Bobby Sisco, the “Tall, Dark and Handsome Man” (1955-1963)

During those days of confining (Covid-19), here’s some more music. Enjoy!

BOBBY SISCO
Born Robert W. Sisco, 24 August, 1932, Bolivar, Tennessee
Died 17 July 2005, Munster, Indiana
Bobby Sisco attended Central High School in Bolivar and graduated alongside his close friend Ramsey Kearney, the singer who cut “Rock the Bop” on Jaxon and co-wrote “Emotions” for Brenda Lee. The family, including two sisters, listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights and Sisco’s mother taught him how to play guitar.

In 1948, Sisco the Singing Farmboy hustled up his own sponsors for two slots on radio WTJS in Jackson, Tennessee, By 1949 he was playing in Jackson’s rawest honky-tonks with Carl Perkins and his brothers. Shows on the more powerful WDXI increased Sisco’s exposure but when his father quit the farm Sisco followed his parents to Calumet, Michigan and found the atmospheric “Sin City” nightclub scene to his liking. Uncle John Ellis, the premier DJ on WJOB in Hammond, Indiana, introduced Sisco to Mar-Vel Records owner, Harry Glenn, and in 1955 Sisco cut “Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm” (Mar-Vel 111) at Chicago’s Universal Studios. Bill McCall of 4-Star helped finance the session in return for the publishing rights.

The record did well in the mid-West and Sisco made personal appearances with Johnny Cash, George Jones and Little Jimmy Dickens.

The Chess session

Sisco made contact with Leonard Chess in 1956. “Rockabilly had started coming in strong and I was gonna get in on the trend like everybody else. I set up an interview with Chess and they were all enthused. They wanted to make another Bill Haley out of me. They had big plans. I only had ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome Man’ and they told me ‘ Well go home and write three more songs and we’ll do our first session.’ I had kinda got baffled and didn’t come up with anything I really liked except ‘Go, Go, Go’ which I liked real well. So I wrote that and they said ‘ Well come on down. We need to get something out.’ They set up the studio time at Universal and they furnished the musicians except Johnny Hammers who was my lead guitar player. He was working with me on my road tours and my nightclub shows. He knew my material and fitted in with that twangy rock guitar so they let him play on my session. I worked harder on that session that any session I’ve ever been in. I worked until I was completely exhausted. And we got two sides cut.”

The argument with Chess

Leonard Chess signed Sisco to a one-year contract with a one-year option, but his tenure at Chess was very short-lived. According to Sisco, someone told him that Chess had given his song (“Tall, Dark and Handsome Man”) to Chuck Berry. “I didn’t pay attention and thought for sure they’d let him have my song and hadn’t released mine. I got very upset and we had a very serious argument. They finally released my record but they nullified my contract.” Harry Glenn tried to rectify matters but Leonard Chess said he wouldn’t lift a finger to help Sisco who had cussed him out and called him a lot of bad names. “I thought they’d stolen my song” said Sisco whose informant had confused “Tall, Dark and Handsome Man” with Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”. “Anyway”, added Sisco, “I shouldn’t have done what I done.”

The Glenn sides (1959-60)

Sisco made for Harry Glenn several good C&W sides at the turn of 1959-60.

Following his disassociation from Chess, Sisco pitched a couple of Nashville-recorded masters to Vee-Jay Records. The band on “Are You the Type” (Vee-Jay 544) included Floyd Cramer, Grady Martin and Buddy Harman. He also recorded several fine C&W songs for Harry Glenn’s Glenn label during the same period and, in the mid-1960s, he fetched up on Brave, a company owned by Marvin Rainwater and Bill Guess. Sisco helped to write “The Old Gang’s Gone” recorded by Marvin Rainwater and Lefty Frizzell.

Acknowledgements : Bill Millar, Entry for Bobby Sisco in the liner notes for “That’ll Flat Git It, Vol. 10 : Rockabilly From the Vaults Of Chess Records” (Bear Family BCD 16123). Originally published by Black Cat Rockabilly Europe, with permission of Dik De Heer.

Leroy Jenkins, “Hard Time Hard Luck Blues” = Texas Hillbilly Bop and Ballads (1949-1954)

Payne leon profile

Leon Payne

Leroy Jenkins headThe image of the blind troubadour is a familiar one in Country music’s history. For many born this way, or struck down with blindness in infancy, music was their only tangible means to forge an independant path through life. Perhaps the most famous blind troubadour in Country, in the post years at least, was Leon Payne. Although he achieved more success through his songwriting than his own recordings. Equally prolific on the songwriting front, yet denied the Jenkins Leroy standing same degree of success, was Leroy Jenkins : he was born on July 28, 1921 in Texas. Only six months old he turned blind. From the age of seven he attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Here he learned to play the guitar. In 1942 he entered “Abilene Christian College”, to become a priest, meanwhile preaching in churches in the neighborhood. A year later he quit college and moved in with his wife, a blind woman he recently had married. He wanted to become an artist and he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas. He found a job in a nightclub where he sang and played guitar with fellow artists. He was a popular act and consequently he was offered a contract to host his own show at a local radio station.

