Alphabetical Order by the last name of the Artist
Artists A - B - C
- Ace, Johnny -
- Adams, Billy -
- Adams, Carl Bailey -
- Adams, Woodrow -
- Adkins, Richard Lee -
- Alton & Jimmy -
- Anderson, Andy -
- Anthony, Rayburn -
- Ballman, Wanda -
- Banister, James -
- Banks, Kenneth -
- Barton, Ernie -
- Baugh, Smokey Joe -
- Beard, Dean -
- Bernero, Johnny -
- Big Memphis Marainey (Lillian Mae Glover Hardison) -
- Binder, Dennis -
- Black, Bill -
- Blake, Tommy -
- Bland, Bobby ''Blue'' -
- Bobbie & The Boys (The Thomas Family) -
- Boines, Houston -
- Bond, Eddie -
- Booker, Charlie -
- Bowen, Bill -
Bradford, Walter -
- Brady, Gloria -
- Brenston, Jackie -
- Brewsteraires, The -
- Bruce, Ed -
- Burgess, Sonny -
- Burse, Charlie -
- Bush, Eddie -
- Cannon, Ace -
- Carr, Willie -
- Carroll, Johnny -
- Carter, Big Lucky -
- Cash, Eddie -
- Cash, Johnny -
- Chaffin, Ernie -
- Chapel, Jean -
- Clement, Jack -
- Climates, The -
- Cole, J.C. -
- College Kids, The (Dick Penner) -
- College Kids, The (Wade Moore) -
- Cook, Ken -
- Cotton, James -
- Cunningham, Buddy Blake -
ACE, JOHNNY -
John Marshall Alexander known by the stage name Johnny Ace, was an American rhythm and blues singer. He scored a string of hit singles in the mid-1950s before dying of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Johnny Ace was born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 9, 1929, and his father was a preacher in Tennessee. Johnny Ace is actually a blues artist, who sang with a lot of soul, but he started his recording career at Sun Records, but recordings are not issued. He started out as a singer after serving in the Navy during World War II.
In 1949, Johnny played the piano in Memphis, with a band led by Adolph Duncan. The band's vocalist at the time was a nineteen year old named Robert Calvin Bland. In June 1952 Johnny recorded two songs for the well known Memphis based Sun label, both songs were never issued.
He then joined the B. B. King band. Soon King departed for Los Angeles and vocalist Bobby Bland joined the army. Alexander took over vocal duties and renamed the band The Beale Streeters, also taking over King's WDIA radio show. Becoming "Johnny Ace", he signed to Duke Records (originally a Memphis label associated with WDIA) in 1952. Urbane heart-ballad "My Song'', his first recording, topped the Rhythm & Blues charts for nine weeks in September.
Ace began heavy touring, often with Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. In the next two years, he had eight hits in a row, including "Cross My Heart'', "Please Forgive Me'', "The Clock'', "Yes, Baby'', "Saving My Love For You'', and "Never Let Me Go''. In December, 1954 he was named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954 after a national DJ poll organized by U.S. trade weekly Cash Box. Ace's recordings sold very well for those times. Early in 1955, Duke Records announced that the three 1954 Johnny Ace recordings, along with Thornton's "Hound Dog", had sold more than 1,750,000 records.
After touring for a year in 1954, Ace had been performing at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas on Christmas Day, December 25, 1954. During a break between sets, he was playing with a .22 caliber revolver. Members of his band said he did this often, sometimes shooting at roadside signs from their car.
It was widely reported that Ace killed himself playing Russian roulette. Big Mama Thornton's bass player Curtis Tillman, however, who witnessed the event, said, "I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table and someone said 'Be careful with that thing…' and he said It’s okay! Gun's not loaded…see?' and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and 'Bang!' - sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran outta that dressing room yelling '' Johnny Ace just killed himself"! Thornton said in a written statement (included in the book The Late Great Johnny Ace) that Ace had been playing with the gun, but not playing Russian roulette. According to Thornton, Ace pointed the gun at his girlfriend and another woman who were sitting nearby, but did not fire. He then pointed the gun toward himself, bragging that he knew which chamber was loaded. The gun went off, shooting him in the side of the head.
According to Nick Tosches, Ace actually shot himself with a .32 pistol, not a .22, and it happened little more than an hour after he had bought a brand new 1955 Oldsmobile. Ace's funeral was on January 9, 1955, at Memphis' Clayborn Temple AME church on Hernando Street in Memphis. It was attended by an estimated 5000 people. "Pledging My Love" became a posthumous Rhythm & Blues number 1 hit for ten weeks beginning February 12, 1955. As Billboard bluntly put it, Ace's death "created one of the biggest demands for a record that has occurred since the death of Hank Williams just over two years ago''. His single sides were compiled and released as The Johnny Ace Memorial Album.
ADAMS, BILLY - Billy Wayne Adams was born on June 9, 1937 near Corinth, Mississippi where his family
farmed and where Billy would probably have farmed too if an interest in music hadn't taken him away from
ploughing with mules and fishing in the lakes. His father was Robert Chester Adams (1909-1982) and his
mother Anna Leona Essary Adams (1909-1988).
Billy had taken an early interest in music but he was around 16 years old when he started to study music
seriously and to play the mandolin in little country groups. He later told Jane Sanderson from the Memphis
Press-scimitar that he picked up Music just by playing, adding:
''Oh, I had a few lessons from time to time,
but they didn't amount to much''.
Nevertheless, the amounted to enough for Billy's music to offend his father
who wanted help on the farm, and in 1953 Adams left home to settle in Memphis with relatives.
guitarist Roland Smith said, ''I first knew Billy Adams when we were both at South High School and he lived
near me in the Whitehaven neighborhood. He was a tail... guy, real likable. He was a little older and he
played drums in the High School band''. Before long, Adams was out of school and worked for $37.50 in an
auto parts store. The 1956 City Directory lists him as a mechanic at Pure's Automotive at 383 Monroe
Avenue, and living at 1041 Philadelphia Street just north of Whitehaven. He had been playing with hillbilly
musicians whenever he could, featuring on mandolin in a band called the Rhythm Playboys. ''I played that
kind of music until 1955 and then started playing drums when rock and roll came out'', he told Sanderson.
Memphis guitarist en producer Roland Janes remembered Adams from that time: ''Billy was a long, lanky
guy. When I first met him he was playing mandolin and singing and he started doing an Elvis Presley-type
act. Then he started playing the drums. I used to see him at Doc McQueen's house. That was J.P. McQueen
who worked as a banker, but he wanted to be a songwriter and a musician and he had a tape recorder in his
house where musicians would all go to jam and try out things''. McQueen had a swing band at Charles
Foren's Hide-A-Way Club in Memphis and also tried forming a small rock and roll group at that point. Billy
Adams got himself involved in all these ventures and then started gigging with other groups. For a time he
played with Charlie Feathers, and between 1958 and 1960 Adams worked off and on as a touring road
drummer with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Patsy Cline. In particular, he worked in Las
Vegas with Carl Perkins, an experience that would stand him in good stead when he developed his own
showband in Memphis clubs.
In 1960 Adams married a ''striking brunette'' named Jessie, and came off the road to form his own band to
take the residency at Hernando's Hide-A-Way. Hernando's was located at 3210 Old Hernando Road in South
Memphis, a nightclub of some note for many years where the band gave exposure to numerous up-andcoming
Memphis musicians. It was at this time that pianist and singer Bill Yates started to play at
Hernando's, and Yates became an important part of Adams's group. Yates was born in Georgia but his father
was a traveling preacher and the family had spent some time in Mississippi in the 1940s, between Tupelo and
Corinth, so Adams and Yates may have known each other from that time. The other regular members of the
Adams band were bass player Jesse Carter, guitarist Lee Adkins, sax player Russ Carlton, and multiinstrumentalist
Jesse Carter remembered that the Adams band was formed at a time of burgeoning musical opportunities in
Memphis. ''Back then there was a night club on every corner in Memphis. It's dead as a hammer now (2008),
because the nightclub business went down with the drink driving laws and all, but back then if our club
closed at 1 a.m. We could go somewhere else and play til four. That was our routine''. Carter married Mary in
1961 and they had a daughter, Tamera, when he decided to get out of the touring life. ''I quit the road first in
1964 and then in May 1970 I quit going to clubs. I wasn't getting any family life, so I took a job at a
machinery company''. He later ran a recording studio in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
The Billy Adams band used Gene Parker as a saxophonist on stage, but mainly as a drummer on recording
sessions. This was because Adams already had an established sax player in his band, Russ Carlton, a man
who not only had a great reputation among his peers but who was also reliable. Carlton is known for his later
work with Jerry Lee Lewis, on stage and on sessions such as the Southern Roots album, but he had been part
of the Memphis club scene for years, playing jazz and rocking blues. He ran a band in the 1970s that was
booked into the Holiday Inn chain and worked a lot in Kentucky, but he died soon after that.
So, by 1961, Billy Adams had learned his trade, toured with recording stars, and become leader of a band
whose musicians were highly-regarded and becoming regulars at the recording studios around town. The
next step for Adams was surely to get a recording contract for himself. The established label in Memphis was
Sun, followed by the emerging operations at Hi, Stax, and Fernwood. Other smaller fly-by-night labels came
and went but one that looked promising had just been opened by Ruben Cherry, and named Home Of The
Blues after Cherry's local record store.
In 1960, Scotty Moore was hired by Sam Phillips to be Production Manager for Sun Records at the Phillips
studio on Madison Avenue. He took with him the link to HOTB that he had only just set up at Fernwood, and
Cherry's Billy Adams and Bill Yates tapes were mastered for release at Phillips studio at 639 Madison
Avenue. They were not recorded at Sun, though. Jesse Carter remembered: ''Adams sang and played drums
on a session at Hi Records studio. The first record he made, ''Lookin' For My Baby'', was one song we
recorded there, and we made some instrumentals there too''. The Hi studio was named Royal Recording and
was a converted movie theater at 1320 South Lauderdale in south Memphis.
At some point in the early 1960s Billy Adams and Bill Yates came onto Sam Phillips radar, possibly through
their shows at clubs around town or when Phillips' new studio at 639 Madison Avenue was being used master
the HOTB sides. Phillips said, ''I built the new studio because I just felt that recording technology was
improving and that we needed to move along and keep pace technically. This did not mean that I had
abandoned the sound that had been so successful... You see... good rock and roll and that's all we were trying
to achieve, doesn't need fifteen pieces all of the time. Billy Adams was one of the artists I produced for Sun
later on. He was really a novelty type of act who worked at the old Hide-A-Way Club. He liked to sing
rhythm and blues things, and he was not an original, but he had some talent as a drummer and they were a
really value band''.
There were at least five sessions at Sun for the Adam/Yates band. Bass player Jesse Carter described them:
''Sam Phillips produced and engineered the sessions himself. He'd come into Taylor's restaurant next door
and talk with us like we were old friends, then we'd do the session. He really made you feel part of things.
He did not have a lot of input to what was recorded – he let us come in with our songs – but he was always in
on how the recording would be developed. He would let you start it your way, and then he'd let you know
real quick if something was lacking. Ultimately, some originals and some favourites. All the songs we
recorded was mainly Adams' Hide-A-Way band, plus Al Jackson Jr. who played drums on some sessions,
when we needed somebody. Billy Adams sometimes just sang on his records and didn't always play drums''.
All through the time he was recording at Sun, Billy Adams maintained his band residency at Charles Foren's
Hernando's Hide-A-Way club. When Foren sold out to Gordon Wade in 1965, Adams continued working for
the new man until sometimes in 1969 when he moved to the new Vapors Supper Club on Brooks Road in
south Memphis, set up by Foren. Adams told the local paper about the Vapors: ''I did the tea dance and nighttime
shows for two years, working 47 hours a week which is more than an average factory worker''. He also
started widening his career by dabbling in booking his band and other musicians into clubs and arranging
recording sessions. He had taken a role with the Local office of the American Federation of Musicians, coordinating
bookings, and this led him to working on his own account with clubs around the mid-South.
Adams told the Memphis Press-Scimitar that he opened the Memphis Artists Attraction booking agency in
1970, and operated it out of his home. He figured he worked 90 hours a week, booking Gene Simmons,
Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas and others. He added a line of work for the AmCon division of Holiday Inn, coordinating
the booking artists into their lounges. He told the Press-Scimitar that he booked 22 different bands
and for Holiday Inn you have to have all types of music, not just rock or rock-pop. Just recently when
Governor George Wallace made a political appearance in Indiana I did the whole works, and for Wallace fans
you have to have all types of music to''. Adams also booked out a Tupelo band named the Electric Toilet but
they don't sound like a Wallace kind of band.
By now, Adams was father to four children, a daughter Kim and triplets, born in 1970, (Billy Jr., Tammy and
Terri) and he kept his own band going to augment his income as a booking agent. On October 17, 1970
Billboard reported on the annual dinner-dance of the Memphis AFM, ''where entertainment was organized by
Billy Adams who plays at the Vapors and has his own booking agency'' and his hectic movement after that
can be traced through ads in the local press, The Delta Democrat-Times of September 8, 1971 reported on a
benefit show in Greenville: ''among the performers are the Billy Adams Combo from the Vapors Supper Club
in Memphis and the band from the El Capitan Club – all have agreed to contribute their talents toward
raising emergency funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis''. The Key TV Guide for
April 1973 captured the local club scene, carrying ads for the Admiral Benbow Lounge – ''Billy Adams' Shoe
and Danceband plays nightly except Sunday... Bill Yates, pianist, plays at cocktail time Mon-Fri'' – and for
the Downtowner Motor Inn on Union Avenue – ''The Billy Yates Trio appears from 8 to 1 six nights a week''.
In 1973 Adams and Yates were competing with other entertainment, dining and dancing options that included
Linda Ann, a ''vivacious blonde'' playing at the Casino Lounge, Eddie Bond and his TV Stompers at the E.B.
Ranch, Charlie Freeman at the Admiral Benbow Club Lounge, Jesse Lopez (brother of Trini Lopez) at the
Rivermont Holiday Inn, and Larry Garrett and Lee Adkins at the Vapors. In 1974, Billy Adams and the
Memphis Show and Danceband played nightly 8:30 to 1:30 at the Poplar Music Cantina in the Holiday Inn
while Lee Adkins, Bill Strom and Larry Garrett were headlining at the Vapors daily. Larry Garrett
remembers: ''I worked with Billy Adams in the early 1970s, in a band with Lee Adkins and Russ Carlton; we
played six nights a week for three years or so. After that I played spot gigs with Billy when he put on special
shows. Billy was the greatest shuffle drummer I ever played with''.
Memphis-based pianist Jerry ''Smoochy'' Smith said he: ''knew Billy Adams and Bill Yates well because I
played on several shows with them in the late 1960s. Billy Adams was a fun guy. He went from recording
into the booking agency business and he booked me on several shows. Adam was left handed. I was going to
record in a studio where he was working and my drummer had to change the drums around. I also worked on
some shows with Bill Yates. He always said I played better than he did and I always said 'well you sing
better than I do''. Drummer Danny Ivy played with Adams when he moved to Memphis after working with
Gene Parker in Mississippi: ''At the Vapors in 1970, Billy Adams was playing drums. He had Lee Adkins
playing guitar, Bill Strom or Lou Roberts playing keyboard, Don Culver on bass, Ted Garretson on trumpet,
and Russ Carlton and Ed Logan on sax. Before we moved to Memphis, I would go up and set in for Billy
Adams at the afternoon tea dance. That's when I first met Billy. I used to hear him sing ''Betty And Dupree''.
Another drummer, Tom Lonardo told me, 'Billy Adams and I crossed paths just once. He used my drums on a
gig where his band plated before mine. When I got to the set to play, there was a plate with some chicken
bones and sauce and a drink he had left on the floor tom. He never hit it. He just used it as a table''.
Down in Greenwood, Mississippi, former Sun singer and club owner Mack Allen Smith said: ''I booked Billy
Adams and his band during the years 1971 to 1976 at my Town and County Night Club. We even did a few
battles of the bands, one band playing and then the other one trying to outdo them. Billy has been described
by many as master of the shuffle beat. When I booked Billy Adams they were doing rockabilly like Carl
Perkins, some blues, and country stuff that was popular at the time''.
Musician and producer Kenneth Herman remembered: ''I used to talk to Billy and all the other musicians on
the CB radio in those days. After we all got out from the night clubs we'd be talking and finding out who was
where and what was happening late at night. It was the mobile phone of the day. You always knew Billy
because he had a small lisp, but it didn't affect him singing, a bit like Mel Tillis''. Ronald Smith also
remembered the early morning jam sessions, meet-ups and talk sessions. He described the effect his hectic
and pressurized lifestyle had on Adams.: ''A lot of times, my connection with Billy was late at night, after a
gig, when the musicians would meet up. That was when he filled gigs for his booking agency. He would
book my band. The problem there was that he got into some ditch weed, and he would drink and take pills
and often lost track of what he was doing, burning the candle at both ends, booking a band somewhere and
forgetting what he'd done so that two bands would show up. He just floated through all that time – so you
either had to ignore it, or kill him, you know. One time, he booked my band way up in Arkansas somewhere,
and when we got there another band was already there. We didn't get our money. I was mad so I called him,
and his wife said he was in the hospital. So I called him in hospital and he said he'd give me a contract for
another job, well paying. I said 'I'm coming down to get my money now', but he said he was in quarantine.
And he was: when I got there, I had to put on mask and gloves and everything and he really was sick, and I
felt bad. But I got a contract for a big New Year's Eve job. It wasn't the first problem. He sent me to play with
singer Barbara Pittman one time and didn't pay us. A lot of times he just forgot what he'd done. He had a
kickback deal going with a guy at Millington service base where Adams had the contract to supply the
officers' club and the other clubs on base. They'd agree a price and pay the bands less and keep the
differences, that sort of deal''.
One way of another Adams was making money, and he had some baubles to prove it. Kenneth Herman is
adamant that: ''Adams had the twin car of the one that President Kennedy was shot in. There were only two
made and Frank Sinatra had the other one and somehow Billy Adams bought it. It was bullet proof and all
that. He used to drive around town in it''.
By now, Billy Adams was also dabbling in the recording business. In 1970 he worked with Tom Phillips at
Select-O-Sound studio to produce discs by Jeannie Williams and Bill Stroum, and in 1971 he set up Coleman
Records with A.B. Coleman, who ran a successful chain of barbeque outlets. Adams published their songs
through a company he named Little Terri Music. He arranged and recorded songs for saxophonist Joe Arnold
including the minor hit ''Brand New Key'', and singer Tiny Bond in 1972. He also recorded Jamie Isonhood
from Benton, Mississippi, coupling a version of ''Lonely Weekend'' with a tune called ''Man, Woman And A
Bottle''. He worked with a group, the Castells, one of whom recalled: ''Billy Adams was our agent in
1969/1970 and wanted us to record ''Miss Froggie'', originally done in 1957. We went to Block 6 studio with
Billy Wayne Herbert engineering, and proceeded to rock and roll. This session got to cooking so good and
you oughta seen Billy Adams out in that studio having a ball, jumping up and down hollering 'get it son, get
it son'. Adams was a lotta fun and great guy''.
In the mid-1970 Billy Adams started to suffer some health problems and he retired from playing and booking
artists in 1981. Then, on December 3, 1984, Billy Adams died of a heart attack, aged just 47.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal carried an obituary the next day: ''Billy W. Adams of 4562 Hodge, retired
owner of Memphis Artists Attractions booking agency and former recording artist with Sun Records, died at
4 a.m. Yesterday at Methodist Hospital after a lengthy illness. He ran the Billy Adams Show and Dance Band
and had toured with such artists as Johnny cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins and numerous
others during a 30 year career as an entertainer. His booking agency worked with many artists in the mid
south including Jerry Lee Lewis, Kenny Price, Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas, Gene Simmons, Ace Cannon,
Brenda Lee, Fats Domino, The Platters and Boots Randolph. Adams was a member of LaBelle Place Baptist
church and was an honorary Shelby County deputy sheriff''. Adams was survived at the time by his mother
and two sisters as well as his four children and two stepchildren. Adams' son, Billy T., died young, in 1988,
and was buried alongside his father.
Jesse Carter spoke for many others when he said: ''Billy Adams was a great guy. He died too early of a heart
attack. He was a good singer – he had a stutter but that went when he sang – and a great drummer''. Pianist
and singer T.O. Earnheart played with Adams in the 1970s and said, ''Billy had a heart of gold. In fact he
gave me my start in Memphis as a musician. Billy was recognised throughout the country as the best
drummer in the business playing a shuffle beat. I have seen hundreds of drummers try to imitate his licks on
the drums, and were never able to duplicate the sound''.
ADAMS, CARL BAILEY - Born in Rayville, Louisiana on November 7, 1935, the last of ten children, four of whom died at birth. On October 11, 1941, Carl's brother Clyde and his sister's husband, Alton, were planning a hunting trip and asked Carl and Clyde's father for his shotgun. They left the gun on the dinning room table where Carl began fooling with it, sticking his fingers into the barrels. Carl's sister screamed and Carl dropped the gun. It discharged, blowing off two fingers and killing his sister's young son. Carl held himself responsible for his nephew's death and became a troubled soul.
His hand was surgically repaired, and he learned to play the guitar left-handed with picks taped to his thumb and remaining fingers. Hughes draws a parallel to the Belgian jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who had two fingers of his fretting hand destroyed in a fire, but Reinhardt was already a skilled musician at the time of his accident whereas Adams learned to play after the tragedy. Later, Carl Adams attended the Louisiana Technical College, where he met Ed Dettenheim.
In the 1950s, Carl Adams was hanging around with Dale Hawkins, playing, writing, contributing and or collaborating and recording with legendary musicians such as Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Stan Lewis, James Burton and countless others. For a while Adams was the house session guitarist for KTBS in Shreveport. Carl also made many appearances on the Big D. Jamboree in Dallas, Texas and the Louisiana Hayride.
In Ruston, Louisiana, Tommy Blake met three musicians who would become his sidekicks, Carl Bailey Adams en Ed Dettenheim, as the Rhythm Rebels over the next few tumultuous years. Blake didn't assemble the Rhythm Rebels, insists Hall. They were already together they only used that name when backing Blake. Their drummer, Tom Ruple, worked shows with them, but doesn't appear on any of the recordings, as far as we know. One of their first gigs was in Alexandria, Louisiana, where they supported Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash and Tommy Sands.
Carl Bailey Adams
became dependent upon prescription drugs and died aged 30 of kidney failure on February 25, 1965.
ADAMS, WOODROW - Adam had some well-known friends, but never made the transition from part-time musician to full-time professional. Some of that may have been down to temperament, but an unkind judge would say that it was lack of talent. However, with the latter-day success of men like Junior Kimbrought and CeDell Davis, its safe to say that his ramshackle approach would find greater favour today.
Woodrow Adams born April 9, 1917 in Tchula, Mississippi and grew up in Minter City, where he and a friend L.C. Green. Both learned to play" diddley bow" and harmonica before graduating to the guitar.
(Greene later recorded for Joe Von Battle in Detroit and released singles on Von and Dot Records around the same time that Adams made his recorded debut). Adams learned to play by strumming along with records.
He farmed all of his life, and was living around Robinsonville during the late 1940s, where he fell in with Howlin' Wolf played the area. Working as a support act, Adams began to see a future for himself in music and assembled a Saturday night trio, the Boogie Blues Blasters, and got to play alongside Robert Nighthawk, Houston Stackhouse and Willie Nix, among others.
Whilst they went on to develop and refine their music, Adams seems to have stuck fast to an approach that had little beyond the use of electricity to do with contemporaneity. His 1952 session for Sam Phillips accurately portrayed its glorious cacophony. There's something endearing (if it isn't condescending to say so) about his subtly detuned guitar and wayward slide technique. He was matched for unsophistication by drummer Diddlin' Joe Martin, who had recorded with Son House for Alan Lomax back in 1941. If Sam Phillips was in the habit of asking his artists to play just like they would for themselves, in Adams' case he got just that
In May 1952, he was working for a Mr. A, Graves when he took off for Memphis to audition for Sam Phillips. Chess Records took two crude, amplified blues from Phillips. Perhaps someone at Chess believed that the Wolf like groove on ''Pretty Baby Blues'' sell to Wolf's audiencel if so, they were mistaken. Just one or two copies of the record have been found. Adams, though, made more records, first for Meteor and then for Ruben Cherry's Home Of The Blues label.
When David Evans located him in 1967/68, Adams was still performing at weekends with
Martin and his stepson, Curtis Allen. He'd also got into the habit of making his own recordings, which he overdubbed in his own inimitable fashion. ''He played one-string instruments, not home-made guitars'', said Evans. ''His overdubbing technique employed two tape recorders and a microphone. He'd connect the mike to one recorder, play the track from the other machine while simultaneously performing with voice, harmonica, guitar, or whatever, continuing this process back and forth on the machine until he had added all the tracks. That's how the guitar sound came to resemble on accordion''! Writing about Adam's discovery for Blues Unlimited, Evans commented, "This is the only time I've ever heard a guitar sound like an accordion".
Adams' early recordings position you squarely in a Robinsonville juke joint. Truly, juke blues. When Evans talked to Adams, he was still driving a tractor and trying to work James Brown songs into his Saturday night dates as the demand for blues declined (and in today smash-up world, a home-recorded lo-fi blues version of Say It Loud I'm Black And I'm Proud would probably earn gushing reviews from the rock literati.
Woodrow Adams died on his birthday on August 9, 1988 in Robinsonville, Mississippi. (CE)
ADKINS, RICHARD LEE
- Lead guitarist Richard Lee Adkins was another of the lesser-known stalwarts of
the Memphis scene. Lee Adkins was born on March 4, 1929 in Parma, Mobile, Richard Lee Adkins moved to
Memphis with his family as a youngster and attended Humes High School, the alma mater of Elvis Presley.
In addition to his work as a studio musician in the 1950s and 1960s, Lee Adkins was well known on the
Memphis nightclub circuit. He worked at Hernando's Hideaway to begin with the bands of Bill Yates and
Billy Adams. Then he went to the Vapors Supper Club and he worked there for five or six years.
Atkins did a
lot of studio work in and around Memphis for Stax and Sun Records and he worked with groups like the
Memphis Horns. Atkins worked with Charlie Rich, with Jerry Lee Lewis and a lot of the name artists that
came through and did many concerts.
Lee Atkins had several recordings of his own, including the original
release of ''Together Again'', which was later recorded by Ray Charles. "Everybody knows Lee... he played
sessions for all the little independent studios that cropped up in the 1950s'', said singer Barbara Pittman.
Richard Lee Adkins, a retired guitar player who was among the original studio musicians at Sun and Stax
Records, died on October 7 of heart failure at his home in Selmer, Tennessee. He was 67.
ALTON & JIMMY - Alton Lott and Jimmy Harrell were born on June 17, 1940 and November 16, 1936 respectively, in the same room of the home of John Harrell (Alton and Jimmy's grandfather) in the Hillsboro community just outside Forest, Mississippi. Jimmy's father, Monroe Harrell, and Alton's mother Peggy Lott were brother and sister. They, along with Alton's father, Evaughn Lott, were members of hillbilly bands which performed professionally throughout the South. Alton sang on the radio while in the third grade with his mom and dad's band.
At the Recreation Center, Jackson, Mississippi, 1958 performance. From left Nanette Workman, Jimmy Harrell, and Alton Lott. >
Alton and Jimmy grew up listening to their families sing and play hillbilly and gospel music and both learned to play guitar and sing at an early age. They listened to such artists as Elvis, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, many country stars on the Grand Ole Opry, and others on Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi radio stations.
Alton attended grammar school in Forest, Mississippi and graduated from Forest Hill High School, Jackson, Mississippi in 1958. Jimmy attended schools in Hillsboro and Forest, Mississippi and graduated from Hernando High School, Hernando, Mississippi (20 minutes south of Graceland) in 1954. Upon graduation, Jimmy enlisted in the U.S. Navy and while stationed in San Diego, California, attended a Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps concert in a local dance hall. Jimmy was greatly inspired by this fabulous singer/performer and formed a musical group called the Jim-Bobs with Bob Allen and Bob Cohen performing country and early rock and roll music.
