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.

Danny Dedmon & his Rhythm Ramblers (1947-1953)

It has proven near impossible to find any biographical data about DANNY DEDMON. He may have been born in Louisiana, since his career was often confined to this state. His professional career begun in 1946, so he must have been in his twenties then, and already an accomplished guitar player being recruited by a ‘star’, Bill Nettles, for the latter’s Dallas recording session.

The Monroe Morning Star (March 23, 1947) showed the only certain known picture of Danny Dedmon (far left).

Bill Nettles & the Dixie Blue Boys

He was associated to KSAM in Huntsville, Tx. when Bill Nettles took him to KMLB in Monroe, La. and made him join as lead guitarist his Dixie Blue Boys. He then cut his first records under the leadership of Nettles in Dallas, Tx. for Bullet, a Nashville label, on July 7th 1946. Jim Bulleit was present at the session, as he was seeking for new talents for his label.

Bullet 637 (Too Many Blues/High Falutin’ Mama) and 638 (Hungry/You’re Breaking My Broken Heart Again) were good sellers for Bill Nettles, and not long after, he was approached by Lew Chudd’s scouts and subsequently signed a contract with Imperial Records, the then rising label in Country music with its 8000 serie launched during Summer 1947.

Danny Dedmon & the Rhythm Ramblers

Dedmon went solo with a contract on his own, and had 7 singles released under his name between Summer 1947 and October 1949, backed by his Rhythm Ramblers, who actually were Nettles’ Dixie Blue Boys in disguise.

« Hula Hula Woogie » (Imperial # 8019) is a call-and-response ditty ; a fine uptempo bopper (a sort of fast bluesy tune) with a fiddle all along the song (Robert Shivers), a mandolin (Nettles), guitar, and steel (« Cowboy » Thomas) solos, all propelled by the bass of own Nettles’ daughter Loyce, while Dedmon had an assured voice, that of a man accustomed to sing.

Billboard, Jan. 23, 1948

Reverse side « Too Many Blue Eyes » is slower, although equally good.

This first Danny Dedmon recording session may well have been cut at KOGT station in Orange, Texas, whom he was associated then with, or in Beaumont, Texas, where many early Imperial sides were recorded. Anyway Billboard noticed him in its early 1948 edition.

Autumn 1947 saw Danny Dedmon back in Beaumont studio for a long 8-tracks recording session. 4 tracks do remain unissued, but it’s obvious Imperial executives had faith in him cutting an entire session. Imperial 8023 (Why Should I Want You Now/It’s Time To Say Goodbye) escaped to my researching antennas, so cannot comment ; two other tracks out of this session however were finally released surprisingly during the second half of 1950. Why Imperial issued them so late is anybody’s guess. « I Don’t Want You Anymore » (Imperial 8099) is a fine, bouncing bopper. Every instrument involved has its solo (although except the string bass). The reverse side, « Lane Budded With Roses », a mid-paced weeeper, is forgettable. This # 8099 was credited to Danny Dedman : a typing error from the labels’ printer ?

In October 1947 Imperial files reveal one more unissued session (3 tunes), and one must wait December 1947 for a 4-track session more. Two tunes went also unissued : « That Chick Was Just My Size » sounds a promising track, talking of a bopper, while Imperial 8045 has two excellent numbers, namely a bluesy, mid-tempo shuffler, call-and-response format with « Hoochie Coochie Woogie » (Pee Wee Calhoun, a newcomer in the Dedmon team, is called before his piano solo) while « Drinkin’ Beer All Night » is a fast item.

Billboard, Jan. 29 1949

Ca. late 1947 and late 1948 Dedmon went to work with Jelly Jolly in clubs and touring, but made no records with him. February 1949 found him again in the Beaumont studio, for 4 more tracks, all released. Imperial 8058 bears two fine sides, and one can detect a Hank Williams influence from then on « You Can’t Hen Peck Me », an uptempo bopper ; « The Blues Keep On Hangin’ On » is a particularly effective fast bluesy tune with its two steel solos (by « Cowboy » Thomas) and the good fiddle of Robert Shivers. The piano takes a solo too, and was played either by Pee Wee Calhoun, either by the newcomer in the Dixie Blue Boys Pal Thibodeaux [see his study elsewhere in this site]. The remaining unheard sides included « That Lonesome Old Moon » and « That Blond Headed Gal Of Mine » and were released as Imperial 8061.

