Tibby Edwards (rn Edwin Thibodeaux) was born in Garland, Louisiana in March 29th, 1935. His thorough grip of cajun music, his native idiom, can be heard on « C’est Si Tout » which he composed with his longtime co-writer Leon Tassin.
During the following years, he moved with his family to various locales throughout Louisiana and West Texas as his father, a construction worker, sought jobs wherever he could find them. As a teenager, he learned to sing his first songs and accompany himself on guitar. By the time he was 15 or 16, he’d fallen heavily under the influence of Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, & Hank Williams, all of whom were then beginning to dominate the national country charts. Around 1949, he met Lefty Frizzell. Lefty recognized his obvious talents and soon befriended him. For a number of years afterwards, Tibby became Lefty’s musical protégé. The two of them lived together, toured extensively together, and frequently sang together on stage. “Lefty was number one back then” Tibby recalled ; “for some reason or another, we got to be buddies & he kind of halfway raised me. We toured together for quite a few years. This was back when Ray Price was still his front man. A lot of times, if Lefty had a new hit out, he’d call me up on stage in the middle of his show and have me sing it“.
At one point in the early 1950’s Tibby toured California and Washington state with Lefty and appeared briefly on the legendary television show, Town Hall Party, in Compton, California, along with other artists like Tex Ritter, Joe Maphis and The Collins Kids. After he and Lefty eventually parted ways, Tibby moved to Beaumont, Texas ; there he sang in clubs frequently with other local talents like George Jones & Benny Barnes. Tibby’s version of “Play It Cool Man, Play It Cool“, an early Jones original, was released on Mercury on the flip side of “Shift Gears“(on its own, a very good fast Hillbilly bop). He had first heard Jones sing «Play… » in Beaumont, long before the latter recorded his own version. Edward’s spirited rendition of the song clearly demonstrates his mastery of the Texas honky-tonk style.
It was Crowley, La. musical entrepreneur J.D. Miller who first brought Tibby and his fellow musical associate Jimmie C Newman to Nashville in 1953 to audition for the Mercury label. “They took me and turned Jimmie Newman down“, he recalled in an interview to Bob Allen in 1985, “looking back on it now that might have been a mistake“. A first session was set in May 1953. Three songs, credited to Jay Miller, were recorded and a first single offering “Why Can’t You Be Mine”/”Come On Chere (Let’s Have Fun) – Mercury 70189 – was soon out. “Come on Chere” is a great up-tempo Cajun number is the style of Hank Williams “Jambalaya”. By August 1953, another session gave birth to four other songs in the pure Hank Williams style even if one song “Walking and Talking with the Blues” was borrowed to Al Terry (rn Al Theriot). During the next five years he completed a number of recording sessions for both Mercury and Starday labels ; the location of the sessions is unclear, and it might be that Edwards recorded in various places : Nashville, New Orleans in the beginning. In December 1952, when he was just 17 years old, his career took another significant step when he landed membership on the Louisiana Hayride, a popular live country music show broadcasted by KWKH radio through much of the nation ; Tibby remained a member of the Hayride for the next 5 years. Veteran observers recall that he held the record, along with Hank Williams and Elvis Presley for the most encores recieved from a Hayride audience. Many Edwards songs were fast uptempos, but he could vary and offered waltzes and ballads too.
When the Rockabilly craze swept through the nation in the mid-50’s, Tibby like most country entertainers of the day was not immune to it : he cut a fine version of Joe Turner‘s “Flip Flop And Fly” in Nashville in August 1955, although not strict rockabilly since the fiddle is featured prominently as the lead instrument, along with usual electric guitar. Tibby recalled “This was when Elvis showed up on the Scene“. Tibby often appeared on the same Saturday night lineup as Elvis. “I introduced Elvis on the Hayride, in fact, I’d been singing “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” and “That’s Alright Mama” on the Hayride and I was tearing audiences up with them, it was maybe not so much because of my singing, but maybe just because people were ready for that change. I remember when Elvis and Bill and Scotty first came down to play the Hayride, I was sharing a backstage dressing room with Johnny Horton, the first thing Elvis did was come up the stairs and introduce himself to me. He just wanted to thank me for singing his songs. It was a great honour” The 12 singles Mercury issued between 1953 & 1957 were cut at Owen Bradley‘s studios in Nashville. Dee Kilpatrick (A&R man & staff producer for Mercury records, who later went on to succeed Jim Denny as manager of the Grand Ole Opry) produced these sessions and the backing was provided by Hank Williams’ Original Drifting Cowboys, (Don Helms, steel – Jerry Rivers, fiddle – Hillous Butrum, bass and Bob McNett, guitar). Also on the sessions were Floyd Cramer on piano and Chet Atkins on rhythm guitar. Yet Edwards’ popularity was based on his Hayride appearances only, as he never had a hit of any significance.
In 1958 Tibby entered the Army, he was processed at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, within a few days of when Elvis was processed at the same facility. With his entry into the Army, this was effectively when his career came to an end. Starday released a 45 at the tail end of his Mercury output (both labels were then associated), this was also re-titled and re-released on the Mercury label ; he had an issue on D in 1959 (cut in Houston, Tx). He also cut one 45 for Shreveport, La. based Jin label (a very fine bluesy “Forever Is A Long long Time“, with nice interplay between saxophone and bluesy guitar), and another session in 1961 for Todd (a modernized rendition of the old Bud Deckleman 1954 hit « Day Dreamin’ ») then he disappeared from the music scene. He seems to have afterwards earned his life as wallpaper hanger. In 1985, Bear Family records issued a now tough to find LP containing 16 of his Mercury cuts ; now extended to a follow-up CD containing the unissued « Big Mamou » (sung in French), an old Link Davis’ song . Most of the information above was taken from the excellent liner notes written by Bob Allen. Tibby died in 1999 of cancer.
Biography fom several sources: Bob Allen/Colin Escott notes to Bear Family issues; article (in German) from Wikipedia; article from “Sound Of The Fifties” (Dominique Anglares).
Label scans from various sources, i.e. ebay! and my own database this time.