I stumbled upon a pretty snappy A-side that is virtually unknown, and what a shame, given the sibling harmonizing and wonderfully oddball percussion sounds during the instrumental section that would be nearly impossible to produce with our current technology. Song clocks in at 103 seconds — and not a single one wasted:
“Juke Box Play for Me” The Cook Brothers 195?
I love the redacted song title/author info on the record label above — makes listening to the song almost seem a criminal act.
Released on tiny Cleveland indie Island, the same label that released the 45 featured in the previous piece on Hardrock Gunter, who is or is not the same singer as Buddy Durham — RCS sure seems to indicate so (“SEE: Gunter, Hardrock”), while PragueFrank identifies Durham as a separate human entity (who once teamed up with Gunter at Wheeling’s WWVA radio station ca. 1962 to record a Starday 45 “Hillbilly Twist” + “As Long As You’re Happy”).
The Cook Brothers, judging from this news item in the May 20, 1957 edition of Billboard, had been a featured act for WWVA at one point. Two years prior in 1955, the brothers, Chuck and Jim (“Accompanied by Their Rocky Ridge Boys”) would record two singles for Wheeling-based Emperor. Three singles would appear to be their entire recorded output.
This recording of Hardrock Gunter‘s mesmerizing voice, with its offbeat hiccup-y rhythms bathed in slapback echo, never fails to enchant:
“Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock” Hardrock (“Sidney Jo Lewis”) Gunter 1958
Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidney Louis Gunter, Jr. would record under two other names: Buddy Durham (as noted in the previous piece about the Vandergrift Brothers — possibly in error) and Sidney Jo Lewis, which he used in 1958 to record “Boppin’ to Grandfather’s Clock” on Cleveland indie label, Island. Two years prior, Gunter had already put together the ingredients that would define his signature sound on “Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby,” originally recorded in Wheeling, WV for Cross Country in 1956 before the single got picked up by Sam Phillips‘ and re-released on his vaunted Sun label later that August.
Note the considerably drier sound – not to mention vastly different singing style – on Gunter’s second of three 45s for Cincinnati’s King Records “I’ll Give ’em Rhythm” (b/w “I Put My Britches on Just Like Everybody Else”), recorded in Cincinnati August 19, 1955 (interestingly enough, the same day as Herb & Kay‘s delightful “We Did“):
“I’ll Give ’em Rhythm” Hardrock Gunter 1955
Thanks to UK-charts.com, I am able to transcribe the following information from the Hardrock Gunter “bio disc” (thanks, Randy McNutt!) for the King 45 illustrated in the audio clip above:
“When Hardrock Gunter graduated from high school, he teamed up with Happy Wilson who organized the Golden River Boys. The original members of this group are still doing radio shows. After World War II, Gunter again went back into radio when the Golden River Boys were re-organized. In 1948 Hardrock started managing the unit and acted as personal manager to Happy Wilson until late 1949.”
King would issue another “bio disc” for “Turn the Other Cheek” that gives us the official explanation for Gunter’s stage name:Hardrock Gunter, professionally speaking, would leap right out of the gate, recording his first few singles for mighty Decca, before moving on to MGM, Sun, King, Cross Country, Emperor (“Whoo! I Mean Whee!“), Island, Seeco, Cullman, D, El Dorado, Starday (“Hillbilly Twist“), Gee Gee, Brunswick, Rival, Essgee, Longhorn, Morgun, Rollercoaster, Home Brew, and Jar — possibly others.
Hardrock Gunter rocking a doubleneckMOSRITE on 1999 Dutch 45 recorded in London
Matthew Loukes echos the call for Gunter’s “Birmingham Bounce” of 1950 – which preceded Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” and was the reason for Decca’s interest – as “first rock ‘n’ roll recording” in his 2013 obituary for the Guardian.
Hardrock Gunter + Hank Williams: Twins Separated at Birth?
Interesting to learn that the Canadian Sweethearts (who later signed with A&M and Epic) had passed through Cincinnati’s King Records briefly in the guise of Bob & Lucille.
