The Saddle City Band "Bareback" (Carte Blanche Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Cashman & Rick Nuttall)
This Tucson, Arizona twangband upholds a long tradition of longhaired desert country artists playing jaunty, uptempo music fronted by fairly jittery, plainspoken lead singers. I dunno, I guess it's just an Arizona thing...(?) Anyway, this band came at the tale end of the whole 'Seventies outlaw scene, and while their more rollicking numbers seem anchored in the western swing/roadhouse revival, the album feel a little too slick with slightly antiseptic production, with half an eye towards commercial airplay. Some tracks are really terrible, though this still has some fairly rootsy material, and is notable for the democratic spotlighting of several different bandmembers as lead vocalists. The strongest and most "country" soloist was pianist Duncan Stitt, who'd also released a solo album a few years earlier. They seem to have been aiming for a middle-of-the-road, Oak Ridge Boys/Alabama top forty sound, which I imagine was a disappointment to some of their local fans, but this is still worth a spin.
The Saddle City Band "The Lights Of Tucson" (Art Attack Records, 1988)
I haven't heard this follow-up album yet, but look forward to tracking it down. As fate would have it, Saddle City was a remarkably successful local group, playing shows right through the 1990s, 2000s and beyond.
Dan Sadowsky & The Ophelia Swing Band "Swing Tunes Of The '30s & '40s" (Biscuit City Records, 1977) (LP)
A lively set of retro-novelty swing'n'jazz from a band that could be considered Colorado's answer to Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, though perhaps with a more straightforward jazz orientation. Good stuff! Ray Bonneville and Tim O'Brien are among the guest performers, showing some links to the folk'n'bluegrass scene... Worth a whirl if you can track it down.
Dan Sadowsky & The Ophelia Swing Band "Spreadin' Rhythm Around!" (Biscuit City Records, 1979) (LP)
The Sage Brothers Band "Got This Feeling..." (Ravin' Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jamie Goldsmith)
A country bar-band from Boscobel, Wisconsin, led by singer-guitarist Jim C. Berlin, who wrote all the songs. The rest of the group included Dan McCauley (bass), Butch Ortman (lead guitar), and Paul Roberts on drums.
The Sage Brothers Band "Still Beating The Brush" (Ravin' Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Jim C. Berlin, Ray Cherie & Chet Puscarz)
Doug Sahm (and The Sir Douglas Quintet) -- see artist profile
Sailcat "Motorcycle Mama" (Elektra Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Carr)
Quintessential one-hit wonders, Sailcat was a band formed by two veterans of the Alabama rock-soul scene, John Wyker and Court Pickett, along with a bunch of Muscle Shoals-ian hired hands. The album is a mix of soft Southern rock and even softer, airy acoustic prog, with a teeny bit of twang, though the country-rock association is pretty iffy... The title track was almost a Top Ten hit, but the band broke up shortly after the album came out -- but Southern rock fans looking for something a bit mellower than usual might like this one. The original LP is also notable for the album art by Mad magazine cartoonist Jack Davis, who provided the front cover and a big spread in the gatefold that illustrates the album's supposed "concept," of an Easy Rider-lookalike biker who first dreams of, then hooks up with an ideal hippie-biker babe. At first things are wild and wooly, then they spend time apart, and then we see them singing onstage at the Opry, and finally motorcycle dude is kicking back on his front porch, living the quiet life at last. Not bad for a jam-band record that's half-instrumentals!
Phil St. Pierre "John Jawad's Pioneer Inn Presents: Phil St. Pierre Just For You" (19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Lori Stewart Shirley & John W. Onzo)
A souvenir album of the Pioneer Inn, a popular steakhouse located in the Bay Area town of Clayton, California, near the city of Concord. Housed in a historic building that dates back to the Gold Rush days, the Pioneer Inn was a former stagecoach stop that went through a number of changes before becoming the restaurant known as Chubby's, which was sold to longtime owner John Jawad in the early 1960s. Jawad ran the Pioneer Inn until retiring in 1990, and one of his regular entertainers was "gut-bucket" guitarist Phil St. Pierre. This double LP spotlights St. Pierre on a couple of dozen low-key, solo acoustic performances, just him his guitar, singing a bunch of country classics (stuff by Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams, and others) along with numerous 1970s AOR hits, such as "If" and "Country Roads." To be honest, it's all a bit underwhelming -- he croons in a relaxed manner, and strums along in an amiable though un-virtuosic way, reminiscent of the '60s coffeehouse folk scene. Still, it's authentic as all getout: you can easily imagine having a few drinks and ordering a burger while he sang unobtrusively on a small corner stage. In fact, I'll have another round!
Jim Salestrom "Limited Edition" (1983) (LP)
(Produced by Kris O'Connor)
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, songwriter Jim Salestrom formed the country-rock band Timberline with his brother Chuck while still in his teens; the group released one album in 1977 then disbanded the following year. Salestrom landed on his feet, though, landing a decade-long gig playing in Dolly Parton's band, while also recording a string of solo albums, and even performing the opening number in the movie Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. He became a Colorado-based artist, blending country and folk, and years later formed the band Wild Jimbos with erstwhile Nitty Gritty bandmember Jimmy Ibbotson. As far as I know, this was his first solo album, and was issued with two different covers, one white, the other black, though the content was the same on both versions.
Jim Salestrom "Blue River Dreamin' " (1983) (LP)
(Produced by Kris O'Connor & Ronny Light)
Jim Salestrom "Genuine Colorado" (1984)
(Produced by John Macy & Jim Salestrom)
Jim Salestrom "Look Through Any Window" (Rebecca Records, 1986)
(Produced by John Macy)
Salinas "Salinas" (Trapp Records, 1978) (LP)
A mystery band on an anonymous label, but definitely country, or at least country-rock. This album includes covers of songs by the Dead ("Casey Jones,") Creedence Clearwater Revival ("Down On The Corner") and the doper's novelty classic, "Henry," by the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, along with some 'Seventies soft-rock and Top Forty twang from the likes of Kenny Loggins and the Eagles. One song may have been an original, "Sister Sue" -- credited to Tichy, Barton, Farlow and Stern, a trail I followed that produced no additional info. I dunno if these folks were actually from Salinas (California, I'd assume) but this was recorded in Nashville.
Saloon Music "Saloon Music" (Sounds Unlimited, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Dutill & Roy Youngmark)
This album appears to have been a side project of Michigan folk-rocker Brad Thrower, a bass player and guitarist from Swartz Creek, MI, who was in a series of late 'Sixties/early 'Seventies bands with his hometown buddy, guitar picker Jim Spillane. Apparently Saloon Music came about when Spillane was recuperating from an accident in which he broke his arm, and a restless Brad Thrower recruited several other dudes from the Flint/East Lansing region to form a temporary new band and record some of the groovy music swirling around in his head. The group included Thrower on bass and electric guitar, along with Jack Hamilton (guitar), Frank Schultz (guitar), Nelson Wood (steel guitar), with Rod Clouthier pinch-hitting on bass and drums on a few tunes. Thrower and Spillane continued to work together on a variety of projects, including a group called Bluejohn, whose 1975 album, Boots And Bottles, was more explicitly country-oriented.
Salt Creek "Salt Creek" (Audio House, 1977-?) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Miller)
Not sure where these three guys were from, but I can tell where their hearts lay: tons of covers of hard country/outlaw tunes by folks like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Williams, as well as a few softer ballads such as "Statue Of A Fool," and even a version of "Kansas City." There are no song credits, but I'd imagine "Salt Creek Boogie" was an original of their own devising. The group consisted of Guy Chizek (guitar & vocals), Ed Glenn (bass) and Terry Baxa (drums)... I couldn't find any info about them online, so I'd guess they didn't really play many gigs, and that this was their only album; it was pressed by the Audio House custom label in Lawrence, Kansas, so they were probably from the Midwest.
Salt Creek "Just About Due" (MT Records, 1977) (LP)
A very intriguing album. One of several different bands called Salt Creek, this Lansing, Michigan country-rock group was led by songwriters Bernie Nelson and Dan Tripp, who penned most of their material, singing and picking guitar with all-local backing from Chris Amos on bass, Mike Brush (piano), Billy Clark (pedal steel), Kathy Ford (vocals), Dave Giegerich (dobro), and Bob Grunder on drums. At first blush, the album may sound amateurish and poorly recorded, but it grows on you. Highlights include cover tunes such as their version of Toy Caldwell's "Can't You See," along with a swell take on Tom Waits' "Old '55" and an equally evocative rendition of John Sebastian's "Stories We Could Tell." Though perhaps not as punchy or cohesive as many of their country-rock contemporaries, heard from decades away, these guys actually sound ahead of their time, anticipating the poetic indie-rocker twang of folks such as Ryan Adams or the Old 97s, et.al., music that to find its country bona fides while also paving a path to a new musical dialectic. Several tracks have a dreamy, reflective feel, though they weren't averse to a novelty number or two, as heard on the album's closer, "Toilet-Huggin' Drunk Again." There's really only one stinker on here, a bad cosmic folk tune with religious overtones, called "Chosen One," but other than that, this is a pretty appealing set. I'm not sure when this band first formed, but they were still together through the end of 1979, when they were touring as far away from home as Saint Louis, and planning a trip out to California, performing as a trio with bassist Randy Boudreau. Reading between the lines, a lengthy profile piece in the Lansing State Journal paints a fairly glum picture of a struggling local band swimming against the tide of an increasingly corporatized music business. I think they gave up not long after that, got jobs and settled down, but as obscuro indie-twang albums go, this disc is certainly a fine legacy.
Salt Creek "Livin' On The Bayou" (Atchafalaya Music, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Don Kendrick, Gene Foster & Salt Creek)
These younger, slightly scruffy-lookin' fellas were a cajun roots-twang band from Louisiana, featuring Sam Alfano on drums, Rob Haines (dobro, mandolin & steel guitar), Dick Hughes (accordion and guitar), Don Kendrick (drums), and Randy Rea playing fiddle and guitar. All the songs were Hughes/Rea originals, most with local and regional themes, and some with bilingual French-English lyrics. Not sure where they were from, though the album was recorded at a studio in Bogalusa.
The Salt Creek Band "Gamblin' Fool" (The Good Music Agency, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Hanson)
This was a band from Excelsior, Minnesota, recorded live at a place called the Zodiac Lounge... The group included Shawn O'Neill, Mark Crocker, Tim Docheff and Jim Henkemeyer on bass.
The Salt Creek Band "Barn Dancin' " (CBO Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Ewings & Steven Chandler)
This edition of the band was still a four-piece, but with a big change in lineup: Chris Thomas Becker (guitars, piano, pedal steel), James "Henk" Henkemeyer (drums and vibraphone), Dave Hutcheson (bass), Shawn O'Neill (fiddle, guitars, harmonica), with special mention below going to keyboardist Bob Blackford and Sam Mineer on banjo... Looks like all-original material, with tunes like "Best Of Two Evils," "Split Decision" and "Tennessee TNT."
Salt Lick "Rural Lust & Urban Rust" (Tex Brass Records, 1980) (LP)
This twangy acoustic crew from Fort Worth, Texas had a sly, satiric bent wed to a slightly slurred stringband sound, landing them somewhere between the Red Clay Ramblers and the Asylum Street Spankers, stylewise.
Salt Lick "Daynce Of The Peckerwoods" (Tex Brass Records, 1982) (LP)
Salt Lick "Salt Lick Sockeroos" (Tex Brass Records, 1985) (LP)
Mickey Salter "...Sings Nashville" (American Eagle Records, 1975-?) (LP)
There's no date on this album, but the liner notes mention Salter's appearance in the Burt Reynolds movie, W. W. And The Dixie Dancekings, which came out early in 1975, and the most contemporary songs on here are early 'Seventies hits, such as "Country Roads," "For The Good Times" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night," so '75 or possibly '76 seems like a good bet. Also at the time, Salter had a gig at the now-defunct Albert Pick Motor Inn in Nashville, which is mentioned on the back cover... Salter lived in Nashville throughout the early 1980s, moving to McCausland, Iowa mid-decade, where he worked as an entertainer on the Queen Of Hearts riverboat in the "Quad Cities" region. In the early 1990s, he moved with his family to Florida; his son, Joe Salter lives in Pensacola and got a bunch of press a few years back for trying to set some kind of record for "joggling" (juggling while jogging... I guess it's a thing?) Apparently his dad taught him how: Mickey Salter had worked juggling into his act during his riverboat days... Sounds nice... kinda wish I'd been on board, ice tea in my hand...
Mickey Salter "This Country Boy Loves You" (American Eagle Records, 1979) (LP)
Mickey Salter "Third Album" (1982) (LP)
Mickey Salter "Live!" (Mickey Salter Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sam Pugh)
A live set, recorded at The Cannery, in Nashville...
Ed Samons & The Kentucky Mountain Boys "Sacred Sounds Of Bluegrass" (Gloryland Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Casey & Marvin Jones)
Well, I'm always a sucker for good country gospel, especially all that backwoods stuff from the Ohio/Kentucky axis where all the hillbillies hung out. Plus, I have a weird fascination with the "beach" stock-art album covers, of which this is a fine example. Mandolin picker Edmond Samons recorded several albums of straight-up, premium bluegrass gospel, as well as numerous indie-label singles. He grew up in Wayland, Kentucky, though he'd moved to Ohio by the time his recording career kicked into gear, and ran his own recording studio on the outskirts of Columbus. Mr. Samons worked with the same group of musicians near over the span of a decade or so: fiddler Eldon Allen, Leslie Gillam on banjo, Joe Martin on guitar, and bass player Starr Orr. They had a pleasantly round-toned, melodic sound that integrated several different strands of classic bluegrass -- Samons' own brisk solos echoed Bill Monroe, while the bright, assertive banjo riffs had more of a Flatt & Scruggs feel. Over it all, though, is a sweet, soft feel more reminiscent of the Stanley Brothers. So, if you're a truegrass fan, this should really rock your socks off.
Don Sampson "American Songs" (Revolver Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Don Sampson)
While living in Hoodsport, Washington, country-folkie Don Sampson rounded up some primo talent, including super-picker Frank Reckard of the Emmylou Harris Hot Band, and drummer Don Heffington (who was also playing with Emmylou, and later co-founded the band Lone Justice). This was Sampson's first album, and he would continue to work with many of these same musicians, including the backing singers, for several years. He later went by his full name, Don Michael Sampson, and has re-released this album and others under that name.
Don Sampson "Coyote" (Revolver Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Don Sampson)
This one's more on the folkie side of the spectrum, but with enough country twang to merit notice here... Recorded in LA, this album boasts a studio crew of considerable heft, with Frank Reckard and Don Heffington rejoining Sampson in the studio, as well as Bill Keith playing on a couple of tunes, and a rhythm section that included a pre-Chris Isaak Roly Salley on bass. I gotta admit, Sampson doesn't quite do it for me as a vocalist, but he sure did roll with the right kinda people.
Frankie Sanchez "Let's Walk Through The Ruins" (Charta Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Fields & Kevin McManns)
To be honest, this is a fairly torturous album... If you're really into overripe countrypolitan, you might dig this, but it'll be rough going for a lot of listeners. Singer Frankie Sanchez was originally from Guam, though he lived stateside in the 1950s and '60s, and played in a couple of California-based bands called the Velvetones and the Coming Generation before moving back to Guam in 1971. As far as I can tell, this was a songwriter's demo album, with a couple of songs credited to producer Charlie Fields, a couple more to Dennis East and one by Frankie Sanchez, "Love, Love Me Tonight," as well as a slew of one-offs by various folks I've never heard of... Sanchez invariably tackles them in the same spirit, imbuing the lyrics with as much emotive schmaltz as he can muster... The Nashville backing band includes pros such as Gregg Galbraith, Sonny Garrish and Bruce Watkins -- all of whom seem to be going through the motions -- as well as keyboardist John Propst, who also provides the lush string arrangements. Again, fans of the '70s sound might like this -- although I believe it was released in '79, it sound like music from a much earlier era, i.e. the late '60s and early '70s.
Don Sanders "Don Sanders" (Mean & Low, 1972) (LP)
This is really more of a folkie thing, but definitely deserves a place in the annals of Texas indie-twang. Don Sanders was a Houston-area folkie who helped co-found the noncommercial KPFT radio station (part of the Pacifica network) and was one of its original cadre of DJs. He's released a bunch of albums over the years, but this was his first, and is a sterling example of uber-DIY musicmaking, originally released in basically a generic white jacket, with a die-cut center hole that reveals the simple geometric design on the disc itself. Good record, though -- a bit grittier and wittier than your standard-issue folkie fare. Some extra tracks from the same session were later released as the Mean & Low (EP) in 1973...
Ed Sanders "Sanders' Truckstop" (Warner Brothers, 1970) (LP)
The first solo album by East Coast poet-activist Ed Sanders, co-founder of the confrontational avant-garde yippie folk group The Fugs. After they disbanded, Sanders continued his satire of American culture with a pair of country-tinged albums that reflected the divide between "straights" and weirdos like hippies and queers. Perhaps the best-known song is the blithe yet belabored recitation song, "Jimmy Joe, The Hippybilly Boy," surrounded by tunes like "The Iliad" (about rednecks beating up gays) along with myriad hippie-druggie references. The broad, blunt humor and caustic lampooning of small-town prejudice may seem a bit over-the-top now, but in Sanders' defense, folks nowadays might not realize that there was a lot of truth to the pictures he painted: rebels and longhairs really did get their asses kicked by rednecks and frat boys in the '60s and '70s, and this albums reflects the tensions of the time, albeit in a strident, assertive style. Like the old Fugs records, it's not exactly the kind record you'd put on for relaxation, or really need to hear more than once, but it is an significant roadmark in early '70s alt-country, even if Sanders didn't take the "country" part of it seriously, other than as a target for parody. (He did have real roots in the New York folkie-bohemian scene, with ties to the Holy Modal Rounders and other avant-folk musicians, many of whom play on here, but that crowd definitely saw Nashville as playing for the other team...) Anyway, this is a semi-funny, rather acerbic album, worth checking out for its political content, though I doubt you'll cherish it forever and ever.
Ed Sanders "Beer Cans On The Moon" (Warner Brothers, 1973) (LP)
Sanders (and everybody else in America) got weirder and weirder as the '70s went along, and 1973 was a peak year for weirdness and general tension in the culture. This more rock-oriented album still has its country touchstones, like "Yodeling Robot," a song about an automaton that falls in love with Dolly Parton, but it also has many more pointed political references, in songs such as "Nonviolent Direct Action" and "Henry Kissinger," which reflect the simmering frustrations of the Watergate era, when "the system" really seemed to have collapsed, but not in a particularly good way. Less fun and way more grind-y than Truckstop, but also groovy in its own bizarre, historical way. If you're looking for hard-left anarcho-hippie country music, this is about as extreme as it gets. But it is pretty blunt, and it sure ain't easy listening.
George Sanders "Country Mornin' " (George Sanders, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by George Sanders & Gary Holmes)
With a local band behind him this fella from Jacksonville, Florida, plays a mix of straight-up bluegrass (tunes like "Blackberry Blossom") and more folkie/country material, including a handful of his own original songs. He also covers John Hartford's "Skippin' On The Mississippi Dew," (and that alone has got me interested...!) as well as Austinite Mike Williams' "Blue Skies And Teardrops," along with various other songwriters.
Harlan Sanders "Off And Running" (Epic Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Tallent & Nick Palladino)
Well, this guy sure had an interesting story: an ex-convict who was championed by Johnny Cash, Sanders made his mark as a rootsy honkytonk songwriter in the early 1970s, penning his first hits while still in prison. Cash helped both Sanders and his writing partner Glen Sherley get paroled, then hired them as staff writers for his own "House Of Cash" publishing company. In 1973, Sanders started his own company and had a number of his songs covered by a variety of artists, including one of my all-time faves, George Jones' 1982 hit, "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)." This was his first album, and the only one for a major label, and there's some interesting stuff on it. Side One is kind of mainstream sounding, with a hefty dose of Waylon-ish outlaw ruggedness; on Side Two he loosens up a bit and gets a little more creative with the arrangements and material. At first his voice might not wow you -- he's got a good, deep baritone, but his delivery isn't super-charismatic... There's a level of confidence or panache that he doesn't quite hit, the difference between a songwriter and a star, I guess. But as a cult artist, he's kind of cool, and his low-key voice will definitely grow on you. (BTW, as far as I can tell, he was not related to Col. Harland Sanders, of KFC fame, though I did try pretty hard to find out if he was...)
Harlan Sanders "The Arizona Whiz" (Brylen Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake & Harlan Sanders)
This indie outing was Sanders' second full-length release though he also recorded a bunch of as-yet uncollected singles. Apparently the rights to this disc are more accessible than the stuff on Columbia, as this album has been reissued numerous times, including the K-Tel and Jukebox editions below...
Harlan Sanders "His Best" (K-Tel Records, 2006)
Harlan Sanders "Somewhere In Texas" (Jukebox Entertainment Records, 2008)
Mack Sanders "...And His Swing Band" (Mercury Records, 1964) (LP)
Bandleader Mack Sanders, who also recorded under the name Johnny Bozeman, was a deejay from Kansas who cut a few singles in the '50s, and a couple of LPs in the '60s. Working at a variety of stations, Sanders was a pioneering figure in Midwestern country music broadcasting, establishing Wichita's first full-time country station. With country star Webb Pierce as a business partner, Sanders purchased a string of radio stations throughout the Midwest, as well as a foothold in Nashville. He was married to singer Sherry Bryce, up until his death in 2003. This album features vocals from Sanders as well as Gene McCoy and Jeanie Pierson, a female singer with a very rough, rugged vocal style (who I believe may have been Sanders' first wife...) The music is a nice mix of easygoing honkytonk and country swing, similar to the Hank Thompson sound. It's not top flight, but it is pretty good -- the fiddle and steel guitar are particularly nice. Definitely worth a spin!
Mack Sanders "Tonkin' The Blues" (Pilot Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Allsup, Sherry Bryce Sanders, Terry Skinner & Tom Sparkman)
A flashy set of latter-day western swing, with an all-star cast that included studio heavyweights such as steel player Curly Chalker, pianist Bill Purcell, as well as Leon Rhodes, Hargus Pig Robbins, Buddy Spicher, and Jerry Wallace, and perhaps most intriguingly, twang-bar king Travis Wammack on lead guitar. The album was recorded in separate sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and co-produced by Sanders' wife, singer Sherry Bryce, who also helped manage their string of radio stations. She penned three songs on this album, "Close Down the Honky Tonks," "Honky Tonk Bands" and "Sometimes Bad, Sometimes Good, Sometimes Gone," while Sanders contributed two others, "Sweet Country Girl" and the title track, "Tonkin' The Blues."
Gil Sandoval "Long Road To Nashville" (Westbend Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Gil Sandoval & John Bonham)
From Salt Lake City, Utah... and that's a long way from Nashville, my friends!
Sandy & The Sweetbriar Band "Just The Beginning" (Black Canyon Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Santo BamBoci & Roy Peters)
San Francisco Medicine Ball & Friends "On A Slow Boat To China" (Real Turkey Records & Tapes, 1976)
(Produced by David Sturdevant, Jack Converey & Brian Van Der Mueler)
For some reason, the 1970s San Francisco independent music scene was a longtime home to neo-trad Dixieland and jazz revivalists... I guess as an outgrowth of the tourist trade's romanticization of the old "Barbary Coast" saloons and brothels, which were represented decades later by various Dixieland acts in the '50s, '60s and '70s. The SF Medicine Ball was one of the last bands in this tradition, and despite the groovy, acid test-looking, hippiedelic artwork, this was a pretty straightforward trad-retro set, with compact arrangements that mostly showcased the fast but not too fancy banjo picking and a few vocals as well. Not all that twangy, but worth mentioning anyway...
Carlo San Paolo "My Raggedy Ann" (Lark Ellen Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Arlene Buckner, Erwin E. Buckner & Fern Doral)
A questionable entry, though there are country threads... Multi-instrumentalist Carlo San Paolo (who also went by the simple mononym "Carlo") was originally from Saint Louis, Missouri and seems to have had a pop-oriented background, touring as a teen with a rock group called Illustrated Sounds, which cut a couple of singles circa 1969. He met his muse, lyricist Arlene Buckner, while performing in New Orleans and at some point they both wound up in Los Angeles, where Carlo joined Paul Foster's country band, The Hand Me Downs, which cut an album on Lark Ellen Records in 1974. Apparently he quit that group when they went on tour up in Alaska, stayed in LA and recorded this disc, which has a less overtly country tone than Foster's disc.
Santa Fe "Santa Fe" (Ampex Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Herb Newman)
A lively hippie-rock album, heavily influenced by the San Francisco sound, particularly the vocal high harmonies of the Grateful Dead and the Bay Area version of the new country-rock sound. Fans of the Dead -- and more particularly of their twangier cohorts, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage -- will find a lot to like in this album. Santa Fe definitely could rock out (by the standards of the day) although they stuck to the rougher, more bar-bandy end of the spectrum, with a thumpy, gallumphing rhythm and plenty of nasal twang. The songs are all originals, written solo or collaboratively by singer-guitarists Woody Minnich and Joe Saputo, with a couple also credited to lead guitarist Rob Riggs... And there's some fun stuff! This is a rough-edged record, but that's probably what makes it most appealing... Apparently Ampex relicensed the record to RCA -- my copy has the Ampex artwork, but I've seen pictures of the other version as well. Anyway, if you're looking for obscure proto- country rock, this disc is definitely worth tracking down. (BTW: anyone know more about these guys? I assumed they were desert dudes, but apparently they were Southern California kids... In the late '60s, Woody Minnick played guitar in a rock band called The Humane Society, which wound up on one of the early Nuggets albums... Other than that, I haven't learned much about these guys.)
Santa Fe "The Good Earth" (RTV Records, 1972) (LP)
Saratoga "What Tomorrow Brings" (KBK Custom Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Hilgendorf & Jim Lake)
A quintessential "private" album, made by two folks from Saint Louis -- Cindy Burger who sings and plays tambourine, and multi-instrumentalist Dave Hilgendorf (1947-2018) who did everything else. Seriously: he played bass, guitar, harmonica, tambourine and piano, as well as singing lead and harmony vocals. The repertoire is mostly cover songs, including a hefty dose of soft rock stuff, tunes like "Danny's Song" and "Homeward Bound," though also country stuff like "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." In the liner notes they thank another lounge duo, Burns & Bono, who they cite as their inspiration and who recorded their own LP a couple of years earlier, also at KBK Studios. Like a lot of Midwestern lounge bands in the 'Seventies, Saratoga incorporated more country material into their act, as seen on their second album, below.
Saratoga "By Special Request... Saratoga Live" (KBK Custom Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Hilgendorf & Jim Lake)
This disc captures the duo live in concert at a checkered-tablecloth joint called Jacks Or Better, playing contemporary crowd pleasers and oldies such as "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," "East Bound And Down" and "Six Days On The Road," as well as ballads like "Love Me Tender" and "You've Got A Friend." They were joined for several songs by a guy named Russ Bono, who was in a more rock-oriented duo called Burns & Bono, with Mary Burns. Dave Hilgendorf later led a group called New Saratoga, which I assume had a different singer(?) as well as a band called Those Guys.
Saratoga Red "The Album" (Blanco Records, 1982) (LP)
"Saratoga Red" was the nom de twang of Texas country singer James Daniel ("Dan") Blanchard, who was formerly in the Pettigrew & Blanchard Band, a duo that played regionally around Dallas in the late '70s...
Junior Sasnett & The Tennessee Ramblers "Saviors Hand Holding Mine #2" (Junior Sasnett Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Junior Sasnett)
Junior Sasnett & The Tennessee Ramblers "Good Old Gospel Time, Volume III" (Junior Sasnett Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Junior Sasnett)
According to the liner notes, Junior Sasnett was born and raised in Florida and as a teen he played guitar in a traveling tent revival show, though later when he formed a band with his siblings, he played and wrote secular honky-tonk music. Sasnett made his way out west to LA, where he worked odd jobs and finally moved to Las Vegas where he played a few country bars and self-released at least one album. (Has anyone laid eyes on volumes one and two?) All but four of the songs on here are Hank Williams covers while the others are gospel and country gospel standards such as "Where Could I Go But To The Lord" and "Life's Railway To Heaven." Sasnett apparently released a few hard-country singles in his youth, though I don't know if they've been gathered or reissued anywhere.
Ronnie Satterfield "All Alone" (JJ Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by James Tuttle & Stephen J. Mendell)
A demo album by singer-guitarist Ronnie Satterfield, whose day job was as an entertainer on Carnival Cruise Line ship... This set, which was recorded at Cedar Creek Studios, in Austin, Texas, is standard lounge fare, mostly covers of AOR and country-ish hits that were doubtless crowd pleasers: "Margaritaville," Don McLean's "American Pie," Lee Greenwood's "God Bless America," as well as stuff by Dan Fogelberg and Kenny Loggins... There are also three songs written by Satterfield: "All Alone," "Back To Carolina" and "If I Only Had A Girl Like You" and another original, Chris Kingley's "Who'da Believe," using the same publisher (Texas Crude Publishing). The studio crew include musicians such as steel guitarist Jimmy Day, fiddler Johnny Gimble, Stephen Mendell on bass, as well as Lonnie Mack and Ronnie Satterfield playing guitar.
Savanna "Straight At The Sun" (Adventure Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Escallier & Savanna)
This one might be added more as a warning than a recommendation. Yeah, I guess there is some legitimate country-rock twang on a few tunes, and kind of a rural vibe underneath a lot of these songs, but mostly this Oklahoma trio was more on a '70s soft-rock meets starry-eyed folk trajectory. Several songs are pretty gooey and mildly insufferable, though others have some country-ish vigor, so it's kind of a tossup whether to include this one here or not. Probably appeals more to fans of Stevie Nicks and Seals & Crofts than to twangsters, but it's probably worth having on the radar, especially if you're scouring the Midwest for obscure entries into the country-rock annals.
Roosevelt Savannah "Everything's Coming Up Rosey" (Roseway International, 1976-?) (LP)
One of the notable African American country singers to come in the wake of Charley Pride's national success, Roosevelt Savannah hailed from Seattle, Washington and recorded his lone LP at the fabled Ripcord studios in nearby Vancouver, WA. He had cut a few singles earlier, including an early version of "Pretty Girl, Pretty Clothes, Pretty Sad" on the semi-major GRC label, but chart success wasn't in the stars, although he really plugged away for a few years in the early '70s. This album is mostly made up of cover tunes, including some gospel and stuff by Marty Robbins and Hank Williams. There's also another version of "Pretty Girl, Pretty Clothes," as well as one called "The House I Live In (That's America To Me)," a patriotic number that might place this (undated) album as a Bicentennial release.
Sawmill Creek -- see artist profile
Ray Sawyer "Ray Sawyer" (Capitol Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Haffkine)
This is one of those only-in-the-Seventies, off-the-radar albums that has about a zillion-to-zero chance of ever being reissued... In this case it's not because it's a golden gem that the Nashville fatcats were too lame to appreciate, but really because this is a third-string production, with some Nashville studio dudes backing up Ray Sawyer -- the eye-patched frontman of the rock band Dr. Hook -- providing lush, oversized arrangements to his thin-voiced, almost whiny performance. There is some interesting stuff on here, though. mainly a handful of well-sculpted Hazel Smith songs that include the issue-oriented "Crazy Rosie" (about a teen pregnancy that results in the baby being murdered by its uptight, status-obsessed grandfather, which in turn drives the mother insane...) Equally over-the-top is "(One More Year Of) Daddy's Little Girl," wherein a small child is dying from an undisclosed terminal illness... and her daddy tries to enjoy her final days... The other primary songwriter here is someone named Joel Jaffe, who I've never heard of. Mostly Jaffe's stuff doesn't do much for me, though "Maybe I Can Use That In A Song" is a nice slow, sad shuffle. This ain't great, but it has its moments.
Shane Sawyer "Send Me All Your Coors" (C.A.S. Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by B. J. Cornwell)
Songwriter Shane Sawyer did some time in Nashville, moving there in the late 1960s before decamping to Texas, where he established himself in the Dallas country scene. Sawyer had some kind of deal with Mel Tillis' production company and was pitching himself as an outlaw at the time this album came out. According to his Facebook page, Sawyer wrote over three hundred songs, with several recorded by noteworthy artists, including Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Floyd Tillman and Whitney Houston(!). He also seems to have dipped his toes into the southern gospel scene, working with artists such as The Blackwood Brothers, Lulu Roman and Naomi Sego... (I haven't tracked down any of these song credits, so for now we'll just have to take his word for it... ) A Coors-themed single was also released from this album, though I'm not sure what other records Sawyer has to his name...
Rocky Saxon "Butterfly Dreamin' " (Banner Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Triche & Rocky Saxon)
Beth Scalet "It's A Living" (J-Bird, 1981)
(Produced by Beth Scalet, Chris Bauer & Caren Prideaux)
A veteran folk singer from Lawrence, Kansas, Beth Scalet (1948-2014) performed extensively in the 1970s before recording this early '80s album. There's some subtle, pedal steel-propelled twang on here, but mostly this is soft, soulful bluesy pop, reminiscent of Phoebe Snow or a slicker-sounding Tracy Nelson, more of an adult-alt kinda thing in a mellow, poppish mode. Includes a cover of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade Of Pale," but otherwise it's all original material.
Kate Scates "From Katie With Love" (Oak Leaf Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by John Taylor)
Ron Schmeck "Easy Living -- The American Way" (Valley Records, 197?) (LP)
There's an entire album devoted to the joys of RVs? Yes, sirree! You bet there is! Ron Schmeck was a car dealer from Sacramento, California who was so fired up about mobile homes that he wrote and recorded a whole album's worth of songs on the subject. Well, okay, there are a couple of songs on other topics, like how mobile home drivers made great Good Samaritans (Schmeck was also a member of the Good Sam club) but mostly this is a sincere song of praise for living the free life on the road. The musical end was actually pretty good -- Schmeck also hosted a local country TV show (called "The Easy Life") and though he wasn't a very good singer, he got some decent talent to back him up here -- an iffy lead guitarist, but good pedal steel and a solid piano player and rhythm section, pumping out music that was solidly in the uptempo West Coast style. You probably won't need to listen to this disc all that often, but it's a funny, genuine oddity, for sure. By the way, anyone know more about these sessions, or even what year the record came out? I tried finding out online, but no one seems willing to post a specific date. I'm guess 1976-ish...(?)
Lee Schmidt "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" (Alert Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Merl Olds)
Lee Schmidt (1930-2013) was a farm kid from rural Missouri who made his name in the Saint Louis country nightclub scene, but it was as a square dance caller that he would become known nationally... On his non-squaredance debut he picked some unusual selections (like Harlan Howard's "Too Many Rivers To Cross") and following the Saturday sinner/Sunday saint motif, he sang a bunch of gospel standards, in a Red Foley-esque style. Schmidt only penned one of these songs, "Lonesome Too," but I think there were a couple other songs from local artists. Prior to this, Schmidt was mostly known for doing square dance records; this was his first album of straight-up country songs.
Lee Schmidt "I'll Come Back As Many Times As You Need Me" (Marilee Records, 1974)
Neal Schmidt "Dreamer's Paradise" (Trick Horseman Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Rue Barclay & Hal Southern)
Great album art. On the front, there's Mr. Schmidt, riding "Roman style," astride two separate horses, spinning his lasso and smiling from ear to ear; on the back cover you can see him jumping his horse through a ring of fire, and an action shot of the two-horse trick being performed at a rodeo. A trick rider from Crawford, Oklahoma, Neal Schmidt built his reputation in the 1960s and '70s working the rodeo circuit throughout the South, the Midwest and the mountain states. One year his wife Eileen packed him off to LA, where he recorded this album with old-school singing cowboy Hal Southern and a Hollywood studio band that included Joe Dennis on drums, Harold Hensley (fiddle), Roy Lanham (guitar), Junior Nichols (drums), Gene Ridgeway (bass) and Doug Vaughn (steel guitar). The set includes a few cowboy oldies, such as "Back In Saddle Again" and Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills," though it's pleasantly heavy on newer material, including a couple of originals by Allen Johnson, "Footprints," and the title track, "Dreamer's Paradise." I'm not sure if Mr. Schmidt made any other records, but this one's a doozy.
Jack Schorn "Jack Schorn's Country Show" (1979-?) (LP)
A delightfully, deliciously amateurish album by a clompy trio from River Falls, Wisconsin, this is the very epitome of a vanity album... and I mean that in a good way. I'm guessing their "country show" mostly played in various bandmembers basements and rec rooms, but apparently Schorn was from a musically-inclined family and had played local gigs with his siblings for many years before this late '70s album came out. He's backed by bassist Tom Gardner and Mike Kullman on drums; the liner notes say Kullman had played with Schorn since 1968. This is a goofy but heartfelt record, packed with cheerful but lackluster renditions of the band's favorite country songs. Fun tunes, too: it's always nice to hear tunes like Billy Joe Shaver's "Georgia On A Fast Train," Wayne Carson's "Drinkin' Thing," or Ronnie Milsap's "Day Dreams (About Night Things)" and oh my gosh, who can resist a few wannabee good ol' boys singing "Afternoon Delight"? Not me. And of course they cover "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother..." (Man, was that song popular!) Okay, I admit it... I'm totally kitsched-out on this one, and in a way that I normally resist, but I just can't help it. This is just such an endearingly flawed, honest album -- it really is just three dudes singing a few groovy tunes they like, thumping away down in someone's basement studio, with iffy vocals and modest instrumental heft. The sound is stripped down and strictly non-professional, and real. Really, really real.
Bill Schott "Country Fever" (Sentry One Records, 1985-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Schott & Mick McTee)
This fella was from Saint Cloud, Minnesota... And for now, that's about all I know.
Joe Schultz & The Journeymen "Statue Of A Fool" (IGL Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Denny Kintzi & John Senn)
This is the first album by a Minnesota-based trio that included bassist/lead singer Joe Schultz, steel player Stan Horswell and longhaired drummer Orv Buttrey Jr. (who wasn't related to Nashville superdrummer Kenny Buttrey, as far as I know...) They made the trek to the legendary IGL label, located in Milford, Iowa -- best known for recording garage bands in the '60s and early '70s -- and recorded this set of country covers, which included versions of Mel Street's 1970 hit, "Borrowed Angel" and Freddie Hart's "Easy Lovin'," which points to a 1971-72 release date. These guys were a little clunky, but it's still fun to hear another "real folks" album -- some of the tracks have a rawer, slightly garage-rock feel: possibly they were earlier recordings, or even singles on IGL? I'll update you if I ever find out for sure...
Joe Schultz & The Journeymen "Tears Falling From My Eyes" (IGL Records, 19--?) (LP)
Scissors Band "You Make My Dreams Come True" (Brylen Records, 1982) (LP)
Although the Brylen label had some chart success in the early-'80s, during the last gasp of country indies, this band from Signal Mountain, Georgia seems to have slipped between the cracks. Nothing charted from this covers-heavy LP, featuring lead singer Dave Cacrino on songs like "Fancy Free," and "Old Flame." Try as I might, I couldn't find much info on these guys. Anyone?
Bill Scott "For My Friends" (Audio By DeVir, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by J. Frederic DeVir)
A young guy doing covers of oldies, stuff like Bob McDill's "Amanda," an old Jim Reeves ballad, and even some Depression-era tunes by Jenny Lou Carson and the Carter Family. There were also some originals, including "When You're As Lonely As I" and "Home To Stay." This album was recorded in Saint Paul, Minnesota with backing from an all-local crew. Notable among the musicians are Tom Elliott on bass and Honey Lou singing backup vocals -- this husband-wife duo also recorded an album of their own a few years earlier -- with fiddle by Wayne Kreidler and steel guitar by Larry Rose and Art Douvier.
Charlie Scott "Lawman" (1981) (LP)
(Produced by Cal Miller & Jim Rhodes)
Cops do love to make country albums... Or, at least, some of the cops who do make 'em love to talk about it! Charlie Scott (1957-2009) is notable for having written half the songs on this album (which includes several other originals, not just his stuff...) Also, check him out on the back cover -- the dude was ready for his own TV show! The weird thing is, though, he didn't actually tell us where he's from. Lots of info about the Nashville recording sessions, but no address or anything... Well, Scott did credit Sgt. Randy Orondorff for the album design, so that got me started... Turns out Orondorff was a thirty-plus year veteran of the Tulsa PD, and an instructor at their academy, so I put two-to-five together and figured out that Scott was on the Tulsa PD as well... Sure enough, that's the guy. In addition to his job on the force, Scott was a major player on Oklahoma's early '80s country scene, headlining a place called Duke's Country and penning the song "Oklahoma Rain," which became a regional hit. He later placed a couple of singles into the Country Back Forty, but that was about it as far as breaking through nationally. Apparently the Tulsa police chief demanded Scott choose between traffic stops and twang, so he ditched his squad car for a dive bar, opening a place called Charlie's Bus Stop in nearby Skiatook. He ran the bar for a year or two, then went back into law enforcement, working as a parole officer in the state corrections department. This album includes the song "She Loves Me Most Of All," which was released as a single, as well as his version of the Marty Robbins oldie, "Big Iron."
Charlie Scott "The Man In Blue" (NSD Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Payne)
On his second album, Scott recorded the first half in Nashville, and the second side in Tulsa, with help from producer Jimmy Payne, who also steered a couple of tunes his way, including his own "What Time Is It In Your World (When It's Crying Time In Mine)?" and one called "Ugly Women And Pickup Trucks," which rounds out the album. Other than a cover of Sammy Johns' old hit, "Chevy Van" and Keith Durham's regional pride number, "Blue Skies Over Tulsa," all the other tracks were written by Charlie Scott. Sadly not included is his 1984 single, "Maybe I'm Crazy," a tune written by Bill Caswell that got some traction regionally but seems to have slipped through the cracks between albums. Caswell also wrote the title track to Scott's 1989 4-song cassette EP, Someone To Care, which may have been Mr. Scott's last official recording.
Clive Scott & The Skywegians "Best Of Country And Western" (Deacon Records, 1970) (LP)
A fun set of authentic-sounding Euro-British pub-country... Clive Scott was apparently an English expat who grew up in England and in Malaysia, and wound up marrying a Norwegian gal and moving to Norway. This band, which was made up of Clive Scott, his daughter Claudia Scott and a whole slew of Scandinavians, had been touring the UK for a couple of years by the time this album came out, and thus found a London label to record with. And it's pretty good. A strong, thumping beat, plenty of twang, good song selection (Johnny Cash, George Jones, Buck Owens) and a nice, upbeat vibe... Methinks this is an accurate reflection of what '60s country bands sounded like in the pubs -- pleasantly rough around the edges, but also played with confidence and authority. Recommended!
Dewitt Scott "Keepin' It Country (Almost)" (Mid-Land Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty Thornhill)
A steel guitarist from Midland, Missouri, Dewitt Scott also worked as a producer for several albums of other steel players, including Zane Beck, Julian Tharpe, Curly Chalker, and others. On this album he's backed by Doug Jernigan (playing dobro), Lloyd Green, Tharpe, Chalker, Buddy Emmons, and Russ Hicks... As implied by the title, most of these tracks are country, stuff like "Drivin' Nails In My Coffin" and "Cold, Cold Heart," but a few are old pop standards, such as "Golden Earrings," "Harbor Lights" and "Misty."
Dewitt Scott "Keepin' It Country (Almost)" (Step One Records, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Emmons & Ray Pennington)
Helen Scott & Billy Scott "Songs You've Requested" (Chance Records, 1967-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Richards)
A thoroughly charming album from a husband-wife duo, neither of whom were particularly strong vocalists, but they really put their hearts into it. Originally from Indiana, the Scotts established themselves as a country duo in Columbus, Ohio, performing on the Jamboree USA radio program and the syndicated Hayride TV show... This album has a bunch of cover songs on the softer side of things, including contemporary country songs like "There Goes My Everything" and "Tippy Toeing," as well as perky, twanged-up versions of two folk hits, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and Tom Paxton' "Last Thing On my Mind." A couple of songs may have been originals -- "Demolition Derby" and "The Ego Of My Mind," though I couldn't find any songwriter's credits. Musicians include steel player Chuck Rich and electric guitarist Wally Proctor, who add lots of fun, bouncy, '60s-style pop-country twang. I couldn't track down the year this came out, but would definitely appreciate any info folks could share... ("Tippy Toeing" was a hit in 1967, so it's sometime around then...) Anyway, I honestly find them completely charming -- kind of a lower-tier version of folks like Jonie & Johnny Mosby, or even earlier forebearers such as Texas Ruby & Curly Fox. Plus she yodeled... in 1967! How cute is that??
