Rockin’ Rollin’ Marty Robbins (1953-56)

When a Rockin’ Know-all thinks about a record company that through its record releases brought the Southern states its own brand of Rock’n’roll over the airwaves, he (or maybe she) thinks of Sun Records in Memphis.
Sun were there, because in order to survive like most independant all over the States they catered for markets not generally seved by the Majors ; in the process they gave the white youth the sounds they wanted to jitterbug and bop to. Whilst it s true to say that Majors were doing big business with pop artists, they were pretty well involved with country (and/or Rhythm’n’blues) from fairly early on. In fact Columbia’s C&W output in the ’50’s was run from Nashville and under the cortrol of Mitch Miller. Certainly, when given the lead, Columbia Broadcasting quickly latched onto the potential of what was virually a more raucous version of country music. They soon amassed a Rockabilly catalog second only to Sun.
Of course, in the early ’50s, Columbia had recorded country boogies, which had a great beat for dancing, but still had hillbilly vocals (« Wild Cat Boogie » – Johnny Bond, 21160 – « Rock Me » – Little Jimmy Dickens, 21206, « Go Boy Go » – Carl Smith, 21266 and « Mama!» – Lefty Frizzell, 21328 are typical examples)

It was not until a certain truck driver from Tupelo recorded « That’s All Right Mama», that true Rockabilly look off. Columbia covered the song with a version by Marty Robbins. Whilst others did cut sides without the hillbilly vocals (« Juke Joint Johnny » – Lattie Moore on Speed for example), they were sparse and generally on very minor labels with local distribution. It was Elwood Pretzel that brought it to wider attention, in fact the South and the vast country areas of the Northern States were more than ready ; in 1954 during a Cash Box interview Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records stated that from 1952 white high school and college kids in the South were picking up R&B records primarily to dance to. The trend was started by youthful hillbilly fans rather than the pop bobby-soxers, who just followed right along.

Robbins, of Polish ancestry, was born on September 26th 1925 at Glendale, Arizona. 1937 saw his family move to Phoenix, where he attended high school. Then at 19 he signed up wit the Navy for a 3 years stint. Posted on the Pacific, he developped an interest in the guitar until he got to the stage of composing his own songs. This eventually led him to perform professionnally after his discharge with one of his friends who had a band, and they performed at a local night club. He served his apprenticship in he mid-40’s playing in small around Arizona. He joined Columbia Records in 1952, recording solo performances as well as duetting with his manager Llee Emerson, in a style reminiscent of early Eddy Arnold, featuring a semi-crooning vocal and sparse instrumentation.

Marty Robbins and band – 1950’s

It was at Jim Beck’s studio (Dallas) in September 1953 that Robbins recorded « It’s A Long, Long Ride ». It wasn’t Rock’n’Roll of course, but Robbins’ performance had a restless energy, presaging much that followed.The drums, still rarely heard on Nashville recodings, gave an added edge to the performance. During the first break, the fiddle player hums in unison with his instrument, a trchnique that Slam Stewart and others had popularized with the bowed upright bass during the ’30s, but one rarely heard in country music.

Ray & Roy

Pain And Misery

by Ray Edenton & Marty Robbins

between Dallas and Nashville (1954)

Much bluesier was « Pain And Misery », an anomalous duet that Robbins recorded in May 1954 with Ray Edenton. It was logged in the Columbia files with three other songs under the artist-name «Ray & Roy ». None of the cuts were released at the time, although « Pain And Msery » was later re-cast by Robbins as « Mean Mama Blues ».
Aside of the cloak of anonymity, wasn’t really surprising is the hard-edged blues feel. The use of two electric guitars – one of which takes an unusually aggressive solo (Chet Atkins or Louie Innis)– points unerringly towards future developments. “Call Me Up” (21291) (by Marty alone) was also a nice uptempo precursor.

