Last night, I saw Dale Watson perform at Summer In The Park, the weekly concert series in San Marcos, Texas.
As I was starting to leave, he came back on stage for an encore song. As luck would have it, I was passing right by the corner of the stage, so I pulled out my phone and taped it. Here is Mamas, Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up To Be Babies, which was originally by Tony Joe White.
Dale and Celine recently purchased the historic Hochwald House in Marshall, Texas. They’re not moving from Memphis, but hope to restore this amazing old property. There’s an unusual rotating driveway feature. Check out their Instagram page to follow their progress.
Tomorrow is a fairly busy album release day, so let’s go ahead and round up a bunch of those:
Creed Fisher, Clay Walker, Parker McCollum, Curtis Grimes, Jesse Daniel, Jim Lauderdale, Ryan Curtis, Ric Robertson, Laney Lou and the Bird Dog, The Wandering Hearts, Nobody’s Girl, Charlie Parr, Parmalee, and Leah Shaw.
There’s also a new album of lullaby renditions of Dolly Parton songs.
I’ll also mention that Ira Allen passed away on July 25th at age 83. The country singer began recording in the late fifties and continued for decades, but was much better known for writing the song “Hangin’ On” with Buddy Mize. Over a hundred artists covered that song: Kitty Wells, Cher, Waylon Jennings, Joe Simon, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Roy Clark, Barbara Mandrell, the Gosdin Brothers, and many more. Yeah, even Cher somehow got in there. Cher’s best known country cover was He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
It was announced today that the Grand Ole Opry will be Garth Brooks’ opener at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium Saturday. Curiously, it will be at the same time as the “regular” Grand Ole Opry show at the Opry House, so technically, the Opry will be literally two places at once.
Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, and “others” brought the Grand Ole Opry to Carnegie Hall for the first time in 1947 for a two-night run. The billboard for the show advertised “On the stage and in person, Ernest Tubb and his entire Grand Ole Opry show from Nashville, TN and Minnie Pearl, Jimmie and Leon Short, George D. Hay, and Rosalie Allen.”
For today’s post, we’ll look closer at some of those “others” in the famous group photo.
Shorty Warren, Rosalie Allen, Ernest Tubb, Cy Sweat, Dave Miller, Radio Dot, Smokey Warren, Dick Richards, Minnie Pearl, Bob McCoy, and Smokey Swan.
Rosalie Allen, “Queen of Yodellers,” was very popular in New York City. She began singing on the radio in her home state of Pennsylvania in 1939 when she was fifteen, after winning a yodelling contest, and in 1943, she sang on Denver Darling’s country radio show in New York City, and in 1944, she made her first records with him. Denver Darling came to NYC in 1937 and established himself as a country artist. He was the first country artist to play Carnegie Hall in 1945. He made his final recordings in 1947, retired from music and moved back home to Illinois.
Within a year or two, Rosalie Allen was not only making records, but also starring in Soundies. Soundies came out before most people had television. Be sure to check out my Soundies playlist. From The Vaults blog has an excellent write-up on Rosalie Allen. She was not only a singer, but also a country radio DJ, a country music writer, and a businesswoman who opened New York’s first retail outlet devoted to country music, “Rosalie Allen’s Hillbilly Music Center.” She was one of the hosts of the Village Barn television show, which ran from 1948-50. This was the first national country music television show. Here is the only clip I’ve seen from that show: Rosalie Allen and Dick Thomas, Village Barn. Rosalie Allen did many duets with yodeler Elton Britt. She retired in her early thirties (in the fifties) to start a family, and didn’t do much more music. She did record a pair a songs in 1969, and the CMHOF had a lengthy interview with her in 1970: “Allen recalls working with Denver Darling, Hank Williams, and Elton Britt among others.” Rosalie Allen was one of the few major country stars of Polish descent. Pee Wee King and Marty Robbins were others.
The five guys in the western outfits were the Warren Brothers and their band. The Warren Brothers were originally from Arizona, but spent most of their career in New Jersey, close to New York City. Yes, they played western swing in urban New Jersey. Although Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl were Grand Ole Opry members, Rosalie Allen and the Warren Brothers were acts based in or near New York City, and they collaborated on some recordings in the fifties. It’s no wonder this Opry show at Carnegie Hall was so well received, because these acts were already very familiar with the New York City market. Rosalie Allen and the Warren Brothers weren’t “Opry acts,” but “NYC-area country acts.” The Warren Brothers made records from 1945-1964, per Praguefrank discography, and Smokey Warren made some recordings around 1979.
