Various Artists "A NIGHT AT THE HAYRIDE" (Hayride Records, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny James)
This album showcased four of the younger artists on the Louisiana Hayride in the late 1970s, backed by a house band called Catfish South... Although these folks were pretty obscure, minor-league newbies at the time, at least two of them ascended briefly into the big time: singers Craig Dillingham and Micki Fuhrman both got deals in Nashville and while they weren't the biggest stars, they did make an impression. Fuhrman, who was fifteen when she joined the Hayride and sixteen when this album was recorded, got signed first. Her first chart hit actually came on the Hayride label, 1978's "Leave While I'm Sleeping," which barely broke into the Top 100. But it was enough to get her a deal with MCA, though her solo album didn't do much better and she left the commercial country scene in favor of a more stable career singing gospel music. Dillingham's break came a few years later, after he signed to Curb Records, but even though his singles did well -- getting him into the Top Forty -- Curb shelved his album and he returned to the Texas scene, where he became better known as a songwriter. But hey, here they are in their younger years, bright-eyed and hopeful on the stage of one of country's most venerable live shows.
Various Artists "ARKANSAS JAMBOREE, v.1" (ALP) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny James)
It's hard to pinpoint the release date on this locals-only compilation album -- from the cover photo, I'd guess anywhere from 1969-72... The more contemporary cover songs include "Harper Valley PTA" and Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues," which were hits in 1968 and '69, respectively... So late '69 or early 1970 are strong possiblities... Anyway, this is a real indie outing, with unknowns galore, presumably attached to one of the many live regional variety shows that still dotted the map, back in the Me Decade... Little Rock's original Arkansas Jamboree radio program ran from 1946-1960; I'm not sure how much of a direct connection there was between that show and this album.
Various Artists "ATHENS HOMETOWN ALBUM" (LRS Recording Studio, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Louis Ralph Stevens)
A compilation of indie country and bluegrass artists from Athens County, Ohio, including Diane Andolsek, A Touch Of Grass, The Expanding Band, Hobson's Choice, Jeannie Jeffers, J. D. Jewell, Doug Lovelace, Terry McAuley and Scott Minar. A house band featuring guitarist Terry McAuley and piano player Louis Ralph Stevens provides backing on many of the tracks, though some of the performers brought their own musicians into the sessions...
Various Artists "AUGIE MEYERS PRESENTS SAN ANTONIO SATURDAY NIGHT" (Sonet, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Augie Meyers)
Flaco Jimenez, Los Paisanos, Los Hermanos Barron and Los Formales get three tracks each on this Latin-oriented Tex-Mex set...
Various Artists "A WAGON LOAD OF OLD TIME COUNTRY MUSIC" (Big Valley Barn) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Bean)
This one's more on the bluegrass/old-timey side of things, but with a fascinating and compelling back-story... Billed as a set of "East Tennessee music," this album was a collaboration between the president of the Museum Of Appalachia, John Rice Irwin, and Carl Bean, a high school coach from Clinton, Tennessee, who in the early 1970s founded the Big Valley Barn show, a humble, unpretentious venue for regional bluegrass and old-timey music. Bean sings on about half the tracks, with numerous others chiming in, including Tennessee and Kentucky locals such as Bob Cox, Elizabeth Irwin, dobro player Monroe Queener, comedian Ray Rutherford, Jay and Janie Ward, as well as several bands: the Museum Of Appalachia Band, Rollin' Grass, and the Big Valley Boys. The brother-sister duo of Mack and Willie Sievers were veterans of the old days, originally from a family band called the Tennessee Ramblers, which recorded numerous 78s during the Depression, on big labels such as Brunswick and Vocalion. Mack & Willie also recorded and performed as a duo in the 1930s and '40s, with Willie Sievers being credited as one of the most prominent early women guitar players in country music history. The liner notes say that James "Mack" Sievers was 78 years old when this LP came out -- which would according to some sources mean that this album came out in 1982, which sounds a little late. (Anyone know for sure?) Anyway, it's a cool document of a lively scene of dedicated regional preservationists. Cool music, too!
Various Artists "BAKERSFIELD REBELS -- LATE 1960s GEMS" (Ace/Big Beat, 2004)
An archival collection with rarities from The Gosdin Brothers, Billy Mize, Gib Guilbeau, and numerous obscure artists, often backed by Gilbeau and pals such as guitarist Clarence White... These tracks were originally recorded for producer Gary S. Paxton's short-lived label, Bakersfield International Productions, which delved into the prototypical country-rock sound in the years before the style had a name. Uncle Buck would be proud.
Various Artists "BAKERSFIELD's FIRST ANNUAL COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS SHOW" (Country Town Records, 1974)
(Produced by Jay Allbright)
This concert recording from December 10, 1974 was emceed by Mayf Nutter, with local artists honoring Bill Woods, a hometown hero who had been twanging it up since the early 1950s, an era when he (and others) wore big buckskin coats with long leather fringes. Woods was a musician as well as a club owner, and his Bakersfield honkytonk, the Bill Woods Corral, hosted countless country acts including touring stars and locals Okies alike. The liner notes (which neglect to tell us which musicians play on this album) include praise from Bonnie Owens, one of many Central Valley musicians who felt indebted to Woods for his help over the years...
Various Artists "BARNEY STEEL'S -- LIVE IN REDWOOD CITY" (Fat Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Danne Ventura & Michael Schwalm)
A compilation of live performances from the San Fran Bay Area, featuring a mix of rock groups (Merlin, The Lifters) and blues/rock bands such as Stu Blank & His Nasty Habits and the Charles Ford Band, along with alt-country pranksters Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, who play three of their songs, "My Girl Passed Out In Her Food," "Rasta Mother," and a medley of "Ghost Riders/Rawhide/Ballad Of Paladin." The shows were recorded in Redwood City, south of the City, but the label was based in Sausalito, on the other side of the Bay.
Various Artists "BERKELEY FARMS" (Folkways, 1972)
A classic set of old-timey and uber-folk music from Berkeley, California, featuring a bunch of bands with goofy names such as The Bayou Croakers, The Phresno Philharmonic, The Spare Change Boys, as well as the highly-regarded Larry Hanks, who was a real-live graduate of Berkeley High.
Various Artists "THE BEST IN FLORIDA COUNTRY" (Janlynn Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Lin Haley)
A pay-to-play album featuring singers such as Laurie Harvey, Pete Howell, Boogie Mann Lee Pollard and Ike Walker, well-meaning locals singing alongside a studio band called "The Starbackers." The songs are almost all covers of standards, with one track written by producer Lin Haley, "Of Course I Do."
Various Artists "THE BEST OF BRANSON" (Silver Dollar Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Millsap & Rodney Dillard)
A live set featuring performers from several of the most prominent variety shows of the Ozarks country tourism scene... singers and pickers from the Baldknobbers Jamboree, the Branson Opry House, the Brachler Music Show, the Plummer Family Country Music Show, the Roy Clark Theater, Silver Dollar City and other venues. The music is a mix of new country, old stuff and gospel. It's mostly a very commercially-oriented, very 'Eighties-sounding set, with Oak Ridge Boys/Alabama soundalikes galore, some goofy cover songs and ambitious but derivative originals... I think my favorite track is the topically-oriented "The Family Farm," an original by John Paul Cody in which he doesn't just get all Farm Aid about it, but also tries to prove his authenticity by including lyrics about mortgages and harvests and the financial nuts-and-bolts of modern-day agriculture... A little bit clunky? Yeah, that's why it's fun. Anyway... This is a good snapshot of what the various Branson acts sounded like at the height of the slick-sounding '80s. Not quite my kinda country, but an accurate portrait of the lower rungs of the commercial country scene.
Various Artists "THE BEST OF COUNTRY SWING, v.1 -- AS SELECTED BY DANCING DAN" (J. R. Records, 1980) (LP)
A swell selection of late '70s/early '80s hippiebilly... Most of the artists on here are from Tucson, Arizona's desert twang scene, including Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, The Frank & Woody Show, The Saddle City Band, Billy Odom (of the bands Straight Shot and Loose Boots), The David Dollar Revue, Duncan Stitt and Two Crisp Bills... The odd man out is Deadly Ernest and his band the Honky Tonk Heroes, who were from Ohio... But I ain't complaining!
Various Artists "THE BEST OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS" (Kevin Kat Music, 19--?) (LP)
Augie Meyers and Doug Sahm are on here, though I think the rest of the artists aren't all necessarily "country" musicians...
Various Artists "BOB HOOD PRESENTS THE WNOX BARN DANCE" (Golden Crest Records) (LP)
Various Artists "CAL'S CORRAL SOUVENIR ALBUM, v.1" (Cal's Corral) (LP)
A hugely successful car dealer from Pasadena, California, multi-millionaire show host Cal Worthington had a long-running TV program which ran on station KTLA from 1959 to 1972, spotlighting local Southern California talent as well as visiting stars from the hillbilly pantheon. This LP includes tracks by Buck Owens and Fred Maddox, although I'm not sure if they were exclusive to the Corral show, or taken from recordings they made elsewhere. But most of the artists seem to have been regulars on the show -- Billy Armstrong," guitarist Gene Davis, Benny Walker, Sammy Masters, Shorty Bacon singing a version of "Window Up Above," West Coaster Billy Mize singing "Planet Called Desire," and the Clairborne Brothers Gospel Quartet rounding things out with "Give The World A Smile," as the last track on the record. Cal Worthington passed away in September, 2013, but left behind a legacy of live recordings, both audio and video that are worth tracking down. This album also features "Ozark Rose," a track by Jenks "Tex" Carman, who was a regular on the show. There's no date on the disc, but "Window Up Above" was a hit for George Jones in 1960, so that helps date this release... a little bit, at least.
Various Artists "CIRCLE H RANCH PRESENTS: STREAKING SALLY" (Dynamite Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Richie Burkhardt)
A live album from a label in Norfolk, Nebraska... Artists include Richie Burkhardt, Martha Dee, Jim Hall and Bill Moore & The Kentuckians... I think Richie Burkhardt was a square dance caller, so this could be a square dance album, rather than a country set.
Various Artists "CMA PRESENTS THE 4th ANNUAL FAN FAIR REUNION SHOW" (Foundation Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Patty Hall, Jerry Bradley & Lou Bradley)
It was early days for the fabled Nashville "Fan Fair" event, and while later decades would have superstars on a par with Tim McGraw and Shania Twain rubbing elbows with the common folk, back in the '70s it was old-timers like Roy Acuff, Clyde Moody, Ernie Lee and Lulu Belle & Scotty doing the meet-and-greet and playing their old hits. The house band for this event was an all-pro crew dragged out of the studios for a few hours, including pickers and players like Fred Carter Jr., Johnny Gimble, Hal Rugg and Dale Sellers. The emcee was T. Tommy Cutrer, although Pee Wee King, Whitey Ford and others chimed in and introduced the artists.
Various Artists "COLORADO FOLK" (Biscuit City, 1973) (LP)
This was the first album on the soon-to-be-fabled Biscuit City label, which became home to many of Colorado's top folk and bluegrass musicians in the decade to come. With local artists including Grubstake, Dan McCrimmon, Katy Moffatt, and label founder Jim Ransom.
Various Artists "COLORADO FOLK, v.2" (Biscuit City, 1974) (LP)
This volume features Ruthie Allen, The City Limits Bluegrass Band, Pete McCabe, and the duo of Vince DeFrancis & Kathy DeFrancis.
