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.
Two 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.
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.
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).
This is the first fortnight’s favorites section for 2017, and we begin with a curious record : by CLIFF FERRÉ, « A cocky cowboy » on the Kem label (California). It’s a fast Western swing flavored number.
RAY WHITLEY (1901-1979) seemingly on the East coast is present with two tracks : « Jukebox cannonball » on Cowboy # 301 from 1947 : a lovely piece of Bop, which reminds me of Hank Williams‘ early sides. One composer name, that of Rusty Keefer, brings to Philadelphia and Bill Haley’s version on Essex 311 (January 1952). A long biography of Ray Whitley is to be found on YouTube: Johnn Maddy chain.
I added a reference version : JESSE ROGERS (cousin to Jimmie) released « Jukebox cannonball » too on Arcade 147 in January 1957. Ray Whitley « Jukebox cannonball »
Whitley also had in 1949 another great number, « You’re barkin’ up the wrong tree now », on Apollo 195. An insistant crazy fiddle rivalling with an excellent guitar over a warm voice. This was a Hank Willams/Fred Rose compostion. At least the title was renewed in December 1956 in the hands of DON WOODY (Decca 30277) who takes his song at a brisk speed for a true Rockabilly classic, full of amusing barks. Great guitar of Grady Martin.
Ray Whitley « You’re barkin’ up the wrong tree now »
On the West coast now with JIMMIE LAWSON. He does a fine shuffler, « Tennessee blues » (Columbia 20477) from July 1947. Much later on the Fable label, in 1957 (# 584) he had « Ole Jack Hammer blues », a strong medium paced rocker with great guitar (Sandy Stanton, owner of Fable records?).
(by Michael Cocksedge – all additional content in brackets and italics by Bopping’s editor)
On to you, Mick!
Movie star, Radio star, Recording Star, Nashville lounge bar co-owner …..you name it and Big Jeff has done it and done it in style .
Born on 2nd September 1920 as Grover Franklin Bess in Ashland, just north west of Nashville. At the age of nineteen he married the girl from the next village called Emily Ediker . He started playing guitar in the late 30’s and by 1940 he was playing with ‘Roy Lucas & his Rhythm Rangers’ live on Radio Station W.L.A.C .
Jeff was never called to army service in WWII due to high blood pressure and so was working during the day during the war years at a bomb factory in mid Tennessee and by night working on Radio and various live shows and State Fairs .
From the mid 1940’s Jeff’s career is hard to establish, he was certainly on the rosters of various Radio Staions including Harrisburg W.E.B.Q , Knoxville W.N.O.X and at W.S.I.X where he could be found in the line up with ‘Goober and his Kentuckians’ plus many other stations. So by 1946 the 6ft 2 BIG Jeff Bess and his new band ‘The Radio Playboys’ had returned to W.L.A.C in Nashville and started a regular twice daily radio show.
Jeff’s early ‘Radio Playboys’ line-up included future stars like Grady Martin playing Fiddle (of course Grady was starting to make waves with his guitar playing and would go on to be a major picker in the country music scene), Lucky Strickland playing Accordion, Hillous Butrum on Doghouse Bass, Tommy Neblett on Guitar and Jeff handling acoustic Guitar and vocals. Benny Martin (no relation) was to take over Fiddle duties after Grady Martin left. Around this time the band were joined by Jack Henderson and many more musicians from all over the state.
It was during the late 40’s that his marriage to Emily had broken down and he started dating a certain Hattie Louise AKA ‘Tootsie’ (they would be married in 1949) and already Jeff was venturing into running bars and Club ownership as a way of making extra money.
By the late 40’s Jeff had lost his band so he recruited a local combo called ‘The Eagle Rangers’ to become his new ‘Radio Playboys’ the line-up was now Billy Robinson on Steel, his Brother Floyd Robinson on Lead Guitar [could he be the Floyd Robinson who later teamed up with Autry Inman for the “Jack & Daniel” duet, who cut 1953-54 several discs on Decca?], Jerry Rivers on Fiddle and Jack Boles on the upright Bass.
Guitarist and singer George McCormick during late 1949 would also join the band. George was raised and lived in the fantastic but gloomy sounding town called ‘Defeated Creek’ and would be another young picker, to go under Jeff’s wing before going on to future solo stardom. [Later on George McCormick went solo in 1953-54 on M-G-M and duetted with Texan Earl Aycock as “George and Earl” in 1955-56 on Mercury – see “Done gone” and their story elsewhere in this blogsite]
So into the 1950’s and Jeff was working hard, regular shows, regular radio slots and club/bar owner, things were starting to take off for Jeff and the Radio Playboys. Their shows were a mix of Hillbilly, folk and some gospel and by all accounts they could raise the roof just about anywhere .
Now Jeff was earning more money in this period than most Opry stars and was very influential in Nashville, BIG Jeff was a BIG deal ! but suprisingly had very little in the way of records released !
Jeff Bess and another (stage?) line-up of the Radio Playboys
Jeff and the Radio Playboys backed Jack Henderson on their first recorded release on ‘Cheker’ # 100 in early 1947 ‘The Tramp On The Street’ / ‘Gonna Give You Back To The Indians’. Jack took the vocals, Jeff Bess – Acoustic Guitar, Benny Martin – Fiddle, Grady Martin – Lead Guitar and Hillous Butrum on Bass. Grady Martin steals the show with some fine pickin’ on the ‘Indians’ side …..just marvelous !
