the BLUE HEN label (1954-1958): Delaware Hillbilly and Rockabilly

From the Hillbilly Researcher # 13 (late 90s)

Allan Turner. Additions by Bopping’s editor

BLUE HENdelaware delaware couleurs

 

Nothing is ever as simple as it would appear, take for example the Harrington, Delaware based BLUE HEN label. Just another independant concern would be a fair description of this particular outfit, albeit with one or two above average offerings on the label from the likes of Mel Price and Lanie Walker.

BLUE HEN was owned, according to Galen Gart’s A.R.L.D., by one Sam Short, Jr ., ably assisted by A&R man Hugh Lee Stevenson. That, and the fact that the company was located on Center Street in Harrington, is the sum total of our knowledge of the label.

Over the 6 years or so that BLUE HEN was active the company ran at least three different numerical series. There was a rather obscure 3000 series, which appears to have been the earliest ; the regular 200 series, which was the « main series » ; and an odd ball 500 series (two issues). However, it is neither the 3000 or 500 series which concern us here, but the 200 « main series ».

The first release was Betty Coral‘s « Chili dippin’ baby » (# 200), backed by Raymond McCollister. He had the same number on the Raymor label, also the flipside « Texarkana waltz ». Many master numbers were prefixed RM: does it mean McCollister was involved in Blue Hen?

blue hen  coral chili

bb 54 chili dippin

raymor« Chili dippin’ baby » was very popular : it was covered by Vernon Way on the Hillbilly All Star label, and in a more Rockabilly way by Joyce Pointer on Goldenrod Records.
Betty Coral “Chili dippin’ baby”

download
As for the artists who recorded for BLUE HEN were fairly obscure regional acts, altough the label did record a number of relatively well known artists. Billy Wallace, for example, probably better known as a songwriter than a singer, had a release on the label : # 210, « You can’t ride on my train ».
Billy WallaceYou can’t ride on my train

download

Donn ReynoldsDon’t tell me

download
Billy WallaceI still love you

download
blue-hen trainDonn Reynolds, who made something of a name for himself as a yodeling cowboy out on the East coast, also turned up on the label (# 207, « Don’t tell me ») before moving to London, England, to work for Radio Luxembourg ! Tommy Lloyd and his Strolling Cowboys, an outfit who certainly lived up to their name, having played virtually everywhere in the U.S.A. (#204 « Now I know why »), and local lad Tex Daniels (#206 « Give your heart a chance », among three or four more releases, note « Blue hen boogie » from late ’55) were two of the more experienced, yet lesser known artists to record for the label, both with a half dozen or so record releases to their credit before joining BLUE HEN. Local promoter/songwriter Howard Vokes was responsible for getting Hank King , Rudy Thacker (« Mountain guitar » ; also on Lucky) and “The Hardin County BoysJeffrey Null and Denver Duke onto the label. The latter, who had something of a hit on Blue Hen with their Hank Williams tribute “Hank Williams that Alabama boy” (#214) went on to enjoy some degree of success on Mercury and Starday.
Denver Duke & Jeffrey Null “Hawk Williams that Alabama boy”

download

Howard Vokes, Denver Duke & Jeffrey NullWhen the snow came“(#222)

download

Blue-hen vokes  When

courtesy Pasi Koskela

Was Vokes involved in the singing of the former song? A visitor told me his doubts.

Tex DanielsBlue hen boogie“(#212  )

download

blue-hen boogie

 

Mention should be made of course of Mel Price (who’s story is on this site) and Lanie Walker, of whom we know very little, who were arguably the best Hillbilly artists to record for BLUE HEN.
Mel PriceNothing seems to go right anymore

download
Walker had 5 issues on Blue hen (and one in 1960 on Kingsport, TN Three Stars label , the stunning « 
Early every morning ») : both hillbilly boppers on # 209 (« Side-track daddy »), one gospel two-sider (« When you meet your Lord » # 218), a non-cover of George Jones‘ « Why baby why », very good Hillbilly bopper,  in 1956 (a nice bluesy « Drop in » on flipside, # 219), then a back-to-back Rockabilly/Rocker « Ennie Meenie Miney Mo/No use knocking on my door », # 230 (Mort Marker on lead guitar), finally a 1959 rocker (# 235) « Jumpin’ the gun/Tonite I walk alone ».

