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

• Jack Turner recordings available here.
• Update on Les Randall acetate.
• Thanks to Bob more info on Bill Harris.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Floyd and Mary Biggs

Save the memory of Floyd and Mary Biggs

Floyd and Mary Biggs were a husband-wife composer duo, likely from Nashville, Tennessee. The couple caught my attention about four years ago when I corresponded with Kenny Norton, a Murray Nash discovery, and talked about his career in music. He recorded two of their songs in 1965 for Nash's Musi-Center label. During my research on Nash's activities, I discovered that the Biggs had written many more songs. However, I failed to nail down some facts about Floyd and Mary Biggs.

When asked about the Biggs, Kenny Norton replied to me: "I only met Floyd and Mary a few times and that was always in the studio. You probably know more about them than I do. I do know they were very nice and helpful to me as a teenager not knowing exactly what I was doing. At the time I had no idea how much they had contributed to the music business. It was the same with Murray [Nash]. I had no clue how much he contributed. Floyd and Mary were just down to earth people. If you had met them on the street you would have no idea who they were. It was the same for Murray. Mary always worked with me on the piano. I think she understood my situation of having to record 'Oonie Oonie' when I really didn't like the song at all." Floyd Biggs was visually handicapped, according to Norton: "Floyd and Mary seemed to be about middle age when I knew them. They were very simple people. Floyd was not totally blind but close to it."

Mary Biggs first appeared as a songwriter in February 1957, when RCA-Victor released Del Wood's "After Five," written by Mary Biggs, Wayne Meador, and "Red" Biggs (probably Floyd). During the mid-1950s, the couple often worked with Hargus Robbins, a Nashville piano session musician, who was also blind. Together, they also composed Robbins' rockabilly single "Save It," which he released as "Mel Robbins." Floyd and Mary Biggs were active until the mid-1960s, often writing for Murray Nash's catalogue.

The whereabouts of Floyd and Mary Biggs are not known, unfortunately. I have researched and found many people of this name but I haven't found a good track, yet. There was a Mary Katherine Biggs (1932-2018), who lived in Springfield, Tennessee (not far away from Nashville) but there's no hint she's the same Mary Biggs.

I have collected Floyd and Mary Biggs compositions and counted 33 songs so far. You can retrieve my results at 45cat.com.


Thanks to Kenny Norton for sharing his memories with me.

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Chuck Berry - Bye Bye Johnny

Chuck Berry - Bye Bye Johnny (Chess 1754), 1960
 
Chuck Berry's immense influece can only be estimated. He changed and influenced so many careers, it's impossible to find proper words for his legacy. However, here's a quick one for you from the master of guitar rock'n'roll.

"Bye Bye Johnny" is one of my favourites, although I first heard cover versions of the song and not Berry's original. Mike Waggoner and the Bops laid down an amazing but sadly unknown version of it in the early 1960s. They also cut a similar song entitled "Guitar Man." The mighty Status Quo, UK hard rock and boogie rock giants, recorded their version of the song in 1975 for their album "On the Level." They close every single concert with "Bye Bye Johnny" since decades.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Hob Nob Records

One of the most interesting things in record collecting is (for me, at least) the many small labels in Arkansas. Often, you discover an unknown record with a familiar name - a rock'n'roller from the 1950s that made another record later on, maybe returning to his first love, country music. Or a gospel quartet that performs to this day. One of these hidden treasures is Hob Nob Records in Northern Arkansas.

Hob Nob Records was a low scale label, based in Harrison, Arkansas. It was owned by Earl Nicholson and operated by Hugh Ashley out of his store, which also included a small recording facility. Ashley had played in a band with Mike McAllister, Mike Collins, and Kirk Coffman and in fact, McAllister would record a single for Ashley's label in 1958.


Wallace Waters
Ashley recorded a couple of local country and rock'n'roll artists on Hob Nob, most notable Wallace Waters, the aforementioned Mike McAllister, and Upton Horn. Wallace Waters led a local band in Harrison that played dances all over Boone County. Apparently, Waters was the drummer and the vocalist in the band. He recorded memorable rock'n'roll tune called "Holiday Hill" in 1959. The song had been previously cut by Slim Wilson on Hob Nob. With just his guitar and his singing, it turned out to be a totally different but charming style of old down-home folk. Wallace Waters recorded another single for Trend and kept on performing locally. He is still active in the Harrison area.