In 1946 he had his first success when he wrote the song “Tell Me Now Or Tell Me Never”, which Roy Acuff recorded for Columbia (# 37099). He was then part of Miss Ludy & her Crazy Gang who were performing on KRLD, Dallas.Columbia Acuff tell

Tell me now or tell me never

billboard Jenkins 1946

Billboard November 9, 1946

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talent Jenkins timedJenkins made his first recordings in September 1949 for the Talent label from Dallas [it’s unclear if it concerns the famous Star Talent/Talent label, which had only a 600/700 serie]. It’s however likely these recordings were made at Jim Beck’s studios in Dallas.

You two timed me three timed me

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Beck was a key figure in the development of country music in Dallas. Another question appears when it comes to master # (BB 164/165) for « You two timed me three timed me » and « Forever and ever », as these numbers do seem Blue Bonnet (another Dallas label) cuts. Note that the B-side was also given at an earlier stage of research (by Al Turner) as another version of Wayne Raney’s « Why don’t you haul off and love me ».

Too fat boogie

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Next Jenkins record with his Texas Showboys was made also in Dallas for the Jim Beck’s own Dude label (# 1507), and « Too fat boogie » is a hillbilly bop romper. Note that the flipside “If I could buy your love” (untraced) was cowritten with Beck and (apparently) Riley Crabtree.

dude Jenkins fatdude Jenkins buy

Nevertheless it was probably Beck who arranged an audition for Leroy with Columbia’s A&R man Don Law.

Leroy Jenkins signed his Columbia contract on March 1, 1951. It was a contract for one year and four songs. He would get 2% of 90% of the sales. There were two options for an additional year against 3%.

On March 13, 1951 he had his first Columbia session in Beck’s studio. Four powerful songs were recorded of which « Hard time hard luck blues » (# 20815) was a strong rhythm-guitar led country-blues tune. Its flipside however was a weeper, « I’m crying but nobody cares».

Hard time hard luck blues

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I’m crying but nobody caresjim beck & law

billboard 1951 Jenkins

Billboard June 9, 1951

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The remaining tracks of this first recording session were “Time Passes By” and “Please Don’t Tell Me That You Love Me” (# 20853) both weepers, although good examples of classic honky tonk ballads out of Texas in the early ’50s. During his second and final Columbia session (8/2/51) again four songs were recorded. Out of the 4 tracks, the two weepers « You’re talking to a broken heart » (# 20931) and « Don’t be a home breaker » (# 20878) were striking a balance between the two uptempos « I just don’t know » and most of all the fast « Tennessee sunshine ». Jenkins of course wrote all of his material.

I just don’t knowcolumbia Jenkins know

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columbia Jenkins breakerDon’t be a home breaker

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billboard Jenkins 1952

Billboard, April 26, 1952

Tennessee sunshine

downloadcolumbia Jenkins Tennessee

His four records in the 20000 series didn’t have any commercial success and Columbia didn’t exercise the options. Jenkins stayed in Dallas until 1954, writing over a hundred songs.

He had a final record on Flair [Texas small label, not the big California R&B concern]flair Jenkins wagon

Why don’t you get on the woo wagon with me

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The girl on page 83

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# 1013 circa 1953/54. The strong shuffler « Why don’t you get on the woo wagon with me » was paired with the equally good « The girl on page 83 ». At an unknown date, he was affiliated with Nashville’s WLAC radio station.

jenkins WLAC Nashville

After that last record Jenkins disappeared from the music scene, and maybe returned to priesthood. He died December 18, 1990, and must not be confused either with the jazz violinist, or the Ohio televangelist of the same name. Nor of course with current artist Leeroy Jenkins.

Sources : 78rpm for label scans (thanks to Ronald Keppner) ; W. Agenant’s site « Columbia 20000 » for Columbia sides ; also his biography of L. Jenkins was of great help, as Al Turner’s in Hillbilly Researcher # 10 ; Uncle Gil Rockin’ Archives for Dude and Flair sides; Roots Vinyl Guide for some label scans. My own researches (photographs, various data, personal appreciations and additions).

