CONTAINS
For music (standard singles) and playlists on YouTube click on the available > buttons <
> Back 1953 Sun Schedule <

1953 SESSIONS 6
June 1, 1953 to June 30, 1953

Studio Session for The Prisonaires, June 1, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Luke McDaniel, June 1953 / King Records
Studio Session for Shy Guy Douglas, June 1, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Joseph Dobbins & The Four Cruisers, June 3, 1953 / Chess Records
Studio Session for James Billy Gayles, June 13, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Junior Parker, June 18, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Theautry Tot Randolph, June 23, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Rufus Thomas, June 30, 1953 / Sun Records
Studio Session for Rufus Thomas, 1950s / WDIA Radio

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 1953

The first major integrated rock and roll show is staged in Cleveland with headlining co-stars The Dominoes and Bill Haley & His Comets.

Queen Elizabeth II is crowned in Westminster Abbey.

Future Sun recording star Dean Beard moved to Coleman, Texas, in 1953, and Dean began working sessions in nearby Abilene for record producer Slim Williet (and in later years, he would hint darkly that he knew who really wrote Willet's smash hit ''Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes'').

MID 1953

The Tennessee press had been quick to pick up on the Prisonaires story. Dot Brimer of the Kingsport News wrote a feature on the Prisonaires on July 1, 1953 saying: ''They began with obscure appearances on seldom held Tenpen stage shows, progressing though hopeless-seeming dead-end rehearsals to larger bits on inside shindigs, to a weekly 15-minute spot on Nashville's WSOK to regular featuring on Tenpen's WSIX Saturday Night Varieties and a precedent-setting guest appearance on TV's Tennessee Jamboree and on to 50,000 watt WSM's big time George Morgan Show. James E. Edwards Tenpen's warden, has spearheaded the current campaign for progress. So far ''The Prisonaires'' is the only unit of live talent goodwill ambassadors that Tenpen is sending out. They are part of warden Edwards campaign to educate the people of Tennessee in matters concerning the basic weaknesses in out penal system. The warden is frankly using The Prisonaires to arouse interest and then steps in and explains: ''For the first time in the history of the institution an organized effort is being made to help inmates find jobs and in locating sponsors acceptable to the parole board and the attempt to get together an adequate parole program''.

Dot Brimer was writing just one month after the Prisonaires had been in Memphis raising their profile by making their first record under contract to Sun Records. Sun's owner Sam Phillips told: ''Red Wortham was the one who set up the Prisonaires deal. He had a cousin working as a senior guard at the penitentiary''. On the occasion of Wortham's visit with Joe Calloway, it seems that the focus of attention was the new Bragg and Riley song ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. Wortham told Bragg that he could publish the song and thought that he could get it recorded too. Red Wortham said: ''So, I made some recordings there in the prison and we had two good cuts on tape. I first took this tape to Dee Kilpatrick who was head of Mercury Records here in the southern district but he said no because he had another black group he was working with, so next I went to see Paul Cohen of Decca Records. He had to run back and forth to New York all the time, but he said 'I'll be back in a few weeks and I'll talk to you about it'. Soon after, I was with Jim Bulleit in my office at Fourth and Union there. We were distributing Sun Records and Jim and Sam were good friends. Jim said 'I'll cal Sam and see if he wants it'. I was kinda anxious to get it moving so I agreed. Well he called Sam and mailed the tape copy to him. He came back, and said 'Sam likes that tape and he'll put it out because he loves that song called ''Baby Please'', but he wants you to go back in and record another song', because he thought ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' wouldn't make it'''.

In a slightly different version, Johnny Bragg told Bill Millar: ''A feller by the name of Red Wortham came to the prison along with a man named Jim Bulleit. Of course Sam Phillips was the president of Sun Records, he was the man that really had the right to say 'yes' or 'no' you know... and they were very satisfied with that they heard, in fact they really flipped when they heard ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. And they made arrangements for Sam to hear the Prisonaires''. Both Wortham and Bragg have mentioned in interviews that singer Chickie King was interest in the song and it is just possible that her version on Nashville's Gold label was the first to be issued.

Sam Phillips agreed with the prison authorities that the Prisonaires could be taken to his studio in Memphis on June 1, 1953 so that he could re-recorded the songs. The Prisonaires travelled under guard to Memphis on at least two occasions up to May 1954 and Sam Phillips also recorded them on at least two occasions in the auditorium at the prison. Phillips recorded some twenty songs and released eight of them on four records by the Prisonaires, the first of which, ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', was the best selling (a 200,000 seller according to Ebony Magazine) though none of the discs appeared on the National sales charts.

And below another true story on June 1, 1953.

JUNE 1953

Sam Phillips had another group under contract who weren't traveling anywhere except under armed guard. As part of the arrangement with Jim Bulleit, Sun acquired a black vocal group from Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville, five inmates who called themselves the Prisonaires. The croup had been introduced to Bulleit by Red Wortham, a Nashville music publisher.

At that time, the pen was seen as a fertile source of new songs, and many of the Grand Ole Opry stars paid regular visits to buy material from both black and white inmates. Wortham was on a similar quest when he heard about the Prisonaires.

Formed by lead singer Johnny Bragg shortly after he went inside in 1943, the group already had a steady gig on two local stations, WSOK and WSIX, and was part of warden James Edwards' rehabilitation program. Edwards, a six foot two strapping World War II veteran, had served in a Marine Corps military battalion for twenty months after the war, assigned for most of that time to the Fort Meade prisoner stockade. That experience, and governor Frank Clement's belief in him, were his only qualifications for the job. And when Edwards expressed some reservations about moving into the warden's quarters on the prison grounds with his wife and two daughters, Clement invoked their shared faith, stressing how integral the social reforms he intended to implement were both to the welfare of the state and the simple Christian values which they both espoused.

Wortham gave Bulleit a rough demo tape of Bragg and the Prisonaires singing four songs (recorded over an early performance by Pat Boone on WSIX). Bulleit forwarded the tape to Phillips. One of the songs, ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', had been written by Bragg and another inmate, Robert Riley. They had been walking in the rain to the prison laundry wondering, as Bragg put it, ''what the little girls are doing right about no''. Although Phillips had no love for their close-harmony, Ink Spots-inspired style, he saw the potential novelty slant, and, after some tortuous negotiations, the Prisonaires, escorted by an armed guard and a trusty, arrived in Memphis on June 1, 1953. On the way, Bragg remarked, ''Gee, look at that funny cemetery''. He was seeing a drive-in movie lot for the just time.

Over the course of a session that lasted from 10:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., the Prisonaires honed ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' to perfection. Phillips released it two week later. It started to get action almost immediately, no doubt due in part to the novelty appeal of the group, but also to the beauty of the song and the stilling quality of Bragg's lead vocal. Against a wordless background vocal and a simple strummed guitar, he sang: ''Just walking in the rain. Getting soaking wet. Torturing my heart. By tryin' to forget...''.

After a meeting in Nashville with Jim Bulleit at the end of July, Jud Phillips went out to see the group in the pen. They told him they were already getting ten to twenty-five fan letters a day. ''They plan to bring all of them to you when they come '', wrote Jud. ''They make me think of a bunch of baby birds. They are one boys all of them. I get a great joy out of helping people like that and think the really appreciate it''. In November 1953 Ebony magazine reported that the record had sold 225,000 copies, although 50,000 was probably nearer the mark.

The strictly segregated penitentiary where the Prisonaires were doing time had been dubbed Swafford's Graveyard after a notorious previous warden. Despite its rough reputation, the prison's new warden, Edwards, encouraged rehabilitation and allowed the group out on day passes to perform on radio, and subsequently at live concerts. They even played some of the plusher white hotels in Nashville. Held up as examples of rehabilitation at work, they were introduced to Tennessee governor Frank Clement, who regularly brought the group to the gubernatorial mansion for performances, thereby eliciting the unissued paean ''What About Frank Clement (A Mighty Mighty Man)'', a song that had ''parole, please!'' written all over it.

Sam Phillips and the Prisonaires blew their momentum by following ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' with a gospel record, ''Softly And Tenderly;'', backed with ''My God Is Real'', featuring Ike Turner in the unaccustomed role of church pianist. A hokey and hastily contrived third single, ''A Prisoner's Prayer'', was rushed onto the market, but the appeal of the group was fading fast. The last single was issued in July 1954. Just one year after the brouhaha surrounding their debut, the group was forgotten again.

