Curly Chalker’s Dutch-Only 45: Party Game for Steel Fanatics

Zero to 180’s summertime celebration breezes right along with this parlor game for music nerds:

  • First, launch a new web browser and point it at
    (go ahead, I’ll wait)

  • Next, type the name of ace steel guitarist, Curly Chalker, in the search window
    (and press Enter)

Curly Chalker  (c. 1975)


  • Question:  How many items turned up in your search? 


Both sides of this 1967 single — “The Race Is On” and “A Thing Called Sadness” — are taken from Chalker’s 1966 Pete Drake-produced debut album on Columbia Records, his one and only LP for ‘Big Red‘.  Chalker famously follows in the footsteps of Buddy Emmons and Noel Boggs, who all made their recording debuts on Columbia, the prestigious label whose oldest recordings harken back to the year (gulp) 1896.

Cash Box made note of this single’s release in its “Holland” gossip column published in the April 22, 1967 edition (in which we also learn that Bovema had acquired the exclusive rights in Benelux for “Al Capone” by the Prince Buster All-Stars, now being “rush-released”) —

For those having trouble reading the fine print, here is a magnified view of the relevant text, in which Curly Chalker and Peaches & Herb are mentioned in the same sentence:

Check out the “hyper-stereo” mix of the A-side, with Chalker leaping out of the left side: 

“The Race Is On” – George Jones’ big hit from 1964 – is the album’s lead-off track.


History cannot help but wonder —

Q:  How many other recordings feature Curly Chalker’s masterful steel playing?

A:  Click on boldfaced song titles below for streaming audio

  • Lefty Frizzell — May 24, 1951

Chalker’s first session for Frizzell took place May 24, 1951 at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas and produced four songs:  “How Long Will It Take (To Stop Loving You)”; “Always Late (With Your Kisses)”; “Mom and Dad’s Waltz” & “You Can Go On Your Way Now.”

  • Lefty Frizzell — June 1 & 2, 1951

Chalker and fellow musicians followed up with a two-stint at Jim Beck Studio that netted eight songs:  “Treasure Untold“; “Blue Yodel No. 6“; “Travellin’ Blues“; “My Old Pal“; “Blue Yodel No. 2“; “Lullaby Yodel“; “Brakeman’s Blues” & “My Rough and Rowdy Ways” 

  • Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys — Dec. 11, 1951

Chalker’s participation in the December 11, 1951 session at Capitol’ Melrose Avenue Studio that yielded “Wild Side of Life” would begin a 28-year relationship (off and on) with Thompson.  Three other songs recorded at that session:  “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart“; “Don’t Make Me Cry Again” & “Cryin’ in the Deep Blue Sea.”

  • Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys — May 13, 1952

Four songs recorded with Chalker at this Ken Nelson-produced session:  “The New Wears Off Too Fast“; “You’re Walking on My Heart“; “It’s Better to Have Loved a Little”; & “How Cold Hearted Can You Get.”

Capitol Recording Studio – MELROSE AVENUE (C. 1955)

Back cover:  “The selections on this album were recorded in 1952 for the Office of Price Stabilization, an organization set up during World War Two to hold prices constant on consumer goods.  It was recommended during the Korean War and was finally vetoed by the Republicans when they returned to power in 1952.”  Chalker plays on seven selections, including (1951’s) “Sixty Minute Man” – originally made famous by The Dominoes for Federal Records – and “Could You Take Me Back.”  LP released in 1990 by UK’s Country Routes.

  • Bill Wemberly & His Country Rhythm BoysOzark Jubilee TV show — 195?

Thumbs Carllile & Curly Chalker give “Li’l Liza Jane” a pretty thorough workout, while Ozark Jubilee host, Red Foley, looks on approvingly:

Chalker accompanies one of the world’s great guitarists (playing at the tender age of fifteen) in a family band led by Breau’s father, Hal Lone Pine, and can be heard on two western swing tracks recorded in Maine, “Muskrat Ramble” and “Knock Knock” —  with Dick Curless strumming rhythm — from a 1998 CD release that includes liner notes by executive producer (and teenage friend), Randy Bachman.

