There are very few things known about Jimmie Dawson. He was born in 1924 in Haynesville, La ., and died in 1992. Real name Tommy Latham, legally changed to Jimmy Dawson in 1956. He never hit it big, although having written and cut great songs, which he « recycled », sometimes years after, on other labels or under different names. Even specialized press like Billboard did mention him very little. So nearly all I know do come from his records. His story may be a bit intricated, so let’s begin once by the end.
For years I own a copy of a great double-sider on K-Ark 776 « Mean Woman Blue’s »/ »Big Black Bug Boogie », under the name Jimmie Dawson, and I wanted to know more about him. I could not give a precise year of release for this good shuffler (energetic rhythm guitar and urgent vocal), it sounded mid-60s, but what more ? Indeed K-ark was the famous Nashville ’60s label. I discovered both songs had been issued before on a microscopic County Fair label (#711) located in Madison, Wisconsin, (« Mean Woman Blue’s » was named « Mean Women Blues » – nothing to do with the Presley classic) and the fact began to puzzle me : two identical records, issued on so far apart labels.
From the same Madison, Wi. town came to light a version of the Larry Williams’ classic « Bony Maronie » on the Trend label (# 7-11 – remember County Fair 711?). Here Dawson was backed by a « Mason-Dixon Band ». Alas I never until now had the chance to hear this disc. I’d assume a late ’60s issue.
So I kept on going back the time, looking for every Jimmie/Jimmy Dawson record I could locate. And they were quite a few. Presumably early ’60s, we find him on Target 861 as Jimmie, with « Let’s Take A Chance » on the A-side. Written by Dawson & Hastings and published by Fairway Music, it’s a good piano/guitar medium rocker. The flipside is a version of the old « Froggie Went A Courtin’ » (never heard).
Further on I found the same tune issued three times. It seems that « Cricket In Your Hear »/ « The Playboy», first published by Jimmy Dawson, was on Banner # 711 (more of that 711! – apparently Dawson was superstitious), an Illinois label. « Cricket » is a romping rocker (complete with a sax), beginning with gimmicky effects, written by Dawson and published by Lover’s Oak Music. Then the same tune was renamed « Put A Cricket In Your Ear »/ »The Play-Boy » (latter not heard), also on Banner 1040, this time issued by Tommy Latham, Dawson’s real name. Finally « I’m Gonna Put A Cricket In Your Ear »/ »Playboy » was issued by Jeffrey Parnell & the Tune Twisters on Trieste 1462 (publisher: Banner Music). The spoken intro had been changed, otherwise the song is identical to Dawson’s Banner 711 recording. Flash (July 15th, 2012). Interesting comment from visitor DrunkenHobo: « »Cricket in your ear » (Version 1) Banner 711 is mp3 you posted with longer cricket noise at start. (Version 2) « Put a cricket in your ear » Banner 1040 has shorter diff cricket intro. Version 3 « I’m gonna put a cricket in your ear » Trieste has talking intro. Misic wise they sound the same take with alt overdubbed intros ». Hope it helps a bit!
Then it transpired Dawson had used other pseudonyms for his outings. Per example, The Old Dixie Drifter, or simply Dixie Drifter, for a 1964 record on Borderline 1550 : a version of the old standard « Hand Me Down My Walking Cane », a fine country rocker (nice guitar, for the short clipping on RCS site), backed by « Let ’em Talk » (penned « Dawson »). « Let ’em Talk » reappeared on Westmont 815, billed as « The Old Dixie Drifter, WJRS’s Singing Disc-Jockey », and coupled with « Big-Big Man ». WJRS was a radio station out of Russell Springs, KY. « Walking Cane » was reissued as by Jeffrey Parnell on Sonic 10135 – location unknown – (absolutely identical to Borderline issue), B-side being « Mean Mean Women », which is a perfect clone copy of K-Ark/County Fair « Mean Women Blues » (or « Mean Woman Blue’s »! I hope you’re not lost at this point, as the story is not at its end yet…
Keeping time backwards. 1959, under the pseudonym of Jimmy Jeffers and the « Jokers », Jimmy Dawson cut « Raining Teardrops », a very good medium rocker (backed by « Flute (or « Double ») Shuffle », an instrumental, for the small Illinois Da-Mor label. The single appeared twice, either with/without the Jokers, but billed « Rock-A- Billy » ; it must have been a local success, as the larger Ohio Fraternity label picked it up and reissued it (as « Teardrops From My Eyes », same flipside) on # 857. Note that a Jimmy Jeffers and the « Jokers » issued on Target 850 (see above) a double-sided instrumental, « Purple Crackle » (parts 1 and 2). Incidentally, part 2 is aurally identical to Carl Newman‘s « Tom Tom » (Trio 849 – written by Colley-Dawson-Schulen, and published by…Fairway). Same timing (1’32 ») ; « Dawson » as writer is not present on the Target issue.
