Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

UPDATES

• Update on Les Randall acetate.
• Thanks to Bob more info on Bill Harris.
• Added info on Reavis Recording Studio.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Jack Turner

Jack Turner
The Singing River Boy

Jack Turner, sometimes billed as the "Singing River Boy," was a country singer from Alabama with a string of singles during the 1950s. Not to be confused either with "Happy" Jack Turner (a piano player and Decca recording artist of the 1920s and 1930s) nor "Hobo" Jack Turner, Jack Turner is also known for penning the minor rockabilly classic "Everybody's Rockin' But Me."

Jack Turner was born on June 10, 1921, and hailed from Haleyville, Alabama. His father S.W. Turner worked for the I.C.Railroad and his mother presented Turner with an ukulele when he was seven years old. By then, Turner had already made his first public appearance at a school event a year earlier. Music became one of his main interests and eventually he also mastered the guitar, so he could back up local fiddlers at dances.

Another of Turner's interests was painting and drawing. He was so good at it, that he decided upon a career in art and after finishing high school, Turner enrolled at an advertiging art school in Nashville, Tennessee. However, music was still on his mind and not surprisingly, he attended one of the Grand Ole Opry shows while in Nashville. Early in 1942, he met his future wife Lorene Davidson. That same year, he was drafted into the US Navy.

While serving his country, Turner founded a country band and entertained the troops during this time. After his discharge, he moved his family (which included two daughters by then) back to Alabama and settled in Montgomery. He got a job as an artist-illustrator at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base and besides that, also worked as a musician.

Jack Turner and Norma Hendrick, "Montgomery
County's Maid of Cotton," 1954
When WCOV-TV started out, Turner auditioned for the station and was immidiately engaged as a cast member of a Saturday night TV show, "Bar Twenty." When Shorty Sullivan started his "Deep South Jamboree," a live stage show airing on WBAM, Turner became a member of the show right from the start and stayed with it for several years. Around the same time, he was discovered by Hank Williams' mother, who also lived in Montgomery and, being impressed by Turner's talent, recommended him to Fred Rose in Nashville. 

Turner signed a recording contract with RCA-Victor in 1954 and held his first session for the label on February 17 that year. Contrary to a widely held belief, two 1953 RCA discs issued as by "Jack Turner and his Granger County Gang" featuring the incredible great covers of "Hound Dog" (RCA-Victor #47-5267) and "Gambler's Guitar" (RCA-Victor #47-5384) were not by Turner but by the country comedy duo of Homer & Jethro, hiding under a pseudonym.

Turner's first session produced "Shoot, I Reckon I Love You" and "Walkin' a Chalk Line," both were used by RCA for his debut disc (RCA-Victor #47-5682 and #20-5682, 78rpm and 45rpm formats respectively). Two other songs, "Model T Baby" and "Hichhikin' a Ride" were two of his best performances but held back by the label for a year. Two more sessions for RCA followed ca. in June 1954 and in May 1955.

A newspaper clipping from around 1954 also indicated that Turner was designated to appear in a movie about Hank Williams life. Apperently, he was was chosen to take over the role of Williams, as the newspaper relied on journalist Walter Winchell. However, there are no hints this movie ever came into production. The first movie about Williams was filmed about ten years later with George Hamilton IV starring.


RCA-Victor initiated a special promotion campaign around "Model T Baby" (RCA-Victor #47-5997 and #20-5997) which was released early in 1955 by the label, to push the record. Billboard reported on May 14, 1955: "[...] Myrna Holly, freshman at the University of Mississippi, was last week declared the winner of Turner's 'Model T Baby' Contest inaugurated several months ago to plug Turner's record by that name. Jimmy Swan, of WHSY of Hattiesburg, Miss., sent in the winning entry. As winners, both will have their portraits painted by Turner."



Turner recorded with some of the best studio musicians that Nashville had at that time and despite fine recordings, that certain hit record wouldn't roll along with RCA. After a total of six discs released on the label (the last one in November 1955), the company dropped Turner from its roster. 

