Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

UPDATES

• Updates on the Do-Ra-Me discography.
• New info on the Sylvia Mobley discography.
• Updated my post on the Gene Wester acetate.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tommy Tucker on Hi

Tommy Tucker - A Man in Love (Hi 2014), 1959

I won't go into detail here on Tommy Tucker's life and career because an upcoming feature on him in American Music Magazine in the near future will do this. Anyway, some of you may know this song, some may not. "A Man in Love" is a really beautiful track that was also recorded by Nick Lowe. Personally, I consider Charlie Feathers' demo recording of it as one of the best recordings Feathers did. The simplicity of it just speaks for itself.

Tommy Tucker
Tommy Tucker was a local Memphis artists and friends with Charlie Feathers. They would perform together on occasion at bars and clubs during the 1950s and 1960s, sometimes also with Ramon Maupin. In the early 1960s, Tucker was also a regular guest on Gene Williams' "Cotton Town Jubilee" on KWAM in West Memphis. 

He started his recording career in the late 1950s in the newly founded Hi record label and released his first disc in 1959, comprising "A Man in Love" and "Loving-Lil," the latter being an excellent Memphis cashalike song from the pen of Charlie Feathers and Jerry Huffman. "A Man in Love" was written by Charlie Feathers, Quinton Claunch, as well as Bill Cantrell and possibly dates back to the mid-1950s, when the trio was working at Sun Records. Feathers had recorded a demo of this song in 1958 at Royal Studio with just his guitar and him singing. Tucker's version featured a vocal chorus and a banjo picker, thus it had a certain Johnny Horton feel to it.

After another single on Hi, Tucker switched to RCA-Victor and recorded "Return of the Teenage Queen" / "Since You Have Gone" for the label. Both songs were also released in Australia and New Zealand. Tucker kept on recording for various small Memphis labels, including XL, Pen, Western Lounge, and others. He also left behind several unreleased tapes. Tucker died in 1985.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Broken Lines review

It has been five years since Hank Becker, John Oaks, and Todd Wilson, better known as "The Rubber Knife Gang," have released their last album "Drivin' On." Now, in 2015, the group is about to complete their third album "Broken Lines." Not officially issued yet, I was able to check it out last week as one of the first apart from the band itself.

"Broken Lines" has essentially everything that made "Drivin' On" so fascinating: catchy and beautiful melodies, clever lyrics and, last but not least, the unique harmony singing. There are songs to sing along with, songs to dance to, songs to dream to. And although the Rubber Knife Gang stays true to its sound, the three musicians nevertheless have added a couple of new elements to their music. This time for example, there are several calm songs, more striking chord patterns and riffs.

In contrast to "Drivin' On," the tracks on "Broken Lines" have a deeper, melancholic feeling to it. Though, the band is able to catch the "feel good" mood on their songs, for example on "Draw the Line." One of the album's hightlights is "House of Fire," on which banjo and guitar seem to rise in higher spheres. The listener feels like being transfered into another age. Possibly into the times of the ancient Egypt? Or perhaps to the hills of Tennessee? I don't know for sure, which doesn't matter at all. The easy and cushy sound of the band is also well presented with "Siren Serenade." On a couple of tracks, for exaple "Damn You December," also percussion is used, which adds much to the sound. On "Gone Away, " the group sounds a little bit like the bluegrass version of JD Wilkes' Dirt Daubers and suprised me with long and virtous instrumental passages.

My conclusion: "Broken Lines" is a worthy follower to "Drivin' On" and an advancement of the Gang's music to be sure. My conclusion is as precise and clear as the band's music: I'll recommend this album to every Americana fan out there!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hap Records

The Story of Hap Records
Happy Herbert and the Mountain City Recording Studio

The city of Chattanooga, located in Southeast Tennessee on the banks of the Tennessee river, has been home to radio stations and local country musicians from the 1930s up to the 1950s. Radio stations like WDOD, WDEF, and WAPO featured country music acts - WGAC even hosted the "Tennessee Hayloft Jamboree" in the mid-1950s. By 1960, there had been some small record labels but none of them were professional companies. Herbert Schleif's Hap record label was likewise semi-professional but its recorded output was - compared to other labels - immense.

