DetroitBy Michael Hurtt, Metro TimesOctober 3, 2008
Hidden next to I-75 in Troy, just south of the Big Beaver Road exit, they sit, surroundedby strip malls, corporate high-rises and recently constructed apartment complexes. What we’re looking at is a smattering of old farmhouses — some still heated by oil furnaces and kerosene heaters — on a two-block stretch of dirt and gravel road accessible only through an abutting parking lot.
Standing in stark opposition to its recently overly developed surroundings, one has the eerie feeling that this rural enclave won’t be here much longer. But even after the last old homestead has been mercilessly uprooted and the final skyscraper is finished — indeed after even it meets its bitter end — one aspect of Troy’s countrified past will remain, and that is its status as the hometown of Clix Records, one of the most elusive, seamless and sought-after imprints in all of early rock ‘n’ roll. Those now-ancient abodes once housed the early Michigan label.
James Faye « Roy » Hall was born on May 7, 1922, in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. An old colored man taught him to play piano, and to drink. By the time Roy turned twenty-one, he knew that he was the best drunken piano-player in Big Stone Gap, and armed with the pride and confidence that this knowledge gave him, he departed the town of his birth to seek fame. Roy made it to Bristol and farther, pumping boogie-woogie in every Virginia, Tennessee, or Alabama beer-joint that had a piano. He played those pianos fast and hard and sinful, like that colored man who had taught him back in Big Stone Gap; but he sang like the hillbilly that he was. He organized his own band, Roy Hall and His Cohutta Mountain Boys (Cohutta was part of the Appalachians, in the shadows of whose foothills he had been raised up). It was a five-piece band, with Tommy Odum on lead guitar, Bud White on rhythm guitar, Flash Griner on bass, and Frankie Brumbalough on fiddle. Roy pounded the piano and did most of the singing; but everybody else in the band sang too. (suite…)
Howdy, folks! Here we go with 6 « new » Hillbilly Bop goodies from various sources, spanning nearly 20 years from 1949 to 1967. Let’s begin with Indiana’s BLANKENSHIP Brothers. They were a group doing Bluegrass and Rockabilly, as late as 1960. I’ve chosen « I Just Got One heart« , the B-side to their most famous and best tune « That’s Why I’m Blue » (Skyline 106). Way up North in the Detroit, Michigan area. Hillbilly was concentrated on Fortune Records (Jack & Devorah Brown), and the label saw many, many fine releases by Southerners who did entertain the Ford car workers. Many good Fortune sides are to be found in the excellent NL Collector serie « Boppin’ Hillbilly« (« Detroit in the 50’s« , 3 volumes), and here we have one of the earliest sides (Fortune 141, 1949) by EARL SONGER, « Mother-In-Law Boogie« . Songer himself was from West Va. and came to Detroit in the late 30’s; being a fan of Bill Cox, he was a one-man band (vocal/guitar/harmonica), before teaming with Joyce (born in Tennessee). Together they recorded many songs on Fortune: 7 disks within 2 years. Immense success.
Next we have TOMMY JACKSON and « Flat Top Box » from Lexington, KY (Sun-Ray 131) as late as…1967. Great guitar, very modern in style, altho’ the Hillbilly spirit remains untouched. Back to Indiana with the prolific Hodges Brothers Band, fronted by RALPH HODGES for a little classic on Whispering Pines 201, « HONEY TALK » with the buzzing guitar and swirling fiddle. That’s a crossover between Hillbilly and Rock’n’Roll, what they call sometimes Hillbilly Rock. They had a good amount of albums recorded by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie in the 1970’s.
And then we have a woman – and God knows they were THAT uncommon in Hillbilly! JEANIE CHRISTIE on the Blue Sky label out of St. Cloud, FLA from 1958: « Flying High« . Great and firm vocal, a solid steel-guitar throughout. A nice record!
Finally in Virginia for the tiny Liberty label (no connection with the California concern), HENDER SAUL, « I Ain’t Gonna Rock-Tonite« , one of my all-time faves in Hillbilly Rock. Forceful vocal, nice lyrics, great interplay between guitar and fiddle.
I really hope you will enjoy the selections, and you will comment after a listen or two. You can download everything, of course!
« Lâche pas la patate » (Don’t loosen the potatoe) to quote Cajun Jimmy C. Newman, and keep on Bopping!
Sources: various CDs. Pictures as usual from the excellent Terry Gordon’s site « Rocking Country Style ». Take a look at it!