Helen & Billy Scott "My God And I" (Jewel Records, 1976) (LP)
Helen & Billy Scott "Good Times" (Jewel Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York)
This one's definitely much later -- they cover "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "Rose Garden" and "Bobby McGee," so maybe '73, '74 or so? Anyway, it's hard to know what to make of this one, especially given my enthusiasm for their earlier work in the 'Sixties. To put it simply, this really isn't a very good record, or to be more precise, the vocals are pretty bad. Now, I'm not a guy who's big on the whole snarky, cynical, make-fun-of-bad-records thing, but I think it's fair to say that this is the kind of album that can give you an appreciation for the quality level of other private-label records, because, yes, sometimes they do sound like this. On this disc, the (unidentified) backing band play quite well, and were presumably some of the best session players in Rusty York's orbit -- their arrangement of "Rose Garden" closely mimics the Lynn Anderson original, and generates an impressively large sound for a small regional studio. But the Scotts themselves are off their game -- Billy Scott comes through as an understated average-guy vocalist, but Helen Scott is horribly off-key for most of the record, and sounds like somebody's grandma who got drafted to do a memento album for the kids. I'm not sure what the deal was, but while I honestly enjoyed their earlier album, I found this one pretty painful. Cynics looking for mockable, Mrs. Miller-ish records in the country field may delight in this disc... I'm just gonna file it away for future reference.
Hugh Scott "Sings Country At The Chamberland Club" (Banff Records, 1967) (LP)
Mixing old, old-school country, honky-tonk and rockabilly, in the late 1960s Ottawa, Canada's Hugh Scott led the house band at the Chamberland Club, as heard on this live recording. There's some stuff you've heard elsewhere, and some that maybe you haven't, songs like "Don't Let Her Get The Best Of You," "You're The Least Of My Worries," "Sea Of Booze" and "After You Leave." Scott's compact band included bassist Marcel Amyot and Wilf Arsenault on lead guitar. Nice stuff, although I wasn't able to find much information about Scott online...
Hugh Scott "Mr. Versatile" (Banff Records, 19--?) (LP)
Hugh Scott "Now... And Then" (Snocan Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Barry Brown, David Dennison & Ralph Carlson)
A good-natured honkytonk-meets-rockabilly set, remincent of the more robust offerings of guys like Roy Head and Joe Stampley, with one foot in the world of rock, but a full commitment to country twang. The album includes a fun version of Dick Damron's "Good Old Timey Country Rock'N'Roll," sort of a statement of purpose, along with various cover songs, including a couple of old Elvis Presley hits. Three songs are Hugh Scott originals: "Here I Am," Behind These Lonely Prison Walls" and the forlorn, sad-sack "I'll Give My Heart (To Anyone Who Wants It)." Not sure when this one came out, though I'm guessing 1979 from his groovy 'Seventies get-up on the cover, and by the album's matrix number (WRC1-79-1). The sessions were recorded at Snocan Studios in Ottowa, with Bob Boucher on lead guitar, Al Bragg on piano and pedal steel, Al Cherney on fiddle, and several other local players. Nice, low-key outing by a veteran player who was still having fun.
Kenny Lee Scott "Down On My Luck" (Nation Records, 1986-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Rich, Fred Cameron & Steve Hembree)
A nice record, with an unusual mix of influences. Kenny Lee Scott was apparently the stage name of Ken Huens, who wrote all but two of the songs on this album. Huens also released at least one single under his own name, though those songs are not included on this album. Anyway, I like the overall vibe of this album, which is slick but rootsy at the same time, well-produced yet not goopy. Don Williams comes to mind, although there's a hint of Delbert McClinton-esque roadhouse roots bubbling underneath the surface, which works well with his voice, which sounds a bit like Russell Smith of the Amazing Rhythm Aces. Nice, mellow modern country stuff, overall. This was recorded in Nashville, and I think Huens lived there as well, although he may have originally been from Indiana: the genesis of this album was a song called "Knight Time In Indiana," which was an homage to basketball coach Bob Knight, who led the Hoosiers on a remarkable hot streak during the 1970s. The album was produced by Bobby Rich, the bass player for the Stonewall Jackson band, who also contributes liner notes.
Larry Scott "Keep On Truckin' " (Alshire Records, 1973) (LP)
An enthusiastic set of trucker tunes from Los Angeles-area DJ Larry Scott, who hosted a primetime show on KLAC, a top country station of the era. Scott himself won a Billboard award as DJ Of The Year for 1972, so one assumes he was pretty well connected, and influential. That may help explain the lineup of top talent backing him here, including steel player J. D. Maness and superpicker James Burton and pianist Glen D. Hardin, from Elvis Presley's fabled TCB Band. Scott wasn't a great singer, by any means, but his rugged approach was perfect for the trucker song genre -- hell, if Dave Dudley and Red Sovine could have hits, why not this guy? The set list is a mix of covers, such as "Six Days On The Road" and "I'm A Truck" to oddball originals, including three by a guy named Joe Bob Barnhill. Highlights include "My Truck's The Other Woman In My Life" and "Truck Drivin' Nightmare," where our hero gets roped into hauling a load to a government missile site, with unpredictable, over-the-top results. So did he have any hits? Well, no... but it does sound like he had some fun making this album, and if you're into trucker songs, this one adds some nice ones to the list.
Lois Scott "...And Back Up And Push" (Green Dolphin Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Nickels)
Tommy Scott -- see artist profile
The Scragg Family "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" (Sonyatone Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Peter Feldmann & Wayne Yentis)
This acoustic trio from Santa Barbara, California -- Peter Feldman playing mandolin, Kasja Ohman on banjo and vocals, Gene McGeorge on violin -- was founded in 1962 and was a mainstay of the coastal bluegrass scene. On their first album, they played a mix of old-timey mountain music and stringband-ified Depression-era blues. The album opens on a rocky note, with Ohman going a little overboard with some Mamie Smith-style blues mama vocalizing... But when she settles into a more comfortable mode, singing some hardcore Appalachian ballads, she nails the whole keening, Hazel Dickens shape-note sound. Nice stuff!
Gove (Scrivenor) "Heavy Cowboy" (TRX Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Don Gant & Mike Weesner)
Although he became known as a freewheeling, genre-morphic 'Seventies folkie (see below), Scrivenor's first big music gig was, almost improbably, working for Nashville mega-mogul Wesley Rose, cutting this debut disc for the TRX imprint, which was sort of a youth-market label, catering more to pop and soul music than the usual country fare that Rose was famous for. Nonetheless, even with the hippie-esque veneer, Scrivenor got backing from a slew of top country talent, Nashville heavyweights such as David Briggs, Danny Flowers, Weldon Myrick, Hank Strzelecki, Chip Young and the like. Perhaps not surprisingly he became pals with John Hartford, who had a similar start as a major-label odd-man-out over at RCA, and followed Hartford over to the more comfy confines of the upstart folk/bluegrass label, Flying Fish Records. On this album he went all mononymic, just calling himself "Gove," though later on he added his surname to his records... I'm sure his folks were proud!
Gove Scrivenor "Solid Gove" (Rounder-Flying Fish, 1998)
This is a handy compilation of two late '70s albums by multi-instrumentalist Gove Scrivenor, one of those eclectic acoustic folkies like George Gritzbach who mixed a love of bluegrass and blues with a funky sensibility... Of the two original records, Shady Gove is certainly the better, with some melodic blues tunes, such as "Black Cat Bone," that are nice, and plenty of sweet picking from his pals, including folk-bluegrass luminaries such as John Hartford, Marty Stuart and Doc Watson. Although I heard a lot of these songs on KFAT, back in the day, there are two songs I liked best and would still recommend: the jaunty "Walkin' My Blues Away" and "Going To The Country." His next album isn't that great, with decent material given flowery arrangements, amid an overly-serious folk scene experimentalism. Not my cup of tea, though I guess if you're into mainstream folk, this might be worth checking out. I kinda hate to say it, but this might be a record where a couple of quick downloads would pretty much cover it. Scrivenor also did a lot of work as a session musician, and many years later recorded a couple more albums.
The Earl Scruggs Revue -- see artist profile
Gary & Randy Scruggs "All The Way Home" (Vanguard, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Daniels & Neil Wilburn)
On their way to helping anchor the Earl Scruggs Revue with their uber-famous dad, siblings Gary and Randy Scruggs tuned in and turned on their amplifiers for this slightly kooky, ultimately clumsy electrified rock-country record. I'm putting the "rock" part first because the super-thumpy, fuzzed out hard rock riffs drown out most of the twang, echoing the proto-metal of hippie-era bands such as Cream and Iron Butterfly. The country elements come partly in picking, but mostly in the repertoire, which is packed with folk and folk-rock classics by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Joni Mitchell. The overall sound is pretty sludgy and slow, with the Scruggs brothers apparently struggling with the demands of studio multi-tracking and playing electric. The project was a nice idea, but it doesn't really work out too well, at least not this time around. The up-and-coming Charlie Daniels co-produced the album and is also credited as a musician; also nice to see brief, noncommittal liner notes written by hippie-twang guru John Hartford, who was camping in Yosemite at the time. A few tunes are okay, but mostly this album is a real mess: the best track on here is an instrumental, a pumped-up version of "Earl's Breakdown," with Randy Scruggs cutting loose with some nice banjo riffs, riding atop a grungy rock rhythm, but at least you can hear the melody!
The Seabird Band "The Seabird Band" (Waylon Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Guy Burlage)
Brothers Guy and Denis Burlage anchored the easygoing Seabird Band, a regionally popular group from Virginia Beach, VA that mixed '70s soft-pop and a bit of country twang, particularly with Guy Burlage playing pedal steel guitar... They got some traction nationally, but eventually Guy Burlage moved up North to Vermont and "went solo," recording and performing under his own name. These guys are often mentioned as pioneers of the so-called "Virginia Sound" that Bruce Hornsby brought into the pop mainstream in the early '80s... At first it's hard to hear, as this disc kicks off with a solid set of classic-sounding country-rock, in the New Riders/Eagles mode, but by the third track, pianist Victor Paul's delicate, tinkling keyboard riffs assert themselves on "Memory Of You," and indeed, will have a familiar feel to Hornsby fans. Country fans won't be disappointed by this disc, which is definitely anchored in twang, but has a mellow rock undercurrent.
Joyce Seamone "Testing, 1-2-3" (Marathon Records, 1972) (LP)
Nova Scotia's Joyce Seamone had a breakaway hit with her independently produced single, "Testing, 1-2-3," which topped the charts in Canada and led to several albums on the Marathon label. This debut disc also includes several "girl" singer classics, including covers of "L.A. International Airport," "One's On The Way," Cotton Jenny" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." After several years in the spotlight, Seamone quit touring, though she continued to perform locally and started her own label, Gemini Records, after moving back to Nova Scotia in 1987.
Joyce Seamone "Merry Christmas From Joyce Seamone" (Marathon Records, 1972) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "Stand By For A Special Announcement" (Marathon Records, 1973) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "I Can See It In His Eyes" (Boot Records, 1976) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "The Other Side Of Me" (Gemini Records, 1987)
(Produced by Georges Hebert)
Seatrain "Seatrain" (A&M Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Henry Lewy)
This is the debut album from the folk-prog fusion band Seatrain, founded by fiddler Richard Greene, who was in the Bill Monroe band at the same time as Peter Rowan, and who remained a close collaborator over the years. I don't think Rowan was onboard for this first record, though Greene was for sure, adding both lofty violin passages and tasty fiddle licks (one of the few highlights from an otherwise frantic stoner set. Seatrain started out in the SF Bay Area, recording several albums before various members spun off into other bands, including twang-oriented projects such as Greene and Rowan's legendary bluegrass band Muleskinner.
Seatrain "Seatrain" (Capitol Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by George Martin)
Seatrain "The Marblehead Messenger" (Capitol Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by George Martin)
Seatrain "Watch" (Warner Brothers, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Buell Neidlinger)
Gerald & Debbie Sebastian & Gettysburg Express "Rocky Mountain Dreams" (Jomar Records, 197--?) (LP)
A split LP with two bands from North Dakota -- both lineups feature the Sebastians, but with different backing bands: the first side of the album finds them backed by the Jomar label house band, the Tibor Brothers, whose family owned the label and recorded rather prolifically on many private-press recordings. Gettysburg Express (which was misspelled "Gettusburg" on the album cover) was kind of a bluegrass-y band... Their daughter, Gwen Sebastian, put out a country album in 2013, with her parents singing on one track...
Second Hand "Used Music" (Flatlands Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Wally Cleaver)
A bluegrass'n'country band from the Flatlands Jubilee variety show in Bowie, Maryland -- the group included attorney-by-day, singer-by-night, Sammy Knight, Herb Currie on guitar and mandolin), Emma Currie plucking the bass, Dan Rawlings (lead guitar) Roy Tolliver (fiddle and banjo) and Mike Valadez (accordion). Plus, Peter Bonta sits in on steel guitar! They cover country oldies like "Born To Lose" "One Has My Name (The Other My Heart)" and "I Saw The Light" as well as some original material. And of course, they also cover "Orange Blossom Special" and "Green Green Grass Of Home."
Gail And Denny Secord "Grand Ole Opry Dream" (Full Circle Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Van Barker & Bobby Bradley)
A middle-aged couple from the rural suburbs near Seattle, Washington, Denny and Gail Secord both came from musical families, with Ms. Secord's parents not only playing in local bands but also running a bar called the Wagon Wheel, while Mr. Secord's dad was a popular dancehall fiddler. The Secords led their own band for many years, with backing from locals such as fiddler Jerry Critchfield. They first formed a group called Country Express back in 1976 when they were living in Port Ludlow, with her fiddling prowess (and super-fab go-go boots!) as the main attraction. In 1981 they won a talent contest sponsored by the National Grange Association, and not long after that traveled to Nashville to record this album, with backing by guitarist Greg Gilbraith, Hal Rugg on steel guitar, pianist Mike Shrimpf, and others. They played some standards, with a hefty dose of tuneful heartsongs by Hank Snow and his generation -- "You're The Reason," "It Don't Hurt Anymore," "Bumming Around," "Time Changes Everything" -- as well as instrumental showcases such as "Chime Bells," "Draggin' The Bow" and "Orange Blossom Special." The title track, "Grand Ole Opry Dream," may have been an original. The Secords continued to perform locally for many, many years, with Ms. Secord retiring in 2009 (but Denny continuing to play) and their son, Denny Secord Jr., later forming his own group, the Luck of the Draw Band.
B. B. Secrist "Baby I'm Country (Just A Little Bit Rock And Roll)" (Fox Fire Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jason Hawkins, Frank Evans & Randy King)
Born in the tiny coal town of Winona, West Virginia, pianist B. B. Secrist served his time in the country scene, as heard on this album, which was recorded in Nashville with a studio band that included Paul Franklin (dobro and steel guitar), Greg Galbraith (guitars) and the Cates Sisters providing backup vocals. The 'Fifties rock influences heard here later expanded as Secrist narrowed his focus on a career as a cruise-and-lounge performer, hosting a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute show. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you...) Not sure when this album came out, but it sure looks early-to-mid-to-late-ish '80s...)
The Seigler Family "Singing The Gospel Country Style" (Bigg Tyme Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Sims & The Seigler Family)
A pleasantly raucous, amateurish and definitely quite twangy family band from Ukiah, California, led by parents Floyd Seigler on guitar and Jean Seigler on bass, along with their daughters, Candy Seigler (piano and organ), Sandy Seigler (banjo) and Tana Seigler on guitar. The material is standard, classic country gospel, with a tilt towards older stringband stuff, including chestnuts such as "This Little Light Of Mine" and Albert Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On." Although they lived 'way up in the northern end of the state, the Seiglers headed down to the Central Valley to record at the studio's of Jerry Sims's quixotic indie label, Bigg Tyme Records, in Modesto, CA. Several local Valley musicians who did session work on similar albums pitch in here was well, including Bob Benningfield (bass), Jerry Hoyopatubbi (lead guitar), producer Jerry Sims on drums, and steel player Ivan Ward. The Seiglers later moved up to Alaska, with Floyd and Jean playing in a local church group in the microscopic town of Tok, where they also play in a local bluegrass band.
Alvie Self "Arizona Country" (Accent Records, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Kass & Alvie Self)
A rancher kid from Cottonwood, Arizona, Alvie Self started out as a rockabilly singer in the early 1960s, and his early stuff pops up on a lot of rockabilly and garage-band compilations, particularly poppy humdingers like "Let's Go Wild." Like a lot of kids in Arizona, Self grew up listening to local legend Marty Robbins, and you can detect a Robbins influence in his smooth vocal style. On this album, he pays homage to his idol with "We Miss You Marty Robbins," one of several originals on this disc. Indeed, Mr. Self wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs, rounding out his set with a version of the sentimental oldie, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You." Other notable numbers include "How The Grand Canyon Began" (a Paul Bunyan tall tale, set to music) and "The Firefighter's Helping Hand," a heartfelt paean to first responders everywhere. Although the rest of the musicians aren't listed by name, picker Buddy Merrill plays steel guitar on some of the tunes... Many of the songs on this album were first released as Accent singles in the '70s, although it's not clear whether these tracks are the original versions, or re-recordings. This may not be the style of rockabilly/teenpop that Self's older fans remember, but there's still some pretty nice pickin' on here, and the guy definitely had real country roots.
Pappy Selph "Orange Blossom Special" (Blue Ridge Playboy Records, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Goode)
Texas fiddler Leon "Pappy" Selph (1914-1999) was a Houston native who was an early architect of Lone Star western swing. He started playing country and writing music in his teens and was in an early edition of the Light Crust Doughboys along with Bob Wills, before starting his own band, the Blue Ridge Playboys, around 1935. Selph led his Playboys in one form or another for more than five decades, including extensive European tours as musical ambassadors for the US State Department. As with many of the great, classic western swing bands, tons of talented, influential artists moved through the band, perhaps most notably hard-rockin' piano player Moon Mullican and pioneering honkytonk vocalist Floyd Tillman. Among the many hot, bluesy tunes Selph composed, "Give Me My Dime Back" is an enduring favorite, though alas it didn't make the cut for this disc, which is oriented towards more sentimental material and fiddle tunes like "Cotton Eyed Joe" and "Orange Blossom Special." The group backing Selph on this are younger fellers, including the core group of guitar picker W. C. Averitt, Rufus Mazingo, and banjo plunker Ron Rebstock, along with guest performers such as steel player Bill Dessens. This album was a souvenir of the Goode Company Barbeque, a Houston venue where Selph had a monthly gig -- the restaurant sold this album at the original store, and later named one of its drink wells the Orange Blossom Bar in his honor. (Pappy Selph was one of several fiddlers who claim to have written the classic instrumental, "Orange Blossom Special," which was copyrighted by Ervin T. Rouse in 1938. Selph said he composed the tune in 1931, though Chubby Wise also claimed ownership for many years after -- Johnny Cash sided with Mr. Rouse, so make of that what you will.) Pappy Selph recorded a number of singles, dating back to the era of 78s, though as far as I know, this was his only full album.
Sid Selvidge "Portrait" (Enterprise Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Don Nix, Bob Pickering engineer)
A disciple of Delta blues legend Furry Lewis and longtime collaborator with Memphis iconoclast Jim Dickinson, singer Sid Selvidge balanced his time between music and academics, making records at his leisure while producing albums for other artists such as Alex Chilton, later in his career. His first recordings (made with Jim Dickinson) were in the early '60s, but this was his first full album. Most of the songs were credited to producer Don Nix, along with some oldies like "Wreck On The Highway" as well as the anti-war song, "The Ballad Of Otis B. Watson," which was briefly a radio hit, until local stations banned it as too political. As with his other albums, this is a subtle mix of folk, blues and rock, all of it uniquely "Memphis" in character...
Sid Selvidge "The Cold Of The Morning" (Peabody Records, 1976) (LP)
Sid Selvidge "Waiting For A Train" (Peabody Records, 1982) (LP)
The Senn Family Singers "He Found Me" (Homecoming Records, 197-?) (LP)
The Senn Family Singers "Singing For Our Lord" (Homecoming Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard Walls)
The Senn Family Trio "...Sing Songs Of Inspiration" (Senrow Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ernie Garrison)
It's hard to imagine what early '70s audiences would have made of this family band from Lakeland, Florida, with their wild, crude, electrified hillbilly-gospel style and unusual approaches to harmony. The group's core vocals were handled by Beverly Senn and Carol Senn (who also played rhythm guitar) aided on various tracks by Ronnie Rowan, bassist Wade Bidiford, drummer Dave Schumate, and lead guitar Lauvghn Brown on lead guitar. I found a couple of newspaper plugs for performances they made at some churches in the Fort Myers area, one in 1969, the other in 1973. I imagine there were many more, unpublicized, shows as well, but again, I wonder what folks thought about their odd, avant-archaic sound? It has pure, backwoods, real-hick roots with traces of Depression-era styles, but also their own unique approach to music, with an almost Zappa-esque feel at times. I dunno, but it sure would be cool to see this one get reissued.
The Senn Family Singers "Come Go With Me" (Homecoming Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard Walls)
The Senn Family Trio "Our Best To You" (Senrow Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard Walls)
Sequoiah "Sequoiah" (700 West Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mo Whittemore)
This indie twangband from Indianapolis, Indiana recorded mostly originals with some covers, including Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," a Gordon Lightfoot tune, and "Jambalaya" from the Hank Williams songbook. The band included Tom Mobley on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Bill Johnson playing pedal steel and lead, and Bob Johnson on drums.
Kenny Seratt "Love And Honor" (MGM Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Merle Haggard)
Originally from Arkansas, singer Kenny Seratt (1934-2015) made his way out west in the 1950s and fell in with the Bakersfield Sound crowd. He later moved to Texas and was part of the Wylie Opry, and recorded at least one album at the Grapevine Opry, near Dallas. Seratt moved around a lot, with stretches in Arizona, Idaho and Montana...
Kenny Seratt "Give Me A Title And I'll Write You A Song" (ASR/Big R Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Phil York)
Billed as "live at the Grapevine Opry," this album showcases Seratt's talents as a composer, with backing by Dallas-area pickers including Maurice Anderson, Pat Dacus, and Marc Jaco.... Except for a cover of Gene Autry's "Silver Haired Daddy," all the songs on here were written or co-written by Serratt with songwriting partners such as Peter Graves, Sage Hen, Jess Hudson, and some guy named Merle Haggard. This was originally released on Aunt Susie Records and, like several of Seratt's other albums, reissued on the UK-based Big R label, in Scotland.
Kenny Seratt "Saturday Night In Dallas" (Big R Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Harold Shedd)
Kenny Seratt "Ridin' The Big A" (Big R Music, 1980)
(Produced by Kenny Serratt, Drew Taylor & Harold Shedd)
A trucker-themed album, featuring several songs penned by Seratt, as well as covers such as "Six Days On The Road" and "White Live Fever." This session was recorded in Nashville with an A-list studio band; I'm not sure if it was originally released in the States,
The Settlers "Live At Trader Dicks" (Butter Bean Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Hack Dodds and Billy Dover)
A swell live album, recorded at Trader Dick's Truck Stop, in Memphis, Tennessee... The band includes Ned Turner, Buddy McEwen, Billy Dover, Gary Pierce and Doug Batchelor, playing half perky bluegrass and half hippiebilly twang, with a gosh-heck, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor... They cover some old-school classics such as "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" and Terry Fell's "Truck Driving Man" as well as more contemporary outlaw material, including Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" and Jimmy Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw." They thank Paul Craft, and cover two of his songs, "Keep Me From Blowing Away" and "Bottom Of The Glass." The show was poorly recorded and the performances are ragged and rough, but the overall vibe seems pretty true to the time and the style. Definitely worth a spin, if you can track it down.
Sonny Settles "Sonny Doing It His Way" (Maverick Productions, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Herold White)
Howard Lee "Sonny" Settles (1945-2007) was born in La Harpe, Illinois, and seems to have lived most of his life around Moline and Davenport, Iowa, including a couple of decades in Quincy, downriver from the Quad City area. his album was recorded in East Moline, Illinois, where producer and label owner Herold White ran a nightclub in the early 'Seventies. The band on this disc appears to have been all locals, either from Moline, Davenport, and environs. The group included two guys from Sonny's own band -- bass player Buffalo Coontz and drummer Jerry McNeil -- along with Maverick session musicians Perry Crews (steel guitar), Jimmy Seales (lead guitar) and Mike Stroehle on piano. As far as I know, this was Mr. Settles' only album, though White also recorded under the Maverick imprint.
Seven Grain "Traditional And Contemporary Folk Music" (Custom Fidelity, 1974-?) (LP)
This hippie-folkie band from San Jose, California formed in 1972 and played together for a few years... They had a basically bluegrass orientation, but their repertoire was peppered with a healthy dose of contemporary outlaw tunes, including covers of Kris Kristofferson's "Jesus Was A Capricorn," Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," Guy Clark's "LA Freeway," and a version of "Seven Beers With The Wrong Woman," which was a parody of an old Depression-era stringband song.
Country Johnny Shackleford "Country Johnny Shackleford" (Homa Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mickey Sherman)
A somewhat wobbly singer from Oklahoma City, Johnny Shackleford didn't quite pull off his country music career, although he did get some of Oklahoma's best country pickers to back him on this well-produced album and was still playing gigs at places like Gilley's, in the early 'Eighties... Later, Shackleford tried his hand at acting, and is perhaps best known for opening a western-themed tourist attraction and movie-set-for-hire called Sipokni West, which hosted events such as staged "gun fights" and the like. Started in 1991, Sipokni West was located roughly between Oklahoma City and Dallas, and seems to have closed in early 2019. Speaking plainly, Shackleford just wasn't that strong a singer, although there's some great pedal steel guitar and piano plunkin' on this disc, as well as some original material along with the country covers.
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "Pennsylvania Mountain People" (Aljean Records, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Al Shade)
The husband-wife duo of Al Shade and Jean Romaine led a regional band in central Pennsylvania throughout the 1960s and '70s... Shade's day job was as a country music DJ at radio station WLBR, in Lebanon, PA... while Romaine did a radio show on the weekends. The were pretty traditionally-oriented and rooted in their local community, although they attained some national cult notoriety for their 1979 album (below) which included an old-fashioned disaster-song recitation about the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in nearby Harrisburg, PA. I believe Pennsylvania Mountain People was their first self-released album. Backing Al & Jean are their band, the Short Mountain Boys, with Bill Runkle (banjo and guitar), Jerry Lentz (fiddle) and Curley Stump on bass.
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "The Little Dogwood Tree" (Aljean Records, 1967) (LP)
Al Shade "...Sings A Tribute To Hank Williams" (Aljean Records, 19--?) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "More Yodeling" (Aljean Records, 19--?) (LP)
Al Shade/Jean Romaine/Debbie Ann "Potter County Was Made By The Hand Of God" (Aljean Records, 1973) (LP)
Al Shade/Jean Romaine/Debbie Ann "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Aljean Records, 19--?) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "(Potter County Was Made By The Hand Of God, But The Devil Made) Three Mile Island" (Aljean Records, 1979) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "Dolly Parton, You're A Lady" (Aljean Records, 1982) (LP)
Even though it doesn't say so on the album jacket, this duo from Myerstown, Pennsylvania must have gone to Nashville to record their album, because the picking is pretty good and the the production is pretty solid, with a slick-but-rootsy late '70s/early '80s Top Forty sound. No clue as to who that studio crew might have been, though, because there are no credits... Neither Al or Jean were electrifying singers, but they wrote some good songs and really pour themselves into the material. Several songs were written by and feature vocals from Faron Shade -- not sure who we was, their son, maybe? -- and again, it's good, strong amateur-hour stuff. As DIY country vanity pressings go, this one's pretty darn good.
Shade Tree "Shade Tree" (Buffarilla Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Scott & Shade Tree)
This Topeka, Kansas band was an odd and uneven mix of disco-y pop, boogie rock and, yeah, I guess some little bit of country-rock. Kind of. They may fall more into a so-bad-it's-good category, although a lot of that may have been from the sound mix, where the slick-sounding guitars and cowbell reach equal prominence. But it's also due to the often unrestrained, note-heavy guitar-god riffs and overall cluttered feel, as well as the super-Kansan vocals... This album is authentic, though, a kind of clunky local band making the album of their dreams during the disco era... It doesn't really hang together, but you get the idea. There's some pedal steel in there somewhere, but really this is more of a rock record, with hints of Southern rock in there as well.
Randy Shaffer & The Honky Tonk Heroes "Live In The Studio" (Grenadier Records, 19--?) (LP)
Jack & Ruth Shalanko "Old Fashioned Melodies" (Diadem Productions, 19--?) (LP)
This Russo-Canadian couple were working as evangelical ministers in Quito, Ecuador when they made this album, hosting a radio show on station HCJB, which was syndicated through various Christian networks. The music is solidly old-school, pre-honky tonk country, the kind of sentimental material Roy Acuff and his generation performed back in the 1930s and '40s, complete with accordion, acoustic guitar, and squeaky fiddle. The Shalankos worked for the Slavic Gospel Association, a group that apparently recorded a couple of records by other artists also ministering in South America, though I can't say for sure how country-sounding those albums might have been.
Linna Shane & The Sons Of The Purple Sage "Western Favorites" (Tops Records, 1958-?) (LP)
Singer Linna Shane was actually the nom-de-twang of Linna Biatress Schames (1929-1988) a Southern California cowgal who recorded with at least one edition of the Sons Of The Purple Sage, a western/cowboy act which had several permutations. Apparently, Shane's husband also plays on this album, and she may have been the "girl" singer on some of their other albums... The history of the band is a bit murky... There was one version of the group which came about when western music star Foy Willing split the difference with a guy called Buck Page who had a competing band also named the Riders Of The Purple Sage. The compromise was that Page's band could perform as "The Sons Of The Purple Sage" although it looks like it was one of those things where various fly-by-night labels used the name to record a number of albums, either because they won it through a business contract, or because no one was able to enforce the ownership of the name. (I welcome input from anyone with more concrete information...) At any rate, there were about a half-dozen albums released under the name Sons Of The Purple Sage, with musicians such as Tex Fletcher and Bob Wheeler, as well as the mysterious Ms. Shane. Although I suspect that this LP was cobbled together from various sources, the liner notes say that Bob Wheeler is the band's leader, and though there are a few different lead vocalists, I'm guessing he's the guy who sounds like Hank Snow. Most of the vocals are male, with Linna Shane adding some rather prissy lead vocals on a few tracks... The real draw here is the solid musicianship -- this is a fun album that's pure West Coast '40s/'50s country, mixing cowboy stuff with proto-honkytonk and western swing. Some great Hawaiian-style steel guitar, a little pedal steel perhaps, and of course plenty of chugging accordion. If you dig that sound and that era, you may be surprised at how groovy this record is. And, plus: just look at that rad cover photo!
Bobby Shannon "A Trucker's Story" (Rebel Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Freeland)
Del Shannon "Sings Hank Williams" (Amy Records, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Harry Balk & Les Cooley)
Like a lot of early rock'n'rollers, pop pioneer Del Shannon (1934-1990) had real country roots, playing in local twang bands in his home state of Michigan before he got the rockin' bug and set out as a solo artist in the pop market. After the astounding success of his chart-topping 1961 debut, "Runaway," Shannon's career became a bit wobbly, and although he kept in the charts for most of the early 'Sixties, he gradually slid out of the Top Ten and had perhaps more success as a talent scout than as a star. Along the way, he cut this humble down-home album in honor of one of his childhood idols, Hank Williams, with loping, workmanlike backing by a local Michigander band that most notably included session guitarist Dennis Coffey and several more obscure musicians from Detroit. Following the lead of Shannon's low-key vocals, the musicians deliver a solid but unelectrifying performance, with the exception of Buddy Gibson, a pedal steel player from Grand Rapids, who consistently adds plenty of sweet, ornate licks into the mix. Not a great record, but not a bad one either. Nothing to complain about, really.
Guy Shannon "Pure Dynamite" (Cinnamon Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Al Embry)
Wow, really I want that outfit. Piano plunkin' country crooner Guy Shannon was apparently some kind of Elvis-y, Jerry Lee Lewis-ish white-soul country'n'rock kinda guy, and here he's sporting a kooky, mega-'Seventies-ed-out jacket, with the sleeves slit open on the front and fastened together with some kind of slim brocade. Oh, and it's all open in the front, displaying a veritable rainforest of chest hair and some truly impressive lapels. This was recorded in Nashville and he does record some country stuff -- Mac Davis, Buck Owens -- as well as oldies by Chuck Berry and Sam Cooke. Apparently this was one of the first releases on the Cinnamon label, which went on to have a fair run of minor hits in the rest of the decade, most notably with Narvel Felts, and his cover of "Drift Away." Shannon didn't make it nearly as far, though he did get a single of two out on MGM, so he did get some traction for a while; in the early '80s Shannon cut some stuff for the Comstock label, and taped a 1982 TV special that someone posted on YouTube which features some wildly louche performances but also some swell picking by his compact group, the James County Band, with Jim Stinson (lead guitar), Doug Lowe (bass) and Dutch Kirchner (drums), as well as Lynn Lauterbach (vocals). Anyone know where Guy Shannon was from?
Shannondoah "Ideas And Rhymes" (Blue Heron Records, 1977) (LP)
Recorded live at Eastern Washington University, in Cheney, Washington...
Shannondoah "Take Yer Time Leavin' And Hurry On Back" (Fat Chance Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Stearns & Dave Ellsworth)
An eclectic acoustic band from Spokane, Washington, Shannondoah was led by singer-guitarist Ben Staley, with additional vocals from Shannon Staley, Rick Singer playing percussion, Kevin Svenson on bass, and Don Thomsen playing fiddle, mandolin, and dobro. The repertoire includes a few interesting cover songs, like their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Go My Way," though most of the songs are Staley originals.
Martha Sharp "Anywoman" (Monument Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Foster & Bill Justis)
Songwriter Martha Sharp was a North Carolina native who grew up in Virginia, then moved to Nashville in the 1960s, where she was landlady before getting into the music business. In 1966, two of her songs transformed Sandy Posey into an instant pop star, with "Born A Woman" and "Single Girl" each selling a million copies worldwide; the following year another Sharp song, "Come Back When You Grow Up," was a #3 hit for Bobby Vee. Eventually Sharp got tired of writing and plugging her own songs, and gravitated towards the business side of the music. She became a protege of producer Jimmy Bowen, and worked as his A&R executive at Elektra Records' Nashville office in the late '70s and early '80s. When Elektra got absorbed into Warner Brothers, Sharp stayed on and became Nashville's first female vice president of A&R, a position she cemented by signing stars such as Faith Hill and Randy Travis, while also helping develop the artists' song repertoires. She stayed at Warner for over a decade, retiring in 1995, having helped shape the late '80s neo-trad sound as well as the country-pop resurgence that followed. I believe this was her only album, with celebratory liner notes by fellow tunesmith Kris Kristofferson. All the songs are her own songs, including latter-day renditions of "Born A Woman" and "Single Girl"; I'm not sure if she also released any singles.
Randy Sharp "First In Line" (1973) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Sharp)
I remember, from way back in my misspent youth, when my big sister snuck me into the Wild Blue Yonder nightclub in Fresno, California to see the farewell show of songwriter/bandleader Randy Sharp, a hometown hero who was heading off to either Nashville or LA to make it big. This was probably around 1979 or 1980, many years after this self-released album came out, and by then Sharp had established himself as a professional pop and country songwriter, though his own work had definitively slid towards the slick, overproduced pop style of the times. I haven't heard this disc, though folks say it's good, certainly much better than the goopy album that followed (see below) and definitely had more twang. Sharp did make it in the music business, penning dozens of songs including some that were recorded by stars such as Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire and Clay Walker... He also produced and recorded with Karen Brooks, and his daughter -- Maia Sharp -- became a successful adult-alt artist. Oh, and actually, now that I recall more clearly, I don't think I actually did get into the club that night: I had to wait outside on the corner while my sister went in and partied hardy. It's okay... it wasn't really my scene, anyway.
Randy Sharp "First In Line" (Nautilis Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Sharp)
Although it shares the same name with his 1973 album, this is a completely different record. Other than the re-recorded title track, the songs are all different, and for the most part the studio sound is pretty poppy and dreadful, in a '70s-pop/LA Sound-gone-wrong kinda way. Oh, to be sure, there are a few twangtunes on here, and it sure helps to have West Coast pedal steel legend Tom Brumley adding his lissome licks to the songs, as well as bluegrasser Larry McNeely on banjo. But the influence of slick studio pros such as Jeff Porcaro, David Foster and Dave Hungate far outweigh these two twangsters, and the album gets pretty gooey and over-the-top. Although I'm sure this album helped Sharp out professionally, showing what he was capable of as a composer and arranger, most of these tracks were in serious need of some clear-eyed editorial pruning... The record turned out "very 1970s..." but not in a good way. The one track that really holds up (from a twangfan perspective) is the ballad, "For Old Times Sake," though they massacre "Banjo Man," a tune that would later be recorded by Jerry Reed.
Randy Sharp "Just About Love" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
Jim Sharpley & The Sharpshooters "Northern Country" (Quiet Cannon Records, 1977) (LP)
Connecticut country picker Jim Sharpley was also a TV traffic and weather reporter on New Haven's Channel 8. The TV thing was his main gig, and he quit music for several years after leading this band, but got back into it in 2011 when he joined the bluegrass band Still Pickin' and later The Heartaches, a Patsy Cline tribute band. This early album features a wealth of original material, much of it with a swing-twang feel.
Billy Joe Shaver - see artist discography
Gary Shaw "Gospel Road Songs" (Great Circle Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Callaway)
Heartfelt, sometimes awkward, truly twangy and entirely original country gospel songs from Nashville-based Gary Shaw. The album is produced in a fairly solid approximation of late '70s/early '80s mainstream country, but the lyrics are mostly about getting back on the right path and leaving behind one's wicked ways. Basically, quit the boozing and running around and take the narrow way back home... Even though the musical style's a little different, the Louvin Brothers would be proud. Shaw's a very enthusiastic and robust singer -- his vocal tone's okay, but where he wobbles a little is on his phrasing... From time to time the meter gets away with him, partly because his songs can get a little wordy and clunky at times... But he can also hit some good, straightforward country grooves, as on the secular-sounding "Lefty Don't Sing The Blues Anymore." It's the more overtly preachy songs that are the real fun, though, like the earnest but campy "Sunday Sleepers," "Bibles From Booze" and "The Same Road As Me," where a little bit of finger-wagging goes a real long way, and kitsch lovers can't help but crack a smile. I think this album works either taken for a laugh or straight-up, as intended -- the musical backing is strong enough for it to work either way. Session players include steel player Sonny Garrish and some rhythm guitar from Brent Rowan of the Rowan Brothers. Definitely worth a spin, if you're not too bugged by the Jesus thing.
Ivan Shaw & The Country Sounds "Memories" (RCM Sound Studio, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by B. Martin)
I couldn't track down any info about this guy... Apparently he was from Lexington, Kentucky (or at least recorded there) and released one song off this album, an original called "Tired Of Being Your Fool," on the Lemco label, in 1974, though this LP seems to be of a later vintage.
Kathy Shaw & The Expressions "Ever Hear These Expressions?" (Jamboree USA Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Stan Hutto)
A gal from Ohio, Kathy Shaw was originally in a duo with her sister Margaret, winning a statewide competition in 1971 which earned them an invitation to perform at the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree USA show. Margaret Shaw is also on this album, singing and playing drums, while the Shaw Sisters are backed up by a band that included Tom Prince (bass), Jerry Sexton (lead guitar and banjo), Ray Snider (rhythm guitar), and Brad Waltermeyer on bass and guitar. As far as I can tell, these guys were Ohio locals backing her, though some of them may have been in the WWVA's orbit.
Ron Shaw "Goin' Home" (Pacific Challenger Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Brandt)
A West Coast folkie who rang up several successes in the pop world, as well as dipping his toes into the country-rock sound. Ron Shaw was from Cerritos, California (in Los Angeles, near Long Beach) and performed in a variety of country-folk groups, notably as a founding member of the Brandywine Singers (with his brother Rick Shaw), later joining the Pozo Seco Singers as a replacement for Lofton Kline in 1968, and being recruited as a member of the pop-oriented Hillside Singers, a faux folk group that was created by an ad agency to record "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" for a Coca-Cola campaign. Unlike many 'Sixties folkies, Shaw managed to keep his momentum going throughout the 'Seventies, tipping into the Country back forty off and on between 1977-81. His version of "Save The Last Dance For Me" was his biggest hit, cracking into the Top Forty, and peaking at #36. He may have released other LPs, but I haven't laid eyes on them yet.
Sheepskin Pat "From Nashville" (Red Barn Recording Company, 19--?) (LP)
This was an album by a fella named Pat Sickafus, a Pennsylvania businessman who went on to be a reasonably successful Top Forty country musician under the name of Pat Garrett. When this record -- which may be his first(?)-- came out, he was a real-life sheep rancher, having created his own business in Strausstown, PA, selling sheepskin clothing, rugs, bed covers and other accessories... (So perhaps his song, "Why'd You Do This To Me," was written from the sheep's point of view? One wonders!) Despite the album title, this record came out on his own label, based in Pennsylvania, where Sickafus has deep roots. It includes several originals such as "Why'd You Do This To Me," "Slide On Over" and "I'd Like To Wake Up In Your Arms," as well as covers of country classics like "Silver Wings" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." By 1977, he changed his name and had his first chart hit on Billboard, though as this record proves, he also his own locals-only roots.
Jerry Shelfer "Heart For My Heart" (Allied Records, 1988) (EP)
(Produced by Jerry Shelfer & Mark Plummer)
I saw Jerry Shelfer play a gig opening for Chris Isaak around the time this five-song EP came out, and thought he was pretty cool. Shelfer had a rough, rural voice and some true twang, helping him stand out in the world of the pre-Americana "college rock" scene. Unfortunately though distinctive elements were obscured by the glossy, somewhat strained, slightly new wave-ish '80s pop production which steers these songs into an uneasy middle-ground, not quite twang and not quite rock. It just feels like a missed opportunity, with only one song, the rockabilly-tinged "That's The Way Love Should Be" coming closest to what Shelfer sounded like live. Oh, well.
Jerry Shelfer "Slipaway" (Heyday Records, 1995) (CD)
Shelley & Kelly "Shelley & Kelly" (American Heritage Music Corporation, 1977) (LP)
Fiddler Shelley Clark and guitarist Kelly Rubrecht (who later married) were a popular duo in Wyoming's 1970s folk-country scene, playing a classy mix of bluegrass, country and western swing for appreciative fans in Jackson Hole and beyond. This is the first of two albums they recorded, with pedal steel Harley Brendal, banjo plunker Jake Hoffman, bassist John Sherpe and Bill Long on second fiddle and guitar... Although they didn't make many records, Shelley & Kelly played steadily for decades, until Kelly Rubrecht was sidelined by Parkinsons...
Shelley & Kelly "Chute 5" (Jester Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Shelley Clark & Kelly Rubrecht)
Man, this record is really, really good. They were great musicians. Her fiddling is lively and clever, his accompaniment on guitar is elegant and precise. A well-produced, beautifully performed album, deeply steeped int he best of the acoustic swing tradition... Bet they were great live! Anyway, if you're a fan of folks like The Hot Club Of Cowtown, or even older stuff like Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang, you'll wanna check this one out.
Shelley & Kelly "Retroactive" (2014) (CD)
This CD updates the duo's career, with live tracks and rehearsal/demo recordings recorded over a thirty-year span... Their two studio albums were also apparently reissued on CD, but I haven't laid eyes on that one yet.
Dusty Shelton "To The One I Love" (Bejay Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Mickey Moody)
Took a while to track down the background on this one, but it's a good story. Dusty Shelton was born in Casscoe, Arkansas, a tiny little postage stamp halfway between Little Rock and Memphis, and also a ways off the main road. The liner notes by Major Lloyd E. Shier describe how Shelton had to drive for hours to get to the Bejay studio in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and could only record on weekends, to accommodate his work schedule. So it took him a while to get the whole album produced... Back then he was a professional photographer, though he tried doing music full-time, and did for about six or seven years, later settling back down in his home town where he got a job as a school district bus mechanic while also opening his own business, fixing up and selling classic cars. I think much later in life he also recorded and self-released some gospel music and kept playing in local bars, drifting towards rock and soul oldies in later years. Okay, so that's all pretty cool, but it gets better: his kid, Cam Shelton, who was born in the early 2000s, became a country-pop prodigy, playing drums, piano and guitar in various bands with his dad and other musicians -- at fairs, schools, churches and even opening for (and playing with) a rock band called The Remedy. In 2018, when he was thirteen years old, he won a statewide country music prize, the Arkansas Country Music Association's "young artist of the year" award. Not bad, eh? And his history traces back to this disc, as well as to his granddad, who also played music, and taught Cam, and probably his dad too. Also of interest are some of the sidemen playing at Bejay Studios at the time: apparently there was a young keyboard player named David Paich in on these sessions -- the song of big band/pop arranger Marty Paich, not long after this he co-wrote some of Boz Scaggs best songs, and started a little band called Toto. It's simpler stuff back in '71, though, with covers of "Leaving On A Jet Plane" and Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road." There may be some originals on here as well, such as "Her Love Didn't Make It Home."
