Hello folks, welcome to new listerners, howdy to returners !
This is the late March 2018 fortnight’s favorites selection, and it will include only 3 artists.
First is TAYLOR PORTER for 4 sides. First two were issued February 1958 (60 years ago..) on Starday # 694. « No more lovin’ you » is a fluid uptempo bopper ; the steel solo is common. The overall impression however is great. The flipside « It’s over now » is more of an uptempo shuffler. Fiddle and steel solos. It bears something lazy. Now it’s not that sure this Taylor Porter was the same as in the following tunes.
The old Hank Snow (as « Hank, the Singing Ranger » who cut this song in 1944) song « Sunny side of the mountain » by (another?) TAYLOR PORTER on the Salem, IN Radio Ridge label # 85. It’s a fast bluegrass (banjo) bopper ; fiddle solo dueling with banjo, from 1956. He had another issue on the same label, « Sweetheart, you were wrong », and on Excellent 225.
Then in 1961 on the Manchester, KY Janet (which was Zeke Clements’ – the latter’s story is on the line) label (# 25-60), he has « Away out there », a fast unclassable country tune. We finally find him for a sacred 6 songs EP on Ark 312 in 1964.
Next track is an instrumental, rare in bopping (I prefer voices!). DINK EMBRY [And – strangely – The Kentucky Lads] is probably a Memphian. Is he who pounds the ivories on this « Mason Dixon boogie », issued on Dot 1039 (early 1951) ? In any case, the tune is medium lowdown danceable one with guitar, piano and steel (plus bass of course).
The next four tracks are all done by JAKE THOMAS and all issued between September 1962 and March 1965 on the Dixie label. Wonder if this is really the Starday custom famous label. All tracks were apparently recorded in Arkansas.
Both first tracks, as Jake Thomas and Bluegrass Band, issued on Dixie 987, are medium paced, and have a fine dobro backing over a great vocal, plus bass and rhythm : « What’ll I do » and « If you keep doing what you do to me » are very good examples of 60’s Hillbilly bop.
Nothing is known about this important, although quite obscure artist of the 1940’s and ’50’s. Even not any statistic of birth or death, although he was certainly livng in the Dallas, TX area, and was born there during the ’20s. Nothing more is known about his childhood and beginnings in music, so we are forced to deal only with the records he appeared on.
From 1939 until 1952 he was closely associated with another Texan, AL DEXTER and worked with him either as washboard player (in the ’30s), sometimes harmonicist, and in some cases held the vocal duties into the Dexter’s band, « The Troopers », not forgetting he was also songwriter : he was co-writer (with Tex Ritter) of the all-time Hank Williams‘ classic, « Dear John ». But more about that later.
In 1939, he was a member of the Al Dexter’s Troopers, as said before, and offered the group a good selling disc : « Wine, women and song » – recorded in December 1939 and issued on Vocalion 5572, it was covered by Texas Jim Lewis in September 1940 (Decca 05875), and by the Prairie Ramblers (Decca 05878) – the song must’ve looked to Decca’s executives a lucrative seller). When re-recorded by Dexter on Columbia 37062 in April 1945, he was a second time covered (a reissue) by Jim Lewis (Decca 46021). It attracted two more versions in 1946 by Frankie Marvin (San Antonio 107) and Dick James (Coast 234).
Gass gave Al Dexter (or co-wrote with him) two more songs in 1941/42 : « The Money You Spent Was Mine » (Okeh 6206) and « Honky Tonk Chinese Dime »(OKeh 6604). He played the harmonica on « Diddy, Wah, Diddy With A Blah !Blah ! » (Vocalion 6255) – which Dexter re-recorded later on King as « Diddy Wah Boogie » (# 885). Gass also held the vocal duty for « Sunshine » (Vocalion 04988, reissued in 1946 on Columbia 20240), both coming out of a long 8-track June 13th 1939 session.
As far at it concerns records, Aubrey Gass disappeared from the music scene between 1941 and 1946. Was he drafted in U.S. Army during W.W. II such a long time is improbable. Anyway, his first record under his real name was issued mid to late 1946 in Houston by Gold Star (# 1318) and coupled a then-famous for veterans couplet, « Kilroy’s Been Here » and « Delivery Man Blues ». Backed by the Easterners (guitar, bass, fiddle, steel and piano), Gass on alert vocal and harmonica delivers a joyful A-side, although the bluesy B-side is equally at home. Indeed both sides were written by Gass, who saw the following year a reissue of his Gold Star disc on the new DeLuxe (#6001) label, a proof of the popularity of the record.
