Lawton “Slim” Williams, “Tennessee Avenue” (1949-1960) to “Farewell Party” – from Hillbilly to commercial country

Despite a performing and recording career that spanned six decades, there’s no question that Lawton Williams is best known for writing songs, including classics like Fraulein and Farewell Party. This was true even at the height of his career as a performer and it remains true a dozen years after his death in 2007. He was reconcilied to this fact rather early on, and through he once claimed he wished he’s never recorded a single track, feeling that it had hindered his success as songwriter, he continued to perform and record into the new millenium. Any regret he felt about his recording career having restricted his opportunities as a writer was bittersweet, a double-edged sword. Writing may have been his bread and butter, but he clearly loved performing.
Williams wasn’t blessed with a particularly memorable or strong voice. It was plain, straightforward, and dynamics were not a strong suit, either. He usualy gave love ballads and good-time novelties the same earnest weight. Yet while his voice may arguably have lacked the distinction that mght have made him a star or the depth that might have attracted honky-tonk die-hards and critics, it had a certain something that continues to endear him to fans and collectors of country-music of the 1940s-60s. He also had the good sense to surround himself with fine msicians, including, for example, members of the Light Crust Doughboys – few would argue that one appeal of Williams’ recordigs are the spitrited backings.

Lawton Williams’ early recording career has been largely overlooked, and not because his early records are particularly obscure. They are fairy obscure, cut for independant labels like Fortune and Four Star or in rather low-profile setting for bigger labels like Coral. But that obscurity owes at last as much to the fact that they were issued under other names. Slim Williams in most instances, and Ed Lawton in one case. Those deeply into the country scene of the era, beyond the major and mid-level stars, will know that Lawton and Slim are the same, but the fact might be lost on the average fan, if they’ve heard of Slim Williams at all.

He was born into a musical family in Troy, Tennessee on July 24, 1922. His father was a fiddler, his mother played piano and sang. « They weren’t professionals, » he recalled, « but they sure sounded good on the hill. » While still a kid, he began secrety picking a brother’s guitar. From early on, he was listening to the Grand Ole Opry and the performers like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. As he grew, he gravitated toward the emerging singing cowbys, particularly Gene Autry and Cowboy Slim Rinehart, from whom he borrowed his early stage name and he later befriended before the latter’s untimely death in a 1948 car wreck. Williams began his professional career not Tennessee, but north in Detroit, playing in the country music clubs that sprang in and around the city before WWII in response of the large concentration of southerners who had moved there to seek work in the flourishing auto industry. Drafted n 1942, he served in Texas and sat in with local bands in Houston and elsewhere, striking up a particularly close friendship with Floyd Tillman, who was also in the service. « He really taught me the fundamentals of songwritng, » Williams recalled, « I learned a lot from him. » Soon artists like Cliff Bruner and Laura Lee Owens were recording Williams’ songs.

1930 census for Williams’ family

Slim Williams and The Sons Of The Prairie

He remained in Texas after the war, though he’d had to adapt after losing several fingers on his picking hand in a service-related injury. He worked at KEYS in Corpus Christi, and at KTHT n Houston before heading back to Detroit in the spring of 1947, where he caught on at WJR. Following Rinehart’s death in Michigan the following year, Williams went back to Texas, working for another fine songwrier, announcer Babe Frisch, at KTRH in Houston. In March 1949, he returned north, to WKMH in Dearborn. He’d recorded previously for the Sultan label in Detroit (f any discs were released, they have never surfaced), and soon after arriving back north cut a session for the rising local Fortune that featured Kentucky guitarist Jeff Durham.

Billboard Sept. 10, 1949

After a year in Michigan, Williams returned to Texas for good in the spring of 1950. He first stopped in Ft. Worth, catching at KTNC. Round this time, Hank Locklin hit with Williams’ « Paper Face » and, through Locklin, Williams signed to Four Star, cutting a session in Houston with Locklin’s band that summer, the line-up including guitarist Hamp Stephens, steel man Bill Freeman and others. He briefly relocated to Houston that autumn, but in 1951 he returned to Ft. Worth area for good and was soon established as one of the top country deejays in the area.

Slim Williams

In 1951, Williams was signed to Decca’s Coral subsidiary and cut two sessions with local music legends the Light Crust Doughboys at Cliff Herring’s studio in Ft. Worth. The Doughboys included Carol Hubbard on fiddle, Paul Blunt on steel (he also overdubbed piano on the 2nd session), Lefty Perkins on lead guitar (his wicked solos are among his best), Marvin Montgomery on rhythm guitar and Red Kidwell on bass. Everything was written or co-written by Williams. The Coral recordings didn’t sell well and, though he continued to perform and deejay, he soon sought other employment.

