Founded at 1354, Wright Street, LA, California, in 1954. It is believed by Hillbilly Researcher Al Turner that the label was possibly owned by George Wilson, who wrote or co-wrote most of the material used by both Excel and Rodeo. He would have made a small fortune in royalties from writing « Hot Rod Race » for Arkie Shibley in 1951 (see elsewhere in the site for his story), certainly enough to put into a small record company.
Both labels were based at the same address and what with their serial numbers running in some kind of numerical order helps to substantiate that both labels were owned by the same record company and thus starting as Excel and becoming Rodeo at a later stage.
The label didn’t record any ‘named artists’ of the period, but instead featured many acts that were playing in and around the local dancehall scene of LA in the mid to late 1950s. Some names are worth mentioning however. Sonny Cole of rockabilly fame, Dallas Wilson who went on to record for Pep, Don Ray (probably the same artist who recorded for Meladee in New Orleans) and Billie Luke who recorded some up-tempo boppers for the label.
After only 6 years the label disappeared.
Excel 101 (1954) Herb Tucker & His Dude Ranch Cowboys
(B) I Learned A Lot From You
Excel 102 Dallas Wilson with Herb Tucker’s Dude Ranch Cowboys
(A) So Thankful For You
(B) Let’s Keep Our Hearts Together
Excel 103 (1955) Chuck Kyles with Excel Country Music Makers
(A) Cryin’ My Heart Out
Excel 104 same as Excel 103
(A) You Drove Me To A Secret Love
(B) I Guess I’m Girl Crazy
Excel 105 The Bachelors
(A) Bachelor mambo
(B) In A Little Inn In Italy
Excel 106 same as Excel 105
(B) I’m Lost
Excel 107 Herb Tucker and his Dude Ranch Cowboys
(B) I’ve Loved You Too Long
Excel 108 same as Excel 107
(A) Too Meek To Speak
(B) Option On Your Heart
Excel 109 Dallas Wilson with Sandy Stanton’s Rhythm Roamers
(A) Honky Tonkin’ Wife
Excel 110 Red Jones with Sandy Stanton’s Rhythm Roamers
(A) I’m Not Ashamed
(B) I Got heartaches Free
Excel 111 Helen Mack with Sandy Stanton’s Rhythm Roamers
(A) My Honky Tonkin’ Husband
(B) You’re Disowned By Me
Excel 112 Helen Mack with Fable Recording Orchestra
(A) Baby Where Were You
(B) Don’t Condemn Me Darlin’
Excel 113 no details
Excel 114 Ernie « Tenn » Hays (flip is by his wife Shirley)
(B) It’s Your Fault
Excel 115 no details
(A) Real Gone Jive
Rodeo 116 (both Rodeo issues have same number) The Nettes Sisters
(A) Beetle Um Bum
(B) Why Should I
Rodeo 117 no details
Excel 118 Danny Edwards
(A) I Don’t Want To Die
(B) Ivory Kets (The Voice Of Texas)
Rodeo 119 (1956/57) Jewel and Curley Myers
(B) Since We Parted
Rodeo 120 same as Rodeo 119
(A) Blue Since My baby’s Gone
(B) Just Trust Me Darlin’
Rodeo 121 (1957) Kenny Brown and His Arkansas Ramblers
(B) Valley Of Echoes
(A) Thinking Of The Past
(B) Passing Fancy
(A) I Dreamed I Was Elvis
(B) Curfew Cops
Rodeo 124 same as Rodeo 123
(A) I Need A Lotta Lovin’
(B) Robinson Crusoe Bop
Excel 125 Rusty Waters and the Westonians
(A) Out Of My Mind
(B) How Do I Stand With You
(A) Long Time No See
(B) Be On The Look Out
(A) I Won’t Cry
(B) Hi-Steppin’ Daddy
Rodeo 128 Billie Luke and His Southern Serenaders
(A) Lonely Arms
(B) I’m In Heaven
Rodeo 129 Don Ray and The Rodeo Ramblers
(A) My Angel
Rodeo 130 same as Rodeo 129
Rodeo 131 (1957/58) Billie Luke and His Southern Serenaders
(A) Sweet Little You
(B) It’s A Little Too Late
Excel 132 Don Epperson and his Kentuckians
(A) The Clock On The Mantle
(B) You’re Gone Again
(A) Green Light To My Heart
All above information was taken from the Roll Street Journal written by Al Turner and rewritten by Tony Biggs. Help from « HillbillyBoogie 1 » (Youtube channel).
