ROY COUNTS is nearly unknown nowadays, except for 6 sides issued under his name at various times. He was billed on his Bel-Aire record as with his Okla. Playboys, and
he appears to have shared his session (same band) with another Oklahomian (who made his way to California), Jack Tucker. But we have already jumped to his first known issue, as two earlier tracks from the Hometown Jamboree have since surfaced on the Hillbilly Researcher serie # 26 : « I’m tired » and « I’ve got a new heartache » are two average boppers (drums present, although unheavy), and I can’t but remember hearing them of Wynn Stewart solid early sides (like « Slowly but surely », « It’s not the moon that makes a difference » or « You took her off my hands » all on Capitol Records). However these early Roy Counts sides have nothing exceptional.
Things are changing with the already mentioned split-session for Bel-Aire Records, which were located in the same town, El Monte, Ca. as the one where was aired the Hometown Jamboree from, on the airwaves of KXLA. I discuss also the Jack Tucker sides (Bel-Aire 23), « Surrounded by sorrow » and « Let me practice with you », since the sound and backing are very similar. A strong steel guitar (probably Ralph Mooney, according to his particular sounding), Don Evans on lead guitar, who was a regular with Jack Tucker ; a bass and drums, then a piano player who sounds remarkably like Bill Woods.
We jump now to 1963-64 for two sides first issued on the Jedco label, then reissued on Commerce # 5009 (same issue numbers for both labels). « Temptation » is not at all a bad record for this era, and has a very good steel (again Ralph Mooney?) over a fine piano for an uptempo ‘city’ country side. Flipside « Blue angel » is a very good medium paced rockaballad with an haunting steel. Note that both sides were produced by a certain Jack E. Downes (« Strictly drums » on Jedco 5002) : the initials are transparent of JEDco, and one can wonder if it’s he who handles drums on the Roy Counts disc, although it’s largely open to speculation and, as the saying goes, of very small interest !
Beside these records, Roy Counts failed to attain a higher stature and fell into obscurity, and that’s a pity : he was in his own right, although a minor one, a very good artist.
Sources: 45-cat for label scans; soundfiles from various sources; a great ‘thank you‘ to ‘fortyfivesfrank’ on 45-cat for “Blue angel“; Roy Counts picture from hillbilly-music.com; Wynn Stewart demo 45 from “Roots Vinyl Guide”.
It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here. There were four versions of « Big door »…a sort-of « Green door » sequel.The first version appeared in 4 Star’s AP (Artist Promotion) and was by the writer, Gene Brown. Some say that Eddie Cochran is on guitar. That version reappeared on 4 Star (# 1717) and reappeared yet again identical on Dot, the label that had scored with « Green door ». At almost the same time, circa April 1958, that 4 Star licensed Brown’s master to Dot, Jack Tucker‘s version appeared. Was this the same Jack Tucker who worked hillbilly nighspots in Los Angeles for many years ? Probably. According to Si Barnes, who worked for both Jack Tucker (real name Morris Tucker) and his brother, Hubert, aka Herb [« Habit forming kisses » on Excel 107, 1955: see elsewhere in this site the Rodeo/Excel story], the Tuckers were from Haleyville, near Oklahoma City . Jack (rn Morris) was born on April 19th, 1918.
Both brothers led bands in Los Angeles, playing spots like the Hitching Post, Harmony Park Ballroom, and so on. Jack had a Saturday night television show on Channel 11. Tommy Allsup graduated from Herb Tucker’s band, and according to Barnes, Herb led the more musically sophisticated outfit. Jack Tucker, said Barnes was « pretty much stuck on himself. A very basic guitar player and vocalist. He was really limited in musical talent. I’m surprised he let the band record [Bob Wills‘] « Big beaver » [at the same session as « Big door»]. He didn’t understand the Wills beat or anything about that style. Jack was a two-chord guy. Both Herb and Jack faded out in the early 1960s when the ballrooms closed or switched over to rock ».
Nevertheless, Tucker’s recording career was quite extensive. There was a demo session for Modern in 1949 and his first 4 Star record was a reissue of a 1953 disc for the 4* custom Debut label. Other records, usually with the Oklahoma Playboys, appeared on Starday (1954), RCA’s « X » imprint (1955), Downbeat, with Bob Stanley (1956), Audie Andrews on Debut, himself on Bel Aire and Nielsen (1957). Guitarist Danny Michaels remembered that Tucker was playing at the Pioneer Room on Pioneer Blvd, when they did the 4 Star session. According to Michaels, he played lead and Al Petty played steel guitar, but he couldn’t remember the others. Following Tucker’s brief tenure with 4 Star, he recorded for Ozark Records in South Gate, California. One of their singles (with Don Evans on lead guitar), « Lonely man » was acquired by Imperial. Another, « Honey moon trip to Mars », may have been revived by Larry Bryant (Santa Fe 100, or Bakersfield 100).
