The "twangcore" and "Americana" boom of today owes a large debt to the shaggy twangers and no-hit wonders of yesteryear -- this section looks at the hippiebilly and stoner bands and a few odd, random artists from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, back before there was anything called "alt-country." This page covers the letter "F"
The Fabulous Backup Band "God, Guts And Guns" (Talon Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Ron DiIulio)
A patriotic, pro-gun country album from the Lone Star State... Producer Ron DiIulio plays keyboards and sings lead on about half the tracks, with other lead vocalists including guitar player Gene Bell, bassist Keith Davis and vocalist Laurie Douglas, and steel guitar provided by Gary Carpenter. Recorded in Fort Worth, this is an odd record, possibly one of those tax dodges you hear about. It was commissioned by executive producer "E. Donzetta Talon," which as far as I can tell, was a fictional identity. Amid numerous cover songs is one original, called "Gun Control," written by "Fletcher" and published by Donzetta Talon, it is sung by DiIulio and is one of the more pointedly political numbers on the record... Other songs seem fairly tame considering the album's artwork and title -- stuff like Merle Haggard's "Fightin' Side Of Me," Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag" and Barry Sadler's "Ballad Of The Green Beret," and even more innocuously, tunes like the T. Texas Tyler chestnut, "Deck Of Cards" and Mel Tillis's "Stateside." Bandleader Ron DiIulio definitely had an impressive career: he played piano in a fabled mid-1960s Denton, Texas garage band called the Chessmen, then moved through a series of other local bands before being tapped to train as a concert pianist, as a protege of international star Van Cliburn. He went on to work as an audio producer, jingle writer and film composer, and eventually, I believe, as an astrophysicist, among other pursuits running the planetarium in Fort Worth. Wow.
The Fabulous Beats "...Go Country Style!" (Design Records, 1964)
(Producer not listed)
Hardy-har-har. The gag is having four mop-topped Beatles imitators sing country standards, with familiar harmonies, fake accents and surfy Fender guitars... The results are subpar but entertaining: these manic and anonymous lads sound more like Chad & Jeremy than John, Paul, George & Ringo, but it's still kinda funny. And of course, the real Beatles would have the last laugh when they demonstrated their love of twang and recorded actual country songs (such as their cover of "Act Naturally") which gave George Harrison a chance to perfect his Chet Atkins riffs. Anyway, this cheapo-label knockoff is a nice curio of the British invasion era.
The Fabulous Continentals "Live At The Grain Bin - Weds. Fri. Sat." (Jerry Sparks Record Productions, 19--?)
(Produced by Jerry Sparks)
An ultra-obscuro LP recorded at the Grain Bin Saloon, in Garden City, Kansas... I'm not sure if this band, which included Gary Batchelder, Jerry Wilcox, Carl Knaus, Jimmy Knight and Freddy Morales (on congas!) was connected to the early '60s Topeka, Kansas garage band, the Rockin' Continentals, but it seems possible. Anyway, apparently these guys showed up on the LAS VEGAS GRIND compilation series, though they are definitely playing some country stuff on this album. Let's hear it for the Free State! Ad Astra Per Aspera!
The Fabulous Rhinestones "The Fabulous Rhinestones" (Just Sunshine Records, 1972) (LP)
Produced by The Fabulous Rhinestones & Michael Lang)
This one's added as more of a "buyer beware" listing: if you like early '70s groove and boogie rock, go for it, but if you're mainly into country-rock and twang, this is definitely too rock'n'roll for you. Formed in San Francisco, the Rhinestones are occasionally mentioned in connection to early country-rock because guitarist Kal David was previously in the Illinois Speed Press, a country-tinged band with Paul Cotton, and Paul Cotton later joined an early lineup of Poco. But this album is pretty strictly hippie-era heavy-rock and funky jam-band R&B, good for what it is, but not very country. Steel player Ben Keith plays on the record's lone acoustic tune, "Big Indian," and electric blues legend Paul Butterfield blows harp on the opening track. They recorded two other albums, which I guess I'll check out if I get a chance, and I'll let you know if they ever got any twangier...
John Fahey - see artist discography
Tommy Faile "The Best Of Tommy" (Peach Records, 1972) (LP)
Tommy Faile "...Sings Brown Mountain Light" (CMC/Clay Music Corporation, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Arthur Smith & Charles Andrews)
Although his name might not be immediately recognizable, his music is... Born in South Carolina, songwriter Tommy Faile was an old-school Southern country'n'bluegrass musician who crossed the state line and made his home in Charlotte, NC, working in the bands of Snuffy Jenkins and Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith. He's best known for writing the mega-classic, trucker recitation song, "Phantom 309," which became a huge hit for Red Sovine. Faile plays his own version of the song on here, along with several other originals and a few covers, including his version of "The Legend Of The Brown Mountain Lights," a novelty number about a will-o-wisp phenomenon sometimes seen in rural North Carolina. Not sure who backed Faile on this album, but it's a pretty good bet that at least one of the pickers was Arthur Smith himself... Faile also released a slew of indie-label singles in the 1950s and '60s, though as far as I know they haven't been collected anywhere... yet.
Tommy Faile "Full Moon Spell" (Sapphire Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by David Floyd)
Tommy Faile "No Fool Like An Old Fool" (Sapphire Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Faile & David Floyd)
Dave Faircloth "The Man" (Angela Celeste Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
A retired rodeo rider and ex-Marine, Texas-born Dave Faircloth had made his way out West and settled down in Bakersfield by the time he cut this album. The sessions were cut in Nashville, and included several songs written by Faircloth, along with tunes by Red Simpson, Charles Hinley, Len Wade and Jerry Ward. The studio crew included Gene Breeden on lead guitar, Terry Crisp playing steel, and Bruce Watkins on fiddle and bass.
Fall City Ramblers "Ain't Nothin' In Ramblin' " (Vetco Records, 1975) (LP)
Fall City Ramblers "Early Indiana Days" (Palm Tree Records, 1976) (LP)
This free-flowing, dynamic stringband from Madison, Indiana mixed bluegrass and old-timey with a dash of classic jug-band blues and a hint of old-world European styles and even some hapa haole Hawaiian music, such as the oldie, "The Old Palm Tree." Not sure how long the group was together, but they were pretty darn good!
Fall River Wranglers "Fall River Country" (Fall River Enterprises, 19--?) (LP)
Babe Humphrey, Bob Minser and Paul Moyers formed a western trio connected to the Estes Park, Colorado dude ranch and its "chuckwagon supper" singalongs... They sang a lot of typical cowboy stuff, "Ghost Riders In The Sky," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and the like, but also some saltier, more country material, such as "Bayou Baby" as well as a gospel tune or two. Unfortunately the voluble liner notes by Denver music critic Red Fenwick aren't terribly informative, other than to tell us the guys were midwesterners, from Colorado, Illinois and Iowa. At any rate, fans of old Gene Autry or Roy Rogers records should get a kick out of this relaxed, retrodelic session.
Family Lotus "Rendezvous" (Full Circle, 1979)
The Family Portrait "At Home" (Sierra Nevada Recording Studios, 1981-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jody Peterson)
The epitome of an local, amateur-hour bar-band, Reno, Nevada's Family Portrait was a later incarnation of a folk duo formed by brothers Jim and Jerry Estes, who were originally from the Midwest but later settled in Nevada and worked at venues such as the King's Inn and the urban-cowboy oriented Shy Clown casino. They were joined on this album by Jim Estes' wife Jackie and pickers Bill Van Dyke (banjo and fiddle) and Ernie Hagar (dobro and steel) who add some nice instrumental ooompf to the sometimes-iffy vocals. This set shows a heavy influence from the Emmylou Harris Hot Band, with covers of Rodney Crowell's "Song For The Life" and "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" as well as Guy Clark's "She Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and Paul Siebel's old chestnut, "Louise." Perhaps the campy highlight on the album is a lo-o-o-o-ong version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," which might not be as kooky as Don Bowman's word-for-word recreation of "Alice's Restaurant," but it's in the same ballpark. Also included as interstitial ditties are a few of Mason Williams' "Them Poems," as odd and entertaining here as they were the first time around. The Estes all worked day jobs as schoolteachers in Reno and perhaps weren't the world's all-time greatest country musicians, but there's a sincerity and guilelessness here that adds authenticity and charm... Worth a spin if you're really rooting for the locals.
The Family Tree "Branch One" (Identical Productions, 1973) (LP)
This looks like it was a family band, apparently originally from Minnesota, with Dad, three brothers, one sister and included some brass instruments, although they definitely played country material. The repertoire was almost strictly covers of contemporary early '70s popular hits, mostly country songs, but with some crossover into the Pop charts. Their albums seem to have mostly been souvenirs of -- and advertisements for -- their live shows... They were a working band that played paid gigs and gave a Nashville street address for their business contacts, and as far as I can tell, they had moved to Nashville full time and released several albums in the mid-1970s.
The Family Tree "Branch Two" (Identical Productions, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by The Family Tree & Stan Kesler)
The Family Tree "Branching Out" (Identical Productions, 1976)
(Produced by The Family Tree & Dana Thomas)
This one includes "hip" covers of rock songs by Neil Young ("Love Is A Rose") and The Eagles ("Lyin' Eyes") as well as big country hits from 1975, such as Ronnie Milsap's "Day Dreams About Night Things," "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "I'm Not Lisa." They still had the same Nashville street address as on the last album, so I guess they stayed in Music City for a long time, doing private shows and other gigs... Pretty impressive, really! (It's worth noting that there was also a Family Tree band in Shreveport, Louisiana around the same time, who are sometimes lumped together with these guys, although I'm pretty sure they were a different band. They are infamous for the so-bad-it's-good cult classic album, "Somewhere In Your Heart" which came out in 1975, but that band didn't feature horns and seem to have had a much more rock'n'roll orientation...)
Eddie Fannon "The Bluegrass Side Of Eddie Fannon" (American Heritage Records, 1980)
(Produced by The Family Tree & Dana Thomas)
I'm not 100% sure it's all the same guy, but as near as I can figure Eddie Fannon recorded at least one (really great) secular country single, in sort of a Moe Bandy-ish vein, as well as several gospel albums after he got born-again in 1981, and this bluegrass LP, which was recorded at the Vetco Studios in Cincinnati. Somewhere along the way he also cut a Hank Williams tribute song, "Hank's Gibson Guitar." Fannon was originally from ultra-rural Harlan County, Kentucky but later moved to Newport, Kentucky, a Cincinnati suburb on the other side of the state. He's backed on this album by Duke Bellamy on dobro, David Pinson (guitar), Evelyn Reed (bass), Jeff Roberts (banjo), Dusty Rose (fiddle) and Jeff Terflinger on fiddle and mandolin. (Roberts and Terflinger were both members of the Katie Laur band; the others seem to have been Cincinnati-area locals as well, including Dave Pinson, who played with Buddy Griffin, another Laur alumnus...)
The Farewell Party Band "Country Plus" (BRW Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Watson, Larry Booth & Russ Reeder)
A shaggy band from Spring, Texas whose main claim to fame was backing honkytonk legend Gene Watson, which all things considered, ain't bad. Watson returned the favor by helming this "solo" album, which I think may be the only one they recorded. (Other than the ones with him, of course...) The band took its name from his 1979 hit single, "Farewell Party," which became known as Watson's signature song.
Stan Farlow "Hot Wheels" (Checker Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Gary S. Paxton)
Singer Stan Farlow (1941-2013) was kind of an odd artist. As you can hear on this album's title track -- first issued as a single -- he was a shameless Johnny Cash imitator; indeed, recording under the name "Johnny Doe," Farlow recorded several albums that were specifically marketed as Cash soundalike sessions. Here, he's still got the whole Delta baritone sound going on, but the music loosens up a bit, and the liner notes pitch him as a Bakersfield Sound artist. The music is an odd amalgam of Cash-ian chunka-chunka and gritty, Haggard-style twang. (Farlow knew Haggard from his Bakersfield days, and there's a hefty dose of Hag's sound in him as well...) This album's title track, "Hot Wheels," is a macabre trucker tune that ends with the Devil taking the singer's soul, and there's also a proto-outlaw edge to some of the other tracks, notably on "Big City Hooker," a surprisingly raw song condemning a country girl for turning into a prostitute... I guess things never quite clicked for Farlow as a solo star -- he got religion in the '70s and backed out of the country bar-band scene. In later years he became an amateur bluegrass musician, and pretty much left his country years behind him.
The Farm Band "On The Rim Of The Nashville Basin" (Farm Records, 1975)
Real-deal hippie sh*t. This fabled jam-band album came out of The Farm, which, if you haven't heard of it, is probably the most famous American hippie commune, founded in the early 1970s by Stephen Gaskin and a caravan of California emigres who headed East and bought a ton of land in Lewis County, Tennessee, settling in for the long haul. The Farm has remained in operation, in various permutations, over the decades, though in its longhaired heyday, the community spawned its own band, which recorded numerous singles and LPs. This might be more rock-oriented than most of the stuff here, but hey, it was the 'Seventies, and there was a little bit of twang in the air... along with a whole lot of pot smoke.
The Farm Family "Five Bushels Closer To My Heart" (Dupont, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Dwight Marcus)
In a survey of ultra-obscure country stuff, you figure you're gonna get a ringer or two... For example, check out this industrial album of agriculturally-themed novelty songs, created to promote "the proven record" of the DuPont corporation's Benlate fungicide. There are goofy tunes such as "Irrigation Irritations," "Louisiana Losses," "Five Bushels Closer To My Heart," and (I'm not making this up) "Seedy Seeds." Although a coalition of enraged organic gardeners organized bonfire parties to destroy this disc, a few copies remain and are played in secret by the agribiz big boys during private parties held to celebrate the annual renewal of the federal farming subsidies. Funny stuff.
Candy Farr "Make My Heart" (Shostar Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Candy Farr & Jim Reynolds)
Though born in Texas, country singer Candy Farr started performing regularly after he moved to Minnesota... He was apparently a protege of Marty Robbins, as well as a huge Elvis Presley fan. This album features all original material... Don't know much more about it than that, though.
Tony Farr "Plays The Farr Out Of It" (Farview Records, 1973) (LP)
Steel guitar player Tony Farr was a veteran of the Twin Cities country scene, playing at local Minnesota venues such as the Flame Cafe and regionally at country fair gigs like the Cheyenne Days festival in the late 1960s. In the early '70s he moved to Nashville, where he recorded these two albums, but for a variety of reasons things never quite clicked for him in Music City. Of note on these albums is guitarist Gregg Galbraith, a session picker who toured with Nashville stars such as Bill Anderson and Gene Watson, playing here in a more laid-back instrumental mode.
Tony Farr "Warm And Easy" (Farview Records, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Lawson)
Dan And Berde Farris "Honky Tonk Mother And Dad" (Far-Dell Records, 197-?)
Literally a mom'n'pop record, this disc spotlights the West Coast husband-wife duo of Dan and Berde Farris, who sing fun latter-day heartsongs and honkytonk tunes, in much the same style as other country couples such as Rose Lee & Joe Maphis, or Johnny and Jonie Mosby. It's nice stuff -- a style I really like and they do it pretty well... plus a lot of the songs are Farris originals. The Farrises were both from California -- she was born in Merced but grew up in Washington state -- and they were living in Rialto, CA (near Riverside) when they made this album -- later they moved to Hobbs, New Mexico, where they settled down for good. They seem to have started out in the orbit of Starday Records, although their singles and LPs were released under their own imprint. This disc was released at least twice, once with a hand-glued cover, and the second time with more professional artwork (and two extra songs.) The catalog number (FRLP-102) indicated that this was the second album they put out... I'd love to hear the first one, too!
Fast Flying Vestibule "Union Station" (Rolling Donut Records, 1976) (LP)
Fat City - see artist discography
Father And Son "All Originals" (Renee Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte)
This father-son duo was comprised of songwriter Tommy Johnson and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Johnson of Columbus, Nebraska -- Jonny played guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin, who also wrote two of the songs on this album... No release date on the disc, but I'm guessing mid- to late-'80s. The songs are all Tommy Johnson originals, issued under the Lari-Jon publishing imprint.
Doyle Faubus "Sentimental Country" (19--?) (LP)
This indie album was written and recorded by songwriter Doyle Faubus, the brother of longtime Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, a figure most remembered for his refusal to integrate the schools in Little Rock, despite a Federal order to do so in the 1950s. Doyle Faubus had a real commitment to his music, performing locally and regionally for several decades, including a gig at the "Lil' Ol' Opry" that ran at least as late as 2011. He wrote all the songs on this album, though sadly I have no info on the musicians backing him.
Darren Fay & Jeff Wise "Redneck Rock" (Charter Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ellis Miller)
Darren Fay and Jeff Wise were pals 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.
Wayne Fehr "Mood Country" (Sunshine Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ness Michaels & John Hildebrand)
Wayne Fehr "Buckskin And Satin" (Sunshine Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Halldorson & John Hildebrand)
An album's worth of all-original country stuff, recorded in Winnipeg, Canada by a twenty-eight year old songwriter... The liner notes include a testimonial from Jim Zeck, the program director of country station CKLQ, in Brandon, Manitoba. No info, alas, about Fehr's backing musicians...
Clint Felkner "Caravan Records Presents Clint Felkner" (Caravan Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Austin, Fritz Brading & Chuck Carson)
The first and I believe only album by a lanky, muttonchopped Midwestern baritone named Clint Felkner... Side One is all gospel, while Side Two spotlights covers of secular country hits such as "BJ The DJ," "He'll Have To Go," and Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues." The album ends with a pair of originals, "She Loves Me When It Matters" and "House Husband's Lament," a feminist-era, battle-of-the-sexes novelty number co-written a guy named Dennis Standish. This set was recorded at a studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and while the backing seems fairly perfunctory, there's definitely a DIY charm... No info on the backing musicians, alas. Felkner's bio remains pretty obscure: a news story mentions him singing at a Minnesota funeral in 2013; around the same time he taped an interview with something called "Old Men Stories," which was apparently appended to a venue called the Kentucky Opry, in Draffenberg, KY, though I'm not sure where Felkner himself was from.
Dick Feller - see artist discography
Derrell Felts "Favorites From The Derrell Felts Television Show" (Felts Enterprises, 1974) (LP)
Best known as a one-and-a-half-hit wonder of the rockabilly era, Derrel Felts recorded the songs "Playmates" and "Lookie, Lookie, Lookie" in the late 1950s, then receded into obscurity as the '60s unfolded. Like many former rockabilly firebrands, Felts gravitated towards mainstream country, and in the early 'Seventies he was the host of The Derrell Felts Television Show, a program based in Dallas, Texas that beamed out over much of the Panhandle and Southwest. This album is a interesting set of covers and originals with songs including the 1974 single, "Calling Johnny Rodriguez," "He Ain't Country" and "I Can Feel The Leavin' Coming On" as well as covers of Bill Anderson, Conway Twitty and Porter Wagoner. As far as I know, this guy was no direct relation to country star Narvel Felts...
Fence Walker "Feels Right" (Perdue Recording, Inc, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Elliott & Jim Perdue)
A modestly accomplished band from Amarillo, Texas who made this album just as the alt-country "Americana" scene was gathering steam, though they seem to have been totally outside the popular wave of college-rock twang... I think their real roots were in rock'n'roll, since they start each side of this LP out with more rock-oriented numbers -- the surf-garage tinged "Feels Right" and the bar-band boogie of "Dear John" -- but then they devote themselves to twang, though they don't seem to be as comfortable with country, and it sounds a little awkward. The vocals are also iffy -- if you've heard folks like Dusty Chaps or Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, then you'll know what territory I'm talking about... I wouldn't say these guys were as distinctive as those better-known bands, but it's a similar vibe. Possibly the most interesting tracks are a couple of songs about their experiences as an obscuro-band, Archie Young's rambling "Gone Again," and the more rockin' "Dream And Watch It Grow," which kind of reminds me of Seattle's fabled Young Fresh Fellows... These guys probably could have made a better rock record than twang, but it was nice of them to give the country thing a try. Apparently the band continued to jam together through the early '00s, though it looks like this was their only album.
Gary Ferguson "Think For Yourself" (American Music Heritage Corporation, 19--?) (LP)
Born in Canada, but raised in Montana, Gary Ferguson cut a few singles in the '60s, including the song "There Is No Answer," originally recorded in 1966 and included here along with four other Ferguson songs... The remainder of the record is basically honkytonk standards, stuff by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Harlan Howard and Kris Kristofferson. This album was recorded at the AMHC label in Caldwell, Idaho, though unfortunately the liner notes don't include any info on who was backing him up.
Jim Ferguson "Slow Down The Pace" (Jim An I Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Sharon K. Doherty & Jim Ferguson)
Ultra-indie DIY honkytonk country from Garden Grove, California (in Orange County, near Anaheim...) Ferguson wasn't the world's greatest singer, nor was this the world's greatest band, but he gets major points for taking it seriously, for writing good songs and for being more than a decade ahead of the crowd, recording the kind of rough-edged amateur twang that the "Americana" scene would become known for in the 1990s. There are several really good songs on here, including "Cold Woman" and "The More I Try," all sung with an admirable amount of twang. Ferguson also had a track placed on the Johnny Burger-produced "COWBOY COUNTRY DOZEN" compilation... Anyone out there know if he recorded anything else, or was this it?
Roy Ferguson & The Royals "Stop Me" (Galena Records, 196-?) (LP)
Roy Ferguson & Candy Noe "Roy Ferguson & Candy Noe" (Benson Sound, 19--) (LP)
The husband-wife duo of Candy Noe and Roy Ferguson (1936-2015) met in the 1960s when they were working in the Tulsa music scene -- Roy played guitar for Johnny Lee Wills for over twenty years, and also fronted his own group, Roy Ferguson and The Royals, which often backed big-name country stars on tour through Oklahoma. Singer Candy Noe originally came from Ohio, where as a teen she sang in the Marion Jamboree -- moving to Tulsa, she landed a job on country deejay Billy Parker's local TV show. Noe and Ferguson met in '65, got married in '66, released an album together, and opened Roy & Candy's music store in the 1970s, which for three decades was a fixture of the Tulsa, Oklahoma arts scene. The Fergusons played with the Wills band until 1984, when Wills passed away, and continued to perform locally right up until Roy passed away in 2015. As far as I know, this was their only LP as a duo, although she released a solo album in the late 'Seventies, and Roy Ferguson played guitar on a bunch of albums over the years...
Russ Fernlund & The Redwood Stage "Many Miles From Nowhere" (1985) (LP)
(Produced by Russ Fernlund)
A memento of one of Northern California's many long-lost longhair bands... In the late 1970s, songwriter Russ Fernlund was doing a solo gig in Big Sur, eventually giving that up so he could try his luck in Los Angeles. Like Nashville, LA can be a tough nut to crack, and after knocking his head against that particular wall, Fernlund moved back up North, this time to the sleepy but scenic town of Mendocino. Redwood Stage was a band he led from 1979 on, cutting this album in '85 to document their work. To be honest, I found his vocals a little lethargic, but he grew on me... There's definitely a nice reservoir of original twangtunes on here, and moments that remind me (a lot) of Chip Taylor and Dick Feller, with maybe a smidge of Larry Hosford in there as well... The songs didn't really grab me musically, but this disc is packed with NorCal hippiebilly history, particularly on songs like "Big Sur River," "California Country," "Moonshinin'," and "Okie On Rollerskates." Definitely worth a spin if you can track a copy down.
Russ Fernlund "...And Just Wasting Time" (2013)
Ben Ferrell "Talkin' 'Bout Kentucky" (Caravelle Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Tony Migliore & Jim Matthews)
Although he sang about the bluegrass state, songwriter Ben Ferrell seems to have pitched his tent out in California, or at least he hooked up with the Hollywood-based Caravelle label, which bankrolled this disc. All the songs are originals, except for a version of Stephen Foster's "Old Kentucky Home," and the backup band includes a lot of top Nashville talent, folks like Harold Bradley, Pete Drake, Lloyd Green, Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy and Pete Wade... and they definitely get pretty funky on this album! I mean that literally. The whole "Area 615" crew really let their hair down here, playing some wicked funk and almost acid-rock-like riffs on some of these songs. But it is for sure also twangy and country as well. Pretty frickin' cool, really. Perhaps even a "lost 'Seventies gem. Apparently this was re-released in Australia under the same title, and with the same track sequence. By the early 'Eighties, Ferrell cut his hair and got religion... He still made records, including several in the CD era, but they were part of the "worship music" scene, as he calls it. He also moved to Tulsa... Not sure if he's a relative of Will Ferrell and his dad Lee, but it does seem likely.
Clyde Ferrell "Clyde Ferrell" (Delta Record Company, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Ferrell)
Originally from Texas, songwriter Clyde Ferrell was holding down a gig at the Pinnacle Peak Patio, a steakhouse near Scottsdale, Arizona when he recorded this debut album. About half the songs on here are Ferrell originals, along with covers of contemporary hits like "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "Polk Salad Annie" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." It's quintessential lounge band material, with the band jamming a little and sort of farting around on songs they've played a bazillion times and Ferrell, it must be said, makes some interesting choices with the melodies and phrasing on some of these songs; his versions of "I Can See Clearly Now" and "For The Good Times" veer off in directions that border on the bizarre. But overall, this is a pretty likeable record -- the only track that's truly painful is his cover of "You've Got A Friend," though that might be more James Taylor's fault than Mr. Ferrell's. (I'm guessing at the release date based on the song selection and liner notes, which inform us of Mr. Ferrell "going professional" in 1974 and "soon after" working at the Pinnacle Peak Patio in Scottsdale, Arizona...) Goofy, but good-natured.
Clyde Ferrell "Brazos River Country" (Clyde Music Company, 1983) (LP)
Lee Ferrell "Hard Times" (TMS Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Art Munson & Ernie Winfrey)
You know what would make this record even better? More cowbell!! Why, yes, my friends, this is in fact actor Will Ferrell's dad, aka Roy Lee Ferrell, Jr., a saxophonist and piano player who blew sax with Dick Dale and later signed up with the Righteous Brothers, at the peak of their late-'60s fame. Originally from North Carolina, Lee Ferrell moved to California in 1964, and became firmly embedded in the SoCal music business. He took some time away from standards and blues on this disc to croon some country, and pretty good stuff at that. Ferrell had kind of a... well, funny voice, pretty high, if not quite falsetto, and he sounds a little goofy at time. Indeed, I wonder if this record -- with its improbably slow tempo-ed ballad version of "Ramblin' Man" and a lush rendition of "This Magic Moment" -- was perhaps the occasion for a chuckle or two in the Ferrell household, and maybe even an indirect influence on his son's career. Seriously. I don't mean that as a joke or a slight: this is a professionally produced session, with several Nashville heavyweights on board and while Ferrell has distinct limitations as a vocalist, he also wields a what-the-hell aura of self-confidence that feels similar to Will Ferrell's approach to comedy. Sure, haters can hate, but that's not the Ferrells' problem. From a strictly twangfan perspective, the album highlight is probably "Cross Bar Hotel," an amiable, Jimmy Buffett-flavored novelty number about a guy who gets thrown in the drunk tank and cops an unfortunate attitude with some of his cellmates. His version of "Stolen Wine" (a hit for Tommy Overstreet) is also a decent cheating song, not quite "Third Rate Romance," but close. (BTW, producer Art Munson was also an alumnus of the Dick Dale band, the Del-Tones, and worked as a session guitarist on various 'Seventies pop and rock albums...)
Festival "Just Another Band From Skidmore" (Max Stout Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Neal Rieffanaugh & Bill Schnee)
Definitely not your average, garden-variety southern rock band. This group was from Skidmore, Missouri, a microscopic hamlet in northeastern Missouri, halfway between Kansas City and Omaha. The band was the center of a large commune, originally based on a 300-acre farm outside of town, locally known as "the Farm." Festival was led by songwriter Britt Small, an Army veteran who served as a paratrooper in Vietnam, and spent much of the war fantasizing about starting his own rock band. His dream came true in 1971 when Festival was formed, drawing on several late 'Sixties rock groups from Northwest Missouri State University, in nearby Marysville. It was, oddly enough, the push to make the band successful that led to the formation of the commune, which gave the "family" members a sense of cohesion, as well as a place to perform. Self-professed socialists, the communards raised animals and crops, and also decked the band out in shiny, glammy outfits worthy of Jethro Tull or Wizzard, and sent them on the road. Beginning in 1975, the group released numerous singles and LPs, including this one which is perhaps the most country-oriented of the lot, ending with a medley of oldies by the cowboy band, Sons Of The Pioneers. The group included Mr. Small on lead vocals, Stan Funston (guitar) Becky Reinig (keyboards), Mark Reinig (drums), arranger Don Struve on trumpet, and various and sundry others. Although they were mostly rockers, Festival considered themselves distinctly a rural band, and referred to themselves as "the world’s funkiest cowboy band." They toured throughout the United States and Canada, though in the early 1980s the tone of the group shifted from a party vibe to a more conservative political perspective, as Britt Small became consumed by POW-MIA issues, and the band's repertoire became almost entirely patriotic music. The commune and the band began to fray in the 1990s, and broke up entirely in the early '00s. [Many thanks to David M. Struve for his amazingly detailed history thesis, which provides extremely granular detail of the Farm, and of his dad's band.]
