An Hillbilly impersonator? – not just that: RED GARRETT (1953-1956)

Red Garrett is another classic Hillbilly singer of the golden 50s who missed the boat to fame. Not only his own personality was excellent, he was also a fantastic impersonator which he proves in “They Got Me Singing That Way”. He also copies Hank Williams in “May You Never Be Alone” to insert his tribute recitation of “A Bed Of Roses”. At first listen you think it is an alternative take of the ole master because the original Drifting Cowboy Don Helms was employed on the steel guitar. Also Bud Isaacs is audible along with Chet Atkins . Other possible musicians are Tommy Jackson and Dale Potter .
(Notes from « The complete Red Garrett » Cattle 331)

Red Garrett was born in Barston, Tennessee. He developed a fondness for the music with a country flavor early in his life. Later, he formed a band called the “Tennessee Pioneers”. He started his singing career in 1945. A late 1953 magazine article, Cowboy Songs magazine included him as one of the “Stars On the Horizon”. It also indicated he was working broadcasts back in Vincennes and Princeton, Indiana. In 1951, folks from the WSM Grand Ole Opry in Nashville had heard of him and sent for him. By 1953, he was still a member of the Opry. During his time with the Opry, he appeared on the same billing with such stars as Cowboy Copas, Eddy Arnold, Elton Britt, Slim Whitman and Webb Pierce among others.

Around that same time, he signed a recording contract with RCA Victor. His first release for them was “Blame It On The Moonlight” b/w “Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Past”(47-5242, issued March 26, 1953).

But, shortly after that it seems, another article mentioned he had disappeared from the music scene, but by about 1955, he had come back to performing.

In 1956, he had a record out on the Decca label entitled, “May You Never Be Alone – and A Bed of Roses”. The song was a tribute to Hank Williams – it was said he actually imitated Hank when he sang the tune “May You Never Be Alone” but in the middle of the tune, he does a recitation, “and a Bed of Roses”. The article that mentioned this tune also told us that the flip side, “Clear Sailing” was “weak.”

(Red Garrett: an appreciation – by bopping’s editor)

To be frank, I’ve not taken a great pleasure listening to Garrett’s music. The vast majority of his output is the same in a review of rhythm: medium paced uptempos. No track us some apart from the others, except for two Louisiana inspired tunes (with a rhumba beat): “Papa Joe’s Place” and “Please”. The rest is quite ordinary, in truth typical Nashville honky-tonk or the 1950’s. This perhaps explains why his recording career was so short.

It appears he also did some songwriting, too as we found he co-wrote a tune with Boudleaux Bryant called “Moon Tan”. We found a hint as to the type of artist he was for they wrote in the article, “..never refused to play in a town just because it was small and lacked celebrities to take notice of him.”

Sources: Cattle and HillbillyBoogie YouTube chain for biog. details. Sounfiles from Hillbilly Researcher # 67, entirely devoted to Red Garrett (his complete output); labels from 45cat or 78world.

Discography (from Praguefrank)

SINGLES
RCA Victor (1953)
47-5242 Blame It On Moonlight / Don’t Be Shamed Of Your Past – 26-03-53
47-5363 They Got Me Singin’ That Way / Please – 07-53
47-5499 Moon Tan / Smoke Screen – 11-53
47-5621 Too Late To Plow Now / Bullseye – 01-54
47-5692 That’s Why I’m Happy / You Played Taps To My Heart – 04-54
47-5783 Tell Me Again / Long Gone – 07-54
Decca (1955-56)
9-29742 Papa Joe’s Place / Standing At The End Of The World – 11-55
9-29811 Don’t Believe A Thing I Say / My Search On Earth Is O’er – 01-56
9-30047 Clear Sailing / May You Never Be Alone;A Bed Of Roses – 09-56

JERRY IRBY: 2nd part (1949-1975)

The latest M-G-M’s, then Humming Bird, 4* and Daffan Records (1949-1956)

When the recording ban was lifted, late in 1949, Irby was back in the studio recording once again for M-G-M. However, his days with M-G-M were numbered. He cut just two sessions for the company before leaving the label in search of pastures new. His search for a new recording contract took him first to BillMcCall’s 4 Star label, where he cut two singles, then to his old friend H. B. Crowe in Houston, who had just formed his own label – Hummingbird .

Irby was reunited wih an old friend, Ted Daffan, a few years later, when he joined the rost of artists who had been signed by Daffan. Irby recorded for his new formed Daffan label: according to the era’s trends, he recorded Rock’n’Roll (“Clickety Clack”) and a revamp of his oldie “Forty Nine Women” on Polly records.

Following his span on Daffan, Irby recorded for a slew of small concerns, most of which were based in the Houston area, like Hi-Lo, Polly, J+B and Jer-Ray.

Then there followed a period of inactivity, as far as the recording scene was concerned, before Irby resurfaced in the early ’70’s cutting material for Bagatelle. Unlike his earlier recordings, Irby’s Bagatelle material was of a non secular nature. Irby had become a born again christian and was using his talent as a singer/songwriter to praise the works of the Lord . Why after all, as someone once said, should the devil have all the good tunes.

When Jerry Irby died in 1983, he left behind him a wealth of recorded material, that makes out of him one of the great Western Swing performers.

Sources: for the mot part (1942-1951) the 78rpm (sound files and label scans) do come from the huge, amazing Ronald Keppner’s collection. Thanks, Ron, for the help and care taken with the fabulous 78rpm sound. YouTube was used for later 45rpm, as well as Hillbilly Researcher (Humming Bird, # 06) for Irby and Pete Burke sides. Gripsweat for “Hurricane” (Jer-Ray, 1959).BF for “The Daffan label”. 45cat for label scans. Anonymous biography (certainly from Allan Turner’s hand) from Boppin’ Hillbilly series, volume devoted on Jerry Irby.

Corpus Christi, Tx. Rockabilly: ALVIS WAYNE, “Sleep Rock-A-Roll, Rock-A-Baby”

Feature by Dik De Heer originally published in Blackcar Rockabilly Europe (2006). Additions by bopping.org editor.

Alvis Wayne

is one of those obscure rockabilly artists from the 1950s who wasn’t discovered by European fans until the rockabilly revival of the 1970s. His brilliant recordings for the small Westport label (1956-58) were not released in Europe at the time, although one of them was belatedly issued in the UK in 1963, but in the midst of Beatlemania it was completely overlooked.

Alvis Wayne Samford was born in Paducah, Texas, but lived there only a few months. His family (Alvis was the oldest of five children) lived in several towns around San Antonio before settling in the coastal city of Corpus Christi (South Texas) in 1953. Alvis took an interest in music at an early age and received a guitar for his tenth birthday. In early 1956 he was approached by Corpus Christi musician Tony Wayne (Anthony Wayne Guion) who asked him to join his hillbilly band for a tour of South Texas. However, life on the road proved to be a bitter disappointment for the four band members and they soon headed back home to Corpus Christi. Next Alvis joined a Western swing band, Al Hardy and his Southernaires, but Tony Wayne wanted him back. He told Alvis “Hey, I got us a record contract with Westport Records in Kansas City and they want some rock ’n’ roll records.” Tony also said that he had already written five songs. All Alvis had to do was record them.

Kansas City was nearly 1000 miles away, but Alvis Wayne, as he now called himself, never had to make that trip. He did his first session in a makeshift studio in Corpus Christi, probably in July 1956. Alvis thought it was a merely a session to record some demos for Westport, so he was shocked when he found out that the label had issued two of the three recordings (“Swing Bop Boogie” and “Sleep Rock-A-Roll Rock-A- Baby”) as a commercial single (Westport 132). Both sides are great slices of authentic rockabilly with wild steel, demented guitar, great slapping bass and a good echo on vocal. “Accompaniment by Tony Wayne and his Rhythm Wranglers” was printed on the label, though they never played on the session ; instead Al Hardy’s band did. The third song from that 1956 session was “I Gottum”, which stayed in the vaults for some 17 years, before its first issue on Ronnie Weiser’s Rollin’ Rock label.

The debut single must have sold in respectable quantities, for in 1957 Westport asked him back for a second session, which resulted in the single “Don’t Mean Maybe Baby”/ “I’d Rather Be With You” (Westport 138). This became his biggest seller, topping the local South Texas charts for six weeks without making a national impact. In 1963 it got a surprise release on the British Starlite label.

Rare U.K. issue (1963)

The third Westport single, “Lay Your Head On My Shoulder” (1958), was recorded in Houston. Another great rockabilly side, but it failed to click and Alvis left the music business in disillusion. He spent four years in the US Air Force (1960-1964). After returning to civilian life, he formed his own country band and had singles released on two small labels, Kathy (1966) and Brazos (1969). But at that point in his life he was convinced that he would never hit the big time.

Then, in 1973, the British Injun label reissued “Lay Your Head On My Shoulder”, coupled with the previously unreleased “I Gottum”. Around the same time, Ronny Weiser of Rollin’ Rock Records in California reissued four Westport recordings on an EP. Alvis became a cult hero of the European rockabilly scene, although he didn’t know it at the time. Weiser tracked him down and recorded three new numbers with him in 1974, including the risqué “I Wanna Eat Your Pudding”. A legal repro of the Starlite 45 was issued in the UK in 1977 and “Don’t Mean Maybe Baby” became a hit all over again in the British rock n roll clubs.

Rollin’ Rock EP-002

An LP containing his entire rockabilly legacy was released in 1994 on the British Pink ’n’ Black label. In 1999 Alvis finally visited the UK (Hemsby) for the first time and was overwhelmed by the reception. He became a regular on the international rock and roll circuit. Also, he began recording again for the revitalised Rollin’ Rock label, which resulted in two well-received CDs, “Rockabilly Daddy” (2000) and “Proud Of My Rockabilly Roots” (2001). Alvis Wayne passed away on July 31, 2013, at the age of 75 at his home in Bacliff, Texas.

With warm thanks to Dik De Heer, who allowed me the use of the article published in “Black Cat Rockabilly Europe” site; UncleGil who furnished me with all the soundfiles; 45cat for labels.

From “Uptown Swing” to “Clickety Clack”: and “Hillbillly Boogie”: a story of JERRY IRBY, a Texas entertainer (1941-1975) — 1rst part

Gerard « Jerry » Irby ‘s career in Country music spanned almost forty years. The list of the artists he worked with during that time reads like a Who’s Who of Western swing. It ranges from the links of Thero Eugene « Ted » Daffan to less known Western swing performers such as Bill Mounce And The Stars Of The South. In 1937 Irby was « pickin’ and singin’ » with The Bar-X Cowboys, a first rate Houston based outfit which featured among its number Elmer and Ben Christian, and singer/guitarist Chuck Keeshan, the latter having worked with Leon « Pappy » Selph, and who is to be found, along joined Ted Daffan’s band The Texans.
During his tenure with The Bar-X-Coyboys, and the Tune Wranglers, Irby recorded with these outfits for Decca. He was also the featured vocalist on at least one of Bill Mounce’s Bluebird releases.

America’s entry into the WW II in 1941 heralded the end of an era. A number of Western swing outfits disbanded as members of those bands were drafted. The recording ban that followed in 1942 further compounded matters. However, all was not gloom and doom. With industry on a war footing, the economy boomed. The public at large, having shrudded off the last vestiges of the depression, wanted to be entertained. As the way drew to a close the recording industry, which hitherto had been monopolised by a handful of record companies, started a grind in action again when the recording ban was lifted. Small independant record companies sprang up across the country to challenge the monpoly that major labels like Decca and RCA-Victor had once enjoyed. It was these small independant companies who more or less set the trend in the post-war years.

One of the first recording companies to be set up in Texas was Bill Quinn’s Gulf label. Based at 3104 Telephone Road in Houston, Gulf made its debut on the scene in the fall of 1945. Quinn, who later ran the legendary Goldstar studio, and label of the same name, recorded fairly well-known local Western swing acts, including Al Clauser, Moon Mullican, and Jerry Irby. It was Irby’s waxing of fhis self penned ditty cover. « Nails In My Coffin », a classic song which is now a standard number in country music, was a regional hit, albeit a modest one, for Irby. « Nails In My Coffin » has been recorded, with varying degrees of success, over the years by countless Country singers.

The Los Angeles based Globe label, another newly formed, independant recording company, latched on to Jerry Irby’s success with « Nail In My Coffin » and promptly signed him to a recording deal. They wasted little time in having Irby re-record « Nails In My Coffin » for release on Globe. Irby ‘s band at that time, The Texas Ranchers, including his old compatriot Elmer Christian, steel guitarist « Deacon » Evans,and pianist Pete Burke.

The latter musician is worthy of special mention as his distinctive performance on the pianoforte is to be heard on scores of Irby’s recordings. Burke himself later made some solo recordings for the Hummingbird label. It is also likely that Irby and his band are featured on Elmer Christian’s Globe recordings.

