Alphabetical order by the last name of the Artist

Artists I - J

- Isle, Jimmy -

- Jackson, George Henry -
- Jackson, Handy (Gaylord ''Gay'' Garth) -
- Janes, Roland -
- Jenkins, Harold -
- Jesters, The -
- Johnson, Mary -
- Johnson, Sherman -
- Johnson, Willie -
- Jones Brothers, The -
- Justis, Bill -


ISLE, JIMMY - Jimmy Isle and his brother Ronnie grew up in Nashville. They wrote many songs together: Jimmy has 39 entries in the B.M.I database (almost all of them co-written with his brother) and Ronnie 69. As a singer, Jimmy first appeared on the scene in 1957, with "Stay By My Side"/ "Baby-O" on the Chicago-based Bally label. The next year he recorded what is probably his best rocker, "Goin' Wild" for Morris Levy's Roulette label (4065). Written by Ronnie Isle, "Goin' Wild" featured a group called The Southlanders on vocal backup, as well as some excellent work from the lead guitarist.

A few months later, Ronnie Isle came up with an interesting rocking instrumental, "Wicked"/"Bad Sunburn" on MGM 12682, credited to Ron Isle and the Blisters. At some point in 1958, Jimmy recorded "Diamond Ring" and "I've Been Waitin'" at a demo studio, Fidelity Recording, in Nashville. Fidelity was owned by Gary Walker, a songwriter from Springfield, Missouri. Walker leased these masters to Sun Records in October 1958, and Sun picked up Isle's contract. The most obvious selling feature of "Diamond Ring" (Sun 306) and Isle's other releases was a rhythmic hook.

After being signed to Sun, Jimmy was brought to Memphis to record one session (produced by Jack Clement) from which two singles were drawn. The backing was supplied by Billy Riley (guitar), Pat O'Neill (bass), Tommy Ross (drums), Charlie Rich (piano) and Martin Willis (sax). "Without A Love"/"Time Will Tell" (Sun 318) was released in March 1959 and, like "Diamond Ring" was geared to the white teenage market. Billboard assigned both sides a three star rating, crediting Isle with singing "with spirit and style". In honesty, Jimmy's three Sun singles were not among the greatest music the legendary label released, and the third one, "What A Life"/"Together" (Sun 332) was easily the least effective of the lot, softened as it was by sweet girl voices. It stiffed big time, thereby ending Isle's one y ear association with the label. Jimmy moved to the Everest label, on which he had three singles released (1959-60). After a slight lull, he turned up on Mala in 1963 and on Diamond in 1964, after which he disappeared. His brother Ronnie had releases on Metro (1959), Image (1960) and Warwick (1961) and later died in a car wreck. According to Hank Davis, Jimmy is still living in Nashville.


JACKSON, GEORGE HENRY - was an American rhythm & blues, rock and soul songwriter and singer. His prominence was as a prolific and skilled songwriter; he wrote or co-wrote many hit songs for other musicians, including "One Bad Apple", "Old Time Rock And Roll" and "The Only Way Is Up". As a southern soul singer he recorded a mere 15 singles between 1963 and 1985, with some success. Jackson was born on March 12, 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi, and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He started writing songs while in his teens, and in 1963 introduced himself to Ike Turner.

Turner took him to Cosimo Matassa's studios in New Orleans to record "Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me" for his Prann label, but it was not successful. Jackson then traveled to Memphis to promote his songs, but was rejected by Stax before helping to form vocal group The Ovations with Louis Williams at Goldwax Records.

Jackson wrote and sang on their 1965 hit "It's Wonderful To Be In Love", which reached number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 22 on the Rhythm & Blues chart. He also wrote...

...for other artists at Goldwax, including Spencer Wiggins and James Carr, and recorded with Dan Greer as the duo George and Greer. After the Ovations split up in 1968, he recorded briefly for Hi Records, Sun Records (unissued cuts) and also for Decca using the pseudonym Bart Jackson. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.

At the suggestion of record producer Billy Sherrill, Jackson moved to Rick Hall's Fame Studios at Muscle Shoals in the late 1960s, Alabama, where he wrote for leading singers including Clarence Carter - whose "Too Weak To Fight" reached number 13 on the pop chart and number 3 on the Rhythm & Blues chart in 1968 - Wilson Pickett, and Candi Staton. Some of Jackson's songs for Staton, including her first hit in 1969, "I'd Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool)", are "widely regarded as examples of some of the finest southern soul ever recorded by a female artist, with lyrics that were full of meaning and innuendo, a hallmark of Jackson’s best work''. Jackson also recorded for Fame Records, and had his first chart success as a singer in 1970 with "That's How Much You Mean To Me", which reached number 48 on the Rhythm & Blues chart. The Osmonds visited the Fame studio in 1970, and heard and liked Jackson's song "One Bad Apple", which he had originally written with The Jackson 5 in mind. The Osmonds recorded the song, and it became the group's first hit, rising to the top of the Hot 100 in February 1971; it also reached number 6 on the Rhythm & Blues chart.

In 1972 he briefly rejoined the Hi label, and had his second and last solo recording success with "Aretha, Sing One For Me", an answer song to Aretha Franklin's "Don't Play That Song"; Jackson's song reached number 38 on the Rhythm & Blues chart. He then released several singles for MGM Records, while continuing to write for other artists. In the early 1970s he began working as a songwriter for the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and, with Thomas Jones III, wrote "Old Time Rock And Roll" which Bob Seger recorded in 1978; Seger's version reached number 28 on the pop chart. While with Muscle Shoals Sound, he also wrote "Down Home Blues", recorded by Z. Z. Hill, which became a theme tune for Malaco Records in the 1980s; "Unlock Your Mind", recorded by the Staple Singers and a number 16 Rhythm & Blues hit in 1978; and "The Only Way Is Up", originally recorded by Otis Clay in 1980. A version of "The Only Way Is Up" by Yazz & The Plastic Population reached number 1 on the UK singles chart, and number 2 on the Billboard dance chart, in 1988.

In 1983, Jackson formed his own publishing company, Happy Hooker Music, before joining Malaco Records as a staff songwriter. There he wrote hits for Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Bland, Latimore, Denise LaSalle, and Z.Z. Hill. He recorded an album of his own songs, Heart To Heart Collect, in 1991 for Hep' Me Records. In 2011, a compilation CD of his Fame recordings, Don't Count Me Out, was released. Jackson died on April 14, 2013, at his home in Ridgeland, Mississippi, from cancer at the age of 68. He left a son and two grandchildren.


JACKSON, HANDY - Is the name of the artist and songwriter shown on the label of Sun 177. Despite the fact that his was one of the releases selected to relaunch the Sun label in January 1953, precious little is known about Handy Jackson other than he was a local musician, who fronted his own tight rhythm and blues combo. However, we do know now that the singer on one side of the disc was named Gay Garth and the rest of the story is to be found under his name.

By coincidence, while exploring one of the graveyards in Leflore Country, Mississippi, where Robert Johnson was allegedly buried (but apparently was not, given subsequent discoveries).

Than Jim O'Neil found a headstone for Handy Jackson, but according to census data he would have been 47 years old at the time of the Sun disc. Several other people with the same name, can be found in censuses. Then again, just possibly, the name could relate to the family of Al Jackson, who often played in Memphis at the Club Handy.

GAYLORD ''GAY'' GARTH - For over five decades Gaylord Garth went about his business not knowing he had appeared on Sun Records under anothers name, and for those same decades record collectors and music historians went about their business not knowing that the singer on an ultra-rare disc credited to Handy Jackson was living and working in Chicago, singing and playing weekends in night clubs on the South Side where he was known as ''The Arkansas Belly Roller''. Then, fifty years after Garth's appearance in Sam Phillips studio and the release of Sun 177, ''Got My Application Baby'' and ''Trouble (Will Bring You Down)'', there appeared a picture in Juke Blues magazine captioned ''Gaylord Garth'', the Arkansas Belly Roller''. This just had to be the man Sam Phillips had entered into his notebook as Gay Garth.

