Friday, December 17, 2010
Homer Clemons and his Texas Swingbillies - Operation Blues / From the Start and to the End (Swing 1001/2)
"From the Start and to the End"
Most people are by now familiar with Homer Clemons' "Operation Blues" -- it was singled out by Nick Tosches in his influential and ground-breaking book Country: The Biggest Music in America, has been reissued many times, and can be purchased for 99 cents at iTunes. Even the original Blue Bonnet and Modern label 78s are pretty easy to find. Few would deny that "Operation Blues" is a classic example of a risque blues reinterpreted and filtered through what is now generally but vaguely described as "Texas Swing."
Prior to 1995, however, nobody knew that an earlier and, in my mind, far superior version of "Operation Blues" existed on the Swing label out of Paris, Texas. This was the same label that gave us Roy Lee Brown's superb "Ice Man Song" (heard here), and several rare blues outings bought from Gold Star. Swing, as we now know, was part of a family of labels operated by Jimmy Mercer in Paris from 1946 to 1950, which included Royalty, Cajun Classics, Hill-Billy Hit Parade, Western Magic, All-Spice, and probably others. (The article below mentions a "Down Beat" label also, which has not been found.) Mercer also did custom pressings and, remarkably, bootlegged the Freedom label (which I'll address in a future post). Out of all of these, Swing is the rarest and most coveted -- the "Black Patti" of Texas labels.
In his early days, Mercer was pressing on highly fragile, reclaimed shellac -- he ground up used 78s, cooked them, dried them, and pressed new records out of them, just as Bill Quinn had done. In light of this, combined with the fact that distribution was probably limited to Dallas and Fort Worth, it's a miracle that even one copy exists today of Swing 1001/2 (or the next release, also by Clemons). I've never seen this record, either in a collection or for sale. The above picture is a "historic recreation" courtesy of Photoshop. The only known copy resides safely put away in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, probably thanks to the efforts of the late Bob Pinson. It was resting there in quiet anonymity, and might have remained forgotten, but fortunately Kevin Coffey visited in 1995 and immediately grasped its significance. Thanks to him and Bob we have these sound files.
And the music? Sure, it's poorly recorded and pressed, but the brilliance of the musicians cuts through the noise loud and clear. What immediately impresses the modern listener is the complete absence of fiddle and steel guitar -- instead the 'front line' is comprised of lead guitar, a blues-drenched clarinet, and an extremely jazz minded pianist whose crazy solo couldn't have been bettered by Art Tatum. This is the real thing. So much of what is thought of and celebrated as "Texas Swing" is in fact a banal, toned-down compromise, because some record company yahoo was sitting behind behind the booth saying, "Oh no, you can't play those fancy chords, this is hillbilly music after all. What will the people in Waxahatchie think?" Perhaps the far more tame flipside was intended for the "hillbilly" market. God only knows who "Operation Blues" was intended for. It might have sold some around Dallas in early 1947, but was soon eclipsed by the Blue Bonnet version. It's humbling to think something this good could just completely disappear without a trace.
Why did Clemons re-record these songs a few months later with a completely different and much smaller band? We don't know.
Clemons himself is a mystery; while many Dallas musicians remembered "Operation Blues," few could recall anything about the man who recorded it (twice). Johnny Gimble knew and worked with him in 1954, and remembered Clemons being seriously injured in a car crash around that year. He might be the "Homer Zerle Clemons" who died in Van Zandt County in 1961.
Below: Announcement of Swing Records in the Paris News, November 24, 1946, erroneously describing Swing as "the only record pressing business in Texas today" (Gulf/Gold Star pre-dated it by over a year). Click to enlarge. Courtesy Martha Evans, Lamar County Genealogy Society.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Woody Bridges - Old Old Man / Rich Man's Servant (Royce 1638/39)
"Old Old Man"
"Rich Man's Servant (Poor Man's Wife)"
Woody Bridges has been a part of the Beaumont/Port Arthur scene since the early '50s -- he sang with Cliff Bruner, Deacon Anderson, Troy Passmore, and Billy Carter there -- but this 1963 outing was his first single. It was made at Gold Star with Bob Davis (electric mandolin), Herbie Treece (guitar), Wiley Barkdull (piano), Phil Parr (bass), and unknown steel guitar and drums.Both sides are good and deserved a wider recognition than the Royce label could provide.
A few years later Woody made a couple of records for Jack Rhodes that came out on Jack's Pathfinder label. "I really liked Jack Rhodes," Woody says today. "He helped (my wife) Grace and me a lot. I was offered a Captiol recording contract back then. But I would have had to go on the road with the Ray Price group for 273 days a year. Jack talked me out of it, saying he liked me too much to see me destroy my life. We had three kids at the time. Jack said I would lose my family and it would destroy me because I cared too much. I didn't like it at the time, but later in life I was very glad he did that."
Woody confirms that Royce was owned by Ray Jackson (the guy who wrote "Who Shot Sam" among others) and Jim Reddell. Jerry Robinson's Royce single was posted here.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Cliff Bruner with Pee Wee Whitewing and the Others Brothers - Welcome to the Club / Faded Love (Preview 1008)
"Welcome to the Club"
Cliff Bruner's return to the recording studio after a 21 year absence didn't make any headlines. It was 1971, and the country music world wasn't too concerned with an aging 56-year-old's rather pedestrian attempt to sound contemporary. Bruner had been an insurance salesman ever since the bottom fell out of the Beaumont/Port Arthur dance scene in the early '50s but had never stopped playing fiddle or working occasional gigs. His brilliant fiddle playing had helped make him semi-famous, yet that instrument is nowhere to be found on this side -- a typical example of what was wrong with country music during these years.
"Welcome to the Club" is credited to Jimmie Davis, someone Cliff always spoke of admiringly (he had played with Davis in the pre-war days). Preview is a Jay Miller label.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Homer Zeke Clemons - Dallas Limited / Oklahoma Bound (Imperial 8091)
"Oklahoma Bound" ("Mean Mama Blues")
Homer Clemons is remembered today for his version of Georgia Tom Dorsey's "(Terrible) Operation Blues," a record celebrated by Nick Tosches in his book Country. The original version on Swing was not reissued until the late 1990s, but the Blue Bonnet/Modern version was pressed no less than four times -- twice in 1947, again in the early '50s, then finally in the late '50s (as "Hank Brown"). Given this much attention, it's tempting to believe the record was something of a hit. We should be careful in assessing how much of a "hit" it was, however, as a record had to only sell 1,000 copies to be considered a regional "hit." There were no cover versions; then again, something that risque would not have been touched by the mainstream "hillbilly" A&R men of the day, even if it had sold very well.
Far less known are Clemons' four excellent records on Imperial, all from 1950. "Dallas Limited" rearranges the old Jimmie Davis/Milton Brown "Davis Limited/Brownie Special" with Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" riff. "Oklahoma Bound" is an update of Moon Mullican's "Mean Mama Blues," also from the pre-war days. Clemons sings and plays bass, but the guitar, steel, and drums are unknown. Feeling no pain, Clemons also helps himself to the writer's credits on both sides.
Below: "Zeke" Clemons and his Texas Swingbillies at the Round-Up Club No. 2, Dallas, c. 1950. From left: Dub Dickerson, Clemons, Joe Rea, Tiger Echols, Red Mullins, and Ken Lasater. Photo courtesy Kevin Coffey Collection. Click to enlarge.
Despite a lengthy presence on the Dallas/North Texas music scene -- ranging probably from the 1930s to the mid-1950s -- almost no biographical information has survived on Homer "Zeke" Clemons. He must have been playing somewhere during the pre-war days, but where we don't know. He spent some time in the military during WWII. In 1944, he played bass for awhile in Jimmie Davis's gubernatorial band alongside Mullican, Joe Shelton, and Johnny Gimble. In late 1946 or early 1947, he made two records for the Paris-based Swing label, then (with a much smaller band) switched to Blue Bonnet. At a certain point he began acquiring jukeboxes in the Dallas area, and is mentioned in this capacity in the Dallas Morning News clipping shown below. After the Imperial sessions, he continued to play and occasionally was recruited for session work, e.g. Lee Bell on RCA-Victor. He was playing again with Gimble when he was involved in a serious car crash around 1954. This apparently ended his career.
Clemons, as far as I know, never appeared on the Big "D" Jamboree. He was probably considered too old-fashioned, or his songs too risque (or both), for that family program. Like Leon Chappelear, Clemons apparently never could really adapt to post-war, Nashville-based country music. His heart remained in the free and easy western swing of the '30s.
It is not known exactly when Clemons was born, or when he died. However, a Homer Zerle Clemons, born in Van Zandt County (near Dallas) in 1913 died in 1961. Is this our man? I don't know, but a 1961 death would help explain his near-total eclipse from the memories of Dallas musicians.
Below: Homer Clemons in the Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1950.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Above: Rex Griffin performing at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas during a KRLD broadcast c. 1942. From the collection of the Dallas Public Library. Click to enlarge.
Rex Griffin - Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby (World transcription 15)
"Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby"
While Rex Griffin is mainly remembered today for turning the '20s Tin Pan Alley pop tune "Lovesick Blues" into a country song (his 1939 version being the direct inspiration for Hank Williams' huge hit), it's remarkable that his authorship of "Everybody's Tryin' to be My Baby" remains virtually unknown and legally uncredited. Rex first recorded it as a Jimmie Rodgers-esque tune in New Orleans in 1936; this more "modern" version dates from a 1944 World transcription. The song floated around the Southern honky-tonks for many years, where Carl Perkins eventually heard it, rewrote some of the lyrics, and then recorded it for Sun, crediting himself. That alone wasn't so bad -- Perkins probably had no idea who the actual author was -- but after the Beatles revived it in 1964, the song became a lucrative copyright indeed. Yet nobody ever challenged Perkins' authorship, perhaps because they mistakenly assumed that Griffin's version was itself a hokum blues rewrite (it isn't). It wouldn't have helped Griffin by then, anyway. He had died, a broke alcoholic, in a New Orleans charity hospital in 1958.
