Hello everyone ! This is the selection for early November 2019 fortnight’s favorites. Every track will be within the 1954-57 period, except the odd item from early ’60s or even later.
RILEY CRABTREE was born in Mount Pleasant, TX in 1921, and followed first the steps of Jimmie Rodgers on his Talent sides from 1949. Later he adopted the Hank’s pattern, and was an affiliate of the Dallas’ Big Jamboree. Here on the very small Ekko label, he’s backed by the young Cochran Brothers Eddie and Hank for the bluesy strong « Meet Me At Joe’s » (# 1019) from late 1955. Nice piano, and of course fine guitar.
In 1957, he emerges on the Dallas’ Country Picnic label (# 602) with the fast « Tattle Tattle Tale ». Great ‘bar room’ piano, a good steel, and a Scotty Moore styled solo. Crabtree was confined on a wheel chair, and died in 1984 from a fire caused by an electric blanket.
In 1970 SHORTY BACON released his version of the Billy Barton small classic « A Day Late And A Dollar Short » on the Chart label # 5104. Despite the late period, it’s a nice country-rocker : great fiddle and steel are battling.
Way up North on the Ruby label (first issue, # 100 out of Hamilton, OH) then WALTER SCOTT and the really fine bopper « I’m Walking Out » : a lovely swirling fiddle and a surprisingly good banjo. Scott had also « Somebody’s Girl » on an Audio Lab EP 35 (untraced).
‘RED’ HAYS (also sometimes named Joe ‘Red’ Hayes) was a fiddler as early as 1950 in the Jack Rhodes’ band in Mineola, TX. He offers here a nice and fast « Doggone Woman » on Starday 164 from October 1954. Good vocal for this jumping call-and-response bopper ; of course a fiddle solo, and all the way through a bass chords played guitar. The flipside « A Satisfied Mind » (a very sincere ballad) was covered first by Porter Wagoner, then had nearly 100 versions, among them Jean Shepard Capitol 3118), even Joan Baez’s or David Allan Coe’s. Hayes – according him being the same artist – went later on Capitol in 1956 for a ballad more (« I’ll Be So Good To You », # 3382 and an uptempo « Every Little Bit », # 3550).
DeLuxe was apparently a short-lived, small sublabel to the giant King, which issued some fine music. I’ve selected « Strange Feeling » by JIMMY THORPE (# 2006, from December 1953), who was seemingly more at ease with lowdown and medium-paced items (DeLuxe 2016 and 2018). Here is a solid bopper, although not a fast one. Good assured vocal and guitar, and a nice fiddle solo.
On the West coast, on the Sage label in 1956, BOBBY LILE « with music by Bob and Laverne » (who are they?) delivers « Don’t You Believe It » (# 222), a fine fast tune. The guitar player reminds me a bit at times of the great Joe Maphis – although it’s definitely not him there.
He was on the C&W serie of the big New Jersey concern Savoy, and bopping.org featured RAY GODFREY and his « Overall Song » (Savoy 3021) in the March 2013 fortnight’s favorites. Not a great singer, he had a good uptempo (« Wait Weep And Wonder ») on Peach 757, then the pop-country « If The Good Lord’s Willing » on Tollie 9030. Here he releases on the Yonah label # 2002 (March 1961) the passable « The Postman Brought The Blues » (good early 60s styled steel and fiddle).
Finally a very good double-sided country-rocker by Houstonian DANNY REEVES on ‘D’ 1206 (between July and September 1961). A nice baritone voice for the fast « I’m A Hobo » (great although too short guitar solo, very sounding 1956) and a fine guitar for « Bell Hop Blues ». This record was recently auctioned at $ 760 ! Reeves had also in 1975 his own version (untraced) of « My Bucket’s Got A Whole In It ». Before that he released in 1962 the double-sided rocker “Spunky Monkey/Love Grows” (San 1509) and, at an unknown date, the Countryish “Little Red Coat” on the obscure label L. G.Gregg 1001.
