Born Robert W. Sisco, 24 August, 1932, Bolivar, Tennessee
Died 17 July 2005, Munster, Indiana
Bobby Sisco attended Central High School in Bolivar and graduated alongside his close friend Ramsey Kearney, the singer who cut “Rock the Bop” on Jaxon and co-wrote “Emotions” for Brenda Lee. The family, including two sisters, listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights and Sisco’s mother taught him how to play guitar.
In 1948, Sisco the Singing Farmboy hustled up his own sponsors for two slots on radio WTJS in Jackson, Tennessee, By 1949 he was playing in Jackson’s rawest honky-tonks with Carl Perkins and his brothers. Shows on the more powerful WDXI increased Sisco’s exposure but when his father quit the farm Sisco followed his parents to Calumet, Michigan and found the atmospheric “Sin City” nightclub scene to his liking. Uncle John Ellis, the premier DJ on WJOB in Hammond, Indiana, introduced Sisco to Mar-Vel Records owner, Harry Glenn>.
In order to fully understand the Mar-Vel’ legacy, one must not only look at Harry and his vast body of work, but also consider the social and economic factors that were contributing or affecting the American culture during his most creative period. (The Northern life, Black migration, and Chess records) During the same time, Harry was recording the songs and emotions of Southern Whites, or « Hillbillies ».
One such area that acted as a magnetic force throughout the South was Calumet City. It was close to Chicago and at the same time had a reputation for being very open. As these newly transplanted Southerners arrived, more nightclubs sprung up. This environment enabled many musicians to support themselves by playing the music that they loved.
In 1955 Sisco cut “Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm” (Mar-Vel 111) at Chicago’s Universal Studios. of 4-Star helped finance the session in return for the publishing rights. The record did well in the mid-West and Sisco made personal appearances with Johnny Cash, George Jones and Little Jimmy Dickens. «Honky Tonkin’ Rhythm» really captures the true feeling of the era.. .slappin’ bass and wild steel guitar really set your feet a tappin’. The flipside, «Wrong Or Right» is a Hillbilly weeper, well in the style of the period.
Sisco made contact with Leonard Chess in 1956. “Rockabilly had started coming in strong and I was gonna get in on the trend like everybody else. I set up an interview with Chess and they were all enthused. They wanted to make another Bill Haley out of me. They had big plans. I only had ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome Man‘ and they told me ‘ Well, go home and write three more songs and we’ll do our first session.’ I had kinda got baffled and didn’t come up with anything I really liked except ‘Go, Go, Go‘ which I liked real well. So I wrote that and they said ‘ Well, come on down. We need to get something out.’ They set up the studio time at Universal and they furnished the musicians except Johnny Hammers who was my lead guitar player. He was working with me on my road tours and my nightclub shows. He knew my material and fitted in with that twangy rock guitar so they let him play on my session. I worked harder on that session that any session I’ve ever been in. I worked until I was completely exhausted. And we got two sides cut.“
Leonard Chess signed Sisco to a one-year contract with a one-year option, but his tenure at Chess was very short-lived. According to Sisco, someone told him that Chess had given his song (“Tall, Dark and Handsome Man“) to Chuck Berry. “I didn’t pay attention and thought for sure they’d let him have my song and hadn’t released mine. I got very upset and we had a very serious argument. They finally released my record but they nullified my contract.” Harry Glenn tried to rectify matters but Leonard Chess said he wouldn’t lift a finger to help Sisco who had cussed him out and called him a lot of bad names. “I thought they’d stolen my song” said Sisco whose informant had confused “Tall, Dark and Handsome Man” with Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man“. “Anyway“, added Sisco, “I shouldn’t have done what I done.”
Following his disassociation from Chess, Sisco pitched a couple of Nashville-recorded masters to Vee-Jay Records. The band on “Are You the Type” (Vee-Jay 544) included Floyd Cramer, Grady Martin and Buddy Harman. He also recorded several fine C&W songs for Harry Glenn’s Glenn label during the same period and, in the mid-1960s, he fetched up on Brave, a company owned by Marvin Rainwater and Bill Guess. Sisco helped to write “The Old Gang’s Gone” recorded by Marvin Rainwater and Lefty Frizzell.
During the 1970’s Sisco headed his own company, Wesco, and made a slew of singles for that imprint. He promoted “Long Shaggy Hair” (Wesco 2107) on a show with Buford Pusser whose life story, “Walking Tall”, was filmed among the clubs and bars in Jackson where Sisco had played as a teenager.
