Alphabetical Order by the last name of the Artist
Artists D - E - F
- Damon, Jimmy -
- DeBerry, Jimmy -
- Dee, Jean -
- Dettenhein, Ed (Ed Hall) -
- Dickinson, Jim -
- Dixieland Drifters, The -
- Dobbins, Joseph & The Four Cruisers -
- Donn, Larry -
- Dorman, Harold -
- Dory, Hunky (Chester McDowell) -
- Douglas, Shy Guy -
- Duling, Vincent -
- Earls, Jack -
- Edwards, David ''Honeyboy'' -
- Elven Parr's In The Groove -
- Emerson, Billy ''The Kid'' -
- Enlow, Thurman "'Ted'' -
- Estes, Sleepy John -
- Evangelist Gospel Singers Of Alabama -
- Evans, Jimmy -
- Fakes, Roger -
- Fay, Hannah -
- Feathers, Charlie -
- Felts, Narvel -
- Five Tinos, The -
- Forbes, Graham -
- Foster, Chuck (Orchestra) -
- Frank, Harmonica -
- Frost, Frank
DAMON, JIMMY – was born on April 27, 1938, Jimmy Demopoulos in Memphis, Tennessee, was son of a Greek immigrant, Nick Demopoulos, who ran the local American Legion 24-hour restaurant in Memphis about a mile from the birthplace of the Stax Records soul label. Damon met local entertainers such as Elvis Presley, Stax singer Rufus Thomas, and Johnny Cash at the cafe. His father's best friend was Wallace E. Johnson, founder of the Holiday Inn hotel chain. Lots of people stay at Holiday Inn.
Demopoulos had his first success at 14 when he recorded the teen ballad "If I Had My Way" b/w ''Hopeless Love'' (PI 3537)
for Phillips International records in Memphis. Local bandleader Bill Justis - who had his own
hit in 1957 with "Raunchy", heard Demopoulos sing and recommended the teenager to Sun
Records founder Sam Phillips. The late Charlie Rich played piano on his session.
At the age of 16, he co-hosted a regional TV show and dance party called "The Big Beat''. By 1957 Demopoulos had his own fan club. It consisted mostly of teenage girls. They came up with a motto: Push Demop to the top. He thought Chicago could take him to the top. Jimmy changed his name from Demopoulos to Damon in 1968, and left Memphis for Chicago three years later. Damon says, "At one time Chicago was the greatest one-night city in America. All the conventions were here. Things were still alive''.
Damon is a saloon singer, nice and easy. And no one does it better. Jimmy Damon is proud to
be a saloon singer. He has been gigging around Chicago since 1971, when dim candles and
long playing records still stood for something. Damon has played the Empire Room.
When Damon arrived in Chicago, one of his first gigs was at the, now defunct, Cousin's Club,
a 1970s nightspot for subterranean swingers in the basement of Benihana of Tokyo, 166 E.
Superior. Damon sang pop covers of Lou Rawls' "Lady Love" and Peter, Paul and Mary's
"Leavin' on a Jet Plane." Alan King and Count Basie are a couple of the big shooters who
would drop into the Cousin's Club when they were in town. Damon played the room for
three years. This is where he learned to become a singer.
Jimmy Demopoulos or Damon, the popular fixture on Chicago’s cabaret and nightlife scene, died on
Saturday April 27, 2013 on his 75th birthday at the Rush University Medical Center’s Horizon Hospice Care Unit in Chicago. According to Jimmy's daughter, Dana Damon-Trentadue, her father had been afflicted by a rare blood disease, something that strikes ''one in a million'', that eventually attacked his heart and caused his death. Damon was a saloon singer, nice and easy. And no one does it better.
Jimmy DeBerry, Memphis, August 29, 1972. >
DEBERRY, JIMMY - Long time associate of Walter Horton, recorded in 1939 for Vocalion. Although an important member of the Memphis blues scene little known of him bar the fact that he only had one leg on Sun Records.
Jimmy DeBerry was born in Gumwood, Arkansas, on November 11, 1917, the youngest of three sons of Savannah Ford and Albert DeBerry Sr. Deberry spent most of his pre-teen years just south of Memphis in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
He always wanted to be a musician, an achievement made easier when in 1926 he moved to Memphis to live with his aunt Leola. He took up the ukule and hung around Will Shade and various members of the Memphis Jug Band, as well as Jack Kelly, leader of the rival South Memphis Band, and Frank Stokes, one of the patriarchs of Memphis blues.
In the spring of 1934, while staying with his brother Albert, he lost his lower right leg in a train accident. When he returned to Memphis, he took up the banjo and studied music with violinist Lilly McAdoo, whilst holding down jobs as a porter and dishwasher at the Peabody Hotel. That may have been the location of the recordings he made for the American Record Company (ARC) in July 1939 as Jimmy DeBerry and his Memphis Playboys after Deberry became friends with Jack Kelly and Little Buddy Doyle.
Exempted from war service, DeBerry gigged around Memphis with Lilly McAdoo and even played hillbilly music for Memphis's Boss Crump before he moved to St. Louis in 1942 and remained there until the early 1950s, when he relocated to Jackson, Tennessee. He became one of a number of musicians who broadcasting over WDIA and KWEM as a member of Willie Nix's band.
Presumably, it was this work that brought him to Sam Phillips' notice. He and Walter Horton, accompanied by Houston Stokes on drums, recorded "Easy"/"Before Long" (SUN 180) in February 1953. Sam Phillips recorded DeBerry again the following May with pianist Mose Vinson and drummer Raymond Jones, from which "Take A Little Chance"/"Time Has Made A Chance" were issued on SUN 185.
For the rest of the 1950s, DeBerry moved around the country before settling in Sikeston, Missouri in 1960 where he did field work. After a year-long search, Steve LaVere located him there in 1972 and brought him to Memphis for some festival appearances, and he and Walter Horton recorded together once again. The results were issued on two Crosscut albums in 1989. Jimmy DeBerry returned to Sikeston, where he died on January 17, 1985. His total recorded output amounted to five-and-a-half singles, and three unissued songs, all of them with the low-key plaintive charm that has almost disappeared from the blues. (CE)
DEE, JEAN (UPDATE)
- You might not recognize the name Jean Dee, but you still might have heard her voice. She was born Yvonne McGowan on Christmas Day in Oklahoma and has recorded and performed under a variety of many different names and genres. Some of the different names she has used include Yvonne O'Day, Vonnie Taylor, Vonnie Mack, Jean Dee and Yvonne DeVaney, which she still uses today. At the age of two, she began singing and yodelling, and by 11 she won a contest playing classical piano. She also played guitar and bass.
While still in high school, she teamed up with her sister Mary, with Yvonne playing guitar and Mary on accordion, and had a duet song and tap dancing act. They performed with Roy Rogers and Trigger once!
Some of the labels she's worked with include Capitol Records, Columbia Records, Decca Records, Phillips International, Spar Records, King Records, Chart Records, Compo Records and for her own YMD Music Group, which she founded. If that sounds like she really gets around, she does! But, by recording for all those different labels, she got to perform with a variety of artists. Some of those include Merle Lindsay's Western Swing Band, Red Foley, Pee Wee King, Minnie Pearl, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Tommy Duncan, The Anita Kerr Singers and a former featured artist here on Music For Every Mood, The Jordanaires, who back her on today's song. If you listen closely, you can tell it's their trademark sound!
Her biggest claim to fame would probably be her songwriting talents. She's written songs that have been recorded by Dean Martin, Vic Dana, Pat Boone, Billy Walker, Dottie West, Wanda Jackson, Bonnie Guitar, Hank Snow, The Hardin Trio, Carl and Pearl Butler, The Wilburn Brothers and The Cheltenham Singers, out of England.
Some of the many songs she's recorded herself, under different names, include
''Snowflakes'', ''I Just Want To Be With You'', ''Love Is A Gamble'', Does It Hurt You To Remember'', ''I Live For You'', ''Please Forgive Me'', ''Blue Mountain Waltz'', ''Slowly I'm Losing You'', ''Open Arms'', ''If You Don't Somebody Else Will'', ''Sweethearts On Parade'', ''My Greatest Hurt'', ''Step Into My World'', ''Dim The Car Lights'', ''Pick Me Up On Your Way Down'', ''Teach Me To Live Without You'' and ''Tell Me A Lie'', among countless others. She's enjoyed a very full recording career!
She has received a BMI Citation of Achievement Award for her writing and holds the honorary Commission Rank of Commodore in the Oklahoma Navy. Some of her latest releases include The Yvonne DeVaney Collection of 2003.
ED DETTENHEIM (ED HALL) - Born in Shreveport on February 23, 1934, Dettenheim took up guitar and then bass. He learned to play left handed first and switched to right, but he was never great a lead player, simply he could not move that picking with his right hand fast like flatpickers, but he could put harmony and rhythm to anything a picker could play. Dettenheim took the name Eddie Hall and Thomas Givens took the name Tommy Blake. "As to why he picked the name Blake I can only guess", said Hall. "Tommy was broadcast literate.
A single sylable last name that makes a harsh auditory impact makes for easy recall. Blake's sure makes a more lasting first impression than a flowing two-sylable name like Givens. Tommy would have been very much aware and into stuff like that. He was the best salesman I ever knew. He just couldn't stop selling unless I intervened", said Dettenheim. Ed Hall went to Louisiana Sociology University to work toward a degree in psychiatric social work. Hall later worked as a superintendent of several state institutions for the developmentally challenged.
DICKINSON, JIM - born as James Luther Dickinson in Little Rock, Arkansas on November 15, 1941, was an American record producer, pianist, and singer who fronted, among others, the Memphis based band, Mudboy & The Neutrons. Jim Dickinson moved to Memphis, Tennessee at an early age. After attending school at Baylor University, he returned to Memphis and played on recording sessions for Bill Justis, and at Chips Moman's American Studios.
Jim Dickinson in 1965. Dickinson, a musician and producer who helped shape the Memphis sound in an influential career that spanned more than four decades. >
Dickinson recorded what has been called the last great record on the Sun label, "Cadillac Man" b/w "My Babe" by the Jesters, playing piano and singing lead on both sides, even though he was not an actual member of the group. In the late 1960s, Dickinson joined with fellow Memphis musicians Charlie Freeman, Michael Utley, Tommy McClure and Sammy Creason; this group became known as the "Dixie Flyers" and provided backup for musicians recording for Atlantic Records. Perhaps their best-known work was for Aretha Franklin's 1970 ''Spirit In The Dark''.
In December 1969, Dickinson played piano on The Rolling Stones' track "Wild Horses" at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, although it wasn't released until 1971, and in that year on Flamin' Groovies' album Teenage Head. In 1972 Dickinson released his first solo album, "Dixie Fried", which featured songs by Bob Dylan, Furry Lewis, and the title song by Carl Perkins.
In the 1970s he became known as a producer, recording Big Star's Third in 1974, as well as serving as co-producer with Alex Chilton on the 1979 Chilton album Like Flies on Sherbert. He has produced Willy DeVille, Green on Red, Mojo Nixon, Neon Wheels, Jason & The Nashville Scorchers, The Replacements, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, among many others, and in 1977 an aural documentary of Memphis' Beale Street, Beale Street Saturday Night, which featured performances by Sid Selvidge, Furry Lewis and Dickinson's band Mud Boy and the Neutrons. He has also worked with Ry Cooder, and played on Dylan's album Time Out of Mind. In 1998, he produced Mudhoney's, Tomorrow Hit Today.
His sons Luther and Cody, who played on his 2002 solo effort ''Free Beer Tomorrow'', and the 2006 Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger, have achieved success on their own as the North Mississippi Allstars.
Dickinson also made a recording with Pete (Sonic Boom) Kember of Spacemen 3 fame. "Indian Giver" was released in 2008 by Birdman Records under the name of Spectrum Meets Captain Memphis, with Captain Memphis, obviously, referring to Dickinson.
In 2007 Dickinson played with the Memphis-based rock band, Snake Eyes. The band, formed by Memphis musician Greg Roberson (former Reigning Sound drummer), featured Jeremy Scott (also from the Reigning Sound), Adam Woodard, and John Paul Keith. While the band disbanded in October 2008, Dickinson and Roberson went on to form another Memphis group, Ten High & the Trashed Romeos. This band included Jake and Toby Vest (of Memphis band The Bulletproof Vests) and Adam Hill. Ten High & the trashed Romeos recorded two albums, the first including all original compositions written by Dickinson and the band. The second album consists entirely of covers of 1960's Memphis Garage Rock songs.
Jim Dickinson died on August 15, 2009 at Methodist Extended Care Hospital in Memphis following triple bypass heart surgery.
DIXIELAND DRIFTERS, THE – were a group of young bluegrass-based musicians who operated out of the Chattanooga area. They made several records between 1958 and 1961 on the BB and Do-Ra-Me labels of Nashville and Hap Records of Chattanooga, but their first recordings were the two songs they recorded for Sun Records in 1957. The Drifters have remained a little-feted outfit and would have been less so were it not for the fact that their Dobro player Norman Blake went on to become a renowned guitar picker in the folk and Americana end of the country music world.
Norman Blake was born in Chattanooga and raised in Sulphur Springs, Georgia where he still lives. He started on country radio very young after quitting school at sixteen in 1954. That year he played mandolin in a duo on WDOD (Wonderful Dynamo Of Dixie) in Chattanooga.
By 1956 he had helped from the Dixieland Drifters with banjo player Robert ''Bob'' Johnson and they worked the WNOX Tennessee Barn Dance show in Knoxville and for a time were based in Rome, Georgia. In 1957 they had some guest spots on the Grand Ole Opry and they were photographed that year performing on Ernest Tubb's Midnite Jamboree show in Nashville with essentially the same line-up that came to Memphis in February 1957. On Sun, the band comprised Norman Blake (dobro), Robert Johnson (guitar/banjo), Harold Bradford (fiddle/guitar), Cecil Powell (mandolin), and Howell ''Hal'' Culpepper (vocal). It appears that they came to Sun to work with Jack Clement, himself a former bluegrass musician. This was apparently their first recording work and to their folky, acoustic sound Clement added the drumbeat of Sun session man Jimmy Van Eaton. Clement obviously heard a sound in his head but although several takes were made of ''I'm Gonna Find Her'' and ''Maybe Tomorrow'', these sides were never scheduled for release and it is possible that Sam Phillips never heard them. They remain just one of the very many examples of the demos and demo-plus standard session tapes that remained in the Sun vaults.
The Drifters continued as a group through the late 1950s and early 1960s but Blake and Johnson also worked with fellow Chattanooga musician Walter Forbes as The Lonesome Travelers, appearing on the Opry and recording for RCA. The Drifters recordings also featured singer ''Houston'' Buck Turner delivering such titles as ''How Big A Fool'' and ''Uncle John's Bongoes''. Norman Blake went on to make over thirty albums and to appear as a star picker with the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Alison Kraus. His music was featured in the movie ''Oh Brother, Where Art Thou''. (MH)
Joseph Dobbins at work in the 1960s.
DOBBINS, JOSEPH & THE FOUR CRUISERS - It's still far from certain that Joseph Dobbins recorded his solitary Chess single in Sam Phillips' studio, but it's beyond dispute that Dobbins was a fixture on the Memphis scene for decades, rarely leaving town. True, there's no documentation to suggest that Phillips recorded Dobbins, but there are plenty of other recordings on Sun and other labels supposedly produced by Phillips for which no documentation exists.
Like Louis Jordan, Joseph Dobbins was born in Brinkley, Arkansas. The presumed date is September 9, 1909, some fifteen months after Jordan. The son of devout Christians, Dobbins (Dobbin on his Chess 78) grew up in Brinkley, but the bright lights of Memphis were just seventy miles away.