Lanie WalkerSide-track daddy“(# 209)

download lanie walker
Lanie WalkerWhen you meet your Lord

download
Lanie WalkerWhy baby why“(#219)

download

Lanie WalkerDrop in

download

Lane WalkerEnnie Meenie miney mo“(#230)

download
Lanie WalkerNo use knocking on my door

download
Larry Lee (Pasake) fronted his own band, The Echo Valley Kinfolk and played locally to good reviews. Originally, the band were called the Glen Mountain Boys (according to Billboard on 24th March 1956). Larry and the band performed over WCRV, Washington, NJ about this time. It was reported that Larry drowned while trying to save the lives of a younger brother and friend when their boat capsized. This seems to have occurred sometime in september 1956. His solitary single is a good bluegrass (A-side) « Time just flies »(# 215), while « Our love affair » is good uptempo piano-led Hillbilly bop.
blue-hen lee time Larry LeeTime just flies

download
Larry LeeOur love affair

download

Another wizardry : Hank King (of Russian origin, rn Papaila) had in October 1955 « Atom bomb heart » on Chicago Blue Ribbon label. This was re-cut (re-issued?) next year on Blue Hen 221.
Hank KingAtom bomb heart

download
That more or less concludes the story of the BLUE HEN label. Virtually all the releases in the 200 series, with the exception of the odd rock & roll/rockabilly offering from the likes of Jimmy Stayton (« Hot hot mama »), Cecil Cline (« Do drop in ») and even Lanie Walker, were Hillbilly of one style or another.
Sandy Harrison  & Tommy Lloyd “A package of heartaches“(#225)

download

Earl Stuart Quintet “Action’s speak louder than words” [sic](#216)

download
Millard PressleyJesus my saviour“(#228)

download
Sounds from Cactus CD. Pictures from various sites: Youtube, 45cat for example.
Mel PriceI ain’t got the time“(#208)

download

Hillbilly-Allstar wray  chili

courtesy Ronald Keppner

listing Blue Hen label

strangely Raymor is located in Kansas, far drom Delaware…

raymor edminster chili

Mel(vin) Price, Starday/Dixie, Regal and Blue Hen bopping hillbilly (1950-1957)

By now, most collectors of 1950s country and hillbilly are familiar with the name Mel price and the sterling quality of his numerous recordings on labels like Regal, Blue Hen, Starday and Dixie.

Much to my pleasant surprise (Andrew Brown), I found Mel alive and well in his hometown of Easton, MA. Mel, who was born on October 13, 1920 on a farm outside of Easton, is a cordial, classy guy. (more…)

Starday custom 626-650 (April-July 1957), part 6 of this serie

STARDAY RECORDS 626                                BILLIE and GORDON HAMRICK with the Low County Gospel Band April 1957

45-626-A – Gonna See My Lord SomedayStarday hamrick gonna

(Nell Palmer)   (Starrite BMI)

45-626-B – Jesus Is The Name

(Nell Palmer)   (Starrite BMI)

Another slice of Gospel heaven from the talented Billie & Gordon Hamrick.

A side is a torrid Blue Grass / Gospel number with nice harmonies. Very nice banjo solos, accompanied by a fiddle player. B side is slower with a Dobro more to the fore. Perhaps this is my favourite 45 by the artists so far. Almost makes me want to go to church! (except, in England, we’d have no music like this being performed.)

STARDAY RECORDS 627                                BOB and CINDY DEANstarday dean knocking

May 1957

45-627-A – I’m Knocking On The Door (To Your Heart)

(Garland Cline)   (Starrite BMI)

45-627-B – One Life To Live

(Garland Cline)   (Starrite BMI)

I never managed to get the Cattle LP (#87) entitled “The Sweethearts Of The Air Sing Hillbilly Music”, so if there’s any sleeve notes, I’ve obviously missed them. The duo appeared on the fliside of a KAY EP, with the other side being two great mumbling rockers from Link Wray.

A side of this disc is a fast hillbilly number with threads of bluegrass influence (probably because of the banjo solo). Nice harmonies from Bob and Cindy. B side is much slower and again has nice harmonies from the duo.

