Earl Songer was born in 1915 (nearly a century ago..) in Ruth, W. Va. His father was a miner, and none in his family was interested in music, but at an early age Songer became hooked to guitar and harmonica. As a fan of Bill Cox, he developped a one-man band formula.
Later on in the late ’30s, he secured employment with the Ford Motor Co. In Detroit, Michigan. Never playing professionnally, he nevertheless found opportunities to entertain friends at parties and local functions. It was on such an occasion (a party given by Ford Motors) that he met Joyce (rn Miami Florida) Goode (born in 1924 in Polk Cty, Tennessee), herself being a guitarist : she was so impressed by Songer’s one-man show, that they became close friends. She had been listening closely to Grand Ole Opry and particularly Bill Monroe‘s « Mule skinner blues », so to mastering the instrument.
Earl and Joyce maintained their friendship during his war service and were married in 1945. Settling down in a Detroit suburb, Dearborn, Earl returned to work at Ford while they continued to develop their music, at first for their own pleasure, and gradually more seriously. The professionnal name « Joyce » was chosen for their first 1949 record for Fortune (# 129). They organized their band, the Rocky Road Ramblers. Joyce’s brother Chester played bass, and remained the most consistent member during the five following years.
« The fire in my heart » is intense, with the lifting intro provided by two guitars and great vocal harmonising; this was covered later by Mac Wiseman. The reverse side « Honky tonkin’ blues », an original composition, has a fiddle solo taken by Elton Adams. « Fox chase », second record (# 131), may be boring, as everybody has heard it but once. « Will there be any flowers on your grave », a gospel tune, finds Songer playing harmonica on a rack together with his rhythm guitar, a rare occasion heard although he regularly performed live in this format.
« The fire in my heart«
« Honky tonkin’ blues« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/03-Honky-Tonkin-Blues.mp3download
« Whose naughty baby are you?« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/05-Whose-Naughty-Baby-Are-You.mp3download
Mid 1950 and the third session: a proficient mandolin player, either Bobby Sykes (part of the band in 1953-54) or Ray Taylor, who often sat with them. The latter of course recorded for Clix in the late ’50s (see elsewhere in the site). The amplified mandolin is heard to excellent effect on « Who’s naughty baby are you ? » (# 144), which combine with the boogie guitar provided by Joyce.
More of that session saw « My wife, and sweetheart too » (# 141). It may look a sentimental song, but it turns out that Earl Songer is singing about two persons ; and the only answer is « to build a cottage for them both, with the rose ’round the door ». Fine solos from mandolin and guitar. The mandolin sets the pace for the frantic « Mother-in-law boogie » (# 141). Amusing lyrics, and, although not being a hillbilly boogie stricto sensu, it could well be the fastest piece of its type ever recorded, highlighted by Chester Goode’s slapping bass solo. « Mother-in-law boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/10-Mother-In-Law-Boogie.mp3download
Possibly from the previous session, but without the mandolin, « Spanish fire bells » (# 144) is a joy to hear – a subtle piece of guitar artistry: a friend of Joyce had introduced her to a Chet Atkins piece that impressed her. Elton Adams returns with two fiddle solos, the second one being plucked to sound like a banjo. Also important: the event of a light double-time strumming of the rhythm guitar, which sounds as if there were a third guitar playing the bass runs.
On the next recording date, they chose to bring Walter Atkins (a neighbor) on harmonica. « I won’t confess I’m sorry » (# 155) quite reminiscent of Wayne Raney on his earlier sides (who copied who?) « In a broken heart no love is found » (# 151) finds Earl Songer in good voice, while Bill Monroe‘s « In the pines » is recalled as Joyce joins to duet on « Someone to call my own » (# 155).
Elton Adams returns at his best on a mid-1951 session on which Joyce’s guitar is amplified effectively to a full sound. The guitar and the fiddle basically duet together on the hilarious « Dissatisfied » (# 160), which paints a doomsday scenario when women take over the world. Earl tells us of a day where there will be « a mayor lady in every town » and « women policing the streets« . Worst of all is the prospect of « having to obey to your mother-in-law« . The actual title doesn’t appear until the last line and « I guess they’ll always be dissatisfied » seems to infer that such events will never actually happen.
« Dissatisfied« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/15-Dissatisfied.mp3download
A November 17th, 1951 date for Coral (recorded in New York or Chicago) saw « We’re satisfied » (# 64127), unusual for string effects, and the vibrant, boogie instrumentally « Smiling through the years« . With the same opportunity they recorded late 1952 another session for Coral: best tunes were the fine « Sansoo » (# 64149) and « Too free with your love » (# 64167), same style as on Fortune.
« We’re satisfied« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/coral-64127-Earl-Joyce-Songer-Were-Satisfied-1952.mp3download
« Sansoo« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Coral-64149A-Earl-Songer-Sansoo.mp3download
Finally relocated in Dallas, Texas, on May 16th, 1954 (the very same day that Gene Henslee cut « Rockin’ baby« ), they recorded four tracks for Imperial, whose best is the fast « Whoopie baby » (8259). Joyce played steel guitar on them, and sang « It’s a cold, cold love« . « I want your love » (8292) is a fine part-time duet bopper.
« Whoopie baby« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Earl-Songer-Whoopie-baby.mp3download
Sad reality: they parted ways and divorced in 1955. Personal and professional problems caused Earl’s increasingly frequent bouts of excessive drinking and Joyce to feel that their career was set back and opportunities were lost because of his unreliability. After the break of the band, Earl got into real estate and car sales and unfortunately dropped out of music. He moved to Charleston, W. Va. in 1969-70 and passed away in 1972. Joyce teamed up with Rufus Shoffner, a popular local artist who also recorded (« It always happens to me« , Hi-Q, 1962, or « Orbit twist » (American Artist, 1962). She formed a new band similar to those she had organized with Earl, further records followed and she was in demand to many a country, bluegrass, or rock’n'roll session during the later half of the ’50s and early 60s.
It has to be noted that, as far as I know, Earl Songer wrote all his songs.
Freely adapted from Dave Sax’s notes to « Earl & Joyce Songer & the Rocky Road Ramblers – early Country from Detroit vol. 1″ on Old Homestead LP 338 (1991). Never seen a volume 2, supposing gathering the rest of the Earl Songer sides. Thanks to Craig Maki for his help with several Fortune label scans.
I try to be complete with music presented. If you wish some more tracks, please let me know which ones and I’ll try to satisfy.
Addition (Jan. 22nd, 2015). Craig Maki points out that mandolin player Bobby Sykes is not the singer Bob Sykes, and that a second volume of Earl & Joyce Songer sides was published but only on cassette.
This time, the artist, whom we know little of, will be presented mostly by his music and his compositions.
BILLY HUGHES, born Everett Ismael September 14, 1908 at Sallislaw, Oklahoma, settled in the 30s in California following the Okies’ exodus. From 1945, Billy Hughes & his Buccaroos engraved until 1959 a slew of very good hillbilly boppers, some of which became classics, such as « I’m tellin’ you, » « Tennessee Saturday Night » and « Take your hands off it (Birthday cake) ». Many artists took them over, to name a few : Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Jack Guthrie, Johnny Tyler, Jess Willard, Cowboy Sam Nichols, Bud Hobbs or Skeet’s McDonald – even Tennessean old-timer Kirk McGee. Hughes’ music is usually relaxed, ‘lowdown’ with a Western swing touch, which is normal since Hughes frequented the best artists of the West coast. So he wrote dozens of songs, and hung up during the 60s. He had owned the Fargo label, active in 1946 in Los Angeles (Sam Nichols, Terry Fell, Johnny Tyler) and issued a strange « Atomic sermon » in 1953. He disappeared May 6, 1995 in Horatio, Arkansas.
