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.


• 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 12, 2022

Johnny Tolleson on Chance

Johnny Tolleson - You're In Love with Yourself (and Not In Love with Me) (Chance 31761), 1961

The Chance label out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, released a handful noteworthy rock'n'roll singles, among them was John Tolleson's debut on record, "Summer Love 'N Summer Kissin'" b/w "You're in Love with Yourself" (Chance 31761). Tolleson's short-lived career has remained in obscurity more or less, though being a mainstay on Fayetteville's music scene during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

Born John H. Tolleson on July 29, 1937, in Board Camp, Arkansas, a tiny place south of Fort Smith in the western region of the state, he learned to play piano through his mother when he was five years old. This started his live-long passion for music and he eventually also learned trombone and drums. When Tolleson was eight years old, the family moved to Greenwood, Mississippi. Upon finishing high school, he joined the University of Arkansas at age 17 and moved to Fayetteville.

There, he joined the Razorback Marching Band on trombone and also performed with Bob Donathan's orchestra. In 1957, when rock'n'roll had captured America, Northwest Arkansas was no exception and Tolleson moved in with the new sound. He founded his own band, John Tolleson and his Bunch, which started likely playing local gigs in Fayetteville. Soon, they must have built up a reputation as they accompanied Conway Twitty and his band on tour through Canada during 1958-1959, serving as Twitty's opening act.

Returning to Arkansas, Tolleson graduated from University with a bachelor of science in education, main emphasis music, but followed up with a bachelor in business administration, which he earned in 1961. That same year, Tolleson got the chance to release his first record. Shortly before, Phil Eagle had formed his own label, Chance Records on East Center Street in Fayetteville, and Fayetteville being a college town, the city had many talented rock'n'roll acts to offer. And many, if not all, were eager to have their own record out. The first one of them was Tolleson.

Billboard August 21, 1961

Tolleson recorded his two self-penned songs "Summer Love 'N' Summer Kissin'" b/w "You're in Love with Yourself (And Not in Love with Me"), which were released in August 1961 on Chance #31761. Even Billboard took notice of the record but as it was obvious, it did not become a national hit. Tolleson also recorded a couple of unreleased tapes for Sun Records in Memphis, which saw the light of day for the first time in 1999 on a CD of Bear Family's "That'll Flat Git It!" series.

After 1961, Tolleson moved to Mason, Ohio, where he began to work for the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company for the next 36 years. During his time with the company, he lived in Cincinnati, Chicago, and Phoenix, eventually becoming vice president of domestic sales. After his retirement in the 1990s, Tolleson returned to Fayetteville and took a job with the University of Arkansas. He died October 6, 2020, at the age of 83 years.

University of Arkansas obituary
Entry at the UARK David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History (including pictures from Tolleson's rock'n'roll days)
Echoes of the Ozarks: Taking a Chance on Fayetteville's Talent

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