They’ll appear later in this series (Starday 688) (MC)

Bob and Cindy Dean were a popular Country and Western team who were based in Elkton, VA and made some stunning records throughout their musical career. Bob was born on the 26th October 1919 in Elkton (Cindy Morris was born December 24th 1924).

Bob’s musical career started in 1956/7 after he found a lead guitar picker, Leon Baxter, with whom he formed a band. Their first job was just a plain beer joint in NW Washington, DC, where they picked their music three nights a week. Through their popular live performances, Bob got a recording deal with DC Records. He remembered that in Virginia there was a good fiddle player, so he got in touch with him and talked over their would-be music venture. His name was Hank Dean and he also sang tenor. (Hank was no relation to Bob). Bob hired Hank and along with Leon, the three of them recorded “Maple On The Hill” and “I’m Sheddin’ Tears Over You” on DC 8049. The sessions took place at the Paragon Studios in Washington, DC.

DC Records were interested in releasing two more sides, as 8049 was selling well locally, thanks in part to Connie B Gay’s radio program “Town And Country Time”, and Bob’s personal appearances. Their next recordings were “Back To Old Smoky Mountain” and “I’ll take Her From The Valley” (DC 4101). By this time, Bob was opening up for acts at the Constitution Hall for Connie, being followed by the likes of T. Texas Tyler and the Sons Of The Pioneers.

Starday dean  live

In 1948, after the death of his father, Bob (and Cindy, who was his wife – the sleeve notes don’t mention how they met) moved to McGaheysville, VA to be with his mother. Bob worked for a while at a chemical plant, but once he was laid off, he decided to get into the music business full time. By now, Cindy was singing along side him. They formed a new band featuring his old school friend Eddie Michael on fiddle and Cindy learned how to play the stand-up bass. Carroll Ray was on electric guitar.

By 1955, Bob and Cindy Dean were winning first prize on a Connie B Gay show with a song entitled “Walk, Walk, Walking Blues”. This track, along with “When You Cross Your Heart” were eventually issued on Ben Aldeman’s KAY label from Washington, DC, with the flip side of the EP being taken up by two manic vocal recordings from Link Wray (“I Sez Baby” / “Johnny Bon Bonny”). According to the sleeve notes, these tracks were recorded in 1955.

How Bob and Cindy found themselves on Starday is a bit of a mystery as it’s not really explained in the sleeve notes. According to the session details listed on the LP, these were recorded in 1958 and their next Starday release (#688) was recorded in December 57. It mentions that a Frank Merica was on banjo at the session and Carroll Ray was still on guitar.

WILLIE NELSON RECORDS 628 WILLIE NELSONWillie nelson nelson  place willie nelson nelson lumberjack

Vancouver, WA May 1957

45-628-A – No Place For Me

(Willie Nelson)   (Starrite BMI)

45-628-B – Lumberjack

(Leon Payne)   (Hill and Range BMI)

Willie Nelson was born 30th April 1933 and is by far, one of the most well known artists to cut a disc for the Starday Custom series. After studying music at home, he joined the Bohemian Fiddlers as their singer and guitar player. After graduating from high School in 1950, he joined the Air Force where he was eventually discharged for having back problems. After stints as a musician (he played bass for Ray Price) and as a DJ, he signed a contract with Pamper Music as a songwriter. He wrote some of the best known country classics, such as “Funny How Times Slips Away“, “Hello Walls“, and “Crazy“.

But back to this little gem. Both sides are dominated by an acoustic guitar (presumably by the man himself) and the vocals have a fair slab of echo added to it, giving it a slight haunting feel. There is a steel guitar nestled in the background – well, almost in the next room to be honest. The flip is okay; a nicely sung cover of a Leon Payne song. But it’s the A side that really sticks out.

FAITH RECORDS 629 THE RELATIVE QUARTET

Conover, NC May 1957faith the-relative-quartet soul

45-629-A – A Home For My Soul

(J Q Deal Jr. / Rheda L Strickland)   (Starrite BMI)

45-629-B – Heavenly City

(Rheda L Strickland)   (Starrite BMI)

Lovely far-back-in-the-hills Gospel from what sounds like a white quartet. I can only hear an accoustic guitar being played, no other instruments and no solos. No personnel details, except perhaps the names listed as song writers.