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It has proved difficult to find something on Happy Fats Leroy LeBlanc, although he has been a very popular figure in Louisiana during an half-century. Below is a biography published on the net by All Music (Jason Ankeny). Little did Gilbert and Carrie LeBlanc know, when their baby boy was born on January 30, 1915, that their cheerfully named child would become one of Louisiana’s most recognized Cajun musicians. The music of Happy Fats remains instrumental in both of the preservation and celebration of his native Cajun culture, despite the damage inflicted by a series of race-baiting protest records cut at the peak of the civil rights movement. Born Leroy LeBlanc in Rayne, Acadia Parish, LA, on January 30, 1915, Fats was a self-taught musician who began his professional career at 17 when he began playing accordion in Cajun hillbilly bands led by Amédé Breaux and Joe Falcon. In 1935, he formed his own group, the Rayne-Bo Ramblers, which starred the talents of Eric Arceneaux among others. And regularly headlined the local OST Club. Fats signed to RCA Victor in 1936. In 1937, he played alongside Doc Guidry, and Uncle Ambrose Thibodeaux. Other associates were Luderin Darbonne, Pee Wee Broussard, Doc Guidry, « Papa Cairo » Lamperez, Rex Champagne, and Crawford J. Vincent. He was invited and spoke on many radio stations including: KANE, KEUN, KUOH, KROF, and others. In 1940 he scored his first significant hit, « La Veuve de la Coulee » which featured then-unknown fiddler Harry Choates. The Rayne-Bo Ramblers also served as a springboard for Cajun accordion legend Nathan Abshire in 1935 (« La valse de Riceville« ). Other popular Fats recordings include the traditional « Allons dance Colinda, » « La Vieux de Accordion, » and « Mon Bon Vieux Mari. » Few of his efforts earned national attention, but within south Louisiana he was a superstar, and in the early ’50s even hosted a weekday morning radio show on Lafayette station KVOL. In 1966, however, Fats was the subject of national controversy when he signed to producer Jay D. Miller’s segregationist Reb Rebel label to record the underground smash « Dear Mr. President, » a spoken word condemnation of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights policies that sold over 200,000 copies despite its appalling racism. « We didn’t have any problems with that, not at all, » Fats maintained in an interview. « There wasn’t anything violent about it — it was just a joke. I had a car of black people run me down on the highway one time coming in Lafayette, and they said, ‘Are you the fellow that made » Dear Mr. President »?’ I said I was, and they said, ‘We’d like to buy some records.’ They bought about 15 records. There was a big van full of black people and they loved it . . . Either side at that time, they didn’t want integration very much. They wanted to go each their own way. » The commercial success of « Dear Mr. President » launched a series of similarly poisonous Fats efforts including « Birthday Thank You (Tommy from Viet Nam), » « A Victim of the Big Mess (Called the Great Society), » « The Story of the Po’ Folks and the New Dealers, » and « Vote Wallace » in ’72. » After a long battle with diabetes, Fats died on February 23, 1988. Read the rest of this entry »
Shorty Long, upper left
Reading, Berks Cty
A native of Reading, Pennsylvania, Shorty Long was the leader and organizer of the Santa Fe’ Rangers. When he was just 14, his parents, who were musically inclined, sent him to study music at the College of Rome where he got an education in classical music. They said he graduated cum laude as a violinist. During that time it seems he had formed a hillbilly music band that shocked his ‘serious- minded’ parents and the professors. That classical musical training just added to the bands musical sounds.
Shorty Long could also play the accordion, and sang both solo and tenor lead in his combo. He was with radio station WEEU in Reading from about 1946 and by 1951, seemed to be still there. His fan mail was said to be phenomenal.
Prior to returning to his hometown of Reading, he had also appeared on the WSIL Hayloft Hoedown and also the WLS National Barn Dance during the Alka-Seltzer sponsored portions. He also played to rave reviews at New York City’s Paramount Theatre when he was featured with the Foy Willing Trio on the Andrew Sisters’ « Eight-To-The-Bar Ranch Show ».
Shorty spent his summers at his Santa Fe Ranch which was on Rt. 422 just outside of Reading. It may have been some place where entertainment was held as they mention he played host to the big names in the entertainment field. He also appeared in the movie, « Powder River Gunfire ».
He had also just signed a recording contract with RCA Victor then, too. And in his song folio of 1951, was a recent addition to the King record label. (BIOGRAPHY TAKEN FROM: hillbilly-music.com)
Shorty Long, Country Musician, Composer
By Nathan Gorenstein, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: October 27, 1991
Shorty Long, 67, a country-and-western musician whose songs were played by Roy Acuff and who backed up Elvis Presley on recordings of « You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog » and « Don’t Be Cruel, » died Friday October 25th, of complications from cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Reading, where he was born.
Mr. Long, whose real name was Emidio Vagnoni, lived in Exeter Township and for many years ran the Santa Fe Ranch, a 20-acre family entertainment park. He played country and gospel, and staged family comedies with his wife, the former Gladys Ulrich, whose stage name was Dolly Dimples.
Although Mr. Long never officially changed his name, most of his fans only knew him as Shorty Long, a stage name he adopted 50 years ago.
Mr. Long’s original music training was in the classical tradition, and included a stint at the Conservatory of Rome, where his parents enrolled him for violin studies when he was 16.
Despite that – and playing violin with the Reading Symphony Orchestra for a period – he decided to pursue « hillbilly and western music, » as country music was called in the 1940s.
Only 5-foot-6, Mr. Long told interviewers how he’d gotten his name.
In the 1940s, at the start of his career, a fan approached him for an autograph. Because friends had already given him Shorty as a nickname, he signed « Shorty » – only to have the fan complain that the autograph was inadequate without a second name.
« So I wrote Long, » he recalled in a 1956 interview. « That happened to be the name of a girl I was going with at the time. »
Mr. Long opened the Sante Fe Ranch in 1948, emphasizing country music. In 1967, he and his wife purchased a 67-acre tract in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, and opened Ontelaunee Park, where top-name country music entertainers performed.
He sold the second park in 1982.
Mr. Long played steel guitar, wrote songs and recorded for a number of major labels. He also played violin, piano, bass, organ and banjo in recording sessions for a number of artists, including Presley.
His songs were recorded by Roy Acuff, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Jimmy Dickens, Pee Wee King, Jim Reeves and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
In 1955 he was cast as the lead in a Frank Loessner musical, The Most Happy Fella, and was declared a « showstopper » by columnist Walter Winchell.
Long stayed with the Broadway production for about four months, but later said homesickness for his wife and his country-and-western group, « The Santa Fe Rangers, » brought him back to Berks County.
It was during his stay in New York that he played piano and other instruments on such Presley songs as « Hound Dog » and « Don’t Be Cruel. »
In 1984 Mr. Long was presented the Outstanding Italian American Citizenship Award of Berks County by the Spartaco Society.
In a 1982 interview, Mr. Long said, « I wanted to be remembered as someone who always wanted to be with my family, the thousands of people who let me entertain them. »
It has not been very easy to assemble a story of Shorty Long. Indeed the biography and the obit above did help a bit. But what more ? Virtually all I know about him came from his records, and luckily they are quite a lot, in very different styles. Let’s try at one go a classification and an appreciation of Long’s music.