The Dome Building in Chattanooga
"Happy" Herbert Schleif, a clothing store owner and part-time country music promoter in Chattanooga, established the "Mountain Recording Studio" in early 1960. He was living outside of Chattanooga in a house near Daisy, Tennessee (renamed Soddy Daisy in 1969). His studio was located on the corner of East 8th Street and Georgia Avenue in Suit 3 of the Dome Building, which was built in 1892 for the Chattanooga Times and it seems that it later housed also offices by other businesses. Billboard reported on April 25, 1960, that Schleif had just "launched the Mountain City Recording Studio there in partnership with Carl Allen." Who Carl Allen was remains unknown at this point. Schleif was friends with local musicians Peanut Faircloth and Norman Blake, who performed in a bluegrass band called "The Dixieland Drifters" since the mid-1950s. The Dixieland Drifters would become Schleif's first act to record.

At the same time Schleif started his studio, he also set up his own in-house label Dub Records and his own publishing firm Mountain City Publishing Company. The Dixieland Drifters, then consisting of Howell Culpepper, Charlie Evans, Norman Blake, and Peanuts Faircloth, had recorded previously an unissued session for Sun Records in Memphis and several discs for Murray Nash's BB label in Nashville. The group was approached by Schleif and recorded "I Can't Do Without You" and "Cheating Love" at his studio. Both recordings made up the initial release on the Dub label (Dub #1001) in June 1960. It is interesting to note that Schleif did press the record on both 45 and 78 rpm format. At that time, most companies stopped pressing the ancient 78 format and concentrated on 45 and 33 rpm records. Also, be aware that this is not the same Dub label owned by Foster Johnson in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Dixieland Drifters, 1961: Howell Culpepper, unidentified,
Houston "Buck" Turner, Norman Blake

Dub seems to have been only a short-lived venture. No other singles appeared and by June, Schleif had already formed a new outfit he called Hap Records. Schleif was said to "[...] always [have] a delightful grin on his face," hence his nickname "Happy" and the label's name. Raif Faircloth, Peanut Feaircloth's son, however, remembered it was a acronym for Herbert and Peanut. According to him, Faircloth was involved in the Hap label and was a co-owner. He remembers regarding the Dixieland Drifters: "[...] My memories of the Dixieland Drifters were mainly going way out Lookout Mountain, past Plum Nelly to the Blake home place when they'd rehearse. It was dad, Hal, Charlie and Norman at that time."

Hap's first release was by female vocalist Gloria Ramsey, whose "Good Poppin' Daddy" b/w "My Love" (Hap 7998-5/7999-6) appeared approximately in May 1960. Probably recorded at Schleif's studio, its record number yet escaped the later chronologial numerical system of the label. The next three releases, to all accounts released during that same year, are still unknown to me. Hap #1003 was by country music singer Kirk Hansard, who recorded Peanut Faircloth's "Johnny Collins" and the Webb Pierce/Danny Dill song "Two Won't Care." Billboard reviewed the single on August 29, 1960, in the C&W field. Born in Flatrock, Alabama, Hansard had recorded earlier for Dot in 1956 and continued his work as a recording artist for Bethlehem (1962), Columbia (1963-1967), Chart (1968-1969), and Kapp (1970). While recording for Hap, he was based in Knoxville and worked the Mid-Day Merry Go-ROund show on WNOX as well as the WWVA Jamboree out of Wheeling, West Virginia.

Gene Woods, who appeared on WBCA in Cleveland, Tennessee, recorded for Schleif "Afraid" / "The Ballad of Wild River" (Hap #1004, 1960). For the label's next release, Schleif coupled "You Won't Fall in Love" / "Will Angels Have Sweethearts" (Hap #1005) by the Dixieland Drifters, who had recorded both titles likely in summer or early fall that year at Mountain City studio. The record appeared around October. "You Won't Fall in Love" was a song composed by Fletcher Bright and his wife Marshall, while the flip was a band's original. Bright performed with the band at that time occasionally. He recalled that "[...] it was an old 45 single. I think Norman Blake was on the dobro, Peanut Faircloth was singing. My late wife Marshall wrote the words, borrowing heavily from a Jimmy Van Heusen tune ('It Could Happen to You'), and I supplied the melody. I was playing with the Dixieland Drifters at the time."

