Greenville, S. Carolina, 1961: the KALL Record Company

Kall Record CompanyGreenville, South Carolina .

The little known Kall Records are pretty much a forgotten label owned I believe by Alan Riddle . They were producing some good Country/Honkytonk/Gospel records from 1960 onwards but only ten releases are known and there are some gaps within the run that I hope to fill within the coming months.

There seems to be a connection with local label ‘Plaid’ (also Greenville, SC) owned by Charles Rush , who were also releasing some decent country/Rockabilly around the same period and area , the connection being Alan Riddle who saw releases on both labels and I believe was also a co-owner of the publishing company ‘Duride’  along with record producer Don Dudley, hence the ‘DU’ and ‘RIDE’ from Riddle ?.

The Kall label is pretty recognisable with the bold blue lettering ‘KALL’ across the top with the small boy wearing a baseball cap shouting ! (this later changed to a smaller label design with psychadelic Orange/Yellow colouring )

The label numbers changed a few times but I am pretty sure ALAN RIDDLE was the first with his release in 1961 ‘It Takes You’ B/w ‘I Love No One But You’ # 0041. Before this release, Riddle had his song ‘The Moon Is Crying’ released in America on ‘Plaid’ # 1001 in 1960 and also on ‘Fling’ #219 in 1961 and then in Canada on the ‘Zirkon’ label # 1010 . Both ‘The Moon Is Crying’ and this Kall release were both produced by Don Dudley.

“It takes you”

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“I love no one but you”

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This 45 was straight country/Honkytonk up tempo shuffle and the A side moves along at a decent pace.  The flip is a more basic slow number with girl backing vocals but has some nice guitar work during the solo.

The second release # 0042/246 by WALLACE HOOPER and the Dixie Ramblers . Again published by ‘Duride’ and is a pretty darn good Country tune.  ‘In The Middle’ B/w ‘Third Stool Down’. Both songs were written with the help of top Nashville writer Jesse Evatt . The A side is a slow number but shows some decent guitar and the flip is your typical mid tempo bar room drinking song which has some lovely steel and fiddle. I have no info on who were the Dixie Ramblers !

In the middle

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Third stool down

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CHARLIE and FRANKThe Country Lads” were next to see a release with Kall # 0043 . Again ‘Duride’ were the publishers of both songs and again both produced by Don Dudley. Both songs were recorded at the legendary Mark V Studios in Greenville. SC .

The A side ‘Just For Today’ is sung by Charlie Driggers ( Left) with Frank Adcox (right) on Rhythm Guitar, Bill Huffman on the upright Bass and Otis Forrest on Piano. A nice country tune sung and played well. The flip ‘Never Do Him Wrong’ a dual harmony tune with Charlie on lead vocal and Frank on tenor vocal, some lovely steel with superb vocals makes this a pretty good release. Charlie and Frank were joined by JR. Cisson on Steel and again Bill Huffman on bass but who played the drums is unknown.

 

Just for today

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Never do him wrong

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Charlie Driggers passed away in 1996. Frank Adcox is still alive and strummin’ and the grand old age of 82. Below is a photo of Frank Adcox holding the 45 I found for him as a gift as he had no copy himself and another photo of him playing his old guitar.

Next saw Kall dip their toes into the Bluegrass/Gospel field with a release by ‘ FAMILY TRIO with JOYCE HAWKS’ . This saw a 1st time pressing by ‘Sheldon’ for the label . ‘He Rescued Me’ B/w ‘ When I Found Jesus’ are pretty good bluegrass gospel tunes that would have been sold locally and were very popular in this area of the States.

When I Found Jesus’ is the better of the two sides and really starts with some great mandolin and has a change in tempo throughout along with some super harmonies .

 

 

He rescued me

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When I found Jesus

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MAX HEDRICK was next with the first of his two releases on the label.  Kall # 497 ‘Welcome Sign Upon My Heart’ B/w ‘Lonely Nights’.  The A side was published by ‘Delrush’, most probably Alan Riddles new partner Alan Rush (owner of the previously mentioned ‘Plaid’ Records) . Both labels promote the ‘Riddle/Rush’ promotion and again this was a ‘Sheldon’ pressing.

Welcome sign upon my heart

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Lonely nights

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Both sides have stickers across the artists name as above it is incorrectly spelt ‘Hendrick’ . The A side is a terrific little Honky Tonk number, with great vocals by Max and some great steel all the way through. The flip, ‘Lonely Nights’, is slightly slower in tempo and is a typical sad country song but again sung well by Hedrick and again an unknown player lays down some great steel guitar.

Kall turned next to the fantastic ‘JIM SOUTHERN’ with the next release in 1961 on Kall # 499. A blistering country bopper that is right out of the top drawer. ‘Talking To The Angels’ written by ‘Plaid’ recording artist Gene Smith, ’Derush’ were again the publishers and is pure magic, sweet steel and Jim has some nice echo on his vocal and the flip ‘Darling, Where Is The Moonlight’ published by ‘Southern, another  great tune and this moves along nicely with some sweet harmonies . The pressing plant for this 45 was again ‘Sheldon’.

Talking to the angels

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Darling, where is the moonlight

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Just one phone call

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Foolish pride

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Kall # 500 is next with some country by ‘BRENDA & ERNIE‘ , you get all the usual pedal steel and lashings of great harmonies . The A side ‘Just One Phone Call’ has Brenda taking lead and the B side ‘Foolish Pride’ has Ernie on lead. Both are real nice country tunes played with care and love. And again this record was pressed by ‘Sheldon’.

On a side note these two songs were written by ‘B. Hedrick & E. Hedrick’ (maybe a relation to Max Hedrick ? ) who had two releases on Kall.

