Joaquin = Jazz + Steel Guitar

EarlJoaquinMurphey (who co-wrote yesterday’s featured song “Steel Guitar Jubilee“) is held in very high esteem among steel guitarists, with one performance in particular — “Oklahoma Stomp” by Spade Cooley’s Orchestra — almost single-handedly cementing his reputation (Bob Dunn, notwithstanding) as the first “sophisticated jazz steel guitar player,” as Texas Steel Guitar Hall of famer Tom Morrell would eulogize in The Independent‘s 1999 obituary of Murphey.

Spade Cooley 78Ace music historian Rich Kienzle – in Southwest Shuffle – points out:

“Murphey’s abilities to combine complex chordal work with remarkably fluid, expressive single-string soloing set him apart from any other steel guitarist in the country” while the aforementioned “Oklahoma Stomp,” is a “Murphey tour de force that’s lost none of his power in the nearly six decades since he recorded it.”

Kevin Rainey’s 2001 tribute to the great steel guitarist for The Journal of Country Music, “Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphey:  Steel Man Extraordinaire,” notes that Murphey was very much a musician’s musician — “Joaquin is my idol,” the almighty Speedy West once declared.  One-time Bob Wills musician, Herb Remington, would witness Murphey’s performing with Tex Williams‘ group and remark to Rainey:

“I thought it was a clarinet playing.  I couldn’t find him in the band.  I went up to the bandstand and I couldn’t find the steel guitar.  He was playing a little lap steel way back in the back of the bandstand.  And when he played, it was like hearing a good clarinet solo.  A jazz solo, which is what he listened to.  And it just dumbfounded me.  I’d never heard a steel guitar like that before.”

In fact, if you listen to “Oklahoma Stomp,” Murphey’s guitar actually sounds like a clarinet around the 1:20 mark in the song — must be heard to be believed.

Not a lot of pictures of Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphey out there

Joaquin MurpheyThough he would initially make his mark with the Spade Cooley Orchestra, Murphey would depart soon after.  Rainey informs:

“In 1946, Murphey and accordionist George Bamby left the Cooley band to join Andy Parker and the Plainsmen (themselves a Cooley spin-off, having formed from a nucleus in the band led by Cooley bassist and vocalist, Deuce Spriggens).  The band worked Pappy Cheshire’s show on KMPC, did the Saturday night Hollywood Barn Dance, recorded for the Coast label, and appeared in some of Eddie Dean‘s westerns.  Murphey’s performance of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ on Coast remains one of his most revered performances, though it has yet to be reissued on CD.”

How curious that the ever-dependable PragueFrank does not affirm Murphey’s musical presence on Andy Parker and the Plainsmen‘s version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” – a performance that historians and music enthusiasts concede to be Joaquin and no other:

“Sweet Georgia Brown”     Andy Parker and the Plainsmen     1946

Musical question mark[YouTube audio not yet available]

Wait a minute, I swear I listened to “Sweet Georgia Brown” on YouTube about a week ago … and now I can’t find hide nor hair of it!   Was that just a dream – or did it really happen?  Today’s blog piece hinged on “Sweet Georgia Brown” being the featured song.  Now what?

Plan B:  “Let’s Go Sparkin‘” by Eddie Dean & The Plainsmen, with Murphey on steel:

Q:  Is it possible that Freddie Roulette is paying tribute to Murphey on his unusually expressive (and previously-celebrated) composition “Joaquin”?

L-to-R top row: George Bamby (accordion), Paul ‘Clem’ Smith & Earl ‘Joaquin’ Murphey.
Bottom row: Charlie Morgan (far L), Eddie Dean (black hat) & Andy Parker (white hat).

Andy Parker and the Plainsmen

Kudos to B-Westerns.com for this photo of Andy Parker & the Plainsmen

What’s in a Nickname?

Most of us have long wondered, was ‘Joaquin’ Murphey of mixed Irish-Latin descent?  Actually, no:  Murphey – according to Kienzle – earned this sobriquet from country disc jockey, Bert “Foreman” Phillips, “in honor of California’s San Joaquin Valley.”

