One of the most prolific and sensitive artists on the Mar-Vel’ label was Jack Bradshaw. He, like many other members of Harry Glenn’s musical family, migrated North during the 50’s. Jack was born on March 29, 1930 in a little place called Scutty near Harlan County, Kentucky.
Both of Jack’s parents died when he was at a very early age, so he was actually raised by relatives living in Tennessee. As a child listening to Gospel and Grand Ole Opry, he developped a keen interest in music and a burning desire to be able to play guitar and sing. Jack’s “formal” musical training came from an old-timer named Franck Tucker. Franck was quite a good player and a man described as “one who liked his alcohol”. He none-the-less was happy to show Jack a few basic chords and get him started as a picker.
While in his late teens, Jack took a job with the Hamilton Roofing Company that was actually based out of Texas. When their work in Tennessee was completed, he was asked if he wanted to go West with the company. This is where he made his first musical connections.
In Lubbock, Texas, Jack put up a little trio called the Tennessee Trio in which he played the mandolin. His group landed a spot on the prestigious KSEL Jamboree. This was quite a big step, because the show featured many of the big names country stars of the time: Johnny and Jack, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe and many others helped to create a large audience for the show.
As a result the Tennessee Trio were able to get a lot a work in the surrounding area. Later Jack joined up with the Bill and Joe Callahan Show. This group had a large local following and they were constantly doing shows in schools and theatres throughout the Southwest.
As the Korean War started to move into full swing, Jack, like many other men, was called into the service. After taking his physical in Texas, he decided to return home to say goodbye to his uncle and aunt who had raised him. Upon his arrival he discovered that for some reason or another the service had rejected him.
With virtually nothing for him to do in Tennessee, and not enough money to get back West, Jack decided to head North. He borrowed $ 25.00 from his uncle and with a couple of his cousins they hit the highway in his 41’ Chevy.
When they reached their destination, they discovered litterally “oodles” of industry. Indeed, during the period after World War II, there was a tremendous amount of economic expansion in that part of the country. The North acted as a magnetic force as it drew large numbers of Southern blacks and whites into a searching for the promise of a better way of life.
Setting in LaPorte, Indiana, Jack proceeded to get himself a little radio show on WLDY. Here he performed live over the air with his new group. It was during this time that he wrote a song that he felt had a great deal of potential. Inquiring around as to who could help him, a DJ at the station gave him the address of HARRY GLENN, who was at that time living in Hammond.
Harry Glenn, owner of the Mar-Vel’ label, became extremely enthusiastic when he heard Jack’s “Don’t Tease Me”. So much so that he took Jack and his group to station WWCA in Gary where Mr. Glenn engineered the session himself.
Its release brought a lot of exposure and air play on Midwestern country stations. Later in that year, 1954, Carl Smith covered the song for Columbia records and brought the song all the way up to number 18 on the C&W charts across the nation.
Jack’s second Mar-Vel’ release, “My Heart, My Heart”, was also readily received. Although its lyric line, “Tell me how you want it, and I’ll give it to you”, caused some deejays to stop playing it, country fans loved it.
Carl Smith’s success with Jack’s penned song, along with the popularity of of his follow-up number, caught the attention of Bill McCall of 4 Star.
The rising talent was then signed to Decca records.
Jack’s recorded work the major label consisted mainly of different versions of his previously released material. A dispute followed and Jack returned to the Mar-Vel’ label.
During the 50’s Midwestern industrial boom, one area really seemed to stand out as a “hot bed”. This was Calumet City or Cal City. It had a reputation of being very open. Here one could find 24 hours entertainment of all kinds. Many of the Mar-Vel’ artists stayed and worked in Cal City continuously as it was not uncommon to be able to work every night of the week. However, being somewhat of a rough circuit, Jack preferred to play there for only short periods of time. He seemed to find plenty of work in the clubs and concerts of the surrounding area.
Jack did shows with many of the big name country stars that would through the area, such as Carl Smith, The Wilburn Brothers, Faron Young, Redd Stewart, and of course Ernest Tubb. He was also a frequent guest on Randy Blake’s very popular WJJD Supper Time Frolic radio show. All this, coupled with his appearance on Pee Wee King’s WBBM television show, helped to make him a big attraction.
