Tennessean Eddie Hill (James Edward Hill) was born on July 21, 1921, in either McMinn County or Polk County. Being from a family with a rich musical tradition, Eddie already started singing and playing the guitar at very young age and he formed his first band while still in his teens. His first experience with radio work came while living in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his family had moved because of Eddie’s father’s work. Eddie first started working for local radio station WROL but in the early 1940s, he and his band moved to WNOX to work at the “Mid-Day-Merry-Go-Round” show, as “Smilin’ Eddie Hill and the Mountain Boys”. Some time later, Eddie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he joined WKRC, but in 1943 Johnny Wright convinced him to return to Knoxville to join the Tennessee Hillbillies, a group build around Johnny & Jack and Kitty Wells. In 1945, Eddie quit the Tennessee Hillbillies to try his luck in Hollywood’s movie business, but he soon moved back to Knoxville to return to WNOX, together with his Mountain Boys that now consisted of Leonard Dabney (guitar), Johnny Gallagher (bass), Billy Bowman (electric guitar) and Bob Sumner (fiddle). It was around this time that Eddie got married to his wife Jacqueline Adkins. Read the rest of this entry »
The Van Winkle Brothers (Arnold and Lee) were musically prolific from 1956 to 1962 . Nobody seems to have any informaion on their childhood, although U.S. 1940 Census gives for Arnold a birthdate in 1935 ; but the birthplace is in Tennessee, when they made their careers as far as Indianapolis.
Read the rest of this entry »
Eddie Zack (Edward Zackarian, from Armenian ancestry) was born on March 5, 1922 in Providence, Rhode Island. His first introduction to country music was in high school and at age 17, he organized his first hillbilly band, consisting of a banjo player, a washtub- and washboard player, and various spoon- and harmonica players. Among the band’s members was Eddie’s younger brother Richard (also known as “Richie”, “Cousin Richie” and, later, “Dick Richards”) who was born on January 16, 1925. When both brothers joined the marines during the War, their band came to an early end.
Rambling Rufus Shoffner earned his nickname from his early hobo days when he hopped a train at the age of 16 from his home in Tazewell (or Harrogate?), TN where he was born in 1916 to go wandering: he led a band called the Blue Yodel Boys in 1939 on WROL Knoxville, Tennessee. His neighbor in Tennessee was Hugh Friar, who had later in the Detroit label Clix two fine and very sought after Rockabilly/Country issues (« I can’t stay mad at you », # 805 for example) . But Shoffner’s constant urge to travel resulted in his roaming across much of the country, hustling in one moneymaking scheme after another, before finally settling down in Monroe, Michigan, reuniting with his siblings in 1950. Read the rest of this entry »
With a mellifluous, deep voice often compared to western singer Rex Allen, Ricky Riddle was an Arkansas-born, Detroit-bred vocalist who gravitated to the western side of country music. His surname was apt, as he was a restless character, always on the go and never satisfied with life in one place for very long. Born Arvin Doyle Riddle on Aug. 22, 1920, in Rector, Ark., his parents moved him, two brothers and one sister to Hamtramck, Mich., around 1933. The Riddle family eventually settled in a house on McClellan Street in Detroit.
During World War II, Riddle enlisted with the Navy in Chicago, Ill. He served aboard the U.S.S. Adair in the Pacific Theatre. After an honourable discharge in 1946, He returned to Detroit and found a booming country music nightclub scene waiting for him; a result of thousands of new migrants from the South who moved north to build Detroit’s “Arsenal of Democracy.” Riddle pursued the life of a singing cowboy in earnest, writing songs and performing in nightclubs and showcases, sitting in with other entertainers and headlining his own shows.
In 1949, Drake’s Record Shop, located on East Jefferson Avenue, sponsored appearances by Hank Williams, Cowboy Copas and others at the convention center on Woodward Avenue. When Riddle’s friend, singer Eddie Jackson, was hired to open for Williams, Riddle shared the stage with him. Riddle was probably living in Nashville, Tennessee, by then.
