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”.

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!

Jimmy Logsdon, the later years (1962-1982)

In 1962, Logsdon launched his own label (Jimmie Logsdon Sings) – 6 tracks EPs – and issued three of them, prominently religious songs, but also some Hank Williams classics, lesser known songs. He was backed by unknown musicians, probably Cincinnati session men : rhythm, steel, bass, and his songs are on a par with the tunes he had already cut some years before.

The Jewel album

He recorded a rockabilly album for Jewel Records in Cincinnati in 1981, and it was released worldwide in 1983. This album “Now and Then I Think of the 50’s” (Jewel 83021) had 15 sides and featured his friend Rusty York playing guitar and harmonica in addition to producing the L.P. The album sold well in Europe and is a collectors item there even today. Alas, it suffered a lack of feeling and spontaneity, although it brought back several older songs and no doubt, those he had liked from other artists during his own career. He has been a prolific song writer during his career and has had many stars record his songs including Johnny Horton, Kenny Price, Woody Herman, Carl Perkins and others.

That's All Right Mama

by Jimmie Logsdon | Now & Then

Rocky Road Blues

by Jimmie Logsdon | Now & Then

Rainin" In My Heart

by Jimmie Logsdon | Now & Then

I'll Sail My Ship Alone

by Jimmie Logsdon | Now & Then

Sources : my own archives  45-cat and Ohio River 45s for label scans (especially “Jimmie Logsdon sings”). Special thanks to Armadillo Killer for Clark and King sides.Thanks to Pierre Monnery for copying the King sides. Biography from the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame. Information from various YouTube posts.

Made on a Mac

discography here:https://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.com/2016/12/jimmie-logsdon.html

Jimmie Logsdon: the early years (1951-1958)

Jimmie Lloyd Logsdon was born on April 1, 1922 in Panther, Kentucky. His father was a self-taught man who made it through a Methodist seminary. He was a circuit rider in Kentucky during his early years as a preacher and was then posted to several towns while Jimmie was growing up.

The beginnings

Music for the first 15 years of Jimmie’s life was gospel, the only music he had heard around his gospel surroundings. He and his sister sang in the choir. They put on shows and entered amateur contests. When the family lived in southeastern Kentucky, he heard blues singers and secular country music at ice cream parties and other social events. Later, he was impressed by rhythm & blues and especially remembers Erskine Hawkins’ “After Hours” as a record that made a deep impression on him. Glenn Miller, Gershwin and the popular music of the day also had an impact but not as much as blues and country.

The 1940s

In 1940, he was graduated from high school in Ludlow, Kentucky, and in the fall he married his first wife. He started working in Cincinnati installing public address systems. In 1944 he went to the service in the Air Corps, but never got further than technical training school in Madison, Wisconsin and an air base near San Antonio where he repaired the wiring on B-17s. Down in Texas, he heard Ernest Tubb and other Texas honky tonk singers. Locked up in the stockade for a few days, he remembers singing to a fellow inmate who was facing a term in Leavenworth. “That is where it all began, “Jimmie said.”

In 1946 Jimmie and the service parted ways. He then started a record and radio shop in La Grange, Kentucky, 25 miles northeast of Louisville. He picked up records from the Jimmie Skinner Record Center in Cincinnati to re-sell in his own store, and, after two years, decided that he would get into the music business. In 1948, he borrowed a guitar from some friends for a while and finally broke down and bought one from a pawn shop for 12 dollars. He learned a few basic chords, then cut some demos on an old recording machine he had in the back of the shop.

The first record

He got together a band and went to Cincinnati and cut his first record for Harvest Records, his own label : « It’s All Over Now (Harvest 401B) is a good uptempo bopper, well in the manner of the era (fiddle prominent, steel solo over a thudding bass). The flipside « Road of regret » is a real weeper. He did the recording at Herzogs which was the same studio where Hank Williams Sr. had cut “Lovesick Blues” about two years earlier.

The Decca years

He eventually wound up performing on a show in Louisville where the great Hank Williams was headlining. Hank told Jimmie that he would speak to someone in Nashville about getting Jimmie a contract. Meanwhile, Jimmie, in addition to doing shows and nightclub appearances, had a daily radio show. He interviewed lots of stars including Jim Reeves, Porter Waggoner, Merle Travis, Elvis Presley, Boyd Bennett, Les Paul and Mary Ford among others.

His career received a boost in 1953, when he became the host of a live country show on WHAS-TV, which also featured his backup group, the Golden Harvest Boys. Logsdon’s work for Decca was predominantly composed of country songs, but some of them verged on rockabilly. After Decca had dropped him in late 1954, Logsdon’s career took a dive, when the aftermath of a messy divorce drove him to drugs and a six-month stay in hospital. Vic McAlpin, his agent (also a prolific songwriter), got him onto Dot Records where he cut four songs in September 1955, the best being the bluesy « Cold Cold Rain »(Dot # 1274). He then went to Starday for one release : »I Can’t Make Up My Mind » is a rockabilly in essence, because the hiccups of Logsdon and the prominent steel (# 286, released March 1957).

Thus he was then ready for the next skip: his friend in Nashville, Vic McAlpin, called and said he had a possible recording deal for Jimmie with Roulette Records. By this time Rockabilly was coming into full swing and hardly any label wanted a country singer on their roster. Jimmie had gotten an idea for a song called “Where The Rio De Rosa Flows” when he was in San Antonio during the war. In August 1957 he recorded this rockabilly song for Roulette ( # 7001 in the short-lived Roulette C&W serie) and it was a big hit in several markets including Memphis where Carl Perkins heard it and covered it on a Columbia album («  Whole Lotta Shakin’ », Columbia 1234) shortly after Jimmie’s version was released.

Jimmie and Vic McAlpin also wrote “I’ve Got a Rocket in My Pocket.” To some, this might seem like a dirty song, but Jimmie insists that it was just a nonsense thing. It is still a standard and was used in the sound track of the movie, “the Right Stuff.” The reason Vic McAlpin and Jimmie decided to use the pseudonym “Jimmie Lloyd” when recording for Roulette Records was that Jimmie knew that country fans are loyal and maybe would not forgive him for singing rock and roll if they knew it was really him singing. Hardly any of his country fans knew that Jimmie Lloyd was in reality, Jimmie Logsdon.
He was released from his Roulette contract after the 2nd record and he realized that at this age, he might be a little old to be rocking and rolling.

Sources : my own archives ; HBR for Selective ; 45worlds for Tommy Sargent, Ray Whitley and Tommy Magness label scans.

Cashbox, sept. 14, 1957

Please see the follow-up to this story in: Jimmie Logsdon, the later years (1962-1982)