Fred Field "...And Friends" (Maranatha, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Neal Rieffanaugh & Bill Schnee)
California Christian "Jesus-freak" hippie country-rock, with Al Perkins on steel guitar...
Shirley Field "Two Sides Of Shirley Field" (Banff Records, 1963) (LP)
A Canadian cowgal from Armstrong, British Columbia whose career dates back to the 1940s -- in her early teens Ms. Field was a regional star, playing at rodeos and hosting her own radio show. She landed a gig playing with Evan Kemp's band, then started her own group, the Country Casuals, which she led through the 'Fifties. Later on she and her sister led an all-gal band called the Dartells, while Shirley formed several several long-term duets partnerships over the years. This was her first album, recorded in Ontario after she'd soujourned to Nashville, where she cut a few singles and even played at the Opry the year before. This album featured heartsongs on one side and yodeling on the other... [Many thanks to 45cat.com for their awesome Shirley Field biography, in addition to info about her singles.]
Curley Fields & The Kentuckians "Live At The Showboat Lounge" (Jo-Cur Records, 1969) (LP)
A country covers band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin... Why they billed themselves as the Kentuckians, I have no idea. Vocals are split between Curley Fields, Karen Otis and Jack Abuya.
Judy Fields "Halfway To Paradise" (Victory, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Ken Mansfield, Judy Fields & Larry Cumings)
An independently released album by Northern California artist Judy Fields, who moved to Nashville and worked as a songwriter, successfully pitching songs to artists such as Lee Greenwood and Reba McEntire. She was briefly signed to MCA Records, but only released a single or two, with no chart action... Her earlier work can be heard on an uber-indie album called CONTRA COSTA COUNTRY, which was recorded with several other NorCal artists. Unfortunately, this solo debut is fairly dreadful -- she "went pop" in a big way, drenching her songs in tinkly keyboards and glossy early-'80s production. Also, she had a penchant for anthemic romantic refrains which she would repeat and repeat and repeat, unwilling to let any crescendo die a natural death. I guess if you're into that particular era of Nashville "chick" music, this could be of interest... The Reba connection certainly makes sense once you've heard this album.
Jan Files "What More Can I Say" (1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Schrimpf, Jerry Shook & Colin Walker)
Crowned as Miss Jefferson City in 1975, Missouri teenager Jan Files made a serious bid to crack into Nashville -- or maybe move out to LA? -- truckin' down to Nashville to cut this shiny, well-produced countrypolitan/AOR album right after graduating from high school. It's a pretty impressive set, even if the songs and arrangements get to be a bit much... A fine singer, Ms. Files evokes comparison to '70s sirens such as Olivia Newton-John and Karen Carpenter (and even Loretta Haggers, on the twangier tunes) while the musical backing is pretty solid, too, smoothly shifting from disco-tinged pop to generic pop-country. She's backed by the house band at Mike Schrimpf's independent studio, which at the time still included future star Steve Wariner, who plays bass, acoustic and electric guitars, and sings backup. There's also an early song of his on here, "Will You Still Love Me In The Morning," a hookup ballad that's not to be confused with Carole King's similarly-titled girl-group hit... Wariner was already under contract to RCA Records at the time, although hadn't yet released his own first single, and as far as I know, never released this song under his own name. Anyway, this slick-sounding custom-pressed album really coulda-shoulda-woulda made Jan Files a star, if the planets had lined up the right way... As it was, I imagine it mostly made the rounds at county fairs and Christmas parties, though fans of 'Seventies soft-pop (and Steve Wariner devotees) might enjoy tracking it down.
Gerald Finley "The Hurtin's Back Again" (Crusade Enterprises, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gerald Finley)
A picker and singer from Flora, Illinois, leading an all-locals band in an almost-all covers set, including some interesting choices, such as "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line," "Clap For The Wolfman," "Southern Nights" and "Sixpack To Go." The title track, "The Hurtin's Back Again," was a Gerald Finley original.
Jim Finneran "The Road Ain't No Place For A Lady" (Sea Port Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Neil Rush, Tex Hughes & Jim Finneran)
John Finnigan "Way Up The Sky" (Mid Ear Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by John Finnigan & Steve Cooper)
Mike Finnigan "Mike Finnigan" (Warner Brothers, 1976)
(Produced by Jerry Wexler)
Keyboard player to the stars, Mike Finnigan is perhaps best known as a rock, pop and R&B player, and for his work with rock and pop elite such as Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton, and Crosby Stills & Nash, but he also had a country side, as heard in parts of this funky, eclectic album, which includes Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble and picker Pete Carr as part of an impressive studio lineup. At the time, according to the liner notes, his day jobs included backing Maria Muldaur and Dave Mason, and Muldaur sings on here as well... Mostly it's a white soul album -- I'm reminded of Bill Champlin on several tracks -- but on songs like "Mississippi On My Mind," "Southern Lady" and "Misery Loves Company," there's a subtle bit of twang. The Stamps Quartet provides some Southern gospel backup, ala the Oak Ridge Boys... Mostly this is too slick and pop-oriented for me, but it's a good slice of eclectic '70s musicmaking, for the more AOR-oriented among us.
Fireball Express "Fireball Express" (Casino Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bart Curtis)
Well, you know me, I'm always a sucker for any version of the 'Seventies oldie, "Aime" -- it's just such a great pop song! These guys seem to have been from around Ithaca, New York -- the album was made at a studio in Elmira, near the Pennsylvania border, and the band played gigs on both sides of the state line. At the time this album was made, the group included Rich Hawkins (lead guitar), Ron Earley (drums), Tom Caffo (bass) and Larry Bates on steel guitar. Although keyboardist Jim DePaul was considered a "guest" artist when they were in the studio, let's just be nice and say he was in the band, too. It was a while ago. Fireball Express was still together in the late '80s, though with a different lineup which still included Earley and Hawkins, as well as a gal singer called Linda Lee, who had experience singing of some regional "jamboree" variety shows. Any additional info about these folks would be welcome!
Firefall "The Greatest Hits" (Atlantic, 1992)
I suppose I am obliged to mention the super-slick Top 40 Boulder, Colorado 'Seventies band Firefall, which is perhaps really more of a "soft rock" band, but certainly had a respectable country-rock pedigree. Singer Rick Roberts was in an early lineup of the Flying Burrito Brothers (as was drummer Mickey Clarke) and co-founder Jock Bartley was briefly in Gram Parson's backup band, the Fallen Angels, as well as Chris Hillman's post-Burritos band in the mid-'70s. Et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, there was some residual twang, or at least an acoustic sensibility underneath their slick pop hits, though I suspect many twangfans will find a lot of their material pretty noxious, the very epitome of whiny '70s wimp-rock. (Though I have to confess I still have a positive Pavlovian response to some of these oldies, though I won't say which ones... I have to keep a few secrets!) At their best, they were Crosby Stills & Nash knockoffs (like on "It Doesn't Matter," the first track on their first album...) At their worst, as heard on the later tracks of this best-of collection, they played some truly awful, tepid, heartless, semi-synthy stuff, kind of like Toto, but not even that good. Their early-'80s decline was not a pretty thing. So, yeah, part of the country-rock story, but not as interesting as, say, Pure Prairie League.
Fire Mountain Militia "Edge Of The Night" (Thunder Lizard, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Leep, John Altman & Dave Weil)
A swell set of hippiebilly indie-twang from Carmichael, California (near San Jose...) This quartet showcased all original material, songs penned by singers Dean Agee or Bob Leep, with Leep's material being perhaps more decisively "country" and and uptempo, while Agee was fond of sagas of wasted nights and low-rent barroom flings. The sound is mostly plunky bar-band country, ala Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, though there's a trace of bluesy, Dead-like jam-band rock hinted at in a few of the performances. The group also had mixed male-female vocals, with bassist Sharon George mostly sticking to harmony, but also taking the lead on the appropriately-named "Torch Song," which reveals a slightly jazzy undertone. You could pick these guys apart for their amateurism if you wanted to, or you could choose to be charmed by it, in which case you'd find this to be a pretty strong entry for the genre. Northern California strikes again!
The First Nashville Jesus Band "Welcome To Nashville" (Lamb & Lion Records, 197-?) (LP)
Man, what a great band name! This group, which may have had a shifting lineup, was formed primarily to back singer Pat Boone on some of his more country-flavored gospel outings, though they also backed Del Wood, and released some stuff "solo" under the band's name. Although I think the sessions were cut in Nashville, Boone's Lamb & Lion label was headquartered in LA, and was associated with the budget-line Hilltop Records.
The First Nashville Jesus Band "Peace In The Valley" (Lamb & Lion Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Linneman & Jack Linneman)
Another album of gospel standards, recorded in Nashville with a top-flight studio crew including Jimmy Capps, Paul Charron (drums), fiddler Johnny Gimble, bassist Billy Linneman (who also played in Marty Robbins' band), Jeff Newman (dobro and pedal steel) and pianists David Reese and Jerry Whitehurst.
Marty Firstenberg "P.S. I Love You By Marty: In Memory Of Gloria Firstenburg" (1985-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Bradley & Gene Breeden)
Aw. This privately released album is a touching memento recorded by a guy whose wife died in an auto accident along the Oregon coast. The Firstenbergs were square-dancing enthusiasts who participated in and "called" events around Salem, Oregon in the late '70s and early '80s, as part of the Goodtimers dance group. She died in November, 1984, and not long after he booked time at a studio in Nashville and recorded a set of what I assume were some of her favorite songs, drawing mainly on country material, along with some pop tunes such as "PS, I Love You." Many selections are nakedly forlorn and mournful, such as covers of Merle Haggard's "Place To Fall Apart" and "What Am I Gonna Do," or Ken Wesley's "We Never Ran Out Of Love." The backing band included Gene Breeden on guitar and Doug Jernigan playing steel. Sad, but sweet.
John Fitzwater "In A Country State Of Mind" (Out Of Town Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Maggard)
Singer-guitarist John Fitzwater started out playing rock in an late-'Fifties/early-'Sixties band called The Tornadoes, playing regionally around Dodge City. He moved into a series of country groups, including Don Pray's band, and eventually started his own group, Country Fever, which included guitarist Jerry Wilcox who had been playing with Fitzgerald since the early '70s. Around the time this album was recorded, Wilcox died in a parachuting accident, though Fitzgerald and the band -- which included Wilcox's son, Darrin, on drums -- kept plugging away despite the tragedy. Fitzwater seems to have left Country Fever by decade's end, although the band stayed together for several decades, with a lineup that has shifted over the years. This album was distributed by MCA, though it remained a regional release.
The Five Pennies "Joe Paul Nichols Presents..." (Bollman International Music) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Paul Nichols & Jerry Abbott)
Introduced in the liner notes as "one of the finest traveling bands in the South," this group from Dallas, Texas was an archetypal working-man's band. Bassist Roy Tunney was the group's lead singer; along with fiddler James Roberson, steel player Carroll Parham, guitar picker Teddy Johnson and Joe Wayne Campsey on drums. The record includes only two vocal numbers, with Tunney singing lead on Red Steagall's "Someone Cares For You" and Ray Price's "Release Me," with all the other tracks being instrumentals. The set list includes a lot of dancehall oldies, like "San Antonio Rose," "Westphalia Waltz" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe," with various bandmembers taking solos, including a version of "Orange Blossom Special" and an instrumental take on Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues," spotlighting Teddy Johnson. I'm not sure if they backed any particular artists, or if they were just their own, self-contained band.
The Flaherty Brothers Band "FBB" (Furry Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Kirk & Lowell Varney)
Brothers E. J. Flaherty and Paul Flaherty were from Charleston, West Virginia, though they recorded this album in Crum, West Virginia... Their "rural rock" repertoire includes covers of songs from the roots/country rock firmament: Rusty Weir's "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance," Little Feat's "Willin'," and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." There's also a healthy amount of original material, such as "Never Thought" and "Diane," written by Paul Flaherty, and two tunes by bassist Tim White -- "Jack And Ginger" and "Brand New Seed."
Terry Flannery & Mary Ann Marshall "Little Bit Country" (MTF Productions, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sargon N. Yonan)
The lounge duo of Terry Flannery & Mary Ann Marshall -- also known simply as "Terry & Mary Ann" -- recorded this album at the Sargon Recording Studios in Skokie, Illinois and they give a shout-out on the cover to the folks working at the O'Hare-Kennedy Holiday Inn, where I'd assume they had a regular gig. Terry Flannery did the arrangements and plays most of the instruments -- guitars, bass and keyboards -- along with Ms. Marshall on 12-string and 6-string acoustic guitars and drummer Ron Baron rounding out the sound. They cover stuff like "Me And Bobby McGee" and "The Gambler" as well as oldies like "Danny Boy" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky," and Flannery even gets all choppsy with a run-through of the Spanish guitar standard, "Malaguena." The Kenny Rogers cover places this one at least 1979, if not later. They were not great, but this is a very authentic album from a typical '70s lounge act.
Neil Flanz "...Et Son Nashville Steel" (Trans-Canada Records, 1962) (LP)
Neil Flanz "Get On The Star Route" (Arc Music, 1964) (LP)
A pleasant set of pedal steel instrumentals showcasing steel player Neil Flanz, who anchored the house band for the Canadian TV show, Star Route, which was hosted by Rod Cameron. Flanz was originally from Montreal and toured with several Canadian country stars before making the move to Nashville, where he worked with several older, more traditionally-oriented artists. Flanz may be best known to modern country fans as part of Gram Parson's early-'Seventies band, The Fallen Angels, which backed Parsons and his then-protege, Emmylou Harris, on their fabled 1973 tour. Of particular interest on this album are the low notes Flanz delves into, as opposed to the standard higher-end tonalities that typify pedal steel work. Nice set!
Neil Flanz "Special Instructions Album" (Sho-Bud Records, 1972) (LP)
Flatbush "Driver's Dream" (Bush League Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Flatbush & Jerry Bruno)
One of the premiere country-rock bands from Cleveland, Ohio during the late 1970s... These guys apparently broke up in 1981, not long after recording this album...
Cliff Flatford "Time With Cliff Flatford" (Time Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Tido & Cliff Flatford)
Born in Maynardsville, Tennessee, singer Cliff Flatford was in Nashville -- Nashville, Indiana, that is -- when he cut this album with his own band, The Flatlanders(*). The repertoire includes several countrypolitan covers, as well as a few originals by Cliff Flatford and by Paul Flatford, who I'm gonna assume was a relative. [* With apologies to Butch, Jimmie and Joe, of course...]
Flatland Band "Plainly Scene" (Golden Rope Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Deglman & The Flatland Band)
Not to be confused with the legendary Texas band, The Flatlanders, this country-rock crew from Illinois had a guitar-centric sound with some pedal steel on top... All original material written by bandmembers Gordy Cotter, Jerry Reno and Sam Dean. If anyone knows more about these fellas, I'm all ears!
