70s Country Artists The "twangcore" and "Americana" boom of today owes a large debt to the shaggy twangers and no-hit wonders of yesteryear -- this section looks at the hippiebilly and stoner bands and a few odd, random artists from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, back before there was anything called "alt-country." This page covers the letter "U"







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Ukiah "Ukiah" (Dark Star, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Ray DeLeon)

The duo of Ray DeLeon and Steve Seidel cut this live album of outlaw twang and rock oldies at a club called Moonraker, in Irvine, California. Included in the set are their versions of "Take This Job And Shove It," "Put Another Log On The Fire" and (of course!) "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother," which is certainly in the running for the most popular outlaw cover tune of the '70s...


Uncle Dog "Old Hat" (MCA Records, 1973)
In the wake of Janis Joplin's tragic 1970 overdose, a handful of young women emerged on the hippie rock scene to fill the void, folks like Bonnie Raitt, Ellen McIllwane, Dianne Davidson. Brenda Patterson and -- in the case of the rootsy British band Uncle Dog -- Londoner Carol Grimes, who wailed with a wildness and abandon that was perhaps the closest in feel to Joplin's emotive style. This album kicks off with a decent amount of country-ish twang, showcasing the dobro and slide guitar of picker Sammy Mitchell, but gradually shifts into a more funk-and-blues oriented style, reminiscent of post-boogie rock bands such as the Faces, or far-flung, eclectic groups led by Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and the like. It's a pretty strong set -- joyful and energetic, stylistically varied, and surprisingly not too self-indulgent. If you're looking for good stuff from the eclectic era of pre-disco '70s rock, you might wanna give this record a try.


Uncle Jim's Music "Uncle Jim's Music" (Kapp, 1971)


Uncle Jim's Music "There's A Song In This" (Kapp, 1972)


Uncle Sam's All American Band "Uncle Sam's All American Band" (Prestige Productions & Records, 1976-?) (LP)
This short-lived band from Birmingham, Alabama is noteworthy for several songs written by Roger Hallmark, one of two lead singers, the other being Birmingham local Johnny Click. Hallmark had recorded some stuff for Stax Record's country imprint a few years earlier, but became better known at decade's end with a string of anti-muslim, patriotic novelty songs, starting with "A Message To Khomeini," which was recorded with the Thrasher Brothersm as well as one album under his own name. Hallmark wrote six of the songs on this album; one other original, "Sweet Thinking Railroad," was contributed by Nick Hancock.


Uncle Walt's Band "Blame It On The Bossanova" (Lespedeza, 1974) (LP)
Although they are often identified with the Austin music scene, Uncle Walt's Band was originally from South Carolina, and was working there when they recorded this album, between stints in Texas. The trio of David Ball, Champs Hood and Walter Hyatt first formed as a highschool band 'way back in the early '70s but didn't record this debut album until they'd been together for several years. The band (and bandmembers) migrated to and from Austin a few times over the decade, and also tried their luck in Nashville. All three musicians also pursued solo careers, with Hyatt being embraced as a songwriter by the bluegrass and folk communities, while David Ball had the greatest commercial success, climbing into the Country Top Forty in the 1990s and almost topping the charts on a couple of occasions. But they started their paths as a groundbreaking, ultra-eclectic roots/folk/twang band, pals of Lyle Lovett and favorites of the nascent Austin Americana scene. Some, but not all of their records have been reissued over the years...


Uncle Walt's Band "The Girl On The Sunny Shore" (Lespedeza)
This is a CD reissue of two albums, 1975's "Uncle Walt's Band," and "6-26-79," which originally came out in 1988.


Uncle Walt's Band "An American In Texas" (Lespedeza, 1980)


Uncle Walt's Band "Recorded Live At The Waterloo Ice House" (Lespedeza, 1982) (LP)


Underground Country "Underground Country" (Quartz Records) (LP)
(Produced by Ronnie Preston)

A group from Duncan, Oklahoma, with Billy and Darlene Castleberry, Joe, Patsy and Robert Ledgerwood, Tim Williams on bass and Robbie Barnes on percussion...


The Upstage Duo "Pickin' Time With The Upstage Duo" (Pretoria Records) (LP)
This folkie duo -- Ron Hatfield on banjo and Bryan Murphy on guitar -- had a lounge act that mixed country material with folk, pop and flamenco guitar, and worked the lounge circuit in Florida, though they were both from other parts of the country. The only mention of them I've found outside this album is an article about their act during a 1969 residency at the Quality Courts motel on Okaloosa Island, Florida. At that point they'd been together about half a year, and had plans to add Murphy's newlywed wife to the act. This album was recorded in Nashville, and includes versions of "Gentle On My Mind," "Jole Blon," "Don't Think Twice," "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" -- as far as I know, it was their lone album.


