While researching The Starday Story—The House That Country Music Built (by Nathan D. Gibson with Don Pierce and due to be released in January 2011), I began collecting Starday records so that I might be able to hear the music I was writing about. That simple effort quickly turned into a decade-long obsession. So far I have mapped out the next 30 blogs, each blog filling one hour of glorious Starday music revolving a specific topic. The goal is to not allow any overlap of songs under different blogs, though there are several different categories in which some of these songs could be used. I thought I would start off my musical blog with the simplest of sentiments, I LOVE Starday Records! Every song in this week’s collection of ditties uses the word “love” in the title and is culled from the Starday label and its subsidiaries (including Nashville Records, Mercury-Starday, Dixie Hillbilly Hit Parade records, Dixie custom records, the Dixie label, Hollywood Records, etc.).
Lastly, I should add that I am absolutely amazed at how long it has taken me to put this first music blog together. Still, I hope to be able to keep up with the once a week schedule. There is a lot of great music from the Starday vaults and it deserves to be heard!
1. Roger Miller – Can’t Stop Loving You
Our first tune was recorded in 1957 and is Roger Miller’s second ever release (45-356). The track was recorded in Houston, Texas and I was happy to send in a scan of the record label to Bear Family for their recent release of Miller’s earliest material. As mentioned in Deke Dickerson’s liner notes, this record is extremely rare and many believed that it had never been released. It was, however, and was also later included in Starday LP 318 (Wild Child) released in the mid 1960s to capitalize on Miller’s Smash successes.
2. Jim & Jesse – I’ll Love Nobody But You
Don Pierce was a huge bluegrass fan and in the late 1950s he went around picking up recordings from many of the top bluegrass acts on the circuit. The Starday recordings made by Jim & Jesse are among their best and among my favorite bluegrass recordings. Jesse was a great help to me during my research and sent me a great photo of the 1958 group that recorded the early Starday material. This particular song was released as 45-458 and was also included on one of Pierce’s earliest bluegrass compilations, LP 115: The Bluegrass Special.
3. Curly Fox & Texas Ruby – I Don’t Love Nobody
Curly Fox & Texas Ruby performed on the Opry in the ‘30s, ‘40s and 1960s. In 1963, Don Pierce persuaded the couple to record one album for Starday (SLP 235, Fantastic Fiddlin’ Fun and Songs). Hoss Linneman, who engineered the session, remembered that Ruby’s breath always reeked of garlic. I decided not to put that in the book… Shortly after this recording, Ruby passed away in a house fire while Curly was performing at the Opry.
4. Mike Miller & Jack Casey & the Stone Mountain Boys – Love Me
I don’t know too much about this group. They had some songs out on the Starday EP series (mostly gospel stuff) and also on the Nashville label (a subsidiary label to Starday). I bought this 45 on eBay because the flip side (Nashville 45-5051) was ‘Outer Space Blues’ and I thought that sounded cool. Turns out, ‘Love Me’ is the far better side and is one of my favorite 45s on the Nashville label (which will be featured in an upcoming blog).
5. Jimmy Dean – Nothin’ Can Stop My Love
Though I’m not a very big fan of his sausage, I absolutely love Jimmy Dean’s honky-tonk music! Dean’s recording career took off when Don Pierce gave him a rough demo of ‘Bummin Around’ while they were both at 4-Star. D. Kilpatrick then signed the up-and-coming star to the Mercury label and when Starday and Mercury where merged (1957), Pierce again produced Dean. Aside from three stellar 45s (this one was Mercury-Starday 71240), Mercury-Starday also released Dean’s first LP (MG20319, Jimmy Dean Sings His Television Favorites), from which this song was also included. I was fortunate enough to speak with Dean about this phase in his career and he was surprisingly critical, almost embarrassed by these recordings. Even so, I love this stuff! If you’re looking for an entertaining read, I highly recommend Dean’s autobiography: Thirty Years of Sausage, Fifty Years of Ham.
6. Gene Terry & his Kool Kats –The Woman I Love
Gene Terry was born in LA but grew up in Port Arthur Texas. His recordings also appear on Savoy and Goldband, but this tune, from the Dixie custom label (Rock-It 598), is one of the best! Pure rockabilly greatness!
7. Orangie Ray Hubbard – Sweet Love
Speaking of rockabilly greatness, here is the “Holy Grail of Rockabilly Music,” as referenced by Hubbard in an interview I had with him. I had a great chat with Orangie Ray while researching the Starday custom Dixie label (this was Dixie 662) and I hope to make it out to Cincinnati one day to meet him in person. I can’t thank him enough for his story in the Starday book. This track is also available on the Ace Records compilation of Starday-Dixie rockabilly.
8. Lonnie Irving – An Old Fashioned Love
Lonnie only recorded six tunes for the Starday label (two of which previously appeared on the Dixie custom label) and they are all fantastic. This song comes from 45-505. Though his most famous song was ‘Pinball Machine,’ the others also deserve equal attention. Lonnie’s brother, Eddy, sent me some wonderful pictures of Lonnie to be included in the Starday book and he was also kind enough to send me some of his own recordings covering Lonnie’s music. I will likely play a song from those demos in a later blog. For now, enjoy Lonnie, backed by Jim Eanes’ band.