At that time, singer and songwriter Houston "Buck" Turner had joined the group. Turner had performed and recorded with Tani Allen's band in the 1950s and also played the clubs in the region with his own band. He secured a songwriting contract with Murray Nash's Ashna Music Publishing in Nashville and used the Dixieland Drifters for his recordings. The first record with Turner's recognizable participation was "Bongos and Uncle John" / "How Big A Fool" (Hap #1009) in the spring of 1961. While "Bongos and Uncle John" was penned by Charlie Evans, Norman Blake, and Howell Culpepper, "How Big a Fool" was a Buck Turner/Gene Woods song. 

This particular record surrounds some inconsistencies. The song was re-released in June 1962 by Murray Nash on his Do-Ra-Me label (Do-Ra-Me 1412) under the name of "Uncle John's Bongos" with a different flip side, "Walk Easy." The latter song had been recorded and released by the Dixieland Drifters already in 1958 on Nash's B.B. label. Likely due to promising sales, the 20th Fox label picked it up and issued it again in late 1961. The fact that it was first released on Hap suggests that it was also cut at Schleif's Mountain City studio. Murray Nash, however, claimed that all of the Dixieland Drifters recordings he was connected with were done at his studio, Sound of Nashville. It adds to the confusion that a guy called Norm, nephew to a woman called Marylove Matthew, claimed his aunt was the owner of the studio and that he was present at the recording session in Nashville. His memory on this issue was probably a bit weak. But who was Marylove Matthew? And how was she involved in running the studio? Further research on her remains abortive.

Buck Turner and the Dixieland Drifters, however, stayed with Nash to produce their following records. Nash gave "Uncle John's Bongos" one last try in the spring of 1962, coupled with "The Best Dressed Beggar in Town." The Drifters broke up around 1963, while Turner kept on performing around Chattanooga. Schleif continued Hap well into the 1960s, recording and releasing at least some 70 records, mostly country and bluegrass. One of the Hap singles featured his wife Viola with "The Voice of the Americans." Both Herbert and Viola are now deceased but their descendants remember them still today with fondness. Buck Turner died in 1999, Peanut Faircloth in 2010.

"Happy" Herbert Schleif's recorded legacy still has to be unearthed and reissued in a proper way. Many of the recordings still have to be found, a detailed research has to be made. I promise I'll do my best to give Schleif the recognition he deserves.



Discography

7998-5/7999-6: Gloria Ramsey and Sound Dealers Orchestra - Good Poppin' Daddy / My Love (1960)
 
1000:  
1001:  
1002:  
1003: Kirk Hanserd - Johnny Collins / Two Won't Care (1960)
1004: Gene Woods - Afraid / The Ballad of Wild River (1960)
1005: Dixieland Drifters - You Won't Fall in Love / Will Angels Have Sweethearts (1960)  
1006: Alan Marlo - Sleepy Time Girl / ? (1960)  
1007:
1008: James Padgett - Gonna Rock the Ocean Waves / ? (1960)  
1009: Dixieland Drifters - Bongos and Uncle John / How Big a Fool (1961)
1010: Wally Hester - Rock'n Roll Jump-Stick / ? (1961)
1011:  
1012:  
1013:  
1014:  
1015: Sand Mountain Playboys - Wild Bill / ? (1961)  
1016: Chuck Cain - Blue are the Tears I Cry / ? (1961)  
1017: Arlie & Charlie - Johnny Reb Get Your Gun / ? (1961)
1018: Earl Scott - Opal Lee / ?  
1019:
1020: Lonnie Smith - Jonah / ? (1962)
1021: Warrior River Boys - My Love Song for You / Five String Ramble  
1022:  
1023:  
1024: Yellow Jackets - There's No Telling / ? (1962)
1025: Jim Taylor and the Yellow Jackets - Zemo / ?  
1026-1059:  
1060: Viola Schleif & Cathy Chapman - The Voice of the Americans / ?