When he signed to Imperial in 1952, he was working for a local car dealer, using the name Ed Lawton, and the first of his releases on Imperial bore that name. »Emergency Call » was often thought not to have been issued, but it was, erroneously being labelled on release as « Have Mercy On Me ». The latter got hs own proper release a few months later. The Imperial session included steel guitarist Charlie Owens and fiddler B. D. Owens, later a well-known Ft. Worth politician. Like its predecessors, the session did not sell well enough to warrant a follow-up and Williams did not record again until 1957, when Bobby Helms had a major hit with Williams’ « Fraulein » and Hank Locklin with his « Geisha Girl ».

Lawton Williams

LAWTON WILLIAMS ON RCA

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Thomas “Tommy” Jackson(fiddle) Floyd Cramer(p) Thomas Grady Martin(lead g) Velma E. Williams Smith(rh g) Buddy Emmons(steel g) Roy M. “Junior” Huskey Jr.(b).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,October 14,1957 (19:30-22:30)

H2WB-5676 Don’t burn the bridge behind you RCA Victor 20/47-7105
H2WB-5677 Foreign love –
H2WB-5678 Blue grass skirt
H2WB-5679 Train of thought

All titles issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Chet Atkins(el g) James “Jimmie” Selph(rh g) Jerry Byrd(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman(dm).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,February 10,1958 (19:00-22:00)

J2WB-0387 Rhinelander waltz
J2WB-0388 The casino on the hill RCA Victor 20/47-7188
J2WB-0389 If you’re waiting on me –
J2WB-0390 I’ll still love you

All titles issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with ?
(Demo session) Fort Worth,Texas,           1959

K2WB-2803 Moon Joe RCA Victor 47-7580
K2WB-2804 Lightning Jones –

Both titles also issued on Bear Family(G)BFX 15178.

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Velma E. Williams Smith,Jerry G. Kennedy(g) Henry P. Strzelecki(b) Louis Dunn(dm) & The Jordanaires (Hugh Gordon Walker,Neal Matthews Jr.,Raymond C. Walker,Hoyt H. Hawkins) (chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,August 7,1962 (09:30-12:30)

N2WW-0840 Carpet baggers Groove 58-0011
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
N2WW-0841 Don’t destroy me RCA Victor 47-8142
N2WW-0842 Mama pinch a penny Groove 58-0011
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Wiliams(vo with ?
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,November   ,1962

N2WW-5125 In love with you RCA Victor 47-8203
N2WW-5126 Mountain of a man –
N2WW-5127 It looks like you love me RCA Victor 47-8300
N2WW-5128 Rock of GIbraltar RCA Victor 47-8142

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Floyd Cramer(p) Charlie McCoy(hca) Jerry Glenn Kennedy, Ray Edenton(g) Henry P.Strzelecki(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman(dm) The Jordanaires (Hugh Gordon Stoker,Neal Matthews Jr.,Raymond C. Walker,Hoyt H. Hawkins) & Mildred Kirkham(chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,October 16,1963 (19:00-22:00)

PWA4-0510 Stay on the ball RCA Victor 47-8359
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
PWA4-0511 I’m not here RCA Victor 47-8359,74-0109
PWA4-0512 Squawlein RCA Victor 47-8300
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with Hargus “Pig” Robbins(p) Harold Ray Bradley,Ray Edenton(g) Pete Drake(steel g) Bob L. Moore(b) Murray M. “Buddy” Harman Jr.(dm) Anita Kerr,Dorothy Ann Dillard,Louis Dean Nunley, William Guifford Wright Jr. (chorus).
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,June 22,1964 (09:00-12:00)

RWA4-1281 Everything’s O.K. on the L.B.J. RCA Victor 47-8407
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178
RWA4-1282 Don’t look down RCA Victor 47-8407
RWA4-1283 Big Jim unissued

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) with ?
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,December   ,1964 (Prod.Bob Ferguson)

RWA4-1651 War on poverty RCA Victor 47-8514
RWA4-1652 Big Jim unissued
RWA4-1653 The power of love RCA Victor 47-8514

LAWTON WILLIAMS:
Lawton Williams(vo) overdubbed on RWA4-1281 original playback.
(RCA Victor Studio) Nashville,January 8,1969 (10:00-13:00)

XWA4-1208 Everything’s O.K. on the L.B.J.,pt.2 RCA Victor 74-0109
Bear Family(G)BFX 15178

No longer using the nickname Slim, he signed to Locklin’s label RCA. Stints with Decca, Mercury and RCA again would follow over the next half dozen years.

