Detroit’s country music scene of the 1950’s featured a solid mix of talents and clubs where folks could stomp ’till two o’clock every night of the week, with some of the wildest sounds this side of Mason-Dixon Line. One man who was there in the thick of the good times was Eddie Jackson, who assembled the hottest bands and shows in town for two decades straight !
He was born in Cooksville, Tennessee, and Eddie’s family, like many Southerners, moved to Detroit during a period a growth in automobile manufacturing. As a youngster during the 1930s and 40s, he took up guitar and singing, and idolized musical giants such as Hank Penny, Milton Brown, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan (he even met Wills and Duncan in Stockton, CA, while Eddie served with the Navy during WWII). Upon his honorable discharge by Uncle Sam in 1947, Jackson returned to Detroit, and was offered to lead a band the same night he arrived ! From then on, Eddie Jackson and his various combos were crowd-pleasers at shows all over Michigan, parts of Ohio, and Ontario. Around 1950, Eddie’s first group, the Melody Riders, cut a record in Detroit. The song « I’m willing to forget » was his first composition (Fortune 134).
(Accompanying the Riders was Hal Clark on guitar, who later changed his name to Hal Southern and co-wrote « I dreamed of a hillbilly heaven ».) Hal Clark sang his comp on the flip « New set of blues« . As the scene got cooking, Jackson’s band started sizzling, and they found
Hal Clark (Fortune 146) « I don’t mean a thing to you »
themselves booked nightly. Ted’s 10-Hi Bar, on the east side, was the sight of Detroit’s first C&W Jamboree, as hosted by Eddie Jackson and his Cowboy Swingsters (including Tracey White on guitar, and ‘Smitty’ Smith on bass). For several months, the trio performed 15-minutes radio broadcasts from WMLN-FM in Mount Clemens.Eddie Jackson also led a country music variety show, « The Michigan Barn Dance » on Detroit NBC affiliate Channel Four TV, during the early 1950’s.
« Baby doll »(first version)
« Baby doll »(second version) (Shelby 297) and « Please don’t cry » were recorded after that, and through the 1950’s the Swingsters played regular shows at a nightclub called the Caravan Gardens.
« Baby doll«
Eddie Jackson solidified the band’s line-up with Joe Magic on bass & drums (played at the same time!), ‘Uncle’ Jimmy Knuckles on piano, and Tracey White on take off guitar. This group attracted big crowds, as well as popular country singers like Webb Pierce, Jean Shepard, Lefty Frizzell, Red Foley & many other top artists who often stopped in to perform songs with the Swingtsters ! Jackson also had his own program on Royal Oak radio station WEXL-AM, where he spun records and sometimes broadcast from the Caravan. In 1959 the Swingsters cut their most popular record record in Detroit : « I’m learning » backed with the rocker « Blues I can’t hide »(Caravan 101). Even though Jackson says he preferred « Blues… », the ballad « I’m learning » went through the roof of WEXL’s country & western charts. As a result, Eddie was able to pay cash for a new ’59 Cadillac with a convertible top !
Eddie cruised down to Nashville and recorded two more singles, including « You put it there » (Caravan 1004), a song from his last session in a recording studio. By the late 1960’s he quit performing regularly, in favor a starting a successful business. Knuckles, White and others have since passed on. But whenever Eddie Jackson sings and entertain people, the crowd’s humor rises, and sparks fly.
Howdy folks ! Hi ! to returning visitors. Here is my choice of bopping billies (and a classic rocking blues) for this fortnight, mainly from the late ’40s.
We begin with JIMMIE SAUL on his own Redskin label out of Detroit, in 1947. His singer Jimmy Franklin, out of West Liberty, KY. (maybe artist with the same name, much later on Drifter, Acorn and M-G-M labels) fronted Saul’s Prairie Drifters for three sides (the 4th being instrumental) cut in Dayton, OH. Redskin 500 revealed « My long tall gal from Tenn. », a fast ditty, very-much over the top jazz tinged opus, comprising either James ‘Chick’ Stripling or Doug Dalton on crazy fiddle, and Jimmie Saul on bass, plus Marvin « Whitey » Franklin on steel. It has been suggested the guitar virtuoso may be Roy Lanham, who had at that time his band the Whippoorwills in Dayton. The second fast song was « Firecracker stomp » (# 501), an instrumental with guitar and bass solos as explosive as its title. Through an arrangement with Bill McCall, owner of 4 * Records in Pasadena, CA., « Firecracker stomp » was reissued twice on 4*. Meanwhile Jimmie Saul had become Jimmie Lane.
I really don’t know if this is the same man who came on a Waldorf/Top Hit Tunes 11-artists EP (TN 17) in 1958 with covers of respectively Elvis Presley, « I beg of you », and Ricky Nelson, « Waitin’ in school ». It is very doubtful, as his involvement in « Little lover », a teen rocker on Vestal 1906 from 1961 (Birmingham, AL). There was even a Jimmie Lane on Time from Philly. I include Top Hit Tunes and Vestal sides by tame comparison to his earlier sides.
