From Monroe, La, JOHNNY SKILES enlisted in WWII at the age of 17. After the war, he moved from Beaumont, Texas to New Orleans, constantly writing songs and playing his guitar.
His brother-in-law (from Monroe) was Jack Hammons, who co-wrote with him and recorded « Mr. Cupid » for Starday (# 197) in 1955. Col. Tom Parker came through Monroe one day, heard Hammons sing Skiles’ original compositions, and quickly phoned Jack Starnes at Starday to arrange a session.
Johnny Skiles was signed to a songwriter’s contract by Southern-Peer in 1955, although unfortunately nothing ever resulted from it.
Skiles then moved to Oregon (he worked for the U.S. Post Office) in the mid-to-late fifties. His first record was a Starday custom 45, « The twinkle in your eyes/Ghosts of my lonely past », released on Corvette 672 circa 1958. Bob Hill and his Harmony Ranch Hands backed Skiles on these appealing boppers. He was influenced by Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, his boyhood friend from Monroe, on his C&W material.
His next outing was Rural Rhythm 518 « Is my baby coming back/Come paddle footin’ down », cut at Portland Ace studio, and released by Jim O’Neal, the late, colorful country DJ/entrepreneur from Arcadia, California. There are distinct echoes of Johnny Cash on these Skiles Rural Rhythm sides, despite chorus. Another Rural Rhythm, EP 37 ½, had 6 tracks among them « Sundown road » [unheard] by Skiles and Bob Hill.
Then he appeared on the good bopper « Blue shadows » (Rumac OP-287).
Rockabilly fans and collectors will be more interested in Johnny Skiles’ Rumac R&R session : « Hard luck blues/Rockin’ and rollin’ » was issued on a Four Star custom pressing as Rumac OP-301 in 1959. Johnny played rhythm guitar, accompanied by his fellow Bob Hill on his custom-made 8-string Fender. « Rockin’ and rollin’ » comes as a lovely Country-rocker – good lead guitar and a lazy rhythm. Ruby Smith owned the Rumac label, although Bill McCall, the owner of Four Star, claimed co-writing credits in his usual fashion as « W. S. Stevenson ». (He was doing that possibly inspired by the « Josea-Ling-Taub » of the Modern label’s Bihari brothers, or maybe more « D.Malone », the nom-de-plume of Duke/Peacock’s Don Robey).
Two unissued tunes, « Red headed woman » and « Rock jump boogie » were also recorded at the Ace Portland session : both are gentle Country-rockers, with Bob Hill’s inventive and agile guitar well to the fore. They sound demos. 500 copies of « Hard luck blues » were pressed, and intended also as a demo and showcase. In 1959 also, Johnny fronted vocally the group of the Echomores for « What-cha-do-in » on the Portland, OR. Rocket label # 1044). It’s a fast bopper/rocker with a very nice steel (solo), a good lead guitar and a solid rhythm throughout the song. Skiles get a girl replica near the end. A very fine record by him for the era. Thanks to CheesebrewWax Archive Youtube chain for unearthing such unknown goodies! From unknown origin/date (a Jim O’Neal recording), the White label album contained one more by Skiles, « If your telephone rings », a fast Rockabilly type song.
After that, Skiles and Bob Hill teamed with Leighton Atkins on organ and Gene Cipolloon on guitar for a serie of Country instrumentals, which were released on some EP’s by Jim O’Neal, sent to D.J.s in the manner of Starday. This way Skiles received a little money, more than from his records. These Eps were used by D.J.s to segue from one segment of commercial to the next, and were released on Rural Rhythm and, yes another O’Neal label, Honey-B. I include a solitary Honey-B 102 issue for the interesting « Comin’ home to you », a medium-paced Rockabilly, despite the girl chorus by the Tonettes.
Skiles and his group kept on performing throughout the 60s and 70s on the Pacific Northwest. That’s all is known of him.
From the notes (by Cees Klop apparently) of the album White label 8967 « The original Johnny Skiles », published 1991. Additions by bopping Editor. Original labels from 45-cat. Thanks to UncleGil to have provided me the WL album.
For a reason unknown, most of podcasts won’t open. Just click on the « Download » button to hear the music, when the player fails.
Onto the first Fortnight of this Autumn 2016. SMOKEY ROGERS (1917-1993) was a personality of the West coast and bandleader for s strong number of singers (Tex Wlliams, Ferlin Huskey) and releases (Capitol, Coral, Four Star, Starday and Shasta) from 1945 to 1965. On his (apparently) own label, Western Caravan, he even cut the first ever version of the classic « Gone » (# 901) in 1952. His label lasted with a handful of issues until 1955, among them I chose the great instrumental [not often in bopping] « John’s boogie » (Western Caravan 903). A real showcase for any musician involved (including ex-Hank Penny steel player virtuoso Joaquin Murphy), and every of them takes his solo or shines a way or the other. Splendid piano, horns, guitar, and of course steel, over an irresistible shuffle beat.