Various Artists "CONTRA COSTA COUNTRY" (Ground Floor Records, 1982) (LP)
A very nice, independently produced album of off-the-radar SF Bay Area country music, featuring artists such as Ambush, Larry Appl, Osage, The Silver Saddle Band and singer Judy Fields, who went onto a modestly successful career as a songwriter in Nashville. There's a nice variety of styles, with Larry Appl singing in a soft honkytonk crooner style reminiscent of Ed Bruce or Vern Gosdin, Osage offering two solid indiebilly songs, and Ambush and Silver Saddle getting into grittier, scrappier-sounding western swing and bar-band music. This seems to have really been a collective effort -- each artist or band gets a track on each side of the album, but there are some overlapping musicians from track to track, and a supportive, happy vibe throughout. A stronger record than you might think, from the rather modest album art!
Various Artists "CO-OP HOOTENANNY" (Century Custom Records, 1965) (LP)
I'm looking for a clean (and affordable) copy of this record, as well as anyone who knows the background story about its making. This was apparently a live recording of a folk music hootenanny thrown on October 9, 1965 at the Berkeley Community Theater, with a bunch of locals no one has heard of since. The record was intended as a benefit for the University Students' Co-operative Association Building Fund, an institution founded in the 1930s to help students find affordable housing during the Great Depression. I guess times were still rough, for the coops at least, during the Free Speech Movement era, hence this record. The co-ops survived the 'Sixties and flourished, after a fashion, during the '70s, then arguably fell into decline in the following decade. In particular, the anarchic Barrington Hall was a notorious drug den and party house throughout the '80s, and was eventually closed by the Co-op Association in 1989/90 after years of conflict with neighbors and University officals. But that was all years away when this record was made, back in a simpler, calmer time called the Sixties. I assume that most of the artists on this album were co-op residents, but I'll get back to you when I get some more info...
Various Artists "COUNTRY AND WEST COAST: THE BIRTH OF COUNTRY-ROCK" (Ace/Big Beat, 2006)
A decent overview of the late '60s country-rock scene, with an emphasis on West Coast artists, folkie bands and less well-known tracks. To be sure, there are some obvious touchpoints, such as guitarist Clarence White, ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith and various Gram Parsons-related projects, including the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds, and the short-lived International Submarine Band. There are pleasant surprises as well: a few genuine obscurities such as Berkeley-based psychedelic folk-rockers Blackburn & Snow, The Spencers, and an unexpected track by The Corvettes (the super-jangly "Beware Of Time") as well as nods of the hat towards the Everly Brothers, Vern Gosdin and Ian & Sylvia. As always, the folks at Ace know their stuff, and try and add a little spice where they can.
Various Artists "COUNTRY AND WESTERN JAMBOREE" (Custom Records, 1967)
This one doesn't quite fit the profile for this section, but it's still a fun record. I was hopeful that this would be one of those cheapo LPs on the Custom label with a bunch of country-rocker hippie types doing perfunctory run-throughs of country covers and song demos, but instead it's a semi-random collection of obscure hillbilly oldies, weird old recordings that were probably originally issued as singles in the 1950s and early '60s. I have no idea who's on this record (no credits) although I'm sure there are greater, smarter, better-er country-ologists out there who do know... There's at least one track by Eddie Dean, but there seem to be several other artists included. Whatever. It's great music, just not the crypto-country rock lovefest we might have wished for...
Various Artists "THE COUNTRY COLLECTOR'S ALBUM" (Cuca Records) (LP)
A late-1960s(?) collection featuring country artists from Wisconsin, mostly locals associated with the long-lived regional label, Cuca Records. Featured are little guys like Bobby Hodge, The Rice Family, Dick Sherwood, Curly Fields, the Country Cousins, the Goose Island Ramblers, Jack Leonard, Ed Cree and Joan Whitney, as well as big-timers Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart (King was originally a Wisconsinite, while his singer Redd Stewart was not... But hey, who's gonna tell him to leave the studio?)
Various Artists "COUNTRY FUNK: 1965-1972" (Light In The Attic, 2012)
Funky music with twang, or redneck music with a groove? Either way, this well-curated collection has a lot of surprises (Mac Davis with a beat? A country cover of Dr. John's "Gilded Splinters"?) as well as some stuff you'd expect, like gritty stuff from Tony Joe White, Bobbie Gentry and Larry Jon Wilson, as well as a few missed opportunities (no Elvin Bishop? Well, darn.) See? The Black Crowes didn't invent this stuff, after all.
Various Artists "COUNTRY GOLD" (GRT Records-Canada, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Art Snider)
An odd, hodge-podgy double album gathering together sessions (possibly random singles?) of several Canadian artists recording for GRT and other labels. The record was helmed by producer Art Snider, owner of the Sound Canada studios and host of the CBC-TV variety show, Country Hoedown, who provides a rather sparse sound overall, although in some cases the thin, tinny production is actually quite nice. The lineup includes Californian emigre Stan Farlow, who apparently cut a few singles for Snider in the early '70s, including reprises of his slavish imitations of Johnny Cash as well as a plainspoken rendition of "Me And Bobby McGee" that's one of the examples of how Snider's sparse arrangements could help bring out the lyrics of the songs. ... Elsewhere, Canadian rockabilly pioneer Jack Bailey croons a few country ballads, sisters Simone and Nora Hart cover tunes such as "Rose Garden," "Snowbird," and "Help Me Make It Through The Night," as well as singers Jimmy Lewis, Ron van Dykoff and Jimmy Nolan. Perhaps one of the most unexpected entries comes from old-time pop singer Lorenzo Conyers -- formerly of the Ink Spots vocal group -- whose version of "Knock Three Times" is one of the more effective performances on here... For the most part, this 2-LP collection is an outwardly unimpressive, budget-line release focused on knock-off versions of Top Forty hits... But for country fans who are willing to give the cheapie labels a chance, it does yield a few surprises. Worth a spin, though don't get your hopes too high.
Various Artists "COUNTRY MUSIC BY THE WAYSIDE" (Wayside Records, 1968-?) (LP)
(Produced by Little Richie Johnson)
The Wayside label was a hopeful Nashville indie started up in 1967 by Lou Casella and Arizona's desert-twang king, Little Richie Johnson. They'd signed up about a dozen artists by the time this LP came out, mainly second-stringers, with a few who made light dents in the charts at one time or another. This album included tracks by Bobby Buttram, Cathy Cass, Gayle Holly, Murray Lewis and Jerry McKinnon, though later more significant signings such as Darrell McCall and Lynda K. Lance aren't on this record, which was mentioned in an April, 1968 Billboard article, but might have come up in '67, when the label was starting up. Perhaps the most interesting artist here is one Hattie Louise Bess, aka "Tootsie," the proprietor of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, one of Nashville's best-known music bars. (Her tracks are pretty negligible -- one was an instrumental, and the other could only charitably be called a vocal number -- so I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that just maybe she got a spot on the album simply as a ploy to try and get her to book some of these artists at her club... But perhaps I'm being too cynical?) Anyway, there's some nice, light twang on here, stuff that was probably a little out of step with the swank country-folk and countrypolitan sounds that were dominating Nashville at the time. Good, obscure stuff from several struggling in the long shadow of Music City's major labels, with several Kitty Wells soundalikes and Carl Smith wannabees. Which is just fine, in my book!
Various Artists "COUNTRY MUSIC CLUB OF INDIANA: DARN GOOD COUNTRY" (Country Star/Process Record Company)
This one's a real hoot. Clearly a pay-to-play vanity record, this LP includes photos of the various artists on the back cover, along with their names, but no info about who sang which song, or which musicians were backing them. On the disc itself, emcee/producer Ron Speck goes whole-hog into his super-commericial Big Announcer voice, enacting a pretend concert made to sound like a slick, ready-for-radio program, complete with canned applause and spoken intros that overlap the songs. It's possible that many, if not all, of these tracks were previously issued as singles and later stitched together into a "concert" format, or maybe they were just recorded for this album. At any rate, the phoniness of the presentation is quite entertaining, although it also has to be said many of the performers were solid... some more than others. Speck insists that the show is taking place at "the Big Red Entertainment Center," and announces each performer, while also taking great relish in a little good-natured cussing, tagging the program as "damn good country" (even though on the album cover they more demurely use the word "darn...") If you're a hardcore locals-only listener, this is definitely worth tracking down -- not great, but entertaining. And, just because I love you -- and to prove that I listened attentively -- I will also provide a tracklist, for posterity:
1. Nadine Schockley "Halfway To Paradise"
2. Harold Land "Misery Loves Company"
2. Bobbie Lee "Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes"
2. Chuck Ellis "Don't Worry About Me"
2. Charles Junior & Donna Ellis "The Bull And The Beaver"
2. Tom Manning "Easy Loving"
2. Sam & Ruthie Williams "Numbers In The Sand"
2. Don Winson "Steel Guitar Rag"
1. Arnie Garrett "This Time You Gave Me A Mountain"
2. Bonnie Sader "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You"
2. Donnie Edwards "Bedroom Ballad"
2. Dwight Cliffs "Coors Beer"
2. Junior Lee "I've Had All The Lonely I Can Stand"
2. Faron Inman "Under Your Spell Again"
2. Phil Manning "Long Haired Country Boy"
2. Chuck Lively "Oklahoma Stomp"
Various Artists "COUNTRY 'N ROCK" (Country Star/Process Record Company)
Super-rare stuff on this 1960's vanity label from a Franklin, Pennsylvania label... This album includeslocal artists such as Chuck Anthony, Bonnie Baldwin, LeRoy Cortez, The Highlights Combo, Billy Jones, Junie Lou & Her Pine Hedge Ranch Hands, Pie Plant Pete, Ralph Ryan, and Jim Stephens. The Country Star label seemed to have released several albums in this series - about a half dozen or so... also check out the OLE COUNTRY MUSIC compilation, below.
Various Artists "COUNTRYPOLITAN" (Pompeii Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Pat Morgan)
An odd but appealing collection from the Dallas-based Pompeii Records, which is probably best known as a soul label that released several LPs and singles by Ike & Tina Turner. This country(politan!) set partly draws on some singles by several obscure artists... The marquee singer is Dale McBride a Texas honkytonker who'd been kicking around since the late '50s and later had a few modest hits in the early '70s. His contributions here are two lackluster country-pop ballads (oh well) but there are some fun tracks by other artists on here, such as Eddie Downs ("What Ever Happened To Me"), Linda Gayle ("The One That Stands By Me"), Eddy Lynn ("The Best Friends Money Can Buy") and Darrell Glenn, whose "Older Man, Younger Girl" has a slightly creepy vibe. Other artists include Bobby George, Dick Hammonds and Lee Wright. As far as I known, none of these artists ever really went anywhere (other than McBride, who cracked into the Billboard Top 40 a couple of times...) Nonetheless, this is a pretty ambitious album, smoothly produced and clearly intended as a serious effort to break into the country market... A few good tunes, though overall a bit snoozy.
Various Artists "COUNTRY VOICES" (Sundown Studios, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Brad Tuttle)
Billed as "the best of Southwest Minnesota And Northern Iowa," this one's an obscuraholic's dream, featuring five groups from the Great Lakes region playing in a variety of styles. There's a band called Legend, the duo of Little Joe & Ken Pavelko, Milwaukee Road, Denny Storey, and The Sundown Band, a group from Jackson, Minnesota led by fiddler Bradley Tuttle, who also produced the album.