After leaving the Navy Jimmy moved in with Alton (and his parents)in Jackson, Mississippi where they began to sing, play, and write music as "Alton and Jimmy." Performing at dances, on TV telethons, radio programs, and in clubs, they became interested in recording and auditioned for Johnny Vincent, Ace Record Company, Jackson. They cut two songs for Ace entitled "Looking For Someone" and "Got It Made In The Shade" in 1958 at the Cosimo Recording Studio, New Orleans, Louisiana. Huey "Piano" Smith, who had a big hit with "Rockin' Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu" on Ace, played piano on this session.
Shortly thereafter, Alton and Jimmy appeared on the Louisiana Hayride, Shreveport, Louisiana. (Auditioned by Shelby Singleton, Mercury records, not signed.) Johnny Horton's manager, Tillman Franks, called Sam Phillips' Sun Record Co., Memphis, who set a recording date of April 5, 1959 where "Have Faith In My Love" and "No More Crying The Blues" were recorded and released later on SUN 323. Musicians were Alton Lott, guitar; Roland Janes, guitar; J.M. Van Eaton, drums and Billy Lee Riley, bass. Exactly two months later, on June 5, 1959 Alton and Jimmy recorded "I Just Don't Know," "What's The Use," "Why Do I Love You," and "The Longest Walk." All songs have subsequently been reissued on vinyl and C.D. "The Longest Walk" cannot be located among the Sun masters.
Jimmy was recalled into the Navy late 1959. He formed "Jimmy and Gene and the Rhythm Kings," a country-rock group, while stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. The group performed throughout the Mediterranean area and Jacksonville, FL (Saratoga's home port) during 1959 and 1960.
Alton toured with several artists and was a studio musician for many years. He played with Andy Anderson, Murray Kellum, Buddy Rogers, and B.B. Boone. He joined "Faux Pas" and spent 14 years touring the U.S., playing all the major cities. Alton Lott now resides in Grandview, Missouri.
After returning to the Navy in 1959, Jimmy advanced in rank from HM3 (E4) to Captain (0-6) during his 37-year Navy career. Captain Harrell, Medical Service Corps, retired from the Navy in 1993. Jimmy now lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife of 40 years, the former Weva Lillian (Lee) Strohm of Grenada, Mississippi. They have one son, Captain James H. Harrell II, U.S. Army; daughter-in-law Sherilyn; one daughter, Wendy Leigh Harrell and three grandchildren; Gayle, Barbara, and Robert. Jimmy now devotes his time to his grandchildren and writing music, performing, and promoting Alton and Jimmy's music.
ANDERSON, ANDY - Edgar Anderson III was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on May 15, 1935, the son of
one of the largest plantation owners in Mississippi. He and his band, the Rolling Stones, first auditioned for
Delta Records in Jackson, Mississippi, then went to Sun Records in 1956.
"We called and said we wanted to come up", Andy remembered. "They knew who we were 'cause we had
one of the hottest groups in the South". The Rolling Stones formed in 1954, consisted of Joe Tubb on lead
guitar, Billy "Cuz" Covington on bass, and Bobby Lyon on drums. "Jack Clement worked with us at Sun, and
they kept saying they were goin' to put it out", said Andy, "but they never did".
Meanwhile, the William Morris Agency in New York had contacted Murray Nash & Associates in Nashville
to find some of this new rock and roll, and Nash contacted Andy Anderson. The two Sun sides were rerecorded
in Nashville with sessionman and placed with London Records' Felsted division.
We wouldn't join the Union, so ray Scrivener, who worked with Murray Nash, recorded us again at a little
studio in Nashville", remembered Andy. "Then Ray placed "You Shake Me Up" with Apollo Records, and
we told Felsted to shove it. Didn't realize London was the biggest record company in the world".
In 1960 Andy Anderson formed the Dawnbreakers; then, in 1965 he broke up the group to go to California.
In 1968 Andy received another phone call from home saying his brother Brooks was terminally ill with
cancer. Andy immediately moved home to take care of his brother. Andy’s brother Brooks died in 1969. In
California, Anderson had started a business, and the IRS and Andy’s ex-wife were after him for court
settlements. Anderson was forced to seek psychiatric help. He became secluded from the world, and
according to Rockabilly Hall of Fame, no one could get to him. Finally, by the fall of 1975, Andy had
negotiated final settlements with his wife and the IRS. In 1974, Andy was living in Ocean Springs,
Mississippi. There he met J.J. Hettinger from Louisville, Kentucky, who was teaching in the Catholic High
School in Biloxi. Andy once again turned to music as Hettinger was a talented and creative songwriter.
Together they wrote songs they classified as progressive, folk-rock, blues. They wrote several commercial
songs and cutting tracks at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, under the name of "The Eagle and the
Hawk". On December 23, 1975, while visiting his cousin in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Andy met his future
wife, Kay Norcom.
In April of 1976, Andy, Kay, and J.J. moved to Taos, New Mexico. Aerie Records, his new record label, was
a new outlet for Andy and the Eagle and the Hawk. Andy got a real estate license and started developing and
selling real estate to earn a living, while continuing to promote his music. However, on May 13th, 1976,
Andy got his middle finger of his left hand cut off by a hydraulic lift just two days before his forty-first
birthday. He became depressed and put up his guitar. Hettinger moved back to Louisville.
In 1983, Andy once again began to play around a little bit on his guitar, and he started rehearsing with some
other musicians in Taos. In August of 1987, Andy and his wife Kay moved back to Mississippi. Together
Andy and Bobby Furman finished what Andy had left incomplete in Nashville; Andy got the master tapes
back and finished them. Today, Andy Anderson is still recording.
ANTHONY, RAYBURN – born on May 23, 1937 in Humboldt, Tennessee. He came from a large family, 5 brothers and 3 sisters. His brother Bob who is a few years older than Rayburn is a fine guitar player and Rayburn picked up his own playing skills from Bob. Rayburn was asked to play rhythm guitar in a little band Bob played in and pretty soon became the vocalist as the band kept getting requests for vocals and they were mainly playing instrumentals. Rayburn played at a little club near Jackson, Tennessee on a regular basis and as it was one of the few clubs to stay open late the other local artists would drop in after their gigs.
Among them were W.S. Holland drummer for Carl Perkins and Carl Mann who W.S. had discovered and recorded at Sun. They liked what they heard when Rayburn sang and W.S. took him over to Sun.
Rayburn thought the other musicians who went with him were going to play with him but Sam just told him to sing a couple of songs accompanying himself on piano. Sam was impressed and signed Rayburn up and they recorded a couple of weeks later.
His first release "St. Louis Blues" (Sun 333) was getting lots of local play and they were going to send him to St. Louis to get some reaction there but the payola scandal was breaking and the trip was cancelled. Over the next year or so Rayburn cut more than twenty songs for Sam producing three single releases. Rayburn felt that Sam could see the changes coming in music and tried to steer Rayburn into the lighter side of rock 'n' roll. His second release "There's No Tomorrow" (Sun 339) showed the direction they were taking with a strong melody but still that rocking feel. Rayburn has in his possession a tape of one of the last things he cut "Moon Over The Mountains" on which Sam overdubbed some strings onto. The song has a great guitar solo by Eddie Bush who played on most of Rayburn's sessions, as did T. Willie Stevenson on bass and Tony Austin on drums. Rayburn and Tony would go on to
write quite a few songs together. The final release "How Well I Know" (Sun 373) followed the ballad pattern. Rayburn had he arrived at Sun earlier might have followed into the same format as Warren Smith with country weepers and rockabilly but those couple of extra years had music changing.
After the Sun contract ran out Rayburn began to write more and with a friend Gene Dobbins he wrote two songs recorded by Sandy Posey one of them being the B side of her hit record "Born A Woman ". At this time Rayburn was writing for Bill Black's music company and he later moved to Nashville where Scotty Moore employed him at his recording studio which gave Rayburn time to write and develop his studio skills. His songs began to be recorded by established artists and his impressive resume includes cuts on Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery, Charley Pride, Vern Gosdin, Conway and Loretta and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also worked at this time with Billy Walker as a front man and Billy recorded several of his songs including "Sing Me A Love Song To Baby" which hit number one.
After this he worked on the road with Melba Montgomery. He recorded on Pete Drake's Stop label covering "I Walk The Line" as a duet with Joyce Reynolds and providing a song "A Hundred Yards Of Real Estate" for The Jordanaires Stop album. He did some more recording himself cutting 3 songs for Pappy Daily, one of them a Tony Austin song was to be the first release on him for Musicor but a similarly titled song was out by another artists and this stopped that.
His next road job was with Bobby Bare a happy 4 year stint and Bare got him a chance on Polydor Records. This led to several chart records including "Maybe I Should Have Been Listening When You Said Goodbye." He switched labels to Mercury and was produced by Jerry Kennedy and scored his highest chart record with "Shadows Of Love." Around this time Rayburn visited Britain and toured with Scottish band Colorado who cut some of his songs. He started to visit Sweden in the eighties and has averaged two trips a year there over the past ten years. He has released four CDs in Sweden, but his latest recordings done on vintage equipment with Wildfire Willie and The Ramblers veered back into rockabilly.
He also recorded his own version of "Sing Me A Love Song To Baby" and it sounds as though it was cut in the fifties. Another of the recordings "Jackson Was Jumping" gives a name check to all those famous cats who came from the area such as W.S. Holland, Carl Perkins, Kenny Parchman and Carl Mann. Rayburn sang the song at the Rockabilly Festival in Jackson reunited with W.S. on drums and Dave Rowe of the Johnny Cash band on bass and Jerry Elstrom (ex Perkins band) on guitar. Old pal Tony Austin was backstage too.
Today, Rayburn Anthony is still in business.
BALLMAN, WANDA - Is a native of Jonesboro, Arkansas. By the time she contacted Sam Phillips she appears to have moved to Denver, Colorado where she had a country music show at the Bandbox Ballroom. She later moved to Mesa, Arizona. After the success of, she wrote "I'm Sorry I'm Not Sorry", Wanda gave some thought to securing a Sun contract. She journeyed to Memphis and recorded a session with the Sun session crew: Jimmy Wilson, Roland Janes, Stan Kesler and J.M. Van Eaton. At least one of the titles from that session, "Ain't Got A Worry On My Mind", was a fine slice of early Sun rock and roll. Wanda seemed to be adapting very successfully to the changing times.
After failing to place another rock and roll song, Wanda returned to her first love, country music. From Mesa, Arizona she mailed demo tapes to music publishers in Nashville. Some were accepted and did well. Loretta Lynn cored a top ten chart entry with "If You're Not Gone Too Long" in 1967. Later, Charlie Pride recorded "Anywhere Just Inside Your Arms". Wanda and Charles Ballman moved to Nashville in the early 1970s st that Wanda could be nearer the hub of the country music business. She set about the painstaking process of keeping a high profile in the competitive world of Nashville music. Most of her later work has had a gospel slant. At the time of writing, it appeared as though "Heal Our Land" was about to be used for a television commercial or a video production.
Wanda Ballman's affiliation with Sun Records bore little fruit for her other than the satisfaction of placing a song with Carl Perkins. Her efforts may have been doomed by the unregenerate raunchiness of "Dixie Fried", which was coupled with "I'm Sorry I'm Not Sorry" upon release. However, she persevered and recalls that Sam Phillips considered two songs for a single release in early 1957. Of course, it did not happen and Wanda Ballman remains little more than a footnote in the story of Sun Records. The plaintive country feel in her work is best echoed in "Honky Tonk Gal". It has the simple unaffected quality of all good demos. Wanda Ballman died on September 21, 2005. (CE)
BANISTER, JAMES - James Banister Jr. was born in Bolivar County, Mississippi on February 27, 1911, bur spent most of his career shuttling between Arkansas and Chicago before settling in Gary, Indiana. The 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s censuses found him in Arkansas. Even after moving to Chicago, he would sometimes return Arkansas to work.
He was the drummer with Little Hudson's Red Devils in Chicago in the late forties, but his only record as a leader came out in 1954 on States Records, and it was a surprisingly down home record given that his personal taste ran toward the likes of Joe Turner and Eddie Vinson. Back then, he would perform with saxophones in preference to the harmonica.
In the early 1950s, Banister eventually turning up together in Ike Turner's King
Of Rhythm in Clarksdale in 1952. Banister shared one Sun session with Binder, taking vocals on "Ain't Gonna Tell You No Lie (Sweet Little Woman)". He returned to Chicago in 1954 where he teamed up with Alfred "Harmonica Blues King" Harris, with whom he recorded various sides for Sate Records (later re-issued on Pearl).
Jim O'Neal found Banister in 1980, and Banister told him that he worked South Side lounges into the 1960s as the leader of Jimmy & Everybody's Band. Apparently banister earns a footnote in blues apocrypha for writing ''Shake Your Moneymaker'' as ''Roll Your Moneymaker'' (certainly , Shakey Jale Harris was the first to record it, and did so as ''Roll Your Moneymaker''). But then, as Banister told it to O'Neal, he began to go into trancelike states on the bandstand that he took as a signal from on high that he should enter the minister. By the time O'Neal found him in 1980, he was an ordained minister but working for Wells Fargo. As O'Neal was getting ready to end the interview, Banister asked if he'd ever hear of an older singer named Robert Johnson, and then proceeded to tell O'Neal that he'd heard from Robert Lockwood that Johnson was poisoned with a douche tabled in his drink. James Banister died on July 7, 2002 in Gary, Indiana. (CE)
BANKS, KENNETH - There are several artists of the Sun recordings about whom we know little but of Kenneth Banks we know next to nothing. In the late 1940s, he played bass in Phineas Newborn Sr's band at the Platation Inn in West Memphis, Arkansas, suggested that he was a schooled musician.
Another blank ledger in the filing cabinet of blues biography, Banks showed that he had a better than average set of vocal chords - and a sense of humour - on his own January 1954 sessions. Bass players have a habit of being placid individuals, but he was evidently an exception.
Sam Phillips used him on sessions by Junior Parker, Mose Vinson, James Cotton, Coy "Hot Shot" Love, Billy Love and Billy "The Kid" Emerson. From 1955 onward, Kenneth Banks doesn't appear as a leather or sideman on any jazz or blues recordings on any label that we can trace. His unissued-at-the-time vocal recordings for Sam Phillips were undistinguished, but Phillips clearly liked his bass playing. Marvin Walker of the Five Tinos told Steve LaVere that Kenneth Banks died in 1965 or 1966, but beyond that there is no information. (CE)
BARTON, ERNIE - was no more than a footnote in the history of the Sun label, but the experts don't seem to agree about the extent of his importance, however minor. Colin Escott doesn't think much of him, apparently. Not a single word is devoted to Barton in the standard history of Sun Records, "Good Rockin' Tonight" (1991), by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins. In his liner notes for "That'll Flat Git It # 14", Escott writes: "Ernie Barton was a jack-of-all-trades at Sun: producer, songwriter, musician, and featured artist. Spectacularly unsuccessful in every role, he was quickly turfed out''.
But Hank Davis writes, "By all accounts, Ernie Barton virtually lived in the Sun studio between 1957 and 1960. He recorded as vocalist and session guitarist and even took over management of the studio for a while. He was, to put it mildly, a fixture'' That's something else than "quickly turfed out."
Born as Ernest William Barton on November 21, 1930 in Tallahassee, Florida as the son of a sea captain whose story Barton told in a song he wrote and produced by Will Mercer, ''Ballad Of St. Marks''. Barton was raised in Daytona Beach and crowing up, he idolized Ernest Tubb. He was working in Daytona as an engineer at the Dandy Bread Company when he and a local group recorded twenty songs and sent the tape to Sun. Marion Keisker wrote back saying that Sun had all it could handle with Elvis Presley.
Elvis convinced Ernie that Memphis was the place to be, so he sold his house in Daytona Beach and built another one in the Memphis suburb of Frayser. In Barton's account, Jack Clement had just arrived at Sun. He was hired by Sam Phillips in early 1957 and had his first recording session on April 6, 1957. None of the tracks were released, but Barton went back into the studio in March 1958 and this resulted in the single "Stairway To Nowhere"/ "Raining the Blues", released on Phillips International PI 3528 in July 1958. It's quite a likeable record, which also got a good review in Billboard: "Rockabilly is brightly handled by Barton, with fine group support. Action possible''. That group support came from Roland Janes, Jimmy Van Eaton and Sid Manker, while Barton himself played rhythm guitar. The "doodley wop" riffing by the male chorus on "Stairway To Nowhere" works very well.
Mystery surrounds Barton's second Phillips International single, PI 3541, "Open The Door Richard"/"Shut Your Mouth". To begin with, no one has ever seen a copy of the record. Interviewed by Colin Escott in 1987, Barton insisted that it had indeed been released, but the fact that not one copy has surfaced doesn't seem to bear this out. When his version of "Open The Door Richard" was finally issued in the late 1980s, many knowledgeable Sun collectors recognized it as a track that had been previously released as a Billy Riley title.
Barton sounds a lot like Riley, two southern white boys talking and singing in jivey black style. Billy Riley subscribes to another mailing list of which I also am a member and I asked him to clear things up. His reply was: "That was a fun record. Ernie and I both did the vocals. It was sort of a 'You sing I sing'. It was on one of those Sun sort of party sessions, if you know what I mean? Cleared that up''. Not quite, Billy, but we're getting there. The Sun archives point out that Riley was present (as bass player) at the session of February 25, 1959, when Barton recorded "Open The Door, Richard". So Riley is probably the second voice that appears at the end "What is you doin' up on that ladder?". But according to the Sun Records discography by Escott and Hawkins, Billy Riley also recorded a version of "Open The Door Richard" on November 25, 1957. It didn't help the confusion when the Barton version was stored on a Riley reel in the Sun vault. If Riley ever recorded a version of "Open The Door Richard" at Sun, the tapes haven't survived, according to Hank Davis. Ernie recorded about two dozens of tracks for Sun, but Sam Phillips saw no reason to release anything further. From the unissued tracks, only "She's Gone Away" and "Wedding Bells" have seen a release in the CD era.
After Bill Justis and Jack Clement were fired by Phillips in 1959, Ernie convinced Sam that he should take over as in-house producer and arranger. He married a Little Rock lawyer, Bobbie Jean Farrabee, and used his position at Sun to record his wife, who actually was not a bad singer. She had one release on Sun, "You Burned the Bridges", an answer record to Jack Scott's "Burning Bridges" / "Cheaters Never Win", which came out on Sun 342 in July 1960, credited to "Bobbie Jean". Her best recording was probably "I Won't Worry", another answer song, this time in response to Marty Robbins's "Don't Worry", which finally saw a release in 2002, on the "Memphis Belles" Bear Family box set.
There are letters from Bobbie Jean Barton in the Sun files demanding that Sam issue an album by Ernie. Obviously, she didn't know that Phillips was uncomfortable with releasing LP records, let alone by someone who never had anything resembling a hit single. Barton and his wife both ran afoul of Sam Phillips at some point in 1961.
Ernie eventually moved on to Midland, Texas. After his Sun period, he had two more single releases, "The Man With A Heart Of Gold"/"The Battle Of Earl K. Long", both titles previously attempted at Sun, which is in the style of Johnny Cash (Honesty 605), and "Ain't I'm A Mess"/ "Walk With Me" (E & M 1651, 1965,
credited to Bart Barton), where he sounds like the Big Bopper.
He and Bobbie Jean parted in 1975 and nothing has been heard from Ernie Barton since he was interviewed by Colin Escott by phone on December 15, 1987. We have no definitive proof of his death, but an Ernest William Barton who was born in Florida in 1930 died in Midland, Texas on May 1, 2001.
BAUGH, SMOKEY JOE
- who was sometimes credited simply as "Smokey Joe", was one of the more
unusual and mysterious figures hovering around the mid-1950s music scene in Memphis. Blond-haired and
blue-eyed, Joseph E. Baugh was born on July 25, 1932 in Helena, Arkansas, but grew up fifty miles away in
Memphis. A late starter, Joe began teaching himself to play piano at age of eleven, at the family home of his
friend and neighbour Earl Dodson, who recalled him mowing his parents' lawn, but taking frequent breaks to
beat out the boogie on the family piano.
Dodson recalled Joe as a restless child: Joe had no formal education
because he would skip school often and eventually quit altogether.
He was a rolling stone. He would take off
for months at a time, and by the age of 14 he started playing piano at least semi-professionally in Memphis
and West Memphis.
In 1951 he was the resident pianist at The 81 Club on Highway 51 in Memphis and he became a member of
the Shelby Follin Band, which brought him into contact with guitarist Paul Burlison, and, in turn, Baugh
would get some of his first wide local exposure of the radio, teamed up with Burlison playing with Chester
"Howlin' Wolf" Burnett on West Memphis radio station KWEM. Soon, Joe became a big fan of the Wolf's
house rocking blues and wasn't slow in cutting himself in on the action when the Wolf suggested an
interracial jam session. Paul Burlison remember that Howlin' Wolf had arrived early for his show and had
witnessed the Follin group playing one of their bluesy country songs. The impromptu jam session became
the star of a regular daily occurrence which lasted for about three months, with Burlison and Baugh backing
Howlin' Wolf on all of his daily shows during this time, ending only when Joe decided to quit the Shelby
Follin band and to join Clyde Leoppard’s Snearly Ranch, which had a lengthy residency at Grady Loftin's
Cotton Club in West Memphis. An important band in the history of both Sun Records and Memphis music in
general. Clyde Leoppard's group alumni included at one time or another, Stan Kesler, Bill Taylor, Buddy
Holobaugh, Johnny Bernero, Buddy Hall, Warren Smith, Barbara Pittman, Hayden Thompson, Gene
Simmons, the Kirby Sisters and a host of lesser lights, in addition to Smokey Joe, and it was only a matter of
time before Sam Phillips, a regular at the Cotton Club, would get around to adding the area's number 1
Western Swing Band to the roster of the premier independent record label In Memphis, Sun Records.
In February 1955, Sam Phillips celebrated his signing of both the Snearly Ranch Boys and Carl Perkins by
releasing their debut singles on Sun's subsidiary, Flip Records. Due to the existence of an already established
Flip label in Los Angeles, Sam Phillips' Flip label didn't survive for very many months, but the artists were
transferred to Sun proper when it closed down. The top-side of the Clyde Leoppard's release was a fairly
unremarkable hillbilly ballad sung by Bill Taylor alone, called ''Lonely Sweetheart'', but the flip record over
and there was something altogether more fresh and exciting, "Split Personality" (Flip 502) is a startlingly
original concept depicting, the audible conscience of a recently jilted lover, where the sweeter-voiced
Taylor's plays ''angel'' to gruff Smokey''s devil. Despite the clever construct, Flip 502 was an unsuccessful
release and, as it was discovered that Leoppard had been refused entry to the AFM, there were no further
releases in his name, although his band and musicians were used extensively by Phillips throughout 1955 and
It was at Sun that Joe Baugh aspired to serious stardom. His raspy voice was distinctive and unusual enough,
and seemed to fit the notion that Sam Phillips had long held as a benchmark, a white artist who could sing
like a black man, to get him a shot at a recording contract of his own. He cut his first session later in 1955,
and found himself billed as "Smokey Joe"; this may have been a conscious effort on Phillips' part to create
some ambiguity in Baugh's identity, for the benefit (or to the profitable confusion) of listening audiences. As
it turned out, only two songs were ever released from his four sessions: "The Signifying Monkey" b/w
"Listen to Me Baby". That record made some noise locally in the late summer and early fall of 1955, and as
it turned out, far beyond the boundaries of Memphis "Smokey Joe" did, indeed, show a special appeal among
African-American listeners. This fact was brought home when he was invited to play the Apollo Theatre in
Harlem, New York. Baugh might have gone on to be another Moon Mullican or Jerry Lee Lewis, or even
Merrill Moore, but for reasons that weren't clear to anyone at the time, Sam Phillips started keeping him at
arm's length soon after his debut release, this despite Phillips' personal enthusiasm for the brand of
barrelhouse blues at which Baugh excelled.
Sun didn't issue anything else from Joe Baugh's recording sessions at the time. It was, thus, an amazing
discovery to listeners three decades or so later, when Baugh's groundbreaking Hawaiian record, "Hula Bop,"
dating from 1955, finally surfaced. Baugh kept busy in various band settings, including records by Warren
Smith, Jumpin' Gene Simmons, Carl Perkins, and Barbara Pittman, amongst other artists. He worked with
the Bill Black Combo during the 1960s and in
May 1964, eight years since his last release, Smokey Joe Baugh must have been extremely surprise to witness Sun Records re-label and reissue his big 1955 hit,
''The Signifying Monkey'' b/w ''Listen To Me Baby'' (Sun 393). There have been various theories as to why this cute, but outdated obscurity from Sun's glorious past should make another appearance, but there are two likely factors.
Ska music was big business in 1964, following the success of Millie's ''My Boy Lollipop'' and ''Listen To Me baby'' had that groove but, perhaps more tellingly, a new version of ''Signifyin' Monkey'' had been released by local hero San The Sham and was selling well on Stan Kesler's XL Records, generously giving an added writer credit to Smokey Joe.
Unluckily for Joe, unlike its first go round, Sun 393 didn't sell at all and he left Memphis for Texas in the late 1960s leaving behinds debts with everyone whom he had ever come into contact with. He settled in Waco and formed a country band with his loyal friend, Buddy Holobaugh, called the Midnite Cowboys, a name based on the best-selling novel by James Leo Herlihy and the resulting Hollywood movie.
When his band failed Smokey Joe moved to live near his mother in Salinas, California, although he returned to Memphis periodically, usually looking up his friend Johnny Bernero when his was in town.
The secret behind Baugh's lack of success lay in the fact that he was a chronic substance abuser, involving
both booze and pep pills, problems he apparently never fully licked; according to Colin Escott; as of the
second half of the 1960s Baugh owed money to too many people on the Memphis music scene, and so he
headed back to Texas. Smokey Joe Baugh passed away on November 19, 1999 in Monterey, California at the age
of 67 as result of a fatal mugging incident.
BEARD, DEAN - Dean Beard, rockabilly pioneer, was born in Santa Anna, Texas, on August 31, 1935, the son of Raymond and Opal (Baker) Beard and his parents bought a piano, and Dean learned to play it by ear. He was sometimes called the "West Texas Wild Man" because of his frantic stage presence and piano-playing style.
Beard, a lifelong resident of Coleman County, moved to Coleman in 1953 and graduated from Coleman High School. While in high school he started doing session work in Abilene for Key City media mogul and record producer Slim Willet.
He briefly attended Tarleton State College but soon opted to pursue a music career. He made his first recordings in January 1955 in Abilene for Fox Records with the Fox Four Sevens, and coowned by local TV personality, Bill Fox on KTSA in Coleman.
The same year he shared the stage with Elvis Presley at Breckenridge High School Auditorium on April 13, 1955 whose star was rising. The two became friends, and they spent a day together in Coleman where Presley's Cadillac created quite a stir. Elvis's supporting act that day was Onie Wheeler, and Beard was one of the local added attractions, alongside sixteen year-old Weldon Myrick, who became one of the top steel guitarists in Nashville. On July 4, Beard reconnected with Elvis in Brownwood on a day when Elvis was slated to perform a triple-header (three concerts in three locations) for the only time in his career. The Stephenville concert was an early morning gospel even where he sang nothing but sacred music. At either the April or July shows, Scotty Moore gave beard a copy of Presley's first 78rpm, ''That's All Right'', and Beard later framed it and returned it to Scotty. Late in life, Beard would retrieve a box from under his bed reportedly containing letters from Elvis.
Dean Beard, Bill Black and Jimmy Day, American Legion Hall, Brenkenridge, Texas, June 10, 1955. >
Intent on duplicating Presley's success, Beard borrowing one hundred dollars from his father for the trip to Memphis, and cut two demo sessions in Memphis for Sun Records in 1956, but Sam Phillips decided not to sign him. Asked why he didn't see a release, Beard said that he ran around town with Sam Phillips's girlfriend, Sally Wilbourn, thereby ensuring that his sessions would remain in the can. The truth might have been more prosaic: the recordings weren't that good.
The songs were undistinguished and it's Seals on
saxophone he sounds like an angry goose. One of the demos was "Rakin' And Scrapin'," which Beard
recorded again the next year in Abilene for Willet's Edmoral label.
His popular West Texas band, Dean Beard and the Crew Cats, included area teenagers Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, who later became a successful pop duo. A tenor sax, and piano, driven pounder, "Rakin' And Scrapin'," was leased to Atlantic Records for national distribution but failed to break out. A high energy follow-up on Atlantic, "Party Party'', suffered a similar fate.