Lattie Moore, Cincinnati hillbilly bop and Rockabilly (1952-1982)

Though highly revered within hillbilly and rockabilly circles, the name of Lattie Moore is practically unknown outside auction lists. Even there’s a tad mysterious, Eddie Bond’s « Juke Joint Johnnie », Jerry Reed’s « If The Good Lord’s Willing » and George Jones’ « Out Of Control » have been reissued on CD but they were probably more familiar than Lattie’s versions even before they were readily available. Yet, arguably, Lattie’s records are more rewarding. His experience-laced vocals have far more expression than Jerry Reed’s or the affectless Eddie Bond and the countrypolitan elements which often diluted George Jone’s 60’s music are almost entirely absent.

Lattie’s voice is absolutely perfect in a coarse, grainy, ragged sort of way and there’s the odd device like a half yodel when he sings about doleful effects of drink. Country traditionalists go for the light, twangy vocals on hillbilly songs like « Don’t Trade The Old For The New ». Rockabilly enthusiasts bid big bucks for Lattie’s very scarce records on Arc and Starday. Lattie, however, admits to singing about drink more than anything else.

Lattie Harrison Moore was born in Scottsville, Kentucky, on October 17, 1924. He was named after Lattie Graves, the family doctor who delivered him. He grew up learning to play guitar, mandolin and bass. Only 65 miles of Nashville, Lattie listened to the Grand Ole Opry. He was impressed by Roy Acuff, and later, Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams.
In 1944 Lattie hichhilked 200 miles North to Indianapolis, a city of greater opportunity for the professionnally-minded musician. A brief stint in the Navy interrupted his intentions but on discharge he worked nighclubs and some of Indiana’s large jamboree parks. In December 1944 he married. They raised 4 children, and recently (in 2000) they celebrated 55 years’ togetherness.

If ever a record disappeared into collector holy graildom, it was Lattie Moore’s first. No one has ever seen a copy ! It was called « Hideaway heart » c/w « Married Troubles » and cut in 1951 at the home-built studio of Tate Boland, the Arrow’s label owner. The same year Lattie joined the Mid-Western Jamboree held at Turner’s Hall and broadcast over WIBC, from the Indiana capital.

A copy of the 78rpm was sold $ 134 in January 2019.

In 1952 Moore travelled to Nashville with a view to recording for Bullet, the local grandaddy of independant labels. He discovered that Bullet wasn’t signing anyone new but was pointed by John Dunn, who handled Bullet’s pressing plant, in the direction of the Speed label, a smaller company in which Dunn also had interest. Story of Lattie Moore’s Nashville debut was given by Dunn’s partner : « In the summer of 1952, I met Lattie Moore as I walked out of the Ernest Tubb record shop on lower Broadway. He was a writer and guitarist who wanted to make a record and he sung right there in the busy sidewalk for me to listen.

The song was called « Juke Joint Johnny ». I thought it was so good I gave him a contract and cut it that very afternoon. We went to a makeshift studio on Union Street. No one in the band knew the song except Lattie and his lead player, so to fill up the sound I told the engineer to bring the drums in as loud as possible to fill ut the sound of the piano.

The song “Juke Joint Johnny” hit the jukeboxes fast and good. I think this was about the first rock’n’roll record out of Nashville, and in these early days we didn’t know it. »

Lattie Moore cut 25 tracks for King over two periods : 1953-1956 and 1959-1963. The musicians on earliest recordings, made at the label’s own studio on Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, included Zeke Turner (electric lead guitar), Don Helms, veteran member of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys (steel), Tommy Jackson (fiddle) and Zeb Turner (rhythm guitar). They had as firm a grasp on the essentials of the honky-tonk genre as any musicians in Texas.

King dropped Lattie after six singles. He cut a flat-out rock’n’roll version of « Juke Joint Johnny » (as « Juke Box Johnnie ») for Arc Records in December 1956. On stage, however, he mined the mother lode ; Elvis and Little Richard were as important to his repertoire as Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb.

In 1958 Lattie joined Starday which had moved its HQ from Beaumont,Texas to a suburb of Nashville the previous year. « Don Pierce looked me up in Indianapolis, said Lattie ; He really wanted me on Starday. We cut « Why Did You Lie To Me » in Nashville in a studio that Floyd Robinson had in part of his house. Floyd played electric guitar and Benny Martin wrote it and played the acoustic flat-top guitar on it. » « Too Hot To Handle », Lattie’s second and last Starday single, was his take on Eddie Noack’s enduring and much-loved song.

In 1958 Lattie joined Starday which had moved its HQ from Beaumont,Texas to a suburb of Nashville the previous year. « Don Pierce looked me up in Indianapolis, said Lattie ; He really wanted me on Starday. We cut « Why Did You Lie To Me » in Nashville in a studio that Floyd Robinson had in part of his house. Floyd played electric guitar and Benny Martin wrote it and played the acoustic flat-top guitar on it. » « Too Hot To Handle », Lattie’s second and last Starday single, was his take on Eddie Noack’s enduring and much-loved song.