Jackson visited Riddle in Nashville during ’49, and Riddle took him to witness his new buddy Clyde Julian “Red” Foley record what became a major hit for Decca Records, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.” Compared to the size to which it grew a decade later, the country music business in Nashville was small, thriving through the projects of independent record labels, music publishers and promoters who tapped local artists working at Nashville clubs and radio stations; particularly members of the “Grand Ole Opry” barn dance at clear-channel WSM. In January 1950, Riddle’s first commercial recording appeared as the premier issue of the Tennessee label, a record company created by three Nashville businessmen, including a jukebox serviceman. Riddle’s “Second Hand Heart” on Tennessee no. 711 (numbered for luck, no doubt) was a good seller, and a hit in Detroit. Riddle cut several more releases for Tennessee over the next two years:
Second hand heart
“Second Hand Heart” and the song on the record’s flip side, “Somebody’s Stealin’ My Baby’s Sugar,” were both covered by several artists, including Houston’s Benny Leaders (4-Star), Bill Johnson and the Casanova Boys (London) and, more than a decade later, Everett “Swanee” Caldwell remade “Second Hand Heart” for King.
« Somebody’s stealin’ my baby’s sugar » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennesse-711B-Ricky-Riddle-somebodys-stealing-my-babys-sugar.mp3download
By 1950, Riddle was operating a nightclub in Nashville. He befriended Arizona singer Marty Robbins, whose first appearance at the “Grand Ole Opry” occurred in early 1951. Probably in 1950, Riddle bought author rights to Robbins’ song “Ain’t You Ashamed,” (# 715) which became Riddle’s second release on Tennessee, # 713. (Detroit musician and Capitol Records distributor Bob McDonald purchased a share in the song from Riddle.) Cowboy singer Bob Atcher covered the song for Capitol. The flipside of “Are you ashamed” was a good honky-tonk, a version (later by Skeets McDonald) of “Smoke comes out my chimney just the same”.
Ain’t you ashamed http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-713A-Ricky-Riddle-aint-you-ashamed.mp3download
« Smoke comes out my chimney just the same« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-713B-Ricky-Riddle-smoke-comes-out-my-chimney-just-the-same.mp3download
Riddle recorded Robbins’ “Heartsick” for another Tennessee release. He attempted to present Robbins with a recording contract, but the company’s artists and repertoire man passed on the deal. Robbins went on to launch a storied career with Columbia Records in May 1951.
Among other releases on Tennessee, Riddle sang a duet with Anita Kerr, leader of the Anita Kerr Singers, on a heart song called “The Price Of Love,” again attributed to Riddle and McDonald. On “Boogie woogie Tennessee”(# 717) (a take-off to “Tennessee saturday night”), Riddle had Ernie Newton, the bassman who wrote much later “Country boy’s dream” for Carl Perkins. He seems far from young on this recording, and the suave assurance of both Riddle and the backing group is almost at odds with the subject matter. Riddle made 8 records for Tennessee, one of them being “Heartsick”, the first Marty Robbins’ song he recorded commercially. After the label’s biggest hit played out in 1951-52
(Del Wood’s “Down Yonder” of 1951), the Tennessee label closed its doors.
Boogie woogie Tennessee http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/riddle-boogie-woogie-tennessee.mp3download
I got other fish to fry http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-732A-Ricky-Riddle-I-got-other-fish-to-fry.mp3download
The tall, easygoing Riddle persevered; he worked on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance as Wayne Turner, but was canned for habitual drunkeness. He then cut a single for Decca’s subsidiary Coral Records in 1953, the fine double-sider “What do you do” and “You belong to another” (# 64157). In early 1954, he recorded the bouncy “Steamboat Boogie” for M-G-M Records # 11741, with steel guitarist Don Helms and Chet Atkins on electric guitar. Framing the clever lyrics of the song was the refrain: Steamboat boogie / Rock, rock, rockin’ along. But for the fiddles, the song rocked like Bill “Rock Around The Clock” Haley’s earliest efforts. The flip side, “A Brand New Heart,” was written by Riddle as a follow-up to “Second Hand Heart.”
Remaining Tennessee sides of interest: “Cold icy feet” (# 758) and the fast “I’m so lonesome” (# 801).
