Eddie Kirk, California Cityzed Hillbilly (1947-52)

Like many country artists of bygone years, Eddie Kirk is hardly known to contemporary audiences – in this case particularly surprising as he was among the first of the country music artists on Capitol Records to enjoy chart successes and one of the busiest musicians on the West coast scene in the post-war years. Yet, in the majority of the country music reference books, he doesn’t even warrant a footnote.
He was born Edward Merle Kirk on 21th March 1919 and, as his birthplace was a ranch near Greeley , Colorado, it was almost natural that the cowboy songs of the ranch hands, along with riding and roping, should have been part of his childhood. Such songs were inspirational and, by the age of 9, he was singing and tap-dancing to the accompaniment of a small local band in Greeley. Then, knowing many of the tunes by heart and accompanying himself on guitar, he won himself a daily 15 minutes show on a local radio station, earning $ 2.50 per week.
In spite of spending two years in college, majoring in civil engineering, music won out in his future ambitions. He joined the Beverly Hillbillies, a group led by Glen Rice, and touring the western states finally led him to Hollywood where he continued his radio performances. Returning to Colorado, he mixed singing with a bref period as a flyweight amateur boxer before joning Larry Sunbrook’s band in 1935. There, in addition to his fine voice and impressive guitar work, he showed off his yodeling skills and, for two consecutive years (1935-36), won the title of National Yodeling Champion.
Eddie Kirk’s career was suspended when he joined the US Navy and, after the ceasing of hostilities in 1945, he returned to Hollywood and quickly built up his reputation performing on Gene Autry’s radio show, playing guitar in Johnny Bond’s band, touring with the Andrews Sisters and making several movies, four with cowboy hero Charles Starrett for Columbia pictures.

He began his recording career in 1947 on Capitol Records, the label that had already secured country success with other western singers like Tex Ritter, Tex Williams, Jack Guthrie and Jimmy Wakely. Kirk soon added to the company’s success story with The Gods Were Angry With Me in 1948 and, the following year, with a cover of George Morgan’s Candy Kisses.. He continued recording for Capitol for another three years and, although he never achieved another chart entry, he did met his wife Barbara while signed to the label. She was the secretary of Lee Gillette, Capitol’s A&R chief and his record producer, and the two were married n 1949. After almost two dozen singles on Capitol, his recording career continued on King, RCA Victor and Volt.
In 1951 one of radio’s foremost first country music shows, Town Hall Party, was launched and, besides attracting crowds of almost 3,000 twice weekly, the Friday night shows soon gained a massive audience, thanks to transmissions on Pasadena’s KXLA, and the NBC network broadcasting the Saturday shows. Eddie Kirk became one of its regular performers, joining an impressive « who’s who » of West Coast country music talent that included Tex Ritter, Eddie Dean, Rose Lee and Joe Maphis, Tex Williams, Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle, Freddie Hart, the Collins Kids and Johnny Bond, with the show making even greater impact when segments starting being seen on television via Los Angeles’ KKTV channel.

Keeping up an almost full time schedule, Kirk was also being heard daily on a KXLA morning disc jockey show, Harmony Hoedown as well as being a member of the Hometown Jamboree group, one of the offshots of Clffie Stone’s highly successful West Coast operations. The group, which ncluded Kirk playing rhythm guitar and singing, had over 300 members and guests during its ten years duration and was a serious rival to Spade Cooley’s Hoffman Hayride broadcasting at the same time until its station, KTLA, enticed Stone’s show into its weely schedules with a substantial financial offer. The Hometown band additionnally doubled as Capitol Record’s country studio band.
Eddie Kirk was also a proficient songwriter, his biggest success being So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed, a number one record for Merle Travis, and co-penned with Travis and Stone. The same partnership also created Blue Bonnet Blues. Bright Lights And Blonde Haired Women proved a popular title for Tennessee Ernie Ford, while Kirk’s other originals included Sugar Baby, Please Don’t Cry Over Me, How Do You Mend A Broken Heart and Remember That I Love You.
In his later years, he became less engaged with the entertainment industry, devoting time to his family and a new-found love of flying. He died on 27 June 1997, aged 78 years.
Biography written by Tony Byworth

Eddie Kirk’s best bopping sides

(according to bopping Editor)

« Saturday Night Time Blues » (Capitol 974) : a boogie lead-guitar (Jimmy Bryant?) on a shuffle rhythm, certainly given by Cliffie Stone’s bass, a good steel (probably Speedy West) and a someway forceful vocal make this a very nice bopper cut in March 1950.

