MERLE KILGORE is not a newcomer. He met in the ’60s and ’70s a lot of success as a songwriter in Nashville : wrote « Ring of Fire » for Johnny Cash, and « Wolverton mountain » for Claude King. But I am more interested with his beginnings for Imperial records, seemingly all cut at KWKH in Shreveport, La. Here’s « Everybody needs a lttle lovin’ » that Merle released on # 8300. A Rockabilly guitar
Tillman Franks on double bass with Johnny Horton
(fine solo), propelled by a thudding bass (Tillman Franks?) over an urgent vocal. Later Wyatt Merle Kilgore (his actual name, being born in Chickasaw, OK. In 1934) turned frankly towards Rock’n’roll with tunes like « Please please please », cut in New Orleans in Jan. 1956 with an-all Black group, that of Dave Bartholomew, and « Ernie » . So eclectic was the man ! He was also a board member of the Hank Williams Montgomery museum, being very close to Hank’s family. He was back to his Country roots in 1959 with Country rockers on the « D » label (‘Take a trip to the moon »). Died of a lung cancer in 2005.
I didn’t find anything on the next artist : TROY JORDAN & His Cross-B-Boys, except to location of the label: Midland, Texas. So can only comment both sides of his disc issued on Tred-Way 100. The A-side is a good uptempo, « Who Flung that mater », with a too-discrete steel-guitar and well-sung, although nothing rxceptional. B-side is really fine bluesy a tune: guitar, steel, a piano solo, lazy vocal for « Don’t cry on my shoulder». Jor
This Knoxville bluegrass brother group was largely overshadowed by the Brewster Brothers, with whom the siblings Audie and Earl Webster performed and recorded as part of a unit that was named with a great deal of brotherly love: the Brewster Brothers and Four Brothers Quartet. The implied confusion is enough to make one’s head spin along the lines of a deep shot of the liquor brewed in the hills above Knoxville. The band name suggests the presence of three sets of brothers, four of them related, but in reality there was only the combination of the Webster Brothers and the Brewster Brothers , totalling four. This is by no means the worst mistake in math in terms of bluegrass band names. That honor would probably go to the 7 Flat Mountain Boys, which was usually a quartet. At any rate, some bluegrass fans assume the Webster Brothers were like the Brewster Brothers in that they became prolifically recorded sidemen working in the bands of bigger bluegrass and country names, such as Carl Butler or Red Allen. This premise is normally based on the existence of players such as or Otis Webster or Jackie Webster, but neither of these old-time pickers nor any other Webster was a part of the Webster Brothers unit. Audie Webster played mandolin, guitar, and sang, while his more handsome brother Earl Webster was cut out to be a frontman, learning to handle lead vocals and rhythm guitar in order to live up to expectations. In tandem with the Brewster Brothers, it was the Webster Brothers who got to wear the light-colored suits and the former brothers got the dark stripes. Whatever meaning this might have in the bluegrass hierachy is unknown, but it seems important to mention. Singer Carl Butler, also a Knoxville lad, also formed a working combination with the Webster Brothers, cutting some records with them for Columbia, but owed no strict allegiance to the family. Butler also sang with other area brother groups, such as the Bailey Brothers – who, coincidentally appeared on the Grand Old Opry with the Brewster Brothers — and the Sauceman Brothers. In a sense, the basic concept of the lead vocal in a Knoxville bluegrass “brother” band of the ’50s can be likened to an old-time mystery: one can always assume the Butler did it. One he did with the Webster Brothers was “Somebody Touched Me » a bluegrass gospel warhorse that has been cut in nearly 50 different versions.
The Webster Brothers collaboration with Carl Butler was going on for a full year, between October 1954 and November 1955 – they had already cut themselves 4 sides in March 1954 . During this term they recorded 16 sides, either on the Okeh label (a subsidiary of Columbia), or on the main label. An half was made of religious songs, well settled in Bluegrass tradition, the other included rural Boppers that had an appeal to the white market. Their best songs were : « Kisses don’t lie »/ »I wouldn’t change you if I could » (Okeh 18052)
Years later the Webster Brothers issued in 1962 on the Nashville Do-ra-me label (# 1432) a modern Bluegrass song, « My heart won’t let me forget». One more ’45 on the IHS label and that was it, they disappeared from music scene.
Sources : a biography by Eugene Chadbourne on AllMusic site. Ronald Keppner and 78-world for label scans. Willem Agenant (Columbia 20000 serie) for the music.
Howdy, folks ! All you lovers of good ole’ bopping beat and hillbilly enthusiasts, here we go with another batch of goodies for this early October 2017 fortnight’s favorites’ selection.
