Sunday, February 11, 2018

Barre Recording/Apogee Records of Victoria, Texas

After 40 years of research, it sometimes seems that no Texas label was so localized that could it nearly escape all documentation, but the Apogee/Barre label and studio from Victoria perhaps comes closest to eluding all 45 rpm collectors everywhere. Late 1960s country is, of course, not a hot genre with a cult following, which helps explain why this operation remained unknown until recently. But such songs as Joe Diamond's "Six White Horses" and Betty Valchar's "The Farmer's Daughter" put the listener more in the late 1950s or early '60s than they do with the sounds we normally associate with the period, and without the pressing plant information I would've assumed that these were from the early '60s at the very latest.

Gene Huckleberry was the man behind this operation, like so many other small studios/labels run out of his house. Nothing is known about him, but he is probably the same Eugene Huckleberry who died in Victoria in 1972. Huckleberry must have viewed this as an interesting hobby, not a commercial operation, as there are no notices in Billboard or anywhere else that I can find. Everything found so far dates from a brief four-year period, 1966-69, but there are a lot of missing numbers, and it is very possible that more than seven releases exist. Oddly, Huckleberry did not use the nearby TNT or Houston Records pressing plants, and instead had all pressing done by Wakefield in Arizona.

The Zebras - What Was Being Done (Baker) / The Moon's Going Down (Baker) (Zebras 305) Vocal: Garland Baker 1966

Teen rock. The earliest known Barre record, Gene had not even bothered to create a label name at this point and therefore "Zebra Records" was selected. Three hundred copies were pressed, which was probably the standard pressing amount for all of the following records. Label photo and info from the On the Road South blog

Henry and the Brushy Creek Bunch - My Old Country Shack (Bennettsen) / Springtime Memories (Bennetsen) Henry Bennetsen, Vocal (Apogee 306) SJW-8949 1966/67

Bluegrass. This is Henry Bennetsen, the fiddler and leader of the Southernaires who had releases on Gilt-Edge, Sarg, and Starday in the 1950s. Henry left that group in the late '50s or early '60s and started the Brushy Creek Bunch. This may be his final recording.

Robert Parker and the Blue Boys - I'm Still in Love (With You) (Parker) / Riff-Raff (Bade-Bridewell) (Apogee 360) 1966/67

Country. No explanation for the jump in numbers from 306 to 360. The first release to identify Victoria as the location.

Joe Diamond - Six White Horses (Diamond) / It'll Take Time (Apogee 362) SJW-9842 1967

Moody and primitive country on the A-Side. Good.

Betty Valchar with the Westerners - The Farmer's Daughter (Valchar) / (Apogee 369) 1967/68

Country. This is probably the same group known as Homer and Gene and Westerners, who had several releases on Sarg from this period. People can be forgiven for thinking this late 1960s release was a '50s record, because the tasty Chet Atkins-influenced lead guitar, Southern vocals, and soundscape do not sound contemporary to the late '60s. Presumably, Valchar was from the Victoria area. A fun record. The six numbers between Joe Diamond and this suggests that there are more releases to be found from this period.

Five Jades - How Can I Try (R. Williams) / You're Gonna Love Me Too (Williams-Brandt-Mueller-Shepherd) (Barre 371) 1968

Victoria group. Light pop with trumpet lead. Not related to Freddy Koenig and the Jades (the El Campo Jades), despite El Campo being located only 53 miles away from Victoria. Label changed from "Apogee" to "Barre." Barre 370 is unknown.

Kelly Hairrell and the Swingmasters  - Key's in the Mailbox (nc) / Table Next to Mine (nc) (Barre 373) Vocal K. Hairrell (SJW-12976) 1968/69

Unheard, but undoubtedly country. The last known Barre/Apogee record as of this writing. Barre 372 is unknown.


  1. Found this one...