This favorites section begins with NEAL JONES. Born in the small community of Tywhop, TN, in 1922, he began his career with the Johnson Brothers on Kingsport and Chattanooga radio stations as lead guitarist as soon as 1940. He then moved to Montana, then back to Tennessee. 1953 saw him guitarist for Eddie Hill and Sonny James in Dallas, TX. That’s where he gained a contract with Columbia, and followed a long string (6) of releases with this major until mid-1955. I chose one of his earliest efforts, « Foolin’ women », (# 21292) and the double-sider nearest to Rockabilly, (# 21415) « High steppin’ baby » and « I’m playing it cool », both cut at Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas with WFAA staff musicians. Later on, Jones had his own T.V. show, and was more and more involved in a D.J. work . He finally had one record on « D ».
Next we find the former lead guitar player for the Maddox Bros. CAL MADDOX on the Flat-Git-It (# 700) label from California. I suspect the label was his own label. « Hey Bill » is a fast Hillbilly rock from 1960 : strong guitar as expected, sawing fiddle. Shortly before that, Cal and his sister Rose had cut « Gotta travel on » on the Black Jack label.
From Columbus, OH, comes the next record, « Hobo baby » by JOE & RAY SHANNON on the Shenandoah label # 246. Obviously brothers – it’s Joe singing -, they offer a strong guitar rockabilly tune, surprisingly good for 1964.
On one of the many Dixie labels that flourished everywhere in the U.S., there’s this one « I guess I’m wise » (# 833) by MALCOLM NASH (with the Putman County Play Boys). Probably issued 1960. An harmonica is the prominent instrument, over a powerful rhythm guitar, while the band (2 voices) sings in unison. This record reminds me much of the Delmore Bros. On the label however there is no clue as to where do come the artist neither the label from, except it’s a Rite pressing, so probably from the Cincinnati area.
Born Bobby Musgrove in 1932. No biographical data have been gathered except those skin-deep, D.J.s only biographical facts on the « not for sale » King issues.
His career began under his real name on the Kentucky label with with « Dollar sign heart » (#584) in 1954, when he returned from U.S. Army. It’s a very nice hillbilly bopper, pushed by a fine guitar. A very rare issue on the Audio Lab label, seemingly a part of the Carl Burkhardt’s empire of Kentucky/Gateway/4 Big hits cheap labels: Grove had an EP (thanks to Allan Turner to have unearthed and shared this scarce issue) of 4 tracks, one being penned by Walter Scott of « I’m walking out » (Ruby 100) fame. In 1956, he dropped his name to « Grove » on the King label, where he cut 4 records, all of whom are good hillbillies, the best are « No parking here » (# 4946), and the echoey (fast, almost rockabilly) « Whistle of the gravy train » (# 5007). Also worth of hearing: « I saw here first » (# 5027). He’d redone his Kentucky tune as « Dollar sign« . During the latter part of 1957 he had his last single on the Cincinnati new label Lucky, # 003 « Jealous dreams/Be still, my heart« . Again two fine bopping sides.
Bobby Grove reappeared later in 1962 as minister and cut many religious albums with much success (several shots on YouTube). That’s all I know about him.
1963 issue of a 1956 track
With thanks to Allan Turner and John Burton for the loan of rare label scans and mp3, the others taken from the web.
Howdy folks! Just another batch of good ole’ Hillbillies, Honky tonks, and Hillbilly boogies (all from the 50s/early 60s). No label shots, sorry: I just re-formated my Macintosch hard drive, and lost all my sites in course! Sometimes I own the actual record, wish I had them ALL! But, you know, it’s not a matter of time neither of money to get them, they are really THAT rare…
We begin with a very rare USAF live transcription of HANK SNOW, early 50s. Hank does 3 tunes, first his signature song, “I’M MOVING ON”, then he embarks on a track that is known to me, but at the moment I cannot remember the title of the song. He finishes with the famous “HONEYMOON ON A ROCKET SHIP”. Fine, powerful rhythm guitar from Hank himself, I would assume; if the band which is backing him is the same as on recording sessions, then the great steel should be played by either Joe Talbot, or Melford Gentry.
Honky Tonk now with CARL SMITH on Columbia, with the fine 1955 “Baby I’m Ready”, lotta bird-dogging in this song, with the perfect Nashville musicians staff. On to early 60s I’d assume. I don’t know the location of the CLET label, perhaps Texas? I’ve chosen the uptempo “Honky Tonkin’ Baby” by BOB SMITH. September 1960, Cincinnati, King records studio. My own tribute to a great singer/songwriter, LATTIE MOORE, who just passed away on June 13th (he was heartsick since the 90s); here we have “Drivin’ Nails (In My Coffin)” – is it the same number popularized circa 1947 by JERRY IRBY? I have not the time to compare the songs.
Next comes from Texas or Oklahoma a minor classic by AL VAUGHN, “She’s An Oakie” (Four Star) from 1952. Good harmonica throughout, and fine steel. Then to Tennessee and on the DOT label, out of Gallatin. BIG JEFF & The Radio Playboys for the fine offering “I don’t talk to strangers”, from 1950 or 1951. Could Big Jeff be…LUKE McDANIELS, or as he was billed on MEL-A-DEE out of New Orleans (“Daddy O-Rock” from 1956), JEFF DANIELS? His actual story is yet to be written…Finally we have Danny (name forgotten!) as HANK THE DRIFTER and the great “Bill Collector Blues” – late 50s on the NEW ENGLAND label. Hope you N-joy everything! Comments welcome.
