Vinyl Frontier playlist 5/26/13
I hope you enjoyed listening to the great oldies Benny Ellis brought to the studio as much as we did. We had a ball. This time the song entries are in the form of: Artist – Song Title, (date) label. I omitted duration since most 78 rpm singles run pretty near three minutes. They wouldn’t hold much more and the old timers wanted to give the customer his money’s worth. Records were expensive in the 78 era!
- Ellis and Bill Hall – Stoney Fork (c1952) RCA
Benny doesn’t know much about Ellis and Bill Hall, and I certainly don’t. But it sure is unusual to hear an unadorned, instrumental fiddle and guitar duet with a release date in the 50′s on a major label. The fiddler’s style is fairly smooth, but very traditional. A fine version of “Stoney Fork.”
The next three songs are a set to commemorate Memorial Day.
- Carl Sauceman
Carl and John Paul Saucemam led one of the earliest Bluegrass bands around back in the late 40′s. At one time or another their band included Carl Butler on vocals and guitar, Tater Tate on fiddle, Larry Richardson on banjo and Curly Seckler on mandolin. By the early-to-mid 50′s, Carl was leading the group, now called the Green Valley Boys. At the time “A White Cross Marks His Grave” was recorded the Green Valley Boys were: Carl Sauceman, vocal/rhythm guitar, possibly Monroe Fields, mandolin, Frederick “”Fred/“Sparkplug” Richardson’ banjo, J.P. Sauceman’ bass, James “Jim” Brock, fiddle, Alfred Donald “Don” McHan, harmony vocal. By the time Carl recorded “Wrap My Body in Old Glory” the band members were: Carl Sauceman, vocal/rhythm guitar, Alfred Donald “Don” McHan, harmony vocal/banjo, poss. Monroe Field, mandolin, J.P. Sauceman, bass/harmony vocal, James “Jim” Brock, fiddle. (source: Praguefrank’s Country Music Discographies) “Wrap My Body in Old Glory” is one of the few recordings with credit to Knoxville’s Arthur Q Smith on the label. Unfortunately, “Q” sold most of his songs outright. Benny suspects that “A White Cross Marks a Soldier’s Grave” might be an Arthur Q composition as well.
The Webster Brothers are probably most familiar around Knoxville as the other half of the Brewster Brothers’ “Four Brothers Quartet.” This side on IHS (In His Service) is from a bit later, probably the early-to-mid 60′s.
Record collector, musicologist and guitarist Joe Bussard waxes one for Record Store Day! On the always interesting Tompkins Square label. This is the Sylvester Weaver classic as performed by a one of WDVX’s – and the Sunday Jubillee’s – own. A limited edition of 700 on 78 rpm were issued this April. (Sold out, naturally.)
- John Fahey
John Fahey, aka Blind Joe Death, aka Blind Thomas, recorded this blistering slide guitar side for Joe Bussard’s Fonotone label as a teenager. Hawt.
Buster Pack & His Lonesome Pine Boys were: Stuart Leslie “Buster” Pack, vocal/guitar, James “Jimmie” Farmer, fiddle, Red Ratliff, mandolin, Red Cooke banjo, Blake Stiltner bass. According to Eugene Chadbourne, Buster Pack played with Jim and Jessse McReynolds on the radio when they were all youngsters. (I saw Eugene Chabourne perform once. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed he was a scholar of early Bluegrass.)
The Bailey Brothers (Charles & Danny) & Happy Valley Boys: Charlie Bailey, lead vocal/mandolin; Danny Bailey, tenor vcl/rhythm guitar; Carl Butler, rhythm guitar; Wiley Birchfield, banjo; English “Jake” ”Junior” Tullock, bass; L.E. White, fiddle. Along with the Stanley Brothers, the Bailey Brothers were one the first bands to adopt the “new” “old-time” style of the Monroe-Flatt-Scruggs band. The Baileys, Danny in particular, were fixtures on local TV in Knoxville for decades.