The FAITH label turns up a fair bit later in the series with various addresses. I’ve wondered if FAITH was the gospel version of the DIXIE label. Can’t be sure.

DALE RECORDS 630                                                    DARNELL MILLER

Bluefield, VA May 1957Dale  miller waiting dale miller woods

45-630-A – Waiting Game For Love

(D Miller) (Starrite BMI)

45-630-B – Gettin’ Out Of The Woods

(Cecil Surrat)    (Starrite BMI)

I’m assuming this is the same Darnell Miller who recorded for Starday Records (# 349, « She’s gone/Cardboard Sweetheart », 1958 and “Royal Flush“, # 422, 1960), as they sure sound similar. A side is a slow weeping hillbilly song; probably not one for the memory banks, but Darnell sings with feeling. Flipside is a medium tempo ditty with fine vocals from Darnell, ably backed by some fine fiddle playing.

STARDAY RECORDS 631                                              KEN CLARK and his Merry Mountain Boys

May 1957

starday clark ho! Starday  clark fool45-631-A – Ho! Ho! Love ‘Em Joe (Clark)   (Starrite BMI)

45-631-B – Quit Fool (Mama’s Lookin’) (Clark)   (Starrite BMI)

Okay, so I know darn all about Clark, except he recorded for Starday main series (« Buckskin Coat/Pretty Love », # 442, 1959), and for the Nashville label (assoc. with Starday) : « Truck Driving Joe » (# 5009).

A side is a nice uptempo number with fiddles, steel guitar, dobro and lead guitar and some lovely Starday sounding echo. Some call it country, some call it Rock-A-Billy. Whatever the musical tag, it’s a lovely record. B side is more country/hillbilly and there’s a little less echo. Another uptempo side and very nice it is too. Cowboy Copas recorded at least one song of Clark’s.

KENTUCKY records 632                                               MAC O’DELL

Garrard, KY                                                        May 1957

45-632-A – It Was Springtime (When I Met You) (Walter Brock) (Starrite, BMI)

45-632-B – When I Was Young (Dewey Brock) (Starrite, BMI)

Untraced. O’Dell recorded prolifically, e.g. on King (« Penicillin »), Intro (« Diesel Smoke ») and Exclusive.

GULF Records 633                                                        TRICE GARNER

Route 4, Tupelo, MS                                            May 1957gulf garner lover's

45-633–A – Tombigbee (Garner) (Starrite, BMI)

45-633-B – Lover’s Hill (Garner) (Starrite, BMI)

Artist already unknown. The A side has yet to be heard. B side is a very fast Bopper, some could say Rock’n’Roll, but it has no drums, only two very effective guitars (no solo). Vocal is very impressive, fine Southern accent, words almost impossible to understand for me, French speaking !

ROBIN Records 634                                                       ZEKE WILSON & the Prairie Playboys

Macon, GA                                                         May 1957

634-A – My Heart Needs A Vacation (F J Beskidniak)(Starrite, BMI)

634-B – I’ve Just Said Goodbye (F J Beskidniak)

Vocal on A side is by Zeke Wilson and Lenn Dries ; on B side, Zeke Wilson solo.

Untraced record.

NIGHTHAWK Records 635 JIMMY STEWART & The Nighthawks

Argo, IL                                                            May 1957

night-hawk  stewart dream45-635-A – Dream World (J Stewart) (Starrite, BMI)night-Hawk stewart nuthin'

45-635-B – Nuthin’ But A Nuthin’ (J Stewart) (Starrite, BMI)

A side has yet to be heard, while the B side is one of the greatest Rock-a-billies ever comitted to wax. Cool vocal, some growling, a very nice lead guitar and sparse backing of acoustic and bass. Stewart also had another slab of Rock’n’Roll with « Rock On The Moon » in 1959 on the Eko label.