It must also be noted that a song « Kilroy Was Here » was recorded and released by Paul Page on Enterprise; reviewed by Billboard on August 31, 1946, no one can say who came first for sure.
« Dear John » […] was his biggest song ; in fact, it was the only hit he ever wrote. The first version was by Jim Boyd, younger brother of Dallas-based western swing artist Bill Boyd. Gass apparently knew Jim Boyd, offered him « Dear John », and Boyd recorded it on March 11, 1949. Soon after, Tex Ritter got his finger in the pie. Ritter probably promised to get the song cut by a big name, like himself, or to get Gass a contract with his label, Capitol, if he could get a piece of the song. The fact that Gass recorded « Dear John » for Capitol (# 40239, or # 1427) some five months after Boyd suggests that Ritter lived up to his half of their convenant. Hank Williams later picked (early 1951) up the song, this time co-written « Ritter-Gass ». Note : Jim Boyd’s version is already written by Gass and Ritter…
The session for Capitol took place in Dallas on August 9th, 1949 (Billboard announced both the contact signing and the recording session on Sept. 17) and supplied four more Gass-written songs. The backing of Wesley Tuttle and Group (specially come to Dallas) was made of Gass himself (vocal/harmonica), probably Tuttle (rhythm-guitar), a steel, a bass player and a drummer. First came the already discussed « Dear John » : Gass is full of energy on harmonica, has a husky voice, as on the fast « Look Me Up » and (by far the most hard-rocking tune of the lot) « K.C. Boogie ». The last song, « Gee But I’m Lonely Tonight », is a slowie and Gass doesn’t seems at ease here.
« Dear John » had numerous versions, among them an R&B rendition by Dinah Washington, which climbed at n°3 in the charts. It also had a follow-up in 1953 as « A Dear John Letter », first by Jean Shepard (Capitol 2502).
Next recording session Aubrey Gass collaborated for was done on May 19, 1950 by Al Dexter and his Troopers again. Gass was present, and played some harmonica on several tracks, but still being contracted to Capitol, could not sing at all. He plays (distinct style easily recognizable) on « Blow That Lonesome Whistle, Casey » (King 875)[very near in essence to “K. C. Boogie“], « Walking With The Blues » (which he co-wrote) (King 884), then both sides of King 913 : « Diddy Wah Boogie » and « You’ve Been Cheatin’ On Me ».
Al Dexter & His Troopers, “Blow That Lonesome Whistle, Casey”
At unknown dates he cut several demos at Sellers Studio in Dallas, between 1950 and late 1951. Three of them found their way on the British/Nederland Boppin’ Hillbilly compilation n° 2810. Due to legal rights, we are not allowed to offer these great sides. They are : « Columbus Stockade Blues », « Here Today And Gone Tomorrow » and « Walkin’ Out Of Town ».
But « Counting My Teardrops » and « Fisherman Boogie », cut late 1951 or early 1952, were issued under Gass’ own name by Sellers as acetates, and released just as they were under Al Dexter’s name (« Vocal by Aubrey Gass») on Decca, respectively 28345 and 28137 during the first half of 1952. Both tracks were probably recorded (given date by Michel Ruppli’s book « The Decca label » as Feb. 7, 1952) with the Al Dexter band : trumpet, rhythm-guitar, piano (particularly rolling in « Fisherman’s boogie»), steel, bass and drums and no harmonica at all. This 14 tunes session has no less than 8 unissued tracks, and could well reveal some surprises.
A recent discovery on eBay has surfaced an unissued Audiodisc dated (as handwritten on label) May 23,1956. « Garbage Man » by Gass is a strange novelty : only vocal, harmonica and rhythm guitar. The acetate was gone on December 19, 2017 for $ 118,00.
In 1962 (June) Aubrey Gass gave Tom O’Neal « Two Many Tickets » (released first on Cheatham 104, then reissued on Starday 607), a country rocker ; it’s probably Gass who played the harmonica in this song, as well as on the flipside « Sleeper Cab Blues ».
