Black Jack Wayne
Born: February 8, 1923
Died: June 30, 1999
KEEN San Jose, CA
KVSM San Mateo, CA
Along the way, we’ll find artists who cause some discussion back and forth or even some debate. No, not about their music, but about the details of their career. We’ve already seen some discussion on this fellow in an exchange of emails. But, somehow we stumbled across an issue of Cowboy Songs from December 1957 that had a column written by Imogene Ellwanger who provides some tidbits. And a few other mentions elsewhere, too.
It has proven difficult to find something other than this short biography taken from hillbilly-music.com site. Black Jack Wayne (real last name : Shults) was a native of Oklahoma who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was 14. He started guitar playing as a hobby but later on down the road, it became part of his career. He had an injury of some type and came back to the Bay Area and decided to join his brother’s band, the « Rattlesnake Ramblers ».
In 1950 he and his younger brother Chuck « Charles » bought the « Garden of Allah » nightclub, located in Niles, north of Hayward-Oakland Highway. They hired country artist Ed Cima to transform the Garden by painting cartoon cowboys and western scenes in a whimsical mural over the walls. He also hand painted the ceiling to look like the Taj Mahal. They tried to change the name but people wouldn’t accept it, so it remained the Garden of Allah.?In its heyday, the Garden catered to rock and roll fans on Friday nights, country western lovers on Saturdays and square dancers on Sundays. In mid-1956, he had three daily shows over the all-western radio station KVSM out of San Mateo, California. And a one hour show over television station KOVR with the « Bar 10 Ranch Boys ».
Black Jack and the Bar-10 Ranch Boys had several recordings in 1954 on the Cavalier label. Back then their latest release was « A Dream Just Won’t Do » along with « Nip or Two » (# 839) or Jack’s brother Chuck Wayne‘s « Mean Mean Mean » (# 836). The latter seems to be the Bud Hobbs song.
Later on in her column, Ms. Ellwanger mentions that KOVR, Channel 13 in Stockton, had two Western music shows on the air. One show had Glenn Stepp and his band. The other had Black Jack Wayne and his « Bar 11 Ranch Boys ». Black Jack had also started a live radio show from the Garden of Allah nightclub he owned that was broadcast over KEEN every Saturday night. She also wrote that there was a possibility that the « California Hayride » might start a show originating from the Garden of Allah every Friday night over Channel 13 in Stockton.
In 1955 on the Spur label we found Charles (Chuck) Wayne for two solid Hardrock Gunter type hillbilly rockers (hillbilly bop with a dose of western swing), « Rockin’ Rollin’ Rhythm » and « Rodeo Time Is Here » # 1245), and maybe more with « The Golden Key » (# 1248).
In 1957, per a column in Cowboy Songs by Imogene Chapman, we find that Black Jack had his own record label – Black Jack. And around that time, had put out his first recording, « Time Stole My Empire » b/w « Shallow Water Blues » : the latter being a strong fast bluesy number. Tom Hall and Terry Fell helped on the record with their guitar and harmonica. At the time, they mentioned that you could order the record from Black Jack in care of radio station KVSM in San Mateo, California. No coincidence that Ms. Chapman might mention Black Jack, for in the same issue featuring « Stars on the Horizon », she is listed as the president of his ‘fast-growing’ and ‘real-active’ fan club.
Later on, we found a mention on Channel 2, KTVU, now of the Fox Network, on the Bayinsider.com… « Not all of KTVU’s local programming was noteworthy or long-lasting. There was The Black Jack Wayne Show, a western variety show… »
In the KVSM studio (San Mateo), Black Jack Wayne cut in 1957 his next record « What Makes Me Hang Around » and backed Rose and Cal Maddox on « Gotta Travel On » (Black Jack 104). Medium honky tonk (nice guitar), with Jack vocally fronting, backed on chorus by Rose. His cooperation with the Maddoxes led him to offer them « Ugly & Slouchy » (Columbia 40836)
In 1959 Chuck Wayne had « Wishing/Thank You Call Again » on Ozark 963, both pop country. Incidentally the latter was written by two comperes of the Rural Rhythm days, Johnny O’Neal and Johnny Tyler. Black Jack Wayne and the Roving Gamblers backed Bill Carter on « Baby Brother ». B-side, « Ride, Gunman, Ride », was a Jack Wayne original. Chuck Wayne had his last known recordings in 1959 on Black Jack 106 with « I’m Sending You Some Roses /Blue Moon Waltz » (untraced record).
