Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin, a blog about Country Music, Rockabilly & Hillbilly. The purpose of this site is to explore the aforementioned musical styles and to share the knowledge about obscure artists, labels, shows etc. If you have any additions or corrections, feel free to comment.


• A revised version of the Hap Records story is online.
Added a couple of Do-Ra-Me releases on the listing. Thanks to Derik and Steve Hathaway!
New info on Bobby Hollister.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Christie on Epic

 Christie (Epic 5-10695), 1970

"San Bernadino"
"Here I Am"

Music journalist Bruce Eder once called Christie "England's answer to Creedence Clearwater Revival." Regarding their style and influences, this is certainly true but they lacked of success, unfortunately. Apart from two hit singles, their work is commonly unknown today.

The band Christie originally consisted of Jeff Christie on vocals and bass, Vic Elmes on lead guitar and vocals, and Mike Blakely on drums. Each one of them had played with other groups before. Christie started out in skiffle and rock'n'roll outfits, before recording some demos with the Tremeloes. That's where he met Blakely, whose brother Alan played guitar with the Tremeloes. Elmes performed with the Epics and the Acid Gallery before.

They were signed by the CBS label and released "Yellow River" as their debut single in 1970. However, this was actually Christie's and Elmes' vocals dubbed over an older instrumental track by the Tremeloes, recorded at Christie's first session with them. "Yellow River" soon proofed to be their first hit: it reached #1 in the UK and even #23 on the US charts, an enormous success for an unknown English group.

Their follow-up, "San Bernadino" / "Here I Am," showcased the band's different influences: pop, country, rock'n'roll. Both songs could have been recorded in almost the same manner by John Fogerty and his troop. While "San Bernadino" was more country flavored, "Here I Am" was a stone-hard rock'n'roll number that easily could have been recorded ten years earlier. It was the top side "San Bernadino" that reached #5 in Germany and #7 in the UK. It was released in the US on CBS' Epic label but failed to repeat the success of its precursor, reaching #92.

Christie's album "Yellow River" enjoyed moderate chart action but the band soon dropped out of the national music scenes. After numerous line-up changes, the group disbanded in 1971. Christie and Elmes pursued solo career in music and are still fronting their own bands.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Johnny Cash on Sun, Pt. I

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two - It's Just About Time (Sun 309), 1958

Every aspect of Johnny Cash's long and colorful career has been document well enough. Nevertheless, I listen to him frequently and I think, nobdy can say anything against a Cash song here and there.

"It's Just About Time" was recorded during a period when Cash was still under contract with Sun but was desillusioned with the label. Attention was now given to Jerry Lee Lewis and in late 1957, Cash signed with Columbia. Sun's owner and producer Sam Phillips tried to gather as much Cash recordings as possible then because he planned to release new material during the next years. 

Cash's 1958 sessions produced a large amount of songs written by other Sun artists, such as Jack Clement, Bill Justis and Charlie Rich. It was Clement who produced those sessions and took the Cash sound into a pop oriented direction with most songs being overdubbed with vocal choruses. It were those overdubbs that ruined most of the recordings. Clement reportedly later admitted his mistake but the damage was already done. It was the true simplicity that made Cash's (and the Tennessee Two's) sound that unique.

During his last session at Sun on July 17, 1958, Cash and his band recorded Jack Clement's "It's Just About Time" and the Charlie Rich composition "I Just Thought You'd Like to Know", among other tunes as well. The line-up constisted of Cash on vocals and rhyhtm guitar, Luther Perkins on lead guitar, Charlie Rich on piano, Marshall Grant on bass, and an unknown drummer with an later overdubbed chorus. Both songs were released on Sun #309 on November 12, 1958. Although "I Just Thought You'd Like to Know" was the top side, it was the typical melodic Clement song that eventually reached C&W #30 and Pop #47.