« What do you do« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/coral-64157-Ricky-Riddle-what-do-you-do.mp3download
« You belong to another« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/coral-64175-Ricky-Riddle-you-belong-to-another.mp3download
« Steamboat boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/MGM-11741-Steamboat-Boogie-Ricky-Riddle.mp3download
« Cold icy feet« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-758A-Ricky-Riddle-cold-icy-feet.mp3download
« I’m so lonesome« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/tennessee-801B-Ricky-Riddle-Im-so-lonesome.mp3download
In 1956, Riddle cut two releases for Decca Records. The first featured the trucker’s “Drivin’ Down The Wrong Side Of The Road,” backed with “I’m A Whip Crackin’ Daddy.” The single sounded like it was recorded at Owen Bradley’s Quonset hut in Nashville. Riddle’s second Decca single featured the Anita Kerr Singers for a country-pop production, “The House I Used To Live In,” and a song with religious content (he had cut similar material for the Tennessee label) called “If Jesus Had To Pray (What About Me?)” During the 1950s, while living in Nashville, Riddle performed as a guest at the “Renfro Valley Barn Dance” in Kentucky, and as a guest on the “Grand Ole Opry.”
His parents moved from Michigan to Tempe, Ariz., and Riddle traveled the country, visiting friends and family while singing in nightclubs along the way.
« Driving down the wrong side of the road« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/decca-29813-Ricky-Riddle-Drivin-Down-The-Wrong-Side-Of-The-Road.mp3download
« I’m a whip crackin’ daddy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/decca-29813-Ricky-Riddle-Im-A-Whip-Crackin-Daddy.mp3download
Around 1968 Riddle settled in Arizona for a spell. There he recorded the finest vocal performances of his career for the Rio Grande label, based in Glendale. For starters, he cut a version of the traditional cowboy song, “Streets Of Laredo,” as well as “Reata Pass,” his own western composition. Riddle reprised “Ain’t You Ashamed” and “Second hand heart” besides coming up with some swinging shuffles like “Don’t You Worry” a cheeky ode to overdoing it at the bar, and “(There’s ) Something In Your Future.” and finally “Jo Ann”. The band was top-notch, delivering punchy performances with quality production and arrangements, including a stellar steel guitarist.
« Something in your future« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Ricky-Riddle-Something-In-Your-Future.mp3download
« Jo Ann »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Ricky-Riddle-Jo-Ann.mp3download
an untraced 45 by Riddle
With a broad, toothy smile, Riddle had a likeable personality and visited Michigan often, to see his siblings and their families, and check up on musician friends he grew up with in Detroit. While in town, he made the rounds of local radio stations and sat with country music disk jockeys for on-air interviews. At some point during the 1970s, Riddle moved back to Michigan and took a job as a security guard in Hamtramck. Late one night, Riddle walked out the door of a Detroit bar and was mugged. When police found him, he stank of liquor and the officers mistook his condition for simply being drunk. They placed the unconscious Riddle in a jail cell for the night. When he didn’t respond to attempts to wake him in the morning, Riddle was admitted to the Veterans Administration hospital. Doctors found that Riddle had suffered a stroke resulting from a blow to his head; he was paralysed on his right side.
Riddle’s brother, E. Marvin Riddle, arranged for him to live at the Clintonview Care Convalescent Home in Clinton Township. Relatives and friends visited regularly. Mentally, Riddle was the same person, but he was unable to sing and play guitar. To cheer him up, a niece often called a local country music station to request Riddle’s records, and they played them late at night when he enjoyed listening to his radio. Riddle passed away on Aug. 8, 1988. His ashes were interned at the top of the hill in St. John’s cemetery in Fraser, Mich.
© Craig “Bones” Maki, 2010
Thanks, as usual, to Ronald ’78rpm’ Keppner for scanning the rare Tennessee/Coral/Decca labels. Rest of the tunes do come from Internet, as: Ricky Riddle discography (Praguefrank)
TOM JAMES is completely unknown except in the Rockabilly/R&R circles for his Klix issue « Track down baby/Hey baby » from 1957. No whereabouts neither his birthday year are known. Is even still alive today ?
