Dub Dickerson was one of those artists who toured constantly, mixed in the right circles of musicians and made a fair handful of recordings, but didn’t leave us much in the way of historical information. Even the performers he toured and played with don’t recall a great deal about him and, like countless other singers, he just seems to have spent his fifteen year musical career just outside of the spotlight.
Born Willis Dickerson on September 10th 1927 in Grand Saline, Van Zandt County, Texas, his first love of music came whilst growing up on the family farm, in the shape of Gene Autry and his familiar style of Cowboy tunes.
Although he enjoyed no hits on Decca and Capitol (1952-1955), he played the Opry and the Big D. Jamboree, and scored as a songwriter – he wrote « Look what thoughts will do » , a huge hit for Lefty Frizzell, and later « Stood up » for Ricky Nelson, in addition to his own recordings, like « My gal Gertie » (a number which enjoyed some currency among Hillbilly boogie and early Rockabilly fans.) He took to calling himself « The boy with the grin in his voice » and threw little catches – little ‘grins ‘ – into many performances, regardless of appropriateness. (more…)
For a reason unknown, most of podcasts won’t open. Just click on the “Download” button to hear the music, when the player fails.
Onto the first Fortnight of this Autumn 2016. SMOKEY ROGERS (1917-1993) was a personality of the West coast and bandleader for s strong number of singers (Tex Wlliams, Ferlin Huskey) and releases (Capitol, Coral, Four Star, Starday and Shasta) from 1945 to 1965. On his (apparently) own label, Western Caravan, he even cut the first ever version of the classic « Gone » (# 901) in 1952. His label lasted with a handful of issues until 1955, among them I chose the great instrumental [not often in bopping] « John’s boogie » (Western Caravan 903). A real showcase for any musician involved (including ex-Hank Penny steel player virtuoso Joaquin Murphy), and every of them takes his solo or shines a way or the other. Splendid piano, horns, guitar, and of course steel, over an irresistible shuffle beat.
Another Smokey Rogers’ record has a young vocalist FERLIN HUSKY in April 1950 for « Lose your blues » on Coral 64063 (October 1950). It’s a nice shuffler with Huskey in good voice, and again Joaquin Murphy on steel.
Billboard Aug. 5, 1950 – a proof of popularity of Red Kirk
Several months later (February 1951), RED KIRK, another singer himself modeled on Hank Williams, took at his turn «Lose your blues » for an acceptable version, quite impersonal but backed by the cream of Nashville (Zeke Turner, Louie Innis, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson) , on Mercury 8257. Kirk had many other good songs, for example « Can’t understand a woman (who can’t understand her man »)(# 6288), « Knock out the lights and call the law » (# 6409), or later on Republic 7120 the double-sider « Red lipped girl/Davy Crockett blues » from 1956, , the good ballad “How still the night” on ABC-Paramount 9814, or his version of Loy Clingman‘s « It’s nothing to me » in 1957 on Ring 1503. I chose another Mercury disc, »Cold steel bues » (# 6309) from February 1951 and in the same ‘bluesy’ vein as « Lose your blues ».
From Nashville, TN to Texas and Fort Worth for an Imperial session held in September 1954. FREDDY DAWSON (vocal) backed probably by himself on steel-guitar, Billy Chamber or Buddy Brady (fiddle), Jimmy Rollins (guitar), George McCoy (bass) and Phillip Sanchez (drums) cut 4 tracks, among them the above average « Dallas boogie » (# 8274)(nice fiddle and steel). 2 tracks do remain unissued, and « Why baby why » may not be the George Jones track, an original Jones song cut in August 1955.
We stand in Fort Worth, this time in 1957 with GENE RAY on the Cowtown label # 646 and « I lost my head », a good uptempo bopper. In November he was to cut for the same label the great Rockabilly cum Rocker « Rock and roll fever » on the EP-677, which contained also the good « Love proof ». Was he the same artist as on Playboy 300, who committed on wax « Playboy boogie » ? Nevertheless as front singer of the Dusty Miller’s band, he also had the great rocker « I’m going to Hollywood » in 1960. All these tunes are to be easily found on YouTube or various compilations.
Now to the early ’60s in Orlando, Florida. WEBSTER DUNN, Jr. delivers a good country rocker on first side, « Black and white shoes » on the Dunmar (owned by DUNmar Peckam and MARy Yingst) label # 101. Echoed vocal, nice crisp guitar (+ a bridge), a welcome steel : a well-produced record. The second side has a sort of poppish vocal, although saved by the same guitar (ordinary solo) and steel : « Go go baby » is a typical Country uptempo ballad. (Record valued at $ 75-100).
