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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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Frankie Miller & Dottie Sills on Starday

Frankie Miller and Dottie Sills - Out of Bounds (Starday 45-525), 1960

Frankie Miller is a well-known name in country music history compared to his duet partner on this disc, Dottie Sills. Miller had recorded for Columbia and the small Cowtown Hoedown label, before he signed with Don Pierce's Starday label and hit the charts immidiately with "Black Land Farmer". He had two more hits and in 1960, Starday paired Miller with Dottie Sills, a young country music singer who was performing with the Carlisles at that time.

In fact, Doris "Dottie" Sills was a member of Bill Carlisle's band since approximately late 1954, when she replaced Betty Amos, who went solo from that point on. Sills recorded her first sides with the group in January 1955 in Nashville as a vocalist and guitarist, along with Bill Carlisle (vocals/guitar) and Sherman "Honey Bear" Collins (lead guitar). "Rusty Old Halo", "Bargain Day, Half Off", and "It's Bedtime, Bill" were recorded that day and all three songs saw release on Mercury. By the late 1950s, the band's recording sessions waned but it is probable that Sills remained busy with the group's personal and radio appearances, among their regular performances at the Grand Ole Opry.


Dottie Sills with Bill Carlisle and the Carlisles
From "Bill Carlisle's Souvenir Songs - WSM Grand Ole Opry"

Sills' sister Bobbi also performed with the Carlisles (possibly as a replacement for Dottie) and at the end of the decade, it seems that Dottie Sills pursued a solo career in country music. Billboard mentions her a few times as part of Opry package shows, including appearances in the Caribbeans.

Billboard December 14, 1959

Billboard April 11, 1960

The Carlisles recorded their last session on September 8, 1960, with an all-star cast of Nashville studio musicians, including Hank Garland and Grady Martin on guitars, Floyd Cramer on piano, Joe Zinkan on bass, and Buddy Harman on drums. The two recordings from that session, "John Came Home" and "Skin' Im Quick" were released on Columbia.

Billboard November 21, 1960
A couple of months earlier, in June 1960, Sills had been paired with Starday's Frankie Miller to record a session of duet songs. Miller remembered the session when asked about it recently (March 2022) by Starday expert Nate Gibson but couldn't come up with any details on neither the event nor Sills: "Frankie thought that perhaps Pete Drake had arranged the session, though Dottie didn't seem to appear on any other Starday sessions. Around the same time, in the late '60s, Dottie also did a duet with singer-songwriter Don Gibson." Nate Gibson continues: "I talked with Frankie Miller today and he recalled that Dottie was a real pretty gal with a great singing voice, and that she was frequently appearing with Jumpin' Bill Carlisle, but didn't recall much more about her. Frankie thought that perhaps she was Bill's niece or cousin, though Bill frequently told audiences that his bandmates were family members when that wasn't true."

The session included musicians Jerry Shook on lead guitar, Pete Drake on steel guitar, Junior Huskey on bass, Hargus Robbins on piano, Jimmy Riddle on harmonica, and Buddy Harman on drums. Five songs were cut that day and "Out of Bounds" as well as "Two Lips Away" were paired for single release on Starday (the disc also saw release in Canada on Sparton) in November 1960. Chart success eluded both songs, however, and the remaining recordings were released various times on different Starday budget LPs.

The song "Out of Bounds (Again)" had a bit of life on its own as the song originally hailed from the cataloge of Fort Worth record entrepreneur Major Bill Smith, composed by Howard Hausey and Bob Graves. Hausey released his own version of the song, and it is a very good version to be honest, in 1962 on Smash under his performing alias "Howard Crockett". Interestingly, on this release composer credits went to Hausey and a certain Whitton instead of Bob Graves.

But back to Dottie Sills. Although she had no hit record on its own, she was obviously considered to be a capable duet partner and it is said that she recorded a session with country music star Don Gibson but details escape us, unfortunately. It seems these recordings never turned up. Just as mysterious as this session was Sills' whole career. Nobody knows where she came from or where she went to. So if anyone out there has information on Dottie Sills, please share them with us and solve one of country music's mysteries!



Sources
• 45cat entries for Frankie Miller and the Carlisles
• Depicted Billboard articles
• Praguefrank's Country Discographies entries for Frankie Miller and the Carlisles
• Marion Brown: "The Encyclopedia of Popular Music" (University of Michigan), 2006, page 189
• Thanks to Bernd Wirth and Nate Gibson as well as Frankie Miller for their assistance

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

YouTube video of The Carlisles "Something Different" has a comment by Bobbi Sills son, but unfortunately the little searching I did from there did not lead to anymore info either on Bobbi or Dottie.

Mellow said...

Thanks for your comment. So did you try to contact him via YouTube but he didn't reply?