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.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

The Year of the Perfect Storm


1956 - THE YEAR OF THE PERFECT STORM
by Bob O'Brien

Another bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin! 

This is "bobsluckycat" back with my first post of 2016 for Mellow's Log Cabin and it turns back the clock 60 years to 1956. Can you believe that? 60 years. To what I consider to be the year of the "perfect storm" of rock-n-roll and probably music recorded and otherwise in general. The music charts were pretty separate on purpose. The 45 RPM record was now the record of choice and by the following year the 78 RPM stalwart of records was declared obsolete by the R.I.A.A. and was ceased to be manufactured for the most part.

The jukebox industry was retooling to 45's as well and along with the old standby Wurlitzer, the jukeboxes of Rockola, Seeburg, and Rowe AMI were being manufactured in large numbers and forms and distributed far and wide across the land. These were state of the art Hi-Fidelity machines and some could play both sides of the record by just pushing a button to play. For five cents a song, it was the cheapest entertainment in the land. The built in counters also kept a running count of was being played and more importantly what wasn't being played and could be replaced more or less weekly.

It goes without saying that a lot of the jukebox operators, recording companies and in a lot of cases, artists themselves were controlled and/or influenced by organized criminal elements. Any record from a pressing of 200 copies to 2,000,000 copies could be a local, regional, or national hit depending on the cash flow going out and coming in.

There was a glut of 45's on the market, all looking for sales and jukebox plays took a lot of that. Mostly, it was a teenage buyers market. Country music and R&B had their niches and both did alright but nothing like the mainstream of American Popular Music which was now Rock-n-Roll. The 12" LP was marketed to the adult record buying public and those co-existed with everything else out there because a lot of money available in these affluent times to buy records and record players, televisions and the like. A popular cartoon in a 1956 humor magazine depicted a disk jockey in head-phones shaking out a manila envelope of money and a 45 RPM record onto his turntable with the caption "Now here's a little number making itself heard around these parts." It was funny, but also very true. How much so, we'll never know.

1956 was the year that rock-n-roll artists dominated the Billboard Top Twenty for the year. 1955 by comparison had none. The list of songs I'm going to present here is a mélange of hit songs from 1956 with my comments.

First of all, let's deal with the elephant in the room, Elvis Presley. We all know his story so there is no need to retrace it here. Norman Nite, noted early Disk Jockey and rock-n-roll historian in his book "Rock On Almanac" published by Harper And Row in 1989 states, "1956 is the year of Elvis Presley. His accomplishments during that year are monumental: He had 17 charted songs, five of which went to number 1, spending a total of 25 weeks at number 1, 16 of which were consecutive. Presley made 11 national television appearances and a debut motion picture role in "Love Me Tender". No other performer in the history of rock-n-roll will ever come close to matching this." What I have chosen to use is Elvis's first TV appearance from January 28, 1956 on the CBS program "Stage Show", which was not watched by huge hordes, but was the first to expose him to a national audience. Previous to this, Presley was known primarily in the Memphis, Shreveport, Nashville loop and not always well received, truth be told. The rest, as they say, is history. I first heard Elvis in early January 1956, when RCA Victor re-issued his last Sun recording Sun 223 as RCA-Victor 6357 "Mystery Train" and I thought it was good but I wasn't that impressed. I couldn't have been more wrong.

♫ Listen to: Elvis Presley - Shake, Rattle & Roll / I Got a Woman (live at CBS "Stage Show")

You can't speak about Elvis Presley without discussing Carl Perkins, a label mate at Sun Records in 1955. Sam Phillips released "Blue Suede Shoes" on January 01, 1956 to immediate success and while it seemed more "country" than not, went to the top of all three charts within the month. Presley covered the song on television live four times and his version of the song was different, more intense may be the word. On March 21st, on the way to New York City to appear on the Saturday night Perry Como where Perkins was going to break his new record "Boppin' The Blues" b/w "All Mama's Children" Sun 45-245 to a national audience and receive a gold record for "Blue Suede Shoes" on the strength of 550,000 copies sold. That never happened. On the way to New York, Perkins and his entourage were in a horrific car crash near Dover Delaware in which Carl Perkins was seriously injured and would require months of care and rehabilitation. His brother Jay would die from it.