“Steel Guitar Jubilee”: Jubilant

I can’t get over how relaxed and appealing the kick drum sounds on this recording – almost threatens to steal the show:

 “Steel Guitar Jubilee”     Lloyd Green     1964

I admit, it’s hard to completely tune out the immaculate musicianship of the others who are supporting Lloyd Green on his 1964 debut LP, The Big Steel Guitar. released on Bob Shad’s Time Records —  a label whose roster would include Gordon Jenkins, Al Caiola, Hugh Montenegro, and (somehow) Ray Charles for a couple of (possibly “dodgy“) 45s.

Buddy Killen:  Bass
MurreyBuddyHarman:  Drums
Bill Pursell:  Percussion
Fed Carter, Harold Bradley & Kelso Herston:  Guitar
HargusPigRobbins:  Piano
Charlie McCoy:  Harmonica

Lloyd Green debut LP-bDiscogs made a mistakeTom Bradshaw himself confirmed via email that he, in fact, was not sitting in the producer’s chair for 1964’s The Big Steel Guitar.

Remember SESAC from Zero to 180’s previous piece on Hank Garland’s “lost album” from 1960?   According to Sandra Brennan in the All Music Guide to Country, SESAC would play a pivotal role in the development of Lloyd Green as one of the top session players working the Nashville scene:

“In 1964 [Lloyd Green] began working as a part-time assistant at the SESAC office for Roy Drusky.  Although the pay was low, the job did give Green the opportunity to make demos and do session work.  He remained with SESAC for three years, and soon was earning $50,000 a year from session work.  Green worked with pop musicians as well, including Dame Vera Lynn, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, as well as on the Byrds’ seminal Sweetheart at the Rodeo.  He had just a handful of solo chart hits, including instrumental versions of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in the early 70s.  He also made the charts singing ‘You and Me.'”

Big Steel Guitar would also be reissued as Steel Guitar Record Club No. 4 in 1975 – courtesy of Tom Bradshaw (referenced above).

Lloyd Green debut LP-bbHistorical note:  “Steel Guitar Jubilee” – penned by ‘Joaquin’ Murphey & Smokey Rogers – was originally released by Smokey and His Western Caravan in February, 1951.

Can you believe it has only been one year since we last checked in with Lloyd Green?

Lloyd Green’s Secret Hawaiian Album of 1964

1964 would see the release of a second (though unnamed) Lloyd Green full-length album, Hawaiian Enchantment, albeit on a different label — Modern Sound Records.  Thank you to LP Discography and El Rancho for confirming the album’s existence.   .

Lloyd Green Hawaiian LP-bLink to 2002 interview with Lloyd Green, courtesy of Chart Records Appreciation Site.

Burton & Mooney’s Diesel Classic

I once played a sweet little instrumental by James Burton and Ralph Mooney on an all-truck-driving radio show, even though it’s not actually a “trucker tune” — and yet nobody called me out on it, because the song – “Corn Pickin‘ – fit like a glove.  Later when I “back-announced” the set over the air, I re-named the song “Corn Pickin’ and Rig Ridin'” – to my great relief, the switchboard at WKHS did not light up in anger.   This was in 2004.

James Burton & Ralph Mooney LP

I happened to be checking the Washington Post website on March 23, 2011 when I was stunned to see Ralph Mooney’s name at the top of the home page — as one of the top “trending” stories!  As it turned out, Mooney – one of the “chief architects of the Bakersfield sound” – had left us at the age of 82.  The Post’s Melissa Bell was kind enough to add my Ralph Mooney recommendation to her musical tribute, the aforementioned “Corn Pickin'” from Burton and Mooney’s 1968 LP collaboration, Corn Pickin’ and Slick Slidin’.  But then that audio clip disappeared from YouTube and never returned.  Until a fortnight ago!

“Corn Pickin’ and Slick Slidin'”     James Burton & Ralph Mooney     1968

From a “musical acrobatics” standpoint, this is not particularly ‘flash’ guitar work — and yet the relaxed exchange between the two accomplished musicians is supremely satisfying.  John Beland of the Flying Burrito Brothers, in his review for Amazon.com (entitled “Ground Zero for the Bakersfield Sound of the 60s”) preaches the gospel:

“This album was my bible for Tele[caster] playing … Recorded at Capitol in the mid-60s, this album, while perhaps sounding corny to some, laid down a true blueprint for west coast country playing.”

At the time of release, Billboard would give the album a “four-star” review in its February 17, 1968 edition.

