The Oakland Banjo Band "Banjos In Action" (Sierra Sound Laboratories, 1966) (LP)
Well, okay, maybe it's not really very "country," but it is super-obscure, so what the heck? Let's mention it here, too... why not? This Berkeley/Oakland ensemble was the banjo equivalent of the old mandolin orchestras of earlier decades, a group of dozens of banjo pickers from a wide range of ages, plunking in unison through a set of Tin Pan Alley and Antebellum oldies. The band was founded in 1958 and at the time of this recording (June 10, 1966) had a weekly gig at the Straw Hat Pizza Parlor, on Telegraph Avenue, on the Berkeley/Oakland border. I was kind of hoping, the album being from Berkeley in the 'Sixties and all, that it might include a few future luminaries of the Bay Area roots music scene, but it seems to have included mostly regular old civilians... no Jody Stecher wearing braces or Kate Wolf in knee socks here. But it's still a really charming record... The acoustics are only so-so -- you can't really differentiate any of the multiple banjos and there aren't any solos -- but the performances are extremely cheerful and robust. The musical director, Glenn Davis, clearly knew how to get people to enjoy what they were doing. Amazingly enough, the group stuck together for decades, and was still doing pizza parlor gigs well into the 21st Century -- similar bands were formed in San Jose (and elsewhere, I'd imagine!) Plinka-plink-plunk, indeed!!
Oakley Hill "Live From The Tomb" (American Pie, 1980) (LP)
These Alabama good ole boys cover Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, but also play a bunch of originals, like "She Washes Dishes," "Alabama Outlaws" and "Alabama Honky Tonk." Sounds good, don't it? Oh, and they also cover the Lost Gonzo Band's "Dead Armadillo," which is a doozy of an outlaw novelty song. This was a live album, recorded at Lee's Tomb in Tuscaloosa.
Lucky Oceans & The Asleep At The Wheel Revue "Lucky Steels The Wheel" (Blind Pig, 1982)
A nice solo album by Asleep At The Wheel's first steel player and co-founder Reuben "Lucky Oceans" Gosfield... It's a familiar mix of western-swing, swank, big-band-y R&B and instrumental tunes that spotlight his considerable skills as a pedal steel stylist. Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble adds some sweet licks as well, making this a mighty fine little record... Definitely worth tracking down!
Wild Bill (Ochsner) "Pickin' With My Friends" (Ripcord)
(Produced by Blaine Allen, Gene Breeden & Ellis Miller)
Well... To put it diplomatically, Missoula, Montana's Wild Bill Ochsner is perhaps an acquired taste, one that I'm still working on. He was an ultra-local musician, with an ultra-local band, and that approach has its plusses and minuses... This album kicks off on a high note, with the bouncy title track, "Pickin' With My Friends," where Oschner and his entourage literally sing the praises of keeping things local: you don't have to move to Austin, LA or Nashville to get funky and twangy. But as the album progresses, things get rough. Ochsner himself can be an okay vocalist on uptempo numbers, though his slower ballads can be torture. Worse are the tracks where he lets his female co-singers take over... I think mostly it's Nikki Jean -- who also sings on his next album -- who is so hard on the ears. But, whatever. This record is all about the rural DIY vibe, and more than most, Ochsner keeps it real in the sense that he's willing to put it all out there, flubs, bum notes and all. He is a good songwriter, though -- some tunes could be edited down, but the bones are solid, particularly on novelty numbers such as "Hank, I Know Just How You Felt" and "Will You Play Proud Mary Again." I'd be hard pressed to actually recommend this album to anyone, but this guy was certainly a hometown hero, kind of a high plains Jerry Jeff Walker, at least I think that was the idea. Ripcord regular Gene Breeden was in the studio booth, though apparently not picking on the sessions themselves... The lead guitar is credited to Les Sneed, pedal steel to Roy Smith, with Gene Keyes on piano and Jim Finneran on harmonica... There was a lot of turnover from album to album, but this one seems to have really been all Montana locals.
Wild Bill (Ochsner) "Montana Power, v. 1" (Ripcord)
(Produced by Wild Bill Ochsner)
Yikes. I mean, Oschner is an appealing character -- cheerful, engaged, full of creativity and a prolific songwriter... He's just not a very, um, consistent singer, and the arrangements on this album go a little overboard, particularly the string arrangements, which get a bit shrill. I dunno, I guess with repeated listening, this can grow on you, and I'm sure as a memento of his barroom days, this had a lot of appeal to local fans. But some of it can be quite painful, particularly tracks like "Why Should I Cry" and "Don't Call My Name," when he lets his female co-singer, Niki Jean, take the lead... She's not really star quality, and the backing musicians tend to go over the top while backing her because, well, why not? Pianist Gene Keyes, in particular, gets a little too cute and coy with his fills on these tracks. I don't want to sound mean, but in all honesty, this disc mainly falls into the "so-bad-it's-good" category of country kitsch, although I think the songs themselves are often pretty well-written.