Billboard, Jan. 23, 1948

Is this really Danny Dedmon? (unknown origin)

The remaining tracks, and nearly the last Dedmon ever recorded, were cut in October 1949 with the same line-up of Bill Nettles’ Dixie Blue Boys. All these are rousing tunes. « Gin Drinkin’ Mama » (# 8065) is definitely one of his best songs : shouting vocal (although the voice is barely recongnizable), fast rhythm, as the reverse « Gonna Trade My Red Head For Blonde » (a mid-tempo). The long steel solo and the shiny fiddle playing make this a typical pure Honky tonk shuffler.
« Mama-In-Law Troubles » (# 8068) keeps along the same pattern as « Gin Drinkin’ Mama », when « Sweet Little Sweetie Pie » is also a romper : it’s another fabulous shuffler typical of the era.

How versatile he was is shown by 2 snippets taken in early 1949 from the Billboard. In January he had joined once more Bill Nettles at the time of the first Mercury session which gave in April “Hadacol Boogie” (but he was not present on the session); then in March 1949, he joined Cal Maddox (guitarist of the Maddox Brothers) on KTRM out of Modesto, California. Finally March 1951 found him back in the band of Jolly Jelly.

We find Danny Dedmon (this time backed by the Cain River Boys) once more on the L.A. Flair label (# 1005) released 1953. Things are very different from the previous Louisiana discs. The backing is a limited one : exit the fiddle. Accent is put on the omnipresent steel-guitar (NOT « Cowboy » Thomas, with aural evidence) and a tendency toward pop, particularly in « Sally Anne » ; « Maybe Things Will Work Out Right » has a pizzicato played lead guitar, and no rhythm at all. Both sides are written “Pee Wee (Calhoun?)-Dedmon”. Does it suggest that his band had followed him in California, or the Flair issue was simply recorded in Louisiana before its release on a near-major label (Flair had been launched in 1953 by Modern for issuing Southern artists)? This record is a question in itself.

At this point, Danny Dedmon disappears from the music scene, except one big mention. He’s credited in October 1956 as co-writer of the Rockabilly classic « Hot Dog » by Corky Jones (actually Buck Owens) on Pep 107. Had he put his hand on this gone unnoticed little gem that he should have tickled all the record collectors since then.

Sources : my own archives ; HBR for Imperial label scans.Ronald Keppner for some music; 78worlds for some label scans; Billboard archives.

“SMOKEY” STOVER, D.J. and Hillbilly (1951-1963)

smokey stover picture young

Courtesy Bear Family & Imperial Anglares

Born Noble F. Stover on Nov. 16, 1928 in Huntsville, TX, Smokey had his own band and was playing the honky tonks of Texas at 16. In 1949, a new radio station went on the air in Pasadena, TX where he landed his first deejaying job at KLVL-AM, an on-the-air learning experience. A year later, KRCT-AM in Baytown, TX lured him away. Over the next year, Smokey’s show became so popular, the station changed their format to country and hired two more deejays. Meanwhile late 1951, backed by his band, The Stampede Wranglers, he cut his first sides for the Kemah, TX Stampede label (# 101)[Galveston Cty, Houston vicinity] : « I’m planting a rose/It’s the natural thing », two good boppers – side A is mid-paced, side B is a fine Hank Williams inspired Honky tonker. Of course this label was that of a future promising Rockabilly & Country performer, Glen Barber. Imperial picked the Stampede masters up and reissued them (Imperial 8141) in December 1951. According to Michel Ruppli, the fiddler was Sleepy Short.

“I’m planting a rose”

downloadstampede Stover rosestampede Stover natural

billboard 26-12-51 stampede

Billboard Dec. 26, 1951

kemah houston vicinity

Kemah (ca. 3000 inhabitants), Houston vicinity

It’s the natural thing

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His next offering was recorded exactly one year later on November 15, 1952 at KWKH studios in Shreveport, La. for Specialty hillbilly short-lived serie (# 715) : « What a shame » and « Because I loved her » are two uptempo ordinary ballads. Stover is in good voice, although both sides are pretty common.

specialty Stover shame

specialty Stover Because “What a shame”

download “Because I loved her so”

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In 1954, he moved on to KBRZ-AM in Freeport, TX where he stayed for three years except for a six-month interval in 1956 when he helped launch KLOS in Albuquerque, NM.

