Freddie Frank, bopping in Texas (Abbott, Starday, Permian: 1953-1961)

A staple of the Odessa country music scene for 50 years, guitarist-fiddler Freddie Frank (1931-2005) spent his formative years in Kilgore. Part of the same circle that included Jack Rhodes, Red Hayes, Jimmy Johnson, Curtis Kirk, Al Petty, Bobby Garrett, and Jim Reeves, Freddie, like Johnson, was not able to translate his vocal talents into the sustained recording career that he deserved. Instead, there was the all-too-predictable pattern of a few scattered releases on oddball labels in the ’50s and early ’60s, including his own Permian label. A Capitol session c. 1955 could have turned things around for him — but it went unissued (and no one has got a trace of it).

Mineola, Wood Cty

12,000 Texas Longhorns” was Freddie’s debut, from early 1953, and issued on Fabor Robinson’s Abbott label (# 125). A memorable Jack Rhodes-J.C. Lile song, “Longhorns” was recorded superbly by the pros at KWKH Studio in Shreveport with Red Hayes’ band providing the solid support: Joe “Red” Hayes and Kenneth “Little Red” Hayes (fiddles), Al Petty (steel guitar), and Leon Hayes (bass). Freddie supplies his own rhythm guitar. Flipside « Off to parts unknown » is slowlier, although a vigorous slice of hillbilly bop. Red Hayes seems to have been everywhere in the early ’50s. He would eventually follow Freddie to Odessa. Next Abbott issue (# 126) by Curtis Kirk was presumed as having been recorded at the same place and occasion as Freddie Frank. 

“12,000 Texas Longhorns

Billboard March 7, 1953

download
Off to parts unknown

download

As for Jack Rhodes, he remains a controversial figure. Some people loved him; others hated him. Freddie’s comments, made to me in a 1999 interview, are revealing:

I went to work at the Reo Palm Isle (in Longview). I played lead guitar for Jim Reeves there when he was first starting out. When I left there, Red (Hayes) came in there and started working. He introduced me to Jack Rhodes. I moved up to Mineola and was staying up there helping him write songs. Jack had a bunch of people writing song-poems. We’d go and collect those and bring ’em back, and I’d write the tunes for ’em. Make ’em meter out, and doctor ’em up. They could put “DS” after my name — doctor of songs. Jack didn’t write very much of nothing. Jack was a manipulator. He reminded me of Boss Hog on ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’ Jack owned the motel (the Trail 80 Courts), and was bootlegging (liquor), and he could afford to do what he wanted to.

I think Jack had the sheriff paid off in Mineola. I don’t think he was arrested there. But I think he did get raided when he lived in Grand Saline. They were making their own whiskey up there. I think that’s why he moved to Mineola, ’cause he couldn’t manipulate the law in Grand Saline. I told him when he died, they’d probably screw him in the ground like a corkscrew.

But he put the con on just about everybody. When I got enough of it, I got enough, and I left…never called him, never spoke to him again. I think that was the same thing with Red (Hayes).”

Freddie is listed as co-writer with Jack Rhodes on Gene Vincent‘s “Five days, five days » (Capitol 3678), but received no credit for writing the music to Vincent’s “Red Blue Jeans and a Pony tail” (Capitol LP T 768 « Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps »). “Five Days, Five Days“, credited by Rob Finnis to Jimmy Johnson, may actually be Freddie with Leon Hayes on tremendous bass. Franks had been quickly adapting his voice (he even adopts hiccups) and playing to new trends. From the same sessions came a version of the evergreen « Trying to be my baby »[see the story of this song in this site]. On the other hand, Frank was not listed among artists involved in the “Louisiana Hayride“, according to Imperial, who runs an ambitious reedition program (20 CD) of tapes saved from this famous radio/live show. 

Freddie FrankRed blue jeans and a pony tail

download

Gene Vincent & the Blue CapsRed blue jeans and a pony tail

download

Freddie FrankFive days, five days”(possibly)

download

Gene Vincent & his Blue Caps “Five days, five days

download

Freddie FrankTrying to be my baby

download

Earlier in 1953 the team Jimmy Rhodes-Freddie Frank had been cutting two sides for Starday in Beaumont, Texas. The very fast « Gypsy heart » (# 117) has fine fiddle and guitar, and vocal credited to Franks, while the flipside « Al’s steel guitar wobble » is a showcase for Al Petty, supported by a good piano (is this Starday house-musician Doc Lewis?). Both sides have Frank on rhythm guitar.


Gypsy heart

download

 

Next stop in Freddie Frank’s career is in Odessa (West Texas) in 1961. Unable to find a label proper to release real Hillbilly at this time, he then launched his own label, Permian, apparently a common venture with Slim Willet. Frank had 3 issues on this label. First «This old rig »(1001-A) has energetic rhythm and voice over very fine fiddle and steel. : a great Bopper. The flipside (« I want to be) On the bayou tonight », has, as expected, Cajun overtones (without accordion yet),

This old rig

download

“”On the bayou tonight

download



and nothing exceptional. The second issue, billed « Freddie Frank and the Lone Star Cowboys »(# 1002), even faster than «This old rig » is a tour-de-force both for Freddie and the steel player, who makes prowesses. « Another woman looking for a man » is written by Hayes, possibly one of the family (Joe, Leon or Kenneth) and such a track reminds one of Skeets McDonald‘s best honky tonkers a few years earlier, or Sonny Burns’ songs in his best moments.

a very old Freddie

Another woman looking for a man

download

Flipside « So alone inside » remains untraced, while Permian 1004 is once more a fantastic two-sided bopper. Energetic voice well to the fore, fine fiddle and a rollicking steel for « Tool pusher from Snyder », revived from Slim Willet‘s original issue (1951) ten years earlier on the Star Talent label (# 770). The final side « Haywire Jones” (written also by Slim Willet and published in 1959 on Winston 1040), although a little quieter, is equally a very nice bopper in the George Jones vein. The Permian label also published Earl Montgomery (regular bassist on Winston Slim Willet issues) and Bill Massey (unheard).

