LOUIE INNIS (biography by Greg Adams, Allmusic.com). [Additions by Bopping’s editor.]
Louie Innis (sometimes credited as Louis) is one of those 50-year-old hillbilly boppers that thrill country music collectors. He never had a success [that’s not true], but his recordings for King and Mercury were cheerful, boogies uptempos and proto-rockers that show the musical mastery and the vocal work of Innis.
He was part of Hank Penny’s The Plantation Boys in the early 1940s, performing guitar and bass chores alongside Carl Stewart and Zed Tennis as violinists, and Roy Lanham’s solo guitar. Here is an example of Louie Innis work as rhythm player during a Hank Penny March 1945 session in Cincinnati, OH.: « Talkin’ about you » (King 512)
« Talkin’ about you »
They worked with The Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis, Bradley Kincaid and Grandpa Jones. They also accompanied WLW pop singer Doris Day. After the march of Lanham, in 1944 the band toured with the USO before Penny traveled to California at the behest of [Merle] Travis, and the group undid. Later, when Penny was under contract with RCA, Innis composed a pair of songs to him, « No Muss-No Fuss-No Bother« (RCA 58-0183) and « Hold The Phone » (1951).
« No muss-no fuss-no bother »
«(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound Dog« , a duet with Charlie Gore, is an issue that has surfaced in rockabilly compilations, although it was recorded in 1953, indicating that Innis was on the road to rock & roll, though he was never permanently installed on it.
« (You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog »
There are very few biographical data we could gather about Innis; however, on King Records’ promotional discs some details about the performer were outlined: on King 1225 (1953) he was defined: « Composer, vocalist, instrumentalist and emcee [presenter at Indiana Hoedown on WFBM], Louis innis excels in every facet. An Indiana guy who started on the radio at age 16, Innis has already made up a few hit songs. »
In King 1406 (1954) it was stated: « Indiana native Louie Innis became interested in music for the first time thanks to the local hairdresser who knew a few chords on the guitar, and both played and did duets between cuts of hair and shaved, almost every day. »
On the other side of the same single was noted: « A familiar figure among the broadcasts of folk music is Louie Innis. One of the outstanding rhythmic guitars in the business, Louie Innis worked with Red Foley for two and a half years at the Grand Ole Opry and has recorded with over fifty different artists ».
King 4861 (1955) noted: « (….) His work as a guitarist is much appreciated and is required by many great country stars. Louie is currently working as an emcee at the Indiana Hoedown in Indianapolis, Indiana. »
And on the flipside it was said: « Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, 35 years ago, Louie Innis was driven into music business when he was expelled from high school. He and some other students « played hookey » (skipped classes) one day. « The other guys lied about why they had gone away, but I told the truth, » he explains. « Later, when the director found out, he begged me to come back, but I said ‘no thank you’, and I took music seriously with the blessing of my parents. »
As a composer, in addition to his own songs, highlights « Seven Nights To Rock« , along with Buck Trail and Henry Glover, for Moon Mullican (1956), a classic rockabilly that he never got to record:
Seven nights to roll
Seven nights I’m gonna show my face
With a different woman in a different place
Seven nights to rock
I’ve got seven nights to roll
« Seven nights to rock »
Monday, I’m gonna rock with Jane
Tuesday, it’s gonna be Luane
Wednesday, it’s Esteline
Thursday, it’s Betty Sue and me
Friday, it’s Linda Lue
Saturday and Sunday any chick’ll do
Monday, Sister Suzie’s ball
Tuesday, I’m at the union hall
Wednesday, I’m at the roadhouse inn
Thursday, I’m at the lion’s den
Friday, I’m at the Chatter Box
Saturday and Sunday everybody rocks
« Skip, Hop & Jump Country Style » is a German 23-track anthology of recordings of Innis on Mercury and King between 1949 and 1955, full of Innis novelties and a few hillbilly covers of pop and R & B hits such as « Oh! Babe by Louis Prima and « Hearts of Stone » by the Charms. «Stomp that thing» is a recent (2017) digital anthology to be found on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite.
Louis Prima: « Oh! babe »
Innis used a superb rhythmic section filled with resources like palms, bells, whistles and howls, as a precedent of what Sid King & the Five Strings would do next. Innis had a prominent band in which Zeb and Zeke Turner, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson and Don Helms paraded in different stages, along with Maddox Brothers & Rose, to the category of talents that « should have been», but never received sufficient recognition.
LOUIE INNIS : an appreciation track per track (by Bopping’s editor)
If the reading of comments is boring you, go direct to the podcasts, label scans and downloads.