Wild Bill (Ochsner) "The Future's In The Hands Of The Children" (Ripcord)
Missoula, Montana's Wild Bill Ochsner recorded several albums for the ever-mysterious Ripcord label... Later in life he turned to the Lord and became an evangelical preacher (as well as an auction caller...) but here he's still working in a secular style. It's all original songs, with Gene Breeden playing guitar, and additional vocals by a gal called Niki Jean. The cover photo is of a kids' martial arts class, where Oscher was presumably an instructor, while the back cover shows Ochsner at various local businesses: The Memory Banke record store, Ron's Auto Refinishers, the Grizzly Fence store... You can't get more local than that!
Wild Bill (Ochsner) "Montana Power, v. 2" (Ripcord)
(Produced by Wild Bill Ochsner)
Tommy O'Day "Up And Over Your Love" (Nu-Trayl, 1978)
Originally from Fresno, California, Tommy O'Day made a few inroads in Nashville, dating back to the 1960s and into the late '70s. Although he didn't make much headway as a chart artist -- his highest single pegged out at #82 -- he found some success as a songwriter and producer. This album's title track, "Up And Over Your Love," was released several different times, at least as far back as 1972... Interestingly, even though this was (I believe) his only full album, and it was released during O'Day's brief 1978-79 flirtation with the bigtime, none of the tracks on here were hits. Instead, O'Day found success with barely-countrified versions of safe, old pop hits such as "Memories Are Made Of This" and "Accentuate The Positive." Who knows? Maybe Emmylou Harris heard his version of "Mr. Sandman" and got the idea to record it herself... Anything's possible!
Peat Oden "The Country Gentleman -- By Request" (Poco Records) (LP)
Throughout the 1970s, Oregon country crooner Charles "Peat" Oden played locals shows around the North Bend/Coos Bay area... He recorded at least one single as early as 1971 ("Shootin' The Bull/Headin' Home" on Pampa Records, a label in Bakersfield) as well as this album, sometime later in the decade. I couldn't find much info about his, though -- he wrote some of his own material, but also played some cover songs, and was, I believe, also an enthusiast of historical railroad preservation... Other than that, another obscuro-ciper in country music history. Any additional info is always welcome!
Oganookie "Oganookie: 1970-1973 -- Santa Cruz, California" (DSW, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Oganookie)
A really cool album from the deepest days of California hippiedom... This freeform-friendly Bay Area band was based in the wild backwoods of Santa Cruz, CA... Apparently they had some connection to a commune called the Oganookie Farm (at least that's what I'm guessing, since there's a song on here called, "Oganookie Farm Song...") and they played around reionally for several years. This album is mostly from a live recording they did at two long-defunct venues, the O. C. Inn and Chateau Liberte, and though the original sound quality from the board is pretty bad, the music is great, and it's a priceless document of the times. This is real stuff -- what mellow, talented hippie bands sounded like, in a fringe-leather, shaggy beard world. Side One of the album is more country-oriented, with an acoustic swing feel that's very reminiscent of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks -- fiddler Bob Stern is the showcase player on several songs, including squeaky renditions of "Uncle Pen" and "Orange Blossom Special." On Side Two they delve more into the rock and roots sounds of the era, notably on "Blues Ain't Nothin' But A Bad Dream," which sounds a lot like The Band, and the longer, spacier "Song For A Child," which is very Dreadful Grate-ish. One track was recorded in a studio, "Your Woman Is Ugly," one of several original compositions by John C. Bowers, who I'm guessing was the band's lead vocalist. I'm sure the other guys in this band played music elsewhere, but the only guy I know about for sure is bassist/banjo picker George Stavis, who recorded an influential album of avant-garde banjo music a few years earlier on the Vanguard label. If you're looking for authentic, vintage hippie music that doesn't suck, try and track this one down.
The Ogeechee Outlaws "...Featuring Outlaw Man" (Rene Records) (LP)
A '70s indie-twang band from Savannah, Georgia, led by Butch Ricker, the Outlaws were originally formed in 1974 by Ricker and his brothers, Kenny and Mike, along with lead guitarist R. J. Bielfeldt... Mostly, if not all, cover songs.