Around this time, Irby made some more recordings for two small concerns: Cireco, in 1947. “You Can’t Take It With You”, an old favorite, and “49 Women”, a tune that he re-recorded later at least two times. Then for the microscopic record label Hillbilly Hit Parade.

Houston record distributor H.B. Crowe was the next person to take an interest in Irby. In 1947 Crowe recorded Irby, and Elmer Christian, at a session in Houston for Mercury. Guitarist/fiddler Woodrow « Woody »Carter joned the line-up of Irby’s band for this session. Carter was to remain with Irby’s band for a little over eighteen months or so before embarking on his own, short lived, solo career.

When Lewis R. Chudd lauched his Imperial label out on he West coast in 1947, one of the first Country/Western swing artists he recorded was Jerry irby. Dring his relatively bried sojourn with Imperial, Irby cut some twelve sides for the label. He was also the featured vocalist on Elmer Christian’s Imperial release, on which he was backed by The Bar-X Cowboys.

All notes and sources are rejected at the last part of the feature.

Curtis Gordon from Georgia to Nashville (1952-1962)

At 1 :30 on Wednesday afternoon, October 22, 1952, newly signed RCA Victor recording artist Curtis Gordon began his first session at Brown Brothers in Nashville, with RCA A&R man Steve Sholes presiding. Three of his own band members joined him in the studio : fiddler Charles Mitchell, pianist Curly Gainous and bass player Slick Gillespie. Rounding up the band were three of Nashville’s early studio A-team : guitarist and Sholes protege Chet Atkins, singer and rhythm guitarist Eddie Hill and steel guitar virtuoso Jerry Byrd.

For Gordon, landing a deal with RCA, the label of Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow, was a major break. A regional performer who mainly worked south Georgia and north Florida and did occasional national tours, he fit into the honky-tonk sound in vogue at the time. It didn’t matter that he had no national home base like the Opry or Louisiana Hayride. He was a regional favorite around Georgia, Alabama and Florida, and in those days major labels didn’t shy away from signing such acts, hoping to break them nationally.

Born in July 27, 1928 on a farm near Moultrie, Gordon spent his boyhood drinking in music. « Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills were two of my favorites.(…) Ernest Tubb was really my idol until I got into Bob Wills. » Soon enough, Gordon was trying to sing locally, winning a talent show sponsored by a Moultrie radio station.

His drive to perform never diminished as a teenager, though temporaly affected his education. « I went to Gulfport, Mississipi and worked with a little band at a radio station for six or eight months until my folks brought me back and put me in school » he says. Gordon also made early contacts with a fellow Moultrie resident following his own musical road : fiddler Ivy J. Bryant, years from his metamorphosis into premiere country-jazz guitarist Jimmy Bryant.

Even though Gordon’s folks brought him back from Gulfport to attend high school, he continued developing his performing talents with Pee Wee Mills and the Twilight Playboys around the area and on their program on Moultrie’s WMGA radio. Finally, on January 1, 1949 Gordon organized his own band. Starting around southern Georgia and northern Florida, he had enough work to keep him going. In June 1952, he and the band appeared in a talent contest at Atlanta’s Tower Theater. Impressed, RCA Victor’s Atlanta distributor Sam Wallace recommended Gordon to Steve Sholes, who signed the singer shortly after that. Around July, he joined the Mobile, Alabama’s ‘Dixie Barn Dance’, on the small country stage shows in the tradition of the Opry and the Louisiana Hayride.

Making Mobile his base of operations, by October of 1952 he’d opened his first Radio Ranch nightclub, which became one of the major country music outlets in the region. Over the next four decades, he’d also own three other Radio Ranches (a copyright name) in Thomasville, Albany and Moultry, Georgia.

That busy month was capped by that RCA session on the 22nd. Whatever Gordon planned to record at that first session, Steve Sholes, as usual, had his own ideas. Seeing Gordon as a potential ballad singer, he directed the session that way, having him record “What’s A Little Pride” and “The Greatest Sin”. Both were penned by Cy Coben, whose songs (both good and lousy) wound up being recorded by many RCA artists. At the same session, Gordon did better with the strutting Jack Toombs-Vic McAlpin ditty “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”, featuring bouncy guitar from Chet and Gainous’s competent honky tonk piano. Jack Toombs’ “If You Tell Me One More Lie” indicates Sholes had ideas to position Gordon to be another Lefty Frizzell.

