Bopping in Philly: the Gordon Jennings sound (1954-1959)

Very little is known about GORDON JENNINGS. He seems to have spent some time in Philly as well as West VA. , Tennessee and Missouri. He was for sure D.J. for certain stations in Saint-Louis, MO (KMOX and WEW), and Bluefield, W.Va. (WHIS and WKOY). He made between 1954 and 59 four records in a Hillbilly style and all four are very good boppers.

West Va. bordering Ky, Tn. and Pa.

Bluefield, Mercer Cty, bottom of the State of W. Va.

 

Jennings Gordon

 

 

What follows is what « Johnn Maddy », seemingly from Arkansas, wrote about Jenning’s « I saw you cheatin’ last night » (Skyrocket) in his YouTube chain :(additions in [] by bopping’s editor)

« A tune Gordon co-wrote with two other artists, and released on a Skyrocket single in 1959. He was born on Oct. 21st 1916 and came to a very serious Bluegrass group called The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers back around 1938-39. Together they really became popular on W.H.I.S Radio in Bluefield West Virginia [but they never recorded on discs at this time]. Jennings had several Radio shows out of St Louis as well, when is unknown, but we did find another single Gordon done in 1958 for another label in Philly called ”Arcade”, but that is the extent of what we learned of Gordon Jennings and his singing career, friends, but still looking for more. Enjoy it Folks, I’ve heard this one done by several artists [Rex Zario on Arcade 202 – other versions by Skeets Yaney and Marty Collins have different credits], but now hearing Gordon the lead composer do it, a good one it is.!!! »

Jennings Gordon  "Quit Teasin' Me"His first record was done in Kingsport, Tennessee for the famous, although quite Jennings Gordon  "The Telephone Girl"scarce now, tiny Kingsport label, primarily devoted to Bluegrass (Jimmy Gregg), with some advances towards Hillbilly bop (Reece Shipley, L. C. Smith). It’s the last record of the label, cut around 1954 (#112), and it combines a great bopper    « Quit teasin’ me » (uptempo – a bluesy guitar led and a boogie piano – and a nice vocal) and « The telephone girl » (unheard, Allan Turner collection). How Jennings came to this Tennessee label is unknown: one can speculate a leasing of masters by Kingsport label due to radio relations. Anyone has got an idea ?

Quit teasin’ me

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Billboard 15 May 1954

Billboard December 17, 1955

Jennings Gordon "Three day pass"Jennings Gordon  "Drivin' home"His second offering was cut in Pittsburg for the tiny Alba label (# 400), and coupled two good sides again, backed by a « String quartet » : the mid-paced « Drivin’ home » and the faster «Three day pass ».

Three day pass

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Drivin’ home

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Well-assured vocal fronting a solid backing. The Alan Schafer named in the credits could have been the label’s owner as well as co-writer of the songs. The short Billboard snippet is learning that the disc was going strong in the Pittsburg area.

We jump to 1958 for a third Jennings issue on the famous Philly label Arcade. « Is it yes or is it no » (# 146) is a fine bopper, and has, for the first time in a Gordon Jennings record, a steel guitar, while the lead plays on the bass chords for good effect. The flip side « I wonder if you miss me too » is unheard (Allan Turner collection = unavailable).

Billboard June 9, 1958

Is it yes or is it noJennings Gordon "Is It Yes Or Is It No"Jennings Gordon "I wonder if you miss me too"

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Next and final record is to be found again in Philadelphia on the new up-and-coming Skyrocket label, in 1959 [other good records are Rex Zario’s « Go man go, get gone »(# 1001) and Ray Coleman’s « Toodle-oo mambo » (# 1002)]. First side of the Jennings’ disc bears a very good version of Hank Williams’ « My sweet love ain’t around » Jennings Gordon "My Sweet Love Ain't Around"(Skyrocket 1003), and the flipside is an original, written by Jennings, aided by Tex Zario (himself being an artist and owner of the label) and the unknown to me Lucky Taylor. The song « I saw you cheatin’ last night » is a nice country-rocker (insistant drums) backed Jennings Gordon  "I Saw You Cheatin' Last Night"by a good embroidering steel guitar, the lead guitar is fine too over a wave of fiddle.

Billboard December 8, 1958

My sweet love ain’t around

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I saw you cheatin’ last night”

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So popular must this song have been that in 1968 on Arcade 202 it was revived by Rex Zario (it’s unclear if Rex and Tex are the same person) in a more rocking style: drums are louder, the steel is more discreet (a short solo), the vocal is a bit smooth.
Rex Zario, “I saw you cheatin’ last night

downloadZario Rex  "I Saw You Cheatin' Last Night"
In any case, Gordon Jennings had disappeared from the music world since 1959, at least in terms of known recordings.