He already had come from Oklahoma when he got a recording contract with RCA-Victor. His only session with this major label came early 1954 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tom James(vo,g) with Chet Atkins(el g) Louis Innis(rh g) Robert Foster(steel g) Dale Parker (bjo) Bob Moore(b).
(Thomas Radio Productions) Nashville,February 17,1954
E4VB-3624 Don’t lead me on RCA Victor 20/47-5790, Cactus 5052
E4VB-3625 Your kind of lovin’ RCA Victor 20/47-5695, Cactus RCA vol.2
E4VB-3626 Sample of your love RCA Victor 20/47-5695
E4VB-3627 I’m a pig about your lovin’ RCA Victor 20/47-5790
All four tracks are uptempos, the slowest being « Sample of your love ». They are nothing but pleasant hillbilly boppers (prominent bass) although a bit common.
« Dont lead me on« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Sample-Of-Your-Love.mp3download
« Your kind of lovin’« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Tom-James-Your-Kinda-Lovin.mp3download
« Sample of your love« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Sample-Of-Your-Love.mp3downoad
« I‘m a pig about your lovin‘ »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/10-Tom-James-Im-A-Pig-About-Your-Lovin.mp3download Read the rest of this entry »
Go to a map of the U.S., search « Biloxi », and you’ll find this small city in the Harrison county, down south of Mississipi. That’s where the Fine label story begins. But before that and its debuts, we must look at its founders. Professor Marion Carpenter had a recording studio open to local facilities in Biloxi and was associated with steel guitar player Murphy Monroe « Pee Wee » Maddux (born 1923). The latter’s name had over the years several changes : from « Pee Wee » to « Pee-Wee », even « PeWee ». He was also a songwriter (Kitty Wells in 1956 ; or « Fools like me » for Jerry Lee Lewis, or more « Rocky road of love » for Curtis Gordon, even Fats Domino : « What a price »), and his earliest efforts as recording artist (at least he is credited as such on the labels) are to be found in March 1952 on M-G-M records, cut in Nashville : « My hobo heart » and « Lover’s crime ». The vocals were done by a certain Al Britt for two average boppers. Maddux penned a good percentage of the songs on Fine, among them the Ernie Chaffin ones.
« My hobo heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mgm-11224-Peewee-Maddux-vocal-by-Al-Britt-My-Hobo-Heart.mp3download
« Lover’s crime« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mgm-11281-Peewee-Maddux-And-His-Lazy-River-Boys-Lovers-Crime.mp3download
In 1954 the pair Carpenter/Maddux launched a microscopic label, Gulf Coast, which they issued a certain DAN SEAL on : « You gotta walk that line » (# 1012) is a lively little opus, but nothing particular, and it sinked into obscurity. But SEAL reemerged next year on the new comperes’ label, FINE for two ballads, « I wake at dawn (with you on my mind ) » being the best one (# 1003).
« You gotta walk that line« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/01-Dan-Seal-You-Gotta-Walk-That-Line.mp3download
« I wake at dawn« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/05-Dan-Seal-I-Wake-At-Dawn-With-You-On-My-Mind.mp3download
JIM OWEN then came with the rollicking « Sie Simon shuffle » (# 1004) : it’s a jumping hillbilly rocker with a fiddle solo and one from Pee Wee Maddux on steel well to the fore. Owen had late ’50s his own Owe Man label where he issued « The key’s in the mail box » (see below). On to JOHNNY BOZEMAN and the good « She’s my bayou babe » (# 1006). Bozeman went afterwards in 1957 on Mobile, Alabama, Sandy label, which he co-founded with Paul Bose, and saw a classic horror rocker « Rockin’ in the graveyard » by Jackie Morningstar in 1959. Bozeman himself had « Blues and I » (# Sandy 1001)(alas, unheard) and what is described in a sale list as « doo wop rockabilly », « How many ».
