Fred Kirby, the N. Carolina Troubadour (1937-1952)



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cliff Carlisle & guitar

Cliff Carlisle

Fred (Frederick Austin) Kirby was born on July 19, 1910 in Charlotte, North Carolina. His father worked as a preacher and he had nine brothers and sisters. When he was a kid, Fred’s mother taught North Carolina maphim to play the guitar, and she later also helped him to master the fiddle. Fred became involved in the music business by accident: in 1927, while living in Florence, South Carolina, he joined his nephew to visit a friend at local radiostation WBT, and while singing some of his songs in the lobby of the station, Fred got noticed by a WBT employee. Fred was hired on the spot to make regular appearances on one of the station’s shows, and would remain to work for almost 20 years. In the early 1930s Fred lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked with people like Cliff Carlisle and with bands like “The Briarhoppers”, “The Smiling Cowboys” and “The Carolina Boys”.fred Kirby pic

Fred’s first recordings date from 1932 for the ARC label, but none of them have ever been released. In 1936 Fred signed with Victor’s Bluebird. His first recordings with Bluebird were “I’m A Gold Diggin Papa” and “The Lonesome Lullaby“. Next year he’d cut a session for Bluebird with Cliff Carlisle, which saw him duetting with Carlisle for « Cowboy’s Dying Dream ». It was even released in U.K. on Regal Zonophone. In 1938 Fred got signed by Decca where he recorded 16 songs. Quite a prolific artist in those days..Everyone then was yodeling, from Jimmie Rodgers to Gene Autry; so also did Kirby.

I’m A Gold Diggin’ Paparegal Kirby cowboy'sbluebird Kirby diggin'

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“Cowboy’s Dying Dream”

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In 1939 he and Don White, a musician from West Virginia with whom he had gotten acquainted in the early 1930s, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to work for radiostation WLM as the “Carolina Playboys”. The following year, Fred moved to St. Louis to join radiostation KMOX. In St. Louis he gained local fame for selling over 5 million dollars worth US War Bonds during the war

In 1943 Fred moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina and returned to his previous employer : WBT radio. Shortly after, he and Don White regrouped as the Carolina Playboys and in the years after the War they both recorded for the Sonora label, both as the Carolina Playboys and separately. It was with Sonora that Fred recorded his most successful song, “Atomic Power” (Sonora 7008) in May 1946: that song was later recorded by many other artists, including Rex Allen and Red Foley. Later on Kirby released a Decca issue, «  Precious Lord I’ll Be There  » (Decca 46083), giving an indication of his forthcoming career, secular as well as religious.

sonora Kirby atomicKirby standing corralAtomic Power”

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 During 1949, he was approached by M-G-M executives and signed a contract for 4 tunes to be recorded. The very best of them were the coupling of M-G-M 10474, the energetic «  Juke Box Jackson From Jacksonville  » and the amusing «  My Little Dog Loves Your Little Dog  ».m-g-m Kirby Jacksonville

Juke Box Jackson From Jacksonville”m-g-m Kirby dog

My Little Dog Loves Your Little Dog”

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Next year, on July 25, 1950 Fred signed a contract with Columbia to record 4 songs during the very same year. His first recording session was done some ten days later, on August 4 and Columbia released all four songs that were recorded on that occasion. «  My Zig Zaggin’ Baby  » (Columbia 20764) and «  My Red Hot Potato  » were good boppers (fine guitar).