Chalker and Thumbs Carllile are among the musicians backing Bledsoe on this 45.

Among the musicians supporting Clark on his Capitol debut LP are Billy Strange (guitar), Howard Roberts (bass) and Chalker, who can be heard on such tracks as “Texas Twist“; “In the Mood“; “Drifter’s Polka” & “A Maiden’s Prayer.”

  • Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys — April 3, 1963

Chalker rejoins the band after an eleven-year gap to record two tracks at the “new” Capitol Records Tower:   “Twice As Much” & “Just to Ease the Pain

  • Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys — May 27, 1963

Chalker records two tracks:  “Reaching for the Moon” & “Stirring Up the Ashes.”

Highlights of Chalker’s debut Columbia album include a snappy country jazz take on The Harden Trio’s “Tippy Toeing,” plus distinctive renditions of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and Ray Price’s “A Thing Called Sadness.”  According to PragueFrank, recorded April 1966 at Starday Sound Studio in Nashville, with Jerry Shook (guitar), Bill Pursell (piano), Bobby Dyson & Billy Linneman (bass), and Willie Ackerman & Jimmy Stewart (drums).

Chalker, the lone uncredited steel player, can be heard on “Crazy Arms.”

Chalker and Pete Drake (uncredited) both contribute steel guitar.

Chalker and Pete Drake again share steel guitar responsibilities.

  • Hank Thompson — March 8-11, 1971

Chalker rejoins Thompson and the band for four consecutive days at Bradley’s Barn, during which the following songs were recorded in tribute to The Mills Brothers:  “I’ll Be Around“; “Gloria“; “Be My Life’s Companion“; “Glow Worm“; “Paper Doll“; “Till Then“; “You Always Hurt the One You Love”; “Cab Driver“; “Lazy River“: “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You“; “Across the Alley From the Alamo“; “Promise Her Anything” & “The Mark of a Heel.”

  • Hank Thompson & The Brazos Valley Boys — August 23, 1971

Chalker returns to Bradley Barn to record five more tracks:  “I’ve Come Awful Close“; “That’s Why I Sing in a Honky Tonk“; “Fifteen Dollar Brew” (unissued); “Roses in the Wine” & “Teardrops on the Rocks.”

Linda Ronstadt’s backing band – John Beland, Gib Guilbeau, Stan Pratt & Thad Maxwell – released two self-titled debut LPs in the same year:  one for King Records, incredibly (cover photo taken by Cal Schenkel), and the other for RCA Victor, which featured guest musicians, including Chalker and Jimmy Day on steel guitar, and sleeve notes by Arlo Guthrie.

Chalker’s steel work can be heard on “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For the World.”

This B-side features Chalker on the steel guitar solo, as noted on the 45 label.

Chalker and Stu Basore (steel guitar), join Troy Seals and Jimmy Colvard (guitar), Charlie McCoy (harmonica & tuba), and The Jordanaires, among others. 

  • Buryl Red & Grace Hawthorne — Lightshine! 1972

Move over Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, and make room for Lightshine!:  “Lightshine is a youth musical which brings to both the performers and the audience a totally new and joyous understanding of one of the Bible’s most beautiful and significant texts — the Beatitudes.  With contemporary music sounds and up-to-date dialog, the Sermon on the Mount comes to life” [back cover notes].  Buryl Red (arranger/conductor) and Grace Hawthorne (lyricist) are joined by Nashville’s A Team — Harold Bradley, Pete Wade, Charlie McCoy, David Briggs, Bobby Thompson, Bill Pursell, Farrell Morris, Buddy Harman & Bob Moore — along with Curly Chalker, who can be heard most prominently on “Inherit the Earth” (but less so on such songs as “Weep No More” and “The Good Life“).

  • Floyd Cramer — Detours 1972

Chalker and Weldon Myrick tag team independently on steel.

Chalker is the featured soloist on “Danny Boy.”

Chalker plays steel on six tracks, including album opener, “Deep in the Heart of Me“; “Slip Away“; “The Feeling Is Right and The Time Is Right Now” & “Bad Guys Don’t Always Wear Black Hats.”

