Jerry Waddel "...And The Right Lane" (Christy Records) (LP)
(Produced by Wayne Gailey)
This amateur album from Albuquerque, New Mexico features mostly cover tunes, stuff like "Country Roads," "Okie From Muskogee," "Green Green Grass Of Home," and a few rock oldies like "Rip It Up" and "Johnny B. Goode." There's also one original, "Mama," which he wrote for his mom. Waddel's band included Dean Smith (bass), Larry Grubbs (organ), Rodney Ross (drums) with pedal steel by Wayne Gailey, who helped produce the album as well.
June Wade And The Country Congregation "Pick Hits" (Calvary Records) (LP)
(Produced by Hugh Davies)
This Southern California country-gospel combo started in the early 1970s, with guitarist Larry Brown backing two married couples -- Dale and June Wade, and Sharon and Tracy Dartt, with the original lineup recording this debut album. Genuinely twangy, the Country Congregation was from Apple Valley, California, a tiny desert town near San Bernardino which remained their home base for more than a decade. This album came out on an independent gospel label in Fresno, although the sessions were recorded at the Capitol studios in LA, with J. D. Maness playing pedal steel... (Heck, they even got Pat Boone to write their liner notes!) The country/countrypolitan vibe is pretty strong on here, with some great musicianship from the studio crew, particularly the pedal steel. Recommended!
June Wade And The Country Congregation "Think On These..." (Manna Records, 1978) (LP)
June Wade And The Country Congregation "Meetin' Time At Calvary" (Manna Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Wade)
June Wade And The Country Congregation "Live Thru Love" (Foxfire Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Wade & Terry Dwyer)
Recorded live in Victorville, California, at the "Western Desert Gospel Sing," an event founded by the Wades in 1979 which was both an annual festival and an ongoinging local gospel jam session...
June Wade And The Country Congregation "Rise Again" (Manna Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Wade & Hal Spencer)
Norman Wade - see artist discography
Randy Wade "The Only Known Recordings Of..." (Busch Country, 1979) (LP)
An indiebilly outing from Tampa, Florida... This album features some original material, including "The Country's Going Country" "You Stepped On My Heart."
Randy Wade "Tell The Mirror" (NPW Entertainment, 1999)
I'm not 100% sure, but I think is the same guy, just twenty years later... A pretty commercial-sounding, Top Forty-ish good-ole-boy album, along the lines of Travis Tritt, or folks like that...
Willis Wade "Introducing Mr. Versatile -- The Fabulous Willis Wade" (Ruby Jean Records, 1969) (LP)
Multi-instrumentalist Willis Wade led this Nashville-based band throughout the 1960s, notably doing several rounds on the USO tour circuit in Europe and Asia. This late-'Sixties edition of the band included bassist Jackie Lynn (also on vocals), Bob Cox (piano), Ray Salter (drums, bass, guitar and fiddle) and Eddie Weil (bass and drums). Also worth mention is singer Linda Vaughn, who the liner notes identify as "vocalist and dancer" and "short, but cute as she can be." Aw, shucks, that old-fashioned Southern sexism was so darn adorable!
Stan Wagganer "Heartbreak Mountain" (Grass Fire Records, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Greg Calloway, Delbert McKinnon, John Daugherty & Myron Smith)
Multi-instrumentalist Stan Wagganer was a child prodigy who started playing real gigs when he was just seven, moving through a succession of regional bands and local "opry" venues, including Lee Mace's Ozark Opry, where he had was working when this album was made. The material is mostly standards, bluegrass fiddle tunes and the like, although co-producer Myron Smith plays pedal steel on the sessions.
The Waggoners "The Waggoners" (Lemco Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Cecil Jones)
Originally from Bloomington, Indiana, guitarist Charlie Waggoner started out in country music in 1952, playing on radio and backing various stars... By 1969, he'd started his own band along with his wife, singer-guitarist Roxanne Waggoner, working at Holiday Inns and clubs, as well as opening for bigger artists. They were hosting their own TV show out of Knoxville at the time this LP came out; backing them are bassist Tony Wayne and drummer Larry Clifton. The Waggoners moved around a lot -- during the "Urban Cowboy" years they were working a steady gig in Daytona Beach, Florida, though they eventually moved back to Indiana. Years later, in the 1990s, the Waggoners co-founded a sing-out religious service they called the Country-Gospel Music Church, which was held at various venues in Nashville, often with older stars of the Opry dropping in to sing a hymn or two. Towards the decade's end, they relocated the "Church" to a venue near Gnaw Bone, Indiana, where they continued the tradition.
Bodie Wagner "Hobo" (Philo, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Bodie Wagner & Michael Couture)
Folk troubadour Bodie Wagner hailed from Ohio but he traveled across the country, performing with likeminded artists such as his brother, Pop Wagner, or with hobo poet Utah Phillips, who contributed the liner notes for this album. Wagner's latter-day rail-riding, Woodie Guthrie-esque , world-wise rambling-man folkie persona can feel a little precious -- particularly on songs such as "I'd Like To Say I'm Proud" (written from the point of view of a noble, working-class trucker) -- but this album's gentle spirit will win you over, especially with the exquisite pedal steel and dobro accompaniment by Martin Grosswendt and Wagner's own delicate fingerpicking guitar work. His brother Pop sings on one track, the uptempo "Chugga Tramp," while Jim Ringer chimes in on the chorus of "I've Been On The Road," one of several excellent songs in this strong set of all-original material. There are a couple of children's songs, numerous nods to the working class, while on the topically-themed "America," Wagner marks the end of the Vietnam War with a declamatory song which both passes judgment on the war's planners but also affirms the growing apolitical spirit of the post-Watergate era, declaring that foreign wars and other global crises are "so far from me, so far from in my heart" that he can't worry about them anymore. It's probably the most interesting song on the album (though hardly the most enjoyable) and while one can understand the fatigue people felt after the big struggles of the 'Sixties were finally over, the message is a little muddled. Overall, a nice record, though you have to be willing to get into the coffeehouse folk-singer thing to appreciate its musical side.
Rick Wagner "Where'd The Whistle Go?" (Vetco, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Wagner & Dave Gordon)
One of the Vetco bluegrass label's rare forays into non-bluegrass, folkie/novelty territory... This one's a little too folk-scene for me, though it is a nice record, with contributions from labelmates Dave & Kay Gordon, who had success with their comedic Vetco "hits," recorded around the same time. There's some nice old-timey banjo plunking and flowery arrangements with cello and viola, novelty tunes such as "Nothing Rhymes With Chimes," and the John Prine-ish "A Good Fire" that don't quite stick, but are okay. The instrumentals kind of remind me of Jay Ungar, so not quite hippiebilly twang, but hardly strictly bluegrass, either.
The Wagon Wheel "Introduction To Wagon Wheel" (Wagon Wheel Recordings, 196--?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Franklin)
This album was an interesting combination of country twang and the more static confines of the square dance sound. The Wagon Wheel label was started by caller Don Franklin, a well-known figure in the Denver, Colorado square dance scene... This album may be of interest to country fans because the core of the band was drawn from the Texas-based dixieland/twang band known as the Levee Singers, with music director Smokey Montgomery and hotshot guitarist Ronnie Dawson, a pioneering rockabilly star who settled into a mellower mode during the late '60s. Also on board are Fort Worth, TX bass player Ken Cobb and guitar picker Bill Hudson, backing Franklin and two other callers... There are some actual songs on here, though many tracks were more made for dancing. Franklin owned the label up until 1981, when he sold it to one of his engineers, who took the label into a broader direction, getting more overt country material into the mix.
The Wagonmasters "Campfire Favorites" (Omega Records, 1960-?) (LP)
Originally from North Texas near Amarillo, fiddler Billy Beeman (1927-2011) and guitarist Bobby Beeman (1929-1994) started out in a family band with their sister Shirley. While they were just kids, they made their way to Southern California in the late 1930s where they performed several times at the newly-expanded Knott's Berry Farm amusement park. In 1954, the brothers were hired full-time to form the core of the Wagonmasters, the house band for the park's Ghost Town hoedowns. The band's long residency lasted through most of the 'Sixties, when they are said to have played over nine thousand shows total. They also produced a series of dude ranch souvenir records full of cowboy/western ballads, folk tunes and country covers. On this first album, the group consisted of the Beeman brothers and Bill's wife Rachel Beeman, as well as bassist Eldon Eklund and Harvey Walker on banjo. I'm not sure when this album came out, though I'm guessing 1960-61, since it includes a cover of Marty Robbins' big hit, "El Paso," along with a slew of cowboy songs and a few bluegrass-ish tunes as well. There's also a playful dash of zippy acoustic swing on "Boysenberry Boogie," an instrumental number that underscores the Beemans' admiration for the brother duo of Hugh and Karl Farr. After the Wagonmasters broke up in 1968, the Beemans started a new group called the Lobo Rangers and hosted an annual event called the Beeman Bash, at Billy Beeman's spread in Placentia, California. The brothers were also central figures in the foundation of the Western Music Association, which celebrates cowboy music and poetry. In addition to these old LPs, Billy Beeman wrote a self-published autobiography, Chronicles Of An Old Fiddler and recorded an album with the Lobo Rangers in 1991...
The Wagonmasters "Folk Favorites" (Omega Records) (LP)
The Wagonmasters "More Folk Favorites" (Omega Records, 1964-?) (LP)
They really go full-bore folk revival on this one, singing in a Weavers-meet-Kingston Trio hootenanny mode... This is mostly straight-up bland, middle-class singalong folk (as you might expect from a mom'n'pop venue like Knott's Berry Farm...) There are a few traces of twang -- a version of Marty Robbins' "Devil Woman," a quick little bluegrass breakdown -- though for the most part this is less "western" oriented than some of theie other albums... Not bad, per se, but not all that country.
The Wagonmasters "The Last Frontier" (Omega Records) (LP)
The Wagonmasters "Wagoncamp Favorites" (Omega Records) (LP)
The Wagon Wheelers "Wagon Wheelers" (Moon Records, 198--?) (LP)
Bluegrass and oldies from this all-covers band out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. A mix of '40/'50s-era standards such as "Ashes Of Love," "Faded Love," "Release Me" and "She Taught Me How To Yodel," as wella s (slightly) more modern material such as Doug Kershaw's "Diggy Liggy Lo" and Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away," and even a smidge of western swing in there as well. Not entirely sure when this came out, though it looks early '80s -- they cover "Old Flames (Can't Hold A Candle To You)", which was a hit fo Joe Sun in '78 and an even bigger hit for Dolly Parton in 1980.
Dale Wagoner "Kentucky Style Steel" (Mid-Land Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by DeWitt Scott & Rusty Thornhill)
Steel player Dale Wagoner started out in bluegrass and western swing, playing first with Pee Wee King, then Jim & Jesse McReynolds, before getting into the orbit of Nashville, touring with or doing session wirk for stars such as Susan Raye and Connie Smith. Then he headed back home to the greater Cinncinnati area, where he played mostly local shows... At the time this album was made, Wagoner was holding down a gig at the Boulevard nightclub in Springdale, Ohio. The backing band on this album all seems ot be locals, including Clyde Marcum on lead guitar, Ernie Vaughn playing bass, Jim Geyer on piano, Bill Tirey on drums and Bobby Mackey adding rhythm guitar. Not sure how "Kentucky style" sounds different from any other kind of steel guitar, but hey, a little branding never hurt anyone...
Wahoo Revue "Band Xing" (Avanti, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Rod Abernathy)
This North Carolina band was really more of a bluegrass act, but since they cover "Friend Of The Devil" (as well as Cat Stevens' "Father And Son") I suppose they should be mentioned as part of the "country-rock" side of the 'Seventies indiebilly scene...
Wahoo Revue "Campus Bluegrass" (Leather Records, 1978) (LP)
Loudon Wainwright III - see artist discography
Tom Waits "Closing Time" (Asylum, 1973)
(Produced by Jerry Yester)
Although I suppose most folks would place alt-balladeer Tom Waits more in the "jazz" world, he certainly had an affinity with and connections to the early '70s country-rock scene. A SoCal native, Waits moved to LA in his early 20s, landing a regular gig at the Troubadour nightclub while living in the same neighborhood as many of the singer-songwriters who shaped the pop sound of the 'Seventies. His debut album has a strong acoustic feel, anchored by Waits' piano, with light, sparse, intimate backing that includes cello, trumpet, a modest rhythm sction and acoustic guitars. Notable among the backing musicians is Arizona oddball Shep Cooke, who had toured with Linda Ronstadt and was still trying to make it in LA, and adds a nice country shading to many of these songs. This record's a real classic, bridging the worlds of country-rock and erudite jazz while showing the tremendous stylistic breadth and power of the early '70s music world, and setting the stage for Wait's future career. There aren't many completely perfect albums in the world -- this is one of them.
Tom Waits "The Heart Of Saturday Night" (Asylum, 1974)
(Produced by Bones Howe)
Another early classic. Although those of us with "greatest hits" ears mainly concentrate on this album's title track, all of these songs are rich and resonant, fine examples of Wait's uncanny ability to recraft jazz and blues, and great opportunities to hear him crooning in his youth. Great band behind him, too, obviously having a lot of fun.
Tom Waits "Nighthawks At The Diner" (Asylum, 1975)
(Produced by Bones Howe)
Another classic. Although not really a live concert album (it was recorded in the studio with a small live audience) this certainly reflects what Wait's live shows were like at the time, and the amazing finesse he had has an entertainer. A hefty chunk of the album is taken up with his wry, rambling, personable introductions, and he sets a cozy tone that shows just how charming and charismatic he was as a young man. The album opens with some classics, the comedic "Emotional Weather Report" and the bleary-eyed "Eggs And Sausage," working steadily through a repertoire of Bukowskian boho ballads... For country fans (and kitsch-heads alike) the highlight may be his majestic cover of the old Red Sovine hit, "Phantom 309," a corny yet eternally satisfying recitation song about a haunted semi-truck... Waits, the prematurely world-weary poet of desolation, invests a tremendous amount of emotion and sincerity into his version of this cornball novelty song, and it's fair to say that this is the definitive, ultimate version of this song (with apologies to Red Sovine fans...) This album is a great document of Waits' early career, but it's also just a darn fine record.
Tom Waits "Small Change" (Asylum, 1976)
(Produced by Bones Howe)
One of his best and best-known albums, this disc delves deep into the Bukowskian mythos of strip clubs, petty crime, heavy drinking, and skating by on the edge of society. Another classic album, with memoriable songs such as "Step Right Up," "Invitation To The Blues," "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby)," and the grim title song, "Small Change (Got Rained on with His Own .38)." The bleary-eyed romaniticism of his earlier work is replaced by a finely-crafted cynicism and painfully pure disillusionment... Although an undercurrent of self-conciousness and faux-boho posturing, these songs are so good it's easy to let go of your nagging doubts about Wait's whole boho-lowlife schtick. (Don't get me wrong: I'm a Tom Waits fan, at least up to a certain point, but it's also possible to peek behind the curtain and glimpse the Mighty Oz...) Anyway, this one's another highly rewarding, must-have record. A classic.
Tom Waits "The Early Years, v.1" (Bizarre, 1991)
(Produced by Robert Duffey)
If you're into the country-tinged, folkie feel of Waits' first album, these archival albums of his earliest recordings will come as a real treat. Sweet, stripped-down demos of classic Waits compositions and other works-in-progress, recorded before he hooked up with the Asylum label. Even with the flood of Waits-ian material available in the world, this stuff stands out.
Tom Waits "The Early Years, v.2" (Bizarre, 1993)
(Produced by Robert Duffey)
Elva Hare Walker "Piano Lady: The Queen Of The D-104" (Ross Sound Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Woodring M. Fryer & Elva Hare Walker)
Country and country gospel, played on the piano and the Hammond D-104 organ... Elva Hare Walker (1933-2011) was from Henderson, Kentucky, where she played in her local church, and where she recorded this album. She was backed by the Ross family -- Jack Ross (bass) Dave Ross (rhythm guitar) and Clyde Ross on vocals -- along with Steve Cobb on lead guitar and Danny Miles on drums. About half the tracks are gospel songs, including Dottie Rambo's "Build My Mansion Next Door To Jesus," Ed Burnett's "The Night I Talked To The Lord On My CB Radio," and the old-time classic, "Turn Your Radio On." She also plays secular stuff, like "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Release Me" and "Your Cheating Heart."
Fred Walker "Rural Route Three" (Superior Sound Studio) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Walker, Wayne Hilton & Fred Shelton)
A gospel album, recorded in Nashville with a studio crew that included Terry McMillan, Tony Brown (piano) Fred Newell (guitar) with plenty of original material... Mr. Walker was apparently from South Bend, Indiana; as far as I know this was his only album.
Jerry Jeff Walker - see artist discography
Jimmy Walker "Swamp Country" (Swamper Records, 1966) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Grammer, Guy McColsky and Bill Brock)
Hailing from Waycross, Georgia, Jimmy Walker penned eight out of twelve songs on this album, which is rounded out with other songs by Billy Grammer, Harlan Howard, and Sheb Wooley, who wrote the title track. Walker also released several singles, and did work on some films shot at the Okefenokee Swamp Park, including the lead track on this album, a song called "Swamp Country" from a 1966 movie of the same name.