Fred Shelton "Live At Fred's" (Wormwood Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Michael D. Aisner, Joe Farber & Dave Howe)
A beloved figure on the Colorado roots and folk scene, Fred Shelton moved to Boulder in 1954, opening the first of a series of restaurants, culminating in Fred's Steak House, which is where this live album was recorded on March 2, 1975. Shelton started hosting live music at the steak house in 1971, and it became a focal point for the city's folk and country scenes. A bunch of those musicians join him here, though it is really Shelton's show, with him singing lead on all the tracks. There's some country, a few rock oldies, and even a dash of calypso. The band included Ray Bonneville on harmonica, steel player Andy Chilson, Spencer Bohren and Fred Shelton playing guitar, Eric Holle on banjo and mandolin, and pianist Jamie Kibben, among others.
Fred Shelton "For A Very Special Person" (Tiwiwas Records, 1978) (LP)
Patti Shelton "She Touches" (Gold Sound Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy DeVito, Robin Freeman & Mike Lyman)
Commercially-oriented country by a young gal from Nevada -- a bit too lush and overly-emotive for my tastes, though there's some resonant original material on here. According to the liner notes, Ms. Shelton started performing publicly when she joined a local rock covers band at age fifteen; she also sang backup in Vegas for a lineup of the Platters, and for the Johnny Harras Show, and somewhere along the line caught the attention of would-be record mogul Tommy DeVito (best known as the odd man out in Frankie Valli's group the Four Seasons.) DeVito seems to have lined Shelton up to demo some songs for Sherl Milett's Moondance Music publishing company -- all the songs but one are credited to Moondance, including a couple written by Patti Shelton. She had a good set of pipes, but could have used a little coaching on her delivery -- along with Bill Shostak's swelling countrypolitan arrangements, her performance tilts towards the overripe and gooey, but it's not that out of line with the sound of the times -- a bit like Crystal Gayle, or late-vintage Lynn Anderson. The title track, "She Touches You," was written by Bat Henderson and Hal Blu, and it's a pretty searing weeper with an effective refrain, about how "every time she touches you, it hurts all over me." Probably too poppy for most twangfans, though if you enjoy off-brand countrypolitan, you might want to track this down.
Bob Shepherd "Foot'Loose" (Doo-Dah City Records And Promotions, 1980-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Shepherd, Jon Miller)
Obscuro country-lounge material from Wichita, recorded at a local studio called Miller's Cave, in nearby Newton, Kansas... There's some original material by Bob Shepherd, along with cover tunes such as "She Caught The Katy" and "Redneck In A Rock'n'Roll Bar." This seems to have been recorded a little haphazardly, and Shepherd employed a complicated system to identify which musicians played on which tracks, but some of the local talent included Dewayne Bailey on guitar, pedal steel from Jeff Pickering and Bob Lorenz on keyboards, along with a whole slew of backup singers, and the band Sweet Water backing him on one song, "We're All The Way." I'm just guessing at the release date, based on the catalog number and the look of the cover art... No idea why he inserted an apostrophe in the middle of the word "footloose." But he did.
Ellie Shepherd & Artie Minz "...And The Countrymen" (Lewein Recording Company, 19--) (LP)
A Wisconsin native who is said to have formed the first country band in Washington County, Arthur "Artie" Minz (1925-1998) led his band The Countrymen for over fifty years, playing in and around the Milwaukee area. He worked a day job as a teamster, driving trucks for a local concrete manufacturer until he retired in the early '80s. His partner on this album, Ellie May Shepard (aka Elenora Roos, 1936-2014) was a machinist and union shop steward who also performed locally, recording a few singles with Minz, as well as an album of her own. This disc includes a wealth of original material, as well as covers of country classics such as "Detour" and "Why Baby Why" -- the song "Just Another Name" also came out as a single on the Cuca label, though I don't know if Minz and Shepard re-recorded it, or used the same session for both releases. As far as I know, this was Mr. Minz's only LP release.
Ellie May Shepherd "Something Sentimental" (End Of The Trail Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Ferguson & Nick Kozulka)
I could not find much info about this gal, other than on the album itself... The set list is heavy on cover songs, including "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," "Blue Kentucky Girl," "Satin Sheets" and "Squaws On The Warpath." Ms. Shepherd appears to have been from around Waupun, where this album was recorded at the Madison St. Sound Studio. She's backed by the band Radio Flyer (who have some music above)... The group included Gary Case (drums), Bryan Christensen (fiddle), Fred Ferguson (bass), Tim Ferguson (lead guitar), Wally Messner (steel guitar), Paul Thelan (organ and piano), as well as some other locals adding backing vocals and whatnot. Definitely indie!
Shepherd Of The Hills "...Featuring The Ballad Of Jim Lane" (Professional Artist Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Schulenburg)
What happens in the Ozarks, stays in the Ozarks? Well, one would hope so, based on this disc's weird and creepy album art, which shows a reenactment of a late-night lynch mob, illustrating the vigilante-themed title track. But get past the image of all the torches, guns and denim overalls, and this is actually a pretty ambitious (and pretty good) record which spans pure twang to poetic countrypolitan, with a forward-thinking proto-Americana feel. The musicianship is quite high, and all the songs are originals, written by bandmembers Hal Meadows, David Houseman and Gene Reasoner, a group that seems to have been from Saint Louis... There are several different lead singers and one of these guys (not sure which one) sounds an awful lot like Rodney Crowell, which is kind of cool. The group's name comes from an old American novel about frontier life in 19th Century Missouri, a story that's been adapted as a movie more than once, and apparently still resonated with the longhaired redneck crowd back in the '70s.
Zeke Sheppard "Plugged In Muzekely" (1980) (LP)
(Produced by Zeke Sheppard, Sam Allison & Peter Cardinali)
Good indiebilly from a lanky, wild-eyed dude from Orlando, Florida... Despite one of the most unflattering album covers of all time and a really poor sound mix, this is a nice, twangy set, mostly cover songs but with two originals -- "Fallin' In Love" and "United" -- which were written by Sheppard and recorded in a studio, while the other tracks were apparently taped at a live performance in Orlando's Church Street Station. I think low-budget DIY did Sheppard in, but fans of uptempo twang by scruffy, little-known locals might get a kick out of this one. A nice document of an aspiring bar band. Includes covers of songs by The Band, John Denver, Waylon & Willie and Jimmy Buffett's "Coast Of Marseilles."
Jack Sherer "Meadowlark" (Windmill Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Sherer & Jim Sparks)
An ambitious set of mid-tempo countrypolitan ballads from songwriter Jack Sherer, of Liberal, Kansas, a tiny town in the southwestern edge of the state, right by the Oklahoma Panhandle. Sherer's vocals weren't super-dynamic, but he had a rock-solid baritone, and he kept in tune the whole time. Also, he wrote almost all the songs on this LP, including "Long Way To Nashville," one of the more rugged-sounding numbers which name-checks San Antonio, Texas. (Sherer may have played some gigs in the Lone Star State, as seen in the liner notes by Jack Clark, a music critic from Amarillo.) His band, JS & The Bachs played locally for several years, including a reunion gig in 2012; Sherer also played in other Kansas bands, notably with Dodge City bandleader Don Pray (1939-2013). Sherer is backed on this album by his Kansas cohorts, Garry Brack (drums), Chris Perkins (bass and piano), though he may have also recorded part of this album in Nashville with a-list session players such as Fred Carter and Johnny Gimble, even though they aren't mentioned on the original LP. Mostly this is a little too syrupy for my tastes, but he was a good singer, and the music was very much in the style of the times.
John Sheridan "From The Heart" (Salt City Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Williams & Stan Bronson)
This disc is really the epitome of a "private press" country album, a modest set of soft-edged, mellow-tempoed acoustic country-folk ballads, with strong echoes of Don Gibson, Marty Robbins and Gordon Lightfoot... Sheridan was a Northern Californian when he made this album, living in Concord, CA, near Berkeley, though the record label is from Provo, Utah, so I'm not sure what the connection was. As country stuff goes, it's a little too gooey for me, and the performances are kind of so-so.... But it's nice how heartfelt the project feels; this obviously was something Sheridan really put himself into and was justifiably proud of... There are a couple of cover tunes -- John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" and Curly Putman's "Green Green Grass Of Home" -- but most of the songs are originals. (One I wasn't able to track down was "Making It Easier," by Greg Shannon... It's possible that this was a friend of his or one of the guys in the band, but unfortunately there are no musician credits on the album...) Anyway, this might be worth tracking down if you go for softer ballad-type material.
Glen Sherley "Live At Vacaville, California" (Mega Records, 1971) (LP)
Here's a wild one: California convict Glen Sherley came into Johnny Cash's sphere of influence when Cash staged his legendary 1968 Folsom Prison concert -- someone had passed Cash a demo of Sherley's prison ballad, "Greystone Chapel," which he sang in front of an enthusiastic audience, with an unsuspecting and dumbfounded Sherley sitting in the front row. The song made it onto the album and Cash became Sherley's champion in Nashville, helping get this live album produced -- it was recorded while Sherley was still in prison, and his live version of "Greystone Chapel" was a modest hit. Cash pushed for Sherley's parole later the same year and he gave him a job, too, as a staff writer in his "House of Cash" company, along with Sherley's friend Harlan Sanders, who was also a convict in the California system. The mix of freedom and fame was apparently too much for Sherley -- his antisocial behavior forced Cash to fire him, and he quickly fell off the radar. Years later, in 1978, Glen Sherley committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, having been unable to hang onto his music career, one of the more tragic figures in the '70s country scene.
Dianne Sherrill "Dianne Sherrill" (NCP, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Vest & Mark Sherrill)
This was the lone solo album for singer Dianne Sherrill, though she also cut a few singles for the Monument label. Originally from Alexander City, Alabama, Sherrill came to Nashville in 1970, performed on Hee Haw and later on TNN. She also worked as a vocal coach, backup singer, etc., and became born again at some point... Gospel music seems to have become her sole focus after that, including gigs with legacy groups such as The Florida Boys. This decidedly secular album features a bunch of cover tunes, stuff like "Hey Good Lookin'," "Storms Never Last," "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," and "Stand By Your Man," with backing by Music City pros such as Willie Rainsford, Buddy Spicher and Jim Vest, as well as several less well-known session players.
Sherry "Because I Am A Woman" (SAC Records, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Huff)
Originally from Texas, singer Sherry Childers was living in Jacksonville, Florida when she self-released this album of what looks like all original material... Other than the album itself, I was unable to track any information about her, or about producer Richard Huff; also no information about the musicians backing her on this album, alas. She also released at least one single under her full name, a couple of years earlier im '72. Other than that, a real mystery. Anybody out there have any info they could share?
Shiloh "Shiloh" (Amos Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Rogers)
Another missing link in the Southern California country-rock saga... This group grew out of a series of early-'Sixties Texas garage bands, including a group called Felicity, which featured a pre-Eagles Don Henley, future Nashville honcho Jim Ed Norman, and Al Perkins on pedal steel guitar. With a boost from Kenny ("Sauron") Rogers, Shiloh got signed by a label in California, and though the group dissolved right after making this album, the trek to LA brought three of the most important figures in the 1970s country scene into the industry mainstream. Henley co-founded the Eagles; Perkins joined the Flying Burrito Brothers and became a ubiquitous session musician (as well as a key figure in the West Coast country-gospel scene), and Jim Ed Norman built a career as a major Top Forty country producer. Oh! I almost forgot: bassist-guitar picker Richard Bowden scored several hits as a country songwriter, while also finding fame as part of the parodic country comedy duo of Pinkard & Bowden. Jinkies.
Joe Shinall "...Sings About Love, About Life, About Living" (API-Atteiram Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Queen & Joe Shinall)
Singer Joe Shinall of Cartersville, Georgia packed his first (and only?) album with original material... A couple of cover tunes, a few by other writers, but mostly it's all his material. Looks like he went to Nashville to cut these sessions -- at least the studio crew was packed with Nashville heavies such as Jimmy Capps, Dave Kirby, Weldon Myrick, Dale Sellers, Jerry Shook, et.al.
John Shine "Songs For A Rainy Day" (Columbia Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jeffrey Cohen & Bruce Good)
Pop-folk singer-songwriter John Shine was living in Berkeley, California when he landed this major-label contract, cutting a cheerful, country-tinged album packed with all-original material. Backing him are some Bay Area locals, including Joy Of Cooking's Terry Garthwaite and steel drum maven Andy Narell, as well as a few heavyweight Nashville cats such Pete Wade, Mac Gayden and steel player Weldon Myrick. Shine was roughly in the same indefinable folkish territory as more successful artists like Jesse Colin Young and John Sebastian, mixing folk, pop and country in an eclectic, goofy whirl, spanning softer, philosophical ruminations with soft-pop orchestrations to goofy jugband-flavored novelty numbers such as "Me And My Band" (a self-effacing fantasy trip about becoming the Next Big Thing) and "It's About Time," a tall-tale talking blues about an uber-slacker who won't pay his bills, but feels the world owes him a living. Although nowadays it seems almost inconceivable that a major label would shell out the cash for such a whimsical record, but the 'Seventies were different times, and there was more of a see-what-sticks attitude. Besides, it wasn't that far-fetched to imagine that a flowery pop track like the title track, "Song For A Rainy Day," could have become a hit -- it has a plausibly Mamas & Papas vibe, though much to his credit Shine didn't seem to be taking the rock star thing too seriously, and this disc has a nice, laid-back, just-for-fun feel to it. Very much of its time, as they say.
Merv Shiner "In The Ghetto" (Little Darlin' Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
An East Coaster from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Mervin Shiner started out as a hillbilly singer back in the early '50s, with an initial boost from big band/pop bandleader Vaughn Monroe. Shiner plugged away throughout the 'Fifties and 'Sixties, touring and appearing on various radio stations and variety shows, also recording a slew of 78s and singles on multiple labels. By the mid-'60s he had broken through as a successful songwriter in Nashville, with compositions recorded by Jan Howard and Loretta Lynn, among others. He co-wrote some stuff with Ken Westberry and, as heard on this album, delved into the socially-minded topical folk-country sound of the time, recording "issue songs" similar to "Skip A Rope" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." Shiner didn't have much success as a recording artist, though label head Aubrey Mayhew seems to have liked working with him, producing two LPs, each packed with material from Mayhew-related publishing companies.
Merv Shiner "Life Is Lovin' What You've Made For Me" (Certron Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
Robby Shipley "In All Sincerity" (D Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Earl Scruggs)
A dobro picker from Houston, Texas, Shipley started out playing banjo but was going to give up on music after he injured his hand in the late 1950s. Around that time he met bluegrass star Earl Scruggs, who steered him towards the dobro, which Shipley found much easier to play. He's backed here by Scruggs' sons, Gary and Randy, as well as their pal Jody Maphis (Merle's kid) as well as Vassar Clements (fiddle), Art Bain (piano), and Buck Trent on dobro. Nice lineup!
Ron Shipman "Let Me Down Easy" (Jango Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Phil York)
A Dallas, Texas songwriter who was a sideman in Rusty Draper's band and had a couple of his songs recorded by Draper. All the songs on here are originals, except for a cover of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone."
Danny Shirley "Local Legend" (Amor Records, 1984) (LP)
(Scott McClellan & Sonny Limbo)
An early outing from local lad Danny Shirley, who later would become the lead singer for the 1990s Top Forty band Confederate Railroad. As the album title implies, Shirley kicked around his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, working as a solo artist for several years before joining the soon-to-be-huge band down in Georgia. He released a string of singles in the mid-'80s, including several off this album -- "Live And Let Love," "Time Off For Bad Behavior," "The Right String, But The Wrong Yo-Yo" -- though the ones that charted only grazed the back end of the Billboard Top 100. Still, if you like hearing commercially-oriented country stuff from the indie end of the spectrum, this is a nice example of the slick-but-still-rugged sound that Shirley would perfect in years to come. Interestingly enough, bluegrass/old-timey icons Norman and Nancy Blake play fiddles on this disc... Who'da thunk it?
The Shit Howdy Boys "Live!" (Shit Howdy Boys Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Allen)
Can they really call themselves that? I mean, there are a lot of little kids reading this website... These fellas put a bootleg "PG" rating logo on the back cover, but somehow I don't believe them, since the actual song titles aren't anywhere to be found, and I think they might have used a few naughty words in their show... This Southern California trio -- Larry Allen on vocals and guitar, Terry Craig on bass and Tom Fletcher on guitar -- actually had roots a decade earlier when Allen and Craig made an ultra-DIY album under the name of "Larry & Terry" while living in Colorado. Years later, they made this album as well as a single called "Ballad Of The Swallows Inn," with a slightly different lineup. The Boys recorded this live set on October 18, 1980 when they apparently had a gig at a pizza parlor in Orange, CA called Napoli Pizza, which they cheerfully identify as "the home of shit howdy pizza," which I'm sure the owners were thrilled about... Anyway, look out, Chinga Chavin and Montezuma's Revenge... the Shit Howdy Boys are in town!!
Jon Sholle "Catfish For Supper" (Rounder Records, 1978)
(Produced by Jon Sholle)
A relaxed, cheerful, eclectic set, mixing Tin Pan Alley-flavored swing-jazz, bluegrass twang and a smidge of acoustic blues... A perfect record to represent the musical diversity and talent of the times. New York native Jon Sholle (1948-2018) was a guitarist who had gigged with a bunch of jazz, pop and Broadway performers before stepping out as a solo artist. Here he picks up where Dan Hicks left off, kicking back with some of the hottest pickers of the '70s acoustic twang scene: if you ever wanted to hear David Bromberg jamming with David Grisman, here's your chance. Also on board are other members of the Grisman/Rounder Records newgrass scene, such as Darol Anger, Rob Wasserman, Tony Rice and Tony Trischka, et. al., although this isn't a standard-issue newgrass record, not by a longshot. Nice chance to hear those guys playing in different styles, such as folk-blues and oldies jazz. The title track, "Catfish For Supper," was a novelty number frequently played on KFAT radio, but the rest of the record is packed with gems as well -- Bela Fleck's fans will want to check out his sweet, slick picking on the instrumental, "Triangle," while Bromberg gets in some nice licks on tracks such as the Jimmie Rodgers-styled "Railroad Blues." Nice stuff... Still a winner after all these years!
Jon Sholle "Out Of The Frying Pan" (Rounder Records, 1997) (CD)
Sgt. Johnny Short & His Country Travelers "America #1" (1973) (LP)
In the waning days of the still-contentious Vietnam War, North Carolina honkytonker recorded a patriotic single with two original songs, "America Number One" and "Oath Of Enlistment," which extolled the ideals of military service. Both songs are included on this album, along with a brace of non-political country tunes, most of them written by Mr. Short and his band, including two by drummer Johnny Butcher and a couple more by lead guitarist Bobby England. They're helped out by some professional pickers from the Arthur Smith studio, notably Tommy Faile on guitar, Smith on violin, and pedal steel player Bill Griffin. The Country Travelers seem to have been made up of active duty service members, with Johnny Short listed as a sergeant and the band pictured on the front cover in full military dress, up on a bandstand or float emblazoned with the old Red, White & Blue. The liner notes are on official Army stationary by a fellow sergeant from Fort Bragg, and make mention of the impending end of the military draft -- in June, 1973 the United States switched to an all-volunteer military and this album seems to have been sponsored in part as a recruitment tool, or maybe just a souvenir for Short's fellow servicemen in the South.
Johnny Short & His Country Travelers "Live" (Tri-County Country, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Short)
Presumably Mr. Short had left the military by the time this album came out, although he never went AWOL from the honkytonks. This live album was a souvenir of a gig at the Tri-County Country Music Bar, where Short and his band seem to have been working out a lot of original material -- most of the songs were written by various members of the band. The Travelers included Johnny Short on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, drummer Danny Davis, Bobby England (lead and steel guitar), Buddy Rhodes (bass) and backing vocalists Nita Harris and Nancy Short. Mr. Rhodes contributes four original songs -- "Baby I Love," "Enjoying The Mess I'm In," "I Wish Hank Could See Me Now" and "The Only Thing That Matters" -- while England adds a couple more, "For The Last Time" and "Hang My Head In Shame." The remaining tracks include "Pure Love" (an early Eddie Rabbit hit), "This Time You Gave Me A Mountain," and Bobby Bare's patriotic "God Bless America Again."
Shorty Joe's Red Rock County Ramblers "A Tribute To Shorty Joe" (Golden West Records, 1985) (LP)
An homage to Guiseppe ("Joe") Quartuccio, who was a popular country performer and local deejay in California's once-rural Santa Clara Valley... Shorty Joe moved to San Jose from Canada as a teen in the 1930s, working agricultural jobs and building up a pre- and postwar reputation as "the Sicilian Cowboy" while playing various honkytonks and radio gigs. This tribute album was recorded by former members of his band(s) and is a pleasant mix of honky tonk and western swing, overall with a very Bob Wills-y vibe. Folks who like all those latter-day Light Crust Doughboys and Texas Playboys albums ought to enjoy this as well.
Shorty, Sue & Sally "Saddle Rockin' Rhythm" (Cattle Records, 1991) (LP)
"Shorty Thompson" was the stage name for Odie Head (1910-1980) a singer born in Ash Grove, Missouri, and an early star of the Show Me State's pre-Branson country scene. Like many musicians in the hillbilly era, Thompson performed regionally, working radio gigs and live shows wherever he could find them. His career took him all over the Midwest and the upper plains states, notably a five-year stretch in Denver, Colorado, and a stint in Nebraska, where he met his wife and her sister, Sue and Sally Nelson, who were a family act from South Dakota. After Shorty and Sue tied the knot, they eventually moved back to Springfield, Missouri, where they worked at radio station KWTO, as the trio of Shorty, Sue & Sally. This LP draws on several radio transcription discs apparently recorded between 1947-50; according to Cattle Records owner Reimar Binge, some of the sessions may have included a young Chet Atkins on guitar, along with various less well-known musicians. [Cool footnote: Shorty and Sally's son, Wayne Carson Head (1943-2015) also went into the music business and became a highly successful songwriter, penning pop and country chart-toppers such as "The Letter" (and a few others recorded by the Box Tops) as well as "Always On My Mind," which became a huge hit for Willie Nelson. He also wrote classics recorded by Moe Bandy, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Paycheck, Gary Stewart, and Conway Twitty.]
Shotgun Red "...Goes To McNeil" (Valentine Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Val Valentine)
Not to be confused with Ralph Emery's Nashville felt puppet sidekick Shotgun Red, Washington state country picker Ray Hildreth (aka Shotgun Red) was a local TV host and bar owner who played with a variety of local bands. He was born in Monroe, North Carolina back in 1932, but made Tacoma his home for most of his life. This album was "recorded live" at McNeil Island penitentiary, and features a buffed-up edition of Hildreth's band, the Cornshuckers, with Ray Austin on drums, Buddy Swint (bass), Jimmy Webb (pedal steel), Ty Willard (guitar) and Dale Wilson on fiddle, as well as several guest vocalists. Shotgun Red only sings lead on two tracks, sharing the spotlight with other locals, including Lonesome Jim Sawyer, Cole Shelton and Edward Swint, who also contributes his own original song, "Living In The Twilight Zone." Two other originals ("Billy Belew" and "Get The Gravy Hot") come from Oren Reeves, who doesn't play on this album but did record a single or two under his own name. Perhaps most notable is guest singer Lorraine Schwebs, another Tacoma local who frequently performed live with Hildreth over the years, and who also led her own band, the Country Gentlemen, which included Shotgun Red's son, drummer Terry Hildreth. Bass player Buddy Swint also cut an album of his own and remained in Hildreth's orbit for several years, as did several of these pickers, who were probably the house band at his bar, the Cloud 9 nightclub. Several of these guys also cut singles for the same local label, Wasp Records, in the early 'Seventies, and doubtless backed each other on various sessions. As far as I know, this was Shotgun Red's only full album..
Showdown "Welcome To The Rodeo" (Damon Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Lee Berthold)
A country covers band from Alberta, Canada, who were mediocre but enthusiastic, and who scored a big hit with a song that was banned from airplay... It's a funny album: usually these bar-bands would have one really hot picker, and while the banjoist and fiddler are okay, the band never really gels, and the vocals are, well, very local. Still, they cover some fun songs, like Michael Murphey's "Cosmic Cowboy" and Lee Dresser's "Redneck Disco," but their big moment comes with Gaye Delorme's hilariously profane novelty number, "The Rodeo Song" ("not suitable for airplay," they warn us, which is an understatement...) Written from the perspective of a very pissed off, road-ragey rural driver, the song is sort of an obscene take-off on the Hank Snow style of country rapping. When it became an underground classic, they re-recorded it for a new single, with singer Garry Lee billed as the star, and it has been covered many times since. I believe this is the original version, and a pretty good reason to hang onto this admittedly so-so album. From humble beginnings...
Showdown (with Garry Lee) "Wanted: Loaded, Loose And Rowdy" (Damon Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Garry McDonall & Garry Lee)
The runaway success of the "Rodeo Song" single apparently allowed the dudes in Showdown to go back into the studio and beef up their sound, taking on a more electrified (and mildly disco-y) tone... Although they sound more professional and musically accomplished than on their first album, they also sound less rootsy and a lot less fun. They also decided to make crudeness their "thing," giving this album full of songs about one-night stands, girls losing their virginity and saying "no" when they really mean yes, along with plenty of thinly-veiled sexual metaphors, and an unfortunate Alvin And The Chipmunks-style remake of "The Rodeo Song" that features the squeaky-voiced "Canadian Beavers" singing a version that's way less fun that the original. Oh, well. I suppose this was funny at the time, but it doesn't hold up very well. Worth noting: some of the electric guitar twang-banging is courtesy of Redd Volkaert, who had recently moved to Alberta from British Columbia, and would join Merle Haggard's band nearly two decades later. As far as I can tell, this must have been one of his first recorded sessions, in case anyone out there is keeping track...
Showdown "Sampler" (Sunset Recording, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Mark MacLean & Mike Burdick)
This is a different band from the one led by Canada's Garry Lee... This was a four-piece band recorded in LaGrange, Illinois, which included Mike Burdick (lead guitar), Jim Pastorek (rhythm guitar), Dave Rapp (bass) and Ted Reinert (drums), though apparently there was no fiddle, banjo or pedal steel. The set list includes two Merle Haggard songs, as well as "Rocky Top," "Ghost Riders In The Sky," a couple of rock oldies ("Roll Over Beethoven" and "Hang On Sloopy") a song by Dennis Linde ("Burning Love") and one original tune written by Jim Pastorek, "Why Can It Be."
J. D. Shug "Pour Me" (Shug-a-Lug Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Larry McCoy)
Not a lot of info about this one, though it's a relatively common disc... J. D. Shug was from Carpentersville, Illinois and while he apparently didn't make it too big, there are some show notices from around the time this disc came out, notably an opening-act gig at the 1982 fair in Bloomington, Illinois, and a couple of plugs in Cashbox magazine. The album is mostly original material, with tunes penned variously by J.D. Shug (which I think was a shortened last name), as well as Tom Compton and -- most interestingly -- by the songwriting duo of Kermit Goell and Larry McCoy. Goell was a Tin Pan Alley veteran whose career dated back to the big band era though he later tried his hand at more rural material. Goell and McCoy wrote the song "Fly Me To Frisco," which was the title track of a Jimmy Martin bluegrass album. That song is covered here along with some of their other stuff, and since McCoy produced this disc, they must have either helped shape Shug's career, or at least booked him to demo some of their work. Other than that, Shug has a pretty low profile online, with scant info to be found.
Garland Shuping "...And Wild Country" (Old Homestead Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by John Morris & Garland Shuping)
A banjo player with strong country influences, Garland Shuping was once a sideman for Jim & Jesse and an erstwhile member of the Kentucky-based band Bluegrass Alliance who went on to record several solo LPs on Old Homestead and other labels. This is pretty solid early-'Seventies style progressive bluegrass, but the repertoire includes a whole slew of country material, stuff by Skeeter Davis, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, The Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams, as well as an obscure Jim Croce tune. Plenty of fancy picking from Mr. Shuping and the assorted locals, as well as some plucky and persistent pedal steel, courtesy of Roger Edgington and even (gasp!) drums by Terry Van Auker. Fans of Gram Parsons might dig the vocals and the overall vibe, though his is definitely bluegrass all the way -- more Hillmen than Fallen Angels. I'm not sure where Shuping was from originally, though he was living in Rockwell, North Carolina when he cut this disc. Nice stuff.
Garland Shuping "From Banjo Man's To Opryland" (Banjo Man's Old Tyme Pickin' Parlour, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Underwood)
Another of Shuping's more country-flavored albums... In between, he recorded several tasty bluegrass and gospel albums, but for country twang, this is worth notice as well. Included are four originals by Garland Shuping: "Back Home In Tennessee," "Sing A Train Song," "Old John, The Fiddler," and an instrumental, "Tomahawk." He also covers John Denver, The Dillards, The Louvin Brothers and bookends each side with instrumentals like "Billy In The Low Ground" and "Are You From Dixie," while harmonist Ruth Shuping sings lead on a version of the Crystal Gayle hit, "Ready For The Times To Get Better." Shuping led the Wild Country band for years, with a wealth of talented musicians passing through its ranks; apparently he passed away in the year 2000 from complications of pneumonia.
Jeffrey Shurtleff "State Farm" (A&M Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Joan Baez & Norbert Putnam)
This was a pleasant surprise... California-born Jeffrey Shurtleff was a 1960s draft resister who lived on a hippie commune with David Harris, the later-imprisoned war protester husband of folk star Joan Baez. Shurtleff joined Baez's band and played with her at Woodstock, singing several duets with her at the epic concert and on various albums, including this one. With that very-Sixties pedigree, I figured this would be a fairly insufferable album, but actually it's got some good country tunes, including the opening track, twangy, uptempo re-imagining of Gordon Lightfoot's "Ten Degrees And Getting Colder," and a pedal steel-laced rendition of "A Miner's Life." He covers then-new singer-songwriters John Prine and Paul Siebel, including several that not surprisingly have political overtones, such as Siebel's "Honest Sam," or the more overt "Prisoner's Song," written by Baez. Shurtleff recorded four solo albums in Nashville, and I think this was the first. Nice, strong accompaniment by a solid Music City studio crew, anchored by steel guitarist Lloyd Green and pickers Grady Martin, Bobby Thompson and Pete Wade. If you like Paul Siebel's work, in particular, then this is certainly worth checking out -- a few tracks are too fuzzy-folkie for me, but others have plenty of twang. He had a pretty modest voice, but he used it well.
Shylo "Flower Of The South" (Columbia Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rogers)
One of Nashville's better attempts to co-opt the smooth '70s country-rock sound, Shylo was a vehicle for Memphis, Tennessee's Ronny Scaife (d. 2010) who wrote -- or co-wrote -- all the songs on here, including several with bassist Danny Hogan. Here, the band poses barefoot on the cover, wearing flashy dress jackets over rolled-up bluejeans, portraying themselves as both mainstream and rebels... The record has a few good tunes, notably "Dog Tired Of Cattin' Around" and "Whiskey Fever," although a lot of the album is kind of mediocre, if easy on the ears. As a single, "Dog Tired" scraped into the Top 100, and Scaife found greater success writing material for other artists, starting with Jerry Jaye's "Honky Tonk Women Love Redneck Men" and Johnny Paycheck's 1978 hit, "Me And The IRS," later scoring bigger Top Ten hits in the '80s and '90s. This is an okay record -- if you like early Eagles albums, this could be worth checking out.
Shylo "The Song Riders" (Maverick, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rogers & Ronny Scaife)
Wannabe Top Forty country from some guys who'd been around the block a few times, recording for Columbia in the '70s and for Mercury in the early '80s. This record has a definite woulda-coulda, almost-but-not-quite feel, a sense that these guys almost could have broken into the harmony-heavy "group" sound of the early '80s, alongside vocal groups such as Alabama, the Bellamy Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys. They had the same kind of good-natured, smiley-tone sound and adherence to Nashville's musical formulas, though this self-released indie album is a little "off" in terms of the production values and overall smoothness... But you know what? It grows on you. If you like the kind of stuff they were shooting for, you'll want to track this down since it fits right in. Bandleader Ronny Scaife had reshuffled the band a few times, with drummer Perry York the only guy still there from the album listed above. His new collaborators includes guitarist-songwriters Don Singleton and Jerry Hayes, and the record includes a loose-knit cover version of Jerry Haye's best-known song, "Who's Cheatin' Who," which had been a breakthrough hit for Charly McClain in 1980. A good snapshot of a hard-working band that had a toehold in the Top Forty world, but was slipping off the radar despite their best efforts.
Side By Side "Ode To A Friend" (End Of The Trail Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Nick Kuzulka & Side By Side)
A folk-country band from McFarland, Wisconsin, featuring David Liebmann and singer-songwriter Bonnie Rowan... She contributes two original songs, "Man In The Moon" and "Ode To A Friend." They also cover several Patsy Cline oldies, along with "Wreck Of The Old 97," "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," and other country standards.
Side Of The Road Gang "Side Of The Road Gang" (Capitol Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Leech)
Although this major-label record always had the air of a prefab faux-outlaw product, the Side Of The Road Band were an actual working group from Dallas, Texas, led by songwriter David Patton. He's joined here by several other locals such as Billy Joe Howard and Radar Watkins, with a few studio pros such as fiddler Johnny Gimble brought in to fill out their sound. One notable bandmember was Hiroshi ("Mike") Ito, a Japanese-born multi-instrumentalist who had started out playing country and bluegrass up in Colorado, landed this gig for a few years, and then in 1979 started a decades-long tenure playing at the Baldknobbers "jamboree" mini-opry in Branson, Missouri. On their debut disc (and only one, as far as I know...) they covered some fairly hip outlaw-ish stuff like Michael Murphey's "What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round" and Guy Clark's "Broken Hearted People," as well as more questionable pop material such as David Gates's "Yours For Life." The Side Of The Road Gang apparently played local Texas shows at places such as Gilley's at least into the early 'Eighties, though info is surprisingly scarce online.
Sidesaddle -- see artist profile
Sidewinder "Ready To Strike" (Willow Wind Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Bil VornDick & Alan Ray)
An amateur but aspiring commercially-oriented country band from Bartonville, Illinois, a suburb of Peoria... The group was led by bassist Larry Wilson, who owned the Willow Wind studio and fronted by lead singers Kent Gordon and Sue Gordon. Although Wilson brought in a heavy-hitting producer, folk-pop professional Bil VornDick, this was a decidedly local affair, with just Midwesterners sitting in on the sessions, including fiddler Walter Bottje and Brian Morgan on banjo. Larry Wilson later moved to Lufkin, Texas, though he kept the band together through 2005, and moved his company, Willow Wind Productions, there as well.
Paul Siebel "Woodsmoke And Oranges" (Elektra Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Peter K. Siegel)
East Coast/Greenwich Village folkie Paul Siebel set a high bar -- both for himself and for the nascent singer-songwriter genre -- with this emotionally rich, soulful, near-perfect album. He's probably best remembered as the author of the faded-prostitute ballad, "Louise," which was popularized by Bonnie Raitt and other artists -- here's Siebel's own original version, which is equally resonant, though there's a different tone having a man sing it as opposed to a woman. I used to like "Louise," but now I'm over it, perhaps because a couple of decades of HBO and other modern culture have exhausted the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold topic. The rest of this album holds perhaps more durable material -- there's his catchy, bluesy "Any Day Woman" (which Raitt also covered) as well as "She Made Me Lose My Blues" and other contemplative folkie gems. For me, the best songs on here are two tunes that feel connected, "Bride, 1945," and "Then Came the Children," which reflect on middle-age and the experience of middle-class families in the post-WWII era, topics that are handled in a surprisingly mature, insightful way, considering the extremely polarized politics of the hippie-era "generation gap." Siebel separated himself from the pack of late '60s/early '70s both in the emotional maturity of his lyrics and the calm, precision and high quality of his songwriting. It helps that among the musicians backing him here are guitarist David Bromberg, fiddler Richard Greene and pedal steel whiz Weldon Myrick, three of the best players of the era. A fine album that remains one of the classic folk albums of the era.
Paul Siebel "Jack-Knife Gypsy" (Elektra Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Robert W. Zachary)
Another solid set, though it was hard to top his debut. This is a noteworthy album, but it seems more workmanlike and less vital than Woodsmoke, with fewer songs that stand out as boldly. Largely that's because of the production style, which drifts into lavish pop-folk arrangements and a "big" sound that stands at odds with Siebel's natural, plainspoken vocal style. A bunch of great musicians on here, including bluegrassers like Clarence White and David Grisman, old-school Nashville session men such as Buddy Emmons, cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, and younger guys like Bernie Leadon and Russ Kunkel, who would be at the heart of the Southern California country-rock scene. But for Siebel, this was his swan-song for the decade, as depression and self-doubt sidelined his music career. Sadly, I would have to say that this album just sounds like they were trying too hard -- it feels crowded and busy, and too self-consciously crafted. Still, it's certainly worth checking out, particularly if you've been caught in the spell of his first record.
Paul Siebel "Live At McCabes" (Rag Baby Records, 1981) (LP)
After several years in self-imposed retirement, Siebel came back in 1978 to give an intimate concert at one of Southern California's premiere folk clubs. Backing him are David Bromberg and bassist Gary White, who both performed on Siebel's first album.
Sierra "Sierra" (Mercury Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Felix Pappalardi & Don Gehman)
Apparently hoping for a hail-mary pass, the mid-'70s Gib Guilbeau/Sneaky Pete Kleinow lineup of the Flying Burrito Brothers changed their name to "Sierra" during the summer of '77 and cut this super-slick and terribly misguided pop record along with a slew of LA pop-scene rockstar guests... They indulge in bombastic disco-rock, bubblegummy AOR and a little bit of beer-ad blues. They were backing singer/guitarist Bobby Cochran, who had most recently been working in a reunited mid-'70s lineup of Steppenwolf, but who seems to have had a deep-seated desire to make it as a soft-rock star. I'd call these guys "a country-rock Bay City Rollers" except that their country influences are so deeply buried in the mix, they hardly factor in until the last half of Side Two. In theory, Sneaky Pete is playing pedal steel on every track on the album, but I'll be damned if I can hear it anywhere except towards the end. This incarnation didn't last long, although their regular Burrito gig was pretty rough sailing as well, with the band limping along without a major-label contract for several years... This album is mostly a historical curio; twang fans might enjoy a couple of Eagles-ish tracks that pop up on Side Two, with Guilbeau's "Don't Plant Roses" being the most memorable song on the album, and Cochran's "You Give Me Lovin' " being the most explicit Eagles ripoff. Otherwise, you can skip this one...
Sierra "Runnin' For Nothin' " (Loose Outlaw Records, 1980)
A country-rock band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin which was together for most of the '80s... They had more of a power-pop feel here, although there is definitely some twang in there as well, mostly in the form of some untamed steel guitar, and a dose of Southern rock boogie as well. Stylistic schizophrenia ensues with the introduction of a truly awful spacey-poetic love ballad sung by the band's gal singer, Valerie Mikkelson, but written (like most of the original songs on here) by R. L. Miller. Notable tracks include "High On Lowell," a tribute to Little Feat's lead singer, Lowell George, who passed away in 1979, and their jittery cover of Michael Nesmith's "Rio." I gotta say, this record didn't really do it for me -- a little too rock'n'roll, maybe? -- but I do like how the band looks on the back cover, all of them lugging sixpacks and twelve-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon to go jam at the great rehearsal session in the sky.
Sierra "Prelude" (Cardinal Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Baugh)
Oh, but wait: there was yet another band claiming the Sierra name, this time three guys from around Roanoke, Virginia, recording a session in Nashville under the guidance of guitar hero Phil Baugh. The clean-cut trio included William Arney, E. J. Harris and Rodney Painter -- and were once a foursome that also included David Mangrum. They started out as a gospel vocal quartet called the Lord's Four, then they shifted into secular country, and tried to make it in Nashville. Calling themselves The Draw Brothers, they were finalists in a 1982 battle of the bands sponsored by Wrangler jeans, an accomplishment that apparently led to a recording contract, as well as write-ups in Billboard and Cashbox. This album seems to have been a songwriters demo set, including three late-vintage Don Gibson compositions (from his Shylone Music company), a couple of tunes by newcomer Keith Stegall ("The Cowboy Thing To Do" and "Keep On Playing That Country Music") as well as one by Mark Collie called "Northern Lights." No info on who the backing musicians were, but one can't help but wonder how things would have turned out if they'd kept Mangrum in the band.
Silkie & JJ "Road Sweet Road" (Abra Cadabra Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Ole Fick)
An eclectic album with a wild back-story... The folkie duo of J.J. Dion and Silkie Miller met in Boise, Idaho in the early '70s, and in 1975 they went to Europe where they toured together for the rest of the decade. They recorded this album in Denmark, where they found their greatest popularity... At first it seems like it's going to be a goopy cosmic folk album, but some twang sifts in, with some banjo and pedal steel (as well as a little dulcimer...) and vocals that range from earnest folkie urgings to high, Byrds-y harmonies. There are lots of cover songs, drawn from interesting sources, from writers as divers as Eric Andersen and Utah Phillips to Hoyt Axton and Billy Ed Wheeler, as well as originals from both Silkie and JJ... Perhaps the most distinctive (though maybe not the best) of these songs is the manic novelty tune, "One Last Quickie Before I Go," a free-love ditty that has a slightly Elmo & Patsy-like vibe to it. Overall, this is a super-earnest album -- the production values fall short on the uptempo, full-band tracks, and are better suited to the intimate acoustic ballads, although those songs are a little too folk-oriented for me. Still, this one's worth checking out. I guess the duo split up in the early 80s, with Dion returning to Idaho where he quietly shifted into family life and Christian music... And who knows what happened to Silkie!
Silver Creek "Silver Creek" (MCA/Tally Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Barnes & Roy Nichols)
This young, shaggy-looking quartet were proteges of Merle Haggard, and recorded this album under the umbrella of his Hag Productions company. The twangy, cajun-y opening track, "Howdy," is pretty fun, but the album slips into tedium with a lethargic romantic tune called "A Lady Like You," written by guitarist Jack Daniels, who proves to be a really terrible singer, at least on the slow stuff. The band has the feel of an enthusiastic bar band, with a few numbers that probably wowed 'em live, such as their jokey/spacey version of "Orange Blossom Special," which moves from bar-band bluegrass into Jean-Luc Ponty-style prog-fusion, and then back again -- Woah! Where's that come from?? On the flip side they let their funky rock side show on "17th Of May," though the album continues to be pretty uneven: another slow song from Daniels brings it to a grinding halt, a couple more fusion-y instrumentals take things back into hippie territory, and they groove through one nice, pedal-steel-flavored country number, a version of John Sebastian's "Rainbows All Over Your Blues." I wouldn't peg this record as a long-lost hippiebilly gem, though they certainly were of their times -- this album is skippable, but the country-prog overlap is kind of interesting, historically speaking.
Silver Dollar Band "Silver Dollar Band" (1979) (LP)
Amazingly, this was a different group than the Oklahomans below... Apparently from Indiana, this was sort of a Southern rock group with plenty of electric guitar, heard on their version of "Fire On The Mountain" and other songs. [Note: There is another, younger group called the Silver Dollar Family Band, from Indianapolis, which started in 2013... Not sure if there's any connection...]
