Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

The “Pre-Nashville A Team” at Cincinnati’s Herzog Studios

The Pleasant Valley Boys were considered country music’s first “A Team” of session players, whose services were highly sought by two of the top country artists in Nashville between 1947 and 1948 at the very dawn of that city’s ascendance as one of the world’s great recording capitals. When you scan these recording credits for Red Foley — a marquee star for the Grand Ole Opry during this period and “focus of Nashville’s nascent recording industry” whose Prince Albert Show was carried nationally on NBC radio — you will find these core musicians who supported Foley on sessions that took place between August and December 1947 (in the big run up to the 1948 recording ban) at Tulane Hotel’s Castle Studio, Nashville’s first commercial recording facility.

The Pleasant Valley Boys 

Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Red Foley backed by The Pleasant Valley Boys

Byrd’s steel work is a standout onBlues In My Heart

(recorded Aug. 12, 1947)

These same musicians had also supported Hank Williams as The Drifting Cowboys earlier that same year at WSM Radio Station Studio in February, as well as at Nashville’s Castle Studio sessions in April and November of 1947, thanks to these recording credits compiled by the PragueFrank research team.

In the fall of 1948, this “pre-Nashville A Team” moved to Cincinnati to take advantage of lucrative radio and TV opportunities.  WLW had debuted “The Midwestern Hayride” on television in February of that year and needed a backup band. 

Billboard

March 13, 1948 edition

First commercial television service for Cincinnati as well as Ohio

The pay, according to Jerry Byrd in his 2003 memoir, It Was A Trip – On Wings of Music, was three times as much as Foley was paying — “about $175 a week.” According to this Jerry Byrd tribute site, it was Ernie Lee of Berea, Kentucky who had lured Byrd from Nashville to Cincinnati, where Lee was employed by WLW from 1947-1948, hosting his own daily radio show and appearing weekly on Midwestern Hayride. According to Discogs, Ernie Lee got his start when he was selected from the audience to continue the show after WLW Plantation Party host, Red Foley, suddenly fell ill on air.

Billboard

July 13, 1946

During this late 1940s/early 1950s period when WLW wages were at their peak, the Pleasant Valley Boys were also supplementing their income with session work at E.T. Herzog Recording Studio, one of the first commercial studios to record country music, claims Jon Hartley Fox in this entry for The Encyclopedia of Country Music

The E.T. Herzog Recording Studio, located at 811 Race Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the first commercial studios to record country music. Opened in 1945 by Earl T. [“Bucky“] Herzog (b. January 26, 1908; d. December 6, 1986), a moonlighting engineer from radio station WLW, the studio was used to record some of the earliest releases on King Records. Because of the availability of talented musicians working on Cincinnati radio station WLW, as well as Herzog’s cooperative attitude and technical expertise, the studio also attracted artists from Nashville, including Hank Williams, who cut eight songs there in two sessions (1948-49). Though the Race Street studio closed in 1951 [officially, Herzog remained in business until 1955], Herzog remained active, working in various other studios until his death.

The Pleasant Valley Boys

(L to R: Louis Innis; Zeke Turner; Tommy Jackson & Jerry Byrd)

(image courtesy of SecondHand Songs)

Byrd’s memoir describes a hectic performing and recording schedule that “meant getting up at 4:00 or possibly 4:15” in order to meet the many demands on the musicians’ time:

We had early-morning radio shows from 5:00 to 7:00, and an afternoon TV show at a different studio. Often times there were personal appearances at night, such as fairs and other events, of which there were a plentiful number in that area. We would then return to the radio station too late to go home and get any sleep, so we’d lie around the lounge and nap until air time.

My schedule was ever heavier, because I was also doing an average of five or six recording sessions a week. When I moved to Cincinnati, many recording artists came through to get me to play on their records. As a result, our four-piece band with an added bass player became a top studio band in the business.

Many nights would be spent playing on recording sessions with other singers or groups. Labels would bring their artists to Cincinnati, from California and everywhere else to record with us. I was the “hot boy” back then. I had a new style, the new sound in steel guitar. That’s what they wanted. I had good musicians with me, and it was easier and cheaper for them to bring one singer to us than to bring four musicians to them. One of them was Hank Williams.

Crosley Square‘s first in-house TV production was aired Nov. 13, 1947

(Federal regulations would force Crosley to jettison WSAI in 1944)

It is notable that Hank Williams, after waiting out the 11-month recording ban of the 1948 AFM musicians strike, journeyed all the way to Cincinnati’s Herzog Studios that December prior to the Eisenhower interstate highway system to record the following year’s number one hillbilly record “Lovesick Blues,” and then again in August of 1949 for the session that yielded his signature tune “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — the only two recording ventures outside of Nashville by Williams.

All three songs in this Dec. 17, 1949 Cash Box ad –

Recorded at Cincinnati’s E.T. Herzog Studios

Rick Bird speaks to the enormous shadow cast by WLW as a major media presence in his November 16, 2009 piece for Cincinnati’s City Beat about the unveiling of the two-sided historical marker for Herzog Studios:

The Herzog story – its rise and fall – can’t be told without telling the WLW Country & Western story. By the late ’30s the “nation’s station” was booming out a signal of 500,000 watts, but owner Powel Crosley was under government pressure to justify why he deserved that much wattage.