Mike McAllister recorded a rollicking and echo-loaded "Twenty One" with a girl called Nancy, whose identity otherwise remains unknown. The flip side was "I Don't Dig It," written by Hugh Ashley. It very well could be that the band heard on this record was Ashley and McAllister's group. "I Don't Dig It" was also re-issued by Rockin' Ronnie Weiser on his Rollin' Rock Records in the 1970s.

Upton Horn recorded a country single for Hob Nob, also in the late 1950s. He went on to become a DJ on KHOZ in Harrison and recorded another single for Table Rock Records in Omaha, Arkansas. Horn was born September 26, 1924, but died tragically way too early on September 9, 1984, in Harrison at the age of 59 years. He was a local celebrity in the Harrison area through the 1960s and 1970s.

If anyone has more info on Hob Nob Records, feel free to pass it along.


Discography

410: Upton Horn - In and Out (Of Every Heart in Town) / A Good Way (for a Good Man to Go Wrong) (poss. 1958)
441: Mike & Nancy - Twenty One / Mike McAllister - I Don't Dig It (1958)
442: Slim Wilson - Holiday Hill / Jealousy's Made of Fear (1959)
443: Wallace Waters - Holiday Hill / Walking and a-Thinking (1959)
EP-401: Frank Watkins - Blue Mule / Saddle Old Spike / Soldier's Joy / Bay Rooster
EP-408: Frank Watkins - Girl I Left Behind Me / Kansas City Rag / Watkins Hoedown / Bad Whiskey / Missouri Fever / Frank's Breakdown (1958)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Jimmy Walker on Walker

Jimmy Walker - Detour (Walker W-1001), 1965

I bought this record during my research on Paul Westmoreland and his song "Detour," which resulted in my article for American Music Magazine, "At the Detour Inn." "Detour" was composed by Westmoreland and recorded first by Jimmy Walker in 1945 (with Westmoreland on steel guitar). It became a big hit and subsequently cover versions by Spade Cooley, Elton Britt, Wesley Tuttle, Foy Willing, and Patti Page also.

Walker's career, however, never really took off. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry for one single year, secured a major deal with MGM (but was dropped by the label after one session) and then became a mainstay of WWVA's Wheeling Jamboree. But luck was not on his side. In 1965, he tried again and re-recorded "Detour" along with "Go Back Little Tear." It was released on the Walker label, which was likely his own operation. The line-up on this recording is unknown, but it was a moderate version of his original hit with electric guitar, steel guitar, and piano.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pat Parker on Skyland, Part II

Pat Parker, Accomp. by the Way Mates - Young Sweethearts (Skyland 1005), 1962

This was a Buck Trail production from 1962. Skyland Records was likely one of Trail's own labels, based in Skyland, North Carolina. The 15 or 16 years old Pat Parker had previously recorded "Boy Watcher," a song that was claimed to be Buck Trail's own composition, although there have been others who claimed it was their song, however. Trail, whose real name was Ronald Killette, had been recording rockabilly in the 1950s in Miami and also doubled as a promoter, booking agent, record producer and manager for other local acts. I have been into Trail's story for some time and the results of my researches were published in American Music Magazine, issues #137 and #140.

Buck Trail had recorded "Young Sweethearts" first in the mid-1950s (accurate recording date is not documented) for his own Trail label. Backed by a female vocal chorus called "The Teenettes," his version was a very warm and pleasant performance. In contrast, Pat Parker's version lacks of the Trail version's charm (in my opinion). Although Parker's singing approach is patterned very similar, the backing band (The Way Mates - also a teenage group) does not deliver a good performance. Parker's version has a good guitar solo, though. The band performs better on the flip side, "Date with the Blues," with a mandolin, nice brush played drums, and some good background vocals. By the way: "Date with the Blues" was written and recorded by Billy Cox and his Covered Wagon Boys in 1959 for Jan Records (Marshall, Missouri). Buck Trail, a rascal who didn't took it too serious with the truth, never had anything to do with writing the song but managed to cut him into the songwriting credits. It's another mystery how he got notice of the song, which was clearly a local release by Cox.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Jim Murray on Wham!