Hello folks! This is REALLY a hot summer over there in France, lot of heavy clouds but…no rain at all. Perfect time anyway to keep oneself well dry inside and stomp to that good ole’ Hillbilly beat. We begin with a very elusive artist from the Cumberland Valley/Cincinnati area. I’ve told before in this site about him, and did promise I should post everything I gathered for one year and a half. This could be later this year, so watch out for the fullest possible story on Mr. JIMMIE BALLARD. The first cut in this fortnite is Ballard’s own version of « Birthday Cake Boogie » (Kentucky 508)
of course, the same song was also recorded by, among others, BILLY HUGHES and SKEETS McDONALD, and stands out as a classic ‘risqué‘ or ‘double-entendre‘ song. Ballard was the front man then of BUFFALO JOHNSON‘s Herd (who was active in the D.C. area, and a full story on him is on the line. And he keeps the vocal duties with the also ‘risqué‘ (Kentucky 520 ) « T’ain’t Big Enough« . Both songs are from 1953/1954, fine uptempo Boppers, altho’ just above average, except for lyrics.
Back to a Wildcat out of Texas, a very long career as steel guitar player as soon as 1936, then singer and front man of his band, the XYT Boys, BILLY BRIGGS. I will have some day a complete story on him. He was (maybe he’s still alive, I dunno) to have a sound on his own, and produced very strange ditties from his steel in 1951 for his greatest success (much covered) « Chew Tobacco Rag N° 2 » . Here I’ve chosen the amusing « North Pole Boogie » (Imperial 8131, late Forties), complete with icy wind effects (on steel), and Briggs’ own barytone voice imitating a sort of ‘polar bear’ .
Back to Cincinnati and BILL BROWNING. I’ve written about him elsewhere in the site with the story of the LUCKY label. Today I listen to his composition « Dark Hollow« , which was a hit in 1958 when picked up by JIMMIE SKINNER, before the very nice version on BLUE RIDGE by LUKE GORDON (watch out for his story later in 2010), then even by The Grateful Dead in 1973, among others. I particularly like the recent version made by FRED TRAVERS (90’s) which I’ve included in the podcasts; almost falsetto urgent vocal and great dobro.
More from Cincinnati. BOBBY ROBERTS (I think there were at least 2, or 3 personas by the same name during he 50’s). Here he’s the great Hillbilly singer, who cut late 1955 4 sides for KING records. I cannot rememeber if I posted earlier his great « I’m Gonna Comb You Out Of My Hair » (what a title!). This time, I offer the second KING (4868, unverified – Ruppli’s book still stored) « I’m Pulling Stakes And Leaving You », same lyrics format. Great, great Hillbilly Bop. Later in 1956, Roberts (or one of his aliases) had « Big Sandy » or « Hop, Skip and Jump« , pure Rockabillies. I still wonder if it’s the same man; if so, he would have adapted very well and quickly (within some months) from pure Hillbilly vocal to almost Rock’n’Roll. By the way, he would not have been the first to do so: SKEETS McDONALD, GEORGE JONES, MARTY ROBBINS did very well the transition early in 1956.
Another elusive artist: guitar player/singer PETE PIKE. Recently deceased (2006) just after a CD ‘back to roots’ (Bluegrass) issued in 2005, he was active both in Virginia and D.C. areas from 1947 onwards, and associated several years with another interesting man, BUZZ BUSBY (Busbice). Pike had Hillbilly Bop records on FOUR STAR and CORAL in 1954-1955, among them I’ve chosen the superior ballad « I’m Walking Alone« . Another future entry in www.bopping.org, research is well advanced.
Finally, on the Rocking Blues side, you’re in for a treat with L.A. ‘black Jerry Lee Lewis’ (as the Englishmen call him when he visits their shores), WILLIE EGAN and « What A Shame » from 1957 (Vita label). Pounding piano, wild vocal, strong saxes, heavy drums, the whole affair rocks like mad, althoug relaxed. Enjoy, folks. Comments welcome. ‘Till then, bye-bye.
Billy Barton was born in London, Kentucky, on November 21rst, 1929. At the age of sixteen, after special training at school, he had secured a job as a tobacco auctioneer but, when he was twenty-one, his love of music carried the youngster to his first professional appearance on radio KXLA out of Pasadena, California. However, it seems to have been a further two years before Billy was to see his name on record. This first release for Fabor A. Robinson’s Abbott label was a duet with Johnny Horton on the flip of Johnny’s ninth Abbott issue. The next record on the label showed the same format, Horton solo on one side coupled with Horton/Barton duet on the other.
At this time, he was recording as Hillbilly Barton and would persevere with this name for a further two issues
before simplifying his name to Billy Barton for his remaining six Abbott platters. Although none of these records became mammoth sellers, the Country press was full of praise and D.J.s were giving them plenty of spins. One side of each of his last two Abbott discs were duets with Wanda Wayne, who he would go on to marry shortly afterwards, in December 1954.
Whilst on the honeymoon the couple cut at least one session for the King label of Cincinnati, but it was most probably two separate sessions in a matter of days. The penultimate of the songs is Wanda Wayne’s « Turn Your Fire Down », which is an excellent Hillbilly bopper.
It was 1957 before we know of him recording again and then it was for the obscure Stars Inc. company. After that the next two seem to have been custom pressings from the same plant, the first under the banner of a music publisher%