As it says on the back cover:  “It’s the first time … nine steel guitar players, one lead guitar player, one saxophone, bass and drums, one three-hour session, flat out picking with no overdubs.”  Chalker joins Buddy Emmons, Doug Jernigan, Hal Rugg, Jimmy Day, Julian Tharpe, Lloyd Green, Maurice Anderson & Speedy West, and is the first steel guitar soloist on opening track, “Twelve Midnight.”

Rear cover photo =
Louis Bellson (center), who flew in from California for the session

  • Wilburn Brothers — “Heart Over Mind” — 197?

The person who posted this clip from the Wilburn Brothers television show lists these musician credits:  Curly Chalker (pedal steel) – Jimmy Capps (lead electric guitar) – Lester Wilburn (rhythm guitar) – Leslie Wilburn (electric bass):


For this live album, Curless gets rock-solid support from Chalker, along with guitarist/bandleader Harold Bradley, Jerry Smith, Buzz Evans, Buddy Harmon, and Joe Allen.  Click on this link to hear streaming audio of the album, which kicks off with “Chick Inspector” written by Vaughn Horton, who penned the back cover notes (as well as “Big Wheel Cannonball” and a number of other 45 sides). 

  • Hank Thompson — August 21, 1973

Chalker is brought into Hendersonville’s Sound Spectrum recording facility to overdub steel guitar on five tracks:  “A Six Pack To Go“; “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again“; “The Corner Of My Life“; “I Recall a Gypsy Woman” & “Little Red Wagon.”

Chalker plays on six tracks, including “Truck Driving Man.”

Gospel album by Ray (‘Hey Paula“) Hildebrand that enjoys musical backing from Chalker, Norman Blake, and Billy Sanford, among others.

Includes three Chalker originals:  “Blues Bye“; “Paper Cups” & “Seven to One.”

In case you don’t catch all the names being called out over the course of this obscure but remarkable B-side, Rich Kienzle comes to the rescue in his liner notes for Guitar Player Presents Legends of Guitar – Country Vol. 2: *“There are no all-star ‘jam sessions’ on this collection, but Texas honky tonk singer Johnny Bush’s 1974 version of the Bob Wills favorite ‘Home in San Antone’ comes close.  Produced by Ray Pennington, it features Bush (writer of the Willie Nelson favorite ‘Whiskey River‘) backed by some of Nashville’s greatest pickers, including two steel guitarists:  Buddy Emmons [left speaker] and Curly Chalker [right speaker].  Hot swing fiddlers Johnny Gimble and Buddy Spicher grate the song, and the swinging lead guitar work comes from Harold Bradley, dean of Nashville studio guitarists (he worked his first session in 1946) and one of Hank Garland’s early jazz tutors.”

  • Hank Thompson — September 6, 1974

Chalker plays steel on three tracks recorded at Jack Clement’s Nashville studio:  “After You Have Made Me Over“; “That’s Just My Truckin’ Luck” & “Mississippi Sam.”

Chalker and Lloyd Green provide steel support for Robertson, a country singer from Sweden, on a album that was recorded both in Swedish and English.

  • The SamuelsonsVänner — 1974

Chalker provides steel support for this Swedish gospel and country group — four brothers, Rolf, Kjell, Olle and Jard — on such songs as “Han Gav Sitt Liv För Mej” and “Hjälp Mej.”

Instrumental assistance for this gospel album provided by Chalker (steel guitar), as well as musicians from both the Nashville & Atlanta Symphony Orchestras (strings).

Phillips gets support from a bevy of musicians on this gospel album, including Chalker.

Recorded at RCA Studios Nashville with backing from Chalker, along with Buddy Harmon, Buddy [Spicher], Pete Wade and Ray Edenton, among others.


The five gospel musicians receive supplemental sweetening on this album from Chalker, along with D.J. Fontana (drums) and Tommy Floyd (bass). 

Chalker (steel guitar) joins D.J. Fontana (drums), among other musicians in support of the Bangor-based singer’s lone solo album.

