JACK TUCKER, “Big Door” , “Honey Moon Trip To Mars” and “Lonely Man” (1949-1961)

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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 jack tucker1Brown’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.

Gene BrownBig door4star Tucker Door"Brown Gene "Big Door"

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Jack Tucker “Big door

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 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 ».

4star Tucker Beaver

okeh Wills Beaver

1940 issue

“Big beaver”

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Nevertheless, Tucker’s recording career was quite extensive. There was a demo session for Modern in 1949 and jack tucker3his 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).

Lonely manozark Tucker Marsozark TuckerMan

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Honey moon trip to Mars

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Larry BryantHoney moon trip to Mars

downloadsantafe Bryant  Mars

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.

Lina LynnePlease be mine

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Bill BradleyDrunkard’s diary

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rural Lynne  Please fabor Bradley diary

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)Tucker Jack4

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.

Stark, staring madly in love

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“First on your list

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X Tucker Stark

X Tucker ListThis 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].

billboard starday tucker

Billboard April 14, 1954

I was only fooling me

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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).

debut Tucker Crystar Tucker  Cry
Too blue to crydebut Andrews Christmas

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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].

Your triflin’ ways

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Heartaches and tears

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dwbeat Stanley Waysdownbeat Stanley Tears

 

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).

Let me practice with you

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Surrounded by sorrow

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Roy Counts, “I ain’t got no blues

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Roy Counts, “Darling I could never live without you

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belaire Tucker practice belaire Tucker Sorrow

Billbard 11-11-57

Billboard, No. 11, 1957

 

 

 

 

 

1958 belaire Counts Darling belaire Counts bluessaw 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?]

Honey moon trip to Mars

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Larry BryantHoney moon trip to Mars

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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 ozark

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).

Oh what a lonely one; one is

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“Just in time

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It’s gone too far

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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

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public! Tucker First

toppa Tucker Fartoppa Tucker Lonely

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;

“TOPPA Tops ‘Em All” – the rise of a small California output (1958-60)

toppa label

Covina, Ca., home of Toppa Records

Covina, Ca. home to Toppa

Toppa was founded in Covina, Ca. by ex-country singer and top DJ (KXLA) Jack toppa label (2)Morris. jack morrisHe had had releases on Starday (Custom serie, in January 1955), Sage and Pep and came up with this new label late in 1958. The label lasted way up during the ’70s, and found frequent modest success, although only regionally. Toppa’s best sides have been reissued recently in a 3-CD bootleg Internet boxset (« Toppa’s country » vol. 1, 2 and 3 ) to be found on “UncleGil’s rockin’ archives” blog.: http://adf.ly/1hinq0

I will focus on the first 31 issues (1958-1960).

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 »).

What am I

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Touch of perfection

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toppa williams whattoppa williams perfection
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.

Lonesome wheelstoppa Mathis Wheels

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So am I

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toppa black what's

“What’s it to you

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« What’s it to you » issued on # 1004 by WALLY BLACK is a very good part-styled Cash opus, because of the insistent guitar bass chords motif. Black had previously cut some pop rockers on the Fable label (« Rock and roll mama »).

CATHIE TAYLOR on # 1006 « Two straws and a soda », a poppish teen ballad, merits oblivion.

GEORGE HEFFINGTON, # 1007, and the fast, fine « Ghost of love ». Again a very good guitar throughout. Flipside toppa heffington ghosttoppa heffington Love"“Ghost of love”

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« Crazy love » is equally good, although less fast. He much later recorded on the Accent label (ca. 1964-65) « Honky tonk merry-go-round (unheard).

“Crazy love”

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LINA LYNN delivers a R&R instumental, « Lina’s doll » (# 1008) where she’s backed by the Storms, a band that appeared also on the Sundown label, and whose general sound is not dissimilar to Eddie Cochran‘s Kelly Four. # 1009 is by WALLY BLACK, « Gee I hate to go », a light rocker with pop overtones. Its flipside, « I ain’t gonna cry no more » has the same Kelly Four savour. Actually it’s even written by Kelly 4 member : saxophonist Mike Deasy.

I ain’t gonna cry no more

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toppa Black Cry

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).

bb 25-4-60 black

Billboard April 24, 1960

I’m a country boy

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I’d appreciate very much the double offering at # 1015 by JOHNNY LEON, «You found someone new/Sometimes it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning »[what a true assertion]

 

 

 

toppa Leon  Morning"good backing (bass and drums) over prominent fiddle and steel. It’s one of the highlights of the serie.

bb 25-4-60 leon“Sometimes it doesn’t pay”

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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.mercury Miller Tears toppa Miller Room toppa miller tears

Make room for the bluesMiller Dick on stage

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My tears will seal it closed

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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 ».

Weather man

downloadtoppa Brock Home"

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.

No city love you’ll find

Tucker Jack

Jack Tucker

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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.fedora label

 

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..

late December 2010 fortnight favourites

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.

gene hensleeimperial henslee dign

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. premium thomas rock

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.

bob-newman

Bob Newman

sage ep  georgia crackers

jack tucker

Jack Tucker

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.   4 star tucker door

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.

walton walls kiss

A merry Xmas to you all. Enjoy the music!