Various Artists "DEATH DRIVER: THE TRUE STORY OF REX RANDOLPH" (CMC Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Arthur Smith & Clay Smith)
Apparently this was the soundtrack album to a mid-'70s country hicksploitation film -- the fictional "true" story of an aging stunt car driver trying to make a comeback. It was produced by and starred auteur-entrpreneur Earl Owensby -- redneck culture's answer to Ed Wood -- who also sings on one track. The music was provided by Arthur Smith and Clay Smith (aka Smith & Son) with Side One featuring vocals by a variety artists, including the Smiths, the Schuylers and a gal named Maggie Griffin, while Side Two seems to be all incidental music. An oddity from the heyday of redneck cinema.
Various Artists "EARLY COUNTRY ROCK FROM NASHVILLE" (T-Bird, 2010)
First things first: the "country rock" part of the title is pretty misleading, since these early '60s recordings (cut for the uber-indie Spar label) feature a lot of latter-day rockabilly and oldies-rock sounds as well as some decent Bakersfield Sound-styled numbers and numerous uptempo novelty songs, but it's all pretty standard-issue country, hardly the cosmic-cowboy hippie-tinged stuff we identify with the "country rock" sound of the late '60s and '70s. That being said, this is still a valuable historical collection profiling a smaller Nashville label whose lineup was mostly made up of obscure non-stars -- the only names I recognize off the bat are those of Jerry Foster and singer Bobby Russell, and while I relish obscure artists as much as any other crazy record collector, I gotta say a lot of these tracks are pretty mediocre. There's a lot of noteworthy talent behind the scenes, though: studio musicians such as Lloyd Green, Mac Gayden, Kenny Buttrey, Wayne Moss and Pete Drake were heard on zillions of 'Sixties sessions, including on countless albums that did help shape the experimental country-rock sound of the era. This disc is worth checking out, just don't set your hopes too high.
Various Artists "EASY RIDER: MUSIC FROM THE SOUNDTRACK" (ABC-Dunhill, 1969)
This best-selling soundtrack to the hippie-sploitation film Easy Rider was a major conduit for the longhaired twang that was bubbling up from the West Coast rock scene. The hard rock psychedelic stuff by Hendrix, Steppenwolf and the Electric Prunes no longer holds my interest, but the country-rock tunes by the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, The Holy Modal Rounders and Fraternity Of Man are all classics. Don't bogart that joint, my friend -- flip the LP over again!
Various Artists "FIRST FLIGHT: FIRST ANNUAL IOWA ALBUM" (Snowflake Productions, 1980) (LP)
A contemporary collection of Iowa rock, country-rock, bluegrass and bar-band musicians... With Guy Drollinger pickin' and singin' on a tune called "The Carnival," Roger LeBarge singing "Mississippi River," and Bob Engeman backed by Neal Herrmuth on fiddle and pedal steel player Mike Boyer on "Way Down In Iowa." Another booster tune is "Iowa City (Wild Weekend Nights)" by Craig Erickson, whose civic pride is matched only by K101-FM's program director, Mark Vos, whose fiercely commercial liner notes add a certain sense of rah-rah pride to this local showcase album.
Various Artists "FIRST PRESS -- SONOMA COUNTRY ARTISTS: 1981" (Rail Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Ellis & John Brenes)
Another Northern California bonanza, with well-known roots musicians such as Norton Buffalo, Billy C. Farlow, Larry Hosford and Kate Wolf sharing vinyl time with less-remembered locals such as The Bodega Bay Blues Band, David Songbird, WBBH and others...
Various Artists "FLYING BEAR MEDICINE SHOW" (Smash, 1969) (LP)
Recorded live at a gig in Northern California's Marin County, this album features mostly rock and boogie-rock bands, but also includes a few tracks by the fabled Sir Douglas Quintet, so it'll be of interest to twangfans and Doug Sahm devotees...
Various Artists "THE FOLK YEARS" (Time-Life, 2013)
This is a straight reissue of an earlier 8-CD, 120-song box set drawn from several major labels, broken down into four 2-CD sets (each available on its own as well) that are roughly (but not strictly) reflections of the different catalogs of each label or conglomerate -- two from Warner, and one each from EMI and Sony. Although reasonably comprehensive, the emphasis of this collection is on hit songs and artists who crossed over into the Pop charts, to the exclusion of less commercial but more authentic folkies such as Tom Paxton, Dave Van Ronk and other stalwarts of the Greenwich Village, Boston, and West Coast folk scenes. Breakthrough stars like Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Bob Dylan are amply represented, as are the more overtly pop-oriented performers such as Trini Lopez, the Mamas & Papas and the Springfields, as well as a slew of pop and country artists covering Dylan songs or otherwise cashing in on the folk fad of the late 1950s and early '60s. Though purists will lament the absence of various artists or songs (what? ...no Joni Mitchell? ...no Tom Rush??) the emphasis on commercial success has its own appeal... For one thing, it's amazing to see how many folk-oriented songs rose to the upper levels of the American charts, particularly during the Kennedy era, showing both the appeal of the genre and the now long-lost fluidity of the pop charts. Moving past the early 'Sixties, the editorial choices in this collection become more and more questionable -- the Band or Cat Stevens, sure -- but "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison? "Red Rubber Ball," by the Cyrkle? Cher?? Bread?? Really?? If you're looking for a solid dose of earnest '60s crewcut folk, you might be better off getting collections of The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four and The Chad Mitchell Trio (who are all represented here) but if you want a pop-oriented overview of how the folk revival intersected with and influenced American pop music all the way through the early '70s, this greatest-hits has a lot of golden oldies to offer. The original discs from 2002 are still available in regular stores, though the current edition can be found on the Time-Life website What a day for a daydream, indeed.
Various Artists "FOR THE RECORD -- AUSTIN COUNTRY: 1973-1978" (Maverick Records, 1980) (LP)
A look back at the mid-'70s Austin scene, featuring tracks by stalwarts such as Marcia Ball, Jon Emery, Joe Gracey, The Reynolds Sisters, Bobbie Earl Smith, and of course good old Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers...
Various Artists "GET COUNTRY-FIVE'D" (CC International Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Carl French)
As near as I can figure this is a locals-only compilation from late-'70s Cleveland, Ohio, with five unknown musicians -- Jack Campbell, Gail Faught, Ronnie Ferrel, Conrad Morgan and Rodger Wilhoit -- singing material that was mostly written by producer Carl French. No info on the backing band, but the liner notes say that the sessions were recorded in RCA's Nashville studio, with "Nashville's finest musicians," so it may have been an A-list, usual-suspects crew. Not sure what the back-story was on this one, but it looks very tax-dodgey, especially the odd list of several different "Carwin Country" business names on the back, which reminded me of the credits to "Bambi Meets Godzilla."
Various Artists "GLENN CAMPBELL PRESENTS PITTSBURGH COUNTRY" (Var-Bee Records, 1970) (LP)
In 1970, country radio station WEEP, Pittsburg hosted a locals-only talent show which produced this deceptively-packaged album: countrypolitan star Glen Campbell is mentioned in the liner notes, but the Glenn Campbell named on the front was a Pennsylvanian, apparently the owner of the uber-indie Var-Bee label. Anyway, the musicians include the radio station's house band, Frank Grill & The Saddle Buddies, along with The Country Belles, Jim And Joanne & The Flaming Hearts and honkytonker Jim Contenta (1929-2008), a local steelworker and country old-timer whose first records date back to the early 1950s. Contenta sang three songs on this album, a version of "Drinking Champagne," "Kawliga" and "My One And Only Love."
Various Artists "THE HAWKEYE JAMBOREE, v.1, No.1" (Ven-Jence Recording Company, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Loren Gonyea)
This is an awesome record. Founded in 1963 by a group called the Professional Musicians and Entertainers Club Of Iowa, The Hawkeye Jamboree was a country music variety show originally staged in Carlisle, Iowa, though it soon moved to a venue in Des Moines. This well-programmed LP selects a dozen live performances from the show's 1967 and '68 seasons with strong performances from a bunch of deliciously unfamiliar artists. In contrast to the old-timey-meets-countrypolitan aspirations of the Ozark Mountain mini-oprys down South, this Midwestern show clearly took its cues from LA's boisterous Town Hall Party, drawing on hardcore honkytonk and rockabilly roots, kicking things off with a rollicking electric version of "Guitar Boogie," by a group called the Country Classics. Kitty Wells and Jean Shepard seem to be the models for the gals on here, while the male vocalists take their cues from robust, golden age honkytonkers such as Ray Price and Faron Young, basically ignoring a decade or so of schmalty "Nashville Sound" pop vocals. The locals-only cast included Bobby and Dee Awe, Frank Bell, Larry Haeberlin, Franklie Lee, Wanda Moyer, Jack Selover and Rex Young, with some variety added by singer Tom Reeves, who delivers a lacrymose novelty version of "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes," and fiddler Shorty Followill, who saws through a distinctive performance of "Orange Blossom Special." Most tracks are introduced by amiable emcee Bob Baker, who solos on one track, as does his pre-teen daughter, Kimberly Lynn, who belts out a cutesy, little-kid rendition of "Do What You Do Well." I don't think they released another album (I could be wrong) but The Hawkeye Jamboree persisted in one version or other for decades to come, hosting monthly shows and reunion concerts as recently as 2016. The late-'60s offering is a delightful throwback to an earlier era and a nice snapshot at one of the more vigorous regional variety shows of the time.
Various Artists "HEARTWORN HIGHWAYS" (Shout Factory, 2006)
Meanwhile, back in Austin... and over in Nashville... things were really starting to cook! This is an amazing historical document, capturing the early years of the Americana scene as we know it. This disc is the soundtrack to a 1975 documentary film that caught giants such as Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and John Haitt at the beginnings of their careers, compadres who formed the nexus of a scruffy singer-songwriter contingent that took its cues from the "outlaw" scene, as well as folkie friends like Townes Van Zandt and Steve Young, who had been kicking around a few years earlier. This actually includes the first recordings of Clark, Crowell, Haitt and Earle -- Guy being the most raspy and least eager to please, but each showing their own unique style, even this early on... (Amazing to think that Earle actually carried a tune like "Mercenary Song" around for more than a decade before putting it on wax!) Townes Van Zandt also adds a tune or two, and his densely-crafted, painfully earnest approach casts a long shadow on the others -- particularly on Earle. We're also treated to a few tunes from David Allen Coe, who was apparently slumming with the unsigned set, trying to build up his indie cred... Fans of any of these singers will want to check this album out and, more importantly, will want to see the film as well... Recommended.