A-side                                                              B-side

James Burton & Ralph Mooney 45-aJames Burton & Ralph Mooney 45-b

Sadly, this is only the 16th Zero to 180 piece to feature a truck driving song

(Please Not) “Steel Guitar Rag”

Just when you thought you couldn’t take another version of “Steel Guitar Rag,” this 1959 version by The Dynatones, surprisingly (despite the absence of a steel guitar) swaggers:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     The Dynatones     1959

Here’s a great swing boogie version by Rudi Wairata & His Hawaiian Boys that brings to mind the radical rockabilly sounds produced by the Brothers Tielman, featuring Andy and his 10-string electric guitar:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     Rudi Wairata & His Hawaiian Boys     1963

Roy Smeck‘s manic, rapid-fire arrangement from 1938 still amazes and amuses more than seven decades later:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     Roy Smeck     1938

Buck Owens & the Buckaroos, as you would expect, play “Steel Guitar Rag” Bakersfield-style in an arrangement that spotlights the sophisticated steel guitar stylings of Tom Brumley:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     Buck Owens & the Buckaroos     1965

If you’re curious to hear “Steel Guitar Rag” as a sax instrumental led by King Curtis, then I have good news: :

“Steel Guitar Rag”     King Curtis    1957

Check out Hardrock Gunter‘s version from 1972, with Merle Travis-style multi-track guitars that sound recorded at half-speed for that ‘Alvin & Chipmunk-style’ tinkly effect when played back at regular speed:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     Hardrock Gunter     1972

Click here to enjoy an immaculately-recorded western swing version by Kelso Herston & the Funky Guitar Band from 1971 — likewise from Noel Boggs, whose version from 1961 kicks off with bongo drums.  Jerry Byrd bequeaths to all of humanity a(n) Hawaiian-flavored version from 1950, while Chet Atkins whips up a crisp country pop arrangement from 1962John Fahey, unsurprisingly, would arrange his own bottleneck acoustic version, while Barbara Mandrell would do a cracking country jazz version on Johnny Cash’s 1976 Christmas Special.

The (fabulous) Ventures would imbue the song with their own inimitable spirit in 1963, as The Sgro Brothers (Dom & Tony) would record a toe-tappin’ harmonica version in 1975 with the great Johnny Gimble (possibly) on fiddle.  Curious to hear a Finnish rockabilly version from The Cosh Boys?  Or the astounding Junior Brown playing a tastefully restrained live version?  Don’t forget Hank Thompson & the Brazos Valley Boysbrash and brassy, Vegas-styled version from country music’s supposed first live album, 1961’s At the Golden Nugget.  That same year, Danny & the Zeltones would feed their lead instrument (guitar? keyboard?) through a rotating Leslie speaker on a shuffle version that annoys with its oddly brittle sound.

King Curtis King 45Note:  Many versions of “Steel Guitar Rag” list three composers – McAuliffe, Merle Travis, Cliff Stone – versus the lone songwriting credit for McAuliffe, who first recorded the song with Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys in 1936 on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive (I assume it’s safe to disregard Rudi Wairata, who would also put in his own songwriting claim in 1963).  Song publishers, music historians — what sayeth ye?.

Versions of “Steel Guitar Rag” that I hope to hear some day include the one by Don & Donna & the Gennessee Country Boys, as well as by New Zealand’s own guitar army, The Multiple Guitars of Peter Posa.

Alvino Rey’s Rag of Steel

Sadly, too many people are unaware that, before Les Paul and his electronic wizardry, steel guitarist bandleader, Alvino Rey, had already developed the prototype for the first modern electric guitar and created the “Sono-Vox,” a precursor to the “talk box,” as I learned this past August.

Check out the multi-tracked steel guitar parts on Alvino Rey’s fresh arrangement of the Leon McAuliffe standard, “Steel Guitar Rag” that includes some fun call-and-response between steel guitar and orchestra:

“Steel Guitar Rag”     Alvino Rey     1961

Dramatic ending — glissando effect immediately makes one think of Rey’s work with Juan Garcia Esquivel.

Alvino Rey:  Musically Futuristic Coda II

As MetaFilter points out, this scene from the film Jam Session is “possibly the best available demonstration of Alvino Rey as a bandleader, showman and soloist.  Includes both the volume/tone technique and the full singing guitar treatment.  Stringy, the talking steel guitar, wins a cutting contest with clarinetist, Skeets Herfurt.”

