It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here. There were four versions of « Big door »…a sort-of « Green door » sequel.The first version appeared in 4 Star’s AP (Artist Promotion) and was by the writer, Gene Brown. Some say that Eddie Cochran is on guitar. That version reappeared on 4 Star (# 1717) and reappeared yet again identical on Dot, the label that had scored with « Green door ». At almost the same time, circa April 1958, that 4 Star licensed Brown’s master to Dot, Jack Tucker‘s version appeared. Was this the same Jack Tucker who worked hillbilly nighspots in Los Angeles for many years ? Probably. According to Si Barnes, who worked for both Jack Tucker (real name Morris Tucker) and his brother, Hubert, aka Herb [« Habit forming kisses » on Excel 107, 1955: see elsewhere in this site the Rodeo/Excel story], the Tuckers were from Haleyville, near Oklahoma City . Jack (rn Morris) was born on April 19th, 1918.
Both brothers led bands in Los Angeles, playing spots like the Hitching Post, Harmony Park Ballroom, and so on. Jack had a Saturday night television show on Channel 11. Tommy Allsup graduated from Herb Tucker’s band, and according to Barnes, Herb led the more musically sophisticated outfit. Jack Tucker, said Barnes was « pretty much stuck on himself. A very basic guitar player and vocalist. He was really limited in musical talent. I’m surprised he let the band record [Bob Wills‘] « Big beaver » [at the same session as « Big door»]. He didn’t understand the Wills beat or anything about that style. Jack was a two-chord guy. Both Herb and Jack faded out in the early 1960s when the ballrooms closed or switched over to rock ».
Nevertheless, Tucker’s recording career was quite extensive. There was a demo session for Modern in 1949 and his first 4 Star record was a reissue of a 1953 disc for the 4* custom Debut label. Other records, usually with the Oklahoma Playboys, appeared on Starday (1954), RCA’s « X » imprint (1955), Downbeat, with Bob Stanley (1956), Audie Andrews on Debut, himself on Bel Aire and Nielsen (1957). Guitarist Danny Michaels remembered that Tucker was playing at the Pioneer Room on Pioneer Blvd, when they did the 4 Star session. According to Michaels, he played lead and Al Petty played steel guitar, but he couldn’t remember the others. Following Tucker’s brief tenure with 4 Star, he recorded for Ozark Records in South Gate, California. One of their singles (with Don Evans on lead guitar), « Lonely man » was acquired by Imperial. Another, « Honey moon trip to Mars », may have been revived by Larry Bryant (Santa Fe 100, or Bakersfield 100).
Tucker appears to have bowed out with a clutch of records for Toppa in 1961-1962, and later for Public! and Young Country. He had backed Lina Lynne (later on Toppa 1008) on Jimmy O’Neal‘s Rural Rhythm label, and Bill Bradley on Fabor Robinson‘s Fabor label in 1957-58.
Tucker died on September 26, 1996, but no one has an idea what he was doing between the mid-60s and his death.
Notes by Colin Escott to « That’ll flat git it vol. 26 » (Four Star). Additions by Bopping’s editor.
The music of Jack Tucker (by Bopping’s editor)
To follow Barnes’ assertion about limitations both on guitar and vocal of Jack Tucker, one must although admit his discs were good enough to have him a comfortable discography over the years 1953-1965. I cannot at all judge his talent but I’d assume his music is generally pretty good hillbilly bop or rockabilly.
First tracks I discuss are his « X » sides (# 0093) from 1954 : the fast « Stark, staring madly in love» has a tinkling piano and a loping rhythm, a fine side, and the equally good « First on your list » (much later re-recorded on Public!). Both are billed X songs by Allan Turner.
This is without forgetting two 1949 demo tracks for Modern : apparently Dusty Rhodes is on lead guitar for the instrumental « Dusty road boogie », and Jack Tucker is vocalist for a version of Hank Williams’ « Mind your own business ».
Later on, we had Tucker on Starday 136 : « Itchin’ for a hitchin ‘ » and « I was only fooling me », typical hillbillies on the Beaumont, TX label – probably recorded on the West coast, as later did Jack Morris [see the latter’s story elsewhere in this site].
More earlier on the 4 Star OP (« Other People ») custom Debut label (# 1001), later reissued on the regular 4 Star X-81, Tucker had cut in 1954 « Too blue to cry », a good song with band chorus, and had backed a fellow Oklahomian Audie Andrews on the same Debut label (One side written by NY entrepreneur Buck Ram).
