Howdy y’all, folks. This is the late April 2017 fortnight’s favorites selection : 7 artists in very different styles, Hillbilly bop, Bluegrass bop, Boogie woogie and Jumping Blues.
The first record is by a team, that of WALLIE & TEX ISABELL issued on the very small and rare Houston, TX Eddie’s label circa 1951-52. Primarily a R&B label (I only know of saxman Clarence Green, and the first ever record of R&B/boogie pianist Little Willie Littlefield : this man will appear at the end of this selection), it could also release Hllbilly bop like these « Sugar cain gal » [sic] b/w « The good old days » (Eddie’s 1219). The first tune is a jumping little one, where a lap-steel player – at last seemingly – is heard in Hawaïan style, and let lose himself very lovely. The backing is minimal : that steel, rhythm guitar, bass and vocal. A pretty nice track. Its flipside, a little less fast, is a fine ballad. One would like to hear more.
The second artist is not an unknown for any Hillblly bop addict. ROY COUNTS had two great sides on the California Bel Aire label in 1957 ; they are to be heard in the story of Jack Tucker (elsewhere in this site). Here we find him a bit later early ’60’s on the Jedco label (# 5009, location unknown)[1963, California, said DrunkenHobo], also issued on Commerce (# 5009, strangely)[acc. to DrunkenHobo, 2nd pressing, 1964]. « Temptation » is good uptempo in Bakersfield style. A great aggressive steel-guitar, which must be played by Ralph Mooney.
A legend now : LEON PAYNE ; this blind man was responsible for so many good records during the ’50s on many labels too, always had sincere ballads. Here on T.N.T. from San Antonio, TX, he delivers a very nice « I’ll still be around »; an atmospheric steel, the whole reminds one of Joe Carson on the ‘D’ label (« Careless words/Time lock »)[The story of Joe Carson is elsewhere in this site]. « I’ll stil be around »
On to Bluegrass bop with the duet RALPH & ROY who do a fabulous job on Wolf-Tex (a Lancaster, KY label) # 105, « Mountains in Kentucky ». It’s a very fast track, the banjo player offers a feat while the electric guitar has great Rockabilly style solo, too short. That same Wolf-Tex label also issued Harold Montgomery‘s « How much do you miss me » in 1961 (valued at 4 or 500 $), as well as « Ramblin’ » Roy Cunningham (« Waves on the bayou »).
A fast Bopper again with BUD ALDEN & his Buckaroos from California, 1959 [DrunkenHobo rectifies: a 4* custom from Seattle, WA. 1957]. Was then Buck Owens involved in any way in this recording ? (So, if this a Seattle recording, there is no chance of ole’ Buck involved). « When the ice worms nest again » [what a strange title] can be found on the Arctic label (# 701): a good guitar is embroiding the deep vocal of Leon Roach, unknown elsewhere.
From 1948, back to Eddie’s label in Houston (# 1202), and the very first double-sider by « LITTLE WILLIE » LITTLEFIELD. « My bestwishes » is a medium-paced opus, the rhythm is very heavy, and one detects in Littlefield’s voice the influence of his mentor Amos Milburn, like in the latter’s « Cinch blues ». The B-side « Little Willie’s boogie » is a furious showcase of fast piano.
Finally BUDDY CUDD & his Show Buds deliver a fine Jimmie Rodgers influenced « No hard time blues » on the United Low Country # 1006, out of Hampton, S.C. A touch of yodel, a very good guitar (lot of echo). On the same label were Buddy Livingston & his All Girls Band, previously on Savannah, a Starday custom. But this is another story, as they say..
As for the past, here are a good amount of boppers cut between 1947 and as recent as 1966.
Fiddler TEX GRIMSLEY was a Louisiana Hayride resident, and played his part on almost – if not all – Pacemaker sides of 1949-50. This label was co-owned by Horace Logan (boss of the Hayride) and Webb Pierce, and was constantly of high standard. Grimsley & his Showboys included guitar player Buddy Attaway [his story is somewhere told in this site], Shot Jackson on steel and the inevitable Tillman Franks on bass, while the vocal duties are taken by (supposed related) Cliff Grimsley, and the tune « Shuffle on down » (Pacemaker 1005) is really a lazy, shuffling call-and-response format bopping song. Shot Jackson produces really wild effects on his steel.