Further research has unearthed a demo of « Corn Fed Gal », cut for the « Boyd Recording Service » in Dallas. The strange thing is that this version runs at 2 mn 05, while the Helton version has a duration of 2 mn 22. So then, are they the same ? Could it be that the lucky owner of the Boyd record please stand up and say the truth about this point. I am inclined personnally towards two different versions. This demo was sold on eBay in 2010 for $ 136,00.
Last record is on the Swansee label # 1908 (mid-’60s) by Mr. G. « Pork-N-Beans » and « Sittin’n’Thinkin’ » are unheard, both written « Aubrey A. Gass », so cannot comment. Remember (see above) his actual name was Aubrey Andrew Gass.
Sources : my sincere thanks to UncleGil for Bronco Buster, the King Project, the Starday project and BACM music ; many (if not all) label scans do come from 78rpm-worlds ; thanks to ole’ Ronald Keppner for Sellers acetates ; Dave Sichak of hillbilly-music.com for Aubrey Gass only known picture ; Gripsweat site for 1956 acetate ; Colin Escott, « Hank Williams, The Biography » for the « Dear John » story. Billboard books for notifications of releases (Thanks Imperial!).
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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.
Dusty Owens was born on September 2, 1930 in Fairdealing, Missouri as Robert James Kucharski. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Flint, Michigan where he spent most of his childhood. When he was 6 years old, Robert took violin lessons in school but he later moved to accordion which seemed to be more to his liking. In 1947, while in High school, he joined a local western band called the O.K. Boys to play the accordion. Later that year Robert became their front man and changed the band’s name to Dusty Owens and his Rodeo Boys.
In 1947 Owens entered Flint Technical High School but he soon dropped out and moved to Saginaw, Michigan, to find a job as a professional musician. It was in St. Joseph, Missouri, while working for radio station KFEQ that he received his first official pay as a musician. When Glen Harris of Shenandoah, Iowa radio station KMA asked Dusty to come work for him, he moved to Iowa. At KMA he got acquainted with the famous Blackwood Brothers Quartet and with Ike Everly, the father of Everly Brothers Don and Phil. Ike was largely responsible for Dusty’s later career: he stimulated Dusty to concentrate on a singing rather than on playing the accordion and he helped him to get his own weekly 15-minute radio show at KMA. Ike treated Dusty as his pupil and took him to all kinds of events that might be helpful for Dusty’s singing career.
In 1949 Dusty Owens recorded several radio transcriptions for “Mother’s Best Flour” as well as for “Lassie Feeds” but when he got married later that year, he returned to Flint to work as an accordion teacher at a local school of music. In 1951, he and his former band the Rodeo Boys regrouped and briefly worked for radio station WHO, Des Moines. Apart from doing their regular weekday radio shows, the Rodeo Boys also were part of the “Iowa Barn Dance Frolic” that was broadcasted on Saturday nights.
In 1953, Dusty and his band joined the Wheeling Jamboree from Wheeling, West-Virginia, which was one of the most famous barn dances at the time. That same year Owens signed a songwriters contract with Acuff-Rose and on October 1, 1953 he signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. It was a standard contract for one year against a royalty rate of 2% of 90% and two one-year options.
On October 28, 1953 Dusty Owens did his first recording session for Columbia, with Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys and Chet Atkins providing the back-up. During the session at the Castle studio in Nashville’s Tulane hotel, he recorded four songs that were all self penned. Columbia released “Hello, Operator” and “The Life You Want To Live” (Columbia 21202) in January, 1954 and in May they released “Just Call On Me” and Somewhere She’s Waiting” (Columbia 21260).
The second recording session for Columbia was done on June 3, 1954, and again, Columbia released all four songs.
Don Law decided to exercise the first option in Owens’ contract and on June 21, 1955, he did his third recording session for the label. Only two songs of this session were eventually issued and Columbia didn’t exercise the second option.
In 1956 Owens recorded six songs for his own Admiral label, including his most famous song “Once More” that was later cut by many others including George Jones, Melba Montgomery, the Osborne Brothers, Roy Acuff and Dolly Parton. During the 1960’s he recorded for Wynwood, but the quality of those recordings was inferior to his previous output.