Sam Phillips' logbook gave Garth's name, his address in Memphis of 131 Essex Street, and noted that Garth had recorded two songs on a 16 inch acetate. He did not record the date of the session but he did note that one of the songs, ''Got My Application Baby'', was issued on January 30, 1953 on Sun 177 along with a different, third, song titled ''Trouble'', after which he put the name Handy Jackson in brackets. When Sun 177 was pressed the name of the performer on both sides was shown as Handy Jackson and there was no mention of Gay Garth at all.

So when Juke Blues arranged for Davis Whiteis to talk to Gaylord Garth about his former life in Memphis it meant that all the mystery were about to be resolved, or were they? Garth remembered recording as a pianist with a band behind another vocalist and he remembered making a couple of vocal tracks himself, but he didn't have any idea who Handy Jackson was.

Gaylord Garth was born in Marianna, Arkansas on December 8, 1924 into a farming community. He told Whiteis he picked cotton alongside M.T. Murphy, who later played guitar behind him many iconic blues singers and gained latter-day fame through the Blues Brothers movie. In his teens Garth fooled around with the guitar and some home-made instruments and then he learned to play piano while he was in the Navy in the mid-1940s. His musical interest focused on Count Basie, Pete Johnson, Joe Turner, and Jimmy Rushing, ''not that gutbucket'' blues, he said. He remember coming to Memphis when he left the Navy, hanging out and playing with various groups: ''I started music in 1949 after I got out of the Navy the first time. I had got so I could carry the piano beat. I played C, G, and F, the keys I could play in''. He was playing with saxophonist Willie Wilkes at a club in Marianna when B.B. King heard him play and apparently decided to add Garth to his emerging group. ''I stayed with him a long time. I had joined the Naval (Reserve) and when the war started back up with Korea they called me back in the Navy, that was 1951''.

Garth felt that he made his first recordings at Phillips' studio before he went back into the Navy, but he also said of recording, ''I didn't know nothing about that stuff. I was dumb to the facts. I'd just gotten out of the Navy''. That would place the session in late 1952 or January 1953 rather than 1950 or 1951. Whatever the date, Garth was then pianist in a band with Willie Wilkes and he described the day, ''They didn't tell me we was going to a session. I hadn't rehearsed nothing. We were just going to back up someone, someone who wasn't a regular member of the band''. Then, he was asked to sing by a man he remembered as Billy Shaw of the New York booking agency, ''just looking for the country style blues... (Shaw) said, 'we want to hear you' but I didn't have no material''. As Shaw booked Rosco Gordon, it is at least possible that he was in Sam Phillips' studio the day Garth was there. Garth said one of the songs he sang was made up during the session, a song he called ''Screamin''. Sam Phillips noted that he had got ''2 number on 16 inch e.t. ''Got My Application'' and ''Screamin' And Cryin'''. When Phillips issued ''Application'' at the end of January 1953 it was backed not by ''Sreamin''' but by Jackson's ''Trouble'', and possibly this was the unremembered song and singer Garth had been asked to back up on piano at the session? Garth felt that the other musicians on the session were Wilkes on tenor sax, Richard Williams on alto sax, Robert Carter on guitar and William Cooper on drums.

Sometime in 1953 Garth moved to Gary, Indiana, but returned briefly to Memphis before moving to Chicago to find work. He worked in a hospital kitchen and then a Ford dealership ''loadin' up trucks and all that'' where he stayed until he retired. During the late 1950s and 1960s he led a small band in which he sang and played electric piano. The band, the Gay-Tones, included saxophonist Ernest Cotton from Memphis who had recorded with Eddie Boyd and Memphis Slim and made a disc in his own name on Chicago's JOB label. From the late 1960s onwards, Garth gave up his group and just sat in as a guest musician, often on harmonica, and guest singer. He was also in some demand to perform his trademark belly rolls, guaranteed to cause a stir among the ladies. In 2004 at a Chicago area club, Lee's Unleaded, David Whiteis was still able to witness Garth and ''his impishly lascivious stage act, primal harp squalls, and still potent baritone holler''. All these activities came to a halt on September 13, 2010 when Garth died in his adopted city of Chicago. (MH)


JANES, ROLAND - is not exactly a household name. In fact, only those who are deeply involved with rockabilly music will know who he is. To the latter, though, his is a name revered. It was Janes, along with Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins, who developed the rockabilly guitar style at Sun Records. You'll hear far more from people who did far less than Roland Janes. He was never one for banging his own drum, and his accomplishment as a studio musician, producer, artist and repertoire man have tended to be overlooked.

He was the guitarist whose solos on ''Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On'', ''High School Confidential'', and countless other Sun records are engrained in our collective memory. His work ran the gamut from the tasteful and economical little solo on the bridge of ''Raunchy'' to the deliriously over-the-top intro to Billy Riley's ''Flying Saucers Rock And Roll''.

And don't forget that he played on and produced Harold Dorman's ''Mountain Of Love'', and issued it on a label he co-owned. As a producer, he recorded Travis Wammack's ''Scratchy'', Mat Lucas's ''I'm Movin' On'', and Jerry Jaye's ''My Girl Josephine'', all of them among the best records to come out of Memphis in the early to mid 1960s.

Roland Janes was born on August 20, 1933, the second youngest in a family of seven in 1933 in a river town in North-East Arkansas called Brookings. It had once been an important lumber community and Roland's father, besides playing guitar, had earned a living as a lumberjack. By the time Janes was born, though, the lumber industry had died and his father had quit playing music. He did have an older brother who apparently played piano, organ and guitar and several of his cousins Loyd and Lonnie Snider, working in a semi-pro band in Corning, Arkansas, played fiddle, guitar, steel guitar, etc.. In fact, of the extended family, Janes was the last one to really start playing.

Before Roland was ten, his parents had divorced. His mother moved to St. Louis and slowly collected each of her children. Roland moved in with her in 1942. For a while, he shuttled hack and forth between his two parents, and it was in 1945 or 1946, during one of the times that he had moved back to Arkansas to live with his father, that he first started playing. His first instrument was a mandolin. The music that he and his cousins made was stone country. On the radio, at that time he says, there was nothing available but big band or country music.

"So I was not influenced at all by black music because I wasn't exposed to it. I came in contact with black music only when I came to Memphis and I'd already developed my style. I picked up on their style when the need arose. I could play blues. In other words, I m very perceptive, not bragging, but I'm very perceptive in that I can pick up on different styles very easily. But, I wasn't influenced by it, I was influenced by country and pop. In St. Louis I listened to people like Patty Page, Joni James and Les Paul. My father, he was a Pentecostal minister, so they had music in the church at that time. That was probably the basis, That's the basis of most country and rockabilly; the church''.

Janes eventually moved to Memphis in 1953. Once there, he went directly into the Marine Corps. "When I came here, it was during the Korean conflict and I enlisted in the service because I was unemployed. I would probably have been drafted anyway because they were drafting at that time. So, I enlisted''. He'd moved to Memphis shortly before he entered the service and returned there after his discharge in 1956, Going to school under the GI Bill, he worked briefly as a laundryman and even ore briefly in a paint factory before turning to music.

Shortly after returning to Memphis, Roland saw an ad placed the local newspaper by Doc McQueen, a pianist who ran a small demo studio from his home. McQueen also led a band at the Hideaway Club, and he'd given a break to Johnny Burnette and The Rock And Roll Trio, who'd just gone to New York and called him en route to say they wouldn't be in that night or ever again. McQueen was looking for a guitarist, and Roland got the job. Through McQueen, Roland met steel guitarist Kenneth Herman who introduced Janes to Jack Clement, who was involved with Slim Wallace in trying to launch a local record label. Wallace had built a studio in his garage on Fernwood Street and their company was to be called Fernwood Records. Their first artist was to be Billy Riley, who was also from northeast Arkansas. Riley was working up some songs for the first Fernwood single, and Clement took them to Sam Phillips at Sun mastering. Phillips liked what he heard and Riley's first effort led to an engineering job at Sun for Clement and a contract for Riley. Soon, Riley's group earned a reputation as one of the hottest working band in the mid-South, and played on countless Sun sessions.