« Shufflin’ on down »
»One little teardrop too late » is a crazy-paced item issued as by PLAIN SLIM & the O’Dell Family on the Davis, WVA Cozy label (# 570) from as late as 1966. Two soli each by fiddle and lead guitar over a strong rhythm guitar. One can wonder how this type of record was launched in a world of current pop music, even commercial Country. The name itself sounds like a pseudonym.
From 1951 and by a veteran, PHIL HARRIS, for the fine « Tennessee hill-billy ghost » on a RCA EP-702. He’s been before during the Forties on Ara (« That’s what I like about me », certainly not the Terry Fell’s song) or Okeh.
Another mystery comes from WVA, that of KED KILLEN, and his superb Hillbilly boppers cut between 1966 and 1969 on his own Western Ranch label. Here are both sides of WR 119. Uptempo side is « Hey pretty mama » , while « Lonesome blues » is slower. Plaintive, wailing voice over a top notch accompaniment – a welcome echo too, and a fine guitar. Both sides could easily have been cut a good 10 to 15 years before.
DICK HART on the Texan label Cowtown Hoedown (# 778) delivers a very fine uptempo bluesy « Time out for the blues ». Solid rhythm, pounding guitar and a wild steel (June 1957). Who will get interest with this important and rich label, Cowtown Hoedown ? Its name was changed a short time later to just Cowtown.
From Texas to near Oklahoma with BILLY WEBB & his Seminoles for « Burdock road » on the Stardale label # 50611 ; label was located in Morris, OK. It’s a solid Hillbilly bopper with good fiddle solo and steel/piano over a shuffle rhythm. There were 3 Stardale labels around the same time.
To get to an end, here are two 4* custom issues on the Nugget label (# 190 and 191) by DUSTY TAYLOR and his Rainbow Valley Rangers. « My shining star » and « Down grade » are very fine Hillbillies. Taylor was also in 1947 on the West coast label Westernair (# 107B) with the great « Ranger boogie » : typical romping ’40s music, accordion to the fore, fiddle is well present. The record is billed « instrumental’ but Taylor has a great, swinging vocal in it. A very pleasant record !
I just found « Boogie blues« , apparently issued on Westernair (untraced label), and on a French compilation, « Country Boogie ». And it’s a romper too!
First two selections for this late February 2017 fortnight do come from Florida. Absolutely nothing is known from the vocalist/bandleader JOE ASHER. Apparently unknown on the Net, and not associated to another of the same name, he was a one-off record man. His record was first issued at Rockin’ # 515 in 1953, then reissued by DeLuxe ( # 2001) for a perfect Bopper, « Photograph of you », a fast, fantastic tune : very assured vocal, great solos – fiddle, guitar and steel. The flipside, « Daddy dear », a mid-paced opus, is just as good (steel is prominent). I wonder why this guy never recorded more, at least under his name.
Then to early ’60s in Birmingham, AL. with OTHELL SULLIVAN& the Southern All-Stars (are they the house band of the label?) on Reed 1053. The song is written by Leon Bowman, a prolific songster and singer in is own right. « There’s sure to be goodbyes » is a jumping tune, sympathetic backing (steel and discreet drums) over a good vocal : a nice tune for 1961. Sullivan had had already « Call me, baby » on Wonder (unheard) in 1958 ; later he joined the Longhorn stable (# 513).
JIMMIE STONE (acc. by Coy McDaniel guitarist) had on the New Jersey Cross Country label 45-22 a great Country rocker, « Found » in April ’56. Strong lead guitar and good backing over an assured vocal (lot of echo). The disc must have had a certain impact under chart-angle, because the big N.Y. concern Gone reissued it next year as it was on Gone # 5001. The flipside « Mine » is an insipid slowie, largely forgettable.
From Indiana on a rather devoted to Blues/R&B label, Falcon, here’s to be found the Hillbilly bopper/Rockabilly of CURLEY SHELTON (# 609) « with Doug Oldham & his Dixie 6 ». « Have you seen my baby » is a medium bluesy tune, assured vocal and an embroidering very good guitar.
Finally a song, « Hillbilly wolf », wrongly attributed to Dave Dudley on a low-bdget album cover, is actually sung and played by LINK WRAY. A medium uptempo, good vocal but rather uninspired guitar. This tune may come from the late ’50s or even the early ’60s.
(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 !
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.