First a strange record , I even don’t know its location neither its date of issue : late ’50s ? early ’60s ? Can anybody shed some light on this mystery ? THE NELSON FAMILY on the Olis label (# 080). A spare instrumentation, very light (electric guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and discreet drums) for the great dramatic atmospheric «You Hurt me (and say I’m sorry)». Great harmony vocals (tenor + baritone). I just found « Hillbilly Christmas » by a certain Norma Lynn [unheard] on Olis B20, and even don’t know if this is the same label.
From Flint, Michigan, on the Lucky 11 label, three tracks by CHUCK SLAUGHTER. First a minor classic from 1967 : a crisp Country rocker with « Get the best of livin’ » (# 002) – « I’m gonna get the best of livin’, before livin’ get the best of me »..Fine steel. The flipside « Woman, a pretty woman » is a decent honky-tonker, a bit spoiled by some obstrusive female chorus ; good steel anyway. Third tune is a fast rocker, « Lucky 11 Rock » (no #) : this time the vocal chorus do fit it well. A biting guitar solo. Slaughter had a further issue on Desire 113, as a J. Cash sound-a-like, « Burning in my soul » can be heard on YouTube.
Next artist do come from Colorado Springs, Colorado. GENE LEWIS and his Dude Rancher’s [sic] has two good bopping sides on the Barne’s label. « Mother Goose boogie » (# 103) is a very nice hillbilly boogie , stylistically from ca. 1953-54, while its flipside « Purple Heart of Gold » (# 104) is a slowie, full of emotion. And despite the common name, one can wonder if this is the same cat who cut in 1958 on the California label R-Dell (# 103) the great Rockabilly/Rocker « Crazy legs » [fabulous Roy Lanham solo on the electric guitar] (backed with « S’posin’ you were mine »). The question is open to anybody’s guess..but most probably no. “Mother Goose boogie“
The seventh track of the selection is done by the well-known BILL MACK, artist and D.J. from Texas. His « Long, long Train » is done in his usual style ( Starday 418), with few steel and a good fiddle.
Last track was issued in Paris, Texas [the place was the subject of a Wim Wenders’ film a couple of decades ago] , located between Dallas and Arkansas border, on the Royalty label. CHUCK TUCKER and his Texas Caravan do offer « Hog Sloppin’ Time in the Hollow » (# 607), an uptempo shuffler from the early ’50s. Fine steel, call-and-response format. The label had also among his artists Chester Odom and Hank Locklin, and was relatively prolific.
Howdy, friends ! This is the last selection of fortnight’s favorites for September 2017. I didn’t post a fortnight selection early this month, I was away from my Macintosch and could not but release the story of Freddie Frank, a Texan Hillbilly bopper – I hope you visiting friends and followers have just noticed the article…and liked it! I will be out once more during October, and don’t know how I will manage the blog. In the meantime here I am and well, and ready for this late September 2017 selection, which will last from the early ’50s until 1965.
Here we go with the earliest track, « Why not » on the B&C label # 500 by PAPA CAIRO (misspellt Cario on the label). Indeed he was a Louisianian. Real name Julius Lamperez. He was a steel guitar player and band leader during the early fifties (records on Feature and Colonial among others) and was long associated with the Cajun Chuck Guillory (« Grand Texas » on Modern 612). Here he delivers a decent uptempo ballad, a bit crooning, piano-led with fiddle and steel solo.
From Marshall, Missouri on the Jan label (# 6-58) two tracks by F. D. JOHNSONwith the Missouri Valley Boys. First « Be my baby » is a well-tempered (as you would say for Bach’s harpsichord – rock on, J.-S. !) rockabilly with vocal hiccups and a nice guitar solo. The flipsde is « Great big moon », and a good hillbilly weeper : vocal, fiddle solo. One little record to watch, and one wonders if he did something else.
On the Black side (or the man is White??? vocally he sounds at last) with WILBUR STEINBERG on the Memphis, TN, Hut label (# 4401) for a fast side, « Mop bop boogie », a mover with sax and screams, then a bluesy uptempo « Ramblin’ blues », which goes for the same comment. Two good sides !
Then on to Del Rio, Texas on the Hacienda label. Here he comes, SKEET WILLIAMS for a pleasant ballad (with chrorus and steel), « Lonesome rain » (# 0001). He’s backed by Bob Haltern’s Swing Kings, moreover a band unknown to me. The side was released in 1965 and coupled with « Mary, Mary, Mary Jane », a fast Rockabilly belter with chorus and loud drums. Thanks bebopcapitol !The record had apparently an early release on Royal Scot 102.
We are reaching the end with VON STEPHENS on the Karl label (London, OH) and « Huckleberry junction » : a decent Hillbilly bopper, steel is present, a short guitar solo. Clay Eager production : someday, I will search on the very interesting Clay Eager.
