Rambling Rufus Shoffner earned his nickname from his early hobo days when he hopped a train at the age of 16 from his home in Tazewell (or Harrogate?), TN where he was born in 1916 to go wandering: he led a band called the Blue Yodel Boys in 1939 on WROL Knoxville, Tennessee. His neighbor in Tennessee was Hugh Friar, who had later in the Detroit label Clix two fine and very sought after Rockabilly/Country issues (« I can’t stay mad at you », # 805 for example) . But Shoffner’s constant urge to travel resulted in his roaming across much of the country, hustling in one moneymaking scheme after another, before finally settling down in Monroe, Michigan, reuniting with his siblings in 1950. (more…)
Valley Records was owned by Jack Comer and Dave Garrison and located somewhere in Knoxville, east of Tennessee.
The label lasted for a little more than twelve issues from 1953 to 1954, then several years later changed to Valley’s Meadowlark, taking the same numbering system since the start (not avoiding confusion).
Best records were done by Lonnie Smith, Reese Shipley and Shorty Long. Its biggest hit came in 1954 with Darrell Glenn and the weeper « Crying in the chapel », written by his father Artie. But even Glenn did some hillbilly too.
Lonnie Smith offers a lovely Hillbilly bop tune, « You’re my honky tonk angel » (# 103) : swirling fiddle and a good steel. Flip is nice too : « Gal’s below the Mason Dixon line » (sic). « In the valley by the mountains » (# 100) by Archie Campbell is a fast ditty with yodel vocalizing while its flipside « Blue memories » is an average medium paced one.
“You’re my honky tonk angel”
“Gal’s below the Mason Dixon line”
“In the valley by the mountains”
Another double-sider uptempo comes with SMOKEY WHITE : « You cheated your way into my heart » and « Just be sure » are good although average boppers (# 102).
“You cheated your way into my heart”
“Just be sure”
Born February 7, 1928. JOE STUART was the most versatile bluegrass musician ever. He was the son of Joe,Sr. and Rena Best Stuart. His musical career started out in Knoxville, TN on shows such as Cas Walker’s radio program. From there he went on to work as Bass Fiddler for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and their Foggy Mountain Boys. Along the way, he worked with about all the GOOD bands and finally landed a job with Bill Monroe as a Blue Grass Boy on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,Tennessee.Joe played all the bluegrass instruments and due to a broken collar bone, Joe’s first job was as a fill-in Mandolin player. Later he played and recorded on all the other instruments with Bill Monroe. Joe was not only a “picker”; he was a terriffic “picker-upper.” He always had a smile and kept everybody in good spirits on the road, regardless of the situatioAlthough he never made great fame or fortune, he was nearby in the shadows of many of those gleaning the glory. Joe once tried professional stock car racing but quit after he had fairly won at Talladega, only to be disqualified by crooked officials.
Joe fought cancer, appearing to win that battle for a while, but succomed to head tumors in September of 1987. Ironically, he passed away on Bill Monroe’s birthday. He left behind a wonderful wife, Kathy, and two lovely daughters, Jenny Lynn and Brendaline. Joe had often told us, “I want Bill Monroe to sing John Henry at my funeral; and sing all the verses.” As Joe had requested, Monroe sang 25 verses at the funeral at the Forest Lawn chapel just North of Madison, Tennessee on Dickerson. His remains are buried there. Joe’s own number, “It’s A Lonesome Road To Travel On” tell his story best. The photo of Joe was made at Bean Blossom, Indiana around 1974 by Jim Moss. Joe died September 13, 1987..(additions by Boppin’s editor on Feb. 26th, 2017)
“Shoot again Mr. Cupid”
“Don’t let me down”
“Hang up that telephone”
His other sides are in the « Crying in the chapel » vein. He had later on Dot 15476 his own Rock’n’roll version of « My little red wagon ». I much prefer REESE SHIPLEY‘s sides, « Catfish boogie » and « Middle-age spread » (# 106), both very fine Boppers, the former having nothing in common with Tennessee Ernie‘s song. Both songs have a fine and clear lead boogie guitar over a nice piano, « Catfish boogie» being to me the better of both not to forget a stunning (although too short) steel solo.
Roy Sneed “I’ll be so blue tomorrow”
ROY SNEED is also a crooner in « I’ll be so blue tomorrow » (# 111), but has a nice guitar. He was also on a Four Star custom , Scenic OP-238, with “Blue hillbilly”.. Finally the fast « I’ll never tell » by Mary Jane Johnson retain the feeling of Darrell Glenn with a fine guitar.
“I’ll never tell”
We’ll forget « Angels in the sky », (#113), one of the very first efforts by Buddy Cunningham (later on Phillips Int’l). And I kept one of the best for now, Shorty Long (#108) and his amusing « I got nine little kisses » (guitar, piano soli), coupled with « Who said I said that ». It’s the same style as Bill Haley on Essex : no surprise, they were neighbors in Philadelphia. Shorty Long’s story is in this site.
“I got nine little kisses“
Research done with help from Ronald Keppner. Internet was a good source too.
The Tennessee label
It was owned by Alan and Reynold Bubis (cousins) and formed in late 1949 by Williams Beasley who owned Coastline Distribution and was a protege of Jim Bulleit at a time when the Bullet label was having great local and national success. This was a time of expansion in Nashville as the Opry radio show became more and more popular and the number of studios grew. The Tennessee label used Castle or Bullet studios, but also radio stations after-hours (WKDA, WMAK), before Beasley set up his own studio. It had its musicians (The Nite Owls, a bunch of ever-changing musicians) and publishing outlet (first Tennessee, then Babb Music). The biggest hits Tennessee had was in the pop field: Del Wood and her singalong piano solos. But, like Bullet, Tennessee also recorded many excellent hillbilly and honky-tonk songs, and had no idea of recording star names. Beasley was looking for regular sales of 25,000. Often thee had the boogie rhythm and low-life themes that paved the way for country rock and rockabilly music a few years later. The musicians involved frequently included Harold Bradley (g), Farris Coursey (d), Allen Flatt (g) and Ernie Newton (b).
Reece Shipley was born April 19, 1921 in Whitesburg, Tennessee. His parents were string musicians, and Reece grew up in a household filled with music.Radio, movies, and 78 rpm records were spreading the sounds of Bob Wills and Gene Autry far beyond the plains of Texas.
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. (more…)