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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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

The Harmonica Boogie Woogie Man: AUBREY GASS (1939-1965)

Nothing is known about this important, although quite obscure artist of the 1940’s and ’50’s. Even not any statistic of birth or death, although he was certainly livng in the aubrey gass pictureDallas, TX area, and was born there during the ’20s. Nothing more is known about his childhood and beginnings in music, so we are forced to deal only with the records he appeared on.

From 1939 until 1952 he was closely associated with another Texan, AL DEXTER and worked with him either as washboard player (in the ’30s), sometimes harmonicist, and in some cases held the vocal duties into the Dexter’s band, « The Troopers », not forgetting he was also songwriter : he was co-writer (with Tex Ritter) of the all-time Hank Williams‘ classic, « Dear John ». But more about that later.

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Al Dexter

In 1939, he was a member of the Al Dexter’s Troopers, as said before, and offered the group a good selling disc : « Wine, women and song » – recorded in December 1939 and issued on Vocalion 5572, it was covered by Texas Jim Lewis in September 1940 (Decca 05875), and by the Prairie Ramblers (Decca 05878) – the song must’ve looked to Decca’s executives a lucrative seller). When re-recorded by Dexter on Columbia 37062 in April 1945, he was a second time covered (a reissue) by Jim Lewis (Decca 46021). It attracted two more versions in 1946 by Frankie Marvin (San Antonio 107) and Dick James (Coast 234).

Gass gave Al Dexter (or co-wrote with him) two more songs in 1941/42 : « The Money You Spent Was Mine » (Okeh 6206) and « Honky Tonk Chinese Dime »(OKeh 6604). He played the harmonica on « Diddy, Wah, Diddy With A Blah !Blah ! » (Vocalion 6255) – which Dexter re-recorded later on King as « Diddy Wah Boogie » (# 885). Gass also held the vocal duty for « Sunshine » (Vocalion 04988, reissued in 1946 on Columbia 20240), both coming out of a long 8-track June 13th 1939 session.

Al Dexter, “Diddy, Wah, Diddy With A Blah! Blah!

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Aubrey Gass, vocalSunshine

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vocalion Dexter Diddy columbia Gass Sunshine

As far at it concerns records, Aubrey Gass disappeared from the music scene between 1941 and 1946. Was he drafted in U.S. Army during W.W. II such a long time is improbable. Anyway, his first record under his real name was issued mid to late 1946 in Houston by Gold Star (# 1318) and coupled a then-famous for veterans couplet, « Kilroy’s Been Here » and «  Delivery Man Blues ». Backed by the Easterners (guitar, bass, fiddle, steel and piano), Gass on alert vocal and harmonica delivers a joyful A-side, although the bluesy B-side is equally at home. Indeed both sides were written by Gass, who saw the following year a reissue of his Gold Star disc on the new DeLuxe (#6001) label, a proof of the popularity of the record.

Kilroy’s Been Here

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Delivery Man Blues

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gold star Gass Delivery gold star Gass Kilroy's Kilroy’s been here  lyrics

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Paul Page

It must also be noted that a song « Kilroy Was Here » was recorded and released by Paul Page on Enterprise; reviewed by Billboard on August 31, 1946, no one can say who came first for sure.

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Tex Ritter

« Dear John » […] was his biggest song ; in fact, it was the only hit he ever wrote. The first version was by Jim Boyd, younger brother of Dallas-based western swing artist Bill Boyd. Gass apparently knew Jim Boyd, offered him « Dear John », and Boyd recorded it on March 11, 1949. Soon after, Tex Ritter got his finger in the pie. Ritter probably promised to get the song cut by a big name, like himself, or to get Gass a contract with his label, Capitol, if he could get a piece of the song. The fact that Gass recorded « Dear John » for Capitol (# 40239, or # 1427) some five months after Boyd suggests that Ritter lived up to his half of their convenant. Hank Williams later picked (early 1951) up the song, this time co-written « Ritter-Gass ». Note : Jim Boyd’s version is already written by Gass and Ritter…