801: Arnold Sanford - I Know How Lonesome (Old Lonesome Can Be) / You Can Do Allright with Me (1968)
802:
803:
804:
805:
806:
807:
808:
809:
810: Ron Gordy & the Nashville Tennesseans - Boogie Woogie All Night Long / ?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cash McCall on Topic

 
Cash McCall - My Friend Johnny (Topic 8010), 1965

Not connected with the blues musician of the same name, country singer Cash McCall was an uprising talent during the mid-1960s in the music scene. What predicted him from being a star is lost to history. He had a string of releases on independent labels but real success eluded him.

In 1963, Billboard reported that a British country artist named Cash McCall recorded for Ember Records in the UK. He is also probably the same who had a string of releases in Italy but not connected with this Cash McCall on Topic.


Today's featured Cash McCall possibly hailed from Michigan and started his career as a DJ in 1964 on WIBM in Jackson, Michigan, before switching to WJCO in November that year, also based in Jackson. The station underwent a change at that time and changed its programming to a country music format. McCall had a morning as well as afternoon show and soon became the station's program director. Other DJs on WJCO included Red Howard, Chuck Bedwell, Tex LeFleur, and Cowboy Barney Oaks. In addition to his activies in radio, he also performed in the area with his band, the Greenbacks.

McCall started his recording career probably in 1962 on the Executive label ("The Ballad of Billie Sol" / "Breaking Up", Executive #1019, September 1962). In 1965, he began recording for Topic Records in Nashville. His first single coupled "Once in Every Lifetime" and "My Friend Johnny" (Topic #8010), which appeared around October. Later that year, he followed up with "In Time" / "My Best Friend" (Topic #8014). Both "In Time" and "Once in Every Lifetime" were "predicted to reach the Hot Country Singles Charts" according to Billboard but seem to have failed in the end. In May 1966, "Don't Give Me a Chance" appeared on Topic #8022, which was promoted by Topic as a "smash country hit" in Billboard. Around the same time, "Shoot Low Sheriff" on the Sincere BB label was released (Sincere BB #8336).


McCall eventually left WJCO but returned to the station in early 1971 to his early morning slot. Around the same time, the Greenbacks disbanded and McCall formed a new group called "Free Soil." By 1974, he was backed by the Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboys and started a tour with them through Canada that summer, booked by Cat Billue Enterprises. Billboard reported on October 12, 1974:
SIOUX STE. MARIE, Ont. - Country music reached new dimensions this week when Cash McCall & his Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy Band began peform behind a strip act here. Strippers heretofore had not been known to the strains of country music. McCall and his group are at the Lock City Hotel here, where the show is taking place.
An interesting footnote to be sure but this is the last hint I was able to find. After 1974, McCall's trail grows cold.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Johnny Lee on Delta

 
Johnny Lee - Middle Tennessee Blues (Delta DR-1006), unknown year

Here's a record I have only little information on. The Delta record label was based - as shown on the label - on 1119 East Broadway in West Memphis, Arkansas. Here's an excerpt from Rachel Sylva's essay "Walk Through History: Downtown West Memphis" (see here) that deals with the historic buildings of West Memphis:
To the east of the "Home Away from Home" building at 1117 E. Broadway, there was a large 1-story building with at least 2 storefronts. Craft’s Record Store was located in one side at 1119 E. Broadway until 1977 (or 1979?) when a fire in the dress shop next door spread to their building and they were both destroyed. The Crafts had a recording studio in the back of the building at 1119 E. Broadway with a music store and insurance business up front.  
The Craft brothers were most likely Dan Craft and his brothers. Dan had at least two records released. One with Chuck Comer on Style Wooten's Big Style label in 1964 ("Date with the Angels" / "Secret Love", Big Style #104) and the other on Craft Records, which was probably his own venture. It featured "Gone, Gone, She's Gone" b/w "Don't Say Goodbye" under the name of "Dan and the Craftsmen / Vocals with the Craft Bros." and credited Gene Williams' Cottontown Publ. from West Memphis with publishing, thus it was released sometimes between 1962 and 1965.

The Delta label as well as CMC Records, which was operated from the same adress, were likely run by Dan Craft. Chuck Comer, Sonny Blake, Doug Stone, and others recorded for CMC. Memphis artist and radio personality Jim Climer (a friend of Eddie Bond's) recorded a gospel disc for Delta. I wonder of the producer of this disc, Stan Neill, was also Stan Neal, who was at one point a member of Eddie Bond's band in Memphis.

