Despite being a presence on the country music scene in Houston for over 30 years, Johnny Nelms never found the right song or right label to break out of the local honky-tonks. His long recording career included stops at Gold Star, Freedom, Starday, D, Tilt, Westry, Bagatelle, (briefly) Decca, and probably others, but none of these give the likes of Peck Touchton or Eddie Noack anything to worry about. They are decent C&W records, but nothing more. He was more successful as a club owner, pipefitter, Mason, and eventually a politician, serving in the Texas House of Representatives during the 62nd Legislature in 1971-72. When I met him in 1996, he was a bail bondsman in downtown Houston. (No, I wasn’t there to see him about bailing me out of jail.)
For my money, Nelms’ 1955 outing on the Azalea label is his finest hour. The record, made at Bill Quinn’s Gold Star Studio before it’s renovation, is pretty low-fidelity, but Johnny’s singing is great and musically, « After Today » is what ’50s honky-tonk is all about: raw, direct, and emotional… »white man’s blues, » as (ironically) a black country music fan explained to me once. The uncredited backing band here is Peck Touchton‘s Sunset Wranglers, which includes Doug Myers (fiddle), Herman McCoy (guitar), Hoyt Skidmore (steel guitar), and George Champion (piano) — the same band heard on Peck’s Starday and first Sarg session. Peck remembered Johnny very well and often played at his club, The Dancing Barn, on Houston’s East Side:
« We were working at the Dancing Barn with Johnny Nelms [c. 1955], » Touchton said in a 1999 interview. « We worked out there a long time. The Dancing Barn was a rough damn club, too. It was on LaPorte Road. (Nelms’s) old man, his daddy, had just got out of the pen for killing a man when we were working out there. His daddy killed one or two people. At least one. You could just look at the old man and know that the old son-of-a-bitch was dangerous. There was a few knives pulled out there during that time. Even the band had fisticuffs with the crowd. »
Azalea moved around a lot. Starting in Mobile, Alabama, it moved to Houston for awhile, then Dallas, and the final releases have a Fort Worth address. To make things more confusing, Nelms’ record was advertised in Billboard on July 16, 1955, with a New Orleans address. Presumably, label owner Dave Livingstone was a guy who « got around. » He was certainly tenacious, releasing 31 records over about seven years. None were hits, but there were quality outings from the Hooper Twins, James O’Gwynn, Dixie Drifters, Coye Wilcox, Adrian Roland, the Country Dudes, Joe Poovey, and Marvin Paul. The label should be of interest to anyone into ’50s Texas country music.
Nelms was born January 9, 1931 in Huttig, Arkansas (not Houston like he told me in 1996). He died at age 70 in Houston on February 17, 2001.
(from Andrew Brown and his blogsite « Wired for sound », 2009)
Johnny Nelms records – an appreciation (by bopping’s editor)
Both Gold Star 1386 (1950) sides [Note Nelms without « s »] are average Texas Country tunes, one fast (« I’ll learn ya, dern ya ») , the other slow – with minimal instrumentation, they can be forgotten. « I’m so Ashamed » was re-recorded just ten years later on « D » Records!
Let’s jump to 1955 and arguably the cream of the entire Johnny Nelms output with the Azalea issue. « After today » (Azalea 104) is what hllbilly bop is all about : strong and emotional vocal over a medium paced tempo, solid backing (fiddle and steel) ; « Cry, baby cry » goes in the same vein, only adding echo for a good effect, as often in Starday records.
Billboard July 16, 1955
And deservedly Nelms’ next outing was issued on the famous yellow label, and both sides (« A tribute to Andy Anderson/Everything will be all right », Starday 238)) are very good examples of the ‘Starday sound’. It’s surely ole’ Doc Lewis tickling the ivories, and possibly Ernie Hunter who’s sewing his fiddle, plus Herby Remington on steel. Great sides of 1956, reminding certain Sonny Burns‘ or Fred Crawford‘s tunes, and very near in intensity to Azalea.
It’s interesting to note that the original of « After today » had been done in 1951 by the veteran of Honky-tonk in Houston : Jerry Irby, on the Hummingbird label (# 1001) . Included below.
