Tank Town Boogie: the CAPROCK label (1957-1959)

tank town front2 Hank (real forname S.A.) Harral was no newcomer in the music business in 1957 when he launched Caprock records in Big Spring, Tx.

Before recording for his own label, he had releases on T.N.T. and Talent (see elsewhere on Bopping for the label’s story), for which he cut amongst other tunes « Dream Band Boogie » in 1951. He re-recorded the song, in a more rocking way, for Caprock. Backing is provided by Weldon Myrick (steel and lead guitar), Deana Hall (bass), Helen Helso (piano) and Red Stone (rhythm guitar). He had 4 issues on Caprock, the two best being « Tank Town Boogie » and «The  D.J. Blues » (102). the latter being a cross between Hillbilly and Rockabilly. Probably the most well known disc to rockabilly collectors is « Tank Town boogie » (104)  with « Sweet Memory » on the flip. Right from the intro by Weldon Myrick on guitar and Mr. Burkett on piano, one is treated to a solid piece of rockin’ Texas good time rockabilly. Driven along at a fair pace by Deana Hall’s powerhouse bass lines, it is a classic of its type and one can only be impressed by the sense of enjoyment that was captured. At least 3 takes were made with the third one being issued on a White label LP pictured here. It is a slower, more bluesier treatment. During this time, Hank cut some more rockin’ material, which included « She’s Gone » and an extremely good re-working of « Dream Band boogie », which has the bonus of fine rompin’ piano from Mr. Burkett and Deana Hall again shining on the bass. Harral’s fourth and final release on the label finds him with yet another self penned tribute to his birth state, « Oklahoma Land » (114), a solid bopper with, as usual, excellent back up from the band. The flip is « (I’ve Got A) Mortgage On Your Heart », a song he had co-written with Billy Harbet back in 1953 (Harbet had recorded it then for Starday 119), and it is a good country weeper. Harral also recut a nice version of « Dilly Dally Doodle » which remained unissued at the time.

howard cty, big spring

100a harral fabulous

104a harral tank

A number of local artists wanted to get released on the fledging new label, so Caprock 101 was issued by ex-Snyder High School Senior Dixie Rogers, from a town some 35 miles North East of Big Spring. Both « I Will Miss You » and « What Then Will You Say » (Caprock 101) are quick paced country numbers, with Harral’s band providing the backing. Myrick is in particularly good form. She returned with the curiously titled « When The Frost Is On The Punkin » (106). Dixie sounds a little more assured on this one and it is a nice country bopper; the same good uptempo style is carried onto the flipside, « Our First Date »101b dixie what. She had a third release (112), « Only You/World Of Broken Hearts », unheard, so cannot comment.  Dixie Rogers

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Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys made their debut on the label with « My Wasted Love/Kelly Waltz » (103). Ben, the brother of Hoyle, takes the vocal on the former, a slowish tempo’d Western swing number with a nice, uncluttered instrumental on the flip. Hoyle and his band were a well established outfit in the area, having already made records for Star Talent at the turn of the ’50s and for the obscure Queen label in Snyder, Tx (including the excellent « Real Rockin’ Daddy » (to be found under the « WINK LEWIS » entry in this site)) before arriving at Caprock in 1958. He was later to have « Coming Down From Pecos » (105), another instrumental with once again Ben doing the vocals on yet another waltz time flip, « My Mary ». For the final release of 1958, he returned to Ben Hall’s studio and cut probably his strongest coupling on the label with a re-working of « Big Balls In Cowtown » (109), the song that had kicked off his recording career back on the old Star Talent label. Many different stylings lent themselves to Western swing, and one of them was the jazzy big band swing songs and Artie Shaw’s « Summit Ridge Drive » is a perfect composition to show off the band. Taken at a nicely relaxed but swinging pace, Hoyle puts the band through its pace with Mr. Burkett’s piano followed by Dusty Stewart’s fine snappy steel, and Eldon Shamblin‘s lead guitar through to Red Hayes’ fine mandolin pickin’ until, as calls Hoyle out « Now all together boys », and the band sail through to the climax. Hoyle was to go on to record for a number of small Texas labels like Bo-Kay, Winston and Stampede, even having an LP on Oil Patch in the ’70s.

