[two_fifth_last][/two_fifth_last]Howdy folks ! It’s never been done before : this fortnight will begin with two R&B Rockers. HARMONICA FATS (rn. Harvey Blackstone) appears to have cut a good amount of records in Los Angeles during the early to late ’60s. His output vanished in obscurity, except for those die hard Blues buffs, and he’s mostly remembered today for his best well-known song « Tore up ». Brawny R&B, heavy harmonica over solid backing of guitar and saxes on Skylark 602, reissued on the more affordable Darcey 5000 label. The original song had been issued in 1956 on Federal 12270 by the Midnighters (lead and writer : Hank Ballard) in a typical vocal group style. Sometime later Sleepy LaBeef covered « Tore up » as Tommy LaBeff on Wayside as a solid rocker – watch out his harsh vocal ! Finally Harmonica Fats had also his wild version of J. B. Lenoir’s « Mama mama talk to your daughter for me » on Darcey 5003, a song he credited to himself and seen on Youtube…He covered Hank Williams‘ “Mind your own business” on Kris.
Second R&B artist is even more obscure : AL SIMMONSwith Slim Green & the Cats from Fresno cut in 1957 on the (I believe) Johnny Otis‘ Dig label a great « Old folks boogie » (# 138). An half screaming/half spoken vocal over an hypnotic lead guitar and a nice sax solo for a Little Junior Parker’s/ John Lee Hooker “Feeling good” type song..
We turn now to usual Country records in this site. EVERETT SPEARS has his own version of the Terry Fell‘s classic «Truck driving man » on the Epto (no °) label. A cool vocal , lot of echo and heavy drums do combine a very nice mid-60’s country rocker, although of unknown area.
RAYMOND WEBB now is an unknown artist from the Kentucky or Tennessee. He had only two records. On Rich-R’-Tone 1063 issued in 1953, he gives us a very bluesy track, « Hot water blues » : wailing vocal and a great piano backing. The flipside, « Bucket special » noted on labeI « Instrumental boogie woogie », is a good side too. I ought not be surprised if the piano player was a Black one.
He can also be heard 5 years later on the microscopic label Kyva [KentuckY–VirginiA] (the only other record known on this is Luke Gordon‘s) and « Wherever you are ». On a waltz tempo with a prominent steel, it’s a good record for 1958.
GEORGE STOGNER cut in Miami, FL ca. June 1953 on the Rockin’ label # 522 the great double-sider « Hard top race/Big yellow moon », arguably the best ever and the fastest hot rod type song. Label’s owners Henry Stone and Andy Razaf sold it to King’s Sid Nathan in August of the same year. The latter reissued part of the Rockin’ masters on his own DeLuxe label, hence Stogner had the honour of opening the new Deluxe 2000 serie. Back to « Hard top race », with its urgent vocal, fabulous piano and steel, it’s really a berserk wildie taken at an ultra-fast tempo, while the flip « Big yellow moon » is an uptempo ballad with sentimental words, written by Rod Morris : a good song anyway.
Finally here is the unknown HAROLD MORRISON, who seemingly never got to issue any commercial record ; only remains an acetate of the fabulous « I gotta have her », a supercharged Rockabilly : great vocal, very fine guitar. I wonder if someone ever took notice at the time of such a talented guy.
Note: the indefatigable visitor Phil Watson sent about Harold Morrison (March 27):”Not sure if it’s the same man, but Harold Morrison was a respected singer/comedian who recorded for several labels including Starday. I have two LPs by him. He started out with Red Foley on the Ozark Jamboree, then worked for the Wilburn Bros for seven years, followed by six years with George Jones & Tammy Wynette, up to 1975 when a now-single Tammy fired him.” also, “Yes, according to Praguefrank, this acetate is by “the” Harold Morrison, and was his first recording in 1956. He recorded for RCA and Decca but not Starday. He died in 1993.”. Thanks Phil!
Sources : Raymond Webb material provided by Allan Turner – thanks to him ! Other selections from my collection (Harmonica Fats and Tommy LaBeff, George Stogner reissues). Label scans as usual from 78rpm-world or YouTube.
KED KILLEN was born on May 10, 1911 in Jenkins, Kentucky and raised there. From the time he was a teenager until 25 years of age, Killen sang and played the guitar only locally with other musicians at neighborhood meet-togethers and in Virginia.
He had compiled a group of musicians which he named Western All Stars. Early ‘50s he had a record on the Johnson City, TN, Rich-R’-Tone label. In 1957 he cut a disc for the microscopic Grundy, Va., Kyva label, a Starday custom. It was a gospel influenced very fine Hillbilly bop.
No more opportunity came Ked’s way to record until he had seen an ad and write-up on Western Ranch Music record label run by Norm Kelly, out of Thornton, Ca. It was in early 1966 when he contacted the company with an audition tape. The company liked his down-to-earth country sounds and signed him to a recording contract on August 1, 1966. Until retiring in late 1969 playing only for family and friends Killen cut 20 sides for the aforementioned label. They have been recently reissued by Western Ranch.
Ked’s records had some very good ratings in various areas. Not too much has been known about his personal life, except he was married and had two children. Through the studio where he recorded in Virginia, Binge records (who re-released all his Western Ranch Music output) found out that he was working on another tape when illness and death struck his wife June, leaving him very distraught and depressed, until he became quite ill himself and passed away in 1986.
His music on Western Ranch (1966-69) could well have been cut 15 years earlier. His voice would have been suitable for the early ‘50s country sounds. His backing usually consists of Killen himself on vocal and rhythm guitar, steel and/or fiddle, st-b, sometimes an electric lead-guitar: very sparse accompaniment which fits well his sincere vocal.
The poor picture of Killen is all what’s left from the Western Ranch Music vaults.
(reprinted from (D) Binge LP 1010 “Ked Killen and his Western All Stars – Country Music is here to stay”, 1989)
discography is to be found here: Ked Killen (Praguesfrank)
Addition (September 10th, 2012). A recent acquisition in an auction, another Ked Killen 45 on KyVa 101 (Kentucky-Virginia), “Lonesome Blues“/”Let Another Love Move In“. Similar style as Western Ranch music, although it’s very hard to determine if these KyVa sides were contemporary or earlier to Western Ranch Considering the earlier Kyva issue discussed was from early 1958, this should also fit in the same period. Anyway still good Hillbilly bop music! Also first mention of a backing group.
First from the West Coast, a fine crossing between Hillbilly Bop and Rock’n’Roll (because of the drumming): DICK MILLER and “Now I’ Gone“. I’ve added a second song from him, very different, this time, 1957 on Mercury Records, “My Tears Will Seal It Closed“.
Eddie Hill and “The Hot Guitar” was combination of various guitar stylings, Merle Travis, Hank Garland, Chet Atkins.Very nice fast tune.
Rufus Shoffner is not a stranger. Here on Detroit’s HI-Q label, he delivers an energetic “It Always Happens To Me“, backed by his sister/wife (I don’t know) Joyce Shoffner.
A real mystery now. Ked Killen was cutting Hillbilly Bop as late as 1969 on WESTERN RANCH. Bopping has recently posted a track by him (Fortnight’s favorites, May 2010). Here “You’d better Take Time“, on a Starday Custom pressing, has welcome gospel overtones. The name HIRAM PHILMON isn’t that common: he cut on his own PHILMON label the fine Hillbilly “I‘m Lonesome Baby“. Just to finish with someone who, with is biting guitar sound, was very close to Rock’n’Roll, FRANKIE LEE SIMS – he cut for Specialty, here on Johnny Vincent’s VIN label, the great “She Likes To Boogie Real Low“.