Griffin worked all over the South, but he lived in Dallas off and on throughout the 1940s and early '50s. He was recruited to the city by KRLD announcer Gus Foster for the Texas Round-Up, the forerunner of the Big D Jamboree. Few photos of Griffin exist, so I was pleased to find this fabulous image of him performing at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas in the early 1940s. (Thanks to the Dallas Public Library.)
Bear Family released a 3-CD box set of Rex Griffin's complete recordings in 1996.
Posted by AB at 12:49 PM
Friday, October 22, 2010
Curtis Kirk (with) Red Hayes' Fiddles - I Can't Take It With Me (When I Leave This World) / The Little Things You Do (Abbott 126)
"I Can't Take It With Me (When I Leave This World)"
"The Little Things You Do"
Jack Rhodes and Red Hayes strike again. "I Can't Take It With Me," audibly recorded at the same late 1952 KWKH Studio session that also produced Freddie Frank's "12,000 Texas Longhorns," (heard here) pre-dates "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young" by over two years and perhaps served to inspire it. Besides expressing a universal truth about money and death, Rhodes apparently wasn't exaggerating very much here in advocating a "live only for sex" philosophy. In his mid-40s at the time, he seems to have discovered late in life the bizarre effect that song has on the wiring of the female mind, an incantation that dissolves inhibitions regardless if you're Frank Sinatra or a three-chord hillbilly from East Texas. He then went "middle-age crazy" with any number of female companions. "Jack was obsessed with women," Al Petty told me. "There were a lot of death threats."
Alas, Jack lazily rhymes "girl" with "world" too many times for this lyric to really go anywhere, and Curtis doesn't clearly enunciate the song's most memorable couplet (in the final verse):
My pop, he used to say you're wasting money on a crowd
Did you ever hear of pockets in a cold, black shroud?
All of the surviving Rhodes/Kirk collaborations are keepers, though. Besides the two Abbott releases, there was the 1951 acetate of "Down Texas Way" and the 1954 acetate of "Easy Livin'".
Posted by AB at 7:46 PM
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Morris Mills and The Rithumakers - I'd Like to Slip Around / Don't Play This Record (Macy's 127)
"I'd Like to Slip Around"
While RCA-Victor extolled their new seven inch, 45 rpm vinylite format as "the sensible, modern, inexpensive way to enjoy recorded music" in the April 2, 1949 issue of Billboard, many more years passed before most labels adapted to this "sensible" new size. It is easy to understand why. Jukeboxes were the lifeblood of the record industry. There were no 45 rpm jukeboxes in 1949; only slowly would they emerge and, eventually, supplant the 78 rpm jukebox.
Thus, this release on the Macy's label -- the only one known on 45 -- was quite a novelty when it came out around June, 1950. Probably intended purely as a promotional gimmick, it could not have sold much, as it could only have been played on a new RCA 45 turntable at the time. (It was also released as a 78.) It is a "Gold Star process" pressing, and that, too, is something of a surprise. The ever-inventive Bill Quinn quickly figured out a way to master and press records on the new format, but this went unnoticed, as there hardly was any demand for 45s among the local Houston labels until the mid-fifties. By then Quinn was out of the pressing business. A Gold Star repress of "Jole Blon" and a few releases on the Humming Bird label are the only other local 45s I know of from this period.
Morris Mills was a singer from Lufkin who worked a lot in Houston and Beaumont during these years. The backing group on this "answer" record to "Slippin' Around" includes most of Jerry Irby's band: Deacon Evans on steel, Jack Kennedy on piano, and Tony Sepolio on fiddle. Macy's was riding high in the summer of 1950, as the Billboard ad below illustrates, but the regional hits would dry up by late the following year.
Below: Billboard ad, July 15, 1950. Click to enlarge.
Posted by AB at 12:55 PM
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Jerry Robinson - Paper Moon / Here Is Your Heart (Royce 1640)
Carl Mann's 1959 hit revival of Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa" may have inspired this little-known take on the Harold Arlen standard. About Jerry Robinson nothing is known, but I suspect that the uncredited backing group is Link Davis and the Cajuns. It certainly sounds like the inimitable Walter "Buck" Henson on bass, who was Davis's main bassist.
Posted by AB at 8:50 PM
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Peck Touchton - Let Me Catch My Breath / flipside by George Jones (Starday 160)
"Let Me Catch My Breath"
Starday's failure to develop Raleigh "Peck" Touchton must be considered one of that label's greatest blunders. This, his only release for the label, was accidentally issued under George Jones's name and never corrected.
By mid-1954, Jack Starns had left Beaumont and moved to Houston. He was still managing the Western Cherokees, and continued to be the driving force behind Starday, but his influence on the label was waning. Pappy Daily and Don Pierce were now asserting themselves, deciding who would be on the label, and this didn't bode well for artists that Jack had signed, like Peck.
"Jack Starns came to some place we were playing," Touchton said in an interview. "We hit it off pretty good. I signed contracts at his house. At the time, he lived in Houston. Man, I thought we were fixing to take off ... old Jack inviting me into his house to sign a contract. A week or two weeks later, we went to Gold Star and cut four sides." Peck used his own band, The Sunset Wranglers, on the session: Doug Myers (fiddle), Hoyt Skidmore (steel guitar), Herman McCoy (guitar), Carlton Wilcox (bass). According to Peck, Eddie Noack was also present at the studio to cut his own session. (This would have been his "Take It Away, Lucky" debut session for Starday.) "He was as drunk as a Cooter Brown," Peck remembered.
After the session, Starns loaded a bunch of master tapes in his car to drive them to Pierce in California, but a "wreck on the highway" apparently caused tapes and paperwork to get separated from their boxes. Pierce, under the impression that Jones was the singer on "Let Me Catch My Breath," mistakenly issued the record under his name with an actual Jones master, "Let Him Know," on the flipside.
Pierce wrote to Touchton on October 13, 1954, apologizing for the error. "It seems we have had all sorts of bad luck ... when Jack Starns got in an auto accident, his letter to me concerning you was lost, and that's how the mistake occurred. I pressed 700 records of 'Let Me Catch Your Breath' but the label showed the artist as George Jones so we had to scrap the records and take a loss."
Unbeknownst to Peck, Don Pierce didn't actually "scrap the records." Most or all of the 700 copies were probably sent to disc jockeys. A Toyota-like "recall" would have been too expensive, and ineffectual anyway. If he did anything, Pierce probably just sent a letter out instructing DJs to not play "Let Me Catch My Breath." Surviving copies exist on both 45 and 78.
Pierce then tried to get Peck on a bigger label, partially because his song "Tonite I'm Getting Married" had just been recorded by Jack Turner for RCA-Victor. Months went by, more letters were sent, but ultimately no major label contract was forthcoming, and by that time Starday was no longer interested, either. Touchton signed with the much smaller Sarg label the following year.
Starday 160 label courtesy Al Turner collection.
Below: Don Pierce's letter to Touchton, October 13, 1954. Click to enlarge.
Posted by AB at 11:41 AM
Friday, September 17, 2010
Dixie Rogers - I Will Miss You / What Then Will You Say (Caprock 101)
"I Will Miss You"
"What Then Will You Say"
The Caprock label from Big Spring does not seem to have produced a bad record during its two-year existence, and it surely deserved to have continued for several years more. Hank Harral, Jimmy Simpson, Hoyle Nix, Durwood Haddock, and Ace Ball were among the artists who put in a session for the label, named after the Caprock Escarpment in West Texas/New Mexico. Dixie Rogers deserves a hearing as well with this fine single. The unusually informative sleeve to this copy, perhaps scribbled by a disc jockey, tells us that Dixie, age 17, was a senior at Snyder High School at the time, and her phone number was 3-4554. The sleeve is datestamped March 14, 1958, so the record was probably released around that time. Unfortunately, the sleeve does not tell us who the excellent steel guitarist is, but I'll wager a guess that it's Weldon Myrick.
Below: Dixie Rogers.
Posted by AB at 6:58 PM
Monday, September 13, 2010
K. Shirey with Skeeter Jasper's Southerners - Swingin' Down / Tonight (Bunny 102)
Skeeter Jasper was a fiddler from the Southeast Texas area who appeared on Nolan Bush and his Southern Playboys' Bluebird session in 1941. He must have suffered some sort of head trauma which made time freeze, for this mid-1950s release could easily be mistaken for a Bluebird or Vocalion field recording from before the war.
Above: K. Shirey.
Nothing at all is known about the vocalist, K. Shirey, but the Southerners probably included Beal Ruff (clarinet), Neal Ruff (tenor banjo), and possibly Jay Webber (steel) and Frank Lukowski (drums). "Swingin' Down" is a memorable western swing romp in which the singer, rather than "sing the blues," sounds positively elated that his wife has left him, giving him an excellent excuse to party at The Cabaret Club in Bandera.
Below: The Cabaret Club, "Cow Boys' and Cow Girls' Rendevous" in Bandera. Site of K. Shirey's party in "Swingin' Down."
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Idaho Bill Westfall (Bennie Hess) Singing With His Snake River Boys - If You Can't Get Five Take Two / Treasured Memories (Pearl 707)
"If You Can't Get Five Take Two"
One of the great things about Bennie Hess is that, no matter how much of his music you have, there is always more out there; and he is almost never boring. He would sometimes record under colorful pseudonyms, also, as he does here as "Idaho Bill Westfall." Why record under another name? Why not? Perhaps Bennie, a hard-core Jimmie Rodgers disciple, thought this record would have been too wacky and unorthodox for his country fans. It is, as far as I know, his only session to feature trumpet and kazoo solos. What a shame that no film footage (and few photos) survive of this remarkable character.