 Jim Murray - Carolyn (Wham! WRS 1958), ca. 1962/1963

I found it is impossible to research anything substantial about Jim Murray or his band, Caravan. This record came with a picture sleeve, showing Murray behind his drum set. The sleeve also tells us the other members of Caravan, which included Rick Murray (also the producer of this record and possibly Jim's brother?) on saxophone, Bill Gage on lead guitar, Jim Wagner on piano, and Sonny Kelly on bass guitar. The flip side to "Carolyn" was "Putter Sparken," an "Instra-mental" number (as spelled on the label).

Murray had another record on Wham, which was a Jonesboro, Arkansas, label. It featured "Ufo" and "Let There Be Drums," two more instrumentals of which one certainly starrs Jim Murray's abilities on the drums (I can say this without ever hearing it!). Wham at least another release by an act called "Sunrise."

"Carolyn," of course, was from the pen of Arkansas wild man Bobby Lee Trammell, who recorded it in 1962 for another Jonesboro label, Atlanta Records. It was slower than Murray's version, though it has not the nasal vocals on it like Murray's. Trammell's original recording (which I suppose it to be) was released with the more energetic "Sally Twist" on Atlanta #1501, likely in the fall of 1962. Thus, Murray's version must have been from 1962 or 1963, I suspect.

You can see the picture sleeve in good quality on 45cat.com.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Delmore Brothers on King, Part II

Delmore Brothers - Blues Stay Away from Me (King 45-5224), 1959

Here's an odd one from the Delmores. King re-released their biggest hit "Blues Stay Away from Me" with overdubbed drums (they also applied that to the flip, "Muddy Water"). The original version was recorded on May 6, 1949, at the King Recording Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. The line-up that day consisted of Alton and Rabon Delmore on vocals and guitar, Zeke Turner on guitar, Wayne Raney and Lonnie Glosson on harmonicas, and Louie Innis or Henry Glover on bass. The original record was King #803 with "Goin' Back to the Blue Ridge Mountains" on the flip from August 31, 1949, and became a No.1 hit (their only one).

King dug out the old master tape, overdubbed it and re-released it with "Muddy Water" (original record King #45-1084) on July 8, 1959. Billboard took notice of the record in its July 13 issue and commented: "Country-flavored vocal treatment of haunting blues, also cut by Otis Williams on Deluxe. Dual market entry." The magazine, reviewing the disc in the pop section, totally omitted that it was a overdubbed re-release and in fact was country song.

Billboard July 13, 1959, pop review


By then, Rabon Delmore had already been dead and Alton was living quietly in Huntsville, Alabama. The record might have rewarded King with some sales but enjoyed no chart success. It was one of the last releases by the Delmores on King.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jack Turner

Jack Turner
The Singing River Boy

Jack Turner, sometimes billed as the "Singing River Boy," was a country singer from Alabama with a string of singles during the 1950s. Not to be confused either with "Happy" Jack Turner (a piano player and Decca recording artist of the 1920s and 1930s) nor "Hobo" Jack Turner, Jack Turner is also known for penning the minor rockabilly classic "Everybody's Rockin' But Me."

Jack Turner was born on June 10, 1921, and hailed from Haleyville, Alabama. His father S.W. Turner worked for the I.C.Railroad and his mother presented Turner with an ukulele when he was seven years old. By then, Turner had already made his first public appearance at a school event a year earlier. Music became one of his main interests and eventually he also mastered the guitar, so he could back up local fiddlers at dances.

Another of Turner's interests was painting and drawing. He was so good at it, that he decided upon a career in art and after finishing high school, Turner enrolled at an advertiging art school in Nashville, Tennessee. However, music was still on his mind and not surprisingly, he attended one of the Grand Ole Opry shows while in Nashville. Early in 1942, he met his future wife Lorene Davidson. That same year, he was drafted into the US Navy.

While serving his country, Turner founded a country band and entertained the troops during this time. After his discharge, he moved his family (which included two daughters by then) back to Alabama and settled in Montgomery. He got a job as an artist-illustrator at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base and besides that, also worked as a musician.