Some of the Prisonaires were paroled in 1954 and 1955. Bragg remained inside and formed a group called the Marigolds. He was released in 1959, but soon found himself back in trouble, facing two counts of assaulting white women ''with intent to ravish, murder, and rob''. Jailed again in 1960, he was visited by Elvis Presley, who asked him repeatedly if he needed a lawyer or any help. Needing help so badly he could taste it, Bragg nevertheless declined. He was eventually released in 1967.

Bragg had emerged from the pen in better financial shape than most ex convicts. He had half the proceeds from ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' awaiting him. The publishing on the songs was purchased by Gene Autry in May 1954, and Autry himself recorded it soon afterward, to small success. But Columbia's head of countryman A&R, Don Low, had faith in the song. One day, walking through the head once In New York, he met Mitch Miller, who was scouting material for a Johnnle Ray session. Law suggested adjust ''Walkin' In The Rain'', and Ray took it to number 2 on the pop charts during the fall of 1956. The first writer's check Bragg receided was for fourteen hundred dollars. Bragg, who had never seen such a sum on a check or anywhere, mistook it for fourteen dollars and asked the warden to deposit it in the commissary cash register so he could get some cigarettes and candy.

The Prisonaires' talent far transcended their novelty appeal. Bragg's breathtakingly pure lead tenor could have put the group in the front rank of vocal groups. But they were drawing on traditions that were alien to Phillips, who recorded little else In the close-harmony style, either sacred or secular. He would later say he regretted that he had not done more in the gospel held. He recorded one gospel single by the Brewsteraires for Chess, and released another by the Jones Brothers on the Sun label, but sales were poor. ''It certainly wasn't intentional neglect'', he said In 1984, ''but you have to compromise. There's no telling what I should and could have done in gospel music from the Memphis area. I'm ashamed to say I barely touched the surface. It was a whole different area to merchandise, and you run out of time after working eighteen hours a day''.

JUNE 1, 1953 MONDAY

Jim Bulleit, owner of Bullet Records in Nashville, drove five singing prisoners in a specially modified elongated Chevrolet at the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville to Memphis. The Prisonaires arrived at 706 Union Avenue to make their first record for Sun Records (Sun 186). It is very likely, the item about the session in an article on June 2, 1953 from reporter Clark Porteous, that captured the attention of Elvis Presley.

At 10:30 a.m., they grouped themselves around a microphone at the Sun Records studio, at the junction of Union and Marshall Avenues in Memphis. The guard and the trusty went next door to Dell Taylor's Restaurant for food and coffee, and the group tried to get a recording balance for Sun Records' owner Sam Phillips, because the artists were not permitted to eat in the restaurant.

They sang in the sweet close harmony style for which Phillips had little affection, so he called over to local bottling and vending don, Drew Canale, and asked if his houseboy, Joe Hill Louis, could come down and sit in on guitar. Louis' music was at the polar opposite extreme of black music: raw, unsophisticated and bluesy. "You guys are good", said Louis to Bragg, "but you've got to stick together". Bragg replied that, with three of the group in for 99 years, there was not much change of doing otherwise.

The story of Elvis Presley's association with Sun Records is essentially the story of three rapid transformations. A painfully shy nineteen-year-old kid was transformed into a twenty-year- old strutting peacock. A singer with barely enough confidence to sing on the front porch was transformed into a performer who was being sought by virtually every major record label in the United States. And a country singer was transformed into an artist with the potential to cross the rigid demarcation lines separating pop, country and western, and rhythm and blues.

It was an eventful seventeen months that Presley spent at Sun, and much of what happened has been taken for granted. For as long as most can remember, Elvis Presley has represented the benchmark of success in popular music. Every other performer of epic stature is measured against him. It is hard to appreciate today that when Presley walked into Sun Records for the first time, he was a household name only in his own household. Now that his achievement in blending pop, country, and rhythm and blues into a new hybrid has become a commonplace of American popular culture, it is difficult to understand how alien his music was in 1954. It is even harder to view the course of Presley's early career through the correct end of the telescope, or to imagine a time when a record salesman would go into a store and encounter the riposte, ''Elvis who?''.

How did the shrinking violet of July 1954 become the self-proclaimed Hillbilly Cat of November 1952? And why was virtually every major record label in the United States coming to Sam Phillips with checkbook in hand, willing to sign an artist whose appeal was largely untested outside the South? It all happened very quickly, in a short period that deserves another look. Though it may be a clicks to say that Elvis Presley blended hillbilly music with rhythm and blues and pop, it has never been fully explained just how the music he created became so hot so quickly.

Popular wisdom, which has now taken on the power of a classical myth, has it that the first the world ever heard from Elvis Presley was in the summer of 1953, when Elvis walked into the Sun studio to record a personal disc for his mother's birthday.

As some have pointed out, it is more likely, considering that Gladys Presley's birthday was in the spring, that Presley made the first record for himself, to hear how he sounded. That first disc soon ended up in the hands of Presley's schoolmate Ed Leech. They shared a homeroom in the twelfth grade at Humes High and hung out together for a year or two. By Leek's own account, he hung on to the disc, which coupled ''My Happiness with ''That's When Your Heartaches Begin'', because his grandparents owned a record player and the Presley family didn't.

Either Sam Phillips or Marion Keisker noted that Presley had a good feel for ballads and that he should be invited back. The personal disc was cut in the summer of 1953 (update: July 18, 1953); the invitation to audition for Sun came in May or June 1954. It seems inconceivable that there was no contact between Presley and Sun in the interim. Presley probably cut a second personal disc before Sam Phillips was impressed enough to ask him to record for Sun. Presley probably followed up, opportunistically, with some appearances at the studio. At one time, Phillips recalled seeing him quite frequently, and remembered saying, ''Here's ol' Elvis coming to see what kind of star we can make of him today''.

One serious challenge to that scenario, though, comes from Johnny Bragg, the lead singer of the Prisonaires, who suggests that Elvis Presleys face was a familiar sight at Sun as early as June 1953. Bragg clearly recalled that Presley was present during the all-day session on June 1, 1953 that resulted in ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''.

"I was having problems phrasing some of the words", said Bragg. "Sam was ready to give up on it, and here come this guy out of nowhere, wearing raggedy blue jeans. He said, "I believe I can help him pronounce the words". Sam got mad. He said, "Didn't I tell you to stay outta here? These men are prisoners. We're likely to be sued". I said, "If he thinks he can help me phrase this thing, give him a chance". I was getting disgusted because Sam didn't like "Just Walkin' In The Rain", and I knew it could amount to something. Eventually, Sam said, "Ok, let him try", so we took a break, and Elvis Presley worked with me on my diction. He didn't know too much about what he was doing, but he worked with me on it, and when we went back, we got it the first cut".

According to Bragg, that visitor, was Elvis Presley. If so, it means he was hanging around the Sun studio a year before his first record was cut, which invites a minor re-write of history. Bragg may have telescoped the time frame, confusing the first Prisonaires session with a later one; certainly, there is no mention of Presley in his article. Still, its fairly clear that Elvis Presley met Bragg at some point in 1953 or early 1954 when the Prisonaires were recording for Sun. The last Prisonaires session logged at Sun was in February 1954, although they returned for another unlogged session, when Sam Phillips recorded them over outtakes of Elvis Presley's reeltape "Good Rockin' Tonight". Elvis Presley remembered Johnny Bragg and went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in 1960 to visit him - "He has known Bragg from back when he was starting out", said the accompanying report.

For the complete Elvis Presley Sun story see: > Elvis Sun Sessions <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

It is unclear how the Prisonaires came to be heard outside the prison walls. A contemporary report stated that Joe Calloway of WSIX, Nashville, was at the prison for a newscast, heard the group and arranged for them to have a regular show on WSIX, and on the local black station, WSOK. Calloway's approach came as a wind of change was blowing through the prison. Previously known as "Swafford's Graveyard" after the previous warden, the jail was now being managed by James Edwards, a friend of Governor Frank Clement, who wanted to prepare the inmates for their return to society.

Southern record mogul Jim Bulleit, who had helped bankroll Sun just a few months prior to this next recording, was the intermediary who put The Prisonaires together with Sam Phillips. Bob Stanley Riley was, like the group, an inmate at Nashville's State stockade and could take credit for "Just Walkin' In The Rain" along with lead vocalist, Johnny Bragg. For the next recording, the flip side of their launch vehicle, Joe Hill Louis was brought in to adds his chunky guitar phrases to Riley's beseeching lyric. To add to the growing plot, heartthrob crooner Johnnie Ray puts out a fresh version some three years after the original and this time, "Just Walkin' In The Rain" becomes an international success. Soberingly, by then the group had split, their glory days already history.