King’s Syd Nathan would lease two tracks from 2 different Bob & Lucille 45s that had been released in the late 1950s on tiny Hollywood-based Ditto label and package them as a King single in 1962. “Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” is the A-side and a classic rockabilly track:
“Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe” Bob & Lucille recorded Dec. 1958
Even more interesting was the decision by Starday-King in 1973 – long after Syd Nathan had passed – to reissue this 45. Could it possibly have been in response to resurgence of interest in 1950s roots rock that George Lucas’s American Graffiti (also released in 1973) helped ignite? (*See related “Roots Rock Reawakening” addendum in prior Zero to 180 piece that features “Seven Deadly Finns” by Brian Eno).
“[Hubbard] recorded ‘Sweet Love‘ for Dixie Records of Nashville when he was a young man in Barbourville, Kentucky. He moved to Cincinnati to work in an automobile factory, and recorded for the Lucky label and later for King. ‘The establishment didn’t accept me,’ he said. “And I had bad luck. A record called ‘Big Cat’ would have done something for me if Syd Nathan of King Records hadn’t died just before it was to be released.'”
Actually, From Barbourville, KY
Orangie Hubbard would, in fact, release two singles on the almightyKing label:
Both of Orangie Ray’s singles for King were released in 1967. Orangie Ray himself would tell WVXU’s Lee Hay in 2008 (on a program aired in 2018 — see link at end of the piece) that “Big Cat” went to #10 on Cincinnati radio at the time of its release. What a revelation to also learn from this same radio interview that “Just Moved In” — legendary kick-off track from Great Rockers in Cincinnati — was recorded in the late 1950s at Cincinnati’s King Studios!
Twelve years later would see the release of what appear to be Orangie Ray’s final 45s — “Just Moved In” b/w “Our Love Won’t Stop” [and] “In Search of You” b/w “Don’t Knock It If You Never Tried It (The Worst I Ever Had Was Good)” from 1979 on Cincinnati label, Lee. HOWEVER, as we learned from the paragraph above (and let’s be honest: we sensed this all along), those “final” 45s had actually been recorded during rockabilly’s heyday in the late 50s.
As the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon continued throughout 1958 and 1959, hundreds of musicians contacted Pierce about pressing their Dixie custom rockers. Perhaps the most sought-after Dixie custom from this period came a Lousiville, Kentucky, man named Orangie Ray Hubbard. The record (Dixie 662), an original song entitled “Sweet Love,” was his prize for winning a local talent competition, and has become one of the most infamous rockabilly records ever pressed. Hubbard shares his story:
“Here’s the way it goes: they were puttin’ on this talent scout contest to promote this new radio station WBBL. So Clyde Brown calls in Zeke Clements. Zekes puts on a talent scout contest and he copied it after The Arthur Godfrey Show. In other words, if you won, you won by applause meter like Arthur Godfrey did it. It was in a big theater in Barberville, Kentucky, the Mitchell Theatre. And the way they did this, you couldn’t just win once and be done with it. If you didn’t get voted #1, you were allowed to come back the next week and perform.
Well I went in and I won eight straight weeks. But the day they did the finals, they didn’t do it by applause meter. They brought in judges. I find all this out after it was all over. Anyway, there was a tie that day with me and a guy named David Lundy. He’s on the flip side of ‘Sweet Love.’ So we sent our tapes to Don Pierce. I did my tape in the radio station in Louisville with Herman Criss on bass and Riley Ripton on lead guitar. I don’t know where he did his.
But we sent our tapes in and I thought we would each get a two-sided disc. But instead, they put Dave on one side and me on the other. They said, since we have a tie, we’ll play the song on the radio every day. The man who gets the most requests is the winner. That was the end of it. I was promised a recording contract with Starday and Don Pierce. That was the prize, a promise of a record contract for giving up all your weekends. Well, at the time I think I have gotten an oil change for my car but it got a lot bigger than what they expected it to be. I’ve since heard it called the Holy Grail of rockabilly music.”
Indeed it is collectable, valued in Jerry Osborne’s 16th Edition 45 Price Guide at $4000 in excellent condition, though Hubbard notes he has been offered much more for his only remaining copy. As to why it might be worth $4,000, scarcity likely plays a large part. It is also one of the best rockabilly records released in the 1950s, featuring an Elvis-like swagger in the vocals, stellar finger-picked guitar solos, streaking steel guitar lines, accented drum fills and lyrics regarding “sweet love.” Popular Cincinnati recording artist Rusty York even cut his own version of Hubbard’s rocker, though York changed the words “sweet love” to “sweet talk.” Still, the preceding description could be applied to numerous records worth a mere fraction of the stated value of Hubbard’s “Sweet Love.” Regarding the record’s desirability, Hubbard offers his own explanation:
“It’s because of the sound that’s on it. The cleanness of the sound. And I was offered a lot of money to show people how we could get that sound. But then nobody would pay me and I wasn’t gonna show them how I did it. There was a cleanness, a separation from the music that none of the other rockabilly people ever got.”
