It’s True: Noel Boggs Once Played on a King Record

Hank Penny’s first recording session for King Records took place at the Wurlitzer Music Company in Cincinnati sometime mid-1944.  Roy Lanham – pioneering guitarist who was too “hillbilly” for the jazz crowd and too “jazzy” for country fans – would play on this session, as well as Louis Innis, it’s worth noting.  Penny’s next session for King would be recorded in Hollywood a year later and yield five songs – including “Steel Guitar Stomp”:

“Steel Guitar Stomp”     Hank Penny (featuring Noel Boggs & Merle Travis)    1945

Penny’s steel guitarist, Noel Boggs would soon get the call up from legendary bandleader, Bob Wills and then later, Spade Cooley.  This “Dean of the Steel Guitar,” according to Brad’s Pages of Steel, “appeared on some 2,000 recordings as a soloist, with Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, Jimmy Wakely, Hank Penny, Bill Boyd, Sheb Wooley, Les Anderson, Merle Travis and the Cass County Boys.”  Boggs, backed by the Day Sleepers, would go on to release a couple singles on almighty Columbia under his own name, as well as a couple recordings as “The Noel Boggs Quintet” on the Shasta label.

Noel Boggs singleNoel Boggs album

Check out all the cool sounds that Noel Boggs coaxes out of his (pre-pedal) steel guitar in this driving version of “Alabamy Bound”:

Extra Credit:  Name That Guitar

Q:  What guitar is Noel Boggs playing in this clip of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys ‘performing’ the song “Ida Red” in the 1945 western talkie, Blazing the Western Trail — that’s the question posed a few years back on the Steel Guitar Forum.

Answer:  Epiphone “Rocco” 7/8-string doubleneck steel guitar – thanks to Jody Carver (of Hot Club of America fame) for providing an autographed photo of this impressive and stylish guitar being held by its namesake, Anthony Rocco, about which too little is known.  Says Mark Heller, “Rocco was one of the earliest electric steel guitar players, and he carved out a career for himself in the New York City area, playing Hawaiian-style steel guitar with big bands and orchestras around the city.  In addition, Rocco befriended Epi Stathopoulo, who manufactured Epiphone guitars, and Rocco came on board as advisor to the company.  Based on Rocco’s designs and inventions, Epiphone began manufacturing a whole line of Rocco devices in 1937, including a Rocco double-neck steel guitar, a Rocco signature steel bar, and the innovative Rocco Tonexpressor, a combination volume and tone pedal.”

Anthony Rocco

“Pink Velvet Swing”: Six Degrees of Roy Clark

In 1962 Capitol Records released a Roy Clark instrumental LP entitled, The Lightning Fingers of Roy ClarkGiven the year of release, Roy shows amazing restraint by limiting to three the number of songs whose titles end with the word “Twist.”

One obvious album highlight is Roy’s version of Hank Penny‘s “Pink Velvet Swing“:

“Pink Velvet Swing”     Roy Clark     1962

Capitol would not release any singles from this album.

Rear cover

The Cincinnati-Kingston Connection II

Speaking of Hank Penny, Wikipedia’s bio spotlights his hit song “Bloodshot Eyes” and shows a curious chain of connections that illustrate the direct cultural impact of the sounds coming out of Cincinnati’s King Records studio on people in far-flung places that yet were within reach of radio during its peak period of influence – places such as Kingston, Jamaica and legendary session guitarist, Ernest Ranglin:

Penny’s “Bloodshot Eyes” was also recorded in 1951 by rock and roll singer, Wynonie Harris, who turned it into a major rock hit (King 4461).  Harris was a big influence on Elvis Presley, who did go to see him play and met him in his formative years and recorded Roy Brown’s Good Rocking Tonight after hearing Wynonie Harris’ hit version.  Appreciated by white country music fans and black rock and roll followers alike, “Bloodshot Eyes” became an early landmark in racial integration.  It was much appreciated in the Caribbean, where Wynonie Harris had a large following.  Along with other Wynonie Harris records, it was being played on Jamaican dancehalls as early as 1951.  In 1958 Jamaican mento group, Denzil Laing and the Wrigglers recorded a fine version of it for their Arawak Hotel album featuring jazz guitar great, Ernest Ranglin.

Arawak Hotel LP