Friday, September 17, 2010

Dixie Rogers on Caprock 101

Dixie Rogers - I Will Miss You / What Then Will You Say (Caprock 101)

"I Will Miss You"

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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

K. Shirey on Bunny 102

K. Shirey with Skeeter Jasper's Southerners - Swingin' Down / Tonight (Bunny 102)

"Swingin' Down"

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

Bennie Hess on Pearl 707

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.