Jack Turner and Norma Hendrick, "Montgomery
County's Maid of Cotton," 1954
When WCOV-TV started out, Turner auditioned for the station and was immidiately engaged as a cast member of a Saturday night TV show, "Bar Twenty." When Shorty Sullivan started his "Deep South Jamboree," a live stage show airing on WBAM, Turner became a member of the show right from the start and stayed with it for several years. Around the same time, he was discovered by Hank Williams' mother, who also lived in Montgomery and, being impressed by Turner's talent, recommended him to Fred Rose in Nashville. 

Turner signed a recording contract with RCA-Victor in 1954 and held his first session for the label on February 17 that year. Contrary to a widely held belief, two 1953 RCA discs issued as by "Jack Turner and his Granger County Gang" featuring the incredible great covers of "Hound Dog" (RCA-Victor #47-5267) and "Gambler's Guitar" (RCA-Victor #47-5384) were not by Turner but by the country comedy duo of Homer & Jethro, hiding under a pseudonym.

Turner's first session produced "Shoot, I Reckon I Love You" and "Walkin' a Chalk Line," both were used by RCA for his debut disc (RCA-Victor #47-5682 and #20-5682, 78rpm and 45rpm formats respectively). Two other songs, "Model T Baby" and "Hichhikin' a Ride" were two of his best performances but held back by the label for a year. Two more sessions for RCA followed ca. in June 1954 and in May 1955.

Turner's second release from August 1954, "If I Could Only Win Your Fall," became a minor hit and got a lot of airplay back then. Although it seemed he was on the right track, chart success eluded the disc. It was, however, a first success for Turner that caused RCA-Victor to continue the collaboration.

A newspaper clipping from around 1954 also indicated that Turner was designated to appear in a movie about Hank Williams life. Apperently, he was was chosen to take over the role of Williams, as the newspaper relied on journalist Walter Winchell. However, there are no hints this movie ever came into production. The first movie about Williams was filmed about ten years later with George Hamilton IV starring.


RCA-Victor initiated a special promotion campaign around "Model T Baby" (RCA-Victor #47-5997 and #20-5997) which was released early in 1955 by the label, to push the record. Billboard reported on May 14, 1955: "[...] Myrna Holly, freshman at the University of Mississippi, was last week declared the winner of Turner's 'Model T Baby' Contest inaugurated several months ago to plug Turner's record by that name. Jimmy Swan, of WHSY of Hattiesburg, Miss., sent in the winning entry. As winners, both will have their portraits painted by Turner."

Turner recorded with some of the best studio musicians that Nashville had at that time and despite fine recordings, that certain hit record wouldn't roll along with RCA. After a total of six discs released on the label (the last one in November 1955), the company dropped Turner from its roster. 

However, Turner had built himself quite a following, especially in Alabama. He started two new shows on his own, besides his regular performances on the Deep South Jamboree. On June 6, 1955, the first episode of his half-hour long "Jack Turner Show" aired on WFSA-TV in Montgomery. One June 14, Turner also started another TV show, the "Alabama Jubilee" on the same station. The shows featured his regular band, the Singing River Boys, which included Jimmy Porter on steel guitar. Also appearing with him on TV was his daughter Dixie at times.

On October 22, 1955, Jack Turner and his band were part of a "mammoth free show, highlighting Alabama c&w groups," as Billboard reported on November 12. The show was headed by the Duke of Paducah, Whitey Ford. Several more popular Alabama country groups were part of that show, which was held at the City Auditorium in Birmingham and drew 5.300 people to the auditorium and another 1.500 hearing the show from outside the building over loudspeakers.

Although Turner's homebase remained Montgomery, he nevertheless held his ties to Nashville and signed a new recording contract with Hickory Records in May 1956. Already on April 12, he had recorded a session for the label featuring Turner on vocals, Chet Atkins on lead guitar, Ray Edenton on rhythm guitar, Jimmy Day on steel guitar, Dale Potter on fiddle, Marvin Hughes on piano, and Ernie Netwon on bass. The session yielded "Lookin' for Love," "Everybody's Rockin' But Me," "I'm Gonna Get You If I Can," and "It's My Foolish Pride." It was especially "Everybody's Rockin' But Me" (Hickory #45-1050) that gained some exposure. Released in May 1956 on Hickory, the anti-rockabilly statement caught the attention of Columbia Records and Bobby Lord, who turned it into a hard-driving rockabilly piece on June 28 with a great lead guitar by Grady Martin.

