Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Starday Extended-Play (EP) Series on Back to the Country

Tomorrow (10/13) I'll be hosting Back to the Country again on WORT 89.9 FM from 9am to noon and the theme this week will be the elusive and fantastic Starday Extended-Play (EP) Series.

Back when I was writing The Starday Story, I included a Record Listing Supplement in the back of the book that included all of the Starday releases that I could verify. Unfortunately, by the time of publication, I could only verify about 1/4 of the EPs. Some of them are just impossibly rare! Rather than include a mostly blank listing, I decided not to include it in the book.

Fast forward 10 years and I've finally tracked down all but 5 of the 140+ Starday EPs. They include some of the best bluegrass gospel recordings Starday ever issued by John Reedy, Jimmie Williams and Red Ellis, Don & Earl, Charlie Moore, Vern & Ray, Hoyt Scoggins, Jim & Jesse, and more. To celebrate, I've put together a complete Starday EP Record Listing as I would have liked to include in the book and I've planned a 3-hour program to feature the very best of the Starday EP Series.

To view and/or download the Starday EP Series PDF, go here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jqNwwzxjfoT3C1MjgFpBtcBvsaDtGLUG/view?usp=sharing and to listen to the show tomorrow morning, tune in to 89.9 FM or stream it via www.wortfm.org.

Friday, October 1, 2021

RIP Betty Amos

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that my friend Betty Amos passed away yesterday morning. Betty was an accomplished singer, hit songwriter, and just the second woman recorded playing three-finger Scruggs-style banjo. She was a member of the Carlisles in the early '50s and sang on many of their hit records like "Knot Hole," "Iz Zat You Myrtle?," "Rattlesnake Daddy" and others. She was a solo star on the Louisiana Hayride in the mid '50s and made it very clear to me that Elvis Presley was a guest on HER segment of the Hayride and not the other way around. In the early '60s she formed a trio with her sister Jean and best friend Judy Lee (and sometimes a quartet with Gloria Belle) and recorded several incredible bluegrass and fuzz-country sides for Starday Records.

I first interviewed Betty and Judy and Jean back in 2005 when I was researching The Starday Story and I met up with them every year since to pick and sing and catch up on our lives. Betty was always hilarious, always immensely talented, always willing to pick and sing a few tunes, and always interested in my life and supportive of my projects.

A few years back it was a lifetime highlight when I got to sing alongside her and Judy and Jean for the Nate Gibson & the Stars of Starday project (Bear Family Records). We sang two of my favorite Betty Amos originals: "Eighteen Wheels A Rolling" and "Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)." I'm so grateful we got to take our private pickin' parties into the studio and I send my eternal thanks to Kenny Vaughan, Chris Scruggs, Dave Roe, and Pete Finney for helping to make it happen.

I will greatly miss Betty pretend strangling me, yodeling up a storm, harmonizing on our favorite gospel tunes, making her sister Jean drive over to Judy Lee's place to sing harmony with us (because we need the full trio!), and generally telling hilarious and amazing stories about learning karate and kicking butt while on tour in the '50s and '60s, surviving plane crashes in Alaska, touring with the Carlisles, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, and others, signing on with the Wheeling Jamboree, and playing just about every instrument with strings on it.

My many thanks (and condolences) to her best friend and manager Judy Lee for the heads up and for so many years of promoting Betty. I'm forever grateful for Betty's music and friendship and wish her unending peace and country music serenades.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

A Country Music EVENT on WORT 89.9 FM!

Tomorrow morning is the 2nd Wednesday of the month which means I’ll be back on WORT hosting Back to the Country from 9-noon CST. This week I’ll be taking an in-depth look into one of my very favorite record labels—EVENT RECORDS from Westbrook, ME. Operating from 1956-1961, Event captured some of the best bluegrass ever made by The Lilly Bros w/ Don Stover and Charlie Bailey, made some of the earliest (and best) recordings of Dick Curless and 15-year old guitar phenom Lenny Breau, and brilliantly documented a vibrant New England country music scene in the late ‘50s that included artists like Roy Aldridge, Hal Lone Pine, Betty Cody, Slim Coxx, Curtis Johnson, Harold Carter, Smokey Val, Clyde and Willie Joy, Gene Hooper, Jimmy Copeland, and many more.

Bear Family Records has released deep dives into the early music career of Event co-founder Al Hawkes (see: Allerton & Alton—Black, White & Bluegrass) and the extensive Event Records rockabilly catalog (see: That’ll Flat Git It Vol. 20), but Wednesday’s show will focus on the rich country music contributions of Event Records with many released and unreleased gems from the Event vaults.

Al was a dear friend of mine, a pioneer bluegrass musician, an electronics wizard, and a passionate country music collector and archivist. I’m mighty honored to present a show that focuses on his recorded country music and bluegrass legacy and hope y’all can tune in to hear more of my very favorite records! Tune in via 89.9FM in Southern WI or streaming live via wortfm.org

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

I'm Bringing Boston in the 90s50s to WORT in 2020s

Tomorrow morning I'll be back on the radio hosting Back to the Country on WORT 89.9 FM from 9:00-noon CST (and streaming at wortfm.org). What's the theme this week, you ask?