“His argument was, ‘We are in the center of the population area of the country and there are so many rural areas that don’t have radio service. We are providing that for them,’” says Mike Martini of Media Heritage Inc. “Crosley realized he needed to beef up his rural programming to justify that argument.”

WLW began to hire the finest Country & Western singers and musicians in the land. At one point it produced two weekly barn-dance shows, Midwestern Hayride and Boone County Jamboree.

Full-page ad

Billboard‘s 1944 Yearbook

In a Steel Guitar Forum discussion thread devoted to “one of the hottest Record Session Bands,” Ray Montee‘s opening declamatory post asserts that “[b]ack when Jerry Byrd was with the Pleasant Valley Boys, they were the hottest country musical group in the nation. This was BEFORE Nashville had a Music Row.”

Johnny Sippel, reporting in his “Folk Talent And Tunes” column for Billboard‘s March 12, 1949 edition, would break the news that WLW’s hot string band, The Pleasant Valley Boys (under a new alias) had just inked a recording deal with Mercury after turning down Decca and Capitol (Byrd would write years later):

Murray Nash, Mercury’s folk music chief, has inked Jerry Byrd and the String Dusters, WLW Cincinnati, to a waxing pact. Byrd, former steel man for Red Foley, will get his first Mercury release “Steelin’ the Blues” and “Drowsy Water[s].”

Shortly after, Sippel reported in Billboard‘s April 30, 1949 issue that “Murray Nash will cut Art Gibson with Jerry Byrd’s String Dusters in Cincinnati this week.”

Mercury Records ultimately signed each of the musicians – except guitarist Zeke Turner – to a recording contract, albeit with the band identified as The String Dusters, due to their contractual arrangement with WLW as The Pleasant Valley Boys (with one notable exception: This obscure Judy Perkins 78 released February 1950, a copy of which now resides in the collection of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History).

WLW‘s Midwestern Hayride

Musicians on the far right include Louis Innis, Jerry Byrd & Zeke Turner

(Photo courtesy of WVXU)

These musicians also supplemented their pay with session work at King Studios. Jerry Byrd and Tommy Jackson, for instance, backed singer Tommy Scott on a January 4, 1951 session that produced hobo train classic “Rockin’ and Rollin’” (as previously noted in King History Tweet #10) for Federal’s short-lived Hillbilly Series. The two musicians also backed Scott on the June 4, 1951 at King Studios that produced a pair of songs co-written with Henry Glover that were released as a Christmas 45, “Santa Claus Shuffle” b/w “It’s You.”

In between all the radio appearances and recording session dates, the Pleasant Valley Boys also found the time to perform live concerts in the WLW-T serving area. Cash Box‘s Johnny Sippel reports in the February 25, 1950 issue that “[Kenny] Roberts and Jerry Byrd (Mercury) and the Pleasant Valley Boys did 3,000 people February 4 at Columbus, O., with the Georgia Crackers (Victor) [vocal group that included King vocalist, Bob Newman].”

1951 would find The Pleasant Valley Boys enjoying national media exposure after WLW had persuaded NBC-TV to pick up The Midwestern Hayride as a summer replacement for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, television’s pioneering sketch program. Billboard‘s June 16, 1951 edition deemed NBC’s programming move “the biggest break yet for country music on TV.” Historian Randy McNutt points out in The Cincinnati Sound that, locally, The Midwestern Hayride lasted up to 90 minutes and was broadcast live (and unrehearsed) from Crosley Square downtown.

BillboardMay 26, 1951 edition

Hayride to Replace Coca, Caesar on NBC-TV

first regular telecast to be beamed out of Cincinnati to a national network

That same year, however, Jerry Byrd would make the big decision to pull up stakes and chart a new independent path. As Byrd notes wistfully in his memoir, “I had left WLW in 1951 to return to Nashville and in doing so had to sever a long-standing friendship with Ernie Lee.”

Billboard

November 17, 1951

Puzzlingly, recording sessions attributed to Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters would continue from 1952 into 1954 and believed by PragueFrank researchers to have taken place in Cincinnati, despite Byrd’s relocation to Nashville. Is it possible that Jerry Byrd returned periodically in the early 1950s to record at Herzog with help from the Pleasant Valley Boys? [See Recording Sessionography below.]

Louis Innis, Zeke Turner & unidentified friend

(image courtesy of Steel Guitar Forum)

Even with the advent of the pedal steel guitar, asserts roots music historian Rich Kienzle in his Vintage Guitar review of 2017 German CD compilation, Byrd’s Expedition, Jerry Byrd and his lap steel remained the “the gold standard” —

Byrd was ubiquitous on country records produced in Cincinnati and Nashville in the late ’40s and early ’50s. He worked with Opry star Red Foley’s band, Pleasant Valley Boys, as heard on the Foley hits “Tennessee Saturday Night” and “Blues In My Heart.” His work enhanced the Hank Williams classics “Lovesick Blues” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.