John Walker "An Okie Boy" (Candy Apple Records, 1993) (LP)
A picker and songwriter from Lincoln, Nebraska playing acoustic folk and folk-blues, with a blend of original tunes and stuff from folks like Brownie McGhee. Includes Pete Blakeslee on dobro and Steve Hanson on guitar...
Sammy Walker "Song For Patty" (Folkways, 1975)
'70s singer-songwriter Sammy Walker was originally from Georgia but moved up North and became a NYC folkie and protege of folk legend Phil Ochs. This was his first album, and shows him perhaps a little to much under Och's philosophical sway, penning the strident title track about Patty Hearst and her violent sojourn with the radical-Left SLA; political material defines much of the rest of this album -- along with the inflammatory album art -- but nothing else stands out quite as starkly as that, with the closest runner-up being "A Simple Hour Operation," a quiet weeper about reproductive health issues. The benign ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan cast long shadows on this earnest-folkie debut, with Ochs himself singing harmony on a couple of tunes and producing the record. Like Ochs, Walker branched out stylistically, and his next two records on the Warner label were much lusher and more expansive... though this stark acoustic set has some surprises as well.
Sammy Walker "Sammy Walker" (Warner Brothers, 1976)
Sammy Walker "Blue Ridge Mountain Skyline" (Warner Brothers, 1977)
Sammy Walker "Songs From Woody's Pen" (Folkways, 1979)
Sammy Walker "Misfit Scarecrow" (Ramseur, 2008)
Bobbie Joe Walls "Just A Little Caring" (Hurshey Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Hurshel Wiginton)
Fairly dreadful, decidedly obscure early '70s countrypolitan from a Nashville local... Ms. Walls played Music City lounge shows for many years, crooning and playing piano at venues such as the Embers nightclub and the Piccadilly Room in the late '60s and similar gigs throughout the '70s. I suppose this album was her shot at the bigtime, with a studio crew that included elite studio pros such as Harold Bradley, Grady Martin, Pete Wade, Buddy Harman, David Briggs and the Nashville Edition providing backing vocals. The big-budget production added up to a syrupy stew of pop-vocals excess, with some modest "country" touches, but overall a schmaltzy, bombastic sound more reminiscent of Diahann Carroll or Edie Gorme than Lynn Anderson or Loretta Lynn. It wasn't out of synch with the styles of the times, but in this case the music didn't age well. Alas. There's some original stuff -- songwriter's demos, no doubt -- as well as sovers of hits like "Country Roads," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (on the country side) and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Candy Man" (from the pop charts). This slick-looking, professionally produced record was released on the uber-indie Hurshey label, which was founded by session singer and Hee-Haw regular Hurshel Wigniton of the Nashville Edition (who even copied the Hershey chocolate label for its logo, doubtless raising a few eyebrows in the legal profession...) I think it was was the only album released by this Music City insider.
David Walsh "On A Roll" (Charta Records) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Fields, John Eberle & Jim Tarbutton)
David Walsh "Somewhere In Canada" (Charta Records, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Field)
David Walz "Country Old, Country New" (DaJu Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Judy Wyllie)
A very private, very indie, DIY country set from a deep baritone singer out of Plymouth, Michigan. The record is packed with original material, along with a couple of Kris Kristofferson covers and some oldies like "Thunder Road" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky." Walz was, in some ways, an imperfect singer, but he's also plausibly in the Dave Dudley/Ernie Ford style of deep-toned country crooners. Although he's usually a little too schmaltzy for my tastes, this album does have one real gem on it, the novelty number "Half An Hour Later," a jaunty, genuinely lustful little song about a guy who really likes having, um, special snuggle time with his loyal, loving wife, who gets him up early before the kids have breakfast and is waiting for him when he gets back home from work. Great novelty song, with an uptempo bounce that suits Walz's voice.
Jerry Glenn Ward "Focus" (Mega, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rogers)
This lazy, dreamy set of cosmic Southern swamp-folk seems like an odd match for the usually commercially-oriented Mega label, but it sure is a nice dose of noodly '70s introspective songwriting, a cross between Tom Rush and Tony Joe White, perhaps? My eye was caught by liner notes that include country pickers such as Tommy Allsup, Lloyd Green, Buddy Spicher and Bobby Thompson, and backup singer Ginger Holladay, but despite the wealth of talent on these sessions, it's possible that this album was never actually released for sale, since all the copies out there seem to be promos. Maybe Ward was given a recording "deal" as part of a songwriting contract, or maybe Mega pressed a few copies but buried the album once they realized it had no real hit potential? Regardless, it's the kind of moody, unusual album that folk-freak fans can really get into, although there is a strong rural vibe as well, with the Arkansas-born Ward in sort of the same mode as the more experimental Southern rockers on the Capricorn label, just with more languid, stripped-down acoustic arrangements. Some interesting lyrics, as well, including the slightly sad seediness of "Whatever Your Name Is," about picking up one-night stands while out on the road. There's speculation that this might be the same Jerry Ward who played bass in Jerry Jaye's band, and that seems likely since they were both from Alabama, and Ward plays both bass and guitar on this album, and also because Jerry Jaye was signed with Mega Records in the early '70s. Anyone know more about this album?
Kenny Ward "My Favorites" (United Audio, 196--?) (LP)
A native of Selving, Ohio, Kenny Ward covers country standards by Hank Williams, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Faron Young and Johnny Cash. Includes a version of "Folsom Prison Blues." From somewhere in the early- to mid-1960s.
Pudge Warfield "Pudge's Wild And Wonderful Flat-Top" (Alear Records) (LP)
This one's more in the bluegrass camp, but I'm a sucker for a goofy nickname... and c'mon... Pudge Warfield? And his manager, Big John Hougk? Can't help myself. Musically, this is pretty standard stuff, with pretty solid picking... Warfield is joined by Scott Brannon on rhythm guitar, banjoist Roger Dayley, Sam Glynn on mandolin, and Warren Reeder picking some mighty fancy dobro. A talented flatpicker, Mr. Warfield was from Martinsburg, West Virginia, and performed regionally, including numerous gigs in Maryland and environs.
The Warhorse Band "Live In Lubbock" (Caballo De Guerra Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Wally Meyers & Don Wise)
Kelly Warren "Little Richie Records Presents..." (Little Richie, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Little Richie Johnson)
Singer Kelly Warren grew up in Lamesa, Texas and was a contestant in statewide beauty pageants, going back to when she was eight years old, when she won the "Little Miss Lamesa" competition. She first went into the studio to record country music in 1976, recording a single with an all-star Nashville crew, and returned the following year to cut this album with backing by pros such as Lloyd Green, Charlie McCoy, Hargus Robbins, Buddy Spicher, Kelso Herston, et. al. It's a pretty rootsy, twangy record, notably packed with original material -- although there's nothing written by Warren herself, there is one track penned by producer/label owner Little Richie Johnson, along with several songs by composers signed to his publishing house. Things didn't really click for Warren on the charts, and she later moved into gospel music.
The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band "Cowboy Kazoo" (Cowboy Kazoo, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band)
This amiable, plangent, novelty-oriented stringband from Albuquerque, NM was sort of a cross between Jim Kweskin, Tom Lehrer and Doug Sahm -- and they plow through a fun set of uptempo tunes, including a remake of the classic, "Drop Kick Me, Jesus" (which was a cult hit for Bobby Bare in 1976.) It's credited here to lead singer Jeff Burrows, but everyone else in the world says it was written by Paul Craft, though Burrows can claim credit for refashioning it as a high-school sports chant, like Country Joe's "Fixin' To Die Rag." They also pay homage to the Texas outlaw's big Fourth of July bash, on "Willie Nelson's Picnic," so if you're keeping a list of songs that namecheck Willie (and who isn't?) then here's a good one to keep in mind. All in all, this is a nice record, though less overtly country than a lot of the other albums listed here.
The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band "Tickle Tunes" (Cowboy Kazoo, 1978) (LP)
The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band "Kids Like Us" (Cowboy Kazoo) (LP)
Sneezy Waters & The Excellent Band "You've Got Sawdust On The Floor Of Your Heart" (Sneezy Waters, 1978)
(Produced by Sneezy Waters & Ted Gerow)
Canadian singer-songwriter Peter Hodgson took on the stage name of Sneezy Waters in the early 1970s, after playing in rock bands for several years and busking on the streets of Ottawa... He's best known for his role in the stage play "Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave," where he portrayed Hank Sr. giving the fabled New Year's Eve show that never happened... Here, on his first solo album, Waters delivers a truly odd and unruly selection of hippie-era indie twang, with a strong folkie tendency, some honky-tonk parodies and a smidgen of soft, fusion-y jazz. His voice isn't particularly appealing -- whether because of his own limitation, or because he was parodying the genre, I'm not sure -- but some of the songs are curiously resonant, particularly on the album's second side. The title track, a hard-country novelty song, is kind of fun... Not sure I'd really recommend this one, but if you're digging deep into '70s alt-country, you might want to check it out.
Sneezy Waters "Sings Hank Williams" (Borealis, 1981/1999)
Hey, I've never heard of him, either, but this is kind of a fun amateur-hour countrifying... Sneezy doesn't have the world's most amazing voice, but he has a friendly tone, and seems to be enjoying himself on these relaxed, rollicking renditions of a dozen old Hank, Sr. tunes, with a fine band backing him up. Originally released in 1981. Enjoyable!
Vic Waters "Living This Kind Of Life" (Silver Jingle, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Michael & Vic Waters)
Chuck Watkins "Chuck Watkins Ozark Jubilee: Country Music Family Style" (??) (LP)
Robbie Watkins "Collection #1" (Hobo Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Kyle Lehning & Billy Sherrill)
A feller from Baltimore, Maryland who went down to Nashville to record this set at Jack Clement's studio with backing by some old pros...
Brad Watson "Brad Watson" (197-?) (LP)
(Produced by John Mayfield)
In the mid-1970s, singer-picker Brad Watson really threw himself into the country-rock scene in Dallas, Texas, playing in and recording with several local bands... He sang lead for the group Kansas Rain, helped form Rosewood Junction with Jim Underwood, and may have done gigs with friends in the Dallas band called Young Country. These guys all played together up at Harold's Club, in Reno, Nevada, and intersected with each other for several years -- the husband-wife duo of guitarist Rick Sparks and singer Cheryl Sparks (of Young Country) helped anchor this album, along with bassist Jim Thiele. The set includes covers of country-rock and country-pop radio hits such as "Tequila Sunrise," "Old '55," "The Gambler" and "Me And My Uncle," along with some original material. In addition to this album and the bands mentioned above, Watson also apparently played with the Kansas City-area country-grass group, the O'Rourk Brothers, on one of their later albums.
Lloyd Watts "Leaving Caroline" (Adonda Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Don Fowler & Jack Logan)
Wayne & Glenn "Wayne And Glenn" (Lemco Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Cecil Jones)
I couldn't find much info about these shaggy-lookin' fellas -- guitarist Wayne Davis and bass player Glenn Little -- though I believe they played in bar bands in and around Lexington, Kentucky for most of the 1970s... They looked like rockers, though they recorded on the bluegrass-y Lemco label, and there is a song called "It Don't Look Like A Honky Tonk In Here," as well as one called "Dixie," so there's definitely some twang in the mix as well. Anybody know much about these two?
Bobby Wayne "Big Guitar" (Jerden Records, 1964) (MP3)
A pioneering rockabilly artist from the Pacific Northwest, Spokane, Washington's Bobby Wayne recorded his first single back in 1955, and crossed freely between country and rock for a few years before settling on a country career. He was known both as a singer and as a guitarist, and in the post-rockabilly, surfy early 'Sixties, Wayne released a string of singles for the Jerden label, twangy instrumentals in the Duane Eddy style, many of which were collected on this mid-'60s LP. It's not totally sizzling or terribly innovative, but these are good, solid, workmanlike rock instrumentals, certainly worth a spin if you like the style. From here, Wayne went onto gigs with Freddie Hart's Heartbeats, with Wynn Stewart and with Merle Haggard's Strangers, as well as a hippie-era position in the house band of the Palomino nightclub in LA, along with steel player Red Rhodes.
Bobby Wayne "Sings Appaloosa, Volume One" (Appaloosa Records, 196--?) (LP)
Another mystery record, with no release date or recording info... A lot of instrumentals, many with country-sounding titles, and most of them credited to Bobby Wayne. The liner notes mention that the "title" track, "Appaloosa," was written by Wayne for a 1966 Disney film called "Run, Appaloosa, Run," which starred cowboy singer Rex Allen. He was obviously trying to capitalize on that gig, what with the label name and all, so maybe this album was from around '67 or '68(?)
Bobby Wayne "Big In Vegas" (Crown Records, 1970) (LP)
In his youth Bobby Wayne was compared to both Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, although on this album his vocals often seem tremulous and uneven, and it took me a while to place the comparison: he sounds a lot like Wynn Stewart, albeit with funkier, more low-rent musical backing. As with many of the Crown albums, this includes a lot of original material, made even more distinctive by Bobby Wayne's wobbly singing. Definitely worth a spin, though a little goofy overall.
Bobby Wayne & The Country Gentlemen "Songs Made Famous By Johnny Cash" (Contessa Records, 197--?) (LP)
No idea when this one came out, but from the looks of it, I'd guess the early 'Seventies, maybe around 1971 or so. It seems highly likely that it's also a reissue of earlier material.
Bobby Wayne "Outlaw" (Picadilly Records, 1981) (LP)
The tail end of Bobby Wayne's long run as a cheapo-label workhorse... Actually, this early '80s release seems to be a song-for-song reissue of a western-themed album that came out around 1966, called Ballad Of The Appaloosa, though in the Willie & Waylon era, tacking on an "outlaw" reference couldn't hurt.
Denny Wayne "...And Texas Fever" (Longhorn Records, 1981) (LP) (LP)
In the late '70s and early '80s, New Jersey-based pianist and singer Denny Wayne -- aka Dennis Wible -- led an East Coast honkytonk country band called Texas Fever which was regionally popular, particularly in the Lehigh Valley area, as well as at the Lone Star Cafe in NYC. This album is packed with cover songs, mostly outlaw-y, Waylon-esque type stuff. This edition of the band included Steve Anderson on lead guitar, Walt Lapp on bass and Terry Reiss on drums, as well as a gal simply called "Anita" adding some vocals. Wayne played piano, fiddle and guitar, and sang lead on about half the album, while letting Anita and Anderson sing lead on three tracks each. The Longhorn label was out of Humble, Texas, though I'm not sure if Wayne had relocated to the Lone Star State for a while, or just went there to cut this record. Wayne was known regionally for hosting countless live shows and for encouraging other local artists, while working a day job as a bus driver in his later years. He also recorded a couple of live albums, Denny Wayne And Texas Fever Live and Still Kickin', though I haven't been able to track any info about the where-and-when of those releases.
Neil Wayne & Jenni Blocker "Two For The Road" (Safari Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Charles Fields & Johnny Howard)
A trip to Nashville resulted in this album by South Dakotans Jenni Blocker and Neil Bagaus (aka Neil Wayne) who had previously been in an amateur band called the Suns Of The West, which played several county fair-type events and talent contests but never really cracked into the professional country scene. The Suns recorded an album in 1974, though as far as I know, these were the only two records they made...
Tony Wayne & The Corpus Christians "The Country Soul Of..." (Barre Records) (LP)
Well, shucks, I would have thought with an album title like this and a band name like that, this would be a pretty hip-sounding set of old-school gospel twang... Not so! Turns out this is solidly secular honkytonk record from a veteran Texas country picker whose full name was Tony Wayne Guion. The liner notes are informative, but perhaps not completely reliable... For example, Guion says that he had a band called the Cherokees that included an as-yet undiscovered Ray Price (Price started his Cherokee Cowboys in 1953, recruiting many members of Hank Williams' old band... possibly Tony Wayne was a member at some point?) More significant is his claim to have "made" several rockabilly singles which were actually recorded by a younger guy named Alvis Wayne... and this is where things get a little sticky. Alvis, whose full name was Alvis Wayne Samford, was no relation to Tony Wayne, although when he was a teenager he went on tour in Guion's band. He -- Alvis -- also cut several rockabilly sizzlers on Westport Records, a Kansas City-based label that Guion had previously recorded for... Tony Wayne set the deal up and wrote the songs and sent the tapes to the label, although he sort of fudged the details and told people it was his band playing on the songs, while Samford says it was a different group altogether. Anyway. That was all a long time ago, right? Somewhere along the way Tony Wayne got a day job as a Texas cop, working at various times as a deputy sheriff, a baliff, and (according to the liner notes) as a chief of police. Eventually he moved into doing construction work, which is what he was doing when he cut this album. Not a lot of details here about the record itself, unfortunately... The backing musicians aren't named except for steel player Gary Bickham, who gets a solo number showcasing his work... The album includes a few classics by Floyd Tillman and Bob Wills, but is mostly packed with original songs credited to Tony Wayne, such as "Hurtin' Deep Inside," "I Got Tight Last Night" and "Vacation In Texas."