Various Artists "HOLLYWOOD GOLD" (Rainbow Records, 1984-?) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Hanson, T. J. Roberts & Jim Rayton)
This is a stunningly, stunningly bad record, perhaps the ultimate pay-to-play song-poem travesty, pairing the inane lyrics of would-be songwriters with a trio of truly awful "studio" singers, who were each probably equally hopeful that this disc might be their big break. I don't want to point any fingers, but there's a lot of off-key singing and truly awkward, clumsy phrasing, all of which amplifies the banality of the words and the slapdash, by-the-numbers synth-drek arrangements. Sometimes on discs like this there might be a couple of tracks that are actually kind of good, but this disc can really only be appreciated as pure, terrible, amateurish kitsch. Not the so-bad-it's-good kind, but the so-bad-it's-megabad kind. Also, despite the photos of singer Roburt Anderson in a cowboy hat, and a mention of country music in the cursory liner notes, one would be hard-pressed to identify much actual twang on this album, just lots of tinkly keyboards, gooey, Kenny G-ish saxophone and lazy-paced drums... So, twangfans, beware. (Note: Roburt Anderson apparently starred in a music video called "My Country Music Dreams," also produced by the Rainbow label, which is probably a real hoot. Several stills from the video are included on the back cover...) Anderson sings on five songs, while Rita Rogers gets seven and Steffen Presley delivers four. There's a lot of religious material, though I don't think that Rainbow Records was a gospel label, per se. At any rate, this is strictly one for the schadenfreude crowd. Enjoy!
Various Artists "HONKY TONK JUKE BOX SPECIAL" (Westwood International, 1996)
The cruder side of outlaw country, with naughty ditties such as Pinto Bennett's "Honky Tonk Asshole," Ken Carlyle's "Itty Bitty Titty Song," and other gems such as "Pukin' In The Parking Lot (We Ain't Leavin' Til We're Heavin')", "Coyote Ugly" and "It's Hard to Say I Love You (When You're Sittin' On My Face)." You kinda get the idea. Needless to say, this one's not suitable for younger listeners.
Various Artists "IDAHO SAMPLER" (Mountain Bluebird Records, 1982) (LP)
A country/folk collection featuring locals such as Kip Attaway, The Braun Brothers, Steve Eaton, Mike Wendling and others...
Various Artists "ILLINOIS COUNTRY OPRY -- THIRD ANNIVERSARY ALBUM: 1971" (Gee Pee Records, 1971) (LP)
Back in 1968, Midwestern impressario Gilbert Perkins founded the Illinois Country Opry in Petersberg, IL, and ran the venue throughout the 'Seventies, showcasing a number of local performers, including (on this album) Ken Decker, Leon Loy, Bill and Joannie Morrison, fiddlers Jim Boward and Tom Rudledge, Dick Smith and Pam Gilbert. I'm not wild about the female vocals, but overall this was a pretty sharp crew, with plenty of true twang. Definitely worth a spin, if you're interested in regional country music variety shows. Recommended!
Various Artists "ILLINOIS COUNTRY OPRY -- FIFTH ANNIVERSARY ALBUM" (Gee Pee Records, 1973) (LP)
Various Artists "IN CAHOOTS... WITH 3WJ-103 FM" (Rome Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Kramer)
This one's pretty cool, an odd hybrid of the pay-to-play "song poem" albums and those old-fashioned radio station promo records. But while most radio station albums were K-Tel-ish re-licensings of whatever Top 40 artists they were playing, this one features real live, original artists. In this case, the artists were regular folks, strictly locals from the Columbus-Newark area of Central Ohio, members of "Ohio Country And Western Music Association." Radio station WWWJ-103.1 FM's Bob Kramer organized the album, presumably setting up the recording sessions at the Rome label (which was a prolific regional indie label) and packed it with artists with Nashville-y names such as Vicki Lynn, Paula Wayne and Tiny Wellman, also some oddly-named bands like Crosstown Traffic and Slo Poke II (which actually seems to have been a pseudonym for a singer...) Some tracks are predictably iffy, though a few are actually quite good, or at least fun in an oddball, DIY kind of way. The details of this project seem to have been lost to time, but it sure is a fun, sometimes funny record.
Various Artists "IPSWICH COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC CLUB" (1986) (LP)
A real obscurity here, with music by various British twangsters associated with Suffolk, England's country auteur Jock "Slim" Albins, and his group the Sundowners, who are included on this album. A mix of heartsongs, honkytonk and would-be countrypolitan, from some earnest Brits who gave country music the same sort of sincere devotion as others would give to Morris dancing and folk-trad.
Various Artists "JACK HOWARD'S COVERED WAGON CARAVAN" (Arcade Records, 1962) (LP)
Jack Howard was a music promoter from Philadelphia who had worked with Hank Snow and Bill Haley in the 'Fifties, moving into a more active impressario role in the early '60s. He set up his own country music variety show featuring East Coasters such as Shorty Long, Rex Zario, Marty Smith, the duo of Ginger and Johnny, Art Taber and Jesse Stone, a group that acted both as a package tour lineup and as the cast for a weekly Saturday night radio show on WCAM, Camden, New Jersey, called the "Covered Wagon Caravan." In the early 'Sixties, Howard released several singles and at least two LPs featuring many of these artists, mainly on the Arcade label.
Various Artists "JIM FOSTER'S TOWN 'N' COUNTRY NITE HAWKS" (Country Artists Records International) (LP)
(Produced by Finley Duncan & Jim Foster)
Various Artists "KDBK: ARIZONA SOUNDS -- HOMEGROWN MUSIC" (Dwight-Karma Records, 1976) (LP)
The first is a series of showcase albums sponsored by an Arizona radio station, documenting a number of indie-country and rock'n'roll bar bands, including a couple of groups that cut LPs, such as Shep Cooke, The Dusty Chaps and Custer's Last Band, and a slew of super-obscuro artists from the days before Americana was Americana. While this initial volume had a fair amount of twang, later volumes took more of a tilt towards rock and AOR.
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1973" (PSG Recordings, 1973) (LP)
Way back to the primordial roots of this fabled Texas music fest come vintage performances by Willie Nelson, Steve Fromholz, The Threadgills, Timberline Rose, Bobby Bridger and -- just so you could accuse the Kerrville folks of selling out from the very start -- B. W. Stevenson, singing his Top Forty hit, "Shambala." A nice snapshot of the Texas outlaw scene in its glory years.
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1974" (PSG Recordings, 1974) (LP)
This volume included performances by a bunch of folks, including some outlaw country and western-swing acts, in addition to more mainstream folkies like Bill & Bonnie Hearne... Among them are Asleep At The Wheel, Flaco Jimenez, Plum Nelly, Ray Wiley Hubbard, and Hubbard's old band, Three Faces West...
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1975" (PSG Recordings, 1975) (LP)
With Ray Wiley Hubbard, Kenneth Threadgill, Augie Meyerm Don Sanders, John Vandiver, Dee Moeller and Red River Dave, along with several twangbands such as Hickory, Wheatfield, T&M Express, bluesman Juke Boy Bonner, old-timey auteur Mike Seeger and others.
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1976" (PSG Recordings, 1976) (LP)
The Bicentennial participants included Lone Star locals like Bobby Bridger, Bill Neely, Tom Russell and Don Sanders... Not to mention Hondo Crouch, Kurt Van Sickle, Milton Carroll, Mark McKinnon and Dee Moeller, as well as folkies emerita Carolyn Hester and Peter Yarrow.
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1977" (PSG Recordings, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Rod Kennedy & Pedro Gutierrez)
A live album of folk and country performances captured at the Outdoor Theater, at Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, Texas, between May 26-29, 1977. Old-school folkies Tom Paxton and Carolyn Hester play a couple of old-school folk songs, while the real zip and bang comes from the Texans, with locals like Steven Fromholz, Butch Hancock, Townes Van Zandt along with newcomer Mike Williams, whose BF Deal label would record several notable young artists, including Nanci Griffith's first album in 1978. Also featured are Milton Carroll, Bill & Bonnie Hearne, Tom Russell, Dan McCrimmon, and blues picker John Vandiver, who plays solo and also backs B. W. Stevenson on a version of Shake Russell's "Temper, Temper." Nice lineup!
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1978" (PSG Recordings, 1978) (LP)
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1979" (PSG Recordings, 1979) (LP)
Various Artists "KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL: 1980" (PSG Recordings, 1980) (LP)
Various Artists "KFIN: SUPER COUNTRY'S GREATEST HITS" (KFIN, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Robin Reynolds)
I'm sure that radio station KFIN, 108-FM in Jonesboro, Arkansas did play plenty of country hits, but those commerical numbers weren't included on this locals-only collection which features obscure regional artists such as Cindi Ballard, Marty Colburn, Nathan Finley, The Franklin-Byerly Band, and Rhonda Gunn, who sings the album's closing track, "Listenin' To KFIN Always Reminds Me Of You," a subtle number which was written by producer Robin Reynolds, who also wrote the LP's theme song, "This Is Super Country," which was given to Ms. Ballard to sing, along with several others. Reynolds played bass and led a house band which backed Ballard and Finley on their tracks; Marty Colburn had his own band -- and also put out his own record the following year (where he dutifully thanked KFIN for their support...) Ballard later recorded at least one song for a Southern Gospel label, but other than that most of these folks seem to have been swallowed up by the depths of time...
Various Artists "KOKE COUNTRY SHOWDOWN '81" (KOKE, Inc., 1981) (LP)
Various Artists "THE KOREAN GRAND OLE OPRY: STATESIDE!" (Cho Hun Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by William Ludwig)
A genuinely odd record with a truly fascinating pedigree... Founded in 1964, the Korean Grand Ole Opry was a Seoul-based country band that played at NCO clubs and other venues frequented by American troops stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War era. It later became the house band for a country-themed bar with the same name. The Korean Grand Ole Opry is still located in a place nicknamed "Hooker Hill" in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea, a neighborhood known for its blatant appeal to foreigners on the prowl for cheap booze and cheaper thrills... The bar's owner, Kim Sam-sook, aka Mama Kim, was once married to a guy from Texas and opened the Opry as a way to appeal to American servicemen and get them to spend more money in town, rather than on-base. Musically, this is surprisingly good, though the individual artists vary widely in their ability to "sound American," with the men sounding fairly twangy and the gals sounding a bit stiff and unsure of how to approach the music. Oh. And then there's the matter of their stage names, which are generally pretty offensive: there's the band's leader, Joe Ching Joe, along with Kimchi Chet Atkins, Rice Paddy Grandpa Jones, Miss Jenny and Kimchi Kitty and even -- yeesh -- a rockabilly picker they called Numb Nuts. I'm not kidding. Still, this is an amazing album, if even just from a socio-historical standpoint. It holds up musically as well, though, and apparently several of the performers wound up being successful Korean pop stars later on in the 1970s. So go figure. An interesting side-note is the album art: this same photo of waves crashing on a placid beach was used for several country(ish) records in the early '70s, although the label name seemed to change from client to client...
Various Artists "KVRE SONOMA SOUNDTRACK" (KVRE, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Quan & Norton Buffalo)
A commemorative album put out by Sonoma County's hippiedelic AM-FM station KVRE, a (now long-defunct) roots-oriented freeform station that was Santa Rosa, California's equivalent of the better-known KFAT, Gilroy. The folk/twang lineup includes some familiar faces, notably Norton Buffalo (of the Steve Miller Band), guitarist Nina Gerber, the country-swing band Osage and, perhaps most impressively Jim Corbett backed by twang-banger Bill Kirchen and Norton Buffalo on guitar, for the song "California Western Country Swing."
Various Artists "LANE COUNTY'S GREATEST HITS" (Fireworks Discorporation, 1978) (LP)
(Executive producer: John Sharkey, Jr.)
