Bopping in Philly: the Gordon Jennings sound (1954-1959)

Very little is known about GORDON JENNINGS. He seems to have spent some time in Philly as well as West VA. , Tennessee and Missouri. He was for sure D.J. for certain stations in Saint-Louis, MO (KMOX and WEW), and Bluefield, W.Va. (WHIS and WKOY). He made between 1954 and 59 four records in a Hillbilly style and all four are very good boppers.

West Va. bordering Ky, Tn. and Pa.

Bluefield, Mercer Cty, bottom of the State of W. Va.

 

 

 

What follows is what « Johnn Maddy », seemingly from Arkansas, wrote about Jenning’s « I saw you cheatin’ last night » (Skyrocket) in his YouTube chain :(additions in [] by bopping’s editor)

« A tune Gordon co-wrote with two other artists, and released on a Skyrocket single in 1959. He was born on Oct. 21st 1916 and came to a very serious Bluegrass group called The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers back around 1938-39. Together they really became popular on W.H.I.S Radio in Bluefield West Virginia [but they never recorded on discs at this time]. Jennings had several Radio shows out of St Louis as well, when is unknown, but we did find another single Gordon done in 1958 for another label in Philly called ”Arcade”, but that is the extent of what we learned of Gordon Jennings and his singing career, friends, but still looking for more. Enjoy it Folks, I’ve heard this one done by several artists [Rex Zario on Arcade 202 – other versions by Skeets Yaney and Marty Collins have different credits], but now hearing Gordon the lead composer do it, a good one it is.!!! »

His first record was done in Kingsport, Tennessee for the famous, although quite scarce now, tiny Kingsport label, primarily devoted to Bluegrass (Jimmy Gregg), with some advances towards Hillbilly bop (Reece Shipley, L. C. Smith). It’s the last record of the label, cut around 1954 (#112), and it combines a great bopper    « Quit teasin’ me » (uptempo – a bluesy guitar led and a boogie piano – and a nice vocal) and « The telephone girl » (unheard, Allan Turner collection). How Jennings came to this Tennessee label is unknown: one can speculate a leasing of masters by Kingsport label due to radio relations. Anyone has got an idea ?

Quit teasin’ me

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Billboard 15 May 1954

Billboard December 17, 1955

His second offering was cut in Pittsburg for the tiny Alba label (# 400), and coupled two good sides again, backed by a « String quartet » : the mid-paced « Drivin’ home » and the faster «Three day pass ».

Three day pass

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Drivin’ home

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Well-assured vocal fronting a solid backing. The Alan Schafer named in the credits could have been the label’s owner as well as co-writer of the songs. The short Billboard snippet is learning that the disc was going strong in the Pittsburg area.

We jump to 1958 for a third Jennings issue on the famous Philly label Arcade. « Is it yes or is it no » (# 146) is a fine bopper, and has, for the first time in a Gordon Jennings record, a steel guitar, while the lead plays on the bass chords for good effect. The flip side « I wonder if you miss me too » is unheard (Allan Turner collection = unavailable).

Billboard June 9, 1958

Is it yes or is it no

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Next and final record is to be found again in Philadelphia on the new up-and-coming Skyrocket label, in 1959 [other good records are Rex Zario’s « Go man go, get gone »(# 1001) and Ray Coleman’s « Toodle-oo mambo » (# 1002)]. First side of the Jennings’ disc bears a very good version of Hank Williams’ « My sweet love ain’t around » (Skyrocket 1003), and the flipside is an original, written by Jennings, aided by Tex Zario (himself being an artist and owner of the label) and the unknown to me Lucky Taylor. The song « I saw you cheatin’ last night » is a nice country-rocker (insistant drums) backed by a good embroidering steel guitar, the lead guitar is fine too over a wave of fiddle.

Billboard December 8, 1958

My sweet love ain’t around

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I saw you cheatin’ last night”

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So popular must this song have been that in 1968 on Arcade 202 it was revived by Rex Zario (it’s unclear if Rex and Tex are the same person) in a more rocking style: drums are louder, the steel is more discreet (a short solo), the vocal is a bit smooth.
Rex Zario, “I saw you cheatin’ last night

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In any case, Gordon Jennings had disappeared from the music world since 1959, at least in terms of known recordings.