9. The Love Brothers – Baby, I’ll Never Let You Go
This is one of my greatest record finds ever. I found this 45 for $4 in a Lincoln, Nebraska record shop. Oh, Baby! Even though the word “love” isn’t in the song title, I thought the boy’s name justified their existence in this blog. This is one of my favorites from the Starday custom Dixie label (By-Love 843).
10. Howard Mayberry & the Sangomon Boys – This Just Can’t Be Puppy Love
Back in 2004 this 45 went on eBay for $255. I didn’t win it. I haven’t seen one since. Rare, but rockin! I instead first heard this song on some rockabilly compilation. Regrettably, I know very little about Howard Mayberry. This is from the Dixie custom series (Dixie 908).
11. Carl Story – You Don’t Love God (If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor)
If you’re a fan of current bluegrass music, you might be more familiar with Rhonda Vincent’s cover of this classic Carl Story tune. Prior to recording for Starday, Story recorded a large amount of old-time gospel music for Mercury, as well as a brief period of secular tunes for Columbia. Once Mercury and Starday merged, Story reformed the Rambling Mountaineers as a bluegrass ensemble and recorded solely bluegrass from then on. Don Pierce nicknamed Story ‘The Father of Bluegrass Gospel’ and this tune appeared on SLP 219, Mighty Close To Heaven.
12. Dee Mullins – Oh Oh, I’m Falling In Love Again
This particular track comes from the Dixie Hillbilly Hit Parade Series, not the Dixie custom label. The Hillbilly Hit Parade version of Dixie was typically no-name artists (or in many cases un-credited stars) covering the hit songs of the day. The artists never received royalties for these, but usually were paid $5-$10 per session. This is Dee Mullins covering the popular Jimmie Rodgers 1958 hit song from Dixie 45-530.
13. Jimmy Blakley – Standing In Line (For Your Love)
Here’s a great track from Jimmy Blakley, brother of Starday rockabilly artist Cliff Blakley. Jimmy and his wife Dorothy were all over the early Starday days, recording for the Starday main label, the Mercury-Starday label, the Dixie Hillbilly Hit Parade sessions as well as recording his own Dixie custom singles, from which this song derives (Starday custom 582). Their son, Jimmy L. Blakley, is also a country musician and has his own music on his myspace page.
14. Ken Clark – Ho Ho Love ‘Em Joe
Like the Blakley’s, Clark was all over Starday. He recorded on the main label, for the Dixie custom label, the Nashville subsidiary and appeared on numerous bluegrass compilation albums. His songs were recorded by several Starday artists including Cowboy Copas, Hylo Brown, Kenny Roberts and others. This song comes from his Dixie custom pressing (Starday custom 631).
15. The Flatt Mountain Boys – I Could Love You (All the Time)
The Flatt Mountain Boys were an eastern Kentucky band which included Kenny Baker, who later played with Bill Monroe, on fiddle. This song was recorded in 1954 and originally released on the Arrow label. After showing promise, it was picked up by Starday and released in either late ’56 or early ’57, making it one of the first bluegrass songs to appear on the Starday label as 45-307.
16. Floyd Tillman – I Love You So Much It Hurts
I think Floyd was perhaps the greatest song stylist in country music (or at least right up there with Lefty Frizzell and George Jones). I remember telling D. Kilpatrick that my band would be recording in Nashville one time, and he told me to cover some of Floyd’s songs in his style. He said I’d be guaranteed a hit… Well, I don’t doubt that the public would welcome such a song stylist, I just doubt that I could be the one to do it. This is a rerecording of Floyd’s biggest hit and comes from Starday SLP 310, Let’s Make Memories, which was originally issued on the Cimarron label.
17. Frankie Miller – Maybe You Would Love Me Then
Frankie Miller is one of the nicest personas in country music! I am grateful to him for his encouragement and interviews in the writing process. He is one of the many Don Pierce advocates who are pushing to see the former Starday President and Co-Founder entered into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Recently, Bear Family reissued all of Frankie’s Starday sides and I highly recommend picking up the 3-CD set. His Columbia stuff has been reissued on Bear Family as well and Frankie is still making great music on the Cowboy Capitol label. This particular track comes from his second Starday LP, SLP199, The True Country Style of Frankie Miller.
18. George Jones – ‘Cause I Love You
Classic Starday-era George Jones. I’m not sure I need to say much more. This was from Jones’ Dixie hillbilly hit parade sessions, when he was covering other artist’s songs (in this case, Webb Pierce) for a flat rate per session. Though Jones didn’t speak too highly of these recordings in our interview, I still see their merit. As his recording successes continued with Mercury, Pierce rehashed some of these “cover” sessions with his Starday and Mercury recordings and issued them in album form. This particular title comes from Jones’ second Starday LP, SLP 125, The Crown Prince of Country Music.
