Texas Hillbilly bop (and Country ballads): COYE WILCOX (1950-1980)

Tire plant worker by day, honky-tonk singer by night, He had been born in Rusk, Texas, and had been performing around Houston since the mid-1940s. In late 1949 or 1950, he was drafted by the ubiquitous Jack Rhodes for a short time. His recording debut was made with Rhodes for Freedom in 1950. A solo release followed the next year, « I Need Someone Tonight » (Freedom 5006) is a very good mid-paced bopper, fiddle well to the fore. Flipside « One More Mistake » is a well done ballad and sounds promising for the things to come (steel to the fore).

In 1951-52, he released the fine double-sided Freedom 5040 with the same formula : « It’s Nobody’s Business  (What We Do)» and the wonderfully rural sounding of the uptempo « Look What Your Love Has Done To Me ». Apparently Wilcox held the violon.

He cut (unreleased at the time) in 1955 or 56 “Bird’s Nest On The Ground” (a Southern colloquialism meaning “a good thing”) which is pure Hank Williams, drawing out the best in both wonderfully rural Wilcox’s voice and the unindentiified musicians – probably some configuration of the Gold Star house band – accompanying him. It would have made a fine single for Sarg in 1956, but by this time Charlie Fitch was looking for material that encapsulated the present rather than pay homage to the past.

In 1959 he resurfaced this time in modern style on Azalea records. « You Gotta Quit Cheatin’ » was a mid-paced rocker (prominent piano solo) of first quality # 117). Flipside « I made A Mistake » (this man had apparently things to blame on himself for) does return to the old days, with the fiddle well to he fore and a bluesy Rockaballad nicely done.

On Azalea 123 Wilcox had his best ever rocker, the novelty « Zippy, Hippy, Dippy », backed by the folkish « Song Of Jesse James. »

Later on, he cut on Lu-Tex the ballad « Old Man Job » (1212) and the similar styled « Please Play Me A Song » (lot of steel).More Lu-Tex with « I’m Just Teasin’ Me » – good vocal, sensitive ballads (# 505) and « Path Of Tomorrow » (# 325) in 1976.

Then the last recordings on Orbit 1001, « I Just Laughed Till I Cried » and the countryish bopper « Old Hand Me Down ».

Sources: Andrew Brown for biographical details (Sarg Records Anthology); Ronald Keppner and Allan Turner for Freedom B-sides sound files – many thanks to them; Kent Heinemann for a Lu-Tex issue; 5cat for Lu-Tex label scans; YouTb for Azalea sound files and labels. My own archives: Google images.

Early May 2019 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy, folks! This is the early May 2019 fortnight’s favorites selection: 6 artists, most of them having their records issued between the late ’40s and the mid-50s, with a brief entry into the late ’50s.

First song, “Too Young To Get Married”, is a fast item – rural hick vocal, fiddle solo and steel. A gas! Released on Birmingham, AL. GG # 516 label.

The second Bill Lancaster selection, “It’s Saturday Night (And I’m Going To Town)” has a rinky dink piano. A pure heaven Hillbilly bopper from 1955, also on GG label # 519.

Bill Lancaster’s Roving Gamblers

“Past Love” by Bill Lancaster (R.S. of # 519) is medium honky tonk – sincere vocal with steel. Lancaster had another record on his apparently own label, Bills-45 (untraced)

Fiddlin’ Willie & the Ozark Pals

Accordion was a very popular instrument in the late ’40s Country. It’s the main one in Fiddlin’ Willie’s “Knocking at Your Door” recorded on Saint Louis, MO Disco label # 1500. A fast number with of course a nice fiddle solo. Vocal is by Leon Key, one of the brothers Robert, Richard and Willie Key, respectively mandolin and/or guitar, and fiddle.