Jim Boyd, “Dear John” (original version)rca-victor boyd john

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The session for Capitol took place in Dallas on August 9th, 1949 (Billboard announced both the contact signing and the recording session on Sept. 17) and supplied four more Gass-written songs. The backing of Wesley Tuttle and Group (specially come to Dallas) was made of Gass himself (vocal/harmonica), probably Tuttle (rhythm-guitar), a steel, a bass player and a drummer. First came the already discussed « Dear John » : Gass is full of energy on harmonica, has a husky voice, as on the fast « Look Me Up » and (by far the most hard-rocking tune of the lot) « K.C. Boogie ». The last song, « Gee But I’m Lonely Tonight », is a slowie and Gass doesn’t seems at ease here.

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Billboard Nov. 12, 1949

Dear John

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Gee But I’m Lonely Tonight

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copyright June 15,1950

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Look Me Up

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K. C. Boogie

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capitol Gass Johncapitol Gass Geecapitol Gass Lookcapitol Gass Boogie

« Dear John » had numerous versions, among them an R&B rendition by Dinah Washington, which climbed at n°3 in the charts. It also had a follow-up in 1953 as « A Dear John Letter », first by Jean Shepard (Capitol 2502).

Next recording session Aubrey Gass collaborated for was done on May 19, 1950 by Al Dexter and his Troopers again. Gass was present, and played some harmonica on several tracks, but still being contracted to Capitol, could not sing at all. He plays (distinct style easily recognizable) on « Blow That Lonesome Whistle, Casey » (King 875)[very near in essence to “K. C. Boogie“], « Walking With The Blues » (which he co-wrote) (King 884), then both sides of King 913 : « Diddy Wah Boogie » and « You’ve Been Cheatin’ On Me ».

Al Dexter & His Troopers, “Blow That Lonesome Whistle, Casey”

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Walking With The Blues

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Diddy Wah Boogie

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You’ve Been Cheatin’ On Me

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At unknown dates he cut several demos at Sellers Studio in Dallas, between 1950 and late 1951. Three of them found their way on the British/Nederland Boppin’ Hillbilly compilation n° 2810. Due to legal rights, we are not allowed to offer these great sides. They are : « Columbus Stockade Blues », « Here Today And Gone Tomorrow » and « Walkin’ Out Of Town ».sellers Gass Fishermansellers Gass Teardropsdecca Dexter Teardropsdecca Dexter Fisherman's

But « Counting My Teardrops » and « Fisherman Boogie », cut late 1951 or early 1952, were issued under Gass’ own name by Sellers as acetates, and released just as they were under Al Dexter’s name (« Vocal by Aubrey Gass ») on Decca, respectively 28345 and 28137 during the first half of 1952. Both tracks were probably recorded (given date by Michel Ruppli’s book « The Decca label » as Feb. 7, 1952) with the Al Dexter band : trumpet, rhythm-guitar, piano (particularly rolling in « Fisherman’s boogie»), steel, bass and drums and no harmonica at all. This 14 tunes session has no less than 8 unissued tracks, and could well reveal some surprises.

Aubrey Gass Vocal“, “Fisherman’s Boogie

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Billboard August 23, 1952

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Aubrey Gass & Al Dexter,Counting My Teardrops

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A recent discovery on eBay has surfaced an unissued Audiodisc dated (as handwritten on label) May 23,1956. « Garbage Man » by Gass is a strange novelty : only vocal, harmonica and rhythm guitar. The acetate was gone on December 19, 2017 for $ 118,00.

Garbage Man“(acetate)

downloadaudiodisc gass Garbage

In 1962 (June) Aubrey Gass gave Tom O’Neal « Two Many Tickets » (released first on Cheatham 104, then reissued on Starday 607), a country rocker ; it’s probably Gass who played the harmonica in this song, as well as on the flipside « Sleeper Cab Blues ».