Byrd’s Expedition offers 30 instrumentals from his 1949-’53 period with Mercury Records, encompassing country, pop, Hawaiian, and jazz. Enough cannot be said for the quality of this collection. The material was remastered and in some cases, a record’s speed was corrected. Co-producer Dave Samuelson chose the music wisely and his authoritative notes provide ample context.

It begins with Byrd’s signature tune, “Steelin’ The Blues,” recorded with Foley’s band including lead guitarist Zeke Turner. “Steelin’ The Chimes” features his easygoing interactions with Turner. Byrd enhanced his sound in various ways, creating proto-wah by manipulating his tone control on “Wabash Wah-Wah Blues.

Cash Box

October 18, 1952

Jerry Byrd, WSM’s leading steel guitar stylist, in New York last week to sideman on pop sessions. Trend seems to be that wax buyers in general are accepting the country instruments as well as simple ditties.

The Pleasant Valley Boys -vs- The String Dusters:

A Recording Sessionography

E.T. Herzog Recording Studio

Cincinnati, Ohio

= click on song titles for streaming audio =

Hank Williams With His Drifting Cowboys

Date = Dec 22, 1948 [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Hank Williams — vocals & guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Clyde Baum — mandolin
Willie Thall — bass

Note = Audrey Williams is co-vocalist on “Lost On The River” and “I Heard My Mother Praying For Me.”

Excerpt from Hank Williams – The Biography by Colin Escott with George Merritt & William MacEwen:

By the time they had cut the duets and “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight,” there was less than half an hour left on the session. Hank pulled “Lovesick Blues” from his guitar case and ran it down for [Fred] Rose and the band. “It was all out of meter,” said Jerry Byrd, “and Fred said, ‘That’s the worst damn thing I ever heard.’ He had eyes that went different ways – he couldn’t look at you with both eyes – but he was starin’ as hard as he could at Hank.”

[Mandolinist] Clyde Baum remembered that Rose and Hank got into an argument. “I’ll tell you one damn thing,” Hank said to Rose. “You might not like the song but when it gets so hot that I walk off the stage and throw my hat back on the stage and the hat encores, that’s pretty hot. And you said that ‘Pan American‘ [recorded with Louis Innis, Zeke Turner & Tommy Jackson] was no good, and that sold pretty good.” Rose started to walk out to get a cup of coffee, telling Hank to cut it if he liked — but he was having nothing to do with it. As he got to the door, Rose turned to the musicians (whose fees were deducted from Hank’s royalties) and said that he would give them time and a half if they finished before the three hours of studio time were up and MGM was into extra studio costs. “You’re mighty damn free with my money!” yelled Hank, just as the musicians were kicking it off.

With so little time left on the session, the band was under the gun to come up with an arrangement. Byrd and Turner had worked on an Ernest Tubb session shortly before the [1948] recording ban, when Tubb, who was running short of material, had cut Jimmie Rodgers’s “Waiting For a Train.” Byrd and Turner had fashioned a unison yodeling figure for the song’s intro [plus outro], and, with no time to prepare anything else, they replicated it on “Lovesick Blues.”

“We made two cuts,” said Jerry Byrd. “I said to Hank, ‘That’s the sorriest thing I ever did hear.'” Faced with criticism from all sides, Hank started to become defensive. He said, “Well, maybe we’ll put it on a flip side or something.”

[Fred’s son] Wesley Rose always insisted that his father had set up the session in Cincinnati specifically to record “Lovesick Blues,” but clearly no one who was there shares that view, and it doesn’t jibe with the fact that it was the last song recorded.

“Lovesick Blues” written by Irving Mills & Cliff Friend [of Cincinnati]

#1 country hit for sixteen weeks

Rome Johnson With His Saddle Pals

Date = “12 January 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Rome Johnson — vocals & rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Leonard Sosby — bass
Ray Sosby — fiddle
Tommy Jackson — fiddle

Note = Thanks to Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner for this research tip!

Red Sovine

Date = “13 January 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Note = PragueFrank says that all of Red Sovine’s earliest recordings took place at Nashville’s Castle Studio, and yet there’s no mistaking the sound of Jerry Byrd and the String Dusters as the backing band on these four recordings. Seems more likely this session took place at Herzog Studio – another research tip from Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner.

Future truck driving country king’s debut release

Rex Allen With the Arizona Wranglers Featuring Jerry Byrd

Date = “ca. February 1949” [PragueFrank] – “poss. WBBO Radio Station Studio, Cincinnati”

Label = Mercury

Rex Allen — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Cash Box

May 28, 1949

Ernie Lee And His Southerners

Date = “ca. February 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = RCA Victor

WLW’s Ernie Lee

Note = Doesn’t it make sense that Jerry Byrd would record with the singer and radio host who got the Pleasant Valley Boys their WLW gig in the first place, asks Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner? By the sound of it (as there are no musician credits), who else but Jerry Byrd could be playing those steel guitar lines on “I Never See Maggie Alone” (and is that also Homer and Jethro playing guitar and mandolin, respectively, on this track)? This is most likely Byrd’s first session with Ernie Lee at Herzog Studio.

