Sunday, November 29, 2009

Range Riders on Vocalion test (UPDATE)

How Come You Do Me Like You Do? Take 3 (Vocalion test)

Little information has survived about the Range Riders, a Hot Springs/Shreveport band who broadcast in both cities in the late 1930s. Their lone session was recorded by Art Satherley for Vocalion in Hot Springs on March 1, 1937. Of the ten titles recorded by the group, six were released, including Take One of "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?" This Gene Austin pop oldie is given a satisfying, semi-western swing treatment, though if their intention was to be a "western" band then The Range Riders are slightly behind the times by not including an electric steel guitar, and adding a tuba as well as a string bass. The instrumentation and repertoire is more pop than western so the name "Range Riders" seems like a bit of an anomaly. There is a breezy, lost-in-time feeling to their session; sales were probably abysmal, and Satherley no doubt responded to inquiries with a token "don't call us, we'll call you" send-off.

This is a test pressing of the previously unknown and unheard Take Three of "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?" This take was rejected because the fiddler is off-key during the introduction, but otherwise, it's a strong take, with a more aggressive bass solo than the issued version. It's unusual to hear slapped bass from this period.

The Range Riders. Click to enlarge.

Precisely who was in this group at this time has not been definitively established; however, some possible names have survived. A poor quality, undated newspaper clipping from The Shreveport Times exists in the archives of LSU-Shreveport and is reproduced here. The band is ID'd as: Harold Roberts (bass), Fred Selders (fiddle), Ruth Byles (vocals), H.C. Wilkerson (fiddle), Larry Nola (clarinet/sax), and Lewis Lamb (guitar). There is no tubist or pianist in the photo, as is heard on the record.

Tony Russell's Country Music Records lists Harold "Little Willie" Roberts on bass, and vocals on "How Come..." This appears to be the same person better known as "Pee Wee" Roberts, who led a western swing band on KTBS in Hot Springs during the 1940s (see the George Ogg interview). Russell lists as possible Jelly Green on fiddle and Spec Harrison on clarinet/alto sax, but both instruments could be also played by the men ID'd in the photo. Lewis Lamb, who does not sing on the released masters (but may play guitar), is presumably the same person who recorded for Freedom in Houston around 1951. Of the rest, nothing is known.

Jazz Oracle has reissued the entire Range Riders session on their highly recommended CD devoted to the Hot Springs sessions, Arkansas Shout. More info can be found here.

UPDATE: Kevin Coffey has pointed out that someone calls out "Play it Mr. Spec" during the clarinet solo on this take, which confirms that Spec Harrison is the clarinetist on this session.

Thanks to Chris Brown, and Mike Roseberry at LSUS.