Late February 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites

First two selections for this late February 2017 fortnight do come from Florida. Absolutely nothing is known from the vocalist/bandleader JOE ASHER. Apparently unknown on the Net, and not associated to another of the same name, he was a one-off record man. His record was first issued at Rockin’ # 515 in 1953, then reissued by DeLuxe ( # 2001) for a perfect Bopper, « Photograph of you », a fast, fantastic tune : very assured vocal, great solos – fiddle, guitar and steel. The flipside, « Daddy dear », a mid-paced opus, is just as good (steel is prominent). I wonder why this guy never recorded more, at least under his name.

« Photograph of you« 

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« Daddy dear »

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Next selection : BOB DEAN & the Travelaires give a solid rocker for October 1958, issued at the Philly label Arcade (# 195). « Hot Rod Daddy », of course a car song, has a guitar a la Chuck Berry, a prominent piano and a great vocal. This Bob Dean was also on a much later label, Artisty (’70s), and is not to be confused with Bob Dean of the « BOB & CINDY DEAN » Bluegrass duet from Virginia. They had more than a link with guitarist Link Wray : they shared an EP with him, and issued on their side « Walk, walk, walkin’ blues » (Kay EP 3690) from 1957, a good mix of Bluegrass and Rockabilly. They were also on Starday custom serie # 627, « I’m knocking at the door (of your heart) » – excellent driving banjo.

« Hot rod daddy« 

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« Walk, walk, walkin’ blues« 

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« I’m knocking at the door (of your heart)« 

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Then to early ’60s in Birmingham, AL. with OTHELL SULLIVAN & the Southern All-Stars (are they the house band of the label?) on Reed 1053. The song is written by Leon Bowman, a prolific songster and singer in is own right. « There’s sure to be goodbyes » is a jumping tune, sympathetic backing (steel and discreet drums) over a good vocal : a nice tune for 1961. Sullivan had had already « Call me, baby » on Wonder (unheard) in 1958 ; later he joined the Longhorn stable (# 513).

« There’s sure to be goodbyes »

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JIMMIE STONE (acc. by Coy McDaniel guitarist) had on the New Jersey Cross Country label 45-22 a great Country rocker, « Found » in April ’56. Strong lead guitar and good backing over an assured vocal (lot of echo). The disc must have had a certain impact under chart-angle, because the big N.Y. concern Gone reissued it next year as it was on Gone # 5001. The flipside « Mine » is an insipid slowie, largely forgettable.

« Found »

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From Indiana on a rather devoted to Blues/R&B label, Falcon, here’s to be found the Hillbilly bopper/Rockabilly of CURLEY SHELTON (# 609) « with Doug Oldham & his Dixie 6 ». « Have you seen my baby » is a medium bluesy tune, assured vocal and an embroidering very good guitar.

« Have you seen my baby »

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From the Hometown Jamboree on the West coast, the next track by TEX HOLLAND. He does a fine job with the mid-paced hard-driven « Why don’t you change your ways » on Ivory 103. 

« Why don’t you change your ways »

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Finally a song, « Hillbilly wolf », wrongly attributed to Dave Dudley on a low-bdget album cover, is actually sung and played by LINK WRAY. A medium uptempo, good vocal but rather uninspired guitar. This tune may come from the late ’50s or even the early ’60s.

« Hillbilly wolf »

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Sources : 45cat.com and 78rpm-world, Rockin’ Country Style, Hillbilly Researcher compilations, YouTube and my own archives.

« TOPPA Tops ‘Em All » – the rise of a small California output (1958-60)

Covina, Ca. home to Toppa

Toppa was founded in Covina, Ca. by ex-country singer and top DJ (KXLA) Jack Morris. He had had releases on Starday (Custom serie, in January 1955), Sage and Pep and came up with this new label late in 1958. The label lasted way up during the ’70s, and found frequent modest success, although only regionally. Toppa’s best sides have been reissued recently in a 3-CD bootleg Internet boxset (« Toppa’s country » vol. 1, 2 and 3 ) to be found on « UncleGil’s rockin’ archives » blog.: http://adf.ly/1hinq0

I will focus on the first 31 issues (1958-1960).