And Johnny Lee? Of course not the same Johnny Lee of 1970s country-pop fame. This singer performs two Jimmie Rodgers style recordings. In fact, the flip of this one is a cover of Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train." 

To the right 1117 Broadway and across the street in the left half of the picture
1119 Brodway, where Dan Craft's shop and studio was located.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Tiki Records

This is another piece of the long lasting Buck Trail career as a songwriter and performer. Tiki Records was lauched by Ronald Killette (aka Buck Trail) in 1969 after his sensational success as the producer of the O'Kaysions blue-eyed soul hit "Girl Watcher," written by him. As it was his usual strategy, Killette would let unknown local singers record his compositions and released them on his own small labels. Except for the O'Kaysions, none of those records ever became a national hit. 

Tiki was active from 1969 at lest until 1971, only producing a handful of singles. Also involved in this venture was a certain Gene Tyson, who doubled as a producer and songwriter for the label. Killette's company "North State Music" also appears on record labels as a producer and publisher. Killette ran Tiki out of Raleigh, North Carolina, which was one of his stomping grounds, besides South Florida.

Discography

T-778: Margie Griffin - Boy Watcher / I'd Rather Have a Memory (Than a Dream) (1969)
T-779: The Dreamer - The Beachcomber / Sand Pebbles
T-800: Buck Jones - A Box of Grass / ?
T-801: Carl Deakle - The Unfinished Letter / Old Blue
T-802: 
T-803: Buck Jones - Girl Watcher / Down in the Boondocks (1971)
T-804: Buck Jones - A Box of Grass / I'm Made for Loving (1971)

Read more:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Buck Jones on Tiki

 
Buck Jones - Girl Watcher (Tiki T-803), 1971

No, this is not the famous western movie actor of the same name. This is Buck Jones from North Carolina, a country music performer and DJ. Jones worked with Tommy Hagen in the late 1950s and early 1960s, spinning the records over WGTM out of Wilson, North Carolina. The duo specialized in Louvin Brothers songs and did their first recording in 1960 for Ronald Killette's Glendale label.

I found out the truth about their first record only a couple of days ago. During my research on Ronald Killette alias Buck Trail, I learned of his Glendale label in Orlando, Florida. The second release on this label was by Buck and Tommy, "Beneath Miami Skies" / "Lady Friend" (Glendale #1001). I always assumed this was Ronald Killette under his stage name "Buck Trail," who teamed up with a singer called Tommy, which I also stated in my article about Trail (American Music Magazine #137, December 2014). Actually, I'm now pretty sure this is wrong and - in addition - I'm quite sure this duo is in fact Buck Jones and Tommy Hagen. Killette hailed from Goldsboro, North Carolina, and may have known Jones and Hagen already earlier. Also, Killette was active in both South Forida and North Carolina on and off during the 1960s and 1970s. 

The fact that the duo on Glendale was made up of Buck Jones and Tommy Hagen instead of Ronald Killette makes me doubt of the picture I used in my article. This supposedly showed Killette with an unknown singer but now to me it seems more probable that this was in fact Buck Jones and Tommy Hagen.

Buck Jones and Tommy Hagen had another release on Jim Price's Jim Dandy label out of Newberry, South Carolina (see here for more info). "A Lost Love" / "Never Love Again" (Jim Dandy #1007) was released around 1961/1962. Buck and Tommy had worked with a guitarist named Jimmy Capps, who joined the Louvin Brothers' band in 1960. Tommy Hagen did the same in 1963: about eight months after the Louvins' split-up in 1963, he joined Charlie Louvin as a mandolin player and vocalist, taking over Ira's high parts.

