Noack who gained degrees in English and Journalism at the University of Houston made his radio debut in 1947 and made his first record for the Gold Star label in 1949, « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ». In 1951, he cut several songs for Four Star including « Too Hot To Handle« . Leased to the TNT label, it drew attention to his songwriting and was recorded by several artists (including Sonny Burns) , most recently by Deke Dickerson, who also included « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes » on his new (excellent) CD, « Deke Dickerson In 3 Dimensions ».
Noack joined Starday in 1953 (beginning a long association with ‘Pappy’ Daily), where his immediate success came as a writer when several of his songs were recorded by top artists including Hank Snow who scored a # 5 Country hit with « These Hands » in 1956.
Noack moved with Daily to his D label where in 1958, after recording rockabilly tracks as Tommy Wood, he had a country hit with « Have Blues Will Travel » (# 14).
During the ’60s, Noack quit recording to concentrate on songwriting and publishing and had many of his songs including Flowers For Mama, Barbara Joy, The Poor Chinee, A Day In The Life Of A Fool and No Blues Is Good News successfully recorded by George Jones as album cuts.
This bizarre song, about a serial killer, was virtually unknown then since the original fifties version by its composer, Leon Payne (yes, the « I Love You Because » guy), had – understandably – never received any airplay. Since Eddie’s version it has become a cult favourite, covered by, among others, Elvis Costello.
Noack did make some further recordings in the ’70s, including arguably some of his best for his fine tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers. He moved to Nashville and in 1976, recorded an album that found release in the UK (where he had toured that year) on the Look label. He worked in publishing for Daily and Lefty Frizzell and in an executive role for the Nashville Song- writers Association until his death from cirrhosis in 1978. A fine honky tonk performer, somewhat in the style of Hank Williams, he is perhaps more appreciated today as a singer than he was in his own time.
Below is a reprint of a New Kommotion article from 1976, « Talk Back With Noack », in which Noack tells his early story in his own words.
article revised on December 4th, 2011
TALK BACK WITH NOACK – 1 (interview by Bill Millar, New Kommotion 12, Summer 1976)
My surname is of German origin; both sides of my father’s family are German; on my mother’s side,my great grand father was from Wales, and my great grandmother was a Cockney gypsy. Yhe first music I ever heard was Country. My father was a big Country music fan while my mother liked all kinds of music. My father used to take me out to hear Bob Wills, Floyd Tillman and Cliff Bruner who had a very good band, a Western Swing band with moon Mullican. . Aubrey and Adolph Hofner had another Western Swing band. My uncle by marriage used to own one of the best country places in South east Texas,Attucks. (…) I saw Bob Wills there often. This was before I went to school; we’d go in though the kjtchen and did not have to pay. While I never saw Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, we used to listen to ‘em. I really forget what band it was but Milton Brown’s piano player was then: Poppa Calhoun – he wore big – there was not much amplification in those dayshe wore pieces of wood on his fingers to pound the piano. (…) And I was ingfluenced by a Canadian singer, Montana Slim or Wilf Carter. (…) He was on the radio very early in the morning and his theme song was “There’s a love knot around my lariat”. (…) I never heard blues by black artists but I’m not sure why because in those days the radio stations were less segregated. They tried to have a little bit of something for everybody. (…) I had my first radio show on KREL (Baytown?), when I moved to KETL, there would be a Polish hour. (…)
At times Bob Wills had 20 or 30 musicians and things like “Let’s ride with Bob” had brass and reeds in the band, but he also used the steel to effect the trombone sound; the steel player was Leon McAuliffe. He was also from Houston and he was the first steel player that did not play single note steel. Before him another Houstonian, Bob Dunn, played on practically all of Decca’s records – Jimmie Davis, the two brothers – Buddy and Buster – during the late thirties and early forties. (…)
I’d messed around around with the guitar by 10 or 11, a gypsy cousin of mine played very good country guitar – his name was Ollie Stanley but we called him “Firecracker” because he was born on 4th of July. He worked on my first records with me, the first Goldstars, but he got married and his wife didn’t too much approve of him playing, so he stopped. They used to have an amateur at the Texan Theater in Houston and I sang around highschool. These guys dared me to go down and enter and I did and I won it. I just went out loose and sang “I’m a married man”, written by Red River Dave. After I performed an usherette came down and said “Mr. Darling would like to see you” – The Dick Darling Revue (…) They had three shows a day, the first didn’t start until 4 p.m., and by then I was out of school. Darling offered me 5 dollars a day and it sounded great to me. After that, Texas Bill Strength (he’s dead now) helped me a lot. I’d be singing in little clubs, me and my guitar and the microphone and the people would come out and put money in the kitty. One night the mike came out and so I just got up and walked among the people and I had them put the money in the hole in my guitar. I made a lot more money than I had sitting up there on the stage.(…)
Later on I had a radio show on KGHI in Little Rock and KETL in Houston. They called it “The singing disc-jockey show”.(…) Nobody touched the record except the engineer. I would put them in the order I wanted ‘em played. We’d be in the studio, I’d announce a record, the engineer would have it cued up and play it and then I’d sing a few songs. (…)
Mr. Quinn owned Goldstar which was the first independent record company in Houston. He was out on Telephone Road; he’d cut the original “Jole Blon” by Harry Choates, he had Lightning Hopkins and he also a pretty big record by Aubrey Gass, “Kilroy’s been here”. Hank Locklin made his first record on Goldstar. I just called Quinn one day and he said “Well come on out”. My cousin Ollie and I rode a bus out there; His original studio where he cut “Jole Blon” was a little block-house but he’d just moved to his next studio which was an adequate set-up. He only had one microphone and we cut directly on acetates…huge…so you didn’t stop if you made a mistake, you just kept going. On the first Goldstar (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Goldstar 1352), there was just me and my cousin Ollie, and a bass player named Mike Garcia. My cousin played lead electric guitar and me on rhythm.