By the end of 1954 all of Robbins’ sessions were being held in Nashville, and on November 7, he cut a cover version of « That’s All Right ». Elvis Presley had released it in July, and although it did no more than crack a few local charts, it created a buzz. Robbins had heard the record and figured Presley was black. In October, Robbins discovered that he wasn’t when Presley okayd a less-than-successful guest spot on the Opry. By November, Presley had his second record on the market, but Robbins decided to cover « That’s All Right » ayway. It became a fair-sized hit for him, peaking at number 7 in the Spring of 1955.

Cash Box Jan. 6, 1955

August 9, 1955. Nashville, Tennessee: the pure rockabilly recording session

Chuck Berry’s « Maybellene » mispelled « Maybelline » by Columbia, hadn’t even cracked the R&B charts when Robbins covered it. He had obviously started tuning the car radio to the R&B stations, sensing the coming storm.
If there’s ever a need to illustrate the difference between uptempo country and rockabilly, then Robbins’ versions of « That’s All Right » and « Maybelline »will show the demarcation line. It was more than the addition of drums, there was a twitchy energy to « Maybelline » that announced the dawn of a new era.

Cash Box Nov. 5, 1955

Cash Box, Jan. 7, 1956

November 3rd, 1955. More rockabilly and country. After Robbins had met Melvin Endsley, he adopted the latter’s “Singing The Blues”, which proved a million seller for him.

If there’s ever a need to illustrate the difference between uptempo country and rockabilly, then Robbins’ versions of « That’s All Right » and « Maybelline »will show the demarcation line. It was more than the addition of drums, there was a twitchy energy to « Maybelline » that announced the dawn of a new era.

Columbia didn’t have much faith in « Singing Te Blues », possibly thinking it was too country. It was kept in the can for eight months, and two other singles were dhipped in the interim. In November 1956 though, « Singing The Blues » beat out « Hound Dog » for the number one slot on the country charts, and it remained there until February 1957.

Before « Singing The Blues » was released, Robbins went back into the studio with two more uptempo songs on the schedule. The first was a cover of Little Richard’s « Long Tall Sally », which hadn’t even cracked the R&B charts ; the other was an odd original, « Respectfully Miss Brooks » with an organ piping way in the background.

Robbins decided it was time to revisit the Melvin Endsley songbook. He cut « Knee Deep In The Blues », which proved to be his ticket back to the charts, but unfortunately was beaten by Guy Mitchell’s pop version.

From Late 1955 thru’ 1956 he performed Rockabilly on stage as this was in demand with audiences. Did he in fact rock the joint ? – well, there is in fact an LP of Marty Robbins on the Artco label (LPC 110LD) which is described as coming from « The Hall Of Fame » motion pictures soundtrack. In truth it’s almost certainly some form of live concert which is from around 1956. All 12 tracks are different to recorded versions, the latest of which are « Mr. Teardrop » and « I Can’t Quit » – significantly no « Singing The Blues ». Other tracks include « Pretty Mama », « Tennessee Toddy », « Pretty Words », Castle In The Sky », « Times Goes By ». « Tennessee Toddy » and « Pretty Mama » not to mention « I Can’t Quit » are all superb : yes Marty did really rock.

However Marty wasnt really a rocker ; he was just cashing in on a trend, and he soon left for pop/country records. These are anyhow some reat stady backings in « Knee Deep In The Blues », « Long Gone Lonesome Blues », although « Moanin’ The Blues » and « Loveick Blues » are in the same great style.

Sources: main article set up from an article by Bob Airlie, originally published (June 1977) by “New Kommotion”, then from the notes by Colin Escott for Bear Family “Rockin’ Rollin’ Robbins” triple CD (1999); music primarily from Willem Agenant site ‘Columbia 20 000 serie’, many thanks to him. Remaining music and videos from YouTube.Thanks Uncle Gil for his help, providing sound files.
Labels from 45cat and 78worlds sites.Discographical details from Praguefrank great site.

Several boppers have been excluded, because lack of space. Otherwise the article would have been double sized. Anyway they all are well worth seeking, songs like: “I’ll Love You Till The Day U ie” (21414), “Time Goes By” (21324) or “Where’d Ja Go” (40868) with Lee Emerson.