WB & The Western Union "Thanks, Grand Ledge" (MPI Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Miller & Steve Curran)
Honky-tonk twang by W. B. Vaughn, of Grand Ledge, Michigan, who recorded this album as a demo set... Not a lot of info about these folks, who definitely looked like rowdy, hard-livin' good old boys... The band included Rick Bellant (on guitar), Barb Morse (piano), and Mel Sharrah (drums), with Vaughn singing lead, writing the songs, and booking all the shows. This album -- which included original songs such as "Good Ole Boy From Grand Ledge MI," "Hard Gamblin' Man," Just A Thought Of You" and "Tribute To Christ Jesus" -- got some radio airplay, but it was strictly a local phenomenon. A couple of years later they were playing some gigs at a place called the Hayloft Saloon, on the other side of Lansing, and by 1988 the group had broken up, with Vaughn doing a few solo gigs over the years. Vaughn, who struggled for years with multiple sclerosis, passed away in 2011.
Jim Weatherly "Sings His Own" (Ozark Music Company, 197-?) (LP)
This was not the same Jim Weatherly who wrote "Midnight Train To Georgia," just in case you're wondering, but rather a guy from Springfield, Missouri who had a gig in the early days of Branson. This album was a souvenir of Weatherly's show, recorded with his band, the Ozark Music Makers, which included Mike Bried, Arnie Arnold and Wendell Daniel, with harmony vocals by Sharon Stoddard. The repertoire includes original songs such as "Blonde Hair On My White Coat," "It's Not Fair To Say You Love Me," "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind" and "A Fall From Here (Will Surely Hurt)," and it's all pretty good! Weatherly's music had a nice, rough, old-school hillbilly feel to it, reminding me of Bill Carlisle in a way, with a rambunctious, see-what-works approach that put some of the sponteneity and fun back into country music. Or, in his case, kept it alive. Real-deal old-fashioned twang that was totally out of synch with what was happening in Nashville, and pretty enjoyable as a result.
Cowboy Weaver/Various Artists "Volume One" (Freestate Records, 197--?) (LP)
Lloyd "Cowboy" Weaver was a long-running local television host on station KTVT-11, in Dallas/Fort Worth who comes off as a clunky but authentic vocalist, showing a heavy debt to fellow Texan Ernest Tubb -- in my book, you could certainly do worse. This delightfully low-rent "live" album is structured as a stitched-together faux concert, complete with super-fake canned applause and painfully abrupt editing. It features Lloyd Weaver's grown-up son(?) and business manager Tommy Weaver, along with a slew of side performers, many of whom I'd imagine were pay-to-play guests of the Weavers. Their Sunset Ranch show ran on local television from the 1960s through the early '90s and had some affiliation with country promoter Dewey Groom, who sponsored a regular segment on the program. Lloyd Weaver had deep roots in the Lone Star honkytonk scene, recording a handful of singles in the late 1940s and early '50s, though his roughly-assembled TV show seems to be remembered mostly as a kitschy local phenomenon, and this album may give give a glimpse into that history. Not all the vocals that great, though the picking by the Pals Of The Saddle house band are pretty solid and consistently twangy, particularly steel player Gary Hogue, who brings a lot of ooompf to the production. There's a mystery track by the Callahan Brothers, an old-timey vocal duo whose best work dated back to the 1930s and '40s; it's a vintage recording of "Maple On The Hill" with tape hiss that clearly dates it to an earlier era, probably something Dewey Groom had laying around in the can. There are also several novelty-tinged songs featuring off-key teen and pre-teen kiddie singers, which would seem just kind of negligible if it weren't for the grotesque coda of Mr. Weaver's career: he was arrested in 1997 on child molestation charges, following an investigation of allegations that Cowboy Weaver had promised some young boy that he'd make him a star someday and, well, you know the rest. Ew. Still, the music on this album ain't bad, even if the man behind it was.
J. C. Weaver "Volume One" (Wild Turkey Music, 1977) (LP)
J. C. Weaver "J. C. Weaver" (Wild Turkey Music, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Billy James)
Paul Webb "...And Young Country" (Masa Recording Company, 1976-?) (LP)
This Detroit-area twangband featured brothers Paul and Danny Webb on drums and bass, along with steel player Jerry Nagle and lead guitar Hank Van Vleet. Paul Webb, who was a distant cousin of Loretta Lynn, led this band for many years, from at least 1974-91, according to local newspaper listings. He wrote three songs on this album, including one co-written with Van Vleet; they also cover Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings and Mel Street, to give you a sense of where they're coming from. Webb's son also became a musician, performing under the name Mike Shane, first working in his dad's band, and then as a solo performer in Nashville. They may have also run a nightclub at one point: in the early '90s, there were some shows at a place in Ypsilanti, called "Shane's."
Susan Webb "Bye, Bye Pretty Baby" (ABC-Anchor, 1975) (LP)
With Gib Guilbeau, Herb Pedersen, Albert Lee...
Red Dog Weber "...And Custer's Last Band" (Big Horn Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Burch & Rue Barclay)
A kooky little gift from Hollywood here... An economist by trade and a Buckeye by birth, Ohioan J. Allan Weber played his way through pretty much every bar or barn you could imagine between Cleveland and LA, and became best known for his shows at the World Champion Chili Cookoff in Terlingua, Texas... He also made his mark with numerous TV appearances, playing the "boombass," a rhythm instrument of his own design. Weber is joined on this album by veteran Nashville fiddler Harold Hensley, as well as guitarist Gene Ridgeway, an Oklahoma western swing bandleader who carved a niche in the Los Angeles entertainment industry, as well as Lee Burch (a Southen California music and movie producer who also did studio work as a guitarist) and western/cowboy music singer Hal Southern, who also worked in the TV industry. They play oldies and standards, along with 'Seventies hits such as "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and few originals written by members of the band, including "Power Up Your Chili" and "Custer's Last Band."
Tiny Weeks "Heavy Equipment Man" (25th Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Nelson)
Eric Weissberg - see artist discography
Rusty Wellington "Yes, It's Me Again" (Arzee Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Lucky Steel & Tony Schmidt)
Wells Fargo "Wells Fargo" (Brut Sound, Inc., 1974) (LP)
This was a progressive bluegrass band from Virginia which showcased a bunch of country and country-rock tunes in their repertoire... The band included Dan Lambert on guitar, Stafford Markham (banjo), Garland Alderman (mandolin), Bob Brown (bass), Smiley Hobbs (fiddle), and Speedy Price playing fiddle and drums. I'm not 100% certain, but I think Dan Lambert also recorded some "new acoustic" style guitar instrumental albums later in the decade. The repertoire on this album includes covers of hits such as "Good Time Charlie," "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," and "What's Your Mama's Name."
John Wells "Moods" (Nashville International, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Coats & Reggie Churchwell)
Michael Wendling & John Hanson "There's Something About The Arco Desert" (Sheepeater, 1975) (LP)
Michael Wendling "Who Could Eat At A Time Like This?" (Sheepeater, 1977) (LP)
Despite the blechhy album art, there's some nice music on here. (The cover features a garish softcore-porn painting of a nearly-naked woman standing in front of an old wood-burning stove, with her backside towards us, in a not-so-subtle pose, the Idaho mountains in the background... I'm sure the boys in the band thought this looked great at the time, but it sure makes it hard to have this record out around company or the kids...) Anyway, this guy seems to have been from the Pacific Northwest somewhere, or possibly Idaho, where the label was from, and he was a pretty good banjo picker and guitarist -- the record starts off with the bluegrassy "Hamilton County Breakdown," and moves into some spacy, cosmic folk-twang ballads and then a bunch of tracks with loop-de-looping, Leo Kottke-style guitar riffs, with subtle accompaniment on pedal steel. If you're into Kottke's hypnotic/repetitive style, this is an excelent example of his influence on other pickers, and a surprisingly well-produced indie album. Worth a spin!
Michael Wendling "31 Of Mike's Favorites On Two Discs (With Skips) From The Vinyl Era" (2013)
This appears to be a straight reissue of three albums by Wendling, including the two listed above... And I guess, based on the album title, it was mastered straight off the old LPs rather than master tapes. Now that's old school!
Wes & The Plainsmen "Live" (1981-?) (LP)
These guys hailed from Kenosha, Wisconsin and played regularly around Chicago for several years. Led by singer Wes Cox, the band was together at least as early as 1973, but this album seems to be from around 1980-81 or so, judging from the covers of Rodney Crowell's "Ain't Livin' Long Like This" and "Elvira," which were in vogue around then... The band included Bob Fenrich (drums), Drexel Hurley (bass), Vern Markee (electric guitar) and Pam Williams (vocals) -- bass player Drexel Hurley (1930-2012) worked for American Motors in Kenosha; he seems to have retired to Texas later in life.
Ken Wesley "Heartache Remover" (Gene Breeden Studios, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Chad Heasley)
The songs on this album were all written by honkytonker Ken Wesley, with backing by a studio band that included Gene Breeden on guitar, Terry Crisp on steel and Bruce Watkins on fiddle and bass. I couldn't find much info about Wesley online, other than that these songs were composed and copywritten between 1977-79, and that his full name was Franklin Kenneth Wesley. A few of his tunes were covered by other artists, notably "Oh Lousiana," which was apparently recorded by Jim & Jesse in the 1980s, and Oregon's Jerry Bradley (another singer in Gene Breeden's orbit) included a couple of Wesley's songs on his album Once More For The Good Times: "Whatever We Had" and "We Never Ran Out Of Love" (which are also on this album...) If anyone out there knows more about Ken Wesley, I'm all ears!
West "West" (Columbia, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Johnston)
West "Bridges" (Columbia, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Johnston)
Jim West "Wild Country" (Gemini Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by B. Anthony Palmer)
Jim West & The Texans "If I'd Left It Up To You" (Gemini Records, 197-?) (LP)
Jim West "Good Things Goin' Down" (Home Comfort Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
A truly stunning set of hardcore honky tonk music, urgently in need of reissue. This all-original album by Oregon songwriter Jim West features several absolutely devastating cheating songs, real doozies like "Her Arms Were Always Warm" and "Another Night Of Cheatin'," as well as gems such as the album's forlorn closer, "Leavin' Kind." All the songs on here were written by West, with production by West Coast old-timer Cliffie Stone, and session help from rock-solid pickers like J. D. Maness, Gene Breeden and Billy Walker... West is a superior songwriter who sounds an awful lot like the young Merle Haggard... Fans of Dale Watson are gonna want to track this one down!
Judy West "Judy Judy Judy" (K & M Records, 1970-?) (LP)
A pianist as well as singer, West played pop as well as country, covering material by Dallas Frazier and Bob Montgomery, as well as Dexter Shaffer's "Nashville Wives," which she released as a single on the Starday label. An aspiring songwriter, West composed two songs on this album, "Give Me Love" and "Just A Bend In The Road," and worked at various songmills in Nashville. On this album, she recieved testimonials from country crooners Eddy Arnold and Gene Autry, as well as from pop-Dixieland bandleader Pete Fountain, whose band she worked in during the late '60s. The material on this album was recorded over several years, with the tracks on Side Two tilting towards 'Sixties pop-vocals material, including international material from Tom Jobim and Charles Trenet. The later sessions date to early 1970, when she had shifted into more country material. Apparently she also had a regular gig at a place called the Nashville City Club, where she was playing around the time this album was released; Ms. West later opened a piano-bar/nightclub of her own where she performed and hosted other musicians.
Sam West IV "Country By..." (Little Richie Records) (LP)
Wayne West "Streets Of Laredo" (Sand Records, 1967-?) (LP)
Western/hillbilly singer Wayne West was a member of the Southern California band called the Frontiersmen, a group with a fluid membership that also included a fella named Highpocket Busse, and songwriter Hal Southern. They backed Eddie Dean and gal singer Joannie Hall, and recorded numerous singles and albums for Sage & Sand as well as other indie labels. I'm not sure, but he may also be the same Wayne West who recorded some square dance records, although where and when I really can't say...
Ken Westberry "Ken Westberry" (Crackerbox Records, 1975-?) (LP)
Originally from Miami, songwriter Ken Westberry was a rock-solid Nashviller when he recorded this album on his own independent Crackerbox label... Best known as the composer of Gene Watson's 1975 hit, "Love In The Hot Afternoon" (along with about five hundred other songs), Westberry was a former rockabilly teen who found his niche in Nashville, working with his pal Charlie McCoy in the early '60s, before McCoy had cracked into the Music City elite. Admittedly, Westberry wasn't the world's greatest singer, but he sounded okay -- kind of a cross between Bill Anderson and George Jones, if you can imagine that -- and he carries these songs well. Westberry wrote or co-wrote all the tunes on here, with some interesting songwriting partners, including Mel Tillis, ex-con Harlan Sanders, Hal Harbour on a couple of tunes, and some other guys as well. The backing is pretty good -- presumably by his band, The Memory Makers, playing in a solidly uptempo, mid-1970s Top Forty-ish style. One of the highlights is a topical song, sort of an anti-Austin anthem called "Don't Come To Texas," where he warns all the would-be outlaws of the era that they gotta have a fiddle in their band if they want to sound like Bob Wills, and generally gives the longhair crowd a good-natured ribbing. All in all, this is a strong set for an off-the-radar vanity pressing, and it's possible the cheerful-sounding Westberry just missed the wave for his brand of country by a year or two, like so many folks back then. A few years later he released a couple of singles on the Doorknob label, though nothing charted, and a couple of other albums are out there, though I haven't heard them. Anyway, this disc is definitely worth checking out, despite the goofy-looking, swingerdelic cover art.
Western Boogie Express "Western Boogie Express" (Tell International, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Merritt, Larry Merritt & Robin Beck)
It would be really difficult not to be totally charmed by this raw, amateurish, enthusaiastic set of '60s/'70s cover tunes. I didn't even try. This four-piece band from Yakima, Washington was made up of two married couples: Shannon and Gary Robinson, and Mitzi and Donaldson, with a little additional piano plunking by producer Larry Merritt. They cover pop, country and Motown oldies, stuff like Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock'N'Roll," Bonnie Tyler's "It's A Heartache," "Take It Easy" by the Eagles, and Hank Strzelecki's oft-covered comedic ditty, "Long Tall Texan." The sessions were crudely produced and the musicianship is hardly waht you'd call slick, but that's definitely a plus in this case... Some unexpectedly tough-toned, fuzzed-out electric guitar zings up a tune or two, almost placing this in the same category of naifish power-pop by '80s/'90s bands like the Flatmates or the Fastbacks. The guys are the very epitome of "just plain folks" musicians, true amateurs singing songs that are just plain fun to sing, and giving it their all, in their own loveably un-commercial way. Dig it.
The Western Echoes "...At Bill Dugan's Country Music Inn" (Stone Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Dugan & Bill Haskins)
Dugan's was a country music joint that opened back in 1973 in Northern Illinois -- in a little town called Half Day, near Chicago. It catered to twangfans who didn't want to drive all the way to the big city to get see a show... The Western Echoes was the house band, with musicians drawn from throughout the upper Great Lakes region, Tennessee and the upper Midwest... The featured singers were Jack Weber, who had apparently been in a few bands before this, along with Libby Sheperd and her husband, Tennessee steel player Jim Shepard... There's no date on the disc, but they cover Joe Stampley's 1975 hit, "Roll On Big Mama," so between that and the groovy feathered hair on the kid in the back row, I'm guessing this came out in '76 or thereabouts.
The Western Echos "Live At The Nashville Room: London, England" (Map Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Vaughan & Roy Mullins)
Strange but true: this British country-covers band is actually a completely different group from the Chicago-area ensemble listed above. Go figure. The repertoire is more oldies and hillbilly oriented, with chestnuts like "Kawliga" and "Bury Me Beneath The Willow," and a few more modern tunes such as "Together Again" and "Okie From Muskogee."
The Western Echos "Four In The Morning" (Avenue Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Gordon Smith)
I guess I'd file these country-lovin' Brits under "well meaning..." Although objectively the overall impact of this album is underwhelming, they clearly had a strong appreciation for authentic country music, both in their choice of repertoire (Louvin Brothers, Ray Price, Webb Pierce) and in their simple, back-to-basics approach, with spare arrangements centered around Ken Pierce's steel guitar and some sweet licks on bandleader Roy Mullins' mandolin. There are several contending influences at play -- straightahead old-school honkytonk, tempered by a bluegrass-ish flair, particuarly on the Jim & Jesse-influenced mandolin riffs, and a western-folkie strand as well. Where they fall flat is both on the vocals and on the overall delivery -- you can really hear them trying to hit their marks, and it sounds very effortful, in that we-only-have-a-little-bit-of-studio-time way that sometimes impacts these indie albums. Okay, so they sounded a little stiff, but so what? I guess there's no way to know how much looser they were live (or even how frequently they played) but perhaps one can read between the lines on the damned-by-faint-praise liner notes from British country critic Bryan Chalker, who goes out of his way to underscore that he hasn't even listened to the record, and had only seen the band play once, noting their "rough edges," as well as their rugged sponteneity. Harsh. On three tracks, they bring in a ringer, vocalist Pete Sayers, who has a smooth, folkie tone, and closes the album with a version of "Hobo's Lullaby." On balance, though, I'd say this is worth checking out, at least if you're into the more obscure threads of where country music crept into the English musical landscape.