Jerry Byrd & the String Dusters

Date = “ca. March 1949” [PragueFrank – “poss. WBBO Radio Station Studio, Cincinnati”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass
Rex Allen — vocals

Review of “Drowsy Waters” b/w “Steelin’ the Blues” in Billboard‘s April 9, 1949 issue

[A-side] Top-notch string instrumental job of a dreamy traditional hill waltz [sic] should get plenty action all the way. Byrd’s steel guitar work is masterly. [B-side] Country jocks should cotton to this easy rhythm instrumental, with more fine Byrd. Imaginative and unusual, with an effective short vocal by Rex Allen.

Billboard

March 19, 1949

Note = Herzog is the location of Byrd’s first recording session as a featured soloist [see excerpt from Byrd’s memoir in the Bonus Bit at tail’s end]. All songs are Jerry Byrd-Louis Innis compositions, except “Drowsy Waters,” an adaptation of Hawaiian traditional song “Wailana” (listen to recording from 1913 on Library of Congress’s website).

“Steelin’ the Blues” b/w “Drowsy Waters”

A hit with the disc jockeys (sans vocals), according to Byrd

Tommy Williams With Jerry Byrd

Date = ca. March 1949 [released Apr 9, 1949] – possibly Herzog?

Label = Mercury

  • Happy Anniversary

Steel guitar by Jerry Byrd

Red Sovine

Date = “20 March 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Note = I concur with Walter Stettner‘s assessment that Jerry Byrd, Zeke Turner, Louis Innis, and Tommy Jackson backed Red Sovine on his first three recording sessions (presumably at Herzog Studios) in 1949.

Art Gibson With The String Dusters [“Mountain Melody Boys“]

Date = ca. April 1949 [Cash Box]

Label = Mercury

Art Gibson — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Note = Mercury recording chief, Murray Nash, will cut Art Gibson with Jerry Byrd’s String Dusters in Cincinnati this weekCash Box.

Kenny Roberts

Date = “3 May 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = Coral

Kenny Roberts — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Louie Innis — guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
James Grishaw — bass

Kenny Roberts’ debut 1946 release was a picture disc

Note = Cowboy singer Kenny Roberts we now know – thanks to Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner – recorded some of his earliest work at Herzog Studio accompanied by The String Dusters, with Jerry Byrd present at four of the six Herzog sessions that were produced by Paul Cohen for Decca subsidiary, Coral.

Demonstration video

Jerry Byrd’s solo in “I’ve Got the Blues” by steel player ‘Boppin’ Guitar

Rex Allen With the Arizona Wranglers Featuring Jerry Byrd

Date = “ca. July 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Note = Judy Perkins is co-vocalist on “Over Three Hills” — PragueFrank says “poss. Castle Studio,” but it seems unlikely Cincinnati-based Byrd would have traveled to Nashville to record (particularly given the imminent birth of his first child, Lani Jo, in Cincinnati on July 4, 1949).

Cash Box

December 17, 1949

Louis Innis With The String Dusters

Date = “ca. July 1949” [PragueFrank] – possibly Herzog?

Label = Mercury

  • Chattanoogie Boogie
  • Better Back Up Mama

Kenny Roberts

Date = “8 August 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = Coral

Kenny Roberts — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Ulysses Turner — bass

Kenny Roberts

Date = “10 August 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = Coral

Kenny Roberts — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Ulysses Turner — bass

Ernie Lee And His Southerners

Date = “ca. August 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = RCA Victor

Note = By the sound of it (no musician credits), that’s Jerry Byrd on steel guitar, along with Homer and Jethro again on guitar and mandolin.

Written by former Hank Penny fiddler, Boudleaux Bryant

Hank Williams With His Drifting Cowboys

Date = Aug 30, 1949 [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Hank Williams — vocals & guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Ernie Newton — bass

Excerpt from Hank Williams – The Biography by Colin Escott with George Merritt & William MacEwen:

The first song they cut was “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Here is the chill of the void that would become one of the hallmarks of Hank’s writing. It is the most oft cited example of Hank Williams the hillbilly poet, but its poetic form comes from the fact that it was originally intended to be spoken, not sung. Acuff-Rose staff writer Vic McAlpin said that Hank had written it for his first session of recitations slated for January 1950, but at some point he changed his mind. “I think ol’ Hank needs to record this,” he told McAlpin. Hank was concerned that some of the lines might sound self-consciously artsy and alienate his audience, but as he so often did, he tried out the song on friends, fellow performers, and Fred Rose, and let them convince him that he had excelled.

Zeke Turner underpinned “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with recurring figures on the bass strings of his electric guitar. A few weeks earlier, he had led the backing on The Delmore Brothers’ King recording of “Blues Stay Away From Me,” using very similar licks, and they were clearly still echoing in his mind. Jerry Byrd played a solo of unusual simplicity, paraphrasing the melody to haunting effect, with subtle adjustments of tone and volume. Hank delivered his words with utter conviction that never once sunk to bathos.