OLD DOMINION RECORDS 636                               SLIM and ORNA BALL

June 1957

45-636-A – Mother’s Prayers (Were Not In Vain) (No info)

45-636-B – When I Get Home (I’m Gonna Be Satisfied) (No info)

STARDAY RECORDS 637                                         MEL PRICE & his Santa Fe Rangers

June 1957

45-637-A – I Miss You Sostarday price  miss starday  price midnight

(John Suite / Mel Price)   (Starrite BMI)

45-637-B – Midnight Whistle Blues

(Mel Price)   (Starrite BMI)

Mel (or Melvin) Price had only fine records on Blue Hen (“Nothing Seems To Go Right Anymore” and “I Ain’t Got Time“), regular Starday (#186 and 226, respectively “The Pace That Kills” and “Gonna See My Baby“), Dixie (“Until” and “Little Dog Blues“) and Regal (“For You My Love“). His story is intended for a future issue. The record although here is unheard.

DEL-MAR RECORDS 638                               DELMAR WILLIAMS SINGERS

Dayton, OH                                                          June 1957

638-A – Lonely Tomorrow

(D Williams)   (Starrite BMI)

638-B – I’m Not Angry Now

(D Williams)   (Starrite BMI)

RALPH JOHNSON RECORDS 639                                   RALPH JOHNSON & the Hillbilly Show Boys

Box 4, Minden, WV                                                June 1957

45-639-A – Realityralph johnson johnson henpecked ralph johnson

(M Pack) (Starrite BMI)

45-639-B – Henpecked Daddy

(M Pack) (Starrite BMI)

Ralph Johnson was born in the Clinch Mountains of south West Virginia.  He began developing his musical career at the age of six, after receiving his first guitar.  At the age of fifteen, his singing and musical talent had developed enough to enable him to put together his own band.  Ralph and his band auditioned for a radio show in Richlands, VA. They landed the job on WRIC radio.  During this time, his band played schools, halls and theatres in the area.  They later auditioned for a spot on a new TV station in Bluefield, WV.  Some time later, they had earned the privilege of performing two shows on WOAY in Twin Oak Hill, WV.  It was here that he recorded his first record, “Henpecked Daddy“.  After appearing on different radio and TV stations throughout the country, he moved his operation to Baltimore. MD.  While in Baltimore, he launched Wedge Records, Dome Records and Fleet Records.  Along with all of his record labels, he opened his own publishing company, Big Wedge Music.  He released all types of music from the Washington and Baltimore areas.  He later moved his operation to Vineland, NJ where he became the co-owner of WDVL Radio.  As a DJ, he played country music five hours a day, every day.  He went on to develop and book country music acts from Nashville, TN into Palentein Park every Sunday.  In 1976, he decided to move to Nashville, TN, where he proceeded to record and promote records on his Wedge Entertainment record label.  He used songs from his own publishing company, Big Wedge Music.

MISSOURI RECORDS 640                                        ERNIE NOWLIN and Blue Shadow Boys

5508 Wells Ave, St Louis, MO                           June 1957

Ernie Nowlin45-640-A – Tally Homissouri  nowlin tally

(Nowlin) (Starrite BMI)

45-640-B – Tell Me Why

(Nowlin) (Starrite BMI)

A fine Hillbilly bop, in the average category. Duet vocal at times, a borderline rockabilly with fine inventive guitar on a solid beat (snare drum). Flip unheard.

BLUE GRASS RECORDS 641                                         BOB VARNEY and Stone Mt Boys

31 Pine St, Logan, WV                                         June 1957

45-641-A I Hear You Calling

(No info) (No info)

45-641-B Stoney Mt. Boogieblue grass varney stoney

(B Varney)   (Starrite)

B-side : good boogie guitar instro, fine southern vocalizing from Varney. Whole thing is propelled by a strong rhythm guitar.

STARDAY RECORDS 642                                              BUDDY SHAW

June 1957

45-642-A – Don’t Sweep That Dirt On Mestarday shaw sweep

(Ruth Snider / Buddy Shaw) (Starrite BMI)

45-642-B – Second Place

(Ruth Snider / Buddy Shaw) (Starrite BMI)

Fast Hillbilly bop, again bordering on Rockabilly. Welcome tinkling piano (fine solo), urgent lead guitar (two solos). A classic ! Shaw had “No More“, a fine CountryBilly on Starday 618 (see elsewhere in the site for this number)

LINCOLN RECORDS 643                                            CARL TRANTHAM and the Rythm All Stars (sic)

Peoria, IL                                                        June 1957

45-643-A – Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way)lincoln  trantham where

(Trantham)   (Starrite BMI)

45-643-B – After I Go Away

(Trantham)   (Starrite BMI)

A side : Hillbilly bop/rockabilly. This is where Hillbilly boys were doing Rock’n’Roll, nice guitar licks a la Scotty Moore, cool vocal (some hiccups), fine bass, and an almost unheard drum kit. Another classic ! For the B side, the boys return to a more Hillbilly approach, this time with a good steel. Vocal changes too, in a more rural way of phrasing. Again that fine lead guitar. Trantham also had “Deedle Deedle Dum” on Starday 336 (1958), a very fine Country rocker.

