Hello, people ! Let’s begin this new July 2017 fortnight’s favorites selection with EARL PETERSON (b. 1927, d. 1973), a well-known figure out of Michigan. Apart from an early issue on his own Nugget label in 1949, he cut two sessions for Columbia in 1955 ; one of the songs involved was « I ain’t gonna fall in love » (# 21467). Light vocal, bass guitar, piano, all these combine for a fine bopper written by Vernon Claud. Peterson’s story is to be found in this site, was published January 2016.
Next artist KENNY ROBERTS was an ubiquitous one : Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, although he was born (1925- d. 2012) in Tennessee as George S. Kingsbury. His speciality was yodeling, and more than one of his songs showed this : « I was born to yodel », « She taught me to yodel » or « The Arizona yodeler ».
The song I chose of him is the fine « Hillbilly fever », issued February 1950 on the Coral label (# 64032) : his puffed vocal comes to a good effect, and he yodels lovely, mentioning Hillbilly songs of the era. Main instruments are harmonica and fiddle.
Now two Rockabillies by DANIEL NIX on the Zion, IL N&R label (Starday custom) from 1959. « Compensation blues » (# 741) is a medium-paced opus ; strong vocal and guitar to the fore. The follow-up is « Unlucky man » (# 756), the fastest of both tracks.
Way up North in Indianapolis with BOB HILL & his Melody Boys on Nabor 105. « This old train (is leaving my blues behind )» is a fast Rockabilly from 1959, lot of echo and a prominent fiddle. The second issue, « Empty dreams and empty arms » (Nabor 114B) is a shuffler from 1961-62, which has a lot of nice steel, a loud bass and a prominent rhythm guitar. A good record for this era. The song was revamped by Eddie Hill, unknown label. (The muddy sound, I’m sorry, comes from an old Tom Sims cassette).
Born in Bolt, W. Va, Jimmy Dickens began his musical career in the late ’30s, performing on WJLS radio station in Beckley, W.a. While attending West Va. University. He soon quit school to pursue a full-time music career, and traveled the country performing on various local radio stations under the name « Jimmy the Kid ».
In 1948 Dickens was heard performing on WKNX, a radio station in Saginaw, Michigan, by Roy Acuff, who introduced him to Art Satherley at Columbia Records and officials from the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens signed with Columbia in September and joined the Opry in August. Around this time, he began using his nickname, Little Jimmy Dickens, inspired by his short stature (4 « 11, 150 cm).
Dickens recorded many novelty songs for Columbia, including « Country boy », « A-sleeping at the foot of the bed » and « I’m little but I’m loud ». One day, after having told Jimmy he needed a hit, Hank Williams wrote « Hey, good lookin’ » in only 20 minutes while on a plane with Dickens, Minnie Pearl and her husband. A week later Williams cut the song himself, jokingly telling Dickens « That song’s too good for you ! »
In 1950, Dickens formed the Country Boys with musicians Jabbo Arrington, Grady Martin, Bob Moore and Thumbs Carlile. It was during this time that he discovered future Country Music Hall of famer Marty Robbins at a Phoenix, AZ television station while on tour with the Grand Ole Opry road show. In 1957 he left the Opry to tour with the Philip Morris Country Music Show.
Dickens was active in music until nearly his death on January 2nd, 2015.
Good solid early ’50s Honky tonk music as shown in the several examples below :
« F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me » (Columbia 20692), a nice honky-tonker, was cut in February 1950, and covered the same year by Charlie ‘Peanut’ Faircloth [see a previous fortnight’s favorites section for the latter’s version). It has definitely the crisp guitar sound of Grady Martin.
« Rock me » (Columbia 21206), also known as « She sure can rock me », was an old Willie Perryman R&B belter, well adapted here by Dickens, obviously conscious of the « double-entendre » of the lyrics. As intended, piano is prominent instrument.
« Hillbilly fever », cut at the same session as « F-o-o-l-i-s-h me, me », was initially a Kenny Roberts song (Coral). Here Dickens is doubled on vocal by his rhythm guitar player. Note the rare label scan of a Japanese issue (« American folk music ») !
« Hillbilly fever« download
« Salty boogie » (Columbia 21384) is almost rockabilly. Fiddle is still present, but lead guitar is well to the fore as in « Hey worm (you wanna wiggle) » (Columbia 21491), and indeed there are drums.