Blue Bonnet Blues

« Blue Bonnet Blues » (Capitol 1287) from April 1950 is one of the very best Kirk’s songs. Speedy West shines on a discreet steel as soon as the first christal notes of the song. He’s joined by Billy Liebert on accordion. There’s even an harmonica player for good on this shuffle beat superlative bopper.

The third selection is another shuffler, well suited to Kirk’s voice, who yodels gently during « Drifting Texas Sand » (Capitol 1591, from May 1951) : the usual batch of guitars, bass and harmonica (solo) comes up. From the same session I chose « Freight Train Breakdown » (Capitol 1790), a very fast song with drums and a very agile lead guitar by Jimmy Bryant (train effects by Speedy West on steel).

Cash Box July 7, 1951

Freight Train Breakdown

Cash Box September 29, 1951

In 1952 Kirk signed with RCA-Victor and cut two sessions. The first one provided a super bopper (fiddle) « Country Way » (RCA 47-5247), while he supplied us with a strange banjo led country-bopper, « Wanderin’ Eyes » (RCA 47-5287). And that was it.

Below is a partial selection of Capitol tunes Eddie Kirk played rhythm-guitar on.

Merle Travis

Kentucky Means Paradise
Cincinnati Lou
Crazy Boogie

Gene O’Quin

The Pinball Millionaire
Bustane Blues
Boogie Woogie Fever
No Parking Here
Texas Boogie

Jess Willard

Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor
Boogie Woogie Preachin’ Man

Skeets McDonald

Scoot, Git And Begone
Big Family Trouble

Tennessee Ernie Ford

I’ve Got The Milk ’em In The Morning Blues
Smokey Mountain Boogie
Mule Train
I’ll Never Be Free

Ramblin’ Jimmie Dolan

Hot Rod Race
Juke Box Boogie
Hot Rod Mama

Speedy West/Jimmy Bryant

Railroadin’
Crackerjack

Images and soundfiles from various sources.

Early October 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks. Here is the early October 2019 fortnight’s favorites selection. There will be a unusual amount of records on major labels, all cut between 1955 and 57.

He had first appeared in the late August 2016 fortnight’s selection for « Big Money » (1956) and the original of « Six Days On The Road » (1961). Here is the return of PAUL DAVIS for his second release on M-G-M (# 12209). « I’m On The Loose » is also a solid bopper, cut in July 1955.

A nice combination of bass, mandolin (probably) and fiddle is backing « I’ll Be Broken Hearted » by HYLO BROWN on Capitol 3448 – a medium uptempo weeper from June 1956.

Cash Box sept. 9, 1956

Buddy Shaw

Now on a Starday Custom (# 643, from June 1957) by BUDDY SHAW and the minor classic « Don’t Sweep That Dirt On Me ». A fast rockabilly, typical in Starday sound (guitar and piano are battling). Shaw had aslo Starday 609 (« No More ») and 618, similar style.

Bill Dudley

An intimate vocal on an uptempo rhythm, with prominent fiddle and an insistant rhythm guitar for BILL DUDLEY and « Wailing Wall » released on Capitol 2531.

On RCA-Victor 47-6147 now, BUDDY THOMPSON does offer « Don’t Kindle Up The Flame » : a mad fiddle (solo), a good steel solo, a fast bopping piano – a nice tune (June 1955). Thompson went later on Atco for Rock’n’Roll sides.

Cash Box 18 June, 1955

Stan Hardin

Two sides by STAN HARDIN from June 1957, and the surprisingly Hank Williams styled « Hungry Heart » : an uptempo shuffler with fiddle and steel. « Give Me All Your Lovin’, Baby », the flpside, is a fast bopper with energetic vocal. Decca 30302, obviousy backed by the Nashville cream of musicians.

Alvadean Coker

Finally a female bopper, ALVADEAN COKER and her « We’re Gonna Bop » (1955). A call-and-response format for a jumping bopper. A nice one. To be found on Abbott 173.

Sources: mainly Internet.