His first Signatures/Hi-Tone sides from 1947 (with Riley Shepard) are exuberant: lot of accordion (Long?), lot of reels (« Sheppard’s Scottische ») or traditionals (« Boil them cabbage down »). I really would like to listen to their treatment of the blues standard « Sweet Corinna blues » (untraced – someone can help?). Anyway nice songs are also present, typical ’40s hillbilly : « Airmail special on the fly » or « After all these years », which remind me a lot of the music that another Pennsylvanian cut at the same time : Bill Haley & His Four Aces of Western swing, early in his career (1949-50) on Keystone, or Cowboy label.
Riley Shepard & Shorty Long « After all these years » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/signature-1014-after-all-these-years.mp3download
Riley Shepard & Shorty Long « Boil them cabbage down » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/signature-1032-boil-them-cabbage-down.mp3download
On the Cowboy label, precisely, Shorty Long and the Santa Fe’ Rangers (at this point, not to be confused with Virginian Melvin Price‘s band, who cut on the Regal label as well as Blue Hen, among others, although later in the ’50s) recruited an already 30 to 32 years old singer (born 1918), Jack Day, or the alreay unknown Pee Wee Miller (although Day was present in the writers’ credit) for several sides. Fine uptempo sides with main instrument being accordion well to the fore (a fact which may wonder if Shorty Long was not playing it himself), good and firm singing by Day on « I round up the stars » and « I’ll go on loving you », or Miller in « You’ve got my heart in trouble ». Later on, Jack Day woud pursue a long career, although not very prolific recording-wise, on Coral ( his « Mule boogie [is this the Roy Hall tune on Bullet?]/Coyote blues » sounds promising..), Mercury (a cover of Bob Newman‘s « Lonesome truck driver’s blues »), and finally in late 1959 on Arcade 155: the fine « Rattle bone boogie » (flipside I’d like to hear is an instrumental, « Rappin’ the bass », well before the rap craze, of course).
Shorty Long and Santa Fe’ Rangers [Jack Day, vocal] « I round up the stars » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/cowboy-202-I-round-up-the-stars.mp3download
Shorty Long and Santa Fe’ Rangers [Pee Wee Miller, vocal) "You've got my heart in trouble" http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/cowboy-202-youve-got-my-heart-in-trouble.mp3download
Jack Day, « Rattle bone boogie » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/arcade-155-Jack-Day-Rattle-Bone-Boogie.mp3download
Get back to Shorty Long – as he aimed to be called then by fans. We find him next on Decca in 1948 for very slow sentimental songs. Long has a fine voice, mellow and easy, but…no uptempo : he’s crooning. Best song to emerge is the standard « I love you so much it hurts ». In 1949-50, he went to RCA-Victor, and all the songs I’ve heard are similar in style and I can think in confidence that Long pursued on slow ballads on the label.
We find him next on King Records, out of Cincinnati. It’s still now unclear where he recorded, either in Cincinnati or Nashville, TN. But he must have used studio musicians : on the labels, « The Santa Fe’ Rangers » have disappeared. All in all, he had better moments then, and went straight on the hillbilly bop bandwagon. My favorites are « Calm, cool and collected » (# 889) and the two-sided # 953. « Just like two drops of water » is a good uptempo ballad, well in the style of the King label circa 1950-52. The best side is however the powerful train song « Good night Cincinnati, good morning Tennessee » (my first exposure to Shorty Long’s music in 1978). Nice steel, infectious rhythm, a little classic !
Scotty Evans, « Three times seven » (Arcade 115) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/arcade-115-SCOTTY-EVANS-ACCOMPANIED-BY-SHORTY-LONG-AND-HIS-SANTA-FÉ-RANGERS-Three-times-seven-Arcade-115A.mp3download
Shorty Long, « Just like two tear drops of water » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/king-953-just-like-two-drops-of-water.mp3download
Shorty Long, « Good night Cincinnati, good morning Tennessee » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/king-953-goodnight-cincinnati.mp3download
I’d like to hear also « Hillbilly wedding » (# 949), which escaped to my research until now ; it must have had some success, since this tune was reissued on # 1076 in 1952. Shorty Long’s band must have been in demand, as they are backing Scotty Evans on one of the first Arcade issues (# 115), « Three times seven/What’s become of me« , both reasonable boppers.
1953, down in Tennessee ; first for the Gallatin Dot label ; « Pretend » and « Crying steel guitar waltz » (# 1153) are highly forgettable, slow sentimental ballads. « Crying » was covered by Pee Wee King with a reasonable dose of success in May 1953.
Second session is a lot more interesting for the Knoxville small Valley label. From then on, I guess it’s a turn in Shorty Long’s career. « I got nine little kisses » is a jivey little rocker, a la Bill Haley (Essex period – actually the song reminds me « Crazy, man, crazy »). Chorus, string-bass, lead guitar and a happy vocal by Long. Its flipside « Who said I said that » is an equally good jiver.
Shorty Long « I got nine little kisses » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/valley-108-I-got-nine-little-kisses.mp3download
Shorty Long « Who said I said that » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/valley-108-who-said-I-said-that.mp3download
The Davis Sisters covered « Just like me » (RCA 47-5843) in 1955, and the pair offered Martha Carson « I just found God » (RCA EPA 674) in 1956.
Back to the big RCA-Victor label, this time I think in NYC in 1954, until 1957. Long went more and more pop, after 1956; anyway he had still fine sides, like the train song « Standing in the station » (with a male/female chorus doing train effects – Boudleaux Bryant had already given Long the song « Who said I said that » on Valley) or the mambo-beat « Make with me de love » or on the X label in 1955 ; Long teamed with Bob Newman as « The Dalton Boys » for the great two-sider « Roll, Rattler, roll » b/w « Just like me » (X 0045).
Shorty Long, « Standing in the station » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/X-0024-Standing-in-the-station.mp3download
Shorty Long, « Make with me de love » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/X-0024-Make-with-me-de-love.mp3download
The Dalton Boys « Roll, Rattler, roll » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/X-0045-The-Dalton-Boys-Roll-Rattler-Roll.mp3download
Shorty Long, « I got it » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/RCA-SHORTY-LONG-I-Got-It-unissued.mp3download
Shorty Long, « Luscious » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/arcade-115-SCOTTY-EVANS-ACCOMPANIED-BY-SHORTY-LONG-AND-HIS-SANTA-FÉ-RANGERS-Three-times-seven-Arcade-115A.mp3download
Shorty Long, « Redstone John » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/A5-Shorty-Long-Redstone-John-K-Son-J8OW-7285_6-58.mp3download
The Davis Sisters covered « Just like me » in 1955 on RCA 47-5843, while the pair offered « I just found God » to Martha Carson (RCA EPA 674) in 1956.
Late January 1956 as pianist he backed Elvis Presley during the mammoth session with saw « Blue suede shoes », « Shake rattle and roll », etc. cut He maintained to have played on « Hound dog », although Gordon Stokes of the Jordanaires held the piano stool for this August 1956 session.
Apart from a fine, very Everly-ish « I got it » (unissued at the time – I don’t know where the Youtuber found it), and a big band-ish « Luscious » (I believe this is the Roy Hall song – B-side of « Blue suede shoes« : the writer is the same, Greg Callahan) , other tracks are « Vacation rock » (curiously issued as B-side to « I got nine little kisses » on the Valley bootleg issue in 1978) which is a belter, as « Burnt toasts and black coffee » (RCA 47-6572). Last good track Long could have cut was Cliff Crofford’s « Another love has ended », alas ruined (to my ears) by over-production and noisy brassy backing. Final track of interest came in 1958 on the Birmingham, AL. K-Son label (distributed by RCA): Shorty Long delivers an honest white-rocker with lot of saxes. Nothing of an earthquake however!
Shorty long issued several albums during the ’60s and ’70s along with his wife Dolly Dimples, and was active in music nearly until his death in 1991.