Fiddlin’ Willie & the Ozark Pals on Sarg

Gone was the accordion for this August 1956 item, “Our Secret Rendezvous”, a medium paced number with of course a nice fiddle solo. Accordion is replaced by a steel. Vocal is by Leon Key, one of the brothers Robert, Richard and Willie Key, respectively mandolin and/or guitar, and fiddle.A strong Louvin Brothers influence in the vocals. This record was cut in Saint Louis and offered by the Key Brothers’ manager to Charles Fitch (it’s the only non-Texas Sarg recording) who agreed to issue it.

Leroy Dobson

From the West Coast on the Ludwig label (1958), owned by Rodney Morris (it has been reported that the label was named after his son’s name), one Leroy Dobson for “I Wanta Make Love” (# 1005). A fast and uptempo number, a lot of steel = almost Rockabilly. Last time it was sold, $ 314!

Roy Harris & his Happy Hillbillies

Roy Harris was touring in Mississippi. He was signed by Lilian McMurry on her Trumpet label in Jackson and released “No One Else” (# 134) accompanied by the Buzz Busby Orchestra [for a future fortnight). Here we find him in 1954 on the Johnny Vincent’s Champion label, which was eventually forerunner to Ace.”Too Much” (# 105) is a medium paced ditty, with piano and fiddle to the fore. Harris also released records on Flair and Modern.

Walter (Tex) Dixson & his Radio Ramblers

Tex (or Walter, or even Mason) Dixon hailed from Birmingham, AL. and released many records all along the ’50s. We at bopping are now trying to set up his entire story to be published in a near future. Here it’s his first one, backed by the same band as on “Birmingham Bounce” by Hardrock Gunter and on the same label (Bama 2200). “Honky Tonk Swing” is an energetic performance, with a romping piano. Guitar and steel are great. A very rare record.

Gene Wyatt

Once more a West coast record. Ebb was owned by Art Rupe and was an outlet for Southern artists. I release here Gene Wyatt and “Lover Boy” (# 123, from 1957). Fine rinky dink piano, two great guitar solos and heavy drums. “Lover Boy” is a nice Rockabilly rocker.

Sources : my own archives ; 45cat (Bill Lancaster; Mellow’s Log Cabin (Walter Dixson); YouTube for Fiddling’ Willie, Gene Wyatt and Roy Harris.”The Sarg Records Anthology,1954-1964″ (BF)

Early December 2018 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Howdy folks, welcome to new visitors. This is the early December 2018 fortnight’s favorites selection, and, as usual, it will be very various in styles from late 1947 to 1964.

Bennie Hess

BENNIE HESS was a Country singer born February 10, 1914 at Chriesman (Texas). He formed his first band The Rhythm Wranglers in 1940 and a show on the local radio KFYO Lubbock (Texas). First hit in 1945 for the Black And White Records.

Bennie spent at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport (Louisiana), the Big D Jamboree in Dallas (Texas) and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville (Tennessee). Died November 22, 1984 in Houston (Texas) Here he is with a B-side of Jet 1920 («You Can’t Catch A Fish Where Is No Water»): You Are In My Heart To Stay» is a nice uptempo ballad, with a fine rhythm section (piano and steel solos) (circa 1955), without doubt recorded in Houston.
He had an abundant stack of records on Pearl, Major, Musicode, Space and Spade during the ’50s. Maybe one day bopping.org will search about him.

He got her up to an hundred and ten
But he met Number Four comin’ around the bend
He told his fireman it’s now too late
’Cause they saved this space for the Pearly Gates
He passed Number Four with a great big sigh
The set’n on a Switch to let him by
He boogied and he boogied on down the line
With a big relief and a day to live on
Whooo whooo hear that whistle
Ding dong hear that bell
He stated down on a mighty hill

Richard Prine

(Slim Watts vocal)

RICHARD PRINE was a band leader (and drummer) during the early ’50s in Houston. Here he has Slim Watts (several discs on 4*) as a front man for «Highball Boogie» on Ayo 111. It’s a train song : rollicking piano, whistle effects (steel?) and a very agile guitar player. The band has even a Western swing touch with a nice fiddle and a saxophone (Link Davis?).

Prine also used Deacon Anderson as singer/steel player. As to regards to Slim Watts, he had half a dozen issues on 4 * or “Tu-La-Lu” on Starday 286.