Sam Phillips beyond it's initial run, in so far as I can tell, stopped production on Sun 45-245 completely and threw everything into the production and shipping of another 500,000 copies of "Blue Suede Shoes", which made it a million seller and true gold record. "Boppin' The Blues" on the other hand due to lack of product and promotion died on the vine. It was #47 on the Cashbox Pop Singles Chart, #9 on the Billboard Country Chart, and #70 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, albeit all briefly and by June of 1956 was gone. Perkins had a few minor hits over the next number of years and was member of Johnny Cash's Group as well and finally was recognized as a "grand old man" of rock-n-roll by the Beatles and the rest of the world. 

Listen to: Carl Perkins - Blue Suede Shoes
Listen to: Carl Perkins - Boppin' the Blues
Buchanan & Goodman had a satire of rock-n-roll radio which was still in all pretty much right on the money as a template for rock-n-roll radio and it was funny. Of course everybody sued but the courts, by late 1956, decided in Buchanan & Goodman's favor and the record went to #3 on the charts and sold over a million copies. It's still funny.

Listen to: Buchanan & Goodman - The Flying Saucer (1956)

Bill Haley and the Comets
(Decca Records promotion picture)

All the rock-n-roll icons are here from 1956. Starting with Bill Haley & The Comets, who broke into the Pop music charts in 1953 with "Crazy Man Crazy" on Essex Records, were signed by Decca Records in 1954 and had a slew of hits in 1954 and 1955 including "Rock Around The Clock", "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" and many others. In January of 1956, Haley & The Comets filmed the first rock-n-roll movie "Rock Around The Clock", which was produced by Sam Katzman on a small budget for Columbia Pictures and it grossed $4,000,000 dollars. The second film was filmed in September 1956 also on a small budget by Sam Katzman and was released in December of 1956 and the gross was only $1,200,000 dollars. The balloon had burst by now, except in Europe, and except for a few minor hits, Bill Haley And The Comets were passé.

Listen to: Bill Haley & the Comets - See You Later, Alligator

Listen to: Bill Haley & the Comets - Rudy's Rock

Fats Domino started putting out hits starting in 1949 and continued to do so through the end of his Imperial Records contract in 1962. He had a few million sellers in the first 6 years of his contract, but they were known only on the R&B Charts and Black radio and maybe a few white record dealers, but not the white general population as a whole. That all changed in 1956 with the release of a few old Pop standards Domino recorded also with his regular R&B recordings, all of which topped both charts Pop and R&B for the entire year. "Blueberry Hill" was an obvious instant classic. By the first three or four notes, everybody immediately recognized it. Rolling Stone magazine in compiling the 500 greatest hits of all time listed it at #82.

Listen to: Fats Domino - Blueberry Hill 

Chuck Berry came on strong in 1956 with a string of recordings on Chess Records, only "Roll Over Beethoven" in mid summer was a top 20 Pop hit record and became a Gold Record besides but all now are considered classics.

Listen to: Chuck Berry - Roll Over Beethoven

Little Richard claims to have started it all. He didn't of course, but his strong appearances in the film "The Girl Can't Help It" where he sang "The Girl Can't Help It", "She's Got It" and "Reddy Teddy", which was a two sided hit b/w "Rip It Up", helped keep him high on the Pop and R&B Charts for the entire year and garnered him a gold record. Elvis Presley covered "Rip It Up," "Reddy Teddy" and Long Tall Sally" on his second LP "Elvis" to great advantage. Bill Haley & The Comets covered "Rip It Up" in their second film "Don't Knock The Rock' and now 60 years later the question is still why? Little Richard also appeared in this film but his song selections were now passé and off the charts by the time the movie came out, "Tutti-Fruitti" and "Long Tall Sally".

