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 45Cat — www.45cat.com
(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?
- Answer: Exactly one — from The Netherlands.
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)
- Hank Thompson & [The] Brazos Valley Boys — Previously Unissued 1952 Air Shots — 
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 Boys — Ozark 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:
- Lenny Breau — Boy Wonder — [c. 1956]
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.
- Roy Clark — The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark — November 14-17, 1961
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
- Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys — May 27, 1963
- Curly Chalker — Big Hits on Big Steel — 1966
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).
- Ray Price — For The Good Times — 1970
Chalker, the lone uncredited steel player, can be heard on “Crazy Arms.”
- Jody Miller — Look At Mine — 1970
Chalker and Pete Drake (uncredited) both contribute steel guitar.
- George Jones & Tammy Wynette — We Go Together — 1971
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.”
- Swampwater — Swampwater — 1971
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.
- Bill Haley & the Comets — Rock Around The Country — 1971
- Stan Hitchcock — “The Shadow Of Your Smile” [B-side] — 1971
This B-side features Chalker on the steel guitar solo, as noted on the 45 label.
- Doug Kershaw — Devil’s Elbow — 1972
- 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.
- Charlie McCoy — Charlie McCoy — 1972
Chalker is the featured soloist on “Danny Boy.”
- O.B. McClinton — O.B. McClinton Country — 1972
- Jimmy Bryant — It’s The First Time — 197?
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):
- Dick Curless — Live At The Wheeling Truck Driver’s Jamboree — 1973
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.”
- Leon Russell — Hank Wilson’s Back Vol. 1 — 1973
Chalker plays on six tracks, including “Truck Driving Man.”
- Ray Hildebrand — Special Kind of Man — 1973
Gospel album by Ray (‘Hey Paula“) Hildebrand that enjoys musical backing from Chalker, Norman Blake, and Billy Sanford, among others.
- Curly Chalker — More Ways to Play — 1974
Includes three Chalker originals: “Blues Bye“; “Paper Cups” & “Seven to One.”
- Johnny Bush — “Home in San Antone” — March 20, 1974
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
- Alf Robertson — I Nashville — 1974
- The Samuelsons — Vänner — 1974
- The Gardners — The Gardners — 197?
Instrumental assistance for this gospel album provided by Chalker (steel guitar), as well as musicians from both the Nashville & Atlanta Symphony Orchestras (strings).
- Wanda Phillips — Her Son & Soul — 197?
Phillips gets support from a bevy of musicians on this gospel album, including Chalker.
- Tommy Hawk — He’s Got the Whole World — 197?
Recorded at RCA Studios Nashville with backing from Chalker, along with Buddy Harmon, Buddy [Spicher], Pete Wade and Ray Edenton, among others.
- Tucson Messengers — Home In the Sky — 197?
The five gospel musicians receive supplemental sweetening on this album from Chalker, along with D.J. Fontana (drums) and Tommy Floyd (bass).
- Dave Dalton — Maine-ly Country — 197?
Chalker (steel guitar) joins D.J. Fontana (drums), among other musicians in support of the Bangor-based singer’s lone solo album.
- Four Giants of Swing — S’Wonderful — 1975
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 Jordanaires — I 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.
- Johnny Cash — Look At Them Beans — 1975
- Charlie McCoy — Harpin’ the Blues — 1975
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”
- Curly Chalker — Nashville Sundown: Curly Chalker Plays The Songs of Gordon Lightfoot — 1976
Recorded at Bradley Barn, with Harold Bradley (guitar), Pete Wade (guitar), Charlie McCoy (harmonica), Bob Moore (bass) & Buddy Harman (drums).
- Hank Thompson — Back In The Swing Of Things — 1976
Chalker and Bob White take turns on steel guitar.
- Marcel Dadi — Dadi’s Pickin’ – Lights Up Nashville (Pt. Two) — 1976
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.
- Marcel Dadi — Travelin’ Man — 1977
Chalker and Emmons make a return appearance.
- Marcel Dadi — Nashville Memories — 1977
Chalker and Emmons once again work their steel guitar magic.
- Hank Thompson — Doin’ My Thing — 1977
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.”
- Curly Chalker — Counterpoint — 1977
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).
- Buddy Spicher — Me And My Heroes — 1978
Chalker lets loose on “My Window Faces the South” [which begins at 11:12].
- Margo Smith — Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You — 1978
Smith is supported on this album by three steel guitarists, including Chalker.
- Joe Venuti — Joe in Chicago, 1978 — 1979
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.
- The Statler Brothers — The Originals — 1979
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“).
- Hank Thompson — The Best of the Best of Hank Thompson — 1980
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].
- Mel Tillis & Nancy Sinatra — Mel And Nancy — 1981
Chalker and Paul Franklin alternate on steel guitar.
- Curly Chalker — Nevada Breaks — 1984
Cassette-only release of standards.
Curly Chalker Trivia
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
(Billboard — SEPTEMBER 14, 1976)
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