Derby Town LP (1982)

Leaving King for a second time, Lattie cut a good album and a single for Derbytown and a single for WPL. Eventually Lattie returned to Scottsville and worked in law enforcement for four years. He underwent laser surgery for throat cancer in 1986 and recovered from a quadruple heart bypass in 1999. Now, he says, he’s fine, and keeps fit walking 30 minutes every evening.

Sources: Bill Millar’s biography of Lattie Moore (Westside CD “I’m Not Broke, But I’m Badly Bent”, 2000); most labels from 45cat and 78worlds; music from various sources (e.g. YouTube or Gripsweat.com). Article originally published in September 2009, completely revised July 2019. The podcasts omitted second King period (1959-61), in my mind the poppiest-country sounding period of Lattie Moore.

“My Inlaws Made An Outlaw Out Of Me”: the LOU(IS) MILLET story on records (1949-1956)

Warning: this feature was first published in 2013, far from complete, and was revised during Summer 2019. I encountered many problems during the revision, and did waste a consequent time and work. The result is not up to the standard of bopping.org I confess. But lack of time prevent a further revision, and I decided to publish it as per se. I hope you understand my position, and that you will find however some interest there. Thanks for your following.

Louis Millet was born the 5th (or 19th) of April 1926 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At the age of sixteen he bought his first guitar, but he did not get serious about playing music until he was in the Army. Meanwhile he was finishing college at Louisiana State University on a four-year football grant. After college he joined the Army. When he quit the Army he started a band, the Melody Ramblers. They played for the local radio stations WLCS in Baton Rouge, and WLBR in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

His career as a professional musician had not started yet, although in 1949, backed by his Melody Ramblers, he cut his first two sides for the Rouge label in Baton Rouge, La. Both songs, « Yesterday’s Memories» and «I Saw Them Lay Mother Away» (duet with one Ray, besides unnamed) being insipid ballads (# 103). During this time he was also working at Standard Oil in the daytime.

Around 1950-51 Louis met Jay Miller, who was running a number of record labels. Lou did two or three recording sessions for him. From these recordings two singles were issued on the Feature label : # 1031 «I Was Only Teasing You »/ »A Broken Heart», and # 1035, the first version [later re-recorded during the ’60s for Scenic Records] of «That’s Me Without ou »/ » »Your Own Heart You Must Mend». All four songs are slowies or uptempo ballads, nothing is really interesting yet.

From these recordings two singles were issued on the Feature label: # 1031 «I Was Only Teasing You», »A Broken Heart, and # 1035, the first version [later re-recorded during the ’60s for Scenic Records] of «That’s Me Without ou »/ » »Your Own Heart You Must Mend». All four songs are slowies or uptempo ballads, nothing is really interesting yet.

Sonny James and Pee Wee King had their version too. It must be noted that the co-writer (along J. D. Miller) was “J. Wyatt”, probably Jack Wyatt, a Hillbilly singer from New Orleans, who cut records for Meladee, Lyric (in Lake Charles) and Kuntry: see late October 2018 bopping favorites selection.

In the meantime , «That’s Me Without You» had also been a hit for Webb Pierce (Decca 28351). J. D. Miller did suceed placing to Randy Wood’s Dot (Gallatin, Tennessee) # 203 one more Millet song, yet they went nowhere (lack of distribution?) : «Heart Of Stone» and «That’s Me Without You»[second version]. A snippet of a split session (set in July 1952) subsists of a time when Louis was closely associated wit Lefty Frizzell, so much so that Millet was opening Lefty’s shows at that time. I’m Honky Tonkin’ With You is a superb shuffling bopper, too long forgotten in the J. D. Miller archives. The backing of this song is even provided by the musicians involved in he Frizzell’s songs, among them a version of Lou’s «That’s Me Without You”

Aided by Lefty Frizzell, Lou (meanwhile shortening his forname) signed with Columbia on the 15th of May 1952. The contract was for one year, with an option for another year. The first session was done some days later, on May 20. Four songs were recorded at Jim Beck’s Studio in Dallas, Texas. Two months later his first Columbia record was issued, both on 78 and 45 rpm. The songs were “Just Me, My Heart, and You”, and “Weary, Worried, and Blue” (Columbia 20979). The second single was issued on October 24, 1952 (Columbia 21029), and featured “Worried, Lonesome, And In Love” and “Your Own Heart You Must Mend”[second version]. The style they were playing was honky tonk, resembling the Ernest Tubb and Vin Bruce recordings of the same period, all four tracks being slow ballads, with the exception of «Worried, Lonesome And In Love» more Honky tonking uptempo.

