Howdy folks ! This is the mid-summer fortnight’s selection. All the tunes were recorded between 1956 and 1961. With the last one we begin : 1961, in London, OH on the Karl label (property of Clay Eager) # 3022. LACY KIRK does a very fine job on « This is saturday night », fast tempo, nice steel and fiddle. Value $ 100-200. The flipside « What happened to our love » is a great sincere ballad.
Next from Chicago: BILLY PRAGER & his Caravans and a wild double-sider from December 1958 on the (R&B) Crystal label (# 106) . The steel guitar is particularly effective and does very strange sounds for « Do it bop », while « Everybody’s rockin’ » is a bit more conventional Rockabilly/rocker. $ 300-400. This Crystal label has nothing to do with the Memphis one of the same name : serie 500 (Jimmy Knight and « Hula bop » or Jimmy Pritchett « That’s the way I feel » – with great swooping piano by some player who sounds very, very much like Jerry Lee Lewis !/Nothing on my mind »).
ONIE WHEELER was a Great. Born in 1927 in Senath, MO. he pursued his career during nearly 50 years, just ending it on the stage of the Friday Night Opry one day of 1984. Here are two sides aimed by collectors, and for good reasons : they are among his best tunes of the ’50s, cut in Dallas in June 1956 for Columbia : « Onie’s bop » and « I wanna hold my baby » (Columbia 21523) are good examples of the commercial Rockabilly a massive major had to offer, the B-side being in my mind the better one.
CLYDE BEAVERS next, on the Georgia (Starday custom) label # 532 from Tennga, Ga. « I won’t always love you » is a bluesy tune over a drivin’ medium rhythm, in all cases a primitive bopper from 1955. Later Beavers specialized himself (’60s) in drinking or smoking songs, like Lattie Moore‘s « Here I am drunk again » or Webb Pierce‘s « Cigarettes and whiskey (and wild, wild women) ».
« Sal’s house » was declined back-to-back of another Dixie (# 121) by CARSON WILLIS from Greer, South Carolina. This « Sal’s house # 1» seems to be a real mess ! Date : 1959. »
A blues with a yodel : it may not sound much now, but in the 1920s a lot of careers were carved out of that curious amalgam. Jimmie Rodgers started it, and after him went Gene Autry, or Jimmie Davis, or Cliff Carlisle. The latter yodeled the longest and the best.
Raised in the countryside outside Louisville, Kentucky, Carlisle would say later : « My music is a cross between hillbilly and blues – even Hawaïan music has a sort of blues to it. » Teaming first in the early Thirties with the singer-guitarist Wilbur Ball, he went on the vaudeville tent show circuit, and afterwards he told they had actually been the first yodeling duet.
Then in 1930 he recorded in a Jimmie Rodgers vein (« Memphis yodel »), but with a distinctive touch on the Dobo resonator steel guitar. At this point he was also making a name on Louisville stations (WHAS and WLAP), billing himself and Ball as the « Lullaby Larkers ». That’s how his career took off.
In 31 or 32, he was in New York, extending his own port-folio, and recalling Jimmie Rogers singing a number about a rooster : « What makes a Shanghai crow at the break of day ? To let the Dominicker hen know the head man’s on his way.. » Ralph Peer wouldn’t let him record that, because it was kind of a risqué tune at that time, but finally he let Carlisle go. Hence « Shanghaï rooster yodel n°2 ».
In 1932 Carlisle was working solo, but in the years that followed he was often partnered by his younger brother Bill. On one of their records they even staged a fight over who would do what. « Hold it, buddy, » says Cliff indignantly as Bill starts to yodel. « This is my « Mouse’s ear blues », and I’ll do the yodeling. » It isn’t the only unusual feature. « Moose’s ear blues » is, probably uniquely in the corpus of recorded hillbilly music, a song about defloration. « My little mama, she’s got a mouse’s ear, but she gonna lose it when I shift my gear. »
By the mid-’30s, when he was working on WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina, and recording for Bluebird and Decca, Cliff was making a fair bid to corner the hillbilly disc market in sniggery songs about roosters and ashcans (there was an occasional double entendre loitering in this vicinity), and humorously violent tales of marital discord like « Hen pecked man », « Pay day fight » or « A wild cat woman and a tom cat man », where Cliff’s boisterous flights of fancy are powered by the twin engines of his Dobro and Bill’s inventive flat-picked guitar. By the end of the decade he had been on four record labels and made almost 200 sides. He and Bill had a cross-section of country music just prior to WWII. So it was hardly surprising that their family group, the Carlisles, with various sons and dauhters, was popular on the Grand Ole Opry and had hits in the ’50s with « Too old to cut the mustard » and « No help wanted ».
In the mid-’50s Cliff retired to a quiet life of painting, fishing and church work. He did the occasional comeback on not very memorable albums for small labels, even reuniting with Wilbur Ball and playing for college audience or folk festivals.
(Freely adapted from the chapter devoted to Cliff Carlisle in Tony Russell’s « Country music originals – The legends and the lost »)
Here are some selections of Carlisle’s work in very different styles.
From 1932, backed by a wild slapping-bass, for the evergreen « Goin’ down the road feelin’ bad ».
Nothing at all is known about MACK HAMILTON, (not even a picture), except he came probably from the Gulf, between Port Arthur, a mere 90 miles East of Houston, TX, and nearby Louisiana. And that is asserted only by the location of the two record labels he got to wax on between 1953 and 1954.
