“Operation X”: Top-Secret Trucker Tune

Dave Dudley’s earliest recordings go back to King Records, interestingly — six sides altogether, with three written by Dudley and one co-written with Louis Innis.  Dudley would record for a handful of small labels before being signed to Mercury in the wake of “Six Days on the Road” and its breakout success (in retrospect, his first & last Top 40 pop hit).

Dudley, of course, recorded other material besides truck-driving tunes, such as these back-to-back singles released in 1965/66 – “What We’re Fighting For” & “Vietnam Blues” – the first written by Tom T. Hall and the second by up-and-comer, Kris Kristofferson.  But within the world of trucker music, “Operation X” stands apart in one important respect:  this is the only truck driving song (at least, that I know of) written about the Korean War:

“Operation X” from 1965 Mercury LP, Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun

Those famously percussive guitar riffs are being popped off by Jimmy Colvard, no doubt — and yet nowhere is his name in these credits from the indispensable LP Discography:

Jerry Kennedy:  Guitar & Dobro
Harold Bradley & Ray Edenton:  Guitar
Pete Drake:  Steel Guitar
Bob Moore:  Bass
Buddy Harman:  Drums
HargusPigRobbins:  Piano
Recorded:  March, 1965 – Columbia Studios – Nashville

Well as long as there’s a truck I won’t forget
Korea and Operation X.

I won’t forget the year of ’54
I drove a truck in that Korean war.
Haulin’ GI’s to the front and back
In a truck they called Deuce and a half.
The others called it Operation X
We had to move in just an hour or less.

First ethanol and maintenance that was all
And there were twenty men I had to haul.
That south Korean sky was smoky black
I was third in convoy from the back.
But twenty minutes out they hit the nail
It was mortar they were sendin’ in the mail.

We’ll scatter out and find a hole they said
Cause Operation X is catchin’ lead.
I wheeled into a side road to the left
Drivin’ to an almost certain death.
I heard the steady screepin’ of the shells
The burnin’ powder sent a deadly smell.

And it happened as I pulled into a stop
They hit us and I blacked out from the shock.
Somehow I got back to the States alive
And now I got another rig to drive.
My bumper sign says “Operation X”
It’s there ’cause I’m the only one that’s left.

“Operation X” was written by – who else? – Tom T. Hall.  Is it wrong of me to point out that by 1954, the United States had ceased combat in the Korean War (says the State of New Jersey’s website:  “On July 27, 1953, the Armistice was signed, and all fighting stopped”)?

“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman”: Nancy, Lee & Tom T.

I love how much fun Nancy and Lee are having while they sing, audibly evident just 13 seconds into this song.  And Lee isn’t kidding when Nancy queries him about a lyric in the middle of the performance, and he replies, “I don’t know, I didn’t write the song” — that would be Tom T. Hall:

This song was included on 1968’s Nancy & Lee Reprise album for which Billy Strange arranged & conducted and Hazlewood wrote (50%) & produced (100%).

Nancy & Lee LP“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” (originally written for Jim and Jesse, who released a 45 in December 1967) remained strictly an album track for Nancy & Lee — except in Germany, where it served as the B-side to “Elusive Dreams” in May 1969.

Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman 45

“Tulsa Telephone Book”: Pre-Internet Woes

I have a transcription LP of a Ralph Emery radio show from 1971, with Glen Campbell as the featured guest.  Here are Ralph and Glen introducing a wry and rascally analog tale – “Tulsa Telephone Book” – from Tom T. Hall’s new album at the time, In Search of a Song:

“Tulsa Telephone Book” was never issued as a 45 – thus, Ralph Emery was spinning an LP track on this particular radio broadcast.

Tom T Hall LP

Musical Roll Call – Special Trucker’s Edition: “There Ain’t No Easy Run”

Dave Dudley and Tom T. Hall collaborated on a musical roll call that cleverly pays tribute to the rich tapestry of American trucking firms that happened to be in existence as of December 1967 when this song was recorded and subsequently released on Dudley’s 1968 Mercury album, Thanks for All the Miles:

There Ain’t No Easy Run – Dave Dudley

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear “There Ain’t No Easy Run” by Dave Dudley.]

“There Ain’t No Easy Run” was a Top 10 country hit, while the album made the Top 40 on the country charts.

Dave Dudley - Thanks for All the Miles

Musician and recording credits for this album – although isn’t that Jimmy Colvard (“Six Days on the Road”) playing his distinctive brand of percussive lead guitar?

Jerry Kennedy - guitar/dobro
Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, Jerry Shook, Chip Young - guitar
Pete Drake - steel
Bob Moore - bass
Buddy Harman - drums
Hargus Pig Robbins - piano
Recorded:
December 1967 - Columbia Recording Studio - Nashville