(Follow-up of the good article by Phillip J. Tricker in a 1992 Hillbilly Researcher issue, with additions by Bopping’s editor). See earlier the first article.
For the next release in order of issues we return to a Western swing disc with « Jelly roll blues » (# 5010) by fiddler/vocalist Guy « COTTON » THOMPSON & his Village Boys. The song, a jazz standard, which had been cut Western swing style by Cliff Bruner in 1937, has the steel player definitely Herb Remington. Thompson is best known for making Kokomo Arnold‘s « Milk cow blues » (1934) a western swing standard via his 1941 recording with Johnnie Lee Wills [brother of Bob] on Decca 46012, largely to be recorded later by e.g. Joe Martin on Coral, even in a folkish version by Tom Rush. A well known personality in Houston for a long time he had already recorded for GOLD STAR under his own name (« How long » #1381) and a vocalist on early Moon Mullican KING releases. Here he is in great form and the Village Boys cook along well.
JACK RHODES RAMBLERS (# 5011) had « Missing persons » and « How can I tell », although untraced do beggar two questions. First, who would the vocalist be : one Fiddling Bob Henderson ? This was not Mr. Rhodes, already a songwriter, bandleader and promoter, and evidently not a singer. Could it be JIMMY JOHNSON the vocalist, although many others fronted Rhodes’ band? As to « Missing persons », a song with that title appeared on Capitol by FERLIN HUSKEY, and the label credit « Reynolds-Rhodes-Huskey » as songwriters.
Freedom 5013 is untraced. The mysterious TRAILBLAZERS cut « A cowboys silent night » (# 5014), which is delivered ‘acapella’ and has a recitation by CAROL while « Little Moohee » has an acoustic guitar support and GEORGE handles lead vocal. Issued for Christmas 1950, it was cut at ACA studio, a location often used by Freedom, although they also are known to have made recordings at Bill Quinn’s Gold Star setup.
However where the next 78 was cut is a real mystery. HUB SUTTER and his Hub Cats were a superb outfit who recorded for LASSO, 4* and Columbus and Hub had a reputation for putting on a very fine act. « I don’t want my baby back » (# 5015) is a magnificent slab of bluesy Western swing, with Hub’s unique vocal style well suited to the song : he was capable of crooning the cooziest ballads or shouting the most whiskey-soaked blues; the backing is excellent with guitar and steel interweaving well.
Another gap in our knowledge appears at # 5017 and then we have the arrival of one of the most talented Hillbilly singers to come from Texas: JOHNNIE NELMS (born Houston in 1931). His output covers many years and includes a range of labels that extends from Decca to Gold Star, Starday, D and obscure labels like Westry (not in order given). With his Sunset Cowboys, his « If I can’t have you » (# 5018) is pure Texas Hillbilly/Honky tonk music. Great vocal over a superb band with swirling fiddles (Doug Myers), haunting steel (Herb Remington) and brilliant « knocked out rinky dink » piano. The flip side, « The bride to be » has unfortunately an organ backing, but even so Jimmie’s vocal is pure class. Another gap appears at # 5019.
TOMMY SANDS is the most well-known name to record for Freedom. His # 5022 (« Love pains/Syrup soppin’ blues » is extremely rare. Credited as Little Tommy Sands (The West’s Wonder Boy), it is his debut on record. He was not a Texan, born in 1937 in Chicago ; his family moved to Houston when he was young, and he would have been only 14 when he cut his record. Yet his vocal is assured and insouciant, and both sides are excellent boppers with great backing from an uncredited band, except Herb Remington on steel (the lead guitarist, unfortunately afforded no solo space, remains unidentified).
The fine uptempo « Somebody’s stealin’ (my baby’s kisses) » (# 5023) by BOB JONES & his Troubadours is a fast Hillbilly bop ditty. One may wonder if this is the same Bob Jones who appeared later on Starday (# 148 and 210) and more later on, on Dixie # 1070 (April 1964)(I want’ cha baby), valued at $ 50-60. Sorry, no picture available.
Bob Jones « Somebody’s stealin’ (my baby’s kisses) »download
Gaps appear on # 5024 and # 5026, sandwiching the great double-sider (# 5025) « Cross roads » and « Hula boogie ». The former is a lugubrious ballad, that was quite a regional hit of little interest, but the latter is a fine bopper with good vocal and the Westernairs providing fine backing which include nice steel. TOMMY DURDEN also recorded for 4* (« That’s where you dropped your candy » with Boots Gilbert) with a band of the same name, led by Vic Cardis (4* 1500) , and for Pappy Daily’s ‘D’ label later, but his main claim to fame is as co-writer of « Heartbreak hotel ».
Issue # 5027 is by LAURA LEE & The Ranch Hands, but I’ve not heard « Everybody but me » ; « I’m lonely for you darling » is a good jumping uptempo (fiddle, steel) song..However it would seem that she is LAURA LEE McBRIDE, the wide of Dickie McBride, whose band probably supply the backing. LAURA LEE is a well-known and respected Western swing vocalist, who, besides recording under her own name (i.e. M-G-M 11086 « I love you boogie »), also sang and recorded with Bob Wills.