Billboard November 24, 1958, pop review
At that time, Cash was already with Columbia and had released "All Over Again" b/w "What Do I Care" (Columbia #4-41251) in September 1958, his first hit record for the label. Although Cash still wrote the same great, profound songs and performed with the same band, he never sounded like he did on Sun.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jim Morrison on Curley Q

Jim Morrison and Band - Bill Bailey (Curley Q C.Q.-002), 1963
"Curley Jim" Morrison may be best known to most of you for his energetic and frantic performance of "Rock and Roll Itch" from 1958. A country singer in the first place and rock'n'roll only second, Morrison made several other recordings during his career, most of them are forgotten today. As much as his recorded work has to be unearthed, his life and story is largely obscure as well.

James "Curley Jim" Morrison was - according to music researcher Rob Finnis - active in the Miami music scene before 1958. Although no particular activies are document, Morrison was said to perform country music during this time. By 1958, he switched to rock'n'roll for a couple of recordings. The first of those discs was "Rock and Roll Itch" b/w "Airforce Blues," released on the small Miami based Metro label in 1958 (Metro #100). Metro was run by two local country DJs but folded soon after the release due to a law suit with MGM Records. Morrison recorded new versions of both songs for Henry Stone's Mida label shortly afterwards, having the initial release on the label (Mida #100). Accompanied by the Billey Rocks on Meteor and Mida, it is unknown which recording location they utilized. At least for the Mida release, Henry Stone's recording studio seems to be a good bet.

In 1959, another rock'n'roll single with the Billey Rocks on Mida followed. "Sloppy, Sloppy Suzie" was mainly an instrumental with a verse sung by Morrison at the beginning and at the end of the recording. It was coupled with "Didn't I Tell You?" on Mida #108.

Morrison disappeared for about two years and then surfaced in Glenwood, Illinois, where he set up his own label Curley Q. Morrison recorded for this outfit steadily during the 1960s. The first single appeared in the spring of 1963 and comprised "Ace in the Hole" and the old folk standard "Bill Baley." Although he slipped into country music again, a certain rock'n'roll influence was still present. Especially "Bill Bailey" was an interesting blend between country and rock'n'roll with an organ in the background and Morrison's outstanding vocal performance. Billboard reviewed the single in its April 13, 1963, issue but it was rated with only limited sales potential. Surprisingly, the magazine had reported two weeks earlier on March 30 that "Ace in the Hole" was a regional break-out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Probably a follow-up to his first Curley Q disc was "Campfire" b/w "(You Just) Made Me Happy Again," both Morrison originals. In 1964, he released on Curley Q #5707 "My Old Standby" (a Jack Rhodes composition) and "The Used Car Blues," the latter being only a variation of his "Airforce Blues." There were two different pressings of this release with different matrix numbers (pressed by Sound of Nashville) and a slightly different artist credit. Though, the recordings were obviously the same. A single on Major Bill Smith's Texas based Maridene label featuring "Old Man Honest" (Maridene #103) adds to the confusion. This record was approximately issued in 1963-1964.

"Ace in the Hole" must have been a good seller for Morrison despite the bad Billboard review. In 1964, he re-released it with "Bill Bailey" on Curley Q #5708 with wider distribution through Sound of Nashville. Curley Q #5709 was another re-release of "Campfire" b/w "You Just Made Me Happy Again." Two more records followed: "He Gave Me You" / "My Three Friends and Me" (Curley Q #5712) and "Oh Lonesome Me" / "West Virginia Love In" (Curley Q #BP-219).

After the mid-1960s, Morrison disappeared from the music scene. Information on what he did after the above descriped time period seems to have not survived.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sonny Williams on CTJ, Part 1

Sonny Williams - Foot Prints on the Floor (Cotton Town Jubilee 104)

Following up on my post on Gene Williams' own Cotton Town Jubilee release, here's another offering from this interesting record company. Sonny Williams had the first release on the label but today's disc was his second outing from around 1962, "Foot Prints on the Floor" b/w "I'd Give It All to Be with You." He would go on to release two more singles on the label. The A side is an uptempo country song, written by Bob Forshee, whose compositions were recorded also by other Cotton Town Jubilee artists. The flip is a weeper from the pen of Chuck Comer, an Arkansas DJ and recording artist (Vaden, Cotton Town Jubilee, CMC).