Sources : « Armadillo Killer » for Ray Godfrey ; Google images and the Starday project for Red Hays. Jimmy Thorpe from HBR # 50 Walter Scott and Shorty Bacon found on YouTube and Ohio River 45s site Riley Crabtree from an HMC compilation; Gripsweat for Danny Reeves San issue.
Hello, folks ! Hello to past visitors ; hi ! to new ones. This is the late April 2019 fortnight’s selection.
Let’s begin with a Starday custom record issued mid-1959 by HENRY McPEAK on the HG label (# 771). McPeak was born 1929 in Snowville, Va. « I Feel Like Yelling » is a fast bopper : lots of guitar ( a great solo picking), an assured vocal (which reminds me of The Lonesome Drifter, alias Tommy Johnson). McPeak had another disc the next year on HG # 851 with « When You Kissed Me »: very different, more melodic. Again that good guitar, even a Rockabilly solo. The record goes on sale from $ 280 to 380.
BOB BURTON next (aided by Rex Jennings and Shorty Ashford) delivers on Harry Glenn’s owned Mar-Vel 952 (issued 1954 in Hammond, IN) the good « Forty Acres Of My Heart » : a fast fiddle solo and a short steel solo. The three musicians join unison in the chorus. Of course, Burton had other good records on Mar-Vel as « Boogie Woogie Baby Of Mine » (Mar-Vel 951) or « Tired Of Rockin’ » (Mar-Vel 953, 1956).
Next was issued in 1961 on the D label # 1185. Good bopper is « Crawling Back To You » by JOHNNY DOLLAR, great steel led on a fast number. Dollar (his real name), despite many a good record, never got it big, and remained a minor artist. He had several occupations : truck driver, life insurance salesman, lumber yard man among others when he could. He was also dee-jaying (thanks Merle Kilgore) on Shreveport’s KZAE, and finally cut for D, aided by Shelby Singleton.
An oldie (1950) on Columbia 20704 now : JOHNNY BOND was a constant Bopper in the early ’50s with things like this « Mean Mama Boogie », cut on the West coast. Great harmonica by Jerry Adler, a little guitar by Jerry Scoggins ; Bond is in particularly good voice.
On the Hammond label and as late as 1965, here’s JIM OERTLING & the Bayou Boys for two selections. « Old Moss Back » (# 267) has a terrific guitar intro, an urgent vocal and a fine guitar solo. « Back Forty » (# 268) is a mid-tempo with nice vocal and a Rockabilly guitar solo.
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.
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.
« 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ».
Every region of the country had their local star- that person that teetered on the brink of stardom. Radio deejay. Recording artist. Performer. Promoter. Talent scout. Music Publisher. Maybe they ran their own label. Sometimes a studio.
They ALWAYS seemed to be one step away from finally making it…. just one step away.
Our local guy was Fred Crawford.
Billboard June 2, 1956
Like many I was first ushered to Fred through the 1956 Starday release “Rock Candy Rock” (# 243), a steady little piano/guitar jiver that has unfortunately overshadowed his stronger country/hillbilly efforts. On the same disc, the B-side “Secret of my heart” is back to Crawford’s hillbilly roots: it is a solid medium paced very strong opus.
I’m not sure when Fred first began his professional career. His obituary mentioned that as an 11 year old he had “You Are My Shine“‘d his way to a talent show victory on Shreveport’s KWKH. Also mentioned in the same obituary is that by age 25 his recording career was underway. Would assume this would have included his incredibly rare 4-Star custom press, « My inky Dinky baby/Empty feeling in my heart » (Promotional OP-163, from 1953) – it may even appear this record was never issued, as no one has ever seen a copy.
Not mentioned is that Fred had a decent string of excellent releases on the infamous Starday label, all of which are WELL worth tracking down. The rockabilly of “Rock Candy Rock” stands in contrast to his other releases for the label. As does the pop effort “By The Mission Wall“, notable for being recorded in Clovis with Norman Petty producing, Buddy Holly playing guitar, and the Bowman Brothers providing back-up vocals.