Sources : YouTube (Johnn Maddy, CheesebrewWax Archives) ; Hillbilly Researcher (Alba) ; 78rpm-worlds (Kingsport) ; 45rpm-cat (Arcade and Skyrocket) ; my own record (Rex Zario) ; Hillbilly-music.com for radio stations and Gordon Jenning’s picture; Billboard archives for personal data.

Late February 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites

First two selections for this late February 2017 fortnight do come from Florida. Absolutely nothing is known from the vocalist/bandleader JOE ASHER. Apparently unknown on the Net, and not associated to another of the same name, he was a one-off record man. His record was first issued at Rockin’ # 515 in 1953, then reissued by DeLuxe ( # 2001) for a perfect Bopper, « Photograph of you », a fast, fantastic tune : very assured vocal, great solos – fiddle, guitar and steel. The flipside, « Daddy dear », a mid-paced opus, is just as good (steel is prominent). I wonder why this guy never recorded more, at least under his name.

rockin' asher photographdeluxe asher DearPhotograph of you

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Daddy dear”

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Next selection : BOB DEAN & the Travelaires give a solid rocker for October 1958, issued at the Philly label Arcade (# 195). « Hot Rod Daddy », of course a car song, has a guitar a la Chuck Berry, a prominent piano and a great vocal. This Bob Dean was also on a much later label, Artisty (’70s), and is not to be confused with Bob Dean of the « BOB & CINDY DEAN » Bluegrass duet from Virginia. They had more than a link with guitarist Link Wray : they shared an EP with him, and issued on their side « Walk, walk, walkin’ blues » (Kay EP 3690) from 1957, a good mix of Bluegrass and Rockabilly. They were also on Starday custom serie # 627, “I’m knocking at the door (of your heart)” – excellent driving banjo. Bob Dean had previously released in 1947 on the Lilian Claiborne D.C. label (# 4101) a very rural outing “I’ll take her from the valley” [for a future fortnight’s favorites].

Hot rod daddy

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Walk, walk, walkin’ blues

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I’m knocking at the door (of your heart)

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arcade Dean Hot kay Dean bues

Then to early ’60s in Birmingham, AL. with OTHELL SULLIVAN & the Southern All-Stars (are they the house band of the label?) on Reed 1053. The song is written by Leon Bowman, a prolific songster and singer in is own right. « There’s sure to be goodbyes » is a jumping tune, sympathetic backing (steel and discreet drums) over a good vocal : a nice tune for 1961. Sullivan had had already « Call me, baby » on Wonder (unheard) in 1958 ; later he joined the Longhorn stable (# 513).

reed Sullivan Goodbyes

“There’s sure to be goodbyes”

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JIMMIE STONE (acc. by Coy McDaniel guitarist) had on the New Jersey Cross Country label 45-22 a great Country jimmie stonerocker, « Found » in April ’56. Strong lead guitar and good backing over an cross-country Stone"Foundassured vocal (lot of echo). The disc must have had a certain impact under chart-angle, because the big N.Y. concern Gone reissued it next year as it was on Gone # 5001. The flipside « Mine » is an insipid slowie, largely forgettable.

Found

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From Indiana on a rather devoted to Blues/R&B label, Falcon, here’s to be found the Hillbilly bopper/Rockabilly of CURLEY SHELTON (# 609) « with Doug Oldham & his Dixie 6 ». « Have you seen my baby » is a medium bluesy tune, assured vocal and an embroidering very good guitar.falcon Shelton Babyivory Hollandr Ways

Have you seen my baby

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From the Hometown Jamboree on the West coast, the next track by TEX HOLLAND. He does a fine job with the mid-paced hard-driven « Why don’t you change your ways » on Ivory 103. 

Why don’t you change your ways

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Finally a song, « Hillbilly wolf », wrongly attributed to Dave Dudley on a low-bdget album cover, is actually sung and played by LINK WRAY. A medium uptempo, good vocal but rather uninspired guitar. This tune may come from the late ’50s or even the early ’60s.

Hillbilly wolf

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Sources : 45cat.com and 78rpm-world, Rockin’ Country Style, Hillbilly Researcher compilations, YouTube and my own archives.