Early June 2020 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Hello everyone ! In those times of confinement, it’s good to hear fresh bopping music. Because my hard-disk is out of service and that the repair shop is still closed, I chose ancient items, previously released in old Fortnight’s favorites selections. So they won’t ring too familiar.

T. Texas Tyler

The first selection is done by T. TEXAS TYLER : a fast « Sratch and Itch » done in 1953 on 4Star, leased to Decca. 28760. Obviously there is not much growls from Tyler in this one. The backing is suoperb.

The veteran TEX RITTER (1906-1974) did also some Hillbilly bop songs. Here he releaes « Boogie Woogie Cowboy » on Capitol 928 (from early 1950). The backing provided is excellent too : the Capitol nucleus band, Eddie Kirk and Merle Travis on guitars, Speedy West on steel, Cliffie Stone on bass, Billy Liebert on piano and Harold Hensley on fiddle.

Tex Ritter

Chuck Wells

CHUCK WELLS (1922-1997) was a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He found his musical success in Texas, working at several night spots throughout the Fort Worth area. He was also appearing over radio stations KCNC and KCUL in Fort Worth, too. Here he sings (1953) the great shuffler « The Marryin’ Preacher Man » on Columbia 23212.

Tony Farr

From Texas comes TONY FARR. He had two discs on Enterprise, among them the second is the better. : « There’s No Sense In Marrying Me ».
This artist, billed “And His Swinging Guitar”, based in Beaumont, Texas. “What’s The Use” has a nice guitar, but the fiddle is prominent (# 1208) on this 1958 issue, while “There’s No else In Marrying Me” (# 1211) is a jumping tune with a similar instrumentation.

Then in Louisiana’s West Monroe. Jiffy was a short-lived affair, however important by the quality of its issues, and the celebrity of some names, Jimmy Pickard, Tommy Spurlin or Jimmy Simpson. Here is the least known ED RAYBORN & his Southern Hillbillies, and the good medium paced « I’ll go on hurting » (# 208). Nice fiddle/steel and sincere vocal.

Ed Rayborn

Jerry Dove

A couple of years later or so, a man led a typical Hillbilly combo : JERRY DOVE (instrument unknown). He had already put a minor rockabilly classic in 1956, « Pink bow tie » on T.N.T. Label (# 144), but he was more a producer and musician than a singer. Here he gathers the duet (male/female) of Ray Stone and Dove’s wife, Peggy. The side is bluesy, and very atmospheric : « Losin’ the blues » (# 173)

Guy Gardner

On Dixie 1068 (1961) by GUY GARDNER & his Country Four, here’s «High Society», an uptempo ballad : jumping vocal and instrumentation (piano and steel). Madison, TN label (sublabel to Starday).

Doug Davis

With « All by myself » by DOUG DAVIS on the Texan Nite star label (# 007, from ca. 1963), we touch the real thing ! Already posted in 2010, this time with a nice label scan. It has haunting steel, perfect ballad vocal and confident backing (steel, rhythm only). My prefered all-time ballad. Davis had another record on Malinda 113 (untraced)

Sources: mainly from past Fortnight’s issues. See through “Artists” for details given before.

As an add and to continue with my homage to the late

LITTLE RICHARD

, here are some more tracks from his long career.

First, a short instrumental, “Cavalcade” cut at the very last session for Specialty (October 1957) which gave éShe Knows How To Rock”, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Hound Dog”.

From his Gospel days, I chose the loud, brassy, rollicking “He Got What He Wanted”, cut in 1962 for Mercury records.

From July 1964 and his real comeback album on Vee-Jay, here’s a real blues – so rare in his entire career. « Going Home Tomorrow» is sung with a lot of spirit. Richard is backed by an old friend on electric fiddle, Don « Sugarcane » Harris – who was also there for « Bama Lama Bama Lou » in April of the same year (last Specialty cut). The guitar player may also be Dewey Terry.

From 1965, a small hit (climbing in the lower parts of the R&B charts), “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got, But It’s Got Me”, released by Vee-Jay. The organ is played by a young Billy Preston) and the guitar player is a certain Maurice James, who was about to change his name at his arrival on the British shoreJimi Hendrix, after having been fired by Richard.I

In 1969, during a T.V. show, here’s a frenetic live version of “True Fine Mama”.