MAX HEDRICK was next with his second and final release (as far as I know) with Kall # 501. Both songs written by ’Hedrick and Brown’. Released in 1961 this is a fantastic record and one of the best from the label. This again is a ‘Sheldon’ pressing . The A side ‘Actions’ is nothing spectacular and is just a slow country weepie and was apparently aired on ‘The Grand Ole Opry’ but the flip ‘Black Widow Heart’ a song about a girl who only wants to break his heart, this is a mighty fine tune and Max handles the vocals with ease and the whole thing shuffles along just right with some lovely steel and brush work on the snare drum.

Actions

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Black widow heart

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Max was married to Norma Hedrick around this period and I do not know of any other releases by Max which is a shame as he had a decent voice.

The final two releases that I know of have the change in label colour and the Kall logo is smaller . The address has changed to PO Box 374, Travellers Rest, SC. This town is situated just north of Greenville.

Kall # 805 signifies a change in address and numbering system but strangely back to being published by ‘Duride’ (Dudley/Riddle). LESTER ELLER hits us with ‘The Fox Chase’ B/w ‘Chicken Reel’. I am yet to hear either but I imagine these are again country tunes from probably 1962 .

TOMMY HOOPER and The Nashville South are next with Kall # 6780 ?. The A side ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ B/w ‘Sunshine Girl’ are again unknown to me but I do know that Tommy and the group also saw releases on ‘Mowhawk’ and ‘Jed’ labels in the mid 70’s. I don’t think he was connected to or a relation to Wallace Hooper who had a release on Kall # 0042 but I cannot be sure.

If anybody has any further information on further releases or artists connected with the Kall label then please let me know.

 

Well done, Mick! Thank you.

“TOPPA Tops ‘Em All” – the rise of a small California output (1958-60)

Covina, Ca. home to Toppa

Toppa was founded in Covina, Ca. by ex-country singer and top DJ (KXLA) Jack Morris. He had had releases on Starday (Custom serie, in January 1955), Sage and Pep and came up with this new label late in 1958. The label lasted way up during the ’70s, and found frequent modest success, although only regionally. Toppa’s best sides have been reissued recently in a 3-CD bootleg Internet boxset (« Toppa’s country » vol. 1, 2 and 3 ) to be found on “UncleGil’s rockin’ archives” blog.: http://adf.ly/1hinq0

I will focus on the first 31 issues (1958-1960).

BROCK WILLIAMS offers « What am I » (# 1001), a nice little rocker, with a little echo, over a good guitar and an assured vocal. The flipside, « Touch of perfection » is a perfect mid-paced bluesy ballad. Wally Black on # 1002 remains untraced (« She’s comin’ home »).

What am I

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Touch of perfection

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We jump to # 1003 by ERNIE MATHIS : very nice fast, piano-led « Lonesome wheels » and the more slowish « So am I ». Later on he was on Fable. That was the last Toppa issue reviewed by Billboard in 1958.

Lonesome wheels

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So am I

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“What’s it to you

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« What’s it to you » issued on # 1004 by WALLY BLACK is a very good part-styled Cash opus, because of the insistent guitar bass chords motif. Black had previously cut some pop rockers on the Fable label (« Rock and roll mama »).

CATHIE TAYLOR on # 1006 « Two straws and a soda », a poppish teen ballad, merits oblivion.

GEORGE HEFFINGTON, # 1007, and the fast, fine « Ghost of love ». Again a very good guitar throughout. Flipside “Ghost of love”

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« Crazy love » is equally good, although less fast. He much later recorded on the Accent label (ca. 1964-65) « Honky tonk merry-go-round (unheard).

“Crazy love”


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LINA LYNN delivers a R&R instumental, « Lina’s doll » (# 1008) where she’s backed by the Storms, a band that appeared also on the Sundown label, and whose general sound is not dissimilar to Eddie Cochran‘s Kelly Four. # 1009 is by WALLY BLACK, « Gee I hate to go », a light rocker with pop overtones. Its flipside, « I ain’t gonna cry no more » has the same Kelly Four savour. Actually it’s even written by Kelly 4 member : saxophonist Mike Deasy.

I ain’t gonna cry no more

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Next offering is a double sider by REX BINGHAM. He goes a bit poppish with male chorus, but has the strong help of Ralph Mooney on steel (two solos) for « Just like before » and « The fire is burning low » (# 1011). He had a « Blind blind heart » in 1959 on Rex 100, which was reissued on Toppa 1028. Was it a sublabel ? « Linda » (# 1012) by LUTHER WAYNE is a fast poppish ditty, quite listenable although.

Two ballads, « Help me forget him/Another woman’s man » (# 1013) by JANET McBRIDE are lovely again with strong help from steel guitar player Ralph Mooney. Later on she cut at Sims and duetted with Billy Barton. WALLY BLACK returns with the fast « I’m a country boy » (# 1014).

Billboard April 24, 1960

I’m a country boy

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I’d appreciate very much the double offering at # 1015 by JOHNNY LEON, «You found someone new/Sometimes it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning »[what a true assertion]

 

 

 

good backing (bass and drums) over prominent fiddle and steel. It’s one of the highlights of the serie.

“Sometimes it doesn’t pay”

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And now a comparatively well-known artist, DICK MILLER. He had had already records on M&M, Stanchell and Aggie [see elsewhere his story in this site], as well as around the same time as his Toppa output, on Sundown. His two songs on Toppa are well-sung ballads over the same instrumentation as previous label’s issues, « Make room for the blues/My tears will seal it closed » (# 1016) [the latter was also picked up by Mercury and reissued on # 71658, July 1960.

Make room for the blues

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My tears will seal it closed

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DANNY BURKE next (# 1017) comes with again two nice rockaballads, « Wasting my time/Walking in my sleep ». Then CLYDE PITTS offers an out-and-out rocker, « Shakin’ like a leaf » (# 1018) complete with sax and chorus. # 1019 by BILL BROCK : he delivers a fine ballad with the unusual backing of fiddle and steel paired in « I can’t come home ». Same format for # 1020 and DON RICE : « Fire without a flame » and, at last, the fast « Weather man ».