It don't get more "locals only" than this! This is a folkie collection of songs by folks living around Eugene Oregon, some of them aspiring musicians, though most are just plain folks, such as Mapleton's Joyce Schoefeld, described as a 53-year old mother of nine(!) (...and God only knows where she found the time to sing!) Other performers include Willard "Scarecrow" Crockett -- a wild-looking, beardy guy who claims ancestry from Davy Crockett -- as well as St. Clyde Carroll, Stephen Cohen, Spencer Doidge, Beth Emmons, Emmy Fox, Randy Fulz, Jack Gabel, David Greene, Bret Malmquist, and the bands Leisure and Full Circle. Never heard of 'em? Me, neither! That's why I'm mentioning them here... The album is backed with local-pride songs such as "Lane County Is Where It's At" (by St. Clyde Carroll), "A Tribute To Lane County" (Joyce Schoefeld) and "Watching The Willamette Run" (David Greene) and was originally issued as a benefit for Easter Seals.
Various Artists "LIVE AT THE HARVEST FESTIVAL, v.1" (1984) (LP)
A mix of folkie, bluegrass and country artists, recorded live in San Francisco, with artists including Elmo & Patsy, Oak Ash & Thorn, Old Mother Logo, Steve Seskin and South Loomis Quickstep Band... Maybe more on the folkie side of things for me, really...
Various Artists "LIVE: CLUB ZAYANTE" (1973) (LP)
(Produced by Red Erickson, Dave Ferguson & Tom Louagie)
A memento of the Club Zayante, a former country-club bar that became one of the central meeting grounds of the early-1970s Santa Cruz hippie scene. Club Z was located in nearby Fenton, California and became known for its eclectic musical choices as well as for the saunas and nude swimming at the pool... Owner Tom Louagie bought the place in 1969 and ran it -- off and on -- until 1983, when the venue finally closed its doors. These tracks were recorded in June, 1973 during a couple of nights of live shows made with a local, Bay Area crowd. Artists include Michael Bellanger, Red Erickson (of the band One Hand Clapping), George Lee, David Manheimer and others, with the star of the show -- in retrospect -- being a young Jill Croston on two tracks -- "It's So Easy" and "Welfare Mother." Croston later became known as Lacy J. Dalton, and was an early '80s Nashville hitmaker, although before that she did release one album under her own name, while still a local Santa Cruz star. The buildings burned down in 2006, after the club had been closed for decades, so I guess this album, obscure as it is, is one of the last tangible traces of this legendary old club.
Various Artists "MONTANA GOLD" (Rod Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Rod Harsell)
This collection is a mix of country and bar-band rockers, mostly from around Missoula, Montana. On the country side, the groups include the The Lost Highway Band, The Mission Mountain Wood Band, Dogwater, The High Country Rollers and Homegrown. The rockers include a band called Sonics, though I don't think it was the legendary garage-punk pioneers from Tacoma, Washington. At least I hope not! The album was sponsored by radio station KYLT-AM, in Missoula.
Various Artists "MUSIC FROM CAROLINA COUNTRY" (United Music World)
(Produced by Dave Craig & Art Ridley)
Hosted by producer-emcee Dave Craig, the "Carolina Country Music Time" show ran on Spartanburg, South Carolina's WSPA TV station througout the 1970s, with local talent and national stars passing through. This album is all locals, including singers such as Kay Crowe, Donnie Duncan, Bud Holcomb, Don Holcomb, Jimmy Pittman, Daryle Rice, and Eddie Shelton performing a repertoire that looks pretty heavy on original material. They were backed by two house bands with interchangable memberships, the Country Masters and the Tune Twisters, led by guitarist Phil Lister. Over the years, many local artists appeared on the show, including several who went on to perform on the national stage. This was apparently the first album released under the show's banner... Generally, the vibe is pretty mellow and countrypolitan oriented, with a few clunkily pretentious, poetical songs and some vocals performances that are kind of iffy. But there are also some strong performances on here, and maybe even a few gems... Definitely worth a spin if you want to hear what these low-rent local shows were like.
Various Artists "NASCAR GOES COUNTRY" (MCA Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Haynes & Milton Blackford)
Various Artists "NASHVILLE COUNTRY CLUB LIVE" (New Records, 196-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Williams & Joe Tippie)
A live compilation of unknown artists from the local Indianpolis, Indiana country scene, includings such as Chuck Dean, Jim Davis, steel player Joe Tippie, Lonnie Fish, Jerry Wade, Larry Young and others... WIRE-AM radio deejay Ken Speck kicks off the album with a savagely unfunny, misogynistic monologue leading into a version of Harlan Howard's "Sally Was A Good Old Girl." Most of the other tracks are covers as well, drawing on the hits of Merle Haggard, Mel Tillis, Buck Owens and Johnny Bush. Chuck Dean offers one original tune, his own "Reflections Of Your Mind," which unfortunately was an overwrought, emotive countrypolitan ballad; Dean also closes the album with a version of "Streets Of Bakersfield." The singers are, I think, backed by the same house band, led by steel player Joe Tippie, who has a nice, twangy sound and who gets his own spotlight number on an instrumental called "Green Strings." Cool snapshot of a very honky-tonk oriented local scene!
Various Artists "NEW ZEALAND COUNTRY: 20 GREATEST HITS" (Lucky Records, 1984) (LP)
While the Chills, the Bats and the Clean were revolutionizing Tuataran indierock, some of their fellow New Zealanders were dreaming dreams of Nashville glory days. These kiwi country singers include Gray Bartlett, Brendan Dugan, Tracey Gardyne, Danny McGirr, Noel Parlane, Suzanne Prentice, Lynne Toner and Jodi Vaughan... As far as I can tell, they were all backed by the same studio band -- at least the songs all generally sound the same: basic, low-key, mid-tempo country with a mildly outdated, mid-'70s production style. (Thankfully, the tinkly-piano keyboards and synths of Judds-era Nashville had not yet reached the folks at Lucky Records... Whew!) Several of these artists have albums of their own, and apparently further research is required -- anyone have any resources on NZ country to recommend?
Various Artists "NORTH COUNTRY SHINDIG" (North Country Shindig Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bebe Allen & David Rivkin)
Running from 1973-76, this short-lived "shindig" show was headquartered in Cloquet, Minnesota, just west of Duluth. In addition to a bandstand revue, the Shindig also broadcast a one-hour TV program, showcasing various artists, mostly locals. The program was run by Richard Allen Svenddal (1937-2014) and his wife, Alberta Obraske Svenddal, a husband-wife couple that used the stage names Rick Allen and Bebe Allen -- he played bass, she was the house band's lead guitar. The Allens had previously been in a folk-country band called the Country Briars... They ran the Shindig until '76; later on they devoted themselves to gospel music and missionary work, which they pursued for several decades in South America and elsewhere. Also of note is the album's engineer, David Rivkin, a Minneapolis local who worked with various country artists before moving onto rock and pop production. As "David Z," Rivkin became part of Prince's Paisley Park posse, and became known as a producer and remix artist in the late '80s and '90s. Most of the artists on this "live" album were pretty obscure, although at least one guy -- Mickey Grasso -- recorded an album of his own, again with Bebe Allen as the producer.
Various Artists "OLD WEST HILLTOP 99 COUNTRY ALBUM #1" (Creative Marketing Concepts/CNC Records, 1984) (LP)
Undeniably a locals-only affair, this album was commissioned by radio station KEBK, the "Old West" country station covering Grand Valley region of Western Colorado. The artists are all locals and unknowns, with arrangements and vocal backing by a studio crew put together by the station. Honestly? A lot of this album is pretty terrible, although the singers are really trying their best. There are a handful of good performances and some interesting songs, though by and large the music on here is a fairly weak. Sometimes, though, one of these little guys strikes gold, and records "that one song" that gives them a mild form of immortality... In this case, the best candidate is Tom Bayne's oddball novelty number, "Love Dorito Style," which is musically strong and also a little nutty. Several songs on the album were written by Gary R. Smith, who I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess was connected to the radio station somehow... Profits from the album were to be donated to the Hilltop Rehabilitation Hospital, which povided a variety of health care programs for folks in the the region around Grand Junction, Colorado.
Various Artists "OLE COUNTRY MUSIC" (Country Star/Process Record Company) (LP)
This is the sister album of the COUNTRY 'N ROCK album, above... It's all local and regional artists including Clyde & Marie, Don Morgan & Little Judy Adams, Rex Klingensmith, The Pennsylvania Ramblers, Steve Vettenberg and The Youngblood Sisters. And don't even try to tell me you've heard of these folks!
Various Artists "OREGON TERRITORY: NORTHWEST BLUEGRASS" (Grassroots Records, 1974) (LP)
A bluegrass collection with five scruffy uber-indie regional bands: Doctor Corn's Bluegrass Remedy, the Muddy Bottom Boys, Puddle City, the Sawtooth Mountain Boys and Tall Timber. Several of these bands also put out records of their own; musically this is okay, though not dazzling or earthshaking. A nice portrait of a few down-to-earth local twangbands, pretty much straightforward bluegrass with a few "progressive" touches, but nothing too out-there or innovative.
Various Artists "THE OZARK HEE-HAW: IN CONCERT AT THE SAWMILL OPRY" (Dungeon Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Pat Shikany)
This album is a souvenir of the short-lived Old Sawmill Opry, a late-1970s variety show located in Notch, Missouri, near Branson and the better-known Silver Dollar City. They sang a mix of country, pop vocals and gospel, perhaps with a little less actual twang that one might imagine; the influence of poppy groups such as the Bellamy Brothers looms large over much of this album, which includes a dreadful rendition of the pop ballad, "Reunited," as well as a faithful reading of the Gatlin Brothers' hit, "All The Gold In California." As near as I can figure, none of these musicians -- who included Eddie Asher, Diana Houseman and Danny McMaster -- had any direct connection to the Hee-Haw TV show, although one of them, Max King, wound up in the house band at the Hee-Haw Theater, in the early '80s. I think the Sawmill show may have been bankrolled by Hee-Haw producer Tom Lutz, who later ran the short-lived Hee-Haw Theater from 1981-83. (It's possible it was the same venue, just with a name change after the Sawmill show folded -- anyone know for sure?) Anyway, the show's headliner around 1979-80 was '60s second-stringer Stan Hitchcock -- local gossip has it that in the early he scampered off back to Nashville and used the profits from the Sawmill show to help bankroll CMT (Country Music Television) but I can't really comment on that. Anyway, the property changed hands a bunch of times, was sold to a church group in the 1980s and apparently hasn't been a secular music venue since then. Eddie Asher was an Ozark local who had put out at least one album under his own name, and played in several regional venues, and Max King released an album as well.
Various Artists "PENN YORK COUNTRY MUSIC CLUB: LIVE" (Wayne Sound) (LP)
I'd be really super-interested in more information about the Penn York Country Music Club (PYCMC), a Pennsylvania-based community group founded by singer Gary Strope, who I believe was a professional musician himself. The group appears to have been exactly what it sounds like: a place for regular folks in Pennsylvania who were into country music to get together and play some true twang. An awful lot of just-plain-folks, mom and pop types were members -- a fact I gleaned from dozens of obituaries where Mom and Pop were proudly described as card-carrying members. Apparently the club was formed in 1970, and held together at least until the mid-1980s. Just when this curious live album was recorded is a bit of a mystery, though. Gary Strope songs on one song, with the rest of the tracks spotlighting locals such as Ed Bassett, Gary Bixby, Gene Horton, Kathy Leighton, Jody Lynn, Fran Mack, Kenny Marks, Penny Parks, Bub Robinson, Tommy Robinson, Ronnie Shoonover, Sharon Slocum, Lloyd Streeter and Wendy Strope, all backed by a house band. Although Gary Strope never seems to have made an album of his own, his family band, the Bandits, played regionally for decades -- including after a house fire demolished the Strope's house in March, 2015. Strope is widely remembered for his charitable work, and one suspects that the PYCMC was itself a manifestation of that charitable impulse.
