Sunday, April 27, 2008


Session Nine

In our last exxxciting episode in the Rockabilly 101 story of Mac Curtis and the brothers Galbreaith: everything was ready to turn up roses. Right! Wrong.

Shortly after completing the first recordings April 1, 1956 the first single If I Had Me A Woman b/w Just So You Call Me was issued. The other two songs from that session would be the follow up single Half Hearted Love and Grandaddys Rockin. All but Grandaddy were written by Jim Shell and Joe Price. Couple of hillbilly boys plying their trade in Dallas.

Grandaddy came from a brother and sister duo Bob and Clare Blake. They were from Missouri and knew our Manager, Little Bill Thompson, who was from there also. The Blakes had brought the song down to Texas and were invited to stay at the Galbreaith family home for a few days. We were able to get familiar with the tune before the record session.

The first single came out and was beginning to get airplay around the local area. However…unknown to me or Little Bill…the wheels were about to come off the hot rod

In May, Jim and Ken summoned Bill to come to a meeting in Weatherford on the steps of the High School. I was blindsided when Jimmie informed Bill that he was no longer needed as our manager. I was against the move, but, I was out-voted

I didn’t see the brothers for a few days and went to visit my aunt and uncle in Fort Worth. Jim and Ken eventually called and came to pick me up to ride to a show in Waco, Texas we had booked sometime earlier.

It was a fun show and it was on live television. It was called the Bluebonnet Barn Dance (named for the sponsor Bluebonnet Flour). The host was a guy named Clyde Cheshire. He had a good band which featured Dale McBride alternating between hillbilly and hep cat vocals. The single neck steel guitarist, Gaylon “Korn Kobb” Christie was the funny guy and was a deejay on KTEM, one of the area radio stations.

Dale, Gaylon and I hit it off really well. It would serve me as one of those "lucky breaks”. I was about to need it sooner than I was aware of.

In fact, The show ended; I collected the fee and went to the car. We drove away as Jimmie began to explain that he and Ken were going to spend the night with one of their aunts in a nearby town…which was in the opposite direction from where the car was headed. It was a short ride with a long silence.

The car stopped in front of the Trailways Bus Station in Waco. I said my good byes and they did as well, adding they would see me when they got back to Weatherford. I boarded the bus for a longer ride and longer silence.

WELLLL What happened next?

Don’t miss our next exxxciting episode in the Rockabilly 101 story of Mac Curtis and the brothers Galbreaith!
Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Session Eight

How did these young Hillbillies get on record in the first place??????

Actually it was through dumb luck. Jimmie, Ken and I made several visits in 1955 to the hottest radio station in the area…KNOK-AM (there was no FM or any stereo station ‘cause it was still pretty much a high dollar experiment back then). They played what was often referred to as Race music. And it was cool stuff. Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, The Clovers, The Flamingos, The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Big Joe Turner and on and on and on.

KNOK ruled. The deejays were all Black except for the morning guy…You would have never known unless you saw him…Dean McNeil aka
McNeil at the wheel.

One of the most popular jocks on the station was Big Jim Randolph. Jim kinda took us Bumpkins under his wing. He turned out to be one of the biggest keys to our Rockabilly Run-of-Luck. And, in a few years became a star on radio in Los Angeles.

In early spring of ’55. we were playing a gig at a car dealer lot in Fort Worth. Dick Danner Motors Ford. We played out on the car lot alternating with a black Big Blues Band. Tom Patrick and the Shamrocks. I would guess 7 or 8 players in the group. Biggest band we had seen or played with until ’56 when we started playing Sock Hops for another radio station and shared time with Trini Lopez. But, I digress.

Big Jim Randolph happened to be performing a remote radio broadcast from inside the dealer showroom. He seized on the idea to have us come inside on our off set time and play 2 or 3 songs live on air. We did and were thrilled at the invite. Big Jim applauded and we returned for our next set outside on the lot.

It was a cool day out there. But clear. We were all pleased to see traffic picking up out on West Seventh Street in front of the dealership. Our set was finished and suddenly we looked around and saw Big Jim waving desperately for us to come into the showroom again. We did.

Turns out the phone began ringing off the hook at the radio station. The callers wanted information about the band and directions to the dealership. By the end of the gig, the car lot was jam-packed. Dealer was happy. We were happy, and Big Jim was so happy he promised he would get us auditions with some of his record company hot shots.

He did it! He called the High School one day and got me out of class (Whew). He wanted us to be in Dallas by 4pm that afternoon to meet and audition with Ralph Bass, a producer for King Records

We made it! Ralph was a very nice fellow. We setup in his hotel room and played 2 songs. He said he liked what he heard and wanted to have us in the Jim Beck recording studio in a couple of weeks.

As I said last time, if you are trying to get started in the music business, not only should you follow your instincts but follow your leads at all times. Lady Luck has a strange way of handing out back stage passes from time to time.

That’s a wrap for now. I’ll see ya down the road.

Keep on Rockin’

Mac Curtis

Thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame from 'ole 21

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Monday, April 7, 2008


Session Seven

You are absolutely right!

I should have included this link in Session Six when I mentioned Harry Middlebrooks and his Grits.

Harry later used that Piano Red feel and technique on a song I recorded in the 70s (I Feel More Like I Do Now).

One of the things I had a tough time with in the very early days was to accept, learn and deliver believable performances of newly written songs. When you start out it is pretty natural to just copy the current hit tunes. But if you want to make it in this business you have got to have original material. Then, no matter who writes it, you have to make it your own.

My first bona-fide recording session came for King Records in the Spring of 1956. Jim and Ken and I went to Dallas to the storied Jim Beck Studio. We were all nervous as hell. We arrived at the studio about 2 hours ahead of time. Country star Sonny James was in a session ahead of us.

Sonny took a break a bit prior to our session. We were introduced and someone told him it was my first session. He immediately sent one of his guys to tell the engineers that he was rescheduling his work to another day and that that the guys and I should start on time. It was an impressive gesture to me. I appreciated it and, even more, struck up a friendship with Sonny that would last for many years. He’ll be in the Book.

Oh yeah…there are some good guys in the entertainment business. I have had the honor to be associated with a great number of them. Surely you’re not surprised that I’m writing a Book…are you???

So…we got in the studio. What do I do now?

King Records Producer Ralph Bass took command and after 3 hours we had sailed through 4 songs (typical for sessions in those days). Honestly, I didn’t have a clue how to approach the tunes. As fate would have it the session itself dictated the direction.

The line up was: Me, the singer and rhythm guitarist (I plunked at the chords). Jim played lead guitar and Ken played slap bass. In his infinite wisdom, Producer Bass had hired some professional session musicians including pianist Bill Simmons and drummer Bill Peck. I just followed my instincts and sang ‘em like I felt ‘em.

In the end King Records Vice-President Bernie Pearlman summoned us up to the Control Room to hear the playbacks. I will never forget that he had Elvis Presley’s latest album on a turntable to compare it to our work.

He said, “We felt we needed an Elvis Presley type performer. Today, we think we have something different…and better.”

Sometimes stuff just happens!!

The songs were: If I Had Me A Woman, Just So You Call Me, Half Hearted Love and Grandaddy’s Rockin’. Over the years I have come to realize what happened was that we were trying to come up to the Pro players. And. They were trying to reach down to us. The outcome has proven to be a definitive event. Not by me, or us, but of the Rockabilly fans, record buyers and concert goers around the world. For that, we are all grateful.

Follow your instincts and…

Keep on Rockin

Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame:

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