This article would have proved impossible to settle down without the invaluable help of collector Ronald Keppner, out of Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Thanks Ronald for the sounds and scans.
He was an enormously successful and popular country music star, a man who recorded over 90 chart hits with a unique style that wasn’t exactly rockabilly, but certainly influenced the shape it hillbilly rockers to come. He was related to hillbilly royalty through his marriage to June Carter, not to mention that his daughter became a country music hit maker in her own right. You know who I’m talking about of course – the one and only Carl Smith. (He also wore black on occasion, but to the point…)
Born in 1927, and hailing from Roy Acuff’s hometown of Maynardville, Tennessee, Carl Smith grew up like many Southern boys of the depression, idolizing singing cowboys in the movies and hillbilly musicians on the radio. Acquiring his first guitar at the age of ten, Smith took advantage of any opportunity to play music at local dances, socials and school programs. He found work as a professional musician while he was still in high school in various bands centered around Knoxville and Cas Walker’s radio show on station WROL. But his pursuit of a fulltime music career was temporarily interrupted by his stint in the U.S. Navy in 1945-46.
After returning from the service, Smith found fulltime work as a musician in the Knoxville area where WROL was becoming a triple-A farm team of sorts for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and a prime location for record companies to discover up-and-comers in the hillbilly scene. In 1950, with Hank Williams selling records hand over fist for MGM, every major label was looking for stars that could deliver the new, post-war, hard-edged honky tonk style. For Columbia Records, the then 23 year-old Carl Smith was just what they were looking for. Smith found himself in the fast lane to hillbilly stardom, signed to both the Grand Ole Opry and Columbia Records in less than a month. While he might not have been the tortured hillbilly poet that Hank was, Smith had many other assets including a strong, clear voice, his country boy good looks, a head full of wavy hair, and perhaps best of all, he lacked the self-destructive tendencies that were constantly derailing Williams’ career.Smith quickly proved himself a master of just about any form of hillbilly music he set his sights on — from Eddy Arnold-style crooners to Hank Williams-style honky-tonk heartbreakers, to heartfelt gospel that any mother would approve of. But the style that Smith really made his own came from Saturday nights, not Sunday mornings. It was “honky-tonk stomp.” Up-tempo slices of hillbilly bravado and swagger like “(When You Feel Like You’re in Love) Don’t Just Stand There,” “Trademark,” “Hey Joe!” , « Dog-gone It, Baby, I’m In Love » and “Back Up Buddy” where Smith really made his mark on the evolving palette of hillbilly music.
It was a style that Hank Williams had pioneered with songs like “Honky Tonkin’” and “Mind Your Own Business” and that he referred to as “sock rhythm.” But ole Hank’s “sock” was just the 2-4 backbeat that had marked the dividing line between white and black popular music for so long, and that more and more hillbilly musicians were picking up on in the late forties. Smith was a natural for this younger, hipper and hotter form of hillbilly music, but he never came across as the threatening rebel. “The Country Gentleman,” as he became known, could deliver a heartbreaking ballad that brought tears to the eyes of the bluest blue-nose and then toss off a stomper that thrilled the budding teeny-bopper crowd with his down home machismo.
« hey Joe! » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Carl-Smith-Hey-Joe.mp3download
« Dog-gone it baby, I’m in love » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Carl-Smith-Dog-Gone-It-Baby-Im-In-Love-1954.mp3download
« Back up buddy » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/columbia-21266-carl-smith-BACK-UP-BUDDY.mp3download
While seldom acknowledged as such, Carl Smith, along with other honky-tonk stompers like Webb Pierce, Faron Young and Hawkshaw Hawkins were adding the final ingredients to the musical gumbo that would spit out rockabilly in just a few years. The young, hot shot attitude, combined with a driving beat and the good looks of many of these honky tonkers provided true swoon appeal to a generation of corn-fed gals, whose younger sisters would be screaming for the “Memphis Flash” and his fellow rockabilly cats in just a few short years. But of course you gotta have a hot band to play hot music, and that’s exactly what Smith assembled with his road band, The Tunesmiths. Featuring top session men like Junior Husky (on bass) and Buddy Harman, but most especially the master steel guitarist, Johnny Silbert (then 17 years old), the Tunesmiths developed a hot style that drew from both Western Swing and the nascent rock’n’roll beat. Other Tunesmiths’ members included drummer Farris Coursey, ex-Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys Sammy Pruett on lead guitar or future Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker on piano. There’s never been any fiddle in Smith’s hillbilly boppers, another sign of him being ahead of his time.
Sammy Pruett left to Hank
A perfect example of the musical style that Carl Smith and the Tunesmiths developed is their 1955 recording of “Baby I’m Ready.” It’s a song that both swings and rocks as Smith declares his readiness to show his lady a hot time on the town. And all with a charm that probably left the young lady’s mother and father smiling and waving from the front porch as that “good boy” took their daughter out for a night of hillbilly whoopee.
« Baby, I’m Ready » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/25.-Baby-Im-Ready.mp3download
Ricky Van Shelton « Baby I’m ready » (1987)http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ricky-van-shelton-baby-Im-ready.mp3download
Also take a listen to the proto-rockabilly (by rhythm and lyrics) « Go Boy Go » or « No, I don’t believe I will »
« Go, boy go » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/columbia-21266-carl-smith-go-boy-go.mp3download
« No, I don’t believe I will » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/13-Carl-Smith-No-I-Dont-Believe-I-Will.mp3download>download
In June of 1952, Smith married June Carter, daughter of musical matriarch Maybelle Carter. The couple settled just north of Nashville in the suburb of Madison. Smith cut several gospel recordings with the Carter Sisters, and in 1954 the couple cut a pair of novelty songs with June playing comedic foil to the more straight-laced Smith in sort of gender-switched hillbilly version of the shtick that Louis Prima and Keely Smith were conquering Vegas with. The couple’s next collaboration, their daughter, and future country star Carlene Carter arrived in 1955.
But even among hillbilly royalty, matrimony is not without its challenges. The couple split in 1956 with Smith marrying fellow Grand Ole Opry star, and hillbilly music’s first “glamour queen” Goldie Hill the following year. Smith left the Opry near the end of 1956 in a swirl of behind-the-scene politics to take top billing on the Phillip Morris Country Music Show, a free traveling revue sponsored by the cigarette company that ran through 1957 and ’58, often playing the same cities and dates as the Opry-sponsored road show. Smith then made the leap to TV stardom as the co-host of Five Star Jubilee and later the Canadian-produced Carl Smith’s Country Music Hall.
The Tunesmiths: « Oh! stop » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/columbia-21386-The-Tunesmiths-Oh-Stop.mp3download
The Tunesmiths: « Doorstep to Heaven » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/columbia-21522-CARL-SMITH-WITH-THE-TUNESMITHS-doorstep-to-heaven.mp3download
Although his hottest period was in the pre-Elvis era, Smith continued to produce solid country hits through the sixties and early seventies. He even managed to hold the strings and vocal chorus of the then popular “Nashville Sound” at bay on his recordings, staying true to a more traditional honky tonk sound. He left Columbia Records in 1973 and after a short stint on Hickory Records made the rare move of voluntarily retiring from the music business in 1978.
He spent his later years enjoying the fruits of a country boy’s dream, on his 500 acre horse and cattle ranch in Williamson County, Tennessee. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003. His wife Goldie, passed away in 2005 with Smith following her in January of 2010 at the age of 82.
