CONTAINS
For music(standard singles) and playlists on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1956 SESSIONS 2/1
February 1, 1956 to February 28, 1956

Studio Session for Eddie Bond, February 1956 / Mercury Records
Studio Session for Malcolm Yelvington, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Mack Self, February 1, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Malcolm Yelvington, February 2, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Slim Rhodes, February 2, 1956 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Warren Smith, February 5, 1956 / Sun Records

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on 
> YouTube <
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

FEBRUARY 1956

"Blue Suede Shoes" enters the local Memphis country charts on February 11 at number 2. The following week it is number 1, where it remains for three months. Billboard picks is as a 'Country Best Buy'. "Interestingly enough", adds Billboard, "the disk has a large measure of appeal for pop and rhythm and blues customers". It starts to sell in huge quantities throughout the South.

Carl Perkins also becomes a regular on the Big D Jamboree stage and TV show in Dallas, Texas at the time. Meteor Records in Memphis release another song in the "daydreamin'" sage, "Daydreams Come True" (Meteor 5027) by Buddy Bain, Kay Wayne and the Meteor Trio. This band is from Corinth, Mississippi.

FEBRUARY 1956

The Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is held during February of 1956, during which the Soviet Leader, Nikita Khrushchev, gave a speech condemning former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin who had died three years earlier. Khrushchev denounced Stalin as a cruel leader who had created a toxic, suspicious and terrifying environment in which persecution was rife. Khrushchev stated that Stalin’s “cult of personality” must be dismantled and urged the Soviet Congress members to reveal the truth about Stalin slowly to the Russian public. The entirety of the secretive speech was not revealed to the Russian people until 1988.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Other developments during this time, Eddie Bond appearances on the Louisiana Hayride alongside with Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley and Sonny James, and further touring alongside Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Harold Jenkins (later to become Conway Twitty), and Charlie Feathers. Concurrently a move to develop links with radio were set up when the Eddie Bond Show was transmitted on KWEM, beginning a relationship with the airwaves that continues today. So now touring was joined by broadcasting as well as recording in the continually broadening of the Bond career. At the same time Eddie signed with Bob Neal's Stars Incorporated, then looking after the interests of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash with Warren Smith and Ray Orbison soon to be added to the ranks.
Session Published for Historical Reasons

STUDIO SESSION FOR EDDIE BOND
FOR MERCURY RECORDS 1956

WMPS RECORDING STUDIO
112 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
MERCURY SESSION: UNKNOWN DATE FEBRUARY 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER – DEE KIRKPATRICK

Four Mercury sessions were recorded, the first of which he poses a mystery. Held at WNPS in Memphis, and produced by Mercury artist and repertoire man Dee Kilpatrick, for songs were recorded but only two were issued on Mercury, ''I Got A Woman'', ''Rockin' Daddy''; the remaining two songs, ''Sister Jenny Won't You Pray For Me'' and ''Blue Suede Shoes'' do not appear on Mercury paperwork never mind tape vaults. Eddie Bond confirms they were recorded and that he does not have tapes either. What happened here is unknown, perhaps an independently produced session with an option taken up by Mercury was effected? Mercury usually recorded in Chicago or Nashville, so why use WMPS in Memphis? Eddie is certain that Dee Kilpatrick was involved but could he have been there in these tapes being used by Mercury? There has to be a reason for the remaining two titles not appearing at Mercury either on tape or on paper.

What is certain is that the Stompers were featured on these cuts which, when released on a single, sold healthily. Thirty-seven years on Eddie speculates: ''It probably sold more than some current hits today as figures are calculated quite differently'', says Eddie Bond.

01 – ''I GOT A WOMAN'' – B.M.I. - 1:55
Composer: - Ray Charles
Publisher: - Starrite Music
Matrix number: - YW 12674
Recorded: - Unknown Date February 1956
Released: - March 1956
First appearance: - Mercury Records (S) 45rpm Mercury 70826-B mono
I GOT A WOMAN / ROCKIN' DADDY
Reissued: 1993 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15708-1-5 mono
EDDIE BOND – ROCKIN' DADDY

02 – ''ROCKIN' DADDY'' – B.M.I. - 2:02
Composer: - Sonny Fisher
Publisher: - Starrite Music
Matrix number: - YW 12675
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1955
Released: - March 1956
First appearance: - Ekko Records (S) 45rpm Ekko 70806-A mono
ROCKIN' DADDY / I GOT A WOMAN
Reissued: 1993 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15708-1-6 mono
EDDIE BOND – ROCKIN' DADDY

03 – ''BLUE SUEDE SHOES'' – B.M.I.
Composer: - Carl Perkins
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Mercury Unissued
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1955
04 – ''SISTER JENNY WON'T YOU PRAY FOR ME''' – B.M.I.
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Mercury Unissued
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1955

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Eddie Bond – Vocal & Rhythm Guitar
Reggie Young – Guitar
John Hughey – Steel Guitar
Johnny Fine - Drums

For Biography of Eddie Bond see: > The Sun Biographies <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR MALCOLM YELVINGTON
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: UNKNOWN DATE 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

01 - "GOIN' TO THE SEA" - B.M.I. - 1:20
Composer: - Louie Moore
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Corporation
Matrix number: - None - Demo - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1956
Released: - November 1986
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-4-20 mono
THE SUN COUNTRY YEARS 1950 - 1959
Reissued: - 2006 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16757-18 mono
MALCOLM YELVINGTON - THE SUN YEARS

02 - "LET THE MOON SAY GOODNIGHT" - B.M.I. - 1:53
Composer: - Reece Fleming
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Corporation
Matrix number: - None – Demo - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1956
Released: - 1988
First appearance: - Sun England (LP) 33rpm LP 1010 mono
GONNA HAVE MY SELF BALL
Reissued: - 2006 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16757-19 mono
MALCOLM YELVINGTON - THE SUN YEARS

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Malcolm Yelvington - Vocal and Guitar

For Biography of Malcolm Yelvington see: > The Sun Biographies <
Malcolm Yelvington's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