Hickory released a second disc by Turner in November 1956 but success eluded it, hence it remained his only session for the label. Turner changed labels one more time in 1957 and cut one session for MGM on November 25 at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville. Two singles were released, the first already in December 1957. While he had declared in April '56 "Well I don't rock like crazy, I'm just a country man" in "Everybody's Rockin' But Me," Turner certainly had a rocking approach on "Shake My Hand (Meet Mr. Blues)," released by MGM in July 1958 (MGM #K12690).

In 1957, Turner starred in one of Arlene Francis' "Home" episodes, a NBC homestory TV show. The format, filmed in Turner's hometown Haleyville, featured interviews and railroad songs performed by Turner and his daughter Dixie. The episode aired on March 25, 1957.

No more records appeared afterwards by Turner and Billboard ceased mentioning him or his shows. It seems, he turned his back on the music business, limiting his career to the 1950s. He nevertheless enjoyed fishing as well as painting and several of his artworks turned up in the Montgomery area. The themes for his drawings were mostly taken from the Alabama countryside, inlcuding old barns, creeks, and the cotton fields. Nevertheless, Turner also continued singing and entertained his family with his musical abilities, as his nephew Raymond Harris rememberred: "I miss listening to him pick his guitar and sing. He was a gifted entertainer. Had a great sense of humor."

The passing date of Jack Turner has been a black spot for long. I first suspected his death date was August 22, 1997, as I found a cemetery entry of a certain H. Turner, Jr., born on June 9, 1921 (heed!), buried in Montgomery, Alabama. I had also correspondance with a distant relative of Turner's but she couldn't remember his death date. Further contact with them fizzled out, unfortunately. But thanks to another visitor of this blog, it is determined Turned died in 1993, at Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery. His birth name was Will Jack Turner.

Recommended reading:
Jack Turner "The Singing River Boy" by Xavier Maire 

Our friend Bob O'Brien supplied us with a string of Jack Turner recordings, which can be downloaded here: Jack Turner

Monday, April 2, 2018

Billy Bailey on CMC

Billy Bailey and the Country Drifters - Return from Viet Nam (CMC 1014), 1973

Here we have a Vietnam war era song, as there were so many back then. However, to my knowledge, it's the first war era themed song on this blog. The armed truce between the United States and North Vietnam came into existence in January 1973, so this record was a pretty up-to-date political comment.

Billy Bailey may have been the singer's real name or not, we do not know. If there's anyone out there who knew him, please leave a comment and delight us with his story. His band, the "Country Drifters," remain as obscure as the vocalist. Nevetheless, I sense a connection with another CMC record, as the Country Dirfters appear also on this record here (different singer, though). 

Read more on CMC Records:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Willie Gregg on Stop


Willie Gregg - The Girls in Milwaukee (Stop ST 1532), 1971

I stumbled across a fifth disc by Willie Gregg, a singer that has caught my attention since I first heard his superb version of "If You Want to Be My Woman" four years ago. Information is scarce and the bits that I have can be accessed in previous posts about him.

The disc couples "You Fool," already the third version of this song recorded by Gregg, and "The Girls in Milwaukee," composed by Nashville songwriter Larry Kingston. Both songs were released by Stop Records out of Nashville in 1971. The release took place at a time when Stop was taken over by producer Tommy Hill, who previously had been vice president of the label. Stop was originally founded by steel guitarist Pete Drake in 1966, whose brother Jack produed this disc. Recording circumstances are not documented but it very well could be both songs were recorded in Nashville with Pete Drake on steel.

Here is the amended Willie Gregg discography:

Kay-Bar Dane KBD-044: Willie Gregg and the Velvetones - You Fool / I'll Find You (1966/67)
Ringo 2001: Willie Gregg - You Fool / How Long (poss. ca. 1968)
Bridge-Way 1003: Willie Gregg - Rebel / A Heart Afraid to Break (1968)
Waterflow 702: Willie Gregg and the Country Kings - She's No Good / If You Want to Be My Woman (1969)
Stop ST 1532: Willie Gregg - You Fool / The Girls in Milwaukee (1971)

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