In the meantime he was signed by producer J.D. Miller out of Crowley, La. on his Feature label, and recorded two songs, among them the better side was « Go on and leave my baby alone », a fine uptempo with great steel a la Don Helms (Drifting Cowboys’ member). Flipside is a quieter mid-paced ballad, « That’s how true my love is for you »

Go on and leave my baby alone

feature Stover leave feature Stover love

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That’s how true my love is for you

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The initial pressing order by J. D. Miller (dated January 1954) for “Go on and leave my baby alone” was for 800 78s and 500 45s – rather more than Miller’s usual order. Fiddle and guitar are by Doug and Rusty Kershaw respectively (later cutting records on Hickory on their own right), with steel guitar by Louis Fourneret.rusty & doug kershaw

Later he became a well-known Texas D.J., remembered by Eddie Noack as having played Elvis Presley’s first Sun release twenty times a day! He had a fan-club in Baytown, Texas, in 1954 and two years later had a show, “Smokey’s Big Stampede” on KRBZ, Freeport, Texas, switching to KVET Austin later in the same year

Circa May 1955, Stover entered the Starday studio in Beaumont, TX, and recorded two songs in the same pattern as the previous ones : once more a mix of slow and fast sides. The A side «You wouldn’t kid me, would you » is the good bopping one ; now the B side was a ballad, on a theme that seemed to please him, because he made another version of «It’s easier said than done » 4 years later on Ol’Podner.  “You wouldn’t kid me, would you, baby

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It’s easier said than done
starday Stover kid starday Stover easier

billboard stover starday

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1956 was a good year for Stover. He cut two more sides for the young Sage & Sand label (later Sage) # 209 in California : « I’d never thought I’d see the day » and « Don’t ever take her love for granted » are solid Country boppers, with a fiddle well to the fore and some strong bass and rhythm. They could well have been Starday cuts, with regards to their atmosphere ; also some Bakersfield touch. One of Stover best records.

sage Stover granted

sage Stover thought

Don’t ever take her love for granted

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I never thought I’d see the day

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In 1958, he moved to KCIJ-AM in Shreveport, LA to be near the Louisiana Hayride, hoping the move would push his singing career. Seven months later, the station changed owners who brought in their own deejays. With the help of a friend, Claude Gray, Smokey found a job at WDAL in Meridian, MS where he stayed until late 1959 when he received a call from his old Freeport boss, Ken Ferguson. Ken was opening KMOP in Tucson, AZ and wanted Smokey to be his sign-on man. Smokey hit the airwaves there in Jan. 1960 and remained there for eight years when he took a couple of years out to concentrate on his singing and songwriting.

In the meantime (1959), he recorded 6 sides for the small Ol’Podner label located in Lake Jackson, TX. All these sides are pretty traditional for the era (fiddle omnipresent). Stover’s voice reminds one at times of Eddie Noack, while « Ballad of Jimmy Hoffa » is a rocker sung in duet, like George Jones’ « White lightning ».”My building of dreams” is another song to watch.

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It’s easier said than done

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What more

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What’s wrong with me

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ol'podner Stover buildingol'podner stover easier

ol'podner Stover forgettin'ol'podner Stover Hoffa
Lifetime of forgettin’

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Ballad of Jimmy Hoffa

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sims Stover commontoppa Stover warpath

boyd Stover cake narco Stover Remember

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing in common

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On the warpath

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Other songs during the ’60s are more and more country-pop oriented, and one can retain the better ones, like «One thing in common » (Sims 172), or the fine Indian country-rocker « On the warpath » (Toppa 1061) from 1962, and « I want the cake, not the crumbs » (Boyd 153) . His most elusive record was made for Na-R-Co (# 105) and « Remember me/This hurt inside me ». He succeed as a songwriter when George Jones in 1962 chose his « Sometimes you just can’t win » he had already cut on Toppa #1061.

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Sometimes you  just can’t win

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Sometimes you jst can’t win“(Geo. Jones)
UA Jones Sometimes

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On Jan. 1, 1970, Smokey went back on the air at KRZE in Farmington, NM. A year-and-a-half later, his mother’s illness forced him back to Houston, TX. He more or less retired from radio then until 1992 when a friend built a new station, KVST in Conroe/Huntsville, TX. Smokey went on the air there in early 1993 and ran a midnight ’til 6 am show for a year until it “got old” and he re-retired. In 1995, Ernie Ashworth lured him to Gallatin, TN to get the “Country Classic” station of WYXE off the ground. Smokey enjoyed romping and stomping with the Oldies for about eight months when he hung it up and returned to his native Texas where he’s retired from radio, but still pickin’ and singin’ every weekend. His latest recording is titled, « I May Be Getting Older, But I Ain’t Stopped Thinking Young ». Also Eagle in Germany issued a White rocker « Let’s have a ball » by him, but I doubt he ever cut this song. You can judge by yourself.