The Flatlanders - see artist discography
Ansley Fleetwood "Ansley Fleetwood" (ACA Records, 19--?) (LP)
Pianist Ansley Fleetwood is best remembered as the guy who wrote Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley's chart-topping 1979 duet, "Just Good Ole Boys," one of the biggest country hits of the early '80s. Fleetwood was a member of Joe Stampley's band when the idea to have the two singers combine forces was first being batted around, and he penned the redneck novelty number as a showcase for their talents. Fleetwood had been knocking around Nashville since the early '70s, recording on tiny labels and writing several other (far less successful) songs, as well as producing a few singles for other, equally obscure artists. He also composed the song "Finding You," which was a minor hit for Stampley in 1983... Later on Fleetwood worked in Jeanne Pruett's 1980's band and eventually seems to have dropped out of the Nashville scene and become a music educator. I'm not sure where this undated album fits into his career, although from the looks of it, I'm guessing it's a mid-to-late '70s record, made some time before the Moe & Joe thing took off. Maybe around 1977...?
Cecil Fletcher "Songs From A Thousand Hills & Nap-Sin-Ekee" (Thousand Hills Records, 1976)
(Produced by Joe Scaife)
Songwriter Cecil L. Fletcher (1918-2002) lived on a family farm called Napsinekee, near LeClaire, Iowa and right next door to the birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody. Fletcher was a Buffalo Bill devotee and a folklorist who gathered stories about the area, which he gathered into a book, as well as in several songs that populate this album. Some of his compositions included "Nap-Sin-Ekee Hollow," "My Father Owns The Cattle On A Thousand Hills" and "Thank God That I'm Free" -- the second side of the disc is mainly gospel material, with all the songs on the album being written by Mr. Fletcher except for the tail end of a medley that includes "Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace." This was one of two albums Fletcher recorded, backed here by a group that included several heavyweight session musicians: Johnny Gimble on fiddle, Lloyd Green playing pedal steel, drummer Randy Cullers and Bobby Ogdin of the TCB band on piano. Other musicians may have been locals, such as singer Linda McCachran and multi-instrumentalist Joe Tanner who I think had been playing on banjo in various Midwestern bluegrass bands over the years. Mr. Fletcher's bio mentions a second album, though I haven't been able to track that one down yet.
Tex Fletcher "Western Roundup" (Waldorf Music Hall, 1956) (10")
Tex Fletcher/Sons Of The Purple Sage "On The Trail" (Waldorf Music Hall, 1957-?) (LP)
Tex Fletcher "The Lonely Cowboy: Complete Decca Recordings" (BACM, 2008) (CD)
Florida Bill "I Wanna Love You All The Time" (Sunbonnet Records, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Gordon & Earl Lett)
Pensacola, Florida singer-saxophonist Earl Lett went by the stage name Florida Bill, although he grew up in Alabama and was an R&B musician before he took up his country career. He even had a gig playing sax for the Ike and Tina Turner Revue from 1970-71. From there, he enrolled at the Berklee School of Music and studied arranging and music theory, then started his own band, which by the early '80s had evolved into an all-country act. Lett penned all ten songs on this uber-indie album, all solidly crafted in the mainstream, Top Forty Nashville style, with pretty standard-issue, glossy, pop-country arrangements, sometimes complimented by Lett's own saxophone licks, but mostly it's all about fairly generic electric guitar and keyboard backing, with some tasty though perfunctory pedal steel playing by Doug Jernigan. It's not really my cup of tea, but it's a well-produced, solid set from such an off-the-radar local artist.
Bob Flower "...And His Star Dusters" (Do-Re-Me Records, 1966) (LP)
Country bandleader Bob Flower had a day job as police chief of Cuba, New York, but he kept busy at nights, taking his band on the road to play gigs and even made the trek to Nashville a few times to cut singles, as well as this LP, which was his only full-length album. Flower described himself as "the poor man's Ernie Ford," and is firmly anchored in mainstream, old-school country. This album is almost all cover tunes, standards like "Cold, Cold Heart," "Four Walls," "Lonesome 7-7203" and the like. Flower sings half the songs solo, as well as a couple of duets with "girl" singer Dody Lynn who was a Cuba, NY native... Ms. Lynn also sings lead on a couple of tracks, including a version of "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." Apparently Flower retired from the police force in 1966, and moved to Florida in the early '70s to retire -- Dody Lynn established herself as a solo performer, playing gigs around Cuba with a band called the Guitarmen, and released her own solo album around 1973.
Bill Floyd "This Is Bill Floyd" (Topic Records, 1968-?) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Wright)
Robust, twangy country from one of Tampa, Florida's most popular radio deejays... Born in Willacoochee, Georgia, Floyd moved to the Tampa area as a kid and became a well-known radio personality as well as a popular local performer, cutting a few hillbilly bop/rockabilly singles in the late '50s and this doozy of a disc in the 'Sixties. Around the time this came out, Floyd was headlining at Doc Castellana's Imperial Ballroom, a country music outpost that also often booked nationally-known Nashville stars, as well as local acts. In addition to a bunch of hard country songs like "Now It's All Over," "Uptown City Slicker" and "Somebody Else's Husband," this includes the strident pro-military Vietnam War song, "Freedom's Cause." Often working with his brother, electric guitarist Harold Floyd, Bill Floyd kept his band together through the early 1980s and released numerous singles, several LPs and CDs, even briefly hosting a syndicated TV show in the early 'Seventies. After disbanding his group, Floyd took a job at a local newspaper, though he continued doing private solo gigs on the side. This was his first album... and it's mighty tasty!
Bill Floyd & The Countrymen "Sunshine Country" (Sunshine Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
Bill Floyd "...Sings Country" (Hillside Country Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Alan Smith & Betty Whidby)
A mix of Bakersfield twang and outlaw poetics, with songs by Kris Kristofferson ("Lovin' Her Was Easier"), Billy Joe Shaver ("Black Rose"), Bob McDill, Dallas Frazier and Harland Howard, along with four originals by Bill Floyd, and even a version of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," to top things off. Floyd is backed by a small studio crew, with some Nashville A-listers such as Willie Rainsford and Leon Rhodes, along with Gene O'Neal on steel guitar and Horace Whidby on lead. (The Whidbys had recorded at least once before this, a 7" cut for the Rich-R-Tone label sometime around 1970, featuring a pair of original honkytonk weepers, "We Both Were Wrong" and "I'm Tired Of Being Hurt.") Dunno exactly what year this album came out, but '73 seems about right, given the choice of cover songs.
The Flying Burrito Brothers - see artist discography
Flying X Ranch Hands "Campfire Melodies" (A & R Record Manufacturing Corporation, 1975-?) (LP)
A late-edition offshoot of the fabled Fall River Wranglers (above). This Colorado cowboy quartet spotlights fiddler-guitarist Jim Blanton, rhythm guitarist and tenor vocalist J. D. Blanton, and Floyd Luker on bass, all with guest star, western swing fiddler extraordinaire Hugh Farr, to whom they dedicated the album. The small group format seems to be modeled after the four-person jams led by Hugh and Karl Farr, in tandem with their recordings in the larger Sons Of The Pioneers ensemble. Plenty of oldies -- "Draggin' The Bow," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," "Sweet Georgia Brown" -- as well as a few more arcane tunes, such as "Little Rock Getaway" and "What This Country Needs." Alas, no songwriter credits, or production notes.
Flying X Ranch Hands "Bunk House Ballads" (A & R , 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Brooks, Gene Burton & Ray Farmer)
This lineup also featured J. D. Blanton and Jim Blanton, along with Guitarist Ron Grimes and co-producer Bill Brooks on bass and lead vocals. Apparently this generally-younger offshoot of the Flying Ranch Hands dynasty headlined a supper-club gig at the Flying X Chuckwagon restaurant, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, which is a fair stretch from the Flying X Ranch, up in Estes Park. Anyway, though the set list here is mostly straight-up cowboy oldies, I get the sense this might have been a slightly hipper and perhaps rowdier combo than the guys up at the ranch. Maybe the older Jim Blanton was there to keep 'em running along? I dunno. There's no date on this album, but based on the catalog number, there's a good chance it might have been from 1979 or thereabouts... That looks right from the photos.
Foggy Bottom "Foggy Bottom" (Real Earth Records, 1979) (LP)
A progressive bluegrass band from the Washington, DC area, populated with folks who worked for NASA and the Library Of Congress. Notable in the band was banjo plunker Ray Hesson (1941-2016) who had some success in the pop world years earlier, playing lead guitar on a Kennedy-era instrumental called "Wheels," which rolled up into Billboard Top Ten back in 1961. The group covers pop and rock material such as "Blue Bayou," "Lay Down Sally" and "Songbird," as well as more traditional bluegrass fare.
Foggy Bottom "Old Flames" (Real Earth, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Freeland & Norm Bowland)
A progressive bluegrass band from Clinton, Maryland, with a jaunty mix of originals and covers that show a definite affinity for Emmylou Harris and her crowd. They cover a couple of tunes that Emmylou did on her bluegrass album, "The Darkest Hour" and "Green Rolling Hills Of West Virginia," as well as Herb Pedersen's "Hey Boys" and Hugh Moffat's "Old Flames," which was a hit for Dolly Parton. Other covers include "I Could Sure Use The Feeling" (an actual Top Forty country hit for Earl Scruggs in 1979) along with tunes by by Loggins & Messina and The Louvin Brothers. Foggy Bottom lead singer Karen Belanger contributes one called "Louisiana Morn," while the band's guitarist Ray Schmidt penned "Baby It's Blue" -- probably the most interesting track on the album is banjo picker Ray Hesson's, "Nineteen Sixty-One," while ponders all the changes in the world since the comparatively innocent days of Kennedy's Camelot, and may tangentially reflect Hesson's biographical arc since the days when his guitar licks nearly topped the pop charts. Notable for fans of '80s and '90s bluegrass are the contributions of freshman flatpicker David Grier, who apparently wasn't an official member of the band (and gets a special "thank you" in the liner notes) but nonetheless plays lead guitar on about half the album.
The Foggy River Boys "Songs To Remember" (International Artists, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Higgins)
A gospel quartet from Carthage, Missouri who recorded an album with one side of secular music -- Dallas Frazier's "There Goes My Everything," "Skip A Rope" and "Cool Water" from the Sons Of The Pioneers alongside pop oldies such as "Glow Worm." Side Two is straight gospel oldies... all standards in that department.
Blaze Foley - see artist discography
Nick Foley "Tombstone Junction Presents Nick Foley" (TJ Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Howard White)
A Kentucky-born country singer and actor, Nick Foley started his career in his teens as a performer at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, where he eventually became the emcee, as well as the host of regional radio and TV programs such as the Skylight Cavalcade a nationally syndicated TV show. He also had a steady gig at the Tombstone Junction "old west" theme park, which was sort of Kentucky's answer to Silver Dollar City. This short, eight song album is half covers, half originals, with versions of Leon Ashley's "Laura," Conway Twitty's "Hello Darlin'," "Green Green Grass Of Home" and "Peace In The Valley" alternating with four of Foley's own songs: "I'm A Horse's Tail," Love On My Side" "What Is Life," and "Sometimes A Mountain." As far as I know, this was Foley's only album and while I'm not sure how long he was at Tombstone Junction, the park itself was a popular venue throughout the 1970s, but closed in 1991 after a fire razed it to the ground.
Skip Folse "Panama Jack" (Metan Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Bordonali & Joe Wilson)
I'm not entirely sure about this one; it seems more like a folk-pop thing, with no steel guitar or fiddle, although Nashville session player Mark Casstevens picks guitar. A keyboard player, Louisiana native Norman ("Skip") Folse seems to have been a protege of (the late) singer-songwriter Jim Croce -- he covers a couple of Croce's tunes,"Workin' At The Car Wash Blues" and "Walkin' Back To Georgia" and most of the songs were from Croce's publishing company, Blendingwell Music, which Folse wrote for as well. Other composers credited include Bob Corbin and Joey George, rounded things out with a cover of Tom Waits's "Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night." Folse suffered some kind of health setback in the early '80s, which required him to learn how to play guitar left-handed, and to move away from Hammond organ and rely on a MIDI player and pre-recorded backing tracks for his live performances. He also moved to Atlanta at some point, where he specialized in throwing raunchy concerts and dance parties at weddings, bachelorette parties, and the like. Not sure when this came out, but it was certainly after Croce's death in 1973... I'm guessing sometime between 1975-77 or so.
Bob Folsom "This Is Bob Folsom" (World Records, 1974-?) (LP)
The provenance of this album is a little unclear, with no liner notes to speak of, and little info on Mr. Folsom to be found online. The disc was recorded by "Joe Banana Productions," in Brandon, Florida, and I'm guessing at the release date based on the inclusion of a cover of Cal Smith's chart-topping hit, "Country Bumpkin," which came out at the start of 1974. Folsom also covers eclectic numbers such as "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues," "Everyone's Gone To The Moon" and "Behind Closed Doors," a huge hit for Charlie Rich.
Fool's Gold "Fool's Gold" (Asylum, 1976)
(Produced by Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Glyn Johns & John Stronach)
These guys were, literally, Eagles knockoffs: with Glenn Frey as a co-producer, they frequently slide into smooth, mellow group harmonies that will be very familiar to fans of The Eagles. There's a definite Southern California country-rock vibe, as well as a strong strain of pure '70s AOR, which isn't surprising, since their main gig was working as Dan Fogleberg's backing band. They cover a couple of his songs, and Fogleberg co-wrote a third with members of the band; guitarist Joe Walsh also appears on here, playing lead on the first track. This is very soft, very familiar-sounding music, airy, gooey, mildly bland 'Seventies stuff, and even though this band never made its mark as a solo entity, folks who like classic soft-pop of the era will dig this disc. There's a little bit of legitimate twang in here, too -- piano player Doug Livingston also adds some nice pedal steel throughout, and they squeeze some mandolin in there as well.
Fool's Gold "Mr. Lucky" (Columbia Records, 1977)
(Produced by Keith Olson)
Footloose "The Day Begins In The Evening" (Mudhen Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Will Spencer)
A bluegrassy string-swing band from Ann Arbor, Michigan... This Footloose (not to be confused with the boogie band from Georgia) was a longhaired acoustic ensemble, mixing old-time mountain music with twanged-up oldies rock tunes, American songbook standards and even a whirl at Louis Jordan's "Barnyard Boogie." They also add a bunch of their own original material, which makes up over half the album. The shaggy-looking group included John Foster, Patti O'Connor, Bill Barton and Myron Grant, who each played multiple instruments. This may have been their first album.