Slim Willet “I’m a tool pusher from Snyder

download

Freddie FrankTool pusher from Snyder

download

Freddie FrankHaywire Jones

download

With thanks to HillbillyBoogie1 (biography); John Burton (Abbott issue) : Armadillo Killer for one Permian issue ; Uncle Gil for the Starday project ; notes by Rob Finnis to the CD (Ace) « Gene Vincent cut our songs ».. May “HillbillyBoogie1” get in touch please to get us more details from his corresponding with Freddie Frank. I really don’t know what happened to him between his Permian sides from 1961 and his death in 2005.

Cliff Carlisle, Blues yodeler and steel guitar wizard – some selections

Cliff Carlisle (1904-83)

A blues with a yodel : it may not sound much now, but in the 1920s a lot of careers were carved out of that curious amalgam. Jimmie Rodgers started it, and after him went Gene Autry, or Jimmie Davis, or Cliff Carlisle. The latter yodeled the longest and the best.

Raised in the countryside outside Louisville, Kentucky, Carlisle would say later : « My music is a cross between hillbilly and blues – even Hawaïan music has a sort of blues to it. » Teaming first in the early Thirties with the singer-guitarist Wilbur Ball, he went on the vaudeville tent show circuit, and afterwards he told they had actually been the first yodeling duet.

Then in 1930 he recorded in a Jimmie Rodgers vein (« Memphis yodel »), but with a distinctive touch on the Dobo resonator steel guitar. At this point he was also making a name on Louisville stations (WHAS and WLAP), billing himself and Ball as the « Lullaby Larkers ». That’s how his career took off.

In 31 or 32, he was in New York, extending his own port-folio, and recalling Jimmie Rogers singing a number about a rooster : « What makes a Shanghai crow at the break of day ? To let the Dominicker hen know the head man’s on his way.. » Ralph Peer wouldn’t let him record that, because it was kind of a risqué tune at that time, but finally he let Carlisle go. Hence « Shanghaï rooster yodel n°2 ».

download

In 1932 Carlisle was working solo, but in the years that followed he was often partnered by his younger brother Bill. On one of their records they even staged a fight over who would do what. « Hold it, buddy, » says Cliff indignantly as Bill starts to yodel. « This is my « Mouse’s ear blues », and I’ll do the yodeling. » It isn’t the only unusual feature. « Moose’s ear blues » is, probably uniquely in the corpus of recorded hillbilly music, a song about defloration. « My little mama, she’s got a mouse’s ear, but she gonna lose it when I shift my gear. »

download

By the mid-’30s, when he was working on WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina, and recording for Bluebird and Decca, Cliff was making a fair bid to corner the hillbilly disc market in sniggery songs about roosters and ashcans (there was an occasional double entendre loitering in this vicinity), and humorously violent tales of marital discord like « Hen pecked man », « Pay day fight » or « A wild cat woman and a tom cat man », where Cliff’s boisterous flights of fancy are powered by the twin engines of his Dobro and Bill’s inventive flat-picked guitar. By the end of the decade he had been on four record labels and made almost 200 sides. He and Bill had a cross-section of country music just prior to WWII. So it was hardly surprising that their family group, the Carlisles, with various sons and dauhters, was popular on the Grand Ole Opry and had hits in the ’50s with « Too old to cut the mustard » and « No help wanted ».

download

In the mid-’50s Cliff retired to a quiet life of painting, fishing and church work. He did the occasional comeback on not very memorable albums for small labels, even reuniting with Wilbur Ball and playing for college audience or folk festivals.

(Freely adapted from the chapter devoted to Cliff Carlisle in Tony Russell’s « Country music originals – The legends and the lost »)

————————————

Here are some selections of Carlisle’s work in very different styles.

From 1932, backed by a wild slapping-bass, for the evergreen « Goin’ down the road feelin’ bad ».

download

Accompanied by two guitars (Bill Carlisle) and a string-bass for « That nasty swing » from 1936.

download

In January 1947, from one of his last recording sessions, with his Buckeye Boys and for a song very close to Bill Monroe‘s « Rocky road blues » (February 1945), «A mean mama don’t worry me ».

download

Recommended listening, if you can find them: Cliff Carlisle volume 1 & 2 on Old Timey 103 & 104.

MACK HAMILTON & his Drifting Texans: “I’m a honky tonk daddy” (1953-54)

Nothing at all is known about MACK HAMILTON, (not even a picture), except he came probably from the Gulf, between Port Arthur, a mere 90 miles East of Houston, TX, and nearby Louisiana. And that is asserted only by the location of the two record labels he got to wax on between 1953 and 1954.

His first ever record was cut in Port Arthur for the Diamond Recording Company in 1953. To add much more confusion, a Diamond diskery was active during this period, which emanated from Beaumont, TX (on the Gulf too) and issued Country records, for example one by Morris Mills (Diamond # 101, “Jumbalaya answer“), a rather prolific regional artist (also 4* and Macy’s). Although you may say it’s the same company with two locations, which has nothing to do with two other Diamond Co. in New York. This « Diamond Recording Company » was also a short-lived concern with only two issues, one therefore by Mack Hamilton (vocal and guitar): (Diamond CW-1001/1002) : the lugubrious mid-tempo « Moaning in the morning » (fiddle and steel prominent) and the self-conscious very Hank Williams styled « Sweet little Rosebud », a solid bopper, with even a short accordion solo, but steel and fiddle are once more well present.