In 1956 Bob Stanley [not to be confused with the pop orchestra leader] on Downbeat 204 had « Your triflin’ ways/Heartaches and tears », backed by Tucker and his Oklahoma Playboys : two very nice Hillbilly boppers: Stanley adopts the famous growl-in-his-voice, a speciality of T. Texas Tyler. Both of them had also a disc on Downbeat 203 (still untraced). Jack Tucker backed also in 1957 Lina Lynne on the fine bopper « Pease be mine » (Rural Rhythm 513 [see above].
Same year 1957 saw Tucker record two sides among his best on the small California Bel Aire (# 22) label, « Let me practice with you » and « Surrounded by sorrow », good mid-paced boppers (fine steel). His band, “The Okla. Playboys“, backed Roy Counts on two excellent boppers on Bel Aire 23: the medium-paced “I ain’t got the blues“, and the faster “Darling I could never live without you“, both have strong steel guitar. Tucker also had « Hound dog » on the Nielsen 56-7 label (untraced).
1958 saw the issue of « Big door » already discussed earlier (plus the B-side « Crazy do » a good instrumental), as the other 4 Star record, « Big beaver /Nobody’s fool» (4 Star # 1728), both average instrumental sides.
In 1959 Tucker had three records on the Ozark label. The original of « Honey moon trip to Mars » (# 960) [later by Larry Bryant on Santa Fe/Bakersfield – otherwise, who came first?]
then « Lonely man » (# 962), which was picked by Imperial and reissued (# 5623), finally # 965 and the ballads « Don’t cry for me/Trade wind love ».
insert of an Ozark issue, found on the Net
In 1960-1961 Tucker had four Toppa records. All are fine boppers, despite a tendancy to go pop, and include Ralph Mooney on steel guitar at least on # 1030 : « Oh what a lonely one ; one is » , “When the shades are drawn” (# 1041), « Just in time » (# 1052) and « It’s gone too far » (# 1106).
I mention quickly the following issues, less and less interesting (more and more poppish) on Public! (a new version of « First on your list ») and Young country (even an LP # 103) along the ’60s.
“First on your list”
Sources: Colin Escott notes to “That’ll flat git it vol.” (Four Star); 45cat and 78-world sites; Toppa’s best 3-CD;; Roots Vinyl Guide; YouTube; Praguefrank’s country discography (discography); my own archives and records;
Nothing to do with Jimmy Carter’s supposed brother ! That Bill Carter was a member of the Big Jim DeNoone’s Rhythm Busters.
His story begins on December 12, 1929, when he was born in Eagleton, Arkansas, one of ten siblings, the son of an itinerant share cropper. By the time he was nine years old, he was singing on KGHI out of Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1937 , the family moved to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Bill’s father got a job with the Southern Pacific Railroad in Indio, California, in 1943, and the family headed west. Bill’s interest in music was encouraged, and he took voice lessons during his teens, as well as performing on radio stations KRBO (Indio) and KROX (Modesto), modelling himself on Eddy Arnold. After graduating from Coachella Valley High school, Bill gained employment with the Johnson lumber Company in Grass Valley, and confined his performings to weekends.
In 1949 he joined USAF, and whilst stationed at Lackland and subsequently Parks AFB in Calfornia, Bill formed several bands, playing with the likes of Shorty Lavender (lead guitar and fiddle), Slim Roberts (fiddle), and Bob Cooper (drums). His music was firmly strenched in C&W and performing at NCO clubs kept his hand in. Whilst still in the Air Force, he got to perform with Cal Smith’s band in San Leandro, as well as playing dates in the San Francisco area, and venturing as far afield as San Antonio, Texas radio stations to perform.(more…)
Howdy folks! This time I managed to post 8 tunes, instead of the usual 6. I must say: the matter was significant with the “Move It On Over” story, a tune frequently covered over the years. I picked up 4 versions, ranging from 1947 to the ’60s. (more…)
Howdy folks! Plain hot summer, so it’s time for a few more Hillbilly bop/Rockabilly tunes. Note that I will take holidays during this month, so next fortnight early September.
From California first, CHUCK HENDERSON and the fine, steel-guitar dominated 1959 romper “Rock And Roll Baby” on the Ozark label. No more info available.
Grover Franklin “BIG JEFF” Bess is a Nashville legend. He sold beer, cure-all tonics and baby chicks on the Gallatin, TN, WLAC radio from 1946 for 16 years. Appeared in two Elia Kazan films and owned several night clubs, e. g. the famous Nashville’s Orchid Lounge Club. Virtually every major session player in Nashville was a member of The Radio Playboys at one time or another. In fact, the great Grady Martin started out playing fiddle for Big Jeff in the early days. He had records on World, Cheker (sic) and Dot, and today his 1951 “Step It Up And Go” stands as one of the most early Rockabillies. I’ve chosen his first on Dot, “Juke Box Boogie” (1004), strong guitar, and a swinging tight combo.
