Trumpet records – the Hillbilly/Rockabilly sides
One of the earliest record companies to set up business in Jackson, MS. was Lilian McMurry’s TRUMPET label. This company was based at her husband’s furniture cum record store on Farish Street, five blocks West from the old Capitol building in downtown Jackson. She recorded first Gospel, then discovered Aleck Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson, and Elmore James. She had also Willie Love, Jerry McCain and Tiny Kennedy (« Strange Kinda Feeling » later cut Rockabilly style by Eddie Dugosh on the Luling, Tx. label Sarg – to be heard in another post: the Sarg label story) in her roster.
The vast majority of the material recorded by McMurry in the early days of TRUMPET was Blues and black Gospel ; it was not until the early part of 1952 that Lilian started to enlarge her Hillbilly catalogue. Jimmy Swan, Luke McCaniel, Werly Fairburn and Billy ‘Tag’ Williams all joined the label that year. The following year Lucky Joe Almond, Bill Blevins, Tex Dean, Kay Kellum and Bill Nettles swelled the ranks.
W. Kay Kellum was born 1918 in Reform, MS. As a teenager during the Great Depression, he was much impressed by the music of Bob Wills. Kellum learned accordion and joined his first group, the Saddlepals, in 1940, broadcasting over WGRM in Greenwood. Having later hired two brothers, the Tolars, on bass and fiddle, he formed with them a Son of the Pioneers-type trio, moving as far as Monroe, La. over WMLB.
WWII broke up the band. After the war, Kellum formed the Dixie Ramblers, adding sax, piano and guitar at various gigs. At the time of his first Trumpet session, Kellum was playing regularly at a Jackson, MS, club owned by Clyde « Boots » Harris, who played steel guitar in his band. « Boots » had been paying with Curley Williams and had enjoyed during the ’40s some success on Columbia Records with « Georgia Steel Guitar » or « Barbecue Rag« .
Filling out the personnel of this late November 1950 Trumpet session were « Buz » Busby on piano, « Foghorn » Bates on sax, and brother George Kellum on bass. « When I Get Back » (from Korea) and « Love Stay Away From My Heart » ( Trumpet 128) had a poppish, danceband texture. Kellum had a rich baritone, modelled on Bob Wills’ vocalist Tommy Duncan. They were pleasant honky tonk songs, although not exceptional.
A few months later, Kellum and his band would return to cut a much more interesting « Rum Run Hollow/Jam Session Boogie » (Trumpet 133 – untraced). After that, the path of Kellum disappears.
(from Marc W. Ryan, « Trumpet Records – Diamonds on Farish street »)
Jimmy Swan was based over in Hattiesburg, Mississipi, and it was there, at radio station WFOR, that McMurry recorded « Triflin’ On Me » (# 177) in April 1952. He wasn’t the first white artist on Trumpet (Kay Kellum, father of Murray Kellum of Long Tall Texan fame, was the first) but the first to have a Hillbilly record that amounted to anything on the label. His first session was recorded with just one microphone, a ‘20s technology. It provided also a revamp of Al Dexter’s « Juke Joint Mama » (# 176). Nine months later Swan was in the studio again, this time in Houston, Texas, to record « Lonesome Daddy Blues » (# 198), complete with fiddle, steel, thudding bass and yodel à la Hank Williams. Then he switched in 1955 to M-G-M. Swan later stood for governor on what amounted to a « Send ‘em Back To Africa » ticket.
Like Jimmy Swan Mississipi born (Laurel, 1927) Luke McDaniel recorded his TRUMPET material at radio station WFOR in Hattiesburg. McDaniel, who would go on to record some fine examples of the Rockabilly genre, cut (with the Jimmy Swan’s band) « Whoa Boy ! » (# 184), a solid Hillbilly Bopper, which provides a forestate of things to come.
Werly Fairburn (New Orleans, 1924) went to audition at Trumpet records and got a contract in February 1953 for four tracks. Again backed by Jimmy Swan’s band, he provided « Camping with Marie » (# 195), which earned him the adulation of overseas Rockabilly fans, although in truth it was just a very good uptempo Hillbilly record with a passing nod to Hank Williams’ Jambalaya. Later Fairburn’s contract was sold to Capitol.
However, it was to be Lucky Joe Almond (Joseph Curtis Almond) from Wedowee, Alabama, who proved to be the label’s most successful Hillbilly singer. His first offering for TRUMPET was a cover of Piano Red’s classic R&B song « Rock Me » (# 199). This was recorded in Houston in 1953 with musical accompaniment provided by Jimmy Swan’s band, the Range Riders. Swan’s boys were good at what they did, but weren’t getting the groove, especially the shuffle rhythm McMurry had in mind. Finally she grabbed an acoustical board and began to thump it herself to enliven the rhythm : it helped. Alhough « Rock Me » proved to be a good seller for TRUMPET, selling well to both Black and White markets, it was to be almost a year before Almond was back in the studio, backed this time by Curley Williams’ band, the Georgia Peach Pickers. At this session, recorded at the Diamond studio in Jackson, Almond laid down the two Hillbilly Bop classics « Gonna Roll and Rock » and « Hickory Nut Boogie » (# 221).
Others less known artists (except Bill Nettles, who went unissued) followed, the last being on the new McMurry’s label GLOBE. Wally Deane was from Washington, D.C., and still in his teens when he cut in May 1955 the hiccupy, excited «Cool, Cool Daddy » (# 238), firmly Rockabilly inspired by Elvis Presley. Later he went to Miami and recorded for Arctic. Flash . (July 13th, 2012) Wally Deane‘s son Monty wrote me, amazed how his father had so much made his mark on music history! Monty has a lot of material, letters, contracts, and I hope he will make it available to bopping site. Go ahead, Monty!
Recommended reading: Mark Ryan « Diamonds on Farrish Street ».
article amended on July 19th, 2012. (Kay Kellum story and Bill Blevins)