It's My Baby - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16757) Malcolm Yelvington (2006)
Laughin' And Jokin' - The Sun Years (BCD 16780) Ernie Chaffin (2006)
Easy To Love - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16519) Mack Self (2007)
Drinkin' Wine - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16758) Gene Simmons (2007)
Koolit - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16797) Tommy Blake (2007)
Rock-A-Billy Gal - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16131) Hayden Thompson (2008)
His Rhythm & Blues Recordings 1949-1956 - The Sun Years Plus (BCD16695) Rufus Thomas (2008)
Red Hot - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16937) Billy Emerson (2009)
Rockin' Little Angel - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16936) Ray Smith (2009)
Slow Down - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16935 1-2) Jack Earls (2010)
Gee... I Wish - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 17149) Billy Red Love (2011)
Juke Box Boogie - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 16939) Doctor Ross (2013)
Blues Like Midnight - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 17277) Bill Yates (2013)
Rock Me Baby - The Sun Years Plus (BCD 17116) Billy Adams (2013)

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

© 2006 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16757 mono digital

Compact disc. A Bear Family Special product. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover of the box, Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Malcolm Yelvington's Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with, demos, false starts. Also included in the box, 32-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Richard Weize and Martin Hawkins.

This CD contains every song Malcolm Yelvington recorded in Memphis, Tennessee during the 1950s. It is a stunning collection of music captured at the point where super-charged western-swing and hillbilly boogie music merged into rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

During the 1950s, there was two kinds of rockabilly singers in and around Memphis; those who copied Elvis Presley, often providing nothing in the way of originality, and those who pre-dated Presley with a style of their own that somehow became swept up into the rocking amalga.

Malcolm Yelvington was one of those who had something original to bring to the mix. His music had style, as well as a compelling energy, a real sense of swing. When put together with that unmistakeable Sun Records sound, his music exemplified all the best things that could happen to country music as a response to the oncoming rush of rock and roll.

Sam C. Phillips, Lester Bihari, Reece Fleming, Bill Justis,
and Malcolm Yelvington
Re-Issue Producer
Martin Hawkins
Tape Research
Hank Davis
Tape Comparison
Martin Hawkins
Jurgen Crasser
Martin Hawkins
Richard Weize

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins,
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto)
Photo Scans
Erich Hulsenbeck and Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Erich Hulsenbeck
Art Direction
Holger van Bargen
Ina and Wolfgang Taubenauer
Thanks to
Hank Davis and Dave Travis 

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (1954) 2:49 > Sun 211-A <
2 - Just Rolling Along (1954) 2:21 > Sun 211-B <
3 - Yakety Yak (1955 Meteor 5022) 2:39
4. A Gal Named Jo (1955 Meteor 5022) 2:40
5 - Rockin' With My Baby (1956) 2:17 > Sun 246-A <
6 - It's Me Baby (1956) 2:26 > Sun 246-B <
7 - I've Got The Blues (Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes) (2006) 2:34
8 - Yakety Yak (2006) 2:36
9 - Gonna Have Myself A Ball (1974) 1:46
10 - Rockin' With My Baby (2006) 2:29
11 - It's Me Baby (2006) 2:20
12 - It's My Trumpet (And I'm Gonna Blow It) (2006) 2:40
13 - Mr. Blues (2006) 2:07
14 - Did I Ask You To Stay (2006) 2:20
15 - First And Last Love (1986) 2:32
16 - It's My Trumpet (And I'm Gonna Blow It) (1986) 1:22
17 - Goodbye Marie (1986) 2:25
18 - Ocean (Goin' To The Sea) (1988) 1:20
19 - Let The Moon Say Goodnight (1988) 1:53
20 - I've Got The Blues (Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes) (1986) 2:30
21 - Yakety Yak (1986) 2:37
22 - Goodbye Marie (1986) 2:47
23 - It's My Trumpet (And I'm Gonna Blow It) (1986) 2:25
24 - Mr. Blues (1986) 2:13
25 - Did I Ask You To Stay (1986) 2:19
26 - Rockin' With My Baby (Demo) (1988) 2:09
27 - It's Me Baby (Demo) (1988) 2:12
28 - Rockin' With My Baby (1973) 2:21
Original Sun Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Malcolm Yelvington's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

MALCOLM YELVINGTON - Born September 14, 1918 to Frank Yelvington and Sarah Edwards, in Covington, Tennessee, and growing up with the hit sounds of Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams, started singing in the late 1930s, Malcolm was able to move his band through hillbilly to honky tonk to a kind of laid-back rockabilly. 

Yelvinton's songwriting partner and chief collaborator was singer, guitarist and pianist, Reece Fleming, the only man who recorded for Sun Records who had a genuine Memphis-based recording pedigree. 

As half of the duo Fleming and Townsend, Reece had first recorded with Raspers Townsend for Victor in May 1930 and went on to see releases on Victor, Bluebird, ARC and Decca. Mostly they made vocal and yodelling duets with Fleming on guitar and Townsend on harmonica. 

Drawing on blues and hillbilly traditions, they often used a salacious approach - "I'll Tell You About Woman" and "Bad Reputations" - but were capable of good, original country music like "She's Just That Kind" and "Blue And Lonesome". 

After the war he joined Reece Fleming's Tennesseans, playing schoolhouse dates around Covington. One of the key figures in the Memphis music scene in 1952 through 1955. Yelvington's Star Rhythm Boys employed a growling rockabilly sound and secured a daily gig on a local radio station. With a honky-tonk piano (Frank Tolley), electric guitars (Gordon Mashburn and Jake Ryles), steel guitar (Reece Fleming), and acoustic bass guitar (Miles Wimm), the Star Rhythm Boys were Memphis most innovative sound. 

Yelvington's musical direction on "Gonna Have Myself A Ball", "Drinkin' Wine Spidee-O-Dee" (SUN 211), was an old rhythm and blues tune made famous by Sticks McGhee in 1949. At some point in the winter of 1953-54, the Star Rhythm Boys guitarist, Gordon Mashburn learned that there was a record company in Memphis that had just issued a disc by another local group, the Ripley Cotton Choppers. "We went down to see Sam", recalls Yelvington. "He asked us what type of music we played and we said, 'Country'. He said he wasn't interest, so I asked him what he wanted. He said, 'I don't know, but I'll know when I hear it'. Gordon said, 'Mr. Phillips, that means you'll have to listen to every single person who comes in off the street'. Sam said, 'I intent to'". 

Yelvington and his group eventually persuaded Phillips to take a listen. "We couldn't come up with anything that Sam wanted", recalled Yelvington. "I wanted something like Hank Williams or Moon Mullican, but Sam kept saying no. Then I decided to try "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee". Sam poked his head around the door and said, 'Where did you get that from?'. I said, 'Man, we've been playing that every week for a long time". 

In 1955 Yelvington sidestepped his Sun contract and recorded pseudonymously as Mac Sales and Jack for Meteor Records in Memphis "A Gal Named Joe", with equally poor response. The following year, Yelvington returned to Sun Records with a rockabilly novelty, "Rockin' With My Baby" (SUN 246). Sounding a little uncomfortable with the brisk tempo - and slurring the lyrics because he had removed his dentures - Yelvington nevertheless turned out a very creditable piece of the new music. Other cuts on Sun and Meteor are, "Trumpet", "Mr. Blues", "First And Last Love", "Goodby Marie", "It's Me Baby" and "Yakety Yak" provided some of the most interesting moments in Memphis rockabilly history. Yelvington's sides on Sun and Meteor are some of the finest cuts in rockabilly history. 

Talking about his Sun days, Malcolm's recollections in August 1971 to Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott were as follow: "I guess I can say I started in recording at the same time as Elvis. That's something isn't it! He got his first record out in the summer of 1954 and I got mine in the fall. The problem was that when I got mine out rock and roll was getting going pretty good and mine were mostly country and western, but we picked an rhythm and blues song to do, though we did it more warless country style. It sold a few - I can't remember exactly - around Memphis. If you got one of 'em you got more'n I got. That one was "Drinkin' Wine". 

"Drinkin' Wine" was a song that we had done for dances years before I ever recorded it. I could sing it in my sleep. The way we got onto doing it, we were down in the studio one day and we were going through some material that we had, and we couldn't come up with anything that Sam would like. He was after rhythm and blues or something with a solid beat to it, and I said to the boys 'let's try "Drinkin' Wine" we don't even have to rehearse that', we were playing it at dances every week anyhow. So he was sitting back in the control room there and my lead man he took off on it. We had lead, piano and steel and I started singing, and Sam poked his head round the door and said, 'where'd you get that?', and I told him, 'Man, we been doing that thing for a long time'. It was first done by a feller the name of Sticks McGhee, and then I think I was the first white artist ever to record it. And then Sam said, 'let's cut that, it sounds good'. So we cut it and it took about six or seven hours to get it like he wanted. He was most particular. He went out and got some boys to sing in the background. And the group was Reece Fleming, he's dead now, he played piano on et and Myles Winn, we called him "Red", played steel, and Jack Ryles on bass, Gordon Mashburn on lead and me on rhythm. We didn't have drums on. 

In 1961 Yelvington finally gave up his club dates to concentrate on his day job, his bowling, and family life. In 1988, Malcolm Yelvington toured to England and Holland, where several thousand fans gathered to hear him play the old songs. Yelvington was one of a very few musicians to encourage Elvis Presley to continue his guest for a musical career. Many times Yelvington urged the roughs and the less-talented musicians to leave Elvis Presley to his music. This was partially due to Malcolm Yelvington's respect for Elvis Presley, but the lanky rockabilly artist also performed a similar type of music. 

Yelvington recorded his signature song after Elvis Presley finished cutting Sun Record number 210, "I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine". The previous year, Elvis Presley listened to "Drinkin' Wine Spodee-O-Dee" many times in local clubs. "Elvis stood out in the crowd, but he never talked to me", Yelvington recalled. "He was a fine singer. The boy was always looking for a piano player. He liked our man and that's why he hung out around us". Yelvington also re-emphasized that he had never played with Elvis Presley. "I understand there's a book that says that, but it's not true". 

During his last years, Malcolm Yelvington lead tours at the re-born Sun studio in Memphis, most Saturdays and greet the tourists. He'd tell his stories, and they were good ones because he really had been there. In 1997, aged 79, he released his first full-length album. Malcolm Yelvington died at Memphis Baptist Hospital on February 21, 2001, press reports variously blaming cancer, heart failure, or pneumonia but in truth it was all three. His funeral service in Bartlett, Tennessee, included recordings of Malcolm's Christian songs, and was attended by his five children, eleven grandchildren as well as friends and fellow musicians. 


© 2006 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16780 mono digital

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Product. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover of the box Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with demos, false starts. Also included in the box, 44-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Hank Davis. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed. Session File information by Hank Davis and Colin Escott.

Sam Phillips, the guiding force behind Sun Records, had a knack for spotting talent. Without his (legendary experiences with Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin' Wolf and B. B. King, the face of American popular music might have been very different during the latter half of the twentieth century.

It's no surprise that Sam Phillips fell in love with Ernie Chaffin's music the first time he heard it. Sam loved ''different''. He loved hybrid. He broke barriers, pushed boundaries and flouted convention. It was Sam's credo - both personally and professionally. 

Just listen to Ernie Chaffin's first two records for Sun - included here along with previously unissued alternate takes. They were, to say the least, ''different''. There is simply nothing in the Sun catalogue before or since (other than recordings by Ernie, himself) that sounds anything like them. These four sides by Chaffin rival anything released by the label for sheer beauty and starkly under•produced power. And the truth is, there was nothing in pop or country music at the time that sounded anything like them. 

Sam Phillips wasn't always able to succeed in the marketplace with the music he loved most. Conspicuous commercial failures such as the Miller Sisters haunted him well past his tenure at Sun Records. Ernie Chaffin was another such case. Although Phillips thought the world of much of the music Chaffin created in the cramped studio quarters on Union Avenue, he wasn't able to market it successfully. Other than some tantalizing initial response and occasional regional sales, there was nothing much in the way of financial reward. Two years produced four singles, another seven unreleased studio experiments, and no real chart success. 

To the casual fan or collector, it may seem that Sun was only about rockabilly. Nothing could be further from the truth, although understandably Elvis and the first generation rockabillies like Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, Sonny Burgess and Warren Smith have dominated public attention. However, the Sun story runs much deeper. Sun was first a blues label. There were occasional dalliances into hillbilly and gospel, but it was the black honkers, shouters and moaners who dominated Sam Phillips' studio time and release schedule. The appearance of Elvis Presley in 1954 threw everything into a cocked hat. Sam and Sun changed direction, as any reasonable business would have done. Sun was not a registered charity, after all Within three years, raw rockabilly Was no _longer the commercial force it hod been. Sadly, what Sun did best was no longer a valued commodity in the music business. Those rough edges needed smoothing. 

Bring in the sweet vocal choruses. Add a sax to those little guitar-led combos, The erosion of what many collectors believe to be the vintage Sun sound was nearly complete by 1960. Even a year before that, the change in popular music was evident in Sun's release schedule, although occasional sides by the likes of Onie Wheeler, Ray Smith the indomitable Jerry Lee Lewis offered a ray of hope. 

Ernie Chaffin came to Sun in the fall of 1956 when the rockabilly bloom was still on the rose. Sun was not recording or releasing much of anything but rockabilly. Even artists like Warren Smith - whose country leanings were undeniable - were recording material like ''Ubangi Stomp''. It was in this climate that Ernie Chaffin first set foot in the Sun studio. He was a good looking white boy from Mississippi who played the guitar, but the similarities to Elvis disappeared pretty quickly after that. One can only imagine how impressed Phillips was with Chaffin to spend Sun's time and resources on such a contra-trend country boy. 

Sam C. Phillips, Jack Clement, Bill Justis,
and PeWee Maddux
Re-Issue Producer
Hank Davis
Tape Comparison
Hank Davis
Photo Research
Hank Davis and Kat Bergeron
Jurgen Crasser
Hank Davis
Hank Davis and Colin Escott

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Hank Davis, Colin Escott,
Kathern Chaffin James
Photo Scans
Erich Hulsenbeck, and Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Erich Hulsenbeck
Art Direction
Holger van Bargen
Ina and Wolfgang Taubenauer
Special Thanks to
Kat Bergeron, Scott Parker, Jim Stewart, Tapio Vaisanen, Harmony Owen,
Leo Ladner, Ernie Chaffin, Ernie Chaffin, Jr., Mildred Chaffin Geary,
Shirley Chaffin Butts, Kathern Chaffin James,
Jerry Maddux, and Bill Stafford 

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Feelin' Low (1957) 2:34 > Sun 262-A <
2 - Lonesome For My Baby (1957) 2:06 > Sun 262-B <
3 - I'm Lonesome (1957) 2:43 > Sun 275-A <
4 - Laughin' And Jokin' (1957) 2:05 > Sun 275-B <
5 - Born To Lose (1958) 2:57 > Sun 307-B <
6 - (Nothing Can Change) My Love For You (1958) 2:23 > Sun 307-A <
7 - Don't Ever Leave Me (1958) 2:19 > Sun 320-A <
8 - Miracle Of You (1958) 2:18 > Sun 320-B <
9 - The Heart Of Me (2006) 2:26
10 - Linda (1977) 2:13
11 - I Walk Alone (1986) 2:41
12 - Born To Lose (Alternate 1) (2006) 2:10
13 - Feelin' Low (Alternate 1) (2006) 2:50
14 - My Heart Tells Me (2006) 2:05
15 - No Fool Like An Old Fool (2006) 1:20
16 - Be Faitful To Me (1986) 2:43
17 - I'm Lonesome (Alternate 1) (2006) 2:41
18 - Laughin' And Jokin' (Alternate) (2006) 0:46
19 - Miracle Of You (Undubbed Master)(1986) 2:19
20 - I Walk Alone (Alternate) (2006) 1:00
21 - Got You On My Mind (1986) 1:46
22 - The Heart Of Me (Alternate) (2006) 2:25
23 - My Love For You (Undubbed Master) (2006) 2:39
24 - Lonesome For My Baby (Alternate) (2006) 2:05
25 - Born To Lose (Undubbed Master) (2006) 2:35
26 - I'm Lonesome (Alternate 2) (2006) 2:47
27 - Feelin' Low (Alternate 2) (2006) 3:03
28 - Interview (2006) 8:22
Original Sun Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

Ernie Chaffin's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

ERNIE CHAFFIN - Born in Water Valley, northern Mississippi, on January 1, 1928. Like so many country artists of that period Ernie cites the Grand Ole Opry and Hank Williams as his primary influences. "When I was a kid, the Opry was the only radio show we could get and that's what really made me decide to be an entertainer. I would sing in church too, so I grew up on good old country gospel and the Grand Ole Opry".

Chaffin relocated to Gulfport in 1944, hoping to break into country music. He had already mastered the guitar and mandolin and was looking to break into the entertainment field. "I felt that if I lived on the coast where they had a lot of clubs and so on, I might be able to get into music better than being stuck in northern Mississippi where there wasn't much going on". 

In the early 1950s, he met a local songwriter, Murphy "Pee Wee" Maddux, while playing in a pavilion on the waterfront in Biloxi and someone said, "Let Ernie sing", so Pee Wee allowed him to step up to the mike and sing "Many Tears Ago". 

From that point Maddux assumed a large role in Ernie's career. In early 1954 the pair decided that it was time to let Nashville know they were missing something. Pee Wee took Ernie to see Jim Denny at the Grand Ole Opry. Denny called Paul Cohen, the irascible boss of Decca's Nashville operation, and said "I got a boy here who sounds a little like Eddy Arnold, a little like Red Foley, a little like Marty Robbins but not a lot like anyone". Cohen invited Ernie Chaffin over for audition but Ernie did not like Cohen's attitude. "He wanted me to sign a contract for four years and I told him that I didn't need that kind of contract. Pee Wee was sick. Anyway, we went over to see Fred Rose and, as it turned out, Fred had heard me sing "Many Tears Ago". He was a different kind of person altogether. A fine person. Made me relaxed". 

Pee Wee and Ernie Chaffin returned to Mississippi to work up some material and they returned to Nashville in May 1954 to record a session for Hickory Records, the record division of Acuff-Rose. Hickory released all four titles to scant acclaim during 1954. Fred Rose wrote a note to Pee Wee Maddux expressing disappointment in the sales but though that Ernie Chaffin had, in Rose's words, "gained an entry". Within a few weeks however Rose was dead and Ernie was never called back for another session. 

If Rose had not accepted their material, Maddux was determined to start up an independent label to issue his work with Ernie. It was this option that he now began to explore. Fine Records was started in Biloxi as a joint venture between Maddux and Prof. Marion Carpenter who was a local band director and Ernie's manager. At some point promoter Yankie Bahanovich seems to have become involved. Their first venture, Ernie's original recording of "The Heart Of Me", was released in early 1956. 

A letter in the December 1956 edition of "Jamboree" seems to indicate that a second single was planned on Fine Records but this was forestalled by good news from Memphis. By the time he received the news from Memphis that Sam Phillips liked his work and wanted to sign him, Chaffin had already been recorded for over the years. 

Chaffin could have been a major figure in country music: he had an intimate vocal presence that appealed to the same market that would later make Jim Reeves a star. He also had the benefit of some topclass material from Maddux. From a commercial point of view, Ernie Chaffin had a dangerously skewed perspective, but his priorities have brought him peace of mind - something to which few of his contemporaries at Sun can lay claim. 

After his tenure with Sun Records, Ernie Chaffin moved through a variety of small labels. "Set 'Em Up Joe" (Village 7778), recorded at Cosimo Matassa's Studio in New Orleans, was the number one country record in New Orleans for 17 weeks. However, Ernie Chaffin never saw a dime from it. "I never got on any big labels because my family always came before business. Hank Williams once told me I'd never make it big because I let my music come after my family. I always felt like the Lord came first, my family came second and my music came third. Maybe that's why I never did make a hit. I remember one time I had a contract with Sammy Kaye in New York to sing two ballads every Saturday night. My son was a year old at the time and we were having a lot of physical problems with him so I refused to go. That was a big opportunity that I failed to take advantage of but I'm not sorry at all because I still have my son. He's grown and big and healthy". 

Ernie Chaffin may never become more that a footnote in the history of country music but he made some fine recordings. The combination of his very distinctive voice, Pee Wee Maddux's material and the Sun production technique was marginal. It was at once haunting and melodic. His latest recording (1987), were country gospel with his family joining him. 

Ernie's wife, Avalon Jean, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1984 but didn't die until 1990, an unusually long time. Some of those years were good; the cancer was in remission for a while. But the last two years were very rough. Ernie remarried in 1993. In 1997, he built a house for himself and his new wife, Hilda, on two acres in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. On April 16th he was attaching some shutters and putting on the final touches. A neighbor needed to have some dirt levelled and Ernie volunteered to help. He hopped on his tractor and began the work. He miscalculated the grade in a hilly area and the tractor rolled over on top of him. Nobody was there to help move the machine that had pinned him, and emergency medical teams were simply too far away. By the time they arrived, Ernie Chaffin was dead. His longtime collaborator, Pee Wee Maddux, committed suicide. His new wife witnessed the entire event helplessly. 

Ernie Chaffin outlived steel player Ernie Harvey, who died in 1994 at the age of 64. He had toured for many years with Lefty Frizzell. Pee Wee Maddux died by his own hand in 1993. He was despondent over his failing health. Maddux had earlier been caught up the the legal battles swirling around his former employer, Reverent Jessup. Maddux was a long time associate of the Jessups and when they were arrested in November, 1964 on federal charges for mail fraud (promising cures for cancer in return for donations to their ministry), Maddux was included in the indictment. 


© 2007 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16519 mono digital

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. Sun and Phillips International recordings, unissued takes during the period 1955 to 1960. It includes his original Sonic and Hi recordings, included unissued ones. Also included in the box, 31-page booklet biography with liner notes by Hank Davis. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Hank Davis, Richard Weize and Colin Escott.

Mack Self was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1998. As Mack, himself, would tell you, that probably has as much to do with his association with the legendary Sun label as it does any strong leaning on his part toward pure rockabilly. Strictly speaking, Mack never was a rocker. At least not in the sense that Sun label-mates Billy Riley and Sonny Burgess were. Riley and Burgess, by the way, shared more than a labél affiliation with Mack; all three; men hail from Arkansas.

The similarities, however, pretty much stop at the state line. Unlike Riley and Burgess, Mack Self was and is pure country. Sun label owner Sam Phillips, to his enormous credit, allowed Mack to be just what he was.. Three of the four tracks issued by Mack on the original Sun and Phillips International labels were unabashed country songs during a period when Sun was dominated by southern wildmen. The releases adjacent to Mack's ''Easy To Love'' (Sun 273) include Ray Harris's ''Greenback Dollar'' (Sun 272) and Carl Perkins' ''That's Right'' (Sun 274). Billy Riley's ''Red Hot'' (Sun 277) came along two months later, and Jerry Lee's ''Great Balls Of Fire'' (Sun 281) barely a month after that. The same was true of Mack's ''Mad At You'', issued on Phillips International 3548. Adjoining releases on the label included Charlie Rich's ''Rebound'', Carl Mann's ''Rockin' Love'' and Sonny Burgess' ''Sadie's Back In Town''. All in all, Mack's "pure as country water" offerings were surrounded by some pretty hard-edged rockin' company.

Sam C. Phillips, Jack Clement, Chips Moman,
Roland Janes, and others
Re-Issue Producer
Hank Davis
Tape Comparison
Hank Davis
Jurgen Crasser
Biography and Liner Notes
Hank Davis
Richard Weize, Colin Escott, and Hank Davis

Photo and Illustrations
Mack Self, Hank Davis, Colin Escott,
and Stefan Kohne
Photo Scans
Erich Hulsenbeck, and Andreas Merck
Thanks to
Hazel and Mack Self, Jim Cole, Scott Parker,
and Dave Travis

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons < 


1 - Goin' Crazy (1) (2007) 2:27
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

Like ''Easy To Love'', ''Goin' Crazy'' began life as a pure country tune driven by Bill Cantrell's fiddle. Jimmy Evans' slap bass is also prominently miked. The arrangement gradually evolyed in the direction of pop/rock and roll and ended life with a prominent drum part that owes a substantial debt to Buddy Holly's ''Peggy Sue''. You can almost hear the arrangement shedding its pure country roots and moving further toward the mainstream. The fiddle is packed away, the drums become hotter and Che steel is mixed further and further away. Mack simply goes on singing about "skinning saplings'', eating paw paws" (a small, sweet fruit that grows wild in Arkansas) and ''rooting like a hog'', seemingly unaffected by changes in arrangement. You can bring in all the hot guitars you want to, he's still proud to be a country boy. 

2 - Everyday (1957) 2:08 > Sun 273-A <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar0, Thurlow Brown (guitar), Jimmy Ray Paulman (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

''Everyday'', for too long has this track been overshadowed by its gorgeous flipside, ''Easy To Love''. ''Everyday'' a fine country song in its own right. It reveals Mack as a songwriter with a penchant for country waltzes as well as a deft melodic touch and a gift for imagery. In addition to the released version, we have included two previously unissued alternate takes that are quitq different from each other. Serious listening is rewarded here, Jimmy Evans (or perhaps Stan Kesler on steel) provides a highly unusual bass figure, sliding up to the target note. Either Van Eaton or Holland provides some interesting drum work, accenting on the cymbal during the guitar break. This is a simple country song with relatively few musicians in the studio. But Lord, Lord, there sure is a lot going on here. 

3 - Vibrate (2007) 1:53
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

''Vibrate'', I just got thinking about how some people start jumping up on tables, just carrying on. Just don't know when to quit. They're just shakin' all over. Excited That's what I was singing about''. Mack concludes with laughter, "The song just turned out to be a masterpiece. Conway Twitty heard me sing it in a club one time and thought it was a good song. I think he might have recorded his own version, but nothing happened with it''. 

Actually, the story is a bit more complicated. It appears that Twitty (still Harold Jenkins at the time) did like the song, but he was more taken with the title than the lyrics. He and drummer Jack Nance wrote their own version called ''I Vibrate (From My Head To My Feet)''. The song was included in the May, 1958 session that also yield the mega-hit song ''It's Only Make Believe''. Twitty's own "vibrating" song appeared on his first LP and was the basis of a stage routine during which Twitty stood stock still while "vibrating''. Shades of the lyrics to Jerry Lee's ''Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On''. There is one other interesting similarity between Mack's original ''Vibrate'' song and Conway's ''I Vibrate''. In Mack's hands the title becomes a three-syllable word - Vib-er-ate. Conway pronounces it exactly the same way. Maybe it's an Arkansas thing. 