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” was a triumph — and the record Hank would often cite as his personal favorite. However, when it was released on November 8, 1949, it was on the flip side of “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” another song that Fred Rose didn’t want to touch. Quite how or when Hank got the notion to record it is unclear. The most commonly accepted theory is that Tee-Tot [Rufus Payne] taught it to him, although Pappy Neal McCormick also took the credit. Whatever its provenance, it’s hard to know why Hank chose that moment to revive it. Perhaps he was scouring his mind for other old songs because “Lovesick Blues” had been so successful, and his own songs less so.

1957

Hank Williams trivia (from Colin Escott’s biography) —

The unique features of Hank’s record [“My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It“] was that it had an acoustic guitar break that Hank apparently played by himself, making it his only recorded solo. Louis Innis played rhythm guitar on the session, choking up on the neck to get the percussive effect that Fred Rose wanted, and he can be heard keeping time under the solo, so he’s clearly not the soloist. The song was delivered with the mellow, compelling swing that underscored Hank’s feel for Black music.

Red Sovine

Date = “1 September 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = MGM

Note = Sure sounds like Jerry Byrd and the String Dusters backing Sovine on these four songs – another research tip from Walter Stettner.

Tommy Sosebee

Date = “29 September 1949” [Praguefrank]

Label = Coral

  • I Thought I’d Die
  • Old Kentucky Waltz
  • My Tears Are Still Falling
  • “(I Don’t Care) If The World Ends Tomorrow

Note = Recording session produced by Paul Cohen — research tip from Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner, who sent me audio of two of these tracks (yep, that’s Jerry Byrd playing steel).

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters 

Date = “c. Oct. 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label =  Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Note = Judy Perkins is co-vocalist on “I Wonder Who We Think We’re Fooling.”

Judy Perkins With The Pleasant Valley Boys

Date = c. October 1949 [The Mercury Labels compiled by Michel Ruppli & Ed Novitsky]

Label = Mercury

  • I Come Here To Be Went With (But I Ain’t Been Yet)”
  • I Didn’t Mean to Cry

Louie Innis & The String Dusters

Date = “October 1949” [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Label = Mercury

Judy Perkins With The Pleasant Valley Boys

Date = c. Nov. 1949 [The Mercury Labels compiled by Michel Ruppli & Ed Novitsky]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = Dec. 1949 [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Note = Judy Perkins is co-vocalist on “Fairy Tales.”

Rex Allen & Patti Page With The Arizona Wranglers Featuring Jerry Byrd

Date = Dec. 10, 1949 [PragueFrank] vs. Dec. 14, 1949 [Cash Box]

Label = Mercury

Rex Allen & Patti Page — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Note = PragueFrank identifies Rex Allen’s backing band as The String Dusters — Patti Page is co-vocalist on four songs.

Jerry Byrd with The String Dusters 

Date = “ca. 10 December 1949” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Louis Innis — guitar
Zeke Turner — guitar
Red Turner — bass
Tommy Jackson — fiddle

Note = Rex Allen is vocalist on “Steelin’ Is His Business” (and perhaps other tracks).

Undated EP

Kenny Roberts

Date = “4 January 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Coral

Kenny Roberts — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Wayne Raney — harmonica
Ulysses Turner — bass

Jerry Byrd With Danny Kuaana And His Islanders

Date = ca. January 1950

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Danny Kuaana — ukulele & vocals
George Ku — guitar & vocals
Mel Peterson — guitar & vocals
Al McIntire — bass & vocals

10-inch LP

1950

Jerry Byrd & Marty Robbins

Maui Chimes

live performance

Note = Danny Kuaana And His Islanders were a “veteran group heard with Sonja Henie [Norwegian Olympic skater and film star] show,” as noted by Johnny Sippel in Cash Box‘s January 21, 1950 edition.

Cash Box review

August 12, 1950

Tommy Jackson

Date = “ca. 3 February 1950” [PragueFrank, who identifies Gibson Hotel as the recording site]

Label = Mercury

  • Black Mountain Rag
  • Sally Goodin

Note = It is unclear whether The String Dusters accompanied Tommy Jackson on this session and others for Mercury.

Louie Innis & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. February 1950” – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Jerry Byrd With The String Dusters

Date = “ca. March 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Billboard

December 9, 1950

Rex Allen With The Arizona Wranglers Featuring Jerry Byrd

Date = “ca. March 1950” [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Label = Mercury

Rex Allen — vocals
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. April 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Single reviewed by Cash Box June 10, 1950 and then again July 29, 1950!

This is the better review

Louis Innis And The String Dusters

Date = “ca. June 1950” – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. July 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Red Sovine

Date = “31 July 1950” [PragueFrank]

Note = You can hear for yourself the collective sound of The String Dusters on these four recordings, particularly when Jerry Byrd and Zeke Turner intertwine to produce their distinctive twin guitar sound, as on “Dear Mister Santa Claus” (not to mention Byrd’s signature sign-off at song’s end).

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. October 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Cash Box review

November 11, 1950

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. October 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Louis Innis & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. October 1950” – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

  • My Dreamboat Struck a Snag
  • Oh! Babe

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. December 1950” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. January 1951” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

  • Three’s a Crowd

Louie Innis & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. January 1951″ – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Cash Box

March 17, 1951

Ernie Lee And The Southerners

Date = “ca. January 1951” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Note = Jerry Byrd, who appears to have been absent from Ernie Lee’s 1950 releases, certainly can be heard on these two recordings for Mercury.