Black Jack Wayne had several interesting records on Cheyenne, among them « Dancing With A Stranger » (# 114) in 1960, before a couple on Big West and a solitary issue in 1962 on Decca. Charles Wayne also backed Mel Dorsey (« Little Lil » rocker) on Black Jack.
sources: main source was « hillbilly-music.com » site. Many Youtube label shots. And a lot of research! I am not THAT satisfied with this article.
We don’t know anything about Jack Derrick’s early life. He seems to have emanated from Texas in 1921, and he began recording as early as 1946 in a sparse honky tonk (mainly guitars) instrumentation for King. This label did issue on both main serie as well as on Deluxe and Federal the result of 12 songs two sessions. Best tunes are one « Truck Drivin’ Man » , « Got Worried Blues In My Mind », « I Want A Woman (That Can Cook » or « Triflin’ Baby ». I don’t know if any tune did meet the success, although « Truck Drivin’ Man » remains as a minor classic : it even has been re-recorded in the early ’60s on a « trucker » LP (# 866 « Truck Drivers Songs »). Another curiosity is the line in the song: «
« When my truck drivin’ man comes into town
I’ll dress up in my silken gown »
So Derrick was ahead of his time with a gay trucker song.
Later on we find Derrick on a solitary Majestic issue of 1950-51. Why he appeared on this West coast label is unknown. « Can’t Find The Keyhole » is of course a drunken song.
Derrick also had issues on the Clifton and Eagle labels (untraced) during the early 50s.
Back in 1955, Cowboy Jack Derrick was working at KNUZ in Houston, Texas. He hosted a show called the « KNUZ Corral » each day from 11:00am to 1:25pm, Monday through Saturday.??On Saturday night, he would sing and do comedy as well as part of the KNUZ Saturday Night Jamboree. To finish off his weekends of personal appearances, he performed at the Magnolia Gardens on Sundays where they did outdoor shows.??In late 1954, Biff Collie and Jack wrote Martha Ferguson of Pickin’ and Singin’ News that they had a ‘homecoming’ type of show lined up for their Christmas Jamboree show over KNUZ. Texas Bill Strength and Arlie Duff were to make appearances.??In May of 1955, we note that Jack wrote a letter of encouragement to the new publication, Country & Western Jamboree to help disc jockeys like himself keep up on the news.??In the summer of 1955, Jack wrote one of those regional roundup columns and gave us some insight into the KNUZ Saturday Night Jamboree show. It was held at the City auditorium and broadcast every Saturday night from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. At that time, he told readers some of the members of their cast were Link Davis, Sonny Burns, Floyd Tillman, and, Burt and Charley. The show would also include guest appearances by other acts who were probably making appearances in the area and included such names as Red Foley, Tex Ritter, Eddie Dean, T. Texas Tyler, Tommy Collins and Jimmie Davis. He also told readers of another Jamboree show that he had learned about when he visited with the show’s organizer, Hank Jones over in Hammond, Louisiana. That show, The Southeastern Jamboree was held on Saturday nights at the Reimers Auditorium in Hammond.??
Finally he had two interesting boppers in 1955-57. One is on Starday (# 205) , « Waitin’ and Watchin’ », which is fine. Even better is the very first Longhorn issue « Black Mail », full of energy and happiness (# 501). After that Derrick disappears at least from the recording scene : only one more picture shows him in 1960 with Hal Harris.
Note. Drunken Hobo pointed out the two versions of « Truck Driving Man », which had escaped me.
credits: Allan Turner for Federal and True-Tone (South Africa pressing) scans. Hillbilly Researcher for Majestic issue. « HillbillyBoogie1″ (You tube) for the mid-50s bio details.Various sources (also own collection) for the rest. Comments welcome!