“Orangie was a retiree of General Motors where he spent 30 years as an employee and headed up the GM fundraising efforts for the Neediest Kids of All Campaign. A passionate musician, Orangie was known around the world for his musical talents. As a singer/songwriter, he will be remembered as an originator of Rockabilly Music in 1955 and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He recorded several records in Cincinnati that are still being sold in Europe today. He was also a member of the Norwood Masonic Lodge #576 and an avid bass fisherman.”
Father giving away bride: Charmin, on August 26, 1989
I love how the staccato guitars emulate the sound of scratching fleas as a result of the song’s protagonist being banished to the doghouse in this retooling of Hank Williams:
Rose Maddox “Move It on Over” 1960
John Maddox & John Newman: Guitar Henry Maddox: Mandolin Allen Williams: Bass Henry Shropspire: Drums
The indispensible Rockin’ Country Style website answers the burning question as to why this surefire winner of a 45 is not listed in any of the singles discographies: LP track only. Why Capitol didn’t issue this stellar track from Rose’s first solo album as the A-side of a 7-inch release is a mystery to me.
The One Rose LP — recorded June, 1959 at Capitol’s Hollywood studio, with producer Ken Nelson at the helm — was released January, 1960.
Victor Uwaifo’s double-neck “magic guitar” with 18 strings immediately brings to mind Andy Tielman and his 10-string guitar. I suspect that many if not most Americans are unfamiliar with The Tielman Brothers, a band of siblings from the Netherlands by way of Indonesia. But check out this live performance of the band in flight, and you too might be floored by the realization that some of the most compelling rockabilly sounds came from a group of Indo-Dutch youngsters (many thanks to Tom Hutton for the Tielman tip):
Check out the drummer’s guitar work on “Rollin’ Rock” by The Tielman Brothers
Andy Tielman and his brothers Reggy, Ponthon, and Loulou would emigrate to the Netherlands in 1957 and get their first big gig at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair in the “Hawaiian Village” of the Dutch pavilion, where they stole the show (see live performance clip above) with their exuberant stage antics, according to Indo-Rock-Gallery.
Indo-Rock-Gallery’s story of the Indonesian expatriate music scene in the Netherlands also details how Andy Tielman and his brothers pushed the “new rock music” forward in a number of ways. How fascinating, for example, to discover that —
Andy Tielman’s famous 10-string Fender Jazzmaster was a result of having switched from his original Gibson Les Paul (due to its weight) and finding the Fender sound too thin. Tielman, therefore, doubled each string (except the highest and lowest ones) and tuned every string pair in octaves to enlarge the sound. At the time, Tielman tried to conceal his instrument’s headstock with a towel, but other bands would copy his invention. Even still, I can find no photos of Andy’s 10-string invention on the web.
Cees Bakker’s attempt to replicate Andy Tielman’s 10-String Fender Jazzmaster
Cees Bakker reports that “another Tielman first” was their innovative use of dual Fender VI six-string basses, one with lighter gauge strings (Reggy) and the other (Robby) with heavier ones — furthermore, “thanks to their amp settings Reggy sounded like an octave below guitar and Robby like a real bass guitar, which is unique for a Fender VI.”
Bakker also points out how the output from bassist, Robby Latuperisa, was “plugged through Andy’s guitar signal” on the way to “all other Fender Bassman and Showman” amplifiers, in addition to the PA sound system.
Rock-It-Chain has band member lineups over the years, as well as a detailed discography.
Hear the twin 6-string basses and see Andy’s 10-string (briefly) in this live clip
From the liner notes of the Ace CD compilation, King Rockabilly:
“Delbert Barker was born on a farm in Frenchberg, Kentucky on December 3, 1932 and moved to Middletown, Ohio, near Cincinnati, in 1943. During his teens, he began participating in amateur talent contests and eventually gained sufficient confidence to turn semi-pro, appearing on local radio and TV.