Early September 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

I don’t know where DON WINTERS hailed from, probably Nashville. He has during the mid-’50s several good discs.

On RCA-Victor 47-6154 first he asked his Lady « Forgive My Mistakes » : a nice shuffler – piano, steel solo and an extrovert, really sincere vocal.
A later side (RCA 6348) « One Way Is Bound To Be Right » finds him, in a faster rhythm. A pleasant side.

Finally he embarked Rockabilly bandwagon with a release on Coin # 102 : « Be My Baby, Baby » is still Hillbilly Bop, but almost Rockabilly. The collectors couldn’t be mistaken. The Coin issue is valued at $ 150-200. Flipside « Pretty Moon » is pure heaven Rockabilly with its urgent vocal.

A typical Honky tonker from 1956 comes next with BILL WIMBERLY and his Country Rhythm Boys : « You Can’t Lean On Me » has a good steel (solo) and fiddle. A pretty nice record for the era. Mercury 70900. Just a few months earlier (February) Wimbery had released (Mercury 70815) « Ole Mister Cottontail » and on the flipside a lively instrumental « Country Rhythm ». Later on he was on Starday (« Back Street »).

Is it useful to develop on AL TERRY ? He’s already known since 1953 for his first sides on Feature and Champion. Here he is in July 1956 on the Hickory (# 1056) label out of Nashville for a typical mid-tempo Honky tonk bordering Rockabilly, « Roughneck Blues ». A lazy vocal and the lead guitar played by none other than Grady Martin.

Casho Box, Nov. 10, 1956

We jump back in May 1954 for a real ‘tour-de-force’ by the Father of Bluegrass, BILL MONROE : here it’s his « Whitehouse Blues » (Decca 29141). It’s the FASTEST Bluegrass tune ever.

Finally from Texas in 1956 a jumping little Rockabilly bopper with “Dig Them Squeaky Shoes » by FRANK STARR on the Lin label # 1009.

Sources : my own archives ; YouTube ; various compilations.

Late March 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Late March 2019 fortnight’s favorites : the 6th of this year, and once more 9 goodies in Hillbilly bop style, from 1952 to 1965.

Wade Ray

He was a fiddler (1913-1998) and leader of a Western swing orchestra during the early ’50s, between Indiana and Illinois. Here a delivers an energetic (no fiddle, but drums) trucker song, « Idaho Red » from early 1954, on the RCA-Victor label (# 20-5624).

Burrie Manso & the Bonnivilles

On the Town-Crier label (# 200) from an unknown location (no clue from the record label), BURRIE MANSO and the Bonnivilles delivers a Rockabilly rocker with the $ 600-700 tag, « My Woman ». Very fine guitar, reminiscent of Scotty Moore, on this disc from 1960.

Bill Hicks & the Southerneers

From Detroit, although backed by the Southerneers (no doubt in order to attract real South expatriates in Michigan), BILL HICKS did cut in 1957 two fine songs for Fortune records # 188 : first a slow one, « She’s Done Gone », with a good guitar throughout ; second an uptempo and over a boogie guitar, with an almost surreal sound to them. Hicks had also records on Hi-Q and Happy Hearts.

Honey & Sonny (he Davis Twins)

In 1963, and in Charleston, W. Va. was published the great rural sounding duet (male/female) of « I’m Rough Stuff » (a Bill Carlisle song) by the Davis Twins – as they were called – also named HONEY & SONNY on their own H&S label (# 7069). Great lead guitar and infectious bass rhythm.

Charlie Huff (& Bobby Kent)

In Oklahoma City CHARLIE HUFF (and Bobby Kent) did cut in 1959 or early ’60s an uptempo, mid-paced « Can’t Tame Wild Women » : a joyful song over good guitar and electric bass (# 726). Huff had a long string of releases, from 1957 , on his own Huff label.

In Oklahoma City CHARLIE HUFF (and Bobby Kent) did cut in 1959 or early ’60s an uptempo, mid-paced « Can’t Tame Wild Women » : a joyful song over good guitar and electric bass (# 726). Huff had a long string of releases, from 1957 , on his own Huff label.

Bennie Hess

Even more prolific than Huff was Texan BENNIE HESS. Was chosen from his abundant production a 1965 record, « Trucker’s Blues » : fine backing (guitar and steel) and infectious rhythm issued on Musicode 5691. Other Hess labels which he issued on were Opera, Jet, Space/Spade, Popularity, Showland among others, that is without mentioning aliases and pseudonyms. Maybe Hess will have his story on in boppin.org someday.