Pearl was a Houston label, despite the "Hollywood" address, and this was presumably recorded in that city in 1957. "If You Can't Get Five" was an old hokum blues, first done by Peggy Johnson (1934), then Georgia White (1936), and finally Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies (March 1936). Hess presumably was influenced by Milton's version. Never a western swinger, Bennie nonetheless manages to pull off a fine performance here that seems to pay homage not just to Milton Brown but '30s western swing in general.
Posted by AB at 8:07 PM
Monday, September 6, 2010
Bill Tutt - Selling What She Used to Give Away / New Kelly Waltz (Gilt-Edge 5079)
"Selling What She Used to Give Away"
No one knows why Bill Tutt thought it would be a good idea to dust off this Buddy Jones "classic" from 1938 during the Eisenhower era, when you could have probably been arrested for singing or playing something this suggestive in public. Tutt not only revived the song but took pains to make it an outright homage to what we now call "pre-war western swing," with a decidedly Bob Dunn/Buster Jones styled single-string steel solo from "Curley" and "hot" fiddling from an unknown musician. "Wanda" solos on piano and there is pretty tough lead guitar from "Gail." Who were these people? I don't know. Billboard called the record "kinda cute."
Below: Billboard, December 13, 1952.
Posted by AB at 6:37 PM
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Harry Choates and His Fiddle - Cajun Hop / Harry Choates Special (Gold Star 1326/1330)
"Harry Choates Special"
Harry Choates's third release for Gold Star, which hit the jukeboxes in the summer of 1947, finally gave an accurate representation of how he and his band sounded in night clubs. "Cajun Hop" was merely an updated version of Leo Soileau's "Les Blues de Port Arthur," but "Harry Choates Special" broke from the "Jole Blon" mold entirely to deliver an excellent western swing dance/jam tune. Choates had been playing things like this since his earliest days as a musician. But years after Choates's death, when Pappy Daily was reissuing Choates's Gold Star masters, he deliberately avoided both these sides. Daily crafted a posthumous ideal of Choates as a "pure" Cajun folk artist that, for the most part, successfully deluded most listeners and writers for many years. I addressed and, I hope, permanently smashed this myth in my liner notes to the Choates Bear Family CD Devil in the Bayou (2002).
The "Cajun Hop" session is unique because Bill Quinn actually typed up a session sheet which the entire band signed, and, miraculously, this sheet actually survived and is now in the University of Texas archives. This is one of only two session sheets to survive for any Gold Star session, by anyone. Quinn's motivation was apparently to prove that he had paid the band for their services in case one of them tried to sue him later (as Jimmie Foster would do later that year for his non-credit on "Jole Blon"), though since he's only paying them $1.00 each, the contract is purely a formality. Either that, or the Melody Boys worked very cheap.
"Harry Choates Special" is not listed on the contract and is presumed to date from a later session. Quinn, in his usual eccentric fashion, issued 1326-A backed with 1330, and 1326-B ("Fa-De-Do Stomp") backed with 1331 ("Rubber Dolly"). This contract is reproduced for the first time below, as well as two rare Choates photos whose condition was too poor to use for the Bear Family release.
Below: The Choates Gold Star session sheet for the "Cajun Hop" session, dated (Wednesday), February 19, 1947. Click to enlarge.
Below: Harry Choates and Band in the Corpus Christi, Tx. area (possibly Rob's Place in Robstown), 1947. Left to right: unknown drums, Pee Wee Lyons (steel guitar), unknown saxophone, probably Wally Bryant, probably B.C. Jennings, Harry Choates, Red Fabacher.
Below: Harry Choates and Band, possibly in San Antonio, 1948. Left to right: Amos Comeaux (drums), Junior Keelan (bass), Choates, Johnnie Manuel (piano), Pee Wee Lyons (steel), unknown (guitar?).
Posted by AB at 4:18 PM
Friday, July 23, 2010
Excerpts from Jimmy Simpson, The Oilfield Boy, Sings 'Alcan Run' And Other Alaska Songs (Sourdough LP 101)
Most discerning music fans have heard a few of Jimmy Simpson's '50s singles ("I'm a High Toned Papa," "Blue As I Can Be," "Honky-Tonk Spree," etc.) but his debut album has been unjustly overlooked -- to my knowledge, it has never been reissued, or even bootlegged. This is a shame. Recorded in 1967 in Tacoma, Washington, with Jimmy Patton's band, Jimmy Simpson Sings Alcan Run and Other Alaska Songs is almost completely comprised of original tunes about the 49th State, and as a folkloric artifact is more satisfying than most "folk" and country albums of that decade.
In the LP, Jimmy pours on the local color, sings in the same Southern drawl as his early '50s records, and creates an altogether seductive picture of the carefree life as it was lived in "The Last Frontier." In "Sourdough Shack," Jimmy prospects 20 years for gold, strikes it rich one day, but ultimately realizes that living 600 miles from nowhere in the Alaskan mountains trumps a rich man's neurotic life in the concrete jungle:
I searched for days and weeks on end
No maps, just dogs for friends
I faced death in the strangest of ways
The Lord surely helped me to win
I want to go back to my sourdough shack
Where the rivers and lakes have no names
Six hundred miles from the railroad track
Where memories overcome pain
Jimmy's romance with a local Chinook Indian girl ("Si-Wash Gal") contains what just may be the single greatest two lines of poetry ever written:
I'm tired of Seattle, and conventionalities
The things they call "society" makes the blood within me freeze
According to this webpage, "Siwash" is now considered to be a derogatory term for Chinook Indians, an inference I'm sure Jimmy Simpson was completely unaware of back in the '60s.
Though the album takes its romantic liberties (for one thing, Jimmy lived in Anchorage, not 600 miles from civilization), for the most part its tales of gold mining and oil drilling are drawn from experience. In a 2005 interview, I asked Jimmy how he got into gold mining. His reply:
"I always kind of liked the idea of gold mining. I met a real nice guy up in Kotzebue (Alaska) by the name of Art Fields. I went up there to race snow machines. Art is part Irish, part Eskimo, and part Russian. Quite a mixture. He’s a character. Anyway, he asked me if I’d ever consider going mining. I said, “Sure.” So, the next summer he called me and said he had some ground up there, and we could work it. He wanted to be partners with me. We mined up there for three years, north of Nome, Alaska. We had to fly everything in there. But that was my first adventure, and we never looked back."
Jimmy still mines in Alaska and Canada. "It’s a good life out there," he told me, adding (with a line almost straight out of this LP): "You don’t have to answer to many folks."
Below: Jimmy Simpson in 2005.
By null at 2010-07-23
Sunday, July 18, 2010
"Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)"
"Motel Time" (Not Recommended For Radio Broadcast)
From our 21st Century vantage point, the source for the phenomenal appeal that Eddie Miller's "Release Me" enjoyed in the fifties and sixties is, shall we say, elusive. The song was a huge country hit for Jimmie Heap, Ray Price, and Kitty Wells in 1953-54, and its appeal to a country audience at that time is somewhat understandable -- it is a divorce song but one that never bluntly mentions that once-taboo subject, instead substituting the neutral and metaphoric descriptor "release" in its place. What is less decipherable is the song's appeal to non-country audiences in the sixties, first as a huge R&B hit for Esther Phillips in 1962, then as an international pop smash for Arnie Dorsey, aka Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967. Eddie Miller's original 1949 version for 4-Star ranks alongside Red Hayes' version of "A Satisfied Mind" as among the least known of all 'original versions' of popular songs.
Country music folklore has it that Miller wrote "Release Me" in 1946, tried to get everybody to record it without success, finally recording it himself as an afterthought three years later. Like most "country music folklore," this fable is a transparent example of bovine scatology. Miller co-wrote "Release Me" with a guitarist in his band, Bobby Gene Yount, in 1949, probably inspired by the current Floyd Tillman/Jimmy Wakely hit, "Slippin' Around." As Yount told Kevin Coffey, "We had been down to Pasadena, where 4-Star Records and Publishing companies were located. Coming home we got to talking about divorce. I think it was Eddie who said, 'Wouldn't it be easy to just sign a release form.' We stopped off at the club where we were working to unload our instruments, and then we got to messing around. I started doodling around with my guitar and Eddie started singing the words 'release me.' In about 45 minutes to an hour...and a few beers later...we had written 'Release Me' -- at least the basic form of it. (Guitarist) Dub Williams was working with us, so we gave him one-third of the song."
Eddie Miller and his Oklahomans in Los Angeles, c. 1950. Miller is at the mike, Bobby Gene Yount is to his right, Teddy Anderson is on piano, Bob Hines is on steel guitar, and Bob Morris is possibly the second guitarist.
When the record was released, the writer's credits read Miller-Williams-Gene (sic). Yount's middle name was printed instead of his last. 4-Star owner Bill McCall usually added his "W.S. Stevenson" pseudo to the credits of songs that he thought had potential, but McCall judged "Release Me" too ordinary to bother with. Sales of Miller's version bore out this judgement. Three years would lapse before Jimmie Heap remembered the song, and recorded a new version at one of his Capitol sessions.
More interesting to 21st Century ears is the outrageous flipside, "Motel Time." Miller had sang that "to live together is a sin" in "Release Me," but "sinning" doesn't seem to be a problem for Miller in "Motel Time." The song seems related to "Release Me," in a perverse way: once the divorce went through, one could expect a freer, happier life devoted to guilt-free one-night stands in motels.
