King Truck Driver Bluegrass 45

Fans of truck-driving country music take note:  The Stanley Brothers would record “Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son” on September 20, 1965 in Cincinnati — a song issued by King as a B-side for “Never Again” in July, 1966:

stanley-brothers-king-45-aaAccording to Gary B. Reid in The Music of The Stanley Brothers:

“Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son” is one of the few recitations that the Stanleys ever recorded.  Ralph related, “I was living in Florida, and I got up about three o’clock one morning and I got three songs on my mind and, afraid I’d forget it, I got up and wrote three songs.  ‘Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son’ was one of ’em.  ‘I Feel Like Going Home,’ I wrote that.  And ‘Vision of a Promised Land ,’ I wrote that.”

“Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son”     The Stanley Brothers     1965

“Prayer of a Truck Driver’s Son” would also be included on a pair of 1966 King LPs — A Collection of Original Gospel & Sacred Songs and The Greatest Country and Western Show on Earth — as well as 1970 LP Sweeter Than the Flowers (released on Starday imprint, Nashville),1971 Japanese LP Stanley Brothers (part of the ‘College Country Series’), 1983 Gusto LP Collector’s Edition 1983 – Volume 6, and 2008 UK CD compilation The Stanley Brothers:  The Later King Years.

Stanley Brothers = King Collectibles

Link to some of the more expensive Stanley Brothers vinyl on the resale market, including these two King albums below that both fetched exactly two hundred dollars.

“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

[eagerly awaiting the return of streaming audio]

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

Buddy Allen Rick’s Trucker 45

Love the deep twang of the Fender Telecaster that opens and closes “At the Truck Stop” – a prime ingredient in achieving that classic truck driving sound:

“At the Truck Stop”     Buddy Allen Rick     1972?

Music Blogs I’d Like to Read would surely include anything written by Tom Avazian, gifted record collector who slipped me a copy of this 45 on the Princess label.  Lo and behold, no entries for Buddy Allen Rick on 45Cat or Discogs — or the internet, for that matter.

Buddy Allen Rick 45-bConspiracy-minded individuals might discern a government plot to erase Rick’s existence, but Zero to 180 is having none of it.  Billboard’s May 22, 1971 edition, for instance, contains a small item entitled “Jim Richards to Accents Artists on Princess Label“:

“ROANOKE, VA. — Jim Richards Enterprises, a parent firm which includes recording, publishing, booking, and promotion, has announced a concentration on artists on its label, Princess Records.

Richards, presidents of the parent company and its subsidiaries, has just concluded a promotional trip which took him to Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Houston, Dallas, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Seattle, handles his own distribution and has a tape arrangement with GRT for 8-tracks.

On his Princess Records label, he has country artists Buford Kegley, Irma J. Ford, Jesse Hall, The Highlanders, and Bert Barber.  The Highlanders are a fiddle group, while Barber is a fiddle instrumentalist.

Another group, Earl Carter and the Fantastic Six, is in the soul category.  Richards’ booking firm is Top Ten, Inc., and his publishing company is Misty (BMI).  Richards said he would move shortly into a new, massive building here, which will house all his enterprises, and will have office space as well.  He records his artists, who he produces, at Major Recording Co., a studio at Waynesboro, Va.”

Buddy Allen Rick 45-aIn 2011, 2005 & 2013, the Earl Carter & the Fantastic “6” LP on the Princess label would fetch, respectively, $321, $274 & $188, on Ebay (courtesy of Popsike).

Earl Carter & Fantastic 6 LP-aaBuddy Allen Rick’s 45 likely released around the same time as the previously-featured track, “Keep Those Big Wheels Hummin‘” – David Allan Coe’s truck driving 45..

David Allan Coe’s Trucker Tune

David Allan Coe, intriguingly, merits four full paragraphs in Neil A. Hamilton’s history of The 1970s:

“Born in Ohio, Coe spent part of his youth in reform school and, in the 1960s, served time in the Ohio State Penitentiary.  Here was a man to whom the term outlaw meant more than a music rebel.  In 1967, Coe arrived in Nashville, and to gain attention from the country music establishment, he lived in a hearse that was parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Old Opry.  Even though the country traditionalists ignored him, he soon signed a contract with an independent label, Plantation Records, and released an album in 1968.