Various Artists "QFM96 HOMETOWN ALBUM PROJECT" (Q-FM96, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Runner)
A local-artists compilation produced by radio station WLVQ, in Columbus, Ohio. This is mostly a rock comp, although it includes a song from country rockers McGuffey Lane, "Stay In Love With You" (which also appeared on their first, self-released album in 1980) as well as one called "Country Rocker," by a band named Roughrider. Methinks there was indeed some love of twang to be found among the deejays in "the biggest small town in America".
Various Artists "THE RACKENSACK, v.1" (Ozark Folk Center) (LP)
A collection of hardcore folk and stringband music from Arkansas... My attention was caught here by the presence of country star Jimmie Driftwood, who is best known for the many "historical" songs he wrote which defined the genre during the late '50s and early '60s, most notably "The Battle Of New Orleans," which was a big hit for Johnny Horton. Driftwood also released a string of folk-themed albums, discs which I long assumed were major-label attempts to cash in on the early '60 folk revival, although as it turns out, Driftwood was in fact a very dedicated and accomplished folklorist who vigorously promoted the preservation of Ozark Mountain folk music. The Rackensack gatherings were a series of festival-style concerts held at the Ozark Folk Center, which he helped establish in the early 1960s. The musicians are all locals, and the performances -- including a few by Mr. Driftwood -- are all solid and sincere. Highly recommended!
Various Artists "THE RACKENSACK, v.2" (1972) (LP)
Various Artists "THE RED BARN SHOW" (Renee Records, 1980-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte)
Omaha, Nebraska's Richard and Florence Andersen founded the Red Barn Opry Show in 1980, as well as something called the Mid-America Country Music Association (aka MACMA) although this record is the only place I've never heard of either institution... The same is true for the artists on this album, who include Keith Andersen, Kerry Andersen, Richard Andersen, Louise Fleming, Jim Hanna, Kelly Hitch, Dave Klingforth, Dale Sisco, Cheryl Spenser and Sylvia Spencer... The Bed Barn Opry was apparently a Branson-esque regional country variety show, though both it and the country music organization went by the wayside years ago. Anyone out there with more info? I'm all ears! (By the way, there were several Red Barn Shows, located in different states at different times... As far as I know there was no direct connection between any of them...)
Various Artists "RON MASON BENEFIT ALBUM" (Soul Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone & Earl Ball)
This one's a bit of a mystery album, with very minimalist cover art, and nothing printed on the inner labels to indicate who sang what on which songs... Ron Mason is also kind of a cipher... He cut a few singles for Cliffie Stone, and seems to have worked with Stone and hillbilly singer Earl Ball as part of the late 1960s/early '70s Southern California roots-twang scene. This is a pretty groovy record, spanning from pure twang into more of a white, Southern R&B/garage rock sound, with contributions from a bunch of fairly obscure musicians. The best-known performers are old-timers Earl Ball, Eddie Dean and Smokey Warren; other participants include Carl Cody, Roy Counts, Bobby Griggs, Danny Micheals, Jerry Stevens, Billy Van, and Ron Wheaton. The only person I could pin down as playing on a particular track was the album's only gal singer Bobbie Dee, who delivers a robust rendition of "The Harper Valley PTA." Also, I'm guessing the "Rebel Playboys" are the combo that performs the loosey-goosey comedy track that closes the album, with the band vamping along while two singers swap dirty jokes, including a lot of pointedly sexist and homophobic punchlines: time capsule material, for sure. That track aside, this is a very enjoyable album -- fun, funky, earthy and authentic. No info on why Mason needed a benefit, or what became of his career... if anyone out there has details, feel free to get in touch.
Various Artists "ROUND UP TIME" (Round Up Records) (LP)
Produced in Philadelphia, PA, this is an ultra-local set of unknown provenance, with obscure artists such as Bob Strack, The Kay-Doll Sisters, a guy called "Johnny By The Way," Karen Lee, and the duo of Skinney Clarke and George Adams. I suspect that this was a "song-poem" album -- though there's no producer info, several tracks feature backing by pianist Hargus Robbins, who is the only session musician mentioned by name. Many of the songs seem to be originals
Various Artists "THE SELLING SOUND OF COUNTRY MUSIC" (Capitol Records, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Allison & Bill Walker)
This disc is a live recording of performances at the Country Music Association's sales and marketing convention, held June 7, 1965 at the Pick Congress Hotel, in Chicago. Stars from several different labels were there to pump up the crowd at the convention's kickoff, and while the artists were hardly obscure, this album is, and it represents a very specific moment in the evolution of country music history. "The Selling Sound" was the convention's theme, and by that they meant the corporatization of Nashville's music industry, a push to take the slick crossover of the pre-countrypolitan Nashville Sound and turn it into piles of cash. In addition to a handful of decent songs by stars of the day, there's a wealth of onstage chatter by emcee Tex Ritter and even some clumsily scripted pitches about the marketing power of country music. Ironically, it fell to old-timers like Tex Ritter and Johnny Bond to make the case that country was not hillbilly music anymore, but rather a dynamic, modern market, worthy of statistics and spreadsheets and big media campaigns... None of that hokey Lil' Abner crap for Nashville! Of course, this meeting took place at a time when Nashville was largely in a lull, with rosters full of revered but unprofitable old-timers, and much of the mojo and innovation coming from the neo-trad types who were nowhere to be seen in Chicago. The lineup included The Anita Kerr Singers, Roy Clark, newcomer Dottie West and the big star of the moment, Roger Miller, who got to sing two songs before handing the mic to comedian Andy Griffith, who was still riding high as the star of his top-rated TV show. Conspicuously absent were any of the Bakersfield honkytonkers, most notably Buck Owens, who was doing great in the charts, but was apparently too rowdy for the marketing guys. Also absent (perhaps coincidentally?) were any artists on the Decca label, which had fielded the ultra-rural Loretta Lynn as their standard bearer, but also had a bunch of stodgy old-timers on the payroll; in the early 'Seventies Decca would rebrand as MCA and show Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells and others the door. At any rate, this disc is more artifact than entertainment, although I'm sure there are a few folks (like myself) who'll get a kick out of the not-your-grandpa's-country spoken-word boosterism delivered between songs. Funny stuff.
Various Artists "SILVER ROADS: AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY-ROCK & SINGER-SONGWRITERS OF THE '70s" (Warner/Festival Records, 2013)
Various Artists "SING A SONG FOR A SOUVENIR OF ARIZONA" (LJR Souvenir Records) (LP)
This album celebrates the early '60s heyday of the Arizona honkytonk scene, gathering archival recordings of Waylon Jennings, Donny Owens and Herb Sims along with more obscure singers such as Don Rollins, Dave Curtis, Jimmy Gray and even one by professional clown Bozo Darnell. The album cover is emblazoned with a photo of Lonesome Long John Roller, a local deejay and onetime flagpole sitter who apparently also ran a small record label (LJR) and was one of Waylon's early patrons and pals... Roller sings one song on here, "Ten Years Ago," which is one of several tracks credited to Jennings. There are also a couple of gals on here: Francis Clinton and guitarist Charlotte Dixon, and overlapping backup musicians on several of the tracks. Mae Axton -- Hoyt's mom -- was connected with this crowd as well, and contributes glowing liner notes.
Various Artists/The MSR Singers "SINGIN' EASY" (MSR Records, 197-?) (LP)
Dreadful, dreadful stuff, with "song poem" recordings where hapless would-be composers sent their lyrics into the MSR company and paid to have them set to music by the on-staff hacks who also sang and performed on the album. Based in Los Angeles, MSR made a bunch of these records: this particular volume isn't all that country, although I found it in the country bin, probably due to the photo of an old red barn that adorns the front cover... (The back cover is blank, which gives you an idea of where these folks were coming from...) Anyway, plenty of generic arrangements that, frankly, mostly sound the same -- kind of a bland, churchy organ with equally uncommitted vocals. A couple of tracks make it into the so-bad-its-noteworthy category, such as the manic, uptempo, "Monster Man," written by Charlotte Partin, but even with these tracks, you have to work hard to convince yourself of their potential kitsch value. Also fun (and almost catchy) is the uber-perky "Los Angeles, LA," a song written by John Kelly and Rebecca Bergeron, and which has a charming refrain about the city being "so gay in every way." Less charming is Mr. Kelly's shrill, moralistic, infamous song, "The Saddest Story," which is a now-shockingly racist melodrama about "when a white girl marries a negro," and the "spots of sin" which stain her gown as a result -- the song just goes on from there, and is really quite vile, obsessed with carnality and the resulting loss of "God's grace." Wow. It's a song that will really stun modern listeners with its matter-of-fact racism... though, of course, it's terrible in musical terms as well. So, I guess there's stuff on here of interest, though there's not much twang, if you're looking for MSR-style country. Just so you know.
Various Artists "SIX-PAK, VOLUME ONE" (Lone Star, 1976) (LP)
Back in the mid-1970s, when Willie Nelson finally achieved superstar status, he was briefly given charge over his own vanity label, Lone Star Records, which he had creative control over, but with major-label backing and distribution. The label was populated with friends of Willie and several obscure artists he chose to champion, including many from the Texas outlaw scene... Some were relatively well-known -- Willie Nelson, for example, and newcomer Ray Wylie Hubbard, as well as some artists who had been around for a while, like Don Bowman, but were finding an indie pathway more appealing than sticking with the diminished returns of slackening major-label deals. This is a great promotional sampler for the short-lived label, with some really fun material on it. One highlight is the old KFAT classic "Swingin' With The Armadillo," by the band Cooder Browne, an irresistible, fiddle-based novelty number that bizarrely didn't make it onto their album, and can't be found elsewhere. Other winners include Bowman's profane "DJ Song" and the stunning "Willon And Waylee," in which he makes fun of the superstar status of the fabled kings of outlaw country, and laments his own obscurity. Bowman dreams of getting Willie and Waylon to sing backup on one of his records -- surely that would make him famous! -- and the punchline comes when they actually do join him on the song's last chorus. Great stuff. Also a couple of tracks each by Steve Fromholz, The Geezinslaw Brothers, and acouple of ancient tracks by Willie himself, stuff he recorded way back in 1961(!). If you see this album, snap it up.
Various Artists "SMALL TOWN COUNTRY, v.1" (Orion Read, 2015)
Over the last few years I've been delving pretty heavily into the world of uber-off-the-radar indie country music -- the so-called "private press" or vanity records of the pre-Americana era. It's a pretty big kettle of fish, and so far I've stuck to reviewing full albums, shying away from the even-bigger, nearly infinite vortex of private press singles. There's a bunch of great stuff out there, but it's too much for even me to tackle. That's why collections like this one are so welcome, a well-curated collection of rare, oddball twangadelic recordings on obscure microlabel 7"s discovered by Jason Chronis, a fellow collector-nerd living in Austin, Texas. There are some real gems here, fourteen bizarrely personal recordings, all undeniably authentic and recorded by real human beings who somehow made it into the studio and put their musical dreams on wax. This compilation leans heavily towards the dark and gothic end of uber-indie twang, songs of death, gloom and religion that give this record a sardonic novelty-song slant, similar to the Arf-Arf records of yesteryear... a little bit of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, if you know what I mean. That being said, each and every track on this album is a nugget, and I can only imagine Mr. Chronis's delight when he first put each one on his turntable, as well as your delight when you first hear them as well. Fun stuff -- highly recommended!
