The Four Star custom series were, as did Starday from Beaumont or Houston, known to include many Rock’ & Roll sides played by Hillbilly bands and it was a music that most artists would easily relate to, including the older musicians who had been playing boogie and blues for years anyway. Countless bands were active and the only way they could relate to was release their records on Four Star OP (Other People) custom records.
The tapes would then be sent in and the widely advertised custom service would handle, for a fee, the manufacture of the records and distribution of a number of copies to selected radio stations. Otherwise than this, promotion and distribution was a left up to the the artist or his agent. The number going to the radio stations was probably a percentage of the total number pressed, which varied considerably. Some were produced in relatively large quantities while other artists ordered as few as 99 copies. The rarity of these records varies widely as, of course, does the quality of the music (but not in the same condition). The artist coud choose his own label name, which hopefully often also gives a location. They could also have the record issued under the company’s own logo (as in the case of « Texas » Bill Strength), perhaps at extra cost. Several record labels started as custom pressings before becoming actual independant companies later. Example : Erwin and Rural Rhythm (not represented in this selection). All are generally uptempo sides, with prominent fiddle and walking bass. It must also be noted that many artists were one-off, i.e. they had only one record issued by Four Star OP- service, and never had the chance to cut another one.
HBR did issue two volumes of Four Star OP- custom records. I deliberatly chose to issue unknown sides from 1950 to 1958, and various Western regions (Oklahoma to Oregon), not to exclude Eastern areas like even Florida. Eddie Snell (on the aptly named Promotional # 242 label) has more of a West coast sound to him, with a « Rockin’ rhythm » similar to Sammy Masters‘ early sides. Alden Holloway had also famous releases on Dixie and Starday (« Blast off » or « Swinging the rock »). Here is what he recorded in 1956 seemingly on the West coast for Northwest # 263 : « Woodpecker love ». He had previously issued on # 214 «Beaumont blues » as Shorty Holloway. Veteran Dick Bills, also later on Crest (« Rockin’ and rollin’ » in 1961 with nephew Glen Campbell on lead guiar ) had on Vicki « Beggars can’t be choosers » (# 198, 1954-55). Went also on Morgan (with vocalist Buz Burnam).
A favorite of Ray Campi, « Quit your triflin’ (on me) » (Hi-fidelity 211), from 1954-55 by Gene Snowden, is a good uptempo probably of West coast origin, while Hank Crow and his Raven River Ramblers do come surely from California: the fine « Baby, baby me » on Southwest 204 from 1954. Gene Snowden “Quit your triflin'(on me”
Hank Crow (real forname: Dorsey) apparently came from Arizona, who cut two records on the Southwest label. OP-204 coupled the very fine “Baby, baby me” and “Crazy ’bout you“, both uptempo and full of fantastic steel-guitar. From 1954 or 55. His second issue (OP-207) with Jeanne Black is untraced. Any follower to provide it to bopping.org ?
From Texas, Doc Bryant & National Jamboree Gang on his own Doc Bryant label (# 155) for « Cotton pickin’ boogie », from 1952-53. In 1958, an « old » Texas artist – he first recorded in the late ’40s for Macy’s, i.e. « Cornbread boogie » -, Art Gunn had on his own (?) Arga (# 288) label the fine relaxed « Pickin’ ‘n singing ». He had also previously cut for Revel and V & G Records. The mysterious Phantom Rider Trio does « Peekin’ thru your window » on the K-Pep label # 264 from San Angelo.
From Florida, Candy Rowell on the Du Ro #254 label with « Ain’t gonna say hello ».
Oklahoma is represented by Al Sweatt and « Fo-Mo-Co » on Keen 262, from 1956. Indeed he was to have the two rockers later « I hate myself/Let’s paint the town red » (Keen 288). Al Sweatt “Little Fo-mo-co“
Four Star OP- serie continued well over until the late ’50s with the odd Hillbilly bop issued : Sonny LeBarron and « Jack and Jill» (Mecca # 252), Paul McGhee (« You are my sunshine » Flame 305) or 267 Sonny Thibodeaux (Pacific 267), Leo Gosnell from 1959 on Mountain 298/299, (“Juke Joint Honey“) to name just a very few.
Howdy folks! Here is a new batch of Hilbilly Bop goodies, even the odd Rock’n’Roll!
We are beginning on the West Coast with CASEY SIMMONS and his “Juke Box Boogie” on Crystal records from 1950. Call and response format, fine saxophone and a lot of electric guitar. The whole thing romps along lovely!
Fortune records offered many a Hillbilly Bop song in its 100 serie. EDDIE JACKSON, famous for his “Rock and Roll Baby“, turns up there with “Baby Doll“, dominated by a good piano.
Sol Kahal’s Macy’s Records had many fine discs, either in Blues field, either in early Hillbilly bop, i.e. by Ramblin’ Tommy Scott or Harry Choates. ART GUNN & his Arizona Playboys cut the decent “Cornbread Boogie” in 1949. Fine harmonica throughout.
They also had on the same label “Boogie Woogie Blues” (for a future fortnight), and later, on own Gunn label Arga in 1958, the superior “Pickin’ and A-Singin’“.
Cowboy Sam Nichols
Cowboy Sam Nichols had written (and recorded for Stanchell) the classic “That Wild And Wicked Look In Your Eye“, before he got a contract with MGM records. It was early to mid-fifties and the beginning of truck drivers‘ songs (Terry Fell for example); here the shuffle “Keep Your Motor Hot” from 1954. No label scan available, as I sold the 78 rpm, having only kept the music! Nichols was backed by West coast top musicians: Porky Freeman on guitar, Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Red Murrell on rhythm and Curley Cochran on steel.
From trucks to trains. Grady CURLEY COLE was a resident D.J. in Paducah, KY, but he cut his fine “I‘m Going To Roll” for L.A. Gilt-Edge label. Nothing more is known about him. Let’s stay in Kentucky for TOMMY HOLMES, backed by Pat Kingery & the Kentuckians. A certain Mr. Vance asked Holmes a record for his politician career ca. 1954. The tune “Jam On The Lower Shelf” is pretty average, mostly when you hear Holmes six years later in an out-and-out Rocker on the Cherry label, “Wha-Chic-Ka-Noka“. Enjoy the selections!