Not included in the podcasts (altho’ fully downloadable) upon request) are the following Starday tunes: Time will take you off mymind (St. 124), “Empty feeling in my heart” (124)[also done six months before on the elusive Promotional label OP-163,] “I’ve learned something from you” (St 272),”You’re not the same sweet girl” (# 314) Then A- side of ‘D’ label #1158 “Im all alone”, easily available elsewhere this site. As other tracks on AOK being less interesting. Being so much a country boy, Fred Crawford has not been reissued until now (except for the odd tune on compilations), which is a shame, as his music, specially that cut for Starday, is of very high standard.
Fred was born F. Benjamin Crawford on January 24, 1928, and died on January 13, 1998. He’s buried in the veteran’s corner (because of his activities during WWII) in the Colorado City cemetery out of Mitchell County, Texas.
Largely inspired by the posts of two blogs, Lone Star Stomp and Westex, both from Texas and done in the 2007/2010 period (same Summer period).
My most sincere thanks go to Armadillo Killer for sending many a side. Without his help, the article couldn’t be done – at least this way.
(Fred Crawford: a personal appreciation (bopping’s editor)
“You Gotta Wait” (# 170) is just an outstanding uptempo hillbilly call to action, while the flipside « I just need some lovin’ » (written by labelmate Jimmy Walton) is just equally good.
But I feel that Fred’s crowning achievement is “Can’t Live With ‘Em” (# 199) : never has a white boy had such a bad case of the blues. Note that the songwriter is Mineoloa ‘local guy’ Jack Rhodes. Classy backing : a bluesy lead-guitar, a rinky-dink piano, a strong bass.
Billboard July 2, 1954
Other notable records from this era include : the very solid and macho inspired « Never gonna get married again » (# 156), the great uptempo « First on your list » (# 145 : here’s a wild steel guitar over a Hank Williams‘ typical uttering), also cut by Jack Tucker (released on « X » 0193) – no one can say for sure who came first, and the composer of this small classic, Tom Lancaster, doesn’t give any clue.
Eddie Noack‘s written « Me and my new baby » (# 218), and « Lucky in cards » (# 272) are other winners. And there’s no filler or weak track : every B-side is of high standard too, as the fast « Each passing day » (# 156), « Just another broken heart » (# 218) and the great ‘Starday swan song‘, his last on the label : « You’re not the same sweet girl » (# 314)
There was also at least one waxing for the D label : fine 1960 honky tonkers (# 1058) « I’m all alone » and « Charlies gone ». After that Fred was strictly local, recording for Tommy Allsup/Max Gorman’s Westex/AOK stable, Spiral (which was housed in the former AOK studios), Tic-Toc, Lobo, and a label or two more. Among those efforts are a couple of records supporting his beloved Monahans High School football team and an odd little tribute to coin collecting [untraced].
Fred was a songwriter for others too : I found once a song he gave to Smilin’ Jerry Jericho in 1954, the fine uptempo «I Can’t Give You Anything But Me » (Starday 133). Surely there may have been other Fred compos for others. If a visitor finds one, please do advise me of the find with the « contact me » button!
Despite being a presence on the country music scene in Houston for over 30 years, Johnny Nelms never found the right song or right label to break out of the local honky-tonks. His long recording career included stops at Gold Star, Freedom, Starday, D, Tilt, Westry, Bagatelle, (briefly) Decca, and probably others, but none of these give the likes of Peck Touchton or Eddie Noack anything to worry about. They are decent C&W records, but nothing more. He was more successful as a club owner, pipefitter, Mason, and eventually a politician, serving in the Texas House of Representatives during the 62nd Legislature in 1971-72. When I met him in 1996, he was a bail bondsman in downtown Houston. (No, I wasn’t there to see him about bailing me out of jail.)
