Dub Dickerson was one of those artists who toured constantly, mixed in the right circles of musicians and made a fair handful of recordings, but didn’t leave us much in the way of historical information. Even the performers he toured and played with don’t recall a great deal about him and, like countless other singers, he just seems to have spent his fifteen year musical career just outside of the spotlight.
Born Willis Dickerson on September 10th 1927 in Grand Saline, Van Zandt County, Texas, his first love of music came whilst growing up on the family farm, in the shape of Gene Autry and his familiar style of Cowboy tunes.
Although he enjoyed no hits on Decca and Capitol (1952-1955), he played the Opry and the Big D. Jamboree, and scored as a songwriter – he wrote « Look what thoughts will do » , a huge hit for Lefty Frizzell, and later « Stood up » for Ricky Nelson, in addition to his own recordings, like « My gal Gertie » (a number which enjoyed some currency among Hillbilly boogie and early Rockabilly fans.) He took to calling himself « The boy with the grin in his voice » and threw little catches – little ‘grins ‘ – into many performances, regardless of appropriateness. (suite…)
HILLBILLY BOOGIE !
Essential component of Rock’n’Roll, this Country stream goes as far as the 30’s. Following the Boogie Woogie wave (1928, Pinetop Smith), everyone includes a boogie in his repertoire : swing big bands (Count Basie : « Basie boogie »), western swing orchestras (Spade Cooley : »Three way boogie », or smaller combos – Country (Tennessee Ernie Ford : « Shot gun boogie », 1951) or Blues (Amos Milburn : « Amo’s Boogie », 1946 – one of thousand artists). And the phenomenon will last a good twenty years. Fast tempo is good for dancers, as in « Hillbilly Boogie » (Jerry Irby, 1949 –Pete Burke at the piano).
Piano style was transposed to
– guitar (Arthur Smith, « Guitar Boogie », 1945),
– harmonica (The Milo Twins, « Truck Driver’s boogie », 1949),
– mandolin (The Armstrong Twins, « Mandolin Boogie », 1949),
– violin (Curley Williams, « Fiddlin’ Boogie », 1949),
– steel-guitar (Speedy West, « Stratosphere Booie », 1954),
– accordion (Nathan Abshire, « Lu Lu Boogie », 1947),
– banjo (The McCormick Brothers, « Red Hen Boogie », 1954),
– vocal too of course (Wesley Tuttle, «Yodelin’ Boogie », 1949).
You can recognize a Hillbilly boogie by the presence of a powerful stand-up bass, often slapped : you can hear here the monumental « Bull Fiddle Boogie » by PeeWee King (Redd Stewart on vocal)(1949).
Numerous other instruments can be found in hillbilly boogie such as saxophone, muted trumpet or clarinet.
And until now I’d only speak of titles including « boogie » ! There were thousands others on this tempo, not always fast, but « uptempo ». Finally it became the standard in hillbilly music, what we call now Hillbilly Bop. One example between hundred is Downie Bowshier’s « Tight Shoe Boogie » (King, 1953). The song complains about shoes too tight to dance to the bop. It is doubly ironic, since Bowshier was confined to a wheel chair.
Recommended listening :
We are well treated these times, because there is a plethora of compilations.
– « Country boogie 1939-1947 » (Frémeaux et associés 161) – 36 classic recordings just before and after WWII, from « Oakie Boogie » (Jack Guthrie) to « Square Dance boogie » (Johnny Lee Wills), to « Saturday night boogie » (Al Dexter). A good choice from Gérard Herzaft, the famous compiler.
– « Hillbilly Bop, Boogie & The Honky Tonk », a serie of 3 double-CDs from Jasmine (UK) at bargain price. Buy in confidence, you won’t be sorry !
– « Hillbilly Boogie » Proper (UK) boxset (4 CD). 100 tunes for £ 10.99. All the greats are here.
– « King Hillbilly Bop’n’Boogie » (UK Ace 854) does concentrate on one of the genre’s best postwar labels. Many uncommon tracks.
-Hillbilly Boogie » (Columbia Legacy 53940) – 20 essential tracks (1990)
– If you are looking for something else, try to find (remoted from current catalog) « A Shot In The Dark – Tennessee Jive », a 7-CD Bear Family boxset devoted to Nashville’s small labels from 1945 to 1955.
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