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. Feb/Mar/Apr 1951” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Red Kirk With Jerry Byrd & the String Dusters

Date = “ca. Mar/Apr 1951” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Red Kirk — vocals
Zeke Turner — lead guitar
Louie Innis — rhythm guitar
Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Louis Innis & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. Mar/Apr 1951” – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

Cash Box

June 30, 1951

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. July 1951” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. August 1951 / March 1952” [PragueFrank – “prob. Cincinnati, Ohio”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Jerry Byrd & Chet Atkins

[photo courtesy of Walter Stettner]

Note = Chet Atkins (who else?) “prob.” plays guitar on “Limehouse Blues,” according to PragueFrank.

Billboard

December 5, 1953

Composer name on the 78 should read “Furber” – not “Furher”

Louis Innis

Date = “ca. October 1951” – [PragueFrank] – Herzog?

  • I’ve Got a Red Hot Love
  • I Grabbed For the Engine (And Caught the Caboose)”
  • I’m the Loneliest Guy” (unissued)

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. Mar/Apr 1952” [PragueFrank – “prob. Cincinnati, Ohio”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Zeke Turner — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Tommy Jackson — fiddle
Red Turner — bass

Note = Jerry Byrd appears to be playing dual steel guitar parts on “Gold Coast Blues” via multitracking in the recording studio.

New Zealand – 1954

Ernie Lee

Date = “ca. May 1952” [PragueFrank]

Label = Mercury

Note = Jerry Byrd is no doubt accompanying Ernie Lee on his last Mercury recording session.

Ernie Lee

Date = “ca. 1952” [PragueFrank – “poss. Cincinnati, OH”]

Label = GLC

Note = This appears to be Ernie Lee’s final Cincinnati session with Jerry Byrd before Lee’s departure for Nashville, where he began recording for new label, MGM — check out the crisp twin guitars playing in harmony on the instrumental break in “My Little Pup With The Patent Leather Nose.”

The Traction Building

One of four Cincinnati skyscrapers designed by Daniel Burnham

Jerry Byrd And His Beach Boys

Date = “ca. Apr 1953” [PragueFrank – “prob. Cincinnati, Ohio”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Is Brian Wilson aware of the trademark infringement?

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. June 1953” [PragueFrank – “prob. Cincinnati, Ohio”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Billboard

April 17, 1954

New Zealand – 1954

Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters

Date = “ca. September 1954” [PragueFrank – “prob. Cincinnati, Ohio”]

Label = Mercury

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar

Postscript:

Jerry Byrd’s Final Cincinnati Recording Session?

King Studios

The Country Cats

Date = October 28, 1954 [78RPM website – musician credits]

Label = King

Jerry Byrd — steel guitar
Al Myers — electric guitar
Louis Innis — rhythm guitar
Floyd Chance — bass

Speaking of Jerry Byrd’s Moonlighting Work at King Records

Cowboy Copas & Jerry Byrd

This Steel Guitar Forum conversation thread devoted to Cowboy Copas begins with the observation that “the steel in his songs has a unique Hawaiian sound – lots of cool runs and hot licks.” Slim Idaho‘s name is floated as Copas’s steel player but ultimately dismissed, since Idaho’s career was cut tragically short (just like Hank Garland’s) as the result of a road fatality. Ray Montee then points out that it was Jerry Byrd who recorded “quite a few sessions” with Cowboy Copas; particularly, on these songs —

The Feudin’ Boogie

Co-written by Henry Bernard Glover & Charles Schroeder

Re-released as an A-side the following year in 1950

If Jerry Byrd played on these four recording sessions, then it stands to reason that he played on any other songs associated with those same session dates:

1955 EP – New Zealand

Additionally, Zero to 180’s own research team has identified (by ear) a Cowboy Copas recording session at King Studios in January 1950 as one that features the steel guitar stylings of Jerry Byrd on these five tracks:

Blues In The Moonlight

Listen for the special effect on Jerry Byrd’s steel guitar –

Advanced audio engineering for early country music

Further examination of Cowboy Copas’s recording discography has uncovered — thanks to the PragueFrank research team — four more recordings from January 6, 1952 that feature the classic Jerry Byrd & The String Dusters lineup:

Finally, PragueFrank has identified Cowboy Copas’s February 28, 1955 session at King Studios as one last reunion with Jerry Byrd and his fellow String Dusters, Tommy Jackson, Louis Innis, and Zeke Turner (plus Zeb Turner), four tracks that comprise what are most likely Byrd’s final Cincinnati recordings:

[** April 1947 sounds too early for a Jerry Byrd appearance in Cincinnati — Slim Idaho, according to the PragueFrank research team, is the steel player on that April 1947 session (under the name, Slim Aderhold) and has embellished other Cowboy Copas recordings, including “Jamboree“; “(My Heart’s) Below the Mason-Dixon Line” and eleven other songs recorded with Homer Haynes, Jethro Burns, and Red Herron at King Studios on February 1947 — plus — “Roly Poly“; “Honky Tonkin’” and two other songs recorded with Homer & Jethro (and Hank Garland) at King Studios on March 28, 1947.]