Between 1956 and 1963, Janes was one of the anchors of the 'house band' at Sun Records. In those seven years, he played on the majority of Jerry Lee Lewis' one hundred and fifty plus Sun recordings, was a founding member of Billy Lee Riley's Little Green Men, and hacked up a plethora of lesser Sun artists from Charlie Rich, Sonny Burgess and Barbara Pittman to such unknowns as the Memphis Bells, Jeanne Newman and Tony Rossini (he played a session behind the latter in June of 1962 which included Scotty Moore, Booker T. Jones, Al Jackson and Steve Cropper on bass).

Roland Janes was also the resident guitarist at OJ Records, and can be heard beneath the omnipresent organ on OJ's only hit, Brother Dave Gardner's ''White Silver Sands''. In 1957, he quit Riley to work on the road with Jerry Lee Lewis. He and Jerry roomed together, and he insists that in those early days it was Jerry's bass player/father-in-law, J.W. Brown, and his road drummer, Russ Smith, who were the hellraisers. Falling with out Jerry Lee after a few months, Roland worked a short spell with Bill Justis, then riding the crest of the wave that began and ended with ''Raunchy'', before returning to work with Jerry Lee shortly before the illfated tour of England in May 1958. They worked together until 1959 when Roland returned to Riley's group. By that point he had married and was beginning to question whether he wanted to spend the rest of his days working the road and making forty bucks or less on sessions that led to million-selling records. He and Riley came up with an idea that they would become moguls.

''When Sam Phillips put in the new studio on Madison Avenue'', said Roland, ''Bill and I went to Sam and asked him to let us retain the old studio and record there with the product going to Sun, but we never actually resolved the question and just drifted into doing our own thing. Rita Records was a co-op deal, Bill and I played on everything, which naturally eliminated having to pay a couple of musicians, and we used our old buddies Martin Willis and J.M. Van Eaton. Jimmy Wilson had left the scene (he was working in California with Johnny cash and others) so we used Tommy Bennett and Larry Muhoberac on piano. We came up with a partner, Ira Lyn Caughan, who had a little money. He was an accountant, and we named the label after his daughter. We were searching for a name, and couldn't come up with anything we liked. Mr. Vaughan had a picture of his daughter on his desk, and she was a very pretty young lady. I said, 'What's your daughter's name'? He said, 'Rita', and I said, 'Let's call it Rita Records'. Mr. Vaughan did all the paperwork, and Bill and I took care of production and getting records to distributors. Riley was a tremendous salesman. He could go in, talk someone into something, and probably talk them out of it before he left. He was a much better salesman than me, But I probably had a better business head. We worked out of our homes, but the company address was Mr. Vaughan's business''.

Even before Rita Records started, Roland Janes and Billy Riley had made several tentative gestures in the same direction. They leased an instrumental version of ''Fireball Mail'' to Jaro/Top Rank via Bill Justis. It had been recorded under a pseudonym, The Spitfires, to sidestep Riley's contractual obligation to Sun. ''We borrowed from Duane Eddy and the Champs'', said Roland, ''combined the two, and came up with a tremendous flop''. Before that, Roland had cut an instrumental single that coupled ''Patriotic Guitar'' with the broody and menacing ''Guitarville''. The single was conceived at Sun when Roland was working with Jerry Lee Lewis. Jud Phillips, who had resurfaced to take over Jerry Lee's management after the fiasco in England, started Judd Records after falling out with his brother, and Roland's record came out on Judd. There was some ill feeling between Sam and Roland as a result because it had been cut at Sun, but the record wasn't big enough to cause lasting friction. It showed up on some local charts and bubbled under the Hot 100 but failed to break out.

Rita Records was launched in September 1959. Roland Janes and Billy Riley released their own records together with singles by J.M. Van Eaton and Martin Willis. Riley doubled as a blues singer named Lightnin' Leon. The first and only hit on the label came in 1960 with Harold Dorman's ''Mountain Of Love''. Roland had played on Dorman's 1957 Sun session, and saw more promise than is evident in those very halting demos. ''I knew Harold was a great songwriter'', he said, ''and I couldn't see why someone didn't pick up on him''. They recorded ''Mountain Of Love'' at Hi Records with Jack Clement behind the board. The record climbed the charts, eventually peaking at number 21 on the Hot 100, but things soon started to go wrong. There were disputes between Rita Records and its distribution partner, Bill Lowery. Riley sold his share in the label just as ''Mountain Of Love'' was breaking, and the label folded soon after the follow up, ''Moved to Kansas City'', stiffed. Roland had to lay low for a while, and moved back to St. Louis.

Returning to Memphis, in 1961-1962, Janes opened his own Sonic Studios on Madison Avenue. As well, he was the sole owner, part owner and or session player for a host of small independent Memphis labels throughout the 1960's and early 1970's. ''I leased the building, had it partially completed and then I ran out of funds'', he said. ''It just sat there a good while before I got together enough money to put in the rest of the equipment. I looked at some other studios and saw what they were supposed to look like and how the technical end was handled. We had a big room, 30 x 60 feet, with a soft metal ceiling and we hung burlap bags up there to trap the bass sound. We got a good clear sound out of that studio after some experimentation''. Roland's ideas on production were based on what he had learned from Sam Phillips. ''Sam taught me not to hold back. Just do it and have a good time doing it. Don't get hung up on little minor mistakes. If it feels good, that will come through on the tape''.

For Roland, owning a studio a backward step in terms of recording himself: ''Every musician wants his own studio and it's the worst thing that can happen to you. You think you can finally please yourself but you end up trying to please everyone else just to keep the place afloat. We also thought of ourselves as background musicians and never thought a lot about being featured artists. Even so, we always intended to record more but always put it of''.

Three hits came out of Sonic: Matt Lucas's ''I'm Movin' On'', leased to Smash/Mercury, Travis Wammack's ''Scratchy'', released on ARA and distributed through Atlantic, and Jerry Jaye's delightfully retro ''My Girl Josephine'' on Hi Records. ''I remembered Travis from when he was a little kid'', said Roland. ''and then, after I started the studio, several people told me that Travis was real good on electric guitar now. He had been playing acoustic and singing back when I first remember him. He was working with a friend of mine, Prentiss McPhail, and Prentiss brought him into the studio''. Wammack remembers hitting some hot licks for Roland. ''Later on, Roland even gave me the keys to the studio so I could go and rehearse'', he said. ''He gave me a break and I couldn't believe it because he was the top picker around''. ''Travis was so good'', said Roland, ''that he would become impatient with the other musicians. He would play part and theirs too. Sometimes he'd sound like a lead guitar, rhythm guitar and horn section – all at the same time. I told him to slow down or I'd have to get out my guitar and cut him''. Roland had just leased some cuts by Narvel Felts to Chet Atkins at RCA, and he sent ''Scratchy'' to Chet who sent back a note saying, ''This scares me. I pass''. Eventually, Roland issued the single on ARA, a label he -co-owned with Wayne Todd. Atlantic Records acquired the distribution, and it eventually reached number 80 on the Hot 100, but stunned a generation of guitarists with its new possibilities. The biggest hit to come out of Sonic was Jerry Jay's ''My Girl Josephine''. It was a custom session for which Roland received $13.00, and his principal contribution was to persuade Jaye not to overdub horns and a chorus. The record first appeared on Jaye's own Connie Records before Joe Cuoghi picked it up for Hi Records in February 1967 after it got heavy play on WMPS. Nationally it reached number 29. At the very least, Jerry Jaye gets in the history books for cutting the last hit that cost less than twenty bucks.

Sonic operated during a transitional period in Memphis music. ''We were coming out of the rockabilly thing into something with a heavier beat and in some ways more musically advanced'', said Roland. ''The music we cut was real transition music. It had a little rockabilly, a little soul and so on''. For troublesome customers, Roland had a knob on the console that said ''Control All''. He'd invite the client to adjust it while he ran the tape. They'd play with it until they were satisfied, and had no idea that it wasn't wired to anything.