Tucker appears to have bowed out with a clutch of records for Toppa in 1961-1962, and later for Public! and Young Country. He had backed Lina Lynne (later on Toppa 1008) on Jimmy O’Neal‘s Rural Rhythm label, and Bill Bradley on Fabor Robinson‘s Fabor label in 1957-58.
Tucker died on September 26, 1996, but no one has an idea what he was doing between the mid-60s and his death.
Notes by Colin Escott to « That’ll flat git it vol. 26 » (Four Star). Additions by Bopping’s editor.
The music of Jack Tucker (by Bopping’s editor)
To follow Barnes’ assertion about limitations both on guitar and vocal of Jack Tucker, one must although admit his discs were good enough to have him a comfortable discography over the years 1953-1965. I cannot at all judge his talent but I’d assume his music is generally pretty good hillbilly bop or rockabilly.
First tracks I discuss are his « X » sides (# 0093) from 1954 : the fast « Stark, staring madly in love» has a tinkling piano and a loping rhythm, a fine side, and the equally good « First on your list » (much later re-recorded on Public!). Both are billed X songs by Allan Turner.
This is without forgetting two 1949 demo tracks for Modern : apparently Dusty Rhodes is on lead guitar for the instrumental « Dusty road boogie », and Jack Tucker is vocalist for a version of Hank Williams’ « Mind your own business ».
Later on, we had Tucker on Starday 136 : « Itchin’ for a hitchin ‘ » and « I was only fooling me », typical hillbillies on the Beaumont, TX label – probably recorded on the West coast, as later did Jack Morris [see the latter’s story elsewhere in this site].
More earlier on the 4 Star OP (« Other People ») custom Debut label (# 1001), later reissued on the regular 4 Star X-81, Tucker had cut in 1954 « Too blue to cry », a good song with band chorus, and had backed a fellow Oklahomian Audie Andrews on the same Debut label (One side written by NY entrepreneur Buck Ram).
In 1956 Bob Stanley [not to be confused with the pop orchestra leader] on Downbeat 204 had « Your triflin’ ways/Heartaches and tears », backed by Tucker and his Oklahoma Playboys : two very nice Hillbilly boppers: Stanley adopts the famous growl-in-his-voice, a speciality of T. Texas Tyler. Both of them had also a disc on Downbeat 203 (still untraced). Jack Tucker backed also in 1957 Lina Lynne on the fine bopper « Pease be mine » (Rural Rhythm 513 [see above].
Same year 1957 saw Tucker record two sides among his best on the small California Bel Aire (# 22) label, « Let me practice with you » and « Surrounded by sorrow », good mid-paced boppers (fine steel). His band, “The Okla. Playboys“, backed Roy Counts on two excellent boppers on Bel Aire 23: the medium-paced “I ain’t got the blues“, and the faster “Darling I could never live without you“, both have strong steel guitar. Tucker also had « Hound dog » on the Nielsen 56-7 label (untraced).
1958 saw the issue of « Big door » already discussed earlier (plus the B-side « Crazy do » a good instrumental), as the other 4 Star record, « Big beaver /Nobody’s fool» (4 Star # 1728), both average instrumental sides.
In 1959 Tucker had three records on the Ozark label. The original of « Honey moon trip to Mars » (# 960) [later by Larry Bryant on Santa Fe/Bakersfield – otherwise, who came first?]
then « Lonely man » (# 962), which was picked by Imperial and reissued (# 5623), finally # 965 and the ballads « Don’t cry for me/Trade wind love ».
insert of an Ozark issue, found on the Net
In 1960-1961 Tucker had four Toppa records. All are fine boppers, despite a tendancy to go pop, and include Ralph Mooney on steel guitar at least on # 1030 : « Oh what a lonely one ; one is » , “When the shades are drawn” (# 1041), « Just in time » (# 1052) and « It’s gone too far » (# 1106).
I mention quickly the following issues, less and less interesting (more and more poppish) on Public! (a new version of « First on your list ») and Young country (even an LP # 103) along the ’60s.
“First on your list”
Sources: Colin Escott notes to “That’ll flat git it vol.” (Four Star); 45cat and 78-world sites; Toppa’s best 3-CD;; Roots Vinyl Guide; YouTube; Praguefrank’s country discography (discography); my own archives and records;
BROCK WILLIAMS offers « What am I » (# 1001), a nice little rocker, with a little echo, over a good guitar and an assured vocal. The flipside, « Touch of perfection » is a perfect mid-paced bluesy ballad. Wally Black on # 1002 remains untraced (« She’s comin’ home »).
We jump to # 1003 by ERNIE MATHIS : very nice fast, piano-led « Lonesome wheels » and the more slowish « So am I ». Later on he was on Fable. That was the last Toppa issue reviewed by Billboard in 1958.