Acknowledgements : Bill Millar, Entry for Bobby Sisco in the liner notes for “That’ll Flat Git It, Vol. 10 : Rockabilly From the Vaults Of Chess Records” (Bear Family BCD 16123). This CD includes both sides of Chess 1650 (“Tall, Dark and Handsome Man” and “Go Go Go”), but they are also available on several other compilations. Biography by Dik De Heer (Black Cat Rockabilly Europe) (used by personal permission)
This fortnight’s favorite selection begins in a State not usually associated with Hillilly bop, that of Connecticut in the North east part of the U.S. Issued on the Starday custom Coxx label (# 588, September 1956), it hailed from Coventry and was allocated to SLIM COXX and his Cowboy Caravan. I remember the notes to Coxx 588 from the « Starday custom # 575-600 » study I had back in January 2012. « Slim’s real name was Gerard A Miclette. He played with his younger brother, Roland “Rocky” Miclette in various bands. By the time Roland came back from serving in the Navy, he joined Slim (who played fiddle like his father, George) playing bass in Slims’ Kentucky Ramblers. Eventually they came to the attention of the Down Homers, which featured Bill Haley (and Kenny Roberts) and joined them on the tidy sum of $200 a week wages. Once the Down Homers had disbanded, Slim & Rocky were playing at Lake Compounce in Slim’s new band, The Cowboy Caravan. »
»Lonely nights » is a perfect hillbilly shuffler: the vocalist has a top notch « hillbilly » voice, and steel/fiddle are both great. Rocky died on the 6th of May 2004 and Slim passed away October 13th 1999. The actual band singer was a Jimmy Stephen, who led vocals also on the other issue (either 1955, either 1957) by Coxx on the Maine Event label (# 4267), »Sitting here all alone ».
On to Dallas, Texas, and the great JOHNNY HICKS & the Country Gentlemen, recently evoked in my study of Hank Thompson’s « The Wild Side Of Life » and his sequels. Here he delivers a proto-rockabilly with « Pick up blues », great vocal and fine guitar (Columbia 21064) cut late 1952.
Talking of « The wild side of life », here is an unusual Cajun version sung in French by MARIE FALCON fronting Skuk Richard‘s band, The LA. Aces, under the title « Le cote farouche de la vic », which was issued early in 1953.
Then a completely unknown artist by the name of TIM McCLOUD on the Chesterfield label #362 on the West coast. McCloud reminds vocally one of Rex Allen for two selections, « Down Down Down » and « Mountains and mountains of lies » , both urban hillbilly style with a distinct California Western savour. Young Buck Owens had a record on that label too. The writer, Virginia Richmond, was also the owner of the label.
Back to Texas, Houston area with the singer/fiddler COTTON THOMPSON. He already had the fast Western swing-tinged « Jelly Roll Blues » in 1949 on Freedom 5010, and later went as front vocalist for Johnny Lee Wills (« Oo Oooh Daddy » on RCA 5243). Here after train effects Thompson sings with urgency a fast song – already a small classic – « How Long » (Gold Star 1381) ; flipside « Hopeless Love » is a fine shuffler : fiddle is well to the fore. Thompson is backed by an otherwise unknown to me “Deacon (Rag Mop) Anderson” and his own Village Boys.
Hillbilly BILL HALEY used to adapt race songs to his Country repertoire. Here he goes strong with the Saddlemen on Holiday 105 (July 1951) with «Rocket “88” », which has been often cited as the first Rock’n’roll record by Ike Turner‘s band (The Delta Cats) fronted by JACKIE BRENSTON on Chess 1458.
No image available of the boys neither of Bill Morgan at the moment. Maybe someone has one picture? Pease help!
This Bill Morgan has nothing to do with the Columbia songwriter and artist (1954-55), brother to George Morgan.
By the mid-1955, Texans Bill [Morgan, rhythm guitar] and Carroll [Hunt, lead guitar] came from Beaumont, Texas, to Lake Charles’ (La.) Goldband recording studio and cut their first sides. They were issued on Goldband 1034 early 1956, comprised of two Hillbilly boppers tunes : « Love me just a little bit » has harmony vocals in the bridge, the rest
being sung by Bill Morgan ; fine backing of fiddle and steel by the Netche Valley Boys; « My blue letter » is faster and equally good. The boys try with brio to sing harmony all along the track. Again great aggressive fiddle, as on « Honest to goodness baby » (Goldband 1053) issued 1957. The B-side « Love grown cold » is a slowie ; the vocals are plaintive but the spirit (a piano is added) of the other sides remain intact.