After the closing of Sonic in 1974, Roland Janes, for the most part, got out of the record business for a couple of years, Roland was to return in 1977 as a producer and engineer at the Sounds of Memphis Recording Studio and, in 1982, at the Phillips Recording Studio on Madison Avenue. In between, he worked as an instructor of recording techniques at a predominantly black vocational school in South Memphis. At Phillips, he engineered Charlie Feathers' Elektra album and Charlie Rich's last album for Sire Records. With his eightieth birthday on the horizon, he still administers the old Sun publishing catalog, Hi-Lo and Knox Music, and engineering sessions at Phillips Recording. Artists including Phil Collins and Bob Dylan, will come to Phillips Recording simply no one in Memphis who knows more about how to make a record.

Roland Janes had been way overweight for years, and his knees troubled him, but he'd spiffed himself up with some hair color and new glasses. In September 2013, Janes had a heart attack, and went swiftly downhill from there. He went into the hospital on October 3, and on October 17, Knox Phillips say that Roland's wife, Betty Janes and the kids had opted to remove life-support after a scan revealed serious brain damage from a stroke. Roland Janes died the following day, a couple of months past his eightieth birthday. His family was with him, and Jimmy M. Van Eaton had dropped by the hospital to check on Roland, only to be present at the moment of his passing.

The funeral was on October 22, 2013. A slideshow showed Roland at different stages of his life and career. Among the shots was his Bear Family LP, Guitarville, the only album ever released under Roland Janes' own name.


JENKINS, HAROLD (CONWAY TWITTY) - Conway Twitty was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in Friars Point, Mississippi, on September 1, 1933, the oldest son of Floyd and Velma Jenkins. Velma named Harold for the bespectacled slapstick comedy star of the silent movies. Friars Point is a small town on the Mississippi, 75 miles south of Memphis. Five hundred people lived there then.

In later years, Twitty liked to draw a parallel between himself and Huckleberry Finn, but the fact remains that Twitty was a child of the Depression.

Floyd worked what can I seen and where he could, and was often away from home at WPA camps. He was part of the crew that built the dam at Sardis, Mississippi, and when Velma went there to live with him, she left young Harold with her mother.

Grandma McGinnis worked at Pa Fuller's boarding house, and it was Pa Fuller who gave Twitty his first guitar. When Twitty was eight, Floyd and Velma came back to Friars Point, and Floyd got a job on one of the ferry boats that crossed the river. Two years later, in 1943, the family moved over to the Arkansas side and settled in Helena.

Music was everywhere in that part of the Delta; it came from the Grand Ole Opry, local radio, tent shows, socials, church, street musicians, and almost every front porch. It was part of the fabric of life. When Twitty began to pick and sing, the Opry stars were his early idols. Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Robert Lunn, The Talking Blues Boys, Eddy Arnold... they all left their mark. In 1976, he recorded a tribute to the Opry, "The Grandest Lady Of Them All", although sentimentality never led him to seek membership because that would have meant giving up the most lucrative night of the week in exchange for the Opry's pittance.

Black music left its mark, too. There was a black church just across the cottonpatch, and Twitty, barely ten years old, would sit on the ditch bank soaking up the music every Wednesday and Saturday. He learned a few licks on the guitar from a black sharecropper he called Uncle Fred. One of the tunes he picket up was "Diggin' My Potatoes", although the song's sexual subtext could have meant little to him. Later, Twitty was a regular on KFFA in Helena, but seemed oblivious to the heavy black music programming on the station, including Sonny Boy Williamson's King Biscuit Flour Hour.

Twitty wrote his first song when he was ten. He sang on the riverboats, and one of the passengers introduced him to the Arkansas Cotton Choppers, who had a regular spot on KFFA. The Choppers let Twitty do a guest spot with them on the station. Twitty and his friend John Hughey and another musician, Wesley Pickett, put together a band called the Phillips County Ramblers. Their sound was hillbilly music, just as it was played in schoolhouses, bars, and on tiny radio stations all across the mid-South.

The earliest Conway Twitty recording to survive is "Cry Baby Heart". It supposedly features him fronting the Arkansas Cotton Choppers, but the steel guitar, bass, and rhythm guitar line-up suggests that it was actually Hughey and Pickett backing him. Twitty insisted that his performance of this Leon Payne song dated from 1046, which is possible because it was written in 1944, but it wasn't a hit until George Morgan recorded it in 1949, so it's likelier that the recording dates from that year. Twitty certainly sounds much closer to sixteen years old than thirteen on the crackly home recording. The Phillips County Ramblers played on weekends, landing gigs in Arkansas, Mississippi, and southwest Tennessee.

There were several breaks in the Phillips County Ramblers' career. Around 1950, Twitty took himself off to Smiths, Alabama for the best part of a year. He had been ordered to break up with his steady girlfriend, and decided to handle the situation by catching a bus out of town. A friend, Sonny Carden, had kin in Smiths, and Twitty stayed with them. When he got back to Helena, h family had moved on to Tallulah, Louisiana where his father Floyd had taken a job on a riverboat. Twitty lived in Tallulah for around a year before returning to Helena in 1952. He finished high school in Helena, and probably reassembled the Phillips County Ramblers soon after he returned.

Twitty married a girl called Ellen in 1953. She was pregnant with his first child, Michael, but it's unlikely that he and Ellen lived together very much or at all. Soon after Twitty graduated from high school in 1953, he went to Chicago and worked as a shipping clerk for International Harvester. He was there when Michael was born, and he arranged for his parents to look after his son. The Phillips County Ramblers went their separate ways. Just before Twitty left Arkansas, he noticed that Slim Rhodes was advertising for a steel guitarist. Rhodes led a hillbilly band which had a regular show on WMC-TV in Memphis, and had just lost his steel guitarist to the draft. Hughey got the job, and stayed until Rhodes died in 1966. In 1968, he rejoined Twitty and remained part of Twitty's line-up until 1988. After that, he played with Loretta Lynn and, more recently, Vince Gill.

Like Twitty, Wesley Pickett went to Chicago, but they didn't assemble another band. Twitty lived in a cramped apartment on the black South Side. Before he left Helena, he had been scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies baseball club, and had been invited to try out in their farm system. They called again in 1954, but Twitty already had another two-year appointment lined up. He'd received a call from the U.S. Army inviting him to go to Yokohama. He was a supply clerk in the army. Wesley Pickett was drafted at the same time, but they didn't go overseas together.

In June or July 1956 - just three or four months after getting out of the service - Twitty became the front man of a band. Sitting on his porch at 1011 Poplar Street in Helena, he was playing guitar when another wannabilly, Bill Harris, heard him, and promptly assembled a small rockabilly group behind him. Harris, who had a steady job with Quaker Oats, took on the role of manager, and, on July 14, 1956, he signed Twitty to a management contract.

The band was to be called Harold Jenkins & The Rockhousers. It comprised Twitty, Harris, and guitarist Jimmy Ray Paulman. Harris played bass, and took care of finding the gigs. Billy Weir later joined on drums, and Jimmy Evans took over on bass from Harris.

On October 22, 1956, Twitty married for the second time. He had met Mickey Jaco in Helena, and they rented a place in Marianna, Arkansas. Before he joined the Army, he probably thought that Nashville was the center of the musical universe. Now it was Memphis - and Memphis was barely an hour's drive away. It seemed as though everyone who was creating a stir in music lived there or recorded there. And most of them were on Sun Records.

The tiny studio with the faded neon sign in the window that said Memphis Recording Service was as close to Heaven as hundreds of kids in the mid-South hoped to get, Conway Twitty among them. "I knew I wanted to be around that label", Conway Twitty said. "The studio was like a hole in the wall, but it looked like Radio City in New York to us. You used your own band and you played. We were trying to create in the studio. We'd start at say 10:00AM, and Sam would say, 'Yes, I've written this and this'... mostly country stuff. Sam would say, 'We can take good country songs and put a new beat to them. Do a new vocal thing'.

But the only vocal licks you had were what Elvis had done. You had to create. take the old songs and change 'em around. We'd write songs in the studio. We'd play four or five hours without a break. We were so wrapped up in it".