After "Release Me" became a huge hit in 1954, Eddie Miller started a second career as a tireless promoter ... of Eddie Miller. Reimagining himself as a great songwriter, Miller publicized himself as the sole author of not only "Release Me" but "There She Goes" (co-written with Durwood Haddock), "Playboy" (co-written with Bob Morris), "Thanks a Lot" (co-written with Don Sessions), and many more, as the late sixties Country Song Round-Up puff-piece shown below demonstrates. Miller boasted of writing 800 songs, which sounds impressive until one realizes that about 750 of those are songs like "Annie, the She-Buckaroo" and "Patty Cake Man." And that quite a lot of them are co-written, anyway. Eventually he helped found the Academy of Country Music, still going strong today, and became a born-again Christian before his death in 1977. In his later years, he had re-recorded a spiritual version of "Release Me" with new lyrics, and thanked God that no one remembered or ever recorded "Motel Time" again.
"Release Me" had an afterlife that no one could have known in 1954. No one except the remarkable Bill McCall, who decided that his name should be on the song after all, and bought out Yount and Williams' share of the song in 1957. When the song became a huge pop hit in 1967, the writer's credit read Miller-Stevenson.
4-Star labels courtesy Al Turner Collection.
Below: Eddie Miller in Country Song Round-Up. Click to enlarge.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Durwood Haddock c. 1965.
Anyone who has studied Texas country music closely has run across a Durwood Haddock record at one time or another. Born August 16, 1934, in Fannin County, Texas, Durwood was incubated in the early fifties scene in Sherman and Denison (about 70 miles north of Dallas, close to the Oklahoma border), an area previously patrolled by the likes of Eddie Miller and Tiny Colbert. But Durwood spent a significant portion of his career in West Texas, working the honky-tonks in Odessa and beyond during the fifties and sixties, and DJ'ing at KERB in Kermit (west of Odessa) and elsewhere.
Durwood started recording for 4-Star in 1954 (as "Durwood Dailey"), and put in stops with Caprock, D, Eagle, Cimarron, United Artists, and more before moving to Nashville in 1969. (My favorite of his records is "East Dallas Dagger" / "What Difference Does It Make" on D.) He is best known for co-writing "There She Goes," the Carl Smith hit in 1955. During his career, he crossed paths with a remarkable number of people, and his lucid insights and recollections of Tiny Colbert, Eddie Miller, Jack Rhodes, Pappy Daily, Fred Crawford, the Miller Brothers, Eddie Noack, and Freddie Frank, among others, should be of great interest to anyone remotely into Texas country music history.
Durwood's take on 4-Star Records' owner William A. McCall is particularly striking. While seemingly ever other musician who recorded for 4-Star would have us believe that McCall was second only to Adolf Hitler in the Evil category, Durwood gives a more level-headed and realistic assessment, stating that "he never did anything to me. He paid me. He sent me a check if he ever owed me anything. It was never very much, because, Good Lord, how much money could it be on a Rocky Bill Ford and Carl Smith record back then?" Such a view is a refreshing contrast to the typical, childish rhetoric of "these big mean men took advantage of poor, innocent me" that most musicians advance, often merely as a transparent defense mechanism to make up for the fact that their records didn't sell.
Durwood is still recording. His latest release is HANKS A LOT (a tribute to Hank Williams, Snow, Locklin, et al.). More information can be found on this, and a lot more, at: www.DurwoodHaddock.com
This interview was conducted on September 3, 2006, with a few follow-up questions via e-mail in 2010. Numbers in the text refer to footnotes at the bottom of the page.
AB: Tell me how “East Dallas Dagger” came about, both the song and the session, and how you got connected to Pappy Daily and D Records.
I was living in West Texas when I recorded the song in Dallas. When I worked for Tiny Colbert in Denison, Texas…he was always saying, “It’s sharper than an East Dallas Special” -- about anything that might impress him or anything he thought was unusual. And I asked, “What in the world is an East Dallas Special?” He said, “It’s a knife they use in that part of Dallas.” I said, “Oh, really? A switch blade?” He said, “Yeah.” For some reason I just stored that information away. Later, there were some story songs that came out around 1957 and 58…I don’t remember exactly what was out. If memory serves, Stonewall Jackson had out “Waterloo” and The Kingston Trio had “Tom Dooley.” Anyway, I decided to write a story song and decided to use “Dagger,” thinking that if I used the word “Special” it might be mistaken for a “train song.” I finally wrote “East Dallas Dagger,” and gave Tiny a third of it. And then I called Jack Rhodes about it, and sent it to him. He said he was going to Dallas to record some people, and if I wanted to be on the session, he said, “come on down”. So I did. It was Sellers Studio in Dallas where we recorded. Jack produced the session and I gave him a third of the song for it. There were two people on the session that I remember, the others I don’t. Robin Hood Brian played piano and Bob Millsap played guitar. (1) That was the first time I met Bob Millsap. We later became friends and associates in the music biz in Nashville, until his death in 2003. Some of the best records I ever made were produced by Bob Millsap.
Anyway, that’s how “East Dalllas Dagger” came about. I wrote the song while I was on vacation in Denison visiting my mother. Jack, I guess, couldn’t find anyone except D Records to take the recording and Pappy Daily put it out in 1959. It never did do a whole lot, but I guess you could call it a “minor classic” at least I’ve heard a few call it that. I’ve always been amazed how many ask me about that record over the years, especially historians like yourself.
AB: Well, it’s kind of unique to hear a traditional type of murder ballad from that era, the late fifties.
Well, it’s a pretty salty record. (Laughter) I think if it had been promoted and distributed it might have done a little better. Who knows? But really, I was just put in on the tail end of the session at Sellers. If you listen to it close or maybe you won’t have to listen too close, you’ll know that they never did get the chords exactly right. (Laughter) As I recall I was not feeling well that day either, and I always felt my performance was lackluster… and that’s being generous.
AB: So it was Jack Rhodes who sent it to Daily?
Yeah. He sent it to Pappy Daily.
Durwood Haddock and Band, c.1959, Grand Falls, Tx. From left: Bob Hudnall, Guitar; Durwood, Fiddle; Bill Karnes, Drums; Rustie Seay, Bass; O'Neil Beck, Steel. Courtesy Durwood Haddock.
AB: There’s a photo of you with Pappy Daily. What was the occasion?
I first met Pappy in person, in Nashville during the DJ Convention in ’61. I was working at radio station KERB then. Me and Vaughn Brinson got together and created a manager-artist type thing; of course he was the manager and also owner of the radio station, as well. He was kind of struck with the music bug, too, I guess. Anyway, I had talked with Pappy several times by phone prior to recording my previous D singles. When I had finished one, I’d just call him and say, “Well, I’ve cut another thing I’d like you to listen to and see if you want to release it.” And he’d say, “Naw, kid, just send it on down here and I’ll put it out.”
I had talked with Pappy Daily several times by phone prior to recording my previous D singles. When I had finished one, I’d just call him and say, “Well, I’ve cut another thing I’d like you to listen to and see if you want to release it.” And he’d say, “Naw, kid, just send it on down here and I’ll put it out.”
Later I wrote a tune called “Big Night at My House” with Vaughn. We recorded the song at Clifford Herring’s Studios in Fort Worth and a novelty tune called “Funny Farm” for the B side. Frankly, I was never really happy with the sound but ‘course, that’s always the case after the fact. Even so, I cut two or three more things at Herring’s. Any way Vaughn was supposed to take the session to Nashville and see if we could get a deal there, instead for reasons I didn’t know or can’t remember, he stopped off in Houston and played the session for Pappy Daily. Pappy apparently loved it because “Big Night at My House,” wound up on United Artists Records. Pappy later told me when I met him in Nashville that “Big Night At My House” was a great song. At that time he had an arrangement of some kind with Art Talmadge A&R for United Artists.
Ad from the Music Reporter magazine, November 10, 1962.
While we were in Nashville (for the DJ Convention in 1961), Vaughn and me also talked to Charlie Lamb with The Music Reporter magazine, in which we had previously ran several advertisements promoting “Big Night at My House.” He said, “You guys need to make the rounds at some radio stations on your way back to Texas, get some pictures … send ‘em back to me and I’ll publish them in the magazine.” So, on the way back from the DJ convention, Vaughn got his camera out and that’s what we did. The first stop was KDXE in Little Rock, Arkansas, then H.W. Daily Distributors in Houston, where Pappy posed with me in his office while Vaughn snapped the picture. At Charlie’s suggestion we visited several radio stations as well, and that’s why you see me with Country Johnny Mathis, Arlie Duff, Nat Stuckey and so on, which appeared in Charlie Lamb’s Music Reporter Magazine (December 1, 1962).
AB: You mentioned that you first met Jack Rhodes with Eddie Miller at Rhodes’s motel in Mineola. What was that occasion?
Here I may have to lay a little groundwork to get to the occasion, forgive me if I ramble too much …me and Eddie and Tiny Colbert had been working together out in West Texas. I first went to work with Tiny in 1954. We worked around Denison, Sherman area, working American Legion Halls, VFWs, honky-tonks, school shows…anything Tiny could find. Tiny had already worked in West Texas at Jim Dow’s Danceland in Odessa. In February of 1954, Jim called Tiny and asked him if he wanted to come back and bring a couple of musicians with him. Tiny wanted to know if I wanted to go, and I said, “I can hardly wait. Tell me when.” So that year in February of 1954 we headed out for West Texas and guy by the name of Bob Geesling -- also from Denison -- who played guitar and sang, went with us. After a few weeks Bob kind of flanged out and went back to Denison. Then a guy named Red Waltman took Bob’s place. Me and Tiny stayed on for a short time after that, but it just didn’t work out with Walden so eventually Tiny and me got let out at Danceland and Waltman brought somebody in that he apparently liked better. Okay, back to meeting Jack Rhodes…Shortly before Tiny and I lost our gig at Danceland, Eddie Miller showed up on Tiny’s doorstep in Odessa. Tiny and Eddie had worked with each other out of Denison, Texas in the mid to late forties. Anyway, eventually, we found a gig at Weaver’s Inn in Kermit 44 miles west of Odessa. Me, Eddie, Tiny and Larry Eudy, who doubled on fiddle and drums...