However, Turner had built himself quite a following, especially in Alabama. He started two new shows on his own, besides his regular performances on the Deep South Jamboree. On June 6, 1955, the first episode of his half-hour long "Jack Turner Show" aired on WFSA-TV in Montgomery. One June 14, Turner also started another TV show, the "Alabama Jubilee" on the same station. The shows featured his regular band, the Singing River Boys, which included Jimmy Porter on steel guitar. Also appearing with him on TV was his daughter Dixie at times.

On October 22, 1955, Jack Turner and his band were part of a "mammoth free show, highlighting Alabama c&w groups," as Billboard reported on November 12. The show was headed by the Duke of Paducah, Whitey Ford. Several more popular Alabama country groups were part of that show, which was held at the City Auditorium in Birmingham and drew 5.300 people to the auditorium and another 1.500 hearing the show from outside the building over loudspeakers.

Although Turner's homebase remained Montgomery, he nevertheless held his ties to Nashville and signed a new recording contract with Hickory Records in May 1956. Already on April 12, he had recorded a session for the label featuring Turner on vocals, Chet Atkins on lead guitar, Ray Edenton on rhythm guitar, Jimmy Day on steel guitar, Dale Potter on fiddle, Marvin Hughes on piano, and Ernie Netwon on bass. The session yielded "Lookin' for Love," "Everybody's Rockin' But Me," "I'm Gonna Get You If I Can," and "It's My Foolish Pride." It was especially "Everybody's Rockin' But Me" (Hickory #45-1050) that gained some exposure. Released in May 1956 on Hickory, the anti-rockabilly statement caught the attention of Columbia Records and Bobby Lord, who turned it into a hard-driving rockabilly piece on June 28 with a great lead guitar by Grady Martin.

Hickory released a second disc by Turner in November 1956 but success eluded it, hence it remained his only session for the label. Turner changed labels one more time in 1957 and cut one session for MGM on November 25 at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville. Two singles were released, the first already in December 1957. While he had declared in April '56 "Well I don't rock like crazy, I'm just a country man" in "Everybody's Rockin' But Me," Turner certainly had a rocking approach on "Shake My Hand (Meet Mr. Blues)," released by MGM in July 1958 (MGM #K12690).

In 1957, Turner starred in one of Arlene Francis' "Home" episodes, a NBC homestory TV show. The format, filmed in Turner's hometown Haleyville, featured interviews and railroad songs performed by Turner and his daughter Dixie. The episode aired on March 25, 1957.

No more records appeared afterwards by Turner and Billboard ceased mentioning him or his shows. It seems, he turned his back on the music business, limiting his career to the 1950s. He nevertheless enjoyed fishing as well as painting and several of his artworks turned up in the Montgomery area. The themes for his drawings were mostly taken from the Alabama countryside, inlcuding old barns, creeks, and the cotton fields. Nevertheless, Turner also continued singing and entertained his family with his musical abilities, as his nephew Raymond Harris rememberred: "I miss listening to him pick his guitar and sing. He was a gifted entertainer. Had a great sense of humor."

Jack Turner died at some point before 2010. The most probably date is August 22, 1997, as I found a cemetery entry of a certain H. Turner, Jr., born on June 9, 2010 (heed!), buried in Montgomery Alabama. I had also correspondance with a distant relative of Turner's but she couldn't remember his death date. Further research fizzled out, unfortunately.

Recommended reading:
Jack Turner "The Singing River Boy" by Xavier Maire

Monday, April 2, 2018

Billy Bailey on CMC

Billy Bailey and the Country Drifters - Return from Viet Nam (CMC 1014), 1973

Here we have a Vietnam war era song, as there were so many back then. However, to my knowledge, it's the first war era themed song on this blog. The armed truce between the United States and North Vietnam came into existence in January 1973, so this record was a pretty up-to-date political comment.

Billy Bailey may have been the singer's real name or not, we do not know. If there's anyone out there who knew him, please leave a comment and delight us with his story. His band, the "Country Drifters," remain as obscure as the vocalist. Nevetheless, I sense a connection with another CMC record, as the Country Dirfters appear also on this record here (different singer, though). 

Read more on CMC Records:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Willie Gregg on Stop


Willie Gregg - The Girls in Milwaukee (Stop ST 1532), 1971

I stumbled across a fifth disc by Willie Gregg, a singer that has caught my attention since I first heard his superb version of "If You Want to Be My Woman" four years ago. Information is scarce and the bits that I have can be accessed in previous posts about him.

