“Phfft! You Were Gone”: King 78

The recurring Hee Haw skit – “Phfft!  You Were Gone” – was originally a King Record, believe it or not, that was recorded in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 3, 1952 by Bob Newman, who recorded Henry Glover‘s great truck driving song “Haulin’ Freight” the year before, as you might recall:

“Phfft! You Were Gone”      Bob Newman     1952

Billboard would review “Phfft! You Were Gone” in its November 1, 1952 edition:

“Newman tries hard on this novelty and hands it a good vocal, which should help it pick up many spins.”

Bob Newman 78-aaMany thanks to Bopping for its detailed Bob Newman sessionography in which the following musicians for “Haulin’ Freight” are listed:

Bob Newman:  bass & lead vocal
Henry Glover:  drums
Al Meyers:  lead guitar
Louie Innis:  rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson:  fiddle
Shorty Long:  piano

Phfft!  You Were Gone” would include Newman on bass & vocals, Shorty Long on piano, and Al Meyers on lead guitar, plus “sound effect” provided by Wayne Kemp, with an unnamed drummer and rhythm guitarist rounding out the sound.

Bopping also has the history on Bob Newman alias, Lee Roberts:

“‘Phfft!  You Were Gone,’ another novelty, was sold by Bob (alias Lee Roberts) and he didn’t get a dime when about twenty years later the song became a hook on the Hee Haw TV show.  Bob, according to Hank’s widow, was a big spender:  he would sell a song for, say, $ 1,500, then throw away $ 2,000.  He sold ‘Shut Up And Drink Your Beer’ to Merle Travis, and ‘Crying Steel Guitar Waltz’ to Jean Shepard.  That’s why he never made a living of his songs.  Al Myers explained that Bob Newman didn’t know how to pursue his career, and that’s the main reason why King didn’t renew his contract in August 1952.”

Bob Newman - Audio Lab LPThe indispensable Both Sides Now Publications offers a slightly more expansive view:

“For years, the television series Hee Haw used a song on the show called ‘Phfft!  You Were Gone,’ often credited to Buck Owens.  Earlier appearances of the song on record attributed writer’s credit to Lee Roberts, Susan Heather, or Marian B. Yarneall. Bob Newman’s son Bob Jr. recently wrote to us to untangle the mystery of authorship of this classic.  It was first recorded by Bob Newman July 3, 1952, at King Studios in Cincinnati.  It was released on King 45-1131 shortly thereafter, with writer credits to Lee Roberts.  Bob Newman actually wrote the song under the name Lee Roberts, which was his usual pen name (he had over 80 songwriting credits for both ASCAP and BMI under that name), and was the first to record it. Newman sold the song to Bix Reichner in 1958.  Reichner, who wrote many songs including ‘Papa Loves Mambo’ for Perry Como and ‘I Need Your Love Tonight’ for Elvis Presley, assigned the song to his wife’s name — Marian B. Yarneall, aka Susan Heather.  By the time the Audio Lab album came out in 1959, the writer credit had changed to Susan Heather.  The original version of the song made its first (only?) LP appearance on his Audio Lab album.”

Two decades or so later, television writers would enjoy endless lyrical possibilities:

“Phfft!  You Were/Was Gone”     Hee Haw

Note, however, that Bopping assumes — as I did, until very recently — that King merely “reissued” those two truck driving songs in 1959, “Haulin’ Freight” and “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues.”   Sorry, Bopping, but we discovered in the previous Zero to 180 piece that those two songs were given a re-boot to make them sound more contemporary.

 King Record Innovation:  “Bio Discs”

Independent record producer and music writer, Randy McNutt, has authored two books about Cincinnati’s post-WWII music history and its role in giving birth to rock & roll.

Randy McNutt-2Randy McNutt-1

King Records of Cincinnati points out a wily marketing tactic by Syd Nathan that happens to involve Bob Newman:

“The 78 RPM record pictured here, Newman’s ‘Quarantined Love,’ shows another of Nathan’s innovations, the bio disc.  He printed brief biographies of artists on promotional records and sent them to disc jockeys and decision makers in the music business.  The idea must have worked, for King Records continued to issue bio discs into the 1960s.”Bob Newman 78-bio disc

“Haulin’ Freight”: 1959 (not 1951)

An Ebay sales listing from January, 2016 validates my hunch that truck driving classic “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman was recorded twice — first, in 1951, and then again in 1959 with some of the rough “barrelhouse” edges smoothed out via overdubs.  The more contemporary version would be issued again in 1963, according to PragueFrank.

Interestingly enough, “Haulin’ Freight” was co-written by King’s indispensable A&R man, Henry Glover and would be included in 2012 retrospective, The Henry Glover Story.

King Truck Driver Songs LPMichel Ruppli’s 2-volume reference – The King Labels:  A Discography – lists a recording session from  October 9, 1951 that includes “Haulin’ Freight.”  However, in parentheses next to the song title, Ruppli directs you to K4264, which is an undated entry sometime in 1959 that lists 2 truck driving songs – “Lonesome Truck Driver’s Blues” & “Haulin’ Freight” – and simply says “dubbed from King masters.”

But listen for yourself – here’s the original 1951 version:

“Haulin’ Freight”     Bob Newman     1951

Now listen to what King Records fabricated in 1959 using the original version “dubbed from the masters” and augmented by – what I can only assume to be – a new rhythm section and lead guitar (excerpt from Charlie Coleman‘s classic country radio show):

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Haulin’ Freight” by Bob Newman]

But how they’d do it?  Is that the original vocal?   It sounds like they might have kept the original piano track, but I’m not even certain about that.  Would love to know who played on the 1959 version, my favorite of the two, despite the great guitar lines on the original.  Funny how I’ve been wrestling with this issue for years (and with Charlie Coleman above), but only just now did I figure out the deeper meaning behind “dubbed from the masters.”

Just for fun, go ahead and play both versions at the same time and note how dissimilar they sound.

Bob Newman 45aBob Newman 45b