Western Edition "Live? Well...Almost" (Wested Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Mason & Western Edition)
A live set by a twangy trio from Boise, Idaho... The band included singer-guitarist Don Hughes, bassist Jerry Long and drummer Joe Miller, working through a set that included rock and pop material like "Kansas City," "Play Me" and "Rock Me Gently," as well as country tunes such as "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" and "Brown Eyed Handsome Man." There's also an original tune, "Grow Old With You," written by the album's engineer, Ron Mason. The show was recorded in July of 1975 at a place called the Hi Ho Club, in Boise.
The Western Gentlemen "The Western Gentlemen Of Reata Pass" (Rodeo Records) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Miller, Buck Coghlan & The Western Gentlemen)
Formed in 1966, this Arizona trio was made up of bassist Harold "Buck" Coghlan, fiddler Willard E. "Slim" Forbes, and singer-guitarist Jon E. Severson (aka Johnny Dakota) who was originally from the Dakotas. At the time they cut this album, they were apparently holding down a regular gig at the Reata Pass Steak House, near Scottsdale, specializing in western (cowboy) songs, along with a dash of Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Dallas Frazier, and one song written by Severson, "Broken Dreams." All three bandmembers had long histories playing various gigs, including Johnny Dakota's stint on the Sun Valley Barn Dance show in Minneapolis, and Slim Forbes' days playing with Marty Robbins, before Robbins split for Nashville.
The Westerners/Various Artists "A Few Of The Wild Bunch" (Wild West Recordings) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Jack)
This one's a little hard to decipher, but I think the deal is that this is a collection of several artists all individually backed by a band called the Westerners. The singers are Larry Jack, Bill Kramer, Marv Lindner and Skip Stanley... The album was released on a label from Brea, California (near Anaheim) and I'm guessing the guys were working at a club in the area when they cut this disc. Marv Lindner may be familiar to squaredance fans -- he was a popular figure on the Southern California "calling" scene and cut some records back in the '70s. Skip Stanley is fondly remembered for the Sputnik-era joke-a-billy single, "Satellite Baby."
Wet Behind The Ears "Wet Behind The Ears" (American Investment Company, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Andy Waterman)
A fairly dreadful country/folk/rock crossover album by an ambitious band from La Crosse, Wisconsin. They covered some interesting tunes, stuff like Peter Rowan's "Midnight Moonlight" and Gram Parson's "Luxury Liner" alongside a few gooey originals that teeter between sort-of countryish and disasterously fusionistic. The main problem I have here is with the vocals by Karen Deutsch, who has too much of a Joan Baez/Judy Collins folkie hangover for my tastes, but also on a few songs they get into a florid fiddle-rock sound reminiscent of It's A Beautiful Day. Not my cup of tea, although I'm sure there are others out there who might dig it.
Wheatfield "Wheatfield" (Oval Records, 1980) (CD & MP3)
(Produced by Norton Buffalo & Jim Gaines)
An eclectic, though largely rock and boogie-blues oriented band from Modesto, California... Their country side asserts itself towards the end of the album, after a series of rollicking electric guitar-and-piano based roots rocker songs. Will Hobbs, Paul Douglas, Pete Wolfe, Kenny Sawyer and Kerry Canfield, with several original songs written by Hobbs, a couple more by John Powell, and a version of Michael Dinner's "Promised Land."
Whiskers And Lace "Whiskers And Lace" (Rain Tree Studios, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Miller & Whiskers And Lace)
A bluegrass-flavored acoustic twangband from Alexandria, Pennsylvania whose repertoire included bluegrass, jazz standards and even a version of Rodney Crowell's "Song For The Life." The trio included Kevin Curry (guitar, fiddle and mandolin), Galla Higginbotham (guitar and bass), George Higginbotham (banjo and bass).
Whiskey Creek Old Time String Band "On The Rocks" (Farmers Record Co., 1978) (LP)
Mostly stringband twang from this Fresno, California old-timey band, though they do include one song called "Country Music Life."
Whiskey Creek Old Time String Band "Hoedown Boogie!" (Grasshopper Productions, 1980) (LP)
Whiskey Dreams "100% Proof Music" (GOS Records, 1980) (LP)
Whiskey Ridge "Liquid Luxury" (Chokecherry Records) (LP)
(Produced by Lewis Marten Peterson)
A Canadian country-rock trio from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Whiskey Ridge featured lead singer R. C. Hummel, Brian Wiebe on bass, and Marty Nelson on drums. The album includes songs by J. J. Cale ("Call Me The Breeze" and "Tulsa Time"), Bob Dylan, The Eagles ("Peaceful Easy Feeling"), Merle Haggard ("Silver Wings") and Waylon Jennings ("Rainy Day Woman") as well as a couple of songs that were probably originals by the band, though there are no songwriter credits...
Whiskey River "Whiskey River" (Northland, 1978) (LP)
Whiskey River "Whiskey River" (1981) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Scruggs)
Whiskey River "In Concert" (Whiskey River Productions, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Humphrey & A. Svenson)
This band from Rapid City, North Dakota was not related to the Minnesota band above... This Whiskey River had their own radio show for a couple of years on station KIMM and play all cover tunes on this album, pretty standard stuff, including two medleys of music by Merle Haggard and Don Williams. I think the first track, "Band's Gonna Do It Again" is probably a reworking of the Charlie Daniels hit... The band consisted of Mike Crawford, Bobby Humphrey, Don McLaughlin, Laurie Payseno and "Stringbean" Svenson. They may have had a couple of records before this, though I haven't tracked them down yet.
The Whiskey River Band "Blended Whiskey" (Noteworthy Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Hale & The Whiskey River Band)
Whisky Hollow "We Know Better" (Shotgun Music Corporation, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Beach)
Recorded and produced in Ontario, Canada, this album includes three songs written by lead singer Lew Wilde ("Barroom Devil," "Mason Dixon Line" and "Heart Of Dixie") along with one by lead guitar Guy Wilkes ("Keep On Tryin'") and a cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles." Also in the band are fiddler R. J. Nellzy, Pat Brousseau on bass, and Joe Allain on pedal steel.
Jim Whitaker "Ode To The Farmer: America Is Depending On Him" (Boyd Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Boyd & Tommy Strong)
Years before Willie came up with Farm Aid, these Oklahoma locals paid tribute to the challenges and forclosures facing American farmers. Veteran arranger Cliff Parman was on board for this agricultural odyssey, with songs composed by Jimmy J. Parman and friends: Kenneth Forsythe, Lyle McPheeters, Carol A. Pleasants, and Robin Roberts. Includes songs like the title track, as well as "Legends Never Die," "Farmer's Lament, "The Sale" and "The Biggest Hog Fry." Only in OK!
Lillimae Whitaker & The Dixie Gospelaires "Jesus Has Called Me" (Rural Rhythm Records, 19--?) (LP)
Lillimae Whitaker & The Dixie Gospelaires "There's A Big Wheel" (Rome Recordings/Gloryland Records, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Casey)
Straightforward bluegrass gospel, with several originals as well as covers of old standards, and a couple of contemporary tunes by John Duffy and J. D. Crowe. Lillimae Hardy Whitaker is joined by her husband, mandolin picker Charlie Whitaker, along with a pretty straightforward assortment of traditional instruments -- bass, banjo, fiddle and dobro. This was recorded at the Rome Studios, in Columbus, Ohio; Mrs. Whitaker (1939-2014) lived in Kenton, Ohio, a little to the north. The Whitakers founded the Dixie Gospelaires in 1959, along with banjo player Noah Hollon, who helped anchor the band for several decades. Charlier Whitaker took a hiatus in the early '80s to tour with Bill Monroe(!) and the Gospelaires disbanded for about a decade, reforming in 1995, with Whitaker's youngest son Jeff joining as the band's lead guitarist.
Bill White "Reaching Out" (Angelus Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Wesley Tuttle, Sr.)
Dunno much about this evangelical gospel singer, although my attention was drawn to country-rocker Red Rhodes playing pedal steel on the album, along with Wesley Tuttle Jr. playing piano, Jay Lacy on guitar and Don Whaley on bass. Lacy and Whaley seem to have done a lot of session work together: Whaley was in the '70s rock band, Honk and also played with Ray Sanders, Ian Matthews, Rusty Weir, Rodney Crowell, and others. Jay Lacy joined him in Matthews and Weir's band; he also played with Hoyt Axton, Michael Nesmith, and appeared on Red Rhodes' landmark album, "Velvet Hammer," as well as Garland Frady's "Pure Country" LP. No indication of where Mr. White was from, or where he pastored, but he sure had a high-powered crew backing him for this album.
Bill White "Wanted Man" (Bejay Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by David Matthews)
It seems likely that this is a totally different guy than the gospel singer listed above... but don't quote me on that. This set was recorded in Fort Smith, Alabama with Rex Bell (keyboards), Skip Marshall (bass), Bill Flash (lead guitar), Tom Ware (fiddle), and studio owner Ben Jack on dobro and steel guitar. There are several songs credited to T. Cerney, along with various collaborators (C. Craig, A. Roberts, B. Martin, et.al.)
Bob White "Steel Trek" (Longhorn/Mid Land Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Jack)
A pedal steel instrumentals album, recorded at Ben Jack's BeJay Studios in Van Buren, Arkansas...
Buck White & The Whites -- see artist discography
White Cloud "White Cloud" (Good Medicine, 1972) (LP)
Perhaps best known as a rock music songwriter and record producer, Thomas Jefferson Kaye worked with big-name acts such as the Kingsmen, the Shirelles and later with artists on the edge of the country-rock scene, such as Loudon Wainwright III and ex-Byrd Gene Clark. He also recorded as an artist himself, releasing a few albums under his own name, though White Cloud was his first band to make a record, with one of the more distinctly country-oriented albums. Fiddler Kenny Kosek and multi-instrumentalist Eric Weissberg were in the band, playing gigs with Kaye on the East Coast before cutting this lone album... The following year, he released a couple of more rock-oriented records under his own name.
Danny White "Country Boy" (Grand Prix, 1987) (LP)
Seriously: why should Terry Bradshaw have all the fun, when it comes to country-singing NFL pros? Danny White, late '70s punter and early '80s quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, tried his hand at singin' a few country tunes, including (yet another) version of Mickey Newbury's "American Trilogy," and a cover of "Let It Be Me." Ride, 'em, Cowboy!
Don White "Shades Of White" (Summit Records, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Hanks)
A set of country ballads and pop standards, done country(politan) style by a middle-aged Midwesterner... The Summit label was in Poplar Bluffs, Missouri, though I'm not sure if that's where Mr. White was from... One clue is a delaration on the front of the album: "Don Endorses Clyde's Chapparal Club, Home Of The Finest Food And Entertainment," a joint in Caruthersville, a tiny town about fifty miles away, way down in the southernmost tip of the state... So that seems more likely to have been his stomping grounds -- indeed, there was a Don White who was the country clerk for neighboring Stoddard County... so who knows? Anyway, he mostly played old ballads like "Stardust" and "Pennies In The Rain," though there were some genuine country numbers as well: Willie Nelson's "Night Life," Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams," a Hank Williams oldie. The repertoire is pretty old, but I'd guess from the look of things that this was pressed in the mid- to late-'70s.
Herold White "I Remember Love" (Music City Records, 1974-?) (LP)
Herold White "Memories Along The Coast Of Maine" (Alpine Records, 1975-?) (LP)
Johnnie White "Party Time Again/Two Old Maids" (B&J Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Adams)
The liner notes inform us that singer Johnnie White (1925-2013) was born in Arkansas, grew up in Memphis, and worked all over the country, particularly in the upper Midwest... This album appears to have been made while he was headquartered in South Dakota and playing at his own clubs in Sioux Falls and Minneapolis. As with many self-released records, this was partly intended to advertise Mr. White's abilities as a performer (so that he could get more gigs) and frames him as a triple-threat artist. Side One is an extended comedy skit called "Two Old Maids," an example of the blue humor he shared in some of the rougher venues; Side Two showcases his musical talent, with three vocal tunes (oldies such as "Cattle Call" and "Born To Lose") along with three instrumental numbers, including "Sleepwalk" and "Caravan." He was working with several local musicians who don't seem to have recorded elsewhere: the band includes Johnnie White on bass and steel guitar, former garage rocker Doug Neste on lead guitar, Jo Anne Marie (piano and organ) and Cecil Sweet (banjo, drums and saxophone). There's no date on the record, but I'd guess late '60s, maybe even as late as 1970-72. Mr. White toured widely throughout the Midwest, also doing local radio and TV programs on a varity of stations; in the late '70s he moved out to California, and performed in LA up through the end of the 1980s. The "Two Old Maids" skit was also released as a double-7" "party record" sometime in the early 'Seventies.
Johnny White "Memories" (Alpine Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Adams)
Not to be confused with South Dakota's Johnnie White, this fella was from East Boston, Massachusetts, a songwriter and veteran performer of the New England hillbilly scene who was professionally billed as "the Yankee Yodeler." From a French-Canadian immigrant family, White's real name was Jean LeBlanc, and he started out in a duo with his brother -- The LeBlanc Brothers -- though by the time he began to record, White had adopted his Anglicized stage name. He was a practitioner of the ancient art of yodeling, tackling such classics as "Cannonball Yodel" as well as mainstream oldies as "Folsom Prison Blues." Alas, there are no song credits, although I think most of these tracks were Johnny White originals... Also no info on the album's producer, or the backing musicians, though 'Fifties country star Marvin Rainwater contributes liner notes.
Mack White "Let Me Be Your Friend" (Commercial Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Mack White, Don Powell & Finley Duncan)
It took Georgia-born Floridian Mack White a long time to put this record out... Working for Nashville's Wesley Rose, he released a string of reasonably successful singles, with nine songs charting on Billboard between 1973-77, including three that cracked the Top 40. This album gathers those singles and a few other songs, including four Mack White originals as well as two by the writing team of DeWayne Orender & Don Powell, and several others represented by the Acuff-Rose publishing company... There's even a version of Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain." No info on the studio musicians, but it's a good bet there were a lot of "usual suspect" Nashvillers there... White sustained his momentum for a while, but slowly slid into the Back Forty and then off the radar.
Mack White "Lonely In The Crowd" (Commercial Records, 1982) (LP)
Mike White & The Sliter Brothers "Live At Jamboree, USA" (JAM-USA Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Brightman & Ron Grayson)
A longhair band from upstate New York that had a pretty strong local following and played on the Jamboree USA TV show for much of the group's seven-year hisory... The band's teenage steel player, Buck Reid (who was not on this album), was later recruited by country star John Anderson in the early '80s to be part of his band, leading to a long career as a highly successful touring musician.
Mike White "Mike White" (MW Records, 1980-?) (LP)
Although this was billed as a solo album, he was still working with the Sliter Brothers -- four songs are credited to the Sliters, alongside several covers songs and (perhaps) another original or two...
Robert White & The Candy Mountain Boys "Thousand Tons Of Coal" (Ranger R Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Forrest Green)
A prolific recording artist with singles bating back to the late 1950s, Michigan's Robert LaVaughn White (1925-2002) cut his first full LP in the late '60s, working with local producer Forrest Green. A festival favorite during the 'Sixties and 'Seventies, White had a particularly strong following in the Great Lakes area and upper Midwest.
Robert White & The Candy Mountain Boys "Poverty/A Eye For A Eye" (Ranger R Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Forrest Green)
This disc comes from the early 'Seventies, an era when it was in vogue to give country albums two titles -- usually of two songs they hoped would be hits. (I also love that the article "an" isn't used before "eye"... not THAT'S country...!) Recorded at the Forrest Green Studios in Clio, Michigan, though it was mastered and pressed by the Rimrock label, in Concord, Arkansas. As with his previous album, this is a lively mix of bluegrass, country, secular and gospel material, with a lot of original material.
Robert White & The Candy Mountain Boys "In The Savior's Hands" (Ranger R Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Forrest Green)
This was an all-gospel album, with a wealth of original material, as well as some off-the-beaten path material by evangelical country songwriters such as Bud Chambers. Along with heartfelt standards such as "Working On A Building" and "Heavenly Light Shining On Me," Mr. White had an ear for novelty material such as "Out Lord's Space Ship" and "God's Tax Free Plan." Alas no info on who the boys in the band were, though they included guys on banjo, mandolin and guitar. White continues recording and performing for several decades, releasing numerous singles and LPs for Atteiram, Old Homestead and other labels.
The White Sisters "Stepping On The Clouds" (Ripcord/Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ellis Miller)
The White Sisters -- Barbara, Janice and Jayne -- were a gospel trio from Yuba City, California and were members of the Pastor First Baptist Church in nearby Biggs. They made the trek up to Washington state to record at Gene Breeden's Ripcord Studios, singing strictly gospel material, with a couple of songs written by Janice White, "Never Has A Man" and "Troubles Will Soon Be Over." Although I'm not sure how country this album is overall, they also included a version of Larry Gatlin's "It Must Have Rained In Heaven."
The White Sisters "Happy Meeting" (Ripcord/Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Blaine Allen)
This album includes two songs, "Smile" and "Happy Meeting," both written by Janice White and published by Ripcord.
