Billy Wallace, successful songwriter and not-so-well known notwithstanding hillbilly and rockabilly singer (1950-1964)

Billy Wallace had one of the most unique voices in rockabilly music and played a different guitar style than most of the guitarists back then would do. Both, his voice and full-bodied guitar play worked well together on his classic session with the Bama Drifters in 1956 for Mercury Records, on which he laid down four songs. But Wallace had also a long and more successful (but also unknown) career in songwriting. He never achieved the honor he should have. 

 

 

Wallace was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1917, but his family moved soon after to Athens, Alabama. Previously, his father had worked on the oil fields in Oklahoma. He grew up on his father’s farm and learned to play the guitar at an early age. As a teenager, he began to write songs and was later influenced by the country music stars back then like the Delmore Brothers, Rex Griffin and Roy Acuff but also listened to Hank Smith, Ernest Tubb and Hal Smith.

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The Tennessee label (1950-1952)

bill beasley

William Beasley

The Tennessee label

It was owned by Alan and Reynold Bubis (cousins) and formed in late 1949 by Williams Beasley who owned Coastline Distribution and was a protege of Jim Bulleit at a time when the Bullet label was having great local and national success. This was a time of expansion in Nashville as the Opry radio show became more and more popular and the number of studios grew. The Tennessee label used Castle or Bullet studios, but also radio stations after-hours (WKDA, WMAK), before Beasley set up his own studio. It had its musicians (The Nite Owls, a bunch of ever-changing musicians) and publishing outlet (first Tennessee, then Babb Music). The biggest hits Tennessee had was in the pop field: Del Wood and her singalong piano solos. But, like Bullet, Tennessee also recorded many excellent hillbilly and honky-tonk songs, and had no idea of recording star names. Beasley was looking for regular sales of 25,000. Often thee had the boogie rhythm and low-life themes that paved the way for country rock and rockabilly music a few years later. The musicians involved frequently included Harold Bradley (g), Farris Coursey (d), Allen Flatt (g) and Ernie Newton (b).

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