70s Country Artists LOCALS ONLY: This is a guide to independent and off-the-radar country musicians from the 1960s, 1970s and early 'Eighties, including hometown performers working in regional oprys, jamborees, dude ranches, casinos, pizza parlors and lounges. They included longhaired country-rockers, red-dirt outlaws, Nashville hopefuls and earnest amateurs, as well as the more country-oriented artists in the bluegrass and southern gospel fields. Many of these musicians toured nationally or regionally while others were strictly hometown folks. These are the people who are often overlooked in the history books but who contributed their talents, hopes and dreams to the country music world, and the aim of this guide is to keep their memories and their work alive. Comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

This page covers the letters "X," Y" and "Z."

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Mike & Kathy Yager "Young Love" (197--?) (LP)
A hometown hero from Pentwater, Michigan, Mike Yager led a high school band in the early '60s and after serving a hitch in the Coast Guard, went back into music and got briefly signed to King Records, releasing a couple of singles in 1969. I really can't tell you much about this duo from Michigan, though I know they played at Nashville's Fan Fair in 1982... I think this is the same Mike Yager who recorded for King, but I can't say for sure. Anyone know more about this album?

Bob Yarger "Smoke 'N' Ashes 'N' Promises" (Jester Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hale)

A cattle rancher from McCone County, Montana, Bob Yarger covered a few of his favorites, but also offered up a trio of original tunes, including his satirical "Energy Independence," the title track which he also wrote, as well as Helen Waller's "Real Contentment," which extols the virtues of the rural life in Big Sky country. And, of course, there's the inevitable rendition of "Me And Bobby McGee!"

Bobby Yates "S.O.C.M. (Save Our Country Music)" (Rave Records, 1986-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Edenton)

Florida-born neotrad honkytonker Bobby Yates alternates his own robust originals with a handful of Hank Williams classics... He's backed by members of Hank's old band, the Drifting Cowboys -- Don Helms and Jerry Rivers -- along with Ray Edenton, a couple of Edenton's family members, and several Nashville A-Teamers, such as Hargus Robbins, Kenny Malone and Charlie McCoy.

Bobby Yates "Have You Ever Really Listened (To A Hank Williams Song)?" (Lucky Lady Records, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Edenton)

More Hank-alicious hard country from this Punta Gorda, Florida honkytonker. Yates, whose day job was as a land surveyor in the Florida Everglades, is backed by the same crew of Drifting Cowboys alums: Don Helms, and Jerry Rivers, as well as old-timer Bob McNett and several A-list Nashville studio cats. This album is a collection of singles recorded at Young'Uns Studio in Nashville and previously released between 1985-87 on various NSD labels. Lucky Lady seems to have been an offshoot of the German collector label, Binge Discs, which specializes in classic hard-country, both vintage and new.

Yellow Hand "Yellow Hand" (Capitol Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Dallas Smith)

After the fabled hippie supergroup Buffalo Springfield imploded, some clever record execs found a way to recycle a few songs left over from the uncut sessions-that-might-have-been. This hastily-conceived studio band got to record six unused offerings by Stephen Stills and Neil Young, and fans of early country-rock might find the familiar, airy harmonies and folk-soul arrangements comforting. The remainder of the tracks are credited to Jerry Tawney, who moved through a string of little-known bands in the late 'Sixites and early 'Seventies. Perhaps the most notable member of the group was teenaged guitarist Pat Flynn, who later co-founded the pioneering acoustic group, New Grass Revival, which helped open up bluegrass music to the hip and happening new, rock-friendly sounds of the era. This wasn't a game-changing record, but it fits nicely into the whole Poco/Eagles/Ozark Mountain Daredevils side of things.

Butch Yelton & Upbound "Cookin' Country Gospel" (1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Butch Yelton)

A hard-driving gospel twang band from Bardolph, Illinois... This album features five songs written by bandleader Butch Yelton, as well as one by singer Mary Foley, along with a track called "Amazing Grace, No. 3" by pedal steel player Danny Weaver... They also include covers of Andre Crouch and Gary S. Paxton, as well as a version of Tom T. Hall's sweet and sappy "I Love." Yelton's true claim to fame, though, came with his album below, which for better or for worse has been seized upon by the irony police, those oh-so-dedicated would-be hipsters who fill their blogs with snarky posts of so-called "bad" album covers. Sigh.

