Lannis Trahan, born in 1923, hailed from Louisiana, hence his artist name « Louisiana Lannis », and was also a songwriter: he wrote his 6 sides. He had three singles in 1956 before disappearing. The one on Starday is pure hillbilly rock : « Muscadine eyes » is a fast ditty opus, with a furious fiddle, apparently cut at Goldstar in Houston, Texas while its flipside « Much too much » (Starday 268, actually A-side) has more than a Latin appeal with its hopping rhythm. « Muscadine eyes » is not a common track, only being revived moons ago on the U.K. Ace album « Stars of Texas honky tonk » # 703 (1987)
« Muscadine eyes«
« Much too much« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/starday-268A-louisiana-Lannis-Much-Too-Much.mp3download
Lannis will however be best remembered today for his second offering, this time on Snowcap 1215/1216 : « Tongue twister boogie » has a great wild steel guitar and is a really fast rockabilly rocker, not dissimilar to Jimmy Lee & Wayne Walker « Love me ». A demented piano player comes for a short solo. « Walking out » is no less good, and just a little less furious. Both sides prefixed « GS » surely were cut at Goldstar. As fiddle is the main instrument on the 4 previous sides, one can wonder if it’s Lannis playing ? The Snowcap issue fetches $ 700-800, and is only currently available on collectors’ reissues.
« Tongue twister boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Louisiana-Lannis-Tongue-Twister-Boogie.mp3download
« Walking out« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Louisiana-Lannis-Walking-Out.mp3download
Billboard Feb. 16, 1956, « a good country novelty »
Alas « Fido/Doomed to love » (Snowcap 101) are, according to Pascal Perrault, pop songs to escape (weepers), and of no interest at all. Strange that a man capable of such songs as « Tongue twister boogie » could do pop songs in the same period. Trahan, whose name is common among Cajun area (see Cornelius « Pee Wee Trahan« , who made a career also as Jericho Jones and Johnny Rebel), died in February 1983 (age 59, cause of death unknown), and was buried in the Marine’s veteran branch of the Houston National Cemetery. The Trahans had came from France, maybe Burgundy during the XVI° or XVII° century.
Sources: various and Internet thing!
Born in Bolt, W. Va, Jimmy Dickens began his musical career in the late ’30s, performing on WJLS radio station in Beckley, W.a. While attending West Va. University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and traveled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name « Jimmy the Kid ».
In 1948 Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan, by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherley at Columbia Records and officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time, he began using his nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature (4 »11, 150 cm).
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including « Country boy », « A-sleeping at the foot of the bed » and « I’m little but I’m loud ». One day, after having told Jimmy he needed a hit, Hank Williams wrote « Hey, good lookin’ » in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl and her husband. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens « That song’s too good for you ! »
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carlile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, AZ television station while on tour with the Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957 he left the Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
Dickens was active in music until nearly his death on January 2nd, 2015.
Good solid early ’50s Honky tonk music as shown in the several examples below :
« F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me » (Columbia 20692), a nice honky-tonker, was cut in February 1950, and covered the same year by Charlie ‘Peanut’ Faircloth [see a previous fortnight's favorites section for the latter's version). It has definitely the crisp guitar sound of Grady Martin.
"F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me"http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/F-O-O-L-I-S-H-M-E-fev50.mp3download
« Rock me« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Rock-Me.mp3download
« Rock me » (Columbia 21206), also known as « She sure can rock me », was an old Willie Perryman R&B belter, well adapted here by Dickens, obviously conscious of the « double-entendre » of the lyrics. As intended, piano is prominent instrument.
« Hillbilly fever », cut at the same session as « F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me », was initially a Kenny Roberts song (Coral). Here Dickens is doubled on vocal by his rhythm guitar player. Note the rare label scan of a Japanese issue (« American folk music ») !
« Hillbilly fever« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Hillbilly-Feverfev50.mp3download
« Salty boogie » (Columbia 21384) is almost rockabilly. Fiddle is still present, but lead guitar is well to the fore as in « Hey worm (you wanna wiggle) » (Columbia 21491), and indeed there are drums.
« Salty boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Salty-Boogie.mp3download
« Hey worm !(You wanna wiggle) »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/F-O-O-L-I-S-H-M-E-fev50.mp3download
Final foray in pure Rock’n'roll comes with the dynamite of « I got a hole in my pocket » (Columbia 41173) from 1958, and its furious Buddy Emmons licks on steel guitar.