Moonlighting at King Records:

Hawkshaw Hawkins & Jerry Byrd

It makes sense that Jerry Byrd would also contribute steel guitar on recordings by King’s other country singing star from the “roots rock” era of the late 1940s/early 1950s. PragueFrank identifies at least three Hawkshaw Hawkins sessions that feature Jerry Byrd on steel guitar:

February 17, 1949

September 2, 1949

Co-written with Henry Glover

March 1950

Note = Thanks to Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner for pointing me to an unreleased instrumental that was included on Ace UK’s 2002 compilation CD, King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie. Dave Sax’s informative liner notes (below) shed light on The String Dusters’ moonlighting work at King, as well as Louis Innis’ legacy as a bandleader and musician:

Excerpt –

Proficient on bass, fiddle and guitar, [Louis Innis‘s] first contact at King had come several years earlier when he was a member of the Plantation Boys at WLW, playing bass on the first Hank Penny session. Later he would gain his own radio and television shows at WLW as well as on the Indiana Hayride at WFBN, Indianapolis. Even before rejoining King, Innis had taken part in sessions on bass or rhythm guitar with his associates Zeke Turner (guitar), Jerry Byrd (steel) and Tommy Jackson (fiddle) for both King and Mercury. This ‘dream band’ is heard on many sides [on this CD collection], including “Stop And Go Boogie” which was intended as a backing track for “Rag Man Boogie,” a song scheduled [i.e., written by producer Henry Glover] for Hawkshaw Hawkins March 1950 session. Hawk never did get around to singing the song and it seems that it was decided that Red Perkins should record it instead, which he did in July. When the hoped for track arrived at Ace in this form, Ace’s Tony Rounce suggested that the musicianship and interest might still merit its inclusion as a bonus track. Master guitarist Zeke Turner’s crisp sound is well evident here and became part of the King hillbilly sound for several years. Each man was indeed a master of his instrument and – upon being appointed King’s A&R man for hillbilly music – Louis brought many an artist to the label during the early to mid-50s.

AUDIO for “Rag Man Boogie” by Red Perkins

Written by Henry Bernard Glover, essentially

Different recording than “Stop And Go Boogie”

January 1951

Note = Later that same year, Billboard would report in its July 28, 1951 issue that Hawkshaw Hawkins “is operating his own dairy farm at Clairsville, O., 12 miles from Wheeling, W. Va., where he is still at WWVA. He has built up a herd of 20 registered dairy cows in the first year.”

Moonlighting at King Records:

Clyde Moody & Jerry Byrd

Dave Sax’s liner notes for Ace UK’s King Hillbilly Bop ‘n’ Boogie compilation led me to Clyde Moody as a potential artist whose recordings were once graced by Jerry Byrd and/or his fellow String Dusters. Sure enough, by employing the time-honored listening-by-ear approach, Zero to 180 has been able to discern at least one recording session that features the unmistakable sound of Byrd and his musical brothers in arms.

April 25, 1949

Moonlighting at King Records:

Zeb Turner & Jerry Byrd

Tip of the hat to Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner for pointing us to Jerry Byrd and the String Dusters’ stellar support work on all three of Zeb Turner‘s 1949 sessions recorded at King Studios. PragueFrank does not list any musician credits for these three sessions – nor does Michel Ruppli in his King Records sessionography – however, Stettner informs us that besides Jerry Byrd (steel), Zeb Turner (guitar and vocals) is joined by Zeke Turner (guitar), Tommy Jackson (fiddle), and “possibly” Louis Innis (bass). Furthermore, Bear Family tell us that the Zeb Turner session which yieldedChew Tobacco Rag” includes musical backing by Jerry Byrd, Zeke Turner, and Louis Innis — and may have been produced by Henry Glover, according to Bear Family, during his residency in Cincinnati.

April 27, 1949

October 28, 1949

December 15, 1949

Co-written with Henry Bernard Glover

February 17, 1951

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King “bio disc” (below) makes the connection:

Zeb and Zeke are, indeed, brothers

This Just In:

Ann Jones & Jerry Byrd

Ann Jones enjoyed uncredited backing from both Jerry Byrd and Louis Innis, as well as members of Pee Wee King’s band at a November 9, 1951 King Studios session that yielded these four songs, according to the PragueFrank research team:

Grand Ole Opry Artist

number one guitar player in the country

Cash Box

November 28, 1953

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Bonus Bit!

Jerry Byrd’s First Recording Session As a Featured Soloist

Excerpt from It Was A Trip – On Wings Of Music by Jerry Byrd

When I went to do my first recording session as a featured soloist in [1949], I didn’t have a thing worked up. Three companies wanted to sign me to a contact — Capitol, Decca, and Mercury. Capitol was way out in California, and Decca had a New Yorker for a producer. Mercury was a new label then. They were based in Chicago, and had artists like Frankie Laine, Patti Page, and the Harmonicats. I went with them because the producer was a good old country boy from Knoxville, Tennessee, named Murray Nash. He was a nice guy. I trusted him, and he let me play what I wanted to play.