When we went out there (to Odessa) in 1954 we worked seven nights a week and a matinee on Sunday. You couldn’t do that here (in Denison). You’d be doing good to get ‘em (the audience) out on a Saturday night for free. (Laughter)
AB: There seems to have been a lot of guys from East and North Texas who made that pilgrimage out to Midland/Odessa, and I guess it was mainly…
Money! It was money, oil…you couldn’t make any money in this part of the world (Denison). Musicians can’t make a living here. In the early ‘50s, the oil boom was a lot bigger than it is now. It kind of petered out in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, but when we went out there in 1954 we worked seven nights a week and a matinee on Sunday. Tiny later told me when he first went to Odessa he worked seven nights a week, and a matinee every afternoon. You couldn’t do that here. You’d be doing good to get ‘em (the audience) out on a Saturday night for free. (Laughter) So, that was a good lick for me, I tell you. It was just what I was looking for. You know, you just couldn’t make any money in this part of the world playing music.
AB: I have Tiny Colbert’s “Juvenile Love” on 4-Star. Are you playing on that?
Yeah..Red Hayes and me played fiddles. Tiny is playing piano, Al Petty is playing steel, Leon Hayes, Red’s brother, is playing bass, and Eddie Miller’s playing guitar. And that’s basically the same bunch that was playing on my session in 1954: “There She Goes,” “I Don’t Wanta,” “Who’s Gonna Know,” and “Girl Nobody Claims.” But Bobby Garrett, who was working with Hank Thompson at the time, was playing steel.
After that, we moved to Lamesa. Tiny had “Juvenile Love” and I believe “Heap Mad Injun”, and Eddie had “Pull Down the Night Shades” and “Hidin Out” (also on 4-Star), all of which I played fiddle on. And so, they got with (promoter) Joe Treadway, who was also a salesman for KJBC Radio in Midland, and a deal was made that he would book them. Since they had records out they decided, “Hey, we can start touring.” Well, you know how that goes. (Laughter) It didn’t work out too well. But anyway, we went to Lamesa and started doing a live radio show on KPET and Joe booked us around the area in places like Anson, Texas, Bronco, New Mexico, Midland, Texas…or wherever . Tiny, Eddie and Joe had posters printed up billed as “The 4 Star Caravan featuring Eddie Miller, and Tiny Colbert.” Unfortunately, the 4 Star Caravan turned out to be a debacle, so Tiny and Eddie decided to disband and go back to Denison. I thought, “Oh, Lordy, of all places to go, why there?” And we even went back to KRRV. Tiny and Eddie tried to do the same thing they had done in the late forties all over again when they were Eddie Miller, Tiny Colbert & the Oklahomans. Well, they’d forgotten I suppose, there’s TV now. You know, people wouldn’t go out much back when they had nothing to do…now that they had TV, they weren’t going anywhere. (Laughter) So, we didn’t do any good, and Eddie and Tiny had a falling out. Eddie left and wound up with Leon Hayes in Dallas.
Eddie Miller (second from left) with Dub Williams (guitar) and Leo Fender at the Fender factory, c. 1950.
Now, back to meeting Jack Rhodes… finally. Eddie and Leon Hayes left Dallas and ended up down at Jack Rhodes’ Trail 80 Courts in Mineola. I was still in Denison playing fiddle for Tiny. Anyway one afternoon, Eddie calls me at the radio station (KRRV) and wants me to come down to Mineola and listen to some songs. After discussing the event with Jack in later years, I think my visit might have been an effort for Eddie to put on the dog a little and impress Jack, since he was living in his motel. According to Jack, it didn’t work. Anyway I drove down one morning, and that’s when I met Jack Rhodes who, showing little interest, played and sang a few songs for me. At one time or the other he must have had every picker and songwriter hanging out in his motel including Eddie. He’d give ‘em a place to stay, and they in turn would have to do a few things for him, I never knew exactly what. I only know what my arrangement was with him, but it didn’t include staying in his motel. Freddie Frank is one that comes to mind…I used to work with Freddie out in West Texas, me and him and Bill Myrick and Leon Hayes.
At one time or the other Jack Rhodes must have had every picker and songwriter hanging out in his motel, including Eddie Miller.
AB: Freddie was a great singer.
Yeah, he was. But the trouble with Freddie was Freddie. (Laughter) He just didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Jack tried to do a lot of things for him, but Freddie…I don’t know what it was…he was a great talent though and a pretty good fiddle player. We played twin fiddles a time or two when we were both playing with Bill Myrick and his Rainbow Riders in Odessa around 1955. (2)
AB: I guess Freddie’s best remembered for “This Old Rig.” Did that get a lot of airplay?
Oh, yeah. I think he put that on Slim Smith’s label, Permian, derived from the Permian Basin in which Odessa was located. Slim owned the Hawaiian Club there where I think Freddie was playing at the time. Yeah, he did pretty well with that, around that area, you know. It was a local hit.
AB: Like a lot of people, Freddie had pretty bitter memories of Jack Rhodes.
I don’t know why that is. I know Jack tried to help Freddie and Jack had a few bitter memories of Freddie, too. I don’t know what his arrangement was with Freddie…Jack told me about a deal he had for Capitol Records, but Freddie didn’t hit it off with Ken Nelson during the meeting, and the deal went down the tubes. There are a few more details that Jack told me about, but I won’t go into it now. (3)
But, I never had any problems with Jack, or Freddie either for that matter... Of course, my idea about the business is: if you don’t want to do something then don’t say you will. But if you go ahead and give it a shot, and you know what the deal is, why do you want to gripe about it if things don’t turn out the way you thought they would? But a lot of people are not like that. Jack’s deal with me was, “I’ll get the song published for a third” (i.e., one-third ownership of the song). And I said, “OK, let’s do it,” and I did it a few times and I have no regrets. As far as writing a song together…we never did.
That’s just like “There She Goes.” Me and Eddie Miller did, however, write the song together in Lamesa, Texas. Well, when I went to sign a contract with 4-Star publishing company, I saw the name W.S. Stevenson on the agreement, along with mine and Eddie’s. I had no idea who that was, even after William A. McCall said, “OK boys, here’s the way it is: I’ll have to have part of the song in case another artist wants to cut it, and if they do I’ll give him my part.” Of course, that never happened, you know, at least not as far as I was concerned, and I had no idea what he was talking about. I was about as sharp as a wet rag, what did I know? But I’ll tell you one thing, if he’d said, “I want it all,” I probably would a-given it to him. Because, like every aspiring wanta-be, I wanted that record out. Eddie, however knew what the deal was…he’d already had “W.S. Stevenson” on several of his songs including “Release Me,” but never told me or anybody else. I don’t think Tiny even knew. Believe it or not, I had no idea until about 1969 or’70, when I saw a version of “Release Me” reviewed in Nashville’s Record World, that there were four names on it: Eddie Miller, Dub Williams, Robert Yount & W.S. Stevenson – who, I later learned from BMI, was William A. McCall. All those years I thought Eddie was the sole writer.
Durwood Haddock in Denison in the early 1950s. Courtesy Durwood Haddock.
That guy McCall…everybody puts him down. It wasn’t his problem that I didn’t know anything about the intricate details of song writer’s and publisher’s contracts. And, after all, I didn’t have to sign the agreement but since Eddie Miller did, I felt like it was alright. McCall’s ethics may have been questionable but he was right legally. He told us what he wanted, but we didn’t have to go along with it if you didn’t want to, but a lot of ‘em did and griped about it later.
AB: His reputation has been completely destroyed over the years. Eddie Noack called him “the biggest crook that ever lived.”
Well, I don’t know why he would think that. I thought Noack was working with Pappy Daily most of the time. But, I’m sure he had his reasons, or thought he did.
That guy McCall…everybody puts him down. It wasn’t his problem that I didn’t know anything about the intricate details of song writer’s and publisher’s contracts. He told us what he wanted, but we didn’t have to go along with it if you didn’t want to, but a lot of ‘em did and griped about it later.
AB: Eddie Noack had a few early releases on 4-Star.
Did he? I remember when he had “Have Blues – Will Travel,” a top 20 chart in 1958 on D. I always liked the sound. I never heard any of his 4 Star releases.
I met Eddie Noack when I was living in Nashville and he was working for Pappy Daily’s Glad Music. Eddie was kind of a dour type of person, you know. I liked him alright. We lifted a few beers together from time to time and shot the bull, but I never had any business dealings with him. I never heard him say anything about William A. McCall, good or bad. I know he had a top 5 chart in 1956 with Hank Snow, titled “These Hands” as well as other songs recorded by several major artists, but if McCall had anything to do with them, I never knew.
AB: Noack was kind of a pessimist?
Yeah...I never knew much about Eddie. I don’t know what his dealings with McCall could’ve been, and how it could’ve been that bad, but as I said, I’m sure he had his reasons. I do know, however, he was quite popular in Europe and toured over there frequently. (4)
AB: I was just putting that quote out there as being typical of what people have said about Bill McCall.
Yeah, nobody ever has anything good to say about him. As I said, he never did anything to me. He paid me. He sent me a check if he ever owed me anything. It was never very much, because, Good Lord, how much money could it be on a Rocky Bill Ford and Carl Smith record back then? A penny split three ways on a country record in the fifties? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. I know on one statement, I was paid one cent each for “There She Goes” sheet music with Carl Smith’s picture on the front. I was paid for 197 copies. I still have the statement signed by William A McCall. I wouldn’t be buying a Cadillac that year.
AB: So maybe Rhodes and McCall were pretty upfront with people, but after the records came out with their names on them, this kind of resentment set in.