The first proper Jeff Bess with The Radio Playboys release was in 1947 on ‘Cheker’ # 103 . The line-up was Jeff Bess – Vocals with Jack Henderson – Acoustic Guitar, Benny Martin – Fiddle, Grady Martin – Guitar and Hillous Butrum on Bass. ‘Poppin’ Bubble Gum’ b/w ‘A Kiss And A Memory’ . ‘Poppin’ Bubble Gum’ was a jaunty novelty number with various comic impersonations and was a fun number that folks liked at all his shows. [Original version had been written by Cincinnati guitar virtuoso Zeb Turner and cut by Lonzo & Oscar in July 1947 on RCA-Victor 47-2765. They often performed this song at their Opry appearances].
1949 saw a second release but this time on ‘World Records’ # 1520 ‘After We Are Through’, which is a superb mid-tempo slice of hillbilly with lashings of Steel, Fiddle and Banjo, written by Jeff and on the flip again another updated version of ‘Poppin’ Bubble Gum’ [which reminds one of 1950 Billy Briggs’’ hit “Chew Tobacco Rag” on Imperial]. This was the last release on World Records Inc and the line-up on this recording was probably (Photo Below) Jack Boles- Bass, Bob King – Banjo, Bill Robinson (Seated) Steel – Jerry Rivers – Fiddle, Big Jeff Bess – Vocals/Guitar & Floyd Robinson – Guitar ( Announcer in this photo is Bill Stamps)
Through this period according to various band members and promoters, Jeff was a great entertainer, a really good show man, but like a lot of stars of this period he loved a drink and he also loved the women ….. a lot !
Jeff and the boys had been playing the Tennessee State Fair which was re-introduced after the war in 1947, Jeff and the Radio Playboys always played the Beer Garden area and were sponsored by ‘Ma n’ Pa Hom Bru Beer’, so over time they worked into the routine comedy sketches and songs about this wonderful beer. It was around the 1950 State Fair that somebody had the idea of cutting a record to sell at the fair. The two songs ‘Ten – E -Cee –Hom – Bru’ and ‘Hom- Bru Boogie’ were recorded in the studios of W.L.A.C . Jeff Bess – Vocals/Guitar. Probably the Radio Playboys were Ed Hyde – Fiddle, George McCormick – Lead Guitar, Dwain Birdwell – Steel Guitar and Jack Boles – Bass . The records were sold only at the fair in 1950, how many were cut is unclear, but the label design is basic and there is no mention of the band on the label; this is an extremely rare 78 rpm (see my copy pictured below), imagine buying this in a beer garden booze up at the State Fair in 1950 and then imagine every copy made it home without a crack or breakage after an all day session on the Hom Bru ……very unlikely indeed !
New record company ‘Dot Records’ was looking for new acts for the big battle against the well-established labels in the Country/Hillbilly field in 1950. Big Jeff knew owner Randy Wood through radio station work and was duly signed up. Jeff saw five releases on Dot with some success . Dot # 1004 in the spring of 1950 was the first and was a tune geared at a popular money making market ‘Juke Box Boogie’ / ‘You Talk In Your Sleep’ . Juke Box Boogie was a superb Guitar driven honkytonker and jumps and bops around for sure.[heavily bootlegged as ’45rpm and yellow wax those days]
1959 saw Jeff and wife Tootsie purchased a club in Nashville called ‘Mom’s’ which they renamed ‘Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge’ and was the place to be if you were a name in Country music in Nashville. Jeff ventured into the movies around this time where he had small appearances in ‘Face In The Crowd’ and in 1960 in ‘Wild River’ . By 1960 he and ‘Tootsie’ had divorced and she kept the club and Jeff would by the mid 60’s become a real life Sheriff in the Tennessee Police Department where he would stay until his retirement in 1980.
Big Jeff Bess passed away in August 1998. Jeff never saw massive music fame, but he left us some fantastic songs and if you listen to the Bear Family CD ‘Tennessee Home Brew’ and the Radio show tunes you can hear Big Jeff’s infectious laugh before and after every song, a true country star a true Radio Playboy !
Hi ! To everybody visiting this website. This is the last fortnight’s favorites selection of 2016, and I hope you will find something of interest in this serie. Not much inspired (and not enough researches) this time, I’ll add very few comments on each record.
The SEVEN ROWE BROTHERS were 7 brothers (and a younger sister) who came originaly from Oklahoma, but settled in California after WWII. They did cut first on Pioneer 607 a fine romping instrumental, an hybrid Western swing/hillbilly boogie in « Spring boogie blues », piano led with solos by steel (Guy Rowe)l and fiddle.
On Pioneer 608, Jack Rowe takes the vocal duty for this good Billy Hughes‘ classic « Birthday cake » : twin fiddles are in the hands of Earl and D.L. Later on the song was revived first by Skeets McDonald on Fortune, then by Jimmy Ballard on Kentucky.
A fast Hillbilly boogie now with BUSTER PACK on the Campbellville, KY. Rich-R’-Tone label (# 1051). « Indian boogie » came in 1952. He had previously recorded in vintage Bluegrass style with « Better late than never » (# 1050).
from 1959-61. «Please forgive me » is piano led and has a short guitar solo. This record is not listed in Les Fancourt’s « Blues discography ».
Sources : Youtube ; Praguefrank ; my own archives. Next articles about SPECK & DOYLE, DUB DICKERSON and « PECK » TOUCHTON. Information needed for future features on FRED CRAWFORD and WALTER « Tex » DIXON.
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.