Weather man

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The veteran TEXAS BILL STRENGTH brings the fast « Watching the world go by » (# 1021). « Too young to love » (# 1023), a bit poppish (although a good piano backing) come to light with DON HOLIMAN. # 1024 by CHARLIE WILLIAMS is a sincere ballad « World’s champion fool », revived on # 1048 by Dick Miller. Jimmy Snyder (# 1025), Polly Tucker (# 1026, also on Pep), The Horton Bros. (# 1027) left invisible tracks. Then there is a gap until # 1029 : JANET McBRIDE returns in the same style as her # 1013 issue with « Sweethearts by night ».

Another well-known name now on # 1030 : JACK TUCKER . Nice Country-rocker with « No city love you’ll find ». And the final offering is # 1031 by LUTHER WAYNE ; « White line » is a good guitar led little rocker [a Jack Morris’ tune on Sage ], while « The blues got me down again » is a passable effort.

No city love you’ll find

Jack Tucker

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All in all, the Toppa label was a County pop one, and the outstanding tracks, according to bopping.org standards, are uncommon. Nevertheless in the regard to the backing, all issues are great. The story did go on, and many good tracks were later cut : Smokey Stover and « On the warpath », more Jack Tucker tunes, Don Rice and « Hideaway heartaches », more Dick Miller (« Back into your past »), Bud Crowder and « Room for one heartache », to name just a few. Fact is the label deserves to be examined, as it contains many good surprises.

Just another word. Toppa had two sublabels early into the ’60s : Toppette and Fedora. I don’t know why several artists of main Toppa artists were assigned to its sublabels, although they had the same style as on Toppa.

 

Sources: Steve Hathaway for some records, Kent Heineman (“Armadillo Killer”) for several more. 45cat.com for more than a label scan. Youtube was also of help. And many, many small facts from my own archives or direct from Internet. And a lot of work to set up this article, but this was a labor of love..

The Khoury’s label: a Cajun concern (1949-1956)

The Beginning

The story of Khoury’s Recordings starts in 1949 with a man named John Harvey “Virgel” Bozman. He was a rustic singer/guitarist and part-time comedian who sometimes billed himself, with tongue-in-cheek, as “The Arkansas Sinatra”.
eddieshuler-pic-1988 ernest-nathen-pic george-khoury-pic khourys-shop-pic oklahoma-tornadoes-pic shuler-khoury-phil-philips-pic virgel-bozman-picvirgel-bozman-picgeorge-khoury-pic virgel-bozman-picHe and his brother, Harmon Bozman, were auto mechanics and had apparently been a staple on the San Antonio country and western music scene for some time. By the end of 1945, he was in Houston recording for Bill Quinn.  While stationed at a San Antonio military base near the end of WWII, Cajun fiddler Floyd Leblanc befriended Bozman. Together, they had joined Bennie Hess’ Oklahoma Tornados country hillbilly band as a guitar player but Virgil also dabbled in his own material as well.  In mid 1947, Floyd had helped Iry Lejeune record a two tunes with the band on Hess’ label “Opera” and they had him touring with the group for quite some time in 1948. Cajun music was well on it’s way back and while selling cow horns in Lake Charles, Virgil ended up moving from Texas to Louisiana in order to record it.oklahoma-tornadoes-pic

The O.T. Years

Then came George Khoury, a Turkish-American businessman from Lake Charles and record store owner.  In 1947, as an owner of a record shop, he noticed a lack of Cajun music being recorded in south Louisiana and decided to open a business to compete with Ed Shuler’s Goldband Records and J. D. “Jay” Miller’s Fais-Do-Do and Feature labels. His base of operations was just around the corner from Ed’s on Railroad Ave in Lake Charles.

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Khoury never had his own studio, however; he would rent out other studios and press the records in other places.  He had his record shop in Lake Charles and many agree he helped Virgil finance his new record label “O.T. Recordings”, named after Hess’ band.  Together, Virgil would try to find new talent for producing records and Khoury would sell the records in his shop.   Even his “O.T.” logo resembled a cattle brand.  According to author John Broven:

Khoury was [Virgel’s] sponsor, so to speak, because he didn’t have that much money. He was a good salesman, he had a log of gab because being a cowhorn salesman he had to have a log of gab.2

Virgil kicked off his label with his own recordings, which were a hillbilly tune “Tell Me If You Love Me” and a Cajun tune “The Cameron Waltz” (#101), but he knew he needed other groups. It would be Eddie that would help Bozman get his first major outside recording artist.  Eddie Shuler, a record producer in Lake Charles, had been approached by Cajun accordion player Nathan Abshire to record on his label after seeing the success Iry Lejeune’s recordings.   Nathan had been playing at the Avalon Club when the owner Quincy Davis thought having Nathan record would be good for business.   Eddie Shuler, who worked for the KPLC radio station, was too busy with the promotion of Iry LeJeune and put Nathan’s band in touch with businessman Virgil Bozman.   Also, Vigil had been familiar with Nathan’s music since Floyd had played in Nathan’s band years before. Virgil had noticed how Eddie Shuler produced his records for Goldband.  According to Eddie Shuler:

He kept the pot boiling by selling cowhorns (the famous Longhorns) and it is how he landed in Lake Charles one day. He discovered fast how I managed to get artists recorded by a third person and he decided to follow my steps. He arrived at the station studio, gave a bottle of booze to the sound engineer, asked him to cut an acetate, left with it and got it pressed somewhere else.2

He sold cow horns.  In fact, I still have one of his cow horns over the entrance to my door there that he gave me back at that time. I let him sing on my radio show. Anyway, he went then and teamed up with George Khoury and then he went out and found Nathan Abshire.1