« I got a a hole in my pocket« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Jimmy-Dickens-I-Got-A-Hole-In-My-Pocket.mp3download
En route for this new April batch of Hillbillies and Country rockers. First from Louisiana, the fiddler LARRY BAMBERG (rn Bamburg) does the fine relaxed medium bopper « Cheating on me » from 1956 on the Mira Lewis’ Shreveport, La. Ram (Royal American Music) label # 104. It has a very young James Burton, quite unusually, on the steel guitar and Leon Smith at the piano. Bamberg, whose name was not easy to pronounce, changed it to Lincoln for the bluesy (with sax) equally fine « My baby went away », cut at Ram, but issued on his own Fido 011 label (not posted here).
« Cheating on me« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Larry-Bamburg-Cheating-On-Me-236.mp3download
Next three tracks do come from Laeger W.Va. (at least the label) as late as 1969 by the one FLOYD FLETCHER on the F.A.F. label. « Daddy sings the blues » (# 26252) is a fast bluesy track with urgent vocal. « Move on down the track » does fetch to Rockabilly, while its flipside « You’re telling me goodby » [sic] is more in a sort of garage Honky-tonk vein (# 26282).
« Daddy sings the blues« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ram-104-re-Larry-Bamburg-Cheating-On-Me.mp3download
« Move on down the track« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/F.A.F.-26253-Floyd-Fletcher-Move-On-Down-The-Track.mp3download
« You’re telling me goodby » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Floyd-Fletcher-Youre-Telling-Me-Goodby.mp3download
RILEY WALKER next is no newcomer, as his « Uranium miner’s boogie » from 1955 is already a minor Hillbilly bop classic from Salt Lake City, Utah. See elsewhere in this site at the entry of his name. « It’s a little late (to come knocking on my door » goes by the same vein : a relaxed rural vocal, a nice steel throughout and a romping piano (# 703).
« It’s a little late« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/atomic-703-Riley-Walker.mp3download
Next and last tracks of this fortnight do come from the B-W label, presumably a Nashville one, in 1961. PHIL BEASLEY and « Itchin’ to love you » (# 624) : a nice crisp guitar over a decent country rocker. KENNY BIGGS and « There’s no excuse » (# 615) has a mellow steel, an harmonica and some chorus and sounds a bit poppish.
« Itchin’ to love you« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/B-W-62A-Phil-Beasley-Itchin-To-Love-You.mp3download
« There’s no excuse« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/B.W.-615-Kenny-Biggs-Theres-No-Excuse.mp3download
That’s all for this time, folks. Comments as usual are welcome.
First version of the song was cut by JIMMIE DAVIS in February 1937, backed by Milton Brown (actually deceased a year before) Musical Brownies. Out of them Lefty Perkins takes two solos on the steel, Papa Calhoun is at the piano and the fiddle duties are taken by Buck Buchanan. It’s a medium paced blues ditty typical of Davis’ work. It was issued on Decca 5349.
Jimmie Davis, « High geared daddy » http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/decca-5349A-HIGH-GEARED-DADDY-by-Jimmie-Davis.mp3download
In August 1949 WEBB PIERCE, after having obviously heard Davis’ tune, revived it (taking the credit to him). Nice honky-tonker (Buddy Attaway on steel?). The lyrics were a bit different from Davis’. Here they are Pierce’s ones:
Come on here girls and hear my song
I’ll tell you my troubles as I step along
I’m a high geared daddy and there’s nothing I won’t do
I’m a two time papa when you leave me at home
I’ll call another momma on the telephone
I’m a high geared daddy that’s never been made blue
If you leave me at home well that’s allright
I’ll take a new momma with me tonight
[continued this style] this perfect example of honky tonk machism was issued on 4 Star 1413, and many times reissued (e.g. 4* 1601), then was the model for other versions.