With “Rompin’”s success in mind, Sholes, who’d pushed Gordon into a Lefty mode on that first session in 1952, decided to emphasize the uptempo numbers. From Georgia country artist Cotton Carrier came “I’d Do It For You”, a pleasant number in the vein of Carl Smith’s faster material as was Boudleaux Bryant’s “Tell ‘Em No”. “You Crazy, Crazy Moon” was a ballad that hewed closely to Smith’s ballad singing. Not everything succeeded. The corny, medium-tempo “Little Bo-Peep”, written by Tommy ‘Butterball’ Paige, Ernest Tubb’s lead guitarist, was more suited to the sentimental vocal side of Moon Mullican.
Throughout this time, Gordon was not just working around his home area, but touring America as part of package shows, leaving his band behind.

Though Gordon’s singles sold enough to sustain his contract, nothing came even close to the national charts. His final RCA session at Thomas’s took place on February 22, 1954. He used nearly all of the band on this date including Gainous, Slick Gillespie and guitarists Hugh Harrell and C.L.Hare. The studio players included Chet Atkins, whose fortunes were rising as the New York-based Sholes depended on him to organize Nashville sessions. The steel player was the dynamic pedal steel pioneer and RCA artist Bud Isaacs, whose playing on Webb Pierce’s hit recording of “Slowly” established the instrument in Nashville. Sholes returned to the ill-fated gambit of having Curtis parrot the style of others. As a result, his version of Hank Thompson’s “I’d Like To Tell You” came off as a generic rip-off of Thompson. “Detour” composer Paul Westmoreland’s “Caffeine And Nicotine” got an arrangement lifted lock, stock and barrel from the Carlisles’ Mercury recordings and their hit, “No Help Wanted”. Everything from the Bill Carlisle-inspired, frenetic vocal, rhythm guitar with paper through the strings and the Atkins guitar solo (he played on the Carlisles’ sessions), was clearly aimed at that audience. “Divided Heart”, a Chuck Wilson number, was an inconsequential ballad. One exception to the rule was the revival of “Rompin’ And Stompin”’s spirit with “Baby, Baby Me”, a boogie with sharply focused solos from Isaacs and Potter.

In 1955, Gordon and his band recorded another session, supplemented by Buddy Emmons, a gifted young steel player from Indiana who had just replaced Walter Haynes in Little Jimmy Dickens’ Country Boys. Gordon recorded two songs by a new composer/singer named Bobby Bare : “Our Secret Rendezvous” and “Baby Please Come Home”, a pleasant, uptempo honky-tonker. In early 1956 Gordon did another session with a similar band (Chet Atkins on lead guitar) that yielded “Hey Mister Sorrow”, “Too Young To Know” and “Play The Music Louder”.

By 1956, Elvis Presley was sweeping the nation. While many in country were bewildered by him, Gordon knew him well, having met (and booked) him the previous year. (…) Elvis was certainly on Dee Kilpatrick’s mind when he called Gordon to Nashville in March, desperate to get something resembling rock on record as soon as he could. Presley’s success was causing a crisis,since conventional country records – honky tonk tunes with fiddle and steel guitar – were suddenly sounding old and corny. Radio began rejecting those kinds of records, and Kilpatrick needed Gordon to record something that rocked. The singer showed up at Bradley Film and Recording, the first studio on what’s now called Music Row, with three of his musicians : steel guitarist Al Murray, Stewart and Slick Gillespie. The Nashville studio element again included Eddie Hill and drummer T. Tommy Cutrer.(…)
Four rockabilly compositions came out of this session, many of them featuring Murray’s futuristic, unorthodox steel guitar, in the Speedy West tradition. “Draggin’” was a hot-rod race ditty with Sun-style slapback echo and tough Scotty Moore-inspired lead guitar, Gillespie slapping the bass in the style of Bill Black. Hearing Elvis, Scotty and Bill at Radio Ranch obviously left its mark given the authoritative accompaniment from the band.  “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”:  Gordon adapted the old blues to rockabilly with stinging Moore-style guitar from Stewart and strong rhythm. “Mobile, Alabama”, a prideful rocker about Gordon’s adopted hometown, has become a favorite of rockabilly revivalists, one that also afforded the chance to hear more of Murray’s rolling steel.