19. Joe & Rose Lee Maphis – I Don’t Love Nobody But You
Joe Maphis is my favorite picker of all-time; I just can’t get enough of that Mosrite doubleneck picking. In addition, Rose Lee just might be the sweetest woman alive. If I could include a song from them in every blog I would. Rose Lee is the person who gave me Don Pierce’s phone number and arranged for our meeting. For that, I am forever grateful. After recording for Okeh, Lariat, Columbia and Capitol, Pierce signed the duo to Starday Records. This track comes from their first Starday album, SLP 286, Mr. and Mrs. Country Music.
20. Johnny Bond – Love Song In 32 Bars
Johnny Bond scored the biggest hit of his career while on Starday with ’10 Little Bottles.’ Following that hit, which Pierce hated interestingly enough, Bond cut several albums of drinking songs hoping to cash in on the success of the previous hit. Nothing caught on with the mainstream, but this little gem is one of his best. This tune is an album track from SLP 378, Bottles Up!
21. Eddie Bond – Love, Love, Love
Coming from Memphis, Eddie Bond is one of the great Mercury rockabilly performers. However, he always preferred country music. When Don Pierce and Pappy Daily took over the country department of Mercury (as Mercury-Starday in January 1957), Bond was allowed to record country again. Reggie Young had just left the Stompers (Bond’s band) and Phil Baugh became the lead guitarist for the more country-oriented Mercury-Starday sessions. Still, Bond had a little rock left in him for this tune (Mercury-Starday 45-71237). Jerry Smith on piano and Pee Wee Wamble on trumpet, both blind musicians, give this one a distinctly pop-rock feel.
22. “Country” Johnny Mathis – Holiday For Love
“Country” Johnny Mathis used to be known as just Johnny Mathis. In 1957, another Johnny Mathis grew popular in the pop charts and it quickly became apparent that a name change was in order. During his Starday years, “Country” Johnny Mathis recorded for Starday and Mercury-Starday, though this particular track was from the Dixie hillbilly hit parade soundalike sessions (he was trying to sound like Webb Pierce). The track was later included on Mercury-Starday Hillbilly Hit Parade Vol. 2 (though this was technically Vol. 3, because there was an earlier Mercury-Starday LP by the same title and because Starday LP 102, titled Hillbilly Hit Parade, could be considered the true Vol. 1).
23. Rudy Grayzell – I Love You So
Interviewing Rudy for the Starday book was a great thrill. I am a huge fan of his music and he is one of the most active people I know. He was recently in a movie, a musical, some plays and is still performing his rock’n’roll brand of music out on the West Coast. This track comes from Starday 45-321. There was a rumor that this was also issued as a Mercury-Starday single, because it was assigned a Mercury-Starday release number, though sadly I don’t think that happened. I have searched extensively for any evidence and have found none. Shortly after this release, Rudy left Starday and recorded for Sun Records.
24. Sleepy LaBeef – You’re So Easy To Love
Sleepy LaBeef was another great artist to interview, arguably the most knowledgeable artist about the early Starday Texas period. He also recorded for Starday and Mercury-Starday, though this song comes from one of those aforementioned soundalike Dixie Hillbilly Hit Parade sessions (Dixie 529). Unlike George Jones, who regrets those early rockabilly recordings and seems rather embarrassed by them, LaBeef just viewed them as “all part of the ladder.” I am a big fan of this big guy and if you ever get a chance to see him live, make it happen! He is the original “Human Juke Box!”
25. Tibby Edwards – I Don’t Want To Say I Love You (But I Do)
Oh man, Tibby’s so great! Bear Family recently put out a whole CD of Tibby’s stuff and I highly recommend it to all. This track comes from Cajun-born Tibby’s lone Starday single, which was later reissued on Mercury, and he also had one release on the Mercury-Starday label. Tibby lived and toured with Lefty Frizzell extensively and became a great song stylist under Frizzell’s tutelage. This track, an Edwards original, was recorded in Nashville and comes from Starday 45-278.
26. The Willis Brothers – Love Thy Neighbor
The Willis Brothers, Hank Williams Sr.’s original backing band, were basically the Starday Band. They backed up several other musicians on their recordings. Vic Willis ran the jingle company. The All of the Willis Brothers’ wives worked in the Starday office and they also recorded several hits for the label. This track comes from SLP 353, Road Stop Juke Box Hits, and is (in my humble opinion) one of their best.
27. Fred Crawford – I Just Need Some Lovin’
For many, Fred Crawford was the best artist on the entire Starday roster. He made legendary rockabilly recordings, wonderful honky-tonk stompers and even recorded at least one Starday session with Buddy Holly. This track is my favorite Crawford ditty, from 45-170. There is a great write-up about Crawford at: http://lonestarstomp.blogspot.com/2007/12/cornfed-fred-crawford.html.
Well, that about sums it up. I wish you all well and hope you enjoyed the first Starday blog of what I hope becomes many. Please feel free to leave feedback and let me know what you think of them!