Howdy folks ! Very different things this time, and the recordings do go from 1936 until 1960.
Let’s begin with the unknown (surely a one-offer) GLENN KIRBY and his good, gentle shuffler « I love blue eyes » issued in Texas on TNT 138 in July 1956. A steel and piano solo plus throughout fiddle, although nothing exceptionnal.
SHORTY ASHBURN, our second artist, was equally unknown despite his 3 records issued on Nashville labels at the turn of 1950-51. Without doubt he only cut 4 songs at the same session for the Bullet label, which were issued upon # 749 « Triflin’ heart », a nice shuffler with piano and steel solos. The guitar player is rather uninspired (or too badly paid trying to shine). Ashburn went the same way with « More & more » (# 752) ; all his sides were written (or co-written) with Jimmy Rule, a mathematics teacher mostly famous for ghostwriting Hank Williams‘ booklet, « How to write folk and western music to sell ». The 3rd Ashburn record was written by Autry inman, who found himself in the position he had prophetically shown up, when he was arrested by the FBI in 1972 for bootlegging records : « You’re under arrest » was given to Ashburn and issued on the small Jamboree label (# 514).
PETE PIKE is a rather well-known figure in Hillbilly and Bluegrass circles. His incomplete story was given in this site in January 2011, and many facts have been thrown to light since then. I’ve chosen the fabulous slice of Hillbilly bop from 1960, « Cold gray dawn », issued on Rebel (Maryland) # 228 : great steel and expressive vocal.
As a change, we move to March 1936 for a New Orleans session by MILTON BROWN& His Musical Brownies. The song may be vaudeville or poppish, the backing is splendid : nice fiddle by Cliff Bruner, and a fabulous lap-steel solo (40 seconds!) by the late Bob Dunn. The song is « Ida ! sweet as apple cider », originally on Decca 5325, and reissued on 46002 in 1946.
From Metter, south of Georgia came Wallace and Charlie, the MERCER BROTHERS. They were young farmers and bought their first Sears & Roebuck guitar in 1939 with the money from picking cotton. They had soon after the WWII a show on WMAZ, then entered the Louisiana Hayride in April 1948, as The Blue Ridge Boys. Columbia signed them and recorded the duet, augmented by the harmonica of Wayne Raney, in August 1951. After seemingly sufficient sales, they had a second session in May 1954, backed by Doyle Strickland on fiddle. They sounded like the Delmore Brothers. Here is their « What’s he got that I ain’t got » (Columbia # 20978), you can judge by yourself. After their departure from Columbia, they went to WIBB in Macon where they did alternate country and sacred radio shows.
The last artist was very young, only 18 and still in high school when he entered WRJW radio station in Picayune, MS. to record his double-sider for D Records in September 1958. Pappy Daily had a contact in Picayune, Fred Henley (the local Colonel Parker) who sent up for DOUG STANFORD. His record « Sady/Won’t you tell me » (D 1034) had a gifted guitar player, Billy Fred Stockstill, even younger than Stanford : « He could do that Chet Atkins stuff good as Chet », he said.
Sources : « A shot in the dark » boxset, notes by Martin Hawkins ; « The complete D singles…collection, volume 1 », notes by Colin Escott. « Columbia 20000 », the site of Willem Agenant. My own archives. YouTube and 45rpm-cat.
Hello folks! This is REALLY a hot summer over there in France, lot of heavy clouds but…no rain at all. Perfect time anyway to keep oneself well dry inside and stomp to that good ole’ Hillbilly beat. We begin with a very elusive artist from the Cumberland Valley/Cincinnati area. I’ve told before in this site about him, and did promise I should post everything I gathered for one year and a half. This could be later this year, so watch out for the fullest possible story on Mr. JIMMIE BALLARD. The first cut in this fortnite is Ballard’s own version of « Birthday Cake Boogie » (Kentucky 508)
of course, the same song was also recorded by, among others, BILLY HUGHES and SKEETS McDONALD, and stands out as a classic ‘risqué‘ or ‘double-entendre‘ song. Ballard was the front man then of BUFFALO JOHNSON‘s Herd (who was active in the D.C. area, and a full story on him is on the line. And he keeps the vocal duties with the also ‘risqué‘ (Kentucky 520 ) « T’ain’t Big Enough« . Both songs are from 1953/1954, fine uptempo Boppers, altho’ just above average, except for lyrics.
Back to a Wildcat out of Texas, a very long career as steel guitar player as soon as 1936, then singer and front man of his band, the XYT Boys, BILLY BRIGGS. I will have some day a complete story on him. He was (maybe he’s still alive, I dunno) to have a sound on his own, and produced very strange ditties from his steel in 1951 for his greatest success (much covered) « Chew Tobacco Rag N° 2 » . Here I’ve chosen the amusing « North Pole Boogie » (Imperial 8131, late Forties), complete with icy wind effects (on steel), and Briggs’ own barytone voice imitating a sort of ‘polar bear’ .
Back to Cincinnati and BILL BROWNING. I’ve written about him elsewhere in the site with the story of the LUCKY label. Today I listen to his composition « Dark Hollow« , which was a hit in 1958 when picked up by JIMMIE SKINNER, before the very nice version on BLUE RIDGE by LUKE GORDON (watch out for his story later in 2010), then even by The Grateful Dead in 1973, among others. I particularly like the recent version made by FRED TRAVERS (90’s) which I’ve included in the podcasts; almost falsetto urgent vocal and great dobro.
More from Cincinnati. BOBBY ROBERTS (I think there were at least 2, or 3 personas by the same name during he 50’s). Here he’s the great Hillbilly singer, who cut late 1955 4 sides for KING records. I cannot rememeber if I posted earlier his great « I’m Gonna Comb You Out Of My Hair » (what a title!). This time, I offer the second KING (4868, unverified – Ruppli’s book still stored) « I’m Pulling Stakes And Leaving You », same lyrics format. Great, great Hillbilly Bop. Later in 1956, Roberts (or one of his aliases) had « Big Sandy » or « Hop, Skip and Jump« , pure Rockabillies. I still wonder if it’s the same man; if so, he would have adapted very well and quickly (within some months) from pure Hillbilly vocal to almost Rock’n’Roll. By the way, he would not have been the first to do so: SKEETS McDONALD, GEORGE JONES, MARTY ROBBINS did very well the transition early in 1956.
Another elusive artist: guitar player/singer PETE PIKE. Recently deceased (2006) just after a CD ‘back to roots’ (Bluegrass) issued in 2005, he was active both in Virginia and D.C. areas from 1947 onwards, and associated several years with another interesting man, BUZZ BUSBY (Busbice). Pike had Hillbilly Bop records on FOUR STAR and CORAL in 1954-1955, among them I’ve chosen the superior ballad « I’m Walking Alone« . Another future entry in www.bopping.org, research is well advanced.
Finally, on the Rocking Blues side, you’re in for a treat with L.A. ‘black Jerry Lee Lewis’ (as the Englishmen call him when he visits their shores), WILLIE EGAN and « What A Shame » from 1957 (Vita label). Pounding piano, wild vocal, strong saxes, heavy drums, the whole affair rocks like mad, althoug relaxed. Enjoy, folks. Comments welcome. ‘Till then, bye-bye.