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.
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. Sold recently (2016) for $ 103.
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.
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
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)
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.
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. Sources: various and Internet thing!
Born in Bolt, W. Va, Jimmy Dickens began his musical career in the late ’30s, performing on WJLS radio station in Beckley, W.a. While attending West Va. University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and traveled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name « Jimmy the Kid ».
In 1948 Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan, by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherley at Columbia Records and officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time, he began using his nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature (4 “11, 150 cm).
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including « Country boy », « A-sleeping at the foot of the bed » and « I’m little but I’m loud ». One day, after having told Jimmy he needed a hit, Hank Williams wrote « Hey, good lookin’ » in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl and her husband. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens « That song’s too good for you ! »
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carlile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, AZ television station while on tour with the Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957 he left the Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
Dickens was active in music until nearly his death on January 2nd, 2015.
Good solid early ’50s Honky tonk music as shown in the several examples below :
« F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me » (Columbia 20692), a nice honky-tonker, was cut in February 1950, and covered the same year by Charlie ‘Peanut’ Faircloth [see a previous fortnight’s favorites section for the latter’s version). It has definitely the crisp guitar sound of Grady Martin.
« Rock me » (Columbia 21206), also known as « She sure can rock me », was an old Willie Perryman R&B belter, well adapted here by Dickens, obviously conscious of the « double-entendre » of the lyrics. As intended, piano is prominent instrument.
« Hillbilly fever », cut at the same session as « F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me », was initially a Kenny Roberts song (Coral). Here Dickens is doubled on vocal by his rhythm guitar player. Note the rare label scan of a Japanese issue (« American folk music ») !
David Ray, a top singer and song stylist of Texas/Oklahoma Rockabilly and Honky-tonk, was born Oscar Ray Smith in Duncan, Oklahoma on March 14, 1934. When he was at an early age, his family moved to Roswell, New Mexico. At age 8, he learned to play guitar, and in his youth became friends with Lefty Frizzell, who on many occasions invted David to his recording sessions. In 1950, the family moved back to Duncan, and David formed a country music band. Early employment included a D.J. Program on radio station KRHD, and a live show on Channel 12, KXII-TV. How he got the forname “David” is unknown.
David Ray got his first records on Heart (# 245), a Four Star custom label out of Oklahoma, in 1956. Two fine sincere Hillbilly duets by himself and Johnny Doggett, « Farewell goodbye » and « Maybe I should have cheated too » ; then two Rockabillies (Ray Smith solo) « Gone baby gone » and « Swinging boogie », both fine rockers (# 250). Many thanks to John Burton (53jaybop) for posting these songs on Youtube.
In 1957 he signed a recording contract as David Ray with Gainesville, Texas recording executive Joe M. Leonard, Jr. His early recordings of « Jitterbugging baby » and « Lonesome baby blues » (Kliff 101 and 105) were instant successes on the Kliff Records label. Not only did Ray’s first records releases sell well in the United States, but they attained immense success in Europe when reissued by Ronnie Weiser on his Rollin’ Rock label. Personal for these sessions were Johnny Baggett or Joe Dean Evans on guitar and Paul Jorgenson on bass, including a wild piano player.
David Ray “Lonesome baby blues” (original version)
Other songs were « Lonesome feeling » and the less fast, almost poppish « I’m a fool », while « All the time », « Why can’t you and I », « No, oh no », all ballads, « Too fast, too wild » and the original gutsy, less fast « Lonesome baby blues » were withheld until their release on Collectables. David Ray “Lonesome feeling”
Since David Ray’s voice has remained strong and vibrant over the years, Leonard productions decided to record him on some new Texas songs. In August 1993 a session was held in Tyler, Texas. The songs were « Long cold winter », « You make my day », « Ways of a woman » and « Package deal ». The musicians were Ronnie Redd (keyboards), Jim Holley (bass), Greg Hough (drums), Bobby Garrett (steel guitar), Donny McDuff and Jerry Tiner (electric guitars), Ken Shepherd harmonica and rhythm guitar) as well as Lonnie Wright (producer, engineer and rhythm guitar). Back-up vocalist : David’s ex-wife, Lavinia Smith.
He had a string of releases, probably cut in Detroit, MI, or Chicago, on the London and Mercury labels between 1949 and 1951, and disappeared after this year. He was billed as a yodeler, and eventually yodeled a lot throughout his records, « Yodelin’ way up there » or « Yodelin’ polka ». He was backed by a regional outfit, Hal Fuller’s Tennessee Ho-Downers, usual guitar, bass, fiddle, and steel. Billboard cited him as a promising artist between April and October 1951, although there were no hits. He used to sing old favorites, as Jimmie Rodgers ‘s « Mule skinner blues », Roy Acuff’s « Freight train blues », a fine hillbilly shuffler, “Rambling” or old-timey songs like « St. James infirmary ». His voice is always smooth, a lead guitar is well to the fore, but the whole thing is certainly not hillbilly boogie, although nice yodeling songs. Indeed his style is similar to that of Kenny Roberts.
Any help to document this artist would be welcome!
As usual, Ronald Keppner’s help was indispensable. Thanks Ronald. Also Peter Mohr of Switzerland for the disco and support.
“Freight train blues”