Columbia Kirby zig“My Zig Zaggin’ Baby”Columbia Kirby potato


Cash Box Feb. 9th, 1950

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“My Red Hot Potato”

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In June 1951 Columbia prolonged Fred’s recording contract for another year, but it wasn’t until July 9, 1952 before Fred did another recording session. During that session, eight songs were recorded Columbia Kirby souland six of them were actually released by Columbia., among them the religious bopper «  My Soul Is Not For Sale  », also «  When The Devil Sends His Columbia Kirby devilCalling Card  » (Columbia 21056) ; “We’re No Longer Sweethearts” and “A Pocket Full Of Candy” remained unissued. This 1952 session turned out to be his last one for Columbia: due to the lack of success of his records, Columbia decided not to renew his contract. Later on Fred had a release on Gotham (a NYC/Philadelphia label) with the evergreen “Wreck Of The Old 97” (# 404), a very good version.l

My Soul Is Not For Sale”Gotham Kirby wreck

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When The Devil Sends His Calling Card”

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“Wreck Of The Old 97”

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In the early 1950s Fred again started working for WBT radio, but this time he mainly concentrated on radioshows for the younger audience. Later, when television became more popular he was very successfully as a producer and presenter of specialised kiddie shows: his “Junior Rancho” would run for over 20 years. Nevertheless, Fred’s radiowork lasted even longer: his shows were broadcasted until the spring of 1991. In the 1990s, Fred’s health progressively declined: he suffered from Parkinsons disease, which eventually forced him to move to a nursing home where he died on April 22, 1996.

 

Sources: biography mainly from W. Agenant “Columbia 20000 serie”; additions from “hillbilly-music.com”; pictures from google. Soundfiles and label scans from the indefatigable Ronald Keppner: my warmest thanks to him, whom the feature could not have been written and completed without. ; also some help from UncleGil Rockin’ archives. The rest is a matter of time and…love! Please leave a comment below!

Jimmie Logsdon: the early years (1951-1958)

Jimmie Lloyd Logsdon was born on April 1, 1922 in Panther, Kentucky. His father was a self-taught man who made it through a Methodist seminary. He was a circuit rider in Kentucky during his early years as a preacher and was then posted to several towns while Jimmie was growing up.

The beginnings

Music for the first 15 years of Jimmie’s life was gospel, the only music he had heard around his gospel surroundings. He and his sister sang in the choir. They put on shows and entered amateur contests. When the family lived in southeastern Kentucky, he heard blues singers and secular country music at ice cream parties and other social events. Later, he was impressed by rhythm & blues and especially remembers Erskine Hawkins’ “After Hours” as a record that made a deep impression on him. Glenn Miller, Gershwin and the popular music of the day also had an impact but not as much as blues and country.

The 1940s

In 1940, he was graduated from high school in Ludlow, Kentucky, and in the fall he married his first wife. He started working in Cincinnati installing public address systems. In 1944 he went to the service in the Air Corps, but never got further than technical training school in Madison, Wisconsin and an air base near San Antonio where he repaired the wiring on B-17s. Down in Texas, he heard Ernest Tubb and other Texas honky tonk singers. Locked up in the stockade for a few days, he remembers singing to a fellow inmate who was facing a term in Leavenworth. “That is where it all began, “Jimmie said.”

In 1946 Jimmie and the service parted ways. He then started a record and radio shop in La Grange, Kentucky, 25 miles northeast of Louisville. He picked up records from the Jimmie Skinner Record Center in Cincinnati to re-sell in his own store, and, after two years, decided that he would get into the music business. In 1948, he borrowed a guitar from some friends for a while and finally broke down and bought one from a pawn shop for 12 dollars. He learned a few basic chords, then cut some demos on an old recording machine he had in the back of the shop.

The first record

He got together a band and went to Cincinnati and cut his first record for Harvest Records, his own label : « It’s All Over Now (Harvest 401B) is a good uptempo bopper, well in the manner of the era (fiddle prominent, steel solo over a thudding bass). The flipside « Road of regret » is a real weeper. He did the recording at Herzogs which was the same studio where Hank Williams Sr. had cut “Lovesick Blues” about two years earlier.

The Decca years

He eventually wound up performing on a show in Louisville where the great Hank Williams was headlining. Hank told Jimmie that he would speak to someone in Nashville about getting Jimmie a contract. Meanwhile, Jimmie, in addition to doing shows and nightclub appearances, had a daily radio show. He interviewed lots of stars including Jim Reeves, Porter Waggoner, Merle Travis, Elvis Presley, Boyd Bennett, Les Paul and Mary Ford among others.

