Sunday, March 30, 2008


Session Six

I have long since lost my copy of Piano Red’s Great Rockin With Red. And I hate it. It was one of the many influences on the way I make music now. It was the first phonograph record I ever bought.

While visiting my uncle in Fort Worth in the early fifties, I wandered around the corner to a record store that was owned by a jukebox operator. In the back of his store he had bins of used records taken from his juke box route.

I rummaged around and pulled out the 78rpm platter…Rockin With Red…I bought it for a half of a dollar. 50 cents for what, to me, was a treasure. The song and Red’s performance spellbound me (and still does). It just had an attitude that I related to. I later recorded it for Ronny Weiser on Rollin Rock Records. Out of respect we re-titled it as simply Rock Me.

I was fortunate to run into a fantastic musician and performer who knew Red and patterned a lot of his own music after him. Harry Middlebrooks. Harry coined the description of Red’s piano work as “grits” style. Harry and Red, aka Dr. Feelgood, both lived and worked in Atlanta together. So they had a built a great respect for each other’s work.

Harry eventually composed and recorded a tune he called simply Grits. It was a fitting tribute to Piano Red.

I very often think of songs, and the people who turned me onto them, that affected me in my early years. Bob “Git It” Kelly is one of them. Bob was an upper class-man in Olney, Texas High School which I attended in the early ‘50s.

The big hangout in Olney was the No D-lay Drive In. They had super sandwiches and fries and they were inexpensive. Plus, the place had a huge Jukebox.

Bob called me over to the player one night and said that he had been watching my progress as a fledgling performer, but that he thought I should include some other sounds along with the hillbilly tunes I was doing.

That night, along with the R&B song Sixty Minute Man and others came Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll. Those songs opened up the flood gates of music that I never knew existed. Thanks to Bob Kelly for sharing his knowledge with me.

Bob and I caught up with each other again in 1957 when I was recording for King Records. He brought two demos of songs he had written recently. I liked, and picked, Somebody Help Me.
However Louis Innis, the producer, decided What You Want was a better bet. I later recorded Somebody Help Me for Major Bill Smith in Fort Worth. I still like ‘em both.

And I still like Bob Kelly’s music.

Thanks for your time and…

Keep On Rockin

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Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

Friday, March 21, 2008


Session Five

In the last session I mentioned that Johnny Carroll played a big part of the beginning of developing Mac Curtis and the Country Cats in 1955.

We had just come off a talent contest at the FFA (Future Farmers of America) Texas State Convention in Houston, Texas in the summer of that year. When we got back home
We were determined to get into the business. Translation: We need to make some money!

It was determined that we would frequent as many regular shows as possible. By this time we had added a number of songs. There were no new songs. Thus, as today, we would be referred to as a Cover band. A live jukebox.

One day Johnny Carroll came to the High School to offer us a proposal. He had an idea for us to ally with his band and he would book us as a two band show anywhere we could find a place that would hold a few people…school auditoriums, rec halls, tabernacles, etc.

Johnny had a similar band to ours. Simply a trio. Jay Salem on lead guitar. And Bill Bunton slap bass. The crazy thing was that on the shows... both bands played almost all the same songs on each others sets. But, it was crucial experience for all of us. And we did make a few bucks.

At the Friday night shindig in Fort Worth one night Johnny introduced us to a guy named Jack Tiger. He was some character. He had long hair and a beard and a Yankee accent. He claimed to be an ex-Wrestler, got injured and became a Wrestling manager and promoter. Oh, and by the way, a music producer with a recording studio in Dallas.
Jim and Ken and I decided to take Tiger up on an audition at his Top Ten Studio. We went on a Saturday with the idea of staying around for a visit to the Big D Jamboree that night.

Tiger really laid it on thick. First he pitched us a song called Hot Rocks that he had written. Then he insisted that we should record it as well as change the name of our band
to The Hot Rocks. We did neither. As for the tryout session…it was awful.

You may already know that Johnny Carroll bought into Tiger’s idea. It turned out to be a memorable tune for him.

I end this session with a big thank you to all that have sent notes to me about these blog sessions. Hope you enjoy ‘em also.

Keep on Rockin

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame

Monday, March 10, 2008


Session Four

I recently moved back to Weatherford, Texas. It is a great feeling to be here. I have a lot of roots in this town. It is where all this Rockabilly business started for me and the first band I was ever with.

Jimmy and Ken Galbreaith and I practiced in their Dad’s Workshop and Storage space. Jim and I were in the same class in Weatherford High School. It was school in daytime and music practice at night.

We were basically a Billy Band. But it wasn’t long until we discovered we could do Rhythm and Blues and Boogie and Bop. One of the upbeat Billy songs was a Marty Robins recording of That’s All right Mama. Then one day we discovered a record on the jukebox at the Dairy Queen. An old friend of mine, Billy Cagle, actually called it to our attention. He thought it was the band and me. Wrong! Elvis Presley on Sun Records of course.

Most people didn’t know the difference between the two versions, but, man we did. The Elvis record was the kind of music we wanted to make. And so, we did.

Every Friday night in nearby Fort Worth there was a variety show. It turned out to be a cool place to meet and get to know other young and foolish musicians like ourselves. It was a major building ground for all of us. Young hopefuls don’t have those kinds of springboards in America today.

It sometime seems that we grew up together with Sid King and the Five Strings and Johnny Carroll. They were at the Friday night shows just about every time we were.

Sid and the guys were really cool. They were all decked out in their best Western Swing outfits. But, they were beginning to phase in some Hillbilly Bop( later known as Rockabilly). And it was great and they had some comedy in the act too. I do remember it was their drummer Davie Lee who broke the news one night that Elvis had been sold by Sun to RCA. And had signed with Col. Tom Parker. And you, and all of us, know the rest of that story.

In later years I had the pleasure of working together with ‘Ole Davie Lee at a radio station in Dallas.

Johnny Carroll on the other hand is another story for another day. Maybe, next time.


Keep on Rockin

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