Sonny Williams' real name was Clyde Harley Bowie, born 1933 in Pisgah, Maryland. He also performed on Gene Williams stage show "Cotton Town Jubilee" (KWAM, Memphis, Tenn.). His nephew left a comment on an earlier post but my attempt to contact him failed. Eddie, if you're reading this: we're all curious about your uncle's story!

Read more:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Me and Dave Promo

Jim Patton and Dave O'Brien, making music together again as "Me and Dave"

A little promo work for Jim Patton and Dave O'Brien, original members of the 1960s band "The Mark Four," which had been featured earlier on this blog here. Let's read what they say about their new recordings:

"A little history about how we came to start writing and recording music again: Dave "Frenchy" O'Brien and I were in the Mark Four, back in the mid-sixties. The band had a record deal with Pacific Challenger Records and released 2 singles. The original members of the Mark Four consisted of myself, Dave, Rick Whittington, and Jerry Ainsworth. After about a year and a half, Dave and I left the Mark Four and started another band, known as "Nobody's Perfect". The band didn't last very long and Dave and I went our separate musical ways, although remaining friends. Dave continued to play with a variety of bands, including Animotion, who had a big hit entitled, "Obsession". I focused on going on to college and beginning a career in business. 

A couple years ago, I got the itch to start writing music again. I discussed the possibility of writing and recording with Dave and he was all for it. We collaborated on a six song CD, which took a couple of years to put together. The first track on the CD was a fun little number called, "I Love the Ladies", which has a great dance beat and, we hope, an appealing set of lyrics with a soul band sort of feeling to drive them. The song is about a guy who just can't seem to get enough of the ladies, but then, who among us can? We hope that folks enjoy the tune as much as we enjoyed writing and recording it. 

We decided to release that track on iTunes first and see what kind of reaction we got from it, before releasing the rest of the CD."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ben Showalter

A lot of unknown and obscure country music singers recorded from 1965 to 1974 for Wayne Raney's Rimrock label, probably the most prolific record label in Arkansas. One of those artists was Ben Showalter, who recorded just one single record during his entire career. Showalter made a living with music because health problems left him unable to do hard work. Tragedy struck once more in 1975, when Showalter died at the age of 37.

Publicity photo of Ben Showalter,
mid to late 1960s
Ben Showalter was born in 1938 in the small community of Trumann, Arkansas, which is mostly remembered by rock'n'roll record collectors for Arlen Vaden's Vaden Records. Raised in poverty as the son of sharecroppers in North-East Arkansas, he also had four brothers and two sisters. Showalter encountered several health problems during his lifetime. The first of those was his inborn cleft pallet, which caused significant speach impediment. This was corrected with a surgery during his teens.

Showalter learned to play guitar as a child on one of his brothers' instruments. It should be noted here that Showalter was left-handed and the guitar was constructed for right-handed musicians. While learning to play the guitar, he developed the amazing talent to play all chords upside down and backwards. Showalter was influenced by big country stars of the 1940s and 1950s, such as Hank Williams, Eddie Arnold, Marty Robbins, among others. His main idols, though, were Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash, who both rose to fame in the mid-1950s.

The Showalter family moved to California around 1950, hoping to find better work on the west coast. It was also in California, when Showalter had his first public performance. His son Jeff remembers:
One of the first performances was when he asked to borrow his brothers guitar because he had lined up a gig at a local bar in Riverside, California. His brother accompanied him to watch and when the show was over and Ben tried to return the guitar it was refused. His brother said the crowd was so entertained that the guitar belonged in his hands. That was the beginning.
Tragedy struck in 1958, when Showalter was injured in a construction accident, which left him unable to do physical work. Several back surgeries followed but the only way to earn a living for Showalter was perfoming music. He kept on playing locally in bars and at community events. At that time, he performed solely solo on stage, just him and his guitar. His act included jokes, songs, and impersonations.

"Festus" - Showalter's comedy act
In 1965, Showalter moved back to Arkansas and settled in Batesville. For a short time, he joined forces with bass player and singer Virgil Hill and travelled with him to Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of times. In Nashville, Showalter was also able to land a guest spot on the famed Grand Ole Opry.