His career received a boost in 1953, when he became the host of a live country show on WHAS-TV, which also featured his backup group, the Golden Harvest Boys. Logsdon’s work for Decca was predominantly composed of country songs, but some of them verged on rockabilly. After Decca had dropped him in late 1954, Logsdon’s career took a dive, when the aftermath of a messy divorce drove him to drugs and a six-month stay in hospital. Vic McAlpin, his agent (also a prolific songwriter), got him onto Dot Records where he cut four songs in September 1955, the best being the bluesy « Cold Cold Rain »(Dot # 1274). He then went to Starday for one release : »I Can’t Make Up My Mind » is a rockabilly in essence, because the hiccups of Logsdon and the prominent steel (# 286, released March 1957).

Thus he was then ready for the next skip: his friend in Nashville, Vic McAlpin, called and said he had a possible recording deal for Jimmie with Roulette Records. By this time Rockabilly was coming into full swing and hardly any label wanted a country singer on their roster. Jimmie had gotten an idea for a song called “Where The Rio De Rosa Flows” when he was in San Antonio during the war. In August 1957 he recorded this rockabilly song for Roulette ( # 7001 in the short-lived Roulette C&W serie) and it was a big hit in several markets including Memphis where Carl Perkins heard it and covered it on a Columbia album («  Whole Lotta Shakin’ », Columbia 1234) shortly after Jimmie’s version was released.

Jimmie and Vic McAlpin also wrote “I’ve Got a Rocket in My Pocket.” To some, this might seem like a dirty song, but Jimmie insists that it was just a nonsense thing. It is still a standard and was used in the sound track of the movie, “the Right Stuff.” The reason Vic McAlpin and Jimmie decided to use the pseudonym “Jimmie Lloyd” when recording for Roulette Records was that Jimmie knew that country fans are loyal and maybe would not forgive him for singing rock and roll if they knew it was really him singing. Hardly any of his country fans knew that Jimmie Lloyd was in reality, Jimmie Logsdon.
He was released from his Roulette contract after the 2nd record and he realized that at this age, he might be a little old to be rocking and rolling.

Sources : my own archives ; HBR for Selective ; 45worlds for Tommy Sargent, Ray Whitley and Tommy Magness label scans.

Please see the follow-up to this story in: Jimmie Logsdon, the later years (1962-1982)

LONNIE GLOSSON, the Hillbilly “Talking Harmonica Man”

Lonnie Glosson

Lonnie Glosson (1908-2001)
By the dawn of the twenty-first century, country musicians who had recorded as long ago as the early 1930s were a diminishing band. The harmonica player Lonnie Glosson, then in his nineties, had first been heard on wax in 1932, though few copies of Broadway 8333, «The Fox Chase» and «Fast Train Bues», escaped onto the market. In any case, records were never as important to Glosson as radio. It’s impossible to calculate how many hours on air he logged in a career extending across seven decades. His show with fellow harmonica player Wayne Raney, which ran from about 1947 until past the mid-’50s, was sent out on transcriptions to more than 200 stations in the United States and Canada.
Sponsored by the Kratt Company, manufacturer of hamonicas, the show’s job was to sell the instrument to listeners, with a carrot of a free instruction book. Raney claimed they shifted more than 5 millions harmonicas with their friendly person-to-person approach, which they recreated, years afterward, for a Tv documentary.
A great big happy howdy to you, neighbors. We’re going to be demonstrating the talking harmonica, and we want you to get a pencil and a piece of paper ready, because we’re going to tell you how that you too can have the talking harmonica just exactly like the ones your old friends Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney plays.(…)
Glosson was born and grew up in rural Arkansas, where he learned harmonica from his mother and hillbilly songs from the many amateur musicians around. After some teenage years rambling round the country playing for change in barbershops, he settled in St. Louis and made his radio debut, about 1925 or ’26, on KMOX. By 1930 he had moved on up to the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago, and later put in time on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, the Grand Ole Opry, and WCKY in Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio river from Cincinnati.
Anyone in Cincinnati in the late ’40s was likely to hook up with King Records, the city’s premier label for country music and blues. Along with the thirteen-years-younger Raney, Glosson worked for a while with the Delmore Brothers. He also had a hand in writing Raney’s King record of «Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me», which vied for top spot on the country chart during 1949 with Hank Williams’s «Lovesick Bues».
When rock’n’roll began to crowd the airwaves in the later ’50s, Glosson and Raney went different ways, Raney to found his Rimrock label and build a recording studio in Concord, Arkansas, Glosson to a seemingly endless itinerary of personal appearances, mostly in schools. As well as his harmonica specialties of fox chases, train impressions, and “I Want My Mama» where he imitates a child crying «I want my mama…I want some water…», he would sing country and gospel songs with guitar. «I still play the tunes I learned when I was growing up in Arkansas», he said in a 1981 interview.