Webb Pierce « High geared daddy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/webb-ierce-high-geared-daddy-249.mp3download
TOMMY LITTLE & the Sunrise Rangers, from Durham, N.C. recorded the song, although actually it’s a completely different one same time as Pierce’s and Davis’, because it is an old warhorse of the Thirties, frequently known as « Sweet mama put him in low », first recorded by KARL & HARTY (Karl Davis/Hartford Taylor) in Chicago, January 1941 (Okeh 06066). Not surprisingly the song was credited to « Davis »! Fairley Holden had his own version on King 771 in 1947. Tommy Little’s version, first issued on Tommy’s personal label, Tommy’s, was picked up by Colonial, a sub-label to Hollywood giant Modern diskery. Little gives the song a superbly energetic treatment with the mandolin giving it a wonderful old-time flavour.
Karl & Harty « Sweet mama put him in low« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/06-Sweet-Mama-Put-Him-Low.mp3download
Fairley Holden « Sweet mama put him in low »
Tommy Little « High geared daddy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/colonial-116A-Tommy-Little-And-His-Sunrise-Rangers-High-Geared-Daddy-.mp3download
Returning to Webb Pierce’s « HIGH GEARED DADDY‘, the song found a new life in the hands of JIMMY WALKER on the West coast Intro label # 6025 in July 1951. He was backed on this occasion by Joe Maphis and Noel Boggs, augmented by George « Crazy » Tracy on harmonica and did offer an fine, relaxed although energetic version. Finally in a novelty style it was revived as a RCA LP track in 1956 by HOMER & JETHRO.
Jimmy Walker « High geared daddy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/jimmy-walker-high-geared-dddy.mp3download
Homer & Jethro « High geared daddy« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/HOMER.mp3download
We start with a fast bopper by RANDY WALKER, « If I held you in my arms » on the Ludwig 1004 label (1958). This label was named after Rod Morris‘ second name’s son and was located in Eureka, California. Any help to review the 16 sides issued by Morris on his label would be welcome !
PERK WILLIAMS is well known for his 10 years association as singer and fiddler with Jimmy Heap (Lasso, Imperial and Capitol sides, 1949-1959), and can be heard for best effect on « Release me », « Cat’n around », « That’s that », « Ethyl in my gas tank » and other boppers. See elsewhere in this site for Jimmy Heap. Here Perk Williams is backed by the Sidewinders for a solitary issue on the Twirl label # 103 out of Taylor, Texas. « Defeated » has a bluesy guitar, a very intense vocal, plus steel and fiddle solo. The flip side « Why the blues are blue » is a medium fiddle led ditty, again with this intense vocal. Both very nice sides.
Randy Walker, « If I held you in my arms« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Ludwig-1004-Randy-Walker-If-I-Held-You-In-My-Arms-1958.mp3download
Perk Williams « Defeated« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Defeated1.mp3download
Perk Williams « Why the blues are blue« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Why-The-Blues-Are-Blue.mp3download
Next artist is something of a mystery. Last time I heard of him was as part of the Dixieland Drifters, out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the mid-60s. CHARLIE « Peanut » FAIRCLOTH was born 1927 in Georgia and was dee-jaying on Macon WNEX in 1950-51. Decca Records offered him a 4 tracks session cut in Nashville (April 1950), which I podcast 3 tracks on. First, the fast « F-O-O-L-I-S-H me, me » (Decca 46237), then the bluesy, lazy vocal of « Missississipi river blues » (Decca 46271), and its flipside the fast « Coffee, cigarettes and tears ». Both last tracks taken from a 78rpm I had sold a long time ago so no image available, only sound track. From this session only remains a version of Moon Mullican‘s « I’ll sail my ship alone« , never heard by Faircloth. On Youtube I found a 17 minutes snippet of a live show done at the Turner Club in Chattanooga, during the mid-60s. Nice sound and combination of tunes.
Charlie Faircloth, « F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/25-Charlie-Peanut-Faircloth-F-O-O-L-I-S-H-M-E-Me.mp3download
Charlie Faircloth, « Mississippi river blues« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Charlie-Faircloth-Mississipi-river-blues.mp3download
Charlie Faircloth « Coffee, cigarettes and tears« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Charlie-Faircloth-Coffee-cigarettes-and-tears-78-tours.mp3download
From Bloomington, Indiana comes JACK NOEL on Honey 1101. Hard to ascertain when this was issued, I’d say around 1955. « Ragged heart » has an accordion and the band singing chorus in unisson. Drunken Hobo says 1959!