The Silver Dollar Band "Playing Our Songs On The Road" (Akustic Record Company, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dewayne Boyd, Rod Slane & Bret Teegarden)
A good, unpretentious set from the house band at the Silver Dollar Ballroom, a joint outside of Tulsa, out on what used to be Route 66. The group was led by singer-bassist Dewayne Boyd, whose father was piano player Clarence Boyd (1933-2009), a pillar of Oklahoma's western swing scene and a veteran of Leon McAuliffe's Cimarron Boys as well as the Johnny Lee Wills band. Dewayne Boyd also played in the Wills band for several years until Johnny Lee Wills passed away in 1984; his dad also jammed with the Silver Dollar Band for several years (although he didn't play on this album) and clearly the Boyds were keeping the torch lit with this album. The record opens with some pretty slick-sounding, poppy '80s riffs, but it doesn't take long for the band's true roots to come out, with matter-of-fact honkytonk drinkin'-and-dancin' lyrics and western swing motifs coming into play. Dewayne Boyd wrote about two-thirds of the tunes on this album, along with covers of Rocky Caple's "Sawed Off Shotgun," an instrumental his dad helped write, along with Leon McAuliffe's "Steel Guitar Rag" and "Little Rock Get-Away," by Joe Sullivan. The band's lead guitarist David Thayer contributes an original as well, rounding out the set. Also worth noting is the "girl" singer pictured with the band and identified simply as "Cowpatty": that's Dewayne's sister, Patty Yocham. Dewayne Boyd had the same kind of odd accent and gangly vocals as several other bar-band country singers in the Panhandle and the Southwest: I kept thinking of Chuck Wagon & The Wheels while enjoying this album. Sure, the production may have been a little too slick, and probably this disc didn't really show us what the band sounded like live, but it's a good record, nonetheless -- an authentic, accomplished roadhouse band that was lucky enough to get in the studio and make their mark.
Silver Dollar Jubilee "Silver Dollar Jubilee" (Silver Dollar City, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Allen Reynolds)
Well, maybe Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb were a little down on their luck when they landed a day job at Branson, Missouri's Silver Dollar City amusement park and cut this souvenir album for the tourists... But at least it was a paying gig and they did put their hearts into the recording, with the result that it's a pretty darn good record. Dillard's wife, Beverley Cotten Dillard, adds vocals on a number of tracks, and the musicianship is solid from start to finish. Other than the Dillards and Webb, I don't recognize the other musicians, though pianist D. A. Callaway performed on other Silver Dollar commemorative albums, so I'm guessing most of these folks were on staff at the park. Also, I had assumed that this was the same record as Dillard's At Silver Dollar City album (below) but it turns out they are completely different... So, if you're a Dillards completist, you might wanna track this one down.
Jim Silver "Volume III" (Silver Records, 19--?) (LP)
A raspy-looking old dude from Sedona, Arizona, Jim Silver wrote all the songs on here, including twangtunes like "I'd Like To Hear A Country Song," "Waylon And Willie" and "I'm Too Drunk To Drive." The liner notes say there were four volumes altogether, though I haven't laid eyes on any of the other three...
Silver Moon Bluegrass Band "Midnight In Mexia" (Omega Audio, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Paul A. Christensen & Darrel Henke)
A longhair/progressive bluegrass band from Forth Worth, Texas with a mostly-traditional repertoire ("Bill Cheatum," "Footprints In The Snow," "Orange Blossom Special," "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms") punctuated with songs such as Elton John's "Country Comfort" and "Amie," by the Pure Prairie League. The group included Martin Massinger on bass, John McDonald (guitar), Bobby Porter (banjo) and Ernie Taft on fiddle; the album was recorded live at the Steak & Ale Restaurant, in Dallas, Texas on September 26-27, 1975.
Silver Mountain "On The Snake River Special" (Ripcord Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Blaine Allen)
This self-identified "newgrass" band from Seattle covered some rock stuff ("Friend Of The Devil") and added a little pedal steel into their sound, courtesy of session player Ron Stephens, who was connected to the Ripcord Studios network. These are lively, cheerful performances of songs they clearly loved, kicking off with oldies like "I'm My Own Grandpaw," "Life's Railway To Heaven" and Bob Wills's "Milk Cow Blues" before shifting into originals written by bandmembers Willy Ehrmantraut, Terry Enyeart and Greg LaRoy. A fun record from an era before pure professionalism and super-slick production took over the bluegrass world. Best of all, this is one of the few Ripcord LPs I've come across that has an actual date on it -- the album illustration was signed and dated -- providing a rare opportunity to figure out when the rest of them came out. Whoo-hoo!
The Silver Spurs "Rege Easler, Jr. Presents The Silver Spurs" (Marjon International Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Krizancic, Rege Easler, Jr. & Bill Wasser)
A generic, semi-anonymous country covers band with some young dudes from Pennsylvania... The group included Rege Easler on lead guitar, Wilkie Granger (drums), Jack Osborne (fiddle), Lance Schnur (pedal steel) and Bill Wasser (guitar and vocals). Lance Schnur also played on an album by another Krizancic-produced group called Bumpy & Sawmill Run, from upstate New York, which also released an album on Marjon International, in 1977. There's at least one original on here, "I Believed You," composed by Bill Wasser.
The Silver Star Band "The Silver Star Band" (Quark Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Chuck Angert & The Silver Star Band)
An indie band from Rolla, Missouri, just east of the Lake Of The Ozarks. This quartet included lead singers Gary Jones and Ron Hedrick, along with Jerry Brown on drums, and Jim Brown playing bass. They are joined on one track, "Rocky Top," by local banjo player Don Thomson, a music store owner who released an album of his own the same year, and at whose studio this was recorded. Mostly this is a set of cover songs, including stuff like "Tulsa Time" and "Swingin' Doors," along with three originals by Gary Jones, "Come Back," "Beautiful Lady," and "Lovin' Man." As far as I know this was their only album.
Silver-Stevens "Dusty Roads" (MGM-Lion Records, 1972) (LP)
This is one of those records where I take one for the team... It sure looks like it could have been a lost country-rock gem, and Red Rhodes is listed playing pedal steel, but basically this album is another self-indulgent, negligible, hippiedelic orchestral-rock mess. The songwriting partnership of Arnie Silver and Mark Stevens worked their way up through the Philadelphia coffeehouse folk scene and somehow landed a major label deal where they delved about as deeply into their stoned musical fantasies as is humanly possible -- this record is all over the map, slathered with baroque, multi-layered nuttiness, although to my ears it lacks the cohesion or charismatic focus that separates it from more memorable but similar experimentalism of the era. Anyway, it's more of a hippie-rock relic than a twangtunes kinda thing. Red Rhodes does add a nice feel to a couple of the tracks -- he doesn't sound like he was particularly challenged, but he does manage to find room inside the lavish Don Costa orchestrations to leave a distinctive stamp on a tune or two. If you're a devoted '70s culture buff, this is worth a spin... otherwise, skip it.
Silver Wings "Test Flight" (Starr Records, 1982) (LP)
This lounge-y family band from Croton, Ohio features four members of the Gladden family, along with lead singer Mona Lisa Danna. They cover several Beatles songs, a couple by Hank Williams, as well as versions of "Crazy" and "Proud Mary," and of course the Merle Haggard tune they took their name from... Apparently this has become a kind of an ironic, kitsch-retro cult classic in recent years... This album was recorded at the Rome Records studios in Columbus, but released on the Starr label.
Silverado "Silverado" (RCA-Victor, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Jerrard & Dick Bogert)
Songwriters Earl Goodwin and Carl Shillo led this mellow country-rock/AOR band, with assist from a few top session players, notably steel player Jay D. Maness, and Emory Gordy and James Burton from Emmylou Harris's Hot Band. The overall sound is, well, pretty wimpy -- folk-tinged soft-pop in roughly the same territory as Seals & Crofts, with a little extra twang woven in but mostly it's wispy romantic stuff. Not much stood out for me; one track, "Kicking The Habit," has vague druggie connotations, but it's not really that great a song... If you're into '70s AOR, this could be a real find, though looking at it from an alt-country perspective, not much to get worked up about. Goodwin and Shillo were originally from Connecticut, and had been in an earlier band called Spur, which got signed to a major label and brought out to LA to cut an album... That project got shelved, but after licking their wounds, the duo formed a "new" band and headed back to California to try it again. They wound up cutting three albums as Silverado, and Shillo kept the band running in one form or another for several decades, including infrequent reunion shows.
Silverado "Taking It All In Stride" (RCA-Victor, 1977) (LP)
Silverado "Ready For Love" (CBS-Pavillion Records, 1981) (LP)
Jim Silvers "You Gotta Let All The Girls Know You're A Cowboy" (CMH Records, 1979) (LP)
Here's a fella with a big personality: Chicago-born Jim Silvers was the nephew of fabled record man Syd Nathan, whose King Records label helped define the blues, R&B and country sounds of the post-WWII era, and paved a pathway to the birth of rock'n'roll... Silvers went into the record business himself, joining the CHM bluegrass label in its early years and recorded this album while working as a jack-of-all-trades at the fledgling label... It's a brash, audacious album, best known for the raunchy novelty single, "You Gotta Let All The Know That You're A Cowboy," though packed with other equally aggressive, live-wire country tunes. He's kind of like a Windy City version of Kinky Friedman, though perhaps with fewer memorable tunes. Silvers just made two albums, with this being the best-distributed and stronger of the two.
Jim Silvers "Colonel Jim Silvers" (Rondelet Records, 1981) (LP)
Jim Silvers "Music Makin' Mama From Memphis" (Bear Family Records, 1999)
This generously programmed CD gathers all the songs from his two LPs... A nice, handy reissue worthy of the Bear Family archives!
Shel Silverstein -- see artist profile
Gene Simmons "Catahoula Cur Dog" (Deltune Records, 1984) (LP)
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Southern twangster Gene Simmons (1933-2006) was a 1950s rock'n'roll veteran who recorded for Sun Records in its late 'Fifties heyday, back in the era of Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Simmons later the R&B oriented Bill Black Combo and signing to Black's label, Hi Records as a solo artist, scoring a Top 15 hit with the novelty song, "Haunted House." Like many rock pioneers, Simmons found fame fleeting and slipped back into obscurity as popular taste shifted towards other shiny objects. By the time he recorded this indie album, Simmons was living in Louisiana and had established himself as a successful country songwriter, placing tunes with artists including Barbara Mandrell and Gene Watson; one the last songs he sold was "Indian Outlaw," an early Top Ten hit for Tim McGraw.
The Simple Truth "Ain't Jesus Good" (Creative Sound Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Chet Barnett)
Good old "Jesus freak" country-rock gospel, from a group out of Kansas City, Missouri. Actually, these guys were all over the map, musically speaking, playing some for-real twang, notably on their cover of Chuck Girard's "Front Seat, Back Seat," along with a few tunes that get into a LA-style garage-pysch vibe. There's also a preponderance of geefier folk-ministry mooing and crooning, alas. Even though I'm not big on the whole making-fun-of-other-eras thing, I do have to admit that the opening tracks on Side One are pure kitsch gold, particularly "Time To Get It Together," a desperate-to-sound-hip, groovy youth anthem, swiftly followed by the less-amazing, but still goofy "Jesus Is For You," one of several originals on this album, in this case written by lead guitarist Paul Land. They pay homage to fellow now-generation evangelicals such as Girard and Ray Hildebrand... Indeed, if you dig folks like Brush Arbor and all those Marantha-label bands, you might enjoy this as well.
Joe Simon "Simon Country" (Spring Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by John Richbourg & Joe Simon)
A quick detour down a country road for soul singer Joe Simon... The Louisiana-born pop star had recently changed labels, and was about to shift into a slightly disco-ish mode, but stuck to crooning mode for his versions of classics (and contemporary hits) such as "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," "Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'," and "Five Hundred Miles." Perhaps not too surprisingly the disc was a commercial flop, but I for one appreciate the effort.
Simpson "Simpson" (Columbia Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Noel Frankel & Mike Kropp)
Homer's distant cousin Bland Simpson is now best known as an author and actor; he also led this uniquely eclectic, brainy early '70s cosmic folk/rock/twang band, and also played piano with the Red Clay Ramblers. For folkies, this disc is notable as the first album to feature singer-songwriter David Olney, who played guitar and sang with Simpson for several years before moving to Nashville in '73. Also on board, though not officially part of the band, are steel guitarist Bill Keith, Eric Weissberg on fiddle and dobro, and power-popster Rick Derringer, who plays lead guitar on one track (the somewhat overwrought "Swordswoman Provocation.") Olney gets in a few fancy acoustic licks on the guitar solo, "Detroit Gregorian" and sings the lead on a version of the old folk tune, "Black Betty." This is an odd and idiosyncratic album, not necessarily that accessible on the first couple of listenings, but substantive and definitely rooted in real twang influences.
Jimmy Simpson "The Oilfield Boy" (Sourdough Records, 1967) (LP)
Born in Ashland City, Tennessee, singer Jimmy Simpson was an oilfield roughneck who carved out a music career in the mid-1950s leading his band, the Oilfield Boys, playing gigs throughout the lower 48 before moving to Alaska -- then still just a territory -- in 1957. He took a job as a country DJ at radio station KBYR, in Anchorage, and for many years divided his time between gigs in Alaska and the lower states. He was living in Houston, Alaska when he cut this album. Throughout his life, Simpson had worked on and off as an oilman and devoted this entire album to songs about the oil industry, and the Alaskan frontier. All the songs but one were Simpson's own, with the last track, "Springtime In Alaska," written by honkytonker Tillman Franks. Jimmy Patton and his band back Simpson as he reprises some singles he recorded in the '50s and early '60s, such as his trucker tune, "The Alcan Run" and "I'm An Oilfield Boy," though some tracks may be from the old, original masters. It's all pretty good!
Jimmy Simpson "...Sings Kiana Kid And Other Favorites" (Sourdough Records, 196--?) (LP)
Marge Simpson "I'll Go On Loving You" (Pronto Records, 19--?) (LP)
You gotta love the name, right? There are no musician credits, no producer info, no date, and no city mentioned in the liner notes... I really want to speculate that she was from Springfield, though I couldn't say which Springfield, in which state. Anyway, this album is kind of a mystery disc, but it's packed with original material, including a couple of tunes from country music promoter Bill Goodwin, who probably had a hand in steering her career. Wish I could tell you more about Ms. Simpson, but as you might imagine, googling up any biographical info is a little complicated.
The Sims Family "...Presents Country Gospel" (Spirit Arrow Productions, 19--?) (LP)
The Sims Family "...Presents Country Music" (Spirit Arrow Productions, 19--?) (LP)
A secular set from this old-timey family band from Philomath, Oregon. The group features Leroy Sims on fiddle, Shirley Sims on banjo and guitar, Steve Sims on guitar, along with Charley Francis on bass and J. R. Clark on banjo and guitar. The album is dedicated to Leroy Sims' grandfather, who came out west in the 1880s, and became a popular local fiddler in remote, rural Conconully, Washington. This album was recorded at Bradley Sound Company, Olympia, Washington...
The Sims Family "...Presents Singing Souls (Spirit Arrow Productions, 19--?) (LP)
The Sims Family "...Presents Fiddlin' Leroy" (Spirit Arrow Productions, 1981-?) (LP)
Jerry Sims "He's My Dad" (Bigg Tyme Records, 1972) (LP)
A DIY country set from a guy who mostly recorded gospel material, but goes secular here, with a mix of original material (most of the songs are written either by Sims or two guys who share the same publisher, Sam Ratliff and Bob Zackery) with a few cover tunes, including one by Howlin' Wolf, of all people. There's some bouncy, untamed electric guitar as well as some nice pedal steel -- the album's highlight is probably the title track, a pugnacious, goofy defense of "my dad," a working-class guy who ain't all slick and fancy, but worked his butt off to give his son a good life. Great stuff. The whole record is kind of neat -- an authentic, grassroots indie outing, and pretty good musically. I couldn't find much information about Sims: the Bigg Tyme label had an address in Modesto, California, and some of his other records come from there as well, so I guess the Central Valley was his home base. Anyone know more about him?
Jerry Sims "Coast To Coast" (JBS Records, 19--?) (LP)
Jerry Sims "This Is Now... The Best Of Jerry So Far" (MGR, 2003) (CD)
Although there's a picture of Sims in his teenage garage years on the cover, these are later recordings -- maybe from the '80s or '90s? -- with modest, modern, tinkly keyboard-led pop arrangements... Not much country twang to be heard here, though.
Rich Sims "Country Love Triangle" (QCA Recording Studios, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Denny "Dumpy" Rice)
Ouch. Now, I'm not one to use these reviews of "private" records as an opportunity to mock these little-known artists, though sometimes you have to call 'em like you see 'em... As the too-revealing liner notes explain, middle-aged songwriter Rich Sims was kind of a jack-of-all-trades, a one-time rodeo rider who eventually became "a successful business executive with a large insurance company," Sims was born in New Mexico and moved around a lot, but was living in the Midwest (Boyden, Iowa, to be precise) when he recorded this album... One thing he wasn't naturally born to, though, was music. Despite his very apparent enthusiasm, Sims sings out of tune, writes lyrics that stray out of the meter, and has trouble phrasing inside the tempo when he sings... Although his heart is in every performance, this still winds up falling in the so-bad-it's-good category, sort of a honkytonk Mrs. Miller kind of affair. The backing band is decent, though a bit thumpy and by-the-numbers. Still, there are some tracks that hold up and might be fun in a mix, notably the she-took-everything-in-the-divorce novelty number, " '65 Ford Pickup Truck" and "I'm Better At It Now," Mr. Sims's song extolling the virtues of middle age. I also like how the liners mention that he was in a Fort Worth-based group called "Cowboys For Christ..." I bet their meetings were fun!
The Sin City Band "The Sin City Band" (Straight-Face Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Kern)
This one's a little iffy. These guys from Newark, Delaware were aiming for an eclectic sound, mixing hippie twang with what I'm sure they fancied as more sophisticated pop-jazz stylings. When they play just plain twang, it's fine -- they had some assertive, enthusiastic pickers on banjo, pedal steel and electric guitar, and on uptempo tunes sounded kinda like New Riders Of The Purple Sage. But the slower songs and the jazzier riffs reveal a number of problems -- clunky tempo changes, fey vocals, etc. Still, their hearts were in the right place, and this is notable East Coast indiebilly... Worth a spin, but not one that really won me over.
Nancy Sinatra "Country, My Way" (Reprise Records, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Hazelwood)
I was never a fan of her dad, but I gotta admit Nancy Sinatra was pretty credible country singer, solidly in the same lane as Lynn Anderson -- "sunshine country" all the way. Obviously she had other things going on, but Sinatra probably could have made it big in Top Forty country if she'd wanted to... Naturally, she's backed by a bunch of Nashville A-listers, cats like David Briggs, Junior Huskey, Charlie McCoy and Wayne Moss, as well as backup singer Rickie Page and The Nashville Edition. The set list is a well-chosen repertoire of country hits like Carl Belew's "Help Stamp Out Loneliness," Don Gibson's "Oh, Lonesome Me" and Wynn Stewart's "It's Such A Pretty World Today," as well as a pretty swell version of "Jackson" sung with her hubby Lee Hazelwood. He also contributes an original song, "By The Way (I Still Love You)," which fits perfectly into the emerging countrypolitan genre. Pretty solid, all around. [Note: A digital-era reissue on Sundazed Records adds a few bonus tracks, including Delaney Bramlett's "Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham."]
The Singing Rories "With You In Mind" (19--?) (LP)
Country gospel by a family band from Osceloa, Indiana, led by parents Dolton Rorie and his wife Frances Rorie (1937-2011). Their son Steve eventually became the driving force of the band, a multi-instrumentalist he later married songwriter and vocalist Debra Grace Rorie, another anchor of the band. The Rories recorded an undetermined number of albums, with a strong country flavor.
The Singing Rories "We Like It Gospel" (Rite Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Burkhardt, Dan Burton & Wilbur Pennington)
This edition of the Rories included Dolton and Frances, their son Steve and his wife, singer Debra Grace Rorie, who wrote several songs for their albums. On this album they are also joined by steel guitarist Chuck Rich and drummer Tim Short. Their repertoire shows strong country influences, with material from the Hemphills, the Hinsons, Wayne Walters and the Rambos... my kinda gospel!
The Singing Rories "I'll Sing As I'm Carried Away" (Rite Records, 19--?) (LP)
This album also features several songs penned by Debra Grace Rorie, including the title track, "I'll Sing As I'm Carried Away," and several more by Ronnie Hinson.
The Singing Rories "Camp Meeting Days" (Rite Records, 1975-?) (LP)
The Singing Rories "It Just Comes Natural" (Imperial Sacred Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Lewis, Graham McQueen & Steve Rorie)
The Singing Straub Family "...With The Nashville Sound" (Heritage Records, 19--?) (LP)
Twangy gospel from a family band led by Randy Straub along with his wife and three kids, who harmonize in a peppy vocal style that would be familiar to fans of the Statler Brothers or the Oak Ridge Boys. The Straubs were from Kansas City, Kansas, and apparently played gigs at local churches -- the liner notes are by a pastor from nearby Lawrence, Kansas. They made the trek to Nashville to record this one, although sadly they don't mention which studio they booked. Lead guitarist Art Pemberton gets into some nice, clean Merle Travis/early Atkins-style pickin' while the liner notes credit The Christian Troubadours as background vocalists... I'm assuming this is the same group led by Wayne Walters and Leroy Blankenship that moved from California to Nashville. (Note: this album seems to have two titles; it's called At An Old Fashioned Meeting on the inner label.)
The Singing Sweethearts "Together Forever" (Canatal Records, 1959) (LP)
(Produced by Art Snider)
This was a Toronto-area country duo, made up of husband and wife Reg and Elanor Bartley. Mr. Bartley owned a barber shop in Long Branch, Ontario, and liked to sing as a sideline. According to the (charmingly misspelled) liner notes, they played with American artists such as "Max Weisman and Le Roy Van Dyke" as well as Canadian country acts like Chef Adams and Bill Long. The songs are mostly covers of stuff like Hank Williams, and Johnny & Jack, though there are some originals including one by the Bartley's, "My Doll."
The Singing Todds "Let Me Live" (AHMC/American Heritage Music Company, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Vern Garrison & Milt Harris)
West Coast country gospel by a family (apparently) from Pacheco, California... This was recorded at the fabled Trac Studios in Fresno, with the Todds joined by Paul Murrell (lead guitar), Lonnie Dawson (rhythm guitar) and Rick Fields (bass) -- producers Vern Garrison and Milt Harris were from Fresno and San Pablo, respectively. The album highlight is Lonnie Dawson's original composition, "Precious Jesus."
The Sir Douglas Quintet -- see artist profile
Gene Sisco "Coal Diggin' Country Boy" (Riverside Sound/Triple G Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Hoffman)
This album is a set of all originals, written by former rocker Gene Sisco... When still a teenager in the early 1960s, Sisco was in an Ohio rockabilly band called the Ramblin' Ramblers, with singer Donnie Bowshier -- they put out some singles and toured with Hardrock Gunter... This set is more solidly country, though, and of a much later vintage -- the early '80s perhaps? Sisco also seems to have moved to Kentucky somewhere along the line...
Betty Jean Sites "A Heart Full Of Country" (Budro Records, 19--?) (LP)
There's very little information about Ms. Sites online, though she seems to have cut a wide swath through the Pacific Northwest country scene in the early 1960s. Recording both as "Bettie" and "Betty" Sites, she made quite a few singles for Bobby Wooton's Seattle-based GRC label between 1964-71, as well as a '63 single for the Jerden label along with Linda Sites, who I'd guess was her sister, and she even had a major-label release when her own song, "Number Two Girl," was picked up by Dot Records in 1966. That track is one of many that are collected on this LP -- indeed most of the tracks first came out as 7-inch singles, and I assume these are the original versions.
Sixteenth Avenue South "The Pick Of The Nashville Pickers Pickin' " (Dominion Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ralph Wright)
A showcase disc for several high-profile Nashville studio pros who possibly were working together on some TV show or musical revue at the time. The "band" included bassist Joe Allen, picker Steve Chapman, steel player Sonny Garrish, pianist Randy Goodrum, drummer Larry Londin, and Buddy Spicher on fiddle, on an all-covers set heavy on early 'Seventies standards. There's no release date but mid-decade hits such as "I'm Not Lisa," "Lyin Eyes" and "Rhinestone Cowboy" definitely place us in the general range of 1975-76.
Tiny Skaggs "...And His Pop Country Big Band" (Crazy Cajun Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Tiny Skaggs & Huey P. Meaux)
Houston, Texas local Tiny Skaggs led a roots-oriented, multi-genre ensemble that ranged in size from a handful of players (as on this album) to nearly two dozen musicians for his live shows... One of his main gigs was at the Houston Rodeo, although he apparently played the Superbowl one year, and got national TV coverage. On this album, Skaggs conducts a smaller group, with Charles H. Wood Sr. on banjo, Charles H. Wood Jr. playing lead guitar, Bill Dessens on pedal steel, Warren L. Skaggs on keyboards and additional musicians on saxophone, drums and bass.
Skatin' "Takin' Time To Listen" (Coyote Publishing Co., 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Verne Critz & Dave Kaplan)
Pretty slick stuff from this longhaired band out of Raleigh, North Carolina... They're marginally in the "country-rock" terrain, but in the same way as bigger bands such as America or Poco, with larger proportions of top-forty AOR rock in the mix. The group included Steve Lamb on guitar and mandolin, Philip K. Mitchell (bass), Don Pierce (guitar), Ray Tims (percussion) and a few other local musicians chipping in. The album is packed with all-original material written by various bandmembers, and they guys all sang as well, including plenty of classic, Seventies-style harmonies. A very good example of Me Decade soft-pop, though perhaps of slightly less interest to devoted twangfans. (Note: producer Dave Kaplan later became very involved in the "Americana" scene of the '80s and '90s, and released a number of groovy albums on his Surfdog record label, including several later-vintage Dan Hicks records)
Skeptic Union "From The Hills Of Arizona" (SMG Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
A band from Kingman, Arizona with all-original material written by Dan Phillips... This was more in a strummy-acoustic, spacey soft-rock/folkie/psych mode, though you do hear some twang in there. Mostly it's pretty starry-eyed and spaced-out, with some moments that have a Jonathan Edwards-esque feel to them. Mellow, amateurish, terribly earnest and sincere.
Gene Ski & The Mavericks "Nashville Music" (1971-?) (LP)
A native of Green Bay Wisconsin, Gene Ski (nee Eugene Kurowsky) is best known for his macabre rockabilly classic, "Six Feet Down," which he recorded in 1966, while in his early twenties. This album was recorded several years later when Ski and his band the Mavericks owned and performed at own club in Mentor, Minnesota. The album features a half-dozen Gene Ski originals, including a version of "Feeling Bad," which was the flip side of the '66 single, along with tunes such as "Juke Box Blues," "Papa Had Wild Blood," "Lookin' Out This Window" and "It's A Different Kind Of World," as well as a few classic country covers, songs like "From A Jack To A King" and Leroy Van Dyke's "The Auctioneer." Not a lot of info about this one, though apparently the band included Minnesota keyboardist Jerry Basore on Cordavox; Basore played in several local country groups from the early '60s onward.
Skinny & Liz "Skinny & Liz" (A&R/Hill Creek Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Richardson)
This duo from Northern Arkansas performed old-timey and hillbilly country and folk tunes at the Mountain View Folklore Society's weekend shows. They are backed here by Jim Walker on lead guitar and Gerald Ivy on bass, playing a set mostly made up of Depression-era oldies, with a mix of secular and gospel material. Unfortunately, the album doesn't give their full names... anyone out there know more about these folks?
J. B. Sky "Reach For The Sky" (Gypsy Child Records, 1977) (LP)
Groovy, bubblegum-y psychedelic hippie pop, with just enough twang threaded into the mix that it can semi-plausibly be included in a survey of "country rock." Maybe closer to Merrell Fankhauser than to Doug Sahm, but still part of the swirling eclecticism of the time. Plus, there's a song called "Lonesome Cowboys," so he was sending out a few signals... Mr. Sky remains very much an object of mystery: the album includes tracks entitled "Colorado" and "Oregon," but the interwebs echo with references to this disc being pressed in Skokie, Illinois. Any clarifying info would be welcome.
Dale Sledd "Music The Way I Feel" (History Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Brad Edwards & B. J. Carnahan)
A banjo picker and guitarist from Benton County, Missouri, Dale Sledd (1937-2016) worked with bluegrasser Lonnie Hoppers on the Ozark Opry, and toured with the Osborne Brothers for a while, starting around 1965. He was married to country singer Patsy Randolph, of the Randolph Sisters, who later recorded major label material under her married name, Patsy Sledd. This rootsy, traditionally-oriented set finds him reunited with Lonnie Hoppers, along with Alisa Jones (dulcimer), Mark Jones (dobro), Ramona Jones (fiddle), steel player Myron Smith and other members of the Grandpa Jones Family show, in Mountain View, Arkansas.
The Sleek Brothers "The Sleek Brothers Band" (1980) (LP)
Originally a straight-up bluegrass band, The Sleek Brothers Band formed in 1954, with Gene Sleek on mandolin, Joseph Ray Sleek (1935-2019) on fiddle, Ned Sleek on banjo and Tony Sleek playing guitar. They were farm kids from the town of Kansas, Ohio, a teeny place just a few miles outside of Toledo and played local gigs for several decades, notably a decade-long residency at the Rollersville Tavern, in nearby Rollersville. The band had a shifting membership over the years, including several musicians from outside the family, and its sound changed as well, to incorporate more distinctly country influences, including electric bass and pedal steel. Ray's twelve-year old son Jim joined the band in the early 'Seventies though he formed his own group, Uptown Country, in 1984 but rejoined the family band a few years later. The Sleek Brothers recorded several cassette-only albums, though this one also came out on vinyl. (Many thanks to Buckeye Beat for their detailed history of the band.)
Sleepless Nites "Live At The Garden" (Sleepless Nites Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Morris)
A Floridian bluegrass/twang band with a diverse repertoire covering material by Gram Parsons and the Burrito Brothers, jazzman Chick Corea, along with songs such as Bill Kirchen's "Too Much Fun" and rock oldies like the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love." This album was recorded live at the Detroit Hotel's Garden Restaurant in Saint Petersburg, Florida on August 28, 1982, by a quartet that included Chris Fanfil on mandolin, Lance Lubin playing bass, Stephen Stadler plunking banjo and Dennis Wallace on guitar.
Slewfoot "Live At The Bowery" (Homa Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by David Barnes & Danny M. Hilley)
A working band from Anderson, South Carolina, these folks were playing a regular gig in a Myrtle Beach bar when they cut this record. Looks like a bunch of the songs were originals as well...
Slide Bar "Hard Livin' Country Boys" (Neon Cowboy Productions, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Duggan & Larry Benson)
Straight outta Reydon, Oklahoma, brothers Buddy Parman and Lyle Parman led this rockin' twangband, writing all but one of the songs, penning tunes such as "Outlaw," "Weekend Cowboy," "Simple Life" and the title track, "Hard Livin' Country Boys." They cap things off with an unlikely cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" (go figure!) and the pickin' is all from their own local band, except for some steel guitar courtesy of Speedy West, Jr.
Sligo Studio Band "Introducing The Sligo Studio Band" (GBS Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Ernie Bivens)
Well, yeah, I woulda thought given the band name that these guys were from Ireland, but actually it seems they were from North Carolina, and seem to have been the late-1970s house band for the Nashville American record label. The group included Charlie Austin on fiddle, Ernie Bivens III (drums), Wayne Casper (bass), Darry Fulford (pedal steel), Stan Morson (keyboards) and Beverly Taylor on vocals. This same basic lineup cut another album in 1979, Wayne Casper's solo LP, and in 1980 recorded a live LP while calling themselves the Country Allstars. Those previous albums were mostly cover songs, though this disc was a showcase for original material with most of the songs credited to either Bivens or Morson. Bivens seems to have been the group's most ambitious member, producing this album before stepping into the spotlight himself to cut a string of singles and a full album around 1986-87. His dad, Col. Ernie Bivens, seems to have been the owner of General Broadcasting Service, aka GBS Records. Ms. Taylor had perhaps the longest career in the band, recording for Dot Records in the 1960s, and as part of the Barbara & Beverly duo with Barbara Allen... I'm not sure what became of her after these early '80s sessions.
Sligo Studio Band "Sings Super Hits" (GBS Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Ernie Bivens & Vince Chory)
Sligo Studio Band "Sings Super Hits Old & New" (General Broadcasting Service/GBS Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Ernie Bivens & Vince Chory)
The Slim Pikens Band "Texas In A Tombstone" (A&R/Hill Creek Records, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Funk & John Miller)
Nope: nobody in the group actually nicknamed Slim Pikens, so this one does, indeed, belong under the latter "S." This low-key indiebilly band from Newton, Kansas showcased a ton of original material by singers Bob Kisner and Dave Robins, who are joined by bassist Colin Hammeke and drummer Floyd Norlin, as well as pedal steel player Terry Gregg, who adds some nice, tasty licks. Norlin contributes two tunes, "Hiway Blues" and "Wichita Cannonball," while all the others were penned by Robins. The album starts out sounding a little too slick (somewhere in the 1980s?) but quickly settles into an amiably small-label feel, comparable to bands such as Dusty Chaps or the Cooder Browne Band. Not bad! Alas, the only mention of the band I could find was a picture of them in the Hutchinson News, playing on a small bandstand at the Kansas State Fair, in September of '82. Any further info would be welcome!
J. David Sloan "The Exciting Young Modern Country Sounds Of Today" (Starday Records, 1969-?) (LP)
(Produced by Waylon Jennings & Charlie McCoy)
This is an early album by J. David Sloan, a singer from Phoenix, Arizona who for three decades led the house band at a bar called Mr. Lucky's, which he purchased in 1988 and owned up until 2004. Sloan is perhaps best known for his work with the band the Rogues, which backed Lyle Lovett early in Lovett's career, and helped him record a demo in 1984. Guitarist Ray Herndon, who played on Lovett's first album, was also a member of the Rogues, and helped form the core of Lovett's band as the Americana scene of the '80s took flight. Some sources say that Sloan moved to Phoenix in 1972, though the involvement of Waylon Jennings in this album from 1969 suggests that Sloan was on the scene earlier. In addition to Jennings co-producing the record, it also includes a version of Waylon's "Young Widow Brown," which was also released as a single.
J. David Sloan & The Rogues "A New Box Of People" (Pantheon Desert Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Kirk Butler & J. David Sloan)
For the life of me, I could not track down what year this album came out, though I suspect it's an '80s outing... The band includes Sloan, Joey Trujillo, Dave Hearn, Joe Sutton, Danny Snead on steel guitar, and Jesse Gilbreath on keyboards. Among other songs, they do a medley of "Luckenbach, Texas/Blue Eyes Cryin' In The Rain," giving a nod to the Texas outlaws... Years later, Sloan and his son Jaylon formed a group called the Western Bred, which as far as I know is still together.
Del & Sue Smart "Singing Country Favorites" (Alshire/Somerset Records, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
This is the lone album by Del and Sue Smart, a husband-wife duo who headed West from Missouri back in 1950, tried their luck in LA and then settled down in California's Great Central Valley, where they became fixtures on the West Coast country scene. The Smarts recorded several singles and toured regionally in California and the Pacific Northwest, but they never quite made enough momentum to crack into the national market. This is a charming record, if a bit low-key for a Bakersfield album -- there's some swell pedal steel and electric guitar, as well as some jaunty, uptempo tunes, but mostly it sounds like the band was being reined in, and there isn't quite as much bounce as you might like... (Unfortunately, this is one of those cheapo budget albums and doesn't have any liner notes, so the backing musicians are unknown...) Del Smart passed away in 1984, though Sue Smart remained active in the California country scene, though more on the business side of things, building up the booking agency that she and her husband started in the '70s. Their son, Mike Smart, led a late '80s country group called the Western Union Band, and dedicated his album to Del's memory. At any rate, if you like the Bakersfield Sound, you'll want to give this one a whirl. The Smarts also released a couple of singles after this album came out, but seem to have stopped recording in the early 'Seventies.
Smith & Roberts "Buffalo Run" (RainTree Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Miller)
An excellent set of melodic, whimsical hippiedelic folk-twang. The duo of Keith Roberts and Rob Smith were from the tiny rural hamlet of Grantsville, Maryland, where they frequently performed at a bar called The Blue Moon Saloon. Smith was a Maryland native, while Roberts moved there in the early '70 to live on his grandparent's farm... They mostly worked together as a duo, though on this lovely album they are joined a bunch of pals, including Bob Shank (on banjo and dulcimer), Joe Black (pedal steel), Jeff Bussard (bass) and various and sundry others. The record really is quite nice, and though it's more folkie than most of the stuff I like, there is some twang in there as well, with two or three explicitly "country" songs in the mix. The material dates back to 1974, and overall seems pretty reflective of the decade's early hippie vibe. But in a good way. Several songs celebrate their local, rural roots, notably "Garrett County Time," in which they pooh-pooh depressing politics, but wind up making a plea to preserve the natural beauty of their home. Similarly, "Papa's Bones" is a protest song about a family farm being taken by eminent domain so that a new highway can be built, in sort of a musical midway point between John Prine's "Paradise" and the Farm Aid concerts of the '80s. This is a nice record, very listenable, very soulful and definitely worth tracking down.
Bette Smith "I'm A Lady" (Nashville North, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Floyd Whitehead & Brien Fisher)
Well, it took a little bit of legwork, but I finally figured out what was going on with this record... At first, this seemed like it was just what it looked like, a slightly kooky but legitimately twangy country set by a housewife from Ohio who had a funny little voice and a way with words. The end. The back cover includes some of the most charming liner notes ever, actually a reprint of a newspaper article relating how teacher-housewife Bette Smith of New Carlisle, Ohio worked up the gumption to record an album of her own music, copyrighted through her own charmingly-named Hope-A-Hit publishing company. Mrs. Smith was a Montessori teacher at a local elementary school, and the article helpfully takes a few paragraphs to explain the Montessori method. The record itself is pretty solid, though there's a strong novelty orientation, notably in the tune "Teachin' Whomper Stomper," where she comedically conveys how tough she could be in the classroom. Mrs. Smith put Rita Abrams to shame with her twangy sensibilities, channelling Loretta Lynn in her brash, uptempo approach, and Brenda Lee with her high, girlish voice. But wait, there's more... Apparently she self-produced this disc as a songwriter's demo, and got a few bites in Nashville: when I was tracking down a few individual songs, Smith's name popped up as the composer on a few tracks by a gal mononymically known as "Margo," who cut a few singles for Chart Records around 1971-72. A quick drop of the needle on those discs made it clear that Bette Smith and Margo were the same person -- who else had that kind of helium-powered chirp? Just when it looked like this gal from Ohio was yet another one of the countless hopefuls who got chewed up by Nashville, I happened to notice that some of Bette Smith's songs were also recorded a few years later by Top Forty countrypolitan star Margo Smith, and wouldn't ya know it? Turns out this was actually Margo Smith's first record, made about four years before she broke through and became a chart-topping artist during the late rhinestone-plated 'Seventies. Who knew? Anyway, I dig this record. It's lively and lighthearted, a fun, enthusiastic romp.
Bobby Earl Smith "Muleshoe Dry Creek Inn" (Jackalope Records, 1980) (LP)
Austin local Bobby Earl Smith was a member of Marcia Ball's old band, Freda And The Firedogs, whose near-miss early-'70s grab at the brass ring of fame was part of the outlaw scene's legend for years and years. Atlantic Records honcho Jerry Wexler came to Texas to cut an album with them, but left it in the can for whatever reasons -- Ball went on to cut one more country record, but turned towards the blues instead, while her Firedogs cohorts went on to projects of their own. Smith was a criminal law attorney (even back in the '70s) so he had a real day job, though he obviously kept up playing music, too. On this privately released album, Smith called in an all-star cast of Texican buddies, including Marcia Ball, along with Alvin Crow, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and even the elusive Milton Carroll, for a groovy, rootsy down-home set. Good luck trying to track this one down, though some of the songs resurfaced a couple of decades later on his Rearview Mirror album, seen below.
Bobby Earl Smith "Rear View Mirror" (Muleshoe Records, 2000)
Gary Smith "We Had Love" (JOHNdANNA Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Smith, A. V. Mittelstedt & David McCumber)
The trick to this record is that you just have to skip Side One, where all the goopy stuff is frontloaded, in a misguided attempt to catch the last lingering vapors of the then-dead countrypolitan sound. Side Two shows more promise: Houston, Texas songwriter Gary Smith kicks off the second half of his album with "Put A Nipple On A Bottle Of Ripple," a robust novelty number that earns its place in the booze-bottle-as-pacifier country subgenre. Nothing else on this album is quite as good, although his version of Dallas Frazier's "Elvira" is okay, and the twang on this side is a welcome relief after the drippy songs on Side One. The slow stuff is way too gooey and croony-countrypolitan for me -- Smith sounds a lot like Roger Miller when he's in ballad mode, but sings even slower, if you can imagine. Most of this album is overly self-serious and lethargically paced -- a country quaalude on vinyl. But fans of mega-mellow countrypolitan might want to check it out. Maybe. Included in the local, Lone Star backing band are guitarist Randy Cornor and Robby Springfield on steel guitar, as well as Russell Cooper on bass and harmony vocals. Not the greatest record, for sure, but it has its moments. Also worth noting that this is almost all-original material.
Gene Smith & Darrell Smith "It's A Miracle To Be An American" (REM Records, 19--?) (LP)
A father-son duo from Chicago, Illinois, the Smiths started performing gospel together in 1964 after Gene Smith "changed his way of life," which I take to mean he settled down and got religion. Before that he'd been playing informally for his pals in the Army while stationed overseas, presumably singing secular country and bluegrass-style music. The Smiths were clearly devotees of "brother act" artists such as Jim & Jesse and the Louvins and emulated their acoustic guitar-and-mandolin based arrangements. What they lacked in musical finesse, the Smiths made up for in enthusiasm -- this is a pretty clumsy set, but it oozes sincerity and authenticity. Side One of the album is all original material written by Gene Smith, including novelty numbers such as "It's A Miracle To Be An American," "The Greatest Of Great Retirement Plans" and Second Honeymoon In Heaven, while Side Two revisits country gospel standards such as "Wait A Little Longer" and "Drunkard's Plea." They recorded this at the REM label, down in Lexington, Kentucky bringing with them their bass player, Reverend Richard Thornberry, of Berwyn, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) and his ten-year old daughter Jeanette, who sings harmony on a couple of tracks. The rest of the band seems to have been ringers provided by the label, banjo picker Wallace Duty and guitarist Kenneth Webb, both of Columbus, Ohio. Unfortunately, this group didn't really congeal very well, though it's hard to tell if this was because of the overall talent level, or just because the various players didn't mesh well. Gene Smith was a decent mandolin player and gets in some sweet licks; he also recorded a string of singles on REM, though they may have come after this album. A few tracks are emotionally resonant, particularly "It's Me Again, Lord," and a cover of the Louvin Brothers' "Weapon Of Prayer," and it's always nice to hear original material from the fellas that penned it. Worth a spin if you're into that whole Columbus-Cincinnati hillbilly gospel scene, though maybe a hard sell for more casual listeners.
Gerald Smith "The Georgia Quackerjack" (Mark Five Recording Studio, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Pee Wee Melton)
A novelty performer from Statesboro, Georgia, songwriter Gerald Smith was the son of local country singer Shorty Smith, who led his band, The Pea Pickers, for over forty years, giving his son a leg up into the music business. Gerald Smith broke through as a guest performer on the Hee Haw TV show, where he did an oddball "Quackerjack" routine -- not singing in a Donald Duck voice, but rather using his hands and cheeks in sort of a kazoo-like or harmonica-ish style to produce a rapid-fire quacking noise, heard here on several tracks. This album features a lot of original material, including tunes by Mr. Smith and his partner Richard Thorpe, who penned the title track, which was also licensed to Mercury Records and released as a single in 1977. Other fowl-sounding numbers include "Ain't It Ducky," "Lord Love A Duck" and "Foggy Mountain Quackdown," with plenty of Smith's weird vocalizing. After plugging away as a comedian, Smith moved to Nashville in 1985 and found work a staff songwriter, penning hits and album tracks for stars such as George Strait and Collin Raye, who took Smith's song, "Every Second," to #2 on the charts, and most notably Lorrie Morgan, who hit number one in 1992 with "What Part Of No Don’t You Understand." Smith found further success as a Christian country singer and was still performing locally in the 2010's, with new material like "Quacking For Jesus." There's no date on this disc, but I'm guessing it was from 1976 or '77, since the 1977 "Quackerjack" single lists the same producer, Pee Wee Melton, who also played lead guitar and dobro on this LP.
Hank Smith "Country My Way" (Quality Records, 1972) (LP)
Harmie Smith "Songs From The Heart And Soul" (Custom Records, 196-?) (LP)
(Produced by Kirk Curtis)
Old-school country and gospel from Tyler, Texas. The liner notes are from Hal Evans, GM of country radio station KCIJ, Shreveport, Louisiana, who says Smith was originally from Shreveport, and had a show on KWKH in the late '40s through early 1955, and apparently had one of his songs, "I'm Too Lonely To Smile," recorded by Kitty Wells. He moved to Texas in '55, and left his music career behind. He moved back to Shreveport around 1967, and Mr. Evans offered him a job as a deejay, then helped get this album made. The first side is secular, the second side is gospel, with most of the songs credited to either Mr. Smith, or his wife Billie, while four of the gospel songs were written by Bill Permenter, who also used Tyler Publishing Co., along with the Smiths.