James Oglesby "Love Is Just A Legend" (United Steel Records, 1978)
(Produced by Doug Jernigan & James Oglesby)
A great set of twangy, boozy, sincere, real-deal country from Pensacola, Florida... All the songs are written by James Oglesby, a strictly-local musician who was in the background of the Florida country scene, and was a longtime friend of picker Doug Jernigan, who became one of the preeminent steel players of the '70s. Jernigan produced this album and adds lots of sweet licks and twang, perfect accompaniment for this jovial set of irony-laced honkytonk tunes. There are some great weepers, novelty numbers and cheating songs, including "My First Shot At Nashville" and "Full Time Lover, Part Time Wife" and "Country Picker's Life." The only real sour note comes with "The City Life," which is kind of a redneck-twang equivalent of Grandmaster Flash's "The Message," which a farm boy confronting life in the dirty, noisome big city. It unfortunately includes traces of homophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism that are not present in the rest of the record -- not sure if Oglesby was just assuming the role of a character for this song, but it does prove a bit jarring. Otherwise, a pretty cool record -- Oglesby wasn't a super-disciplined craftsman of song, but he had some good songs in him, and a distinctive voice... Kind of reminds me of Dick Feller.
Oily Rags "Oily Rags" (RCA/Signature, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Chas Hodges & Dave Peacock)
Funky roots music, UK style. Oily Rags featured bassist Dave Peacock and pianist Chas Hodges, who later recorded as the duo of Chas & Dave -- Hodges had previously been in the English rock band Heads Hands & Feet, with hotshot guitarist Albert Lee. (This album's opening track, "Come Up And See Me Anytime," resurfaced on Lee's 1979 album, Hiding, a nod towards his old pals...) This is a fun, bluesy, laid-back set, mixing original songs with tasty cover tunes such as "Time To Kill" by the Band, Lee Dorsey's "Holy Cow," Kris Kristofferson's "Jody And The Kid," and even the English music hall oldie, "Boiled Beef And Carrots," an anti-vegetarian anthem proclaiming the virtues of a traditional working-class diet. This entry hinted at the direction Chas & Dave would take with their funky, relaxed "rockney" style of pub rock blues, mixing Cockney humor with an American rural vibe. Before the Heads Hands band broke up in 1973, Hodges and other members had backed countrybilly legend Jerry Lee Lewis on a UK session, and Jerry Lee's signature sound often creeps into his piano style, as well as some richly authentic country touches... These guys really "got" American roots music, and played it to perfection, crafting a first album that was both subtle and stunning. Highly recommended!
Oklahoma "Oklahoma" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Lindsay & Terry Melcher)
This one's more in the consider-yourself-warned department... Despite the promisingly rural bandname, these Midwesterners were a pure '70s rock band, basically a generic electric guitar-keyboards-drum outfit, with glimmers of glam, bubblegum, Southern rock and a teeny, tiny trace of country-rock twang. They were surprisingly competent, but in a REO Speedwagon/Styx-ish kind of way, not in any kind of rough-and-ready bar-band style. Nothing on here to keep track of, really, at least from a twangfan's perpsective.
The Oklahoma Thunder Band "Oklahoma Thunder" (Flying High Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Slim Richey & Paul Motter)
A lively, eclectic late-'Seventies Tulsa band that made an earlier EP in 1978, these guys backed nightclub owner Mickey Crocker at his live shows, then became the house band at Cain’s Ballroom around the time they cut this album. This edition of the short-lived group featured core members Jerry Cartwright, Mark Fuller, Gary Humphrey, David Matthews, Larry Megill and Lynn Murray, with Murray contributing four original songs, while the band splits credit on one song, "City Life," and Mark Fuller has sole credit on three others. The remaining two tracks are covers, one of Bill Caswell's "Sugar Mama," and a version of the old Bob Wills hit, "Roly Poly."
Old And In The Way "Old And In The Way" (Round, 1975)
An iconic album for early '70s bluegrass fans, and a big bridge from the world of acidhead hippies into the traditional folk scene. The gathering of David Grisman, Peter Rowan, old-time fiddle whiz Vassar Clements and the Grateful Dead's teddybear avatar, Jerry Garcia was news in and of itself -- the cover art by underground cartoonist Greg Irons was just icing on the cake, giving this disc ultimate counterculture status. The band itself wasn't together that long, and was a pretty informal gig to begin with. They were, as the saying goes, ragged but right -- a little haphazard when compared to the classic recordings of the bluegrass elders, but full of the right attitude. In some ways, it's actually kinda nice how loosey-goosey Old & In The Way were -- their relaxed, easygoing approach was a folk scene equivalent of the DIY punk explosion in rock. Doubtless many hundreds of fledgling pickers were encouraged to pick up an instrument after hearing this disc. Fun stuff, with nice versions of a couple of Rowan's best tunes, "Midnight Moonlight," and "Panama Red..."