Radio Dot and Smokey Swan were a married couple who met in West Virginia in the late 1930s and continued to perform together until they divorced in 1956. They didn’t record very much, but did write some songs that were recorded by others. According to Hillbilly Hits, Radio Dot and Smokey were in Nashville for a while and made a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1946 and opened for Ernest Tubb on tour. Keep in mind that Ernest Tubb was considered the headliner of the Opry show at the Carnegie. Radio Dot and Smokey’s daughter Dottie married Ernest Tubb’s nephew Glenn Douglas Tubb.
The 1998 book “Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour” has a setlist of the songs performed by Ernest Tubb at Carnegie Hall: “You Nearly Lose Your Mind,” “There’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made Around Here,” “You Were Only Teasing Me,” “Filipino Baby,” and “Rainbow at Midnight.” Minnie Pearl sang “Maple On The Hill,” then Ernest Tubb closed with “Walking The Floor Over You.”
Members of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours also performed on the Carnegie Hall shows, even though they’re not in the above group picture. The Short Brothers did three songs, Hal Smith did a fiddle number, and Jack Drake sang one. Jimmie and Leon Short had also made records of their own, apart from Ernest Tubb.
The Ernest Tubb book mentioned that Judge Hay from the Grand Ole Opry made opening remarks at the Carnegie Hall show, and Dave Miller also spoke. He was a country radio DJ for WAAT, the Jersey City, New Jersey station where the Warren Brothers were stars.
In 1947, Ernest Tubb starred in the movie “Hollywood Barn Dance,” and the poster is hilarious: “The Joy-Packed Lowdown On a Hollywood Hoedown! Hep Hillbillies! Rural Rhythms! Slick Chicks!” Radio Dot and Smokey Swan were in this movie, too.
The Grand Ole Opry returned to Carnegie Hall in 1961. Some other country shows Carnegie Hall are T Texas Tyler in 1948, Sons of the Pioneers in 1951, and Buck Owens in 1966.
Since I’ve mentioned the New York City country scene a good bit in today’s post, I’ll mention just a few more tidbits. Yesterday’s post was about Judy Canova, who sang country songs in New York City in the early thirties, before going on to star in many movies and have her own radio show.
I’ve also mentioned Esmereldy before, who had a five-week number one country hit on the Cashbox chart (and keep in mind this was four years before the first number one by a solo female artist on the Billboard country chart, Kitty Wells) and was one of the first country acts to star in Soundies. She was from Tennessee, but moved to NYC in late thirties, where she sang on the radio and was a country DJ. She moved back to Tennessee in the fifties.
Elton Britt was originally from Arkansas and moved to NYC in 1933 and was a major part of the country scene there for many years. Elton Britt had some great yodeling duets with Rosalie Allen in the late forties-early fifties.
Zeke Manners was from California and started out with a group called the Beverly Hillbillies in 1930. He often collaborated with Elton Britt in New York in the 1930s-1950s. Zeke Manners was also the composer of the “Pennsylvania Polka.” Zeke referred to himself as a “Jewish hillbilly,” and kept performing into his latter years. Here’s a clip from 1997 with Les Paul.
Red River Dave was from Texas, but moved to NYC in 1938 and has radio success there for a couple of years before moving back to Texas. The New York World’s Fair in 1939 featured an experimental television broadcast, where he sang his composition “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight.” The 1939 World’s Fair was a great showcase of technology, like Elektro the Robot, the Hammond Novachord (early synthesizer), and the Vocoder. Anyway, Red River Dave appeared on Soundies with Rosalie Allen in the mid-40s, appeared in movies as a singing cowboy, and wrote over a thousand songs. He lived until 2002, and here’s a rare clip of Red River Dave in 1986.
I’ll also mention a few of the 1920s country stars who recorded in NYC and stayed on. Vernon Dalhart was the first country superstar in the mid twenties, but the Great Depression decimated his career. He made his final recordings in 1939, and lived out his life in obscurity.
