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.
Douglas Clifton Bragg was born on April 13, 1928, in the small East Texas town of Gilmer. He was among four children born to Bonnie and James Claudie Bragg. He attended Gilmer public schools and developed an interest in music during his teen years. He started performing in and around Tyler during the late 1940’s. His first marriage produced five children, all of whom were boys. By the early 1950’s Doug was appearing on the Big « D » Jamboree and working days as a meat cutter.(suite…)
Born De Armand Noack, Jnr., 29 April 1930, Houston, Texas/ Died 5 February 1978, Houston, Texas A.k.a. Tommy Wood.
Eddie Noack, 1950
Noack who gained degrees in English and Journalism at the University of Houston made his radio debut in 1947 and made his first record for the Gold Star label in 1949, « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ». In 1951, he cut several songs for Four Star including « Too Hot To Handle« . Leased to the TNT label, it drew attention to his songwriting and was recorded by several artists (including Sonny Burns) , most recently by Deke Dickerson, who also included « Gentlemen Prefer Blondes » on his new (excellent) CD, « Deke Dickerson In 3 Dimensions ».
Noack joined Starday in 1953 (beginning a long association with ‘Pappy’ Daily), where his immediate success came as a writer when several of his songs were recorded by top artists including Hank Snow who scored a # 5 Country hit with « These Hands » in 1956.
Noack moved with Daily to his D label where in 1958, after recording rockabilly tracks as Tommy Wood, he had a country hit with « Have Blues Will Travel » (# 14).
During the ’60s, Noack quit recording to concentrate on songwriting and publishing and had many of his songs including Flowers For Mama, Barbara Joy, The Poor Chinee,A Day In The Life Of A Fool and No Blues Is Good News successfully recorded by George Jones as album cuts.
In 1968, Eddie recorded « Psycho » for the K-Ark label.
This bizarre song, about a serial killer, was virtually unknown then since the original fifties version by its composer, Leon Payne (yes, the « I Love You Because » guy), had – understandably – never received any airplay. Since Eddie’s version it has become a cult favourite, covered by, among others, Elvis Costello.
Noack did make some further recordings in the ’70s, including arguably some of his best for his fine tribute album to Jimmie Rodgers. He moved to Nashville and in 1976, recorded an album that found release in the UK (where he had toured that year) on the Look label. He worked in publishing for Daily and Lefty Frizzell and in an executive role for the Nashville Song- writers Association until his death from cirrhosis in 1978. A fine honky tonk performer, somewhat in the style of Hank Williams, he is perhaps more appreciated today as a singer than he was in his own time.
Biography taken from Black Cat Rockabilly (Dik De Heer)
Below is a reprint of a New Kommotion article from 1976, « Talk Back With Noack », in which Noack tells his early story in his own words.
Howdy folks. Maybe you’re still on Holydays? Bopping (and the editor) didn’t take any spare day to rest, and kept busy all Summer long, and were preparing a new hot slice of Hillbilly goodies. This time it spans from 1947 to…1966. Lotta good music, for your own pleasure, all of you Cherished visitors/listeners/downloaders all over the World! Some strong numbers, one could say hard-core Rock’n’Roll influenced Rockabilly, just to make a change from the previous post devoted to the gentle, sometimes smooth music by JACK BRADSHAW. I like Jack anyway, be sure to check this post! And another tune, in particular, very near to Western swing (even a very risqué song for the time being).
Jimmy Murphy, 1950's
So, OK for embarking? We begin with JIMMY MURPHY (see elsewhere in this site with help of the search engine at upper right). His commercial days at Columbia (1955-1956) were largely over when he entered (after an unreleased Starday session – now available on Ace records) again in the Bill Lanham studio and recorded one of his best tunes ever, very sensitive and sincere, in 1962, for the Ark label, « I Long To Hear Hank Sing The Blues« . Unclassifiable music: between Hillbilly, Folk music and Bluegrass.
Let’s go on with HOMER « Zeke » CLEMONS. He hailed from Texas during the mid to late forties with his outfit, the Swingbillies. As soon as 1947, they were recording their « Operation Blues » (lyrics below), an early risqué song which actually met such enormous success on the first label, Bluebonnet, that Modern out of Los Angeles leased the tune, as « Operation Blues # 2« , next year, and re-released it even 16 years later, under the name « Hank Brown » (Royalty label)
OPERATION BLUES (Homer Clemons) ?Now won’t you climb up on the table,?Pull up that gown?Raise up that left leg, ?Let that right leg down?Pull off them stockin’s,?That silk underwear?’Cos the doctor’s got to cut you, mama, ?Don’t know where??The doctor knows his business?The doctor knows just what to do??Too much of (?), ?One old ( ?)?Two pair of step-ins?That’s all I can say (save)?Your ribs are all loosened,?Your carburettor’s stalled?I’ll duck into your hood, ?And clean your spark plugs all??The doctor knows his business?The doctor knows just what to do… Is it a car (spark plugs), or anything (-one) else that the doctor is visiting?
On to 1966. Dayton, Ohio. WIBBY LEE is a real unknown – no information has ever surfaced about him, at least to my knowledge. He cut 3 disks for the small Jalyn label, all good Boppers, Rockabilly borderline, a real anachronism for the time. Just vocal and electric guitar (Is there any bass?) on « I’m Lost Without Your Love » .