The Stanley Brothers are legendary, of course. Even though it was on Mercury that they hit their stride, listening to the early Rich-R-Tone sides is a joy. “Little Ralphie” isn’t a Scruggs-style technical monster yet, but the overall sound is already compelling. Besides, Dr. Ralph could always generate more excitement with two fingers than most banjoists can with three.
Rich-R-Tone mastermind James Hobart “Hobe” Stanton found himself in a goldfield in the late 1940′s. Desiring to enter the record business and knowing next to nothing about it, he recorded the best bands in the style that would come to be called Bluegrass. The scene around the Tri-Cities of Tennessee and Virginia in the post-war era was the hottest spot around for the new style in acoustic music. Hobe (the “e” is not silent) had to cart records around in the trunk of his “big, gas drinking monster” (as he described it to Charles Wolfe) to distribute them. He could be described fairly as the Sam Phillips of Bluegrass – except Monroe was on Decca (and Bluebird before that). If Sam had ”only” discovered Jerry Lee, Orbison, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, Carl Phillips and Carl Mann, then it comparison would be perfect. Or if Flatt and Scruggs recorded for Hobe. Truly an underrated figure in the history of the music.
- Buzz Busby
Buzz Busby (born Bernarr Busbice) was one of the few Bluegrassers to come from Louisiana. “The Father of D.C. Bluegrass,” Buzz Busby and The Bayou Boys were one of the biggest acts on the East Coast in the 50′s. This song was re-recorded for Starday, but this Jiffy label recording is a cut above.
Known as “The Voice with a Heart,” Mac Wiseman possessed one of the most distinctive and moving voices in Bluegrass. This is one of his classic numbers and Benny has the original 78 rpm singles in excellent condition.
Bill Harrell would go on to be Don Reno’s partner after Red Smiley’s retirement. If having a tune with “Reno” in the title before his partnership with Reno isn’t confusing enough, I’ll add that Harrell’s partner at this point was Smiley Hobbs. So you can have your choice of whatever combination of Reno, Harrell and Smiley you choose.
These last three artists were associated with the Washington, D.C. of the 1950′s. By the mid-50′s the hottest local scene for Bluegrass was the Washington, D.C. area. Clubs that featured Bluegrass were everywhere festivals abounded and there were at least three outdoor parks in the countryside with live shows regularly- The New River Ranch in Rising Sun, Maryland; Sunset Park, Oxford, Pennsylvania and the American Legion Country Music Park in Culpepper CH, Virginia. The pace slackened not a bit as the torch was passed to The Country Gentlemen, The New Shades of Grass and the Seldom Scene. The Bluegrass scene in D.C. certainly did much to keep Bluegrass alive from the late 50′s through the 60′s and into the 70′s.
From the first time I heard this track, I was intrigued. I had heard that Fats had recorded on a church organ, but I had never heard any of the recordings. However, knowing that Fats had made these recordings, I knew that this must be what this was when Benny gave the old Leonard Feather blindfold test. Really a different side of Fats, though.
- McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in 1928. left to right: Cuba Austin, Prince Robinson, George Thomas, Don Redman, Dave Wilborn, Todd Rhoades, Bob Escudero, seated: John Nesbitt, Claude Jones, Milton Senoir, Langston Curl.
Will McKinney’s Synco Septet was the hottest thing in Detroit in the 20′s. Expanded beyond seven pieces, they took the name “Cotton Pickers,” probably to capitalize on the popularity of Harlem’s Cotton Club. Certainly, until Will McKinney came along it was assumed that you had to be based in Chicago, New York or Washington, D.C. to make it in jazz. But the Cotton Pickers went from being a regional “territory” band to a band with a national reputation in a hurry. “Peggy” is great – but almost everything they did was.
A recorded sermon, this one is a performance. The chanting style of Rev Dolittle grabs you and won’t let you go. Conqueror was sold through Sears, Roebuck from 1926 (some sources say 1928) until the Petrillo recording ban on 1942. I have found complete discographies from 1932 on, and this isn’t in them.