For my money, Nelms’ 1955 outing on the Azalea label is his finest hour. The record, made at Bill Quinn’s Gold Star Studio before it’s renovation, is pretty low-fidelity, but Johnny’s singing is great and musically, “After Today” is what ’50s honky-tonk is all about: raw, direct, and emotional…”white man’s blues,” as (ironically) a black country music fan explained to me once. The uncredited backing band here is Peck Touchton‘s Sunset Wranglers, which includes Doug Myers (fiddle), Herman McCoy (guitar), Hoyt Skidmore (steel guitar), and George Champion (piano) — the same band heard on Peck’s Starday and first Sarg session. Peck remembered Johnny very well and often played at his club, The Dancing Barn, on Houston’s East Side:
“We were working at the Dancing Barn with Johnny Nelms [c. 1955],” Touchton said in a 1999 interview. “We worked out there a long time. The Dancing Barn was a rough damn club, too. It was on LaPorte Road. (Nelms’s) old man, his daddy, had just got out of the pen for killing a man when we were working out there. His daddy killed one or two people. At least one. You could just look at the old man and know that the old son-of-a-bitch was dangerous. There was a few knives pulled out there during that time. Even the band had fisticuffs with the crowd.”
Azalea moved around a lot. Starting in Mobile, Alabama, it moved to Houston for awhile, then Dallas, and the final releases have a Fort Worth address. To make things more confusing, Nelms’ record was advertised in Billboard on July 16, 1955, with a New Orleans address. Presumably, label owner Dave Livingstone was a guy who “got around.” He was certainly tenacious, releasing 31 records over about seven years. None were hits, but there were quality outings from the Hooper Twins, James O’Gwynn, Dixie Drifters, Coye Wilcox, Adrian Roland, the Country Dudes, Joe Poovey, and Marvin Paul. The label should be of interest to anyone into ’50s Texas country music.
Nelms was born January 9, 1931 in Huttig, Arkansas (not Houston like he told me in 1996). He died at age 70 in Houston on February 17, 2001.
(from Andrew Brown and his blogsite « Wired for sound », 2009)
Johnny Nelms records – an appreciation (by bopping’s editor)
Both Gold Star 1386 (1950) sides [Note Nelms without “s”] are average Texas Country tunes, one fast (« I’ll learn ya, dern ya ») , the other slow – with minimal instrumentation, they can be forgotten. “I’m so Ashamed” was re-recorded just ten years later on “D” Records!
Let’s jump to 1955 and arguably the cream of the entire Johnny Nelms output with the Azalea issue. « After today » (Azalea 104) is what hllbilly bop is all about : strong and emotional vocal over a medium paced tempo, solid backing (fiddle and steel) ; « Cry, baby cry » goes in the same vein, only adding echo for a good effect, as often in Starday records.
Billboard July 16, 1955
And deservedly Nelms’ next outing was issued on the famous yellow label, and both sides (« A tribute to Andy Anderson/Everything will be all right », Starday 238)) are very good examples of the ‘Starday sound’. It’s surely ole’ Doc Lewis tickling the ivories, and possibly Ernie Hunter who’s sewing his fiddle, plus Herby Remington on steel. Great sides of 1956, reminding certain Sonny Burns‘ or Fred Crawford‘s tunes, and very near in intensity to Azalea.
It’s interesting to note that the original of « After today » had been done in 1951 by the veteran of Honky-tonk in Houston : Jerry Irby, on the Hummingbird label (# 1001) . Included below.
Next record in 1957 on the Tilt label, and the change is significant, as for the first time Nelms imitates (consciously?) someone : Johnny Cash, for a train song, « Mr. Freight Train » (Tilt 1195). Any ‘string band’ instruments removed, sole remains a nice insistant guitar, and the result is fine. Flipside is an average slowie, « Hurt is the heart ».
Finally from 1959 to 1961, Nelms went on the Pappy Daily’s ‘D’ label, and had 4 singles of an high standard, considering the era. « Yoshe’ » and « Memories for a pillow » (D 1114) are uptempos, « Old broken heart » is a mid-paced inspired item, but its flipside « Half past a heartache » (D 1195) is better. « Picture of my heart » is a slowie, and « I’ve never had the blues » D 1178) is of course bluesy. (note a fine swooping piano).