Reflecting on his decision to retire from the music business Smith told Tim Ghianni in a 2003 interview for the Tennessean, “I just wanted to play cowboy. My philosophy is doing what I want to do.” A darn good philosophy for a country boy, but of course we can all be grateful that for a time, bringing a hot beat, a snarl and a swagger to country music was just what Carl Smith wanted to do and what he was best at.
Biography and pictures taken from the net. Scans and music mostly from private collections.
Nothing to do with Jimmy Carter’s supposed brother ! That Bill Carter was a member of the Big Jim DeNoone’s Rhythm Busters.
His story begins on December 12, 1929, when he was born in Eagleton, Arkansas, one of ten siblings, the son of an itinerant share cropper. By the time he was nine years old, he was singing on KGHI out of Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1937 , the family moved to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Bill’s father got a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad in Indio, California, in 1943, and the family headed west. Bill’s interest in music was encouraged, and he took voice lessons during his teens, as well as performing on radio stations KRBO (Indio) and KROX (Modesto), modelling himself on Eddy Arnold. After graduating from Coachella Valley High school, Bill gained employment with the Johnson lumber Company in Grass Valley, and confined his performings to weekends.
In 1949 he joined USAF, and whilst stationed at Lackland and subsequently Parks AFB in Calfornia, Bill formed several bands, playing with the likes of Shorty Lavender (lead guitar and fiddle), Slim Roberts (fiddle), and Bob Cooper (drums). His music was firmly strenched in C&W and performing at NCO clubs kept his hand in. Whilst still in the Air Force, he got to perform with Cal Smith’s band in San Leandro, as well as playing dates in the San Francisco area, and venturing as far afield as San Antonio, Texas radio stations to perform. Read the rest of this entry »
Despite recording fairly prolifically (36 sides cut for Mercury between 1946 and 1949) in the years immediately following World War II, Art Gibson is not widely remembered these days among the fans of vintage country music. Among hard-core collectors of the music of the 1940s-50s, however, he is highly revered, his recordings ardently collected , and celebrated as one of the most individual and infectious honky-tonk performers of the era. He’s cut mostly for Mercury (1946-49), and two single sessions later, one for the small Replica label in 1954, the other for Sunny during the 60s.
The high quality of his output aside, it isn’t surprising that Gibson is not better remembered these days for he kept a surprisingly low profile for most of his career. Other than a mid-40s photograph in the music mag The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie recorder, and a handful of very brief mentions in other music press of the era, he seems to have mostly operated under the radar, not courting much publicity, playing clubs and letting his music speak for itself. This low-key approach accounts, at least in part, for the fact that he didn’t become a bigger star, as it has proved a frustrating roadblock for any researcher hoping to build a fuller picture of his activities in his recording heyday and beyond. Much about Art Gibson’s career remains a mystery, and internet is mute about him. What is certain, however, is that he was a fine honky-tonk singer and songwriter, and that he left a compelling recorded legacy that deserves to be more widely heard. Read the rest of this entry »
Never read such a poorly informed biography as this, taken from the back of the Hank the Drifter Crypto album. Alas, I cannot add anything to it, and the music will speak for itself.
HANK THE DRIFTER (real name Daniel Raye Andrade) was born September 2, 1929, 72 Plain Street, Taunton, Massachussetts. As a small boy he loved country and wetsern music and he was given a small guitar to learn on by his now deceased Dad. Soon he was playing and singing up a storm and people everywhere loved his true country songs and the feeling he put into every song. Songs came pouring out of Dan and he wrote songs on every inspired moment.
Many who have puchased his records say it is like Hank Williams back from the grave. In this album you will hear the songs which Daniel Andrade, « Hank the Drifter » composed, during inspired moments. Many have called Daniel Andrade, « Hank The Drifter », the greatest living song writer and country singer in the country and western field.
Dan Andrade thrilled many, with his double tribute (on New England release n° 1012), « Hank Williams is singing again » backed with « Hank, you’re gone but not forgotten », dedicated to the memory of Dan Andrade’s idol, the late great Hank Williams, considered by many to be the gteatest living song writer in the world, and the greatest living singer as well.
Hank the Drifter, « Hank Williams is singing again » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Hank-Is-Singin-Again-Hank-The-Drifter.mp3download
Hank the Drifter, « Hank, you’re gone but not forgotten » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/01-Hank-Youre-Gone-But-Not-Forgotten.mp3download
This is Dan Andrade’s first country and western album recorded at Gold Star Recording Studio – Houston, Texas. At this writing Dan Andrade is hard at work on a second album which will feature 12 more songs composed by Daniel Andrade. This 2nd album will feature his Martin guitar used on his first album. The Martin guitar is one of the two models the Martin Company made, of which two were made a year, Hank Williams puchased one and Hank The Drifter the other, both guitars are identical.
Hank the Drifter, « It is honky tonk music » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/A2-It-Is-Honky-Tonk-Music.mp3<a ref= »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/A2-It-Is-Honky-Tonk-Music.mp3″ target= »_blank »>download
On January 1, 1968, Music City News, the leading trade magazine in the Country and <Western music field, did a full page story with pictures of Daniel Andrade. He resides in a lovely $ 20,000.00 home at 12606 Carlsbad, Houston, Texas.
Hank the Drifter, « I’m gonna spin my wheels » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/B6-Im-Gonna-Spin-My-Wheels.mp3download
Hank the Drifter was chosen January 1, 1963, in « Who’s Who, Inc. » on the merits of his song writing, singing and other accomplishments. This honor is bestowed on fifteen in each ten thousand of the country’s population who come under selective standards. Country Song Roundup and « Billboard », trade magazines, have featured Hank.
Sparton and Quality Records of Toronto, Canada, have featured many of Dan Andrade’s 45′s, namely « Cheaters never win », « Don’t you lock your daddy out », « I’m crying my heart out for you », « Cold river blues » and « Painted doll », etc. all sung and written by Daniel Andrade.
Hank the Drifter, « Cheaters never win » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/21-Cheaters-Never-Win.mp3download
Hank the Drifter, « Don’t you lock my daddy out » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/19-Dont-You-Lock-Your-Daddy-Out.mp3download
Hank the Drifter, « Cold river blues » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/22-Cold-River-Blues.mp3download
Hank the Drifter, « Painted doll » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Painted-Doll-Hank-The-Drifter.mp3download
« God writes all my songs and being blessed with a lovely wife, Odessa Andrade ; what more could a man ask in life », says Dan. The gifted Dan Andrade has appeared on WPEP, Taunton, Massachusetts with his own show ; on WNBH radio, New Bedford, Massachusetts on the New Bedford Times weekly. He has appeared on KTRH and KNUZ radio stations, plus Big « D » Jamboree, Dallas, Texas, « Cowtown Hoedown », Fort Worth, Texas – « Gulf Coast Jamboree » Television – « Houston Hoedown », Houston, Texas and such.
« Hank The Drifter » records are in numerous libraries on radio stations in the United States, Canada and overseas. Hank says, « I’m very homely, I know, but, look for the inner beauty and we are all pretty people ». My sincere appreciation to Fred Voelker and daughter, Sonya, of Houston, Texas, two fine musicians whom without their help, this album could not have been possible.
Andrade had his first record way back in 1955, as HANK THE DRIFTER: « Hank Williams is singing again » on his own label New England; in 1956, as « Joe Lombardie and the Cats« , he cut « Let’s all rock’n'roll« , then again the same year, as Hank the Drifter, « The Bill Collector’s blues« . 1957, a further more issue, « Don’t you lock your daddy out ».