Billboard, 31 October 1953

Moaning in the morning

download
“Sweet little Rosebud”

download

The second issue of the label was cut by Roland (R.A.) Faulk, as « Roland and his Rythm Boys » (sic). Sides CW 1003/1004 : « Send

me someone/I’d own the world ». are pleasant waltz tempo hillbillies. Nothing special, except a heay bass, a steel and a good piano and guitar. The singer is firm and confident : he was active on the Port Arthur area, and was to record in October 1956 the great Rockabilly « My baby’ gone » on Big State 592, a Starday custom, out of Port Acres, TX.(valued $ 700). But I am wandering from Mack Hamilton.

Send me someone

download
I’d own the world

Roland (R.A.) Faulk, “My baby’s gone

downoad

His next offerings were commited to wax in late 1953 for the Feature label, which was located in Crowley, La. and run by J.(Jay) D. Miller. Hamilton’s sides however were recorded at radio KTRM in Beaumont, TX. seemingly as a 4-tracks session. Backing Hamilton were Rusty (guitar) and his brother Doug Kershaw on fiddle, plus Louis Fourneret on steel. The tracks included two great Boppers : « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », completely Hank Williams styled with thudding bass and hot steel (Feature 1087A), and in the same pattern, « Will you will or will you won’t ?» (Feature 1095A).

“I’m a honky-tonk daddy

download
Will you will or will you won’t?”

download

In a world without you”

download
A girl with too many sweethearts”

download

 

 

 

 

Less fast were the flipsides, although very good on their part : the weepers mid-tempo « In a world without you » and « A girl with too many sweethearts ». And that was it. J. D. Miller wrote every Feature song, and must have had faith in « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », because he offered it to Wink Lewis on the very following number (# 1088). Lewis did a great version too. Later on he cut the great piano led Rockabilly « Zzztt, zzztt, zzztt » on the Texas Tone label (with Buzz Busby & his Band). I am wandering once more from Mack Hamilton, but there’s no more to relate about him : he disappeared completely from the music scene.

Wink Lewis,I’m a honky-tonk daddy

Billboard Sept. 8, 1956

download

Wink Lewis, “Zzztt, zzztt, zzzttt

download

 

Notes : with great help from Ronald Keppner (Diamond recordings); notes by Bruce Bastin for Flyright vol. 19 (557) « Bayou boogie » ; my own archives.

“Blues for Oklahoma”: VIRGEL BOZMAN, O.T. and Hot Rod Records (1949-1952)

The story of Khoury’s Recordings starts in 1949 with a man named John Hardin “Virgel” Bozman. He was a rustic singer/guitarist (born in Oklahoma) and part-time comedian who sometimes billed himself, with tongue-in-cheek, as “The Arkansas Sinatra“. He seemingly was also a house painter. He  had apparently been a staple on the San Antonio country and western music scene for some time.  Virgel Bozman was an eccentric Texas bandleader who became fascinated by Cajun music. He had already recorded a Hillbilly record for Bill Quinn, « Griding for my darling » (Gold Star 1324), which was virtually impossible to locate even when it was new. A 1945 contract for Bozman exists, so he may have had an unknown release on Quinn’s earlier Gulf label, or the sides could have become the later Gold Star release. Bozman revamped his band as the Oklahoma Tornadoes in 1947 with new musicians of the caliber of Cajun fiddler Floyd LeBlanc. Together they came up with a viable French-English novelty « La Prison ». Somehow Quinn failed to see the potential of the song and buried it on the flipside of « The hokey pokey » – a piece of pure corn by the Gold Star Trio. But the song still caught on as it was flipped over on the juke boxes in several regions, and copies show up today with mint « A » sides and plowed « B » sides. With the right promotion, the record had the ingredients to become at least a regional hit in the Hillbilly market. Bozman was not deterred and began to feature Cajun music more prominently, although he himself could not speak French outside the words that were scribbled on paper for « La Prison ».

from l.ro r.: Floyd LeBlanc, Iry LeJeune,Bennie Hess (at mike), Virgel Bozman; 1947-48

download

 While stationed at a San Antonio military base near the end of WWII, Cajun fiddler Floyd Leblanc befriended Bozman. Together, they had joined Bennie Hess’ Oklahoma Tornados country hillbilly band as a guitar player but Virgil also dabbled in his own material as well. In mid 1948, Floyd had helped Iry Lejeune record two tunes with the band on Hess’ label “Opera” and they had him touring with the group for quite some time in 1948. Cajun music was well on it’s way back and while selling cow horns in Lake Charles, Virgil ended up moving from Texas to Louisiana in order to record it.

The O.T. Years

Then came George Khoury, a Turkish-American businessman from Lake Charles and record store owner.  In 1947, as an owner of a record shop, he noticed a lack of Cajun music being recorded in south Louisiana and decided to open a business to compete with Ed Shuler’s Goldband Records and J. D. “Jay” Miller’s Fais-Do-Do and Feature labels. His base of operations was just around the corner from Ed’s on Railroad Ave in Lake Charles. 

Khoury never had his own studio, however; he would rent out other studios and press the records in other places.  He had his record shop in Lake Charles and many agree he helped Virgil finance his new record label “O.T. Recordings”, named after Hess’ band.  Together, Virgil would try to find new talent for producing records and Khoury would sell the records in his shop. Even his “O.T.” logo resembled a cattle brand. According to author John Broven:

« Khoury was [Virgel’s] sponsor, so to speak, because he didn’t have that much money. He was a good salesman, he had a lot of gab because being a cowhorn salesman he had to have a lot of gab. »

Like Bennie Hess, Bozman stories abound, including his siphoning gasoline out of customer’s cars while they were at the Hilltop Club near his home and at one point driving an old car without a floor. He woud often play the fool’s role in the band as the traditionally required comedian. He was also a fine Hillbilly artist in his own right (« Blues for Oklahoma », O. T. 109) and obviously loved South Louisiana music, working hard to make a success of his labels. By the outset of 1949, the enthusiastic Bozman actually moved his wife and five children to 349-A Route 1 at Westlake in South Louisiana and set up is own OT ‘Hits of Louisiana’ label to tap into the market directly.