Yeah, you’re right about that. But I’ll say again, nobody had to agree to any of it before the fact. I don’t know why people are like that. Ego, I guess, and thinking their songs did better than they really did. (Music publisher) Troy Martin, in the fifties, made a comment that makes a lot of sense: “You can go on about how great a song is all you want to, but I can tell you when a song is good. It’s when you get paid for it.” Of course he didn’t say how much.
(Music publisher) Troy Martin, in the fifties, made a comment that makes a lot of sense: “You can go on about how great a song is all you want to, but I can tell you when a song is good. It’s when you get paid for it.”
You get egos involved…and all that good stuff. I liked Eddie Miller alright, but he had an ego you’d have to be airborne to see and Tiny, had a pretty good sized one, too. I’m not completely devoid of one myself, but not to the point that I lose all my scruples.
Jack Rhodes didn’t seem to have much of an ego. He could probably best be described as a song scout. I never heard Jack say he wrote anything, but I never heard him say he didn’t either. And Jack did me a big favor once, he helped me out with BMI in 1957 without me even knowing about it. Then I was so green I didn’t even know I was supposed to be a member of BMI, and “There She Goes” had already been a hit. Without me even asking him to do it, Jack got me signed up with BMI and advised them to send me my 1955 Country Achievement Award along with a nice check and a statement advising me that W.S. Stevenson was a pseudonym for William A. McCall. That’s when I actually found out who W.S. Stevenson really was.
Jack's deal with me was: “I’ll get it published.” And he did. I don’t regret the deal. Nothing ever came of it much, but it easily could have. Just like “There She Goes.” Who knew anything was going to happen with that? Nobody did. All I knew was, I wanted to do it, and I scrounged up the money to pay for the session. I signed the contract, giving up a third, along with three other songs. These were the first songs I ever recorded, the first I ever had published and out of that session two of the songs were covered by two major artists, and one became a standard. What if I had told McCall that I didn’t want to go along with his deal?
AB: After “There She Goes” became a hit for Carl Smith, why didn’t 4-Star put out any more records on you?
I didn’t want to be on the label anymore, for one thing. I’d have to pay for the session, see. And I didn’t have the money. I felt since I had some success with “There She Goes” that McCall should pay for it, but he didn’t see it that way, I guess, and I thought I could find a label that would. Dream on. He didn’t pay for Patsy Cline’s first session, either, I heard, and I’m fairly certain he didn’t pay for the ones she had on Decca before Owen Bradley took over. But what a lot of people don’t understand about the record business -- and I didn’t at the time -- is if it’s an independent label, and you want to record, well, most likely you or somebody will have to pay for the session. However, if you record for a major label, and if you sell any records, you’re not going to get a dime until they get theirs back first, if then, since they paid upfront for your recordings. So, one way or another, you’re going to have to pay. You’re either going to have to pay upfront, or further down the line. And if your record sales don’t pay for your session with a major label, it’s likely you’re not going to be on the label very long. Sometimes that’s not the case however. Consider Patsy Cline, who had loser after loser for four years after “Walking after Midnight.” Somehow, she kept her contract with Decca. Believe it or not that was during the time she was still connected with William A. McCall. Go figure. Most any other label would have dropped her a long time ago.
Original pressing of "There She Goes" on 4-Star, 1954. Courtesy Al Turner.
AB: So McCall’s method was actually more upfront about the whole thing.
I can only speak from my experience. I signed a five year contract with McCall and also a writer’s contract. When I called him, collect by the way, and said I wanted out of my contract, he simply said okay and said, “I’m not mad at anybody and hope you aren’t either.” Now, I’m not sure if everybody had to pay up front for their sessions, like Hank Locklin, T. Texas Tyler, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose, but a lot of ‘em did -- like me, Tiny, Eddie, and Slim Willet that I know of.
AB: The Rocky Bill Ford version of “There She Goes” pre-dates Carl Smith’s. Did you have any contact with Ford? He was a barber in Houston.
My version was originally released as a single with "I Don't Wanta” on the flip. It was issued on 78 rpm (only) when the 45s came out, so you can see where that left me. Stations would only play the new configuration. Rocky Bill Ford's release came after mine, and it was issued on a 45. I never met Mr. Ford.
Eventually, I did get some recognition (for writing "There She Goes"). But there, for the longest time, I didn’t even mention the song to anybody; I didn’t even sing it on any of my gigs. I didn’t care one way or the other. I got tired of defending myself, so I just dropped it.
AB: I find it odd that you co-wrote this big hit (“There She Goes”) in 1954 but for a long time after that, no labels approached you to record for them.
Yeah, it was frustrating for me. In a way, it still is today. Not to a point where I’m going to blow my brains out or anything. But Eddie was in the forefront as the song’s writer. He’d already had “Release Me,” and everybody in the biz knew him and the song. I was just an idealistic kid still wet behind the ears. I’m like 20, 21 years old. So, when push comes to shove, if he told them he wrote it, well, they believed him. They didn’t even know about me, see. It’s kind of like the Dub Williams-Robert Yount thing. I know that record labels as well as publishing companies then were more interested in you if you had already done something. And of course, if you’re not there to say you did it… (Laughter) …somebody else will say they did. Besides, I wasn’t in the right place to get anything going. Someone asked me, “Why didn’t you and Eddie do anything together again?” I said, “To be quite frank with you, I didn’t feel comfortable working with him anymore. I may have been wrong but on the other hand I may have been right as it’s turned out. I always felt he could have been a little more considerate on my behalf, since after all, me, him and Tiny were all in it together, at least for awhile.” Eventually, however, I did get some recognition. But there, for the longest time, I didn’t even mention the song to anybody; I didn’t even sing it on any of my gigs. I didn’t care one way or the other. I got tired of defending myself, so I just dropped it. If you’re in that business, it’s always the old hyperbole: “The wheel that squeaks the loudest, gets the grease.” That’s what generally happened. I didn’t even receive writer’s credits on Carl Smith’s initial release, nor did W.S Stevenson for that matter. Only Eddie Miller was listed. That was really frustrating and a big disappointment…not sure how W.S. Stevenson felt about it. Tiny Colbert was the one that found out about it first. He was at KRRV when the record came in. He then stopped by my house and said, “Well, you better get your contract out, Carl Smith’s record just came in at the radio station, and your names not on it.” After I recovered from shock, I wrote Columbia Records, and they advised by letter that they were not informed by the publisher that there was more than one writer, and assured me they would make the correction on future pressings. SHOW BUSINESS!!!!
Eddie Miller in the 1950s. Courtesy Kevin Coffey Collection.
AB: Did you know Slim Willet?
Yeah, I knew Slim quite well. I liked him pretty good, he was alright. He was “on” all the time. He was a great salesman. On the radio, they loved him around Abilene. And of course, he had that TV show there for awhile. I worked at KCAD radio in Abilene in the mid-sixties before Slim finally wound up with it. On one occasion Slim and I were discussing the music biz and he advised that he really liked my record “How Are Things In Your City” and without skipping a beat, he went on to add, “Cause it’s short”! Eventually, we got around of course to the subject of “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” and how much money it had made. He also maintained that he didn’t ever intend to depend on the music business as a profession. He said, “I can make a livin’ doin this” …referring to radio. I never heard him say anything about 4-Star, which of course his recording of “Don’t Let The Stars” was on. I, however, have heard some fairly spicy stories about Slim and William A McCall.
Slim Willet was “on” all the time. He was a great salesman. On the radio, they loved him around Abilene.
AB: Tell me about Tiny Colbert.
I met Tiny in Denison in 1954. I don’t know why he decided to come back (to Denison), but he did. Somebody put him on to us. He was making the rounds. We were just a bunch of kids learning how to play. Bobby Boatwright and I learned how to play fiddle together. Arthur Boatwright (Bobby’s father) had put together a little group called the Junior Rangers.
Tiny wanted to hear what we sounded like. We were up at a fellow’s house and he was going to meet us up there. We were sitting out on the front porch when Tiny drove up in his 1950 Chevrolet. We hit a little tune or two, and that was about all it took. He decided he’d found him a group. That’s how I met him. We worked around here for awhile, then from there we went to West Texas.
AB: Was he mainly playing piano at that time?
Yeah. He also played lap steel. Tiny was an excellent piano player. He played rhythm really well, and he could improvise with the best of ’em, but he could not play a note of melody. If he could, I never heard him play melody on anything. Which, you know, is not bad…it’s just unusual. But boy, he could lay into it otherwise. Now, lap steel…well, that was a different matter. Steel wasn’t his main instrument. Even so, he played lap steel on some of his and Eddie’s early Blue Bonnet recordings, and he sounded pretty good to me.
Tiny Colbert and his Sunshiners at the Danceland Club, Odessa, early 1950s. From left: Lee Burris, Jack Coffman, Tiny Colbert, Wayne Carnes, and Bob Geesling. click to enlarge. Photo courtesy Kevin Coffey Collection.
On the personal side, Tiny, whose real name was Theo, was anything but Tiny. He probably weighed around 275 pounds, and he had a great head of curly black hair with a widow’s peak. He was also a fun guy to be around. He always liked a good laugh and he laughed often…he was very jovial. I never saw anybody that mutilated a cigar the way Tiny could… and he was tighter than bark on a tree…which may have been out of necessity.
AB: How long did you play with Tiny? Two or three years?
No, not that long. I started in the latter part of ’53…Maybe about nine months or so. Maybe a year. I recorded for 4-Star in October of ’54. We recorded his and Eddie’s first. So, I probably left Tiny sometime in 1955.
AB: After you left Tiny, were you leading your own band? What were you doing in ’55, ’56…
In ’55, I worked for Tiny around here in Denison for a short time. After he and Eddie had their falling out, Eddie tried to get me to go back to California with him. But something about Eddie made me feel uncomfortable. Plus, I figured it was because I had a car and he didn’t. As I look back now, I wonder how things might have turned out for me had I done so.
