BIOGRAPHIES
Alphabetical Order by the last name of the Artist
 
Artists Q - R
 
- Quinton Claunch & Bill Cantrell Connection, The -
 
- Randolph, Tot -
- Randy & The Radiants -
- Redell, Teddy (Reidel) -
- Rich, Charlie -
- Richardson, Rudi -
- Richy, Paul (Richey) -
- Riley, Billy -
- Ripley Cotton Choppers, The -
- Ross, Doctor -
- Rossini, Tony -
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
QUINTON CLAUNCH & BILL CANTRELL CONNECTION, THE – A part from the emerging success of   Elvis Presley in the country music market and the guiding role played by Sam Phillips, perhaps the most   important influence on recorded country music in Memphis in the early and middle 1950s was exerted by the  songwriting and production team of Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell.
 
''There were old friends I had known for many years'', recalled Sam Phillips. ''We all lived in the same part of   Alabama back when we were starting out. My home was in Florence and they operated in Muscle Shoals   area. In fact, as a radio announcer I used to put Bill Cantrell on the air in the early 1940s in Muscle Shoals.   He would sing and play guitar''. After crossing paths with Sam briefly in Nashville and Memphis during the   next decade, Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch finally developed a semi-official liaison with Sun Records in  1954 when Sam was moving into the country marked and needed people with a country music background to   find and developed talent for his label. While working for Sam Phillips, guitarist Claunch and fiddle player   Cantrell also worked with Meteor Records as an independent production team before helping to form Hi   Records in 1957. Their part in the Sun story was concentrated mainly into the years 1954 and 1955, but in   that time they worked so successfully with Charlie Feathers, the Miller Sisters, Maggie Due Wimberly and   others that they virtually became the Sun country sound. Aided often by Stan Kesler on steel guitar,   Cantrell's fiddle played embellished many fine country songs, while Claunch's bass string electric guitar  work provided a powerfully rhythmic effect that drove along much of Sun's country output from that period.   Best of all, their music was no lukewarm attempt to popularise or give a rocking beat to country music.   Theirs was the last of the pure hillbilly sounds.
 
Bill Cantrell described himself as ''a farm boy from Kackleburg, Alabama, population 300''. Among those   300 at one time were the Loden family, including future country star Sonny James. Cantrell first took up   playing guitar and fiddle at square-dances back in the late 1930s, recalling such dances as the major source   of entertainment out in the country where he lived. His first professional music jobs were with radio stations   in Birmingham, followed by a stint in the Army and then a move to Florence where he formed a country  band. It was at this time, in 1942, that he first mat Sam Phillips who was then working as an announcer at   radio station WLAY in Muscle Shoals. Cantrell's band, the Dixie Pals, gained a sponsor in the Blue Seal   Flour Co. of Columbia, Tennessee and Cantrell obtained a spot on the Florence radio station WJOI sometime   after Sam Phillips moved to Decatur, Alabama in 1943 and from there on to WLAC in Nashville. Phillips   was still in Nashville in the early part of 1945 when Cantrell's renamed Blue Seal Pals gained a regular   Saturday morning radio show on the rival Nashville station, WSM.
 
Commuting to Nashville from Muscle Shoals, the band had by now been joined by Quinton Claunch.   Originally from Tishomingo, Mississippi, Claunch had moved to Muscle Shoals in his teens and met Cantrell   on a trip to Memphis. ''I came to Memphis one time just nosing around to see what was going on'', he told   John Floyd. ''I met Cantrell at one of Slim Rhodes. Noontime shows. Found out he was from Alabama too,   and we hit it off''. Between 1946 and 1948 the Blue Seal Pals worked professionally in Nashville on WSM   and as a backing group on tour with WSM Grand Ole Opry acts. Their jobs included acting as straight men   for country comics Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield. Musically, they were able to keep up with trends in   country music on the emergent Nashville scene. Bill Cantrell moved briefly to Chicago by by 1948 both he   and Claunch had settled in Memphis. They both found Memphis a more convenient location for family   reasons. They also quit full time music work. Quinton Claunch obtained a job as a salesman for a steel   products company which he retained for 43 years.
 
In Memphis, Claunch and Cantrell continued to play country music intermittently through the early 1950s,   mostly with singer Bud Deckelman and his brothers. This group would occasionally make live performances   or appear on radio but their activities were fairly low key. The leading country bands in Memphis at the time   were the Slim Rhodes Show, Buck Turner's Buckaroos, the Bob McKnight Band, the Garrett Snuff Variety   Boys, and Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Range Boys. Sometime during the fall of 1951, a childhood friend of Quinton Claunch named Price Twitty came to Memphis to play few country music gigs. In a strange reversal   of the Harold Jenkins story, Twitty rejected his surname for a stage name, Bob Price. Claunch recalls that   Price sang very little and ''mainly in the bath'', yet Price was no novice and had pursued an intermittent career   in country music, recording for Decca on August 22, 1949. Bob Price had what Claunch characterizes as, ''an   unusual voice, and his own way of phrasing a song that was his main claim to fame''. In November 1951, Claunch called Sam Phillips and took Price down to the studio at 706 Union Avenue. This was Claunch's first   venture as a record producer. Although somewhat lightweight, Bob Price's unusual phrasing impressed   Phillips sufficiently to call a recording session. Claunch recalls that before the session he, Price, and guitarist   Paul Buskirk recorded a demo of ''How Can It Be'' at WLAY radio studio in Muscle Shoals.
 
Moving back to Memphis for the proper session on December 2, Claunch found that the additional session   players Sam had brought in were not capable of making the sounds he intended the world to hear and he was   somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome. Nevertheless, Sam Phillips was involved at the time with leasing   country material to the newly established country series of the Chess label, and he was able to sell ''How Can   It Be'' and ''Sticks And Stones'' for release on Chess 1495 in March 1952. Two other songs had been recorded   by Phillips. A snatch of ''Why So Blue'' remains on tape, but ''Donatin' My Time'' appears to have been   recorded over along with the master tape of the two issued items. The inconspicuous sales of Chess 1495   compared unfavourably with the good sales on rhythm and blues recordings from Phillips' studio, and this   may have put Sam Phillips off country music for a while. It would be another two years before Claunch   came to Sam again with a song to resurrect his recording career.
 
During the interceding years, Claunch and Cantrell were writing songs with Bud Deckelman for use on their   evening and weekend country gigs. One song in particular, ''Daydreamin''', gained a good audience reaction   so in the summer or early of 1954 Claunch finally approached Sam Phillips with a view to recording the   song. ''I don't recall exactly when this was'', Claunch mused, ''but it was just before Elvis Presley broke onto   the market. Sam told us, 'I'm too busy with other things. That 'Daydreamin' is a good song and I'd like to use   it someday. I intend to record more of that kind of music but right now I can't do it''.
 
In another conversation with John Floyd, Quinton added, ''We took the demo to Sam. He said, 'Well, I like   the concept but you need to do this and that'. I felt I knew as much about country music as he did''. And so   Claunch and Cantrell sent elsewhere. Claunch continues, ''It happened that there was another studio in town,   Meteor over on Chelsea Avenue, so we decided that we couldn't wait on Sam forever. We took the song over   to Lester Bihari at Meteor. He too was mainly recording blues up to that point, but he took a chance with   ''Daydreamin''' and it was a hit''. Bill Cantrell described the kind of chance taken by Les Bihari, recalling that   it was really a two sided deal. ''Les had not issued a record in a little while because his recorder was bust.  Bud Deckelman was a mechanic, and he had to patch up the old recording machines that Les used before we   could go in there and record''. ''Daydreamin'''was recorded in the latter part of 1954 by Deckelman with a  band that included Bud's brother Dood and Quinton Claunch on guitars, Bill Cantrell on fiddle, Dan  Chambers on bass and Eddie Emanus on steel guitar. The record was issued in January 1955 and charted   locally before being covered by Jimmy Newman on Dot Records in Nashville. Newman's version entered the  national country charts in April 1955. The song has since become a minor country standard. On the strength   of the one record on Meteor, Bud Deckleman was signed by MGM Records as one of the many next Hank   Williams' and went on to make several good country discs.
 
Sam Phillips had been aware of the Deckelman saga, not least because he had mastered the Meteor disc on   his own equipment at 706 Union. The success of ''Daydreamin''' must have galled Sam, but it also helped to   convince him that this recently increased excursions into the hillbilly marketplace were justified. Before   ''Daydreamin''' hit, Sam had started to use Claunch and Cantrell on his sessions, particularly with Carl   Perkins. Now he called them and offered a more substantial deal. They would work either with his singers or   find their own, writing and polishing the songs to be recorded and rehearsing the bands up to session   standard. ''We didn't have a contract'', Sam recalled. ''it was just a general understanding. They were trying to   find an outlet for their services. Their main interest was in scouting talent and songwriting. Plus, they could  work on a song as musicians which was very useful to me''. Claunch and Cantrell accepted this chance to   make music and money though they both recall that there was more of the former than the latter. ''After the  hard work was done, mostly at night after we got off our regular jobs'', said Cantrell, ''and after the session   itself, if Sam found anything on tape he could use, then we'd get paid''.
 
Sun's push toward the country market commenced in the fall of 1954. Sam concentrated on the promotion of   Elvis Presley for most of the year and Bill and Quinton concentrated on working with several artists   including Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers and the Miller Sisters who would start off Sam's new Flip label at   the turn of the new year. Possibly the first of Phillips' artists to work with Claunch and Cantrell was Charlie   Feathers. He had apparently contacted Phillips during 1953 if not earlier, but found that Sam was too  involved with blues recording to commit time to him. Now, under the guidance of Claunch and Cantrell,   Feathers was able to channel his undoubted talent into a Flip Records release. The first, unissued, session of   Feathers was held in the fall of 1954 and apparently included ''Runnin' Around'', a Feathers song based on the   Hank Williams formula, the Claunch and Cantrell song ''I've Been Deceived'' and several titles since lost.   According to Claunch these included the rhythm and blues tune ''Corrine Corrina'' (since discovered and   released on Zu-Zazz) and several Claunch and Cantrell originals. It was some time later, in February 1955,   that Sam Phillips accepted cuts of ''Ive Been Deceived'' and ''Peepin' Eyes'' for release on Flip 503 that April.   By then the country production deal had also yielded ''Turn Around'' and ''Movie Magg'' (Flip 501) by Carl   Perkins and ''Someday You Will Pay'' (Flip 504) by the Miller Sisters. Claunch was enamored of Feathers'   talent, but realised the problems: ''It that guy hah a little education and common sense'', he told John Floyd,   ''he could have been where Carl Perkins had got, or a lot of those guys. He could feel a song, but man,   putting up with him was something else''.
 
Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers and the Miller Sisters had found Sam Phillips of their own accord, and in turn   had been passed on to Bill and Quinton to rehearse. Maggie Sue Wimberly, in contrast, was a Claunch and   Cantrell protege. Like Bob Price, Maggie Sue was known by Quinton for her ability to sing around the house   back in Muscle Shoals. At one time she lived within a few streets of both Price and Claunch. It was on one of   their trips home that Claunch and Cantrell decided to take Maggie Sue to Memphis to see Sam Phillips.  Maggie Sue, born in Muscle Shoals in 1941, was very young, only 14, but possessed an acceptably adult   voice and sufficient talent to persuade Phillips to record her. She later recalled her Sun session, saying ''I had   never given much though to country music before I went to Sun to cut ''How Long''. I was singing in a gospel   choir, the Harmonettes, when Quinton and Bill asked me to change to country music. I soon found that   country was down to earth music. I felt comfortable singing it''. There is some uncertainly about the genesis   of Sun 229 by Maggie Sue. The disc coupled two Claunch and Cantrell songs, ''How Long (Can It Be)'' and   ''Daydreams Come True'', and was evidently issued in December 1955 judging by the known release dates of   other Sun singles. However, the filed session details give the recording date as March 18, 1955, some nine   months before the release date. It is possible that Sam Phillips was too busy with Elvis Presley and other   artists to issue the record immediately it was ready. It is also possible that he only decided to put the record   out at all when he learned that Les Bihari of Meteor had also recorded a version of ''daydreams Come True''.   The Bains' version came out on Meteor early in 1956. Sam obviously would not have wanted to lose out on   the sequel to ''Daydreamin'''as he had on the original song. One other twist to the story is that demo tapes of   Carl Perkins singing ''Turn Around'' dating from October 25, 1954, also contain two cuts of Maggie singing   ''How Long can It Be''. It is not clear whether this was the true date of the Wimberly session or whether, tragically, some of the Perkins tape was re-issued for Maggie's session in March 1955. In any event, the   changing musical climate at the dawn of 1956 doomed ''Daydreams Come True''. It only sold a little two   thousand copies.
 
Maggie Sue returned to Sun for one subsequent session, where she attempted various blues and rock and roll   titles. Neither Claunch nor Cantrell were involved in this exercise and nothing came of it at the time. Maggie   Sue returned to singing for her own amusement and in local choir until she re-emerged in the 1970s under   the name Sue Richards, having some minor country hits and working in the Tammy Wynette show. Maggie   Sue had been a childhood acquaintance of Virginia Wynette Pugh back in Alabama.
 
Through 1955, the Claunch and Cantrell productions prospered with Sun's growing involvement in country   music. They consistently made classically fine hillbilly music. Their formula was a modified Hank Williams   sound, and it was very effective. Quinton Claunch explained it this way to John Floyd: ''Bill and I were   cutting pretty much straight country, but Memphis could never cut down-home redneck country. They didn't   have the engineers who understood it, didn't have the musicians who could play it professional like the guys   in Nashville. It was a lot more rough. I played that peck rhythm, a thump rhythm on guitar. Sam asked me to   do it, and it went over real well''. It was taken to its logical conclusion when Luther Perkins recorded with   Johnny Cash. No fiddle, no steel guitar, no electric guitar fills, just the peck rhythm.
 
Claunch and Cantrell liked full country productions. Around the simple bass and rhythm backdrop there was   the interplay of steel guitar. Fiddle, and plaintive, high-pitched hillbilly vocals. Cantrell provided the fiddle,   but the key instrument was often the steel guitar. Usually, but not always, this was played by Stan Kesler   whose timely and inspiring solos served to put the finishing touch onto many of the Claunch and Cantrell   songs. Among the best of their music was ''Turn Around'' and ''Let The Jukebox Keep On Playing'' by Carl Perkins, ''Finder Keepers'' and ''You Can Tell Me'' by the Miller Sisters, and ''I've Been Deceived'' and   ''Defrost Your Heart'' by Charlie Feathers.
 
The end of the road for this country music production deal was signaled in December 1955 when the   Claunch and Cantrell song ''Sure To Fall'' was scheduled to appear on Carl Perkins' next record, backing   ''Honey Don't''. At the last moment, Sam and Carl decided to use a new rock and roll song Carl had come up   with titles ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Bill reluctantly agreed to leave ''Sure To Fall'' off the record: ''That little   mistake cost me about $140.000 in royalties. From that moment on Quinton and I decided we should put our   songs on the back of every record we could. The only way to control this was to have our own record   company. That was really the time when Hi Records was born, at least in our minds''.
 
''Sam wanted us to work with Barbara Pittman'', Claunch told Floyd. ''She couldn't sing. We worked with her   night after night, month after month, but couldn't get nothin' going. No voice, no range, no feeling. So Bill   and I left and went to work with another Memphis label, OJ. Then Bill and I and Ray Harris started Hi   Records with Joe Cuoghi''. Claunch was forced out of Hi for peddling a Bill Black combo soundalike to   Chess, and he started Goldwax Records. Cantrell remained one of the Hi partners until the label was sold to  Cream Records in 1977. (MH)
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
RANDOLPH, TOT - Born as Theautry Randolp on July 1, 1933, in Memphis, Tennessee, and he attended   the Melrose High School, where he learned to play the saxophone. By the late 1940s he'd gotten   involved in the Memphis blues scene, playing with men like Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Ace, and   Joe Hill Louis - however in 1951 he told Cilla Huggins he left for Nashville to take a Degree and for a while his   playing was confined to his spare time and vacations.
 
It was during one of these breaks that he played on Lou Sargent's "Ridin' The Boogie" - as   presumably, was his solo session which yielded "Blues Train" - but most of his recordings   seem to have taken place in Nashville, Tennessee, for Excello Records, where he appeared   on sessions for Earl Gaines, Kid King, and Good Rockin' Beasley.
 
He formed a band in Nashville, playing clubs downtown but by 1959 he was shown in the City directories as a teacher and it is known that he also taught in Springfield, Tennessee later on where he was the band director at Robertson High School. In Nashville, the maintained a part-time band through the 1960s and 1970s known as the Tot Randolp All Stars, playing lounge music at fancy restaurants and bars including The Hearth in Madison, Tennessee.
 
Moving back to Memphis, he continued to play as a hobby and joined the band at Blues Alley on the fake Beale Street   scene as Lillian Mae Glover (aka Memphis Ma Rainey) remaining in the city as one of the last of original Sun-era musicians. (MH)
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
(Photo) Above: Randy Haspel (vocals and guitar); Ed Marshall (lead guitar); Mike Gardner (drums). Below: Bob Simon (songwriter and vocals); Howard T. Calhoun, Jr. (bass and piano); Bill Slais, Jr. (sax and vocals)
 
RANDY & THE RADIANTS - Memphis' legendary garage and rock and soul band. Randy and the   Radiants began their long careers as teenage garage rockers, produced for Sun Records by the legendary Sam   Phillips and his son, Knox. Their popularity in Memphis and the Mid-South earned them an opening spot for   the Dave Clark Five on their first American tour in 1964, and their two singles on Sun Records, released in   1964 and 1965, have become collectors' items for garage band enthusiasts. The band's second incarnation, which began in 1974 and lasted well into the 1990s, included two rare singles   for ABC Records in 1978.
 
The Radiants were fresh off the road as the backing band and opening act for  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, The Impressions, and were at the peak of their performing abilities   when they entered the original Sun Studios to record in 1990. The band's founders, Randy Haspel and Bob   Simon, were living in Nashville, writing country songs for a Music City publisher, only every third composition sounded like classic Memphis Soul, something the Radiants did very well. The recordings were   intended for release on a West Coast, new-age label, but the deal fell apart and the tapes sat on the shelf for   several years. When Sun Studio changed management, the master tapes were acquired by Randy, who remixed   and digitized the songs with Sun Studio master engineer, James Lott, and issued the CD in limited   release on his own label, Slick Records in 1997.
 
BOB SIMON - singer, songwriter, co-founder of the Radiants, Bob was the bands' original songwriter whose   catchy sixties songs can be heard on the new anthology, "Memphis Beat:The Sun Recordings 1964-1966''.   Bob was the only artist signed by Sun Records as a staff songwriter and he continues to work with Knox   Phillips in writing and publishing. Bob wrote "What Am I Gonna Do About You," a number 1 hit for Reba   McIntire, and his songs have been recorded by the Impressions, and the HooDoo Rhythm Devils. He was   music director for the Impressions from 1988-1990.
 
RANDY HASPEL – (not on this picture) singer/songwriter, co-founder and rhythm guitarist. Randy has worked as an artist and   writer in Memphis, Knoxville, Nashville, and New York. His first recorded songs were with the Knoxvillebased,   psychedelic-country band, Rich Mountain Tower, who recorded for Ovation Records. Randy's "The   Summer There Was No Baseball'', became a national sensation in 1981 and was played on HBO and NBC,   and his "Call The Wrecker For My Heart'', was recorded by George Jones. Other artists recording his songs   include Rufus Thomas and the Impressions. Randy wrote the liner notes for the new Radiants' Ace Records   anthology as well as for the Rufus Thomas CD,"Just Because I'm Leavin''', on Segue Records, which   featured the Radiants' rhythm section. Randy has been a radio announcer, journalist, and social commentator,  writing the blog, Born-Again Hippies and still lives in Memphis.
 
STEVE SPEAR – bass player, Steve joined the Radiants in 1974, after working with legendary Memphis   blues band, Moloch with Lee Baker, and with Louis Paul of the Guilloteens. He has played bass for Tony Joe   White, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Larry Raspberry & the Highsteppers, and the Impressions. Steve is   featured bassist on Rufus Thomas' CD, "Just Because I'm Leavin''', and currently plays in the Memphisbased,   British Invasion band, Down 2 Five.
 
MIKE GARDNER – drummer, Mike Gardner (1946-1991) was the Radiant's drummer from the very first   gig in 1962, and is also featured on the new Ace/Big Beat UK anthology; "Memphis Beat: The Sun   Recordings 1964-1966''. Mike was one of Memphis' most in-demand drummers, working with the Gentrys,   Larry Raspberry & the Highsteppers, and Rufus Thomas, among others. He was also drummer for the Nitty   Gritty Dirt Band, and earned two platinum albums for his work with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers.
 
DONNIE BAER – lead guitar and vocals, Donnie Baer (1951-2000) was the Radiants' fiery lead guitarist,   joining the band in 1974 after a stint with Louis Paul of the Guilloteens. Known as one of Memphis most   tasteful players, Donnie can also be heard on Rufus Thomas' "Just Because I'm Leavin'" CD. Donnie toured   with the Impressions and played, most memorably in Memphis and Dallas, with Eddie Harrison & the Short   Kuts. Known for combining the styles of both Albert and B.B. King, Donnie is fondly remembered by   Memphis music fans.

THE SUN DAYS WITH THE RADIANTS
by Randy Haspel, 2007

The door between the control room and the studio at Sam C. Phillips' Memphis Recording Service on Madison Avenue, home of Sun Records, sprang open and Sam Phillips came bounding through asking enthusiastically:

''What's that you're playing''? ''It's just a tune from our song list, Mr. Phillips''. We were just warming up. Sam replied, ''Keep playing that song. I want to get it on tape''. I had heard this conversation somewhere before. I answered, ''Mr. Phillips, that song was a big hit just a little over a year ago''. ''I don't care what it was'', replied the inventor of rock and roll. ''I think it's a hit record''. I cut my eyes quizzically at my bandmates.

