“Hey Mister Cotton Picker”: On the Cusp of the New Rock Sound

Nick Tosches would include a “Chronology of the Coming of Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1984’s Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll (subtitle: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Dark and Wild Years Before Elvis) that begins in January, 1945.  October, 1946 is when Cincinnati’s King Records makes its first appearance on Tosches’ proto-rock-‘n’-roll timeline:

Moon Mullican‘s ‘New Milk Cow Blues’ (King 578) is released.”

But alas – if only the song were available for us to preview on YouTube — would love to know how many people reading this history piece own an original 78 of Moon Mullican’s “New Milk Cow Blues” (especially since the song has been only reissued in Europe)…

One year prior to Elvis’s legendary Sun sessions, however, Mullican would record an especially swinging release “Hey Mister Cotton Picker” in Nashville on April 20, 1953 that King (who would categorize the song as “Folk/Western”) would issue as a single the following month:

“Hey Mister Cotton Picker”     Moon Mullican     1953

The version recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford (featuring Speedy West, no doubt), alas, appears to have been the first one recorded (April, 1953), with Tex Williams and Roberta Lee, and the (Three) McGuire Sisters and Art Lund also putting their artistic stamp on “Hey Mister Cotton Picker” that same year.

The text on the King DJ/promo “bio disc” tells us that “when Moon was 8, his father brought a fine pump organ home, and it was on this that Mullican developed his distinctive two-fingered right-hand style of playing the piano.”

But wait!  Larry Nager’s comments about one of the more famous guests who stayed at Cincinnati’s Carrousel Inn (i.e., Merle Haggard & the Strangers in the 1980s, including the great mandolin player from Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys band, Tiny Moore) would direct Zero to 180 back to the Billy Jack Wills reissue disc already in his collection — transcriptions recorded for radio broadcast at Radio Station KFBK in Sacramento, California between 1952-1954 (among Moore’s finest playing, as Tiny would tell Nager), including a spanking version of the song (simply titled “Mr. Cotton Picker” on the track listing), with young steel virtuoso, Vance Terry, on steel guitar.

Lesson learned:  Given the alternate form of “Mr.,” I should have broadened my search by trying a search without “Mister” (six letters).

Mullican’s final recording session for King would take place three later years in Cincinnati.  As notes Phil Davies in his tribute to Moon Mullican – “King of the Hillbilly Piano Players” – for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame:

“[Mullican] tackled rock head on by going into King’s studio in January 1956 with Boyd Bennet’s band.  Together they cut the rightfully classic “Seven Nights To Rock” and “I’m Mad With You.”  What a brilliant gesture by a plump middle aged balding piano player, let’s show this durn kids that they didn’t invent the big beat.  I was partly prompted to write this piece after sadly reading an interview with BR549 where they said they’d covered the song because they were familiar with Nick Lowe’s (ex-son-in-law of Mr Cash, married Carlene Carter) 1980s cut, not with Moon’s original!  That says a lot about the modern country stations in the US.”

Further Reading:   Moon Mullican looms large in Zero to 180’s recent tribute to pioneering King session drummer, Calvin “Eagle Eye” Shields

Listen now!   WVXU radio host and music historian Lee Hay has produced numerous shows pertaining to King Records history.  Lee continues her profiles on King artists with a look at Moon Mullican:

“Known as the King of the Hillbilly Piano Players, singer, songwriter and pianist Moon Mullican was an innovator who merged styles such as blues, pop and honkytonk, showing what was possible for young pianists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Floyd Cramer. His work predated rock ‘n’ roll by years, and his influence is still felt in the outlaw movement, rockabilly and country.  There’ll be interviews with Mullican’s nephew, Oscar Pepper; John Rumble, Senior Historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame; and Kathy Hughes, daughter of Cowboy Copas, who performed with Mullican on the Grand Ole Opry; as well as Billy Grammer, session guitar player for Mullican; and Calvin “Eagle Eye” Shields, King Records house drummer.  Listen on the web — Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 11 PM (also Sunday @ 7 PM and Monday @ 1 PM) @ WVXU