109a nix big

During the end of 1958, Hank Harral was persuaded to handle more recordings as a custom service with the artists providing their own tapes already cut, and of course the material became of a more variable standard. Jimmy Haggett had recorded for Sun, Meteor and Vaden, and was deejaying in Arkansas at the time of his release on Caprock (107), two hillbilly weepers, « Without You/All I Have Is Love ».   jimmy haggett2 At the same time Durwood Daly (rn Haddock) was also a DJ in Kermit, Tx, and he had his own Johnny Cash‘s influenced « That’s The Way It Goes » (108)

durwood Haddock 59

Ace Ball (Batch) had known Hank for many years prior to his one release on Caprock 110. He had played rhythm guitar on Hank’s Star Talent releases. He was from a farming community south of Portale, NM, and had at least one release on Ace-Hi (his label?). It seems that « I’ve Lost Again/High School Wedding Band » was cut in Nashville. The latter being a typical late ’50s rock ballad, spoiled by the chorus, while the A side is a pleasant enough pop rocker.  110b ace I've lost The totally obscure Jack Tate is on Caprock 111, with « Casanova » being a fast and superior quality bopper. Jack has a rural vocalising and the Sandy Land Playboys create the impression of being together for quite a while.   111a tate casanova

Jimmy Simpson had a solitary issue on Caprock 113, recorded in Nashville while he was on leave from the oil fields of Alaska. His « Breaker Of My Heart » bops nicely, while « I’m An Oilfield Boy » is set to a quick waltz pace.

113a simpson oilfield

Penultimate release is by the unknown Roy New with his Trans-Pecos Melody Boys (115). The song « Blue Tomorrow » is way above average, and Roy is putting his heart and soul in what is possibly his one and only record ever. A slightly slower song, « Heartaches For Sale » on the flip. Finally Caprock 116, Max Alexander coupling « Little Rome /Rock, Rock, Rock Everybody » backed by the Hi-Fi’s Combo, offer two of the best Rock’n’Roll records ever. It is firmly placed in the Bill Haley format, with Max on bass and vocal, until the late Frank Fierro comes in on a honkin’ sax break, before the arrival of a blistering guitar solo. The guitar player could be Cecil McCullough who recorded for Bo-Kay and Manco. Flipside is instrumental. And so the Caprock label came to an end. They had no big national hits, only helping people to either try or further careers.

116a max rome

Label story based on two main sources: first, Phillip J. Tricker, « The Caprock Story » (Roll Street Journal n° 7, Spring 1984); second, notes to White Label LP 8831 « Tank Town Boogie ». Some additions and corrections from Bopping editor. Thanks to Tony Biggs for the loan of label scans.

caprock BB ,10 août 59

102 test

RCA test pressing - thanks to Tony Biggs

102 harral the D.J. blues

Jimmy Simpson « The Oil Field Boy »

Jimmy Simpson : Ramblin’ Blues (reprint of A.J. Nightingale’s article in RSJ 7, 1984)    Simpson 1953

Many people regard the state of Tennessee as the cradle of Country music and I suppose that it was only appropriate that one of the finest hillbilly singers of the Fifties, JIMMY (J.D.) SIMPSON have been born in the state, at Sullivan Hollow, Ashland City, some twenty odd miles from Nashville on 24th March, 1928. His father, it seems, owned the Simpson Construction Co. « My parents were hard-working, honest, and religious people », Jimmy recalls in his book A Vanishing Breed. « This was the Depression era and we learned early in life to cope with hard times. We didn’t have a radio, but an old wind-up Victrola that played 78 rpm records, and that’s was our entertainment. »

AshlandCity_TN

A big man, six feet tall, Jimmy had definite stage presence and a gift of gab that enabled him to enjoy a side-career as a disc-jockey for most of the fifties and early sixties. His records were released on an array of small labels that continue to fascinate collectors – Republic, Hidus, Jiffy, Big State, Caprock, and his own Sourdough – but included a brief run with Starday as well. Along the way he managed to get in appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, the Louisiana Hayride, and the Big ‘D’ Jamboree, with a wide array of country music characters, musicians, songwriters and disc jockeys : Jim Denny, Jack Rhodes, Harlan Howard, Slim Willet, Hank Harral, Tillman Franks, Willie Nelson, and Don Pierce, to name a few. (suite…)