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Pine Grove Blues Success and Aftermath

In May of 1949, Virgil gathered Nathan Abshire with Earl Demary ‘s backup band in the KPLC studio, located inside the Majestic Hotel in Lake Charles, to cut 8 tracks; the first of which was the legendary “Pine Grove Blues” for the O.T. label (#102).   The melody was his version of Amédée Breaux’s “Blues du ‘Tit Chien” recorded for Vocalion Records in 1934.   Nathan’s 1935 recording “One Step de Lacassine” clearly anticipates the melody. There are some similarities with Bob Wills‘ “Milk Cow Blues” recorded in 1946 and even a loose similarity with “In The Pines“, which some have credited as Nathan’s source. His Pine Grove Boys band included Roy Broussard and Ernest Thibodeaux on vocals, Earl Demary or Ernest Thibodeaux on guitar, Atlas Frugé on lap steel, Jim Baker on bass guitar, Oziet Kegley on drums, and either Will Kegley or Wilson Granger on fiddle. The flipside contained a less-than-impressive “Kaplan Waltz” based on Angelas Lejeune’s 1929 recording of “Pointe Noir”.  Since most Cajun 78s usually reached a pressing figure of 500, it was a big hit, pressing around 3,200 copies of the single.  Virgil sold boxfuls of “Pine Grove Blues” from the back of a large hearse.2

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Pine grove blues

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Pine grove boogie

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Earl Demary, Wilson Granger, Elridge Guidry, unk. dms, Nathan Abshire, Ernest Thibodeaux

However, Virgil kicked the label off with a string of tunes containing a discography of Cajun songs such as Nathan’s cover of Leo Soileau’s “Grand Mamou” (#106), “Lake Charles Two Step“(#106), “New Orleans Waltz” (# 110), “Hathaway Waltz”  (# 111), a re-recording of his pre-war “French Blues” (# 110), and an improved swingy version of his first hit called “Pine Grove Boogie” (#111). At one point that year, Virgil and Khoury convinced the hit artist of the area, Harry Choates, to wax a record, trying to capitalize on his fame giving it “Jole Blon’s Gone” (#107) and the obscure “Lake Charles Waltz” (#107). Neither Nathan nor Harry could recreate the success of the Pine Grove Blues O.T. recording.

Other musicians Virgil managed to get were Cleo Harves and Jerry Barlow on his listings. (# 103, # 105). The label would eventually move to San Antonio, run by James Bryant and Bennie Hess (former partners at Bill Qunn’s Gold Star records), however, by the end of 1949, O.T. suddenly dried up.

He released his last 4 recordings he was holding onto, outsourcing the pressings by mailing his masters to Stephen Shaw and George Weitlauf in Cincinatti, OH. The records contained Nathan performing covers of the Breaux tune “Step It Fast” (# 114) and a rendition of Harry Choate’s famous Jole Blon hit called “Jolie Petite Juliette” (# 114).  The other one  labeled as Sandy Austin was the stage name for Abe Manuel when he and his brother Joe played Corpus Christi in 1950. They recorded “Scrambled Eggs” and a Joe Falcon cover called ” Madame Saustain” (# 113).  The O.T. label only produced 14 records that are known to exist.

Step it fast”

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The Khoury/Lyrics Years

Meanwhile, realizing Bozman is out of the Cajun music market and with the help of Eddie Shuler, George Khoury decides to continue Virgil’s recordings by creating two labels simultaneously, Lyric and Khoury’s, in 1950.  The reason for both names is unknown, but he set aside the 600 series for Cajun music and 700 series for hillbilly.  It’s also possible he bought out all of Virgil’s material and signed Nathan Abshire exclusively.

 

 

NOTE: Keeping track of George’s numbering scheme is confusing and leads to plenty of misinformation when creating a complete discography.  His reasoning for jumping around issue numbers, repeating numbers and missing numbers completely can frustrate anyone researching the label.  Over time, he would have two sets of 700 series, using several different logo styles.  Some numbers are issued only with “Lyric” name and some only with “Khoury’s” with a few issued on both.  He followed up with R&B issues using the 800 and 900 series. However, this didn’t prevent him from using the number “1” once, issuing one “500” once on Khoury’s, issuing a “100” on Lyric, and later issuing a “1000” and “5000” both on the Lyric name.   As far as anyone can tell, there were no session sheets that remain to prove any particular session dates.   Most of the discography work is speculation based on historical recordings and personal interviews with musicians. Dates here are approximates at best.

There are a number of batches of records by artists which were probably assigned and then released at intervals.  The location of some of the larger gaps do suggest that the missing numbers could have been deliberately skipped.

 

 

lawrence-walker

Lawrence Walker

The Early 1950s

During the first year in 1950, he recorded Lawrence Walker, Horace Lebleau, Crawford Vincent with Will Kegley, and Jimmie Choates.  Walker was a Cajun accordion player who had a history of playing music with his brother Elton, Norris Mire and Aldus Broussard before the war.  He even hosted a group of musicians at the National Folk Festival for the Texas Centennial in 1936.  By 1950, he was back in the studio interested in recording again, this time with Khoury. Lawrence’s songs such as “Mamou Two Step” (# 601), khoury's 606a lawrence walker - wandering aces special (insy)khoury's 606b lawrence walker - la valse kim fe du malkhoury's 607a lawrence walker - tu le du por la mamkhoury's 607b lawrence walker - ton papa ta mama ma sta da all

“Country Waltz” (# 601), “Wandering Aces Special” which was Joe Falcon’s “A Cowboy Rider” (# 606), “La Valse Kim Fe Du Mal” (# 606), ” Tu Le Du Por La Mam” (#607) which was a Fawvor Brothers original and “Ton Papa Ta Mama Ma Sta Da All” (# 607)  first appeared here.