Sources : YouTube (Johnn Maddy, CheesebrewWax Archives) ; Hillbilly Researcher (Alba) ; 78rpm-worlds (Kingsport) ; 45rpm-cat (Arcade and Skyrocket) ; my own record (Rex Zario) ; Hillbilly-music.com for radio stations and Gordon Jenning’s picture; Billboard archives for personal data.

BILL MORGAN a.k.a. BILL CARROLL: Feel so good

a.

No image available of the boys neither of Bill Morgan at the moment. Maybe someone has one picture? Pease help!

This Bill Morgan has nothing to do with the Columbia songwriter and artist (1954-55), brother to George Morgan.

By the mid-1955, Texans Bill [Morgan, rhythm guitar] and Carroll [Hunt, lead guitar] came from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles’ (La.) Goldband recording studio and cut their first sides. They were issued on Goldband 1034 early 1956, comprised of two Hillbilly boppers tunes : « Love me just a little bit » has harmony vocals in the bridge, the rest goldband-1034a-bill-carroll-love-me-just-a-little-bitgoldband-1034b-bill-carroll-my-blue-letter

Love me just a little bit

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My blue letter

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being sung by Bill Morgan ; fine backing of fiddle and steel by the Netche Valley Boys; « My blue letter » is faster and equally good. The boys try with brio to sing harmony all along the track. Again great aggressive fiddle, as on « Honest to goodness baby » (Goldband 1053) issued 1957. The B-side « Love grown cold » is a slowie ; the vocals are plaintive but the spirit (a piano is added) of the other sides remain intact.

goldband-1053a-bill-carroll-honest-togoodness-babygoldband-1053b-bill-carroll-love-grown-cold

Honest to goodness baby

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Love grown cold”

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Departing from Goldband Bill & Carroll left behind them 5 unissued songs only published in France and U.K. during the late ’80s. A first version of the future Dixie classic “Feel so good“, a perfect example of Hillbilly bop heading towards Rockabilly (great guitar and fiddle backing).The medium paced « Shadow on my heart » is reminiscent of « Love grown cold », but a little faster. Enters even an accordion player. Some mambo rhythm for « Boo hoo », then « Hold me baby » is a fast number, quasi-rockabilly (at least for the guitar playing), a bit Everly-ish. The last tune, « Bluff city rock » is pure rock’n’roll, with heavy drums and tickling piano, and again that fine guitar.

Feel so good“(1956 version)

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Shadow on my heart

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Boo hoo

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Hold me baby

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Bluff city rock

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Next step was on Madison, TN, Dixie label. Both of the guys were reunited under the name « BILL CARROLL » for a second version of their previous « Feel so good » (Dixie 2010) – a sharp lead guitar, and a firm vocal. This is the best ever of their product – value $ 300-400, and one would hear their B-side « In my heart » , not available since its November 1958 issue.

dixie-2010-bill-varroll-feel-so-good

Feel so good

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d-1092-bill-morgan-your-wicked-love

courtesy Udo Frank

From then on, it seems that both of them went separate ways, as further recordings are all assigned to « BILL MORGAN ». First in 1959 (reviewed by Billboard in August) on Pappy Daily’s « D » label (# 1092) . « Your wicked love » is a fast bopper: clear voice, nice backing of piano and an ordinary guitar, probably not by Carroll Hunt. Things are slower for the flipside « At home with mom », full of echo. Next step is on the Dart label (a sublabel to « D ») for « Red hot rhythm combo » (# 137) in 1960 : a good jumping little rocker. The guitar riff is fine and insistant, and Morgan is in good voice.

Your wicked love

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Red hot rhythm combodart-137-bill-morgan-red-hot-rhythm-combo

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The man moved again to Texas, and had a good amount of recordings until 1972, when his trail goes cold. On Delta Records, he had late 1962 # 501 « I need your love » picked up by Chess and reissued on # 1841, a good little rocker. Then on Delta 504 in 1963, « She gave me lovin’ », once more a fine rocker. Then on Gem (1964-65) a similar instrumentation for the energetic « Tennessee moon » (# 5) or the lovely (female chorus) « Land of the midnight sun » (# 7)(not posted here). I did not hear further recordings on New World, Stoneway and Myra, so cannot comment neither podcast them.