Footloose "Country In The City" (Mudhen Records, 1981) (LP)
Footloose "Music In The Air" (Footloose Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Raines & Gerald Gibson)
Different group. This was a country boogie/Southern rock band from Atlanta, Georgia with a slew of originals written by singer/guitarists Gerald Gibson and Gary Raines...
Footloose "Footloose" (Thunderhead Sound Studios, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Charles Whaley)
Hang on now... How many of these darn Footloose bands are there...?? These guys were a bluegrass band including lead singers Steve Kaufman (a champion flatpicker who won the 1977 competition in Winfield, Kansas) and Dan Holman on rhythm guitar, along with old-timer Red Rector on mandolin, and Leesa Nanney on bass. Apparently they were from Knoxville, Tennessee -- in the liner notes, Dan Crary remembers jamming with them in Knoxville, and they recorded there as well.
The Footstompers "You Guys Still Here?" (Hybrid Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Lang)
A shaggy-looking, beard-y polka-twang bar-band who cover polka novelty classics such as the "She's Too Fat Polka" and "In Heaven There Is No Beer," but also outlaw country hits like Tompall Glaser's "Put Another Log On The Fire." Music to drink beer by and cheerfully sing along to, fer shure. Not sure, but I think these guys were from Illinois.
Dan Foral & The Drifters "Dan Foral & The Drifters" (Rene Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte & Lerry Krenk)
A singer from Columbus, Nebraska, Dan Foral took over the Drifters band in 1970 and led the band for a while, along with bandmembers Ed Julius, Jerry Frey and Ken Jenson. The repertoire here was all country covers, mostly contemporary hits from 1969-70, stuff like "Me And Bobby McGee," "Snowbird," "Bed Of Rose's" and "Ruby." Lead singer Ed Julius also recorded an album on Rene Records, Life Is Hard, which had more original material, including one song credited to Dan Foral, although as far as I can tell, Foral was not directly related to that band. He also recorded a single with a guy named Bill LeGate, who worked in his band throughout the early 'Seventies. (Note: a photo of this edition of the band -- dated 07/24/71 -- is archived on a site maintained by the state of Nebraska, showing all the guys on this album, as well as a teen-looking gal named Debbie Witt, who seems to have been part of their live show.)
Dan Foral "With All Your Country Favorites" (Rene Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte & Bob Palenesky)
A pretty laid-back set of early-'Seventies midwestern twang, with a mildly off-kilter, Willie Nelsonesque feel, with hints of Jim Ed Brown-ian countrypolitan... The material is mostly cover songs, though there are four originals, including "Black Hills Woman," "Country Lovin' Drifter," the very sunshine-y "The Smile You Gave Me," and a reprise of Foral's 1963 song, "Boy From Alabama," a Hank Williams tribute co-written with his longtime pal, Bill LeGate. This edition of the band included Jerry Frey (bass), Ray Gulley (lead guitar) and Bob Laroe (drums), with backing vocals by the Pat Phillips Singers, a perky gal chorus in the Anita Kerr/Nashville Sound style. Not sure of the date on this one, though it couldn't have been too much later than the album above.
Erma J. Ford "...Is Really More Than Half A Woman" (Princess, 1971) (LP)
Pretty twangy, Loretta Lynn-like honkytonk country, from Roanoke, Virginia. This disc was a mix of covers and originals... The super-weird album title comes from her version of a song called "Half A Woman," which still doesn't make it any less weird. Go figure.
Jed Ford "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone" (SRT Productions, 1973-??) (LP)
An early '70s(?) English country crooner, from 1980 to 1985 Jed Ford organized the Peterborough Festival of Country Music, a big event which imported American country stars to British shores where they rubbed shoulders with local artists and thrilled their Stetson-sporting fans... I'm not sure how many albums Ford recorded, though this one seems to date from the late '60s and early '70s, with covers of "Mama Tried," "Blue Side Of Lonesome" and "D.I.V.O.R.C.E." and the title track, "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone," which was first a hit for Charley Pride in 1970... No info, though, on who the backing band was on this album... alas!
Jed Ford "I Saw The Light" (Pixie Records, 19--?) (LP)
Jim Ford "Harlan County" (White Whale Records, 1969) (LP)
Kentucky native Jim Ford (1941-2007) made his way out west to California to become modestly successful Top Forty songwriter in the early 1970s. Penning pop, rock, and soul hits for established artists, on his own albums he crafted an odd mix of country and pop. Most of Ford's solo work has been reissued posthumously, with Harlan County being the only "proper" album issued during his lifetime...
Jim Ford "The Sounds Of Our Time" (Bear Family, 2007)
Jim Ford "Point Of No Return: Previously Unissued Masters, A Lost 45 & Rare Demos" (Bear Family, 2008)
Jim Ford "Big Mouth USA -- The Unissued Paramount Album" (Bear Family, 2009)
A tantalizing set of material from one of the odder characters on the 1970's twang scene. Songwriter Jim Ford was a pal of funk-soul pioneer Sly Stone; he played on some Sly & The Family Stone albums, as well as other iconic rock and pop records, but he nurtured an abiding love of country music, and wrote some truly stunning original twang-tunes. He must have had some interesting personal quirks, though, because there is a string of unissued demo material for projects on a number of labels. Maybe the major-label "suits" just weren't ready yet to have some hippie longhair crash the Nashville party, but for whatever reason, Ford faded from the scene and wound up living off the radar, ending his life in obscurity, in a trailer home up in Northern California. In his home was a treasure trove of demo tapes, unissued masters, and a handful of singles that had been issued over the years. Some of it is really great stuff, well-sculpted country songs, often with a novelty twist, as well as some dips into sunshine pop-era rock and soul. This disc, along with the Capitol Album collection below, overlaps with earlier Bear Family releases, but that doesn't detract from their value: if you're hearing of Ford's work for the first time, then these discs will be a real treat. Check it out!
Jim Ford "The Unissued Capitol Album" (Bear Family, 2009)
Joy Ford "The First Of Joy Ford" (Country International Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Sherman Ford, Jr. & Fred Christie)
The young Ms. Ford was born in Alabama but grew up near Poplar Bluffs, Missouri... Although there are some cover tunes on here -- "Til The End Of The World," "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," "Release Me" -- most of the songs were written by various composers signed to the Rest A While Music Company... Folks like Don Canton, Eddie Fontaine, Janice Torre and Bee Walker who remain as mysterious today as they were back then, though presumably they were all Missouri locals. Sadly, there's no info on the musicians backing her, but this was certainly a very private/indie type of album.
Joy Ford "Keep On Truckin'... Keep On Lovin' " (Country International Records, 1977) (LP)
Joy Ford "From The Heart Of Joy" (Country International Records, 198--?) (LP)
Mack Ford & Sandy Ford "The Mack And Sandy Way" (Cuca Record Company, 196-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mack Lunsford)
The Wisconsin duo of Mack Lunsford (d. 1977) and Bernice ("Sandy") Lunsford (1918-2011) played at rodeos and radio shows, and released at least two singles for the Sauk City-based Cuca Record Company, in addition to this album. About half the tracks on this album were written by the Lunsfords and published by Great Northern Song Publishing; most of the songs were unique to this LP, although one track, "The Squeak In The Old Rocking Chair," also came out on a single. Mr. Mack played harmonica, steel guitar and ukulele, while Ms. Mack played bass and rhythm guitar... They are accompanied here by a young gal named Pam Rescheske, on the organ.
Skip Foreman "Presenting Skip Foreman: His First Album" (Shasta Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Wakely)
Western movie star and Shasta label owner Jimmy Wakely sure knew how to throw a party... or at least a recording session. Wakely spotted singer Skip Foreman doing a lounge show a Nevada casino and offered him a recording deal on the spot. The studio band he lined up included heavyweight pickers such as electric guitarist James Burton and pianist Glen D. Hardin (both veterans of Elvis Presley's TCB band), as well as pedal steel whiz Red Rhodes and a slightly less-high profile rhythm section. This album obviously didn't burn up the charts, but it is interesting to note that several of these songs -- standards such as "Kaw-Liga," "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Statue Of A Fool" -- were included on a subsequent Shasta LP showcasing Danny Michaels, and also featuring a band led by James Burton, so maybe there was a little bit of paint-by-numbers going on... Anyway, not much info about Skip Foreman outside of the album itself; no info about where he was from or if he made any other records.
Norm Forrest "A Fool Such As I" (Republic Records, 19--?) (LP)
Hank Fort/Various Artists "My Favorite Friend: Original Songs" (Gemini Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Crutchfield & Chuck Seitz)
Born in Nashville, songwriter Hank Fort (nee Eleanor Hankins, 1914-1973) was a socialite in Washington, DC, where her husband, Bill McAuliffe was a successful stockbroker... Mr. McAuliffe actually sings on most of the tracks on this album, including one duet with Hank; she sings solo on two songs, while Dottie Dillard (of the Anita Kerr Singers) sings on one, and a vocal group called The Fortunes tackle the remaining track. All the songs were written or co-written by Fort, with backing provided by a Nashville crew helmed by producer Jerry Crutchfield. Fort had a fair amount of commercial success, penning humorous "hick" songs along the same lines as those sung by Judy Canova and Dorothy Shay... Honestly, though, this is a pretty dreadful record, owing more to the bland "pop vocals" sound of the 'Fifties than its Nashville counterparts, and while this isn't quite on a par with, say, the Mrs. Miller albums, there's a similar vibe at work. The very epitome of a vanity pressing.
Hank Fort "...Sings Her Own Great Songs" (Epic Records, 19--?) (LP)
Elizabeth Foss "Sing For Us, Grandma" (Westmark Custom Records) (LP)
(Produced by Al Opland)
South Dakota native Elizabeth Foss and her husband Wilbur Foss (1921-2015) were devotees in the extreme to the "private label" phenomenon, recording literally dozens of albums, mostly of old-time fiddling music played by regular folks who came to their neck of the woods to take part in musical gatherings sponsored by the family. In the 1940s and 'Fifties the Fosses owned a hardware store, which Mr. Foss apparently gave up during a brief stint serving in South Dakota's state Senate; later in the decade he took a job at a local bank, where he worked for over two decades. In his mid-fifties, Mr. Foss turned to music, learning to play the fiddle at age fifty-five years old, even though he had lost three fingers while still a toddler during an accident on the family farm. The Fosses co-founded the South Dakota Fiddlers organization in 1976, and received numerous musical and civic awards over the years, including an induction into the South Dakota Country Music Hall Of Fame. They were also key members of the Old Time Fiddlers festival, based in Yankton, SD, and produced dozens of vinyl LPs commemorating the event. This album is one of many they recorded through the Westmark custom label network, and is perhaps a more personal record than most, with Mrs. Foss singing a mix of country oldies, gospel hymns and German leider, backed on guitar by Norma Borgheiinick, along with Charles Baker (fiddle and guitar), John McNeil (banjo and guitar), and Annie McNeil on piano.
Wilbur Foss/Various Artists "JARLE, WILBUR AND ELIZABETH FOSS INVITE YOU TO LISTEN TO THEIR FRIENDS PLAY THE FIDDLE, v. 26" (Westmark Custom Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Al Opland)
I'm not sure what year this disc was recorded, but as the volume number implies, it was one of many recorded as part of the Old Time Fiddlers gathering in Yankton. Jarle Foss was Mr. Foss' father, and a fiddler himself; before learning the fiddle, Wilbur Foss would accompany his dad on piano.
Wilbur Foss "We Rode Our Horses & Played With Fiddlers From Yankton, SD, To Havana, North Dakota, Volume 36" (1985) (LP)
Wilbur Foss/Various Artists "WILBUR FOSS, v. 40: FIDDLERS OF EVERY AGE AND STYLE COME TO YANKTON, SD" (Westmark Custom Records, 19--?) (LP)
This is the highest volume number I've seen yet in this series. Not much info on the preceding three dozen-plus LPs, but I'm sure they're out there...
Jim Foster "The Living Legend: Trooper Jim" (Country Artists Records International, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Finley Duncan)
Jim Foster "This Is Trooper Jim" (Country Artists Records International, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Finley Duncan)
Man! Talk about wearing a lot of different hats! In addition to being one of those "singing cop" country artists, Florida state trooper Jim Foster also worked as a radio announcer and a TV personality (broadcasting weekly public service announcements for the Florida Highway Patrol...) In 1972, Foster leveraged his celebrity into a political career, getting elected to the Florida House of Representatives, where he remained for ten years before returning to the civil service. He recorded this album, as well as a bunch of singles on various labels -- his best-known song was one of his earliest, a drunken-driving novelty number called "Four On The Floor (And A Fifth Beneath The Seat)" which he recorded for United Artists back in 1965. This disc is exclusively packed with original songs written or co-written by Foster, including a re-recording of "Four On The Floor," and a fine recitation tune, "Trooper's Prayer" -- there are even some of the political ad spots used in his campaign for the state House seat! The studio crew were Nashville pros -- guys like DJ Fontana, Johnny Gimble, Weldon Myrick and Buddy Spicher -- and a few of the songs were co-written with songwriting partners Sharon Carroll and Gayle Sheppard, who were presumably Florida locals. Foster had kind of an old-fashion, slightly cornball style, sort of midway between Jim Reeves and Red Sovine, with a dash of Andy Griffith, aw-shucks rural cop humor thrown in for good measure.
The Jim Foster IV "Wanted: The Jim Foster IV Show" (J. F. Records & Tapes, 197-?)
The Jim Foster IV "1940's Show" (J. F. Records & Tapes, 197-?) (LP)
The Jim Foster IV "Country" (J. F. Records & Tapes, 197-?) (LP)
The Jim Foster IV "1950's Show" (J. F. Records & Tapes, 197-?) (LP)
Jim Foster & Barry Burke "Once More... With Feeling" (Doggett Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by H. W. "Pappy" Daily)
There sure are a lot of these Jim Foster fellers running around, though I do not believe they are all the same person... This here is a live album by a duo that also released several singles on Pappy Daily's "D" label, down in Houston, Texas. The repertoire is packed with country standards, in fact with tunes that were originally recorded by George Jones, back when he was being produced by Daily.