“St. Louis Blues”     Alvino Rey + Stringy the Talking Steel Guitar     1942?

Stringy, The Talking Steel Guitar Puppet!

Stringy-b

Leon’s “Steel Guitar Chimes”

Zero to 180 couldn’t take it any more, so it added a new category – steel guitar – and instantly populated a set of 25 pieces from the past three years that feature many of the world’s foremost steel guitarists, including today’s post, which is the first to highlight the work of Leon McAuliffe, one of the first players to use multi-neck steel guitars (as well as different tunings on each neck, according to Brad’s Pages of Steel).

Nice to see that the Texas State Historical Association has a biographical profile of the famed steel guitarist bandleader and one-time Bob Wills sideman, Leon McAuliffe, for whom Wills coined the famous phrase, “Take it away, Leon!”  Good ol’ PragueFrank confirms that the gently rockin’ “Steel Guitar Chimes” was recorded in either 1958 or 1960, possibly in Dallas, TX:

“Steel Guitar Chimes”     Leon McAuliff(e)     1958?

“Steel Guitar Chimes” would actually be included on a different Starday LP – Mister Western Swing, released 1962 – than the one pictured in the video clip above

Leon McAuliff Starday LP-aaBillboard would review Mister Western Swing in its June 23, 1962 “Music Week” column:

“Leon McAuliff and His Cimarron Boys turn in a fine flock of performances here on such Western classics as ‘Steel Guitar Rag,’ ‘Panhandle Rag,’ ‘Waterbaby Boogie,’ ‘Steel Guitar Chimes,’ and ‘Cimarron Rag.’  McAuliff infuses them with his inimitable Western dance band beat. featuring sock steel guitar work.  A solid set for Western fans and one that could grab plenty of pop action as well.”

“Steel Guitar Chimes” originally began life as a 78 released in 1938 by Roy Acuff And His Crazy Tennesseans, featuring the dobro work of Cousin Jody (née, James Clell Summey).

Link to 7-minute video documentary, The Steel Guitar Rag Story with Leon McAuliffe. about the origins of Leon’s classic steel guitar instrumental.

One question that will likely never get settled:  is Leon’s surname spelled “McAuliff” (as it says on the album cover for Starday LP Swingin’ Western Strings of Leon McAuliff) or “McAuliffe” like it says most everywhere else?

Alvino Rey: Steel Guitarist Bandleader

Thanks to Andy Volk of the Steel Guitar Forum for pointing me to Anne Miller’s fascinating profile of steel guitarist bandleader Alvino Rey for the Smithsonian in which we learn Rey, as a consultant for Gibson in the 1930s, helped develop the prototype for the ES-150 (made famous by Charlie Christian), the first modern electric guitar.  Alvino Rey, therefore, is an un(der)-acknowledged “father of the electric guitar.”

Alvino Rey:  musical bat advocate

Alvino Rey - bat fanCan you name any other pop bandleaders who played the steel guitar besides Alvino Rey? I didn’t think so.

In this TV clip, Lawrence Welk informs his audience that Alvino Rey is(was) a Capitol recording artist whose latest album is Ping Pong — and then insists that Rey play a song not even on the album!   Rey’s musicianship in this performance is masterful:

“Hindustan”     Alvino Rey on The Lawrence Welk Show     1959?

The Smithsonian article also pointed out the reason for the facial resemblance between Alvino Rey and Win (& Will) Butler of Arcade Fire:  it’s genetic.  Rey is the Butler brothers’ grandfather – a fact that becomes quite clear when you look at the photo that accompanies this tribute page from the Gibson Guitars website:

“Built by Alvino Rey and John Kutilek as a test bed for their new pickup, the instrument pictured here (below) comprises a simple frame to which a vestigial ‘body’, fingerboard and headstock – all of which are fabricated from sheet brass – are attached.  Hardware includes a brass nut and bridge, inexpensive tuners and a basic trapeze tailpiece.  The pickup itself consists of two magnets with the strings running between the top magnet and a coil of wire.  The pickup was hardwired with no jack socket or controls.”