Carson Robison moved from Kansas to New York in 1924 and remained in New York. He was on many of Vernon Dalhart’s best known recordings. Unlike many stars of the twenties, he was able to keep his career going into the fifties, even recording a rock and roll novelty the year before he died.
From 1928-32, Frank Luther and Carson Robison recorded a great number of songs. Luther then recorded with his wife Zora Layman. They were originally from Kansas, and in 1936, they moved to Hollywood. Frank and Zora often appeared on an NBC radio series in 1933 called Hillbilly Heart-Throbs (and Carson Robison later appeared on the program): “At the time the radio series began, Zora Layman – Mrs. Luther – had a major hit record….the first real hit ever recorded by a female country soloist….Bob Miller’s “Seven Years With the Wrong Man.” Zora Layman made her last recordings in 1940. She and Frank divorced at some point, and Frank continued recording children’s songs for the rest of his career. “In the 1930s and 1940s, (Frank Luther was) responsible by estimate for over 75% of all sales of children’s recordings.” Ethel Sloan Park Richardson created the Hillbilly Heart-Throbs radio program, and she was originally from Tennessee. Here’s more information about her: Ethel Sloan Park Richardson.
Judy Canova (1913-1983) was an actress, comedienne, singer, and radio personality who was especially popular in the 1940s into the early 1950s. She was best known for her many “country bumpkin” movies and radio show.
She began singing on the radio in Florida with her siblings when she was 12, and made her first record in New York in 1928, when she was 14. Here’s I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again in 1928, a song which was also recorded by several other hillbilly acts of that era. Another of the Canova siblings’ earliest records was Frog Went A Courtin’. As I’ve mentioned here before, this is a song of great antiquity, derived from a Scottish song from the late 1540s. Judy Canova found success in the 30s in radio, then movies. In 1939, she was on Broadway with Buddy Ebsen (Beverly Hillbillies fans will recognize that name). Judy’s brother and sister were also in that production. In 1940, she began making movies with Republic and those movies made her famous. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
On May 31, 1939, NBC’s experimental television station W2XBS showed Judy, Ann, and Zeke Canova in one of the earliest examples of country music on television. Singer and guitar player Nick Lucas was on the same hour. Nick Lucas was considered pop/jazz, but he was a guest performer on the Grand Ole Opry in the late twenties.
Dean Martin was the member of the Rat Pack most associated with country and western music, but Sammy Davis, Jr did some, too. Sammy’s late career country album Closest of Friends (1981) was his 53rd and final original album.
1972 was a huge year for Sammy.
“Mr Bojangles” was a cover of a Jerry Jeff Walker song. “(I’d Be) A Legend In My Time” was a Don Gibson song that was covered by many artists. Sammy’s version was a minor hit on the easy listening chart, but Ronnie Millsap had a number one country hit with it a year later. Sammy’s huge number one pop hit “The Candy Man” wasn’t a country song, but he was backed by the Mike Curb Congregation. Yes, that’s Mike Curb of Curb Records. The Mike Curb Congregation also backed Sammy on songs like “The People Tree.” Mike Curb talks about how Sammy Davis Jr didn’t like “The Candy Man.”
I’ll close today’s post with a movie short from 1933, Seasoned Greetings. Sammy Davis Jr was just seven years old in this one ! Charlie Chaplin’s second wife Lita Grey starred in this film. The Village Barn Hillbillies contributed a couple of musical numbers. Much has been written about 1930s movies with singing cowboys, but here’s an example of a movie short from the same era with singing hillbillies. For another example, here’s a very quick clip of the Kentucky Hillbillies in “Gold Diggers of 1933.”
All of these legends have since passed away, and three of the five are in the CMHOF.
The ACM first awarded the Pioneer Award in 1968, and renamed the award for Cliffie Stone in 2007.
Patsy Montana was the first woman to win the ACM Pioneer Award and Patti Page was the second.
Keep in mind that Patsy Montana’s signature hit was in 1935, so this performance was over half a century later. According to Fayfare Opry Blog, Patsy Montana’s first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was in 1971. She’s a great example of a country and western superstar who achieved fame outside of Nashville.