Old And In The Way "That High Lonesone Sound" (Acoustic Disc, 1996)
Old And In The Way "Breakdown" (Acoustic Disc, 1997)
We're lucky that David Grisman is such a magpie... Poking around in his closets he came up with the material for these two excellent archival collections, which give a perfect, bird's eye view of Old & In The Way live and in action, during their all-too-brief prime. It's a shame the band wasn't able to stay together longer, just to see how much they would have tightened (or changed) their sound... But since Rowan and Grisman both went on to do some of the best work of their careers immediately after this, I guess we can't really be all that bummed. There's certainly little to complain about here... Again, the band is ragged but right; they may have been a little sloppy, but the music is still exciting. Recommended!
Old & In The Gray "Old & In The Gray" (Acoustic Disc, 2002)
A swell get-together of some of David Grisman's grizzled, goofy bluegrass buddies. The lineup includes Grisman, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements and Herb Pedersen, along with young'un Bryn Bright. who plays a mighty fine bass. The vibe here is playful and relaxed, running through some old favorites and crowd pleasers... highlights include the album opener, "Good Old Boys" and the spine-tingling story-song, "The Flood," which details a river rising and a community rallying to meet the crisis. If you enjoyed Grisman's Retrograss album from a few years earlier, then you oughtta love this one, too!
Old Glory "Old Glory Inside" (Huck Finn's, 1976) (LP)
Old Hat Band "Concert" (Voyager Recordings, 1977) (LP)
The Old Scratch Band "Old Time String Band Music" (California Condor Records, 1974) (LP)
Clink Olsen "Gear Jammin' Cowboy" (Gallatin Records, 1983)
From Helena, Montana...
Dennis T. Olson "Fifth Avenue Cowboy" (Sunflower International Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Hallordson & Ralph Watts)
A rock-solid, steel-drenched pure country set from Winnipeg, Canada... This album is packed with great original material, including Olson's best-known song, "Truck Driving Outlaw," which found a second life on numerous latter-day trucker compilations. I couldn't find out much info about this guy online, but this is a very good record. He had a deep, robust, confident voice and a good strong backing band, all apparently local artists. If anyone out there has more info about Olson and this album, I'm all ears.
Harold Olson "...Sings Doggone Cowboy" (196--?) (LP)
Western songs, all sunsets and cowpokes, ropin' and dogies and whatnot, sung by Northwesterner Harold Olson, a rodeo announcer and auctioneer who was born in Spokane, but lived in Lewiston, Idaho. His all-locals band included Les Sneed on lead guitar, Danny Sneed (I wonder if they were related!) on steel, Gene Capps (bass) and Don Sneed, Jr. on drums... The repertoire was packed with cowboy classics, along with originals such as "Doggone Cowboy" and "Cowboy In A Continental Suit" (both published by Marizono Music) and a cover of Leroy Van Dyke's novelty hit, "The Auctioneer," which showcases Olson's own skills at calling auctions. I'm not when, exactly, this came out, but I'm guessing late 'Sixties sometime, since the liner notes mention him attending auctioneering school in 1965.
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number One" (Hundro Music, 196--?) (LP)
Born in Fayette, Michigan in 1917, singer Wellman W. Omohundro enlisted in the Army in order to escape a life as a rural farm kid. He served in World War Two and after the demobilization, Omohundro took up a life as a travelling musician, busking and doing club gigs whenever and wherever he could find them. He specialized in "blue" material, smutty or suggestive songs which were memorialized in a seemingly endless string of 45rpm singles, EP and albums. He initially recorded for the Accent label in the 1950s, and then started his own label, which he used to release dozens of records under a variety of names: Smiley Joe Omohundro, Omo The Lobo and/or Omo The Hobo, etc. He sold these souvenir discs at his shows, and beginning in the '60s released a string of LPs, which are listed below. Omohundro was a relic of a bygone entertainment era, harkening back to the raunchy, ribald musichall and vaudeville era of the late 1800s and early 20th Century. Musically primitive, his songs -- such as they are -- rely on crude double entendres and puerile sexual jokes. In a country music context, Omo The Hobo wasn't quite as savagely unfunny as, say, Doodles Weaver, but you have to be pretty devoted to lowbrow entertainers to really get into this stuff. It's a little funny, but it wears thin pretty quickly. (By the way, Omohundro is a real surname, sometimes spelled O'Muhundro, and seems to originally be from Scotland or Wales... Just in case you were wondering.)