“Let’s have a ball

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Smokey was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 2000 and died in 2005. He had nothing to do with the Bill Holman cartoon figure, neither with the Dixieland bandleader.


sources : as usual the great Ronald Keppner, alias « 78-Ron » : then Kent Heinemann, alias « Armadillo Killer » ; then Gilles, alias « UncleGil » ; plus 45-cat and 78 RPM sites, among others.

Late November 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites (late ’40s to mid-’60s)

MERLE KILGORE is not a newcomer. He met in the ’60s and ’70s a lot of success as a songwriter in Nashville : wrote « Ring of Fire » for Johnny Cash, and « Wolverton mountain » for Claude King. But I am more interested with his beginnings for Imperial records, seemingly all cut at KWKH in Shreveport, La. Here’s « Everybody needs a lttle lovin’ » that Merle released on # 8300. A Rockabilly guitar

 

imperial Kilgore lovin'

merle kilgore picture

tillman franks picture

Tillman Franks on double bass with Johnny Horton

 

(fine solo), propelled by a thudding bass (Tillman Franks?) over an urgent vocal. Later Wyatt Merle Kilgore (his actual name, being born in Chickasaw, OK. In 1934) turned frankly towards Rock’n’roll with tunes like « Please please please », cut in New Orleans in Jan. 1956 with an-all Black group, that of Dave Bartholomew, and « Ernie » . So eclectic was the man ! He was also a board member of the Hank Williams Montgomery museum, being very close to Hank’s family. He was back to his Country roots in 1959 with Country rockers on the « D » label (‘Take a trip to the moon »). Died of a lung cancer in 2005.

Everybody needs a little lovin’

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I didn’t find anything on the next artist : TROY JORDAN & His Cross-B-Boys, except to location of the label: Midland, Texas. So can only comment both sides of his disc issued on Tred-Way 100. The A-side is a good uptempo, « Who Flung that mater », with a too-discrete steel-guitar and well-sung, although nothing rxceptional. B-side is really fine bluesy a tune: guitar, steel, a piano solo, lazy vocal for « Don’t cry on my shoulder ». Jordan was a distant cousin of the Carter Sisters, so it may be they are the right way for a research on him.

Who flung that mater

downloadTred-way Jordan matterTred-way Jordan  shoulder

Don’t cry on my shoulder

download=””>« Texas Millionaire » (Decca 30332, issued 1957) by TABBY WEST is a fast Hillbilly bopper cut in Nashville on January 8, 1956. The voice fits perfectly with the backing instruments, which take the better part of the song : all in all, their solos are beginning at 0’41 et ending at 1’20..West was born in Kingston Springs, TN. and found her way easily to Nashville for a first recording contract in 1954 on Coral Records. There she was paired with Texas Bill Strength (on Coral reords), and backed by the cream of Nashville musicians. I’d like very much to hear « Hillbilly Blues » (Decca 29822) which sounds very promising..

Texas Millionairedecca West  millionaire

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There may be more than a handful of « Atomic » labels after WWII. This one emanates from Hollywood, Ca. MEL GRIGGS & His Sons of the Saddle released « Goin’ back to Texas » (# 240) seemingly in the late ’40s – the style is easily reconizable, that of a « Cityzed » Hillbilly, with Western Swing overtones. I don’t know anything on this ensemble, and found it a gentle uptempo ; vocal is firm, and reinforced by the group in unison during the breaks. Griggs persevered with « Watchin’ the clouds roll by » (# 241).