Indeed Bess has his own CD on Bear Family 16941 “Tennessee Home Brew“, which gathers all his issued sides, plus a lot of unissued or radio extracts. Big Jeff’s story is intended in the future in Bopping.
Then, from a Dutchman’s Collector comp’, KELLY WEST & His Friendly Country Boys and the great “Grandpa Boogie“. Don’t know anything about the original label (4* 1223), or which part of the U.S. it came from. I’d assume 1954-55 (Note April10 2018. It dates from 1947!). Fine fiddle (a solo) and lead guitar. On to Nashville again, this time late ’50s on the aptly named Starday subsidiary Nashville: KEN CLARK offers a folky “Truck Driving Joe” (very early issue on the label, 5009 – he had a 45 on Starday earlier) with a nice steel-guitar, typical of the late ’50s.
From Cincinnati, OH, on the King label (# 1403) and a 4-tracks session (held Oct. 15, 1954) comes the very good “Oo-Ee Baby” by RALPH SANFORD. Typical King instrumentation for this medium uptempo Hillbilly bop. The singer is unknown to me elsewhere, here in fine form.
Billboard March 26, 1955
On July 19, the famous, although long-forgotten LIL GREENWOOD passed away at 86. I enclose a Youtube snippet of a September 2007 live gig, “Back To My Roots“. She’s in real fine form! For more information on her, go to:http://inabluemood.blogspot.com/2011/07/lil-greenwood-former-ellington-vocalist.html
Bakersfield, Ca. Sound: the Pep, Tally and Bakersfield labels
(from the notes of Bo Berglind for the CD « Just Around Bakersfield »(2009)
The Bakersfield’s sound could also be called the story of the Buck Owens’ sound.It developed during the 1950s in smoke-filled honky-tonk bars that offered music seven nights a week and of course on radio and television stations in Bakersfield and throughout California. The town, known mainly for agriculture and oil production, was the destination for many Dust Bowl migrants and others from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and other parts of the South. The mass migration of « Okies » to California also meant that their music would follow and thrive, finding an audience in California’s Central Valley.
This music was brought to the public by a myriad of small Bakersfield labels such as Audan, Bakersfield, Fire, Global, Hunco, Impact, Indio, Kord, Millie, Pike, Rose, Rural Rhythm, Super-Sonic and Tally. From nearby cities came Pep (Pico Rivera, later Los Angeles) and Chesterfield (Los Angeles) to name a few. Of these only Tally became real big in the 1960s: Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard for example.
The label was formed in 1956 by R.B. Christensen; it had a 100 and 500 series. It lasted until 1959.
Formed in the early months of 1956, the label had twelve releases, the most well known being done by the veteran Tommy Duncan, « Daddy Loves Mommy-O », but also had Dusty Payne, later on Rodeo/Excel labels.
The label made its debut in 1955 with its owner J.E. Swarr, later Claude Cavener.
Among its roster was a young Alvis Edgar « Buck » Owens. Already a seasoned performer and recording artist (La Brea label), Owens cut three first class records for the label including classic rockabilly under the alias of « Corky Jones ».
Another claim to fame was the very first version of « Crazy Arms » by Kenny Brown: the song, heard by Ray Price, rised up to # 1 in 1956, before being revived by Jerry Lee Lewis the same year. Other good Pep artists included Ronny Branam.
Said to have been Bill Wood’s own label, it issued Terry Fell‘s « Truck Drivin’ Man », which Capitol re-released in 1962.
Founded by Lewis Talley in 1955, its roster included Fuzzy Owen. It was in the little crampted building, not bigger than a bathroom, of Tally that Buck Owens cut « Hot Dog » b/w « Rhythm And Booze ». Fuzzy Owen also cut there « Yer Fer Me ». The biggest star on Tally was of course Merle Haggard, between 1962 and 1964.
The artists: I have concentrated on the more Country and Rockabilly artists.
Bill Carter (born in 1929 in Arkansas), was at one time stationed in U.S. Army in northern part of California. There he met Big Jim DeNoone and had even records on Gilt-Edge and Republic. His sides on Tally were cut in 1957-58 and the best is « I Used To Love You » (Tally 115). He later went to Black Jack and later moved to Nashville to form his own Bill Carter singers.