Gordon did part of his time with Mercury while serving a hitch in U.S. Army Special Services as part of the Circle-A Wranglers. This Army country band had been fronted by Faron Young during his early 1950s Army hitch. While in the band, Gordon met an aspiring Oklahoma singer-musician named Roger Miller. « …) I heard him play and I said ‘How ‘bout you comin’ to play fiddle for us ?’ And he didn’t think he wanted to. I think he was kind of afraid if he messed up (that the Army would) ship him overseas or somewhere. And he finally agreed to do it (…) and played fiddle with the Circle-A Wranglers for a long time (…) »
In early 1957, Curtis traveled to Houston, (probably) to Gold Star Studios, where Pappy Daily, the legendary Texas record producer who co-founded Starday Records and discovered George Jones (now a Mercury artist) was to produce Gordon. With Mitchell on fiddle and, he recalled, Noel Boggs on steel guitar, he recorded three originals : “So Tired Of Crying”, an uptempo song in a mode between Hank Williams and George Jones, whose influence permeated “One Blue Moon, One Broken Heart”. Those, as well as “Out To Win Your Hear”t, were penned with Jimmy Townsend.

In October, 1957, Gordon headed to Nashville for his final Mercury session, Pappy Daily again producing. During the trip, he had a surprise reunion with Roger Miller that had far-reaching implications for the budding singer-songwriter.
« A couple months after he got out (of the Army) I was goin’ into Nashville to record. When I got to the Andrew Jackson hotel, the bellboy was Roger. We grabbed each other and was glad to see each other, and I said ‘Come up to the room, man. I’m here to record.’ So Roger came up to my room and we sat up all night writin’ songs, we wrote two or three songs. I told Roger that night, ‘I’m cuttin’ tomorrow and I want you to go with me.’ So we went down and Pappy Daily was cuttin’ George Jones, and I carried Roger down there and introduced him to Pappy Daily. Pappy Daily signed him to a writer’s contract and things went boomin’ for him right on. »
Surprisingly, for Gordon’s last Mercury date, he was finally recording with Nashville’s true A-team, including Hank Garland and Chet Atkins on guitars, bassist Bob Moore, pianist Floyd Cramer, Eddie Hill on rhythm guitar and probably Buddy Harmon on drums. This time, all numbers except “Cry, Cry” were Gordon originals. “Cry, Cry” was a down and bluesy ballad. “Sixteen”, an original ballad penned by Curtis and his wife, was aimed at the teenage market with Garland contributing juicy lead guitar. Curtis had someone in mind for “Cry, Cry”. « I wrote the song for Tommy Sands. I thought I could do it and Mercury said ‘Hey, why don’t you do it ? » He had someone in mind when he wrote the bluesy, raw “Please, Baby, ,Please” : Fats Domino…,who denied cutting the song. Instead, Gordon recorded it with Roger Miller and one Windy Wade singing backup on the session. The final song recorded at the session was “I wouldn’t”, a Gordon-Roger Miller tune.

In 1961-62, Gordon recorded two singles for the Nashville based Dollie label. They were all mainstream Country, and quite listenable, from the ballad “Each Time You Go” to the rocker “From Memphis To New Orleans”. After that, he appeared once more in 1978 on the Duke Of Country label, this time far from bopping.org standards.

No matter how much Gordon toured, Radio Ranch remained home base. (…) Looking back in 1998, Gordon reflected realistically about his overall success on records. « If I had to choose a favorite one of the whole bunch it’d have to be ‘Rompin’ And Stompin’ » he concluded.(…) He also had some luck with his compositions. In 1980 George Jones recorded Gordon’s I’ve Aged Twenty Years, on his « I Am What I Am » LP, though Curtis’s own mid-80s recordings for the tiny Duke of Country label in Nashville went nowhere. Gordon remained busy at the Radio Ranch in Moultrie thoughout the 1980s, as rockabilly revivalists rediscovered his RCA and Mercury material.(…)
In the mid 1990s, after fifty years of performing, Gordon, still happily married to wife Grace, retired from performing and the nightclub business in order to relax – most of the time. Nonetheless, in February, 1998, he was heading back to England, where he previously scored with audiences when he appeared with the Collins Kids, amazed that European fans remember the lyrics of old records that at the time, were ignored by the masses. « I wanted to retire. I’ve been in it so long and I got so many other things I would like to do but I love to play. I disbanded about three years ago. I still play other clubs but not regular. I go out and play clubs that have house bands. Rest of the time I’m tied up with a plantation out there with a beautiful lake, log cabin. I still love to ride horses and hunt. Never smoke or drank. I don’t believe in doing something that’s harmin’ your health. »
In a country music industry run by music consultants, radio and media consultants and accountants, rock’n’roll refugees and arrogant Nashville superstars who try to run their record companies, Curtis Gordon remain a vital link to country’s simpler, sweeter past. He summarized his career simply in 1986, a benediction that still holds today. « I hope I contributed a little bit to country music. It’s been my whole life. »
Curtis Gordon died May 2, 2004, in Moultrie, Ga