''I was learning church music'', he told Jack Hurley and Harry Godwin in 1967, ''but that didn't move me. After the first World War, I came to Memphis. It was wide open. If you could play any kinda blues at all, you had a job. First job I had in Memphis was playing at the Chicago House from dusk until dawn, seven nights a week for $3.40 a week. Then a real nice roadhouse at Beale and Hernando raised me to five dollars. Big dance floor, a small side room for sandwiches, a card room, and a larger room for dominoes and craps tables. That was about 1925 or 1926''.
After a stint as a bus washer for the Memphis Street Railway, Dobbins became a mechanic before getting injured and returning to music after Prohibition was repealed. ''I quit again in 1939'', he said. ''Told myself I'd never play no more. I went to work, learning to be a real good waiter''. He claimed to have written the songs on his Chess single in 1942 or 1943, although 1952 0r 1953 seems likelier. After the single came out, he quit playing once again and became a waiter. ''Later'', he said, ''in my off time, I went to work at the Gayoso Hotel and I had a chance to practise quite a bit, and I started playing again and I played up to about four years ago (1963)''.
When Hurley and Godwin interviewed Dobbins, he was playing again in clubs around town, but insisted that he would return to sacred music. In June 1970, he recorded for Adelphi's ''Memphis Blues Again'' LP, and recorded again in October, but died that December.
Neither as original nor as earthy as the Delta musicians who came to Sam Phillips' doorstep, Dobbins hands us a little audio snapshot of what you might have heard at a Beale Street club between midnight and dawn sometime between the wars. (CE)
- was born as Larry Gillihan Donn in Bono, Craighead County, Arkansas, on June 7, 1941, the only
child of Leonard Edison "Edd" and Sybil Baugh Gillihan. He attended the Bono School and in the early
1950's, he heard his first rockabilly music from Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Sonny Burgess,
and Billy Lee Riley as they performed around the Northeast Arkansas area.
Larry Donn (the name he
recorded and performed under), decided it was time he got in on the act, so he formed his first band in 1957
at the ripe old age of 16. In 1958, Larry Donn and his band made several recordings for Sun Records but
nothing was issued today.
In 1959 he recorded a song called "Honey Bun" which was released on the Vaden label, out of Trumann,
Arkansas. "Honey Bun" and the flip side, "That's What I Call a Ball", were regional jukebox hits, but have
since become rockabilly standards performed by musicians all over the world. In the 1980's, Europe rediscovered
American rockabilly music and rockabilly discovered a whole new audience. Larry Donn became
very well-known in Europe for his 1950's rock and roll recordings. Beginning in 1989, he toured in England,
Germany, France, and Sweden nine times, performing for thousands of fans. Today his CDs are sold
worldwide. An Original 45 rpm record of "Honey Bun/That's What I Call a Ball" on the Vaden Label fetches
up to $2,500, and is in the "top twenty" of most collectible rock and roll records.
In the 1960s Larry Donn worked as a radio announcer at KNEA in Jonesboro, Arkansas, KLCN in
Blytheville, Arkansas, KTMN in Trumann, Arkansas, and WBSR in Pensacola, Florida. He also worked at
KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas, as a news anchor. Larry Donn released 5 albums and several 45 rpm
records in his lifetime. In the 1970's and 2980's he toured the United States, playing NCO clubs at military
bases all over the country. In his later years, Larry Donn played piano in Billy Lee Riley's band, until Riley's
death in 2009. Larry Donn also wrote a column, "Rockabilly Days", in the leading American Roots Music
publication from the United Kingdom, called "Now Dig This", for 17 years. By L. J. Gillihan, with credit to
Mark Randall. Larry Don Gillihan died on May 1, 2012 in his hometown Bono, Arkansas at the age of 71.
DORMAN, HAROLD - Harold Kenneth Dorman was born on December 23, 1926 in Drew, Mississippi, was an American rock and roll singer and songwriter. Dorman's music career began when he left the army in 1955.
His first sessions were recorded for the legendary Sun Records in 1957, but were never released. Two years later Dorman was signed to Rita Records, owned by former Sun artist Billy Riley and guitarist Roland Janes, who had played with Jerry Lee Lewis.
Dorman's first single was his own "Mountain Of Love", one of five tracks he recorded at the Hi Records studios in Memphis. The record started to sell well in Georgia, at which point strings were added to the master tape and it was re-released. The single ultimately reached number 21 in 1960.
Dorman continued to record for Rita for another year; then he recorded again for Sun Records until 1962, but failed to produce any further chart hits. In 1964 Johnny Rivers recorded "Mountain Of Love" and took it to number 9 in the Billboard charts. Dorman's only other notable success came when country singer Charley Pride cut his "Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town". Pride also covered "Mountain Of Love". Though it was Dorman's only hit record, it proved to be a popular song for covers like Johnny Rivers, and Ronnie Dove all hit the U.S. chart with the song, and it was also recorded by Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, Tommy Cash, and Narvel Felts. Although disabled by two strokes in 1984 Dorman continued writing songs and, in 1988 Harold Dorman died on October 8 at the age of 61. (Bear Family Records posthumously reissued an album of Dorman's recordings in 1999.)
DOUGLAS, SHY GUY - Was from Franklin, Tennessee and worked as a singer and musician in and around Nashville, mostly while holding down a day job in catering and transport. He had no known link to Memphis other than a box of session tape containing the three songs included and an association with promoter Red Wortham, the man who connected the Prisonaires with Sun in the weeks before June 1953. Douglas's recordings were dated June 1953, and either Douglas went to Memphis to record or Wortham carried his tape to Memphis around the time he accompanied the Prisonaires there.
Thomas Douglas was born on November 8, 1919 and worked as a cook on the railroads before and after a stint in the Army in the 1940s. He worked in the stockyards for a while, and later catered at several Nashville restaurants. He learned to play harmonica during quiet moments on the railroad and in the 1950s and 1960s apparently spent a lot of time with DeFord Bailey Jr., son of the harmonica player from the Grand Ole Opry, playing local 'jigs', where musicians from many different bands got together for impromptu jam sessions. People who remembered him said he was a singer and harmonica player. One person said he played piano but this was not confirmed by his wife, Johnnie, though she said he did take his ''Shy Guy'' moniker after he started to sing Nat Cole's hit record of 1945, ''I'm A Shy Guy''.
Douglas first recorded in 1949 for Wortham at the Bulleit studio on Nashville's Broadway. His ''Raid On Cedar Street'' was tested on Delta Records and quickly leased to MGM who hoped to sell as many copies as the song it was modelled on, Louis Jordan's then-current hit ''Saturday Night Fish Fry''. Described as a small, neat man, Douglas was primarily a singer during the Delta/MGM period, working at the New Era and the Revillot clubs. He worked with a pianist named Richard Armstrong who featured on his MGM disc. Tom Douglas also traveled with the Bijou-based Jerry Jackson Revue, which operated as a kind of tent show with music, dancers, comedians, and a carnival, in residence six weeks a year in Hot Springs, Arkansas, during horse-racing season. Red Wortham spotted him at the Bijou Theater and acted as his manager and promoter while he played clubs all through the surrounding area; the two became what Johnnie Douglas described as ''best buddies... he was white, but if you're musicians, you're family''. Johnnie was a hairdresser and the Douglas house became known as a stopping off point for musicians; ''if they needed their hair fixed or they were in Nashville and down on their luck they had a place to stay with us''. Johnnie remembered Tom bringing home B.B. King, Joe Turner, Billy Eckstine and many others including Little Richard - ''Tom let him sleep in the hair parlor and he would get me to press and curl his hair just like a girl''.
In the spring of 1953, Douglas recorded for Nashville's Excello label, coming into their studio as part of a package with the Kid King Combo. His recordings included ''Detroit Arrow'' and ''New Memphis Blues'', a song written by Red Wortham and which Wortham said had been recorded for Sun although no trace of it has been found. The Excello disc appeared in May 1953 and it may be that Wortham pitched a demo session he had already recorded to Sun, featuring Douglas with a pianist and guitarist in support, when he realised his protege had taken himself off to another label. The pianist on the Sun tapes may have been Richard Armstrong, a record dealer in Nashville remembered ''an old black guy, fairly articulate'', telling him in about 1990 that he had been the piano player with Shy Guy Douglas when they ''made a session for Sun''.
Thomas Douglas recorded for Carlvert and other Nashville labels through the 1950s and 1960s including Red Wortham's Sur-Speed. He retained a day job, though, and was about to retire from his State employment in transportation when he died in Nashville on October 16, 1984. (MH)
Chester McDowell on KYOK, Houston, Texas, late 1950s. >
DORY, HUNKY (CHESTER MCDOWELL) - Hunky Dory was the copyrighted name of a popular disc jockey on Memphis radio station WLOK during the 1950s. During his peak years, the part of Hunky Dory was played by disc jockey-promoter-entertainer-entrepreneur Chester McDowell. McDowell, originally from Beaumont, Texas, was part of a growing tradition of disc jockey personalities (men like the more famous Dewey Phillips) who entertained their listeners with far more than pale patter between discs.
studied music in high school and sang gospel quartets as a young man, was a World War II veteran who was working on radio in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1951 when Dewey Phillips was developing his reputation in Memphis.
Integration of radio audiences was a lot further along than what went on in the outside world. The music you listened to in the privacy of your own home was nobody's business but your own. When no one was watching, whites, especially young whites, could enjoy Rosco Gordon or B.B. King's music, for example. The flipside was also true; a surprising number of blacks gathered around their radios to savor the charms of Elvis Presley. Musical barriers were tumbling in Memphis. There were two radio stations that catered to a largely black audience in the Tristate area: WDIA and WLOK. WLOK typically served the younger demographic. Their parents' generation was more likely to listen to WDIA. This is not to say that WDIA was staid or unhip; with characters like Rufus Thomas manning the microphones, there was still plenty of energy being broadcast from dawn to dusk.
Enter Chester McDowell aka Hunky Dory, who became a stalwart of WLOK from 1952 through 1958. But McDowell wanted more than Djing. When he got his hands and ears on the youthful group heard on these tapes, dollar signs flashed before his eyes. At the least, a record contract for the group seemed a possibility with McDowell as manager. But even that wasn't enough for the flamboyant McDowell who was interested in more than managing. McDowell also saw himself as a vocalist, if he could just find himself some backing voices. Maybe this quartet, whose strong vocalizing we hear on these demos, was just what the doctor ordered.
In late 1957 and early 1958 Sun Records seemed the best local destination for his efforts. McDowell a prominent disc jockey and Sam Phillips, a prominent record label owner, were well aware of each other. Remember, just 3-4 short years earlier, in pre-Elvis days, Sun had been a big time player in the rhythm and blues market. Even in its post-Elvis days, Sun Records had a national reputation. True, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis seemed a long way from black quartets, but it was still worth a try. Sam Phillips was making money and making stars. Why shouldn't Chester McDowell get himself a piece of the pie?
It's here that our sleuth work hits a wall. Just who was this tight little quartet we hear on these demos? There are many possibilities but nothing certain except that this quartet was steeped in the gospel tradition but were not averse to crossing the line into pop. They could be one of the second tier (younger) Memphis quartets – the Jubilee Hummingbirds or the Heavenly Echoes perhaps. Most mainstream gospel quartets had as a matter of course ''junior versions'' of themselves, up and coming singers who knew their repertoires and could step in when the need arose if the first tenor became sick or had to take a night (or a week) off. The Hunky Dory quartet could have been such an aggregation – maybe linked to the Sunset Travelers or the Southern Wonders who had recorded for Duke. Peacock but were off the road by now. Then again, another Memphis disc jockey, Dick Cole, known as ''Cane'' because a bout of polio had left him using a walking stick, made records for Modern in the early 1950s and subsequently promoted a group called the 4 Canes, sometimes known as the 4 Kings, that recorded in Memphis on Stompertime, Stax, M.O.C and Goldwax between 1957 and 1966. A group called the Veltones made an unissued session at Sun around 1958 and according to Rob Bowman's research were the same group as the Canes. Any of these could have shared members with Hunky Dory.
Whoever the younger singers were who joined Chester McDowell on the Sun tapes as Hunky Dory, their audition began with ''I Wonder Why'' and ''I Want My Baby Back'', if the sequence on the tape box is to believed. When pressed for more material, it seems likely that the group reverted to several gospel standards that would have been familiar fare when they sang together on Tuesday night in one of their homes, or on Wednesday night or Sunday morning in church. Then, at a separate session, two new songs were recorded with instrumental accompaniment.
Before the Sun sessions could come to anything, the Memphis World reported at the end of July 1958: ''Hunky Dory Quits WLOK For Houston Radio Post. This city's most popular disc jockey, Chester Hunky Dory McDowell resigned radio station WLOK Wednesday and left for Houston, Texas, where he will have a similar post at KYOK there''.
When he got to Houston, McDowell lost little time in demoing many of the same songs, perhaps using the same quartet, for Duke/Peacock Records. Apparently label owner Don Robey was more impressed with the package than Sam Phillips had been and gave McDowell a recording contract. It is likely that, as a blues/gospel disc jockey, McDowell would have had a history of business dealings with Robey and McDowell may have been someone Robey wanted to keep in his good graces. Although Robey was in the business of selling gospel quartets on his Peacock label, he focused McDowell on a more bluesy, soulful sound and McDowell's first release appeared on Duke 302 (Robey's secular affiliate label). It featured ''I Wonder Why'', which can be heard here in its original demo form. The flipside, ''Baby Don't Leave Me'', is also heard here as a Sun demo. A later McDowell release appeared on Duke 316 but featuring two non- Hunky Dory songs. Note that the Duke records were credited to Chester McDowall and neither mentioned the name Hunky Dory which, as we noted earlier, remained the property of WLOK in Memphis.
As Chet McDowell, our man was featured in Billboard's DJ Spotlight in 1965 by which time he was well settled in Houston, married with four children, and apparently past his days as an aspiring singer. (CE) (MH)
Guitar Red Duling, Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1981. >
DULING, ''GUITAR RED'' VINCENT – In an unusual reversal of migratory trends, guitarist Vincent Duling was born in Illinois and ended his days in Memphis. When researcher Bob Eagle interviewed him in 1972 he was living in Lawton, Oklahoma and working clubs with pianist Dennis Binder. Duling said he'd been born in Chicago on September 2, 1931 (his parents were Norris Duling and Alberta Brown) and had known other future guitar stylist Earl Hooker and Bo Diddley as he grew up.
He said he'd ''been playing guitar in Jewtown since the age of 11'' and was playing Sonny's Show Lounge at 51 Street and Peoria, billed as ''Guitar Red'', when he met Binder in the early 1950s and the two decided to work together. Guitar Red played some sessions at Chess including unreleased recordings with Binder and drummer Bob Prindell.
In May 1955 Red and Prindell were on Binder's recording of ''The Long Man'' for United Records along with Raymond Hill and Bobby Fields. Binder was in the habit of traveling South to play and he, Red and Prindell would normally stop at Sun Records on the way. On one occasion, Sam Phillips decided to record the Binder group with Guitar Red as both vocalist and bent-note guitar stylist. No record was forthcoming but Red continued to play clubs and recording sessions. He was on Billy Emerson's 1959 Chess recordings. In the 1960s he formed a soul-based band with Binder called the Versatile All Stars and then stayed out west with Binder and Prindell. It is unclear when and why he moved to Memphis but he died there in March 2001. (MH)
EARLS, JACK - was born August 23, 1932, in railroad town Woodbury, Tennessee, a rural community about 50 miles southeast of Nashville. It was, and still is to some extent, Uncle Dave Macon (1870-1952) territory. In fact, the famous 'Dixie Dewdrop.' banjo picker, singer, veteran of vaudeville and arguably the first country music star of the WSM Barn Dance (later known as Grand Ole Opry) was a neighbor of the Earls household and a welcome visitor during Jack's early childhood.