Harry Glenn would often take long road trips to promote his recordings. Jack accompanied Harry in many of these sojourns, which took place usually after the release of a new recording.
Jack recently described to me one ten state tour that they did to promote the number “Jo – Jo”. “Harry was always aggressive”, Jack related. “I would be sleeping in the back seat and we would be travelling along at night. And if we went by a radio station, he would have to stop, wake me up and go into the station half asleep and all puffy eyed to promote the record.”
Despite what would have seemed to be a lot of fun and excitement, Jack always felt that something was missing. So after many years of performing he began to question; and become increasingly disinterested in the whole secular scene.
Although today he has little interest in his past; his current music can still be enjoyed by those who love the Lord (…)
Reprint of Carl Schneider’s notes to “Mar-Vel’ Masters Volume Five – The Jack Bradshaw Story” (Cowboy Carl CCLP 108, 1983)
A brief note on Jack Bradshaw’s records (from the blogsite’s editor)
First, since Carl Schneider was not informative on dates and music. Recordings were made , between 1954 and 1959, first in Gary at radio station WWCA (1954-1955), then in Nashville (Bradley studio), 1956, with Nashville studio musicians. Then, in 1958, at Universal studio in Chicago. All Bradshaw’s sessions were produced by Harry Glenn. Bradshaw did compose the vast majority of his songs, and had the knack for finding words and music. No surprise Carl Smith did pick up “Don’t Tease Me”, a very nice Hillbilly Bopper for 1955.
Second, on an artistic point of view, Jack Bradshaw had a smooth voice and he preferred ballads. His voice was tender, bending, sounding very sincere, and is very effective afterwards. Actually, he whispers more than he chants, he’s singing very near the mike as he were murmuring to a real person. This is very true with tunes like “Welcome heart”, “No No” or “Men are weak” (only him with rhythm guitar). In the uptempo songs, he uses very sparse backing (never a fiddle, but a very effective, mewing steel-guitar, that fits his vocal (very accentuated and rhythmic) very well; plus a traditional boogie-styled electric lead-guitar, not unlike in sound and effect to that of Zeb Turner or Grady Martin in the same era – he used Nashville musicians for at least a session). “Oh, Careless Me” is different: it is slow, echoey, has a bass-chord lead guitar, which reminds me of the Cliff Crofford and early Bakersfield, CA. records of late 50’s. Then he has a fast Rockabilly approach, both in his vocal (a bit forceful) and the guitar solo in “Joe-Joe”, from ’58. Finally, female chorus (Beverly Sisters, from the Mar-Vel’ stable) are fitting well his voice in ’58 for the ballad “It Just Ain’t Right” (can be found in a recent « Fortnite » article in this blog) and the uptempo “Naughty Girls”. His demo session of 1955 is strange: he penned “”Two Rocka Four”( almost Rockabilly, with hiccups!), very similar to same tune by Sammy Masters’song of the same name on Four Star (1955/1956). Who came first?
I hope you will enjoy the podcasts. Jack Bradshaw deserves to be heard! He had a very sensitive voice and good tunes.
April 4th, 2011. Recently Mz. Kim Siebe, the daughter to Jack Bradshaw, got in touch with ‘Bopping.org’. We exchanged a bit, and she kindly sent me a very recent picture (late March 2011) of his Dad at his 81′ birthday. Yes, he’s still well, and enjoying family and siblings with his voice and guitar playing. Thanks, Kim! Below is the picture:
Latest news (July 17th, 2012). Just received a letter of Jack Bradshaw today! He kindly sent me 4 pictures, among them a very recent one (taken May 2012), and a personal message, which I include below with the recent picture:
article revised on December 4th, 2011.
His daughter Kim wrote me recently that Bear Family is planning a complete CD of Jack’s entire recorded work for this Summer. Quite good news!
If you wish to drop Jack a line, here it is his address: 204 Orchard Bluff Ave. – LaPorte, IN 46350.