Tony White "Good Ole Country Music" (RCA-Canada, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Kunkel)
Tony Joe White - see artist discography
Jerry & Judie Whitener "Putting It All Together" (J & J Records, 197--?) (LP)
This husband-wife duo from from Rochelle, Illinois traveled widely as evangelical preachers, also recording a bunch of records -- unruly, surprisingly twangy stuff with a pronounced hillbilly feel, reminiscent of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, along with a little fancy, Chet Atkins-y guitar. This album looks to me like it was an early-1970s offering -- they refer in the liner notes to fans who liked their older records, and say they made this album as a way to recapture the feel of those earlier recordings, so I think this may have been the first of a string of LPs they self-released in the 'Seventies, with a couple of others listed below. They really harkened back to an earlier era, with an assertive rhythm section and steel guitar propelling them through jubilee and hymnal material -- definitely not a snoozy, organ-led church music set here! I'd love to have more information about them, if anyone out there can help...
Jerry & Judie Whitener "Life Is Worth Living" (J & J Records, 19--?) (LP)
Jerry & Judie Whitener "That Same Road" (J & J Records, 1975) (LP)
Whitewater "Springtime In The White Clouds" (American Heritage Music Corporation, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Don Cedarstrom)
I think this one was more of a folkie thing... This Idaho group featured Michael Wendling on guitar, a picker whose solo work fit more into the "new acoustic" style, as pioneered by Leo Kottke...
White Water Junction "White Water Junction" (198-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Gilmer)
This commercially-oriented band from Calhoun, Georgia formed in 1978 and played together through the early '80s. Multi-instrumentalist Travis Stephens was their main songwriter, with additional material provided by steel guitarist Sammy Watkins, bassist Kenny Seabolt and Deborah Pearson. They played regional gigs at nightclubs in Chattanooga and Atlanta, opening for Nashville stars such as Charley Pride, and despite this album's funky, lo-tech artwork, they were aiming at a very glossy, contemporary, Top 40 pop-country sound. Not sure when this record came out, but I'm guessing around or after 1983, when apparently they were at their peak. It certainly has the airy, synthy sound of the times.
Ricky Whitley "Sit Down Job" (Major Label, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Stan Dacus & Ricky Whitley)
A fun, raggedly album with a wealth of original material from this Atlanta, Georgia twang-auteur... There's a lot of stylistic variety on here, with Whitley hammering out a sizzling jump blues tune at the start, then sliding into some more relaxed acoustic twang as the album goes on. In an odd way, he kind of reminds me of much later artists such as Drive By Truckers and Ryan Bingham, kind of a post-modern redneck hipster vibe, with songs about drinking and hanging out, and a definite Southern feel. Except for one song about someone acting like a monkey (which while not actually racist, still has some uncomfortable undertones...) this is pretty strong material -- laid-back, but soulful and sincere, and definitely worth a spin. Of interest to fans of older, more traditional twang, in the liner notes Whitley dedicates the album to Thomas P. Darby, of the Depression-era bluegrass/old-timey duo Darby & Tarleton, who he says was his uncle(!) Now those are some real country music roots!
Benny Whitten & Kathleen Tod "First Time Around" (Solid Sound, Inc., 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Benny Whitten, Jimmy Payne & Bill Holmes)
This indie album from a Kansas City duo was recorded in Nashville with Doyle Grisham playing steel guitar at the helm of an otherwise obscure pickup band. This is a solidly country-oriented record, featuring covers of early 'Seventies countrypolitan and country-pop hits such as "Country Roads," "Grandma's Feather Bed," "If You Love Me," "Let Me Be There," and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon." There are also four originals written by Benny Whitten: "I Could, But I Won't," "I Love You More Each Day," "My Road" and "Turn Away." The vocals aren't earthshaking, but they are committed and sincere, and the material is consistently engaging and enjoyable -- a pretty strong effort for follks at this level of the industry. Their second album, Whitten & Tod, was more of a disco/funk/AOR thing, with covers of Top Forty hits such as "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," "Car Wash" and "You Don't Have To Be A Star." Benny Whitten and Kathleen Tod were a husband-wife duo, though they might not have been married at the time this first album was recorded.
Whole Wheat 100% "Whole Wheat 100%" (CNR, 1977) (LP)
Whole Wheat 100% "Ice, Fire & Desire" (AVI, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by James Pike)
This one's actually here more as a buzzkill alert: I've seen this band mentioned as a country-rock outfit, and maybe they were on their first album, but this one's definitely a slick soft-rock/disco-funk set, sort of like a cross between Atlanta Rhythm Section and Little River Band. Not much twang, though: well, there are a couple of songs with a teeny bit of CSN-ish vocal harmonies, and the very last track, "Heart Of The Mountain," is indeed a straight-ahead country-rock song... sounds just like America's "Horse With No Name." But if you're looking for a lost country nugget, this disc isn't going to do the trick.
Bill Whyte "Making Music" (Calico, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Royce Kendall & Jeannie Kendall)
Well, first off, he had the Kendalls on board to produce his album, so that's a pretty good sign... Missouri native Bill Whyte started out playing in high school bands and made his way to Nashville to cut this album, which is packed with strong original material. It's mostly your basic hippiebilly '70s cosmic country, with witty lyrics and plenty of bouncy, loose-limbed twang... Fans of New Riders Of The Purple Sage and similar bands might have fun with this one as well. Whyte stuck around in Nashville and worked as a radio deejay at WSM, briefly relocating to Cincinnati, then moved back to settle permanently in Nashville where he held down a longterm gig at WSM. Later on he refashioned himself into a country comedy artist, and has recorded and performed extensively under that persona, and has also had considerable success as a songwriter, placing songs with Top Forty artists of a calibre such as Rebecca Lynn Howard, Craig Morgan and Joe Nichols. It all started here, though, and this is a pretty good record... worth tracking down!
Wichita "Wichita" (Hush Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Garrie Thompson & Don Baskin)
This was an excellent country-rock and outlaw covers band from Sunnyvale, California... Even though the the repertoire is all cover songs, the performances are quite vibrant and accomplished, and the joyful feeling the band put into this record is completely infectious. It's too bad these guys didn't write more original material -- they were clearly a top-flight twang band with lots of experience playing live. Anyone out there have more information about this group? I'd love to hear more of their story...
The Wichita Linemen "Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch" (High Fidelity Recording Studios, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Don Powell)
Named after the big Glen Campbell hit, the Wichita Linemen was a "house band" at the powerful AM/FM radio station, KFDI, Wichita, which was one of the most influential country music outlets in the Midwest. Formed by a couple of DJs and their friends, the group started in 1969 and recorded several LPs as well as a number of commemorative 7" singles. They toured regionally for over three decades until disbanding in the year 2000. The core members included singer Don Walton and steel guitarist Don Powell; their stage show also apparently included old-school cornpone humor of the Hee Haw variety; this album is notable for the original material, including a lot of comedic songs, including several written by Mike Oatman, Terry Burford and Don Walton. I gotta say, though, that despite the band's pedigree and long-lived duration, this debut LP isn't really all that great. This edition of the band included lead singer Don Powell, drummer Robin Harris, guitar picker Carl Hendricks, and 21-year old bassist Greg Stevens... several of the singers are flat-out not very good, and the guitar pickers tend to go a little note-happy... Probably the best singer in the group was Terry Burford, who sings lead on a couple of tunes, though he struggles to find a groove inside the clunky rhythms of the band. As with the performances, the songwriting is also rather iffy. In general, editing seems to have been a problem on this project, although they do tackle the sessions with gusto, and for those of you out there who are into so-bad-it's-good Schadenfreude, this disc would be rather rewarding. Worth a spin, just to satisfy your curiousity, but don't get your hopes up too high.
The Wichita Linemen "Alive And Pickin' At Piqua" (LP)
Piqua, Kansas is a teeny-tiny little town about a hundred miles east of Wichita, perhaps best known as the birthplace of silent film comedian Buster Keaton. I dunno if the Linemen actually played there or recorded this album there, but the name does have a certain tang to it...
The Wichita Linemen "The Wichita Linemen" (Linemen Records) (LP)
I'm not sure how many albums the Linemen wound up making (or singles -- there were quite a few of those as well, along with a few other commemorative projects commisioned by KFDI that the band also took part in...) Anyway, there were at least three LPs, not to be confused with the two recorded by the British band (below) that used the same name.
The Wichita Linemen (UK) "The Wichita Linemen" (Hillside, 1975) (LP)
This appears to be an English country band that had the same idea for a bandname as the guys who were actually from Wichita... A little confusing, sure, but the world's a crazy place!
The Wichita Linemen (UK) "Lightning Bar" (Hillside, 1977) (LP)
Lewie Wickham - see artist discography
Rusty Wier - see artist discography
Ray Wilburn & Jerry Moore "Communication With Ray Wilburn And Jerry Moore" (KSS-Kennett Sound Studios) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Keene)
Nice Chet Atkins-y guitar instrumentals from a couple of Missouri locals, guitarist Ray Wilburn and bassist Jerry Moore, with modest backing by drummer Jamie Holmes. Wilburn and Holmes were from Saint Charles and Hazelwood, MO, in the suburbs of north Saint Louis, and although I doubt they played music professionally, they were both fine pickers. Side One of the album is secular, while Side Two spotlights gospel standards such as "I Am A Pilgrim," "Lonesome Valley," and "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." Classic country guitarists such as Chet Atkins and Merle Travis are echoed in the performances and repertoire... This isn't a groundbreaking record, but it sure sounds sweet.
Wildcountry "Wildcountry" (LSI Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Wildcountry)
Behold, the band that would become known as Alabama. Cousins Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen all hailed from Fort Payne, Alabama, in the northern end of the state near Huntsville. They formed a band in the early '70s and plugged away for several years playing theme parks and local bars before rustling up the cash to self-produce this album. It's packed with original material, including four songs written by the band's first drummer, John Vartanian, and others by the guys who would go onto Top Forty fame. Here's where it all began...
Wild Country "Wild Country" (Mico Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Vic Ames & J. Centinario)
Brothers Jerry and Larry Sullivan started their own band back in the early 1960s while living in Vincennes, Indiana... Years later, like so many other starry-eyed hopefuls they headed out for Nashville and, while plugging away in Music City, recorded this album. Somewhere along the line they hooked up with fiddler Jack Little, a longtime veteran of the Porter Wagoner show, as well as drummer Vic Thomas, who was also from their hometown, but had made his way to Nashville way back in '61, landing a gig with singer Nat Stuckey. This album features two Larry Sullivan originals, "Little Faces Have Big Ears" and "You're On Your Way Out," along with covers of contemporary tunes by Larry Gatlin ("Sweet Becky Walker"), David Allan Coe ("Just In Time To Watch Love Die") and early '70s staples such as "Proud Mary" and Mickey Newberry's patriotic medley, "American Trilogy." There's no date on this album, but judging from the set list and the way the guys look, I'd guess it came out around 1978-79.
Wild Country "Boogie" (Bull Records) (LP)
(Produced by Verne Leeper & Matt Frazier)
A shaggy country quartet from Columbus, Kansas, down in the Southeast corner of the state, near Joplin, Missouri. No date on the album, but I'd guess it's early '80s, like 1981-83, just from how Alabama-esque/Oak Ridge Boys-y they look in the photos. In technical terms, this is a pretty crudely made record, though mostly just regarding the production values. The band itself was surprisingly good, and songwriter Verne A. Leeper had an ambitious agenda -- a small-town kid, for sure, but he had a taste for country-rock and pop that was sophisticated and diverse. Some songs are pretty straightforward melodic twang, while others have more of a confessional, introverted quality. For example, "How Many Times" is a broken-hearted bummer song that has the definite feel of a spiral-bound notebook highschool poetry, but even so there's something compelling about the singer's abject, rueful misery as he wonders aloud, how many times did you spend the night over at my place... and where are you now? Another one of those odd, imperfect gems that float up out of the ocean of self-released records. Not a classic, but it has its charms. Decades later, Leeper was still living in Columbus, and performing occasionally as the leader of the Verne Leeper Band.
Walt Wilder "Ode To Country Music" (Homa Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Sherman)
An early album on the regional Oklahoma City-based Homa label, with a slew of original material written by Oklahoma native Earl Walter Rodden (aka Walt Wilder, 1936-2013) as well as by his collaborators, Rocky Craig and Gene Crysler. There's also one cover song, a version of Cowboy Copas' "Signed, Sealed And Delivered." The liner notes say that Wilder mostly worked doing construction and iron work, but that he also owned a club... Sadly, it doesn't say which club (or clubs) he owned, nor who the musicians are playing on this album... Wilder, who was also a Vietnam veteran, kicked around in Nashville in the late '60s and hung out with Gene Crysler, who was a fairly successful Music City songwriter, and they worked on some tunes together. Wilder wrote some earlier songs including "Plastic Roses" and "Oklahoma City Okie," though neither were reprised on this album.
Wilderness Road "Wilderness Road" (Columbia, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Richardson)
A satirical agit-pop band of the hippie era, Wilderness Road included alumni of Chicago's fabled Second City comedy troupe (which later fed into the early Saturday Night Live TV show...) and on their first album they devoted themselves almost entirely to lampooning country music as a way to rip on evangelical fundamentalism. The "revival" music here is a broad swipe at Christian tent preachers and the perceived gullibility of their flocks... It's a worthy target for parody, I suppose, but about as subtle as a twelve-foot, flaming red hammer with air-horns attached... Mostly, though, I just didn't like their mockery of county music, per se, since as you may have noticed, I kind of like country music and find many counterculture attacks on it (like this one) to be frequently facile and off-base. But, whatever. Musically, this was pretty accomplished, with some hot picking and a few dips into Arthur Brown-ish semi-prog that let listeners in on the joke. Fans of the Fugs, or of old National Lampoon records and Firesign Theater might get off on this as well. I found it a little too grating.
Wilderness Road "Sold For The Prevention Of Disease Only" (Reprise, 1973)
Judging from their Spinal Tap-ish glam-metal costumes, I'm guessing that the focus of this album was rock parody and not more hick mockery... But I could be wrong. Maybe one day I'll find, out and let you know...
Wildfire "In The Weave" (Prime Time Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Rod Shively)
There's a lot of original material here by this band from Rocky Mount, Virginia... The group featured banjo-and-guitar player Steve Shively, singer Barbara James, steel guitarists Joey Macray and Jerry Martin, fiddler Kathy Kuhn, pianist Fair Robey, and others... They cover country tunes by Toy Caldwell, David Allan Coe, and even Stephen Foster's "Hard Times," although about half the songs are credited to various bandmembers, all using the same Fairystone Publishing Company. These include Steve Shively's "Heaven Bound" and "Take A Break," "Kindred Spirit," by Barbara James, and a couple by singer-guitarist Charlie Robertson: "Mountain Willie" and "Katie Lou." They thoughtfully noted that this album was recorded over the winter, from November, 1979 to March, 1980.
Wild Oats "Country + Blue Grass" (Alshire Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Ron LeGrand)
Although this Southern California band had a relatively ignominious beginning playing day-job shows at the Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm amusement parks, their lone album features a wealth of original material, most of it written by lead singer Ron LeGrand. The music is solidly in the cosmic country style of the hippie-era Dillards and Byrds, with drifting, airy vocals and equally fluid arrangements, centered on the willowy pedal steel. It's worth noting that the steel player was a gal named Kathy Turner -- dunno if she did music else musically, but her spacy style compares favorably to other early-'Seventies hippie steel players who were reinventing the wheel at the time. The band probably just played generic bluegrass at their park gigs, as reflected in a trio of instrumentals, including a version of "Orange Blossom Special" where fiddler Bill Cunningham interpolates the melody with that of "Malaguena." Although clearly derivative of other early country-rock records, this album holds its own -- if you liked the Easy Rider soundtrack, you'll wanna check this one out.
Wild Oats/Homer And The Barnstormers "Flaming Banjos/Blue Grass Banjos" (Alshire Records) (LP)
This cheapo twofer combines two separate albums by different bands on the Alshire label... It seems to include all the material from the Wild Oats LP, even though it misleadingly pitches it as a bluegrass-only album.
Wild Oats "Wild Oats" (TK Productions/Clouds, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Howard Smiley, Michael Laskow & Ray Martinez)
Meh. The first side of this album sounds pretty much like wimpy, mainstream country-rock/AOR, and reminded me of the band Firefall more than anything else (which turns out to be because Firefall members Larry Burnett and Rick Roberts are singing harmony...) It's all okay, unexciting but inoffensive. But then on Side Two everything goes sideways and most of the songs are actively irritating, worst of all is the first track, "Friendship," which just one big, gooey, poorly-written, self-indulgent trainwreck of a '70s song. The main man in this band was a guy named Marc Levy, who had the kind of thin, gangly voice that's hard to take seriously at this level, but might have been endearing on a private-pressing indie album. I dunno. If you're really, really into '70s country-rock you might want to check this out, but I couldn't find any reason to hang onto this disc.
Wildwood Flour "Live At The Lamplighter Club" (Akashic Records, 1973-?) (LP)
The country-folk trio of Ken Blake, Cappy Lyons and Ronnie Routh played gigs in and around New Orleans for much of the early 1970s, including a stint at the Lamplighters Club, where they recorded this live album. The set was all cover songs, including contemporary hits such as "Country Road," "Snowbird," "For The Good Times" and "The Theme To MASH." They also sang oldies, like "Ghost Riders In The Sky" and "You Are My Sunshine," as well as some slightly more alternative songs, such as John Stewart's "July, You're A Woman." The liner notes say they were all three songwriters, though sadly none of their own original material made it onto this album.