The Four Guys "Right On!!" (NRS Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Col. Dave Mathes)
Sunshine pop and folk-pop vocals from a quartet who were "just as much at home on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as they are on the Las Vegas Circuit..." (as the liner notes proclaim...) Although several Nashville studio stalwarts such as Weldon Myrick, Jerry Shook and Junior Huskey play on these sessions, there's precious little twang -- it's more of an example of how pop sensibilities bubbled under the surface of Music City. This vocal group originally hailed from Ohio, but found work backing various stars in the mid-1960s and early '70s, including gigs with Jimmy Dean, Charley Pride and Hank Williams, Jr., and many others. This edition of the band featured tenor Gary Buck, a former gospel singer with the Stamps Quartet who apparently came up with the idea of recording an album and eventually became the group's featured vocalist, as they adapted the gospel quartet style into a pop-country sound similar to what groups such as the Oak Ridge Boys and Alabama were developing around the same time. At this point, though, the Four Guys sounded more like the Kingston Trio, and despite a long tenure in Nashville and Vegas, they never quite hit the bigtime. Gary Buck left the band and tried his hand in several music business roles before starting an evangelical ministry and concentrating on Southern Gospel rather than secular stuff; the other guys -- notably Sam Wellington -- kept the band going for decades despite an ever-changing lineup. Among several Stamps Quartet alumni, the Four Guys also briefly included Dave Rowland, who swiftly moved to a solo career as the leader of the vocal group Dave & Sugar.
Bubba Fowler "...And Then Came Bubba" (Columbia Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Johnston)
Pop-folk provocateur Elkin "Bubba" Fowler was the musical partner of the pre-country, pre-"Wheel Of Fortune" Chuck Woolery, as part of a late-'60s prefab psych-pop duo called The Avant-Garde, which scored a couple of semi-hits with pseudo-hippie singles that landed in the back end of the Top Forty. After they broke up, Woolery retooled himself as a would-be country star and Fowler landed a gig as a session musician playing guitar in Columbia producer's Bob Johnston's studio crew. He played on some albums by Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and got the full-on Bob Johnston country-rock treatment on his own, lone solo album, ...And Then Came Bubba. This record is half brilliant, half lame, with Fowler taking on various personae -- rock prophet, folk stoner, artsy fartist -- and the band simply going hog-wild on most tracks, with the drummer in particular given permission to just go for it. On the best songs, Fowler indulges in a broadly-drawn rural accent and digs deep into an earthy swamp-pop vibe akin to that of Tony Joe White, but with a weird agit-prop sensibility. Less fun are the tracks where he half-satirically imitates Bob Dylan, rolling out wordy folk-rock lyrics that ape Dylan's sound but have little of his weight. Fowler wasn't alone in his Dylan homage -- folks had been doing it for years -- but his version is notable since he actually had Dylan's band backing him, or some version thereof. Unfortunately, there are no musician credits on this album, though I'm sure some keen-eared Dylan-ologists could fill in the blanks... A couple of tracks are lively studio session jams, with Fowler presumably cutting loose on the lead guitar. All in all, this is a fun, goofy, hippie-era oddity, ripe for reissue and definitely of interest to a wide variety of music fans, including students of early proto-Americana country-rock. Groovy, man!
Ken Fowler & The Hurricane River Band "Ken Fowler And The Hurricane River Band" (Ozark Sound Studios, 1978) (LP)
Apparently singer Ken Fowler was from rural Missouri and played in local bars and high schools in and around Springfield, later landing a gig at Branson... This indie album came out nearly a decade before Fowler's big shot at fame. In 1986, he cracked into the Top 100 with a slick, very '80s-sounding single, "You're A Heartache To Follow," which hit #96 on the Country charts, but wasn't enough to propel him much further. Don't know much else about him, though...
Ken Fowler "Forgive Her" (Deja Vu Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Overstreet)
Wally Fowler/Various Artists "Wally Fowler And His Music City Jubilee" (Nashwood Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Jack Smith)
One of the original movers and shakers in the Nashville music industry, Georgia-born Wally Fowler (1917-1994) wrote hundreds of songs, established his own record label, and, perhaps most significantly, founded the Oak Ridge Quartet southern gospel group way back in 1945, the group that would eventually evolve into The Oak Ridge Boys, one of the most popular country acts of the 1970s and '80s. Fowler performed on countless radio or TV shows over the years, was an Opry cast member and formed his own musical revues, including the gospel-oriented All Nite Singing concerts, which were held at the Ryman Auditorium in the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. He later created his own Music City Jubilee, which had earlier incarnations, but opened its doors as a bandstand venue in 1981. This 2-LP set commemorates the short-lived Jubilee, which seems to have lasted a couple of years and showcased a number of younger unknowns. The musicians on this album included vocalists Rick Baird, Chip Huffman, Mark McCauley, Jana Smith and Tim Smith, backed by a house band called the Tennessee Valley Boys, which was comprised of veteran producer-guitarist Gene Breeden, along with Ben Brogden (bass), Gary Smith (piano), Jack Smith (dobro and steel guitar), Steve Taylor (drums) and Phil Watson on guitar. To be honest, the album is a bit underwhelming. The material is fine but the production and the performances are resolutely generic, in keeping with the squeeky-clean production style of the times. Not surprisingly there are quite a few tracks that mimic the then-dominant harmony vocals sound of groups such as Alabama and The Oak Ridge Boys (a style that Fowler helped pioneer) while the Jana & Tim Smith duet delved more into ballads. Fowler sings as well, but he just sounds old and out of touch. I'm not sure how long exactly the Music City Jubilee persisted; there appears to have been a road show that staged concerts as far afield as Oklahoma, and the TVB band released a single in '84, an Oak Ridge-y, half-secular love song called "Lo And Behold" that got some traction on the charts. One of the Jubilee's later performers, Jimmy Ponder, recorded a solo album called Every Drop Of Water after moving to Branson, Missouri for a gig at Silver Dollar City.
The Fox Brothers "Jesus Was A Country Man" (LSI, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Babcock & Al McGuire)
Hailing from the tiny town of Bending Chestnut, Tennessee, The Fox Brothers -- Lynn, Randy, Roy and Tommy Fox -- were a Southern Gospel family band, and stalwarts of the Nashville country-gospel scene for several decades, dating back to the mid-1970s. They recorded several albums and performed regularly on Nashville-based TV shows such as Gospel Jubilee. On this early album their band also includes Jim Jones, Charlie Trent and Daryl Nelson, and the Nashville studio crew also included A-list pros such as Sonny Garrish, Lloyd Green, Charlie McCoy, and Bobby Thompson... A little slick sounding, but definitely country-flavored, with group vocals very much in the style of the Oak Ridge Boys and Alabama...
Garland Frady "Pure Country" (Countryside/Elektra, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Nesmith)
A nice one! And well named. With his soulful, understated baritone, North Carolina-born Garland Frady (1941-2004) had a minor hit with "The Barrooms Have Found You," and his barely cracking into the Top 100 on an indie label led, inexorably, to cherished cult status. He was just that good. The rugged-voiced Frady had cut a string of singles dating back to the mid-1960s, but I guess nothing ever quite clicked, and this was his first LP, made while he was living in Los Angeles. An early-'Seventies regular in the Palomino Club's house band, Frady was pretty well-connected and is backed here by label owner Michael Nesmith and The Countryside Band, a group assembled to be the studio crew for the short-lived Countryside label. This was one of only two records released on Countryside, the other being a solo set by steel guitarist Red Rhodes. Speaking of pedal steel, this album is packed with lots of fancy riffs, prominently mixed into a remarkably rootsy, honkytonk-oriented album. On almost all the tracks, J. G. O'Rafferty plays steel, though Red Rhodes and J. D. Maness also play on one track apiece, with Rhodes providing some tasty licks on a more-countrified cover of "Teach Your Children," one of several tracks that give a nod towards the early '70s country-rock scene. Thematically, the song dovetails nicely with the lone song written by Grady himself, "The Barrooms Have Found You," in which a father laments his kid going nuts and partying a little too hardy after turning 21. The rest of the songs reflect a diverse repertoire, with tracks by Johnny Cash, Casey Kelly, a Dave Loggins oldie, Buzz Rabin and Jesse Winchester, as well a countryfied cover of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." All in all, a pretty strong album, sounding sort of like Dave Dudley doing a semi-hippie session, with some funny-smelling smoke in the air. Also on board were fiddler Byron Berline and Linda Hargrove working in the background as a rhythm guitarist... If you see this one, snap it up. It's nice and twangy... Apparently Frady hit on hard times in the music business (see below) but he re-emerged and released at least two more albums in the 1990s, before passing away in 2004. This first album sure is a great legacy.
Garland Frady "A Tribute To Charlie Rich" (Sound Alike Music, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Michaels)
Apparently this "soundalike" album was only released on 8-track tape, so I'm not gonna get a chance to hear it any time soon. Thanks to our cohorts at Discogs for uncovering these records, which were produced by some fly-by-night label in Los Angeles. A little embarrassing, perhaps, but a paycheck's a paycheck, right? Oddly enough, the front label lists "Van Pfister" as the performer, though "Garland Trady" is listed on the back: at least thy spelled his name right on the Johnny Rodriguez tape that followed.
Garland Frady "A Tribute To Johnny Rodriguez" (Sound Alike Music, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Michaels)
The Frank & Woody Show "Damn The Luck" (1978)
(Produced by Bruce Bendinger & Billy Culhane)
A local band from Tucson, AZ, fronted by Frank Manhardt and Woody Janda... They sound a whole lot like their Arizonan contemporaries, Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, though with a slightly less biting wit. (In fact, you can see one of the bandmembers wearing a "Disco Sucks" t-shirt in a photo on the back cover, so they were probably all buddies...) Anyway, back to Frank and Woody... This is another one of those time-capsule hippie country albums, oozing with hard-won authenticity... you can definitely imagine them having their fair share of beer bottles tossed at them in a bunch of desert roadhouse bars, and practically hear the whoops of delight from their longhaired fans as they sang novelty songs like "Damn The Luck" (with the cheerful refrain, "...what the f***"). There are some hot licks and a couple of resonant songs, but mostly this is a pretty sloppy, jokey album -- a nice keepsake for those who were actually there and a great snapshot for those of us who weren't.
The Frank & Woody Show "Wrapped Up In The Fun Of It" (Key Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Smith)
Their second album was a much slicker production - they were really trying on this one, and though they're almost a little too smooth, they have some nice tunes. The first big contrast with their first album is how they cleaned up the language on the Tex-Mexish title tune: this time around they hint at a swear word -- and I'm sure they must have sang it in their live shows -- but when it came time to make the album, the rhyme went, "...wrapped up in the fun of it/refusing to give a bit..." which is kind of wimpy, but whatever. This disc is best remembered for the topical novelty song, "One Less Jogger On The Road," which got a lot of airplay at the time... Other winners include the fantasy number, "If I Ever Get Rich" and their cover of "Your Time's Coming," which was co-written by Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein. Guest musicians include stringband revivalist Jay Ungar playing fiddle and mandolin on the title track, and local Tucson legend Shep Cooke plays some really pretty guitar, sitting in on one of his own songs, "Forever." Most of the songs are Woody Janda originals, and although his vocals were a little iffy, the album's charming: these were real guys making genuine DIY country.
Will Franklin "I Get High On Country Music" (Seatac Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Will Franklin)
I really wanted to like this one -- I mean, I get high on country music, too, and I loves me a good novelty song -- but the fact of the matter is, this is pretty rough going, musically speaking. Well, vocally, really... Mr. Franklin booked a high-class Nashville studio band for these sessions, including Kenneth Buttrey, Jimmy Capps, Weldon Myrick, Jerry Shook, Pete Wade and others, but I found these tracks a little hard to listen to. I think the songs themselves might be kinda good, but I'm not entirely sure. I have to go back and give this one another fair shake sometime. Not 100% positive where he was from, either -- some sources say Kentucky, but the label name (SeaTac) suggests the Pacific Northwest. Anyway, despite best intentions and plenty of twang, this one's a bit iffy.
Bob Franks "And The Midwestern Traveleers" (Traveleer Records, 19--?) (LP)
A real mystery record, with minimal liner notes and a plain white, blank back cover. And, yes, it really is spelled with two "E"s.
Ray Franks & The Can't Hardly Playboys "Just Plain Country" (Bar-Co Records, 197--?) (LP)
I totally love this album -- I dig the band name, the album title, and hey, the music's pretty great, too. Ray Franks, a self-taught country auteur from Grand Rapids, Michigan, named his band the Can't Hardly Playboys, 'way back when he was teenager in the late 1950s, while he was learning the ropes with Great Lakes western swing bandleader Herb Brown. I dunno what the whole story is with this one... The guys in the band are mostly from around Batesville, Arkansas, where this disc was recorded, and they sound pretty good. The songs are all Franks originals, but they have a powerful streak of unruly, old-school hillbilly music to them... The music is rough-edged and imperfect, also completely heartfelt and authentic. Most of the songs aren't great compositions, but they are fun, and twangy as all getout. I think Franks also recorded a few singles, and kept the band together for decades after this, well into the 2000s, at least. If you can track this one down, definitely check it out.
Ron Fraser "I'm Gonna Sing My Song" (Granite Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
I couldn't readily track down the story on this one, though I gather this was kind of a work-for-hire gig for country old-timer Cliffie Stone, who was touching base with the now and happening youth culture of the time... Stone's son Curtis plays several instruments, with hotshot LA picker Don Lee on guitar and J. B. Crabtree playing pedal steel. There's some pretty solid twang behind this one, though I think Ron Fraser was kind of a crypto-Christian singer; the title track has kind of a folk-pop "up with people" kinda feel. Later, recording in the early '80s as R. K. Fraser, he made a poppy Christian-patriotic album called Heroes, in which he tied the experience of Vietnam vets to the need for spiritual rebirth in American culture. Apparently Fraser was in the 173rd Airborne, serving in Vietnam between 1969-70, so that would have been a few years before he cut this album.
The Fraternity Of Man "The Fraternity Of Man" (ABC Records, 1968)
(Produced by Tom Wilson)
This short-lived California psych band was definitely not strictly country-oriented, but they recorded one of the great classics of the hippie-country genre, the loopy, zonked-out novelty gem, "Don't Bogart Me" (aka "Don't Bogart That Joint My Friend"), which was prominently featured in the stonersploitation film, Easy Rider. The song is pretty funny, and features one of pedal steel player Red Rhodes' best and most memorable performances. The Fraternity was made up of various Frank Zappa cohorts, including some guys who were in Lowell George's early band, The Factory, as well as Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Given this pedigree, it's not surprising that they played an eclectic, adventurous mix of rock and psychedelic blues-rock, though "Don't Bogart Me" -- which was later covered by Little Feat -- certainly gives them a great alt-twang legacy as well. They recorded one other album, Get It On, in 1969, then went their separate ways.
Ronnie Fray "Put This In Your Ear" (Eastown Wreckerds, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ronnie Fray, Johnny Powers & Pat Meehan)
An odd and uneven -- but still kinda charming -- album from a longtime member of the Grand Rapids, Michigan music scene. This is an uber-DIY production, notable for its blend of country twang and funky, Southern rock-tinged roadhouse music... Fray is perhaps best compared to Delbert McClinton -- he covers McClinton's "Cold November" and thanks him in the liner notes -- with one foot in the blues/rock and the other in straight-up twang. He was originally from Canada, and moved to Grand Rapids in 1966 while fronting a rock band called the Capers. Gradually Fray established himself as a solo artist and bandleader, and when he made this record he had a regular gig at a Grand Rapids bar called the Eastown Saloon, which helped put out this album. Anyway, this is a nice slice of self-produced roots music... Fray didn't have a killer voice, but his diverse musical tastes and good-natured vibe are pretty compelling. Worth a spin, if you can track it down.