Listen to: Little Richard - Ready Teddy
The Bill Doggett Combo had been recording R&B and Jazz-flavored instrumentals for King Records for a while when this instrumental "Honky Tonk" became not only a late summer hit and gold record, but it lingered on the charts for several weeks and on radios and jukeboxes for several years and became "THE" classic instrumental of 1956, without peer.

Listen to: Bill Doggett Combo - Honky Tonk (Part 1 & 2)


Don Cherry's recording of "Band Of Gold" was a great Pop dance tune and struck a nerve with teens and adults alike and it stayed in the charts for a long time. A dance favorite and his only gold record. Previously a big band singer, Cherry had a few pop hits as the "3 D's" on Coral Records with Johnny Desmond and Alan Dale. A happy-go-lucky sort, he later recorded for Monument Records and became a golf pro and not too successful at either one.

Don Cherry - Band of Gold

The Flamingoes
The Flamingoes had a hit in January 1956 which was covered by Pat Boone. The song refers to getting out of the military, since the draft was still in place at the time. The Flamingoes had bad management and broke up for a time. Later in the 50's they re-grouped and had minor hits on minor labels, but never regained their place and a lot of money supposedly coming to them never came.

Listen to: The Flamingoes - I'll Be Home

Otis Williams & The Charms had the first hit with "Ivory Tower" early in 1956 on the R&B Charts. Cathy Carr and Gale Storm both covered it on the Pop charts and had better sales and air-play. I like this version better.

♫ Listen to: Otis Williams & the Charms - Ivory Tower


In the midst of all this rockin' and rollin' in mid-March at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City, the now classic musical "My Fair Lady" opened to great reviews and wildly enthusiastic audiences and it ran for 6 years. The Original Cast Album was one of the top LP's of 1956 with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews and several Pop music singers and bands including Vic Damone, Percy Faith & His Orch. and Sammy Kaye and His Orch. among many others put out cover recordings and they were heard everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. Rosemary Clooney was the first to take a song from the musical up the charts in May of 1956. Looking back, the record is somewhat over produced. Rosemary Clooney, however, is perfect.

Listen to: Rosemary Clooney - I Could Have Danced All Night


Following up "Only You" and "My Prayer" in 1955, the Platters in early 1956 released a two-sided hit entitled "The Magic Touch" b/w "Winner Take All" both were equally requested at dances as they were great dance numbers, well into late 1956.

Listen to: The Platters - The Magic Touch

Listen to: The Platters - Winner Take All
Morris Stoloff had been on the staff at Columbia Pictures in the music department since 1936 and this set piece from the film "Picnic" just sort of grabbed everybody who saw the film. It was a great piece of music to be sure and well arranged and stayed on the Pop Charts for 27 weeks and a lot of that was at #2. A great dance tune again for teens and adults. Great Stars in the cast, Kim Novak and William Holden, but otherwise a turgid movie.

Listen to: Morris Stoloff with the Columbia Pictures Orch. - Moonglow (Theme from Picnic)

"Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus was the kind of novelty record that the first time I heard it in June of 1956 had to ask myself "What was that!". It was a very funny record that got a lot of air play and sold a lot of records for a short while. Included here just for fun and to color the blog another shade or so. Indulge me.

Listen to: Nervous Norvus - Transfusion


Briefly, The Five Satins had a big summer dance hit of "In The Still Of The Night". You heard it, you danced to it and it became an early "Oldies" classic and it garnered a gold record, but you can't remember too much about it. Pure nostalgia. 

Listen to: The Five Satins - In the Still of the Night

Laverne Baker's biggest hit record was a rockin' "Jim Dandy" and it received a gold record by late 1956. It was brought back in December of 1973 by a group called Black Oak Arkansas and was a hit all over again to a much different audience.

Listen to: Laverne Baker - Jim Dandy

"The Green Door" was a Pop novelty record in late summer/early fall of 1956 with funny lyrics and harpsichord solo and went to Number 1 on the charts and earned a gold record. Mostly forgotten today but still worth a listen.

