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.
Hello, folks ! This is the first 2018 (early January) fortnight’s favorites’ selection. As usual, a mix of Hillbilly boppers, Rockabillies and Country rockers.
First come WADE JERNIGAN for « So tired », a fine Rockaballad on the Mobile, AL, Sandy label (# 1010). Good steel and extrovert vocal. Despite some research, he didn’t cut any other record. »So tired » was written par Johnny Bozeman, apparently the owner of the label, who recorded « She’s my bayou babe » on the Biloxi, MS. Fine label 1006, and also had « How many/The blues and I » (pop ballads) on Sandy.
Then four tracks by the Virginian KEN LIGHTNER and the Hay Riders. He recorded in 1961 on Dixie (a Starday custom label) # 913 his most well-known track (it even appeared on a volume of the late Cees Klop Dixie CD series), « The Corner of love ». Some would call it a teen rockabilly. It bears though a nice steel battling with a good guitar, even a short piano solo, and to be true, a light vocal. Slowier is the flipside « Am I still the one« , once more with a mellow steel. The same goes for the short (less than 2 minutes) « Mary Ann » on the Wheeling, Wva. Emperor label 220 from 1959 ; again a fine steel, and a very alluring rhythm. Finally on the Kingston # 418 label, the song « Big big love », which is a easy-going country-rocker led by steel again.
On the Kentucky label (# 575) from Cincinnati, BOB MOONEY has an amusing talking blues, « A sucker born every day », which is a tour de force for the steel guitar : it’s litterally cracking and howling. He already had cut « Aubomobile baby« [sic] on Cozy 317/318 in 1953, and « Sucker » was reissued on REM 350 in 1964.
From Louisiana now, two tracks by BUCK WHEAT (rn C.M. Wheat, from San Antonio, Tx). Backed by the Wheatbinders. A lazy Rockabilly/country rocker first with « Texaswoman » on the Goldband label (# 1093, from 1959) ; then « Twitterpated » on the Folk-Star label (# 1303, a subs. to Goldband) : a great piano led shuffle beat, a bluesy guitar solo.
We come to an end with both sides of Columbia 21031 (October 1951) by the MERCER BROTHERS, Charlie and Wallace. They originated from Metter, south of Georgia, and began to appear at the Louisiana Hayride in 1948. « It ain’t no use » and « Tell me who » have a distinguished Delmore Brothers appeal. No surprise, since Wayne Raney himself backed them on harmonica for the session.
R. D. Hendon & his Western Jamboree Cowboys were one of the most popular western bands in South East Texas in the first half of the 1950s. Their renown never really extended much beyond the Houston area, but that sort of regional fame was the norm in an era when the country music scene was far les centralized and national stardom was a far more rare thing han it became in later decades. The group served as training ground for such performers as the great songwriter and singer Eddie Noack and the guitarist-vocalist Charlie Harris – neither a household name then and now, but this is not a reflection of their abilities or relative importance – and also included a number of less known but no less talented performers, such as guitarist-vocalist Harold Sharp, fiddler Woody Carter and guitarist Hamp Stephens.
R. D. Hendon himself was rarely an active participant in the band – he had, by all reports, an almost singular lack of musical ability or talent – though he did in his later stages attempt to drum and sing with the group and recorded a recitation under the name the Western Rambler. Nor were the Western Jamboree Cowboys the smoothest and slickest of Houston’s numerous top-notch western dance bands. They were more a classic honky-tonk band than a western swing band like Dickie McBride or Benny Leaders’ groups ad excelled the closer they stuck to that classic, earthier sound. The Cowboys’ performing days came to an abrupt halt in September of 1956 when Hendon, long a troubled man, took his own life, but in the preceding half decade they laid down a number of fine recordings – including a couple of undisputed classics.
Rigsby Durwood Hendon was born around 1914 in Marquez, Texas, and grew up in the Houston area. He served in the Navy and worked as an oilfield roughneck before entering the night club business. The growing popularity of the house band, the South Texas Cowboys, at his Sprinx Club led Hendon to purchase a larger club, the Old Main Street Dance Hall, better known, as Andrew Brown has pointed out, by its street address, 105½ Main. « Hendon gave the club « a western theme » Brown adds, « and rechristened it the Western Jamboree Night Club. The band’s name change followed suit and, by 1950, the club was drawing huge crowds six nights a week. » The band began broadcasting on Houston’s KLEE, where Hendon also nabbed a slot as a disc jockey, and began recording around the start of 1951.