While Lou Millet was at Columbia, Lefty Frizzell left his manager Jack Starnes. Because Lefty’s band was still under contract with Starnes, he was left without a band. He hired Jay Miller as a manager, who formed a backup band for Lefty. During this time Lou was assigned as the band leader. From the next sessions four songs were issued on two singles: Columbia 21086, featuring “Bayou Pigeon” and “Get A Grip On Your Heart”, and Columbia 21143, with “Memories from Cheddar Chest” and “God Only Knows”. Except for “Bayou Pigeon”, a cheerful Cajun song, they were comparable to the honky tonk style of the first recordings.

When Lefty went to California to perform at the Town Hall Party at KTTV, his band fell apart due to the distance. Lefty’s last recordings with Lou as a band leader were done between February 7 and March 9, 1953 (at the «California Blues» session).

When Lefty finished his four songs, Lou also recorded four songs. This was remarkable, since Lou’s contract with Columbia had ended on May 15. Two of the songs he recorded, “Since the Devil Moved In” and “That’s How I Need You”, were issued on Columbia 21225, both good boppers. The other two were never issued by Columbia.
Lefty penned several songs for Lou; a certain S. Burton wrote for him no less than 4 songs at Columbia.

After his Columbia contract Lou left for California to attempt a solo career. This apparently failed, since he went home in 1955. Here he signed with the Ace label, owned by Johnny Vincent from Jackson, Mississippi. Although based in Jackson, the Ace label was to become a key player in the New Orleans R&B scene, but before that Vincent had briefly explored the sales potential oh Hillbilly music.

To return to Lou Millet, his self penned «Just You And Me” (# 506 )(mid-1955) is a superb example of the Rock & Roll/Rockabilly sound, reminiscent in part of his later Rockabilly masterpiece «Shorty The Barber» (Republic 7131).(Value: $ 300-400) Millet continued to move towards Rock & Roll with another self-penned offering in the same vein: «My Inlaws Made An Outlaw Out Of Me» (# 510) (value $ 200-300) which, as you will detect, is much more polished than i<«Just You And Me». Whilst there is no question as to Millet’s Rockin’ credentials, he was first and foremost a Hillbilly singer, which is abundantly evident when listening to the mid tempo opus «Whisper Of Doubt»(# 506), and «Humming bird» is a strange, dramatic ballad. During this time, he also started working as a DJ for WLCS. Later on he would add a weekly TV show.

In the following year (January to March 1956) he recorded a single for the Republic label, and also one for Ekko Records. And these two records are the ones Millet is best remembered by Collectors and Rockabilly aficionados for. Shorty The Barbe» is a Rockabilly classic, as the flipside «Slip, Slip, Slippin’ In»(Republic 7131) and we all would like to know who’s the lead guitar player on both tracks. Anyway, the Republic single is attaining $ 1000-1500 when it changes of hands (to B.J.’s, the single is only worth $ 600-750). Note that an entirely different «Shorty The Barber» had been recorded in mid-1950 by Charlie Burse, a Blues artist, for Sam Phillips in Memphis, who didn’t release it then.

Lou Millet and his band, 1956

The Ekko sides, from early 1956, are more in Hillbilly bop style; the good uptempo «When I Harvest My Love» (nice guitar)(# 1024) is backed by the fine, sincere, fiddle-led «Chapel Of My Heart».(value $ 100-200, according to Lincoln & Blackburn; B.J.’s only credits it of $ 30-40)). A bizarre detail: on Republic and Ekko, the Lou Millet records do exactly follow the preceding Lloyd McCollough records (Ekko 1023 and Republic 7130). Is that only an accident?

SHORTY THE BARBER
(Millet)
LOU MILLET (Republic 7130, 1956)
Have you ever passed by Shorty’s barber shop
Hey, Shorty bops the boogie on the razor’s strop
He snaps the scissors and he blows the comb
It sounds just like a saxophone
He nods his head and he bats his eye
He shuffles his feet and twitches his thighs
Everybody gets hep to the bop
But shorty bops the boogie on the razor’s strop
Oh, a snap from the scissors, jig-a-shoo, jig-a-shoo
And a blow from his comb, olee-aye olee-aye
Sounds just like a saxophone
People passing by, never fail to stop
When Shorty bops the boogie on the razor’s strop
Well, he charges me a dollar just to cut my hair
Enjoyed all the while I’m in his chair
take it easy is all I have to do
I feel like a million when gets through
He hand in my collar, he hand in my tie
He looks at me with a gleam in his eye
He brushes me off and before he’s through
Says to me, man, what else can I do
Oh yeah, he bounced to me as he opened the door
Says, thank you sir, come back some more
That’s Shorty the barber, now he’s the top
When he bops the boogie on the razor’s strop
Oh, a snap from the scissors, jig-a-shoo, jig-a-shoo
And a blow from his comb, olee-aye olee-aye
Sounds just like a saxophone
People passing by, never fail to stop
When Shorty bops the boogie on the razor’s strop

