The Howington Brothers (Charles « Dub », lead guitar and Roy, bass) were a Washington D.C. act which was signed by Mrs. Lillian Clayborne on her D.C. label. D.C. did mean at the same time ‘District of Columbia’ and ‘D'[for Haskell Davis, publisher]- ‘C'[for Lillian Clayborne, owner of D.C. Records]. Between 1948 and 1950, they cut a dozen sides collector Phillip Tricker called ‘corny’, under the name « HOWINGTON BROTHERS with Their Tennessee Haymakers ». Two of them were issued moreover on the giant Atlantic Records R&B outlet of NYC, and two more on Loop Records, possibly a sublabel to D.C. Their personnel is not entirely known, but consisted of Brownie Galloway on guitar, and a young Jimmy Dean on accordion, plus Herbie Jones on rhythm guitar and George Saslaw (unknown instrument, but steel and mandolin are present on their discs). Later on they went to Decca and Quincy, and even backed George Saslaw on a 60’s Western disc. They came during a burgeoning East Coast Hillbilly scene during 1944-46, which saw WFIL, a powerful Philadelphia station, launch very late 1944 the Saturday night « Hayloft Jamboree » : an immediate success, so much so that American Broadcasting System approached WHIL and they broadcast from mid-1945 the show from coast to coast.
Actually it may well be that Ivin Balle, boss of Gotham, recorded the Howingtons in Philadelphia, then leased the masters to Mrs. Clayborne, according to Phillip Tricker, and the mention on DC 4102A.
A good amount of the Howington Brothers material was made of instrumentals, but vocal duties were shared between Dub and Roy. First D.C. issue by them was a novelty, « Roll The Patrol » (next to the curb, ’cause grandma can’t step that high), which was well received in late 1948 (DC # 4102). This song may well have been connected to another WFIL programme, on an all night hillbilly show called « The Dawn Patrol ». Could it have been used as the theme music ? B-side is a fast « Dub’s Polka », an instrumental showcasing Dub’s agility on guitar, then young Jimmy Dean’s shining on accordion.
“Roll The Patrol“
Same format goes for the second offering (# 4106) with a dynamite « Dub’s Double Boogie » (bass chords guitar of Dub), while « The Letter Edged In Black » is sung in unison, and is rather a tame uptempo ballad.
“Dubs Double Boogie”
DC # 4107 sees the arrival of a fiddle (Speedy Baker) for the traditional « Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down » with a short accordion solo. Again vocal refrain is in unison, and fiddle part is a real feat. The B-side « Don’t Play With Love » is a typical late ’40s uptempo Hillbilly song : Dub is in fine voice (even whistles, by Frank Porter), as his throbbing guitar. Accordion and fiddle do their best for a good rendition. This song must have been a valued one, because it will be re-recorded on Quincy a mere 8 years later.
We found the Howington Brothers on a Loop release (# 903) from 1949, which seems to be a sublabel to D.C. They do a terrific instrumental, « Haymaker’s Shuffle » and a Roy Howington vocal (« and His Rhythm Boys , Chuck Frazer, Solo Guitar ») (a forgettable weeper) on «A Wondeful Dream ».
In April or June 1950 Mrs. Clayborne leased some 20 masters to Atlantic, to be issued in their ‘Folk & Western Serie‘ (# 700). For an unknown reason, only the Howington Brothers ‘& His Tennessee Haymakers‘ [as shown on the Atlantic label] had a record issued under the prestigious label, although quite unusual for Hillblly music. Only are known of 7 releases in this serie, and someday bopping.org will tell you its story (maybe other Atlantic serie tunes were of D.C. origin?) Anyway the Howingtons once more have an A-side, « I’m On Pins And Needles », an uptempo although quite ordinary tune, while the flipside is a fast polka-type song, « Alabama Jubilee » : it shows a very, very nice guitar, plus a welcome slap-bass solo. There remains an unissued song, « Road Of Heartaches », nobody can comment. Although this song resurfaced on the Quincy label years later.
The next pairing was issued in May 1952 (but obviously recorded much earlier) and saw « Our Shotgun Weddin’ Day », a great, fast Hillbilly bop opus issued on DC # 4114 (vocal by Roy Howington). Reverse side is another instrumental, aptly named « Easy Pickin’ ». Meanwhile I found a snippet in Billboard mentioning an issue on Loop 4113 with « Haymaker’s Shuffle » and « Hillbilly Wolf », but couldn’t find more details, nor the music or labels. It’s well worth noting that Billy Strickland cut in 1949 on Sylvan (reissued on Regal 5067) a song called « Hillbilly Wolf », written by ‘[Ben] Adelman’, who was the direct partner in Washington of Mrs. Clayborne ; so the link is, albeit tenuous, an interesting one.
