More of these Hillbilly bop duets, even a foray into Rock’n’Roll (country overtones)
It’s useless to present the DELMORE Brohers (Rabon & Alton). They began their career in 1931 ! When they stopped at King studio in Cincinnati in 1946, they cut many, many Hillblly boogies, either as vocal duet, or with spare instrumentation (Wayne Raney and Lonnie Glosson on harmonica). It’s been a real task to choose « Down home boogie » (King 784AA) : the Brothers sing in harmony for this romper cut in November 1947 in Cincinnati. Lead electric guitar player could be Roy Lanham or Zeke Turner.
A dozen years later or so, a man led a typical Hillbilly combo : JERRY DOVE (instrument unknown). He had already put a minor rockabilly classic in 1956, « Pink bow tie » on T.N.T. Label (# 144), but he was more a producer and musician than a singer. Here he gathers the duet (male/female) of Ray Stone and Dove’s wife, Peggy. First side is bluesy, and very atmospheric : « Losin’ the blues » (# 173), paired with an uptempo « Why don’t you love me ».
Let’s get back to December 1947 with the Arkansas born real ARMSTRONG TWINS. They recorded for 4* a serie of boogies showing the prowesses of Lloyd on mandolin, Floyd backing on guitar, especially on « Mandolin boogie » (4* 1231), a fast and furious piece of Bluegrass.
More of the same with RUFUS SHOFFNER & JOYCE SONGER, clearly billed « Vocal duet » although both join on chorus only, with the powerful « It always happens to me » on the Detroit’s Hi-Q label (# 17) from 1962. Awesome and driving guitar playing by Earl Songer’s ex-wife. Both seem unlucky in the song.
Next is « Truck driver’s boogie » by the MILO TWINS (Edwin and Edward), originally from Arkansas. Their style is pretty close to that of the DELMORE, the CALLAHAN, the SHELTON or the YORK Brothers. Released December 947 on Capitol 40138: fine harmony vocals over a good harmonica playing.
Finally GENE PARSON’S BAND, who’s backing Kimble and Wanda Janes on vocals in a classic, « Night club Rock’n’roll » from March 1959 on Southland label (# 4501) from lllinois. Parson was the owner of this small label. He already had cut for Chicago’s Eko label. I’m pretty sure this Gene Parson has nothing to do with the member of Byrds or Flying Burrito Brothers bands of the ’60s. The Southland issue falls into a collector’s hands for $ 400-500.
Here I am again, and I arranged a nice (I think) program for you all.
First an unknown artist (as often during the Fifties), who cut several marvelous Hillbilly bop sides between 1955 and 1957. I didn’t find anything on LUCKY HILL, though he may have been from the Cincinnati area. A fine, entertaining singer, and because the fiddle is always to the fore, he may also have been playing it. First selection: both sides of COUNTRY 501, a King label custom pressing (hence the Cincinnati possible connection), the fast « I’m Checkin’ out« , the flipside being a weeper, « I’m Missing You« . He apparently re-recorded the latter song for Starday 329 (flipside « Wait For Me« , a very great Hillbilly bop – part slow, part fast). Thanks to « HillbillyBoogie1 » (YouTube), I’ve got some personal details. From a 1957 article,
« Lucky remembers that his first radio show was over WTFM in Tiffin, Ohio in 1947. He was nervous back then that the audience wouldn’t like his music. And remained so as he knew music was constantly changing. Back in 1947 he mentioned, you were either ‘established’ or you weren’t. »
He had a few recordings released, too – songs such as « That Old Sweetheart Of Mine« , « Now You Know« , « Technical Love » (all untraced).
Then he had in the Starday custom serie (# 622), the great uptempo « Fickle Baby » in March of 1957. After that, Hill disappeared, at least on my part.
The ARMSTRONG TWINS were one of the last duets to master the great harmonies of the traditonal country music that came from ’30s and ’40s. The twins, guitarist Lloyd and mandolin player Floyd, were born in DeWitt, Arkansas but were raised in Little Rock. They made their radio debut at age five and by the age of nine were hosting their own radio show. Greatly influenced by the Blue Sky Boys and the Bailes Brothers, the Armstrongs were appearing on two daily radio shows and on the Arkansas Jamboree by 1946. Between then and 1951, they cut over a dozen songs, most of which were bluegrass covers. Here I’ve chosen their furious « Mandolin Boogie » (4 * 1231) from 1947, here taken from an old Arhoolie album which gathers all of their 4 * output. Buy it in confidence, if you can find. It’s re-released on CD 9046 « The Armstrong Twins – Mandolin Boogie » ).
(from the notes to the CD – year unknown – « Keepin’ It Country » (Wedge Entertainment):
RALPH JOHNSON was born in the Clinch Mountains of south West Virginia.
He began developing his musical career at the age of six, after receiving his first guitar. At the age of
fifteen, his singing and musical talent had developed enough to enable him to put together his own band. Ralph and his band auditioned for a radio show in Richlands, VA. They landed the job on WRIC radio. During this time, his band played schools, halls and theatres in the area. They later auditioned for a spot on a new TV station in Bluefield, WV. Some time later, they had earned the privilege of performing two shows on WOAY in Twin Oak Hill, WV. It was here that he recorded his first record, « Henpecked Daddy » (released on his own abel, RALPH JOHNSON records)
Hillbilly meets old Country Blues! Solid rhythm guitar, assured vocal. A timeless Rockabilly… After appearing on different radio and TV stations throughout the country, he moved his operation to Baltimore. MD. While in Baltimore, he launched Wedge Records, Dome Records and Fleet Records. Along with all of his record labels, he opened his own publishing company, Big Wedge Music. He released all types of music from the Washington and Baltimore areas. He later moved his operation to Vineland, NJ where he became the co-owner of WDVL Radio. As a DJ, he played country music five hours a day, every day. He went on to develop and book country music acts from Nashville, TN into Palentein Park every Sunday. In 1976, he decided to move to Nashville, TN, where he proceeded to record and promote records on his Wedge Entertainment record label. He used songs from his own publishing company, Big Wedge Music. As you can see, Ralph Johnson has made a big splash in the music industry.
His CD can be found direct from his address: http://wedgeentertainment.net/keepinitcountry.htm
Last artist, FUZZY LOFTON, recorded his solitary single for the Lagrange, GA, Trepur label (# 503),
« Bounce Baby Bounce« , from ca. 1957. A fine, interesting hick vocal, propelled by a nice guitar (the player has apparently much heard Chet Atkins, Eddie Hill and Merle Travis). He takes a very good solo, then a shy steel player enters for a short solo. A nice, relaxed shuffler.
Keep bopping, folks. Enjoy the selections! Comments welcome.
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),
– 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.
– 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.