His first ever record was cut in Port Arthur for the Diamond Recording Company in 1953. To add much more confusion, a Diamond diskery was active during this period, which emanated from Beaumont, TX (on the Gulf too) and issued Country records, for example one by Morris Mills (Diamond # 101, « Jumbalaya answer« ), a rather prolific regional artist (also 4* and Macy’s). Although you may say it’s the same company with two locations, which has nothing to do with two other Diamond Co. in New York. This « Diamond Recording Company » was also a short-lived concern with only two issues, one therefore by Mack Hamilton (vocal and guitar): (Diamond CW-1001/1002) : the lugubrious mid-tempo « Moaning in the morning » (fiddle and steel prominent) and the self-conscious very Hank Williams styled « Sweet little Rosebud », a solid bopper, with even a short accordion solo, but steel and fiddle are once more well present.
The second issue of the label was cut by Roland (R.A.) Faulk, as « Roland and his Rythm Boys » (sic). Sides CW 1003/1004 : « Send
me someone/I’d own the world ». are pleasant waltz tempo hillbillies. Nothing special, except a heay bass, a steel and a good piano and guitar. The singer is firm and confident : he was active on the Port Arthur area, and was to record in October 1956 the great Rockabilly « My baby’ gone » on Big State 592, a Starday custom, out of Port Acres, TX.(valued $ 700). But I am wandering from Mack Hamilton.
His next offerings were commited to wax in late 1953 for the Feature label, which was located in Crowley, La. and run by J.(Jay) D. Miller. Hamilton’s sides however were recorded at radio KTRM in Beaumont, TX. seemingly as a 4-tracks session. Backing Hamilton were Rusty (guitar) and his brother Doug Kershaw on fiddle, plus Louis Fourneret on steel. The tracks included two great Boppers : « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », completely Hank Williams styled with thudding bass and hot steel (Feature 1087A), and in the same pattern, « Will you will or will you won’t ?» (Feature 1095A).
Less fast were the flipsides, although very good on their part : the weepers mid-tempo « In a world without you » and « A girl with too many sweethearts ». And that was it. J. D. Miller wrote every Feature song, and must have had faith in « I’m a honky-tonk daddy », because he offered it to Wink Lewis on the very following number (# 1088). Lewis did a great version too. Later on he cut the great piano led Rockabilly « Zzztt, zzztt, zzztt » on the Texas Tone label (with Buzz Busby & his Band). I am wandering once more from Mack Hamilton, but there’s no more to relate about him : he disappeared completely from the music scene.
Hello, this is a full Summer 2017 (early August) fortnight favorites’ selection, with 10 tunes. The first two are by an unknown artist on a famous label. HARRY CARROLL on the Starday label # 277 (issued December 1956). A waltz tempo for « Checkerboard lover », a mid-paced sentimental « Two-timin’ » for the flipside. Typical Starday atmosphere, but nothing exceptional. Carroll seemingly co-wrote « The trail of the lonesome pine » for Jimmy Donley (Decca 30392), and that was over. « Checkerboard lover »
GLENN & JODY, the Singing Buddies were backed by Larry Nolen & the Bandits for this fine WS flavored bopper « I’m even with you » on the San Antonio label Eagle # 3772. It’s for you, Bill S. Larry Nolen was a veteran of the S.-A. scene, having records issued on Sarg as early as 1954 (« Hillbilly love affair »), Starday in 1956-57 (« Lucky lady », « King of the ducktail cats »), then later on Eagle (apparently his own label, or one he was involved in – backed by Herby Remington on steel) or Renner in 1961.
RED MANSEL had previously cut for Starday custom # 523 (« I’ve crossed you off my list ») in July 1955, and was the first to appear on Dan Mechura’s new label, All Star # 7165, with a fine medium paced ballad, « Changing heart ». Very great vocal.
KEN GABBARD & The Hilltop Ramblers cut in 1965 on the Trenton, OH Harp label (no #) the very nice « Thing’s can’t be as they were » (sic). Uptempo ballad, and typical early ’60s hillbilly sounds.
Hello, people ! Let’s begin this new July 2017 fortnight’s favorites selection with EARL PETERSON (b. 1927, d. 1973), a well-known figure out of Michigan. Apart from an early issue on his own Nugget label in 1949, he cut two sessions for Columbia in 1955 ; one of the songs involved was « I ain’t gonna fall in love » (# 21467). Light vocal, bass guitar, piano, all these combine for a fine bopper written by Vernon Claud. Peterson’s story is to be found in this site, was published January 2016.
Next artist KENNY ROBERTS was an ubiquitous one : Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, although he was born (1925- d. 2012) in Tennessee as George S. Kingsbury. His speciality was yodeling, and more than one of his songs showed this : « I was born to yodel », « She taught me to yodel » or « The Arizona yodeler ».
The song I chose of him is the fine « Hillbilly fever », issued February 1950 on the Coral label (# 64032) : his puffed vocal comes to a good effect, and he yodels lovely, mentioning Hillbilly songs of the era. Main instruments are harmonica and fiddle.
Now two Rockabillies by DANIEL NIX on the Zion, IL N&R label (Starday custom) from 1959. « Compensation blues » (# 741) is a medium-paced opus ; strong vocal and guitar to the fore. The follow-up is « Unlucky man » (# 756), the fastest of both tracks.
Way up North in Indianapolis with BOB HILL & his Melody Boys on Nabor 105. « This old train (is leaving my blues behind )» is a fast Rockabilly from 1959, lot of echo and a prominent fiddle. The second issue, « Empty dreams and empty arms » (Nabor 114B) is a shuffler from 1961-62, which has a lot of nice steel, a loud bass and a prominent rhythm guitar. A good record for this era. The song was revamped by Eddie Hill, unknown label. (The muddy sound, I’m sorry, comes from an old Tom Sims cassette).