One of the many talented musicians that orbited around the Dixieland Drifters band was Houston "Buck" Turner, who left his mark by singing on "Bongos and Uncle John", the Drifters' most popular tune. Turner also performed with Tani Allen's Tennessee Pals, leaving another mark in music history through composing "Tennessee Jive", which became later known by Bill Haley as "Real Rock Drive".
Singer and songwriter Houston Edgar "Buck" Turner, Jr., was born on April 16, 1922, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. During World War II, he served his country as an Air Force sergeant. Upon his return, Turner pursued a career in local music.
By 1950, he had built up a reputation as a talented singer in the Chattanooga area and was approached by band leader Tani Allen that year to join his band. Steel guitarist Allen had founded his own country music outfit, "The Tennessee Pals," in Memphis shortly before. He contacted Bullet Records in Nashville, hoping to secure a record deal with the independent label. Bullet agreed to record the band on condition that Allen would exchange the vocalist. Allen, who also originally hailed from Chattanooga and remembered Turner as a vocalist, brought him into the band.
Turner recorded a total of six singles with the band for Bullet from 1950 up to 1952, including their debut "Tennessee Jive," a Turner original. This song somehow came to the attention of Bill Haley, who reworked it under the title of "Real Rock Drive" in late 1952. This version saw release on Essex in early 1953 (Essex #310) without any songwriter credits. Interestingly, "Tennessee Jive" was also covered by Johnny Horton in 1953 on Mercury under its original title (Mercury #70010-X45).
Jim Bulleit, owner of Bullet, offered Turner to record solo for the label but Turner turned down the invitation. Tani Allen, however, encouraged Turner to continue his solo career. It is likely that Turner continued to perform around Chattanooga and by 1958, he teamed up with local singer and label owner Gene Woods, with whom he penned "How Big a Fool Can You Be" and performed with Woods' band, the Tune Twisters.
In 1960, he began working with the Dixieland Drifters, a group also from Chattanooga. They had recorded earlier for Sun, Murray Nash's B.B. Records and Dub, when Herbert "Happy" Schleif and Peanut Faircloth (also member of the Dixieland Drifters) released two singles of the band on their Hap record label. One was "You Won't Fall in Love" b/w "Will Angels Have Sweethearts" in 1960, the other "Bongos and Uncle John" b/w "How Big a Fool."
|Members of the Dixieland Drifters, ca. July 1961 (left to right):
Howell Culpepper, poss. Charlie Evans, Houston Turner,
and Norman Blake
"Bongos and Uncle John" was published by Murray Nash's Ashna Music and recorded at his studio in Nashville. He re-released the song on his Do-Ra-Me label twice and it must have been a good seller for the band, since it was picked up by 20th Century Fox in the US and Sparton in Canada. Turner also recorded solo for Do-Ra-Me and for Big Country. He also did personal appearances with his own band, the Town and Country Boys, which also included Norman Blake. The Dixieland Drifters disbanded around 1963 and Turner died in 1999.
Today's selection "Buenos Noches" was written by a team of blind songwriters. The married couple Floyd and Mary Biggs and session pianist Hargus "Pig" Robbins also penned a couple of other songs for Murray Nash. Turner recorded it probably at Murray Nash's Sound of Nashville studio and released in July/August 1963. It also saw release in Canada on Sparton.
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