BROCK WILLIAMS offers « What am I » (# 1001), a nice little rocker, with a little echo, over a good guitar and an assured vocal. The flipside, « Touch of perfection » is a perfect mid-paced bluesy ballad. Wally Black on # 1002 remains untraced (« She’s comin’ home »).

« What am I »

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« Touch of perfection »

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We jump to # 1003 by ERNIE MATHIS : very nice fast, piano-led « Lonesome wheels » and the more slowish « So am I ». Later on he was on Fable. That was the last Toppa issue reviewed by Billboard in 1958.

« Lonesome wheels« 

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« So am I »

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« What’s it to you »

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« What’s it to you » issued on # 1004 by WALLY BLACK is a very good part-styled Cash opus, because of the insistent guitar bass chords motif. Black had previously cut some pop rockers on the Fable label (« Rock and roll mama »).

CATHIE TAYLOR on # 1006 « Two straws and a soda », a poppish teen ballad, merits oblivion.

GEORGE HEFFINGTON, # 1007, and the fast, fine « Ghost of love ». Again a very good guitar throughout. Flipside « Ghost of love »

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« Crazy love » is equally good, although less fast. He much later recorded on the Accent label (ca. 1964-65) « Honky tonk merry-go-round (unheard).

« Crazy love »


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LINA LYNN delivers a R&R instumental, « Lina’s doll » (# 1008) where she’s backed by te Storms, a band that appeared also on the Sundown label, and whose general sound is not dissimilar to Eddie Cochran‘s Kelly Four. # 1009 is by WALLY BLACK, « Gee I hate to go », a light rocker with pop overtones. Its flipside, « I ain’t gonna cry no more » has the same Kelly Four savour. Actually it’s even written by Kelly 4 member : saxophonist Mike Deasy.

« I ain’t gonna cry no more »

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Next offering is a double sider by REX BINGHAM. He goes a bit poppish with male chorus, but has the strong help of Ralph Mooney on steel (two solos) for « Just like before » and « The fire is burning low » (# 1011). He had a « Blind blind heart » in 1959 on Rex 100, which was reissued on Toppa 1028. Was it a sublabel ? « Linda » (# 1012) by LUTHER WAYNE is a fast poppish ditty, quite listenable although.

Two ballads, « Help me forget him/Another woman’s man » (# 1013) by JANET McBRIDE are lovely again with strong help from steel guitar player Ralph Mooney. Later on she cut at Sims and duetted with Billy Barton. WALLY BLACK returns with the fast « I’m a country boy » (# 1014).

Billboard April 24, 1960

« I’m a country boy »

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I’d appreciate very much the double offering at # 1015 by JOHNNY LEON, «You found someone new/Sometimes it doesn’t pay to get up in the morning »[what a true assertion]

 

 

 

good backing (bass and drums) over prominent fiddle and steel. It’s one of the highlights of the serie.

« Sometimes it doesn’t pay »

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And now a comparatively well-known artist, DICK MILLER. He had had already records on M&M, Stanchell and Aggie [see elsewhere his story in this site], as well as around the same time as his Toppa output, on Sundown. His two songs on Toppa are well-sung ballads over the same instrumentation as previous label’s issues, « Make room for the blues/My tears will seal it closed » (# 1016) [the latter was also picked up by Mercury and reissued on # 71658, July 1960.

« Make room for the blues« 

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« My tears will seal it closed »

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DANNY BURKE next (# 1017) comes with again two nice rockaballads, « Wasting my time/Walking in my sleep ». Then CLYDE PITTS offers an out-and-out rocker, « Shakin’ like a leaf » (# 1018) complete with sax and chorus. # 1019 by BILL BROCK : he delivers a fine ballad with the unusual backing of fiddle and steel paired in « I can’t come home ». Same format for # 1020 and DON RICE : « Fire without a flame » and, at last, the fast « Weather man ».

« Weather man »

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The veteran TEXAS BILL STRENGTH brings the fast « Watching the world go by » (# 1021). « Too young to love » (# 1023), a bit poppish (although a good piano backing) come to light with DON HOLIMAN. # 1024 by CHARLIE WILLIAMS is a sincere ballad « World’s champion fool », revived on # 1048 by Dick Miller. Jimmy Snyder (# 1025), Polly Tucker (# 1026, also on Pep), The Horton Bros. (# 1027) left invisible tracks. Then there is a gap until # 1029 : JANET McBRIDE returns in the same style as her # 1013 issue with « Sweethearts by night ».