Courtesy Rockabilly Europe http://www.rockabillyeurope.com

SLIP, SLIP, SLIPPIN’ IN
(Bob Belyeu – Charles Wright)
LOU MILLET (REPUBLIC 7130, 1956)
Well, I went out last evening
Left my little woman at home
Thought that I would have some fun
The night was all my own
I stopped a-down the road and I bopped a while
I made every spot in town
But now I gotta tip-toe through the hall
Or I’ll be trouble-bound
I slipped up to the front door
I eased it open wide
I made sure the coast was clear
And then I slipped inside
Slipping through the doorway
Quiet as I could be
When on came the light and there she stood
Staring straight at me
I’m a-slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
Slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
Slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
I’m a-sneaking, slipping in, sneaking in
I slipped up to the front door
I eased it open wide
I made sure the coast was clear
And then I slipped inside
Slipping through the doorway
Quiet as I could be
When on came the light and there she stood
Staring straight at me
And the moral of this story is plain as it can be
Slipping around goes a-hand in hand with woe and misery
There stand my little woman, asking where I’ve been
Slipping out is a lots of fun, but oh that slipping in
Lord, a-slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
Slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
Slip, slip, slip, slip, slipping in
I’m a-sneaking, slipping in, slipping in
Slipping in, slipping in

Cactus CD (bootleg)

Lou Millet recorded more during the ’60s as “Colonel Lou” (for Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long), “with the Swingers”, but the music was close to era’s trend.

Sources: Uncle Gil for the Cactus CD ; Jean-Guy Meunier for the Dot and Scenic sides ; Willem Agenant for a nice portion of the biography as well as Columbia sides ; Feature sides from HBR virtual CDs ; Black Cat Rockabilly Europ.nu site (blackcat@rockabilly.nl) for the Republic lyrics ; notes by Allan Turner on the Jasmine CD « Rock me » ; my own archives and researches ; hillbilly-music.com for a picture of Lou.

Lawton “Slim” Williams, “Tennessee Avenue” (1949-1960) to “Farewell Party” – from Hillbilly to commercial country

Despite a performing and recording career that spanned six decades, there’s no question that Lawton Williams is best known for writing songs, including classics like Fraulein and Farewell Party. This was true even at the height of his career as a performer and it remains true a dozen years after his death in 2007. He was reconcilied to this fact rather early on, and through he once claimed he wished he’s never recorded a single track, feeling that it had hindered his success as songwriter, he continued to perform and record into the new millenium. Any regret he felt about his recording career having restricted his opportunities as a writer was bittersweet, a double-edged sword. Writing may have been his bread and butter, but he clearly loved performing.
Williams wasn’t blessed with a particularly memorable or strong voice. It was plain, straightforward, and dynamics were not a strong suit, either. He usualy gave love ballads and good-time novelties the same earnest weight. Yet while his voice may arguably have lacked the distinction that mght have made him a star or the depth that might have attracted honky-tonk die-hards and critics, it had a certain something that continues to endear him to fans and collectors of country-music of the 1940s-60s. He also had the good sense to surround himself with fine msicians, including, for example, members of the Light Crust Doughboys – few would argue that one appeal of Williams’ recordigs are the spitrited backings.

Lawton Williams’ early recording career has been largely overlooked, and not because his early records are particularly obscure. They are fairy obscure, cut for independant labels like Fortune and Four Star or in rather low-profile setting for bigger labels like Coral. But that obscurity owes at last as much to the fact that they were issued under other names. Slim Williams in most instances, and Ed Lawton in one case. Those deeply into the country scene of the era, beyond the major and mid-level stars, will know that Lawton and Slim are the same, but the fact might be lost on the average fan, if they’ve heard of Slim Williams at all.

He was born into a musical family in Troy, Tennessee on July 24, 1922. His father was a fiddler, his mother played piano and sang. « They weren’t professionals, » he recalled, « but they sure sounded good on the hill. » While still a kid, he began secrety picking a brother’s guitar. From early on, he was listening to the Grand Ole Opry and the performers like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. As he grew, he gravitated toward the emerging singing cowbys, particularly Gene Autry and Cowboy Slim Rinehart, from whom he borrowed his early stage name and he later befriended before the latter’s untimely death in a 1948 car wreck. Williams began his professional career not Tennessee, but north in Detroit, playing in the country music clubs that sprang in and around the city before WWII in response of the large concentration of southerners who had moved there to seek work in the flourishing auto industry. Drafted n 1942, he served in Texas and sat in with local bands in Houston and elsewhere, striking up a particularly close friendship with Floyd Tillman, who was also in the service. « He really taught me the fundamentals of songwritng, » Williams recalled, « I learned a lot from him. » Soon artists like Cliff Bruner and Laura Lee Owens were recording Williams’ songs.