Finally on Log Cabin 903 LEO GRAY does offer « After I have broke your heart », a good 1965 country-rocker, with a moving guitar, from Mt. Healthy, Ohio.
Jack Noel, « Ragged heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/honey-1101-Jack-Noel-Ragged-Heart.mp3download
Leo Gray, « After I have broke your heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/log-cabin-903-Leo-Gray-After-I-Have-Broke-Your-Heart.mp3download
courtesy Drunken Hobo
En route for a new batch of goodies. I hope you will have as much pleasure to listen to them (or download) as I had chosing them.
Here we go with the same song, a Bluegrass bopper, by its originators first, DON RENO & RED SMILEY in 1957 (banjo and guitar, I’d assume) for King # 5002 : « Country boy rock and roll » combines the energy of both musics for a stupendous number. Two years later, the same tune was revived by a small Maryland duet, FRANKIE SHORT and DEE GUNTER on the Wango label # 200. A very fine version, even faster than the original.
Don Reno, Red Smiley « Country boy rock and roll« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/DON-RENO-RED-SMILEY-Country-Boy-Rock-N-Roll.mp3download
Frankie Short & Dee Gunterhttp://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/wango-201-Frankie-Short-Dee-Gunter-Country-Boy-Rock-And-Roll.mp3download
We go up north now for the pure Hillbilly bop beat of « Niagara moon » (Niagara 53727) by ERIC & JOHNNY & Lincoln County Peach Pickers.
Back to Nashville and the Excello label. Indeed it was famous for its Blues and R&B releases, but it had also the odd hillbilly number, for example here RAY BATTS (# 2028) for the great relaxed « Stealin’ sugar ». Batts was also on Bullet and Nashboro.
Eric & Johnny « Niagara moon« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Eric-Johnny-Lincoln-County-Peach-Pickers-Niagara-Moon.mp3download
Ray Batts « Stealin’ sugar« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/excello-2028-Ray-Batts-Stealin-Sugar.mp3download
BILLY McGHEE may have been out of Texas, as he had several records on Imperial. Here on RCA 4727 he cut the good easy-going « I’ll copyright my baby ».
Finally from Texas on the TNT (# 136) label, the only woman of the pack, BETTY BARNES, does offer the fine rockabilly «What would you do ».
Billy McGhee, « I’ll copyright my baby« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RCA-4827-Billy-McGhee-Ill-Copyright-My-Baby.mp3download
Betty Barnes « What would you do« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/tnt-136-Betty-Barnes-What-Would-You-Do.mp3download
Source : Internet.
Other intended features on their way: Valley label, G&G label, early Toppa label, important update of Forest Rye feature, and other articles.
Valley Records was owned by Jack Comer and Dave Garrison and located somewhere in Knoxville, east of Tennessee.
The label lasted for a little more than twelve issues from 1953 to 1954, then several years later changed to Valley’s Meadowlark, taking the same numbering system since the start (not avoiding confusion).
Best records were done by Lonnie Smith, Reese Shipley and Shorty Long. Its biggest hit came in 1954 with Darrell Glenn and the weeper « Crying in the chapel », written by his father Artie. But even Glenn did some hillbilly too.
Lonnie Smith offers a lovely Hillbilly bop tune, « You’re my honky tonk angel » (# 103) : swirling fiddle and a good steel. Flip is nice too : « Gal’s below the Mason Dixon line » (sic). « In the valley by the mountains » (# 100) by Archie Campbell is a fast ditty with yodel vocalizing while its flipside « Blue memories » is an average medium paced one.
« You’re my honky tonk angel »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-103lonnie-smith-you_re-my-honky-tonk-angel.mp3download
« Gal’s below the Mason Dixon line« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-103-lonnie-smith-gal_s-below-the-Mason-Dixon-line.mp3download
« In the valley by the mountains« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-100-archie-campbell-In-the-valley-by-the-mountain.mp3download
Another double-sider uptempo comes with SMOKEY WHITE : « You cheated your way into my heart » and « Just be sure » are good although average boppers (# 102), while JOE STUART is unheard (Valley 101).
« You cheated your way into my heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Smokey-White-Valley-102A-you-cheated-your-way-around-my-heart.mp3download
« Just be sure« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Smokey-White-Valley-102B-just-be-sure.mp3download
« Don’t let me down » (# 107) has Darrell Glenn a bit crooning in a rather good medium-paced Hillbilly bopper. « Hang up that telephone » (# 105) is quite good too.
