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

download
Roy Counts, “I’ve got a new heartache

download

capitol Stewart Slowlydemo Stewart Hands
Wynn Stewart,Slowly but surely

download
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”.

Jimmy Work & the Border Boys: Tennessee Border and Making Believe (1945-1959)

All too often, country composers of the 1940s and 1950s who didn’t have a substantial string of hits of their own are forgotten even if their songs have not been. Jimmy Work is a classic example. The author of three bonafide Country classics – “Tennessee Border” (1948), “Making Believe” (a simultaneous hit for both he and Kitty Wells in March of 1955) and “That’s What Makes The Juke Box Play” (1955) – Work’s records have been a little more than a footnote to the fifties, a composer’s credit on someone else’s records. That fact is truly unfortunate, for in truth, Jimmy Work was among the most expressive composers of the era. Though Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell enjoyed greater success, Work’s best songs were among the most evocative of the period: raw, unvarnished gems with an undeniable directness and beauty.
Born in Akron, Ohio, on March 23, 1924, Jimmy Work moved to a farm his folks purchased near Dukedom, on the border of Western Kentucky and Tennessee, in 1926. “I started playing back when I was seven years old”, he says today. “My Dad had bought my mother a guitar, and she never did learn to play it, and that’s how I learned to play a guitar. Back then I listened to Gene Autry, and I liked Roy Acuff. He was one of my favorites.”
“Around this part of the country, there were some good musicians also”, Work says. “And I was going to high school and we had a band there. They used to have fiddler’s contests, and I was playin’ in all of those and I winnin’ a lot of prizes, but I just liked country music. I started writin’ songs when I was real young. And started singin’ those songs around and people seemed to like it. And that’s been more or less a hobby of mine – sittin’ down and writin’ songs and playin’ music.” Work did not only commit himself to music. He also became an accomplished millwright, a profession he pursued on and off, alternating with music., throughout the past several decades.
His first substantial musical work came at the end of World War II when he moved to Pontiac, Michigan, around 1945. Pontiac and other Detroit suburbs were a powerful wartime magnet for southerners drawn to the money they could make working in war production plants that had been adapted from Detroit’s massive auto factories. Country singers like Work gave them a taste of home, for the loneliness of displacement from the rural south to the smoky, urban Midwest, later brilliantly evoked in Mel Tillis’ classic song “Detroit City”” was very real. Work went on to work on the aptly named WCAR radio in Pontiac, had a songbook published and made his first records for the tiny Trophy label. “Detroit was a good country town, a good country record town”, he remembers.

In 1948 Work recorded an original composition, “Tennessee Border”, for the local Alben label .alben work border

You know, I couldn’t get nobody to record that song, and I went, and recorded it myself,” he remembers. “That record got me started.” Hank Williams was among the major artists who covered it. Its rural overtones made it enormously appealing. He recalls: “All the major labels put it out (on their artists).” Decca signed him in 1949, and with Paul Cohen producing, Jimmy recorded in Cincinnati (backed by Jerry Byrd, Louis  Innis and Tommy Jackson, among others) and Nashville. “Bluegrass Ticklin’ My Feet” did modestly well, but the Decca contract didn’t last.

Still working around Detroit, he recorded one single, “Hospitality”, for Bullet (out of Nashville), backed by his Tennessee Border Boys (# 699). By the early fifties, he was with Capitol, (and writing for Hill and Range), but still hadn’t followed up his success with a hit of his own. He made numerous guest appearances on the major live radio shows of the day and era, such as the WLS National Barn Dance out of Chicago, Illinois, the WWVA Original Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia, the KWKH Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, the WFAA Saturday Night Shindig out of Fort Worth, Texas.

Work had landed a contract with Capitol in 1953, but again two singles went nowhere, and by 1954 he was signed to Randy Wood’s Dot Records of Gallatin, Tennessee. He produced his own sessions in Detroit and shipped off the master tapes to Dot for pressing and release. From that first session came not only “Making Believe”, his first Dot release, but “That’s What Makes The Juke Box Play”, along with “Don’t give Me A Reason To Wonder Why.” All the backing tracks feature austere, straight accompaniment that is strictly supportive. The lead guitarist, for example, does little more than play a pulsating dead-string accompaniment in the style of Zeke Turner or Luther Perkins with the steel guitar and fiddle the most prominent instruments.

“That’s What Makes The Juke Box Play”, the second Dot single, did not become a huge hit for Work but this quintessential honkytonk ballad, like “Making Believe”, has had a long and sustained life with honkytonk singers ever since, its sorrowful and powerful imagery being among the finest of the idiom.