While living in Batesville, he learned of Wayne Raney's Rimrock label in Concord, which is not far away from where Showalter lived. Raney operated the Rimrock label, studio, and pressing plant and recorded mostly country, bluegrass, and religious material. Showalter got the chance to record his one and only record during his entire career. "Hell in Vietnam" b/w "The Way I Am" (Rimrock #216) were both his own compositions, released in 1966. In contrast to his live performances, Showalter was backed by an unknown band on these two recordings.

In the early 1970s, Showalter moved to Harrison, near the Arkansas-Missouri state border. There, he made connection with an entrepreneur called Sam Jackson. Together with Jackson, Showalter put on a live stage show called "Ozark Country Music Theater" in a small Harrison theater. This was the first time that Showalter performed with a full band regularly. According to Showalter's son Jeff, the show was possibly carried over KHOZ one or two times, but not regularly. However, success eluded the show and it closed down in 1975. Showalter was also friends with Upton Horn (1924-1984), a DJ at KHOZ and local singer. Horn recorded at least two records for Hob Nob Records and Table Rock Records, both from the Harrison area.

After another back surgery was needed that same year, Showalter moved back to Batesville, where he died on July 25, 1975, at the age of 37. 

Special thanks goes to Jeff Showalter for sharing his memories with me.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Son in Service

Gene Williams - My Son in Service (Cotton Town Jubilee 95), 1965

Gene Williams and his Cotton Town Jubilee label were the subject of a post before. Today's selection is a short, spoken comment on the Vietnam war. Here's a little background information on Gene Williams, taken from my previous post.

Williams was born 1938 in Tyronza, Arkansas, and attended high school in Dyess, Arkansas. He started his career in the radio business in 1958 when he took a job as a DJ on KWAM in Memphis, Tennessee. Eventually he became also the station's sales manager and began promoting Grand Ole Opry acts such as Flatt & Scruggs. In 1962, he created a new Country music stage show he called "Cotton Town Jubilee," which debuted on January 27, 1962. It was a live show held at the Rosewood Theater in Memphis and broadcasted over KWAM every Saturday night, featuring local singers and musicians as well as guest stars from the Opry. James O'Gwynn was the first guest star to appear on the show.

Williams soon extended his activities by founding his own record company in the spring of 1962, the Cotton Town Jubilee label based in West Memphis, Arkansas. In addition, he also set up a music publishing company. The first record release was by Sonny Williams, a singer who was a regular cast member of the Cotton Town Jubilee show. Other Cotton Town Jubilee releases include discs by Cousin Jake & Uncle Josh, Sylvia Mobley, Chuck Comer, and others. On November 4, 1963, Williams debuted on KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas with his new show, the "Gene Williams Country Junction Show," which eventually would run until his death in 2011.

Gene Williams' "My Son in Service" was the flip side to "Christmas Poem" by Kenny Owens. Released in 1965, both tunes were written by Norman Beal, who composed another Vietnam war related song in 1966 entitled "The War in Vietnam." The numbering of this disc is somehow a mystery. The label shows the number #95 as well as 723C-95. There was another record on the Cotton Town Jubilee label that fits into that numerical system. A disc by Charles Norris and the Magnolia Playboys has no number on the label but etched in the dead wax, showing #99. All other Cotton Town Jubilee records are numbered in a 100 onwards series.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gene Walton on Alley

Gene Walton - Hello Josephine (Alley 1099), 1982

Here's a cool 1980s cover of the old Fats Domino song "Hello Josephine" by Gene Walton on the Alley record label. Domino recorded his original version of it in 1960 for Imperial (Imperial #5704) under the title of "My Girl Josephine," which reached #7 on Billboard's R&B charts and #14 on the Hot 100.

Alley Records was founded by a couple of entrepreneurs in 1962 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, including jazz musician and record producer Joe Lee. Their Variety Recording Studio was built on 213 East Monroe Street in Jonesboro, from which they also operated the label. The label's history began already in late 1961 when Bobby Lee Trammell recorded his local hit "Arkansas Twist" at Variety, even before the studio was completely furnished. Joe Lee eventually became the sole owner of it and released records well into the 1970s.