A staple of the Odessa country music scene for 50 years, guitarist-fiddler Freddie Frank (1931-2005) spent his formative years in Kilgore. Part of the same circle that included Jack Rhodes, Red Hayes, Jimmy Johnson, Curtis Kirk, Al Petty, Bobby Garrett, and Jim Reeves, Freddie, like Johnson, was not able to translate his vocal talents into the sustained recording career that he deserved. Instead, there was the all-too-predictable pattern of a few scattered releases on oddball labels in the ’50s and early ’60s, including his own Permian label. A Capitol session c. 1955 could have turned things around for him — but it went unissued (and no one has got a trace of it).
Mineola, Wood Cty
“12,000 Texas Longhorns” was Freddie’s debut, from early 1953, and issued on Fabor Robinson’s Abbott label (# 125). A memorable Jack Rhodes-J.C. Lile song, “Longhorns” was recorded superbly by the pros at KWKH Studio in Shreveport with Red Hayes’ band providing the solid support: Joe “Red” Hayes and Kenneth “Little Red” Hayes (fiddles), Al Petty (steel guitar), and Leon Hayes (bass). Freddie supplies his own rhythm guitar. Flipside « Off to parts unknown » is slowlier, although a vigorous slice of hillbilly bop. Red Hayes seems to have been everywhere in the early ’50s. He would eventually follow Freddie to Odessa. Next Abbott issue (# 126) by Curtis Kirk was presumed as having been recorded at the same place and occasion as Freddie Frank.
As for Jack Rhodes, he remains a controversial figure. Some people loved him; others hated him. Freddie’s comments, made to me in a 1999 interview, are revealing:
“I went to work at the Reo Palm Isle (in Longview). I played lead guitar for Jim Reeves there when he was first starting out. When I left there, Red (Hayes) came in there and started working. He introduced me to Jack Rhodes. I moved up to Mineola and was staying up there helping him write songs. Jack had a bunch of people writing song-poems. We’d go and collect those and bring ’em back, and I’d write the tunes for ’em. Make ’em meter out, and doctor ’em up. They could put “DS” after my name — doctor of songs. Jack didn’t write very much of nothing. Jack was a manipulator. He reminded me of Boss Hog on ‘Dukes of Hazzard.’ Jack owned the motel (the Trail 80 Courts), and was bootlegging (liquor), and he could afford to do what he wanted to.
“I think Jack had the sheriff paid off in Mineola. I don’t think he was arrested there. But I think he did get raided when he lived in Grand Saline. They were making their own whiskey up there. I think that’s why he moved to Mineola, ’cause he couldn’t manipulate the law in Grand Saline. I told him when he died, they’d probably screw him in the ground like a corkscrew.
“But he put the con on just about everybody. When I got enough of it, I got enough, and I left…never called him, never spoke to him again. I think that was the same thing with Red (Hayes).”
Freddie is listed as co-writer with Jack Rhodes on Gene Vincent‘s “Five days, five days » (Capitol 3678), but received no credit for writing the music to Vincent’s “Red Blue Jeans and a Pony tail” (Capitol LP T 768 « Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps »). “Five Days, Five Days“, credited by Rob Finnis to Jimmy Johnson, may actually be Freddie with Leon Hayes on tremendous bass. Franks had been quickly adapting his voice (he even adopts hiccups) and playing to new trends. From the same sessions came a version of the evergreen « Trying to be my baby »[see the story of this song in this site]. On the other hand, Frank was not listed among artists involved in the “Louisiana Hayride“, according to Imperial, who runs an ambitious reedition program (20 CD) of tapes saved from this famous radio/live show.
Earlier in 1953 the team Jimmy Rhodes-Freddie Frank had been cutting two sides for Starday in Beaumont, Texas. The very fast « Gypsy heart » (# 117) has fine fiddle and guitar, and vocal credited to Franks, while the flipside « Al’s steel guitar wobble » is a showcase for Al Petty, supported by a good piano (is this Starday house-musician Doc Lewis?). Both sides have Frank on rhythm guitar.
Next stop in Freddie Frank’s career is in Odessa (West Texas) in 1961. Unable to find a label proper to release real Hillbilly at this time, he then launched his own label, Permian, apparently a common venture with Slim Willet. Frank had 3 issues on this label. First «This old rig »(1001-A) has energetic rhythm and voice over very fine fiddle and steel. : a great Bopper. The flipside (« I want to be) On the bayou tonight », has, as expected, Cajun overtones (without accordion yet),
With thanks to HillbillyBoogie1 (biography); John Burton (Abbott issue) : Armadillo Killer for one Permian issue ; Uncle Gil for the Starday project ; notes by Rob Finnis to the CD (Ace) « Gene Vincent cut our songs ».. May “HillbillyBoogie1” get in touch please to get us more details from his corresponding with Freddie Frank. I really don’t know what happened to him between his Permian sides from 1961 and his death in 2005.