Cash Box April 30, 1955

Cash Box Sept. 17, 1955

“Just Like Downtown” has much of the rollicking feel of Hank Williams’ numbers like “Settin’ The Woods On Fire”, an idealized, sanitized portrait of a southern house party. “That Cold, Cold look In Your Eye” and “Blind Heart” were typical unrequited love ballads.  He recorded “Blind Heart” twice. The first recording, recorded at his second session, wound up on a Dot album, the second (done at his final session) was one side of his last Dot single in 1956.

 

Thirty years have dimmed his memories of specific details of the records themselves, though Jimmy does remember some basic data. “The Dot sides were cut in Detroit. I used United Sound studio, and I used Casey Clark and his band; Casey played fiddle, and Buddy Emmons played with me on some of those (Emmons was working in Detroit, before joining Little Jimmy Dickens in July 1955). Casey, his boys kind of switched around with him, you know. He had different ones here and there. The band had lead guitar, bass fiddle and a piano on some of them. I don’t know if there were drums in there or not. We recorded about four songs at a time. I’d cut ‘em in Detroit and send ‘em to Randy Wood at Dot.” The band sounded at times as if they were consciously patterning their accompaniments after those of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys (note the high-register Don Helms-styled steel guitar licks on “That Cold, Cold Look In Your Eye”.)

As a vocalist, Work was among the least polished, most overtly rural of the era aside from Hank and Lefty. His phrasing was understated, and his voice quavered in places. None of it was affectation, his voice was nasal (he could have done well had he pursued a bluegrass career) and his delivery was relaxed and easygoing, putting the lyrics up front.

Virtually all his Dot recordings were original numbers and the majority were ballads in the late 40s/early 50s style. Yet he also did some fine uptempo novelties like “When She Said You All”, or “Don’t Knock, Just Come On In” a bluesy novelty number in the Hank Williams style, the only Dot number never issued (until now). (…) was “Puttin’ The Dog”.

“Making Believe’s” popularity expanded his horizons. After a stay in Nashville, he headed south to WVOK in Birmingham, Alabama, which became his new home base for a time. It also got him some substantial tours, including a string of bookings handled by the popular Memphis C&W disc jockey Bob Neal, then booking Elvis Presley around the South. “Elvis was a good entertainer,” he says. “That’s when he was on the Sun label. When his first records came out, a lot of disc jockeys thought it was Rhythm and Blues, you know. I took ‘em back to Detroit and the (country) disc jockeys wouldn’t play ‘em. And I told ‘em, “Well, someday you’ll play them, and I don’t think it’s gonna be too long.” And those same disc jockeys remembered. Later they said “Jimmy, you was right.”

He stayed in Alabama until 1957, then played around the country music parks in the northeast, including some in Pennsylvania. Dot continued releasing records during 1956, none of them, however, had the impact of “Making Believe”, good as they were. “Digging My Own Grave” was particularly interesting. Much in the style of Hank’s “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”, it had the same easygoing fatalism.

However, Work’s performing and recording career effectively ended by the late fifties.(…) Some tried recording rock and roll; others were forced into it by producers. But Work never tried to do that. “I was just a few years too late, maybe four or five”, he reflects. (…) For a while, he moved to Southern California, where he sold real estate, and made his final two singles (one a cover of “Tennessee Border”) for the Whittier, CA based “All” label. In the end, he returned to Dukedom and millwrighting, apparently without bitterness or rancor. He does not performing, even locally these days. “But I still write songs for Acuff-Rose”.

Rick Kienzle, notes to “Jimmy Work – Making Believe” LP (Bear Family 15177), 1985.Sources: for the most part, a huge 78rpm collection, label scans from 78worlds.

Article first published in 2011, completely revised July 2019.

Fred Kirby, the N. Carolina Troubadour (1937-1952)



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cliff Carlisle & guitar

Cliff Carlisle

Fred (Frederick Austin) Kirby was born on July 19, 1910 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father worked as a preacher and he had nine brothers and sisters. When he was a kid, Fred’s mother taught North Carolina maphim to play the guitar, and she later also helped him to master the fiddle. Fred became involved in the music business by accident: in 1927, while living in Florence, South Carolina, he joined his nephew to visit a friend at local radiostation WBT, and while singing some of his songs in the lobby of the station, Fred got noticed by a WBT employee. Fred was hired on the spot to make regular appearances on one of the station’s shows, and would remain to work for almost 20 years. In the early 1930s Fred lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked with people like Cliff Carlisle and with bands like “The Briarhoppers”, “The Smiling Cowboys” and “The Carolina Boys”.fred Kirby pic