John Buck Wilkin "In Search Of Food, Clothing, Shelter And Sex" (Liberty, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Don Tweedy)
Despite the extremely promising album title and the presence of a bunch of Muscle Shoals and Music City heavyweights (Larry Butler, Norbert Putman, Kenny Buttrey, John Lovell, et. al.) and country-sounding song titles like "The Nashville Sun" and "Boy Of The Country," this isn't quite as twangy as one might hope. Mostly it's a flowery, poetical pop-orchestral outing of the late-'60s variety, albeit a very good one. What makes this album noteworthy is that John Wilkin was the son of legendary country songwriter Marijohn Wilkin, and he pays tribute to her with a version of her song "Long Black Veil." He also sings a couple of Kris Kristofferson songs (Kris was one of his mom's many Nashville proteges) including one, "Apocalypse 1969," that he co-wrote along with Kristofferson... Overall, this is a very solemn (though not particularly gloomy) spiritually-inclined folk-psych outing... I think he really, really wanted to me taken seriously as an artist and all that... Anyway, if you're into fancy, experimental '60s pop, you might want to give this one a whirl.
John Buck Wilkin "Buck" (United Artists, 1970) (LP)
Oh, and the other interesting fact about this guy was that, as "Bucky" Wilkin, he was the lead singer and frontman for the mid-'60s surf-pop band Ronny And The Daytonas, who had a Top Ten hit... Apparently his mom had him performing on Opry-style country shows as a little kid in the '50s, so he'd been at this whole music business thing a while. Anyway, I guess these two albums were his only solo outings... I'm curious to hear this one as well, although it also looks like it's not very country.
The Wilkinson Brothers "Ozark Mountain Breakdown" (American Artists Records, 19--) (LP)
The Wilkinson Brothers "Just Plain Gospel" (American Artists Records, 19--) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Wilkinson, David Dombrowski & Winnie Swaim)
The Wilkinson Brothers "Take Two" (American Artists Records, 19--) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Wilkinson & David Dombrowski)
This album features Larry, Gary and Charlie Wilkinson on vocals, with Gary playing bass, Ralph Loew on fiddle and banjo, Gene Mulvaney on pedal steel, And Corporon on drums, and Richard Rankin on guitar. They cover some country classic by Merle Haggard, Red Simpson and Leon McAuliffe, along with more contemporary hits such as "The Rose" and 'Seventies stuff like "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and the Eagles' "Take It To The Limit."
Billie Jo Williams "Country Music Will Always Stay In My Heart" (Farview Records) (LP)
(Produced by Tony Farr & Doyle Grisham)
Pedal steel player Tony Farr helmed this '70s session, with guitar picker Doyle Grisham listed as engineer...
Buddy Williams "My Way" (DOC Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Nash & Bert Frilot)
In the early 1960s, singer Buddy Williams was in a pop vocals band called the Epics, which had a couple of regional hits on the East Coast but basically fizzled out, despite being signed to a major label. While in college at the University of Texas, he found work as a backup singer at the ACA Records studio, and got into the orbit of Bill Nash, who produces and performs on this album, as well as contributing two songs, "Come Back To Me, Girl" and "Tender Love." Most of the other songs are covers of pop and country hits, stuff like "Country Roads Take Me Home," "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and "Me And Bobby McGee." Williams apparently did a lot of lounge singing gigs around Houston as well as out of state.
Chickie Williams - see artist discography
David Williams "Cowboy Time" (Trapdoor Records, 1985) (LP)
An all-original set by a fella from DeKalb, Illinois...
Doc Williams - see artist discography
Gary Williams "The Gospel Singer" (Gospel Time Records, 1975) (LP)
A charmingly clunky and utterly sincere gospel album by Spokane, Washington's surprisingly prolific Gary Williams, who kicked off his career in the late 1950s as a secular honkytonk singer but got religion sometime in the mid-'60s and stuck to Jesus ever since. I love this album because of its combination of plainspoken, guileless, true-believer fundamentalism, which is perfectly complimented by his musical rough edges. Every song lyric is all, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus..." until he gets to "The Devil," where we go over to the Dark Side for a while. If you like your country gospel plain and simple, Gary Williams is your man!
Gene Williams & The Country Junction Band "Memphis Country" (Cowboy Carl Records, 1980) (LP)
Hank Williams, Jr. - see artist discography
Mentor Williams "Feelings" (MCA Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Troy Seals & Mentor Williams)
A rootsy recording session by 'Seventies songwriter and record producer Mentor Williams, who is perhaps best known for writing the song, "Drift Away," which was a Pop hit for Dobie Gray in 1973 and also hit the Country Top Ten the same year as the title track of Narvel Felts' debut album. Williams was the brother of AOR star Paul Williams, and later became the life partner of Lynn Anderson. He's backed on this album by a Nashville studio crew that included David Briggs, Dave Kirby and Weldon Myrick, along with other "usual suspect" superpickers.
Merle Williams (Pork'A Lot Records, 1978-?) (LP)
Mike Williams "The Radio Show" (A B.F. Deal Production, 1975) (LP)
Mike Williams "Free Man, Happy Man" (B.F. Deal, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Lars Lundahl & Chet Himes)
Mike Williams "Comin Atcha" (B.F. Deal, 1979) (LP)
Fans of Texas folk-twang goddess Nanci Griffith may be familiar with Mike Williams's uber-indie BF Deal label, as her first solo album came out on BFD in 1978... Mike Williams produced, played guitar and sang backup vocals on her folk-tinged debut, and Nanci returns the favor here, singing a few sweet notes on Comin' Atcha.
Pete Williams "Sings Old Country Favorites" (Pee Wee Records) (LP)
Rex Williams "Good Time Friends" (Bear Creek, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Weissman)
Well, John Denver certainly didn't have a lock on Colorado country, as this amiable, eclectic indie acoustic album demonstrates... Not sure what Williams' story was, but he had lots of high-powered friends, including former '60s folkie and banjo guru Dick Weissman as well as bluegrasser Tim O'Brien, who at the time was still in the Boulder-based Hot Rize band. The vibe on this album is pretty mellow, but also shows wide stylistic range, spanning soft, folkie country-rock, novelty twang such as "Hurry Back," wistful romantic material and a bit of soft-rock AOR in the style of David Gates, et. al. and a bit of pastoral, back-to-nature hippiebilly, as on the title track and "Just Fishin'," which the liner notes say was featured in a film called Ventana (which I can't find any additional information about...) Anyway, this isn't a great record, but it is a nice, simple set, and a fine example of laid-back, easygoing musicmaking among family and friends, and a nice window into the Colorado indie-twang scene of the time.
Terry Williams "Magic Bottle Of Wine" (197--??) (LP)
Tommy Williams "Forever Fiddlin' " (Murray Records, 198-?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Williams, Gene Breeden & Terry Crisp)
A solo set by Tommy Williams, a Floridian fiddler who did a lot of Nashville session work, but is best known as a cast member on the Hee Haw TV show... Williams is backed by an a-ist studio crew, including pianist Hargus Robbins, Bobby Thompson on banjo and guitar, drummer Buddy Harmon, and Bud Ham on bass. The set list is all old-school, public domain fiddling standards, stuff like "Cotton Eyed Joe," "Bile Them Cabbage Down," although some of the tunes are relatively obscure, such as "Snow Flake Reel" and "Bitter Creek." No date on this one, but it looks early '80s, possibly late '70s.
Tuffy Williams "Tuffy" (Tuff Stuff Records, 1982) (LP)
Piano-based countrypolitan from Independence, Missouri -- mostly all-original material, with just a couple of cover tunes.
Williams World "Flash-In-The-Pan" (Viking Recordings, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Wade R. Williams)
A family band from Denver, Colorado, led by mom and pop, Carol and Ralph Williams, but showcasing their thirteen-year old daughter Pam Williams, who played the banjo and wrote several of the songs on this album, including "World's A Battle Ground," which was co-written with her older sister Tammy. Mostly bluegrass standards, as well as covers of "Ghost Riders In The Sky" and Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down."
Willis/Carlan/Quinn "Tin Roof" (Sun Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by John Hall)
This Florida band included the trio of Danny Willis, Karen Carlan and Mike Quinn... hence the name... Although this is sometimes described as a bluegrass album, I'd peg it more "country" or country-pop. And yeah, they do country-rock covers of bluegrass standards like "Uncle Pen" and "Rocky Top," but also some new stuff that reminds me of Jonathan Edwards, as well as a couple of truly dreadful soft-rock tunes. On balance, though, this is worth checking into if you're into '70s-style country rock. Not mindblowing, but solidly in that tradition. It's also been reissued on MP3 as part of the Shelby Singleton back-catalog.
Clay Willis & The Traveling Band "Recognition" (JED Records) (LP)
Leonard R. Willis "Everybody Lies To Linda" (Valentino, 1977) (LP)
A set of all-original material, recorded on a Nashville indie label...
Leonard R. Willis "She Won't Stay Long Enough For Breakfast" (Tangerine, 1977) (LP)
The Vic Willis Trio "Stars Of The Grand Ole Opry" (First Generation, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
Well, you gotta give the old guy credit for trying to keep up with the times... John "Vic" Willis was a surviving member of the Willis Brothers, a second-string honkytonk/pop band whose heyday was in the 1950s and '60s, and who had been Opry members since the late '40s. After one brother died and another retired in the '70s, Vic Willis decided to go it alone and recruited Curtis Young and C. W. Mitchell to round out a vocal trio... They're backed here by Pete Drake's studio crew, including Hargus Robbins on piano, a bunch of usual suspect guitatists, Pete Drake and Jimmy Crawford on steel, and Vic Willis chugging away on accordion. The accordion is the sole reminder of his 1940s origins; the rest of the record has a contemporary late '70s/early '80s feel, with glossy arrangements and slick-sounding production, and songs by writers such as Rick Beresford and Hapgood Hardy. Includes a nice version of Dave Kirby's "Colorado," alongside covers of recent hits such as "Old Flames Can't Hold A Candle To You" and "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body." Willis seems to have been aiming at a Bellamy Brothers-style harmony vocals sound, and on a few tunes the trio sounds pretty strong, although when the other guys drop into the background, you can hear the creakiness in his voice. No worries, though: it's not a mind-blowing record, but it is a pretty credible effort for an old-timer of his era.
Willow "Willow" (20th Century Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Don Black & Dennis King)
Seventies soft-rock with some country influences... I've seen mentions that this trio was originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but haven't been able to completely confirm it yet.
Willow "Branching Out" (20th Century Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Don Black & Dennis King)
This one's definitely worth knowing about if you're a fan of 'Seventies soft-rock... The trio of Kevin Dolan, Barry Fitzgerald and William McSweeney took their cues from Crosby Stills & Nash, playing a far-flung, eclectic mix of country-rock, soft-psych sunshine pop and shiny AOR, sounding quite a bit like contemporary bands such as America and Poco. This album's kind of a mixed bag -- some tracks are really nice and hold up well over the years, although when the band aims for a more rugged rock-pop sound, the songs feel slightly brittle and the album begins to feel more scattershot. Still, the mellow tunes are nice and well-produced with lots of bright harmonies and sonic texture -- this disc could definitley be considered a lost gem of the era, though twangfans may have to work at it a little to hear the country influences.
Willow Creek "Willow Creek" (Arm Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Fee & Richards Bruno)
Aw, phooey. You figure with a name like Willow Creek, these guys would at least pick a little bluegrass, but as it turns out they were basically an amateur, acoustic-oriented soft-rock band. I suppose there's a reasonable case to be made placing them into the '70s "country rock" sound, but only in the same way you might also include bands like America or Firefall. There are some pop-rock covers -- of the Beatles, Neil Diamond and the Isley Brothers -- as well as the "Sunshine Medley" which mashes up Jimmie Davis and Jonathan Edwards, and a little country stuff from the Jimmie Rodgers and Carter Family catalogs that closes out the album. There are also four original songs by singer Michael Fee, who was clearly the leading force in this band. This didn't really wow me, but it's yet another example of "just plain folks" making their own music, back in simpler times. Several tracks were recorded live at Burnham's Opera House, a bar in St. Louis, Missouri where Fee had previously led the house band, then called the Bushwackers.
Bill Wilson "Songs From The Catalog Of Sonobeat Music Company" (Sonobeat, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Josey Sr. & Rim Kelly)
Midwestern singer-songwriter Bill Wilson was a Vietnam veteran, still enlisted in the Air Force when he made his way to Austin, Texas and recorded this set for the Sonobeat micro-label, run by Bill Josey and his son, Rim Kelly. The abum was a songwriter's demo, with only a hundred copies pressed, and most of these passed along to music business types. Eventually it paid off: Wilson did get signed to Columbia and cut the album Ever Changing Minstrel (reviewed below) although he eventually returned to his home in Indiana after a stint in Nashville, and settled into local-legend status. The Sonobeat record remains one of the more elusive items in the folk-freak pantheon, still in need of reissue nearly fifty years after its release... It's a solid set, just Wilson and his guitar, intoning with a very serious, brooding, thoughtul folkie urgency, recalling earlier acoustic pioneers such as Tim Hardin and Tom Rush. Before cutting his Columbia LP, Wilson worked on a few equally obscure Sonopress projects -- playing guitar on records by Herman Nelson and Mariani, as well as one album with his own group from Bloomington, the Pleasant Street Band.
Bill Wilson "Ever Changing Minstrel" (Columbia/Tompkins Square, 1973)
(Produced by Bob Johnston)
This is an Americana/folk-freak "lost gem" that really lives up to the hype... Bill Wilson, an Indiana unknown who recorded one lone album for Columbia Records in 1973, was a distinctive artist whose legacy was lost for four decades, since the distribution on the original album was so poor that it practically became a mirage. He's backed on this set of driving, hypnotic originals by a top studio crew under the direction of veteran producer Bob Johnston, a set punctuated by funky bass lines, soaring vocal choruses and slippery Southern rock guitars, but most of all by his own insistent acoustic guitar and half-chanted vocals. There's a definite "hippie" vibe to this album -- cosmic, spaced-out, prophetic lyrics and a searing, solipsistic urgency -- with a richly textured, eclectic early '70s sound. Perched halfway between Tony Joe White's swampy blues raps and the outlaw folk of Townes Van Zandt, Wilson had a knack for crafting sinuous, alluring refrains, choruslike verses which he would repeat over and over like liturgical chants. Indeed, several songs on here have religious themes, notably "Father Let Your Light Shine Down," a perky, soulful song that could have made it into the country gospel canon, had Wilson gotten a little more exposure. Other gems include the wind-blown folk tune "Rebecca," and "Black Cat Blues," a chain-gang ballad worthy of Robert Pete Williams. Wilson is an artist who's difficult to pin down stylistically, evoking Jerry Reed, Tom Rush and James Talley among others, and he definitely embodies the spirit of early '70s experimentation. If any of this piques your curiosity, by all means pick this up -- it's albums like this that reissue labels were made for.
Bill Wilson "Talking To Stars" (Bar-B-Q, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Bingham & Mark Hood)
Following the flaming fizzle of his major-label debut, Williams settled back into Midwestern life, recording this equally odd album in Bloomington, with what I assume was a largely local band. (BBQ label owner Mark Bingham was another record industry refugee who came back to Indiana after a stint in LA and helped record a number of odd, obscure artists in the '70s and '80... The liner notes list a "Mac MacNally" singing backup on one track, who I assume is a teenage Mac McAnally, future Nashville songwriter; I was too lazy to look up all the other folks...) Anyway, this starts out on a similar note to his '73 album, a folkie-twang set with a spiritual undercurrent -- touches of disco, both mocking and sincere, lick around the edges of a few songs, and the lyrics seem more concerned with romance than before. On Side Two, he gets into a heavily cosmic folkie vibe, reminiscent of Tim Hardin, Fred Neil and Tim Buckley, and that's groovy if that's what you're looking for... A personal, searching album and an intriguing slice of '70s DIY Americana, but far less country twang overall.
Bill Wilson "Made In The USA" (Redbud, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Wilson & Michael Ebert)
There are still some groovy touches here -- odd, personal lyrics, unusual arrangements -- though now Wilson seems to be all but a solo performer, thrumming away on the guitar and filling the void with his impassioned vocals. He compensates by coming up with surprising sonic textures and processing his guitar sounds in a Leo Kottke-esque way. Wilson had definitely become a voice in the wilderness and had fully embraced that role -- of all his albums, this is probably the least accessible or immediately appealing, but if you work at it a little bit, it has its rewards.
Dennis William Wilson "One Of Those People" (Elektra, 1979) (LP)
Songwriter Dennis William Wilson (by the way, not the same guy as the late Beach Boy, who died in 1983...) was also a session picker who popped up on several albums throughout the '70s...