Next record in 1957 on the Tilt label, and the change is significant, as for the first time Nelms imitates (consciously?) someone : Johnny Cash, for a train song, « Mr. Freight Train » (Tilt 1195). Any ‘string band’ instruments removed, sole remains a nice insistant guitar, and the result is fine. Flipside is an average slowie, « Hurt is the heart ».
Finally from 1959 to 1961, Nelms went on the Pappy Daily’s ‘D’ label, and had 4 singles of an high standard, considering the era. « Yoshe’ » and « Memories for a pillow » (D 1114) are uptempos, « Old broken heart » is a mid-paced inspired item, but its flipside « Half past a heartache » (D 1195) is better. « Picture of my heart » is a slowie, and « I’ve never had the blues » D 1178) is of course bluesy. (note a fine swooping piano).
I got a rocket in my pocketWarning: I am trying a new way of setting the podcasts up, but encountering some problems. Sorry for inconvenience!
There were several country singers who cut rock’n’roll records pseudonymously in the mid-to-late ’50s. There was George Jones who barely disguised himself as ‘Thumper’ Jones, Webb Pierce who tried it on as ‘Shady Wall’ (« The new raunchy » on Decca 30539), Buck Owens who was ‘Corky Jones’ for a while on Pep…and a few more. It was a ploy that never really worked in a commercial sense, so no one had to figure out what they would do if they actually had a hit under the new name. The one who looked likeliest to score big under a pseudonym was Jimmie Logsdon, who recorded some wholly convincing rock’n’roll as ‘Jimmie Lloyd’. His rock’n’roll records were a better class because, like Elvis and Carl Perkins, he had a natural feel for the rhythm’n’blues that underpinned the music.It was although not a new tune for him, as he sounded good, as pretty good as earlier a hillbilly singer too. The son of a preacher man, Jimmie Logsdon was born on April 1, 1922, in Panther, Carroll County, Kentucky (he would be 91 today). Music, for the first fifteen years of Jimmie’s life, was gospel music. He and his sister sang in the choir. They put on shows and entered amateur contests. Then, when the family lived in southeastern Kentucky, Jimmie heard blues singers and secular country music at ice cream socials and weinie roasts. Later, he latched onto R&B, and especially remembered Erskine Hawkins’ « After hours » as a record that made a deep impression on him. Glen Miller, Gerschwin and the popular music of the day also had an impact, but not as much as blues and country. His record collection did range « from Mahalia Jackson to Jimmy Reed to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to Frank Sinatra to…whatever. »
Carroll Cty, Ky
In 1940, Jimmie graduated from high school in Ludlow, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, and in the fall of that year he married his first wife. He started working for Schuster & Schuster in Cincinnati installing public addresses, then selling appliances. In 1944 he went to war in the Air Corps, but never got further than technical training school in Madison, Wisconsin and an air base near San Antonio where he repaired the wiring on B-17s. Down in Texas, he heard Ernest Tubb and the other Texas honky tonk singers. Out of the service, Logsdon started a radio shop in La Grange, Kentucky, 25 miles northeast of Louisville on the Cincinnati highway. He picked up records to re-sell, and, after two years, decided tat he would take a stab at the music business. After borrowing other people’s guitars for a while, he finally bought one. He learned a few basic chords, then cut some demos on an old recording machine he had in the radio shop. « I went to WLOU in Louisville in 1950,» says Jimmie, « and I asked for the leader of the country band that performed on the station. He listened to my acetates and introduced me to the announcer, and they asked me to sing with the band. » The band was led by Howard Whited, a blind guitarist, who later led Jimmie’s band. After a year of no pay but plenty of exposure on WLOU, Jimmie switched to WINN, playing the honky tonks around Louisville. With the help of Art Rhoades, a furniture store owner in La Grange, and three hundred dollars, Jimmie cut his first record at the E.T. Herzog studio in Cincinnati (where Hank Williams had cut « Lovesick blues » a couple of years earlier) and issued 5 hundred copies of the Harvest label, mostly sent to D. J.s. class= »alignleft wp-image-9721″ alt= »harvest401B jimmie logsdon it’s all over now det » src= »http://www.bopping.