Departing from Goldband Bill & Carroll left behind them 5 unissued songs only published in France and U.K. during the late ’80s. A first version of the future Dixie classic “Feel so good“, a perfect example of Hillbilly bop heading towards Rockabilly (great guitar and fiddle backing).The medium paced « Shadow on my heart » is reminiscent of « Love grown cold », but a little faster. Enters even an accordion player. Some mambo rhythm for « Boo hoo », then « Hold me baby » is a fast number, quasi-rockabilly (at least for the guitar playing), a bit Everly-ish. The last tune, « Bluff city rock » is pure rock’n’roll, with heavy drums and tickling piano, and again that fine guitar.
Next step was on Madison, TN, Dixie label. Both of the guys were reunited under the name « BILL CARROLL » for a second version of their previous « Feel so good » (Dixie 2010) – a sharp lead guitar, and a firm vocal. This is the best ever of their product – value $ 300-400, and one would hear their B-side « In my heart » , not available since its November 1958 issue.
From then on, it seems that both of them went separate ways, as further recordings are all assigned to « BILL MORGAN ». First in 1959 (reviewed by Billboard in August) on Pappy Daily’s « D » label (# 1092) . « Your wicked love » is a fast bopper: clear voice, nice backing of piano and an ordinary guitar, probably not by Carroll Hunt. Things are slower for the flipside « At home with mom », full of echo. Next step is on the Dart label (a sublabel to « D ») for « Red hot rhythm combo » (# 137) in 1960 : a good jumping little rocker. The guitar riff is fine and insistant, and Morgan is in good voice.
The man moved again to Texas, and had a good amount of recordings until 1972, when his trail goes cold. On Delta Records, he had late 1962 # 501 « I need your love » picked up by Chess and reissued on # 1841, a good little rocker. Then on Delta 504 in 1963, « She gave me lovin’ », once more a fine rocker. Then on Gem (1964-65) a similar instrumentation for the energetic « Tennessee moon » (# 5) or the lovely (female chorus) « Land of the midnight sun » (# 7)(not posted here). I did not hear further recordings on New World, Stoneway and Myra, so cannot comment neither podcast them.
Another Bill Morgan appeared on Rebel 249 (VA.), who had nothing apparently to do with this artist. Indefatigable visitor (and corrector) DunkenHobo points out a different version of “I need your love”(Chess) by a BOBBIE MORGAN on (Tx) Blackbird 505. It is aurally not an alternate of the Chess issue; a seemingly female vocal; no speeded up tempo I’d assume; and this time a good piano. Producer Bill Morgan, says DrunkenHobo. So maybe Bobbie was his wife? Here it is for what it’s worth:
Sources: 45rpm.com site; notes to Goldband LP 107 “Bop stop rock”; notes to BF 16408 “D & Dart”; YouTube.(53jaybop chain for the Goldband 1034 label scans)
Hello, folks. This fortnight’s favorites selection will be very various and pointing in different directions.
First artist whom a virtually nothing is known about, and not more on his band. DON HAGER & the Hot Tots had in Autumn 1957 several sides cut for the Oak label out of the very small (ca. 800 souls) town of Whitakers, N.C. These guys had a tendency to Calypso rhythm, fact is obvious with « Bebop boogie » (Oak 0357), and it brings a lot of freshness to their composition. Fine rinky-dink piano, an hopping drum and a good (although discreet) steel make it a very fine Rockabilly, yet different..That very same song had been cut by Mustard & Gravy in 1950 and issued on Gotham 403, a sign of its later popularity. I already posted their fine version in the early June 2011 fortnight’s favorites selection And even earlier back, it had been recorded by Harry Gay, and published on…Oak 1000 [untraced, but according to the notes to « Long gone daddy », a compilation on Collectables 6335]. Hager had also « Calypso boogie », same style, on a ’70s Rockin’ Stars issue and « I love you dear forever », from a 1990 compilation (Oldies 5374) – this is an alternate take – with the steel much more to the fore. Finally « Liza Jane bop » (Oak 0358), also strange in its rhythm, yet is a more conventional Rockabilly. Nobody knows what happened to Hager and his group afterwards.
From Alabama comes the second artist : NORRIS MIMS [not to be confused with the Texan of similar name Morris Mills] in 1959 on the custom pressed (CP-1987) Birmingham, AL, Arlington label (# 101B) for « Sweet sweet baby ». It has an urgent vocal over a very fast backing, a fine guitar and a piano break. It is stunning such a good record is not worth an entry in Tom Lincoln’s book, as I am sure it’s very highly treasured. Incidentally the tune had been first cut in 1956 by Buddy Hanes [according to « 50sRock’n’roll » Youtube chain], but had remained unissued until our era (I didn’t find on which support).
