paxton, Illinois. died 1971). made his beginnings at a radio station in Michigan. Become popular, he cut a first disc on Nuggett records, before signing at Sun in 1954. He recorded 4 titles, the best being « Boogie Blues » (Sun 197): sewing fiddles, steel-guitar, drums and bass, and a vocal very reminiscent of Jimmie Rodgers ; and the song itself derives from pre-war Country songs, like Gene Autry’s « Lowdown Blues ».
“Boogie Blues” download
Doug Poindexter & The Starlite Wranglers. Born in Arkansas, he too went to Sun in 1954 and cut (May 25, 1954) two sides of Hillbilly weepers : Now She Cares No More For Me and My Kind Of Carrying On. Published on June 1rst, 1954 on Sun 202. Two of the Wranglers were…Bill Black (bass) and Scotty Moore (lead-guitar), soon to back up the young Elvis less than two months later. Good hillbilly sides, tending towards Rockabilly. Poindexter then left for insurance business..
“My Kind Of Carryin’ On”download
Howard Seratt in April 1964 (rare picture from Martin Hawkins)
Howard Seratt, from Arkansas. Country gospel. Two sides (Sun 198), alone with his guitar & harmonica for Troublesome Waters/I Must Be saved. Nice sincere vocal. 1954 download
Hardrock Gunter (Feb. 17, 1925 in Birmingham, Alabama). He had a long recording story behind him when he sold two songs to Sam Phillips in 1954 (Sun 201) : Gonna Dance All Night was a proto-Rock & Roll song, and a recut of a previous 1950 Bama issue. Fallen Angel is far quieter. Gunter had a long career afterwards, recording prolifically and still entertaining afficionados in Europe in 1995 !
“Gonna Dance All Night” download
Slim Rhodes (Pocahontas, Arkansas, 1913 ; March 10, 1966 – thanks for the death info, Alex)). Guitar player and bandleader, very popular in the Memphis area in the late 40s/early 50s. Phillips leased several of his 1950-1951 recordings to Gilt-Edge. His first Sun single (Sun 216) was sung by Brad Suggs and billed « ordinary » by Billboard in May 1955. Rhodes would afterwards cut Romp and Stomp (Sun 238), a romping Hillbilly Boogie with steel-guitar and fiddle. It must have been a good seller, as the guitar solo was taken note-for-note on Harold Shutter’s « Bunny Honey » (Goldenrod 300 from May-June 1957), then Do What I Do (Sun 256), a superb Rockabilly in 1956 (vocal Sandy Brooks). He had several issues on Gilt-Edge. For Sun 238 and 256, please see SUN Records: Hillbilly sides (part 2).
“Gonna Romp And Stomp”download
Malcolm Yelvington (1927, Covington, Tennessee) led his first band, The Star Rhythm Boys, during the late 40s, wih pianist Reece Fleming. He cut his first sides in 1954 for Sun, among them his personal Western swing treatment of Sticks McGhee’s R&B classic Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (Sun 211). The guitar player follows Brownie McGhee’s solo, and Reece Fleming plays the Your Red Wagon theme (it was then adapted for Rock around the clock). All in all, it is a pretty proto-Rockabilly song, a fine blend of black & white styles. Later on (see part 2), Yelvington came close to Rockabilly (Sun 246) with Rockin’ With My Baby.
“Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee”download Clyde Leoppard & the Snearly Ranch Boys were a group firmly associated with Sam Phillips during 1955-1957. Clyde Leoppard (steel), Johnny Bernero (d), Smokey Joe Baugh (p), vocalist Bill Taylor, Buddy Holobaugh (g) backed Smokey Joe, Warren Smith, and numerous other artists during this period. They had a solitary issue on Flip 502 (Sun subsidiary label) in 1954, and they handle right the charming piece of nonsense « Split personality », a romping Hillbilly bop. Smokey Joe had his own issue on Sun 228 in 1956 with « Signifying monkey ». His vocal is crude, and, as once said, a sort of Rockabilly Fats Waller (see part 2).
See part 2 for 1956-1958 Sun Hillbilly sides elsewhere on this site!