Joe Lombardie & the Cats, « Let’s all rock’n'roll » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Joe-Lombardie-Lets-All-Rock-And-Roll-.mp3download
Hank the Drifter, « The Bill Collector’s blues » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/B5-The-Bill-Collectors-Blues.mp3<a ref= »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/B5-The-Bill-Collectors-Blues.mp3″ target= »_blank »>download
In 1961, after several years, he revived his label and nom de plume, and reissued masters of the ’50s era. Between March 1961 and 1964, he had this way 9 New England records.
Forest Rye’s trail from Detroit to the ‘Grand Ole Opry’
Forrest Rye, 1930s
By craig maki
A long line of men dressed in rugged suits filed past iron gates on Manchester Street in Highland Park, Michigan, as they did every morning, into the . One by one, they flashed their Ford badges at the guard stationed in a small shack. Ford Motor Company facility Outside the gate, a 15 year-old boy stood near the shack, hands in his trouser pockets, chatting with the uniformed man inside, who interrupted the conversation every so often to check someone’s identification.
“I brought ya some apples,” the young man said with a Tennessee drawl, and handed a paper sack to the guard, who gave one apple back. After sharing a snack together, the young man asked, “Say, what are my chances today? Like I said before, I’m ready to work at anything.”
The guard tolerated his daily appearances, eventually warming up to his friendly personality and persistence. It was obvious the young man, who showed up at the morning whistle every day, intended to stay in Detroit. “Well,” said the guard while keeping his eye on workers entering the property, “There’s a small opening in the fence about sixty feet east of here. It may be wide enough for you to slip through. I reckon I can’t stop you, if I don’t see you.” He took his eyes off the shuffling plant workers long enough to look the kid in the eyes and say, “I know you won’t cause me no trouble.”
“No, sir!” The wide-eyed young man continued chewing apple.
“I just happen to know a foreman who’s looking for a welder,” said the guard. “If you get in, look up Fred Walker.” The young man thanked the guard, who nodded, too preoccupied to look up. Then he strode east to the gap in the fence, slipped through, and secured a position at Ford.
Working man, day and night
Trained on the job as a welder, Forest Rye had grown up in Erin, Tennessee, west of Nashville. Born December 19, 1910, Rye learned to play fiddle and guitar before he left home in 1924. When Rye was a small boy, champion fiddler Walter Warden, from McEwen, Tennessee, and an early influence on Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, schooled him in music. Warden lived up the road from the Rye household, and thought so highly of Rye that he gave him a fiddle. When Rye came to Detroit, he found a room in a boarding house, and doggedly spent about a week talking his way into Ford’s Highland Park facility.
A pioneer country music bandleader in Detroit, Rye entertained at house parties through the 1930s, eventually leading groups of musicians in local cafes and bars. In 1937 he married, and moved back to Erin, where he started a grocery with his savings. He visited friends in Detroit occasionally, and after divorcing in 1939, Rye returned to Detroit’s east side, near Chrysler facilities where he worked the day shift.
The area surrounding East Jefferson Avenue near St. Jean included neighborhoods of white Southerners who had moved for work in local factories. In this environment, Rye formed Rye’s Red River Blue Yodlers, and gigged steadily at the Torch Club on East Jefferson. They may have performed on Detroit radio as well.
In early 1942, the band cut a record for the Mellow Record Company, based in the Mellow Music Shop a few blocks away from the Torch Club. “You Had Time Think It Over” backed with “On Down The Line” were pressed on the Hot Wax label (with Mellow catalog number 1616 – it was pressed on Mellow, too). Vocals on the Hot Wax label were attributed to “Conrad Brooks,” a fake name Rye used on the record – perhaps to avoid public association with the hot lyrics of “On Down The Line,” a risqué song made strictly for jukebox plays in bars. The band included Rye’s fiddle, Hawaiian (lap) steel, rhythm guitar, and bass. Side 1 (« You had time ») was uptempo while the B-side (« On down the line » was medium paced.
Rye’s Red River Blue Yodelers, « You had time to think it over » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Hot-Wax-1616-Ryes-Blue-Yodelers-You-had-time-to-think-it-over-nettoyé.mp3downloaddownload
Rye’s Red River Blue Yodelers, « On down the line » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Hot-Wax-1616-Ryes-Blue-Yodelers-On-down-the-line-netoyé.mp3download
Rye’s stage show included humor, and as early as 1942 he was making appearances on the WSM Nashville radio’s “Grand Ole Opry” as comedian Little Willie Rye. This made him the first Detroiter to perform with the “Opry.” Many Detroit musicians would follow Rye’s path, beginning with the York Brothers after World War II. Not to mention a few musicians who moved to Detroit after first performing at the “Opry” (e.g., Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, Okie Jones, and Chick Stripling).
Rye moved back to Tennessee in 1945 and married again. He returned to Detroit in 1947 as his family began to grow, remaining through 1955. Soon after this third move to Michigan, Rye secured a gig at WXYZ radio with his Sage Brush Ranch Boys, a band that included bassist Earl “Shorty Frog” Allen, who led his own band in Detroit several years later.
Around 1945/46 he cut with his group two sides for the Detroit based Universal company (the York Brothers also recorded for this label). Yet Rye still handles the vocals as disguised « Conrad Brooks« , and very assured. Steel guitar is wild, and Rye is even yodeling a bit. Both sides are very nice uptempos for the era. « Snake bite blues » and « Don’t come crying around me mama« , both written by Rye.
Rye’s Red River Blue Yodelers, « Snake bite blues » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Universal-1002-Ryes-Red-River-blue-yodelers-Snake-bite-blues-nettoyé.mp3download
Rye’s Red River Blue Yodelers, « Don’t come crying around me mama » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Universal-1002-Ryes-Red-River-Blue-Yodelers-Dont-come-crying-around-me-mama-Conrad-Brooks-vo.mp3downloaddownload
For a couple of years during the late 1940s, Mountain Red appeared with Rye’s Sage Brush Ranch Boys in Pontiac area nightclubs as a featured singer. Red also appeared with Rye on WXYZ, when he wasn’t performing his solo programs at WCAR radio Pontiac.
Sage Brush Ranch Boys, late ’40s – Rye on fiddle
Rye often let other musicians sit in with his band in Detroit nightclubs. Joyce Songer recalled performing with the Sage Bruch Ranch Boys several times, when she and husband Earl started their musical career, around 1949.
Early 1951 Rye cut four sides in Detroit, apparently, for Mercury, two uptempos « Crying my eyes out » (# 6328) and « Won’t you give me a little loving » (# 6329), coupled with the great medium-paced « Midnight boogie blues » (great steel solo!) and « After all these tears ». These 4 sides have not been reissued, except « Midnight boogie blues » on some English compilation.
Forrest Rye, « Crying my eyes out » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mercury-6328-Forrest-Rye-Crying-my-eyes-out-nettoyé.mp3download
Forrest Rye, « After all these tears » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mercury-6328-Forrest-Rye-After-all-these-years-nettoyé.mp3downloaddownload
Forrest Rye, « Midnight boogie blues » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mercury-6329-Forrest-Rye-Midnight-boogie-blues-nettoyé.mp3download
Forrest Rye, « Won’t you give me a little loving » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mercury-6329-Forrest-Rye-Wont-you-give-me-a-little-loving-nettoyé.mp3downloaddownload
Rye maintained ties to Nashville, including relationships at WSM with announcer George D. Hay and many performers. Singer Pete Pyle, a 1940s recording artist (Bluebird label) and one-time member of the Bill Monroe and Pee Wee King bands, was a fast friend, eventually moving next door to Rye’s house in Taylor, Michigan. They appeared together in local nightclubs, such as the West Fort Tavern on West Fort Street in Southwest Detroit. In 1953, Rye and Pyle cut sessions for Fortune Records. Rye’s “Wild cat Boogie” and Pyle’s “Are You Making A Fool of Me?” were combined on a single record (Fortune 172). Al Allen (el. g) and Chuck Hatfield (steel) were present on Pete Pyle’s session.