The disc couples "You Fool," already the third version of this song recorded by Gregg, and "The Girls in Milwaukee," composed by Nashville songwriter Larry Kingston. Both songs were released by Stop Records out of Nashville in 1971. The release took place at a time when Stop was taken over by producer Tommy Hill, who previously had been vice president of the label. Stop was originally founded by steel guitarist Pete Drake in 1966, whose brother Jack produed this disc. Recording circumstances are not documented but it very well could be both songs were recorded in Nashville with Pete Drake on steel.

Here is the amended Willie Gregg discography:

Kay-Bar Dane KBD-044: Willie Gregg and the Velvetones - You Fool / I'll Find You (1966/67)
Ringo 2001: Willie Gregg - You Fool / How Long (poss. ca. 1968)
Bridge-Way 1003: Willie Gregg - Rebel / A Heart Afraid to Break (1968)
Waterflow 702: Willie Gregg and the Country Kings - She's No Good / If You Want to Be My Woman (1969)
Stop ST 1532: Willie Gregg - You Fool / The Girls in Milwaukee (1971)

Read more:

Friday, March 9, 2018

Fuller Todd on King

Fuller Todd - Old Fashioned (King 45-5048), 1957

I first spotted Fuller Todd as the co-writer of some Marlon Grisham songs on Cover years ago. I wondered who was hiding behind this name since information on him was scarce and what his connection to Grisham was. Recently, I decided it was time to purchase his orginal records and began to research the story of Todd.

Fuller Todd was born on March 26, 1935, in Holly Springs, Mississipi, to Maud Franklin and Mamie (Gardner) Todd. Todd came from the same region as Charlie Feathers, who was born three years earlier in Slayden near Holly Springs. Todd attended Central Millington High School and graduated from there 1953. 

Like fellow Mississipian Charlie Feathers, Todd eventually moved to Memphis and by ca. 1955, played in a band with Jody Chastain and Jerry Huffman. The band performed on local radio KWEM but by January 1956, both Chastain and Huffman had joined Charlie Feathers' band. Todd's career in music seems to have followed the path of Feathers' career astonishing closely. Feathers had recorded country singles at Sun Records before 1956 but was rejected as a rockabilly singer by Sam Phillips. Todd also auditioned at Sun but was turned down by Phillips, too. Todd, like Feathers, was then spotted by Louis Innis, King Records executive in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Todd remembered his auditon for King vividly and was cited by Jon Hartley Fox in his book "King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records" as follows: "When I went there, there were about six or seven others besides me. So Louis Innis had me do my thing while he walked around the room listening. He came right up close, putting his ear against my mouth, just checking out my voice. I was the only one signed that day."

While Feathers already made his first recording session for King in August 1956, Todd was eventually invited by King for a session in Nashville on March 25, 1957. Four songs were cut that day and King chose "Proud Lady - Heart Stealer" / "Old Fashioned" for Todd's debut on the label, released ca. in April 1957 (King #5048). A rather strange release came into existence when King supplied Todd's recordings of "Young Hearts are True" and "Real True Love" for an Armed Forces Radio & Television 16 tracks LP that also contained songs by Brenda Lee, Carlson's Raiders, Eddie Fisher, and Perry Como. These LPs were intended for overseas usage to entertain the troops.

A second session was arranged for Todd on January 12, 1958, this time at King's own recording studio on Brewester Avenue in Cincinnati. The product was the single "Top Ten Rock" b/w "Jeanie Marie" (King #5111). The latter was eventually covered by Trini Lopez, also on King. Left in the vaults from the second session were "Cuddle Up" and "You Baby." A good batch of the recorded song material was self-composed by Todd.

However, none of Todd's singles charted and King dropped him in 1958. Contrary to Feathers, who had shared Todd's fate so far, Todd did not pursue a career as a recording artist afterwards. He linked with another Memphis performer after that, Marlon Grisham, and wrote or co-wrote "Sugarfoot" and "Teenage Love" (both recorded by Grisham for Cover Records). He also penned a few songs with Jody Chastain, including "Dreamer" and "Tomorrow We'll Know" (the latter recorded by Ramon Maupin for Memphis in 1961). Besides, Todd composed several more songs, which are registered with BMI.