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/harvest401B-jimmie-logsdon-its-all-over-now-det.jpg » width= »256″ height= »256″ /> It’s all over (Harvest)DownloadHank Williams introduced Logsdon for an appearance at the Louisville Memorial Auditorium in 1951, and told him he’d talk to someone down in Nashville for him. It was also around this time that he hooked with songwriter Vic McAlpin, who secured him several months later a contract with Decca, which lasted a good one year and a half, from October 1952 to February 1954, and 5 sessions resulting in 17 songs, nearly all issued at the time. McAlpin became Jimmie’s agent. One must mention a point: when other people were slowing up the tempo and did ballads, Logsdon cut bluesy things, like « You ain’t nothing but the blues« , « These lonesome blues« , or later (Dot) « Midnight blues » and « Folsom prison blues » (Jimmie Logsdon Sings 1004). First Decca session featured acoustic guitar breaks, something of an anomaly on country records at that time, and probably an idea of Owen Bradley, who A&R’d Jimmie’s sessions. « I wanna be mama’d » was issued in early December 1952. Download Then Hank Williams died, and Jimmie decided to put his feelings into a song he wrote :mg Hank Williams sings the blues no more Download The death of Hank Williams Download « Hank Williams sings the blues no more », because most of all Logsdon idolized Williams and considered him the ultimate in country and a blues singer. The song was issued with a cover version of Jack Cardwell’s « The death of Hank Williams » ; Logsdon began to edge his sound a little closer to Hank’s. It was evident during the next session in August 1953, backed by the Drifting Cowboys themselves. Best songs were « Where the old Red River flows » (often sung by Williams on radio shows), an old Jimmie Davis song Paul Cohen, Decca A&R man, wanted Logsdon to record. Alas, Logsdon could not yodel like Hank. Where the old red river flows Download two pop hits tunes of the day he turned into very nice country boppers : « Papaya mama » and « In the mission of St. Augustine ». The last Decca session didn’t produce the breakthrough single and Cohen dropped Logsdon, who was still on radio and playing clubs around Louisville before getting a year later another contract on Dot. Pa-paya mama Download Midnight boogie Download Again Vic McAlpin landed the deal with a label less and less committed to country (and increasing with Pat Boone and the Hilltoppers). Jimmie brought his own band from Kentucky. « Midnight blues » (# 1274) showed he was still on his Hank Williams kick. « Cold, cold rain » had an hiccupy vocal that seemed to predate Buddy Holly. The single went nowhere. Jimmie got another one-off on Starday though, thanks to Jimmie Skinner. The songs « No longer do I cry » and « I can’t make up my mind » were recorded in April 1956 in the bedroom of Jimmie’s fiddle player Lonnie Peerce. Logsdon wanted a Johnny & Jack Latin percussive sound so Peerce filled up a baby bottle warmer with beans and shook it. Pappy Daily, whom Skinner introduced Logsdon to, issued 500 copies, which they sold off the bandstand and used to promote the band. Cold, cold rain Download Midnight blues Download Can’t make up my mind Download In 1956, Jimmie left WKLO for health reasons. After recovering, he was back in business, and Vic McAlpin secured him a deal with Roulette and its short-lived country serie. Logsdon had got the idea for « Rio de Rosa » when he was down in San Antonio during the War. He gave a half-share of the song to McAlpin in exchange for the Roulette deal and working up the arrangement. He told « I wrote the song in 1951 with Moon Mullican in mind ». « « Where the Rio de Rosa flows » (7001) was a big hit in several markets, including Memphis where Carl Perkins obviously heard it because he covered it on his first Columbia album a few months later. Jimmie was brought down to appear on Wink Martindale’s TV show. « We went in, and Wink was on the air. He looked at me and turned white. He put a record on, shut down the microphone, and he said, ‘I thought you were black. I’ve got you a room at the black hotel here.