Forest Rye, « Wild cat boogie » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/frtune-172-A-Forest-Rye-Wildcat-boogie.mp3download
In 1955 Rye and Pyle moved their families back to Tennessee. As Little Willie Rye, Rye worked on Nashville radio as a solo comedian, and with the band of Big Jeff Bess. He wrote songs, operated a song publishing company (Geraldine), produced and made his own recordings, and issued music on his own record label (Forest – 3 known records by other artists in a 5600 serie) , besides playing music in studios and on stages. He also booked acts for WSM radio and Nashville area venues. In 1967 Rye left behind his activities in country music to become a Christian preacher. He passed away April 24, 1988.
Little Willie Rye, « Road of happiness« , http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/PACE-1007.1-little-willie-Rye-road-of-happiness.mp3download
Little Willie Rye, « Make believe girl » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/PACE-1007.2-rye-make-believe-girl.mp3download
Reprinted from carcitycountry.com, the site of Craig Maki See http://carcitycountry.com/2013/forest-ryes-trail-from-detroit-to-the-grand-ole-opry/. Additions by Xavier (Mercury, Universal), bopping editor.
Thanks to Ronald Keppner of Frankfurt am/Main, Germany, for the loan of his rare Forrest Rye ’78s on Hot Wax, Universal and Mercury. Without him, this article would have proved impossible to write. Thanks also to Allan Turner, out of England, for getting me the mp3/scans of the rare Pace 45.
The little historical town of Natchitoches lies on the banks of the beautiful Cane River (Louisiana), and it was there that Bill Nettles was born on 13 March 1903 (another source mention 1907)
Natchitoches town (red button) in Louisiana
Bill was a member of U.S. marine and he took a part in World War I. Then he got a job as brakeman on the Pacific railroad line and around this time he met his future bride, Emma Lou Rich from Arcadia, Louisiana: on 19 December of 1922 in Shreveport they were married. He and his wife had four children, the eldest of whom, Bill Jr. (1926), enlisted in the Marines in 1943, reported missing at Okinawa albeit surviving and returning home in 1945. He was the inspiration for Bill writing « God bless my darling he’s somewhere ».
Emma Lou Rich was Bill’s dream maid, tireless manager and director of his Fan Clubs, she wrote the paper « Nettle ‘em » which would significantly support his success.
Bill’s interest in music was initially satisfied by purchasing records of his favourite singer Jimmie Rodgers, as well as buying platters by Jimmie Davis, Gene Autry and Cliff Carlisle.
Then in 1934 Bill teamed up with his brother Norman to form the Nettle Brothers, with Norman on guitar and himself on mandolin. Unlike many popular duos of the time (Shelton Bros, Monroe Bros, Callahan Bros or Blue Sky Boys, etc.) Bill and Norman refrained from duetting on vocals, which made them stand out from the run of the mills outfits trying to imitate the well known names. Thus it was not long before an offer came their way to appear on radio in Shreveport on KWKH, at that time starring a favourite artist of Bill’s, Jimmie Davis. It was he who got their recording contract with Vocalion (1937).
The first session, held in Dallas in June 1937, yelded their first single, « Shake it and take it (like the doctor said – on later issues) »/ »My cross-eyed Jane » which saw Bill vocalising as well as playing mandolin. Augmented by brothers Norman on guitar and Luther on bass with Doc Massey on fiddle, Bill produced a lively performance, reflected in the sales of the record.
The group recorded another session in San Antonio as well as another in Dallas, and all in all eleven singles (a total of 22 sides) were recorded between 1937 and 1938. While their record sales did not set the world alight, their popularity on the radio continued to increase with appearances on KRMD and KXBS (both out of Shreveport, La.), KALB (Alexandria, la.) and KVDL (Lafayette, La.)
Shake it and take it (1937) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/vocalion-03634-shake-it-and-take-it.mp3download
No daddy blues (1937) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/perfect-7-10-63-no-daddy-blues.mp3download
Early morning blues (1937) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/early-morning-blues.mp3download
Gradually the membership of the band increased to the stage where it became known as the Nettles Brothers String Band, and early in 1941 they were signed to the Bluebird label, cutting their first session on June 3rd. Once again the venue for recordings was Dallas with Lonnie Hall (violin), Reggie Ward (string bass) and Jim King (steel guitar) making up the five pieces band. By the time of the second session in October, the line-up had changed to the extent that the steel was gone, Hershell Woodall was on bass instead of Reggie Ward. A lead guitarist and a banjo player were also featured.
Nettle Brothers: Fannin’ Street blues http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bluebird-B-8720-fannin_-street-blues.mp3download
She’s selling what she used to give away (1938) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/shes-selling-what-she-usued-to-give-away.mp3download
Sugar baby blues (1938) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Columbia-37732-sugar-baby-blues.mp3download
Bill had started writing songs as early as 1924 when trying to appease his wife after a domestic tiff and writing « My sweet pot of gold ». His pen gained more prominence as his group’s name spread, and other artists started recording his songs. Among the first were Red Foley and Wilf Carter who, as Montana Slim, cut « Too many blues » on Victor (20-2364). Bill’s original version came on Bullet 637 in 1946. Despite being a prolific writer, Bill had failed to copyright any before « Just before we said goodbye ».
Too many blues (Bullet 637): http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bullet-637A-too-many-lues.mp3download
It is worth noting that whilst the first records to appear on Vocalion in 1937 were credited to « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys », the Bluebird recordings were credited to « the Nettles Brothers ». Bill had in fact played mandolin on a Vocalion session as early as 1935, backing Jimmie Davis and Buddy Jones. Also the Jimmie King who played steel guitar on the first Bluebird session was the father to Claude King, the C&W singer/songwriter of « Wolverton mountain » fame.
Nettles’s beautiful « Have I Waited Too Long? » was introduced at KWKH in 1943 by Radio Dot and Smoky, and later became Faron Young‘s theme song. Along with Harmie Smith, Bob Shelton, Dick Hart, young Webb Pierce, and host Hal Burns, Nettles & His Dixie Blue Boys helped to launch a twice-weekly Louisiana Hayride program on KWKH in the summer of 1945 that predated the more famous auditorium show by almost three years.
Faron Young: Have I waited too long (Gotham 415-A) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/gotham-faron-young-.mp3download
After the Bluebird sessions Norman retired from the band, which late in 1945 was signed to RCA-Victor, reverting his name to « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys » with brother Luther back on bass. However the rest of musicians were local Dallas sidesmen from the musicians’ union. « They were long haired usicians and did not fit in with Bill’s style. He hated these Victor records », wrote his widow Emma Lou. RCA’s and Bill’s personal conceptions differed completely, in fact recordings were by then « mainstream pop ». So greatly was he disillusioned with RCA that Bill broke his contract and went to Bullet Records.
It’s not clear whether this experience with RCA persuaded Bill to reform his own band, but he went to Bullet with a radically new line-up. Danny Dedmon joined as lead guitarist and became a mainstay of the Dixie Blue Boys along with fiddle player Robert Shivers. In between changing of recording labels, Bill moved the family from Shreveport to Monroe, La., where with the exception of short breaks he woud live for the rest of his life. He also started appearing at the local radio station KMLB, where he was to record sometimes. By this stage Bill and his wife had four children. The eldest, Bill Jr. never got deeply involved in his father’s musical career. However one of the remaining children, Loyce (born 1929), became a featured singer in her dad’s band, billed a « The Little Dixie sweetheart ». She became a permanent along with her piano playing husband, Pal Thibodeaux, when the Dixie Blue Boys recorded for Imperial.