Wandering aces special“[inst]

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La valse kim fe du mal”

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Tu le du por la mam

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Ton papa ta mama ma sta da all

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All of these recordings appear on Khoury’s early 600 series as Cajun artists.  It’s possible the Texas Melody Boys with Pee Wee Pitre may have been recorded during this period which was given the only # 500 for “Ain’t No More”, a version of “Step It Fast”, and an old Creole melody they called “Old Time Waltz”.  Jimmy Choates band recorded “Lonesome For You” and “Belle Isle Waltz” and the band also appears on the country 700 series as #705.  Crawford Vincent, who played with Leo Soileau for years, teamed up with Will Kegley of the Pine Grove Boys for two tunes “Chere Petite Blun” (# 605) and the J.B. Fuselier classic “Lawtell Two Step” (# 605).  They were listed as Vincent & Kegley.  Horace “Ricky” Lebleu was a hillbilly musician from the Lake Charles area that teamed up with Nookie Martin of Eddie Shuler’s band for two songs “Korea Blues” and “Basile Girl”       (# 603).

Chere petite blun

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Lawtell two-step

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Meanwhile, Virgil was back in San Antonio pressing songs by Cajun musicians he had previously recorded; most of them being Nathan Abshire’s band members. While in San Antonio, Bozman and Hess set up the Hot Rod label with local record man Bob Tanner of T.N.T. records. There, between 1950 and 1952, they recorded a few of Virgil’s artists such as Nathan’s lead singer, Ernest Thibodeaux on “Jennings Two Step” (# 105) and Nathan’s fiddler Wilson Granger on “Bayou Chico Waltz”. He released his last recordings of Nathan himself with “Hathaway Two step” (# 103) and “Chere Te Mon” (# 103).  The recording quality wasn’t particularly impressive and could have been the reason for their unpopularity.   During this timeframe, Bob had also launched his Allied label, releasing several recordings of Harry Choates.hot-rod-1031-chere-te-mon

Chere te mon

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He also pulled in little known Cliff Lemaire and the Kaplan Swingmasters for the song “Cow Island Special“.   Obscure artist Tan Benoit also recorded two songs, “Iowa Two Step” and “Gueydon Waltz”. Outside a few recordings by Virgil himself, the label did not last long.  Virgil’s attempt at the recording business was over.  Bob continued his TNT label well into 1953, pressing records for Eddie Shuler’s band as well as for Aldus Roger and Iry Lejeune.

Cliff Le MaireCow Island special

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Tan BenoitIota two step

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The following year, with Nathan no longer working for Virgil’s label, George contracted him to re-record “Pine Grove Blues” (# 611). It didn’t sell nearly as well as Virgil’s recording two years earlier, but it produced several titles popular with Nathan’s band such as “Belezere Waltz” (“La valse a Belezere“) (# 610) based on the tune “A Precious Jewel” by Roy Acuff and “Choupique Two Step” (#610) based on Amede Ardoin‘s “Amede Two Step“. These were pressed on both the Lyric and Khoury label. Other songs were completed such as, “Valse de Hollybeach” (# 611), “Iota Two Step”  (# 612) and “Valse de Bayou Teche” (# 612), a tune originally recorded by the Segura Brothers in 1929. Nathan’s career with the Pine Grove Boys was taking off.

Choupique two-step

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La waltz a Belezere

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1951 would round off the year with Lawrence Walker again, this time recording “Johnny Can’t Dance” (# 615), the bluesy “Evangeline Waltz” (# 615), “Bosco Stomp”(# 616), “Waltz Of Sorrow” (# 616), “Creole Waltz” (# 617) and an upbeat version of Joe Falcon’s Lafayette as the “Lafayette Two Step” (#617).   It’s around this point when George began to switch labels from black to blue.

By 1952, George’s label is doing well enough for him to attract other obscure local bands. He invites Lawrence Walker back again for “Reno Waltz” (#623) and an old Joe Falcon song “Madam Sostan” (#624) but Lawrence feels the pressure to record some of his English country favorites including “Little Bitty Girl” (# 623) which was a 1946 comical jazz recording by Velma Nelson and “Keep Your Hands Off It” (# 624). Khoury tries his luck with recording two rather unknown groups, one being Shuk Richard with Marie Falcon. Marie was Joe Falcon’s niece and played music in some of the same venues in which Joe had played. She sang her version of “Jole Blon” called “Jole Brun” (#621) and did her Cajun version of “The Wild Side Of Life” (#621)(“Le cote farouche de la vic“). The group cut “Madam Entelle Two Step” (# 622) and “Chere Vere Naig” (# 622) during the same session.  But it would be Elise Deshotel’s group which would feature a rather unknown singer and fiddler known as Dewey Balfa.   Possibly recorded in late 1951 or early 1952, they waxed some of the best known tunes with a young Dewey on vocals such as Leo Soileau‘s “Quand Je Suis Bleu” he called “La Valse de Bon Baurche”, Cleoma Breaux‘s “Crowley Waltz” he called “La Valse de Tepetate”, and “La Valse da Courage” which is very similar to Nathan’s “Bayou Teche”.   The flipsides were instrumentals such as “La Two Step De Villeplatte“, “Two Step De Avalon“, and “Two Step De Kindergarden” (# 618, 619, 620). However, Khoury failed to latch onto marketing the bluesy vocals and powerful fiddle solos which Dewey would make famous ten years later.