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Two" (Hundro Music, 1967) (LP)
This is the only Omo album I own, and hence the only one I can provide you with the correct release date... It includes humorous gems such as "I Used To Kiss Her On The Lips, But It's All Over Now," "Daddy Can't Fly His Kite 'Cause Mommy Won't Give Him No Tail" and "I'm A Musician, I Play With My Instrument." You kinda get the idea, right? The music is just Omo and his guitar, and while neither his picking nor singing are any great shakes, he does tackle these tunes with great gusto. Wink, wink, nudge nudge, and all that.
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Three" (Hundro Music) (LP)
It's worth noting that on this album the level of graphic design is miles above that of the previous volume, which basically was a plain black-and-white nothing-much cover -- here we get a fancy, full-color oil painting of a naked, redheaded cowgirl bearing her boobs while holding a stack of "party records" in one hand, and the reins of her horse in the other. Business must have been pretty good for Omohundro during the hippie era, if he was flush enough to make such a purty-looking album cover.
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Four" (Hundro Music) (LP)
By the way, many thanks to Steve Seymour's Upper Peninsula Archive for help with this discography... If you're interested in Omohundro's bazillions of singles, check out his website, which has info on most, though not all, of the records Omo put out over the years.
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Five" (Hundro Music) (LP)
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Six" (Hundro Music) (LP)
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Seven" (Hundro Music) (LP)
Wellman W. Omohundro/Omo The Hobo "Party Record, Number Eight" (Hundro Music) (LP)
The Onlookers "...Sing And Play Country And Rock" (1974) (LP)
A teenage band from Dubuque, Iowa who self-identified as "country kids," this five-piece band featured lead vocals by Lynn Boylen, backed by brothers Mark and Bryce Bird (lead guitar and bass), rhythm guitarist Dennis Varo and drummer David Ducharme. They played a mainly country set, drawing heavily on early '70s hits like "Paper Roses," "Let Me Be There," "Satin Sheets" as well as pop tunes such as "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Indian Reservation" and instrumentals like "Wipeout" and "Groovy Grubworm." Earnest-o-rama, and Heartland-o-licious.
Orange Blossom Sound "Bluegrass And Orange Blossoms" (Epic, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Johnston & Roger Churchyard)
An eclectic British quartet which came to the attention of agent Mervyn Conn, one of the organizers of the Wembley music festival, who booked them at Wembley and at big concerts in London and elsewhere. Producer Bob Johnston caught one of their shows and got them into the studio, the result being this album, a pretty solid mix of progressive bluegrass, country and folk. The band consisted of fiddler/bandleader Roger Churchyard, Charlie Gaisford on banjo and guitar, Michael Artes on bass and lead guitar by Ian McCann. Some of their vocal arrangements seem left over from a Kingston Trio-type folk era, while many songs have a distinctly John Hartford-ish feel. These guys were pretty good, though I think this was the only record they made.
Original Bluegrass Opera Of Detroit "Original Bluegrass Opera Of Detroit" (1977) (LP)
(Produced by Herschel Freeman)
Musicians are often asked about their days jobs, and in this case, the answer is linked to the music itself... The Bluegrass Opera Of Detroit was a touring company that performed a play by the same name, a twangy opera saga written in praise of the then-vibrant auto industry, as seen through the eyes of several characters who worked on the factory lines at a time when unionized jobs were plentiful and well-paid. This album is an unusual memento of a live stage show that was commissioned by a grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts, with a libretto written by Bud McKirgan, with musical backing from a band called North Country Bluegrass. The charcacters they play were of workers who had migrated to the Motor City from several Appalachian states, (although the musicians themselves included several Northerners from Chicago, NYC and Detroit) and the story is about how Detroit was a magnetic city where people came for work, and stayed for life... The LP was apparently released by the cast at their own expense, and is a curio of both the music and of the history it represents, of the days when Detroit was prosperous and vibrant.
