Bashful Vic Thomas: « Rock and roll tonight »- hillbilly-rock 1952-1961

Very little is known about this Texas artist, except the information on labels and two comments after his solitary 1952-53 issue as published by Andrew Brown’s « wired-for-sound.blogspot » site.

« Ramblin’ Fool » is a Gold Star pressing, dating from around 1952-53. Glen Barber, whose band provides the music here, was probably still a student at Pasadena High School when he cut this. The steel guitarist is « Dusty » Carroll, and the fiddler is Charlie Frost. Musically, this is far from great, but hey, it’s a group of teen-agers. Cut them some slack. Flipside « Let me show us how » is an uptempo weeper. Young Glen Barber is invited to do his (very tame) solo.

 

 

In 1956 for a label of the same name (Premium 344), Bashful Vic Thomas (note his entire name) had « Rock and roll tonight« , a prime example of a country band thinking that they could jump on the rock and roll bandwagon by simply writing a song that had the words « rock and roll » in the lyrics — leaving the steel and fiddle intact. I suspect that teenagers at the time weren’t impressed, but the honky-tonkers probably thought they were being « hip » by dancing to it. Flipside is Hank Williams‘ « You’re gonna change (or I’m gonna leave », well done and very fast in the Thomas manner – copyrights go to Thomas. Actually « You’re gonna change » sound like an entirely new song and I wonder if Thomas only got the tune’s title from Hank.

 

Bashful Vic lived up to his name — I’ve never heard anyone on the Houston ’50s scene mention him at all. After re-cutting « Ramblin’ Fool » for Applause, an Omaha, Nebraska label in 1960, he disappears from the vinyl map completely except for the Memory 45. Flipside of the Applause 45 was a modern and energetic (for the times being) revamp of his 1956 « You’re gonna change« .

 

 

The Memory 45 is from 1961, and originate from Chula Vista, California, a fact which indicate Vic Thomas was a well traveled artist. It’s a Starday custom double sider of lovely but forgettable country ballads, « A fool in love » and « I wonder« . Thanks to Allan Turner to have provided the label scans as well as sound files. Vic Thomas later in his life moved to Florida and eventually was committed to an asylum for his depression. Originally from New York City, Vic was attracted to the sweet sounds of West Texas troubadors and aspired to be one himself.

It is almost certain that the Vic Thomas of « Marianne » fame, a white doo-wop song from 1963-64 on Philips, is a completely different artist.

Notes and sources: Boppin’ hillbilly Vol. 2002 and 2022 for short snippets on Vic Thomas. Comments on Premium 101 « Ramblin’ fool » on Andrew Brown’s « Wired-for-sound » bloodspot. Thanks to Allan Turner for providing rare scans and sound files. Music and scans of Applause from somelocalloser bloodspot (2013).

Starday « custom series » (1953-1960) : an introduction – how did a flourishing small label to operate on custom releases

Although the STARDAY Record Company were not, by any means, the first to dabble with custom pressings, they became – almost fifty years later – one of the most famous and their vanity pressings are greatly sought after nowadays. What was originally a sideline to scrape a few bucks together, and add more songs to their growing music publishing portfolio, the “custom” or “vanity” business began to really flourish after 1956, when every Tom Crook, Lee Voorhies or Red Moore wanted to make a record of their own. The almost total lack of exposure left the vast majority of the releases dead in the water, but the artist could walk about, handing out his or her own record, a little like a vinyl business card.

Of course there were other companies competing for the custom-pressing dollar;  RCA, COLUMBIA, and to a lesser extent CAPITOL, had extensive custom pressing services, even if sometimes the end product was marred by the use of recycled wax and an inferior sound quality. The Rite Pressing Co from Ohio were more prolific, but again the sound and the quality of the pressings was not always going to help anybody get airplay. STARDAY on the other hand, had many releases that have great sound. Sure, there are a few “bedroom” recordings – Plez Gary Mann for example, and a few that appear to have been recorded in the “outhouse” most notably the “Lo-Fi” Trice Garner release. However, on the whole the sound and recording quality always seemed a lot clearer than the competition, thus making airplay an easier bet. Of course, most of the artists couldn’t afford the deals involved in the payola scandal so it didn’t make much difference. (suite…)