Chalker steps out on “There Will Never Be Another You,” with rhythmic support from Angelo Varias (drums) and Jim Tullio (bass).  Billboard‘s review in their Nov. 6, 1976 edition enthused that Venuti (“father of jazz violin“), along with Eldon Shamblin (Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys), Jethro Burns (mandolinist/humorist), and Chalker have “recorded an album for Flying Fish Records that highlights the close ties between swing jazz and the ‘western swing’ country music tradition.”

  • Jack Jersey & The JordanairesI Wonder — 1975

Chalker joins a group of top session players (Pete Wade & Buddy Harmon, Hargus Robbins, The Jordanaires) who back Jersey, a pop singer and producer from the Netherlands, on an album arranged by Harold Bradley and recorded at Columbia’s Nashville Studios.

Chalker (uncredited) can be heard on “All Around Cowboy” and “Gone.”

Chalker provides steel, along with Paul Franklin, Russ Hicks & Weldon Myrick.

  • Hank Thompson — March 18-19, 1975

Chalker joins Thompson on nine tracks recorded at Jack Clement Studio:  “Answer Me, My Love“; “Ramblin’ Rose“; “Mona Lisa“; “If I May“; “Too Young“; “The Gypsy“; “Pretend”; “That’s All There Is, There Isn’t Any More“; “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep

  • Hank Thompson — June 24-25, 1975

Chalker returns to Jack Clement Studio with Thompson and fellow musicians to record ten tracks — a few issued as 45 tracks but others remained unissued until Bear Family released its 8-CD Hank Thompson box set:  “Modine“; “Golden Turnpike in the Sky“; “I Lost My Love to a Truck Drivin’ Man“; “Movin’ On“; “Asphalt Cowboy“; “Fifteen Miles to Clarksville“; “Trucker’s Lullaby“; “Fifteen Gears” & “Truck It Down to My House Lady”

Recorded at Bradley Barn, with Harold Bradley (guitar), Pete Wade (guitar), Charlie McCoy (harmonica), Bob Moore (bass) & Buddy Harman (drums).

Chalker and Bob White take turns on steel guitar.

Dadi (“Tunisian-born Jewish French virtuoso guitarist“) recorded this album in Nashville at David Briggs’ studio with top session players, including Chalker and Buddy Emmons on steel.

Chalker and Emmons make a return appearance.

Chalker and Emmons once again work their steel guitar magic.

Chalker appears to be the sole steel player on this album — highlights include opening track, “Cheaters Never Win,” plus “Window in My Heart“; “Time Wounds All Heals” & “She Loves the One She’s With.”

Released by Steel Guitar Record Club as a 2-LP set, with Chalker’s 1966 Columbia debut as a bonus disc.  According to Praguefrank, these twelve tracks were originally recorded January 31, 1971 at Jack Clement’s Nashville studio, with Harold Bradley (leader/guitar), Bee Gee Cruser (piano), Bob Moore (bass), Farrell Morris (percussion) & Buddy Harman (drums).

Chalker lets loose on “My Window Faces the South” [which begins at 11:12].

Smith is supported on this album by three steel guitarists, including Chalker.

The ‘Four Giants of Swing‘ (Venuti, Chalker, Shamblin & Burns) reunite for one track – “Undecided” (the album’s closer) – on this collection of standards recorded at Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Studios in Chicago.

According to the musician credits, steel guitar provided by Chalker (“The Original Hank Thompson Steel Guitar Lick“) and Don Helms (“The Original Hank Williams Steel Guitar Lick“).

These ten songs appear to be an anthology of Thompson’s past work, even though they were, in fact, recorded October 9 & 10, 1979 (along with fourteen other songs) at the *former Bradley “Quonset Hut” Recording Studios (i.e., Gusto Studio) with top musicians including Chalker, Buddy Spicher, Pete Wade, Roy Huskey, and D.J. Fontana [*sold to Moe Lytle’s Gusto Records in 1974 by Starday-King owners Bienstock, Neely, Leiber & Stoller].  

Chalker and Paul Franklin alternate on steel guitar.

Cassette-only release of standards.


Curly Chalker Trivia

Curly Chalker, born October 22, 1931 in Enterprise, Alabama, made his professional debut in the nightclubs of Cincinnati, according to The Independent‘s October 22, 2011 obituary.