During visits, Macon liked to gather everyone to participate in a round of songs. When it came time for the boy hiding beneath the porch to sing with ''Muleskinner Blues'' and other songs from his mother. Mrs Earls was her son's singing teacher early on.
Some of Macon's delivery also left a mark on Earl's style. Both Earl's and Macon's vocals have been described in print as aggressive or even primitive, but how can those terms (especially the latter) be taken seriously when these men had been singing for a lifetime before their recording careers began? Macon gathered his songs and cultivated his public persona during the late 1800s, and Earls' mother grew up in the early 1900s - decades before the introduction of over-the-counter electronic microphones and amplification. One can only imagine the hair-raising, expressive voices of their 19'h century mentors.
Out in the country - years before he settled in Memphis - Earls harvested a variety of experiences. His father, an army veteran wounded during service, died before Earls could get to know him. He grew up with two brothers, four half-brothers and one sister on a farm. When Earls was seven years old, his older brother Richard, who worked in a Chattanooga cotton mill, took him in for a while. By age 13 he was back home and finished with school. With his brother Herb, Earls worked at the Uselton farm near Manchester. During the mid-1940s —breakout years for Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys — the Earls boys, together with two Uselton sons, often performed bluegrass and country songs while passing a hat outside the Manchester courthouse.
When a traveling carnival invaded the outskirts of town, Earls ran away with the troupe to work as a sideshow ''wild boy.'' Curious customers paid a coin to enter a dimly lit tent and peer past a partition to observe a dark pit with a shallow pool of water containing a disheveled wild man and a wild boy wrestling a dozen fake alligators and one real baby gator. ''My brother Herb told me I'd better not leave with the carnival. but when night come, I was gone. I left town with the show, and my mom didn't know where I was at, for a longtime'', said Earls. After a week or two of beating up stuffed gators for hamburgers the wild duo quit the carnival. Relying on handouts and the Salvation Army for food and shelter, they hitchhiked out to Chattanooga, where an uncle promptly sent Earls home. It was Richard who picked him up from the farm again, and delivered him to Memphis around 1949.
In 1950 he got married and attempted a move to Detroit that didn't take. After Earls returned to Memphis, he and his wife set up house in a neighborhood where music was a common pastime for many residents. ''Bill Black lived two streets over from me," said Earls. Johnny Black, Bill's brother - lived there, Scotty Moore lived around the corner, and Elvis's house was right behind mine''.
Outside of work; he played music infrequently with friends and family. At the end of a late shift., Earls often took his guitar into the back seat of his car, sang and vented whatever ideas came to his mind. By the time he and five other guitar pickers entered the studio of the Memphis Recording Service in the summer of 1955, Earls had several self-written songs waiting to be heard.
The Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue was located a few minutes' walk from the Earls' home. Just out of high school, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) had gone to the recording service in 1953 to cut a demonstration disk. He imagined he might attract the attention of the owner. Sam C. Phillips (1923-2003),. who also ran a little label called Sun Records from the building. In 1954; Phillips got around to calling him back, and his first record was released in July (SUN 209 ''That's All Right''/''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'').
Presley's success with Sun astonished Earls who didn't care for ''That's All Right'' when he first heard it. Hank Williams had been gone less than two years, and was still Earls' favorite singer.
Presley's early records inspired controversy, love, and even hate from listeners. However, as steady sales led to more and better gigs for Presley and his band-mates, guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, growing numbers of country musicians in the neighborhood - and soon, from beyond Memphis - cut demo records at the little studio in hopes that Phillips would produce a release for them on Sun.
Phillips, who started the Sun label almost exclusively with blues artists, felt that he helped Presley deliver something unique to the world. with his particular blend of country, pop and rock and roll music. Phillips was also enthusiastic about drawing out spontaneous performances from musicians who could deliver the sound of pure emotion. Presley's regional success encouraged Phillips to look for other local musicians with a new mixed-up style. Carl Perkins (1932-1998), another bakery employee (Colonial Bakery in Jackson), arrived with his rockin' honky tonk band in late 1954. Johnny Cash (1932-2003) and the Tennessee Two made their first Sun recordings during the spring of 1955.
By 1955, country musicians found the studio inviting and the locals turned it, as well as the restaurant next door, into a busy gathering place. Johnny Black, who had known Presley when they were teenagers in high school, moved back to Memphis from Corpus Christi after he heard Presley's first Sun record (and recognized his brother's bass playing on it). Black and Earls both wound up working at the Colonial Bakery in town. Black's enthusiasm for the new music helped Earls make up his mind to audition for Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service.
Johnny Black, brother of Bill Black. >
"Johnny Black and I went down there with five or six other guys. and one crippled man who played mandolin,'' said Earls. They paid ten dollars for two performances to be etched into the sides of an acetate disk. "One of em was ''A Fool For Lovin' You''. 'I had that song written by then. Sam wasn't there at the time, but Marion Keisker, the office secretary said ''I love your voice. Why don't you come back and see Sam''?
Earls and Black returned with the record and their guitars in hand, and Phillips liked Earls' voice and his songs, "He said before we started to cut anything, we needed to lose the band and put together a new one.
He said, 'That band ain't worth a shit', "said Earls, Black switched from guitar to bass and recruited his friends Danny Wahlquist for drums and take off guitarist Warren Gregory, who also drove a truck. "Warren used to park his truck and take naps during his shift." said Earls. "He had a little sign he'd put in the window while he slept that read. Genius at work''.
In 1994, Gregory visited Earls. He told me that he grew up picking country and jazz. but developed an appetite for the blues. "I used to visit W C. Handy (1873-1958) at his house in Memphis."said Gregory, although this strains credibility as Handy moved from Memphis to New York in 1917, "We'd sit on his front porch and play music together'', said Gregory. '' Back in them early days, all of us rock and rollers didn't have nothing. and we all supported each other. If anyone needed some help in nightclubs or in the studio - even if it meant pushing a broom - we helped each other out''.
After cashing his royalty check, Earls bought a new Indian Chief motorcycle. "I got it out there on Poplar Avenue ... They brought it out and showed me how to ride it. I'd ride that thing for a little while, and then the motor would quit. Man, I rode that thing for hours, until/got to where t could ride it pretty good. My wife was working at a potato chips company, and I picked her up and brought her home. Then I wound up buying a Harley from the same place where Elvis bought his''.
The band worked for a while at Sleepy Eyed John's Bon Air Club, and eventually found steady employ at the Palms club on Summer Avenue. "We worked there for about six years. Friends used to come and sit in with us all the time. People like Bill Black, Charlie Feathers, Billy Riley, Bud Deckelman ... The Palms was a bottle club, where you'd bring in your own bottle and they'd sell ice and setups. We played three or four nights a week."Earls also visited and sat in with other bands, including Eddie Bond's at his club out on Highway 51.
The studio was an exciting place to visit day or night because "Sam was always wantin to get something goin' - somethin' new''. Earls and the band continued to record demos of songs that he wrote without the aid of paper, while driving his bakery truck or during solitary late nights in his Buick. ''I never wrote anything down ... Back then, I had more sons than knew what to do with'', he said. ''Sometimes me and Johnny Black used to go to the studio and record stuff for Sam's wife. She was on the radio''. In 1955. Phillips helped launch WHER Radio in Memphis. The on-air staff was composed entirely of women, including Phillips' wife.
Around 1963, Jack Earls started playing music at a club called the Wagon Wheel east of Memphis, in Millington. He and a friend bought the place soon after they started working there. "It was a bottle club, and I kept it open all night long. When I could see the sun coming, then I closed the doors! After the bars shut down in Memphis. everyone would come out to the Wagon Wheel, and we packed the place. Different people used to come out to my club and sit in with the band. Gene Simmons, Bobby Wood - I bought a blue Cadillac from Bobby Wood, once. Smokey Joe Baugh played with us. He had that ''Signifying Monkey'' (on Sun)''. When the work began to feel like a grind, Earls sold the club and moved to Detroit in 1966. He drove a truck hauling auto parts and concentrated on helping his wife raise their family.
Around 1970, Earls took his guitar to Fortune Records on Third Street in Detroit. Owner Jack Brown helped Earls cut demos of five songs onto an acetate disk, but a release by the company was never worked out. Earls started playing in Detroit-area clubs at night. In 1973, he made a deal with Ry-Ho Records in Romulus, based in a storefront at Grant and Goddard roads.
Tennessee-born singer and bandleader Loyd (Lloyd) Howell (1932-2008), who, with bassist Don Rye (d. 2007), owned the Ry-Ho studio and record label, booked country music talent shows in Detroit with Ry-Ho Records as sponsor. Ry-Ho recording contracts were given as prizes to the winners. Howell was the same man who cut a rockin' version of ''Little Froggy Went A-Courtin''', for the Nashville label (a Starday subsidiary) in 1961, as well as singles on Fortune with his band the Brite Stars, like ''Don't Hang Around'' and ''Truck Driving Jack'' (on Fortune subsidiary Hi-Q).
Earls purchased a package where he cut two songs with the Ry-Ho studio band (the Brite Stars), and Howell and Rye pressed 45rpm records of the results. A new Earls original, ''Mississippi Man'', was chosen to back ''Take Me To That Place'' (which first saw the light of day on this record). Howell's son Jeff remembered playing electric bass on ''Take Me To That Place'', along with Phil Cutrell on drums, Frank Childs on lead guitar and his sisters Vicki Dianne and Pamela Jo singing backup. An unidentified pianist from local country singer Alice Faye's band played on both sides. Don Rye played bass on ''Mississippi Man'', on which Earls revealed his affinity for Merle Haggard's songs with his vocal. Compared to his Sun recordings, Earls' singing on his Ry-Ho disk revealed a more confident and controlled delivery. The record made it evident that Earls was keeping up with trends in country music. ''It turned out pretty good'', said Earls. "I ordered several hundred records and sold them all''.
He hired on at Chrysler around the same time, and stuck with the company through his retirement 30 years later. At night, Earls played country music peppered with 1950s rock and roll with a band he fronted. Sometimes his oldest son would join him on drums. Native Michigander and songwriter Marshall Crenshaw played bass with Earls for a while. Detroitbred country and rockabilly singer Don Rader (19372004) teamed up with Earls in the clubs as well. "Me and Don Rader used to play at VFWs (Veterans of Foreign Wars] and Eagles, all kinds of different (social] halls'', said Earls. ''We used to have CB coffee breaks. There was three of us who'd put them together I had the band, and one would take care of the door and one would take care of the bar. We`d rent a club at 21 Mile Road and Van Dyke, and it was ... a bunch of CBers having a coffee break, but it was really a beer break ... We'd rent a hall, get kegs of beer and potato chips, and get someone to watch the car's. (We would) do it once or twice a month mew. Everybody was CBing then, you know, everybody was on the radio''.
One day in 1975, Earls received a phone call from Gary Thompson, then living in Warren. He knew about Earls from European rockabilly compilation albums of Sun recordings, as well as the Ry-Ho single, which he discovered in a friend's collection. ''My daughters sister-in- law was watching Gary Thompson's kids, and had given her one of the Ry-Ho records. Gary was going through her records... and he found mine. He said. 'Where'd you get this record? She said. 'That's my sister-in-laws dad. He told her., This guy made recordings on Sun Records!' ... Then Gary wanted to know if I'd put out more records with him, so I did. He was putting up the Money and he paid me so much (per song) every time he put out an album. ''Flip, Flop And Fly'' was the first song we done. I was half-asleep when we cut that, and so was the band!"
After collecting and selling records since the 1960s, Thompson opened a used record shop in St. Clair Shores in 1972. Upon meeting Earls and Rader in 1975, he was inspired to start the Olympic Records company and began issuing new recordings by Earls and Rader, which led to Thompson reissuing rockabilly sides by Michigan-based artists, as well as other hardto- find 1950s rock and roll music. Earls' first Olympic trial, recorded live in the basement of Rader's house, yielded a knockout version of Joe Turner's ''Flip, Flop And Fly'' and Piano Red's ''She Sure Can Rock Me''. "Johnny Clark played that fast guitar'', said Earls. "Lee Sloan was thumping around on an upright bass because he didn't know how to play it''. Drummer Ace Avery and pianist Tom Stewart rounded out the sound. Although Thompson advertised the recordings as having a 1950s sound. Clark's fierce guitar style could have suited any late 1960s garage band. "I was driving for Chrysler, and I had drove all night ... Don had a little bitty basement and we couldn't get a real good sound, but Gary put it out.
Then we cut at Sound Patterns, out on Grand River. Big studio. They put out television programs and everything out there''. ''She Sure Can Rock Me'' was cut both in Rader's basement and at Sound Patterns. ''The good cut was done at Sound Patterns'', said Earls. ''Then we cut down in my basement, when I got my studio together (in 1977). We cut ''Roll Over Beethoven'' one Sunday morning, and on the same day we cut, ''Call Me Shorty''. ' The former is the well-known Chuck Berry rock and roll anthem. The latter was a rocker Earls picked up while living in Memphis. ''Everybody did that song'', he said, including Jerry Lee Lewis' cousin Mickey Gilley, who recorded it for Dot Records in 1958. (Although Gilley lived in East Texas, evidence of visits to Memphis during the late 1950s was caught on tape at the Sun studio, where Gilley out a few demos.)
His recordings from this period showed that Earls, like a true stylist, conjured new life into the songs he chose. His singing had matured since his days in Memphis, to a level where he could sing with perfect control of his voice. And a ghost of Sam Phillips' influence was evident in Earls' constant efforts to come with new approaches to the old songs he remade.
Earls continued his work/music way of life through the 1980s while cultivating his children as they grew into musicians who followed his example. Around 1987, three of his sons helped him record Gene Vincent's 1956 hit ''Be-Bop-A Lula'' in his basement studio. Although he wasn't releasing new recordings, Earls still received occasional offers to perform overseas. He consistently turned down invitations to perform in Europe, citing responsibilities to his family and job. With some prodding from Don Rader and fellow Sun recording artist and Detroit producer Johnny Powers, in 1996 Earls accepted an invitation to headline at the ''Hemsby Rock And Roll Weekender'' in England. He was overwhelmed by the reception he received. "They treated me like the second coming of Elvis'', exclaimed a grateful man who had witnessed the first. Much like Sleepy Eyed John's little bulldog winning a tug-o-war game by pulling the rag free and landing upsite-down on his back. Earls was astonished when the audience called for several encores. ''I guess I'm in demand now, overseas'', he said. ''I get two or three offers a year. I'll keep doing it as long as I can give it everything I got''.
In 1999, guitarist Marv Weyer, a Pontiac native who worked a long career from the late 1950s with Tamla and Hi-Q recording artists Nick & The Jaguars, to Barbara Mandrell in California and Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s, to Eddie Jackson and Swannee Caldwell in Detroit, asked Earls to contribute a song to an album he was producing. Like a seasoned blues singer, Earls came up with an idea for ''I Started Rockin' A Long Time Ago'', and then assembled the lyrics while in front of the microphone, started rockin' down in Memphis, Tennessee Yeah,
I started rockin' down in Memphis. Tennessee, Yeah,
I started rockin' down in Memphis, Tennessee-born
And old Sam Phillips seen a little song in me
He said, 'Son, you're lookin' fine,
Sign it right there on the dotted line
Come on baby, let's make some history'
The band included all the members of the Big Barn Combo, a rockabilly quartet that I sang for, plus Marv Weyer on lead guitar. We had figured out a method of using one microphone to record Weyer's tunes, and we used the same setup with Earls. He sat on a stool in front of the mike with my old flattop guitar. and the gates to Memphis country rock and roll heaven opened wide. In person. Earls communicated the overall feeling he wanted to the band by using his voice and moving his body, resulting in a punchy, yet loose performance, filling the room with crackling energy and echoes of my favorite Sun records of 1954 to 1957. Earls really had started rockin' a long time ago, and he made us feel it in our bones. It was the most exciting recording session I'd witnessed. It also resulted in one of the best performances on Weyer's album. We recorded a warm-up performance of ''Rock Bop'' (a.k.a. ''Let's Bop'') to check recording levels, placement of musicians in the room, etc. Earls took both tracks overseas, and sold them on a Stompertime 45rpm extended-play record at his European concerts.