Tom O’NealToo Many Tickets

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Tom O’Neal,Sleeper Cab Blues

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cheatham O'Neal Ticketsstarday o'neal tickets

We now jump to one of the most famous Aubrey A. Gass records (backed by the Hel-Cats), this is on the Irving, TX Helton label released in 1965. « Corn fed Gal » is present in two recent compilations : a rocker with swooping piano (# 671-103), backed with a new version of « Kilroy’s Been Here ».(a good guitar ; piano is replaced by a discreet steel). Same label had Grady Owen (ex-Gene Vincent‘s Blue Caps bass player in 1958) (# 102) with « Vietnam Blues ».

Further research has unearthed a demo of « Corn Fed Gal », cut for the « Boyd Recording Service » in Dallas. The strange thing is that this version runs at 2 mn 05, while the Helton version has a duration of 2 mn 22. So then, are they the same ? Could it be that the lucky owner of the Boyd record please stand up and say the truth about this point. I am inclined personnally towards two different versions. This demo was sold on eBay in 2010 for $ 136,00.

boyd gass galhelton Gass Kilroy's helton Gass Gal

 

 

Corn Fed Gal“(Helton version)

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“Kilroy’s Been Here

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Last record is on the Swansee label # 1908 (mid-’60s) by Mr. G. « Pork-N-Beans » and « Sittin’n’Thinkin’ » are unheard, both written « Aubrey A. Gass », so cannot comment. Remember (see above) his actual name was Aubrey Andrew Gass.

Sources : my sincere thanks to UncleGil for Bronco Buster, the King Project, the Starday project and BACM music ; many (if not all) label scans do come from 78rpm-worlds ; thanks to ole’ Ronald Keppner for Sellers acetates ; Dave Sichak of hillbilly-music.com for Aubrey Gass only known picture ; Gripsweat site for 1956 acetate ; Colin Escott, « Hank Williams, The Biography » for the « Dear John » story. Billboard books for notifications of releases (Thanks Imperial!).

Your comment is welcome: use the “Submit a comment” button below. Thanks!

Early February 2018 bopping and romping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy ! This is the early February 2018 fortnight’s favorites selection. Let’s begin with a Western swing Houston scene veteran : DICKIE McBRIDE, here late in his career ( October 1951). Billed with his wife Laura Lee (who is absent here), he delivers a powerful and moving « I love you boogie » on M-G-M 11056. Fine steel and piano, and a lot of yells and whistles from apparently McBride himself.

I love you boogie

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Another veteran, out of the Gospel and Bluegrass field : MAC ODELL (rn Odell McLeod), who was born in 1916 in Roanake, Alabama. His career had a large stretch between New Orleans and Michigan, before he settled down in Nashville, as « Ole Country Boy » in the late ’40s. He recorded first at Mercury, then landed at King , but had poor sales as an artist. More as a songwriter for others : « The battle of Armageddon » for Hank Williams, or « The glorybound train » for Roy Acuff. At King, he was firmly Bluegrass, backed by Don Reno and Red Smiley. Here is his fast half-talked «Penicillin » from September 1953 on King 1251. O’Dell has deceased in 2003.

Penicillin

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Billboard December 2, 1948

Red Barn was a regional Kansas City concern, important for example for the first Jimmie Skinner sides of the late ’40s. The name ELMO LINN may be an obscure one ; he had however two interesting issues on this label. « Lorita » (Red Barn 1188A) is a medium paced shuffler with steel. Vocal reminds a bit Ernest Tubb. The flipside « Line on the highway » is a fast guitar backed tune. « Heart full of love » (Red Barn 1195) comes next, with again that shuffling rhythm. Later on Linn went to Westport (pop country).

“Lorita”

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Line on the highway”

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Heart full of love

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From Lorain, Ohio, VERN TERRY on the Athena label (a Starday custom) from 1959. « Miss you » is a good slowie, the instrumentation is minimal, echo is on the vocal, and steel is to the fore. (# 804). The flipside « Someone new » is an uptempo shuffler. Good steel and fiddle.