Listen to: Jim Lowe - The Green Door


In many ways, Johnny Cash was to Country music what Elvis was to practically everything else in 1956. His second recording, 1955's "Folsom Prison Blues" bled over into the top of the Country charts in early 1956, peaking at #4. Cash had a new style from traditional Country, Bluegrass, and Western Swing popular then as now, but his music was a minimum of instrumentation and featuring a lot of rhythm. The subject matter of his songs was definitely Country. "I Walk The Line" was recorded on April 2, 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis and released as Sun 45-241 on May 1, 1956 and it was an instant radio hit and jukebox hit as well. A person heard it everywhere and there was no doubt that it would be a country Classic at some point, but bookings were another thing and while "I Walk The Line" was a Country #1 by mid-summer it didn't cross over to the Pop music chart until late fall and went to #17 and staying there for 3 weeks with a minimum of national TV exposure. It was all personal appearances and radio and jukeboxes and pure hard work getting wide exposure. Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Records, had a lot on his plate in 1956 and if he had had less there, maybe he would have promoted Johnny Cash more than he did. In any case, when Columbia Records came calling in 1958, Johnny Cash couldn't wait to sign on the dotted line and, as they say, the rest is history.

Listen to: Johnny Cash - I Walk the Line

Sonny Knight had the voice of a white teenage heart throb, and if all you heard was the voice then Mr. Knight would have been huge. As it was, Sonny Knight was actually Joe Smith, a black man over 21 who had been on the fringes of the Los Angles R&B scene off and on since 1953, recording without much success for the Aladdin and then the Specialty record companies. I heard "Keep A Walkin'" on Specialty #547 in late 1955 and I just assumed he was a white guy and I didn't find out different until much later. He finally clicked in late 1956 with "Confidential" which went to #17 on the charts in mid-December 1956, heavily promoted and probably for a piece of the action by Art LaBoe a disk jockey on KPOP in L.A. When the truth came out in 1957, Sonny Knight was a victim of racial backlash and his bookings pretty well dried up. He continued to record into the 1960's and after moving to Hawaii found a modicum of success, but he was extremely bitter about it and wrote a very ugly book about the beginnings of his career.

Listen to: Sonny Knight - Confidential


Recorded in October of 1956 "I Ain't Got No Home" by nineteen year old Clarence "Frogman" Henry became a hit novelty in December 1956 and since then has gone into the mainstream of American music from use in movies, television, radio, and covers by many people, most notably by Carl Mann on Phillips International Records. Henry is still active in music in New Orleans and environs as I write this.

Listen to: Clarence "Frogman" Henry - I Ain't Got No Home
Screamin' Jay Hawkins before his hit recording
of "I Put a Spell on You."


Screamin' Jay Hawkins owes his career to being drunk. He recorded for the Epic division of Columbia Records as a mainstream R&B artist. Everybody in the studio in September of 1956 was drunk on cheap wine when this take of "I Put A Spell On You" was recorded in New York City. Epic decided to release it and it became the strangest rock-n-roll record to ever make the charts. Persuaded by Alan Freed to use the "jungle man" persona to the hilt with assorted turbans, capes and animal skins and sometimes coffins as props. Hawkins said goodbye to R&B and laughed all the way to the bank for a number of years as a comedian more than a serious singer.

Listen to: Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Story of Arkansas Twist


Bobby Lee Trammell - Arkansas Twist (Alley 1001), 1962

A year full of more good music, great artists, and unknown records lies ahead of us. I would like to present you today an awesome disc by the egocentric Bobby Lee Trammell. "Arkansas Twist", one of his better selling songs, became his signature song for much of the 1960s and has since remained one of the tunes he is best remembered for.

Trammell was born January 31, 1934, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. His parents Wiley and Mae Trammell worked as cotton farmers and in addition, were part-time musicians. Trammell's father played fiddle and his mother organ at the local church. Trammell's musical influences, however, were not limited to the country and white gospel music styles, which were common in such rural areas of the south. Trammell was also absorbing the sounds of black gospel music and sometimes sneaked out to visit a nearby black Pentecostal chuch service.