Coe began to perform in a rhinestone suit and sometimes wore a Lone Ranger mask or covered his face in heavy makeup.  He called himself the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.  He hung out with motorcycle gangs and would sometimes begin his concerts by driving a Harley onto the stage with a wrench tucked under his belt before singing.  He dared anyone who thought him less than tough, told reporters that he had killed a man while in the penitentiary, and laced his commentary on stage and in print with expletives.   His long hair and tattooed body completed his outlaw persona.”

Photo courtesy of

David Allan Coe - hearseDid Coe’s pal in the penitentiary – the musically macabre, Screaming Jay Hawkins – inspire the use of the hearse?

Produced by Pete Drake

David Allan Coe 45-bTwo 45s from 1973 — “Keep Them Big Wheels Hummin‘” b/w “Memphis in My Blood” and “How High’s the Watergate Martha” b/w “Tricky Dicky the Only Son of Kung Fu” — would be David Allan Coe’s final singles on Plantation before making the big jump to almighty Columbia.

“Keep Them Big Wheels Hummin'”     David Allan Coe     1973

Moon vs. Coe:  Cheek-to-Cheek

In 1977 Plantation would issue one final David Allan Coe album that would successfully out-moon Keith Moon’s solo album two years before:

               Moon’s 1975 LP                                Coe’s ‘Texas Moon’ LP from 1977

Moon LP-aMoon LP-b

Willis Brothers: Giants of Diesel

When you think of truck-driving country classics, the names of four artists should come readily to mind:  Dave Dudley, Red Sovine, Red Simpson … and The Willis Brothers!  Brotherly harmonies + offbeat humor + trucker tales = a winning sound and track record.

“Give Me Forty Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)” would put The Willis Brothers on the musical map in 1964 with a Top 10 Country hit that would go all the way to #1 in Canada.

Willis Brothers 45-bAn album of the same name with a pronounced truck-driving theme would follow in 1965, as well as another in 1967 Travelin’ & Truck Driver Hits (recycled + new tracks) plus one last stellar effort Hey Mister Truck Driver! in 1968.

   Essential truck driving LP #1                    Essential truck driving LP #2

Willis Brothers LP-aaWillis Brothers LP-bb           1967 LP = old + new tracks               Willis Brothers in blue suits – LP cover

Willis Brothers LP-ccWillis Brothers LP-dd

Nathan D. Gibson would note in The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built:

“[Suzanne] Mathis [graphic designer co-responsible for Starday truck driving covers], like many others, got her job at Starday through her neighbor and accordionist, Vic Willis.  The youngest of the Grand Ole Opry’s Willis Brothers trio, John ‘Vic’ Willis was both a recording artist and a song scout for Starday throughout the mid-sixties.  He was also a career counselor on the side.  He convinced [Starday head, Don] Pierce to employ several of his friends and at one point he even had Shot Jackson’s daughter, Arlene, and three of the Willis Brothers’ wives working at Starday.

The Willis Brothers — Charles ‘Skeeter,’ James ‘Guy’ and John ‘Viv’ — began playing professionally in 1932 and already had an impressive resume before joining Starday in 1960.  Aside from making their own recordings for Mercury, Coral, Sterling, and RCA Victor (as the Oklahoma Wranglers), they also backed the immortal Hank Williams on his first recordings for the Sterling label (as the Original Drifting Cowboys), as well as Eddy Arnold for eight years at the peak of his career (1948-57).  By the time they joined the Opry in 1960, they were again known as the Willis Brothers and that same year began a relationship with Starday.”

The Willis Brothers would release an impressive number of classic truck-driving 45s on Starday going all the way back to 1961 (i.e., pre-“Six Days on the Road”):

Two Willis Brothers “non-truck driving” albums would yield a pair of classic diesel tracks – “Soft Shoulders, Dangerous Curves” from 1966’s Goin’ South and “Drivin’s In My Blood” from (previously-mentioned) 1968 LP Bob.