From 1971, as a backing piano player for Delaney Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie duet), Richard pounds the piano on “Miss Ann”, released by Atco Records.

Finally, from unknown sources, a berserk wildie version of “Good Golly Mss Molly”, maybe cut for a film, while Richard is duetting in 1992 with Tanya Tucker for a great interpretation of the classic Eddie Cochran’s song “Something Else”.

Late March 2020 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks ! This is late March 2020 fortnight’s favorites’ selection. 7 discs only this time but great ones, published between 1952 and 1961. Some originals, some covers.

Jack Turner

« Everybody’s Rockin’ but Me » is already a Rockablly classic of the genre as performed by BOBBY LORD in June 1956. Yet it had its original Hillbilly bopper in the hands of JACK TURNER, cut in Nashville April 1956. Topical lyrics (references to « Blue Suede Shoes » and « Alligators »), released by Hickory (# 1050). Turner was born in Haleyville, Alabama,in 1921 but had moved to Nashville in 1942, prior to marrying and entering in U.S. Navy. Later he became hooked to Hank Williams’ sound, and it was Williams’ mother, Mrs. Lilian Stone, who turned attention of Acuff-Rose editions to his songs.

Billboard Aust 8, 1956

Out of Cincinnati, Carl Burkhardt’s label Kentucky specialized in copying hits of the time. Here’s « Detour » (1952, (Kentucky 561) which was first cut by West coast Jimmy Walker {see his story elsewhere in this blogqite}and became a standard. So the song is copied here Hillbilly bop style : guitar, steel and double vocal.

Later on the Echo Valley Boys did the backing to Bill Browning on Island Records.

Melvin Endsley was more known for his compositions given to others; nevertheless he made some few very good records on his own.

Melvin Endsley

Here he performs the strong rocker “I Like Your Kind Of Love” (1957), backed by the cream of Nashville’s musicians. Later on, a nice sincere ballad “Sarted Out A-Walkin'” (1961). The detail has some importance, since one knows that Endsley was confined to a wheel-chair (polo).

Jerry Newton

Jerry & Wayne Newton, Virginia born (Roanake) went rarly at music (listening on Grand Ole Opry) and practicing very yon steel and guitar. Later, their family relocated in Arizona and soon they aired from a station in Phoenix. They even had their first record as The Rhythm Rascals on the Rnger label. How they came to the attention of an ABC talent scout is open to speculation. “Baby, Baby, Baby” is a showcase of their talent on electric guitar and steel. They were later booked with a long-term contract in Vegas.

The Armstrong Twins

Lloyd (guitar) and Floyd (mandolin) were exact twins, out of Little Rock, Arkansas, where they had their own radio show. In 1947 they relocated in California and soon appeared on Cliffie Stone show; around the same time they began to cut records for Four Star. “Alabama Baby” (1386) is a fast vocal duet, an impeccable tempo; solos of fiddle and mandolin: a really stomping thing.

Carl Story

CARL STORY had a long steer of sacred recordings (Old Homestead), but he failed too to the Rockabilly/Country Boogie craze with this disc “You’ve Been Tom Cattin’ Around” (Columbia 21444 – one of the very last items in the 20 000 serie). Good boogie guitar, a driving chanter.September 1955.

Sources: Willem Agenant (20 000 Columbia serie); DJM album notes to “Hillbilly Rock” (Jack Turner’s personnel); YouTube Hillbilly Boogie1 (Echo Valley Boys); Praguefrank (Bobby Lord disco); KarlHeinz Focke (“Jumpin’ Charlie”) for Melvin Endsley soundfiles.

Early March 2020 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy folks ! This fortnight is the penultimate of Winter and includes real goodies and rarities.

Arvis McRae – The Texas Keys

First artist in question hailed from the East of Texas, and recorded for the Texarcana label Ranger. ARVIS Mc RAE released at an unknown date (altough stylistic evidence and the absence of drums do lean towards mi-’50s) one brillant « Me And My Love » (Ranger 823). A fine bopper, solid vocal, a demented fiddle and a short but good rockabilly guitar, all these combine for a fabulous tune. By contrast, McRae’s version of Hank Williams’ « Long Gone Lonesome Blues » (Ranger 2074) sounds average, only one clip (1’54) being preserved.

