early April 2014 fortnight’s favorites: the IMPERIAL label, 8200 serie (1953/54)

For this new serie I have chosen to focus on 7 releases on the Imperial label. Indeed they all will be from the famous 8000 serie, and more precisely (with one exception) in the 8200.

Imperial 8000 had begun in 1947 with releases from Danny Dedmon or Link Davis, and the serie had pursued throughout the late 40s and early 50s with varying success. Sides appeared by Jimmy Heap, Tommy Duncan or more obscure artists as Ed Camp or Harry Rodcay. All had a label adorned by 5 stars, and were issued in red (78 rpm) or blue (45 rpm). Majority of sides were cut in Dallas (Jim Beck’s studio).

In 1953, Imperial had a huge success with the first white cover of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” by BILLY STARR (# 8186). It’s a very nice version: belting vocal, haunting guitar, nice piano and accentuated drums. Actually it’s almost a rocker. Recorded in March 1953, it had contenders by Eddie Hazlewood, Betsy Gay and Tommy Duncan, all on Intro. Herald in NY had Cleve Jackson’s version (actually Jackson Toombs — full story elsewhere in the site).

imperial 8186 billy starr

imperial 8226 curley sanders too much lovin'

imperial 8204 gene hensleeThen comes up CURLEY SANDERS, who cut “Too much loving‘” in April 53. A good, fast hillbilly, in average (steel,piano, fiddle, guitar and bass) format.(# 8226). GENE HENSLEE next (# 8204) in June 53 had “I’m like a kid a-waitin‘”, similar to his other releases, “Dig’n’datin’” or “Rockin’ baby“. July 1953 saw cut the nice, very effective (bass) medium paced “Talking to the man in the moon” by BILLY Mc GHEE (# 8214).

Billy Starr “Hound dog

Curley Sanders “Too much lovin'”


Gene Henslee “I’m like a kid a-waitin'”



imperial8214 billy mcghee

Billy McGhee “Talking to the man in the moon


Earl Songer “Whoopie baby


Van Howard “I’m not a kid anymore


imperial 8259 earlsonger

Then comes in 1954 next artist, VAN HOWARD and the minor classic “I’m not a kid anymore” (# 8234). Real name Howard Vanderverdner. This track was covered recently (mid ’90s) by the Starlighters.

# 8259 is the number to the great “Whoopie baby” by EARL SONGER. Seemingly this was cut in Detroit.

Finally another song lent from a smaller label: “Dunce cap” by JIMMY KELLY, this time from Louisiana’s Jiffy label. Great steel.(# 8275)imperial 8275 jimmy kelly ret
Jimmy Kelly “Dunce cap”

Thanks to Ronald Keppner for the loan of rare 78rpm.

Earl Songer