Herbie Smith "By Request" (Astral 7 Records, 19--?) (LP)
Herbie Smith "For Country Lovers" (Astral 7 Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by Herbie Smith & Wes Owen)
A picker and singer from Dayton, Ohio, Smith plays several Kris Kristofferson covers, one by Haggard, and some pop stuff such as the inevitable "Proud Mary" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and one Smith original, "I Can't Say I'm Sorry" credited to his own Astral Seven Publishing. This album was recorded with local musicians such as Ed Mull on steel guitar, Eddie Drake on dobro, and Dumpy Rice playing piano. I'm guessing at the release date, based on the inclusion of "Help Me Make It Through The Night," which was a hit for Kristofferson in 1970.
Herbe Smith "If You Like Herbe" (Astral 7 Records, 1977) (LP)
J. D. Smith & Darlene Vance "Just The Two Of Us" (Transworld Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Deaton)
Although this record label was from Bristol, Virginia, I believe J.D. Smith and Darlene Smith Vance were a brother-sister duo originally from Pike County, Kentucky. By the time Mrs. Vance passed away in 2001, she and the rest of her family, including JD and her other siblings, had moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Not sure when this album came out, but it has an early/mid-'80s look. The set list is mostly cover songs, though Smith contributes two originals, "She Took My Heart" and "That's How Love Hurts." Other songs on here include Kris Kristofferson's "One Day At A Time," the "Wild Side Of Life/Honky Tonk Angels" medley popularized by Waylon Jennings and Jesse Colter, as well as Marty Robbin's oft-recorded "You Gave Me A Mountain." And just in case anyone (else) is keeping track, they also play "Rocky Top."
Jon Smith "Living The Country Life" (Mulberry Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Scott)
Joyce Smith "Canadian Queen Of Country Music" (Point Records, 196-?) (LP)
Country covers and some originals from singer Joyce Smith... These tracks may have been released elsewhere first, as the Point label (a subsidiary of "The Compo Company") seems to have been a budget label from Quebec, similar to American companies such as Crown, Sutton and so forth. Anyway, this includes versions of standards such as "Big City," "Making Believe," "Once A Day" and "Release Me," as well as songs I think were originals from Canadian songwriters who are unfortunately not identified in the nonexistent liner notes... "Don't Wanna Walk," "I'll Take A Chance On Loving You," "Lonesome Used To Be," "Take The Hands Off The Clock," and "You'll Never Get A Better Chance Than This." There's also no date on the disc, but I'd guess 1966-68, based on some of the songs she covers.
Kit Smith "From A Prison To The Free World" (Turquoise Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Woods)
Straight outta Bakersfield, T. D. "Kit" Smith was an ex-convict and a big fan of Merle Haggard... Born in Alabama, raised in Texas, and incarcerated for a crime not specified in his album's liner notes, Smith settled down in California where he drove trucks and became an iron worker. He wrote most of the songs on here -- there's an old Bob Wills song, "Convict And The Rose," that kicks things off -- and they tell a story of jailhouse conversion ("I Saw The Master's Face") and reentry into civilian life, on "From A Prison To The Free World." He also pays homage to John Wayne on "The Duke Is Gone," which he wrote the day that Wayne died.
Mike Smith "Country Volunteers" (Auction Records, 1976) (LP)
This band from Ann Arbor, Michigan has roots that date back to the early '70s, when pickers Michael Smith and Kevin Lynch started jamming together at coffeehouses and bars, particularly at a place called Mr. Flood's Party, where they eventually became the house band. They first adopted the name "Country Volunteers" in 1974, and kept that name throughout the decade, while the band's membership fluctuated over the years. This was their lone album as the Country Volunteers, a nice mix of old-school hill music (Roy Acuff, The Carter Family) and Mike Smith originals with a western swing feel... Among the guest players on this album is banjoist Bill Keith, who had an instrument specially designed for him by the banjo company Smith co-owned. Towards the end of the decade, the Country Volunteers began to morph into the Cadillac Cowboys, a band that continued to perform for many years, and has released at least one album under that name. The group has an unusually detailed website that gives a very complete history of the band, as well as the local scene they were part of...
Mike Smith & The All-American Band "Hell Yes I Cheated" (Silver Fox Records, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jesse Evatte)
These South Carolina lads worked for the George Jones "Possum Holler" restaurant chain, circa 1977-78... The liner notes talk about their work "in the last few years" since then, so I'm guessing this is an early '80s album. The title track is a Glenn Sutton song, recorded by numerous artists, with additional songs by Wayne Kemp, Bobby Braddock, and some other intriguing songwriters. Dunno if any of these guys really went on to do much in the music biz, but they had a nice whirl at grabbing the brass ring on this disc...
Ronnie Smith "New York's Country Ronnie Smith" (UMC Records, 197-?) (LP)
Ronnie Smith "...Sings Pretty Country" (Transworld Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Kermit Goell)
A set of mostly original material by a singer from Herkimer, New York... Mr. Smith went to Nashville to record this set, with steel guitarist Sonny Garrish leading the sessions and Tommy Williams on fiddle (with the other players listed simply as "all the Nashville Musicians...") All but two of the songs are credited or co-credited to songwriter/archeologist Kermit Goell (1915-1997.) Not totally sure what the connection was; I would not be surprised if "Ronnie Smith" was Goell's nom-de-twang, though maybe they were just good friends. Also not sure if this was the same Ronnie Smith who worked with Tommy Allsup in the late '60s: anyone out there know more?
Sammi Smith - see artist discography
Chris Smither - see artist discography
Smoke "This Highway" (1979) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Richardson)
A rural rock band from Ottumwa, Iowa, the band Smoke left a small footprint online, though one charming reference is a wedding attended by basically the whole band, back in 1979. Percussionist Dana Ferguson and songwriter Chris Hunter got married in the fall, in a ceremony with a wedding party that included bassist Al Ault and drummer James Kerr as ushers, and keyboard player Barry Hooper playing organ at the ceremony. How adorable is that? Other than that, I couldn't find much information about the band or this record, but at least I figured out where they were from!
The Smokehouse Band "Knights In White Satin" (Captain's Cabin, Inc., 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Eustis & William Davis)
A roots-rock bar-band with a strong country streak... According to the liner notes, singers Harold Britton and John Johnson met while in the Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and started playing together as a duo just before their military stints ended. They decided to do the music thing professionally but kicked around a little bit, first setting up shop in Little Rock, Arkansas before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the Smokehouse Band really took root. In Tulsa, they met songwriter Jack Blair, who hooked them up with singer-producer Billy Eustis, and for a while Smokehouse became his backing band (though I'm not sure if Eustis performs on this album, or just set up the sessions, but he does make it sound like they were his band at the time.) As the album title implies, this isn't strictly a country set, not by a longshot... In addition to The Moody Blues, they also cover Eric Clapton ("Blues Power") and Bill Withers ("Ain't No Sunshine") though they soon slip into more folkie and more country territory, with tunes like "Cool Water," "Mr. Bojangles," "Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor," Jimmy Webb's "Where's The Playground, Susie," and John Prine's "Spanish Pipe Dream." The group recorded a second LP with Billy Eustis at the same time as this one, released with adjacent catalog numbers, though released on the Derrick Records imprint.
The Smokehouse Band "Smokehouse Band" (Captain's Cabin, Inc., 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Belknap)
This album memorializes the Smokehouse Band's long tenure at Captain's Cabin, a Tulsa night spot where they headlined for much of the 1970s and '80s. This set finds Britton and Johnson backed by pianist John Bendo, and perhaps in more of a rock or pop-oriented mode, playing three Beatles tunes, as well as dipping into blues and jazz with covers of Cannonball Adderley's "Work Song" and "Stormy Monday" by T-Bone Walker. There are also a couple of originals by John Johnson, "Ho Down Daddy" and "To Get In Touch With You." It's worth noting that there have been several bands in several states going by the Smokehouse name, perhaps most curiously a local (Tulsa) country band in the 1990s led by a guy named Bret Alan, who claims never to have heard of the older band in his own hometown. Okay, sure, Bret... if you say so. John Johnson seems to have stuck around Oklahoma, and was still doing gigs in Tulsa in the 'Nineties, while other members of the band flew to parts unknown... In addition to these three LPs, Smokehouse also seems to have issued a few singles, including some that drew on the albums.
The Smokehouse Band "Smokehouse Band" (Hi-Spot Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Belknap)
This version of the Smokehouse Band included Harold Britton on guitar, John Johnson (guitar), Frank McPeters (drums), Jerry Sheats (bass), Mike Richardson (fiddle and steel guitar), and Ron Woods on keyboards, playing some original material by Jack Blair ("It's Just The Rain" and "Whistle Sticks") and Richardson's "Song For Dick Hutchinson," as well as Harold Britton's "Fire Up My Ford," which was also released as a single. They covered some stuff by Bob Dylan and Wilson Pickett, as well as a couple of songs that showcased Mike Richardson on fiddle, a run-through of "Orange Blossom Special," and Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Richardson apparently later moved to Missouri and got some work playing at Branson or one of the many Ozark "oprys."
Smokey & Sam "Age'in Romeo" (Hillside Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Smokey & Sam Sinclair)
Sam Sinclair and Smokey Sinclair were a husband-wife duo from Suffolk, England who recorded this indie album at a studio in Ipswich, mainly as a love-letter to each other, but also in tribute to the American roots music they clearly both revered... Neither was a particularly strong singer, but their backing band was pretty good, and this album is packed with original material (and several nice cover songs) including Smokey's affectionate homage to her hubby, the adorably mis-apostrophed "Age'in Romeo," which gives a wink and a nod to the foibles of middle-aged men. She wrote several songs on here, he adds a few as well. I don't know if the Sinclairs played at pubs, or what, but this is certainly a charming memento of the British country scene, back in the days of disco. Oh, and for those of you keeping track of steel guitarists, sideman Roger Peachy adds some nice licks on this disc.
Smoky Mountain Rangers "Smoky Mountain Rangers " (ACA Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Smokey & Sam Sinclair)
The only copy of this I've seen has a plain, white back cover, so the identities of these fine young men remain obscure... Unfortunately there are also no composer credits, so although this disc seems full of original material, the authors are also unknown. Some of the tracks are cover songs, such as their version of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again," and an unusual cover of "Me And Bobby McGee," where instead of following Kristofferson's lead and using Bobby as a girl's name, they instead "fix" it and retitle the track "Me And Molly McGee." At least that's what I think is going on. No idea where these guys were from.
Smoky Mountain Special "Totally Uncalled For?" (Southsong Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Smokey & Sam Sinclair)
A swell set of acoustic twang, bridging some pretty solid traditional bluegrass with rugged, bluesy country (as on the Fred Neil-ish "Just Passing Through," one of several tunes written by lead singer Jerome Arnold, and spacier, more contemplative instrumentals that evoke John Fahey and his whole scene. The Virginia-based group included Jerome Arnold on guitar, Wiley Cox (drums, mandolin), Van Gilbert (banjo and dobro), John Guthrie (bass), Nancy Hall (piano) and Ricky Hicks on steel guitar and dobro. In addition to traditional tunes and oldies by folks like Roy Acuff and Big Bill Broonzy, there are some originals by Jerome Arnold, like "Just Passing Thru" and "Rag For Les," while steel player Ricky Hicks contributes a dreamy tune called "Wind Song," and Wiley Cox pens "Twentieth Century Cowboy" and "Heavy Duty Mama" (which was co-written with Arnold). Overall, a sweet little record!
Smooth Country "It's The Attitude" (Jetisson Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Podhurcak & Larry Prater)
A fairly informal country trio from Denver, Colorado featuring vocalists Sharon Chubb, Joe Holenbeck and Ron Metcalf -- if there are other musicians on here, they aren't listed. The repertoire is mostly cover songs, though there seems to be one original, their arrangement of "Sunshine, Blue Skies, Good Times," written by George T. Potter, along with covers of "Crazy," "Night Life," "Silver Wings," "The Rose," etc.. Not a lot of info about these folks, though. Alas.
Michael Smotherman "Michael Smotherman" (RCA-Windsong, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Milt Okun)
Chances are, this one has slipped under your radar until now... It's definitely worth tracking down, though. Originally from a tiny town called Erick, Oklahoma, straight out of high school in the early '70s pianist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Smotherman made his way out to LA, playing in the rock band Buckwheat and later landed a gig playing keyboards with the avant-rock group Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.. His more rural Sooner roots came out, though, and after meeting fellow Okie Roger Miller, Smotherman started writing more country- and roots-oriented material, and had remarkable success getting his songs placed with big-name established artists such as Glen Campbell, Ray Charles and Waylon & Willie. On this solo set, Smotherman rolls through a variety of styles, opening with an earthy roadhouse number that brings Gary Stewart or Delbert McClinton to mind... There are also hints of Dr. John, Little Feat, and various Southern Rock and Memphis soul sounds, with cameos by Campbell and Miller on a tune or two. All in all, it's pretty tasty, although within the album's wide variety, there are a few iffy tunes, though nothing that really falls flat. Smotherman recorded several more albums -- and says he was never that happy with any of them -- but increasingly he concentrated on his career as a songwriter. Right after this record came out, Glen Campbell recorded an entire album's worth of Smotherman's material (1978's Basic) and by the 1990s, Smotherman had moved to Nashville, where he penned several hits for that era's crop of stars, including tracks by Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Lila McCann, and even Kenny (Sauron) Rogers. Not bad for a kid from Oklahoma!
Pete Smythe "The Bottom Ten From The Barbed-Wire Network" (Stylist Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux & Danny Epp)
Talk show personality and bandleader Pete Smythe hosted the "Pete Smythe General Store," a long-running series of radio and TV shows in the Denver area, portrayed as cracker-barrel sessions held in the fictional general store of the equally fictional East Tincup, Colorado. Smythe was a radio performer and script writer in the 1940s, as well as leading his own jazz-oriented regional dance bands. When he started his radio show, he took on a country music persona, but regularly invited jazz and mainstream pop artists onto his show, jamming with guests such as Chet Atkins and Duke Ellington, with backing from his band of locals. The show ran from 1948-1969, and this souvenir album gives some idea of what the show was like, with numerous photos of Smythe, his band, and numerous celebrity guests.
Doak Snead "Think Of Me Sometime" (Crazy Cajun Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux & Danny Epp)
Texas native Doak Snead was a notable member of the early '70s Austin scene, and later enjoyed some modest success as a mainstream songwriter in Nashville... This was his first album recorded under his own name...
Doak Snead "Powderhorn" (Hear-Say, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Lloyd Maines & Doke Snead)
Idiosyncratic, far-flung country-folk twang with a few forays into semi-acoustic soft rock... A lot of this reads like truly eccentric oddball-local stuff -- real naif-art stuff -- although there are several songs that will resonate with fans of Texas singer-songwriter material. The best track on here is Snead's autobiographical, heartfelt "A Family Portrait," where he remembers growing up dirt poor, with one of the most vivid images being his father wearing two pairs of socks to hide the holes, but telling his kids it was because the weather was cold ("Perhaps the most honest song I ever wrote," he observes in the liner notes... Certainly it's the track that stood out the most for me.) Other songs have a distinctly Guy Clark-ian feel, such as "Tribute To Dorothy Thomas" and "The Ballad Of Dogger Lee," a weeper about his childhood pooch. Some songs ramble musically and are a little too dorky for me, but others hit home, and as he usually does, steel guitarist Lloyd Maines adds a lot of oomph to the proceedings. Not a classic album, but worth checking out if you're diving deep into obscuro Lone Star twang.
The Sneed Family "Meet The Sneed Family" (Cascade Records, 1967-?) (LP)
Not to be confused with the southern gospel group of the same name, the Sneed Family band hailed from Spanaway, Washington and was formed by patriarch Don Sneed back in 1952, originally with sons Danny, Donnie and Les, who each became successful musicians in their own right. The group toured regionally throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as into Canada, California, and apparently even a stint in Las Vegas. This album features Donnie and Les Sneed on lead vocals, as well as their sister Suzie, who sings "Don't Kid Me" and "The End Of The Week." There are also a couple of non-family members, Marvin Cave, who sings on two tracks, and Bill Goodman, who is spotlighted on an instrumental version of "Danny Boy." This disc is packed with original material, including songs credited to Marvin Cave and Danny Sneed, as well as three by Lonnie Coleman and a couple by Dale Noe. Over the years, the Sneed Family also cut numerous singles for the Cascade custom label, including a few "solo" discs by Donnie Sneed, Les Sneed and Suzie Sneed. The siblings eventually branched out on their own: Danny Sneed was a well-regarded steel player; Donnie Sneed headed for Branson, and Les Sneed was the most successful of them all, working for Top Forty country stars such as Tommy Cash, Donna Fargo and Barbara Mandrell. There was a second edition of the family band that came together and cut a few singles in the early '80s calling themselves The Sneed Brothers. The family's connections to fellow Pacific Northwesterner Lonnie Coleman is notable: in addition to the songs on this album, they recorded several other Coleman tunes on their singles.
Roy Sneed "...And The Western Gentlemen" (Custom Fidelity, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Evans & Clark de Coux)
This live album was recorded at the San Luis Obispo Men's Colony, on the central California coast, probably sometime around 1970-71... Born in Decatur, Tennessee, Roy Sneed (1924-2005) was a Louisiana Hayride regular who also played bass with Bill Carlisle in the early 1950s. The Western Gentlemen band included a jazz player on trumpet and vibes as well as more traditional country instrumentation... The more current songs in their repertoire included "Silver Wings," "Is Anybody Going To San Antone" and "Okie From Muskogee," along with Hank Williams oldies, stuff by Hank Williams, and a couple of gospel oldies that bookend the album. There are two songs credited to Mr. Sneed, an instrumental called "Rob Roy" and the song "I'll Be So Blue Tomorrow." The performances are a little schmaltzy at times, but overall it's a solid, professional set... The engineering is okay - the crowd noise sounds fairly muted, although the captive audience seemed appreciative and was probably glad for the break.
Curly Snow & The Snowmen "Our Kinda Country" (High Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Hunter)
Southwestern pedal steel player Curly Snow led his band, the Snowmen for several decades, at least as far back as the late 1960s, when he was playing gigs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had a long stint as the house band for the Sandia Inn in the mid-'70s. I'm not sure but I think this album -- which looks to be of early '80s or late '70s vintage -- might have been his only record. Anyway, it's a nice set, ranging from Ray Price-style countrypolitan to more vigorous honkytonk, with Snow swapping licks with fiddler Red Herron, while his son, Mike Snow keeps the tempo going on drums. It's all cover tunes, but sweetly played and with great confidence.
Rick Snow "Beaten, Robbed And Raped In LA" (Snow Tracks, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Snow & Dave Jones)
Despite the provocative album title, this is not quite the hard-hitting outlaw lovefest you might imagine... Although there is a clear country influence, the album turns out to be more of a wacky-folkie-eclectic outing, with sometimes-lavish arrangements and words that tear and strain to rhyme. I'm reminded of folk satirist Dave Gordon, who also leveraged dubious vocals with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, though Mr. Snow seems to have been a less-focussed writer with more grandiose goals. On many songs there's a see-what-sticks vibe and it's a little hard to see what he's getting at lyrically, although the production values, with vocal choruses and grand arrangements, bespeak of a large budget for such an indie album. Also, on closer examination Snow's super-hippie look is somewhat undercut by the well-groomed, glossy appearance of his beard... But hey, man, it was the late '70s, and longhairs had gone salon-posh a while back. Snow's country and bluegrass references can seem a bit too facetious, even though the musicianship is real... I'm not sure if I'd actually recommend this album, but it does have some interesting material, even though much of it falls flat. I wasn't able to track down much info on this guy online, but comments are always welcome.
Snuff "Snuff" (Elektra Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Gernhard & Ron Saint Germain)
Originally formed as a trio in the early '70s, Snuff expanded and evolved into a successful late '70s bar-band from Virginia Beach, Virginia that scored a major-label contract. Their deal resulted in two albums, both recorded locally in Richmond, VA. This debut set is basically glossy pop-twang/soft southern rock that might be considered sort of proto-red dirt music, despite the slick early '80s production. There are definite country-rock touches as well, including a nod towards Little Feat called "Willin' (A Tribute To Lowell George)" and a perky twang tune called "The Boys From Oklahoma." There's also a nice version of Steve Gillette's "Happy Hour," which was the band's lone entry into the country charts, pegging out at #71, before the band pivoted to more of a rock-oriented direction. Around the time this album came out, Snuff performed frequently at local clubs such as Country Comfort and The Tobacco Company.
Snuff "Night Fighter" (Elektra Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Gernhard & Ron Saint Germain)
They shifted focus a little here, aiming more directly at the pop-rock market... They met with about the same level of success: the single, "Bad, Bad Billy" peaked at #88 in the pop charts, and that was about it for Snuff as a national act. The band has stayed together/reformed/etc. through the decades, though, and remains a local fave.
Harry Snyder & The Uptowners "Present Your Requests" (MRC/Major Recording Company, 1969-?) (LP)
(Produced by Carlton Haney & Tom Hall)
A lifelong resident of Augusta County, Virginia, country singer Harry Snyder (1933-2009) is perhaps best known for his long association with The Statler Brothers, who started their career singing in Waynesboro and in Staunton, the county seat. Around 1962-63, Snyder recorded several singles backed by "The Buttermilk Drinkers," which was an early alias of the group before they hit upon the Statler Brothers name; the connection continued throughout the decade, as heard on this album which features five songs written or co-written by Lew DeWitt, including "Boulevard Of Blues," which was composed along with Snyder. Several tracks on this album were previously released on a a string of singles on the Haney label, including Synder's most infamous song, "The Needle," a Porter Wagoner-ish gothic novelty number about drug abuse, which has shown up on a compilation album or two over the years. The album captures a wide range of styles prevalent at the time, from syrupy Nashville Sound vocals reminiscent of crooners like Jim Ed Brown uptempo, to uptempo twang ala Buck Owens and his Bakersfield cohorts. Synder recorded an earlier album on MRC, though officially that disc was billed as an Uptowners album... That edition of the band featured Snyder on rhythm guitar with Lew Dewitt playing lead, Carroll Durham (piano), Jim Fadley (steel), Calvin Gouchenour (electric guitar), John Quillon (bass) and Mike Seay on drums -- presumably at least some of those guys are on this album as well.
The Solid Gold Band "Meet The Solid Gold Band" (NSD Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Rowland, John Green & Ray Edwards)
A hard-working mainstream country band from Galena, Kansas, a little postage-stamp town in the southeast end of the state, just across the border from Joplin, Missouri. Indeed, these fellas worked a nightclub in Joplin called the Gold Dust Lounge -- according to the liner notes, they weren't just the house band, they actually owned the place! The SGB was formed in 1974 by lead singers John Green and Jim Rowland (the guys who bought the bar) and played steadily throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. They had a working relationship with Tom T. Hall and his band the Storytellers, who helped them in the studio for this album, while Tom T. himself contributed to the liner notes, and seems to have promoted them in Nashville. The disc is impressively packed with original material, most of it penned by Jim Rowland, and got a big writeup in Billboard when it came out. The band included Alan Abbott (drums), Mike Bartlett (guitar), John Green (bass) Tyler Ogle (keyboards) and Jim Rowland on rhythm guitar... I'm not sure what became of these guys -- from their vantage point in Joplin, they were well situated to break into the Branson scene, but that's just speculation on my part. (By the way, I can't resist going into the history of their bar, which seems to have changed hands many times over the years... According to a 2011 news story in The Joplin Globe the bar opened in the late 1940s as the Freeway Cafe, and over the years was known as Dan's Branding Iron, the Wells Fargo, the Stampede, the Gold Dust Lounge, the Paint Stallion, the Horse Shoe Saloon and was slated to reopen as the Crazy Town Rockin' Saloon at press time in 2011, soon to be renamed the Blue Rose. Phew! Personally I like the Blue Rose best of all, but Lord knows what's there now. Probably a Starbucks.) Solid Gold Band also put out several singles, only one of which features material from this album. I'm not sure, but it sounds like they tried their luck in Nashville, at least for a while.
Diane Solomon "Live On Tour: Recorded At The 1981 Glen Campbell Tour" (Bulldog Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Howard Kruger, Chris Blake & David Chapman)
An American country singer who emigrated to the UK in the early 1970s, Diane Solomon became a popular folk and country singer, even landing her own TV show on the BBC. She recorded several albums, including this live set made when she joined Glen Campbell as part of his UK road show. This album was recorded on May 8, 1981 at the Cornwall Coliseum, with a compact backing band that provides non-nonsense backing for Solomon's songbird-pretty, but rather bland vocals, which are very much in the Anne Murray/Karen Carpenter Top Forty soft-pop tradition. The arrangements are underpinned by gentle, soothing keyboard fills, buoyed by some decent pedal steel, courtesy of Maurice Hipkiss, as well as a solid rhythm section, which keeps things moving along. Solomon was okay for the style, although you can see why she left the States to forge a career abroad: even for a transitional pop-culture era like 1981, this has a slightly fly-trapped-in-amber feel to it -- this kind of music was about three or four years out of date, which contributes to the record's lackluster feel. Still, fans of gooey post-countrypolitan pop may really enjoy this disc (as well as any of Solomon's other records) although outlaws and twangfans need not apply.
Sonoma Drifters "Sonoma Gold" (D & M Records, 1980) (LP)
An eclectic, outlaw-ish twang band from Northern California, the Sonoma Drifters were largely a family-based band, including the following members of the McNutt family: Al McNutt on lead guitar, Denise McNutt (vocals), Dennis McNutt (drums) and Jerry McNutt on bass, along with Larry Dunaway on rhythm guitar, Jerry Hurst playing piano, and Leroy Jones on steel. Their range of musical styles was admirable, from country ballads and oldies such as "Six Days On The Road" to more contemporary hits such as Bonnie Tyler's "It's A Heartache." It must be said, however, that they were also a pretty uneven band... The vocals were divided pretty democratically, so Jerry McNutt sings several tunes which provide mildly cringeworthy moments, while Larry Dunaway has a nice Red Steagall-ish vibe. The only truly terrible track is their ill-conceived rock'n'roll raveup rendition of "Summertime," although their NorCal novelty number, "Proud To Be An Okie From Sonoma," kinda makes up for it. An instrumental tune, "Jessie Polka," is a great showcase for steel player Leroy Jones, who had a light sound, and some wicked licks. Rough around the edges, but good local twang.
The Sons Of The Purple Sage -- see artist profile
Chic Sorenson "Sings His Own Songs" (Blue Seagull Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Ralph Grasso)
I couldn't find a lot of info about this guy, but here's what I got... Originally from Idaho, Sorenson apparently had a song included on Johnny Western's 1962 Have Gun Will Travel album, and wrote the music for the 1974 trash-exploitation film, Pets, which featured vocals by former beauty queen Terri Rinaldi. (Ms. Rinaldi, who was Miss Alabama, 1960 also sings a duet with Sorenson on this album, "Strangers On A Crowded Street"; she previously made an record of her own, with a bunch of his music on it...) Anyhoo, this album starts off strong, with a folk-country twang and stark production style that frames his songs well, in sort of a John D. Loudermilk/Burl Ives/Lorne Greene kinda way... But the material grows weaker and weaker as the record progresses, and Sorenson's singer-songwriter philosophizing wears thin and comes close to self-parody. Side Two closes with "Guide Me, Lord" (not the same song Merle Haggard recorded, but a similar sentiment) and I suppose Sorenson could have had a career in 700 Club-style Southern Gospel, but he seems to have faded from sight after this came out. Sorenson's Blue Seagull label also put out at least a couple of other LPs, one by country second-stringer Rusty Draper and another by SoCal songwriting hopeful Ann Owens, who seems to have been one of his proteges... Anyway, fans of cowboy(ish) folk-pop poetics might dig this disc, although there are better albums in the genre...
The Sorry Muthas "Greatest Hits, Vol.3" (Wampus Cat Records, 2007)
Old-timey, jug-band-y, acoustic blues and a little bit of swing from a retrodelic Minneapolis band that wowed the Twin Cities back in the late '60s and (very) early '70s... Alumni include steel player Cal Hand, blues picker John Kolstad, and the folk duo Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson, who were involved in the very earliest incarnation of the Prairie Home Companion show. This isn't as "country" as a lot of the other stuff here, but it sure was hippie-counterculture and DIY...!
Sour Mash "Drinks And Goes Home" (IGL Records, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Peterson)
The first album by this swinging, eclectic band from Omaha, Nebraska. Lots of cover songs, such as "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," Paul Siebel's "Louise" and some honkytonk oldies, as well as a few originals, including Jim Pipher's "Last Call Lover," and Randy Barger's "New Man Underground" and "Canadian Hotels." Apparently the group sent a lot of time on the road, but struggled to break out of the regional market -- a pity, since they were pretty darn good. They stuck together through the early 1980s, though I believe they only recorded these two LPs.
Sour Mash "Sour Mash" (Candy Apple Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by James A. Ludwig)
An amiable country-rock/swing revival band from Omaha, Nebraska, Sour Mash more or less split their repertoire between Asleep At The Wheel-style swing-standards covers -- of songs like "Mack The Knife," "Chatanooga Choo-Choo," and "Barnyard Boogie" -- and tunes from the Emmylou Harris/Gram Parsons canon, such as "Love Hurts," "That's All It Took" and "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose." Yeah, they're derivative: singer Pam Harms had a major Emmylou jones, and the debt to the Wheel is equally clear... But they're charming nonetheless, a nice, unpretentious local band who got the chance to make a couple of records... and did pretty well!
South Bound Express "Storms Never Last" (Northern Star Recordings, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Danny DaVincent & Mike McCafferty)
An outlaw-ish band from Traverse City, Michigan... These guys cover stuff by Waylon, Willie, Merle, Doug Kershaw, a version of the Amazing Rhythm Aces' "The End Is Not In Sight," Leon McAuliffe's "Steel Guitar Rag," and even one by Gary Stewart... all fine touchstones, if you ask me!
Joe South "Classic Masters" (Capitol Records, 2002)
A handy 12-song summation of the hippie-era recording career of songwriter Joe South, a twangy, soul-drenched pop genius from Atlanta, Georgia who wrote a remarkable string of radio hits, ranging from Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," one of the defining moments in the 'Seventies countrypolitan scene, to the thunderous hard rock anthem, "Hush," which put the band Deep Purple on the map. South's own versions of these songs are markedly different than the hits -- his "Rose Garden" is cluttered and compact, while his "Hush" is wildly funky and fun. Also included here are "Games People Play," a top Pop hit for South himself in 1969, as well as "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," which was one of his few actual country entries, and several lesser well-known gems from his back catalog. It's more rock than country, but still funky and down home, and worth checking out to see how these great songs found their genesis.
South Loomis Quickstep "South Loomis Quickstep" (Grass Mountain Records, 1979) (LP)
An amiable set of progressive bluegrass from Northern California... These folks played around Sacramento and the SF Bay Area since the mid-1970s, and when the time came to record their first album, fiddlers Mark O'Connor and Tiny Moore added instrumental heft to their sound, along with banjoist Allan Hendricks, who was pretty zippy himself. They packed their debut album with a bunch of fun cover tunes: Peter Rowan's "Midnight Moonlight," Michael Martin Murphey's "What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round," a 'grassed-up rendition of "Friend Of The Devil" and a nice, scrappy version of "I'll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle." They (goofily) try to clean up the grammar on Gram Parson's "Sin City," and also ambitiously tackle one of David Grisman's spacegrass jazz tunes, "Opus 57." The band had obvious limitations -- the vocals don't quite come together, and O'Connor was playing on another level than most of the other pickers, but if you're willing to accept a level of amateurism, they were a pretty accomplished band with a strong repertoire that reflected some of the best music of the era.
South Loomis Quickstep "Satin Rose" (Copperwood Records, 1980) (LP)
Where their first album was full of cover tunes, their second album showcased original material written by various bandmembers. Unfortunately it's an uneasy -- some might say unsuccessful -- mix of bluegrass and progressive country-folk, mostly in the Byrds/Dillards range, but with a few dips into softer country-folk material ala John Denver. I guess the hope was for some sort of Desert Rose Band type vibe, but it doesn't really come together, and often feels a bit dreary. The musicianship was solid, even though Anger, O'Connor and Moore had moved on -- the delicate pedal steel by Bill Edwards stands out, though Allen Hendricks' banjo work and Ted Smith's mandolin both get buried in the mix. I guess this is worth a spin, though none of the songs really stood out or stuck with me.
South Plains College "The Golden Years Of Country Music" (1979) (LP)
(Produced by Lloyd Maines, Don Caldwell & Tim McCasland)
A bunch of Lone Star locals host a tour through the history of country music, from western cowboy tunes and the Carter Family to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and a little bit of the early Nashville Sound. This band actually was from the South Plains College, located in Levelland, Texas, near Lubbock, and was the performing group for the school's music department, which boasted a strong country music curriculum, teaching country, bluegrass and western swing. (With Ernest Tubb's cousin, Nathan Tubb, as the school's academic dean!) This LP was an outgrowth of the a traveling show that displayed a variety of styles; the college also sponsored a monthly revue called the Sandyland Opry. Recorded in Lubbock, this is one of many indie albums produced by Lloyd Maines, though he doesn't play pedal steel on this one -- that honor is left to multi-instrumentalist Tim McCasland. Other musicians include singers Joe Alger, Lonnie Joe Howell, Natalie Berryhill, Randy Ellis and others. It's all very down-home and relaxed... a real-deal set of old-school twang, from the dusty Texas plains.
Southards & Thomson "Amber Brook" (Ozark Records, 1978) (LP)
A bluegrass collaboration between Missouri banjo picker Don Thomson and singer/mandolin whiz Wayne Southards, who went on to work with a slew of bluegrass and country artists outside the state. They're backed by locals Stan Friend (on bass and steel guitar) along with dobroist Ferrell Stowe, while former Dillards bandmate Mitch Jayne contributes the liner notes, and may have produced the sessions. This was apparently sold through Don Thomson's music shop in Rolla, Missouri, right in the heart of the Ozarks.
Southbound "A Little Bit Of..." (Music City Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by David A. Praet & Mildred S. Hammonds)
Frank Hardy, Andy Pollard and the wonderfully-named Lobo Loggins were the three youthful lead singers for this twang band out of Anniston, Alabama, with pedal steel added by a guy named Travis McCurley, who looks like he might have been a few years their elder. They cover some country stuff -- songs by David Allan Coe, Larry Gatlin and others -- but also play some of their own songs. Included are Hardy's "Broken Man," "Lovin' You A Little," by Loggins, and "Simple Man," by Pollard, as well as a few other songs that look like originals, but aren't credited to anyone in the band. They look like such nice young men!
Souther-Hillman-Furay Band "The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band" (A&M Records, 1974)
(Produced by Bill Cooper & Richard Podolor)
One of those 'Seventies albums you used to see in the used bins all the time, but probably never bothered to check out... This all-star country-rock ensemble featured guitarist Richie Furay (from Buffalo Springfield and Poco), an un-Byrds-ed Chris Hillman, steel player Al Perkins, and LA songwriter John David Souther, compatriot of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. Given their mellow-rock pedigrees, the blaring, desperate-for-a-hit opening number, "Fallin' In Love," might be a little jarring, but right away the sound softens and gets more acoustic. This is okay and definitely has its moments, but at its core, it's kind of what you'd expect -- super-professional, super-slick, treble-heavy and maybe a little lacking in heart. The cynical among us might tut-tut at songs like "Pretty Goodbyes" and "The Heartbreaker" and say, oh man they're just ripping off the Eagles! but of course that's because JD Souther helped sculpt that sound in the first place. These guys were all pioneers and progenitors of the LA soft-rock/country-rock sound, so if you dig that 'Seventies vibe, you'll probably find plenty to enjoy here. But it's equally easy to view this group as a cautionary tale, or how even the most talented musicians could be held captive to the antiseptic studio system their successes helped create. There's a predictable blandness and tedium in more than a few of these tunes.
Souther-Hillman-Furay Band "Trouble In Paradise" (A&M Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Dowd)
More of the same. The label even tried sub-branding these guys as the "SHF Band," but that wasn't really gonna help... Keyboard player Paul Harris and steel guru Al Perkins were still on board though several of the other LA scene hired guns had moved on to other equally soulless projects. I dunno, I try not to be reflexively cynical about most things in life, but it's hard not to see records like this as mere "product," just like the labels did at the time. For more about JD Souther -- who I actually like -- see below.
J. D. Souther -- see artist profile
Southern Crescent Band "Train Time" (USA Records, 1985)
Founded in 1980, this band from Greenville, South Carolina made a go of it in the 'Eighties, releasing two albums and touring regionally before deciding to scale back and become a band-for-hire, rather than trying to make it big on the stadium scene. Their albums are more country and Southern rock-oriented, though later they became more aligned with the "beach music" mellow rock sound of the area.
Southern Crescent Band "Peaches" (1987)
Southern Crescent "Halfway Home" (Major Recordings, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by John Major)
This bluegrass band from Staunton, Virginia is actually different from the South Carolina band above... This group included Howard Anderson on banjo, Kay Buchanan (autoharp), Hon Houser (bass), Dave Law (rhythm guitar), Marc Taylor (lead guitar) and Clyde Wills on fiddle and mandolin, with various members singing either lead or harmony vocals.
Southern Crescent "Georgia On A Fast Train" (API-Attiram Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by John Major)
But wait! There was a third band using the Southern Crescent name in the early '80s, this one also playing bluegrass, but with a lineup that included Ned Bridges, Phyllis Bridges, Joel Cordle, Jay Richardson, and Steve Welsch. Apparently they were from Georgia? It almost seems like these bands should all get together for a "reunion" show or a family picnic sometime...
The Southern Eagle String Band "Old Timey Revival" (Folk Variety Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Weize & Juergen Feuss)
This band was, in fact, a UK duo -- Chris Comber and Mike Paris -- working through a set of old-timey tunes, many of American vintage. Not sure about Mr. Paris, but Comber lived in Bexleyheath, Kent, and while most of the record is just them as a duo, cowgirl legend Patsy Montana sings on one track, "Whisper Your Mother's Name." (Quite a coup!) The whole project was under the auspices of Richard Weize, who went on the found the ever-astounding Bear Family label a few years later in 1975, keeping the Folk Variety imprint handy for much of the '70s for newly-commissioned, folkier material.
Southern Empire Band "Tex's Jubilee Presents -- Live: Perry Jones Southern Empire Band" (1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Perry Jones)
Mostly recorded at the Heavenly Recording Studios, but also includes a track recorded live on Sacramento country station, KRAK. With gal singer Svella Jones singing lead on three of the songs.
Southern Empire Band "The Right Combination: SEB III" (Axbar Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Perry Jones)
Hailing from the town of Rio Linda, California (near Sacramento) this West Coast band had clear commercial aspirations and somehow hooked up with the same Texas indie label that later launched the career of Top 40 star Mark Chesnutt... The same magic wasn't happening in '85, though, possibly because these guys were just a little too amateur and not-ready-for-prime-time, although considering what Country radio sounded like at the time, they can be forgiven for the tinkly keyboards and tinny guitars. The song title that drew me to this album, "Vote For Willie," turns out to be exactly what I wanted, a novelty tune about Willie Nelson, and it's also the highlight of the album, a cheerful ditty proclaiming Willie as the nation's potential political savior. I guess he would have legalized weed, at least, although the lyrics don't mention that...
Southern Fried "A Little Taste Of... (Mercury Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Todd & Hal Winn)
More of a blues-rock/white soul kinda thing, but notable for twangfans since it kicks off with a cover of a Buck Owens oldie, "Under Your Spell Again," and also for the cover of Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises," from over in the folk field. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that the Bob Ferguson playing guitar on here is a the same longtime Nashville songwriter, sideman and producer who wrote "Wings Of A Dove," and other classics. Apparently this was recorded out in LA, though.
Southern Fried "Fiddlin' Man" (Fox Productions, 1980-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Wicks, Jon Sherman & Jim Rhodes)
An ambitious set of all-original southern rock, outlaw-tinged country-rock and neo-western swing, ala Asleep At The Wheel. Not to be confused with the fellas above, this band out of Joplin, Missouri was a fine example of how really talented local bands could make their music, yet go unnoticed as the music industry grinds along. Sure, there are a few rough edges and goofy bits, but overall this is a pretty impressive set for such an uber-indie band. Almost all the bandmembers contribute songs, including bassist Steve Duncan, guitar picker Gary Hutchison, pianist Rick Banfield and fiddler Rod Williams. The only cover song is a kooky southern rock/reggae arrangement of the old folk ballad, "Black Jack Davy..." Otherwise this is all original material, and some of it's quite good. Southern rock fans, in particular, might wanna track this down, though twangfans should like it, too.
Hal Southern - see artist discography
Southern Image Band "Down The Road" (1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sonny Deaton)
Easygoing, unpretentious country-pop from a Lafayette, Tennessee band that started in 1979 and kept together for several decades after releasing this LP in the early '80s. Brothers Keith and Paul Ballou are the lead singers and while at first they may seem a little underwhelming, they grow on you after a while, particularly when singing covers songs such as JJ Cale's "Tulsa Time," Merle Haggard's "Swinging Doors" and even John Denver's "Back Home Again." There's a sincere, laid-back, no muss-no fuss feel about this album that's kind of nice... They also cover a few of Alabama's early hits -- "Tennessee River," "Love In The First Degree" -- that underscore the band's devotion to group-vocal harmony, but again, it's so low-key and relaxed you can't help but get drawn in. The Ballous and various cohorts kept this group going well into the Facebook era, and you can kinda see why the hometown folks would want to come see 'em play. Definitely worth a spin!
The Southern Lawmen "In Concert" (The Sounding Board, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Otis Forrest & The Southern Lawmen)
These guys were a North Carolina bluegrass band who also recorded under the name The Norfolk Southern Lawmen. They included Bobby Boggs on steel guitar, Otis Forrest (piano), Alan Kerr (drums), Karl Lesta (bass), Don Perkins (mandolin), Charlie Ray (guitar), Joe Wilson (12-string guitar), and Larry Wilson playing banjo and guitar. Pianist/producer Otis Forrest produced a number of regional country and southern gospel artists; he plays on this album but apparently not on their later LP, Ride The Train.
The Southern Tradition Band "Makin' It To The Top" (STB Records, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Ira White)
A good ole' band from Smithfield, Virginia, featuring lead singer Clay Griffin (rhythm guitar), Ronnie Pier (lead guitar), Pete Milby (bass), Sparky Jones (piano and fiddle), Lance Baker (drums), and Joe Barlow (pedal steel). Griffin wrote or co-wrote almost all these songs; some are co-credited to other guys in the band, and Sparky Jones penned one called "I Ain't Lyin." They also cover a Bob McDill song, "I May Be Used (But I Ain't Used Up)" and "Down South Jukin'," a Lynyrd Skynyrd oldie that shows their affinity for southern rock and boogie. Later, in the 1990s, Clay Griffin formed a duo with his wife Nancy, and played locally around Smithfield for many years to come.
Southwind "Southwind" (Venture Records, 1969) (LP)
This was the first album by the LA country-rock group Southwind, who were originally from Oklahoma and are largely remembered as the first band of songwriter John ("Moon") Martin, who later reemerged as a neo-retro rocker in the New Wave era... Here is is in earlier days, making the hippie scene down in SoCal... At the time, though, he wasn't the band's main songwriter, with keyboardist Fontaine Brown and bass player Jim Pulte doing most of the writing. Fontaine Brown was the most accomplished member of the band, having worked with rock'n'roller Del Shannon for several years, as well as some early stuff with Bob Seger in the late '60s; he later hooked up with Dave Edmunds, and had some success as a songwriter in Nashville. (Pulte, it should be noted, also recorded a couple of solo albums after Southwind broke up, and did a little session work, though he mostly seems to have faded from the scene...)
Southwind "Ready To Ride" (Blue Thumb Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Li Puma)
This is probably Southwind's best-known (and best-selling) album... Although they could legitimately lay claim to a small chunk of country-rock history, there's a lot more post-jug band boogie-rock running through this album, with acid-drenched electrified hippie rock ala the Grateful Dead or Big Brother & The Holding Company being the predominant influence. If you're into authentic hippie rock and are eager to find more, this disc is worth checking out. But other than a cover of Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'," and the album's closer, bassist Jim Pulte's "Ruby Eileen," there isn't really all that much twang.