Nettles & His Dixie Blue Boys helped to launch a twice-weekly Louisiana Hayride program on KWKH in the summer of 1945 that predated the more famous auditorium show by almost three years.
Bill cut three sessions with Bullet from Nashville. The first date for Bullet was already on 7 July 1946, probably at Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas, as Beck had a tie with Jim Bulleit. « High falutin’ mama » (# 637) was a prime example of uptempo bluesy country. « Too Many Blues » was recorded by Wilf Carter, as told earlier. Other two songs of the session, « You’re breaking my broken heart again » and « Hungry » (#638) were equally good. Both later sessions held in Jackson, Ms., and in Houston, Tx. remained unissued.
High falutin’ mama (Bullet 636)
High falutin’ mama (Bullet 637) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bullet-637B-high-falutin_-mama.mp3download
Hungry (Bullet 637) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bullet-638B-hungry.mp3download
Danny Dedmon: Gin drinkin’ mama (Imperial 8065) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/imperial-8065-danny-dedmon-gin-drinkin_-mama.mp3download
Bill Nettles: « Ain’t no tellin’ a woman will do » (Imperial 8032) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/imperial-8032A-aint-no-tellin_-what-a-woman-will-do.mp3download
Danny Dedmon: « The blues keep hangin’ on » (Imperial 8058) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Imperial-8058B-danny-dedmon-the-blues-keep-hangin_-on.mp3download
After a fleeting stay with Red Bird, an affiliation which failed to produce any released material, Bill Nettles then signed with Imperial, as did Danny Dedmon, recording in his own right with a band credited as « The Rhythm Ramblers », actually the Dixie Blue Boys. Dedmon recorded 19 sides for Imperial, albeit only 9 were with Bill Nettles, all cut in Beaumont, Tx. On a couple of Bill Nettles’ singles, daughter Loyce was allotted the vocal duties.
Euell was the third of the Nettles’ off-spring. He too was born in Shreveport in 1935. Thus he was barely fourteen when he played on Bill’s first Mercury session in April 1949, giving the family a 50% share in the group personnel. Not only did he pay guitar, but Euell also doubled as chauffeur and handyman. His versatility extended to playing bass, fiddle and drums. During his three years stint in U.S. Army in Paris, France, he met his Spanish wife to be.
At the first Mercury session Bill recorded the highly promising « Hadacol boogie ». Covered by Jesse Rogers on RCA (32-0001), whose version outsold Bill’s, It had also a version by Professor Longhair (Roy Byrd), who combined it with Bill’s third Mercury session « Hadacol bounce ».
A tune he wrote and recorded for that label, « Hadacol Boogie« , in a Monroe radio station in 1949, was a celebration of Dudley LeBlanc‘s restorative elixir. It went to # 9 on the country charts. (« Hadacol Boogie » is alleged to be the first song that Jerry Lee Lewis performed in public, in 1949. Occasionally Jerry will perform the song on stage, though he never recorded it.)
Presumably encouraged by this hit, Mercury had on 3 February 1950 ensured in Cincinnati, Ohio that their musicians parade horses (Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Zeb and Zeke Turner) were sent into the ring for « Push and pull boogie » (Mercury 6330). Turner’s guitar intro is similar to that of the Delmores’ « Blue stay away from me » or early Hank Williams’.
Yet another recording session could not bring more hit. Bill took his residence at radio station KLMB, Monroe on with their own group. The only new name was Sam Yeager who played the guitar. Although « Hadacol bounce » should been even better than the « Hadacol boogie » according to Mercury, it failed.
Hadacol boogie (Mercury 6190) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/mercury-6190-bill-nettles-hadacol-boogie.mp3download
Do right daddy (Mercury 6209) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/mercury-6209-do-right-daddy.mp3download
Push and pull boogie (Mercury 6330) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/08-Push-And-Pull-Boogie-Bill-Nettles.mp3download
In 1953 Bill had one of his short spells away from Monroe when he was sponsored by the Surety Gas Co. To appear on WRBC out of Jackson, Miss. Whilst there he cut a session for the local Trumpet label. Sadly nothing was ever issued from these recordings and undoubtedly « When my kitten starts cattin’ around » sounds intriguing. Maybe it was due to the fact that Bill moved on to another radio station elsewhere that caused Trumpet to lose interest, for it was around this time that he moved to KOGT in Orange, Texas, then to KOBX inBeaumont, Texas, finally KFRO in Long View, Texas. It seems likely that this exposure around the Texas area brought Bill to the attention of Starday Records, where he cut the fine « Wine-o-boogie » and « Gumbo mumbo » (# 174). The session included an unissued re-recording of « Shake it and take it » and was probably held at Gold Star studio in Houston (1954), with regular local musicians, Hal Harris (lead guitar), Doc Lewis (piano), Red Hayes (fiddle) and Herbie Remington (steel) providing the backing.
Wine-o boogie (Starday 174) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/1-Bill-Nettles-Wine-O-Boogie.mp3download
Whilst the advent of rock’n'roll put a brake on Bill’s recording activities, perhaps inspired by his youngest daughter Shirley (born 1936) married to Rev. Gerard Lewis (a first cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, and a fine piano player in his own right), Bill was « saved » and
baptized in 1958, subsequently becoming a devout Christian. Around 1957/58 The Dixie Blue Boys were performing on radio as a sacred group, before Bill disbanded the group and effectively retired from business.
Early 60s he cut in Monroe a whole lot of tracks for an unknown label (private recordings?), all of which do remain untraced and unissued.
In 1965 he was talked into a comeback and appeared on his own Nettl label. His preoccupation with the Vietnam War caused him to re-do his old song as « God bless my darling he’s somewhere in Vietnam ». Sadly this revival (3 singles) was short lived : Bill Nettles died on April 5 1967.
Old age pension blues (Nett 10005) http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/bill-nettles-Old-age-pension-blues.mp3download
Throughout his life he wrote over 300 songs, and had 155 published by leading publishers. It is worth looking at some of the artists who made use of Bill as composer :
Be nobody’s darling but mine – Roy Acuff
Old age pension check – Roy Acuff
Old age pension blues – Shelton Brothers
I just can’t say goodbye – Pete Pyle
Louisiana moon – Gene Autry
I still believe in you – Charlie Mitchell
It’s nobody’s fault but my own – Will Johnson
Our last goodbye – Stanley Brothers
Honky tonk blues – Al Dexter
Just forgive and forget – Jimmie Davis
Nobody’s darling but mine – Jimmie Davis (huge 1941 hit)
Answer to blue eyes – Johnnie & Jack
No time for tears – Bill Boyd
Too many blues – Montana Slim, Red Foley
Have I waited too long – Faron Young
I just don’t know why but I do – Jenx Carman.
Of the Dixie Blue Boys, Danny Dedmon, Pal Thibodeaux and Norman Nettles recorded in their own right.
Nettles loved to write « answer » songs, such as « Answer To Blue Eyes », « It’s Your Turn To Walk The Floor For Me », « I Hauled Off and Loved Her », and even answered his own songs: « (I Want To Be) Somebody’s Darling » and « Hadacol Bounce ».
Reprinted (with written permission) from Adam Komorowski’s article in Hillbilly researcher n° 7 (1988), based on a unpublished text written by Emma Lou Nettles for the 60′s magazine « Western Coral ». Many thanks to Ronald Keppner (Germany) for the loan of rare 78 rpm.
Discography (from Praguefrank): Bill Nettles