Patti Page might come as a surprise, since she was best known as a 1950s pop singer. She was so well known in the fifties that she had television shows on all three networks. However, the “Tennessee Waltz” singer also had a lot of interest in country music. She sang in a western swing band in 1946 at the beginning of her recording career. By the 1970s, she mostly charted in country and did a lot of country for the rest of her career, including duets with George Jones and others.
Eddy Arnold had the most country number ones of anyone from 1948-80. Considering the enormity of his career, it’s odd how little attention he receives in most discussions of country history. I don’t know if he was given as much time on the PBS country music documentary as Wynton Marsalis.
Eddie Dean was well known and highly respected by his peers over a career spanning many decades, even though he didn’t have great chart success. He was best known as a singing cowboy in the thirties and forties, and he sang gospel in the twenties. Some of the songs he wrote were huge hits for other singing cowboys, including Jimmy Wakely’s #1 “One Has My Name, The Other Has My Heart” and Tex Ritter’s “I Dreamed Of A Hill-Billy Heaven,” which surprisingly charted in both country and pop. In the late fifties, Eddie Dean even tried a couple of rock and roll cowboy songs, “Boogie Woogie Cowboy” and “Rock N Roll Cowboy.”
Gene Autry was shown in the audience, and he was also an ACM Pioneer Award winner, but he retired from show business in 1964.
There were new albums yesterday from Rodney Crowell and Dallas Burrow, and new EPs from Chris Hennessee, Drake Milligan, and Dusty Black.
The Bluegrass Hall of Fame inducted new members Alison Krauss, Lynn Morris, and The Stoneman Family.
The IBMA announced its list of awards nominees. Most of the names are very familiar to bluegrass fans, but if you mostly follow country or other styles, check out the nominated songs and artists to catch up on some of the top bluegrass from the last year.
There were many festival and tour and album announcements this week:
Americanafest announced 165 acts. I’ve seen about 30 of them. The email mentioned that the price this time is $199, which is about triple the price I paid a few years ago when I went (and back then, it was a six day event, rather than four).
It’s always interesting to compare the lists of artists at Americana awards to the artists performing at Americanafest to the artists on the Americana charts. They’re three pretty different groups of people. Americana radio often has 90s pop acts like the Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Lumineers, etc. The Americana awards are often weighted towards leftist politics. The festival itself still draws some good acts that are just about the music, like Mike and the Moonpies. Thankfully, I can see them in Texas without having to deal with Nashville.
The Mile 0 Fest in Key West announced their lineup yesterday. I see a lot of familiar names. I counted 20 acts I’ve seen in Texas. This is another case where I’m sure it’s a lot of fun, but I can’t justify the travel cost to go to some distant place to see the same acts I can see in my own area.
Live Nation announced that they’re running a $20 sale this week on select shows, so I’ll take a look at those options. The older I get, the more I’m drawn to smaller, quieter venues than the big arena and amphitheater shows.
I was briefly back in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to visit my aunt, who is in a nursing home. My cousin said that while we’re in town, there was a free concert at the downtown plaza, so we saw Amanda Shaw and Plato Jones. Because of heavy rain, the three-hour show was cut in half.
Amanda Shaw is based in New Orleans and is well known in Louisiana, often playing the biggest festivals there like New Orleans Jazzfest. She is a fiddle player, singer, and songwriter. Unfortunately, her set was pretty short because of the weather, but she was able to perform a good variety of styles, even a traditional Cajun song in French. She has several albums, so check those out.
The other act was Plato Jones Band from Tuscaloosa. They’re a three-man rock cover band who have been around since 2005. The rain provided a challenge to their sound equipment. They mostly stuck to songs you would hear on the classic rock station and closed their set with a Brandi Carlile song.
I still haven’t figured out how Brandi Carlile became a “country” artist ? She spent most of career in “rock,” then the powers that be decided a couple or so years ago that we’re supposed to now consider her a “country” artist, and nobody is allowed to question how that happened and how she suddenly became the face of much of the “women in country” propaganda, skipping ahead of the women in country who spent their whole careers in country music.
The show was supposed to begin at 6, but heavy rain delayed everything until 7:30.