Casino On The Hill (1958) (Big D Jamboree)

by Lawton Williams

Some of Williams’ major label singles were Texas recordings he produced himself. During autumn and winter of 1959-60, he had become one of the stalwarts of the Big D Jamboree , where he would remain until this show’s demise in 1988. He then cut for Pappy Daily’s D label out of Houston (it had probably under Daily’s guidance that Williams had cut one Four Star session in 1950) and Major Bill Smith’s Le Bill label. This last single was soon picked up on Dan Mechura’s All-Star label, seeing the first release of « Farewell Party », which would be a hit for Jimmy Dickens the following year, then for Gene Watson.

Billboard July 4, 1960

He had given up full-time music making to become a bailiff for Ft Worth Tarrat County, where he lived for the last few decades of his life. Despite the demands of that job, he remained active as both a performer and writer, increasing these activities following his retirement. He died aged 85 in 2007.
Kevin Coffey

Sources: mainly from Ronald Keppner 78rpm; labels from 45cat/78world; music from various sources, among them Gripsweat (some rare 78rpm); RCA recording files courtesy from Michel Ruppli, the indefatigable discographer; personal pictures from Google.
Small note: no RCA recording neither some later Decca discs were included, as not pertaining to “bopping” standards. “Farewell Party” was the sole exception, although being a commercial country record.

Late November 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks! Here is the more recent selection of fortnight’s favorites. Hope you will find something of interest here.

>The Tennessee Drifers

The TENNESSEE DRIFERS were a small outfit, whose main instrument was a piano. The vocalist was either George Toon, either Billy Hardison, and they released three nice fast tracks on Dot : « Mean Ole Boogie » ( # 1098, from 1951), and « Boogie Woogie Baby»/ »Drive Those Blues Away » (1953 on Dot 1166). Great hillbilly bopping piano. At times, Tommy Moreland (remember the great « The Drifter » n Maid 1000, released in November 2018 fortnight’s favorites) was among the members.At a very later date (1961), George Toon and the Tennessee Drifters released a pop-country effort, “Those Fairy Tales” (Unamic 4501). The track is posted only for comparison with their better early ’50s bopping sides!

Rooster Swan

Internet is a a firm place to unearth some new music. Here’s a demo of « Honky Tonk Girl » by ROOSTER SWAN from 1957. A rhythm guitar then a lead for a short solo plus vocal of course. The song does last for less than a minute but is a pleasant bopper.

Keith Anderson & the Ohio Valley Boys

KEITH ANDERSON is famous for his ’60s sides on Cozy, like « Hot Guitars » (Cozy 12/13). Here he is with an earlier side, « Locked Up Again » with Ohio Valley Boys, on a New Martinsville, WVa. Ran-Dell label # 934. It’s a sort of rocking ballad – good steel and extrovert vocal (1961).

Elva Carver with Pat Kingery & the Kentuckians

Out of Scottsville, Ky, the Goldenrod label issued several Rockabilly classics (remember Harold Shutters). Here’s ELVA CARVER with Pat Kingery & the Kentuckians for « Two-Toned Love » from 1956. Good fiddle and electrifying mandolin over a nice female vocal.

The Western Cherokees

The Western Cherokees backed in recording sessions and on stage Lefty Frizzell from 1950 to 1952. They were led by Robert Lawrence « BLACKIE » CRAWFORD, guitar player. They had in their own right sides cut on Coral then Starday. Here is « Jump Jack Jump » on Coral 64138. Great and fast hillbilly bopper out of Texas. A further side is an equally good, lowdown shuffler, « Baby Buggy Blues » (Coral 64118).

Happy Wainwright

Then HAPPY WAINWRIGHT on a 1961 disc, « Nothing But Love » (Carma 505, out of Kenner, La.). It’s a belter – good steel throughout.

Sources: sometimes YouTube (Eva Carver, Keith Anderson, Rooster Swan); from Ohio River 45’s: Blackie Crawford : songs from HBR series; picture from Hillbilly.com. My own collection for Tennessee Drifters on Dot, “Boogie Beat Rag” comes from Karl-Heinz Focke – thanks to him.

A bopping New Year’s 2019! Early January fortnight’s favorites selection

My best wishes to anyone reading this blog. May this New Year 2019 bring you Happiness, good Health and the Boppinest music. I will try to give you the last gift possible all along the year.