We recorded at Herzog’s Studio [811 Race St.], which was just one block away from WLW [9th & Elm]. But I had been so busy that I didn’t have time to prepare anything for my own first session. When I got to the studio, Murray asked me, “What are you going to do first?”

“I don’t have any idea,” I said. He almost went into shock.

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “I’ll figure out something.”

So I composed “Steelin’ the Blues” and a boogie tune, “Byrd’s Boogie,” on the spot. I included “Wailana,” an old Hawaiian waltz in a medley with two other songs, and I used the English translation, “Drowsy Waters.”

At that time it was thought you had to have a vocal, that nobody would buy just an instrumental record. After we cut “Steelin’ the Blues,” Fred Rose left the studio and fifteen minutes later came back with lyrics he had written for that thing. Rex Allen was scheduled to record after me, as he was a new Mercury artist as well. They decided that Rex should sing the lyrics, which he agreed to do. So we did another cut with the vocal added.

“Steelin’ the Blues” was a hit with the disc jockeys, who immediately used it as the theme for their shows. The following October, at the annual DJ Convention, many of them expressed their disapproval of the vocal chorus, because when signing on the air, their opening patter would be in conflict with the singing. I told them that it was not my idea and referred them to the company. Later, I did a strictly instrumental version for the DJs to use.

Note the dates on this historic marker

Q = Did Byrd return to Herzog for those final 1952-54 String Dusters recordings?

The four plaid shirts in the rear on the right-hand side (L to R) —

Jerry Byrd, Zeke Turner, Louis Innis & unidentified bassist

Q = If Jerry Byrd left WLW in 1951, then this photo can’t be from 1953, right?

LINK to Steel Guitar Forum‘s Scrapbook Photos of Jerry Byrd

Steel Guitar Forum‘s Rick Aiello informs us that Jerry Byrd collaborated with producer Tom Bradshaw on five different anthologies using Byrd’s own private record collection. These five titles appear to be cassette-only releases from the mid-1990s. Would love to know the explanation behind the title of Cincinnati Blues, as there is no song by that name on this collection of fifteen Jerry Byrd recordings, some of which were recorded at Herzog Studio.

From the author’s private collection

Cassette cover

Track listing for Cincinnati Blues

Extra Credit

Final Jeopardy Question:

Quiz = Name the five recordings produced at Herzog Studios that were referenced in the Ken Burns Country Music documentary series.

(scroll down for answer)

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Freight Train Boogie” by The Delmore Brothers (1946)

= Alton Delmore (vocals & guitar)
= Rabon Delmore (vocals & guitar)
= Roy Lanham (electric guitar)
= Jethro Burns (guitar & mandolin
= Homer Haynes (guitar)
= Roy Starkey (bass)
= Wayne Raney (harmonica & vocals)

Lovesick Blues” by Hank Williams (1948)

= Hank Williams (vocal)
= Jerry Byrd (steel guitar)
= Zeke Turner (electric guitar)
= Louis Innis (rhythm guitar)
= Tommy Jackson (fiddle)
= Clyde Baum (mandolin)
= Willie Thall (bass)

Japan – 1951

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams (1949)

= Hank Williams (vocals)
= Jerry Byrd (steel guitar)
= Zeke Turner (electric guitar)
= Louis Innis (rhythm guitar)
= Tommy Jackson (fiddle)
= Ernie Newton (bass)

USA – 1965

My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” by Hank Williams (1949)

= Hank Williams (vocals & guitar)
= Jerry Byrd (steel guitar)
= Zeke Turner (electric guitar)
= Louis Innis (rhythm guitar)
= Tommy Jackson (fiddle)
= Ernie Newton (bass)

USA – 1958

Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Flatt & Scruggs (1949)

= Lester Flatt (guitar)
= Earl Scruggs (banjo)
= Benny Sims (fiddle)
= Curly Seckler (mandolin)
= Howard Watts (bass)

A Jerry Byrd Nightcap:

Tip From Steel Guitar Forum‘s Walter Stettner

Just wanted to add one more Hank Williams song to the list, the one that is my all time favorite with all those hot instrumental breaks — “I’ll Be A Bachelor ’til I Die

Hank did two four song sessions 11/06 and 11/07 1947 at the Castle studio in Nashville, the song comes from day two.

Songs recorded 11/06:

“Rootie Tootie”
“I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind”
“I’m A Long Gone Daddy”
“Honky Tonkin‘”

Songs recorded 11/07:

“My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”
“The Blues Come Around”
“A Mansion On The Hill”
“I’ll Be A Bachelor ’til I Die”

Musicians:
Hank Williams (Vocal/Guitar)
Jerry Byrd (Steel)
Chubby Wise (Fiddle)
Zeke Turner (Electric Guitar)
Louis Innis (Bass, not confirmed)
Maybe Fred Rose or Owen Bradley (Piano)

Demonstration video of Jerry Byrd’s steel guitar part forI’ll Be A Bachelor ‘Til I Die

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