Next offering is a double sider by REX BINGHAM. He goes a bit poppish with male chorus, but has the strong help of Ralph Mooney on steel (two solos) for « Just like before » and « The fire is burning low » (# 1011). He had a « Blind blind heart » in 1959 on Rex 100, which was reissued on Toppa 1028. Was it a sublabel ? « Linda » (# 1012) by LUTHER WAYNE is a fast poppish ditty, quite listenable although.
Two ballads, « Help me forget him/Another woman’s man » (# 1013) by JANET McBRIDE are lovely again with strong help from steel guitar player Ralph Mooney. Later on she cut at Sims and duetted with Billy Barton. WALLY BLACK returns with the fast « I’m a country boy » (# 1014).
And now a comparatively well-known artist, DICK MILLER. He had had already records on M&M, Stanchell and Aggie [see elsewhere his story in this site], as well as around the same time as his Toppa output, on Sundown. His two songs on Toppa are well-sung ballads over the same instrumentation as previous label’s issues, « Make room for the blues/My tears will seal it closed » (# 1016) [the latter was also picked up by Mercury and reissued on # 71658, July 1960.
DANNY BURKE next (# 1017) comes with again two nice rockaballads, « Wasting my time/Walking in my sleep ». Then CLYDE PITTS offers an out-and-out rocker, « Shakin’ like a leaf » (# 1018) complete with sax and chorus. # 1019 by BILL BROCK : he delivers a fine ballad with the unusual backing of fiddle and steel paired in « I can’t come home ». Same format for # 1020 and DON RICE : « Fire without a flame » and, at last, the fast « Weather man ».
The veteran TEXAS BILL STRENGTH brings the fast « Watching the world go by » (# 1021). « Too young to love » (# 1023), a bit poppish (although a good piano backing) come to light with DON HOLIMAN. # 1024 by CHARLIE WILLIAMS is a sincere ballad « World’s champion fool », revived on # 1048 by Dick Miller. Jimmy Snyder (# 1025), Polly Tucker (# 1026, also on Pep), The Horton Bros. (# 1027) left invisible tracks. Then there is a gap until # 1029 : JANET McBRIDE returns in the same style as her # 1013 issue with « Sweethearts by night ».
Another well-known name now on # 1030 : JACK TUCKER . Nice Country-rocker with « No city love you’ll find ». And the final offering is # 1031 by LUTHER WAYNE ; « White line » is a good guitar led little rocker [a Jack Morris’ tune on Sage ], while « The blues got me down again » is a passable effort.
All in all, the Toppa label was a County pop one, and the outstanding tracks, according to bopping.org standards, are uncommon. Nevertheless in the regard to the backing, all issues are great. The story did go on, and many good tracks were later cut : Smokey Stover and « On the warpath », more Jack Tucker tunes, Don Rice and « Hideaway heartaches », more Dick Miller (« Back into your past »), Bud Crowder and « Room for one heartache », to name just a few. Fact is the label deserves to be examined, as it contains many good surprises.
Just another word. Toppa had two sublabels early into the ’60s : Toppette and Fedora. I don’t know why several artists of main Toppa artists were assigned to its sublabels, although they had the same style as on Toppa.
Sources: Steve Hathaway for some records, Kent Heineman (“Armadillo Killer”) for several more. 45cat.com for more than a label scan. Youtube was also of help. And many, many small facts from my own archives or direct from Internet. And a lot of work to set up this article, but this was a labor of love..
Howdy folks! This time I managed to post 8 tunes, instead of the usual 6. I must say: the matter was significant with the “Move It On Over” story, a tune frequently covered over the years. I picked up 4 versions, ranging from 1947 to the ’60s. (more…)
Howdy folks. This time we are mostly staying in Texas. First with the legendary bandleader CLIFF BRUNER and “San Antonio Blues“, a late ’40s tune. He saw among his band members Moon Mullican or Link Davis.
Then GENE HENSLEE, aimed at Hillbilly bop/Rockabilly circles for his “Rockin’ Baby” on Imperial. He also had this jumping “Dig’n’And Datin‘” with fiddle, piano and steel. Henslee was a resident D.J. at KIHN from Hugo, Oklahoma.
BASHFUL VIC THOMAS was one of these Country outfits jumping on the Rock’n’Roll bandwagon in 1956. He delivers here the fine romping “Rock and Roll Tonight” on the Premium label.
From the Sage label out of California comes now BOB NEWMAN (see elsewhere his story in this site), disguised under the family name “GEORGIA CRACKERS” and a remake of “Hangover Boogie” in 1957. He had already cut the song for King during the early ’50s.
The tune “Big Door” was published twice by 4 Star in 1958. One version, as a Rocker, was sung by GENE BROWN (with a possible Eddie Cochran connection). Here I offer the other version by JACK TUCKER, more Country.
Finally, way up North (Richùond, Indiana), here is JIMMY WALLS and the amusing title “What A Little Kiss Can Do” (from 1965!) for the Walton label, which also had Van Brothers‘ issues.