King’s Classic Yodeling 78

78 RPM claims that King released Carolina Cotton‘s signature song “I Love to Yodel” (penned by the singer herself) as the B-side – Discogs, too.  I find that hard to believe:

“I Love to Yodel”     Carolina Cotton     1946

According to the person who posted this audio clip on YouTube:

Recorded 30 October 1946 (possibly) at Radio Recorders, 7000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood , CA — Hank Penny Orchestra a.k.a. Carolina Cotton Pickers (Hank Penny [leader], Carolina Cotton [vcl], Fred Cianci [fiddle], Ralph Miele [steel], Doye O´Dell [gt/vcl?], Max Fidler [fiddle], Bob Caudana [accordion], and possibly Eddie Bennett [piano].

Carolina Cotton was born Helen Hagstrom in Cash Arkansas (1925 – 1997) a.k.a., “The Yodelling Blonde Bombshell.”

“I Love to Yodel” b/w “Mocking Bird Yodel”

Surprisingly little fanfare surrounding this unjustly obscure western swing King classic – released in November, 1949.  Exactly three years prior, King had released Cotton’s first single “Three Miles South of Cash (In Arkansas)” b/w “Singing on the Trail” in November, 1946.  Cotton briefly performed with Hank Penny, reports the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, who undoubtedly helped her get signed with King.

I first learned of this song by way of cassette, interestingly enough — yet another influential musical moment facilitated by the Cherokee Trading Post, who once sold tapes of King recordings (sometimes conjoined with items from the Starday label) produced by Gusto/IMG — owners of the King and Starday combined catalog since 1975.  The cassette in question All Star Western Swing — as with Country Tunes Done R&B (celebrated in the previous piece) — has no corresponding catalog record in Discogs, nor can you find any information about it on the web (okay, one reference).

Undated cassette – produced by Gusto/IMG

Furthermore, just as with Country Tunes Done R&B, there is a King LP that appears to be the inspiration for the cassette version marketed by IMG/Gusto — in this case, 1963’s Western Swing – Famous Western Bands.  This vinyl long-playing collection contains all 8 songs found on the cassette plus 4 additional tunes by Paul Howard (& His Arkansas Cotton Pickers), Leon Rusk, Luke Wills (& His Rhythm Busters), and Jimmie Widener.

Western Swing – Famous Western Bands [King LP 876]

[click on song title links below to hear streaming audio]

A little surprised by the fact that five of the twelve songs included on this album are not yet available for preview on YouTube.

*Amusingly, the label says “Bring It On to My House HENRY

I remember sending copies of these tapes to Larry Nager during my first flush of wonder back in the 1990s on my annual trips to Cincinnati, and Larry theorizing that places like Cherokee Trading Post in semi-rural West Virginia just might be the last vestiges of Syd Nathan’s distribution system in place — “bringing the music to the people” where they live.

“I Love to Yodel” can also be found on this rare Audio Lab EP

An earlier version of “I Love to Yodel,” by the way, would be recorded for Cotton to sing in the 1944 film I’m From Arkansas. (click on link to watch the clip).  Check out the Carolina Cotton website for lots of great information and vintage photos.

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[YouTube audio not yet available]

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 B-Westerns.com 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 Kienzle – earned this sobriquet from country disc jockey, Bert “Foreman” Phillips, “in honor of California’s San Joaquin Valley.”

Cherokee Cowboys: Proven Band

Thanks to the late, great Charlie Coleman for singling out Ray Price’s redoubtable backing band, The Cherokee Cowboys and their 1965 Columbia debut (and sole) solo release – check out Buddy Emmons’ hot jazz steel guitar solo on “Devil’s Dream,” the kick-off tune from Western Strings:

“Devil’s Dream”     The Cherokee Cowboys     1965

Ray Price: guitar & vocal
Grady Martin & Pete Wade:  lead guitar
Jack Pruett & Charlie Harris:  rhythm guitar
Buddy Emmons & Jimmy Day:  steel guitar
Tommy Jackson, Francis Coleman & Wade Ray:  fiddle
Floyd Cramer:  piano
Harold Bradley:  bass guitar
Pete Burke & Buddy Killen:  bass
Buddy Harman:  drums
Johnny Bush:  drums & vocal