His recordings with Sweden's Sleazy Rustic Boys appeared on subsequent releases for Eviken Records (a 45rpm single, and an album/compact disc). Songs included new originals like ''My Little Mama'' and ''Tribute To Carl Perkins'', to old originals like ''Game Of Love'' and ''Comin' Back Home'', and surprising remakes. like a vocal of Bill Doggett's ''Honky Tonk''.
Since the release of his Sun recordings during the 1970s and 1 980s, the influence of Earls' music has been felt across a worldwide spectrum of fans of vintage Sun Records. Among more recent examples found stateside, the Gravediggers, a psychobilly band from California, cut a break-teeth version of ''Let's Bop'' (future Fly-Rite Boy Wally Hersom played on it) in 1985; California roots band the Paladins injected some blues into ''Slow Down'' on a 1986 album, In 2000, the Big Barn Combo remade ''Sign On The Dotted Line'' for an album, and backed Earls at the Rockabilly Rebel Weekender in Indianapolis, his first festival booking in the U.S. Better-publicized tributes followed in 2005, when Stray Cats guitarist/crooner Brian Setzer cut an instrumental arrangement of ''Slow Down''. and then a vocal of the same song for a live album released in 2007.
With a supportive family who cherish his music yet keep him grounded, Earls keeps himself busy. As a result of his early schooling in song, and forsaking the grind of a fulltime singing career, he mastered and preserved his soulful voice - a captivating, uniquely American voice that breathes new life into echoes from the previous two centuries.
At the time they were recorded, most of his Sun efforts weren't ready for public release. Now we can listen to this collection and catch sparks of excitement in Jack Earls' early experiences from within the thick of Memphis rock and roll; we can witness his later studio trials, cheer on his dogged tug on the rag of destiny, and celebrate his many rounds of play. Now, let's bop this one!
Jack Earls still lives in suburban Detroit, repairs old vehicles and lawn mowers to resell, and writes rock and roll songs.
EDWARDS, DAVID ''HONEYBOY'' - David Edwards was born on June 28, 1915, in Shaw, Mississippi, is one of the few remaining original practitioners of the acoustic Delta blues style. His father, a farmer, played guitar and violin at dances and in clubs, but Edwards seems to have received his first music lessons from a brother-in-law, James Davis. He drew from many local influences - notably Charley Patton and the Mississippi Sheiks, whom he often watched - and he worked the streets and juke joints with Tommy McClennan, Big Joe Williams, Yank Rachell, Walter Horton, and others.
Like Johnny Shines, after his rediscovery, Edwards spent much of his time being interviewed about his brief acquaintance with Robert Johnson, with whom he played in the Greenwood area, and was with on the night that Robert Johnson was poisoned.
He first recorded in 1942 when he cut some fifteen sides for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress: these recordings reveal a raw, exciting singer and guitarist. A lifelong rambler and busker, Edwards turned up next in Houston in 1951 where he made his first commercial recordings (billed as "Mr. Honey") for The American Record Company, alongside pianist Thunder Smith. The following year - as we know - he was in Memphis where he cut "Sweet Home Chicago", which he re-recorded in Chicago a year later for Chess Records (although neither version was released at the time). By the mid-1950s he'd settled in Chicago where he quickly assimilated into the local scene, playing street corners and small clubs, and he recorded again for Chess Records in 1964.
During the sixties and seventies, still in Chicago, he worked with men like Walter Horton, Johnny Temple, Kansas City Red, Floyd Jones, and others, making occasional forays to The South - and in the 1970s and 1980s he graduated to the major Festivals, touring Europe and Japan, and resuming a sporadic recording career. Despite his advanced age he continues to perform regularly worldwide, still playing authentic solo country blues, a living testament to the music's vitality. And whilst age has diminished his his attack, his voice was still strong and his playing accurate and forceful.
On July 17, 2011, his manager Michael Frank announced that Edwards would be retiring due to ongoing health issues. On August 29, 2011, Edwards died at his home, of congestive heart failure, at around 3 a.m. According to events listings on the Metromix Chicago website, Edwards had been scheduled to perform at noon that day, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park. (CE)
Elven ''L.V.'' Parr at Washington Blues Society meeting around 1994. >
ELVEN PARR'S IN THE GROOVE BOYS
- Although born in Osceola, Arkansas on July 26, 1925, L.V. ''Elven'' Parr eventually moved to Seattle, and was interviewed there late in life by Mark Dalton and Mike Lynch. ''My dad ran a cotton gin for many years'', Parr said in 1996. ''He played piano, and I was exposed to all kinds of music growing up. I didn't listen to that much blues when I was a child''.
''I sang in the church choir, and was in a gospel quartet as a teenager. I got into some trouble with the law as a young man, and I really picked up on the guitar while I was in prison. I didn't have much to do but practice, and I had music books and teachers there too.
I had a few guys I could play guitar with, who would show me different things playing, and I began to like it when I was playing with them''.
''Guys would teach me this and that and I was very into listening. I started playing professionally in 1950. We had a band in Osceola called the In The Groove and we were on the radio every day at 3:00 p.m. on KOSE. We had guitar, piano, and drums. We did our own show and also backed up special guests. I started going to Memphis regularly. I had a hotel gig there, and would go out on the road with various bands and singers that needed a guitar player. The hotel owned by a guy named Sunbeam Mitchell, who was also a music promoter. During this period I played with Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, Johnny Ace, and Percy Mayfield. There were so many guys I played with.. I was working all the time back then''.
Singer and pianist, Eddie Snow told Brian Baumgarter that he encountered the In The Groove Boys in 1949 in Osceola,
Arkansas, whose chief claim to fame would appear to be that their other frontline vocalist was one Albert Nelson - who of course went on to become Albert King. Snow fronted Parr's Boys for some ten years, playing in clubs and juke joints such as M.C. Reeder's T-99, and he also organised their radio broadcasts on Osceola's KOSE radio station, and their stints backing B.B. King on WDIA.
By all accounts Snow's two hot live numbers were "Box Car Shortly's Blues" and "Pistol Pete's Boogie", although it seems odd that he recorded neither title for Sun Records. Eddie Snow had first attracted Sam Phillips' attention when he played the latter several acetate dubs they'd cut in Chicago: the Boys were duly invited along to 706 Union Avenue where they recorded (at least) two sessions in 1952 and 1954, although nothing was released at the time. By then, both Parr and Snow had moved to Cairo, Illinois with the group. Parr was logged among Billy The Kid Emerson's backing group for a Sun session in 1954, the year that Fenton Robinson replaced him in the group for a time. Robinson had been mentored by L.V., a fact that Robinson confirmed.
After several years in Cairo, Parr moved on again. ''I came out to Seattle in 1959'', he said. ''I got into trouble with the law again, and was basically paroled to my dad, who was living out here by then. I played all over the Northwest when I got here. Things were jumping. I played with all the local guys, most everyone in town at one time or another. Jimi Hendrix used to come around. He was just a kid then. He'd ask me to show him this and that''. And this too, apparently, is true. Reports from Seattle have Parr playing a wide range of music: blues, swing, standards, and even a little reggae.
By the time Dalton and Lynch interviewed him, he was living in the First Hill Care Center in Seattle, where he died on May 15, 1997. A belated obituary in the Seattle Post Intelligencer hinted at a lonely existence for many of his years in the Northwest: ''When Parr - who suffered through years of homelessness and low-income living - died at 71 from complications of diabetes last May, his obituary was a solitary song drifting into anonymous night''. (CE)
EMERSON, BILLY ''THE KID'' - William Robert Emerson was born on 21 December 1925 in Tarpon Springs on Florida's gulf coast. During the early 1930s, his mother encouraged him to sing in church and he says he can barely recall a time when he wasn't singing. But, he underlined to researcher Jim O'Neal: "My mother never sang any blues, never sang any around me. The only way I could hear a blues was from extra gang guys railroad repair workers - or somebody come round singing a Bessie Smith song'', he said. ''A lady had an old graphaphone and she had a lot of blues records - Doctor Clayton, Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Hutterbeans and Susie''.
Billy told, matter of factly that "my family always were musicians'', and that his father played piano: "I got into music through him and through my uncle, John Hannon (or Hannah), who was a church pianist but used to play a little boogie-woogie''. Then he started listening to his next door neighbour, a man named 'Shine' who had played with the minstrel shows: "I used to watch Shine play the blues all the time when I was young. This was in the 1940s. Shine knew all the old classic blues''. It seems that these informal lessons took the place of the more formal lessons Billy's mother planned for him, but which he had no patience for at that time. The official lessons cost a quarter, but 'a quarter was hard to come by because it was during the Depression''.
The process of thinking back to the 1930s and 1940s animated his conversation. He emphasised: "What inspired me, mostly, was the blues. And I was born right into the boogie era and the swing-jazz. Lunceford and Chick Webb and those guys. Louis Jordan, too, I was influenced by him and I liked his performing style a lot''. On the same theme, Billy told Jim O'Neal: "When I was a kid, the blues singer that / really liked better than anybody else was Buddy Johnson, Buddy and Ella Johnson. They were the most unbelievable group that I've ever known in the field. He had his own style of doing them, and Ella had her own style of singing too. I was about 14 and I heard their song called ''This Life Just Ain't Worth Living Without The One You Love'' and I say. You know what? If I ever get to be a singer I want to sing the blues like that''.
Emerson's planned career as a blues singer was put on hold in April 1943 when he found himself in the Navy helping the war effort. He served for three years, shore-based within the U.S.A. The good side of this time was that there was always a piano somewhere on the naval bases: ''...so I learned how to play fairly well while I was in the service''.
When he got out the service in 1946, Emerson took the opportunity to finish High School in Clearwater and to sing with a band led by Mickey Maxwell. Then he joined what he called ''a little old four or five piece band '' back home in Tarpon Springs. He told me: ''That was when I really took up the piano. My first jobs were when I was still going school, in 1946. They were with a jazz trumpeter back home, the Billy Battles Band''. Although Emerson was not very experienced, this was nevertheless a serious band; Billy Battles had played trumpet with Lucky Millinder's band, drummer Solomon Hall had worked with Lionel Hampton's band, and the other members, George Battles, Willie Lyons, James Thomas and Henry Mathis, all had to teach Billy.
Music was not the young Emerson's only talent though. The years 1948 to 1951 found him in college at Florida A&M on a football and sports scholarship. According to Billy, he was "quite an athlete in those days.'
Nevertheless he continued his musical education, playing with the George Cooper Band in St Petersburg at the High Stepper club, singing with Manzy Harris and with Charlie Brantley, whose band recorded on King Records. The St Petersburg area produced many top class musicians, some of whom like Oscar Dennard and Frank Foster went on to play with nationally known big bands. Billy remembered: "I saw all the bands, Louis Jordan. Roy Milton. I saw Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown. I was singing those Wynonie Harris songs in St Petersburg. I was hollerin', People used to say on a clear night you could hear me clear across the bay in Tampa''.
For a while, Billy had his own band in St Petersburg at the Corral Drive In. He told Jim O'Neal, "The man bought us uniforms and he bought us these pistols and cowboy hats and everything so we could look like the waitresses – this was a white place, you know. When we'd get off at night, we'd still he dressed up in these uniforms, and everybody'd holler 'Here comes Billy The Kid'. And the name just stuck''.
By the early 1950s, Billy considered himself a professional musician, but he knew he was still learning a lot, particularly from a pianist who later joined the Lionel Hampton band: "Dwike Mitcheli taught me practically the style that I play. I/ used to go over to his house all the time, every day in the summer of 1952. I did learn a few things from Oscar Dennard, too. You know, those two lived only 20 miles apart. We were all in the same Baptist Union together.
The same year. Emerson found himself back in the forces helping with the Korean war effort. He was in the Air Force for a year, stationed mainly in Mississippi. He continued to look for opportunities to play music and it was there that he met a very different character who would have a significant influence on his musical direction. He told me, "On November 25. 1952. This was when I met Ike Turner. I was stationed in Greenville, Mississippi and Ike Turner was from Clarksdale and would let me sit in with him and Little Milton and I started to play with Ike's Kings Of Rhythm band when they were in Greenville''. Emerson was discharged in September 1953. He went back to Florida, "and soon after that Ike's band came on a tour down there. They were at Sarasota one time and Ike got sick so I took over in the band and Ike asked me to join the Kings full-time. I went up to Clearwater and joined them there''. He elaborated on this to Jim O'Neal, confirming that Ike was playing down around Bradenton, Florida for promoter Buddy May. Not only was Ike sick but his wife and pianist, Bonnie, had left him. Apparently, Turner told Buddy May that Emerson was based in Florida and to get him to finish out the engagement. Billy recalled. ''I was playing guitar at the time. The band was Jesse Knight, Willie Sims, and Johnny O'Neal. I brought the band back to Mississippi where Ike was. Ike was still sick and so I stayed on and played with therm. The man who was really responsible for me becoming a professional singer was Ike Turner. Ike was truly the one that showed me technique in singing, and he taught me how to deliver. Not only how to, but how not to. He taught me to project myself instead of projecting Fats Domino or Roy Brown.
Although Billy Emerson spent a lot of time in Mississippi and Memphis through the latter part of 1953 and the first half of 1954, and would return for periods during the next few years, he never became an integral part of the local music scene there. He has described playing not only with the Turner band but also with other musicians including Dennis Binder and Earl Hooker, and he told that he played at least one show on Beale Street: ''Il didn't play too much in Memphis, you know. When it did, I played the big Hippodrome on Beale, a dance hall". He also told that he was in Memphis as a stepping stone; he knew he could get himself on records there, but he didn't see it as his real base. In the summer of 1954, he travelled to Chicago with Dennis Binder, Bob Prindell and Bobby Fields, staying briefly and returning south to collect singer Billy Gayles. Then, "We went to Cairo, Illinois and picked up Charles Smitty Smith, Luther Taylor, and Bennie Moore there. We had a band at the Club Playtime in Cairo, and we put that band together and we came to Chicago with it''.
By November 1955. the time of the last Sun session, Sam Phillips had noted in his logs that Emerson had left his Cairo address. and he listed instead three Chicago addresses as contact points, first one on Prairie, then on 55th Place, and finally Ellis Street. He may or may not have known that on 22 November that same month, while he was still under contract to Sun. Billy had already made a session in Chicago for Vee-Jay Records. This was to be the start of some pretty convoluted recording wrangles surrounding Emerson over the coming years.
According to Billy, he had been in Chicago in the early summer of 1955, working at a club at 55' and Prairie, owned by Frank Taylor, and When It Rains had been out for some time. He said: "I went by VJ which was on 45th and Cottage at that time, and t asked Calvin Carter there 'Can I look at some of your 'Billboards' to check what if was doing? He saw 'When It Rains' listed in Dallas and New Orleans and so on Carter said 'Man that record's been out a long time and everybodys looking for the guy who recorded it'. Say. 'there's a reward out for Billy The Kid'''. Emerson went out on tour for the summer but remembered this exchange after his last, apparently acrimonious, dealings with Sam Phillips in November. ''By December 1955 my contract with Sam was out. I called up Ewart Abner at Vee-Jay and said 'If you give me S1000 I'll sign with you'. So they brought me in and recorded me''.