Miss you

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Someone new

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From Nashville, RAY BATTS in 1954 for two sides on the Excello label # 2028. The marvelous bopper « Stealin’ sugar » : complete with steel and piano. It has moreover nothing to do with the Merle Lindsay tune (MGM 10795) of the same name. The flipside, « Maybe it’s you, sweetheart » is a shuffler. Batts had also on Bullet 754 the great double-sided « Bear cat daddy/Wild man boogie », reviewed in « Bullet – always a smash it », published here in May 2012.

Stealin’ sugar

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Maybe it’s you, sweetheart”

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Finally two R&B rompers by BILLY TATE, whom I don’t know anything about. The songs do speak for themselves : « Love is a crazy thing » [as Blind Billy Tate] on Herald 411, with a tremendous wild sax solo ; then « Right from wrong » on Peacock 1671 from 1957.
Love is a crazy thing

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Right from wrong”

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Sources : Mac O’Dell on Warped (VMOMC) for biog. details ; YouTube for many a tune ; 78worlds (Ron Keppner) for label scans. HBR label scans and music for Elmo Linn.

If you enjoy something here, please leave a comment below. And ask for something you would like to hear (and download) : maybe I can help.

Early August 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Hello, this is a full Summer 2017 (early August) fortnight favorites’ selection, with 10 tunes. The first two are by an unknown artist on a famous label. HARRY CARROLL on the Starday label # 277 (issued December 1956). A waltz tempo for « Checkerboard lover », a mid-paced sentimental « Two-timin’ » for the flipside. Typical Starday atmosphere, but nothing exceptional. Carroll seemingly co-wrote « The trail of the lonesome pine » for Jimmy Donley (Decca 30392), and that was over.Checkerboard lover

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Two-timin‘”

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starday Carroll Checkerboardstarday Carroll timin

GLENN & JODY, the Singing Buddies were backed by Larry Nolen & the Bandits for this fine WS flavored bopper « I’m even with you » on the San Antonio label Eagle # 3772. It’s for you, Bill S.     Larry Nolen was a veteran of the S.-A. scene, having records issued on Sarg as early as 1954 (« Hillbilly love affair »), Starday in 1956-57 (« Lucky lady », « King of the ducktail cats »), then later on Eagle (apparently his own label, or one he was involved in – backed by Herby Remington on steel) or Renner in 1961.

larry nolen picture

Larry Nolen

I’m even with youeagle Glenn & Jody even

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A solid Hillbilly boogie now with « Dog house boogie » on King 720 (from July 1948) by a young HAWKSHAW HAWKINS. A strong boogie guitar (agile solo), a lemley & hawkins pictureking Hawkins Dogfine steel solo done by Herman « Jiggs » Lemley.hawkshaw hawkins picture

Dog house boogie

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RED MANSEL had previously cut for Starday custom # 523 (« I’ve crossed you off my list ») in July 1955, and was the first to appear on Dan Mechura’s new label, All Star # 7165, with a fine medium paced ballad, « Changing heart ». Very great vocal.

KEN GABBARD & The Hilltop Ramblers cut in 1965 on the Trenton, OH Harp label (no #) the very nice « Thing’s can’t be as they were » (sic). Uptempo ballad, and typical early ’60s hillbilly sounds.

allstar Mansel heartChanging heartharp Gabbard Thing's

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The same Harp label had another disc of interest : Don Ward and « How much I owe ».

Thing’s can’t be as they were

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Helen Hunt is leading vocally THE NITE OWLS with a bluesy « Married man blues » on Vocalion 03987 from November 1938. The steel well to the fore is played by Bob Symons.

A good female mid-paced bopper follows on the Stardale label (# A 006) from Morris, OK by GALE SOUTHERN and « « Trusting heart « in 1956. Nice piano throughout.

vocalion Nite Owls, Married

csy 78-Ron..

Married man blues

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stardale Southern heartTrusting heart

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« Hillbilly lovin’ «  comes next. A fast vigorous piece of hillbilly bop by BAILIN’ WIRE BOB on the Pittsburgh, Pa. Fee Bee label # 208 from 1957.fee bee Wire Hillbilly

Finally GENE STACKS on the Pine Bluff, AR Cooper label (no #) , « I know (my baby loves me) ». It’s perhaps the fastest of all the tracks here and a very fine Rockabilly bopper.

