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, would report 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 – would be her first 78 release for King:

 “Hi-Ballin’ Daddy”     Ann Jones     1951

Another recording session would take place 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 would take 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.”

King’s Budget Subsidiary Label

According to Both Sides Now Publications:

“In late 1958, Audio Lab was formed as a budget label subsidiary to Cincinnati-based King Records.  From 1959 -1962, Audio Lab released a lot of material that had never appeared in album form, including rare albums by Bullmoose Jackson, Annie Laurie, April Stevens, Lattie Moore, [Hank] Penny, the Light Crust Doughboys, Bob Newman, H-Bomb Ferguson, Sticks McGhee and John Lee Hooker.”

One track that enjoyed a second lease on life via Audio Lab was the first (non-45) album appearance of a song that would become a part of the American cultural fabric years later when used as a recurring skit on TV’s “Hee Haw” – link to related Zero to 180 history piece.  As Both Sides Now observes, “The original version of [‘Pfft! You Were Gone‘] made its first (only?) LP appearance on [the Kentucky Colonel] Audio Lab album” (Bear Family’s 20-track CD compilation from 1984 Hangover Boogie doesn’t count).

Another great example of King material previously not available on LP —

1962 Audio Lab LP attributed to Moon Mullican entitled Instrumentals (that also, oddly, includes two tracks by Hank Penny and one song each by Mel Cox & Cowboy Copas).

All of these instrumentals are fairly obscure, especially the 1947 Cowboy Copas B-side “Jamboree” that got much better buzz in Billboard ‘s Dec. 13, 1947 edition compared to its A-side “I’m Tired of Playing Santa Claus to You”:  “Plenty of good hill country guitar and fiddle in an instrumental potpourri of folk melodies” [streaming audio for “Jamboree” not yet available on YouTube, unfortunately].

Gerald Wilson Orchestra’s early 1954 Los Angeles sessions for Federal and King – including “Mambo Mexicana” – would be reissued five years later on an Audio Lab LP entitled Big Band Modern, a reminder of the mambo mania that had gripped the nation at the time this song (today’s featured track) was released:

“Mambo Mexicano”     Gerald Wilson Orchestra     1954

Based on available discographical information, these 1954 recordings would appear to be among the earliest in a career that would span well into the new century, as NPR’s 2011 piece “The Gerald Wilson Orchestra:  A Living Legacy” affirms (Wilson, as it turns out, is one of many famous jazz musicians who “did time” in Earl Bostic’s band — in this case, one of four trumpeters who played on a December 4, 1958 Los Angeles recording session (six tracks, including “My Reverie” and “All the Things You Are“).

Today’s featured artist:  Gerald Wilson & HIs Orchestra

Kicking off our rogue’s gallery of Classic Audio Lab LP Covers is this modernist gem:

Grammar maven in me cannot allow disparity in song titles below go unremarked:

For more info on Audio Lab

Link to Audio Lab Discography c/o Discogs

Link to Audio Lab EPs Discography c/o 45Cat

Link to Audio Lab Album Discography c/o Both Sides Now

Link to auction prices of Audio Lab LPs & EPs c/o Popsike