From the East coast went BILLY STRICKLAND & his Hillbilly Kings for two tracks, the great « Hillbilly wolf » on Sylvan 354, an elusive label which I suspect had something to do with Ben Adelman, from Washington, D.C. Second tune is released on the Hill & Country label (# 103) a sublabel to Apollo : « Baby doll, please come home » has a dynamite steel all along, over a well-assured vocal. Both records were released early in 1949. Strickland also had records on King among others.
And to sum this fortnight’s up, a classic bluesy R&B which deserves no introduction : « Drinkin’ wine spo-dee-o-dee » by its creator « STICK » McGHEE on the Harlem label 1018 (1947). Spare instrumentation (only two guitars), and a lot of fun ! « Drinkin’ wine spo-dee-o-dee«
Sources : as usual, many finds on YouTube ; carcitycountry site for the Jimmie Saul/Jimmy Franklin details ; John E. Burton tube for « Stick » McGhee disc ; Cactus, « High on the hop » vol. 3 for Eddie Gaines track.
From Monroe, La, JOHNNY SKILES enlisted in WWII at the age of 17. After the war, he moved from Beaumont, Texas to New Orleans, constantly writing songs and playing his guitar.
His brother-in-law (from Monroe) was Jack Hammons, who co-wrote with him and recorded « Mr. Cupid » for Starday (# 197) in 1955. Col. Tom Parker came through Monroe one day, heard Hammons sing Skiles’ original compositions, and quickly phoned Jack Starnes at Starday to arrange a session.
Johnny Skiles was signed to a songwriter’s contract by Southern-Peer in 1955, although unfortunately nothing ever resulted from it.
Skiles then moved to Oregon (he worked for the U.S. Post Office) in the mid-to-late fifties. His first record was a Starday custom 45, « The twinkle in your eyes/Ghosts of my lonely past », released on Corvette 672 circa 1958. Bob Hill and his Harmony Ranch Hands backed Skiles on these appealing boppers. He was influenced by Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, his boyhood friend from Monroe, on his C&W material.
His next outing was Rural Rhythm 518 « Is my baby coming back/Come paddle footin’ down », cut at Portland Ace studio, and released by Jim O’Neal, the late, colorful country DJ/entrepreneur from Arcadia, California. There are distinct echoes of Johnny Cash on these Skiles Rural Rhythm sides, despite chorus. Another Rural Rhythm, EP 37 ½, had 6 tracks among them « Sundown road » [unheard] by Skiles and Bob Hill.
Then he appeared on the good bopper « Blue shadows » (Rumac OP-287).
Rockabilly fans and collectors will be more interested in Johnny Skiles’ Rumac R&R session : « Hard luck blues/Rockin’ and rollin’ » was issued on a Four Star custom pressing as Rumac OP-301 in 1959. Johnny played rhythm guitar, accompanied by his fellow Bob Hill on his custom-made 8-string Fender. « Rockin’ and rollin’ » comes as a lovely Country-rocker – good lead guitar and a lazy rhythm. Ruby Smith owned the Rumac label, although Bill McCall, the owner of Four Star, claimed co-writing credits in his usual fashion as « W. S. Stevenson ». (He was doing that possibly inspired by the « Josea-Ling-Taub » of the Modern label’s Bihari brothers, or maybe more « D.Malone », the nom-de-plume of Duke/Peacock’s Don Robey).
Two unissued tunes, « Red headed woman » and « Rock jump boogie » were also recorded at the Ace Portland session : both are gentle Country-rockers, with Bob Hill’s inventive and agile guitar well to the fore. They sound demos. 500 copies of « Hard luck blues » were pressed, and intended also as a demo and showcase. In 1959 also, Johnny fronted vocally the group of the Echomores for « What-cha-do-in » on the Portland, OR. Rocket label # 1044). It’s a fast bopper/rocker with a very nice steel (solo), a good lead guitar and a solid rhythm throughout the song. Skiles get a girl replica near the end. A very fine record by him for the era. Thanks to CheesebrewWax Archive Youtube chain for unearthing such unknown goodies! From unknown origin/date (a Jim O’Neal recording), the White label album contained one more by Skiles, « If your telephone rings », a fast Rockabilly type song.
After that, Skiles and Bob Hill teamed with Leighton Atkins on organ and Gene Cipolloon on guitar for a serie of Country instrumentals, which were released on some EP’s by Jim O’Neal, sent to D.J.s in the manner of Starday. This way Skiles received a little money, more than from his records. These Eps were used by D.J.s to segue from one segment of commercial to the next, and were released on Rural Rhythm and, yes another O’Neal label, Honey-B. I include a solitary Honey-B 102 issue for the interesting « Comin’ home to you », a medium-paced Rockabilly, despite the girl chorus by the Tonettes.