Alvino Rey with gibson es-150 prototype in 1997     (gibson guitars website)

Alvino Rey with ES-150 Prototype

Alvino Rey:  A Futuristic Musical Coda

Alvino Rey would pass in 2004, and the following year, Arcade Fire would release a split single, with a 1940 radio broadcast of the Alvino Rey Orchestra used for the flip side.  This performance of the song, “My Buddy,” would also feature Win & Will Butler’s grandmother, Luise King Rey (of The King Sisters) on the Sono-Vox, a 1930s electronic precursor to the “talk box” that Rey himself pioneered and was “rediscovered” in the 1960s & 70s by the two Petes:  Drake & Frampton.

“My Buddy” (live)     Alvino Rey Orchestra     1940

Lucille Ball would use a Sono-Vox to emulate the sound of a freight train whistle in this fascinating Pathe newsreel snippet.

1960 Capitol LP

Alvino Rey LP

Zero to Infinity: Buddy Emmons

This week we said goodbye to Buddy Emmons, one of the world’s great musicians — and the subject of three prior Zero to 180 pieces.  Here is but a 45-second demonstration of Buddy Emmons’ singular genius with the pedal steel guitar:

“Four Wheel Drive” (live)     Buddy Emmons     1965

It is a little distressing to see that 45Cat and Discogs.com (and YouTube) do not include any of the 45s Buddy Emmons recorded in the 1950s for almighty Columbia, nor his one outstanding 1960 single for Decca, “Blue Wind” b/w “Four Wheel Drive.”  This gaping historical hole is in stark contrast to the high regard in which Emmons is widely held:

“… world’s foremost steel guitarist” (Rolling Stone)
“… steel guitar innovator” (The Tennessean)
“… fabled steel guitarist” (CMT)
“… influential pedal steel guitarist” (Reuters)

How cool that my all-time favorite steel guitarist (Emmons) played with my favorite group (NRBQ) and guitarist (Duane Eddy).  Steel Guitar Forum, no surprise, already has a thread devoted to Buddy’s memory, while Edd Hurt writes a nice tribute to Emmons in  The Nashville Scene that talks about some of Buddy’s pedal steel technical innovations as co-founder, along with Shot Jackson, of Sho-Bud Guitars.

Buddy Emmons-aBuddy Emmons-bBuddy Emmons-c

Two essential/must-have Buddy Emmons recordings – The Buddy Emmons Collection & Redneck Jazz Explosion – I’ve noticed are both commanding high prices on Amazon, unfortunately.

Buddy Emmons-1Buddy Emmons-2

Steel Guitar Great Buddy Emmons Dies
Pedal steel player backed up artists from Ernest Tubb to Linda Rondstat
By Stephen L. Betts – Rolling Stone – July 30, 2015

Musician Buddy Emmons, widely regarded as the world’s foremost steel guitarist, hailed for his unique playing style and innovations with regard to tuning, has died at age 78.

Born Buddie Gene Emmons in Mishawaka, Indiana, and nicknamed “the Big E,” his guitar work was heard on countless recordings by acts ranging from Ray Price and Ernest Tubb, to Linda Ronstadt and the Carpenters.

At 11 years old, Emmons studied on lap steel guitar at the Hawaiian Conservatory of Music in South Bend, Indiana, learning to play country music by listening to the radio.  As a teenager, he joined his first bands, relocating to Illinois then to Detroit, before moving to Nashville in 1955 to join Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens’ band at 18 years old. Christened the Country Boys, Dickens’ band recorded several instrumentals, including three of Emmons’ original compositions.  After Dickens dissolved his band in 1956, Emmons and fellow guitarist Shot Jackson formed the Sho-Bud Company, which designed and built steel guitars.  Emmons also began extensive Nashville studio work, and joined Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours the following year, remaining with Tubb until 1958.

Four years later, Emmons became a member of Ray Price’s band the Cherokee Cowboys.  By 1967, he was living in California, and after joining Roger Miller’s band, landed more high-profile studio work in Los Angeles, appearing on records by Nancy Sinatra, Gram Parsons, John Sebastian and others.