Early January 2017 bopping and rocking R&B fortnight favorites

This is the first fortnight’s favorites section for 2017, and we begin with a curious record : by CLIFF FERRÉ, « A cocky cowboy » on the Kem label (California). It’s a fast Western swing flavored number.kem -ferre cowboy

“A cocky cowboy”

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From then the »Hillbilly Boogie » theme. First king delmore hillbillyby its creators, the DELMORE BROTHERS who released their versionbillboard-king-hillbilly boogie

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in March 1946 (# 527), and which everybody knows. Strong similarity with Arthur Smith‘s « Guitar boogie » from 1945. Next « Hillbilly boogie » (apart from Jerry Irby on M-G-M from 1948, and which is an entirey different track) was done by a Tennessean, ANDY WILSON on the Dot label (# 1127) : an energetic perfomance including steel and piano. Its flipside, « Lonesome for my baby », is equally good, although more melodic.

dot wilson-hlbillydot -wilson-lonesome

Andy Wilson: “Hlllbilly boogie

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Lonesome for my baby

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RAY WHITLEY (1901-1979) seemingly on the East coast is present with two tracks : « Jukebox cannonball » on Cowboy # 301 from 1947 : a lovely piece of Bop, which reminds me of Hank Williams‘ early sides. One composer name, that of Rusty Keefer, brings to Philadelphia and Bill Haley’s version on Essex 311 (January 1952). A long biography of Ray Whitley is to be found on YouTube: Johnn Maddy chain.

I added a reference version : JESSE ROGERS (cousin to Jimmie) released « Jukebox cannonball » too on Arcade 147 in January 1957.cowboy whitley cannonball
Ray WhitleyJukebox cannonball”arcade -rogers-jukebox

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Jesse RogersJukebox cannonball

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Whitley also had in 1949 another great number, « You’re barkin’ up the wrong tree now », on Apollo 195. An insistant crazy fiddle rivalling with an excellent guitar over a warm voice. This was a Hank Willams/Fred Rose compostion. At least the title was renewed in December 1956 in the hands of DON WOODY (Decca 30277) who takes his song at a brisk speed for a true Rockabilly classic, full of amusing barks. Great guitar of Grady Martin.apollo -whitley tree

Ray Whitley “You’re barkin’ up the wrong tree now

ray-whitley-band-pic-john-maddyray-whitley-picray-whitley-band-pic-john-maddy

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Don Woody,”You’re barking up the wrong tree

decca wooody treedon-woody-pic2

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On the West coast now with JIMMIE LAWSON. He does a fine shuffler, « Tennessee blues » (Columbia 20477) from July 1947. Much later on the Fable label, in 1957 (# 584) he had « Ole Jack Hammer blues », a strong medium paced rocker with great guitar (Sandy Stanton, owner of Fable records?).

columbia lawson tennesseefable lawson hammer

Tennessee blues

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Ole Jack Hammer blues

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columbia -louis-shufflin

joe-hill-louis-pic

 

 

Finally a R&B rocker by the ‘one-man-band’ JOE HILL LOUIS from Memphis, TN. In 1949 he released « A jumpin’ and a shufflin’ », a song obviously cut for dancers (Columbia 30182). 

A jumpin’ and a’ shufflin’

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That’s it for this time, folks, pheeew !(several hours of work and pleasure mixed to set this feature up )

Sources : 45cat, 78rpm world for Ray Whitley ; YouTube for Joe Hill Louis and Andy Wilson ; Willem Agenant’s « Columbia 20000 serie » for Jimmie Lawson. Also Roots Vinyl Guide sometimes.

Early February 2016 fortnight’s favorites

This fortnight’s favorites selection begins with an old-time singer, JESSE ROGERS (1911-1973). He had a long stint of issues on Bluebird, Montgomery Ward and Sonora, among RCA-Victor, which label he cut records during the late ’40s for. I chose his energetic rendition of Bill Nettles‘ 1949 hit « Hadacol boogie »(# RCA 32-00001). See elsewhere in this website the story of Nettles. Rogers also recorded at the same time Hank Williams’ « Mind your own business » (RCA 33-00001). Later on he went to M-G-M for the good “Folding money“, “I got to live just what I like” and “Howlin’ and prowlin’“. Finally we find him on Arcade (Philly) for several issues, among them “Jump cats jump” (# 169) from 1961.

jesse rogers

rca rogers  hadacol

Hadacol boogie

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Mind your own business

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Jump cats jump

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arcade  rogers - cats

 

 

Then STEVE LA RUE on the Hollywood Harmad label in 1955 for a back-to-back issue of Hillbilly boppers, one fast : « New Style of lovin’ » – good hillbilly vocal over fiddle and steel, and its slower, although equally good flipside «Your heartless heart » (# 103).