Charles « Fuzzy » Owen, also from Arkansas (1929). He picked cotton with relatives in California during the day and played three nights a week at the Blackboard, then just a hole-in-the-wall tavern. They were inspired by Ernest Tubb: Fuzzy was on steel, his first cousin Lewis Talley on guitar and vocal and an accordion player. After a stint in the Army, in 1952, Fuzzy and Bonnie Owens recorded the Hillbilly Barton’s song « A Dear John Letter », with a very limited distribution. The same year however, Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard picked up the song to #1 position. Fuzzy Owen also cut the fine « Yer Fer Me » In 1955 Owen and Tally formed Tally. They cut rocker Wally Lewis, and later went to higher grounds with Merle Haggard.
George Rich didn’t became rich with his « Drivin’ Away My Blues » (Tally 105), then disappeared completely.
Lynn Billingsley recorded (Bakersfield 107) his « Childhood Boogie » with Johnny Cuvellio Orchestra (Red Simpson on lead guitar, Johnny on drums). Record came late in 1956.
Custer Bottoms cut his claim to fame (« Stood Up Blues », Bakersfield 108) with a band that must have included Buck Owens on these very hot lead guitar licks, ca. early 1957.
Sid Silver is another unknown musician that made the terrific « Bumble Rumble » on Bakersfield 510). Bill Woods in on guitar with Johnny Cuviellos band.
Phil Brown recorded on Bakersfield (# 130) with Bill Wood’s band, « You’re A Luxury », which stands as the nearest to Hillbilly Bop of all the selections. He disappeared afterwards.
Buck Owens was born in 1929 in Garland, Texas. He came to Bakersfield in 1937-38 making a living harvesting vegetables, picking peaches, before switching to music: first, mandolin in 1940, before guitar in 1951 (having in the meantime married to Bonnie, before divorce). Bill Wood’s sideman Tommy Duncan noticed Buck’s guitar picking, which led him to join Bill Wood’s Orange Blossom Playboys at the Blackboard Café. It was to become Buck’s home base until 1957. 1953: first recording (« Blue Love »). He played with Bud Hobbs on « Louisiana Swing » (see earlier: the debut of Bakersfield sound). In 1955 he cut his first sides for Pep, real country music, before his rockabilly classics from 1956, « Hot Dog » and « Rhythm and Booze ». The rest is a Capitol contract and international history.
Charles « Kenny » Brown, part Choctaw indian, was from Little Rock, another from Arkansas (1928). When he was 13 he went to California where his mother has settled after divorcing. He started his own band, after discharge from U.S. Army, Kenny Brown and the Arkannsas Ramblers. In 1955, he got in touch with Pep which issued their first record by him.. He cut « Crazy Arms » on Pep 102 (written by young Ralph Mooney), later picked by Ray Price, who sent it to # 1 in April 1956. He later had two other records on Pep, « Throw A Little Wood On The Fire » being the better, before leaving to Sundown (co-owned with his third wife Geanetta). Kenny Brown died in 1996 due to a bad medical treatment.
Louise Duncan, from Waco, Texas, moved early in California with the desire to become a country entertainer, but had to wait the age of 24 to cut her first sides on Bakersfield. A pleasant Hilbilly, « Wherever You Are », which attracted the ears of Ken Nelson at Capitol records and gave her a national distribution.
Bill Woods, musician and disc jockey, the real « Father of the Bakersfied sound » went from Denison, Texas (1924). His father, an itinerant preacher, settled in 1940 in Arvin, Ca., just south of Bakersfield. After several moves, and beginning to play guitar, he became bass player for Tommy Duncan, ex-Bob Wills’ Playboys singer. In 1949, he founded his own band, the Orange Blossom Playboys,
not long before recruiting Buck Owens on guitar, himself playing the piano on his first record (« Trusting You », Cliff Crofford, vocal) for Modern. Many musicians passed through his band, in much demand on records cut in Bakersfield, and even on Capitol. As for himself, he cut great rockers like « Bop » and « Phone Me Baby », as well as great country tunes like « Ask Me No Questions ». He also liked stock-car racings, until an accident in the early ’60s. He later played piano for Merle Haggard, but suffered more surgeries and died in 2000.
Cliff Crofford fronted first Bill Wood’s band on Modern (“Trusting You”) before cutting for Tally some Rockers, “There Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin’ To Me” or “A nght For Love” (Tally 104). He wrote several songs by himself, and later went duetting with Billy Mize on Town Hall Party (search for him on Youtube).
Bonnie Blue Bell (who sounds male) had a good rocker with “Let’s Go” on Bakersfield 105.
For more information, get the CD “Just Around Bakersfield” (2009) as shown below:
Thanks to Bo Berglind for loaning some rare label scans. Also to Terry Gordon’s “Rockin’ Country Style” site