Two of the songs of this session, "I'll Be A Good Boy" and "I'm So Worried" were chosen for release as Star Talent 807. They were good small combo rhythm and blues, somewhat typical for the time, and certainly leaning more to the rhythms of the city than the rural blues. The combo comprised, as best anyone can remember. Perhaps this was the band Rufus most commonly sang worth at the time, and certainly they were mainly musicians with whom he was familiar.
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS – ©
With everyone who came in the studio, Sam Phillips was the same; respectful, deferential, determined to overcome their understandable mistrust, their certainly that there must be a catch in this somewhere. If some grizzled old man came in with an oil drum and ropes, or just four strings on his guitar, ''if I had a million dollars, I wouldn't have sent out and bought a string''. Because, for one thing, he wasn't going to insult a man's need, for another that man might have something completely different to say, with just four strings! On the other hand, if a seasoned professional came by with the idea that they were going to give this skinny little white man just what they thought he wanted, Cab Calloway, say or Jimmy Rushing or Nat King Cole, Sam quickly disabused them of the notion that he was looking for anything but what resided in the deepest recesses of their own soul, he was looking for originality, he was looking for feeling. With all of them he listened attentively and told them honestly what he thought. Because most of all they had to believe in him, they had to believe in his sincerity, his commitment to them. Maybe nothing would come of it until their second or the studio third visit. There was no charge, there was no rush, he assured them over and over again, in the face of their understandable suspicion that at any moment he was going to present them with the bill, they had to come to the belief on their own, they had to be comfortable with the idea that the purpose of this whole undertaking was to get them to express themselves.
''In a personality not really given to patience'', Marion Keisker observed, ''he showed patience beyond belief. Say they were to come in at three o'clock in the afternoon, and they came dragging in at 3:00 A.M., I mean, we would usually be there painting or working on (something), but Sam would just say, ''Come on in''. He never acted like he was surprised, never said, where were you, he'd just clear the decks and listen to them''. Occasionally he might suggest an ''audition recording'', not to give them a copy, because he was not going to let anything go out of the studio until he was fully satisfied with it, but just to let them hear what they sounded like on disc, to try to win their confidence for the day when he might have somewhere to send their audition to. Marion noted how sometimes he would sit in the little half-finished control room, acting like he was busy while the musicians started fooling around with something just to pass the time, and then all of a sudden, ''Sam would come in and say 'That's it, that's what I want''. Because that's trash, Mr. Phillips''. And he would say, ''That's what I want''. Because they had forgotten all about the idea of making music and were just doing it, without even seeming to give it a second thought.
In the meantime, though, without any of the buildup or drama that should have been attendant on such a momentous event, Sam Phillips had actually had a record come out, on a Los Angeles hillbilly label with whom he had come in contact at just about the time he first wrote to the Bihari. He had met Bill McCall, the hard-driving partner in 4-Star Records, in much the same way that he had first encountered the Bihari brothers, through the good offices of Buster Williams, and McCall offered a deal that would pay him $200 for eight sides. It was a connection for which he didn't have a great deal of expectation, but McCall had not only expressed interest in some blues sides Sam had cut on a gravel-throated boogie-woogie piano player from South Memphis named Lost John Hunter, in very short order he put them out. The record was sandwiched in between 4-Star's hillbilly hits, and McCall had in fact expressed at least as much interest in Sam recording some of Memphis' local hillbilly talent. But Sam was still barely able to mask his excitement when he wrote to his old friend Gene Nobles at WLAC on July 10 with an announcement of the record's upcoming release.
Lost John Hunter, not surprisingly, did not bear out Sam's optimistic sales projections, and Sam went on to dutifully record not only popular hillbilly radio personality Slim Rhodes, who had longstanding early-morning and midday shows on WMC, but his business partner, Buck Turner, as well. 4_star eventually put out four singles on Slim, but even if they had sold well, Sam still would have had little enthusiasm for the project. From his point of view, both Slim and Buck had loyal followings in the mod-South and ''good solid local combos, but, I never did see anything particular about either Buck or Slim's band that stood out, as far as style''. With a conventional commercial artist like Slim Rhodes, or Buck, for that matter, the nature of whose business was to remain conversant with all the latest trends, he knew he could never dig as deep as he wanted to, as much as he loved pure country music, ''I had to realize that recording straight country was a buffer until I could work out what I really wanted to do'', said Sam.
It was Buck who had helped buy some of the initial recording equipment and put down a deposit on a spinet piano, investing approximately $2,000 in a partnership agreement that Sam started paying off almost as soon as it began, buying out Turner completely by September of 1952. Sam, sniffed Marion Keisker, who helped with the buyout, was ''not a partner person...