CRESTWOOD RECORDS 644                                      MARVIN JACKSON

Box 49 Route 1, Cadet, MO                                 July 1957crestwood  jackson sorry

45-644-A – Someday You’ll Be Sorry

(Jackson) (Starrite BMI)

45-644-B – My Crying Heart

(Jackson) (Starrite BMI)

Unheard record. Jackson had “Gee Whiz, Miz Liz“, a good rocker, on Crestwood 200 (backed by Ozark Toppers). Collector records issued a full CD of Rock’n’Roll sides of his, fine although average rockers.

STARDAY RECORDS 645                                     FRANK EVANS and his Top Notchers

(Artist based in Tampa, FL)                           July 1957

45-645-A – Pull The Shades Down Mastarday  evans shades

(Jimmy Dunklin)   (Starrite BMI)

45-645-B – Would You Believe Me

(Owen Wilson)   (Starrite BMI)

« Pull The Shades Down Ma » is Fifties country music of the sheerest excellence. « Now this city’s dwellin’ just ain’t cut out for me… » sings Frank in his most exuberant vocal on record and the band lays down an infectious rhythm that complements the lyrics perfectly. The song is reminiscent of the cool stuff Little Jimmy Dickens was cutting at the time: fun, full-blooded country that was uncompromisingly rural sounding.

COWTOWN RECORDS 646                                           GENE RAY

Fort Worth, TX                                                    July 1957

45-646-A – I Didn’t Mean (To Fall In Love)

(No info)

cowtown ray  head45-646-B – I Lost My Head

(Miller)

B side is a fine shuffling Hillbilly with stop-starts, steel, guitar (uninspired solo) and fiddle. Singer is in fine voice however. Ray had an EP on Cowtown 677 (moreover in the serie) with « Rock’n’Roll Fever ».

UNKNOWN RECORD LABEL 647 (UNKNOWN ARTIST)

July 1957

UNKNOWN RECORD LABEL 648 (UNKNOWN ARTIST)

July 19 57

KHOURY’S RECORDS 649                                     NATHAN ABSHIRE and his Pine Grove Boys

Lake Charles, LA                                           July 1957

45-649-A – Boora Rhumba

(None)   (None)

45-649-B – Carolina Blueskhoury's  abshire  rhumbakhoury's  abshire carolina

(None)   (None)

Unheard record.

STARDAY RECORDS 650                                       CLARENCE BAKER

July 1957

650-? – Hear My Plea

(No info)   (No info)

650-? – Soon I’ll Hear My Saviour Calling

(No info)   (No info)

Unheard record.

As usual for these series, many details do come from Malcolm Chapman’s site devoted to Starday Customs. This time, label pictures were easier to find than music: actually this serie does not contain, but exceptions, rockabilly classics, so many records escaped to reissue programs. Note a good percentage of sacred recordings.

The DIXIE label (2000 series)

 

DIXIE 2000 serie (Madison, Tennessee)(1958-1960)

joy

Benny Joy

Dixie – The very name evokes pictures of the Southern areas of the USA. Dixie records have been fascinating collectors for over 35 years now . Of course the word Dixie was used by many different labels throughout the States, anyway it is the main 2000 series that I am interested. Formed as an offshoot of Starday in late 1957, the idea seemed to be trying out new artists who, if successful, were transfered to Starday or using label as a custom one. Shelby Singleton seems to have been the man in charge at the beginning. Three of the first five discs were recorded in Daz Dood’s TRI-DEC label studio (Miami, Florida) and BENNY JOY’s « Spin The Bottle » was actually released on TRI-DEC 8667 in ’57 with « Hey High School Baby » on the flip. The Dixie release (2001) does sound slightly different, but as the vocal comments are same, it would appear that Starday re-mastered and the bass and drums sound more muffled on this hot slab of Rockabilly. Of a number of tracks recorded at this session, « Steady With Betty » was placed on flip of the Dixie issue and has some outstanding guitar in the break.dixie joy steady