Goin’ back to Texasatomic Griggs  Texas

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HILLBILLY HERMAN, & his Tennessee Valley Boys, despite his name, is a Blugrass artist in 1966, who offers « Today I watched my dreams come true » (Breeze 366, located in Livingston, TN), a solid uptempo, with great backing in the background The main instrument is a very nice mandolin ; alas the guitar solo is very insipid. The Breeze label had issued a very rocking version of “Wreck of the old 97” (# 381) by Jim Sebastian. A record to watch for. In the meantime, do YouTube searching! Herman had an elusive issue on Hatfield (no #)[untraced]

breeze Herman  dreamToday I watched my dream come truehatfield Herman  guess

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Maybe « Hayride boogie » rings a bell for you ? You may remember I had posted the Webb Pierce Story (1949-1950) during the past years ; For contractual reasons (Pierce was still under sontract with 4*), his product was issued under various names, whose this one : TILLMAN FRANKS. Bass player, entrepreneur, band leader, he played a pivotal role in the emergence of the rising « Louisiana Hayride » during the early ’50s. On Pacemaker 1011b, this is a boogie pattern with great guitar by Buddy Attaway [see with the « Artists » search button above for his story]. Indeed there was no place for Tex Grimsley (fiddle) neither Shot Jackson (steel). Pierce re-recorded the song as « Teenage boogie » in 1957, and Franks continued to slap his bass and entertain until the ’80s.

Hayride boogiepacemaker Franks Hayride

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Next artist in discussion will be WHITEY KNIGHT from California, or better say, recording for a Californian label, that of Nielsen. « From an angel to a devil » (# 57/1-2) has steel well to the fore, a relaxed hillbilly bop rhythm : a natural feeling. Not a great disc, but a good one ! Knight had also a rich recording career, appearing on Dot, Sage and Dart.

nielsen Knight devilFrom an angel to a devil”

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FRED NETHERTON gives us a fabulous rocker with his version of Carl Perkins’ « Matchbox » : great swooping and hammering piano, a very fine guitar solo, a terrific vocal on Rural lRhythm 540B. A must have ! “Matchbox

downloadrural rhythm Netherton  box

Sources : as usual, Internet (45cat, or Youtube) and my own archives. Decca and Imperial data do come from Michel Ruppli’s books. Pictures of Tillman Franks come drom Now Dig This (a 1995 issue).

Buddy Attaway, a Cajun honky-tonk (1947-1954)

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Patrick « Buddy » Attaway was a Cajun musician (fiddle, electric guitar) from Shreveport, Louisiana, born on 5 January 1923. As a teenager he started the Rainbow Boys with songwriter and promoter Tillman Franks (also later bass player) and singer Claude King. After Army service they all left Shreveport to KLEE, Houston, Texas.

When KWKH started the Louisiana Hayride in 1948, they all returned to Shreveport. Attaway backed Claude King on recordings and in 1950 he recorded a duet with Webb Pierce on Pacemaker Records.

Two discs followed on Imperial in 1954. He was a featured Hayride star by that time, and he sang « Big Mamou » there the day Elvis Presley made his debut. He continued as staff guitarist on the Hayride into the ’60s. He died in Shreveport on 15 June 1968.

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The biography above was published in a CD devoted to Ed Camp. It seems too simple and very limited. So I will add the biograhy of early Claude King (courtesy Imperial Anglares), as Buddy Attaway and King went very close during these years.

January 1946 : Claude, Buddy Attaway, Tillman and Merle Clayton went to Dallas to audition for Hal Horton, a dee-jay at KRLD. They ended up back stage at the Sportatorium meeting Roy Acuff. Things in Dallas didn’t work out so they headed back to Shreveport.

 

Both friends quickly joined Harmie Smith, known as the Ozark Mountaineer, on KWKH until 1947. Claude took Webb Pierce’s place and acted as emcee when playing little country towns in North Louisiana, South Arkansas and East Texas. In that band you could find Buddy Attaway (fiddle), who took Owen Perry’s place, also acting as comedian, and Harry Todd (guitar) aged sixteen years too. Harmie and that gang including Tillman Franks (bass) played the State Fair in Shreveport in November 1946.

billboard president 10 flyer saucers presidenti columbia Bailes loved president Buddy & Claude saucers president  Buddy & Claude loved" flyer buddy & claude

A first record in 1947 was issued on President, in their Southern Series, “Flying Saucers/I Want to be Loved(HB 10) under the name of Buddy & Claude with The Kentuckians. On that tiny label was also The Stamps Quartet. The session was done at KWKH radio in July 1947 with Buddy Attaway, Claude King, Tillman Franks, Shot Jackson and The Bailes Brothers. “I Want To Be Loved” (But Only By You), a Bailes Brothers song issued on Columbia 37341, later reissued 20119, later became a hit for Johnnie and Jack. Both songs are actually duet recordings.