Butch Yelton & Upbound "Swing That Gospel Axe" (19--?) (LP)
For some reason, the sub-breed of hipster bloggers who like to post pictures of "bad" album covers have seized upon this album as one of their ultimate holy grails... Yes, it's a little dopey -- the cover shows the fairly clean-cut, not-that-weird-looking Upbound band standing in a pasture, with singer Butch Yelton holding a axe in his hands, as a visual cue for the metaphoric weapon of prayer in the album's title song. Whatever. Some people are Christians; some of these people also like and/or play country music. Get over it. Personally, I think mocking people you consider hicks or muggles, or even just people (gasp!) dressed in fashion styles from decades ago is a boorish, intellectually empty pastime. It reveals more about the mockers than the mocked. (Like, for example, that most of you snotty city slickers have never chopped any wood? Just saying.) I haven't heard this album yet, but I do look forward to checking it out some day. And when I do, I'll let y'all know what I think about it, without resorting to facile irony or sarcasm.

Roy Lee Yelton & Upbound "I Love Country Music And You" (Lamon Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by David Floyd & David Moody)

Yogi & Friends "Haywire" (1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Yogi Klos & Norbert Dupasquier)

Canadian fiddler Ihor ("Yogi") Klos (1944-2013) fronted this four-piece band, working through fiddle classics such as "Orange Blossom Special" and Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," along with oldies like "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette" and "Tennessee Waltz." Of particular interest is a non-country number that rounds things out, "Ukranian Medley" which doubtless gives us a clue to Klos' family background, as well as bassist John Nekrep's, although Yogi himself was born in Austria, and grew up in Manitoba. This album was recorded at Maddock Studios, in West Saint Paul, and captures one of several bands that Klos performed with... he tried working in Nashville for a while, but found the Canadian vibe more congenial, and established himself as a regional and national artist, playing both country and Eastern European music.

Buddy York "You Don't Meet Many Old Cowboys" (Silver Dollar Records, 1976) (LP)

Rusty York "The Cincinnati Fireball" (Gee Dee Music, 1994) (CD)

Rusty York & J. D. Jarvis "Blue Grass Gospel Songs" (Rural Rhythm Records, 1968) (LP)

Rusty York "Sings Like Crazy" (Jewel Records, 1968) (LP)

Rusty York & Lonnie Mack "Dueling Banjos: Theme From The Movie Deliverance" (QCA Records, 1973) (LP)

Art Young "Autumn Leaves" (Eagle Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Clements)

A longtime fixture on Winnipeg, Canada's country scene, singer Art Young started his career as a child performer in the vaudeville circuit as part of a sibling band called the Young Trio, along with his brother and sister. Somewhere along the line he got into country music, and by the 1960s was playing with a group called the Country Gems, which also featured steel player Wayne Link, Elmer Nault on lead guitar, and Ken Flamand on bass. This album came out years and years later, and features a wealth of original material, including a couple of regional pride songs ("Manitoba In The Fall" and "Girl From Saskatoon") a few cover songs, and an homage to the Man In Black, called, simply "Johnny Cash."

Art Young "I'm Still Your Dear Old Daddy" (Downs Record Company, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Clements)

A delightfully unpretentious album featuring a now- middle-aged Art Young on a short-lived label from Winnipeg, just singing plain-old country music, no muss, no fuss. He has a modest voice, nothing to write home about, but he uses it well, crooning out one understated country tune after another. Likewise, the arrangements are simple and to the point, with clean, satisfying pedal steel riffs by Al Gain and Ron Halldorson, matched to equally straightforward backing by the rest of the band. A lot of original material, with five songs written by Art Young, including the title track, which is an homage to his daughter Cori, who sings along on the chorus, ala Conway Twitty and Joni Lee. This is a nice record. Not earthshattering, but consistently pleasant and completely sincere. Recommended!