Dusty Owens, a music appreciation (by bopping’s editor)
The Columbia sides (1954-1955) are generally of high standard. Although Owens is more at ease with medium paced tear-jerkers, he offers also some very good fast boppers. Let’s investigate his records side by side.
« Hello, operator » (# 21202) is a fast uptempo with fine fiddle and bass. A steel solo and a brisk vocal. Its flipside «The life you want to live » is a sincere medium paced shuffler.
More of the previous one with the follow-up « Just call on me » # 21260) : a warm voice over a fine fiddle. Its flipside « Somewhere she’s waiting » is an uptempo which shines the steel of Don Helms in.
The last 4 Columbia sides are all medium paced weepers, sometimes very sincere, but excitement is gone, and no song really comes to light.
The Admiral sides are in comparison far superior than the Columbias.
A very great early 1956 fast duet first « It’s goodbye and so long » (# 1000) with Donna Darlene (1938-2017), paired with the all-time hit « Once more » : an energetic blend of duet vocal, fiddle and steel.
« Cure that shyness » (# 1002) has Don Owens solo and is a fast bopper. « A place for homeless hearts » is a medium paced tune with great ‘hillbilly’ voice. « Hey honey » ( 1004) is a good version of the Wiley Barkdull song (Hickory 1074) and dates from 1957. The flip « Our love affair » is a fast shuffler with strong bass.
And mention must be made of the Abbie Neal Rockabilly platters on the label: “Newton’s law” (# 1001), “If again” (# 1006) and “Hillbilly beat” (# 15000). They may come in later fortnight’s favorites.
Biography and Columbia songs taken from W. Agenant « Columbia 20000 serie » blog ; Admiral songs from various sources, mainly YouTube. Labels from 45-cat or 78rpm-world. Dusty Owens pictures from Hillbilly-Music site.
Howdy ! This is the early February 2018 fortnight’s favorites selection.Let’s begin with a Western swing Houston scene veteran : DICKIE McBRIDE, here late in his career ( October 1951). Billed with his wife Laura Lee (who is absent here), he delivers a powerful and moving « I love you boogie » on M-G-M 11056. Fine steel and piano, and a lot of yells and whistles from apparently McBride himself.
Another veteran, out of the Gospel and Bluegrass field : MAC ODELL (rn Odell McLeod), who was born in 1916 in Roanake, Alabama. His career had a large stretch between New Orleans and Michigan, before he settled down in Nashville, as « Ole Country Boy » in the late ’40s. He recorded first at Mercury, then landed at King , but had poor sales as an artist. More as a songwriter for others : « The battle of Armageddon » for Hank Williams, or « The glorybound train » for Roy Acuff. At King, he was firmly Bluegrass, backed by Don Reno and Red Smiley. Here is his fast half-talked «Penicillin » from September 1953 on King 1251. O’Dell has deceased in 2003.
Red Barn was a regional Kansas City concern, important for example for the first Jimmie Skinner sides of the late ’40s. The name ELMO LINN may be an obscure one ; he had however two interesting issues on this label. « Lorita » (Red Barn 1188A) is a medium paced shuffler with steel. Vocal reminds a bit Ernest Tubb. The flipside « Line on the highway » is a fast guitar backed tune. « Heart full of love » (Red Barn 1195) comes next, with again that shuffling rhythm. Later on Linn went to Westport (pop country).
From Lorain, Ohio, VERN TERRY on the Athena label (a Starday custom) from 1959. « Miss you » is a good slowie, the instrumentation is minimal, echo is on the vocal, and steel is to the fore. (# 804). The flipside « Someone new » is an uptempo shuffler. Good steel and fiddle.
From Nashville, RAY BATTS in 1954 for two sides on the Excello label # 2028. The marvelous bopper « Stealin’ sugar » : complete with steel and piano. It has moreover nothing to do with the Merle Lindsay tune (MGM 10795) of the same name. The flipside, « Maybe it’s you, sweetheart » is a shuffler. Batts had also on Bullet 754 the great double-sided « Bear cat daddy/Wild man boogie », reviewed in « Bullet – always a smash it », published here in May 2012.