Trammell began playing country music in high school and managed to share the stage for one song with Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, when they played a local show in 1956. Perkins advised Trammell to audition at Sun Records in Memphis, which unfortuantely went nowhere since Trammell couldn't await a second audition date there. In later interviews, Trammell admitted this being his fault and regretted he was so unpatient.

Trammell instead moved to the west coast and soon became part of the lively music scene there. By then, he was playing stone hard rock'n'roll and made himself a name as a wild rocker. His stage performances exceed even Elvis Presley's moves and manners. Local record producer Fabor Robison signed him to a contract in 1957 and Trammell waxed his first recordings for him, including his debut single "Shirley Lee" / "I Sure Do Love You" (Fabor #4038-45, 1958), which became a good seller for him and saw national release on ABC-Paramount.

His wild and untamed behaviour on stage as well as questionable promotion methods soon spoke for itself and by the late 1950s, Trammell found himself broke and unemployed at the west coast. He headed back to Arkansas in either in 1959 or 1960 and made contacts with label owner Arlen Vaden of Trumann, Arkansas. Vaden arranged a session for Trammell in December 1960 at the Hi Recording Studio in Memphis, which produced "Hi Yo Silver" and "Been a Walking," released on Vaden's own label Vaden #45-304.

Bobby Lee Trammell, 1950s
Trammell kept on performing in the same manner, although his behaviour had caused him a severe crisis on the west coast before. In the meantime, a local jazz musician by the name of Joe Lee built his own recording studio and record company in Jonesboro on 213 East Monroe Street. He named the studio "Variety Recording Studio" on and set up the Alley record label. 

After recording a couple of songs in Memphis that were leased to small labels, Trammell asked Lee to use his studio to cut two special songs he had written, "Arkansas Twist" and "It's All Your Fault." Although the room wasn't even furnished appropriate for recording sessions, Trammell insisted on recording at Lee's place. It was likely late 1961 or early 1962 when Trammell finally recorded the songs. Praguefrank's Country Discography blog lists Sonny Ackermann on lead guitar, Herbie Mayes on bass, and Harvey Farley on drums (but doesn't mention the pianist). Sheree Homer mentions in her book "Catch that Rockabilly Fever" that "During the early 1960s, Trammell had Steve Handford on guitar and Jimmy Payne as part-time bass player. In fact, it was Trammell's brother Dale, [...] who fronted the band and played piano." She neither mentions this line-up explicitly as the recording line-up nor does she mention the line-up listed by Praguefrank. Other sources also speak of Richard Manning being the drummer on the session. Manning was also the composer of "That's What I Call a Ball," which was recorded by Larry Donn for Arlen Vaden. For now, it can't be said who played on the session with certainty. Since they did five or six takes on "Arkansas Twist," Trammell and the band had to return to the studio on another day to lay down "It's All Your Fault," as Joe Lee remembered. 

Although Lee thought it was not a good record at all, he nevertheless took it to Sam Phillips' studio in Memphis to let him master the tapes. He then ordered 300 copies at the Plastic Products pressing plant in Memphis and played the record to a friend of his, who was working in the jukebox business. Lee's friend was highly impressed and bought all 300 copies of "Arkansas Twist" on the spot. Lee released both songs as his label's initial release on Alley #1001 in May 1962 and soon, it developed into a big seller. Billboard reported on June 9, 1962: "Two other disks breaking well in the area [Mid-South, editor's note] are "Arkansas Twist" by Bobby Lee Trammell on the Alley label, and "Having a Party" [...] by Sam Cooke on RCA."

Eventually, 200.000 copies were sold, although it did not hit the national charts. "Arkansas Twist" became Trammell's signature song and also became the title of his first album on the Atlanta label. It was also covered by the Jokers (Bro-Ket #BK-101) and by Memphis singer Eddie Caroll (Pure Gold#304). Trammell recorded more songs in the same vein for Alley and Atlanta but couldn't the repeat the sales of "Arkansas Twist." Wild stage antics still prevented him from having national success. Thus, Trammell kept on recording for small labels during the 1960s and doing the promotion work on his own. 