Another Smokey Rogers’ record has a young vocalist FERLIN HUSKY in April 1950 for « Lose your blues » on Coral 64063 (October 1950). It’s a nice shuffler with Huskey in good voice, and again Joaquin Murphy on steel.
Billboard Aug. 5, 1950 – a proof of popularity of Red Kirk
Several months later (February 1951), RED KIRK, another singer himself modeled on Hank Williams, took at his turn «Lose your blues » for an acceptable version, quite impersonal but backed by the cream of Nashville (Zeke Turner, Louie Innis, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson) , on Mercury 8257. Kirk had many other good songs, for example « Can’t understand a woman (who can’t understand her man »)(# 6288), « Knock out the lights and call the law » (# 6409), or later on Republic 7120 the double-sider « Red lipped girl/Davy Crockett blues » from 1956, , the good ballad « How still the night » on ABC-Paramount 9814, or his version of Loy Clingman‘s « It’s nothing to me » in 1957 on Ring 1503. I chose another Mercury disc, »Cold steel bues » (# 6309) from February 1951 and in the same ‘bluesy’ vein as « Lose your blues ».
From Nashville, TN to Texas and Fort Worth for an Imperial session held in September 1954. FREDDY DAWSON (vocal) backed probably by himself on steel-guitar, Billy Chamber or Buddy Brady (fiddle), Jimmy Rollins (guitar), George McCoy (bass) and Phillip Sanchez (drums) cut 4 tracks, among them the above average « Dallas boogie » (# 8274)(nice fiddle and steel). 2 tracks do remain unissued, and « Why baby why » may not be the George Jones track, an original Jones song cut in August 1955.
We stand in Fort Worth, this time in 1957 with GENE RAY on the Cowtown label # 646 and « I lost my head », a good uptempo bopper. In November he was to cut for the same label the great Rockabilly cum Rocker « Rock and roll fever » on the EP-677, which contained also the good « Love proof ». Was he the same artist as on Playboy 300, who committed on wax « Playboy boogie » ? Nevertheless as front singer of the Dusty Miller’s band, he also had the great rocker « I’m going to Hollywood » in 1960. All these tunes are to be easily found on YouTube or various compilations.
Now to the early ’60s in Orlando, Florida. WEBSTER DUNN, Jr. delivers a good country rocker on first side, « Black and white shoes » on the Dunmar (owned by DUNmar Peckam and MARy Yingst) label # 101. Echoed vocal, nice crisp guitar (+ a bridge), a welcome steel : a well-produced record. The second side has a sort of poppish vocal, although saved by the same guitar (ordinary solo) and steel : « Go go baby » is a typical Country uptempo ballad. (Record valued at $ 75-100).
Next artist seems to have possibly emananated from Dallas, Texas, as his label Amber, one out of three at the same time. It’s a 4* custom # 275 out in December 1957, and the artist is BOB GARMON, who delivers with « His Studio Combo », a neat and tight little band, one of the best Rockabillies ever, « I’m a-ready baby » (valued $ 500 to 1000). Great guitar solo, cool vocal on topical lyrics, the song has everything a Rockabilly devotee could dream of. The flipside, although bluesy, is equally good : a Rockabilly combo trying its hands at Blues for « Positively blues ». A very desirable record !
Finally a R&B rocker by one of the greats, the albino « Blonde Bomber » (remember the Little Richard-esque « Strollie Bun » on Hull?), here under his other alias, LITTLE RED WALTER for « Aw shucks baby » on the N.Y. Le Sage (# 711) label. Walter is on guitar and harmonica (1960).
The Blonde Bomber, alias of Walter Rhodes, or Little Red Walter
Enough for this time ! Sources are 45cat for label scans, or YouTube or Roots Vinyl Guide, even Rockin’ Country Style. 78Rpm-world (mainly Ronald – thanks to him). My own researches on the Net and my archives. Praguefrank’s Country discography (Smokey Rogers, Red Kirk discos). Michel Ruppli’s « Aladdin/Imperial labels » book. Values from : Barry K. John guide or Tom Lincoln/Dick Blackburn book.
This is late September 2016 fortnight’s bopping favorites. As prettily usual, I selected a dozen songs which I feel interesting both for their obscurity and/or their appeal. The songs range from early-to-mid ’50s to very early ’60s. Let’s begin on the West coast with the very elusive TOM (Red) WILSON & His Country Music. He sings in the W.C. Western swing manner, added by a tight little combo of steel, piano and guitar, plus bass of course. First two selections combine both sides of his release on Crest 1007 (which was an outlet of Liberty). «Can you bop ?» (with female replica and jive-talk) tells everything. It’s a shuffler from 1955, with a strong Speedy West-styled steel, inked by Cal Veale, a name which crops from time to time on W. C. records.. The flip « Hillbilly parade » keeps the long established tradition of stringing some well-known Western songs. According to the songs cited, one can recognize T. Ernie, Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb. Nice fiddle. There’s even a fat-bodied guitar picking solo which must be by Merle Travis himself ! Terry Fell had cut previously (1953) on Gilt-Edge 5084 his « Hillbilly impersonations« ; but 12 artists were involved then in place of the half-a-dozen by Tom Wilson.