chess-1841-bill-morgan-i-need-your-lovedelta-504-bill-morgan-she-gave-me-lovin

gem-5-bill-morgan-tennessee-moon

I need your love

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She gave me lovin'”

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Tennessee moon

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Another Bill Morgan appeared on Rebel 249 (VA.), who had nothing apparently to do with this artist. Indefatigable visitor (and corrector) DunkenHobo points out a different version of “I need your love”(Chess) by a BOBBIE MORGAN on (Tx) Blackbird 505. It is aurally not an alternate of the Chess issue; a seemingly female vocal; no speeded up tempo I’d assume; and this time a good piano. Producer Bill Morgan, says DrunkenHobo. So maybe Bobbie was his wife? Here it is for what it’s worth:blackbird-505-bobbie-morgan-i-need-your-love

Sources: 45rpm.com site; notes to Goldband LP 107 “Bop stop rock”; notes to BF 16408 “D & Dart”; YouTube.(53jaybop chain for the Goldband 1034 label scans)

Cajun Hillbilly Bop (in French..): PAL THIBODEAUX and LITTLE PAL HARDY – “PORT ARTHUR BOOGIE”

Cajun Hillbilly Bop (in French..): PAL THIBODEAUX and LITTLE PAL HARDY – “PORT ARTHUR BOOGIE”

Nothing or nearly has surfaced on the precise whereabouts of PAL THIBODEAUX (his actual Cajun name). Here are the details I could glean from his records, or from 45rpm-cat or even from Bill Nettles’ story as it appears on the CD   « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys : « Shake it and take it » – Cattle CCD248) and « Bill Nettles – « Hadacol boogie » – on Jasmine 3548 » . I even didn’t succeed obtaining a picture of Pal Thibodeaux, also known as LITTLE PAL HARDY (on Imperial 8282).

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VANCE MORRIS & the Alabama Playboys: “Crazy ’bout the boogie”

VANCE MORRIS & the Alabama Playboys: “Crazy ’bout the boogie”

Vance Morris and the Alabama Playboys monopolized Nashboro’s early hillbilly releases with accomplished, zestful tunes like “Crazy ’bout the boogie” and “Slap-happy pappy“. That Morris, born in 1919, grew up near Oklahoma City probably accounts for the heavy Western swing influence in the band’s repertoire. “I idolized this kind of music“, said Morris to Martin Hawkins. After 1942 he had a band which at one time had no less than 13 pieces in the Play Boys. They fielded offers from King and Mercury. vance morris & AlabamaPlayboys

He went to Mississipi in 1934, then on to Huntsville, Alabama. A local promoter, Robert ‘Big Deal’ Vann, got him on Nashboro. There were two sessions, no royalties, and only a little airplay. Vance sang and played guitar and bass; Hank “Dub” Williams played bass, rhythm guitar and sang. “Lefty” Haggard also sang on one side; Ronald Glenn played lead guitar. Malcolm “Buck” Buffalo and Cliff Luna played the fiddle.

After the Nashboro disks, the band members went their separate way. Morris at one time repaired cars, before the split of his band was complete.

from notes by Martin Hawkins for “A shot in the dark” boxset. Thanks to Ronald Keppner and his invaluable help (mp3 and label scans)

Notes from Bopping editor :

« Crazy ’bout the boogie » (# 1005) is by far the best of the 6 sides cut for Nashboro. An heavy boogie guitar (solo), the piano takes a boogie solo, and steel is driving throughout the tune.

nashboro 1005B vance morris - crazy 'bout the boogie

nashboro 1005A vance morris - rainy weather

Crazy ’bout the boogie

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Rainy weather

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The flipside, « Rainy weather » is quieter, and a bit sentimental, with a voice reminiscent of that of Tex Williams.

Nashboro 1006 is pairing two lovely uptempos. « Some of these days » is an agreeable shuffler, while the instrumental « Boot hill drag » has the steel to the fore. A mostly danceable track.

 

Some of these days

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Boot hill drag

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nashboro 1006- vance morris - some of these daysnashboro 1006-B vance morris - boot hill drag

Nashboro 1009 combines again a vocal and an instrumental. « I’ll get by don’t you cry » is a shuffler, a bit sentimental, while « Slap-happy pappy » is a real showcase of the whole band. Each of the instruments (bass, piano, guitar) takes its solo, all propelled by a fine steel throughout. Add the vocal yells, and you’ve got a really fine fast Hillbilly boogie.