Another well-known name now on # 1030 : JACK TUCKER . Nice Country-rocker with « No city love you’ll find ». And the final offering is # 1031 by LUTHER WAYNE ; « White line » is a good guitar led little rocker [a Jack Morris’ tune on Sage ], while « The blues got me down again » is a passable effort.

« No city love you’ll find »

Jack Tucker

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All in all, the Toppa label was a County pop one, and the outstanding tracks, according to bopping.org standards, are uncommon. Nevertheless in the regard to the backing, all issues are great. The story did go on, and many good tracks were later cut : Smokey Stover and « On the warpath », more Jack Tucker tunes, Don Rice and « Hideaway heartaches », more Dick Miller (« Back into your past »), Bud Crowder and « Room for one heartache », to name just a few. Fact is the label deserves to be examined, as it contains many good surprises.

Just another word. Toppa had two sublabels early into the ’60s : Toppette and Fedora. I don’t know why several artists of main Toppa artists were assigned to its sublabels, although they had the same style as on Toppa.

 

Sources: Steve Hathaway for some records, Kent Heineman (« Armadillo Killer ») for several more. 45cat.com for more than a label scan. Youtube was also of help. And many, many small facts from my own archives or direct from Internet. And a lot of work to set up this article, but this was a labor of love..

Jack Morris, bopper, D.J. and label bossman in California (1955-1958)

JACK MORRIS had three claims to fame. As a D.J. first on Padena, Ca. KXLA radio station ; then as founder of a successful California country recording label, Toppa (and his subsidiaries Toppette and Fedora). Then he had also 4 records on his own between 1955 and 57 on legendary labels such as Starday, Pep and Sage.

About his involvement with KXLA, he got the honour at least 2 times by the Billboard magazine, which held him up as « one of the five top C&W D..J.s in Southern California » between 1956 and 1958. His show had been going on 6 nights a week from midnight until 5.00 AM, that is in itself an uncommon achievement.

As founder of Toppa, a complete article on this label (the beginnings) is on this site. As a D.J., Morris undoubtly coasted as D.J. along young and unknown musicians out of the rich California state. He chose to record them in a Country vein, not without a more than precise pop touch. Anyway the label had its moments for the hillbilly bop fan : records by Bill Brock, Ernie Andrews, Johnny Leon don’t remove from a late ’50s Country collection. More about that in the article devoted to « Toppa Tops ‘Em All » label.

As an artist in his own right, Jack Morris (his real forname seems to have been « George », according to the credit of Capitol 3311 : Merrill Moore ‘covered’ (or

Merrill Moore « Cooing to the wrong pigeon »

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Merrill Moore

Jack Morris: »Cooing to the wrong pigeon »

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was ‘offered’ « Cooing to the wrong pigeon » (which perhaps reveals the actual forname, « George » of Jack Morris, its co-writer). His partner was Wes DelRoy.

 

 

Jack Morris: »My Pony wants to go »

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This gentleman was to co-write more Morris sides, although he seems moreover unkwnown under this name. « Cooing.. » and « My Pony wants to go » are two Western boppers, not excluding soe pop overtones (with te use of discreet choruses.) This Starday issue (late 1955 or early 1956) was reviewed by Billboard as late as November 1956, by the time Morris had his first record, out of two, on Sage # 228. « White line » is a fast Bopper, backed by the excellent Night Owls (possibly Roy Lanham on lead guitar – he seems to have been the house player, and a long double-bass solo) ; « Stop teasin’ me » is in the same vein, a sort of mix of Western swing (semi-spoken, semi-sung) and Country boogie, again good guitar.

« White line »

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« Stop teasin’ me »

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The second Sage issue (# 232) sees in the same format as previous issue « Four wheel bungalow », a lovely Country-rocker paired with « Glad I’m lookin’ back on you » (again a double-bass solo) : it looks that the 4 sides were cut at the same session.

