STUDIO SESSION FOR THE RIPLEY COTTON CHOPPERS
MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953
SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: SATURDAY JULY 11, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS
"In 1953, after my Sun label really got started", says Sam Phillips, "I would record some country music but I was always still looking for somebody with a little different sound. I felt that there was the basis of a
particular style to be found here in Memphis''.
''The Ripley Cotton Choppers came from a little town north of Memphis. They were the first country musicians I issued on the Sun label. They were a damn fine country band. I had some nice cuts on them, but Sun was very much
geared to the blues market at that time and we were never able to promote them".
"Silver Bell"/"Blues Waltz" (Sun 190) by the Ripley Cotton Choppers remains one of the rarest records Sam Phillips ever recorded. After two years of releasing nothing but black music, Sam Phillips had
decided to broaden his base of operations. In July 1953, he scheduled the first recording session with the Ripley Cotton Choppers, and later that year released Sun's first country record. It had "Hillbilly" stamped on the promo copies so that
country disc jockey’s would take a second look and maybe listen.
Raymond Kerby also recalls Phillips' conduct in the studio. "He kept trying to get us to do something we never did understand. He wanted us to play and sing more like a colored man. He kept saying if he could just find him
a white boy who...".
was fairly insistent about this but the Cotton Choppers were never able to cross that maggie line. Nevertheless, the title of the very first country record that Sam Phillips released on Sun still had the word "blues" in it.
An ironic footnote to Phillips' quest is that a
year or so before their Sun audition, the Choppers had recorded a rough demo of an original song called "Paint Slinger Blues". It was a simple 12-bar blues written by Kerby, his brother James, and his uncle, Jesse Frost. It was composed spontaneously
as the three men sat around after a hard day's work.
Kerby still had his paint splattered overalls on when the line "I'm an old paint slinger and I sling my paint all day" came into being. Because they never took the song seriously, the Choppers never even auditioned the song for Phillips. As an old
acetate shows, "Paint Slinger Blues" comes surprisingly close to the sound and style that Sam Phillips was looking for. Kerby confides that most of his group was not overly impressed with Sam Phillips' operation. "Half of us figured we were wasting
our time. We figured Sun Records wasn't big enough. They'll never do anything for anybody".
The Ripley Cotton Choppers came to Sun's attention because Hoyt Wooten, Sam Phillips' old boss at WREC told Ernest Underwood about Sam Phillips. Underwood was the only member of the Choppers who had also played with
the original group, and he and Wooten were old friends. A phone call was made and Ernest Underwood and Raymond Kerby drove down to meet Sam Phillips.
When this 78rpm was finally released, it never appeared on 45rpm, Phillips told Kerby, "Now don't quit if this record don't make it. You too good a guitar player". By virtually
any yardstick SUN 190 did not make it. It certainly got lots of local action and seems to have been on every jukebox between Memphis and Ripley. Kerby recalls, "We never did see any royalties on it. But you could turn the radio on, sometimes
ten or twelve different stations would be playing it at the same time. Bob Neal had a show on WMPS. He used "Silver Bell" as his opening and closing theme".
"SILVER BELL"* - B.M.I. - 2:14
Composer: - Edward Madden-Percy
Publisher: - Redwood Music Limited
Matrix number: - U 83
The title spelled as ''Silver Bells'' on the record label.
- July 11, 1953
Released: - September 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records
(S) 78rpm standard single SUN 190-B mono
SILVER BELL / BLUES WALTZ
- 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-2-2 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1
As a vocal outing during the late forties, "Sugarfoot Rag" became a benchmark hit for Red Foley. It was equally effective as an instrumental by its creator, guitarist Hank Garland,
and in time to come several other catchy workouts would follow its thrust. Taking their cue from Bob Wills, the rustic-sounding Ripley Cotton Choppers (famous around Shelby County for their regular radio broadcast) homed in on their neat equivalent, "Silver
Bell", for what amounted to an exploratory Sun one-off.
itself, composed by vaudevillian Percy Wenrich in 1910, was already a minor standard when the Choppers took it to Sam Phillips. The record is really a showcase for the guitar of Bill Webb who is backed by guitarists Raymond and James Kerby and the driving
bass of Pete Wiseman. The back-country charm of the record, one of Sun's rarest releases, compensates for some technical flaws, not the least of which is Webb's slightly out-of-tune instrument. You'd think this wouldn't stand a prayer in the country music
world of the 1950s, but in 1955, Chet Atkins and Hank Snow took ''Silver Bell'' to the country charts. The label of Sun 190 states ''Silver Bells'', which is the old Christmas standard).