Jim Owen, « Sie Simon shuffle« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/07-Jim-Owen-Sie-Simon-Shuffle.mp3download
Johnny Bozeman, « She’s my bayou babe« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/12-Johnny-Bozeman-Shes-My-Bayou-Babe.mp3do<nload
November 5, 1955
Other artists on the Fine label included ANN RAYE and his fine (co-sung with Jim Owen) bopper « Our wedding band » (# 1001). Raye had also had earlier 2 singles on Starday and 1 on Decca in 1956. Incidentally she was the daughter of local promoter Frank « Yankie » Barhanovich, and through her father’s activities, went on to share in 1955 some Elvis Presley shows in Biloxi. Moreover on Fine, HANNA FAYE had the ballad « It pays to be true » (# 1008). Other men : J. W. THOMPSON and the good honky-tonker « It’s your turn » (# 1007) – later he cut « When you’re honky tonkin’ » on the Toledo label (# 1003) out of Alexandria, Louisiana. Or B. F. JOHNSON : the fine bopper « I wish I could believe you » (# 1011)(great mandolin!).
Ann Raye & Jim Owen, « Our wedding band« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/03-Ann-Raye-Jim-Owen-Our-Wedding-Band.mp3download
Hanna Faye « It pays to be true« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/17-Hanna-Faye-It-Pays-To-Be-True.mp3download
J.W. Thompson « It’s your turn« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/15-J.-W.-Thompson-His-Red-River-Trio-Its-Your-Turn.mp3download
J.W. Thompson« When you’re honky tonkin‘ »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/When-Youre-Honky-Tonkin-J-W-Thompson.mp3download
B.F. Johnson« I wish I could believe you« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/01-Dan-Seal-You-Gotta-Walk-That-Line.mp3download
J.W. Thompson. Nov. 12, 1955
Pee Wee Maddux on steel guitar
The most important artist however was ERNIE CHAFFIN who made his recording beginnings on Fine with « The stop look and listen song »b/w « The heart of me » (1010), before Carpenter and Maddux went with him to Nashville to meet country promoter Jim Denny and A&R man Paul Cohen. A deal with Decca never concluded but Fred Rose took Chaffin on his burgeoning Hickory label. 4 sides were issued without success, then Chaffin came to Sun, and Maddux backed him on such a classic as « Feelin’ low » (Sun 262).
« The stop look and listen song« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/21-Ernie-Chaffin-The-Stop-Look-Listen-Song.mp3download
« The heart of me« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/22-Ernie-Chaffin-The-Heart-Of-Me.mp3download
Ernie Chaffin [Hickory]« Get me on your mind« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/get-me-on-your-mind-1024.mp3download
Later on, Carpenter and Maddux helped a lot Jimmy Donley in his early career and got him his Decca contract in 1957.
Maddux cut « New red river valley » (instrumental) for Judd Phillips label Judd (#1010) in 1958. He died and is buried in Gulfport, MS, in 1993.
All in all, a short lived affair (Fine folded after 20 issues, in 1957), but a good starter for many an artist.
From the notes of Allan Turner on the BACM CD « A ‘Fine’ hillbilly song – Country music on the Fine label » # 392. Various researches to. Somelocalloser.blogspot for Jim Owen’s Owe Man sides.
December 25, 1954
‘One of the newest members of the King country and
western roster is eighteen year old Bobby Roberts.
Young Bobby was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on
September 12, 1937. Bobby always dreamed of becoming a
recording artist and he started getting his experience
young. He appeared in a musical show when only nine.
Both his mother and father encouraged Bobby in his
chosen career. Young Bobby Roberts did part time work
to help him through high school. He was graduated in
June 1953 and began going about the task of gaining
experience in the music world. His biggest thrill was
when over three thousand persons attended one of his
personal appearances. Roberts has worked as a grocery
clerk, car hop, shined shoes, polished cars and washed
dishes, always dreaming of becoming a professional
musician‘.(as written on the DJ bio copy of King 4868)
At least some factual data can now be gleaned on
Roberts’ origins. He recorded one session for King in August
1955 and I’m assuming that it is the same Bobby
Roberts that recorded for the Memphis based Hut label
in 1958. However, I’m not entirely convinced that the
Roberts on Sky is the same person. I base this
assumption on aural evidence (the vocalists on both
records contrast distinctly) and the fact that Sky was
based in Mississippi. Having said that, from a logical
point of view it most likely is the same Roberts on
all three labels, as Joe Griffith, a high school
friend of Roberts, covered both of Roberts’ Sky
recordings and both were apparently based in Memphis
at the time. Further, considering Roberts Tennessee
origins, it possibly is the same Roberts on all four
My query here is, can anyone confirm that the Bobby
Roberts on King, Sky and Hut is the same person? Or
can anyone else shed any light at all on this? It has to
be noted Roberts wrote all his material.