“Between 1951 and 1953, he performed alongside other local favourites (including the Davis Sisters) on Mid-Day Merry Go-Round, a daytime show on WCPO-TV Cincinnati. These appearances brought Barker to the attention of Paul Burkhardt, who ran a small recording studio and pressing plant, and specialized in producing cheap cover versions of recent hits on low-budget labels, such as Queen City, Kentucky and Tops. Between 1951 and 1954, the versatile and adaptable Barker worked as a session vocalist for Burkhardt, recording over 100 tracks, some of which were released as singles on the Kentucky label with the remainder appearing on EPs and LPs with titles like Four Big Hits and 16 Top Hits. ‘I had five different voices,’ Barker says, ‘I did Carl Smith, Hank Williams, Hank Thompson, Faron Young and some Lefty Frizzell.’ Marriage took Barker out of the music business until early 1956 when he recorded a creditable version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ under the pseudonym, Terry Wall, for Burkhardt’s Hep label.
“This impressed [King Records‘ A&R Director of Folk & Western] Louis Innis who signed Barker to King as its answer to Carl Perkins. Both ‘No Good Robin Hood‘ and the previously unissued ‘Jug Band Jump’ were recorded [in Cincinnati] at Barker’s initial session on Jun 19, 1956″:
“Barker made a total of three singles for the label, two in 1956 and a third in 1961. He says, ‘In 1957 I went to Philadelphia to play guitar for Ruth and Slim Swighert, a local duet. A year later, I went to Secaucus, New Jersey and worked as a guitar man for the Warren Brothers, Shorty and Smokey. I stayed with them until January 1959, then returned to Middletown. About 1960, I left music and went into law enforcement in Middletown, although I went back and recorded a country 45 for King in 1961.”
(Written by Delbert Barker & Louis Innis)
“Barker rose to the rank of Lieutenant in Charge of Detectives and wrote and played in his spare time. ‘You Almost Slipped My Mind,’ a song he wrote in 1968, was recorded by a number of country artists, most notably Charley Pride, who took it to #1 on the country charts in 1981.”
Speaking of old songs that take on a whole new meaning when considered against a modern geopolitical context (see previous post about Cat Stevens), Capitol released a 45 in 1957 that featured a B-side – “Rockin’ in Baghdad” – that I very well could have imagined playing in the background during the military invasion of Iraq’s capital in 2003:
“Rockin’ in Baghdad” Jerry Reed 1957
It would appear that virtually no one during the initial occupation of Iraq – aside from a college student named Ken – seemed aware of this groundbreaking Middle-Eastern-meets-rockabilly-rave-up written by upstart singer and guitar picker, Jerry Reed.
Over in Baghdad in the burning sand
We’ve got a new kinda rhythm that’s real cool and
They put a beat to the rhythm of their ancient land
Then what do they get, a crazy style
And it’s driving old Baghdad wild
They’re rockin’ in Baghdad, having a ball
Jumping in Baghdad, climbing the wall
Baghdad’s rocking tonight
Doing that boogie up right
They’re going like mad, a-rocking in old Baghdad
A long time ago back in old Baghdad
The dance of the seven veils was the fad
The sultan got hip to these rhythm and blues
And now he’s got a pair of rocking shoes
His harem is a-bopping to a boogie beat
They even got the camels hopping down the street
A snake charmer threw his little flute away
Got a guitar now and he’s learning to play
Something’s really happened in old Baghdad
‘Cause they’re doing that boogie
And they’re going like that
Baghdad’s rocking tonight
If you’re like me (someone who didn’t have access to YouTube growing up), you’re probably familiar with this iconic photo of rockabilly singer, Ersel Hickey, but maybe not his big 1958 hit, “Bluebirds Over the Mountain”:
Check out the loping guitar intro with the lead guitar and bass playing the melody line in harmony – sounds very much like rocksteady or early reggae … but a good 8 years before it was even invented! Could this be the earliest (unintended) example of “pop reggae” in the American music marketplace?
I cannot take credit for coining the term “reggaebilly,” for that distinction goes to former Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys sideman, Peter Rowan, who released an album in 2001 bearing a title of the same name.