In 1958 Beard, along with Seals and Crofts, joined the Champs (of "Tequila" fame) and journeyed to the West Coast. After recording several sessions with the group for Challenge Records, he was fired and returned to Texas in 1959. Beard continued to record for Willet and then for a variety of other small labels throughout the 1960s. He remained a popular live act into the 1970s, despite having to battle crippling arthritis, the results of an auto accident that broke his back. His health problems were compounded by high blood pressure and diabetes.
Dean Beard died in Coleman on April 4, 1989 after a long debilitating illness. He was honored by induction into the West Texas Music Hall of Fame .
Johnny Bernero and Smokey Joe Baugh >
BERNERO, JOHNNY -
Elbert Leroy ''Johnny'' Bernero'' was a Sun studio staff drummer between late 1955 and the close of 1958, and drummer for the Dean Beard Band who played on some of Elvis Presley's Sun cuts, although he was never credited, Bernero set a high standard for drummers. Born in Memphis on September 22, 1931 and started playing drums in 1951 when he joined Smokey Joe Baugh at the 81 Club on Highway 51 in Memphis.
He later spent some time with the Jack Hale big band before he became the session drummer at Sun Records in 1955. ''One night, back in 1951'', he said, ''I was going down Highway 51 and I stopped in the 81 Club. Smokey Joe and Mickey Demora were playing there and their drummer had had to much to drink and was out back someplace.
Someone said, 'Johnny can play drums', but I had never played drums before in my life except on the football field. Anyway, I played that job and no-one knew anything different because they were half out of it. It was cold that night And I had a car and they didn't so I drove them home. They liked that and they hired me. I played with them two or three months before I took lessons. The music director for the Jack Hale Orchestra gave me six or seven lessons. He left town for a while and I played with Jack Hale, a big fifteen piece band. We played the Slipper, the Claridge, the Peabody and rooms like that so I learned on the job. The music I enjoyed the most in terms of playing was always Dixieland. Everything you ever worked on and sweated to learn, you can use. I remember when I first started and I wanted to learn solo work, this guy who was teaching me said, 'John, you need to learn how to play. Forget about solo work, you need to learn how to play with the band'. He described it like a stage-coach: 'When they pop that wip, boy, that stage has gotta move. You've got to push. When that trumpet player stands up, you make him feel like he never played like that before. You master that, and you'll never be short of work'. He was right''.
Bernero worked across the street from Sun at the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Company. ''I went across one day and acquainted with Sam and he called me for all the sessions except those when the guy brought his own drummer'', said Bernero. ''I had an arrangement with my superintendent that I could get off during the day and make these sessions. I was making several sessions a week in 1955 and 1956. I left my drums set up in there. I didn't work on Presley's first sessions bu Sam called me over soon after Presley started''. In this way, he met Elvis Presley in late 1954 and early 1955. Johnny Bernero played drums for Elvis Presley on "I Forgot To Remember To Forget", "Tryin' To Get To You", "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone", "Mystery Train" and "When It Rains It Really Pours".
''Elvis was one of the nicest people. Over at Sun we called Sam Phillips 'Sam'. Everyone was that way but Elvis. He'd always say, 'Mr. Phillips this' and 'Mr. Phillips that...'. I always got a lot more on Elvis's sessions than I did on the others because Elvis would may me a little on the side. I remember one time we had cut one side and started on another. Elvis went up in the control room with Sam and they were up there about 30 minutes. We were just sitting around on the floor chewing the fat. Then Elvis came back down and came over to me and said, 'John, we're not going to finish this session but I really appreciate you coming over'. Then he gave me $50. The next thing I heard Sam had sold Elvis's contract to RCA''. This was probably the November 1955 session that yielded the unfinished versions of ''When It Rains It Really Pours''.
According to Johnny Bernero, Elvis called him to work on the road, but with five kids and a steady job he decided against it (D.J. Fontana joined Presley's Blue Moon Boys as a salaried employee in August 1955, so it's quite likely that Presley asked Bernero to joined the band before that). Bernero remembered playing the July 4, 1956 show at Russwood Park in Memphis when Elvis famously told the hometown crows, ''Those people in New York ain't gonna change me none''. Bernero remembered, ''When it came time to go on, there was all kinds of arguing about who would go on last. Didn't anyone want to go on first. People were waiting and Elvis picked up his guitar and said, 'Come on, John. We'll go on now'. He was that type of person. Real humble''.
Bernero's recordings were made toward the end of 1956. ''I watched Sun grow but Sam never changed much'', said Bernero. ''He was a real nice fella. Down to earth and very easy to work for. He's mostly leave the musicians alone and work with the singers to get the sound he wanted. We'd often do ten takes which was real unusual in that time. I talked him into letting me bring my own band in. You see, I'd been sitting in this restaurant waiting for Smokey Joe one time and I looked at the jukebox and there were maybe five or six Sun records on the jukebox and I'd played on 'em all. All the guys were driving Cadillacs, making big money and I was getting $15 a session. That's when I really got the idea of bringing my own band in. Those cuts sounded good at the time we recorded them but Sam didn't feel they were commercial. Joe Cuoghi at Hi might have taken a chance on them. He was more a gambler. Cuoghi had 300 or 400 jukeboxes all over the South and this was the way he tested out his product. He's press up 500 and send them out to see how many players he got. If the response was good, he'd press 20,000. He was a smart fella. Sam was more hesitant''.
By 1956 Bernero had ditched the ever-unreliable Smokey Joe because he was notoriously unreliable and replaced him with Thurman "Ted" Enlow for Sun Records and Enlow sang on Bernero's recordings such tunes as "Bernero's Boogie", "Rockin' At The Woodchoppers Ball", and "Cotton Pickin' Boogie" were evidence of Bernero's talent. Bernero who recorded for Memphis' Fox Records in 1955 and had a minor hit with "Rakin' And Scrapin'" for Atlantic Records in 1956.
Johnny Bernero was not a rock and roll drummer, his roots were too deeply implanted in western swing. Bernero started working with Carl McVoy at the VFW Club. They worked as a duo until Ace Cannon came in on tenor sax. By this point, Johnny Bernero had stopped working at Sun and was on the payroll at Hi Records. He arranged with Joe Cuoghi that Ace Cannon be transferred from Fernwood to Hi Records, and Bernero and Cannon agreed to go into the music business together as partners. Together they wrote "Tuff". It was released under Cannon's name but the partnership ended in some acrimony when the first royalty cheque rolled in. "Ace said, 'John, you know this is the first chance I've had to make any real money and I just can't see giving half of it away'. My countenance fell. Anyway, after some legal proceedings, I ended up getting 30% of what I was entitled to".
After that embittering experience, Johnny Bernero soon quit the music business and even sold his drums, and became an insurance salesman. For many years listeners wondered who the uncredited drummer was on some of Elvis Presley's Sun recordings, falsely believing that it was D.J. Fontana. But Fontana has stated that he never played on any Sun record. Johnny Bernero was the session drummer that Sam Phillips used when he wanted to change his musical direction. However, he left behind a small but wonderful legacy of music rooted in his first love, western swing. Johnny Bernero died of respiratory failure on July 28, 2001 in Fulton, Kentucky, at the age of 69. He is burial at the Water Valley Graves County, Kentucky.
Willie Mae Glover, a.k.a. "Baby Ma Rainey" and "Big Memphis Marainey" performing on Beale Street in the city of Memphis, Tennessee sometime during the 1970's.
BIG MEMPHIS MARAINEY (LILLIAN MAE GLOVER HARDISON) - Also called Big Mama Blues, May Rainey Two, and Big Memphis Ma Rainey, was born in Columbia, Tennessee on September 9, 1906 into a family dominated by her father, a pastor. His strict disciplinarianism backfired when she ran away from home at the age of fourteen (with a local lad named Tom Simpson) to join a traveling carnival, where she won prizes for her singing and dancing.
Her traveling began in 1919 and continued through the golden age of the classic women blues singers, her path crossing at one time or another with Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Ethel Waters, Sara Martin, and Ma Rainey. She appearing on the same show with Ma for two weeks at the old Frolic Theater in Birmingham.
Besides the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, she also traveled with the Bronze Mannequins, the Vampin' Baby Show, the Georgia Minstrels, Harlem in Havana, and others. She was with Nina Benson's Medicine Show when she first visited Memphis and Beale Street in 1928; and from then on, even though she was backwards and forwards on the road, Memphis was her home base. After her marriage to Willie Glover, a cook in a Memphis restaurant, her onstage appearances were at night spots around Memphis and occasionally at the Midnight Rambles, the risque revue staged weekly for white audience at the Palace Theater. Lillie Mae Clover also performed frequently in the Palace's amateur shows, and sing in many of the clubs in the Beale area, Citizens Club, Manhattan Club, Coca-Cola Club, Hotel Improvement Club.
"It was always a piano in the back of the joints, and drums. The boys would play and I'd sing, and we'd just call ourselves balling. Especially on Thursday, which is cook's ball day, when the cooks got paid. The boys would be on the stem for the cooks on Thursday because they knowed the cooks was going to get off and spend their money".
Among other Big Mama singing and drinking with on Beale in various areas were Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman, blues pianist) and none other than Bessie Smith. "I had met Bessie on the road, and when she came to Memphis to play the Palace, she'd stop to see me".
Big Memphis Marainey recorded her first and only single for Sun Records on April 19, 1953 titled ''Call Me Anything, But Call Me'' backed with ''Baby, No No!'' (Sun 184).
This recordings is a fascinating amalgam of Handy Park blues from Pat Hare and Houston Stokes on guitar and drums, and schooled musicianship from Onzie Horne on vibes and Tuff Green on bass. Onzie Horne was an arranger and an educator who tutored Phineas Newborn and Charles Lloyd. Horne hosted a talk show on WDIA. At one time or another, he was the musical director at the Beale Street theatres where Glover plied her trade, and, for a time, worked with Duke Ellington's manager, Billy Strayhorn. One of his last arrangement was Isaac Hayes' ''Theme From Shaft''. Horne died in 1963, aged 49.
By the 1950s Beale Street had slowed down so much that Big Mama (she still topped 250 lbs when she was in her sixties) found herself playing more and more for white audience. It was at a white night spot, the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas, she and Elvis Presley first met, that Mama spent seven years performing, the longest booking of her life. Being at the Cotton Club was something like old times for her; the brawling in this hangout for roughneck whites was as prevalent as it had been in the dives on Beale Street.
Lillie May Glover (Big Memphis Marainey) at her Lauderdale Courts apartment in Memphis, Tennessee in 1973. >
she sang with other bands, even a white hillbilly group. She sang their country and rock and roll. Whenever she sang them, the blues were always special to her. By the early 1970's, she was forced to move out of her home and into a public housing project in Memphis. She continued to perform on Beale Street but was forced to slow down due to heart surgery.
Big Mama Glover died at her apartment in Memphis, in the same building were Elvis Presley lived in the Lauderdale Courts on March 27, 1985, and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. (CE)
BINDER, DENNIS - Born in Rosedale, Mississippi on November 18, 1920, Binder's family moved first to
St. Louis and then around 1939 to Chicago where he learned to play the piano. By 1950 he was trying to cut
it as a professional musician, and he claims to have recorded for Chess Records around 1951 prior to his
Sun session . He joined Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm in Clarksdale around 1952, and Turner subsequently
organised Binder's solo Sun session (which he shared with drummer James Banister) in May 1952 which
yielded the raucous "Love You Love You Baby".
Binder showed up next in Chicago on October 1, 1953. Contracts uncovered by local researchers led by Bob
Pruter showed Binder playing at the Heat Wave Club, followed by another contract with the Fiesta.
Dennis Binder cut some sides with Ike Turner for Modern Records in 1954, and in 1955 he returned to
Chicago with Guitarist Guitar Red (aka Vincent Duling), with whom he cut a single for United Records. The
United single began creating something of a buzz, which led to a tour of the South - during the course of
which they played at Lawton, near Wichita Falls, Texas, where Binder finally settled.
In 1958 he cut a single at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico - which was released on
Cottonwood - and during the early 1960s, he worked with various locals bands. By 1971 he'd launched
Dove Records to issue Charly Pride-styled country records. From country, Binder detoured into gospel
before former ''Living Blues'' editor Jim O'Neal tempted him back into worldly music. Since then, Binder has
returned to his blues roots. His first LP was issued in 2007 on Earwig Records, proving that it's never too
Bill Black and Hi Records owner Joe Cuoghi shows the big hit ''Smokey Part 1 and 2'' (Hi 2018)
BLACK, BILL - was an American musician who is noted as one of the pioneers of rockabilly music. Black
was the bassist in Elvis Presley's early trio and the leader of Bill Black's Combo. Bill Black was born as
William Patton Black on September 17, 1926 in Memphis, Tennessee, to a motorman for the Memphis Street
Railway. He was the oldest of nine children. His father played popular songs on the banjo and fiddle to
entertain the family.
Black learned to play music at the age of 14 on an instrument made by his father, a cigar
box with a board nailed to it and strings attached. At the age of sixteen, Black was performing "honky-tonk"
music on acoustic guitar in local bars. During World War II, Black was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort
Lee in Virginia. While in the Army, he met Evelyn, who played guitar as the member of a musical family.
They married in 1946 and returned to Memphis.
While Black worked at the Firestone plant in Memphis, Tennessee,
Black began playing the upright bass fiddle. He modeled his "slap bass" technique after one of his idols, Fred
Maddox of Maddox Brothers and Rose. Black also developed a "stage clown" persona in the same way that
Maddox entertained audiences. Black performed as an exaggerated hillbilly with blacked-out teeth, straw hat
and overalls. According to his son, Black said his goal was always to give his audience "a few moments of
entertainment and maybe a little bit of humor that'll tickle 'em for a while''.
In 1952, Black began playing club and radio shows with guitarist Scotty Moore. Along with two other
guitarists and a fiddler, they performed country music tunes by Hank Williams and Red Foley in Doug
Poindexter's band, the Starlight Wranglers. Black and Moore also played in a band with Paul Burlison,
Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette on steel guitar, and a drummer. In 1954, Black and Moore were formed
into a trio with Elvis Presley.
In July 1954, Sam Phillips of Sun Records asked Bill Black and Scotty Moore to play back-up for the as-yet unknown
Elvis Presley. Black played slap bass with guitarist Scotty Moore, while Elvis Presley played
rhythm guitar and sang lead. Neither musician was overly impressed with Presley, but they agreed a studio
session would be useful to explore his potential.
On July 5, 1954, the trio met at Sun studios to rehearse and record a handful of songs. According to Moore,
the first song they recorded was "I Love You Because", but after a few country music songs that weren't
impressive they decided to take a break. During the break, Presley began "acting the fool" with Arthur
Crudup's "That's All Right'', a blues song. When the other two musicians joined in, Phillips taped the song.
The upbeat sound was original. Black remarked, "Damn. Get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town''.
The next day, the group recorded four more songs, including bluegrass musician Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon
Of Kentucky", which he had written and recorded as a slow waltz. Sources credit Bill Black with initiating
the song, with Presley and Moore joining in. Moore said, "Bill is the one who came up with "Blue Moon Of
Kentucky".We're taking a little break and he starts beating on the bass and singing "Blue Moon Of
Kentucky'', mocking Bill Monroe, singing the high falsetto voice. Elvis joins in with him, starts playing and
singing along with him...". They ended up with a fast version of the song in 4/4 time. After an early take,
Phillips can be heard on tape saying: "Fine, man. Hell, that's different, that's a pop song now, just about."
Phillips took several acetates of the session to DJ Dewey Phillips (no relation) of Memphis radio station
WHBQ's Red, Hot And Blue show. From August 18 through December 8, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was
consistently higher on the charts, and then both sides began to chart across the South.
Black and Moore became Presley's back-up group, earning 25% of his takings. Moore and Black left the
Starlight Wranglers after the success of "That's All Right", jealousy within the group forcing them to split.
Their recordings at Sun were released with the credits as "Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill". The group was
later billed as "Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys". Over the next 15 months, the trio released five
singles at Sun Records, toured across the South, and appeared regularly on the Louisiana Hayride. They had
originally auditioned for the Opry in October 1954, but they failed to impress the people in charge, or the
audience, and were not invited back.
In 1955, Black went to RCA along with Presley and Moore when Presley's contract was sold to that
company. Except for the RCA reissue of "Mystery Train" and "I Forgot to Remember To Forget" ('with
Scotty and Bill'), they were no longer credited on record labels.
Black played on early Presley recordings including "Good Rockin' Tonight", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Baby Let's
Play House", "Mystery Train", "That's All Right", and "Hound Dog", and eventually became one of the first
bass players to use the Fender bass guitar in popular music, on "Jailhouse Rock" in the late 1950s.
Black, Moore and drummer D. J. Fontana toured extensively during Presley's early career. Black continued
his on-stage "clown" persona and developed comedy routines with Presley. Black's on-stage personality was
a sharp contrast to the introverted stage presence of Moore. The balance fit the group's performances.
Bill Black hams it up on the deck of the USS Hancock during the first appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco
Star Theater. According to Black's son Louis, Moore said, "Elvis used to just stand up there and not move,
and Bill would jump around on the bass. Your daddy would come down through there and get everybody to
laughing and loosen them up''. D.J. Fontana called Black the mainstay of the band in the early days. "He was
a comedian who could warm up a crowd. That was necessary for us because we played for a lot of country
crowds that weren't used to people jumping up and down on stage''.
Although both the crowd and Presley enjoyed Black's clowning, Presley's manager Colonel Parker declared
that there be no more showing up Elvis. Gordon Stoker told Black, "Hey, man, you've got to cut this out.
You're not the star. Elvis is the star''. Black and Moore left Elvis Presley on September 21, 1957. Although
Black continued to record with Presley until 1958, he and Moore discontinued the band because of poor
In 1959 Bill Black joined a group of musicians which became Bill Black's Combo. The lineup was Black on
bass, Joe Lewis Hall on piano, Reggie Young on guitar, Martin Wills on saxophone, and Jerry Arnold on the
drums. There were several personnel changes. While Young was in the army, his position was filled by Hank
Hankins, Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. Ace Cannon replaced Martin Willis on sax. Carl McVoy
replaced Hall in the studio, while Bobby Emmons replaced him on tour.
The band released blues instrumental ''Smokie, Part 1'' for Hi Records in December 1959. ''Smokie, Part 2''
became a number 17 pop hit, and made number one on the "black" music charts. The song made the Top 20
in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A follow-up release, ''White Silver Sands'' (Hi 2021), was a Top 10 hit
(number 9) and, like its predecessor, topped the Rhythm & Blues charts for four weeks. Eight of the
recordings by Bill Black's Combo placed in the Top 40 between 1959 and 1962. These were "White Silver
Sands" (U.S. Number 9), "Josephine" (U.S. Number 18), "Don't Be Cruel" (U.S. Number 11), "Blue Tango"
(U.S. Number 16), and "Hearts Of Stone" (U.S. Number 20). Advertised as "Terrific for Dancing" their Saxy
Jazz spent a record whole year in the top 100.
The Bill Black Combo appeared in the 1961 film The Teenage Millionaire and on The Ed Sullivan Show,
where they performed a medley of "Don't Be Cruel'', "Cherry Pink'', and "Hearts of Stone", and were voted
Billboard's number one instrumental group of 1961. Albums with themes included ''Bill Black's Combo Plays
Tunes by Chuck Berry'', ''Bill Black's Combo Goes Big Band'', ''Bill Black's Combo Goes West'', and ''Bill
Black's Combo Plays The Blues''. The Combo's sound of danceable blues became a popular accompaniment
for striptease dancers. Another unique characteristics of the Combo was Reggie Young the wacking on the
guitar with a pencil.
In 1962, Bill Black opened a recording studio called "Lyn Lou Studio" (named for his son and daughter) on
Chelsa Street in Memphis, Tennessee, with Larry Rogers (Studio 19, Nashville) as his engineer and producer.
Johnny Black, Bill's brother and also upright bass player, who knew Elvis at the Lauderdale Courts before
Bill, recalls visiting Bill at the studio and reported that Bill would be totally absorbed mixing and playing
back tracks. The studio featured a 1958 Ampex 351 mono tape recorder retired from Sun Studios in 1960,
basically just like the one Bill recorded on with Elvis in 1954. Sam Phillips replaced the 2 original Ampex
350's with 2 new Ampex 351's in 1958. Bob Tucker and Larry Rogers purchased Lyn Lou Studios after Bill
Black's death in 1965. The studio recorded many Bill Black Combo albums (now billed as "The Best Honky
Tonk Band in America" as well as "The band who opened for the Beatles"), and produced number-one
country hits for Charly McClain, T.G. Shepard, Billy Swan and others. The house band for these sessions
was the Shylo Band, featuring guitarist and songwriter Ronnie Scaife, nephew of Cecil Scaife, former Sun
Studio producer and engineer.
Early in 1963, Black sent from two to five different versions of the Combo to different regions of the country
at the same time, while staying off the road himself, wanting to concentrate on his business, family and his
health. In 1963, Bob Tucker joined the Bill Black Combo as a road manager and guitar/bass player.
Black himself had been ill for the past year and a half and unable to travel. Nonetheless, he insisted that the
band continue without him. The Bill Black Combo created musical history in 1964 when they became the
opening act for the Beatles (at their request) on their historical 13-city tour of America after their appearance
on the Ed Sullivan Show. Black himself was not well enough to make the tour.
After two operations and lengthy hospital stays, Black died of a brain tumor on October 21, 1965, at the age
of thirty-nine. Black died during his third operation that doctors had hoped would eradicate the tumor once
and for all. Black was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. Presley received criticism for
not attending his funeral; however, he believed that his presence would turn the funeral into a media frenzy.
He decided instead to visit the family privately after the service to express his condolences. According to
Louis Black, Presley said, "If there's anything that y'all need, you just let me know and it's yours''. Black's
widow sold Bob Tucker and Larry Rogers both the right to use the name Bill Black's Combo. The band
changed to country when it joined Columbia Records, and won Billboard's Country Instrumental Group of
the Year award in 1976.
Bill Black's Combo cut more than 20 albums, toured the United States and Europe and won awards as the
best instrumental group in America in 1966 and 1967. Bob Tucker worked for the University of Memphis as
Professor of Music Business as well as being leader of the Best Honky Tonk Band in America. Black's main
stand-up bass is today owned by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, who received the instrument as a birthday
present from his late wife Linda McCartney in the late 1970s. The bass can be seen in the video clip to
McCartney's song "Baby's Request". In the documentary film ''The World Tonight'', McCartney can be seen
playing the bass and singing his version of "Heartbreak Hotel". In 1995, he played it on "Real Love", the last
"new" Beatles record (one of two in which McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr overdubbed a full
arrangement onto a John Lennon home recording from the late 1970s).
Actor Blake Gibbons portrayed Black in the short-lived 1990 TV series "Elvis" starring Michael St. Gerard.
In 2005, Clay Steakley portrayed Bill Black in the Elvis Presley biopic miniseries ''Elvis''. On April 4, 2009,
Bill Black was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
BLAKE, TOMMY - Thomas LeVan Givens was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 1931. He never knew his father, and couldn't do right in his mother's eyes. He was jailed for statutory rape while still in his teens. He entered Marine training camp in 1951, and told people he lost an eye in Korea, but actually lost it before he even left boot camp in North Carolina. Discharged, he went to Louisiana, working on KTBS as a disc jockey in Shreveport and on KRUS in Ruston, Louisiana, and started out with a teenage country band on KTBS in Shreveport, Louisiana by 1955 was appearing regularly on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas and the Louisiana Hayride shows.
In 1954, he married his first wife, Betty Jones, in Carthage, Texas. They had six children. Shortly after one of them was born, Blake went to the store to buy cigarettes, saw Faron Young's tour bus, jumped on board, and disappeared for six weeks. It was the critical choice of his life: success - even if experienced tangentially or vicariously - was preferable to absolutely anything else. Yukkin' it up with guys backstage, or finishing a song in a pill-induced frenzy beat sitting on the cough watching television with the wife and kids.
In Ruston, Louisiana, Tommy Blake met three musicians who would become his sidekicks, Carl Bailey Adams en Ed Dettenheim, as the Rhythm Rebels over the next few tumultuous years. Blake didn't assemble the Rhythm Rebels, insists Hall. They were already together they only used that name when backing Blake. Their drummer, Tom Ruple, worked shows with them, but doesn't appear on any of the recordings, as far as we know. One of their first gigs was in Alexandria, Louisiana, where they supported Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash and Tommy Sands.
The Rhythm Rebels at the Louisiana Hayride. From left: Carl Adams, Tommy Blake, and Ed Dettenheim. >
Most weekends, Blake and the Rhythm Rebels played guest spots on the local Saturday night jamborees: the Big D in Dallas, the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, the Grand Prize Jamboree in Houston, and smaller shows, but Ruston was their home base. The Louisiana Hayride gave Tommy Blake a front row seat at the birth of rock and roll. Elvis was on the show nearly every week from late 1954 until early 1956. The audience was at first incredulous, then ecstatic. Watching intenly, Blake declared himself for rock and roll.
Tommy Blake recorded several times, for Buddy Records label in Marshall, Texas, and "Koolit" (spelled, one presumes, as a parody of Koolaid soft drink) became Blake's first record. Starting December 27, 1952, the Saturday night Marshall Jamboree was the week's top event in Marshall, and the show's manager, A.T. Young, featured his son, Buddy, for whom he started the Buddy label. The show ran from Marshall's City Hall, and was broadcast over KMHT. Blake probably appeared on Young's show often enough for Young to give him a shot on his little label. The reference to "Blue Suede Shoes" dates "Koolit" to early 1956, and the presence of the Hayride's steel guitarist Sonny Trammel shows the music in transition. Trammel was from-and-center on the hillbilly flip-side.
The RCA Victor Session, April 15, 1957. From left: Ed Dettenheim, Carl Adams, Buddy Killen, Tommy Blake. >
The Nashville music business had taken notice of what was happening in Shreveport, and Tommy Blake came to the fore, and Chet Atkins scheduled a RCA contract and a session for April 15, 1957. Waiting around, Blake and the Rhythm Rebels didn't have enough money for a hotel, so they camped out in the station wagon, using gas station restrooms to wash. They found a spot on the side of a mountain near Nashville where they camp without being bothered.
Ed Hall believes that their session was the first in the now-famous Studio B, but the studio's official opening wasn't until November that year. It's likelier that Blake and company were at the studio on McGavock where Elvis had recorded "Heartbreak Hotel". Atkins paired Blake, Adams, and Hall with another Shreveport alumnus, pianist Floyd Cramer, and Nashville big band drummer Farris Coursey. Tree Music's Buddy Killen was there to play bass and ensure that they didn't record any of the songs they'd sold to Cedarwood.
Chet Atkins sensed a troublemaker and dropped Tommy Blake after one single, and gave his best song, "Honky Tonk Mind" to Johnny Horton, a week before the RCA session. Chet Atkins then threw him off the label, and Blake landed at Sun Records' doorstep. There were two Sun sessions in 1957 and 1958. It might have been one side of Blake's third Sun single, had there been such a thing.
Now off Sun and without e regular backing group, Tommy Blake formed a partnership with sometime Louisiana Hayride artist Carl Belew. In 1959, Belew recorded two of Blake's songs. In November 1959, Blake issued a single on and recorded for Recco and Chancellor, making mainly rock and roll music of some distinction. Now often calling himself Van Givens. Hehooked up with Bill McCall at 4-Star Records, and sold him songs. He hung around George Jones' co-writer, Darrell Edwards, and sold more songs (including "Tender Years"). He and Carl Belew reportedly wrote "Lonely Street" and "Am I That Easy To Forget", but Blake had sold his share by the time they appeared.
He kept a little photo of himself and Elvis Presley by his bedside wherever he went as a reminder of what should have been. His second wife, Samantha, shot him in 1985 to death in Carthage, Texas on Christmas Eve 1985, during a drunken brawl under the Christmas tree.
Blake did not have an especially memorable voice but he was an enthusiastic singer and a good songwriter. His credits include "You Better Believe It", "Shake Around", "Cool Gator Shoes" and his two Sun releases, "Lordy Hoody" and "Sweetie Pie". Although not typical of his released recordings, "Ballad Of A Broken Heart" may be much closer to the country soul of the real Tommy Blake.