Hillbilly lovin’

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cooper Stacks know I know (my baby loves me)

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“Whammy Bammy Buzzard Goozer” – from Hillbilly to Rock’n’roll: the LOUIE INNIS story (1946-1956)

LOUIE INNIS (biography by Greg Adams, Allmusic.com). [Additions by Bopping’s editor.]

Louie Innis was born on January 21, 1919 (d. Aug. 20, 1982) in Seymour, Indiana. His role as a session guitarist is often emphasized but the fact is that, for us, it was not his most important role.

Louie Innis (sometimes credited as Louis) is one of those 50-year-old hillbilly boppers that thrill country music collectors. He never had a success [that’s not true], but his recordings for King and Mercury were cheerful, boogies uptempos and proto-rockers that show the musical mastery and the vocal work of Innis.

He was part of Hank Penny’s The Plantation Boys in the early 1940s, performing guitar and bass chores alongside Carl Stewart and Zed Tennis as violinists, and Roy Lanham’s solo guitar. Here is an example of Louie Innis work as rhythm player during a Hank Penny March 1945 session in Cincinnati, OH.: “Talkin’ about you” (King 512)

king penny talkin'

hank penny picture

Hank Penny

Talkin’ about you

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They worked with The Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis, Bradley Kincaid and Grandpa Jones. They also accompanied WLW pop singer Doris Day. After the march of Lanham, in 1944 the band toured with the USO before Penny traveled to California at the behest of [Merle] Travis, and the group undid. Later, when Penny was under contract with RCA, Innis composed a pair of songs to him, “No Muss-No Fuss-No Bother“(RCA 58-0183)  and “Hold The Phone” (1951).rca penny fuss

No muss-no fuss-no bother

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«(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound Dog“, a duet with Charlie Gore, is an issue that has surfaced in rockabilly compilations, although it was recorded in 1953, indicating that Innis was on the road to rock & roll, though he was never permanently installed on it.

charlie gore picture

Charlie Gore

king gore dog“(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog

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There are very few biographical data we could gather about Innis; however, on King Records’ promotional discs some details about the performer were outlined: on King 1225 (1953) he was defined: “Composer, vocalist, instrumentalist and emcee [presenter at Indiana Hoedown on WFBM], Louis innis excels in every facet. An Indiana guy who started on the radio at age 16, Innis has already made up a few hit songs. »

 

In King 1406 (1954) it was stated: “Indiana native Louie Innis became interested in music for the first time thanks to the local hairdresser who knew a few chords on the guitar, and both played and did duets between cuts of hair and shaved, almost every day. »

 

On the other side of the same single was noted: “A familiar figure among the broadcasts of folk music is Louie Innis. One of the outstanding rhythmic guitars in the business, Louie Innis worked with Red Foley for two and a half years at the Grand Ole Opry and has recorded with over fifty different artists ».

 

King 4861 (1955) noted: “(….) His work as a guitarist is much appreciated and is required by many great country stars. Louie is currently working as an emcee at the Indiana Hoedown in Indianapolis, Indiana. »

 

And on the flipside it was said: “Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, 35 years ago, Louie Innis was driven into music business when he was expelled from high school. He and some other students “played hookey” (skipped classes) one day. “The other guys lied about why they had gone away, but I told the truth,” he explains. “Later, when the director found out, he begged me to come back, but I said ‘no thank you’, and I took music seriously with the blessing of my parents.”

 

As a composer, in addition to his own songs, highlights “Seven Nights To Rock“, along with Buck Trail and Henry Glover, for Moon Mullican (1956), a classic rockabilly that he never got to record:

 

Seven nights to rockking mullican seven

Seven nights to roll

Seven nights I’m gonna show my face

With a different woman in a different place

Seven nights to rock

I’ve got seven nights to roll

Seven nights to rock

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Monday, I’m gonna rock with Jane

Tuesday, it’s gonna be Luane

Wednesday, it’s Esteline

Thursday, it’s Betty Sue and me

Friday, it’s Linda Lue

Saturday and Sunday any chick’ll do

 