« LOUIE & THE INNIS CLAN » (on Sterling)
«Look in the looking glass» is a fast Western swing novelty. Good guitar, steel (Jerry Byrd?) + a welcome trumpet solo. (N.Y.C. Sterling 207 – probably recorded in Nashville).
« Look in the looking glass«
«Tennessee Central» is of course a train song that’s « Rockin’ and reelin’». Fast. No fiddle. Trumpet main instrument. Steel effects of train. Agile lead guitar. (N.Y.C. Sterling 209 – probably recorded in Nashville).
« Tennessee Central«
« LOUIS INNIS »
«I guess you just don’t care» is a mid-paced ballad. An accordion; fiddle, guitar and bass. Vocal is a bit Hillbilly crooning. (New Jersey Deluxe 5059, also probably recorded in Nashville). First song written by Louie Innis. Leased by King ? The session has nos less than 7 unissued songs left.
« I guess you just don’t care«
= On December 22, 1948, Innis did the rhythm guitar duty for the Hank Williams‘ session that released « Lost on the river » and « Lovesick blues ».
Mercury issues (July 1949-November 1951)
« LOUIE INNIS & THE STRING DUSTERS »
«Better back up mama» (# 6217) Billed on label «Country boogie and blues» : uptempo Bopper ; prominent fiddle, Jerry Byrd takes a steel solo. Probably Zeke Turner on lead guitar. Innis on energetic rhythm guitar.
« Better back up mama »
«Chattanoogie boogie». Same style. Call-and-response format, billed on label «Country boogie».
« Chattanoogie boogie »
= On August 30, 1949, Innis accompanied on rhythm guitar Hank Williams once more (and for the last time) on «I’m so lonesome I could cry», «I just don’t like this kind of livin’», «My bucket’s got a hole in it». Tommy Jackson was on fiddle, and probably accompanied Louis Innis on his first Mercury session, with Ernie Newton on bass, at E.T. Herzog Studio in Cincinnati, OH.
«She’s mean to me» (# 6225, reissued # 6273) is a real fine shuffler. Zeke Turner in good form. Byrd has his solo. Certainly Tommy Jackson on insistent fiddle.
One more «Country boogie» as noted on the label : «Jug band boogie» (# 6244). A novelty by the use of a washboard, handclaps, and the growls of Innis (imitating T. Texas Tyler). A fine bopper.
« She’s mean to me »
« Jug band boogie »
«I thought she was a local (but she was a fast express)» (# 6273). Not written by Innis, it’s his second train-inspired opus. Very fast song, an harmonica (for the only time in Innis’ records), fiddle is prominent. Discreet steel, imitating a train bell. A promising «Woman hating blues» from this August 1950 session remains unissued.
Another pop novelty from the pen of Louis Prima, given the Hillbilly bop treatment, «Oh ! Babe» (# 6293). Tailor-made for Prima, a very nice version by the versatile Innis. An insistent guitar riff.
« I thought she was a local »
« Oh! Babe »
Then, without doubt, the greatest and the best selling pairing, Mercury 6312 : «Boogie woogie baby» has agressive drums and steel (solo). Zeke or Zeb Turner takes a good solo too. One of the masterpieces of Louie Innis, predating by 5 years the Rockabilly yet to come. Then his greatest claim to fame which also must have him secured a lot of money: «Goodnight Cincinnati, goodmorning Tennessee». Very fast train song. Jerry Byrd steel omnipresent.
Shorty Long version:
by Marty Robbins on the stage of G.O.O. in June, Tex Williams too:
Marty Robbins version:
Rusty York version (King 5511)
More to come with the next pairing. «Honky-tonk man» (# 6335) from May 1951. Strong country boogie guitar, loud drums, great steel. Same goes for the flipside, «Stomp that thing» (penned Innis-Turner) is a tour-de-force, his fastest song ever, without fiddle, and proto-rockabilly. Great song !
« Honky tonk man »
In June 1951, Hank Penny cut the Louie Innis songs that were specially written for him : «No muss-no fuss-no bother» and «Hold the phone», although the session took place on the West coast (Innis not present).
So strangely «I’ve got a red hot love» (on the label, «Louie Innis » alone) (# 6370) from late 1951 returns to classic style Hillbilly bopper – the theme song is as usual. The fiddle is back, and the voice is always winkling. From the same session remained unissued «I’m the lonesomest guy».
« I’ve got a red hot love »
LOUIE INNIS – The King years (1953-1955)
Remember. If my comments are boring you, go direct to podcasts, downloads and labels cans.
Louie Innis didn’t have in 1952 any recording pact, and without doubt he devoted himself to his work on WLW (Cincinnati, Midwestern Hayride) and WFBM (Indiana Hoedown), or recording sessions for others artists.