Not much is known about Rudy Hansen, except that he was raised on a farm in New York (unknown date of birth). Later on, he was one of the stars appearing on the WLA’s Midwestern Jamboree, aired every saturday from Cincinati, Oh. Inspired by the Shreveport-based Louisiana Hayride, the show was originally called Boone County Jamboree (named for nearby Boone County in Northern Kentucky). Midwestern Hayride was first broadcast before 1937 and was carried live on the radio each Saturday evening through the early 1970s.
WLW television came on the air in 1948, sharing larger quarters with WLW-AM in the former Elks Building, re-christened Crosley Square. It eventually became the originating studio for the regional network Avco Broadcasting Corporation, which included WLW-A in Atlanta, WLW-D in Dayton, WLW-C in Columbus and later WLW-I in Indianapolis (after WLW-A was sold) when the program moved to television in the early 1950s. Then originating from WLW-TV, Midwestern Hayride was simulcast on WLW-AM until the early 1960s, then was revived in the mid-60s. At the show’s peak there was a one-year waiting list for tickets to be in the audience (100 people was the limit for each weekly show).
Hansen had much success in New Jersey, and got help from Smokey Warren.
In 1954 he cut his first two sides for RCA-Victor « X » sub-label (# 102). Neither « I Walked Away » (ballad) nor « The Mambo Queen » were spectacular songs, the only outstanding being the B side, Country mover, almost pop song.
Then we found him circa July 1956 (according to the Rite matrix system) with two songs on his own label, Rudy Hansen # 1226, cut or issued in Springfield, Oh. « Cry Baby Baby » is an average Country ballad, while « Saturday Jump » is THE side. Fast Rockabilly, urgent vocal, nice steel throughout, wild slapping bass, it’s got everything a ’50s lover could look for. I don’t know if the record itself is rare, although I always seen it labelled « advance copy », so Hansen seemingly sent it only to D.J.s. Note that the song was co-written with an interesting artist in his own right, Clay Eager, whom I will discuss one day upon.
In 1957, Hanson got a contract with Decca and recorded in Nashville 6 songs during 3 sessions, all pop : chorus (Anita Kerr), and I cannot really recommend any song, except « Puttin’ On The Style » or « Just As Long » from his last, early 1958, session.
After that Hansen disappeared. Maybe, like many others, he went disillusioned and hung up music.
(C. Eager – R. Hansen)? RUDY HANSEN (Springfield Oh, 1956)
Boppin’ the blues and blue suede shoes?
Baby, lots of fun?
Down on the farm on Saturday night?
That’s were it all begun?
Everyone was waltzin’ in the ol’ red barn?
And they’re jumpin’ to the caller’s call?
When all of a sudden they got real wild?
This is what I saw?
Uncle Ben got his fiddle down off the wall?
Uncle Judy got his ol’ banjo?
And Sarah jumped up, kicked out her shoes?
Screamed out, Go Ben Go!?
Fiddler was a pickin’ like you never did hear?
You oughta hear the rooster crow?
That Saturday night down on the farm?
When uncle Ben started rock ‘n’ roll
What do hardcore collectors expect from a GOOD Rockabilly or vintage Rock’n'Roll record ? Wild vocals ? A driving beat ? Numerous and extended guitar/piano breaks ? Yes, and the whole lot will be even closer to the mark ! However, one can also dig laid back vocals, a more relaxed beat, unobtrusive choruses and sax or steel guitar soli.
Now, in the two TOMMY PEDIGO singles, the main feature is the presence of THREE guitar breaks in three songs out of four (‘Memphis Town Blues‘ – alas, untraced, containing only two breaks). Thus, those highly distinctive latter-day Country Rockers find their place in any Rockabilly collection. They’re also definitely distinctive because of Tommy’s very nasal and laid back vocals (certainly Bob Dylan’s influence can be felt there) and thanks to the lead guitarist’s clear, treble and slightly echoey sound (I bet he used a Fender Telecaster). The songs, four Pedigo originals very similar in sound and structure, might have been cut at one same session but they were issued on two different labels, OLO and ANA (three letters each!), both based at the same address (Box 7831 – Nashville, Tennessee) and distributed by Sound Of Nashville. Olo 103 sees Tommy backed up by The Ridge Runners whereas Ana 106 credits The Barren River Boys as backing band ; they’re obviously the same outfit. Unless Tommy plays one of the instruments, the band is comprised of an electric lead guitar, an acoustic rhythm guitar, an electric bass and a snare drum (beaten with brushes).