"I never did write the right song at Sun, although there were times I felt that Sam Phillips didn't treat me right. (I thought) I had something to offer that he didn't see, but I found out I was wrong. He said, 'I knew you had something or I wouldn't have spent as much money as I did recording you all of those hours, week after week, but it just didn't come together for you and I'".

It's hear to know how many of Twitty's tapes were recycled at Sun. Certainly very few remain, and if Sam Phillips really had the machine switched on hour after hour, week after week then most of the tapes were recorded over.

While Twitty was trying out at Sun, Twitty's management was taken over by Don Seat, agent of General Artists Corporation (GAC), one of the largest artist management companies in the United States. By late 1956, Seat had obviously decided that rock and roll wasn't going to blow over, and that he needed a rock and roller in his stable of acts. Harold Jenkins seemed like a good bet. Seak took the tapes to Bob Shad, Mercury Records New York head of artist and repertoire, and landed a contract. Mercury had been in business since 1945, and by 1957 it was ensconced among the majors. That meant that Mercury didn't really understand a grass roots uprising like rock and roll. No more than a few weeks separated the last tryout at Sun Records, Conway Twitty recorded the first Mercury session on March 13, 1957. Four songs were cut, all of them originals. The name Conway Twitty was decided upon before the first single was released.

Don Seat wasn't discouraged when Mercury dumped his protege. He found him a booking at the Flamingo Lounge in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. From Hamilton, the band went to the Brass Rail in London, Ontario for a six-week stint. By this point they had broadened their repertoire so that they had two shows worked up.

Seat pitched Twitty's new demos around town and found a taker in Arnold Maxin at MGM Records. It couldn't have been easy to land the deal. Rockabilly was more or less finished, and Twitty was not only branded as a rockabilly but an unsuccessful one at that.

On the first MGM session with producer Jim Vienneau on board, Twitty recorded "I'll Try" was scheduled with "It's Only Make Believe", Conway Twitty had the biggest record on the charts. "It's Only Make Believe" entered the charts in mid-September 1958. His record was number 1, and it got to number 1 in England as well. Within a space of weeks, Conway Twitty had gone from the Canada to the Perry Como Show and Dick Clark's American Bandstand.

In late 1958 and February 1959, Twitty and his band went to Nashville to round out an album and cut two sings for the all-impostant follow-up single "Mona Lisa". Conway Twitty's second biggest pop hit after "It's Only Make Believe" came with "Lonely Blue Boy", and it was cut in November 1959. In the summer of 1959, Twitty started filming on Platinum High School, then in 1960, Twitty made another eminent forgettable Zugsmith movie, College Confidential, presumably a follow up to Zugsmith's High School Confidential. This one gave Twitty a chance to star alongside that old habituee of the casting couch, Mamie Van Doren, the co-stars included Steve Allen, Jayne Meadows and a down-on-his-luck gossip columnist, Walter Winchell.

Twitty band went through some changes in 1960 and 1961. By the early 1960s, Twitty's hits were tailing off. If he is to believe, he saw country music as the passport to longevity in the business. He came to believe he was a country singer who had sold his heart to rock and roll - and mow he wanted a refund. On September 23, 1960, he went to Sam Phillips new studio in Memphis to cut a country session, but the result were dammed by the studio more than anything else.

One of Twitty's best shots in the early 1960s came with his March 1961 recording of "The Next Kiss (Is The Last Goodbye)", though confounded expectations by dying at number 72. The next single was just as strong, but completely failed to chart. "Portrait Of A Fool", written by Tree Music boss, Buddy Killen, with black songwriter Robert Riley, was Twitty's last Hot 100 hit as a rock and roll singer. It spent two weeks in the charts in January- February 1962, peaking at number 98. Twitty was now noodling around the bottom of the Hot 100 - back where he had started five years earlier with "I Need Your Lovin".

Conway Twitty's last single while he was an MGM artist was Muddy Waters' 1956 blues classic "Got My Mojo Working. It was now mid-1963, and, according to Twitty, he was exerting serious pressure on MGM to record country music. Jim Vienneau, probably trying to excuse his failure to keep Twitty on MGM as a country singer, an epic mistake in light of what happened.

Twitty was not merely out of the charts in 1963, but out of pocket. He had bought some land on Moon Lake in Mississippi with the idea of turning it into a recreation area. His father would run it. In 1965 Twitty moved from Marianna, Arkansas to Oklahoma City. Don Seat hints darkly that Twitty was in trouble in Marianna, though Twitty insisted that he moved for logistical reasons. There was a big park in Oklahoma City that he often played, and most of his showdates were in the mid-West and prairies, so Oklahoma City was central for touring. During the spring of 1965, he walked out half-way through a show at a kids vacation spot in Somers Point, New Jersey. He went home to Oklahoma City, and started booking himself into nightclubs at two hundred dollars a night. In June, he signed with Decca Records as a country singer. Owen Bradley later remembered that Twitty was keener to hedge his bets than he later pretended. The first country hit for Decca came early in 1966, and the first number 1 in 1968.

Chart statisticians rate Conway Twitty's country career as one of the top five of all time. He ruled the late 1960s and 1970s, staying close to a hardcore unreconstructed vision of country music for most of that time. He played to a predominantly blue collar crowd, and seemed to have an intuitive understanding of what they wanted. It was only in the 1980s that his career started slipped. In 1990, he decided to simplify his life, divesting himself of many of his business holdings, including Twittybird Music and its affiliates, which were sold to Sony-Tree Music. In the end, Twittybird was the only one of Twitty's business ventures that had prospered. He had already sold his stake in the Nashville's baseball club, The Sounds, and offloaded his classic car collection, as well as his mobile home business in Dallas, which Don Seat insists lost spectacular amounts of money. Twittyburgers were long gone, but not before draining Twitty of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars.

By the end of his life, it really didn't matter how good Conway Twitty's songs and records were. His moment had passed. His run had been among the longest. He was still in good voice until the end, though. His last recording was "Rainy Night In Georgia", with Sam Moore, once half of Sam & Dave. It was wrapped up on May3, 1993. On June 5, Twitty was returning to Nashville from Branson when he was taken ill at a truckstop. He died in Springfield of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, three months shy of his sixtieth birthday. He left behind few words, but a lot of music.


JESTERS, THE - were formed in 1964, led by guitarist Edaward LaPaiglia aka Teddy Paige, who had previously led a teenage aggression called the Church Keys, and was heavily into the '5' Royales, (then living in Memphis and recording for the Home Of The Blues label), Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley and Freddie King.

Paige hooked up with singer Tommy Minga, previously of the Escapades, and added rhythm guitarist Jerry Phillips, son of Sun Records Sam Phillips (and fresh from a stint as a fake midget wrestler), bassist Bill Wulfers and drummer Eddie Robertson in short order.

Their set list was heavy on old blues, rhythm and blues and rockabilly tunes as well as originals, some re-writes of classic rhythm and blues tunes, some quite unique, and short of British Invasion hits that were the staple on most local white groups at the time.

At this time Jerry's older brother Knox Phillips was pretty much running the show at the much diminished Sun Records, Sam was disillusioned and bored with the record biz and preferred to concentrate on his radio stations, and Knox began recording the Jesters. Tapes from two sessions with eleven tracks from the original band have survived, as well as the two sides issue on 45, although these would not see release until the late 1980's when they were first issued on Charley's Sun: Into The 1960's box-set and later in 2009 on the Ace/Big Beat CD Cadillac Men: The Sun Masters, which added four Escapades tracks to fill out the CD.

The sides with Tommy Minga singing are all first class, snot nosed, garage howlers, ''What's The Matter Baby'', ''Get Gone Baby'', ''Strange As It Seems'', the original, Minga fronted version of ''Cadillac Man'', a version of Bill Doggett's ''Hold'' with added lyrics and retitled ''The Big Hurt'', the '5' Royales ''Slummer The Slum'' barely re-written as ''Stompity Stomp'', as well as versions of ''Boppin' The Blues'', ''Night Train From Chicago'', ''Heartbreak Hotel'' and the Bo Diddley cop, ''Jim Dandy'' and ''Sweet Sixteen'' would all fit perfectly on any volume of Back From The Grave (Crypt). Certainly had it been released at the time What's The Matter Baby could have given the Standells, Shadows Of Night, Knickerbokers and other crude hitmakers of that year a run for their Beatle boots.