STUDIO SESSION FOR THE PRISONAIRES
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: MONDAY JUNE 1, 1953
SESSION HOURS: 10:30AM-8:30PM
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM PHILLIPS

01 - "JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN"* - 1 - B.M.I. - 2:47
Composer: - Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen
Publisher: - Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - U-76 Master
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 186-B < mono
JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN / BABY PLEASE
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-22 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley were walking to the prison laundry when Bragg remarked to Riley, ''Here we are walking in the rain. I wonder what the little girls are doing''? ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was the song that stemmed from that observation, and it played to Bragg's strengths as a vocalist. The bridge (''People come to windows...'') perfectly captured the yearning and regret he must surely have felt on so many occasions during his long incarceration. Although no lover of close harmony groups, Phillips released ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' on July 8, 1953.

''We used to practice, practice, practice'', Johnny Bragg said. ''We didn't have no microphones, so we used an echo with buckets. Everybody would get a bucket, and you could put that bucket up to your ears and, you know, a sound would come out. I wanted to be the Ink Spots, and I thought I could be the Ink Spots. I was young, crazy, I didn't know. I used to sing sitting in the cell. People be hollering and clapping their hands, this was the black wing at that time. 'Listen to the nigger'. 'Listen at him'. 'Well, let the nigger sing a little bit'. 'He can sing, can't he?'''.

To Sam Phillips the demo possessed a delicate, quavering beauty, admirably seconded by William Stewart's classically spare guitar, but Sam thought it could achieve a greater intensity. And that's what they spent all day and well into the night looking for. They worked and worked on it. ''Sam Phillips wanted everything to be perfect'', Johnny Bragg said many years after the fact. ''Ain't nothing wrong with that. We started early in the morning, and now it's four o'clock, five o'clock, six o'clock. Mr. Sam was something else''.

Sam Phillips also got great joy from watching the orders roll in. Ebony magazine reported that the record sold over 200,000 copies, and the group started making personal appearances on day passes throughout the state, and, with considerable complication, outside the state. Although it didn't chart, ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was a hit. One who took notice was Joe Johnson who worked for Columbia's country artist and repertoire man, Don Law. Johnson soon moved to California to work for one of Law's acts, Gene Autry, and told him about ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. Autry acquired the music publishing from Wortham, who probably thought the song had run its course.

Johnson pitched the song to Don Law in 1956, who recorded it with one of his acts, Dick Richards. Law gave Richards' disc to Columbia's New York A&R man, Mitch Miller, who produced Johnnie Ray's number 2 pop hit version. Bragg was invited to the annual BMI banquet in New York, but found himself otherwise engaged that night.

02 - "INTERVIEW JERRY PHILLIPS" - B.M.I. - 1:09
Like his brother Knox, Jerry Phillips perpetuates the family bloodline with a combination of pride and dignity. His indoctrination couldn't have been more appropriate, because at aged of six he was allowed to sit in the Sun studio control room, where he watched his father record The Prisonaires singing "Just Walkin' In The Rain". Some twelve years later he found himself on the other side of the glass with The Jesters, a local fraternity combo who delivered the last of the killer Sun singles, named by "Cadillac Man" SUN 400.
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-8-16 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002

After the Prisonaires had sung ''Baby Please'' for Sam Phillips, he called over the vending machine operator, Drew Canale, to ask if his houseboy, Joe Hill Louis, could come and sit in on guitar. Louis was at the poor opposite extreme of black music: raw, unsophisticated and bluesy. It took until 8:30 p.m. to finish the two songs. Louis imparted a tough, bluesy edge to ''Baby Please'', for which he was paid $10.00, but the group persuaded Phillips that Louis should sit out ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. They didn't wants its poignancy destroyed by his slash-and-burn guitar. Upon release, Phillips saw ''Baby Please'' as the plug side, and was surprised when ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' became a hit.

03 - "BABY PLEASE"** - B.M.I. - 2:48
Composer: - Robert S. Riley
Publisher: - Warner Chappell Music Limited
Matrix number: - U-75 Master
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 186-A < mono
BABY PLEASE / JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-21 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

04 - "DREAMING OF YOU"** - B.M.I. – 2:26
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - 1990
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15523-3 mono
THE PRISONAIRES - JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN

05 - "THAT CHICK'S TOO YOUNG TO FRY" - B.M.I. - 1:43
Composer: - Tommy Edwards-Jimmy Hilliard
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - June 1, 1953
Released: - 1979
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30176 mono
FIVE BEATS BEHIND BARS
Reissued: - 1990 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15523-4 mono
THE PRISONAIRES - JUST WALKIN' IN THE RAIN

''That Chick's Too Young To Fry'' is a spirited version of Louis Jordan, a dreamy pop song, a 5 Royales-type rhythm and blues number.

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Johnny Bragg - Lead Tenor Vocal*
Ed Thurman - Tenor Vocal
John Drue - Lead Tenor Vocal**
William Stewart - Baritone Vocal and Guitar
Marcell Sanders - Bass Vocal
Possible Joe Hill Louis - Guitar
Willie Nix – Drums

When the session was finally over at 8:30 P.M., and they all poured back into the prison transport for the four-hour return drive to Nashville, the final version had the intensity that Sam Phillips had been seeking all along, a quiet intensity but an altogether focused one, too. As with ''Baby Please'', he had gotten them to slightly advance the tempo, but with no diminution of control and fewer side effects, as Johnny's spectacular falsetto was less frequently displayed and eliminated altogether at the end. The sound was more closely miked and, as a result, more intimate, the almost reverential conclusion both statelier and more spiritual. But overall the feel was so close to the original, it would be hard to say what any of the exhausted participants might have thought. Except for Sam. To Sam they had done justice to an idea as well as a sound. And whether or not the record was a hit, they had accomplished just what they had set out to do.

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Session Published for Historical Reasons

STUDIO SESSION FOR LUKE MCDANIELS
FOR KING RECORDS 1953

RADIO WKAB STUDIO, MOBILE, ALABANA
KING SESSION: UNKNOWN DATE JUNE 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - BERNIE PERLMAN

During 1953-1954, Luke McDaniel recorded twelve songs in three sessions for King Records to a consistently high standard, but nothing broke away in the country charts and Luke, always irritated by poor royalty accounting, finally broke with King Records and moved to Mel-a-Dee Records, based in New Orleans and owned by Mel Mallory.

01 - ''I CAN'T GO'' - B.M.I. - 2:13
Composer: Luke McDaniel
Publisher: - Lois Music
Matrix number: - K-3644
Recorded: - Unknown Date June 1953
Released: - November 1953
First appearance: - King Records (S) 78rpm standard single King 1276-A mono
I CAN'T GO / FOR OLD TIME SHAKE
Reissued: Stomper Time (CD) 500/200rpm Stomper Time STCD 24-12 mono
LUKE MCDANIEL - MISSISSIPPI HONKY TONK ROCKABILLY MAN

02 – ''JUST FOR OLD TIME SAKE'' - B.M.I. - 2:50
Composer: Luke McDaniel
Publisher: - Lois Music
Matrix number: - K-3645
Recorded: - Unknown Date June 1953
Released: - November 1953
First appearance: - King Records (S) 78rpm standard single King 1276-B mono
FOR OLD TIME SHAKE / I CAN'T GO
Reissued: - Stomper Time (CD) 500/200rpm Stomper Time STCD 24-26
LUKE MCDANIEL - MISSISSIPPI HONKY TONK ROCKABILLY MAN

03 – ''LET ME BE A SOUVENIR'' - B.M.I. - 2:24
Composer: Luke McDaniel
Publisher: - Lois Music
Matrix number: - K-3646
Recorded: - Unknown Date June 1953
Released: - July 1953
First appearance: - King Records (S) 78rpm standard single King 1247-A mono
LET ME BE A SOUVENIR / DRIVE ON
Reissued: - Stomper Time (CD) 500/200rpm Stomper Time STCD 24-21
LUKE MCDANIEL - MISSISSIPPI HONKY TONK ROCKABILLY MAN

04 – ''DRIVE ON'' - B.M.I. - 2:31
Composer: Luke McDaniel
Publisher: - Lois Music
Matrix number: - K-3647
Recorded: - Unknown Date June 1953
Released: - July 1953
First appearance: - King Records (S) 78rpm standard single King 1247-B mono
DRIVE ON / LET ME BE A SOUVENIR
Reissued: - Stomper Time (CD) 500/200rpm Stomper Time STCD 24-27
LUKE MCDANIEL - MISSISSIPPI HONKY TONK ROCKABILLY MAN

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Luke McDaniel - Vocal & Guitar
Dusty Harrell - Lead Guitar
Jack Cardwell - Guitar
Lloyd Wells

For Biography of The Prisonaires see: > The Sun Biographies <

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 1953

The singles Sun 183 ''Lonesome Ol' Jail'' b/w ''Greyhound Blues'' by D.A. Hunt, Sun 184 ''Call Me Everything But Call Me'' b/w ''Baby No! No!'' by Big Memphis Ma Rainey, and Sun 185 ''Take A Little Chance'' b/w ''Time Has Made A Change'' by Jimmy DeBerry are released.