Frank Hunter & the Black Mountain Boys

Finally in Tennessee by the Sarasota, Fl. originating FRANK HUNTER & His Back Mountain Boys, both sides (# 1049) of a Rich-R’-Tone label do « Tennessee Boy », a really fine and fast Bluegrass bopper (banjo and fiddle led), and « Little Boy Blue », a mid-paced bopper.

Sources : 78worlds (45-cat) for many a scan, YouTube (Honey & Sonny)(Bill Hicks)(Wade Ray), HBR-28 for Frank Hunter.

Early March 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy folks ! This is the 5th bopping fortningt’s favorites selection of the 2019 year, that of early March. Mostly made of late ’40s and very early ’50s recordings in very various styles.

Blue Ridge Playboys (Moon Mullican)

Let’s begin with a San Antonio recording from November 1936 : « Swing Baby Swing » is a Blue Ridge Playboys tune, described on the label (Vocalion 034160) as « Hot String Band And Singing » : Moon Mullican (vocal and piano) is driving the Blue Ridge Playboys with this lively tune, only a pretext for piano, fiddle (Leon Selph) and guitar solos.

Moon Mullican

Further on with two later sides by MOON MULLICAN on the King label (recorded in Cincinnati on March 6th, 1953), : « Grandpa Stole My Baby »(written by a R&B giant, Roy Brown) and « I Done It » are obvious attempts to sound R&B (a lovely saxophone and drums, played by Boyd Bennett) and predate vintage Rock’n’roll by 3 years. Lazy rhythm, haunting tracks at every listen, of course the piano is great.

Billy Hughes’ Pecos Pals

Next artist is a legendary songwriter, with classic songs from the 1946-48 era like « I’m Tellin’ You », « It’s Too Late To Change Your Mind », « Tennessee Saturday Night » or « Stealin’ The Blues ». Bopping.org devoted him an article (in October 2014), and here’s a tune that escaped to the post, BILLY HUGHES’ PECOS PALS and « Out Of Town Boogie » (4* 1202 from 1947) : it’s an uptempo mid-paced, vocally halfspoken.

Walt McCoy

WALT McCOY was a West Coast artist : he was backed by his Western Wonders, and had records on Cristal and Broadway among others. Here he delivers first a « Cowboy Boogie », a solid rhythm over a boogie guitar pattern, taken over by an uninspired steel solo, and piano, issued on the rare O and W label (# 237). Then on a 4* custom OP- record (on Pacific 145), « I’m Gonna Get A Honky Tonk Angel » is a slow thing, a bit crooning and disillusioned vocal over a good steel.

Eddie Marshall

Then on a major label (RCA-Victor # 21-0357 cut –), a cheerful, although on a bluesy type tempo, « Tom Cat Blues » by an unknown but prolific artist : EDDIE MARSHALL & His Trail Dusters. The steel-guitar goes throughout the song, and the vocal is yodeling at times.The dude had several other good records, namely « Mobilin’ Baby Of Mine » (also by Gene O’Quinn on Capitol 2075), « Honky Tonk Blues » (not the Hank Williams song), a version of « Coffee, Cigarettes & Tears » (also by Charlie ‘Peanuts ‘ Faircloth on Decca 46271) . Eddie Mashall really deserves a complete research and a publication.

Al Brumley

Later on Ohio’s Acme 1230 (1950’s, it’s difficult to date this particular issue), AL BRUMLEY & The Brumley Brothers do release « You’ve Been Tellin’ Me Lies », a good uptempo with steel present (+ solo), over a vocal well suited to this rural type of song.

Snake River Outlaws

Finally a great fiddle and mandolin led bopper from a very unusual place : Missoula, Montana. The Snake River Outlaws do « I Won’t Go Huntin’ Jake (But I’ill Go Chasin’ Women)[vocal Orville Fochtman] with good fiddle and mandolin (solo), I’d assume a ’50s disc, but may also be a ’60s one ! On their own label, Snake River Outlaw 101.

Sources : 78-world for most label scans, google for several pictures, sounds from various origins (HBR # 45 for Walt McCoy, for example)