Recorded:
Dec. 1964 – Columbia Recording Studio, Nashville
Mar. 1965 – Music City Recording, Nashville

The Cherokee Cowboys – 1965
[photo courtesy Buddy Emmons.com]

Cherokee Cowboys - 1965(Top Row) Pete Burke, Wade Ray, Buddy Emmons
(Bottom Row) Charlie Harris, Johnny Bush, Keith Coleman

Western Strings would shoot to the Top 20 of the Country charts the first week of release, according to Billboard’s July 17, 1965 edition. and remain there the following week (while Dick Curless and his Tombstone Every Mile album quietly jumped ahead two spaces during that same time period to the #17 slot – just above Western Strings).

Cherokee Cowboys LP-a

Rich Kienzle would include Price and the Cherokee Cowboys in Southwest Shuffle:  Pioneers of Honky-Tonk, Western Swing & Country Jazz:

“It was no small paradox that as Price continued weighing changes in 1964, he hired two legendary swing fiddlers.  Wade Ray had made his name on the West Coast as a bandleader and singer; Keith Coleman, one of the finest improvisers in western swing, had worked with both the Texas Playboys and Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys.  Despite the changes, Price retained a steadfast pride in the Cowboys.  With Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours making their own records, Price talked Don Law into recording a Cowboys album with Grady Martin and Tommy Jackson present along with Harold Bradley.

At the first session for Western Strings album in December of ’64, this capable group of musicians, who’d worked together continually for years, were so nervous about recording on their own that, after 45 minutes of musical inhibition, a frustrated Price sent a studio handyman out to buy some Wild Turkey.  He literally ordered everyone to get drunk to loosen them up; it worked.  Emmons, Ray, and Coleman played brilliantly.  “Grady and I ended up drunk, and a lot of the other guys were in good shape, too,” Emmons laughed.  “And when I heard [the song played] back I couldn’t believe how together it was for the condition we were in.”  Because recording costs came out of Price’s royalties, the album included the original ‘Crazy Arms,’ and Price took credit for the arrangements to make back any money lost.”

1977 would see the release of a Ray Price & the Cherokee Cowboys album on ABC-Dot entitled Reunited, a Top 50 Top Country album and one that would yield a Top 30 single — “Different Kind of Flower” b/w “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” (as well as their take on Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”).  Recording the album in Nashville would be Price, along with MoisesBlondieCalderon, Buddy Emmons, Pete Wade, Tommy Jackson, Harold Bradley, and the two Buddys – Harman & Spicher.

Saving Country Music has a nice piece of history – “The Ray Price Cherokee Cowboys Proving Ground” – that pays tribute to the musical personnel that have passed through the ranks of Ray Price, who took over Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys before putting together his own ensemble.

Cherokee Cowboys LP promo

(Son of) Plays Guitar Like a Piano

I finally got around to learning how to convert VHS into DVD so that I could preserve a rare piece of Ameri-music-ana:  a live performance of “Tulsa Trot” by noted western swing outfit, Tex Williams and His Western Caravan, that offers a second startling peek at the unorthodox technique of Dickie Phillips who plays guitar in “lap” fashion — like a piano.

“Tulsa Trot”     Tex Williams and His Western Caravan     195?

[note:  Look for drummer, muddy berry, who pulls a great face at song’s end]

Capitol Records would pay for a full-page ad in Billboard’s February 24, 1951 edition that identified “Tulsa Trot” — first mentioned two weeks earlier as a new “folk” release — as a “hot seller.”

Tex Williams 78-bBillboard’s Country & Western (Folk) Record Reviews in the February 17, 1951 edition would include this (terse) write-up:  “Williams hands a danceable ditty his usual virile rendition while the ork maintains a fine terp tempo via swinging strings.”  Music Weird blog rightly asks:  what is aterptempo?