This is the less comprehensive story of Lonnie Glosson’s life, as written by Tony Russell and published in his book: «Country Music Originals – The Legends And The Lost»( 2010).
For more detailed information, here’s a link to a U.S. site devoted to Glosson: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~young/glossonl/lonnie2.htm

The first Lonnie Glosson recordings were cut in October 1936 in Chicago and are well in the « mountain music » tradition, although a rare Paramount issue did precede it from 1931. «Arkansas Hard Luck Blues” is indeed a medium-paced talking blues, while «Lonnie’s Fox Chase» is quasi-instrumental, or, should one say : harmonica (& guitar) instrumental with yells or interjections. The latter is a theme Glosson will re-record a few times during his career. And that Wayne Raney released (Nov. 1947, King 676) as «Fox Chase».

Glosson cut two sessions during 1947 for Mercury, probably in Chicago. The first one saw him record 4 tracks, backed by « his Railroad Playboys” among them I retain «Lost John» (Mercury 6057), a fast ditty (only detected accompaniment : vocal and harmonica, plus 2 guitars giving the rhythm) , which Wayne Raney chose next year as «Lost John Boogie» (King 719, Spring 1948), also taking the credit. Second song is «It’ll Make A Change In Business» (Mercury 6197, published in 1949). is more conventional honky tonk (bass and steel added + vocal and harmonica of course).

In November 1947, without doubt in expectation of the Petrillo ban (the call for strike of the recording personnel for the whole year of 1948), Glosson was called for a long, eight tunes session. One can retain «What Is A Mother’s Love», a shuffling weeper (steel) (# 6057) ; «West Bound Rocket» (# 6109), a train song, «You’ll Miss Your Dear Old Daddy» is a fine shuffler (# 6197), while «That Naggin’ Wife Of Mine» (# 6345, published 1950) is a fast ditty. «The Fox Chase Boogie» (# 6142) is very fast, not unlike the 1936 version.

The Decca years and the Delmore Brothers

In 1949, Glosson started an association with the Delmore Brothers by the time he was signed by Decca Records. They were playing guitar on some of his records, as himself played harmonica on theirs. They even had their own versions of his songs re-cut.
First coupling gave the lovely shuffling «I’ve Got The Jitters Over You» (Decca 46190) coupled with the more bluesier «Down At The Burying Ground». The cooperation between both Glosson and the Demore went as far as songs were cowritten; actually, Glosson sounds as he were a third Delmore. The target is hit with the following coupling;: «Pan American Boogie» and «Trouble Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues» (# 46215) was cut by Glosson and by the Delmore Brothers (backed by Wayne Raney) (King 823, December 1949), and both top versions are nearly identical, except for guitar solos in the Delmores’ one. The flipside is taken in the same mood; one can only recognize the Delmores’ harmony vocals.

In the meantime, several months earlier, Lonnie Glosson had contributed to the mammoth Delmore Brothers’ « Blues Stay Away From Me » (King 803, August 1949) and co-written « Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me » with his good friend Wayne Raney equally big hit (King 791)(which competed in 1949 with Hank’s « Lovesick Blues » for the best selling Country hit of the year).

