Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peck Touchton on Starday 160

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.