‘Redheaded Woman‘ (Olo 103) is probably the pick of the bunch among Rockabilly lovers but the flip, ‘Memphis Town Blues‘, grows on you with each new spin. ‘Trouble‘ (Ana 106) is my own favorite (by a hair, really) ; the other side, ‘Whiskey, Women & Wild Living‘, is the most ‘Countryfied’ of the four. There’s a date written in the dead wax of Olo 103 : ’4/27/66′, proving to the most rabid collectors that the Sixties did not ring the knell of Rockabilly. Hear « Trouble », too : fine fast Rockabilly, nothing to do with Presley’s classic.
Tommy Pedigo had his own start in 1959 on wax : Atwell 100, a fine rural rockabilly, « She’s Gone », from Lafayette, TN. and under the name of the Pedigo Bros. They have another 45 on Atwell 101.
A survey of Ana/Olo label (taken from I forgot where)
OLO Records (Record No. 100) “ONLY IN MY DREAMS” and “LOVE IS BLIND” (Tommy W. Pedigo) REBECCA MAY & TOMMY with The Cumberland Coasters. The Cumberland Coasters were Rebecca & Tommy Pedigo playing guitars, Leonard Perry Whiteaker on bass fiddle, Melvin (Hezzie) McCormick on banjo and Rayburn Simmons, fiddle.
ANA Records (Record No. 101-a) “LOVE IS BLIND” (Tommy W. Pedigo) CHARLES REED and Rebecca Pedigo with The Cane River Boys. The band members were Delmus Neal on electric guitar/singer, Rayburn Simmons playing fiddle, and Mac Simmons on the bass fiddle. (Record No. 101-b) “GOODBYE OLD SAINT LOUIS” (Tommy W. Pedigo) CHARLES REED & DELMUS NEAL with The Cane River Boys.
ANA Records (Record No. 102-a) “I LOVE YOU” (Tommy W. Pedigo) Rebecca Pedigo & Delmus Neal with The Cane River Boys. (Record No. 102-b) “YOU HAVE WON MY LOVE” Rebecca Pedigo & Charles Reed with The Cane River Boys.
OLO Records (Record No. 103-a) “Red Headed Woman » and No. 103-b) “Memphis Town Blues” (Tommy W. Pedigo) Tommy Pedigo with The Ridge Runners. Band members were Delmus Neal on electric guitar, Robert Reed on bass and Billy Hillis on drums.
ANA Records (Record No. 104-a) “ONLY IN MY DREAMS” and (Record No. 104-b) “GREYHOUND BLUES” (Tommy W. Pedigo) REBECCA ROGERS with The Country Classics. The band members were Billy Yearwood on steel guitar, Johnny Sutton on electric guitar, Clint Walden on drums and Hank Rowland playing bass.
ANA Records (Record No. 105-A) “LITTLE BITTY DEVIL » and (Record No. 105-B) “SINGING THE BLUES AGAIN” (Tony Williams) TONY WILLIAMS with The Nashville Nighthawks.
ANA Records (Record No. 106-A) “WHISKEY WOMEN AND WILD LIVING” (Tommy W. Pedigo) and (Record No. 106-B) “TROUBLE” TOMMY PEDIGO with The Barren River Boys. Band members were Delmus Neal on electric guitar, Robert Reed on bass and Billy Hillis on drums.
ARTISTS REVUE Records (Record 1A) “MEMPHIS TOWN BLUES” (T. Pedigo) and (Record 1B) “SLAP HAPPY JAIL” (J. Austin) DEXTER, artist.