Following year (1951) saw Glosson release in the same-format as before «I’ll Love You Till The Cows Come Home» and «I Want you To Know That I Love You» (# 46361), both written and backed by the Delmore Brothers: that’s when their partnership came to an end. Glosson also issued a rather weird instrumental, “Del Rio Blues” named after the radio station location where he worked as a D.J.

In 1950, without doubt because of his contract with Decca, Glosson issued two records on U.S. London (ironically U.S. Decca was originally a sublabel to English London) under a collective name, that of «Hank Dalton and the Brakemen», with the Delmore Brothers and Wayne Raney in disguise. «Hummingbird Special» (London 16032) and Lefty Frizzell’s «If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time» , again good shufflers.[according to a visitor, Alain Nicholas, London 16050 was done by Ray Smith on vocal, without Glosson, Raney or the Delmores]

1957-58 records

Then Glosson didn’t record until 1957 on Acme Records in Ohio (2 issues). «The Old Dutchmans Prayer» is half-sung and goes back to 1937 «Arkansas Hard Luck Blues», while «Get In Line With God» is a powerful sacred song (Acme 1145). The second Acme (# 1140) is unheard: first versions of «I Want My Mama» and «Train And Cat Chase Imitation».

On his own label Gloss, he cut an EP in 1958 (Pep-213). «The Fast Train» and «Ozark Fox Chase» are new versions of tunes already played and sung, but «Poppin’ the Blues» is a very fast harmonica/guitar instrumental and the new theme «I Want My Momma» shows Glosson’ versatility. He was about to recut it at least 2 times («No Name» and Starday labels).
Later on Lonnie Glosson released several cassettes of material unavailable elsewhere and are untraced, maybe sold at his gigs.

Two final notes and corrections (Jan. 11th, 2019)

An important visitor (you’re welcome, Alain!) does point that, as early as late December 1947 Wayne Raney had had his version of “Lost John Boogie”. So the meeting of the two men was solid and fruitful.

The same visitor thinks that the vocal on “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time” (London) is not at all sung by Glosson, but by Ray Smith.

Continental, Coral, National artist

This essay is, I’m afraid, far of complete. I tried hard however to set up the fullest story possible of a giant in his own time. Many a record was unavailable, although credited in the HBR tentative encyclopedia of Hillbilly (letter “G”) of Mr. Allan Turner. Several people were of great help: Alain Nicolas (and his great site “Les Delmore Brothers” [in French], alas presently out-of-the-way) for several clippings and images unavailable elsewhere. Merci Alain! The collaboration with Ronald Keppner and Karlheinz Focke, both out of Germany, was also fruitful, as usual. They opened for me their vast library of old and precious 78rm (Mercury, Decca and London soundfiles). The biography was written, as said in introduction, by Tony Russell, and extracted from his book “Country music -the legends and the lost”(2007). And probably one or two other persons who gave me some help at one time or another. This was a labor of love, and took well 2 months to be released. So I hope you will find something of interest in this rough work.

Jean Chapel a.k.a. Mattie O’Neil a.k.a. Opal Jean (1950-1957)