After recording for several smaller labels, he formed his own Tarpon Records in 1966, releasing Denise LaSalle's debut single as well as his own records. He also continued to play in clubs and on European blues tours. In 2005 he was reported as having a church in Oak Park, Illinois, as Reverence William R. Emerson. Emerson was inducted in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. (MH)
ENLOW, THURMAN ''TED'' - was born on October 4, 1927 in West Memphis, Arkansas but grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was in the Air Force from 1946 until 1949, and moved to Nettleton, Mississippi with Shirley Kelleberg, whom he married that year. From there, they went to Memphis. He started playing with Hugh Jeffries and it was there that he met Johnny Bernero. Jeffries was missing a drummer one night and got Bernero's name off the AFM list. The combo played a lot of dates around Memphis until Enlow's day job took him out of town in 1957.
Ted Enlow returned to Memphis in 1960 and left again as a solo performer in 1962. He played cocktail lounges across the States before settling in Indianapolis. He returned to Memphis again in 1984 after learning that he had cancer.
His vocal style was light years away from the current trend in 1956 but it is easy to see why Bernero and his other fellow musicians rated him so highly. Johnny Bernero and Thurman Enlow were a class act, caught out of time. Their contribution to Memphis music is largely under-rated but the western swing-influenced style that they played has survived to sound better and better with the passing years.
In the early 1960s, Thurman Enlow left Memphis. ''I worked all over the country from September 1962 until 1972, working in nightclubs. Then, in 1971, I got a job in a music store in Indianapolis. I finally came home a year or so back (1985). My sister lives here. We're the only ones left from our family. And in May 1983 they told me I had cancer and only had six or eight months to live. Right now the cancer has gone out of my bones but it's still in my prostate'', he said. Thurman Enlow died in Memphis on December 26, 1986.
John Adam ''Sleepy'' Estes on the porch of his shotgun shack, 121 Sunny Hill Cove, Brownsville, Tennessee. >
ESTES, SLEEPY JOHN - John Adam Estes was born (or so he claimed) shortly after the turn of the century in the countryside near Ripley, Tennessee. However, it seems likely that he was older - 1899 is a more probably date - although his farming background is not in question. On his application for Social Security, he gave his birthday as January 25, 1900 but on his World War I draft card it was given as January 28, 1900. Later in life, he'd often quote 1904 as his year of birth.
Aged six, he
lost the sight in his right eye as the result of an accident in his youth with playing bassball, and then like many
others he turned to music to escape the back-breaking drudgery of sharecropping, built cigar box guitars and played at house parties. His nickname stemmed from a blood pressure disorder that led to fits of narcolepsy. He would literally fall asleep on his feet.
In 1915, the family moved to Brownsville, Tennessee, where he met mandolist James Yank Rachell. John Estes migrated to Memphis in search of a living, where worked with various partners - notably mandolin-player Yank Rachell and harmonica/jugblower Hammie Nixon - on the fringes of the jug-band circuit. His exceptional talent came to the attentions of Victor Records and in September 1929 their regional scout Ralph Peer recorded him in Memphis.
Together with his son-in-law, harmonica player Hammie Nixon, Estes moved to Chicago in 1931, but didn't record again until 1935. Two standards emerged from those 1935 Decca sessions, ''Drop Down Mama'' and ''Some Day Baby Blues'' (aka ''Worried Life Blues'', a song usually credited to Big Maceo Merriweather, who recorded it in 1941).
His recording career was abruptly terminated by the Depression, and he left Chicago, but he continued hoboing around the South, jumping trains and playing on street corners for loose change. He next recorded for Decca Records in 1935 - where he first cut all those marvellous songs about characters in Brownsville - after which his success was more or less assured, and he continued recording regularly for Decca and Bluebird until 1941, many of his richly lyrical songs passing into the repertoire of other bluesmen.
We tent to focus upon the recording sessions because they're precisely documented and left tangible assets, but they were only a sidebar to Estes life. World War II shellac restrictions curtailed blues recordings, and put Estes' recording career on hold while wartime gasoline rationing curtailed his travel. He returned to sharecropping in Brownsville, although he recorded some unreleased sides for Ora-Nelle Records in Chicago around 1947.
Post-war he continued traveling and playing until the loss of his sight in his left eye in 1949 - thus rendering him totally blind - laid him low, but he eventually picked up and began working again in Memphis, where he naturally drew the attentions of Sam Phillips. Both Estes and his long-term sidekick Nixon claim that they had to pay Phillips' to record them, but Sam's files indicate that the harmonica player on Estes' session was Lee Crisp, so their recollection may well be faulty. Marion Keisker noted that he was living in Lucy, Tennessee, near the Memphis suburb of Millington. ''He Phillips heard about us. We used to play in Handy Park'' Estes told Jim O'Neal in 1974. He remembered Howlin' Wolf coming by the studio, otherwise, his memories of the two sessions were scant. (Estes was at Sun on April 5 and 24, 1952, and Wolf recorded between those dates, so it's entirely possible that Wolf came by the studio). Keisker noted that Peacock Records was interested in Estes, and that dubs were sent to Chess as well, but no leases resulted.
After the session for Sam Phillips, Estes didn't record again until 1960, because
Estes had faded from the blues scene by the mid-1950s and many believed that he'd died in obscurity. In 1960 Estes cut an unissued session in Chicago for Bea & Baby. The following year, filmmaker David Blumenthal discovered Estes in Brownsville, believing that he hadn't recorded since the War. Blumenthal introduced Estes to Bob Koester at Delmark Records in Chicago, and Sleepy John Estes recorded prolifically for Delmark until 1968. Estes and Hammie Nixon, occasionally with Yank Rachell, literally toured the world. Back home, Estes regularly played blues festivals in Memphis and starred on the Memphis Blues Caravan between 1971 and 1974.
A vivid colorist of Brownsville, he sang with no concession to accessibility. The people John Estes saw with his failing eyes now live forever in his songs. He sang with riveting intensity, often slurring off at the end of a line just when you thought you were getting the picture. Sleepy John Estes died back in Brownsville, Tennessee on June 7, 1977. Journalist Ray Harmon wrote, ''John's music is that of an extraordinary man caught in a mundane world, but captivated by the very things that make this world mundane. Populated by those people who happened by in his daily life, John's songs reach out to the very population he chronicles in verse''. (CE)
EVANGELIST GOSPEL SINGERS OF ALABAMA
- The group were based not in Memphis but Alabama and appeared regularly on radio WJLD, based on the edge of Birmingham, in the early 1950s, the possible connection is that WJLD's station director was Jim Connolly, Sam Phillips' brother in law. Connolly was the man who gave Phillips his first job in radio and the two kept in close contact. Connolly was shown in the 1942 Directory of Broadcasting Stations of the United States as program director of WMSD in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
He moved to Birmingham where he was known for playing black music on other stations before he became program director at WJLD in Bessemer. During the early 1950s he connected several musicians with Sam Phillips, including country singer Hardrock Gunter.
When Connolly joined WJLD, the Birmingham area had a strong gospel music tradition and two of the foremost professional quarters of the 1930s, the Kings Of Harmony and the Famous Blue Jay Singers had been based there. At WJLD, one of the leading gospel singers was Willie McInstry who was first on the station with the Kelley Choral Singers and then the Evangelist Gospel Singers.
At the time of their Chess recordings, possibly in two sessions in June/July 1951 and in August/September 1951, the Evangelist Gospel Singers comprised; Willie McInstry, lead tenor; Leroy Terry, lead tenor and pianist; Willie Banks, baritone; John Davis, bass and possible one other singer. Leading gospel researcher Doug Seroff learned from a man who sang later with McInstry that the Evangelist Singers went on a successful tour in the North around the time of the Chess recordings and that afterwards they all relocated to Cincinnati apart from Willie McInstry who returned to Birmingham to re-form the group there. It is not clear whether the tour indicates that the group recorded in Chicago or that they were encouraged to tour having already made the recordings with Sam Phillips. McInstry remained a mainstay of WJLD, recording ''My God Is Real'' with the new line-up of Evangelist Singers and again in 1962 for Von Records, forming the WJLD Singers in the 1960s and taking the disc jockey duties both on saturday nights and Sunday mornings. In secular mode he was known as ''Friend Bill on the Hill', helping break a number of rhythm and blues hits down the years, and in the 1970s Deacon McInstry became the first president of the Gospel Announcers Guild. (MH)
EVANS, JIMMY - Born James G. Evans on November 23, 1938, Marianna, Arkansas. Jimmy Evans was born into a musical family where every member played an instrument. He would develop into a multi-instrumentalist who played guitar, bass, piano, drums and steel guitar. Thanks to one of his aunts, he got the chance to audition for Sun Records. Sam Phillips used him occasionally as a session man and demo singer, but did not record him as a vocalist. Jimmy's sole vocal contribution to a Sun recording is the harmony vocal on "Mad At You" by Mack Self , recorded in 1957 and released in 1959.
At Sun Records he met Conway Twitty, another rockabilly singer who tried in vain to get a record released on the famous yellow label. Evans joined Twitty's band as a bass player and stayed with him when Conway moved to Mercury in 1957. The B-side of one of Twitty's Mercury recordings, "Why Can't I Get Through To You" (71384) was written by Jimmy Evans.
In 1959, guitarist Jimmy Ray Paulman, who had also played in Conway Twitty's band, persuaded him to join him in Ronnie Hawkins' band, the Hawks. Evans moved to Canada and toured with Ronnie for about nine months. He played bass on three 1959 sessions by Ronnie Hawkins. His replacement in the Hawks was Robbie Robertson.
Back in the USA, Jimmy was still looking for his own record deal. In 1962, he finally got the chance to record a song he had written several years earlier, called "The Joint's Really Jumpin'". At the advice of Gene Simmons, he took it to Clearmont Records in Memphis, one of the labels owned by Marshall Erwin Ellis. Gene's brother Carl Simmons played lead guitar on the session, Jimmy Wilson was the pianist, Jimmy Van Eaton the drummer and Jesse Carter played bass, while Evans accompanied his own vocals on rhythm guitar. The result was a fine piece of rock and roll that you would associate with 1957 rather than 1962. The track has been heavily reissued in the CD era, but sales at the time were minimal. For some reason unknown, "The Joint's Really Jumpin'" also came out on the Caveman label from Wolf Lake, IL, with the same catalogue number as the Clearmont single (502). This was followed by another rock and roll styled recording, "Messy Bassy" (Shimmy 1054), recorded at the Fernwood studio, which didn't sell either. In 1987, Dutchman Cees Klop included it on the LP "Memphis, Rock and Roll Capital Of the World, Vol. 5" (White Label LP 8918), along with four other tracks by Jimmy, among which "Dudley Do-Rite", the opening track of the album. "Dudley Do-Rite" (described elsewhere on the Web as "odd but appealing") had been recorded for Shelby Smith's Rebel label.
Between 1965 and 1980, Jimmy released a few country singles, sometimes using the name Jimmy Dale Evans, and for the single "Nashville Woman"/"45 Until" (Rivertown 103) the pseudonym Lattie Lane.
In 1982, Jimmy wrote and recorded the extraordinary 1950's throwback "Pink Cadillac" (Twin TR 11982). An amazing record for its time. It is currently available on the CD "Memphis Rockabillies, Hillbillies & Honky Tonkers, Vol. 5" (Stomper Time STCD 21), which came out in 2006. The CD also includes - along with seven other tracks by Jimmy - an alternative version of "Pink Cadillac", featuring harmony vocals by two members of the Beach Boys, who happened to be in the studio at the time Jimmy recorded his masterpiece. Evans plays all instruments on "Pink Cadillac", except drums.
In 1994, Bert Rookhuizen of Rockhouse Records in the Netherlands, released a 16-track CD by Jimmy, called "The Joint's Really Jumpin'" (Rockhouse 9409). The 1960s recordings were complemented by "Pink Cadillac" and titles recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis in 1994. A CD with new country and rockabilly material, "Arkansas' Been Rockin'" appeared in 2004 (JAG Records 009). The title track relates his experiences at Sun in the fifties. In 2000, Evans was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and sadly Jimmy Evans died on August 3, 2011 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Roger Fakes shows his ring donated by Elvis Presley in a benefit show held in the Russwood Park, Memphis, Tennessee, July 4, 1956. >
FAKES, ROGER - He was part of a group called the Spinners that sung on some Bill Justis cuts on Sun Records. Its not hard to tell that rock and roll wasn't Fakes' first love. Harry Belafonte was his idol. The years have been kind of Roger Fakes. He didn't belong among the tortured souls who made so many of the recordings at Sun.
He didn't see music as his one chance for deliverance from a bleakly predictable future on the farm or in the factory. He wasn't prone to crippling bouts of alcoholism or depression. Life held more.
''Sam Phillips had the unique ability to put people at their ease and get the best out of them'', Roger said in 1986. ''I respect him a lot for that''.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1938, Fakes moved to Memphis with his family at the age of 11. In July 4, 1956 he was photographed at an Independence Day benefit in Memphis when he won the door prize: a ring donated by the show's star, Elvis Presley.
Roger Fakes' singing career got off the ground when he appeared on Top Ten Dance Party, a television show hosted by his Memphis State University fraternity brother, Wink Martindale. He soon gave up on music. "I didn't want to stay in it if I couldn't be as successful as possible", he said in 1986. "I looked at where I wanted to be in the long term, and music didn't fit in with my goals".
Roger Fakes became vice-president of a company that sells and services washing machines. "I've no regrets", he said. "I play the Hammond organ at home and sing at church. That's as close as I want to be to the music business".
THE STORY ABOUT ROGER FAKES - With just a little lack of luck, Roger Fakes (pronounced FAYkiss) would not even have been at Elvis Presley's concert of July 4, 1956, in Russwood Park in Memphis. Living at 219 Rose Road, Memphis, Tennessee, with just a little luck, he was there and today he still has the diamond-laden ring he won from Elvis as an attendance prize!
"I was dating a girl named Eleanor McGinnis at the time", Fakes recalls. "We were dating fairly steady and we were going somewhere that night. It was the 4th of July. I don't recall we had any place specific picket out.
But a friend of Eleanor's Lynn Williams, had a bunch of tickets to Elvis' concert. It was a charity event and Lynn's uncle, Jim Robinson, was a charitable type person and had bought a block of tickets".
"A big group of us all went together. The seats we had were not exceptionally good. Elvis sang on a stage out at about the picher's mound at Russwood. The place was packed. I had no idea Elvis would be giving away a ring as an attendance prize during the concert".
When they announced it was time to draw for the main prize - Elvis' own diamond-studded ring with the initials EP - one of the crowd poked the 17-year-old Fakes in the ribs and said, "Better get out your ticket stub. You might win something". Roger Fakes retrieved the stub from his shirt pocket and was amazed as Dewey Phillips began reading the lucky number 9-7- 3-6. Fakes held his breath. The rest of the numbers matched. He had won Elvis' ring.
"I went down on the stage and Elvis took the ring off his finger and gave it to me". "We chatted for awhile and I told him I was a musician, too. And then I went back to my seat". Fakes was attending East High School, the same school as actress Cybill Shepherd, who later dated Elvis Presley.
"When I got to Memphis State, I wore the ring a lot", said Fakes. "I was a member of the Epsilon Phichapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity. Wink Martindale was a fraternity brother of mine, though he had graduated earlier. I would wear the ring and when people asked me about it, I would either tell them the EP stood for Elvis Presley, or Epsilon Phi, depending on the situation. It was kind of fun".
After a few years, the novelty of heaving Elvis' ring wore off and the ring went into safekeeping. Now and then people still ask Fakes if he has the ring. He does. Some, including his brother-in-law, Scott Fisher, who sometimes does Elvis impersonations for the fun of it at private parties, have asked to borrow the ring. No doing! It it for sale?
"At the right price, yes", said Fakes. "The problem is, I don't have a fair way of evaluating what it's worth. It's a nice ring. Heavy. Gold. It's got 17 nice little diamonds in it that form the letters EP. In and of itself, it's not that valuable. The fact it was once Elvis' $600 ring (1956 price) makes it valuable".