FEBRUARY 1956

Surprisingly, it was Harold Jenkins' sometime band-mate in the Arkansas Wood Choppers, Mack Self, who eventually saw one release on Sun and another on Phillips International. Self's wonderfully archaic ''Easy To Love'' is on the country box-set, and should be the cornerstone of any 1950s country collection. Trying his hand at rockabilly, Self had mixed results. His version of ''Goin' Crazy'' is markedly different from the hillbilly version on the country box-set. If ''Mad Of You'' was rockabilly caught out of time when it was released in October 1959, that's hardly surprising. It was recorded two years earlier, and was resurrected as the B-side of a Tom Dooley-soundlike, ''Willie Brown''. Collectors figured that it was Charlie Feathers singing the bluesgrass-style harmony on ''Mad At You'', a belief that Feathers fostered, but it was actually Jimmy Evans.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR MACK SELF
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: PROBABLY WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 1, 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

Among the country based singers at Sun Records who did not see any real commercial success, two names stand out the quality and genuine originality of their music, Ernie Chaffin and Mack Self. Of the two, Chaffin had a slightly more illustrious career whereas Mack's talent remained a fairly well kept secret.

Mack Self was always a local artist. Based in Helena, Arkansas he has mostly held down a regular job as a sheet metal worker, reserving his country songwriting and performing for evenings and weekends. Mack has seen several of his musical comrades go on to bigger things, most notably steel guitarist John Hughey and singer Harold Jenkins (later known as Conway Twitty). Yet at the outset, in 1956 Sam Phillips heard more that he liked in Mack's strong, plaintive voice and songs than he did in Jenkins' breathy rockabilly style. Sam issued Mack's "Easy To Love" and "Everyday" in the summer of 1957, following with "Mad At You" and "Willie Brown" in 1959. The latter disc coupled a very tuneful rockabilly offering with a story song in the prevailing gunfighter ballad mould. The Sun vaults bear further evidence of Mack's versatility. They include the relentless rocker, "Vibrate", and the uptempo song "Goin' Crazy".

It would be silly to argue that Mack's music is as distinctive as that of Johnny Cash, or that a 27 year old country singer from Helena offered Sam Phillips a better shot at the pop charts than, say the precocious Jerry Lee Lewis or the highly distinctive Carl Mann. Equally, though, it would be wrong to assume that Mack Self was merely a product of the Sun sound formula. Mack's two records, one on Sun Records, one on Phillips International, are highly memorable waxings, and they are backed up by fine country recordings on Zone and Sabor.

"Easy To Love" was finally recorded for the third time. Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was doing good, and Jack Clement carried Jerry Lee and Mack Self over to Plastic Products to pick up copies of their records.

Two simple facts: (1) this record is a total anomaly. A two sided hillbilly waltz with virtually no commercial potential in the summer of '57. (2) "Easy To Love" is one of the most beautiful Sun records ever released. Granted, 'beautiful' is not an adjective commonly associated with Sun, unless one stretches it a bit to describe a 'beautiful' rockabilly solo by Billy Riley, for example.

But this record is beautiful in the old fashioned way; it is utterly gorgeous. It is easy to point to the haunting steel guitar work or the deft use of a 2-minor chord in the melody. But there is so much more here, small things that just come together perfectly. Self's lyric, for example. "living a lie / it's true, it's true". A small touch, but memorable. Or the final vocal line "I'm letting you go". The ending is made stronger by the fact that the first time through, that same line is just a wordless moan. The lyric only takes form when it is uttered at the end of the song.

01(1) - "EASY TO LOVE"** - B.M.I. - 2:45
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 256 Master
Recorded: February 1, 1956
Released: - June 1957
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 273-B < mono
EASY TO LOVE / EVERYDAY
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-4-15 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

Within the context of Sun's release schedule, ''Easy To Love'' fell smack in the middle of rockabilly items like Carl Perkins'''That's Right'' and Ray Harris's ''Greenback Dollar''. It was flanked by even less countrified rockers by Tommy Blake (''Lordy Hoody'') and Wade & Dick (''Bop Bop Baby''). In short, ''Easy To Love'' was pure country outing, the very thing from which Sun was progressively shying away. All of which underscores just how direct its impact must have been on Phillips for him to schedule its release. Commercialism aside, what has contributed to the beautiful of ''Easy To Love''? Self's vocal, while not powerful, is rather idiosyncratic. His line ''I'm tuning you loose'' is followed by wordless humming in the first verse. Two bars without a lyric. This tension is resolved in the last verse the same line is finally completed with ''I'm letting you go''. A nice touch, especially surrounded by the drama of the sustained 4-chord and cymbal at the finale.

Rhythmically, the song achieves a surprising momentum from the echoey drumming and acoustic guitar. In fact, if it can be said that a waltz is driving, then this one surely qualifies. The instrumental work seems serviceable, not flashy throughout, with its simple Luther Perkins-like lead guitar.

Even the steel, an instrument often given to tasty riffs and virtuosity, is played in flawless, but rudimentary style. The record simply has an understated charm that assert itself almost immediately. For some reason, one throwaway feature (absent from the recently discovered alternate take) has always focused my memory of this song.

The band hits a passing 2-minor chord between halves of the verse. It comes right after the lines ''Like they're brand new'' and ''between you and me''. One would expect a conventional 5-2-5 transitional sequence but instead there's that implied 2-minor chord. A mistake, maybe, but it's simply beautiful.

01(2) - "EASY TO LOVE" - B.M.I. - 2:45
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 1, 1956
Released: - 2007
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16519-21 mono
MACK SELF - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

02(1) - "GOIN' CRAZY" - B.M.I. - 2:33
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 1, 1956
Released: - 2007
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16519-11 mono
MACK SELF - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

02(2) - "GOIN' CRAZY" - B.M.I. - 2:29
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Take 2 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 1, 1956
Released: - 2007
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16519-19 mono
MACK SELF - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

''Goin' Crazy", a track that never saw light in the 1950s - offers lines like "You got me barkin' like a dog/ rootin' like a hog/ skinning saplings/ eatin' paw paws". It doesn't get much more country than that.