On Christmas Eve 1985, Tommy Blake came home drunk. Home was a trailer park across the river from Shreveport, Louisiana. His wife, Samanta, had prepared the Christmas tree, and spread the presents around it, but she said that Blake was in a vile mood. The underlying reason was always the same: he'd crossed paths with the rich and famous for thirty years, but seemed unable to join their rarified ranks. He started kicking at the tree, ripping up the presents. Finally, he turned on his wife. They started punching and kicking each other, and then suddenly Blake produced a 38 pistol with a hair trigger. He pushed Samanta onto the floor. She got up, lunged at him, the gun went flying, and she reached for it.
"I never meant to pull the trigger", she said later. "I just wanted to get it away from him. He died in my arms. My last words to him were, 'You know I love you'. I'll never forget the gurgling in his throat when he died. I closed his eyes and laid him down on the carpet". That, at least, was Samanta's story. She spent Christmas 1985 in jail, but was subsequently released.
The version that Samanta gave above in the late 1980s is sharply at variance with an account given to Shane Hughes by Sondra Hall, a friend of Tommy and Samanta's.
"Samanta had been to the grocery market that afternoon (Christmas Ever 1985) buying food with illegally applied for food stamps. Ursula and Tamara, her daughters went with her. Tommy was at home with her cousin Dale and they were playing music and maybe even talking about the truckstop tape of nasty lyrics Tommy had taped and sold to buy Christmas presents for his family. He (had) bought Sam a pair of diamond earings. San and the girls returned home, not to a trailer park, but a beautiful 4-bedroom Florida style home with master suite opening to a patio. Tommy was drinking beer with Dale, Neither of the men would help with the groceries and this pissed Sam off. Dale left, and Sam began to argue with Tommy. She slammed out of the kitchen, went into the garage, where she had her office, unlocked the door, got her pistol, went out the garage door across the patio, entered the master bedroom, got the bullets and loaded the gun and went back to the garage. She called Tommy out there and he approached her with his hands behind his back. He asked her not to be mad and reminded her it was Christmas Eve. He held out a small jeweler's box to her and said. 'These are for you'. She shot him one time-thru the heart. He was dead before he hit the garage floor".
The discrepancy between the accounts of Sondra Hall and Samantha Givens is vast: the only facts upon which they agree are that Blake was shot on Christmas Eve and Samantha did it. Samantha told this writer that she and Blake were living in a trailer park, which would have been more congruent with their general financial state (food stamps, etc.) more than "a beautiful 4-bedroom Florida-style home with master suite opening to a patio". Samantha even pointed to the spot in the trailer where she said that she shot Blake. The songwriting royalties would have diminished to next-to-nothing by that point, even assuming that Bill McCall was paying royalties at all.
By the time Tommy Blake died, the music industry had chewed him up and spat him out. No one made demos in an off-key voice and with an out-of-tune guitar in front of a home cassette deck any more. Song-plugging was no longer a business in which you wandered in to see Chet Atkins, and said, "Chet listen here to what I got". It was a business of lawyers, powerbrokers, professional song-pluggers, more lawyers, and points spreads. Blake was out of the loop. One of his cronies from the Louisiana Hayride, Howard Crockett, who wrote two of Johnny Horton's biggest hits, summed it up in a song called "Don't Go To Nashville In The Summer (Or You'll Freeze To Death And Who't Know Why)". Tommy Blake didn't understood why, and didn't live long enough for the rockabilly revival to embrace him. Nor did he live long enough to see a British pop group, the Fall, record what might have been his song, "4Folding Money", in 1999. In one of the last photos taken of Tommy Blake, he looked considerably older than early fifties. It had clearly been a rough life, and even though we've tried to piece together its outline, it is equally clear that Thomas Levan Givens aka Van Givens aka Tommy Blake took most of what he knew to the grave with him. (MH) (CE)
BLAND, BOBBY ''BLUE'' - Despite his stature as one of America's premier vocalists, Bobby 'Blue' Bland has never really enjoyed widespread popular fame on a domestic level let alone internationally. His failure to 'cross-over' to the pop market in any meaningful way throughout his 60 year old recording career is baffling. Although his earliest recordings were cut in Memphis surrounded by that city's young and aspiring blues talent he never became popular with the international blues circles when blues became an international phenomenon in the early 1960s, probably because he never required discovering.
B.B. King, Muddy Waters and scores of other blues stars of the 1950s, rock and roll never dented Bland's popularity with his core Black audience. This was because unlike his contemporaries he quickly embraced his gospel background and can now be seen alongside Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and James Brown as one of the pioneers of what would be known by the early 1960s as soul music. The few pop chart hits he did have in the 1960s though never gained him the kind of acceptance enjoyed by the other soul stars.
His appeal in Black America was almost entirely to women and his, fame rested solely on his incredible voice which glided from croon to scream in seconds. In the pantheon of top stars on Billboard Magazine's chart for rhythm and blues he remains to this day in the top ten with over 60 charted records a tally that began in 1957 with "Farther On Up The Road". His failure to gain huge acceptance in Europe had a lot to do with the fact that unlike most blues legends he not only did not play a guitar but his stage act could hardly be described as dynamic. Without taking this note into a sociological study it is worth noting that his popularity in England in the early 1960s rested mostly within the mod culture and his appeal was almost entirely male orientated, girls just didn't get him. The closest he ever came to a British hit was in 1974 when the single "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City" received extensive UK radio play and was championed by British DJ Tony Blackburn. Although it failed to chart it did increase his profile and resulted in a revival of the song from rock vocalist David Coverdale and his band Whitesnake in 1980. Nevertheless these disadvantages have not prevented him from gaining a serious fan following and he can count, as he approaches his 80th year, on the endorsement of such famous fans as Van Morrison and Mick Hucknall who promote his achievements in a way no one did in the 1950s or 1960s. In 2009 his career was celebrated with a British Top 20 album chart entry via Mick Hucknall's solo album, "Tribute To Bobby" and a BBC TV documentary on his life and career which has now been screened several times on the specialist BBC Four channel.
Robert Calvin ''Bobby'' Bland was born in the small town of Rosemark, Tennessee, on January 27, 1930. After moving to Memphis with his mother, Bland started singing with local gospel groups in the city, including amongst others the Miniatures. His idol in the late 1940s was singer Roy Brown and this led him to pursue opportunities in the secular world where he began frequenting the city's famous Beale Street where he became associated with a group of aspiring musical teenagers including, B.B. King, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace and Roscoe Gordon who called themselves the Beale Streeters.
In 1950 Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Services at 706 Union Avenue. This was the first studio facility in the City for many years and became a beacon for aspiring young talent from both the rhythm and blues and hillbilly worlds. Within a matter of months Sam Phillips and his young talent scout, Ike Turner were recording locally based musicians and selling the masters to the large independent labels like Chess and Modern. Bland came to Turner's attention via 17 year-old Roscoe Gordon for whom Bobby had been acting as a driver and his very first recording was a duet with Gordon placed on the b-side of Gordon's hit single released on Chess, "Booted". Although this release caused a major controversy for Phillips and the Bihari brothers of Modern Records because they both considered Phillips services to them to be exclusive it was resolved by Modern retaining the exclusive rights to Gordon and Chess taking other artists from Phillips recordings. Bland's very first appearance on wax was therefore the b-side of a number 1 rhythm and blues hit and it ensured he made other recordings at Memphis Recording Service. A second duet with Gordon for Chess, "Crying". He also recorded a duet with Junior Parker which went unreleased until the late 1960s along with a solo single for Modern.
Later in 1952 Bland signed on with the brand new Duke label started by local Memphis broadcaster, James Mattis and his first session featured his fellow Beale Streeters. Before the end of 1952 Mattis had been approached by Houston based label owner and nightclub entrepreneur, Don Robey who became a partner in the label. Robey already owned the Peacock label and by the year's end acquired the entire label with all artist contracts. Before Bland could record for the new set-up he received his call up papers from the US Army and did not record again for almost three years.
On his first session for Robey in 1955 he was placed with the exceptional Bill Harvey Band featuring trumpeter, Joe Scott and although the results were not huge Jukebox hits they did form the beginning of Bland's remarkable career. Robey appointed Scott as Bland's producer and svengali who transformed the singer into one of the biggest touring attractions in Black America over the next three or four years. He chose his songs and arranged and produced them resulting in one of the most successful partnerships in rhythm and blues which lasted until Joe Scott's death in 1979. Bland's touring schedule was often as much as 300 days per year and as can be seen his trips to the studio were modest compared to many acts. He often only recorded a single at a time and such was Scott's confidence in his artist these were released within weeks of recording. The first major hit came in 1957 with "Further On Up The Road" and from then on it was almost non-stop hits until well into the 70s.
Bland's brief flirtation with cross-over came in 1973 when Robey sold his labels to ABCDunhill who placed Bland with pop producers like Steve Barri and coupled him with B.B. King for two million selling live duet albums. When ABC was sold to MCA Records, Bland remained with the giant conglomerate until the early 1980s when he signed to the Mississippi based Malaco Records.
On Sunday June 23, 2013, at surrounded by relatives, Bobby "Blue" Bland, died due to
complications from an ongoing illness at his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 83.
Barbara, Ed, and Cliff Thomas >
BOBBIE AND THE BOYS (THE THOMAS FAMILY) - Cliff, Ed and Barbara Thomas were frequent visitors to the Sun studio between 1957 and 1959. Their efforts resulted in two singles issued under the trio's name, one single under brother Cliff's name, and one single featuring sister Barbara. The Thomas siblings were masters (and a mistress) of solid white pop music, often with more bite than usual, owing to brother Ed's bluesy piano stylings.
"My brother and I were born in Jackson, Mississippi on 512 Eastview Street. I am the oldest of six children. My family still lives there. There was a lot of music around me when I was growing up. My parents both played violin with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra''.
''I was about 23 when we were recording for Sun. Ed had just graduated from Notre Dame and he was 22. Cliff was just a singer in high school, so he was about 18. I had a TV show called Teen Tempos on WLBT in Jackson, which was the NBC affiliate. It was on every Saturday for three years until 1960. I hosted that show right up until the day before I got married. By then I was probably the world's oldest teenager. It was a show like American Bandstand. People from all over Mississippi would come and dance. I did two songs each Saturday and we'd have local talent as well. I remember Frankie Ford being on the show, Occasionally, my bothers and I performed".
"My brother Ed is the reason we got on to Sun. You have to understand, Ed is the real talent in the family. Cliff and I are just tag-alongs. Ed is brilliant. To this date, he is the best piano player I've ever heard. He can go from Bach to rock. He's written masses, and he can keep up with Fats Domino or Jerry Lee Lewis. Anyway, Ed called Sam Phillips. He said, 'I have a brother and sister who can sing and I'm writing songs...' and Sam said, 'Yeah, you and every other kid in the United States'. But Ed insisted and when he came home from Notre Dame we all just got in the car and drove up to Memphis. We played for Sam right there and he signed us on the spot. We drove him nuts. He used to relased us all the time. He called us The Terrible Thomasses and The Norman Goofoff Choir"
"We were from a very conservative family. When we walked into the studio I remember saying to my brothers, 'Who is that guy in the beat up old t-shirt. Do I have to shake his hand? It was Jerry Lee Lewis. That studio was quite a change for us. Everybody was drinking liquor. We'd be up to our knees in beer cans. We'd be listening to tapes at three o'clock in the morning. I remember saying to Sam, 'That is the worst song I've ever heard'. It was Bill Justis' "Raunchy". I remember all the people from back then. Sally, the secretary, Billy Riley, Van Eaton, the drummer, Jack Clement. I remember we all stayed at Jack's house once. Later on, when a lady from Photoplay magazine came to town to do a big five-page feature on us, Jack came down and stayed with us in Jackson. It was quite a big deal at the time".
Although she was not the featured vocalist, the first record Barbara appeared on "I'm On My Way Home" flirted with becoming a national hit. "We appeared on, American bandstand to promote it. I remember that Jud (Sam's brother) made the trip north with us. My mother insisted on going as well. i think Jud liked my mother, to tell you the truth. What I really remember is that I hated Dick Clark and he hated us. This was the time of payola and we didn't receive a check until six years later. He was not very nice to us even though our record was rated very highly on his show. It's hard to know exactly what went wrong, but its plain that we just didn't click".
After three records featuring her brothers, why did sister Barbara suddenly get star billings? "We were at a session and Cliff lost his voice. I said, 'Let me do a song' because I knew that Ed had written those two songs for me. So I did them, and Sam liked them, and he released them. It was that simple. I remember when the record was reviewed in billboard, they said, 'One of the few thrushes to ever come out of the Phillips Sun stable'". (The Billboard reviewer was a bit out of touch. By June 1959, when the record hit the stores, Sun had released over a dozen singles by female artists).
Dows Barbara have any regrets about her years at Sun? "There were two songs I wish we could have done. One was called "Mississippi". "It was really fabulous; we used to sing it around all the time. We did it on my TV show and we still do it here when I get together with my brothers. But Sam didn't like it. In fact, I think he hated it! He'd make his hands into a gesture to say, 'Square'. I don't think we ever got to record it, but I'm certain it never came out.
The other thing I remember is I wanted to record "Who's Sorry Now". This was before Connie Francis version was released (1958). Sam thought that was the craziest thing he ever heard. Just didn't want any part of it. And then I saw her on The Ed Sullivan Show, sitting on a white picket fence singing "Who's Sorry Now". I just went bananas.
Why did Barbara and her brothers stop recording for Sam Phillips. "I don't know, Its not like something bad happened. We just didn't have the drive to keep at it. Like I said, my family was very conservative. My father always said it could be a hobby. But you can't do that as a hobby! When we were at Sun, we really never pushed Sam. I think that's because we had another life. That makes a difference. We might have been the only musicians at Sun who really had another life. We loved what we were doing, but we didn't make the music our life".
On American Bandstand TV show, March 14, 1958. From left: Dick Clark, Cliff Thomas, Barbara Thomas, and Ed Tomas. >
"When Cliff traveled with Charlie Rich for about two months and they were in New York City, my mother cried every day. Her boy was away from home and cold in New York. Cliff loved it and could have probably done it full time, but the family garment business was waiting. I was very frustrated when I stopped recording with my brothers at Sun. Ed and Cliff went on with their music after they left Sam. They did a lot of writing and did quite well. Cliff discovered The Tams in the early 1960s, and he and Ed won a Grammy in 1968 for "Picking Wild Mountain Berries" by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson".
In 1960, Barbara married Teal Salloum and moved to Gulfport. She stayed home and raised their children and did not work for 18 years.
"I needed to be involved in music in a way that fit in with my life. I really don't think I have a lot of talent, but I do project well. I started singing in local theatrical productions, like South Pacific, Gypsy, Hello Dolly, Funny Girl and Mame. Through the years I've been able to do all these wonderful things in this community. They've been very satisfying to me and helped with all the frustration I felt when we stopped recording".
In 1977, Barbara began a 20-year career at TV station WLOX in Biloxi. "They signed me up to do a talk show called Good Morning, South Mississippi. I did the whole show, a daily one-hour format, for five years. I even produced it. After some changes came down from the ABC network, the local affiliate asked me to stay on and do some segments for the news department about local seniors. I went from doing Teen Tempos to Seniors Report. I ran the whole gamut".
For many singers, their time in front of the Sun microphones is the defining moment of their lives. For Barbara Thomas, those early experiences were simply building blocks on the way to a rich and rewarding life, both personally and professionally. Her days as a Sun artist are a cherished but distant part of that path.
"I sometimes can't believe I did all that. That was another life. I still have so much fun when I get together with my brothers and we talk about those times. Cliff's daughter is in Nashville right now and she's been talking to Jack Clement, trying to break into the business. So it goes on and on. The rewards and the frustrations".
On September 22, 2012 Barbara informed Sun researcher Hank Davis that she had brother Ed had performed in Gulfport, Mississippi the previous night to an enthusiastic response. ''I still love to sing more than anything in the world'', Barbara added.
Their brother Cliff Thomas, the youngest of the three, died on March 7, 2008.
BOINES, HOUSTON - Houston Boines (or it may have been Huston) remains an obscure, shadowy figure despite having broadcast on KFFS' King Biscuit Time during one of Sonny Boy's regular prolonged absence.
He was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, near Jackson, on December 30, 1918, and was still living there when he enlisted in the Army in January 1941, almost one year before the United States entered World War II.
It's unclear how long he was in the service. Charlie Booker and Houston Stackhouse played with him after the War when he was still in Hazlehurst, but had only fleeting memories of him.
Boines played played harmonica in Eddie Cusic's combo, The Rhythm Aces. In 1952 he cut a couple of sessions in Greenville, Mississippi, which let to a releases ''Monkey Motion'' / ''Superintendant'' and ''Going Home'' / ''Relation Blues'', both recorded for RPM in January 1952, (plus a belated mid-1960s release on Blues & Rhythm/Blue Horizon) - but his December 1953 session at Sun would appear have been his (rather glorious) swansong.
Little Milton roomed with him around this time, recalling a stockily builtman in his late forties, whom he took to Sun. He was vaguely remembered by Charlie Booker and Houston Stackhouse, both of whom played with him, but Little Milton, his one-tome room-mate - who'd actually brought him along to 706 Union - remembered him best, recalling an "old man".
Stackhouse recalled that Boines was still playing harmonica in clubs until late in life. ''He used to be a terrible good harp player'', said Stackhouse, ''but he just faded on out. He'd drink so much''. Stocky in build, whom nobody could understand, was Boines the J.R.R. Tolkein of this publication, or merely a raddled old soak who couldn't quite get his tongue around the words?... we'll probably never know. Mississippi death records reveal that someone named Huston Boines died on November 8, 1970 in Jackson, and that could well be our man. Certainly, Houston Stackhouse confirmed that Boines died around that time. Those few memories underpinned by even fewer certain dates and a total of eight recordings are all that we know of him. (CE)
BOND, EDDIE - Country and rockabilly singer, disc jockey, promotor, radio and television station impresario, song-writer, charity worker and law enforcement officer, all parts of the multi-faceted person that is Eddie Bond. For over forty years now he been completely immersed in the southern musical culture that spawned the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison et all. Whether he is performing in Memphis, Tennessee, Drew, Mississippi or prudhoe, Tyne and Wear, England, Eddie Bond continues to be a living embodiment of the traditional sounds of country and authentic rockabilly music.
Born in Methodist Hospital, Memphis, on July 1, 1923, Eddie James Bond grew up in an essential non-musical family, which still provided some encouragement to the young member of the family who, at the age of eight, had put together enough nickels and dimes to buy his first guitar. His initial interest had been aroused by listening to Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb who, at the time, the early 40s, were widely heard on the radio and records; his early experience of performing developed through his teenage years as he gigged around the beer joints of Memphis.
On leaving school in 1950, he held down a variety of jobs including furniture factory worker, paint sprayer and, a job common amongst Memphis rockabillies, truck driver. After an eighteen month stint in the Navy, Bond returned to work in paint, this time selling not sprying. The time had now moved on to 1952 and the formation of his band the Stompers took place over the ensuing months. Well-known members would be Reggie Young, John Hughey, Jimmy Smith and Johnny Fine. Earlier incarnations of the band had included Ronald Smith, Enio Hopkins, Curtis Lee Alderson and future Musical Warriot for Charlie Feathers, Jody Chastain there led to occasional work with Elvis Presley.
The rounds of the South and Southwest were made taking in Tucson, Arizona, Birmingham, Alabama and Dexter, Missouri, where Eddie and the Stompers together with Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings and Narvel Felts with Jerry Mercer's Rhythm and Blues Boys played on top of a concession stand at the local drive-in a typical for the priode 1954-1956.
Following failed auditions at Sun Records and Meteor, Eddie secured a recording deal with Ekko Records which, although an Los Angeles company, had a Memphis office which was located at 36 North Cleveland. Although not certain. Eddie now believes the Ekko session was held at a Murray Nash Associates-connected studio in Nashville. No fabulous sales were achieved but they formed the basis for the next session which saw Eddie move further towards the big-time and a major label deal for Mercury Records.
Other developments during this time including appearances on the Louisiana Hayride alongside Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and Sonny James, and further touring alongside Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Harold Jenkins (later to become Conway Twitty), and Charlie Feathers.
Concurrently a move to develop links with radio were set up when the Eddie Bond Show was transmitted on KWEM, beginning a relationship with the airwaves that continues today. So now touring was joined by broadcasting as well as recording in the continually broadening of the Bond career. At the same time Eddie signed with Bob Neal's Stars Inc., then looking after the interests of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash with Warren Smith and Roy Orbison soon to be added to the ranks.
Four sessions were recorded for Mercury Records, the first of which he poses a mystery. Held at WMPS in Memphis, and produced by Mercury artists and repertoire man, Dee Kilpatrick, four songs were recorded but only two were issued on Mercury.
Nashville was the location of the next session that produced Bond's strongest rockabilly performances used by Mercury on two singles in June and September of 1956, which sold well enough for Mercury to organise two more sessions held in Houston, Texas in 1957.
Following the Mercury deal, Eddie began label-hopping through the South, particularly around Memphis. First stop was 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, where Jack Clement produced three titles.
None were issued at the time having to wait for the rockabilly revival and subsequent glut of compilations released in the 1970s and 1980s. There followed a plethora of recordings for "D", Stomper Time, Wildcat, MCCR, Decca (through his friend Webb Pierce), and United Southern Artists. All were basically country releases.
Early 1962 saw Eddie back in Memphis recording at the 639 Madison Avenue or re nearly thirty sides were recorded for Sun during January and February, and gospel items were eventually used on an album in 1963. Although not strictly recorded by Sun or Phillips International, these recordings were all bought in and have been embraced as Sun tracks as a result of the Phillips International album release.
Further stopping-off places on the label circuit included Memphis, Pen (leased on Decca), Diplomat, Millionaire, Goldwax, Memphis, MCCR and Tab, which took Eddie to the end of the sixties during which time he had expanded his radio operations and achieved great success by increasing his listening audience noticeably to the extent that a 64% share was achieved and a plaque presented to him by Billboard to honour the achievement.
The Tap recordings of 1969 inaugurated the Buford Pusser Years, when Eddie was involved in writing and recording about the dubious character of Sheriff Pusser who became a southern hero when Hollywood portrayed him in the film Walkin' Tall. Bond later admitted to having mixed feelings on the subject but there was a certain fame that was achieved through the association. Many country fans were first introduced to the exploits of Buford Pusser through the recordings of Eddie Bond. In the wake of his meetings and ventures with Pusser, the office of Chief of Police in Finger, Tennessee, was achieved by Eddie Bond. Coincidentally, Finger was the birthplace pf Buford Pusser himself!
The following years saw more country sessions on Tap in the States and, following the first United Kingdom visit in 1982, rockabilly recordings were issued on Rockhouse Records in Holland produced by Dave Travis, whose band always supports Bond on tour, as was the case in 1982, 1985 and 1992.
The retrospective of his associations with Ekko, Mercury, Sun and Phillips International, documents his genesis as a country and rockabilly singer, a role perfected over his long career in the recording and broadcasting industry.
One of the first clubs that Eddie Bond hired Elvis Presley to play was at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Hall in nearby Hernando, Mississippi, rural town, half an hour from Memphis. Hernando was home to a long, white VFW building with a huge parking lot, one often used by moonshine whisky drinkers. It was located on the outskirts of town and, according to Bond, "drew a hell of a crowd".
Saturday night dances were a tradition, and people of all ages showed up for the music. The young men dressed up and the girls had on their finest dresses. At intermission time, the parking lot was filled with refreshment seekers. "Elvis Presley was nervous that hot summer night in Hernando", Edythm Peeler, a local resident recalled. "He wore a pair of faded blue jeans and a plaid jacket. We had no idea who he was". "They surrounded him at the intermission. He sure was a good-looking boy. Now that I recall, I also liked his singing". Comments like these were repeated by a number of other Hernando residents, all of whom had found memories of the night Elvis Presley performed in their little white VFW Hall. Elvis' appearance with the band provided some insights into his future career. When Elvis Presley arrived in Hernando and got out of his car, he was horrified at the dance site. "Elvis' hand't played any country honky-tonks", Eddie Bond recalled. "He was stunned by the drinking in the parking lot". Moonshine whisky was in abundance and it was not unusual for a gun to fire followed by a rebel yell. The VFW dance was a place where the farmer, the small businessman, and local workers could let loose. Young girls, not so young women with big breasts, and the traditional-looking army couple crowded the dance floor. To Elvis Presley, it was a strange environment to sing romantic ballads. Elvis Presley told Eddie Bond that he would convert the crowd to his kind of music. Bond had no idea what Elvis Presley meant. When Elvis performed Guy Mitchell's 1950 classic "The Roving Kind" and Johnny Ray's 1951 hit "The Little White Cloud That Cried", it was clear that he selected songs the locals liked. "I saw those tunes on the jukebox inside the hall. I knew those folks would like those songs", he told Eddie Bond.
During his performances, Elvis Presley sang two sets of songs. No one was really sure why Elvis repeated his songs, considering how many he knew. The reason was simply. He used these small shows to perfect his delivery of a particular tune. Since he favoured pop ballads, no one really cared if Elvis sang a song more than once - he was able to work the girls into a frenzy with anything he sang. What it amounted to, though, was that long before Elvis became the first rock and roll superstar, he was consciously practising the act that would take him to the pinnacle of show business success.
Through it all, the consensus is that Eddie Bond made more friends than enemies. In the late 1990s, he moved east to Bolivar, Tennessee where he opened a store and a club that he was anxious to mention was not a nightclub. Morbidly obese, Bond moved to an assisted living facility for a time.
On Wednesday morning, March 20, 2013, Eddie Bond died from complications of Alzheimer's disease and dementia at his home in Bolivar, Tennessee, at the age of 79.
BOOKER, CHARLIE - Singer and guitarist Charlie Booker was born September 3, 1919 at Quiver River near Sunflower, Mississippi to Eliza Shaw and Lucius Booker. His father played guitar and through his uncle Andrew Shaw, he became acquainted with Charley Patton and an equally young Boyd Gilmore. In the early 1940s he moved to Leland, where he learned guitar from local musician Andrew Hardy. A while later, he answered an advert placed in the local paper by drummer Jesse "Cleanhead" Love for a guitarist. With Love and later his own band, Charlie performed in Leland and nearby Greenville, where he broadcast over WGVM, sponsored by the Grey Tie Company and Peter Pan Bread.
When Ike Turner worked for the Biharis, he signed Booker i
n January 1952, he made his first recordings for the Bihari brothers. The session took place in Greenville's Casa Blanca Club with Houston Boines, Cleanhead Love and talent scout Ike Turner on piano. The resulting four titles, including "Moonrise Blues" and "No Rider Blues" were issued on Blues & Rhythm and Modern Records. Within the year, he also recorded for Sam Phillips with Tuff Green's band, including Moose John Walker on piano. "Walked All Night", which Charlie referred to as "Walkin' In The Valley" was an aggressive updating of the Charley Patton tradition of Mississippi blues, whilst "Baby I'm Coming Home" was Charlie's take on a musical format made popular by B.B. King.
When nothing came of his Sun session Charlie moved north to South Bend, Indiana with drummer Cassell Burrow, who would later work with Howlin' Wolf in Chicago. He worked in local clubs like the Chicken Shack but his playing became increasingly sporadic until he dropped out of sight.
In 1971 he was found by researcher Gayle Dean Wardlow and signed a contract with Adelphi Studios in Washington. No sessions took place, and the only taped evidence of his playing is of his appearance with Joe Willie Wilkins & His King Biscuit Boys on October 12, 1973 at Notre Dame University.
Charlie Booker died on September 20, 1989 at St. Joseph's Medical Center in South Bend, and his obituary noted that shortly before he'd ceased "a number of self-destructive habits that had plagued him throughout his life". Whatever they were, they undoubtedly conspired to deny him a better musical epitaph than the titles presented here.
Bill Bowen in the 1950s >
BOWEN, BILL – Until last year (2012) Bill Bowen was one of the few remaining untraced singers from the Memphis rockabilly era. He made one record on Meteor in 1956 and left a rough version of one song on tape at Sun, and then went completely under the radar of the many researchers who have dug into the Memphis music scene of which he was a small part. When producing a CD of Meteor's recordings ten years ago, Martin Hawkins spent an age trying to find Bowen and, in the end, among all the obscure performers from that label, he was the one I didn't find.