Roger Fakes had actually met Elvis before the concert. "We used to hang out at the old Toddle House drive-in on Poplar Avenue", he recalls. "One night Elvis came in there on his motorcycle. He was just becoming famous then. He didn't seem to be really taken with himself. He got off his bike and visited with people. He seemed to be the most unassuming guy in all the world".
Fact is, Elvis played a dance at the old Chisca Hotel one night and Fakes, a guitarist, sat in with him on stage. "We used to sit in a lot in those days. Not anymore", said Fakes. Roger Fakes just about appeared on Sun Records. He was part of a group called the Spinners that sung on some Bill Justis cuts, included a vocal on "Midnight Man", on the flip-side of the Bill Justis Sun hit, "Raunchy". In June 1957, Fakes, became a session guitarist at Sun Studio, and Elvis by now at RCA, would come in to visit and chat. Fakes most memorable achievement at Sun Records was a recording session at Sun with Sid Manker on guitar, Jimmy Wilson on piano, Billy Riley on bass, and J.M. Van Eaton on drums. Fakes' "Somehow We'll Find A Way" (Sun Unissued SUN BOX 106) are released in 1997 by Bear Family Records. Its not hard to tell that rock and roll wasn't Fakes' first love. Harry Belafonte was his idol. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1938, Fakes moved to Memphis with his family at age 11.
Roger Fakes' singing career got off the ground when he appeared on Top Ten dance Party, a television show hosted by the Memphis State University fraternity brother, Wink Martindale. He soon gave up on music, though, "I didn't want to stay in it if I couldn't be as successful as possible", he said in 1986. "I looked at where I wanted to be in the long term, and music didn't fit in with my goals".
Roger Fake became vice-president of a company that sells and services washing machines. "I've no regrets", he said. "I play the Hammond organ at home and sing at church. That's as close as I want to be to the music business".
Looking back, on July 4, 1956, on Independence Day, he says, "At that time, the ring fit my ring finger. Now, it's too small for my ring finger; too loose for my little finger".
Elvis Presley spent the remainder of July enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Much of the time, he relaxed in and around Biloxi, Mississippi. He renewed his romance with June Juanico, whom he had met when he performed in Biloxi in June 1955.
FAY, HANNAH - Hannah Fay Harger got to tell her story. "I was just a kid. I started singing when I was about 11 with my brother Buddy's band. He played steel guitar. I remember when I was quite young we all made a trip to Nashville and appeared at the Corral, a western apparel store that was owned by Hank Williams and his wife. I still have an old newspaper clipping about that. I made my records when I was no more than 16. By 1960, that chapter of my life was over. I got married and I stopped singing. My whole life changed''.
''I put Hannah Fay away somewhere in an album. That was the end of I. I became a housewife and a mother. I have two sons and seven grandchildren. When anybody refers to me as Hannah Fay, I know they knew me from before 1960.
I was 'Little Hannah Fay'. I was tiny. Five-foot-one, I barely weighed 100 pounds, and I had an 18-inch waist. It seems all I did was sing back then. I was on television and radio all the time. I was part of the Lou Millet show - the featured singer. We were on the radio for a while (WJBO and WIBR) before TV got here. Then we were on TV all through the early 1950s - WAFB in Baton Rouge. I remember I celebrated my 14th birthday on TV. I sang on Lou's record "Hummingbird". That's me humming when I was 13 years old.
I did a lot of live shows with Lou Millet. One time Little Jimmy Dickens walked on stage. He told me he liked standing next to me because I was shorter than him. I remember Lou and I appeared on the same stage as Elvis when he came through town early on. It was in a little club called the Town and Country. Elvis wasn't well known then at all or he certainly wouldn't have been appearing at a club like that. I remember he had just gotten his first Cadillac and someone had burned a hole in the back seat. He wasn't too happy about that! I must have been really young at the time, barely 14. He made no impression on me whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I got up go to the rest room while he was singing and somebody made a comment about that".
Hanah continues: "I loved to sing, but I never had any real ambition for a career. My mother - her name was Gussie - had enough ambition for both of us. She had a beautiful voice but she never did anything with it. She really lived through me. She had five sons and then she hah me. I was her only daughter. She loved to dress me up and take me out there. Back then, country music was played in gymnasiums and bars. I was underage so she went everywhere with me. She lived to dress me up and put me on stage. She made me beautiful hand-made costumes. I just did what they asked me to and never paid too much attention to what was going on around me. That's probably why a lot of the details are really fuzzy to me today. I didn't even remember I had recorded that blues tune "24 Hours Every Day" until you played it for me over the phone. Then it came back. It made me think of how my mother used to try to get me to be more animated when I sang. 'Move around' she'd say, but it never felt natural to me. I was too shy. I used to like ballads better. I was never the kind of performer who danced all over the stage. I guess that would have limited how successful I might have been. When I was on TV, the song I used to get the most requests for was "Hearts Made Of Stone". Every day, requests would come into the station. I sang it because it was requested, but what I really wanted to sing was country. I'd choose of Kitty Wells song one day over "Hearts Made Of Stone". That was a real stretch for me. But they loved it".
"My record of "Searching" was used as the demo to get the song to Kitty Wells. It was written by Pee Wee Maddux. Her record of it came out first and then they released mine about six weeks later. I think they gave her the song in Meridian, Mississippi when we were all there. I remember getting home from the trip and it wasn't long before I heard Kitty Wells singing "Searching" on the radio. My record did finally come out, but by then the song was a hit by an established star. I remember hearing the adults talking - they were saying that they did not do me right. They just used my cut to sell the song to Kitty Wells.
The only song of mine that Pee Wee didn't write was "You're Easy To Remember". It was written by a man here in Baton Rouge named Benny Fruge - he was a piano player. I just in love with that song. All those records were cut in a studio in Long Beach near Gulfport. I really have very few memories of what went on. They just put me up there and told me to sing. I was just not in charge of my own affairs back then. Everything was being arranged all around me".
How did Hannah Fay come to the attention of Pee Wee Maddux? According to Hannah's brother, a pretty fair steel guitar player who toured with Marty Robbins, the contact was likely made through singer/bandleader Lou Millet.
"I was in Marty's first road band back when I was still in high school, during the summer of 1954. It was that summer with Marty Robbins that convinced me I'd better have a day job. I'll tell you what, sitting in the middle seat of a stretch Cadillac for three months, between the comedian and Tommy Perkins was not fun. Perkins must have weighed three hundred pounds. I turned seventeen on the road that summer.
12 year old Hannah Fay on stage with Lou Millet. >
The band was actually fronted by Lou Millet. He was the opening act on Marty's shows. He would be followed by Wayne Raney, Goldie Hill, Tibby Edwards, and then Marty. We were the stage band; we played for all four acts. We were actually working for Don Law, who was producing out of Nashville. When we got back to Nashville, I quit the band. Lou and I had some words and I went back home. I never played for him again. Hannah did, however''.
began singing with Louis and she was quite a draw back in Baton Rouge. Louis had a lot of connections. I know he was hooked up with J.D. Miller, who had a studio down in Crowley. In fact, I cut some sessions with Lou Millet in that studio''.
''I wouldn't be surprised if he also had a connection to Pee Wee Maddux, which is how Hannah got to record for him. Her first session was a real surprise to me. It just came out of the blue. I know there were two separate sessions. Ernie Harvey was the steel player. He played a double neck Fender standup steel. He was a great session guy, very talented, with very good tone. I think Jack Young blood played the fiddle on Hannah's records".
Hannah Fay recalls: "I remember going to Memphis. I was still in high school. In fact, I took some friends of mine with me, some classmates. I remember the name Sam Phillips, although I don't recall meeting him. I was sixteen years old when I made those records at Sun.
I can't recall much about the session but I do remember there was talk about how they were going to turn me into a star. A female Elvis' I certainly remember that phrase. But I came home and never heard anything more about it".
Hannah's brother Buddy recalls: "Hannah came back all enthusiastic and then nothing happened. Its like it just went away. Something big went wrong. Maybe it was the politics in Memphis. Maybe it had to do with something at our end. I do know that however strong my mother was in dealing with Hannah, she was not that assertive in dealing with the outside world. She would never have picked up a phone and called someone like Pee Wee Maddux or Sam Phillips and said called? My mother would never have done anything like that.
There's also a possibility that it was my mother who shut it down. I can't rule that out. As much as she wanted to see Hannah up there singing locally, I'm not sure that a major record deal was something she coveted or would have wanted for Hannah. What she really wanted was Hannah singing around Baton Rouge so she could go and live it for herself. Nut having Hannah hit the road or become another Elvis and leave mama at home? Ain't no way. If getting famous meant leaving mama behind, it wouldn't be something she wanted. I'm not saying that's what happened. We'll probably never know. But thinking about it now, it seems possible that our mother shut it down if she thought it might take Hannah away".
In any case, Hannah's career wound down after the abortive trip to Memphis. "I graduated from high school in 1958. After that I went to Louisiana State University and started dating my husband, who did not like me to sing. I continued to sing here a bit in Louisiana. I left him once to go sing at Keesler Air Force Base. I recall appearing with Jimmy Clanton. We sang together a time or two, but that was the last of it. I just stopped singing. Sometimes I feel like I wasted it by not pursuing my career. The truth is, I just didn't see much future in singing in high school gymnasiums and bar rooms. I wanted a life. Plus I knew that not too many people make it in this business. It's a hard life, a struggle. I didn't want that and I also didn't really think I had what it took. I didn't have a fire burning in me to be a star".
Hannah's brother confirms this. "I think Hannah was ready to get out of the business. It was time to move on". Despite 42 years of rewarding family life, quitting a career in music is rarely regret-free.
"I can't tell you how it felt to find out that someone was trying to find me after all of these years. I was just speechless. My cousin read me the newspaper article over the telephone and I was almost in shock. The strange thing is in the past year or so I've wanted to reach back and try to find that part of myself again. After so many years I just wanted to recapture some of that. But I've hit dead ends wherever I went. All the TV shows I did are gone - there was no videotape back then. I don't even have my records. I thought about going back to Mississippi to find copies of them. I think my brother bought a box of one of them at one point and those are the only copies I ever saw. They were not distributed very well. I doubt if they ever got out of Mississippi".
"We had a family reunion yesterday right before you found me. It's the most amazing thing. They asked us all to make picture boards about ourselves. I got out my scrapbook and took out all those old pictures and put them on my picture board. On the bottom of it I wrote "Little Hannah Fay". I put it all out there for my family to see. Some of them had no idea about any of it. I can't believe you cared enough to look for me. I thought this part of my life was completely over. I sometimes wondered if I had imagined it. It was a very long time ago".
From an interview by Hank Davis.
Jody Chastain, Charlie Feathers, Jerry Huffman >
FEATHERS, CHARLIE - The Robert Johnson of rockabilly and a prince in his own cotton patch, Feathers has enormous respect for the sound that Sam Phillips achieved in his old studio (in fact, he even goes so far to take credit for the sound). In an interview he once said that going from Sun to Meteor and King was like going from a Cadillac to a Chevrolet. Feathers had a sound in his head and Sam Phillips stood the greatest chance of capturing it.
The stunning quality of "Peepin' Eyes", "I've Been Deceived" and "Defrost Your Heart" attest to the special magic of Charlie Feathers at 706 Union. It was a chemistry that he rarely, if ever recaptured.
Feathers' hillbilly credentials were certainly come by honestle. Charlie Feathers was born Charles Arthur Lindberg, June 12, 1932, just outside Blackjack, nearly Holly Springs, Mississippi, in that stretch of country between Stayden and Hudsonvilly. His family were sharecroppers and their culture was a predictable mishmash of the usual elements - church, Grand Ole Opry and, in Charlie's case, occasional forays in the direction of the local Rossville Colored Picnic. He had a predilection for black music, the raw sounds of the delta country and, like Hank Williams and so many other good old boys he learn the rudiments of guitar from a blues man, in his case, Junior Kimbrough who remained a lifelong friend. Before coming to Memphis, Charlie Feathers had left Mississippi on his seventeen, working on a pipeline from Cairo, Illinois, all the way down to Texas, playing juke joints as he went.
Eventually he fetched up and then moved to Memphis in 1950 and promptly got married, and worked in a box factory before he contracted spinal meningitis and spent the greater part of a year in hospital.
"I felt OK but they kept me in hospital the longest time. I had a guitar in there and that's when I started to write a few songs. I was just drawing on the music I had heard growing up. Down there you could walk through the streets or down the road on a weekend night and you'd walk upon a coloured group or a guy with a guitar. That's the music I was familiar with. I also liked bluegrass. Bill Monroe came to town once while he was traveling with a tent. I loved his music but I couldn't play bluegrass".
From the point when Charlie Feathers left hospital, the story becomes a little confused. He claims that he worked for Sam Phillips as far back as 1950 hauling portable tape recorders. Phillips does not share that recollection. One fact is certain, though, Feathers had been hanging around 706 Union a long time when he was finally paired with Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch. However, according to Feathers, he was not merely present at the creation of rock and roll, he was an integral part of it.
"Even though I was doing rockabilly, Sam had Elvis recording it. For a while it looked as though rockabilly was selling and then it slacked off a little and Sam said that he wanted to record me doing country. I always liked country music but I couldn't feel it like I could feel rock and roll. I think I was worth more to Sam to arrange the music. I could hear people. I worked with Johnny Cash before we recorded him. We got this slapback. People think it's the bass but it's the tape delay. People in Nashville couldn't compete with the sound. There ain't a sound today can compete with it when it's done right. I could probably have done better elsewhere but those places didn't have the Sun sound".
According to Feathers, he hung out with Elvis Presley in a local park and awakened him to the possibility of goosing up country music, showing him guitar runs and vocal inflection. Then he cut a demo of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" with Scotty Moore - Moore has no knowledge of it - and joined Presley in the Sun Studio during July 1954 to record the finished product and kick start a career. If you believe Feathers he did the same thing for Presley's waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" and then sometime in 1955 he wheeled our boy into a West Helena radio station to cut "some tough goddamn stuff". Perhaps Feathers really did remember a long lost session in West Helena.
Everybody agrees that Feathers recorded a lot of material at 706 Union Avenue that was never released. Evidence shows that most of it was probably recorded-over. Feathers claims that Sam Phillips planned a third single and even went as far circulating dubs but there are no notes in the files to corroborate this assertion.
Stan Kesler used Feathers to make demos of at least two songs, "I Forgot To Remember To Forget" and "We're Getting Closer To Being Apart". Once again, though Feathers' version is at variance with everyone else's account.
"Some boys around here had "Daydreamin" and Sam didn't think too much of the song so they took it to Meteor Records. The next time they come by they had "I've Been Deceived" and Sam wanted me to record it. I went out to their house and listened to the song and Stan Kesler dropped by. He had a song called "You Believe Everyone But Me" and asked me if I would get Elvis to do it. I said that the song didn't do much for me and later that night he said he had a song called "I Forgot To Remember To Forget". I liked that idea. The title. Next morning, I got up real early and went out to Kesler's house and we finished the song. We put it on tape and I took it down. Sam didn't like it but Elvis did. He wasn't singing it right at first. They cut it about fifteen times and couldn't get the bridge right. We went out for lunch and while we were driving around I was explaining to him in the car hot it should be done. After we come back, we cut it one time and that was it", recalled Charlie Feathers.
Stan Kesler recalled he wrote the song in its entirely and only gave Feathers 50% because he sang the demo. He also remembered playing the song to Elvis Presley on a quarter track tape machine. Phillips did not have a quarter track machine so Kesler had to bring up his own tape deck and set it up in the lobby to play the demo.