We begin with a Texan, very probably Houstonian minor artist, JOHNNIE FORRER. To the best of my knowledge, he only had three records ever cut. First in 1958 on the D label (# 1021) : « Fool’s Paradise » and « Understand » are two uptempo Rockaballads, good steel solo (even with strange effects, when it plays like a « musical saw » on « Paradise » side). Publishing house is « Starrite », which denotes a Starday imply, in any row, in the record. His second one « My Blues/The Real Thing », issued in 1959/60 on D 1074, goes on with the same formula (not posted).
Then his third known 45 was released in 1963 on the Bow & Arrow ( 1003) label. « Long Gone » is a good shuffler, piano to the fore (nice solo) and fair vocal.

Ray Pridie

From Bellingham, Wash. came RAY PRIDIE on the Car (# 102) label who’d sing the very good « Lonesome Broken Hearted Me ». Good steel, an electric guitar played on the bass strings on an uptempo rhythm. Barytone voice of the singer.

Cook Brothers

« Juke Box Play For Me » was cut in 1958 and released on a (no #) Island EP dedicated to the COOK BROTHERS in Wheeling, W.Va. A cross between fast Hillbilly Bop and Rock’n’roll, this vocal duet is a jumping (nice guitar) and moving little tune.

Lyle Keefer

Another Dixie issue, # 877, 1959), « Hand Full Of Love » (his only known record) by LYLE KEEFER is a nice uptempo bopper: barytone voice, steel annd piano present. Whole song moves !

Johnny Rector

A renegade from Blacky Crawford’s Western Cheroekes (backing the first Starday records in 1953), JOHNNY RECTOR had already cut in 1950 for Imperial, then had a long string of releases on his own on Coral Records. His « Have You Ever Been Kissed » (# 64168) is fast steel led goodie ; each (steel, piano and lead guitar) taking its solo. Rector’s voice is smooth running and very agreeable.

Jim Dickinson

A R&B rocker for a change. The producer being a « Bill Justis », one can indeed speculate on a Memphis, TN recording issued by Soutthtown # 28006. « Shake ‘Em On Down » hold its promises : vocal belter by JIM DICKINSON, a nice harmonica, and a long, GREAT guitar solo.

Carl Tilton

In 1957 on the Morris, OK Stardale label you’re stumbling now on CARL TILTON for two issues. First is a rollicking « Bearcat mama ». Guitar and piano are doing their best here, while Tilton is aided by one Dale Davis on vocal (latter having himsef releases on Stardale)(# 500). The flipside « Little Cabin » is a great shuffler : good guitar, a steel solo and nice piano. Exuberant vocal.

Hal Smith

Finally HAL SMITH releases his record « Hard Hard Times » on the Yucca label # 116 (late ’50s). A fine Country-rocker, guitar led played on the bass chords and a very fine vocal. Smith also had (# 108), « Make My Livin’ With My Guitar ».

Sources :Sources : mainly YouTube ; some tracks from HBR serie ; 45-cat.

Late November 2018 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Hi ! This is the late November 2018 bopping fortnight’s favorites selection : I try to add regularly this section of bopping.org. Obscure artists and record labels, as better known ones, but the emphasis is done on lesser known tunes. They do represent anyhow my feeling for the Hillbilly Bop music between 1945 and 1965 (occasionnally I am sticking these time limits out).

First artist is DICK DYSON, whom I still doesn’t know anything about. I had posted a tune (« I Work In The Daytime, (She Works At Night) » in the early July 2018 faves’ selection, here is one more : « Warmed Over Coffee And Woke Up Kisses » is a fast song, a lot of steel and a very agile lead guitar. Vocal by Johnny Pearson. This was released in 1947 on Tri-State 103.

The November period is favourable to witches and haunted houses. JACK RIVERS on Coral 64072 cut in 1954 the classic half-sung tune of the genre with « Haunted House Boogie : piano, steel, and skeleton’s clinketings.

From Columbia, TN, came in 1960 the rousing « The Drifter », released on Maid 1000 by the Tennessee Drifters (with TOMMY MORELAND on vocal). Great trembling guitar over an high-pitched vocal. More of the same with « The Tennessee Blues » on the Columbus (located in…Columbia, TN, near Nashville) label # 1501. He released also the out-and-out rocker «  » in 1962 on Skoop 1054.

On the West coast, GENE O’QUIN delivers « I Specialize In Love » (Capitol 2578), cut in December 1954. A fast bopper, steel played by Speedy West and fiddle by Harold Hensley.

On the Houston based Shamrock label (no #) I am releasing RAY COATS (Collins and The Ranch Boys) for the fine « Texas Blues », from 1952 or 1953.