Monday, Sister Suzie’s ball

Tuesday, I’m at the union hall

Wednesday, I’m at the roadhouse inn

Thursday, I’m at the lion’s den

Friday, I’m at the Chatter Box

Saturday and Sunday everybody rocks

 

Skip, Hop & Jump Country Style” is a German 23-track anthology of recordings of Innis on Mercury and King between 1949 and 1955, full of Innis novelties and a few hillbilly covers of pop and R & B hits such as “Oh! Babe by Louis Prima and “Hearts of Stone” by the Charms. «Stomp that thing» is a recent (2017) digital anthology to be found on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite.

broncocd innis

hmc cd innis

unclegil.blogspot.fr (43 tracks)

Louis Prima: “Oh! babe

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RH prima babe

Innis used a superb rhythmic section filled with resources like palms, bells, whistles and howls, as a precedent of what Sid King & the Five Strings would do next. Innis had a prominent band in which Zeb and Zeke Turner, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Don Helms paraded in different stages, along with Maddox Brothers & Rose, to the category of talents that “should have been», but never received sufficient recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

LOUIE INNIS : an appreciation track per track (by Bopping’s editor)

If the reading of comments is boring you, go direct to the podcasts, label scans and downloads.

Sterling and Deluxe issues (1947-late 1948)louie innis picture

« LOUIE & THE INNIS CLAN » (on Sterling)

«Look in the looking glass» is a fast Western swing novelty. Good guitar, steel (Jerry Byrd?) + a welcome trumpet solo. (N.Y.C. Sterling 207 – probably recorded in Nashville).

billboard26-4-47 innis

Billboard April 26 , 1947

Look in the looking glass

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«Tennessee Central» is of course a train song that’s « Rockin’ and reelin’». Fast. No fiddle. Trumpet main instrument. Steel effects of train. Agile lead guitar. (N.Y.C. Sterling 209 – probably recorded in Nashville).

Tennessee Central

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LOUIS INNIS

«I guess you just don’t care» is a mid-paced ballad. An accordion; fiddle, guitar and bass. Vocal is a bit Hillbilly crooning. (New Jersey Deluxe 5059, also probably recorded in Nashville). First song written by Louie Innis. Leased by King ? The session has nos less than 7 unissued songs left.

I guess you just don’t care

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sterling innis looksterling innis tennesseedeluxe !nnis guess

= On December 22, 1948, Innis did the rhythm guitar duty for the Hank Williams‘ session that released « Lost on the river » and « Lovesick blues ».

 

 

Mercury issues (July 1949-November 1951)

« LOUIE INNIS & THE STRING DUSTERS »

«Better back up mama» (# 6217) Billed on label «Country boogie and blues» : uptempo Bopper ; prominent fiddle, Jerry Byrd takes a steel solo. Probably Zeke Turner on lead guitar. Innis on energetic rhythm guitar.

“Better back up mama”

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«Chattanoogie boogie». Same style. Call-and-response format, billed on label «Country boogie».
“Chattanoogie boogie”

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mercury innis backmercury innis chattanoogie

= On August 30, 1949, Innis accompanied on rhythm guitar Hank Williams once more (and for the last time) on «I’m so lonesome I could cry», «I just don’t like this kind of livin’», «My bucket’s got a hole in it». Tommy Jackson was on fiddle, and probably accompanied Louis Innis on his first Mercury session, with Ernie Newton on bass, at E.T. Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, OH.

«She’s mean to me» (# 6225, reissued # 6273) is a real fine shuffler. Zeke Turner in good form. Byrd has his solo. Certainly Tommy Jackson on insistent fiddle.

One more «Country boogie» as noted on the label : «Jug band boogie» (# 6244). A novelty by the use of a washboard, handclaps, and the growls of Innis (imitating T. Texas Tyler). A fine bopper.

mercury innis meanmercury innis jug

“She’s mean to me”

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“Jug band boogie”

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«I thought she was a local (but she was a fast express)» (# 6273). Not written by Innis, it’s his second train-inspired opus. Very fast song, an harmonica (for the only time in Innis’ records), fiddle is prominent. Discreet steel, imitating a train bell. A promising «Woman hating blues» from this August 1950 session remains unissued.