Ron Frazier & Bridge "Local Bar Star" (Dor-Belle Records, 19--?) (LP)
These locals from Fort Wayne, Indiana recorded several originals, as well as covers of "Me And Bobby McGee," and "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good." I'm not sure when this album came out -- looks early-to-mid '80s? -- but I believe this is the same Ron Frazier who went on to become a country-flavored gospel singer, running the religiously-oriented River City Campground with his wife and singing partner, Sharon Frazier.
Big Sam Frazier, Jr. "Mr. Wrong/Pride Of Alabam: Big Sam Sings Country" (Blue Rock Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Wallis)
Sam Frazier was an African-American country singer, part of Birmingham, Alabama's long-running Country Boy Eddie Show, kind of a low-rent, locally produced Hee Haw-style variety/comedy/talk program that aired on early-morning on WBRC-TV for over thirty years (and was a key stepping stone in Tammy Wynette's career). Frazier originally sang in blues and R&B bands, but went into country at the urging of show host Eddie Burns, and performed on the show for several years in the early 1970s. He had several other prestigious gigs, including a job singing at Mickey Gilley's club in Texas, and recorded for the Blue Rock label in the late 1980s. This album has lots of original material, including a Sid Linard song, "There You Go Running Down My Cheek Again" and the sentimental "Grandma Can I Read To You," written by Ruth Finch, an 80-year old who is pictured on the back cover. (Note: this album seems to have a couple of different pressings, including one that just gives "Mr. Wrong" as the title...)
Freda And The Firedogs "Freda And The Firedogs" (Plug Music, 2002)
(Produced by Jerry Wexler)
This beloved early '70s Austin band featured piano and vocals by Marcia Ball, a youngster from Louisiana who became a core member of the Texas indie scene, initially testing her chops in the hippie twang style, but eventually finding modern blues to be more her thing. This album was recorded in the early '70s as part of a tentative deal with Atlantic Records, but wound up getting shelved for over three decades. There are a lot of country and blues cover tunes, but also an original spark that would resurface in Ball's solo career, which wasn't long in coming. Sadly, this archival reissue album is, itself, many years out of print and not available in any other form. But what goes 'round, comes 'round. It'll be back.
Freddie & Ricky "Laredo To Houston" (Chalk Dog Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Holden)
Just a couple of guys from Houston, strumming tunes and having fun... They cover singalong oldies like "Bloody Mary Morning" and "Louisiana Saturday Night" from the country canon and "Diddy-Wah-Diddy," "Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue," and "Norwegian Wood" from the Leon Redbone-ish, pop-standards side of the spectrum. Freddie Matthews sings lead and also composed a couple of sweet, melodic folkish tunes for the album, "I Want To Lose Myself" and "You Can Find Her In Laredo," while Ricky Opersteny plays bass, fiddle and even a bit of sitar, with additional lead guitar added by Brian Kalinec. Nothing mind-blowing here, but a good example of "regular people" music -- some some dudes who liked to sing, and made a record -- they weren't exceptional, but they were sincere. Indeed, the album is perhaps best epitomized by their cover of Harry Chapin's bittersweet "Mister Tanner," all about a smalltown guy who tries a career in music, but decides it's better just to sing for himself at home.
Freddie & The Freeloaders "A First Look At..." (Jester Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hale)
A band from Danville, Illinois that was led by singer-piano player Fred Halls, along with Ken Holycross (steel guitar), Jimmy Nichols (lead guitar) and Sandy Wright on drums. They include a couple of originals, "Dirty Dozen" written by Holycross and "I Don't Need The Wine" by Halls, along with a guy named Bobby Fischer who was not in the band but seems to have been Halls' main collaborator. They also cover some stuff by Merle Haggard and Mickey Newbury, though I couldn't quite pin down when this one came out.
Freddie & The Freeloaders "Anytime Angel" (Progress Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Halls)
The band still centers around Fred Halls, but a couple of years later, he was working with an entirely new band, which by the way had no steel guitar or fiddle. There are also several original songs on here written by Bobby Fischer, though again, he doesn't perform on the album.
Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones "Spiders In The Moonlight" (Rounder, 1977) (LP)
Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones "The Resurrection Of Spiders In The Moonlight" (Frederick Productions, 2007)
This is a digital-era reissue of Frederick's 1977 Spiders album, with a few bonus tracks added on...
Free Beer "Free Beer" (Southwind Records, 1975) (LP)
This New York City band got together in 1974, with bandmembers Sandy Allen, Michael Packer and Robert Caleb Potter shifting direction and "going country" after the demise of Allen and Packer's previous band, the psychedelic/pastoral folk-rock band Papa Nebo. Potter brought some Nashville country cred to the band, having written a song that rising star Barbara Fairchild recorded on one of her early albums. This indie-ish debut landed them a contract with RCA, though things never quite clicked with the band chartwise... Studio picker Eric Weissberg adds a few licks as well.
Free Beer "Highway Robbery" (RCA, 1976)
(Produced by Alan Lorber)
The singing, songwriting trio of Sandy Allen, Michael Packer and Robert Caleb Potter are augmented by a few studio musicians, including steel guitarist Dan Daley, and some guy on bongo drums. But even with a few 'Seventies affectations, this is a pretty pleasant country-soft pop set, with a few too-lofty arrangements, but overall a reasonably earthy set with a cheerful cowboy-poet undercurrent. Occasionally they lapse into disco-tinged AOR (as on the breezy "Uptown Lover") but fans of easygoing country-rock will enjoy this album. All but one of the songs were written by the bandmembers -- apparently they didn't write together, but they had a lot of original material to work with.
Free Beer "Noveau Chapeau" (1977)
Free Beer "Best" (Iris Music, 2011)
A best-of collection drawing on the three albums listed above... Nineteen tracks in all; seems like a pretty generous selection!
Free Creek "Summit Meeting" (Charisma, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Earle Doud & Tom Flye)
This late-'60s/early-'70s mega-supergroup had some tiny bit of twang in there, along with a whole lot of rock and blues, with rock royalty and studio stalwarts such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keith Emerson, Todd Rundgren and Harvey Mandel joined by roots-oriented artists such as Chris Darrow, Dr. John, Bernie Leadon, pedal steel player Red Rhodes and Linda Ronstadt singing lead on a couple of tunes. More of a dino-rock/jam-band record, but might worth checking out for the more adventurous twangfan as well...
Cecil Freeman "Pure Texas Country" (TSE Records, 19--?) (LP)
Denise Freeman "A Shoulder To Cry On" (Columbia Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Leo Lagerwey & Robin Netcher)
Although she was born in England, singer Denise Freeman emigrated to South Africa in 1969 and made her name there as a country singer. This album was packed with covers of contemporary country hits, mostly associated with various "girl" singers, including "Harper Valley PTA," Dolly Parton's "Just Because I'm A Woman," Bonnie Bramlett's "Never Ending Song Of Love" and Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billie Joe," as well as some stuff by Carole King. There are also two songs written by producer-arranger Robin Netcher, "Mean What You Say" and "A Shoulder To Cry On," which hit #2 on the South African charts. Mr. Netcher was also an emigre from England; he'd been in a couple of pop bands and did arranging and session work for the major labels, moving to Johannesburg around the same time as Freeman... (Perhaps they emigrated together, or worked together in London?) Freeman and Netcher released at least one more record together, a pop-oriented single with another of Netcher's compositions, "It's All Over But The Shouting," also released in 1972.
Jan Freeman "You Made It Right" (Jan Mar Recordings, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Don Johnson)
Originally from Norman, Oklahoma, singer Jan Freeman was probably one of the hardest-working singers in the state when she cut this album... That summer she opened shows for the Oak Ridge Boys (who were struggling at the time to break out of the gospel scene) and later joined the road shows of older, established acts such as Johnny Paycheck, and Leroy Van Dyke's Auctioneers. She did Vegas gigs with both of these artists, accompanied by banjo player Skip DeVol, who had been part of the Vegas-based "Country Music USA: revue; DeVol and Freeman also toured together in '77, when they played shows in Houston, and possibly elsewhere. In September of '77, Freeman was headlining her own club shows in Reno, although she seems to have moved back to Oklahoma not long after that, and was still opening for larger acts in the early 1980s, and in the 1990s performed at the Oklahoma Opry under her married name, Jan Freeman McCaffrey. As far as I know, this was her only album, a pretty straightforward pop-country set heavy on covers such as "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," "Love Will Keep Us Together," "So Wrong" and "Statue Of A Fool." A few tracks were released as singles: "I Don't Like To Sleep Alone," which was a Paul Anka song, came out in 1975, while "Any Port In A Storm" and "Who'll Turn Out The Lights (In Your World Tonight)" followed after the album was made. I assume that Jan-Mar was her own label.
Bob Scott (Frick) "Mr. Gospel Guitar: At Work" (REF Records, 19--?) (LP)
A nice, understated set of country gospel instrumentals by a Pennsylvania guitar picker working very much in the style of Chet Atkins. Billing himself either As "Bob Scott" or Robert Scott Frick, this fella self-released dozens of LPs and CDs over the years, and worked prolifically in the southern gospel scene... I've heard some of his stuff that was more overtly country in style, and presumably there are some cheesier, more "Contemporary Christian" material as well, but as far as this disc goes, it's pretty good. Basic, straightforward pleasant to the ears, with miraculously unfussy, uncluttered arrangements.
Bob Scott Frick "Everyday" (REF Records, 19--?) (LP)
Kinky Friedman - see artist discography
Frisco "Live Country" (Country Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Des Dolan, Roger Wilkinson & Derek Chandler)
This shaggy-haired British twangband includes Slim Pickens on steel guitar, fiddle and vocals; Bob Newman (vocals & guitar), Tony Carr (drums) and Frank McCarthy (bass) along with some guest pickers on various tracks. Although the musicians look semi-hippie-ish, the repertoire is pretty old-school, with covers of hits and oldies such as "Peach Pickin Time In Georgia," "Slewfoot," and "I Won't Go Huntin' With You Jake."
Donnie Fritts "Prone To Lean" (Atlantic Records, 1974)
(Produced by Dan Penn)
Born in Florence, Alabama, keyboardist Donnie Fritts was a vital session player in the Muscle Shoals studio scene of the 1960s and '70s. He found success both as a backing musician and -- more modestly -- as a songwriter, penning tunes for Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and others. In the early 'Seventies he hooked up with superstar Kris Kristofferson and worked in his band for decades to come. This solo debut reflected his R&B/soul roots, recorded with Dan Penn and other longtime Muscle Shoals collaborators.
Frog & The Greenhorns "My Tennessee Girl" (Starr Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by James Stack & Marvin Jones)
A family-based bluegrass band from Radcliff, Ohio, organized by their dad, a regionally-known square dance caller named James "Frog" Stack. The group included siblings Jimmie Stack (lead singer, the oldest at age 18), Barbara (guitar), Alan (fiddle), along with bassist Bret Allman and Clint Richards on banjo. The band formed around 1975 and played a bunch of local gigs, including appearances on Columbus radio station WMNI's "Country Cavalcade," as well as appearing in concert with the Goins Brothers, whose song, "Sweet Face Girl" they cover on this album. There's also one original, "My Tennessee Girl," written by one of the Stacks... Anyone know if these kids played in other bands after this?
Raymond Froggatt "Cold As A Landlord's Heart" (Castle Records, 2003)
Here's an odd one. In the mid-1970s, English rocker Raymond Froggatt was instructed by his label to "go country," presumably because his spacey psychedelic meanderings weren't selling well... As Froggatt confesses, he didn't have any innate interest in country music, or much experience playing it, but he did as he was told, and the results were quite nice. In 1978 he went to Nashville to record Southern Fried Frog, an album that has become a minor cult classic of British alt-country... I didn't have high expectations for this 2-CD set -- which includes copious examples of both his rock and 'billy sides -- but I picked it up on a lark, and now I am quite delighted at the discovery. To his credit, Froggatt took the work seriously, and discovered what many rockers fail to recognize: country is an exacting art form, one that demands real craftsmanship and feeling, both of which he was able to develop as he explored the format. While there are few outright "classics" on here, several songs snuck up on me, and are tunes that would work well in sets of either classic or alternative twang. The rock stuff is a little less enthralling, but if you wanted to give this guy a fair shake, this collection will really fill the bill. Worth checking out.
Steven Fromholz - see artist discography
The Frontiersmen "Country Jamboree" (Crown Records, 1962) (LP)
Hopefully you'll forgive the cliche, but this album is one of the jewels in the Crown Records story, a great hillbilly pop album issued on the legendary Southern California super-cheapo label. The Frontiersmen, identified on the album cover only as "Hi, Wayne and Hal" were in fact songwriter-guitarist Hal Southern, bassist Wayne West and a fella named Highpocket Busse who usually played accordion but doesn't seem to on these recordings... They were stalwarts of the 1950's SoCal country scene and frequently backed singer Eddie Dean (who may sing on some of these tracks as well, but there's no credit given...) The music ranges from sweet, Sons Of The Pioneers-style vocals harmony to more rambunctious country bop, with some tasty electric guitar licks... really great stuff! The copy I picked up has terrible sound quality, and it varies from track to track, making me think that this must include songs from several different eras, stretching back into the mid-1950s. (Each side of the album opens with a song with clearer sound quality, which may have been recorded around the time this album came out, but that's just a theory... I'm sure there are uber-collectors out there who would know for sure...) Anyway, it's good stuff -- these tracks have also been reissued on digital downloads (linked to above) but I don't know if they have been recently remastered.
The Frontiersmen & Joanie "America's No. 1 Entertaining Western Vocal Group" (Mira Records, 1966) (LP)
(Produced by M. W. Grimm)
Hanging out in Texas, the trio of Hi Busse and Hal Southern and Billy Armstrong backed a gal identified only mononymically as Joanie on a set of country and cowboy standards, mostly oldies from the '40s and 50s. Joanie also cut several singles with the Frontiersmen, so she was probably part of their regular road show. Although this album was recorded at Tommy Allsup's studio in Odessa, it came out on a short-lived label in LA. The liner notes reflect the band's Hollywood roots, with testimonials by Gunsmoke actors Ken Curtis and Milburn Stone. Their comments are strangely informative, however, with Stone recalling appearances he made with the Frontiersmen at rodeos and county fairs; their performances on various TV variety shows such as the Joey Bishop Show are also mentioned.