Could Sam possibly believe that six teenagers who grew up in 1950s Memphis would not know the Elvis legend? We were the spawn of Elvis and knew every detail of his meteoric rise to glory, including the story of how ''That's Alright Mama'' came to be. But that was 1954, and this was 1964. was Sam Phillips, a decade later, trying to pull an Elvis on us?

At age 15, and leader of Randy & The Radiants, I wasn't about to second-guess the man who had discovered not merely Elvis, but Howlin' Wolf and Ike Turner as well. When Sam returned to the console and announced ''We;re rolling'', we played and sang with all the enthusiasm we could muster, and then prepared to do it again. But after hearing the playback, Mr Phillips declared, ''It's a hit! I don't need a another take''. And so, ''The Mountain's High'', made famous by Dick & Dee Dee in 1961, became the first single on Sun Records by Randy & The Radiants, released December 11, 1964. The flip side was an original called ''Peek A Boo'', written by my partner and friend Bob Simon. Of course, ..Mountain High'' was not a hit. When Bob and I first heard the song on the car radio, after I had slammed on the brakes and our screaming had died down, I turnes to him and said, ''That wasn't very good, was it''? I thought the band had a crisper tigher sound when we played live, but Sam Phillips recorded us in a way that every instrument bled into the microphone of every other, and it all sounded so raw. It took me years to understand that Sam's recording philosophy was to find talented amateurs and attempt to bring out abilities in them that even they did not know they had.

If Phillips had issued ''Mountain's High'' to gauge the band's popularity, what happened next took him by surprise. A Bob Simon song called ''Walk Softly'', written at age 14, was heard by former Sun artist and producer Bill Justis, whose instrumental ''Raunchy'' had earned Sam a gold record in 1957. Justis recorded Bob's song in Nashville with a singer named Joanne Tauchstone, and the release, on Monument Records' subsidiary Sound Stage Seven, became an instant regional hit. Sam Phillips had to wonder how a song by an artist that he had just signed could have got away. After that, Bob's songs were given priority in our recording sessions.

The Radiants came to Sun Records through a circuitous route. For Bob and me, this was already our third attempt at assembling a band. We began singing together in 1958 when I was 10 and Bob was nine, and as soon as our fingers were strong enough to hold a metal string against a fretboard, we started playing guitar. Bob grew up a block from my family's house in East Memphis, and we had much in common. Other than attending the same school, we both had older sisters who loved to dance and used their little brothers to practice the latest steps. Rhythm and blues had taken over as teen music in segregated Memphis, thanks to the legendary disc jockey Rufus Thomas and Dewey Phillips. radio station WDIA 1070 featured rhythm and blues late in the afternoon, after the gospel programs were over, with Rufus', ''The World's Oldest Teenager'', at the microphone. But WDIA went off the air at sunset, so their entire listenership, black and white, tuned to pop station WHBQ to hear Dewey's manic program, Red, Hot & Blue, mixing gospel with doo wop, and rock and roll, all accompanied by his repid-fire, country boy drawl. When Dewey introduced Elvis to the world, hundreds of young Memphis boys ran out to find guitars. At first, Bob and I played songs at each other, like a tennis match, until the day when, while we were singing the Skip & Flip versions of ''Cherry Pie'', Bob broke into spontaneous high harmony and it stopped me cold. ''Where'd you learn to do that''? I asked. Bob replied, ''I didn't learn it. I just hear it''. Being older, I instructed, ''Keep Doing it''.

Entering Junior High, we formed a group called the Casuals, but became victims of our own success. As our popularity grew, my school grades dropped, until my parents insisted I leave the band, as Bob had done several months earlier. Back-up singer David Fleischman moved up front and the group became Flash & The Memphis Casuals, whose 1966 single, ''Uptight Tonight'', is the title track of a recent Big Beat garage band anthology. I never considered the Radiants to be a garage band. We were a living room band that started in 1962 when Bob and i and Gregg Grinspan became a vocal trio in search of a group. Gregg found Howard Calhoun in class, who had a band called the Embers, named after a popular local restaurant. As ''The Embers'', featuring the Radiants'', Bob, Gregg, and I came out in matching yellow shirts and did dance routines, before we gathered around the microphone to sing. We settled on the radiants after the first few gigs, several years before the Chicago vocal group with the same name came to prominence. Our song list consisted many of rhythm and blues hits by Hank Ballard, James Brown and the Drifters.

There were only a handful of teen bands in Memphis, but the two best were Tommy Burk and the Counts, and the LeSabres. These two groups represented the division in loyalties within Memphis' teen culture. The Counts were a tightly rehearsed band, with two horn players and harmony vocals. They wore matching blazers with their own specially designed crest on the pocket, to add an air of nobility. The LeSabres were wilder; they wore leather jackets and retained the oily Elvis hairstyle with the ducktail in the back, but were equally as entertaining. The LeSabres' crowd were working class kids, greasers and hoods; the Counts' fans were generally Ivy kids (for Ivy League) with Money to spend on clothes. The Radiants didn't want to be like Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps; we wanted to be like the Counts. We began to play school dances, churches, YMCA's and backyard parties. By 1963, after the usual personnel changes, our line-up was fixed. I sang lead and played rhythm guitar. Bob also sang lead, wrote songs, and arranged harmonies. Howard Calhoun and Mike Gardner played bass and drums respectively. Bill Slais Jr played sax and sang back up, and Ed Marshall played lead guitar. We had other singers, including Tony Rossini, a Sun recording artist in hos own right who had left another outfit just to come and sing with us.

The Radiants were still considered up and comers, but we were perfectly placed for the events of early 1964. I had first seen a picture of the Beatles in Life magazine after their 1963 Royal Command Performance but didn't give it another thought until I heard ''I want To Hold Your Hand'' on the car radio. I drove directly to the record store, but they only had the single. When ''Meet The Beatles'' was released a week later, I got the early tip and listened to it over and over with fellow Radiants and other mesmerized friends. Once we saw the lads on Ed Sullivan, it was all over. This was the realization of what we aspired to; a self-contained band who played their own instruments, sang all the vocals and recorded their own songs. No one had to tell us as musicians that the Beatles were going to be the next big thing. At our next rehearsal, Mike loosened up his trap cymbal and played with the slashing motion used by Ringo, and Ed tightened his guitar strap and wore it higher like George. I sang the John songs and Bob sang the Paul songs, while Howard deciphered their chord changes on piano.

Bob Simon had been a precocious songwriting talent since he was 12. His first attempts were folk songs, but he soon showed a gift for melody and structure. The first rock and roll song he played for me was too good to be anyone's first song, and I actually accused him of plagiarism. The tune, ''True And Sweet'', had a chord structure similar to Major Lance's ''Monkey Time'', only Bob wrote his song a year earlier than Curtis Mayfield. I became his biggest songwriting fan. Bob was so accomplished and dedicated that I never considered trying to write a song of my own until the ripe old age of 19. The Beatles gave Bob focus and direction and sent him into overdrive.

After the Fabs' breakthrough, and the accompanying British Invasion, the Memphis music scene exploded with new venues for teen dances. Every skating rink and department store was looking for bands with youth appeal. The Radiants were already professionals, but when we added a half-dozen Beatle songs to our set lists, our bookings grew too numerous for us to handle. We had begun to play a series of Saturday night dances in a hot gymnasium at a local YMCA, a popular gathering spot for kids from all over the city, sponsored by a small radio station in nearby Millington, Tennessee. The station's staff included Dewey Phillips, in the decline of his career, as well as John Dougherty, an unassuming young man closer to our age, whose on air name was Johnny Dark. As the crowds continued to grow, we asked John if he would be interested in managing us. We had never had a manager and he had never managed but, almost immediately, our bookings skyrocketed, as did our asking price.

John also booked us at college fraternities, who up until that time had lived on a steady diet of southern soul bands like Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. It was rarity for sophisticated college men to hire high school students to play, but if they wanted the new music, we had it. We set up for Sigma Nu at Ivy-walled Southwestern College in Memphis, and after our first set, John approached with a blond-haired fraternity man in a white -V-necked tennis sweater, looking like he had just stepped out of Gentleman's Quarterly. Introduced as Knox Phillips, he extended his hand warmly. ''You guys are great'', he opined. ''Johnny's been talking about you, and we wondered if you'd be interested in coming down to the recording studio and playing for my father''? We had no idea that a portion of Johnny's high school years were spent living in the Phillips family home as a surrogate brother to Sam's two sons, Knox and Jerry.

The next Sunday afternoon found us at Phillips Memphis Recording Service, and though this modern facility had been there since the late 1950s, it was still referred to as the ''new studio''. Sam greeted us in the lounge wearing a Ban-Lon shirt and a yachtsman's cap, and was gracious and charming. He told us Knox had raved about us and that he was excited to hear us, making us feel at home while simultaneously applying a little pressure to live up to those reviews. We hauled in the equipment and, after a few songs, Mr Phillips offered a five-year contract with Sun Records. Knox's enthusiasm had sealed the deal and he was going to participate, for the first time, in observing his father's production techniques, and to learn to work the console soundboard that looked like the cockpit of a giant airliner. The contract required both our parents' permission and signatures, since we were underage. After we had all joined the local musicians union, the Radiants did the session that produced our first record.

For a while, the band's name alternated between the Radiants and Randy & The Radiants, a moniker that was beginning to stick. Although I wasn't promoting a name change for the sake of my ego, I didn't object very much either. Sam made it official when he printed it on the label with the yellow rising sun. He felt it made us sound like the first wave of British bands: Gerry and The Pacemakers, Freddie and The Dreamers. It also avoided confusion with the Chicago Radiants, but added more with Randy & The Rainbows. For years since, I have had to explain that I was not the guy that sang, ''Denise''.

Dewey Phillips himself first played out record on the radio station in Millington, and tough it didn't sell many copies, it was a beginning. We lip-synched the record on disc jockey George Klein's Saturday afternoon television show, Talent Party, and when Bob's ''Walk Softly'' began climbing the charts, a columnist named Robert Johnson took a special interest in us, and began writing a series of articles about out adventures. The crowd and the excitement grew, until one afternoon at rehearsal in the late autumn of 1964, John showed up with some news. Memphis had a brand new Coliseum that had never hosted a rock concert, and almost a year after the Beatles had first appeared in the States, no British band had yet played in the city. ''You know the Dave Clark Five have booked at the Coliseum in December''? said John, so calmly that I believed he was just informing us he had used his contacts to get us good seats. Instead, he paused dramatically, ''You guys are opening the show''. Our cheers could be heard down the block.