Getting back to Mack's version, there's no denying the whole idea sounds rather sexy. The thought of your woman vibrating - that's got to be good news, right? Mack sure seemed to think so, considering the list of things (including a bed of rattlesnakes) he was willing to take on for the simple pleasure of watching it happen. The track features a wonderful two-note guitar figure (3 -1 or C# - A since Mack sings it in the key of A), That little guitar figure works as a powerful hook for the song, although there's no shortage of appeal here. For one thing, this is pretty straight-ahead rockabilly and surely as close to the genre as Mack ever got at Sun. For another, there's that great confusion between the 4- and 5-chord in each verse, which actually becomes quite endeqring after a while. And just in case you're listening to lyrics (admittedly, not a favorite sport among rockabilly fans), you've got a great collection of images telling you just how much seeing this woman "viberating" means to Mack. "Climb a tree' bare footed''. Wow! Now there's a thought. You gotta be from the country to have dreamed that up! 

4 - Easy To Love (1957) 2:45 > Sun 273-B <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

''Easy To Love'', this is the crown jewel in Mack's recording and songwriting career. This song retains its considerable power more than 50 years after it was conceived. Sam Phillips didn't need much convincing. It was Mack's ticket to appear on the Sun label and one of Sam's few dalliances with pure country as June 1957. Although the release version was pure country by any reckoning, the earliest recordings that remain were even more country. Sam maden the right choice in allowing the arrangement to evolve as it did. Bill Cantrell's fiddle was not the best way to showcase the song. In fact, everything that is most powerful about the released version happened only after the fiddle and more rural vocal were shelved. Mack's vocalizing on the single version is powerful, suggesting but not overwhelming us with country mannerisms. Kesler's steel adds a wonderful 2-minor chord (B-minor in the key of A), and the dramatic ending we have all come to know and love only saw daylight after Cantrell packed up his fiddle. Thurlow Brown's lead guitar part is pretty well set regardless of who or what was going on around him. This is for the best. 

Brown's part offers counterpart both to Mack's vocal and the other instruments. Sam may only have known that the original session was too rural to sell. But by edging the session uptow just a4ittle bit, he assured its status as one of the most beautiful and enduring recordings in Sun's country legacy, 

5 - Lovin' Memories (False Start) (2007) 1:04
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
6 - Lovin' Memories (2007) 2:10
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar),
Will Hopson (bass), Jimmy Lott (drums), Martin Willis (saxophone) 

''Living Memories'' (aka ''Three Time Loser''), here's the other of Mack's two sax-assisted records at Sun. It's not as country as most of his other tracks and comes closer to the structure and feel of pre-rockabilly than just about anything but ''Vibrate''. Because there are so many takes of it, and so many that sound genuinely different from each other, we are digging in pretty deeply here three full takes and two false starts. The latter are particular fun for those who enjoy being a fly on the wall at a 706 Union Avenue session. One take breaks down after just over a minute and we can some no (perhaps sax man Martin Willis) say "That was indirectly my fault''. An interesting comment for a venue where guys don't usually discuss indirect causality. Leave it to the philosophers, you might say, Then again, Martin Willis went on to earn a PhD degree. 

7 - Mad At You (1959) 2:15 > PI 3548-B <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Jimmy Ray Paulman (guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and harmony vocal), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

''Mad At You'', this delightful slice of rural life dates from Mack's earliest session at Sun and continued appearing on the session logs almost until the end. Dueting with bass player Jimmy Evans, Mack gives us a comic version of his troubles. He's mad at everything in sight including both his girl and the world, His cow's gone dry, the hens won't lay, his tires are flat and he's got a hole in his Sunday hat. Those last two lines, by the way, came to Mack courtesy of Jack Clement. Clement had a listen to what Mack was working on, jotted the "Tires are flat/Sunday hat" couplet down on a piece of paper and handed it to Mack in the studio. Two great minds working together. All the complaining is quite good-natured and the song is wonderfully picked and sung. We've included a previously unissued alternate take that is, if anything, even more spirited than the originally released version. Is this one of the few times that Sam may have chosen the wrong take for release? 

8 - Willie Brown (1959) 2:37 > PI 3548-A <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 15, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Evens (bass),
W.S. Holland (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Ace Cannon (tenor saxophone) 

''Willie Brown'', this song is the outlier in Macks's recordings for Sun. Certainly it is the least country of all his compositions and owes a clear debt to the folk boom in popular music at the time. The Kingston Trio's ''Tom Dooley'' another hang down' song, had charted less than a year before Mack took ''Willie Brown'' before the microphone. Another contribution to Mack's unconscious was probably Johnny Cash's ''Don't Take Your Guns To Town'', another tale of a decent young lad who ends up badly after some violence in a saloon. At a strictly musical level, there is more than a passing similarity to the Browns' ''The Three Bells'', another smash hit from the era, Like ''Willie Brown'', the Browns' record also alternates between unaccompanied and accompanied vocal sections. On ''The Three Bells'', the return to the full band in rhythm is announced by a four note vocal hook ("Bum bum bum bum''). Selfs record also uses a four note lead-in, only it's played on the guitar by Roland Janes. 

The song seems to be written from the point of view of the dead man. It's not immediately clear who's saying "Hang down, Willie Brown, hang down and die" until you consider the next few words: "My loved ones, they cry''. That pretty much identifies the murdered man as the speaker. In any case, ''Willie Brown'' was worked up over at least two different sessions and underwent some personnel changes in the process. Both Ace Cannon and Martin Willis took a hand at the sax part and both W.S. Holland and Jimmy M. Van Eaton played drums. One of those stalwart session drummers (we're not sure which) had a bit of trouble mastering the military drum roll that appears prominently in ''Willie Brown''. This becomes painfully clear on a number of takes that had to be aborted when the drummer goofed his attempt at the drum roll. Some alternate takes feature a heavier backbeat than the version issued in October, 1959. The major difference on the alternate take we present here can be heard in the sax work behind Self's vocal; it seems more adventurous on this unissued take. 

9 - Little One (False Start) (2007) 1:00
10 - Little One (1986) 2:10
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded January 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

''Little One'' -This is as close to a pop ballad as Mack came at Sun. Although the song is easy to underestimate at first hearing, the melody can creep into your memory and haunt you for days. The simple 1- 5 - 1 - 5 chord changes (and the waltz tempo) set the stage for a fine piece of crossover pop/country. Remember, this was recorded circa 1957, the year that records like Ferlin Husky's ''Gone'' hit the charts. ''Little One'' is certainly the least appreciated (and least re-issued) title in Mack's Sun calogue. To make it a bit more interesting, we managed to locate a false start to give the performance a little more depth. 

11 - Goin' Crazy (2) (2007) 2:33
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

12 - Everyday (2007) 2:09 (Alternate Take 1)
Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar0, Thurlow Brown (guitar), Jimmy Ray Paulman (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

13 - Vibrate (1979) 1:59
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

14 - Easy To Love (1986) 2:49 (Alternate Take 1)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

15 - Lovin' Memories (False Start) (2007) 1:12
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
16 - Lovin' Memories (2007) 2:16
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar),
Will Hopson (bass), Jimmy Lott (drums), Martin Willis (saxophone) 

On this other false start of ''Lovin' Memories'', lasting almost the identical amount of time, there's a big empty space where none should be. That sounds like Mack ,reporting, "I thought you were gonna pick some''. For the record, at the actual session there were two additional false starts occurring between these two, and three more immediately following the second one we present here. For whatever reason, ''Loving Memories'' posed considerable difficulties for the boys from Arkansas. Since this song was never released as a single, it's hard to know which two of the three takes we present were alternatives, but we can point out that on one, Martin Willis is a bit more inspired on his saxophone. On the other, the guitar player starts to rock up a storm with a pretty stinging guitar break. The session log lists the picker as Roland Janes, although we're not convinced it wasn't, Therlow Brown. 

17- Mad At You (2007) 2:06 (Alternate Take)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Jimmy Ray Paulman (guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and harmony vocal), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

18 - Willie Brown (2007) 2:36 (Alternate Take)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 15, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Evens (bass),
W.S. Holland (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Ace Cannon (tenor saxophone) 

19 - Goin' Crazy (3) (2007) 2:29
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

20 - Everyday (2007) 2:07 (Alternate Take 2)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar0, Thurlow Brown (guitar), Jimmy Ray Paulman (guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums) 

21 - Easy To Love (2007) 2:36 (Alternate Take 2)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evens (bass), Bill Candrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums) 

22 - Got You On My Mind (1986) 1:47
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control)
Recorded probably 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar) 

''Got You On My Mind'' - At the time Bear Family released its Ernie Chaffin CD (BCD 16780) we included a vocal/guitar demo of this song that sounded more like Mack Self to us than Ernie Chaffin. Actually, the track had been credited to Chaffin on Bear Family's Sun Country Box (BFX 15211) back in 1986, and my own liner notes at the time sound a lot more confident about the singer's identity than I feel listening to the track today. Although the song was stored at Sun on an Ernie Chaffin tape reel, repeated listening suggested that Mack Self was the vocalist. I phoned Mack prior to the Chaffin release in 2005 and played the song over the phone. Neither Mack nor his wife, Hazel, were convinced the song was his, although neither of them sounded as sure about it as I hoped they would. Hazel said she had never heard Mack sing it, but they met in 1958 (or late 1957) and by then the song could have been written, demoed and pushed aside. 

In preparing for this this collection, Mack commented that he had been listening to ''Got You On My Mind'' on the Chaffin disc and it was starting to sound more and more familiar to him. "Those words are coming to me real easy'', he commented. "Everybody I play it for says it's me. Some of them say 'You were young on there'. But them say it's me''. 

"Is there enough of a chance that it's you to include it on here?" I asked him, ''You've gotta decide''. "Slap it on there'', Mack replied. 

23 - Lovin' Memories (1985) 2:07
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 15, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Evens (bass),
W.S. Holland (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano), Ace Cannon (tenor saxophone) 

This third version of ''Loving Memories'' contains far more echo and a slightly different mix. It's a safe bet the track results from an different session. 

24 - Jody McClain (2007) 2:49
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control)
Recorded 1972 at Sonic Sound Studio, 1692 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Other details unknown 

''Jody McClain'' - "That name just kept coming up for me. Jody McClain. I thought that would be a good song title. I don't know where the name came from. I never did know anybody called Jody McClain. I knew a guy named Roy McLean one time, but I don't think I was writing about him''. 

I pointed out to Mack that the name sounds Scottish and the song sounds Cajun. An odd match since not many Scottish people were living in the bayous. He laughed and said, "Well, it still worked out pretty good'', He's right. One of the highlights of the version from 1972 that we include is the left-hand piano fills that appear throughout the record. Mack recalls the pianist as Butch Carter. Mack notes that Sonic Studios was run by Roland Janes (originally in partnership with Jack Clement). The song remains an active part of Mack's performing and recording repertoire. 

25 - Folsom Prison Blues (2007) 2:33
(Johnny Cash) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded 1967 at Sam Phillips Recording, 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar) Other details unknown 

''Folsom Prison Blues'' - Why, you might ask, would anybody record ''Folsom'' and risk comparison with the iconic version by Johnny Cash? A fair question. Mack recalls the session taking place at Sam Phillips' studio on Madison Avenue in Memphis. "C. W. Gatlin and I had a little drink or two before the session. I rarely drink but I got hopped up pretty good that night. We got in there and had a new drummer and a new bass man - we didn't know them from Adam. Roland (Janes) said; ''Mack, why don't you guys warm up a little bit and let me get a balance here'', so C. W. says. 'Let's do ''Folsom''. C. W. can pick Luther down to a 't''. Afterwards Roland played it back for us and we were really happy how it turned out. That's how it happened. We never went up there to record a Johnny Cash song''. 

The results bear out Mack's version. The spontaneity is everywhere in evidence. For one thing, Mack manages to change melody, what little there is. For another, he flipflops the 2nd and 3rd verses, something that might well happen and go uncorrected during a warm-up take. 

26 - Yesterday's Gone (2007) 1:37
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment)
Recorded 1967 at Sam Phillips Recording, 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar) Other details unknown 

''Yesterday's Gone'' - This one's about a bunch of losers who hang around talking about good old days when everything seemed so right. Forget it, says the singer. You Can't bring back yesterday. 

The title poses interesting dilemma. This song bears the same title as Chad and Jeremy's hit from 1964, although the similarity ends there. Had Mack opted for a title change, he might have borrowed a phrase from his first line, but that would have gotten s him to ''Down At The Boondocks, close enough to ''Down In The Boohdocks'', a 1965 hit by Blily Joe Royal. Again, no similarity other than the title, but you can see how impressionable Mack could become when he put on his songwriter's hat. 

27 - That Mexican Limbo (1961) 2:12
(Mack Self) (M. E. Ellis Music)
Recorded Fall 1962 at American Sound Studio, 827 Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Red Baker (lead guitar), Jimmy Evans (guitar),
Billy Self (bass), Herb Phyron (drums)

''Mexican Limbo'' - Entering Mack's post-Sun era, this record was released on M. E. Ellis's Zone label. Mack recalls, "I was driving in my truck near a place called Elaine (pronounced E-lane) Arkansas. It's cotton country down there and full of very small towns. I saw these Mexican people out there in the field picking cotton and they inspired me to write the song. I cut it at American Sound in Memphis in 1962. I didn't have that title originally. When I started singing it I called it the 'Mexican Cha Cha'. Chips Moman said,''Mack, change that to 'Mexican Limbob'.' He was right about the title''. 

28 - Breaking New Ground (2007) 1:46
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment)
Recorded 1967 at Sam Phillips Recording, 639 Madison Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar) Other details unknown 

''Breaking New Ground'' - If you don't listen closely you're going to miss a really clever song. It's all about a hard working man and an unappreciative wife. He's had it. The lyric celebrates ''Breaking New Ground'', not out there on the lower 40, but in a new world of wine, women and song, Very little sentiment here - just a determined man who's had it with the status quo. 

29 - You Put These Tears In My Eyes (1962) 3:03
(Mack Self) (M. E. Ellis Music)
Recorded Fall 1962 at American Sound Studio, 827 Thomas, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Red Baker (lead guitar), Jimmy Evans (guitar),
Billy Self (bass), Herb Phyron (drums)

''You Put These Tears In My Eyes'' - This is a very pretty ballad, taking us back to the country waltz genre where Mack thrives as a composer and performer. You underestimate or ignore tracks like this or ''Little One'' at your own peril. Don't be surprised if you have the song running through your head three days later when you least expect it. Towards the end of the recording, Mack opts for one of those wordless chants that helped make ''Easy To Love'' so special. 

30 - Bridges (2007) 1:54
(Mack Self) (Sun Entertainment)
Recorded 1962 at Hi Studio, 1320 Lauderdale Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Other details unknown 

''Bridges'' - Mack was plainly listening to Dave Dudley's ''Six Days On The Road'' when he put this energetic composition together. Mack was hardly alone in showing this influence. The guitar picking on Dudley's 1963 hit was felt far and wide within country music. Dudley's record also helped to spawn an entire genre of Trucker songs. The big difference here is Mack's character "ain't gonna make it home" whereas Dave Dudley sang for joy at the thought of seeing his baby tonight. 

31 - Interview/Midnight Music In Memphis Town (2007) 4:55
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control) 

''Midnight Music In Memphis Town'' (a/k/a ''When Darkness Falls In Memphis'') - This is Mack's tribute song to his days at Sun Records. In addition to two of his own titles (''Easy To Love'' and ''Mad At You''), the song also pays its respects to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. 

In fairness to Mack, the brief version we present here is just a fragment of an impromptu performance recorded during a recent telephone conversation. Consider it a teaser for the full band version that's included on Mack's self-produced CD recorded recently in Memphis. Despite the primitive sound quality of this snippet, many of you will appreciate the honesty and directness of Mack's solo acoustic guitar performance. It's the next best thing to camping out on Mack's front porch and listening to him sing for friends and family. 

Mack Self saw his name on two of those original Sun (and Phillips International) labels. All told, the eight or nine titles he recorded multiple takes of during Sun's Golden Era from 30-plus years of musical archaeology. Every time he picks up his custom-made guitar with ''Easy To Love'' inlaid on the neck, he knows he's a somebody. Like many Sun alumni, Mack has experienced the attention ard respect of people he never expected to meet. Today the grandchildren of people who first enjoyed his records know his name. His reputation is assured. This collection of Sun and post-Sun recordings by Arkansas' own Mack Self - shows why.

1-23 Original Sun Recordings
24-30 Licenced by Ridgetop Music 

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Mack Self's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

MACK SELF - Born as Wiley Laverne ''Mack'' Self in Helena, Arkansas on May 22, 1930 and started out playing music sometime in the 1940s. He involved in playing the guitar as a kid because he loved country music. Like a lot of people, Mack listening to the radio shows, the Grand Ole Opry, hearing Hank Williams, Roy Acuff and Ernest Tub that influenced him to make music. Mack Self started playing music professionally in 1945 at the age of fifteen with the band the David Jackson and the Arkansas Cotton Choppers, also playing with Conway Twitty in the 1940s.

Self had a radio program every Thursday night on radio KFFA, Helena. "David was the leader and he sang too", recalled Mack Self. "The other singers were myself and Harold Jenkins.

On steel guitar we had "Buttermilk" John Hughey, with Rusty Hornbee on fiddle and Joe Bragdan on bass. We played mostly country music. When hank Williams was big, his music was mostly what we played. later on, we would play some rock too". "After awhile we began to notice this thing called rock and roll. The Sun people would all play through Helena and we noticed the fuss, though it was small scale to start off. I met Elvis Presley for the first time about a month after he had his first record out. I bought him a coke in Helena and he told me a little about the way things were going for him. I knew Carl Perkins before he had any hits. I knew Warren Smith, Billy Riley and Roy Orbison, all before I was at Sun myself. I knew Burgess slightly. I did a show here in Helena with Johnny cash, around 1955 probably".

In 1952, Mack Self started a radio show on KXJK, Forrest City, Arkansas and sing with the band called Johnny Farmer and the Farm Hands. That time, Self wrote a song called "Easy To Love" and sing it on his radio program. The station had such a good response to it that the manager, Hal Webber, told him sang his song to record. "We made a tape of it", recalled Mack Self, "in the later part of 1955 in the KXJK studio. Johnny Farmer took the tapes to Memphis. First of all Johnny carried the tape to Bill Cantrell. Then in July 1956, Johnny carried the tape over to Sam Phillips. Sam liked my voice and songs and he set up an audition in August. Sam worked with me one year, then he hired Jack Clement as Artist and Repertoire man after that".

After his stint at Sun Records, Mack Self and his bassplayer, Jimmy Evans go way back to the David Jackson Band. Around 1960, Mack Self moved to M.E. Ellis' Zone label and has recorded for a number of small, independent labels since, including a number of selfproduced projects. He also recorded at the American Sound studios in Memphis. Songs like, "Mexican Limbo", "You Put These Tears In My Eyes" with Sonny baker on hot guitar, Jimmy Evans on bass and Herbert Pyron on drums, with Chips Moman as producer, were selling records for Self. His best selling record, "Four Walls Of Memories" for the Zone label, sold more than 40,000 copies in 1965.

Later in 1976, Mack Self recorded for Sabor Records. Songs like "Good Time Song" and "Between Tomorrow And Yesterday" were smash hits and got good play on secondary stations and it was a Country Hit Pick in Record World.

Mack Self long ago came to terms with his failure to break into the big time, but like a lot of other hopefuls he still writes a song now and again. His memories are also tinged with just a little bitterness. Sun Records' releasing policy was to put out four or five discs at one time, mixing known artists with unknown artists. The idea was that the publicity given to the name artist would rub off on the others.

The other side of the coin, though was that the well known artist in the batch would grab the airplay and Sun's limited promotional resources. Mack Self had the misfortune of appearing on Sun when Jerry Lee was hot, and on Phillips International when Charlie Rich and Carl Mann were the emerging sellers.

Mack's summary of these events is a memorable one: "At Sun Records, the stars' pink Cadillacs would be parked up front on Union Street. Out back would be the beatup Fords and pickup trucks and country boys trying to make it".

Mack Self was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1998. As Mack, himself, would tell you, that probably has as much to do with his association with the legendary Sun label as it does any strong leaning on his part toward pure rockabilly. Strictly speaking, Mack never was a rocker. At least not in the sense that Sun label-mates Billy Riley and Sonny Burgess were. Riley and Burgess, by the way, shared more than a label affiliation with mack; all three men from Arkansas.

The similarities, however, pretty much stop at the state line. Unlike Riley and Burgess, Mack Self was and is pure country. Sun label owner Sam Phillips, to his enormous credit, allowed Mack to be just what he was. Three of the four tracks issued by Mack on the original Sun and Phillips International labels were unabashed country songs during the period when Sun was dominated by southern wildmen. The releases adjacent to Mack's "Easy To Love" (SUN 273) include Ray Harris's "Greenback Dollar" (SUN 277) came along two months later, and Jerry Lee's "Great Balls Of Fire" (SUN 281) barely a month after that. The same was true of Mack's "Mad At You", issued on Phillips International 3548.

Adjoining releases on the label included Charlie Rich's "Rebound", Carl Mann's "Rockin' Love" and Sonny Burgess' "Sadie's Back In Town". All in all, Mack's "pure as country water" offerings were surrounded by some pretty hard-edged rockin' company.

For all his back-country charm, Mack Self remains beloved by rockabilly fans and collectors. This is pretty easy to understand.

Years of Sun archaeology has unearthed undeniable rockabilly gems by Mack like "Vibrate" and "Lovin' Memories". Although they were never released during the 1950s, these tracks provide strong credentials for Mack's Hall of Fame status. At a personal level, Mack Self is a man who, as Johnny Cash sang, "was there when it happened". Self's sessions included players like Roland Janes, Stan Kesler, Jimmy Van Eaton, Johnny Bernero, W.S. ''Fluke'' Holland, Billy Riley and Martin Willis. The Man in the control room hitting the record button was either Jack Clement or Sam Phillips. The bottom line is that Mack's name appears on nearly a dozen tape boxes full of songs recorded at what he calls "that little ole rinky drink studio" in Memphis. He's the real deal. In fact, it's good to remind ourselves that Sam Phillips autitioned both Mack Self and Harold Jenkins (aka Conway Twitty) - and Arkansas running buddy of Mack's - at just about the same time. Phillips passed on Twitty and decided to work with Mack.

Mack Self and his wife Hazel are approaching 50 years of marriage. They have ten grandchildren and one great grandson. That doesn't include the children and grandchildren from his first marriage. Mack can barely keep track of all his progengy and readily turns to Hazel for the details. "That's a mess of them", he gleefully concludes. "You see why I have that studio out back".

Mack Self had gone back to 706 Union Avenue for the filming of a documentary on the 50th Anniversary of Sun Records. Standing there taking in the scene, Mack spotted Sam Phillips. He went over to Billy Swan, another guest at the filming, to confirm Sam's identity. "I walked up to him and said, 'Sam, how you doing?' He looked at me and had no idea who I was. I said, Mack Self'. He said, 'Well I'll be dogged' and gave me a big hug. I wanted to hit him. I guess that's what I should have done. But I know that none of that stuff would have ever happened it it hadn't been for him".

That observation may be true, and Mack also knows that he was among the more fortunate country boys who never made it big. He saw his name on two of those original Sun (and Phillips International) labels. All told, the eight or nine titles he recorded multiple takes of during Sun's Golden Era have benefited from 30 years of musical archaelogy. Every time he picks up his custom-made guitar with "Easy To Love" inlaid on the neck, he knows he's a somebody. Like many Sun alumni, Mack has experienced the attention and respect of people he never expected to meet. Today the grandchildren of people who first enjoyed his records know his name. His reputation is assured. This recordings of Dun and his post-Sun recordings by Arkansas' own Mack Self shows why.

Self gave up the music business in 1963, and established a heating, air and sheet metal business in Helena, Arkansas. He returned to undertake occasional performances after 1992, with his Silver Dollar Band, and was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1993. On Tuesday June 14, 2011, Mack Self died at the age of 81.


© 2007 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16758 mono digital

Compact disc. A Bear Family Special Product. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover of the box, Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with demos, false starts and interview. Also included in the box, 36-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Hank Davis. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Hank Davis and Richard Weize.

A small crowd gathered around one of the tables at a recent Record Collector convention, A fan approached the bored looking dealer and asked, "Do you have anything by Gene Simmons''?

The dealer reached into a stack of garage-sale looking LPs and produced two albums by Kiss. The buyer looked at them blankly and said, ''Not this Gene Simmons. I'm looking for me real one''. 

Now it was the dealer's turn to look blank. A few other collectors drew closer to hear the conversation, "You know'', the buyer persisted, ''the guy who used to record for Sun''. 

''And Hi", somebody added. "Don't forget '' Haunted House''. "And Chess'', someone else said. ''I've got some singles on Checker and Argo''. "Yeah, but he cut those at Hi'', somebody corrected. 

'The dealer, whose musical knowledge apparently trailed off south of 1975, looked shell-shocked. "There was another Gen Simmons''? he asked meekly. 

Yes, there certainly was. In fact. if you count the 1940s actress Jean Simmons, there were at least two of them Here, we're going to confine our attention to the Gene Simmons who came to Sun records sometime around 1955, hung around studio for about three years. and then wandered across town to the Hi studio, just when that other Memphis label was beginning to get its act together, In the process he recorded a lot of primitive sounding, bluesy and very collectable sides. 

The real Gene Simmons, as our collector friend so eloquently put it, was no stranger to microphone. He sang into them at 706 union Avenue in Memphis, and on lots of stages at local clubs and in makeshift studios at radio. During the early years, if a friend had a halfway decent home tape recorder, Gene sang into that as well. When they were kids during the late 1940s and early 1950s, Gene and his older brother Leon entertained strangers in the town courtyard for spare change. Even though they were more involved in agricultural work than the music business, Gene and his brothers (by now Carl had joined them) did their share of singing into make-believe microphones that were crafted out of tree branches, picked up in the fields they were plowing, Singing into tree-branch microphones was an image Gene shared with more than one interviewer long after his recording of ''Haunted House'' hit the pop charts in 1964. 

From the myopic point of view of most music journalists. Gene is a good example of a One-Hi-Wonder. He sort of came out of nowhere in the Fall Of 1964, scraped the Top 10 with his version of the Johnny Fuller song. ''Haunted House'', and disappeared again. His follow up record, ''The Dodo'', put in a three-week token appearance at number 83 on the Billboard charts, and then it was over. There you have it. A standard-issue bite-size piece of the music history which bears almost no relation to the truth, as we record collectors see it. 

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - I Don't Love You Baby (1974) 1:54 (Sun 602) (Bootleg)
2 - I Done Told You (1986) 2:19
3 - Drinkin' Wine (1978) 2:37
4 - Juicy Fruit (1985) 2:47
5 - If I'm Not Wamted (1986) 2:19
6 - Peroxide Blonde And A Hopped Up Model Ford (1976) 1:35
7 - Mom And Pop (1985) 1:39
8 - Blues At Midnight (1985) 2:33
9 - Down On The Border (1986) 1:53
10 - Crazy Woman (Sun 602) (Bootleg) (1979) 2:06
11 - You Can't Break The Chains Of Love (1985) 2:36
12 - Shake Rattle And Roll (1986) 2:13
13 - Drinkin' Wine (1958) 2:40 > Sun 299-A <
14 - Money, Money, Money (1986) 2:19
15 - I Done Told You (1958) 2:20 > Sun 299-B <
16 - Juicy Fruit (1985) 2:50
17 - If I'm Not Wanted (2007) 2:25
18 - Guitar Boogie (1988) 1:49
19 - Mom And Pop (1986) 1:39
20 - Drinkin' Scotch (1985) 3:03
21 - I Done Told You (2007) 1:22
22 - Money, Money, Money (2007) 2:20
23 - Down On The Border (2007) 1:54
24 - Crazy Woman (1986) 2:10
25 - Juicy Fruit (2007) 2:49
26 - The Shape You Left Me In (1984) 2:36
27 - Bad Boy Willie (1960) 1:56
28 - Goin' Back To Memphis (1960) 2:58
29 - Out Of This World (1959) 2:11
30 - You Love Me Too (1959) 2:07
31 - Prowlin' (1960) 2:08
32 - Boo Doo (1960) 2:08
33 - Gene Simmons Interview with Hank Davis
1-25 Original Sun Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Gene Simmons' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

GENE SIMMONS - As a performer, he is a one-hit-wonder. Better one hit than no hit, of   course, and Simmons managed to keep at least a toehold in music even when he was working   in construction. 
That persistence paid off in 1993 when his song, he was the co-writer,   "Indian Outlaw" became a number 1 country hit for Tim McCraw. Originally from Tupelo,   Mississippi in 1933, Gene knew someone who was Elvis' third cousin and met Elvis when Elvis   came to see his grandma in early 1954.
Gene was already a local hero on WELO staring in 1947, and helped line up a schoolhouse   date for Elvis Presley in 1954 or 1955. Elvis told Gene about Sun Records, and Gene went   to audition some country songs.
Sam Phillips told Gene to wrap his fiddle and mandolin   around the tree, and told him to come back when he'd learned something new, and the   date on the tape box suggest that Gene recorded his first rockabilly sides, a year earlier  than previously thought. 
Once again, Sam Phillips was onto something with Gene, but didn't persist long enough to   see it pay off. Gene Simmons went several more times to Sun Records, and eventually   recorded a single around 1957. Sam Phillips held it back until June 1958, but by then it   was a couple of years out of date and sank without a trace. It was probably around 1957 or   1958 when Gene Simmons went back to Sun with "Peroxied Blonde", a song that survives   only as a tape fragment.
Simmons ended up in Nashville in 1964 and breaking through with "Haunted House", and   he too the hit jackpot, making him another Sun Records alumnus who isn't ready for the   rocking chair and carpet slippers just yet.
In 1993, Gene Simmons returned to the charts as a songwriter when his "Indian Outlaw"   became a number 1 country hit for Tim NcGraw.
Gene Simmons died on August 28, 2006 at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo,   Mississippi after a long illness. Associated Press wire service and appeared in newspapers   all over the U.S. and overseas. The AP story stressed his connection to Elvis and his 1964   hit "Haunted House". Gene's sister Agnes, who was Carls's first guitar teacher, also died in   the summer of 2006.

© 2007 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16797 mono digital

Compact disc. A Bear Family Special Product. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover of the box, Bear Family logo at bottom, catalog number in upper right. For the first time, the complete Sun recordings, many of them previously unissued complete with demos, and false starts. Included are previously undiscovered sides from his first recording session at KWKH in Texas and RCA recordings in 1957. Also included in the box, 35-page booklet biography, with liner notes by Colin Escott. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Shane Hughes. Tracks 1 to 25 original Sun recordings.

On Christmas Eve 1985 Tommy Blake came home drunk. Home was a trailer park across the fiver from Shreveport, Louisiana. His wife, Samantha, had prepared the Christmas tree, and spread the presents around it, but she said that Blake wast in a vile mood. The underlying reason was always the same: he'd crossed paths with the rich ant famous for thirty years, but seemed unable to join their rarified ranks. He started kicking at the tree, ripping up the presents. Finally, he turned on his wife. They started punching and kicking each other, and then suddenly Blake produced a 38 pistol with a hair trigger. He pushed Samantha onto the floor. She got up, lunged at him, the gun went flying, and she reached for it, ''I never meant to pull the trigger'', she said later. ''I just wanted to get it away from him. He died in my arms. My last words to him were, 'You know I love you:'. I'll never forget the gurgling in his throat when he died. I closed his eyes and laid him down on the carpet''. That, at least, was Samantha's story. She spent Christmas 1985 in jail but was subsequently released.

Tommy Blake was one of the guys who never really made it, but got close enough to know what making it was all about. Close enough to know that he wanted it badly. Some guys can give it a shot, accept that the public doesn't what they have, then move on happy that they at least tried. Not Tommy Blake. He looked like a star: even if his vocal abilities fell somewhere short of stellar. After his performing career was over, he tried to experience success vicariously by becoming a songwriter. Once again, he came close, even wrote a few hits, but never quite had the industry beating down, his door.


Chet Atkins, Sam C. Phillips, Dee Marais
Re-Issue Producer
Bill Millar
Disc Transfers
Hans-Peter Zdrenka
Tape Comparisons
Bill Millar
Jurgen Crasser
Colin Escott
Shane Hughes

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Chris Brown, Ed Dettenheim, Colin Escott,
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto),
Maggie and Alton Warwick,
and Hans-Peter Zdrenka
Photo Scans
Colin Escott, and Andreas Merck
Photo Restorations
Sven T. Uhrman
based on a idea by Wolfgang Taubenauer
Thanks to
Tilman Franks, Betty Givens, Samantha Carter Givens,
Jurgen Koop, and Dave Sax
Special Thanks
Ed Dettenheim aka Ed Hall 

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Flat Foot Sam (1957) 2:00 > Sun 278-A < 
2 - Honky Tonk Mind (The Woman I Need) (1988) 2:21
3 - Koolit (1956) 2:13
4 - Freedom (1957) 2:43
5 - All Night Long (1988) 2:27
6 - Shake Around (1977) 2:25 (Sun 614) (Bootleg)
7 - I Dig You Baby (1958) 2:11 > Sun 300-A <
8 - Ballad Of A Broken Heart (1986) 2:14
9 - You Better Believe It (1977) 2:34 (Sun 614) (Bootleg)
10 - Mister Hoody (1957) 2:29
11 - Sweetie Pie (1958) 2:04 > Sun 300-B < 
12 - Diesel Truck (2007) 2:00
13 - Shake Around (2007) 2"02
14 - I Dig You Baby (1986) 1:43
15 - $ Folding Money (1959) 2:31
16 - Window Of My Heart (2007) 1:38
17 - You Better Believe It (1986) 1:48
18 - Shake Around (2007) 2:22
19 - Chuckie (2007) 1:33
20 - If I'm A Fool (1956) 2:59
21 - Lordy Hoody (1957) 2:26 > Sun 278-B <
22 - You Better Believe It (2007) 2:39
23 - Little Lovelight (2007) 1:24
24 - Cool Alligator (1984) 1:57
25 - I Still Love You (2007) 1:44
26 - My Alice Faye (2007) 1:50
27 - I'll Be Free (1984) 2:23
28 - You Better Believe It (2007) 2:38
29 - The Hanging Judge (1959) 2:31
1-25 Original Sun Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Tommy Blake's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

TOMMY BLAKE - Thomas LeVan Givens was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 14, 1931. He never knew his father, and couldn't do right in his mother's eyes. He was jailed for statutory rape while still in his teens. He entered Marine training camp in 1951, and told people he lost an eye in Korea, but actually lost it before he even left boot camp in North Carolina. Discharged, he went to Louisiana, working on KTBS as a disc jockey in Shreveport and on KRUS in Ruston, Louisiana, and started out with a teenage country band on KTBS in Shreveport, Louisiana by 1955 was appearing regularly on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, Texas and the Louisiana Hayride shows.

In 1954, he married his first wife, Betty Jones, in Carthage, Texas. They had six children. Shortly after one of them was born, Blake went to the store to buy cigarettes, saw Faron Young's tour bus, jumped on board, and disappeared for six weeks. It was the critical choice of his life: success - even if experienced tangentially or vicariously - was preferable to absolutely anything else. Yukkin' it up with guys backstage, or finishing a song in a pill-induced frenzy beat sitting on the cough watching television with the wife and kids. 

In Ruston, Louisiana, Tommy Blake met three musicians who would become his sidekicks, Carl Bailey Adams en Ed Dettenheim, as the Rhythm Rebels over the next few tumultuous years. Blake didn't assemble the Rhythm Rebels, insists Hall. They were already together they only used that name when backing Blake. Their drummer, Tom Ruple, worked shows with them, but doesn't appear on any of the recordings, as far as we know. One of their first gigs was in Alexandria, Louisiana, where they supported Johnny Horton, Johnny Cash and Tommy Sands. 

Most weekends, Blake and the Rhythm Rebels played guest spots on the local Saturday night jamborees: the Big D in Dallas, the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, the Grand Prize Jamboree in Houston, and smaller shows, but Ruston was their home base. The Louisiana Hayride gave Tommy Blake a front row seat at the birth of rock and roll. Elvis was on the show nearly every week from late 1954 until early 1956. The audience was at first incredulous, then ecstatic. Watching intenly, Blake declared himself for rock and roll. 

Tommy Blake recorded several times, for Buddy Records label in Marshall, Texas, and "Koolit" (spelled, one presumes, as a parody of Koolaid soft drink) became Blake's first record. Starting December 27, 1952, the Saturday night Marshall Jamboree was the week's top event in Marshall, and the show's manager, A.T. Young, featured his son, Buddy, for whom he started the Buddy label. The show ran from Marshall's City Hall, and was broadcast over KMHT. 

Blake probably appeared on Young's show often enough for Young to give him a shot on his little label. The reference to "Blue Suede Shoes" dates "Koolit" to early 1956, and the presence of the Hayride's steel guitarist Sonny Trammel shows the music in transition. Trammel was from-and-center on the hillbilly flip-side. 

The Nashville music business had taken notice of what was happening in Shreveport, and Tommy Blake came to the fore, and Chet Atkins scheduled a RCA contract and a session for April 15, 1957. Waiting around, Blake and the Rhythm Rebels didn't have enough money for a hotel, so they camped out in the station wagon, using gas station restrooms to wash. They found a spot on the side of a mountain near Nashville where they camp without being bothered. 

Ed Hall believes that their session was the first in the now-famous Studio B, but the studio's official opening wasn't until November that year. It's likelier that Blake and company were at the studio on McGavock where Elvis had recorded "Heartbreak Hotel". Atkins paired Blake, Adams, and Hall with another Shreveport alumnus, pianist Floyd Cramer, and Nashville big band drummer Farris Coursey. Tree Music's Buddy Killen was there to play bass and ensure that they didn't record any of the songs they'd sold to Cedarwood. 

Chet Atkins sensed a troublemaker and dropped Tommy Blake after one single, and gave his best song, "Honky Tonk Mind" to Johnny Horton, a week before the RCA session. Chet Atkins then threw him off the label, and Blake landed at Sun Records' doorstep. There were two Sun sessions in 1957 and 1958. It might have been one side of Blake's third Sun single, had there been such a thing. 

Now off Sun and without e regular backing group, Tommy Blake formed a partnership with sometime Louisiana Hayride artist Carl Belew. In 1959, Belew recorded two of Blake's songs. In November 1959, Blake issued a single on and recorded for Recco and Chancellor, making mainly rock and roll music of some distinction. Now often calling himself Van Givens. He hooked up with Bill McCall at 4-Star Records, and sold him songs. He hung around George Jones' co-writer, Darrell Edwards, and sold more songs (including "Tender Years"). He and Carl Belew reportedly wrote "Lonely Street" and "Am I That Easy To Forget", but Blake had sold his share by the time they appeared. He kept a little photo of himself and Elvis Presley by his bedside wherever he went as a reminder of what should have been.

Blake did not have an especially memorable voice but he was an enthusiastic singer and a good songwriter. His credits include "You Better Believe It", "Shake Around", "Cool Gator Shoes" and his two Sun releases, "Lordy Hoody" and "Sweetie Pie". Although not typical of his released recordings, "Ballad Of A Broken Heart" may be much closer to the country soul of the real Tommy Blake. 

On Christmas Eve 1985, Tommy Blake came home drunk. Home was a trailer park across the river from Shreveport, Louisiana. His wife, Samanta, had prepared the Christmas tree, and spread the presents around it, but she said that Blake was in a vile mood. The underlying reason was always the same: he'd crossed paths with the rich and famous for thirty years, but seemed unable to join their rarified ranks. He started kicking at the tree, ripping up the presents. Finally, he turned on his wife. They started punching and kicking each other, and then suddenly Blake produced a 38 pistol with a hair trigger. He pushed Samanta onto the floor. She got up, lunged at him, the gun went flying, and she reached for it. 

"I never meant to pull the trigger", she said later. "I just wanted to get it away from him. He died in my arms. My last words to him were, 'You know I love you'. I'll never forget the gurgling in his throat when he died. I closed his eyes and laid him down on the carpet". That, at least, was Samanta's story. She spent Christmas 1985 in jail, but was subsequently released. 

The version that Samanta gave above in the late 1980s is sharply at variance with an account given to Shane Hughes by Sondra Hall, a friend of Tommy and Samanta's. 

"Samanta had been to the grocery market that afternoon (Christmas Ever 1985) buying food with illegally applied for food stamps. Ursula and Tamara, her daughters went with her. Tommy was at home with her cousin Dale and they were playing music and maybe even talking about the truckstop tape of nasty lyrics Tommy had taped and sold to buy Christmas presents for his family. He (had) bought Sam a pair of diamond earings. San and the girls returned home, not to a trailer park, but a beautiful 4-bedroom Florida style home with master suite opening to a patio. Tommy was drinking beer with Dale, Neither of the men would help with the groceries and this pissed Sam off. Dale left, and Sam began to argue with Tommy. She slammed out of the kitchen, went into the garage, where she had her office, unlocked the door, got her pistol, went out the garage door across the patio, entered the master bedroom, got the bullets and loaded the gun and went back to the garage. She called Tommy out there and he approached her with his hands behind his back. He asked her not to be mad and reminded her it was Christmas Eve. He held out a small jeweler's box to her and said. 'These are for you'. She shot him one time-thru the heart. He was dead before he hit the garage floor". 

The discrepancy between the accounts of Sondra Hall and Samantha Givens is vast: the only facts upon which they agree are that Blake was shot on Christmas Eve and Samantha did it. Samantha told this writer that she and Blake were living in a trailer park, which would have been more congruent with their general financial state (food stamps, etc.) more than "a beautiful 4-bedroom Florida-style home with master suite opening to a patio". Samantha even pointed to the spot in the trailer where she said that she shot Blake. The songwriting royalties would have diminished to next-to-nothing by that point, even assuming that Bill McCall was paying royalties at all. 

By the time Tommy Blake died, the music industry had chewed him up and spat him out. No one made demos in an off-key voice and with an out-of-tune guitar in front of a home cassette deck any more. Song-plugging was no longer a business in which you wandered in to see Chet Atkins, and said, "Chet listen here to what I got". It was a business of lawyers, powerbrokers, professional song-pluggers, more lawyers, and points spreads. Blake was out of the loop. One of his cronies from the Louisiana Hayride, Howard Crockett, who wrote two of Johnny Horton's biggest hits, summed it up in a song called "Don't Go To Nashville In The Summer (Or You'll Freeze To Death And Who't Know Why)". Tommy Blake didn't understood why, and didn't live long enough for the rockabilly revival to embrace him. Nor did he live long enough to see a British pop group, the Fall, record what might have been his song, "4Folding Money", in 1999. In one of the last photos taken of Tommy Blake, he looked considerably older than early fifties. It had clearly been a rough life, and even though we've tried to piece together its outline, it is equally clear that Thomas Levan Givens aka Van Givens aka Tommy Blake took most of what he knew to the grave with him. 


© 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16131 mono digital

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN pressed in light brown at top of the label. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. Sun and Phillips International recordings, unissued takes during the period 1956 to 1957. It includes his original Von, Rolando, Beat, Profile and Arlen recordings, included unissued ones. Also included in the box, 46-page booklet biography with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Martin Hawkins.

Today, Hayden Thompson is one of the last active performers from the first wave of white rock and rollers, those mid-South movers and shakers dubbed ''rockabillies'' by Billboard, the music trade paper, in 1955. He has also been among the most impressive of the American artists on the European rockabilly revival tours since he first signed up for them in 1984. "People had been telling me to get on a revival show'', he jokes, "but I never even had a hit to revive''.

What he did have were credentials and style. He had been there at the epicentre of rockabilly back when nobody knew quite what it was or what to call it. He was born within a few miles of Elvis Presley, he made his first record within a few months of Presley, and he was on the legendary Sun Records, or at least the subsidiary Phillips International, where he recorded one of the acknowledged classics of rock and roll, ''Love My Baby'' (PI 3517). 

For music (Sun/PI standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Love My Baby (2008) 2:30
2 - Rock-A-Billy Gal (2008) 2:24
3 - Fairlane Rock (2008) 2:28
4 - One Broken Heart (2008) 2:18
5 - Blues Blues Blues (2008) 2:21
6 - Oh Mama (Mama Mama Mama) 2008) 1:48
7 - You Are My Sunshine (1981) 2:37
8 - Don't You Worry (1985) 2:09
9 - Congratulations To You, Joe (1998) 2:29
10 - Call Me Shorty (1986) 2:37
11 - I'll Hold You In My Heart (1986) 2:37
12 - Goin' Steady (1986) 2:34
13 - Kansas City (1986) 2:45
14 - Frankie And Johnny (1986) 2:16
15 - Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1986) 2:10
16 - They Key To My Kingdom (1986) 1:27
17 - Your True Love (1988) 2:14
18 - Kansas City (1988) 2:31
19 - I Guess I'd Better Be Moving Along (1988) 2:02
20 - This Old Windy City (1988) 2:12
21 - Lonely For My Baby (1988) 1:21
22 - I Wanna Get Home (1988) 2:16
23 - Train From Chicago (16:88) (1988) 2:49
24 - Act Like You Love Me (1954) 2:32
25 - I Feel The Blues Coming On (1954) 2:33
26 - Love My Baby (1957) 2:09 > PI 3517-A < 
27 - One Broken Heart (1957) 2:24 > PI 3517-B <
28 - Dream Love (1960) 2:16
29 - Tom Thumb (1960) 1:51
30 - Whatcha Gonna Do (1961) 2:55
31 - Summers Almost Over (1961) 2:58
32 - Queen Bee (1962) 1:50
33 - Pardon Me (1962) 2:37
34 - Love My Baby (2008) 2:33
35 - Rock-A-Billy Gal (2008) 2:27
1-9, 26, 27, 34, 35 Original Sun Recordings
10-16, 24, 25, 30-34 Licensed from Dave Travis
17-23 Original Rolando Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Hayden Thompson's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

HAYDEN THOMPSON - Thompson was born twenty-five miles north of Tupelo, Mississippi, the   town of Booneville, on March 5, 1938 in a little area called Wheeler. Baxter Thompson, was   a farmer who also worked at various other jobs and his mother, Thelma, worked in a clothing   business. She sang some country gospel and played harmonica, while Baxter was a guitarist.   They both encouraged Hayden and gave him a guitar when he was five years old. Armed with his guitar and his mother's encouragement, the eight or nine year old Hayden   entered various contests on local shows and radio.
His mother encouraged him to sing gospel   and his first radio performance was singing a gospel song on WBIP in Booneville, with the   threat that he wouldn't be able to go fishing next day unless he did it right.
Soon, young Hayden became firmly involved in the country music scene of the day, and   formed his first band, the Southern Melody Boys, were managed by a local promoter and disc   jockey, Charles Bolton, who put on stage shows and radio shows in and around Booneville, and who offered the band a step up from the schools, churches, and low scale gigs they   could find for themselves.
In 1955 Hayden Thompson and the Southern Melody Boys recorded for the small Von label in   Booneville (on which Johnny Burnette also made his debut), that had grown out of the   musical promotions at Von Theater. Hayden's recording session was held not in Booneville   but at the radio studio of WERH in Hamilton, Alabama. The recording engineer at the station   was local disc jockey, recording artist and songwriter, Edgar Clayton, a long-time mainstay of  the Alabama music business.
The recording were "Act Like You Love Me" and "I Feel The Blues Coming On", both in the   typical hillbilly style that predominated in the years during and just after the heyday of Hank   Williams. They feature steel guitar and fiddle solos and are underpinned by a muted walking   guitar pattern on the bass strings similar to that played by Quinton Claunch on contemporary   country recordings by other mid-South performers such as Bud Deckelman on Meteor and   Carl Perkins on Sun. Claunch was like radio jockey and recording engineer. Edgar Clayton, a   former member of the Blue Seal Pals who performed in a similar style on Mississippi radio   and then on WSM in Nashville s few years before.
Charles Bolton continued to book the Southern Melody Boys in the local area throughout   1955, and Hayden continued to build up the rocking element in their performances, adding   the music of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Fats Domino, and Bill Haley to the band's stone   country repertoire. They continued to hold down their regular spots in their hometown.
After Thompson graduated in 1956, the group hit the road. "We bought a trailer", he   recalled, "and we carried the movie Rock Around The Clock" in that trailer together with out   instruments. We'd go into a town, do a show, they'd play the movie, and then we'd do   another show. It cost the punters fifty cents or a dollar. We did that until late 1956".
After only a few months on the road, however, Thompson's band decided to call it quits. "I   wanted to play rock and roll, but most of the guys in the group said rock and roll would   never last, and they wanted to stick with country music. The final straw came when two of   them got married. They wanted to stay home and had no dreams of doing anything more in   music than they had already done". Yet Thompson had no intention of abandoning his   dreams, Hayden formed a new, more rocking band called the Dixie Jazzliners, presumably   named in connection with the Dixieland Jamboree show and Bolton's Dixie Talent through   whom they were booked.
Quite how the jazz element figured, no-one remembers, least of   all Hayden, but it may have been a compromise by a promoter who wanted to recognise that   this was new-sounding music but was shy of calling it rock and roll in case it didn't last, it   was the movie package tour that eventually took Hayden Thompson to Memphis and to Sun   Records, and he found temporary salvation with the Billy Riley band. "I'd met them before   my group broke up. I had been in and out of Sun quite a lot, and I found that Riley and I   worked good together. 
We'd do a finale in which he'd do a Little Richard impersonation and I'd do Elvis Presley. We were making seventy or eighty dollars a week, which was good   money for guys without hits".
Thompson hoped to improve the situation when he went to Sun in September 1956 with the   nucleus of the Riley band behind him. They cut the old Junior Parker song "Love My Baby",   with the newly arrived Jerry lee Lewis strengthening the rhythm track. Once recorded, the   single was held back for one year; finally, in 1957 it was issued in the first batch of Phillips International releases. Wide-eyed in Babylon, Hayden Thompson was ready for the acclaim   that would surely follow. The portents seemed excellent: "I went by the studio and Jack   Clement was there. We left and went to pick up Jack's wife and went to a drive-in movie. I   listened to Dewey Phillips on WHBQ rather than the movie, Dewey played my record. After   the movie, we went back to the studio. Sam was still there. He invited us back to his place   to spend the night. We got there about two in the morning. Sam called his wife on the   intercom and she came down and fixed breakfast for us. He put "Love My Baby" on the   turntable and spun it over and over. I was thinking to myself, 'This is really something'".
Thompson had fallen prey to the premier illusion of the record business. The industry gives   everyone the equivalent of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame; virtually anyone who puts   a record out gets at least one good review, a slot on a playlist, or a word of encouragement   from one on whom Fortune has smiled. The problem lies in the capriciousness of the market;   the following week there is a new crop of records, a new set of reviews, a new set of playlists.
Last week's Best Bet is next week's unreturned phone call. It was Bill Justis' "Raunchy" that   was the surprise hit from the first batch of singles on Phillips International. As Phillips   probably knew, "Love My Baby" was too primitive for the ever more sophisticated teenage   market. Hayden Thompson went back to the studio, but never got another shot on Sun.   Disillusioned, he headed north to Chicago in 1958.
Thompson's best chance came with a series of uptown country singles he recorded for Kapp   Records in the mid-1960s. The Kapp singles secured him a guest appearance on the Grand   Ole Opry that seemed for a moment to be the long-awaited harbinger of fame. But   Thompson could never quite capitalize on his opportunities. He still records occasionally,   but, as the title of a recent song he cut, "The Boy From Tupelo", suggests, he has never quite   found a satisfactory answer to the question, Why Elvis and not Me?.
A decade on, and Hayden is still touring Europe, still hanging in there, in fact still very much   appreciated and in demand, and he's still making records. He recorded a CD in 2005   recreating the Rockabilly Rhythm for the St George label back home, but his latest new   recording was made with a band in Finland and Hayden is proud that at his age the CD has   "had the best reviews I've had in my career". He recorded "$16.88" on the CD and he's very   aware that he wrote the song over forty years ago.
Back home in Wheeling, Illinois, Hayden Thompson lives with his wife, Georgia, and is still   promoting his music to anyone who is interested. He is a friendly, self-aware, and quietly   humorous person, very proud of his own music, pleased to be acknowledged as a keeper of   the flame of early rock and roll, but still frustrated that his career didn't take off in the days   when it really mattered to him.

© 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695 mono digital

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. This CD collects together all the known surviving recordings Rufus made between 1949 and 1956 – his pre-Stax days, pre-Walking The Dog. Included are two previously undiscovered sides from his first recording session, for Star Talent. All the eight of his original 78rpm singles are here, as are all his other - not originally issued - songs recorded by Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service. The original versions of three of Rufus' recordings, by Rosco Gordon, Big Mama Thornton and Joe Hill Louis, are included alse as interesting comparisons. Included other bonus items, extracts from Rufus on radio WDIA, a disc by Rufus' fellow disc jockey, Moohah, and parts of an illuminating radio interview Rufus gave to Dave Booth in 1986. Also included in the boxset, 67-page booklet biography with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Martin Hawkins.

Like Louis Armstrong, one of his inspirations, Rufus Thomas was larger than life. He came both to symbolise the place and the music he grew from, and to transcend that time and place. His career spanned black music from vaudeville to funk.

We capture him here in the 1950s, the rhythm and blues years, at a time when he was firmly of and about Memphis Tennessee and when he was just starting out as a recording artist: He was rather impressive fronting a blues combo or a swing jazz band, although he would often say, "I'm not really a singer but I think I'm a pretty decent entertainer''.

Rufus Thomas was above all a performer, a character, He was a dancer, an emcee, and a disc jockey before he found fame as the hit-making purveyor of dance-related recordings in the 1960s. Even then, it was his performance of those hits that was to the fore. Rufus came across as a man programmed to provide fun, who seemed not to take his music - or life in general - very seriously.

Yet Rufus Thomas did take very seriously his attempts to build a career as an entertainer and he was a man who wanted to be given his due for the dues he had paid. In the early days of rhythm and blues, those dues included melding together elements of swing jazz and the blues with some memorable phrases and a winning vocal delivery, producing a considerable body of recorded music that has been under acknowledged over the years.

Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
John Tefteller, Christian Zwarg
Christ Bentley, Dave Booth, Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins,
Victor Pearlin, John Tefteller
Jurgen Crasser
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Dave Booth, Showtime Music Archive,
Larry Cohn, Jim Cole, Colin Escott
Photo Scans
Erich Hulsenbeck, Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Rufus Thomas, Dave Booth, Colin Escott,
Jurgen Koop, Bill Millar, John Tefteller 

For music (Chess/Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - I'll Be A Good Boy (1950) 2:53
2 - I'm So Worried (1950) 2:56
3 - Who's That Chick (2008) 2:36
4 - Double Trouble (2008) 2:36
5 - Beer Bottle Boogie (1950) 2:58
6 - Gonna Bring My Baby Back (1950) 2:24
7 - Night Workin' Blues (1951) 2:41 > Chess 1466-A <
8 - Why Did You Deegee? (1951) 2:28 > Chess 1466-B <
9 - Crazy About You Baby (1951) 2:37 > Chess 1492-B <
10 - No More Dogging Around (1951) 2:36 > Chess 1492-A <
11 - Decorate The Counter (Vocal Rosco Gordon) (2008) 2:59
12 - Decorate The Counter (1952) 2:22 > Chess 1517-B <
13 - Juanita (1952) 3:27 > Chess 1517-A <
14 - Married Woman (1) (1985) 2:37
15 - Married Woman (2) (2008) 2:40
16 - I'm Off That Stuff (1985) 2:55
17 - Hound Dog (Vocal Big Mama Thorton) (1953) 2:48
18 - Bear Cat (The Answer To Hound Dog) (1953) 2:59 > Sun 181-A <
19 - Walkin' In The Rain (1953) 2:25 > Sun 181-B <
20 - Tiger Man (Vocal Joe Hill Louis) (1985) 3:11
21 - Tiger Man (1953) 2:48 > Sun 188-A < 
22 - Save That Money (1953) 2:45 > Sun 188-B < 
23 - Intro Patter To Sepia Swing Club (2005) 0:32
24 - Pink Pussycat Wine (2005) 1:10
25 - All Shook Out (Vocal Moohah) (1953) 2:48
26 - Candy (Vocal Moohah) (1953) 2:31
27 - The Easy Livin' Man (1956) 2:51
28 - I'm Steady Holdin' On (1956) 3:24
29 - Rufus Thomas on Daddy Cool Show (2008) 10:05
5-6 Original Bullet Recordings
7-10 & 12-13 Original Chess Recordings
Original Starmaker Recordings
11, 14-16 & 18-22 Original Sun Recordings
27-28 Original Meteor Recordings
17 Original Peacock Recording
Original Radio, WDIA, Memphis, Tennessee

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Rufus Thomas' Chess/Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

RUFUS THOMAS JR. - Rufus Thomas was always quick to make sure that you knew he was a city man first and foremost. In one of his earliest in-depth interviews he told Peter Guralnick, "I was born in Mississippi just below Collierville, about five miles from the Tennessee line in a little place called Cayce: its not on anybody's map.

That was March 26 1917, (though his social security records say March 27), but I grew up in Memphis. I been here since I was a year old. I don't know anything about country life, to tell you the truth''.

Rufus Jr. was the youngest child of Rufus and Rachel Thomas, coming up behind his sisters Elizabeth, Willie, Eva, and Dorothy and his brother Morris. He did admit that he mould sometimes go with his mother to visit relatives in the country and that he even picket a little cotton there as a teenager.

''But that was not a life I wanted to know'', he told forcely some seventy years later. "No, I was always a city boy, there was always something going, on there for me to take an interest in.

My father worked in several different production plants around Memphis and my mother worked in domestic, but they both had other interests. My father was musical, where I got that side from, and my mother was a church woman''. He told Peter Guralnick his mother had, "what we call mother wit, that deep seated intelligence that you don't get out of books. That was how I came up''.

Taking his parents' music and wit as inspiration, Rufus soon emerged as someone to remember from the crowd. His father played harmonica and did a little country dancing, and it was the latter that appealed to Rufus. He made his performing debut on stage at the Grand Theater on Beale Street in an elementary school play - hopping on stage like a frog. By the age of ten, he was struck by the tap-dancing ability of a schoolmate, Edward Martin, and he soon started copying and then surpassing his friend. He told researcher Rob Bowman: "I don't know where the drive came from. All I know is that I wanted to be a tap dancer. So I continued to work, at it, mixing what I had seen with some steps of my own. During those days there was no such thing as dancing schools for blacks''.

In the ninth grade, Rufus moved to Booker T. Washington High School, and he told about his meeting with his mentor, Nat D. Williams: "He was a professor, history teacher, at High School there, and I was involved with him in one thing or another since the first of the 1930s. After he was my teacher in school, he was my teacher on the stage and later on he was my teacher in radio. He was the first black disc jockey in the mid-South and the emcee at the amateur shows on Beale Street in the Palace Theater. Nat Williams was an unusual man, and a good mentor for the young Rufus. Williams had been to University in Nashville at Tennessee A&I and had worked in New York before he returned to Memphis to teach at Booker T. Washington. There he became involved with Maurice Hulbert in producing a high school show known as the BTW Ballet - it had started out in the 1920s as a highbrow performance put on to raise money for the newly-formed black high school, and did literally put on ballet performances.

Within a few years the Ballet had broadened its range, with song and tap dance and comedy, and Williams decided he could accommodate Rufus's homegrown dancing talent. Rufus told John Floyd that this ''was when things really began happening for me. I had learned the craft, and the first rehearsal at school Nat D. said to me, What's your name, you want to be in the Ballet?' and I said 'yeah'. He said let me see your smile, so I had a funny little grin on my face. and he said, 'you got it. I was put into the musical vaudeville shows, which was a minstrel show''. Rufus later reflected with disc jockey and writer, Louis Cantor, on the difference in his black version of the vaudeville minstrel shows, where he appeared complete with burnt cork on the face and painted lips. ''With folks would put on white put on red lips to protest. or at least I like to think it was to protest'', he rationalized.

Nevertheless Rufus remained proud of the Ballets. which by his day had moved from the school premises into the Palace Theater and then to the Ellis Auditorium downtown. He joked ''the old Ballet was sophisticated and pretty. We had no sophistication and we were ugly but we had some kinda show''.

Rufus was soon voted the most talented youngster in his school. He told John Floyd: ''I used to wear the big pants and the big shoes, and the big tie that would hang almost to the floor. I was hot stuff I was so sharp I could stick up in concrete''. On account of being such a 'character' Nat Williams chose Rufus to help him with comedy routines. ''He chose me out of a bunch of kids to work with him. Nat was the straight man and I was the comic''.

In 1934, Rufus's entertainment career was interrupted when he went to Nashville to attend college at Tennessee State, probably at the urging of Nat Williams. It didn't work out because Rufus was soon homesick. He told: ''I didn't stay there because from the start I was troubled. I'd never been that far away from Memphis, and I went back home in 1935. Then I started working all around the city as a tap dancer and I would do some scat singing and comic songs like Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller. I would do everything there was to do really, whatever came under the name of entertainment''.

It was in 1935 that Rufus first appeared in the Amateur Night shows at the Palace Theater on Beale Street with Nat Williams, developing the comedy routines they had started as part of the school Ballets. Rufus also worked there with Johnny Dowdie as a dance team that had also started in the Ballets. "We were dancing up and down steps, doing wings and all that fancy stuff, but it was mostly flash'', Rufus told Louis Cantor.

The following year Rufus and Johnny joined a touring show known as the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, traveling from May to October all through Mississippi, Arkansas, and parts of Louisiana. The Rabbit Foot Company was a long running minstrel and variety troupe that toured as a tent show between the 1900s and the 1940s. It was originally owned and managed by Pat Chappelle, a black performer, when the company had a brass band and traveled in its own private railroad car. The company was purchased by white carnival owner, F.S. Wolcott, (later celebrated in a song by the Band) who was in control when Rufus and Johnny were with the company. Rufus remembered: "The show would open with the band. Then there was the chorus line, and the comic would come right behind that. Then maybe a singer the chorus line, the tap dancers and the comic''.

For a time in 1937, Rufus was back in Nashville, working with Johnny Dowdie at Kyles night club. Apart from the dance duo, Rufus also earned money by waiting tables for white diners. ''I was what you'd call a singing waiter", he said, also describing both the potential and the problems in this role: "During that time the white fellow was quite boastful, if he was out with his woman... but he'd pay well, At the end of the night. I had the money, and that what I was working for so you ask yourself who's the fool?".

Then in 1938 Rufus was lured back to the tent shows, this time with a company called Royal American Shows that advertised itself as the ''Most Beautiful Show On Earth''. It was basically a type of carnival, known as a Midway, owned by Carl Sedlmayr and the Velare Brothers, touring State fairs and festivals across Minnesota, Oklahoma. Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and western Canada. It seems that Rufus just worked in the Southern states closest to home. He confirmed to Peter Guralnick, "It was an all-white show, but Leon Claxton had the black part and they called it 'Harlem In Havana. It was a tent show under a big tent, that was the time when they had an aisle right down the centre and blacks sat on one side, whites on the other'. At twelve o clock wed have a parade you understand, to bring the people to let the people know. It was a different town every day and at night you stayed in people's homes because there were no hotels at all for blacks at that time. Then in the morning you catch the bus and you're off to another town''. He added: ''I wouldn't have traded the world for that foundation. Even with all the racism, all the hold backs, all those things, it was still quite likeable, people were having fun. We didn't make a lot of money but we had a damn good time''.

Back in Memphis by 1940, Rufus developed a different vaudeville comedy and dance show with another partner, Robert Counts, who was known as Bones'. Rufus and Bones played at the Cotton Club in West Memphis, the Brown Derby club, and particularly the Elks Club at 401 Beale. Rufus was still dancing but he was increasingly developing as a comedian, emcee and even a singer. He said, ''It was hard. I was working on stage before there were microphones; you really had to have some kind of a voice''.

He told John Floyd that he took up singing on the back of song writing. ''I was working in a comedy team at the Elks Club on Beale. There was a blues singer there by the name of Georgia Dickerson. and I used to write blues for her every week, and she'd sing them. But she left town and that left space in the show, so I thought I'm going to try to take up that space. That's all there was to it. I sang a song by Lonnie Johnson called ''Jelly Roll Baker''. Then I learned other songs and I did a few love songs like ''For Sentimental Reasons'' and I even did ''Stardust''. But my voice then was beginning to turn and I couldn't sing anything sweet with all that gravel in it''.

It was apparently at the Harlem Theater on Florida Street that Rufus first sang something sweet to a girl named Cornelius Lorene Wilson, whom he married in November 1940. The Reverend C. L. Franklin, father of Aretha Franklin, conducted the ceremony and it marked the start of a more stable phase of life for Rufus, and the end of his vaudeville days. He took a job at the American Finishing Company, a textiles firm, and he maintained a day job there alongside all his entertainment roles until 1963. He operated the boiler plant among other things, and on a slow day would use the rhythms the boiler pipes sometimes generated to help develop ideas for songs.

The new Thomas family lived in the Foote Homes Housing Project in Memphis, where Rufus soon had fatherly duties to add to his life. His son Marvell was born in 1942, his daughter Carla in 1943 and youngest daughter Vaneese in 1952.

Nevertheless, Rufus continued to ply his trade as an entertainer, working not only at the Harlem Theater but at the, Hyde Park Theater in north Memphis near Chelsea Avenue, the Savo Theater on North Thomas, and the Handy Theater on Park Avenue.

On Wednesday nights, Rufus was the emcee at the Palace Theater on Beale Street. This was amateur night, where he had graduated from being a dancer to becoming also a comic foil for the emcee, Nat Williams, to now add to his roles that of the emcee himself. He kept the comedy, and was always sharply dressed, continuing the theme he had started in school, and developing catchphrases like ''Ain't I'm clean?" or "Oh I feel so unnecessary".

He described to Peter Guralnick the shape of the show and the scale of the talent. "First they had the movies and then the amateur, which was the bottom hour, and then it was back to the movies. I reached back and got a friend of mine, his name was Robert Counts, they called him Bones, and we were together for eleven consecutive years at the Palace Theater every Wednesday night. We were making five dollars a night and you had the Al Jackson band and they were only making 25 dollars and they had a big band too. The show was only a nickel then, but the place was packed''.

He told Beale Street historians Margaret McKee and Fred Chisenhall: ''At that time we had contestants come up to perform, and then after everybody performed they'd all come back on stage and the audience would applaud for first prize. They used to have $5, $3, and $2 but they cut that out and later everybody who came up on stage would get a dollar. B. B. King used to come with holes in his shoes, his guitar all patched up, just to get that dollar''. Guitarist Calvin Newborn has recalled being presented with five dollars by Rufus on Palace amateur night for playing a piano duet with his brother, Phineas on ''Hey Bop A Re Bop''.

In 1950, Rufus left the Palace because he couldn't get the money he felt he was entitled to for his emcee role and comedy dance routines. Four decades later it still pained him to explain to Peter Guralnick: "I wanted more, but I couldn't get Bones to go ask for it with me. So the man got with Bones and asked him if he would work with someone else, and I got fired''.

However, Rufus was soon running a Saturday midnight amateur show at the Handy Theater. He was by now a well-known name in black Memphis, and he was fast becoming associated with the good time Saturday nights for which Beale Street was famous. He said, "Beale Street was the black man's haven. They'd come into town and forget all their worries and woes''.

Rufus's daughter, Carla Thomas, had clear memories of those days. She told 'Soul And Jazz Record' in 1974: "Growing up in Memphis in the early 1950s held much excitement for me because of my musical environment. Even though I was a young girl at the time, no one could outdo me when I did the Hambone. Bo Diddley came to Memphis often and he laughed about it. My father had everyone in the Foote Homes project doing that routine. My father has been a hard worker all his life. Many times he worked three and four jobs to support our family, traveling with different musicians to parts of Arkansas and Mississippi or wherever they could get a job, along with working in a textile mill and later as a disc jockey. My brother and myself would be anxiously waiting for him to come home to give us accounts of his travels. He told us how country folks loved the blues, drank the booze, and we learned a lot about life from daddy''.

Carla had a clear picture of Rufus's work closer to home, too: "I was at the Palace Theater often because my mother always took my brother and me to see daddy who was usually the emcee. Daddy danced so well that he eventually got barred from competition: that's how he got to be emcee. I laughed until I cried at the jokes he shared with his team partner Bones, of Rufus and Bones. It seemed to me then that to be associated with Beale Street was to be associated with creativity, strength and pride. That's why many blacks, especially on the weekends, would congregate up and down Beale Street to feel the pulse of life it had to offer''.

It's easy to overplay the extent to which Beale was buzzing. In August 1950, ''Ebony'' magazine ran a feature about 'The New Beale Street''', emphasizing the rise of black owned business and the real or hoped for gentrification of the street. ''Beale is but a ghost of the boisterious, blustering thorefare of yesterday, ''Ebony'', reported. ''It's sweet men and easy riders are gone; its gambling dens and nite spots are shut down. A new Beale Street is arising as a symbol of the new, enterprising, forward looking Southern Negro of today, looking forward to the day when Negro business will dominate the street''. It reported, ''by midnite these days the street is virtually deserted in contrast to the old days when the nite spots operated all night''.

In December, on the same theme, 'Billboard' reported a speech at Booker T. Washington High School by W. C. Handy, 77-year-old bandleader and composer of the ''Beale Street Blues'' and ''Memphis Blues''. Handy thought, "In the days when I was here, everything in the Negro community centers around three or four blocks on Beale. There were theaters, drug stores and saloons. Everybody put on his best to be seen on Beale: it was a promenade. Now there are many Negro communities in the city and Beale has lost its charms. (It has) the character of an avenue of commerce, filled pawnshops, cheap cafes and second-hand stores where the tourist can find no lure''. Handy felt the same thing had happened in New York on Lenox Avenue and in Harlem, Handy, who had him created a successful business in the North, felt that "a certain race pride has gone by the boards. To many Negroes are trying to live white, and it's not good''. There may have been a generations element in this because, to the Thomas family, the,scene was still buzzing, and Rufus was as integral part of it.

For people like Rufus Thomas, and Nat Williams, the pride was still very much there, too, and I started to take other forms as well, not least through the efforts of radio WDIA, the first station to cater to black America in the South.

WDIA opened in June 1947 as the sixth station in town, and one of the least important. At first, it purveyed classical, popular and hillbilly music, alongside the news. Bert Ferguson, who co-owned the station with John Pepper, knew that Nat Williams was a communicator, someone who could inform as well as entertain. With low ratings, WDIA figured that through Nat they could try to gain listeners among the black community, which made up nearly half the local population. Williams started in October 1948 with a show called 'Tan Town Jamboree' and he quickly got a very positive response. Within a few years, WDIA moved to an all-black format and was being promoted as the 'Mother Station Of The Negro'. Besides Williams, WDIA recruited other local personalities from the schools and theaters of Memphis, including Gatemouth Moore, Maurice Hulbert, Theo Wade, Willa Monroe, Martha Jean ''The Queen'' Steinberg, Robert Thomas, Ford Nelson, A. C. 'Moohah' Williams - and, in September 1950, Rufus Thomas.

Rufus started at WDIA announcing two hour-long record shows, 'House Of Happiness' and 'Special Delivery'. At first, it seems that he tried to sound upmarket, smooth and articulate, like the announcers he heard on WREC broadcasting from posh venues like the Peabody Hotel. In fact, his own rasp of a voice was much more suited to selling records and sponsored goods to his home-town audience, and station manager David James Mattis counseled him about retaining the sort of hip rapport that he had with theater and night club crowds. "Once I became just Rufus, man, I started getting sharp and everything. My delivery stepped up, and there I was, a personality", he told a radio colleague, Louis Cantor. So much so that Mattis later described Rufus as ''the best black entertainer I ever saw in my life''.

In 1951, Rufus inherited the 'Sepia Swing Club' from B. B. King when King went on the road on the back of his burgeoning recording career. 'Sepia Swing Club' was on at 3pm. Rufus had already worked a 6.30 to 2.30 shift American Textile and he used to catch the streetcar to the radio station, often leaping into his chair at or just beyond the opening of the show, ready to take off "like a late freight" as he put it. After a while he would get a ride in his friend's car and then from 1954 he traveled in his own automobile. His opening patter remained the same though: "Come in the club, we're ready and right/ Got records and jive, no fuss no fight/ This is Rufus Thomas of Sepia Swing/ Gonna try to make you laugh and sing''.

In June 1954, WDIA increased its signal power significantly to 50,000 watts, covering not just the Memphis area but the entire South. This was a big success with sponsors, and it cemented the station's place in the local black community. According to Rufus, ''I don't care what - if it was said on WDIA, that was it. They would argue you down. They'd say, I heard it on WDIA, and that was it''. By this time, Rufus had another Saturday morning show, 'Boogie For Breakfast', and he was on with the 'Hoot 'N' Holler' show every night from 9.30 to 11pm starting the party with "I'm young and loose and full of juice/ We're all feeling gay though we ain't got a dollar/ So let's all get together and hoot 'n' holler''. Dora Todd, a teacher at Washington High said: "Most folks in the 1950s may not have been able to tell you who the mayor or governor was, but they sure knew the names of Nat Williams and Rufus Thomas''. One of the additional reasons folks knew Rufus in the 1950s was that he had just broadened his entertainment portfolio and emerged as a major name in the world of rhythm and blues recordings.

By the end of the 1940s, Rufus Thomas had spent several years singing in Memphis night spots with a number of good local bands; those of Bill Harvey, Al Jackson, Bill Fort and Tuff Green. He hadn't seen this as his main forte but it was a developing part of his gamplan as an entertainer. He said, "My models were Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, and a fellow named Gatemouth Moore, Dwight Moore out of Memphis. They were all good entertainers, very very versatile''.

Gatemouth Moore had recently been a successful recording artist before returning to Memphis to work over WDIA, and he was one of the reasons why Rufus started to think about making records himself. He recalled: "I was working in a club as a singer, and it was something I wanted to do. It was a chance. I just wanted to be on record. I never thought of getting rich. I just wanted to be known, be a recording artist''. The opportunity presented itself one day around Christmas, 1949, in the form of a visit from
Jesse Erickson.

Jesse and Louise Erickson ran Louise's Record Shop at 3313 Oakland Avenue in south Dallas. Erickson was a regional record distributor who started issuing records on his Talent and Star Talent label to showcase local artists. He issued many hillbilly recordings, made in his local area, before launching out with a short-lived blues series in 1950, comprising of recordings largely made on location.

Country artist Boots Bourquin said: "Jesse and Louise did a lot of advertising on the radio, and he wholesaled and retailed records. That was a pretty big thing because all them stars had records in there and they would come by and meet him. It was a gathering place for musicians, all those guys that was trying to get a start in country music. He was a real nice guy, a real big guy, six foot four and weighed 250''.

Rufus was singing at the Club Tropicana, also known as Johnny Curry's Club, on Thomas Street on the north side of Memphis when Jesse Erickson walked through the door tarrying a bulky recording machine and a microphone. According to Rufus, he just introduced himself and asked if he could set up and record the band for his label. Rufus had never heard of the Talent label, but he did want to be on records, so he agreed. It is likely that Erickson had made some prior arrangement to be there, but if so the details remain undiscovered. Rufus recalled a little of the session: "They'd put this big heavy needle down, and when you'd be singing you could see the needle cutting into that acetate, just digging those grooves right around there."

The label of Rufus's record stated at the top that it was in the 'Folk Series,' but at the side indicated in smaller print that it was in fact part of the 'Blues And Rhythm Series'. The disc was listed in 'Billboard' among the 'New Rhythm & Blues Releases' for the week of 25 February 1950, and ''I'm So Worried'' was also reviewed, although the opinion was mixed, and indeed a little Harsh on the band: "Thomas shows first class style on a slow blues, but the combo work is amateurish behind him''.

If Rufus was disappointed at the lack of a second release on Star Talent, then his sorrow should d have been short-lived. Within six months, he was back on record again. However, this time he was disguised on the record label as 'Mr. Swing' and he may not even have known about his release on Nashville's Bullet label. If he did know at the time, he seemed to have forgotten about it through most of his career and only acknowledged it nearly fifty years after the event. When we played him the disc in 1999 he appeared, saying, ''Hey that is me. I had forgotten all about those songs, but you know, that really is me''. He seemed to have no recollection of the matter being raised with him three years earlier by Dave Clarke of ''Blues And Rhythm'' magazine – but he undergone a bypass operation in-between times.

The release of ''Beer Bottle Boogie'' and ''Gonna Bring My Baby Back'' on Bullet 327 came about in similar 'on location' circumstances to those surrounding the Star Talent episode. The songs were apparently recorded sometime around 9 to 11 June 1950 when the Lionel Hampton orchestra was playing at the Handy Theater in Memphis, and when Rufus Thomas sang with a smaller band drawn from Hampton's musicians. The band was credited to Hampton's saxophonist and songwriter, Bobby Plafer, and the deal was apparently set up between Overton Gong, then head of Bullet Records, Robert Henry, the manager of the Handy Theater, and Bert Ferguson of WDIA who had"the previous year been instrumental in sending B. B. King's first recordings to Bullet.

''Beer Bottle Boogie has, a strong boogie piano opening from Milt Buckner, whose trademark grunting can be clearly heard on these recordings. Rufus tells how he got higher than a kite, then all hipped-up, then burned at poker - the recipe for getting the beer bottle boogie way down deep inside. Then the classy band really comes into its own with a fabulous sax solo while the other players interject and swirl all around it. Rufus said: ''I do remember that ''Beer Bottle'' song, and that is a good band, a quality band on there. I, think so''. Incidentally, Marilyn Scott recorded a ''Beer Bottle Boogie'' on Regent in September 1950; it appears to be a different song altogether, but Mr. Swing may have inspired the title. ''Gonna Bring My Baby Back'' is a swinging mid-pace item driven by the piano towards a smooth tenor solo that builds up while the band riffs effectively. Rufus tells a familiar tale about his baby leaving but he's gonna find her, and he tells it with some vocal style. 'Billboard' listed the disc among the New Rhythm & Blues Releases of July 22, 1950, where Mr. Swing lined up alongside ''Mr. Cadillac'' and his The R D Boogie, Louis Jordan's ''Blue Light Boogie'', Gatemouth Brown's ''Boogie Rambler'', and Ray Charles' ''The Ego Song'', among others.

One disc it should have sat alongside was ''Phillips Sent Me'', Bullet 329 by Jerome Richardson, Lionel Hampton's young saxophone prodigy, fronting the same Bobby Plater band that had backed Rufus. The disc possibly included vocals by Hampton's vocalist Betty Carter but this is uncertain because a copy of the record has not been located. What is clear is that the tune was inspired by Memphis disc jockey, Dewey Phillips, whose catchphrase was to tell radio listeners to 'say that Phillips sent ya" when entering a store. A year later, in July 1951, 'Billboard' reported that "Dewey Phillips'' advice to his WHBQ listeners to tell merchants 'Phillips sent me' has become a by-word in Memphis and his show is being considered for coast to coast broadcast over the Mutual network. Newest twist is that he's to be immortalized in song, with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers planning to record a ditty entitled ''Phillips Sent Me''. It is possible that there had been some copyright, wrangling over the song and a threatened legal restraint that led to Bullet pulling the disc from sale in 1950. Either way, it is a fascinating, and frustrating, side issue to what was already a confused picture surrounding Rufus's second, cording venture.

By the time Rufus realized that his Bullet disc existed but was not going to be a big seller and that Bullet Records was making no noises about recording Mr. Swing again - he also started to realize that there was an emerging recording opportunity right on his doorstep. In fact, Memphis radio announcer and producer Sam Phillips had first opened the doors of his Memphis Recording Service on Union Avenue pretty much at the same time Rufus was recording for Star Talent. By the early part of 1951, Phillips had already sold rhythm and blues and blues recordings to out of town record companies like RPM and Chess and was gait hing something of a reputation on the back of recordings of B.B. King, Rosco Gordon and others. ''Rocket 88'' by Jackie Brenston was top of the Rhythm And Blues Charts when Rufus started to think about going along to Union Avenue. He told Peter Guralnick: ''Everyone was just going up there, and I found out about it, so I went, too. You could come right off the street and go in there''.

When Rufus entered 706 Union Avenue, the first person he encountered was Marion Keisker, Sam first, and at that time only, assistant. She arranged for him to visit when Sam would be there, and Phillips was pleased to have a go at recording one of the rising stars of Beale Street and Memphis radio. Marion recorded Rufus's address in her files as 440 Vance, and later changed this to 1376 Kerr when the Thomas family moved. She set up setup a recording session for sometime in May or June 1951, and Sam Philips started to make a deal with Leonard Chess for the output of the session to be leased to Chess records in Chicago.

As far as is known, the first title Phillips recorded was ''Night Workin' Blues'', a song Rufus had been singing for some years, although it was credited to Marty Witzel. It opens with a swinging riff from the band and Herman Green and Richard Sanders both feature throughout on tenor and baritone sax. Pianist Billy Love swoops around the tune and keeps a solid rhythm section going. The music is more rhythm than blues but Rufus forcefully gets across his tale of woe about coming off the night shift to find he's getting no attention at home. ''I try to make her happy/But my life is misery'' and the solution seems to be to "let this all night working go''. We may never hoe biographical the song was, and the same goes for the next song Rufus recorded, ''Why Did You Deegee''. It's about a man who didn't believe his gal would leave him and it's about as close to recognized blue structure as Rufus gets. A slower pace is set here by drummer Houston Stokes and is emphasized by prominent use of cymbals, while Rufus really opens up his vocal chords and sells his story of heartbreak, punctured by sax riffs, jazzy guitar figures from an unidentified guitarist, and more prominent interventions from Billy Love.

''Night Workin' Blues'' and ''Why Did You Deegee'' were issued as Chess 1466 in the midsummer of 1951, and at the end of July it was noted in Sam Phillips' logbook that he paid Rufus an advance on sales of fifty dollars.

A third song had been made at the session and the master of ''Crazy About You Baby'' was sent to Chess at the same time as the masters for Chess 1466, Crazy was a pounding protorocker of the ''Rocket 88'' style that had gained Sam Phillips a massive rhythm and blues hit not long before. It is Billy Love pounding piano this time, rather than Ike Turner, and Rufus reeling off the honking vocals rather than Jackie Brenston. Saxophonists Green and Sanders do as good if not better a job than the Turner/Brenston band, and all the pieces were in place for a hit. Unfortunately, Rufus was a few months too late with this one despite it being a considerably good record - and his song was about a girl rather than a car. Mistake.

Sales of ''Night Workin' Blues'' must have been sufficient to encourage Phillips and Chess to plan a second release, and in October 1951 Rufus was back in Phillips' studio recording a song called ''No More Dogging Around''. It was the first of many he would record over the years with Dog in the title, though this time he was talking about being led a dance by his woman rather than promoting dance steps. The same band as before sets up a stomping rhythm and Herman Green takes a flowing sax solo. Rufus follows the catchy riff, his voice rising and falling as he sets out how he intends to get out from under. It is evident that Rufus knew exactly what he wanted his bands to do, and overall the sound on this disc is one that can,be heard for Sun, Meteor and Stax.

Marion Keisker logged that the master of ''No More Dogging Around'' was mailed to Chess on October 5, and that Chess "already have ''Crazy About You'' and the ''Xmas Song". The latter, whatever it was, has not been found, and it was ''Crazy About'' that was issued along with ''No More Dogging Around'' on Chess 1492. The record gathered some steady but not spectacular sales through the spring of 1952.

By early 1952, several of Sam Phillips' recording artists were caught up in commercial and legal arguments between the companies who took recordings from him - principally Chess in Chicago and Modern/RPM in Hollywood. Companies not unreasonably wanted exclusivity on the bestselling singers. One of these was Rosco Gordon who had registered hits with RPM but who would also appear shortly on Chess and then, for good measure, on the Duke label.

On 23 January 1952 Rosco Gordon made a session for Chess at Phillips' studio that included an engaging bar room song called ''Decorate The Counter''. However, by February 15 wrangling between the various companies had seen Gordon's contract signed over to Modern/RPM Records and two days later most of the recordings from the January session were passed to Modern. ''Decorate The Counter''was not one of them because Chess had expressed an interest in the song. Sam Phillips apparently held it back as the prototype for someone else to record. That someone was Rufus Thomas, and so we had tuned an extended version of the earliest of Rosco's versions of the song.

Rosco Gordon made another version of the song - one that has more often been issued and so is not included here - that contained a number of vocal asides and tricks and had a generally anarchic aura. It was that version Rufus faithfully reproduced when he went into the studio on April 21, 1952. There is little wonder that the difference between the two men's versions of this good time Saturday night song was not wide since Rufus used Willie Wilkes, Richard Sanders and John Murray Daley on the session – the,.same band as Rosco. Rufus calls ''What you say Richard'' as Richard Sanders is about to take his solo, as had Rosco. Only Rosco himself is missing, replaced by Billy Love on piano. Rufus's vocals are slightly more prominent and assured than Rosco's even though it is not his own song. ''Decorate The Counter';'was apparently written by or in the name of Robert Henry, who managed the Handy Theater and booked Rufus and Rosco there along with other local talent and all the big bands of the day. He was also the first manager of B. B. King, and one of the real enduring characters of Beale Street, right up to his death in 1978. He ran a pool hall and store there for years and liked to tell people that if they wanted to get served, they'd better decorate the counter, put their money down.

According to Marion Keisker's session logs, Rufus recorded four other songs at the ''Decorate'' session. One of these was the intriguing ''Beale Street Bound'', a recording that has not apparently survived. Of the three we do have, the song that was chosen for release along with ''Decorate The Counter'' was ''Juanita'', an impassioned ballad complete with mock crying and a style that found fevour in the early 1950s and was exemplified in hits like Tommy Brown's ''Weepin' And Cryin'' on Dot Records which was the number one rhythm and blues hit of December 1951. If anyone was going to be able to carry off this histrionic style, then Rufus Thomas - the entertainer - was probably the man. No doubt his performance of ''Juanita'' went down a storm in live performance, but this is a very slow song and although Richard Sanders contributes a moving baritone sax solo, the performance drag a little on record. It was left to Chuck Willis -with a different song -to take ''Juanita'' into the top ten and rhythm and blues history four years later.

The day after the session, the Phillips studio airmailed dubs of ''Decorate The Counter'' and ''Juanita'' to Chess Records, and twelve days later masters were "sent to Shaw (probably meaning Billy Shaw's New York based Shaw Artists Corporation). Marion Keisker logged that copies were sent to influential disc jockeys on June 16, including Gene Nobles at WLAC in Nashville, and that payments at musicians union scale were made to the session musicians directly by Chess. The record was released as Chess 1517 at the start of July.

Two final songs from the session remained unissued at the time. The first was ''Married Woman'', which is presented here in two alternative takes. It is a thumping blues about Rufus sitting around trying to drink his blues away. His baby's leaving - ''she was a married woman" - and how loving a married woman will do you no earthly good. The first version contains a storming sax solo by Willie Wilkes, and the second is similar except that Rufus adds some slurred speech at the start to emphasize the depth of his plight. The last title to be recorded at the session was also a moral tale - of temperance, abstinence and fidelity - told to a mid-paced rhythm and blues stomp. This time the solo is taken by Richard Sanders on baritone sax, and you can just imagine Rufus the entertainer delivering the lyrics of ''I'm Off That Stuff'' with a twinkle in his eye.

It would be eleven months before Rufus was back at Phillips' Memphis Recording Service studio, and this time the output would be on a hometown record label. Billboard reported on March 14, 1953: "Sun Record Label launched In Memphis - a new indie rhythm earl blues label headed by Jim Bulleit and Sam Phillips. The Sun label plans to give even opportunity to untried artists to prove their talents, whether they play a broomstick or the finest jazz sax in the world''. Phillips had in fact toyed with his Sun label throughout 1952 and he had tried and failed with the country blues and nightclub saxophone instrumentals. Now he had a new partner in – Jim Bulleit, an experienced record man from Nashville who knew how to sell records - and a new style to sell in the form of a novelty rhythm and blues song about a ''Bear Cat''. Phillips figured that the song was just right for the extrovert gravel voiced Rufus Thomas.

As a disc jockey on WDIA, Rufus would have been one of the first to be aware of the sales potential of a new record called ''Hound Dog'', issued by Peacock Records out of Texas and sung by Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton. Big Mama was from Montgomery, Alabama but had been based in Houston for several years when she joined the local Peacock label in 1951. In the late summer of 1952 she was on tour on the West Coast with the Johnny Otis band when Otis arranged to record her along with several other singers and ship the masters back to Peacock. The session featured songs by a new, young songwriting team, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who had been asked to write something for the fearsomely built Big Mama, whom Leiber later told.

Rolling Stone' looked like the biggest, baddest, saltyist chick you would ever see. The writers came up with the classic line, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog'', for Thornton to snarl out as an admonishment to those would-be suitors who were more interested in home comforts than in her. She knows, ''you ain't no real cool cat''. With its loping rhythm, cutting blues guitar solos, unusual story line and occasional yelps and howls, ''Hound Dog'' soon registered as a juke box favourite when it was issued in early March 1953. By the end of the month, it was on the Rhythm And Blues Charts and it stayed at number one for seven weeks that spring.

It would have been in character for Rufus to have the idea parody the lyric on his radio show and to invent his own fearsome big cat to rival Big Mama's dog, and indeed people have spoken about hearing him do that on the radio. But in fact it was someone else who had the idea and who wrote the song. Rufus just told: ''No, I didn't write that song. Someone else wrote that''. He wouldn't say who it was but the discussion was in the context of his relationship with Phillips. The composition was registered under Sam Phillips' name and Sam did talk in years about working up songs with Rufus, though he never made much claim to have written ''Bear Cat'' outright. Maybe he did, or his wife Becky who helped him with songs in the 1950s did, or perhaps they took the idea from someone else? Either way, Sam was keen that Sun should record the song immediately, and that to increase the fun it would be made clear on the record label that this was the 'answer to ''Hound Dog'' and that the singer going head to head with the Big Mama was Rufus 'Hound Dog' Thomas Jnr.

''Bear Cat'' was recorded on March 8, 1953. There were just three musicians, Joe Hill Louis playing a long, hot and cutting guitar solo, bassist Tuff Green slapping the bass to make the sound of two men, and drummer Houston Stokes propelling the small band along. Together they made a powerful sound, but what really made the record was the overpowering vocal performance that, from opening spoken intro, was recorded so hot by Sam Phillips that it almost leapt from the grooves. actor within Rufus the entertainer came to the fore as he sang, almost making the hound dog and bear cat come alive.

In complete contrast, Rufus also recorded a blues ballad, ''Walking In The Rain'', which underlined how good a mood singer he could be. His song is carried along by more strikingly good guitar work from Joe Hill Louis, while drums and bass are relegated to the background along with so, rhythm that Rufus kept on piano while singing. As good as ''Walking In The Rain'' was in its way, it was the other side that Sam Phillips wanted to get on the market. It is registered in his logbooks that he paid the three musicians fifteen dollars each and sent the master discs to Shaw for manufacturing the very same day they were recorded.

It is clear that Sun 181 was a serious rush-release. Within two weeks, 'Billboard was able to report: "The so-called answer record craze is still going strong in the rhythm and blues field. This week a new diskery came out with an answer to Peacock's smash waxing of ''Hound Dog'' with thrush Willie Mae Thornton. ''Hound Dog'' was released only about three weeks ago and has turned out to be one of the fastest breaking hits in recent years. It has already popped into the best selling rhythm and blues charts. The answer to ''Hound Dog'' comes from Sun Records, Memphis. Tenn, diskery, a wild thing called ''Bear Cat'' sung by Rufus Thomas Jnr. It used to be that the answers to hits usually waited until the hit had started on the downward trail. but today the answers are ready a few days after records start moving upwards. This has led some to remark that the diskeries soon may be bringing out the answers before the originals are even released''.

It wasn't long before ''Bear Cat'' became a test case. In 'Billboard' of March 28, 1953 it was reported song publishers were seeking legal action: "In an effort to combat what has become a rampant practice by small labels - the rushing out of answers which are similar in melody and/or theme to ditties which have become smash hits - many pubbers are now retaining attorneys. Common active, of course is to regard the answer as an original. Currently publishers are putting up a the to protect their originals from unauthorized or infringing answers." Don Robey of Peacock Records was ever the pragmatist, though, and told Billboard he had notified the Harry Fox publishing agency "to issue Sun a license on ''Bear Cat'' in order that Robey might collect a royalty''.

The following week, Billboard reported that Stan Lewis of Stan's Record Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana was the focus of much attention by independent labels, whose bosses were queueing to pitch him their goodies. These included, ''Jim Bulleit of the new Sun label, who arrived to chase Willie Mae Thornton’s ''Hound Dog'' with his punchy new answer ''Bearcat'' by Rufus Thomas''. Bulleit had been hard on the case, achieving some seriously good publicity for the new label and for ''Bear Cat'' even before the disc hit the stores. ''Bear Cat'' was the Billboard Buy Of The Week on 11 April: ''The answer to ''Hound Dog'' broke loose this week with fury. Hit a number of territorial charts and also is registering strongly in Chicago and around Nashville''. It reached the national rhythm and blues charts on April 18, 1953, stayed for eight weeks in the top ten and number three.

By May, according to Billboard, "Word has it that Rufus Thomas Jnr., who waxed the smash ''Bear Cat'' for Sun Records, is turning down many a one-fighter so he can remain mike side at his WDIA deejay post''. Nevertheless, Rufus did form a touring band of sorts, called the Bearcats. He said, "I worked all over Memphis. We had four or five pieces in the band most times. We did a lot of work after I had ''Bear Cat'''out."

Meantime Sam Phillips was still handling the fallout of his success. Don Robey's Lion Publishing Company had sued Sun for infringing the copyright on ''Hound Dog'' and the U. S. Court had ruled that Sun had indeed perpetrated an infringement BMI denied Sun clearanc disc until Sun agreed to pay two cents per record on all discs sold to Lion Music. Robey wrote to Phillips on 8 July, thanking him "kindly for your co-operation in this matter''. He had written Phillips earlier, in April, pointing out the need for Sun to pay him, and hoping, ''this will not causy any unfriendly relations, but please remember that I have to pay when I intrude upon the rights of others, and certainly must protect my own rights''. The nature of the independent record business was such that by July, Lion itself was in court defending the contention of Syd Nathan Records in Cincinnati that he had an interest in the song ''Hound Dog'' and should have a fifty per cent share of its success.

By April 1954, a year further on, Billboard had decided that ''Answers (Are) Not The Answer: The year 1953 saw an important precedent set in regard to answer tunes. Since the ''Hound Dog'' decision, few diskeries have attempted to answer smash hits by other companies by use same tune with different lyrics''. Follow up They might have stopped to think about Rufus's own follow up disc, ''Tiger Man'', where he attempted to plagiarise his own hit, ''Bear Cat''. He had moved on feline world, or rather, his session guitarist, Joe Hill Louis, had, turning his attention to the king jungle.

Louis had been the session guitarist on ''Bear Cat'' and its success naturally spurred him to think up a new angle on the song. He probably saw his new song as a hit for himself, making two recordings of ''Tiger Man'' around May 1953, a demo with unknown piano and drums and a more finished version with Albert Williams playing piano and Walter Horton on harmonica along with an unknown drummer. Louis carries the first version on guitar and sings in a restrained manner. He breaks out much more on the second version where his vocal is more to the fore while the others carry the instrumental lead. Louis's second version is included here for comparison with the tour de force Rufus recorded just a few weeks later.

The Sun recording files show that Rufus Thomas went into the studio to cut ''Tiger Man'' on the last day of June. Houston Stokes remained on drums, but Rufus did not have Joe Hill Louis along since Floyd Murphy is listed as guitarist, and indeed is audibly present. Whether Louis was unavailable or whether he had been cut out of being the featured artist on his own song we can only guess. Certainly, he found that when Rufus's recording was released, half the composing credit went to Sam Phillips' wife under her maiden name of Burns. There were three other musicians new to Rufus's sessions but who were stalwarts of Phillips' blues recording sessions: James Wheeler on tenor sax, Bill Johnson on piano and Kenneth Banks on bass. A slightly bigger band, but Sun was still operating on a budget and it was logged that the session men were paid just ten dollars each on the day.

As on ''Bear Cat'', the band contributed well to the mayhem Rufus created on ''Tiger Man'', but it was again the vocal that took most of a listeners attention. Compared to Joe Hill Louis's own very good blues vocals on his versions, Rufus now added the 'performance' factor to the song – from the Tarzan calls at the start to the hoarsely shouted lyrics and the Tarzan outro - taking it to a sphere Louis could not match for bower and mischief. Floyd Murphy plays some fine fills and takes a flowing solo of the kind on Junior Parker's contemporary Sun recordings. Marion Keisker noted that the master of ''Tiger Man'' was ''cut 4 on the second tape" and so Rufus may have made any number of attempts of the tune.

The only other song recorded at the session was ''Save That Money'', a slow blues with jazzy guitar from Murphy and a smooth saxophone figure throughout by James Wheeler. Rufus again shows a good straight singer he could be, really opening out to shout the pain of the lyric that remembered the Depression era ''when times were hard". Perhaps this was not the message people wanted to twenty years later. Certainly, the reviewer for Billboard was unimpressed, saying of the title: ''It's good advice, but not a noteworthy record". Actually, it was a rather good one but destined to be lost in the shadow of ''Bear Cat'' and ''Tiger Man''.

''Tiger Man'' with ''Save That Money'' was issued at the end of September 1953 as Sun 188, once the sales of ''Bear Cat'' started to diminish and on the back of some publicity for Rufus in the trade press that August and September: "Rufus Thomas of Sun Records" was, on the 'Cool Train' show on WDIA every Saturday, and "Nat Williams and Rufus Thomas join together for three hours each Saturday as conductor and engineer of this popular streamliner''.

Despite his continuing high profile locally, Rufus's ''Tiger Man'' was not the national rhythm and blues smash that Sun might have expected. Billboard called it a novelty blues whose "lyric does not make n sense, but will get some attention because of its weird quality''. It sold well but it did not dent the charts. By the time it was released, Sun was handling a major hit with ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' by the Prisonaires vocal group, and it may be that Rufus's disc didn't quite get the extra promotion otherwise would have had. The tiger had a second lease on life years later when recorded by Presley, but by then Joe Hill Louis was no longer around to collect his writer's royalties.

Surprisingly, perhaps, there were to be no more Rufus Thomas records on Sun. Less surprisingly, maybe in the light of comments that Rufus made to interviewers in later years. He told Peter Guralnick, "Me and Sam Phillips ... we were tighter than the nuts on the Brooklyn Bridge – then. Of course he was like all the folk at that time. You know how if blacks had something and didn't no way to exploit it and the white dudes would pick it up and do something about it, they'd just beat out of all of it, that's all. Well, that was him, that as Sam Phillips. Oh man, I guess I lot of it too, like most black folk''. Talking to John Floyd in the 1990s, Rufus was even more to the point, saying: "Sam Phillips was an arrogant bastard. He is today. Back then he had a big car, a Bentley, end he'd boast about the money he made that got him this car. I said, 'Yeah, but if it hadn't been for me, he wouldn't have had that car'. I made the first record for him that got a hit''. The truth, as usual, was multifaceted, and Sam was more likely scuffling at that time than driving a Bentley. Certainly, correspondence between Sam and his brother Jud makes it very clear how close to bankruptcy Sun Records was until Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash started to make hits in 1956.

Years later, during a European tour, Rufus once told writer Roger St Pierre, rather dismissively: "Yeh, Sun was a blues label when it set out and we did ''Bear Cat'' which was a big smash ... I cut a number of things for Sun, though I can't ever remember signing a contract''. In fact, in Sun's books Marion Keisker logged the fact that Rufus signed his contract with Sun on 13 March 1953. He was paid on five occasions between March 23, and June 27, in advance royalties on ''Bear Cat'', totaling 275 dollars. He received three advance checks on ''Tiger Man'' between August 1953 and February 1954, some 480 dollars, but after that the contract, and the record of payment, runs out.

Not long after ''Tiger Man'' came out, Rufus was as usual deeply involved in radio WDIA's showpiece event of the year. Billboard of November 7, announced plans for the station's "Fifth Annual Goodwill Revue for Handicapped Negro Children (which) will present one of the strongest spiritual and rhythm and blues talent line-ups ever. A crowd of up to 60,000 (probably a typo for 6000 is expected to fill the Ellis Auditorium on December 4, to see B.B. King, Lloyd Price, Muddy Waters, Eddie Boyd, Little Walter, Helen Thompson, the Soul Stirrers, and WDIA personalities Alex Bradford, the Caravans, Rufus Thomas, Moohah the Spirit of Memphis Quartet, the Southern Wonders and Al Jackson's band. All the artists are giving their time in order to raise money for the charity. And their diskeries - Specialty, Chess, United and Starmaker - are defraying their expenses''.

Interestingly, Sun was not mentioned. This may be an omission or it may have reflected a dispute betty Rufus and Sun. Even, perhaps, that Rufus was planning to record for a new label being set up in Semi WDIA had become known as ''The Goodwill Station'' because of its charitable and community based work but it was also known as the 'Starmaker' station because singers like B.B. King and Rufus himself started there, and a new Starmaker Records label was announced in November in Billboard as "the new label of David James Mattis, who started Duke Records last year. Talent with the label includes Danny Day and Moohah, with records cut by those artists already being shipped out to the jocks and to stores. The label is affiliated with radio station WDIA''. Mattis had set up Duke in July 1952 and had see immediate success with Memphis based singers including Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, and Bobby Bland, but Duke was soon taken over by Peacock Records in Texas. As it turned out, Starmaker did last long enough either to still be there at the end of Rufus's Sun contract in March 1954.

One of the Starmaker discs featured Rufus's fellow WDIA disc jockey and announcer, A. C. Moohah' Williams, who had the ''Wheelin'' On Beale show. Williams was still a biology teacher at Manassas High School when he started at WDIA in 1949, but he soon became the first full time black employee of the station working on promotion and organization of events as well as hosting shows. He set up the Teen Town Singers group that changed personnel each year to include the best talent from all seven of the local black High Schools. We have included his recordings, because it features a band of musicians led by tenor saxophonist Bill Fort that often worked with Rufus Thomas, and because it adds another chapter to the 'Answer' song saga in Memphis.

Moohah's comical song ''All Shook Out'' seems to have been the 'Answer' to Faye Adams' number one rhythm and blues hit ''Shake A Hand'' on Herald. Adams' disc had entered the charts that August and stayed for five months. In their response, Moohah and Mattis had clearly taken the blueprint from ''Bear Cat'', perhaps hoping that Starmaker could be launched into serious competition with Sun. The song may also have had secondary reference to the glad-handing that went on during the annual WDIA Goodwill Revue.

''All Shook Out'' and its other side, ''Candy'', were both driving rhythm and blues honkers in the tradition of Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown and other blues shouters. ''All Shook Out'' opens deceptively slowly but soon stomps along in support of Moohah's nonsense lyric about the perils of hand shaking. There is a storming sax solo midway by Bill Fort and his tight band propels the whole performance with piano and drums to the fore. Actually the song was not Moohah's but was written by David James Mattis, as was the flipside. On the record, ''Candy'' is about the girl who sweet-talks Moohah out of his mind. but David James said he originally wrote the song about his dog.

Moohah's recordings were issued on Starmaker 501 among the new rhythm and blues releases at the end of November, just in time for the Goodwill Revue. There was also a Starmaker 502 which contained two blues ballads by Memphis band singer Dick Cole recording under the name Danny Day. ''You Scare Me'' and ''Wishing'', issued at the same time. There was also one gospel release by Bessie Griffin, '' Too Close To Heaven'', Starmaker 101, but these three seem to be all that the label issued. David James told researcher George Moonoogian that the label failed because a WDIA secretary was too zealous in chasing up debts and threatened all his distributor contacts with legal action. Mattis was not the only one to try to get into the rhythm and blues record business in Memphis in the middle 1950s. B.B. King had the Blues Boy Kingdom label and there was another short-lived label called Tan Town Records that issued recordings by the popular Spirit of Memphis Quartet and others.

Rufus Thomas spent 1954 and most of the next two years entrenched in his radio work and personal appearances and he did not record again until the end of 1956. He retained some kind of a national profile, being featured in the trade press occasionally. He was mentioned as part of the publicity for the 1954 and 1955 Goodwill Revues but he had no record to promote at a Revue until 1956 when he joined Meteor Records, owned by Lester Bihari and situated in a black neighbourhood of Memphis.

Little is known about the short-lived Meteor episode and only two titles have survived from the session or sessions Rufus made at their rudimentary studio on Chelsea Avenue. Nevertheless Meteor 5039, which coupled ''The Easy Livin' Plan'' and ''I'm Steady Holding On'' is a mighty record. As far as people can remember the band was basically the musicians who played with Rufus regularly around Memphis, billed usually as the Bearcats. They included tenor saxophonists Evelyn Young, who had been on the Star Talent disc, and Harvey Simmons, along with a rhythm section of Lewis Steinberg on bass and Jeff Greyer on drums. The band sets up a storming shuffle as Rufus delivers a clever lyric about how to live life on the ''The Easy Livin' Plan''. The almost chanted list of the teachers, preachers, and the gambling men, the chauffeurs, stenographer girls, and Alabama bound sisters in the corner, all living life to the full, is an unforgettable moment in rhythm and blues lyricism. In contrast the slower paced ''I'm Steady Holding On'' is at once both a boastful and plaintive blues. Rufus told Peter Guralnick. ''I wrote one of the first songs that Bobby Bland ever sung: 'I got a new kind of loving that other men cant catch on/While they losing out I'm steady holding on'. It was a good tune. Bobby sang it on the Amateur Show and won first prize''.

Jim Stewart was a bank teller and part-time country fiddle player when he set up Satellite Records in Memphis in 1958 with his sister, Estelle Axton. They started with country music and then had an rhythm and blues group record by the Vel Tones that Rufus played on WDIA in 1959. Then on day in the spring of 1960, Rufus turned up at Stewart's new studio on McLemore Avenue pitching a song written by his daughter, Carla. ''Cause I Love You'' was recorded as a duet by Rufus and Carla and it became a small hit on Satellite 102 that summer. Carla's song ''Gee Whiz'' became a top ten rhythm and blues and popular hit the following year, by when the label had become Stax Records.
In January 1963 Stax released Rufus Thomas singing ''The Dog'', a dance tune he'd worked up after watching a girl dancing at a show in Millington. Tennessee. The song made number 22 in the rhythm and blues charts and was followed the next year by ''Walking The Dog'', a number five rhythm and blues hit that also made the popular top ten in November 1963. It had taken ten years, but the entertaining man with the animal songs was back - and bigger than ever.

Rufus had other hits at Stax, but often said he didn't really fit into their operation. ''I wasn't happy with the material they kept coming up with. They are great guys but they can't write or produce the song I need.

The MGs are incredibly talented musicians but they have their style and they tended to imprint it loo heavily on my recordings''. Nevertheless, in 1970 he had another number five rhythm and blues hit with another improvised dance tune, this time made up at a club in Covington, Tennessee, titled ''Do The Funky Chicken''. Then at the start of 1971 Rufus registered his first number one rhythm and blues hit with ''Do The Push And Pull''. It was followed with the almost as successful number two hit ''The Breakdown''. He continued to register smaller hits well into the 1970s, twenty-five years after he had started his recording career, and to make well-received CD albums for many years after that.

On the back of his1960s hits, Rufus started to take his entertaining show out of Memphis, including to Europe. In December 1964 he was playing the Flamingo Club in London and the Kilburn State Ballroom , safe in the knowledge that he had a radio job to go back to. He credits WDIAs program director, David James Mattis, for this: ''He let me go out on Saturdays and Friday nights and make air told me to go, and when I came back I would always have my job there waiting for me. I could go on tour, and when I came back I knew everything was all right. Without David James just probably I would never have gotten where I got''.

Rufus played increasingly to white and mixed audiences and, despite his deep roots in Beale Street and his sceticism about the way black artists were disadvantaged. he genuinely was happy to tell Peter Guralnick: ''College audiences are the greatest audiences in the world. I must have played every fraternity house there was in the South. When we played Ole Miss they'd send the girls home at midnight, and then we'd tell nasty jokes and all that stuff. Oh man, we used to have some good times down there in Oxford''. He told Neil Slaven in 1996, ''When I'm onstage and I look out there at that audience, I don't see colour. I see people packet in a place, there to see me. There is not a greater satisfaction in the world''. However, he added, ''There is no telling how far I could have gone, had I been a white boy. I've always said that. I'm not bitter, I want you to know, but it does bother you''.

Rufus appeared in various movies, from ''Wattstax'' in 1973 to ''Great Balls Of Fire'' in 1989 and ''Only The Strong Survive'', a D. A. Pennebaker film about rhythm and blues musicians. Pennebaker said: ''You knew he was an old person, but he acted like a 16 year old. He was always full of funny takes on things and he always gave the impression he was a goofball. But when he talked about the music, you realized he knew a lot''.

''His pipes remain as convincing as the rusty hinges on an old barn door, said a reviewer when Rufus appeared in London in 1986, and those pipes continued to make make records. After Stax, Rufus was with u number of labels including Alligator in the 1980s and High Stacks in the 1990s.

At age 81, in 1998, Rufus had triple bypass heart surgery and was fitted with a pacemaker. His publicist at High Stacks Records said: ''When he went back in for tests before Christmas, he was so full of energy that hospitalizing him was like putting a rabbit in a box. The other patients have the benefit of his great smile and his constant jokes."

Rufus continued to contribute to life and music in Memphis for another three years, enjoying his loves of baseball, ice cream, and black music, and embodying the philosophies he had dispensed to interviewers over the years. He had told Neil Slaven, "You stop when you get old - and who's old? I've been to the school of hard knocks for all these years and that's where it comes from - Sidewalk University''. He told Louis Cantor, ''I've always worked several jobs to try to make ends meet. And every time I think I've got my ends to meet, somebody comes up and moves the ends''. Talking of his music, he told Roger St. Pierr: "My stuff has got to be simple, direct. I figure that if you can whistle, dance, sing, , hum, pop your fingers, it's just got to be a bigger hit.'

Thinking about his life as a black entertainer whose career developed beyond what he might have imagined , but at the same time feeling constricted by his colour, Rufus conceded. "I've gained quite a bit of popularity, and when I die people are going to know about me. This is fine. But they could know about me a little better. I know I make good music. Good music that everybody likes."

Around Thanksgiving time in 2001, Rufus Thomas was hospitalized again and he died on 15 December in St Francis Hospital in Memphis, aged 84. National newspapers marked the passing of the self-dubbed "World's Oldest Teenager," and the 'New York Times' called Rufus ''the jovial patriarch of Memphis soul", Towards the end of his life, Rufus had become the official ''Ambassador To Beale Street''. Stax biographies talked about his flawless timing and innate skill in connecting to all people, his dedication to the craft of entertaining, his ability to put people at ease, and how he helped others. Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist spoke about Rufus as an ambassador of unity: "He taught us not to see the world in black or white but in shades of blues''. Memphis renamed Hernando Street as Rufus Thomas Boulevard, and he had his own car parking space near the site of the old Palace Theater. City mayor Willie Herenton described how he got the space: ''I had lunch with Rufus at a local cafe. And you know he had an ego, and he came to me and said, you the mayor; well I need a parking space'. So we got him his space''.

Rufus no doubt enjoyed the mischief of making the mayor jump through hoops. ''You gotta have fun in life'', he once said. "Music to me is fun. You see me and you'll see how much fun I have with it. More, I'll bet, than anybody else''.


© 2009 Bear family Records (CD) 500/200rom BCD 16937 mono digital

Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right.

This CD is all about Emerson's own recording career. More specifically, his 1950s recordings, made at a time when he had something seriously good and individualistic to contribute to the blues and the development of rhythm and blues. Here collected all his recordings for Sun, Vee-Jay and Chess Records - and added his 1960 recordings for the MAD label. Also included in the box, 43-page booklet biography with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed Session File information by Martin Hawkins.

Record producer Sam Phillips told me, ''Billy Emerson wrote such great songs. He was one of the very best''. Through his recording career, Billy Emerson was never short of a good song title. People who've never heard of Billy Emerson have probably heard his best songs. One of them, ''Red Hot'', has been a big hit several times over: in the 1970s for new-wave rockabilly Robert Gordon, in the 1960s for Sam The Sham, and in the 1950s it served well for Billy Riley, Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Luman. Emerson also wrote ''When It Rains it Pours'', best known through Elvis Presley's version. His songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Little Miss Cornshucks, Willie Mabon, and Ann-Margret.

Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
Victor Pearlin
Tape Research
Martin Hawkins, James Stewart
Christian Zwarg
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Juke Blues Magazine,
Victor Pearlin, Billy Vera
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Jim O'Neal 

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - If Lovin' Is Believing (1954) 2:13 > Sun 195-B <
2 - No Tessing Around (1954) 3:01 > Sun 195-A <
3 - Hey Little Girl (1976) 2:22
4 - When My Baby Quit Me (1992) 2:44
5 - The Woodchuck (1954) 3:07 > Sun 203-B <
6 - I'm Not Going Home (1954) 3:12 > Sun 203-A <
7 - Move Baby Move (1954) 2:47 > Sun 214-A <
8 - When It Rains It Pours (1954) 3:10 > Sun 214-B <
9 - Shim Sham Shimmy (1978) 2:22
10 - Red Hot (19550 2:26 > Sun 219-A <
11 - No Greater Love (1955) 2:53 > Sun 219-B <
12 - Satisfied (2009) 2:18
13 - Cherry Pie (2009) 2:58
14 - Little Fine Healthy Thing (1955) 2:35 > Sun 233-A <
15 - Something For Nothing (1955) 2:49 > Sun 233-B <
16 - Don't Start Me To Lyin' (1956) 2:43
17 - If You Won't Stay Home (1956) 1:37
18 - Every Woman I Know (Crazy 'Bout Automobiles) (1956) 2:41
19 - Tomorrow Never Comes (1956) 2:44
20 - Somebody Show Me (1957) 2:42
21 - The Pleasure Is All Mine (1957) 2:41
22 - Do The Chicken (1982) 2:44
23 - Don't Be Careless (1982) 2:37
24 - Do Yourself A Favor (1957) 2:31
25 - You Never Miss Your Water (1957) 2:20
26 - Give Me A Little Love (1958) 2:47
27 - Woodchuck (1958) 2:41
28 - Believe Me (1959) 2:18
29 - Holy Mackerel Baby (1959) 2:16
30 - I'll Get You Too (1959) 2:19
31 - Um Hum My Baby (1959) 2:40
32 - When It Rains It Pours (1960) 2:19
33 - I Never Get Enough (1960) 2:32
Tracks 1-15 Original Sun Recordings
Tracks 16-25 Original Vee Jay Recordings
Tracks 26-31 Original Chess Recordings
Tracks 32-33 Original Mad Recordings
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 
Billy Emerson's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
BILLY ''THE KID'' EMERSON - 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: '' 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.
© 2009 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16936 mono digital
Compact disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear.  The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label.  On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. Sun and Jude recordings during the period 1958 to 1962. It includes all his original single and LP releases, included ten unissued ones. Also included in the box, 54-page booklet biography with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Martin Hawkins. Tracks 7-14 & 30-34 original Judd recordings.
Ray Smith arrived at Sun Records in Memphis in 1958 with a lot of talent and a lot of hope. He was on the label in the critical years just behind the first wave of artists who defined the rockabilly sound. The label needed someone to take it on another notch when Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis's career hit the press barrier. Ray Smith had the voice and the desire to have been that man. His songs underlined it: ''So Young'', ''Willing And Ready'', ''Rockin' Badit'', and ''You made A Hit''.
But he didn't make a hit, to everyone's frustration - that of his manager Charlie Terrell, that of Sam and Jud Phillips of Sun, and not least his own. Instead, Ray Smith made his mark on popular music history with his big hit, ''Rockin' Little Angel'' on Jud Phillips' Judd Records.
After his brief period as a successful rock and roller, ray Smith made a good living at times on the night club circuit, the country circuit and later the revival circuit. He was a good singer but never managed to create the almost formula of the Sun and Judd years.
Sam C. Phillips (Sun), Jud Phillips (Judd), Charlie Terrell,
Bill Justis, Jack Clement
Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Tape Research
Martin Hawkins
Tape Comparison
Martin Hawkins
Christian Zwarg
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
Dave Booth, Johnny Carter, Colin Escott, Bernward Hink,
Diethold Leu, Jud Phillips Jr.
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Bill Millar, Kittra Moore, Jud Phillips Jr.,
Charlie Terrell, Horst Zimmerman

 For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <


1 - So Young (1958) 2:25 > Sun 298-A <
2 - Right Behind You Baby (1958) 2:25 > Sun 298-B <
3 - Why Why Why (1958) 2:20 > Sun 308-A <
4 - You Made A Hit (1958) 2:21 > Sun 308-B <
5 - Rockin'Bandit (1959) 2:21 > Sun 319-B <
6 - Sail Away (1959) 2:27 > Sun 319-A <
7 - That's All Right (1959) 1:58
8 - Rockin' Little Angel (1959) 2:13
9 - Put Your Arms Around Me Honey (1960) 2:15
10 - Maria Elena (1960) 2:47
11 - One Wonderful Love (1960) 2:15
12 - It Makes Me Feel Good (1960) 2:21
13 - Blonde Hair, Blue EyesYou Don't Want Me (1960) 2:08
14 - You Don't Want Me (1960) 2:31
15 - Travlin' Salesman (1961) 3:05 > Sun 372-A <
16 - I Won't Miss You (Till You Go) (1961) 2:06 > Sun 372-B <
17 - Candy Doll (1961) 2:27 > Sun 375-A <
18 - Hey Boss Man (1961) 1:59 > Sun 375-B < 
19 - I Want To Be Free (2009) 2:02
20 - Forever Yours (1984) 3:03
21 - Little Girl (2009) 2:31
22 - Two Pennies And A String (2009) 2:37
23 - Break Up (2009( 1:52
24 - Shake Around (2009) 2:35
25 - Willing And Ready (2009)2:07
26 - Life Is The Flower (2009) 2:00
27 - Breakup (2009) 1:50
28 - I'll Try (2009) 2:32
29 - Sail Away (2009) 2:33
30 - Rebound (1960) 1:41
31 - Baby Just Because (1960) 2:28
32 - Little Miss Blue (1960) 2:14
33 - Speak Low (1960) 2:10
34 - I'll Be Coming Home (1960) 2:44
Original Sun Recordings
4-14 & 30-34 Original Judd Recordings
© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 
Ray Smith's Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
RAY SMITH - Many artists failed to get on Sun Records, some were lucky enough to get a recording session and a release, however not many had the opportunity of having two stabs at the cherry.

One such was Ray Smith who came to Sun early in 1958 recorded a dozen sides or so went on the Judd label and had a national hit with "Rockin' Little Angel" and subsequently returned to Sun in 1961 to record a further couple of singles.

Born to seventh child of a seventh son, Raymond Eugene Smith was destined to be one of the wild men of rock and roll. He was born in Melber, a suburb of Paducah, Kentucky on October 30, 1934, and by the age of 6 was standing up in front of his class to sing "You Are My Sunshine".

After a series of jobs, Ray enlisted in the US Air Force in 1952 and was stationed for 19 months in Metz, France. He served a four year stint from 1956 to 1960 did a further four years reserve duty. It was a period of his life that he looked back on fondly, for the Air Force was instrumental in developing his singing career. On the direct orders of a sergeant he performed at a base concert, and won the talent contest which encouraged him to pursue this singing business further. Whilst stationed at the forces with Lee Standerford and Slim Whitman's brother Armand who played steel.

Upon his discharge from active service in June 1956, Ray Smith returned home and formed the Rock And Roll Boys, (The band consisted of the following members, Henry Stevens, Raymond Jones, Dean Perkins, and James Webb), having been converted from country music to rock and roll through hearing Elvis Presley in France. Raymond Jones on lead guitar and James Wedd on bass, both hailed from Bardwell, Kentucky, whilst steel player Dean Perkins was from Mayfield, Kentucky. From slightly further afield came drummer Henry Stevens, namely Metropolis, Illinois. It was in that self same town that the boys made their radio debut on WMOK. Further radio engagements followed in Benton, Paducah, Mayfield, Louisville all in Kentucky and eventually Newport, Arkansas. The Ray Smith also took television under the sponsorship of Beardsley Chevrolet on WPSD Channel 6 out of Paducah, and all told the weekly show ran for two-and-a- half years, Charlie Terrell who had previously managed

Onie Wheeler, saw Ray's show and offered his services as manager, an offer that was initially turned down by Ray Smith, but eventually Terrell's persistence paid off and he took on the management role in Ray's career. Within three days of so doing he had a recording contract arranged for Ray Smith with Sun Records.

After three singles for Sun without a hit, Ray switched allegiances to Sam's brother Judd who took him to Nashville and backed by the likes of Hank Garland he recorded a Jimmie Rogers song entitled "Rockin' Little Baby" changing the 'baby' to 'angel'. Not much happened at first but after some dive months it fairly flew up the national charts opening up new and exciting doors all over the place; American Bandstand, Dick Clark Caravan, headline tours nationwide, the fullfilment of Ray's wildest dreams. However, fame is a fickle mistress, and her favours are only bestowed on those who can continue producing the hits. In Ray's case the well ran dry fairly quickly with "Put Your Arms Around Me Honey" giving him his second top 100 hit ( a modest number 91) and also the last.

For a while he was able to bask in the glory of being a national star. He toured in his own customised coach complete with 'running maids and hot water', rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jack Scott, Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Robin Luke and Bobby Day.

He returned to Sun in 1961, recording four sides in Nashville which were not enhanced by having a female chorus overdubbed on them, but they were much better than some of the material that was appearing on the label by this time. Thereafter Ray label-hopped extensively recording on infinity, Vee-Jay, Warner Bros, BC, Tollie, Celebrity Circle and Diamond. Sadly the hits failed to materialise, a crushing blow to a man who sought and lusted for fame as avidly as Ray Smith.

Around 1966 disillusioned by his failure to maintain star status and tired of all the extensive touring, he headed north to Detroit, turned left and settled in Burlington, Ontario. He continued performing in Canada until 1972 when he returned to Nashville to cut some country material for the Cinamon label and scored in the country charts with "A Tilted Cup Of Love". The resurgence of interest in the Sun label and rockabilly in general in the mid to late 1970s resulted in Ray Smiths coming over to perform in England and Europe, and in some small way reliving the star status that once had been his. That this was only a microcosmic reflection of what once had been may possibly have contributed to his untimely demise, for on November 29, 1979, in circumstances that retain an element of mystery, Ray Smith shot himself at his home.


© 2010 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16935 (1-5) mono digital

2 Compact Disc. An Bear Family Special Products. Black disc. Yellow label. Have circle of musical notes and staff around the entire label, with excepted of the bar wherein "Memphis, Tennessee" appear. The letters SUN with sun rays pressed in light brown at the top of the label. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. Disc 1 all original Sun recordings, unissued takes during the period 1955 to 1957. On disc 2 it includes his later Olympic and Detroit recordings, included unissued ones. Also included in the boxset, 47-page booklet biography with liner notes by Craig Bones Maki. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Colin Escott, Stefan Kohne and Craig Bones Maki.

Among the tall trees, shopping malls, gas stations and party stores of suburban Detroit lives Jack Earls, in a modest 20th century ranch house. Thirty years ago he expanded it himself, and built a small recording studio in the basement. Now retired from Chrysler, Earls takes a walk every day, spend time with his family, repairs old vehicles and lawn mowers to resell, and writes rock and roll songs. With the tenacity of Sleepy Eyed John's little bulldog, Earls has never loosened his hold of that rag, that vision of the great reward we all seek.

Sam C. Phillips (Sun), and others
Re-Issued Producer
Stefan Kohne
Tape Research
Stefan Kohne
Tape Comparison
Stefan Kohne
Christian Zwarg
Craig Bones Maki
Colin Escott, Stefan Kohne

Photos and Illustrations
Jack Earls, Colin Escott, Craig Bones Maki
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Jack Earls and family, Lisa Earls Lucka, Warrem Gregory,
Jeff Howell, Craig Bones Maki, Gary Thompson,
Marv Weyer, Cap Wortman

For music (Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

Disc 1 Contains
1 - Hey Jim (2010) 2:20 (1/2)
2 - Let's Bop (3) (2010) 1:58
3 - Take Me To That Place (2) (1990) 2:28
4 - They Can't Keep Me From You (1) (1990) 2:37
5 - Slow Down (1956) 2:17 > Sun 240-A <
6 - A Fool For Loving You (1956) 2:42 > Sun 240-B <
7 - Sign On The Dotted Line (2) (1985) 2:11
8 - Hey Jim (1/1 (1985) 2:14
9 - Crawdad Hole (2/1) (1976) 2:20
10 - Crawdad Hole (2/2) (19750 2:45
11 - When I Dream (1) (1979) 2:16
12 - My Gal Mary Ann (1985) 2:22
13 - If You Don't Mind (1984) 3:05
14 - Let's Bop (2) (2010) 2:04
15 - Hey Jim (2/1) (2010) 2:53
16 - They Can't Keep Me From You (2/2) (2010) 3:00
17 - Crawdad Hole (1) (1985) 1:58
18 - Take Me To That Place (1) (1985) 2:18
19 - When I Dream (2) (1996) 2:20
20 - Let's Bop (1) (1974) 1:55
21 - Sign On The Dotted Line (1) (1974) 2:11
22 - Hey Slim (1974) 2:51
23 - A Fool For Loving You (Alternate Take) (1987) 2:40
24 - Crawdad Hole (2/3) (1982) 2:20
25 - Take Me To That Place (3) (2010) 2:23 
26 - They Can't Keep Me From You (2/1) (1985) 3:02
27 - Hey Jim (2/2) (2010) 2:44
28 - Let's Bop (4) (Incomplete Take) (2010) 1:22
Original Sun Recordings

Disc 2 Contains
1 - Flip, Flop And Fly (1976) 2:03
2 - Crawdad Hole (Alternate Take) (1996) 2:20
3 - Mississippi Man (1973) 2:23
4 - Call Me Shorty (1996) 2:33
5 - Take Me To That Place (1973) 2:28
6 - She Sure Can Rock Me (1975) 2:10
7 - Roll Over Beethoven (1978) 2:52
8 - Comin' Back Home (1996) 2:46
9 - Crawdad Hole (1975) 2:15
10 - Be Bop A Lula (1999) 2:42
11 - Rock Bop (1999) 2:10
12 - Memories (2010) 22:5
13 - I Started Rockin' A Long Time Ago (Unedited Complete Session) (2010) 3:00
Licenced from Stompertime Records

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Jack Earls' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 

JACK EARLS - 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 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.

© 2011 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17149 mono digital

Compact disc. A Bear Family products. Yellow label. Hart's Bread logo pressed on disc. On the back cover Bear Family logo left at bottom. Catalog number in bottom right. Contains all the known recordings of Billy ''Red'' Love, 26 high glass boogie, blues, and rhythm and blues sides recorded between 1951 and 1954 by Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Services, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. Here are all four Billy Love sides issued by Chess Records in 1952 including the extreme rarity Chess 1516, never before reissued. Also includes the rare promotional recording for the Hart's bakery in Memphis, and in all there are ten tracks not originally issued in the 1950s and ten more tracks issued here for the first time. Also included in the box, 50-page booklet biography with liner notes by Martin Hawkins. The booklet also features rare and previously unpublished photos and a detailed session file information by Martin Hawkins.

Sam C. Phillips
Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Tape Research
Martin Hawkins
Tape Comparison
Martin Hawkins
Christian Zwarg
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
R.A. Andreas, Jim Cole, Victor Perlin, Martin Hawkins,
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto)
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration
Thanks for Information and Inspiration
Dave Sax, Lillie Sanders-Jubirt, Ann Jubirt, David Evens,Calvin Newborn,
Jim Cole, Chris Bentley, Al Turner, Cilla Huggins, Victor Pearlin,
Jim O'Neal, John Broven, Bill Millar, Bob Eagle, Steve LaVere,
Hank Davis, Colin Escott, Peter Guralnick, Dave Clarke,
Sandy Fledderjohann at Special Collections of
Pike's Peak Library District, Colorado and
D Wayne Dowdy at the Memphis
Public Library 

For music (Chess standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Gee I Wish (Take 6) (2011) 2:18
2 - Juiced (1951) 2:30 > Chess 1472-A <
3 - You're Gonna Cry (1952) 2:27 > Chess 1508-B <
4 - Drop Top (1952) 2:40 > Chess 1508-A <
5 - There's No Use (1977) 2:59
6 - A Dream (1977) 3:23
7 - My Teddy Bear Baby (1952) 3:00 > Chess 1516-A <
8 - Poor Man (1952) 3:18 > Chess 1516-B <
9 - Gee I Wish (Take 2) (1992) 2:52
10 - You Could Have Loved Me (1992) 2:22
11 - Early In The Morning (Take 2) (2011) 3:01
12 - The News Is All Around Town (2011) 2:37
13 - If You Want To Make Me Happy (Take 2) (2011)2:27
14 - Hey Now (Take 1) (2011) 2:46
15 - Way After Midnight (Take 1) (2011) 2:53
16 - Gee I Wish (Take 3) (1977) 2:15
17 - Blues Leave Me Alone (Take 2) (2011) 3:28
18 - Hart's Bread Boogie (Take 2) (1992) 2:41
19 - Early In The Morning (Take 3) (2010) 2:55 
20 - Hey Now (Take 2) (1992) 2:44
21 - Way After Midnight (Take 3) (1984) 2:48
22 - The News Is All Around Town (Take 1) (2011) 2:10
23 - If You Want To Make Me Happy (Take 1) (1977) 2:22
24 - Blues Leave Me Alone (Take 1) (1977) 3:29
25 - Hart's Bread Boogie (Take 3) (Harts H B-66) (1954) 2:39
26 - Gee I Wish (Take 7) (2011) 2:14
Original Sun Recordings except 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 25

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

Billy Love's Chess/Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

BILLY ''RED'' LOVE - Billy Love was a serious talent, as a solo artist, a session pianist, and sometime leader of Rosco Gordon's road band. But he spent his life in and out of the armed forces, in and out of employment, in and out of jazz clubs, and in and out of the attention of law enforcement officers.

Billy Love led a full, short frustrating and strange life. Sam Phillips remembered him as ''a super-good musician'', but one who didn't focus on his musical gifts.

Milton Morse Love (aka Billy ''Red'' Love) was born on December 8, 1929 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Morse Love, senior and Lizzie Elliott. They were living on Florida Street just south of downtown Memphis in the summer of 1944 when Milton was fourteen years old and about to start work at the St. Louis Warehouse in Memphis.

Love joined the Army in February 1946 when he was a year under age, but by the late 1940s Love was back in Memphis gaining a good reputation as a piano player and teacher. He met budding saxophonist Richard Sanders just in from Yazoo County, Mississippi and they formed a band. Lillie Sanders remembered living on Florida Street near Milton Love and Rosco Gordon: ''Around the year of 1948 through 1951 musicians including my older brother Baby Richard Sanders Jr., Johnny Ace, Billy ''Red'' Love, Earl Forrest, Little Milton, and Rosco Gordon used to rehearse almost every day at Rosco Gordon's family home across the street. While walking home from school daily, I had the opportunity to hear great sounds of blues singing and music... This fair-skinned, freckled-faced, slenderframed, handsome blues singer from across the street used to whistle and wink his eyes at me every time he'd see me. He was Billy ''Red'' Love. He seemed to be a nice, quiet and very mannerable person - but I never forgot the music he'd sing''. Years later, she encouraged her daughters, the Jubert Sisters, to record some of Love's songs.

By the end of the 1940s Love was a formidable singer , pianist, songwriter, arranger. Rosco Gordon told John Floyd, ''Love and I we lived about two blocks apart... my mother got rid of the piano (from our house) so I would go to Billy Love's house periodically, two or three times a week, and I would learn from him. He had so much talent. If you couldn't learn from him you couldn't learn from anybody. He would show you note for note how to make the chord''.

Much of the music scene in those days was across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas where there were a number of clubs and other drinking and gambling houses centered an 7th and 8th Streets and all of them helped support a number of blues musicians. Many of the players who recorded for Sam Phillips worked at Jack Brown's club while Joe Hill Louis held sway at nearby Suggs cafe. The Be-Bop Hall was where the ''better'' musicians played, according to local musician Bo Pete, who gave as examples the likes of George Coleman and Billy ''Red'' Love.

In 1951 Sam Phillips was very busy in his part-time studio (the Memphis Recording Service), recording as much of the local blues and rhythm and blues talent as he could. He had not yet started his Sun label and leased most of his product to Chess and RPM/Modern. Billy Love did some session work for Phillips, backing Walter Horton, Rufus Thomas and Willie Nix, before he got the chance to cut his own record as a singer-pianist. This resulted in the storming drinking song "Juiced", probably cut on July 24, 1951. Phillips was under pressure from Chess to come up with a good follow-up for Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88" (a number 1 rhythm and blues record, produced by Phillips, his first big success), after "My Real Gone Rocket" had bombed. It was decided to issue "Juiced" under Jackie Brenston's name (Chess 1472). Brenston was a better sax player than a singer and hardly had time for recording, as he was in constant demand on the road. Love was a better singer, wrote his own songs and played a mean piano. "Juiced" was the finest record that Jackie Brenston never made - and that Billy Love was never credited with making. But it did not chart. Love's next session took place in October or November 1951 and yielded three songs, two of which, "Drop Top" and "You're Gonna Cry" were issued as a Chess single (1508), this time credited to "Billy 'Red' Love and his orchestra". "Drop Top" was in the same uninhibited style as "Juiced", an attempt to follow in the slipstream of "Rocket 88". There were four sessions in 1952, but only one single was released, "My Teddy Bear Baby"/"Poor Man" (Chess 1516, now very rare). These two singles seem to have received very little promotional support from Chess and sold poorly. Through 1952 (the year in which Sun Records was launched), Love continued to work as a session pianist at Phillips's studio, but Sam's files are completely silent on Billy Love for the whole of 1953.

On January 19, 1954 Love returned to the Sun studio with a new band and cut five titles. He must have had a real expectation of seeing his first Sun record out in the spring, and so must Sam Phillips, who scheduled "Hey Now" and "Way After Midnight" for release on Sun 205, registering their copyrights with BMI that May. Sam assigned Sun master numbers to the two titles (U 118 and U 119), but the record did not appear with the May batch of Sun discs. By July, the first record by Elvis Presley had been released on Sun 209 and Phillips was too busy promoting his hot new property to release Love's disc. It was the beginning of the end for most blues and rhythm and blues singers at Sun and particularly so for Love who had a reputation for unreliability. Phillips told Martin Hawkins: "Billy Love was a supergood musician but he didn't have the gut desire to succeed. Not that he didn't want to, but I didn't have time to waste and I think Billy's problem was lack of patience and devotion to what he was doing. He played well but there is a kind of dedication and belief in your music that extends beyond the doors of the studio. He did not have that."

One more session was recorded at the Sun studio, resulting in "Blues Leave Me Alone" and the promotional record "Hart's Bread Boogie" for the Hart's bakery in Memphis (released on Harts H B-66). Pat Hare played guitar on that session; Billy played piano on Hare's "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" (recorded May 14, 1954, originally unreleased).

Around this time Love had joined Rosco Gordon's band and he spent a good part of the 1954-1956 years travelling with Gordon, who re-signed with Sun in 1956 (that's Billy playing piano on "Shoobie Oobie"). In 1957 Love disappeared from Memphis and nobody knew where he had gone. It later turned out that he had relocated to Colorado Springs, playing at Duncan's Cotton Club. He was still living there when he got in trouble with the law in January 1974, accused of selling heroin and possessing an illegal weapon, but apparently this did not lead to a jail sentence.

Love's luck ran out the next year. Milton Morse (Billy ''Red'') Love passed away on Friday May 2, 1975 and was buried at the Memphis National Cemetery. "Drank himself to death", according to Rosco Gordon.


© June 14, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rom BCD 16939 mono digital

1 CD digipak, with 44-page booklet, 32 tracks. Playing time approx. 88 minutes. High quality sides by one of the iconic singers and musicians of Memphis blues and boogie, recorded when he was part of the small group scene, renowned for his prowess as a harmonica player and vocalist! Contains all the Chess and Sun singles and the unissued songs recorded by Sam Phillips in the early 1950s, including the famed ''Chicago Breakdown''! Also contains all the DIR, Fortune and Hi-Q singles made in Michigan, including the equally renowned ''Cat Squirrel''! The booklet contains rare photographs, and liner notes by Martin Hawkins!

Isaiah Ross was born in Mississippi, made his reputation as a bluesman in Memphis, then moved to Michigan emerging occasionally to perform as a one-man band. Ross was not the first to use the theme of the musical medic come to help you feel better, but Ross was one of the very best at creating highly rhythmic back country dance music and at recycling folk blues couplets mainly drawn from the recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson to which he added some of his own wry humour and wit. From the beginning with Sam Phillips in Memphis, his style on Chess and Sun had a freshness that sounded current and he made a surprisingly wide range of blues recordings on the Detroit labels DIR, Fortune, and Hi-Q. Sam Phillips once said: ''Doctor Ross had a very special sound. He had a great command of his music and a real instinct for what was going on around him. 'Chicago Breakdown' is one of the better records I think I ever heard in my life''.

Sam C. Phillips, Isaiah Ross, Jack Brown
Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
Christian Zwarg
Christian Zwarg
Liner Notes
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
Martin Hawkins, Steve LaVere, Victor Pearlin, Axel Kustner
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck, Victor Pearlin
Photo Restoration
Thanks for Information and Inspiration
Dave Booth, David J. Boyd, Hank Davis, Bob Eagle, Colin Escott,
David Evens, Steve Hester, Steve LaVere, Eric LeBlanc,
Jim Marshall, Bill Millar, Fred Reif, Dan Rose,
Dave Sax, and Al Tuner
Magazine Articles
Mike Leadbitter (Blues Unlimited), Norman Darwen (Juke Blues),
Barry Lee Pearson (Living Blues),
and Chris Baird (Flint Voice) 

For music (Chess/Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Doctor Ross Boogie (1952) 2:37 > Chess 1504-B < 
2 - Country Clown (1952) 2:29 > Chess 1504-A <
3 - Come Back Baby (1953) 2:48 > Sun 193-A <
4 - Chicago Breakdown (1953) 2:52  > Sun 193-B <
5 - The Boogie Disease (1954) 2:32 > Sun 212-A <
6 - Jukebox Boogie (1954) 2:29 > Sun 212-B <
7 - Cat Squirrel (Mississippi Blues) (1972) 2:20
8 - Shake A My Hand (1972) 2:23
9 - Little Soldier Boy (1972) 2:47
10 - Shake Em On Down (1972) 2:45
11 - Polly Put The Kettle On (1988) 2:58
12 - Down South Blues (1972) 2:56
13 - My Be Bop Gal (1972) 2:37
14 - Texas Hop (1977) 2:41
15 - Deep Down In The Ground (1985) 2:44
16 - Turkey Leg Woman (1972) 2:29
17 - 1953 Jump (1985) 1:33
18 - Doctor Ross Boogie (1972) 2:22
19 - Downtown Boogie (1972) 2:21
20 - Feel So Sad (1972) 2:23
21 - Going To The River (1972) 3:25
22 - Good Thing Blues (1972) 4:45
23 - Industrial Boogie (1958) 2:35
24 - Thirty-Two Twenty (1958) 2:42
25 - Cat Squirrel (1961) 2:19
26 - The Sunnyland (1961) 2:34
27 - Cannonball (1963) 2:54
28 - Numbers Blues (1963) 2:15
29 - Call The Doctor (1963) 3:20
30 - New York Breakdown (1963) 2:57
31 - I'd Rather Be A Young Woman's Baby (1970) 2:37
32 - Sugar Mama (1970) 3:09
Original Sun, Chess and Michigan Recordings

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.  

Doctor Ross' Chess/Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

DOCTOR ROSS - With a stage name of ''Doctor'', a theme song about curing the boogie disease, and over 30 years performing as a one-man man, it's no surprise that fans, publicists and commentations built Doctor Ross into an even more clear-cut groove than he developed for himself. But back in the early 1950s, the music Ross made for Sam Phillips was not performed as a one-man band and it had a freshness that sounded current even though it was based on much older songs and styles. Doctor Ross was not the the first to use the theme of the musical medic come to help you feel better - Doctor Clayton and others got there first - but Ross was one of the best.

Georgia Tom recorded some musical medic themes pre-War but Ross's take on it was the boogie - that if you wanted to hear the music, or wanted to dance, or wanted the other thing, then he was your man.

Born in Tunica, Tunica County, Mississippi, in October 21, 1925, gained his nickname in the US Army and is reference to some medical knowledge he obtained while in the service. He played for his service buddies in 1943 into 1947 in the Philippines at the Pacific Theater of Operations and frequently entertaining the troops, and in 1950 became fully professional, broadcasting over radios KFFA, WROX and finally WDIA in Memphis.

Charles Isaiah "Doctor" Ross played a guitar and a harmonica mounted on a rack around the neck while playing a bass drum and/or high hats with foot pedalsand, he played also the kazoo. Ross were at their best playing rhythmic riffs and boogie-woogie patterns, which gave a fuller sound.

Perhaps it was the surplus of country blues talent and the notorious competitiveness of the blues scene in Memphis that sustained this one-man band, for they could simulate the sound of a larger combo while being hired to perform for the price of a lone musician.

Doctor Ross grandparents were Indians, his father was Jake Ross, a farmer who played the harmonica. Ross is raised on a farm and is one of 11 children (six girls and five boys), was interested in music in the early years and learned the harmonica at the age of 6 years. ''My father's name was Jake Ross and my mother's named Lulu Ross'', he told Barry Lee Pearson. ''My father and them used to work over 107 acres of land. I used to be the water boy. I take water to the fields for them. My father was mostly a new ground man. He'd clean up the woods about hundreds of acres. And he was a harmonica player. ''Music was in both sides of the family. Some of them played violins and banjos. Lots of them plated fiddles, pianos and organs. My uncle, Jody Nixon, was a great guitar player. That was my uncle on my mother's side. My sister and them used to have one string upside the wall. Put a brick at the bottom end and maybe a bottle up at the top end and make some of the best music you ever heard. I guess when I was born I just had that in my blood. My sister got married to a World War One veteran and he bought me a couple of harmonicas. Then, a couple more years, I had another sister to get married and she bought me four harmonicas''. Being left-handed, he played the harmonica upside down (as he would the guitar), meaning in his words, ''I have my coarse keys to the right and my fine ones to the left''.

Occasionally he worked at the local churches and parties in Tunica, Mississippi area in 1934 and worked with George P. Jackson at the local roadhouses and juke joint in Tunica, Mississippi in 1936. ''He heard me playing one day and he decided, ''I'm gonna ask your father can you go out with me to play birthday parties''. Jackson was born in Alligator, Mississippi on May 16, 1920. He took up the guitar aged 17 and taught himself to play slide but it was his friend Wiley Galatin (whose name recently metamorphosed into Gatlin) who taught the teenage Jackson how to play conventional guitar. ''He never was a great guitar player'', Jackson told Hartmut Munnich. ''He just had something going that the people in the South liked''. Jackson and Ross became a team around 1939, with the occasional addition of Doc Tolbert, who provided percussion on a bucket, an arrangement that lasted until Jackson joined the Army in 1942.

In the late 1930s; he teamed with Willie Love to on tour with the Barber Parker Silver Kings Band and working on dances through the Mississippi Delta; worked with Wiley Galatin, or solo, at the local house parties in the Tunica area in 1942 into 1943. ''So G.P. played in natural and Wiley played in Spanish. I like both of them playing but I liked Wiley more because he would get the notes more plainer on the guitar. Wiley had plenty plays because he was big time around here''. They formed a band with guitarist John Dillon and washboard player Reuben Martin. Dillon was sent to Parchman Farm in 1950 for murder and there's speculation he was the John Dudley Alan Lomax recorded there in 1959. As work became more frequent, Ross had trouble with Galatin. ''Wiley, he'd mess around, ''Oh, I ain't gonna get drunk'', you laying about two o'clock in the morning. Wiley done fell drunk many times. I had to have somebody to pack him up. I had another young man that come in there so he'd play''.

On December 16, 1943 Ross entered the Army and, returning to Tunica in August 1947, Doctor Ross, in Tunica to work outside the music on a farm and appeared on WROX-radio in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1947, and frequently worked at the local dances, parties and picnics in the Tunica area through the end of the 1940s; appeared with his own Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys on Katz Cloting Shore Show on KFFA-radio in Helena, Arkansas in 1949; worked on Owl Cafe in Helena, Arkansas in 1949; working on Hole-In-The-Wall; the Isidore's Bar; the Roger's Club and appeared with Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) on the King Biscuit Time on KFFA-radio in Helena, Arkansas in 1950. He also appeared in 1950; with his own Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys on WDIA-radio in Memphis, Tennessee.

Sam Phillips heard this broadcast and invited him to the Memphis Recording Service studio. He recorded with the Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys for the Chess label in Memphis, Tennessee in 1951. Recorded for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee from 1951 into 1954. He was heavenly influenced by Joe Hill Louis and, like him, recorded a great deal for Sam Phillips. His two singles "Come Back Baby"/"Chicago Breakdown" (SUN 193) and "The Boogie Disease"/"Jukebox Boogie" (SUN 212) sold quite well.

Doctor Ross married in 1952 and after divorce in 1954 he married that same year again. Ross have 2 children, and is influenced by De Ford, Arthur Crudup, Lonnie Glossen, George Jackson, Muddy Waters and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson.

Ross toured with the King Biscuit Boys on workings in juke joins through the Arkansas and Missouri area in the early 1950s; appeared on KLCN-radio in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1953, and worked outside the music in Champaign, Illinois. In 1953-54, Ross appeared on the Doc Ross Show, on WDIA-radio in Memphis, Tennessee and formed the group Dr Ross and the Interns group for working on local club dates in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953 into 1954.

In 1954 into 1990s, he soon left Memphis and the music for the car plants of Flint and Detroit, Michigan often worked as one-man band in Flint, Michigan. Ross married Beatrice, Willie Love's second cousin. Then he fell out with his wife, who began a court case, ''I said, 'You took a woman out of the South, take her North and you know she can destroy you in no time. In three days she can destroy you, bring your pup tent down''.

Since rediscovery he has made many tours of Europe, playing as a one man band in Flint, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois from 1954 into 1970s; recorded on his own DIR label in Flint, Michigan in 1958; recorded for Fortune label in Detroit in 1959; recorded for Hi-Q label in Detroit in 1961 into 1963; recorded for the Testament label in Flint in 1965; worked at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois in 1965; toured with the American Folk Blues Festival on working concert dates through England and Europe in 1965 (portion of the Hamburg, West- Germany concert are released on the Fontana label); recorded for the Blue Horizon. Xtra labels in London, England in 1966; worked at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1970; at the Holiday Inn Bar in Saginaw, Michigan in 1971; at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto, Canada in 1971; recorded with The Disciples for the Foretune label in Detroit in 1971; toured in England and Europe on working concert dates, radio appearances and TV-show in 1972; recorded for the Big Bear-Munich label in London, England in 1972; recorded for the Esceha label in Koblenz, West Germany in 1972, and worked on the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland in 1972 (portion are released on the Big Bear-Polydor/Excello labels).

In 1973, Doctor Ross on the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor and toured with the American Blues Legends on working concert dates through England and Europe in 1974 (portions are released on Big Bear label); appeared on In Concert Show on Radio-4, London, England in 1974; worked BJ's Buffeteria in Bay City, Michigan in 1977, and toured in Europe working concert dates in 1977.

According to Ross, Sam Phillips told him if he could find a white man who could play and sing as good as a black man, he would make him a million dollars. Doctor Ross recalls, "The next time I went back, Elvis Presley had come through... so they took my promotion off of my record and they put it on him... I was probably one of the first ones. Me, Joe Hill Louis, and Willie Nix. There was a bunch of us there that was on that thing. But we were the ones who really started it". Doctor Ross was filmed at a concert on January 10, 1993 and subsequently a DVD, ''Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss'' was issued.

There can be little doubt that Doctor Ross is one of the most individual and expressive blues singers and player around today, Ross has the artistic ability and lifetime experience to create significant blues. Ross decided to retire after 37 years from General Motors Shop during the summer of 1993, but Charles Isaiah "Doc" Ross died at May 28, 1993 in Flint, Mississippi of the age of 68 before that day arrived.

Doctor Ross was survived by seven children from his three marriages (and three divorces) and 20 grandchildren. Ross' funeral was attended by 200 people, and family friend Robert Williams told the Flint Journal: ''He was a loner who rarely visited or called anyone. I used to take his dinner to him daily to make sure he was eating. He'd stay at home, he'd go to work and work all day. Then he'd come home and watch his black and white television set... watch the Tigers. He would practice music by himself - wouldn't let anyone in the house. He wasn't selfish, he'd help you with his heart. He was close to his family. He didn't care about money and never spent any on himself. He wouldn't buy a color television and drove a 1979 Buick''.

A few years after Ross' death one of his sons sold a pile of Ross' memorabilia at a flea market in Detroit, including Ross' contract with Sun Records that now resides in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.


© June 14, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17277 mono digital

1 CD digipak, with 48-page booklet, 33 tracks. Playing time approx. 87:27 minutes. High quality sides all the singles made by Bill Yates in Memphis at the turn of the 1960's and an astonishing collection of unknown and unissued sides! Includes the three renowned Sun singles by one of the very best, bluesy and soulful, white vocalists ever to appear on that label together with 12 unissued tracks! Plus the three very rare singles on IST and Pixie Records! In addition, there are seven unissued sides made for the Home Of The Blues label! In a 48- page booklet, Martin Hawkins brings together the untold story of Bill Yates and his music with rare photographs!

Bill Yates had a background in gospel music and was an exceptional vocalist and a good pianist. During his time in Memphis, he worked on the edge between the emerging rhythm and blues/soul sound of the city and the late night blues and ballads of the day. His story is told here for the first time. Apart from his three renowned Sun singles, this music is incredibly rare and a welcome addition to the picture of Memphis music at the turn of the 1960s.

Bill Yates worked a lot with the Billy Adams band, and there is a companion CD (BCD 17116) containing Billy Adams' part in the story. Note: There are other artists named Bill Yates in the rock & roll history books, principally a bluegrass player, but in Memphis music there was only one Bill Yates.

Sam C. Phillips, Knox Phillips
Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
Chris Zwarg
Christian Zwarg
Liner Notes
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
Jeff and Rusty Yates, Steve LaVere, Jim Cole,
Martin Hawkins, John Broven
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck, and others
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Jeff Yates, Rusty Yates, Katrina Priddy (Yates), Jesse Carter, Steve LaVere,
Kenneth Herman, Danny Ivy, Sanford Horton, Tom Lonardo,
Mack Allen Smith, Roland Janes, Stan Kesler, Ronald Smith,
Jim Cole, Chris Bentley, John Broven, Bill Millar,
Colin Escott, Phyllis Hill at Sun Entertainment Inc. 

For music (Chess/Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Mojo (1961) 2:30
2 - All I Need Is You (1961) 2:33
3 - Blues Like Midnight (1) (1962) 2:12
4 - Fool Around With Love (1) (1962) 2:27
5 - Don't Step On My Dog (1964) 2:15 > Sun 390-A < 
6 - Stop, Wait And Listen (1964) 2:45 > Sun390-B <
7 - Carleen (1) (1965) 2:47 > Sun 397-A < 
8 - Too Late To Right My Wrong (1965) 2:41 > Sun 397-B <
9 - Big Big World (1) (1966) 3:10 > Sun399-A <
10 - I Dropped My M&MS (1) (1966) 2:11 > Sun 399-B <
11 - Signs In The Sand (1969) 2:26
12 - Albuquerque (1969) 3:45
13 - Blues Like Midnight (2) (2013) 1:38
14 - (I'll Never) Fool Around With Love (2) (2013) 2:11
15 - I'm So Lonely Without You (2013) 2:11
16 - I Believe To My Soul (2013) 2:08
17 - World Of Make Believe (2013) 3:13
18 - Before I Lose My Mind (1) (2013) 3:00
19 - Boom Boom (2013) 2:06
20 - Every Night About This Time (2013) 3:52
21 - Before I Lose My Mind (2) (2013) 3:16
22 - High On The Hill (Instrumental) (2013) 1:39
23 - Recipe For Love (2013) 2:20
24 - Tiny Tears (2013) 2:17
25 - Share Your Love With Me (2013) 2:49
26 - Carleen (2) (2013) 2:54
27 - You Seem Like A Stranger To Me (2013) 2:44
28 - Two Can Play The Game (2013) 2:32
29 - I Dropped My M&MS ( 2) (2013) 2:19
30 - Big Big World (2) (2013) 3:10
31 - Popcorn Polly (2013) 2:53
32 - She's Still Got A Hold On Me (2) (2013) 2:39
33 - Bill's Jazz (Instrumental) (2013) 2:28
5-10 & 19-32 Original Sun Recordings

1-4 & 13-18 & 33 Home Of The Blues, IST and Pixie Recordings
licensed from Delta Haze Corporation

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

Bill Yates' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

BILL YATES - He was known as Bill Yates in Memphis and on almost of his records, but he was born Billy Vance Yates on December 21, 1936 in Columbus, Georgia. His father, Hubert Vance Yates, was born in Mississippi around 1912 and his mother, Kitty, sic years younger, came from Oklahoma. Hubert was a traveling evangelist who seems to have moved regularly between the area around Columbus, the north Carolinas, and northern Mississippi. At the time of the 1940 census the family was living on Desota Avenue in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Hubert was listed as H.B. Yates employed at the YMCA in an athletic capacity.

Billy Vance Yates was the oldest of three children born in Columbus (though, strangely, in a census arror he was recorded as Billy Vance Yates, female). His brother, Leonard Charles, was a couple of years younger and his sister, Carolyn, was a further year younger.

These three would be joined in September 1943 by their new young brother, Hubert Vance Yates Jr., known as Vance, born in Kannapolis. ''All three brothers and their sister were interested in music and they all had a natural ability to sing and play'', report Charles Yates' sons, Rusty and Jeff, who are Billy's nephews and musicians themselves. Rusty told Martin Hawkins: ''Their father was a roving evangelist, and the family all sang in church right from the beginning. That was their introduction to music. The family was always traveling, but they spent a lot of time in north Mississippi nor far from Memphis. They were living in Mississippi when they formed a kids' gospel group in church. Charles, Bill and Carolyn were three members, and at one point they drafted in the pre-teen Elvis Presley who went to the same church when Hubert was preaching near Tupelo. The boys all stayed in tough with Elvis in later years''.

Trough the 1950s, the Reverend Hubert Yates was based in Columbus, according to the annual City Directories, and it seems that Billy Vance Yates spent most of his teenage years there, honing his musical skills and planning a life as a touring musician. Rusty Yates said, ''In Georgia, Uncle Bill grew up as a natural piano player. But he could play great harmonica and he could play guitar too. How could just do it.

He started to play at various places there, and later Uncle Vance started to play with him too''. The events of those years are a little unclear but guitarist James Lucky Ward (who later played with Elvis Presley, Barbi Benton and Janis Joplin) remembered as a teenager, ''toiling in drifter bands behind now-obscure headliners like Hugh Lee Ott, Billy Vance Yates, briefly touted as the white Ray Charles, and Curley Money at Georgia clubs like the Chansaw.

Ward played with Money on an unissued Sun session that included ''Chainsaw Charlie''. Local news ads show that Billy Yates and Vance Yates played all along the Georgia coast and into Alabama ant it is likely that Billy made his recording debut as pianist with Jerry Lott who, as The Phantom, recorded the frantic rocker, ''Love Me'' in Mobile in 1958. The record came out on Dot Records and Lott later told Derek Glenister: ''I'm telling you, it was wild. The drummer lost one of his sticks, the guitar player's glasses were hanging sideways over his eyes, and the piano player screamed and knocked his stool over''.

By the time Bill Yates had already met and hung out with the big name piano pounder of the era, Jerry Lee Lewis, According to Rusty: ''Uncle Bill moved to Memphis sometime around the mid-1950s. Bill and Vance moved there together. He told me they flat broke and they slept in a car, or in fields by the roadside, just so they could save enough money to get somewhere to stay. They got to know Billy Adams and Uncle Bill and Billy Adams went out on tour with Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis and others from Memphis. They traveled around in a big old hearse at one tome, Bill told me Jerry Lee Lewis was very unreliable and sometimes he'd be the headliner but when the show started he would not be there, so Bill would go out and do the show for him, Bill could play piano just like Jerry Lee''.

In May 1959, Billy Yance Yates was married in Mobile, Alabama to Mary Giles. According to Rusty, ''Uncle Bill and Mary had sons, Dusty (Hubert), and Leslie, and daughters, Tanya and Denise, but in the end Bill didn't stay with Mary''. It seems that Bill was always off on the road somewhere, working in Memphis or elsewhere. By 1961 he had his eyes on Hollywood. The Columbus, Georgia Ledge-Enquirer of July 2, 1961 reported: ''Youths Join Presley Group For Hollywood: Two Columbus youths, Vance Yates Jr., and Bill Vance Yates, have joined the entourage of rock and roll singer Elvis Presley and will soon leave Memphis for Hollywood, where Presley is due to make another movie. Vance Yates Jr. was in Columbus yesterday for a few days before rejoining the band which accompanies Presley at his personal appearance and on recording dates. Young Yates plays the bass fiddle in the four-man band. His brother, Billy Vance, is a bodyguard for Presley''. Rusty Yates confirmed: ''Bill did spend time as Elvis's bodyguard. Bill was a big guy. Bill was always around Elvis and his friends. My father Charles was later in the Speer Quartet, who worked with Elvis, but the one who was closest to him though was Uncle Vance. When Elvis became famous and used to hire out whole movie theatres, then Bill and Vance would always be right there with him. In 1960, when I was about 6 months old, my dad was recording at RCA in Nashville with the Speer Quartet and Elvis came along to listen one day, because he loved that music. Elvis picked me up and said something like ''what a fine boy I was – and then I threw up on him. That's the story anyway''. While Billy and Vance were following the gospel and rhythm and blues or rock and roll, their brother Charles had become a member of the Prophets Quartet, originally from Knoxville, and the famous country gospel group, the Speer Family. Later, during the 1970s, Charles was in Elvis Presley's touring show and after that the Masters Five alongside gospel greats J.D. Sumner and Hovie Lister.

Despite his occasional trips away with the Presley entourage, Bill Yates' bread and butter work remained in Memphis. He had a regular gig at the 5 gables Club in the late 1950s where he formed a band known as the T-Birds. Then he hooked up again with drummer Billy Adams, who had just come of the road in 1961 to form a band. Adams band had the resident at Hernando's Hide-A-Way at 3210 Old Hernando Road in south Memphis, a nightclub of some note where the band gave exposure to many up-and-coming Memphis musicians. Rusty Yates remembered visiting his uncle Bill there: ''I know Bill played with Billy Adams a lot. As a boy, about 4 or 5 years old. I remember being taken to a club where Adams had his drums set up, probably the Hide-A-Way, and I sat on Adams' lap and he helped me to play the drums. I remember that we''.

Other regular members of the Adams band where bass player Jesse Carter, guitarist Lee Adkins, multiinstrumentalist Gene Parker, and saxophonist Russ Carlton. Jesse Carter remembered: ''I met Bill Yates at the 5 Gables Club when he was playing as a single on South Bellevue. When he later moved to the Hide-A-Away we played together there and then he joined with Adams, and then I did too. His brother Vance Yates would play with us sometimes. He was a great vocalist and bassist, a good man. Bill Yates was a real character, but he also had a great voice and was a good entertainer. He could always liven the crowd up when he came along. He was a great piano player. He came from somewhere around Macon, Georgia and his dad was a Holiness preacher. The family was all into gospel singing. I think that's where he got his presence from, his projection of a song. But he was a shady character – he was unreliable, he might just disappear for a white''.

So by 1961, Bill Yates had learned his trade and become part of a band whose musicians were wellrespected and becoming regulars at the recording studios around town. The next step for him was surely to get a recording contract for himself. The established label in Memphis was Sun, followed by the emerging operations at Hi, Stax,or Fernwood. Other smaller fly-by-night labels came and went but one that looked promising had just been operated by Ruben Cherry, and named Home Of The Blues after Cherry's local record store.

All through the time he was recording at Sun, Bill Yates worked with the Bill Adams group at Charles Foren's Hernando's Hide-A-Way club, and when Foren established the new Vapors Supper Club on Brooks Road in south Memphis in 1969 Yates ans Adams moved there. By that time, Adams had set up a booking agency, Memphis Artists Attractions, booking Yates and many others locally and across the Holiday Inn network. Memphis's Key TV Guide for April 1973 captured the local scene, carrying ads for the Admiral Benbow lounge – ''Billy Adams' Show and Danceband plays nightly except Sunday... Bill Yates pianist, plays at cocktail time Mon-Fr'' – and for the Downtowner Motor Inn. On Union Avenue – ''the Billy Yates Trio appears from 8 to 1 six nights a week''. That year Adams and Yates were competing with other entertainment, dinning and dancing options that included Linda Ann, vivacious blonde, playing at the Casino Lounge, Eddie Bond and his TV Stompers at the E B Ranch, Charlie Freeman at the Admiral Benbow Club Lounge, Jesse Lopez (brother of Trini Lopez) at the Rivermont Holiday Inn, and Larry Garrett and Lee Adkins at the Vapors''.

Eventually, Bill's absences from Memphis grew permanent. At some point, he and Vance Yates worked as the Yates Brothers on shows booked out of Nashville by the Wil-Helm Talent Agency formed by Don Helms and the Wilburn Brothers. It is not clear how long this lasted but it is likely the Yates boys wound up in Las Vegas. By the close of the 1970s Bill Yates had settled there. He lived at various addresses in Vegas through the 1980s, including Ramona Circle and Karen Avenue. His nephew, Rusty confirmed: ''Bill spent a lot of time playing music in the west, especially Las Vegas, from the late 1970s through the 1980s. He was an actor too, and he was an extra and stuntman in the movies. I remembered seeing him in his western gear, mainly westerns. But I remember one time when Batman was in big in the movies they hired Bill to make personal a ppearances at movie theatres as Batman. He'd go in there and leap around and play the part. That was back in the 1960s''.

When Bill Yates moved west, his sister Carolyn was also singing in lounges across the country including venues in Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Working as Carol Lee through the 1960s and 1970s, her publicity noted that she was from the backwoods of Georgia and her singing had ''journeyed from the church to the club to concerts'' but that she was ''an entertainer first of all'', singing from songbooks as diverse as Sinatra and Ray Charles. She also sang country, not least her own song ''I Won't Mention It Again'' that stayed at number 1 for thirteen weeks when recorded by Ray Price.

It was from Vegas that Bill Yates contacted his nephew Rusty, a budding musician, in 1979: ''I was nearly 20 years old and working for my dad, who wanted me to go into the service. But then Uncle Bill called from Las Vegas and invited me to come out and play music with him there. In January 1980, I arrived and I was expecting to play piano, which was my instrument. But he pointed me to the drum kit and I said I should get on the drums. He needed a drummer. So I did that for a year at the King 8 Casino and then after that I did it a couple years more. The King 8 had opened in 1974 on Tropicana Avenue off the southern end of Vegas' main strip. It was a decent enough venue, if not quite the standard of the International where Elvis Presley had held sway for many years. Bill played little of Presley's music but after Presley died in 1977 Bill recorded four songs: ''Elvis We Miss You'', ''Golden Guitar'', ''Poor But Proud'', and ''Number One Country Music Star''. The recordings were a mix of blues, gospel, and country influences with story lyrics and an intense, conversational vocal style.

They were of their time and perhaps typical of part of the Yates act of the day. Rusty Yates said: ''When we were in Vegas, Uncle Bill would play an amazing range of music on piano. He'd play like Liberace and then he'd play like Fats Domino and then he would play George Shearing or some ragtime. He could play it all. He would play his own songs too, sometimes, thing like the ''M&Ms'' song and ''Big Big World'' that was written by his friend Red West''. Al least two of Yates' later recordings were issued. A label called Memphis Country Sights And Sound issued ''Poor But Proud'' and ''Greatest Star Of All'', one an in-vogue nostalgic country song and the other an imaginative tribute to Hank Williams where Yates buys the car Hank took his last journey in. It would make sense that the Elvis tribute was also issued but a copy of that disc is still to be found.

The Las Vegas marriage records show that Billy Vance Yates was married twice in the city of the quick ceremony. On July 20, 1985 he married May Elizabeth Nolan and on April 14, 1989 he married Cathy Lynn West. Rusty Yates confirmed: ''Bill didn't stay with Mary when he went away to Vegas. He married there twice but they didn't last. He didn't talk to his first wife for years and didn't stay in touch with his children at that time''.

According to Rusty, ''Uncle Bill spent a lot of time out west. After he left Vegas, then he went to Pinedale, Wyoming in the early 1990s. At that time in life he became a ''mountain man'' going on trips into the wilderness and living that kind of life. He and William Golden from the Oak Ridge Boys would do that together sometimes. They's disappear off and live in the hills and made their own leather gear and that sort of things''. In July 2000, the Sublette County Journal carried a feature on an event called the Quick Draw, where local artists and sculptors created works on the spot, using local people and scenes as their inspiration. Their journalist wrote: ''As I stepped up to take a picture of one artist at work, I noticed that the lump of clay before her looked and awful lot like the mountain man who was watching her work. The artist introduced herself as Joyce Killebrew from Sedona, Arizona; then the mountain man spoke. Bill Yates is from Memphis, Tennessee, and had worked with Elvis for six years as a piano player. He then playfully scolded me for taking his picture when he didn't have his teeth in''.

The Quick Draw occurred at about the time Bill Yates' health started to nosedive. Rusty said, ''There came a time in Wyoming when Uncle Bill was in failing health. He had diabetes, and someone contacted my dad and said that he needed to be looked after and so his family brought him back to Louisiana. Then he got into contact with his first wife and children again in Mississippi. He had lost both legs and was very ill''. Bill moved to Forrest near Hattiesburg, Mississippi and his daughter Denise Nugend, said ''We were estranged for many years before his illness but I convinced him to move closer to his children. He passed away in 2007 after a long illness''. The Wayne County News reported, ''Graveside funeral service for Bill Yates, 70, of Hattiesburg, were held on Saturday, December 8, 2007, at the Isney (Ala) Cemetery. Born Dec. 21, 1936, Yates was a musician. He died on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg''.

To Rusty Yates, ''Uncle Bill was as good a musician as you'd ever hear. He always had places to play in Memphis and in Vegas. But he would just get a hankering yo go and do something else. Wherever he was, he'd just take off from there. Uncle Vance was exactly the same way''.

Of the singing Yates family, Charles Yates is the survivor and still an accomplished gospel singer. Vance Yates died in Corpus Christi, Texas in 2012, aged 68. His nephew said, ''He was in very bad health – the conduct of his earlier life caught up with him''. Their sister Carolyn died aged 44, in 1983. But there is a new generation of the musical Yates family. Charles's sons Rusty and Jeff run the Rusty Yates Band out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Rusty grew up singing in church where his grandfather preached. He plays keyboards and sings, like his uncle Bill, and has a repertoire that includes a nod to Ray Charles, like his uncle Vance.


© June 14, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17116 mono digital

1-CD digipak, with 48-page booklet, 31 tracks. Playing time approx. 80 minutes. containing all the fabulous rocking rhythm and blues music Billy Adams made for Sun Records, and all the little-known sides he made for Home Of The Blues and Pixie Records. Adams led one of Memphis' best working bands from the turn of the 1960s, captured here in its heyday by a number of local record labels! His band features prominent Memphis session players including Lee Adkins, Jesse Carter, and Russ Carlton. Here are all four of his Sun singles, three unissued alternative takes, and an astonishing 14 unissued songs recorded by Sam Phillips in the early 1960s, including the renowned versions of ''Betty And Dupree'' and ''Rock Me Baby''. Plus: three very rare singles on the Home Of The Blues and Pixie labels and two previously unissued songs. The booklet by Martin Hawkins brings together all that is known about Adams and his music from a myriad of sources, new and old. The booklet also contains rare photographs !

Billy Adams and his recording partner Bill Yates had as many or more singles issued on Sun Records as most of the major names associated with the label. The fact that they recorded in the early 1960s rather than the rockabilly 1950s has tended to overshadow the music they made. That, and the fact that they were white musicians spearheading Sun's sporadic attempts to capture the soulful developments in black music and the blues tradition that were coming out of Hi, Stax, and other labels in Memphis and beyond.

Billy Adams was a bandleader and organiser, a drummer of some note, and a very decent singer. Apart from his four Sun singles, this music is incredibly rare and a welcome addition to the picture of Memphis music at the turn of the 1960s. There is a companion CD (BCD 17277) containing Bill Yates' part in the story.

Note: There are other artists named Billy Adams in the rock and roll history books, principally the guitarist from Kentucky who recorded for Quincy and Nau-Voo, but in Memphis, there was only one real Billy Adams.

Sam C. Phillips, Knox Phillips, Ruben Cherry, Kenneth Herman
Re-Issued Producer
Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer
Chris Zwarg
Christian Zwarg
Liner Notes
Martin Hawkins
Martin Hawkins

Photos and Illustrations
Jim Cole, Martin Hawkins, Steve LaVere
Photo Scans
Andreas Merck, and others
Photo Restoration
Thanks to
Jesse Carter, Steve LaVere, Kenneth Herman, Roland Janes, Ronald Smith,
Tom Lonardo, Danny Ivy, Sanford Horton, Mack Allen Smith,
Jim Cole, John Broven, Colin Escott, Bill Millar, Terry Gordon,
and Phyllis Hill at Sun Entertainment Inc. 

For music (Chess/Sun standard singles) on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

1 - Had The Blues (Twist) (1961) 2;18
2 - Looking For My Baby (Mary Ann) (1961) 2:42
3 - Big M (Instrumental) (1962) 2:05
4 - My Happiness (1962) 2:16
5 - Betty And Dupree (1963) 2:39 > Sun 389-A <
6 - Got My Mojo Working (1963) 2:25 > Sun 389-B <
7 - Trouble In Mind (1964) 2:32 > Sun 391-A < 
8 - Looking For Mary Ann (1964) 2:34  > Sun 391-B <
9 - Reconsider Baby (1964) 2:51 > Sun 394-A <
10 - Ruby Jane (1964) 2:16 > Sun 394-B <
11 - Open The Door Richard (1966) 2:30 > Sun 401-A <
12 - Rock Me Baby (1966) 2:45 > Sun 401-B <
13 - Adam And Eve (In The Garden) (1969) 2:32
14 - Dudley (The Do Right King) (1969) 2:48
15 - Fee Bee (Instrumental) (2013) 2:29
16 - Memphis Twist (1) (2013) 2:04
17 - Send Me Some Lovin' (2013) 3:09 
18 - I'm Like Poison Ivy (2013) 2:13
19 - Raining In My Heart (2013) 2:12
20 - Love Me, Love Me, Cherry (2013) 2:34
21 - Just Look Over Your Shoulder (2013) 2:30
22 - Same Thing (2013) 2:32
23 - Just Plain Hurt (2013) 2:38
24 - 'Til Your Memory Goes Away (2013) 2:24
25 - Ruby Jane (2) (2013) 2:24
26 - Trouble In Mind (2) (2013) 2:37
27 - Reconsider Baby (2) (2013) 2:47
28 - Love Me, Love Me, Cherry (2) (2013) 2:34
29 - Big M (2) (Instrumental) (20130 2:45
30 - Memphis Twist (2) (2013) 2:02
31 - Billy's Jazz (Instrumental) (2013) 3:55
5-12 & 18-29 Original Sun Recordings

1-4 & 15-17 & 30-31 Home Of The Blues, and Pixie Recordings
licensed from Delta Haze Corporation

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

Billy Adams' Sun recordings can be heard on his playlist from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <

BILLY ADAMS - Billy Wayne Adams was born on June 9, 1937 near Corinth, Mississippi where his family   farmed and where Billy would probably have farmed too if an interest in music hadn't taken him away from   ploughing with mules and fishing in the lakes. His father was Robert Chester Adams (1909-1982) and his   mother Anna Leona Essary Adams (1909-1988).  Billy had taken an early interest in music but he was around 16 years old when he started to study music   seriously and to play the mandolin in little country groups. He later told Jane Sanderson from the Memphis   Press-scimitar that he picked up Music just by playing, adding:
''Oh, I had a few lessons from time to time,   but they didn't amount to much''.  Nevertheless, the amounted to enough for Billy's music to offend his father   who wanted help on the farm, and in 1953 Adams left home to settle in Memphis with relatives.
Memphis   guitarist Roland Smith said, ''I first knew Billy Adams when we were both at South High School and he lived   near me in the Whitehaven neighborhood. He was a tail... guy, real likable. He was a little older and he  played drums in the High School band''. Before long, Adams was out of school and worked for $37.50 in an   auto parts store. The 1956 City Directory lists him as a mechanic at Pure's Automotive at 383 Monroe   Avenue, and living at 1041 Philadelphia Street just north of Whitehaven. He had been playing with hillbilly   musicians whenever he could, featuring on mandolin in a band called the Rhythm Playboys. ''I played that   kind of music until 1955 and then started playing drums when rock and roll came out'', he told Sanderson.
Memphis guitarist en producer Roland Janes remembered Adams from that time: ''Billy was a long, lanky   guy. When I first met him he was playing mandolin and singing and he started doing an Elvis Presley-type   act. Then he started playing the drums. I used to see him at Doc McQueen's house. That was J.P. McQueen  who worked as a banker, but he wanted to be a songwriter and a musician and he had a tape recorder in his   house where musicians would all go to jam and try out things''. McQueen had a swing band at Charles   Foren's Hide-A-Way Club in Memphis and also tried forming a small rock and roll group at that point. Billy   Adams got himself involved in all these ventures and then started gigging with other groups. For a time he   played with Charlie Feathers, and between 1958 and 1960 Adams worked off and on as a touring road   drummer with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Patsy Cline. In particular, he worked in Las   Vegas with Carl Perkins, an experience that would stand him in good stead when he developed his own   showband in Memphis clubs.
In 1960 Adams married a ''striking brunette'' named Jessie, and came off the road to form his own band to   take the residency at Hernando's Hide-A-Way. Hernando's was located at 3210 Old Hernando Road in South   Memphis, a nightclub of some note for many years where the band gave exposure to numerous up-andcoming   Memphis musicians. It was at this time that pianist and singer Bill Yates started to play at   Hernando's, and Yates became an important part of Adams's group. Yates was born in Georgia but his father   was a traveling preacher and the family had spent some time in Mississippi in the 1940s, between Tupelo and   Corinth, so Adams and Yates may have known each other from that time. The other regular members of the  Adams band were bass player Jesse Carter, guitarist Lee Adkins, sax player Russ Carlton, and multiinstrumentalist   Gene Parker.
Jesse Carter remembered that the Adams band was formed at a time of burgeoning musical opportunities in   Memphis. ''Back then there was a night club on every corner in Memphis. It's dead as a hammer now (2008),   because the nightclub business went down with the drink driving laws and all, but back then if our club   closed at 1 a.m. We could go somewhere else and play til four. That was our routine''. Carter married Mary in   1961 and they had a daughter, Tamera, when he decided to get out of the touring life. ''I quit the road first in  1964 and then in May 1970 I quit going to clubs. I wasn't getting any family life, so I took a job at a   machinery company''. He later ran a recording studio in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
The Billy Adams band used Gene Parker as a saxophonist on stage, but mainly as a drummer on recording   sessions. This was because Adams already had an established sax player in his band, Russ Carlton, a man   who not only had a great reputation among his peers but who was also reliable. Carlton is known for his later   work with Jerry Lee Lewis, on stage and on sessions such as the Southern Roots album, but he had been part   of the Memphis club scene for years, playing jazz and rocking blues. He ran a band in the 1970s that was  booked into the Holiday Inn chain and worked a lot in Kentucky, but he died soon after that.
So, by 1961, Billy Adams had learned his trade, toured with recording stars, and become leader of a band   whose musicians were highly-regarded and becoming regulars at the recording studios around town. The   next step for Adams was surely to get a recording contract for himself. The established label in Memphis was   Sun, followed by the emerging operations at Hi, Stax, and Fernwood. Other smaller fly-by-night labels came   and went but one that looked promising had just been opened by Ruben Cherry, and named Home Of The   Blues after Cherry's local record store.
In 1960, Scotty Moore was hired by Sam Phillips to be Production Manager for Sun Records at the Phillips   studio on Madison Avenue. He took with him the link to HOTB that he had only just set up at Fernwood, and   Cherry's Billy Adams and Bill Yates tapes were mastered for release at Phillips studio at 639 Madison   Avenue. They were not recorded at Sun, though. Jesse Carter remembered: ''Adams sang and played drums   on a session at Hi Records studio. The first record he made, ''Lookin' For My Baby'', was one song we   recorded there, and we made some instrumentals there too''. The Hi studio was named Royal Recording and   was a converted movie theater at 1320 South Lauderdale in south Memphis.
At some point in the early 1960s Billy Adams and Bill Yates came onto Sam Phillips radar, possibly through   their shows at clubs around town or when Phillips' new studio at 639 Madison Avenue was being used master   the HOTB sides. Phillips said, ''I built the new studio because I just felt that recording technology was   improving and that we needed to move along and keep pace technically. This did not mean that I had   abandoned the sound that had been so successful... You see... good rock and roll and that's all we were trying   to achieve, doesn't need fifteen pieces all of the time. Billy Adams was one of the artists I produced for Sun   later on. He was really a novelty type of act who worked at the old Hide-A-Way Club. He liked to sing   rhythm and blues things, and he was not an original, but he had some talent as a drummer and they were a   really value band''.
There were at least five sessions at Sun for the Adam/Yates band. Bass player Jesse Carter described them:   ''Sam Phillips produced and engineered the sessions himself. He'd come into Taylor's restaurant next door   and talk with us like we were old friends, then we'd do the session. He really made you feel part of things.   He did not have a lot of input to what was recorded – he let us come in with our songs – but he was always in   on how the recording would be developed. He would let you start it your way, and then he'd let you know  real quick if something was lacking. Ultimately, some originals and some favourites. All the songs we   recorded was mainly Adams' Hide-A-Way band, plus Al Jackson Jr. who played drums on some sessions,   when we needed somebody. Billy Adams sometimes just sang on his records and didn't always play drums''.
All through the time he was recording at Sun, Billy Adams maintained his band residency at Charles Foren's   Hernando's Hide-A-Way club. When Foren sold out to Gordon Wade in 1965, Adams continued working for   the new man until sometimes in 1969 when he moved to the new Vapors Supper Club on Brooks Road in   south Memphis, set up by Foren. Adams told the local paper about the Vapors: ''I did the tea dance and nighttime   shows for two years, working 47 hours a week which is more than an average factory worker''. He also   started widening his career by dabbling in booking his band and other musicians into clubs and arranging   recording sessions. He had taken a role with the Local office of the American Federation of Musicians, coordinating   bookings, and this led him to working on his own account with clubs around the mid-South.  Adams told the Memphis Press-Scimitar that he opened the Memphis Artists Attraction booking agency in   1970, and operated it out of his home. He figured he worked 90 hours a week, booking Gene Simmons,   Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas and others. He added a line of work for the AmCon division of Holiday Inn, coordinating   the booking artists into their lounges. He told the Press-Scimitar that he booked 22 different bands   and for Holiday Inn you have to have all types of music, not just rock or rock-pop. Just recently when  Governor George Wallace made a political appearance in Indiana I did the whole works, and for Wallace fans  you have to have all types of music to''. Adams also booked out a Tupelo band named the Electric Toilet but   they don't sound like a Wallace kind of band.
By now, Adams was father to four children, a daughter Kim and triplets, born in 1970, (Billy Jr., Tammy and   Terri) and he kept his own band going to augment his income as a booking agent. On October 17, 1970   Billboard reported on the annual dinner-dance of the Memphis AFM, ''where entertainment was organized by   Billy Adams who plays at the Vapors and has his own booking agency'' and his hectic movement after that   can be traced through ads in the local press, The Delta Democrat-Times of September 8, 1971 reported on a   benefit show in Greenville: ''among the performers are the Billy Adams Combo from the Vapors Supper Club   in Memphis and the band from the El Capitan Club – all have agreed to contribute their talents toward  raising emergency funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis''. The Key TV Guide for   April 1973 captured the local club scene, carrying ads for the Admiral Benbow Lounge – ''Billy Adams' Shoe   and Danceband plays nightly except Sunday... Bill Yates, pianist, plays at cocktail time Mon-Fri'' – and for   the Downtowner Motor Inn on Union Avenue – ''The Billy Yates Trio appears from 8 to 1 six nights a week''.   In 1973 Adams and Yates were competing with other entertainment, dining and dancing options that included   Linda Ann, a ''vivacious blonde'' playing at the Casino Lounge, Eddie Bond and his TV Stompers at the E.B.   Ranch, Charlie Freeman at the Admiral Benbow Club Lounge, Jesse Lopez (brother of Trini Lopez) at the  Rivermont Holiday Inn, and Larry Garrett and Lee Adkins at the Vapors. In 1974, Billy Adams and the   Memphis Show and Danceband played nightly 8:30 to 1:30 at the Poplar Music Cantina in the Holiday Inn   while Lee Adkins, Bill Strom and Larry Garrett were headlining at the Vapors daily. Larry Garrett   remembers: ''I worked with Billy Adams in the early 1970s, in a band with Lee Adkins and Russ Carlton; we   played six nights a week for three years or so. After that I played spot gigs with Billy when he put on special   shows. Billy was the greatest shuffle drummer I ever played with''.
Memphis-based pianist Jerry ''Smoochy'' Smith said he: ''knew Billy Adams and Bill Yates well because I   played on several shows with them in the late 1960s. Billy Adams was a fun guy. He went from recording   into the booking agency business and he booked me on several shows. Adam was left handed. I was going to   record in a studio where he was working and my drummer had to change the drums around. I also worked on   some shows with Bill Yates. He always said I played better than he did and I always said 'well you sing   better than I do''. Drummer Danny Ivy played with Adams when he moved to Memphis after working with   Gene Parker in Mississippi: ''At the Vapors in 1970, Billy Adams was playing drums. He had Lee Adkins   playing guitar, Bill Strom or Lou Roberts playing keyboard, Don Culver on bass, Ted Garretson on trumpet,   and Russ Carlton and Ed Logan on sax. Before we moved to Memphis, I would go up and set in for Billy   Adams at the afternoon tea dance. That's when I first met Billy. I used to hear him sing ''Betty And Dupree''.   Another drummer, Tom Lonardo told me, 'Billy Adams and I crossed paths just once. He used my drums on a   gig where his band plated before mine. When I got to the set to play, there was a plate with some chicken   bones and sauce and a drink he had left on the floor tom. He never hit it. He just used it as a table''.
Down in Greenwood, Mississippi, former Sun singer and club owner Mack Allen Smith said: ''I booked Billy   Adams and his band during the years 1971 to 1976 at my Town and County Night Club. We even did a few   battles of the bands, one band playing and then the other one trying to outdo them. Billy has been described   by many as master of the shuffle beat. When I booked Billy Adams they were doing rockabilly like Carl   Perkins, some blues, and country stuff that was popular at the time''.
Musician and producer Kenneth Herman remembered: ''I used to talk to Billy and all the other musicians on   the CB radio in those days. After we all got out from the night clubs we'd be talking and finding out who was   where and what was happening late at night. It was the mobile phone of the day. You always knew Billy   because he had a small lisp, but it didn't affect him singing, a bit like Mel Tillis''. Ronald Smith also   remembered the early morning jam sessions, meet-ups and talk sessions. He described the effect his hectic   and pressurized lifestyle had on Adams.: ''A lot of times, my connection with Billy was late at night, after a   gig, when the musicians would meet up. That was when he filled gigs for his booking agency. He would   book my band. The problem there was that he got into some ditch weed, and he would drink and take pills   and often lost track of what he was doing, burning the candle at both ends, booking a band somewhere and   forgetting what he'd done so that two bands would show up. He just floated through all that time – so you   either had to ignore it, or kill him, you know. One time, he booked my band way up in Arkansas somewhere,  and when we got there another band was already there. We didn't get our money. I was mad so I called him,   and his wife said he was in the hospital. So I called him in hospital and he said he'd give me a contract for   another job, well paying. I said 'I'm coming down to get my money now', but he said he was in quarantine.   And he was: when I got there, I had to put on mask and gloves and everything and he really was sick, and I   felt bad. But I got a contract for a big New Year's Eve job. It wasn't the first problem. He sent me to play with   singer Barbara Pittman one time and didn't pay us. A lot of times he just forgot what he'd done. He had a   kickback deal going with a guy at Millington service base where Adams had the contract to supply the   officers' club and the other clubs on base. They'd agree a price and pay the bands less and keep the   differences, that sort of deal''.
One way of another Adams was making money, and he had some baubles to prove it. Kenneth Herman is   adamant that: ''Adams had the twin car of the one that President Kennedy was shot in. There were only two   made and Frank Sinatra had the other one and somehow Billy Adams bought it. It was bullet proof and all   that. He used to drive around town in it''.
By now, Billy Adams was also dabbling in the recording business. In 1970 he worked with Tom Phillips at   Select-O-Sound studio to produce discs by Jeannie Williams and Bill Stroum, and in 1971 he set up Coleman   Records with A.B. Coleman, who ran a successful chain of barbeque outlets. Adams published their songs   through a company he named Little Terri Music. He arranged and recorded songs for saxophonist Joe Arnold   including the minor hit ''Brand New Key'', and singer Tiny Bond in 1972. He also recorded Jamie Isonhood   from Benton, Mississippi, coupling a version of ''Lonely Weekend'' with a tune called ''Man, Woman And A   Bottle''. He worked with a group, the Castells, one of whom recalled: ''Billy Adams was our agent in  1969/1970 and wanted us to record ''Miss Froggie'', originally done in 1957. We went to Block 6 studio with  Billy Wayne Herbert engineering, and proceeded to rock and roll. This session got to cooking so good and   you oughta seen Billy Adams out in that studio having a ball, jumping up and down hollering 'get it son, get   it son'. Adams was a lotta fun and great guy''.
In the mid-1970 Billy Adams started to suffer some health problems and he retired from playing and booking   artists in 1981. Then, on December 3, 1984, Billy Adams died of a heart attack, aged just 47.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal carried an obituary the next day: ''Billy W. Adams of 4562 Hodge, retired   owner of Memphis Artists Attractions booking agency and former recording artist with Sun Records, died at   4 a.m. Yesterday at Methodist Hospital after a lengthy illness. He ran the Billy Adams Show and Dance Band   and had toured with such artists as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins and numerous   others during a 30 year career as an entertainer. His booking agency worked with many artists in the mid   south including Jerry Lee Lewis, Kenny Price, Narvel Felts, Rufus Thomas, Gene Simmons, Ace Cannon,   Brenda Lee, Fats Domino, The Platters and Boots Randolph. Adams was a member of LaBelle Place Baptist  church and was an honorary Shelby County deputy sheriff''. Adams was survived at the time by his mother   and two sisters as well as his four children and two stepchildren. Adams' son, Billy T., died young, in 1988,   and was buried alongside his father.
Jesse Carter spoke for many others when he said: ''Billy Adams was a great guy. He died too early of a heart   attack. He was a good singer – he had a stutter but that went when he sang – and a great drummer''. Pianist   and singer T.O. Earnheart played with Adams in the 1970s and said, ''Billy had a heart of gold. In fact he   gave me my start in Memphis as a musician. Billy was recognised throughout the country as the best   drummer in the business playing a shuffle beat. I have seen hundreds of drummers try to imitate his licks on   the drums, and were never able to duplicate the sound''.
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