Virgil kicked off his label with his own recordings, which were a hillbilly tune “Tell Me If You Love Me” and a Cajun tune “The Cameron Waltz” (#101). The rare Oklahoma Tornadoes record is shrouded in mystery that reflects his initial indecision. The two songs were first recorded in English by Bozman but were cancelled and instead released with uncredited French vocals. The singer’s identity is still subject to much speculation.

Tell me if you love me

download
The Cameron waltz”

download

Later he issued another Hillbilly bopper, « Blues for Oklahoma » (# 109) [strident mandolin over a loping rhythm] and the more Western swing tinged « Troubles, troubles » (# 112). His B-sides are average little boppers.

“Blues for Oklahoma”

download

Don’t let it grieve your little heart”(OT 109)

download

“Troubles, troubles”

download

For each mistake you pay“(OT 112)

download

But he knew he needed other groups. It would be Eddie Shuler that would help Bozman get his first major outside recording artist. Eddie Shuler, a record producer in Lake Charles, had been approached by Cajun accordion player Nathan Abshire to record on his label after seeing the success of Iry Lejeune’s recordings. Eddie Shuler, who worked for the KPLC radio station, was too busy with the promotion of Iry LeJeune and put Nathan’s band in touch with businessman Virgil Bozman.  Also, Virgil had been familiar with Nathan’s music since Floyd had played in Nathan’s band years before. Virgil had noticed how Eddie Shuler produced his records for Goldband. According to Eddie Shuler, Bozman’s recording methods were very strange. He recalled:

« He kept the pot boiling by selling cowhorns (the famous Longhorns) and it is how he landed in Lake Charles one day. He discovered fast how I managed to get artists recorded by a third person and he decided to follow my steps. He arrived at the station studio, gave a bottle of booze to the sound engineer, asked him to cut an acetate, left with it and got it pressed somewhere else.

He sold cow horns. In fact, I still have one of his cow horns over the entrance to my door there that he gave me back at that time. I let him sing on my radio show. Anyway, he went then and teamed up with George Khoury and then he went out and found Nathan Abshire. »

 

Pine Grove Blues Success and Aftermath

Nathan Abshire, 1972

Abshire ’50s

In May of 1949, Virgil gathered Nathan Abshire with Earl Demary ‘s backup band in the KPLC studio, located inside the Majestic Hotel in Lake Charles, to cut 8 tracks; the first of which was the legendary “Pine Grove Blues” for the O.T. label (#102). It was a loose interpretation of an old blues tune called “In The Pines”. His Pine Grove Boys band included Roy Broussard and Ernest Thibodeaux on vocals, Earl Demary or Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Fruge on lap steel, Jim Baker on bass guitar, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle. The flipside contained a less-than-impressive “Kaplan Waltz” based on Angelas Lejeune’s 1929 recording of “Pointe Noir”. Since most Cajun 78s usually reached a pressing figure of 500, it was a big hit, pressing around 3,200 copies of the single. Virgil sold boxfulls of “Pine Grove Blues” from the back of a large hearse.

Pine grove blues

download

However, Virgil kicked the label off with a string of tunes containing a discography of Cajun songs such as Nathan’s cover of Leo Soileau’s “Grand Mamou” (#106), “Lake Charles Two Step“(#106), “New Orleans Waltz” (# 110), “Hathaway Waltz” (# 111), a re-recording of his pre-war “French Blues” (# 110), and an improved swingy version of his first hit called “Pine Grove Boogie” (#111). At one point that year, Virgil and Khoury convinced the hit artist of the area, Harry Choates, to wax a record, trying to capitalize on his fame giving it “Jole Blon’s Gone” (#107) and the obscure “Lake Charles Waltz” (#107). Neither Nathan nor Harry could recreate the success of the Pine Grove Blues O.T. recording. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French blues

download
Pine grove boogie

download
Harry Choates, “Jole Blon’s gone

download

Other musicians Virgil managed to get were Cleo Harves [Blues] and Jerry Barlow on his listings. (# 103, # 105). The label would eventually move to San Antonio, run by James Bryant and Bennie Hess (former partners at Bill Quinn’s Gold Star records), however, by the end of 1949, O.T. suddenly dried up.

He released his last 4 recordings he was holding onto, outsourcing the pressings by mailing his masters to Stephen Shaw and George Weitlauf in Cincinatti, OH. The records contained Nathan performing covers of the Breaux tune “Step It Fast” (# 114) and a rendition of Harry Choates’s famous Jole Blon hit called “Jolie, Petite Juilette” [sic](# 114). The other one labeled as Sandy Austin was the stage name for Abe Manuel when he and his brother Joe played Corpus Christi in 1950. They recorded “Scrambled Eggs” and a Joe Falcon cover called ” Madame Saustain” (# 113). The O.T. label only produced 14 records that are known to exist.

Step it fast

download
Jolie, petite Juilette

Circle C Band circa 52

download
Virgel got gone further launching the short-lived Hot Rod label, and issuing his own music : « Way down here in Mississipi »/ »Won’t you care », changing for the occasion the name of his backing band, « The Circle C Boys »

Way down here in Mssissipi

download
Won’t you care

download
(also named the Circle « C » Band, with Carrol Sammons as leader and guitar player), an outfit of San Antonio, TX. Other issues were by Nathan Abshire (# 103, « Chere Te Mon »), Ernest Thibodeaux [as “Tipidoe » by English writers!] for « Jennings to step » recorded probably in Crowley, La.. Wilson Granger (mostly fiddler on all Hot Rod issues) and Tan Benoit (Cajun recordings) for: « Bayou chico waltz » and « Iowa two step » cut either in Crowley or Jennings in 1951-52.