In West Monroe (La.)(near Shreveport) was cut the good « Just Me And The Jukebox » by the veteran BUZZ BUSBY on vocals and mandolin. A fast song, a banjo solo as expected on the small Jiffy label # 207.

Next artist was primarily a ballad singer. RUSTY McDONALD, a native of Lawton, Texas (1921-1979, aged only 57 years) worked with Bob Wills, the Callahan Brothers, Tex Ritter as guitarist or front singer. Here he appears on the 1951 released « Baby Sittin’ Boogie » (Intro 6035) : lazy vocal, shufflin’ and sympathetic rhythm. He scored big the same year with « Postage Due », a very styled uptempo tune.

The veteran TEX RITTER has an assured vocal and a dreamed backing behind him, that of Speedy West on steel, Merle Travis on guitar, Cliffie Stone on bass and Harold Hensley on fiddle for « Boogie Woogie Cowboy » (Capitol 928, from January 1950)

Sources : as usual, YouTube, Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives, Internet.

Early March 2018 bopping fortnight’s favorites (1947-1952)

Hello folks. This blog was launched exactly 9 years ago. Already 438 articles later, and still alive and well ! Thanks for visiting. This is the early March 2018 fortnight’s favorites.

First an almost certainly late ’40s recording done in Nashville, « Hillbilly City, Nashville Tenn. » by ERNIE BENEDICT & his Range Riders (vocal: Roy West). It’s a fast moving tune – fiddle accompaniment and handclaps item. Full of energy. Issued even in Nederland on the Continental label # 8034!

Hillbill City, Nashville, Tenn.

downloadErnie Benedict "Hillbilly City, Nashville Tenn."

AL CLAUSER & The Oklahoma Outlaws for the next two tracks was not a newcomer. His career dates from the mid-30s. Here « Move it over Rover » (Dog House Blues) on the Bullet label # 720 from 1950 is an uptempo bopper. Half-spoken (vocal Norman Hart) upon a call-and-response format, indeed based on Hank Williams’ « Move it on over » (which was itself a revamp of an old traditional). The flipside « My sweet mama » is a medium shuffler with steel.


Move it Over Rover

 

 

 

 

Al Clauser & his Oklahoma Outlaws - "Move It Over Rover (Dog House Blues)"

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My sweet mamaAl Clauser &his Oklahoma Outlaws "My Sweet Mama"

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The remaining tracks of this fortnight are all by LLOYD WEAVER, another artist originally out of Texas (KTUL, Waco). His first record was “Virginia (of West Virginia)” on Blue Bonnet 110 from 1947: a very Western swing styled record. later on the Bullet stable, as « Cowboy Pal » Lloyd Weaver ( # 663). The recording was first issued on Dude 1600, in Dallas. « Kue-Tee-Kue » is an utempo in the Tex Williams style, on a banjo rhythm (solo) backed by a steel. The flipside « Too many tears » is a medium weeper, with an extrovert vocal – a trademark of Weaver – over a rinky-dink piano. Then on # 1607 a fine uptempo “Like the leaves (I fell for you)” backed with a romping, fast “My Honey Bee“. Note that both Dude and second Coral records were credited to ‘Loyd’ with just one ‘l’.

"Cowboy Pal" Lloyd Weaver "Too Many tears""Cowboy Pal" Lloyd Weaver "Kue-Te-Kue"Loyd Weaver "My Honey Bee"

Kue-te-kue

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Too many tears

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My honey bee

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Like the leaves (I fell for you)

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On Coral 64143 (issued November 1952) and two excellent boppers. Vocal is perfect hillbilly, and again that rinky-dink piano for « Steppin’ out and sneakin’ in ». Flipside is equally good, « One wheel draggin’ », a fast bopper – steel solo is inventive. This June 26th, 1952 recording session provided two more tracks:

Billboard November 15, 1952

Steppin’ out and sneakin’ in”Loyd Weaver, "Summer 1944"Loyd Weaver "Steppin' Out And Sneakin' In"

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Loyd Weaver "one Wheel Draggin'"One wheel draggin'”

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The second Coral offering (# 64155) has the fine bluesy medium « Woman trouble blues » with even some yodel à la Hank. Reverse side is « After my love has turned to hate », a good vocal medium fiddle led tune.

Woman trouble blues

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“After my love has turned to hate

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Loyd Weaver "Woman Trouble Blues"Loyd Weaver "After My Love Has Turned To Hate"
Sources : as usual 78rpm site ; YouTube for music, also Hillbilly Researcher archives for Coral sides ; « A shot in the dark » for Al Clauser details.

 

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