After I left Tiny, I put a band together, got a radio show on KTAN in Sherman, Texas, and worked around some of the same places I had worked with Tiny, but eventually it all fell apart. Then I went back to West Texas and started working various and sundry beer joints and honky tonks with various people. I worked the Pelican Club awhile. I worked with Bill Myrick and Freddie Frank awhile. I did TV shows on KMID with Bill. That’s where I first met Roy Orbison and The Wink Westerners. Later, I got another radio job in Fort Stockton (KFST) for about three months. I then went back to Odessa and worked at KECK doing live news reports from their news car the KECK Mobil News Patrol – I was backtracking really good -- and from there I even went back to KPET in Lamesa but this time a DJ/ announcer. After that I went to KVKM in Monahans, Texas doing the same thing. From there, I went to KERB in Kermit and stayed there, oh, I guess five or six years. All that time I was still working clubs part time.
AB: Yeah, I’ve got you listed at KERB from 1957 to 1962.
That’s about right. Then, I got out of the radio business altogether. I was burnt out with it and put another band together…I never learn. I tried to revitalize the old Miller Brothers band with the woman who owned it, Julia Acord, but we could never come to terms. So, I dropped that and put my own outfit together. I fronted for Leon McAuliffe for two weeks at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. That was an experience... Red Herron and I played fiddles, Dean Abbot drums, Shawna Lawrence bass, my brother Jerry Haddock electric lead, and Jack Lloyd sax and clarinet. It was just a thrown-together deal. Leon had just about quit touring at that time. He had one or two jobs left. He took the remnants of Merl Lindsay’s band and included me with Red Herron and Jack Lloyd, who was a McAuliffe alumnus, for the Nugget gig. Afterwards I put my own outfit together.
AB: Is that how your Cimarron single ("Blackland Road") came about? Can you tell me more about that?
When I worked with McAuliffe in Vegas, we, of course, did "Big Night At My House." Leon had heard the record previously and he really liked the song. He approached me about putting it out, and I advised that Vaughn Brinson had another track on it and I felt we could use that. Why Leon wanted to release it again after it had been on United Artists, I have no idea. Be that as it may, I asked Brinson for the track, but for one reason or the other he never sent it to me. He may still have it. So, I decided to try to come up with something similar which turned out to be "The Lady Of My House," which is on the flip side. Leon was agreeable to releasing it, but "Black Land Road" received the most attention…albeit very little. The session was cut in Odessa at Tommy Allsup's Studio, probably in l965. Tommy played guitars, Lloyd Jordan played bass, Wayne Long played rhythm, can't recall who played drums, and there were four girls whose names I never knew that did background vocals.
AB: I wanted to ask you about Caprock Records. That was your second release: “That’s the Way It Goes.” Was Caprock owned by Hank Harral?
Yeah. He was working at KHEM in Big Spring at the time. I recorded at Ben Hall’s in Big Spring, which was a garage he had converted into a studio of sorts. Weldon Myrick‘s playing guitar on it. I think Deana Hall, Ben’s wife is playing bass. Bobby Tuttle is playing steel on the flipside. Bill Johnson was playing drums. Johnny Porter’s playing fiddle. (5) Hank Harral happened by the studio when we were recording…guess he liked what he heard and wanted to put it out. I was kind of leery about it, but then I thought, “Why not? Nobody else is interested and I really don’t have anything to lose.” The deal was, I’d just furnish him a master, and I would still own it. Here I’d like to point out that Jack Rhodes -- whom I should have contacted after recording -- called me and wanted to know if I was interested in somebody else picking up the record. He never said who it was, but I was interested. When I approached Hank he advised that he didn’t want to let the record go. Didn’t set too well with Jack. Even so, if I had read my agreement with Caprock a little closer, I could have done it anyway, regardless.
I kind of liked what Johnny Cash was doing. I never really set out to record a rock record. I was interested in western swing, the Hank Williams sound, and all of that, you know?
AB: A lot of country musicians were profoundly affected by rock and roll, happening around this time, in ’56 and ’57. What was your take on that?
Well, I kind of liked what Johnny Cash was doing. I never really set out to record a rock record. I was interested in western swing, the Hank Williams sound, and all of that, you know? For “East Dallas Dagger,” I just used what was there.
AB: You didn’t set out to make a rockabilly record.
Nah. I just did it, that’s all. I went in and sung the thing, and that’s all. And it’s the same thing with “That’s the Way It Goes.” My idea was, “If I can do something that’s kind of happening today, and do something like a Ray Price sound on the flipside, maybe one or the other will work.” And I liked Cash’s stuff. I was really impressed with his songs.
AB: What about Elvis?
I really didn’t care too much about Elvis in the beginning. But, I’ve got to tell you, as time wore on, I thought he was one of the greatest vocalists. He had a terrific range, and of course, when you hear him, you know who he is. Now, I liked “That’s All Right Mama.” Eddie Miller and I were in a café in Anson, Texas, gettin’ coffee’d up after a gig and they played that thing over and over on the jukebox. And Eddie said, “He’s just a flash in the pan, he’ll probably never get another hit” (Laughter)
AB: Did you have any contact with Buddy Holly while you were out in West Texas?
No, I never did meet Buddy Holly. ‘Course, I knew Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings real well who worked with Holly.
AB: Why did you record under the name Durwood Dailey? You switched to your real name in 1962, I believe.
I started using Dailey because McCall wanted to change my name, and I didn’t have a problem with it. As it turned out, I think he was right. But, then, when I started recording on Eagle Records, Vaughn didn’t think using Dailey was a very good thing to do. So I said, “OK, I’ll just use my real name.” Which I have always felt was a bad move then, as well as now.
AB: On your website, there’s a flyer for your appearance on the Big D Jamboree circa 1962. Was that the first time you had appeared on that?
No, I was on it when I had “How Lonesome Can I Get.” I was also on it with the Junior Rangers, a couple of times in ‘50-‘51. That’s also on my website.
AB: There’s a picture of you playing at the Caravan East in Albuquerque.
Yeah, that was about l964-65. A guy by the name of Bob Johnson, a real estate agent, owned it. It could hold about 400 people, I guess. Orville Couch was the first to appear there when it went country, and I went in for a two week stand after him. It was a Las Vegas-type strip club prior to that. And then this radio station KRZY talked Johnson into going country with it. When I was trying to put the Miller Brothers back together, I went through there and set a date with Johnson thinking I had a deal to use the name. I thought me and Mrs. Acord had a deal, but we didn’t. So, I told Bob what the situation was and he didn’t seem to be bothered about it at all. Well, here comes Bobby Rhodes; Julia Acord whom I believe was his mother, and the one who owned the Miller Brothers name …and approached me about using it. I said, “I’m not using it.” He said, “It’s on the marquee.” I said, “There ain’t anything I can do about that, because Bob Johnson put it up there.” I went on to say, “I told him before that I wasn’t using that name, but he already had it on the marquee” and that’s where it stayed. I never used the name again. Bobby was pretty good about it though.
AB: I’m surprised that the Miller Brothers name was so valuable. Bobby Rhodes bought it, I guess, from Sam Gibbs. Why did it continue to have this great value, even into the late 1960s?
I really can’t say, and I wasn’t aware that it was all that valuable. I believe they disbanded sometime in the mid-sixties and it may have been that the Gibbs Brothers, Sam and Leon, could see the handwriting on the wall when their biggest venues, which were probably NCO Clubs at military installation, got into some kind of disagreement with the government about what kind of music they could have and on which night.
The Miller Brothers, late 1950s.
Here I may be telling more than anybody wants to know…but anyway, it used to be, you know, you could work from here to the West Coast booking mostly military bases. You could book, say, Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, Tex. on a Wednesday, and then Thursday you could go right on over to El Paso, and on and on. But then they cut back to where they wouldn’t have country but once a week, which was usually on a Friday. Well, when that happened, it put the Miller Brothers out of business… as well as a whole lot of other groups of that type, ’cause they could only book a Friday night at NCOs. While it’s true they could still work “regular clubs,” for the most part, there was no monetary guarantee like they could get from the military. So the Miller Brothers split up into little trios. If you wanted a “rock and roll night,” they had a little rock and roll ensemble, and if you wanted country, they had that too, see. The big bands were over with by that time. Fate was probably smiling on me, because if I’d gotten in that mess, I probably would have gone under quicker than I did. I talked with Sam Gibbs in the early ‘60’s when I was still in Kermit about setting a few dates for me. He advised that his agency had run into a whole new deal as far as bookings were concerned and that the full band thing was all over with. (6)
Sometime in the mid-fifties, the Miller Brothers did a song of mine and Eddie’s titled “Whose Gonna Know” on 4-Star, and later re-issued on White Label out of Holland. Vocal was by Billy Thompson. I originally recorded it in l954 on the same session with “There She Goes.” I don’t why McCall never released my version.
AB: You knew Fred Crawford. What can you tell me about him?
Fred and I were very good friends. He was in his early thirties when I met him. He and I worked a lot of joints together... He loved the radio business. He really loved what he was doing. If anybody really liked where they were in life, it was Fred. He liked to pick and sing, and had several releases on Starday in previous years, but I think he liked doing his radio show more than anything else. He had a great voice for what he was doing, and he was quite successful at it too.
He was a broker: he’d buy and sell his own time and he always had a full program with lots of commercials. He was working at KERB in Kermit when I was there. He had 2:05 to 3:30 every day. His idol was Tex Herring, an old radio pitchman that worked at KERB before Fred. Fred was more a pitchman than anything else. And he was a great personality. Called himself “Corn Fed Fred.”
AB: What would he be pitching?