Ernest TipidoeJennings two step” (Hot Rod 105)

download

Wilson GrangerBayou Chico waltz” (Hot Rod 101)

download
Tan BenoitIowa two step
(Hot Rod 101)

download

Harmon Boazeman

Both Hot Rod [not to be confused with the California R&B outfit] and O.T. disappeared after 1952, as Virgel Bozman, who without doubt made easier the pot boiling by selling cow horns. Harmon Boazeman (not in any form related to Virgel) joined the Circle C Band in 1952 and cut in 1956 « No love in you » for Sarg.

 

Sources : the main sources were the abundant and precise notes of Dave Sax for ‘Cajun honky tonk – The Khoury recordings volume 2‘ ; also Chris Strachwitz for the « Nathan Abshire – « French blues » CD. These notes were freely adapted (and sometimes simply recopied). Many personal pictures do come from the accompanying booklets : I am working on the assumption that not many a reader owns those two CDs. Also I was inspired by the feature written on Khoury’s Records by Wade Falcon, available in this site or in his fine “earlycajunmusic.blogspot.fr” blogsite. Thanks to him. And this feature woud have been far incomplete (Hot Rod and O.T. Records) without the aid of the invaluable Ronald Keppner – million thanks go to him. Remaining pictures from 78rpm-world (45worlds.com). The picture of Nathan Abshire (’50s) comes from “Louisiana Music”, a booklet by Lyle Ferbrache and Andrew Brown. Thanks to them. Some help from “JoDee”, thanks to  her!

 

“Whammy Bammy Buzzard Goozer” – from Hillbilly to Rock’n’roll: the LOUIE INNIS story (1946-1956)

LOUIE INNIS (biography by Greg Adams, Allmusic.com). [Additions by Bopping’s editor.]

Louie Innis was born on January 21, 1919 (d. Aug. 20, 1982) in Seymour, Indiana. His role as a session guitarist is often emphasized but the fact is that, for us, it was not his most important role.

Louie Innis (sometimes credited as Louis) is one of those 50-year-old hillbilly boppers that thrill country music collectors. He never had a success [that’s not true], but his recordings for King and Mercury were cheerful, boogies uptempos and proto-rockers that show the musical mastery and the vocal work of Innis.

He was part of Hank Penny’s The Plantation Boys in the early 1940s, performing guitar and bass chores alongside Carl Stewart and Zed Tennis as violinists, and Roy Lanham’s solo guitar. Here is an example of Louie Innis work as rhythm player during a Hank Penny March 1945 session in Cincinnati, OH.: “Talkin’ about you” (King 512)

Hank Penny

Talkin’ about you

download

They worked with The Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis, Bradley Kincaid and Grandpa Jones. They also accompanied WLW pop singer Doris Day. After the march of Lanham, in 1944 the band toured with the USO before Penny traveled to California at the behest of [Merle] Travis, and the group undid. Later, when Penny was under contract with RCA, Innis composed a pair of songs to him, “No Muss-No Fuss-No Bother“(RCA 58-0183)  and “Hold The Phone” (1951).

No muss-no fuss-no bother

download

«(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound Dog“, a duet with Charlie Gore, is an issue that has surfaced in rockabilly compilations, although it was recorded in 1953, indicating that Innis was on the road to rock & roll, though he was never permanently installed on it.

Charlie Gore

“(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog

download

There are very few biographical data we could gather about Innis; however, on King Records’ promotional discs some details about the performer were outlined: on King 1225 (1953) he was defined: “Composer, vocalist, instrumentalist and emcee [presenter at Indiana Hoedown on WFBM], Louis innis excels in every facet. An Indiana guy who started on the radio at age 16, Innis has already made up a few hit songs. »

 

In King 1406 (1954) it was stated: “Indiana native Louie Innis became interested in music for the first time thanks to the local hairdresser who knew a few chords on the guitar, and both played and did duets between cuts of hair and shaved, almost every day. »

 

On the other side of the same single was noted: “A familiar figure among the broadcasts of folk music is Louie Innis. One of the outstanding rhythmic guitars in the business, Louie Innis worked with Red Foley for two and a half years at the Grand Ole Opry and has recorded with over fifty different artists ».

 

King 4861 (1955) noted: “(….) His work as a guitarist is much appreciated and is required by many great country stars. Louie is currently working as an emcee at the Indiana Hoedown in Indianapolis, Indiana. »

 

And on the flipside it was said: “Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, 35 years ago, Louie Innis was driven into music business when he was expelled from high school. He and some other students “played hookey” (skipped classes) one day. “The other guys lied about why they had gone away, but I told the truth,” he explains. “Later, when the director found out, he begged me to come back, but I said ‘no thank you’, and I took music seriously with the blessing of my parents.”

 

As a composer, in addition to his own songs, highlights “Seven Nights To Rock“, along with Buck Trail and Henry Glover, for Moon Mullican (1956), a classic rockabilly that he never got to record:

 

Seven nights to rock

Seven nights to roll

Seven nights I’m gonna show my face

With a different woman in a different place

Seven nights to rock

I’ve got seven nights to roll

Seven nights to rock

download

Monday, I’m gonna rock with Jane

Tuesday, it’s gonna be Luane

Wednesday, it’s Esteline

Thursday, it’s Betty Sue and me

Friday, it’s Linda Lue

Saturday and Sunday any chick’ll do

 

Monday, Sister Suzie’s ball

Tuesday, I’m at the union hall

Wednesday, I’m at the roadhouse inn

Thursday, I’m at the lion’s den

Friday, I’m at the Chatter Box

Saturday and Sunday everybody rocks

 

Skip, Hop & Jump Country Style” is a German 23-track anthology of recordings of Innis on Mercury and King between 1949 and 1955, full of Innis novelties and a few hillbilly covers of pop and R & B hits such as “Oh! Babe by Louis Prima and “Hearts of Stone” by the Charms. «Stomp that thing» is a recent (2017) digital anthology to be found on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite.

unclegil.blogspot.fr (43 tracks)

Louis Prima: “Oh! babe

download

Innis used a superb rhythmic section filled with resources like palms, bells, whistles and howls, as a precedent of what Sid King & the Five Strings would do next. Innis had a prominent band in which Zeb and Zeke Turner, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Don Helms paraded in different stages, along with Maddox Brothers & Rose, to the category of talents that “should have been», but never received sufficient recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

LOUIE INNIS : an appreciation track per track (by Bopping’s editor)

If the reading of comments is boring you, go direct to the podcasts, label scans and downloads.

Sterling and Deluxe issues (1947-late 1948)

« LOUIE & THE INNIS CLAN » (on Sterling)

«Look in the looking glass» is a fast Western swing novelty. Good guitar, steel (Jerry Byrd?) + a welcome trumpet solo. (N.Y.C. Sterling 207 – probably recorded in Nashville).

Billboard April 26 , 1947

Look in the looking glass

download

«Tennessee Central» is of course a train song that’s « Rockin’ and reelin’». Fast. No fiddle. Trumpet main instrument. Steel effects of train. Agile lead guitar. (N.Y.C. Sterling 209 – probably recorded in Nashville).

Tennessee Central

download

LOUIS INNIS

«I guess you just don’t care» is a mid-paced ballad. An accordion; fiddle, guitar and bass. Vocal is a bit Hillbilly crooning. (New Jersey Deluxe 5059, also probably recorded in Nashville). First song written by Louie Innis. Leased by King ? The session has nos less than 7 unissued songs left.

I guess you just don’t care

download

= On December 22, 1948, Innis did the rhythm guitar duty for the Hank Williams‘ session that released « Lost on the river » and « Lovesick blues ».

 

 

Mercury issues (July 1949-November 1951)

« LOUIE INNIS & THE STRING DUSTERS »

«Better back up mama» (# 6217) Billed on label «Country boogie and blues» : uptempo Bopper ; prominent fiddle, Jerry Byrd takes a steel solo. Probably Zeke Turner on lead guitar. Innis on energetic rhythm guitar.

“Better back up mama”

download

«Chattanoogie boogie». Same style. Call-and-response format, billed on label «Country boogie».
“Chattanoogie boogie”

download

= On August 30, 1949, Innis accompanied on rhythm guitar Hank Williams once more (and for the last time) on «I’m so lonesome I could cry», «I just don’t like this kind of livin’», «My bucket’s got a hole in it». Tommy Jackson was on fiddle, and probably accompanied Louis Innis on his first Mercury session, with Ernie Newton on bass, at E.T. Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, OH.

«She’s mean to me» (# 6225, reissued # 6273) is a real fine shuffler. Zeke Turner in good form. Byrd has his solo. Certainly Tommy Jackson on insistent fiddle.

One more «Country boogie» as noted on the label : «Jug band boogie» (# 6244). A novelty by the use of a washboard, handclaps, and the growls of Innis (imitating T. Texas Tyler). A fine bopper.

“She’s mean to me”

download

“Jug band boogie”

download

«I thought she was a local (but she was a fast express)» (# 6273). Not written by Innis, it’s his second train-inspired opus. Very fast song, an harmonica (for the only time in Innis’ records), fiddle is prominent. Discreet steel, imitating a train bell. A promising «Woman hating blues» from this August 1950 session remains unissued.

Another pop novelty from the pen of Louis Prima, given the Hillbilly bop treatment, «Oh ! Babe» (# 6293). Tailor-made for Prima, a very nice version by the versatile Innis. An insistent guitar riff.

I thought she was a local

download

Oh! Babe

download

Then, without doubt, the greatest and the best selling pairing, Mercury 6312 : «Boogie woogie baby» has agressive drums and steel (solo). Zeke or Zeb Turner takes a good solo too. One of the masterpieces of Louie Innis, predating by 5 years the Rockabilly yet to come. Then his greatest claim to fame which also must have him secured a lot of money: «Goodnight Cincinnati, goodmorning Tennessee». Very fast train song. Jerry Byrd steel omnipresent.

Boogie woogie baby

download
Goodnight Cincinnati, goodmorning Tennessee”

download

This song had many versions, the first to be waxed (March 1rst, 1951) and, in my opinion, the best, by Shorty Long on King 953;

Shorty Long version:

download

by Marty Robbins on the stage of G.O.O. in June, Tex Williams too:

Marty Robbins version:

download

even a pop version by Al Trace & Orchestra (vocal Bobby Hart). Ten years later it became a new hit in May 1961 in the hands of Rusty York. That’s an enduring Hillbilly rocker classic. 

Rusty York version (King 5511)

download

Billboard March 31, 1951

More to come with the next pairing. «Honky-tonk man» (# 6335) from May 1951. Strong country boogie guitar, loud drums, great steel. Same goes for the flipside, «Stomp that thing» (penned Innis-Turner) is a tour-de-force, his fastest song ever, without fiddle, and proto-rockabilly. Great song !

Honky tonk man

download “Stomp that thing

download

In June 1951, Hank Penny cut the Louie Innis songs that were specially written for him : «No muss-no fuss-no bother» and «Hold the phone», although the session took place on the West coast (Innis not present).

So strangely «I’ve got a red hot love» (on the label, «Louie Innis » alone) (# 6370) from late 1951 returns to classic style Hillbilly bopper – the theme song is as usual. The fiddle is back, and the voice is always winkling. From the same session remained unissued «I’m the lonesomest guy».