Young Country "Young Country" (USR Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Wallace & Young Country)

This album was a souvenir of a Dallas, Texas folk-country band that featured singer Randy Brooks, who is probably best remembered as the guy who wrote the novelty classic, "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." That song, which is not included here, became a fixture of the Young Country act after Brooks wrote the lyrics in 1977... Of course, it also became a national hit after Elmo Shropshire (of Elmo & Patsy fame) heard them play it at a lounge gig up in Lake Tahoe... I'm not sure if the Young Country band ever recorded "Grandma" themselves -- this album may have been their only release. It mostly includes covers of then-current singer-songwriter/outlaw/folk-country songs such as Paul Craft's "Midnight Flyer," "Think About The Mountains" by Steve Fromholz, "Geronimo's Cadillac" and a couple of other songs by Michael Martin Murphey, along with oldies like Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light" and "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," as well as a mandolin-led cover of "I Don't Know How To Love Him," featuring Ronstadt-ish vocals by bandmember Cheryl Sparks. The only original song on here is a good novelty number by Randy Brooks, "Will You Be Ready At The Plate When Jesus Throws The Ball?" Even though it's mostly cover tunes, this is a pretty strong album by a better-than-average country lounge band... The production values are modest, but the musicianship is pretty high. Worth a spin, for sure. (Side note: While working in Reno in '73, Young Country's husband-wife duo of Rick Sparks and Cheryl Sparks tried forming a new group with some other Texans who were doing shows at the same club. While they ultimately stuck with their original band (and recorded this album), the new group, Rosewood Junction, cut an album around the same time.)

Young Country "Barroom Blues" (Lost Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Keith Brown & Young Country)

An entirely different group from the Dallas, Texas band listed above, this Nebraska-based country-rock combo had its heyday from 1975-82, playing throughout the Midwest... I think this was their only album, but it's definitely a good one! Packed with clearly-conceived, concisely written, well-performed country tunes, this is an amiable, unpretentious set with several strong tracks and a ton of original material written by Jim Casey and Nick Leland (and one cover of a Merle Haggard song...) Highlights include Leland's "Married To The Bottle" and Casey's "Color TV," in which the sing admits that he mostly likes his girlfriend because of her swell home entertainment system. The picking is generally first-rate, bright and twangy, and at times pleasantly plunky... Even on the slower songs, like "Wait For Yesterday," they come up with some interesting tonalities during the bridge, so even the album's weaker moments are okay. Overall, this one's definitely worth tracking down. Apparently, not long after they made this record the band broke up, then regrouped in 1980 as "The Y.C. Critter Band," and played regionally for a couple more years until they finally gave up the ghost. This LP's a nice legacy, though!

Jeff Young "Snakey" (AMC Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Jeff Young)

An excellent set of independently produced, musically relaxed, poetically-minded honkytonk music, very much styled after Merle Haggard's brand of twang. There's no info about where this was recorded, although I think it may have been a West Coast affair, either somewhere in California or maybe the Pacific Northwest, like Spokane. (Anybody out there know for sure?) Regardless, this is a very good album -- if you're looking for hippiebilly artists who really "got" country music, this record should really be on your short-list. All the songs are originals, and Young takes the style seriously. Among the musicians listed are guitarist-producer Gene Breeden and a steel player named "Speedy" Price (although I'm not sure if it's Vernon "Speedy" Price from Seattle, or Herb "Speedy" Price, who was session picker in Nashville... Again, if anyone out there has more info they'd like to share, I'm all ears...)

Jesse Colin Young (and The Youngbloods) -- see artist profile

Neil Young "After The Gold Rush" (Reprise Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Neil Young, David Briggs & Kendall Pacios)

A landmark hippie rock record, this album has a distinctive, acoustic-based folk and country feel... Heck, he even covers Don Gibson's "Oh, Lonesome Me," brilliantly transforming the bouncy country classic into a mopey, opiated dirge. There's a little bit of the grating electric rock that he's also known for, but for the most part this is a mellow masterpiece, one of those wonderful records that always seem too short, though perfect for playing over and over again. One of my all-time faves, in any genre.