Well, for several months now my co-host Bill C. Malone has asked me to do a show where I play my very favorite records. "Well," I thought, "that's what I do every single month." But I think Bill was hoping to hear a more personal perspective on why I love the records that I love, so tomorrow I'll tell the story of how I came to love country music--specifically, by living in Boston, MA in the 90s50s.
For three hours I'll play my favorite Boston 90s50s records by the Racketeers, the Raging Teens, Lenny & the Piss Poor Boys, the Spurs, King Memphis, the Country Bumpkins, Jonathan Richman, and many more; Unreleased demos by the Two Timin' Three, the Bombastics, the Coachmen, Blood Sweat & Gears, and more; I'll regale you with tales of punk, ska, surf, garage, rockabilly, and honky-tonk bands intertwining; and I'll even share some of my embarrassing 1997 interview snippets with Link Wray, Los Straitjackets, and the Racketeers.

These were the tunes and bands that shaped my love for American roots music, that kept me dancing throughout my teens and beyond, and that inspired me to take up music making myself. To quote Peter Guralnick in Lost Highway, discovering the 90s50s in Boston was like "finding the bluebird of happiness on my back door" (though he found his "bluebird of happiness" by discovering Sleepy LaBeef outside of Boston in the 1970s) and I'm excited to share my path of musical discovery with you!

And for anyone in the Madison, WI area, I hope you'll come out to the Memorial Union Terrace on Thursday evening (7-9:00pm) for a free, outdoor show where and the Honky-Tonk Hodags can play some of these songs for you in person!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Nate Gibson & the Honky-Tonk Hodags 8/12 7pm @Memorial Union Terrace

Internationally-renowned honky-tonk musician and country music scholar Nate Gibson will be performing at the Memorial Union Terrace on Thursday August 12th from 7-9:00pm.
Gibson’s book, The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built, won the 2012 Belmont Book Award for Best Book on Country Music and his recordings have been released on Bear Family Records (Germany), Swelltune Records, Goofin’ Records (Finland), and Cow Island Music. Gibson’s latest release, Nate Gibson & the Stars of Starday, features him duetting with 14 country music stars since the 1950s and ‘60s—accompanied by Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Stuart and members of his Fabulous Superlatives band—and was selected by Country Music People magazine as one of the “Top 10 Country Music Albums of 2019.”
Gibson is also a folklorist, ethnomusicologist, and archivist at UW–Madison and co-hosts WORT’s Back to the Country Wednesday morning radio program. He will be joined on stage by the Honky-Tonk Hodags, Wisconsin’s most beloved and fearsome purveyors of rockin’ roots and country music.

Poster by Nate Gibson
Hodag Illustration by Fred Chao

Event sponsored by WUD Music 

More details at: https://union.wisc.edu/events-and-activities/event-calendar/event/nate-gibson-and-the-honky-tonk-hodags/

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Back to the Country 7/14 - Country Music Jingles

Howdy Friends, tomorrow is the 2nd Wednesday of the month which means I'll be back on WORT 89.9fm hosting Back to the Country. This week's theme is the Country Music Jingle--exploring 100+ years of country music and corporate sponsorship. I'll be playing 3 hours of rarely heard jingles by Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, the Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, George Jones, Johnny Horton, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, and whole bunch more including some Starday jingle demos never before broadcast and some rare Rex Trailer jingles, too!

For legal reasons I can't play any of the cigarette jingles I've uncovered, but I'm mighty grateful to the WORT legal team for allowing me to play all the other country music jingles about bread, beer, soda, bicycles, cars, hot dogs, guitars, soap, cereal, washing machines, jeans, paint, pesticide, and just about everything else under the sun.

Neither myself nor WORT are endorsing any of the products advertised during the show, but I believe these jingles have historic and educational value, not to mention the enormous earworm potentical, and I sure hope y'all dig 'em as much as I do. Tune in this Wednesday morning (tomorrow) from 9am-noon CST via 89.9fm, the WORT app, or streaming at www.wortfm.org

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Back to the Country: This week's theme is Starday Custom Pressings

Howdy Friends. Tomorrow is the 2nd Wednesday of the month which means, I'm back on the air, baby! I'll be hosting Back to the Country again from 9am-noon CST and this time around I'll be playing and discussing my very favorite Starday Custom Pressings!

From 1954-1966, Starday Records ran a country-oriented vanity pressing service that released some really raucous rockabilly, boppin' country, drivin' bluegrass, wild western swing, and some of the earliest recordings of Willie Nelson, Link Wray, J.J. Cale, Lonnie Irving, The Lewis Family, and many more. I know I say it all the time, but these are REALLY my favorite records. Check it out in Southern Wisconsin via WORT 89.9 FM or streaming via wortfm.org

Photo of Willie Nelson and I discussing his Starday custom release at Summerfest 2019 in Milwaukee, credit Kevin Smith