« Don’t let me down« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-107-darrell-glenn-dont-let-me-down.mp3download
« Hang up that telephone« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-105-Hang-Up-That-Telephone-Darrell-Glenn.mp3download
His other sides are in the « Crying in the chapel » vein. He had later on Dot 15476 his own Rock’n'roll version of « My little red wagon ». I much prefer Reese Shipley‘s sides, « Catfish boogie » and « Middle-age spread » (# 106), both very fine Boppers, the former having nothing in common with Tennessee Ernie‘s song. Both songs have a fine and clear lead boogie guitar over a nice piano, « Catfish boogie» being to me the better of both not to forget a stunning (although too short) steel solo.
« Catfish boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-106-Reece-Shipley-Catfish-Boogie.mp3download
« Middle-age spread« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-106-Reece-Shipley-Middle-age-spead.mp3download
Roy Sneed « I’ll be so blue tomorrow« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-111-roy-sneed-Ill-be-so-blue-tomorrow.mp3download
Roy Sneed is also a crooner in « I’ll be so blue tomorrow » (# 111), but has a nice guitar. He was also on a Four Star custom , Scenic OP-238, with « Blue hillbilly ».. Finally the fast « I’ll never tell » by Mary Jane Johnson retain the feeling of Darrell Glenn with a fine guitar.
« I’ll never tell« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-112-mary-jane-johnson-Ill-never-tell.mp3download
We’ll forget « Angels in the sky », (#113), one of the very first efforts by Buddy Cunningham (later on Phillips Int’l). And I kept one of the best for now, Shorty Long (#108) and his amusing « I got nine little kisses » (guitar, piano soli), coupled with « Who said I said that ». It’s the same style as Bill Haley on Essex : no surprise, they were neighbors in Philadelphia. Shorty Long’s story is in this site.
« I got nine little kisses« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/valley-108-Shorty-Long-I-Got-9-Little-Kisses1.mp3download
Valley of Knoxville had nothing to do with the other Valley labels, e.g. Fletcher Hanna in Raymondsville, Texas (« Hepcat boogie », # 101).
Research done with help from Ronald Keppner. Internet was a good source too.
Women only this time !
LITTLE AUDRY first on the Nashville Walker label (#130) from 1965. A very melodic weeper with a lot of echo for « How can the ashes burn ».
Little Audry http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/walker-130-Little-Audry-How-Can-The-Ashes-Burn.mp3download
Wanda Ballman http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/45-528a-Wanda-Ballman-Think-It-Over-Before-You-Cast-Your-Stone-starday-08-55.mp3download
WANDA BALLMAN is no unknown. She had more than one issue, e.g. on Starday custom serie # 528 (August 1955) for « Think it over », which bears on label a collective personnel. Very solid mid-paced vocal, a short steel guitar solo over basic instrumentation.
SALLY MASSEY obviously on her own Sa-Ma label (no #). Two well sung hillbilly weepers : « « Ole Michigan moon » and « Saving all my kisses ».
On the Arkansas Vaden label (# 101), one JERRI PATTERSON tells « That’s why I think of you » in a lovely bopping style.
Sally Massey « Ole Michigan moon »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Sa-Ma-Sally_Massey_Ole_Michigan_Moon.mp3download
Sally Massey « I’m saving all my kisses »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Sa-Ma-Sally_Massey_I_M_Saving_All_My_Kisses.mp3download
Jerri Patterson http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/vaden-101-jerri_patterson-thats-why-I-think-of-you.mp3download
Mary Ann Johnson http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/mgm-11927-MARY-ANN-JOHNSON-Blue-Teardrops-MGM.mp3download
Another unknown MARY ANN JOHNSON has a bluesy weeper with « Blue teardrops » (MGM 11927). Nothing spectacular, a nice little record.
LITTLE RITA FAYE does offer « Rock City boogie » – I don’t know if it’s the Tennessee Ernie’s song – on MGM 11505. It’s a bluesy shuffler, with steel and a barely audible fiddle.