Various Artists "SONGS FROM THE TAVERNS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST" (Last Minute Record Company, 1975) (LP)
Although this isn't all strictly "country" stuff, there is plenty of twang in here, including a bit of '70s-style rockabilly retro. Includes artists from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC, such as the Cement City Cowboys, Rose & the Dirt Boys, Lance Romance and the Holy Modal Rounders-affiliated avant-nutkiks, Les Clamtones. Sounds pretty groovy!
Various Artists "SONOMA GOLD" (Hummingbird, 1982) (LP)
A Northern California/SF Bay Area collection with bands such as Osage, Tony Lonely and the Harvest Band...
Various Artists "THE SOUND OF VERMONT" (Earth Audio Techniques, Inc., 1975) (LP)
This is an odd little album, a regional-pride booster record -- sponsored by the Chittenden Trust Company -- that is mostly country and bluegrass (and a little jazz) on one side, with some classical music on Side Two. For the purposes of this website, we'll skip the stuff by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and concentrate on the twangtunes. The bands featured here all made records of their own -- the bluegrass combo Pine Island, brothers John and Peter Isaacson, Banjo Dan & The Midnite Plowboys and Dan Gillmor's band, Road Apple, although I'm not sure if the tracks on here are unique to this disc, or borrowed from each band's own records. A fifth group, Coco & The Lonesome Road Band, featuring singer Coco Kallis, recorded a single in 1976 but as far as I know they didn't record the song on here, "Faded Prints," anywhere else. A tantalizing set... I wish it had been all country, but sometimes you gotta take what you can get.
Various Artists "SRO: RECORDED LIVE AT JONATHAN SWIFT'S" (Back Door, 1977) (LP)
A country and bluegrass concert album recorded at the Jonathan Swift's music venue in Cambridge, MA... This features some of the top twang talent in New England, including the Estes Boys, Chuck McDermott & Wheatstraw, Joe Val, singer Tina Welch and three songs by John Lincoln Wright: "Win Me Over," "Wrong Place, Wrong Time Again," and a cover of Duck Curless's old hit, "A Tombstone Every Mile."
Various Artists/Curtis Wayne "THE STARS OF COUNTRY CORNER" (19--?) (LP)
Songwriter Curtis Wayne (nee Curtis Wayne Seals) was the anchor for this rather mysterious project, which seems to be a promotional disc somehow connected to the Country Corner shopping area in Cache, Oklahoma, near Lawton. In the 1960s, Wayne was a successful Nashville composer who co-wrote songs with Wayne Kemp, Mack Vickery and others, including familiar tunes such as "Love Bug," a novelty hit for George Jones in 1965-66, and a couple of other songs that were later covered by folks such as Patty Loveless and George Strait. He released a few singles under his own name, on the K-Ark, Dee Jay and Lovebug labels, and seems to have had a gig with some kind of opry-esque regional show, as heard on this record, which was issued without album art or clear liner notes. As far as I can tell, there were five artists on this album, including Curtis Wayne, gal singer Darla Dee, Tony Weldon, Dale McWaters, and Max Sasseen, a local businessman who owned a furniture store at the "country corner" junction, and who I'm guessing bankrolled this recording session. Sasseen sings two songs, a nice version of Carl Belew's "Stop The World," as well as his own composition, "Really Know How To Hurt A Guy," both of them fine honky-tonk performances. Likewise, Darla Dee had a fine, rural-sounding voice, equal parts Kitty and Loretta, and she sings a couple of one of tunes published through Wayne's Wayrup Publishing company, including "Hurt Me" and Wayne's own, "It'll Take A While." The album is firmly laced with robust, Bakersfield-influenced twang -- a piercing steel guitar and bouncy, muscular rhythm. Although he's known as a songwriter, Curtis Wayne sticks to standards for his own tracks, singing versions of Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man," a song called "I'm The Man," and the gospel oldie, "Family Bible," which closes the album. I have no idea if this disc was ever offered for sale; it may have been strictly a personal souvenir for Sasseen and his pals.
Various Artists "STRAWBERRY HILL INVITATIONAL BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL" (Eleventh Hour, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Chuck Taylor & Nick Colleran)
This concert album was recorded at the Henrico County Fairgrounds in Richmond, Virginia on June 17-18, 1972, with a cast of what I suppose was mostly local or regional artists: James Bailey, Bluegrass Experience, Billy Sue Clark, Grass Menagerie, The James River Gentlemen, The Kattail Grass Band, Lloyd Leonard, Johnny Ladd And The Bluegrass Stompers, Jim Orange, The Pike County Partners, Vandy, Larry Wilson and George Winn. By the way, does anyone out there know if the "Larry Wilson" on here playing a version of "Casey Jones" was in fact Americana pioneer Larry Jon Wilson, whose official recording career started out a few years later in '75? If so, that would be pretty cool.
Various Artists "SUITE TWELVE" (Bee Jay Records, 197-?) (LP)
This mid-1970s compilation was basically a rock-pop set, with various dorky longhaired Florida rockers doing carbon-copy covers of ZZ Top, Wings, The Doobie Brothers, et. al. However, there is one bluegrass-y band called the Sandy Valley Boys who titled their one track "Instrumental", so there is a trace of twang to be heard here. All these groups were represented by the same management company, the Bee Jay Booking Agency, from Winter Park, Florida, near Orlando. Named after founder Bob Johnson, the agency started out in the mid-1960s and was a conduit for a lot of local talent, although as this LP demonstrates, many nondescript bands passed through their doors as well. This is one of several showcase albums produced over the years by Bee Jay, and its successor, J. Bird.
Various Artists "TENNESSEE RECORD CO., MUSIC HALL PROGRAM No. 1" (Tennessee Records) (LP)
This custom-label album includes a couple of Opry regulars, singer Wade Jackson and fiddler Shoji Tabuchi, as well as several out-of-towners who probably footed the bill for the sessions -- Ms. Debbie Witt (from East Peoria, Illinois), Rita Zubke (Waubay, South Dakota) and Jack Hydrick (of Selma, Alabama). An odd little album.
Various Artists "TEXAS FOLK AND OUTLAW MUSIC: AT THE KERRVILLE FESTIVAL: 1972-76" (Adelphi/Edsel, 1976)
Various Artists "TEXAS SUMMER NIGHTS" (Potato Satellite, 1983)
(Produced by Tracie Ferguson)
It's strictly locals on this Lone Star folkie outing, with artists from the San Marcos, Texas area... I don't recognize any of the musicians, which in my book can be a very good thing. Included are: 556, The Ash Family, The Beacon City Band, Les Moore, Rob Watkins, Mickie Merkins, the duo of Kelvin and Randy, and others. If you're into the pre-"Americana" Texas folkie scene, this album is a nice look at some folks a little more off the beaten track.
Various Artists "TEXAS TALENT, v.1" (Axbar Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Scates)
The best-known of these artists was George Chambers, who led his Country Gentlemen band from the 1960s onward -- he sings two tracks, "Irvin Leather's Truck" and "Marie." The other artists include a family band called The Davenports, along with Lynn Barclay, J. Pat Beck, Dale Friederich, Carroll Gilley, Steve Kendrick, Juni Moon, Bill Smallwood, Hank Stone, J'Anna Tebbs. The Davenports -- featuring Bob Davenport -- accompany other artists on a track or two; while fiddler Ron Knuth plays on one track.
Various Artists "TEXAS TALENT, v.2" (Axbar Records, 1984) (CD)
(Produced by Joe Scates)
Various Artists "TEXAS TALENT, v.3" (Axbar Records, 198-?) (CD)
(Produced by Joe Scates)
Various Artists "TEXAS TALENT, v.4" (Axbar Records, 198-?) (CD)
(Produced by Joe Scates)
Various Artists "THAT'S COUNTRY" (MSR Records, 1982)
(Produced by Tracie Ferguson)
Perhaps the ultimate in off-the-radar country, this vanity album was a latter-day version of the old record-a-poem mail-in offers of earlier decades. At first I thought all the folks pictured on the back had been given studio time and put on one big record together... Not quite. Instead what we have are a dozen songs written by eleven people and recorded by some Los Angeles fly-by-night "record label," giving voice to their country music dreams. It's an unlikely looking cast of characters: mostly grannies and grandpas, several immigrants, presumably an Okie or two... The band is anonymous, but two singers are credited, Rusty Chambers and Sheri Bond, who trot through brisk versions of these dream-laden compositions -- Chambers was okay, Bond is a little terrible. This was one of literally hundreds of records -- singles and LPs -- released by the MSR song-poem label, and was actually one of their last releases... The kneejerk reaction might be to feel like the gullible clients were being taken for a ride, but actually, a zillion years later, it's kind of nice that they got a chance to have their songs recorded. This ain't great music, but the dreams are there, and it's kind of sweet.
Various Artists "TITLE RECORDS PRESENTS..." (Title Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Buchanan)
This Texas compilation features three aspiring hard-country singers: Jess DeMaine, Benny McArthur and Billy Don Pester. Mostly this is good stuff, with McArthur and Pester singing in sort of a robust, mid-'70s neotrad style similar to Moe Bandy... DeMaine, however, is more of a country crooner, ala Joe Stampley, which may be less satisfying to some twangfans, though his last track, "Another Piece Of Clay," is pretty darn good. The album is packed with original material, including a few songs credited to Title Publishing, which we'll assume was related to the Title Records label. The musical backing is reasonably twangy and solid, played by an unidentified Nashville studio crew -- possibly Pete Drake and his cohorts, since this was recorded at Pete's Place as well as Bradley's Barn. Not bad!
Various Artists "TOWNHOUSE -- LIVE" (Rail Records)
(Produced by George Whitsell & Ken Greenberg)
In the late '70s and early '80s, Emeryville, California's Townhouse was San Francisco's answer to Gilley's nightclub and the prefab urban cowboy craze back East... This early-1980s live compilation album commemorates the post-hippie incarnation of the Townhouse, a former Depression-era speakeasy that slowly morphed into a cowboy joint and eventually into a dive bar beloved by longhairs and proto-punks who were looking for more authentic-sounding twang than what could be heard on mainstream radio. The bands featured here include The Back In The Saddle Band, California Zephyr, Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, The Lawyers, Osage, and the ruggedly honkytonk Texas Chainsaw Band -- some locals, some out-of-towners, and a few artists who I think this might be their only recordings. Although the production values are a little iffy, there's some great music on here. Chuck Wagon fans may appreciate their cover version of Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother," though the hometown bands contribute some great tunes as well. The Townhouse has gone through a lot of changes over the years but still remains a popular watering hole, even though the country days are long, long gone. Alas. Fun while it lasted, though!