Jerry Wilson "Going Home!" (ADA Records, 19--?) (LP)
Larry Jon Wilson "New Beginnings" (Monument, 1975)
(Produced by Rob Galbraith & Bruce Dees)
An alluring debut from this Americana auteur, a growling, smoky Southern spiritualist with a funky, swampy feel similar to Tony Joe White, with an echo of Bill Withers' brand of wistful, meditative nostalgia. (He also has the same rich Georgia drawl as Jerry Reed; on a tune or two you could almost mistake the two for one another...) This idiosyncratic album didn't dent the charts, but it has a bunch of songs on it that became staples of '70s freeform radio: I remember hearing "The Truth Ain't In You" and "Broomstraw Philosophers And Scuppernong Wine" on KFAT, lo those many years ago. Most of the musicians seems to be from the Muscle Shoals side of the tracks, though country sessionman Lloyd Green plays steel on several tracks. This record's a real find and one of the decade's true classics; a one-of-a-kinder, for sure. (Reissued on CD along with his second album, reviewed below.)
Larry Jon Wilson "Let Me Sing My Songs" (Monument, 1976)
(Produced by Rob Galbraith & Bruce Dees)
His second album has a much more disciplined, streamlined, more overtly pop-folk sound -- still bluesy but less Tony Joe White, more Fred Neil, if not quite Gordon Lightfoot. It's not quite as much fun, but it did yield Wilson's lone entry into the Country charts, the mellow "I Think I Feel A Hitchhike Comin' On," which didn't go very high, but did make it into the back end of the Top 100. The country element is even more in the background, though Weldon Myrick sits in as a session player, adding a few licks on the dobro. This isn't as striking a record as New Beginnings, but still worth a spin, particularly if you're drawn to Wilson as an auteur artist.
Larry Jon Wilson "Loose Change" (Monument, 1977) (LP)
Larry Jon Wilson "The Sojourner" (Monument, 1979) (LP)
Larry Jon Wilson "Larry Jon Wilson" (Sony-BMG/Drag City, 2008)
Larry Jon Wilson "New Beginnings/Let Me Sing My Songs" (Omni, 2011)
A swell twofer reissue, with Wilson's first two albums sandwiched together. I wonder if they'll reissue the other two Monument albums as well...(?)
Mura Wilson "From Here To Nashville" (Page One Records, 1969) (LP)
Page Wilson "Road Tired, Wired And Ready" (Signal Mountain, 1983) (LP)
A stalwart of Richmond, Virginia's country scene, singer Page Wilson and his band Reckless Abandon released a couple of albums in the '80s, with Wilson later slipping into a long career as a local radio DJ. This debut album has some pretty solid, hard-country honkytonk on it, nice stuff about drinking and dreaming of lost loves and heartache... Ultimately, Wilson's story was pretty sad: he had a hard time making ends meet in his later years and when he started having health problems, things really fell apart because he didn't have health insurance and couldn't get the care he needed. In 2011, he was found dead in his home, after having suffered from various medical problems... a tragedy, really. But he left some good music behind!
Page Wilson "Best Of The Situation" (Signal Mountain, 1985) (LP)
Page Wilson "Bridge Of Love" (Plan 9 Records, 1999)
A live album...
Smokey Wilson "Country Music Boogieman" (Expression Studios. 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Knight)
This late-'70s album was recorded in Las Vegas by Lone Star honkytonker Smokey Wilson (not to be confused with the West Coast bluesman of the same name) along with his band, Texas Highway, which toured the Southwest and the Rockies in theie heyday. It's all original material, kind of a perky blend of twang and rock, with a hint of R&B in the mix. Wilson, who settled down in Cuero, Texas, has recorded several albums later in life -- during the CD era -- but I think this was his only album from his '70s outlaw days.
Clayton Winchester "Clayton Winchester" (Talon International, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Tubert & John Kelton)
A pop-country hopeful from Isleton, California (near Sacramento) singer Clayton Winchester wasn't bad, although some of these songs get a little florid, particularly on the more ballad-y end of the spectrum. Winchester kinda reminds me of Moe Bandy -- he's working in a slick but rootsy style, with a hard-country/honkytonk undercurrent that was a little at odds with the high-tech sound coming out of Nashville at the time. But a lot of these tunes may catch your ear, and it's an interesting song selection. Winchester only wrote one of the tracks, "Good As Any Man," which closes the album -- in addition there are a couple of songs provided by Linda Darell and several more credited to producer Bob Tubert. I suppose this may have been one of those songwriter showcase albums that they make in Nashville -- sort of a glorified demo tape -- but it's nice that this guy got a chance to put himself on wax. Perhaps the most notable feature is that an up-and-coming Shelby Lynne sings back-up on a few tunes, just one year before her own debut in '89.
Jesse Winchester - see artist discography
Wisconsin Opry "Live Country Music Show: Wisconsin Dells' Newest Family Attraction" (1979?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Lake & Kent Kesterson)
A souvenir album from the Wisconsin Dells tourist attraction which in the late 1970s added a country music show to its entertainment menu... The band on this first album included three lead vocalists, Jerry Beschta, Julie Keller and Ellie Peters who take turns singing on a mix of classic oldies and newer tunes, including some hip and mildly surprising modern selections. Keller takes a pass at a cover of the old George Jones hit, "He Thinks I Still Care" and Emmylou Harris's "Boulder To Birmingham, while Peters closes the album out with a version of "The South's Gonna Do It Again." I think these folks were fairly young musicians who were probably happy to have the gig -- apparently they traveled to Missouri to record the album at the KBK/Earth City studios in Saint Louis.
Wisconsin Opry "Live" (1979?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Schulenberg)
As on the first album, the musicians at the Dells seem to have been allowed to play stuff they liked, and made some pretty hip selections: they cover several songs that Emmylou Harris recorded in the late '70s, along with some Hank Williams, a version of "Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens" (which I'm guessing they got off the Asleep At The Wheel version, not from Louis Jordan) as well as "Crazy," and... wait for it... wait..... wait... "Viola, An American Dream," which was a huge hit for Starland Vocal Band, but it also technically a Rodney Crowell song. The only distinctive track, really, is the novelty tune, "400 Hogs," which is sort of a shout-out to the 4H crowd. No release date on the record, but I'm guessing 1979, or maybe '80, based on the set list. Nothing special here, really, but I guess if you were at the Dells back then, possibly working as a candystriper, this might be a nice whiff of Dairyland nostalgia.
Wisconsin Opry "Live Country Music Show, v.3" (1985-?) (LP)
Jeff Wise & Darren Fay "Redneck Rock" (Charter Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ellis Miller)
Darren Fay and Jeff Wise were buddies from Southern California who hoofed it up to Vancouver, Washington to party down and cut a record at Ripcord Studios, with owner-engineer Gene Breeden adding electric guitar and pedal steel to a track or two, his son Danny Breeden on drums, Ellis Miller on bass, and of course, Fay and Wise strummin' guitars and singin' up a storm. There's also some guy named Mark who adds fiddle, flute, or saxophone -- as well as vocals -- to all but two tracks, and you can totally just hear those two guitar dudes, being all, "Oh, man, dude! You know we would put your name on the cover, too, just... like, y'know... you're not on those two tracks!" And Mark was all, "Well, can't we just come up with a band name?" Not like he's pissed, or anything. Anyway, these two (or is it three?) longhaired guys were just about as 1975 as you could get... Dig those shirts, dig that chest hair, and how do you stay that thin?? The dudes returned home, with Jeff Wise being considered an "unofficial mayor" of his hometown of Harbison Caynon, a rural community outside of San Diego where he grew up... As far as I know, this was their only album.
Jennifer Wise "Just Jennifer" (BOC/Audioloft, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by B. J. Carnahan)
Although she's pals with producer B. J. Carnahan -- who was pals with Johnny Cash -- this album has far less twang to it than you'd expect from inside the orbit of the Macks Creek, Missouri mom-n-pop indie scene... Basically, this is a fairly generic, low-energy set of wispy folk-pop, crooned by Ms. Wise in a Karen Carpenter-esque milkiness. She wrote most of the songs on here, including two co-written with Carnahan. She also covers "Welcome To My World," David Mallett's "Garden Song" (aka "Inch By Inch," most famously recorded by Pete Seeger) and the Hank Williams oldie, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which is the most country-sounding track on the record. The album was arranged by Brad Edwards, who presumably also plays on the sessions (no musician credits, alas...) Not much to get worked up about on this one, though I did like the pedal steel on the Hank song.
Cal Witham & Bonnie Witham "...Sing The Gospel Country Style" (Bolt Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Buzz Whittica, Buck Carney & Richard Nevue)
The old-time country duo of Cal & Bonnie started out as a secular act, but went gospel later in life, with Mr. Witham becoming an ordained Baptist minister, in Hanson, Mass. This album is mostly packed with standards, including a patriotic medley performed by John Phipps on the Wurlitzer organ. Producer Buck Carney plays dobro and guitar, and was apparently the co-owner of Bolt Records, which gives its address as the Lone Star Ranch, in Reeds Ferry, New Hampshire.
Al 'Porky' Witherow "Are You Satisfied?" (Cerylaine Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Al Curven)
Born in York, Pennsylvania, Alfred "Porky" Witherow (1935-2004) was a child musical prodigy in the 1940s, and while in his teens he toured with Bob Hope's USO show during the Korean War. Settling down in Vails Gate, New York, he cut a few singles and recorded some self-released albums but seems to have retired from music sometime in the 1970s, eventually moving to Florida, where he passed away in 2004. As far as I know, this was his first full album, recorded while Witherow was a regular on the WWVA "Jamboree" show.
Al 'Porky' Witherow "Singing Everybody's Favorites" (Arctic Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Al Witherow)
Al 'Porky' Witherow & Birdie Lee "Duo Dynamite" (Arctic Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Loryn Atwell)
Originally from West Virginia, "Miss Birdie Lee" was living in upstate New York when she joined singer Al Witherow's group, the Country Mystery, learning to play bass in order to fill an open slot in the band. On this album they mostly sang duets in a kind of old-school style reminiscent of country duos like Carl Butler & Pearl or the Mosbys, and less like the slicker-sounding stars of the day, such as Conway and Loretta. The band included Lee's husband Dallas Eugene on drums, bassist Roger Ray, fiddler June Eikard ("Canada's Lady Of The Fiddle"!), pianist Wayne Sexton, Dee Woodmore on lead guitar and Buddy Gregory playing pedal steel. The musical backing is also a little rough around the edges, in a way that I find appealing -- there was genuine twang in here, as well as a degree of amateurism that's kind of appealing, particuarly given the direction country was headed in at the time... Definitely worth a spin!
Ken Withington "Don't Try To Stop Me" (Focus Records, 1974) (LP)
Australian-born gospel singer Ken Withington (1945-1997) billed himself as "the singer from down under," though he emigrated to the US and became a citizen in 1977, eventually settling down in Kern County, California, performing both locally and on the national stage, including appearances at the Grando Ole Opry. Before his move to America, Withington also recorded in Australia, including this early '70s LP.
Ken Withington "He's Risen" (JCL/Jesus Christ Is Lord) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Beavers)
After moving to the States, Withington became one of the clients for Nashville songwriter Clyde Beavers' gospel-oriented JCL label, which produced Southern Gospel records in the late 1970s. Withington still had some twang to him, though, as seen in his inclusion of several Hank Williams songs...
Ken Withington "I Thank You God" (JCL/Jesus Christ Is Lord) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Beavers)
Kate Wolf - see artist discography
Allen Wolfe "So Hard To Believe" (Press Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Billings)
An aspiring songwriter from Fort Myers, Florida, Allen Wolfe took time out from his day job as a barber to self-release this album, which is packed with his own compositions... The testimonial liner notes are by Billie Jo Spears, who says she met him at a Florida "jam session..." The backup musicians are simply listed as the "Oak String Band," though no individual pickers are named.
Dean Wolfe & The Second Chapter "The Best Part Of..." (Sunset Records, 1973-?) (LP)
A local country-rocker from Indianapolis, Indiana who started out way back in the rockabilly era and got more and more country as time went on. Wolfe had kind of a Roy Orbison-ish vibe... and some truly crazy-looking hair (was it a wig...??) He recorded some early rock'n'roll singes, dating back at least to 1961, and throughout the decade led a band called the Redmen that played gigs in Indianapolis throughout the mid- to late-1960s... I suppose name of this "new" group from the early 'Seventies is what the whole "second chapter" thing refers to -- maybe he broke up the band for a while, and this was a reunion or something? Anyway, they covered pop-chart twangtunes such as Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party" and America's "Horse With No Name," which suggest a post-'72 date for this disc. At the time he recorded these sessions, Wolfe was working exclusively for a couple of Holiday Inn motels on I-70 with a band that included Keith Payne playing organ, drummer Don Jesse, and Harry Neidigh on bass. There was also some original material
Jimmy Wolford "The Hatfields And The McCoys" (Wolf Records, 1976) (LP)
A concept album about the fabled Hatfield and McCoy feud...
Austin Wood "...Swings Cross Country" (Sure Records, 1961-?) (LP)
The first LP by Missouri bandleader Austin Wood, who was one of the early musicians to set up shop in the Lake Of The Ozarks resort area. With a career dating back to 1948, Wood cut numerous singles in the 1940s and '50s and ran a venue near the Bagnell Dam originally called Austin's Nashville Opry. His Opry was booking major national stars well into the late '60s, when the name was changed to the Austin Wood Auditorium. He also held regional gigs on radio station KTTN as well as on KOMU-TV in nearby Columbia, both as a DJ and performer. His band, the Missouri Swingsters, recorded a variety of styles, including western swing, honky tonk and even some Bill Haley-esque rock'n'roll. As far as I know he only recorded two full albums, though many of his singles have been gathered on a couple of uber-collector best-ofs, including the CDR below...
Austin Wood "Songs To Remember" (Sure Records, 1966-?) (LP)
Austin Wood "...And His Missouri Swingsters" (BACM) (CD)
Billy Wood "Just What I Had In Mind" (Music City Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Curly Chalker & Jack Logan)
This has some of the most forthcoming liner notes I've ever seen for this kind of album... Wood describes how he'd spent the last twenty-plus years playing with his band, The Virginians, and that having hit the ripe old age of 42 and moving to New Jersey, he realized he was just plain tired of going out on tour and of all the hassles of playing live. So, he decided to make an album, mostly just for himself and his wife Lynn, to remember the good times he had playing in a country band. The disc is packed with cover tunes, including versions of "Today I Started Loving You Again," Eddie Rabbitt's "Two Dollars In The Juke Box," "Whiskey River," "Behind Closed Doors," and the like.
Bob Wood "Reflections Of My Mind" (MRC/Major Recording Company, 1974-?) (LP)
No biographical info about this guy, although he recorded for John Major's MRC label, located in Waynesboro, Virginia, and may have been backed by the house band. The repertoire is packed with contemporary, early '70s hits as well as country oldies -- "Country Roads," Tom T. Hall's "Old Dogs And Children And Watermelon Wine," Gene McClellan's "Put Your Hand In The Hand," along with Rex Griffin's "Last Letter" and Marty Robbins' "You Gave Me A Mountain." Three tracks are credited to Bob Wood, through his own BeniBob publishing company: "Love Meant For Me," "Through The Eyes Of A Fool" and the title track, "Reflections Of My Mind"; "Honey Hole," by Bennie Caudill, may also have been original to this album.
E. Zane Wood & Kathy Leech "Dance To Your Favorite Bullshit And Country Dysko Songs" (Magic Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Kathy Leech & J. Mattazano)
An ultra-obscuro set from Southern California... Although the album title was pretty tongue-in-cheek, the song selection is solid, with country-rockin' covers of J. J. Cale's "Living On Tulsa Time," "Lookin' For Love," and a couple of tunes from the Emmylou Harris catalog, Chuck Berry's "C'Est La Vie" and Rodney Crowell's "Ain't Livin' Long Like This." They also trot their way through oldies like "Cotton Eyed Joe," "Rocky Top" and "Under The Double Eagle." Not a lot of info about this duo, though Wood apparently released at least one single under his own name, back in the early '70s, a thing for MGM that may have been more rock-oriented material.
Little Joe Wood "With Alot Of Help From My Friends" (Sound 80 Studios, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Cal Hand & Tony Matlock)
Dunno much about this low-key country-rock/folk outing from Minnesota... Wood covers some hits and oldies, as well as some original material -- his pals included pedal steel player Cal Hand, who plays on the album and co-produces, though the other players seem pretty obscure. Anyone know more about this guy?
Nancy Wood "Imagine That" (Lovelight Music, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Byron Hill & Nancy Wood)
This double LP set collects work by Bremen, Germany's Renate Hildebrandt (aka Renate Kern) a European pop singer who "went country" in the early '80s in an effort to bump-start her flagging career. This was her second album working with Nashville songwriter-producer Byron Hill, and she sings a lot of his material as well as songs by fairly obscure writers such as Red Lane and Ava Aldridge, along with a couple by Marc Molen, who was affiliated with the Lovelight label, and I suspect was a German country artist as well. Although these tracks seldom really catch fire, it's a pretty solid set overall, with backing by a ton of Nashville studio pros: Sonny Garrish, Doyle Grisham, Fred Newell, Buddy Spicher, Chip Young and the like. Wood sings with a convincingly American accent, though she often seems a bit too controlled -- I imagine she sounded looser when singing auf Deutsch. Anyway, this is okay stuff, a little slick, but twangy enough for a spin or two. She also recorded an album under her German stage name -- Renate Kern -- in 1981, also with Byron Hill on board as producer.