The Original Joplin Forte "Ain't Misbehavin' " (MCA-Shamley, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by George Fernandez)
Led by banjoist Dan Coats, this short-lived group apparently grew out of the Los Angeles/Southern California folk/bluegrass scene, with Coats taking a dip into the spaced-out songwriter ouvre, with a few whiffs of John Sebastian-esque psychedelic jugband added into the mix. In all honesty, this isn't a very successful record: although there's a superficial similarity to roots-music genre-bender John Hartford (kooky lyrics, lackadaisical banjo plunking, hippie iconography and even a cover of Hartford's chart-busting "Gentle On My Mind") there's little of Hartford's giddy stylistic flair and keen originality -- this seems forced and straining to succeed, rather than innovative and above the fray, and though he's a decent musician, Coats was a remarkably stiff, un-fluid singer. A genuine artifact of its time, for sure, although I imagine it's not really a record that many people would want to come back to just for pure listening pleasure... I could be wrong, though. It's certainly notable that Coats wrote all but four of the songs on here, so it includes a trove of unique -- if not electrifying -- material.
The Original Sloth Band "Whoopee After Midnight" (Troubadour Records, 1973) (CD)
A jazzy, retrodelic stringband from Canada, with covers of various rags, blues tunes and Depression-era novelty songs. Highlights include "(I Just Want To Be) Horizontal," "I'm A Vulture (For Horticulture)" and "Get A Job," along with more well-known standards, such as "The Sheik Of Araby," "Temperance Reel" and "How Long Blues."
Orion - see artist discography
Gilbert Ortega "The King Of Indian Jewelry Goes Country" (Ortega Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Little Richie Johnson)
Holbrook, New Mexico's well-known Native American businessman Gilbert Ortega -- best known for cornering the market on turquoise jewelry -- sings a set of country standards, mostly honkytonkers and weepers like "Crying Time," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Nobody's Darlin' But Mine" and "Together Again." Local producer Richie Johnson booked time with an A-list usual-suspects studio crew: Johnny Gimble, Lloyd Green, Dave Kirby, Charlie McCoy, Hargus Robbins, et. al. I guess he really gave a career as a country singer a shot for a while, but his bread and butter was, of course, his multi-million dollar jewelry empire... Still, as vanity records go, this one's a doozy.
Osage "Greatest Hits" (Ragweed, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Osage)
Dunno too much about this Northern California band, who hailed from Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco... Mixing western swing and honkytonk, Osage were a talented group, roughly in the same stylistic orbit as Asleep At The Wheel, if not quite in the same league professionally. This album offers a strong set of mostly-original material, with songs written by all four of the core bandmembers, pianist Jim Hirst, bassist Ken Hobbs, steel player Mike Phillips and drummer Scott Saturday. The sound mix isn't great - the rhythm section seems a little buried -- but the music is tops. Highlights include heartbreakers such as "She's Driving You Out Of My Mind" and the alcohol novelty song, "Never Like Drinkin' Alone" (in which the singer says "howdy" to every beer, whiskey and gin he downs, just to have somebody to talk to...) A pretty swell indiebilly album, if you can track it down!
Osage "The Best Of Country Swing" (DMG, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Gradie O'Neal & Jeannine Osborn)
Turns out I was wrong about Greatest Hits being their only album... There's also this groovy set of classic country cover songs, zeroing in on western swing songs such as "Take Me Back To Tulsa," "Crazy Cause I Love You," "Roly Poly" and "San Antone Rose." The performances are little restrained and polite, but it's still such great music. As the great Bob Wills might have put it: ....aahhhhh, yessss!!
Jerry Ostensoe "When I Was Young" (Lovely Lynzier Records, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by J. Frederic DeVir)
This fella from from Granite Falls, Minnesota is more in a folkie-bluesy mode, though there's definitely a country streak there as well... Other than a cover of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," these are all Ostensoe originals, including a bunch of regional pride songs: "Davenport, Iowa," "Milwaukee Railroad Blues," and one written about the battle of Little Bighorn. The compact band includes Elmo Volstad (guitar), Todd Johnson (bass), David Smiglewski (drums) and Steve Brendemoen (lead guitar), whose collective names are truly testimony to the ethnic diversity of the Great Lakes region. Though I'm sure the musical lineup has changed quite a bit over the years, Jerry Ostensoe was still playing gigs as recently as 2017!.
Al Oster - see artist discography
Otter Creek "Otter Creek" (Bolt Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Boulton)
A "lost" hippiebilly country-rock gem of mellow yet twangy splendor. Attention all ye fans of late '60s Byrds, early '70s Grateful Dead, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Greezy Wheels, et. al., this is an album you'll want to track down. Amiable, uncomplicated stoner twang by some longhairs from upstate New York... Many of the songs are of the looking-for-love-but-drunk-at-the-bar variety, with frontman Robert Presti singing lead on most tracks. The picking is decent though not dazzling, but the vibe is just right. A good-time band with a sincere country sound... Definitely worth a spin!