Trammell turned to country music in the 1970s and had a minor hit on the Souncot label in 1972. By the 1980s, Trammell tried to break into the European rockabilly revival circuit but fans dismissed his strange performances. After this defeat, he finally gave up music and entered politics and was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1997, where he served until 2002. 

Bobby Lee Trammell died on February 20, 2008, in Jonesboro at the age of 74 years. Today, he would have turned 82 years.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ken and the Goldtones


Ken and the Goldtones - If Somebody Loves You (Jon-Ark JA-591), 1964

Not much to say about this band, which likely hailed from Missouri. "If Somebody Loves You" is really a nice song, backed by the instrumental "Squeeky."

The songs were probably recorded and produced by Joe Lee at his Variety Recording Studio in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He released them on his Jon-Ark label. "If Somebody Loves You" was written by Stan Mungle, somehow kin to the band's singer Kendall "Ken" Mungle, while "Squeeky" was a Joe Lee composition. Ken Mungle died in November 2008.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jimmy Doyle Payne on Alley

 
Jimmy Doyle Payne - Sweet Little Sixteen (Alley 1040), 1968

Jimmy Doyle Payne should not be confused with Jimmy Payne (born 1936 in Leachville, Arkansas), who recorded for K-Ark, Vee-Jay, RIC, Epic, and others from 1962 until 1982.

Jimmy Doyle Payne was bass player in Bobby Lee Trammell's band from the early 1960s onwards. He can probably be heard on Trammell's recording of "Arkansas Twist" b/w "It's All Your Fault" on Alley #1001 (1962), the label's first release and Trammell's signature song.

Jimmy Doyle Payne had a total of three releases on Alley in his own right during the years 1966-1969. His second one featured a good version of Chuck Berry's hit "Sweet Little Sixteen" with hot guitar and organ. The flipside "Pen, Pencil & Telephone" was a Harold Dorman composition.

Payne had an earlier release in 1965 on the Zay-Dee label, located in Batesville, Arkansas. He was also likely the vocalist of a band called the Jokers that did cover versions of "Arkansas Twist" and "It's All Your Fault" for the Bro-Ket label, also from Batesville. I'm pretty sure this band is the same that recorded for Grace Records, again based in Batesville.


Jimmy Doyle Payne discography

Bro-Ket BK-101: The Jokers - Arkansas Twist / It's All Your Fault (1964)
Zay-Dee ZD-202: Jimmy Payne and the Jokers - I Wouldn't Be Seen Alive with Her / Don't Ground Me (1965)
Alley 650A-4748: Jimmy Payne - I'll Cry Instead / A Dirty War (1966)
Alley 1040: Jimmy Doyle Payne - Pen, Pencil and Telephone / Sweet Little Sixteen (1968)
Alley 1047: Jimmy Payne - Joe's Forgettin Glass / I'll Get Over You (1969)
Erwin E-1071: Jimmy D. Payne - The Devil Lives Across the Street / If You're Living in a Lonely World

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas


Earl Grace - Christmas Is Just Around the Corner (United Southern Artists 5-111), 1961

A merry christmas and a happy new year to all my visitors, readers, and collector friends around the world!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Donna Kaye on Alley


Donna Kaye - Speak Up (Alley 1041), 1968

"Speak Up" is a neat little Soul song by Donna Kaye but not of great interest - at least for me. What strikes more is the fact it was penned by Arkansas singer and bandleader Kenny Owens, who recorded for such labels as Cotton Town Jubilee, Alley, Reka, and his own Ork imprint. The flipside to "Speak Up" is "I Would Move a Mountain," slower in speed but in some way more tremendous in its sound.

Owens had a release on Joe Lee's Alley label in his own right in 1966, featuring "Traveling on Her Mind" and "Oh. How I Miss You" (Alley #1028). By 1968 - when Lee released Donna Kaye's recording on Alley - Owens was no longer associated with the label, at least obviously, although his was living in Jonesboro, Arkansas, at that time. He had founded his own ORK label by then.