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Evangeline waltz

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“Bosco stomp”

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Le cote farouche de la vie

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khoury's 609b elise deshotel (dewey balfa) - la valse da courage

La valse de Bon Baurche

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La valse da courage

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The following year seemed to slow down for Khoury and his recordings.  Jimmy Newman would be George’s brand new artist but his recordings only sold moderately.  Nathan’s group was in turmoil due to band member changes and they were looking for more material to record.  Jimmy recorded his country tune “Darling” which somehow landed on the Cajun 600 series while the 700 hillbilly series seemed to fade away. Nathan recorded “Musical Five Special” (# 631), a cover of Joe Falcon‘s “Fe Fe Ponchaux” and “Avalon Waltz” (# 631) but also recorded some cover tunes, “The New Jole Blon” (# 636) and “Tee Per Coine” (# 636), a version of “Keep A Knocking But You Can’t Come In“. Crawford Vincent, who had played for years with Leo Soileau and other members, headed to the studio with Horace Lebleau and recorded “Tippy Tee Tippy En” (# 640), an old traditional Cajun ballad known as “T’es Petite et T’es Mignonne“.khoury's 636-B tee per coiné

Tee per coiné

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eddie-shuler1988

Eddie Shuler 1988

By 1954, things seemed to remain slow.  His 600 series seemed to employ more country music from Cliff Lemaire and Rick Johnson with one record by Nathan containing “Texas Waltz” (# 645), a slightly different version of his Kaplan Waltz and “”Point De Lou” (# 645), a rendition of “Rabbit Stole The Pumpkin” in which Iry Lejeune had famously made into his “J’ai Ete Au Bal”. Strange enough, he would try to resurrect his Lyric label with Amar Devillier’s “Shoe Pick Waltz” and “Durald Two Step” using number #1 but never continued the series. He kicked off his second 700 series again, this time with Eddie Shuler covering “J’ai Passee Devant” (#700) and re-issuing Floyd Leblanc’s “Louisiana Stomp”(#700), a tune Virgil had recorded previously on O.T.

George reverted back to his original recording artists that he trusted and in 1955, released a string of tunes by Nathan Abshire and at least one by Lawrence Walker such as Nathan’s “Casa Blanca Waltz” and, “Lu khourys-647a-nathan-lu-lu-boogielu Boogie” (# 647), “Shamrock Waltz”  (# 652) and “Carolina Blues” (# 649). The unusual songs, “Boora Roomba” (# 649), Dewey and Nathan’s version of “La Cucaracha”, and “Mama Rosin” (#652), also known as “Ay Mama Inez”, were attempts to cash in on the briefly popular Cuban rhumba influence which entered mainstream country music that year. However, George was now pressing his records using different logos and label styles, some in California.  Lawrence followed up with “Waltz of Regret” (# 648) and the “Brunette Two Step“.One inventory listing by Nathan’s band shows them covering some Happy Fats tunes but it seems to never have been released. The 600 series seemed to be fading away as we

“Lu Lu boogie”

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The Final Years

By the end of 1955, the writing was on the wall.   The influence of rock and roll was taking a toll on Cajun music sales.   R&B and country music was on an up hill swing and Cajun music sales weren’t the same as they were almost 10 years earlier.   He wouldn’t record any Cajun music until about 1956 with Nathan Abshire, both “Crying Pine Grove Blues” (# 701) and “L.S.U. French Waltz” (# 701), and in 1957 Cleveland Crochet with Shorty Leblanc, both on 45RPM and both on his new second 700 series. But by the time Cookie and the Cupcakes released their huge R&B hit “Mathilda”, George wasn’t interested in Cajun music anymore.  He would occasionally issue out a Cajun record to keep sales up.  He released one more Nathan Abshire on 45RPM in 1958 containing “Cannon Ball Special” (# 704) and “Red Rock Waltz” and a 45RPM of Pee Wee Broussard containing Angelas Lejeune’s “Perrodin Two Step” (# 709) and “Jolie Te Brun”.

Between 1956 and 1958, Cajun music recordings across Louisiana were on the decline.   Needing more exposure, Lawrence Walker heard a man named Floyd Soileau was starting up a recording label in Ville Platte.   Having already recorded Austin Pitre and Adam Hebert, the Khoury recording artist was eager to switch over to Floyd’s new Swallow label.   This ended the relationship between George Khoury and Lawrence Walker.   Nathan would eventually follow suit.

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Eddie Shuler, George Khoury, Phil Phillips

The following year, Khoury would land an even bigger R&B hit with Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love” and yet only released two Cajun records that year, Pee Wee Broussard’s “New Iberia Stomp”   (# 720) with “La Valse De Bons Amies” (# 702). The other one being “La Robe Barre” (# 725) and “Elton Two Step” (# 725) by Lawrence “Blackie”Fruge in 1959.

He would only re-release an earlier Cleveland Crochet “Sha Meon Waltz” in 1961 when he restarted his 1000 series as an R&B label which lasted until 1966.   Finally, in 1966, Wilfred Latour recorded “Bye Bye Cherie” and “Te Julie”, a couple of zydeco based tunes, believed to be George’s last French recordings.

  1. http://arhoolie.org/eddie-shuler-goldband-records/
  2. South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous By John Broven. P32.

 

 

 

 

 

Bopping in Houston: Hillbilly on Freedom label (1950-52) = the final sides

 

peck touchton pic« Walk ’em off blues » # 5028 by PECK TOUCHTON can only be described by one word – stunning. Pure Hillbilly vocal and tremendous support from the Sunset Wranglers. Next, TOUCHTON‘s « Walkin’ on top of the world » backed with « Sighing trees on a broken heart » (# 5041):both sides are superb Hillbilly, with again the Hank Williams influence apparent, particularly on the former song [alas untraced]. Of course Touchton is known to have had records on Sarg and Starday (the famous « Let me catch my breath », # 160), but these sides are his earliest and probably his best. Also his story is intended as soon as I get enough information. His Sunset Wranglers also backed Johnny Nelms on Freedom.