New style of lovin’

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Your heartless heart

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harmad  la rue - heartharmad  la rue - lovin'

 

JIMMIE MINOR out of Flint, MI, did the fast bopper « Somebody rustled my sugar » on the Western Chuck Wagon label # 103 in 1955. He later had records on Mercury (# 71623 “So doggone lonesome” with Chet Atkins in 1960)

Somebody rustled my sugar

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west-chuck -wagon minor - sugar

 

 

 

 

Then on the Chicago Cha Cha label from May 1960 (the very same had Ron Haydock & the Boppers), HAROLD STORIE, billed as « The Tennessee Kid » offers the solid although medium-paced « Have pity on me ». A thrilling vibrating guitar over a baritone vocal, as on the flip « Loved and lost », faster but same style, a bit Johnny Cash soundalike. (# 708)

cha cha 708 harold storie - pity

cha cha 708B harold storie - loved & lost

bud-pressner-storie-loved-

courtesy Michael Cocksedge

 

Have pity on me

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Loved and lost

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From 1964 and in Newbury, OH, CHUCK STACY on the Bryte label (# 9009) gave the fine modern country-rocker « Dog-gone these heartaches », with fine piano and steel.

Dog-gone these heartaches

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bryte  stacy - heartaches

Finally the veteran REX ALLEN for his version of the 1946 Buchanan Brothers’ hit « Atomic Power » (Mercury # 6008). Incidentally, one of the Buchanans said later in the ’60s how they hated this song. Here are the lyrics.

Atomic power

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atomic power (buchanan)

rex allenmercury allen - atomic

Sources:Internet, 78rpm-world, my own archives.

Late January 2016 fortnight’s favorites

This fortnight begins with a heck of wildness: MICHAEL RAYE & Judy Shaye (“two voices and four hands” on the label) do offer the storming “Rockin’ Jamboree” on Arcade (Philly) # 112. Boogie woogie pano, trombone and guitar combine for this from 1953.

Rockin’ jamboree

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sandy foster - locked JOHNNY FOSTER (announced a month ago) from Alabama offers the perfect rock-a-ballad “Locked away from your heart” on the Sandy label (# 1028). Good steel and sincere vocal. 1958. He had an earlier issue (# 1014) on the same label, which sounds promising (alas untraced): “It’s a hard life/You gotta be good“. I don’t know if he’s the same artist who appeared later on Capa and Carma during the early ’60s. Anyone can confirm, or deny?

Locked away from your heart

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Cope McDaniel and the Cimarron Valley Boys are backing EDDE LEE for a fine melodic ballad, “I can’t believe you mean it” on Indianapolis Sunset label # F70W-2603 (1955).

I can’t believe you mean it

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Sunset lee believe

jfkl

Ain’t got a nickel

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Little Tom

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waterfall 502 max lowe - ain't got a nickel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAX LOWE enters for two issues, both came out from Morristown, TN. First “Ain’t got a nickel, ain’t got a dime”, a banjo led bluesy ballad, is to be found on Waterfall 502. More of the same on J-F-K-L 701 and “Little Lou”, from 1961 (thanx to Youtube Cheesebrew Wax Archive chain).

Ozark glenn danceOzark billy glenn cry

 

I left the dance

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I’ll never cry again

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That’s 1960 when BILLY GLENN issued on (California) Ozark label L30W-1236 a lovely mid-paced bopper with “I left the dance” (nice steel). The flipside is an uptempo ballad, “I’ll never cry again”. Curiously for a West coast label, the publishing house is “Mississipi Valley”. Glenn also appeared on Yucca 208 (“Bakersfield town”).

 

 

The “REAVES WHITE COUNTY RAMBLERS” go back to the late ‘20s on Vocalion 5218 for the romping “Ten cent piece”. It’s a fast raw hillbilly, showing prominent fiddle and a strong vocal. Courtesy 53jaybop on Youtube.

Ten cent piece

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vocalion reaves- white- cty- ramblers piece

From Wichita, KS, emanate the Kanwic label on which OWEN McCARTY & His Troubadours cut “Key to my heart” (# 145), an uptempo ballad with nice steel, in 1968. McCarty was to have two other known records: on Show Land (produced by Benny Hess) and Air Cap.

kanwick McCarty - key

Key to my heart

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AL URBAN doesn’t need introduction. He cut the great Hillbilly bopper (1957) “Looking for money” (Sarg 148), and the fabulous twin-sider Rockabilly “Gonna be better times/Won’t tell you her name” (Sarg 158), without forgetting his two issues on Fang 1001 and 1003 (untraced). Here he appears on a “manufactured by Tanner ‘n’ Texas [T.N.T.]” A.P.U. 201, which shows two addresses: Gonzales (hometown to Urban) and San Antonio, TX. His “Run away” is similar to his Sarg sides, with a heavy Starday sound: a piano player sounding like Doc Lewis, a fiddle sounding like Red Hayes. Could it be that this record has actually been recorded in Houston?

al urbanapu arban - run  “Run away

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