There was a craze that was crossing the country then about pyramid clubs, one of those where everybody gets rich, you put in a dollar and eventually you’ll reach the top. Of course it’s impossible but it started in California where every crazy thing starts. So I wrote this song about it (“Pyramid Club” – Goldstar 1357) and by the time we got it out the crazehad left Texas. We still sold some records and it got a good review in Billboard; I still have it. Slim Whitman’s RCA record was reviewed in the same page. Anyway Quinn had the distributors all over the country letting him know when the pyramid clubs hit their areaand he just blankly shipped ‘em. On that one I had myself (rhythm), my cousin wasn’t on. It. Mike Garcia (bass) and a guy named Pete Marchando played accordion. And probably a boy named Bil Byrd on lead not to be confused with the Ernest Tubb Billy Byrd. My largest record on Goldstar was probably the next one; “Hungry But Happy” (Goldstar 1371) which Bob Wills recorded about 18 years later. On the strength of the Gold Star records I was able to perform better gigs. I started to work small dance halls and dance clubs with 2 or 3 musicians and getting paid. Around that time I met Sonny Burns who didn’t sing then, he just played guitar for me. (…) R.D. Hendon heard me. (…) He was not a musician but he owned a club and hired the band. He had records on 4 Star and Starday, when I went to work with him he was paying us 50 bucks a week if you worked 7 nights (…) and Sonny and I went out there. A few weeks later Sonny went out to Galveston and I didn’t see him for 2 or 3 years. Anyway we’d also recorded a number of songs under R.D’s name. In 1951 I went to 4-Star. With R.D. we had recorded a song called “I an’t run away”. I wrote it and sang it and it was a territorial hit. Sold maybe 1500 or 2000 in the Houston area. I recorded some more things for R.D. but that was it that started my solo career on 4-Star. When I quit R.D. and got my own band, I went out to pappy Daily – he said “Yeah, just on the strength of “I can’t run away”, you can go cut for 4-Star.”
After 4-Star, I went with Starday. By this time Sonny Burns was singing. (…) He called me and said “I gotta cut a session for Starday but I don’t have enough musicians”. He had him a fiddler named Eddie Caldwell and I took over what band I had which by myself. I played rhythm, Joe Brewer (steel), Theron Potite (piano) and Buck Henson (bass). Sonny sang and played lead. On that session, Sonny cut “Roo hot to handle” for Starday. I’d originally written and recorded the song for Gold Star, with Link Davis on fiddle, but Bill Quinn had never put it out. Quinn waited until Sonny had a hit with it, and leased my version to TNT, so I was never actually signed to TNT. Sonny cut “Too hot to handle” at ACA studio which was Bill Holford’s studio and he had a head start with it. On top of that Jimmie Skinner cut it for Decca, Gene O’Quin cut it on Capitol, Lattie Moore had a version, a polka band, Eddie Hobat (but pronounced Hobart) recorded it. There were quite a few versions but Sonny Burns still sold the most. My favourite version was by Frankie miller; I just liked it, I like his singing. Frankie’s from Victoria and he also recorded “I can’t run away” as did Ramblin’ Jimmie Dolan on Capitol and Hank Locklin on Decca. I knew Frankie miller well but he got sick of the business and he’s now selling cars in Fort Worth.
Me and Jack Starnes had fallen out at Sonny’s “Too hot to handle” session. Starnes handed me a contract that had me and Sonny Burns as writers and I said “Well, Sonny did not write this song at all” and of course Sonny said “No, it’s his”. Starnes turned around and said “I wouldn’t put the damn thing out unless you give me your half, Sonny”. I said “I don’t give a damn if you put it out”, I said “I’ve brought over myself and 2 other musicians, we’ve been here all day, you’ve listened to a 100 songs, we gotta work tonight and you finally say “Well, we’ll cut this”. I said “Well, haven’t done me a favour.” So Jack Starnes told Pappy Daily “We’re not gonna cut any more of Eddie’s songs ‘cos he’s too hard to get along with.”