How and why Tommy Minga's voice was deemed unsuitable for issued wax is unclear, but once it was decided to bring Jim Dickinson in on piano and lead vocals, ''Cadillac Man'' was transformed into another creature all together. Rather than a snarling, Them/Rolling Stones styled garage rocker, it became a throw back to an earlier era at Sun, that of full throated screamers like Sonny Burgess and Billy Lee Riley. Sam Phillips was said to be highly excited by the possibilities, and secured Jim Dickinson (who had previously cut two singles under the tutelage of Sun alumni Bill Justis) contract release and put the band back in the studio to cut a/b-side, a version of Little Walter's ''My Babe'' (itself a version of Sister Rosette Tharpe's version of the old gospel standard ''This Train''). ''Cadillac Man'' b/w ''My Babe'' was issued by Sun in 1966 and died a quick death. In a year (1966) that saw the ''Shadows Of Night'', ''13th Floor Elevators'' and ''Standells'' hit the charts, the Dickinson led version of ''Cadillac Man'' had probably less commercial appeal than the material cut with Tommy Minga singing. It was also the beginning of the end for the Jesters. There would be no follow up. At some point they recorded a version of Smokey Robinson's ''What So Good About Goodbye'' with Jimmy Day singing, but it too sat on the shelf for decades.

The band, with Minga back in front, briefly resumed gigging, but soon fell apart. Lack of success had halted their forward motion, and when a rock and roll group is not moving forward, it is dying.

By late 1966 it was over for the Jesters, Tommy Minga put together a new version of the Escapades. They released two singles ''I Tell No Lies'' (issued on both Arbert and XL) and ''Mad Mad Mad'' (Verve) both in late 1966. Teddy Paige played some sessions, ending up on discs by David Allen Coe and Cliff Jackson, left music to work construction and eventually relocated to the U.K where he was said to have taken to wandering around in medieval minstrel garb, complete with saber. He was briefly institutionalized in the nineties after a run in between said sword and a neighbor. Jerry Phillips would find work at the family radio stations, the other two got real jobs.

The Jesters were among the best and most unique garage bands in that peak year for garage band rock and roll. Paige's guitar playing is especially noteworthy, he works in quotes from Lowman Pauling, Freddie King, and Bo Diddley, yet still retained a unique and biting sound. Tommy Minga too had his own style, having perfected the requisite 'teenager with hard on who hates his parents' delivery. Jim Dickinson would of course go on to long and colorful career, recapped after his 2009 death here. Had ''What's The Matter Baby'' been issued on 45, it may have been a hit, or sold so few copies that it would got for $500 on Ebay today, either way, the best sounds the Jesters left behind are among the best garage punk I've ever heard.


JOHNSON, MARY - Mary Elizabeth Johnson was born in Corinth, Mississippi in 1943. Her father was a policeman and her mother worked at home as the registrar of births and deaths for the county. Mary expressed her musical gift at a very early age. In early 1956 she recorded for Sun Records, but no tapes were released. Not surprisingly, given her talent, Mary found her way to Nashville and beyond. In 1957 she and a friend sang at local Corinth event. The performance was witnessed by steel guitar player Royce Littlebrook, who asked if she'd like o record.

Mary Johnson recalled: "I said 'Of course I would!'. Royce then talked to James Joyner and Kelso Herston, who had recently started a small record company in Florence, Alabama. They came to hear me at my home and decided to sign me''.

''Mother and daddy went over the contract for me - I was only about 14 - and signed it. We tried to record but James and Kelso never could get their equipment working right, so they decided to take me to Nashville. They had a connection with Buddy Killen at Tree Music, who worked out a deal with Chet Atkins at RCA Victor. I think Buddy was really blown away when he heard me and saw how young I was. He went ahead and got us an appointment with Chet and I think Chet, too, was pretty impressed. It wasn't long after that I had my first session for RCA".

By this time, Mary's name had evolved into Jeanie Johnson, which is how it appeared on her first three releases for RCA - all produced by Chet Atkins. The first single was cut on January 12, 1958, just before Jeanie/Mary's 15th birthday. Another session was held on April 29, 1958. Her third single, cut on May 21, 1960 was released with a picture sleeve, underscoring how highly RCA regarded the young singer. After this contract expired, Mary resigned with RCA in 1965. Her next two singles were produced by Felton Jarvis and credited to Jeanie Fortune - another name change. "Occasional Tears" (RCA 47-8704) was released in 1965 and her final disc for the label, "Angry Eyes" (47-8914), appeared in 1966. Another single, "Sure As Sin", appeared on Atco 6619 in 1968. It remains one of Mary's favourites.

During her tenure at RCA, Jeanie met and married singer-songwriter Marlin Greene. While she continued to record as a solo artist, Johnson was also singing with Mary Holladay and Susan Coleman in a group they named Southern Comfort. Donna Thatcher was added later to bring further depth to the group. The group wanted a fuller four-part sound like The Sweet Inspirations. When Donna left the group, there skated using Ginger Holladay, Mary's sister.

Their tight and spontaneous harmonies were valued for studio work in the burgeoning southern recording industry and soon Johnson/Fortune/Greene was in demand as a regular backup singer at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, as well as Fame Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound in Florence, Alabama. Mary Johnson also worked regularly as a backup singer at Stax and Hi Records in Memphis, and several studios in Nashville. Mary recalls: "One of the first backup vocal jobs I had was behind Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun in Memphis".

The session, held in August 1963, was the singer's last for the Sun label. In addition to session work as backup vocalists, Southern Comfort recorded material under their own name for Cotilion Records. When in the early 1970s, Ian Matthews' hit "Southern Comfort" came out, The Southern Comfort changed the name because the hit record decided who got to use the name.

(Above) The Southern Comfort, from left: Ginger Holladay, Mary Johnson, Donna Thatcher, Mary Holladay, with Elvis Presley at the American Sound Studio, Memphis, Tennessee, 1969.

Mary Johnson's work appears anonymously on a host of Elvis Presley records recorded during the 1960s. "The first session we ever did with Elvis was "In The Ghetto", recalls Mary Johnson. "That was at American Sound. We also did "Suspicious Minds". We never did appear with him on his stage shows. They used The Sweet Inspirations instead because they were quite a draw in person. I originally got the job singing backup for Elvis because of my recording for RCA. Felton Jarvis, who was Elvis's producer, handled my last session at RCA''.

'' Some time later we had done some work at American Sound and I found out that Elvis was coming in. I remember we spent the night at the Holiday Inn on the river after our session and the next morning as we were checking out I called Felton. That's the boldest thing I think I ever did in my life. I said to him, 'We just found out from Chips that you're bringing Elvis in for a session and we really want to be on it'. He said, 'Well, I'll talk to Elvis about it' and sure enough we got to do it. We almost fainted".

Mary's group, The Southern Comfort, also recorded widely (and performed live with) Neil Diamond. They were seen with Diamond when he appeared on the Johnny Cash TV show. As her original Sun recordings suggested, Johnson was not restricted by musical categories. Her vocal group also appeared on recordings with country artist Bobby Bare, and soul singer Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman), Joe Tex and Joe Simon.

In 1972 Mary Johnson appeared with Marlin Greene on George Harrison's landmark Concert For Bangladesh album. Mary's group also appeared on 1960s albums by Boz Scaggs and Cher; 1970s albums by Don Nix, Albert King, Lonnie Mack, Gerry Goffin, Dan Penn, Willie Nelson, Leo Sayer and Peter Yarrow.

In 1971 Mary again recorded solo, producing an LP on Elektra called "Mary Called Jeanie Greene" (EKS 74103). A live recording of an tour called "The Alabama State Troupers" was issued on Elektra 75002 in 1972, featuring Jeanie, Don Nix, and blues singer Furry Lewis.