February and March 1953. «Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses» (# 1180) is a fast novelty and unpretentious very good bopper with its catch phrase.
« Who’ll give me, you’ll give me, who’ll give me kisses »
Next thing is a true and well-known mark in Innis story. He duetted indeed with Charlie Gore for an hilarious version of the then R&B hit of Big Mama Thornton, which they changed to «(You ain’t nothin’ but a female) Hound dog» (# 1212). A nice shuffler, handclaps, a fine guitar solo. It’s true that such a tune announces rockabilly. See above for the podcast.
From the same February 1953 session came « Whammy Bammy Buzzard Goozer », a non-sense out-and-out rocker. The fiddle solo is inventive, lot of drums and a saxophone backing (# 1225).
From September 1953 to September 1954. More train songs. First a novelty bopper «I ain’t got a pot (to peel potatoes in)» (# 1260) : an agressive steel, some discreet drums.
« I ain’t got a pot »
Then the very fast «I got a round trip ticket» » from November 1953. Train effects by the steel payer ; pizzicato played fiddle, which seems mandolin . Plus, «There’s a red hot fire (in the old locomotive)» (# 1392) (penned Roberts = maybe Bob Newman under his usual pseudonym as writer), again a fast train song.
« I got a round trip ticket »
Finally a cover of another R&B hit, « Hearts of stone » (# 1392), originally done by the Black vocal group The Charms. Innis does a fine mid-paced rendition of the song. Good steel and guitar. This crossover use of R&B and C&W songs was common at King for years, and gave many a new, fresh song.
The Charms, « Hearts of stone »
Finally from October 1954 to May 1955. – Innis aided by Al Myers (lead guitar), Jerry Byrd and a bass player, formed The Country Cats for a 4-instrumentals session. Fine relaxed boppers : «Hot strings» (# 1410) and «Sun shadows» (# 1430).
« Hot strings »
Back to Louie Innis recording sessions. He did a good version of the old spiritual « Nobody knows you when you’re down and out », another crossover (# 1406). «The kissing chain» (which he didn’t write) is another mid-paced good novelty. Al Myers makes prowesses on lead (# 1415). The flipside «Let’s make up tonight» goes same, and is equally good bopper. The final side «Sing your song baby» (# 4861) has chorus and a fine guitar. Innis is tending clearly toward rock’n’roll, that he never really reached. Actually he never recorded anything after this last King 1955 session.
« The kissing chain »
In 1961, King issued a remaining track from the Deluxe session of 1948 (unheard). Why this occurred ?
Further adventures of Louis Innis after 1955
He seems to have devoted himself to writing songs for others. Here below is a partial list of artists whom he’d work for :
- Chet Atkins, « Mister Misery », 1954
- Chet Atkins, « Set a spell » (vocal by Red Kirk), 1954
- Fuller Todd, « Old fashioned », 1957
- Brenda Lee, « I’m learning about love » (with Grady Martin), 1960
- Charles Brown, « Christmas questions », 1961
- Conway Twitty, « Portrait of a fool » (with Buddy Killen), 1961
- Joe Henderson, « Mr. Voice », 1962
- Jimmy Logsdon, « The life of Hank Williams » (with Hawkshaw Hawkins), 1963
- Lois Williams, « Don’t take my child away », 1970
and a lot more into the ’70s.
Louie Innis also arranged songs for Don Lane (M.C.A.), date unknown.
Those songs were rejected for certain reasons (primarily because they’d take too much room) :
Oklahoma City/Foggy river (Sterling) ; I’d be ashmaed if I were you (DeLuxe)
Good morning Judge/My dreamboat stuk a snag/I grabbed for the engine (Mercury)
It don’t pay to advertise/Mexican Joe/What a way to die/Suicide/You’ve got it/What’s she got/She rurn’t it/Nobody knows you when you’re down and out/You’re not happy till you’re mad/Jealous hearted woman (King). A good amount of them is on the « Stomp that thing » compilation (on Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite: unclegil.blogspot.fr)
My thanks go first to Uncle Gil’s Rockin’ Archives blogsite, and as usual, Ronald Keppner for the loan (scan and music) of rare 78 rpm’s. Then to Greg Adams (all music site) for the only biography available on Louis Innis ; to the people of the « King Project » (for Hank Penny King side) ; 78rpm and 45rpm scans on always fruitful « 45worlds.com ». My old fellow Tony Biggs for « Whammy… ». YouTube was useful too. There had been a whole lot of work for this issue : it’s really been a « labor of love » ! I hope you’ll appreciate the result of the study. Thanks for your comments : they always give me courage to go further and deeper into Hillbilly bopping music..