Todd kept music as a hobby and held down a regular day job. He frequently appeared at the Strand Theater in Millington, Tennessee, with befriended musicians on Saturday nights for years. Fuller Todd died on July 16, 2015, at the age of 80 years. He was buried at Memphis Memorial Gardens. 


Billboard May 13, 1957, C&W review

Billboard September 23, 1957 C&W review

Billboard February 10, 1958, pop review

 Discography

King 45-5048: Proud Lady-Heart Stealer / Old-Fashioned (ca. April 1957)
King 45-5075: Young Hearts are True / Real True Love (ca. September 1957)
King 45-5111: Jeanie Marie / Top Ten Rock (ca. January 1958) 

Armed Forces Radio & Television Service LP P-5789/90: Young Hearts are True / Real True Love + 14 tracks by other artists

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tombigbee Records


Tombigbee Records was located on Pontotoc, Mississippi, a city a little west of Tupelo, and not too far away from Memphis, Tennessee, either. The name of the label derived from the Tombigbee River near Pontotoc. The name itself was of Native American heritage, from the people of the Choctaw to be exact.

The owner(s) of Tombigbee are unknown to me as well as other details. The exact adress of TomBigBee was at Box 390 Pontotoc. Danny Walls, a recording artist for the label in his own right, was active as a producer and songwriter for the label on several occasions and was probably involved in running this label. Stan Kesler also co-produced at least two records - so is there a Memphis connection?

The artists recording for Tombigbee were to all accounts local singers and bands. Jimmy Wages, a Tupelo native, also had recorded for Sun in Memphis earlier. Travis Bell was also a Mississippi based artist. James Mask, another Memphis based singer who was born 1932 in Pontotoc, cut a great cover of the Rocky Bill Ford song "Beer Drinking Daddy." Mask had previously recorded for different labels including Bandera from Chicago and small Memphis labels.
 

Does anyone have more information on this label?

100:
101: Houston (Bob) Mills - The Early Morning D.J. / The Turn the Lights Out Down at Joe's (1966)
102: Jimmy Wages and the Tune Mates - Biggest Man Around / Right in the Middle
103: Jerry Pitts & Rhyhtm Makers - Big Ole Highway / Come On Home
104: Bob Mills - Crazy About a Honky Tonk / I'll Come Back Crying
105: Jerry Pitts & his Rhythm Makers (with the Itawambains) - Jet Age Santa / Let the Kids Spend This Christmas with Me
106:
107: Jerry Pitts & his Rhythm Makers - I Ain't Had Time to Quit / A Pencil and a Bottle
108: Robert Mills - I'm Doin' Fine / Deborah Aycock - Looking for a Brand New Start
109: Deborah Aycock - That Don't Buy Your Baby No Candy / Danny Walls - A Woman's Kiss / Robert Mills - Trying to Find My Way Back Home / What They Said You Would Do
110: Danny Walls - I Got a Woman / ?
111: James Mask - Beer Drinking Daddy / Smokey Ole Bar Room
112:
113: Pete Doles & the Young Inspiration - Yes Indeed / I Believe / ? / ?
114: Robert Mills - The Farmers Prayer / When He Calls
115: Travis Bell - My Son at College / Married Life
116: Jerry McCoy - "Tell Them Mary" You Love Me Like I am / Asking for the Blues

Thanks to Bayou Bum and Bob

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas Baby

Chuck Berry - Merry Christmas Baby (Chess 1714), 1958

Here's the flip side to the "Run Rudolph Run" post featured earlier this month. Chess followed its usual pattern and coupled a top-notch high tempo rock'n'roll song and a slower tune by Berry. I really like it when Berry throws in a bit of "White Christmas" on his guitar.

Enjoy this one and everybody have a nice Christmas season and a happy new year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Run Rudolph Run

Chuck Berry - Run Rudolph Run (Chess 1714), 1958 

To spread the Christmas spirit, here we have the most rockinest Christmas tune you'll probably get to hear by one of the greatest rock and roll musicians of all time, the late Chuck Berry. "Run Rudolph Run" was released on the Chess label in November 1958, just in time for the Christmas season. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Billy Price on CMC

Billy Price and the Drifters - Two Different Worlds (CMC 745C-0932), 1968

Billy Price must have been a big Hank Williams fan, since he chose to cut two of the Drifting Cowboy's old numbers, "Two Different Worlds" and "You Win Again." Price's nasal voice seems to fit quite good to these songs and despite his limited singing abilities, the recordings come out quite enjoyable (mainly because of the background band, another reference to Williams).