There were just too many Bowens to call, too many who didn't answer the phone, and too many false leads. Then, when the CD came out someone brought it to Bill Bowen's attention. Apparently he spent his last few years being very much amused to find that he was missing!
Bill Bowen died in Memphis in December 2011 but his grandson, Danny Bowen, made an audio documentary of Bill Bowen's life when he was majoring in Broadcasting at the University of Memphis. Within those tapes can be heard something of Bill Bowen's life in music, in his own words.
Bill Bowen was born James Wilbur Bowen on October 13, 1923 in a rural part of Alcorn County, Mississippi, north east of Corinth and he grew up there as one of seven children. His carpenter father, G.B., was born in Texas and his mother, Willard, came from Mississippi though both had Tennessee ancestry. They had met in Jackson, Tennessee, before moving to the Corinth area where G.B. Owned a construction company, and where Bill grew up. There was no musical tradition in Bill's immediate family; ''he blazed his own trail'', according to Danny. Having learned the guitar in his teens Bill started playing traditional country music as a profession in the early 1940s and he continued this when his family moved to Rockwood Avenue in Memphis around 1944. In the following years, he said, he went on several tours around Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana and he was playing some shows in Illinois when he met and married his wife, Margie, (who died in 2004). She came back to Memphis with him, and their son, Barry, was born there in 1946. Bill later described to him how he played on the same shows as Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copas, Pee Wee King, Eddy Arnold, and Bill Monroe in his touring days. At some point, Bill stopped touring and formed a band in Memphis. This included the three Holland Brothers, Phillip on electric guitar; Carl Ray on bass, and Herb on steel. Later, Frank Stella was on drums and Jimmy Johnson played rhythm guitar. Some of these players may have been involved with Ray Harris who, shortly before he died, said, ''I had a band with Bill Bowen in 1954. We played country music at the radio station outside of Memphis''. It may have been Harris who connected Bowen with Sam Phillips and certainly the rawness that characterized his own music is to be heard too in Bowen's Sun demo recording of ''Two Timin' Baby''.
Nothing came of the Sun demo but it was not Bill Bowen's only attempt to get onto records. He said, ''I did some auditions. I did one for Chess Records'', and this was some time in the early 1950s. Barry Bowen said, ''I vividly remember traveling up there with him and my mother. They spent a few weeks with relatives in Harrisburg, Illinois, while daddy went to Chicago and recorded''. Sam Phillips had sent some of his country recordings to Chess in the early 1950s but it is not known whether he made a connection there for Bill. Either way, Phillips apparently had no plans to issue a record himself and nothing seems to have come from the Chess audition. It was Lester Bihari of Meteor Records on Chelsea Avenue in Memphis who finally gave Bill Bowen his shot at the charts, Around June 1956 Meteor released Bowen singing two of his original songs, ''Don't Shoot Me Baby (I'm Not Ready To Die)'' and ''Have Myself A Ball''. Bill Bowen told his grandson about failing to get onto Chess and Sun; ''and then I went over and did an audition for Meteor Records in 1956 and they signed me to a two-year recording contract''. He said that he and his band first recorded some straightahead country songs for Meteor but these were shelved because ''country music had gone flat'' at that time. The two issued songs were more in the rockabilly vein and Bill explained how the songs came to be written. ''I wanted to do something in rock and roll. I got to thinking of all the different nightclubs that I'd played in, and I'd seen people come in and stumble around and I'd seen fights and all kinds of stuff over the years. I put the song together, ''Don't Shoot Me Baby'' and I took it from experiences that I'd witnessed''. The B-side was written after the band had been playing in a bar, and someone passing by the stage said, ''Have a ball, boy''. It was an entertaining slice of honky tonk life in the vein of Carl Perkins and Bowen's was one of the rawest rockabilly discs of its era. The band members are unknown and seem to have drawn from Bowen's own band augmented by Meteor's session guitarist Terry Thompson from Amory, Mississippi and members of his group, The Rockets, from Muscle Shoals area.
Although he continued playing music at local venues, that one disc was the end of Bill Bowen as a recording artist. His family was growing up and he needed to make a secure living so he gradually gave up performing and bought a deli-coffee-shop in downtown Memphis which he managed for many years. His Sun demo session remained all the while in a musty tape box, most of the tape having been recorded over by Bill Justis when he produced a session with rhythm and blues singer Bill Pinkney.
(With acknowledgements to Colin Davies whose tenacity made this biography possible. Colin tried to help Martin Hawkins find Bill Bowen ten years ago. He drew a blank but continued to search after the Meteor CD came out and in 2005 he posted a request on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame notice board for anyone with any information to contact him. In 2012 he hears from Danny Bowen who had seen the request and passed on details of his grandfather's audio memories.)
BRADFORD, WALTER - Walter Bradford is known to have played saxophone with Lee Jackson's band on Forrest City's KXJK in 1949 when he was still just 15 years old, but he mainly worked there as a disc jockey. Known by one and all as "Junior", he developed a definite rapport with Sam Phillips, who regularly used Bradford to air forthcoming releases.
According to researcher Jim O'Neil, who researched his application for Social Security, Walter Bradford was born in Birdeye, Arkansas on June 23, 1927. Birdeye is very close to Cherry Valley where Pat Hare was born, lending credence to the suggestion that they were cousins. He was young (known as Junior) but developed a rapport with Sam Phillips who used his show to test out would-be Sun releases.
His own purported first disc "Dreary Nights"/"Nuthin' But The Blues" (SUN 176) was shelved, and neither acetates nor master tapes seem to have survived - which is a great shame as it is believed to have been the effervescent Pat Hare's first-ever recording session. Bradford's second Sun session produced the excellent "Reward For My Baby", a track which has gained considerably in stature since the release of the original SUNBOX (N.B: according to Sam Phillips' notebook, Bradford was one of the few disc jockeys who was sent an acetate of SUN 174, Jackie Boy & Little Walter's "Selling My Whiskey", Sun's other missing single).
When Walter Bradford applied for Social Security in March 11953, he's already left the South and was working in the Cleveland suburb of Mayfield, Ohio. At some point, Bradford moved to Kansas City, Missouri and died there at the age of 68, on August 5, 1995.
BRADY, GLORIA - Attempts to locate Brady after all this time resulted in some interesting adventures, but no success stories. A Gloria Brady lived on Mason Street in Memphis until fairly recently, although her telephone had been disconnected. Spreading the net a bit wider, we discovered a movie actress named Gloria Brady who had appeared in such deathless classics as Blood Waters of Dr. Z, released in 1982. Since Gloria played the part of a woman in her 40s, the time line would be correct, assuming our Gloria tried her luck at acting after her music career failed to pan out. Then there was a recent news story about a woman named Gloria Brady who recalled being kissed on the cheek at O'Hare airport by Davy Jones of the Monkees. This Gloria Brady was on her way to Los Angeles to try her fortune as a porno actress - which would have been a grand story, although the age match doesn't quite suit our needs. If our Gloria ever kissed a Monkee, she would probably have been about 10 years old when she recorded these demos.
There are two Gloria Brady's in Marianna, Arkansas, both the right age, one white, one black. Unfortunately, neither sent demos into Sun records. Finally, there is Gloria R. Brady of New Orleans, who would have been in her late 50s when these demos were recorded. Unfortunately, she died in 1995. It is quite possible that our Gloria intensified the mystery by putting her music on the shelf, marrying, and changing her name. She might even be the mother of a contemporary folk artist like Sue Foley, whose style is uncannily like that of our Ms. Brady. In any case, if Gloria Brady is out there, we haven't found her.
Jackie Brenston (right) with Ike Turner behind the piano. >
BRENSTON, JACKIE - Born on August 24, 1930, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a delta town where Highway 49 meets Highway 61. He was one of the most potent, musically fertile hotspots in the South. Son House, Charley Patton, and Robert Johnson worked in the juke joints in the area, and Brenston's music reflected the local blues roots. John Lee Hooker and Eddie Boyd were born in the same area. It was also where Muddy Waters - who'd learned from House - made his earliest field recordings.
Brenston sat in with various scratch bands in the area and came under the influence of men like sax player Jesse Flowers - the man who can also take credit for introducing him to the art of serious drinking.
Eventually he fell in with Izear Luster "Ike" Turner, equal parts disc jockey, bandleader, pianist, guitarist, hustler wideboy and all-round wannabee. Jackie replaced outgoing singer Johnny O'Neal in Turner's King Of Rhythm - just about the wildest cats on the block - shortly before they were due to cut their first session at 706 Union. Ike's band had been recommended to Phillips by B.B. King, whom Sam was recording for RPM at the time.
The turning point in Sam Phillips' life occurred on March 5, 1951. The Kings of Rhythm cut five sides that day, three with Jackie singing lead and two with Ike Turner handling the vocals. When Elvis Presley listened to Memphis radio in 1951-52, "Rocket 88" was a major hit. The road to success for Brenston began in February 1951 when he drove north on Highway 61 to Memphis with Ike Turner's band. Sam Phillips was then a twenty-eight-yearold recording neophyte who was interest in finding new acts. On March 5, 1951, at Phillips' Memphis recording studio, Ike Turner's band - featuring the new singer, Jackie Brenston - recorded "Rocket 88". The drive and intensity of Brenston's vocals was impressive to young Sam Phillips, and he never forgot the song.
In April 1951, Leonard Chess purchased the "Rocket 88" master and it became one of Chess Records earliest hits. Not only did "Rocket 88" reach number 1 on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues charts, but it prompted Sam Phillips to begin recording local artists. The driving piano accompaniment and the smooth, energetic vocal style in "Rocket 88" appealing to young Elvis Presley. Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston soon fought over the rights to "Rocket 88". The feud grew so bitter that Turner would not allow Brenston to perform the song in concert. Sam Phillips stepped into the fray and signed Brenston to a personal management contract.
Quickly recruiting a band, the Delta Cats, Brenston toured to capitalize on his hit. A heavy drinker and an erratic performer, Brenston was frequently booed off the stage. Soon his performances were confined to the local juke joints. By By 1954 Brenston had left Ike Turner and was playing saxophone in Lowell Fulson's band, his solo career at an end. Anyone who saw Brenston and heard his songs couldn't get it out of their mind.
There is a good possibility that Elvis Presley saw Brenston, because Lowell Fulson was an artist that Elvis Presley went to see at the Club Handy on 195 Hernando Street in Memphis in 1954-55. While Fulson's band was in Memphis, Brenston was the lead singer. In his later years Jackie Brenston played little music, and he was working for the Delta Levee Board up until his death.
It was ironic that Jackie Brenston died at the Kennedy Veteran Hospital in Memphis on December 15, 1979. He outlived Elvis Presley by more than two years and died in the hospital where Elvis gave his first benefit performances.
In later years, a several alcohol problem limited Brenson's musical dates. He never recovered from Ike Turner's unwillingness to let Brenston perform "Rocket 88" with the King Of Rhythm. (CE)
The Brewsteraires >
BREWSTERAIRES, THE – Although they recorded little, the Brewsteraires were one of the most influential local gospel quartets because their patron was the influential Baptist minister, Dr. William Brewster, a preacher, community leader and composer of many well-known gospel songs. Members of Brewster's church were formed into a number of choirs and gospel quartets over the years, of which the Brewster Singers and the Brewsteraires were foremost.
Brewster' main protege was Queen C.
Anderson, who took the lead in singing many pf Brewster's new gospel songs.
In 1950 and 1951, the Gotham label of Philadelphia recorded four discs credited variously to the Brewster Singers led by Queen C. Anderson, the Reverent Brewster himself narrating Camp Meeting introductions to songs like ''Give Me That Old Time Religion'', and the Brewstenaires of Memphis singing ''When Shall I See Him Face To Face''.
Sam Phillips has said that he listened to Brewster and his groups on the radio frequently and by 1951 when he was looking for music to record for Chess Records, the Brewsteraires would have been a natural choice.
When they recorded for Sam Phillips in September 1951 the Brewsteraires comprised lead tenor Solomon Ouston, Nathaniel Peck, second tenor, Odell Rice, baritone, and Henry Reed, bass singer. Their ''Where Shall I Be When The First Trumpet Sounds'' was released on Chess but Phillips did not call them back for further sessions, possibly because the Chicago-based label found the group had limited appeal beyond the mid- South. The Brewsteraires were recorded on a dozen acetates by radio WDIA in the following year and they remained on Memphis radio for many years. Both B.B. King and Elvis Presley admitted to attending Brewster's church to listen to his singers. After Chess, the Brewsteraires only other commercial recording was a single made in Memphis in 1972 for Sariron Records shortly before the quartet broke up. (MH)
BRUCE, ED - Born as William Edwin Bruce on December 29, 1939 in Keiser, Arkansas, and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. Bruce is an American country music songwriter and singer. He is known for penning the 1975 song "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" . In 1957, at the age of 17, he went to see Jack Clement, a recording engineer for Sun Records. Bruce caught the attention of Sun owner Sam Phillips, for whom he wrote and recorded "Rock Boppin' Baby" (as "Edwin Bruce").
In 1962, he wrote "Save Your Kisses" for pop star Tommy Roe and in 1963 he reached number 109 on the Billboard "Bubbling Under" chart with his own recording of "See The Big Man Cry" (Wand 140). Charlie Louvin recorded "See the Big Man Cry" (Capitol 5369) in 1965; Louvin's version reached number 7 on the Billboard "Country Singles" chart.
In the early 1960s, Bruce recorded for RCA Records and some smaller labels like Wand/Scepter, singing rockabilly music, as well as more pop-oriented material such as "See The Big Man Cry''. However, he didn't achieve significant success as a vocalist during this period.
In 1966, he returned to RCA Records and recorded "Puzzles", "The Price I Pay To Stay" and "Lonesome Is Me". He still did not achieve great charting action. He made money doing voice-overs for television and radio commercials. He scored his first charted single with "Walker's Woods" in 1967, and also charted with his version of The Monkees' "Last Train To Clarksville." Both of these singles were minor hits.
In 1969, Bruce signed with Monument Records, where he continued to have minor successes with "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" and "Song For Jenny". Meanwhile, he continued to write songs like "The Man That Turned My Mama On'', which was a major hit for Tanya Tucker in 1974 and "Restless" for Crystal Gayle the same year. He signed with United Artists Records in 1973 and released several singles, but only one single in 1974 became a minor hit. He finally made the upper regions of the charts when he made the Top 20 on the country charts with his version of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" in 1976.
In 1978, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" was recorded by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It became a major hit, and put Bruce on an upward swing. Two more Top 40 hits followed for Bruce in 1976, and in 1977, he signed with Epic Records where he would score minor hits. In 1979, Tanya Tucker took Bruce's song "Texas (When I Die)" into the country Top 5.
In 1980, Bruce signed with MCA Records, where he would score his biggest successes. His early hits with MCA included "Diane", "The Last Cowboy Song", "When You Fall In Love (Everything's A Waltz)", "Evil Angel", and "Love's Found You And Me". His biggest hit, "You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had" went to number one on the country chart in 1982. This also was Bruce's first Top 10 as a singer after 15 years. He had other hit songs that made the Top 10 like "Ever, Never Lovin' You", "My First Taste of Texas", and "After All".
In 1984, he returned to RCA Records and scored a number 3 hit with "You Turn Me On Like A Radio" in 1985. His last Top 10 single was "Nights" in 1986 and his last Top 40 single (and last chart single to date) was "Quietly Crazy" in 1987.
During this time, Bruce began to act and do commercials. One of his biggest acting roles was as the second lead on the television revival of 1957's Maverick, called Bret Maverick. Starring James Garner as a legendary western gambler, the series ran on NBC-TV during the 1981-1982 season but was unexpectedly cancelled despite respectable ratings. Bruce played the irascibly surly town lawman who found himself reluctantly co-owning a saloon with Maverick, with whom he seemed to maintain a surreally adversarial relationship more or less throughout the entire season. Bruce also sang and wrote the theme song to the show, while Garner himself sang the same song over the end titles at the show's close, albeit while being relentlessly interrupted by network announcements about upcoming programming.
After the 1986 album entitled Night Things and a 1988 self-titled follow-up, Bruce made a conscious decision to cut back on his music to focus on his acting career, appearing in several made-for-TV films. He hosted two shows in the late 1980s, Truckin' USA and American Sports Calvacade Bruce has also appeared in several theatrical releases, including Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal. Bruce's son, Trey Bruce, is a songwriter and record producer.
Edwin Bruce was last seen in the 2009 Johnny Depp-Christian Bale movie ''Public Enemies'' and in 2010 Gwyneth Paltrow movie ''Country Strong''. His careworn baritone voice still sells whatever it's called upon to sell; most recently Tuborg Beer. A note on his website says, ''Ed and Judith recently sold their ranch and relocated to a log home with a wrap-around porch. There, on the back porch, overlooking a river and the mountain beyond, Ed loves to sit with friends and talk sports, horses and dogs, and he loves to talk about the change Jesus has made in his life''.
BURGESS, SONNY - When Sun's crop of rockabilly singers forsook the shaking music they unusually reverted back to their first love, country music. Sonny Burgess was the exception. His passion was rhythm and blues. He had a true rhythm and blues voice like a tenor sax in full cry. It was short on subtlety and delicate shadings - but a magnificent rock and roll instrument. Soon after he quit the music business, Burgess took a salesman's job in a store, and still talks with enthusiasm of an old black guy who used to bring in his guitar, and play loping Jimmy Reed riffs. Sonny would sit and jam with him. Perhaps a blues album is the great Sonny Burgess album that has yet to be made.
Born near Newport, Arkansas on May 28, 1931, Albert "Sonny" Burgess grew up on a farm, and developed his musical tastes listening to the Grand Old Opry and the Memphis country stations, taking in rhythm and blues from WLAC in Nashville and WDIA in Memphis along the way. Sonny did his hitch the Army, and returned to Newport with the thought of a career in baseball, or failing that, farming. He worked for a spell in a box factory, and slowly put together a semi-pro band that went under several names and through several incarnations, eventually calling themselves the Moonlighters. He was back working on the farm when, as he put it, "farming started interfering with my music". In an early version of the group, Sonny was the guitarist, Paul Whaley handled the vocals in a Hank Thompson style, Kern Kennedy played piano, Russ Smith was on drums, Johnny Ray Hubbard played bass, and Bob Armstrong handled the accordion.
After Whaley went back to California, Sonny Burgess took over the vocals, and Armstrong eventually quit. There was no shortage of venues because Newport in Jackson County permitted liquor to be sold but was surrounded by dry counties; hence a number of nightclubs out of proportion with Newport's population.
They played local nightspots like the Silver Moon, Bob King's and Mike's club. They often played at King's on Friday night; Saturday night belonged to Punky Coldwell, a saxophonist who led a racially mixed jazz dance band.
On December 19, 1955, Sonny Burgess and the Moonlighters played in Swifton, Arkansas, with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. After a few years at Sun Records, in 1959, Sonny Burgess joined in Conways Twitty's band, and Bobby Crafford took over the Pacers, his band at Sun. Burgess stayed with Twitty until the move to Oklahoma City, when Twitty decided to re-cast himself as a born again hillbilly. Sonny returned to Newport, Arkansas, took a day job for a while before resuming his career as a professional musician with the Kings IV (subsequently the Kings V). He played clubs in and around Newport, and on Sundays he and his group would drive to Memphis to check out the rhythm and blues bands at Sunbeam Mitchell's Paradise Club.
"There was us and maybe a table of college kids", remembered Sonny Burgess, "and the rest of the room would be blacks. Willie Mitchell, Bowlegs Miller and the musicians made us feel real welcome, but then toward the end the racial thing got real tense and we stopped going. We never saw rhythm and blues bands in the 1950s - and that was the only chance we got to see the real good rhythm and blues acts". It was not until 1970 that Sonny Burgess gave up music as his primary source of income.
The are a raft of reasons why Sonny Burgess never made it. Part of the problem may have been that he was never tempted to leave Newport. Nashville never crossed his mind; Memphis and Los Angeles did, but he stayed put with his 'little town baby'. Part of the problem may have been that he was too raw - his natural sound shaded too close to rhythm and blues. There was also a measure of sheer bad luck. If a disc jockey in a trend-setting market had picked up on one of his singles for Sun and spun it relentlessly, Sonny could have had a hit. As it was, he accepted the verdict of the marketplace with relatively good grace and became a salesman. Interviewed in 1971 he could see no place for himself in the then current music scene.
Sonny Burgess and The Pacers. From left: Kern Kennedy, Sonny Burgess, Russ Smith, Jack Nance, Joe Lewis, and Johnny Ray Hubbard. >
However, fifteen years later, Burgess became one of the founding members of the Sun Rhythm Section band with whom he has toured far and wide and enjoyed some lately come acclaim. The long hiatus from the business ensured that Sonny Burgess had not burned himself out. His music still sports the contagious quality that we find on his career.
Despite the fact that Sonny Burgess dislikes all but a few of his Sun recordings, it is upon them that his reputation rests. Sam Phillips' enthusiasm for him was well placed. Sonny did not owe an obvious stylistic debt to anyone and he captured the freewheeling spirit of early rock and roll. It is a truism (perhaps never truer): They simply do not make records like this any more.
In 1999, Sonny Burgess was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Europe. In 1998, the Smithsonian Institute made a video called ''Rockin' On The River'' that brought Burgess and the Legendary Pacers together again. In addition to Kennedy, the group now included Bobby Crafford, Jim Aldridge, Fred Douglas, J. C. Caughron, and Charles Watson II. They made two album-length recordings in the late 1990s, ''They Came From The South And Still Rockin And Rollin''. In 2002, they were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tennessee. In 2005, they performed at numerous events in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee and toured Europe.
Between performances, Sonny Burgess and his wife live in Newport, where he has spent most of his life. He currently hosts a radio show, We Wanna Boogie, for KASU in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Burgess was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro on May 7, 2011. He made an album with Dave Alvin of the Blasters in 1992 that featured an unrecorded Springsteen song. He's out there for the right reasons: he loves it. There's no escaping the fact that Sonny's entire career has been predicated by those few singles he made at Sun. His feelings about the label are understandably mixed. His original singles didn't sell, and Sun's licensees have issued material that he considers unworthy. It still comes down to just three or four singles. Forty years ago, they brought two pallid Englishmen to Newport, Arkansas, they still take Sonny Burgess wherever wants to go.
Charlie Burse of the Memphis Jug Band playing guitar, Memphis, Tennessee, 1962. >
- Blues singer born in Decatur, Morgan County, Alabama, on August 25, 1901. His
father was Robert Burse and his mother was Emma Hill, he was one of about 15 children. Charlie Burse
frequently played music as a child with his younger brother Robert on a banjo made from a tin can. In the
1920s, Burse worked outside music on a farm in the area. In 1928, he married his wife Birdie, and moved to
Burse and blues singer Will Shade (1898-1966), lived and performed in Memphis on
Beale Street during the 1950s. He also recorded as a duo with Will Shade for the Champion label in
Richmond, Indiana, recorded with the Memphis Jug Band for the Okeh label in Chicago,recorded with
Robert Burse, his brother, for Okeh label in Chicago into 1934.
Charlie Burse recorded with the Memphis Jug Band for the Victor label in Memphis. He frequently worked
outside music in Memphis into the 1930s. Burse recorded with his own Memphis Mudcats for the Vocalion
label in Memphis in 1939, and worked mostly outside music in Memphis from circa 1943 to 1960s. He often
teamed again with Will Shade to work on local office buildings for tips in Memphis through the 1950s.
Burse, nicknamed "The Ukulele Kid", moved his body a great deal while he sang and played the guitar on
such songs as "Everybody Got A Mojo" and "My Baby Got Another Man". Burse brought a more
mainstream blues combo with some vestigial jug-band qualities, the Memphis Mudcats, to the studio in
1939, and his pelvic gyrations in performances in Handy Park on Beale Street during the early 1950s are said
to have inspired the young Elvis Presley. In the early 1950s Robert Henry took Elvis Presley to the Gray
Mule Club on Beale Street to watch Burse perform. Henry claims that Elvis Presley "borrowed" some of
Burse's movements, saying, "He got that shaking, that wiggle, from Charlie Burse, Ukulele Ike (sic) we
In 1956, Charlie Burse recorded with his friend Will Shade for the Folkways label in Memphis, appeared
with Will Shade on a tribute to W.C. Handy for the local TV station in Memphis. Burse was mostly inactive
into the 1960s, he only recorded with Will Shade for his last recordings for Rounder Records in Memphis,
On December 20, 1965, Charlie Burse died at home of a heart disease at age 64 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Burse is buried at the Rose Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee. Charlie's musical brother Robert, aka
Dooley, who was born in Decatur on February 10, 1892 or 93, died in Memphis on December 16, 1974. (CE)
BUSH, EDDIE - Born circa 1937, died circa 1992. Eddie Bush was Carl Mann's guitarist. Few guitar players have a sound as instantly recognizable as Eddie's. Bush was a supremely gifted guitar player, who sadly had a permanent wanderlust. This made him into a hobo wandering around the United States, playing wherever he could for money to eat and a bed for the night.
Eddie was five years older than Carl Mann and before their first meeting in 1957, Bush had already been in the service in Hawaii and had played as a staff guitarist on the Louisiana Hayride.
Eddie Bush ^
Bush and Mann were brought together by Jimmy Martin, owner of the small Jaxon label in Jackson, Tennessee. Carl already had his own band, the Kool Kats, when he auditioned for Martin in early 1957, at the ripe old age of 14, Jimmie agreed to cut a single with Carl, but he decided that he wanted to use Eddie Bush, Junior vestal and himself as backing musicians instead of the Kool Kats, to achieve a more professional sound. The single, “Gonna Rock And Roll Tonight”/”Rockin'Love”was released in April 1957 on Jaxon 502. Carl paid all the session expenses himself and got 350 copies.
So the record never stood a chance. Eddie also cut his own (vocal) single for Jaxon, I’m Confused About You”/”Little Darlin'” (Jaxon 503), but like Carl's record, this one never got much further than the Jackson city limits. Both sides are pure country (nothing to write home about) and are available on the Stomper Time CD mentioned at the bottom of this piece.
It didn't take Carl Mann long to realize that he was heading nowhere on Jaxon. Carl formed a new combo with himself on vocals and piano, Eddie on guitar, Robert Oatsvall on bass and Tony Moore on drums. The next step for Carl and his new band was to approach Sun Records. Eddie and Carl kept going to the Sun studio with their demo tapes, but they never got anywhere until they hooked up with W.S. Holland, who would become the drummer in Carl's band. It was Cecil Scaife, Sun's promotion manager, who took the initiative to sign Mann. Though “Mona Lisa”was recorded in October 1958, it was not released until six months later, after it become clear to Sam Phillips that MGM was going to put out a version by Conway Twitty (which used the same arrangement). Carl's version reached at number 25 on the Billboard charts. The follow-up, recorded in August 1959, was another revival of a Nat King Cole hit, “Pretend”, which went to number 57. Both these hits bear the stamp of Eddie Bush's unusual guitar style. Many Sun sessions would follow, always with Eddie on guitar, but at the age of 17, Carl's career already began its downward slide. Unable to handle the rigours of heavy touring, he soon become an alcoholic. Unfortunately, the same fate befell Eddie Bush.
But in 1960, Carl Mann continued to sell records in respectable quantities and in that year he even had an LP released “Like Mann”, Phillips International PLP 60. Four of the twelve tracks on that excellent album were written by Eddie Bush, “Baby, I Don't care”(which Eddie also recorded himself later that year, Phillips International 3558, I'm Bluer Than Anyone Else Could Be”, Island Of Love”and “Walkin'And Thinkin'” (also recorded by Eddie, but shelved until the appearance of Carl's Bear Family box-set in 1993. Bush shows himself to be a pretty good songwriter with these songs. With Carl, he also wrote, “Crazy Fool”, “Ain't You Got No Lovin' For Me”, It Really Doesn't Matter Now”and “If I Could Change” (in this last case, Eddie sold his share to guitarist Kelso Herston).
At some point there was a conflict between Eddie Bush and Sam Phillips, of which the details are fuzzy. Eddie appears to have gone back to the Louisiana Hayride for a while to play with Carl Belew, but in the end he did return to Sun Records. As a singer, his vocal style was strongly influenced by Carl Mann's. Eddie also left a fairly large legacy on instrumentals at Sun, but his work is in support of Carl Mann.