In 1984, Mary recorded as backup singer for Carl Perkins, but she never did get paid for it. After that, things began to wind down. In 1993 her husband Max died, Today Mary-Elizabeth- Jeanie Johnson-Greene-Lee lives in Corinth, Mississippi, not far from where she grew up. She lives a quiet life enjoying none of the material benefits or notoriety one might expect from such as a productive career in the music business. She is not looking for international fame and fortune, but neither was she expecting to be forgotten. Her voice, has graced numerous gold and platina records. She has been heard by millions who never knew who she was.

Jeanie Green has recently been transferred to Shepherd's Cove (Hospice of Marshall County) in Albertville, Alabama. Among her assorted afflictions, congestive heart failure has taken the biggest toll on her body. The doctors have not been optimistic that her condition will omprove - as heart will continue to become progressively weaker. Jeanie Greene passed away on August 19, 2018.


JOHNSON, SHERMAN & HIS CLOUDS OF JOY - It seems as if Lillian McMurry at Trumpet Records was sufficiently impressed with Sam Phillips' work on her Tiny Kennedy session to schedule Sherman ''Blues'' Johnson the following week. In Marc Ryan's authoritative work on Trumpet, he quotes a letter from McMurry to Johnson: ''When we first met, you had potentials. It too a whole year to get you off the old track and onto the right one. At first, you didn't realize that it was your piano playing that kept you on the same old tune and was making you break time''.

Phillips had the solution in the shape of Pineas Newborn, Sr., Phineas Newborn, Jr., and Calvin Newborn. Saxophonist Richard Sanders rounded out the group. McMurry had already canceled two releases by Johnson, but she culled two singles from Phillips' session.

Sherman Johnson was born in Meridian, Mississippi on July 22, 1925, was a disc jockey on WTOK, Meridian when he recorded for Trumpet. His first recordings were for Nashboro in 1951, and they're on Bear Family's ''A Shot In The Dark: Nashville Jumps'' box. Both Nashboro sides were longer on personality than skill, and that was McMurry's complaint. Five songs resulted from Johnson's session with Sam Phillips on September 30, 1952. One month later, Phillips sent the tapes to McMurry for all but one song, ''Lost In Korea'', to which he was adding sound effects. Johnson's activities after the Trumpet session are more or less unknown. He wrote a song that Johnny Ace recorded, and cut a session with Paul Gayton for Chess Records in New Orleans in 1957, from which nothing was issued. A session in Shreveport for Ram Records the same year also yielded no releases. Around 1961, he started a label, Mel-O-Juke, in Meridian, but from there the trail goes cold until word came of his death in Meridian in May 1982. (CE)


JOHNSON, WILLIE - If for nothing other than his recordings with Howlin' Wolf, Willie Johnson belongs in the pantheon of blues guitar greats. His tone and attack became part of Wolf's signature sound, a sound that shaped not only blues but rock and roll. Some of us first became aware of Johnson's identity from the 1962 Crown LP that included Worlf's remarkable ''House Rockin' Boogie''.

After some slashed chords and bluesy fills, Wolf says, ''Play that git-tar Willie Johnson, til it smokes''. Adding, ''Guy on that giutar is Willie Johnson, whuppin' jus' some giutar''. From that sliver of information, it wasn't hard to figure out who played on most of Wolf's early recordings.

Willie Lee Johnson aka Willis Hone Johnson was born Senatobia, outside Goldwater, Mississippi, on March 4, 1923, one of six children. His parents were sharecroppers, and his father brewed liquor, imparting to his son a habit he would never shed for long. None of the family were musical, but young Willie made the customary experiments with baling wire and a bottle before getting a guitar of his own. Learned guitar from legendary Delta figures such as Willie Brown and Son House. But his own style was thoroughly modern - over amplified and distorted, with many ideas from jazz.

He first met Howlin' Wolf around 1941/1942, and for a while the pair played together on the streets and in juke joints. By the late 1940s, he was working at various times with the Newborn family band and with barber Parker's Silver Kings Band. In a 1994 conversation with John Anthony Brisbin, Johnson said, ''I met Howlin' Wolf in the late 1930s at Dooley's Spur, Mississippi, right out from Robinsville. Him and Son House and Willie Brown was playing together''. Wolf told Son House and Willie Brown that he wanted Johnson to come up and play a number. ''I tunes the guitar my way'', continued Johnson, ''and I struck out on a tune. Son House and Willie Brown backed me up. They said, 'This kid is good. He's gonna be alright someday'''. Wolf literally sat Johnson on his lap, teaching him tunings and licks, and by Johnson's account, Wolf switched to harmonica after Johnson became proficient on guitar. Already, Wolf was a formedable showman. ''He'd get up and clown and do about with his guitar'', said Johnson. ''He got that tail dragger name. He'd put a towel in the back of his belt 'cause he seated so much. He's swing his hips and the towel would look like a tail. People be hollerin' and clappin' and he'd be tellin' ém 'bout he drag his tracks as he go out''.

Still in Mississippi but crossing the river to Helena, Arkansas, Johnson played with Sonny Boy Williamson, Joe Willie Wilkins, and some of the King Biscuit Boys. Settling in Memphis, he hung out with Sammy Lewis and Willie Nix. ''Sammy played harp for Willie Nix a long time. 'Willie played drums and sang, but you never could get along with him. He'd get to drinkin' and want to argue''.

In 1951, Johnson was once again working with Wolf on KWEM, West Memphis and at the Brown Jug nightclub. By Johnson's account, Sam Phillips came into the Brown Jug to see them, and accompanied him on all of his earliest sessions, playing with an amplified power that almost matched Wolf's titanic roaring vocals. He claimed to have written "How Many More Years" one of the many distinctive songs which established Wolf's reputation. Wolf moved north a couple of years later, but Willie elected to remain in Memphis. He worked with Willie Nix, having recorded with him on sides that Sam Phillips sold to RPM and Checker. He also joined Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson on their periodic tours of the southern states.

His own recording debut came about in 1955, when he teamed up with harmonica player Sammy Lewis, backing Lewis on "Feel So Worried", his variation on Junior Parker's "Feelin' Good", and singing his own "So Long Baby Goodbye". During this he emits the immortal cry, "Well all right, Sammy, blow the backs off it", a phrase that is better remembered than his performance as a singer.

Shortly afterwards, Wolf's summoned him to Chicago and he remained in Wolf's band until 1961. For whatever reason, Johnson gave up music and got a job making alloy wheels in a car plant. Various efforts were made to induce him back into the music business and Earwig Records boos Michael Franks recorded some sessions in the late 1980s. His last public performance was June 2, 1994, with Sunnyland Slim at Buddy Guy's Legend club on Wabash Avenue in Chicago. His health had been deteriorating for several years before his death at his home in Chicago on February 26, 1995.

Nevertheless, his reputation as one of the great postwar guitarists had already been secured 40 years earlier with his ignitable playing on so many classic Howlin' Wolf recordings.


JONES BROTHERS, THE – Consisted of six voices and one guitar. The group had its origins in Marion, Arkansas in the late 1930s when Cas Jones formed a quartet. Death and normal attrition took their toll, and by the time of the early 1950s Sun sessions a somewhat different personnel was featured.

Along with Cas Jones, there where Jake McIntosh, William Gresham, Johnny (John Allen) Prye, James Rayford and Eddie Hollins. Charles Bishop played guitar.

The Jones Brothers originally came tom Sam Phillips' attention through Brother Theo Wade, a mainstay of WDIA and the Memphis gospel scene, and Phillips noted that their manager was Walter Oliver. That contact led to several sessions, one held in December, 1953 and the second a month later in January, 1954. Other unknown titles were dated 1955.

Although Phillips recorded gospel sparingly and often for lease to other labels, he liked it. He just didn't think he could sell it. For that reason, the Jones Brothers must have held some special interest to him; he actually released a single by them on his fledgling Sun label. Other than the Prisonaires, whose exceptional circumstances offered Phillips a built-in marketing hook, the Jones Brothers were the only gospel quartet whose music was released on Sun.