Another discl from the chaotic numbered CMC label, owned by Dan Craft in West Memphis, Arkansas. See also CMC discography on Arkansas 45rpm Records.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Story of Jack Rivers

Western Swing, Texas Tornadoes, and Rainier Beer - The Story of Jack Rivers

A steady performer from the 1930s until the 1960s, Jack Rivers is not exactly a household name in country music history. Although he left behind a wealth of recordings - solo and as part of background bands - he never found much acclaim outside western swing lovers and historians.

Born Rivers Lewis on December 16, 1917, he was the half-brother of James "Texas Jim" Lewis. Their father, James Augusta Lewis (born 1888 in Ochlocknee, Georgia; died 1978 in Tampa, Florida) first married Elizabeth Malissa "Betty" Lisenby, who gave birth to Jim in 1909. When his first wife died in 1916, James Augusta wed an unknown woman, who was the mother of Rivers and Madelyn Jo Lewis. The couple, however, divorced again and James Augusta married a third time, Lillian Baines May.

James Augusta Lewis was a US Marshal and an old-time fiddler, so the Lewis family was musically inclined. In 1919, when Rivers Lewis was about two years old, his father moved the family to Fort Myers, Florida. Given that Rivers was born in 1917, it seems probable he was born still in Georgia. By 1928, his falf-brother Jim had left Florida for Texas, where he began his career as a singer and soon earned his nickname "Texas Jim." In the meantime, the Lewis family had moved to Detroit, where Rivers began his professional career as a musician. The exact point when he started out his unclear, however. Rivers stated that he began appearing in Detroit with a mouth harp player named Bob Richardson. He claimed it was 1932, when he was twelve years old, which must be incorrect. Since Rivers was born in 1917, he either began his career in 1929 or he was already around 14 years old. Rivers later remembered this time: "[...] we were making $ 5.00 each night we played. The places would be raided and the police would get me out the back door with 'don't ever let me catch you here again!'"

Around 1930, his brother Jim had also moved to Detroit and both joined forces and began singing together around Detroit. They founded a band with Kenneth Mills on fiddle and Eugene "Smokey" Rogers (with whom Rivers had performed earlier) on banjo with Rivers, nicknamed "Jack," on guitar and Lewis probably on guitar and vocals. The quartet played rough bars and clubs around Detroit and also had a 15 minutes radio show on WMBC. 

Rivers' father moved the family to Toledo, Ohio, eventually, where Rivers didn't found as much work in clubs as before in Detroit. He took a job with a local Hawaiian group and gave some music lessons at the Honolulu Conservatory of Music. At the age of 16, Rivers moved to Middletown, Ohio, where he worked as a truck driver. However, his employment there didn't last too long as his parents had earned him a spot at local Toledo radio station WSPD as a member of Roy Smith's band. The group also worked at a local club at night.

Brother Jim had stayed in Detroit but was living in New York City by 1936. He had founded his first own band, Texas Jim Lewis and the Lone Star Cowboys, and recorded his first session for the American Record Corporation that same year. On this first session, Rivers was not part of that group. As band mate Smokey Rogers seeked for a more solid and quiet living, Rivers replaced him in the group and moved to New York. There, he performed steadily with his brothers group over radio and such places as the Village Barn.

He changed his name legally to "Jack Rivers" but it is unknown at which point this ocurred. The popularity of the Lone Star Cowboys increased and through their appeatances, the group eventually ended up in California. On August 23, 1940, Lewis and his band were back in the studio, this time in Los Angeles for Decca Records. Part of the line-up was also Rivers as a guitarist - it was his first recording session.

Rivers recorded with the Lone Star Cowboys well into 1942. Their last session took place on July 23 in Los Angeles. Texas Jim Lewis was then drafted into the military. Rivers also joined the troops and on his account, he served three years in the military. However, he found enought time to continue his work as a musician and that year, he took part in the filming of "Laugh Your Blues Away," which premiered on November 12, 1942. In the movie, he played the role of a musician named "Jack Rivers Lewis."