Southwind "What A Place To Land" (Blue Thumb Records, 1972) (LP)
Southwind "Southwind" (Cammeron Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Huliba)
Not to be confused with the Southern California country-rock jam band or the bluegrassers from Virginia, this was one of several groups to use this name "Southwind." In this case it was a bluegrass band from Fort Wayne, Indiana featuring Kenny DeMarcus (guitar), Jim Corell (mandolin), Kent McLeroth (banjo), Len Prescott (bass) and Vic Rigsby (fiddle). Rigsby composed an original tune, "Kentucky Fried Fiddle," though mostly this was an album of cover songs, drawing on bluegrass standards and gospel songs, honky-tonk country tunes like "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" and even a version of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider."
Southwind "You've Heard It All Before" (Southwind Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Horner & Southwind)
And here's yet another bluegrass band named Southwind, this one based in Richmond, Virginia and active mainly in the late 1970s and early '80s. Bandmembers included Jim Hatch, Larry Heath, Bob Lewis, Frank Pope and Bob Oeriel, with a repertoire that was a mix of traditional bluegrass standards and country- and folk-based material such as Willie Nelson's "Good Hearted Woman," the Bob Wills oldie, "Faded Love" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Redwood Hill." Anyone have more info about these folks?
Randy Sparks & Micki Sparks "We Sound So Good Together (Cottonwood Productions, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Pricilla Horn & Eddie Mattos)
Super-scary looking lounge music from San Bernardino, California... There are some country songs on here -- covers of Hoyt Axton's "Bony Fingers," "Crazy," "The Other Woman" -- and some tracks that may be original material (no credits, alas) but oh, man, does this look scary. I'm pretty sure this is not the same Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels and the Back Porch Majority, but don't quote me on that...
Speakeasy "Showcase" (A. P. Inc., 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Claude Donica, John Nickel & Jack Moore)
Although this album came out on a Cincinnati, Ohio label, the band was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, working as the house band at the Speakeasy nightclub. The quartet included lead singer Eddie Bishop, guitarist Gary Benningfield, singer Barbara Axley and banjo plunker Bobby Anderson, who played a bluegrassy mix of country, pop and bluegrass tunes. They cover several Beatles songs, do a twangy tuneup of "Proud Mary," along with "Stand By Your Man," "Games People Play" and Terry Fell's "Truck Drivin' Man." There were also a couple of originals: "Shake That Dust Off My Feet" by Gary Benningfield and "Crosses Made Of Wood" by Eddie Bishop, which Bishop also released as a solo single. The group also released another album as a trio in the late '60s, but that was more distinctly a folk-scene thing (although they were also covering the Beatles, with a version of "Rocky Raccoon...")
Red Speeks & Harvey Reynolds "Nashville Sounds Of Country" (Red Hed Records, 1972) (LP)
A fun, true-twang outing by Verlin ("Red") Speeks, an old-fashioned picker and singer from Knoxville, Tennessee who booked time in Nashville with a studio crew that included Joe Edwards on lead guitar, D.J. Fontana on drums, Junior Huskey (bass), Tommy Jackson and Buddy Spicher (fiddles), Hargus Robbins (piano), Curtis Young (guitar), and Speeks' pal Harvey Reynolds on steel guitar. Speeks and Reynolds stood for an older era of country music, mentioning Elton Britt in a patriotic anthem, while covering George Morgan, Buck Owens, and even Carl Smith's classic, "Loose Talk." There are a couple of originals on here composed by Speeks, "Mountain Man" (which he released as a single) and "The Red White And Blue," a gloriously over-the-top patriotic recitation in which the protagonist sees some wayward, hippie-era youth out burning their draft cards and toppling statues (as kids are wont to do) and stops to remind them of all the great stuff the WWII-era veterans had done to preserve our rights here on the homefront. (Apparently he sent a copy of the song to the White House, and reproduces a thank-you letter from Richard Nixon...) Anyway, this is a fun set! Red Speeks had an imperfect singing voice, but it fit nicely with the pre-Nashville Sound styles that he was tapping into... Definitely worth a spin if you can track this one down.
Don Speer And The Hudson Profit Expedition "This Is The Big One" (Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
No date or much other info on this eclectic set, which is packed with cover tunes ranging from bluegrasser oldies like "Uncle Pen" and straight-up country, like "Six Days On The Road" to funkier stuff, and more rock-oriented tunes, notably an eight-minute jam on Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie," as well as a couple of Neil Diamond songs. Don Speer may have been related to legendary Southern Gospel singer Brock Speer, patriarch of the Speer Family band, who is also known for singing backup vocals on some of Elvis Presley's earliest recordings. (Although I think an old 1973 notice in Billboard identifying him as Brock Speer's son was inaccurate.) Apparently, during the early 1970s Don was the manager of Larry Benson's independent regional Benson Sound Studio in Oklahoma City, although by the time this record was made, he was living in the Pacific Northwest and was pretty longhaired and hippie looking... I couldn't find much info about the other guys in this band -- lead guitar Dale Wilson, bassist Phil Cavin or drummer Rick Belyea -- and I don't think any of them stuck with music as a full-time gig. If anyone has more info about this band or this album, I'm all ears.
Spellbound "Spellbound" (EMI America, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Halverson)
A fairly clunky accommodation of breezy 'Seventies country-rock (ala America or the Eagles) and the nascent post-countrypolitan sounds of late '70s Nashville. The group was led by songwriter Barry Flast (1950-2013) who was best known as a keyboard player who carved a niche in the Grateful Dead-era SF rock scene, playing with musicians such as Poco, Country Joe McDonald, Jefferson Starship, and a multi-year stint with the band Kingfish. Several of his songs were recorded by variosu dino-rockers, including Janis Joplin, Peter Paul & Mary, and Bob Weir. The members of Spellbound included Bill Burgess on lead guitar, Ralph Carter (bass), Barry Flast (lead vocals, guitar and piano), David Lenchner (keyboards), and James Preston on drums. There seems to have been a pretty concerted effort to get these guys to break through, with this album gettin released in several different countries, but as far as I can tell they didn't chart anywhere, although the overall approach seems to have anticipated the later success of Chris Hillman's country group, the Desert Rose Band.
Dick Spencer & The Daydreamer Band "Salute The Eagles" (Hawkeye Productions, 1984) (LP)
Nope, not that Eagles: this album is dedicated to the Fraternal Order Of Eagles (FOE) branch in Des Moines, Iowa, where this amateur band hung their hats. A lot of country covers, including lots of oldies such as "Born To Lose," "Blue Kentucky Girl," "Crazy Arms" and "Talk Back Trembling Lips."
Sunny Spencer "Mama Don't Allow" (Ripcord Records, 1977) (LP)
A veteran of Roy Rogers backing band, The Sons Of The Pioneers, multi-instrumentalist Robert "Sunny" Spencer (1929-2005) was a decades-long show business veteran by the time he recorded this solo set... Born in Bowen, Kentucky, Spencer pursued a career that took him across the country. He led his own band for a number of years, and later performed at the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum in Branson; Spencer also had long stints in Vegas and played dixieland jazz with Al Hirt and in the Gene Austin orchestra, along with his then-wife Dee Spencer (1925-2000) who later became a well-known Las Vegas publicist. Sunny Spencer is probably best remembered as a decades-long member of the fabled western band, The Sons Of The Pioneers, from 1984 until his death in Tucson, Arizona, while the group was on tour. His son-in-law, Gary LeMaster was also in the band for most of this period. I'm not sure what the story was behind this record, which came out on a regional label from the Pacific Northwest... was he living up there for a while? Anyway, on this disc he turns to some real hillbilly/western oldies, stuff like "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," along with a slew of western swing tunes. It kicks off with "Mama Don't 'Low," which was the big showstopper in his live act, with Spencer switching between the nearly two-dozen musical instruments he played. Nice stuff!
Sunny Spencer "...Sings The Songs Of Tommy Dilbeck" (Maywood Music, 1983)
A tribute to songwriter Tommy Dilbeck, who is probablybest remembered for penning the classic country ballad, "I'll Hold You In My heart," which was one of Eddy Arnold's first big hits. Apparently around 1950 Dilbeck grew unhappy with his stint in show business and went into real estate after getting into a legal dispute with the folks a the Hill & Range publishing company, though he went back into songwriting and was copywriting new material at least as late as the mid-1970s. I'm not sure, but this may have been a cassette-only release.
Spirit In Flesh "II" (Confederate Publishing, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by James Skiathitis)
This was the second album by Spirit In Flesh, the "house band" for the Renaissance Community, an aquarian cult/hippie commune based in Turners Falls, Massachusetts that was founded by the band's lead singer, Michael Metelica. Their eponymous first album from 1971 was frenetic, shrill and unlistenable, filled with blaring electric guitars and manic, shrieky vocals -- a blaring rock'n'roll trainwreck which perhaps anticipated some sort of punk energy, but was really, truly horrible. By 1979, Metelica was going by the name Michael Rapunzel, and had opened the band up to a rootsier sound, bringing in fiddle and steel guitar, as well as some banjo picking by Georgia-born picker Tabby Crabb, who also played in Mickey Gilley's "Urban Cowboy" band and later recorded a few singles as a solo artist. Almost half the tracks on here were recycled from the band's first record, apparently putting forth the commune's spiritual philosophy, including a new version of the song "Fine Line," which had a vaguely twangy, Mekons-ish feel in its original incarnation. As far as I know, this was the group's final album.
Splinter "The Place I Love" (A & M Records/Dark Horse, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by George Harrison)
Sure, it's a bit of a stretch to add this spacy '70s rock record to our list of "country-rock" albums... But since it's basically sort of a secret George Harrison solo album, and since we all dig George's love affair with rockabilly and twang, it's worth checking out, both for the country stuff, and the Beatles-y pop. On paper, the British band Splinter was the Newcastle-based pop duo of Bill Elliott and Bobby Purvis, though Harrison was a heavy presence on their first album, playing numerous instruments, singing harmony and definitively shaping the album's sound. In short, if you like Harrison's early solo stuff, or the Badfinger albums, you oughta love this as well. George plays lead guitar, 12-string, dobro, mandolin and Moog, impishly disguising himself under a variety of easily-cracked pseudonyms ("Hari Georgeson", "Jai Raj Harisein," etc.) This was the first record released by Harrison's Dark Horse label, and the sessions included several powerhouse players drawn from the post-Beatles crew -- Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston, Gary Wright and the like. Several songs, such as "Somebody's City" and "China Light," have a powerfully Harrison-ian feel, with the keening, sensitive vocal style, and the song "Costafine Town" was a successful pop single in the UK. The twangier tunes include the acoustic-oriented "Drink All Day," which showcases some sweet dobro licks courtesy of Mr. Georgeson... This disc was not a huge commercial success, but it is a lovely album, with haunting melodies and a very recognizable sound. Definitely worth a spin!
Splitwater Creek "Split 3 Ways" (Splitwater Creek, 1980)
(Produced by Billy Sherrill)
A swell mix of progressive bluegrass and laid-back, eclectic country-rock... The Kentucky-based band included drummer Bobby Daniels, Steve Glasmeyer (piano), Brady Howle (bass), Rusty McElrath (banjo), Norris Sherrill (lead guitar) and Mike Stanton on pedal steel; fiddler Kenny Snow joined soon after this album came out and joined the group on tours of Kentucky and neighboring states. It's a pretty good record, though they could have varied the sound a little, and maybe mixed the banjo down of a few more tracks... By the way, does anyone know if Norris Sherrill was related to producer Billy Sherrill, who worked on this album, and whose own middle name was Norris? Maybe a nephew, or something? Just wondering.
The Spoon River Band "Spoon River Band" (North Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jacob Snyder)
A pretty iffy outing by a band from Roaring Springs, Pennsylvania... All cover songs, and all great stuff, fun singalong standards ranging from "City Of New Orleans" and "Fox On The Run" to "Country Roads" and "Rocky Top," with some Hank Williams and bluegrass oldies thrown in for good measure... The trouble is that the main lead singer, Richard Wineland, didn't seem ready to handle anything beyond a slow-to-moderate tempo, and you can hear the band holding itself back on several tunes, taken at a fairly sluggish pace. A nice bluegrassy feel throughout, and some nice picking, including good banjo work from Wineland. Apparently some of the guys in this group had previous experience singing with the Vicksburg Quartet, a long-running southern gospel group from Pennsylvania. This secular session struck me as a bit lackluster, though, sadly.
The Spoon River Band "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore" (North Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jacob Snyder)
Sally Spring "Country Blue" (Aeolian Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sally Spring)
Though her career predates the "Americana" branding of the late '80s, North Carolina's Sally Spring fits right in with the eclectic country-friendly folkie vibe of the category-breaking label. I think this was her first album, perhaps more on the poppy end of the folk spectrum, but still with a strong enough rural vibe to bring it to you attention...
Spring Wheel "Spring Wheel" (Gulf + Western/Green Bottle Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Maduri & Arnie Rosenberg)
A goofy, hippie-era gem, full of unintentionally hilarious songs. This pop-oriented country-rock group was originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where lead singers/songwriters Mike Hay and Ron Jankowski had played together in some youthful, mid-1960s garage-pop bands. They were one of a scant few bands signed to the short-lived Green Bottle label, owned by one-time Hollywood mogul Charlie Greene, and while musically ambitious, the album is thinly produced with a tinny mix that lends itself well to the band's country component, but falls short on their more grandiose moments. There's a prominent Grateful Dead influence -- the Dead in their perkier, more melodic boogie-pop mode -- and some of the uptempo tunes, such as the opening and closing tracks, "Always In All Ways" and "You Ain't Got Nothin', " have a nice, twangy feel. Also running through the record are airy vocal harmonies, from the post-Byrds, CSNY/Poco musical school, and this is where things get fun. There are some truly laughable lyrics, fuzzy-headed, pretentious, flower-child hippie stuff about pretty colors and lullabies, put together in a clunky, artless, charmingly naive kinda way. These guys were clearly hoping for a hit, and though I suppose there's an almost-but-not quite quality to this record, it seems more likely that this album simply wound up being just another music business tax writeoff... Steely Dan fans may delight in (or revile) their absurdly perky cover version of "Only A Fool," where the starry-eyed Spring Wheelers really don't seem to get the cynicism and darkness of the song's lyrics. Pricelessly kitschy stuff. The group also included several of the duo's Cleveland cohorts, including Jankowski's brother Russ and bassist Artie Dussault, who had played with them in local garage bands such as the Tree Stumps; after this band broke up, Ron Jankowski moved out to California, eventually becoming born again and devoting himself to playing Christian pop, while Mike Hay started another local country-rock group called the Stone River Band.
Joel Ray Sprowls' Lincoln Jamboree "Live Saturday Night Country Music Since 1954" (LP)
Joel Ray Sprowls' Lincoln Jamboree "Live - Kentucky State Reformatory" (Lincoln Jamboree Records, 1977) (LP)
A prison concert album by an Opry-esque outfit that featured singers Camille Bingham, Lou Bingham, Charles Durham, Little Becky Sue, Ronnie Benningfield and Vicki Kidd, as well as instrumentalists Carlton Noel and Donnie Shafer. They sing gospel, folk songs and country oldies (such as the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming" and George Jones' "Window Up Above.") It's actually a surprisingly good album -- lots of energy and talent, solid pickers, great enthusiasm... The comedy skits aren't so great, but I bet the inmates still appreciated the thought.
Jean Stafford "Flowers For Mama" (Hadley Records, 1974) (LP)
This is the debut album of Australian country singer Jean Stafford, who nails the Loretta Lynn-soundalike bullseye on song after song. A strong voice, even though her phrasing can feel a little flat at times. If you like Loretta or Rose Maddox's rough-edged rural tones, you might dig this, too. Stafford was one of Australia's premier country singers during the 1970s, winning numerous awards while sticking pretty close to a traditional, rootsy sound.
Jean Stafford "Jean Stafford" (Hadley Records, 1975) (LP)
Stage Brush "Thank You Very Much: Our 1st Album" (Boss Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Jung)
A live album, recorded at Bimbo's nightclub, in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. This group formed out of an earlier rock/oldies cover band called Briskoe, which played around Minneapolis in the early '70s... The new band included brothers Daryl Johnson (keyboards and rhythm guitar) and Keith Johnson (lead guitar), along with Tom Nystrom on drums) and Ken Sand on guitar. Although initially they were rockers, they switched to country and changed the band name in 1975, still playing oldies, though now covering honkytonk and country classics from the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. By the time they cut this album, they were hip to longhair twangtunes such as Jerry Jeff Walker's "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother" and Rusty Wier's "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance," which were included in this live set. Beginning in 1976, Stage Brush became the house band for the Blainbrook Bowl, a venue in Blaine, Minnesota and played there for nearly a decade, as well as at Holiday Inns throughout the state, and stayed together until 1990.
Stagebrush "Steppin' Out" (Sound 80, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Nelson & Stagebrush)
Same band, but with a new lineup and a slight tweak to how they spelled their name... The new edition is led by the Johnson brothers, but with an all-new backing band, including Brian Amenrude on rhythm guitar, Wally Jones (bass), Bruce Weikleenget (fiddle, lead guitar and steel), and Grant Weikleenget on drums. This album includes a bunch of originals, with two written by Keith Johnson, "Sayin' Goodbye" and "Sorrow On The Rocks," two more by Wally Jones, "Here I’ll Stay" and "Playin' The Same Ol' Songs," as well as one from Randy Amenrude, "One, I’m Sorry." I think this was their last full album, though the group stayed together through the rest of the 'Eighties, albeit with the usual constant changes in their lineup. (Kudos to www.minniepaulmusic.com for providing the backstory on this one...)
Stagecoach "Stagecoach" (1976) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Arnett, Bill Blue & Stagecoach)
Straight-up '70s longhair country-rock, DIY-style, from San Diego, California... The group included John Bach (fiddle), J. Travis Blair (drums), Ronnie Long and Kenny Newberry on guitars, Robert Passwinde (piano), Ken Siers (bass), and three different pedal steel players: Frank Arnett, Marc Trainor, and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. A ton of original material, including a tune called "Surfin' All Day Long" by Marc Trainor, a couple of songs by Newberry, two more from Long and -- perhaps most notably -- two songs by Jack Tempchin, who wrote "Peaceful Easy Feeling" for the Eagles. Not sure what his connection was to this band: both songs, "Pick Up Truck" and "Stingaree," wound up on Tempchin's own album in 1978, but none of the Stagecoach guys played on that record. Still... they hung out with the right kinds of people!
The Stagehands "Richard Presents The Stagehands... Plus Richard" (Barnyard Productions, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Richard P. Falterstack)
This is an unusual hybrid of a custom pressing and a song-poem album... Richard Falterstack was just a regular joe from Gold Mill, Oregon who apparently had the songwriting bug, and hired a bunch of local longhairs to be his "band," recording this set of all-original material, with all songs written by Mr. Falterstack. He sings on one track, "Happy Gardener," though otherwise seems to leave the performing up to the musicians. Included are Clyde Arnold (lead guitar), Jack Greenbach (drums), Ray Jensen (steel guitar), Larry McGill (bass, lead vocals) and Joy Mize (lead vocals).
Stanley Staggers "Country Collection" (STS Records, 1976) (LP)
This album is all cover tunes -- very mainstream material, but on a very low-budget vanity album, with no artwork on the back cover. Super-obscuro, with no date or other identifying info, although I think this guy was Stanley T. Staggers (1938-1996) of Newark, Ohio. Outside of this LP, the only other STS release I've seen is a gospel 7", "Precious Memories"/"Just A Closer Walk With Thee," which was a QCA pressing.
Jim Staggs "Tears And Alibis" (GSM Records, 1979-?) (LP)
Originally from Muncie, Indiana, singer Jim Staggs (1937-2006) played in country bands for several decades, including a stint in Vegas during the '70s. He cut a few singles on the Camaro label in the late '60s/early '70s though as far as I know, this was his only LP. This album includes some outlaw-themed stuff, like "Sex Crazed Cowboy," as well as the title track, "Tears And Alibis." And just for the record, he was not the same Jim Stagg who was a Chicago rock deejay famous for having traveled with and interviewed the Beatles during their early American tours.
Louis & Audrey Stamey "Favorite Tunes" (Klub Records, 1967) (LP)
A husband-wife duo from Drexel, North Carolina who billed themselves as "The Cherokee Sweethearts" and performed in full Native American costume -- buckskin vests, feathers, beads -- at a local tourist attraction that was part of the Cherokee reservation in nearby Cherokee, North Carolina. They specialized in guitar instrumentals, semi-surfish updates of old traditional tunes. I tried to find more about them, but the pickins are thin. I believe Mrs. Stamey passed away in 1998, while Mr. Stamey is a bit harder to pin down -- it seems there's more than one Louis Stamey in that neck of the woods, and there seem to have been a lot of Stameys in general, throughout the state. Anyway, there's surprisingly little online information about their career, mostly just posts from other record collectors, spotlighting either their various singles, or tracks from the two LPs the Stameys recorded at some undetermined dates, but there doesn't seem to be any journalism online, either contemporary or modern, and no mention of music in recent obituaries...
Louis & Audrey Stamey "Themes Of The Smokies" (Mark Five/Rite Records, 197-?) (LP)
The front cover is a photo of the Smoky Mountains, around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the Stameys lived and performed. By the time the Stameys were there, the Eastern Cherokee had built up a chugging outdoorsy tourism industry on their tribal land, and had a sweeping view was of the mountains. The Stameys seem to have lived about forty miles away from Cherokee, though, in Drexel, on the other side of Asheville. This was their second album, according to the liner notes.
Stampfel & Weber "Going Nowhere Fast" (Rounder Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Doyle & John Swenson)
More nutty stuff from Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber of Unholy Modal Rounders infamy... They reprise a bunch of wonderful songs from the days of yore -- vaudeville, Appalachian and Tim Pan Alley oldies, novelty songs and sweet, sincere ballads given a disjointed, squeeky fiddle-and-careless guitar makeover. True to form, Stampfel & Weber play their music in a seemingly haphazard manner, playing "sloppy" just because they can, their actual mastery of the material is so complete that they can relax and enjoy themselves and know their audience will still be along for the ride. Interspersed with the kooked-up renditions of older tunes are some legitimately weirder originals, such as "Jeannie's Dream," a rambling recitation about a woman who finds some old records in her attic and has the cops called on her when she plays them too loud. If you're already tapped into the whole Rounders/Clamtones vibe, you're sure to enjoy this record as well.
Patti Stanford "Introducing Patti Stanford -- Singing The Final Call" (Little Giant Records, 1977) (LP)
Patti Stanford "A Star Rising In The North" (Canasee Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Wood & Gene Rice)
A solid set from upstate New York's Patti Stanford, who sings in a light, clear countrypolitan style worthy of comparison to '70s gals such as Donna Fargo and Lynn Anderson. The album slips from straight-up country-pop into more AOR-oriented soft rock, with maybe a little hint of Karen Carpenter in the mix. Stanford headed to Tennessee to cut this album, with backing by a number of Nashville's finest -- D. J. Fontana, Greg Galbraith, Doug Jernigan, and Bunky Keels, along with the Cates Sisters singing backup. Nothing earthshaking or innovative, but certainly a better-than-average indie album, with smooth, confident vocals and a professional accompaniment throughout. If you like off-the-radar countrypolitan, you might want to track this disc down.
Pete Stanley & Roger Knowles "Banjo Bounce" (Transatlantic Records, 1973) (LP)
Pete Stanley & Roger Knowles "Picking And Singing" (Transatlantic Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ritchie Gold)
A dazzlingly good bluegrass'n'old-timey set from British banjoist Pete Stanley and guitar picker Roger Knowles... This is really quite good -- an excellent repertoire, performed with vigor and conviction. There's a bluesy folk feel to many tracks that reminded me of Norman Blake (and indeed, they cover Norman Blake's "Last Train From Poor Valley," along with tunes by Charlie Poole, Red River Dave, J. E. Mainer, John Prine and the Osborne Brothers... An unusual album for the Transatlantic label, but a good one!
Tom Stanley "A Little Bit Of Me" (Renegade Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Dean)
A set of all-original material from honkytonker Tom Stanley who was apparently from Whittier, California, near LA. Mr. Stanley went to Nashville to record this set, backed by a bunch of Music City pros: Jim Baker on steel guitar, Bob Dean (drums), Jack Eubanks (rhythm guitar), Bunky Keel (piano), Jack Ross (bass) and Paul Yandell on lead guitar -- the same guy who backed the Louvin Brothers back in the late 1950s(!) Stanley gives shout-outs to various songwriters who collaborated with him, or provided him with material: Bettye Allen, Tom Cox, Emmitt Grayson, Amy LaPage, Johnny Mitchell, Gary Self, and Bill Snowden. As far as I can tell, none of them were professional musicians, so there may have been a kind of "hey, I've got a barn, let's put on a show!" song-poem kind of story behind this album, though I'm afraid that tae is lost to the mists of time. Still got the record, though!
Star Dust "Yellow Jacket" (Stardust Records, 1979) (LP)
A country-rock band from San Antonio, Texas that really played both country and rock... This was their first album and was definitely on the twangier side, including songs such as "Hee Haw," "Loose Louise" and "Some Longnecks Are Rednecks."
Star Dust "Live" (Stardust Records, 19--?) (LP)
This time around they got more bar-bandy conservative, and less twang-auteur, playing things like medleys of the Beach Boys, Beatles and Kinks along with rock-solid oldies like "Kansas City" and "Great Balls Of Fire", and even a cover of the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can, Can."
Star Spangled Washboard Band "A Collector's Item" (Flying Fish Records, 1977) (LP)
A wacky, bluegrassy stringband originally from around Albany, New York... These guys got together in 1971 and carved out a niche in 'Seventies East Coast folk scene, starting with a gig at the Gaslight Village amusement park in nearby Lake George, and moving their way through various festivals and clubs. The group remained together until 1978, disbanding not long after this album came out; several core members regrouped into the satirical rock band Blotto, which had an early hit on MTV with their novelty number, "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard."
Jan Stark "Ladies Can Be Outlaws, Too" (Ambassador, 1980) (LP)
Produced by Don Davis, Jack Logan & John Denny)
A robust, uncompromised, rock-solid honkytonker from Saint Paul, Minnesota, singer Jan Stark had been active in the Twin Cities and regionally throughout the Midwest from the early 1970s on... According to the liner notes on this album, Ms. Stark had spent time in Colorado and Las Vegas before heading to Nashville, where she continued to record for various independent labels. Her recording career stretched back at least as far as 1972, and several tracks on this LP reprise songs from earlier singles, including songs such as "You Only Call Me Up When You're Drinking," and "Right Now," as well as "Body, Mind And Soul" and Stark's own composition, "I'll Wait For You Darlin'," which had been released as singles on the Ambassador label. Indeed, the album includes a wealth of original material from fairly obscure contemporary composers, as well as several old-school honkytonk songsmiths such as Francis Bandy, Harlan Howard, Mel Tillis and Wayne Walker -- all of which speaks well to Jan Stark's taste in twang. At some point, Ms. Stark, who passed away in 2012, moved back to Minnesota; as far as I know, this was her only full album.
The Starlite Ramblers "The New Starlite Ramblers -- 1977" (Rambler Productions, 1977) (LP)
An excellent country-covers bar-band from Southern Colorado, the Starlight Ramblers Band (originally "The New Starlight Ramblers Band") was founded in 1975, and became one of Colorado's premiere indiebilly bands. They recorded several albums in almost a decade together, although it wasn't until their last record that they focussed on writing and recording original material. On this debut disc, they took their cues from bands such as Asleep At The Wheel, playing mainly cowboy and western swing oldies such as "Tumbleweeds," "Thanks A Lot," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," Marty Robbins' "Doggone Cowboy" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky." It might not have been original, but it sure was real!
The Starlite Ramblers "Ain't It The Truth" (Rambler Productions, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Steven Holland Gerber & Steve Dahl)
This live album features more well-selected oldies from folks like Don Gibson, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, as well as newer tunes like Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina." They also seem to have been pals with songwriter Gary McMahon -- he's not in the band, but they recorded three of his songs on Side Two of the album, including one of his best, "I'm A Real Live Buckaroo." The picking's pretty good too - a thumpy rhythm section but chunky guitars and a pleasantly plinky honky-tonk piano. Lead singer Michael Golden does some nice yodeling, as well as some impressive auction calling on Leroy Van Dyke's "The Auctioneer." (He also sprinkles a few curse words into this live performance, which is ironic considering his later career as a Christian Zionist preacher and conservative radio show host... But, whatever. We've each got our own paths to follow...) Anyway, this is a decent record with its feet equally in the longhair and old-timer traditions, and plenty of twang for all, with live tracks recorded at Caribou Ranch (in Nederland, Colorado) and Panama Red's, in Fort Collins.
The Starlite Ramblers "Live At Apple's" (Rambler Productions, 1981) (LP)
The Starlite Ramblers "It's Enough To Make A Cowboy Outta You" (Rambler Productions, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by RPI)
Excellent! The Ramblers really upped their game on this album of all-original material, with over half the songs written or co-written by keyboard player Steve Fahl, a couple by guitarist Tim McDonald and the rest by Michael Golden. He also cedes some of the vocals to the other guys, and while this album has some rough edges musically (which I like) it also sports a bunch of first-rate obscuro-billy tunes, including two anti-disco anthems, "It's Enough To Make A Cowboy Outta You" and "Cowboy Songs And Beer." The best performances sound a lot like Red Steagall, though some tracks are a little sloppy, particularly the ones where Golden passes the mic to the other guys in the band. But if you're looking for first-rate, pre-hipster indie-twang, this album's a doozy. The album highlight might be "Piece Of Cake," a stinging satire of the stoner-slacker lifestyle, with amiable vocals by McDonald.
The Starlite Ramblers "1992" (Rambler Productions, 1992)
This is a memento of an early '90s reunion show... From 1985-91 Michael Golden fronted "The Colorado Band," which featured some of the guys who'd been in the Ramblers, in particular bassist Jerel Wood, and I guess when the Colorado Band folded, they decided to do a Starlight Ramblers "farewell" concert... Around this time Golden also took a shot at making it as a songwriter in Nashville, though I'm not sure how successful that outing was. He's mostly been in Colorado as far as I can tell, and got heavily into the Christian fundamentalist thing which seems to have been his full-time gig for a long time... A long ways from the drinkin', cheatin' songs of his youth! Hmmm. I know about Golden, but whatever happened to the other guys in the band? Anyone know?
Buck Starr & The Country Outlaws "On Tour" (Starr Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by the Malerba Brothers)
From the album art -- with the giant lapels and even larger muttonchop sideburns -- these guys look like your stereotypical, semi-longhair '70s lounge band, which I suppose they were, although this album gets into deepier, twangier country than I'd imagined. The funniest detail is the "Buck Starr" pseudonym, which has a couple of extra layers... As near as I can figure, Buck might have been the guy's name, but I think he was actually Mike Malerba, who plays bass in the band, along with his brother Tony, who plays drums. In the credits, they're Mike and Tony "Starr," while on the song credits, he lists himself as Malerba, and apparently at the last moment he decided "Buck" sounded even cooler, but forgot to update the credits... Or something like that. Anyway, this is pretty good indie material, with an even mix of cover tunes (George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Charlie Rich, Jerry Chesntnut and a version the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man") and strong original material by Mike Malerba, including forlorn weepers like "If You Need Me" and "I Hope I Did The Right Thing." Hailing from Pinellas Park, Florida, Starr has a vocal similarity to Hank Locklin -- and a stylistic one as well, although the music has a more perky, early '70s Nashville feel than the gooey stuff Locklin had devoted himself to... Unfortunately, there's no info about when this came out, and it's hard to tell from the fashion -- it has a 1976-ish feel to it, but it could have been recorded as late as '81 or '82, allowing for fashion disasters. Anyone have more info on these guys?
Cal Starr "New Voice In Town" (Capaco Records, 1962) (LP)
Country singer Cal Starr worked in radio and TV all across the Midwest and South, but found his most success as a concert promoter, putting together package shows in Chicago and the Great Lakes region. This may have been his first album, although he also recorded a number of singles.
Cal Starr "...And Guitar In Nashville" (Fraternity Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Pennington)
This disc is a late '60s recording, cut in Nashville for a Cincinnati-based label. It was also a publishing showcase/demo set for the Pamper Music company, where producer Ray Pennington was a longtime staffer, working as composer, engineer and A&R man: all the songs on this album were from Pamper's publishing wing. There's no date on the album, but the liner notes mention an event in 1966, so this is at least later than that.
Cal Starr "Volume Three" (Rocket Records, 19--?) (LP)
Big Dan Starr "...Introduces The Hometowners U.S.A." (Loyd Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Royce G. Clark)
Lead singer "Big Dan" Starr certainly had a colorful relationship with his own identity... The Dan Starr persona was one of many he used during his lifetime, including several variations of his birth name, Estle Don Linebarger (1937-2004). Mr. Linebarger was born in Missouri and as a teen he performed on local radio and played around in a hillbilly band called the Ozark String Dusters. Linebarger joined the Army in the late 'Fifties and played European gigs in a serviceman's band that included Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash's brother. (Or at least that's what he told the Orlando Sentinel when they profiled him in 1973, just before this album was recorded...) He started writing music as a teen, copyrighting at least one song in mid-'Fifties, and released a few singles between 1968-73, including a UFO conspiracy anthem ("Captain Tom Martell") and a patriotic song, "Bugle Boy," which he dedicated to Vietnam War-era POWs. At some point, he may have lived in Nashville, and in the late '60s was playing clubs around Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Around 1968, he led a group called the Rustlers, which he later changed to the Hometowners. Going by the name Starr, Mr. Linebarger eventually moved to Florida, establishing himself as a bandleader and television host, fronting a group known as the Hometowners USA. Circa 1973, when this album came out, the group included Chip Williams (bass), Bill Nolte (drums) and Timmy Smith (lead guitar), who each took turns singing lead, along with Starr. The disc is packed with original material: all but one of the songs were written by Chip Williams. Two tracks were released as a single,"No Meat, No Potatoes" and "Hatchet Annie," co-composed by Sonny Ledet and Murry Kellum (author of the infamous country classic, "Long Tall Texan.") An earlier single on Loyd Records included two tracks, "Bugle Boy" and "Kiss Your Teddy Bear," that were not reprised here.
Frank Starr "You Can't Disguise Religion" (Starr Records, 1972--?) (LP)
Not to be mixed up with 'Fifties hillbilly honkytonker Frankie Starr, Franklin Delano Gulledge (1932-2003) was a kid from rural Arkansas who formed a country band with his brothers after serving in the Korean War, but soon gravitated towards the exciting new rockabilly sound. MGM signed him up to be their answer to Elvis Presley, renamed him "Andy Starr," and released a string of singles that are valued by collectors, but sold poorly at the time. He moved around a lot, including a long-term gig as a radio deejay in Idaho, and a five-year stint up in Alaska, and later attempted to break into the rock scene in Los Angeles. In the early 'Seventies he legally changed his name to Frank Starr, and careened from one project to another -- he tried his hand leading an evangelical ministry, made a few stabs at breaking into politics, and took music gigs where he could find them. Kicking off his short-lived career as an evangelical preacher, Frank Starr cut this set with a longhaired "Jesus freak" band called the Wilson-McKinley Jesus Rock Band, who are credited as pioneers of Christian rock, though they played some pretty decent country riffs here. The group included Jimmy Bartlett (bass), Mike Messer (guitar), Tom Slipp (drums) and Randy Wilcox on piano; they are joined by Spokane, Washington steel player Neil Livingston, who adds a solid country sound. (Even though they spelled his name "Niel" on the album art... ooops!) A few tracks, like the cacophonous "Jesus," blast straight into hippie acid rock territory, and give a sense of what it was like to be a first-generation rock'n'roller trying to adapt to the post-Woodstock sensibilities. Nutty stuff!
Frank Starr "Live At Wanda's Club -- Kellogg, Idaho" (1973-?) (LP)
This set was recorded live on New Year's Eve (though the album itself doesn't tell us which year) at a place called Wanda's Club, up in Kellogg, Idaho, described in the liner notes as "the country music headquarters of our Silver Valley." We are also helpfully informed this was recorded live on New Year's Eve, though not which year. The songs are mostly rock oldies, including a Little Richard medley, some Chuck Berry, a little Hank Williams, and one original credited to Starr, "Pocatello Blues." Backing him are Richard Ochoa (drums), Don Sherrick (bass), and Buck Stinson on rhythm guitar, a compact band blasting their way through some oldies and a little bit of twang. The best part is how they plastered "for swingers only" all over the artwork... just so you'd know how truly groovy this was gonna be!
Frank Starr "Frank Starr Sings Patterson & Starr" (Starr Records, 1973-?) (LP)
This is an entire album of country tunes co-written by Frank Starr and Harry Patterson, who was presumably a pal of his in Idaho... In the '80s Starr also released an album of risque novelty songs; years later he took a trip to Nashville and recorded a CD called Starr Struck, which was sort of a career retrospective.
Kenny Starr "The Blind Man In The Bleachers" (MCA Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Jones)
He's hardly a household name, even to fans of '70s country, but Kenny Starr of Burlingame, Kansas had a major hit with the title track, "The Blind Man In The Bleachers," a sentimental novelty song along the lines of "Patches" or "Phantom 309" that soared up to #2 on the charts. He never topped that one, and although he had lots of singles, this was his only full major-label album. That's too bad, since the rest of this record is pretty darn good. Of course, I'm partial to the classic studio style of the '60s/'70s-era Decca-MCA producers, with their clear, bright, vibrant sound and emphasis on the melody. And Starr was an artist who fit in well, crooning in a soulful mode that reminds you of Conway Twitty, but also with a few rough edges that ground him in traditional country. Also, there's another novelty weeper on here called "The Calico Cat," which got my attention just because I love kitty-cats. This one's definitely worth tracking down and giving a spin.
Kenny Starr "Kenny Starr" (SRO, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Starr & Terry Rose)
This appears to be an indie record that Starr released well after his mid-'70s salad days... The "SRO" label stands for "Starr-Rose," and was based in Nashville.
Ringo Starr "Beaucoups Of Blues" (Apple Records, 1970)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
On his second solo album, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr indulged his love of country music, a predilection towards twang which ran back to his winning rendition of the Buck Owens classic, "Act Naturally," as well as two songs he wrote himself, "What Goes On" and "Don't Pass Me By." With veteran pedal steel player Pete Drake acting as the album's producer, Ringo helmed a quick Nashville session that included tons of top talent, pickers such as Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed, Ben Keith, Jerry Kennedy and Dave Kirby, as well as a teenage Jeannie Kendall singing a duet on "I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way." That was one of several songs written by Chuck Howard; off-the-radar songsmiths Sorrells Pickard and Buzz Rabin also contributed material, giving this album a fresher flavor than if Ringo had gone in for a bunch of country cover tunes (this in contrast to his first album, which was a reverential set of jazz-pop standards...)
Sally Starr "Out Gal Sal" (Clymax Records, 1958) (LP)
More of a television star than a singer, Alleen Mae Beller (akaSally Starr, 1923-2013) was the buckskin-clad host of a local TV presentation of "Popeye Theater," on Philadelphia's WFIL TV, introducing cartoons and Three Stooges shorts, as well as acting in western-themed skits. Not long after the station was sold off due to a federal antitrust ruling that broke up local media monopolies, Ms. Starr retired in 1972, moving first to Florida, and later to Atco, New Jersey, where she later hosted a weekly radio program. She recorded at least two albums, primarily aimed at the children in her audience. This one is notable for musical backing by Bill Haley and His Comets, and features three songs with Haley billed as composer, including "ABC Rock," "Cuckoo In The Clock," and "Good Night Dear Lord."
Sally Starr "Adventure To The Moon" (Liberty Bell Records, 1959) (LP)
I guess after Sputnik, even cowgirls got moon fever, as evinced on this space/science fantasy LP. Perhaps not so twangy as all that, but she was still sporting her Stetson...
Starwood "Homebrew" (RCA/Windsong Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mickey Crofford & John Denver)
A melodic country-rock band from Aspen, Colorado, Starwood came together as a vehicle for songwriters Bob Carpenter and David James Holster, who were proteges of 'Seventies superstar John Denver. Their song, "Cowboy's Delight," was was included on Denver's 1975 album, Windsong (and is included here as well. This led to a contract with Denver's boutique label, Windsong, which also backed folks such as the Starland Vocal Band. The band was also an offshoot of the extended membership of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with keyboard player Carpenter and guitarist Bobby Mason both erstwhile members of the NGDB. Although there is a strand of twang in here, these guys mostly fall pretty squarely in the slick 'Seventies soft-pop genre; it's too slick and poppy for me -- dreadful, really -- but nonetheless a legitimate footnote in the country-rock landscape. The song "Durango" is probably the most overtly country tune on here, a breezy little nod towards Eagles-style country-rock. After releasing a couple of albums as Starwood, Holster recorded a soft-rock solo album in 1979, and other projects over the years
Starwood "Starwood" (Columbia Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Bruce Botnick & Terry Powell )
The Statesiders "Mel Tillis Productions Presents The Statesiders" (Title Records, 1975) (LP)
The backing band for country star Mel Tillis, who was on a career high in the early 1970s. I'm not totally sure who played on this album, though the mid-'Seventies band included guys like steel player Terry Bethel, fiddlers Leon Boulanger and Hoot Hester, bass player Larry McFadden, pianist David Reese and guitar picker Jerry Reid. As with many band albums, the material skews towards older stuff and instrumental showcases, with (of course) another version of "Orange Blossom Special," as well as their "theme" song, "Stateside." More intriguing are covers of contemporary southern-rock hits such as "Midnight Rider" from the Allman Brothers, and Charlie Daniel's "The South's Gonna Do It Again."
The Staton Brothers Band "The Staton Brothers Band" (Epic Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by John Simon)
The lone album by this SF Bay Area quartet -- an amiable but decidedly second-string hippie rock band, these guys are sometimes mentioned in relation to the country-rock sound, but I think it's more accurate to peg them as a harmony-oriented soft-rock band, ala Crosby Stills & Nash. Sure, they wove in some banjo, dobro and lap steel, but only a couple of songs really have what I'd call a "country" sound. Mostly this is pretty innocuous stuff, although a few tracks are a bit torturous, notably the gooey, gospel-styled "Bridge To Your Faith," which closes the album. Both Staton brothers, Jeff and Mike, went on to more successful careers as backup musicians -- notably playing with Stephen Bishop in the '70s -- and as Nashville songwriters, under the new names of "Jeff Jones" and "Billy London." Here they are when they were still kids, working in the Northern California hippie-rock scene...
George Stavis "Labyrinths" (Vanguard Records, 1969)
A real folk-freak gem. After a stint in an eclectic Pennsylvania college rock band called Federal Duck, where he contributed a few odd, old-timey country ideas, George Stavis took his love of the banjo several steps further and created this intense solo album, with five long tracks that pushed the humble banjo straight into the avant garde. Here, Stavis does for the banjo what Robbie Basho did for the guitar, or John Coltrane did for saxophones, taking a folk instrument and crafting a deep, challenging, expressive instrumental set, melding Appalachian folk, avant jazz and various strains of what would now be called "world music." As would be expected in an album from 1969, Indian classical music is a big influence, and while Stavis can't use a 5-string banjo to replicate the drone of a sitar, he does get the modalities right, and perhaps more impressively his percussionist -- someone playing a very simple single drum -- gets into an intense, tabla-like frenzy, alternating this with a hambone rhythm out of old vaudeville. Stavis covers John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," which probably gives the best impression of what this album sounds like -- I've seen it described as "psychedelic," but I think that's a misnomer: rural jazz is more like it, and pretty dense, rewarding, substantive jazz at that. Fans of later banjo experimentalists such as Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck might want to check this one out... Although this is an obscure album, in many ways it set a benchmark that still challenges the banjo plunking community. (Note: Stavis later was in a late-'60s/early '70s San Francisco Bay Area psychedelic folk group called Oganookie, and released at least one other solo album, many years later...)
George Stavis "Morning Mood" (Aspen Records, 1986)
A later, modern set of experimental acoustic/spacegrass music with George Stavis on banjo, joined by fiddlers Darol Anger, Mike Marshall and Robert Stern, as well as Alex De Grassi on guitar and bassist Stan Poplin.
Red Steagall - see artist discography
The Steamboat Album "The Steamboat Album" (Yampa River Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Shoffner & Rolly Wahl)
Sort of an odd, square-peg, round hole kinda album -- some folks consider this a various artists compilation, although I think this is really one group of musicians, albeit with a very strange band name. The record label takes its name from the Yampa River in northwestern Colorado, which runs past Steamboat Springs and is presumably navigable. This album was recorded in the living room of bass player Dave Shoffner, a 25-year old ski bum originally from Southern California who played in a couple of low-key local groups and played a few gigs at ski lodges and other local venues. Joining him are coproducer/songwriter Rolly Wahl, Anthony Matthews and others. These compatriots may have worked as the band on a tourist-industry steamboat, though they may have just been romantics who pined for olden times. Songs include the western-themed "The Chicago Cowboy" and "Mountain Cowboy" as well as novelty number like "Daddy's Little Leaguer." Any info about this project is welcome!