‘ Broke me up. » Another promotional foray took Logsdon and McAlpin to the Louisiana Hayride. On the way back, they wrote « I got a rocket in my pocket » (Roulette 4068) . « It was just a nonsense thing », he says. It was a joint decision of Jimmie and McAlpin to issue the Roulette records under the pseudonym ‘Jimmie Lloyd’, because of the loyalty of country fans, and the way Jimmy sang so differently. Where the Rio da Rosa flows (Roulette 7001) Download Roulette dropped Jimmie after the second single. He realized that, at 35, he was too old to rock’n’roll. It took another five years before he went back into the recording studio, for King Records (one album, « Howdy neighbors » LP 843, and some singles). He was dee-jaying from 1962 to 1964 on 50,000 watt WCKY in Cincinnati, then for the next decade, as he had always done, moving from one to another station. He launched his own record label Jimmie Logsdon Sings in 1962, cutting no less than 23 songs, some religious, on 6-tracks EPs. In 1963 he went to Rem Records, for an EP of Hank Williams’ songs. Finally he cut a Jewel album (83021) in 1981 with old compere Rusty York (« Now and then, I think of the 50s ») comprising standards of his or others. Particularly good are his renditions of his unissued-in-the-’50s-Decca-recording of « One way ticket to nowhere » (really bluesy), Slim Harpo’s « Rainin’ in my heart« , and the traditional « Midnight special« . Less interesting were his versions of Bill Monroe’s « Rocky road blues » or the traditional « Match box blues« . Nevertheless a nicely backed (piano, harmonica) album. Already a collector’s item in Europe. Making believe (King 5827) Download Truck drivin’ daddy (King 5795) Download When God comes and gathers his jewels (JLS 1002B) Download One way ticket to nowhere (Jewel LP) Download Trouble in mind (Clark Country 1031) Download
note « JimmY » on King
« Logsdon died Sunday October 7, 2001 at his daughter’s home in Louisville, Ky. », reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. He was 79. The cause of his death was not given. From the notes of Colin Escott to Bear Family CD « I got a rocket in my pocket » (1993). Label scans mostly from Anthony Biggs. Thanks Tony! Also Pierre Monnery for the loan of Rem sides scan.
Since 1955, Central City’s WMTA radio showcased every Saturday night a live show named « The Saturday Jamboree« . Among the performers Royce Morgan can be found ; also Eddie Gaines from White Plains, Billy Harlan (the « I wanna bop » cat) on double-bass – in the late 50’s he also worked as disc-jockey on WMTA and WNES. Also Tag and Effie Willoughby, and Jimmy Piper. (suite…)
Born De Armand Noack, Jnr., 29 April 1930, Houston, Texas/ Died 5 February 1978, Houston, Texas A.k.a. Tommy Wood.
Eddie Noack, 1950
Noack who gained degrees in English and Journalism at the University of Houston made his radio debut in 1947 and made his first record for the Gold Star label in 1949, « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ». In 1951, he cut several songs for Four Star including « Too Hot To Handle« . Leased to the TNT label, it drew attention to his songwriting and was recorded by several artists (including Sonny Burns) , most recently by Deke Dickerson, who also included « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes » on his new (excellent) CD, « Deke Dickerson In 3 Dimensions ».
Noack joined Starday in 1953 (beginning a long association with ‘Pappy’ Daily), where his immediate success came as a writer when several of his songs were recorded by top artists including Hank Snow who scored a # 5 Country hit with « These Hands » in 1956.
Noack moved with Daily to his D label where in 1958, after recording rockabilly tracks as Tommy Wood, he had a country hit with « Have Blues Will Travel » (# 14).
During the ’60s, Noack quit recording to concentrate on songwriting and publishing and had many of his songs including Flowers For Mama, Barbara Joy, The Poor Chinee,A Day In The Life Of A Fool and No Blues Is Good News successfully recorded by George Jones as album cuts.
In 1968, Eddie recorded « Psycho » for the K-Ark label.
This bizarre song, about a serial killer, was virtually unknown then since the original fifties version by its composer, Leon Payne (yes, the « I Love You Because » guy), had – understandably – never received any airplay. Since Eddie’s version it has become a cult favourite, covered by, among others, Elvis Costello.
Noack did make some further recordings in the ’70s, including arguably some of his best for his fine tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers. He moved to Nashville and in 1976, recorded an album that found release in the UK (where he had toured that year) on the Look label. He worked in publishing for Daily and Lefty Frizzell and in an executive role for the Nashville Song- writers Association until his death from cirrhosis in 1978. A fine honky tonk performer, somewhat in the style of Hank Williams, he is perhaps more appreciated today as a singer than he was in his own time.
Biography taken from Black Cat Rockabilly (Dik De Heer)
Below is a reprint of a New Kommotion article from 1976, « Talk Back With Noack », in which Noack tells his early story in his own words.