“I’ve got a red hot love

download

 

 

 

LOUIE INNIS – The King years (1953-1955)

Remember. If my comments are boring you, go direct to podcasts, downloads and labels cans.

Louie Innis didn’t have in 1952 any recording pact, and without doubt he devoted himself to his work on WLW (Cincinnati, Midwestern Hayride) and WFBM (Indiana Hoedown), or recording sessions for others artists.

Billboard March 1953

February and March 1953. «Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses» (# 1180) is a fast novelty and unpretentious very good bopper with its catch phrase.

Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses

Billboard May 16, 1953

download

Next thing is a true and well-known mark in Innis story. He duetted indeed with Charlie Gore for an hilarious version of the then R&B hit of Big Mama Thornton, which they changed to «(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog» (# 1212). A nice shuffler, handclaps, a fine guitar solo. It’s true that such a tune  announces rockabilly.
 See above for the podcast.

From the same February 1953 session came « Whammy Bammy Buzzard Goozer », a non-sense out-and-out rocker. The fiddle solo is inventive, lot of drums and a saxophone backing (# 1225).

Billboard June 1953

Whammy bammy buzzard goozer

download

 

From September 1953 to September 1954. More train songs. First a novelty bopper «I ain’t got a pot (to peel potatoes in)» (# 1260) : an agressive steel, some discreet drums.

I ain’t got a pot

 

download

Then the very fast «I got a round trip ticket» » from November 1953. Train effects by the steel payer ; pizzicato played fiddle, which seems mandolin . Plus, «There’s a red hot fire (in the old locomotive)» (# 1392) (penned Roberts = maybe Bob Newman under his usual pseudonym as writer), again a fast train song.

“I got a round trip ticket

download
There’s a red hot fire

download

Finally a cover of another R&B hit, “Hearts of stone” (# 1392), originally done by the Black vocal group The Charms. Innis does a fine mid-paced rendition of the song. Good steel and guitar. This crossover use of R&B and C&W songs was common at King for years, and gave many a new, fresh song.

The Charms, “Hearts of stone

download
Louie InnisHearts of stone

download

Finally from October 1954 to May 1955. – Innis aided by Al Myers (lead guitar), Jerry Byrd and a bass player, formed The Country Cats for a 4-instrumentals session. Fine relaxed boppers : «Hot strings» (# 1410) and «Sun shadows» (# 1430).

 

 

Al Myers

 

 

 

Hot strings

download
Sun shadows

download

Back to Louie Innis recording sessions. He did a good version of the old spiritual « Nobody knows you when you’re down and out », another crossover (# 1406). «The kissing chain» (which he didn’t write) is another mid-paced good novelty. Al Myers makes prowesses on lead (# 1415). The flipside «Let’s make up tonight» goes same, and is equally good bopper. The final side «Sing your song baby» (# 4861) has chorus and a fine guitar. Innis is tending clearly toward rock’n’roll, that he never really reached. Actually he never recorded anything after this last King 1955 session.

“The kissing chain”

download
“Let’s make up tonight”

download
“Sing your song, baby”

download

In 1961, King issued a remaining track from the Deluxe session of 1948 (unheard). Why this occurred ?

 

Further adventures of Louis Innis after 1955

He seems to have devoted himself to writing songs for others. Here below is a partial list of artists whom he’d work for :

  • Chet Atkins, « Mister Misery », 1954
  • Chet Atkins, « Set a spell » (vocal by Red Kirk), 1954
  • Fuller Todd, « Old fashioned », 1957
  • Brenda Lee, « I’m learning about love » (with Grady Martin), 1960
  • Charles Brown, « Christmas questions », 1961
  • Conway Twitty, « Portrait of a fool » (with Buddy Killen), 1961
  • Joe Henderson, « Mr. Voice », 1962
  • Jimmy Logsdon, « The life of Hank Williams » (with Hawkshaw Hawkins), 1963
  • Lois Williams, « Don’t take my child away », 1970

and a lot more into the ’70s.

Louie Innis also arranged songs for Don Lane (M.C.A.), date unknown.

Those songs were rejected for certain reasons (primarily because they’d take too much room) :

Oklahoma City/Foggy river (Sterling) ; I’d be ashmaed if I were you (DeLuxe)

Good morning Judge/My dreamboat stuk a snag/I grabbed for the engine (Mercury)

It don’t pay to advertise/Mexican Joe/What a way to die/Suicide/You’ve got it/What’s she got/She rurn’t it/Nobody knows you when you’re down and out/You’re not happy till you’re mad/Jealous hearted woman (King). A good amount of them is on the « Stomp that thing » compilation (on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite: unclegil.blogspot.fr)

My thanks go first to Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite, and as usual, Ronald Keppner for the loan (scan and music) of rare 78 rpm’s. Then to Greg Adams (all music site) for the only biography available on Louis Innis ; to the people of the « King Project » (for Hank Penny King side) ; 78rpm and 45rpm scans on always fruitful « 45worlds.com ». My old fellow Tony Biggs for « Whammy… ». YouTube was useful too. There had been a whole lot of work for this issue : it’s really been a « labor of love » ! I hope you’ll appreciate the result of the study. Thanks for your comments : they always give me courage to go further and deeper into Hillbilly bopping music..

