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.

UPDATES

• Amended the Beau Hannon and the Mint Juleps post.
• Added Big Style #101 to Big Style Records discography.
• Added more information to the Bob Taylor post, thanks to Jimmy Hunsucker.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Jimmy Ford

Good Songs Have Come and Gone
The Story of Jimmy Ford

Jimmy Ford is not exactly a well-known name in the rockabilly and rock'n'roll community but his name appears on several reissues and original copies of his records sell for good money nowadays. Relatively less has been known about Ford himself, a fact that motivated researcher Volker Houghton and myself enough to unearth the story of this Arkansas rock'n'roller.

Although Ford's musical career took place primarily in Arkansas, he originally hailed from the state of Alabama, where he was born James F. Ford on February 15, 1937. His parents, Henry and Frances Herring Ford, were residing in Russell County, Alabama, at the time of Ford's birth. An obituary mentions that Ford joined the US Air Force and served during the Korean War, which meant he was still a teenager while enlisting, as the Korean War took place from 1950 until 1953. This could also be a mistake in the obituary and Ford instead served in Vietnam.

By the late 1950s, Ford had moved from Alabama to Arkansas and had founded a rock'n'roll group called the Sunliners. In the spring of 1959, Ford had managed to record for a local label, Foster Johnson's Stylo label in Little Rock. Johnson also operated the Dub International label, which was most famous for releasing the original version of "Lama Rama Ding Dong" by the Edsels. Ford recorded "Don't Hang Around My Anymore" and "You're Gonna Be Sorry", two self-penned rock'n'roll outings that later saw re-release on various compilations. If the Sunliners were involved in these cuts or if Ford was accompanied by session musicians, is not known. Foster Johnson put out both songs on record (Stylo #ST-2102) around March or April 1959.

Billboard Pop review April 6, 1959

Not long after Ford's debut release had hit the market, he was invited back to cut a follow up. For his next disc, Ford recorded two songs that were done in a contemporary, commercial teen sound. Ford's second record appeared in form of "We Belong (Together)" b/w "Be Mine Forever" (Stylo #2105), once again both composed by Ford. The record was released in May or June 1959 and this record seems to have sold decently as promotion copies of it can be found. Also, shortly after its release, it was also issued in Canada by Ampex Records. How they ended up on Ampex remains a secret that probably only Ford and Johnson knew.

Billboard Pop review June 1, 1959

It seems that Ford remained active as a musician but we couldn't find any hint of activity. It is probable, however, that he earned his doctorate in linguistics at Ohio State University during the early to mid 1960s. He returned to Arkansas, settling in Fayetteville, where he became a professor of foreign language at the University of Arkansas.

There was a record on the Denver, Colorado, based Esther label, by Jimmy Ford, which seems to be out of place location-wise but I am quite sure this is the same artist. Release date information escapes us sadly but the publishing rights on this disc also belonged to J & W Music, the same company that also published Ford's Stylo songs. In addition, his son was living in Denver at the time of Ford's passing, which suggests that the Ford family once lived there.

In 1967, Ford revived his recording career and recorded two of his self-written songs with a band called the Luzers, "Deathhouse Lament" and "Good Times Have Come and Gone", that saw release on MY Records (MY #2914) early that year. The A side was a haunting, folkish song with harmonica, percussion, and acoustic guitar accompaniment. MY was also located in Little Rock and was owned by Earl Fox. The label, along with its sister label E&M, were known during the decade for its garage and psychedelic rock records.

The obituary mentions that Ford "was an accomplished songwriter and musician and had written and performed for many years throughout the country" but further knowledge on his music activities escape us, unfortunately. His brother T.Y. Ford was a drummer and performed in the Prescott, Arkansas, area for years. Be aware that there were several other artists known as Jim Ford or Jimmy Ford, none of them were associated with our Jimmy Ford or at least we do not know of any connection. Ford served as the chairman of the university's linguistics department for ten years before retiring in 1998.

Ford and his wife Mary had one son and three daughters. Jimmy Ford passed away on November 27, 2008, in Fayetteville at the age of 71 years. One of his daughters once said that "You're Gonna Be Sorry" was one of his favorite songs. Recently, Volker Houghton corresponded with relatives of Ford and it seemed that we were getting closer to unearth his complete story. However, we have not received an answer from the Ford family yet.

Discography

Stylo 2102: Jimmy Ford - Don't Hang Around My Anymore / You're Gonna Be Sorry (1959)
Stylo 2105: Jimmy Ford - We Belong (Together) / Be Mine Forever (1959)
Apex (CAN) 9-76525: Jimmy Ford - We Belong (Together) / Be Mine Forever (1959)
MY 2914: Jimmy Ford and the Luzers - Deathhouse Lament / Good Times Have Come and Gone (1967)
Esther 101: Jimmy Ford - What Love Can Do / Gotta Gal

Sources
Find a Grave entry
Rockin' Country Style entry
45cat entry

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