Howdy folks, hello to returning visitors ! This is the late February 2018 fortnight’s selection.
Let’s begin with a well-known artist, SKEETS McDONALD. At the peak of his career in March 1958, he recorded a full album of Honky Tonk for Capitol, which I chose the rollicking « You’re there » from : fine piano, guitar by Buck Owens, it’s the sort of bopping music you never get rid of. (Capitol T 1040)
What an elusive artist is EARNEY VANDAGRIFF. He had between 1954 and 57 records on Specialty (700 serie – see the story in this site) and Starday. This time it’s the romping Rockabilly/Rocker « Be-bop Santa Claus » on California’s Rural Rhythm label (# 511). Fine piano.
SUNSHINE SUE teamed with Joe Maphis for “Barn dance boogie” (the latter’s earliest recorded known effort) on Astra 1215. It’s indeed a fast guitar tune over a male vocal. Astra was a Richmond, VA. label from about 1949 or 50.
From the small town of Florence, AL comes MOTT GILBERT on the Dixie Cleartone label # 175, from circa 1954. « Foot loose and fancy free » has a fiddle solo (Gilbert?), but uninventive steel solo and a short piano solo. The flipside « Loving mama blues » is a great piano led medium blues tune.
From 1948 come the next tracks by EVERETT LACKEY& the Lone Star Ramblers, from the Birmingham, AL Vulcan label # 3000A. « Longing for someone » is an uptempo – good guitar with Western swing overtones. The flipside « Sorrow and tears » a medium side with accordion.
MERLE KILGORE is not a newcomer. He met in the ’60s and ’70s a lot of success as a songwriter in Nashville : wrote « Ring of Fire » for Johnny Cash, and « Wolverton mountain » for Claude King. But I am more interested with his beginnings for Imperial records, seemingly all cut at KWKH in Shreveport, La. Here’s « Everybody needs a lttle lovin’ » that Merle released on # 8300. A Rockabilly guitar
Tillman Franks on double bass with Johnny Horton
(fine solo), propelled by a thudding bass (Tillman Franks?) over an urgent vocal. Later Wyatt Merle Kilgore (his actual name, being born in Chickasaw, OK. In 1934) turned frankly towards Rock’n’roll with tunes like « Please please please », cut in New Orleans in Jan. 1956 with an-all Black group, that of Dave Bartholomew, and « Ernie » . So eclectic was the man ! He was also a board member of the Hank Williams Montgomery museum, being very close to Hank’s family. He was back to his Country roots in 1959 with Country rockers on the « D » label (‘Take a trip to the moon »). Died of a lung cancer in 2005.
I didn’t find anything on the next artist : TROY JORDAN & His Cross-B-Boys, except to location of the label: Midland, Texas. So can only comment both sides of his disc issued on Tred-Way 100. The A-side is a good uptempo, « Who Flung that mater », with a too-discrete steel-guitar and well-sung, although nothing rxceptional. B-side is really fine bluesy a tune: guitar, steel, a piano solo, lazy vocal for « Don’t cry on my shoulder». Jordan was a distant cousin of the Carter Sisters, so it may be they are the right way for a research on him.
HILLBILLY HERMAN, & his Tennessee Valley Boys, despite his name, is a Blugrass artist in 1966, who offers « Today I watched my dreams come true » (Breeze 366, located in Livingston, TN), a solid uptempo, with great backing in the background The main instrument is a very nice mandolin ; alas the guitar solo is very insipid. The Breeze label had issued a very rocking version of “Wreck of the old 97” (# 381) by Jim Sebastian. A record to watch for. In the meantime, do YouTube searching! Herman had an elusive issue on Hatfield (no #)[untraced]
Howdy folks. This is the first of July 2017 bopping fornight’s favorites. And this will be a special issue, focusing on Rockabilly and/or Hillbilly Rock records of high value. If you’re lucky owning them, it’s good. On the other hand, if you have only a portion, or lacking one particular item, start hunting ! Estimated values are going from Barry K. John collector guide (BJK), and Tom Lincoln/Dick Blackurn reference book « Guide to rare Rockabilly and Rock’n’roll 45rpms » (TL/DB).
Let’s begin with the Alabama Reed 400b label, « Coal miner’s blues » by GENE COLE. It’s a great mid-tempo opus, a Country rocker with good guitar and fine voice, valued $ 200-250 (BJK), or even the more confortable tag of 800-1000 (TL/DB).
Next is very short : 1 minute 37, but full of energy. JERRY PITTS & the Rhythm Makers do on the J.P.R.M. label (obviously initials of them all) the fine up-tempo « Keep ole central rolling » from Dawson, MS. Uncommon maraccas. This record go for $ 40-50 (BJK) or even 75-100 (TL/DB).