Sources: mainly 78rpm from the collection of Ronald Keppner; label scans (both 78 and 45) from 45cat and 78worlds, also Roots Vinyl Guide; photographs from Google; YouTube (Dollie discs)
Article primitively published in September 2009 (from the notes by Rick Kienzle for the BF CD), entirely remade in July 2019 with additions (Dollie)

Rockin’ Rollin’ Marty Robbins (1953-56)

When a Rockin’ Know-all thinks about a record company that through its record releases brought the Southern states its own brand of Rock’n’roll over the airwaves, he (or maybe she) thinks of Sun Records in Memphis.
Sun were there, because in order to survive like most independant all over the States they catered for markets not generally seved by the Majors ; in the process they gave the white youth the sounds they wanted to jitterbug and bop to. Whilst it s true to say that Majors were doing big business with pop artists, they were pretty well involved with country (and/or Rhythm’n’blues) from fairly early on. In fact Columbia’s C&W output in the ’50’s was run from Nashville and under the cortrol of Mitch Miller. Certainly, when given the lead, Columbia Broadcasting quickly latched onto the potential of what was virually a more raucous version of country music. They soon amassed a Rockabilly catalog second only to Sun.
Of course, in the early ’50s, Columbia had recorded country boogies, which had a great beat for dancing, but still had hillbilly vocals (« Wild Cat Boogie » – Johnny Bond, 21160 – « Rock Me » – Little Jimmy Dickens, 21206, « Go Boy Go » – Carl Smith, 21266 and « Mama!» – Lefty Frizzell, 21328 are typical examples)

It was not until a certain truck driver from Tupelo recorded « That’s All Right Mama», that true Rockabilly look off. Columbia covered the song with a version by Marty Robbins. Whilst others did cut sides without the hillbilly vocals (« Juke Joint Johnny » – Lattie Moore on Speed for example), they were sparse and generally on very minor labels with local distribution. It was Elwood Pretzel that brought it to wider attention, in fact the South and the vast country areas of the Northern States were more than ready ; in 1954 during a Cash Box interview Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records stated that from 1952 white high school and college kids in the South were picking up R&B records primarily to dance to. The trend was started by youthful hillbilly fans rather than the pop bobby-soxers, who just followed right along.

Robbins, of Polish ancestry, was born on September 26th 1925 at Glendale, Arizona. 1937 saw his family move to Phoenix, where he attended high school. Then at 19 he signed up wit the Navy for a 3 years stint. Posted on the Pacific, he developped an interest in the guitar until he got to the stage of composing his own songs. This eventually led him to perform professionnally after his discharge with one of his friends who had a band, and they performed at a local night club. He served his apprenticship in he mid-40’s playing in small around Arizona. He joined Columbia Records in 1952, recording solo performances as well as duetting with his manager Llee Emerson, in a style reminiscent of early Eddy Arnold, featuring a semi-crooning vocal and sparse instrumentation.

Marty Robbins and band – 1950’s

It was at Jim Beck’s studio (Dallas) in September 1953 that Robbins recorded « It’s A Long, Long Ride ». It wasn’t Rock’n’Roll of course, but Robbins’ performance had a restless energy, presaging much that followed.The drums, still rarely heard on Nashville recodings, gave an added edge to the performance. During the first break, the fiddle player hums in unison with his instrument, a trchnique that Slam Stewart and others had popularized with the bowed upright bass during the ’30s, but one rarely heard in country music.

Ray & Roy

Pain And Misery

by Ray Edenton & Marty Robbins

between Dallas and Nashville (1954)

Much bluesier was « Pain And Misery », an anomalous duet that Robbins recorded in May 1954 with Ray Edenton. It was logged in the Columbia files with three other songs under the artist-name «Ray & Roy ». None of the cuts were released at the time, although « Pain And Msery » was later re-cast by Robbins as « Mean Mama Blues ».
Aside of the cloak of anonymity, wasn’t really surprising is the hard-edged blues feel. The use of two electric guitars – one of which takes an unusually aggressive solo (Chet Atkins or Louie Innis)– points unerringly towards future developments. “Call Me Up” (21291) (by Marty alone) was also a nice uptempo precursor.

