Portland, OR. Country rock: JOHNNY SKILES (1958-59)

skiles assisFrom 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.

starday 197 jack hammons - Mr. Cupid

Jack HammonsMr. Cupid

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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.

The twinkle in your eyes

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Ghosts of my lonely past

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corvette 672b johnny skiles - ghosts of my lonely pastcorvette 672a johnny skiles - the twinkle in your eyes

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).

 

 

Is my baby coming back

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Come paddle footin’ down

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Blue shadows

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rural rhythm 618a johnny skiles - is my baby comin' backrural rhythm 518B johnny skiles - come paddle footin' downrumac 287 johnny skiles - blue shadows

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).

rumac 301 johnny skiles - hard luck bluesrumac 301 johnny skiles - rockin' and rollin'

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billboard; June 6, 1959

Rockin’ and rollin (A two tone beat)‘”

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Hard luck blues

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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.

Red headed woman

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Rock jump boogie

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The Echomores (Johnny Skiles, vo)”What-cha-do-in

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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.

Comin’ home to you

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If your telephone rings

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Skiles and his group kept on performing throughout the 60s and 70s on the Pacific Northwest. That’s all is known of him.

skiles & group

 

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.

Johnny Tyler, the “Oakie Boogie” man (1946-1957)

johnny tyler color

Lehman Monroe « Johnny » Tyler was born in Pochontas, Arkansas, on February 6th, 1918. What he made during the Thirties and how he traveled so far to California in the mid-40s is unknown, neither if he had particular talent in his youth for music. He must although have been a good seller in 1946-47, because RCA-Victor made him cut no less than 35 tracks within a year.

Randolph Cty, Ark. Pocohontas at bottom center

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late February 2011 fortnight favorites

Howdy, folks! We begin way up North, in Wisconsin, with the very first record by a singer who had to wait 11 years more before fame with “Six Days On The Road“! Yes, DAVE DUDLEY cut numerous discs before his giant hit of 1963. Did you know the original version was recorded by a certain PAUL DAVIS on the Nashville Bulletin label in 1961? If you want to hear it, just type his name on the research button. Well, back to Dave Dudley. Here is his “Nashville Blues“, firmly founded on Hillbilly Bop.

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Dave Dudley

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courtesy Al Turner

On the West Coast, 1956. DERAL CLOUR (& Charley Drake) recorded the fine “Sundown (Boogie)” for the scarce HU-SE-CO label. A superior medium boogie guitar backed, and a very atmospheric echoey duet vocal, “crazy ’bout the boogie when the sun goes down….”

huseco  clour sundown

In the South (Texas?). Imperial records for BILLY McGHEE and “I’m Your Henpecked Man“. This was 1953. McGhee was to have 5 more discs on the label; I don’t know what happened to him afterwards.

BOB POTTER & the Wear Family were apparently from California and cut the odd custom sides for Rural Rhythm. Here it is their good uptempo “Leavin’ And Laughin’” from 1956.

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Just another duet, among millions: the GAY BROTHERS.  Harold & Carl cut in 1953 the great “You Locked Up My Heart” in Houston for Dan Mechura’s Allstar label: a fast bopper and a stunning fiddle.

ZEKE CLEMENTS was an early Grand Ole Opry star who had many records late ’40s and early ’50s. Here I’ve chosen the good uptempo “I’m Goin’ Steppin’ With You” issued on his own Janet EP label.

zeke clementsjanet  clements