ANA Records (Record 108-A) “NASHVILLE BLUES” (Tommy W. Pedigo) COUNTRY CLASSIC ESQUIRE. Band members were William (BILL) Hardin singer and on sax, Rebecca Rogers on keyboard and backup singer, Mike Johnson on electric guitar, Jimmy Payne on bass and Jerry Cole on drums. (Record No. 108-B) “I LOVE YOU” (Tommy W. Pedigo) COUNTRY CLASSIC ESQUIRE. Band members were Rebecca Rogers on keyboard and singer, Mike Johnson on electric guitar and singer, William (BILL) Hardin on sax, Tommy Pedigo on bass and Jerry Drums on drums.
J&P CO. “SLAP HAPPY JAIL” and DON’T BOTHER ME, JIM” (J. Austin – P. Capshaw) Sung by Former Jailer DIAMOND JIM AUSTIN
ANA Records, “LITTLE BITTY DEVIL” (Tony Williams) JAMES & PATSY AUSTIN. Band members were Rebecca Rogers on keyboard, William (BILL) Hardin on sax, Mike Johnson on electric guitar, Tommy Pedigo on bass and Jerry Cole on drums. “START ALL OVER” (James Austin) JAMES AUSTIN, artist. Band members were Rebecca Rogers on keyboard, Mike Johnson on electric guitar, Tommy Pedigo on bass and Jerry Cole on drums.
Reprint of Paul Vidal’s BigVJamboree site for most of the information. The idea of the article come from when I visited Paul during the ’80s, and he made me familiar with Tommy Pedigo.
A popular artist with country and western fans, Jim Flaherty performed often and helped organize and promote country music in New England with his concerts as well as through his position as manager of the successful Belmont Record Shop in Hartford. Jim recorded a country-ish cover of Elvis Presley’s hit « Are You Lonesome Tonight » (vocals by Howie Stange) / « My Foolish Heart » with vocals by Morey Dubois on Frankie Records FR-7. He cut more on Frankie, the forgettable double-sider « My Darling Rosie »/I’ll Never Be The Same » by Lou Dee. Jim also recorded two fine rockabilly/rockers tunes on a rare single on Jenn Records (J-101), « Real Gone Daddy« / »This Old Bomb of Mine » with vocals by Howie Stange. Finally Connecticut born Stange recorded on the New York Mell label (# 120) the fine double-sider ballad « Baby I’m Sorry/You Never Had It So Good« .
Stalin Kicked The Bucket: Ray Anderson 
If Joseph Stalin inspired some harsh songs during his lifetime, his death ignited even more vitriol. Anderson’s unforgiving lyrics (« He died with a hemorrhage in the brain, they have a new fireman on the devil’s train« ) are set against such a cheerful country melody that someone unfamiliar with the English language might mistake the tune for a square dance record. Read the rest of this entry »
Ken Hammock on Starday-Dixie
Ken Hammock is certainly not a household name in music history – even in collector scenes he is an obscure figure. Only two record releases – one on Dixie and the other on Starday – were his contribution to American music but nevertheless, these recordings are now sought after collector items.
Hammock first appeared in the late 1940s, when he was a member of the Tennessee Valley Boys led by Clyde Grubb. This group was possibly the same that was a featured act on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded on Victor sometimes after 1942. May it as it be, Hammock left the band around the summer of 1948 and founded his own act, which he called the « Tennessee Valley Gang. » Members of the gang included H.J. Keck (fiddle/guitar), Ray West (guitar), Jimmy Wisher (« hot guitar » as called in Billboard), Jimmie Brewer (guitar), Johnnie Brewer (bass) with Hammock possibly on lead guitar.
In 1948, they performed on a tent show and joined WGAP in Maryville, Tennessee, in January 1949. The next nine years are a blanket in Hammock’s career since there is no mention of him performing. He appeared in 1958 on the Dixie label with a rockabilly instrumental called « Blue Guitar Jump » with Hammock taking over the lead guitar. By then, a singer called Hugh Lewis was a member of the group and he is the one who can be heard on Hammock’s second single, « Now or Never » b/w « Gotta Find Some Way » for Starday. Both tracks were solid Country performances. These tracks were possibly recorded in Ashland, Kentucky.