Little Rita Faye http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/mgm-11505-rock-city-boogie-Rita-Faye.mp3download
Source : Internet
Earl Songer was born in 1915 (nearly a century ago..) in Ruth, W. Va. His father was a miner, and none in his family was interested in music, but at an early age Songer became hooked to guitar and harmonica. As a fan of Bill Cox, he developped a one-man band formula.
Later on in the late ’30s, he secured employment with the Ford Motor Co. In Detroit, Michigan. Never playing professionnally, he nevertheless found opportunities to entertain friends at parties and local functions. It was on such an occasion (a party given by Ford Motors) that he met Joyce (rn Miami Florida) Goode (born in 1924 in Polk Cty, Tennessee), herself being a guitarist : she was so impressed by Songer’s one-man show, that they became close friends. She had been listening closely to Grand Ole Opry and particularly Bill Monroe‘s « Mule skinner blues », so to mastering the instrument.
Earl and Joyce maintained their friendship during his war service and were married in 1945. Settling down in a Detroit suburb, Dearborn, Earl returned to work at Ford while they continued to develop their music, at first for their own pleasure, and gradually more seriously. The professionnal name « Joyce » was chosen for their first 1949 record for Fortune (# 129). They organized their band, the Rocky Road Ramblers. Joyce’s brother Chester played bass, and remained the most consistent member during the five following years.
« The fire in my heart » is intense, with the lifting intro provided by two guitars and great vocal harmonising; this was covered later by Mac Wiseman. The reverse side « Honky tonkin’ blues », an original composition, has a fiddle solo taken by Elton Adams. « Fox chase », second record (# 131), may be boring, as everybody has heard it but once. « Will there be any flowers on your grave », a gospel tune, finds Songer playing harmonica on a rack together with his rhythm guitar, a rare occasion heard although he regularly performed live in this format.
« The fire in my heart« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/02-Fire-In-My-Heart-Will-Be-Drowned-In-Tears.mp3download
« Honky tonkin’ blues« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/03-Honky-Tonkin-Blues.mp3download
« Whose naughty baby are you?« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/05-Whose-Naughty-Baby-Are-You.mp3download
Mid 1950 and the third session: a proficient mandolin player, either Bobby Sykes (part of the band in 1953-54) or Ray Taylor, who often sat with them. The latter of course recorded for Clix in the late ’50s (see elsewhere in the site). The amplified mandolin is heard to excellent effect on « Who’s naughty baby are you ? » (# 144), which combine with the boogie guitar provided by Joyce.
More of that session saw « My wife, and sweetheart too » (# 141). It may look a sentimental song, but it turns out that Earl Songer is singing about two persons ; and the only answer is « to build a cottage for them both, with the rose ’round the door ». Fine solos from mandolin and guitar. The mandolin sets the pace for the frantic « Mother-in-law boogie » (# 141). Amusing lyrics, and, although not being a hillbilly boogie stricto sensu, it could well be the fastest piece of its type ever recorded, highlighted by Chester Goode’s slapping bass solo. « Mother-in-law boogie« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/10-Mother-In-Law-Boogie.mp3download
Possibly from the previous session, but without the mandolin, « Spanish fire bells » (# 144) is a joy to hear – a subtle piece of guitar artistry: a friend of Joyce had introduced her to a Chet Atkins piece that impressed her. Elton Adams returns with two fiddle solos, the second one being plucked to sound like a banjo. Also important: the event of a light double-time strumming of the rhythm guitar, which sounds as if there were a third guitar playing the bass runs.
On the next recording date, they chose to bring Walter Atkins (a neighbor) on harmonica. « I won’t confess I’m sorry » (# 155) quite reminiscent of Wayne Raney on his earlier sides (who copied who?) « In a broken heart no love is found » (# 151) finds Earl Songer in good voice, while Bill Monroe‘s « In the pines » is recalled as Joyce joins to duet on « Someone to call my own » (# 155).
Elton Adams returns at his best on a mid-1951 session on which Joyce’s guitar is amplified effectively to a full sound. The guitar and the fiddle basically duet together on the hilarious « Dissatisfied » (# 160), which paints a doomsday scenario when women take over the world. Earl tells us of a day where there will be « a mayor lady in every town » and « women policing the streets« . Worst of all is the prospect of « having to obey to your mother-in-law« . The actual title doesn’t appear until the last line and « I guess they’ll always be dissatisfied » seems to infer that such events will never actually happen.
