Billboard reported in its March 20, 1961, that United Southern Artists was founded on March 13, 1961, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. With Burton W. LeMaster as the president, the company served both as a record label and as a management firm for musicians and groups. A&R director became Carl Friend. United Southern Artists used the RCA custom pressing service for producing their records from 1961 on.
The first known release of the label was Leo Castleberry's "Teenage Blues" / "Come Back to Me" (United Southern 5-101), which was picked up by United Southern Artists from another Arkansas based label called Spa Records. Castleberry recorded the songs in 1960 for Spa and the single maybe showed up the signs of success, so that United Southern Artists sensed a hit and took over the record.
But the first success reportedly came with Hank Milton's release on the label. Milton, still a mystery to me, got some airplay on bigger radio stations KCUL (Forth Worth, TX), KDXE (Little Rock, AR) and KWAM (Memphis, TN) with "Gatling Gun" / "As You Were" according to Billboard. However, no Hank Milton appeared on the national charts. The record must have went nowhere. Milton, a member of the Big D Jamboree out of Dallas on KRLD, had another release on Wildcat ("Drop Me Gently" / "Where Do Dreams Go", Wildcat 0062).
Memphis rockabilly star Eddie Bond also had one release on United Southern Artists in 1961 featuring "This Ole Heart of Mine" b/w "Second Chance", a country-rockabilly mix. Born in Memphis in 1933, Bond influenced by country stars Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff. He began to perform locally as a teenager and after his stint in the Navy, he founded the Stompers (featuring a young Reggie Young on guitar). After auditions at Sun and Meteor, Bond found himself at Ekko and later at Mecury, where he recorded a slew of classic rockabilly songs. After his contract wasn't renewed, he cut singles for a a variety of small Tennessee and Arkansas labels.
Another well-known act among rockabilly collectors are the Pacers, who recorded one single for United Southern Artists. The Pacers were the backing band of Sunny Burgess, who recorded on Sun from 1956 to 1959. Their recordings of such songs as "We Wanna Boogie", "Red Headed Woman" or "Sadie's Back in Town" are now rockabilly classics. After Burgess' last session, the band departed from him and Burgess went with Conway Twitty on tour. The Pacers went on the road on their own with a new front man and recorded "New Wildwood Flower" / "The Pace" for United Southern Artists in 1961. They went on to cut records for Razorback, another Arkansas based label, and recently reunited with Sonny Burgess. Today, Burgess and the Original Pacers continue to tour the worldwide rockabilly circuit with lots of success.
United Southern Artists 115 was by a rockabilly group called the Thunderbirds. Nothing is known about this band, but it appears probaly that it was the same band that recorded "Flying Saucers" / "A Whole Lot of Shakin'" for the obscure Buffalo label out of Monette, Arkansas. Both songs were covers of Billy Lee Riley's "Flying Saucer Rock & Roll" and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On". The Thunderbirds on United Southern Artists also recorded some unissued demos of rock & roll classics ("Blue Moon of Kentucky", "Ubangi Stomp"), but their single was comprised of the two originals "T Bird Rock" / "End Over End", two up-tempo instrumentals. Both groups may be the same, but there's no proof for this theory because virtually no information exists on the Thunderbirds.
Although United Southern artists had some promising artists under contract and it seemed that this new label out of Arkansas could "make it" in the record business, nothing happened at the end. The label disappeared from the scene soon after these recordings were made.
Additions are highly appreciated!
5-101 – Leo Castleberry: Teenage Blues / Come Back to Me (1960)
5-102 – Ray Mitcham: Initiative / Long Lonely Nights
5-103 – Steve Stephens: Pizza Pete / How It Used to Be
5-104 – Uniques: Renegade / Malaguena
5-105 – Hank Milton: Gatling Gun / As You Were
5-106 – Eddie Bond: This Ole Heart of Mine / Second Chance (1960)
5-107 – Dave's Travelers: Traveler's Rock / Movin'
5-108 – Beau-Hannon: It’s All Over / Brainstorm (1961)
5-109 – Dean Purkiss: Chivato / Alone Without Love (1961)
5-109 – Lloyd Marley: Fade with the Tide / Ooh Poo Pah Doo
5-110 – Jimmy Forrest: Night Train / Bolo Blues
5-111 – Earl Grace: Christmas Is Just Around the Corner / Santa Town (1961)
5-112 – Pacers: New Wildwood Flower / The Pace (1961)
5-113 – Ray Mitchum - Stood Up Again / I Can't See (1961)
5-114 – Geannie Flowers: There Oughta Be a Law / Lock, Stock and Barrel
5-115 – Thunderbirds: T Bird Rock / End Over End (1962)
5-116 – Ricky Durham: Raining in My Heart / Mr. Were-Wolf
5-117 – Galaxies: It’s All Over Now / Be Mine
5-119 – Russ Elmore - Black Gold / Sittin' at the Table
5-120 – Dot Beck: Ed Went a-Courtin' / When Is Tomorrow
5-121 – Crystal Mountain Boys: Homin' Heart / A-Hangin' on the Vine
5-125 – Ramblers: Riverside Twist / Lonely Senorita
5-130 – Pauline Boyette: Parade of Broken Hearts / Footloose
5-131 – Walter Archie: The Joke's on You / ?
5-133 – Lance Roberts: It Was Fun While It Lasted / ?
5-134 – Bob Land: Down in the Valley / Lost Soul
6-101 – Bob Millsap: Daugie Daddy / Peggy DeCastro: The Ring From Her Finger
6-103 – Dale Fox & the Gene Lowery Singers - It Can't Be True / Call Me Again
Download a set of United Southern Artists recordings
1. Thunderbirds - A Whole Lot of Shakin'
2. Thunderbirds - Ubangi Stomp
3. Thunderbirds - T Bird Rock
4. Eddie Bond - This Ole Heart of Mine
Sources: Various Billboard issues, Rockin' Country Style, special thanks to Johan L, Rocky Lane, DL, Ken Clee of the "Directory of American 45 RPM Records", Franck, & Bob for providing discography details