Next artist seems to have possibly emananated from Dallas, Texas, as his label Amber, one out of three at the same time. It’s a 4* custom # 275 out in December 1957, and the artist is BOB GARMON, who delivers with « His Studio Combo », a neat and tight little band, one of the best Rockabillies ever, « I’m a-ready baby » (valued $ 500 to 1000). Great guitar solo, cool vocal on topical lyrics, the song has everything a Rockabilly devotee could dream of. The flipside, although bluesy, is equally good : a Rockabilly combo trying its hands at Blues for « Positively blues ». A very desirable record !
Finally a R&B rocker by one of the greats, the albino « Blonde Bomber » (remember the Little Richard-esque « Strollie Bun » on Hull?), here under his other alias, LITTLE RED WALTER for « Aw shucks baby » on the N.Y. Le Sage (# 711) label. Walter is on guitar and harmonica (1960).
The Blonde Bomber, alias of Walter Rhodes, or Little Red Walter
Enough for this time ! Sources are 45cat for label scans, or YouTube or Roots Vinyl Guide, even Rockin’ Country Style. 78Rpm-world (mainly Ronald – thanks to him). My own researches on the Net and my archives. Praguefrank’s Country discography (Smokey Rogers, Red Kirk discos). Michel Ruppli’s « Aladdin/Imperial labels » book. Values from : Barry K. John guide or Tom Lincoln/Dick Blackburn book.
It took only one song to put Speck and Doyle into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame : « Music to my ear » was released on their own Syrup Bucket label in 1959, and the song still remains today one of the best examples of rockabilly music ever recorded.
Brother Watson, better known as Speck, and Doyle Wright were born near Bonifay, in the Florida panhandle, on April 2nd 1923 and July 13th 1928 respectively. The family were sharecroppers but moved to Columbus, Georgia in 1942. In the interval the two brothers had been raised on Country music with Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff as their main influences, later adding Ernest Tubb and Hank Wlliams. They had learned to play guitar and sing.
Soon after the move to Georgia, Speck was drafted and sent to fight in Europe, where WWII was raging. After his return to the mainland, he turned to music for a living, performing with brother Doyle. In 1947, they were working on station WRBL in Columbus with a 15-minutes radio show sponsored by a local furniture store. While with WRBL they began a long-time friendship with Ben Ferguson,the station’s engineer who was later to host his own ‘Uncle Benny’s Hillbilly Jamboree ‘, and also work as a producer for Comer Money, well known for his country and rockabilly sides on the Rambler and Money labels.
Early in 1948, Doyle was offered a job as a rhythm guitarist with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, right after Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs had left the band to go on their own. Doyle gladly accepted the offer but stayed only a few weeks with Monroe before returning to Columbus to work with Speck on their own live radio show on WRBL.
A few years later, probably in 1951, Doyle sent a tape he had recorded to Lew Chudd, manager of the Imperial label. Although better known as a Rhythm & Blues company, Imperial had also launched their Hillbilly serie (# 8000 onwards) in 1947. Many Southern Country artists were to appear in this serie through the years, with Jerry Irby, Link Davis, Danny Dedmon, Bill Mack, Jimmy Heap, Dewey Groom and Dub Dickerson being well known to fans of ’50s Hillbilly and Rockabilly music.
Chudd was favourably impressed by what he heard and signed Doyle immediately, although a Bllboard snippet reveals there have been a possible fight between Chudd and Art Rupe (Specialty Records, Hillbilly # 700 serie), who, according to the snippet, « had inked » Doyle.
Billboard Jan 26,1952
courtesy UncleGil . Thanks!
For Imperial anyway eight songs were cut at station WRBL in Columbus, Ga. During two sessions held between October 1951 and Spring 1952. Besides Doyle on vocals and rhythm guitar, backing was provided by Gene Jackson (fiddle), Billy Ray Andrews (steel guiar), Little Jim Finger (mandolin) and Speck Wright (bass). All songs were written by Doyle.
Imperial 8127 (« I’m not weeping over you/That’s why I cried ») has until now proven impossible to find, so cannot be commented. If ever you, Reader of this article, is the owner of this record, please show yourself in the comments or the “contact me” header. Luckily remain from this first session the two other songs on Imperial 8132. « Don’t tell me lies » is a mid-paced Hillbilly weeper, and « It just don’t seem right », although a little bit faster, is as ordinary Hillbilly. But it’s not quite a lively beginning for Doyle.
Out of the second session come Imperial 8157, « Ask the Lord » being a fast religious item and « Don’t you know or don’t you care » a decent Hank Williams inspired (at least for the vocals) Hillbilly mid-paced bopper ; last two tracks of the Spring 1952 session were issued in 1953 and comprised the most accomplished Doyle Wright boppers : « Someday you’ll return » and « An ache in my heart » do continue in the Hank Williams mould, with a fine fiddle giving a good tempo. None issue seems to have gained any hit status, even regional. And poor sales do explain the rarity of # 8127.