Next artist is a bit of a mystery. BOB TUCKER& His Sky Riders (vocal chorus by Virgil Hume) don’t give any clue of origin neither date of release. Tucker (neither Hume) never had another record, at least to my knowledge. They do a bopping tune « Quit draggin’ your feet » and a quieter side on « My tears are dry » released on State 4002 B/A. Both feature a really wild and inventive steel, and the singer does a really fine job on the supercharged « Quit » side. The record may date from the 1953/54 era.
On to a well-known name, for a not so well-known good Country bop song. DALE HAWKINS was no longer in 1961 with Chess Records, and his days of fame were over, when he cut (with Roger Miller on guitar) the nice and, apparently, autobiographical, « Wish I hadn’t called home » for Tilt 783.
« Wish I hadn’t called home »
Two visitors are categoric: Hawkins plays guitar while it’s Miller singing. Thanks, chaps!
Then VIRGIL HUNT (a repost of as early as May 2012). « Can’t we try again » is a fast 1957 hillbilly bopper, with fiddle and guitar solos issued on Boot Heel 604 [did I write the label’s name right, Dean?], apparently a Tennessee label. Now you get a complete and nice label scan..
Back from Summer holidays, we begin with the incomparable MERLE TRAVIS with a little known opus cut on December 4, 1952, « Louisiana boogie » (flipside « Bayou baby »), which permits the pianist Billy Liebert (long-time musician at Capitol sessions) to shine with a boogie 12-bar pattern. This side can be found on Capitol # 2902. Two fiddles are also heard, these of « Buddy Roy » Roy and Margie Warren, while Travis is in good form both on guitar and vocals.
LOU GRAHAM was one of the earlier rockabilly-style artists to show up on record, courtesy of Ivin Ballen’s Philadelphia-based Gotham Records. Born in rural North Carolina, and one of 10 children, his full name may have been Lou Graham Lyerly. He showed an early interest in country music, and following a hitch in the United States Navy, he entered radio as a singer and disc jockey. Vocally, he was similar to his somewhat older contemporary Hank Williams. Graham spent 18 months at WPWA in Chester, PA, he made the acquaintance of Bill Haley, leader of a locally-based country band called the Saddlemen, who helped Graham get a recording contract with Gotham. Graham cut « Two Timin’ Blues » and « Long Gone Daddy » at a 1951 session with an unknown backing band, but early the next
year, he was backed by Bill Haley‘s Saddlemen on a quartet of sides, « I’m Lonesome, » « Sweet Bunch of Roses« , « Please make up your fickle mind » and « My Heart Tell Me. » all issued on Gotham 429 and 433. Graham kept busy working as a deejay at WTNJ in Trenton, NJ, and on television as an announcer, on WDEL in Wilmington, DE. By the late 1950’s, he was also working regularly in nightclubs, parks, and western jamborees playing country and hillbilly music, playing on the same bills with Webb Pierce, Hank Thompson, and Ernest Tubb. In 1957, he made his most lasting contribution to recordings with his single « Wee Willie Brown » for the Coral Records label.
court. Imperial Anglares
SALTY (HOLMES) & MATTIE (O’Nell) had a long, long career, either as single artists, either in duet, like with this « Long time gone » (M-G-M # 11572, recorded July 7th, 1953). In fact, Salty only wails his harmonica, while Mattie has the vocal duty on this marvelous fast Hillbilly bopper (good picking guitar a la Merle Travis and a steel reminiscent of Hank Williams’ Don Helms). Of course Mattie O’Nell was also known (RCA, Sun) as JEAN CHAPEL.
We jump in 1963 on the K-Ark label # 296 (Cincinnati, OH) with HARVEY HURT and his « Stayed away too long ». An aggressive vocal on the front of a chorus (handclaps during the solo), and a nice guitar+steel solos, make this a very agreeable record, even not listed in 45rpmrecords.com.
From Avery, Texas, Chucklin’ CHUCK SLOAN offers his « Too old to Rock’n’roll » (Cowtown # 806) cut in 1961 . A fast Rockabilly/Country-rock novelty issue : very, very fine guitar, indeed influenced by blues guitarists. The song appeared long ago on a Swedish Reb bootleg.
