This article (and the following ones about the same musical label) is based on the Hillbilly Researcher’s article from 1992 written by expert Phillip. Tricker, and mostly on the notes of other experts Andrew Brown and Kevin Coffey for the compilation « Heading back to Houston » (Krazy Kats CD12) issued ca. 1998. Important additions have been made by bopping’s editor.
The style of Honky Tonk music that Starday commenced to issue in 1953 had developped over the years following the end of WWII and a thriving recording scene had expanded in the Houston area with much of the recorded output appearing on labels like FOUR STAR and more locally labels like MACY’S, NUCRAFT, OPERA, HUMMING BIRD and PHAMOUS to name but just a few. Some, like MACY’S issued over fifty releases while others scaled down to a mere dozen or so and yet others a solitary lone release. One of the most important of these labels was FREEDOM : little was known about the artists and bopping music. However, since 1992 and Phillip Tricker’s article, an important amount of research has been done and we can now have a far better overview of both the label, its owner and the artists.
Tennessean Eddie Hill (James Edward Hill) was born on July 21, 1921, in either McMinn County or Polk County. Being from a family with a rich musical tradition, Eddie already started singing and playing the guitar at very young age and he formed his first band while still in his teens. His first experience with radio work came while living in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his family had moved because of Eddie’s father’s work. Eddie first started working for local radio station WROL but in the early 1940s, he and his band moved to WNOX to work at the “Mid-Day-Merry-Go-Round” show, as “Smilin’ Eddie Hill and the Mountain Boys”. Some time later, Eddie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he joined WKRC, but in 1943 Johnny Wright convinced him to return to Knoxville to join the Tennessee Hillbillies, a group build around Johnny & Jack and Kitty Wells. In 1945, Eddie quit the Tennessee Hillbillies to try his luck in Hollywood’s movie business, but he soon moved back to Knoxville to return to WNOX, together with his Mountain Boys that now consisted of Leonard Dabney (guitar), Johnny Gallagher (bass), Billy Bowman (electric guitar) and Bob Sumner (fiddle). It was around this time that Eddie got married to his wife Jacqueline Adkins. (suite…)