In the latter part of 1957, Dawson cut two tunes, « Hot Tamale Wagon » and « If I Can’t Have You (I Don’t Want No One) » : both pleasant country songs, A-side being faster. They first appeared on a custom label «Jimmy Dawson Sings », no number. B-side was published by Rustic, but was transferred to Fairway when the disc was reissued on Iowana 806 (matrix number 711!!), advertised by Billboard in January of 1958. To be sure of a wider exposition, Dawson reissued the same tunes on Pla-Boy 806. At this moment, I begin to suspect either he kept the rights to his songs, either he owned the labels they appeared on.
Late 1956, we find him as « Jimmie Dawson – vocal with string acc. » on the Rockford, Illinois Rustic label for two issues, published by Fairway. What a change ! « It Took An Older Woman »/ »Money Talks » (Rustic 1926) are very nice fast Hillbilly bops : hick vocal, fiddle and slapping bass. We now seemingly come to the roots of Jimmie Dawson. The earlier one on Rustic 1925, « Devil Eyes »/ »Walking ’round In Circles » (the latter being the most well-known Dawson song, except « Big Black Bug Boogie » – a different song with the same name was issued on Delta 101 by Dick Marquis) were apparently reissued from Bonanza 101 (reviewed by Billboard in October 1955) ; with the very same label/number, it had been also issued by a Dave Farley, another Dawson pseudonym! Bonanza was given a Cincinnati, OH. address.
Same Dave Farley appears in October 1955 with both the same songs : « Flat Top Boogie »/ »Here Today – Gone Tomorrow » on, first, a radio custom issue, « Radio stations WJOL-WMRO », and billed « Your Ole’ Hillbilly Buddy – Dave Farley ». Then on Bonanza 100 by simply Dave Farley (written by J. Dawson). Nice Hillbilly bops. WJOL was a Joliet, Illinois radio station.
But the very same songs had already been issued by Phoenix, Arizona Playboy label, in 1953, under Jimmy Dawson name ! And now we come to the very first Dawson disc, issued under his real name (or a semi pseudo), Lonely Jeff Latham, on the Confederate label (unknown location, maybe 1951) : a first version of « Walking ’round In Circles », loosier and bluesier than the 1955 Bonanza one. « If I Can’t Have You » is also more rural than the Iowana version. Flash! (July 15th, 2012): another interesting comment from visitor Drunken Hobo: « The mp3 of walking round in circles is version 2 as bu Dave Farley on Bonaza the 1st version by Lonely Jeff has a steel guitar intro . The 3rd version on Rustic has a fiddle intro & is faster. Wow I’m even more confused ,great stuff. »
What a strange artist’s life. Almost no biographical data. It has been reported that when he was 18 years old, he traveled from his natal Louisiana as far as Modesto, California, where he hooked up with KMOD radio station. Later on, he got first to Arizona (to record for Playboy), in Nevada, then up North : Wisconsin, Illinois, where he apparently was a popular dee-jay (WJOL-WMRO), even Kentucky (WJRS). Four pseudonyms : Dave Farley, Jimmy Jeffers, Dixie Drifter, Jeffrey Parnell, along with both his actual names : Jeff Latham and Jimmy (/ie) Dawson. Beginning with Hillbilly music, adapting to Rockabilly, then out-and-out Rock’n’Roll, until returning to country roots. Enjoy his music in the podcasts !
Story based on the discography published by Rockin’ Country Style, which also provided most of the label pictures.