After Carl Mann left Sun Records in 1962, Eddie Bush started drifting. The pair was reunited after Carl's return to civilian life after a spell in the US Army. Mann was signed by Monument Records in 1966. Eddie plays guitar on the A-side of Carl's sole Monument single, “Serenade Of The Bells” (Monument 974) and wrote the B-side, “Down To My Last I Forgive You”. Every few years, Eddie would appear for a short while back in Jackson, but despite Carl's best efforts, he could not persuade Bush to settle back in the area and, short after, Bush would leave again.
After a very long period of time, during Which Eddie did not return to Jackson, Carl finally found out that Eddie had died on the pavement of a small Texas town in the early 1990s. According to Klaus Kettner of Hydra Records, he did not die in Texas, but in Arizona. He will be remembered as one of the most original guitar players of the rock and roll era.
CANNON, ACE – Was a fixture on the Memphis music scene for many years before he finally
struck paydirt with ''Tuff'' at the tail end of 1961. While New York and other major centres seemed to have a
virtually inexhaustible supply of top flight saxophonists, it seems in retrospect as though Memphis didn't
have more than a handful of good white sax players who could work in pop or western swing based music.
Ace Cannon and Martin Willis seem to head that list.
Cannon was born on May 5, 1934, in Grenada, Mississippi, John Henry Cannon, Jr. preferred his nickname
Gaining a love for music from his father, who was a professional hillbilly country guitar player, Ace
took up the saxophone in fifth grade. After dropping out of college, he began playing nightclubs. According
to Johnny Bernero, Cannon joined Johnny Bernero and the Atomics in 1958.
When the Johnny Bernero band split, Johnny "Ace" Cannon concentrated on session work at Sun. He
recorded a session in his own right that included a track entitled "Tuff" written by Johnny Bernero. Bernero
went on the payroll at Hi Records in Memphis. By this stage Ace Cannon was signed to Fernwood in
Memphis, but was making little or no progress. Cannon also played with The Bill Black Combo, as well as
managing the group, and it was he who signed Gene Simmons to front the band vocally on dates.
Bernero talked Joe Cuoghi into taking Cannon on at Hi Records, and they recorded "Tuff", agreeing to split
everything 50-50. The first royalty cheque that came in was made out for $20,000! Overwhelmed by a vision
of unsurpassed riches, Cannon informed Bernero that he was not going to honour their 50-50 agreement, and
also appropriated the writer credits on the flipside, "Sittin' Tight", a tune that Bernero had written.
"Tuff" hit number 17 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1962, and the follow-up single "Blues (Stay Away
from Me)" hit number 36 that same year. In April 1965, he released Ace Cannon Live (HL 12025); according
to the liner notes by Nick Pesce the album was recorded in front of a live audience inside Hi's recording
studio, and Pesce claims this was the first time such an album had ever been recorded (as opposed to
previous live albums recorded in concert venues).
Johnny Ace Cannon was inducted into both the Rock And Soul Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of
Fame in 2000. In May 2007, his hometown hosted its first annual Ace Cannon Festival, and on December 9,
2008, he was honored with induction into the Mississippi Musicians' Hall Of Fame.
After years of travelling and entertaining fans the world over, he moved back to Calhoun City in the late
1980s and resides there today. He still plays numerous dates each year, and can be found most days working
on his golf game at his home course.
CARROLL, JOHNNY – Born John Lewis Carrell on October 23, 1937 in Cleburne, Texas. Johnny Carroll grew up in Godley, Texas, a very small town, some 400 people, near Cleburne. As a youngster he listened to country music on the radio and got himself a guitar to practice on. When he was 10 years old his mother had taught him enough for him to appear over Cleburne's KCLA on Saturday mornings. He was later introduced to rhythm and blues by a cousin who was co-owner of a jukebox company and handed down 78's of Joe Turner and others.
During his school days he and his school fellows were very much into coloured music and groups such as the Clovers and the Charms (of "Heart Of Stone" fame).
At 15, Johnny organized his first band, the Texas Moonlighters; they had their own show on Cleburne's KCLA radio. In 1955, the band won first prize in a talent contest, and enrolled second prize winner guitarist Jay Salem in the band along the way. They opened for Ferlin Husky and were spotted by Jack "Tiger" Goldman, owner of the Top Ten Recording Studio in Dallas. The band cut several demos there, among them "Why Cry", "You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often" and "Crazy Crazy Lovin". A deal was arranged with Decca's Nashville division on the strength of the latter, and a two-day session was organized there on April 25 and 26, 1956 for Johnny, without his band. The backing group was composed of well-known session men, with Grady Martin on lead guitar. They cut the fantastic "Crazy Crazy Lovin", "Trying To Get To You", "Rock And Roll Ruby", "Hot Rock", "Corrine, Corrina", and "Wild Wild Women" that make up the three magical Johnny Carroll Decca 45s. Two of these were also released in the UK, on Brunswick, but there were few sales on either side of the Atlantic.
Publicity shot for the rock and roll 1957 movie ''Rock Baby, Rock It''. >
Nevertheless, this is rockabilly at its most intense, and these six sides alone assure Carroll's place in musical history. To promote Johnny, Tiger persuaded Sonny Friedman to shoot a quickie rock 'n' roll movie, "Rock Baby Rock It", featuring 4 songs by Johnny Carroll and appearances by Rosco Gordon and others. Johnny was subsequently dropped from the Decca roster and in 1957 found himself accompanied by no less than Elvis' musicians, Scotty Moore and Bill Black (who had left Elvis following a dispute over salary).
It was Bill who introduced
Johnny to Sam Phillips who bought a couple of demos Johnny had recorded in Forth Worth, Texas on June 23, 1957. Sam issued "That's The Way I Love" b/w "I'll Wait" as one of the five first (simultaneous) releases on Phillips International, leaving "Rock Baby Rock It" and "You Made Me Love You" unreleased. Of these five records, "Raunchy" by Bill Justis turned out to be the hit and Phillips concentrated all his promotion on that disc, leaving Johnny's record out in the cold. His career at Sun was over before it had even begun.
In 1958, Johnny got himself a new manager, Ed E. McLemore, who ran an agency in Dallas that booked Gene Vincent, Jimmy Bowen, Buddy Knox and Sonny James. Johnny finally met Gene Vincent and they went on to become very close friends. Johnny wrote "Maybe", recorded by Gene in the autumn of 1958 for his "Sounds Like" LP. They both used more or less the same band at the time, and it is not surprising that the sides recorded by Johnny bore a strong resemblance to Gene Vincent's sound. The demos were sent to Warner Bros in New York who released "Bandstand Doll" b/w "The Swing" which sold quite well and became Johnny's biggest seller. Sadly, the second single "Sugar" b/w "Lost Without You" didn't follow the same path and sank without a trace. The third WB single, "Rag Mop"/ "Little Otis", produced by Grady Martin, contained two instrumentals (with a few vocal interjections), by Johnny's group, The Spinners. When this didn't sell either, Warner dropped Carroll and his band. The hard life on the road paid its dues and Johnny quit touring in 1959, though he had two more singles released in 1960 and 1962, two different versions of "Run Come See" for two small labels.
During the 1960s, Carroll's recording career lay dormant. Johnny worked as a booker and fixer at a Fort Worth nightclub owned by Bill Sellers, until good old Ronny Weiser persuaded him to cut a Gene Vincent tribute, "Black Leather Rebel"/"Be Bop A Lula" for his Rollin' Rock label in 1974. "Black Leather Rebel" is also known under the title "Gene Vincent Rock". A Rollin' Rock LP, "Texabilly" was recorded in 1977 and released in 1978. Johnny then teamed up with model and singer Judy Lindsey and went back to making music full-time. They played the night clubs in Texas and have been appearing regularly in Europe in the 1980s. They recorded for the Gipsy label, issuing numerous singles and an LP.
Johnny has always been a great and appreciated performer until his untimely death (of liver
failure) on February 18, 1995 in Dallas, Texas.
- If nothing else, Willie Carrr demonstrates the capriciousness of the music business. On the
evidence of just one song, ''Outside Friend'', he was as good as many of the artists on Union Avenue who
sustained careers in music. Instead, this is the only known recording. Researcher Bob Eagle asked around
about Carr, finding out that he was in Greenville, Mississippi with Willie Love around 1950, and probably
recorded ''Outside Friend'' for Sam Phillips in 1953 or 1953 at 706 Union. When Eagle asked Walter Horton
about Carr, Horton replied that he'd seen him playing guitar around Grenada, Mississippi. That was in the
early 1970s. Was it the same guy? From this distance, it's impossible to say. (CE)
CARTER, BIG LUCKY - Appreciated for his guitar playing, singing and his songwriting, Levester ''Big Lucky'' Carter, whose scant recording history includes music on both the Sun Records and Hi Records labels, was a celebrated figure overseas for his blues authenticity.
Born as Levester Carter on
February 10, 1920 in Weir, Choctaw County, Mississippi, Carter made his way to Memphis after serving in the Army during World War II. He earned his "Big Lucky" sobriquet during that time for his gambling skills.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Levester Carter performed behind his cousin, Ed 'Prince Gabe' Kirby, as a member of the Rhythmaires and Millionaires, a group that recorded a handful of songs for Sun Records , Savoy and other labels.
Carter was hired even though he had never played in a band before, according to pianist member Lindbergh Nelson. "He was a little shy about playing, but he finally gained confidence and he got better and better," says Nelson, who ended up playing with Carter for nearly 50 years. Levester Carter made six sides for Willie Mitchell's Hi Records label in 1969 including two singles for label subsidiary M.O.C. Those recordings and some others by Amos Patton and Donald Hines were packaged on a 1971 LP, ''River Town Blues''. In 1994, David Evans produced Carter unplugged for the CD ''The Spirit Lives On'' for Hot Fox Records.
It wasn't until 1998, however, that Carter, then in his late 1970s, made his first album, "Lucky 13'', which won a year-end readers poll for best blues CD in the French magazine Soul Bag and was honored with the prestigious Big Bill Broonzy prize for best blues CD from the French Academy of Jazz. Released on the British label Blueside, that album bolstered Carter's reputation in Europe. Even though "Lucky 13" was never released in America, it received accolades here, including a critics' choice award in Living Blues magazine for Artist Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. University of Memphis professor and blues scholar David Evans, who co-produced the album, says it was a special record for many reasons including the point of view that Levester Carter brought. "He wrote from the perspective of a senior citizen, somebody who had seen a lot, been through a lot and had good advice, good wisdom'', says Evans. "He was not an old person trying to still be a young dude, as a lot of blues artists do. Lucky's songs were always reflective, and that was a very attractive quality about him''.
A few years ago, French filmmaker Marc Oriol made a documentary, Big Lucky Carter, which won the Music Film Special Prize award at the 2001 Mediawave Festival in Hungary, an event that also bestowed a "Parallel Culture" Lifetime Achievement Award on him. The bluesman toured Hungary twice as a result. Locally, Levester Carter could be found playing at Wild Bill's, and he was a mainstay at the Center for Southern Folklore and its Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. In 1999, Carter commented in The Commercial Appeal on making his first album so late in life by reciting a self-penned poem: "There may be sometime you'll look for me and I'll be gone/I'll be down at the river with my guitar somewhere singing a song/Maybe I won't get a note on Beale Street/Nor my name in the Hall of Fame/But you can tell from my European record/I was in the game''.
On Tuesday, December 24, 2002, Memphis blues veteran, Levester ''Big Lucky'' Carter died of unknown causes at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 82. (CE)
CASH, EDDIE - Edward Allen Cash was born on February 28, 1941, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was the only child to Virginia and James Cash (no relation to Johnny). His father worked at Firestone Tire & Rubber and was a foreman in the machine shop, he was also a machinist and a tool and tire man. Eddie's mother was a house wife and he commented, ''My mom had a fulltime job raising an idiot like me''. In school Eddie's biggest interest was history. He didn't caught a really interest for music until the cool cat music came along. He thought that there would be a place for him also.
Asked him what his main music influences had been before Elvis entered the scene and
after, Eddie says: ''Well, to be quite honest with you I was very much affected by as far as my heart concerns with blues''.
''I've always been a great fan of blues. I got into rockabilly or rock and roll as you now call it at a very early age. I began in the business in 1956 and this is my 40th year. My biggest rockabilly influence was probably Carl Perkins. I think the first song I ever sang first at a contest which I entered at the Casino at the Fairground which here in Memphis and incidentally won was a song called "Matchbox". I'm a big B.B. King fan, I love blues very much. I like all styles of music as far as answer your question. I grew up in a neighbourhood full of kids that wanted to be in the entertainment business. I don't know why but for some strange reason, when I was a kid growing up in Memphis we had a neighbourhood full of kids like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Isac Hayes, Al Green, The Staple Singers, Kay Starr, The Blackwood Brothers Quartet, Booker T & The MGs, The Willie Mitchell Band, Sam The Sham & The Pharroas, goodness me head goes blank.. Carl Perkins of course came down from Jackson and that's just 40-50 miles from Memphis. We had a neighbourhood full of these kids who just wanted to pick and sing and be like these big
Eddie put his first band together in 1956 which was called "The Mad Caps". But, first of all Eddie wanted to be a drummer, but fait wanted different, Eddie recall, ''I was about fourteen. I began in the business wanting to be a drummer. I'm a frustrated drummer, I don't play very well, and I haven't played for a long time, but I love to play drums very much. In the first band I organized I was the drummer. The kid that was gonna sing was Virgil Henry, and Virgil got arrested for stealing hub caps and they told me I had to sing. The reason being that they had another drummer but they did not have another singer. So I had to sing and give up my drums or get out of the band, so I threw my drums away and began to sing and I've been singing for four decades now''.
Eddie managed to get bookings through Bob Neal without having a record released. He also got his first manager in Gary Peters, who was soon replaced by Bill Harris, Bill had played the bass for Harold Jenkins but when Harold left Memphis Bill quit his job, Eddie recall, ''Bob Neal was a dear friend and Bob booked some dates for me, but he was not my agent or manager. My first manager was a man who worked for Quickeroots Company and he was a bass player and manager for the original Conway Twitty band. When he left Conway he came with me and was my manager and as a matter if fact he was influential in getting me my first record contract with the American Recording and the Lansky Brothers at Peak. Bill was also instrumental in having me do my recordings with Fernwood and Scotty Moore''.
When Elvis Presley, in September 1956, travelled to Los Angeles to make his first movie "Love Me tender", Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana was left behind in Memphis, they needed job to pay their bills, say Eddie. ''Scotty Moore and Bill Black was pretty much in the same bag as far as my interest was concern because we all worked together. My first professional job was singing with the original Presley band, this what happened; Clearpool was an old place located out on the highway. Presley had gone to do his first motion picture. Colonel Parker asked Bill Harris and my other friend, a radio announcer that acted as a part time manager, Ray Brown was his name. They wanted me to sing with the Presley band because they knew I knew all the Presley songs and all of his keys and tempos and they would not have to rehearse anybody. It was kinda sneaky but quite an experience. My band members were tickled to death that I were able to go on stage with some of the greatest musician around and they did not mind''.
Eddie struck a long relationship with Scotty and Bill and Bill even played bass with Eddie before he founded the Bill Black Combo, more about that later. On April 12 1957 did Eddie and his band participate in a talent contest called "The Mid-South Youth Talent Contest" at the Memphis Fairground which he won by performing "Matchbox". A few days before the contest Eddie had picked up his brand new red coat with the initials "EC" and a pair of pin striped pants. On the same day as the contest he received a good luck telegram from the Lansky Brothers Mens Shop. Eddie recall, ''I entered the contest because I had been watching a lot of them playing around Memphis and I thought I could do better than them, it was that simple''.
The Mad Caps only lasted a short time until he formed a new band called "Eddie Cash and Company" and after a while a third band came with "Eddie Cash and The Cashiers". Among the musicians around this time were Jackie Hartwell (guitar), Tommy Bennett (piano), Dennis Smith (drums) and Prentill McPhail (electric bass).
In 1989 in England Charly Records had two previously unreleased tracks by Eddie in their box "The Rocking Years". These were credited to Roland Janes and held on February 11, 1959. The two tracks released were "Hey Good Looking" and "Little Bitty Pretty Girl". Musicians were Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley (guitar), Pat O'Neill (upright bass), Martin Willis (tenor saxophone) and Billy Weir or Jimmy Van Eaton (drums). Eddie may well have the time wrong as he's sure he did the Sun session before the Peak recordings.
The Sun session and the peak session seem to be very close, talking about this 40 years, later Eddie might very well be mistaken. Eddie say, ''The first recording session I ever did was at the Sun Recording Studio. I still have fond memories of that. It was a terrible thing, they were really bad. We used all the Sun musicians, everybody that cut with Jerry Lee and all those guys, Bill Riley but it was terrible. My dad was a camera and recording nut and thanks to him I have a copy of every session I ever did. At about the same time I also did recordings for a television show at WHBQ. They had a disc jockey by the name of Dewey Phillips who they used to call "Daddy-O-Dewey", he first broke Elvis'' Eddie recalled.
Like all the other musicians in Memphis Eddie bought his stage suits at Lanskys and struck a friendship with them. A friendship that would lead to a recording contract. ''To be quite honest with you I knew the Lansky Brothers very well as I bought all my cloths there because Elvis did and so did everybody else that I grew up with. The Lanskys were pretty much the people who did all the clothing things around because they had black cloths on Beale Street, which is a black street in a black neighbourhood full of black people and the black influence and black music and the Lansky Brothers were selling loud cloths and that was very much the thing for a young teenagers in 1956 who wanted to be cool and nosy. The Lansky Brothers very much had the market and all of us went there. The Lanskys owned Peak and the American Recording which was a small studio they had build in the back of their warehouse where they kept all their cloths. Bill Harris knew about this and when he came along and asked if they wanted to record me they said yes. So they got together and I was probably one of the first artists ever signed to Peak and I would have a hit record with "Doin' All Right". It did hit in several markets and did very well. However Lansky Brothers fell on their knees because they didn't have too many distribution contacts. When people in the east, like in New York or New Jersey or up in Chicago began to want the record, 'cause I was pushing it hard, they couldn't follow up so the record died and fell of the charts. I'll never forget them for that, I think that was very bad''
The signing of the contract and the actual recording session happened with a seven-day period. Asking him if there were other unreleased songs and how many takes they used before it came out satisfactory, Eddie continues, ''Oh, my goodness, how many takes? To be quite honest I don't know, but it was a song that we got from Harold a little earlier and we reharsed it for maybe a couple of hours, I guess. We got it down pretty good and I did all of the arranging. I arranged pretty much everything until we got with Scotty Moore at Fernwood, and then he helped us a lot. But I did most of the Peak stuff because it was my band that played the music, they were not session musicians, they were my personal musicians and they played only with me. The arrangement was pretty much done before we even got into the studio and it went on real quick, probably not more than one or two takes. I wrote "Land Of Promises" myself along with my guitar player Gerald Hunsucker. I did all the producing and the Lansky Brothers were executive producers. They put the money in the bank and behind it. We did approach them, Bill and I went down and brought the band. They had heard me but not the band, so one day we got them into the little studio and played a few tunes and they were quite impressed and basically I had a contract the same day. Most everything I did went very very quick. I never had any problem standing around and waiting for anything to happen. All the people I grew up with in Memphis were in the business. I used to hang around the Sun Studio for probably a year just looking and watching everybody else making big records. So I knew how to act when it was my time'', recalled Eddie.
Eddie's first record "Doing All Right" b/w "Land Of Promises" was released in November 1958. The Memphis disc jockey George Klein had it as his "Pick Of The Week" on November 21 together with Johnny Cash' "It's Just About Time". Elvis held the number one spot with "One Night", Kimball Coburn , another Memphis singer, was on position eleven with "Please, Please" on Hi Records. On January 16 it was number eight on radio WTUP chart, and in February we could read in the Memphis Press-Scimitar where Robert Johnson wrote:
''When WLEE-Richmond presented its chart for September 21, 1959 they had Eddie on spot thirteen. Rod Bernard held the second position with "This Should Go On Forever", Tommy Dee had "Three Stars" at number 14 and Neil Sedaka was at number 15 with "I Got Ape". The month he appeared in the Stardom Magazine''.
In 1959 Eddie entered another talent contest sponsored by the daily newspaper "Memphis Press-Scimitar" and WREC-TV. This appearance opened more doors and Eddie appears several times on Wink Martindales TV-show "Talent Party" over WHBQ-TV. By this time Harold Jenkins had turned Conway Twitty and was a big star and had gone off to Hollywood to make a movie. His musicians was left behind and he was again asked to step in for the star and did several shows with them during the shooting of Twitty's first movie.
By this time Peak Records had released quite a few recordings and this article appeared some time during 1959.
During this time Eddie Cash hand Bill Black on bass and they appeared during weekends on local clubs and in the nearby states of Arkansas and Mississippi. Most of them time they had advanced booking on the same route during Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The following story it quite remarkable. ''I put a band together, Bill Black and Scotty Moore had just left Presley and were looking for jobs. Both Scotty and Bill worked with me several times on jobs and I had done some jobs with them so we knew each other and we worked together. Everybody in Memphis worked together at that time. All the Sun and Hi studio musicians and all those people at Stax. Everybody know everybody from bass player Duck Dunn and all the way down to Jimmy van Eaton. I was the youngest and the most inmature and probably the worst in town, but I was working and some of them not, Anyhow, I called up Bill and we put a little band together, he had a drummer called Jerry Arnold, who was to be the original drummer in the Bill Black Combo, they used to call him Satch. Satch Arnold and I had a saxophone player by the name of Martin Willis who was one of the finest musicians in town. He did a lot of stuff for Sun Records and was also with Conway for a time. The greatest guitar player I ever run across in my life is Reggie Young. Anyhow, we were working this "C&R Club" in Truman, Arkansas and another toilet called "The Silver Moon" in Newport, Arkansas. Those were jobs that we would work after school on Fridays and Saturdays.
''On this occasion I called Bill and said, ''Bill, get ready to go to the thing and I'll pick you up, and he said, 'We're not going. So what do you mean, you're not going? This is Wednesday we're opening at the Silver Moon Night Club in Newport, Arkansas and Friday we're making $15 dollars a piece and you ain't going.
Bill said, 'No, Joe Cuoghi from Hi Records called and he's gonna give us a recording session. I said, 'Well, you go ahead and do your recording session and I'll organize another band and I'm going my way. He said, 'Ok. So Bill went on and recorded "Smokie Part 1 & 2" and made his first million seller and I got $15 and went on singing at the Silver Moon Night Club in Newport, Arkansas. But that's a true Bill Black Story. It's a shame too that Bill's gone. He was a fine man a lot of fun and I miss Bill Black, he was a good friend.''.
In late 1959 or early 1960 Peak released his follow up single "Come On Home" b/w "Day After Day", which ad been recorded in 1959. Unfortunately this record died on the day of its release and Eddie Cash was very disappointed at the Lanskys for not pushing his records and he recorded a session at Fernwood Studio in Memphis.
''We recorded at the Fernwood Studio, downtown on the Main Street. Scotty gave me the story that Elvis was sorry to see them leave and bought Bill Black a house and Fernwood Records for Scotty. Bill Harris wrote one side called "Thinkin' Man" and he got the idea from a Marlboro slogan. Then I wrote the other side "Livin' Lovin' Temptation". On the session we used Jackie Hartwell (guitar), Gerald Hunsucker (rhythm guitar), Prentiss McPhail (electric bass), Tommy Bennett (piano), Dennis Smith (drums) and Martin Willis(tenor sax). We had female vocal group The DeLons, which also appeared on Thomas Wayne's recording of "Tragedy". But it got to the attention of Randy Wood through a friend of mine at radio WMPS here in Memphis, I think it was Ray Brown or it might have been Scotty Moore, I can't recall. Anyhow, they got to Randy and told him to sign me up. Randy heard the record but didn't want it on Dot so he placed it on Dot's subsidiary label called Todd and it did absolutely nothing'' recalled Eddie.
The record was released in March 1960 and Todd spent money on advertisement in Cashbox and it was also reviewed. There are also two different label designs, my copy is pressed in Los Angeles by Monarch. Eddie's next stop was Roulette Records, which came by coincidence where one single was released. ''How I got my Roulette contract was a sick thing. I had graduated from High School in 1959 and left Memphis. I left Bill Harris and everything behind me because my records didn't do what they were supposed to do. I wanted to go on the road as the record at this time made some noise in Chicago I went there to work. The record plays on the radio, people know your name and get jobs, it's that simple. In Chicago I organized another band as the musicians from Memphis wouldn't leave town. When I got to Chicago I got a trio together and we played all over the city. We had a couple of tunes that we were just playing and we went over to some guy's and for forty or fifty dollars we cut a two demos. It was a demo, a junkie demo, really a bad cheap demo in a garage with seven microphones. I had at the time signed a contract to work with Orchestras Incorporated at 332 South Michigan in the McCormick building. They saw me on the Jim Lounsbury Show, which was the Chicago version of American Bandstand, at the ABC Building right across from the Chicago Theatre. They asked me to do several TV spots here because "Doing All Right" was pretty big in that area. It got to the top ten in no time. While I was there and organizing the band and doing all these things I did this little Mickey Mouse thing. I sent the demo to my new agent Herb Grownauer, and asked him what do you think about this and Herbie knew somebody at Roulette and send it to them to see what they thought. Next thing I know Herbie says that we gotta sign a contract real quick, they are gonna release the thing. I said, 'Release what? and he said, 'Your demo. I said, 'Oh no, it's terrible. He said, 'No, they love it. So I signed a contract, they released it and it bell right on its butt'', Eddie said.
Eddie Cash (squat) with The Blue Jays in Chicago, 1960. >
Eddie continued to make demos when opportunity occurred, when in Chicago he did recordings in a studio owned by RCA Victor. ''In the early 1960s I did a lot of sessions. We did one at RCA Studios in Chicago, I hired the studio and took my musicians in there and paid them for the session. I borrowed the money from my mother-in-law. I have never forgiven myself for not doing anything with them. They were done with my trio and a band called The Warner Brothers, not the Warner Brothers Record Company, it was an act that I worked with in Chicago.
They were about five musicians so we put the two bands together and I did all the arrangements and the stuff myself''. ''I was with The Warner Brothers Band and worked with them at The Baritz with the Bucus Brothers at the Erwin Park and Sherdon Road in Chicago. These recordings are not be be confused with the one's I did in Nashville. But if you're into Nashville I got some recordings that I did with Fred Carter that has not been release''.
''I also did some great recordings in Nashville for a very dear friend of mine, Fred Carter, he's a guitar player and has his own studio before Uncle Sam closed him down. They closed him down and guttered him about three times. Fred knew me from Conway Twitty's band where I had played. He knew that I was capable of doing different styles of music and asked me to come to Nashville at three different times and do some dub work for him which I did and I still have those recordings from the early 1960s with all the Nashville musicians. I remember Floyd Cramer, Hank Garland and Bob Moore. They are gorgeous and that's probably the finest quality things I have recorded at the same time. Most of my recordings happened 1958-1964, right through that era, before I went to Vegas'', recalled Eddie.
When things had cooled down in Chicago Eddie was already working on a totally different thing. He was by this time tired of people who asked if he was Johnny Cash's brother. He had since 1960 spent six years on the road playing constantly on the east coast, the mid-west, Canada and Greenland. He had appeared together with, and played with the cream of the crop from the golden fifties. None of his recordings had been national hits at the very best they were local hits and he began to look for other things to put into his stage act. He began to do imitations. When in Los Angeles in 1966 he became friendly with an agent from Studio City who liked Eddie's show and offered him a 10 days at a hotel in Las Vegas. He was very uncertain about this, he had shows lined up and they had to be cancelled, the musicians he used would have to be left with full pay to be sure to have after the Vegas show. But the possibility was that he could be a hit.