Note:  B-side “When I Come Driving Through” not yet available for preview on YouTube

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle to hear “When I Come Driving Through” by The Willis Bros.]

check out the Peter Max-inspired cover for 1973 MGM single “Truck Stop”

Willis Brothers 45-aThanks to “outlaw” voices in country music on “renegade” labels, such as Starday and Shelby Singleton’s Plantation Records, the “new social awareness” would begin to inform the country rockin’ scene by the late 1960s.  1970 would see the release of wry 45 “Women’s Liberation”:

Willis Brothers 45-cSurprise!   Live rendition of “Women’s Liberation” on TV’s Porter Wagoner Show – 1974:

“Big Tennessee”: Ol’ Truckin’ Tex

Remember “Tulsa Trot” by Tex Williams and his top-notch western swing ensemble?  Zero to 180 just discovered that ol’ Tex had a #30 country hit in 1965 with a trucker tune that was penned by Kenny (‘Round Mound of Sound’) Price and released on Kentucky indie label, Boone:

“Big Tennessee”     Tex Williams     1965

In appreciation for the commercial success of its previous release “Too Many Tigers” (#26), Boone Records would place an announcement in the September 4, 1965 edition of Billboard that heralded the arrival of its next hot single – “Big Tennessee” – while still riding the adrenaline of a Top 40 country hit:

Tex Williams - courtesy Rocky 52“Boone Booms!  We would like to thank you for one Hit and introduce you to another – ‘Big Tennessee’ c/w ‘My Last Two Tens’ – picked in all three trades:

Billboard Spotlight:  ‘A definite top-of-the-chart contender is this hot rhythm follow-up to his recent hit, “Too Many Tigers.”  Rich plaintive Williams vocal can’t miss.’

Single Reviews:  ‘Tale of a powerful trucker and his heroic last deed.  Will thrill country listeners.  A good ‘un.’

The Cashbox Bullseye:  ‘Following up his recent “Too Many Tigers” success, Tex Williams should have a real biggie with this twin-market powerhouse called “Big Tennessee.”  The tune is a barrelin’, stormin’ single-talkie saga about a big truck-drivin’ man who gave up his life in a heroic gesture.’

Featuring the inimitable styling of Tex Williams.  This record is pop!  This record is country!  This record is a hit!

Great sales action. There’s a Boone Record distributor in your area.  Contact them today.  Boone Record Co.  U.S. Route 42, Union, Ky.”

Tex Williams 45-b1965:  Truck Driving County’s Crowning Year?

1968 was a particularly powerful year for diesel-driving music, as previously discussed, but 1965 – Zero to 180 researchers are discovering – shows the first flowering of the genre resulting from the runaway (trucker term, get it?) success of Dave Dudley‘s Top 40 hit, “Six Days on the Road“:

— “A Tombstone Every Mile”     Dick Curless     [Allagash/Tower]

— “Girl on the Billboard”     Del Reeves     [United Artists]

— “I’m the Girl on the Billboard”     Joyce Paul     [United Artists]

— “White Lightnin’ Express”     Roy Drusky     [Mercury]

— “Speed Traps, Weigh Stations & Detour Signs”     Dave Dudley     [Mercury]

— “Truck Drivin’ Son of a Gun”     Dave Dudley     [Mercury]

— “Giddyup Go”     Red Sovine     [Starday]

— “Ridin’ Down ol’ 99”     Joe & Rose Lee Maphis     [Starday]

— “Give Me Forty Acres”     The Willis Brothers     [Starday]

— “When I Come Driving Through”     The Willis Brothers     [Starday]

— “That’s Truck Drivin’”     Slim Jacobs     [Starday]

— “Long White Line”     Charlie Moore & Bill Napier     [King]

— “Rollin’ on Rubber Wheels”     The Stanley Brothers     [King]

— “Truck Driving Buddy”      Hank England     [Process]

