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.
In 1947 Eddie and Richie, who were by then both married and had families, quit the marines and again formed a band, known as « Eddie Zack and the Dude Ranchers« . At some stage their sisters Marilyn Albro en Babs White (Babs en Maril) joined the band too, doing three part harmonies with Richie. Due to their popularity the band landed their own show on radio WHIM in Providence, where they would remain for 10 years.
In 1949 they made their first recordings at the Aces studio in Boston, Massachusetts, but since no major record company was interested in releasing their songs, the band formed its own independent label “ Dude Ranch”. Thanks to the regional success of their song « The Rhode Island Polka« , Decca Records eventually offered them a two-year recording contract. On May 2, 1950, they had their first recording session for Decca. During that session they recorded “That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine” and “Dill Pickles”, which were released as Decca 46245. During their time with Decca, the band did a total of four recording sessions, waxing 13 songs, mostly slow songs and weepers. When their contract expired in 1952, Decca did not resign them. Just a track to listen: Babs & Maril duetting on the fast « Draggin’ the bow » (# 28378).
« Draggin’ the bow« download
A good number of transcriptions for Dude Ranch have survived, thanks to the RHMHOF, I chose Eddie Zack doing Tex Williams/Spade Cooley’s « Shame, shame on you », , Hank Williams‘ « Kaw-Liga » and a dynamic « Boogie woogie guitar » or an untitled instrumental by the Dude ranchers.
Eddie Zack « Shame, shame on you« download
Eddie Zack « Kaw-Liga« download
The Dude ranchers « Instrumental« download
The Dude ranchers « Boogie woogie guitar« download
With help from Milton Israeloff, a record distributor who had also helped them to their initial contract with Decca Records, the band was offered a new recording contract with Columbia Records. On March 6, 1953, the band signed for one year, with two options for a one-year extension. From then on, Israeloff would function as their agent. Their Columbia recordings proved quite successful and the band remained with Columbia until March, 1957. The first three recording sessions were done at Columbia’s New York studios and the latter two were done in Nashville.
During their first session, on June 29, 1953, the band recorded four songs. These were released on Columbia 21148 and 21199. I retain the amusing « Little donkey » [Babs & Maril duetting over a fast backing]. The band’s second session, on April 8, 1954 again produced four songs. The sound of these recordings is very similar to that of their first session, with Ritchie providing most of the lead vocals, and Babs and Maril singing harmony. Again, Columbia released all four songs on Columbia 21261 and 21307. The best tune were : »Dancin’ country style » (# 21261)[a fast fiddle led song over Babs & Maril duetting]. Columbia # 21441 beared the very fine « I’m gonna roll and rock » (which had been first issued by Lucky Joe Almond on Trumpet 221 in 1955), with strong boogie guitar and vocal by Eddie. Add a piano and steel (+ fiddle solo) and you have a Hillbilly boogie classic !
At their third session, on March 10, 1955, their sound had changed considerably: contrary to their earlier recordings that had a typical western sound, their sound was now much more country-style. The lead vocals were now evenly shared between Ritchie, Eddie, Babs and Maril. Note the great version (Rockabilly style) of Bill Monroe’s « Rocky road blues » (# 21387). Forget the tame slowie « Lover-lover ».
« Little donkey« download
« Dancing country style« download
« Eddie Zack « I’m gonna roll and rock« download
« Rocky road blues » [with Babs & Maril]download
The fourth recording session, on May 1, 1956 in Nashville, was a complete change of scenery: Columbia’s A&R man, Don Law was mainly interested in Richie’s sound and had him record four songs under the name Dick Richards, at Nashville’s Music City Recording Studio with a band consisting solely of studio musicians and the Jordanaires providing some of the backing vocals. “Just Walking In The Rain” (Is this the Prisonaires’ song?) and a good version of Ted Daffan’s “Born To Lose” [without the Jordanaires] were released as Columbia 21532 and “Time Alone” and “Fourteen Carat Gold” [all pop songs] were released as part of Columbia’s 40000 series. But when Columbia decided to offer him a contract as a solo artist, Richie refused. On December 1, 1956, Columbia again signed the whole band, and on May 23, 1957, they did their last recording session for Columbia. The session was held at Nashville’s Bradley studios where they recorded four songs: “Blue Jean Baby”, “Not Until I Pray For You”, “I Love You So Much It Hurts” and “We’ve Got A Right To Love”. These recordings, which were all released in the Columbia 40000 series, have a distinct pop sound and are a far cry from their earlier recordings.
Dick Richards « Blue-Jean baby« download
Dick Richards « Born to lose« download
After Columbia, the band kept working as a dance band until the 1990s: during the 1960s they regularly worked for radio and television at the « The Hayloft Jamboree », and Eddie and Richie also worked as DJ’s for radio WGNG. Eddie eventually became a very popular square dance caller.
After their retirement as car salesmen in the 1990s, both brothers returned to their DJ work, at radio stations WKRI, WHIM and WJJF, respectively. On June 1, 1999 Eddie was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Eddie died on January 9, 2002, and his brother Richie some two years later, on June 18, 2004.
With a million thanks to Mederick Belaire, of the Rhode Island Music Hall Of Fame and their site: http://www.rhodeislandmusichalloffame.com/.
Biography taken from Willem Agenant « 20000 Columbia series » blogsite. Additions from bopping’s editor.