Skiles and his group kept on performing throughout the 60s and 70s on the Pacific Northwest. That’s all is known of him.
From the notes (by Cees Klop apparently) of the album White label 8967 « The original Johnny Skiles », published 1991. Additions by bopping Editor. Original labels from 45-cat. Thanks to UncleGil to have provided me the WL album.
Howdy folks ! En route for a new batch of bopping billies, mostly from the late ’40s-early ’50s, with the occasional foray into the early ’60s.
We begin this fortnight with an artist I’d already post a song in March 2011 – that is more than 5 1/2 years. CURLEY COLE was a D.J. in Paducah, KY and a multi-instrumentist. Here he delivers on the Gilt-Edge label (a sublabel to Four Star, as everyone knows) the fine bopper « I’m going to roll » (# 5028). It’s a proto-rockabilly in essence, as a train song, from 1952. Cole also had another on Gilt-Edge 5016, « I’m leaving now/For now I’m free » (unheard).
The second artist of this serie also appeared in January 2016, but with different tracks. DON WHITNEY was a D.J. for Radio KLCN out of Blytheville, AR. in 1951 when he cut for Four Star « I’m gonna take my time, loving you » (# 1548), again a nice bopper. Later on, he had the romper « G I boogie » (# 1581) in late 1951. Minimal instrumentation (lead guitar, rhythm, bass [it even got a solo], a barely audible fidde) but a lot of excitement. At the beginning of this year I’d posted both his «Red hot boogie » and « Move on blues ».
From Vidalia, GA. Came in 1960 the group Twiggs Co. Playboys for a (great for the era) Hillbilly bopper, « Too many ». Very nice interplay between fiddle and steel (solos) over an assured vocal (Gala # 109). This label is now more known for its rockers (Billy « Echo » Adkinson, The Sabres, Otis White) than for Country records.
It is useless to present HANK PENNY. To quote the late Breathless Dan Coffey in a very old issue of his magazine « Boppin’ news », and a feature on Jerry Lee Lewis : « If you don’t know what happened to him, you shouldn’t read this mag ! ». From the heyday of his discographical career (which spanned from the late ’30s until 1969), actually of a constant highest level on a par with his popularity, however I was forced to choose two songs he cut for King Records between 1945 and 47, but released on the same 78rpm, King 842, late 1949 or early 50. « Now ain’t you glad dear », cut in Pasadena, CA. in Oct. 1945 at the same session as « Steel guitar stomp » and « Two-timin’ mama », is a fast brillant Western bopper backed in particular by Merle Travis (lead guitar) and Noël Boggs (steel). The other side, recorded in Nashville two years later, and penned by Danny Dedmon (Imperial artist and member of Bill Nettles‘ Dixie Blue Boys) isn’t not at all a slow blues : « Got the Louisiana blues » is equally fast as the B-side, and showcases James Grishaw on guitar, Louie Innis on bass and Bob Foster on steel. A great record.
Next artist, whom I don’t know much on, is called CLAY ALLEN, from Dallas, Texas. He had two Hillbilly sessions between April and July 1951 for the Decca label (« I can’t keep smiling »,# 46324, is maybe scheduled for a future Fortnight). He was part of the Country Dudes on the Azalea label in 1959 with the very good rocker « Have a ball »). Later on, he cut several discs between 1961 and 1964 for the Dewey Groom‘s Longhorn label, « Broken heart » (# 516) for example. I’ve chosen « One too many » (# 547) as his great deep voice backed by a bass chords playing guitar comes for a great effect. Maybe later I’ll post the flipside « I’m changing the numbers on my telephone », but lacking space this time.
To round up this serie, here are two tracks by the Atlanta guitar virtuoso JERRY REED, early in career which he began on Capitol Records. From October 1955, there’s the traditional « If the Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise » (# 3294), done in a fast Hillbilly bop manner making its way onto Rockabilly. Both steel and fiddle have a good, although short solo, while Reed is in nice voice. He comes once more, this time recorded in January 1956 : « Mister Whiz » is frankly Rockabilly (# 3429) but the Hillbilly bop feeling is retained : a nice fiddle flows all along, while the guitar player may be (to my ears at least) Grady Martin. Capitol files and Praguefrank are silent on the personnel of Jerry Reed sessions, a pity.
« If the Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise »
Sources: mostly 78rpm-world or my archives; John E. Burton YouTube chain (Twiggs Co. Playboys); various researches on the Net. Countrydiscographies.com (Praguefrank) for Hank Penny and Jerry Reed data.
For a reason unknown, most of podcasts won’t open. Just click on the « Download » button to hear the music, when the player fails.