“Our Shotgun Weddin’ Day”
Dub Howington is noted in a snippet of the ‘Journal of Country Music‘ (1987) as entertaining New Year’s Eve 1951 : «Dub Howington and the Tennessee Haymakers. The show was aired regionally as part of the Gunther network and, along with Gunther Beer, the show was sponsored by Otho Williams’ Buick and L&M cigarettes. There’s no doubt that for country music, for dancing, drinking, and chasing skirts (or jeans), the place to be on Saturday night was Turner’s Arena »
We jump to 1953, and the recording session the Howington Brothers had in Nashville (July 19) for Decca Records, which provided 4 tunes, 4 Hillbilly Boppers of very high standard : « Tennessee Rooster Fight » has, as awaited, roosters cock-a-doodling and a-hooping, while the fast « Two Faced » goes on with hillbilly humor (great guitar and fiddle) (Decca # 28550). The remaining two sides of the session, « I Got Mine » and « Should I Shoud, should I Shouldn’t » keep the same format, and are equally good boppers (Decca # 29225).
“Tennessee Rooster Fight”
Next record the Howingtons were involved in is that of Luke Gordon singing « Goin’ Crazy » (L&C 550, later reissued with the same # on Starday) ; not suprisingly, since they were Washingtonians and relocated in Virginia (Bristol – see the Billboard snippet on left), and Gordon was a Virginian. Luke
served in the US. Army during the Korean conflict and upon his discharge in 1953 headed for Norfolk, Virginia. After a stint in Tennessee he returned to Virginia and the Washington D.C. area to work with fiddler Homer ‘Curley’ Smith at radio station WGAY, Silver Springs, Maryland and do personal appearances. Curley set up a number of recording sessions for Luke with Ben Adelman and the result was released on L & C and Starday during 1956. Dub Howington played lead on «Goin’ Crazy» ; other members however of the « Tennessee Haymakers » as shown on the label were stranger to original Haymakers. The Luke Gordon “official” site quotes Buzz Busby (mandolin – absolutely inaudible), Homer ‘Curley’ Smith (fiddle), Don West (steel) and Jimmy Stoneman (st-bass). I am propounding in contrary the following personnel: Dub Howington on lead-guitar, George Saslaw on steel, Roy Howington on string bass, and of course ‘Curley’ Smith on fiddle, obviously not forgetting Luke Gordon on singing and rhythm guitar. The session could have been held on April 16, 1955. The reverse side has nothing to do however with the Tennessee Haymakers.
Howington and Gordon joined the newly formed Washington D.C. Saturday night show (aired by WMAL radio station) and guested regularly with Jimmy Dean, already signed to 4-Star Records.
Then Dub Howington did follow Luke Gordon on his own Quincy label, out of the same name town in Kentucky, and cut (in Cincinnati?): «Road Of Heartaches» (this was a revamp of the unissued Atlantic recording of 8 years before) and «Don’t Play With Love» (which had already been used a first time on D.C. 4107). Former tune was a good medium bopper, while the latter was a Rockabilly of high octane. The Howingtons were recycling old material into new stuff! The Quincy 45′ (# 934) is sold between $ 100-125, according to Barry K. John’s book.
Dub Howington also backed Luke Gordon on his second Quincy issue (# 933) coupling two fine boppers, « The Fool That I Am » and « Mustache On A Cabbage head » both cut in 1958, but was not involved in the B-side of the L&C 550 « Don’t Cramp My Style ».
After this record the Howington’s disappeared from music scene to just reappear a mere 8 years later (1964) on the N.Y.C. Crossroads label (# 400). They then backed George Saslaw, one of the members of the first hour (1948) on the old hit tune «Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me». This very fast version is done Western swing style and sounds very nice, with guitar and steel battling each other.
George Saslaw, “Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me”
After this last single, I am losing the track of the Howington Brothers. Quite a fair achievement after a 25 years long career.
Sources : mainly DC, Loop and Decca files (sound and scans) from Ronald Keppner’s collection – thanks to him for the care taken at copying those rare records out of his huge and precious collection. Even the odd cassette replacing a broken 78rpm ! The rest does come from my researches and archives. Personal pictures taken from the net or a past Blues & Rhythm magazine issue. Of great help was also the site devoted to Luke Gordon: http://www.hankwilliamslistings.com/ind-lug4.htm, even if I disagree with some details. Any comment or addition/correction welcome!