jimmy-lee

jimmie lee

The other two discs recorded at TRI-DEC were GENE WATSON’s I’ll Always Love You/Little Valley (2003), a couple of ballads of little interest, and the marvelous rockin’ JIMMIE LEE « Three Little Wishes » (2005), one of the better but lesser known items on the label. With his band « The Playboys », Jimmie lays down a fine rocking opus that has a superb break split between a hot pumping piano and a very biting guitarist, and with handclaps and vocal comments, all making for a quality item.dixie lee wishes

Sandwiched between these Florida recordings are the first Texas recordings, both by DOUG BRAGG and probably recorded at Seller’s Recording Studio in Dallas. Issue 2002 couples « Red Rover/Lovin’ On My Mind », both tracks being slowish pounders of which the latter is the better of the breaks which combines piano and guitar, although to be fair the vocal is tougher on « Red Rover ». It is the second Bragg release that is the better of the two with « Pretty Little Thing » (2004) being an excellent fast rocker that has a very good break from the guitar and piano. There is a chorus in this that fits in well and the guitarist solo’s on to the end of the record. Doug recorded for quite a few Texas labels such as D during the 50’s and 60’s.

doug-bragg

Doug Bragg

dixie orville couch pic

Orville Couch

The next three releases on Dixie are all by Texas artists. DEE (Mullinax) & PATTY (Timmons) have a nice duet Bopper with « Don’t Tease Me » (2006) on which the band are very solid behind their relaxed vocalising. They were also on D and Mercury.dixie-pat-dee ORVILLE COUCH, a Country singer from the Dallas/Fort Worth area had discs on boty Starday and Dixie in 1958 and his « Easy Does It » (2007) can best be described as a Rock ballad with obstrusive chorus, but he has a good voice and the guitarist is excellent on this one, although he always sounds more at home on Hillbilly material he cut for Starday and I assume that the Dixie release, probably arranged by local producer/manager Jim Shell, was a deliberate attempt to sell to the teenage market.

dixie couch it

The very next release is one of the all-time Rockabilly greats with DERRELL FELTS & The Confederates : « Playmates/The Weepers » (2008). A crashing guitar intro and Derrell’s urgent vocal supported by driving bass and frantic drummer all combine to make « Playmates » so damn good with a superb guitar break. Texan Derrell Felts slows it down for the flipside « The Weepers » but it’s still top quality Rockabilly with lead and rhythm guitars combining for a really fine break. KEN HAMMOCK (also on Starday) offers an instrumental « Blue Guitar Jump» (2009).dixie-hammock blue
felts felts playmates

The next disc is one of the least known, and arguably one of the best on the label with BILL CARROLL’s brilliant « Feel So Good » (2010) which came out at the end of 1958. I am very intrigued by the songwriting credit of Shuler/Hunter (Eddie Shuler of Goldband, and Pete Hunter, a Southern D.J. ?). The sound on this one is very similar to many of the classic rockabilly platters on the Goldband label. A real ‘lived in’ vocal on this an dit is a very catchy song with a piercing guitar break as Bill tells his tale helped by a couple of backup voices.dixie-carroll feel

Eddie Skelton B

Eddie Skelton,
courtesy Dennis West

EDDIE SKELTON had three Dixie records as well as at least two on Starday itself. Strangely they being issued at the same time too. Eddie who was from the Virginia’s had formed a band with his brother called the Rhythmtones and their first one on Dixie « Keep It Swinging » (2011) is a much sought after rocking gem that has a hot guitar behind a good vocalist and a cat who jumps all over the piano in the second break. Great one. Dennis West says (December 2015) Eddie was from Kingsport, TN.dixie-skelton swingng

Yet another elusive disc has been DEE JOHNSON’s « Just Look Don’t Touch » (2012) which has been described to as a solid Country rocker. There is no (2013) : unlucky number ?