The Frontiersmen "Wanted Live" (GDS Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by M. W. Grimm)
A different group than the Hollywood cowboys listed above, this band from Illinois featured lead singer Chris Allen, backed by Ken Carlyse on banjo and fiddle, Norm Fishman (guitar), John Holm (steel guitar and dobro), Brett King and Roger Cox (percussion), Gary Nabors (keyboards), and Don Vance on bass. They cover 'Seventies pop hits such as "Feelings," "Misty," "Torn Between Two Lovers" and "I Honestly Love You," as well as "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," and some country classics like "Take Me Back To Tulsa" and "San Antonio Rose." There may have had a few originals in the mix as well, though the credits aren't clear. The album was recorded at a studio in Morton, Illinois and the band took its name from a now-defunct venue called the Frontier Auditorium, in Pekin, IL, which mostly hosted country acts, with an occasional rock or big band artist coming through town. They were the house band there, and also did a little bit of work on the road, going as far afield as the Spoon River Days festival in Wyoming. As far as I know, this was their only album.
Don Frost "Changes" (Nashville Recording Services, 197--?)
(Produced by Col. Dave Mathes)
This album was recorded in Nashville at the Jack Clements Studio with Col. Dave Mathes, head of the NRS label, at the helm... Apparently it was some kind of songwriters' showcase album, with a bunch of songs on it (by different composers) credited to House Of David publishing, which was another Mathes project. But does anyone know more about Don Frost? Was he a Nashviller? Was that his real name? I guess he was a demo singer, but I don't know for sure. As far as I can tell, though, this was his only album -- a single was also released, with material off the album.
Frummox "Here To There" (ABC-Probe Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Weissman)
The legendary "lost" debut album from Texas singer-poet Steven Fromholz, recorded as a duo with Dan McCrimmon... This album predated and anticipated much of the Texas indie/outlaw music to come, showcasing an interesting variety of styles, with only a little outright country, balanced by a lot of the same kind of poetic musings that Townes Van Zandt championed around the same time. Side One opens with "The Man With The Big Hat," a latter-day cowboy story-song that anticipates songs like Guy Clark's "Desperadoes Waiting For A Train," albeit sung in an earnest-folkie hootenanny style reminiscent of the Kingston Trio, et. al. The album's centerpiece is "The Texas Trilogy," a series of keenly observed vignettes about a small Texas town in decline -- losing its younger residents to the lure of bigger cities, and no longer has scheduled train stops as it did year ago. Work, love affairs, pregnancies and retirements are examined with a forgiving eye, and a clarity and plainspokenness worthy of Studs Terkel. The Trilogy is a well-deserved landmark in Americana music... From there he shifts into the psychedelic "There You Go," which has a funky hillbilly rap vocal that reminds me of John Hartford; the album closes with a couple of softer folk numbers that are closer in feel to Tim Hardin or Tom Rush -- as a folk-and-country period piece, this album holds up well, with some songs clinging to the sound of the early '60s and other tracks, notably the Trilogy, that are remarkably forward-thinking. Guest musicians include Eric Weissberg and Artie Traum, with "Jeff Walker" (Jerry Jeff, I'm assuming?) pitching in with "head help," whatever that meant. An interesting record, definitely worth checking out.
Frummox "Frummox II" (Felicity Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Craig D. Hillis)
This reunion album found Fromholtz and McCrimmon backed by some fine pickers, including fiddler Johnny Gimble, Dick Weissman on banjo, Steve Weiserg playing dobro, and one big celebrity cameo with Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who adds vocals on a tune called "The Angel
Ray Frushay "Songs I Like To Sing" (Princess, 1966) (LP)
Ray Frushay "Ray Frushay" (Skill Records, 1967) (LP)
Ray Frushay "A Portrait Of Ray" (WMI, 1973) (LP)
Ray Frushay "Frushay Country" (Casino Records, 1976) (LP)
Clifford Fry "For The Players Of Nights Game" (1979) (LP)
Apparently, Dr. Clifford L. Fry, PhD was a professor of economics at the University of Texas who also led a country/rock bar band on the side... And, man, I bet his study groups were fun! His group eventually morphed into the long-lived Dr. Fry's Texas Medicine Band, a group which performed throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
The Fugitives "Wanted" (Custom Sound Studios, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Curtis Kirk)
Some honest-to-god Texas good ol' boys, just singing honky tonk music and having a good, old time. A country covers band from Tyler, Texas, the Fugitives started out in 1964 with Joe Whittfield (lead vocals), Bill Glover (steel guitar), and Wayne Jones (mandolin). They recorded this album in December, 1968, covering Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, a couple by Harlan Howard and even a couple of rock'n'roll oldies. Merle Haggard's "Swinging Doors" was their most contemporary selection... Nothing new on here, but these guys sure seem like they were having fun. Just to add a little locals-only authenticity, the liner notes were written by a member of the Shriner's lodge where the six guys originally met one another, while they also stretch back a few decades to cover Jimmie Davis. They're about what you'd expect -- a good but not earthshaking local band: the best songs feature a deep, Ray Price-ish Texas shuffle sound, while the most distinctive track may be a rock/soul flavored rendition of the old hillbilly weeper, "You Are My Sunshine," with a semi-funky feel that I've dubbed "gogo-billy." A pleasant, obscure album that's certainly worth a spin.
Dalton Fuller & The Nebraska Playboys "...Presents The Golden Guitar" (Renee Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte & Tad Palensky)
Nice, down-to-earth country twang by a guy from from Keith County, Nebraska who later retired to Wyoming. A former rodeo rider and Navy veteran, Dalton Fuller (1940-2019) was a young man when he and his band signed up to do a USO tour of Vietnam, back in 1969, the first of roughly a dozen tours they took over the course of the war. He continued to lead his band, the Nebraska Playboys, for several decades, and also took a keen interest in veterans affairs, frequently performing at his local American Legion post, as well as writing music about veteran's issues. Fuller pursued a variety of professions, notably working as a sound engineer for the Renee Records studio and label, in David City, Nebraska, where this record was made. This edition of his band included steel guitar player Randy Hartman, Joe Sharp on drums, and bassist Francie Allen, who also sang duets with Fuller -- the quartet is pictured on the back cover in front of their USO tour banner, decked out is some truly groovy matching slacks with a patriotic stars-and-stripes design. Overall, the performances are pretty laid-back; Fuller's reedy vocals may remind you of folks like Chip Taylor or Dick Feller.
Tiny Fuller "My Guitar Does The Singing" (Crazy Cajun, 1978) (LP)
Edgar Fultz & Daughter "Way Below The Bottom" (Jewel Records, 1981-?) (LP)
(Produced by J. D. Jarvis & Rusty York)
A very pleasant, very rootsy country gospel album, featuring Newport, Kentucky's Edgar Fultz and his daughter Patricia Warren, in a series of original songs that resonate with authenticity and emotion. Fultz brings a robust, truly rural sound to this work -- plenty of twang and a sense that when he's singing about redemption and sin, maybe this is a guy who is really speaking from the heart and working through some of his own, personal life choices. Indeed, Fultz had a hard life, complete with run-ins with the law and a long prison term, and talks plainly in the liner notes about how he found religion and was born again in 1979 after trying therapy and AA, and he also mentions running his own business as a tree cutter and stump removal man. The Ohio-based backing band includes Junior Bennett on fiddle, Chubby Howard on steel, and producer J. D. Jarvis on rhythm guitar -- Jarvis also contributes liner notes praising Fultz and thanking him for recording his patriotic song, "Thank God For Old Glory." On the opening track I was immediately reminded of Ricky Skaggs -- hearing that same level of sincerity and devotion to traditional music -- though as the album spun forward, it sounded progressively earthier and raw. A nice record if you like the genre, and also appreciate records that don't sound all smooth and super-slick.
Edgar Fultz & Patricia Warren "I Ain't Lookin' Back" (Nation Wide Records, 19--?) (LP)
Another all-gospel father-daughter album, with one song, "I Ain't Lookin' Back," that also appeared on the album above. I'm not sure which record came first, although I think the Jewel LP was not his first album. This also includes a Christmas song called "A Message to Santa."
Edgar Fultz & Patricia Warren "It's Too Late Now" (Jewel Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by J. D. Jarvis & Rusty York)
Highlights of album include Fultz originals such as "The Devil's Garbage Can" and "God Is Watching Through A Teardrop," with backing by a band once again anchored by fiddler Junior Bennett and Kenny Holycross on steel guitar.
Edgar Fultz & Patricia Warren "Mother's Old Washboard" (Jewel Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by J. D. Jarvis)
Thomas 'Speed' Funari "Red White And Blue U.S.A." (Nashco Music Service, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Will Gentry & Ramsey Kearney)
The last of the red-hot vanity pressings... This is a paid-for "song poem" album, with eleven songs written by Mr. Thomas Funari, with arrangements provided by Will Gentry and vocals by song-poem pro Ramsey Kearney, who performed material written by amateurs and non-musicians who nonetheless had a song in their heart. This album includes a track called "Kelly," which was about his granddaughter, and also includes one song performed by a gal just identified as "Mary Ann." (And is it just me, or did Mr. Funari bear an uncanny resemblance to Stan Lee??)
Funky Country "Funky Country" (M&W Records, 1972-?)
Your guess is as good as mine, though I gotta say, this is a pretty fun record. On the cover, it just says "Funky Country," although on the inner label it reads "Woody Mills and Funky Country." Other than that, this one's pretty much a mystery record, with no credits or liner notes to speak of, other than the names of the band's solo vocalists written next to the song titles. In addition to Mills singing lead on three songs, there are Billy Long, Chuck Long, Jerry Patrick and the band's "girl" singer, Del-C-Duncan, who delivers nice earthy versions of "You Ain't Woman Enough To Steal My Man" and "Hurtin' All Over." While the country influence is real and convincing (their raggedy version of "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name" is a real hoot) the band also has a strong current of rugged, whiteboy garage-R&B, as heard on their versions of "Sea Cruise," "Walk A Mile" and "It Came Outta The Sky." I'm guessing at the release date based on the matrix number inscribed on the deadwax -- 27035 -- and have a theory that the Long brothers may have been from northeastern Ohio, though again this is mostly guesswork. Anyone with more solid info about this band, I'm all ears.
The Funky Kings "Funky Kings" (Arista, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Paul A. Rothchild)
A pretty dismal AOR/soft-pop album that's notable to alt-country fans for the presence of steel player Greg Leisz and songwriter Jack Tempchin, who wrote "Peaceful Easy Feeling" for the Eagles. Tempchin also apparently wrote "Slow Dancing (Swaying To The Music)" which is included here in its original (boring) version, a song that became a big hit for Johnny Rivers the following year. Also in the band was Jules Shear, pre-solo career, adding his voice and a few songs to this undistinctive, bland '70s pop album. Despite the country talent (including some prominent Nashville studio musicians) this album has very little twang, and you can probably skip it.
Richie Furay - see artist discography
Bryan Fustukian "Fustukian" (Vera Cruz Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bryan Fustukian & Wes Dakus)
Canadian country singer Bryan Fustukian started his career as '60s pop singer Vik Armen, though he found even greater success as a radio deejay and concert promoter. In the '70s he "went country," and went back to his birth name for a while. This was his first country album, and he sure had a love for the oldies -- real oldies from the honky tonk and pre-honkytonk eras of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. Amid cover songs such as "Honky Tonk Women," "Red River Valley," "Long Black Veil" and "California Blues," he adds a few tunes of his own, such as "Sing Me A Jimmie Roders Song," "Lonesome Cowboy Song" and "Phyllis (Wait For The Wagon)." Backing him on this disc is his longtime collaborator Wes Dakus, whose 'Sixties band the Rebels was kind of Canada's answer to Cliff Richards & The Shadows... Dakus also went country in the 'Seventies, releasing a string of rootsy records on his Vera Cruz label.
Bryan Fustukian "Always" (Battle River Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bryan Fustukian & Laurence Pugh)
Bryan Fustukian & The Battle River Band "Live At The Cook County Saloon" (Battle River Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bryan Fustukian)
Future "Down That Country Road" (Shamely Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Norm Ratner)
A loosey-goosey, psychedelicized, spaced-out, folk-rock-pop kinda thingie, but it definitely has twang. Future was a trio of kids from Santa Monica, California given an a-list studio crew to work with -- superpickers like James Burton and Dr. John, as well as West Coast pedal steel luminary Red Rhodes adding some sweet, uptempo licks. The pedal steel and twangy guitars add a distinct country vibe that runs almost entirely in parallel to the acid-soaked meanderings of the songs, but there's an undeniable charm on a lot of these tracks. Future rose out of a previous band, the InRhodes, which was formed by the "three Jims" (Jim Bunnell, Jim Burdine and Jim Odom) when they were in high school together, and they'd had considerable experience playing live gigs around LA before they cut this album. The band fizzled out, but apparently they did some session work for a while in the early '70s... (I don't think that this Jim Odom was the same guy who was later in the rock band LeRoux... just one of those odd coincidences in life.) At any rate, even though the songs aren't very cohesive or memorable, this was a great showcase for Red Rhodes' steel guitar work. Definitely worth a spin.
Fuzzy Buffer "Copesetic" (Malaco Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Couch and Gerald "Wolf" Stephenson)
One of those kooky, crazy, only-in-the-'Seventies albums... This bizarrely-named band from Greenville, Mississippi was led by singer-songwriter James K. Wright, sharing some creative space with fellow composer Will Hegman, who contributed three songs, but apparently doesn't perform on the album. All the other songs are credited to Wright, who was lead vocalist, albeit with a rather... idiosyncratic voice. I guess he's working in that discursive, slightly-geeky-regular-fella, plainspoken folkie ouvre, same as guys like Steve Goodman and Larry Groce. The opening salvo on Side One definitely puts this disc on the radar as "country," although there's an AOR undercurrent that suggests, I dunno... maybe John Denver going on an outlaw bender. They seem to have been aiming for a New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Greezy Wheels vibe -- the tough-talking, hard-drinkin' macho hippie schtick, full of snappy, cynical asides, and a fair amount of genuine twang. Alas, the record quickly shifts into a soft-rock/folk-pop direction, some of it maybe even as dense and self-consciously artful as Harry Chapin or Nilsson. Anyway, the country vibe gives out about a third of the way in, but it's definitely there. Interesting studio band, too, including some of the folks hanging around Malaco at the time, notably bassist Vernie Robbins and drummer (and future Nashville star producer) James Stroud, who was still learning the ropes in the early '70s. A guy named Billy Dear adds lap steel guitar, along with fiddler Mickey Davis, and Carson Whitsett on keyboards, while Wright yields something called a "guitarlele." I liked the country bits.
Hick Music Index