The following 4 records were issued on Dixie, being a very frequent label name. So various places (when given on labels) of the U.S.

GUY GARDNER & His Country Four

On Dixie 1068 (1961) by GUY GARDNER & his Country Four, here’s «High Society», an uptempo ballad : jumping vocal and instrumentation (piano and steel). Madison, TN label (sublabel to Starday).

ART BUCHANAN

On Dixie 1002, ART BUCHANAN and «Hi Yo Silver» from January 1963. Energetic vocal, call-and-response format. He had also «Queen From Bowling Green» on Dixie 823, and under the name of Art Ontario, he had cut «It Must Be Me/Last Goodbye» in 1959 on the PD Starday sublabel Dixie from Madison, TN (# 2019) (valued at $ 300-400). Finally his rarest from 1958: «Wiggle walkin’ boogie» on Illinois 725 ($ 700-800).

JESSIE FLOYD

Third artist in this short Dixie serie is JESSIE FLOYD in 1964, for «Hangover Blues»(# 1063). A fine vocal, and a demented piano. This record could have been cut as well in 1958.(valued at $ 350-450). Ashboro, N. Carolina label.

JAKE THOMAS

Finally JAKE THOMAS (« with Bluegrass Band ») is releasing «What’ll I Do, a really fine bluesy tune: an ideal voice, a bit husky at times, for this type of song.

A dobro is the main instrument, and a slap-bass is going well its way. A fiddle also present. Value 300-400. Thomas had also released « Meanest Blues » on Dixie 1112.

PEE WEE KING (Redd Stewart vocal)

Something really dfferent with the swinging, bluesy Redd Stewart vocal for «Juke Box Blues» of PEE WEE KING (RCA-Victor 20-2841) from December 1947. A bluesy uptempo, a fine guitar ; indeed King’s accordion fighting with the steel, and even a fiddle solo. A great disc.

AL URBAN

To sump up, a short cut of the AL URBAN story (in this site) with his better known song, «Lookin’ For Money» (Sarg 148, from Spring 1956) – down to earth fast hillbilly bop, lot of echo.

Sources : mainly YouTube and 45cat (for label scans) ; Pee Wee King from my personal library ; C. Klop Dixie serie (Dixie 3333) ; various compilations (issued during the late ’90s.).

Made on a Mac!

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Early May 2018 bopping fortnight’s favorites

Hi ! This is the selection (ten tunes) of bopping favorites for early May 2018.

The first artist in discussion is HANK SWATLEY. He cut two records on the very small Aaron label, out of West Memphis, Arkansas : just across the Mssissipi River. Now the man is only remembered for is energetic version of Johnny Tyler’s « Oakie Boogie », and it surely is : cool vocal, harsh guitar, a fabulous record for 1959. But the man had to record three more sides, which are plainly hillbilly. « It Takes A Long Time To Forget » (Aaron 100) is a nice ballad with a sparse instrumentation : only one rhythm guitar and discreet drums. The flipside « Ways Of A Woman In Love » keeps the same format, with some heavier drums (song penned by Charlie Rich). Swatley’s high-pitched voice reminds me that of Jimmy Work.

aaron hank swatley it take a long time to forgetaaron hank swatley ways of a woman in love

Hank Swatley

On Google, picture tied with Aaron 101 “Oakie Boogie”

It Takes A Long Time To Forget”

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Ways Of A Woman In Love

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The second platter (# 101) has of course « Oakie Boogie », originally a Jack Guthrie hit of 1946 ; but the flipside is once more a bluesy ballad ; « I Can’t Help It » is of course a rendition of the Hank Williams’ song.

Oakie Boogieaaron hank swatley oakie boogie

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I Can’t Help it
aaron hank swatley I can't help it

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Next selection is done by a specialized-in-covers, I mean PRESTON WARD. He’d cut many hit tunes of other artists on Carl Burkhardt labels : Gateway, Worthmore, Big Four Hits. Here he’s backed by the Echo Valley Boys (no, not the guys on Island of « Wash Machine Boogie » or « Ramblin’ Man » fame) and their disc was issued in 1961 under the Echo label (# 284B). « Old Man In The Moon » is raw, unpolished Honk-tonker, a very fine steel, a rolling piano. A real surprise !