A 1974 return to Nashville continued his studio work, on LPs by George Strait, Mel Tillis, Gene Watson, June Carter Cash, Ricky Skaggs and many more.  Emmons was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1981.  He toured with the Everly Brothers in the Nineties and would later be heard occasionally on radio’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Emmons retired in 2007 after the sudden death of his wife Peggy. In 2013, a tribute LP was released.  The Big E: A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons, featured Wllie Nelson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and several steel players including Randle Currie, from Brad Paisley’s band.  A rare bit of Emmons songwriting, “Are You Sure,” also appears on Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material as a hidden track duet with Willie Nelson.  As the story goes, he and Nelson penned the 1965 song together after a confrontation with a bar patron.

Fellow steel player Steve Fishell, who cites “The Big E” as a chief inspiration and is currently on the road with Emmylou Harris, summed up Emmons’ death to Rolling Stone Country as nothing short of a tragedy:  “It’s a towering loss in the pedal steel community and to music lovers everywhere.”

Highly Selective Discography of Buddy Emmons on Steel Guitar

Nancy Sinatra     Country My Way     1967

Gary Burton     Tennessee Firebird     1967

The Dillards     The Wheatstraw Suite     1968

Judy Collins     “I Pity the Poor Immigrant”     1968

John Phillips     John, The Wolf King of L.A.     1970

Denny Doherty     Watcha Gonna Do     1970

∞ John Sebastian     “Rainbows All Over Your Blues”     1970

Sandy Denny     “Crazy Lady Blues”     1971

Rowan Brothers     Rowan Brothers     1972

Odyssey     Odyssey     1972

Roger McGuinn     “Water Is Wide”     1973

Gram Parsons     GP     1973

Judee Sill     Heart Food     1973

Henry Mancini Orchestra     Country Gentleman     1974

Benny Martin     Tennessee Jubilee     1975

John Hartford     Nobody Knows What You Do     1976

Hargus “Pig” Robbins     Country Instrumentalist of the Year     1977

Ian Tyson     “Turning Thirty”     1978

Ricky Skaggs     Sweet Temptation     1979

Levon Helm     American Son     1980

= k.d. lang     “Shadowland”     1988

Emmons steel guitarsEmmons steel

Photo above courtesy of the Steel Guitar Forum

Joe Maphis Also Had a Double-Neck

Joe Maphis – “The King of the Strings” – was the ace picker of the top-notch house band at the Town Hall Party, a radio and television show filmed in Compton and broadcast over the West Coast airwaves in the 1950s.  The success of the Friday and Saturday night broadcasts led to a Sunday afternoon program, Town Hall Ranch Party, hosted by Tex Ritter.

Joe Maphis [who, you might recall, once witnessed Dave Bunker’s Duo-Lectar up close] really demonstrates his facility for playing stringed instruments on a song that can only be found here – as Tex Ritter points out in his introduction – on the Town Hall Ranch Party:

“Town Hall Boogie”     Joe Maphis & the Ranch Party Gang     1958

What a pleasant surprise to see such a talented steel guitarist with great stage moves, who also happens to be a woman – Marian Hall.  I am also delighted to see a thread on the The Steel Guitar Forum dedicated to “Marian Hall on Joe Maphis’ ‘Town Hall Boogie’.”

In addition to Joe Maphis and Marian Hall, the 10-piece Town Hall Party band would also include Merle Travis (guitar), Billy Hill & Fiddlin’ Kate (violins), Pee Wee Adams (drums), Buddy Dooley (bass), Ray Cline (accordion), and Jimmy Pruett on piano.

“Joe Maphis Guitar” by Ellen – originally posted to Flickr

Joe Maphis doubleneckAs Billboard would report in its July 30, 1955 edition:

“Town Hall Party (NBC and KTTV), Los Angeles, recently opened a new park operation in the Santa Monica Mountains just outside of L.A.  Known as Town Hall Ranch Party, the venture has been getting a big play on Sundays and holidays.  This is in addition to the unit’s regular Friday and Saturday night operations out of Town Hall, Compton, Calif.  The cast includes Tex Ritter, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Travis, Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, Johnny Bond, Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, Skeets McDonald, The Collins Kids, Mary Jane Johnson, Bonnie Sloan, Mary Lou, Tex Carman, Bobby Charles, Gary Williams, Les (Carrot-Top) Anderson, and Freddie Hart.”

Maphis would also write “Town Hall Rag” and “Town Hall Shuffle,” but alas, “Town Hall Boogie” appears to exist outside of his official recorded canon.