Eddie says, ''In about 1966 when I got to Vegas I noticed there's a couple of things going on that I wasn't aware of. When I got to Las Vegas the place had about fifty-eight major lounges and fifty-nine major casinos downtown and on the strip in each one of these. I guess you can call them cabaret or showbar and each of them had an eighteen hour shift with four or sometimes five different acts working back-to-back. We were doing three or four shows a piece with an hour in between so the other guys can do it and that went on seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for almost eighteen or nineteen years. If you didn't think of something unique or something good the other acts would get your people and you'd be fired if you didn't draw people. I'm proud to say that when I went to Vegas I had a ten day contract with the Mint Hotel in downtown Las Vegas with Del Webb, that 10 days contract turned into some eighteen years. So what I have written in the stories I done on the stage and this is exactly what you people would enjoy listening to. All this stuff that I'm telling you now I do on my show on the stage and sing the music at the same time. I do not understand why somebody would not be interested in sitting down and listen to this put to music. Your letter proves that I am right and this is my act today singing those songs of all those people that I have worked with and telling those stories. I don't believe that somebody is interested is seeing some idiot at 55 years old sit on the stage and sing "Doing All Right" that is absolutely stupid. What do you think of that? I'm getting strong I guess, pardon, my ages are beginning to show or is it years of frustration''.
Before Eddie Cash went to Las Vegas in 1966 he did a show in Memphis at the end of July at Little Abner's Rebel Room. The show was reviewed by Bill E. Burk for the Memphis Press- Scimitar on July 28, 1966 .
Eddie did his last Vegas show in 1984 and returned to Memphis. He had been acquainted with Siegfried & Roy who had all their music programmed on a computer and did not need a forty-piece orchestra, they just pushed a button. This was something Eddie knew was coming and he came home to began working on this. But most of all his parents were ill and in bad shape and Eddie felt he needed to be home and take care of them. In Memphis he also opened a dinner theatre and worked there for five years.
''We didn't start the computer thing until 1990. We moved to Cicero, Missouri, just a few miles down the road from Branson, Missouri in the 1992. We've been here at The Olympic Theatre on 6134 Cermak Road for three years and are still doing fine. We're doing five shows a week and we'll stay here a few more years until we move on'', says Eddie.
By the end of the nineties Eddie was back in Memphis. When doing these interviews and the talks we had over several phone calls over the duck pond I found him a to be a very nice man. But, also very bitter and suspicious over that he was not gonna get paid properly. He wanted to come to Europe, but at the same time afraid he's not gonna be paid. He told me that, ''I have done tons of recordings, I have boxes and boxes and boxes of Eddie Cash singing stuff that nobody wanted to buy and that makes me bitter 'cause some of it was in fact very good''.
Luther Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Marshall Grant backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, 1956. >
CASH, JOHNNY - Country singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born in the remote rural settlement of Kingsland, Arkansas, on February 26, 1932. His birthplace was almost directly across the Mississippi from Lake County, Tennessee, where Carl Perkins was born six weeks later. Cash is the father of singer Rosanne Cash (1955), as well as the father-in-law of singer Rodney Crowell. Cash was born John Ray Cash, and it was only when he joined the U.S. Air Force that he was given the name Johnny.
In the mid-1940s Cash started work in the fields, habitually listening to Smilin' Eddie Hill on WMPS, Memphis, during the midday break. Hill's "High Noon Roundup" show featured the cream of the local hillbilly talent. Unlike almost all of his later Sun colleagues, Johnny Cash grew up without the influence of black music: his parents had settled on a government colony in Dyess when he was three years old, from which blacks were specifically excluded. His parents kept the radio tuned to the hillbilly stations, and when Cash went into Dyess with a few nickels to put in the jukebox, it was Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb that he wanted to hear.
When Cash's voice broke, he realized that he owned something that might get him out of Dyess. He practised at every opportunity, singing in school and at home. Yet when he left tow, it was not to become a hillbilly singer but to work in the auto plants in Pontiac, Michigan. Like many others who took that route, Cash returned home, although he made his return somewhat sooner than most - after three weeks. Still determined to get out of Dyess, he joined the Air Force on July 7, 1950.
By his own account, Cash's 'four long, miserable years' in the Air Force were relieved only by playing music with fellow southerners. While stationed in Germany, they formed a group called the Landsberg Barbarians, and Johnny Cash started writing material for them - including the quintessential lament of the homesick southerner, "Hey! Porter", which was published as a poem in the servicemen's magazine Stars & Stripes.
Before leaving for overseas duty, Johnny Cash had gone roller-skating in San Antonio, Texas. On the rink, he crashed into Vivian Liberto, then seventeen years old and in her last year of high school. They dated during his last weeks in the States and wrote to each other constantly while he was overseas. John and Vivian decided to get married after he returned. Cash probably harboured the dream of being able to make money playing music, but up to that point his largest audience had been a gathering of a few dozen Italians who had listened to the Landsberg Barbarians on a drunken furlough in Venice.
Vivian Dorraine Liberto and Johnny Cash. >
On July 3, 1954, Johnny Cash left the U.S. Air Force. On August 7 he married Vivian Dorraine Liberto, and they set up home on Tutwiler Avenue in Memphis. Cash's older brother Roy had found him a job selling appliances for the Home Equipment Company, but Cash was, by his own admission. Cash's trips into the black neighborhoods of Memphis gave him his first exposure to black music. Trying to break into music any way he could, Cash auditioned for a job as a radio announcer at a station in Corinth, Mississippi, but was turned down because of lack of experience.
Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, Cash enroled at the Keegan School of Broadcast in Memphis. Attending on a part-time basis, he had completed half of the course by the time his first Sun record was released in 1954 with the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant).
A few days after getting out of the service, Johnny Cash visited his brother in Memphis. Roy Cash had forsaken a musical career and was working at the Hoehn Chevrolet dealership on Union Avenue. He introduced his younger brother to three mechanics who played together at home, at small benefit concerts, and on Sunday morning radio. Marshall Grant was twenty-six years old, sang tenor, and played guitar. Luther Monroe Perkins, also twenty-six, played guitar as well. A.W. "Red" Kernodle, ten years older than Perkins and Grant, played steel guitar.
Johnny Cash with his brother Roy Cash backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, 1956. >
For all his musical shortcomings, it was Luther Perkins who developed the guitar sound that complemented Cash's stark baritone. Perkins was born in Memphis on January 8, 1928. His father drove a taxi at the time, but soon returned to farming in Mississippi. The Perkins family, including Thomas Wayne (Perkins), who later scored a hit with "Tragedy", grew up in Sardis and Como. "Finally, one day, we decided that we were ready for a shot at the record business", recalled Cash.
"I had met Elvis Presley's guitarist, Scotty Moore, and I called him and asked him about the possibility of getting an audition with Sun". Moore probably told Cash that the best approach was simply go to the studio. It was an approach that had worked for Presley.
In an interview with Peter Guralnick, Cash described how he came to audition. "Sun Records was between my house and the radio announcing school. I just started going by there and every day "'d ask: Could I see Mr. Phillips. And they'd say, 'He's not in yet', or 'He's at a meeting'. So really it became a challenge to me just to get inside that studio. Finally, one day I was sitting on the stoop just as he came to work and I stood up and said, 'I'm John Cash and I want you to hear me play'. He said, 'Well, come on in'. I sang two or three hours for him. Everything I knew - Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Flatt and Scruggs... I even sang "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen".
"I had to fight and call and keep at it and push, push, push to even get into Sun Records. I don't feel like anyone discovered me because I had to fight so hard to get heard".
Phillips liked what he heard and invited Cash to return with his group. "When they came in", recalled Sam Phillips, "Cash apologized to me for not having a professional band but I said that he should let me hear what they could do and I would be able to tell whether they had a style I would be able to work with. At that first audition I was immediately impressed with John's unusual voice. I was also interested in Luther's guitar playing. He wasn't a wizard on the guitar. He played one string at a time and he wasn't super good - but he was different,
and that was important".
"Their material was all religious at that time. Songs which Cash had composed. I liked them, but I told him that I would not at that time be able to merchandize him as a religious artist and that it would be well if he could secure some other material or write some other songs. I told him that I was real pleased with the sound we were getting from just the three instruments. If I'm mot mistaken, I think it was the third occasion in the studio that I actually commenced seriously to get Johnny Cash down on tape. He continued to be very apologetic about his band. However, I told him that I did not want to use any other instrumentation because of the unique style they had. They would practice a lot, but I told them not to be overly prepared because I was interested in spontaneity too".
"Sam Phillips had a vision", confirmed Cash in an interview with Bill Flanagan. "Nashville in 1955 was grinding out all these country records. If you took the voice off, all the tracks sounded the same to me... All the arrangements were calculated and predictable. It's kinda that way with my music - but (at least) it's my music. It's not done to try and sound like someone else in Nashville".
According to Marshall Grant, Red Kernodle came to the first session, froze and went back to his day job. According to Kernodle, he played the first session and then quit. "There was no money in it", he recalled with little apparent regret, "and there was getting to be too much staying up late at night and running around". It is probably that his halting attempts at playing the steel guitar can be heard on an early version of "Wide Open Road". If so, his disappearance was no great loss. Luther Perkins' oldest daughter, Linda, recalled that Kernodle's wife had threatened to leave if he concentrated upon music. He also held a better paying job than the other members of the group which he was unwilling to jeopardize. His disappearance was viewed with some relief by the others.
Needing some secular material in a hurry, Cash resuscitated "Hey! Porter" and previewed "Folsom Prison Blues" - a song based closely on a Gordon Jenkins tune, "Cresent City Blues", which formed a segment of a 1953 concept album called "Seven Dreams". Both the melody and finally dawned upon Jenkins after Cash re-recorded the song for his hugely successful prison album in 1968. Cash's earliest version of "Folsom Prison Blues" were delivered in a curiously high pitched voice, although those early takes show that Luther Perkins had already worked out his guitar solo that would later become a model of minimalist country picking. However, Sam Phillips did not want to couple "Folsom Prison Blues" with "Hey! Porter" for the first record.
The essential elements of Cash's music were in place from the start. The stark, lonesome vocals were front and centre, with Luther doing little more than keeping time - even during his solo. Where most guitarists relish the opportunity to solo, Luther seemed to dread it. The fear of failure - messing up an otherwise good take - seemed to haunt him every time he entered the studio during the early days.
For his part, Sam Phillips challenged the established precepts of recording balance, placing Cash's vocals more assertively in the mix than had ever been the case in country music. Phillips fattened the sounds of the vocals and the rhythm track with carefully timed slapback echo that gave a compelling syncopation to some of the faster numbers.
Cash recorded a number of hit records for Sun, including "I Walk The Line" (SUN 241), "Folsom Prison Blues" (SUN 232), and "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" (SUN 283). His first major public appearance after singing with Sun Records was at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis on August 5, 1955. Elvis Presley was also on the bill. Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley toured together on the Jamboree tour from Abilene, Texas, to St. Louis, for two weeks in October 1955.
Johnny Cash became one of the participants in the famed Million-Dollar Quartet session. Years later he filed a lawsuit to try to prohibit the session's release on record. Cash left Sun Records in 1958 to record for Columbia Records. Berely two weeks after his last Sun session, Johnny Cash was in Nashville cutting his first Columbia session. Without Sam Phillips second-guessing the repertoire, cash was able to record a selection of religious or quasi-religious material. The first Columbia album, The Fabulous Johnny Cash, was released in time for the Disc Jockey Convention in the middle of November 1958.
On December 12, 1958 Johnny and Vivian Cash hosted a housewarming party in Encino, California. Cash's life - both inside and outside music - would acquire some new dimension as the '50s gave way to the '60s. At times he seemed to be the most focussed artist in country music, recording concept albums, and bringing a variety to his bare-bones sound that Sam Phillips never envisaged. At other times Cash seemed - like Hank Williams - to be heading ninety miles down a dead-end street.
At a live concert at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August 1969, Elvis Presley jokingly introduced himself by saying, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", before singing "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk The Line".
The Sun recordings maximized the effective contrast between the hustling rhythm of the bass/acoustic guitar and the enigmatically ponderous vocals and sparse lead guitar. Phillips' achievement was to keep Cash's sound at its bare essentials and then fatten it up with the use of tape delay echo. Subsequent producers and engineers could never quite recapture Phillips' formula. At Columbia, Cash's little trio was placed in the cavernous Bradley's studio where the sound leaped around, giving a cavernous echo where Phillips had imparted a tightly focussed slapback. The difference was especially evident on Cash's vocals. The repertoire was as strong, the backings were still commendably simple - but the booming assertive presence was partially lost in the swampy echo.
The ultimate judgement on Cash - at Sun and Columbia - though, is that the whole represented much more than the sum of the parts. Cash's limited vocals, Luther Perkins' bare-bones picking and Marshall Grant's bass playing jelled magically to produce a unique and compelling blend, one of the most original, innovative and immediately recognisable sounds in country music.
The late career regeneration was ongoing. The last album released during Cash's lifetime, ''American IV: The Man Comes Around'', was a fitting epitaph, and the video accompanying his version of Trent Rezner's ''Hurt'' might well be the most moving music video ever made. It was life laid bare.
Johnny Cash Lived to be seventy-one, although he looked and sounded considerably older toward the end. Parkinson's disease, diabetes, glaucoma, and respiratory problems took a terrible toll. After his second wife, June Carter Cash, died on Mat 15, 2003, many believed that John would not last long, and he did not. The end came on September 12, 2003 and Johnny Cash dies at the Shy- Drager Syndrome of the age of 71 in the Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. He'd been to the brink so often, but lacked the strength for more fight. It had been nearly fifty years since Sam Phillips captured the surprisingly confident opening notes of ''Wide Open Road''. (CE)(MH)
Ernie Chaffin (left) and Pee Wee Maddux. >
CHAFFIN, ERNIE - Born in Water Valley, northern Mississippi, on January 1, 1928. Like so many country artists of that period Ernie cites the Grand Ole Opry and Hank Williams as his primary influences. "When I was a kid, the Opry was the only radio show we could get and that's what really made me decide to be an entertainer. I would sing in church too, so I grew up on good old country gospel and the Grand Ole Opry".
Chaffin relocated to Gulfport in 1944, hoping to break into country music. He had already mastered the guitar and mandolin and was looking to break into the entertainment field. "I felt that if I lived on the coast where they had a lot of clubs and so on, I might be able to get into music better than being stuck in northern Mississippi where there wasn't much going on".
In the early 1950s, he met a local songwriter, Murphy "Pee Wee" Maddux, while playing in a pavilion on the waterfront in Biloxi and someone said, "Let Ernie sing", so Pee Wee allowed him to step up to the mike and sing "Many Tears Ago".
From that point Maddux assumed a large role in Ernie's career. In early 1954 the pair decided that it was time to let Nashville know they were missing something. Pee Wee took Ernie to see Jim Denny at the Grand Ole Opry. Denny called Paul Cohen, the irascible boss of Decca's Nashville operation, and said "I got a boy here who sounds a little like Eddy Arnold, a little like Red Foley, a little like Marty Robbins but not a lot like anyone". Cohen invited Ernie Chaffin over for audition but Ernie did not like Cohen's attitude. "He wanted me to sign a contract for four years and I told him that I didn't need that kind of contract. Pee Wee was sick. Anyway, we went over to see Fred Rose and, as it turned out, Fred had heard me sing "Many Tears Ago". He was a different kind of person altogether. A fine person. Made me relaxed".
Pee Wee and Ernie Chaffin returned to Mississippi to work up some material and they returned to Nashville in May 1954 to record a session for Hickory Records, the record division of Acuff-Rose. Hickory released all four titles to scant acclaim during 1954. Fred Rose wrote a note to Pee Wee Maddux expressing disappointment in the sales but though that Ernie Chaffin had, in Rose's words, "gained an entry". Within a few weeks however Rose was dead and Ernie was never called back for another session.
If Rose had not accepted their material, Maddux was determined to start up an independent label to issue his work with Ernie. It was this option that he now began to explore. Fine Records was started in Biloxi as a joint venture between Maddux and Prof. Marion Carpenter who was a local band director and Ernie's manager. At some point promoter Yankie Bahanovich seems to have become involved. Their first venture, Ernie's original recording of "The Heart Of Me", was released in early 1956.
A letter in the December 1956 edition of "Jamboree" seems to indicate that a second single was planned on Fine Records but this was forestalled by good news from Memphis. By the time he received the news from Memphis that Sam Phillips liked his work and wanted to sign him, Chaffin had already been recorded for over the years.
Chaffin could have been a major figure in country music: he had an intimate vocal presence that appealed to the same market that would later make Jim Reeves a star. He also had the benefit of some topclass material from Maddux. From a commercial point of view, Ernie Chaffin had a dangerously skewed perspective, but his priorities have brought him peace of mind - something to which few of his contemporaries at Sun can lay claim.
After his tenure with Sun Records, Ernie Chaffin moved through a variety of small labels. "Set 'Em Up Joe" (Village 7778), recorded at Cosimo Matassa's Studio in New Orleans, was the number one country record in New Orleans for 17 weeks. However, Ernie Chaffin never saw a dime from it. "I never got on any big labels because my family always came before business. Hank Williams once told me I'd never make it big because I let my music come after my family. I always felt like the Lord came first, my family came second and my music came
third. Maybe that's why I never did make a hit. I remember one time I had a contract with Sammy Kaye in New York to sing two ballads every Saturday night. My son was a year old at the time and we were having a lot of physical problems with him so I refused to go. That was a big opportunity that I failed to take advantage of but I'm not sorry at all because I still have my son. He's grown and big and healthy".
Ernie Chaffin may never become more that a footnote in the history of country music but he made some fine recordings. The combination of his very distinctive voice, Pee Wee Maddux's material and the Sun production technique was maginal. It was at once haunting and melodic. His latest recording (1987), were country gospel with his family joining him.
Ernie's wife, Avalon Jean, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1984 but didn't die until 1990, an unusually long time. Some of those years were good; the cancer was in remission for a while. But the last two years were very rough. Ernie remarried in 1993. In 1997, he built a house for himself and his new wife, Hilda, on two acres in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. On April 16th he was attaching some shutters and putting on the final touches. A neighbor needed to have some dirt levelled and Ernie volunteered to help. He hopped on his tractor and began the work. He miscalculated the grade in a hilly area and the tractor rolled over on top of him. Nobody was there to help move the machine that had pinned him, and emergency medical teams were simply too far away. By the time they arrived, Ernie Chaffin was dead. His longtime collaborator, Pee Wee Maddux, committed suicide. His new wife witnessed the entire event helplessly.
Ernie Chaffin outlived steel player Ernie Harvey, who died in 1994 at the age of 64. He had toured for many years with Lefty Frizzell. Pee Wee Maddux died by his own hand in 1993. He was despondent over his failing health. Maddux had earlier been caught up the the legal battles swirling around his former employer, Reverent Jessup. Maddux was a long time associate of the Jessups and when they were arrested in November, 1964 on federal charges for mail fraud (promising cures for cancer in return for donations to their ministry), Maddux was included in the indictment. (CE) (HD)
CHAPEL, JEAN - Sun recording artist, born Opal Jean Amburgay on March 6, 1925, in Neon, Kentucky, who, like Elvis Presley, switched to RCA Records in 1956. She recorded for several record labels and wrote over 400 songs, more than 170 of which were published in her lifetime. Amburgey was born into a family of six children in Neon, Kentucky. At the age of 11 she learned guitar and banjo, and performed with her sisters as the Sunshine Sister band. Together they left home when Jean was 13 and were hired to play daily on WKLP-AM in Lexington, Kentucky in 1938.
They moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1940 to sing on WSB Barn Dance; she began using the nickname Mattie at this time. Her sister Irene would later record with Columbia Records under the name Martha Carson.
In 1947, she married Salty Holmes and in 1950 they moved to Chicago, Illinois to appear on National Barn Dance on WLS-AM. Soon Jean began appearing on the Grand Ole Opry opposite Holmes. Opal Jean's first recordings appeared for the Hickory label in 1954. Jean Chapel recorded an answer to Elvis Presley's "Good Rockin' Tonight" titled "I Won't Be Rockin' Tonight" (SUN 244). Sun promoted her as the Female Elvis, but the nickname stuck more successfully to Janis Martin.
Two songs by Jean Chapel appeared on side 2 of a 1956 disc jockey promotional EP (RCA DJ- 7) that featured Elvis Presley's "Good Rockin' Tonight" on side 1. After Chapel divorced Holmes in 1956, she moved to Nashville and devoted herself primarily to songwriting. Chapel composed songs that have been recorded by Roy Rogers and Eddy Arnold. She also recorded under the names Opal Jean, Jean Amber, and Mattie O'Neal during the early 1950s. Jean Chapel and her sister Martha Carson and a third sister named Bertha, the family trio recorded as an all-girl hillbilly band known variously as the Coon Creek Girls and the Amburgay Sisters. Jean's brother, Don Chapel, was the second husband of singer Tammy Wynette, actor Burt Reynold's former girlfriend.
During the 1960s, Jean Chapel concentrated on club work, touring extensively in the process. Her greatest success came in the late 1960s as a songwriter. She enjoyed a number 1 hit in 1967 when Eddy Arnold cut her song "Lonely Again". Her songs were also cut by artists as diverse as Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, George Jones, Dean Martin, Hank Snow and Big Joe Turner. Jean Chapel - a name she used for a relatively brief period of her career, retired at age of 65 and moved to Florida. Jean Chapel died on August 19, 1995 in Port Orange, Florida.
CLEMENT, JACK – Is one of the few people associated with Sun Records who are more
famous for what they did after the Sun years than during the heyday of rockabilly. Clement is a highly
talented record producer, musician, occasional recording artist and genuine 'character', known as ''the
minstrel'' or ''cowboy''. Clement had made his name largely in country music, discovering Charley Pride and
Don Williams and delivering their music to a world audience. Clement played on important but subordinate
role at Sun between 1956 and 1958 as songwriter, studio engineer and musical catalyst.
Through this time, he
was constantly at odds with Sam Phillips about wanting to develop the Sun sound, to make it more musical.
It is entirely possible that Johnny cash would not have broken into the pop market in such a big way without
Born as Jack Henderson Clement on April 5, 1931 in Memphis, Tennessee, raised and educated in Memphis, Jack Clement was
performing at an early age. Clement lived there until 1948 when he signed up for a year stint in the U.S,
Marines. At home he'd loved music of all kinds but especially the radio broadcasts of Roy Acuff and Merle
Travis. The guitar wizardry of Travis taught him that music cold be either simple or complicated but that it
had to be good. He would never tolerate second-raters even when recording the simplest of three-chord
rockers. He couldn't get to see Merle Travis perform, but he did go down to Smilin' Eddie Hill's ''High Noon
Roundup'' show which took place every day in a Memphis department store window and went out over radio
WMC. He would join the crowd around the store and listen to Hill, Harmonica Frank, Slim Rhodes, Wayne
Raney and the Delmore Brothers, and especially to the Louvin Brothers' light harmonies and plaintive hillcountry
songs. The Marine base where Clement was stationed was just outside Washington, D.C., and here in
1948 he was first exposed to bluegrass music. ''That was when I fell in love with the five-string banjo'', he
recalled, ''and I just had to get one and practice on it straight away''. Soon, he was proficient enough to play
duets with Roy Clark, later a country superstar but then a resident artist at a Washington club called ''The
Famous''. On Saturday nights, he would travel down to Maryland with Scotty Stoneman's band. Scotty was
the mainstay of the popular Stonemans. He played fiddle, with mandolin, banjo and bass support from Jack
Clement, Buzz Busby and Jimmy Stoneman. The group was completed by Ralph Jones on dobro and
Clement recalls Jones being one of the finest oldtime country musicians he ever knew. In 1952, Jack returned
briefly to Memphis. Soon, he was off to Wheeling, West Virginia with Buzz Busby doing, ''a bluegrass
comedy duet thing, kinda like Homer & Jethro''. Also at that time Jack played in Baltimore and Boston and
he made his first record in 1953, for the Sheraton label in Boston, Massachusetts. ''This was in 1953. We had
been playing a radio show in Baltimore when Aubrey Mayhew, who managed Hawkshaw Hawkins, asked us
to do a show in his WCOP Hayloft Jamboree in Boston. While we were doing that James Daliano, a famous
french horn player, came in and said he wanted to record us for his Sheraton label. Daliano was the owner
but he let Aubrey run the label. We recorded my first two published songs, ''I can't Say Nothing At All'' and ''I
Think I'll Write A Song''. They were by Buzz and Jack, and we did them in the style of Webb Pierce''.
Sheraton Records only distributed locally in the north-east, so nothing came of this development and Jack
got tried of the duo. Being a developing ''crazy'', he went off to join an Hawaiian band in Washington. He
then wound up back to Memphis in 1954. That year he answered an advert for training dance instructors and
he became an employee of the Arthur Murray School of Dancing on Main Street and to study English at the
Memphis State University from 1953 to 1955.
On evenings and weekends, Jack Clement shows with a western-swing influenced country band run by a pal
of his, truck driver Slim Wallace. Wallace's Dixie Ramblers played a regular spot at a club in Paragould,
Arkansas, and while returning one night Jack and Slim plotted their entry into the record business. Slim put
up most of the 450 dollars they needed to buy an old Magnecord tape deck from disc jockey Sleepy Eyed
John, and Jack built himself a studio in Slim's garage. The garage was on Fernwood Drive, so the label was
to be called Fernwood Records.
The first Fernwood disc does not exist. It was to be ''Trouble Bound'' and ''Rock With Me Baby'' by Arkansas
wild man Billy Riley. After working on the songs, Jack Clement needed somewhere to have his tapes
mastered for transfer to disc. On the advice of Bill Fitzgerald at Music Sales Distributors, Jack went to Sun
Records. Sam Phillips reward Clement's tape of Riley singing ''Trouble Bound'' and offered both Jack and
Billy Riley a job. Clement joined Sun on June 15, 1956. His only remaining interest in Fernwood was to use
Sun's facilities to make masters, and to add the echo to the number one hit ''Tragedy'' by Thomas Wayne.
This had been recorded at Hi Records since the garage studio was still incomplete. ''Sam Phillips always
wondered how they got that echo'', says Jack with a grin, ''but I figured it didn't take but a few minutes so
why should I tell him''.
On the question of whether Sam Phillips really controlled the development of the Sun sound, whether he was
''the man'' or just lucky, Jack Clement is in no doubt. ''All of Sam's early success was entirely Sam's. Elvis,
Carl, Cash. My work was with developing Cash's sound, and with Bill Justis and Charlie Rich. I was into
making things musical. Sam was not, but he understood one thing that I didn't at that time. He understood
''feel in music''. I was interest in machines and the way recordings would be better. Sam liked empty, hollow,
tubby sounds, but he knew a thing or two I didn't. He let me do that I liked, but he retained ultimate control
of what was issued. The first time Same gave me an artist to work with, it was Roy Orbison. I recorded
''Rockhouse'' with Roy and it was good. But Roy was not into what the Sun studio was capable of back then''.
Jack spent many hours working with several artists that he particularly liked. He began to recall them with
obvious pleasure. ''Cash. Sam gave me Johnny Cash from ''Home Of The Blues'' onwards. Sonny Burgess.
He was a fine artist but he didn't really fit into a groove, same with Conway Twitty who never made anything
that sounded much like a record. Then Ernie Chaffin and Mack Self, these were excellent country singers''.
In Jack Clement's view, Sun was not making records quite ''musically'' enough. He was responsible for
getting Cash into the pop market and for trying a range of experiments with vocal backings and steel guitar
sound. What he did like at Sun was firstly the depth of talented artists, and secondly the relaxed atmosphere.
He could do what he liked; work all night on a session, write songs in Taylor's cafe next door, like Cash's
''Guess Things Happen That Way'', or even build a bathroom in the control room. He once told Sam he could
built an office for promotion girl Barbara Barnes for a hundred dollars. So he canceled sessions and set to
with the woodwork. He also spent time helping to master recordings for his buddies on rival labels, and on
developing his own musical sound as a performer.
The Jack Clement sound was country, but it was not Sun sound. It was acoustic, with ringing tones instead of
the muddy Cash bass sounds. It was worked out with the help of Clement's buddy, Jimmy C. Wilson, Jack
says, ''Wilson was nearly as crazy as me. He was a bit of a nut. He lived in rooms above Taylor's and he was
a great player if he was in the mood. He had a pet coon which he used to bring in and cain to the piano. He
used to dismantle and rebuild old guns up in his room and he set fire to the place one time. After that he
loosed off a rocket, a home-made thing, up there and they threw him out. He went to California and married
Nudie the tailor's daughter''. In February 1957, Clement and Wilson, plus coon, took off for the RCA Studios
in Nashville. They hired bass player Bob Moore and recorded for songs. ''Ten Years'' was the major
contender, a light, pleasant country balled with an epic story song feel to it. It's the Jack Clement style, and it
was repeated in October when Jack recreated the sound at Sun on ''Black Haired Man''. This was a fast,
rhythmic development of the cash beat, a gunfighter balled of real class and a fairly successful record. The
flip ''Wrong'', is light singalong country pop with a prominent acoustic guitar from Jack.
There, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. But most
importantly, he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida,
one of those recordings, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'', was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in
the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. In 1957, Clement wrote the song "Ballad Of A
Teenage Queen" that became a crossover hit for Johnny Cash. Other Cash hits written by Clement included
"Guess Things Happen That Way", which was number 1 country and number 11 pop in 1958, and the
humorous "The One On The Right Is On The Left", which was a number 2 country and number 46 pop hit in
1966. Clement performed "Guess Things Happen That Way" on the Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute show on
CMT in November 2003.
Leaving Sun Records early in 1959 with his part in a string of million-selling productions behind him, Jack
Clement used the proceeds of his song copyrights to buy equipment and to set up Summer Records on Main
Street in Memphis. Apart from an atrocious novelty called ''Motorcycle Michael'', Summer bombed. Clement
kept busy, though, fooling around with productions for Pepper Records (including his own song, ''Return Of
A Teenage Queen''), Hi Records (Tommy Tucker's ''Miller's Cave'') and for Echo Records, which he formed
with Stan Kesler and Clyde Leoppard and for which he built a studio on Manassas Avenue. In the fall of
1959 Jack Clement had blown all his money and, in his words, ''decided I had to do some work''. He called
Chet Atkins in Nashville and was hired as junior producer for RCA, then the most important label in the
After Clement's first stint in Nashville, he went to Beaumont, Texas, to work with music publisher Bill Hall.
While there, he pitched ''She Thinks I Still Care'' to George Jones and arranged ''Ring Of Fire'' for Johnny
Cash. In 1965, he returned to Nashville, and went on to become a significant figure in the Nashville music
business, establishing a publishing business, and his own recording studio, making records for stars such as
Ray Stevens and his biggest coup Charley Pride, but he also signed Townes Van Zandt, the Stonemans, and
several others left-of-center country artists. With Charley Pride money, he built a studio on Belmont
Boulevard next to Shelby Singleton's reconstituted Sun Records before moving a few blocks south
In 1971, he co-founded the J-M-I Record Company, he signed Don Williams to his label, but felt betrayed
when Williams wriggled out of the deal to sign with ABC. From the 1970s onward, Jack Clement newly
named Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa became Nashville's ground zero for off-kilter country.
Jack Clement wrote a number of highly successful songs that have been recorded by singing stars such as
Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee
Lewis, Cliff Richard, Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Dickey Lee and Hank Snow. He was inducted into the
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. He also produced albums by Townes Van Zandt and Waylon
Clement was involved in a few film projects as a singer or songwriter on soundtracks, and produced the 1975
horror film Dear Dead Delilah that marked the last film performance by actress Agnes Moorehead. In 1987
Clement was approached by U2 to record at legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. He had never
heard of U2 but took the session based on the urging of someone else in his office. The result was a portion
of the U2 album Rattle and Hum ("When Love Came To Town" with BB King, "Angel of Harlem" about
Billie Holiday, and "Love Rescue Me" with backing vocals by Bob Dylan), as well as the Woody Guthrie
song "Jesus Christ," which appeared on 1988's "Folkways: A Vision Shared, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie &
Leadbelly. Portions of the 2 sessions also appear in the film ''Rattle and Hum''.
In 2005, a documentary on Clement entitled Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan was created by Robert
Gordon and Morgan Neville, pieced together from Clement's home videos and interviews with peers,
including Jerry Lee Lewis and Bono. Clement currently hosts a weekly program on Sirius XM Satellite
Radio's Outlaw country (channel 60) from 2pm to 6pm (Eastern) on Saturdays. Jack Clement has been
inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Music City Walk of Fame.
On June 25, 2011, a fire destroyed Jack's home and studio on Belmont Boulevard in Nashville. Jack was
unhurt, but many priceless recordings and memorabilia were lost. Jack has two children. A daughter, Alison,
also a singer and writer, and a son, Niles, an engineer and photographer. Alison Clement has a website also
where you can read about her experiences in the music business as the daughter of a renowned Legendary
On the occasion of Sam Phillips' death, Jake Clement spoke movingly at the memorial service, barely able to
staunch tears as he recalled some of their late night telephone conversations.
On April 10, 2013 it was announced Jack Clement would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A virtual jack of all trades in the entertainment businesss, Cowboy Jack Clement, 82, died Thursday August 8, 2013 at his Nashville home following a lengthy illness from liver cancer.
CLIMATES, THE - a legendary vocal ensemble, signed with Sun Records, in 1966 and had several hits in the 1960’s such as ''Breakin’ Up Again'', ''No You For Me'', ''All My Weakness'', ''Tell Him Tonight'', and ''Don’t Be Cruel''. The latter was also recorded by the legendary Elvis Presley and made it to the top of the charts. The Climates were the first black artists to become number one on a white radio station in the South (WHBQ-3 months and WMPS-1 month). In 1967, The Climates charted number two in France, Italy, and England, second only to the Beatles, making the front page of Billboard Magazine that year.
The Climates, 1967 ^
On June 20, 1992, Sam Phillips, President of Sun Records, declared the group legendary artists. They each received Proclamations from the state and the city of Memphis, and that day was declared ''“Climates Day''. Sam once said, ''These guys of the Memphis Sound, James Rosser, Raymond Edwards, David Glenn, and Robert Chisem, were truly trendsetters with their flashy outfits and their well-polished performances that were so disciplined''.
The group has had the pleasure of being backed by Memphis greats such as Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MG’s, The Markeys, Tennie Hodges and the Hi Rhythm Band, and some of the former Barkays. Being successful at an early age, The Climates were helpful to others by letting them be their opening act. Some of the artists that opened for them are J. Blackfoot of the Soul Children, The New Comers, and Ann Peebles.
Even now, The Climates are featured on the new legendary album called, ''Into The 1960's The Complete Sun Singles, “From the Vault Vol. 5 CD.” This album and CD features various artists with songs from their collection.
Recently, Rodger Friedman of Fox News New York reviewed new Climates CD as being one of the top 5 CD’s for the year. The Climates are stronger than ever. The group is under the leadership of Robert Chisem, the only original member in the ensemble. The new members of The Climates are Melvino Smith (1st & 2nd Tenor), Ricky Adkinsson (1st, 2nd Tenor/Lead), Ms. Angela (Contralto), and Warren Miller (2nd Tenor/Bass). This group is very versatile. Each member is a lead vocalist. In 2006, their song ''Rainin’ In Memphis'' was featured on WDIA’s CD (America’s First Black Radio Station), ''The History, The Music, The Legend''. Ace Records in England also recently released a new compilation CD entitled, ''More Perfect Harmony'', featuring one of the Climates’ songs, ''No You For Me'' from the Sun-Days. The Climates have recently finished a new CD entitled, ''Rainin’ In Memphis'', which will released in January 2008, and Memphis’ own, Carl “Blue” Wise produced it. It has the sound of yesterday, but today’s real music. With all their history and background, you know it is going to be a hit! If you are looking for a legendary sound that started it all, this group is the one The C-L-I-M-A-T-E-S!
COLE, J.C. - Remains little more than a name on some acetate recordings found in Memphis by collector Fred Davis apparently recorded at the Memphis Recording Service in the early 1950s. What little more there is tells us that a man named J.C. was playing guitar and singing in Mississippi and West Memphis, Arkansas in the late 1940s and went with a fellow musicians, Forrest City Joe, to Chicago in 1948 where they lived at South Ellis Avenue.
Joe recorded for Aristocrat in Chicago on December 2, 1948 with J.C. Cole apparently playing guitar. His bass string strumming on that session keeps good time, for sure, and it could very well be the same man playing the Delta style guitar on the four songs included in the box, the acetates apparently made but not issued or logged by Sam Phillips. They appear to contain one clue, in ''No Right Blues'' the singer-guitarist appears to refer to himself as ''Tony''. However he was probably just imitating the pronunciation of singer Tommy McClennan (''Toe-me'') whose ''Deep Blue Sea Blues'' was the pattern for Cole's recording. Cole's subsequent activities are unknown and he is not thought to have recorded again.
That would be explained if he was the J.C. Cole who died in Madison county near Jackson, Tennessee in 1956, aged 60. But there are other men named J.C. Cole in the population censuses and so our man, but not his music, remains a mystery. (MH)
Dick Penner a student at North Texas State College, Denton, Texas. He stands in a room with a couch, wearing a suit and tie, June 19, 1958. >
COLLEGE KIDS, THE (DICK PENNER) - Born Allen Richard Penner, In November 1936, Chicago, Illinois. Dick Penner had two releases on Sun, one solo single and one as half of a duo. However, he is probably best known as the cowriter of "Ooby Dooby", Roy Orbison's immortal rockabilly classic. Born in Chicago, but his family moved to Dallas, Texas the following year.
Unlike most of his contemporaries at Sun Dick grew up in comfortable surroundings. He acquired an early liking for country music and by age 16 he had taken up the guitar. He listened to hillbilly music and rhythm and blues and recalls Johnnie & Jack and Clyde McPhatter among his favorites. Soon after taking up the guitar, he played his first gig for the Methodist Youth Fellowship in a church basement. He sang Hank Williams's then-current hit, ''I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow''.
The following year, his musical career started in 1953 at the 'Big D' Jamboree in Dallas where Dick and his partner Dave Young performed Johnny & Jack songs and comedy routines. ''There was wrestling on Tuesday night and country music on Saturday night'', said Penner. ''The Ed McLemore Sportatorium was a big corrugated steel building that seated a lot of people. I remember that Elvis came through there one time. He already had a strong regional identity and there was an electricity in the air when he turned up. The guys had driven in from Amarillo, Texas, which is way the hell out in west Texas and they were 45 minutes or an hour late. They got right out of the car and got on stage. Presley's music was so different I was thrilled. It was a real learning experience and I wanted to be like that. (In fact, Elvis played the Big D Jamboree on several occasions and never played Amarillo the night before, but the essence of Penner's story is probably correct, if the detail isn't. Penner later dated Presley's appearance to June 18, 1955).
In 1954 Penner enrolled in North Texas State College in Denton, and performed on campus as a solo act, before he met Wade Moore quished it. Together they wrote "Ooby Dooby" in February 1955. With one of them unaware of what the other was doing, Penner signed the song to Sun's Hi-Lo Music and Moore signed it to Peer International. According to Penner, Peer paid Phillips for one hundred percent of the song, but the song is currently credited to both companies.
"Wade and I took a six pack of beer onto the flat roof of the fraternity house and it took us three minutes", Penner told Dominique Anglares. The song came to the attention of fellow student Roy Orbison, who recorded a demo of the song with his band, the Wink Westerners, and sent it to Columbia Records. The label was not interested in Orbison, but pitched the song to Sid King and the Five Strings, who recorded it on March 5, 1956, in Dallas. According to most available sources, Roy cut "Ooby Dooby" himself one day earlier, on March 4. If this is correct, the tiny Je-Wel label must have done a real rush job with the record, because by the time Roy rerecorded the song for Sun (March 27, only 23 days later), the record had not only been released, but already attracted the attention of Sam Phillips at Sun. But it is not impossible. Sam issued the Sun version of "Ooby Dooby" in May, after releasing the under-age Orbison from his Je-Wel contract. It peaked at number 59 on Billboard's pop charts and was covered by Janis Martin for RCA. There were later versions by Jerry Lee Lewis (recorded September 1957, but unissued until the early 70s), Matt Lucas and Creedence Clearwater Revival, among others.
Wade and Dick were signed to Sun in September 1956 and had their only joint session on December 16 of that year. The result was the single "Bop Bop Baby"/"Don't Need Your Lovin' Baby" (Sun 269, issued in April 1957), credited to Wade and Dick, the College Kids "Bop Bop Baby", unusual because of its minor key, was used on the soundtrack of the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk The Line", where it is played on the car radio in the spring of 1956, "Don't Need Your Lovin' Baby" is really a solo vehicle for Penner. An alternate version came out under his own name on two different Sun compilations.
Before the single had been released, Penner returned to the Sun studio by himself on February 16, 1957. At least five sides were cut, but only "Cindy Lou" and "Your Honey Love" were released at the time (Sun 282), unfortunately for Penner on the same day, November 3, 1957, as "Great Balls Of Fire", which got all the promotion from Sun. The melody of "Cindy Lou" is remarkable, as it does not have any chord changes. Very few songs are performed in a single chord. The strident guitar player on this track is Don Gilliland. Two other songs from this session, "Fine Little Baby" and "Move Baby Move" were issued on a French bootleg Sun single in the mid-1970s (Sun 615) and in 1995, "Someday Baby" turned up on the CD "Unissued Sun Masters" released on Charly CPCD 8137.
After graduating from college in 1958, Penner went into the Army for six months before resuming school as a graduate student. He stayed with academia. In a sense, walking into a lecture theater is performing as much as stepping onto the stage at the Paramount Theater in Hope, Arkansas, but with little of disappointment that comes from driving hundreds of miles to play for a handful of people.
Dick Penner quickly accepted that he was not cut out for the music business and opted for an academic career instead. He finished up as a Professor of English literature at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville Until he retired in 2000. Since retirement, he has traveled widely. France, Greece, Nova Scotia, the Netherlands, Belgium, and many places in the United States. His last contact with the Phillips family came in 2005 when Sam's son, Knox, called to tell him that ''Bop, Bop Baby'' was to be used in the Johnny Cash biopic, ''Walk The Line''. Meantime, ''Ooby Dooby'', the song that took a few minutes to write on the frat house roof nearly sixty years ago, is still a little oil well in Wade and Dick's back yards.
Looking back on his brief time at Sun, Penner concluded, ''Sam could recognize whether a song was going to be commercial or appealing. For example, I had a tendency to sing ballads in a very sentimental or dreamy way. He wanted something with more of an edge to it. Something sexier. I remember I was sitting on one of the stools in the studio singing a ballad and Sam stopped us and said, 'Imagine you're making love to this woman', but my experience was so limited, it was hard to come up with any scenes you could really call romantic. Sam certainly had a charisma about him. He wasn't one for casual conversation. He was very intense in the studio. I remember he had a purple Cadillac convertible and one night he said, 'Come on, I'll take you back to the house'. He was barefoot and he got into this posh purple convertible. It was such spontaneous music. I read an article recently about a producer who had programmed some music into the computer and he had introduced some errors into the coding so that it would sound more human. That all seems so foreign compared with the time in Sam Phillips' studio''.
COLLEGE KIDS, THE (WADE MOORE) - The story of Wade and Dick had usually been told from Dick Penner's perspective. It's not
that Penner ever sought to short-change Wade Moore's contribution, it's more that they worked together only briefly and kept in tough intermittently. As Wade & Dick (The College Kids) they made one record for Sun, in fact, just one record in all. Wade Lee Moore was born in Amarillo, Texas on November 15, 1934. Raised and growing up in Amarillo, Wade enjoyed listening to the Four freshman, the Hi-Lo's, Frankie Lane, Frank Sinatra, and the Four Aces. He decided to attend North Texas State University and studied music.
That's were he met Dick Penner and they became fraternity brothers. A report in campus newspapers said that Moore was singing and playing the ukulele when they met, and had performed in several operettas back in Amarillo. Penner dated their meeting to January 1955. Soon after that initial meeting, Wade and Dick wrote ''Ooby Dooby''.
Wade Moore graduated in 1957 and married Ann Weatherly. He followed his brother's footsteps, entering law school at Baylor, but soon decided that law was not for him. He traveled with Roy Orbison for six months, performing as a supporting act. After Ann became pregnant, Moore settled in Amarillo, working as a stockbroker for seven years. Moving on to Houston, Texas, he launched a company that produced resincoated sand.
Wade Moore and his family lived in Houston for over 40 years, raising two children. He could never quite forget ''Ooby Dooby'' because it kept coming around, but music took a back seat in his live. ''He sang and whistled everywhere he went'', said his daughter, Lane Cowart. ''He took my sister and me to see musicals and concerts of all sorts. He was often asked to sing at weddings, funerals and parties for his friends. He had a beautiful singing voice.
In 1994, Wade Moore joined a church in Houston and sang in the choir for about 12 years. After Moore broke his hip in 2011, he and his wife moved into an assisted living facility in Dallas. His health has declined since this happened, but he and his wife continue to take care of each other. Wade’s love of music didn’t end in Denton, Texas. He continued to have success with his songs being recorded by other bands such as ''Credence Clearwater Revival'' and ''The Traveling Wilbury's''. His songs were also in feature films, ''Star Trek-First Contact'', and ''Walk The Line''. He had a beautiful singing voice and was often asked to sing at weddings, funerals, and parties.
On July 20, 2015, Wade Moore passed away at the age of 80 in Allan, Texas, and is buried on July 30 at Ridgeview Memorial Park in Allan Texas.
COOK, KEN - Rockabilly singer and pianist is almost completely obscure, born on May 13, 1937 at Ranger, Texas. All we know is that Roy Orbison brought him from Texas to Sun Records. Cook had an almost astonishing vocal similarity to Roy, and Sam Phillips was persuaded to issue one single by him on Phillips International.
For his part, Orbison always refused to talk about Cook, leading to speculation that maybe Ken Cook was bonking Roy's girlfriend, Claudette while Roy was on tour.
Ken Cook's "Problem Child"
was recorded on September 4, 1958 that also produced Ken's first single ''Crazy Baby'' b/w ''I Was A Fool'' (PI 3534) for Phillips International. To
that point, Roy's version of ''Problem Child'' hadn't been released. Ken Cook died on April 27, 2004.
COTTON, JAMES - Born James 'Jimmy'' Cotton in Tunica, Tunica County, Mississippi, on July 1, 1935. His father was a preacher and his mother played the harmonica. Born, raised and worked on a farm as child and singing in the local church in the 1940s.
In 1944, he ran away from home at 14 to live with Sonny Boy Williamson II, (also known as Rice Miller) who taught him to play harmonica and frequently worked on streets, local juke joints, and parties for tips in Tunica, Mississippi.
Worked with Sonny Boy Williams II in Helena, Arkansas at the King Biscuit Time, for KFFA-radio and frequent on tours and working in juke joints through the Mississippi / Arkansas Delta in the late 1940s.
James Cotton occasional worked in bands of Howlin' Wolf, Willie Nix, and others in West Memphis in 1950 and he has been an enduring figure on the blues scene for almost forty years. A journeyman performer, - play drums, play guitar and harmonica - he has worked and recorded constantly and consistently since the early 1950s. James Cotton came from the thriving West Memphis scene, playing on the streets when he was nine or ten years old.
In 1950, Cotton worked with and influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson II at the Be-Bop Hall in West Memphis, Arkansas and assumed leadership of Sonny Boy Williams Band working in local gigs and toured with the band through Tennessee and Arkansas in the early 1950s and worked frequently as single in the local juke joints and clubs in West Memphis. He also appeared with Willie Nix at the Broadway Furniture Store Show on KWEM-radio in West Memphis, frequently appeared on the Hart's Bread Show on KWEM-radio; and worked outside the music in the West Memphis area.
In 1955, Cotton has married and have 2 children. After Sam Phillips started Sun Records, he contacted in 1953 Cotton at KWEM with a view to recordings through 1954. Cotton joined Muddy Waters Band in Memphis and toured, worked and recorded off-and-on with the band out of Chicago from 1954 through 1966.
He frequently worked at the 798 Club Sulvio's and other in Chicago in late 1950s into early 1960s. He appeared with Muddy Waters Band at the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1959 (portion are released on United Artist label); worked with Muddy Waters at the New Port Jazz Festival in Newport, Rode Island in 1960 (portion are released on the Chess label and portion shown in the film The Subterraneas); he also toured with Muddy Waters Band and working on concert dates through England, Europe in 1961; worked at the British Beaulieu Jazz Festival in London, England in 1961; recorded for Columbia label in London, England in 1961 and worked with the Muddy waters Band at the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1961; recorded with Otis Spain for the Vanguard label in Chicago, Illinois in 1965; recorded and accompanied to Johnny Young for the Arhoolie label in Chicago, Illinois in 1965, and worked at the Downbeat Jazz Festival in Chicago, Illinois in 1965.
In 1966 James Cotton formed his own band to work in local club dates in Chicago, Illinois; recorded for Loma label in Chicago, Illinois; worked with Mother Blues in Chicago, Illilois in 1966; at the Bowery in Chicago, Illinois in 1966; at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California in 1966; at the Folk Music Festival in Berkeley, California in 1967 (portion shown on syndicated TV); recorded for Verve label in New York City in 1967; worked at the Town Hall in New York City in 1967; at the La Cave in Cleveland, Ohio in 1967; the Living End in Detroit, Michigan in 1967; the Grand Ballroom in Detroit, in 1967; at the Second Fret in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1967; the Riverboat in Toronto, Canada in 1967.
In 1968, Cotton appeared at the Fillmore East in New York City; at the Troubadour In Los Angeles, California in 1968; the Loew's King Theater in Brooklyn, New Yersey in 1968; the Cafe A-Go-Go in New York City, New York in 1968; he also performed at the Sky River Rock Festival in Sultan, Washington in 1968; the Fillmore West in San Francisco, California in 1968; recorded for the Vanguard label in San Francisco, California in 1968; worked at the Kaleidoscope in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1968, the Miami Pop Festival in Hallandale, Florida in 1968.
In 1969 Cotton appeared at the The Eagles in Seattle, Washington; appeared on Hugh Hefner's "Playboy After Dark" for WOR-TV in New York City in 1969 (syndicated); worked at the The Felt Forum in New York City in 1969 and worked with Muddy Waters at the Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois in 1969; the International Pop Festival in Lewisvilly, Texas in 1969; the Sky River Rock Festival in Tenino, Washington in 1969; at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New Yersey in 1969; at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto, Canada in 1969-70, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969; at the Jazz Workshop in Boston, Massachusetts in 1969-70; worked with Muddy Waters Band in Ungano's, New York City in 1969.
In 1970, James Cotten appeared at the Dial M For Music on CBS-TV; worked at the Pepper's Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1970 to 1972; at the Blue Flame Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1970-71; at the Lennie's in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970-72; the Town Hall in New York City in 1970; recorded for Capitol label in Los Angeles, California in the early 1970s; worked at the Coq D'or in Toronto, Canada in 1971, the Kileinhan's Music Hall in Buffalo, New Yersey in 1971; at the University of Detroit, Michigan in 1972; the Esquire Showbar in Montreal, Canada in 1972; appeared in the UK film short "Playing The Thing" in 1972; worked at the Siena Col Blues Festival in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972; at Joe's Place in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1972; the Good Rockin' Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1972, and the Central Park Music Festival in New York City in 1973.
In 1973, Cotton toured with Muddy Waters Band at the Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois; the Theresa's Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1973 to 1974; the Grendel's Lair Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1973; the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City in 1973, the La Bastille in Houston, Texas in 1973; the Paul's Mall in Houston, Texas in 1973, the Shaboo Inn in Mansfield, Connecticut in 1973; Sandy's in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1973-74.
In 1974-75, Cotton appeared at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; at the Monterrey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California in 1974; the Last Change Saloon in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1974; the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago, Illinois in 1974; the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia in 1974, at the University of Houston, Texas in 1974; the Pepper's Hideout in Chicago, Illinois in 1974; the Sweet Queen Bee's in Chicago, Illinois in 1974; the Rainbow Room in Detroit, Michigan in 1974; recorded for the Buddah label in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1974; at the Waster concert Cocao Beach, Florida in 1974; performed at the Convention Centerin Dallas, Texas in 1974; at the Mondavi Winery Summer Festival in Oakville, California in 1975.
In 1975, James Cotton toured with Johnny Winter and working on concert dates across the United States in 1975 and worked with Johnny Winter at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1975; recorded for the Biddah label in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1975; worked at the Boston Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1975; performed at the Aquarius Tavern in Seattle, Washington in 1975; the Ratso's in Chicago, Illinois in 1975-76; at Peyton Place in Chicago, Illinois in 1975; the Keystone in Berkeley, California in 1975-19 76; at the Bottom Line in New York City, New York in 1975-76; the Sophie's in Palo Alto, California in 1976; worked at My Father's Place in Roslyn, New York in 1976; in Max's Kansas City in New York City, New York in 1976; at the Outside Inn in Buffalo, New Yersey in 1976; at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California in 1976; recorded with Muddy Waters for the Blue Sky label in Westport, Connecticut in 1976; worked at the Palladium in New York City, New York in 1977; at the Elliot's Nest in Rochester, New York in 1977.
James Cotton toured with Muddy Waters Band and Johnny Winter working at concert, college dates across the United States in 1977; worked in Ivanhoe in Chicago, Illinois in 1977; at the Liberty Hall in Houston, Texas in 1977; and the Belle Starr in Buffalo, New York in 1977. James Cotton is one of the better live performers in the blues and he is still active in Chicago and currently make records for Alligator Records.
After battling throat cancer in the late 1990s, James Cotton stopped singing. In 2008, he and Ben Harper inducted Little Walter into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. His latest recordings appeared on Allogator Records in 2010. He has considerably pared back his touring schedule, but for many, many years James Cotton came to a town (or a country) near you.
James ''Jimmy'' Cotton died at a medical center in Austin, Texas from pneumonia on March 16, 2017 at the age of 81.
B.B. Cunningham Sr. >
CUNNINGHAM, BUDDY BLAKE - Originally born in 1919 and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Buddy Blake
Cunningham had a career as a minor league pitcher to concentrate on singing. Instead he pitched himself as a
vocalist, albeit in the style of forties' crooner, Rus Morgan. Using a song from Lew Douglas, an arranger who
had once worked with Tommy Dorsey in his hometown of Chicago, Cunningham cut his own master and
sold tapes to Sun.
In July 1954 he was living in Memphis very close to Sam Phillips, and he was the closest
thing to a star on the Sun roster that month too. His Valley recording of "Angels In The Sky", which, like this
record, was also directed by Cliff Parman had been a good regional seller earlier in 1954.
The first Phillips International release extended the Sun career of Buddy Blake Cunningham. Blake had been
last heard from three years earlier on Sun 208, a record most collectors remember with a shudder. The
deservedly rare "Right Or Wrong" b/w "Why Do I Cry" makes most short lists for the least favorite and most
anomalous early Sun release. For whatever reason, Blake's style held considerable appeal for Sam Phillips,
who worked overtime with the local singer, scheduling sessions at 706 Union in March, April, May and June
1957. Blake left more that a dozen unissued sides from these dates which a quarter of a century of Sun
archaeologists have never deemed worthy of resurrection. "Right Or Wrongly", Buddy Blake has never been
the poster boy for Sun record collectors.
Still, Sam Phillips gave Buddy a second kick at the can on Phillips International in 1957, and Buddy's son,
B.B., went on to become a luminary in the local scene as a member of the Hombress. Buddy himself went on
to start a collection agency which may have repo'd the automobiles of several members of the Sun rooster.
After his final session at 706 Union, the by now well-versed Blake departed to set up his own Cover Records
operation in Memphis from the downtown Exchange Building in 1959.
Assisted by his son Blake Baker, who became a jack of all trades for the label: singer, songwriter, session player,
producer and general handyman. One of the first records on Cover was B.B.'s "Trip To Band Stand" (Cover
5931), an obvious cash-in on Bill Parsons's "All American Boy". Credited to simply "B-B", it was one of the
few vocal Cover releases by Cunningham Jr., who had six 45s issued on his father's label between early 1959
and 1962. Of the instrumental tracks, the one is like the best is "Ivory Marbles", a pleasant piano rocker,
which has been reissued on several compilations. "Beale Street Twist" (Cover 4622, 1962) was credited to
Lyn Vernon, apparently a pseudonym of Cunningham. By then, Cunningham Jr. had taken over the running
of the label from his father after his death in 2000.
During its 7-year lifespan, Cover Records issued rock and roll, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, jazz and
straight pop, virtually all by local Memphis artists. A nice overview of the label's output can be found on the
CD "Hot Rockin' Music - From Memphis: The Cover Recording Company Story", issued by Dave Travis in
2000 (Stomper Time STCD 10). It includes 13 tracks by B.B. (Junior, that is.) Probably the best known
Cover release is "Ain't That A Dilly" by Marlon Grisham, which is available on countless compilations.
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©