One Last 70-Second Blast

Jimmy Capps and Curly Chalker engage in some friendly sparring on this 70-second instrumental from The Wilburn Brothers television show:


Curly Chalker = Participant at the 3rd National Steel Guitar Convention
(BillboardSEPTEMBER 14, 1976)


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Lloyd Green Stumps for Baldwin

Check out the Clavinet-like sounds coming from Jerry Whitehurst‘s electric harpsichord on “Wild Blue Yonder,” side one’s closing track from Lloyd Green‘s third solo LP Day of Decision, an album that was recorded (like Stones Jazz) in one day — in this case, on June 18, 1966 at RCA Studios in Nashville:

“Wild Blue Yonder”     Lloyd Green     1966

Lloyd Green:  Steel Guitar
Billy Sanford:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Reed:  Lead Guitar
Jerry Shook:  Guitar
Roy Huskey, Jr.:  Bass
Glen Davis:  Drum[s]
Jerry Whitehurst:  Electric Harpsichord

Somehow I failed to notice the significance of this announcement on the album’s back cover until now:

The Baldwin Piano and Organ Company of Cincinnati, Ohio recently invented and began manufacture of a completely new electric Harpsichord.

This instrument is being used for the first time in the ‘Day of Decision’ album.  You will notice the various unusual sounds on the different bands; these are just a few of the sound combinations possible on this instrument.

A number of musicians, who have played the Harpsichord, feel that it is the most original and versatile new instrument to be devised in yours.”

Rear cover – 1966 LP Day for Decision

Fascinating to encounter this information now in light of 2015-2016’s big horse race to determine the earliest recording of a Hohner Clavinet — and funny, too, since Zero to 180 had already celebrated a song from this same album back in 2014!  The date of the recording confirms that Baldwin had, in fact, beat Hohner to the “electric harpsichord” marketplace.

           LP cover – US                                        LP cover – Canada, possibly

Cash Box‘s Tom McIntee would talk up the exciting array of sounds made possible by Baldwin’s new electric harpsichord in the patriotic liner notes that accompany this album:

Something new has been added to America in this performance.  That something new is Lloyd on the steel and Billy Sanford and Jerry Reed on guitars.  That something new is an acoustical electric harpsichord.  An amazing instrument that sometimes sounds like a kazoo, sometimes like an organ, sometimes like a tuba.  The great majority of tracks in this album are old, but the sound is something new.  It’s a breath of new life into an America that sometimes grows weary beneath its burdens.

“Lloyd Green plays a Sho-Bud steel guitar” – back cover

The Baldwin electric harpsichord would be used most notably on “Because” from 1969’s Abbey Road by [K-Tel artists] The Beatles, as well as the opening theme to TV’s “The Odd Couple,” according to Spectrasonics (who states that the keyboard was “developed in the early 1960s by the Cannon Guild and marketed by Baldwin from 1966 into the early 1970s.”)

Vintage Keyboard Studio marvels at the instrument’s design:

“Each note has its own string and jack, which employs a pick and a damper felt.  When the key is depressed, it raises the jack which causes the pick to pluck the string, then come back down and pass over the string and come to rest on the damper.  It’s a pretty neat design, but somewhat flawed in that the picks can and will break, and the jacks themselves become brittle.  On this one in particular, we had all the jacks replaced with brand new ones.  It takes a lot of adjustment to get it right, but once it’s right it sounds awesome.”

This design includes a “very unique pickup system,” in which, as Baldwin’s own literature explains —

“Each pickup can be activated by two switches, one for the treble half of the keyboard and one for the bass.  Individually, the treble and bass switches for each pickup can be set for either the left or right volume pedal.  All of these tonal combinations can be doubled with a foot control that [indecipherable] the overall tone of the keyboard.  The Baldwin two-channel amplifier with tremolo, reverberation, and its exclusive Supersound tone controls bring the tonal possibles to a phenomenal total.”

