Detroit’s country music scene of the 1950’s featured a solid mix of talents and clubs where folks could stomp ’till two o’clock every night of the week, with some of the wildest sounds this side of Mason-Dixon Line. One man who was there in the thick of the good times was Eddie Jackson, who assembled the hottest bands and shows in town for two decades straight !
He was born in Cooksville, Tennessee, and Eddie’s family, like many Southerners, moved to Detroit during a period a growth in automobile manufacturing. As a youngster during the 1930s and 40s, he took up guitar and singing, and idolized musical giants such as Hank Penny, Milton Brown, Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan (he even met Wills and Duncan in Stockton, CA, while Eddie served with the Navy during WWII). Upon his honorable discharge by Uncle Sam in 1947, Jackson returned to Detroit, and was offered to lead a band the same night he arrived ! From then on, Eddie Jackson and his various combos were crowd-pleasers at shows all over Michigan, parts of Ohio, and Ontario. Around 1950, Eddie’s first group, the Melody Riders, cut a record in Detroit. The song « I’m willing to forget » was his first composition (Fortune 134).
(Accompanying the Riders was Hal Clark on guitar, who later changed his name to Hal Southern and co-wrote « I dreamed of a hillbilly heaven ».) Hal Clark sang his comp on the flip « New set of blues« . As the scene got cooking, Jackson’s band started sizzling, and they found
Hal Clark (Fortune 146) « I don’t mean a thing to you »
themselves booked nightly. Ted’s 10-Hi Bar, on the east side, was the sight of Detroit’s first C&W Jamboree, as hosted by Eddie Jackson and his Cowboy Swingsters (including Tracey White on guitar, and ‘Smitty’ Smith on bass). For several months, the trio performed 15-minutes radio broadcasts from WMLN-FM in Mount Clemens.Eddie Jackson also led a country music variety show, « The Michigan Barn Dance » on Detroit NBC affiliate Channel Four TV, during the early 1950’s.
« Baby doll »(first version)
« Baby doll »(second version) (Shelby 297) and « Please don’t cry » were recorded after that, and through the 1950’s the Swingsters played regular shows at a nightclub called the Caravan Gardens.
« Baby doll«
Eddie Jackson solidified the band’s line-up with Joe Magic on bass & drums (played at the same time!), ‘Uncle’ Jimmy Knuckles on piano, and Tracey White on take off guitar. This group attracted big crowds, as well as popular country singers like Webb Pierce, Jean Shepard, Lefty Frizzell, Red Foley & many other top artists who often stopped in to perform songs with the Swingtsters ! Jackson also had his own program on Royal Oak radio station WEXL-AM, where he spun records and sometimes broadcast from the Caravan. In 1959 the Swingsters cut their most popular record record in Detroit : « I’m learning » backed with the rocker « Blues I can’t hide »(Caravan 101). Even though Jackson says he preferred « Blues… », the ballad « I’m learning » went through the roof of WEXL’s country & western charts. As a result, Eddie was able to pay cash for a new ’59 Cadillac with a convertible top !
Eddie cruised down to Nashville and recorded two more singles, including « You put it there » (Caravan 1004), a song from his last session in a recording studio. By the late 1960’s he quit performing regularly, in favor a starting a successful business. Knuckles, White and others have since passed on. But whenever Eddie Jackson sings and entertain people, the crowd’s humor rises, and sparks fly.
Howdy friends from all around the world ! This new batch will return to a more conventional time for Hillbilly bop, the years 1950-1960. Lack of time and inspiration I’m afraid. So commentaries will be short ! First we can listen to JOHNNY GITTAR, a.k.a. Johnny Henderson (I posted two tracks under this name recently, fortnight early April) in the famous « San Antonio boogie » (High Time 173). A call-and-response format, the steel guitar well to the fore, a touch of piano : it’s a shuffler, the sort of hard-rock tunes we can hear on the Houston Freedom label (I recently told the story of this important altho’ short-lived label). « San Antonio boogie« download « Nine o’clock« download
Two medium-paced numbers, back-to-back of the Bennie Hess Spade # 1929 label, and they both are close to Rockabilly, «Nine o’clock » and « Is there no love for me, Love » are light, cool sung. A minimum instrumentation and a gliding guitar. They appear to have been issued in Autumn 1956 by JOHNNY McADAMS.