Thirty years after their recording session in 1953, five members of the group were still living in Memphis. Along with Prye and Mackintosh, James Taylor was there, as was James Rayford who had joined and recorded with the Jubilaires in Hattiesburh, Mississippi until, he told Steve LaVere, ''the lead singer went to preachin''. Walter Oliver, who had become a minister, also still lived in Memphis. Oliver had not sung in a while and, during an impromptu reunion, he commented ''The pipes are a bit rusty''. Charles Bishop had died around 1965 and Eddie Hollins had become a preacher and moved to Boston.

When Colin Escott and Hank Davis visited Johnny Prye in 1983, he was still living at the same address and held the same day job with McLean Trucking as he had when Sam Phillips had first summoned the group to record in 1953. Prye, born in Clarksdale, Mississippi on March 28, 1924, had remained active in the local gospel scene, singing with several groups and training still others. Perhaps the most notable moment of the interview/Jones Brothers reunion was Johnny Prye's revelation that Elvis Presley had visited the studio during one of the Jones Brothers' sessions at Sun.

According to Prye, Elvis had spontaneously begun to sing with the quartet, enjoying the excitement of the vocal interplay as he had several years later during the Million Dollar Quartet sessions. Prye reported that Sam Phillips had turned on the tape recorder and captured some of this impromptu singing. There are Jones Brother tapes dated 1955 so this is a possibility. Prye indicated that Sam Phillips had given him an acetate of one song featuring Elvis and the quartet which Prye had dutifully stored away in the attic of his modest
Memphis home on Warren Avenue. The acetate was in good company with piles of old tapes and dubs that he kept safely above the living room. That's the good news. The bad news is that the temperature on the streets of Memphis that day was pushing 100 degrees. Forty years of Memphis summers rendered Prye's attic a less than optimal storage place for an acetate of historical value. We gently suggested that Prye have a look around for the disc as well as anything else from that era that might hold collector/historical interest, not to mention financial value. He promised to do so. On the next visit, Prye presented the interviewers with a shoebox of old tapes that contained quartet rehearsals, however there was no acetate and no Elvis. The interviewers left the South, leaving their address and strong encouragement that Prye continue his search of the attic. Not surprisingly, word never came from Memphis.

There are several footnotes to this story. Prye had two sons and a daughter, Beverly. John Jr. was the family historian and ''could have told you everything my father ever sang or recorded'', according to Beverly. ''My other brother, Steven, was a very accomplished person. He graduated from Yale with a degree in English literature and psychology. He later graduated from Harvard Law School and practiced in New York City. He wrote magazine and newspaper articles and received a number of accolades here in Memphis. He became quite ill and suffered on undiagnosed mental disorder that may have been related to Alzheimer’s disease. He was in and out of hospitals in Ohio before his death''. And this information might solve the riddle of why an obscure Jones Brothers acetate, included here, turned up in a thrift store in Medina, Ohio.

Johnny Prye died on march 10, 1987. Brother James Taylor sang at his funeral. Several months after Prye's death, there was considerable damage to his house, causing the roof to collapse and showering the contents of the attic into a downstairs bedroom occupied by Prye's disabled son, John, Jr. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the next day the rubble, containing whatever tapes and acetates Johnny Prye ever owned, was carted out to the street for garbage pickup. Early the next morning a truck carried that little portion of Memphis history, along with assorted coffee grounds and orange peels, off to the city dump. Eventually it all became landfill, the mute grounding for a new subdivision or mall. (HD)


JUSTIS, BILL - Bill Justis was not grounded in the world of country music and hillbilly bars as many of Sun's rock and rollers were. He was from a comfortably-off family, William Everette Justis Jr., was born in Birmingham, Alabama on October 14, 1926.

His father was an affluent roofing contractor, and Justis grew up riding shows horses and playing tennis, in sharp contrast with most of those with whom he would one day work. His mother was a classical pianist and encouraged him to play music.

He studied English at University and started to take an interest in jazz music. He took up the trumpet and saxophone and played in local dance bands when he came back to Memphis in 1954, talking like a hipster and looking for a job.

''I was living in Memphis and I'd been married for a time and was working at various jobs around town. I wanted to be in music but I never had been known professionally. Not really.

One night I was reading a newspaper article about a guy in New York named Buck Ram, who had to do with the success of the vocal group scene. I read about how much money he had made out of rock and roll so I said, 'That's for me' and I immediately set out to a record store and bought $80 worth of the all-time rock and roll hits. The ones that set the styles. I studied the stuff and found it was so simple, yet basic and savage and that it was difficult to perform. This was 1956. Soon after that I was hired by Barbara Pittman to arrange a session at Sun for her, and Sam Phillips complimented me on the work I had done and asked me to come see him sometime. A couple of months later I did, though by that time I had arranged a session with Wink Martindale in WHBQ. It was the OJ label and Dewey Phillips engineered it; he was a very famous disc jockey at that time. I took the Martindale tape to Sam and he asked to work with him. Jack Clement had arrived as an engineer and we worked there a couple of years''.

Sam Phillips, hearing something he liked in the O-J sessions, hired Justis and gave him the official title of Musical Director. In May 1957 Justis decided that he would try to record a rock and roll tune. He invited Sid Manker over to his house to play riffs while Justis worked out a melody. The results sounded commercial, and Justis decided to record it. Before the session he had read a glossary of teenage jargon in a magazine. He found 'raunchy' in there. After the session, saxophonist Vernon Drane said, "That's the raunchiest damn thing you've ever done. You'll miss a hit if you don't release it". The two ideas connected and Justis had his tune named, ''Raunchy''.

After "Raunchy" became a number 3 pop hit in the late months of 1957, Justis began touring. He had started balding at age 17 and was self-conscious about both his age and his appearance; he felt woefully out of place on package shows. Roland Janes recalls one occasion in Los Angeles. Justis used the opportunity to hire some of his favorite big-band musicians. They sat around all afternoon poking fun at rock and roll, but when it came time to play, Justis found they couldn't get the licks.

Bill Justis recorded some very creditable follow-ups, none of which recaptured the excitement of "Raunchy". On the session reels, he can be heard between takes chiding the musicians in the hipster's patois he had adopted: "OK, girls, let's get real bad now so we can sell some records. Instant crapsville, girls. Here we go...".

In March 1959 Bill Justis and Sam Phillips came to a parting of the ways. In circumstances that are still not entirely clear, Bill Justis and Jack Clement were fired for insubordination. each started his own label, looking to emulate Phillips' success. Justis started Play-Me Records, but found the road Phillips had traveled be a hard one. Economic necessity forced him to take on a job as a PR rep for a trucking line until Bill Lowery at NRC Records offered him a job working in Artist and Repertoire. Bill Justis commuted to Nashville and Atlanta for sessions, eventually moving to Nashville in 1961 to become a freelancer working with Bill Beasley for Hit Records, a company producing sound alike versions of hit songs, while working on independent productions for other labels, soon joining Monument and Mercury as an arranger. He made a number of instrumental albums on Smash and other labels. He played the sax on the soundtrack of Elvis Presley's movie "Kissin' Cousins", soundtrack recording session in October 1963).

Between 1962 and 1966 he usually had at least one of his arrangements on the pop or country charts. His clients included Bobby Goldsboro, Brook Benton, Roy Orbison, Bobby Vinton, and countless others. In early 1966 Bill Justis moved to Los Angeles to take on more legitimate work and possibly get into film scoring, but he returned to Nashville in 1972, his ambition to work on movies still unfulfilled (although he later wrote the "Smokey And The Bandit" scores). Moving between California and Nashville, Justis gave Ray Stevens the title for a million-selling hit ''Gitarzan'' in 1969. He wrote and produced for a range of top names including Ray Charles and Fats Domino as well as mainstream pop singers.

Bill Justis remained in Nashville until his death at the age of 55 from cancer in July 15, 1982, doing what he did best; arranging. His wife, Yvonne, whom he married in 1954, remembered that in church everyone would sing the melody and Justis would hum an arrangement around it. The huge crowd that attended his funeral in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis attested to the respect in which he was held.


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