03(1) - "MAD AT YOU"* - B.M.I. - 2:17
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 1, 1956
Released: - November 1986
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 106-4-16 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE ROCKING YEARS - I FEEL LIKE ROCKIN'
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-3-20 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

03(2) - "MAD AT YOU"* - B.M.I. - 2:06
Composer: - Mack Self
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Take 2 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 1, 1956
Released: - 2007
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16519-17 mono
MACK SELF - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

Here included a previously unissued alternate take of "Mad At You", if anything, even more spirited than the originally released version. Is this one of the few times that Sam Phillips may have chosen the wrong take for release. Mack's uptempo songs like "Mad At You" contained down home lyrics like "My cow's gone dry/The hens won't lay".

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Mack Self - Vocal and Guitar
Thurlow Brown - Lead Guitar
Stan Kesler - Steel Guitar
Jimmy Evans - Bass and Harmony Vocal*
Johnny Bernero – Drums

For Biography of Mack Self see: > The Sun Biographies <
Mack Self's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Malcolm Yelvington was probably the only artist who didn't come to Sun looking to emulate Elvis Presley for the simple reason that he had first recorded for Sam Phillips back when Elvis Presley came on the scene. According to Malcolm, he turned down an opportunity to go with RCA in the early 1950s because RCA wouldn't take his band, and came to Sun because it was the only game in town. Now that the King was gone, it was time to have another look at Yelvington's quirky stylins. This man would plainly never be a teenage hearthrob, but maybe there was gold in them musical hills after all.

His first single appeared between Elvis' first and second single. Malcolm was then left contemplating his future in a world that Elvis increasingly dominated.

STUDIO SESSION FOR MALCOLM YELVINGTON
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2, 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

''I went back to Sun with "Rockin' With My Baby", Malcolm recalled. "It's the only song I ever wrote in my life. We made a demo tape one Sunday and carried it down to Sam to listen to. He liked it, and he set up a date for us to come in and record''. This is a slightly mellower, more countrified version of what became Malcoln's second and last Sun record. Lately, in his retirement, Malcolm has taken to conducting your groups through the old Sun studio on weekends while his wife gets her hair done.

01 - "GONNA HAVE MYSELF A BALL" - B.M.I. - 1:46
Composer: - Malcolm Yelvington
Publisher: - Sun Entertainment Corporation
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - 1974
First appearance: - Sun England (LP) 33rpm 6467025 mono
GONNA HAVE MYSELF A BALL
Reissued: - 2006 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16757-9 mono
MALCOLM YELVINGTON - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

Yelvington does a better job on this side, an unpretentious blues featuring Frank Tolley's rolling piano. Yelvington continued to record at Sun, including the superb "Trumpet", but never again saw his name on a little yellow record.

"It's Me Baby" is so downhome, it rates as a thirteen bar blues. Equally intriguing is the stanza that bears a striking resemblance to Jay McShann's "Confessin' The Blues" - not that anyone was paying anything like that much attention to detail. The song's creator was Malcolm's longstanding piano player, Reece Fleming, a musician who covered his 88 keys in the stride fashion of a previous generation. The mastertrack emerged as a B-side in August 1956.

02(1) - "IT'S ME BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:23
Composer: - Reece Fleming
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 207 Master
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - August 3, 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 246-B < mono
IT'S ME BABY / ROCKIN' WITH MY BABY
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-2-12-B mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

02(2) - "IT'S ME BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:25
Composer: - Reece Fleming
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated - Knox Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take - Not Original Issued
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - November 1986
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (LP) 33rpm BFX 15211-4-14 mono
THE SUN COUNTRY YEARS 1950 - 1959
Reissued: - February 15, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17311-3-5 mono
THE SUN COUNTRY BOX 1950 - 1959

This alternative of ''It's Me Baby'' it is obvious that the group had the jumping blues on their mind when they cut this tune. Yelvington sounds a little uneasy with the blues inflections and recalled that a reviewer had noted that his band had come to terms with the blues but the singer had not. Once again, there's some very tasty accenting from the drummer and some stinging lead guitar. Was the final ''Inside, Baby''! a sly piece of sexual innuendo? We'll probably never know.

Yelvington forsook his western swing roots as well as his false teeth and mumbled his way through some credible rockabilly for this session. "Rockin' With My Baby" was a self-conscious attempt to be contemporary that doesn't quite cut the mustard. Billboard's recognized what Yelvington was trying to do, but concluded that the side "may not get out of the territories". It turns out to have been a sound prophecy.

Sam Phillips was impressed with Yelvington's "Rockin' With My Baby", with its references to popular song titles, and with the bluesy feeling of Fleming's "It's Me Baby", and that spring Phillips recut the songs as Sun 246 along with "Gonna Have Myself A Ball", a song that used the catchphrases of several local disc jockeys.

03(1) - "ROCKIN' WITH MY BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:17
Composer: - Malcolm Yelvington-Jones
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 206 Master
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - August 3, 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 246-A < mono
ROCKIN' WITH MY BABY / IT'S ME BABY
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-2-11 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

''Yelvington is one of the more recent of Sun's string of talented rockabillies'', said Billboard in September 1956, unaware that the man had been recording for the label since 1954. However, they were unfortunately correct when they concluded that ''Jumper... may not break out of the territories''. ''Rockin' With My Baby'' went on to sell approximately 8,500 copies, a respectable but unspectacular sale considering that Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins could move 20,000 or more copies a day. Yelvington, his false teeth removed, seems to be slightly ill at ease with the tempo but turns in a supercharged vocal performance. The song, of course, is a collage of song titles from across the eras: ''Birth Of The Blues'', ''Rootie Tootie'', ''Sixteen Tons'', ''Blue Suede Shoes'', etc. It's fun, if a little contrived, and makes an interesting comparison with an earlier version, ''Have Myself A Ball''. The guys had worked at shaking off their honky tonk-western swing-cowboy harmony roots and acquiring a harder-edged sound. Change or die, it seems.