Jack Starnes had been Lefty Frizzell’s manager and he was a crook, Lefty was handled by nothing but crooks. (…) Lefty gave Starnes 28000 dollars to get him out of his life. Lefty had a cheque for 56000 dollars and he told Starnes he would give him half of it just to leave him. Of course, Starnes took it and with that money he bought into Starday. Pappy Daily got Don Pierce from 4-Star and he was named as President, but was not actually, at that time, I don’t believe, a stockholder. So Starday stands for Starnes and Daily. (…) So I asked Pappy about going on Starday, and he asked Don and said “What’s his status with 4-Star?” Well he said “I was leaving just about the tilme Eddie’s option was to be renewed and I didn’t do it”, and I know very well within reason they didn’t it. So I went with Starday and that’s really when I started having some success. My first record was “Don’t Trade” (Starday 159). This and others were still cut at Bill Quinn’s studio because we were very good friends. When they started, Starday recorded in Neva Starnes’ livingroom in Beaumont – she was Starnes’ ex-wife at the time. The first records – those by Arlie Duff (Y’all come), and a young girl, Mary Jo Chelette with “Cat fishin’” – were made there. Later records like those by George Jones (“No money in this deal”) were cut out at Gold Star by Bill Quinn. I was a disc-jockey in KIBY in Crockett, Texas, when the first Starday records came out.
Sonny Burns actually had a record on Starday before “Too hot to handle” called “Blue blue rain” and he told me “If I don’t get any of this one, they’re gonna drop me”. “Too hot to handle” was cut as the B-side of “Powder and paint” and after recording those Sonny disappeared again. Pappy called me and said “Do you know where Sonny is, ‘cos this record of your song is breaking all over. It’s got a big pick in the Billboard and we’re selling it everywhere. We need to cut some more on him and we can’t find him anywhere.” Y’know, Pappy never had anything against me but he and Starnes had to come to me because I was the only one who had any idea where Sonny was. I went down to Galveston to find Sonny and he didn’t have any idea that this thing was happening to him. I brought him back up and Starnes called me one day right after my early morning show on KNUZ (it was sponsored by a local bread company) and asked if I had any more songs for Sonny. I said “I understood you didn’t want to cut any more of my songs, Jack” and he stalled “…well, let bygones be bygones” and I said “Sure”. Like I say, “Too hot to handle” was cut at ACA but now they went to Beaumont to cut. Starnes said “We’re cutting Sonny down at Beaumont”– that’s about 90 miles from Houston, and we didn’t have any Interstates then – I said “Jack, I’ll tell you what, you bring me over 25 dollars expenses and a fifth of whisky.” He said “I’ll give it to you when you get there.” I said “No, you bring it to me, and I’ll come down there.” So he did, and and I went down there, and Sonny cut some more of my stuff, including “Left over lovin’” (This was issued by Noack himself – Starday 169) and, unfortunately, Blackie Crawford, who was the engineer, erased it my mistake. Blackie had a background group, the Western Cherokees, they appeared on lany of the first Starday records, they were a very good group, having been Lefty Frizzell’s band once; Blackie played lead guitar, Big and Little Red Hayes (fiddle), Jimmy Biggars on steel, I can picture the other guys but I can’t remember their names. The pianist really stands out, he was on “Take it away, Lucky”, the flip of my first Starday record; that featured The Western Cherokees tho’ Blackie had left by then, this same band with the exception of Blackie, was later on the Red Foley Ozark Jubilee.
Later Starday singles had Buddy Doyle (steel), Ernie Hunter (fiddle), Ira Doyle (bass), Gene Doyle (drums) and about then I was using a barber called Doc Lewis on piano; he used to work with bob Wills and he had quite a style of his own on Starday; in fact he played from then on through my Starday and D records.
George Jones wasn’t selling anything on Starday to begin with; they were cutting George with Sonny to help George; stuff like “Heartbroken me” and “Wrong about you” and they were gonna do a third one and this was the biggest break George ever had. Sonny liked to drink (and it’s ultimately what ruined his career) and he didn’t show up for a Burns/Jones session and, y’know, it was “Why baby why”. Because Sonny did not turn up, George had to cut it on his own and then he overdubbed his own voice over it. Until then they were putting George Jones on Sonny’s records to help George, to try anf get him off the ground, ‘cos up until “Why baby why” I’d be outselling George. Sonny was far more popular than George; he was the biggest artist Starday had.
(Talk back with Noack -2 is of lesser interest)