Hello, folks. This fortnight’s favorites selection will be very various and pointing in different directions.
First artist whom a virtually nothing is known about, and not more on his band. DON HAGER & the Hot Tots had in Autumn 1957 several sides cut for the Oak label out of the very small (ca. 800 souls) town of Whitakers, N.C. These guys had a tendency to Calypso rhythm, fact is obvious with « Bebop boogie » (Oak 0357), and it brings a lot of freshness to their composition. Fine rinky-dink piano, an hopping drum and a good (although discreet) steel make it a very fine Rockabilly, yet different..That very same song had been cut by Mustard & Gravy in 1950 and issued on Gotham 403, a sign of its later popularity. I already posted their fine version in the early June 2011 fortnight’s favorites selection And even earlier back, it had been recorded by Harry Gay, and published on…Oak 1000 [untraced, but according to the notes to « Long gone daddy », a compilation on Collectables 6335]. Hager had also « Calypso boogie », same style, on a ’70s Rockin’ Stars issue and « I love you dear forever », from a 1990 compilation (Oldies 5374) – this is an alternate take – with the steel much more to the fore. Finally « Liza Jane bop » (Oak 0358), also strange in its rhythm, yet is a more conventional Rockabilly. Nobody knows what happened to Hager and his group afterwards.
From Alabama comes the second artist : NORRIS MIMS [not to be confused with the Texan of similar name Morris Mills] in 1959 on the custom pressed (CP-1987) Birmingham, AL, Arlington label (# 101B) for « Sweet sweet baby ». It has an urgent vocal over a very fast backing, a fine guitar and a piano break. It is stunning such a good record is not worth an entry in Tom Lincoln’s book, as I am sure it’s very highly treasured. Incidentally the tune had been first cut in 1956 by Buddy Hanes [according to « 50sRock’n’roll » Youtube chain], but had remained unissued until our era (I didn’t find on which support).
The third record is not by a newcomer. The song « Chili dippin baby » was issued twice : on Blue Hen and on Raymor by its composer, Raymond McColister with different singers. Here is the Raymor version (# 6004A) with vocal by Mz. Melody Mack.
JIMMY HEATH & the Rhythm Rollers did record « Little darlin’ » for the Modesto, Ca. Mega label (# 2261) . It’s a typical late ’50s bopper. Lot of steel (a solo which reminds a bit of Ralph Mooney), a jumping little tune with a good expressive vocal and a fine Rockabilly guitar.
Now on to Texas, in the apply named town of Center, with REGGIE WARD & his Sons of Texas. They do offer a fast bopper « Juke box baby » from early 1951 with vocal by Jack Ford. Could the latter be the same man who cut « No not now », backed by Curley Williams (Columbia 20633, January 1950), or the Hayrider who recorded the fine hillbilly bop « That’s all you gotta do » (Chess 4858) in 1954 ? A final detail on Nemo Records (owned by Mrss. Jack McLendon and Leon Sanders) : the Wilburn Brothers [Theodore & Doyle] (later on Decca) apparently cut their first sides for this label.
BILL WATSON on the Demorest, GA Country Jubilee label (# 525) recorded a fine double-sider reviewed by Billboard in February 1960. The songs are similar in structure : over a strong guitar, a very melodic vocal partially sung in unison, they are very enjoyable and catchy « You’re the one for me » and «I’m dying darling ».
Nothing is ever as simple as it would appear, take for example the Harrington, Delaware based BLUE HEN label. Just another independant concern would be a fair description of this particular outfit, albeit with one or two above average offerings on the label from the likes of Mel Price and Lanie Walker.
BLUE HEN was owned, according to Galen Gart’s A.R.L.D., by one Sam Short, Jr ., ably assisted by A&R man Hugh Lee Stevenson. That, and the fact that the company was located on Center Street in Harrington, is the sum total of our knowledge of the label.
Over the 6 years or so that BLUE HEN was active the company ran at least three different numerical series. There was a rather obscure 3000 series, which appears to have been the earliest ; the regular 200 series, which was the « main series » ; and an odd ball 500 series (two issues). However, it is neither the 3000 or 500 series which concern us here, but the 200 « main series ».
The first release was Betty Coral‘s « Chili dippin’ baby » (# 200), backed by Raymond McCollister. He had the same number on the Raymor label, also the flipside « Texarkana waltz ». Many master numbers were prefixed RM: does it mean McCollister was involved in Blue Hen?
« Chili dippin’ baby » was very popular : it was covered by Vernon Way on the Hillbilly All Star label, and in a more Rockabilly way by Joyce Pointer on Goldenrod Records.
Betty Coral “Chili dippin’ baby”
download Donn Reynolds, who made something of a name for himself as a yodeling cowboy out on the East coast, also turned up on the label (# 207, « Don’t tell me ») before moving to London, England, to work for Radio Luxembourg ! Tommy Lloyd and his Strolling Cowboys, an outfit who certainly lived up to their name, having played virtually everywhere in the U.S.A. (#204 « Now I know why »), and local lad Tex Daniels (#206 « Give your heart a chance », among three or four more releases, note « Blue hen boogie » from late ’55) were two of the more experienced, yet lesser known artists to record for the label, both with a half dozen or so record releases to their credit before joining BLUE HEN. Local promoter/songwriter Howard Vokes was responsible for getting Hank King , Rudy Thacker (« Mountain guitar » ; also on Lucky) and “The Hardin County Boys” Jeffrey Null and Denver Duke onto the label. The latter, who had something of a hit on Blue Hen with their Hank Williams tribute “Hank Williams that Alabama boy” (#214) went on to enjoy some degree of success on Mercury and Starday. Denver Duke & Jeffrey Null “Hawk Williams that Alabama boy”
Mention should be made of course of Mel Price (who’s story is on this site) and Lanie Walker, of whom we know very little, who were arguably the best Hillbilly artists to record for BLUE HEN. Mel Price “Nothing seems to go right anymore“
Walker had 5 issues on Blue hen (and one in 1960 on Kingsport, TN Three Stars label , the stunning « Early every morning ») : both hillbilly boppers on # 209 (« Side-track daddy »), one gospel two-sider (« When you meet your Lord » # 218), a non-cover of George Jones‘ « Why baby why », very good Hillbilly bopper, in 1956 (a nice bluesy « Drop in » on flipside, # 219), then a back-to-back Rockabilly/Rocker « Ennie Meenie Miney Mo/No use knocking on my door », # 230 (Mort Marker on lead guitar), finally a 1959 rocker (# 235) « Jumpin’ the gun/Tonite I walk alone ».