03(2) - "ROCKIN' WITH MY BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:29
Composer: - Malcolm Yelvington
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - 2006
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16757-10 mono
MALCOLM YELVINGTON - THE SUN YEARS PLUS

03(3) - "ROCKIN' WITH MY BABY" - B.M.I. - 2:29
Composer: - Malcolm Yelvington
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take 2 – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - 1985
First appearance: - Sun England (LP) 33rpm LP 1021 mono
ROCK BOP BOOGIE
Reissued: - 1999 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16211-11 mono
THAT'LL FLAT GIT IT! - VOLUME 16

"Sam was better known by the time I cut "Rockin' With My Baby", recalled Malcolm Yelvington, "Carl Perkins was the big artist in Sun 1956. I first saw him at Covington in 1953 when he played with his boys there. We would be playing at one club and he would be another place just up the road. matter of fact, my band used to go and sit in with the Perkins band some nights when we'd finished".

04 - "INTERVIEW MALCOLM YELVINGTON" - B.M.I. - 0:55
In his latter years, Malcolm Yelvington adopted the role of strolling ambassador for the Sun studio. Whilst his wife popped down town to have her hair done, he would act as a tour guide around 706 Union Avenue, much to the delight of visiting fans. It was here that I was able to glean some fascinating anecdotes from this most genie of characters - a musician who had witnessed both the curtailment of outmoded country fashions and the inception of vibrant new rockabilly stylings.
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-8-4 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002

"Carl was very unusual even back then, had a style all his own. He picked guitar very clean; used to call him 'One-string Perkins' because everything was so clear. One note at a time, no chords, you know. Like a blues guitarist. That style was very successful for him, real successful. Then in '57, the big artist at Sun was Jerry Lee Lewis. First time I saw him, I went down to the studio one day and Sam wasn't cutting anything, he was just listening, and as soon as I saw Lewis playing and singing and the way he was carrying on and going up and down the keyboard, I said, 'He'll make it'. And he did, he made it then lost it, then made it again. Right then, I knew my own days as a recording artist were numbered".

Up to now, Malcolm Yelvington had been in the habit of placing paper between his guitar strings to deaden the sound and produce a drum effect. The Sun 246 session was the first time that the band used a drummer, but Yelvington did not remember who he was. Evidence from Sun's files indicates that it was Billy Weir. Certainly the drums underlined the shift in thinking towards the new rockin' music. So did the change in Gordon Mashburn's lead guitar style. Mashburn had been a classy and hot guitarist all along, but now he was clearly trying to take on board the style of another Tipton County neighbor, Carl Perkins. Yelvington recalled, "My boys had sat in with his band some nights and Carl was very unusual with a style all his own. He picked guitar very clean, one note at a time, no chords, like a blues guitarist".

The trade paper, Billboard, described Yelvington as a talented rockabilly and his songs as a 'jumper' while it found the swinging, bluesy flipside "a good enough warble". The disc healthy local sales but it was not the big hit Yelvington longed for.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Malcolm Yelvington - Vocal and Guitar
Reece Fleming or Frank Tolley - Piano
Gordon Mashburn - Guitar
Billy Weir - Drums
Jack Ryles - Upright Bass

For Biography of Malcolm Yelvington see: > The Sun Biographies <
Malcolm Yelvington's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR SLIM RHODES
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2, 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

Until now, Dot Rhodes has remained little more than a footnote in the annals of Sun Records. Her name appeared on Sun labels, but always in the smallest print as part of the phrase "Vocal: Dusty and Dot". Dot was married to fiddle player Dusty Rhodes, and worked as a regular member of the Slim Rhodes show, a Memphis institution since the 1940s. If you lived within 50 miles of Memphis and owned a radio or a TV you had heard of Slim Rhodes.

Rhodes' band was largely a family business, although they fleshed out their ranks with outsiders like guitarist Brad Suggs and steel player John Hughey on a regular basis. Rhodes first recorded for Sam Phillips in 1950. The results - four singles worth - appeared on the Gilt Edge label. By the time they returned to the Sun studio in 1955, Phillips had his own label. He released four sides by the band in the next two years. Dot appeared as a vocalist on three of them, always in a duet with her husband. The band returned for a final attempt at commercial success in 1958 but the results never came to fruition.

01(1) - "GONNA ROMP AND STOMP" - B.M.I. - 2:19
Composer: - Dot Rhodes-Dusty Rhodes
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take – Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - August 2002
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16609-3-7 mono
MEMPHIS BELLES - THE WOMEN OF SUN RECORDS

This is another disc that barely made it north of the Mason-Dixon line and, it turns out, with good reason. Slim Rhodes and his aggregation have once again turned in a fine hillbilly outing, pairing a boogie with a wheeper. It was the title of the boogie side that led northern collectors to hope that here lay some undiscovered treasure. After all, rompin and stompin sound like things that aspiring Elvises did. As it turns out, those activities also go on at rural barn dances and back country hoedowns. There is some fire on this side and it has helped ''Romp And Stomp'' to survive better than some of the country sermonettes.

01(2) - "GONNA ROMP AND STOMP" - B.M.I. - 2:19
Composer: - Dot Rhodes-Dusty Rhodes
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 188 - Master - Vocal Dusty and Dot Rhodes
Recorded: - February 2, 1956 
Released: - April 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 238-A < mono
GONNA ROMP AND STOMP / BAD GIRL
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-1-19 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

Singer/guitarist/composer Brad Suggs recently listened to ''Bad Girl'' for the first time in over 50 years. It stirred some memories, not the least of which was the source of the strange, underwater-sounding instrumental break that occurs right after John Hughey's steel solo. This was no small mystery! In fact, we'd be hard pressed to find another piece of recorded music featuring this odd sound. After a moment's reflection, Brad laughed and reported that it was Dusty Rhodes fiddle played through a vibrato. ''I think Sam liked it. It sounded different to him''. Suggs emphasised that this was a song about a girl with a reputation. He was quick to add that reputations were sometimes pretty far from the truth. Suggs recalled that some folks misread the point of the song. ''Slim Rhodes told me that, disc jockey. Eddie Hill wouldn't play the record because he was convinced it was about a prostitute. I guess he thought he was saving his listeners''. A half a century later, Suggs could laugh at that.

02 - "BAD GIRL"** - B.M.I. - 2:25
Composer: - Brad Suggs-Slim Rhodes
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 189 - Master - Vocal Brad Suggs
Recorded: - February 2, 1956
Released: - April 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 238-B < mono
BAD GIRL / GONNA ROMP AND STUMP
Reissued: - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-1-20 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes - Guitar
Perry Hillburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes - Vocal* and Fiddle
Dorothy ''Dot'' Rhodes Moore - Vocal* and Guitar
John Hughey - Steel Guitar
Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes - Bass
Luther Bradley ''Pee Wee'' Suggs - Vocal** and Guitar
W.S. ''Fluke'' Holland – Drums

For Biography of Slim Rhodes Band see: > The Sun Biographies <
Slim Rhodes Band's Sun recordings can be heard on their playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

The Snearly Ranch Boys got their name from Miss Imah Snearly. Imah owned a mansion (above) located at 233 North McNeil Street in the Evergreen District of Memphis in 1949. Her affinity and desire to help musicians led her to open up her home to any musician who needed a place to stay or live. It became a boarding house (known as ''Snearly Ranch House'') and rehearsal hall for local country musicians.

FEBRUARY 3, 1956 FRIDAY

''The Adventures Of Champion'' ends a short-lived run on CBS-TV. The series was produced by Gene Autry's company and based on his trusty Wonder Horse.

FEBRUARY 4, 1956 SATURDAY

Elvis Presley sings ''Baby, Let's Play House'' on The Dorsey Brothers' ''Stage Show''.

Warren Smith was one of the first to arrive to Sun in February 1956, and one of the most talented. Twenty-four-year old and raised in rural Mississippi, and just out of the Air Force, he had shown up at the Cotton Club one night and sat in with the Snearly Ranch Boys. Their steel player, Stan Kesler, who had written ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'' and ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'' for Elvis Presley, brought him to Sam Phillips, who was impressed with his brooding good looks and pure country voice. All he needed, said Sam, was a good song. So Stan wrote him one, a good country song called ''I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry'', but then Sam phoned and said he had a rhythm song, ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'', for the new guy that Johnny cash had written when he was down in Shreveport playing the Louisiana Hayride. Stan Kesler played steel on the session, Snearly Ranch Boys Johnny Bernero and Smokey Joe Baugh were the drummer and piano player, and the idea was that this was going to be a joint enterprise in which the whole band shared equally, since the group leader, Clyde Leoppard, had been paying room and board for Smith at Mrs. Imah Snearly's boardinghouse in Memphis.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Warren Smith had made a similar move to Memphis and while Billy Riley was taping his songs at Fernwood, Warren Smith got a job as a singer with the country band of Clyde Leoppard. Part of this band went Warren Smith to Sun for a demo session on his first recording session when a rockabilly sound was tried out.

Early in 1954 Sam Phillips hailed Warren Smith as the third all-market contender he had signed. Smith seemed to have limitless potential. He was good looking, he had stage presence, he had a desperate will to succeed and, best of all, the man could really sing. However, his success on Sun was limited to a few local chart entries, a fleeting entry into the Hot 100 and then a swift decline at the very moment he should have consolidated his initial success.

STUDIO SESSION FOR WARREN SMITH
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1956

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: SUNDAY FEBRUARY 5, 1956
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS
AND/OR JACK CLEMENT

Unlike Billy Riley or Hayden Thompson, Warren Smith did manage to see the hits he considered no less than his birthright - although they would come only after he had left Sun Records and would be fewer than he might have hoped. Smith had a voice that was pure country, without vocal contrivance or mimickry. He had the looks and the will to succeed, and he certainly seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Yet he managed only one fleeting hit on Sun and no more than a few years in the spotlight after he left the label.

01 - "ROCK 'N' ROLL RUBY" - B.M.I. - 2:38
Composer: - John R. Cash
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None – Alternate Take - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - 1992
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15514-3 mono
WARREN SMITH - THE CLASSIC SUN RECORDINGS 1956 - 1959
Reissued: - May 29, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17313-4-21 mono
THE SUN ROCK BOX 1954 - 1959

In that turbulent month of February 1956 it was still far from clear whether Rock and Roll was a passing fad. Sam Phillips hedged his bets by recording a stone country flipside, "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry". He possibly thought that he might be able to breech two markets and would have himself a fine new country singer if rock and roll blew over. "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", is one of Smith's finest outings. The presence of this out-and-out hillbilly weeper on the flip side of Warren Smith's debut single shows how uncertainly Sam Phillips was feeling his way through the confusion in the early months of 1956.

Perhaps he was hoping for airplay on the country stations in case the whole rock and roll craze went the way of other crazes, like the calypso craze a year or so later.

Perhaps he simply did not appreciate that the mass audience beyond Memphis would have preferred a pop ballad to a slice of unadulterated hillbilly music. However, the mass audience's loss is our gain. This is very pure country music, and astonishingly beautiful. Smith's vocal is perfectly pitched and it allows us to eavesdrop on the way that he sounded before Elvis Presley turned his head around.

Stan Kesler said that Smith was supposed to be the front man for Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys, and it's certainly the Ranch Boys backing him on his first single, possibly with Johnny Bernero replacing Leoppard. According to Kesler, Smith was housed with the Ranch Boys in West Memphis and they paid him money to live on. After ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' took off, Smith quickly reneged on the deal, and went solo.

02(1) - "I'D RATHER BE SAFE THAN SORRY" - B.M.I. - 2:55
Composer: - Stan Kesler-W.E. Taylor
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 187 Master
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - April 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 239-B < mono
I'D RATHER BE SAFE THAN SORRY / ROCK N'' ROLL RUBY
Reissued - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-1-22 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

02(2) - "I'D RATHER BE SAFE THAN SORRY" - B.M.I. - 2:59
Composer: - Stan Kesler-W.E. Taylor
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Alternate Take - Not Original Issued
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - 2014
First appearance: - El Toro Records (CD) 500/200rpm ETCD 1071 mono
SMOKEY JOE - SUN'S FIRST BOOGIE WOOGIE COUNTRY MAN

The provenance of "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby" is in some doubt. It is credited to Cash but Smith asserted that George Jones had written the song and sold it to Cash for $40.00. Johnny Cash cut a primitive demo in the breathless baritone he reserved for uptempo numbers at some point in late 1955 or early 1956. The acetate ended up in the hands of Clyde Leoppard, probably in order that he could rehearse the band. By the time Smith and the Snearly Ranch Boys (with Johnny Bernero replacing the barely proficient Leoppard on drums) wrapped up "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby", it was obvious that Sam Phillips had, as Billboard put it, "another contender in the Rock-a-Billy sweepstakes".

''Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips came in one night when I was playing with Clyde Leoppard'', recalled Warren Smith. ''They invited me to come back to their table and sit down. To begin with, I thought it was some kind of fluke, then Sam Phillips asked me to come over to Sun the next day, and Johnny Cash said he might have a song for me''.

03 - "ROCK 'N' ROLL RUBY" - B.M.I. - 2:49
Composer: - John R. Cash
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U 186 Master
Recorded: - February 5, 1956
Released: - April 1956
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > SUN 239-A < mono
ROCK 'N' ROLL RUBY / I'D RATHER BE SAFE THAN SORRY
Reissued - 1995 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15802-1-21 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 2

This is a highly important record and a two sided gem. Here are the sides that launched Warren Smith's career at Sun. Even though "Ruby" has become a rockabilly anthem, we can hear today how precariously perched it is on the edge of country music. Smith's vocal is appropriately sexy and southern, but it has an unmistakable country twang that is absent from the stylings of rockabilly confreres like Elvis Presley or Gene Vincent. The instrumental work also blows Smith's cover. The roots of this band are especially apparently during the solo breaks: not exactly a plethora of stinging guitar here. Billy Riley and Roland Janes were still months away from being available for session work.

"Ruby" hit the Memphis charts on May 1 and was sitting pretty at number one by May 26. Among the most notable were Johnny Cash's Decca version, Lawrence Welk and Dave Burton's big band versions. Even a black vocal group, the Saints on Salem Records, covered the song. There was also a Canadian cover version.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Warren Smith - Vocal and Guitar
Buddy Holobaugh - Guitar
Stan Kesler - Steel Guitar
Jan Ledbetter - Bass
Johnny Bernero - Drums
Smokey Joe Baugh – Piano

For a while Warren Smith used Johnny Bernero on drums, but Bernero was unwilling to jeopardize his day job at Memphis Light, Gas & Water. ''I played a lot of Warren's jobs within a three hundred mile radius'', he told Colin Escott in 1986. ''There was me, Al Hopson, and Marcus Van Story. I played on most of his early sessions too, ''Black Jack David'', ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'', and so on. When we went out on live dates Warren would pay me more than the other guys because they were just going it because they had nothing else to do. I had to get off work, drive up to three hundred miles, oh man! And some of the jobs we played! On top of concession stands at drive-in movie theaters and we might go from there to a rodeo during the same night. That was work and I wasn't going to do that for just union scale. Warren was making good money and he paid good. Warren used to cut up a little on stage but he played 95% country music on live gigs. Even the rock and roll stuff he played had a real country flavour to it. There's no getting away from the fact that Warren was basically a country musician''.

For Biography of Warren Smith see: > The Sun Biographies <
Warren Smith's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

TRUE STORY ABOUT WARREN SMITH
by Shaun Mather & Phil Davies, February 1999

It was February 1956 and the patrons of The Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas were enjoying the sounds of their regular band, Clyde Leopard and The Snearly Ranch Boys. The band had recently been augmented by a young country singer who some felt had the potential to go beyond these settings. So impressed had been Ranch Boy steel player and songwriter, Stan Kesler, that he had called the attention of local record man Sam Phillips.

Following an audition where they had performed a hillbilly ballad penned by Kesler, ''I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry'', Phillips had told them to get some more material. This particular night, Phillips actually turned up at the club with Johnny Cash and at the interval had invited the singer, Warren Smith to join them at their table. Cash was armed with a song he'd written (or purchased from George Jones!) called Rock 'N' Roll Ruby and he offered it to Smith and the band. Looking back now, it's funny to think that Johnny Cash, being more country than rock, didn't fancy the song himself but offered it to Warren Smith who was probably as pure a country singer as any that stepped through the hallowed doors of Sun Studios.

Born in Humphreys County Mississippi near the blues-drenched Yazoo City on February 7th 1932, Smith had been raised in Louise, MS with his grandparents following the divorce of his parents. After a spell in the Air Force, and with music very much his passion, he made the move to the tune-town known as Memphis, Tennessee determined to make his fortune.

The following Sunday (5th), Warren and the Snearly Ranch Boys, Buddy Holobaugh, Stan Kesler, Jan Ledbetter, Smokey Joe Baugh and Johnny Bernero, drafted in to play drums instead of Leopard who may have felt his nose out of joint, converged on Union Avenue ready to cut. After Phillips and Cash turned up late, the session began with the band running through Ruby a couple of times. An early out-take exists which shows the band well on the way to perfecting the tune, Baugh's piano solo being particularly on the money. The master truly is a rockabilly classic with Holobaugh's guitar driving the track, together with Benero's drumming. The second song tackled was one they were familiar with, ''I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry''. A country weeper, Smith's vocal's are perfection, he starts the tune in a high key and maintains it without a quiver. Sufficiently pleased with the debut cuts, Phillips released them on March 25, 1956 as Sun 239. Billboard magazine predicted "another Sun candidate for rock and roll - country and western stardom" adding that "Smith sells Rock And Ruby with sock showmanship and a strong, driving beat''. Two weeks later in it's May 5th issue, Billboard reviewed it again raving "Sun has done it again! This country rock and roll record is showing all the signs of being a Presley-type success. Already on the Memphis and Charlotte territorial charts, it should soon hit the national charts''.

By the 26th of May it was number 1 on the Memphis charts, helped no doubt by exposure from the local jocks and personal appearances all over town. After selling over sixty eight thousand copies by July, it was obvious that another session was needed to re-enforce this encouraging start. None of Sam's other stars had sold more copies with their debut, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins…. The summer included a mouth-watering week long tour of the Memphis area with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Eddie Bond and new boys, Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings whose Ooby Dooby had just been released on Sun. Not a bad night out for the local's! The tour culminated with a show at Overton Shell park in Memphis in which Elvis made a non-performing appearance.

In order to get more widespread exposure, the rest of summer 1956 was spent on the road as Smith and Orbison undertook a gruelling tour of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Once the royalties had been collected, it was obvious that Smith felt he was the man and that the Snearly Ranch Boys were coincidental. This aggrieved the band who understood an unwritten agreement existed in which the band would be on equal terms with royalties split equally. Not one to worry about upsetting others, Smith duly severed his connections with them and assembled his own band featuring Al Hopson on guitar, Marcus Van Story on bass and drummer Johnny Bernero.

It was this new line-up which recorded two separate sessions in August producing the goods for Sun 250. The a-side was a Johnny Cash styled take on the old English standard, ''Black Jack David''. Charles Underwood, a student at Memphis State University, had provided the song ''Ubangi Stomp'' bathed in racist lyrics, but Smith hadn't been impressed with it at first. However, with nothing in the bag, Smith tried the song out of desperation and surprised himself with a performance which he felt got better with every take. Released on September 24th, and despite another encouraging review from Billboard, sales were disappointing with only thirty eight thousand takers.

The first year in the big time ended with a five day gig at the Malco Theatre at home in Memphis with Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison followed by some dates in Huntsville and Sheffield, Alabama with Carl Perkins and someone destined to steal Smith's thunder, a cocky young piano pounder who'd just started to make an impression in Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis.

1957 started with an unproductive (single wise) session with ''The Darkest Cloud'' and an early take on ''So Long I'm Gone'' remaining in the can. Another session in January had the same affect and with the second single having failed to click, the pressure was on to come up with something strong. In February, with a different line-up Smith had another crack at ''So Long I'm Gone'', a song from the pen of Roy Orbison. With Jimmie Lott now on drums due to the unwillingness of Bernero to tour, and with Jimmy Wilson on piano, the rhythm was strong and was helped by the dual guitar of Al Hopson and Roland Janes. It's a classic midtempo country rocker and was commercial enough to have a chance at the charts. Breaking from tradition, Sam chose not to release the single with a rocker on one side and a country song on the other. Instead the flip was the wild Miss Froggie, the rockinest item he ever recorded, helped in no small part by Al Hopson's brilliant guitar.

Released as Sun 268 on April 15, 1957, Billboard advised it's readers to "watch both of these''. Smith certainly would have been watching as the single showed great promise and in May broke into the Hot 100 at number 72. This was the big break he'd been after and the already healthy ego must have started busting at the seams. As luck would have it, fellow Sun star Jerry Lee Lewis' second single ''Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On'' had been released the previous month and was now sitting on top of the Memphis charts.

Sensing a potential hit, Phillips and his brother Judd, got Jerry Lee a shot on national TV. On Sunday 28th July, he performed a wild, sneering, chair throwing version of Shakin' on the Steve Allen Show. Following the show, demand for the single grew too big for Sun to cope. In order to meet the orders Sam made the decision to concentrate on Jerry Lee and therefore ending any chances of ''So Long I'm Gone'' going any further.

Smith was numbstruck and apparently became so outraged at hearing the Jerry Lee hit all the time on the radio that he started smashing any copies he came across. According to Jimmie Lott "Warren was an egotist - the biggest egotist I've ever met. A caring man and a good man, but an egotist. Warren wanted recognition.
He painted WARREN SMITH - THE ROCK AND ROLL RUBY MAN on the back of his car - a seven or eight thousand dollar Cadillac sedan''.

Smith returned to the Sun studio in October and with Hopson and Janes working in perfect harmony, cut a brilliant version of Slim Harpo's ''Got Love If You Want It''. With a tender ballad from the pen of Hopson, ''I Fell In Love'', on the flip, Sun 286 was released in December. This same month, Sun also released Johnny Cash (''Ballad Of A Teenage Queen''/''Big River''), Sonny Burgess (''My Bucket's Got A Hole In It''), Roy Orbison (''Chicken- Hearted'') and Carl Perkins (''Glad All Over''). However, it was to be old sparring partner Jerry Lee Lewis that caused the problems again, as this time he was riding high with ''Great Balls Of Fire''. Again, promotion of Smith was limited and resulted in a poultry seven thousand copies being sold. The wheels were starting to come off and bass man Marcus Van Story quit, being replaced by Will Hopson, brother of guitarist Al. Lott had also had his namesake and for future shows, drummers were picked up from local bands. Smith also parted company with Stars Inc. and handed over his bookings to the Charlotte based G.D. Kemper who immediately fixed up some dates in Canada with cowboy Lash Larue. An appearance on the influential Ed Sullivan Show was a step in the right direction but then Kemper severed contacts with Smith following the latter's booking his own dates in Maryland.

Musically, he was still producing great stuff like ''Uranium Rock'', ''Golden Rocket'', ''Dear John'' and ''Do I Love''. On January 7th 1959, Smith went into the studio with Billy Lee Riley and Sid Manker (guitars), Cliff Acred (bass), Charlie Rich (piano) and the great Jimmy Van Eaton (drums). The results were as good as one would expect from such a line-up. Both the perfect ''Goodbye Mr Love'' and the poppy, chorus laden ''Sweet Sweet Girl'' were ideal for the time and in mid-February they were released as Sun 314. Billboard again enthused "Chances are Warren Smith'll have the top money-making record of his career in this Sun outing. One end, a top drawer, middle beat country offering finds Warren sadly singing "Goodbye Mr Love". On the other half, a terrific Don Gibson-penned, all-market rocker, Smith sez that his ex-gal was a "Sweet, Sweet Girl" to him. Great vocal and musical support for Warren's ultra-commercial ballad and beat offerings''. Given that kiss of death, sales were again negligable and with his contract at an end it was no surprise that Smith and Sun parted company. In later interviews, he contested that he always wanted to cut country music but that Sam wasn't interested. Well, he had cut country, some of which was as good as any country music cut in the decade. From Sam's point of view, he was right to cut Smith as a rocker, his vocals were perfect for the genre. Sun wasn't amune to releasing singles aimed squarely at the hillbilly market, Ernie Chaffin had had four singles in the same time-span, it's just that the rewards for a big pop hit far out-weighed the rewards for a country hit.

Following in the footsteps of buddy Johnny Cash, Smith packed the misses into the Caddie and headed west to California. He landed a deal with Warner Brothers and cut three low key singles (including a Xmas 45) under the name Warren Baker. The new life had not started too well professionally, but socially they settled down quickly in Sherman Oaks, spending a lot of time with the Cash's. Cash offered him a slot on his package show, but was turned down, Warren Smith still had plans and they didn't include playing second fiddle to anyone else. Whilst appearing at the Town Hall Party in Compton, CA, he was spotted by an executive of Liberty Records who were planning to launch a country division. Smith duly signed, becoming their first country act and on March 9, 1960, entered the Radio Recorders studio at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. He had moved two thousand miles from Memphis, but the music had moved a million. The new sound was real country, fiddles a-plenty and stone country vocals. With the top west coast pickers (Ralph Mooney, Johnny Western, Jim Pierce), they laid down three tracks from which Liberty 55248 was released. ''I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today''/''Cave In'' was released late summertime and rose to number 5 in the country charts. With no Jerry Lee to disrupt his sales, Smith had the pleasure of seeing his next release ''Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces)'', Liberty 55302, also reach the top ten, peaking at 7 early in 1961. Both hits had been written by country tunesmith, Harlan Howard and Smith, never a prolific writer, ceased to write his own stuff.

Both artist and label must have been bubbling, and decided the next move was to cut an album. The majority of the album was cut on 4th May at Radio Recorders with the same gang and with the two hits added was released as The First Country Collection Of Warren Smith. The playing's fine and the singing's great, it just lacks any sparkle. The same can't be said of the next single, Liberty 55336, which coupled two excellent songs in a revisited ''Old Lonesome Feeling'' (written by Stan Kesler) and ''Call Of The Wild''. It was the b-side which took, eventually making the 26 spot. The follow up single was a duet with Shirley Collie, George Jones' ''Why, Baby, Why'' which again stalled in the twenties (23).

Despite his career blooming, things were starting to come undone as he became addicted to amphetamines (any Johnny Cash influence!!) and Smith failed to appear for a scheduled session with Collie. Willie Nelson took his place and also seemed to take husband Bill Coffie's place as well. With the first seeds of unreliable being sown, his next single, cut in Nashville, was Bad News Gets Around (!) and despite a great reading it failed to chart. Same fate for the next single, ''160 lbs Of Hurt'' and its flip, ''Book Of Broken Hearts''. The next single was marvellous. The a-side ''That's Why I Sing In A Honky Tonk'', climbed to 25 in November 1963 and the b-side ''Big City Ways'' followed it to 41. This being despite the fact, that radio at first gave it the cold shoulder due to Smith's long, emphasised pronounciation of the first sylable when describing his - country girl. I'll bet the boys back in Memphis enjoyed the moment.

In April 1964 he cut his final single for Liberty back in Hollywood. ''Blue Smoke'' is real 1960's country and justifiyably rose to 41 in the charts, a fine swan-song. The label didn't renew his contract, his life was being ruined by drugs and Liberty was doing okay without needing a risk artist. It's a shame because Smith's vocals were in peak condition and his sound was sounding as fresh as anything being generated in Nashville.

On August 17, 1965 in LeGrange, Texas at 8am, Smith's 1965 Pontiac skidded off Highway 77, just missing another car before slamming into a steep embankment. He was rushed to Fayette Hospital with severe back injuries and facial lacerations. He was out of action for the best part of a year, having to learn to walk again.
A comeback of sorts was arranged with Slick Norris' Houston based label, Slick. She Likes Attention suffers from a poor vocal but Future X is a good track. Nothing came of the release, not surprising as promotion/distribution must have been limited.

A single came out on Mercury, who now had Jerry Lee, but this time there was no competition. Smith's chart days were over despite his health problems not affecting his voice as much. Now mixing drink with his drugs, Smith was now being arrested on a regular basis and ended up doing an eighteen month spell in a Huntsville, Alabama jail. His long-term marriage was over, but on his return to civilisation, he met and married a new woman. Trying to restart his life, he got work as a Safety Director for Trinity Industries in Longview, Texas, only singing on stage at weekends. In the early 70's he cut a couple of low-budget, low-profile singles for Jubal Records.

In 1976 he got an offer from Mike Cattin of the Carl Perkins Fan Club to record only his second album, for the Lake County record label. Due to his work commitments the album had to be recorded on Sundays and started in December 1976 and was finished in June 1977. Smith was very disappointed with the results, the tracks ranging from remakes of Sun/Liberty songs to a few originals.

In April 1977, Warren Smith arrived in Britain to play a rockabilly show with Jack Scott, Charlie Feathers and Buddy Knox. Smith was completely overcome by the reception he received and was invited back the following November with fellow Sun artist Ray Smith. Again, the shows went well and a rejuvenated Smith was scheduled to return in April.

Unfortunately this tour never materialised as on the last day of January 1981, Smith was admitted to hospital with chest pains. Before the day was over, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 47.

How better to sum him up than a couple of quotes from Sam Phillips: In an interview with Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins; "He was probably the best pure singer for country music I've ever heard. He had a pure country voice and an innate feel for the country ballad. With that music he was as good as anyone I've heard before or since. So Long I'm Gone was just a wonderful country record. He was a difficult personality, but just interesting enough that I liked him a whole lot''.

In an interview with Trevor Cajiao, talking about Sonny Burgess, Billy Lee Riley and Warren Smith; "..I should have followed through with Warren Smith too although he was much more of a country-flavoured guy in a way. The guy had the ability to make it. That, I guess, in a way, I regret somethin' like that because these were people with unique abilities and I coulda' made 'em' even if there's such a thing as a little more unique. I was probably a bit deficient in the fact that I didn't take a little more assistance and probably I coulda' pulled some of these guys, and done a little more with 'em. Those three guys I know had hit records in 'em''.

Shaun Mather, February 1999

> Page Up <

> Continued to: 1956 Sessions 2 (2) <

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on 
> YouTube <
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©