JUNE 1953

At one of Roy Orbison's band gigs in McCamey's Lions Club, somebody offered them to play a dance and pay them for it. The pay for that gig was as good as a hard working week's pay, so they agreed to do it even though they only knew 4 or 5 songs. They learned some more tunes in a rush practicing at the Community Center, and started getting paid for what they liked doing. They were invited to tour West Texas with R. A. Lipscomb who was running for the office of district governor of the Lions Club in 1953. They attended the 36th International Lions Club Convention in Chicago from July 3rd to July 11th of that year... Together with Mr. Lipscomb, they all stayed at the Conrad Hilton Hotel and the Wink Westerners performed in the front lobby.

The Orioles "Crying In The Chapel" becomes the first rhythm and blues hit to approach the Top Ten on the Billboard Pop Charts, stalling just short at number 11 late that summer.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR SHY GUY DOUGLAS
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: PROBABLY MONDAY JUNE 1, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

It's clear from this ''Work With Her Boy'' that Douglas had done is share of entertaining. This is a man used to working audience with slickly hip lyrics. This is straight out of the Nat Cole playbook, and it's clearly aimed at up-market black nightclubs or maybe even Nashville's white hotel lounges. If it's hard to know why Douglas was pitched to Phillips when there was an Excello deal in place, it's not difficult to see why Phillips said no.

Douglas his nod to jive parlance contained in ''Work With Her Boy'', Douglas instructs, ''If you meet a little chick and you think the gal got the right kick, work with her''. The 'chick also had to be ''built up from the ground, kinda streamlined'' and had to have ''some loot to play behind''. His accompanists are similarly unknown quantities, although both acquit themselves well enough.

01 - "WORK WITH HER BOY" - B.M.I. - 1:53
Composer: - Shy Guy Douglas
Publisher: - Delta Blues Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Probably June 1, 1953
Released: - 1996
First appearance: - Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-5-10 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-15 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Nashville-based singer Tomas Douglas aka Shy Guy Douglas was a protege of Red Wortham, who brought the Prisonaires to Jim Bulleit and thence to Sun. The date on one of Douglas's tape boxes is June 1, 1953, the same date as the Prisonaires' ''Just Walkin' In The Rain' session. That opens three possibilities: Douglas might have been invited guest on the prison bus that made its way to Memphis that day, even though no one remembered him; of perhaps the date cited is wrong and Douglas travelled to Memphis another day; or perhaps this is a Nashville-made tape that Wortham submitted to Phillips on June 1, 1953.

What argues for a Nashville-made tape is that the recording sounds more like a one-mic demo than a Sun master. What argues for a trip to Memphis is that an unidentified Nashville pianist once told record dealer Mike Smyth that he made a recording session ''for Sun with Shy Guy Douglas''.

One of Douglas's reels is taped over a hillbilly radio show from Florida that appears to date from the fall of 1952. And what makes it harder still to unravel is that around June 1, 1953, Excello Records in Nashville issued another recording of Douglas singing ''Detroit Arrow''. On the Excello recording, Skippy Brooks reportedly playing piano, on this recording, the florid pianist was probably an employee of WLAC, Nashville, Richard Armstrong, who had backed Douglas on his Delta/MGM recording of ''Raid On Cedar Street'' four years earlier and recorded for Randy's Records (the precursor of Dot) and for Tennessee Records. There are no clues about the guitarists identity. Finally, you'd think that the ''Detroit Arrow'' would be one of the trains that took African Americans from the South to Detroit; but no, it ran from Detroit to Chicago.

02 - "DETROIT ARROW BLUES" - B.M.I. - 2:08
Composer: - Shy Guy Douglas
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Probably June 1, 1953
Released: - September 1977
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30126-A-8 mono
SUN: THE ROOTS OF ROCK - VOLUME 11 - MEMPHIS BLUES SOUNDS
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-5-11 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

There's a fairly well known rhythm and blues song titled ''Hip Shakin' Mama''. Chubby Newsome originated it and Irma Thomas still sings it, but this ain't it. This is Mr. Shy Guy's very own calling card but his lightweight voice and the flowery piano aren't really suited to this tempo and this type of braggadocio. Again, you can almost hear the tinkling of glasses in the background and the polite, indifferent applause at the end. It's out of character with just about everything else in, and Sam Phillips clearly didn't think he needed it. In all likelihood, this is the same song that Douglas recorded for Red Wortham and Jim Bulleit in 1948 as ''Shy Guy's Back In Town''. It was part of a four-song session for Bullet's Delta Records, later sold or leased to MGM. Neither Delta nor MGM released ''Shy Guy's Back In Town''.

03 - "HIP SHAKIN' MAMA (SHY GUY'S BACK IN TOWN)" - B.M.I. 1:41
Composer: - Shy Guy Douglas
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - Probably June 1, 1953
Released: - September 1977
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm CR 30126-A-7 mono
SUN: THE ROOTS OF ROCK - VOLUME 11 - MEMPHIS BLUES SOUNDS
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-16 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Thomas ''Shy Guy'' Douglas - Vocal
Unknown - Guitar
Possibly Richard Armstrong - Piano

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 1, 1953 MONDAY

Jim Reeves' role as an announcer for KWKH's The Louisiana Hayride comes to an end as disc jockey, Norman Bale replaces him. Reeves is free to work The Hayride strictly as a performer.
Ronnie Dunn is born in Coleman, Oklahoma. The lanky singer teams with Kix Brooks to form the harmoni-laden Brooks and Dunn, whose mix of honky tonk with rock influences makes them the dominant duo in country from 1991 until their split in 2010.

JUNE 2, 1953 TUESDAY

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation took place in the United Kingdom. The coronation was held at Westminster Abbey where thousands of guests gathered to witness the historical event. Elizabeth’s father King George VI had passed away during February of the previous year, and not long after his death Elizabeth began her duties as a monarch. She was not formally crowned until the coronation as it was tradition to allow several months to pass for mourning of the previous monarch. It was the first coronation service to be broadcast on television. In the boys choir is Keith Richards who will co-write The Rolling Stones' ''Honky Tonk Woman'' ranked in a Country Music Foundation book among country's 500 greatest singles.

JUNE 3, 1953 WEDNESDAY

Elvis' L.C. Humes High School commencement, a joyous moment for the Presley family finally arrived. On that muggy Wednesday night, Elvis Presley anxiously entered the spacious Ellis Auditorium's South Hall for the graduation ceremony. In his subdued black tie and new white shirt, Elvis Presley felt awkward as he walked into the hall with his classmates. As the Class 202 members of the Humes class of 1953 marched forward to accept their diplomas, there was an uncomfortable feeling in Elvis' stomach.

As Elvis Presley wandered into the Ellis Auditorium, he met George Klein, the Humes High class president. They were both poor boys who were highly successful overachievers. Elvis Presley admired Klein's poise and self-assurance, and George Klein was smitten with Elvis' musical talent.

The bubbly sense of anticipation that erupts during a High School graduation was evident as each student shook principal T.C. Brindley's hand and received a diploma from the superintendent of the Memphis Public Schools, E.C. Ball. As Elvis Presley left on stage, he turned to Billy Leaptrott, a classmate and photographer, and remarked: "I don't got it". It was Elvis Presley's humorous way of suggesting that, despite his rural Southern background, he was smarter than many people realized. Elvis Presley always took care to use proper English, and his remark was a cutting reference to the strict class lines that prevailed in Memphis society.

JUNE 3, 1953 WEDNESDAY

Studio session for Joseph Dobbins and the Four Cruisers at Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Joseph ''Joe'' Dobbins wasn't exactly a "spring-chicken" when he recorded his one and only record in Memphis being around 50 years old. Dobbins was born in Brinkley, Arkansas on September 9, 1901. After his debut disc he never recorded again until he teamed up with guitarist Mike Stewart (Backwards Sam Firk) recording as a duet at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis for Adelphi Records for two recordings in 1970. Dobbins died in Memphis later that year in December.

STUDIO SESSION FOR JOSEPH DOBBINS & THE FOUR CRUISERS
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR CHESS RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: WEDNESDAY JUNE 3, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

So what led discographers to think that this might be one of Sam Phillips' recordings? A couple of reasons: the leader of the Four Cruisers, Joe Dobbins, was based in Memphis throughout most of his long career, and Phillips was supplying masters to Chess around this time. Against that, you could argue that Dobbins' single sounds nothing like a Memphis Recording Service session and Phillips had fallen out with Chess several months before it was recorded. Recently, some researchers have suggested that Howlin' Wolf's post-Phillips Memphis session was held at Lester Bihari's Memphis studio. Bihari, of course, ran Meteor Records, but it seems unlikely that Leonard Chess would record there because he'd stolen Bihari's charter act, Elmore James. Dobbins' session was roughly contemporaneous with Wolf's last Memphis session, though, so it's at least possible that Leonard Chess A&R'd them both at a studio other than Phillips.

Over the course of a long and fairly detailed oral history, Dobbins didn't go into much depth about this single. ''I wrote my first number in 1943 or 1943'', he told Harry Godwin in 1967. ''I wrote ''Beale Street Shuffle'' and ''On Account Of You''. They didn't do so good because I didn't know how to arrange at that particular time, and I quit playing again for about eight or nine years''. Dobbins probably meant 1952 or 1953, and gave no clue as to the identity of the three unidentified Cruisers or where he recorded the session. So we're left with a pleasant, if innocuous, instrumental that's of interest only because it appeared on Chess and might have been Sam Phillips' last recording for that label.

01 - "BEALE STREET SHUFFLE" - B.M.I. - 2:43
Composer: - Joseph Dobbins
Publisher: - Arc Music
Matrix number: - U-7522 Master
Recorded: - June 3, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1547-A < mono
BEALE STREET SHUFFLE / ON ACCOUNT OF YOU
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-10 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

As Joe Dobbins (Not Dobbin as the label stated) comes to the fore, it again becomes clear that this doesn't sound like one of Phillips' recordings if for no other reason than the vocal is poorly recorded. By 1953, Phillips had achieved a very bright, urgent, and ballsy vocal sound. It would be wrong to say that Phillips didn't record this type of music, though. Within weeks of Dobbins' session, wherever it was held, Phillips recorded Big Memphis Ma Rainey, who played much the same places in much the same style. And although Chess has become indelibly associated with Chicago blues it's easy to forget that the Chess brothers began their music career in the nightclub business and always recorded what can best be described as suppperclub entertainment. Although not as studiedly cool as Charles Brown, this was still supperclub blues. Thus we're left with more questions than answers about a record that deserves few of either.

02 - "ON ACCOUNT OF YOU*" - B.M.I. - 2:57
Composer: - Joseph Dobbins
Publisher: - Arc Music
Matrix number: - U-7523 Master
Recorded: - June 3, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Chess Records (S) 78rpm standard single > Chess 1547-B < mono
ON ACCOUNT OF YOU / BEALE STREET SHUFFLE
Reissued: - March 8, 2013 Bear Family (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310-10-11 mono
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Joseph Dobbins - Vocal* and Piano
The Four Cruisers
Unidentified - Guitar, Bass, Drums

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 4, 1953 THURSDAY

The morning after graduation, Elvis Presley trekked down to the state-run Tennessee Employment Security Office, located at 122 Union Avenue, filled out his application for work and sat waiting for an interview and evaluation. That Thursday morning was the day that Elvis Presley reported to work at the M.B. Parker Machinist Company owned by M.B. Parker.

The first sign of dissatisfaction with the Parker Company occurred when Elvis Presley reported to David Parker, the boss' son, and complained about being assigned to an eightman crew stripping nail kegs from equipment about to be reconditioned.

The tedious work bothered Elvis Presley, so he talked at length about his show business aspirations. The withholding statement when Elvis worked for M.B. Parker is 3 1/4x7 inches. "A job. Any job. I just want to work", Elvis Presley told the interviewer. That same afternoon, M.B. Parker stopped by Tennessee Employment to see if maybe he could find a helper for his shop. Parker's small company, in the nearby Thomas-Chelsea area (which later would house American Sound Studio), paired small engines. It was dirty work. Greasy work. But it was steady work and it handed out paychecks every other Saturday. "Mr. Parker", the interviewer said, "I had a young man come in here this morning you might want to talk to. He was nice and clean. Very polite. said 'yes sir' and 'no sir'. Just graduated last night from Humes". "He sounds okay", Parker said. Send him to see me". "Well, now, Mr. Parker", the interviewer fudged, "you might not like him when you see him". "Why not?". "Because he's got long sideburns". "Well, send him around anyhow".

And a day or so later, Elvis Presley began learning to repair small engines for M.B. Parker. It really was dirty work, but Elvis was very much looking forward to that first paycheck because he had plans for some of the money he had earned. Big plans.

JUNE 5, 1953 FRIDAY

Rex Allen recorded ''Crying In The Chapel'' at the Castle Studio in Nashville.

JUNE 6, 1953 SATURDAY

NBC-TV rolls out the summer series ''Saturday Night Revue'', with host Hoagy Carmichael, a co-writer of ''Georgia On My Mind''.

''Take These Chains From My Heart'' returns the late Hank Williams to number 1 on the Billboard country singles chart.

JUNE 8, 1953 MONDAY

Hank Thompson recorded ''Wake Up, Irene'', ''A Fooler, A Faker'' and ''Breakin' The Rules'' at Capitol's Melrose Avenue studio in Los Angeles.

Bonnie Tayler is born in Swansea, Wales. The scratchy-voiced singer is primarily a pop artist, though her millionselling ''It's A Heartache'' becomes a country hit in 1978.

Decca released Webb Pierce's two-sided hit, ''It's Been So Long'' and ''Don't Throw Your Life Away''

Freddie Hart holds the first recording session of his career, for Capitol Records.

JUNE 10, 1953 WEDNESDAY

Woody Guthrie suffers several burns on his right arm in an accident fire at home while attempting to cook breakfast in a barbecue pit in Beluthahatchee, Florida.

JUNE 12, 1953 FRIDAY

Jonathan ''Rocky'' Burnette is born in Memphis, the son of rockabilly pioneer Johnny Burnette. He has a pop hit in the 1980s with ''Tired Of Toein' The Line''.

JUNE 13, 1953 SATURDAY

Studio session with Billy "James" Gayles at Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. Session details unknown.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR JAMES BILLY GAYLES
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: SATURDAY JUNE 13, 1953
STUDIO HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER – SAM C. PHILLIPS

No Details

01 - ''YOU CAN'T LOVE TWO''
Composer: - Billy Gayles
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None – Sun Unissued
Recorded: - June 13, 1953

Note : ''You Can't Love Two'' is the same song as ''No Coming Back'' with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm for Federal Records (Federal 12282).

3 UNKNOWN TITLES

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
James Billy Gayles – Vocal
Pat Hare – Guitar
Houston Stokes – Drums
William Johnson – Piano
Charles Keel – Saxophone

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 1953

Almost as successful on the commercial level, and far more so artistically, was a record Phillips produced in the early summer of 1953 by another waiting-to-break local artist, Little Junior Parker.

Parker had hosted his own show on KWEM in West Memphis, and it was there that Ike Turner recorded him for the Biharis in 1951 or 1952. By that point, Parker had assembled his own band, in which the linchpin was guitarist Floyd Murphy.

The brother of another accomplished blues guitarist, Matt ''Guitar'' Murphy, Floyd was as technically adroit as any picker who ever set up his amp in Phillips' studio, ''He had this tremendous ability to make the guitar sound like two guitar's'', Phillips remembers, an ability that was showcased on Parker's Sun debut.

Parker, with Murphy and the band in tow, had auditioned for Phillips at some point in 1953, playing their brand of slick, uptown rhythm and blues. But Phillips wanted to hear something a little rougher, so the group worked up a tune called ''Feelin' Good'', with a nod to the king of the one-chord boogies, John Lee Hooker. Parker himself apparently despised that simplistic style of music, but Phillips was convinced he heard something marketable in the record; he released it in July 1953. On October 3 it entered the national rhythm and blues charts, to Parker's surprise, peaking at number 5 during its six-week stay.

Called back for another session, Parker brought a more, elegiac blues called ''Mystery Train'', a phrase that appears nowhere in the song but well characterizes the aura Parker and Phillips created In the studio. It is a slow, atmospheric piece in which a loping, syncopated beat, slap bass, and gently moaning tenor sax coalesce to produce a ghostly performance. But at the time, its poise, understatement, and lack of an obvious ''hook'' were sure predictors of commercial oblivion Almost as remarkable was the flip side, ''Love My Baby'', whose pronounced hillbilly flavor might just qualify it as the first black rockabilly record. Released in November, the record failed to sustain the momentum of ''Feelin' Good'' and Parker began to get itchy feet.

Parker had joined Johnny Ace and Bobby Bland on the Blues Consolidated tours booked by Don Robey at Duke/Peacock Records. Parker was induced to sign with Duke, prompting Phillips to file a suit against Robey. When the came to trial, Phillips won a $17,500 settlement, which must have carried some personal gratification after the loss on ''Bear Cat''. Phillips also seems to have acquired 50 percent of ''Mystery Train'' at approximately the same time; when Elvis Presley's version appeared as his final Sun single almost two years later, it was published by Phillips' Hi-Lo Music, with Phillips' name appended to the composer credit.

Continuing to record for Robey, Parker worked as part of the Blues Consolidated Revue until Johnny Ace killed himself backstage in Houston on Christmas Eve 1954. Herman Parker and Bobby Bland continued to work together, touring the black lounges and night spots. Parker scored fairly consistent hits in the Rhythm & Blues market for some years; ironically, after leaving Duke, his music edged closer to the primitive blues feel he had disavowed in Memphis. He died during brain surgery in Chicago on November 18, 1971.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR JUNIOR PARKER
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: THURSDAY JUNE 18, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

The notion of a distant locomotive whistle replicated by a chiming blues guitar over a rhythm set to a loping rhumba boogie, epitomises numerous Sun recordings. For many years the Cotton Belt railroads hauled a procession of passenger traffic through Memphis Union Station and the essence and imagery of the machinery inspired many a songwriter. Herman "Junior" Parker was no exception and his upbeat-titles "Feelin' Good" racked up a second hit for Sun Records.

There are several mysteries surrounding Sun's second major hit: the identity of some of the sidesmen is uncertain, and the actual recording date has proved impossible to pinpoint accurately. Furthermore, it had long been assumed that two guitarists had played on the session: however in a mid-1980s interview Sam Phillips recalled that Floyd Murphy exhibited an amazing dexterity on the guitar, mix: "...he could make it sound like there were two men playing at once". The entire performance owes a huge debt to the King of the one-chord boogie John Lee Hooker - although it is interesting to note that Junior Parker actually perceived himself as a slick uptown crooner, and disavowed Hooker's countrified boogies. Legend has it that Sam Phillips was not enamoured of the material which Parker and co were auditioning, so when Sam left the studio to take a phone call they agreed to give him a taste of real down-home music. Sam Phillips was knocked out, promptly recorded their efforts, and to the group's astonishment "Feelin' Good" became a massive hit.

On November 14, Sam Phillips paid $50.23 in royalties to both Parker and the session' pianist William ''Struction'' Johnson, suggesting that Johnson might have been the co-leader of the Blue Flames (certainly, when Parker began recording for Duke, his group was billed as Bill Johnson's Blue Flames).

In 2011, an Austin, Texas-based garage soul band, Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, revisited ''Feelin' Good'' almost note-for-note as ''Mustang Ranch''. So someone's still listening.

01 - "FEELIN' GOOD" - B.M.I. - 2:50
Composer: - Herman Parker
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated - Knox Music Ltd - Bluesman Music
Matrix number: - U 77 Master
Recorded: - June 18, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 187-A < mono
FEELIN' GOOD / FUSSIN' AND FIGHTIN' (BLUES)
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-23 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

This mellow outing - based heavenly on Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years" - stands in marked contrast to its topside, being rather closer stylistically to what Junior would have preferred to have been singing. He had already defined his croony blues style - somewhat akin to that of Roy Brown - although the band brings rather more a jazzy feel to his support here than subsequent sidesmen would. When he revived "Five Long Years" for Duke Records in 1958, Parker's vocal was virtually a note-for-note reconstruction of this performance.

02 - "FUSSIN' AND FIGHTIN' (BLUES)" - B.M.I. - 2:55
Composer: - Herman Parker
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated - Bluesman Music
Matrix number: - U 78 Master
Recorded: - June 18, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 187-B <  mono
FUSSIN' AND FIGHTIN' (BLUES) / FEELIN' GOOD
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-24 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Little Junior's Blue Flames consisting of
Herman Parker - Vocal
Pat Hare - Guitar
James Wheeler - Tenor Saxophone
Floyd Murphy - Guitar
William "Struction" Johnson - Piano
Kenneth Banks - Bass
Houston Stokes or John Bowers - Drums

Note: Sam Phillips' cheque register for this date shows Houston Stokes playing drums. Floyd Murphy probably supplied the information that John Bowers was the drummer, but Stokes almost certainly worked the session.

Herman "Junior" Parker reportedly looked askance at the old time music but, while Sam Phillips was taking a break, the group decided to give him a country boogie so that they could go home. Titled, "Feelin' Good", it owed a considerable dept to the King of the One Chord Boogies, John Lee Hooker, with exactly the same moral as the Hooker, the same seemingly extemporized spoken passages, and the same rhythm, but with an ensemble drive (Hooker's record was solo) and a playful melodic approach that were strikingly new. Sam Phillips kept encouraging them to intensify the feeling, to fuse their efforts together more tightly, and in the end they got it, with the pianist's left hand providing the structure and Floyd Murphy's guitar providing blazing rhythm riffs all the way to a natural fade at the end. ''Once we got that rhythm going, all I did was get Junior, when he said, 'Well', I just had him hold that note. I mean, he held it a little while, but that wasn't enough. I wanted to hear 'Wellllll' as long as he could hold it, and just boogie behind'', says Sam Phillips.

That note was the key to the song's success. When Junior came into the first chorus after a breezy spoken intro taken directly from Hooker (''You know, the other day I was walking down the street / I met an old friend of mine''), that first, single-syllable word took on almost all the properties of a chorus in itself. Stretching it out for a full four bars, Little Junior turned ''Well'' into a breathlessly elongated ''Whoaaaaa'' until finally, he hit the release button and broke into the lyric (''Feel so good / Gonna boogie till the break of day'') that was the message of the song. When the record came out three weeks later, following right behind the Prisonaires', Sam Phillips felt like Sun Records was finally, really on the map.

Junior Parker held out greater hopes for the flip side, "Fussin' And Fightin' Blues", Little Junior strutted his sophisticated stuff and the band brought more than a touch of jazz styling to the backing, which reflected his predilection for urban, jazzy blues. However, to his surprise, it was "Feelin' Good" that became his first hit in October 1953. The record spent six weeks on the national charts during the summer of 1953, peaking at number 5. Billboards' supported Phillips' view "a wonderfully humorous and infectious southern blues... The beat and or work behind the singer is sensational".

FLOYD MURPHY - is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and knew and performed with many of Memphis' greats. He worked with blues harp man James Cotton (even before Cotton moved to Chicago), Little Junior Parker, Rufus Thomas, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, Johnny Ace, Willie Nix, Bobby ''Blue'' Bland, Roosevelt Sykes, and many others throughout the south. As a young guitar player on the Memphis music scene in the early 1950s, Murphy recorded classic sides with singer and harmonica player Little Junior Parker and The Blue Flames for Sam Phillips' Sun Records.

Floyd's tricky guitar playing on ''Feelin' Good'' (Sun 187) seems to actually sound like two guitar players. ''Mystery Train'' (Sun 192) also recorded at these sessions, was covered by Elvis Presley and became one of Elvis' most popular recordings of the 1950s.

"He (Floyd) had this tremendous ability to make the guitar sound like two guitars'', Sam Phillips remembers, an ability that was showcased on Parker's Sun debut. Floyd Murphy moved to Chicago in 1956, and after a couple of years in the Armed Forces, relocated to Cairo, Illinois, working with many of Cairo's fine rhythm and blues musicians which included Eddie Snow and the Snowflakes, as well as playing dates in the Chicagoland area.

In the early 1960s, Murphy recorded the VeeJay Records release of Birdlegs and Pauline's tune ''Spring'' which rose to number 18 on the rhythm and blues charts. For the next 30 years Murphy has continually performed throughout the midwest.

In 1990 Floyd collaborated with his brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy on the CD ''Way Down South'' for Antoine's Records in Austin Texas. Sadly Floyd Murphy suffered a debilitating stroke during the Super Bowl in 2002 just a few months after his brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy suffered his stroke.

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 15, 1953 MONDAY

Slim Whitman recorded ''North Wind'' at the KWKH Studio in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Capitol released Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky's ''A Dear John Letter''.

JUNE 17, 1953 WEDNESDAY

There is a story in the Nashville Banner which reported on Warden Edwards' talk to the Nashville Exchange Club on the subject of prison reform in general, its aim and effectiveness, with its effectiveness demonstrated ''by the prisoner quintet, which entertained, Exchange Club members. This group of Negro singers, which has already recorded several songs'', the paper reported approvingly, ''was loudly applauded by the civic club''.

JUNE 18, 1953 MONDAY

Martin Luther King Jr, marries Coretta Scott on the lawn of her parents' house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama.

JUNE 19, 1953 FRIDAY

Carl Smith recorded ''Satisfaction Guaranteed'' in a morning session at the Castle Studio in Nashville.

Pop singer Gwen Owens is born. She becomes a member of Hot, whose 1977 hit ''Angel In Your Arms'' is remade as a country hit by Barbara Mandrell in 1985.

JUNE 23, 1953 MONDAY

Pake McEntire is born in Chokie, Oklahoma. The older brother of Reba McEntire, he picks up a Top 10 hit of his own in 1986 with ''Savin' My Love For You''.

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR THEAUTRY TOT RANDOLPH
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: TUESDAY JUNE 23, 1953
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

The success of Jimmy Forrest's ''Night Train'' in 1952 extended hope to saxophonists everywhere. It seems to have inspired Raymond Hill's ''Long Gone Raymond'', and probably this track, too.

01 - "BLUES TRAIN" - B.M.I. - 2:34
Composer: - Theautry "Tot" Randolph
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - June 23, 1953
Released: - 1986
First appearance: - Charly Records (LP) 33rpm Sunbox 105 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1956
Reissued: - 1996 Charly Records (CD) 500/200rpm CDSUNBOX 7-5-16 mono
SUN RECORDS - THE BLUES YEARS 1950 - 1958

A rare sax instrumental outing as executed by Theautry "Tot" Randolph. There's plenty of energy and enthusiasm here as the "Blues Train" rolls along, although it must be admitted that the baritone sax is an unusual instrument to find occupying a solo role.

Here, Randolph's baritone is pretty impassioned in comparison to Raymond Hill's earlier tenor style - but compared with Willie Johnson's guitar work on this track, even Raymond is asleep at the wheel! Johnson literally tears the session apart, ranging from some fiery unison work to a solo lead-in which borders on the atonal.

Although not audible, alto man Charles Lloyd is credited with being on the session. Lloyd would have been fifteen at the time but was already an accomplished musician. If he's heard on this recording, it's probably in the cheerleader section. Twenty-five years later he would become the flower child of the jazz world.

02 - "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (WEARING BLACK)*" - 1 - B.M.I
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Sun Unissued
Recorded: - June 23, 1953

03 - "CHICKEN MAN (CHICK CHA LA CHA LA)" - B.M.I.
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None - Sun Unissued
Recorded: - June 23, 1953

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Tot Randolph - Vocal* & Baritone Saxophone
Charles Lloyd - Alto Saxophone
Willie Dodson - Tenor Saxophone
L.C. Hubert - Piano
Willie Johnson - Guitar
Tuff Green - Bass
Junior Blackmon – Drums

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

JUNE 26, 1953 FRIDAY

''The Marshall's Daughter'' opens, with Tex Ritter singing the title track and Jimmy Wakely making a cameo appearance.

Bass player Ralph Ezell is born in Union, Mississippi. As a member of Shenandoah, he plays a role in such hits as ''The Church On Cumberland Road'', ''Janie Baker's Love Slave'' and ''Two Dozen Roses''.

Columbia released Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper's ''Are You Walking And A-Talking For The Lord''. The recording is judged among country's 500 all-time greatest singles in the Country Music Foundation book ''Heartaches By The Number"..

Columbia released Carl Smith's ''Hey Joe!''.

JUNE 27, 1953 SATURDAY

Mercury released Rusty Draper's ''Gambler's Guitar''.

JUNE 29, 1953 MONDAY

Decca released Rex Allen's ''Crying In The Chapel''.

Capitol released Jimmy Heap's ''Release Me''.

JUNE 30, 1953 TUESDAY

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

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR RUFUS THOMAS
AT THE MEMPHIS RECORDING SERVICE FOR SUN RECORDS 1953

SUN RECORDING STUDIO
706 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
SUN SESSION: TUESDAY JUNE 30, 1953
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - SAM C. PHILLIPS

Gregarious and macho from day one as a recording artist, Rufus Thomas was thirty-six years old when he recorded the hormonal exclamation "Tiger Man (King Of The Jungle)". Freshly-scribed by Sun stablemate, Joe Hill Louis, "Tiger Man" maintained Rufus' creature feature theme that began with his rhythm and blues smash "Bear Cat", earlier in the year. Rolling tom toms, some wiry lead guitar and a set of chest beating howls added up to the kind of record that Rufus would play on his own radio show over WDIA, and he most likely did.

01 - "TIGER MAN (KING OF THE JUNGLE)" - B.M.I. - 2:46
Composer: - Joe Hill Louis-Sam Burns
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated - Knox Music Limited
Matrix number: - U 79 Master 
Recorded: - June 30, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single > Sun 188-A < mono
TIGER MAN / SAVE THAT MONEY
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-25 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

By this stage Rufus' menagerie was beginning to stock up, although thankfully, the funky chicken was still more than a decade away! Joe Hill Louis and Sam Burns (aka Sam Phillips) were clearly hoping they were wearing their hit makers' hats when they concocted this one, whilst Murphy contributes a rather tasty repetitive guitar licks (which (*) Elvis Presley would copy note-for-note fifteen years later) and an effective, primitive solo. Once again Rufus Thomas comes across as an engaging personality - but a somewhat limited singer, with ragged timing. Surprisingly, the disc failed to chart, and Rufus Thomas moved on to recording for Sam Phillips' local competitor Lester Bihari, at Meteor Records.

(*) In 1968 when Elvis Presley filmed his comeback 68' TV Special ''Elvis'', he revived ''Tiger Man'', replicating Louis's guitar licks as closely he could. It was dropped from the show and the accompanying LP, but soon appeared on a budget LP. The likeliest scenario is that Phillips had given to to him in 1954 or 1955, suggesting that he might like to cover it for Sun. Introducing the song on-stage in 1970, Elvis said, ''This was my second record, 'cept no one got to hear it''. Louis would have benefited if Elvis had revived it in 1954 (he might even have made enough for the tetanus shot that would have saved his life), but he wasn't around to collect his share of the 1970s bounty.

02 - "SAVE THAT MONEY" - B.M.I. - 2:41
Composer: - Rufus Thomas
Publisher: - Delta Music Incorporated - Tristian Music Limited
Matrix number: - U 80 Master
Recorded: - June 30, 1953
Released: - July 8, 1953
First appearance: - Sun Records (S) 78/45rpm standard single  > Sun 188-B < mono
SAVE THAT MONEY / TIGER MAN
Reissued: - 1994 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 15801-1-26 mono
THE SUN SINGLES COLLECTION - VOLUME 1

Fun-lovin, frivolous and wildly eccentric, Rufus Thomas was unquestionably the clown prince of Sun Records. All of these attributes were on display when we met up in his hometown of Memphis, where he held court and played, as only he could, to the assembled gallery. Even so, there was another side to the man. When the circumstances were correct, Rufus would sidestep the waggish nature of his recordings and settle down into a more mellow frame of mind as can be educed here below.

03 - ''INTERVIEW (SAVE THAT MONEY)" B.M.I. - 1:09
Released: - 2002
First appearance: - Sanctuary Records (CD) 500/200rpm FBUBX002-8-5 mono
50 GOLDEN YEARS 1952 - 2002

Was standard urban blues fare. For once, Billboard was on target when it observed on September 26, 1953, "Its good advice but not a noteworthy record". This remains Thomas' finest city blues, and a welcome respite from the novelties which brought him such fame and success. Note that the lyric refers to the Depression of 1929-1930, and updates a traditional theme. Thomas sings with confidence, and the band is in splendid from with Floyd Murphy etching a guitar pattern over the riffing sax of James Wheeler.

Rufus again shows what a good straight singer he could be, really opening out to shout the pain of the lyric that remembered the Depression era, "when times were hard". Perhaps this was not the message people wanted to hear twenty years later. Certainly, the reviewer for Billboard was unimpressed, saying of the title, "It's good advice, but not a noteworthy record". Actually, it was a rather good one but destined to be lost in the shadow of "Bear Cat" and "Tiger Man".

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

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Rufus Thomas - Vocal
Floyd Matt Murphy - Guitar
James Wheeler - Tenor Saxophone
William "Struction" Bill Johnson - Piano
Kenneth Banks - Bass
Houston Stokes - Drums

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

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

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

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, 18 NOVEMBER 1986
Rufus Thomas talking to Dave Booth.

03 - "RUFUS THOMAS ON "DADDY COOL" SHOW - B.M.I. - 10:05
Released: - 2008
First appearance: - Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-29 mono
RUFUS THOMAS – THE SUN YEARS PLUS

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

Not long after Rufus Thomas's "Tiger Man" came out, Rufus was a usual deeply involved in radio WDIA's showpiece event of the year. Billboard of November 7, announced plans for the station's "Fifth annual Goodwill Revue for Handicapped Negro Children (which) will present one of the strongest spiritual and rhythm and blues talent line-ups ever. A crowd of up to 60,000 (probably a typo for 6000) is expected to fill the Ellis Auditorium on December 4 to see B.B. King, Loyd Price, Muddy Waters, Eddie Boyd, Little Walter, Helen Thompson, the Soul Stirrers, and WDIA personalities Alex Bradford, the Caravans, Rufus Thomas, Moohah, the Spirit of Memphis Quarter, the Southern Wonders and Al Jackson's band.

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

One of the Starmaker discs featured Rufus's fellow WDIA disc jockey and announcer, A. C. Moohah' Williams, who had the ''Wheelin'' On Beale show. Williams was still a biology teacher at Manassas High School when he started at WDIA in 1949, but he soon became the first full time black employee of the station working on promotion and organisation of events as well as hosting shows. He set up the Teen Town Singers group that changed personnel each year to include the best talent from all seven of the local black High Schools.

We have included his recordings, because it features a band of musicians led by tenor saxophonist Bill Fort that often worked with Rufus Thomas, and because it adds another chapter to the 'Answer' song saga in Memphis.

Moohah's comical song ''All Shook Out'' seems to have been the 'Answer' to Faye Adams' number one rhythm and blues hit ''Shake A Hand'' on Herald. Adams' disc had entered the charts that August and stayed for five months.

In their response, Moohah and Mattis had clearly taken the blueprint from ''Bear Cat'', perhaps hoping that Starmaker could be launched into serious competition with Sun. The song may also have had secondary reference to the glad-handing that went on during the annual WDIA Goodwill Revue.

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

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

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

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

Jim Stewart was a bank teller and part-time country fiddle player when he set up Satellite Records in Memphis in 1958 with his sister, Estelle Axton. They started with country music and then had an rhythm and blues group record by the Vel Tones that Rufus played on WDIA in 1959. Then on day in the spring of 1960, Rufus turned up at Stewart's new studio on McLemore Avenue pitching a song written by his daughter, Carla. ''Cause I Love You'' was recorded as a duet by Rufus and Carla and it became a small hit on Satellite 102 that summer. Carla's song ''Gee Whiz'' became a top ten rhythm and blues and popular hit the following year, by when the label had become Stax Records.

In January 1963 Stax released Rufus Thomas singing ''The Dog'', a dance tune he'd worked up after watching a girl dancing at a show in Millington. Tennessee. The song made number 22 in the rhythm and blues charts and was followed the next year by ''Walking The Dog'', a number five rhythm and blues hit that also made the popular top ten in November 1963. It had taken ten years, but the entertaining man with the animal songs was back - and bigger than ever.

Rufus had other hits at Stax, but often said he didn't really fit into their operation. ''I wasn't happy with the material they kept coming up with. They are great guys but they can't write or produce the song I need. The MGs are incredibly talented musicians but they have their style and they tended to imprint it too heavily on my recordings''. Nevertheless, in 1970 he had another number five rhythm and blues hit with another improvised dance tune, this time made up at a club in Covington, Tennessee, titled ''Do The Funky Chicken''. Then at the start of 1971 Rufus registered his first number one rhythm and blues hit with ''Do The Push And Pull''. It was followed with the almost as successful number two hit ''The Breakdown''. He continued to register smaller hits well into the 1970s, twenty-five years after he had started his recording career, and to make well-received CD albums for many years after that.

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

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

Rufus continued on Memphis radio with WDIA, then WLOK, and then WDIA again into the 1990s. He became the keeper of the blues flame, but he was open to other music. "I played it all on my show. My family and I were raised on the Grand Ole Opry. Every Saturday night we'd run home to catch the Opry on the radio. So you can understand why I played Elvis Presley and I was the only black jock in the city that was playing the Beatles and Rolling Stones when they came out''. Rufus appeared in various movies, from ''Wattstax'' in 1973 to ''Great Balls Of Fire'' in 1989 and ''Only The Strong Survive'', a D. A. Pennebaker film about rhythm and blues musicians. Pennebaker said: ''You knew he was an old person, but he acted like a 16 year old. He was always full of funny takes on things and he always gave the impression he was a goofball. But when he talked about the music, you realised he knew a lot''.

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

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

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

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

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

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

STUDIO SESSION FOR RUFUS THOMAS
AT RADIO STATION WDIA 1950s

WDIA STUDIO
2074 UNION AVENUE, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
STUDIO SESSION: UNKNOWN DATES 1950'S
SESSION HOURS: UNKNOWN
PRODUCER AND RECORDING ENGINEER - UNKNOWN

01 - INTRO PATTER TO "SEPIA SWING CLUB" - B.M.I. - 0:32
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1950s
Released: - 2005
First appearance: - WDIA Records (S) 78rpm WDIA 7208 mono
WDIA - HISTORY, THE MUSIC, THE LEGEND
Reissued: - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-23 mono
RUFUS THOMAS – THE SUN YEARS PLUS

02 - ADVERTISEMENT FOR "PINK PUSSYCAT WINE" - B.M.I. - 1:10
Composer: - Unknown
Publisher: - Copyright Control
Matrix number: - None
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1950s
Released: - 2005
First appearance: - WDIA Records (S) 78rpm WDIA 7208 mono
WDIA - HISTORY, THE MUSIC, THE LEGEND
Reissued: - 2008 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 16695-24 mono
RUFUS THOMAS – THE SUN YEARS PLUS

Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
Rufus Thomas - Vocal

Original radio excerpts courtesy of Tim Davies, Radio WDIA, Memphis, Tennessee.

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

WDIA RADIO - On June 7, 1947, WDIA radio station started as a pop and country station in Memphis, located at 2074 Union Avenue, and changed to a black music format the following year. The station was used by David James Mattis to record Bobby "Blue" Bland, Rosco Gordon, Junior Parker, and Johnny Ace for the Duke label, had a minuscule output of 250 watts. Even though it remained under white management by John R. Pepper and Bert Ferguson, WDIA - and to a lesser extent KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, and WLOK, also in Memphis - gave daily exposure to the artists and their competitors.

Their principal medium was the fifteen-minute sponsored live show, a format that spawned B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and many more. The following year, however, Bert Ferguson shrewdly recognized that blacks were being ignored by local radio. He approached black businessmen with an idea for a black-oriented musical format, and they agreed to advertise.

When Nat D. Williams was hired, the station began its transition into a major blues force. A 50,000 watt transmitter turned it into one of the pre-eminent radio stations in the South. After Rufus Thomas also went to work as a discjockey, the station not only became more popular, but the black community responded with strong support.

JUNE 1953

T-Bone Walker recorded "Call It Stormy Monday". Jackie Robinson breaks major league baseball colour line.

In many way, things couldn't have been going better. The Sun record company was making more and more of a name for itself. Sam Phillips finally owned his own home, and at the end of June he put $1,050 into the radio station in order to shore up their application for an FCC (Federal Communications Commission) hearing. They had a $75,000 letter of credit from the First National Bank of Memphis, and, in an impressive feat of creative bookkeeping, Sam Phillips was able to declare a net worth of $12,600, which included $8,200 for equipment and $1,500 (minus $300 still owed) for Jackie Brenston's bus. Sam's partner, Jim Bulleit, who proposed calling the station WBEE (''Before You say no'', he wrote to Sam on May 13, ''listen to some of the ideas for promotion and publicity''), had a little harder time coming up with a comparable net worth (he included $3,000 of household furniture to reach a figure of $10,500) and, at Sam's prompting, put together a resume that underscored his extensive experience in radio as well as whatever ''civic affiliations that you can point to with pride, with emphasis on the sympathetic understanding of the problems of the Negro''.

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

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©