There is no information on Donna Kaye. There was a singer in the 1950s of the same name, living in California and appearing at several fairs there. This Donna Kaye was probably also running "Sonny's" along with Dave Pell, "Hollywood's Next #1 Music Industry Bistro-Restaurant" (940 N. La Cienega - Los Angeles) in the 1970s. However, there is no proof that it is the same person.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jim Cannon on Memphis Part II


Jim Cannon - Stagger-Stumble-Crawl (Memphis M-329)

Here's the flipside to Jim Cannon's "Highway Fever," posted a while back here. "Stagger-Stumble-Crawl" is a country ballad, I'm sure many of you will enjoy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Moon Mullins and the Night Raiders

The Night Raiders - Cottonpickin' (Profile 4007), 1959


Moon Mullins and the Night Raiders

Much has been written of the critically highly acclaimed recordings of the Night Raiders. Their songs are cult favorites among rock'n'roll collectors today and bestowed a place in rock'n'roll history upon the group's singer and pianist Mickey Hawks. Much lesser known is the band's founder and manager Moon Mullins, who led the Night Raiders for more than ten years.

He was born Caswell Dallas "Moon" Mullins on August 15, 1937, to Caswell Burl Mullins (1918-1946) and his wife Mae Elizabeth. A native of Moore County, North Carolina, Mullins soon showed a talent for music and eventually learned to play guitar. He married Emalee Proctor in 1954, with whom he had two children, Tony and Tonya. Mullins and his wife remained together for the rest of their lives.

By 1957, Mullins had assembled a bunch of guys to form a band called "The Night Raiders." At that time, Mullins still held a regular day job; music was only a sideline for him. They played mostly country music around High Point, North Carolina. The band also had a local radio show and Mullins was doing a regular DJ show on WMYN in Eden, North Carolina. In 1957, the band's original drummer fell out and was replaced by Robert "Bob" Matthews, who had just finished high school. Matthews had previously played in various bands, including a rock'n'roll group called "Rhythm Rockers." Also part of that group was 17 year old David Michael "Mickey" Hawks, who played piano and sang. At the suggestion of Matthews, Hawks joined the Night Raiders in September that year, although Mullins was not too enthusiatic to have a piano in his country band. Hawks was particularly influenced by Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, which you can certainly hear in his vocal style and piano playing.

The Night Raiders, back row: Mickey Hawks, Bob Matthews, Moon Mullins
front row: Bill Ballard, John Owens

The band now had a singer who was adept at singing the rock'n'roll hits of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, and others. Mullins, who played guitar at the time, usually sang the country songs. Being now a rock'n'roll combo, Mullins bought himself a saxophone and learned to play it. At that time, the Night Raiders consisted of Mullins on vocals, guitar and sax, Mickey Hawks on vocals and piano, Bill Ballard on lead guitar, John Owens on bass, and Bob Matthews on drums. 

The Night Raiders played a lot of the local dancehalls in the High Point area and in 1958, Mullins suggested to cut a record. He asked Hawks to write a song for recording. Hawks came up with a rock'n'roll tune called "Bip Bop Boom." The band found a tiny studio called "Robbins' Recording Studio" in Greensborough, North Carolina, and a session was set up. The studio was run by Eddie Robbins, who also had the small Robins Red label. Probably in the spring of 1958, Mullins and the Night Raiders recorded two ouststanding rockers, "Bip Bop Boom" and "Rock and Roll Rhythm," the latter composed by Hawks and Matthews. On both performances, Hawks took over the vocals with Ballard and Mullins  throwing in top notch solos on guitar and sax.

Robbins released both recordings on his label with only 500 copies being pressed on red vinyl, which was quite unusual at the time. The record was sold at gigs the Night Raiders played. Shortly afterwards, Mullins managed to release the songs again on Ted Prillaman's Mart label in Martinsville, Virginia (Mart #45-113), which is located about 56 miles north of High Point. Prillaman was also a local radio DJ and a friend of Mullins'.