Rivers had joined Jimmy Wakely's Oklahoma Cowboys by 1944 and appeared in the movie "Montana Plains" that year as part of Wakely's band. Up to 1948, Rivers would appear in seven more B western movies with Wakely. Again, it is unclear if Rivers already recorded with Wakely at that time or if he took up recording with him at a later point (it is assured that Rivers recorded with Wakely by 1947). Wakely recorded for Coral and Decca at that time and even cut a session with Texas Jim Lewis for Decca on December 10, 1945, in Hollywood.

By mid 1946, Rivers was back in the studio. First as a part of Tex Russell's Hollywood Cowboys, a band that recorded one single for the Aladdin label ("Texas Tornado" b/w "What It Means to Be Blue", Aladdin #508), and then with his own group for Trilon Records. Trilon had been started that same year by Renee LaMarre in Oakland, California, and is today better known for its jazz and blues output. Rivers cut a session in Hollywood that produced four titles: his version of Jimmy Wakely's "Texas Tornado" and "If I Knew What It Meant to Be Lonesome" (Trilon #124) as well as "Playing Games with Me" and "Blue Blue Eyes" (Trilon #125).  The unknown backing group was mentioned as "The Texas Tornadoes." Either this very same session or a second one for Trilon produced another two fine singles, the first of them being River's rendition of the big hit "Detour" and "At Least a Million Tears" (Trilon #18575). The second coupled "I've Found Somebody New" and "Sargent's Stomp" (Trilon #18576), the latter showcasing Tommy Sargent's abilities on the steel guitar. This time, the background music was credited to the "Muddy Creek Cowboys."

On November 25, 1946, Rivers was part of Johnny Bond's Red River Valley Boys that backed up Bond on a Columbia session at radio KNX. Rivers can be heard as a guitarist and duet vocalist on "Rainbow at Midnight." Rivers also worked with Stuart Hamblen and Gene Autry during this time on radio and in the recording studio. At some point between 1945 and 1950, Rivers also cut a session with an unknown band for C.P. "Chip" MacGregor's own MacGregor label. MacGregor's business was popular for its radio transcriptions but also released numerous 78rpm discs through the 1940s by western swing artists. Credited to "Jack Rivers Boys," Rivers and the band cut "Varsovienna," "Rye Waltz," "Schottische," and "Heel and Toe Polka." Rivers also cut several transcriptions for MacGregor that have been reissued by the British Archive of Country Music on CD.

Rivers, known as a talented guitarist back in the day, is sometimes also remembered today by guitar enthusiasts. He could have been the first guitarist to own a custom built Spanish guitar by Paul Bigsby, predating Merle Travis' exemplar by one year. Shaped as a lap steel guitar, the unusual looking guitar has several features it was built in 1947, either specifically made for Rivers or simply bought by Rivers from Bisgby. However, no photos of Rivers with this guitar have surfaced so far. The first known photo of it was taken in 1951, when guitarist Neil LeVang rented the guitar from Rivers as he went on tour with Texas Jim Lewis.  Rivers charged him $30 for the guitar, "an obscene amount of money at the time," as Neil LeVang was quoted by Deke Dickerson.

In 1948, Rivers recorded a couple of sides in Hollywood that were later leased to Capitol, which resulted in two singles on the label in 1948. They were followed by a string of singles for the Coral label, beginning in 1949 and ending in 1951. More or less simultaneously, Rivers also recorded several singles for the Hollywood based ABC-Eagle Records, another label that released several fine western swing and country singles.

Although blessed with musical talent and a master on the guitar, Rivers never went to stardom. He recorded for major labels but in some cases, the cause of failure in the music business can't be determined. It also requires to be at the right time at the right place, which Rivers apperently not was. Maybe due to this situation, he was looking for greener pastures and turned his back on California, relocating with his brother to Seattle, Washington, in 1950.