Fred’s first recordings date from 1932 for the ARC label, but none of them have ever been released. In 1936 Fred signed with Victor’s Bluebird. His first recordings with Bluebird were “I’m A Gold Diggin Papa” and “The Lonesome Lullaby“. Next year he’d cut a session for Bluebird with Cliff Carlisle, which saw him duetting with Carlisle for « Cowboy’s Dying Dream ». It was even released in U.K. on Regal Zonophone. In 1938 Fred got signed by Decca where he recorded 16 songs. Quite a prolific artist in those days..Everyone then was yodeling, from Jimmie Rodgers to Gene Autry; so also did Kirby.

I’m A Gold Diggin’ Paparegal Kirby cowboy'sbluebird Kirby diggin'

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“Cowboy’s Dying Dream”

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In 1939 he and Don White, a musician from West Virginia with whom he had gotten acquainted in the early 1930s, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work for radiostation WLM as the “Carolina Playboys”. The following year, Fred moved to St. Louis to join radiostation KMOX. In St. Louis he gained local fame for selling over 5 million dollars worth US War Bonds during the war

In 1943 Fred moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina and returned to his previous employer : WBT radio. Shortly after, he and Don White regrouped as the Carolina Playboys and in the years after the War they both recorded for the Sonora label, both as the Carolina Playboys and separately. It was with Sonora that Fred recorded his most successful song, “Atomic Power” (Sonora 7008) in May 1946: that song was later recorded by many other artists, including Rex Allen and Red Foley. Later on Kirby released a Decca issue, «  Precious Lord I’ll Be There  » (Decca 46083), giving an indication of his forthcoming career, secular as well as religious.

sonora Kirby atomicKirby standing corralAtomic Power”

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 During 1949, he was approached by M-G-M executives and signed a contract for 4 tunes to be recorded. The very best of them were the coupling of M-G-M 10474, the energetic «  Juke Box Jackson From Jacksonville  » and the amusing «  My Little Dog Loves Your Little Dog  ».m-g-m Kirby Jacksonville

Juke Box Jackson From Jacksonville”m-g-m Kirby dog

My Little Dog Loves Your Little Dog”

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Next year, on July 25, 1950 Fred signed a contract with Columbia to record 4 songs during the very same year. His first recording session was done some ten days later, on August 4 and Columbia released all four songs that were recorded on that occasion. «  My Zig Zaggin’ Baby  » (Columbia 20764) and «  My Red Hot Potato  » were good boppers (fine guitar).

Columbia Kirby zig“My Zig Zaggin’ Baby”Columbia Kirby potato


Cash Box Feb. 9th, 1950

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“My Red Hot Potato”

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In June 1951 Columbia prolonged Fred’s recording contract for another year, but it wasn’t until July 9, 1952 before Fred did another recording session. During that session, eight songs were recorded Columbia Kirby souland six of them were actually released by Columbia., among them the religious bopper «  My Soul Is Not For Sale  », also «  When The Devil Sends His Columbia Kirby devilCalling Card  » (Columbia 21056) ; “We’re No Longer Sweethearts” and “A Pocket Full Of Candy” remained unissued. This 1952 session turned out to be his last one for Columbia: due to the lack of success of his records, Columbia decided not to renew his contract. Later on Fred had a release on Gotham (a NYC/Philadelphia label) with the evergreen “Wreck Of The Old 97” (# 404), a very good version.l

My Soul Is Not For Sale”Gotham Kirby wreck

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When The Devil Sends His Calling Card”

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“Wreck Of The Old 97”

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In the early 1950s Fred again started working for WBT radio, but this time he mainly concentrated on radioshows for the younger audience. Later, when television became more popular he was very successfully as a producer and presenter of specialised kiddie shows: his “Junior Rancho” would run for over 20 years. Nevertheless, Fred’s radiowork lasted even longer: his shows were broadcasted until the spring of 1991. In the 1990s, Fred’s health progressively declined: he suffered from Parkinsons disease, which eventually forced him to move to a nursing home where he died on April 22, 1996.

 

Sources: biography mainly from W. Agenant “Columbia 20000 serie”; additions from “hillbilly-music.com”; pictures from google. Soundfiles and label scans from the indefatigable Ronald Keppner: my warmest thanks to him, whom the feature could not have been written and completed without. ; also some help from UncleGil Rockin’ archives. The rest is a matter of time and…love! Please leave a comment below!