Flying saucers

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I want to be loved

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Bailes Brothers, “I want to be loved

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Buddy & Claude

Buddy Attaway & Claude King

Soon afterwards, Buddy Attaway and Claude got sponsorship from General Mills Flour and they moved to Monroe, Louisiana, working with Sleepy Watts (bass) and Jackie Featherstone (steel) as The Kentuckians. In early 1948, for a short time, Claude and Buddy went to work in Houston (Tx) calling themselves “The Attaway Boys” on their 30-minute KLEE radio show, and working in Elmer W. Laird’s used cars lot by day. Tillman Franks moved to Houston in April 1948 to work with them for Laird. They lost their jobs and radio sponsor after that guy was stabbed to death around late July 1948.

In December 1950, at KWKH, Claude King with Tillman Franks, Buddy Attaway and Webb Pierce cut “A Million Mistakes” and “Why Should I” issued on Pacemaker HB 1010. The record label was co-owned by Webb Pierce and Horace Logan, the boss/founder of the Louisana Hayride. These sides written by Claude were reissued on Gotham 409 in 1951, and were followed by “51 Beers”/”Beer and Pinball (Gotham 411), two songs from the same session, issued in August 1951.

 At the same session as Claude King’s that saw Pacemaker 1010 and Gotham 411, Webb Pierce recorded an uncredited duet with Buddy Attaway titled Freight Train Blues” (of course the old Roy Acuff song of 1936). When issued on Pacemaker 1006-B, the song didn’t even have a singer’s name on the label, without doubt because Pierce was still contracted to 4 * and Bill McCall. The flip side sung by Buddy Attaway is I’m Sitting on Top Of The World”, and even if credited to Buddy Attaway, that’s an old song, first recorded by The Mississippi Sheiks in 1930. The harmonica chorus is played by Rip Jackson (is there a relation with steel player Shot Jackson ? No one knows) and although Webb changed the words slightly, there is not enough to give him credit.

pacemaker Pierce trainpacemaker Pierce & Attaway world

“Freight train blues”

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I’m sittin’ on top of the world

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On all these Pacemaker songs recorded at KWKH by night, Webb is backed by Tillman Franks (bass), Buddy Attaway (guitar), Tex Grimsley (fiddle) and Shot Jackson (steel guitar). On all those songs, Buddy Attaway plays great guitar licks in a Jerry Byrd style, and we can only regret his passing at 45 years old on 27th May 1968. His guitar work on Hayride Boogie (a song he co-wrote with Webb) was replicated on the version recorded in 1956 for Decca under the title of Teenage Boogie”. He is also responsible for the great boogie guitar on Pierce’s « California blues » or the Tune Wranglers‘ song « Drifting Texas sand ». These 3 songs were credited to Tillman Franks.

Webb Pierce, “Hayride boogie

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Webb Pierce, “California blues

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Webb Pierce, “Drifting Texas sand

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pacemaker Franks Sand pacemaker Franks California pacemaker Franks Hayride

 

 

 

 

 

Buddy Attaway also recorded for Imperial in January 1954 a cover of Claude King’s Why Should I, issued with Rock-A-My Baby On The Bayou (8258) both fine waltz uptempos. « Why did I leave Cloutchville » is a fast opus, very much in the Cajun tradition, while »Doubtful heart » is a quieter tune (8238). All in all, Attaway had between 1947 and ’54 a consistent high level production, be he soloist or lead player for anyone else.

Why should I

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Rock-a-my baby on the bayou

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Why did I leave Cloutchville

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Doubtful heart

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imperial Attaway Should

imperial Attaway Cloutchville45imperial Attaway Heartimperial Attaway Bayou

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harmie smith ( Attaway &  King)

After the Imperial sides, he never recorded again, concentrating apparently on his work for the Louisiana Hayride, where he was a regular until mid-1957.

flyer march 56 hayride

March 30th, 1956 leaflet

 

The scheduled issue of a 20-CD on Bear Family in 2017 of Louisiana Hayride tapes should bring some surprises, in this aspect. Attaway will have “Y’all come” (1956) and “In the jailhouse now” (1958) issued.

Warm thanks go to Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares and the generous loan of a Claude King early biography : this formed the nucleus of the Buddy Attaway’s one – as both were intimately tied from the beginning. ‘Imperial’ furnished also a good amount of personal pictures..Ole’ Ronald out of Germany as usual furnished rare label scans and music.