The end of Feathers' association with Sun is clouded in even more mystery. He appears to have cut a demo session early in 1956 to preview his new rockabilly material for Phillips. In the fall of 1958 Feathers left Sun Records, he was determined to pursue his antic disposition with archetypal rockabilly like "Tongue Tied Jill" (Meteor 5032), a song so unhinged that Sam Phillips missed the humor and took offense. Immediately after this sole flirtation with Lester Bihari's Memphis-based label, Feathers looked elsewhere. Between June 1956 and January 1957 he recorded in Cincinnati and Nashville for Syd Nathan's King label. In the process he was able to bring his amusing and unintentionally liberated "Bottle To The Baby" to fruition and cut timeless classics like "One Hand Loose" (King 4997) where he could finally indulge all his stuttering, whooping trademarks with manic glee.
"Me and Jody Chastain and Jerry Huffman wrote "Tongue Tied Jill" and some other
material. We took the demo to Sam but he thought "Tongue Tied Jill" was making fun of
the afflicted. My contract was up about that time and he hadn't mailed me a renewal
notice or anything so I went to King.
The place I had cut the demo of "Tongue Tied Jill"
asked if they could have it. I thought 'Why not?'. After Sam didn't like it, I thought the song
might not be any good but it broke real big here. We cut it on one mike. Because we were
at King, we didn't even get a contract for it", recalled Feathers.
Charlie Feathers' career after he left Sun had been fairly well documented. He was racing cars and playing the local honky tonks for many years before he started a late blooming career as a perpetuator of his own mythology. Most of his shows had a stunning intensity that often nonplussed the local bar crawlers who had come to the cool dark place for a little slow dancing and a night of serious drinking.
"You gotta feel the people when you get out", asserted Feathers. "If you know ahead of time what you're gonna play then you're giving the people second hand stuff. It'd be like turning a jukebox on. You'd know what you're about to get. A show shouldn't be that way. The talent comes out when e person don't know what he's gonna do. He just does it. A musician plays his best when he doesn't know what he's playing".
In 1985 British television viewers were able to get a look at Charlie Feathers resplendent in a Hawaiian sport shirt and lank greasy hair. Sitting in his garden, he played a tortuous version of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" with such agonized intensity that his voice alone could have stripped paint off the wall. The truth is that when Charlie Feathers settles down to play, the bullshit comes to an abrupt halt. The man is a genuine original with an awesome talent.
Feathers ploughed his own furrow over five decades of recording, seldom leaving Memphis and evolving in the most natural way. Unwavering and genuine courtesy was the real measure of a man who was frequently misunderstood. An illiterate field hand who had in all innocence sung about "darkies creeping through the trees" on "Jungle Fever" (Kay Records 1001) in 1958, he was still genially asking after "nigras" on a visit to cosmopolitan London in 1977. There was no disrespect implied. He was simply using the only word he knew for black people. And on the very same evening the stood up and brought Mississippi into a London room with an eerie, heartfelt testament to the blues as he treated us to a rendition of "That's All Right" which totally eclipsed Crudup and Presley.
Unflinching and unique Charlie Feathers worked through everything life threw at him. Diabetes, loss of a lung, even being confined to a wheelchair didn't end his passion for performing. When he died of a stroke on August 29, 1998, he left a formidable artistic legacy for his coterie of devotees. But for one serendipitous moment Feathers finally went global in 2003 when another maverick, Quentin Tarantino, included ''The Certain Female'' on the soundtrack to ''Kill Bill 1'' and in 2004 "Can't Hardly Stand It" on the soundtrack to "Kill Bill 2".
THE ELVIS CONTROVERSY - Peter Guralnick’s book ''Lost Highway'' first alerted fans to Feathers’s more
sensational claims about rockabilly music and his alleged role in Presley’s success. Feathers told Guralnick
he arranged all of Presley’s Sun material and gave Jerry Lee Lewis the idea for his "pumpin' piano" sound.
They are among many claims Feathers made throughout his lifetime which are difficult to disprove or
believe, though testimony exists on both sides.
Stan Kesler, who played on dozens of Sun sessions, told Contemporary Musicians, "I never saw him work in
the studio with Elvis at all. I really don’t think that's true, to tell you the truth''. He grudgingly allowed, "He
might’ve worked with him when I wasn't looking''. Presley's 1950-1960s drummer D.J. Fontana was asked
by Contemporary Musicians if Elvis ever talked about Feathers during their many long hours on the road
together. "He never mentioned him one time, at no time'', later adding, "If his name had come up I would've
remembered it because I was familiar with him and a lot of other guys. I never heard Elvis say anything
about learning from anybody. He just sang what he felt like singing and that was the end of it''. In Craig
Morrison’s book ''Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers'', Presley sideman Scotty Moore stated that
Feathers was constantly in and out of the studio but was not a factor on Presley's sessions.
Both Jimmy M. Van Eaton and Roland Janes arrived at Sun after Charlie Feathers left, but played on all of
Jerry Lee Lewis’s most important sessions. As with all of Feathers's associates contacted by Contemporary
Musicians, they admire Feathers's talent and believe he knew what rockabilly was all about, but are hesitant
to believe his claims, including former Sun rockabilly artist Sonny Burgess. It’s important to note that author
Guralnick himself barely referred to Feathers in his exhaustively researched, best-selling biographies on the
life of Elvis Presley.
Yet Feathers’s wife Rosemary has related clear memories of the early days to her daughter, Wanda Vanzant.
"We were living on Pauline Street here in Memphis and Elvis would come by in an old black pick-up truck
and pick my dad up and they would go to the studio and stay all day'', Wanda Vanzant told Contemporary
Musicians. "We did not have a car and my mother had to catch the bus to go to her job downtown and she
would always catch the bus back and get off in front of the studio at 9:00 p.m. just about every night, and she
and my dad would walk home together. Sometimes she would have to wait on him to finish whatever they
were doing in the studio. Sometimes when (Elvis) would pick my dad up they would go to the fan club
house. Shirley, president of my dad’s fan club, has told me that Elvis had a little crush on a girl that was
living across from them''.
Further, in the liner notes for Norton's ''Uh Huh Honey'' CD, no less a figure than country legend Johnny
Cash recalls Charley Feathers running the board during Elvis Presley's "Baby Let's Play House" session.
More controversially, in ''Rockabilly - A Forty Year Journey'' author Billy Poore claims that he has heard
Feathers's private collection of Sun session tapes featuring the distinct voices of Charley Feathers, Elvis
Presley, and Sam Phillips working together. In a stranger twist, Wanda Vanzant reports that no Sun studio
tapes exist in her late father’s archives. With so many conflicting stories, it’s unlikely that there will be a
definitive explanation of what Feathers did or didn’t do at the Sun studio.
FELTS, NARVEL - Composer, rockabilly and rock and roll singer. Born on November 11, 1938 on a farm in
Keiser, Arkansas, Narvel Felts was thirteen years old who still lived in Arkansas and he traded an BB gun for
a beat up Gene Autry guitar that was held together with a Prince Albert tobacco can and some bailing wire. A
year later, Felts was fourteen, he moved to Missouri and pickin' cotton and ordered a new guitar from Sears
& Roebuck for $15.98. The teenaged Albert Narvel Felts had moved with his parents to Powe, Missouri in
1953 and he went to school in Bernie.
In 1956, when he was seventeen he entered the high school
talent contest at Bernie, Missouri, and sing "Baby, Let's Play House" and when they wanted an encore there
was a new song by Carl Perkins, called "Blue Suede Shoes".
Narvel Felts played at the KDEX radio in
Dexter, Missouri on the Saturday afternoon radio shows, and played gigs at night in the Fourway Inn
nightclub in Dudley, Missouri.
A music store owner, Calvin Richardson, had become Narvel's manager, and in 1956, Narvel Felts performed
in Jerry Mercer's band a lot of the local clubs in southeast Missouri, north-east Arkansas and some gigs in
Illinois and played a package show in mid-1956 with Roy Orbison. During December of 1956, Felts worked
with Jerry Mercer and played with Roy Orbison and Eddie Bond at Dexter, Missouri and within a couple of
weeks, Calvin Richardon arranged an audition with Sun Records in Memphis and formed the band called
Narvel Felts and The Rockers. The rockets were Leon Barnett on lead guitar; J.W. Grubbs on bass; Bob
Taylor on drums, and Jerry Tuttle who doubled on steel guitar and saxophone.
Before Sun could get anything organized, a man with connections to Mercury heard the Rockets playing in
St. Louis and a partner who booked Narvel into theaters and in March 1957 Narvel Felts was playing the Fox
Theatre in St. Louis and then he auditioned for Mercury Records. Narvel saw several releases on Mercury
but real success did not come until 1959 when he signed with Hi Records.
In 1958 Narvel Felts did recorded at RCA Studio B in Nashville in October 1957 featuring Jerry Tuttle on
saxophone. In late 1958 Conway Twitty recommended Felts for the club circuit in Canada and on January 5,
1959 Felts opened with Conway Twitty the Flamingo Club in Hamilton, Ontario, and played Pop Warner's in
Malden, Missouri on the Saturday nights.
In 1960, Felts signed with Pink Records in New York, and it was the second Pink release that started it all for
Felts, the rhythm and blues ballad ''Honey Love'', that became a minor seller in both the country and pop
markets. Big enough to lead Felts to record again for Mercury, MGM, RCA and he signed for a series of
sessions for Roland Janes featured on the Bear Family release Memphis Days. His big national hits came
along in the seventies when "Drift Away" was recorded by Cinnamon in 1973. It was Felts' thirtieth single.
A string of hits followed ''Drift Away'' and when his contract was picked up by ABC Dot, Narvel scored even
better, his 1975 single ''Reconsider Me'' placing at number 2 on the country charts. Narvel Felts pioneering
contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Back in 1962 he had married
to the former Loretta Stan field. Two children resulted from the marriage, but Felts lost his only son, Narvel
Jr. (known as Bub) in 1995. At one time, Bub played drums for his father. One of his albums is dedicated to
For a time the hits kept on coming but the last top 20 country hit, ''Everlasting Love'', came in 1979, the last
chart entry in 1988. Narvel Felts continued to play shows both a home and in Europe and he has become a
member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He currently resides in Malden, Missouri. where he continues to
perform on occasion.
Melvin and Marvin Walker (3rd and 4th from left) of the Five Tinos. >
FIVE TINOS, THE – A Memphis group, the Five Tinos comprised local college students. There were Luchrie Jordan, Haywood Hebron, Marvin Walker, Melvin Walker, and Melvin Jones. They probably went to Booker T. Washington High School in south Memphis. The two Walker brothers had a younger brother, William, who later joined another Memphis group, The Four kings aka the Four canes (who sang on WLOK, and whose ranks included future soul star, Don Bryant).
Than on May 26, 1955,
Doo wop on Sun?
The Five Tinos must have appeared very special to Sam Phillips.
The five vocalists were backed by a tight little studio rhythm and blues group featuring Phineas Newborns Jr. and Sr. on guitar and drums, respectively.
The band also featured twin saxes played by Jewell Briscoe and Moses Reed. This was a larger and more expensive production than Phillips was used to bankrolling. Recorded that day ''Don't Do That'' backed with ''Sitting By My Window'' (Sun 222) was released on June 21, 1955.
"Don't Do That" features a cutesy, ersatz sexy vocal, mambo rhythm and double length honking sax solo (if you're going to pay them, get them to work!). If this record had appeared as the follow-up to the Turbans' "When You Dance", on the New York Herald label, not an eyebrow would have been raised. In short, this was neither typical Memphis, nor typical Sun fare. Its appearance in the fall of 1955 came at a transitional time in Sun's country and western was evolving, and the presence of sideburned hybrid music was becoming a greater factor with each passing day.
In its depiction of idealized love, ''Sitting By My Window'' was conventional doo-wop, but if it had been on a conventional doo-wop label, it would be viewed as a lesser entry.
On Sun, it's an anomaly.
Some reckon that they're the same group as the Teenos with ''Love Only One'' b/w ''Alrightee'' on Dub Records in 1958 (Dub 2839) and the Esquires with ''Only The Angels Know'' b/w ''One Word For This'' on the Nashville-based Hi-Po Records in 1957 (Hi-Po 1003). The composer credit on the Hi-Po single reads only The Esquires, placing us no further ahead, although some of the Tinos were reckoned to have gone to Nashville's Fisk University. The Teenos record was issued several years later, making it less likely that it's our guys. Some went to Chicago, some stayed in Memphis. Haywood Hebron died in 2005; the fate of the others is unknown. (CE)
Graham Forbes Orchestra at the Tea House, Bigwin Inn, Lake Of Bays, Muskako, Ontario, 1953. Left to right: Graham Forbes, Eddie Jenkins, Jose Ortiz, Jack McGarvie, George Vaughn, George Staly. >
FORBES, GRAHAM – Born in Brooklyn, New York circa 1917 and a native of Pleasantville, New York, was the most striking example of talented jazz pianist have known who never got the recognition their playing deserved would be Graham Forbes.
Like Pee Wee Russell he retarded the development of his career through his chronic alcoholism In 1937, he was about 17 years old and already an alcoholic, as were his father and mother.
Graham lived in Thornwood, New York, and could play any tune he'd heard once in all 12 keyboard keys with equal falicity and in highly modern voicing. In 1937-1938 Graham played piano with Bunny Berigan's big band and, and Graham left Bunny to go on the road with Charlie Barnet and he also blew stints with Artie Shaw, Jack Teagarden and Woody Herma, each time crewing up the gig with booze. These leaders all loved his playing, since his total freedom of keys, then unusual, and his flawless ears for creamy harmony made him the ideal accompanist with singers.
After World War II Graham went in The Copacabana, then New York's top night club, in the show band, where Frank Sinatra heard Forbes and hired him as accompanist/arranger/conductor on his early television show. Again he screwed up with booze, when they were in Las Vegas, and Frank had to fire him. Then Graham Forbes became the number one pianist in the Meyer Davis office, getting plum gigs, until he drank himself out of this cushy slot.
There's a hell of a book to be mined out of Graham's tragic life. He was a big influence on Horace Silver's decision to switch from alto sax to piano and at Graham's funeral, Horace was a pall-bearer. At the end of the 1930s, Graham Forbes starting with his giving up his studies at Columbia University to join Bunny Berigan, whom he recorded on March 15 and 16, 1938. Other than some rinka-tinka piano work behind the vocal to Rinka Tinka Man (Victor 25820), the six rather tired songs for Victor contain no piano playing worth mentioning. He was with Berigan only briefly.
Graham stay with Charlie Barnett was also short lived, apparently, though he is reported to be on the Barnett session for RCA Thesaurus Transcriptions on May 16, 1938 when 20 titles were recorded. Ten of the 15 instrumentals on First Time Records FTR-1504 are from this date, with the pianist getting a half-chorus here and a few notes there. On ''Blue Turning Grey Over You'', Chatterbox and Rock it for Me he has short solos, but these are of minor interest.
In June of 1942 Forbes was playing at Club 18 and in October he was the soloist at the Casa Allegra, Wednesday, Fridays, and Saturdays. During this period he was a frequent sitter-in at Nick's and may even have been working there early in 1943.
After the was Graham Forbes was with the CBS staff orchestra under Mark Warnow, then with Ernie Hoist at the Stork Club and at the Copacabana for several years with Mike Durso. He went on a coast-to-coast tour with Martin and Lewis, which led to accompanying work with many well known singers, including Lisa Kirk, Julie Wilson, Hildegarde, Getrude Nielsen and Vic Damone. He led at Stork Club, worked for Mayer Davis, and did six trips to Europe on the SS America.