Click on image below to view in Ultra-High Resolution

Image above courtesy of Santa Cruz Piano (where you can rent the Baldwin)

Despite the ingenuity of design (did I mention that the CW-9 model includes an “amplifier housed in the same compact floor unit as the two volume pedals”?), Vintage Keyboard Studio affirms that Baldwin electric harpsichords are, indeed, “pretty rare,” most likely due to the challenge of maintaining the instrument’s integrity over time.  The relative durability of the Clavinet would account for Hohner’s dominance of the electric harpsichord market by the early-to-mid 1970s, the funky new keyboard’s Golden Age.

Jimmy Webb mentions the Baldwin electric harpsichord in his 2017 memoir, The Cake and the Rain, within the context of his work as a songwriter for Johnny Rivers’ new record label, Soul City in 1966-67:

That was the spirit of the time … innovation and the exploitation of new technology.  Al Casey played a Japanese guitar called a biwa on [The Fifth Dimension’s version of] “Go Where You Wanna Go.”  The Baldwin Electric Harpsichord was a new invention.  We procured a prototype, and [Larry] Knechtel and I sat side by side combining a plethora of keyboards and organs.  We visited the ubiquitous electric sitar, a fad that started with Joe South‘s “The Games People Play” and ended a month or so later.  The studio had been full of gourds, castanets, congas, jawbones, tin cans full of popcorn, Styrofoam cups full of BBs, wind chimes, and thumb harps.  Hal Blaine developed a set of tuned tom-toms of different sizes, flared around his perch like a keyboard.  Ringo Starr heard about these and asked Hal to come to London to bring a set.

Billboard‘s October 7, 1967 issue includes this news item about Baldwin under the header Sound Tracks:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Baldwin-electric-harpsichord-Billboard-10-7-67.jpg

Staid old Baldwin is a consistent advertiser at the consumer level and works tirelessly to get its instruments into the hands of recording artists.  Musical instrument division advertising manager James Lehr reports that its new combo harpsichord, for example, is being used for commercials, film soundtracks and rock groups.  Groups using the instrument in recording sessions are Chad and Jeremy, the Monkees, Beach [Boys], Spanky and Our Gang, Left Banke, Young Rascals and the Sandpipers.  The harpsichord has also been used frequently on the Lawrence Welk show and jazz pianist Hank Jones has recorded an album of jazz on the combo harpsichord for release on Impulse.  The instrument has also been used by the Cincinnati, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale and New Orleans symphonies to simulate the Cimbalon required in the “Harry Janos Suite.”


Ad for RMI’s “Rock-Si-Chord” — Billboard — Oct. 7, 1967

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RMI-Rock-Si-Chord-ad-Billboard-10-7-67.jpg

Rusty York’s Cincinnati Indie

Billboard, in their January 8, 1972 edition, reported this quirky news item in the Cincinnati division of their “From the Music Capitals Around the World” column:

Rusty York, who heads up the Jewel Recording Studio[s] here, learned last week that the new ‘Smash-Up Derby’ commercial [for Cincinnati-based Kenner Products], which he created and did all the instrumental work, has been entered into the Hollywood Film Festival as an entry to select the best film commercial of the year.  The commercial is currently being spotted on all three major networks.”

Kenner SSP Smash-Up Derby TV Commercial   =  Music by Rusty York

Rusty York’s Jewel Recording Studio – in Mt. Healthy, just north of Cincinnati – would begin releasing 45s in 1961 and would once host The Grateful Dead, believe it or not, according to Cliff Radel’s obituary for York in the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s February 4, 2014 edition.

You can survey Rusty York’s musical legacy in three ways:

Discogs also allows you to browse LP & 45 releases that were recorded at Jewel Recording Studio, including Lonnie Mack‘s Whatever’s Right 1969 LP for Elektra (engineered by Gene Lawson) and Paul Dixon‘s Paul Baby 1973 album (on which Dixon is accompanied by former King recording artist Bonnie Lou).

Two memorable song titles that can only be found on the Jewel label:

Baby You Can Scratch My Egg” – vintage 1967 San Francisco-style psych blues – and “Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky” – “post 60’s garage/proto punk” from 1974 that features maniacal drumming and laughing choruses that are strategically interrupted by a softly-spoken catch phrase intended to win over the Pre-K crowd.