Buck Jones, however, stayed in the Wilson area and appeared on local radio, TV and in nightclubs. He also kept on recording for small labels. And now, we're coming to today's selection. Around 1971, Jones again recorded for Ronald Killette and released at three two singles on Killette's Tiki label, which was based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The first one was "A Box of Grass" (Tiki #T-800, flip side unknown to me, ca. 1969), "Girl Watcher" / "Down in the Boondocks" (Tiki #803), followed by another issue "A Box of Grass" / "I'm Made for Loving" (Tiki #804, 1971). "Girl Watcher" was a big hit in 1968 for the O'Kaysions, produced by Ronald Killette at Pitt Sound Studios in Greenville, North Carolina. I supsect the Tiki released were recorded at Arthur Smith's studio in Charlotte.

I couldn't turn up any other info on Buck Jones. If someone has, please feel free to contact me.

Further reading:

See also: Charles K. Wolfe: "In Close Harmony: The Story of the Louvin Brothers"

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Country Instrumentals


TOTALLY OBSCURE COUNTRY INSTRUMENTALS THAT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF OR HAVEN'T HEARD ALL THE WAY THROUGH  
(for the most part)


Another Bob O'Brien post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin

The 31 cuts that support this essay were songs that got air-play on American radio during the 50s and 60s, but never sold a great amount of records. Many of them were records that D.J.s loved to play as "theme songs," so that when you scrolled across the dial you would find the appropriate program at the appropriate time on American AM Radio on both powerhouse 50,000 watt stations and on lowly little 250 watt stations and everything in between. With the advent of FM and the changes in radio over the years in general, this is a relic of radio past. It is, however, all good country and bluegrass music and maybe a couple of oddballs along the way. So bear with me and I'll get started. I might make note that for the most part the big names have been passed over for some of the more obscure recordings. 


Let's start off with a mystery. Spade Cooley & his band recorded their version of "Steel Guitar Rag" on 05-03-1946 as Columbia 38054. Later that year, Nelson King started the "WCKY Jamboree" over 50,000 watt WCKY AM in Cincinnati, Ohio. This version here has a full orchestra including a concert sized harp and two accordions, and was obviously played by certain members of the band from written charts. The WCKY version played from 1946 into 1964 when the program left the air is note for note the same arrangement but with two differences. There is no harp and as best as I could tell only one accordion. I had a chance to discuss this with Dale Sommers, the "Truckin' Bozo" on WLW, who was on the air overnight out of Cincinnati for many years . He had a dub in a cart of the original WCKY theme and he played it on his show infrequently, but he had no clue where it originated from. Maybe, he thought, it was an "alternate take" to the 1946 release. Otherwise no clue. 

In 1952, after the WCKY Jamboree was a national hit radio program and Nelson King was THE number one country D.J. in the country, Big 4 Hits Records was formed by Carl Burckhardt in Cincinnati to sell, via mail order, EP's of sound alike country singers doing big country hits over the air. This venture was an immediate success. Strangely enough, "the powers that be" King and others had a stripped down version of "Steel Guitar Rag" recorded and inserted in one the earliest packages, if not the first package. It is also included here and it is note for note the same as the WCKY theme but with a lot less instrumentation and no musicians credit listed. The only other difference I can tell is the up front steel string flat-top rhythm guitar which comes in and out. It's a good version in any case. So between the two you have a good idea of what was heard on WCKY for 18 years. 

Paul Howard was a minor Grand Ole Opry star in the years after WWII and had records out on Columbia and King, but made no major impression at the time. His "Cotton Picker's Special" is noteable for being a "Bob Wills Western Swing type number" recorded with drums which historically were still years away from being allowed on the Opry and was recorded in late 1947 to beat the recording ban of 1948. 

Everybody should know the story of Johnnie Lee Wills (1912-1984) and his on and off association with his brother Bob Wills and his own recordings and radio transcriptions and his Oklahoma bands from various re-issue LP's and CD's in later years. At the time this instrumental was issued, 1950, Wills was riding a big hit record of "Rag Mop" and didn't get much notice at the time.
 
The Wills clan (from left to right): Billy Jack Wills, Luke Wills, Johnnie Lee Wills,
Bob Wills, and father John Tompkins "Uncle Tom" Wills

Hank Snow was a country legend and Hall Of Fame member and appeared from the number of recordings he made over the years to be frequently in the studio at RCA-Victor, many of which to this day have not been released. This spritely instrumental was recorded in 1952, but wasn't released until 1957 and then passed by mostly unnoticed. 