Hammock again disappeared for a while. In 1970, there was a Ken Hammock who accompanied the Bailey Brothers on some of their recordings in Knoxville, Tennessee, backing the duo up on string bass. There’s no indication that this is the same musician.
Dixie 45-2009: Blue Guitar Jump / Angel in Person
Starday 45-370: Now or Never / Gotta Find Some Way
Recordings with the Bailey Brothers
These recordings were released on Old Homestead LP OHCS 138 in 1982
Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 1970
Charlie Bailey (vcl/mand), Danny Bailey (gtr/vcl), Ken Hammock (bs)
« Mary of the Wild Moor »
« Jack and Mae »
« Alabama »
« The Sweetest Gift »
« Where No Cabins Fall »
« He’s Still Knocking »
« Step Out in the Sunlight »
« I’d Rather Have Jesus »
« Blow Your Whistle Freight Train »
« Knoxville Girl »
Beside that, nothing is known about Ken Hammock. The Starday issue (« Now Or Never », # 370) is a great mid-tempo Hillbilly bop side. Electric bass, guitar constantly chanting around Hugh Lewis’ vocal. A great tune!
I really don’t know where I picked this story up! Someone can help? Yes, Alexander Petrauskas did! The article was first published in his site: http://hillbillycountry.blogspot.com. but without pictures and sounds. Thank Alexander!
KED KILLEN was born on May 10, 1911 in Jenkins, Kentucky and raised there. From the time he was a teenager until 25 years of age, Killen sang and played the guitar only locally with other musicians at neighborhood meet-togethers and in Virginia.
He had compiled a group of musicians which he named Western All Stars. Early ‘50s he had a record on the Johnson City, TN, Rich-R’-Tone label. In 1957 he cut a disc for the microscopic Grundy, Va., Kyva label, a Starday custom. It was a gospel influenced very fine Hillbilly bop.
No more opportunity came Ked’s way to record until he had seen an ad and write-up on Western Ranch Music record label run by Norm Kelly, out of Thornton, Ca. It was in early 1966 when he contacted the company with an audition tape. The company liked his down-to-earth country sounds and signed him to a recording contract on August 1, 1966. Until retiring in late 1969 playing only for family and friends Killen cut 20 sides for the aforementioned label. They have been recently reissued by Western Ranch.
Ked’s records had some very good ratings in various areas. Not too much has been known about his personal life, except he was married and had two children. Through the studio where he recorded in Virginia, Binge records (who re-released all his Western Ranch Music output) found out that he was working on another tape when illness and death struck his wife June, leaving him very distraught and depressed, until he became quite ill himself and passed away in 1986.
His music on Western Ranch (1966-69) could well have been cut 15 years earlier. His voice would have been suitable for the early ‘50s country sounds. His backing usually consists of Killen himself on vocal and rhythm guitar, steel and/or fiddle, st-b, sometimes an electric lead-guitar: very sparse accompaniment which fits well his sincere vocal.
The poor picture of Killen is all what’s left from the Western Ranch Music vaults.
(reprinted from (D) Binge LP 1010 “Ked Killen and his Western All Stars – Country Music is here to stay”, 1989)
discography is to be found here: Ked Killen (Praguesfrank)
Addition (September 10th, 2012). A recent acquisition in an auction, another Ked Killen 45 on KyVa 101 (Kentucky-Virginia), « Lonesome Blues« / »Let Another Love Move In« . Similar style as Western Ranch music, although it’s very hard to determine if these KyVa sides were contemporary or earlier to Western Ranch Considering the earlier Kyva issue discussed was from early 1958, this should also fit in the same period. Anyway still good Hillbilly bop music! Also first mention of a backing group.