Ouray "Chrome On The Range" (Taxi, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Ed Cherney & Ouray)
A pretty strong, commercially oriented country-rock record by a regionally successful band that was based in Chicago. They had a solid mix of softer, country-oriented material and slightly more aggressive '70s guitar rock, with some Southern rock touches such as Allmanesque twin guitars, and lots of chicken-pickin' licks, generally framed in a mellow rock-pop sound. The vocals are particularly nice, with the quintet proving themselves adept at the same sort of airy, post-CSN&Y hippie rock harmonies heard in bands such as Poco and Firefall. I like their softer side, especially when the pedal steel takes the lead, though unfortunately they seem to have felt obliged to add a long guitar solo into every song, and that often kills the mood for me. Still, all in all, this is a record worth knowing about and maybe even tracking down if you're into this brand of '70s AOR. Not sure if any of these guys did anything else, but this seems like one of those great almost-coulda-made-it bands you find out about now and then. Great album title, too!
Ouray "Motor Dream" (Taxi, 1981) (LP)
The Outlaws "Hurry Sundown" (Arista, 1977)
Johnny Overload "The Race Has Just Begun" (Lemco, 1980) (LP)
(roduced by David McGhee & J. D. Miller)
One of the Lemco label's odd forays into non-bluegrass material... and to honest, not one of its most successful records. The album opens with "The Race Has Just Begun," an off-balance comedy number revolving around Nascar-style racing -- it's one of those belabored, not-that-funny country comedy bits, highly reminiscent of Don Bowman's old stuff. Then the album wrenches into low gear with a pair of disasterously self-important, overwritten, would-be-epic story-songs, about a hard-driving, rambling-man, lonesome kinda trucker fella. It's at this point we discover that "Johnny Overload" (aka bandleader David McGhee) was not a terribly good singer. He's into it, sure, but he's a little bit warbly and all over the map. Anyway, I think McGhee was playing the part of "Johnny Overload," a name taken from an old, classic trucker song which was covered by Johnny Bond. The other lead singer is Keith Allan, whose full name was Keith Allen Booth, and he wrote about half the material on this album but only sings on a couple of tunes towards the end. For my money, his song, "High On The Hog," is the album highlight. Mostly, this disc didn't do much for me: turns out you're digging a little too deep if you've gotten down this far.
Billy Owen & The All-American Band "Sounds Of Lakeland's Brand New Opry" (Lakeland Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Phillips)
The name "Brand New Opry" was a spoof of the fabled Grand Ole Opry, although instead of being rooted in a specific place, the BNO was actually a touring bluegrass band out of Lakeland, Florida. This early edition of the band featured Billy Owen on vocals, along with Sandi Braden, Willie Burroughs, Teresa Chadwick, and Cindy Poole... The group as an institution has survived intact well into the 2010s (so far!) although the membership has completely changed over the years. Not completely sure when this album came out... From the country-pop hits they cover -- "You Can't Be A Beacon," "There Goes My Everything" and "Let Me Be There" -- I'd guess this was from around 1974-75.
Jim Owen & The Drifting Cowboys "A Salute To Hank Williams: A Song For Us All" (Epic, 1978) (LP)
During the 1970s, Nashville songwriter Jim Owen developed a one-man stage show tribute to his hero, Hank Williams, and he recorded this double-LP along with several former members of Hank Williams's band, the Drifting Cowboys. In 1978 he made it into Billboard with a strictly Back-40 cover version of "Lovesick Blues," but while chart success was elusive, his theatrical show was well-regarded, and is reflected in this widely-distributed album. An oddity, in some ways, but certainly the king-daddy of all Hank Williams tribute albums.
Ray Owen "Well Wasted Afternoons" (Police, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Arne Brav)
Great album cover, but a little more folkie-eclectic than I'd been hoping for... Hailing from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, songwriter Ray Owen may have been aiming for a Steve Goodman or Gove Scrivenor-esque mix of folk, blues, pop and twang, but for the most part it doesn't really grab me... Includes some fiddle and mandolin, but also tenor sax and Korg synthesizer and even the mighty DX-7 keyboard on a tune or two. So, you see where we're heading here? A possible highlight might be "You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Love Her (But It Sure Would Help)" which features a dixieland brass band backing his bluesy vocals... Anyway folk fans may dig this disc, but my dreams of discovering a lost honkytonk gem were dashed right away.