The band’s first recordings were for Sol Kahal’s local Freedom label (# 5033), which had been in operation since 1948 and began a hillbilly series a year or so later. »Those tears in your eyes » b/w « No shoes boogie » was actually issued under bandmember Charlie Harris‘ name, with Hendon and the band receiving secondary credit. The disc is a classic, « No Shoes Boogie » being, Brown writes, »an excellent example of the hard-rocking, shuffle-beat swing that was common in Texas before rock and roll. » In addition to Harris, who wrote and sang both songs and supplied incisive, hot lead guitar, the band at this time included Johnny Cooper, guitar; Theron Poteet, piano ; Tiny Smith, bass ; and Don Brewer, drums. Regular steel man Joe Brewer was replaced on this session by former Texas Playboy, the legendary and still active Herb Remington, who played one of his most exciting solos here.
Soon after, Hendon & the Cowboys joined a number of other Houston acts – including Jerry Jericho and Hank Locklin – in the stable of Bill McCall, the canny and ruthless West Coast label owner whose long-term relationship with the legendary Houston distributor and record man Pappy Daily yeilded a number of excellent recordings on McCall’s Four Star, Gilt-Edge and associated custom and radio-play labels. From the beginning, the Cowboys’ recordings were generally issued in Four Star’s quasi-custom « X » series, but several issues also wound up being issued on the label’s main series and this saw wider distribution.
The Four Star recordings were inaugurated by another coupling that featured Charlie Harris, who was soon to leave the group. « Oh ! Mr. President » (4* X-20) was a rush-job in the spring of 1951, a rare, overtly political song dealing with the firing of General MacArthur by President Truman. This was followed by an excellent coupling that featured long-time bandmember Johnny Cooper, « The Wandering Blues » b/w « Marking time » (4* X-24).
Cooper was soon replaced by Eddie Noack, already a veteran of the Houston recording scene and by mid-1951 the Western Jamboree Cowboys had settled into a classic lineup. Vocals were divided among Noack, Cecil « Gig » Sparks and Harold Sharp, with the two former supplying rhythm guitar and Sharp playing a sturdy lead. Don Brewer played steel, Tiny Smith played bass (Sparks and Smith had recently joined the band from Leon Payne’s group). A slew of strong recordings followed, including Noack’s classic debut, « I can’t run away » (4* 1590) , and two versions of the pretty « This moon won’t last forever ». The first version featured Harold Sharp (4* X-33) and a guest appearance of one of the song’s writers, trumpeter-bandleader Gabe Tucker, while a remake (4* 1590) marked the brief return of the peerless balladeer Charlie Harris and boasted a fiddle solo by former Floyd Tillman band mainstay Woody Carter, who joined the band for a few months during 1951-52 and was featured on the fiddle tune « Nervous Breakdown ».
Starday sides featured old hands like Harold Sharp and Gig Sparks, but later sides feature new bandmembers Taylor and Jack Rodgers. Hendon had a small hit in 1956 with « Lonely nights » (Starday 248) and another good tune was « Return my broken heart » (# 167).
Hendon’s suicide came not long after the final Starday release and occurred at a time of great musical upheaval. Rock and roll had arrived with a vengeance and it would have been interesting to see if Hendon would have managed to ride the storm of changing tastes – at the same time, the dancehall scene was being decimated by television and other factors. At any rate, Hendon was certainly game to try something new – his second Starday release found him trying his hand at singing rockabilly on the odd, uneven « Big Black Cat »(Starday 194) – although it’s obvious that Hendon was not a talented vocalist, as on the unissued-at-the-time « My old guitar » (during the song he even loses several times the tempo!).
Sources : the main biography went from Kevin Coffey for the Cattle CD 329 (2006), and some additions from Andrew Brown. As usual, a solid help was given by the indefatigable 78rpm-owner Ronald Keppner out of Frankfurt, Germany, thanks to him. Four Star X-20 was given by Steve Hathaway. Then my own researches and archives.