Sunday, May 15, 2011

Floyd Tillman on Daffan 113

Floyd Tillman - Cold, Cold Beer / Floyd's Song (Daffan 113)

"Cold, Cold Beer"

Probably one of Floyd Tillman's least known records, "Cold, Cold Beer" was recorded for the Daffan label in 1956 while he was at the nadir of his fame, and may not have actually been released (it's taken here from Bear Family's The Daffan Records Story). Both sides hark back to his 1930s roots, with Floyd supplying his own acoustic lead guitar, and the inimitable Pete Burke on piano. "Unplugged" hokum blues was definitely not what the public wanted to hear in 1956. What Floyd later dubbed "the Great Depression of country music" had by then been ushered in by pop/rock music, leaving "old-timers" like then-41 year old Tillman in the dust.

Country music writers have said that Floyd went into "semi-retirement" after his Columbia contract expired in 1954, but this may be a charitable way of saying that he could no longer get gigs or sell records. He probably thought he had nothing to lose by cutting this session (two other songs were issued as Daffan 103). Just a few years previous he had appeared on the cover of Billboard (see below).

A film of Floyd performing "Slippin' Around" on Nashville TV with Hank Garland from this period has surfaced.

Below: Floyd Tillman at Magnolia Gardens, Houston, early 1950s. Click to enlarge.

Below: Floyd Tillman at Dessau Hall near Austin, c. January, 1957. L to R: Jack Green, Hub Sutter, Johnny Bush, Tiny Smith, Floyd Tillman. Click to enlarge.

Below: Floyd in his studio on the cover of Billboard, April 15, 1950.

Below: Detail of above. Click to enlarge.


  1. Thank you for the introduction to these tunes. I'm very interested in the musical cross-fertilization between blacks and whites from the 1920s up.

    I'm sorry to include this in the comment, but can't see any other way to contact you. Could you possibly let me know how you configured your divShare account for dling? I haven't been able to manage it on my black gospel blog( Thanks in advance if you can help.

  2. I think that it was Tillman himself rather than charitable writers who characterized these years as ones of semi-retirement. Wasn't it? Perhaps writers (me included I guess) have been charitable in not taking a more jaundiced view of this claim. But I don't think it's that simple. It's undoubtedly true, for reasons both specific to Tillman and not, that his career was on the wane well before he got dropped by Columbia in '54, and that he would have had a hard time finding any sort of full-time work worthy of his status and talent. But it is just as true that Floyd was an unusual case, a man of modest ambition and modest tastes, and his claim of having gone into semi-retirement in these years should not be viewed as simply a donning of rose-colored glasses. He had income from covers of his songs, and while that income was variable, it was often more than enough to keep Floyd in the spare sort of existence he seemes to have preferred. There were times that he had to bite the bullet and take deejay jobs, for example, that he was ill-suited for. But all in all, I think it's fair enough to take his "semi-retirement" claims at face value -- as a choice rather than something imposed upon him by conditions (even if these conditions did exist -- a full-time, mainstream career for him would very probably have not been feasible). Floyd claimed he pretty much worked when he wanted to and recorded when the opportunity arose. Daffan recalled this as a very loose session, a what-the-hell, let's-have-fun mood prevailing. And Tillman seconded that. I don't think either of them were under the illusion that it would sell. Floyd was in town(he was working in El Paso at the time) and thought it would be fun, so they did it. He'd done even smaller time stuff the previous year (Nucraft) and the following year would be recording for RCA in Nashville. This was more a lark than a signpost in the desert.

  3. Thanks for posting, those were great fun. His acoustic leads are niiice. And that YouTube clip of "Slippin' Around," even with the goofy backup chorus, is fantastic!

  4. I've lived in El Paso for many years. The old musicians used to talk about how Tillman came to town in the mid 1950s to play a one-nighter and stayed for a year, playing with the house band and making the same money they did. This was a good place to vanish in those days. I've heard of people searching for information about Dennis Herrold, who cut some sides for Imperial and disappeared without a trace. He played out here in beer joints for years!

  5. Thank you for these two great songs!