This article (and the following ones about the same musical label) is based on the Hillbilly Researcher’s article from 1992 written by expert Phillip. Tricker, and mostly on the notes of other experts Andrew Brown and Kevin Coffey for the compilation « Heading back to Houston » (Krazy Kats CD12) issued ca. 1998. Important additions have been made by bopping’s editor.
The style of Honky Tonk music that Starday commenced to issue in 1953 had developped over the years following the end of WWII and a thriving recording scene had expanded in the Houston area with much of the recorded output appearing on labels like FOUR STAR and more locally labels like MACY’S, NUCRAFT, OPERA, HUMMING BIRD and PHAMOUS to name but just a few. Some, like MACY’S issued over fifty releases while others scaled down to a mere dozen or so and yet others a solitary lone release. One of the most important of these labels was FREEDOM : little was known about the artists and bopping music. However, since 1992 and Phillip Tricker’s article, an important amount of research has been done and we can now have a far better overview of both the label, its owner and the artists.
Red Perkins, nor related to the jazz trumpeter Red Perkins as with Carl Perkins, until today remains more or less a mystery within the country music since little is known about him. Not even a picture of him has ever surfaced. Nobody seems to know how he came to appear in 1947 on the country music scene, when he started as a singer for Paul Howard in its western swing band, the Arkansas Cotton Pickers to work. This group he belonged to until 1949, but led at the same time also has his own career.
In May 1949, King let Perkins cut his first solo titles : « Aggravatin’ Lou from Louisville » and « Hoe-down boogie » (# 792) were the best of four tracks recorded. In November 1949, as well as in the course of 1950, followed other sessions,
We find him in on the amusing « Crocodile tears » (# 836) and « One at a time » (# 850). The title of his last studio visit were published on Kings sublabel DeLuxe Records [ named Red Perkins and his Kentucky Redheads, perhaps Howard’s Cottonpickers in disguise]. In March 1950, Perkins played once again as a singer with Paul Howard and the band in the studio KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana for 4 more tracks, among them « The boogie’s fine tonight » (# 871)- great pounding piano from Harold Horner, and a good guitar from either Paul Howard himself or Jabbo Arrington.
Under Perkins’ recordings for King to songs like « A Long Necked Bottle »(# 920), « Hoe-Down Boogie » (# 792), « Rag man boogie » (# 903) or « Aggravating Lou from Louisville »(# 792) were, however, found none of his singles off the charts, not least was due to the poor marketing of the label. What Perkins did after that is uncertain.
All in all, a career that lasted not more than 2 years ; nearly not more than a dozen 78pm singles ; and a very few to remember as shufflers and good’uns.
Sources: a short biography Wikipedia (which is confusing with the pre-War Red Perkins on Champion) translated from German language. A discography on Praguefrank site: http://countrydiscography.blogspot.fr/2009/10/red-perkins.html. Internet for label scans. With help from Ronald Keppner (DeLuxe issue).
Here is the new selection of this end of January 2015.
First, two records by BILL LANCASTER, on the Birmingham, AL. G.G. label . The first one « Too young to get married » (# 516) is credited to Bill Lancester. The second is « It’s saturday night now » (# 519). Both are fine Bopping billies, fast loping rhythm (fine fiddle and piano + steel).
From Middletown, OH comes DON JOHNSON and his « Feeling low ». I can’t believe this is the same artist as Don Johnston on Mercury (« Born to love one woman »). Fine fiddle throughout.
Don Johnson « Feeling low »download
Ferlin Huskey « Slow down brother »download
FERLIN HUSKEY, also Simon Crum, also Terry Preston (on 4*) is too well known. He delivered several good Hillbilly boppers ; I chose his best-known track, the rockabilly « Slow down, brother » (Capitol 3316).
WALT McCOY is a West coast veteran, whom nothing is virtually known about, although he had a long recording career. Here he is represented with « U.S.A. » on the late ’40s Chrystal label # 292.
Finally the very elusive too T.J. SKERO and his fine « Gold diggin’ mama » from 1950 on 4* 1468.
This time, the artist, whom we know little of, will be presented mostly by his music and his compositions.
BILLY HUGHES, born Everett Ismael September 14, 1908 at Sallislaw, Oklahoma, settled in the 30s in California following the Okies’ exodus. From 1945, Billy Hughes & his Buccaroos engraved until 1959 a slew of very good hillbilly boppers, some of which became classics, such as « I’m tellin’ you, » « Tennessee Saturday Night » and « Take your hands off it (Birthday cake) ». Many artists took them over, to name a few : Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Jack Guthrie, Johnny Tyler, Jess Willard, Cowboy Sam Nichols, Bud Hobbs or Skeet’s McDonald – even Tennessean old-timer Kirk McGee. Hughes’ music is usually relaxed, ‘lowdown’ with a Western swing touch, which is normal since Hughes frequented the best artists of the West coast. So he wrote dozens of songs, and hung up during the 60s. He had owned the Fargo label, active in 1946 in Los Angeles (Sam Nichols, Terry Fell, Johnny Tyler) and issued a strange « Atomic sermon » in 1953. He disappeared May 6, 1995 in Horatio, Arkansas.