...in any relationship'', personal or otherwise, and Buck's wife was not happy with the arrangement either, so there was little incentive for Buck Turner to stay on once Sam's half-hearted attempts to recorded him as a commercial artist rapidly came to naught.
In early July Jules Bihari let Sam Phillips know that he and his brother would be coming to Memphis in a couple of weeks to record a promising new prospect they had recently met, a young disc jockey on the colored station, WDIA, who called himself Bee Bee King, Sam had undoubtedly heard of him. Through the station he had put out a couple of records the previous year on the Bullet label in Nashville, the production manager, Don Kern, had given them copies, and while they weren't really anything to write home about, the boy seemed to have enough local popularity to warrant putting out another record. What they would do, Saul said, was work out a deal with Sam where they could use his studio, maybe for a small fee, or some kind of modest royalty. There was no hesitation on Sam's part. King's blues were not exactly what he had in mind to record, they were too conventional, too predictable, too much along the lines of what every other popular blues shouter of the day was inclined to do. But none of that meant anything. It was a door opening.
Riley B. King came into the studio with his own little trio, and Sam was more than satisfied with the quality of the musicianship, it was the music itself that betrayed the singer's lack of a style of his own. The four numbers, ''Walking' And Crin''', ''B.B. Boogie'', ''The Other Night Blues'', and ''Mistreated Woman'' with all the other takes, that they worked on were an inoffensive boogie, a slow-paced, full-voiced version of an old Leroy Carr standard, a polite Charles Brown-styled blues with a shared piano-guitar lead, and a variation on Tampa Red's recent remake of his slide guitar classic, ''It Hurts Me Too''. B.B. Was unquestionably sincere, he projected a kind of earnestness that was unusual in and of itself, and his vocals were strong enough, Sam realized, to fill in the spaces where the guitar dropped out, but, for all of the undeniable gospel feeling in his voice, he was almost too eager to please, unwilling at this point to extend himself into the realm of the unexpected, no matter what gentle cues Sam might give him.
The Bihari brothers seemed delighted in any case, so much so, as Sam recalled, that Jules jumped on an airplane that night and flew back to Los Angeles, with the acetates because, he said, he wanted to rush a single out on their new RPM label right away. Saul was supposed to bring Riley King to the studio the next day so they could all sign an agreement under which King would be contracted to the Biharis' record company but Sam would have a side agreement, a kind of royalty override with some say in the artist's future disposition. But Saul showed up alone at the studio and said he had been out to B.B.'s house the night before and signed him to a standard union contract and Jules would be in touch from California to make a formal deal with Sam Phillips.
That was not the way they had left it, Sam protested vehemently, as he understood it, they had a firm ''shakehands'' deal. But no matter how much he expostulated, Saul Bihari simply demurred in his charming way, after all, he was just the minority stockholder younger brother, and in the end Sam comforted himself with Saul's assurances that this was only the beginning of a long and profitable relationship.
Sam Phillips' Plastic Products receipt, August 30, 1950 >
AUGUST 30, 1950 WEDNESDAY
Buster Williams' Plastic Products pressed three hundred copies, and first released "Gotta Let You Go"/"Boogie In The Park", recorded by Joe Hill Louis, on the Phillips label (The Phillips 9001/9002), shipped them to Music Sales for distribution in Memphis, and billed Phillips fifty-one dollars. It turned out to be the label's only release.
The extreme scarcity of the record today suggests that there never was another pressing, and, as far as anyone, the label was DOA by September.
AUGUST 31, 1950 THURSDAY
Hank Williams recorded ''Moanin' The Blues'' and ''Nobody's Lonesome For Me'' at Nashville's Castle Studio in an afternoon session.
The Organic Act of Guam is signed into law by U.S. President Harry S. Truman during August of 1950. The act made the island an unincorporated territory of the United States and granted all Guam residents U.S. Citizenship. The act also gave a small amount of autonomy with the creation of legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and a bill of rights. Jurisdiction over the territory was also transferred to from the Untied States Navy to the United States Department of the Interior. The act marked the first time in over 300 years of colonialism that Guam would be given some form of self governance.
Atlantic Records scores its first number 1 record in the decade it would come to define musically with Ruth Brown's "Teardrops From My Eyes", the biggest rhythm and blues hit for a female artist for the next 40 years, and establishing Brown as the queen of rhythm and blues.
The second Lost John Hunter record ''YM And V Blues'' b/w ''Boogie For My Baby'' is issued by 4-Star 1511. This label takes no further blues material from Phillips after this release.