Top 10 Trucker Tune from ’71

Zero to 180’s previous piece about a surprisingly decent truck driving song by The Archies – “Truck Driver” – makes a pretty persuasive case for 1968 being pop’s peak for the dieselbilly artform.  1971 might be no match for 1968, however, yesterday’s featured song – “I’ve Come Awful Close” – along with today’s spotlight track, Barbara Mandrell‘s “Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home, also from 1971, demonstrates neither is it a slouch:

“Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home”     Barbara Mandrell     1971

Intriguing that Mandrell, a formidable steel guitarist in her own right, would graciously step aside and allow Lloyd Green and Pete Drake to earn a proper day’s wage.

“Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home” – a #10 country chart hit – was one of five Top 40 country hits included on 1973’s The Midnight Oil — a #8 country album.

Barbara Mandrell LPAlbum Recording Credits

Guitar:  Jerry Kennedy, Grady Martin, Billy Sanford, Harold Bradley & Bobby Thompson
Steel/Dobro:  Lloyd Green & Pete Drake
Fiddle:  Buddy Spicher & Johnny Gimble
Piano:  Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins
Bass:  Junior Huskey
Drums:  Willie Ackerman
Recorded:  *September, 1971  Columbia Recording Studio – Nashville
(Majority of album tracks recorded in 1973*)

Barbara Mandrell 45One other notable truck-driving tune from 1971:
                               ~ Dick Curless‘ “Leaving It All Behind” from Capitol LP Doggin’ It.

Barbara Mandrell Once Laid Down the Jams

Barbara Mandrell performed a stellar country jazz arrangement of “Steel Guitar Rag” for Johnny Cash‘s 1976 Christmas Special — part of Zero to 180’s all-star tribute to the steel guitar standard written by (“Take it Away”) Leon McAuliffe.

Diesel + Diction = Radio Hit

One of Zero to 180’s earliest pieces from 2013 makes light of Hank Thompson‘s famously well-enunciated vocals, as featured on “Squaws Along the Yukon” – a Capitol A-side from 1958.  Hank, whose recording career spanned five decades, would wax a classic piece of toe-tapping truck-driving country in 1971 with “I’ve Come Awful Close“:

“I’ve Come Awful Close”     Hank Thompson     1971

“I’ve Come Awful Close” would reach #27 in Billboard’s Country charts for the week of Christmas, 1971.  Billboard already had the song in its line of sight, having identified it the previous month as a “Spotlight Single:  Top 20 Country” (i.e., “spotlights predicted to reach the top 20 of the Hot Country Singles Chart”) in its November 13, 1971 edition:

“Thompson follows his ‘Mark of a Heel‘ hit with this easy beat material (2:49) that will continue his string of Top 20 country singles.  Flip ‘Teardrop on the Rocks’ (2:39).”

Hank Thompson 45 from 1971“I’ve Come Awful Close” is a 45-only track that would be included on Hank’s 1971 2-LP retrospective 25th Anniversary Album, as well as following year’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1.  Written by Ann J. Morton, the song would chart as high as #11 in the US (#19 in Canada) and spend a total of 14 weeks on the charts..

“Hey Truckers”: Cover Your Ears

Thanks to Bill Hanke, I’ve been privileged to witness several live performances by a  Canadian band who – along with Los Straitjackets – have brought blazing guitar instrumentals into the 21st century.  Among musicians-in-the-know, word has gotten out about this musical conflagration, as evidenced by their collaborations with Neko Case, Garth Hudson (of The Band), X’s John Doe, Jon Langford (of The Mekons), Jon Spencer, and Blue Rodeo, et al.  If it weren’t for Bill, in fact, I might have missed this Thursday’s show at DC’s Hill Country BBQ.  Each appearance on this side of the national divide is a cause for celebration – don’t miss out!