1930 census for Williams’ family

Slim Williams and The Sons Of The Prairie

He remained in Texas after the war, though he’d had to adapt after losing several fingers on his picking hand in a service-related injury. He worked at KEYS in Corpus Christi, and at KTHT n Houston before heading back to Detroit in the spring of 1947, where he caught on at WJR. Following Rinehart’s death in Michigan the following year, Williams went back to Texas, working for another fine songwrier, announcer Babe Frisch, at KTRH in Houston. In March 1949, he returned north, to WKMH in Dearborn. He’d recorded previously for the Sultan label in Detroit (f any discs were released, they have never surfaced), and soon after arriving back north cut a session for the rising local Fortune that featured Kentucky guitarist Jeff Durham.

Billboard Sept. 10, 1949

After a year in Michigan, Williams returned to Texas for good in the spring of 1950. He first stopped in Ft. Worth, catching at KTNC. Round this time, Hank Locklin hit with Williams’ « Paper Face » and, through Locklin, Williams signed to Four Star, cutting a session in Houston with Locklin’s band that summer, the line-up including guitarist Hamp Stephens, steel man Bill Freeman and others. He briefly relocated to Houston that autumn, but in 1951 he returned to Ft. Worth area for good and was soon established as one of the top country deejays in the area.

Slim Williams

In 1951, Williams was signed to Decca’s Coral subsidiary and cut two sessions with local music legends the Light Crust Doughboys at Cliff Herring’s studio in Ft. Worth. The Doughboys included Carol Hubbard on fiddle, Paul Blunt on steel (he also overdubbed piano on the 2nd session), Lefty Perkins on lead guitar (his wicked solos are among his best), Marvin Montgomery on rhythm guitar and Red Kidwell on bass. Everything was written or co-written by Williams. The Coral recordings didn’t sell well and, though he continued to perform and deejay, he soon sought other employment.

When he signed to Imperial in 1952, he was working for a local car dealer, using the name Ed Lawton, and the first of his releases on Imperial bore that name. »Emergency Call » was often thought not to have been issued, but it was, erroneously being labelled on release as « Have Mercy On Me ». The latter got hs own proper release a few months later. The Imperial session included steel guitarist Charlie Owens and fiddler B. D. Owens, later a well-known Ft. Worth politician. Like its predecessors, the session did not sell well enough to warrant a follow-up and Williams did not record again until 1957, when Bobby Helms had a major hit with Williams’ « Fraulein » and Hank Locklin with his « Geisha Girl ».

Lawton Williams

LAWTON WILLIAMS ON RCA

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Thomas “Tommy” Jackson(fiddle) Floyd Cramer(p) Thomas Grady Martin(lead g) Velma E. Williams Smith(rh g) Buddy Emmons(steel g) Roy M. “Junior” Huskey Jr.(b).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,October 14,1957 (19:30-22:30)

H2WB-5676 Don’t burn the bridge behind you RCA Victor 20/47-7105
H2WB-5677 Foreign love –
H2WB-5678 Blue grass skirt
H2WB-5679 Train of thought

All titles issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Chet Atkins(el g) James “Jimmie” Selph(rh g) Jerry Byrd(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman(dm).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,February 10,1958 (19:00-22:00)

J2WB-0387 Rhinelander waltz
J2WB-0388 The casino on the hill RCA Victor 20/47-7188
J2WB-0389 If you’re waiting on me –
J2WB-0390 I’ll still love you

All titles issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with ?
(Demo session) Fort Worth,Texas,           1959

K2WB-2803 Moon Joe RCA Victor 47-7580
K2WB-2804 Lightning Jones –

Both titles also issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Velma E. Williams Smith,Jerry G. Kennedy(g) Henry P. Strzelecki(b) Louis Dunn(dm) & The Jordanaires (Hugh Gordon Walker,Neal Matthews Jr.,Raymond C. Walker,Hoyt H. Hawkins) (chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,August 7,1962 (09:30-12:30)

N2WW-0840 Carpet baggers Groove 58-0011
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
N2WW-0841 Don’t destroy me RCA Victor 47-8142
N2WW-0842 Mama pinch a penny Groove 58-0011
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Wiliams(vo with ?
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,November   ,1962

N2WW-5125 In love with you RCA Victor 47-8203
N2WW-5126 Mountain of a man –
N2WW-5127 It looks like you love me RCA Victor 47-8300
N2WW-5128 Rock of GIbraltar RCA Victor 47-8142