Eddie Smith had his first release on King in 1951 with a cover of "Down Yonder" (which we profiled in a previous blog post concerning the song.) I know nothing of him, except that I remember that he made an appearance on the Gannaway filmed Grand Ole Opry TV show in 1956. He recorded for King Records into 1954 and had no hits. The songs were used as theme songs and instrumentals by various D.J.'s and really some of them, I think, were experimental in nature to sort of gauge the teen-age buying public. Copies went out to D.J.'s and record jobbers and juke-box operators for evaluation more than anything else and never really reached the general public. They are a mixed bag. Let's look at the songs. 

"Back In Your Own Back Yard" was a smaltzy oldie much in the vein of what Johnny Maddox was doing on Dot Records and it was perfect as a record intro to small multi purpose radio programs such as AM or PM music shows or "Trading Post" and "Swap" programs and call-ins. 

"Exhibition Special", the next instrumental on the master tape is a jaunty, smaltzy number with a saxaphone lead. Strange song, including the flute. "Red Suspenders Blues" was recorded in Feb. 1953 and was going for Country with that old 1-2-and then rock refrain used a few years later by Kay Starr on "Rock-n-Roll Waltz." An experimental recording to be sure, but I heard it late at night on country radio in those days. "Eddie's Blues" the next recording on the master tape from Feb 1953 was a sort of country boogie. Actually a hodge-podge of things which don't quite gel, but it's an under appreciated piece to be sure. 

The York Brothers split the session in the first part of January with Eddie Smith and The Chiefs. The musicians are the same and again both were experimental recordings aimed at the "teen" audience and missed, never to heard from again anywhere. "St. Joseph High School Bounce" and "Lakewood and John Marshall Blues" couldn't be more obvious and more obscure, but they were good listening and still are. 

"Little" Roy Wiggins was the steel guitar signature behind Eddy Arnold for a number of years and this 1953 recording for Dot Records had an instrumental of Arnold's "It's A Sin" on the B side. The A side "Cimarron (Roll On") was a much earlier hit/standard written and recorded by Johnny Bond. Not given label credit, Del Wood's piano is featured on the record to good use. Another D.J. favorite. 

Eddy Arnold, "the Tennessee Plowboy," and Roy Wiggins on steel guitar and
Hank Garland on electric lead guitar

Chet Atkins had a break out hit with "Country Gentleman" in 1953 and it was a favorite for many years with Country D.J.'s as a theme. Supporting Chet was Jethro Burns on mandolin and Homer Haynes on rythm guitar. The high powered day time only radio station WPDX in Clarksburg, WV, for one, used it for a theme for its Dee Wyatt Show every afternoon for a number of years. 
 
Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith had several instrumental hits on M-G-M Records from the late 40's on and after Hank Williams, was the most popular and most sold country artist on the label. Smith also was fortunate to have a lot of radio play on the big stations such as WCKY and WJJD in Chicago which regularly broke his records to the public. He and his Crackerjacks held forth for years on both radio and TV at WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of his recordings were done at his own recording studio. "Hi Lo Boogie" is a good example of his early use of over-dubbing and experimental use of tape a la Les Paul. It must be noted also that Smith was also a vigorous businessman in Carolina. As one person expressed to me once "Ole 'Guitar Boogie' is making money, even when he isn't making money. He recently passed away in his 90's.

Speedy West (steel guitar) and Jimmy Bryant (electric lead guitar) were studio musicians at Capitol Records in Hollywood, CA, backing all kinds of recording artists on Capitol and other west coast labels. They also were members of Cliffie Stone's TV Show in L.A., "Hometown Jamboree."  In 1951, Ken Nelson started producing single records by the duo which immediately found favor with radio D.J.'s and record buyers and they put out quite a number of winning instrumentals into 1956. Probably 1953 and 1954 could be considered their best years. "Bustin' Thru" is a quality example of their work.

Hank Thompson's Brazos Valley Boys was a leading country/western swing band for a number of years sometimes including Merle Travis as a sideman and recorded many instrumentals in various sessions in the 50's. D.J.'s picked up on them as B sides and played them as themes on their radio programs. They would fit anywhere. Opening or closing, didn't matter. "Red Skin Gal" was especially noteworthy as a closing theme because you could fade it out anywhere, or start talking over the beginning of the music and then "pod it up" until the end of the program.

