Cat music: the roots of rockabilly – What does mean « cat » ?

‘Cat’ has been used as a term in popular music since the Jazz years of the 1920’s. Revered by the ancient Egyptians, cats have a mystique and grace all over their own – no wonder these independent and mysterious animals became such a byword for ‘Cool’ in music from Hep Cats, jazz be-boppers of the ‘40s, and right through into 1950’s Rock’n’Roll.


Gene O’Quin, the Hometown Jamboree « Problem child » (1949-1955)

He was a fantastic little guy. Gene could have been one of the biggest things on television. He could’ve had his own show nationally and been one of the biggest artists on TV. But you couldn’t O'QuinPicturedepend on Gene. He’s be liable to be out at the horses races, you know, instead of being at the station, where he should be…but you couldn’t keep from loving the little guy.” (Speedy West)

Because he didn’t seem to take himself too seriously as an artist, he excelled at good-timey romps, as Boogie Woogie Fever, Texas Boogie,  and was not totally convincing on tearjerkers. He was a major star on the West Coast for several years, with high-profile radio and television status on Cliffie Stone’s Hometown Jamboree. The musicians who backed him were the top ones of the West Coast: Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, Billy Liebert, Cliffie Stone. He enjoyed only minor hits, like his cover of Hank Locklin’s “Pin Ball Millionaire”, but he sold consistently enough for Capitol to keep him around for four years in a very competitive and changing  scene – surprisingly, given his undoubted feel for hillbilly boogies, it was the emergence of rock’n’roll that really knocked him out.   (suite…)

early February 2011 fortnight favorites

Howdy folks! Thanks for visiting my site: you are never less than 35-50 people each day. This is the proof the site is of interest to you, and it gives me in turn enthusiasm and heart to go ahead, search and find more hillbilly bop gems for your own pleasure.

Robert AUTRY INMAN (as christened) from Alabama had begun his musical career as bass player for Cowboy Copas and George Morgan in the latter part of the ’40s. A first recording contract wth Bullet in Nashville occurred in 1949, I will tell more about him in a future feature, when I have gathered enough biographical information (which is actually very sparse for his early career). 1952 saw him inked by Decca records, where he enjoyed moderate success, fine boppers and ballads. In 1956 he embarked freely on the rockabilly bandwagon and cut the classic two-sider « Be-Bop Baby/It Would Be A Doggone Lie« , I’ve chosen the latter side, in my opinion the better of both.

decca 29936 inman it would

tommy durden pic

Tommy Durden late 1990s

From Kansas City, early ’60s, a pleasant jumping country-rock tune on the ‘R‘ label, « There’ll Sure To Be Other Times » by OTHEL SULLIVAN.  He had another 45 on Wonder, which I have not heard. Judging by the RCA custom pressing number, it dates from 1960.

wonder 106

The next artist in question, TOMMY DURDEN, born 1928 in Georgia, had a low-profile career for more than 40 years. Singer and steel-guitar player, he is best known today for being the co-writer of « Heartbreak Hotel », which gave him comfortable royalties, even if he never wrote a follow-up. Early ’50s saw him , no one knows how, cutting for Houston’s Sol Kahal’s Freedom label, backed by the Westernaires. He had a regional hit, « Crossroads » (rejected by Four Star’s Bill McCall as « too pop »); but fare more interesting was « Hula Boogie« : Durden on vocal, a deft mandolin solo by Boots Gilbert (one-time Durden’s wife, later to have the classic « Take It Or Leave It » on Fortune), and a stinging, hot steel-guitar by the young Herb Remington.

From the Ohio State comes now BOBBY RUTLEDGE. He recorded for the Akron Zipp label some Hillbilly bop sides (« Southern Fried Chicken« ); here you have the furious « Go Slow Fatso » from 1956.   zipp 11216 rutledge

BUSTER DOSS & his Arkansas Playboys recorded first for Dallas Talent label this « Graveyard Boogie » in 1949, aimed at horror/halloween followers. Fine steel, call and response format, and a romping piano. He was the uncle of Bob Doss, famed for his Starday sides of the late fifties.

buster doss pictalent 746 doss graveyard

Finally a boogie classic by CECIL GANT – he would die early February 1951 in Nashville, a mere 60 years ago, after a short 6 years musical run and innumerable boogies and ballads. Here I’ve chosen one of his best instrumental tunes, « Screwy Boogie« . Enjoy the selections!

cecil gant pic

Charline Arthur: That Hillbilly Bop Gal!


Not many gals could have made such statement in the conservative country music world of the 50’s but Charline Arthur did it. That Texas gal was stylistically far ahead of her times and was rollin’ on stage floor wearing pants when other women were still in dress playin’ rhythm guitar on family band. She was a kind of « Maverick », and an hot item to handle, just like Elvis Presley. She brings something new on female country music and opened the way for rockin’ boppin’ teenage Janis Martin, cute Brenda Lee or for glamorous Wanda Jackson. That girl was not there to stand by her man and weep about her unfaithful honky tonkin’ husband. She sings about parties, fancy clothes, women dreams and wanted to enjoy life. If you ain’t treated her right or if you ain’t nothing but a « Hound Dog », you can move away, wag your tail and goin’ cryin’ in your beer somewhere. Move away, skinny dog! (suite…)

Riley Crabtree, star of the Big « D » Jamboree (1949-1959)

RILEY CRABTREE     Riley Crabtree portrait

Riley was born on his parents’ farm in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in 1912 as the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. At age two, he contracted infantile paralysis (polyo), so he depended on crutches for the rest of his life. Perhaps this handicap forced him to make a career in country music. His bluesy voice is genuine and comes from the heart. The life he lived is reflected in his songs, as he had a lot in common with his idol Hank Williams.

mount pleasant