Opal Jean Amburgey (Jean Chapel aka. “Mattie” O’Neil-Holmes-Calogne) was born on March 6, 1925, the youngest of three girls, born in Letcher County, Ky. At the mattie o'nealage of 10, Jean wanted to pick and play like her father and grandfather. Her first instrument was the mandolin. “She tuned that mandolin to make it sound like a banjo,” Minnie says, “and with your eyes closed you have thought it was a banjo.” The banjo was a favorite instrument for Jean, but money to buy one with was in short supply during the depression era. Her father made a considerable sacrifice by selling some of his carpentry tools to get money for a banjo.??In 1936, at age 11, Jean began her singing career with her two older sisters in the Sunshine Sisters Band. After two years of daily practice and countless public performances, the highly polished Sunshine Sisters were in great demand.At age 13, Jean would leave home with older sister, Minnie, 18; and sister, Martha,17; to perform daily at WLAP radio in Lexington, Kentucky. They would stay with the station for almost a year. Even at this young age, “She was the star,” says older sister, Minnie. “She sang lead on most of our songs; she had quite the personality.” At age 15, Jean had already performed at literally hundreds of shows, appeared daily on radio stations, sang on barn dances, became a member of the Coon Creek Girls, and was about to begin what she would be most remembered for–WRITING SONGS! When Jean passed away in 1995, she had written well over 400 songs with more than 170 songs recorded and released by major artists such as: George Jones, Jerry Wallace, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, George Morgan, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Connie Smith, Roy Rogers, and Sonny James, just to mention a few.

The Country Music Association would nominate Jean’s 1973 hit “To Get To You” as one of the top five songs in the country that year. Jean held seven BMI song writing awards for her song writing abilities. However, her song writing should not be overshadow the rest of her amazing career. As music historian Robert Oermann says “her saga encompasses virtually every major development in country music’s history – string bands, radio barn dances, television, rockabilly, and the Nashville Sound.” At age 15, “Jean could play anything with strings,” remembers Minnie. The three sisters would move to WSB Radio in Atlanta to set up a barn dance program under the direction of John Lair. Here, Lair would change the Sunshine Sisters’ names to Minnie, Mattie, and Marthy. Jean would take the name “Mattie” and use this name on and off throughout her singing and song writing career. For the next 10 years, Jean would move around from WSB in Atlanta, to WLW in Cincinnati, to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, to the Grand Ole Opry.king o'nail hiccough

Mattie O’Neil & Salty Holmes, “The Hiccough Song

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Mattie O’Neil and Salty Holmes, “Stuck With Love

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In 1947, Jean would marry Salty(Floyd) Holmes, an original Prairie Ramblers Band member, and a truly great entertainer of his day. The two would appear numerous times on the Grand Ole Opry as “Mattie and Salty” throughout their career.salit & mattie 2salty & mattie 1

Salty & Mattie “Long Time Gone

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In the early 50’s, Jean would record solo for Hickory Records under the name Opal Jean; record with her two sisters under the name of Amber Sisters.

hickory opal Tennessee

Opal Jean, “Tennessee Courtin’ Time

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for the King label in 1951 as the Sunshine Sisters, or The Amber Sisters on Capitol Records (with Joe Maphis);

More King sides (1951-52):”Our Love Is Gone

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Shackles And Chains”

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capitol amber lonesomecapitol amber lovin'king Mattie goneking Mattie shackles

The Amber Sisters, “Lonesome Road Blues

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The Amber Sisters, “When I Want Lovin’ Baby I Want you”

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The Amber Sisters, “Cherokee Eyescapitol amber cherokee

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capitol amber tiredThe Amber Sisters, “So Tired Of Your Runnin’ ‘Round

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and officially become, Jean Chapel, in 1956 when signing with Sun Records to sing rockabilly. In addition to these labels, Jean recorded for Capitol, London, Challenge, Smash, and RCA Records. She was billed “the female Elvis Presley” by Sun Records, which released her song “Welcome to the Club” on the flip side of an Elvis Presley release. Historian Robert Oermann says, “the finest rockabilly performance by a woman at Sun Records was unquestionably, ‘Welcome to the Club‘ by Jean Chapel.”

sun jean welcomeJean Chapel, “Welcome To The ClubRCA-Victor jean welcome

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RCA-Victor jean rockin'Jean Chapel, “I Won’t Be Rockin’ Tonightsun jean rockin'

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Jean Chapel, “Oo-Ba La BabyRCA-Victor jean baby

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In 1957, she sang « Ooh-ba La Baby » for the film « Untamed Youth ». A divorce, in 1956, from Salty Holmes would lead Jean to slow her recording career and begin more concentration on writing throughout the 60’s. Before long, dozens of Nashville artists were recording her works. The 1970’s would find Jean excelling as a songwriter and writing some of her biggest hits. Daughter Lana would also become a song writer with songs like, “Sweet Marilyn” recorded by Eddy Arnold; “Hemp Hill KY.” recorded by Hensen Cargill; “Kentucky Ridge Runner” cut by Lester Flatt; and “It’s For My Dad” recorded by Nancy Sinatra.Jean passed away in 1995. She had two children, Kenny Woodruff and Lana Holmes (Chapel). Her songs are still remembered by countless people, click here to see a list.

