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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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Billy Eldridge on Vulco

Billy Eldridge - It's Over (Vulco VL1508), 1961

Billy Eldridge was a member of the Fireballs, a local rock'n'roll band from Fort Pierce, Florida. They were recording for Vulco Records, a small label operated by Irvin Vulgamore, who also owned a small record shop that had opened in early 1956. The Fireballs were founded in 1958 or earlier and were led by Pat Richmond. Members included Jim King, Pat Richmond (vocals), Vern Strickland (lead guitar), Billy Eldridge (vocals/guitar), Jim Sanders (guitar), Leo Law (piano), and Jac Morris (drums). Discovered by Vulgamore while playing a club date in 1958, they were asked by Vulgamore to record for him. At Criteria Studios in Miami, the band cut a staple of songs, including the famous "Let's Go Baby." Written by band member Jim King, the song wasn't more than an idea when they decided to record it during the session. On that same session, the Fireballs backed up local DJ Doug Dickens with Eldridge on lead guitar. Dickens recorded "Raw Deal" and "Lucy's Graveside."

"Don't Stop the Rockin'" / "Honey Bee Baby" by the Fireballs with Pat Richmond on vocals made up both the label's and the band's first release (Vulco #1500) in 1958. It was followed by "Let's Go Baby" with vocals by Billy Eldridge (Vulco #1501) in early 1959. The songs were published by Henry Stone's Sherlyn-Pent publishing company and "Let's Go Baby" was received well locally. Stone was possibly responsible for bringing it to the attention of the United Artists label, which issued the single nationally on its subsidiary Unart.

Billy Eldridge and the Fireballs built up quite a reputation locally, performing at clubs and bars around Fort Pierce. They also appeared several times on Uncle Martin Wales' "Sunset Ranch" and Happy Harold's shows, both originated from the Miami-Dade area.

After another single ("Take My Love" / "Half a Heart", Vulco #1506), they recorded today's pick in 1961. While "There's a Reason" was a typical ballad from those days, the flip "It's Over" is an haunting performance by the band, although it is considered to be inferior to "Let's Go Baby" by collectors. The disc was arranged and produced by Fireballs member Vern Strickland and both songs were Eldridge originals. One more record appeared ("Sneaky" / "Maria Elena", Vulco #1510) but soon after, the Fireballs probably disbanded.

Eldridge then embarked on a solo career. He joined up with another Fort Pierce resident, Gary Stewart, and they began writing songs. After they managed to get their composition ""Poor Red Georgia Dirt" recorded by Stonewall Jackson, the duo moved to Nashville, where they successfully settled as a songwriting duo. Eldridge recorded for Kapp in 1969 but he and Stewart returned to Fort Pierce in the early 1970s. Stewart took another approach in 1973 and went on to national fame as a country singer. Eldridge continued to play at bars on weekends in Fort Pierce.

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