Old Man In The Moonecho preston ward  old man i the moon

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Life Without You

downloadnashville leon nash life without you

« Life Without You » is a good Country-rocker sung by LEON NAIL. A prominent steel, well in the Nashille fashion, and a piano player. The song itself is well sung, a sort of fast Rockaballad on Nashville # 5172, and it was released ca. 1961. Nail had at least another on the small Tennessee label (# 10002) from 1964, for two numbers in the same style.

Then the HODGES BROTHERS BAND for « Searching My Dreams On You »(1959) on the Whispering Pines label (# 200) : (Ralph Hodges, vocal) a hodges brothers bandgreat bouncing song with guitar, old fiddle and lead guitar. Vocal is urgent and smells all the flavor of the Appalachian Mountains, a real Hillbilly bop treat. The Brothers had indeed records issued on Trumpet, Mississipi and Starday and even later on California’s Arhoolie. They are so good that they deserve well a feature.

“Searching My Dreams For youwhispering pines hodges brothers band searching my draams for you

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luling rexas sarg recordsWe are going to Texas, more precisely in Luling, home of one intriguing label : Charlie Fitch’s Sarg Records. On May 4, 1956, Fitch recorded Adolph Hofner and the Pearl Wranglers, who comprised on steel BASH HOFNER and on vocal (for this session) Eddie Bowers. The thema chosen this day was « Rockin’ And A-Boppin’ », a real slice of Hillbilly Bop/Rockabilly, well fed up with Western swing overtones. This Sarg 138 is valued at $ 100-125.

bash hofner

Bash Hofner

“Rockin’ And A-Boppin'”

downloadsaeg bash hofner rockin and a boppin'

To sum up, both sides of Shreveport, La. Clif label 101 by ROY WAYNE : he delivers « Honey Won’t You Listen », a good shuffler from 1957. Sparse instrumentation, but quite effective for the lazy vocal of Wayne. Flipside « Anyway You Do » is in the same vein. The 45 attains $ 400 to 500 if you can locate it.

Honey Won’t You Listen”

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Anyway You Do”

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clif roy wayne honey won't you listenclif roy wayne any way ou do

Sources: as usual, mainly YouTube; also my own archives

“Let me catch my breath”, the PECK TOUCHTON short story (1950-56)

peck-touchton-pic-1949

Raleigh Preston ‘Peck’ Touchton is easily one of the most noteworthy singers to emerge from the Houston country peck-touchton-bustemusic scene in the fifties. But unlike most of his peers like George Jones, Touchton only recorded a handful of sides and, through no fault of his own, attained none of the commercial rewards granted some of his lesser known contemporaries. He was rather, another victim of the visionless inertia that typified the music business in Houston.

Born in Belmont, Louisiana on April 28, 1929, Peck migrated to Houston after high school graduation and began working drive-ins and dancehalls with a young band called the Sunset Wranglers. « Our first job was a place called Johnny’s Drive-Inn in North Shepherd, » he remembers today. « Back in those days, that was the way you started out. And us four would stay up there from eight to twelve, and one o’clock on saturday night. It was strictly a drive-in…car hops would pass the kitty, that’s how we made our money. » The group soon graduated to opening shows for established local acts like Jimmie and Leon Short and Bennie Hess.