« Dissatisfied« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/15-Dissatisfied.mp3download
A November 17th, 1951 date for Coral (recorded in New York or Chicago) saw « We’re satisfied » (# 64127), unusual for string effects, and the vibrant, boogie instrumentally « Smiling through the years« . With the same opportunity they recorded late 1952 another session for Coral: best tunes were the fine « Sansoo » (# 64149) and « Too free with your love » (# 64167), same style as on Fortune.
« We’re satisfied« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/coral-64127-Earl-Joyce-Songer-Were-Satisfied-1952.mp3download
« Sansoo« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Coral-64149A-Earl-Songer-Sansoo.mp3download
Finally relocated in Dallas, Texas, on May 16th, 1954 (the very same day that Gene Henslee cut « Rockin’ baby« ), they recorded four tracks for Imperial, whose best is the fast « Whoopie baby » (8259). Joyce played steel guitar on them, and sang « It’s a cold, cold love« . « I want your love » (8292) is a fine part-time duet bopper.
« Whoopie baby« http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Earl-Songer-Whoopie-baby.mp3download
Sad reality: they parted ways and divorced in 1955. Personal and professional problems caused Earl’s increasingly frequent bouts of excessive drinking and Joyce to feel that their career was set back and opportunities were lost because of his unreliability. After the break of the band, Earl got into real estate and car sales and unfortunately dropped out of music. He moved to Charleston, W. Va. in 1969-70 and passed away in 1972. Joyce teamed up with Rufus Shoffner, a popular local artist who also recorded (« It always happens to me« , Hi-Q, 1962, or « Orbit twist » (American Artist, 1962). She formed a new band similar to those she had organized with Earl, further records followed and she was in demand to many a country, bluegrass, or rock’n'roll session during the later half of the ’50s and early 60s.
It has to be noted that, as far as I know, Earl Songer wrote all his songs.
Freely adapted from Dave Sax’s notes to « Earl & Joyce Songer & the Rocky Road Ramblers – early Country from Detroit vol. 1″ on Old Homestead LP 338 (1991). Never seen a volume 2, supposing gathering the rest of the Earl Songer sides. Thanks to Craig Maki for his help with several Fortune label scans.
I try to be complete with music presented. If you wish some more tracks, please let me know which ones and I’ll try to satisfy.
Addition (Jan. 22nd, 2015). Craig Maki points out that mandolin player Bobby Sykes is not the singer Bob Sykes, and that a second volume of Earl & Joyce Songer sides was published but only on cassette.
Here is the new selection of this end of January 2015.
First, two records by BILL LANCASTER, on the Birmingham, AL. G.G. label . The first one « Too young to get married » (# 516) is credited to Bill Lancester. The second is « It’s saturday night now » (# 519). Both are fine Bopping billies, fast loping rhythm (fine fiddle and piano + steel).
« Too young to get married »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Bill-Lancaster-Too-Young-To-Get-Married-G.G.-516.mp3download
« It’s saturday night now »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Its-Saturday-Night-Bill-Lancaster.mp3download
From Middletown, OH comes DON JOHNSON and his « Feeling low ». I can’t believe this is the same artist as Don Johnston on Mercury (« Born to love one woman »). Fine fiddle throughout.
Don Johnson « Feeling low »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Don-Johnson-Flying-Low.mp3download
Ferlin Huskey « Slow down brother »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Ferlin-Husky-Slow-Down-Brother.mp3download
FERLIN HUSKEY, also Simon Crum, also Terry Preston (on 4*) is too well known. He delivered several good Hillbilly boppers ; I chose his best-known track, the rockabilly « Slow down, brother » (Capitol 3316).
WALT McCOY is a West coast veteran, whom nothing is virtually known about, although he had a long recording career. Here he is represented with « U.S.A. » on the late ’40s Chrystal label # 292.
Finally the very elusive too T.J. SKERO and his fine « Gold diggin’ mama » from 1950 on 4* 1468.
Walt McCoy « U.S.A. »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/19-U.S.A.mp3download
T.J. Skero « Gold diggin’ mama »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/4-1468-T.J-Skero-And-The-Sunset-Play-Boys-Gold-Diggin-Mama-1950.mp3download