Photo of Marian Hall that accompanied Cindy Cashdollar’s interview

Vintage Guitar Magazine — September 2004 issue

Marian HallMarian Hall:  A Tribute to “The First Lady of the Steel Guitar”

“Marian deserves to be better known for her many accomplishments as a live television pioneer, resourceful and innovative steel guitar soloist, vocalist and songwriter.  Marian became a familiar face on live TV in Los Angeles in the 1950s as part of the Town Hall Party cast along with “superpickers”, Joe Maphis and Merle Travis.  Marian spent time gigging with Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party, Tex Williams band, and even Spade Cooley’s all-girl orchestra.

She was a neighbor and close friend of Paul Bigsby and was one of the few for whom PA would gladly do the chore of changing strings.  Marian played while seated on a high stool with her Bigsby pedal steel raised up on its leg extensions giving the illusion that she was playing while standing.  She had a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor and roared with laughter when she told me how the stool once collapsed on live television yet she somehow finished her solo while lying on her side on the stage.  And play she could: red-hot, yet always tasteful steel runs and bell-like harmonics tumbled out of her amp while she flashed that girl-next-door-smile to the camera.  That she was respected by musicians of the caliber of Travis and Maphis speaks volumes of her abilities.

I’ll remember her as a whip-smart, gracious lady who was modest about her abilities yet quietly proud of her accomplishments and her rightful place in the history of California Country and Western Swing music.  No doubt feeling the same way, last year, the Seattle Western Swing Society inducted Marian into its Hall of Fame.  Not bad for a career that began on live TV at age twelve as one half of the sister duo, The Saddle Sweethearts.  I join Cindy Cashdollar and all who knew her in remembering a great lady. R.I.P. Marian.”

Written by Andy Volk Posted on Steel Guitar Forum in 2006

Hop Wilson’s Steel Guitar Blues

Rolling Stone released two compendiums of Record Reviews in the early 70s, back when Lenny Kaye, John Mendelsohn, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Bud Scoppa, Ed Ward, Richard Meltzer, Al Kooper, Ralph J. Gleason, Paul Gambaccini, Stephen Davis, Jon Landau, Jann Wenner, and (occasionally) Nick Tosches, and even Peter Townshend (Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy album) were writing reviews for the (formerly) underground ‘rock’ publication.  Tip of the hat to Record Review’s Vol. II for pointing out Hop Wilson’s distinctive steel guitar-driven rockin’ blues sound, as on masterpiece, “Chicken Stuff”:

“Chicken Stuff”     Hop Wilson & His Chickens     1958

As Peter Guralnick would write in the Rolling Stone Record Review:

“Especially enterprising but a little further afield is Chicken Stuff:  Houston Ghetto Blues, an English album available on Flyright.  This is made up of six cuts by Hop Wilson from his legendary Ivory sessions and a side of live recordings.  Wilson, one of the few bluemen to master steel guitar, employs a driving bottleneck-style technique which shows traces of Robert Nighthawk and Elmore James.  With his deep brooding voice, stunning guitar work, and the overwhelming power of his blues, he is a singer who deserves much wider recognition.”

Sadly, too few recordings feature Hop Wilson (who also went by “Poppa Hop” and also “Poppy Hop”).  John Broven, thankfully, provides some helpful historical background in South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous

“As word spread that there was a recording studio in Lake Charles, a few blues artists, mainly from Texas, started arriving at Goldband.  Hop Wilson was easily the best.  His first recording, ‘Chicken Stuff’ in 1958, was a startling instrumental that had all the bounce of an old country dance number … At the time Hop was touring Texas and Louisiana with Ivory Semien’s band.  He had a second Goldband release, the stark ‘Broke and Hungry,’ before recording three impressive singles for Ivory Records in the early 60s.”

Goldband’s Eddie Shuler would note how “[“Chicken Stuff”] is unique in the blues field” in that “he played a Hawaiian guitar — six strings of blues soul.”

Hop Wilson & Steel Guitar     1963

Hop Wilson on steel guitarHop WIlson’s soulful steel-based blues sound would set the stage for ground-breaking album, Sweet Funky Steel, released by Freddie Roulette (pictured below), coincidentally enough, around the time of this Rolling Stone Record Review‘s publication (as featured previously on Zero to 180).

Freddie Roulette & pipe