As it turned out, it would be Jimmy Bryant – not Phillips – who joined Dean Eacker and Smokey Rogers on guitar at the January 8, 1951 Capitol recording session, along with Fred Tavares on steel guitar, Ossie Godson on piano, Pedro DePaul on accordion & Deuce Spriggins on bass.

Smokey Rogers – a recording artist in his own right, who also co-wrote “Tulsa Trot” along with steel guitar wiz, EarlJoaquinMurphey – would release his own version soon after, as reported in the April 14, 1951 edition of Billboard.  Check out Joaquin Murphey’s hot steel guitar riffing on Rogers’ somewhat more polite version:

“Tulsa Trot”     Smokey Rogers     1951

Link to previous piece on Dickie Phillips.

THIS JUST IN:  Late-breaking news (June 16, 2017)

An electric violin that was developed by Leo Fender, in partnership with Dickie Phillips, was purchased in 2004 Ben Heaney (of DeltaViolin – deltaviolin.com) on Ebay but “took me a long time to get my head round what I’d bought.”  As it turns out, the story has taken on considerable historic significance, as this 1958 production prototype is the world’s rarest electric violin!   One of two of its kind — and “500 times more rare than a Stradivarius” according to Heaney, who adds that “the BBC just broadcast a recording of the 1958 Fender Electric Violin – no samples, no synths, no loops… – a single take divided into three sections and multi-layered.”

UK music fans will hear this electric violin for the first time, essentially, as Heaney prepares to take this instrument on tour, as well as in the recording studio, in the coming months.  The instrument can already be heard on a track called “Where’s the Fire Gone” by The August List — the first recording “to feature this particular age of Fender violin,” according to Heaney, who also enthuses to Zero to 180:

“The sound is fantastic. Totally unlike ANY electric violin on the market today … with the possible exception of a prototype I’ve helped a new maker develop…

The reason is simple, seemingly no one has used Fender’s pickup solution.  That’s why it sounds different.  Almost every other violin is using a piezo, so ultimately share a root sound” — save this prototype.

Click on this link to hear a solo recording of the world’s rarest electric violin.

Plays Guitar Like a Piano #2

It’s shocking & sad what little footage exists of “Dickie Phillips that shows his unorthodox method of playing the electric guitar.  Here is the only clip on YouTube that shows Phillips playing with Tex Williams & the Western Caravan — note how he places the guitar across his lap and presses his fingers firmly downward on the strings in the manner of a pianist:

“the Talking Boogie”     Tex Williams & His Western Caravan     195?

[Guitar solo by “Dickie” Phillips begins at the 0:45 mark in the video]

Herb Steiner chimes in via the Steel Guitar Forum on Tex Williams’ musical personnel:

The steel player in ‘Talkin’ Boogie’ is Wayne Burdick.  Singing with Tex is Deuce Spriggens on bass and Jimmy Widener on guitar.  Max Fidler is the lead violinist, Ossie Godsen on vibraphone, Warren Penniman on drums, and I don’t recognize the other players.  Really good band, y’all.

I have a (better quality) clip of this same band performing “Tulsa Trot” that features a wonderful and more intricate solo from Dicky Phillips that is really fun to watch — I regret that this performance is not yet available on YouTube.

Sorry – distracted by the vintage vegas architecture

Tex Williams LPHowever, Tex Williams did do another live performance of “The Talking Boogie” on TV’s Town Hall Ranch Party with our old friend Joe Maphis, who plays his one-of-a-kind double-neck guitar:

“The Talking Boogie”     Tex Williams with Joe Maphis & Western Ranch Party     1958

Phillips’ individualistic approach to playing the instrument, although similar to a Chapman Stick (without the “double tapping“) is somewhat unique — I challenge you to produce a video that shows another guitarist whose playing method duplicates Dickie’s. Text below is excerpt from Phillips’ obituary:

JAMES RICHARD “DICKIE” PHILLIPS, b. August 30, 1920, Beamon, Pettis County, Missouri; d. April 23, 1991, Jackson County, Missouri; m. MARTHA KILLEBREW, ca. 1940, St. Louis, Missouri.

