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 »).
download(addition on Jan. 19th, 207. Thanks to Pierre Monnery)
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.
Frankie Miller (a Tony Biggs feature – additions from bopping’s Editor)
Frank Miller Jr. was born on December 17th 1930, in Victoria, Texas and it wasn’t until his late teens that he began developing his musical talent on a Hank Williams style of Honky Tonk. Although he was a talented athlete, music finally overcame any hankerings he had of following sport as a career.
His elder brother Norman taught him how to play guitar. Norman had recorded for the obscure FBC label, based in Rosenberg, Texas (the same label that Mitchell Torok cut his first sides for). The brothers formed a band and attained a contract with Radio KNAL.
After Hank Locklin had given him a great ‘newcomer’ spot on his popular radio show, Miller got to make some recordings with Bill McCall’s Gilt Edge label. Before this Miller had given dubs to Macy Lela Henry’s Macy’s label in Houston, but Bill McCall came in first with a deal on his Gilt Edge label.
In mid 1951, along with his own band, The Drifting Texans, Miller recorded three sessions for Gilt Edge and on his second session his recording of ‘I’m Only Wishin’ almost earned him a contract with Decca, but due in part to his drafting in to the Korean war, the deal was never sealed.
After the war, Miller went to Columbia Records to begin a new contract and took with him a handful of songs he had written whilst in the army and at his first session he was assisted by Charlie Adams’ band, with the added help of Hank Thompson’s amazing steel guitarist, Lefty Nason. ‘Hey! Where ‘Ya Goin?‘ was cut at this time and released soon after. But after only two more sessions, Columbia dropped Miller in the wake of Rock & Roll.
Below: Rare 45rpm from the Ft. Worth Cowtown Hoedown stage and radio label (1957)
Don Law telegram inviting Miller to Grand Ole Opry
Below are three Starday issues from 1959-1960 and a rare U.K. issue of Starday material
Frankie Miller promotional picture
During this time he became a regular on the Big D Jamboree and Ft. Worth’s Cowtown Hoedown. Columbia dropped Miller some time in 1956, though he kept on writing and recording demos as he strove to remodel himself on a newer style of Country music.
Late in 1958 he signed to Starday and finally got that hit he so deserved. ‘BlacklandFarmer’ backed with ‘True Blue’, became a huge hit on of all places, the pop charts, as a dance craze song! The early 1960s saw Miller notch up several noteworthy recordings for Starday that included two albums. In 1968 he released a single for the Stop label.
Australian EP below
Top Rank Of some of his
prominent Starday recordings.
Final single release from 1968. Recorded on September 13th, 1968 at Music City Recorders, 821 19th Ave. South, Nashville 3, TN – Frankie Miller (Jerry Shook [gt], Pete Drake [steel], Jack Drake [bass], Buddy Harman [drums], Charlie McCoy [harmonica]. Producer: Tommy Hill)
By the late 1968 Frankie Miller had become disillusioned with the music industry with it’s corruption and his countless miles on the musical road of gigs and sessions and after only a string of mild hits and constant letdowns, so after a release for the aptly named ‘Stop’ label, he retired from the music business. He then began a career as a car dealer for Chrysler in San Antonio.
In 1999 he returned to the recording studio to record for Cowboy Capitol and in 2006 and 2008 he released a couple of albums for the Heart of Texas label.
2003 saw Frankie along with his guitarist Jimmy Eaves (the pair had recorded a gospel album for Pureco in 2001), came to England for a one off show at the ‘Rhythm Riot’. Miller amazed everyone with his fantastic vocal prowess, proving he can still cut the mustard. It’s a shame that the big labels back then didn’t see it. Who knows what might have become of his career if Decca had picked up his contract after the Korean War and if Columbia had let him loose in the studio instead of manipulating his musical direction?
Note from bopping’s editor: it really proved an uneasy task of choosing Frankie Miller’s music for the podcasts, his being of constantly highest quality. Hence more than 20 songs from his beginnings in 1951 to later 1964 products. I’ve excluded two Hank Williams’ renditions (Baby, We’re Really In Love, and I’d Still Want You – although well sung, not bringing something new), but added 5 fine live tracks from Louisiana Hayride 1959-60 shows.
Billy Briggs was born in Fort Worth Texas in 1919. He apprenticed there under pioneering electric steel guitarist Bob Dunn & joined the Hi-Flyers in the mid-1930’s. He followed a stream of former Hi-Flyers to Amarillo in late 1937 to join the Sons Of The West (whose he played on « Panhandle Shuffle ») & in the coming years became one of the earliest steel guitarists to significantly expand upon Dunn’s model. Briggs built his own nine-string steel, began experimenting with new tunings & chord voicings, and, when he formed his own band Swinging Steel in 1939, became perhaps the first steel player to attach legs to his guitar & play standing, fronting his own group. He returned to the Sons Of The West in 1940 & took part in their tightly arranged forward-looking 1941 sessions for Okeh. He held together a makeshift Sons Of The West lineup for a while during the war, then formed his own XIT boys in 1946. In late ’46 or early ’47 Briggs began an association with Dan Allender’s Dalhart/Amarillo-based Time label that lasted to the end of the decade. A single release on Lew Preston’s Folke label followed, before a prolific stint withImperial (1950-53) gave Briggs a regional & much covered hit « Chew Tobacco Rag » in 1951. Briggs ended a nine year association with Amarillo’s Avalon club in 1956 when he dispanded the XIT boys & opened his own ill-fated hall. He left music soon after & died in California in 1984. (suite…)