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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Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the Street Where Blues Were Born...

Many people will recognize the title "Home of the Blues" as a Johnny Cash song, which reached the Country charts in 1958 and was also performed by JoaquĆ­n Phoenix in the Cash biopic "Walk the Line." Lesser known is the story of a label called Home of the Blues Records - "On the Street Where Blues Were Born".

Ruben Cherry operated a record shop on 107 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The shop had all kinds of records, ranging from Country to Rhythm and Blues, from Jazz and Popular. The Beale Street in Memphis was known as the hot bed for rural Blues and urban Rhythm and Blues with its many juke joints and bars. Cherry's shop was active as early as 1946 and was still open in the 1960s. The "Home of the Blues" shop was also Johnny Cash's favorite spot when he bought new records and it is not surprising that his song "Home of the Blues" traced back to this shop.

In 1959, Ruben Cherry founded his own label, entitled Home of the Blues Records, which he operated from the back of his record shop. The first known release was by R&B singer Roy Brown coupling "Don't Break My Heart" b/w "A Man with the Blues" from 1960. There may have been earlier releases but they are still unknown to me. One might be surprised of the great amount of famous Rhythm and Blues artists in the label's catalog. Apart from Roy Brown's singles, Cherry also recorded Willie Mitchell (who also worked as a producer for HOTB), Willie Cobbs, and the 5 Royals. In fact, the 5 Royals probably gave the label the one single nearest to a hit. Their "Not Going to Cry" b/w "Take Me with You Baby" was picked up by Vee-Jay and ABC-Paramount for national distribution. The group had several top hits for Apollo in the early 1950s but found no success at HOTB. Billy Lee Riley recorded for the label, too. His "Flip, Flop, and Fly" b/w "Teenage Letter" appeared in 1961.

None of the singles released by Cherry on his label achieved national success. I guess Home of the Blues went out of business in 1962 or 1963, leaving behind much more releases than many other local Memphis labels would do.

The 5 Royals - I Got to Know (1960)
Home of the Blues 112

You can see a nearly complete discography at GlobalDogProductions. Howdy at his 45 blog has also two songs by Larry Birdsong on Home of the Blues. See here and here.


Anonymous said...

you mentinned "take me with you baby" form the five royals,i love this tune,i think it's one of the better production of this label

Anonymous said...

The label's address was 107 Beale St., Memphis - that's probably why the earliest known release is numbered 107. I don't think 100-106ever existed.

jdogg said...

Ruben Cherry owned the store, but the CEO of the label was listed as one Celia G. Hodge. Writers' credits on some of the 5 Royales releases attribute the songwriting to one "Celia G. Camp", undoubtedly the same person. Celia Hodge appears in Memphis city directories of that era as the president of the Southern Amusement Company, a jukebox firm. I was told by someone that "Camp" had been the name of her first husband, and that he had been a gangster. I could never prove that, but the address of Home of the Blues in those days was something like 635 Madison Avenue, if I recall correctly. This was in the same block as Sam Phillips Recording Service, and a firm called "Camp Electric", and the Camp name seems a little more than coincidence. But by 1963, she had evidently divorced Mr. Camp and married Warren Hodge, who was managing a teenage singing star who recorded for First Records, a subsidiary of Home of the Blues. The girl's parents ended up suing Hodge and his wife Celia in 1963, and this may have occasioned the label's closing. I have also been told that Celia Hodge was some kin to Ruben Cherry, but how they were related is unclear.

Mellow said...

Thanks for your comment, jdogg. There's a large article in an issue of American Music Magagazine in 2013 or 2014, I believe. It has the complete story of Home of the Blues, I just had no time to rewrite my article.