Here’s a picture of the plaza, when the weather began to clear:
Here’s a photo of Amanda Shaw and her guitar player last night:
Adelyne Hood was on a great number of Vernon Dalhart records from 1927-30, and a few more afterwards. She played violin more often than not, but also piano and organ. She also sang, and had some writing credits. Here’s an article with more information: “Adelyne Hood: The Amalgamation of Vaudeville and Folk Traditions in Early Country Music.” JEMF Quarterly 18, no. 67–68 (1982): 116–130.”
The UCSB Cylinder Archive lists well over two hundred credits for her, but the number of records where she was the lead artist is pretty modest, and mostly in 1930. Her best known record is probably “Calamity Jane” with Vernon Dalhart that has Ross Gorman on bass clarinet. Ranger Doug’s Classic Cowboy Corral featured this song on their most recent episode.
Keep in mind that early “cowgirl” singers like Patsy Montana and Girls of the Golden West had not yet begun their careers. There weren’t many women singing about the wild west on records yet. Billie Maxwell is often credited as the first singing cowgirl, and she first recorded in July 1929. Adelyne Hood recorded “Calamity Jane” in December 1929. Adelyne Hood was also one of the writers of the decidedly western Vernon Dalhart 1930 song, “Squint Eyed Cactus Jones.” That song features Vernon playing both harmonica and Jew’s Harp. Adelyne Hood was also one of the composers of Vernon Dalhart’s 1930 songs “My Oklahoma Home” and “Yukon Steve and Alaska Ann.” Adelyne Hood also took the lead on a couple of the 1930 western songs that she wrote: “Westward Ho for Reno” and “Daughter of Calamity Jane.” (Fields and Hall wrote her earlier “Calamity Jane” hit.)
The bass clarinet doesn’t show up often in country music, but Gorman played bass clarinet on some Dalhart-Hood songs in 1930, and Frank Novak played bass clarinet on some 1930s records by Frank Luther, Carson Robison, Frankie Marvin, etc.
The bass clarinet has a long history. Like most so-called “jazz instruments,” it was invented by Europeans a very long time before jazz. The shape of the bass clarinet was an inspiration for the saxophone.
Adelyne Hood was originally from South Carolina, but attended the University of Alabama and lived in Tuscaloosa for some time. I lived in Tuscaloosa for most of my life, and also have a degree from the university. As far as I’m aware, Adelyne Hood is the only early country artist with ties to Tuscaloosa.
When Adelyne Hood began making records with Vernon Dalhart in 1927, it was a reunion of sorts, as they knew each other from Edison’s “tone test” tours. Here’s a Library of Congress article about Edison’s tone test tours. The tone test tours were from around 1915-1925. There’s a nice picture of Adelyne Hood in a 1925 Radio Digest publication. Later in life, she moved to Pittsburgh and had a radio show. A 1940 Pittsburgh Press article mentioned that she voiced Aunt Jemima commercials. She retired after marrying a Mr. Alfred Phipps.
Movies with singing cowboys were very popular in the 1930s. In the late 1930s, Dorothy Page starred in a trio of “singing cowgirl” movies. Although these movies were not particularly successful, they’re enjoyable.
“The Original Radio Girl” Vaughn DeLeath (1894-1943) was a popular singer in the 1920s. Her first radio performance was January, 1920, and her first record was also in 1920. The versatile and talented singer also composed many songs and played several instruments, and she helped popularize the crooning style of singing.
Although she didn’t venture into country music, some of the songs she had hits with, most notably “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” were later covered by country artists.
In 1921, Ferera and Franchini recorded Drowsy Head Waltz, an instrumental composition by Vaughn DeLeath and Irving Berlin. If you like Hawaiian steel guitar, give this a listen. The song was also covered by other groups with different instruments.
In 1938, Roy Rogers recorded “Hi-Yo Silver,” written by Vaughn DeLeath and Jack Erickson. According to MusicVF, it was a #13 pop hit.
Also in 1938, the Hoosier Hotshots recorded a Christmas song written by Vaughn DeLeath, “The Man With The Whiskers.”
Vaughn DeLeath was also one of the writers of “It’s a Lonely Trail,” recorded by Bing Crosby (1938), Jimmy Wakely, and others.