Dick Miller, California Honky tonk (1955-1961): the birth of the Bakersfield sound

    I’ll try to give the story the best I can. My dad’s family were farmers: grandad was a dutch/german immigrant and grandma was cherokee indian. When my dad was old enough, he couldnt wait to get off the farm, so towards the end of the second world war, he joined the air force where he worked in the hospital and was involved with the u.s.o. My mom and dad met in the service; mom had just returned from being in Japan for four years as part of the occupation force. They met, fell in love and got married, mom became pregnant and I was born at Bowlings Air Force base in Washington, DC. My dad wanted to break into the music business, as he already had been doing u.s.o. shows for the troops, so it was decided to get out of the service and head to southern California: it was 1951 and the beginning of hillbilly and rockabilly, although they didnt call it rockabilly, they called it country and later as the honky tonks started poppin’ up everywhere, they began to call it honky tonk music and because many of the artists themselves came from the country and the hills, they also called it hillbilly, for the purest though I call it honky tonk music. Papa nicks, the blue room, the hitching post, jubilee ballroom, the palomino are just a few of the many honky tonks, that my dad and others like him played everynight, dad drove a truck for his day job and worked the honky tonks at night. As at two a.m. in the morning all the bars in southern california close, so its grab a bottle and everybody head over to the house for a jam session. I can tell you they all came through our house at one time or another, everyone from Little Jimmy Dickens to (Ralph) Mooney on steel to Eddie Drake, Ferlin Husky to Hank Snow. In the garage they would play until the sun came up, those were the days when they created what they call today the Bakersfield sound, working in those small recording studios like Aggie and Toppa, two of the labels my dad was on as well as M&M and Mercury and Sundown. I remember this old honky tonk piano my dad got somewhere, it had a very unique sound and they had it in the garage, so they could jam all night after the honky tonks closed. So when it was time to record « Make Room For The Blues », my dad wanted that true honky tonk sound, so they took the piano to the studio and that’s the one you hear on the song as well as on « World’s Champion Fool », I really loved that old piano and always will wonder what became of it. In 2008 Dick Miller passed away, but what he left us is something that we can all cherish, good old honky tonk music that you can still dance to today. God bless and thanx for your interest & love of this wonderful music, feel free to edit this to suit your needs at your blog, also have many more pics and have 8 tunes on my hard drive and a big cardboard box full of reel to reel tape from the old days, am working on a best of compilation of Dick Miller and his band to release on compact disc in the very near future. Please stay in touch, am always around and love to chat, Roger.  (suite…)

« The Wondering Boy » WEBB PIERCE, early Louisiana Honky Tonk: 1949-1951 (and later…)

Born on 8 August 1921, near West Monroe, Louisiana, USA. His father died when Pierce was only three months old; his mother remarried and he was raised on a farm seven miles from Monroe. Although no one in the family performed music, his mother had a collection of country records which, together with Gene Autry films, were his first country music influences. He learned to play guitar and when he was 15, he was given his own weekly radio show on KMLB radio in  Monroe. (suite…)

early April 2011 fortnight’s favorites

Hi! there all, friends, visitors, listeners. This is not April fool! Another batch of good ole’ Hillbilly Bops, Hillbilly Boogie and Honky Tonks from the golden age, and various sources.

Let’s begin with the earliest track, from Texas, 1950-51. TILMAN FRANKS was an entrepreneur, bassist, and associate with various labels and artists. For example, he launched the carrers of very young WEBB PIERCE (Pacemaker label, before 4 * and Decca) and FARON YOUNG, recording them in Houston, then placing the products with East Coast labels. FARON YOUNG made his vocal debut on Philly GOTHAM with this « Hot-Rod Shotgun Boogie N0. 2« . Way before Young specialized on Capitol with sweet ballads, this is raw Hillbilly Bop, Texas style!

gothem 8141 franks

merle travis

capitol 3316 huskey

Second then, a legend, the great MERLE TRAVIS, with a little known opus, « Louisiana Boogie » – fabulous piano by Capitol session man Billy Liebert. Indeed Travis takes his solo too…

More on Capitol with very recently deceased FERLIN HUSKEY, who disguised under 3 personas. As a comedian, as Simon Crum. As Honky-tonker (early in carreer) as Terry Preston. Here he’s attempting as FERLIN HUSKEY on Rockabilly in 1955 with the famous classic « Slow Down Brother« .

More Hillbilly Bop from Detroit, 1953- almost Rockabilly in spirit: FOREST RYE and « Wild Cat Boogie » on the Fortune label. Like the sparse instrumentation and lyrics! More on « Cat music » on the site with the « research » button above right!

fortune 172 rye

aracadia 110B curley langley

wesholly78 pic

Wes Holly

iowana 807 wes holly

1956, from Louisiana, hence his name, CURLEY LANGLEY (l’Anglais, in French) and the minor classic, « Rockin An’ A Rollin » on the Arcadia label. Fine backing. Langley made more quiet Hillbilly on the same label.

Finally, a 1957-58 disc from Indiana (Iowana label) by WES HOLLY, « Shufflin’ Shoes« . Holly had already cut the same song as « Shuffling Shoes Boogie » in 1952 for the Nashville TENNESSEE label (see elsewhere in the site the story to this label).

Enjoy the selections, folks! You also can see what’s available for sale from my collection (overstocks, as new) on « Contact Me » button.

See you, as always, comments welcome. Bye!