Frank (born 1940) was singing as a child on WHBO in Tampa, FL. (According to Frank, the radio station was so small, the signal “ … just barely made it over the tree tops”. He was 15 years old when he cut this, his first recording, at the Burdette Sound Studios in Tampa, backed by the Western Hayriders (who were already an established band by this time & included Pete Howell on lead guitar & Dusty Robbins on steel guitar). Frank plays the banjo on these sides. The A side, « I’m Different » (Starday 540), is a nice uptempo number with Frank soloing on the banjo with nice support from both lead & steel guitar. The flipside is a hillbilly weeper. It’s a great debut from an underrated artist.
Soon after, Frank formed his Top Notchers and cut « What That Is (That I’m Too Young To Know » (Starday 567) in the spring of 1956: it’s an uptempo ditty with a bluegrass feel (banjo and fiddle upfront), recorded at the tiny WHBO radio station in Tampa. A brief write-up in the June ’56 issue of Country Song Roundup mentions that « Frank Evans and his B-Bar-B Ranch Hands (the name they used when they appeared on TV in St. Petersburg) have recently returned from Nashville where they appeared on the Grand Ole Opry… » It was actually the Junior Opry they appeared on.
The Top Notchers’ next release, « Barrel of Heartaches (Bucket Of Tears » (Starday 602), from late ’56, is their most primitive. Colin Thomas’ steel can be heard for the first time, and Arnold Newman’s lead gets in a few licks, but neither the song nor the performance show much inspiration.
The guys got things together for their next record, however. « Pull The Shades Down Ma » (Starday 645), released around June 1957, is Fifties country music of the sheerest excellence. « Now this city’s dwellin’ just ain’t cut out for me… » sings Frank in his most exuberant vocal on record and the band lays down an infectious rhythm that complements the lyrics perfectly. The song is reminiscent of the cool stuff Little Jimmy Dickens was cutting at the time: fun, full-blooded country that was uncompromisingly rural sounding.
Frank’s next release came only three or four months later. « I’ve Got A Patent (On My Kind Of Love) » (Starday 674) is an uptempo swinger built around a fine « twin guitar » riff from lead and steel (which also gets in a good solo). Like all their records, « I’ve Got A Patent » got little notice except on WHBO. One of the deejays in Tampa who regularly played Frank’s records was Bill Floyd, who recorded the excellent « Hey Boy » for Starday. Local Mack King recorded for Starday as well, and Dixie records Benny Joy was also from the area.
Up to this time, the Top Notchers had pretty much side-stepped rock’n'roll. But in late ’57 or early ’58, Colin Thomas left the band and the guys added a drummer, moving closer to a rockabilly sound. Their final Starday single, « The Ain’t Got Blues » (Starday 719), recorded in the spring of ’58, could be described as low-key rockabilly. Frank’s vocal is not as strong as the previous two releases; nonetheless it’s a good effort. As with Frank’s previous five records, it’s highly probable that only 300 copies were pressed, the standard quantity for Starday customs.
In early ’59, Frank and a guy named Byron Clark set up a small recording studio and label in Tampa called Nugget (Lonzo & Oscar handling the song publishing). The label issued local rock’n'roll bands. The second Nugget release was the Top Notchers’ last, but they went out blazin’ with « Gotta Get Some Money » (Nugget 1001), a solid rocker with guitar and drums to the fore – you wouldn’t know by listening to it that these guys were purely country just a year or so earlier. Alas, it was the poorest seller of their releases: in 1960, it had sold 132 copies! Disillusioned, Frank sold his rights to Byron Clark. He later appeared weekly on Ernie Lee’s TV show.
The ticket out of Tampa came from a phone call from Bill Carlisle, who wanted Frank as thumb-guitar player for a tour. It helped establish him with Nashville musicans. He played circa ’62 with Skeeter Davis and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Later he joined ex-Drifting Cowboys Jerry Rivers in a country-folk-bluegrass band, even cutting an album in ’65 for Starday. Next 25 years saw him in Nashville, both as a musician and a businessman, before returning to Tampa, outside of the business completely. He diied in 2000.
Source: article by Andrew Brown in Hillbilly Researcher # 24 (’80s)
Thanks to Udo Frank for label scans. Nugget scan comes from YouTube.
Pete Pike Read the rest of this entry »