The Uptowners "Country Style... And Then Some" (Rimrock Records) (LP)
(Produced by John Major)

This was apparently the house band for the Major Recordings studio in Waynesboro, Virginia, letting their hair down a little on some instrumental versions of '60s hits such as "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Flowers On The Wall," and "King Of The Road," as well as tunes like "Tico Tico" and Allen Toussaint's "Java." Rhythm guitarist Harry Snyder seems to have been the the band's director as well, getting a "Harry Snyder Presents" credit -- he also recorded an album or two under his own name.


The Urbis Brothers "Country" (Decoy Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by John Major)

A brother duo from Ontonagon County, Michigan, off of Lake Superior, Joseph and Michael Urbis showed their real DIY roots by including a photo of the receipts from two bank loans they took out to record this album in 1979... Ouch! As far as I know, this was their only album as a duo, though Mike Urbis moved onto a series of other local bands, such as Borderline and the Copper Drifters.


Us Two & Him "The Chapel Hill Pickers" (Chapel Hill Records, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Marcus Mitchell)

This country-comedy trio consisted of brothers Jim Rickman and John Rickman (aka "Us Two") and Phil Comstock (henceforth known as "Him"). Hailing from the sleepy hamlet of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, the group had its origins in the Rickman brothers' mid-1960s rock band (which apparently won a Nashville talent contest in 1965). The Rickmans met Comstock years later, and by 1972 had formed the trio that was introduced onstage as, "us two, and him," when they couldn't come up with a proper band name. They released several LPs (and later CDs, in the digital era) and enjoyed a long tenure as regulars on "The Ralph Emery Show." This album spotlights a slew of tune written by John R. Rickman, including "Interstate Is Coming Through My Outhouse" and, on a similar note, a cover of Billy Edd Wheeler's "Little Brown Shack." In addition to the three founding members, there are additional guitars and steel guitar by Michael Wilson. Fun fact: all three bandmembers settled into careers as real estate agents, a flexible profession that fit in well with their musical gig, which they continued well into the 2010s.


Us Two & Him "Out Standing In Their Field" (Chapel Hill Records, 1979) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume One: The Usual Suspects" (Tomistoma Productions, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Stern)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Two: It's All Music" (Suspex, 1983) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Three: Above Suspicion" (Suspex, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Stern)

This series spotlights a variety of root-oriented SF Bay Area musicians -- blues, country and rock locals -- invited together by producer Tom Stern, who just wanted to capture the relaxed, freewheeling vibe he heard in Marin County and environs. This particular volume starts off with some bluesy material, including vocals by Taj Mahal, and pianists Mark Naftalin and Mitch Woods tickling the ivories. But the disc takes a pronounced tilt towards more country-oriented material, with covers of tunes such as Harold Hensley's "You're The Reason" and Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby," sung by Peter Rowan, Tony Rice singing a straight-ahead bluegrass version of "Rock Hearts," and Don Reno and his family plunking out "Lonesome Hearted Blues," with Stern playing second banjo. (He plays a variety of instruments throughout the album...) Other participants include singer Vicki Randle, Joe Goldmark on pedal steel, and Darol Anger playing cello and violin on some 'grassed-up Bach variations, along with mandolinist Frank Wakefield. The sessions have a very relaxed feel and sound like what they basically were, a bunch of very talented folks dropping by to jam at somebody's home -- there's talent to spare, but they aren't stressing too much about making it sound a certain way, often taking chances or just plain enjoying themselves as they play. (By the way, does anyone know exactly which records came out when in this series, and which numbers each volume should be assigned? The info online is pretty contradictory...) At any rate, most roots music fans should find something to enjoy here.


The Usual Suspects "Volume Four" (Suspex) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Five" (Suspex) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Six: Reunions" (Suspex, 1986) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Seven: Dreams" (Suspex, 1987) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Eight" (Suspex) (LP)


The Usual Suspects "Volume Nine: Goodbye" (Suspex, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Stern & Scott Matthews)


The Utah Kid "Eagle Ridge" (Self-Released, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Mikel Covey, Jon Wellman & The Utah Kid )

Visual artist Kenvin Lyman made a name for himself in the hippie era as the lightshow artist for the Grateful Dead and other uber-bands in the San Francisco scene... Lyman cut this folk/roots/boogie rock album under his nom-de-art, The Utah Kid, and played some gigs along the West Coast, though most of his time on the road was spent helping stage shows for rock stars such as the Dead, Elton John, Santana, etc. Later, Lyman became a pioneering computer animator and one of Utah's first widely recognized organic farmers. This album isn't all country rock, by any means, but the twang is in there, as well as the rural vibe.






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