 

freedom 5028A peck touchton - lonely world

 

freedom 5028B peck touchton - walk'em off blues   “Walk ’em off bluesdownload

Lonely worlddownload

Walkin’ on top of the worlddownload

 

 

 

 

The next issue (# 5032) is another unknown item and then we have CHARLIE HARRIS telling us about the « No shoes boogie », a number he co-wrote with R.D. Hendon whose the Western Jamboree Cowboys provide the backing. Probably dating from the late Summer of 1951, this disc (# 5033) has Charlie in tremendous voice (and lead guitar) on a quality fast Hillbilly boogie number while the band who also recorded with Eddie Noack or Bill Taylor as vocalists for Shamrock, 4*, Blue Ribbon and Starday show why so many of the musicians who went through this band were to become stalwarts of later Starday sessions. »No shoes boogie » is an excellent example of the hard-rocking, shuffle-beat swing that was common in Texas before rock’n’roll. The band consists of Harris (on hot guitar), Herb Remington (steel), Theron Poteet (piano), Johnny Cooper (rhythm guitar), Tiny Smith (bass) and Don Brewer (drums). The story of the prolific Charlie Harris is scheduled in this site.

No shoes boogie”download    freedom 5033A charlie harris - no shoes boogie

Activity at the label at this time is hard to determine as I can find no information at all about the releases from # 5034 to # 5037. Then our old friend BENNY LEADERS returns for a final fling on the label with two musical throwbacks. Accompanied by the Ranger Trio, « Always remember » is a real Western flavored number while « Give my heart a break » (# 5038) is also Western and set to a waltz tempo and also features Benny’s brother Parker Leaders.

 

The very next issue on the label is a real oddity. The group, LOUIS LAMB and his Melody Boys, are completely unknown to me as is the singer on both sides, one DANNY BRYAN. The titles are « Down hill and shady » and « I will trouble you no more » (# 5039). Hot fiddle reminiscent of Cotton Thompson and an ambitious guitar ensemble riffing add style. Lamb was also present on Melody, perhaps a Pappy Daily’s label of1946. There is a gap of nine No’s with regards of the matrices on the label, but, in the run-off area of the first side there is an ACA number while the flipside has the legend JB2 and that leaves me very perplexed.

Down hill and shady”download

I suspect that the last three issues I know of on the label date from early 1952. And so we come to the last known, to me anyway, release on the label by TEX JONES and his Texas Rangers. « Little darlin’ » # 5042) is a fine Hillbilly bopper with the Texas Trio helping out on vocal while band once again show us how Hillbilly music was evolving in the area and was to become more widely nown throughout the U.S.A., and now further afield, as the ‘Starday sound ‘.

Little darlin’download

A gambler’s last handdownload

 

freedo 5042 tex jones - little darlinfreedom 5042 tex jones - gambler's last hand

 


Just why FREEDOM folded is not known to this writer. Like another independant important company from the same city, MACY’S, it occurred just when the 45rpm record was beginning to exert itself. Admittedly the music scene was changing, and not just with Hillbilly music. We may never be able to find out why but one thing is for sure and that is the fact that Saul Kahal and the acts who recorded for him have left a fine legacy of Western swing and Hillbilly music for collectors to investigate.

 

 

Three features with the precious help of Ronald Keppner and Allan Turner. Help from Krazy Kat CD12 notes (Andrews Brown & Kevin Coffey)

Bopping in Houston, TX: the Freedom Hillbilly serie (1950-52), part 2 – more important artists/records

(Follow-up of the good article by Phillip J. Tricker in a 1992 Hillbilly Researcher issue, with additions by Bopping’s editor). See earlier the first article.

 

For the next release in order of issues we return to a Western swing disc with « Jelly roll blues » (# 5010) by fiddler/vocalist GuyCOTTON” THOMPSON & his Village Boys. The song, a jazz standard, which had been cut Western swing style by Cliff Bruner in 1937, has the steel player definitely Herb Remington. Thompson is best known for making Kokomo Arnold‘s « Milk cow blues » (1934) a western swing standard via his 1941 recording with Johnnie Lee Wills [brother of Bob] on Decca 46012, largely to be recorded later by e.g. Joe Martin on Coral, even in a folkish version by Tom Rush. A well known personality in Houston for a long time he had already recorded for GOLD STAR under his own name   (« How long » #1381) and a vocalist on early Moon Mullican KING releases. Here he is in great form and the Village Boys cook along well.

freedom 5010 cotton thompson - jelly roll blues
decca 46012 johnny lee wills - milk

Jelly roll bluesdownload

Milk cow blues“(1941)download

How long“(Gold Star, 1950)download

 

gold star 1381A cotton thompson - how long

 

cotton thompson  ?? pic

Cotton Thompson ? – center

JACK RHODES RAMBLERS (# 5011) had « Missing persons » and « How can I tell », although untraced do beggar two questions. First, who would the vocalist be : one Fiddling Bob Henderson ? This was not Mr. Rhodes, already a songwriter, bandleader and jack rhodes1 picpromoter, and evidently not a singer. Could it be JIMMY JOHNSON the vocalist, although many others fronted Rhodes’ band? As to « Missing persons », a song with that title appeared on Capitol by FERLIN HUSKEY, and the label credit « Reynolds-Rhodes-Huskey » as songwriters.

Freedom 5013 is untraced. The mysterious TRAILBLAZERS cut « A cowboys silent night » (# 5014), which is delivered ‘acapella’ and has a recitation by CAROL while « Little Moohee » has an acoustic guitar support and GEORGE handles lead vocal. Issued for Christmas 1950, it was cut at ACA studio, a location often used by Freedom, although they also are known to have made recordings at Bill Quinn’s Gold Star setup.

freedom 5015 hub sutter - wantHowever where the next 78 was cut is a real mystery. HUB SUTTER and his Hub Cats were a superb outfit who recorded for LASSO, 4* and Columbus and Hub had a reputation for putting on a very fine act. « I don’t want my baby back » (# 5015) is a magnificent slab of bluesy Western swing, with Hub’s unique vocal style well suited to the song : he was capable of crooning the cooziest ballads or shouting the most whiskey-soaked blues; the backing is excellent with guitar and steel interweaving well.