 

nashboro 1009-A vance morris - I'll get by don't you crynashboro 1009-B vance morris - sjep-happy pappy

 

I’ll get by don’t you cry

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Slap-happy pappy

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Rem Wall & the Green Valley Boys: Michigan’s Country-rock (1950-1962)

Not many things are known about Rem Wall. He was born 1918 in Frankfort, Illinois and he died 1994.

He started at an early age entertaining during the ’30s at different local radio stations and, after being graduated in 1939, decided to settle in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He performed on radios WGFG, later WKZO, where he had even a TV show, « the Green Valley Jamboree » which lasted for 36 years, himself being signed to WKZO for even 44 years.

He then recorded for a lot of companies : Wrightman in 1951 (as Rembert Wall), then Bakersfield (1957), Glenn (1960-62), Wolverine and Columbia. He even had an issue in Great Britain. His music, although hillbilly at the beginning, became more and more softer by the years ’60s. His best songs are : « Heartsick and blue », « Waiting » (lot of echo for this good ballad), « One of these days » (banjo led folkish tune) , « Time alone » from 1962 (a fine shuffler) or « Carried away ».

In 1958 he was chosen by the U.S. Government to represent Country music in Germany and then he toured a lot there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He seems to have remained a regional hitmaker, having given up his career after his wife’s death during the ’60s. His son Rendal carries on the family tradition as a guitar player.

 

Sources: various. Wrightman sides and label scan do come from Hillbilly Researcher. Glenn label scans from “45rpm” blogsite. Picture from hillbilly-music site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girl on the matchbox cover“[1950]download

Heartsick and bluedownload

Waitingdownload

I’m losing my tears over youdownload

One of these daysdownload

Carried awaydownload

Time alone“[1962]download

 

 

 

You can read a lot more on RemWall by clicking this link: http://www.visioncouncil.org/bobrowe/rem_wall.htm

Louisiana Lannis, rockabilly (“Tongue twister boogie”)

Lannis Trahan, born in 1923, hailed from Louisiana, hence his artist name « Louisiana Lannis », and was also a songwriter: he wrote his 6 sides. He had three singles in 1956 before disappearing. The one on Starday is pure hillbilly rock : « Muscadine eyes » is a fast ditty opus, with a furious fiddle, apparently cut at Goldstar in Houston, Texas while its flipside « Much too much » (Starday 268, actually A-side) has more than a Latin appeal with its hopping rhythm. “Muscadine eyes” is not a common track, only being revived moons ago on the U.K. Ace album “Stars of Texas honky tonk” # 703 (1987)

starday 268 muscadine

Muscadine eyesdownload

Much too muchdownload

starday 268 much

 

 

 

 

Lannis will however be best remembered today for his second offering, this time on Snowcap 1215/1216 : « Tongue twister boogie » has a great wild steel guitar and is a really fast rockabilly rocker, not dissimilar to Jimmy Lee & Wayne Walker « Love me ». A demented piano player comes for a short solo. « Walking out » is no less good, and just a little less furious. Both sides prefixed « GS » surely were cut at Goldstar. As fiddle is the main instrument on the 4 previous sides, one can wonder if it’s Lannis playing ? The Snowcap issue fetches $ 700-800, and is only currently available on collectors’ reissues.

Tongue twister boogiedownload

Walking outdownload

snowcap 1125 tongue

snowcap 1126 walking

 

 

 

 

BB 16-2-56

Billboard Feb. 16, 1956, “a good country novelty”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas « Fido/Doomed to love » (Snowcap 101) are, according to Pascal Perrault, pop songs to escape (weepers), and of no interest at all. Strange that a man capable of such songs as « Tongue twister boogie » could do pop songs in the same period. Trahan, whose name is common among Cajun area (see Cornelius “Pee Wee Trahan“, who made a career also as Jericho Jones and Johnny Rebel), died in February 1983 (age 59, cause of death unknown), and was buried in the Marine’s veteran branch of the Houston National Cemetery. The Trahans had came from France, maybe Burgundy during the XVI° or XVII° century.
snowcap 101A fido
snowcap 101B doomedSources: various and Internet thing!