• Added info on Jimmy Ford, thanks to Volker Houghton. • Extended and corrected the post on Happy Harold Thaxton (long overdue), thanks to everyone who sent in memories and information! • Added information to the Jim Murray post, provided by Mike Doyle, Dennis Rogers, and Marty Scarbrough. • Expanded the information on Charlie Dial found in the Little Shoe post.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Bill Huskey

Bill Huskey
The Unknown Songwriter from Arkansas

While digging deeper and deeper into Arkansas' country and rock'n'roll music past, I ran across a songwriter by the name of Bill Huskey. While the name didn't catch my interest in the first instance, it finally did and in the end, I found out that Huskey was also responsible for some great rock'n'roll recordings on Billy Lee Riley's Rita Records.

Claudis "Bill" Huskey was born on April 1, 1932, to Leslie Ray and Verna Lee Huskey in Caraway, Arkansas, a small town in the northeastern region of the state that was so rich of musical talent. He spent some time serving in the US Army and by the late 1950s, had made his way to Memphis, Tennessee.

By late 1959, Huskey had connected with Billy Lee Riley, who had recently founded his own record label in Memphis, Rita Records. The debut release was reserved for Huskey, who recorded his rock'n'roll composition "Rockin' at the Zoo" along with "Funny Paper People" for the label. Released in December 1959 on Rita #1001, the single failed to stimulate any national interest.

During the same time, he also hung around Sun Studio and managed to pitch some songs to the label's executives. Huskey's "The Good Guy Always Wins" was given to another young singer from Georgia, Lance Roberts. The result was released in October 1960 on Sun. Singers like Billy Garner and Billy Lee Riley also recorded his composition during this time.

At the same time, Huskey's own next release came out on Rita. Credited to "Tommy Hawk", the label issued "Chief Sitting Bull", another rock'n'roll performance, and "I Thought About Living" on the other side. The latter was an answer song to Bob Luman's hit "Let's Think About Living" that soon captured the attention of the original's publisher Acuff-Rose. Threatened with legal action, Rita withdrew the release and put Huskey's earlier recording of "Rockin' at the Zoo" on the flip with "Chief Sitting Bull" remaining. 

In 1962, Huskey worked with Quinton Claunch and his Bingo label (forerunner of his much more successful Goldwax record label). "Big Bad John the Twister" b/w "Pop-Eye Time" were released in the spring of 1962 on Bingo #111 as by another pseudonym, "Jon Kennedy".

Catalog of Copyright Entries 1962

Catalog of Copyright Entries 1962
Copyright entry for Huskey's Bingo single

None of Huskey's singles did noteworthy well so far and it seems that he very much quit recording after his Bingo release. He returned to Arkansas and founded his own record label Jakebil Records in Newport in 1969. The debut release was given to Huskey's daughter Kenni (sometimes also spelled Kenny), who went on to greater fame than her father. Huskey also released a duet with his second wife Julia (who also recorded solo) on Jakebil, "Good Old Country Song" b/w "I Wouldn't Give You the Time of Day" (#1003/4).

Later that year, Huskey moved his family and business to Anaheim, California, where daughter Kenny continued to build her career. She was eventually discovered by country star Buck Owens and recorded for such labels as Capitol and Warner Brothers.

While Huskey also spent some time in Nashville, he eventually returned to Newport, Arkansas, where he died on April 7, 2021, at the age of 89 years. His wife Julia had already passed away.

No comments: