JOHN WILLIAM (JUD) PHILLIPS - was born in 1921 and lived his early life in Alabama before joining the Marines where he served as a Master Sergeant
in the South Pacific for four years during the Second World War. After the war, he stayed on the west coast for a while and worked in artist promotion with a number of big names including Jimmy Durante. Eventually he found his way back home, and by the time
Sun Records was formed in 1952 and then relaunched in 1953 he was on hand to help get the label off the ground. Sam Phillips said: ''Jud played a very important part in the early stages of Sun Records.
He kidded everybody about being the world's greatest promotion man, and that wasn't altogether incorrect. But Jud had a versatile mind. He would love to get too many things going at the same time for his own good''.
In 1953, Jud and Nashville music businessman Jim Bulleit each put up a third share in the capital that enabled the relaunch of the Sun label, and they both went on the road promoting records
and artists while Sam Phillips concentrated on recording them. Jud and Sam had a close but combative relationship.
They both believed in the concept of Sun and their
religious upbringing found expression in how the label promoted the underdog a lot of times, Jud wrote in a letter to Sam from Nashville on July 28, 1953, about the singing group, the Prisonaires, that recorded for Sun even while they were inmates of the state
penitentiary: ''I get a great joy out of helping people that I think really appreciate it, and I know you do too'. But business was always business, and in another letter written on August 23, 1954, from radio WJOI in Florence, Alabama - on a letterhead with
the slogan 'almost everyone under the Sun listens to... .WJOI'' - Jud was seeking $800 owed to him by Sam. Jud wondered: "Perhaps you have overlooked it? I'm going to the bank in the morning to borrow enough to get by on until I hear from you". A year later,
the exchange was still continuing, and Sam wrote to Jud: ''I will pay when I can, even though I know there is no way to get out with a dollar".
That conviction proved
incorrect, of course, when Sun was able to pay its debts with the sale of Elvis Presley's contract and to start to develop into a big player on the recording scene with the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Jud Phillips was involved in
transporting all of these artists way beyond their rural routes and onto national TV and international music sales. In particular, he worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, whom he saw as a major star. Jud was responsible for the promotion strategy that led to Lewis's
success, and he later advised and helped manage Lewis for many years in the 1960s and 1970s. He stood by Lewis after the teenage bride scandal and, according to his nephew, Johnny Phillips: "Uncle Jud was maybe the only person Jerry Lee Lewis ever really trusted''.
His nephew, Knox Phillips said: "In a time before there was a definition for a promotion man, Jud was the person that people patterned themselves after. I never met a single person that
didn't like him, from industry people to the artists. He was the consummate charismatic communicator. The techniques that he developed in the fifties are still being used. Maybe refined a little, but I doubt it''.
But those techniques involved money: Jud Phillips was a stylish dresser, and an epic wheeler-dealer - a man with an eye for the main chance. He once joked to Sun recording artist Billy Riley, ''when I'm gone,
it'll take every accountant in Tennessee to straighten out all my deals."
Jud told in 1973, some fifteen years after the event: ''The Judd label came about when Sam and
I had a real separation of the ways, based on Jerry Lee Lewis. And, then, the payola investigations were just under way at that time, and a lot of people thought that I had paid disc jockeys and different people to help us promote artists and so forth, haven't
been an angel - but I don't think I've ever done anything wrong in the industry, because t don't see that I've promoted anybody that's been bad for the industry''.
the Judd label came about - there were a bunch of moneyed people, people that had a lot of money They wanted me to divorce myself from the shackles of Sam and to get into it myself and they put up all the money I think they put up. I believe it was a million
dollars, and they gave me one third of it to produce and to merchandise and all. Al McLendon, he was a doctor - there were three doctors in it, Dr McLendon, Dr Maxwell, and Dr Wright. I can't think of all the people. Anyhow, they put the money up and gave
me no questions at all. Sun had nothing whatsoever to do with Judd Records. At that time, Sun was Sam, and he's never had a hit since I left the Sun company. He's never got in the charts. We cut 11 - no, we cut 14 masters on the Judd label and we had 11 pick
hits in 'Billboard' - he was insanely jealous''.
The reality was similar to Jud's exposition, but not quite as well funded or as successful as Jud remembered it. He ran
the label out of his home in Alabama at first, although his records carried the impressive strapline "Judd Records - New York, Muscle Shoals, Hollywood''. It seems that somehow the label designer got their wires crossed with Jud and the result was a record
label called Judd and not Jud. Charlie Terrell said "Jud's brother, Tom Phillips, set up the distribution for the Judd label and he was very much involved with that''. The label had issued at least seven and possibly fifteen singles - none of them earth shattering
- before Ray Smith turned upon Judd 1016 in August 1959. The first was Judd 1001 by Bobby Denton, a recent high school graduate from Cherokee, just outside Florence, later a local politician and businessman but then singing about going ''Back To School'' and
''Sweet And Innocent'', the very song that Roy Orbison would cover within a matter of weeks in his RCA debut, it was reviewed in the trade press on August 25, 1958.
Jud discs included ''The Creels'' with ''Do You Wanna Jump'', Mark Taylor with Linda Lou, and Morris Simmons, a protege of bandleader Pee Wee Maddux with ''Sharlene''. In May 1959 came a rare solo outing by Sun's session guitarist extraordinaire, Roland Janes,
''Guitarville'', underlining the fact that Bill Justis was now involved with production work for Judd Records. Justis was known for slanguage that tended to put "ville"at the end of everything. There were other discs by Bobby Denton among Jud Phillips' roster
of Alabama, Memphis, and Nashville artists. There was also the strange case of Judd 1007, Curley Money singing ''Gonna Rock'', because that disc gave the label's address as 812 161 Ave South Nashville.
It took a little time for Ray Smith to enter the Judd Records story. Charlie Terrell eventually secured his release from his contract with Sun and, according to Terrell: ''There was a song called ''Rockin' Little Angel'' that
Jud heard by a band of four black boys from Mobile, Alabama. They had it on a little disc down there, called ''Rock And Roll Angel''. Jud told me about it and soon after when it was in Mobile I heard it too. So we decided it was right for Ray to record, but
my wife, Joanne Terrell, changed the song to ''Rockin' Little Angel''. The idea was to soften it a little, as we all thought that the harder rock and roll wouldn't last. Jud paid $600 to hire RCA studio B in Nashville and we had Chet Atkins and Grady Martin,
Bob Moore, Floyd Cramer, all the top players, and the Jordanaires singing back-up. Bill Justis was the engineer - I was the one who loaned him the money to move to Nashville from Memphis. We recorded ''Rockin' Little Angel'' and ''That's All Right'' and after
we'd done it Chet Atkins liked the songs so much he called Steve Sholes at RCA head office and they wanted to buy the tapes. Jud wouldn't let them go. though. He had faith in Ray Smith''.
According to Jud's son, also named Jud, "Chet Atkins called Steve Sholes and said he had a talent in the studio on a rental session that was worth looking at for RCA. Sholes reportedly called my father and offered $10, 000 advance to Smith
and that RCA would take over the sessions from that point. Apparently my father turned down the offer''.
However, Jud Phillips did go for an alternative deal involving
Bill Lowery's National Recording Corporation out of Atlanta, Georgia. Jud issued an initial pressing of Judd 1016, ''Rockin' Little Angel'' and ''That's All Right'' at his own expense, and it was reviewed in the trade press in August 1959. When the record
started to hit, all subsequent copies bore the legend -'Subsidiary of National Recording Corp Atlanta'. Charlie Terrell remembered it this way: ''I instigated the deal where NRC became involved with Judd Records. I knew Bill Lowery pretty good, and told him
about Ray Smiths abilities and the great new record he had on Judd. So Bill called Jud and wanted to get involved. Lowery and NRC paid for all Ray's Judd sessions after the first one, and they were all made at RCA in Nashville''.
Bill Lowery had just started in the record business having emerged from the radio and publishing businesses and he was on his way to building a real music empire in Atlanta. By 1970, the Lowery group of music
publishing companies was the second largest measured in 'Billboard' chart hits. Lowery's catalog included ''Young Love''. ''Games People Play'', ''Dizzy'', ''Walk On By'', and many others by his stable of artists and writers including Joe South, Tommy Roe,
Jerry Reed. Ray Stevens, The Tams, Ric Cartey, Kenny Hayes, Billy Joe Royal, and a host of others. Even Lowery's vice president was named Mary Tallent! In 1970, 'Billboard' reported: "The Bill Lowery complex is about as complex as a complex can be'', and described
Lowery as "the unquestioned head of commercial music in Atlanta... and a man who simply doesn't know how to slow down''.
Lowery was from Leesburg. Louisiana, born in
1924, and he had lived and worked in radio variously in California, then Shreveport, Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, and Elizabethton, Tennessee by the time he was 23 years old. In Elizabethton at WBET he became the youngest radio station
manager in the country in 1947. In 1949 he helped set up the programming format of a new station. WQXI in Atlanta, and in 1951 he was on the much bigger Atlanta station, WGST where one of his many roles was as Uncle Ebeneezer Brown, a country character and
disc jockey. While doing this he began developing and booking talent, and from there he got into publishing with his musician partner Dennis 'Boots' Woodall, starting with a gospel song by Joseph 'Cotton' Carrier. Lowery soon developed a link with Capitol
Records producer Ken Nelson. In 1956, he picked up the publishing on Gene Vincent's ''Be-Bop-A-Lula'', and didn't look back.
In 1957 Lowery started to dabble in recording
with the Fox label and the Stars label, recording at WGST. In March 1958, he set up National Recording Corp. and started issuing discs on the NRC label. 'Billboard' reported: "A new label N.R.C. (which stands for National Recording Corporation) has been setup
in Atlanta, Georgia. by Bill Lowery. Latter is the publisher of such recent hits as ''Be-Bop-A-Lula'', ''First Date, First Kiss'', and ''Young Love''. Lowery has already cut his firms first release with youngster Paul Peek, formerly of Gene Vincent's Blue
Caps''. Lowery had a recording studio in Atlanta in a former school building. He soon set up the Scottie and Jax labels, and diversified his operations, setting up a publishing office in Nashville (1958 to 1961), a distribution operation in Birmingham (from
April 1959), and a record pressing plant in Atlanta. It was at this time that he started taking on other record labels for pressing and distribution.
On October 5, 1959,
'Billboard' announced'. "The NRC record company here (Atlanta) has just purchased Jud Phillips' Jud label, which currently has a promising single in Ray Smith's ''That's All Right''. Phillips is joining NRC's offices here and will work on promotion for both
Judd and NRC labels."
It seems that Jud did a pretty good job of promoting Ray Smith. By January 22, 1960, ''Rockin' Little Angel'' was at number 22 in the national popular
sales charts. On the back of the hit, Smith's band was renamed the Rockin' Little Angels and Jud was again able to get him some good TV exposure and prestigious show dates. Ray Smith appeared on 'American Bandstand' and a number of one-nighter tours for Dick
Clark, Charlie Terrell described Jud at work: "When he was promoting Ray Smith to TV producers or show promoters, Jud Phillips used to say if you think Jackie Wilson's a talent, then you ought to see Ray Smith''. Smith himself said, on a live recording made
in 1962, '"Rockin' Little Angel'' did pretty good for me, due to payola".
Jud Phillips recycled a big tour bus that he had bought for Jerry Lee Lewis at the height of
his initial success. Jud's son felt that "Jud - my father b- conceived and built the first customised rock and roll tour bus which he used to promote Ray Smith. It was fully equipped with shower stereo system throughout. TV. telephone. comfortably slept eight:
this was unheard of in 1959". Ray Smith certainly appreciated the bus. In later years he described it as 'having running hot maids and water, "while his wife looked back on it as "a whorehouse on wheels".
How appropriate, then that the next release on Judd Records was Ray Smith's version of ''Put Your Arms Around Me Honey'', Judd 1017, issued in the spring of 1960 and reviewed in Billboard' that April. It was recorded on February
23, 1960 at the first of three sessions funded by NRC for Judd. Charlie Terrell remembered them well: "I attended all Ray's recording sessions in those early years. Never missed a one. I was a bit older than Ray, but we were very friendly from the start and
I treated him like he was my son. Our families were real close, and for years, everything he did, I was there. They called us the 'Missouri Mafia''.
''Put Your Arms Around
Me Honey'' was backed by a ballad, ''Maria Elena'', and it made its way slowly to just number 71 on the popular charts by May 1960. According to the recording logs of bass player Bob Moore, demo sessions had been held on February 1, for three hours, for which
Moore was paid $30, and on February 9, for one hour. The master sessions were on Tuesday February 23 at 7.00 pm followed by another at 11:30, both of which ran over the allotted three hour timeslots. The session included a number of other songs including the
ones chosen for Ray Smith's third Judd single, Judd 1019 issued in June 1960, which coupled One Wonderful Love with It Makes Me Feel Good. This one was a good pop-rock record but it failed to make the charts at all.
Smith was still in demand for live performances though, based on his own talent and the promotional work of Jud Phillips. Charlie Terrell confirmed: ''In the days when he was with Judd and Sun. Ray was on some
rock 'n roll package shows, but he was a showman in his own right. He could carry a show himself. He was playing some very big and very nice night clubs, and we took him out to Vegas. He played the Golden Nugget and so on''.
In October 1960 came Ray's fourth and final single, Judd 1021, ''Blonde Hair Blue Eyes'' and ''You Don't Trust Me'', and an LP called ''Travelin With Ray'', Judd LP 701. This single and some of the album tracks
were made on Tuesday March 15, 1960 in two sessions at RCA, one at 8:00pm and another night session at 11:00pm. Once again, these sessions were produced by Bill Justis.
LP collected most of Ray's singles alongside some unissued songs. Overall, it reveals a man working within the parameters of rock and roll and the softening sounds of 1960 popular music, but who was nevertheless capable of a wide range of good music. Rockers
like ''That's All Right'', and Charlie Rich's ''Rebound'' sit well alongside catchy and classy soft rockers and Dean Martin-inspired ballads that included ''You Don't Want Me, You Make Me Feel Good'' and ''I'll Be Coming Home''. Smith benefitted at this time
from the contacts Bill Justis and Bill Lowery had with a number of good young songwriters, including Marijohn Wilkin and Ray Stevens.
There were to be no more Ray Smith
discs on Judd, however. Despite Smith's hits and two successful discs by Tommy Roe in 1960, including the big hit ''Sheila'' (spelled ''Shiela'' on the record label), Bill Lowery's NRC operation went bankrupt. It was caught in the well-known trap of being
unable to collect funds from distributors fast enough to keep up with the outgoings. Lowery ran other small labels later, and guitarist Stanley Walker recorded a single on the Lowery Records label, but in the main Bill Lowery decided to focus on publishing
as his main business, Jud Phillips decided to stick to artist promotion and other acivities outside music, and Charlie Terrell was left looking for another deal for Ray Smith.
found a potentially big deal in March 1961 with Infinity Records, based in California and part of the Howard Hughes empire. Bill Justis produced two Nashville sessions for the label but the promises of a big promotional push for Ray never came to fruition
and soon Terrell was again looking fora new deal.
He found one in the summer of 1961 - Ray Smith was back at Sun Records for a second time. Probably he was not displeased
to have a crack at being on Sun in its new Nashville phase. When asked once what he remembered most about being on Sun, he replied, simply, "Happiness, parties, etc'. On October 24, 1961 at ten in the evening he went into Sam Phillips' Nashville studio and
worked all night, recording four songs that appeared on his last two Sun singles. Charlie Terrell remembered it well. "When Ray went back to Sun Records after Judd, we used the new studio in Nashville. Sam owned and built the studio, and Sam was there at the
session, though we still had Bill Justis producing and engineering. He had Billy Sherrill as his electrician and helper. It was a good session with a lot of fine musicians. Pig Robbins was the pianist, and Bob Moore was the bass player''.
Sun 372 was issued on November 21, 1961, and teamed the catchy mid-tempo tale about the exploits of the ''Travlin' Salesman'' with the sincere and measured ballad ''I Won't Miss You Til
You Go''. Less than three months later, on February 9, 1962, came Sun 375 which contained two more good contenders for pop success in Candy Doll and Hey Boss Man. Neither of Ray's last two Sun discs fared very well in the marketplace and Charlie Terrell was
soon back out there looking for another deal. He found a small one, with Roland Janes Rita Records in Memphis, and a potentially bigger one with Vee-Jay in Chicago.
worked out well, and Ray next did the rounds, to Warner Bros., Smash, Tollie, Celebrity Circle, and Diamond. Around 1966 the options dried up and Smith made three singles for BC, a label owned by Charlie Terrell himself, By now, Smith had long since lost his
guitarist, Stanley Walker, who went to work for singer Jean Shepard appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and the 'Hee Haw' TV show.
In 1967, Ray Smith decided to move his
family to Burlington, Ontario to play the club circuit in southeastern Canada. He was disillusioned with recording and found Ontario a better base for touring in the northern part of the USA. He said that it gave him better media exposure too: "I had TV shows
all over Canada. on Channel 9. Toronto. Channel 11 Hamilton and Ottawa Channel 12''.
His music was now moving back towards country. He recorded into the 1970s on another
string of labels, from Caravan to Corona, and on to Zirkon and Celebrity Circle. In 1972 he had a small hit on Nashville's hot label, Cinnamon, but it was then that his long association with Charlie Terrell ended. According to Terrell: "Ray was making good
money playing good clubs and venues, and he was driving Cadillacs - but his biggest fault was that he didn't want to get out and do any promotional work, I continued to manage him even after he moved borne to Canada but I was unable to get him to follow up
on the good opportunities we had. I was busy with other things and couldn't chase him all round the country and we just had to drop out of that arrangement. Ray was always a drinker - but it got more and more as time went on''. Ray's step brother, Don Hindman,
said: "Ray had talent, but he just wouldn't leave the booze alone''.
Ray Smith ended his recording career several years later on small Canadian labels like Wix and Boot.
By then, he was recording for the rock and roll revival market and combining his own songs with interpretations of songs by Presley, Lewis, and the other big leaguers. Originally a rhythm guitarist on stage, Ray had always played piano too, though not on records,
and he now started to make the piano more of a feature in his act. Reviewing an album on Wix, writer Bill Millar found. 'Smith pounds the piano with a ferociousness fit to upset the Richter Scale, and his under-developed sense of accuracy - on a par with Esquerita
- simply adds to the fun''.
In 1978 and 1979, Smith toured the revival scene in England and other countries in Europe. It was to mixed reviews. In London, too much beer
consumed before a show found Bill Millar among an audience suffering "fluffed words, unexpected screams and general ineptness.., he tried to kick the piano stool and missed.... a unique theatrical experience''. Yet other shows from the period were a resounding
success and, on his more sober days, it was still easy in the late 1970s to see through the years and back to the real Ray Smith - the man who had so impressed Charlie Terrell and Sam and Jud Phillips. The man with one of the best and most adept voices in
popular music, the man with the ability to sell a song both on record and on stage, the showman who was at home with the piano or the guitar, and with the music of the million dollar quartet or the ratpack. The man with a line in witty or sarcastic quips,
and with a desire to succeed.
Success in Ray Smith's personal life came and went the same way it did in his career. On November 29, 1979, he went to visit his estranged
wife, Lillie, apparently to talk about him coming back home. The conversation didn't go well. According to Charlie Terrell: "After he was in Canada, Ray was popping pills as well as drinking. He committed suicide after he came back from a tour. He'd been on
prozac from a doctor, and he had these personal problems. He'd been messing around with a secretary near Hamilton, Ontario and he came off tour to see his wife to get her back. She took him back many times before, but this time she wouldn't do it. He was depressed
- he couldn't stand any kind of rejection. He took a gun from the drawer and shot himself. Their son was right there in the house''. Terrell was one of the pallbearers at Ray Smith's funeral on December 2, 1979.
The Phillips brothers survived Ray Smith by over one and two decades respectively. Jud Phillips died on July 20, 1992 in Memphis, from throat cancer. He had continued in some aspects of artist promotion for many years after
giving up Judd Records as well as running a number of other businesses including a bottling plant in his home town of Florence, Alabama. Sam Phillips died in July 2003 in Memphis. Bill Lowery died in Atlanta in 2004.
The last link to Ray Smith and the Rock & Roll Boys is manager Charlie Terrell, and the last active member was Stanley Walker, whose band was still advertised in the 'Paducah Sun in 2006, playing local fairs
and old peoples tea dances. Not a fate that Ray Smith would have aspired to, and not one the highly talented, highly strung, and intermittently focused singer was ever likely to have achieved.
Toward the middle of the week, Sun secretary Barbara Barnes was beginning to feel frustrated. Still no Sam. Almost every
day musicians would be in the studio playing sometimes rehearsing tunes with our unofficial house band, other times, Jack Clement might be having a session with musicians she didn’t recognize. Back in her office, she could hear and almost feel through
the walls the bass going ''thump, thump'', a sound that got integrated into her nervous system through her years at Sun. There wasn't much drinking during the daytime, but often she could tell from the wastebaskets in the morning that there were some festive
night sessions going on.
It was after one of these that Regina Reese and Barbara Barnes came in one morning to find Jack Clement looking disheveled and obviously drunk,
having spent the entire night with the musicians in the studio. The other guys had left, but Jack was sitting at Sally Wilbourn desk and in the mood to talk. He and Regina had dated before Barbara came to Sun, so their relationship was sometimes a little edgy.
She looked at him warily as he talked of one thing and another, occasionally pausing to sing s phrase of a song. He had a tic that made one of his eyes blink off and on. Then he addressed Barbara. ''Barbara Barnes'', he said. He said again. ''B.B. That's your
name, I'm going to call you B.B.'', and then he started to muse about what he wanted to do that day. The girls were paying half-attention until he said what he wanted to do was have sex. But he hated to get all cleaned up, call a girl, take her out, and go
through all that routine. He just wanted to have sex. Barbara hadn't heard a guy speak his thoughts quite so bluntly before, but Regina and Barbara both just nodded. Then Jack looked to Barbara and said, ''Do you ever wake up horny? Wait, let me give you my
phone number''. He tore a little pink slip from Sally's phone pad and wrote down his phone number. ''You cab call me any morning. Just call that number. Barbara said, ''Thank you, Jack''.
Then Jack got up and left. The girls didn't hear of any accidents or arrests, so the girls assumed he made it home to sleep it off. By late afternoon Jack was back, refreshed, ready to get back at the task of finding songs and talent, making
recordings like a good A&R man.
JANUARY 13, 1958 MONDAY
After three months
on the air, ''The Guy Mitchell Show'' is telecast for the final time on ABC. The theme is a song associated with Marty Robbin's ''Singing The Blues''.
JANUARY 14, 1958
''Don't Fence Me In'' songwriter Cole Porter enters New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital with an infection in his leg bones.
JANUARY 15, 1958 WEDNESDAY
Elvis Presley recorded ''Hard Headed Woman'' for the movie ''King Creole'' at Radio Recorders,
7000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.
Keyboard player Kurt Howell is born in Winter Haven, Florida. He joins breezy West Coast band Southern Pacific,
which hits the top 10 four times during the late-1980s, reaching number 2 with ''New Shade Of Blue''.