FRED NETHERTON appears on two discs. First a great version of Carl Perkins’ « Matchbox » on California label Rural Rhythm EP 540, from 1961, backed by the Wildwood Playboys: piano and guitar solos. Valued at $ 300-400 (TL/DB). Then as fronting man for the Wildwood Trio on Dixie 1 (unknown serie) from Illinois, says Barry K. John. « The wildwood rock » with a very nasal voice, a great rockabilly guitar, a really stomping thing, It’s valued between $ 300 and 400 by B.J K.., and 600-700 by TL/DB.
Next entry is the exception. SUNSHINE SUE had this Astra issue (probably Richmond, Va.) circa 1948-49. « Barn dance boogie » (# 1215) with the first ever recording of ‘Cousin’ Joe Maphis. Fast romper, an accordion solo, and that agile guitar throughout.
Finally two discs by SLIM DORTCH from Tennessee. The very great « Big boy rock » on Eugenia 1001 from 1961 : $ 600-800 (BJK). His second is very tame in comparison, « Sixteen miles » is a honest little rocker without any more appeal.
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;
From Monroe, La, JOHNNY SKILES enlisted in WWII at the age of 17. After the war, he moved from Beaumont, Texas to New Orleans, constantly writing songs and playing his guitar.
His brother-in-law (from Monroe) was Jack Hammons, who co-wrote with him and recorded « Mr. Cupid » for Starday (# 197) in 1955. Col. Tom Parker came through Monroe one day, heard Hammons sing Skiles’ original compositions, and quickly phoned Jack Starnes at Starday to arrange a session.
Johnny Skiles was signed to a songwriter’s contract by Southern-Peer in 1955, although unfortunately nothing ever resulted from it.
Skiles then moved to Oregon (he worked for the U.S. Post Office) in the mid-to-late fifties. His first record was a Starday custom 45, « The twinkle in your eyes/Ghosts of my lonely past », released on Corvette 672 circa 1958. Bob Hill and his Harmony Ranch Hands backed Skiles on these appealing boppers. He was influenced by Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, his boyhood friend from Monroe, on his C&W material.
His next outing was Rural Rhythm 518 « Is my baby coming back/Come paddle footin’ down », cut at Portland Ace studio, and released by Jim O’Neal, the late, colorful country DJ/entrepreneur from Arcadia, California. There are distinct echoes of Johnny Cash on these Skiles Rural Rhythm sides, despite chorus. Another Rural Rhythm, EP 37 ½, had 6 tracks among them « Sundown road » [unheard] by Skiles and Bob Hill.
Then he appeared on the good bopper « Blue shadows » (Rumac OP-287).
Rockabilly fans and collectors will be more interested in Johnny Skiles’ Rumac R&R session : « Hard luck blues/Rockin’ and rollin’ » was issued on a Four Star custom pressing as Rumac OP-301 in 1959. Johnny played rhythm guitar, accompanied by his fellow Bob Hill on his custom-made 8-string Fender. « Rockin’ and rollin’ » comes as a lovely Country-rocker – good lead guitar and a lazy rhythm. Ruby Smith owned the Rumac label, although Bill McCall, the owner of Four Star, claimed co-writing credits in his usual fashion as « W. S. Stevenson ». (He was doing that possibly inspired by the « Josea-Ling-Taub » of the Modern label’s Bihari brothers, or maybe more « D.Malone », the nom-de-plume of Duke/Peacock’s Don Robey).
Two unissued tunes, « Red headed woman » and « Rock jump boogie » were also recorded at the Ace Portland session : both are gentle Country-rockers, with Bob Hill’s inventive and agile guitar well to the fore. They sound demos. 500 copies of « Hard luck blues » were pressed, and intended also as a demo and showcase. In 1959 also, Johnny fronted vocally the group of the Echomores for « What-cha-do-in » on the Portland, OR. Rocket label # 1044). It’s a fast bopper/rocker with a very nice steel (solo), a good lead guitar and a solid rhythm throughout the song. Skiles get a girl replica near the end. A very fine record by him for the era. Thanks to CheesebrewWax Archive Youtube chain for unearthing such unknown goodies! From unknown origin/date (a Jim O’Neal recording), the White label album contained one more by Skiles, « If your telephone rings », a fast Rockabilly type song.
After that, Skiles and Bob Hill teamed with Leighton Atkins on organ and Gene Cipolloon on guitar for a serie of Country instrumentals, which were released on some EP’s by Jim O’Neal, sent to D.J.s in the manner of Starday. This way Skiles received a little money, more than from his records. These Eps were used by D.J.s to segue from one segment of commercial to the next, and were released on Rural Rhythm and, yes another O’Neal label, Honey-B. I include a solitary Honey-B 102 issue for the interesting « Comin’ home to you », a medium-paced Rockabilly, despite the girl chorus by the Tonettes.
Skiles and his group kept on performing throughout the 60s and 70s on the Pacific Northwest. That’s all is known of him.
From the notes (by Cees Klop apparently) of the album White label 8967 « The original Johnny Skiles », published 1991. Additions by bopping Editor. Original labels from 45-cat. Thanks to UncleGil to have provided me the WL album.