The original Sunset Wranglers cut several sides for the Freedom and Green Star labels in 1950-51 : 4 sides for Freedom, among them the very nice uptempo « Walk ’em off blues » (# 5028) and the more quieter although equally good « Walkin’ on the top of the world » (# 5040).

freedom-5028a-peck-touchton-and-the-sunset-wranglers-walk-em-off-bluesfreedom-5028b-peck-touchton-and-the-sunset-wranglers-lonely-world

Walk ’em off blues

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Lonely world

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Walkin’ on the top of the world

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But the Wranglers splintered when singer Rocky Bill Ford successfully coerced the other members into leaving Peck to become his backing band in the wake of his hit « Beer drinking blues ». This turned out to Touchton’s advantage, however, as the new group he assembled was far more experienced than the old one. With this band, Peck moved up to the Starday label in 1954, but the pressing plant accidentally printed George Jones’ name on the label to his record, « Let me catch my breath » (# 160). When Starday procrastinated correcting the gaffe, Touchton grew impatient and asked to be released from his contract. There remain 3 unissued Starday tracks in the can.

Let me catch my breath

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Starday’s loss was Sarg’s gain, and Charlie Fitch was happy to capitalize on the other label’s mistake. Fitch had become acquainted with Peck when the Sunset Wranglers backed up Glen Paul at his December 1955 session. Though he had reservations that Peck « sounded too much like Hank Williams », Fitch conceeded that Touchton’s songs had commercial potential. In the meantime the Sunset Wranglers were in great demand: they backed Johnny Nelms in disguise (“Western band“) on his Azalea double-sider « azalea-104-johnny-nelms-after-todayAfter today

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After today/Cry baby cry
 » in 1955 and played with him for dates :  Peck remembered Johnny very well and often played at his club, The Dancing Barn, on Houston’s East Side: We were working at the Dancing Barn with Johnny Nelms [c. 1955],” Touchton said in a 1999 interview. “We worked out there a long time. The Dancing Barn was a rough damn club, too. It was on LaPorte Road. (Nelms’s) old man, his daddy, had just got out of the pen for killing a man when we were working out there. His daddy killed one or two people. At least one. You could just look at the old man and know that the old son-of-a-bitch was dangerous. There was a few knives pulled out there during that time. Even the band had fisticuffs with the crowd.”

Peck recorded his Sarg debut, « You’ve changed your tune » and « Then I found you » at ACA [Bill Holford engineer in Houston] on March 7, 1956 (Sarg 132). The line-up of the Sunset Wranglers at this point included Herman McCoy (lead guitar), Doug Myers (fiddle), Hoyt Skidmore (steel guitar), Carlton Wilcox (bass) and Jo Anne Sky Eagle (drums).

You’ve changed your tune

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Then I found you

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sarg-132-peck-touchton-"youve-changed-your-tune"sarg-132-peck-touchton-"then-i-found-you"

Four months later, a slightly renovated version of the band went back to ACA to cut « My baby ain’t around » and « I’m just a standby » : George Champion provides lead guitar and doubles on piano, Jeannine Tulley plays rhythm guitar and Skidmore and Wilcox return. The raw power of Touchton’s voice was never captured better than it was on these four sides, and though sales were good, they weren’t strong enough to convince Fitch to release anything else. It didn’t help matters that Charlie’s finances at the time were at the lowest ebb they’s ever been at. (The four additional songs Peck recorded for Sarg were left unreleased, and have since been lost.)

sarg-146-78-peck-touchton-"my-baby-aint-around"sarg-146-peck-touchton-"im-just-a-standby"My baby ain’t aroundpeck-touchton-guitare

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I’m just a standby

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But Peck came to the realization in 1957 that he couldn’t support his growing family, by devoting as much time to music as he was – a familiar story. Besides, music was changing and he wasn’t very enthused about changing with it. « One reason why I think I lost interest, Presley came along, and the first couple of records he had was good. Then he began to do his « Hound dog » stuff – we’d go to play a date and everybody wanted to hear « Hound dog ». And I hated the damn song. »

Peck only recorded once more (for Caprus Records in 1976), twenty years after his final Sarg record. He looks today at his past : « Back from about 1949 to ’56 or ’57, everybody in Houston just meshed. It was damn near tight-knit. Everybody knew everybody, and most of ’em were real good guys who would help each other. »capros-4536-peck-touchton-"all-i-want-to-be"

Notes by Andrew Brown for the « The Sarg Records Anthology » from 1999. Additional matters by bopping’s editor.