I still haven’t mentioned the name of the group yet, have I?  In 1998, this (unnamed) band would collaborate with, of all people, oddball rhythm and blues vocalist, Andre Williams, whose first recordings would date to the mid-1950s and enjoy such colorful (and culinary-themed) titles as “The Greasy Chicken,” “Bacon Fat” (his lone 45 on Columbia imprint, Epic), “Pig Snoots,” and “Rib Tips.”   Pretty cheeky move for an up-and-coming band on its sophomore release, whose kick-off track would be among the most memorable truck-driving tunes yet written.  The suspense is killing you, isn’t it?

Disclaimer:  The following song is a departure from Zero to 180’s usual all-ages policy.  Salty language advisory.

“Hey Truckers”     Andre Williams & The Sadies     1998

Undergirding The Sadies‘ sound is the guitar work of siblings Dallas and Travis Good, for whom music runs in the family:  Father Bruce Good himself is an acclaimed recording artist and part of the (original) Good Brothers, who recorded for Columbia and RCA in the 1970s — and are still recording music well into the new century.

1978 Canadian 45 – not yet available for preview on YouTube

Good Brothers 45Rounding out the sound is drummer, Mike Bilitsky, and bottom-dweller, Sean Dean, whose use of a stand-up bass, notes former Guess Who guitarist, Randy Bachman, “gives an incredible gigantic bottom end sound.”

Revered psychedelic alt-country roots rockers, The Sadies

The Sadies

(L to R)  Sean Dean, Travis Good, Dallas Good, Mike Bilitsky


So, what about those blazing guitar instrumentals that I promised at the top of the piece?  Here’s a great place to start:  “Northumberland West,” the first track from 2004’s Favourite Colours, which Hanke theorizes (and Zero to 180 concurs) is a playful reference to Clarence White and Gene Parson’s pioneering country-rock recordings from 1967 that were recorded at the Nashville West Club in El Monte, California.

“Northumberland West”     The Sadies     2004

Fourteen years hence, Andre Williams and The Sadies would team up once more for a full-length release, 2012’s Night and Day.

 Collaboration #1                                        Collaboration #2

Andre Williams & The Sadies-aAndre Williams & The Sadies-b

The Sadies would be a most inspired choice of musical artist responsible for providing the soundtrack for Tales of the Rat Fink, the documentary on EdBig DaddyRoth, maverick custom designer of muscle cars – “the only uniquely American art form,” as stated at the beginning of the film (if you kindly disregard jazz, blues, hip hop, barbershop, tall tales, superhero comics & patchwork quilts, et al.)

Tales of the Rat FinkLink to The Sadies‘ official website

Red Simpson/David Bowie Tribute

Shame on Zero to 180 for not celebrating Red Simpson‘s musical legacy as a pioneer of the “Bakersfield Sound” until now – after his spirit has already left this mortal plane.

I’m afraid Simpson’s passing might have gotten overlooked in all the media attention given to the unexpected loss of David Bowie.  In a playful nod to both artists, Zero to 180 thought it would be fun to feature Simpson’s last charting hit, “The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” (#99) from 1979:

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver”     Red Simpson     1979

“The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” would first be released in 1976 on Vancouver label, Portland Records, and then again three years later to much greater commercial acclaim on Nashville-based K.E.Y. Records.

1976 release                                             1979 re-boot

Red Simpson 45-aRed Simpson 45-b

I just saw the trailer for the 2014 documentary, Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound, and one key point really hit home:  1960s Nashville-based country was primarily “sit down” music, while the principal aim of the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ was about getting folks to dance.  Red Simpson is one of the principal architects of the Bakersfield Sound – although he does not always get proper recognition in this regard.

Worth noting that (1) Red’s professional songwriting career goes back to the Korean War era, and (2) Simpson did not actually write his biggest hit “I’m a Truck” but did, in fact, write tons of even better tunes — see special Red Simpson feature below.

1966 Capitol debut                                      1966 follow-up LP

Red Simpson LP-aRed Simpson LP-b

Red Simpson tributes from Rolling Stone, CMT, Billboard & The Bakersfield CalifornianRed Simpson’s own website is also a great source for chart and songwriting info.

Red Simpson:  Songwriter

1975 Dutch Compilation LPRed Simpson LP-c