Bobby Lord

Bobby Lord took the song note-for-note, and copied even growls and hollers from Jackson (who fooled Blues afficinados thinking he was a Black artist). Jackson’s original was a fast number, sounded very rural, gravely voice and acoustc guitars. So Lord recognized his debt : if copying is the best tribute one can pay, so Lord offered the best one coud ask for : « No More – No More – No More!» (Columbia 21339 issued December 1954).

BOBBY LORD was a newcomer when he was signed by Columbia late 1954. He came from the Tampa, Flo . area, and brought a song he had learnt from another Floridian, Andy Boyett ; Originally the song was titled « Colored Boy Blues », then changed to « Go Way From My Door » when recorded by Boyett on Mercury 8127 in 1949 as Monroe ‘Moe’ Jackson.

Lawson Rudd

Out of Kingstone, Indiana comes the next artist, LAWSON RUDD. His only delivery on disc was « Shake This Town » . Lazy vocal, unobstrusive chorus. A good mid-paced bopper on Harvest 709 from 1960, valued $ 100-150. His second issue, « Old Love Letters » has only a soundfile. A slow opus, weeping vocal and great fiddle. Label scan untraced.

Paul Howard & his Arkansas Cotton Pickers

« Texas Boogie » by PAUL HOWARD & his Arkansas Cotton Pickers is indeed a great piano pounding tune with a Western feel to it, and a long fiddle solo, to be found on King 779 (April 1949). Vocal part was done by Red Perkins (see in this site his story).
This track has apparently nothing to do with the song of Gene O’Quin (Capitol 1708, from 1951): different composers.

Clay Allen & the Cimarron Boys

CLAY ALLEN & the Cimarron Boys cut on Decca first (# 46324 in 1951): an uptempo shuffle, a discreet fiddle and a bit steel backing Allen well to the fore in « Evalina ». Eight years later as part of the duet « The Country Dudes », he appeared on the Azalea (# 112)
label out of Houston for « Have A Ball » . A solid country rocker, with staccato guitar and implacable loud drums.

Sally Lee

SALLY LEE next does deliver on Royaty 304 a fine bopper, the rollicking « Table Hoppin’ Blues » : very solid piano, an assured vocal – a reat discovery for you !

We come to an end with « (Looks Like) Our Hearts Are Out Of Tune » on R 515 from 1961 by LARRY GOOD ; A pretty melody for a good number. A welcome steel all throughout the song.

Larry Good

Sources: Gripsweat for Arvis McRae’s clip; Ultra Rare Rockabillies for Lawson Rudd; King Project for Paul Howard; YouTube for Clay Allen; Bopping’ Hillbilly 10 fr Sally Lee; my own archives for Larry Good among others.

Leroy Jenkins, “Hard Time Hard Luck Blues” = Texas Hillbilly Bop and Ballads (1949-1954)

Payne leon profile

Leon Payne

Leroy Jenkins headThe image of the blind troubadour is a familiar one in Country music’s history. For many born this way, or struck down with blindness in infancy, music was their only tangible means to forge an independant path through life. Perhaps the most famous blind troubadour in Country, in the post years at least, was Leon Payne. Although he achieved more success through his songwriting than his own recordings. Equally prolific on the songwriting front, yet denied the Jenkins Leroy standing same degree of success, was Leroy Jenkins : he was born on July 28, 1921 in Texas. Only six months old he turned blind. From the age of seven he attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Here he learned to play the guitar. In 1942 he entered “Abilene Christian College”, to become a priest, meanwhile preaching in churches in the neighborhood. A year later he quit college and moved in with his wife, a blind woman he recently had married. He wanted to become an artist and he and his wife moved to Dallas, Texas. He found a job in a nightclub where he sang and played guitar with fellow artists. He was a popular act and consequently he was offered a contract to host his own show at a local radio station.