Maybe pitching is the wrong term. It was just his way of doing spot announcements, all of which he ad-libbed from notes he had written on a tablet. He had commercials of every description on his show. He’d sell anything. It didn’t make any difference. He had all kinds of accounts…car dealers, cafés, grocery stores, and a lot of junk stores (Laughter), things like that.
AB: Was he singing in clubs very much at that time?
Yeah. He and I worked some clubs around there quite a bit. Me and him and my brother Jerry , and a drummer by the name of Lloyd Brown, and also Ernie Allen Stodghill – an announcer/salesman who also worked at the station (and played an old C-melody sax somewhat) -- played the old T-P Tavern down in McCamey, Texas, the Community Center in Monahans, the old Aragon Club and the West End Club in Monahans…
Fred was really into Hank Williams. I cut a record with him up in Clovis at Norman Petty Studios, I believe in l958. Petty tried to get him a deal with Atlantic, but that fell through. Ken Cline, a songwriter that worked for National Cash Register, paid for the session and wrote the songs, one of which was “Beyond The Shadow of a Doubt.” The other I played fiddle on, but don’t remember the title. I think some of the Crickets did back up vocals. That’s what I was told, anyway. (7)
AB: I guess by the late fifties, there were no more live bands appearing on the radio?
No. I guess the last time that I did a live radio show with a band was ‘55. That was in Denison at KRRV.
AB: What inspired you start Eagle Records in 1963?
Well, it was out of necessity, I suppose, when Pappy Daily decided to drop me off United Artists. I had cut another session which I hoped would be a follow up to “Big Night At My House”, which turned out to be “I’m Not One of Them” and “Our Big House.”
We took it to Pappy in Houston. He listened to both tracks and said, “Oh yeah, that’s a good one” as he listened to it in his listening booth he had in his office. As he played the dub he bent over the turn table…I thought he was praying. (Laughter) Maybe he was praying it’d get better. (Laughter) We thought we had us a deal. We come on back to Kermit fully energized in anticipation of our next United Artists release. A few days later, Vaughn called me in his office and said, “I got a call from Pappy, and he said he’s not going to take that record.” Whereupon Vaughn said he told him, “Ok Pappy, if that’s the way you feel about it…we don’t care, we’ll just do it ourselves.” So that’s what we did and that’s how Eagle Records came about. We had two or three 45rpms released on Eagle in the sixties. I still record on it today, which is now Eagle International, and have released four CDs on it… the latest is HANKS-A-LOT.
AB: The Eagle records were recorded at Sumet Sound in Dallas?
Yeah. Who was that guy they called “The Blonde Bomber”?
AB: Ronnie Dawson?
Yeah. He played drums on “How Are Things in Your City.”
AB: And after that you moved to Nashville?
No, after I left Odessa I went to Phoenix. I took a group out there. I was doing a little part-time work at KECK in Odessa and played weekends in Southern Oklahoma and West Texas. That must have been around ’65. And then in ’66 I moved to Phoenix to go to work at JD’s, the club where Waylon Jennings was previously. When I got out there, they had another group in it, so the owner Jim Musial told me to take the band to Magoos with Ray Corbin. So we had double bands there for quite some time. And then I finally did go to work at JD’s. I stayed there about two or three months until that flanged out. Waylon could always fill that joint up, but nobody else could. They had Bill Haley and the Comets in there with me doing the double band thing, and you could have fired a cannon and not hit anybody. I never did do any good at that club and finally left.
After that I worked with my band throughout the Southwest and up and down the California coast for a couple of years. Finally, Tommy Allsup gave me a call and wanted to know if I was interested in coming to Nashville and recording for Metromedia, and running a publishing company. I said, “Tell me when do I start?” I was extremely tired of fooling with a band and working clubs. So, I moved to Nashville in ’69. I did a lot of things you were supposed to do in Nashville…and a probably a lot of things you weren’t supposed to do. (Laughter)
AB: After moving to Nashville, did you re-establish ties with Eddie Miller? I found a newspaper article from 1972 that talks about a songwriting class given by Miller, Harlan Howard, Eddie Noack, Dallas Frazier, and a few others.
I wouldn't exactly say I re-established ties with Eddie. We never ventured into anything other than discussing the past a few times, and we never wrote anything together. There was never an association related to business.
At that time, as you probably know, Eddie was working for Fender Guitars, which was eventually taken over by CBS. Sometime thereafter, Eddie left Fender/CBS and opened an office, I believe on 17th Avenue South, and was touting a songwriter's course. That was actually the last time I saw him before his death. After the publishing company I was working with bit the dust, I went back to working the road and wasn't in Nashville all that much. I did, however, attend his funeral.
If memory serves, I think Eddie did say he was or would be teaching songwriting at Vanderbilt or one of the other colleges in Nashville. Not sure which.
AB: What did you think of the D Records box set that Bear Family put out?
I thought it was remarkable. Richard Weize and those guys do phenomenal work. I thought it remarkable the way they cleaned up the sound because, I’ve got to tell you – and I don’t think there’s anybody that would disagree with me – you could go in the studio and get the cleanest sound in the world, but by the time D Records got through with it, it sounded like it was pressed on sand paper.
AB: Well, Pappy pressed his early D records at Plastic Products in Memphis, which is well-known for putting out the worst pressings in America…
Terrible. I heard they were using recycled plastic. I was still at the radio station when, “Family Bible” by Claude Gray was released on D. And it was as clean as a pin. And I said, “What’s the problem here?” I even asked Pappy about it. I said, “Why do my records sounds so bad?” He said, “I don’t hear anything wrong with ‘em, kid. But I’ve got a tin ear.” I thought, “Well, you got that right.” You couldn’t get any airplay with ‘em.. I was even reluctant to play mine, but of course I did play it some. Now, the United Artists record was OK, of course.
Durwood behind the board at KERB in Kermit, c. late 1950s. Courtesy Durwood Haddock.
AB: So at stations like KERB, would you be on Pappy’s mailing list?
Yeah. Oh, they sent us stuff out by the stacks…by the pound.
AB: I have this romantic idea of stations like KERB having the freedom to play whatever they wanted, and thus spinning lots of Texas label records during the broadcast day -- labels like D, Allstar, Caprock, Bo-Kay, TNT, and so on. How accurate is this picture?
I can only speak for KERB when I was there. Me and anybody else working there could play anything that was available, as long as it fit the program genre being broadcast at the time. KERB, like a lot of stations of that ilk, were "block" programmers. One or two hours would be country, an hour would be gospel, then you'd have religious programs for a couple of hours, then you'd present music that we called pop music, e.g. Perry Como, Doris Day, Billy Vaughn, Bobby Vinton, and so on. Fred Crawford played only country/bluegrass, and since he bought his own time, he could play anything he wanted.
The labels you mention are very familiar to me except TNT. I met Jesse Smith who had Bo-Kay Records in 1957-58 when I was in Lamesa. I also had an unpleasant situation with Allstar Records also out of Houston, can't recall the CEO's last name, but his first name was Dan (Mechura). He released a song that belonged to me by Larry Butler titled “Foolish Affair,” which was originally titled “Strange Desires,” on which Jack Rhodes was also listed, and was published by Big D Music out of Dallas. Anyway, neither me nor Jack was listed as writers. How Allstar and Butler wound up with the tune and recorded it word for word, I can only guess.
AB: After living in Nashville so long, what finally brought you back to North Texas?
That just kind of evolved. We were just looking for a new avenue and decided to try it. Not anything in particular. Me and my wife Dee started building on our place in the seventies. We were going back and forth. So, we decided to try it here for a little while. We still go back to Nashville every once in a while. I wouldn’t say we’ve completely broken all ties but Nashville’s the only town I know of that you’ve got to get out of if you want to stay in it. (Laughter)
Durwood Haddock, 2000s.
1. “East Dallas Dagger” (D 1100) was released in September, 1959. The uncredited backing group, Bob Millsap and the Millmen, were a rock and roll band from Tyler who also had releases on Pappy Daily’s Dart label during this period.
2. Billboard reported on March 3, 1956, that “Bill Myrick, KECK, Odessa, Tex., off the air several months due to paralysis of his left vocal chords, is back at the mike with a daily deejay show. He’s also working a live TV show with his band plus doing personal appearances. His aggregation consists of Freddie Frank (Capitol), Durwood Dailey (Four Star), Leon Hayes, Johnny Jay, Billy Cooper, and Myrick.”
3. Billboard reported on August 6, 1955, “Ken Nelson completed a session in Dallas recently with a new discovery, Freddy Franks (sic), who hails from the East Texas oil fields. Nelson has high hopes for Franks, who was developed by Jack Rhodes…” Freddie’s Capitol session was never released.
4. Actually Noack was almost completely unknown in Europe and England during his lifetime. He toured England in 1976.
5. This is presumably the same Johnny Porter who played and recorded with Eddie Shuler’s Reveliers in Lake Charles, Louisiana, c.1946-48, and Adolph Hofner in 1955, with whom he recorded for Decca. According to Shuler, Porter was from Longview, Texas.
6. The Miller Brothers, formed in Wichita Falls around 1940, were one of the most well-travelled Texas bands of the 1950s. Most of these tours were limited to military bases in Western U.S., not night clubs. The band name was owned by Sam and Leon Gibbs, but was purchased by fiddler Bobby Rhodes (also spelled Rhoades) and his mother in the late fifties or early sixties. The name was valuable because the military bases would guarantee bookings for a group called “The Miller Brothers,” regardless of who was actually in the band (much the same way as Bob Wills could always get bookings for a band called "The Texas Playboys"). Rhodes in turn sold the name to Johnny Patterson in the early sixties. It’s not clear when the final “Miller Brothers” broke up.
7. Nothing is known about a Fred Crawford session for Atlantic, but he did record “By the Mission Wall” at Petty’s. It was released on Starday in 1957.