Jewel Records featured 45 #1


Jewel Records featured 45 #2

“Don’t Munkey with the Funky Skunky”     Dry Ice     1974

From Billboard‘s ‘Music Capitals of the World – Cincinnati’ column = Oct. 14, 1972 edition:

Mike Reid, defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals [previously celebrated here], and Dee Felice [musical associate of James Brown] and his group set for early recording dates at Rusty York‘s Jewel studios.  Felice recently cut two sides at Jewel.  Sonny Simmons, Cleveland gospel promoter, in town recently to produce an album for the gospel-singing Monarchs at Jewel studios.  Others in recently at Jewel to do gospel albums were Judy Cody of Akron; The Crossmen of Lansing, Mich.; and the Cooke Duet of Wise, Va.

Mad Lydia Wood, accompanied by Cincinnati Joe, did the warbling on six commercial spots on Wiedemann Beer for the Campbell-Mithun Agency of Minneapolis at Jewel last week.  Mad Lydia and Joe have held forth at various locations here for the last several years.”

Based on Rusty York’s cameo appearance in a recent piece, no doubt you will not be surprised to learn that Albert Washington was a Jewel recording artist, as was/were Jimmie SkinnerThe Russell BrothersJ.D. Jarvis, Linda Webb, and Dale Miller [let’s not forget 1969’s Sharon Lee and the Moonrockers, not to mention that same year’s The Funnie Papers, and most especially of all, Jade, whose 1970 album, recorded at Jewel, would include the jaw-dropping sonic wonder of “My Mary“).

Rusty York at Jewel = courtesy of Randy McNutt’s Home of the Hits

Click on image above for ultra-high resolution

Ω                      Ω                      Ω                      Ω

Did You Know?
Rusty York/King Records Trivia From Randy McNutt’s website:

Rusty York, a former King rockabilly and country singer, bought some of King’s echo equipment and microphones for his own Jewel Recording Studios in suburban Mt. Healthy, Ohio.  He even bought Nathan’s desk chair.  “The Neumann tube mics cost $300 new in the early ’60s,” he said.  “I just sold one for $2,800.  Like King, quality doesn’t go out of style.”

Bonus Jewel 45 for steel guitar fans!  1977‘s “Rose City Chimes” by Chubby Howard

According to Linda J. York (who has the booklet Dick Clark hawked at the show), Rusty York opened the first Rock and Roll show at the Hollywood Bowl for Dick Clark!

Excerpt from Zero to 180’s Facebook Page

“Zero to 180’s latest piece pays tribute to a former King recording artist – Rusty York – whose kind and gentle nature and lack of ego may have accidentally conspired to obscure his legacy as an accomplished musician (who “could play any tune in any style“) as well as recording studio founder/engineer, whose Jewel recordings run the gamut of musical sounds and genres, not unlike King (and Fraternity and Counterpart).”

Friendly reminder:  For optimal presentation, view Zero to 180 on a computer screen

Ann Jones & Her “All-Girl” Band

Is it really true, as Country Music Archive asserts, that Ann Jones And Her Western Sweethearts “was probably the first all-girl band in C & W music”?  Bill Sachs, in his “Folk Talent and Tunes” column for Billboard, reported in the November 13, 1960 edition

Ann Jones, King recording veteran, and hubby Hughie, have their five-piece, all-girl band playing military installations in the 50 States on a 52-week-a-year basis.  Combo makes the jump in a sleeper bus.

KCLX disc jockey, Mary Wilson, in that same Billboard column would “type in” from Palouse, Washington in their January 1, 1955 edition “that Ann Jones and her all-girl band from Vancouver, B.C., toured thru there recently and guested on her ‘Far West Jamboree.’  In the band, which played the Riverside Park there the same night, are Blanche Emerson, steel guitar, Yvonne Fritchie, vocalist and guitarist, who records for Abbott Records; De Lore Nelson, accordion, and Mariam Saylor.”