Just WHO was Ted DIXON, or Walter DIXON, or even MASON DIXON? Once in the now-long-ago defunct « Roll Street Journal » magazine, the handsome Phillip J. Tricker promised the readers the story of Mr. Dixon, which never saw the light…First, it seems the three were the same person. Second, they had numerous records on labels as small and elusive as Reed (Alabama), Erwin (Tennessee), the most approaching to a major (everything is relative) being Meteor, out of Memphis (the Los Angeles’ Modern label outfit). Here I have chosen by MASON DIXON the superlative « Don’t Worry About Nuthin‘ », complete encouragement to leave troubles behind, and take the good side of life. Swirling fiddle, great happy vocal, thudding bass: the optimal crossing between Hillbilly and Rockabilly, being cut 1955.
Then on to Texas. Ted Daffan’s label, ably named Daffan (its story is on the line). A great 1957 offering by a guy by the strange name of FIDLO. « Trifling Heart » has a solid Country-rock guitar, the singer’s voice is firm and confident; great steel-guitar throughout (solo interplay between lead and steel), all loped by a thudding bass. Finally we have a minor classic in « We’re Bugging Out » (Murco 1014) by another unknown, TOMMY BOYLES (1959). I think the tune could easily fall in the category of Country-rock. Never-the-less, a fine romper in its own right. Boyles had another record on the N.J. based Granite label in 1960. A good country-rocker too.
Tommy Boyles, late 90's
As a bonus, a great Rocking Blues in the hand of FENTON ROBINSON on the Duke label (# 191), « Crazy Crazy Loving« , from Texas, 1958. I LOVE Blues too!
And as usual, I hope you all will appreciate the selections. I do my damn best to give you pleasure (pics and music). Bye!
Hello folks! This is REALLY a hot summer over there in France, lot of heavy clouds but…no rain at all. Perfect time anyway to keep oneself well dry inside and stomp to that good ole’ Hillbilly beat. We begin with a very elusive artist from the Cumberland Valley/Cincinnati area. I’ve told before in this site about him, and did promise I should post everything I gathered for one year and a half. This could be later this year, so watch out for the fullest possible story on Mr. JIMMIE BALLARD. The first cut in this fortnite is Ballard’s own version of « Birthday Cake Boogie » (Kentucky 508)
of course, the same song was also recorded by, among others, BILLY HUGHES and SKEETS McDONALD, and stands out as a classic ‘risqué‘ or ‘double-entendre‘ song. Ballard was the front man then of BUFFALO JOHNSON‘s Herd (who was active in the D.C. area, and a full story on him is on the line. And he keeps the vocal duties with the also ‘risqué‘ (Kentucky 520 ) « T’ain’t Big Enough« . Both songs are from 1953/1954, fine uptempo Boppers, altho’ just above average, except for lyrics.
Back to a Wildcat out of Texas, a very long career as steel guitar player as soon as 1936, then singer and front man of his band, the XYT Boys, BILLY BRIGGS. I will have some day a complete story on him. He was (maybe he’s still alive, I dunno) to have a sound on his own, and produced very strange ditties from his steel in 1951 for his greatest success (much covered) « Chew Tobacco Rag N° 2 » . Here I’ve chosen the amusing « North Pole Boogie » (Imperial 8131, late Forties), complete with icy wind effects (on steel), and Briggs’ own barytone voice imitating a sort of ‘polar bear’ .
Back to Cincinnati and BILL BROWNING. I’ve written about him elsewhere in the site with the story of the LUCKY label. Today I listen to his composition « Dark Hollow« , which was a hit in 1958 when picked up by JIMMIE SKINNER, before the very nice version on BLUE RIDGE by LUKE GORDON (watch out for his story later in 2010), then even by The Grateful Dead in 1973, among others. I particularly like the recent version made by FRED TRAVERS (90’s) which I’ve included in the podcasts; almost falsetto urgent vocal and great dobro.
More from Cincinnati. BOBBY ROBERTS (I think there were at least 2, or 3 personas by the same name during he 50’s). Here he’s the great Hillbilly singer, who cut late 1955 4 sides for KING records. I cannot rememeber if I posted earlier his great « I’m Gonna Comb You Out Of My Hair » (what a title!). This time, I offer the second KING (4868, unverified – Ruppli’s book still stored) « I’m Pulling Stakes And Leaving You », same lyrics format. Great, great Hillbilly Bop. Later in 1956, Roberts (or one of his aliases) had « Big Sandy » or « Hop, Skip and Jump« , pure Rockabillies. I still wonder if it’s the same man; if so, he would have adapted very well and quickly (within some months) from pure Hillbilly vocal to almost Rock’n’Roll. By the way, he would not have been the first to do so: SKEETS McDONALD, GEORGE JONES, MARTY ROBBINS did very well the transition early in 1956.
Another elusive artist: guitar player/singer PETE PIKE. Recently deceased (2006) just after a CD ‘back to roots’ (Bluegrass) issued in 2005, he was active both in Virginia and D.C. areas from 1947 onwards, and associated several years with another interesting man, BUZZ BUSBY (Busbice). Pike had Hillbilly Bop records on FOUR STAR and CORAL in 1954-1955, among them I’ve chosen the superior ballad « I’m Walking Alone« . Another future entry in www.bopping.org, research is well advanced.
Finally, on the Rocking Blues side, you’re in for a treat with L.A. ‘black Jerry Lee Lewis’ (as the Englishmen call him when he visits their shores), WILLIE EGAN and « What A Shame » from 1957 (Vita label). Pounding piano, wild vocal, strong saxes, heavy drums, the whole affair rocks like mad, althoug relaxed. Enjoy, folks. Comments welcome. ‘Till then, bye-bye.