Special mention needs to be given to Floyd “Salty” Holmes, Jean’s former husband and partner on the Grand Ole Opry. Together, these two entertained thousands across television, radio, and personal concert appearances.salty & 6 harmonicas

Individually, Salty had a long illustrious past of his own in the entertainment field. Born on March 6, 1909 in Glasgow, Kentucky, Salty was a harmonica “virtuoso” but could also play the jug and the guitar with great talent.

His band, the Kentucky Ramblers, were legendary forming back in 1930. By 1933 The band was playing over WLS Chicago under the name “The Prairie Ramblers.” They hired a new girl, Patsy Montana, to sing with them. Historian, Robert Oermann says about the band, “one of the hottest, jazziest, most accomplished string bands in the history of country music.”

At WLS in Chicago, Salty would become good friends with Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Red Foley. 1936 would find Salty and Gene Autry heading for Hollywood to make movies, and then a return trip in 1944. Salty would appear in several B-western movies such as: Arizona Days with Tex Ritter; Sagebrush Hero with Charles Starret; and Saddle Leather Law with Charles Starret.

From 1933-40, The Prairie Ramblers would cut over 100 sessions for Gene Autry and Patsy Montana. They appeared throughout the country with Patsy performing daily at many matinees.

Salty Holmes (with Joe Maphis) “Cannon Ball Special”

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Salty Holmes, “Wabash Bues” (instr.)

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decca salty cannonLondon salty Wabash
Floyd’s photo with the Prairie Ramblers can be seen in the “Cowboy Music Exhibit” at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Salty is also listed in the harmonica Hall of Fame in Holland.

Salty and Jean Chapel were married in 1947 until 1956. His career in radio carried him from Chicago, to New York, to Davenport, to Cincinnati, to the Grand Old Opry. In the 50’s, Salty appeared in Las Vegas at the Showboat and the Sahara club in Reno, Nevada.

Floyd passed away in 1971 at Elwood, Indiana.

(biography from Don Chapel, All Music). Additions by bopping’s editor.

Sources: 78rpm-worlds (Ronald Keppner, as usual – many thanks to him), also “45stalker”; Notes and music from Cattle CD 289

Cowboy Howard Vokes, Pennsylvania’s King of Country Music (1958-60)

del-ray vokes "prison

howard vkesThe Honorable ‘Cowboy’ Howard Dean Vokes is born in Clearfield, PA. on June 13, 1931. His father works in the coalmines to provide the needs of his big family, wife, 6 girls and 7 boys.
His mother handles her children in a firm education. Anytime uncles and cousins turn up at the family’s house it’s with their mandolin, harmonica and guitar. No wonder why young Howard
got his inspiration to use a broomstick as a guitar.
In this musical world, the Grand Ole Opry or the Supper Time Frolic shows fit very well the introduction to music of the multi-talented artist to come. He also lends an attentive ear to Buckshot Morgan, Rusty Herman or Slim Bryant on the local radio airwaves.

Howard started to play harmonica when only 6 years old to give it up for guitar 5 years later, right after the Vokes family set up in New Kensington, PA. in 1941.
When 15 years old, he got his first start on local shows and entertained on various radio programs such as WKPA, New Kensington or WAVL, Apollo.
A hunting accident broke his right ankle in 1948 and put him for 6 weeks in a hospital. His personal therapy is in writing songs and improve his guitar playing.
When ready he forms his first own group, The Country Boys. Together they travel throughout northern USA and some parts of Canada.