Photo courtesy of Discogs

Ruppli’s King Labels discography reports March 29, 1951 to be the date of Jones’ first recording session at King’s Cincinnati studio (having left Capitol, her first label, for King).  “Hi-Ballin’ Daddy” – one of four songs captured on tape at that first session – was her first single release for King:

 “Hi-Ballin’ Daddy”     Ann Jones     1951

Another recording session followed eight months later at the King studio on November 9, 1951, and again, four songs would be committed to tape, including “Too Old to Cut the Mustard.”   The next recording session at the King studio took place on June 6, 1952 (including “Smart Aleck“), while two more sessions would take place in Los Angeles the following year in May (“If I Was a Cat” & “A Big Fat Gal Like Me“).  The final entry in the Ruppli discography indicates Jones’ last session for King to have taken place April 11-12, 1961 at the Cincinnati studio, with fifteen songs recorded, including “Hit and Run” and “Pieces of My Heart.”

78 RPM/45 World reveals King to have issued eleven 78 releases by Ann Jones, plus two LPs on King subsidiary, Audio Lab:  1959’s Ann Jones And Her American Sweethearts (highlights from her early 50s recordings) and 1961’s Hit and Run from Ann Jones And Her Western Sweethearts (14 of the 15 tracks laid down in April, 1961).

1959 LP — modernist backdrop         vs.          1961 LP — more traditional backdrop

From King’s 78 “biodiscs” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) we have learned the following information about Ann Jones:

  • Altho(ugh) all her kin are still in Kentucky, Ann was born in Kansas and attended school there.
  • Ann’s biggest seller was “Give Me a Hundred Reasons” [1949 debut single on Capitol] – she says that what success she has enjoyed to date is due primarily to the disc jockeys, who have been almost completely responsible.
  • Ann Jones, besides being the favorite girl hillbilly singer of thousands of fans, is also an athlete.  She was a star softball player in California before devoting all her time to music.
  • When Ann is free to relax and enjoy her hobbies, you can find her at the best fishing spot in the neighborhood, or else at the ball park watching her favorite baseball team.
  • Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, Ann Jones has blue eyes and is 5’6″ tall.  Fishing is her main hobby when she isn’t busy singing or composing songs.  She has written over 150 original compositions.
  • Besides fishing, Ann loves baseball.  She used to play softball before she devoted full-time to music.  She seldom goes to baseball games anymore because she always yells herself hoarse.

Randy McNutt notes in King Records of Cincinnati: that Ann Jones “once said that she started writing songs because so many were written for men singers.”

Robert K. Oermann, in his entry for Ann Jones in The Encyclopedia of Country Music –  Compiled by the Staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, observes that “much of her material was self-penned, making her one of country’s trailblazing female composers.”

A tall tip of the hat to music historian Dave Schroeder, who informs Zero to 180 (via the comments attached to this piece) that Billboard, in its January 1, 1955 edition incorrectly lists Vancouver, British Columbia as the band’s home base – it should be Vancouver, Washington, not far from Portland,” and that furthermore, “to my ears, the 1950s recordings (1st Audio Lab LP) used King studio musicians, while those from the early 1960s (2nd Audio Lab LP, Hit and Run) featured Ann’s band, The Western Sweethearts.

Steel Guitar Who’s Who:  1957

Schroeder also generously offered up this high-rez image of top steel guitar talent (including Blanche Emerson) from the Fender booth at a 1957 radio DJ convention – special thanks to The Steel Guitar Forum for identification of each musician:

Back row (L to R):  Jimmy Day; Johnnie Siebert; Jerry Byrd; Leon McAuliffe; Sonny Burnette; Speedy West; Buddy Emmons; Don Helms; Bob White; Bob Foster.
Front Row (L to R):  Linda Reilly; Don Worden; Blanche Emerson

Note:  For maximum impact, click on image above to view in Ultra High Resolution

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[Eagerly awaiting the return of streaming audio]

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 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 Rich 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 (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

[*Earnestly hoping this 1961 arrangement will once again be posted]

Dramatic ending — glissando effect immediately makes one think of Rey’s work with Juan Garcia Esquivel.  Since streaming audio of this recording is not currently available, “Idaho” (from the same 1961 album of “re-recordings” disguised by Dot as an anthology) is another classic demonstration of Rey’s smooth glissando technique:

“Idaho”     Alvino Rey     1961

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!


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?

[link no longer active = awaiting replacement audio]

“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?