One of B.B. King's, RPM single "B.B. Boogie" b/w "Mistreated Woman" (RPM 304) is released. It may have been recorded by either Phillips or the Biharis at 706 Union Avenue. They didn't do much better than Lost John Hunter and His Blind Bats, with Billboard according one side a grade of 66, the other a 71. ''Highpitched warbler does okay on jump boogie blues'', the reviewer wrote of ''B.B. Boogie'', in a Basie-type ork setting''. The single didn't sell much anywhere outside Memphis, and the second single, released in December, didn't really do any better.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon (aka blues-singer Nina Simone) is rejected from Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rufus Thomas signs and started at WDIA announcing two hour-long record shows, 'House Of Happiness' and 'Special Delivery'. At first, it seems that he tried to sound upmarket, smooth and articulate, like the announcers he heard on WREC broadcasting from posh venues like the Peabody Hotel. In fact, his own rasp of a voice was much more suited to selling records and sponsored goods to his home-town audience, and station manager David James Mattis counseled him about retaining the sort of hip rapport that he had with theater and night club crowds. "Once I became just Rufus, man, I started getting sharp and everything. My delivery stepped up, and there I was, a personality", he told a radio colleague, Louis Cantor. So much so that Mattis later described Rufus as ''the best black entertainer I ever saw in my life''.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1950 FRIDAY
Tex Williams signs a movie deal with Universal Pictures requiring him to do eight films for the studio
Merle Travis becomes the regular host of WRVA Radio's ''Old Dominion Barn Dance'' in Richmond, Virginia.
Drummer Steve Goetzman is born in Louisville, Kentucky. He joins Exile, whose mix of country, rock and gospel nets hook-filled 1980s hits such as ''Woke Up In Love'', ''She's A Miracle'' and ''Crazy For Your Love''.
Patti Leatherwood is born in Cleveland, Ohio. She briefly recorded for the Epic label during the late 1970s, providing background vocals the following decade on the Waylon Jenning's hit ''The Devil's On The Loose''.
SEPTEMBER 3, 1950 SUNDAY
In the early morning hours, Dewey Phillips had a terrible head-on collision on Highway 70 just outside of West Memphis that killed both the driver of the car and Dewey's companion, a nineteen-year-old girl who had moved to Memphis from Booneville, Mississippi, just six weeks earlier and was living at the Hotel Chisca with her aunt. Everyone put a brace face on it. Dewey's wife, Dot, said the girl was a friend of hers, and the station WHBQ announced that though Dewey remained on the critical list, he would soon be broadcasting from his hospital bed at Baptist Hospital. Sam Phillips' faith in Dewey never faltered, but his faith in their joint enterprise may have, even as he comforted Dot, whom Becky Phillips, too, had by now befriended. It must have hit him all at once what in reality he had known all along, just how little he knew about what it took to run a record company and how this was diverting him from his main task.
Such was the ignominious end of their ''The Phillips'' record company. There was no formal conclusion, and Music Sales, and a few other independent outlets, may have continued
selling the Joe Hill Louis record (The Phillips 9001/2) for another few months. But there never was a second, from Joe or anyone else, and the whole business left such an unpleasant taste that Sam Phillips rarely referred to it in later life, and when he did,
he uncharacteristically (for he was a man with an almost photographic memory) seemed unable to recall any of the details.
Nor were matters helped any by the growing tension at the radio station WREC , the increasing conflict on both Sam's and Marion's part between their dedication to the recording studio and their commitment to their salaried work. For Marion Keisker it was as much a matter of guilty conscience as anything else. At WREC ''they would say to me, 'How can you even work out there? I don't know what you're doing there'. I was beginning to shortchange the station, sliding in at the last minute and doing a show that wasn't prepared properly, but they never seemed to notice, they were so overcome with wonderment that I was able to transition from what they knew of me and my background, into this environment''.
For Sam Phillips it was harder. ''Everybody laughed at me. Of course, they'd try to make it tongue-in-cheek, talking about my recording niggers (and these were some of the greatest haven't been hanging around those niggers today'. I mean, they loved me to death. I think there was even a certain amount of admiration on, their, part that nobody really wanted to admit. Nobody can tell me that the white man wasn't little ashamed of how he was treating the black man. There was a kind of love on the part of the Southern white person for his nigger. But at the same time it would get up to a certain point, and you as a white man didn't take your nigger any further''.