Using a number of different sources, I managed to
compile the following Bobby Roberts discography,
19 August 1955. Cincinnati, Ohio
Bobby Roberts And The Ozark Drifters.
Bobby Roberts – vcl, other personnel unknown : steel, fiddle,st-bass.
K3995 ‘Her And My Best Friend’ King 4868
K3996 ‘I’m Gonna Comb You Outta My Hair’ King 4837
« Her and my best friend« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Her-And-My-Best-Friend-Bobby-Roberts-King-45-4868-1956.mp3download
« I’m gonna comb you outta my hair« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/31-Im-Gonna-Comb-You-Outta-My-Hair-Bobby-Roberts.mp3download
billboard Nov. 5, 1955
« My undecided heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bobby-Roberts-And-The-Ozark-Drifters-My-Undecided-Heart-King-4837.mp3download
« I’m pulllin’ stakes and leavin’ you« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/08-Im-Pulling-Stakes-And-Leaving-You-Bobby-Roberts.mp3download
billboard Jan. 21, 1956
K3997 ‘My Undecided Heart’ King 4837
K3998 ‘I’m Pullin’ Stakes And Leavin’ You’ King 4868
Bobby Roberts with Highpockets Delta Rockets. Mississippi label
Bobby Roberts – vcl, other personnel unknown : ld-g, b, d .
45-S-34 ‘Big Sandy’ Sky 56-101
45-S-33 ‘She’s My Woman’ Sky 56-101
« Big Sandy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bobby-Roberts-Big-Sandy.mp3download
« She’s my woman« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bobby-Roberts-Shes-My-Woman.mp3download
Bobby Roberts with Bad Habits. Memphis, TN, label.
Bobby Roberts – vcl, other personnel unknown : ld-g,b,d.
« Hop, skip and jump« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bobby-Roberts-Hop-Skip-And-Jump.mp3download
« Cravin« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bobby-Roberts-Cravin.mp3download
4706 ‘Hop Skip And Jump’ Hut 881
4707 ‘Cravin » Hut 881
from the notes of Shane Hughes, « Yahoo » « rockin’ records» group.
This Roberts has obviously nothing to do with the one on U.S.A. label and the other on Cameo, who came later early ’60s, and drastically change in style.
Bobby Roberts’ music, from editor’s point of view.
It is hard to imagine such a change in so little time in style between the King session and the Sky one.
All 4 sides cut at King (« with the Ozark Drifters ») are pure dreamed hillbilly a la Hank Williams. All medium paced tracks, they feature a strong string-bass, and a weird steel-guitar, both propelled by a crisp fiddle. Vocal is a dream, Roberts has a firm voice, even some semi-yodelling vocalizing over nice lyrics.
In complete contrast, the Sky sides are out-and-out rockers. « Big Sandy » is a screamer, and the whole thing is a gas. « She’s my woman », a bit slower, fetches to Rockabilly. Note on the reissue the presence of the Jennings Brothers.
« Cravin’ » is a routinely rocker, while « Hop skip and jump » (not the Collins Kids’ number, neither the York Brothers’ on Bullet ) is an average rocker – even a sax – which Billy Riley could have cut this style. Actually it bears a little similarity with « Pearly Lee »..
The son to Bobby Roberts once posted in « bopping » that his father was the same man on King, Sky and Hut ; so I asked for some details and a picture, if available – no answer..
With thanks to Uncle Gil (King 4868 sound file) and Dave Cruse (King 4868 label scan). Internet research.
Joe Griffith « Big Sandy » (Reelfoot unissued)http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Joe-Griffith-Big-Sandy.mp3download
Joe Griffith « She’s my woman« (Reelfoot unissued)http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/08-Im-Pulling-Stakes-And-Leaving-You-Bobby-Roberts.mp3download
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« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/02-Fire-In-My-Heart-Will-Be-Drowned-In-Tears.mp3download
« 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.