Excel/Rodeo, an appreciation (by bopping’s editor)
To be frank, many a record from this stable is hardly above average, I should say honest ’50s honky tonk music, without any title except a few standing a head taller, and some being even rather tame. It is the case of all the early sides until # 118, a pair later even being poppish (# 125).
So I will share interest only for several. Sonny Cole’s are already rockabilly classics, and do fetch incredibly high prices, so they are. Good uptempos, the fast « Robinson Crusoe Bop » (which reminds me of Hank Mizzell’s « Jungle Rock « , with its heavy drumming). I like « Curfew Cop » too, with car effects. Indeed the most well known song is « I Dreamed I Was Elvis », I personally rate lower than the preceding ones. Then « I Need A Lotta Lovin’ ». Cole had another one 45 on a Nashville Dee-Jay label (same one as Claude King’s “Run Boy Run”). Robinson Crusoe Bop lyrics:
Well, Robinson Crusoe got shipwrecked at sea? He kept the count of his days on a big tall tree? He cut those notches from the bottom to the top ?A lot of sleek wild lovin’, he must have got? Everytime you go to paint the town? The sleek wild women are boppin’ around? Blue-bop-a-lula sounds good to me?Even when you do it on an island in the sea? Blue-bop-a-lula, he must have got around ?’Cause a-blue-boppin’ women are rockin’ the town
He lived on alone, he didn’t know nobody ?Till he met that wild man that he called Friday ?They played all around and they went into swingin’? And where there’s wild men, there’s bound to be wild women? Some were short, some was tall ?Believe me, those guys must have had a ball ?Blue-bop-a-lula sounds good to me ?Even when you do it on an island in the sea? Blue-bop-a-lula, they must have got around ?’Cause blue-boppin’ women are rockin’ the town?(Rock cats, rock!)
No hot rod cars or two-tone shoes?And every night they bop the blues?The kind of bop they done to sweep you off your feet? And all they had was a tom-tom beat? Those two boys must have done all right ?’Cause a-wild wild women are boppin’ tonight? Blue-bop-a-lula sounds good to me? Even when you do it on an island in the sea? Blue-bop-a-lula, they must have got around ?’Cause blue-boppin’ women is a-rockin’ this town
More Rockabilly/Rock’n’Roll with Don Ray, originally on Meladee from New Orleans. Here he is at ease with the shufflers piano-led « Imogene » and « Those Rock’n’Roll Blues ». Nice happy vocal, lively tracks, good guitar solo.
The Nettle Sisters (daughters to Norman Nettle, and nieces of Bill, of « Hadacol Boogie » fame) do offer two fast hillbilly bops, « Real Gone Jive » and « Beetle Um-Bum » with strong fiddle and steel solos. Whole thing is hopping !
Kenny Brown & his Arkansas Ramblers : « Without A Pretty Girl » and « Passing Fancy » are strong Bakersfield style hillbilly bop/rockabilly with piano and steel to the fore. Brown was around the same time to cut for Pep.
Dallas Wilson has an uptempo Rockabilly in « Hi-Steppin’ Daddy » (chrorus with call and response format), and steel to the fore.He too was on Pep records.
Billie Luke is the same type of artist. His sides, «Long Time No See» and « Sweet Little You » are superior boppers.
Finally Don Epperson, who closes the serie, ressembles Wynn Stewart on « The Clock On The Mantle » or « You’re Gone ».
But I did podcast a nice percent of both labels, so you can judge by yourself !