RED KIRK, “Lovesick blues” boy, “The voice of the Country”

Born 24 May 1925, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Claude “Red” Kirk started playing steel guitar at seven but changed to ordinary guitar and began singing at 10. He served in the US Army during World War II and on discharge played on WNOX Knoxville’s Mid Day Merry-Go-Round and Tennessee Barn Dance. He spent three years as a member of Archie Campbell’s touring show but later his fine vocals, reminiscent of Eddy Arnold, saw him tour and work radio and television at numerous venues including Dayton, Lexington and Louisville. He also played on WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago, the Big “D” Jamboree in Dallas and the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and made guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He made his first recordings for Mercury in 1949, on some being accompanied by noted session musicians that included Jerry Byrd (steel guitar) and Tommy Jackson (fiddle). He later recorded for ABC-Paramount Records, Starday, Dewitt and Great. Died in Bristol, TN, in May 1999. (anonymous biography from allmusic.com)

His radio shows as D.J. : WNOX, Knoxville, TN ; WTMT, Louisville, KY ; WKLO, Louisville, KY ; WOWI, New Alban, IN ; WIMA, Lima, OH. (from hillbilly-music.com)

RED KIRK : an appreciation (by bopping’s editor)

  1. the Mercury and RCA years (1949-1954)

Fine honky tonk music that brought Kirk the somewhow ambitious nickname of « The voice of the country », it spanned five years and gave him two massive hits. Generally backed by the cream of Cincinnati musicians, among

them Jerry Byrd on steel for example, he kept the Mercury label’s executives faith in him to go on in spite of moderate sales of his other records. Most of his recordings for Mercury are uptempos, although his voice pushed him naturally to sing ballads, hence his nickname : he was then a bit crooning and, apart from one or two exceptions, I’ll let them apart. So I will concentrate on uptempo and boppers.

It’s very hard to describe Red Kirk’s version of « Lovesick blues » (Mercury 6189), since it’s so very close to Hank Williams’ one. What is notable is the urgency of the recording, very early (presumably February 1949) after the « original » (which actually was not) of Williams, cut late December 1948. Kirk’s version is credited « Traditional » and includes an accordion part. The other tunes of the session are forgettable ballads (# 6189 and 6204).

“Lovesick blues

download

« I wasted a nickel » (# 6223) and « Church bells chimed » (# 6274) are good examples of the ballads of Red Kirk : the richness and sweetness of his voice are perfectly emphasized by musicians, as told before, the top notch team of Cincinnati country music : among them, one can speculate Zeke Turner on lead guitar, Tommy Jackson on fiddle. Red Kirk is even (a common practice then) associated vocally to a girl singer, Judy Perkins, for two ballads (# 6237).

I wasted a nickel

download
Church bells chimed”

download

Judy Perkins

Billoard August 5, 1950

Time goes on, and we reach the second Red Kirk hit, in November 1950 : « Lose your blues » is a bluesy bopper with some yodeling, backed by Jerry Byrd.

Lose your blues

download
Never been so lonesome

download

Out of the HW pattern was the slow, bluesy « Can’t understand a woman (who can’t understand her man) » # 6288), and the fast, double-voiced « Sugar-coated love «  # 6332)[a very fine guitar solo.]

 

 

Can’t understand a woman (who can’t understand her man)”

download

Sugar coated love

Billboard June 9, 1951

download

 

 

Kirk went further in 1952 with the proto-rockabillies « Knock out the lights and call the law » (# 6409) and « Walkin’ ’round in circles » (# 70044) : both include snare drums and predate by two years the Starday sound, which included howling steel and sawing fiddle. Note that the nickname “The voice of the country” was erased, only remain the laconic “vocal by Red Kirk“. But for Mercury, enough was enough. Success had for too long eluded Kirk and they let him go. « Train track shuffle » (# 6358) escaped to my researches, and although the title sounds promising for a train song, nobody seems to own it.

Knock out the lights and call the law

download
Walkin’ ’round in circles

download

Red Kirk appeared in 1954 as vocalist on a notorious Chet Atkins session held in Nashville, and sang a good mid-paced bopper, « Set a spell » (RCA 47-5956), but this seems to be more a good turn to Kirk than a a step to a new recording label.”Set a spell

download

  1. The final Red Kirk years (1956-1967)

From then on, Kirk went from one small label to another, searching the always elusive hit. In late 1955 he cut two tacks in Nashville for Republic # 7120 : « Davy Crockett blues » is a fine uptempo, with some yodel, based of course on the current rage. Stylistically it’s not that far from his last Mercury sides three years earlier : steel and fiddle gave him a good support. A very convincing side, although in 1956 it was way too late for such a type of song. « Red lipped girl » is a folkish fast, dramatic song which has a strong Indian appeal, as Marvin Rainwater.

Billboard Jan. 21, 1956

Davy Crockett blues”

download “Red lipped girl”

download

In 1957, Kirk choose a Lee Hazlewood/Loy Clingman song « It’s nothing to me » and cut it on the Ring label # 1503 : his rich deep voice does a very good effect on that song, although he copies the original very close. Note that the credit goes to « Patterson », a pseudonym of Leon Payne. Kirk’s ’45 had at any rate made some noise, because the larger ABC bought the sides and reissued them as ABC-Paramount 9814. The flipside « How still the night » is a good ballad, with prominent piano.

“It’s nothing to me”

download
“How still the night”

download
Later on in 1958, Kirk recorded a single on Starday regular serie (# 421) : « Dark streets/I wonder », to me are very ordinary Country songs, well in the Nashville mould. Then he had two ’45s on the DeWitt and Spot labels (one track « Hurtin’ all over » is common to both of issues), but I didn’t hear them.
Dark streets

download
Finally on Great (a sublabel to Chart) in 1967 (# 1075), he recut « It’s nothing to me », and he does a very fine job with this modern version (it even has a brass section and violins). The flipside is « Sleep, little brother », a sincere ballad.
It’s nothing to me

download

And that’s it. Red Kirk disappears from the musical scene, and no one knows what he did (perhaps radio?) between 1967 and his death in 1999 in Bristol, Tennessee.

 

Sources: 45-cat and 78rpm-world; YouTube for some tracks; the invaluable help once more of the indefatigable Ronald Keppner; my own archives.