WRBL opened a TV station in August 1953 and with their popularity spreadng in the area, the brothers’ show was transferred to the new format, continuing until 1964. Between 1947, when the show was first aired on radio, and 1964, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Johnny & Jack, Cowboy Copas and Kitty Wells, among many others, guested with Speck and Doyle. (Webb Pierce, incidenall, had offered a recording contract to Speck when he appeared on the show in 1952. Not too een on going away from home on extensive tours, Speck denied the offer.)
Through well established on the local music scene, it was not until 1959 that Speck & Doyle were able to cut another session at WRBL, this time using Earl White and Hal Holbrook (fiddles), Lucky Ward (lead guitar), Howard ‘Frog’ Vincent (piano), Lanny Larue (drums) and Jim Finger (bass). Earl White and Hal Holbook were servicemen stationed at nearby Fort Benning. Two songs, « Big noise, bright lights » and « Music to my ear » were released on the Syrup Bucket label, which was created by the two brothers to make their own music available to the public. It is the only record ever released on the label to our knowledge.
« Big noise, bright lights » is a beautiful Hillbilly ballad with heavily featured twin fiddles, great lead guitar break and that matchless Southern flavour that makes this music so fascinating.
« Music to my ear » is THE side that rockabilly devotees around the world have made into an all-time classic. The twin fiddles are gone but the pianist, who was not heard on the other side, comes well to the fore on this track and takes his share of the break along with guitar player Lucky Ward while encouraging shouts from the other musicians are heard in the background. Once again the lead vocalist delivers a first class rendition of the song, while the humorous lyrics add another dimension to an already
dynamite track. This is truly one of the best rockabilly records ever made [valued between $ 800 and 1000] and one has to bear in mind that by 1959, when it was made, the style was dying in the USA. Most major labels had stopped recording anything in the genre. But small independant labels were slower to follow the trends and even if very few were to match the class of « Music to my ear », many rockabilly items were to be found on indies until the mid-’60s.
After the release of the Syrup Bucket single, Speck & Doyle worked shows in their area with Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Jimmy Dickens and countless others until 1963 when their careers took different directions. While Doyle stayed with WRBL as a technician, still playing TV, show dates and dances until 1982, Speck moved to WJHO, 30 miles West in Opelika, Alabama, hosting his own Country program between 12.30PM and 2.30PM from Monday to Friday for the next 25 years. He officially retired in 1989 but still works part-time for the station.
This is the story of Speck & Doyle. It had to be told, and next time you spin « Music to my ear » or « Big noise, bright lights », or any of Doyle’s Imperial sides, you will know that between the grooves of the records lie the spirit of two authentic and genuine artists who deserved better recognition.
(From Jack Dumery’s article, published by « NDT » # 124, July 1993). Additions by bopping’s editor. With the help of Allan Turner for the Imperial sides.
Nothing or nearly has surfaced on the precise whereabouts of PAL THIBODEAUX (his actual Cajun name). Here are the details I could glean from his records, or from 45rpm-cat or even from Bill Nettles’ story as it appears on the CD « Bill Nettles & his Dixie Blue Boys : « Shake it and take it » – Cattle CCD248) and « Bill Nettles – « Hadacol boogie » – on Jasmine 3548 » . I even didn’t succeed obtaining a picture of Pal Thibodeaux, also known as LITTLE PAL HARDY (on Imperial 8282).
First selection, « Afraid to love again » on the Rhythm Kings label (location unknown) # 1207 by WAYNE CROSS with Porter Fender (on guitar?) is a jumping little thing with fine guitar throughout. A short and uninspired solo – as my current notes of course ! Cross cut another very Cash-styled effort on Rhythm Kings 1208 “Put another dime in the juke box“.
“Afraid to love again”
download BOBBY HODGE second. Born 1932 in N.C. He was active during the ’50s and ’60s in Wisconsin. Here he delivers « Gonna take my guitar » on Rebel 819, it’s difficult to give a date of issue. Urgent vocal, hard lead guitar (2 soli) and a steel solo. In a very different manner, in 1964, he had on Golden Ring 3040 a new version of Jimmy C. Newman‘s « Alligator man ». Same guitar as on previous record. Add Hodge re-cut “..guitar” as “Carolina bound” on Nashville 5014 (1960), perhaps in a next fortnight.
“Gonna take my guitar”
Finally Red (vocal, guitar) & Lige (vocal and mandolin), the TURNER BROS. Sometimes called the Kentucky Boys as their other competitors of the same name (Zeb & Zeke, on Bullet). They do here « When harvest days are over » (Radio Artist 235) and « Honky tonk mama » (243), both from 1947. Delmore Bros . Or York Bros. style. They also appeared on Imperial 8071 (« Boog-boog-boogie », from Radio Artist 234) and a half a dozen of singles on Mercury in 1949-50.