On the December 14, 1949, Frank Sinatra began recording for CBS a radio show to be broadcast on Sunday afternoons. The accompaniment was by Graham Forbes, piano, Tony Gattuso, guitar, Trigger Alpert, bass, and Johnny Blowers, drums. Of this first session Blowers said, ''This was swinging, relaxed and fun date''. He also indicated that the series lasted for three or four months. Blowers twice calls the show ''Meet Frank Sinatra'' but no other reference to such a show title has been traced. Blowers says it was broadcast alongside Sinatra's Light Up Time.
On Labor Day weekend in 1950 Forbes was with Frank Sinatra when he played theatres in Hartford, Connecticut, and Atlanta City, the other musicians being Blowers, Matty Galizo, guitar, and Frank Carrol, bass. Towards the end of May Sinatra traveled to the West Coast, possibly, with Forbes accompanying or following him.
From November 1953 to 1955 Sinatra was on ''To Be Perfectly Frank'', a weekly radio show for NBS, and he is accompanied by a quintet (clarinet, piano, guitar, bass, and drums) which, on one of the early shows, is given a personnel of ''Tony, Mike, Sunny, Johnny and Graham'' without mentioning the instruments that they play. Possibly Johnny is Blowers, Graham is Forbes and Tony is Gattuso. And there was a clarinetist called Sunny Salad around that time.
It has been suggested that Forbes is on some of the Sinatra titles on a CD entitled ''After Hours'' on Artistry 3001, taken from the broadcast, though the CD itself credits only Bill Miller as pianist. And of course, Graham Forbes and the trio, Graham Forbes, piano; Bill Halfacre, bass; Buddy Jett, drums, August 1960 LP, Phillips International PLP 1955 called ''The Martini Set - Graham Forbes And The Trio'', all tracks recorded by Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips.
This leaves many gaps in the Graham Forbes story, though one suspects that if information is found to fill them it will be of limited jazz interest. Forbes was no doubt technically as good a pianist as we suggested, but we are unlikely now to discover his true value as a jazz player. Graham Forbes died of a heart attack in Westbury, Long Island, New York on May 22, 1984 at the age of 66.
Chuck Foster and His Orchestra sometime in the 1940s. >
FOSTER, CHUCK (ORCHESTRA) – His big break came a few years after he took over the leadership of a 10-piece band in California. He was a logical choice to be the new front man, since, besides playing saxophone and clarinet, he was handsome, sang a little, and could m.c. a floor show. In 1939, Foster and his orchestra were hired for two weeks at the Biltmore Bowl, a hotel in Los Angeles, but wound up staying there seven months.
They went back in 1940 and 1941, for a total of 18 months time! During that period, they make lots of network radio broadcasts. In between engagements at the Biltmore, Chuck Foster and his musicians appeared at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, the Chase in St. Louis, the Baker in Dallas, all again with network lines for radio broadcasts to the rest of the United States. That's how he and his band became nationally-known.
Besides his own abilities, what helped ''music in the Foster fashion'' to remain popular into 1970s was the fact that he had loyal, talented musicians working for him. Most of the personnel in his band stuck around a long time, including Don Crawford; trombonist Dick Arant; lead also saxophonist Bill Gee; tenor saxophonist Wayne Harden; another saxophonist, Jimmy Castle (who also sang); pianist Hal Pruden; bassist Stewart Strange; drummer Bob Simpson; and vocalists Dorothy Brandon or Dottie Dotson. Their very first recordings were made as transcriptions for radio stations only, for Standard in 1939 and United in 1940.
Okeh Records signed them for commercial discs, and the band recorded a total of eight sides in October 1940 and June 1941, including their theme song, ''Oh, You Beautiful Doll'', and ''I've Been Drafted (Now I'm Drafting You)''. It was stated that in 1941-1942 Foster and his orchestra traveled more than 50,000 miles in private automobiles and played in 28 states, mostly one0night stands or theaters, with a few steady gigs in hotels and ballrooms.
A special highlight for the band was working the Academy Awards ceremony held in Hollywood in 1951, and which named among other honors, the best picture (''Rebecca''), best actor (James Stewart in ''The Philadelphia Story'', his only Oscar win), and best actress (Ginger Rogers as ''Kitty Foyle''). Chicagoans, in particular, seemed to like hearing or dancing to Foster's music. ''Chuck's band has already made a distinct hit'', critic Will Davidson observed while the group was performing in the Continental Room of the Stevens Hotel there in February 1942. ''It's a lively band without being boisterous'', he wrote.
Chuck Foster ^
In June of 1942, the band added the nearby Oriental Theatre to its appearances. When they returned to the Oriental that December, former Chick Webb vocalist Ella Fitzgerald shared the bill. Then, on April 7, 1943, Foster opened an engagement at the Blackhawk Restaurant, also in Chicago's ''Loop'', and in August of that year, it was back to the Oriental, this time with the Mills Brothers vocal group.
After his brief service in the Army during World War II, Foster organized a new band in early 1944, opening at the Chanticleer nightclub in Baltimore, Maryland. They then headed back to the Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago for, as was typical, several months, A special anniversary celebration revived WGN's ''Midnight Flyers'' radio program the night of May 13, 1946 at the Blackhawk. Foster and his orchestra were present, along with others notables including Martha Raye, Gypsy Rose Lee, Danny Thomas, and Dean Martin. But, depending on the circumstances, the band was based in different locales. When they operated out of New York City, they played, for example, the Hotel New Yorker in-town or the Steel Pier in Nearby Atlantic City.
Starting in the 1940s, Chuck Foster and his band would take trips to the Hotel Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee for a couple of lengthy engagements each year. In 1953, Foster officially moved to the Chicago area, where he could continue to star at the Blackhawk, work the Aragon or Trianon ballrooms four of five months a year, and go elsewhere around the Midwest dance circuit. He played a ''battle of dance music'' with Eddy Howard at the Aragon on July 31, 1955, and a similar ''battle'' was held between Foster and Ralph Marterie at the Aragon on June 17, 1956.
Chuck Foster and his orchestra recorded for Mercury in 1946-1948, on Vocalion in 1949, and on March 22, 1960, Foster and his band made what seems to have been his only 12'' LP, ''Chuck Foster at the Hotel Peabody Overlooking Old Man River'' for Sam Phillips' International label (PLP 1965).
He decided to return to California in 1965, ready to retire. But a band was needed at Myron's Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, so he agreed to go there. He stayed for eight years, stocking his playlists both with standards (''Easter Parade'', ''Avalon'', ''Hindustan'') and more current pops (''Bom Free'', ''King Of The Road'', ''Tijuana Taxi'').
Even into the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was still willing to play the Willowbrook or Holiday ballrooms in Chicago. Foster always led an entertaining orchestra, including three trumpets, one trombone, three saxophones (not counting himself), and three rhythm. They played popular tunes at easy tempos, in a variety of rhythms, with clean phrasing and dynamics.
FRANK, HARMONICA - KING OF HARPS - Frank Floyd, born to Reuben Brewster Floyd and Estella Miles in Toccopola, Pontotoc County, Mississippi, on October 11, 1908, was nicknamed "Shak" (he was never christened with a formal name). Also known as "Rambling King" and "The Silly Kid". Frank Floyd was one of 3 children and he raised and worked on the farm from his childhood, and he taught himself the harmonica at 10 years of age. He spent his earliest years with his grandparents in rural Arkansas, left home in 1922, and rambled throughout much of the Depression. He left home in 1922 and adopted the name Frank Floyd.
Frank joined a carnival in the early 1920s and played for nickels and dimes on street corners. Floyd was frequent and working as comedian, singing harmonicist in carnivals, amateur shows, on the streets in honky tonk bars, and parks through the South and Southwest circa 1922 through the end of the 1920s. He was influenced by DeFord Bailey, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Palmer McAbee and Jimmy Rodgers, Harmonica Frank worked with the Cole Brothers Carnival through the South in the late 1920s and toured with the West Motorized Show through the South.
In 1932, Harmonica Frank toured as a one man band with the Happy Phillipson's Medicine Show, and worked gigs in Juarez in Mexico, appeared with Buster Steele's Log Cabin Wranglers for KELW-radio in Burbank, California. He also toured with Dr. Hood's Medicine Show through the South in 1933-34 and appeared on his own show for KLCN-radio in Blytheville, Arkansas and appeared on KTHS-radio in Hot Springs, Arkansas during the 1930s. In the early 1940s, Harmonica Frank appeared on WOBT-radio in Union City, Tennessee and frequently worked outside the music as farmer in the mid-1940s, and frequently toured with Eddie Hill's Troupe and he appeared on WMC-radio in Memphis, Tennessee during the late 1940s. In the early 1950s, harmonica Frank appeared on the local radio station in Valdosta, Georgia and worked in the Rainbow Lake Club in Memphis, Tennessee and recorded for the Chess label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1951.
Having already developed his virtuosity on the harmonica he took up the guitar after hearing the Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers. The shtick he developed during his spell with the Happy Phillipson Medicine Show was faithfully reproduced on Frank's only Sun record, "The Great Medical Menagerist"/"Rockin' Chair Daddy" (SUN 205), in 1954. Occasionally, Frank landed a steady gig at a radio station. It was during a short-term gig with Smilin' Eddie Hill on WMC, Memphis, that he first came to Phillips' attention in 1951.
His credibility high in the wake of "Rocket 88" (CHESS 1458), Sam Phillips persuaded the Chess brothers in Chicago to take two cuts from Harmonica Frank. "Swamp Root" was coupled with a primordel blues, "Goin' Away Walkin'" was replaced with a cover version of Bigg Jeff and the Radio Playboys' hit, "Step It Up And Go".
By the time Frank's second Chess record was released in January 1952 his steady gig on WMC had ended, Eddie Hill having left for Nashville. When he recorded for Sun in 1954, Frank was working at a station in Dyersburg, Tennessee. The Sun single, which coupled the charmingly anachronistic "Great Medical Menagerist" with "Rockin' Chair Daddy" (SUN 205), was released at the same time as Elvis Presley's debut - July 1954. It was Presley's record that sealed Frank's fate. Some reviewers noted that "Rockin' Chair Daddy" was a good blend of black and white musical styles; the problem was that it blended the black and withe musical styles of the 1920s.
Still sensing that he could be a part of the rockabilly revolution, Frank Floyd auditioned for Meteor Records on 1794 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis, and then issued a record on the F and L label, which he co-owned with another would-be rockabilly, Larry Kennon. Frank took the lead vocal on one side, "Rock A Little Baby", and his partner, Larry Kennon, took the vocal on the other side, "Monkey Love". They spent days promoting the record, selling it to variety stores or any one who would take it but sales were very disappointing. Disappointed with its failure, Frank moved to Dallas, started hawking ice cream, and got out of the music business, he even sold his Martin guitar that he had bought with the $100 cheque from Chess Records.
In the early 1960s, Harmonica Frank worked outside in the music in the Dallas, Texas and the Memphis, Tennessee area. At some point, Frank Floyd returned to Tennessee to work for his cousin. He married a woman he met through a lonely hearts club and settled in Millington outside music, near Memphis. It was there, in the early 1970s, that he was rediscovered by Stephen LaVere, who followed a tortuous path to Frank's door, giving him a second lease on life as an attraction at folk music festivals. In 1971, Harmonica Frank, worked at the Mid-South Jamboree, at Linden Circle Theater in Memphis, Tennessee and play frequently in Mama's Coffeehouse in Memphis during 1972, and appeared at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois, performed at the River City Blues Festival in Memphis and on the First Church Congregational in Cambridge, Massachusetts from that same year.
In 1972 through 1974, Harmonica Frank Floyd recorded for the Adelphi label in Silver Spring, Maryland, and toured with the Memphis Blues caravan on concert dates through the mid-West. In 1974, Frank Floyd appeared and worked at the University of California in Santa Barbara, California, and the San Diego State University in San Diego, California (portion remote on KPFK-radio) and recorded in 1975 for the Barrelhouse label in Chicago, Illinois. For his death, Harmonica Frank Floyd worked frequently in coffeehouses, blues festivals, university concerts through the 1970s.
First and last, Frank Floyd was an entertainer: he had learned his craft on countless street corners, where he had only a few seconds to catchosomeone's attention. That skill remained intact fifty years later. Floyd's music belongs to the American disenfranchised of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He is a self-proclaimed spokesman for the rounders, backwoods rebels, poor farmers, sharecroppers, labourers, drifters, hobos and alley people of that hardtime period.
After his rediscovery, Frank Floyd claimed to have invented rock and roll with much the same cheerful disregard for the facts that Jelly Roll Morton exhibited in claiming to have invented jazz. Yet when Harmonica Frank Floyd entered the Continental Hospital in Blanchester, Ohio where he died August 7, 1984 on pneumonia. Harmonica Frank Floyd is buried at the Clover Cemetery in Bethel, Ohio, and a piece of American musical history died with him.
Only Chris Strachwitz, who runs the Blues Classic label, and Down Home Music, ever paid him any money for his music. He told blues researcher Steve LaVere, who rediscovered him in 1972: "I spent a lot of time listening to the darkies in days gone by singing in the cottonfield down South and I picket up their songs and speech. That is the reason people think I am a coloured man, But I really am white. I never played with no blacks, but I was a fan of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson". (CE)
FROST, FRANK – Born on a small cotton farm April 15, 1936 in Auvergne, Arkansas, was one of the foremost American delta blues harmonica players of his generation. He is the second of seven children of T.R. Winston and Dorthula Frost. Frank Otis Frost learned to play piano at church as a young boy. Frank, in the search to find his place in the world, left home to get a glimpse of the 'big world' around him and try to get ideas as to what it took to get into the music business. His love for music was natural and automatic and his ability with the guitar, piano and harp was seemingly born in him.
He moved to St. Louis, Missouri at age 15, and spent time as a guitarist with drummer Sam Carr and Carr's father, Robert Nighthawk. He learned to play harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson, who he toured with. While playing with guitarist Big Jack Johnson, Frost attracted the interest of the record producer Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records. Some recordings of note that followed included "Hey Boss Man" and "My Back Scratcher".
Elvis Presley's ex-guitarist Scotty Moore produced Frost's next sessions in Nashville in 1966 for Jewel Records. Augmented by session bassist Chip Young, the trio's tight down-home ensemble work was once again seamless. "My Back Scratcher," Frost's takeoff on Slim Harpo's "Baby Scratch My Back," even dented the Rhythm & Blues charts on Shreveport-based Jewel for three weeks.
In the late 1970s, Frost was re-discovered by a blues enthusiast, Michael Frank, who began releasing albums on his Earwig Music Company label by the trio, now called The Jelly Roll Kings, after a song from ''Hey Boss Man'' LP. By this time the innovative Jelly Roll Kings format had solidified, Frank singing, blowing harp and playing keyboards, Gig Jack Johnson singing and picking, Sam Carr shoring it all up with a hellacious backbeat.
Since then they have drifted together and apart countless times. They didn't record again under the name Jelly Roll Kings until 1996, when Robert Palmer recorded them and produced ''Off Yonder Wall'' for Exford, Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records, proving that no matter how much time passes, Frank Frost, Sam Carr and Big Jack Johnson can still conjure the old magic.
Frost appeared in the films ''Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads'' and Ralph Macchio movie ''Crossroads'' and contributed to the soundtrack.
On October 10, 1997, Frank Frost playing together with his friend Sam Carr, take the stage at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, but t
he days Frost takes it easy. His drinking days have taken their toll. At 61, he moves slowly and relies on medication. He prefers to spend his days fishing. That's where he writes his songs, taking his harmonica along when he feels like it. ''Most of the times I write a song I'll be out on the fish lake or hunting or doing something. Keep a pencil and pad in my pocket so when it comes to me I write the line down out of my mind, and then I just write the words down and I don't think of it no more... Most of the time it works. When I get to the studio they say, 'That's fine. Play that'''.
Frank Frost died of cardiac arrest at his home in Helena, Arkansas on October 12, 1999 at the age of 63.
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