On March 1955, Wanda Jackson is in the Bradley’s Recording Studios in Nashville with a song written by the young Howard : «Tears at the Grand Ole Opry », issued on Decca 29514.

Wanda JacksonTears at the Grand Ole Opry

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This same year, he puts his songwriting talents to the service of Hank King (or Russian origin: rn Papalia) for two tracks to appear on the Blue Ribbon label # 1925, « Your Atom Bomb Heart »/« I Want To Know (Why You Don’t Care For me ). They also appear on Blue Hen 223.

blue-ribbon king  Atom

Hank King, “Your atom bomb heart

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Also, for the Cicero, IL. based duo Denver Duke & Jeffrey Null who record in October 1955 « Hank Williams That Alabama Boy »  issued on the Blue Hen label. blue-hen Null & duke Alabama

Denver Duke & Jeffery Null, “Hank Williams that Alabama boy

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Howard becomes their manager and main songwriter. He gets a record deal to his protégés with the Mercury label ; and he decides to handle his own career. So, in 1958 he cuts his very first single in the School House Studio in Jeanette, PA. backed by Johnny Drolz (steel), Skeets Martin (electric guitar) and Bob Rose (bass) issued as ‘Cowboy’ Howard Vokes : « Ghost Of a Honky-Tonk Slave », a pure medium honky-tonker with a strong Hank Williams influence, « This Prison I’m In »  is another honky-tonker, but slower and with a more driving vocal. Steel-guitar is omnipresent on both sides of this Del-Ray 204 single.

arcadia vokes slave

Canadian issue

del-ray vokes slave"Ghost of a honky tonk slavehward vokes

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This prison I’m indel-ray Vokes "prison

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Real success comes with his second single : « Willie Roy, the crippled Boy », cut in 1959 in Cleveland, OH, with the same musicians as on his first record with additional help from his friend Rudy Thacker on guitar. This leads to many tours throughout the USA and TV and radio shows.

del-ray Vokes Willie

Willie Roy, the crippled boy

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It’s not until 1961 that Howard meets with a second hit, « Mountain Guitar » (Del-Ray 205) after Rudy Thacker, writer of the song, cut the original version on Blue Hen 234. The great Roy Acuff also had his own version on Hickory 1134 in 1961.

Mountain guitar

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howard vokes ep

Full Howard Vokes’ repertoire, recorded between 1958 and 1960, is of a high quality in an authentic and traditional sound in this shifting area.

The love I once knew“(Del-Ray 211)

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“”Forever“(Del-Ray EP 250)

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Tears at the Grand Ole Opry“(Mountain LP 2002)

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Keep cool but don’t freeze“(Mountain LP 2002)

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Down in the hollow“(Mountain LP 2002)

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After 4 singles and 1 EP on Del-Ray, Howard records an album for the Starday label in Madison, TN. The session is produced by Don Pierce on August 2, 1963. 14 songs are issued on the album « TRAGEDY & DISASTERS IN COUNTRY SONGS » (Starday LP-258).

On February 1st, 1969, Howard uses the same Starday recording studios for another Country session, backed by DJ.Fontana (drums), Al Gore (flat top guitar), Jeff Newman (steel guitar), Joe « Red » Hayes (fiddle), Bill Linneman (bass). The 12 tracks appear on the « HOWARD VOKES SINGS THE SONGS OF BROKEN LOVE AFFAIRS » (Folk-Variety FV 1212).

Completely devoted to the Country Music cause, Howard Vokes remains the big promotor of this style in the state of Pennsylvania. He launches 2 labels, Vokes and Country Boy, to support new talents without forgetting the old veterans happy to get attentive ears again.

A deserved homage is paid to him in 1987 with a song written by Ray D.Jones and recorded by Mel Anderson, « The King Of Country Music In Pennsylvania » (Country Boy CB-106).

 

This article was originally written in French, then translated by Jack Dumery.