 


« Four wheel bungalow« 

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« Glad I’m lookin’ back on you »

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Finally in a completely different syle, Morris went early in 1958 on Pep 116 with the frankly poppish « She’s gone, she’s gone » : obstrusive male chorus ; Morris tries to croon. I can’t really figure out who he’s resembling on. Actually the chorus have the better part of the song. The flipside « River San Gabriel » has a « western serie B » type feel, aided by a male/female chorus.

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She’s gone – she’s gone« 

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« River San Gabriel »

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After the Pep issue, Morris has seemingly concentrated his activity on the Toppa label he founded in late 1958, and he disappeared as an artist from then on.

With special thanks to « Armadillo Killer » for the Pep issue.

Early February 2017 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks ! This is the third fortnight’s favorites selection for 2017, and as usual many a not-so-known artist or recording.

I will focus on a steel guitarist from way up North, TINY MURPHY, originally from Kentucky. He cut with his Bar 69 Boys two discs on the Chicago blues label United, a fact not so uncommon for the era (early ’50s) when small specialized labels didn’t hesitate to « cross » the invisible barrier between Hillbilly and Rhythm’n’Blues. United (founded by a Lou Simpkins) had in its stable several well-known artists like Roosevelt Sykes, Robert Nighthawk or Tab Smith and Jimmy Forrest. Tiny Murphy would cut 4 sides late 1952 for them, whose 3 are here. Vocally same, as Murphy sings in a semi-spoken style, very usual at this time ; jazzy sounding for « It’s all your fault » (# 132) and « Nicotine fits ». The latter was a ‘cover’ of Ramblin’ Jimmie Dolan who had issued May 1952 his original version on Capitol 2244. Then an instrumental, « Hot steel » (# 136) is a fast showcase for Murphy, who evokes various steel guitar virtuosi of the era, without forgetting himself ! Enclosed is a rare French issue coupling « Nicotine fits boogie » and « Hot steel boogie« , much rarer than the original United U.S. counterpart..

united 132 tiny murphy it's all your fault« It’s all your fault« united 1140 tiny murphy - nicotine fits (12-52)united 136 tiny murphy - hot steel

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« Nicotine fits« 

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r' jimmie dolan (meillure)

Ramblin’ Jimmie Dolan « Nicotine fits »

downloadcapitol 2244 ramblin-jimmie-dolan-nicotine-fitsr' jimmie dolan (meillure)r' jimmie dolan pic

« Hot steel »

downloadvogue 3294 tiny murphy - nicotine fits boogievogue 3294 tiny murphy - hot steel boogie

We found Tiny Murphy later on the Ronel label (# 109) in the same style for « 42 », while the flipside « I just can’t imagine » is a bit crooning, with an accordion backing (1954). After this issue, the track goes cold. One more detail : Tiny Murphy was steel player for Dolph Hewitt at an ronel 109 tiny-murphy-42-unknown occasion.
« 42 »

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In April 2016, there was a selection of TOMMY RIDDLE (« Rayford line » on the Staircase label, from 1961). Today there’s an earlier track cut in Portsmouth, VA, with his Melody Boys for the Cactus label (#108B) , « When you kiss me darling ». All is said with the mention on the label : « Vocal with Hillbilly swing ».

« When you kiss me darling »

downloadcactus 108B tommy riddle - when you kiss me darling
« I’ve got a little time for loving« 

downloadpride 3000 ll guyton I've got a little time for loving
Then a 1956 medium-paced Hillbilly bopper by BILL GUYTON & the Tennessee Playboys on the Pride label (# 3000) « I’ve got a little time for loving », location unknown. Fine piano and steel backing over a convincing vocal. Alas, the track is incomplete, cut @ 1’52 », taken from « HillbillyBoogie1 » Youtube chain.

Finally a Starday custom from New York on the Reed (# 802) label (not the Alabama one) : BILL LOOP and his Seneca Indian Boys and «My Foolish heart » has a rural sound and a nice vocal. Disc from September 1959.
reed 802B bill loop - my foolish heart« My foolish heart »

downloadreed 802b bill loop - insert

Late January 2017 bopping hillbilly and rockabilly fortnight’s favorites

Howdy folks ! This is the second 2017 fortnight, that of late January. It will cover very various styles, be it hillbilly boppers, country rockers or rockabillies, even one Bluegrass bopper, from 1955 to 1961.