Moving to Seattle also meant leaving the metropolis of Los Angeles with its many clubs, movie studios, and record labels. Rivers simply founded a variety of his own labels, which included JR Ranch, Ranch, Lariat, Rivers, and others. Possibly the first disc from this era was, however, issued on Oliver Runchie's Listen label in 1952. Runchie operated the Electricraft Studio in Seattle, which was used frequently by Rivers for his recordings. The disc coupled "Navy Hot Rod" and "One Woman Man" (Listen #1441). Packed full of tremendous guitar licks by Rivers, "Navy Hot Rod" was only one of many "hot rod" saga songs back in the early to mid 1950s. Arkie Shibley had started this trend in country music in 1950, when his "Hot Rod Race" became a moderate hit and soon found imitators. Apart from Shibley himself, who cut a couple of follow-ups, also Paul Westmoreland and T. Texas Tyler ("Hot Rod Rag"), Johnny Tyler ("The Devil's Hot Rod"), and Charlie Ryan ("Hot Rod Lincoln") jumped on that train.

Rivers kept on recording extensively throughout the 1950s for small scale labels. While his brother Texas Jim Lewis became a regional star on KING-TV with his children show "Sheriff Tex's Safety Junction," Rivers decided upon performing at rough-and-ready roadhouses in the area, such as the Circle Tavern and Coe's Country Club. He also hosted his own local TV show, the alcohol-fueled "Ranier Ranch," which later became the "Raging Ranch Show" in KIRO-TV. On many of his gigs at the local dancehalls, Rivers was accompanied by his brother Jim. He even owned his own dancehall, the "JR Ranch," south of Seattle in Des Moines.

Jack and Randy Rivers on KTNT-TV, 1960s
from the collection of Deke Dickerson
Rivers performed with great success in the Seattle area until the mid 1960s. After he unsuccessfully candidated for the Washington House of Representives (he lost due to the League of Women Voters according to his own words). During the next years, Rivers lived at different places in the United States. 

In 1964, he moved to Riverview, Florida, where his parents also had settled but relocated to California again after the death of his mother in 1966. There, he resumed work with Jimmy Wakely for some time but also lived and worked in Buffalo, New York, and Wenatchee, Washington, in subsequent years. Music played an inferior role during this time in Rivers' life. In the 1980s, Rivers settled with his wife in Arizona, where he worked at the Grand Hotel in Apache Junction near Phoenix, where he would spent his last years.

Jack Rivers died on February 11, 1989, in Apache Junction at the age of 71 years. He was not the most prominent western swing musician but an integral part of the Texas Jim Lewis and Jimmy Wakely bands. He immortalized his guitar style on countless recordings as part of a group or on his own records.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

WIBC Jamboree

The Daily Banner,
December 1942
Indiana had many local live stage shows broadcasting from various places in the state. The show aired on WIBC, Indianapolis, and proved to be extremely popular with the station's listeners. The Jamboree was one of the earlier shows of its type.

WIBC started its Jamboree program in the early 1940s, possibly in 1940 or 1941. It was, however, on the air as early as December 1942. The show's cast included mostly singers and musicians who were working at WIBC plus country music stars of the day added to the line-up frequently. For example, in February 1944 Ernest Tubb and Pee Wee King appeared on the Jamboree. By 1944, famous radio and recording artist Hugh Cross was the emcee of the show.

The Jamboree did not only had its regular Saturday night stint in Indianapolis but also staged shows during the week from different places around Indianapolis. The show was held from such places at the Tomlinson Hall, the Armory, and the Keith Theatre (all Indianapolis) or the Cloverdale High School in Cloverdale, Indiana. 

The show was on air at least until the summer of 1945.

The list of the cast members of the WIBC Jamboree is long and surely, there are names on it that many will recognize. Many of the singers also appeared on several other stations and stage shows.


The Daily Banner, Greencastle, Ind.
November 13, 1944
• Hugh Cross, emcee
• Judy Perkins
• Linda Lou Martin
• Rufe Davis
• The Utah Trailors
• Vern Morgan
• Cal Fortune
• Casey Clarke
• Curly Baker
• Blue Mountain Girls
• Quarntine, comedy character
• Chick Holstine
• Emmy Lou
• Lazy Ranch Boys
• Byron Taggart
• Bud Bailey and his Down Easters
• Harpo and Tiny
• Marion Martin
• The Haymakers
• Prairie Pioneers
• Curly Miller, emcee
• Bill Haley and the Saddlemen
• Bobby Cook and his Texas Saddle Pals
• Fiddlin' Red Herron