Windy Wood & The Sons Of The West "Kings' Row: A Gallery Of Western Swing Masterpieces From The Reigns Of Bob Wills And Spade Cooley" (Rimstone, 1981) (LP)
Wow... there's an album title for you!! R. T. "Windy" Wood was a Texas-born western swing bandleader who played and recorded extensively over the decades, including a couple of singles way back in the 1950s, and several tape-only albums during the 'Seventies era of 8-tracks and cassettes. Wood, who passed away in 2004 at the age of eighty, was just a kid when guys like Milton Brown, Bob Wills, Leon McAuliffe and Spade Cooley were defining the western swing genre, but he learned fast and took up the baton, working with a number of veterans of old Bob Wills bands, as well as welcoming revivalists such as Ray Benson and Asleep At The Wheel. He recorded over a dozen albums, though only a handful originally came out on vinyl. Wood lived in Claude, Texas near the Panhandle until finally retiring to nearby Amarillo when he needed to move into town... But he was playing music right up to the end, mostly free shows for old-timers in rest homes and retirement communities who still enjoyed the old-time sounds.
Windy Wood "The Bob Wills Connection" (Rimstone, 1981) (LP)
Windy Wood "Classic Sound Of Western Swing" (Rimstone, 1983) (LP)
Windy Wood "West Texas Swing" (Sundown Records, 1986) (LP)
John Woodruff "Country Soul" (Woodcock, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Brian Webster)
Austin Woods "Swings Cross Country" (Sure Records, 1965) (LP)
A popular country deejay and musician in the Midwestern Ozarks, bandleader Austin Woods started his professional career in 1941 as a member of Saint Louis, Missouri's "Big Old Fashioned Barn Dance" show, moving several years later to a long-running gig as a radio host on KTTR in Rolla, MO. The station's general manager, Luther W. Martin, wrote the album's liner notes, attesting to Woods' longevity in the regional country scene. Though Woods had cut numerous 78s during the 'Forties and 'Fifties, this LP marked the occasion of him opening his own musical venue, Austin's Nashville Opry, near Bagwell Dam on the Lake Of The Ozarks. Unfortunately, there's no info included about where the album was recorded or with which musicians backing him up -- the from cover shows Woods posed next to his personal tour bus, which advertises his band, the Missouri Swingsters... Whether those guys are backing him on this album, I can't say for sure.
Austin Woods "...And His Missouri Swingsters" (BACM, 2012-?) (CD)
A CDR collection of Austin Woods' early recordings from the 1940s and '50s, including some original material as well as plenty of cover tunes, ranging from honkytonk to western swing...
Bob Woods "The Bob Woods Show" (Union Station/MCR Records & Tapes, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Dale McCoy & Jim Spence)
Not to be confused with the California-based songwriter, Bob Woods (below), Oklahoma bandleader Bob Woods (d. 2001) and his wife Carolyn owned a music store called Del City Music, which he opened in 1962. His band, which included his wife and two daughters, headlined a Vegas show at the Golden Nugget for several years in the late '60s and early '70s. On this album, he's backed by a vocal trio called The Parrish Sisters and a Waylon Jennings lookalike guitarist nicknamed "Tex" -- presumably the gals in the trio also included his kids, Lisa and Pam(?) Anyway, the disc is packed with current pop-country covers, stuff like "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "Behind Closed Doors," "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and even "Mama Don't Dance," by Loggins & Messina, as well as original material, including "I Let You" and "Why Couldn't Tomorrow Be Yesterday," both written by Joe Salathiel, who also cut a single with the Parrish Sisters with one of his songs on it. After several years in Vegas, Woods settled back down in Oklahoma City, where he played local shows and supported regional artists through his work as president and founder of the Oklahoma Country Music Association, and as owner of the Woodside Records label. One of the musicians he promoted was fiddler Byron Berline, who he worked with in the early '60s.
Bob Woods "Hillbilly Cadillac" (Bennett-House Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Marley Monson & Bob Hudson)
An indie outing from a California roots-rocker who crossed rockabilly and country twang... In the early '70s, Woods played western swing in a Sacramento-based band called Tokpela, and he blends some hillbilly swing in, along with trucker twang, bar-band R&B and hillbilly boogie. Good songs, decent picking, kind of an iffy singer, but still cool in the way his musical mix anticipates the hillbilly retro of "Americana" scene bands such as Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Boys, et. al. Woods plays lead guitar, and is backed by a wide cast of players, including pedal steel players Pat Finney and Dave Wren, Jerry McKinney on saxophone, Rex Coomes on fiddle and various harmonizers and backup singers. Nice energetic set, with most songs written by Bob Woods, three by Kevin Blackie Ferrell and a stripped-down rave-up rendition of Carl Perkins' "Soul Beat." Give 'er a spin!
Bob Woods "Don't Forget The Trains"
Bob Woods Trio "Railroad Money"
With Gene Parsons...
Bob Woods "This Town" (2011)
Lori Lee Woods "In Nashville" (Flash Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Miller)
As a teenager, Missouri native Lori Woods was in a KCMO-area all-girl band called The Hurricane Girls, where she played several instruments. In 1971 she went country and set out on her own, recording a single for the K-Ark label, and then fell into the orbit of producer Eddie Miller, who helped record this album. This appears to have been a Nashville publishing demo album, with Miller contributing two songs on Side One -- "Release Me" and "Climbing The Walls" -- along with a couple by R. Williams ("All Or Nothing" and "Be What You Want To Be"), one by Tom Ghent ("Till Sunrise"), and covers of "Rocky Top" and "Crazy Arms." Ms. Woods also got to record three of her own songs, "Best Thing," "Charley Baby" and "Charleston," which were all tucked away at the end of Side Two. Sadly, there's no info on the recording date or the musicians involved, but I'm guessing 1972, as that was the year she earned a mention in Billboard as an up-and-coming new artist.
Lori Lee Woods "Touch Me (If You Care)" (Legs Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Col. David Mathes)
Steve Woods & The Slingshot Band "Highway Bound" (Mercury, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Butler & Billy Sherrill)
A pretty dull album that never came close to the charts, although I'm not sure why -- it's not that different than other stuff that did well at the time. Sort of a Johnny Lee-meets-The Oak Ridge Boys vibe here, with uninspired though competent backing by a band that included fiddler/guitarist Steve Hill, a talented veteran of the Texas twang scene who later went on to work with Chris Hillman and the Desert Rose Band. This album's a dud, though, mostly because of the singer. My guess is once they had it in the can and realized it was a stiff, the label just 86-ed the promotions and let it die a quiet death. If you really, really are into the mellower end of the early '80s country sound, you could check this out, but there's certainly better stuff out there.
Woodstock Mountains Revue "Music Among Friends" (Rounder Records, 1972) (LP)
This free-floating alamgamation of folkies, post-folkies, bluegrassers and wandering roots musicians included such luminaries as Pat Alger, Eric Andersen, Larry Campbell, John Herald, banjo whiz Bill Keith, jugband pop star John Sebastian, and brothers Artie & Happy Traum... to name a few! Sometimes also called "Mud Acres," the group was sort of a fraternal lodge for mellow, super-talented acoustic musicians -- they were neighbors in upstate New York, and over the course of the years released several albums, all of which are packed with resonant little goodies...
Woodstock Mountains Revue "Music From Mud Acres" (Rounder Records, 1974) (CD & MP3)
Woodstock Mountains Revue "More Music From Mud Acres" (Rounder Records, 1977) (LP)
Woodstock Mountains Revue "Pretty Lucky" (Rounder Records, 1978) (LP)
Woodstock Mountains Revue "Back To Mud Acres" (Rounder Records, 1981) (LP)
Jack Worthington "The Jack Worthington Show" (NWI Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by David Mathew)
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, truck driver Jack Worthington went from singing along to old Hank Williams songs to forming a band called the Gearjammers, anchored by lead guitarist Bob Saloum and steel player Ron Stephens. He seems to have been a rather democratically inclined fellow, singing lead on only three of the tracks, while sharing the spotlight with Dick Carson, Dave Eberly, Linda Pullen, Jimmy Walker and other locals... The repertoire is all oldies and standards, stuff like "Six Days On The Road," "Wild Side Of Life," "Truck Driving Man" and "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me," as well as a couple of more pop/jazz oriented tunes such as "Harlem Nocturne" and "Yakety Sax." Seems like a pretty good-natured, unpretentious get-together all around... According to some reports, Mr. Worthington remained in Oregon and was still playing shows at local cafes and other venues near Coos Bay, as late as 2015... any info is of course always welcome!
The Wray Brothers Band "Cowboy Sangers" (CIS Northwest, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Messick & Dave Mathew)
This album is notable as the launching pad for the career of 1990s Top Forty star Collin Raye, an Arkansas native whose birth name was Floyd Elliot Wray. He was going by the name Bubba Wray at the time, and had apparently moved to Portland, Oregon with his brother Scott, who he performed with up until the decade's end. Though they started out as indie artists, the Wrays also took a fling at Nashville, recording a few singles for Mercury Records in the late '80s. This early album looks super-twangy and ultra-indie, but it's mostly pretty slick sounding, with a heavy debt towards the Eagles/ They do make a few nods at Asleep At The Wheel-style western swing and Johnny Cash-ish hillbilly twang (on the album's one cover song, a version of Jimmie Skinner's "Doin' My Time") but the smooth sound Raye would excel at a decade later is readily detected on this disc. The album's many originals include "Briars In Her Britches," "Country Sangers," "Country By-God Music," with Scott Wray being the main songwriter. It's country (poppy country) with a few goofy instruments in the mix -- Moog, synths, orchestra bells, woodblocks -- as well as a banjo and pedal steel, but it's also a solid album, a cut above most records made at this level. No surprise that Collin Raye made it big in Nashville, though one wonders why the brothers didn't make it as a duo.
Vernon Wray "Wasted" (Vermillion Records, 1972)
A stunning ultra-indie release from Vernon Wray, the older brother of rock guitar pioneer Link Wray, who in the early 1970s dropped out for a while and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he recorded and self-released two intense and deeply personal albums. The second record, Wasted, was originally only pressed in a few hundred copies, which he sold at local gigs. It's a remarkable album, and a real find for hardcore fans of hippie-era country, with Wray (backed by his brothers) churning through mournful, contemplative, moody folk and tough, rugged country gems -- it's a real outsider-art album, and a compelling, cohesive statement by an artist with a truly singular vision. There's little of the brash, post-rockabilly proto-grunge of the Wraymen recordings, though the same level of intensity is there, just in a seemingly quieter mode. Highly recommended.
B. J. Wright "B. J. Wright's First Album" (NSD/Soundwaves, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ronnie McDowell, Joe Gibson & Noel Gibson)
B. J. Wright was from Portland, Tennessee and recorded this album in Nashville, with Top Forty star Ronnie McDowell as his patron -- McDowell co-produced the album, wrote the liner notes, and contributes one song ("You Loved The Devil Out Of Me.") About half the songs are B. J. Wright originals, and I'm just gonna go out on a limb and say that the song, "J.R." was related to the Dallas TV show. This album seems to have taken a long time to put together, with sessions at four different studios and contributions from a variety of studio musicians, probably over a series of sessions.
The Wright Brothers Overland Stage Company "Cornfield Cowboys" (Wright & Perry Record Company, 1975) (LP)
Jerry Wright "My Kind Of Country" (Raboulliet Records) (LP)
From Simonton, Texas...
John Lincoln Wright - see artist discography
T. Z. Wright "T. Z. Wright" (1977) (LP)
Singer-songwriter T. Z. Wright originally hails from Oklahoma, but was living in New Mexico when he cut this album, leading the house band at a place called the Motherlode, in Red River... This album features a bunch of original material, and some swell pedal steel guitar throughout... He even kinda reminds me of Dick Feller!
Bob Wurst & The Countrified "Any Old Song" (New Image) (LP)
This Toledo, Ohio band featured lead vocals by Bob Wurst, with backing by his peeps, Jerry Lavender, Rick Spitler and Mark Hall (a group which, one might assume, had more than its fair share of teasing during their grade school days...) Anyway, this is solidly mediocre bar-band material: they play some rootsy stuff, songs like "Tulsa Time," "Take This Job And Shove It," and "The Auctioneer," as well as plenty of scary '70s pop songs, such as "You Needed Me" and "Three Times A Lady" -- whatever was popular at the time. So, eek, maybe just a little. The vocals and the picking are both a little wobbly, but like many of these kinds of records, it's a true portrait of a working band, "real folks," way beneath the Nashville radar. These guys also apparently toured with fellow Ohio twangster Gary Shope, who was a popular regional entertainer, but doesn't seem to have recorded any albums himself. Wurst also recorded an album with the Toledo band, Buckeye, with songwriter Roger Ball.
Billy Wyatt "On Dreams Alone" (Manaoa) (LP)
The Wyatt Brothers "From The Mountains To The World" (Wyatt Records, 1983) (LP)
Johnny Wyatt "One Who Cares" (Hill Country Records, 1976) (LP)
Bandleader Johnny Wyatt was a regional performer who played throughout the South and Southwest, eventually hanging his hat in Trinidad, Colorado which was his center of operations for most of the '70s. Later in the decade he also recorded a couple of singles on his own label, Wyatt Records, eventually retiring in Las Vegas. I believe this was his only LP. (Thanks to the great regional blog, Pueblo City Limits for info on this artist.)
Lee Wyatt "Candlelight" (NSD/AMI Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Skip McQuinn & Jim Prater)
This is one of those albums that's found itself in the crosshairs of the Hipstertown irony police, mocked online and elsewhere for its supposedly goofy album art. I couldn't find any info about Lee Wyatt and his wife June, the couple that wrote most of the songs on this album, but I assume it's her picture on the front cover that has 'em all laughing: Like, omigod! who could possibly put some old lady on their album cover?!? Personally, I think it's kind of sweet. Regardless of the music within, Mr. Wyatt's earnest affection for his wife is plain as day, and well, maybe some people just can't handle something that straightforward and sincere. Whatevs. Anyway, this album was singled out for teasing in the book Enjoy The Experience, and has echoed around online ever since. If you ask me, though, maybe a better target would be the music within, particularly tunes with such lofty titles as "Mistaken Words," "You Walk Through My Soul" and "You Change With A Cough." He also covers a few country classics, such as George Morgan's "Hello Pretty Lady," Jimmie Rodgers' "T For Texas" and Stonewall Jackson's "Don't Be Angry." If anyone out there has info about this aborable old couple, feel free to get in touch -- I'm all ears!
Wyld Oats "Stage One" (1979) (LP)
This was a band from Schaumburg, Illinois... Other than that I don't have much info on them.
Wynn & John "Live At The Casa Nova" (Casa Nova Records, 197--?) (LP)
This mustachioed disco-era duo may actually have been a trio -- there's some unidentified gal pictured singing with them on the back cover -- but regardless, they seem to have been the house band for a while at the Casa Nova nightclub in Ypsilanti, Michigan sometime in the early-to-mid 1970s. They cover popular country standards such as "Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High" and "Okie From Muskogee," as well as straight-up pop songs like "I Believe In Music," "Alone Again (Naturally)" and even a version of "Ebb Tide." So, they were a working band in the true bar-music tradition, playing what folks wanted to hear while slouched over their beers... Anyone out there know more about these guys?
Ron Wynne "From The Heart" (Jetisson Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Prater & Fred Martin)
This Colorado honkytonker includes two of his own songs, "You Call The Shots" and "The Only One," along with covers of classics by Willie Nelson, Terry Fell, Hank Cochran and others...
Gail Wynters "A Girl For All Seasons" (Hickory, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Wesley Rose)
Wow - what a weird record. I mean, it's on the Hickory label, and it's got this groovy, Mod cover art... I saw several country songs listed on the credits, along with a few '60s pop vocal hits, and Ray Stevens of all people doing the arrangements, so I thought, okay I'll bite. But there ain't no twang on this thang: Ms. Wynters, born Nancy Gail Shivel, was a preacher's daughter from rural Kentucky who developed a love of jazz and blues vocals... Here, styles herself as a white-girl soul singer, ala Dusty Springfield, and the arrangements are lavish, baroque '60s pop with a heavy dose of bluesy Northern Soul... Hardly what you'd expect on old Roy Acuff's label! Wynters frequently slides into a low, growling Shirley Bassey/Eartha Kitt mode, and while there are some "country" songs on here, they are bent out of recognition into big, brassy pop numbers -- probably the weirdest song on here is the brassy, overwrought arrangement of the Louvin Brothers' sweet, demure ballad, "When I Stop Dreaming." But even as a devoted obscuro-twang fan, I just couldn't find a rationale for hanging on to this one... I guess, though, this wasn't just some weird vanity record -- Wynters recorded for several labels and made a modest reputation for herself as a jazz-standards stylist. This album appears to have been just a matter of circumstance, with Wesley Rose willing to test the waters for more pop-oriented material, and although this was her first album, it's the only one that has any tangential conenction to country or Nashville.
Wyvon "Wyvon" (Gervasi Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Shook)
This Texas honkytonk crooner's full name is Wyvon Alexander, and this record is pretty darn good. Robust, soulful, and packed with original material, this is a nice mix of hard-edged barroom ballads and smoother commercial country. This might appeal to fans of Ed Bruce, Vern Gosdin or Waylon Jennings -- kind of in that general territory. Definitely worth a spin!
Hick Music Index