Onto the first Fortnight of this Autumn 2016. SMOKEY ROGERS (1917-1993) was a personality of the West coast and bandleader for s strong number of singers (Tex Wlliams, Ferlin Huskey) and releases (Capitol, Coral, Four Star, Starday and Shasta) from 1945 to 1965. On his (apparently) own label, Western Caravan, he even cut the first ever version of the classic « Gone » (# 901) in 1952. His label lasted with a handful of issues until 1955, among them I chose the great instrumental [not often in bopping] « John’s boogie » (Western Caravan 903). A real showcase for any musician involved (including ex-Hank Penny steel player virtuoso Joaquin Murphy), and every of them takes his solo or shines a way or the other. Splendid piano, horns, guitar, and of course steel, over an irresistible shuffle beat.
Another Smokey Rogers’ record has a young vocalist FERLIN HUSKY in April 1950 for « Lose your blues » on Coral 64063 (October 1950). It’s a nice shuffler with Huskey in good voice, and again Joaquin Murphy on steel.
Billboard Aug. 5, 1950 – a proof of popularity of Red Kirk
Several months later (February 1951), RED KIRK, another singer himself modeled on Hank Williams, took at his turn «Lose your blues » for an acceptable version, quite impersonal but backed by the cream of Nashville (Zeke Turner, Louie Innis, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson) , on Mercury 8257. Kirk had many other good songs, for example « Can’t understand a woman (who can’t understand her man »)(# 6288), « Knock out the lights and call the law » (# 6409), or later on Republic 7120 the double-sider « Red lipped girl/Davy Crockett blues » from 1956, , the good ballad « How still the night » on ABC-Paramount 9814, or his version of Loy Clingman‘s « It’s nothing to me » in 1957 on Ring 1503. I chose another Mercury disc, »Cold steel bues » (# 6309) from February 1951 and in the same ‘bluesy’ vein as « Lose your blues ».
From Nashville, TN to Texas and Fort Worth for an Imperial session held in September 1954. FREDDY DAWSON (vocal) backed probably by himself on steel-guitar, Billy Chamber or Buddy Brady (fiddle), Jimmy Rollins (guitar), George McCoy (bass) and Phillip Sanchez (drums) cut 4 tracks, among them the above average « Dallas boogie » (# 8274)(nice fiddle and steel). 2 tracks do remain unissued, and « Why baby why » may not be the George Jones track, an original Jones song cut in August 1955.
We stand in Fort Worth, this time in 1957 with GENE RAY on the Cowtown label # 646 and « I lost my head », a good uptempo bopper. In November he was to cut for the same label the great Rockabilly cum Rocker « Rock and roll fever » on the EP-677, which contained also the good « Love proof ». Was he the same artist as on Playboy 300, who committed on wax « Playboy boogie » ? Nevertheless as front singer of the Dusty Miller’s band, he also had the great rocker « I’m going to Hollywood » in 1960. All these tunes are to be easily found on YouTube or various compilations.
Now to the early ’60s in Orlando, Florida. WEBSTER DUNN, Jr. delivers a good country rocker on first side, « Black and white shoes » on the Dunmar (owned by DUNmar Peckam and MARy Yingst) label # 101. Echoed vocal, nice crisp guitar (+ a bridge), a welcome steel : a well-produced record. The second side has a sort of poppish vocal, although saved by the same guitar (ordinary solo) and steel : « Go go baby » is a typical Country uptempo ballad. (Record valued at $ 75-100).
Next artist seems to have possibly emananated from Dallas, Texas, as his label Amber, one out of three at the same time. It’s a 4* custom # 275 out in December 1957, and the artist is BOB GARMON, who delivers with « His Studio Combo », a neat and tight little band, one of the best Rockabillies ever, « I’m a-ready baby » (valued $ 500 to 1000). Great guitar solo, cool vocal on topical lyrics, the song has everything a Rockabilly devotee could dream of. The flipside, although bluesy, is equally good : a Rockabilly combo trying its hands at Blues for « Positively blues ». A very desirable record !
Finally a R&B rocker by one of the greats, the albino « Blonde Bomber » (remember the Little Richard-esque « Strollie Bun » on Hull?), here under his other alias, LITTLE RED WALTER for « Aw shucks baby » on the N.Y. Le Sage (# 711) label. Walter is on guitar and harmonica (1960).
The Blonde Bomber, alias of Walter Rhodes, or Little Red Walter
Enough for this time ! Sources are 45cat for label scans, or YouTube or Roots Vinyl Guide, even Rockin’ Country Style. 78Rpm-world (mainly Ronald – thanks to him). My own researches on the Net and my archives. Praguefrank’s Country discography (Smokey Rogers, Red Kirk discos). Michel Ruppli’s « Aladdin/Imperial labels » book. Values from : Barry K. John guide or Tom Lincoln/Dick Blackburn book.