BROCK WILLIAMS offers « What am I » (# 1001), a nice little rocker, with a little echo, over a good guitar and an assured vocal. The flipside, « Touch of perfection » is a perfect mid-paced bluesy ballad. Wally Black on # 1002 remains untraced (« She’s comin’ home »).
We jump to # 1003 by ERNIE MATHIS : very nice fast, piano-led « Lonesome wheels » and the more slowish « So am I ». Later on he was on Fable. That was the last Toppa issue reviewed by Billboard in 1958.
Next offering is a double sider by REX BINGHAM. He goes a bit poppish with male chorus, but has the strong help of Ralph Mooney on steel (two solos) for « Just like before » and « The fire is burning low » (# 1011). He had a « Blind blind heart » in 1959 on Rex 100, which was reissued on Toppa 1028. Was it a sublabel ? « Linda » (# 1012) by LUTHER WAYNE is a fast poppish ditty, quite listenable although.
Two ballads, « Help me forget him/Another woman’s man » (# 1013) by JANET McBRIDE are lovely again with strong help from steel guitar player Ralph Mooney. Later on she cut at Sims and duetted with Billy Barton. WALLY BLACK returns with the fast « I’m a country boy » (# 1014).
And now a comparatively well-known artist, DICK MILLER. He had had already records on M&M, Stanchell and Aggie [see elsewhere his story in this site], as well as around the same time as his Toppa output, on Sundown. His two songs on Toppa are well-sung ballads over the same instrumentation as previous label’s issues, « Make room for the blues/My tears will seal it closed » (# 1016) [the latter was also picked up by Mercury and reissued on # 71658, July 1960.
DANNY BURKE next (# 1017) comes with again two nice rockaballads, « Wasting my time/Walking in my sleep ». Then CLYDE PITTS offers an out-and-out rocker, « Shakin’ like a leaf » (# 1018) complete with sax and chorus. # 1019 by BILL BROCK : he delivers a fine ballad with the unusual backing of fiddle and steel paired in « I can’t come home ». Same format for # 1020 and DON RICE : « Fire without a flame » and, at last, the fast « Weather man ».
The veteran TEXAS BILL STRENGTH brings the fast « Watching the world go by » (# 1021). « Too young to love » (# 1023), a bit poppish (although a good piano backing) come to light with DON HOLIMAN. # 1024 by CHARLIE WILLIAMS is a sincere ballad « World’s champion fool », revived on # 1048 by Dick Miller. Jimmy Snyder (# 1025), Polly Tucker (# 1026, also on Pep), The Horton Bros. (# 1027) left invisible tracks. Then there is a gap until # 1029 : JANET McBRIDE returns in the same style as her # 1013 issue with « Sweethearts by night ».
Another well-known name now on # 1030 : JACK TUCKER . Nice Country-rocker with « No city love you’ll find ». And the final offering is # 1031 by LUTHER WAYNE ; « White line » is a good guitar led little rocker [a Jack Morris’ tune on Sage ], while « The blues got me down again » is a passable effort.
All in all, the Toppa label was a County pop one, and the outstanding tracks, according to bopping.org standards, are uncommon. Nevertheless in the regard to the backing, all issues are great. The story did go on, and many good tracks were later cut : Smokey Stover and « On the warpath », more Jack Tucker tunes, Don Rice and « Hideaway heartaches », more Dick Miller (« Back into your past »), Bud Crowder and « Room for one heartache », to name just a few. Fact is the label deserves to be examined, as it contains many good surprises.
Just another word. Toppa had two sublabels early into the ’60s : Toppette and Fedora. I don’t know why several artists of main Toppa artists were assigned to its sublabels, although they had the same style as on Toppa.
Sources: Steve Hathaway for some records, Kent Heineman (“Armadillo Killer”) for several more. 45cat.com for more than a label scan. Youtube was also of help. And many, many small facts from my own archives or direct from Internet. And a lot of work to set up this article, but this was a labor of love..
Some real rarities this time, several being medium-paced. The name JACK HOLDEN does ring a bell ? With his brother Fairley he had on the White Church (ca. 1946-48) label some issues. We find him in 1948 on the sister label RED BARN (# 1152), located in St. Louis, MO, whom he released three singles for. Red Barn « Mama I’m sick » is a fast, typical late ’40s sounding bopper. Call-and-response format, it includes a vocal backed only by a powerful rhythm guitar and a great fiddle (Wayne Miskiff?). Holden appeared on Cincinnati « Renfro Valley Barn Dance ». Love his style.
Then in Louisiana’s West Monroe. Jiffy was a short-lived affair, however important by the quality of its issues, and the celebrity of some names, Jimmy Pickard, Tommy Spurlin or Jimmy Simpson. Here is the least known ED RAYBORN & his Southern Hillbillies, and the good medium paced « I’ll go on hurting » (# 208). Nice fiddle/steel and sincere vocal.
Kustum appears to have been a subsidiary to Jiffy, yet had only one issue # 4000 (an ambitious numbering) by DAVID CRAIG and the medium uptempo « Just forget it » : nice vocal & steel. Craig was also on Imperial (“Replace my heart” # 8284): hear him on a future Fortnight.
ERNIE HUNTER next was a long-time fiddler for various Starday sessions. Here he’s the leader for the very first Houston Longhorn label ( 503) « At ease my friend » (1957). Uptempo medium paced, piano led with confident vocal and steel. Hunter also appeared on a Gold Star custom Rainbow issue (# 1203/1204).
On the Rose City label (unknown location, # 1004), there’s nothing particular with « At the drug store cowboy’s ball » by ROY JACKSON. With much accordion, this record surely dates from the late ’40s. Good hillbilly bop.
There were at least two SNUFFY SMITH : one on Star Talent and own Snuffy Smith label ; the other on Western. I don’t know. Or his record which is called « Johnny Acton » is actually titled « Snuffy Smith » ? Anyway it’s great fast Rockabilly, urgent vocal backed by steel and a very nice lead guitar. Oops, Kasko label # 1644.
Finally on the Covina, CA. Toppa label (# 1014), let’s get late ’50s Hillbilly. Very intricating : piano, bass figure lead guitar, steel (solo) and..claphands and screams. It’s « I’m a country boy » by WALLY BLACK. He had already cut for Fable « Rock and roll mama » and apparently knew how to rock.
Source: main is Youtube (my favorite chains), also own researches on the Net.