Steamin' Freeman "Greatest Hits" (Caramba Records, 1975)
Recorded live at Moonie's Irish Pub in SF...
Steamin' Freeman "Full Steam Ahead" (Caramba Records, 1976) (LP)
A fun, inventive acoustic rock/hippie twang album from the San Francisco Bay Area... Violinist and bandleader Taylor Freeman Lockwood cleverly mixed a lot of different styles into what was called "gypsy rock" at the time, drawing on boogie-blues, bluegrass, SF-style acid rock, bluegrass, Doug Kershaw-style cajun music and Byrds-y country-rock. He's backed here by a confederation of veteran Marin County musicians, including guitarist Larry Cragg (one of Neil Young's go-to guys) and pedal steel player John McFee, known at the time for his work with the local rock band Clover, but destined to back Elvis Costello on his first album, then as a member of the Doobie Brothers. At any rate, this might be a scrappy, DIY souvenir album, but there was some serious talent gathered together, and Freeman has a nice strong presence as a singer and bandleader. The songs are fun, goofy, super-West Coasty novelty tunes, all interlaced with excellent fiddling and good picking throughout. A hippiebilly classic, for sure!
Steel City Band "Steel City Band" (19--?) (LP)
This was an obscure twang band from Alabama, not to be confused with the obscure funk group from Ohio of the same name...
Steel City Quartet "Gospel Trucker" (TEA/Tribunes Evangelistic Association, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by John T. Struthers & Ron King)
This Pittsburg-area gospel group centered around the vocal group of Chuck Johnson (lead), Ron Cornell (bass), Marty Kaczynski (baritone) and John Lawrenz (tenor), with instrumental backing on piano, guitar and bass. I'm not sure just how twangy they actually were, other than the title track, but they definitely had a badass semi for the cover photos!
Bonnie & John Steele "John And Bonnie" (Ram Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gerald Bennett)
This Texas duo covered a bunch of 'Seventies country-rock and AOR staples -- along with Kris Kristofferson standards such as "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me And Bobby McGee," you get renditions of "Desperado" and "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles, Michael Murphey's "Wildfire," and a couple of oldies like "Since I Fell For You" (from the pop side) and "She Thinks I Still Care" (from country). Although the repertoire definitely tilts towards country, the instruments are limited to keyboards and acoustic guitar, so don't look for a lot of pedal steel or twang on this one.
Don Steele "Let's All Pull Together" (1983) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Sherrill)
Don Steele "Renegade Heart" (Catholic Community Services, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Johnson & Dennis Knutson)
A Seattle-area school superintendent who had recorded an earlier album that raised money for school scholarships, Dr. Don Steele got Willie Nelson to pitch in on this album, which includes a song called "Thank You, Willie." Willie sings along on a version of "Healing Hands Of Time." This album was a benefit for Seattle's Catholic Community Services, a charitable organization that worked with homeless youth.
Jo Ann Steele "Country Girl" (Bulldog Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by George Richey, Marty Robbins & Billy Sherrill)
This one's a bit of an oddity for the British-based Bulldog label, which usually served as a cheapie reissue imprint for odds-and-ends collections of established American country artists. In this case the material is still reissued, though from a variety of sources -- mainly old singles -- but from a gal who seems to have kicked around at the edges of fame for a long time, without a complete LP of her work until this set came together, several years after she'd left the scene. Jo Ann Steele (1948-2008) was originally from rural Alabama, and came to Nashville in the 1960s as the then-wife of Eddie Crandall, a producer and talent scout who worked closely with Marty Robbins. Robbins was one of several high-profile industry movers and shakers who took a swing at making Steele a household name, along with Pete Drake, Billy Sherrill and finally George Richey in the late 'Seventies. She initially seems to have been pitched as one of the late '60s girl-group tinged gal singers such as Norma Jean or Connie Smith, to whom she shares more than a passing vocal similarity. Alas, while this album gathered a bunch of her more obscure recordings, her best-known singles are missing from the list, which is a shame, since future collections seem a little unlikely. One track, "Bits And Pieces," is credited to Jo Ann Steele, though others seem to have been songwriters demos for folks such as Bobbie Jayden, who wrote several tracks on here.
Rocky Steele "In Nashville" (First American Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced and arranged by Billy Williams)
Apparently, aspiring country star Rocky Steele had a publicity strategy that involved giving out his albums for free at various gas stations, auto shops and car dealerships. (My copy of the album came with a sticker reading "compliments of Harbor Quik Pik Self Service Stations"; I've seen others from National Auto Sales, a car dealership in Bellevue, Nebraska, etc.) I guess it wasn't the greatest plan ever, since no one knows who Rocky Steele was or when he made this album, but the good news is that there are plenty of copies still floating around, and it's actually a pretty good record. Steele was a solid singer, a countrypolitan crooner with a little bit of grit in his voice, sort of in the Dave Dudley/Roy Drusky range, though not as robust as, say, Conway Twitty. There are some cover songs on here, but half the album -- five of the songs -- are credited to Rubel & Connors (whoever they were...) and others may be originals as well. I'm not sure if Mr. Steele was actually Mr. Rubel or Mr. Connors, but it seems fairly likely. If anyone has more info, I'm all ears.
The Steele Sisters "...And Their All Girl Group The Miss-ty Blush" (Miss-Ty Blush Records, 1969-?) (LP)
According to the mildly salacious liner notes by their manager, T. H. Williams (of "Beaverwood Talent" in Hendersonville, TN) the Steele Sisters -- Judy and Pati -- did a lot of military gigs, including tours at bases in Greenland and throughout the tropics. These Michigan gals were apparently really sisters and were really named Steele, and led an all-female band sometime during the late 1960s and early '70s. Their repertoire spanned both pop and country material, including country hits such as "Harper Valley PTA," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Little Green Apples," and pop material like "Proud Mary," "Spinning Wheel," "Sugar Sugar" and "Wipe Out." There's no date on this souvenir album, but looking at the set list, my best guess would be that this was recorded in either late 1969, or early 1970... Sadly, the names of the other bandmembers are also not given, though an autographed copy was signed by Julene Stanley and Kelly Mabrey, as well as the two sisters. The group was also known (circa 1970) as "JP And The Miss-ty Blush," with the same manager, and appears to have stayed together in one form or another at least through 1974, when Miss-ty Blush was listed in a Billboard magazine's national survey of artists who played college campus gigs. Beyond that? Your guess is as good as mine.
Jim Steffan "Downhome" (Pin Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by David Torretta & Stephen Gardner)
Dean Steiding "Take Me Back" (Eagle Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Guthrie Thomas & Dean Steiding)
Clay Stephens "Spirit Of Alaska" (Midnight Sun Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Mooney)
Jimmy Stephens & Joann Davis "We Might Not" (Pan Handle Records, 19--?) (LP)
Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, James F. Papillo (1929-2006) (aka Jimmy Stephens) settled in West Virginia and was a longtime cast member of the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, performing on the show for over forty years alongside his wife, Joann Davis. They also performed regionally in New England and Canada, notably working USO tours at Thule Air Force Base, in Greenland. I'm not sure how many albums they made; the artwork for this one was also used on a gospel CD released many years later.
Stetson "Stetson" (Fast Trout Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ridley Pearson & James A. Corwin)
A fairly clunky rock-and-country album from a scrappy band out of Bellevue, Idaho... Three songwriters share the credits and the microphone, with Mia Carroll opening the album with her own "Let Him In," a rather frank song about loneliness and horniness that has a so-bad-it's-good quality to it, not just because of the uncomfortably personal lyrics, but also because of her vocals, and the semi-primitive recording quality. The bar-band has chops, and mixes blues-rock and twang riffs with confessional-folkie-style lyrics... Brothers Brad and Ridley Pearson (formerly from the country-rock band Big Lost Rainbow) also contribute lyrics that are introspective and unwieldy... This isn't a pop-oriented record as much as a true product of their artistic and philosophic yearnings. I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this based on the music, but if you enjoy obscure, self-released albums simply based on sincerity and authentic personal expression, this one's a doozy. (Worth noting in the liners: a shout-out thank you to future KFAT/KPIG deejay Dallas Dobro, who -- I hadn't known this before -- seems to have been an Idaho native before hanging his hat in the Santa Cruz Mountains... Who knew??)
Steve & Gwen "Golden Mansions" (Mountain Melody Records, 1979-?) (LP)
Bluegrass gospel from the duo of Steve Kirtley (mandolin) and Gwen Kirtley (guitar), who hailed from Janesville, California, way up north, roughly near Reno, Nevada. They are joined by Brian Anderson on banjo and Dave Dalton on bass; previously the group was called the Gloryland String Band, and played regionally in Northern California. Later, Steve Kirtley narrowed his focus to more strictly religious material, viewing his music as part of his ministry...
Llynn Stevens "Hits The Road" (TVi Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Logan)
Ohio country singer Llynn Stevens sure looked rough and rugged with his square jaw and a big patch over his right eye, but his gangly vocals might sound a little surprising, with sort of a Bill Anderson-ish or Roger Miller-esque tone... The interweb breadcrumbs leading back to Stevens are pretty sparse: his first single, and his signing to Lake Front Talent Agency were plugged in Cashbox back in 1975, and a few show notices are scattered in local newspapers through 1979, mostly gigs around Akron and Sandusky, including one show where he opened for Barbara Mandrell at a place called Country Paradise Park, in East Brady, Pennsylvania. The Cashboxplug also mentioned appearances at WWVA's Jamboree USA, Ponderosa Park, in Salem OH, and other regional venues. This appears to have been his only album, and looks like a Nashville songwriters demo, with a gaggle of tunes from several publishing imprints -- Cut Country-BMI, Barlow Music-BMI and Lyncoya Music-BMI. None of the songs were written by Stevens, unless they were published under a different name. Anyone know more about Mr. Stevens? I'm all ears!
Shady Stevens "It's Cool And Shady In Nashville" (Tree Top Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by George Lewis & Ray Warren)
At the time this album was recorded, Shady Stevens, "the singing sheriff," was the emcee at Mockingbird Hill Park in Anderson, Indiana, a country music venue owned by entrepreneur Gilbert Moody. The park opened in 1958, and had an up-and-down history, closing for a time in the 'Sixties, reopening in '69 and operating through the 'Seventies. Moody and his wife had both passed away by 1997, and Mockingbird Hill was sold and demolished in 2010. This album features vocals by Mr. Stevens, backed by Ray Wix on lead guitar, Jim Vest on steel, the Harden Trio singing backup, and various members of Dave Dudley's band sitting in on the Nashville sessions. Pictured on the back cover are the Lamberson Sisters, noting that they backed Stevens at all of his shows (though I'm not sure if they actually sing on this album...) Songs include a mix of covers and originals, including "She Never Even Started Loving You," "I Can't Afford The Luxury," and "Mom And Dad's City Home."
Stu Stevens "Returning Your Call" (Granite Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Miki Dallon)
An odd yet strangely alluring album of wayyyyy over the top countrypolitan ballads sung by British baritone Stu Stevens (1937-2016), a singer from Nottingham, England who first recorded in 1969 on Columbia in the UK, then made appearances on Lonnie Donegan's TV show. In the early 'Seventies he made a push into the American market, appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and cutting this album for Cliffie Stone's label in LA. The lyrics are majestically pretentious, matched by the sweeping, swooping, kookily baroque arrangements, courtesy of arranger Tom Parker, who also is credited on a few of the songs themselves. Stevens really throws himself into it, with robust bellows and a vocal tone that reminds us of croaky crooners such as Dave Dudley and Hank Snow, sung in a grandiose, post-Glen Campbellian style that weds Nashville Sound loftiness to West Coast experimentalism. I struggled through this record the first time 'round, and then it really grew on me. If you savor 'Seventies pop-country kitsch, you're gonna want to check this one out.
Bob Stewart & The Westerniers "The Sounds Of Bob Stewart & The Westerniers: Our First" (Blue Diamond Records, 1975-?) (LP)
Lots of cover tunes but a mighty nice sound on this indiebilly honkytonk set... Stewart was a younger guy who had a Merle Haggard-ish sound... And he does cover Merle, along with Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, Red Steagall, Don Gibson and other classic artists, along with some odd contemporary hits such as "Monster's Holiday" and "Rub It In." There are two Bob Stewart originals on here, "I Just Gave Up The One I Love" and "White Lines On The Highway" which is kind of buried on Side Two... But for listeners who can appreciate cover artists, this is a pretty solid record, with good vocals and solid backing from his band. The group was mostly made up of younger guys from a string of tiny Ohio towns -- Knoxville, Richmond and Toronto -- on the state's eastern border, near the Ohio River. The Westerniers formed around 1970, and seem to have played together for several years, though the only mentions of them I could find online were some show notices for concerts in Maryland around the fourth of July, 1975. And, yes, they spelled it "Westerniers" on the front and back covers, so I don't think the band name was a typo.
Charles 'Doc' Stewart "Ain't It Just Like Me" (Diane Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Elmer Willett & Ron Gant)
I'm not sure where this pianist-singer was from -- alas, the liner notes do not tell us -- but I'm pretty sure he shouldn't be confused with the Canadian hockey player of the same name, "Doc" Stewart, who died in 1973. Anyway, this disc seems to have been a Nashville songwriter's demo for some folks working for Milene Music and Acuff-Rose, including Steve Collum, David Powelson, Tupper Saucy, and others who are even more obscure. The backing musicians are not identified, though the backup singers are interesting -- Lea Jane Berinati (of the Lea Jane Singers), Ginger Holladay and future Top Forty star Janie Fricke... Presumably the band was of an equal calibre? Mostly, though, this remains a major mystery disc.
David Stewart "What Was That Cowboy's Name?" (Renee Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte, Dalton Fuller & Mick Kovar)
This looks like one of the later offerings from the Nebraska-based Renee Records label... no date on the jacket, but it looks like an early '80s LP. Also no indication where David Stewart was from, but for some reason Idaho comes to mind. At any rate, I don't think Mr. Stewart was actively pursuing a musical career, or even had a band of his own... In the liner notes the musicians are all identified as being part of the label's staff band, and though Stewart takes co-credit on several songs, he thanks several of them -- Mick Kovar, Robin Miller and Steve Mulkey -- for providing "the fine material" on this album. My guess is he booked the session and brought them some stuff he'd been working on, and they helped him flesh it out; possibly he was more of a singer and lyricist than a composer.
Gary Stewart -- see artist profile
John Stewart -- see artist profile
Lynn Stewart "Honey" (Major Recording Company, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Stewart)
Singer Lynne Stewart hailed from Richmond, Virginia and sang along with the Country Showmen band, featuring Jimmy Stewart on guitar and Kenny Boswell on steel. This set is heavy on country cover songs, including early '70s hits such as "Put Your Hand In The Hand," "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "City Of New Orleans" and "Top Of The World," all of which point to a 1972-74 release date, although I didn't see an actual year on the album itself.
Queenie Stewart "...Sings Booze And Wine" (Scarlo Records, 1967-?) (LP)
Not a ton of info on this one. Singer Ben "Queenie" Stewart was originally from Jackson, Tennessee and apparently was in Carl Perkins' band for a while, but he had moved to Aurora, Illinois by the time he recorded this LP. Backed by a group called the Porter Brothers, Stewart digs deep into his hard country roots, with songs such as "If I Never Get To Heaven," "Everything She Touches (Gets The Blues)" and "You Don't Have Very Far To Go," as well as oldies and ballads like "Last Letter," "Tell Her Lies And Feed Her Candy," "There Goes My Everything," and "We Could." Although there are no composer credits on this album, there was some original material, such as "With Every Step You Take" (co-written with Inez Rogers) and the title track, "Booze And Wine," which had previously been released as a single back in '66. Sadly, the Porter Brothers are not identified by name, though it seems likely they were the same musicians as the Tune-Drifters, who backed Mr. Stewart on his "Booze" single.
Stew Stewart "Play Me Some Country" (River Records, 198-?) (LP)
A true jack of all trades, Herman ("Stew") Stewart (1945-2017) tried his hand at music, comedy, police work, running nightclubs and bars, working as a talent scout and as a booking agent. Born in Missouri, Stewart was a high school football hero but gave up an athletic scholarship when he enlisted during the early years of the Vietnam War, serving in the Marines from 1963-66. When he came back to the States, Stewart moved out west, first to Southern California, then up north to Chico, CA, near Sacramento, where he recorded this LP. In the 1980s, Stewart moved to Reno, Nevada where he performed at numerous venues while also establishing himself as a booking agent for several casinos and clubs in the area. Stewart's obituary mentions him having recorded eight full albums, though this is the only one I know of first-hand.
Wayne Stewart & Friends "Aspen Skyline" (Sierra Briar, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by John Delgatto)
An outstanding "progressive" bluegrass set with a song list that digs deep into the country-folk and Southern rock of the time. The album opens with a cover of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and closes with "Ramblin' Man," mixing high lonesome classics by Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers with grassed-up rock songs by J. J. Cale and Stephen Stills. Wayne Stewart was a Kentucky native and childhood friend of newgrasser Sam Bush; he tried to make the scene in hippie California, but returned home in the early '70s to co-found a band called the Bluegrass Alliance. Then he ping-ponged around for a while -- he recorded an album with a teenaged Sam Bush spotlighted in the band Poor Richard's Almanac, and went back to the West Coast to kick around with the Dillards and other folks in SoCal scene. This album was his musical swan song -- according to the liner notes, Stewart got born again and gave up on the business side of music, but he agreed to record this album for Sierra Briar, and fronted a great band packed with little-known artists. Fiddler Vassar Clements adds plenty of tasty licks, and a couple of guys were in John Denver's early-'70s band, dobroist Steve Weisberg and banjo picker John Sommers (who had composed Denver's big hit, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." Stewart was a fine picker himself, but it's as a singer that he really distinguishes himself -- his earthy, soulful, country-tinged vocals remind me of Peter Rowan's singing of the same era, rural stuff with a tinge of Jimmy Martin-style bluesiness. This is a nice record, definitely worth checking out!
Jack Stidham & Keith Coleman "Fiddle Tunes" (Stidham Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Stidham, Jr. & Don Frank)
Coleman and Stidham were two old-school fiddlers from Chickasha, Oklahoma who loved western swing and recruited veteran swingsters to play on this album, including Eldon Shamblin on guitar and Jack Rider playing steel. Dunno how much they played live, if at all...
Jack Stidham & Keith Coleman "Western Swing Okie Style" (Stidham Sound Studio, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Stidham, Jr. & Ron Stidham)
Another solid set of western swing classics... Once again, pickers Eldon Shamblin and Jack Rider fill out the sound, joined this time by Pee Wee Calhoun on piano; Jack Stidham also sings on some tracks.
Johnny Stills "Sings Country" (Alvera Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Al Clauser)
Super-groovy hard-country honkytonk, rough-cut hillbilly material very much in the George Jones style. Best known as an Oklahoma artist, singer Johnny Stills was born in Marshall, Arkansas in 1930 and moved to Tulsa in 1950, landing a recording gig with western swing bandleader Al Clauser after appearing on Clauser's TV show. Stills cut his first tracks in 1960, and released a string of singles on Clauser's labels, Alvera and Vaca Records, and later for other indies. Stills seems to have moved back to Arkansas for a while in the early 'Seventies -- he was listed as playing some gigs in Fayetteville in late 1971, and the following year cut some tunes for the Treat and Champion labels, which were run by Franki and Lonnie Treat of Springdale. Stills also spent some time in Nashville and seems to have been heavily influenced by George Jones's fiery early work on Starday and Mercury, which perhaps accounts for his lack of success in the "Nashville Sound" era. Folks who like the hard stuff might wanna track his stuff down, though. Stills was strictly a regional artist, but it sure seems like there's enough material for a tasty retrospective on Bear Family, or some like-minded reissue label.
The Stills-Young Band "Long May You Run" (RCA-Victor, 1976)
This was a one-off record by frequent collaborators and on-again/off-again bandmates Stephen Stills and Neil Young, of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY fame. It's mostly eclectic soft-rock, as you'd expect, though Young contributed about two-and-a-half decent country-rock tunes. Nowadays this is often listed as a Neil Young album, which is inaccurate though understandable: his stuff is the best material on here, and while Stills had an intriguing melodic pop sensibility, his lyrics were total crap. Case in point: the bland sexual bragadoccio of "Make Love To You," Stills' first song on the album, which is sort of a sad knockoff of his old free-love anthem, "Love The One You're With" -- with his gooey love-god persona as cringeworthy and embarrassing now as it was then. Anyway, I used to own a copy of this that someone gave me when I was a kid, and I still feel the same way about it: "Long May You Run" and "Midnight On The Bay" are really the only two songs on here worth keeping on your radar...
The Stinson Brothers "In Las Vegas" (Canadian American Records, 1964-?) (LP)
Charmingly uneven mostly-country material from a family band better known for their rockabilly and teenpop recordings of the late 'Fifties. Bob, Ray and Ronnie Stinson were the oldest brothers in a large family... Originally from Decatur, Alabama, they were Minnesotans by the time their music careers took off, though they toured widely and (as this album confirms) also did their time in Vegas. The material seems to be mostly original, and their sound is certainly unusual, a mix of hillbilly and Kennedy-era pop, with vocals that hint at both Everly Brothers-style and Sons Of The Pioneers-ish harmonies. Perhaps most surprising is the rough-hewn quality of the production, especially considering their prior experience in the studio -- not quite slapdash, but certainly less polished than many country records of the era. They certainly sound authentic and genuine; a real working band still giving it a go.
Duncan Stitt "It's The Music In Me" (BIRC Records, 1978) (LP)
Piano player Duncan Stitt was a mainstay of the late-'70s Tucson, Arizona alt-country scene, playing in the Saddle City Band and as part of the house band at the Outlaw nightclub. I believe this was his first solo album, still playing country, though he later switched to pop and R&B and other more lucrative styles. He's backed by Emmit Brooks on bass, Marshall Racewsky(sp?) on guitar, and Calvin Turbeville on steel.
Ron Stockard & The Illinois Band "Beautiful Illinois" (Cornbelt Records, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Stockard)
Regional pride in the extreme! Ten songs, all originals, with over half about the great state of Illinois and its cities, sports teams, and historical heroes. There's the title track, "Beautiful Illinois," as well as "Cardinal Fever," "Decatur Celebration," "Ode To Abraham Lincoln" and perhaps most controversially, "Heart Of The Midwest," a song that prompted riots in Iowa, Kansas, and all three of the Dakotas. I'm not sure what the back story is on this album... All the songs are credited to a guy named Wiley Moore, though he's not in the actual band, so perhaps they were hired guns in some sort of song-poem-esque way. At any rate, if you're a land-of-Lincoln lovin' twangfan, you might wanna check this one out.
Doc Stoltey "Doc Stoltey" (Sudden Rush Records, 1975-?) (LP)
A country-pop mystery disc from San Jose, California, packed with original material from singer-guitarist Doc Stoltey. Dunno much about this fella, but he must have been tapped into the whole Santa Cruz folk-roots scene: several of the musicians on here -- pianist Pat Hubbard, drummer Jim Norris, steel player Gary Roda and bassist Duane Sousa -- formed the core of country outlaw Larry Hosford's band on his first album, aka Lorenzo. Based on that still-solidified lineup, I'd guess this disc was recorded around the same time, 1975, or thereabouts. Stoltey apparently did gigs not just in Northern California but also in Montana and Idaho, and seems to have drifted more towards blues-based material in later years.
Billy Stone "Pictures Never Lie" (Allgood Music, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Stone)
Stone Country "Stone Country" (RCA-Victor, 1968)
Before he moved back to Texas to become a charter member of the outlaw scene, songwriter Steve Young was out in LA, working with folks like Van Dyke Parks and Stephen Stills... He also formed this hippiedelic country-rock band that put out one album, then folded up. The 2008 reissue on Rev-Ola records (linked to here) has a couple of bonus tracks.
Stone Creek String Band "Half A Live At Dino's Lounge" (Scratched Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Medlin & The Stone Creek String Band)
A South Carolina outlaw-bluegrass band recording one side of the album live at a club in Greenville and one side in the studio. They're bluegrass-y but they cover Emmylou Harris, Little Feat, Steve Goodman and Paul Simon, throw in a version of "I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande," and include one original, "Her Song," by singer-mandolin picker John Olund. As far as I know, this was their only album.
Jason Stone & The Classics "Misfortune In Gold" (Paragon Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jason Stone & Gary Laney)
A youthful twangster from Freeport, Illinois, Jason Stone wrote all but two of the songs on this album, with the remaining tracks by Bobby Fischer, including "Cheatin' In The Key Of C." One song, "In Some Other Place And Time," is a duet with Arleen Harden, of the '60s-era Harden Trio -- Bobby Harden also sings backup on this album.
Jim Stone "Sings Gospel" (Gospel Heritage Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Wayne Walters & Gene Lawson)
Singer Jim Stone hailed from rural Empire, California -- a tiny Central Valley town just east of Modesto. This country gospel album came out on a Nashville indie label, with session player Benny Kennerson on piano, Bill Johnson on steel guitar, and Don Morris playing drums. Jim Stone plays rhythm guitar, as does the producer, gospel songwriter Wayne Walters, whose son, Noel Walters plays bass -- Walters also sang with a California-based group called The Christian Troubadours, which had a pretty rootsy, country-oriented sound.
Stone Mountain Johnny Band "Mountain Fresh" (Cisco Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Messick)
A longhaired indie twang band that played gigs in the Priest River, Idaho/Spokane, Washington area, circa 1976-1984. In case you're baffled by the band's name, "stone johnnies" are old rock pile cairns used as trail markers, and built by shepherds, backpackers, faeries, or sometimes by pranksters out on a hike. Neat name.
Stone Oak "Riding With The Wind" (Trade Wind, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Mason & Andy Waterman)
Bluegrass and acoustic swing by an eclectic ensemble from Madison, Wisconsin... They do Appalachian oldies such as "Banks Of The Ohio" alongside novelty numbers like "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," which they probably learned via Asleep At The Wheel, and Bill Kirchen's party-down classic, "Too Much Fun." There's some more modern 'grass to mow as well, with covers of Peter Rowan's "Blue Mule" and Jack Bonus's "Hobo Song."
Jerry Stoner & The Rhythm Masters "Country Favorites" (Twila Records, 1972) (LP)
A nice, down-to-earth local band from the Midwest... It's a little unclear exactly where these guys were from -- their second album (below) was recorded in Saint Louis, but with a little extra digging, it seems that the Rhythm Masters were actually from southern Illinois, although they performed regionally, including forays into eastern Missouri. At the time this album was made, the band had a regular live show on WSIL-TV3, in Harrisburg, Illinois. The compact quartet included Jerry Stoner on lead vocals and guitar, Joe Duncan (drums), Jerry Nelson (bass) and Carroll Harrawood on lead guitar. Harrawood also sings lead on two tracks, covers of "White Lightnin' " and "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me," and has a spotlight number showing off some fancy Atkins-style licks on an instrumental tune, "Pickin' On Chet." There are no songwriter credits, but I believe these are all cover tunes, although to their credit, some are fairly obscure numbers from guys like Claude Gray, Jack Greene and Hank Snow, though they do trot through chestnuts such as "Proud Mary" and "Truck Drivin' Man" as well. Any additional info about these guys would be welcome!
Jerry Stoner & The Rhythm Masters "Our 2nd Album" (Pro-Art, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Parvin Tramel)
An odd, charming record with album art that looks like it should be a super-cool set by some Midwestern hipsters, though if truth be told it's sort of super-normal... Lead singer Jerry Stoner has a distinctly middle-aged voice with a limited power supply; he wasn't a great singer, although his heart was clearly in the right place. He covers songs like "Faded Love" by Bob Wills, Red Simpson's "Close All The Honky Tonks" and the Jim Reeves oldie, "Little Old Dime," as well as some R&B numbers such as Allan Toussaint's "Mother-In-Law" and Gary U.S. Bonds' "New Orleans." It's on the uptempo stuff that the record falters most, but even though these guys were a little creaky around the edges, they still sound like they were having fun, and if you're the forgiving kind, you can kind of get onto their vibe and get into what they were laying down. Not a great record, but a cool one, in its own way... A nice snapshot of a just-plain-folks band from a bygone era.
Stone's River Band "Stone's River Band" (1977) (LP)
(Produced by Stone's River Band & Fred Cameron)
Before he established himself as a solo artist, Steve Wariner worked in Nashville as a session picker, notably in the studio run by producer Mike Shrimpf. This early band includes both Wariner and Shrimpf, playing a mix of covers and originals, with Wariner playing bass, guitar and even some steel on one of the songs. The album includes three songs credited to Wariner: "Blonde Haired Woman," "My Greatest Loss" and "The Whole World Is Smiling But Me."
Stone's Throw "Suppressed Desire" (Sierra Briar Records, 1980) (LP)
This San Diego-based acoustic swing band picked up roughly where Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks left off, delving into vintage swing music with bright, lively enthusiasm. Founded in the late '70s, they were regional favorites and had a crowning moment when they were chosen to play at the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The group centered around singer Molly Stone, who also played flute, saxophone and bass and, as heard on this album's opening track, could yodel up some impressive scat singing. This live album captured them during a 1979 concert -- the mix is a little thin, and their performances aren't completely earth-shaking but they are charming and bright, a nice document of a well-regarded local band. This is pretty much straight-up retro-jazz, covering a bunch of Depression era classics; their versions of Oscar Levant's "Wacky Dust" and the "Chiquita Banana" song are standout novelty numbers.
Stoney Brook "Friday Night At Leon's" (Thunderhead, 1979) (LP)
Bluegrass-y stuff from a shaggy, longhaired band out of Asheville, North Carolina... Side One spotlights original material by bandmembers Gary Wiley and Don Mills, while Side Two features a bunch of golden age classics by the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and Roy Acuff.
The Stoney Creek String Band "Half Alive At Dino's Lounge" (Scratched Records, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Medlin & The Stoney Creek String Band)
This ragged, twangy band from Greenville, South Carolina took their cues from folks like Gram Parsons and Clarence White, with bar-band bluegrass covers of country-rock classics such as Emmylou Harris' "Amarillo," Little Feat's "Willin'," and Steve Goodman's "City Of New Orleans," along with various bluegrass and old-school country oldies. One of the band's driving forces seems to have been mandolin picker John Oeland, who also contributed the album's one original tune, "Her Song," along with some spirited though chunky solos. In general, these guys weren't what you'd call slick, virtuoso performers, but they definitely were into it and generated a pretty fun vibe. Side One of the album was recorded live at a Greenville bar called Dino's Lounge, which was the band's main stomping ground -- Side Two is a studio set. Also featured are banjo plunker Ken Camp and gal singer/bassist Gail Cook. She sounded a little rough around the edges but enjoyable as a soloist, and definitely had a little bit of a musical crush on Emmylou... though didn't we all, back in the day? A nice example of a lively local band having a lot of fun. The band was together through the mid-1980s, and as far as I know this was their only album.
Patsy Storm "The Girl That Made The Harmonica Go Country" (Storm Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Zyndall Raney)
Step aside, P. T. Gazell...!! An acolyte of hillbilly harpman Wayne Raney, this gal from Trona, Arkansas cut an album of country harmonica instrumentals with a local crew made up of Hank Blumenthal (banjo), Eulaine Blumenthal (bass), Ken Burge (dobro), Scotty Branscum (fiddle) and Comer Mullins (guitar). Her idol, Wayne Raney contributes brief liner notes and his son was the session's producer. The greatest thing is that this was her real name, not some showbiz monicker -- Patsy Storm (1937-2009) was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Arkansas, where she married Dale Storm in 1958. Though she'd been playing harmonica for decades, Storm didn't record anything until this late '80s album, which led to her entering world championship contests and meeting several of her country music idols.
Warren Storm "Heart And Soul" (NSD/South Star Records, 1984-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hendricks, Jay Jackson & Bobby Bradley)
Singer Warren Storm was a swamp-pop pioneer during the 1960s, cutting a number of singles as the primary artist, as well as playing drums on countless rock and R&B sessions. Storm was originally from Abbeville, Louisiana and hung out with songwriter Bobby Charles, who was also an Abbeville local. In the mid-1960s, Storm formed a band with Ron Bernard, another key figure in the crossovers between rock, country and rhythm, though Storm stepped out of the spotlight early on, concentrating instead on working as a studio session player... This album was produced in the early '80s by Bob Hendricks who, if his liner note testimonials are to be believed, was perhaps the world's biggest Warren Storm fan, though he only met his idol after years of fruitless inquiries... Hendricks asked Storm to come up to Nashville to cut some tracks with an all-pro Nashville band, including guitarists Jack Eubanks and Dale Sellers, Hoot Hester on fiddle, Willie Rainsford on piano, and John Reese on steel guitar, as well as Doc James playing sax. The engineer was Bobby Bradley, a nephew of brothers Harold and Owen Bradley, who were main architects of the early "Nashville Sound," and an old veteral on the Music City scene himself... The repertoire includes a bunch of re-recorded versions of Storm's older songs, given a slick, modern country brush-up -- a nice find, since his original recorded remain pretty obscure. Nice later work from a cult favorite... Later on, in the digital era, Storm went on to record prolifically, independently releasing CDs right up through the 2010's.
Ben Story "Sings Hootenanny Favorites" (Lemco Records, 1964) (LP)
A straight-up set of 'Sixties folk-revival ballads, performed solo by a fresh-faced, buzzcut, Kentucky-born acolyte of the Kingston Trio... It ain't country, but it caught my eye because it's a very early release on the Lemco label, which is better known for its bluegrass releases, but also pressed a few custom discs for rock bands and the like. Anyway, if you like standard-issue clean-cut coffeehouse folk, you might dig this disc. Ben Story apparently recorded some singles for Plantation Records as well; no indication that he was related to North Carolina bluegrass legend Carl Story... but ya never know!
Stouder & Kline "Cosmic Croonies" (Croonie Tunes, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by J. W. Kline & Les Stouder)
Oddball indie-folk-twang by Indiana's Les Stouder & J. W. Kline, who made the trek to Nashville to record this at the House Of Cash studios... This is a genuinely nutty, naifish album -- poorly mixed, enthusiastically performed, with oddball, introverted, inscrutable songs galore. There's enough pedal steel to qualify this as "-billy" material, though also some saxophone, for which we'll forgive them, since they misspelled the instrument ( i.e. "saxaphone") and it's not terribly prominent. The key here is the weirdo songwriting -- rambling, self-indulgent, hard to get a read on, a singular, ultra-DIY, ultra-Midwestern kinda thing... Folks who dig the Holy Model Rounders/Clamtones recordings might enjoy this as well. Highlights include "We Don't Need No Honkies," a rambling memoir which has a slightly Harvey Pekar-ish feel to it; the entire album is made up of original material, and if you like obscure outsider art, this one's for you. Not sure what happened to Kline, but Stouder apparently got into real estate and various business enterprises -- and here's his hippie past!!
Stout & Allen "It's About Time" (Rainbow Star Publishing, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Allen & Dennis Stout)
Sort of a loose-limbed, jug band-y outing by a bunch of guys hanging out in Southern California... The main duo was comprised of singer-guitarists Dave Allen and Dennis Stout, with backing by a bunch of folks from various backgrounds... In the 'Seventies, Dennis Stout also played banjo with Missouri bluegrassers the O'Rourke Brothers, and there are other threads to follow... Piano player Mike Kicenski was in several other country-oriented bands, including the bands Cactus Rose and Yukon Railroad Company, as well as a group called Leaky Canoe, which I don't think made any records; clarinetist Greg Huckins was a graduate of Long Beach State who later became a professional big band musician, while steel player Stu Shulman played in a myriad of groups over the years.
Randa L. Stout "Rendezvous With Randa" (Randa Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Randa L. Stout, Wilson Dalzell & Chris Rathert)
Ms. Stout grew up in the Ozarks, in Ellington, Missouri but was living in Highland, Illinois when she recorded this album, which includes a bunch of her own material.
Donnie Stovall & The Country Rock Express "Straight From The Heart And Soul" (VMS Records, 19--?) (LP)
Rosemary (Stovall) "Rosemary" (Country Life Records, 1976-?) (LP)
Songwriter Rosemary Stovall was the sister of Raymond McLain, patriarch of the McLain Family bluegrass/old-timey band, a family group that recorded and toured prolifically, using their home in Kentucky as their base of operations. Rosemary, who lived in Jackson,Mississippi, contributed numerous songs to their repertoire, some of which spread out into the wider bluegrass world. As far as I know, this was her only album, released on the McLain Family's label.
Vern Stovall & Phil Baugh "Country Guitar" (Longhorn Records, 1965) (LP)
William Vernon Stovall (1928-2012) was a West Coast country artist with rock-solid Okie credentials... He was born in Altus, Oklahoma and moved to Sacramento, California in 1947, where he worked in a slaughterhouse and played music gigs in the area's booming hillbilly scene. In the late '50s Stovall relocated to Pomona where he joined the Maddox Brothers and Rose and played in their band for several years. Around that time he formed a songwriting partnership with Bobby George, making waves with their song, "Long Black Limousine," which Stovall first recorded in 1961 right before a string of hit versions by Bobby Bare, George Hamilton IV and many others. Around the same time Stovall formed a band that included hotshot guitarist Phil Baugh, most notably adding vocals to Baugh's showcase number, "Country Guitar," a novelty song where the young hotshot picker flawlessly imitates Chet Atkins and many other top-tier guitarists. The song was a hit in the Los Angeles area, and was later leased to the Texas-based Longhorn label, starting a long relationship with producer Dewey Groom.
Vern Stovall & Janet McBride "Country Dozen" (Longhorn Records, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Dewey Groom)
Also in the orbit of the Longhorn label was California-born cowgal Janet McBride and her husband Claude, who helped write and produce much of the material on this album. Stovall and McBride sing several duets, as well as solo numbers, including a bunch of McBride and/or Stovall originals and a cover song or two. There's also "If You Don't Know Now," written by ex-rockabilly West Coast twangster Glen Garrison, who went on to record a couple of albums of his own.
Vern Stovall & Phil Baugh "Country Guitar 2" (Toro Records, 1975) (LP)
Robb Strandlund "Robb Strandlund" (Polydor Records, 1976) (LP)
Songwriter Robb Strandlund was an early figure on the California country-rock scene, best known for co-writing a huge Top 40 hit for the Eagles -- "Already Gone" -- and over the years he's placed dozens of songs with big, brand-name artists. This was his first album, recorded with longtime collaborator Chris Darrow, and it remains, to my ears, one of the great classics of '70s hippiebilly country. And really, there are only two songs on here that I really like, but what amazingly great, awesome twangtunes they are: "Just Another Country Song" is an excellent song about playing for tips in a dive bar, while "All I Really Want To Do Is Go" is one of the all-time great alt-country weepers, on a par with JD Souther's "If You Don't Want My Love" and Lucinda Williams' "Side Of The Road." I've played them both on the radio about a bazillion times, and they were favorites of mine as a kid when I'd hear them on KFAT, back in the goodle days. Steel player Tom Brumley (of Buck Owens' Buckaroos) adds some really sweet licks, while singer Cindy Edwards adds some nice, twangy harmonies. (She and Darrow later joined Strandlund in a band called the Rank Strangers, which cut an album a couple of years after this... Also worth tracking down.) Anyway, this record is a real gem, with a couple of tracks that are must-haves for any devoted fan of the era's best twang. It also includes his own version of "Already Gone," in case you'd like to compare and contrast.
Strange Brew "Strange Brew" (Juke Records Of Tennessee, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Farrell)
Stratton & Christopher "Friends" (Saltwater Productions, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by David Vaught & Miles Grandfield)
Gary Stratton and Bob Christopher were a country comedy duo from Chico, California, a lounge act that included original material written mostly by Gary Stratton... They also performed a lot of cover songs, as heard on this (their only?) album.
The Straubs "Especially For You" (198-?) (LP)
I once saw a mangled copy of this album at a funky old shop in the Midwest -- loved the artwork but couldn't bring myself to shell out the bucks for an unplayable record. Anyway, the Straubs were a family band from Iowa (I think) who toured and played regionally as well as doing some USO shows. Led by Randy Straub, the group included his wife and kids, particularly their sons David and Steve. By the mid-1970s, they had recorded two albums (other than this one) and later made their way to Nashville, where they played the Opry. Country star Jeanne Pruett wrote the album's testimonial liner notes -- she mentions meeting them in the summer of '79 and may have been something of a patron. I don't think any doors really opened for them in Music City, but they did record several albums, including this one... Along with standards such as "Orange Blossom Special" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," they also play less well-known numbers such as "Will The Opry Ever Know My Name" and "I've Done Enough Dying Today." Anyone with more info about this group? Love to hear it!
Jim Stricklan "Whereabouts Unknown" (Skinny Man Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Wade & Bobby Ginsburg)
Originally from Colorado, songwriter Jim Stricklan had already established himself as a major figure in the Denver coffeehouse/folk scene of the late 1970s before trucking down to Houston to cut this debut disc. Eventually, about a decade later, he moved to Texas permanently, setting up shop in Austin just in time to ride the Americana wave of the 1990s... Stricklan has notably been in control of his own music, using his own Front Room Music as both publishing company and record label for each of his dozens of albums.
Jim Stricklan & Steve Fulton "Honky Tonk Fantasies" (Skinny Man Records, 1983) (LP)
Jim Stricklan "Tails Out" (Skinny Man Records, 1987) (LP)
String Band Revue "The Story By String Band Revue" (Family Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Blaine Allen)
Bluegrass gospel by a family band from Boise, Idaho. The group included Don Brown (guitar, dobro), Lindi Brown (vocals), Mark Thomas (banjo), and Jean Brown on bass... They recorded this session at Ripcord Studios, in Vancouver, Washington.
Little Debbie Stringer "Hi, I'm Debbie" (Johnny Dollar Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Dollar)
A protege of Nashville producer Johnny Dollar, singer Debbie Stringer was said to be eleven or twelve years old when she recorded this album, although she looks older on the cover photo. At any rate, Stringer hailed from Byers, Colorado, and was steered towards Dollar, who saw her as a latter-day Brenda Lee-style preteen prodigy. They recorded a single in '76, with two songs that aren't included on this album -- "Jumpin' Gee Willickers" and "Mothers And Fathers." For this session, she was backed by some high-power studio pickers, including folks like steel player Buddy Emmons, bassist Roy Huskey Jr., drummer Jerry Kroon and guitarist Dale Sellers... not bad for a little kid! Side One of the album is heavy on cover songs -- a slew of Hank Williams oldies, rounded out with covers of Barbara Fairchild's hit, "Teddy Bear Song," and Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There." Side Two seems to have more originals, including cutesy novelty material such as "I Feel All Grown Up" and "Gee Whiz Ain't It Funny." Stringer was still doing local shows throughout the 'Seventies, though gradually they dropped the "little" nickname... Not sure what happened to her after this.
Guy Stringfield & Agnes Hicks "...Sing Old Gospel Songs" (Cumberland Records, 197--?) (LP)
Delightfully amateurish, undeniably rural gospel duets by a father-daughter team from Lancing, Tennessee... Both Mr. Stringfield (1909-1984) and his daughter Agnes were active in the Pilot Mountain Missionary Baptist Church, and the liner notes tell us he sang on the radio for over twenty years, although they don't mention what station(s) he performed on. Mr. Stringfield may have been a more robust vocalist in his youth, but he certainly sounds old-mannish here -- not that that's a bad thing, at all. Their style seems tightly tied to the old Appalachian "shape note" singing, though perhaps a generation or two down the line, more in a 1920's Alfred G. Karnes mode, perhaps. The repertoire is heavy on Stamps-Baxter material, and well-known chestnuts such as "Amazing Grace," "Angel Band," "No Tears In Heaven" and "If I Could Hear Mother Pray," as well as a few slightly more obscure tunes. The album starts off resolutely acoustic, but soon goes electric, with a hotly mixed guitar which makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in finesse... Underpinning it all is Ms. Hicks' radiantly clear affection for her father, and her determination to bring this project to fruition -- her harmonizations are delicate and sincere, as well as earthy and authentically backwoods, real mountain music, for sure. She performs solo on one song, a version of "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But Nobody Wants To Die," freeing up an earthy vocal power only hinted at on the other tracks... One wonders if she recorded anything else. I am also charmed by the album's technical flaws, such as a track or two where the original reel-to-reel recordings whirr up to speed, or were possibly poorly engineered to begin with. It might have been embarrassing at the time, but as far as I'm concerned, it adds to the charm. Mr. Stringfield might not have had the technical polish as other hillbilly gospel singers in the region, but he certainly shared the same spirit.
