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.
Andrew Brown: 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 "Blackland 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.