Dusty Owens "Country Ballads" (Wyncote Records, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Cohen-?)
This is a pretty fun record... maybe not a "great" record, but I enjoyed it. The late Dusty Owens (1930-2015) started his country music career as a teenager, playing on the radio in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He went on to a high-profile gig on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, and had a few medium-level chart entries, including his own song, "Once More," which became a country music standard, recorded by dozens of artists, including Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Vince Gill, George Jones, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton... Like a lot of '50s country artists, bit by bit he slipped off the radar as far as the big Nashville labels were concerned, but somehow he cut a lot of sessions for Wyncote, a cheapo label on the East Coast, and there's some fun stuff on these records. Owens' vocals sound kind of like a less-passionate Faron Young, relaxed, robust and suave -- on this album he sounds particularly laid-back, with a curious counterpoint provided by some mildly hyperactive lead guitar and pedal steel... (My suspicion is that Owens actually just recorded with vocal and acoustic guitar and the electric stuff was dubbed in... but who knows?) Anyway, the songs are good -- mopey heartsongs with a loping rhythm, including a few obvious covers and some other songs that seem like they were originals. His early stuff (available on CD reissues) is more solid musically, but these later tracks are definitely worth a spin!
Dusty Owens "Your Kind Of Country" (Wyncote Records, 1967) (LP)
Several covers of mainstream country hits from the 1950s and early '60s -- "Yonder Comes A Sucker," "Saginaw Michigan," "Billy Bayou," and the like, as well as some more obscure stuff, probably including a few Dusty Owens originals.
Dusty Owens "Country And Western" (Wyncote Records, 1967) (LP)
This one's more "western" oriented, i.e. full of cowboy songs like "Red River Valley," "Blackjack David" and "Blood On The Saddle." But if you enjoy that kind of material, you might wanna check this one out.
Dusty Owens "Hey There, It's Me Again" (Admiral Records, 1971) (LP)
Ozark Bible Bluegrass Revival "Ozark Bible Bluegrass Revival" (Lemco Records, 1977) (LP)
This gospel group, which included Scott Bond, Rusty Martin, Ken Smith and Dave Stackable, was from (around?) Joplin, Missouri, though their history as a band is a little vague. The liner notes mention them playing together in the fall of '76, and while this lineup seems to have fallen apart fairly quickly, most of the guys went on to play in various other bluegrass and roots music bands.
The Ozark Hee-Haw "In Concert at The Old Sawmill Opry" (Dungeon Records, 1979-?) (LP)
This album is a souvenir of the short-lived Old Sawmill Opry, a late-1970s variety show located in Notch, Missouri, near Branson and the better-known Silver Dollar City. They sang a mix of country, pop vocals and gospel, perhaps with a little less actual twang that one might imagine. As near as I can figure, none of these musicians -- who included Eddie Asher, Diane Houseman and Danny McMaster -- had any direct connection to the Hee-Haw TV show, although one of them, Max King, wound up in the house band at the Hee-Haw Theater, in the early '80s. I think the Sawmill show may have been bankrolled by Hee-Haw producer Tom Lutz, who later ran the short-lived Hee-Haw Theater from 1981-83. (It's possible it was the same venue, just with a name change after the Sawmill show folded -- anyone know for sure?) Anyway, the show's headliner around 1979-80 was '60s second-stringer Stan Hitchcock -- local gossip has it that in the early he scampered off back to Nashville and used the profits from the Sawmill show to help bankroll CMT (Country Music Television) but I can't really comment on that. Anyway, the proprty changed hands a bunch of times, was sold to a church group in the 1980s and apparently hasn't been a secular music venue since then. Eddie Asher was an Ozark local who had put out at least one album under his own name, and played in several regional venues.
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils - see artist discography
The Ozark Mountain Dewers "The Ozark Mountain Dewers" (Century Records, 196--?) (LP)
This band played at the Table Rock Opry, a 1960s-era tourist show located at the Dam Of The Lake, a state park near Branson, Missouri... Table Rock Opry was one of many venues owned by politician-turned-show-promoter Ralph A. Hunt, and the band featured guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Donnie Wright who was one of the early Branson stalwarts. Wright, who plays on this album, later joined Jim Weatherly's Ozark Jamboree, and though he toured nationally with artists such as Judy Lynn, his main base of operations was in the Ozarks.
Ozark Renaissance "Ozark Renaissance" (1980)
The Ozone Ramblers "River Rock" (Catfish Dancing, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Drake & Greg Kane)
A country/rock band from Fort Madison, Iowa... All original material.
Hick Music Index