Moon Mullins and the Night Raiders: Bill Ballard, Moon Mullins, Bob Matthews
John Owens, Mickey Hawks

The Night Raiders were playing a venue in Sanford, North Carolina, one night, when they were discovered by a man called Ian (or Ed) Thomas from Chicago. Thomas was friends with Mike Oury, who owned the Profile record label in Chicago. Thomas recommended the band to Oury and sent him the record the band had recorded. Oury was impressed enough to come down to High Point and sign the Night Raiders to a three year recording contract. He re-released "Bip Bop Boom" / "Rock and Roll Rhythm" on his label later in 1958 (Profile #4002). The record caught on in the Chicago area and sold over 50.000 copies. It was also released through Trutone Records in South Africa and reportedly hit the #1 spot there in Johannesburg. 

Billboard pop review October 13, 1958

The Night Raiders embarked on a tour through the midwest and had two more records released on Profile. The first of those was the great instrumental "Cottonpickin'," showcasing Bill Ballard's skills on the guitar as well as "Hidi Hidi Hidi" with Hawks on vocals (Profile #4007). It came out about one year after the original release of "Bip Bop Boom." Their next and last one on Profile was the pounding "Screamin' Mimi Jeanie" b/w "I'm Lost" (Profile #4010) in 1960. Both singles were produced in Chicago at a professional recording studio but couldn't repeat the success of the band's debut release. 

Billboard pop review May 18, 1959

In 1961, Mullins and the Night Raiders recorded again for bluegrass musician Jim Eanes' Lance label out of Richmond, Virginia. The tracks were "Gonna Dance Tonight, Part 1," a vocal number, and "Gonna Dance Tonight, Part 2," an instrumental version (Lance #005). Around the same time, the Hunch label in New York City re-released "Cottonpickin' / "Hidi Hidi Hidi." Afterwards, Bob Matthews left the group and was replaced by Leroy Butler on drums. The Night Raiders kept on appearing in North Carolina during the 1960s with different members, apart from Mullins and Hawks. In 1968, the band did one last recording for Piedmont Records in Danville, Virginia (Piedmont #45-2044). One side featured "Ain't Gonna Cry" by Hawks and the other side had "Baby, I Got You," a duet with Hawks and Gwynn Kellum. Kellum appeared with the Night Raiders occasionally during this time.

The Night Raiders eventually broke up. Mickey Hawks kept on performing and played regular gigs in Europe during the 1980s. He died way too early in 1989. Moon Mullins stayed in the entertainment business. He owned a nightclub called "Moon's Danceland" in Madison, North Carolina, during the 1960s, where the Night Raiders would serve as the house band. He later also co-owned WREV radio in Reidsville, North Carolina. Mullins died June 30, 2014, at the age of 76. He was buried at the Woodland Cemetery in Madison.

For more information plus a great interview with drummer Bob Matthews, please visit Colorradio.com. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Jim Cannon on Memphis


Jim Cannon - Highway Fever (Memphis M-329)

Jim Cannon is featured here with a country trucking song called "Highway Fever" on Memphis from ca. 1965. More on the Memphis label can be found here.

Cannon, a local Memphis artist, had another release on the Wescan label, "Brooms" b/w "Life's Stormy Sea" (Wescan #102), which was prossibly his own imprint. Cannon eventually had a moderate christmas hit with "Frumpy" in 1973 on the newly founded Fretone label. Fretone was operated by Estelle Axton in Memphis, once co-founder of Satellite Records, which would evolve into Stax.


Billboard October 29, 1973
Billboard December 8, 1973


Jim Cannon Discography
thanks to Bob

Memphis M-239: Highway Fever / Stagger-Stumble-Crawl
Wescan 100: My Evil Eye / Underwater Man
Wescan 102: Broom / Life's Story Sea
Fretone 005: Frumpy / Little Round Man (1973)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Clyde Nelson & Ronnie on Tri-State

Clyde Nelson and Ronnie - Stairway to the Top (Tri-State 45-1923), 1968

Please excuse my reckless verdict here but the singer on this one, whether it's Clyde Nelson or Ronnie, didn't chose the right day to record. Not a good performance at all. I can't find no info on the artists but Tri-State was operated by Style Wooten. Click here for a discography of Tri-State.