No info on Gene Walton it seems. It's a common name so it could be any Gene Walton appearing on the web. There was a Gene Walton who wrote such songs as "Love Is a Dream," "The Puppet Boogie," "Rocking Rhythm" and "These Are the Things," copyrighted in 1946. I doubt this is the same guy.

A side of this disc is "Ballad of Wayne Cryts." Farmer Wayne Cryts gained some public attraction first in 1979. The June 25, 1982, issue of the "Lakeland Ledger" included the following artycle about Wayne Cryts and this record:
Country song supports farmer in battle with U.S. over soybeansJONESBORO, Ark. - "There's a world of difference between law and justice, and sometimes doing wrong is right..."

Those are a few of the words from the "Ballad of Wayne Cryts," a country tune about the Puxico, Mo., farmer who got into trouble with the law for removing soybeans from a grain elevator and refusing to tell a bankruptcy judge who helped him do it.

Jonesboro musicians Joe Lee and Gene Walton wrote the song and recorded it here a few weeks ago. Walton said the American Agricultural Movement, which is backing Cryts in his court battle, plans to help distribute the ballad to radio stations around the country.
The disc was pressed by Queen City Albums in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1982, judging from the matrix number:

  • 2: the year 1982
  • 06: pressed in June that year
By that time, Alley had moved from East Monroe Street to 1851 So. Church Street. It's unknown to me if the studio moved also to that adress or if it remained on East Monroe Street.

Further reading:
Alley Records discography

Thanks to Slim D

Friday, February 28, 2014

Jimmy Dean

Another bobsluckycat post presented by Mellow's Log Cabin

This is not meant to be a "be all know all" article about country music legend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jimmy Dean (1928-2010), but a brief overview. I recommend his autobiography published in 2004 "30 Years Of Sausage, 50 Years Of Ham," which gives the full story in his own words for that.

Jimmy Dean was born outside of Plainview, Texas, in 1928 in abject poverty and struggled through the Great Depression. He was musical and always funny but at age 16, left home for the Merchant Marines towards the end of World War II, after that an enlistment in the U.S. Air Force took up his time for the most part but he spent some free time around the Washington, D.C., area, even then playing in local bands. He had a good smooth voice and he could play piano, accordion, guitar and even harmonica fairly well. After mustering out of the Air Force, Jimmy stayed in the Washington, D.C., area with his own band "The Texas Wildcats" and eventually caught on with country susic entrepreneur Connie B. Gay and his "Country Music Time" radio program on WARL-AM in Arlington, Virginia. Around the same time he signed a contract with an east coast associate producer of 4-Star Records in Pasadena, California. His first record was to become a country music standard over the years, "Bummin' Around." Jimmy's version was the label's local hit in the east (4-Star #1613). 4-Star - upon hearing the song - had T. Texas Tyler record a better sounding version and leased it to Decca Records which became the nationally known hit version. Jimmy's version died on the vine. Two other 4-Star records were released between 1952 and 1954 and went nowhere. Jimmy claimed that he made little or no money in royalties from these recordings, even though they were re-issued again and again on "budget LP's" after he was famous.

Jimmy Dean - Bumming Around (4 Star 1613), 1954

In 1955, the radio show moved to television in Washington, D.C., on WMAL-TV in the afternoons. It was live, spontaneous and an immediate hit owing mostly to the wit and good humor of Jimmy Dean. Also in 1955, Jimmy signed a new recording contract with Mercury Records in Chicago. The first release being Mercury #70691 "False Pride" b/w "Big Blue Diamonds" which went nowhere. He released two more records on Mercury and then nothing for some time as recordings went.

In the mean time, he was on a regional TV hook-up live daily on Virginia and Maryland stations and a Saturday night live three hour TV show for Connie B. Gay called "Town and Country Time Jamboree." CBS picked up the daily show for 28 weeks into 1957 which was on WTOP-TV, and after a pilot was made, became the CBS Morning Show for 8 months into 1958. In September 1958 until June 1959, CBS had "The Jimmy Dean Show" live week days and at noon on Saturdays on the full network.