The third record is not by a newcomer. The song « Chili dippin baby » was issued twice : on Blue Hen and on Raymor by its composer, Raymond McColister with different singers. Here is the Raymor version (# 6004A) with vocal by Mz. Melody Mack.
JIMMY HEATH & the Rhythm Rollers did record « Little darlin’ » for the Modesto, Ca. Mega label (# 2261) . It’s a typical late ’50s bopper. Lot of steel (a solo which reminds a bit of Ralph Mooney), a jumping little tune with a good expressive vocal and a fine Rockabilly guitar.
Now on to Texas, in the apply named town of Center, with REGGIE WARD & his Sons of Texas. They do offer a fast bopper « Juke box baby » from early 1951 with vocal by Jack Ford. Could the latter be the same man who cut « No not now », backed by Curley Williams (Columbia 20633, January 1950), or the Hayrider who recorded the fine hillbilly bop « That’s all you gotta do » (Chess 4858) in 1954 ? A final detail on Nemo Records (owned by Mrss. Jack McLendon and Leon Sanders) : the Wilburn Brothers [Theodore & Doyle] (later on Decca) apparently cut their first sides for this label.
BILL WATSON on the Demorest, GA Country Jubilee label (# 525) recorded a fine double-sider reviewed by Billboard in February 1960. The songs are similar in structure : over a strong guitar, a very melodic vocal partially sung in unison, they are very enjoyable and catchy « You’re the one for me » and «I’m dying darling ».
For this third feature specialized in bopping duets, we begin with the aptly named HARMONY BROTHERS. Their « Baby, tonight » fom 1959 was cut for St-Louis, MO label Bobbin 109, and it’s a very solid backed Everly Brothers styled opus. They had another one « Saturday night bop » on Bobbin 116 which sounds good (alas, untraced). March 22nd, 2018: I tracked both tunes of Bobbin 116. They are below: “Saturday Night Bop” and “Don’t Be Cold“. Very good Everlyish rockers!
On the Minneapolis, MN Circle Dot label (# 1012) , again from the late ’50s, we chose « Dream night » by the HOULE BROTHERS. Again Everly Bros. influenced, it fetches up to $ 250-300. Mike & Bob, the Houle Brothers, had another record on Bangar 642 in 1965, « I heard the bluebird sing ».
Jimmy Lee & Wayne Walker “Love me”
download Now a great wild thing with the classic « Love me » (Chess 4863) from Spring 1955, cut at KWKH studio in Shreveport, La. by JIMMY LEE & WAYNE WALKER. It has urgent vocals and a ferocious steel (Sonny Harville), all propelled by the thuding bass of Tillman Franks and the jumping drums of D. J. Fontana.
Let’s go west with the FARMER BOYS, and the very special Western rockabilly style from the Capitol studio on « My baby done left me » (# 3476). The staff is composed by Bobby Adamson and Woody Murray (vocals), Roy Nichols on lead guitar, Fuzzy Owen on steel and Cliffie Stone on bass, and the tune was out May 31, 1956.. The story of the Farmer Boys is on this site.
An unusual duet of uncle and nephew were the JACOBY BROTHERS on TNT 1004, from San Antonio, TX. Great harmonies and backing (guitar and mandolin) for « Warmed over love ».
From N. Wilkesboro (S.C.) we turn now on the CHURCH BROTHERS and « Broken vows and a broken heart » (Blue Ridge 209), a typical 1953 bluegrass bopper: nice vocal and chorus in unison. I’ve read that the lead was Buffalo Johnson, an important figure not so well known today. Research goes on him.
From N. Charleston, (S.C.) and July 1954 BILLIE AND GORDON HAMRICK, a sacred tune on Rangeland 504 (one of the very first Starday customs). « He’s gonna take his children out » has a lead vocal male) and a chorus, plus a good banjo solo.
Billie & Gordon Hamrick “He’s gonna take his children out”
PAUL (Boswell) & ROY (Pryor) out of Nashville on the Pace label (# 1004) had previously cut a dozen sides for Mercury. The Pace issue date from late ’50s, and offer two medium tunes, « Free, twenty one and ambitious » and « I wish you’d be a country girl ». Good, a bit above average boppers.
Finally the terrific sacred « I’m a millionaire » by the Tennessee Harmony Boys (Dillard Anderson & Solon Maynard) on the Fortune label out of Detroit (# 209). A great, great mandolin solo, and a lot of excitement.. They had previously cut on their own « The Tennessee Harmony Boys » label, and even had an E.P. on Fortune (# 1334).