By the end of 1954 all of Robbins’ sessions were being held in Nashville, and on November 7, he cut a cover version of « That’s All Right ». Elvis Presley had released it in July, and although it did no more than crack a few local charts, it created a buzz. Robbins had heard the record and figured Presley was black. In October, Robbins discovered that he wasn’t when Presley okayd a less-than-successful guest spot on the Opry. By November, Presley had his second record on the market, but Robbins decided to cover « That’s All Right » ayway. It became a fair-sized hit for him, peaking at number 7 in the Spring of 1955.

Cash Box Jan. 6, 1955

August 9, 1955. Nashville, Tennessee: the pure rockabilly recording session

Chuck Berry’s « Maybellene » mispelled « Maybelline » by Columbia, hadn’t even cracked the R&B charts when Robbins covered it. He had obviously started tuning the car radio to the R&B stations, sensing the coming storm.
If there’s ever a need to illustrate the difference between uptempo country and rockabilly, then Robbins’ versions of « That’s All Right » and « Maybelline »will show the demarcation line. It was more than the addition of drums, there was a twitchy energy to « Maybelline » that announced the dawn of a new era.

Cash Box Nov. 5, 1955

Cash Box, Jan. 7, 1956

November 3rd, 1955. More rockabilly and country. After Robbins had met Melvin Endsley, he adopted the latter’s “Singing The Blues”, which proved a million seller for him.

If there’s ever a need to illustrate the difference between uptempo country and rockabilly, then Robbins’ versions of « That’s All Right » and « Maybelline »will show the demarcation line. It was more than the addition of drums, there was a twitchy energy to « Maybelline » that announced the dawn of a new era.

Columbia didn’t have much faith in « Singing Te Blues », possibly thinking it was too country. It was kept in the can for eight months, and two other singles were dhipped in the interim. In November 1956 though, « Singing The Blues » beat out « Hound Dog » for the number one slot on the country charts, and it remained there until February 1957.

Before « Singing The Blues » was released, Robbins went back into the studio with two more uptempo songs on the schedule. The first was a cover of Little Richard’s « Long Tall Sally », which hadn’t even cracked the R&B charts ; the other was an odd original, « Respectfully Miss Brooks » with an organ piping way in the background.

Robbins decided it was time to revisit the Melvin Endsley songbook. He cut « Knee Deep In The Blues », which proved to be his ticket back to the charts, but unfortunately was beaten by Guy Mitchell’s pop version.

From Late 1955 thru’ 1956 he performed Rockabilly on stage as this was in demand with audiences. Did he in fact rock the joint ? – well, there is in fact an LP of Marty Robbins on the Artco label (LPC 110LD) which is described as coming from « The Hall Of Fame » motion pictures soundtrack. In truth it’s almost certainly some form of live concert which is from around 1956. All 12 tracks are different to recorded versions, the latest of which are « Mr. Teardrop » and « I Can’t Quit » – significantly no « Singing The Blues ». Other tracks include « Pretty Mama », « Tennessee Toddy », « Pretty Words », Castle In The Sky », « Times Goes By ». « Tennessee Toddy » and « Pretty Mama » not to mention « I Can’t Quit » are all superb : yes Marty did really rock.

However Marty wasnt really a rocker ; he was just cashing in on a trend, and he soon left for pop/country records. These are anyhow some reat stady backings in « Knee Deep In The Blues », « Long Gone Lonesome Blues », although « Moanin’ The Blues » and « Loveick Blues » are in the same great style.

Sources: main article set up from an article by Bob Airlie, originally published (June 1977) by “New Kommotion”, then from the notes by Colin Escott for Bear Family “Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins” triple CD (1999); music primarily from Willem Agenant site ‘Columbia 20 000 serie’, many thanks to him. Remaining music and videos from YouTube.Thanks Uncle Gil for his help, providing sound files.
Labels from 45cat and 78worlds sites.Discographical details from Praguefrank great site.

Several boppers have been excluded, because lack of space. Otherwise the article would have been double sized. Anyway they all are well worth seeking, songs like: “I’ll Love You Till The Day U ie” (21414), “Time Goes By” (21324) or “Where’d Ja Go” (40868) with Lee Emerson.