Next LITTLE MIKE MORTON offers a jumping Hillbilly bop « Midnight hoe-down » on Esta H-9592 from 1955. The location of Esta is Hamilton, OH. And the youthfullness of the voice immediately reminds that of Little Doug [Sahm] on Sarg, or on Westport that of Cowboy Bobby.
From 1957 on the Cincinnati, OH Seven Star label (# 2511B) let’s listen to « Why did you go away » by ART RODGERS (without any doubt no connection with Jimmie or Jesse). Nevertheless Rodgers has a hillbilly pronunciation, and a strong rhythm guitar, backed by the K.C. Ramblers.
CUZIN ROSCOE next on the Avery, TX Cowtown label (# 803A) delivers the fast « Sing me a song », accompanied by a sawing fiddle (1960, according to the YouTube uploader).
A baritone vocal, strongly a la Johnny Cash, that of RAY PRIDIE for « Lonesome broken hearted me » on the C.A.R. label # 102A, from Bellingram, Washington. Steel guitar plus echo.
Let’s begin this new fortnight serie with BUDDY GRIFFIN. He stayed a good part of his life in the shadow of his elder brother REX, who never encouraged his younger brother performing first in Birmingham, Chattanooga and Atlanta. He later teamed up with fiddler Bobby Atchison and guitarists Pete Cassell and Doug Spivey and he played for many sessions early ’50s in Dallas. His recording debuts occurred on the Dude label, as « Otis West & his All Star Cowboys ». When the career of Rex Griffin began to decline in the mid-50s, Buddy Griffin recorded for the tiny Ekko label. Was it in Nashville or Los Angeles ? The writers E.. Hazlewood and J. Willard rather show on the West coast. « Bartenders girl » (Ekko 1017) swings, a mid-pace tempo with heavy guitar and piano (2 soli). (biog. details from the notes of Bruce Elder on « All music » site)
Lee Moore & Juanita « When my blue moon turns to gold »download
RUSTY NEWBY comes next on the Academy label (# E4KB-1022, a RCA pressing from 1954). « Musician’s blues » bears some western swing overtones. Medium paced hillbilly bop and a lazy vocal. The whole thing is swinging.
1966 saw the issue of HILLBILLY HERMAN and the medium « Today I watched my dream come true » (Breeze 366), a fine bopper (with mandolin) for the era. Despite deep and large researches, I’ve found nothing on the artist neither the label.
Get back to Virginia, in Staunton. The Buttermilk 1001 label has HARRY SNYDER well bopping for « Worry, worry, worry ».
From Gadsden, AL, we now have « Railroad bum », a great « Hillbilly-goes-Rockabilly » type song for its insistant slapping string bass played by Jimmie Harris; Calvin Flemons is on lead, Ronald Underwood on rhythm and the steel is played by the leader RIP UNDERWOOD. No date is given, except the personnel. A fabulous bass throughout.
We finish this fortnight with CARL LOTTS and « Wandering lonesome blues », a fast Hillbilly bopper on Delmarti F80W-1478 (another RCA pressing) from 1955. Indianapolis origin. The label says « & his Kentucky Kernels » Both sides were reissued (or was it the first issue?) on Lot [sic] label, same numbers.
This favorites section begins with NEAL JONES. Born in the small community of Tywhop, TN, in 1922, he began his career with the Johnson Brothers on Kingsport and Chattanooga radio stations as lead guitarist as soon as 1940. He then moved to Montana, then back to Tennessee. 1953 saw him guitarist for Eddie Hill and Sonny James in Dallas, TX. That’s where he gained a contract with Columbia, and followed a long string (6) of releases with this major until mid-1955. I chose one of his earliest efforts, « Foolin’ women », (# 21292) and the double-sider nearest to Rockabilly, (# 21415) « High steppin’ baby » and « I’m playing it cool », both cut at Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas with WFAA staff musicians. Later on, Jones had his own T.V. show, and was more and more involved in a D.J. work . He finally had one record on « D ».
Next we find the former lead guitar player for the Maddox Bros. CAL MADDOX on the Flat-Git-It (# 700) label from California. I suspect the label was his own label. « Hey Bill » is a fast Hillbilly rock from 1960 : strong guitar as expected, sawing fiddle. Shortly before that, Cal and his sister Rose had cut « Gotta travel on » on the Black Jack label.
From Columbus, OH, comes the next record, « Hobo baby » by JOE & RAY SHANNON on the Shenandoah label # 246. Obviously brothers – it’s Joe singing -, they offer a strong guitar rockabilly tune, surprisingly good for 1964.
On one of the many Dixie labels that flourished everywhere in the U.S., there’s this one « I guess I’m wise » (# 833) by MALCOLM NASH (with the Putman County Play Boys). Probably issued 1960. An harmonica is the prominent instrument, over a powerful rhythm guitar, while the band (2 voices) sings in unison. This record reminds me much of the Delmore Bros. On the label however there is no clue as to where do come the artist neither the label from, except it’s a Rite pressing, so probably from the Cincinnati area.
Arlen Vaden was D.J. at WCKY out of Cincinati, OH, when he launched in 1958 his own Vaden label. The first issue (# 100) of the new label was by BOBBY BROWN & The Curios, who consisted of Brown (vocal, rhythm guitar), Shorty Stewart (lead guitar), Tommy Jones (bass) and Johnny Welker (drums). This record was cut at WCKY, and later on reissued on Vaden 107. « I Get The Blues « is of course bluesy with a fine lead guitar (long solo).
Early 1959 saw Bobby Brown back for another issue on Vaden 109, this time cut at KLCN radio in Blytheville, Arkansas. Twin-lead guitars (J.C. Caughron & Tommy Holder), Larry Donn (bass), Johnny Welker (drums), but the most important and pulsating instrument is Teddy Redell‘s piano, who adds a brillant and pulsating flavor to « Bobby’s blues ». Thanks to Alexander Petrauskas who provided me with all the information. Do visit his great blogsite « Arkansas 45rpm records » or « Mellow’s Log Cabin« !
We go further East in North Wilkesboro, in N. Carolina, circa 1952-53, for a fine double-sider first on the Blue Ridge label (# 306) by LARRY RICHARDSON [banjo] & Happy Smith & the Blue Ridge Boys. Two songs are in discussion : « I’m Lonesome » and « Just Let Me Fall », both superior Bluegrass tunes, billed « Hillbilly » on the labels ! Thanks « 53jaybop » to have posted them two songs on Youtube. Later on, Richardson had on the MKB label, out of Virginia (no #) what it seems to be a rocking effort, »I’m Lonesome/I’ll Fall In Love With You » (alas untraced). We finally find him back on Blue Ridge 516 in 1960/62 for « The Nahville Jail », again a fast and fine Bluegrass number or « Wild Over Me » (great fast mandolin by Clinton Bullins?) on MKB 130 from 1968.
Way up North now for the Omaha, Nebraska Applause label : the TERRIFIC TABORS (with their leader Paul Tabor ? He at last holds the credit) offer a pretty weird mix of Bluegrass (unisson chorus) and garage rocker on « Rockin’ The Boat » from 1961. There’s even what sounds a steel behind the backing of guitars. The flip side, which sounds an instrumental (« Tabor Tromp ») remains untraced.
Real old Hillbilly now by CHARLIE BOWMAN& His Hill Billies on the Brunswick label. Bowman was a fiddler and a banjo player on several sides cut in New York with the Hopkins Brothers between October 1926 and May 1927 : « East Tennessee Blues » and « Riding That Mule ».
Finally a SHORTY LONG, who has apparently nothing to do with the S. Long I discussed thoroughly earlier in this site, does a romping R&B rocker (saxes), although the voice sounds white, with « Redstone John » on the K-Son label (# 7283). Location unknown.