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Charlie McCoy(hca) Jerry Glenn Kennedy, Ray Edenton(g) Henry P.Strzelecki(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman(dm) The Jordanaires (Hugh Gordon Stoker,Neal Matthews Jr.,Raymond C. Walker,Hoyt H. Hawkins) & Mildred Kirkham(chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,October 16,1963 (19:00-22:00)

PWA4-0510 Stay on the ball RCA Victor 47-8359
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
PWA4-0511 I’m not here RCA Victor 47-8359,74-0109
PWA4-0512 Squawlein RCA Victor 47-8300
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Hargus “Pig” Robbins(p) Harold Ray Bradley,Ray Edenton(g) Pete Drake(steel g) Bob L. Moore(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman Jr.(dm) Anita Kerr,Dorothy Ann Dillard,Louis Dean Nunley, William Guifford Wright Jr. (chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,June 22,1964 (09:00-12:00)

RWA4-1281 Everything’s O.K. on the L.B.J. RCA Victor 47-8407
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
RWA4-1282 Don’t look down RCA Victor 47-8407
RWA4-1283 Big Jim unissued

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with ?
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,December   ,1964 (Prod.Bob Ferguson)

RWA4-1651 War on poverty RCA Victor 47-8514
RWA4-1652 Big Jim unissued
RWA4-1653 The power of love RCA Victor 47-8514

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) overdubbed on RWA4-1281 original playback.
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,January 8,1969 (10:00-13:00)

XWA4-1208 Everything’s O.K. on the L.B.J.,pt.2 RCA Victor 74-0109
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

No longer using the nickname Slim, he signed to Locklin’s label RCA. Stints with Decca, Mercury and RCA again would follow over the next half dozen years.

Casino On The Hill (1958) (Big D Jamboree)

by Lawton Williams

Some of Williams’ major label singles were Texas recordings he produced himself. During autumn and winter of 1959-60, he had become one of the stalwarts of the Big D Jamboree , where he would remain until this show’s demise in 1988. He then cut for Pappy Daily’s D label out of Houston (it had probably under Daily’s guidance that Williams had cut one Four Star session in 1950) and Major Bill Smith’s Le Bill label. This last single was soon picked up on Dan Mechura’s All-Star label, seeing the first release of « Farewell Party », which would be a hit for Jimmy Dickens the following year, then for Gene Watson.

Billboard July 4, 1960

He had given up full-time music making to become a bailiff for Ft Worth Tarrat County, where he lived for the last few decades of his life. Despite the demands of that job, he remained active as both a performer and writer, increasing these activities following his retirement. He died aged 85 in 2007.
Kevin Coffey

Sources: mainly from Ronald Keppner 78rpm; labels from 45cat/78world; music from various sources, among them Gripsweat (some rare 78rpm); RCA recording files courtesy from Michel Ruppli, the indefatigable discographer; personal pictures from Google.
Small note: no RCA recording neither some later Decca discs were included, as not pertaining to “bopping” standards. “Farewell Party” was the sole exception, although being a commercial country record.

ROY COUNTS with Okla. Play Boys: California Hillbilly bop and Country-rock (1957-1964)

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

roy counts guitarHBR Hometown jamboree

 

 

capitol Stewart Hands

 

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.

Roy Counts, “I’m tired

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Roy Counts, “I’ve got a new heartache

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capitol Stewart Slowlydemo Stewart Hands
Wynn Stewart,Slowly but surely

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Wynn Stewart, “It’s not the moon that makes a difference

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Wynn Stewart,You took her off my hands

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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 », bel-aire Tucker Sorrowsince the sound and backing are very similar. A strong steel guitar (probably Ralph Mooney, according to his particular sounding), Don bel-aire Tucker PracticeEvans on lead guitar, who was a regular with Jack Tucker ; a bass and drums, then a piano player who sounds remarkably like Bill Woods.

Jack Tucker,Surrounded by sorrow

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Jack Tucker,Let me practice with you

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Roy Counts’ « I ain’t got no blues » is a medium ditty full of yodeling – he probably handles the rhythm guitar duty, with a fine steel is well to the fore. Piano, if any, is barely audible. Counts is in good form, as in the faster « Darling I could never live without you » (Bel-Aire 22). Again that sweet and mellow Mooney steel, and this time two piano solos, almost certainly in the style of Bill Woods. These sides have been issued during the Spring of 1957, reviewed by Billboard in April.

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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Billoard, April 27, 1957

Billboard April 27, 1957

bel-aire counts darling

early or later issue?

bel-aire Counts bluesbelaire Counts Darlingbel-aire counts darling

 

 

 

 

 

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 !

Roy Counts, “Temptationcommerce Counts Angel Jedco counts temptationcommerce Counts Temptation

billboard counts 1964

Billboard January 18, 1964

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Roy Counts, “Blue angel

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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”.