Another pop novelty from the pen of Louis Prima, given the Hillbilly bop treatment, «Oh ! Babe» (# 6293). Tailor-made for Prima, a very nice version by the versatile Innis. An insistent guitar riff.

I thought she was a local

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Oh! Babe

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mercury innis localmercury innis babe

Then, without doubt, the greatest and the best selling pairing, Mercury 6312 : «Boogie woogie baby» has agressive drums and steel (solo). Zeke or Zeb Turner takes a good solo too. One of the masterpieces of Louie Innis, predating by 5 years the Rockabilly yet to come. Then his greatest claim to fame which also must have him secured a lot of money: «Goodnight Cincinnati, goodmorning Tennessee». Very fast train song. Jerry Byrd steel omnipresent.

cincinnati partitioncincinnati partition2Boogie woogie babyjerry byrd picture

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Goodnight Cincinnati, goodmorning Tennessee”

downloadmercury innis boogiemercury innis cincinnati

This song had many versions, the first to be waxed (March 1rst, 1951) and, in my opinion, the best, by Shorty Long on King 953;

Shorty Long version:

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by Marty Robbins on the stage of G.O.O. in June, Tex Williams too:billboard cincinnati

Marty Robbins version:

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even a pop version by Al Trace & Orchestra (vocal Bobby Hart). Ten years later it became a new hit in May 1961 in the hands of Rusty York. That’s an enduring Hillbilly rocker classic. 

Rusty York version (King 5511)

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billboard 31-3-51 trace

Billboard March 31, 1951

king york cincinnati

More to come with the next pairing. «Honky-tonk man» (# 6335) from May 1951. Strong country boogie guitar, loud drums, great steel. Same goes for the flipside, «Stomp that thing» (penned Innis-Turner) is a tour-de-force, his fastest song ever, without fiddle, and proto-rockabilly. Great song !

Honky tonk man

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mercury innis honkymercury innis stomp

In June 1951, Hank Penny cut the Louie Innis songs that were specially written for him : «No muss-no fuss-no bother» and «Hold the phone», although the session took place on the West coast (Innis not present).

So strangely «I’ve got a red hot love» (on the label, «Louie Innis » alone) (# 6370) from late 1951 returns to classic style Hillbilly bopper – the theme song is as usual. The fiddle is back, and the voice is always winkling. From the same session remained unissued «I’m the lonesomest guy».

“I’ve got a red hot love

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billboard 3-6-50 innis

 

 

 

LOUIE INNIS – The King years (1953-1955)

Remember. If my comments are boring you, go direct to podcasts, downloads and labels scans.

Louie Innis didn’t have in 1952 any recording pact, and without doubt he devoted himself to his work on WLW (Cincinnati, Midwestern Hayride) and WFBM (Indiana Hoedown), or recording sessions for others artists.

Billboard March 1953

February and March 1953. «Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses» (# 1180) is a fast novelty and unpretentious very good bopper with its catch phrase.

Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses

billboard 16-5-53 gore

Billboard May 16, 1953

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king innis kisses
Next thing is a true and well-known mark in Innis story. He duetted indeed with billboard 53 goreCharlie Gore for an hilarious version of the then R&B hit of Big Mama Thornton, which they changed to «(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog» (# 1212). A nice shuffler, handclaps, a fine guitar solo. It’s true that such a tune  announces rockabilly.
 See above for the podcast.

From the same February 1953 session came « Whammy Bammy Buzzard Goozer », a non-sense out-and-out rocker. The fiddle solo is inventive, lot of drums and a saxophone backing (# 1225).

billboard 6-53 innis

Billboard June 1953

king innis whammyWhammy bammy buzzard goozer

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From September 1953 to September 1954. More train songs. First a novelty bopper «I ain’t got a pot (to peel potatoes in)» (# 1260) : an agressive steel, some discreet drums.