More from Fort Worth, Texas in 1958 on Majestic (# 7581). J. B. BRINKLEY (aka Jay Brinkley) gives a splendid bluesy « Buttermilk blues »: really biting and agile guitar, backed by a solid piano, over a powerful voiced singer.
Brinkley also had previously issues on Dot (# 15371 « Crazy crazy heart/Forces of evil » – both pop rockers) in March 1955, and Algonquin 712/3 (a New York label) (« Go slow baby », a fine bluesy rocker, with a thrilling guitar) in 1957, plus some instrumentals. first on Kliff 100 (1958) , the good « Guitar smoke » which reminds one of Bill Justis‘ monster « Raunchy » ; then on Roulette 4117 (« The creep/Rock and roll rhumba »).
DAYTON HARP cut records as soon as 1952: his « Foot loose and fancy free » (Gilt-Edge 5038) is a good bopper with excellent mandolin over a really ‘hillbilly’ vocal. He hailed from Florida, and he recorded there a duet (with Dot Anderson who gives Harp the replica) in 1958 for the Star label (# 695) « Man crazy woman » : a nimble guitar and a too short steel solo. A really good record. The flipside sees Harp alone : « You’reOne in a million » is a fine uptempo ballad with the same instrumentation (really good guitar!). Both these tracks were issued as Starday customs.
Sources : the Capitol label discogaphy (Michel Ruppli a.o.) ; 45rpmrecords.com ; YouTube ; Terence Gordon’s Rockin’ Country Style ; 45-cat ; rocky52.net ; Tony Russell’s « Country music » (1921-1945) ; Bruce Elder’s Lou Graham biography on Allmusic.com.
Howdy folks ! Very different things this time, and the recordings do go from 1936 until 1960.
Let’s begin with the unknown (surely a one-offer) GLENN KIRBY and his good, gentle shuffler « I love blue eyes » issued in Texas on TNT 138 in July 1956. A steel and piano solo plus throughout fiddle, although nothing exceptionnal.
SHORTY ASHBURN, our second artist, was equally unknown despite his 3 records issued on Nashville labels at the turn of 1950-51. Without doubt he only cut 4 songs at the same session for the Bullet label, which were issued upon # 749 « Triflin’ heart », a nice shuffler with piano and steel solos. The guitar player is rather uninspired (or too badly paid trying to shine). Ashburn went the same way with « More & more » (# 752) ; all his sides were written (or co-written) with Jimmy Rule, a mathematics teacher mostly famous for ghostwriting Hank Williams‘ booklet, « How to write folk and western music to sell ». The 3rd Ashburn record was written by Autry inman, who found himself in the position he had prophetically shown up, when he was arrested by the FBI in 1972 for bootlegging records : « You’re under arrest » was given to Ashburn and issued on the small Jamboree label (# 514).
PETE PIKE is a rather well-known figure in Hillbilly and Bluegrass circles. His incomplete story was given in this site in January 2011, and many facts have been thrown to light since then. I’ve chosen the fabulous slice of Hillbilly bop from 1960, « Cold gray dawn », issued on Rebel (Maryland) # 228 : great steel and expressive vocal.
As a change, we move to March 1936 for a New Orleans session by MILTON BROWN& His Musical Brownies. The song may be vaudeville or poppish, the backing is splendid : nice fiddle by Cliff Bruner, and a fabulous lap-steel solo (40 seconds!) by the late Bob Dunn. The song is « Ida ! sweet as apple cider », originally on Decca 5325, and reissued on 46002 in 1946.
From Metter, south of Georgia came Wallace and Charlie, the MERCER BROTHERS. They were young farmers and bought their first Sears & Roebuck guitar in 1939 with the money from picking cotton. They had soon after the WWII a show on WMAZ, then entered the Louisiana Hayride in April 1948, as The Blue Ridge Boys. Columbia signed them and recorded the duet, augmented by the harmonica of Wayne Raney, in August 1951. After seemingly sufficient sales, they had a second session in May 1954, backed by Doyle Strickland on fiddle. They sounded like the Delmore Brothers. Here is their « What’s he got that I ain’t got » (Columbia # 20978), you can judge by yourself. After their departure from Columbia, they went to WIBB in Macon where they did alternate country and sacred radio shows.
The last artist was very young, only 18 and still in high school when he entered WRJW radio station in Picayune, MS. to record his double-sider for D Records in September 1958. Pappy Daily had a contact in Picayune, Fred Henley (the local Colonel Parker) who sent up for DOUG STANFORD. His record « Sady/Won’t you tell me » (D 1034) had a gifted guitar player, Billy Fred Stockstill, even younger than Stanford : « He could do that Chet Atkins stuff good as Chet », he said.
Sources : « A shot in the dark » boxset, notes by Martin Hawkins ; « The complete D singles…collection, volume 1 », notes by Colin Escott. « Columbia 20000 », the site of Willem Agenant. My own archives. YouTube and 45rpm-cat.