Indiana is not the first American state you’d associate wih primitive Rockabilly, but it was there, hidden away among the steelworks and the industrial areas. Indianapolis was seething with young, spotty hopefuls, all wanting to be Elvis and looking more like the greek next door. Eddie Smalling, Tommy Lam, Van Brothers, Tex Neighbors, Dennis Puckett…All true blue Indiana boppers.
The Blankenship Brothers certainly weren’t the next « Teenage sensation ». Hell, this small but tightly packed band didn’t even pretend to cut Rockabilly. Led by Floyd and Dennis Blankenship, this small outfit cut some of the best primitive rock north of Tennessee, but to them it was more like country and bluegrass music., blended with a little rough Johnny Cash edge. They played all the local honks and jukejoints, entertaining the masses of factory workers who were looking for entertainment after a hard week of being frazzled by the burning steel mills. Hell, maybe these guys worked there too…
The A side claws material from their own Skyline Record label. We’ve picked the choices of the bunch of 45’s they pressed up. « Don’t Tell Me Your Sorry » (sic) and « Easy To Love – Hard To Forget » was the first issued from our selection. This 45 (Skyline 105) was certainly closer to Bluegrass music than Rockabilly, especially with the typical mountain harmonies from Floyd and Dennis, and the use of a mandolin and a fiddle. Issue 106 (« That’s Why I’m Blue »/ « I Got Just One Heart ») sits on the fence between the two styles. « That’s Why I’m Blue » is a fabulous, primitive stomper with Luther Perkins [Johnny Cash’s guitar player] type picking and jangly acoustics filling out the sound. Hidden almost inaudible is a fiddle player, which you can only hear with earphones on and only in the breaks. Flip’s back to the Bluegrass beat and the fiddle player’s right up against the mike to make up for lost time. Skyline 107 (« Hard Up Blues »/ »Waiting For A Train ») are both full-blooded bop that any back-in-the-hills cat would be proud of (the fiddle player’s obviously gone for a cigarette break or something). The bass player (although mostly off-mike) is riding the hell out of the fretboard on this 45.
The brothers are represented on the flipside with their custom pressed « Blue-Grass » label releases. The first was « Tears I Cried For You »/ »Mary », issued as Bluegrass 773 with an Indianapolis address in the summer of 1959. Backed by the Sundown Playboys (that once featured Russell Spears who cut « Beggin’ Time » on Yolk Records 128 in 1965). Bluegrass 773 finds the band back in the Bluegrass mode, but the guitarist is romping a fine line bordering on Rockabilly. Flip has a banjo filling out the spaces. Although the band cook, the vocals are not as self assured here (unlike the Skyline tracks). « Lonesome Old Jail » was issued as 816 (released approx March 1960) and we’re back into Johnny Cash bopper/Prison mode. « Too Late » is a standard Blue-Grass B-side. In the final 45 release (« You Went And Broke My Heart »/ »The Story (The World Will Never Know) » (issue 870 – end of 1960/61), the brothers regress back into the comfy womb of blue-grass music, without a hint of rebellious Rockabilly.
Notes (anonymous) from the Blue Sky LP 100, published (Indianapolis address) 1999.
Most label scans do come from « www.45rpmrecords.com » (Ohio Valley records).
Music, of course, was taken from the LP above.
Note that most of the songs were written by Floyd Blankenship.