Various Artists "UNFORGETTABLE COUNTRY" (Pacer Productions, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Buzz Curbs)
Between 1980-82 Allentown, Pennsylvania's AM station WSAN enjoyed a country format which also supported local musicians, including the sponsorship of a battle-of-the-bands contest looking for country talent in the sprawling Lehigh Valley. The finalists are represented on this album, including established regional artists such as Denny Wayne -- who already had a record out -- and others who were less well-known. Other artists include Tex Carson, Tommy Crist, East Side Dave & The Pine Ridge Mountain Boys, the Jackson Summit Band, Chops Morgan, Phyllis Ruth, Wayne Smith and Pat Troiani. The "unforgettable" part may have been a little optimistic, but they certainly were spunky and East Coast locals all.
Various Artists "THE UNION MILL OPRY" (American Artists Custom Records, 197-?) (LP)
Yet another Missouri-based roadside attraction, this time an "opry" based in Edgerton, Missouri, just North of Kansas City. Founded in 1973 by Buddie Boswell and his wife Gini, the upstate Union Mill Opry was a little off the beaten track from the main Branson-Ozarks show circuit. Before starting his own show, Mr. Boswell was a regular on the KC-based Brush Creek Follies, a regionally popular variety show, and the Boswells taught all their kids to play country music and featured them in the revue. The album kicks off with an ensemble version of "Cripple Creek," then opens up to a slew of solo performances. Artists include Randy and SuLin Boswell, Cindy Crowell, Dennis Dittemore, Russell Foster, Candy Staten and the ruggedly monickered Stan Steele, as well as a little country comedy from "Cuz'n Pud" and fancy banjo pickin' from Dennis White. As is often the case with these souvenir albums, it's hard to pin down the date it came out, but among the oldies and standards is a cover of Glen Cambell's 1975 hit, "Rhinestone Cowboy," and that plus the clothing fashions lead me to a 1976-77 guesstimate. (I welcome any corrections!) The Union Mill cast also toured regionally and throughout the South, though by the 1990s the pickins were getting kinda slim, and the Boswells called it a day in 1996. Around that time, Boswell's daughter Penni Lawrence moved to Lubbock, Texas and sang for several years with the band Silver Creek before trying out a solo career. Several of the Union Mill castmembers worked at similar venues, including Stan Steele's stint with Edgerton's Red Barn Opry, a later incarnation of the Union Mill venue, operating under new ownership.
Various Artists "VARIOUS COUNTRY ARTISTS" (Woodrich Records, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Woody Richardson & R. C. Smith)
Well, you certainly have to admire the simplicity and directness of the album title. Also the music. This ultra-obscuro collection is a completely unpretentious, rewarding set of low-key performances of regular-folk locals from Lexington, Alabama, deep in the heart of Muscle Shoals territory. The album opens with a couple of tracks by Jerry Gallien who gives a convincing impersonation of Merle Haggard on "I Met A Friend Of Yours Today," as well as a good cover of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys." Backing him on both tracks is dobro player James Kimborough, who would go on to release several albums of his own, with the help of the German-based Cattle label in the 1980s. Next up is Ms. Polly Holder, who the liner notes inform us "seems to be as much at home in front of a microphone as she does in her own kitchen." Jinkies! What a gal! Well-meaning sexism aside, she's one of the highlights of the album, singing two lovely songs in an old-fashioned sentimental style that recalls the heyday of '40s heartsongs. Another gal, Martha Thompson, takes on more contemporary material, singing a sluggish version of "I'm Not Lisa," followed by "I Love Charlie Brown." This brings me to the sad admission that, maybe, not all these performances are really all that great, although I still find them charming and think this record is an excellent reflection of amateur musicianship in its most disarming and direct incarnation. Side Two closes with a couple of gems, two oldies sung by "relative newcomer" Dick Robertson, who sings in a relaxed, middle-aged drawl, with Kimborough backing him on a lively version of Hank Snow's "Golden Rocket." Sweet stuff -- I wouldn't trade it for a whole mountain of Tim McGraw records!
Various Artists "THE VERY BEST OF OUTLAW COUNTRY" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2008)
This is a good set of rowdy songs, with classics by Waylon, Willie, Jessi Colter and the boys, as well as a slew of other folks feudin' like the Hatfields and McCoys... The songs are generally high-calibre, but I agree with other reviews that this collection really stretches its credibility by calling them all "outlaw country" when indeed a hefty chunk of the playlist is really made up of Southern rock and redneck boogie tunes -- Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See", Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster" and the Georgia Satellite's "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" are prime examples of Top 40 rock songs that are dubious inclusions in a "country" collection. In the 1970s, the longhairs who were into Willie Nelson might have also been rockin' out to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, but everyone knew there was a difference between the two genres. Still, it's a fun album, and since the macho end of modern, 21st Century Top 40 country is frequently peppered with retro-leaning Southern rock, the revisionist blurring of the two genres isn't all that hard to understand. So it comes as no surprise (and a singular delight) that Gretchen Wilson is included ("Here For The Party") although once you go down that path, one might wonder why no tracks by Montgomery Gentry or Dierks Bentley made the grade as well. There are some great songs on here -- and there could have been a bunch of others. As with any thematic collection, there's lots of room to quibble over song selection. The tracks by Johnny Paycheck and David Allen Coe ("Take This Job" and "You Never Even Called Me By My Name") are solid choices, but both artists, as legitimate members of the original outlaw scene, have a lot of other songs that would have been cool, too. "Whiskey River" is a great Willie Nelson song, but it's more of a love song, if you ask me... etc, etc. I think a 2-CD set could have covered the ground more coherently and satisfied the diehard fans... But if you're just looking for a great set of rowdy twang tunes to crank up at your next backyard barbeque, this disc packs a lot of bang for the buck.
Various Artists "WANTED: THE OUTLAWS" (RCA, 1976)
Great record, and a touchstone of '70s country. Waylon and Willie, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser and other joined forces on this best-selling celebration of the "outlaw" movement -- signifying both a marketing gimmick and a seismic shift in the country music landscape. When Jennings and Nelson left Nashville and took their songs with them, giving a one-finger salute to Music City, they opened new doors for new artists who wanted to break out of the confines of the studio system. They also provided a creative critical mass for the nascent indie scene in Texas, where a generation of alt-country pioneers was waiting in the wings. Not coincidentally, when this album went mega-ultra-platinum (topping the Country charts and crossing over into the Pop music Top 10) Waylon and Willie also make a mint and cemented their places in the country music firmament. Lots of great songs on here, including the chart-topping hit, "Good Hearted Woman," and "Suspicious Minds," a Waylon Jennings/Jessi Colter duet that hit #2. Also included is Colter's "I'm Looking For Blue Eyes," Waylon's "Honky Tonk Heroes" and -- of course -- Tompall Glaser's infamous ode to the healing power of sexism, "Put Another Log On The Fire," a tongue-in-cheek novelty song considered so reactionary there were actually boycotts organized against radio stations that played it... Now there's an outlaw country song for you! (Though for some reason, "Put Another Log" keeps getting left off the album... not sure whether that's because of copyright issues or because of the content, but sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. Currently, it's not... sorry!)
Various Artists "WORLD'S CHAMPION COWBOYS ALBUM" (Artco Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Hartman, Bob Hinkle & Bobby Cotton)
This rodeo-connected country album from Oklahoma City features riders and ropers such as Mel Ashford, Don Gay, Don Graham, Monty Hanson, Frank Shepperson and Leo Camarillo. They sing oldies by George Jones and Elvis Presley, a few rodeo-themed novelty numbers (such "The Day Reg And Leo Team Roped The Devil"), and a couple of intriguing modern selections such as Gary P. Nunn's "London Home Sick Blues" and Tom T. Hall's "Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine." Not sure if any of these guys made other records... other than in the rodeo ring, that is.
Various Artists "WRNL: COUNTRY 91 HOME COOKIN' " (DRC, 1983) (LP)
Various Artists "WSCG COUNTRY IN THE NORTH COUNTRY" (MCE Recordings, 1985) (LP)
WSCG 93.5-FM was a small local station broadcasting at a mere 1250 watts from Corinth, New York, a tiny hamlet north of Saratoga Springs that proudly labels itself as "the snowshoe capital of the world." The station signed on in 1981, and operated throughout the decade, finally folding up and selling the license in 1991. Along the way, they seem to have fostered a lot of local talent, as heard on this album which spotlights bands such as Aged In The Hills, Blackwater, Ray Blackwater, Jeff Durkee, the Handpicked Band, Ron Roberts, Stampede and Marty Wendell. No info about the where or whyfore of the album itself, other than a brief blurb by the station's program director, Stan Edwards. Anyone out there have more info about this one?
Various Artists "WWVA JAMBOREE USA: PRESENTING TWELVE STARS OF JAMBOREE, USA" (Jamboree USA Records, 1969-?) (LP)
While the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and Missouri's venerable Ozark Jubilee were legendary as incubators of national country stars, and the Grand Ole Opry was seen as the place you went when you'd really made it, Wheeling, West Virginia's WWVA really seems to have been a haven for lesser-known artists, and one of the last holdouts of an earlier era when local radio and TV supported vibrant regional country scenes. The careers of countless musicians intersect with the WWVA "Jamboree" show, including a few artists who became big stars, as well as numerous also-rans and local-only types. This late-'Sixties lineup featured a few fresh faces who seemed to be going places... The most successful was Lawanda Lindsey, who was just about to jump from the Chart label over to Capitol, where she made a few modest hit singles in the early '70s, as well as an album produced by Buck Owens. A couple of other gals on the show were hoping for similar success -- Kay Kemmer, who sings the semi-raunchy "It's Not How Long," (briefly) had a contract with Musicor and the Florida-based husband-wife duo of Gwen and Jerry Collins made at least one single for Capitol. There were also a few old-timers on the program, including folksy "Jamboree" stalwart Doc Williams and former 'Fifties hillbilly star Kenny Roberts, as well as the Blue Ridge Quartet, giving a taste of the vibrant Southern Gospel style that was a strong undercurrent in the country scene. Somewhere in between were the many hopefuls, some of whom had made singles or albums for small indie labels, including guys like Kenny Biggs, Chuck Burdett, Bud Cutright, Gus Thomas and the duo of Skinney Clark and George Adams, whose track, "After You," sounds a lot like the Statler Brothers. All in all, a swell album that gives a nice snapshot of the humble but independent country scene that still existed outside of Nashville's orbit.
Various Artists "YOUNG COUNTRY" (Cutlass Records & Tapes, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Carr)
This custom record was probably a songwriter's demo -- recorded in Nashville, it spotlights five singers of varying degrees of obscurity mostly singing material provided by the album's producers. Pleasantly, the liner notes include brief bios of all five, so he have some idea of who they were and where they were from. Perhaps the most accomplished was Lone Star native Lofton Kline, a longtime pal of Don Williams who co-founded the Pozo-Seco Singers but left the band in 1967 and headed back to Texas. He was working a gig at Nashville's Opryland USA theme park when this record came out, and co-wrote one of the songs, "Let's Talk About It," on which he also sang lead. The other performers include Jimmy Hsieh, who was originally from China, Kentuckyian Danny Mack, Lloyd Stokes who was doing a gig at the Trio Lounge in Nashville, and Ronnie McKinney, another Texan who apparently had been in Glenn Barber's band for over a decade. The album's repertoire includes several songs by Tom Crum and Walt Beach, as well as a couple by Terry L. Knapp, and one credited to the producer, Bill Carr. Nothing you've ever heard of, though, so don't worry if none of this rings a bell. No info on who the studio crew was, either.
Hick Music Index