Former Starday recording artist Merle Kilgore would have an unsuccessful stint at Columbia/Epic in the mid-1960s before rejoining the fold at the newly-expanded Starday-King (the King label having consolidated with Starday upon the death of its founder/owner Syd Nathan in 1968). Starday historian emeritus Nathan D. Gibson would interview Kilgore for 2011’s superb history, The Starday Story: The House That Country Built:
He returned to Starday in the late 1960s as Merle Kilgore, “The Boogie King,” and also worked part-time for the label. He tells the story:
“I went to work for Starday years later [late 60s] for Hal Neely [President of the Starday-King merger]. I was workin’ the Hank [Williams] Jr. roadshow and I was open all week ’cause we worked Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays. So I went out and just kind of interned, you know. Producing the records and running the country division for Starday-King. I was out there for almost two years. Then they moved me up to where I was director of the country market there. It was like learning a whole new part of the business that I really hadn’t had the chance to experience.”
1972 would see the release of three 45s while under contract to Starday-King — two singles “The Great Drinking Bout” b/w “Good Rockin’ Tonight” -and- “My Side of Life” b/w “A Different Kind of Pretty” issued on Starday, while one other “Boogie King” b/w “All She Wants to Do is Boogie” issued, curiously, on King:
“Boogie King” Merle Kilgore 1972
Kilgore’s peripatetic recording career would take him to Imperial, Starday, Mercury, MGM, Columbia, Ashley, Starday-King, Warner Brothers, and Elektra, and yet – as Gibson points out – “Kilgore’s only singles to break the Top 50 in the Billboard charts were on Starday.”
“Big Merle” King 45 engineered by Billy Sherrill
- Grammy Foundation’s video clip of Kilgore telling how he co-wrote “Ring of Fire” with June Carter Cash.
- Link to other Zero to 180 pieces that feature Merle Kilgore.
Extra Credit: Merle Kilgore as Songwriter for Other Artists
Search 45Cat‘s database using the terms “Merle Kilgore” and note the 9 “pages” of 45 releases (25 per page) on which Merle Kilgore has written at least one of the tracks. Artists who have recorded Merle Kilgore compositions include Webb Pierce, Guy Lombardo, Margie Singleton, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Claude King, Rex Allen, Hylo Brown, Jack Scott, Lorne Greene, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vinton, Kitty Wells, Billie Jean Horton, Lefty Frizzell, Tillman Franks, Wayne Raney, Tom Tall, Earl Gaines, Kay Starr, Ronnie & the Daytonas, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Leon Ashley, Travis Wammack, Little Jimmy Dempsey, Ray Campi, Anita Carter, June Carter, Carlene Carter, Bucky Allred, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, and Marty Stuart.
Halloween & Horror Alert!
Merle Kilgore once recorded a song “Frankenboogie” under the alias “Frankie Stein” for Starday-King, who would issue the song in 1973 on King as an A-side, with “All She Wants to Do Is Boogie” (borrowed from the 1972 “Boogie King” 45) used for the flip.