James Richard Phillips was an accomplished musician, playing the fiddle and guitar with many well known bands, such as Spike Jones, Tex Williams and Bob Scobey.  He played with Pat Boone’s backup band and appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show as a regular attraction for several months, both on radio and television.

When he was with the Tex Williams band, he played background music for a number of movies, including several of the Walt Disney animated films. During his youth, he played with a band which appeared in Hawaii and during this time he contracted tuberculosis.

Link to follow-up piece on Dickie Phillips.

THIS JUST IN:  Late-breaking news (June 16, 2017)

An electric violin that was developed by Leo Fender, in partnership with Dickie Phillips, was purchased on Ebay in 2004 Ben Heaney (of DeltaViolin – deltaviolin.com) but “took me a long time to get my head round what I’d bought.”  As it turns out, the story has taken on considerable historic significance, as this 1958 production prototype is the world’s rarest electric violin!   One of only two of its kind, and “500 times more rare than a Stradivarius,” Heaney adds that “the BBC just broadcast a recording of the 1958 Fender Electric Violin – no samples, no synths, no loops… – a single take divided into three sections and multi-layered.”

UK music fans will hear this electric violin for the first time, essentially, as Heaney prepares to take this instrument on tour, as well as in the recording studio, in the coming months.  The instrument can already be heard on a track called “Where’s the Fire Gone” by The August List — the first recording “to feature this particular age of Fender violin,” according to Heaney, who also enthuses to Zero to 180:

“The sound is fantastic. Totally unlike ANY electric violin on the market today … with the possible exception of a prototype I’ve helped a new maker develop…

The reason is simple, seemingly no one has used Fender’s pickup solution.  That’s why it sounds different.  Almost every other violin is using a piezo, so ultimately share a root sound” — save this prototype.

Click on this link to hear a solo recording of the world’s rarest electric violin.

“Electrified Donkey”: Western Swing on King – The Later Years

Really nice toe-tapper of a tune from Ferlin Husky during a brief period in the dawning Rocket Age when he was on Cincinnati’s King Records:

“Electrified Donkey”     Ferlin Husky      1959

Electrified Donkey” was the album closer on Ferlin’s King LP, Ferlin Husky.

Ferlin Husky - King EP

The album was originally issued in 1959 as Country Tunes Sung From the Heart and then again, with a new cover and title, in 1961.  “Electrified Donkey” was also the A-side of a 45 released in March 1961 on King.

It needs to be pointed out, however, that Ferlin’s releases on King all appear to have been leased from another label, 4 Star, and thus not likely to have been recorded in Cincinnati.

“Twin Guitar Polka”: Western Swing on King – The Early Years

According to Michel Ruppli’s, The King Labels:  A Discography, in King Records’ first year of existence – 1943 – there was exactly one recording session that yielded two singles  (Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis using aliases, since they were under contract to WLW).  King’s first recording session took place in Dayton, and subsequent sessions were conducted at outside facilities both near and far:  New York City, Detroit, Nashville, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oklahoma City – even the Wurlitzer Music Store studios in Cincinnati.

As far as King’s own recording facilities are concerned, I can only infer from Michel Ruppli that recordings in Cincinnati had begun taking place by 1949.  When Syd Nathan’s abrasive personality got him kicked out Earl “Bucky” Herzog’s studio, Nathan had no other suitable recording facilities in Cincinnati at his avail, thus the impetus for building his own studio.  According to Jon Hartley Fox’s King of the Queen City:  The Story of King Records, “Until that studio was finished, recordings were done at Brewster Avenue, in the office of the Accounting Department – but only at night.  When the whistle blew, and the staff went home for the day, Nathan and anybody else who might  be around for the session pushed the desks and filing cabinets to one side of the room and set up microphones in the cleared space.  A small control booth sat at the end of the room, separated from the room by a glass window.”