There is a break in the Don Reno & Red Smiley recordings for King Records between August 1956 and November 1958, when they were signed and produced at Dot Records by Mac Wiseman, and while King had a good backlog of Reno and Smiley recordings in the vaults, Syd Nathan and people at King went out and found and/or put together a replacement bluegrass band which was Leon Jackson, Johnny Bryant and the White Oak Mountain Boys. "White Oak Mountain Breakdown" was their first release in late 1956 and "Buttahatchee" was their second, at least I saw a D.J. copy of the 45 RPM somewhere along the way and it also was the theme song of "Cherokee Sue's" daily radio program over WPDX in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where she sold baby chicks, song books, and a variety of other mail order products and had sponsors such as long gone patent medicines. "Rocky Roads", I haven't a clue, but all three were on a King-Audio Lab budget LP in 1962, which I own.



"Raisin' the Dickens" and the B side "Bud's Bounce" were recorded as part of a Little Jimmy Dickens recording session in 1956. This double sided instrumentals became almost instant country standards before Buddy Emmons was 20 years old. Emmons and the Dickens Band recorded 4 instrumentals at the time. These first two got a lot of airplay and juke boxes ate a lot of nickels for these songs and sold a lot of copies as well. "Raisin' the Dickens" went on to be the title song on Little Jimmy Dickens' first LP Columbia 1047 in 1957. Emmons is the most famous steel guitar man in the world not only for long stints with Dickens, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price and others and for countless sessions worked as a sideman down through the years. He also is responsible for the "Shobud" steel guitar along with Shot Jackson and as an inventor and modifier in steel guitars to this day. A true musical genius.

Bill Duncan and Cecil Surratt & Smitty Smith also had tracks on this album in bluegrass style and while they are good'n obscure, I know nothing about them.

"Hayride Rag" attributed to George Jones and his back-up band was released in 1958 on Mercury Records after Mercury and Starday Records parted company after a short union. This was propably recorded in 1955-56 at "Pappy" Dailey's studio in Texas. It's not bad either.


Herb Remington's "Station Break" is probably the most well known D.J. record in this essay. It was used for years by Country D.J.'s and was acquired by Starday Records in the early 60's, based loosely on "Choo Choo Ca-Boogie".

Leon McAuliff And His Cimarron Boys had a big hit recording of "Panhandle Rag" on Columbia Records in early 1949. This later version from a radio transcription found favor with D.J.'s as a theme as well.

Sandy Coker was a young teenage guitar player in California in 1957 when this two-sided instrumental "Gitfiddle Rag" and "Rock Island Ride" was released.  It got a lot of air play and was a juke box favorite as well.This is his only release under his name. His father and his sister also had a few Decca and Coral releases in the same time frame.

Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys recorded over 200 hundred songs in 1946 and into 1947 at a recording studio in San Francisco, which was state of the art at that time, for a series of Tiffany Transcriptions for a company formed and owned by Wills, Cliff Sundin and  radio personality Clifton Johnson (aka "Cactus Jack"). Before it got off the ground, the company went out of business with a lot of acrimony on all sides. Sundlin got custody of all the physical property associated with the business and kept it in his basement until his death in 1981 when cooler heads at his estate decided to release several discs over a period of several years. Sundlin was still incensed with Wills that in the time after Wills's death, he would not talk to Wills' biographer or open his files to him. We do offer here both the opening and closing themes used on those Tiffany Transcriptions.

From a very obscure Cimarron album from 1962, Ron Barlow program director/announcer at WMNI radio picked "Little Red Wagon" to be the theme for a used car dealership in Columbus, Ohio, for several years. This album was self-produced  by Leon McAulliffe and distributed through Starday Records. McAullife's next two albums were recorded  in Hollywood for Capitol Records, both instrumental albums are extremely rare as well.

Enjoy this y'all. Bob O'Brien (aka Bobsluckycat) 


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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tennessee Rock

Here we go with the first volume of my "Tennessee Rock" series. I have made a second one some years ago, so if anyone also needs that one, just leave a note.

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