Sid Stromme "...And The Over The Hilltop Gang" (Hilltop Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Capps)
A regional performer from North Dakota, rancher Sid Stromme booked a studio in Nashville to record this album, backed by some of the top talent in Music City. The "gang" included guitarists Jimmy Capps and Ray Edenton, fiddlers Johnny Gimble and Tommy Williams, steel player Weldon Myrick, Buddy Harmon on drums, bassist Billy Linneman and Jerry Whitehurst plinking the piano keys. It don't get much better than that. Stromme is a pleasant country crooner, sort of a mix of Ray Price and Jerry Lee Lewis, with an obvious affinity for western swing ("Take Me Back To Tulsa") and country oldies such as "Bummin' Around" and "Oklahoma Hills" (ret-conned as "Old Dakota Hills"). He also wrote several songs for this album, including "Another Place, Another Town," "It's Not The Years But The Miles," "Jeannie" and "Pete's Place," and his originals are pretty good. The performances might be a little rigid, but they have heart: I'm also reminded Bill Phillips, particularly in the unpretentious, unfussy delivery. Definitely worth a spin.
The Strommen Brothers "What A Way To Go" (Orphan Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Hoffman & Ernie Winfrey)
The Strommens -- brothers Eliot Strommen and Del Strommen -- were from Vandalia, Montana, way up North, though they indulged in some big-city pop-country sounds. This album kicks off with a bunch of "sunshine country," poppy stuff reminiscent of Coke's "I'd Like To Teach The World" commercial, as well as the countrypolitan sounds of an earlier era. Indeed, although it's well-produced some of this sounds a little out of date -- like stuff you'd hear on the radio circa 1973. The studio crew they assembled for their Nashville sessions -- Jimmy Bryant, Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy, Hal Rugg, Buddy Spicher, et.al., -- were heavyweight pros hired by Nashville DJ-turned-record producer Dan Hoffman. Hoffman, who had his hands in the lucrative publishing business, funneled several songs onto this album, including several poppy tunes written by Johnny Slate for the Tree publishing company, and one that Hoffman co-wrote with Chuck Woolery. There's also a more "outlaw" side to the album -- Side Two kicks off with Bobby David's raunchy "What A Way To Go," along with Eliot Strommen's "I Ain't Blind" and a funky cover of the country chestnut, "Cigarettes, Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women," all of which have a rough-hewn Tompall Glaser-ish feel. Nice version of Leroy Van Dyke's "Auctioneer," as well... All in all, a solid album from some Big Sky cowboys off to make it big in Music City... definitely worth a spin!
The Strommen Brothers "Meet Me Down By The River" (Baby Grand Records, 1979) (LP)
The Strommen Brothers "The Strommen Brothers" (Monument Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Lou Bradley)
Gary Strong "Gary Strong & Hardtimes" (Central Records, 1983) (LP)
Yeah, okay, maybe he's considered to be more of a bluegrass artist, but I had to include this album since he does a cover of Don Everly's fab twangtune "Brother Jukebox," a song I really love. So, he's got my vote! Not sure about Strong's entire bio, but an earlier album from the late 1970s mention that he was working as a radio deejay in Cincinnati; his old band name, The Licking Valley Boys, suggest that he was originally from Newark, Ohio, outside of Columbus.
Lois Ann Struck "Lonely" (Plantation Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Shelby Singleton Jr.)
A bit of a mystery album, issued on the semi-major Plantation label though possibly a custom pressing. Biographical info on this gal is hard to come by but she seems to have been from Lexington, Kentucky or thereabouts, playing local shows with her own trio as early as 1974, while cutting a few singles in Nashville, including a duet with producer Bob Struck. Back home in the late 'Seventies, she performed in bands led by Sam Stockard and Marty York. During the late '80s, she seems to have been doing some DJ-ing in locals venues and later still (in the early '90s) was doing club dates with a guy named Mike Roy.
John Stuckey "A Little Exposure" (Texas Re-Cord, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux)
A weird, cool, swampy Southern album that should appeal to fans of Tony Joe White and Larry Jon Wilson. A country DJ from Houston, Texas, John Stuckey had a slight local hit with the stoner anthem, "Seeds & Stems," and he released a couple of singles in addition to this album. He seems to have been tight with Jerry Jeff Walker, thanking him in the liner notes and having him as a guest on one track. Apparently he later became a well-known tattoo artist, or so they say...
Stumpwater Jak "Too Many Outlaws" (Pantheon Studios, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Hamrick & Rick Hamrick)
This hippiebilly band from Phoenix, Arizona featured lead guitar by Jerry Gropp (who had recorded and toured with Waylon Jennings in the '60s), keyboards from Steven D. Brown (who had previously held down a longtime gig playing in the house band at the Palomino Club in Albuquerque, NM) and drumming and harmony vocals by Michael Hounshell, from the local hippiefolk band Mason Bricke, along with bassist Gary Clemmons... Other than a cover of Louis Jordan's "Choo-Choo-Ch-Boogie," this album is packed with original material, songs such as "Fill 'Er Up Again," "Beer Drinkin' Song" and "Too Many Outlaws." You may detect a pattern here? Modern-day desert honkytonk, with a longhair twist.
Sugar Creek Band "Hopped The Train" (Muscadine Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Hornsby)
Southern-rock'n'twang from Macon, Georgia... The group included Tony Elmore on guitar and vocals, Jimmy Harpe (piano), Glen Hutchison (bass), Ronald Johnson (guitar) and Jimmy Kelly on drums -- they had been together for several years before cutting this disc in '82, with help from pianist Paul Hornsby, known for his work at the Capricorn label, and as a member of the Charlie Daniels Band. Hornsby plays on some tracks, and provides a studio crew that adds a little oomph, including Randy Howard of fiddle and mandolin, and David Irwin playing steel. This album is packed with original material, all written collectively by the band. As far as I know this was their only album, though the group performed together for years.
Sugarbush Revue "Ozark Mountain Music Show" (Audioloft Studios, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Max Sutton & Brad Edwards)
Yet another Missouri-based Ozarks musical variety show! The Sugarbush Revue's cast of musicians included Denver Golden (fiddle and guitar), Eric Gumm, Greg Harmon (banjo), Sherri Harmon (piano), and Don Sharp (lead guitar), singing a bunch of chestnuts and hits of the day. There's no date on this this one, but I'm guessing 1981-82, since they cover some contemporary Top Forty stuff like "You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma," which was a hit for David Frizzell and Shelly West in 1981 and Eddie Rabbitt's "Step By Step," also from '81.
Suitcase "Long Gone... Got Away Lucky" (Special Rider Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Salamone, James Steigmeyer & Michael Scully)
Acoustic blues from the Midwestern duo of Frank Salamone and James Steigmeyer (aka Suitcase) with Alan LeSert on bass and a couple of gals adding harmony vocals on a tune or two. Salamone apparently owned a record store in Grand Rapids, Michigan and formed a musical partnership with Steigmeyer in the mid-'70s which brought them into the orbit of the Twin Cities folk scene...The influences of blues revivalists such as Bob Brozman and David Bromberg are readily heard on this album; although Suitcase didn't quite have the charismatic razzle-dazzle of the brand-name blues dudes, this is a nice little record... If you like Bromberg, or George Gritzbach, this is worth checking out. Apparently, in later years Salamone was debilitated by muscular dystrophy and had to abandon his performing career and passed away in his 60s; Steigmeyer also performed under the stage name of "Jimmie Stagger," though I don't know if either of them recorded anything outside of this album.
The Leo Suiter Show "...Performs At The 1976 Fort Rucker 49'er Party" (Happy Valley Records, 1976) (LP)
Leo Suiter was an old-timer from Daleville, Alabama who kept his band together for several decades, barely scraping by after quitting his day job as a flight instructor for the state of Alabama. While doing research on these albums, I came across some documents from a 1990 tax evasion case, where the IRS mercilessly raked the old guy over the coals, despite the fact he'd only been making peanuts -- an income barely in the thousands -- for over a decade. (I guess Mr. Suiter supplemented his music income by a little side action with some off-the-books vending machines... and the authorities tend to frown on that sort of thing.) Anyway, depressing as it is, the court case offers a very revealing look at the economic realities faced by independent working musicians who really try to make a go of it. And it's not a pretty picture... I guess he made a handful of albums, including several cassette-only releases -- when he made this one he was woking with a pretty youthful, longhaired band... The music is raggedly amateurish, but enthusiastic, and a nice snapshot of a DIY twang band, plugging away with all their heart.
Leo Suiter "Live" (Gold Ring Records, 1976) (LP)
Jim Sullivan "UFO" (Monnie Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Peter Abbot & Jimmy Bond)
A cult musical figure with one of the more unusual life stories in the country-rock world, songwriter Jim Sullivan had a couple of albums under his belt when he packed up his Volkswagen one day in 1975 then drove away from his home in Southern California, heading for Nashville and the hope of success in the country music industry. Sullivan never made it, though: the last anyone ever heard of him, he had stopped in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where after a few misadventures he apparently disappeared into the desert... or was abducted by aliens, depending on who ask. Sullivan's possessions were found in his motel room, while his car was found parked on a local ranch; his disappearance remained an unsolved mystery for decades to come. Where he fits into the country-rock pantheon is also up for debate, though his musical legacy is certainly compelling -- two studio LPs and a posthumous demos set reveal a spacey, far-flung, erratic and impassioned vision, a yearning voice immersed in the eclectic, experimental styles of the time. This debut album is anchored in the chamber-folk pop stylings of late-'Sixties Los Angeles, which often melded more rural/acoustic artists into the lush orchestrations of the industry studio scene. Backed by several members of the fabled Wrecking Crew -- including studio pros Jimmy Bond, Earl Palmer and Don Randi -- Sullivan emerged as a folkish hippie dreamer, evoking better-known contemporaries such as Fred Neil, Phil Ochs and Tom Rush who also succumbed to the horn sections and string arrangements of the time. Admittedly, the arrangements have a slightly slapdash or by-the-numbers feel, and Sullivan's lyrics are pretty amorphous, but if you go for the "folk freak" sound, you'll want to check this out. In addition to the album's lone single, "Rosey," highlights include the romantic, windswept "Highways," as well as the title track, "U.F.O.," a song that doubtless led to the speculation about Sullivan's extraterrestrial encounters. An uneven but compelling album, very much of its time.
Jim Sullivan "Jim Sullivan" (Playboy Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Burch & Hank Cicalo)
A much stronger and more focussed album, this disc has more distinctive and deliberate arrangements, better-written songs and more resonant vocals... It's less of a historical curio and more of a real record, something you could listen to a few times and hear new things every time. It also coasts into what could be called roots-rock territory, as opposed to the post-folk meanderings of his debt. There's even a little hint of Leon Redbone in here as well... When I first heard this played on a record store stereo a few years ago, it was a head-turner. Sullivan ably covers John Stewart's "Lonesome Picker," as well as an R. B. Greaves/Jonathan Rowlands tune, but other than that, the songs are all his own originals, and they're pretty compelling. Among the artists backing him is banjo picker/guitarist David Cohen (formerly of Country Joe & The Fish fame), pianist Mike Melvoin and a bunch of folks on reeds and horns, not the least of whom include Jim Horn and LA Express's Tom Scott. Maybe more of a "rock" thing, but definitely worth checking out.
Jim Sullivan "If The Evening Were Dawn" (Light In The Attic, 2019) (LP)
Maura Sullivan "Out Of The Blue" (Success Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Tony Migliore, Jim Williamson & Maura Sullivan)
The debut album by songwriter Maura Sullivan, a gal from McLean, Virginia who later became known for her yearly contributions to Washington, DC's holiday celebrations, notably with her song, "Christmas Eve In Washington" (which is not included on this album, and originally came out as a single). Sullivan recorded this album with a studio crew that included Nashvillers such as Lloyd Green, Terry McMillan and Tony Migliore, definitely a country flavor, but also with some chamber musicians mixed in as well - cello, viola and the like. This includes Sullivan's own, "If You Walk Out On Me This Time," as well as a couple of songs written by Bill Rice.
Maura Sullivan "If You Want My Love" (Playback Records, 1986-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Gale & Jim Pierce)
On this album, Maura Sullivan had a remarkably deep voice, bringing to mind country vocalists like Gus Hardin, who had a similarly "masculine" tone. Combined with the album's mildly synthy 'Eighties production, Sullivan in some ways anticipates the blues-mama sound of Wynona Judd's solo work in the 1990s.
Pete Sullivan "Where The Wind Pumps The Water... And The Cows Chop The Wood" (Pawn Shop Publishing, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Sullivan & Gene Huddleston)
A West Texas native, twang auteur Pete Sullivan grew up on a hardscrabble farm near Lubbock, listened to country and western swing as a kid, and toured with various bands, playing bass for stars such as Tommy Duncan, Lefty Frizzell and a pre-countrypolitan Freddie Hart. When he settled down, music became more of a sideline, and Sullivan made his living running pawn shops in Lubbock and Garland, Texas. This album is filled with his own songs, including a tribute to the king of western swing, "I've Shook The Great Bob Wills Hand," along with some more idiosyncratic tunes such as "Sometimes I Wish I Could Turn My Life Around," "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day," and "Matamoros-Reynosa-Villa Acuna-Juarez-Blues." The band also seems to be mostly local, with Sullivan paying bass, backed by pickers such as Buddy Brady on fiddle, Ray Hargrove (lead guitar), Paul Ivey (steel guitar), Joe Jett (drums), Junior Knight (guitar, dobro and steel) Stuart Lamb on piano and Jim Shanks playing saxophone and trumpet. I'm not sure, but I think this was his only album...
Slim Sullivan & His Westerners "Hank Williams Sings: A Tribute To Hank Williams" (Palace Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Sullivan & Gene Huddleston)
A cheapo-label Hank Williams tribute disc of somewhat dubious merit... I'm not 100% sure, but I'm pretty sure some of these are songs Hank Williams didn't record. I mean, I could be wrong, but when did Hank record "Carry Me Back To Old Virginny," for example? According to Discogs Slim Sullivan was yet another pseudonym in the cheapo-label underworld, and these tracks may have been licensed or released under a variety of names... I mean, look, if you wanna listen to all those Slim Boyd or "Johnny Williams" and "Luke Williams" LPs and figure out which tracks were done by the same artists, go for it.
Summerdog "Blue Grass" (Peek Publications, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Chip Curry)
A popular band on the late '70s Tucson, Arizona scene, Summerdog mixed bluegrass roots with western swing and border music, also producing a wealth of original material written by various bandmembers. The longhaired lineup on this album featured banjo player Chip Curry, fiddler Marc Rennard, Ron Doering on guitar and mandolin by Jon Ross. (An early incarnation of the group included banjo player Tom Rozum, who went on to become one of the key players in the Northern California bluegrass scene... I don't think Rozum ever played on any of their albums, though.)
Summerdog "Tucson, AZ" (M & I Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by E. C. Creigh & R. W. Darling)
Summerdog "New Moon" (M & I Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by R. W. Darling, Fred Porter & Roger King)
A live album, which the liner notes say was their third album... Once again, the disc is packed with original material... The band apparently reunited in 2012 and compiled a CD best-of drawing on all three of these albums, making it available to fans via Facebook and other outlets...
Kay Summers "...Sings Nashville Greats" (Autumn Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Sikes)
Piano player Kay Summers was playing a lounge act in Biloxi, Mississippi when she went to Nashville to record this set, playing in a stripped-down trio with studio pros Roy Huskey on bass and Will Ackerman on drums... There's no date on this, but the repertoire is all covers of mainstream country songs of 1950s/mid-'60s vintage, along with a couple of Kris Kristofferson covers... So... maybe 1972-75-ish?
Vic Summers "Sings Alaska... As It was ... As It Is" (Big Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Bryant)
A historically-themed folk-lecture kinda thing, on a label from Delta Junction, Alaska... Which I think is up North, somewhere... Unless of course if you're from Fairbanks or Venetie, in which case it's to your South. But I digress...
The Sunday River Bluegrass Show "You Can Dress 'Em Up, But You Can't Take 'Em Out" (Biscuit City, 1972) (LP)
A longhair bluegrass/stringband from Colorado with banjoist E. P. Davis (later of the Hollywood Rodeo Band) and David Ferretta, who was known both as a mandolin picker and as the owner of a music store that was a focal point of the hippie-era Colorado folk/bluegrass/country scene.
Sundown "Rocky Bayou Lullaby" (Vector Records, 1979) (LP)
Well, yeah, I guess technically there's some country-rock twang on here, though this is really more of an emotive soft-pop/pop-folk record, roughly in a John Denver kinda mode. Hailing from Shalimar, Florida, Sundown was the duo of Rob Harrell and Doug Smith, with Smith doing a lot of the heavy lifting, playing bass, banjo and synthesizers, while Harrell was primarily a songwriter and lead singer. They also had some pedal steel in the mix, courtesy of fellow local David Raper, as well as some (eek) saxophone by a guy named Al Nudo. If you're looking for honkytonk'n'twang, this probably ain't your record, but they still earned a nod in the whole wide constellation of 'Seventies indiebilly DIY.
Billy Sundown "True Country" (Sur-Speed Records, 1983-?) (LP)
This is definitely an odd album... Billy Sundown was a singer from 1960's Nashville who, shortly after moving to Nashville in '66, recorded one single for producer Red Wortham's independent Sur-Speed label. The songs on that single are recycled here, along with a slew of other tunes originally recorded by various other Sur-Speed artists. This album is a weird artifact, with beyond-minimalist liner notes: no musician or production credits, no address, and no release date either, although it looks like an '80s offering (which is borne out by Sundown's signature on the copy I've seen, dated 1983...) Anyway, all the material on here is drawn from the label's old catalog, though it's not clear whether these are re-recorded versions, or old masters gathered onto an album for Sundown to sell at his shows. Included are two songs by Don Bailey ("It Was The Best I Ever Had" and "Navigatin' Woman") and three songs by Jerry Wall ("Diddy Boppin' And Motor Mouthing," "Heart Broken Heart Breaker" and "Slamming Of The Door"). Sundown's background remains mysterious as well... On his old single, it says he is a member of the Seneca tribe, though it's not clear which Seneca nation he's from, or where he grew up, etc. Anyone out there have more info about this guy?
Sundown Jim "...And His Willoughby Ramblers" (Willoughby Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by M. Addario)
This was the second album by this Ontario-based band, which played a mix of classic country and polka tunes. Among the country stuff are hits such as "Born To Lose," "From A Jack To A King," "Green Green Grass Of Home" and "There Goes My Everything." Like a lot of old Canadian LPs, this doesn't include a release date, but based on the repertoire it must have been sometime in the early 'Seventies, at the latest. And I'm guessing Jim took his stage name from the hero in Ernest Haycox's western series(?)
The Sundowners "Fire Up" (Sundown Productions, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Jung)
One of several bands using the Sundowners name, this Minnesota group featured Al Bozicevich playing lead guitar, banjo and fiddle, Jerry Collyard on pedal steel, drummer Jim Laine and Virgil Stahlberg on vocals and rhythm guitar. There's no date on the disc, but covers of contemporary hits such as "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" and "Behind Closed Doors" probably place this somewhere around 1973-74. Although they clearly played a lot of covers, they were also fairly ambitious about their original material, with about half the album written by various guys in the band: Bozicevich contributes a tune called "Fiddle Breakdown," along with "It's Too Late" and "Who Am I Fooling," while Mr. Stahlberg gives us "Tuesday" and "Water Under The Bridge." They also cover Detroit-area songwriter Tom Lazaros's "Big City Miss Ruth Ann," which had been an easy listening hit for the band Gallery in '73. On the front cover, The Sundowners are posed on a fire engine; I think they all worked together for a local fire department somewhere, but haven't tracked the details down.
The Sundowners "The Sundowners" (EJ Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Don Caldwell, Lloyd Maines & Syl Rice)
This beloved Chicago twangband featured Bob Boyd on rhythm guitar, Curtis Delaney playing bass, and Don Walls on lead guitar; they play mostly western oldies -- "Cimmeron," "Cool Water," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and other canonical cowboy classics. The provenance of these recordings is a little mysterious... It looks like the Sundowners recorded their sessions up in Chicago, possibly with some local pickers helping out, but then the tapes were sent down to Lubbock, Texas where engineer Don Caldwell and his pals in the Maines Brothers Band added overdubbed parts before the album was mixed down and sent back up north. Go figure! But hey, man, find anything with Lloyd Maines playing steel guitar on it, and I'm in!
The Sundowners "Chicago Country Legends" (Bloodshot Records, 2003)
A uniquely alluring, informal set, documenting the work of these good-natured elder statesmen of Chicago's country music scene. The Sundowners, comprised of guitarists Bob Boyd and Don Walls, along with bassist Curt Delaney, were a hard-working ensemble that performed together almost continuously from 1959 to 1989, playing at dives and local taverns throughout the Windy City. They all originally hailed from the South, but after meeting up north, they plugged away for many a year and became legendary figures on Chicago's urban country scene. This disc, drawn from three decades of live performances, is both a heartwarming memento of these long-off-the-radar hillbilly singers, and a really fun record in and of itself. The material is a mix of western cowboy tunes, old-fashioned heartsongs, countrified pop and rock standards and even a song written by Robbie Fulks, back in 1988. The Sundowners also recorded several albums on various local micro-labels (good luck finding them!), but the ambiance of their live shows has a special appeal. I thought this was a really charming record, more authentic and genuinely heartfelt than a truckload of Number One hits from modern-day Nashville. Recommended!
The Sundowners "Homespun Country, Volume One" (Hillside Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Allison & Dave Allison)
Not to be confused with the Chicago-based old coot cowboy band, this English country group from Suffolk is fascinating in more ways than one. Bandleader Jock "Slim" Albins is credited with forming the first country band in Ipswich, and kept it together for decades -- this particular incarnation features his son Tony Albins on lead guitar, and a variety of singers, including a gal identified only as "Carol (sadly no last name was given) who sings with a charmingly English accent layered into the American-style twang, reminding me a bit of Maddy Prior. They also had a guy named Raj playing drums, so they were an integrated group as well. The repertoire is all covers of American country hits, well-chosen and earnestly delivered, though if the truth be told neither the performances or the production values will blow you away. But if you want to hear a totally charming, totally earnest set of British country enthusiasts singing their little hearts out, this is a nice record to check out.
The Sundowners "Homespun Country, Volume Two" (Hillside Records, 1975-?) (LP)
And, yes, they made a Volume Two...!
Suns Of The West "At Work" (Sunburst Records, 1974) (LP)
Brothers Neil and Terry Bagaus started their country-rock band as teens -- formed in 1969, the group was originally called the Sons Of Country and featured the Baugus brothers along with a long string of bandmembers, locals all. Neil and Terry were born in Milbank, South Dakota, and later moved out west to Aberdeen where they lived when they cut this disc, changing the band's name as well, which was probably wise since half the musicians on this recording session was female. In addition to Neil Bagaus on rhythm guitar and Terry on bass, the lineup also featured Kim May playing lead guitar and Jenni Blocker on piano -- Blocker would stay with the Suns for several years and also played and sang on their second (and last?) album. The band was, in all honesty, pretty clunky and amateurish, but they seem to have had fun, and made a go of it, traveling as far afield as Kansas City and Minneapolis (where this album was recorded.) In 1977, Neil Bagaus and Jenni Blocker traveled to Nashville and recorded an album as a duo, with Bagaus going under the name Neil Wayne; he later made a career managing privately-owned railroad lines and seems to have retired to Florida.
Sunshine "Three's A Crowd" (BLAM Acetate Disks, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Douglas Sparz & Jim Van Buskirk)
A country-and-rock bar band from Minneapolis, Minnesota with three main musicians (the "crowd") -- Will Lebold (guitars), Steve Canavan (drums) and Doug Spartz (bass) and all three guys singing. They also had some other locals pitching in, and later expanded the group to include some female vocals. The set list on this album included a lot of rock oldies ("Matchbox," "Pretty Woman," "Runaround Sue") and country classics such as "Truck Driving Man" and "Statue Of A Fool." They also wrote their own stuff, with four original songs on here: "Carol's Song" and "Keep My Soul" written by Doug Sparz, and "How Many" and "Laine (You're Gonna Make It)" by Will Lebold.
Sunshine "Reflections And Friends" (Slade Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Dicken & Jim Van Buskirk)
An expanded version of the band, still playing a mix of country and rock, with songs that include "Cowboys Are Just Born To Lose At Lovin'," "Gonna Party Tonight" and the intriguingly titled "Small Town Rock 'N' Roll Star." This time around the group includes a couple of female lead singers, Paula Adamson and Jessie Comstock.
The Sunshine Boys "On The Right Track" (1983) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Abbott)
A youthful band from Dallas, Texas working their way through a bunch of covers, though no originals of their own. There are some real oldies ("Hey Good Looking," "Make The World Go Away," "This Old House"); newer tunes ("Family Reunion," "Tulsa Time") and some good old-fashioned rock'n'roll ("Tutti Frutti" and "You Can Have Her"). The group, which included Kent Calvin on lead guitar, Steve Chapman (piano), Kelly Helm (bass), David Floyd (drums), Bryan Sandlin (rhythm guitar) and lead singer Gene Stroman, seems to have been connected with the Grapevine Opry, or at least played there for a while.
Sunshine Express "Sunshine Express" (American Entertainment Productions, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Henley & Christopher Banniger)
This perky yet anonymous "Me Generation" group was (I think) from Indiana and apparently intended to be a sort of Hoosier version of the New Christy Minstrels... The album features medleys of current and semi-current pop and country hits, peppered with folk-pop tunes and vocal oldies. The most current covers included "Delta Dawn" and Wayne Newton's "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast," both from 1972, as well as Dottie West's 1973 hit, "Country Sunshine" and some country oldies by Hank Williams, et. al., So I'm guessing '74 or so for this disc, although the band was playing supper clubs and county fairs at least as late as 1977. No info is listed about the bandmembers, other that AEP's head, Gary Henley; the album was recorded at a studio in Alexandria, Indiana.
The Sunshine Singers "A Ray Of Sunshine From The Sunshine Singers" (BOC Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Brad Edwards, B. J. Carnahan & M. C. Rather)
This cheerful ensemble featured a four-woman chorus -- who rather oddly are not identified in the liner notes, although the instrumental musicians are. The driving forces behind the band seem to have been multi-instrumentalist Brad Edwards -- who plays banjo, dobro, guitar, pedal steel and drums(!) -- along with piano player Ramona Bullington, whose dad is thanked on the back cover for helping make the record possible. The set list is an eclectic repertoire, mixing old pop tunes like "In The Mood" and "My Blue Heaven" with country material as diverse as John Denver's "Country Roads," Peewee King's "Slowpoke," and Faron Young's 1957 classic, "Tattletale Tears." I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that the pop oldies were added as a favor to Ms. Bullington's old pop, who probably footed the bill for the studio time and the pressing. This was one of the many countless custom pressings made in Mack's Creek, Missouri, and it's worth noting that engineer B. J. Carnahan, an old Army pal of Johnny Cash, also recorded an album of his own around the same time, which is also reviewed on this site.
Supa "Supa's Jamboree" (Paramount Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Buie)
More of a rock thing, though with a rural, if jagged, feel. Richard Supa (ne Richard Goodman) grew up in Brooklyn, New York and joined a series of rock bands, including the Rich Kids and one called Man, before going solo in the early 'Seventies. His first couple of albums had a country-rock/southern rock flair, particularly this one, where he was backed by a band called Jamboree (which, according to the liner notes, had "some very together musicians," in the parlance of the time...) As the decade wore on, Supa veered into more of a hard-rock mode, and is perhaps best remembered for his raunchy anthem, "Chip Away The Stone," which was covered by both Aerosmith and Humble Pie. I guess this is "country" in roughly the same measure as songs like "Honky Tonk Woman" by the Rolling Stones, indicative of the ambient vibe of the time, more than a deep commitment to country music itself. Questions of twangitude aside, it must be said that Supa had a pretty unusual singing voice; an acquired taste, for sure.
Supa "Homespun" (Paramount Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Buie)
Super Grit Cowboy Band "Super Grit Cowboy Band" (Sound Hut Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Mattocks & Bill Lyerly)
This local group from North Carolina had some modest success on the Country charts, despite being an indie-label band with a propensity for true twang and a little bit of profanity (see the title of their second album, below...) They are also notable for starting the career of sideman and songwriter Curtis Wright, who went from here into Vern Gosdin's band, and then into a partnership with Nashville songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall, and later still became the lead singer for the post-Marty Raybon lineup of Shenandoah. Often, the guys in funky little bands like this will give up on music careers and a seldom heard from again -- but not this time!
Super Grit Cowboy Band "If You Can't Hang... Drag Your Country Ass Home" (Hoodswamp Records, 1981) (LP)
Super Grit Cowboy Band "Showing Our Class" (Hoodswamp Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Mattocks)
There's a wide variety of influences on this album, with a couple of unabashed Waylon soundalike songs, nods to Merle, more contemporary-sounding '80s country and a dash of bluegrass, with fancy mandolin pickin' by Dale Reno, son of truegrass legend Don Reno. The guys in the band trade off on lead vocals, with Alan Hicks, Danny Vinson and Curtis Wright taking turns on most tracks, and steel player Clyde Mattocks bopping his way through the novelty number "Pretty Girls Never Travel In Pairs" and pianist Mike Kinzie yukking it up on "Heal," a faux-gospel revival number that closes the album out. There's a slight disconnect between the high level of musicianship (particularly the crisp pedal steel) and the DIY-sounding production (most notably the flat thumping of the rhythm section...) Overall, though, this is a noteworthy indie album from a band that had commercial leanings, but wasn't trying too hard to play the fame game. Worth a spin!
Super Grit Cowboy Band "This Way To The Stage" (Hoodswamp Records, 1986) (LP)
The Supernatural Family Band -- see discography page
The Supremes "Sing Country Western & Pop" (Motown Records, 1965) (LP)
(Produced by Clarence Paul)
Really? Wow... why wasn't I informed of this earlier?!?
The Susquehanna River Band "Susquehanna River Band" (Baldwin Sound Productions, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Kent Baldwin & The Susquehanna River Band)
The Susquehanna River Band "II" (SRB Music/Baldwin Sound Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Still)
Suthern Comfort "Sings Bill Herrick Originals" (Door Knob Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Kennedy & Bill Langlois)
A see-what-sticks effort from one of the last great Top Forty indie labels of the '80s. The short-lived Suthern Comfort (who probably could have had a better band name) was the vocal trio of Mike Reinecke, Gene Tesch, and Tim Tesch, backed on this album by a Nashville studio crew that included folks like Charlie McCoy and steel player Russ Hicks. Despite their evocative "suthern" name, the group was from Wausau, Wisconsin and made their way to Music City after winning a country music talent show sponsored by Wrangler Jeans in 1984 in conjunction with local radio station WDEZ. Formed in the late 'Seventies, the group seems to have been aiming for the vocal harmony style bands such as Alabama and the Bellamy Brothers, although it's worth noting that when they were winning first place at the state fair in West Allis, WI, they also had a female bandmember,, Kathy Lindie, who apparently opted not to make the trip to Nashville. Dunno what the story was on songwriter Bill Herrick, though -- apparently he was signed to the publishing wing of the Door Knob empire, though I don't think he was originally connected to this band from up north.
Glenn Sutton "Close Encounters Of The Sutton Kind" (Mercury Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Glenn Sutton)
An oddball album from Glenn Sutton (1937-2007) one of Nashville's best-known songwriters and producers, among whose claims to fame was his decade-long marriage to countrypolitan superstar Lynn Anderson, during her early 'Seventies glory years. At first glance, Sutton's choice to do a comedy record as his "debut" album might seem strange, but if you look back far enough, he'd been making semi-hip country comedy singles since the early 'Sixties. So, Ray Stevens, Don Bowman, Dick Feller... watch out! This album features the single "Super Drunk," as well as topical tunes such as "Hip! Hip! Hip! Hooray For The ERA" and "TV Preacher Man Blues," though tragically does not include "Red Neck Disco," a song that was the A-side of the "ERA" single, and is probably of more interest than most of the other stuff on here, which mostly falls into the corny, strained humor category. Sutton is backed, of course, by a slew of Nashville super-pickers, folks like Jimmy Capps, Jerry Kennedy, Hargus Robbins, Henry Strzelecki, et.al.
Ned Sutton "Drugstore Cowboy" (Pool International, 1978/1981) (LP)
(Produced by George Hawke)
Another nice one from the American Southwest... Tucson, Arizona bandleader Ned Sutton really throws himself into these brightly-produced, truly twangy country novelty tunes, and while audibly very DIY, it's also very solid and satisfying. All the songs were written by producer/guitarist/bassist George Hawke, who used to be in the fabled Dusty Chaps (along with Sutton, I believe...) Also on board is picker Shep Cooke, another desert indiebilly auteur, and sundry other locals. This is a fine record, with plenty of wit and grit, and definitely worth tracking down. I guess this was Sutton's only album... anyone know for sure?
Vern Swain "After All These Years" (Tenn-Can Records, 1979)
(Produced by Jerry Michael & Larry Lee Broderick)
A singer from Boise, Idaho playing all original material, including songs such as "Just Can't Stand The Heartache," "Old Wyoming Cowboy" and "You're Breaking This Old Country Boy's Heart." Apparently Swain played at a bar called the Lock, Stock & Barrell, and one of the songs on this album, "Calamity's Tune," was co-written with a local school teacher Anglee Ruud. Swain went to Nashville to record, booking time with a studio crew that included Sonny Garrish on steel, as well as Greg Galbraith, Bunky Keels, Bruce Watkins, and the Cates Sisters singing backup.
Swampwater "Swampwater" (Starday Records, 1970) (LP)
This album was recorded by country-rockers John Beland and Gib Guilbeau while they were working together as part of Linda Ronstadt's early backup band... It's an interesting example of early-vintage Southern California country-rock mixing with cajun country, with sort of a Doug Kershaw-meets-The Byrds vibe. The pop-rock production is a little on the light side, though the airy high harmonies are attractive -- sort of a bridge between the Hollies and the Eagles. There's also a relatively old-fashioned '60s folk vibe on several tracks... Several members of the band wound up working with Arlo Guthrie for a few years, while Beland and Gilbeau reunited years later in a commercially successful 1980's lineup of the Flying Burrito Brothers. But given that this album came out so early in the decade, it deserves its own special spot in the annals of country-rock. Certainly worth a spin!
Swampwater "Swampwater" (RCA-Victor, 1971)
(Produced by Larry Murray & Ken Mansfield)
The second Swampwater album gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but it featured a nice dose of the RCA studio sound, and rich contributions from guest musicians such as Herb Pedersen on banjo, steel guitarists Jimmy Day and Curly Chalker, and piano player Glen D. Hardin (who was later to join Elvis Presley's TCB band, and Emmylou Harris's Hot Band...) Quite a lineup! Around this same time the guys in Swampwater were trying to hustle up gigs anywhere they could, and worked as backup musicians on a bunch of budget-line albums. For more info about these records, check out the Gib Guilbeau discography...
Isaac Payton Sweat "Cotton Eyed Joe, Shottish, Jole Blon and Other Bandstand Favorites" (Bellaire Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Don Janicek & Bert Filot)
A tragic figure, Texas twangster Isaac Payton Sweat (1945-1990) had deep musical roots. He started his career moving from casual, semi-professional family stringbands into the explosive Lone Star garage rock scene of the early 1960s. While enrolled at Lamar College, he met blues-rock legend Johnny Winter, and followed Winter through a variety of bands, eventually peeling off into a more "psychedelic" direction before getting back into country music towards the end of the Seventies. (He rejoined Winter briefly and played bass on Winter's 1978 album, White, Hot & Blue.) Sweat found fame with his version of "Cotton Eyed Joe," a dancehall favorite popularized by Al Dean, but even though he had a hit, Sweat didn't make any money off it, and found himself at the mercy of the music business, cycling through labels, managers and band while unable to transcend the regional Texas market. Parts of this album were recorded at Gilley's Club in Pasadena, TX; Sweat apparently recorded it without a real contract, and received very little money for the release. His next LP, below, was basically a do-over where he was able to get royalties for his work, though he wasn't able to maintain the momentum of the original album's success, and his third album from 1987 also failed to boost him nationally. Sweat died in 1990 from a gunshot wound; whether he was murdered or shot himself remained a subject of debate around Houston for years, but either way it was a terrible loss for Texas.
Isaac Payton Sweat "Cotton Eyed Joe And Other Dancehall Favorites" (Paid Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Roy C. Ames)
Isaac Payton Sweat "Crawdust" (Tex-Lou Records, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Derek Powers)
Sweet Daddy Siki "Squares Off With Country Music" (Arc Records, 197--?) (LP)
Professional wrestler Reginald "Sweet Daddy" Siki (aka "Mr. Irresistible") was born in Texas and started his career in the American Southwest, but moved to Toronto, Canada, where he became a local and national celebrity. He was a major figure in professional wrestling during the 1960s and '70s and somewhere along the line he diversified into singing country music, as heard on this album,
Sweet Daddy Siki "Sweet Daddy Siki" (Periwinkle Records, 1972) (LP)
This album is heavy on Merle Haggard songs and honkytonk oldies and early '70s hits such as "Is Anyone Going To San Antone" and "Kiss An Angel Good Morning." No info on the backing musicians, etc. Alas.
Sweetwater "The Sky's The Limit" (Sweetwater Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Sweetwater & Don Lee)
A country-rock outfit from Scottsville, Kentucky whose repertoire included two early-'80s Rodney Crowell songs, "Ain't Livin' Long Like This" and "Shame On The Moon," as well as one of their own that was a little on the outlaw side, "I'm Stoned."
Johnny Swendel "First Folk Almanac" (Country International Records, 1974) (LP)
Although the cover says "folk," really what they mean is "hillbilly," with Pennsylvania-born old-timer Johnny Swendel singing some pleasantly rugged material in the style of Depression-era vintage Roy Acuff, with a touch of Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Davis... Stuff of that type, maybe with a trace of "outsider" singers in their as well. The backing band is anonymous, but they were good. There might be some original material on here, but it's hard to tell, since Swendel claims copyright on his arrangements of a bunch of folk tunes, such as "John Henry" and "Lonesome Valley." Anyway, it's a nice souvenir album from a guy who was a regular on several country "barn dance" shows, including a long stint on one of the stages at the WWVA Original Jamboree, and apparently cut some hillbilly boogie singles back in the rockabilly era... Anyone know more about Mr. Swendel? I'm all ears.
Johnny Swendel "Let's Put Old Glory Back" (Country International Records, 1975) (LP)
The Swing Ryders "Volume One" (Wry Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Yesbek)
An early '70s country cover band from Kensington, Maryland, with a repertoire including "Me And You & A Dog Named Boo," "Snowbird," "Take Me Home Country Road," "Joy To The World," as well as a version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." The group featured steel guitar player Clyde Bloodworth and lead guitar Gill Machen, with vocals by Buck Gordon and twin sisters Carla and Martha McCartney. All the songs on here were covers.
The Swingstreet Singers "Lucille And Other Kenny Rogers Hits" (Tudor Records/Murray Hill Music, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Whitehead)
Although the Murray Hill label was pretty sketchy to begin with, this is still an odd-looking album, a cheaper-than-usual cheapo album, that I would guess was some kind of tax writeoff... I mean, Kenny Rogers was bad enough the first time around... but a tribute album? Really?
J. T. Swinney/Various Artists "It's Our Old Opry House" (Artom Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Wallis)
This appears to be kind of a song-poem vanity album wherein Mr. Swinney -- who wrote all the lyrics -- only sings on one song. The other tracks are performed by John Campbell and Othell Sullivan...Sullivan (1931-2017) was an early 'Sixties rockabilly singer and Birmingham, Alabama area radio deejay, working on stations including WEBZ and WVOK. Sullivan led a band called the Southern Allstars; I'm not sure if any of the guys in his band backed him here. Mr. Swinney had been copyrighting his songs through the Artom publishing company at least as early as 1964; a single on Artom featuring Othell Sullivan and Joe Rumore (both singing Swinney's material) is dated to 1966, though this album came out about a decade later. Details on both Swinney and Artom are pretty scant
Buddy Swint "My Secret Love" (Ripcord Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Harry Axson & Buddy Swint)
Charles Swint (1938-2011) was originally from Augusta, Georgia, but lived most of his life in Tacoma, Washington, where he played bass and guitar for bandleader and bar owner Ray Hildreth (aka Shotgun Red). As far as I know, this was Swint's only album, a mixed set of cover songs and originals, sung by a semi-shaggy, muttonchoppy bunch of youngsters... One of Swint's idols seems to have been Marty Robbins, with covers of "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife," as well as "Mountain Of Love" and "Unchained Melody." There are several originals published either by Ripcord Music or Central Songs, with two songs credited to Buddy Swint, "A Few Short Hours" and "You're Unfaithfully Mine," and others including "I've Got A Lot Of Things," and "Billy Balew," presumably written by members of the band. Swint's brother Edward was also a songwriter and musician, playing in the orbit of Shotgun Red, although apparently not on this album. The backing band for this album included Don Floyd on bass, Mike French (drums), and Steve Junion (piano).
Keith Sykes "1-2-3" (Vanguard Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Lathrop)
I'm trying really, really hard not to stray into mainstream folk music while putting together this hippiebilly guide, but in this case I'll make an exception. Keith Sykes was one of the many second-tier folkies who labored under the long shadow of Bob Dylan, and while some made the transition to the more expansive singer-songwriter sound, others struggled to remain relevant. Kentucky-born Sykes came late to the party, starting his career in 1968, and this was his second album. In some ways, this record is as good a demarcation between the folk movement's glory days and it's near-final demise: Skyes beats against the walls of genre, still hammering out Dylanesque/Wood Guthrie-ish acoustic-guitar-and-vocal ditties, but his own sense of frustration and irritation bleeds through from start to finish. Two songs speak to this disaffection... The title track, "1-2-3," is a remarkable blast of pure acoustic nihilism, a flat-out precursor to '70s punk, in which Sykes, pounding away on the frets and complaining about his songwriting, swears in the first verse (singing about "beatin' the s--- out of my guitar...") and having crossed the line into the un-airable, goes on to paint a strongly negative character portrait, using the n-word in a surprisingly uninhibited way in the last verse, with a gutteral "1-2-3, 1-2-3!" as the song's chorus... All that's missing is the oi-oi-oi and you've got London, 1978 on your hands. A lot of the other tunes are tedious on their surface -- more strummy Dylan stuff -- but the album's closer, "Like A Candle," produces the emotional resonance I was searching for, and it, too, seems like a rueful folk music obituary. It's posed as a mournful love ballad, but feels like the thematic bookend to Side One's "1-2-3":
Many, many nights go by me
I'm older now with another song
But I'll remember once there was
A light inside, but now it's died
Burnin', like a candle, it has gone.
Sykes went on to move decisively into country music and country-rock... He wrote songs with John Prine, toured with Jerry Jeff Walker and as a member of Jimmy Buffett's band, and had several songs recorded by Rosanne Cash and others. But the hot blast of this album's title track is pretty unique for the time -- the Fugs did stuff like that, but they were just trying to shock the rubes, while Sykes really seemed to be expressing himself. Not much twang on here, but it's an intriguing transitional album. Oh, and hey, Keith, if you're out there, I'd love to hear the story behind this album. Were you really as cynical and burnt-out as you sounded?
Sandy Szigeti "America's Sweetheart" (Decca Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Nelson, Jeff Kewley & Sandy Szigeti)
This one comes from the rock'n'roll peripheries of LA's early '70s twang scene... Not a lot of info about singer-producer Sandy Szigeti (1947-2012) who recorded this lone solo album after making a few singles in the late '60s. Despite the groovy vibes and backing by studio musicians including Rita Coolidge, Doug Kershaw and bassist Jerry Scheff, of Elvis Presley's TCB band, as well as the apparent patronage of former teen idol Rick Nelson, Szigeti didn't crack through as a performer, and this disc remains a little-known footnote to SoCal's nascent country-rock movement. There is a definite country vibe, though the record is mainly anchored in the thudding "boogie rock" sound of the era, with hints of the hard-partying Southern Rock to be heard later in albums by Lynryrd Skynrd and the Dickie Betts Band, et. al. An odd, eclectic album, somewhat leaden in parts, and very much a product of its time... worth checking out if you're a 'Seventies rock fan, though perhaps less rewarding if you're coming at it from a country lover's perspective. Szigeti worked as a studio engineer for much of the 'Seventies, but eventually dropped out of the music business to become a mortgage broker and real estate agent in Southern California.
Hick Music Index