It hurt. It hurt deeply. But it hurt almost as much to have had his naiveté so badly abused, to have risked his family's security and his own peace of mind for a foolish, unexamined whim, prompted mostly by the desire to vindicate himself not just in the eyes of others but in his own. Marion Keisker could see the burden of humiliation he carried around with him, at one point he broke out in a terrible case of hives, but he never wavered in his belief in the rightness of what he was doing. He never wavered in his firm conviction that the music he was seeking to record great music, the artists whom he sought out, great artists, as great as any who ever been heard. Where his belief momentarily wavered was in his own ability, whether he had the sheer stamina to carry on the crusade. Or the judgment.
SEPTEMBER 4, 1950 MONDAY
Columbia Records released Lefty Fritzell's ''If You Got The Money I've Got The Time'' backed with ''I Love You A Thousand Ways''.
Bass player Ronald LaPread is born in Tuskegee, Alabama. He provides the musical foundation for The Commondores, a 1970s rhythm and blues act whose ''Three Times A Lady'' is eventually remade as a country hit by Conway Twitty.
SEPTEMBER 9, 1950 SATURDAY
Guitarist John McFee is born in Santa Cruz, California. After a stint in The Doobie Brothers from 19791983, he helps form Southern Pacific, a breezy country-rock band that brightens country's sound from 1985 until the group's 1991 break-up.
Ernest Tubb recorded ''(Remember Me) I'm The One Who Loves You'' during the afternoon at Nashville's Castle Studio.
Four-year0old Neil Young, destined write several country hits, gets his picture in a newspaper for the first time when The Toronto Telegram features a photo of the boy with a huge fish, giving a false impression that he actually caught it.
SEPTEMBER 10, 1950 SUNDAY
Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry is born in Boston, Massachusetts. The band scores a 1988 hit from the movie ''Armageddon'' with ''I Don't Want To Miss A Thing'', which Mark Chesnutt reinvents as a country hit.
SEPTEMBER 11, 1950 MONDAY
Columbia released Gene Autry's ''Frosty The Snow Man''
SEPTEMBER 16, 1950 SATURDAY
David Bellamy is born in Darby, Florida. With Sibling Howard, he forms The Bellamy Brothers, developing a mix of hits built on worldplay or social commentary. They net 17 Country Music Association nominations for duo or group but never win.
SEPTEMBER 18, 1950 MONDAY
''Redwood Forest Trail'' opens in theaters, with singing cowboy Rex Allen as the leading good guy. His performances include ''America, The Beautiful''.
SEPTEMBER 20, 1950 WEDNESDAY
With the Korean War raging, Tex Ritter recorded ''Daddy's Last Letter'' in Los Angeles.
Gene Autry send Colonel Tom Parker an letter to thanking him for sending pictures taken at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Autry also thanked the Colonel for suggestions he made about the Checkerboard Jamboree. Autry sent his regards to "the gang". Autry explained in a handwritten note in blue ink at the bottom of the page that the letter had been misdirected when it was sent to him to be signed. He redated the letter November 1, 1950.
Gene Autry, well-known country singer, knew Colonel Tom Parker from his Nashville connections. The Colonel represented Eddy Arnold, and Autry often toured with Arnold for various shows.
SEPTEMBER 21, 1950 THURSDAY
Lefty Frizzell recorded ''Look What Thoughts Will Do'' at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas, Texas.
Johnny Cash begins training to intercept Soviet Morse code correspondence at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
SEPTEMBER 23, 1950 SATURDAY
''The Eddy Arnold Show'' debuts on NBC Radio, using ;;Cattle Call'' as the theme song.
SEPTEMBER 24, 1950 SUNDAY
Yvonne Spencely is born. She becomes the second wife of The Bee Gees' Maurice Gibb, co-writer of the Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton hit ''Islands In The Stream''.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1950 MONDAY
An outlaw gang suffers the snuggler's blues when it runs in to Roy Rogers in ''Sunset In The West'', which debuts in movie theaters. The picture also features Foy Willing and The Riders Of The Purple Sage.
SEPTEMBER 28, 1950 THURSDAY
Jerry Lee Lewis begins taking classes at the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. He lasts just three months before dropping out.
SEPTEMBER 30, 1950 SATURDAY
The Grand Ole Opry is televised for the first time. as WSM-TV debuts on the air, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mandolin player Donna Stoneman, of The Stoneman Family, marries Bob Bean in Attala County, Mississippi.
Gene Autry sings the recent Red Foley hit ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy'' in the debut of his last movie, ''Indian Territory''. The Apache tale also features Pat Buttram, Frankie Marvin and Champion The Wonder Horse.
Six months after its debut, the ABC western series ''The Marshal Of Gunsight Pass'', starring Eddie Dean, makes its last prime-time appearance.
Patti Page forgets the words to the national anthem at Rice Stadium's first football game in Houston. The Rice Owls defeat the Santa Clara Broncos, 27-7.