I ain’t got a pot

king innis locomotive

 

downloadking innis pot

Then the very fast «I got a round trip ticket» » from November 1953. Train effects by the steel payer ; pizzicato played fiddle, which seems mandolin . Plus, «There’s a red hot fire (in the old locomotive)» (# 1392) (penned Roberts = maybe Bob Newman under his usual pseudonym as writer), again a fast train song.

“I got a round trip ticket

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There’s a red hot fire

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Finally a cover of another R&B hit, “Hearts of stone” (# 1392), originally done by the Black vocal group The Charms. Innis does a fine mid-paced rendition of the song. Good steel and guitar. This crossover use of R&B and C&W songs was common at King for years, and gave many a new, fresh song.

The Charms, “Hearts of stone

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Louie InnisHearts of stone

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king innis heartsdeluxe charms hearts

Finally from October 1954 to May 1955. – Innis aided by Al Myers (lead guitar), Jerry Byrd and a bass player, formed The Country Cats for a 4-instrumentals session. Fine relaxed boppers : «Hot strings» (# 1410) and «Sun shadows» (# 1430).

king cats strings

king cats shadows

 

 

Al Myers

 

 

 

Hot strings

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Sun shadows

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Back to Louie Innis recording sessions. He did a good version of the old spiritual « Nobody knows you when you’re down and out », another crossover (# 1406). «The kissing chain» (which he didn’t write) is another mid-paced good novelty. Al Myers makes prowesses on lead (# 1415). The flipside «Let’s make up tonight» goes same, and is equally good bopper. The final side «Sing your song baby» (# 4861) has chorus and a fine guitar. Innis is tending clearly toward rock’n’roll, that he never really reached. Actually he never recorded anything after this last King 1955 session.

“The kissing chain”

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“Let’s make up tonight”

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“Sing your song, baby”

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king innis kissingking innis makeking nnis song

In 1961, King issued a remaining track from the Deluxe session of 1948 (unheard). Why this occurred ?

 

Further adventures of Louis Innis after 1955

He seems to have devoted himself to writing songs for others. Here below is a partial list of artists whom he’d work for :

  • Chet Atkins, « Mister Misery », 1954
  • Chet Atkins, « Set a spell » (vocal by Red Kirk), 1954
  • Fuller Todd, « Old fashioned », 1957
  • Brenda Lee, « I’m learning about love » (with Grady Martin), 1960
  • Charles Brown, « Christmas questions », 1961
  • Conway Twitty, « Portrait of a fool » (with Buddy Killen), 1961
  • Joe Henderson, « Mr. Voice », 1962
  • Jimmy Logsdon, « The life of Hank Williams » (with Hawkshaw Hawkins), 1963
  • Lois Williams, « Don’t take my child away », 1970

and a lot more into the ’70s.

Louie Innis also arranged songs for Don Lane (M.C.A.), date unknown.

Those songs were rejected for certain reasons (primarily because they’d take too much room) :

Oklahoma City/Foggy river (Sterling) ; I’d be ashmaed if I were you (DeLuxe)

Good morning Judge/My dreamboat stuk a snag/I grabbed for the engine (Mercury)

It don’t pay to advertise/Mexican Joe/What a way to die/Suicide/You’ve got it/What’s she got/She rurn’t it/Nobody knows you when you’re down and out/You’re not happy till you’re mad/Jealous hearted woman (King). A good amount of them is on the « Stomp that thing » compilation (on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite: unclegil.blogspot.fr)

My thanks go first to Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite, and as usual, Ronald Keppner for the loan (scan and music) of rare 78 rpm’s. Then to Greg Adams (all music site) for the only biography available on Louis Innis ; to the people of the « King Project » (for Hank Penny King side) ; 78rpm and 45rpm scans on always fruitful « 45worlds.com ». My old fellow Tony Biggs for « Whammy… ». YouTube was useful too. There had been a whole lot of work for this issue : it’s really been a « labor of love » ! I hope you’ll appreciate the result of the study. Thanks for your comments : they always give me courage to go further and deeper into Hillbilly bopping music..