© February 15, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17311 (1-6) mono digital
THE SUN COUNTRY BOX 1950 - 1959

Sun Records was rock and roll and blues... and country music. When Sam Phillips opened is studio in 1950, he began with country music, and continued recording country music until the end. In the years between, he discovered one of the greatest country stars of all time, Johnny Cash.

These recordings, made at the original Sun studio between 1950 and 1959, capture the changing complexion of country music. Many of those changes were ushered in by Sun Records itself. Elvis Presley began on Sun as a country artist, working with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, recruited from another Sun country band. Carl Perkins came to Sun as a country artist, as did Jerry Lee Lewis.

This set includes 6 CDs and a total of 208 songs. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins are here... and so much more. There's Harmonica Frank – a country musician playing blues and medicine show tunes, Charlie Feathers making his greatest ever records, Malcolm Yelvington blending western swing and rockabilly, The Miller Sisters whose pure country harmony never found the audience it deserved, Cast King, whose stellar recordings weren't even issued in the 1950s, Warren Smith – one of the greatest-ever country voices from Sun Records, Ernie Chaffin singing the great Pee Wee Maddux's songs, Nashville's resident genius Jack Clement, and many more.

First released on LP in 1986, The Sun Country Box, includes all the original recordings and more. It also features new essays and newly-discovered photos in a 148-page, LP-sized hardcover book authored by Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins.

Producers:
Sam C. Phillips, Jack Clement, Stan Kesler, Quinton Claunch, Bill Cantrell,
Pee Wee Maddux, Sidney Gunter, Buddy Durham
Re-Issued Producers:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Tape and Record Research:
Colin Escott and Richard Weize

Dubs and Tape for missing Masters provided by:
Dave Howe, Raymond Kerby, Bob Lewis, Robert Loers, Dave Perry,
Ian Saddler, Phil Tricker, Big Al Turner and Don Warwick 

Mastering:
Bob Jones and Jurgen Crasser
Liner notes and Discography:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Transcriptions/Editing:
Evelyne Gerstenberger 

Photos and Illustrations:
R.A. Andreas, James Ausborn, Wanda Ballman, Dan Bass, Johnny Bernero,
J.G. Buchaman, Ernie Chaffin, Hank Davis, Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins,
Bob Lewis, Larry Manuel. A.J. Newton, Scott Parker, Dean and Jud Phillips,
Knox Phillips, Sue Richard, Showtime Archive, Louis Steele,
Bob Taylor, Charles Wolfe, Hans-Peter Zdrenka 

Photo Scans:
Andreas Merck
Photo Restoration:
Sam Malbuch
Artwork
Mychael Gerstenberger 

Thanks to:
James Ausborn, Wanda Ballman, Dan Bass, Johnny Bernero, Dave Booth, Mildred and Jim Bowerman,
J.G. Buchanan, Bill Cantrell, Ernie Chaffin, Quinton Claunch, Bill Diehl, Thurman Enlow,
Red Hadley, Jimmy Haggett, David Hill, Al Hopson, Dave Howe, Bob Jones, Raymond and
Fredonia Kerby, Stan Kesler, Cast King, Clyde Leoppard, Bob Lewis, Robert Loers,
Larry Manuel, Elsie Jo Miller, A.J. Nelson, Scott Parker, Dave Perry, Knox Phillips,
Doug Poindexter, Don Powell, Dusty Brooks, Sue Richards, Tony Russell,
Ian Saddler, Dave Samuelson, Billy Self, Mack Self, Howard Seratt,
Louise Steele, Brad Suggs, Bill Taylor, Bob Taylor, Charlie Terrell,
Phil Tricker, Big Al Turner, Mildred Wages, Don Warwick,
Sally Wilburn, Charles Wolfe, Malcolm Yelvington,
and Hans-Peter Zdrenka 

Special thanks to the late Sam Phillips, the late Shelby Singleton and John Singleton 

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

INTRODUCTION

Of all the musical styles associated with Sun Records, country music is the least acknowledged, and when this boxed set was first compiled in LP form in 1986 it was the least well documented. Nevertheless country music appeared on the magic yellow label from the first full year of operation until the last. Moreover, most of the artists primarily associated with Sun Records began their careers m country music or went to carve out a career in country music.

This CD boxed set is an updated and enhanced version of the much-acclaimed LP set, ''The Sun Country Years''. It contains the music as originally presented, including both versions of Stan Kesler's song ''We're Getting Close' To Being Apart'', with vocals by Stan on one version and by Charlie Feathers on another (because some pressings of the LPs contained the wrong versions). We've augmented this CD set with three of Charlie Feathers' finest Sun recordings, ''So Ashamed'', ''Honky Tonk Kind'', and ''Frankie And Johnny'', undiscovered at the time of the original LP box. They first appeared on Zu-Zazz's ''Legendary 1956 Demo Session''' LP, along with a fourth song, ''Bottle To The Baby'', which is already in this box in another version. Finally, this CD box contains 11 of the 15 bonus tracks included with the first run of LP boxes. We have omitted three songs by Onie Wheeler because they were Columbia recordings, not Sun, and only on the original bonus LP because we thought they would never find a better home, and, for space reasons, one alternative take by Johnny Cash. (These tracks are available on CD though. In 1991 all of Onie Wheeler's pre-SUN and SUN recordings were presented in CD form on Onie's Bop' BCD 15542, and Johnny Cash's out-takes' were recently comprehensively documented on BCD 16325). Moving from the music to the words, this CD set now includes updated biographies of the artists and notes about each song. We have also improved the range and quality of the photographs even further. We have combined the original booklet and LP sleeve notes into one comprehensive book.

When we originally came to compile this Sun Country Box we encountered some special problems. Sam Phillips and his producers recorded a lot of country music. Even before the birth of Sun Records, Phillips was recording country music for Chess and 4-Star Records. If we included every country performance from those seventeen years the box would be an unmanageable size. So, the first delimiter we decided upon was a cut-off date of 1960 which corresponded roughly with the opening of the new studio on Madison Avenue, Memphis and the end of Phillips' fulltime involvement. The second major problem was to decide upon who and what should be included. We could have either included every country performance regardless of artist, or included every performance by artists who were predominantly 'country' artists. We decided upon the latter because we thought that most collectors would prefer to have the complete Sun recordings of, say, Charlie Feathers or Warren Smith rather than just the country performances. In this way we have also avoided contentious judgement calls about where 'country' stops and 'rockabilly' begins.

Even using those guidelines, there are still some anomalies. These will usually be made clear in the text. For example, we include some sample cuts by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. All three have boxed sets of their work currently available but we decided to include them for two reasons. Primarily because there were still some out-takes worthy of inclusion, but also because their exclusion would distort the overall picture of country music on Sun Records.

A final problem centred around the use of demo recordings. As Sun's fame grew, hundreds of artists made the trek to the studio at the corner of Union and Marshall Avenues, hoping that they would be discovered in the same way as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Hundreds more mailed in demo tapes, many of which remained unheard. Some of those tapes were shipped to Nashville with the Sun tape inventory and we have included a few examples of them. Others were stored at 706 Union before being transferred to Select-O-Hits on Chelsea Avenue in Memphis, owned by Sam Phillips' brother, Tom. Perhaps a couple of these demos were not recorded at 706 Union but we judged them to be of sufficient interest that they warranted inclusion.

We started listening to this music many years ago and it seemed as though each major project, in particular the Sun Box series, deepened our appreciation of the music, the environment which gave birth to it and the actual recording industry during those far of years. Despite the plethora of Sun reissues it was really hard to believe that you were scraping the bottom of the barrel when you could uncover previously unknown Char- lie Feathers recordings or bring some of the previously unknown or little known artists into the spotlight.

The music scene has changed out of all recognition in the years since the first of these performances was recorded, and it has changed again in the years since the LP box was issued. In technical terms alone, the changes have been dramatic. The acetates that Phillips used in 1950 were supplanted by tape which has now been supplanted by computer scans of the audio signal. The 78rpm disc, the primary medium for sound recordings in 1950, was supplanted by microgroove which was in turn, supplanted by compact disc. It is now commonplace to fit well over eighty minutes of music onto a disc that is several inches smaller and several ounces lighter than the old 78s that held the fruits of Phillips' first efforts. And we haven't tested this, but we're told that just about everything recorded at Sun Records will now fit onto an iPod.

Yet, somehow, the music that Phillips recorded in his tiny studio in an era so different from the present sounds better with every passing year. As country music surrenders its soul in the quest for the Holy Grail of crossover, it becomes necessary to look back over your shoulder. It will be a sad day when there is no place for Charlie Feathers or Doug Poindexter singing their hearts out with a painfully simple, pure hillbilly backing. This music is very special and we're betting that much of it will be around long after most of to today's country music is forgotten.

Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins, Hanks Davis
August 1986, amended March 2012

CD 1 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

MEMPHIS BOUNCE 

Slim Rhodes Band

It was inevitable that Sam Phillips and Slim Rhodes would come together. The Rhodes family had been a potent force in the Memphis country scene since the 1940s, and Slim's radio and television shows ensured that there would be a consistent market for his product. Moreover, Slim had a chameleon-like ability to change with the seasons. He made the transition from the primitive hillbilly boogie heard on the cuts to the flat out rockabilly of ''Do What I Do''. The final cut shows that he was working towards a country-pop sound.

This CD includes all known recordings that Slim Rhodes made for Sam Phillips except ''Rockabilly Gal''. Although technically a Slim Rhodes session (the session costs were deducted from Slim's royalties), that song was more a vehicle for the emerging talents of Hayden Thompson. Slim Rhodes may never be regarded as a major talent (indeed, we hear very little from Slim himself), but he had the ability to draw talented people around him. These sides really show Rhodes' skills as an entrepreneur and his facility for adapting with the changing times. In a sense, it is fitting that we begin with Slim Rhodes, because he represents the changes in Memphis country music over an eight year period. The major themes of this boxed set are all here in microcosm.

*1 - The Slim Rhodes Show (1:16) 1986 (Slim Rhodes) > WMC Radio Extracts <
Recorded: Unknown Date 1948/1949
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (vocal and guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (vocal and fiddle)
Gene Steele and Ray Phelps (vocal and guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass)

The short excerpts from the ''Mother's Best Flour Show'' on WMC which appear at the beginning and end of this side give some sense of mid-Southearly morning country radio. ''Mother's Best'' was a milling company in Decatur, Alabama that sponsored several artists throughout its distribution area. Among those spreading the good word about ''Mother's Best'' flour and farm feeds were Hank Williams in Nashville and blues man Robert Ir. Lockwood in Helena, Arkansas, Slim Rhodes had been on WMC since 1939, sponsored by ''Mother's Best'' for all of that time. His mixture of music, jokes and gosh-darn sincerity was standard fore for the time.

2 - Skunk Hollow Boogie (2:30) 1950 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5015-B <
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Unknown Date July 1950 at the Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

Slim Rhodes' Memphis recordings commenced in 1950 with this driving and bluesy instrumental. It is really a showcase for the distinguished lead guitar of Brad Suggs, but both the steel guitar of Danny Holloway and the fiddle of Dusty Rhodes take excellent solos. Slim Rhodes played rhythm guitar and Speck Rhodes was on bass, This tune had been a Rhodes band staple for over a decade and it may be heard among the many traditional and current tunes the Rhodes band recorded for the Lang-Worth transcription company in 1949 for radio broadcast. It is interesting that the repeated guitarlick we hear here was adapted by Scotty Moore for Elvis Presley's ''Good Rockin' Tonight'' some four years later. Sam Phillips may have been very new to recording for records when these sides were made, but he managed nevertheless to capture a powerful sound from the five-man Rhodes band.

3 - Save A Little Love For Me (2:33) 1950 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5015-A <
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Unknown Date July 1950 at the Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (vocal and guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (vocal and fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (vocal and guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway - Steel Guitar

The first of Slim Rhodes' Gilt-Edge discs set a pattern, with this western swing vocal item backing a boogie instrumental. Slim Rhodes takes the vocal on this very pleasing swing number that owes rather more to Texas than to Tennessee. Vocal honours were shared in the Rhodes band with Dusty Rhodes, Dot Rhodes and Brad Suggs all doing their part. Surviving radio air shots from WMC dated December 1948 bear out this balance between the vocalists. They also show how traditional fiddle solos by Dusty and comedy sketches by Slim and Speck - where Slim is the Mayor of Skunk Holler' and Speck his crazy side-kick who's always ''right back agin'' - actually contributed as much to the group's air time as did songs like this one.

4 - Memphis Bounce (2:32) 1950 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5026-B <
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded December 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

The second Gilt-Edge release contained another grabby instrumental theme, this time played in unison by the take-off guitar of Brad Suggs and the steel guitar of Danny Holloway. Suggs' solo has a hint of jazz, and he then settles into a riff on the bass strings through the steel and fiddle solos. This is music of some urbanity and charm, certainly in a different league from the hillbilly recordings Rhodes would make later on for Sun.

5 - Sixty Days (2:43) 1950 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5026-A < 
(W.S. Stevenson) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded December 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (vocal and fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

This interesting western swing item with its laconic vocal from Dusty Rhodes could almost have been a follow-up to the ''Hot Rod Rag'' saga which had been started by Arkie Shibley on Gilt-Edge. The straight-as-an-arrow vocal contrasts nicely with the jazzy lead guitar. The composer, W.S. Stevenson,' was 4-Star/Gilt-Edge owner Bill McCaII, who bought songs from down-on-their-luck hillbillies. Odds are, he didn't make his money back on this one.

6 - Hotfoot Rag (2:21) 1951 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5034-B <
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded December 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

Again it was probably more than a coincidence that this title bears a passing similarity to Hot Rod Race. This is another powerful guitaled piece by Suggs who plays some jazzy licks that came from the Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, either direct or via the nifty descending runs of Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith.

7 - Time Marches On (2:31) 1951 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5034-A <
(Gail Daniels) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded December 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (vocal and guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

Maintaining the bouncy ballad style of the vocal sides of his records, Slim Rhodes again stepped before the mike to render the philosophical statement penned by the little-known Gail Daniels, who also recorded the song for Gilt-Edge's parent label, 4-Star. Brad Suggs plays some dazzling guitar fills behind Slim's vocal.

8 - Ozark Boogie (2:33) 1951 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5044-B < 
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded Unknown Date July 1950 at the Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

Apparently recorded at the first Rhodes session along with Gilt-Edge 5015, this title was not issued until 1951. This is somewhat surprising since it is arguably the best jukebox material here. Brad Suggs again provides the boogie dynamics while Speck and Slim lay down a powerful rhythm foundation. Dusty gives us some gypsy fiddle in-between two Strong steel guitar solos.

9 - Red, White And Blue (2:34) 1951 (Slim Rhodes) > Gilt-Edge 5044-A <
(Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes) (4-Star Sales)
Recorded Unknown Date July 1950 at the Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis
Ether Cletus ''Slim'' Rhodes (vocal and guitar), Perry Hilburn ''Dusty'' Rhodes (vocal and fiddle),
Luther Bradley '' Pee Wee'' Suggs (vocal and guitar), Gilbert Ray ''Speck'' Rhodes (bass),
Danny Holloway (steel guitar)

Musicians, like politicians, were fond of extolling the virtue of military service while their asses were safe at home, and Slim Rhodes was no exception. (It was, though, just a matter of months before Brad Suggs departed for the service). Departing somewhat from their usual format, here we find Dusty and the Rhodes boys in patriotic mood. The Korean War had just started and there were many songs like this (They Locked God Outside The Iron Curtain, etc), most of them in the country market. It marked the last Rhodes release on Gilt-Edge although some titles were repackaged on 4-Star Records' disc jockey albums.

10 - Don't Believe (2:17) 1955 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 216-A <
(Ether Cletus Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (fiddle), Dottie Rhodes Moore (vocal),
Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass),
John Hughey (steel guitar)

Returning to the Sun studio after a four-year absence, Slim Rhodes rejoined Sam Phillips in 1955 with a sound based on hillbilly music more than the stripped-down western-swing sound of earlier years. His musicians were essentially the same, apart from steel guitarist John Hughey who had been working with Conway Twitty (or Harold Jenkins as he was then) in Helena, Arkansas. "Slim's steel player, Rocky Caple, had gotten called into the Army in 1953'', Hughey said later. "Harold and I always watched their TV show every week. After Rocky left for the Army, Slim started advertising on TV for a steel player. Harold started in on me trying to get me to go and audition for the job, and I kept saying, 'I'm not good enough to play with those guys'. After about two months he talked me into it. Harold called Slim and made an appointment to go up and do an audition. Harold carried me to Memphis, and I played a few instrumentals and Harold sang a couple of songs. That was on a Monday night, and the following Thursday they called and told me to pack my suitcase and guitar and meet them at some little town in Mississippi. I forgot the name of the town. That was March the 12th in 1953". Brad Suggs takes the vocal on Don't Believe, which is a fairly ordinary country song. 'Billboard' reviewed the disc in May 1955 describing it as "a routine Plea for proper understanding''.

11 - Uncertain Love (2:14) 1955 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 216-B <
(Garnet Leath Rhodes-Perry Rhodes) (Hi-Lo Music)
Recorded February 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (vocal and fiddle), Dottie Rhodes Moore (vocal),
Brad Suggs (guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar)

For the first time on disc, Dusty Rhodes combined with his wife, Dot, to deliver this very pleasant hillbilly vocal. Dot had taken over from Bea Rhodes who had been the original girl member of the group through the early 1940s. Dot was featured in surviving radio air-shots from 1948. The theme of uncertain love was nothing new and the composition itself was almost a paint-by-numbers Hank Williams soundalike. However, the years that Dusty and Dot had sung together obviously bore fruit here in their unerring harmonies. The new boy on the block, John Hughey, contributed some lovely work on steel guitar. Billboard showed the disc in the Memphis country Top 5 that May along with Webb Pierce, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold and Charlie Feathers, and decided that the group had "Strong talent''.

12 - House Of Sin (2:42) 1955 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 225-A <
(Ether Cletus Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (vocal and fiddle), Dottie Rhodes Moore (vocal),
Brad Suggs (guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar)

This was the Rhodes Bands second release to appear on the Sun label and it features a strongly moralistic tone - consistent with much hillbilly music of the era. Dusty and Dot Rhodes have worked up a lovely vocal harmony on the chorus and after the third hearing of "A baby cries..." it's hard not to understand the meaning of the songwriters term ''hook''. This side might have contended for wider attention had Sun's promotional and distribution efforts supported it. Nevertheless, Rhodes sold well in and around Memphis, where his band was well known via radio and TV appearances.

13 - Are You Ashamed Of Me (2:33) 1955 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 225-B <
(Ether Cletus Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (fiddle), Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar),
Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar)

Guitarist Brad Suggs takes the spotlight on this title. His singing has almost no trace of hillbilly in it; only the wonderful fiddle playing from Dusty Rhodes takes us back into the country. This is supper club country music. Perhaps the more sophisticated city listeners that Slim catered to demanded this type of material. From this distance, it's hard to tell. At its best, the country music that Phillips recorded can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up with its chilling backwoods intensity. On that count, this recording fails but it probably sold well to Slim's television audience.

14 - Bad Girl (2:25) 1956 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 238-B <
(Ether Cletus Rhodes-Luther Bradley Suggs) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (fiddle), Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar),
Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar)

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

15 - Gonna Romp And Stomp (2:19) 1956 1956 Slim Rhodes) > Sun 238-A <
(Garnet Leath Rhodes-Perry Rhodes) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (vocal and fiddle), Dottie Rhodes Moore (vocal),
Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar)

Dusty and Dot come back into the spotlight here on a side that reflects the changing times. All of the lead instruments take spirited breaks and there is a rockabilly consciousness underpinning the hillbilly harmonies. Clearly, by early 1956 Slim had grudgingly accepted the fact that Elvis and the rockabillies were a force to be reckoned with. There is some fire on this side and it has helped ''Romp And Stomp'' to survive better than some of the country sermonettes.

16 - Take And Give (2:21) 1956 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 256-A <
( Ether Cletus Rhodes-Ronnie Hesselbein) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded August , 14, 956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (vocal and fiddle), Sandy Brooks (vocal),
Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar),
Johnny Bernero (drums)

Sandy Brooks (aka Ronnie Hesselbein) was new to the Rhodes band and he turns in a totally impassioned vocal performance. According to Brad Suggs, Hesselbein was a senior in high school when he joined the band for this recording. The record has a commanding presence from its driving intro to the final major 7th chord. It features a surprisingly pounding rhythm, virtually none of which is due to the drumming! What the drummer does contribute is a memorable but almost throwaway rimshot on the snare right before the first steel solo. The steel playing throughout is delightful, with swelling chords complementing Brooks' vocal. The song itself features an almost completely expendable lyric, but a full assortment of 6-minor chords to give it that haunting quality that might have carried it over into popular success.

17 - Do What I Do (2:29) 1956 (Slim Rhodes) > Sun 256-B <
(Ether Cletus Rhodes-Ronnie Hesselbein) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded August , 14, 956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dusty Rhodes (vocal and fiddle), Sandy Brooks (vocal),
Brad Suggs (vocal and guitar), Spec Rhodes (bass), John Hughey (steel guitar),
Johnny Bernero (drums)

Now this is out-and-out rockabilly. Sandy Brooks contributes another strong vocal and Brad Suggs turns to the Carl Perkins guitar manual for his solo. Slim was obviously intent upon being a survivor and he was probably featuring rockabilly acts on his new WMC-TV show. This is unrecognisable as a Slim Rhodes record of yore but, taken on its own terms, is a fine record for its time and season. lt was the last time the names Slim Rhodes or Sandy Brooks appeared on a Sun record. The last anybody checked, Ronnie Hesselbein had gotten into the family business selling tires in Mississippi, a concern that has since expanded to include franchises in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. There turned out to be a lot more money in selling tires than singing rockabilly.

*18 - I've Never Been So Blue (2:16) 1975 (Slim Rhodes) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Slim Rhodes (guitar), Dorothy Dot Rhodes (vocal),
Unknown (guitar, bass, drums, piano)

This anomalous title from a February 1958 session features a sound that is redolent of Johnny Cash's later Sun recordings, The lead vocal is taken by Dot Rhodes but it is not clear whether she is supported by other members of the Rhodes clan or whether she has recorded a double-tracked vocal in the manner of Skeeter Davis. lt could almost be the Miller Sisters who had left Sun some months before this was recorded. This marked the Rhodes band's swansong at 706. A comparison with the very earliest of their recordings shows the distance that country music had come in eight years.

THE CHESS YEARS

After the relationship with Gilt-Edge fell apart, Sam Phillips turned to RPM/Modern in Hollywood (to whom he sold no country titles) and, in March 1951, he switched allegianre to the Chess label in Chicago. Chess scored a huge hit with ''Rocket 88'' by Jackie Brenston and, with his credibility high, Phillips pitched some country music to them. Chess had previously considered getting into the country market but, arguably, Harmonica Frank and Bob Price were not the place to start. Certainly, they were different. Both had guirky and highly individualistic vocal styles but Frank Floyd's style harked back to on era beyond the War and Bob Price had very little going for him other than the fact that he sound different.

Frank Floyd seems to have some success with ''Step It Up And Go''but it appears as though Chess were quick to their attempts to crack the hillbilly market. Indeed, they would to have wait until Jimmy & Johnny's ''If You Don't Someone Else Will'' in 1954 before they saw any success in this market, so far removed from their area of expertise.

Harmonica Frank

19 - Swamp Root (2:34) 1951 (Harmonica Frank) > Chess 1475-B < 
(Frank Floyd) (Burton Limited)
Recorded July 15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

After hearing this, it is impossible to imagine how record collectors could ever have thought that Harmonica Frank was black. This song bears some similarity to Buddy Jones' 1937 recording of ''Hunting Blues'' (reworked in 1950 by Joe Stewart on Star Talent), although it was probably a medicine show or vaudeville routine dating back much further. Chris Bouchillon was the first to record in this talking blues style, but that doesn't mean he originated it. Frank was the master of pastiche. A bit from here, a bit from there; some definitely from Bouchillon. Water from an ancient well perhaps, but it was idiosyncratically his own. The title comes from a patent medicine: ''Dr. Kilmer's Swamproot: Kidney, Liver, and Bladder Cure''. Frank probably sold it somewhere along the way. And along that way, he picked up couplets like "The Wine goes in, the truth comes out / Two more shots and 1'11 tell it all...' Every verse has noises that most of us renounced at the age of five, but no matter, it adds to the sloppy drunk charm of the tune.

20 - Goin' Away Walkin' (2:31) 1951 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1475-Alternate B < 
(Frank Floyd) (Burton Limited)
Recorded July 15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

Out comes the harmonica, and here comes the blues. Now this could have fooled some folks into thinking they were hearing a black guy. ''Goin' Away Walkin''' is basically a crazy-quilt of blues cliches, but it proves that Frank had a genuine feel for blues cadences and rhythms. Probably no more than a few lines were freshly minted for this recording but Frank delivers it all with real conviction. It is not hard to see the delight that Phillips must have taken in recording the man because there is a real intuitive musicality underlying every performance.

21 - Step It Up And Go (2:19) 1951 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1475-A < 
(Blind Boy Fuller) (Burton Limited)
Recorded July 15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

When the first incarnation of Chess 1475A was snatched off the market after a few weeks, it was replaced by ''Step It Up And Go'' as a new partner for ''Swamp Root''. Like many blues songs, its lineage begins with the first recorded version, even if the original version wasn't necessarily by the original writer. Charlie Burse recorded an unissued song called ''Oil It Up And Go'' on July 8, 1939. Blind Boy Fuller was almost certainly around when that song was cut, and on March 5, 1940 - recorded ''Step It Up And Go''. In between, on November 22, 1939, Tommy McClennan recorded ''Bottle It Up And Go''. The first hillbilly version was by Blue Friday & His Daniel Boone Ramblers on Rich-Tone in 1949. Big Jeffs Dot recording appeared at roughly the same time as the Maddox Brothers and ''Rose's New Step It Up And Go'', and both became juke box favorites. The Maddoxes' record was notified to 'Billboard' in April 1951 and Big Jeffs in May. Frank recorded it in July. His version features some spirited interchanges between the guitar and harmonica and possesses a wonderful drive. Frank Floyd was a tight little rhythm section. He sounds like both Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee rolled into one.

22 - Howlin' Tomcat (1) (2:42) 1952 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1494-A < 
(Frank Floyd) (Burton Limited)
Recorded December 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

This is not so much a blues as a Ioving parody of a blues, and an anachronism even in 1951. It is true that folk blues were still selling in 1951 but this is much more folk than blues. It seemed to belong in either the 1930s or the ersatz folk blues revival of the 1960s but barely at any point in between. If it had a direct antecedent, it was Bo Carter's 1931 recording of ''Howlin' Tom Cat Blues'', but that assumes Frank collected blues 78s, and it's a pretty fair assumption that he didn't. He must surely have heard Carter or someone else perform it, though. Perhaps Franks animal noises gave Phillips a sense of deja vu in 1953 when he was grafting similar noises onto Rufus Thomas's first hits.

23 - She Done Moved (2:57) 1952 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Chess 1494-B < 
(Frank Floyd) (Burton Limited)
Recorded December 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

A straight blues rendering without even a harmonica. Nevertheless, there still flashes of Frank's wonderfully idiosyncratic phrasing together with playful touches in the phrasing where his vocal crosses bar lines. As with his other blues, Frank makes no effort to sound like anyone but himself. He absorbed the veracular of the blues and made it his own. This song comes from the same deep well as Lonnie Johnson's ''Kansas City Blues'', but there are lines like "she got eyes like a lighthouse on the sea" that leave you wondering where Frank heard them.

*24 - Howlin' Tomcat (2) (2:48) 1952 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Not Originally Issued <
(Frank Floyd) (Burton Limited)
Recorded December 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

This alternative take of Frank's second disc was basically similar to the issued version and, aside from a couple of minor vocal fluffs, it was a serious candidate for shipping to Chess. In fact, in the days before tape, Phillips may well have recorded a second version in order to have a safety master in case the version he shipped was damaged during shipping or plating. This may be a lone survivor of those safety masters.

25 - The Great Medical Menagerist (3:10) 1954 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Sun 205-A <
(Frank Floyd) Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 1, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Harmonica Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

What is a medical menagerist? Most of us long ago stopped wondering. Frank apparently wrote this song about his days in the ''Happy Phillipson Show'' although parts of the song seem to derive from Chris Bouchillon's ''Born In Hard Luck''/''The Medicine Show'', which apparently sold 90,000 copies in 1927, one of them quite possibly to Frank Floyd. Frank runs through his schtick, throwing a few humorous couplets to get the folks gathered around. Just a few years before Frank recorded this tune, Hank Williams and a galaxy of stars were participating in the Hadacol Caravan and the blackface duo of Jamup & Honey was still on the Opry, so perhaps it is not quite as anachronistic as it seems. In any event, this is a fascinating little glimpse back into past that none of us will ever experience. The blues may have timeless relevance bu The Great Medical Menageristis charmingly trapped in a lost world of salves, balms, notions, purgatives, tonics, and cure-alls.

26 - Rockin' Chair Daddy (3:05) 1954 (Harmonica Frank Floyd) > Sun 205-B < 
(Frank Floyd) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 1, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Harmonica Frank Floyd (vocal, guitar and harmonica)

If Sam Phillips was after a fusion of black and white music, held found it. The problem was that it was the black and white music of the 1920s, if not the 1890s. Sun 205 was delightfully at variance with everything that was selling in 1954, but so, it must be said, was Elvis Presley who trailed Frank by just a few months. Frank used to say that this was the first rock and roll record, which, of course, it wasn't, but there's a wonderful drive and contagious energy here that has survived the years well. Sam Phillips maintained that he recorded these titles in 1954 and not 1951 as had once been supposed. Certainly, aural evidence would bear out that Frank returned for another session. The sound qualityis markedly improved and Phillips obviously used two tape machines to achieve the slapback effect. A mighty thank you to Sam Phillips from posterity for preserving Harmonica Frank for us.

Bob Price

27 - How Can It Be (3:04) 1952 (Bob Price) > Chess 1495-A < 
(Quinton Claunch-Bob Price) (Burton Limited)
Recorded December 2, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Bob Price (vocal), Quinton Claunch (guitar), Roy Cooper (guitar), Harold Buskitk (bass),
Dexter Johnson (mandolin), Bob Smith (piano), Unknown (fiddle)

Sam Phillips' mid-'50s venture into country music was largely conducted in partnership with the A&R team of Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell, but it seems as if Claunch was there first. He appeared at Phillips' door with Bob Price, and was certainly not joking when he said that Price had an unusual voice. Price and Harmonica Frank marked Chess Records' inauspicious debut into the country market. Both were a long way from mainstream but, unfortunately, this outing has none of the period charm of Frank Floyd, nor the searing hillbilly passion of Phillips' later efforts. In fact it has not weathered the years at all well although Roy Cooper's dancing guitar fills are quite pleasant and Price's vocal has its moments. If Price was aiming for the pop-country mix of Eddy Arnold-George Morgan-Red Foley, he came up with an almost comically inept parody. He had previously recorded for Decca in 1949 together with Eddie Hill, suggesting that he may have been part of the same troupe, although Claunch recalled that Price rarely sang except at home. Billboard, though, reported in March 1952 that Price was on the point of joining the live on-air staff of KWEM, West Memphis, so perhaps he got around more than Claunch believed.

28 - Sticks And Stones (2:22) 1952 (Bob Price) > Chess 1495-B < 
(Bob Price) (Burton Limited)
Recorded December 2, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Bob Price (vocal), Quinton Claunch (guitar), Roy Cooper (guitar), Harold Buskitk (bass),
Dexter Johnson (mandolin), Bob Smith (piano), Unknown (fiddle)

This uptempo side has a folky, almost nursery rhyme, quality enhanced by the instrumental break which sounds like a musical box. Hank Thompson was doing well with songs like this (''Humpty Dumpty Heart'', ''Whoa Sailor'', etc.) but Thompson at least had visibility in the western half of the country. Released to little acclaim in January 1952, this single represented the beginning and end of Chess's involvement in hillbilly music until they allied themselves with Stan Lewis in Shreveport. However, shortly after this record was released, Billboard announced that Leonard Chess was heading south to secure more country talent. Perhaps the dismal sales of this outing convinced Chess to stay clear of the country market until Lewis started providing him with saleable product. Note that the master tape from this session was recorded over. Only the very last cut on the tape, a fragment of ''Why so Blue?'' remains from the original tape.

SUNRISE

After the experiments for Chess in 1951, Sam Phillips recorded very little country music during 1952 and 1953 and concentrated on blues and on establishing his new Sun label. Virtually the only exceptions were Red Hadley, a talented honky tonk pianist and singer, and the Ripley Cotton Choppers in whom Sam must have heard the country music of his youth. The Choppers had the distinction of making the first country record on the Sun label.

Red Hadley

*29 - Tennessee Drag (1:55) 1986 (Red Hadley) > Previously Unissued <
(G.D. Red Hadley) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 13, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Red Hadley (vocal and piano), Paul Brazile (guitar), Jay ''Junior'' Hadley (guitar),
Dave Simmons Jr. (steel guitar), Houston Stokes (drums)

Recorded in the winter of 1952, Red Hadley perhaps sought to emulate the successful honky tonk piano solos coming out of Nashville from artists like Del Wood and Johnny Maddox. Dave Simmons comes in halfway through with a welcome steel guitar variation on Reds piano theme while two guitars and some fairly minimal drumming provide the rhythm. This recording was made when Sam Phillips was in between his first and second attempts at releasing records on Sun, and Phillips pitched Hadley's music to Lillian McMurry's Trompet Records in Jackson, Mississippi instead. Despite Hadleys obvious talent, no deal was made.

*30 - If I Had As Much Money (As I Had Time) (2:39) 1986 (Red Hadley)> Not Originally Issued <
(G.D. Red Hadley) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 13, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Red Hadley (vocal and piano), Paul Brazile (guitar), Jay ''Junior'' Hadley (guitar),
Dave Simmons Jr. (steel guitar), Houston Stokes (drums)

The addition of Red's raw vocalizing toughens the sound of his band considerably. ''Money'' was written by Red as an answer to the series of hits by Lefty Frizzell which were performed on a similar theme in his Texas honky tonk style. The steel guitar weaves in and out of Reds vocal and piano above a solid foundation from an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar played on the bass strings. The sound quality drops a little here and there but otherwise the sixty year old paper-backed tape has survived quite well.

*31 - Boogie Ramble (2:10) 1986 (Red Hadley) > Previously Unissued <
(Red Hadley) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 13, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Red Hadley (vocal and piano), Paul Brazile (guitar), Jay ''Junior'' Hadley (guitar),
Dave Simmons Jr. (steel guitar), Houston Stokes (drums)

Returning to his instrumental format, Red again leads throughout on the top range of his piano while steel and rhythm join in enthusiastically. This tune was something of a theme song for Red's band for several years until the onset of rockabilly made ''Rockin' With Red'' seem more appropriate.

The Ripley Cotton Choppers

32 - Blues Waltz (2:50) 1953 (Ripley Cotton Choppers) > Sun 190-A <
(Mrs. R.M. Lawrence) (Redwood Music Limited)
Recorded July 11, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernest Underwood (vocal and fiddle), Jettie Cox (vocal), James Kerby (guitar), Bill Webb (guitar),
James Wiseman (bass), Pete Wiseman (bass), James Haggard (mandolin)

Sun's first country release was hardly typical of Memphis country music in the 1950s. Rather, this side harks back beyond the era of the honky tonk to a time when country music was performed at church socials and family gatherings. Only the electric guitar dates it to the 1950s rather than the 1920s or 1930s. This track features Ernest Underwood and Jesse Frost in a vocal duet backed by guitars, bass, and James Haggard's mandolin (an instrument that was not overrepresented at 706 Union). The original 78rpm credited the composition to Mrs. R.M. Lawrence, a resident of Ripley, Tennessee. This record was already doomed to obscurity by virtue of the fact that it was twenty years out of date on the day of release but Phillips' lack of experience in marketing country music banished it to a distribution network that barely exceeded the Ripley City limits.

33 - Silver Bell (2:13) 1953 (Ripley Cotton Choppers) > Sun 190-B <
(Percy Wenrich-Edward Mudden) (Redwood Music Limited)
Recorded July 11, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernest Underwood (vocal and fiddle), James Kerby (guitar), Bill Webb (guitar),
Pete Wiseman (bass), James Haggard (mandolin)

This tune, composed by vaudevillian Percy Wenrich in 1910, was already a minor standard when the Choppers took it to Sam Phillips. The record is really a showcase for the guitar of Bill Webb who is backed by guitarists Raymond and James Kerby and the driving bass of Pete Wiseman. The back-country charm of the record, one of Sun's rarest releases, compensates for some technical flaws, not the least of which is Webb's slightly out-of-tune instrument. You'd think this wouldn't stand a prayer in the country music world of the 1950s, but in 1955, Chet Atkins and Hank Snow took ''Silver Bell'' to the country charts, (The label of Sun 190 states ''Silver Bells'' - which is the old Christmas standard.)

*34 - Roses And Sunshine (2:46) 1986 (Ripley Cotton Choppers) > Previously Unissued <
(Mrs. R.M, Lawrence) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 11, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernest Underwood (fiddle), Jettie Cox (vocal), James Kerby (guitar), Bill Webb (guitar),
Pete Wiseman (bass), James Haggard (mandolin)

With a strong female lead, this previously unissued song allows us a glimpse of what the Carter Family might have sounded like with an electric guitar. Vocal honours were shared by Jesse Frost and the Ripley heartbreaker, Jettie Cox. The song was a loose adaptation of ''Down In The Valley'', itself set to a much earlier tune, ''The Happy Home Waltz''. Indeed, it includes bits of ''Down In The Valley'' ("Roses love sunshine, violets love dew..." etc.). Tapes of the session have long since disappeared and only a single acetate, stored away by Raymond Kerby, has preserved the moment.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986)

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 2 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

BOOGIE BLUES
ACOUSTIC TO ELECTRIC

Sam Phillips' musical compass served him so well with blues and later rock and roll, but didn't function as well with country music. Clearly, he was drawn to the primitivism of the Cotton Choppers and Howard Seratt, but soon realised that acts like that didn't sell. As Sun Records moved into 1954, Earl Peterson's ''Boogie Blues'' took Sam one small step nearer to the amalgam of blues with country he cherished, and one big step nearer to commercial country music. If he had a one-year contract with Peterson, he didn't release the remaining songs or pick up the option to prevent him from going to Columbia. The unrepentantly hillbilly Doug Poindexter was unlikely to sell, but his backing group included Scotty Moore and Bill Black, Phillips sensed that Moore and Black were willing to experiment and placed them with a young protégé.

Earl Peterson

1 - In The Dark (2:35) 1954 (Earl Peterson) > SUN 197-B <
(Ollie F. ''Mack'' McGee) (Perco Music)
Recorded January 4, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ear Peterson (vocal and guitar), Unknown (guitar, steel guitar, fiddle)

According to Sam Phillips, Earl Peterson and his mom arrived at the front door of 706 Union with this and a clutch of other songs brought down from Michigan. This ballad allows Peterson to show off his smoother side, and is close to the ''twilight on the trail'' style which was apparently Peterson's first love. This is a lovely song and Peterson turns in a finely crafted performance. Oliver McGee registered the song with BMI on February 26, 1954. By that point, he was probably living in Nashville but had been a friend of Peterson's from the old days in and around Lansing, Michigan.

2 - Boogie Blues (2:38) 1954 (Earl Peterson) > SUN 197-A <
(Earl N. Peterson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 4, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ear Peterson (vocal and guitar), Unknown (guitar, steel guitar, fiddle)

This wonderfully idiosyncratic tune was Phillips' first serious entry into the country market, some three months before Elvis Presley's debut. Peterson apparently despised this recording of ''Boogie Blues'' but his vocal performance is strong and personable, and the innate drive of the song lends an astringent edge to Peterson's creamy style. The song derives from an number of pre-War songs in the Jimmie Rodgers-Gene Autry style. However, Columbia seemed to think that it had a place in the post-War market. They signed Peterson just a few months after his Sun debut and re-recorded two versions of ''Boogie Blues'' that were apparently much closer to Peterson's heart. However, they lacked much of the sparkle of the Sun version.

*3 - Nothing To Lose But My Heart (2:39) 1986 (Earl Peterson) > Previously Unissued <
(Ollie F. ''Mack'' McGee) (Perco Music)
Recorded January 4, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ear Peterson (vocal and guitar), Unknown (guitar, steel guitar, fiddle)

This is the first of two unissued songs that made up Earl Peterson's one and only 4-song session for Sun. ''Nothing To Lose'' is on a par with many a hillbilly recording from 1954, but it just lacks the drive of ''Boogie Blues'' or the quality of lyricism contained in ''In The Dark''. Peterson sings pleasantly and the musicianship is adequate without ever really catching fire.

*4 - I'm Leaving My Heart Up To You (2:55) 1986 (Earl Peterson) > Previously Unissued <
(Ollie F. ''Mack'' McGee) (Perco Music)
Recorded January 4, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ear Peterson (vocal and guitar), Unknown (guitar, steel guitar, fiddle)

The final song from Earl's session is another weeper, again tending towards the cowboy sentimentality that Peterson would have heard in many country recordings from the 1940s. The main singer still having real success with this vocal sound and style in 1954 was Marty Robbins, and it is interesting to note how close Peterson's unissued titles were to Robbins' earlier Columbia recordings.

Howard Seratt

5 - Make Room In The Lifeboat For Me (2:35) 1953 (Howard Seratt) > St. Francis 100-A <
(Alton Delmore-Rabon Delmore) (Sesac Music)
Recorded Unknown Date 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howard Seratt (vocal, guitar, and harmonica)

From the very first harmonica notes it is clear that this is going to be no ordinary record. It is not that harmonica players were a rarityin the mid-South, for Howard Seratt is merely adapting the music of Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney who had been firm radio favorites for many years. Indeed, it was Wayne Raney's pals, the Delmore Brothers, who originated ''Make Room In The Lifeboat'', recording it for Decca in 1940. lt has more to do with the reassuringly solid execution of both guitar and harmonica styles and the convincing tone in which Howard delivers the moving lyrics, This recording was made in 1953 by Sam
Phillips as a custom order for the short-lived St. Francis label of Forrest City, Arkansas. It would not be long before Phillips would invite Howard back to record for Sun.

6 - Jesus Means All To Me (2:14) 1953 (Howard Seratt) > St. Francis 100-B <
(Howard Seratt) (Sesac Music)
Recorded Unknown Date 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howard Seratt (vocal, guitar, and harmonica)

Again adapting the harmonica style of Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney, this time at a brighter tempo, Howard Seratt leads into another deeply felt religious message that is so attractively delivered and yet so disarming as to momentarily convert even the most confirmed of atheists. lt is at this faster pace that one can particularly see the reason why Sam Phillips was so taken with Howard's music and so anxious to open negotiations with him about the possibility of recording of some secular music.

7 - Troublesome Waters (3:04) 1953 (Howard Seratt) > Sun 198-A <
(J.B. Karnes-Ernest Rippetoe ) (Sesac Music)
Recorded Late 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howard Seratt (vocal, guitar), Red Candel (guitar),
Travis Burked (bass), Keith Clayton (guitar)

One of the joys of being the sole proprietor of a record company is that one can issue titles that are commercial suicide but nevertheless deserve to be issued. Surely Phillips could not have held out great hopes for this title but its overarching simplicity is so moving that it cried out for release. Even after the passage of 30 years, Phillips remembered Seratt, "Oh that man. I never heard a person, no matter what field of music, could sing as beautifully. The honesty! The integrity! The communication! He had such an unpretentious quality. It had a depth of beauty about it in its simplicity. Oh God Almighty, that was a sad thing because I could have recorded him rad infinitum' and never got tired''. The assumption underlying a lifetime pact with Sun, however, was that Seratt would have to switch to secular music and perhaps that would have been self-defeating because it is Seratt's faith, expressed in the understated gentleness of his style, that makes this performance outstanding. The hymn was an obscure one, published in 1940 by Stamps-Baxter in a songster called ''Golden Key'' (another minor classic, Gathering Flowers For The Master's Bouquet, first saw light-of-day there, too). The words were by Mrs. J.B. Karnes and the music by Ernest Rippetoe. Ten years later, Johnny Cash recorded it, crediting it to his mother-in-law, Maybelle Carter, her husband, Ezra, and their house-guest, Dixie Deen (the soon-to-be wife of Tom T. Hall). It's entirely possible that Cash remembered Seratt's record or remembered the song from the original hymnal. Flatt and Scruggs recorded it two years after Cash, similarly crediting the Carters and their houseguest.

8 - I Must Be Saved (2:55) 1953 (Howard Seratt) > Sun 198-B <
(J.B. Coats) (Sesac Music)
Recorded Late 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howard Seratt (vocal, guitar), Red Candel (guitar),
Travis Burked (bass), Keith Clayton (guitar)

Despite Phillips' affection for Seratt, there is not a single artifact in the Sun files to suggest that he was ever there. The tapes were probably recorded over when funds fell short. The session details were never entered in the log book and the record itself is obscenely rare. This side, while surprisingly melodic for its simple chord structure, does not have quite the same impact as ''Troublesome Waters''. Somehow the simplicity in Seratt's style is less in evidence here. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful recording. Even on another label or in another era, this would be a standout. Seratt or Phillips titled the song. It was a J.B. Coats hymn originally titled after the first line ''In All My Sin There Was Not One Who Cared'', and first published in another 1940 songster ''Old Camp Meeting Songs''.

Doug Poindexter

9 - Now She Cares No More For Me (2:58) 1954 (Doug Poindexter) > Sun 202-A <
(Scotty Moore-Doug Winston Poindexter-Bud Deckelman) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 25, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Doug Poindexter (vocal and guitar), Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass),
Millard Yeow (steel guitar), Clyde Rush (guitar), Tommy Seals (fiddle)

This recording features such a determinedly backwoods vocal that it makes Poindexter's hero, Hank Williams, sound uptown by comparison. The melody bears a similarity to Williams' ''I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry'', but no matter, this is pure country soul with some real pain in the vocal. To underscore the Williams connection, steel guitarist, Millard Yow, even has some of Don Helms' directness and bluesy tone. The co-writer, Bud Deckelman, soon put Memphis country music on the map with ''Daydreamin''', a hit that Phillips missed. Hit or not, Poindexter's record was fiercely unafraid of its raw egdes.

10 - My Kind Of Carryin' On (2:38) 1954 (Doug Poindexter) > Sun 202-B <
(Scotty Moore - Doug Poindexter) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 25, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Doug Poindexter (vocal and guitar), Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass),
Millard Yeow (steel guitar), Clyde Rush (guitar), Tommy Seals (fiddle)

Well I took my baby out to the park
We fussed and we fought til it got dark
You wanna give me a little sugar
You cute li'l booger
Then it will be so plain to see
That you gonna like my kind of carryin' on

When Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott first contacted Doug Poindexter back in 1972 it was hard to square the image of the fairly successful insurance salesman and his taciturn wife they met in a Memphis suburb with the raunchy images engendered by this song. Despite appallingly low sales upon release, this was an important record. It was honky tonk shading toward rockabilly, Listen, for instance, to the dirty toned electric guitar up in the mix. There is a lot of fire in this recording, perhaps due less to Poindexter's vocal than to the backing group led by Scotty Moore and Bill Black. From the evidence afforded by this song, they were already marching to the beat of a different drummer. Moore says that he wrote both sides of the record, but gave a share to his brother, Carney, for writing the lead sheet and a share to Poindexter because he was the singer, but that would be easier to swallow if he'd written more songs that sounded like this. It would have been good to say that this record deserved to be a massive hit but, of course, it did not stand a prayer. Billboard identified the major problem: "Okay chanting from nasal voiced Poindexter. Big city buyers might not go big for this but it should do well in the back country."

Scotty Moore * Elvis Presley * Jimmie Lott

*11 - How Do You Think I Feel (3:30) 1986 (Scotty Moore & Elvis Presley) > Previously Unissued <
(Wayne Walker - Webb Pierce) (Gedarwood Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date April 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee

This previously unissued tape from around March/April 1955 is an early indicator of how Elvis and Scotty intended to approach their recording of this number. Composed by Wayne Walker and Webb Pierce and registered in May, 1954, ''How Do You Think I Feel'' was first released by Red Sovine in April 1954 and then by Jimmie Rodgers Snow in November. It must have been fairly fresh in everybody's minds at Sun when they settled down for this rehearsal, and because it was so recent it's hard to believe that Phillips saw it as a serious candidate for release. Although the off-mic vocal on the tape prevents its ranking as a highlight of the boxed set, the tape is still of major historical importance. If nothing else, it shows that Elvis had it in mind to record this song at least a year or two before it was eventually committed to wax. The chord structure and the timing are a bit ragged here, and Scotty muffs a few phrases, but his approach, especially the closing figure, is identical to what he would bring to the RCA recording in September 1956. It's hard to know why Elvis is off-mic or why his mic wasn't turned on. Cleanly, this was a run-through, so perhaps he was only singing to help Scotty time the fills. Note also that Scotty's opening figure (derived from the Delmore Brothers' ''Blues Stay Away From Me'') is identical to the opening he used on the stunning alternative take of ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'', recorded at the same session. It was Phillips' suggestion to bring in a drummer, Jimmie Lott, who was barely fifteen at the time. Later, Lott worked on some of Warren Smith's sessions, but has the distinction of being Presley's first drummer.

Carl Perkins

Acoustic to electric, with vengeance. Nobody could be more rooted in country music than Carl Perkins but at the same time no-one, really no-one, took to rockabilly music more readily than Carl. Sam Phillips had it right when he described Carl as someone whose voice could have revolutionised country music if his jumping guitar style hadn't revolutionised rock and roll first. Carl had a way of ''pushing'' a song, according to Sam. The country songs we have chosen here illustrate this well. Carl's voice is raw cotton country which blends so well with his rhythmic sense and his idiosyncratic guitar adventures, which at once contain elements of blues guitar and country steel guitar solos. Of the nine titles included here, first issued in the 1980s, the last two were previously unknown recordings of country ballads. The first seven were previously unissued alternative takes of known and loved Perkins' standards. And like the true original he was, Carl's alternative takes are always fascinating. Carl Perkins rarely played a song exactly the same way twice.

*12 - Instrumental Medley (5:14) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Public Domain-Billy Hill) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date Possibly Carl Perkins home, Early 1957
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), Unknown (bass)

There is every indication that Carl Perkins recorded this little medley at home, perhaps to test or demonstrate his home tape recorder, His young children can be heard in the background at various points, and of course, there was never any intention of releasing this little jam session. The informal picking contains elements of ''The Old Spinning Wheel'' and ''Listen To The Mockingbird''. For years the latter title was mis-identified as ''Redwing''. It isn't. Right genus, wrong species.

The prize clearly belongs to ''Listen To The Mockingbird'', which bas an extensive history and goes back to the mid-19th century. In fact, the song was popular during the Civil War and was reportedly a favorite of Abe Lincoln. It's hard to know exactly which version Carl heard, but it was hard not to cross paths with one of them. The melody appeared as background music to ''Looney Tunes'' cartoons and was adapted as the ''Three Stooges'' theme song. Davy Crockett plays it on the fiddle in the landmark film ''The Alamo''. Recordings were made in the 1950s by pianist Del Wood, Louis Armstrong, Arthur ''Guitar'' Boogie Smith and (with new lyrics) Louis Prima and Keely Smith. And let us not forget the ''Sons Of The Pioneers'' who had their own version 20 years earlier (BCD 16194). In short, this traditional melody was hard to miss. Even Chet Atkins recorded a version with Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1963. ''Old Spinning Wheel'' written in 1933 by Billy Hill. lt was quickly recorded by, among many others, Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring, Bing Crosby, the Boswell Sisters, and Frances Langford. It was later recorded by Slim Whitman in 1961 (BCD 16214), and as an instrumental duet by Chet Atkins and Hank Snow (BCD 15714 and 15476). This little minute and-a-half home recording again shows Carl's admiration for Chet Atkins' guitar style. Carl almost certainly heard Atkins perform the song when RCA released a single in 1954 featuring the Atkins Hank Snow duet. It's a pretty song prettily played by both Atkins and Carl, and the fluent guitar picking serves to complement the simple tune rather than to obscure or complicate it. The song and Carl's approach to it were apparently something special to him - he performed it again in much (his style as a member of Johnny Cash's band at the 1968 Folsom Prison concert (finally released in 2008 on the Sony Legacy complete edition of that concert).

On the first variant Carl shows his penchant for ending the strings at certain well chosen junctures but it is the spirit of Chet Atkins that looms large over all versions. Carl was unique among rockabilly singers, and country singers for that matter, in that he was both the lead singer and the lead guitarist, and for that reason it is good to hear these extended workouts on guitar without Carl needing to think about the next verse. These little cameos of Carl's guitar style are a tasty hors d'oeuvre to the main course about to follow.

*13 - Honky Tonk Babe (1:50) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Carl Perkins) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

This is apparently the first surviving take of the first song Carl Perkins laid down at 706 Union Avenue sometime in October 1954. At that time, the Perkins Brothers Band was purveying a kind of infectious, animated hillbilly swing music for consumption at dances and honky tonks. Vocals to make you cry, music to make you jump around. Either way, buy another drink. This early version of ''Honky Tonk Gal'' contains some previously unheard lyrics and it is also clear that the original title was ''Honky Tonk Babe''. This is only a short song but in words and music it is typical of Carl Perkins. When he first heard it, this light from the honky tonks must have put a gleam in a Sam Phillips' eye.

*14 - Gone Gone Gone (2:34) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Carl Perkins) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 11, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar), Quinton Claunch (guitar),
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), Lloyd Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums),
Bill Cantrell (fiddle on Take 1)

From the opening yell, this is a powerful if unpolished slice of hillbilly bop. This song was the first real example of the scat singing style Carl favoured on up-tempo songs. The truly remarkable feature of Carl's style was that his voice and guitar blended and complemented each other in a way that could never have been achieved if Carl had not played lead guitar. Clayton and Jay Perkins and W.S. Holland provide solid support as ever, but there is no doubt about the identity of the star of the show.

*15 - Dixie Bop (1:54) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Carl Perkins) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 11, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar), Quinton Claunch (guitar),
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), Lloyd Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums),
Bill Cantrell (fiddle)

Back in Jackson, Tennessee, the Perkins Brothers Band had developed a signature tune variously remembered as ''Perkins Boogie'' or ''Dixie Bop''. When this was recorded at Sun some years later, Sam Phillips wrote down the title as ''Perkins Wiggle''. This version features the ''Dixie Bop'' line and starts with a very different opening lyric to that previously issued. The verses were obviously interchangeable in Carl's mind. He plays a deliberate but still driving solo and it is surprising as it is with many Perkins titles of the era that this song was never worked up for release in the 1950s-

*16 - Sure To Fall (2:34) 1986 (Carl Perkins)  (Previously Unissued > Sun 235-A <
(Bill Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

The exact circumstances surrounding the scheduling but eventual non-appearance of Sun 235 (''Sure To Fall''/''Tennessee'') are hard to piece together after some fifty-plus years. ''Sure To Fall'' was at one time scheduled to appear on Sun 234 but was replaced with ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Perhaps Sam Phillips saw Carl Perkins the rocker and the Perkins Brothers hillbilly band as distinct units, each capable of appealing to a different sector of the market and justifying the release of two very different singles back-to-back. The overwhelming success of ''Blue Suede Shoes'' must have convinced him that there was only one road to take, and ''Sure To Fall'' was withdrawn from single release at the last minute. The song had been written by Claunch and Cantrell and is in the very best hillbilly tradition, On this slightly different version, Carl replaces the older fiddle and steel sounds usually associated with a Claunch-Cantrell song with a lead guitar part which effectively offsets the rough hewn vocals of Carl's brothers, Jay and Clayton, who combine with Carl in some real back country harmony.

*17 - Tennessee (3:08) 1986 (Carl Perkins) Previously Unissued > Sun 235-B <
(Carl Perkins) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

Carl's brother Jay again joined him on the chorus of this sprightly rockabilly tribute to the virtues of the state of Tennessee. If Eddy Arnold's singing and the manufacture of atomic bombs don't seem guite as worthy of praise today as then, it is nevertheless easy to identify with Carls intention to draw attention to the music of his home state and to enjoy his powerful rhythm guitar and pushing solo. Carl may not have realised it at the time hut recordings like this helped to create an entirely new tradition in Tennessee music.

*18 - Everybody's Tryin' To Be My Baby (2:18) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Alternate Take 3 <
(Carl Perkins) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

This is another bopping song that Carl recorded with many interchangeable verses, Perhaps he recorded more polished versions than this one, but this contains as much jumping country music as any and is a standout for all its raw edge. Perkins adapted it directly or indirectly from Rex Griffin's 1936 Decca recording. The York Brothers recorded a rock and roll version for Decca in 1957, when it was credited to Webb Pierce and Country Johnny Mathis. The Yark Brothers' version was probably recorded after Carl's, but was issued before. Griffin one of the unluckiest guys in the music business. He reformulated ''Lovesick Blues'' into the song that Hank Williams made into one of the biggest country records of the post-War era, and if he'd lived until 1964 he could have sued Perkins when the Beatles made ''Everybody's Tryin' Be My Baby'' into a profitable little copyright.

*19 - Forever Yours (2:36) 1970 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

This is one of Carl's least different alternative takes to be sure, but it is such a lovely country recording that any reprise is always welcome. This is the voice that Sam Phillips was convinced would shake the Nashville establishment, and the fact that it never really did remains one of the tragedies of country music.

*20 - The Way You're Living (Is Breakin' My Heart) (3:04) 1986 (Carl Perkins) Previously Unissued
(Jimmy Swan) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date Possibly Carl Perkins home, Early 1957
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), Unknown (bass)

There are few things in the world more satisfying than discovering an unissued Carl Perkins Sun recording. Despite the slight intrusion of the voices of Carl's children at the start, this vocal and guitar demo is a real treasure. Carl's vocal contains one fluff and the odd hesitant moment but the lasting memory is of a beautifully impassioned performance which cracks, soars, and swoops at all the right moments. Undoubtedly, Carl was familiar with the original version of this song, issued in 1956 by its singer/composer, Jimmy Swan, on MGM (later issued on BCD 15758).

*21 - Try My Heart Out (2:52) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
Recorded Unknown Date 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), James Buck Perkins (guitar),
Lloyd Clayton Perkins (bass), W.S. Holland (drums)

By contrast, this is a previ0usly unknown master recording. The origin of this over-emoted ballad is something of a mystery. Despite the presence of several instruments, far from certain it was cut at Sun. For one thing, the quality of these recordings is well below the standard for 706 Union Avenue. It's to a sloppy for a Sun recording and too elaborate far a home recording (at the least, there's quite a bit of echo on the vocal, a feature that lay beyond the capacity of mid-50s home recorders.) One thing to note: If these are home recordings, that piano player is more likely to be Valda Perkins than Jerry Lee Lewis. The sang itself is a whole other matter. What makes the lyrics most interesting is likely to be last on modem listeners. The composer (probably Carl) has adapted what a common advertising gimmick - most frequently appearing on radio commercials. In its original form, the phrase might be "Bear Family yeast provides every vitamin and mineral known to man. It'll give you more vim and vigor than you've ever felt. Try our yenst out. Put it to your test, What could be fairer? If this ain't the best juice/take reliever you've ever used, just send it back. There's no risk to you. Make up your own test for it. You be the judge" Carl has turned this common gimmick around and applied it to love, with himself as the product. "Take me home. Let me love you. See how you feel with me in your life''. Its a pretty funny idea when you think about it because it's an unchaste offer in a generally conservative era. But that, too, contributes to why it's a fanciful and clever song. Musically, its most effective moments come during the release (''a newborn feeling...'') when the melody shuttles between the IV and V chards. Performance wise, Carl seems to be trying a little too hard to deliver a hiccup-laced marketable ballad. He should have laid back a bit and let the clever lyrics do the work.

COTTON TOWN SWING

On a personal level Sam Phillips loved western swing music. However, he recorded very little of it. The sound was already falling from favour when he started his operation and the big western swing units were undeniably more expensive to record. However, several artists captured the western swing flavour in their music and most of that music has been gathered together here. We have also brought together all of the solo recordings by Smokey Joe Baugh (except two titles where the tape was wrecked) Joe had an effortless command of many styles but usually gravitated towards western swing when he had the choice. His naturally gravelly voice sounded black and he combined it with a genuine feeling for the blues. Joe's music was underpinned by Johnny Bernero whose work can be heard on early sides by Warren Smith, Elvis Presley and many others. He made a few recordings at Sun with his own band featuring Thurman Enlow and we have included one sample cut. Both Smokey Joe and Johnny Bernero worked with the West Memphis group, the Snearly Ranch Boys, who mode one record for Sun's non-union subsidiary, Flip Records. Once again, the western swing influence is present in abundance here.

Malcolm Yelvington

22 - Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee (2:49) 1954 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 211-A <
(Stick McGhee-J. Mayo Williams) (Leeds Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 10, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar), Jake Ryles (bass),
Reece Fleming (piano), Miles Winn (steel guitar), Lavern Fleming (piano)

Issued on Sun in November 1954, this was the first disc to appear on the label after the two-record debut of Elvis Presley that summer. This song and Yelvington's treatment of it was certainly consistent with Sam Phillips' approach to country music at that point. However, Yelvington was some ten years older than Elvis Presley and he had learned his music in a different era. The Star Rhythm Boys were essentially a western swing-honky tonk outfit, no matter how hard Sam tried to disguise the fact. As it turned out, the western swing treatment suited this song quite well. Stick' McGhee's sloppy drunk anthem had been adapted from an unprintable tune that McGhee had learned in the Navy, ''Drinkin' Wine Motherfucker''. He had first recorded it for Mayo Williams' label in 1947 and subsequently sold half of the copyright to Williams for &10. McChee re-recorded the song for Atlantic in 1949 and it became one of the first hits on that label. Yelvington and the boys whoop it up in fine style with the help of a chorus that Phillips had literally brought in off the street. Yelvington sounds a little uncomfortable at this tempo although his bullfrog baritone gets a chance to shine on the "Wine Wine Wine" refrain. The group shows a little more affinity for the material. The guitarist was obviously proud of his solo because he used it twice - for the intro and the first break, However, he had lifted some of the most memorable licks from Brownie McGhee's solo on his brother's original version. Reece Fleming's piano solo is rooted in the ''Your Red Wagon'' theme that became the base of ''Rock Around The Clock'' and countless other boogie tunes. Nevertheless, it is not hard to see why Phillips gravitated towards this song. It captured a proto-rockabilly feel and was a very natural blend of black and white styles.

23 - Just Rollin' Along (2:20) 1954 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 211-B <
(Reece Fleming) (Leeds Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 10, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar), Jake Ryles (bass),
Reece Fleming (piano), Miles Winn (steel guitar), Lavern Fleming (piano)

After honky tonk and western swing, the Star Rhythm Boys now veer closer to western music. It's delivered in unison by Malcolm and Reece Fleming and another unidentified Star Rhythm Boy in an approximation of the Sons of the Pioneers. As a member of Fleming & Townsend back in the 1930s, Reece Fleming was not new to recording and he and Yelvington had gathered a more than competent band led by fine steel and electric guitar players. There was little chance of lust ''Rolling Along'' becoming a hit, but ''Wine'' sold quite well and Yelvington was perhaps unlucky that Sam Phillips was able to compare his sales figures with those of Presley: It would be a year and a half before Sam found time to put out another Yelvington disc.

Bill Taylor with Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys

24 - Lonely Sweetheart (3:01) 1955 (Bill Taylor) > Flip 502-A <
(Stan Kesler – Roy Rogers) (Arzak Music)
Bill Taylor (vocal), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Clyde Leoppard (drums), Buddy Holobauch (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass)

Following Malcolm Yelvington's ''Just Rolling Along'', Clyde Leoppard's band made its recording debut with another throwback to the 1940s, this time a straight-forward country weeper. Delivered in an almost crooning style by the band's songwriter and trumpeter, Bill Taylor, ''Lonely Sweetheart'' comes complete with a heartrending narration of the type popular in the early decades of country music and later brought to the wider world in songs like ''Old Shep'' which hit for Red Foley and then Elvis Presley. At least Bill's sweetheart appears to be a lady and not a hound dog. The Snearly Ranch Boys provide a minimal rhythmic backing on a song that gains in charm with a few plays, but it is clear that Bill Taylor (aka William Tell' Taylor) is a more interesting songwriter than vocalist and that Clyde Leoppard had more likely vocal contenders in his band.

Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe with Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys

25 - Split Personality (2:21) 1955 (Bill Taylor & Smokey Joe Baugh) > Flip 502-B < 
(Stan Kesler-William Taylor) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Bill Taylor (trumpet), Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Clyde Leoppard (drums), Buddy Holobauch (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass)

This charming piece of nonsense features Bill Taylor as Dr, Jekyll and Smokey Joe Baugh as Mr. Hyde. As a novelty record, it has more enduring charms than most. The unison part may feature a third vocalist in place of Smokey Joe unless Joe disguised his gravelly voice for the duet. Clyde Leoppard, the nominal leader of the group contributes some rudimentary drumming and Buddy Holobaugh plays his usual aggressive guitar part.

In a later era, Bill Taylor went on to become part of Jerry Lee Lewis's touring group and he wrote a fair number of filler songs on some of Jerry Lee's later albums, as well as some hits like ''There Must Be More To Love Than This''. Taylor went to Texas from Memphis, working with R.D. Hendon and Jimmy Heap, before returning to work with Jerry Lee Lewis. Smokey Joe and Buddy Holobaugh also went to Texas, but lapsed into obscurity. Clyde Leoppard was last seen serving 99 cent lunches at a greasy spoon behind the Greyhound terminal in Memphis before his little operation fell a victim to urban renewal and he retired to Mississippi. Co-composer and steel guitar player Stan Kesler went on to run his own studio and record labels after working for Sam Phillips as resident engineer/producer at the Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, and for a time he took his studio career to Nashville, where he too worked with Jerry Lee Lewis. As a producer, his hits included Sam the Sham's ''Woolly Bully''.

Smokey Joe Baugh

*26 - Hula Bop (2:52) 1986 (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Previously Unissued <
(Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Ridgetop Music)
Recorded August 25, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Clyde Leoppard (drums), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)

Recorded in August 1955, this appealing song may well have been considered for single release. This, together with Hardrock Gunter's single was as close as Sun Records came to the sound of Bill Haley's Essex recordings. Clearly Phillips saw no potential in it, but Jimmy Knight, another Snearly Ranch hand, released a version of the song on Crystal Records the following year. The boppin' Hawaiian theme had some mileage as well, because in August 1957 Buddy Knox would score big with ''Hula Love''. On Joe's recording, Stan Kesler contributed a lovely steel solo that owed more to western swing than to any song of the islands, It contrasts nicely with Joe's coarse and animated vocal.

*27 - She's A Woman (2:26) 1986 (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Previously Unissued < 
(Stan Kesler-Joe Baugh) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 25, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Clyde Leoppard (drums), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)

Joe recorded at least three different versions of this song, a slow and bluesy version, a fast version, and a jazzier version. This is the bluesy variant and it shows that Joe not only had a blues singer's voice but also had a feeling for the music. Again, Buddy Holobaugh shines in his solo space.

*28 - The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (3"36) 1985 (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Not Originally Issued <
(Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 25, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Clyde Leoppard (drums), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)

This is a really funny reworking of the Old Paul Revere legend. The tag line ''listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere" derived from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem. The rest seems to be a Stan and Bill original. Their church mouse verse is especially funny. It's similar in spirit, if not content, to the storytelling style of ''The Signifying Monkey''. Joe unfurls his Louis Armstrong growl, the result, some people say, of a throat injury. There is a very full sound here considering the backing only consists of Johnny Bernero on drums and Buddy Holobaugh on guitar with someone drumming their finger- nails on something to simulate hoof beats.

29 - Listen To Me (2"29) 1955 (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Sun 228-B <   > Flip 228-B < 
(Stan Kesler-Joe Baugh) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 25, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Clyde Leoppard (drums), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
(Bill Taylor (trumpet)

There is a wonderful drive to this performance. The little combo works the offbeat for all it's worth, overlaying it with a steady boogie woogie. There are some early Jamaican rhythm and blues and ska records that sound kindo like this. Johnny Bernero and Buddy Holobaugh power the record, and Stan Kesler contributes some tasty work on steel. Bill Taylor can be heard on trumpet from time to time. The lyrics are hardly groundbreaking but, once again, the Snearly Ranch gang reveals a genuine feeling for this type of music. It is a matter for conjecture whether the patrons of the Bel Air lounge or the VFW club knew what a treat they were getting when this combo climbed on to the stage. Overlooked in the rush to deify the rockabilly musicians who leaped out of Memphis the following year, this group combined black and white styles with as much verve and enthusiasm as the rockabillies. In many ways, they comprised the best that Memphis had to offer at that point.

30 - The Signifying Monkey (3:18) 1955 (Smokey Joe Baugh) > Sun 228-A <  > Flip 228-A < 
(Joseph Baugh-Stan Kesler-Bill Taylor) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 25, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Smokey Joe Baugh (vocal and piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Clyde Leoppard (drums), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)

Now; of course, Smokey Joe, Stan Kesler, and Bill Taylor can no more take credit for writing this song than anyone else. Its origins are embedded deep in African American myth, as far back as Yoruba folklore according to some sources. One of America's preeminent African American scholars, Henry Louis Gates, wrote a book about literary signifying within black culture titled ''The Signifying Monkey - A Theory Of African American Literary Criticism''. The question to which we don't have a good answer is where Smokey Joe became acquainted with the potty-mouthed primate. His contribution was to clean it up, although Johnny Bernero remembered that Joe would sing the unexpurgated version from time to time. Once again, the backing is disarmingly simple. Bernero sustains the show with some rock-solid drumming while Buddy Holobaugh works a re-peated boogie riff. There had been other attempts to get the ''Monkey'' onto record, most recently by the Big Three Trio (featuring Willie Dixon) back in 1946. Cab Calloway and Count Basie covered Dixon's song. Joe's version appears to have sold quite well late in 1955, certainly in excess of 25,000 copies, and the song reportedly gained him an invitation to play at the Apollo Theatre in New York, where his white face and blonde hair would have created a stir. Stan Kesler remembered the ''Monkey'', and prevailed upon Sam the Sham to record it for a label he co-owned, XL. It was the record before ''Woolly Bully'', but probably sold sufficiently well to incentivise Phillips to re-release this one in 1964.

Stan Kesler

*31 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (1:20) 1986 (Stan Kesler) > Previously Unissued <
(Stan Kesler) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June Or July 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Stanly Kester (vocal and guitar

Stan Kesler first joined the Snearly Ranch Boys as a steel guitarist but the band quickly realised that he could play bass and guitar too and also write songs. He penned several impressive songs at Sun, recorded by Smokey Joe, Warren Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. But one of his first was the best and most lucrative, ''I Forgot To Remember To Forget'', recorded in the summer of 1955 by Elvis Presley. Taking the theme of a clever contradiction as a formula he could use, he also came up with the nation of ''We're Getting Closer To Being Apart''. Perhaps this was also destined to go to Elvis, but first Stan needed a demo of the song. He had a go at singing it himself but quickly decided that he would have a better tape if he gave part of the song to Charlie Feathers if Charlie would sing it. Charlie's version may be heard on CD 3. What we hear here is Stan's original demo. With just his own rhythm guitar for company he steps hesitantly into his title lyric and proceeds to sing just one verse, twice. There is something of the Feathers style on lines like "closer to be-hing apart" and ''if there's someone else''. Perhaps it was destined for Charlie and not Elvis after all? Either way, it wasn't released on Sun by anybody.

Note: When this boxed set first appeared in LP form, some pressings of LP five contained this version and others contained Feathers' version. Now, both are in this box.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986)

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 3 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

DEFROST YOUR HEART

Johnny Bernero Band with Thurman 'Ted' Enlow

*1 - Red Hair And Green Eyes (2:33) 1986 (Johnny Bernero) > Previously Unissued <
(Spade Cooley-Jay Milton) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably November 4, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bernero (drums), Thurman Enlow (vocal and piano), Hugh Jeffries (steel guitar),
Herman Hawkins (bass), Johnny Ace Cannon (tenor saxophone), Hank Bowers (trumpet)

The 1947 Spade Cooley classic is dressed up fit to kill his stunning version by the Bernero Band. Probably dating from 1956, it was delightfully at variante with the rockabilly trend that was sweeping Memphis and, of course, stood little or no chance of getting released. At the very least, it shows that the high regard in which Hugh Jeffries was held by local musicians was well justified. His steel playing is outstanding and the ensemble work is very tight and swings beautifully. Johnny Bernero was a powerhouse on drums, always to be found accenting and pushing at the right moments. This was the music that he loved to play, even though many of the rockabilly classics from 1955 and 1956 bear his imprint, Ted Enlow recalled that Jack Clement asked him to sing half a tone higher than he wanted on this cut, but he doesn't sound uneasy, This is compelling music and there is little doubt that the group would have seen some releases on Sun if they had arrived a couple of years earlier. Phillips loved this style of music toe, but he also had a fine grasp of what was selling.

Malcolm Yelvington

Malcolm Yelvington was well placed to see it all. He started recording at Sun in October 1954 and his last sessions were held almost exactly three years later. In October 1954 Phillips was scuffling, selling a few Presley records and getting paid in blues returns. In October 1957 he had two records in the national Top Ten and a couple of others bubbling under. Yelvington reflected the changing musical values of that tiny studio, despite the fact that he only saw two releases during those three years.

*2 - Yakety Yak (2:37) 1973 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Gordon Mashbum-Reece Fleming) Ridgetop Music
Recorded January 12, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (Vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar),
Miles "Bubba" Winn (steel guitar), Jake Ryles (bass),
Reece Fleming (piano)

Long taught to have been recorded after the Meteor version, this title probably stems from January 1955 when it was copyrighted by Hi-Lo Music. For some reason, Phillips chase not to release this - or anything by Yelvington - during 1955. Despairing of another release on Sun, and despite being still under contract, Yelvington take the song to Phillips' competitor, Les Bihari, at Meteor who released a version of ''Yakety Yak'' pseudonymously. The Sun version features an appealing blend of hillbilly and western swing, not far removed from the sound of ''Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee''. The rhythm is driving and the steel solos
plentiful and deftly placed.

*3 - Way Down Blues (2:31) 1978 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Reece Fleming) (Sun Entertainment Corporation)
Recorded January 12, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (Vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar),
Miles "Bubba" Winn (steel guitar), Jake Ryles (bass),
Reece Fleming (piano)

There is a delightful old-timey sing-along quality to ''Way Down Blues''. It was a fair distance from anything that Phillips was selling in 1955, in fact a fair distance from anything that was selling in 1955, which is probably why it had to wait almost thirty years for release. The western swing feel predominates and there is some strong vocal harmony. The song was reportedly written by Reece Fleming in 1942, five years or so after his duo act with Respers Townsend had ceased recording. And that sounds entirely plausible. According to Yelvington, Reece Fleming originally titled this song ''Blues In The Bottom Of My Shoes''.

4 - Rockin' With My Baby (2:17) 1956 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Sun 246-A < 
(Malcolm Yelvington) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (Vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar),
Jake Ryles (bass), Reece Fleming (piano)

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

*5 - It's Me Baby (2:24) 1986 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Previously Unissued <
(Reece Fleming) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (Vocal and guitar), Gordon Mashburn (guitar),
Jake Ryles (bass), Reece Fleming (piano)

This is an alternative take of the flipside of Sun 246, and it is obvious that the group had the jumping blues on their mind when they cut this tune, Yelvington sounds a little uneasy with the blues inflections and recalled that a reviewer had noted that his band had come to terms with the blues but the singer had not. Once again, there's some very tasty accenting from the drummer and some stinging lead guitar. Was the final "Inside, baby"! a sly piece of sexual innuendo? Well probably never know.

*6 - Goodbye Marie (2:48) 1978 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Louie Newton Moore) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

Apparently songwriter Louie Moore arrived from Alabama with a stack of songs, including this one. This is a strong, extremely melodic and bluesy song. Unfortunately, this version does not keep pace with the material, despite the pretense of session stalwarts Roland Janes and Jimmy Van Eaton. The lack of planning is clearest during the pointlessly extended guitar solo and thereafter. It is really a shame that this song never received the careful reading that it deserved,

*7 - Mr. Blues (2:12) 1985 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Louie Newton Moore) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

Yelvington essays Moore's countryish ballad in his gentlest bass voice. The tracks pop intentions are signalled by the triplet-wielding piano (similar to Carl Perkins' ''I'm Sorry I'm Not Sorry''). This piece of material was not the strongest in Yelvington's repertoire although the title is certainly repeated enough to 'hook' half a continent. Yelvington thought it was commercial at the time of recording. He recalls there being some dispute about this at Sun. "Sam liked it. But Justis was the session producer and he talked Sam out of issuing it''.

*8 - First And Last Love (2:40) 1985 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Louie Newton Moore) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

Quite an interesting track. The instrumental backing has a surprising amount of drive and energy to it but Yelvington's vocal is decidedly laid back. In fact, it is quite a mismatch with the instrumental support. Perhaps a different lyric or a more animated vocal might have made this track a total winner. Lord knows, it comes close in many ways. The opening echoey 5-chord, repeated between verses, is riveting and the guitar track is redolent of the understated chord work on Billy Riley's ''Trouble Bound''. All in all, this track is quite a gem.

*9 - Did I Ask You To Stay (2:19) 1986 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Previously Unissued <
(Louie Newton Moore) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

This track, together with other material from the same period, confirms that Sun was considering Yelvington for a wider audience. The overall sound is certainly not out of line with mid-1950s country crossover material and the surprisingly heavy backbeat might have garnered some rock and roll interest Yelvington's vocal is a little shaky in places, as is the guitar support. Had this track been worked through and perfected, then released to moderate success Yelvington and his group might have appeared on 'and stand played the record hops in New York. A new set of false teeth, a new rug and ol' Malcolm would have been all set for a career as the unlikeliest-ever teen idol.

*10 - Trumpet ((2:26) 1985 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Not Originally Issued <
(Louie Newton Moore) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

By Yelvington's own recollection, this was one of the strongest tracks that recorded at Sun. Produced by Bill Justis, it was apparently considered as a gle, but in the event was left in the can. Certainly, Justis expended a lot of tape on the song. The overall performance beats an uncanny resemblance to some of Onie Wheeler's Sun output, recorded at approximately the same time. Yelvington's vocal takes on an echoey and plaintive fevoked by Wheeler. Also the timbre of the lead guitar is virtually identical to the guitar on jump ''Out Of This Jukebox''. Indeed, ''Trumpet'' is a fine bluesy rocker with enough primitive energy and country charm to have appealed to many different markets.

*11 - Ocean (Going To The Sea) (1:22) 1986 (Malcolm Yelvington) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) Sun Entertainment Corporation
Recorded October 5, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Malcolm Yelvington (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar/bass),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Frank Tolley (piano)

Yelvington left two vocal/guitar demos behind at Sun and they are the least typical of any songs he ever cut there. This also sounds wholly unlike any position that ever emanated from Sun's little pool of writers. It is possible that Yelvington was demo'ing material for another writer or that ''Going To Sea'' or ''Let The Moon Say Goodbye'' were songs that he recalled from way back. The best that can be said about this little discovery is that it is interesting.

Charlie Feathers

Charlie Feathers was one of the first country artists to audition at Sun after the initial success of Elvis Presley, although Feathers insists that he was at Sun before Presley. From the distance, it is impossible to piece together the true story of Feathers' association with Sam Phillips. A generous portion of bullshit certainly clouds Feathers' version. Only the quality of the music is not in doubt and the great pity is that so little of it has been preserved. The session tapes of the last three sessions have been recorded over, although, by way of compensation there are three previously unissued gems on this collection.

*12 - Runnin' Around (2:04) 1986 (Charlie Feathers) > Previously Unissued <
(Charlie Feathers) (Ridgetop Music)
Recorded March 2, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), William Diehl (bass)

The ghost of Hank Williams clearly presided over this hand-me-down-Hank number. The melody is lifted almost note-for-note from ''Honky Tonk Blues'' and the backing has more than a few shades of the Drifting Cowboys. However, it shows that Feathers had assimilated everything that Hank Williams had to offer and distilled it into his own style. This is simply a wonderful performance. lt was discovered at the tail end of a tape containing material by Bill Cantrell who had recorded over one of Feathers' session tapes but not guite reached the end. Phillips' wretched financial shape in 1954 and 1955 surely had no more distressing consequence than the need to re-use session tapes after the chosen cuts had been mastered.

*13 - I've Been Deceived (1) (2:56) 1986 (Charlie Feathers) > Previously Unissued <
(William E. Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 2, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), William Diehl (bass)

This recently discovered alternative take shows that Feathers had already had a very good idea of how he intended to deliver his vocal but the backing group was still feeling their way through the song. Kesler's standout steel guitar work underwent some changes before the final version was committed to tape. In fact, this take is primarily a duet between Kesler and Feathers.

14 - Peepin' Eyes (2:12) 1955 (Charlie Feathers) > Flip 503-B <> Sun 503-B <
(Charles Arthur Feathers) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass)

Within a year, the style of music heard on Feathers' first record would be an anachronism, but its last blooms were the strongest and loveliest, This was music of brilliant economy. ''Peepin' Eyes'' also reminds us that guys like Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley had an understanding of rhythm that come first-hand from African American musicians. Others could play fast, but Hank, Monroe, and Elvis swung. Feathers shared that innate understanding. Either Phillips or Claunch and Cantrell mixed the rhythm track way upfront, hurtling the song forward, ''Peepin' Eyes'' was Charlie's composition, but, for all its bounciness, it's a sinister piece, hinting at voyeurism and guilty little secrets. Reviewing it on April 30, 1955, Billboard was surprisingly prescient, saying, "Indie Flip label has found itself a major piece of talent in Feathers. This is one of the few distinctive voices to emerge in a field that has long suffered from stereotypes. He' s fresh, sincere, and most effective in handling a lyric''. Amen to that. In August 1956 Sam Phillips sent out royalty statements showing that ''Peepin' Eyes'' had sold 2585 copies. Its important stemmed from the fact that it became a totemic item among rockabilly collectors, first in Europe and then worldwide, even if it's not rockabilly.

15 - I've Been Deceived (2) (2:43) 1955 (Charlie Feathers) > Sun 503-A < > Flip 503-A < 
(William E. Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 2, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), William Diehl (bass)

Perhaps more than anything, this song is a vehicle for Feathers' wonderful phrasing. He would add any number of little filigrees and embroider the lyrics in ways that still hold the sound of surprise. There is not a level on which this song does not succeed. The lyrics have it all from the depths of self-pity to divine retribution, and Feathers sells every word. Once again, Stan Kesler is out-standing. The bassist on this occasion was William Diehl, a friend of Phillips who had even considered buying a stake in Sun Records but lacked the upfront cash that Phillips needed.

*16 - We're Getting Closer To Being Apart (2:44) 1986 (Charlie Feathers) > Previously Unissued <
(Charles Arthur Feathers-Stanley Augustus Kesler) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June or July 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar) Stan Kesler (fiddle)

It seems as though the Sun vaults never ceased yielding up treasures. This sat for over thirty years on a quarter track tape marked Stan Kesler that featured, among other things, Stan's own attempts at singing. (see track 31, CD 2). Stan realised that if he was to stand a chance of selling his material, he needed to have a good demo, so he enlisted the help of Charlie Feathers and gave him 50% of both this song and ''Forgot To Remember To Forget'' in exchange for singing the demo. Feathers certainly earned his cut on this song, It is a beautiful hillbilly lament, despite the contrived title, and Feathers handles it to perfection. His phrasing on "please tell me..." duting the chorus is wonderfully bizarre. The chorus is followed by Stan Kesler's hesitant attempts at playing the fiddle. Little gems such as this help to compensate to a small degree for the many Feathers cuts that were recorded-over during 1954 and 1955. Interestingly, Feathers remembered the song and recorded it far Vetco twenty years later As similar as it was to ''I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'', it's entirely possible that this was designed for Mr. Presley's ears.

17 - Defrost Your Heart (2:43) 1955 (Charlie Feathers) > Sun 231-A <  
(Quinton Claunch-William E. Cantrell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 1, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Johnny Black (bass)

Although consigned to the flipside of ''Wedding Gown Of White'', this song was another stellar outing by Feathers. The song is truly beautiful and is matched by Feathers' masterful phrasing, He 'worries' a word or syllable in the same way as Lefty Frizzell but, at the same time, has the desperatian of Hank Williams in his voice. Once again, Kesler is outstanding while Cantrell limits himself to the intro. The melody owes some debt to Hank Williams' 1951 hit ''I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow'' but if all plagiarism were as sweet as this, it would no longer be a crime. Sam Phillips could never understand why this single was not a hit, and it's a mystery still. Phillips also insisted that Charlie could have been as big as George Jones if he'd stuck with country music, and, an the evidence of this record, it's flattering George Jones to say that he was as good as Charlie Feathers. Once again, Stan Kesler shows why the steel guitar found a place in country music. Its wordless cry precisely echoes the sentiments of so many country none more so than this. Claunch's deadened bass strings provide all the that these sides need. After Presley was signed to RCA, Sam Phillips cluded a deal that saw songs he published go to Presley's new publisher Hill & Range, for exploitation. The Aberbachs, who owned H&R, sent ''Defrost Your Heart'' to Canadian country artist Bob King,

18 - Wedding Gown Of White (3:27) 1955 (Charlie Feathers) > Sun 231-B <
(Quinton Claunch-William Cantrell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 1, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Johnny Black (bass)

In a sense. this song was more a follow-up to ''Daydreamin''' than to ''Peepin' Eyes''. This time, our hero has moved on to daydreamin' about his forthcoming marriage. You won't find a less cluttered storyline in country music: ''Love you; I'm to mary you, O boy''. Claunch and Cantrell certainly thought that this was they could mine indefinitely. The dismal sales (a shade over 900 copies) proved them wrong. Feathers provides a wonderfully hard-edged vocal in a style that could strip paint off the wall, while full of earnest love. In goes beyond love to the point of adoration. Kesler's steel guitar is also outstanding, bracketed by the signature phrase from Wagner's ''Wedding March''. The bass player is either Bill Black, augmenting his meagre earnings with Presley, or his brother Johnny. Bill Black's name was filed with the AFM but Johnny recalls playing the session and not a member of the AFM, which would have necessitated substituting his name with an AFM member an the session log.

*19 - Bottle To The Baby (2:21) 1986 (Charlie Feathers) > Previously Unissued <
(Charlie Feathers-Jody Chastain-Jerry Huffman)
Recorded January 31, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Johnny Black or Jody Chastain (bass),
Jerry Huffman (guitar), Jimmy Swords (drums)

This is a very different version of the song that Feathers recorded for King in August 1956. All the verses are different and the tag line is, ''If you want me to stay with you" rather than ''If you want me to baby you''. This is an authentic slice of southern lowlife with a lot of humour and some genuinely bizarre images:

Back in those days at the sorghum mill
We'd get our juice from the foot of the hill
Well things have done changed, I'm tellin' y'all
When you squeeze your woman you can hear her squall. (chorus)
My little woman and the little kitchy-koo
We're in apartment East 42
When we get sluiced we get a little loud
The landlady up and she throw us out (chorus)
Me and my woman, she's as sweet as two
And when we get a family, wel'll know just what to do
I'll sit right down and feed 'em candy too
And when one hollers, I'11 know just what to do

lt is entirely possible that Chastain and Huffman's contribution to this song was to remove those lovely folky images and replace them on King with something that better belonged in a rock and roll song. If Sam Phillips witnessed the taping of this demo it is surprising that he did not appreciate Feathers' potential for the new music. He let Feathers' contract lapse at the time this was recorded although it is possible that the problem of dealing with Feathers out, weighed the potential upside.

*20 - Man In Love (1:56) 1986 (Charlie Feathers) > Previously Unissued <
(Charlie Feathers-Quinton Claunch-William Cantrell)
Recorded Possible 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar), Quinton Claunch (guitar), More Details Unknown

Feathers and an unidentified second guitarist (probably Quinton Claunch) turn their hands to one of the mellowest and most affecting ballads in the Sun vaults. It was a demo that was pitched to Tommy Tucker who recorded it for Hi in 1959. Claunch claims to have written the song single-handedly and then given 33% to Cantrell because of their longstanding agreement and another 33% to Feathers in exchange for singing the demo. Jim Denny at Cedarwood Music in Nashville reportedly offered to get a major artist to cut it if he could get the publishing, but Hi's Joe Cuoghi turned him down. Feathers' vocal is noticeably free of the vocal gimmickry that became his trademark when the results might be destined for release. This is simply a wonderful performance with a plaintive, almost folly quality.

CALL ME ANYTHING

Perhaps more than any other part of this collection, the performances gathered here show the depth of the musical ferment in the early months of 1956. Maggie Sue Wimberley and Jimmy Haggett both produced pure country music for Sun Records in 1955 and then came back to find that the world had changed around them. They are almost unrecognisable in their new suits of clothes. Jimmy Haggett's titles are especially interesting because they show a man coming to terms with the new music while remaining desperately uneasy with it. Soon after these sessions he dissolved his dilemma by hiring Buford Peak to front his group. In the early months of 1956, though, he traded in his fiddler for o blistering rock and roll guitarist.

Maggie Sue Wimberly

21 - How Long (2:46) 1955 (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Sun 229-B <
(Quinton Claunch- William E. Cantrell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 25, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Maggie Sue Wimberly (vocal), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass)

Recorded in October 1954, this was saved from premature retizement by the need to find a flipside for ''Daydreams Come True''. Arguably, Maggie Sue was on safer ground here. Her vocal control is used to good effect, especially the melodramatic title phrase. The song is a pure delight and the backing, led as usual by Stan Kesler, is first rate. The song was plucked from obscurity by Rita Robbins who recorded a cover version in the early months of 1956. However, young Maggie Sue saw her own version fall by the wayside. Times were already changing by the point this was released and its fortunes stood or fell with the continuation of the ''Daydreamin''' saga. Unfortunately, the public seemed to have other things on its mind.

22 - Daydreams Come True (2:55) 1955 (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Sun 229-A < 
(Quinton Claunch - Bill Cantrell)
Recorded March 18, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Maggie Sue Wimberly (vocal), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Stanley Kesler (steel guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass)

''Daydreamin''' was the surprise country hit to emerge from Memphis in early 1955. Rejected by Sam Phillips a year earlier and dismissed by Billboard as a 'B' side ("capable rural waxing...'') it nevertheless gave Phillips' competitor, Lester Bihari, his second major hit. In New Orleans, for example, it spent over 30 weeks in the Top Ten. However, the good news for Bihari ended there. Deckelman moved to MGM and the team that had written ''Daydreamin''', Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, pitched the follow-up to both Sun and Meteor. Meteor's version featured Buddy Bain, Kay Wain et al, and Sun's version marked the debut of Maggie Sue Wimberly. Maggie Sue's performance betrays her tender years and exhibits the peculiarly American trait of having juvenile performers sing about adult emotions. That said this is still a fine record that, to a degree, transcends its problems. The instrumental backing is nothing short of superb, yet another showcase for Stan Kesler's steel guitar and Bill Cantrell's fiddle.

Jimmy Haggett

23 - No More (2:23) 1955 (Jimmy Haggett) > Sun 236-A <
(Jimmy Haggett) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), J.L. "Speed" Moody (guitar),
Billy Springer (steel guitar), J.G. "Gabby" McKinn (bass),
Bernie Gwatney (fiddle), Euwin Mansfield (drums)

Jimmy Haggett drew his inspiration from different wellsprings than those that fed most of his contemporaries at Sun Records. His major influence was Jim Reeves and this is apparent in his phrasing. However, the backing is pure, unadulterated hillbilly. The guitarist J.L. ''Speed' Moody contributes some tasty fills and there is some very pleasant interplay between the steel guitar of Billy Springer and the fiddle of Bernie Cwatney. The long nights of working together obviously paid dividends here. The real mystery surrounding the song is its gin. Haggett freely admitted the song was not an original but denied all knowledge of a previous version by Luke McDaniel, recorded for Trumpet in 1952. The McDaniel version has some different lyrics and it would be easy to say that whoever gave Haggett this song simply ripped it off from McDaniel. However there is another wrinkle in the story provided by yet another out-take box where an unidentified artist sings McDaniel's lyrics to ''No More''. It is possible that this third version is indeed by McDaniel who may have auditioned at Sun earliest than had been thought.

24 - They Call Our Love A Sin (2:12) 1955 (Jimmy Haggett) > Sun 236-B <
{Jimmy Haggett) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 23, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), J.L. "Speed" Moody (guitar),
Billy Springer (steel guitar), J.G. "Gabby" McKinn (bass),
Bernie Gwatney (fiddle), Euwin Mansfield (drums)

Both this song and ''No More'' were reportedly given to Haggett by a musician in his band. ''I can't remember his name now'', recalled Haggett. "I changed a few words and the melody and he said that all he wanted was to get his songs on record. He told me that they were unpublished and he released them to me''. As it happened, these were not especially valuable copyrights, Sun 236 had sold 448 copies a year after release. lt was the rockabilly sound of Carl Perkins that pointed the way into the future for Sun Records - and for Jimmy Haggett.

Maggie Sue Wimberly

*25 - They Who Condemn (2:29) 1986 (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Previously Unissued <
(Bill Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Probably 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Maggie Sue Wimberly (vocal), Unknown Group

Returning to the Sun studio, Maggie Sue turns her hand to a honky tonk ballad for the younger set. Her performance is quite accomplished but comes nowhere close to the affecting quality of ''How Long''. The backing group sounds familiar but is nevertheless hard to place. Phillips was certainly correct to nix this one as a single contender.

*26 - Call Me Anything (2:54) 1986 (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Previously Unissued <
(Addington-Dubrover) (Sun Entertainment Corporation)
Probably 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Maggie Sue Wimberly (vocal), Unknown Group

In search of new material for the young Ms. Wimberly, someone hit upon the idea of reviving Big Memphis Marainey's sole Sun recording from 1953. That someone was undoubtedly Sam Phillips because he held the publishing and was one of the few people to have actually heard the original, which sold as poorly as this would have. The overall feel of this recording approximates Elvis Presley's early ballads such as ''Love Me'' and ''Anyway Want Me'' but the moppets tender years are no match for the material. Her valiant attempt to reach and sustain the final note speaks well of her enthusiasm but poorly of those who had dreamed up this endeavor.

*27 - Rock And Roll 'Simmon Tree (2:06) 1986 (Maggie Sue Wimberly) > Previously Unissued <
(Bill Cantrell-Quinton Claunch) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Probably 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Maggie Sue Wimberly (vocal), Unknown Group
Possibly Roy Orbison (guitar)

This uncompromisingly silly song was obviously an attempt to bring Maggie Sue into line with musical developments since her sole release. However, the transition to rock and roll was not without its problems and they begin with the song. The notion of someone getting the notion to rock and roll while knocking persimmons down from a tree is on a par with the efforts of several country singers who to make grandpa rock. A more serious problem comes from the backing group. Only the guitarist (who sounds distinctly like Roy Orbison) has much feeling for the proceedings. The song's melody is lifted note-for-note from Al Dexter's 1940s smash ''Pistol Packin' Mama'' which, ironically, had been revived by Dexter for the Memphis and Los Angeles based Ekko Records in 1955.

Note: on the original LP version of this boxed set we used the title '''Cinnamon Tree'' that had been logged at some point in the Sun vaults. Maggie Sue later told us that she had been singing about persimmons.

Jimmy Haggett

*28 - How Come You Do Me (2:08) 1985 (Jimmy Haggett) > Not Originally Issued <
(Jimmy Haggett) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), Charlie Hardin (guitar), Billy Springer (steel guitar),
Jackie Lee Adkins (bass), Don White (drums)

This is an alternative take of a track that led to some confusion many years when it was first thaught to be by Junior Thompson. A song called ''How Come You Do Me'' was copyrighted by Thompson on December 1956 and released at approximately the same time on Tiny Records. It was, therefore assumed that this title was by the same artist despite the fact that the lyrics are different. However, an article in Country Song Roundup indicated that Haggett had cut a session for Sun including this title. Jimmy recognised it immediately when he heard a dub and matched it against the acetate that Phillips had given him after the session in June 1956. So, thirty years after it was recorded, the song was finally released with the correct artist credit. The only surprise is that Phillips did not release the track. lt would have fitted right in with the current crop of releases on Sun in the summer of 1956.

*29 - Rhythm Called Rock And Roll (2:03) 1985 (Jimmy Haggett) > Not Originally Issued <
(Jimmy Haggett) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), Charlie Hardin (guitar), Billy Springer (steel guitar),
Jackie Lee Adkins (bass), Don White (drums)

This track really says it all, If you listen closely, you can hear a country musician's frustration at dealing with the new rockabilly music. The guitarist has adapted well to the new sounds, although he sounds as though he would be at a loss without Carl Perkins to draw on. Haggett sounds a little uneasy, as he does on all four titles from this session. This is very primitive rockabilly music without the desperate - often contrived - excitement of other artists working the same territory.

*30 - Rock Me Baby (1:58) 1985 (Jimmy Haggett) > Not Originally Issued <
(Jimmy Haggett) (Ridgetop Music)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), Charlie Hardin (guitar), Billy Springer (steel guitar),
Jackie Lee Adkins (bass), Don White (drums)

Haggett and his band sound much more comfortable with the emerging rockabilly style on this wonderful slice of primitive jumping music. Haggett shares the honours with his guitarist who literally dominates the recording from his supporting role. He is bursting with ideas, many of them borrowed or developed from Carl Perkins, hut he nevertheless generates real excitement and, like Carl, was not afraid to venture onto the bass strings. This track, together with ''How Come You Do Me'', shows that Haggett and his band could play very decent rockabilly music,

*31 - Rabbit Action (1:42) 1985 (Jimmy Haggett) > Not Originally Issued <
(Jimmy Haggett) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy Haggett (vocal and guitar), Charlie Hardin (guitar), Billy Springer (steel guitar),
Jackie Lee Adkins (bass), Don White (drums)

The major fault in this track is that the lyrics are somewhat contrived to reflect the rockabilly lifestyle of sharp clothes, sharp cors and an endless round of boppin'- Carl Perkins was obviously the godfather of this performance; Haggett's vocal owes clear debt to Perkins, as does the guitarist. Even the drummer achieves an approximation of W.S. Holland's stubby drum sound. Nevertheless, there is a contagious energy here and some genuine good timing music.

The Miller Sisters

It was always a mystery to everyone connected with Sun's little operation why the Miller Sisters were not a resounding success. The portents seemed to be good: singing sister acts were in vogue in both country and popular music, the girls could handle almost any type of material - and they were good! In fact, they were exceptionally good. Their harmony was unerring. This first detailed retrospective of their work shows that Elsie lo and Millie - actually sisters-in-law - were a top class act who just could not fulfill their promise. Their siren song has never been more than a by-word among the few.

32 - Someday You Will Pay (2:20) 1955 (Miller Sisters) > Sun 504-A < > Flip 504-A > 
(Roy Estes Miller) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 14, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal, Mildred Wages (vocal), Roy Estes Miller (guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Bill Cantrell, (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)
Marcus Van Story (bass), Charlie Feathers (spoons)

The top side of the Millers' debut single is a total delight. It is simple, honest, spirited and rural - attributes that have all but disappeared from country music. The entire proceedings have the sound and feel of a back country dance. Unquestionably part of the side's flair and drive come from Charlie Feathers who just happened to be hanging around the studio (wasn't he always in 1954?) with a couple of spoons he didn't mind playing. Ironically, uptempo material like this, while winning in its awn right, is not the ideal showcase for the girls' harmonies. Nevertheless, this song was chosen as the top side of the Millers' first release.

33 - You Didn't Think I Would (2:50) 1955 (Miller Sisters) < Flip 504-B < > Sun 504-B <
(Roy Estes Miller) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 14, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal, Mildred Wages (vocal), Roy Estes Miller (guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Bill Cantrell, (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)
Marcus Van Story (bass)

Although credited to Roy Miller, this song was written by Jo and Millie in Roy's car on the way back from a local gig. It's a fairly conventional country weeper with some nascent feminist sentiments. The only surprise is that potent material such as this could have come from the heart and mind of sweet seventeen year old Mildred Miller. Despite its origins, the girls perform it quite convincingly to the patented Claunch/Cantrell hillbilly backing.

*34 - Look What You've Done To My Heart (2:30) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(Roy Estes Miller) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 14, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal, Mildred Wages (vocal), Roy Estes Miller (guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Bill Cantrell, (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)
Marcus Van Story (bass)

Millie and Jo offer solid chanting on a weeper destined for rural juke action. Had this been issued – it wasn't - Billboard might have said: "May not break out of the hinterlands but waltz tempo adds to back country' feel. Strong cleffing and usual Sun back shock sound make this disking a winner''.

*35 - I Know I Can't Forget You (But I'll Try) (2:53) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(Roy Estes Miller) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 14, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal, Mildred Wages (vocal), Roy Estes Miller (guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Bill Cantrell, (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)
Marcus Van Story (bass)

The first time Colin Escott and Hank Davis heard this track was on an acetate played by Marion Keisker in Memphis. They were struck by its pure country charm and lamented the fact that music like this was unlikely to find its way into commercial release. Fortunately that problem has been solved and this wonderful track takes its place in the legacy left behind at Sun by the Miller Sisters.

36 - There's No Right Way To Do Me Wrong (2:24) 1955 (Miller Sisters) > Sun 230-A < 
(Gabe Tucker-Smokey Stover) (Southern Music)
Recorded March 14, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal, Mildred Wages (vocal), Roy Estes Miller (guitar),
Quinton Claunch (guitar), Bill Cantrell, (fiddle), Stan Kesler (steel guitar)
Marcus Van Story (bass)

Billboard incorrectly described this in January 1956 as an 'effective weeper, which suggests that they had not even listened to it, or, if they had, they'd listened to the wrong version. Despite its theme, the track moves along at a sprightly pace that belies its subject matter. As he did on all of the girls' releases, Phillips coupled a true weeper with some uptempo material and he must have thought very highly of this song because it was one of the very few' non Hi-Lo copyrights released by Sun in 1956, The song was originally recorded at half this tempo in December 1953 by Rose Maddox. Although Phillips credits Gabe Tucker and Smokey Stover, Rose's record credits west coast songwriter Ted Meyne.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986)

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 4 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

SO LONG I'M GONE

The Miller Sisters

1 - You Can Tell Me (2:38) 1955 (Miller Sisters) > Sun 230-B <
(Homer Eddleman Jr.) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 1, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Buddy Holobauch of Roy Miller (guitar),
Stanley Kesler (steel guitar), Jan Ledbetter or William Diehl (bass),
Johnny Bernero (drums)

This is a powerful piece of country material written by Homer Eddleman Jr. who bad submitted a tape to Sun from Rte.1, Marianna, Arkansas. Elsie Jo and Millie turn in a stellar performance on the material that keeps pace with their stylings. The storyline is grabby, telling the tale of a woman who is all too eager to demean her friend's man because she will be the beneficiary once her gossip breaks up the couple. About ten years later, blues singer Bobby Bland recorded an interesting variant on this theme called ''Your Friends''. Separated by years, miles, race, and audience Bland's record shows that some themes are timeless and can be reworked into any style.

*2 - Woody (1:45) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(Roy Estes Miller) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Buddy Holobauch of Roy Miller (guitar),
Stanley Kesler (steel guitar), Jan Ledbetter or William Diehl (bass),
Johnny Bernero (drums)

This is one of the few extant takes of ''Woody'' without Woody Woodpecker sound effects grafted onto it. There are at least ten takes of this tune in the vaults although it is ironic that, after all the work on Roy's novelty song, nothing was released. Despite the trite and dated lyric, the girls turn in a really splendid vocal, considerably better than the material deserved.

3 - Finders Keepers (2:56) 1956 (Miller Sisters) > Sun 255-B < 
(Quinton Claunch-William Cantrell) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Unknown (bass, drums, piano), Bill Taylor (trumpet)

Possibly the Millers' best side, This is a simple yet beautiful pop/country ballad that surely belonged in the charts in 1956. The girls offer their usual seamless vocal with crystalline harmonies. The backing is an unorthodox combination of sounds. Stan Kesler's beautifully played steel guitar predominates and is a better by Bill Taylor's totally affecting trumpet which shines through an unexpected 4-bar solo, There is an interesting similarity between this record and ''No Matter Who's To Blame'' by Barbara Pittman which appears in the same release schedule. That song also featured an unusual trumpet/steel guitar mix. Both also had their sights firmly set on the pop and country charts and failed to reach either.

*4 - My Isle Of Golden Dreams (3:10) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(Gus Kahn-Walter Blaufuss) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Unknown (bass, drums, piano)

Despite appearances to the contrary, this is not a traditional Hawaiian song nor was it composed for the Miller Sisters by one of the resident Tupelo or Memphis tune-smiths. Rather, the song comes from Tin Pan Alley in New York and dates from 1934 rather than 1954. lt has been recorded by Marty Robbins and innumerable others. Nevertheless, it is hard to outclass the Miller Sisters their stellar performance showcases their clairvoyant vocal rapport. Performers have either been scared away or attracted by the yodel in the song' release ("I hear the voice...'') and it is clear that the girls rose to the occasion. As Millie said nearly thirty years later, ''We had to do some tall singing on that one''. Indeed they did. Unfortunately, the only flaw in the recording is the band's uneasiness with the song's unconventional chard changes during the lines ''Somebody cries, somebody sighs...". The bass player in particular loses his way completely.

*5 - Ten Cats Down (2:27) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(William E. Cantrell . Quinton Claunch) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Unknown (bass, drums, piano)

Sam Phillips hedged his bets on the Millers' last record by pairing the ballad ''Finders Keepers'' with the girls' one attempt at a solid rocker. ''Ten Cats'' was as close as the ladies came to rockabilly but their sound was really ill-equipped for it. It seems as though women and rockabilly have always had unsteady romance, despite notable exceptions such as Wanda Jackson Janis Martin. Arguably, the Miller Sisters were too country, too pure sounding to sound convincing on this type of song, The song needs a raging river and the girls are like a crystal stream. Nevertheless, this track is of considerable interest because it represents a previously unissued alternative to the version issued on Sun 255. 1f anything, this version is closer to jazz than rock and roll pushes the proceedings in the direction of western swing, which was surely not Phillips' intention in 1956. It marked the end of Quinton Claunch and Cantrell's association with Sam Phillips, and Cantrell remembered it a wince.

*6 - It Only Hurts For A Little While (2:35) 1986 (Miller Sisters) > Previously Unissued <
(Mack David-Fritz Spielman) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Unknown (bass, drums, piano), Bill Taylor (trumpet)

This song was a then-current pop hit far the Ames Brothers which was obviously well known to both the girls and the band members from the radio exposure. The Millers' version features a marvelous pop/country hybrid of steel guitar and trumpet that was pushed further towards mass market acceptance by the piano triplets. However, the exercise was academic. As he had on previous occasions, Sam Phillips chose to release material on which he owned the copyright and songs like this were relegated to the storage box.

*7 - Got You On My Mind (2:25) 1975 (Miller Sisters) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Thomas-Howard Biggs) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956/1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

Although neither Millie nor Jo were aware of it, ''Got You On My Mind'' had a sizeable rhythm and blues hit in 1951 by John Greer .In fact, the song since become something of u standard with barely a decade passing that doesn't see a handful of cover versions or revival attempts. Greer's own version was redolent of Ivory Joe Hunter's style: an easy lilting melody, repeating through a 12-bar blues progression and lending itself easily to two-part harmony. Interestingly, when the Millers recorded it, they omitted the song's 8-bar middle segment and a piano-led instrumental break was substituted for the song's release. Arguably, the song didn't really need a release and the version we hear has not been weakened its exclusion. Whether the Millers non-release arrangement represented a conscious decision on somebody's part collective lapse of memory in the studio another musical question that the passing years have rendered unanswerable.

*8 - Chains Of Love (2:16) 1975 (Miller Sisters) > Not Originally Issued <
(Gene Simmons) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Roland Janes (guitar), Jimmy Wilson (piano),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

This is not, of course, the old big Joe Turner hit but rather a composition from the pen of Gene Simmons. At that point, Simmons (who also hailed from Tupelo) was trying to get a recording career off the ground,. He had cut a number of songs at Sun during 1956 but none of them were released until 1958. In fact, his version of this song was unreleased until 1986. The Millers' version probably dates from 1957 and features a blend of old and new. Stan Kesler brought in his trusty steel guitar for the occasion but the drums and boogie-piano licks point unerringly into the future. The results are a little ragged in places but quite pleasant. The girls sound comfortable at this tempo but the material was probably not strong enough to merit much more work,

Cast King

At the time the original LP version of this boxed set was compiled in 1986 we decided we had to include an excellent body of work by a singer we could not track down and who was only tentatively identified in the Sun tape vaults as Cast King. We could hear the Miller Sisters on one song, but they could only remember the song not the singer. Elsie Jo Miller thought he might have been from Luka, Mississippi. In fact, he was Joseph D. King from Pisgah, Alabama and he remembered the Millers too. King contacted us in 1987 after learning from one of his band musicians that his records had been issued thirty years after the tact. He told us that his duet with the Miller Sisters had been unplanned and was made in June 1956 (though it is possible he meant 1957) when he came to Sun with his group led by the Sartin brothers, also from Pisgah, to play some songs that their radio director had already sent in as demos. King said that Sam Phillips asked his assistant, Jack Clement, to work with him and that on the first occasion Clement recorded one song with the Miller Sisters backing him and told him to come back with some more up to date material. King's home in northeast Alabama was within earshot of bluegrass on the Knoxville stations and that made his music very different from those who'd come to Memphis from the Delta or west Tennessee. King's music resonated with Clement, whose background was also in bluegrass.

Cast King & The Miller Sisters

*9 - I Can't Find Time To Pray (3:02) 1986 (Miller Sisters & Cast King) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), Elsie Jo Miller (vocal), Mildred Wages (vocal)
John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass)
Robert Jones (drums)

Thirty years after this session, Jo Miller commented, "I'11 still find myself singing that song. It was beautiful''. Indeed it was. She remembered Sam Phillips phoning to ask the Millers to come into the studio specifically to work on the song, even though they didn't know Cast King and Phillips himself was not producing the session. Everyone connected with the session must have believed that they had a winner here because a considerable amount of time was invested in its production. The result is a convincing religious narration that should have been given a chance the marketplace but never was. Cast King's understated narrative is very powerful and the whole track jells magically, especially during the deceptively simple punchline delivered in the last four bars.

Cast King

*10 - When You Stop Loving Me (2:24) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

A month after his first session, in July 1956 (or possibly 1957) Cast King and the Country Drifters were back with Jack Clement, as requested, and King brought some rockabilly material as instructed. But first, he made this wonderful country record. History has shown that Sam Phillips made surprisingly few mistakes in deciding which track to release and which to leave for future generations of music archaeologists. This track may represent one of his biggest mistakes. It is a splendid song and must have stood a fair chance of success. Although neither the composition nor the performance are really polished, the end product is quite spectacular. The song is melodic - in fact, adjectives like memorable and beautiful don't seem cut of place. Moreover, it has a hook strong enough to get the Titanic off the ocean floor. Instrumentally, the performance is a gem, featuring standout steel and lead guitar work from the Sartin brothers, As a matter of interest, an alternative take (with a somewhat flawed vocal) shows this beautiful country waltz to gain in strength with the tempo slowed a little. This stands alongside Sun's finest country records and its non-appearance is a mystery, unless Jack Clement forgot to play it for Sam. Or unless you agree with Cast King when he mused, "maybe my songs were so different than anything Sun had done. After all, why dig more holes when you've already got a gold mine''?

*11 - Like Aweed In A Garden (3:28) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), Oliver Brown (vocal), Bonnie Sartin (vocal),
John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass)
Robert Jones (drums)

This is another spectacular cut from Cast King from the opening steel notes to the thoughtful lyrical reading, the harmony vocals, the slowly shuffling rhythm and the understated steel solo. It is an awesomely beautiful performance. The lyrics have elevated self-pity a dizzying height but in King's hands the group and material achieve a magic blend. King's band was unusual because he carried a second tenor vocalist, Oliver Brown, and most of the musicians also sang along. On this one song, Bonny Sartin, who had come along with her brothers for the ride, also contributed to the harmonies.

*12 - Satisfied With Me (2:03) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

A mountain of tape was expended on this title, probably because producer Jack Clement had his name on the song. Cast King recalled that he wrote the song with Clement and a man named Bill Pricket in the restaurant next to the Sun studio and they had never played the sang before the session started. Take after take was recorded and then the little 7" boxes were stowed away. There are some appealing bluegrass-styled harmonies and some fairly nifty picking from the guitarist, although King remained convinced in later years that the tapes had been speeded up somewhat. Perhaps Clement attempted to enhance the light, rhythmic feel of the music. However, it is the song itself that is so instantly attractive. The contrast between the high harmonies and the bullfrog hart tone calls to mind the Kershaw brothers with Wiley Barkdull.

*13 - Please Believe Me (2:34) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

This is yet another strong entry from the highly accomplished Cast King band. It was one of his original demo songs and the one Jack Clement had told him to use as a model for some material that could be sold as rockabilly. This song had the hurrying rhythm so many Sun records but the wonderful vocal harmonies, steel guitar solos, and light beat created by bass and drums probably stayed too close to country music to stand a chance in the musical ferment of the mid-1950s.

*14 - Round And Round (2:00) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

Perhaps this is the closest approximation of rockabilly that the group recorded. The references to ''rock and roll to the break of the day" certainly date the song to the early days of the rock and roll era but in a charming throwback, the steel guitarist resurfuces for some very tasty interplay with the lead guitarist. This is very accomplished music and the local bar trawlers in Pisgah would have had a real reason lo stay until closing time.

*15 - Destiny (1:53) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

Another exceptionally strong piece of writing and singing from the King band. Some of the lines such as "a parasite living on love" are quite arresting but the real clincher comes with the approach of the chorus. The group joins King on the last syllable of the verse and then they extend support through the chorus. The steel guitar solo is followed by a little Luther Perkins-styled picking. This is wholly out of context with the pattern of Sun releases in 1956 and 1957 - the rawness is not in the performance but in the striking hillbilly images and stone back-country vocal of King himself. lt is rawness that must be searched out rather than rawness that leaps out of the groaves. Perhaps Phillips was looking for the latter and Cast King's tapes were tied together with an elastic band and stored away.

*16 - Baby Doll (2:03) 1986 (Cast King) > Previously Unissued <
(Joseph Dudley King) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Cast King (vocal), John Walker (guitar), James W. Sartin (steel guitar),
John Sartin (guitar), Gay Roberts (bass), Robert Jones (drums)

There is a distinct pop flavour to the cuts of ''Baby Doll'' Cast King left behind at Sun. However, the light folky leanings still render the sang an outside contender by the standards that Phillips was setting. The lyric refers to a ''party doll' and indeed the sound is distinctly redolent of Jimmy Bowen and of Buddy Knox's hit ''Party Doll'', and but that may not be so surprising since it was Jack Clement behind the glass rather than Sam Phillips. The steel guitarist sits out this cut but it is still a fait distance from the Sun releases of that period. The unaccompanied intro was difficult to handle and there are several false starts where the group lacked a beat to focus their efforts. This is wonderful music and it is surprising that King did not make more efforts to get his group on record once it became clear that Sun was not going to come through with a record release. Perhaps he felt that he just could not accommodate the changes that had occurred in country music.

Warren Smith

Early in 1954 Sam Phillips hailed Warren Smith as the third all-market contender he had signed. Smith seemed to have limitless potential. He was good looking, he had stage presence, he had a desperate will to succeed and, best of all, the man could really sing. However, his success on Sun was limited to a few local chart entries, a fleeting entry into the Hot 100 and then a swift decline at the very moment he should have consolidated his initial success. The limited success of Smith's Sun recordings is no reflection on their quality. This boxed set gathers together at least one take of every recording that Smith made for Sun, and, when first issued, represented the first detailed retrospective on his early work.

17 - Rock 'N' Roll Ruby (2:51) 1956 (Warren Smith) > Sun 239-A <
(John R. cash) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 5, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Johnny Bernero (drums), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano)

"Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips came in one night when I was playing with Clyde Leoppard'', recalled Warren Smith. "They invited me to come back to their table and sit down. To begin with, I thought it was some kind of fluke, then Sam Phillips asked me to come over to Sun the next day, and Johnny Cash said he might have a song for me''. Smith's performance of ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' belies his lack of professional experience. It is a supremely confident debut. Sun 239 was released in March 1956 and entered the Memphis charts on May 1. It reached the number one slot on May 26. By that point it had climbed onto some other local charts and there was a surprising number of cover versions considering that the record never hit the hot 100. Among the most notable were Johnny Carroll's Decca version, Lawrence Welk and Dave Burton's big band versions. Even a black vocal group, the Saints on Salem Records, covered the song. There was also a Canadian cover version.

It appears as though the song was not actually from the pen of Johnny Cash, but was bought by Cash from George Jones for $40. A solid investment, as it transpired. Despite all of the activity surrounding the song, Smith's national breakthrough was still over a year away. However, this did not impede him from acquiring the attitudes and demeanour of one whose place in the pantheon of rock and roll was already assured. The portents were extraordinarily good. Neither Carl Perkins nor Elvis Presley had done so well with their debut release.

18 - I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry (2:57) 1956 (Warren Smith) > Sun 239-B <
(Stanley Kesler-William E. Taylor) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 5, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Buddy Holobaugh (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jan Ledbetter (bass), Johnny Bernero (drums), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano)

The presence of an out-and-out hillbilly weeper on the flip side of Warren Smith's debut single shows how uncertainly Sam Phillips was feeling his way through the confusion in the early months of 1956. Perhaps he was hoping for airplay on the country stations in case the whole rock and roll craze went the way of other crazes - like the calypso craze a year or so later. Perhaps he simply did not appreciate that the mass audience beyond Memphis would have preferred a pop ballad to a slice of unadulterated hillbilly music. However, the mass audience's loss is our gain. This is very pure country music - and astonishingly beautiful. Smith's vocal is perfectly pitched and it allows us to eaves-drop on the way that he sounded before Elvis Presley turned his head around. Stan Kesler said that Smith was supposed to be the front man for Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys, and it's certainly the Ranch Boys backing him on his first single, possibly with Johnny Bernero replacing Leoppard. According to Kesler, Smith was housed with the Ranch Boys in West Memphis and they paid him money to live on,.After ''Rock 'N' Roll Ruby'' took off, Smith quickly reneged on the deal, and went solo.

19 - Black Jack David (3:07) 1956 (Warren Smith) > Sun 250-A < 
(Warren Smith) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Johnny Bernero (drums),
Brad Suggs (guitar), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano)

Once again, Phillips hedged his bets by coupling a rockabilly anthem with a hillbilly tune. Reportedly originating in Scotland circa 1600, The Gypsy Laddie began: ''The gypsies they came to my lord's castle yet/And O but they sang so bonnie/They sang sae sweet and sae complete/That down came our fair ladie''. And of course off went the lady. The first to chronicle the song's tortuous history was Francis James Child in his nineteenth century tome ''English And Scottish Popular Ballads''. After crossing the ocean with the early settlers, it changed in the hollows of Appalachia. Bits of another song called ''Seventeen Come Sunday'' were added as the woman lost her nobility along with her virginity. The first recording was by a folklorist, Professor G. Greer and his wife, in 1929. Another folklorist, John Jacob Niles, recorded ''The Gypsy Inddie'' for RCA in 1939. Cliff Carlisle cut it that year, although he said he learned it from T. Texas Tyler, and Tyler copyrighted it in August 1939, one month after Carlisle's recording. The Carter Family recorded it in 1940. Tyler's adaptation became the first post-War recording, and probably led to Warren Smith's recording. While unaware of the song's origins, Smith was undoubtedly aware that it was far from original. In fact, his lyrics were considerably less salty than the Carter Family's. In a 1956 interview in the Memphis Press Scimitar, Smith hurriedly pointed out that, even though ''Black Jack David'' was a rake and philanderer, ''the lyric is fixed so there's lime enough that she could have gotten a divorce or something before she goes with him''. Of course, Warren. This is a stellar performance that needs no apologies. Sparse, achingly pure, and haunting in the best tradition of hillbilly music. A standout cut on every front. And, as on Johnny Cash's ''Folsom Prison Blues'', the hook is provided by a repeated guitar solo, in this case played by Brad Suggs or Buddy Holobaugh. (T. Texas Tyler's version is on Bear Family's ''Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Hillbilly Music'' volume for 1946, and the Carters' recording is on the ''In The Shadow Of Clinch Mountain'' box).

20 - Ubangi Stomp (1:58) 1956 (Warren Smith) > Sun 250-B < 
(Charles Underwood) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Johnny Bernero (drums),
Brad Suggs (guitar), Smokey Joe Baugh (piano) Jan Ledbetter (bass)

The quintessential racist rock and roll song, Smith recalled that Charlie Underwood had pitched the sang to him months earlier. ''I didn't like it, you know,.Then one night we were cutting, it was around 12:30 at night and I was up against the wail, really biting the bullet trying to find the fourth song, Charles came through the door and he changed four or five things didn't like in song and we went to work on it''. In a later era, Underwood became a producer at Sun and, even later, engineered ''The Monster Mash'' and Herb Alpert's debut hit ''The Lonely Bull''. In 1956 he was a struggling student, he seems to have cheerfully assigned comnon dialect to American Indians and Africans (''...heap big jam session") and, in all honesty, the song is as close to denigrating as anything released on Sun. However, it entered the Memphis charts and helped to sustain the momentum of ''Rock And Roll Ruby''. Rather than make a big splash, it appears to have sold over copies throughout an eighteen month period. The guitarist is Brad Suggs, stalwart of the Slim Rhodes Show, and the drummer is Johnny Bernero. Other musicians are somewhat unclear although the bassist may be Jan Ledbetter. Smith's interpretation of the song has all the contagious enthusiasm of pure rockabilly which has enabled it to survive the years well, and even survive a beleaguered and belated cover version from Alice Cooper.

*21 - Tonight Will Be The Last Night (2:00) 1978 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ray Scott) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

The writer and one-time rockabilly Ray Scott submitted a demo tape to and Sam Phillips wrote ''Ray Scott - good songs" on the tape box. When it came time for the next Warren Smith session, Phillips played the tape of this song, which he had already identified as the best of the crop. Smith and the band worked up a very decent arrangement with twin lead guitars that must have been a serious contender for release in 1956 or 1957. The real surprise is that Phillips did not overdub tracks like this and issue them when Smith finally gained a measure of success in the country market in the early 1960s.

*22 - Tell Me Who (2:07) 1978 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Billy Myles) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Smith or someone in his camp probably discovered this song on the flipside of
Recorded Unknown Date 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

Smith or someone in his camp probably discovered this song on the flipside of Big Maybelle's 1955 hit ''Mean To Me''. His treatment is a very tasty excursion into early rockabilly that veers back into the country by virtue of some deftly executed steel guitar work. The empathetic drumming seems to suggest that Johnny Bernero sat in on this session, which would also tend to date it from 1956. Smith dispenses with Maybelle's growls and drum rolls and delivers a very straight reading of the song. Incidentally, the composer, Billy Myles, later scored a huge hit with ''The Joker''.

Note that this song was erroneously titled ''Who'' on previous compilations.

*23 - I Couldn't Take The Chance (2:39) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Warren Smith) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar) Al Hopson (guitar), More Details Unknown

This track is hardly a major contender but has a pleasant countrified charm to it. Smith is in fine voice but the tentative nature of the performance is betrayed by the guitarist (probably Al Hopson) who takes a hesitant solo. A piano is buried in the mix and doesn't add a lot to the proceedings, The drums are either absent altogether or confined to poorly mixed brushwork. This may have been a contender for a flipside but no-one could have held out great hopes for it.

*24 - I Had A Dream (The Darkest Cloud) (2:30) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Jimmy Swan) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January or February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar) Al Hopson (guitar), More Details Unknown

For a song that wasn't a hit, ''Had A Dream'' got around. In 1961, Elvis Presley was recording in Nashville when he spontaneously began singing the bridge. At the time of its release by composer Jimmy Swan in 1952 it was covered by Billy Walker, Ann Clark, and Jean Chapel. Warren Smith's hauntingly lovely version dates to around 1957. Swan was a dee-jay in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and recorded for Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi, and Smith lived a few miles outside Jackson. He almost certainly heard ''Had A Dream'' on the radio when it came out. The three-part harmony on the chorus was ragged but haunting in its way. Only the guitarist can be identified for certain on this track (and the earlier version of ''So long I'm Gone''). Smith identifies Al Hopson in the session chatter, but the others can not be identified with certainty.

Note that this song was previously released as ''The Darkest Cloud''.

*25 - So Long I'm Gone (1) (3:03) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Roy Orbison) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Roland Janes (guitar),
Wil Hopson (bass)

This is a fair distance from the issued version, both in terms of arrangement and instrumentation. Simply put, this is ''country" music whereas the issued version was rockabilly. It provides as clear a statement of the difference between the two as you could hope to find. Either the composer, Roy Orbison, or Smith himself changed around the lyrics a little bit before the song finally hit the streets in the spring of 1957. This version almost certainly dates from the preceding year and shows Smith's high, pure country tenor to great advantage. Phillips was obviously correct to try the fuller instrumentation but this is a lovely version nonetheless.

*26 - So Long I'm Gone (2) (2:38) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Roy Orbison) • previously unissued
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Roland Janes (guitar),
Wil Hopson (bass)

For many years it had been assumed that Warren Smith's sole chart entry on Sun sported some piano work from Jerry Lee Lewis to help it along. However, there was never a piano solo to really put the matter beyond doubt, Finally, we have found a take that does indeed contain a piano solo and it is a fair distance from even Jerry Lee's most uninspired work. The most likely conclusion is that, as Al Hopson said, it is Jimmy Wilson on piano. The confusion may have arisen because Phillips had arrived at a very distinctive way of mic-ing the piano so that the basic boogie riff that Lewis and Wilson employed sounded fairly similar no matter who was playing it,

27 - So Long I'm Gone (3) (2:10) 1957 (Warren Smith) > Sun 268-A <
(Roy Orbison) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Roland Janes (guitar),
Wil Hopson (bass)

This breezy mid-tempo rocker provided Warren Smith with his only Hot 100 entry. It was a neat synthesis of the pounding rockers and restrained country ballads that had represented the two extremes of Smith's recording career to that point, This is short, deftly executed and profoundly catchy which probably accounted for its success. The ragged instrumental work had been tightened up and Smith's vocal is supremely confident. This song also gave Roy Orbison his first chart entry as a songwriter.

*28 - Who Took My Baby (2:30) 1978 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Johnny Bernero (drums), Roland Janes (guitar),
Wil Hopson (bass)

This title has a very early sound to it and may even date from Smith's association with the Snearly Ranch Boys. The drummer, probably Johnny Bernero or Clyde Leoppard, announces the guitar solo with some well-timed gun raps on the snare. The overall performance is quite accomplished. In fact, it gives the song a touch of class that is slightly more than its due.

29 - Miss Froggie (2:24) 1957 (Warren Smith) > Sun 268-B <
(Warren Smith) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Jimmy Lott (drums), Roland Janes (guitar),
Wil Hopson (bass)

This was the B-side of Smith's only Hot 100 entry but to generations of rockabilly fans it was the A-side to end all A-sides. To the question ''what is rockabilly''? This is the answer. Smith could sing up-tempo numbers such as this without coarsening his voice or screaming. His deftly controlled excitement is matched note-for-note by Al Hopson' dazzling guitar and Jimmie Lott's drumming. Hopson's solos are truly lightning in a bottle. The man was possessed on the day he cut this side. The group concocted the song while driving back from Dallas one night, although Smith took sole composer credit. Both Hopson and Lott were on sparkling form. ''I always had problems playing the shuffle that Johnny Bernero used on ''Rock And Roll Ruby'', Lott told Colin Escott, "and my drumming on ''Miss Froggie'' was almost unsyncopated The inspiration for my playing was Al's guitar. The kick-off was unbelievable. It could have put Bo Diddley out of business''.. One can trace the lyrics back to a clutch of blues standards but, in the final analysis, it doesn't matter because Smith and his group had come up with something stunningly original that is an entire dimension beyond its roots and head and shoulders above its derivatives. Classic then, classic now.

*30 - Stop The World (1:57) 1985 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Jimmy Lott (drums), Roland Janes (guitar)

This updated composition obviously derives from the period when Smith saw himself as an unregenerate rockabilly. The song is of uncertain provenance but the idea at least seems to owe a debt to the Carl Belew . W.S. Stevenson composition ''Stop The World (And Let Me)'' which dates from early 1957. This song and the arrangement needed a little more work but it is hard to see why they gave up on it. It was an ideal vehicle for Smith's vocal talents and the backing bristles with energy. There is a piano buried deep in the mix although it is hard to see how Phillips could mix any instrument so far back when he was working in such cramped surroundings, Lost for upwards of thirty years in an outtake box, this track surely deserved a better fate.

*31 - Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache (2:38) 1972 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Willie Bea Thompson-Lillian May) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Marcus Van Story (bass),
Jimmy Wilson (piano), Jimmy Lott (drums), Roland Janes (guitar)

Quintessential rockabilly. Smith really excelled at this breezy mid tempo; the quality of his voice shone through. The guitarist, probably Al Hopson, covers a lot of ground and takes a solo that veers hack to his fingerpicking roots. A fair amount of tape was expended on this title but it was ultimately abandoned. The existence of a previous version (by Bob Luman on Imperial) and the fact that Phillips did not hold the publishing may have been factors that came into consideration. However, when Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott were assembling the first ''Sun Rockabilly'' album in 1973, convinced that would never be another, this track effortlessly made the final cut.

32 - Got Love If You Want It (2:09) 1957 (Warren Smith) > Sun 286-A <
(James Moore) (Excellorec Music)
Recorded October 16, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Will Hopson (bass), Jimmie Lott (drums)

When Smith re-entered the Sun studio to try to recapture the success of ''So Long I'm Gone'', he employed the same formula: a rocked-up blues and a ballad. This time, the guitar of Al Hopson was paired with Roland Janes. The duo provided a dazzling intro with Hopson taking the lead role and Janes making the response. The song was originally recorded by James 'Slim Harpo' Moore at a swampy mid-tempo. Smith cranked up the tempo and made at least one telling lyric change when he substituted ''you fine looking thing' for 'your fine brown frame''. He also omitted Slim's final two verses and substituted a verse loosely adapted from the flip side of Slim's original ''I'm A King Bee''. This was by no means a slavish copy of the original.

33 - I Fell In Love (2:39) 1957 (Warren Smith) > Sun 286-B <
(Al Hopson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 20, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Will Hopson or Sid Manker (bass), Jimmie Lott (drums)

With the pop charts within their grasp, Sam Phillips and Warren Smith decided that a pop-slanted ballad might be more appropriate for a flip side. Surprisingly, that ballad came from the pen of Smith's guitarist, Al Hopson, who was rooted in country music. The end product was a gentle countrified ballad that veers into pop music by virtue of the chorus that was overdubbed a couple of days after the session. As Phillips obviously perceived, it provided a nice contrast to the storming ''Got Love If You Want It''.

*34 - Hank Snow Medley (2:01) 1985 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Clarence E. Snow) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 20, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Will Hopson or Sid Manker (bass), Jimmie Lott (drums)

A lifelong opponent of rock and roll, Hank Snow was nevertheless one of its most important precursors. His songs obviously made a deep impact upon many rock and rollers with their contagious rhythms and nonsense lyrics ("While Madam Mazonga was teaching the conga...'') This tribute to the diminutive Canadian cowboy is a medley of ''I'm Movin' On'', ''The Golden Rocket'' and ''The Rhumba Boogie''. Smith even imitates Snow's high-pitched nasal vocal in places. The lightly stated beat of Snow's originals has been replaced by a sledgehammer but, for all that, Smith has retained the ''fun'' element in Snow's writing. This is an alternative take to those previously issued as The Golden Rocket.

*35 - Do I Love You (2:42) 1978 (Warren Smith) > Not Previously Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 20, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Will Hopson or Sid Manker (bass), Jimmie Lott (drums)

This track features an unusually full sound for Warren Smith. The sax lends an added dimension to the proceedings but the song is not on unqualified success. The major problem is the gimmick embodied in the song itself. In fact, one of the little catch-phrases used in the song, "Has a cat got a tail''? was used in a trade paper advertisement for ''Raunchy'' towards the end of 1957. ''Is 'Raunchy' big? Has a cat got a tail? Will Ike play golf tomorrow''? These questions were from a long tradition of folk sayings that included "Is the Pope a Catholic?" and "Does a wild bear shit in the woods''.

*36 - I Like Your Kinda Love (1:56) 1978 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Frank Carter) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

Never o prolific composer, Warren Smith depended largely on submissions from other writers for his material. Frank Carter dropped into 706 Union one day to record a set of demos and Clement or Phillips obviously saw this song as a potential candidate for release. It is delivered at a brisk mid tempo, has a sizeable hook and actually bears a distinct similarity to Elvis Presley's 1960 recordings. The guitarist has worked up a decent opening riff but hasn't given much thought to his solo. There are few clues to enable us to date this performance. Only the reference to 'Bandstand' would seem to imply that it was recorded in 1958 or later (the show was not networked until August 1957). This is not the Melvin Endsley song of the same title that Andy Williams made a hit in the summer of 1957.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986)

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 5 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

JUMP RIGHT OUT OF THIS JUKEBOX

Warren Smith

*1 - Uranium Rock (2:06) 1972 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Lloyd George) (Universal Music)
Recorded February 23, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

Now this is a mystery that will probably remain unsolved. Warren Smith recorded ''Uranium Rock'' in 1958, but it wasn't released until 1973, when it appeared on the first 'Sun Rockabillys' LP. How then can we account for the appearance of a very similar song, ''Sing Real Loud'', by Lloyd George, recorded on March 18, 1962 for Imperial Records and released later that year? The songs are so close that the similarity cannot he accidental. Lloyd George (his real name) aka Ken Marvin aka Lonzo of Lonzo & Oscar recorded between 1947 and 1962, scoring just one hit (''I'm My Own Grandpa'' in 1948). He was based in Nashville when Smith recorded ''Uranium Rock'' and was still there when he recorded for west coast-based Imperial Records. After Imperial dropped him, he ceased performing and booked Bill Monroe. Most of Marvin/'George's songs were novelties (''Combread And Lasse'', ''Tickle The Tom Cat's Tail, There's A Hole In The Bo!tom Of The Sea'', etc), and ''Uranium Rock'' is consistent with those. There's even a tape in the Sun vaults of him singing ''You Spurned A Love'' and ''Little Red Wagon'', so it's just possible that Marvin\George submitted ''Uranium Rock'' to Sun and that Warren Smith recorded it. Anyone who might remember anything about what happened is now dead, so the mystery will probably remain such ''Uranium Rock'' is a nuclear age gold rush song. Buy a Geiger counter and head for the hills. Return to town with a truckload of radioactive uranium are, cash out, and go visit the Cadillac dealer. Clearly Ken Marvin/Lloyd George or whoever wrote this sang thought 'uranium rock' was a pretty good pun. Guitarist Al Hopson keeps the show together with a Bo Diddley lick that almost functions as the song's hook. In fact, the session could have used another guitarist to take a solo over the riff.

*2 - Goodbye Mr. Love (1) (4:39) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Warren Smith Billy Byrd) (Knox Music Incorporated
Recorded March 17, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Al Hopson (guitar), Roland Janes (guitar),
Stan Kesler (steel guitar), Sid Manker (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums),
Jimmy Wilson (piano)

''Goodbye Mr, Love ''was always a favourite Sun single, and to hear an even more countrified version complete with steel guitar is a real pleasure. Warren's vocal is perhaps a little more rest-mined than on Sun 314, but this was always a fine song and the lyric changes and markedly different approach allows us to look at an old favourite through new eyes. The song was written by Billy Byrd, a singer and guitarist from Belzoni, Mississippi (not to be confused with Ernest Tubb's famous lead guitarist, "aah, Billy Byrd now''). Byrd was a sharecropper who joined the Marines during the war and moved to Jackson in 1946. He played guitar in Emmitt Hawkins' band for a while and then he formed his own group, the Home Towners, who were on WRBC in Jackson for some years. Byrd recorded briefly for the local label, Delta Records, and had some success in 1954 with an 'event' or 'disaster' sang about a child, Carol Ann Moses, trapped in a building after a tornado hit Vicksburg. Byrd wrote several good songs and was visited by Faron Young and other singers as well as Warren Smith. He remembered: "Warren heard about the song and he came by here at after midnight one day get the song off me. He turned up in a red Cadillac, I'11 never forget that''. When the song was issued, Byrd saw that Smith's name was on it too - and he didn't forget that either.

*3 - Sweet Sweet Girl (2:21) 1986 (Warren Smith) > Previously Unissued <
(Don Gibson) (Acuff Rose Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 7, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar),
Cliff Acred (bass), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Charlie Rich (piano)
Lee Holt, Bill Abott, Gerald Nelson, Charlie Rich (vocal)

In 1958, Don Gibson was so prolific he could afford to throw away a song as good as this on an LP. True, it might have been a little too similar to his punchy, riff-driven songs like ''Blue, Blue Day'' to warrant consideration as a single, but it was as good as that song. Warren Smith certainly thought so. He and his group worked hard on the song, another version of which was to he his last single on the label (Sun 314). Many versions remain an tape, and it is clear that it was worked out leaving one or two spaces for a vocal chorus to fill. Nevertheless this early take, free of chorus, retains arguably a more country feel than the finally issued version. The scatological chatter and the false starts that precede this version show us that recording at Sun may have been hard work but not an ordeal. It has been said that Warren Smith was not easy to work with but the boys seemed to be having a fine time an this occasion.

*4 - Dear John (1:56) 1976 (Warren Smith) > Not Originally Issued <
(Tex Ritter-Aubrey Gass) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 7, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar),
Cliff Acred (bass), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Charlie Rich (piano)
Lee Holt, Bill Abott, Gerald Nelson, Charlie Rich (vocal)

This minor hillbilly classic was first performed by Aubrey Gass in 1949. Hank Williams revived it two years later and Smith probably discovered it on the side of ''Cold Cold Heart''. The song's roots are well and truly obscured by Smith's treatment which replaced the jaunty hillbilly beat with a liberal dose of the blues, especially from the lead guitar. At first the bluesy intensity of the guitar carries the song but there is a hole after the first 12-bar solo. The song meanders for another 12 bars which suggests that a sax overdub was contemplated. Smith 's vocal performance is first rate and a fair amount of tape was expended on this cut, suggesting it was a candidate for release at some point. Perhaps it was consigned to storage when Phillips realised that he was not recording a Hi-Lo copyright but, rather, stood to give 3 cents a side to another publisher.

5 - Goodbye Mr. Love (2) (2:39( 1959 (Warren Smith) > SUN 314-A <
(Warren Smith Billy Byrd) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 7, 1959 at Sun Recording Studio, Memphis, Tennessee
Warren Smith (vocal and guitar), Billy Riley (guitar), Sid Manker (guitar),
Cliff Acred (bass), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums), Charlie Rich (piano)
Lee Holt, Bill Abott, Gerald Nelson, Charlie Rich (vocal)

Perhaps more than any other song on this collection, ''Goodbye Mr. Love'' proves the truth in Jack Clement's assertion that Smith was the "closest approximation of a mainstream 'Nashville' singer ever to enter 706 Union''. It also disproves Smith's assertion that he could not record country music at Sun. The overall sound on this recording is very close to the product coming out of Nashville in 1959, particularly in view of the chorus. All of this makes Smith's lack of success on Sin after 1957 doubly incomprehensible. In retrospect, this was far from Smith's best work but, coupled with ''Sweet Sweet Girl'', it was an exceptionally strong double sided called this single "ultra commercial'', speculating that "Smith'll have the top money making coupling of his career''. On the day that Billboard published that review, Sun prepared a royalty statement showing that Smith was unrecouped to the tune $634.00, which probably represented un-repaid loans. At roughly the same time, Smith's three year term with Sun was up, A change was gonna come.

Ernie Chaffin

Ernie Chaffin brought a totally unique sound to Sun. Certainly, his earlier recordings for Hickore and Fine were no predictor of what lay in store at Sun. In its way, Ernie's style was every bit as unique as Johnny Cash's. In fact, both depended upon a repeated, percussive rhythmic pattern and minimal instrumentation. Unlike Cash's work, however, Chaffin's songs (most often composed by Pee Wee Maddux) were highly melodic and his voice had considerable range. While the songs were lyrically more conventional than the stark lonesome ballads of Cash, Chaffin's songs drew much of their power from unusual and arresting chord changes,

6 - Feelin' Low (2:34) 1957 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 262-A <
(Murphy Maddux) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 12, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Murphy Maddux (guitar),
Ernie Harvey (guitar), Leo Ladner (bass)

Chaffin began his Sun recording cureer with a standout performance. The instrumental intro established the 1-6 minor chord sequence, although the song actually begins on the 5-chord. From there it shuttles back and forth between I and 5 until Ernie hits the powerful line ''Might as Well..." and the chords run from 1 to 4 behind him. The title phrase is anticipated by a descent into the 6 minor, giving the song its catchy almost cowboy-like sound. Billboard described ''Feelin' Low'' as folky' and noted that Chaffin's voice possessed an Elvis'/character. Interestingly, Ernie Harvey's steel solos almost always focus on single-note work whereas his backup to Chaffin's vocal returns to more conventional swelling chords, Apparently, the song garnered some unexpected pop interest in the north east states but, for whatever reason, Sun failed to capitalise on it.

7 - Lonesome For My Baby (2:06) 1957 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 262-B < 
(Murphy Maddux) (Knox Music Incorporation)
Recorded December 12, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Murphy Maddux (guitar),
Ernie Harvey (guitar), Leo Ladner (bass)

In this song, Chaffin first established the use of the flatted 7-chord in his material. We don't have to wait too long for it. "Pretty gir1s all around" and we've slipped from A to G. The song features a repeated 1-5, I -5 musical riff throughout that serves as every bit as much of a hook as the title phrase.

8 - I'm Lonesome (2:44) 1957 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 275-A <
(Murphy Maddux) (Swinging River Music)
Recorded January 29, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Murphy Maddux (guitar),
Ernie Harvey (guitar), Leo Ladner (bass)

Although Sun's reputation is rooted in rockabilly and blues, it is hard to imagine a stronger or more beautiful country record than ''I'm Lonesome''. It is as near to a perfect record as one can imagine on want in its genre. Once again, Ernie has drawn on the flatted 7-chord, this time in the key of D.

Every element of the performance is flawless and the elements coalesce perfectly into a memorable and timeless performance. It is arguably Chaffin's best work and one of the gems of this collection, I'm Lonesome'' begins and ends on an instrumental figure of almost awesome power and beauty given its sheet simplicity. Chaffin's vocal is complemented by Ernie Harvey' finely crafted steel fills which are minimal but add immeasurably to the strength of the performance. Notably, there are no fills around the lines that Ernie moans rather than sings. In these cases, only rhythm adds to the stark impact of the vocal. The steel solo has a stark simplicity straight from the Luther Perkins mould.

9 - Laughin' And Jokin' (2:05) 1957 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 275-B < 
(Murphy Maddux) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 29, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Murphy Maddux (guitar),
Ernie Harvey (guitar), Leo Ladner (bass)

Once again, Ernie Chaffin contributes a 1-flatted 7 chord pattern to good effect, this time turning it into an uptempo, almost jaunty mood. Of Ernie's first four sides for Sun, this was probably the mast conventionally country. The song has a wonderfully rhythmic drive, abetted by the percussive strumming of Pee Wee Maddux. Ernie Harvey helps himself to two 8-bar steel solos, played in style that was reproducible by non-steel players. A thoughtful gesture!

*10 - Linda (2:12) 1976 (Ernie Chaffin) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ernie Chaffin) (Sun Entertainment Incorporated)
Recorded January 11, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

Sun always pushed its artists or allowed them to evolve in new directions. This is surely the mast uncharacteristic track in Ernie Chaffin's Sun repertoire and most of his fans would probably fail to identify it in a blindfold test. It is essentially a pop blues and features an appropriately bluesy vocal from Ernie. The backing is led by some equally high string guitar work and rather thin sounding rhythm section Chaffin himself was unimpressed by the track. Indeed, with almost thirty years separating him from the session, he could not even recall recording it. Verdict: an interesting experiment but little mare.

*11 - Heart Of Me (2:25) 1976 (Ernie Chaffin) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ernie Chaffin-Murphy Maddux) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 25, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Sid Manker (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Murphy Maddux (guitar), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums),
Jimmy Smith (Piano)

This track had first been recorded (albeit in a different key) by Ernie for Fine Records in Biloxi. The new arrangement goes beyond the distinctive rhythmic style of Chaffin's first two outings on the Sun label and under less fortunate circumstances the entire production might have been embalmed in strings. Here it is adorned only by guitar, bass and - surprise - fiddle! This is the only Sun cut by Ernie Chaffin that features this traditional country instrument, played here by Pee Wee Maddux. Once again Ernie's distinctive vocal shines through. This must have come close to belong a serious candidate for release.

*12 - I'll Walk Alone (2:42) 1986 (Ernie Chaffin) > Previously Unissued <
(Jules Stein-Sammy Cahn) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 25, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Sid Manker (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Murphy Maddux (guitar), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums),
Jimmy Smith (Piano)

Here, as on ''Linda'', Ernie Chaffin ventures into alien stylistic territory. While Ernie turns in a melodic ballad-like vocal performance the band offers a strongly contrasting shuffle blues, The backing track is anchored by brushwork from the drums and the piano but the highlight is the aggressive lead guitar. Ernie recalled ''I thought we had a real good cut on 'I'll Walk Alone''. We left the studio thinking that it would be released but it never was''. Perhaps Sam Phillips and Jack Clement made the correct decision. It is interesting to hear tracks like this but in the final analysis, Ernie's talents were best showcased in classic tracks like ''I'm Lonesome''.

*13 - Be Faithful To Me (2:45) 1986 (Ernie Chaffin) > Previously Unissued <
(Murphy Maddux) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

Sometimes it is best not to look too deeply into the vaults. Unissued material is usually surprising - but not all the surprises are delights. This rather tedious ballad might have been used if Ernie's career had ever taken him into the Las Vegas lounge act circuit. The piano solo says it all. Unfortunately, this previously unissued track does little to enhance Ernie's stellar reputation.

*14 - Got You On My Mind (1:48) 1986 (Ernie Chaffin) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) Copyright Control)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

By contrast, this unissued track is an out-and-out delight. It is obviously demo, a simple vocal/guitar version of a delightful melodic country. Maybe the lyrics needed a little polishing but the innate drive and joy effort transcend the technical limitations. It is unfortunate that this engaging little snippet was never worked into a full arrangement during Ernie's golden period at Sun.

15 - Born To Lose (2:56) 1958 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 307-B <
(Frankie Brown) (Peer International)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

After Sun 275, it took over eighteen months for Sun to release another single on Ernie. Unfortunately, the product was not worth the wait. Granted, ''I'm Lonesome'' was a tough act to follow but this represents an artistic law point in Chaffin's Sun career. There was certainly nothing wrong with the song. Ted Daffan had composed it during the early years of the second World War and later copyrighted it under his mothers maiden name. "I always love' the song'', recalled Ernie. "Even when was a young kid / used to sing it in clubs around Gulfport and I thought it would be a good time bring it back. But as soon as we released it Johnny Cash came out with it so did Ray Charles and Dean Martin. Ray Charles' record was copied almost to a 'T' from mine. I felt he heard my version, recorded it and knocked me out of the saddle''. It is just conceivable that Charles heard Ernie's version but it strains credibility a little to suggest that he stole the thunder. Sun 307 was issued in September 1958 and Ray Charles did not have a hit with ''Born To Lose'' until the late months of 1962,

16 - (Nothing Can Change) My Love For You (2:25) 1958 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 307-A <
(Helen Hall) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

This was another maudlin excursion that probably said a lot about the way Jack Clement perceived the country market it 1958. Unfortunately, it has not survived the years nearly as well as the stark under produced recordings that still retain their elemental charm, regardless of season, Ernie recalled, "I understand that Helen Hall was from Texas. We were recording and think Bill Justis asked me to listen to this song and I loved it. He asked me if record it and I said 'So, he called Texas and got permission from Helen Hall to use the song. She had heard some of my records and she said she'd be thrilled. I think we could have done a better job on it than we did I was disappointed. I had so many people trying to tell me how to sing it and you know that if you don't sing it from your heart, doesn't work''. Hall was a performer on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas who recorded briefly for Coral in 1955, but she'd been dropped. And it wasn't permission to record the song that Justis was after so much as permission to co-publish it.

*17 - Miracle Of You (2:22) 1986 (Ernie Chaffin) > Previously Unissued <
(Murphy Maddux) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

This is the bed-track for the song which appeared on side one of Ernie's final Sun outing. It is a pleasant but undistinguished pop-country ballad although distinctive vocal style retrieves some country interest. The finally issued contained contributions from piano and a vocal chorus.

18 - Please Don't Ever Leave Me (2:21) 1958 (Ernie Chaffin) > Sun 320-A <
(Murphy Maddux) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 9, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ernie Chaffin (vocal and guitar), Unknown Group

What a joyous surprise to have Ernie depart from Sun in a style every bit as memorable as his arrival - perhaps even more countrified! After the pop experiments and excesses, ''Please Don't Ever Leave Me'' was a blessed return to fundamentals. Ernie's vocal is unadorned country and Ernie Harveys work is 'mainstream country steel guitar. Interestingly, this final offering, by virtue of being so uncompromisingly country, lacks some of the brooding intensity of Chaffin's earlier work but makes up for it in pure country charm.

Mack Self

Mack Self was always a stone country singer at heart and several of the songs on this CD are as good as any country music you will hear. Mack also tried a variety of other styles at Sun with varying degrees of success, but he always retained a country purity in his vocals and his band was never going to let anyone knock off too many rough edges. The ''take-off'' lead guitar of Therlow Brown is a delight and combines with the slap bass playing of Jimmy Evans to support Mack in giving us all that was best in 1950s hillbilly music Memphis style.

19 - Easy To Love (2:53) 1986 (Mack Self) > Previously Unissued <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and vocal), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums)

Now this is a real alternative version. Instead of the featured steel guitar runs and the drum-strengthened rhythm of Sun 273, we have the fiddle of Bill Cantrell playing the song with an altogether different overall sound, 'This was probably the way the song was first meant to be heard, Mack Self came up from Arkansas to see Bill Cantrell with the song in 1955 and the two worked the tune up for Sam Phillips to hear, ''Easy To Love'' was always one of the very best Sun records; now we have two equally fine versions to savour.

*20 - Goin' Crazy (2:20) 1986 (Mack Self) > Previously Unissued <
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control)
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded Late 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and vocal), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums)

From the same 1955 session as the previous track, this is a marvellous amalgam of hillbilly and rockabilly. The slap boss drives things along behind some fairly intricate guitar and fiddle work. Selfs vocals are pure country right from the Lefty Frizzell imitation at the start - ''it's my ba-ay-bee''. Very few songs contained in the hundreds of Sun session tapes were as welcome as ''Easy To Love'' and ''Goin' Crazy'' when the boxes were finally opened again after some twenty or thirty years.

21 - Everyday (2:09) 1957 (Mack Self) > Sun 273-A < 
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 1, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and vocal), W.S. Holland (drums)

Mack Self must have been dreaming in waltz-time when he .recorded this original flip-side to ''EasyTo Love''. Again, Self contributes a catchy and engaging performance that features very basic instrumental support. There is a simple low-string guitar-line throughout the arrangement that serves as the songs underpinning. The second guitar part, featuring more complex high string playing, works in harmony with Selfs vocal to good effect. The brief instrumental lead-in to the song, which is repeated prior to and midway during the solo, is especially effective.

*22 - Easy To Love (2) (2:44) 1957 (Mack Self) > Sun 273-B <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 1, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar), Stan Kesler (steel guitar),
Jimmy Evans (bass and vocal), Bill Cantrell (fiddle), Johnny Bernero (drums)

It is hard to listen to ''Easy To Love'', even a half century later, and not be struck by its sheer beauty. Surely Sam Phillips shared this view because something persuaded him to release it in 1957 when the record had little chance of commercial success. Within the context of Sun's release schedule, ''Easy To Love'' fell smack in the middle of rockabilly items like Carl Perkins' ''That's Right'' and Ray Harris's ''Greenback Dollar''. It was flanked by even less countrified rockers by Tommy Blake (''Lordy Hoody'') and Wade & Dick (''Bop Bop Baby''), In short, ''Easy To Love'' was a pure country outing, the very thing from which Sun was progressively shying away. All of which underscores just how direct its impact must have been on Phillips for him to schedule its release. Commercialism aside, what has contributed to the beauty of ''Easy To Love''? Self's vocal, while not powerful, is rather idiosyncratic. His line "I'm turning you loose" is followed by ward- less humming in the first verse. Two bars without a lyric. This tension is resolved in the last verse when the same line is finally completed with "I'm letting you go''. A nice touch, especially surrounded by the drama of the sustained 4-chord and cymbal at the finale.

Rhythmically, the song achieves a surprising momentum from the echoey drumming and acoustic guitar. In fact, if it can be said that a waltz is driving, then this one surely qualif1es. The instrumental work seems serviceable, not flashy throughout, with its simple Luther Perkins-like lead guitar. Even the steel, an instrument after given to tasty riffs and virtuosity, is played in flawless, but rudimentary style. The record simply has an understated charm that asserts itself almost immediately. For some reason, one throwaway feature (absent from the recently discovered alternative take) has always focused my memory of this song. The band hits a passing 2-minor chord between halves of the verse. It comes right after the lines ''Like they're brand new'' and "between you and me''. One would expect a conventional 5-2-5 transitional sequence but instead there's that implied 2-minor chord. A mistake, maybe, but it's simply beautiful.

Mack Self & Jimmy Evans

23 - Mad At You (2:16) 1959 (Mack Self) > 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), Johnny Ray Paulnan (guitar)
Jimmy Evans (bass and vocal), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

The vogue for gunfighter ballads gave Mack Self his last gasp at Sun (see ''Willie Brown''). For a flip-side, they headed back in time for this charming anachronism which lay a mauldin' in the vaults, The prominent second vocal part was provided by bassist Jimmy Evans, who lived next door to the Sun studio above Taylors Restaurant. Hillbilly harmony wasn't as popular as it had onto been, and the rural lyrics weren't the stuff of sales circa 1959. Purists might like to note Selfs lyric nuff immediately following the second guitar solo.

Mack Self

*24 - Vibrate (1:59) 1975 (Mack Self) > Not Originally Issued <
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar),
Stan Kesler (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

Some hillbilly artists made an effortless transition to rockabilly. For others the rites of passage were more difficult. As this track reveals, Mack Self was among the latter. Other than Jimmy Van Eaton's stalwart drumming, little seems to go right here. One exception is a simple repeated two-chord part that lends an element of charm throughout. Self sounds a tad uncomfortable with the tempo and in his hands 'vibrate' becomes a three-syllable word. At one point he rhymes it with 'hibernate. Ironically, Selfs confrère from the Arkansas Cotton Choppers, Conway Twitty, also recorded a song in 1958 with the word 'vibrate' in the title.

*25 - Little One (2:25) 1986 (Mack Self) > Previously Unissued <
(Mack Self) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 4, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Roland Janes (guitar), Thurlow Brown (guitar),
Stan Kesler (bass), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

This country ballad seems to be no more than an early run'-through. The song was never worked up for release, perhaps because it is essentially just re-juggled cliches. It certainly lacks the stunning images of ''Easy Love'' and in comparison it is easy to see why Sam Phillips decided to leave it on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, it provides a welcome addition to the small legacy of Mack Self recordings.

*26 - Lovin' Memories (2) (2:10) 1986 (Mack Self) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar), Billy Riley (bass)
W.S. Holland or Jimmy Van Eaton (drums) Martin Willis (saxophone)

This early take of ''Lovin' Memories'' (a song erroneously released in the past as ''Love Love Memories'') retains a strong country feel despite the presence of Jimmy Van Eaton on drums and Martin Willis on saxophone. It has the same genuine rockabilly feel as some of the Warren Smith items such as ''Hank Snow Medley'' and ''Dear John'', literally a hillbilly song with a rocking beat.

27 - Willie Brown (2:35) 1959 (Mack Self) > PI 3548-A <
(Mack Self) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mack Self (vocal and guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar), Billy Riley (bass)
W.S. Holland or Jimmy Van Eaton (drums) Martin Willis (saxophone)

The Kingston Trio have a lot to answer for here. This track has obvious connections not only to Torn Dooley, but also to assorted gunfighters spawned by Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. About the only redeeming feature musically, other than Selfs powerful vocal, is Brad Suggs 3-note lead-in to each chorus. Martin Willis' madly hopping sax adds a note of incongruity to the proceedings: ''Yakety Yak'' meets Tom Dooley.

COUNTRY WITH ATTITUDE

There are few more distinctive stylists in country music than Jerry Lee Lewis and Onie Wheeler. Although long thought to have recorded for Sun in 1959, it now appears as though Onie Wheeler actually recorded at the tail end of 1957. At that time Onie was touring with the hot Sun acts of the day including Jerry Lee Lewis, who had just shot from the supporting cast to headliner. Most of the rest of the songs on this CD, probably recorded within a few weeks of each other in the later months of 1957, show two artists coming to terms with the ferment in pop and country music. Each is playing the new music in a distinctive and uncompromising way. Only ''I'm The Guilty One'', a sweet anomaly from 1959, is untainted by shades of
rock and roll.

Jerry Lee Lewis

*28 - I'm Feelin' Sorry (1) (3:05) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded September 10, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley or J.W. Brown (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

This stellar alternative version of ''I'm Feelin' Sorry'', together with the second version that follows, lay in a tape box assigned to Billy Riley for almost thirty years. For some reason, Jerry has chosen to deliver his vocal in a strangulated near-falsetto. The backing track is a little ragged in places but, once again, Jerry Lee and Jimmy Van Eaton constitute a working definition of 'empathy'. This was an interesting approach to the song but understandably soon abandoned.

*29 - I'm Feelin' Sorry (2) (2:24) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded September 10, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley or J.W. Brown (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

The standout feature of this version is Jerry's phrasing. He is taking amazing liberties, and pulling it off. The tempo is borderline frantic but no-one loses it. Roland Janes turns in a lovely little solo with some help from his tremolo bar and, as always, Jimmy Van Eaton is outstanding. Once again, it sounds as though this was an experiment that someone (probably Jack Clement) decided had little commercial merit.

*30 - I'm The Guilty One (2:09) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) < Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 25-26, 1959 September 10, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley (guitar),
Leo Ladner (bass), Jimmy Van Eaton (drums)

This is a neglected classic from an unidentified songwriter. It appears to have been committed to tape almost one year to the day after Jerry Lee was chased out of England and it stood no chance in the pop marketplace of mid-1959. It may even have teen ''too country'' for the country market. Jerry Lee's vocal is rich with the intensity of his best Hank Williams interpretations. In fact, there's little distance between this and the country super stardom that lay a few years ahead.

Onie Wheeler

*31 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (1) (2:29) 1958 (Onie Wheeler) > Previously Unissued <
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Cliff Acred or Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

This undubbed bed-track reveals that Onie Wheeler overdubbed his harmonica part during both the solo and the fadeout. The little duet on the fade is particularly nice. Onie's vocal is also a sheer delight (even his pre-song count-off is entertaining). The song is essentially a joyous piece of nonsense, taken for a ride by Onie and the stalwart Sun backup trio.

*32 - Walkin' Shoes (2:13) 1985 (Onie Wheeler) > Not Originally Issued <
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

Once again, Onie lays into some straight ahead 1950s country rock. The charm of his mid-tempo recording has been replaced by a driving sound. The rhythm section of Stan Kesler on bass, Jimmy Wilson on piano and Jimmy Van Eaton on drums is outstanding but it is the guitar of Roland Janes rather than Onie's harmonica that grabs the solo honours. In the vocal department, Onie's little flashes of falsetto are especially effective.

*33 - That's All (1:59) 1885 (Onie Wheeler) > Not Originally Issued <
(Onie Wheeler) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

This is a conventional stop-rhythm rocker that beats a marked similarity to the previous cut. On this occasion, the pianist sits it out and Roland Janes takes two wonderful little solos. Onie works in a few mare flashes of falsetto but this was essentially a skimpy piece of material that ends up sounding better than it should have.

34 - Tell 'Em Off (1:55) 1958 (Onie Wheeler) > Sun 315-B < 
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

Onie had a sizeable hit during his Okey/Columbia days with ''Run 'Em Off''. Here he picks up the same theme in a different place and time. Onie works well within the context of the Sun sound, His distinctive vocal is enhanced by the slapback echo which also fattens up the echoey low string guitar figure.

35 - Jump Right Out Of This Jukebox (2) (2:20) 1958) (Onie Wheeler) > Sun 315-A <
(Onie Wheeler) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal and harmonica), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Cliff Acred or Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

It appears as though this single was held back for almost one and a half years before it finally saw the light of day. Perhaps it had been considered to be too countrified for 1957. Despite his misgivings about the unprofessional atmosphere at Sun, this recording really showcases Onie's idiosyncratic style. The March 2, 1959 issue of Billboard rated the song with two stars and said that it had "fair prospects''. Their review may have been commercially astute but failed to notice the distinctive and charmingly hybrid sound produced by Onie and Sun.

*36 - Bonaparte's Retreat (2:29) 1985 (Onie Wheeler) > Not Originally Issued <
(Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November/December 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Onie Wheeler (vocal and harmonica), Sid Manker or Roland Janes (guitar), Cliff Acred or Stan Kesler (bass),
Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), Jimmy Wilson (piano)

Now here is an oddity. Onie's harp finally gets its workout an this old warhorse - but there's a new wrinkle. The song is in a major a secret that seems to have shared with the guitar player. Or, it is possible that he is well aware of it but chooses to play in the style that Sid Manker used to such good effect on ''Raunchy''. It features an abundance of flatted thirds that blur the tonality between major and minor. There is an unquestionable amount of instrumental tension here, pushed even further by the incessant rhythm but, ultimately, the track suffers from a lack of variety. It begins to sound more like a tape loop than a jam session. It is a pity that someone did not dig into the chord changes and take a good solo.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986) 

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 6 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

I WAS THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED
STORY BALLADS FOR TEENAGE FOLK

Johnny Cash and Jack Clement worked closely together at Sun Records for about a year from mid-1957 when Sam Phillips found he was becoming too busy to supervise all Cash sessions personally. Clement was influential in widening the appeal of Cash' sound. The two men started from somewhat different points, however. Cash had a country gospel background and brooding intensity while Clement favoured a lighter feel to his music, born of earlier days playing bluegrass and then western swing steel guitar, Clement's aim was to make Cash's sound more 'musical. Here we trace the original Cash sound through its transformation, taking in several interesting demos on the way. Jack Clement then gives us his own version of Sun country - a lighter acoustic style but, like Cash, rooted in the story song tradition of country music.

Johnny Cash

*1 - Train of Love (2:36) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(Johnny Cash) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 8, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)

This remains one of Johnny Cash' most powerful and striking train songs. The overall effect of this slightly taster alternative version is perhaps less brooding, but the guitar part from Luther Perkins is more interesting. The simple guitar figure he uses is borrowed from the song's melody. He opens and closes with it and bases his solo on it as well. Although it's not what used to hearing, this approach is certainly not without merit.

*2 - Home Of The Blues (2:45) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(Johnny Cash-Glenn Douglas-Lily McAlpin)
Recorded July 1, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)
Sid Manker (guitar)

This song marked Jack Clement's debut behind the glass for a Johnny Cash session. Clement has said that he found the original Cash sound a little 'tubby' and there is already one subtle addition here - a second electric guitarist. Sid Manker plays the treble strings while Luther Perkins sticks to safer ground after his guitar manual' intro. By the time the song was released in 1957, Clement had taken a different version and overdubbed a piano and subdued chorus which themselves produced a curiously muddy sound This undubbed version finds Cash singing marginally higher than he often did and there may be a slight loss of intensity, but it is a pleasure to hear the song without the piano and vocal additions after all this time. The song itself may have been inspired by the record shop of the same name which was a feature of downtown Memphis until urban renewal took its toll.

Tommy Blake

*3 - Ballad Of A Broken Heart (2:15) 1986 (Tommy Blake) > Previously Unissued <
(Sam Phillips) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Tommy Blake (vocal and guitar)

It appears as though Tommy Blake gained his entrée to Sun by recording a set of demo tunes sometime in late 1957. By this point, Johnny Cash was hoarding all his new material for his Columbia sessions some eight months distant, and Sun's little army of songwriters had a golden opportunity to pitch material at the departing superstar. Sam Phillips listened to the demo tape and wrote "Ballad Of A broken Heart'', real good" on the slip of paper that accompanied the box. It was indeed 'real good'. Blake had the good sense to demo the song with an approximation of Luther Perkins' guitar part so that it would not require much imagination to hear how the finished product would sound, but he had the lack of good sense to sell the song outright to Sam Phillips. Throughout his life, Blake would sell songs; George Jones' ''Tender Years'' and Faron Young's ''Wine Me Up'' were just two of reportedly many hits he wrote and sold,.

Johnny Cash

*4 - Story Of A Broken Heart (2:11) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(Sam Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 15, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)
Overdubs: Jimmy Wilson (piano), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums)

By May 1958 Cash was recording on almost a daily basis at Sun to work off his commitment. There was a double session on May 15 and it appears likely that this previously unissued take derives from that session. Blake's 'Ballad...' had by now become the ''Story'' of a broken heart and there were a couple of other lyric changes but Cash obviously did not have the commitment or the time to change too much. The sale of the song to Phillips must have taken place sometime between its first appearance on a single in 1960, when it was credited to Blake, and its mid-1960s appearance on a budget LP, when it was credited to Phillips.

Jack Clement

*5 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (2:13) 1986 (Jack Clement) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar)

Presumably, this is the original version of Jack Clement' folk ballad for the 'Bandstand' crowd. It contained a few couplets that didn't make it to the final version. These include ''She was queen of the senior prom/she could cook just like her mom''. Did Jack Clement have his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek when he concocted this sugary little epic? We may never know. Clement had the slap-back working for this demo. The tape delay gives all of Clement's s's a sibilant quality that is probably a little overdone. Phillips allowed Clement to pitch the song to Cash, but he didn't like the song at the outset and hated it by the time Clement had finished his overdubs. "Dear god'', Clement remembers him saying "tell me it hasn't come to this''.

Johnny Cash

*6 - Ballad Of A Teenage Queen (2:17) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 12, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Jack Clement (guitar),
Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)

Following Clements demo pretty closely, this is an early Cash reading of a song that would take the country boy to a wider teenage market, The song was always a calculated shot at the pop market but this version with its stripped down backing has considerable country chord.

Jack Clement

*7 - Quench My Thirst (2:19) 1986 (Jack Clement) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar)

Clement was writing a lot of songs during 1957, many of which appeared on Sun discs. This one didn't quite make it although it is virtually certain that Johnny Cash was invited to render it in his gentle baritone. There is undeniable musicality laying beneath Clements work but the visceral quality that Sam Phillips cherished, and which sets apart the music he recorded, is nowhere in sight.

8 - Ten Years (Jack Clement) 2:17) 1958 > Sun 291-A <
(Jack Clement) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 17, 1958 at RCA Victor Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar), Bob Moore (bass), Jimmy Wilson (piano)
Added Later (vocal chorus)

Clement displays his penchant for story songs with this traditional-sounding ballad. There are some rather wreck rhymes and the chorus certainly shows where Clement's musical soul lay. He wanted to make records that were both pretty and musical. This is both, but it somehow locks the impact of the earlier country music recorded for Sun.

*9 - Your Lover Boy (2:23) 1986 (Jack Clement) Previously Unissued
(Jack Clement) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 17, 1958 at RCA Victor Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar), Bob Moore (bass), Jimmy Wilson (piano)
Added Later (vocal chorus)

This undubbed bed track of ''Your Lover Boy'' shows that Clement and his buddies had cranked up a rocking opus from a slender premise. If you listen to the lyrics, you can see that they are almost totally nonsensical, full of non-se-quiturs, etc. However, the undubbed master gives us a clearer view of the innate drive and simplicity that was diluted by the overpowering chorus, Clement obviously intended to overdub a chorus because there are gaping holes in the arrangement, but, with almost sixty years perspective, the song probably sounds better in its nakedness.

10 - The Black Haired Man (2:00) 1958 (Jack Clement) > Sun 311-A <
(Jack Clement) (Jack Clement Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 30, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar, harmonica, drums),
Billy Riley (guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar),
Cliff Acred (bass)

"In spite of a lot of good natured kidding from his co-workers, lack has delved seriously into a study of traditional folk ballads as a background for his efforts at creating new stories to be told in updated folk style''.

Thus wrote Sun's promotion staffer Barbara Barnes in an attempt to sell Jack Clement as part of the great continuum of folk balladry. He was obviously straddling two stools - country music and the ersatz folk revivalism of the Kingston Trio and their ilk. As a story-song this does not have a great deal of merit and hardly justifies the hours of research that Ms. Barnes seemed to think Clement had devoted to it. Quite simply, it sounds as though Clement had devoted to it. Quite simply, it sounds as though Clement had concocted the tune for Johnny Cash and then decided to record it himself. He kept the chorus under control and there is an undeniable drive to the song but its prettiness was very markedly different from the country music that Phillips had recorded in the same studio a few years earlier.

11 - Wrong (1:57) 1958 (Jack Clement) > Sun 311-B < 
(Jack Clement) (Jack Clement Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 30, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jack Clement (vocal and guitar, harmonica, drums),
Billy Riley (guitar), Brad Suggs (guitar),
Cliff Acred (bass)

This must have stood a fair chance of success in the pop sweepstakes. The prominently midd brushwork provides fine drive to the record in much the same way that the deadened acoustic guitar underpinned many of Johnny Cash's best recordings with a similar sound. Its hard not to notice the striking similarity between the results here and Cash's mega-hit, ''Guess Things Happen That Way'', also penned by Clement.

DEMOS AND DISTRIBUTION DEALS

Not all Sun recordings were Sun recordings, if you see what we mean. So the next ten songs highlight some of the demo recordings made in the Sun studio and a number of released masters that were bought-in from other studios. Joe Manuel and Mississippi Slim take us back to the early days of the Sun studio and country radio with their country blues and promotional songs. Hardrock Gunter and the Rhythm Rockers take us to Birmingham, Alabama where they recorded for Sun but not at Sun. Wanda Ballman represents the many fine girl singers who left demos at Sun, and the Dixieland Drifters represent the many finished sessions that never quite saw the light of day.

Joe Manuel

*12 - Alimony Blues (3:07) 1986 (Joe Manuel) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Manuel) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date Early 1950s at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Manuel (vocal and guitar), Lee Adkins (guitar), Danny Chambers (bass)

This song and the next were found on an unaccredited tape in the Sun vaults and have been issued under two different names before now - both of them wrong as it turns out. The singer is Joe Manuel, radio performer and emcee of the Saturday Night Jamboree in Memphis.

Manuel's songs were first credited to Earl Peterson, but - apart from the yodel that did not sound right to us 30 years ago - we asked many people who the singer might have been. Sam Phillips, Quinton Claunch, Bill Cantrell, Doug Poindexter and many others wished us well but offered us no real leads. Although the artist appeared very assured before the microphone, the song was never registered with BMI and a comparison of the voice with a multitude of post-War Memphis recordings still left us now here. Then Bill Diehl, a bass player and country band-leader in Memphis, came up with the view that this artist was undoubtedly Gene Steele. Steele was known as the ''Singing Sales-man'' and appeared on Memphis radio for over 20 years. Subsequent inquiries of the Steele family appeared to support this, though unfortunately Steele himself died just before our search began.

The real performer of ''Alimony Blues'' was also a radio veteran. Joe Manuel wrote the song in the early 1940s and it became much requested both in his radio mail bag and in live performance. Joe went through more than one divorce in his life and his heartfelt lyric obviously found a ready audience for the hard luck themes he unveiled here. His recording is a very fine country performance that would have sat nicely on a yellow Sun 78 in about 1953, or come to that on a Bluebird 78 circa 1940. According to Manuel's son, Larry, who joined his father's band as accordionist around 1953 and recalls playing the song many times, the guitarist playing the bluesy licks is Lee Adkins, making probably his first recordings, and the bass player is Danny Chambers. The alimony theme had first been recorded in 1928 by Buddy Baxter on Victor, and then in 1933 by Bill Cox and by Jimmie Davis. Later, Al Dexter recorded yet another ''Alimony Blues''. None of these songs is the same as Joe Manuel's though, whose recording is one of the best country performances in this set.

*13 - Daisy Bread Boogies (2:54) 1986 (Joe Manuel) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Manuel) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date Early 1950s at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Manuel (vocal and guitar), Lee Adkins (guitar), Danny Chambers (bass)

Like ''Alimony Blues'', this recording had us thrown for several years and the reference to 'Pennington' had us checking out a string of singers to no avail. There was a Pennington Milling Company in Cincinnati and it now appears that Joe Manuel was commissioned to write a boogie song about their Daisy Bread. Whether Sam Phillips recorded this as a radio advertisement only or as a potential record release of one of Manuel's better known commercials, we will probably never know. No matter, really, for it is a bright and humorous country boogie that makes a welcome contribution to this set.

Mississippi Slim

*14 - Try Doin' Right (1:34) 1986 (Mississippi Slim) > Previously Unissued <
(C.L. Ausborn-T. Garner) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carvel Lee Ausborn (vocal and guitar)

The date of this demo recording is not clear, but it was probably made in the middle of the 1950s when Slim (real name Carvel Lee Ausborn) was resident in Memphis. A few years earlier, Slim had recorded for the Tennessee label of Nashville in a variety of honky tonk and hillbilly styles. This demo recording has rather more energy than the Tennessee discs, and it is easy to see how Sun could have turned this into an interesting record either in an uptempo style or as a rockabilly item. Slim's lyrics are in the best tradition of country laments about cheating partners, but they contain a humorous and lighthearted at proach that lifts the song out of the ordinary.

Hardrock Gunter

15 - Fallen Angel (2:45) 1954 (Hardrock Gunter) > Sun 201-B < 
(Sidney Gunter) (Sheldon Music)
Recorded January 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama
Hardrock Gunter (vocal and guitar), Ted Crabtree (steel guitar), Linda Lane (bass),
Bob Summer (drums), Alvin Tuncle (piano), Tony Dukew (saxophone)

Sidney ''Hardrock'' Gunter made his name in and around Birmingham, Alabama, but in 1952 he moved to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virgina. In July the following year he quit WWVA to return to Birmingham to resume his TV career. At the same time, he landed a disc-jockey gig on an station, WJLD, where the program director was Sam Phillips' brother-in-law, Jim Connally. Told by Connally that Gunter would record for Sun, Phillips asked Gunter to come to Memphis, but Gunter demurred. Instead he cut two songs at a Birmingham radio station. Only the sax break distinguishes ''Fallen Angel'' from the country mainstream of 1954, but the sax was very much in keeping with Birmingham's up-town blend of country music and swing (the same blend heard in Chuck Murphy's music). The theme is familiar (in fact, Bob Wills issued an unrelated ''Fallen Angel'' in March 1954) and Gunter's vocal owes a heavy debt to western swing balladry. This is a very straight performance with none of the off-the-wall character of Phillips' best work. It actually stood a fair chance of garnering some action in the country market of that for-off year. Gunter was a known quantity and the single was a strong double-sided contender by the standards of the time. It was probably Phillips' lack of promotional capital and his unfamiliarity with the market that doomed it.

16 - Gonna Dance All Night (2:21) 1954 (Hardrock Gunter) > Sun 201-A <
(Sidney Gunter) (Tannen Music)
Recorded January 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama
Hardrock Gunter (vocal and guitar), Ted Crabtree (steel guitar), Linda Lane (bass),
Bob Summer (drums), Alvin Tuncle (piano), Tony Dukew (saxophone)

This title, sold to Sun in January 1954, is a fusion of rhythm and blues and country music, yet very different from the fusion that Phillips achieved later that same year with Elvis Presley. The reasons are clear: Presley was drawing from hillbilly music and country blues; Gunter was drawing from uptown and western swing. This uptempo side was very close to the sound that Bill Haley was peddling with increasing success Essex Records, but despite the fact that the group had a nice feel for the rhythm, Gunter's vocal is unmistakably white. Gunter had recorded an earlier version of this song in 1950 for Bama Records, and, ironically, both the Sun and Bama records were numbered 201. Phillips' cheque register shows a series of cheques made payable to Gunter's then current band and the song was copyrighted with Tannen Music on June 24, 1954.

The Rhythm Rockers

17 - Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby (2:37) 1956 (Rhythm Rockers) > Sun 248-B <
(Sidney Louis Gunter) (Tannen Music)
Recorded June 1956 at Studio 56, Wheeling, West Virginia
Sidney "Hardrock" Gunter (vocal and guitar), Buddy Durham (fiddle),
Robert "Bob" Tuston (bass)

This fine recording was essentially a home-made record that, for a short period, looked set to break and then unaccountably died, Hardrock Gunter, Bobby Durham and Bill Tustin (of the Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper Band) recorded the song in the WWVA studio in early 1956. Gunter laid down the basic track with vocal and guitar and then Gunter, Durham (who is beating on a cardboard box with a letter opener) and Tustin added the rhythm track before the finished tape was fed through an echo chamber. They employed a number of novel effects, especially during the second chorus in which Gunter imitates a boss. At some point, Gunter contended that the lyrics referred to drug addiction (presumably by virtue of the line "some monkey's go! my baby...'') but if that is indeed the case, then it was his only journey into the murky water of double en-tender. The completed tape was leased to Cross Country Records, a label farmed in New Jersey by James Frishioner although the A&R guy, Eddie McMullen, pulled most of his acts from WWVA. The Rhythm Rockers' song was picked up by Bill Randle on WERE (Cleveland, Ohio). It looked set to break when Sam Phillips made some enquiries through Nat Tannen (the publisher) about the possibility of acquiring the record. While the deal was done, the momentum of the record was lost. Phillips also edited out about twenty seconds of bass thumping. Perhaps he thought that the single was too long or perhaps he thought that the cheap speakers on most radios would not be able to pick up the bass playing which would give the illusion that the record had died for 20 seconds. There was a cover version (by Tommy Mitchell on Mercury) but, to all intents and purposes, the record flopped after it was picked up by Sun. The Midas touch had worked in reverse.

18 - Fiddle Bop (2:25) 1956 (Rhythm Rockers) > Sun 248-A <
(Buddy Durham-Sidney Louis Gunter) (Tannen Music)
Recorded June 1956 at Studio 56, Wheeling, West Virginia
Sidney "Hardrock" Gunter (guitar), Buddy Durham (vocal and fiddle),
Robert "Bob" Tuston (bass)

In its own way, ''Fiddle Bop'' has as much disarming appeal as ''Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby''. Old time fiddler Buddy Durham, whose act was a staple of WWVA, was obviously trying to bring his music into line with prevailmg trends. Straddling two camps, he may have succeeded in getting neither pop nor country airplay. In any event, his efforts were destined to be overshadowed by Gunter'. Despite the presence of the magic buzzword 'bop', this tune really succeeds as a charming country novelty. Lt was probably pieced together as a primitive exercise in overdubbing at the WWVA studios.

Wanda Ballman

*19 - Honky Tonk Girl (2:23) 1986 (Wanda Ballman) > Previously Unissued <
(Wanda Ballman) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 18, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Wanda Ballman (vocal and guitar)

Wanda Ballman is primarily known to Sun fans as the composer of Carl Perkins' ''I'm Sorry I'm Not Sorry''. In fact, the Denver, Colorado disc-jockey was actively pursuing a songwriting and recording career of own and sent a number of tapes, such as this, to Sun. Wanda obvious]y had her Kitty Wells songbook on the flight table when she made this demo tape. She brought the appropriate feel to the proceedings and the lyric certainly hits all the right buttons: cheatin', hurtin' and lyin'. Her performance has a homey charm despite some rough edges, but the lyric betrays a stunniny lack of originality. When Wanda submitted this demo her chief claim to fame was that she had placed third in a songwriting contest sponsored by 'Jamboree' magazine. At that point she was a 32-year old musician working at the Bandbox Ballroom in downtown Denver.

The Dixieland Drifters

*20 - I'm Gonna Find Her (2:06) 1986 (Dixieland Drifters) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 13, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hal Culpepper (vocal), Norman Blake (dobro), Robert Johnson (banjo),
Cecil Powell (mandolin), Harold Bradford (fiddle),
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

This is the first of two recordings by the Dixieland Drifters in the grand tradition of Sun's hybrid music. Just as Sam Phillips moulded Elvis Presley's style from elements of country music, blues, gospel and pop, here Jack Clement has encouraged an unusual hybrid of bluegrass and rock. These were seen by both Clement and the group as finished masters, not simply experiments. The Dixieland Drifters were organised by Norman Blake when he and the other band members were still in high school. Blake's dobro was augmented by Howell Culpepper on vocals, Cecil Powell on mandolin, Robert Johnson on banjo, fiddler Harold Bradford (who apparently forsook his instrument on this session) and Sun session stalwart Jimmy Van Eaton. Blake went on to become a star on the periphery of country music. His stylish and uncredited picking has adorned countless Nashville sessions, There are also numerous albums available that feature Blakers dobro in a variety of sympathetic solo settings. Bob Johnson was a multi-instrumentalist who later worked on Johnny Cash's Columbia sessions when the sang called for more than ol' Luther could handle. There is an interesting footnote to ''I'm Gonna Find Her''. Blake was obviously disappointed that these tracks never found their way onto a Sun single around 1957 and, several years later, a record appeared an the obscure Do-Re-Me label featuring a Norman Blake group called the Dixielanders. The A-side, ''The Trot'' sported an identical musical riff to that used on ''I'm Gonna Find Her''. That record barely sold a copy but it found its way into the hands of Chet Atkins who promptly recorded a cover version by the Browns for RCA. Thus, in barely five years, an unissued Sun session began a chain of events leading to a mainstream Nashville release and a solid career for Norman Blake.

*21 - Maybe Tomorrow (2:21) 1986 (Dixieland Drifters) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 13, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hal Culpepper (vocal), Norman Blake (dobro), Robert Johnson (banjo),
Cecil Powell (mandolin), Harold Bradford (fiddle),
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

Try an exercise in imagination. Remove the banjo figure and replace it with the identical figure played by Roland Janes on lead guitar. Reinforce the acoustic guitar/mandolin backing with Jimmy Wilson's piano. What do you have? A fairly anonymous but quite accomplished Sun from 1957. It is really the banjo and the gentle, understated bluegrass harmonies that make this experiment stand out. The Drifters had apparently drifted in from Chattanooga in the far southeast corner of Tennessee. They had arrived at the invitation of Jack Clement who had worked in a bluegrass unit during his military service and retained the light folky feel in his own music. He wrote o little note for the tape box saying that the band could be reached c/o their manager, R. L. Blake (Norman's brother, Rufus, who played guitar with the Drifters on occasion) at Combustion Engineering in Chattanooga. He then presumably played the results of the afternoon's work for Sam Phillips who decided that it was not an experiment he wanted to back commercially. Fifty five years later, he would probably have agreed that it deserves a place in this compilation because it underlines the point that Sun country was always just a little bit different.

LOVE YOU FOR A LIFETIME

We conclude this CD, as we did the original LP boxed set, with a number of then unissued alternative versions of songs by Sun' big three country artists - Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis - and we have added three previously then unknown titles by Charlie Feathers. This is all timeless music, sometimes newly written and blazing a new path, sometimes adapting older trails but always giving the sense that something new has been created.

Carl Perkins

*22 - Honky Tonk Gals (2:16) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Carl Perkins) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), Jay Perkins (guitar), Clayton Perkins (bass).
W.S. Holland (drums)

*23 - Perkins Wiggle (1:55) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
Carl Perkins) (Copyright Control)
(Carl Perkins) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), Jay Perkins (guitar), Clayton Perkins (bass).
W.S. Holland (drums)

*24 - Y.O.U (3:20) 1986 (Carl Perkins) > Previously Unissued <
(Carl Perkins) (Copyright Control)
Recorded 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Carl Perkins (vocal and guitar), Jay Perkins (guitar), Clayton Perkins (bass).
W.S. Holland (drums)

Lets get one thing clear. An unissued alternative take of a vintage Sun recording is worth many times its weight in Hot 100 mush. These are not 'bonus cuts' but solid music from emerging country and rock and roll singers at the height of their powers. A real bonus, ''Honky Tonk Cal'' is the second take of the first song Carl Perkins recorded. ''Perkins Wiggle'', also known as ''Dixie Bop'' and ''Perkins' Boogie'', is a definitive guitar and vocal statement of rockabilly. ''Y.O.U'', is an undervalued ballad performance from Carl's later days at Sun.

Johnny Cash

*25 - Folsom Prison Blues (2:29) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(Johnny Cash) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Late 1954 / Early 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)

*26 - If The Good Lord's Willing (1:45) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(J. Reed) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 4, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)

*27 - I Was There When It Happened (2:16) 1986 (Johnny Cash) > Previously Unissued <
(J. Davis-R. D. Jones) Copyright Control)
Recorded August 4, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Cash (vocal and guitar), Luther Perkins (guitar), Marshall Grant (bass)

When Carl Perkins sang a song it nearly always came out differently. Cash, on the other hand, was capable of singing and playing the same song almost identically. ''Folsom Prison Blues'' is an exception, an early take with a slightly different feel to the hit version. The other two Cash performances of non-original quasi-standards are bath real country items, memorable for their images and their sparse, Ionesome feel.

Jerry Lee Lewis

*28 - Goodnight Irene (2:53) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(Huddie. Ledbetter- Allen Lomax) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 1956/January 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley or J.W. Brown (bass),
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

*29 - Ole Pal Of Yesterday (2:36) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) Copyright Control
Recorded February 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), J.W. Brown (bass),
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

*30 - Fools Like Me (2:42) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(Jack Clement)(Copyright Control)
Recorded April 20, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley or J.W. Brown (bass),
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

*31 - I'll Sail My Ship Alone (2:10) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(H. Bernard-L. Mann) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 5, 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Roland Janes (guitar), Billy Riley (guitar)
Cliff Agred (bass), James M. Van Eaton (drums), Martin Willis, (saxophone)

*32 - Settin' The Woods On Fire (2:25) 1986 (Jerry Lee Lewis) > Previously Unissued <
(F. Rose-E. Nelson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jerry Lee Lewis (vocal and piano), Billy Riley (guitar), Stan Kesler (bass)
James M. Van Eaton (drums)

These five songs may have been heard before but Jerry Lee was practically incapable of playing the same thing twice, so you hear a revitalised performance with every out-take. It is almost incredible that Jerry is able to hold the attention so fully with variations on the country standards included here. Such was the special result of unitmg a young Jerry Lee with the Sun studio sound.

Charlie Feathers

*33 - So Ashamed (2:51) 1998 (Charlie Feathers) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Feathers) (Copyright Control)
Recorded 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar(, Jerry Huffman (guitar),
Jody Chastain (steel guitar), Shorty Torrance (bass),
Jimmy Swords (drums)

Soon after the LP version of 'the Sun Country Years' was issued, Zu-Zazz Records found and released a previously unheard and unknown Charlie Feathers session from Sun Records. In its way, it was a perfect encapsulation of country becoming rockabilly. The identity of Feathers' group on that day in 1956 is unclear. The steel guitarist is probably Jody Chastain, who began working with Feathers around the time this was recorded, and switched to bass when Feathers switched to rock and roll. The electric guitarist is probably Jerry Huffman because the playing sounds similar to the King and Meteor sessions on which Huffman was known to have worked, The bassist could be Shorty Torrance and the drummer could be Jimmy Swards, both of whom worked with Feathers in 1956. ''So Ashamed'' was hillbilly to the core, and as good as any other country recording on this collection: hard-assed hillbilly music from the ground up. Although as unabashedly rural as Doug Poindexter, Feathers had style. The bridge gives him an excuse to go way high, like his idol Bill Monroe, even if the tempo on these 1956 recordings didn't allow him to twist and turn notes as he did on the slower Sun and Flip recordings.

*34 - Honky Tonk Kind (2:57) 1998 (Charlie Feathers) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Feathers) (Copyright Control)
Recorded 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar(, Jerry Huffman (guitar),
Jody Chastain (steel guitar), Shorty Torrance (bass),
Jimmy Swords (drums)

Now this is pure hillbilly soul, underpinned by an impenetrable, tortured morality. Few could deliver songs like this with the scorching intensity that Feathers brings to them. With the future of rockabilly or rock and roll still very much unassured, its clear why Sam Phillips thought that Feathers should stick with country music. And no one in country music had been this intense since Hank Williams had breathed his last breath some four years earlier. It seemed as if Williams' death paved the way for Webb Pierce's ascendancy, and it's hard not to believe that Feathers could have been as successful as Pierce. At least Feathers could sing on-pitch.

*35 - Frankie And Johnny (2:51) 1998 (Charlie Feathers) > Not Originally Issued <
(Traditional Arranged by Charlie Feathers) (Copyright Control)
Recorded 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Feathers (vocal and guitar(, Jerry Huffman (guitar),
Jody Chastain (steel guitar), Shorty Torrance (bass),
Jimmy Swords (drums)

St. Louis, 1942: ''Frankie Baker a 66 year-old Negro woman who claims to be the original ''Frankie'' of ''Frankie and Johnny'' lost her suit against Republic Pictures when she tried to collect damages over the movie ''Frankie And Johnny''. Was she the original Frankie? Quite probably. In 1899, St. Louis balladeer Bill Dooley composed ''Frankie Killed Allen'' shortly after the Baker murder case. The first published version of ''Frankie And Johnny'' with music appeared in 1904, copyrighted by Hughie Cannon, the composer of ''Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home''. Where did Charlie Feathers hear the song? We'll never know. Jimmie Rodgers, perhaps. Although the song was much recorded in the 1920s and 1930s, it's hard to think of too many versions from the early 1950s. Feathers' recording is a fair distance from the way the song sounded around 1900, the year after Ms. Baker claimed to have done the deed, or even around 1930 when Rodgers recorded it. What's remarkable about Feathers' recording is his mastery of rhythm. On this slower take, he's surefooted and playful, very confident of where he'll land. The electric guitarist is less surefooted and flubs several notes. In the 1942 lawsuit, Baker's attorney asked her, ''Did your gun go rootie, toot, toot'"? "No,' she replied, "It went TOOT. I just shot him once''.

CONCLUSION

Sun Records was not seen at the time as a country music label, by Sam Phillips or by anyone else, but we've heard in these 6 CDs practically every style of the music that was current through the 1950s and we've followed the artists into every root and branch of country music up to that time. And, for the most part, we've heard that little something extra - the ''Sun Sound''.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.
*- BFX 15211 (LP) Box Set (1986)

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

COUNTRY MUSIC IN MEMPHIS BEFORE SUN RECORDS - When Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service in 1950, he was literally taking a chance on a new area of business in Memphis. There just had not been any successful attempts to set up a commercial recording venture. There were no record labels currently operating in Memphis. Even a company called Royal Recording, set up in 1948 to record private function and the like, had folded during 1949. ''It was because of the closure of the Royal Studio downtown that my bosses at WREC warned me against trying to start my own recording business'', recalled Sam Phillips.

Despite the legendary reputation the city now has for its recorded music, Sam Phillips could have stood in his new studio and looked back over the short history of recorded sound seeing no local expertise upon which to draw other than radio. Thee local radio engineers sometimes recorded music or advertising material onto did for subsequent radio broadcast. Occasionally radio studio would be used by an out of town recording company. Other than this, and the booth in a local store where you could record a message for your own private use, there were no recording facilities in Memphis.

Major national recording companies had occasionally made recordings in Memphis 'on location' as part of a field trip to find regional music forms, but there had been no concerted effort to document or market Memphis music, be it popular, jazz, blues, gospel or hillbilly. In other regional centres, it sometimes occurred to local furniture stores to make recordings to sell in their shop along with the phonographs. Bullet Records of Nashville and Trumpet of Jackson, Mississippi starts in this way, but there appears not to have been a Memphis equivalent of these ventures. Similarly, there had been little interest shown by local radio engineer or record distributors as sometimes occurred elsewhere. There were large record pressing and distribution organizations in Memphis from the late 1940 - Plastic Products, and Music Sales - but they were geared to the major labels and to west coast and north easter independents.

Sam Phillips was a radio man. At heart, he still is. It was through his friends and contacts at WREC in Memphis that he acquired sufficient equipment to set up his studio in the first place. He bought his first recording machines from WREC'S country disc jockey Buck Turner. Sam had come to Memphis in 1945, from Florence, Alabama by way of Nashville, to work as a radio announcer and assistant to the transcriptions manager, and subsequently as a dance-band promoter. As a further sideline, Sam did disc jockey work on WREC'S country music show ''Songs of the West''. His association with country music in Memphis therefore predated his better-known interest in blues and roll and roll by five and ten years respectively.

When he moved to Memphis, Sam Phillips would have been aware that in those immediate post-war years there had been a sudden upsurge of 'independent' recording companies, largely in California and the northeast but also in some regional cities. He was also aware that the Memphis area harboured a lot of untapped talent in roots music; jazz, blues, gospel and hillbilly.

Back in 1903 another man from Florence, Alabama had come to a similar realization. He was W.C. Handy, the black musician who composes and popularize the first copyrighted blues music. Handy put Memphis on the map as far as the outside music world was concerned when he came out with his ''Memphis Blues'' in 1912. As Handy was laying the seeds of the jazz and blues legend in Memphis, a young pianist named Bob Miller was gaining his first jobs on Mississippi River steamboats. Working on the 'Idlewild' and taking in the sounds and sights of river city life - a fusion of danceband jazz, folk and hillbilly tunes - Bob Miller was inspired to develop a successful pop-country songwriting career. He had his songs published in Memphis as early as 1923. Moving from Memphis to New York in 1928, Miller become known for tunes like ''Eleven Cent Cotton'' and ''Forty Cent Meat'' and the wartime hillbilly favorite recorded by Elton Britt and others, ''There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere''. Along the way, he became a song publisher and an A&R man. Miller's nephew, Hal Miller, became a Memphis television personality and recorded some unissued titles for Sun. Miller's story would be an interesting one, but, immediately upon his death in 1955, his wife pitched everything related to his career into the garbage.

All this, of course, told the world nothing about the real blues and hillbilly music of the mid-south. This only came to light, gradually, during to late 1920s when the large northern recording companies recognized a possible market for down to earth rural blues and folk music. The man who first 'discovered' local Memphis music was Victor's Ralph Peer who brought portable recording equipment to the city between February 24 and March 1, 1927. Using the McCall Building downtown as a studio, he reorder 34 tunes, mostly blues, and came back during the three succeeding years building up a strong roster of blues which include the Memphis Jug Band, Cannon's Jug Stampers and Tommy Johnson. On the first trip in 1927 Peer recorded 26 titles by black blues or gospel artists, 4 by a jazz band, and 4 by a white gospel septet. There was no white country music as such.

Victor's Ralph Peer and representatives from Hoke and Vocalion made repeated trips to Memphis in the years before the Depression. In general, they recorded black music although country styles were increasingly represented. Few of the artists saw their careers resurrected after the Depression but one of the survivors was Rice Fleming. He recorded for Victor, ARC and Decca as part of a duet with Vespers Townsend. In the post war years he reappeared at Sun Records in the company of Malcolm Wellington.

As the Depression hit the recording industry. there were to be no more field trips to Memphis until 1939 when Art Fatherly brought a Vocalion team to the city. In June and July that year Fatherly recorded 22 songs by the Swift Jewel Cowboys and six by Gene Steele. Born Lloyd Bob in 1908, he had acquired the name Gene Steele by the time he flit appeared on radio WMC in Memphis in 1937. Steele remained a WMC regular until 1959. Known as the Singing Salesman on WMC, Steele recorded in a bluesy semi-western swing style for Vocalion on songs like ''Ride 'Em Cowboy'' and ''Just A Little Of The Blues''. Later, in the early 1950s, Steele appears to have also recorded for Sam billies on unissued titles which included ''Alimony Blues'' and ''Daisy Bread Boogie''. When he retired from music Steele turned to dog racing in West Memphis and apparently did very well in his new line of business until his death in 1984.

The Swift Jewel Cowboys had originated in Texas, working on radio for the Swift Company, manufacturers of Jewel Salad Oil. Their manager, Frank Collins, moved them to Memphis in 1934 where, led by guitarist Slim Hall, they played over WREC until 1936 and then over WREC until 1952. One member of the group, cornettist Pee We Wamble, is still resident in Memphis. The Cowboys were a jazzy western swing outfit, whose best tunes included ''Chuck Wagon Swing'' and ''Memphis Oomph''. After the band left Memphis, Pee Wee Wamble continued to play in Memphis and he recorded in the 1941 as a member of Freddie Burns' Ranch Boys.

During the pre-War era, a few Memphis country artists who had been missed by the field trips nevertheless appeared on records. One was Ramblin' Red Lowery who arrived in Memphis in 1933 from Kentucky. Able to perform well in the then-popular style of Jimmie Rodgers, Lowery recorded several titles for Vocalion in New York in January 1934, including ''Ramblin' Red's Memphis Yodel'', numbers 1. 2. 3 and 4.

Apart from the few recording sessions mentioned above, the main reflection of commercial country music in Memphis in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s came via the local radio stations.

Just as recording companies realize during the 1920s that there was a market for real blues as hillbilly music rather than the popularised versions first heard on cylinder and records, so the fledging radio industry soon turned to folk artists to sell certain products over the air. Country musicians, and bluesmen, were particularly in demand for shows sponsored by agricultural product companies and the like.

In the early days of radio, the 1920s, airtime was much more limited to country musicians than became the case later on, particularly during to 1940s and early 1950s. Back in the 1920s, hillbilly music was likely to be heard mainly in a barn-dance format pioneered by stations such as WLS in Chicago and WSM in Nashville. Ironically, the founder of WSM'S hugely influential Grand OIe Opry programs: which started in Nashville in 1925, George D. Hay, had gains his first radio experience in Memphis. George Hay was columnist with the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper when the company branched out into radio as owned WMC as Memphis first radio station in 1923. Hay was drafted in as one of the first announcers on the station. He left for Chicago the following year. Had he not, it is just conceivable that the Opry might eventually have been spawned in Memphis rather than Nashville.

The second station appear in Memphis, in March 1925 was WHBQ. This was followed by WGBC in 1925 and WNBR in 1927, the latter owned by another newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. These stations combined to become WMPS in 1937 and developed into the largest station in town when taken over in 1947 by Plough Incorporated. The top news and information station in town was WREC which moved to Memphis in 1929 from earlier locations in Goldwater, Mississippi and Whitehaven. Tennessee. Other stations followed these into a regional market which, by the 1940s, was the eleventh largest in the USA. The other stations included KWEM in West Memphis and WHHM.

During the 1940s, WMPS developed into the top country music programmer in Memphis. The station had move heavily into a country format in 1939 but the tenure of Smiling ''Eddie'' Hill at the station between 1947 and 1950 pave new impetus to the station. Hill's show quickly became the leading country program in the region. Hill and his band were supported by other top acts: including the Louvin Brothers, the Carlisles. Dan Snyder and the Loden Family. Disc jockey Bob Neal became the top country disc jockey in the area.

WMC developed into the second most important country station. Its stars included Gene Steele, Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys with vocalist Freddie Burns, Curley Williams' Georgia Peachpickers, Curley Fox, Harmonica Frank and, in 1945 and 1946, the Delmore ' Brothers with Wayne Raney and Lonnie Glosson. Alton Delmore has recalled Memphis as, ''the best place we ever worked''. The Brothers had an early morning show on WMC during the heyday of their King Records career in the wake of hits like ''Hillbilly Boogie''. The longest running country program in Memphis was also on WMC. This was the Slim Rhodes show, which ran from 1944 into the early 1961 and later expanded into TV.

Slim Rhodes' competitor on WREC was Buck Turner with his Buckaroos. Turner, from French Camp, Mississippi was probably not the same Buck Turner who recorded out of Dallas in the 1930s and had a manor success with ''Sing Sing Blues'', although Turner's story has never been properly investigated.

He died sometime in the early 1970s without having been interviewed. Details of his Buckaroos are also scant, but the croup included Curt Gilmer on guitar whose cousin Will Gilmer recorded before the war with the Leake County Revelers. Before Buck Turner's days at WREC, during the 1930 and 1940s, Ramblin' Red Lowery and the Swift Jewel Cowboys had appeared regularly on the station. Sam Phillips himself as a country disc jockey when he came to WREC in June 1945. He was the host of the ''Songs of the West'' program, where he was known as ''Pardner''. Sam's brother Jud was also on WREC as a member of the Jollyboys vocal quartet.

Across the river in Arkansas, KWEM was developing a restated for country music. In the 1950s, their to disc jockeys were Bill Strength and Dick Stuart, supported by live acts including Clyde Leopard's band, Charlie Feather and Jack Earls.

The competition for Bob Neal in the country disc jockey stakes came from Dick Stuart on KWEM and Sleepy Eye John Lepley on WHHM. Other forms of specialized music programming included some blues and gospel on stations, particulars KWEM and, of course, the black station WDIA.

Unlike WSM, Nashville, which obtained a nationally-networked slot for its country program, the Memphis country shows remained localised products for a mainly rural regional audience in west Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Alabama. There were networked shows out of Memphis, though, particularly on WMC, affiliated to CBS, and on WREC which broadcast live dance bands from the Skyway Restaurant in the Peabody Hotel. These shows indeed to Ted Weems Band with Perry Como, and the Ozzie Nelson show. One of the producers of the Skyway shows from 1946 to 1951 was Sam Phillips.

Just as a few Memphis-based artists were able to record in the 1930s by trammelling to major label studios, so in the 1940s some of Memphis' top radio acts appeared on record. Again, though, they had to sign with labels from outside the immediate area to achieve this.

The Delmore Brothers were contracted to King Record of Cincinnati at the time when they were appearing on Memphis radio in the late 1940s. Similarly, Freddie Burns, based in Memphis, appeared on Start Talent out of Dallas. Curley Williams, who wrote ''Half As Much'' and other songs for Hank Williams (no relation) used Memphis as a radio and touring base but was recording for Columbia out of Nashville. Eddie Hill was the leading light on Memphis country radio, but his records appeared in the 1940s on Apollo Records of New York and on Decca and then in the 1950s Mercury out of their Nashville office. The Eddie Hill Decca session in August 1949 was held at the same time as the session on Bob Price. Decca had a distribution office in Memphis (from 1938 to 1952). Other labels with offices in Memphis included Capitol (from 1946 to 1955) and King (from 1952 to 1956). Mostly these offices were for distribution and promotional staff and had no connection with the recording side of the business, but it could be that there was some scouting of Memphis talent through these offices.

As to recordings actually made in Memphis in the immediate post-War years, very little activity has been uncovered before the establishment of Sun, Duke and Meteor in 1952 and Starmaker in 1953. Ike Turner recorded some blues in makeshift studios for Modern Records of Hollywood in 1951 and 1952, and Rufus Thomas and others recorded for Star Talent at Johnny Curry’s Club in Memphis. There were some very short-lived labels operating in 1953, including one-issue blues labels like Wasco (Professor Longhair) and Back Alley (Tippo Lite). The only vaguely substantial recording enterprise to predate Sun appears to have been the Buster label formed in the late 1940s by Buster Williams as an offshoot of the Plastic Products record manufacturing set-up which Williams started in 1949. However, the evidence suggest that the Buster releases were in fact reissues of material from west coast record labels and that Buster was primarily a manufacturing and sales exercise rather than a recording enterprise related to local musicians.

All the labels so far mentioned concentrated on blues. There were also some gospel recordings. The Spirit of Memphis Quartet recorded for King on location at the Masonic Temple in Memphis in 1952. Earlier the Reverent W.H. Brewster had recorded in 1950 for Gotham on titles which may have been made at WDIA radio or another Memphis location. WDIA would have been to most likely place for the recording of black music in 1949, and in fact the first two records made by B.B. King were recorded at WDIA for Nashville's Bullet label.

Further research may reveal other Memphis recordings and labels. There are still some puzzles to be solved. Someone called dreamy Joe recorded ''Hardin's Bread Boogie'' on a promotional 78rpm for Action Promotions. There will have been other promotional discs made, and possibly some of these saw limited commercial release. Then again, it is clear that Sam Phillips' first professional job when he opened his Memphis Recording Service in January 1950 was to make acetates of WREC country singer Buck Turner for radio broadcast. Sam has long since forgotten whether there were other similar deals, or whether any of these recordings also saw commercial release. For instance, it is not clear whether the several vocal performances by a Buck Turner issued on Nashville's Bulleit label between 1950 and 1952, issued under the name of Tani Allen and his Tennessee Pals, were in fact recorded by Sam Phillips.

The four Slim Rhodes singles included here on this website therefore remain the earliest country recordings known to have been made in Memphis since Gene Steele and the Swift Jewel Cowboys recorded for Vocalion in 1939. Sun 190, ''Blues Waltz'' by the Ripley Cotton Choppers, remains the first country record known to have been issued on a Memphis-based record label.

By Martin Hawkins (with grateful acknowledgment to Tony Russell and Colin Escott)

THE SUN COUNTRY YEARS - Of all the musical styles associated with Sun Records, country music is the least well recognised and the least well documented. This is surprising because country music appeared on the magic yellow label from the first full year of operation until the last. Moreover, most of the artists primarily associated with Sun Records began their careers in country music or went on to carve out a career in country music. However, when we came to compile the Sun Country Years we encountered some special problems. Sam Phillips and his producers recorded a lot of country music.

Even before the birth of Sun Records, Phillips was recording country music for Chess and 4-Star Records. If we included every country performance from those seventeen years the list of recordings would be an unmanageable size. As Sun's fame grew, hundreds of artists made the trek to Union and Marshall, hoping that they would be discovered in the same way as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Hundreds more mailed in demo tapes, many of which remain unheard to this day. Some of those tapes were shipped to Nashville with the Sun tape inventory and we have included a few examples of them.

Perhaps a couple were not recorded at 706 Union but we judged them to be of sufficient interest that they warranted inclusion. We started listening to this music many years ago and it seems as though each major project, in particular the Sun Boxes series, deepens out appreciation of the music, the environment which gave birth to it and the actual recording industry during those far off years. Despite the plethora of Sun reissues it is really hard to believe that you are scratching the bottom of the barrel when you uncover previously unknown Charlie Feathers recordings or bring some of the previously unknown or little known artists into the spotlight.

The music scene has changed out of all recognition in the years since the first of these performances was recorded. In technical terms alone, the changes have been dramatic. The acetates that Sam Phillips used in 1950 were supplanted by tape which has now been supplanted by computer scans of the audio signal. The 78rpm disc, the primary medium for sound recordings in 1950, was supplanted by microgroove which is, in turn, being supplanted by compact disc. It is now commonplace to fit one hour's worth of music onto a disc that is several inches smaller and several ounces lighter than the old 78s that held the fruits of Phillips' first efforts.

Yet, somehow, the music that Sam Phillips recorded in his tiny studio in an era so different from the present has survived to sound better with each passing year. As country music surrenders its soul in the quest for the Holy Grail of crossover, it becomes necessary to look back over your shoulder. It will be a sad day when there is no place for Charlie Feathers or Doug Poindexter singing their hearts out with a painfully simple, pure hillbilly backing. This country music is very special and we're betting that much of it will be around long after most of today's country music is forgotten.

It is probably fair to say that there was a classic period for country music on Sun Records. It fell between 1954 and 1956 when most of the country music that emanated from Sam Phillips' little studio was achingly pure and almost totally untouched by rhythm and blues. Success, of course, came with the rockabilly boom that dawned in 1956 and most of the classic country music recorded on Sun sold abysmally. When Sam Phillips calculated Earl Peterson's royalty statement in May 1955, SUN 197 had sold five copies in the preceding six months, bringing the total sales to 2868, but 196 copies had been returned. Total royalties amounted to $94.17 but Peterson had already purchased $60 worth of records, reducing the total amount owed to $34.17 peanuts - even in 1955.

It is hard to pinpoint the reasons for the dismal sales. Some artists such as Slim Rhodes had strictly local appeal. Slim's radio and, later, television, appearances ensured that his product would sell well in Memphis and the surrounding area. The Ripley Cotton Choppers, only seemed to sell well in Ripley (population 450). Charlie Feathers briefly cracked the Memphis charts with "Peepin' Eyes" thereby ensuring that he would at least see a follow-up but, in general, it seems as though Phillips had a hard time selling his country titles.

Perhaps one reason lay in the nature of the country music industry. It was dominated by the major labels. In April 1955, for example, Decca held five of the fifteen slots in the country charts. The only smaller labels to get a look-in were Dot, Imperial and Fabor. Initially, Phillips had geared his operation to the rhythm and blues market which was dominated by independent labels with strong distribution channels to support them. By the time Phillips cracked the country charts with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in the late months of 1955, the entire picture was starting to chance; the boundaries were starting to blur. Moreover, it is possible that Sam Phillips, with his limited resources, spent too much time getting Elvis Presley and later Johnny Cash off the ground, and that Earl Peterson, Doug Poindexter, Hardrock Gunter, Charlie Feathers, Jimmy Haggett and the Miller Sisters suffered as a result.

Sam Phillips was also afflicted by a desperate lack of Cash flow in 1954-1955. Sun had seen their main blues hits in 1953 and by 1955 distributors were still playing for new Presley product with returned blues titles. Sam Phillips was also trying to buy back his brother Jud's share of Sun (which Jud had probably bought from Jim Bulleit) and repay an unrecouped advance from Chess Records. Little wonder therefore that he found neither the time nor the money to promote his unknown country acts into a fiercely competitive marketplace that was dominated by Decca, Columbia and RCA. He could not neglect Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash but the inevitable result was that other artists suffered. Jud Phillips was back in Alabama and Sun was reduced to a two-person operation during this critical period.

However, sales are not the only criteria by which music is measured. If that were the case we'd be preparing the Four Lads or Hugo Winterhalter boxed sets. The country music that Phillips produced was difficult music. It is not easy on the ears, nor does it have the immediately appealing frenetic drive of rockabilly. It can take repeated exposure to see the tormented and primitive beauty in Charlie Feathers "I've Been Deceived". However, it is the same rawness that has enabled the music to survive these many years. When Charlie Feathers was settling down to record "I've Been Deceived", the pop and country markets were gripped by Davy Crockett mania. "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett" sold seven million copies on 20 labels. Feathers' single barely crept into four figures. However, 30 years later, Davy Crockett is a long forgotten crazy, and "I've Been Deceived" survives to sound better than ever. Pure country soul counts for something after all.

The first country record on Sun was out-of-date before the cutting stylus left the lathe. The Ripley Cotton Choppers represented a throwback to the pre War era. Their sound owed more to the Carter Family than to prevailing trends in country music. The same could be said of Howard Seratt. But then Phillips could never be accused of being mainstream. But the left-field approach brought its rewards when Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash cracked the country charts with smartingly original music.

Much of the music that Sam Phillips recorded, especially between 1954 and 1956, betrayed some of the influence of country music's lately departed king, Hank Williams. Unlike many labels, Phillips was not slavishly Williams' style. Artists such as Doug Poindexter, Carl Perkins and Charlie Feathers used Williams' style as the basis of their own but it was still very much the artist's personality that shone through.

Sam Phillips was also fortunate to have a country house band of stellar quality. Perhaps if they had played together as long as their Nashville counterparts their music would have become formula-ridden and humdrum. As it was, every performance seemed to be minted afresh. The intensity of Stanley Kesler's steel guitar matched with Bill Cantrell's fiddle and the deadened bass string sound of Quinton Claunch adds so much to these sessions.

In fact, Claunch and Cantrell offered Sam Phillips the major country hit to emerge from Memphis before Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The song was "Daydreamin'" by Bud Deckelman. It was finally released on Meteor after it had been mastered in Sam Phillips' studio which must have it doubly galling. Meteor's triumph was short-lived, however, because Deckelman departed almost immediately for MGM, leaving both Sun and Meteor with "Daydreamin'" sequels by other artists. Deckelman was closer to Hank Williams than any of Phillips' artists which is probably the reason why MGM were so pleased to secure him. Unfortunately, no-one had told MGM that there was only one Hank Williams.

Within a few months, the limited success of "Daydreamin'" was swept aside in the rockabilly revolution. However, Sun never forsook country music even after the success of "Blue Suede Shoes". Ernie Chaffin, Mack Self and others produced delightful country music that was almost an anachronism as the trend towards crossover product gathered momentum. Even beyond the scope of the recordings, Sun recorded country artists but none could even come close outselling the long departed Johnny Cash. Finally, when it seemed as though the bottom of the barrel has been reached for Cash repackages, Sun signed Dane Stinit, an artist who modeled his style on Cash. Unfortunately, just as no-one seemed to have told MGM that there was only Hank Williams, so it seemed that no-one told Sun that there was only one Johnny Cash. Stinit reportedly lured Sam Phillips back into the control room, but to no avail.

Sam Phillips recorded some truly excellent country music. It was original, it was profoundly soulful and some of it crossed the fine line between uptempo hillbilly music and rockabilly. Perhaps more than anything else, this highlights the fact that virtually all of the rockabillies would have been singing hillbilly music if they had auditioned a few months or a few years earlier. They all left something behind in little 7" tape boxes that resembled country music. Only Sonny Burgess and Billy Riley veered towards rhythm and blues and, of course, Roy Orbison always had his sights set filmly on the pop charts. Harold Jenkins (Also known as Conway Twitty) left behind a pure and gentle country ballad. Warren Smith left a large and hauntingly beautiful legacy of country music that presaged his move to country with Liberty Records. Jack Clement, whose mind moved concurrently in half a dozen directions, never forsook his country roots. Even Charlie Rich, the most urbane and musically eclectic of them all, left some title in the can (as well as on record) that predated his own monumental success with country music. Country music was the common wellspring. When Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered together in Phillips' studio at the end of 1956 they came together musically on common ground: country gospel and good old country music. It might not have paid for the Cadillacs and the diamond rings but it was never too far beneath the surface.

by Colin Escott 

Sam Phillips talking about country music on Sun to Martin Hawkins, March 13, 1985

"People may not always realise this - with all the blues and rock and roll artists I recorded - but country music played a big part in my recording studio.

The very first job I had after I opened my recording studio - that was in January of 1950 - was recording for radio with a country singer name of Buck Turner. This was for the Arkansas Rural Electrification Corporation. We made fifteen minute programmes that I transcribed onto the big old' 16 inch discs. They were distributed to about eighteen or twenty outlets. That was actually the first recording I did.

It was several months before I did any commercial recording for records. Then I recorded Slim Rhodes and Lost John Hunter for Bill McCall who had the 4-Star and Gilts-Edge labels.

Slim Rhodes ran a local country band here that had been on radio WMC for many years. Slim had the noontime show. Buck Turner had the regular country show on the opposing station, WREC. Buck did an early morning show. He would also tour frequently throughout the south and west. Slim in contrast, only played the local area - south east Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, west Tennessee, and north west Alabama - so Slim was what we used to call a kind of mainstay on local radio programming. Both Slim and Buck were professionals, though. They both had good, well-balanced bands and were easy to record.

I never did see anything particular about either Buck or Slim's band that stood out, as far as style; they were just good solid local combos. The Rhodes were a family band. Besides Slim, there was Dusty who was a real good fiddle player, and Dusty's wife was a pretty dam good singer. Speck was the comedian and bass player. He later worked for Porter Wagoner on his TV' show - successful as he was with the comedy, he was still one of the better upright bass players I ever saw.

I recorded country music right through the time I had my studio, but it was never with the thought that I would do that well on country music. My main interest even at the outset was in developing something of a combination of black blues and country music. Besides, Nashville was doing a damn good job on country stuff. They were pretty pure country too over there, which at that time didn't really excite me too much unless could come up with something a little different. Also at that time, met resistance in everything I did. Nashville was very jealous of their industry over there. So it was a matter of getting your feet on the ground and finding something you had some market for. I had to realise that recording straight country was a buffer until I could work out what I really wanted to do. I mean, without compromising. You nevertheless have to stay in business first before you can build.

I was like a chemist in a lab, who just knows he's close to something. But I was just one person, and I couldn't concentrate on everything at one time, you know? God, a lot of hours were spent developing a sound - a sound in blues, a sound in country, and a new sound using both those kinds of music. Deep down I knew I was not doing everything that could be done for each artist. I felt I had to experiment with sounds. I loved working with people capable of something different - often that meant the turned-down, unbelieved-in musicians who had something unusual about them.

I knew that cutting pure Nashville-style country records was not what I wanted. I swear to God, I knew I could cut' em, but I knew it wasn't what I hoped to get to. Now, it doesn't mean I don't like country music. I love country music I grew up on it. The way you heard pure blues - black or white - back in those days was from the people that worked with you on the farm. You certainly didn't hear it on the radio. so it was the hillbilly singers and the blues singers on the farm that I heard when I was coming up. That was my music then. The music of the bend of the river back in Florence, Alabama, that was my inspiration.

In the early part of the 1950s, I mainly concentrated on the blues, but I always would spend time with a country artist or two if they had any potential. I recorded several people back before I opened my own Sun label. We had the basis here of some good talent. I just don't think I came up with the songs I'd have liked to have on them: I don't think I was able to devote the time to get out of them the intensity that I got from the bluesmen. We did have a few things - Red Hadley and Frank Floyd particularly.

Red Hadley was a guy I hoped I could get a hit on. He was one of these type people - he would come in and sound extremely good, but he just wouldn't apply himself consistently so I could get the most out of him. He 'sold' himself, you know. He had it. He could have made a great record, I'm sure. Bob Price made some things for Chess Records in my studio. His real name was Price Twitty. He was a young man from down in Tishomingo, Mississippi. But he did not have the blue in the music. We didn't do too much with Bob.

Frank Floyd - now here was a musician I was very much into. He was what I call a modern-day hobo, you know. He didn't stay anywhere for very long. He was unique, and he fascinated me. It was a little difficult to find a market for Frank, because people appreciated what he did without really buying his records that much. He was really out of the old school. Frank was a one-man-band. He played harmonica out of one side of his mouth and sang through the other side. He didn't use a harmonica bracket. He picked guitar and did a lot of those old narrative type songs. You have to keep in mind along that time, music was getting somewhat less pure that it had been - had I been able to spend the money on Frank Floyd I think, because of the sheer fact that he was so different, he could have become an institution here. It would have been more a classification of a novelty kind of act compared to most of the artists had.

Back when I was recording blues and country music for license, I had a little Presto five-input mixer board in the studio at 706 Union. It was portable. I had it sitting on a little hall table kind of thing, for my console. That's all it was. With it I had a Presto portable tape recorder, a companion piece to the mixer, I think a PT 500. Dating back before then, I had a Crestwood tape recorder. Actually this was the first one I had - it was a little amateur thing. The second one I had along at the same time was a Bell tape recorder. The Bell was in a red case and the Crestwood was in a beige case, I'11 never forget them. I had those just before I was able to buy the more professional Presto equipment. I used them to record things like the School Days Revue, which was an amateur show put on for Charity each year here in Memphis. I also used the Bell and Crestwood for recording weddings and funerals and so on. I was real proud to get the Presto 'cause, man, that was big time stuff for me then!

The Slim Rhodes items for Gilt-Edge were recorded like a lot of my records on 16 inch discs, which recorded at 78rpm. Normally you wouldn't do that. You did it on 33rpm transcriptions. But in order to improve the sound, recorded straight onto 16 inch acetates and from there I would make an acetate master. For making acetates I had the 6N lathe, also Presto, with a Presto ID cutting head. It was a small lathe- Presto made a big lathe but I certainly wasn't able to afford one fr them. It was connected to a Presto turntable, and that's how I cut most of my early music. This five input mixer had 4 microphone ports, and the fifth port had a multi-selector switch where you could flip it one way and get a mike and flip it another way and play your recordings back through it.

In 1953, after my Sun label really got started, I would record some country music but I was always still looking for somebody with a little different sound, you know. I felt that there was the basis of a particular style to be found here in Memphis. The Ripley Cotton Choppers came from a little town north of Memphis. They were the first country musicians I issued on the Sun label. They were a damn fine country band. I had some nice cuts on them, but Sun was very much genred to the blues market at that time and we were never able to promote them. Another man from around that time was the crippled gospel singer, Howard Seratt. Now Howard had probably one of the best voices I've ever heard. But he would only do religious music and I just didn't have the market for that. I thought he was so good that I issued the record anyway. Earl Peterson was out of Michigan. I think he had the dynamics and everything to have been a real competitor for anything out of Nashville or the west coast. We made some good records with him - he had the ''Boogie Blues'' that I liked. But somehow we never quite pulled it off with him. Doug Poindexter was a local young man that I thought had a great potential along a Hank Williams line, you know. He had an interesting voice and he had a fine band that Scotty Moore and Bill Black came from. Really, it was that I was getting involved with Elvis Presley around that time that prevented Doug's band really fulfilling their original aims in country.

The Miller Sisters had just the greatest harmony I've ever heard. It was along the line of the Davis Sisters but it was natural to them. Roy Miller was the leader on the sessions and his wife's name was Jo. His sister was Millie and it was the two girls who did the harmony so well. Roy played a guitar, and I used local musicians to add to the group, people like Bill Cantrell, Quinton Claunch, and some others. We had a pretty good country houseband through 1954 and 1955. People like the Miller Sisters didn't have a standalone band as such, so I set up a band with Bill Cantrell that we could call at any time. Bill and I grew up in the same area, out in Florence, Alabama. Bill was a fiddle player. later on he started the Hi label here.

Ernie Chaffin was from Mississippi. Now, he was good. He had one marvellous song - ''You Sure Got Your Man Feelin' Low'' - we had a kind of a beat on that thing that was very interesting. It was an upbeat, I don't mean uptempo, and offbeat lick on the thing that made it very fine. Ernie came to me with Pee Wee Maddux. Pee Wee was from Mississippi also, down on the coast. I had known him for a long time through radio work. was very impressed with their band, and I'm a little chagrined that I didn't to do more with them. Jimmy Haggett had a real feel for country music. He was a very smart person, very quick to read and feel a good lyric. I don't think I ever really touched his potential as an artist. He was also a disc-jockey on KLCN, Blytheville, Arkansas and KBOA in Kennett, Missouri.

Clyde Leoppard ran a local band out of West Memphis, based at the Cotton Club there. He brought in several fine musicians and singers out of his band. Clyde usually kept a pretty damn good band - for over two decades he played the local clubs here and that band knew its way around. He had Stan Kesler on steel, and Bill Taylor and a string of vocalists - Warren Smith, Barbara Pittman and others. Originally Clyde had Smokey Joe Baugh with him and, you know, Joe had a ''sound''. Vocally he sounded almost black, he had an individual style. We cut an interesting thing on him, the ''Signifying Monkey''. Surprisingly, though we didn't get rich off it, we did sell a hell of a lot of records. When I say a lot, man, I mean fifty to sixty thousand, and that was something. Joe also had another novelty thing, ''Split Personality''. Joe was really the first one that I thought was really going in the direction or the black type feel. Intuitively, I had a great interest in Smokey Joe and Frank Lloyd and people like that. This was before Elvis came on the scene.

Going back to country and coming to the two men that I felt really had it - Charlie Feathers and Warren Smith. Charlie made some fine, fine records. That ''Wedding Gown Of White'', man, what a song that was. I never felt we quite got the cut on it I wanted but it was still a hell of a record. But of course Charlie was always a little difficult to get along with, and that was how never managed to work closely and get the very best out or him. He always fell he knew more than everyone else - Charlie has always got in his own way. He had so many stories he got to believe them himself. It got where he became a pathological liar, which is too bad because Charlie was a damn talent. I don't care who gets the accolades if they're due, but all that bullshit Charlie inventing rockabilly. No way. No, Charlie's talent was in country music, in the blues feeling he put into a hillbilly song. Charlie should have been lust superb top country artist, you know. Charlie could have been the George Jones of his day - he's a superb stylist.

Warren Smith was probably the best pure singer - I mean for country now - I've ever heard. He had a pure country voice and an innate feel for a country ballad. With that music he was just about as good as anybody I ever heard before or since, and I mean that. He was fairly versatile, and we used him in the rock market as well as country, but country was his main forte. I mean, ''So Long I'm Gone'' was just a wonderful country record. Warren had a lot of emotional problems. I don't think he ever got on dope or anything, but he was the kind of character that needed to be loved a lot. He needed recognition more than the average person. He liked himself, but he didn't, you know. Despite that, Warren and I got on real well together. But a lot of people didn't like Warren, and he perceived that they didn't. And if they didn't, then in essence it was his fault in most cases. He was a little difficult personally, but just interesting enough that I liked him a whole lot.

Looking back, all in all I think I could have had a damn good country label, I really feel that. I think that had I stayed in country music alone, and dedicated myself to that, then I had the nucleus of several fine artists who would have made it - Doug Poindexter, Earl Peterson, Red Hadley, Malcolm Yelvington, the Miller Sisters, Maggie Sue Wimberly and, in particular, Ernie Chaffin, Charlie Feathers, and Warren Smith.

See, my whole thing was, I just loved stylists. People you knew the minute you heard them on record. People like Carl and Johnny and Jerry Lee. That's what it's all about, man. Then, once you get that feel and rapport with an artist and a style you can do just whatever you wanted to do, within reason, and still sell records. But I know that if I had persisted in pure country music, I would have had difficulty in orienting the taste of people and getting the radio play I would have needed to succeed. Because it was a different sound in country music.

- Sun Country 

> Page Up <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©