In the mean time, as to recordings, Jimmy had stalled out but was still under contract to Mercury in 1956 with no new recordings scheduled to be made, when and it get fuzzy here, depending on what I know and what other versions appear to be, Jimmy was called down to Nashville over a week-end to appear on the Grand Ole Opry and record enough recordings to fill out an album, which eventually became "Jimmy Dean's TV Favorites" (Mercury LP MG 20319) released in early 1957 which was a rehash of some old standards and a new version of "Bummin' Around" which was very "pop music" oriented with very sparse accompaniment, but still decidedly country. Also recorded was a ballad entitled "Losing Game" which had just enough of a pop and teen flavoring to be a hit record. The problem was the single was to be a "Mercury-Starday" release. Mercury and Starday merged around the time Jimmy made that recording session in Nashville and was only paid union scale for the session on "spec", according to him. Mercury and Starday had a short and acrimonius partnership, and by the time they settled who got what, Jimmy's "Loosing Game" had been released and the advance copies to DeeJays nationwide was getting a lot of air play. It was going to be a hit, but in the separation of the two companies, no more copies were pressed after the initial run and was "stillborn". The song appeared on the last Mercury-Starday LP 20358 as well. It wasn't a hit. Jimmy also told me that he never made a dime in royalties off on any of his Mercury recordings. They also had been re-issued countless times and in countless forms. He was adamant about this late in 1978/79 when I had the opportunity to question him about it. Compounding the problem, by his own admission, was the fact he signed a new long term recording contract with Columbia Records in mid-1957. Jimmy's first Columbia release went nowhere as did several more into 1959. His first album, the gospel LP Columbia CL-1025 "Hour Of Prayer" also did nothing when released.

Jimmy Dean - Losing Game (Mercury 71120X45), 1957

When his CBS television show was over, and since he was good especially "live" as most shows were, he hosted the "Tonight Show" from time to time, did game shows and others and toured promoting minor recordings. He was also a frequent guest on the Arthur Godfrey Radio Show over the CBS Radio Network out of New York.

Then in 1961, on his second Columbia LP and a single release, Jimmy struck gold with "Big Bad John", which went to the top of the charts in America, number 1 country and pop for many weeks in late 1961. He took home a Grammy for it as well and it became his signature song. This is the original undubbed version.#

Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John (Columbia 4-42175), 1961

This song brought ABC Television calling, wanting Jimmy Dean to host a new variety show which would be decidedly town and country with a full orchestra and a chorus of featured singers. This program lasted 3 seasons 1963 through 1966 and was almost always at the top of the ratings. Jimmy also took this show on the road pretty much intact and made millions. A lot of up and coming young country stars got their first national exposure on his show, notably Roger Miller and Charlie Rich to name two.

At the end of his Columbia Records contract, Columbia released Jimmy Dean's last big hit record and it also sold a million copies "The First Thing Every Morning" in 1965. I should note here that over the years two very maudlin and sweet readings, to me anyway, sold over a million copies each, "Too A Sleeping Beauty" and "I.O.U.". They are not included here if for no other reason their extreme length.

Jimmy Dean - The First Thing Ev'ry Morning (Columbia 4-43263), 1965

In 1966, Jimmy signed an RCA Victor recording contract and had some very minor hits over the next 7 years. His energies had drifted elsewhere. He was in films and television series and in Las Vegas and in 1969, as an investment to save his now considerable fortune, started The Jimmy Dean Meat Company with his brother Don in Plainview, Texas, which was an immediate success. The rest they say is history.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gene Wester acetate

Gene Wester & the Goodtime Band (acetate) 
Borrowed Angel
A Thing Called Sadness

A quick search turned up nothing, neither on Gene Wester & the Goodtime Band nor on Echols Recording. This one came from Los Angeles to me and I guess, it is a Bakersfield related disc. The label states it is a "promotion record," so where's the commercial release?

If there's any info out there, feel free to pass it along.