The concert's start had been changed from evening to afternoon to accommodate all the young fans. It was the Mid-South Coliseum's first experience with the world's second most popular band, and the security was tighter than a presidential visit. The Radiants were locked in our dressing room by noon, four hours before showtime, so we tuned and retuned our guitars and stewed over the fact that we had heard that opening acts in other cities along the Dave Clark Five's tour had been booed. When the announcer finally shouted ''Here's one of Memphis' favourite bands, Randy & The Radiants'', we ascended the back stairs to the stage into a world of flashbulbs and the ''endless scream''. Our hometown was treating us like stars, but we were all back in class the next morning. In that one week in December 1964, our first single was released. Randy & The Radiants became the first rock band to play the Coliseum before 12,500 screaming fans, and I turned 17 years old. Going into 1965, the Radiants were the hottest band in Memphis. We were on television, radio and in both local newspapers, and the Dave Clark Five show put us on the road all over the South. Our jobs took us from West Tennessee into eastern Arkansas and deep into the Mississippi Delta. We were welcomed with equal enthusiasm at high school proms in Little Rock, Arkansas and graduation dances in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Since we only played on weekends, our roadwork made our Memphis appearances into mini events. The band's big news was that Sam Phillips wanted us back in the studio.

Outside the control room, Sam Phillips was always friendly and welcoming, but once the session started, he was all business. If a mistake was made, Phillips began clicking the playback button in the headphones; the signal to begin again. It wasn't uncommon for us to do a song 15 or 20 times, yet have Phillips decide he liked take 2. He pushed me to give the vocals everything I had. Sam didn't pass out compliments idly. The most he would say was, ''That was pretty good. Let's try one more'', but it gave me pleasure to sing an old rhythm and blues phrase that I had worked up, just to see him smile. Both Sam and Knox were now looking for the most commercial sounding tune for our new single. Along with Bob Simon's songs, Sam brought in songs by teenage writers Donna Weiss and Mary Unobsky, and John Monasco, piano player for our favourite local group, Jimmy Day and The Knights. Bob had written another ''I don't trust my girlfriend'' song called ''Truth From My Eyes'', which I particularly liked and upon which I sang the lead. Bob found comfort in composing his most personal thoughts, then allowing me to voice them. Sam Phillips' favoured a Donna Weiss song, ''My Way Of Thinking'', which opened with a variation of the distinctive guitar riff made famous by the Kinks in ''You Really Got Me'', it was the cleanest we had yet sounded, but the band felt uneasy about releasing a song that was so derivative of another groups's style, something that Sam Phillips himself used to always decry as a ''followers mentality''. The band lobbied hard for Bob's song to be the A-side. We didn't believe that Sam had ever heard of the Kinks.

If Sam Phillips served as a father figure to Elvis, Carl, Jerry Lee, Johnny and the first generation of Memphis rock and rollers, our experience with him was more like working with your actual dad. Knox served as our liaison and a voice between the generations, and thus Sam Agreed to ''Truth From My Eyes'' as our new Sun release, and in Memphis it took off in both popularity and sales, Johnny Dark accepted a disc jockey position in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. We carried on without him as best we could, but found ourselves unable to sufficiently exploit our hit record, other than to play it live. As the radio world revolves, John got a job at Memphis' WMPS AM60, and though he was no longer out manager and it seemed the record had run its course, he gave it a second life. It became the most requested song on WMPS to begin playing it again. Randy & The Radiants appeared to be on the brink of a breakthrough.

But despite the unflagging support of Knox Phillips, Sun still did their promotion the old fashioned way and seemed to be caught off guard by the single's success. Our friends and rivals, the Gentrys, had made a record called ''Keep On Dancing'', the local popularity of which resulted in a major label release and a Top 5 national hit. But Sun was among the last of the old school independents, and Sam had stopped leasing masters back in the 1950s. His brother, Judd Phillips, was as amiable with strangers as Sam was tacitum, and he was pressed back into action to travel to the major cities of the South, both to promote ''Truth From My Eyes'' and to arrange for the first major Randy & The Radiants tour. In the midst of a generational shift, however, and showbiz being what it is, the tour never materialized. We all had more pressing problems.

Bob excluded, the radiants all graduated high school in 1965, the year Selective Service began drafting half a million men to go to Vietnam. Enrolling in college offered a student deferment, and so all the band was going to attend Memphis State University. At 16 and still under the charge of my parents, I was being told that it was time to put away childhood things and leave Memphis for college as had long been planned. When I expressed my desire to stay home and attend Memphis State, i was told, ''Not if you expect us to pay for it''. The Radiants were making good money, but not enough for college tuition, so it was determined that I would leave the band in the fall of 1965 to attend the University in Knoxville, four hundred miles away. We continued to play and record as if nothing was goin' of to change, but come September, I entrusted my Fender Stratocaster to Bob and bid the band farewell. When I left Memphis, we had a number one song, one of the hottest bands in town, and two years to go in a recording contract with Sun Records.

With Bob as lead singer, the Radiants added a second horn player and maintained status as one of the most sought-after bands in the South. When I finally returned home for a Christmas break and went to hear the band, their experience and maturity had made them into an even tigher performing unit, which is a self-deprecating way for me to say they sounded better after I left. Knox Phillips was now recording the band, including some of Bob's most promising commercial songs, and Sam had diverted his attention from the record business to the family-owned radio stations, but there were no further releases. Soon after, Sam Phillips sold Sun Records. And following Bob Simon's high school graduation, he too was sent away to college. The band hung on for a while longer, but when Howard Calhoun, its best musician, quit, that effectively ended the joy-filled, five-year union of the Radiants - at least the first incarnation. But that's another story.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

REDELL, TEDDY (REIDEL) – His unique style of piano playing has been a fixture of American   music for half a century. Born as Theodore DeLano Riedel on June 7, 1937 in Quitman, Arkansas,   and Teddy’s early years were spent on the family farm. Teddy learned to play piano from his   grade school teacher Annie Witt, who focused his lessons around boogie woogie and ragtime   popular during the 1920s and 1930s. By his teens, Teddy had developed his own style and   was writing his own songs.   Teddy’s break came at the age of 15 when he was asked to perform on KWCB radio in Searcy,   Arkansas, on a program profiling young musicians from area schools.
 
The station was soon   flooded with requests for replays of his performance, ''Steel Guitar Rag''. Lloyd Sutherland  asked Teddy to join his band for their weekly radio program on KWCB, and Teddy began  playing live shows with Sutherland and his band around central Arkansas.
 
In the winter of 1955, popular recording star Wayne Raney brought Teddy to Missouri to   appear on his television program on KRCG in Jefferson City. In May 1955, Teddy followed   Wayne to Wheeling, West Virginia, where he appeared Saturday nights on ''The World’s   Original Jamboree'' on WWVA radio. During the week, Teddy toured with Wayne and his band   in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. In the fall of 1955, Teddy followed Wayne to WSLB in   Baltimore, Maryland, and then briefly to XERF in Del Rio, Texas.
 
Teddy returned to Arkansas and began touring with Tommy Trent in 1956. Arlen Vaden asked   Teddy to play backup for a recording session in 1959. When the lead singer came down with   laryngitis, Teddy was given the studio time. ''Knocking On The Backside'' and its flipside, ''Before It Began'', was released on Vaden Records under the stage name Teddy Redell. It quickly   became a popular selection in the juke boxes of eastern Arkansas. Teddy Redell also appeared on Hi Records around the time that he auditioned at Sun, but later concentrated on songwriting for Sonny James' companies
 
Teddy’s second release, ''Corrina Corrina'' / ''Gold Dust'', was recorded at King Studios in   Cincinnati, and released on the Vaden label in 1960. His third release, ''I Want To Hold You'' /   ''Pipeliner'' soon followed, but it was his fourth release that would become his most famous.   ''Judy'' was recorded in 1960 and released as the B side of ''Can’t You See'' on the Vaden and   Atco labels. The following year, ''Judy'' was released by Elvis Presley and stayed for several   weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100.
 
Teddy was drafted into the U.S. armed services in 1960. He completed basic training at Fort   Leonard Wood, Missouri, and served the remainder of his two years at Fort Bliss, Texas.   During his army years, Teddy continued to play local bars around El Paso.   Teddy returned to Arkansas in 1962 and began touring under his own name. In October   1962, Teddy joined with the Pacers to record his fifth release, ''Poor Ole Me'' / ''Between   Midnite And Dawn'', on Razorback Records. In 1963, Teddy grew tired of the road and settled in Benton, Arkansas, to learn piano tuning   from a professional piano technician.
 
During the 1960s, he continued his songwriting career   with an exclusive agreement for Sonny James. In 1964, Teddy married his wife Rose, and   they eventually settled in Rose Bud, Arkansas, where he established his own piano service   business.
 
Teddy returned to the music scene in the 1970s, performing regularly at local private clubs   around Searcy. In 1979, Teddy was approached by record producer Cees Klop of the   Netherlands. The first compilation of Teddy’s Vaden recordings appeared on LP on White   Label, along with a new LP of Teddy’s popular club standards from the 1970s, such as ''Roll In   My Sweet Baby’s Arms''.
 
Teddy’s first European tour in 1988 took him to show dates in the Netherlands and Sweden,   followed by a live album release on Collector Records. His second tour in 1991 took him   again to the Netherlands and new venues in Germany. A CD compilation of this greatest   works appeared that same year. Teddy toured the Netherlands and Sweden again in 1997.   His fourth and most recent European tour was to the famous Hemsby Music Festival in   England in 2002. A new CD of recordings spanning the 50 years of Teddy’s musical career was  released for the tour. Teddy’s most recent appearance was at Rockin’ 50’s Fest II in Green   Bay, Wisconsin.
 
Teddy retired from piano tuning in 2011 but continued to perform for special events around Arkansas. Teddy Redell died after a second heart attack  on September 3, 2014, at the age of 77.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
RICH, CHARLIE - Allroundsinger-songwriter-pianist Charlie Rich, who is nicknamed the "Silver   Fox" was born on December 14, 1932 in Forrest City, Arkansas. There probably weren't many   affluent people living in Forrest City during the Great Depression, so the Riches' economic   circumstances were hardly exceptional.
 
By the 1940s, the family finances had stabilized and   they settled in Colt, Arkansas. Rich early interest in music was nurtured by contact with C.J.  Allen, a black tenant farmer on the Rich family's land. Unlike many bluesmen in the area,   Allen made his music on piano, rather than a guitar. The Rich family was very religious, and   singing the Lord's praises was an important part of their lives.
 
Charlie's widow Margaret Ann recalled, ''Charlie played some guitar when he was younger. It was actually his first instrument. 
 
He used to listen to his mother and father sing. They did music in their church, harmonizing with two other people, backed by a guitar. That music had a deep emotional effect on Charlie. He used to listed to it and then go into his room and cry. He and his sister did some singing with the guitar when Charlie was in high school as well''.
 
While the guitar may have been his first instrument, playing it was not a fully satisfying   experience for Charlie Rich. That may have had to do with his lack of technical competence   or, more likely, with his associating the guitar with the strong religious values of his family.   Charlie searched beyond the guitar for musical expression. The piano was an obvious choice.   The trouble was that Charlie Rich took the piano in directions that were unacceptable in the   strict Missionary Baptist Rich household. Charlie soon experienced similar problems to those that faced fellow Sun alumnus Jerry Lee Lewis.
 
''I was an embarrassment to my mom and dad'', Charlie recalled to journalist Alan Cackett. ''I had been brought up to believe that dancing, rhythm and blues and drinking were sinful. They had high hopes for me and were not happy with the direction I was taking''.
 
The piano wasn't the only path away from the musical fold. When he was 17 years-old in high school, Charlie Rich began to play saxophone and was  sufficiently competent to perform with the band. It is little known that while he was still in   high school, Charlie spent a summer in Texas. During this time, he had his own radio show, a  15 minute broadcast during which he sang and played the piano.
 
Charlie Rich went off to Arkansas State College with help from two unlikely sources: a   football scholarship and a financial gift from a proverbial rich uncle. Charlie transferred to   the University of Arkansas as a music major. Charlie quit school and joined the Air Force. In may, 1952 he married Margaret Ann Greene and they honeymooned in Memphis at the ritzy   Peabody Hotel, courtesy of Uncle Jack. While they were in Memphis, they blew the $45 they had between them on records. Music was simply that important to both of them. As Margaret Ann would later recall, ''The first piece of furniture in our house was a tape recorder''.
 
The Air Force life took them to Enid, Oklahoma, where Charlie combined military duties,   such as they were, with musical gigs. Charlie played piano and some sax with the Velvetones. The group featured solo vocals by Charlie as well as some hip duets by Charlie  and Margaret Ann. When Charlie returned to Arkansas in 1955, he and Margaret Ann purchased a 500 acre farm near Forrest City. Although they had lived reasonably well on his Air Force salary and music income, the purchase price was largely subsidized by Uncle Jack. Even though a bumper cotton and soybean crop during the first year allowed Charlie to pay back much pf the loan from his uncle, it was clear he was not cut out to be a farmer. It is no accident that most farmers are asleep by 10 and up with the dawn. In that time, Charlie was barely getting into the Memphis' jazz clubs by ten and sometimes got home just in time to see the sun rise. He plainly was not going to be a poster boy for the Farmer's Hall of Fame''.
 
By 1957 Charlie Rich and Margaret Ann were living in West Memphis, Arkansas with their   three children. Charlie was farming by day and hating every minute of it. Several nights a week he'd drive into Memphis and play a gig at a jazz lounge like the Vapors. It was not just the money they needed; those gigs were mental health for Charlie. Margaret Ann realized something had to change.
 
''I knew that Elvis had gone to Sam Phillips so I thought maybe Charlie could try his luck there also. I left our three children at home with a baby sitter, crossed the river, and went to Sun. I brought a tape of Charlie that we had made at home. I can't remember which tunes were on it, or whether they were even originals. Charlie wasn't doing much writing back then. That came later'', Margaret Ann said.
 
It was Bill   Justis who launched Charlie Rich to Sun Records. They he met him at gigs as well as parties   sponsored by the musicians union. Charlie for what he could to at this point, playing and   writing to their artist roster, included for Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Smith.
 
According to Margaret Ann, ''Bill was very very hip. Truthfully, he was way too hip for Sun. I remember him saying right at the start, 'What do you need me for? You're Rich already'. Justis listened to the demos. He finally gave me some Jerry Lee Lewis records and sent me home with the message that Charlie should come in when he could play that bad''.
 
''Bill and Charlie got to know each other better after that. They did some gigs together around town. Bill really encouraged Charlie to start writing. Told him that's where the money was. When Sam finally met Charlie, he told him the same thing. Charlie was so sophisticated in his playing but Sam told him he needed material for his artists''.
 
In recalling Charlie's initiation to Sun years later, Sam Phillips was struck by the similarity between Rich and Elvis - not in their music or physical appearance, but in the fact that neither would come right in and ask to be recorded. In both cases, the path was indirect and somewhat tortuous.
 
Margaret Ann said, ''They didn't know what to do with Charlie. They knew they had a very talented musician on their hands, but they had no idea how to use talent''. Setting a pattern that would haunt him for much of his recording career, Charlie followed directions. He went home to '''get bad''. 
 
His first efforts were even worse than Bill Justis had envisioned. Songs like "Little By Little",   "Rock And Roll Party", and "Donna Lee" are survey reminders of Charlie's first flirtation with   rock and roll. It wasn't a pretty sight. It wasn't simply the age barrier: artists like Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry were turning out credible tunes about teenage angst and hi jinx. Charlie's efforts sounded like an aging uncle desperately trying to sound hip. Both Bill Justis and Sam Phillips shook their heads. Charlie's earliest attempts were really awful.
 
Charlie continued to work at it. He also took some halting stabs at writing  country music, a genre several eons removed from his beloved Stan Kenton. Again, the early efforts, many of which are preserved on self conscious and mannered demos, fell short of the mark. But Charlie got better. In fact, he got a lot better. Within several months, Charlie's name began appearing as the composer credit on Sun records.   In April 1958, Charlie Rich wrote both sides of Ray Smith's release, "Right Behind You Baby''/ "So Young". A month later his song "Ways Of A Woman In Love" (co-written with Bill Justis) appeared as one side of   Johnny Cash's latest record. Three months later, Rich was responsible for both sides of Jerry Lee's latest outing, ''''Break-Up''/''I'll make It All Up To You''. two months later, he had one side of ray Smith's next single, ''Why Why Why''. Then it was ''I Just Thought You'd Like To Know'' for Johnny Cash a month later.   Charlie Rich had finally arrived at Sun Records. His distinctive   piano licks were starting to show up on quite a few Sun sessions in early 1958.
 
Finally, in August 1958, having squandered every excuse he could muster, Charlie Rich   entered the Sun studio to record his own debut single for Sun sub-label, Phillips   International, "Philadelphia Baby" as an investment in stardom. Member as pianist of the Sun   house band as a big happy family has much truth to it. But there was also a glimmer of   trouble in paradise.
 
In February, 1959 Charlie Rich set his mind to recording a second single. Although Charlie's   recording career was originally driven by a desire to place his own material, one side of the   record somewhat surprisingly featured a non-Rich original. Incredibly, Charlie was unable to   capture commercial success again during his tenure at Sun. Charlie continued to record   some powerful and memorable sides for Sun, but none of them dented the pop marketplace.   part of the problem was undoubtedly the fact that Charlie had never written teen-oriented   material. He was, in every sense, an adult artist. His concerns and priorities just did not   resonate with adolescents. "Lonely Weekends", had been a fear occurrence - one of those   rare instances where kids and adults shared a problem: being alone on a weekend. But from   then on, Charlie spoke to people with mortgages, drinking problems and ex-lovers.

(Above) Charlie Rich and Martin Willis (saxophone) played at little night club in a parking garage across from Court Square on Second Street, Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1957.

In the early 1960s, Charlie Rich left Sun on March 15, 1963 and began his RCA tenure by recording a critically acclaimed album, Rich continued to record RCA in Nashville. Although the RCA recordings were smooth by any reckoning, there are several unmistakable gems.

In 1965, Charlie left RCA and signed w ith Mercury, where he was produced by Jerry Kennedy for their Smash affiliate. In the fall of 1966, Charlie Rich returned to Memphis having again tasted the fleeting kiss of fame and fortune. Directionless, and with dwindling revenues from records sales, Charlie signed with the Hi label.

After three years (and two different record deals), he was back recording in Memphis. The Hi sessions represent one of the more curious periods in Charlie's recording career. At the same time, with almost schizoid abandon, Charlie recorded a series of powerful blues and soul tunes for Hi Records, some of which have, only recently, found their way into release.

In December 1976, Charlie signed with Epic Records for what would turn out to be the longest recording affiliation in his professional life. Charlie's fortunes began to rise by 1973, the quality of his bookings improved as well. In some cases, there was no change in Charlie's onstage manner. Charlie re-signed to Epic Records in 1973 for the next five years, and within a year scored the crossover country hit "Behind Closed Doors" hit, that would stand as the landmark in his career. "Behind Closed Doors" won a Grammy and Charlie was voted Entertainer Of The Year by the Country Music Association in 1974.

Charlie Rich and Epic Records ended their ten year relationship in 1977, at which point he began a brief affiliation with United Artists Records and producer Larry Butler. This period, along with his brief appearance on Elektra in 1980 and 1981, marks the artistic lowpoint of Rich's recording career. Some time during 1979, Rich, along with George Jones, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, and a host of country superstars, joined Ernest Tubb for a series of duets that were released on the Cachet label.

Beginning in 1981, Charlie Rich remained essentially detached from the music business for a decade. His earnings, and a series of shrewd investments allowed him that luxury. Charlie was an original invester in the Wendy's hamburger chain, reportedly selling his shares in 1979 for cash installments totalling $4 million.

Even though, Charlie was not involved in the music business throughout most of the 1980s, and Rich was never far from music. During this period Rich paid a group of local musicians to spend time with him jamming in his home studio. These regular Tuesday night sessions were a source of musical sustenance for the players, although it wasn't until 1992 that the music from these informal jams finally coalesced into Rich's final CD. The critically acclaimed CD "Pictures And Paintings" appeared on the Sire label in 1992.

Charlie Rich saw Elvis Presley alive in the elevator of the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium before a football game in 1976. Charlie Rich composed "I'm Comin' Home", which Elvis Presley recorded in 1961. Charlie Rich died on July 25, 1995. The official cause of death was a pulmonary embolism - a blood clot in the long. Charlie and Margaret Ann had just driven to see their son Allan perform in a casino in Mississippi.

The unavoidable truth is that if Charlie Rich had won the Arkansas State Lottery, he would probably never have written or recorded most of the music in his Sun recordings. That piano at 706 Union was always miked, and that mike was attached to a tape recorder that seemingly had no OFF button.

Five years earlier, Sam Phillips was so strapped for funds he had found it necessary to recycle tape. Elvis Presley's sessions were recorded on top of blues tracks by Doctor Isiah Ross. God only knows who or what was recorded on top of priceless Elvis outtakes. By the time Charlie hit the scene, the gods of pop music had smiled on Sun Records and tape was in good supply. Thankfully, Charlie Rich filled a lot of it.

Charlie Rich began recording career at the legendary Sun label in Memphis, recording for Sam Phillips. Without question, Rich's earliest work is his most interesting. It is also the rawest, least disciplined and most revealing. Rich was never more prolific as a songwriter than during his formative years at Sun. There is nothing in his later career - that spanned more than three decades - that wasn't foreshadowed in some manner at Sun.

During his Sun days (roughly 1958-1962), Charlie took his first halting (and awkward) steps toward rock and roll. He got better at it very quickly and his wonderfully expressive Presleyish voice often carried the day on material like ''Big Man'' and ''Lonely Weekends''. He also made his first claims on the title of ''White Soul Singer Extraordinary''. You can hear it on the undubbed versions of ''It's Too Late'' or ''Apple Blossom Time'' or ''Time And Again'' is you choose to sample Charlie's music more deeply (e.g. BCD 16152). During this period, Charlie was also pressed into service as a country music writer, often appearing as composer of Johnny Cash titles as that singer wound down his affiliation with Sun in 1958. Cash was saving all his new material for a fresh start at Columbia Records and was only too glad to meet his contractual obligations at Sun by recording Charlie Rich sons. Charlie willingly provided them, stretching himself in the process.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

RICHARDSON, RUDI (RUDY) – If nothing else, Rudi Richardson belonged among the losers and misfits   who populated Sun's release schedule. His birth name was Rudolph Valentina Riles.
 
His father's name was   Cyrus Lockett and his mother's maiden name was Martha Marie Waidlington, so presumably Rudi was the  offspring of an earlier marriage or affair between Martha and someone named Riles. He was born in   Memphis on September 30, 1923, and was three when his family moved to Chicago.
 
After attending Douglas   School, he graduated from DuSable High and entered the club scene as Rudolphe Richardson – America's  Only Male Torch Singer. Staring in 1944, he worked steadily at Rudy's Chicken Shack, The Hurricane, El   Casino, Rupneck's, and Kennedy's Honey Dripper Lounge.
 
An advertisement for his appearance at the   Flamingo Lounge called it ''One of 63rd Street's gay spots'' – and this was in the late 1940s, at least twenty   years before ''gay'' became a neologism for homosexual. All of those nightspots were in Chicago's   Bronzeville neighborhood, home to a thriving, clandestine gay scene. Some of Bronzeville's fabled club acts,  including Tony Jackson, Sippie Wallace, Frankie ''Half-Pint'' Jaxon, and George Hannah were quite openly   gay. Richardson joined their number. The scant accounts left to us mention that he usually accompaniment   himself on the piano.
 
Rudy Richardson's first record appeared on New Jersey's Manor label in 1946. Chicago's Miracle Records   signed him later that year and advertised a release party on August 16, 1946. ''Chauffeur'' on Miracle was his   biggest hit. During a spoken monologue, he said, ''Chauffeur, take me home, I'm really gone... Don't think   I'm wiggin', man, I'm just gone, you understand''. The louche hipster jive was Richardson's stock-in-trade. In   December 1946, Manor released another Richardson recording on the flip side of a Cats & A Fiddle single.   More singles appeared on Chicago's tiny Rim Records in 1949, but nightclub work paid the bills. Richardson   appeared often in nightspots throughout the early 1950s, including a long residency at the Kitty Kat Club. By   1953, he was billed as Rudi (with an I) Richardson. In 1956, he opened McKie's Disc Jockey Lounge on  Cottage Grove, the site of many legendary jazz shows.
 
On May 11, 1957, just weeks before the release of his Sun single, Richardson was in Chicago for the funeral   of his father, Cyrus Lockett. The next time he received a mention was in June 1958 when he was found dead   of denatured alcohol poisoning in a Nashville rooming house just one block south of Fisk University.   Denatured alcohol was pure alcohol that had been rendered unfit for consumption, meaning that it was either   a drink of last resort for an alcoholic or a means of committing suicide. Richardson was appearing at the Del  Morocco nightclub, an upscale lounge where he'd sung on-and-off for the previous three years. His body was   discovered at 12:30 p.m. On June 1. The coroner figured he might have died eight hours earlier. A report on   June 3, 1958 in the Chicago Defender noted coyly that he'd participated annually in Finney's Fancy Dress   Ball and that he'd never married.
 
A few weeks after Richardson's death, Johnny Cash recorded ''Fool's Hall Of fame'' for Sun. The recording   was annotated as never to be released, although the reason is lost to time. Later that year, Huelyn Duvall's   recording of the song appeared on Challenge, but wasn't a hit. Roy Orbison recorded it for Sun in 1957, but   his recording didn't appear until 1973. Rudi Richardson didn't live long enough to see himself become a   footnote in rock and roll history, much less capitalize upon it.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
RICHY, PAUL (RICHEY) - was born on April 11, 1939, in Promised Land, Arkansas. Paul L. was the   son of the Reverend C. R. and Arah (Craig) Richardson and brother of the late songwriter, pianist and   producer George Richey, widower of singer Tammy Wynette.  Paul Richey came to Memphis in 1954, and   after an disc jockey convention in 1960 in Nashville, Sam Phillips brought him up to Memphis again   where on March 11, 1960, he cut one disc for Sun Records, ''The Legend Of The Big Steeple'' b/w ''Broken   Hearted Willie'' (Sun 338), written by Sun producer Charles Underwood. In 1964, Paul co-wrote David   Houston's Top 20 single, ''Love Looks Good On You''. 
 
Besides the Opry star, Paul worked with such other   artists as Pete Drake, Charlie Rich, Cowboy Jack Clement, Diane Jordan, Faron Young and once managed   George Jones. In partnership with his brother he also had Brougham Hall Music.   After working for many  ears in Nashville as a producer, songwriter and publisher, Paul Richey, died on March 27, 2012 in   Nashville at the age of 72.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
RILEY, BILLY - Billy Lee Riley only had six records issued under his own name on Sun Records.   Sparse as his output may haven been, in rockabilly annals he remains a titan. 
 
His recordings   of "Flyin' Saucer Rock And Roll" and "Red Hot" are by themselves sufficient to ensure his   immortality. The other recordings, both issued and unissued, are evidence of a man with   catholic taste and talents versatile enough to match them.
 
Riley a product of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, born on October 5, 1933 in Pocohontas,   Arkansas although the family moved often throughout the rural Mid-South. "Back when I was   a kid growing up, we lived on a plantation with mostly black people on it.
 
Every Saturday   and every Sunday you could usually find a little group of dudes under the trees playing   blues. A white guy, Tommy Hamblin, who came from a family of string musicians, taught me   how to play three or four chords on the guitar. We started playing with the black musicians,   being the blues with them. He and I man, we were black as the rest of' em".
 
Billy Riley had bought a Sears-Roebuck Silvertone guitar at the age of nine from his   girlfriend. "She had lost interest in the instrument after it had been sprayed by the termite   control people. So I bought it off her, refinished it and learned how to play it". By that time   he had already mastered the harmonica, an instrument that his father had taught him.
 
The family grew up in what can only described as abject poverty. "We lived in a tent. A big   ol' Army tent. My dad put a floor in it and built walls around it. Then he built two log cabin   rooms adjoining, kitchen and dining room". Billy Riley dropped out of school at age of 10 and   started working to help support the family. In common with every other family in the   vicinity, the Riley's owned neither records nor a phonograph. Electricity was uncommon in   rural areas at that time but battery radios were available and very popular. Riley fondly   recalls listening to and being influenced by Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell via the radio in   the late 1940s. However, he heard no blues on the radio as the advent of black radio   programming was still a few years distant.
 
One of the seasonal highlights for the Rileys and neighboring families was the traveling tent   shows. The cost was 25c. "We wouldn't see them if they were too far away", Riley recalled,   "cause we had no car. About the only way we could get to any place was to walk or find a   ride".
 
Halfway through his thirteenth year, Billy Riley's family left the plantation in Arkansas and   headed southeast to Tupelo, Mississippi bringing their tent with them. Riley's father was   working as a painter but after a year with work at a premium the family pulled up roots   again and headed back to Arkansas - this time to Osceola. While in Tupelo though, Riley had   made his first public appearance, performing live on radio station WELO.
 
In 1948 Billy Riley tried to enlist in the armed services. Only 15 years of age, he was   rejected. By 1949 the family had moved back to Pocohontas although his sister stayed in   Osceola. Riley tried again to enlist and with his sister signing the necessary papers attesting   that he was 18 (Riley had no birth certificate), he became an employee of Uncle Sam.
 
For Riley, the Army was just a way out of grinding rural poverty although he eventualy saw   some benefits: "While I was in the service I got more interested in music because I won some   talent shows at the service club". Playing in these talent shows, singing hard country music   along the lines defined by Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson, Riley first   performed in a full band context. He was even offered a position in Special Services but surprisingly turned it down due to stage fright. During his hitch in the service, he made his   first private recordings including the Hank Williams weeper "My Son Calls Another Man   Daddy".
 
It is unclear exactly how long Billy Riley spent in the service. He recalled to Bill Millar that   he returned briefly to civilian life and then re-enlisted for three years. In any event, Riley   probably found himself back in civilian duds around 1953 or 1954.
Music was now much more than a hobby and upon discharge he joined a couple of country   bands that worked in and around Jonesboro, Arkansas, C.D. Tennyson and the Happy Valley   Boys and the KBTM Ranch Boys. While supporting himself and his first wife with a day job in   a shoe factory, Billy Riley could be heard regularly on three local radio stations, KBMT and   KNEX in Jonesboro and KRLA in Paragould.
 
Both the bands with whom Riley worked taped   their shows on Sunday for broadcast during the week. At the same time, Riley together with   the bassist and the bassist's wife from the KBTM Ranch Boys rose early in the morning to   perform live on a gospel show.
 
Not making a lot of money in the shoe factory or with his music, Riley was talked into   moving to Memphis by his brother-in-law. Together they opened a restaurant and Riley   briefly forsook music. After the restaurant failed, Billy Riley worked as a meat cutter and   than as a truck driver for Industrial Coverall. "That's when my mind was on music. When I   wrecked that truck I was singing 'Trouble Bound'. I worked there until I wrecked two trucks".
 
Riley joined Slim Wallace's Dixie Ramblers. Wallace was a local truck driver who played bass   in a band which also featured Jack Clement, then attending Memphis State University.   Wallace and Clement got the notion to start a record label, Fernwood Records, named after   the street upon which Wallace lived. The studio was a primitive affair, literally situated in his   garage.
 
The Dixie Ramblers consisted of Roland "Slim" Wallace, Jack Clement, Billy Riley, Wayne   McGinnis and Ramon Maupin, they played straightahead hard country music, mostly on the   weekends. Its interesting to note Riley's first playing experience - at least on guitar - was   with black blues musicians on the plantation where he lived with his parents. yet, up to this   point in his semi-pro career, he had only publicly played country music. As with many other future rockabillies he never reaslized that he had an option. He was white, therefore if he   wanted to play music, he played country. That was simply what white Southern musicians   did. Riley explained: "After hearing Elvis and seeing what was happening, a lot of us guys got   away from the country stuff. We wanted to get with what was happening. When it was new   it was something completely different from what anybody had ever done. It was something   that fit me because it sounded black. It was still country but it had that black feel and that  was what I wanted. It was something I was brought up on".
 
After Billy Riley had played a couple of months with the Dixie Ramblers, Jack Clement had   the idea that the first release on Fernwood should be by Billy Riley. Surprisingly in view of   Riley's growing infatuation with the new music, the Dizie Ramblers first attempted a country   song, a Riley original entitled "Think Before You Go". At that point the group consisted of   Riley, Wallace, Bob Deckelman on steel guitar and a fiddle player.
 
They recorded two songs, "Trouble Bound" and "Think Before You Go". in a primitive studio   Clement had built in Wallace's garage. Clement took the masters to Sam Phillips, who   responded to the eerie, bluesy intensity of "Trouble Bound" and offered a job to Clement and   a contract to Riley. Sam Phillips counseled against releasing the countrified "Think Before   You Go", so Riley concocted a rockabilly novelty, "Rock With Me Baby", that he recorded at  the WMPS studio in Memphis. Purchasing the masters from Fernwood, Sam Phillips issued   Riley's debut single in May 1956.
(Above) From left: Jimmy Wilson (piano), Martin Willis (saxophone), Billy Riley (vocal, guitar and harmonica), Jimmy M. Van Eaton (drums), and Pat O'Neill (bass).
 
With a record on the market, Riley needed to put a band together, Clement was too busy at   Sun to be playing clubs and Bernero had always been temporary. That left only guitarist   Roland Janes. Riley and Janes had met a teenage drummer, J.M. Van Eaton, when Van Eaton   had been down at Sun with another group. He was quickly drafted into the fold, as was   upright bassist Marvin Pepper. By the end of 1956, Riley's group had been co-opted as the   house band at Sun Records. 
 
After a four year involvement with Sun, Riley decided to quit again, Jack Clement and Bill   Justis had been dismissed in early 1959. Both started their own labels. Riley did some work   for Justis, cutting an instrumental record pseudonymously for Jaro/Top Rank under the   name "Spitfires". By this point he had reunited with Roland Janes and they held down a   steady gig at the Starlight Club in Memphis. It was there that they came up with the idea for Rita Records settled in the old Sun studio. 
 
One of the first moves was to bring Harold Dorman to the label. Dorman had been languished   around town since 1856, trying to hustle a deal for himself and his writing partner Wiley   Gann. Riley and Janes took Dorman and Gann to the Hi studio, paid Jack Clement to handle   the board and emerged with "Mountain Of Love" which became a nationwide hit in 1960.
 
Rita Records was a short-lived venture and Riley's involvement in it was even shorter.   Commercially, none of Riley's records had much impact. Sam Phillips has more than once   lamented this fact, stating that he does not understanding why Riley never broke through.   To Riley though, its simple: "Jerry Lee and Sam got too this, what happened to me".
 
Through the 1960s and 1970s, Riley persevered in the music business. He recorded under   his own name and a host of pseudonyms including the Megatrons, the Rockin' Stockings and   Sandy & the Sandstones. The list of labels for whom he recorded is even longer. He even   achieved a small breakthrough on the Entrance label in 1972 with the Chips Moman   produced "I Got A Thing About You Baby" that later Elvis covered. Immediately preceding his   deal with Entrance, Riley had returned to the re-born Sun label owned by Shelby Singleton   in Nashville, launching it in fine style with "Kay". Both "Kay" and "Red Hot" were, in their   way, definitive performances but the gulf between them highlighted Riley's real problem: he   lacked an identifiable style. With all the talent in the world, Riley would not stick in one   groove long enough to reap the rewards. His versatility was his greatest asset and his  greatest-drawback.
 
Since 1983 Billy Riley has refused to gig, recorded little and released nothing. If the right   offer under the right conditions came along he would probably give it one last go-round. In   the meantime, he supports himself as a contractor, rarely dwelling upon his impressive, if   less than successful, past.
 
All of us involved with this project revere Billy Riley for his music. When Joyce met Billy on   April 11, 1975, she knew nothing about Billy's music or Sun Records. She fell in love with a   hard-working man who was raising two daughters, ages 3 and 6, by himself. Only later did   Joyce discover the music featured here. Joyce and Billy were married just about two weeks   after they met, on April 26, 1975. Joyce was still with Billy 34 years later when he died of   colon cancer on August 2, 2009. The final years of Billy's life were a medical  and, consequently, a financial nightmare.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
RIPLEY COTTON CHOPPERS, THE - The 78rpm single Sun 190 ''Silver Bell'' b/w ''Blues Waltz'' by the Ripley Cotton Choppers remains one of the rarest records Sam Phillips ever recorded. After two years of releasing nothing than black music, Phillips had decided to broaden his base of operations. In July 1953, he scheduled the first recording session with the Ripley Cotton Choppers, and later that year released Sun's first country record. 
 
It had hillbilly stamped on the promo copies so that country disc jockeys would take a second look and maybe listen.  The Ripley Cotton Choppers took their name from a group of Tennessee musicians who had performed widely during the Depression years. Although they had never recorded, the original Cotton Chopper broadcast regularly over WREC in Memphis.
 
The Cotton Choppers Phillips recorded for Sun were headed by    by Raymond Kerby, a  house painter, contracter, guitarist, cattle rancher, and jack of all trades.   Kerby was born on April 21, 1919 in Halls, Tennessee, a small community outside of Ripley, which is itself eclipsed by Memphis, some forty miles to the south. Other members of the Cotton Choppers included Kerby's uncle, Jesse Frost, who did most of the singing; Raymond's brother, James Kerby, who played guitar; Ernest Underwood, who sang and played fiddle; James Haggard on mandolin; Bill Webb, another guitarist, and depending upon the seasons, James or Pete Wiseman on string bass. On occasion, a woman named Jettie Cox also sang with the band and even recorded some unreleased material for Sun.
 
The Cotton Choppers came to Sun's attention because Hoyt Wooten, Phillips' old boss at WREC, told Ernest Underwood about Sam Phillips. Underwood was the only member of the Choppers who had also played with the original group, and he and Wooten were old friends. A phone call was made and Ernest Underwood and Raymond Kerby drove down to meet Sam Phillips. The primary meeting went well and a formal audition was set up. That went well also and the group's first session was arranged. It produced "Blues Waltz", the vocal side of the Choppers' release. As Raymond Kerby recalls, Phillips had them repeat the song over and over again until he was satisfied with it. "Blues Waltz"  featured a harmony vocal by Ernest Underwood and Jesse Frost, now both dead. James Haggard's madoline, the only time this instrument appears on an issued Sun record, is prominently featured. The instrumental flipside, ''Silver Bell'' (not the traditional Christmas song) was recorded at a later session. It features twin guitar work by Raymond Kerby and Bill Webb who played lead. The session which lasted all night, also produced two unreleased vocal sides called ''Roses And Sunshine'' and ''Pretty Baby''. ''Roses And Sunshine'' features a vocal duet which includes Jettie Cox. This track still exists today on a well-worn acetate. Nothing is known about ''Pretty Baby''.
 
Sam Phillips and The Ripley Cotton Choppers caught each other's eye at just the right moment in time.   Within the next two years, Sam Phillips virtually abandon blues and traditional country music for Elvis   Presley and the first generation of rockabillies and The Ripley Cotton Choppers would cease to be a group.   Because the Cotton Choppers came to Sun and were one of the first country groups Phillips recorded, they   received a historic offer. Sam Phillips was looking for a backup band to work with his new discovery: a   vocalist whom Phillips was sure would put the company on the map and make everybody rich. After their   final session, late into the night, Sam Phillips came out of the control room and sat down with the Choppers   for one of his patented 'heart to heart' talks.
 
He made his offer: there were no guarantees, but he liked Kerby's   picking and thought everybody might benefit from the merger. Were they interested? It was late that night   and Kerby asked if they could think on it a bit. "Sure", said Phillips, "take your time". The sun had already   come up by the time the Choppers got back to Ripley, and they had already made up their minds. The Ripley   Cotton Choppers decided not to back up Elvis Presley. He was an unknown, and it would have meant   dropping their present vocalist, Kerby's uncle Jesse Frost. In this casual moment, Raymond Kerby passed up   his chance at immortality which, as we all know, fell into the nimble fingers of Scotty Moore.
 
Kerby's memories of Sam Phillips are borne out by information that has since come to light. "He was always   saying 'These people in Memphis are making fun of me. They think if you don't play popular music, you ain't   playing music. But I'm going to show 'em'". Raymond Kerby also recalls Phillips' conduct in the studio. "He   kept trying to get us to do something we never did understand. He wanted us to play and sing more like a   colored man. He kept saying if he could just find him a white boy who...". Phillips was fairly insistent about   this but the Cotton Choppers were never able to cross that maggie line. Nevertheless, the title of the very first   country record that Sam Phillips released on Sun still had the word "blues" in it. An ironic footnote to   Phillips' quest is that a year or so before their Sun audition, the Choppers had recorded a rough demo of an  original song called "Paint Slinger Blues". It was a simple 12-bar blues written by Kerby, his brother James,   and his uncle, Jesse Frost. It was composed spontaneously as the three men sat around after a hard day's   work. Raymond Kerby still had his paint splattered overalls on when the line "I'm an old paint slinger and I   sling my paint all day" came into being. Because they never took the song seriously, the Choppers never   even auditioned the song for Phillips. As an old acetate shows, "Paint Slinger Blues" comes surprisingly   close to the sound and style that Sam Phillips was looking for. Kerby confides that most of his group was not   overly impressed with Sam Phillips' operation. "Half of us figured we were wasting our time. We figured Sun   Records wasn't big enough. They'll never do anything for anybody". When this 78rpm was finally released, it   never appeared on 45rpm, Phillips told Kerby, "Now don't quit if this record don't make it. You too good a   guitar player".
 
By virtually any yardstick SUN 190 did not make it. It certainly got lots of local action and seems to have   been on every jukebox between Memphis and Ripley. Kerby recalls, "We never did see any royalties on it.   But you could turn the radio on, sometimes ten or twelve different stations would be playing it at the same   time. Bob Neal had a show on WMPS. He used "Silver Bell" as his opening and closing theme". The   Choppers did little touring, virtually all of it confined to within 50 miles of Memphis. Kerby recalls playing   on a bill with Carl Perkins at the Jackson Armory in 1954. They may have smiled 'hello' backstage, but really   never made contact. The last contact Kerby with Sam Phillips was in early 1955. He had run out of copies of   his record and called Phillips to buy some more. Kerby still has the shipping box that held a dozen 78rpms. It   is postmarked January 10, 1955.
 
The Kerby's have two sons and a daughter. Like his father, John Kerby also has strong musical interests and   actually recorded in a rockabilly style for the fledling Diane Records. His only session was held in 1959   when John was still in high school. Bill Black produced the date, which resulted in a fine rockabilly offering   called "Get Hot Or Go Home". Like his father, John Kerby succeeded in making one of the rarest records to   come out of Memphis in the 1950s. Raymond Kerby has been making music a long time. He started playing  guitar when he was about fifteen. He played with a USO band during World War II. He's played with   countless local groups, including an all-black band that used to perform at baseball games. "I would have   liked to make music a career but things just didn't work out that way", he said, and of course he wasn't alone   in that. Thirty years after recording his closest brush with rockabilly, the demo ''Paint Slinger Blues'',   Raymond Kirby was still slinging paint. Along with work as a house painter, he raised beef cattle and looked   after most of his own veterinary needs. Despite all of this activity, there were still periodic jam sessions with   friends and good old time pickin' remained very much part of his life. He died on September 10, 2006 in   Lauderdale, Tennessee. An obituary of Kerby's son, Johnny Lee, noted that John Kerby too was dead by 2008. (HD)
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
ROSS, DOCTOR - With a stage name of ''Doctor'', a theme song about curing the boogie disease, and over 30 years performing as a one-man man, it's no surprise that fans, publicists and commentations built Doctor Ross into an even more clear-cut groove than he developed for himself. But back in the early 1950s, the music Ross made for Sam Phillips was not performed as a one-man band and it had a freshness that sounded current even though it was based on much older songs and styles. Doctor Ross was not the the first to use the theme of the musical medic come to help you feel better - Doctor Clayton and others got there first - but Ross was one of the best.
 
Georgia Tom recorded some musical medic themes pre-War but Ross's take on it was the boogie - that if you wanted to hear the music, or wanted to dance, or wanted the other thing, then he was your man.
 
Born in Tunica, Tunica County, Mississippi, in October 21,   1925, gained his nickname in the US Army and is reference to some medical knowledge he   obtained while in the service. He played for his service buddies in 1943 into 1947 in the   Philippines at the Pacific Theater of Operations and frequently entertaining the troops, and   in 1950 became fully professional, broadcasting over radios KFFA, WROX and finally WDIA in  Memphis.
 
Charles Isaiah "Doctor" Ross played a guitar and a harmonica mounted on a rack around the  neck while playing a bass drum and/or high hats with foot pedalsand, he played also the   kazoo. Ross were at their best playing rhythmic riffs and boogie-woogie patterns, which   gave a fuller sound. 
 
Perhaps it was the surplus of country blues talent and the notorious  competitiveness of the blues scene in Memphis that sustained this one-man band, for they   could simulate the sound of a larger combo while being hired to perform for the price of a   lone musician.
 
Doctor Ross grandparents were Indians, his father was Jake Ross, a farmer who played the   harmonica. Ross is raised on a farm and is one of 11 children (six girls and five boys), was interested in music in   the early years and learned the harmonica at the age of 6 years. ''My father's name was Jake Ross and my mother's named Lulu Ross'', he told Barry Lee Pearson. ''My father and them used to work over 107 acres of land. I used to be the water boy. I take water to the fields for them. My father was mostly a new ground man. He'd clean up the woods about hundreds of acres. And he was a harmonica player. ''Music was in both sides of the family. Some of them played violins and banjos. Lots of them plated fiddles, pianos and organs. My uncle, Jody Nixon, was a great guitar player. That was my uncle on my mother's side. My sister and them used to have one string upside the wall. Put a brick at the bottom end and maybe a bottle up at the top end and make some of the best music you ever heard. I guess when I was born I just had that in my blood. My sister got married to a World War One veteran and he bought me a couple of harmonicas. Then, a couple more years, I had another sister to get married and she bought me four harmonicas''. Being left-handed, he played the harmonica upside down (as he would the guitar), meaning in his words, ''I have my coarse keys to the right and my fine ones to the left''.
 
 Occasionally he worked   at the local churches and parties in Tunica, Mississippi area in 1934 and worked with   George P. Jackson at the local roadhouses and juke joint in Tunica, Mississippi in 1936. ''He heard me playing one day and he decided, ''I'm gonna ask your father can you go out with me to play birthday parties''. Jackson was born in Alligator, Mississippi on May 16, 1920. He took up the guitar aged 17 and taught himself to play slide but it was his friend Wiley Galatin (whose name recently metamorphosed into Gatlin) who taught the teenage Jackson how to play conventional guitar. ''He never was a great guitar player'', Jackson told Hartmut Munnich. ''He just had something going that the people in the South liked''. Jackson and Ross became a team around 1939, with the occasional addition of Doc Tolbert, who provided percussion on a bucket, an arrangement that lasted until Jackson joined the Army in 1942.
 
In the late 1930s; he teamed with Willie Love to on tour with the Barber Parker Silver   Kings Band and working on dances through the Mississippi Delta; worked with Wiley  Galatin, or solo, at the local house parties in the Tunica area in 1942 into 1943. ''So G.P. played in natural and Wiley played in Spanish. I like both of them playing but I liked Wiley more because he would get the notes more plainer on the guitar. Wiley had plenty plays because he was big time around here''. They formed a band with guitarist John Dillon and washboard player Reuben Martin. Dillon was sent to Parchman Farm in 1950 for murder and there's speculation he was the John Dudley Alan Lomax recorded there in 1959. As work became more frequent, Ross had trouble with Galatin. ''Wiley, he'd mess around, ''Oh, I ain't gonna get drunk'', you laying about two o'clock in the morning. Wiley done fell drunk many times. I had to have somebody to pack him up. I had another young man that come in there so he'd play''.
 
On December 16, 1943 Ross entered the Army and, returning to Tunica in August 1947, Doctor Ross, in Tunica to work outside the music on a farm and   appeared on WROX-radio in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1947, and frequently worked at the   local dances, parties and picnics in the Tunica area through the end of the 1940s;   appeared with his own Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys on Katz Cloting Shore Show on   KFFA-radio in Helena, Arkansas in 1949; worked on Owl Cafe in Helena, Arkansas in 1949;   working on Hole-In-The-Wall; the Isidore's Bar; the Roger's Club and appeared with Sonny  Boy Williamson II (Alex Miller) on the King Biscuit Time on KFFA-radio in Helena, Arkansas   in 1950. He also appeared in 1950; with his own Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys on   WDIA-radio in Memphis, Tennessee.
 
Sam Phillips heard this broadcast and invited him to the Memphis Recording Service   studio. He recorded with the Doc Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys for the Chess label in   Memphis, Tennessee in 1951. Recorded for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee from 1951   into 1954. He was heavenly influenced by Joe Hill Louis and, like him, recorded a great   deal for Sam Phillips. His two singles "Come Back Baby"/"Chicago Breakdown" (SUN 193) and "The Boogie Disease"/"Jukebox Boogie" (SUN 212) sold quite well.
 
Doctor Ross married in 1952 and after divorce in 1954 he married that same year again. Ross   have 2 children, and is influenced by De Ford, Arthur Crudup, Lonnie Glossen, George  Jackson, Muddy Waters and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson.
 
Ross toured with the King Biscuit Boys on workings in juke joins through the Arkansas and   Missouri area in the early 1950s; appeared on KLCN-radio in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1953,   and worked outside the music in Champaign, Illinois. In 1953-54, Ross appeared on the   Doc Ross Show, on WDIA-radio in Memphis, Tennessee and formed the group Dr Ross and   the Interns group for working on local club dates in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953 into   1954.
 
In 1954 into 1990s, he soon left Memphis and the music for the car plants of Flint and   Detroit, Michigan often worked as one-man band in Flint, Michigan. Ross married Beatrice, Willie Love's second cousin. Then he fell out with his wife, who began a court case, ''I said, 'You took a woman out of the South, take her North and you know she can destroy you in no time. In three days she can destroy you, bring your pup tent down''.
 
Since rediscovery he   has made many tours of Europe, playing as a one man band in Flint, Michigan and Chicago,   Illinois from 1954 into 1970s; recorded on his own DIR label in Flint, Michigan in 1958;   recorded for Fortune label in Detroit in 1959; recorded for Hi-Q label in Detroit in 1961   into 1963; recorded for the Testament label in Flint in 1965; worked at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois in 1965; toured with the American Folk Blues Festival on working   concert dates through England and Europe in 1965 (portion of the Hamburg, West-  Germany concert are released on the Fontana label); recorded for the Blue Horizon. Xtra   labels in London, England in 1966; worked at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor,   Michigan in 1970; at the Holiday Inn Bar in Saginaw, Michigan in 1971; at the Mariposa Folk   Festival in Toronto, Canada in 1971; recorded with The Disciples for the Foretune label in   Detroit in 1971; toured in England and Europe on working concert dates, radio appearances and TV-show in 1972; recorded for the Big Bear-Munich label in London,   England in 1972; recorded for the Esceha label in Koblenz, West Germany in 1972, and   worked on the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland in 1972 (portion are   released on the Big Bear-Polydor/Excello labels).
 
In 1973, Doctor Ross on the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in Ann Arbor and toured with the   American Blues Legends on working concert dates through England and Europe in 1974   (portions are released on Big Bear label); appeared on In Concert Show on Radio-4,   London, England in 1974; worked BJ's Buffeteria in Bay City, Michigan in 1977, and toured   in Europe working concert dates in 1977.
 
According to Ross, Sam Phillips told him if he could find a white man who could play and   sing as good as a black man, he would make him a million dollars. Doctor Ross recalls, "The   next time I went back, Elvis Presley had come through... so they took my promotion off of   my record and they put it on him... I was probably one of the first ones. Me, Joe Hill Louis,   and Willie Nix. There was a bunch of us there that was on that thing. But we were the   ones who really started it". Doctor Ross was filmed at a concert on January 10, 1993 and subsequently a DVD, ''Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss'' was issued.
 
There can be little doubt that Doctor Ross is one of the most individual and expressive   blues singers and player around today, Ross has the artistic ability and lifetime experience   to create significant blues. Ross decided to retire after 37 years from General Motors Shop during the summer of 1993, but Charles Isaiah "Doc" Ross died at May 28, 1993 in Flint,   Mississippi of the age of 68 before that day arrived.
 
Doctor Ross was survived by seven children from his three marriages (and three divorces) and 20 grandchildren. Ross' funeral was attended by 200 people, and family friend Robert Williams told the Flint Journal: ''He was a loner who rarely visited or called anyone. I used to take his dinner to him daily to make sure he was eating. He'd stay at home, he'd go to work and work all day. Then he'd come home and watch his black and white television set... watch the Tigers. He would practice music by himself - wouldn't let anyone in the house. He wasn't selfish, he'd help you with his heart. He was close to his family. He didn't care about money and never spent any on himself. He wouldn't buy a color television and drove a 1979 Buick''.
 
A few years after Ross' death one of his sons sold a pile of Ross' memorabilia at a flea market in Detroit, including Ross' contract with Sun Records that now resides in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
ROSSINI, TONY - Like it or not, Tony Rossini made as many Sun singles as Elvis Presley, Billy   Riley, Warren Smith and Sonny Burgess. One listen to his records tells you that Tony was a   schoolkid; he was in fact just barely thirteen. His father, who was a schoolteacher in Memphis's   when Tony recorded for Sun, had once played in orchestras. It wasn't his father who led him to Sun,   though; it was a blue collar worker at Memphis's firestone plant, Dan Padgett, who fancied himself   as a songwriter. Padgett had seen Tony at high school hops and asked him to demo some songs. 
 
He  then took the demo's to Scotty Moore, newly installed as the studio manager at Sam Phillips'   Madison Avenue studio, and Scotty came to see Tony at a junior high school hop and signed him.
 
"Scotty produced the first session and Sam helped", is the way Tony remember it. "I don't really   know what Sam was shooting for when he signrd me, It was out of character in terms of what   motivated abd excited him. I was just thirteen, going to Colonial Junior High . Brenda Lee was big   then, and so was Eddie Hodges, so maybe Sam thought it was a trend " Sam was right; it was a trend, but one he should have left alone.
 
Sun Records didn't really have the experience or connections necessary to break an artist in this   style. "That first release got played pretty strong around Memphis" says Tony. "I was doing shows   with Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, but I was like the added attraction because I din't have any   hits''.
 
Then Tony drafted in 1968 and went to Vietnam and spent fourteen months there. He came back in January 1970 and in March he went to California and worked for Screen Gems and did demos for B.J. Thomas and others. Then he went to Capitol Records for an contract via Boyce and Hart and worked and doing club gigs in Orange County, up and down the coast.
 
Tony based in Louisville, Kentucky he still working on the lounge circuit. Anthony ''Tony'' Rossini Jr. passed away on Thuesday, March 18, 2014 in Edgewood, Kentucky at the age of 67.
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©
 
 Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 
© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©