King Studios a

Before the advent of his own recording studio – a radical idea for an independent label at that time – Syd Nathan’s search for talent sometimes took him rather far, indeed.  Nathan’s first trip to Los Angeles in 1946 resulted in a marathon recording excursion, and as Kevin Coffey writes in the liner notes to Westside’s Shuffle Town:  Western Swing on King CD anthology, when Nathan blew into Hollywood in September 1946, “Syd and his King Records hit Hollywood  with the force of an earthquake, and over the next month Nathan waxed a hundred-plus sides on Jimmy Widener, Hank Penny, Red Egner, and Tex Atchison, and others.”

Among those other artists were Ocie Stockard and his backup band, the Wanderers, whose “Twin Guitar Polka” is a sure-fire way to get the folks out onto the dance floor:

“Twin Guitar Polka”  – according to Kevin Coffey – was a hit in several markets.

Twin Guitar Polka 78Who Are the Ocie Stockard All-Stars?

Coffey says, “Stockard’s lone session for King was an all-star affair that combined musicians from several bands.  Fiddler Cecil Brower was another former Brownie    [Milton Brown’s band], an even more important and influential musician than Stockard, while steel guitarist Andy Schroder had worked with the Hi Flyers and others, and pianist Frank Reneau had recorded with the Light Crust Doughboys – as had guitarist J.B. Brinkley.  Guitarist Robert “Lefty” Perkins was then working with the reconstituted Doughboys and had previously recorded with Bill Boyd, W. Lee O’Daniel, Derwood Brown and others.  Bassist Wanna Coffman was yet another former Brownie, while drummer Homer Kinniard had worked with the Hi Flyers and the Crystal Springs Ramblers.  Stockard himself played tenor banjo, and the acoustic rhythm guitarist here might be Buster Ferguson, soon to go to Odessa with Brower, Reneau, and Schroder under Brower’s leadership.”

“Big Beaver”: Thank You, Goodnight from The Texas Troubadours

Ernest Tubb is coming into the home stretch as he prepares to let Leon Rhodes and Buddy Charleton loose on a Bob Wills instrumental – “Big Beaver” – from the live LP,   Hittin’ the Road:

Big Beaver – The Texas Troubadours

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear ”Big Beaver” by The Texas Troubadours.]

ET + Texas Troubadours LP

Thanks to Gary Olson of Home on the Range, I now know that Big Beaver is a place in Osage County, Oklahoma that once had a big dance hall frequented by Bob Wills and those fabulous Texas Playboys.

“On the Alamo”: (Inter)Twin(ed) Guitars

It is startling and sad the degree to which Jimmie Rivers is not represented in the history of recorded music.  Says AllMusic:

“Despite his obscurity, Jimmie Rivers is one of the great western swing/bop guitarists. His legacy is miniscule, consisting of a disc’s worth of live tracks with his group, the Cherokees, recorded between 1961-64, but these low-fidelity documents show a guitarist with a near-unparalleled ability to construct exciting, melodic solos in the vein of Charlie Christian.”

As Rich Kienzle points out in his liner notes to the lone Jimmie Rivers CD anthology, Vance Terry was a former teenaged steel guitar wonder who originally was “absorbed” into the Texas Playboys when his group –  a western swing outfit under the direction of Billy Jack Wills, brother of Bob – disbanded.  Vance quit the music biz in 1955 to attend Chico State College, not playing for two-and-a-half years until a three-week engagement with former sparring partner, Jimmie Rivers, ended up stretching to four-and-a-half years.

“On the Alamo” – a jazz standard composed and published in 1911 but not recorded until 1922 by bandleader, Isham Jones, with Gus Kahn – is beautifully interpreted by Jimmie Rivers and Vance Terry with their twin guitars:

Jimmie Rivers - TV studio

Rich Kienzle also notes that Jimmie Rivers’ version of “On the Alamo” was clearly inspired by Speedy West’s 1956 Capitol recording of the song – here is rare TV footage of Speedy West playing “On the Alamo” from the Lawrence Welk show, back when it was a local show based out of Los Angeles: