the FARMER BOYS, Bakersfield Hillbilly bop (1955-1957)

Bobby Adamson walked over to a coat closet in the entrancy of his comfortable home in Exeter, California and pulled out a garishly colored jacket and trousers. He held them up, displaying them with pride. Golden yellow in color, the suit was decorated with strappings of California’s San Joaquin Valley, icons which were no different from any other farming community in 1950s America : husks of corn, bales of hay, and barefooted, overalled farmers carrying buckets. The suit was designed for Adamson by Nudie Cohen, rodeo taylor for stars. In those days, a Nudie suit was the mark of stardom for country and western performers ranging from the Maddox Brothers and Rose to Elvis Presley. In the mid-50s Bobby Adamson was a member of this select fraternity of celebrities, for he and his boyhood friend Woody Wayne Murray were the Farmer Boys, a talented vocal duo whose brief moment in the spotlight lasted for only a few years before being obliterated by the coming of rock and roll. Despite recording for the prestigious Capitol Records label and touring with stars of the Grand Ole Opry as well as Elvis Presley himself, the Farmer Boys are never mentioned in the annals of country music history. Yet the Farmer Boys helped popularize the distinct and provocative « Bakersfield Sound » that lives on today in the music of Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam. (suite…)

Republic label (1952-1957): more Hillbilly bop from Nashville, TN

republic logo

Republic records started when Tennessee left. Bill Beasley had law troubles with Decca Records, who wanted Del Wood masters, and Decca won (but Del Wood went later to RCA). So Beasley started Republic. Billboard (March 1953) announced that “Republic company had to legally acquire the master recordings from the formerly Tennessee label”. By July 1953, there were well over 50 singles on the new label.

Significantly, Republic was launched in August 1952 with a pop singer, Snooky Lanson. This trend continued with Del Wood, Jimmy Sweeney and Pat Boone, but half the Republic catalog remained Country. Beasley transferred such Tennessee stalwarts J.T. Adams, Allen Flatt, Lee Bonds and Sonny Sims to his new label. There were a few new names on Republic like Ted West and Jimmy Simpson. Beasley also continued to record R&B and gospel: Edna Gallmon Cooke, Christine Kittrell, who had hits on their own. Bernard Hardison cut “Too Much”, a hit for Elvis in ’57. Apparently Beasley wrote most of the songs, published by a New York group, under the names of Norris/Beasley/Richards, or Rosenberg, the latter being Lee Rosenberg, Beasley’s secretary.

In June 1953, Alan Bubis connection came to an end. Bubis went to construction, coin machines and liquor stores, far more predictable thanrecord business.

In 1955, Beasley moved Republic to 714 Allison Street, and concluded with Murray Nash (ex-Acuff-Rose and Mercury staffer). Nash engineered most of the Republic sides.

The Republic name and logo was bought in 1957 by Ray Scrivener, and along with Gene Auytry, launched Californian Republic label..

After Republic folded, Dot bought Pat Boone’s contract. Other labels (Chess, Vee-Jay) bought Republic masters. (suite…)

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…)

Jimmie Heap & The Melody Masters: Texas honky-tonk (1948-1955)

 

James Arthur « Jimmie Heap » (later Jimmy) was born March 3rd, 1922 in Taylor, Tx. He died at only 55 on December 3rd, 1977, on account of a boat accident in Lake Buchanan. His corpse was rescued only one day after.   heap pic

Jimmie’s career did begin shortly after discharge from U.S.A.F. during WWII,  more exactly said in 1947. Arlie Carter (piano), Horace Barnett (rhythm guitar), “Big” Bill Glendenings (bass) and Louis Renson (or Rencon) (fiddle), all belonged to the Melody Masters right from the start. Later they were joined by Cecil R. “Butterball” Harris (steel-guitar). Indeed  Jimmie Heap was on vocal and lead guitar.

With appearances on radio KTAE (from 1948 to 1956) and in clubs, they were always fully booked up. A Barnett composition about a club they were frequently playing at, “Dessau Hall Waltz” soon found the interest of Lasso Records, who cut the band during the Spring of 1948. Their first singles appeared therefore on this tiny label. They even had leased masters on 4 Star, wrongly credited to « Dolores & Blue Bonnet Boys ».   (suite…)