First an uptempo atmospheric bluesy rockabilly from Bald Knob, AR, on the CKM label (# 1000) by BUDDY PHILLIPS with Rocking Ramblers, « River boat blues » from 1956 (valued at $ 100-125). I enclose for comparison the original version of the song by ALTON GUYON and his Boogie Blues Boys on the Judsonia, AR. Arkansas label (# 553), a Starday custom from 1956. This time the song is taken at a slow, lazy, bluesy pace – fine fiddle (valued at $ 150-200). Back to Buddy Phillips for the CKM flipside « Coffee baby » (written by Alton Guyon), less fast than the « River boat blues » side, but good and bluesy. Pity that Phillips disappeared afterwards.

ckm-1000-buddy-phillips-river-boat-bluesckm-1000-buddy-phillips-coffee-babyarkansas-553a-alton-guyon-river-boat-blues

Buddy Phillips, « River boat blues »

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Buddy Phillips, « Coffee baby« 

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Alton Guyon « River boat blues« 

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Memphian EDDIE BOND (1933-2013) had many strings to his bow : band leader, D.J., radio station manager, night club owner, chief police and editor of an entertainment newpaper (pheww..). Here are his first sides on the Ekko label (# 1015) cut July 1955 in Nashville with Hank Garland on lead guitar and Jerry Byrd on steel. « Talking of the wall » and « Double duty lovin’ » (written by Vernon Claud, later on Decca with « Baby’s gone ») are uptempo Rockabilly/Boppers, very ordinary, which of course went nowhere. They are valued $ 100-150. Later in 1956, Bond recorded a famous string of classic Rockabilly releases on the Mercury label, « Rockin’ daddy » (# 70826) (the original being cut late ’55 by Sonny Fisher – Starday 179) is the most well-known.

« Talking off the wall »

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« Double duty lovin‘ »

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ekko-1015-eddie-bond-talking-off-the-wall

ekko-1015-eddie-bond-double-duty-lovinTwo issues on the Starday associated Dixie label from the late Fifties to the early Sixties. ELMER BRYANT on Dixie 906 from 1960 (value $ 75-100) delivers the cheerful bopper « Gertie’s carter broke », which has a Louisiana bouquet, with fine fiddle and steel. The medium-paced flipside « Will I be ashamed tomorrow », although very good and sincere, is more conventional country.

« Gertie’s Carter broke »

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« Will I be ashamed tomorrow« 

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The other Dixie discussed is Dixie 1170 from 1961 by LITTLE CHUCK DANIELS : « I’ve got my brand on you » is a bit J. Cash-styled, an uptempo bass chords guitar opus with good effect on voice : honest Country rocker. I add by Daniels his issue on Dixie 1153, « Night shift », same style.

« I’ve got my brand on you »

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« Night shift« 

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dixie-906a-elmer-bryant-gertiesdixie-906bn-elmer-bryant-will-i-be-ashameddixie-1170b-l-chuck-daniels-ive-got-my-brand-on-youdixie-1153b-ch-daniels-night-shift

 

 

 

 

 

A plaintive Hillbilly now by BILL STUCKER vocal – Tune Twisters on the Indiana Ruby label (# 430) , « I go on pretending » from 1956 : a nice discreet guitar, some snare drums.

« I go on pretending »


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ruby-430-bill-stucker-i-go-on-pretending

ROLLIE WEBBER from California was a part of the now well-known Bakersfield sound, and had issues on Pep and Virgelle among other labels. Here he offers « Painting the town » on the Tally label (#150), a fine bopper with prominent steel ( sounds like Ralph Mooney).

tally-150b-rollie-webber-painting
« Painting the town »

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Finally from Detroit on Fortune 187 from 1957 : BUSTER TUNER & his Pinnacle Mt. Boys for « That old heartbreak express ». It’s a bluegrass bopper, Turner is in fine voice, and mandolin to the fore.

« That old heartbreak express »

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Buster Turner on dobro

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fortune-184-buster-turner-that-old-heartbreak-express
That’s it, folks !

Sources : YouTube (Dixie issues) ; my own researches ; RCS for Eddie Bond ; Malcolm Chapman’s blogsite (« Starday customs ») for Alton Guyon.