Following the gap comes « Your Lying Ways » (2014) by BILL GOODWIN & His Western Ramblers. This is not as strong as his « Teenage Blues » (Starday) but is none the less a solid Country rocker with fine steel guitar, an dis a lot better than the later 60’s releases he had on Bandbox in Denver, Colo.

EDDIE SKELTON returnsfor an instrumental work out on« Rebel’s Retreat » that rocks along showcasing guitar/piano/sax and has a slow rocker « Love You Too Much » (2015) that has a nice brooding sound to it with some excellent bluesy piano and guitar.

mel-price

Mel Price

dixie-price dogThe disc by MEL PRICE that comes next « Little Dog Blues » (2016) is the best rocking record I’ve heard by him. The first important ingredient is that the song has something going for it. Mel’s voice suits this self penned song and the backin, was the Santa Fe Rangers, is of high standard with brilliant guitar. I wonder why two of the tracks cut at this session were issued in Dixie 800 series. Mel had a number of releases on Starday, Blue Hen and Regan, and despite the name of his band, appears to have been active along the North Eastern seaboard of the USA.

CATHY KELLEY’s « Blues Hanging Around » (2017) is a Country rocker that sounds very Nashville and lives up to its title, and came out in mid-59.

Right from the opening notes of GROOVE JOE POOVEY’s famous « Ten long Fingers » (2018) with C.B. Oliver’s piano pumpng behind Joe’s assured vocal and a growling sax player who gets a good and dirty sound from his horn. An absolute classic whose rarity pales when one considers how rare his « Move Around » (Dixie 733) just a year before.dixie-poovey fingers

Use of the word rare, very overused with records brings us nicely to ART ONTARIO and his « It Must Be Me »(2019) which is a very fine bluesy rocker with an unusually toned guitar that has two excellent breaks. Mind this one is certainly not as rare as this son of Ohio’s « Queen From Bowling Green » issued under the name of ART BUCHANAN (Dixie 823).dixie-ontario must

For a chunk of good old Rock’n’Roll you’ll have to go a long way to beat « Blast Off » (2020) by the unknown ALDEN HOLLOWAY. Set at a fast jive pace, this one has some blisering guitar work and a good old honking sax before the guitar returns. The other side is an instrumental « Swinging The Rock » featuring both the above ; I wonder is his « Loving Is My Business » (Starday 714) was cut at the same session. Holloway was a Virginian.dixie holloway blast

I have been unable to throw any light on HUGHEY BUNCH & The Bradley Farm Hands and their « South Wind » on Dixie 2021. It is not the same « South Wind » that was cut by the late Billy Wallace on REPUBLIC, but is a nice Hillbilly Rock side that has a very prominent banjo on this side and also on the flipside « Cry Tomorrow » which just gets the edge with me as the guitar work is better. Bunch was from Morristown, TN. according to Dennis West.

Hughey Bunch “South wind”

download

dixie bunch - Cry

By now, the latter months of 1959 signs of pop rock begin to show up as on DEE JOHNSON’s « Back To School » (2022), which was probably cut at an earlier session. A basic line up of guitar and rhythm section aided by handclaps, a chorus and tinkling piano ; it is quite pleasant.

I was impressed by JAY GALLEGHER and his « Crazy Legs » (2023). A fast tempo’d rocker opened by a heavy drummer, a rocking guitar and a really pumping piano. There is a chorus on this but it suits the song and the guitarist cuts loose a great break amidst the handclapping. The flip is a bit of a shock too : « Steady Flame » is not so fast but I almost prefer this side with it’s clever guitar break that is followed by the pianist who is really enjoying himself. dixie-gallegher lgsDixie 2024 (Larry Streeter) unheard.

EDDIE SKELTON goes instrumental once more with « Curly » (2025). Mid paced guitar/piano/sax that is pleasing rather than exciting as it takes too long to get into its stride. And so we come to the end of the DIXIE 2000 series with BOBBY MACK and his « Who Put The Blues In Your Heart » (2025) which is a nice piece of Nashville Country.

(reprint from Phillip J. Tricker’s article in Roll Street Journal # v8, Summer 1984)      dixie  mack blues

Recommended listening: Collector CD 4411 and the Dixie Collector series (2222 to 4444)

clcd4410