I don’t want my baby backdownload

Tellin’ my baby bye-byedownload


The matrice numbers have a ‘W’ prefix and this is the only known case at this time. Sutter commenced his career in 1941 with ace guitarist Spud Goodal’s band in Galveston. At the end of WWII he was in Austin with Cecil Hogan’s Swingsters doing his recording debut on the local Hi-Fidelity label, before around 1946 joining Jesse James’ popular band thru 1950 ; so he was singing on some of James’ Blue Bonnet and 4* recordings. He even cut under his name a record on Lasso with « his Galvestonians » [actually Jesse James’ band in disguise]. On Freedom, « I don’t want my baby back » was intended as an answer to Floyd Tillman‘s « I gotta have my baby back », and had an excellent relentless electric mandolin, and quite possibly Herb Remington on steel. His next Freedom release, the rocking « Tellin’ my baby bye-bye » (# 5030) was recorded with R.D. Hendon’s Western Jamboree Cowboys, probably at the same session as Charlie Harris’ « No shoes boogie » (# 5033).

wink lewis pic

Wink Lewis

 

 

Another gap in our knowledge appears at # 5017 and then we have the arrival of one of the most talented Hillbilly singers to come from Texas: JOHNNIE NELMS (born Houston in 1931). His output covers many years and includes a range of labels that extends from Decca to Gold Star, Starday, D and obscure labels like Westry (not in order given). With his Sunset Cowboys, his « If I can’t have you » (# 5018) is pure Texas Hillbilly/Honky tonk music. Great vocal over a superb band with swirling fiddles (Doug Myers), haunting steel (Herb Remington) and brilliant « knocked out rinky dink » piano. The flip side, « The bride to be » has unfortunately an organ backing, but even so Jimmie’s vocal is pure class. Another gap appears at # 5019.

Johnny Nelms (Azalea,Starday)

Johnny Nelms

freedom 5018 johnny nelms- if I ca,'t have you

 

Johnny NelmsIf I can’t have youdownload

 

TOMMY SANDS is the most well-known name to record for Freedom. His # 5022 (« Love pains/Syrup soppin’ blues » is extremely rare. Credited as Little Tommy Sands (The West’s Wonder Boy), it is his debut on record. He was not a Texan, born in 1937 in Chicago ; his family moved to Houston when he was young, and he would have been only 14 when he cut his record. Yet his vocal is assured and insouciant, and both sides are excellent boppers with great backing from an uncredited band, except Herb Remington on steel (the lead guitarist, unfortunately afforded no solo space, remains unidentified).

Tommy SandsSyrup soppin’ bluesdownload

 

The fine uptempo « Somebody’s stealin’ (my baby’s kisses) » (# 5023) by BOB JONES & his Troubadours is a fast Hillbilly bop ditty. One may wonder if this is the same Bob Jones who appeared later on Starday (# 148 and 210) and more later on, on Dixie # 1070 (April 1964)(I want’ cha baby), valued at $ 50-60. Sorry, no picture available.

Bob JonesSomebody’s stealin’ (my baby’s kisses)”download

Gaps appear on # 5024 and # 5026, sandwiching the great double-sider (# 5025) « Cross roads » and « Hula boogie ». tommy durdenThe former is a lugubrious ballad, that was quite a regional hit of little interest, but the latter is a fine bopper with good vocal and the Westernairs providing fine backing which include nice steel. TOMMY DURDEN also recorded for 4* (« That’s where you dropped your candy » with Boots Gilbert) with a band of the same name, led by Vic Cardis (4* 1500) , and for Pappy Daily’s ‘D’ label later, but his main claim to fame is as co-writer of  « Heartbreak hotel ».

Tommy DurdenHula boogiedownload

freedom 5025 hula boogie

Issue # 5027 is by LAURA LEE & The Ranch Hands, but I’ve not heard « Everybody but me » ; « I’m lonely for you darling » is a good jumping uptempo (fiddle, steel) song..However it would seem that she is LAURA LEE McBRIDE, the wide of Dickie McBride, whose band probably supply the backing. LAURA LEE is a well-known and respected Western swing vocalist, who, besides recording under her own name (i.e. M-G-M 11086 « I love you boogie »), also sang and recorded with Bob Wills.

Laura LeeI’m lonely for you darlingdownload

m-g-m 11086 laura lee &dickie McBride - I love you boogie Laura Lee & Dickie McBrideI love you boogie“(M-G-M 11086)
download

 

 

 

 

 

Third and last part of the serie (# 5028 to 5042) with more great music in a soon feature.

 

 

Corrections/additions welcome!

Bopping in Houston, TX: the FREEDOM, Hillbilly serie (1950-52) – part 1

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This article (and the following ones about the same musical label) is based on the Hillbilly Researcher’s article from 1992 written by expert Phillip. Tricker, and mostly on the notes of  other experts Andrew Brown and Kevin Coffey for the compilation “Heading back to Houston” (Krazy Kats CD12) issued ca. 1998. Important additions have been made by bopping’s editor.

The style of Honky Tonk music that Starday commenced to issue in 1953 had developped over the years following the end of WWII and a thriving recording scene had expanded in the Houston area with much of the recorded output appearing on labels like FOUR STAR and more locally labels like MACY’S, NUCRAFT, OPERA, HUMMING BIRD and PHAMOUS to name but just a few. Some, like MACY’S issued over fifty releases while others scaled down to a mere dozen or so and yet others a solitary lone release. One of the most important of these labels was FREEDOM : little was known about the artists and bopping music. However, since 1992 and Phillip Tricker’s article, an important amount of research has been done and we can now have a far better overview of both the label, its owner and the artists.

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