In 1946 he had his first success when he wrote the song “Tell Me Now Or Tell Me Never”, which Roy Acuff recorded for Columbia (# 37099). He was then part of Miss Ludy & her Crazy Gang who were performing on KRLD, Dallas.Columbia Acuff tell

Tell me now or tell me never

billboard Jenkins 1946

Billboard November 9, 1946

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talent Jenkins timedJenkins made his first recordings in September 1949 for the Talent label from Dallas [it’s unclear if it concerns the famous Star Talent/Talent label, which had only a 600/700 serie]. It’s however likely these recordings were made at Jim Beck’s studios in Dallas.

You two timed me three timed me

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Beck was a key figure in the development of country music in Dallas. Another question appears when it comes to master # (BB 164/165) for « You two timed me three timed me » and « Forever and ever », as these numbers do seem Blue Bonnet (another Dallas label) cuts. Note that the B-side was also given at an earlier stage of research (by Al Turner) as another version of Wayne Raney’s « Why don’t you haul off and love me ».

Too fat boogie

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Next Jenkins record with his Texas Showboys was made also in Dallas for the Jim Beck’s own Dude label (# 1507), and « Too fat boogie » is a hillbilly bop romper. Note that the flipside “If I could buy your love” (untraced) was cowritten with Beck and (apparently) Riley Crabtree.

dude Jenkins fatdude Jenkins buy

Nevertheless it was probably Beck who arranged an audition for Leroy with Columbia’s A&R man Don Law.

Leroy Jenkins signed his Columbia contract on March 1, 1951. It was a contract for one year and four songs. He would get 2% of 90% of the sales. There were two options for an additional year against 3%.

On March 13, 1951 he had his first Columbia session in Beck’s studio. Four powerful songs were recorded of which « Hard time hard luck blues » (# 20815) was a strong rhythm-guitar led country-blues tune. Its flipside however was a weeper, « I’m crying but nobody cares».

Hard time hard luck blues

downloadColumbia Jenkins luck

I’m crying but nobody caresjim beck & law

billboard 1951 Jenkins

Billboard June 9, 1951

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The remaining tracks of this first recording session were “Time Passes By” and “Please Don’t Tell Me That You Love Me” (# 20853) both weepers, although good examples of classic honky tonk ballads out of Texas in the early ’50s. During his second and final Columbia session (8/2/51) again four songs were recorded. Out of the 4 tracks, the two weepers « You’re talking to a broken heart » (# 20931) and « Don’t be a home breaker » (# 20878) were striking a balance between the two uptempos « I just don’t know » and most of all the fast « Tennessee sunshine ». Jenkins of course wrote all of his material.

I just don’t knowcolumbia Jenkins know

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columbia Jenkins breakerDon’t be a home breaker

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billboard Jenkins 1952

Billboard, April 26, 1952

Tennessee sunshine

downloadcolumbia Jenkins Tennessee

His four records in the 20000 series didn’t have any commercial success and Columbia didn’t exercise the options. Jenkins stayed in Dallas until 1954, writing over a hundred songs.

He had a final record on Flair [Texas small label, not the big California R&B concern]flair Jenkins wagon

Why don’t you get on the woo wagon with me

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The girl on page 83

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# 1013 circa 1953/54. The strong shuffler « Why don’t you get on the woo wagon with me » was paired with the equally good « The girl on page 83 ». At an unknown date, he was affiliated with Nashville’s WLAC radio station.

jenkins WLAC Nashville

After that last record Jenkins disappeared from the music scene, and maybe returned to priesthood. He died December 18, 1990, and must not be confused either with the jazz violinist, or the Ohio televangelist of the same name. Nor of course with current artist Leeroy Jenkins.

Sources : 78rpm for label scans (thanks to Ronald Keppner) ; W. Agenant’s site « Columbia 20000 » for Columbia sides ; also his biography of L. Jenkins was of great help, as Al Turner’s in Hillbilly Researcher # 10 ; Uncle Gil Rockin’ Archives for Dude and Flair sides; Roots Vinyl Guide for some label scans. My own researches (photographs, various data, personal appreciations and additions).