Neil Young "Harvest" (Reprise Records, 1972)
(Produced by Neil Young, Elliot Mazer, Henry Lewy & Jack Nitzsche)

Led by the smash pop hit, "Heart Of Gold," this acoustic-based classic cemented Neil Young's place in the '70s pop firmament and helped define the country-rock genre. A sweet, mellow album -- includes the evocative "Out On The Weekend," the retro-sexist "A Man Needs A Maid," the politically-charged "Alabama" (appreciated at the time; a bit of a drag now...) and one of my favorite of his songs, the irresistible "Old Man," in which the hippies confront their own mortality and (worse still!) middle-age. Great record.

Neil Young "Harvest Moon" (Reprise Records, 1992)
(Produced by Neil Young & Ben Keith)

Neil Young "Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968" (Reprise Records, 2008)
Legions of Neil Young fans will rejoice at the legit, major-label release of these live, folk-club recordings from 1968, when Young was just escaping the orbit of the Buffalo Springfield band, but clearly headed for greater things. It's an intimate set, with great sound quality. There are several classics, performed in crisp acoustic versions -- "Mr. Soul," "Broken Arrow," "The Loner," "Birds" -- and lots of discursive, offhand stage banter (listed in the parlance of the times as "raps" on the album, and thoughtfully sorted out in the mix as separate tracks, so you can just hear the music, if that's your preference...) Highlights include "Sugar Mountain" and "Birds," but it's the whole snapshot-of-the-artist angle that's the real attraction here, with Young laughing at his own jokes, forging an intimacy with his rapt, receptive audience, sharing his then-current bag of tricks. It's pretty groovy, and a nice look at his early career...

Nelson Young & The Sandy Valley Boys "Pickin' For Pizza" (Eagle Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard B. Needham)

Hey man, a job is a job. I mean, you gotta love this: how many times have you heard someone tell that story about seeing some great band playing a crappy gig at a pizza parlor? Well, bluegrass bandleader Nelson Young not only played at pizza parlors, he wrote a song about it, got official sponsorship from Pizza Hut (which included painting their red-roof logo on his tour bus) and made an album to document the phenomenon. The best part is that the opening track, "Pickin' For Pizza," really is about the Pizza Hut gig, and mentions the restaurant chain by name, literally singing its praises amid a brisk, bouncy musical backing. It's also nice that this really was a good band, playing in a bright, melodic style reminiscent of Flatt & Scruggs and Jimmy Martin, with particularly strong dobro and banjo picking. Dunno if any of these guys went on to play in other bands, but this is a good bluegrass record. (By the way, my pizza parlor brag-band was Green Day, who I saw play at LoCoCo's or some place like that, a bazillion years ago at some strip mall in Berkeley... So there! Neener, neener, neener.)

Red Young "This Is Red!" (Red Young Enterprises, 1981)
(Produced by DeWayne Orender & Don Powell)

A nice set of rootsy though commercially-oriented country with a late-'70s neotrad sound similar to that of Top 40 artists such as Ed Bruce, Mickey Gilley and Red Steagall. Highlights include the weeper, "You're Treating Me Like Company" and the boozy "Here's A Toast To The Record (On The Jukebox)" along with other pedal-steel drenched twang tunes. Country crooner Red Young was apparently a Midwesterner who was based in Independence, Missouri when this record came out, although he may have originally been from Wichita. He traveled to Nashville to cut this album, backed by studio pros who included Mark Casstevens and Weldon Myrick, with Lamar Morris playing lead guitar. It's fairly solid honky tonk material, with most of the songs credited to DeWayne Orender and Lamar Morris, who were signed to Acuff-Rose publishing -- Morris played guitar on the recording sessions, while Orender was a co-producer. It's not the most vigorous album ever, but it's as good as a lot of major-label releases from the same era... Obviously, it went nowhere, since there seems to be no trace of Red Young (or this record) anywhere online, though honestly he could have -- and maybe should have -- become a real star.

Roger Young "...And The Reason Why" (Reason Why Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Sullivan)

Bandleader Roger Young (1946-2010) lived all over the Southwest and Panhandle regions -- born in Yuma, Arizona, he grew up in Oklahoma and Texas, ping-ponging all over the region throughout his life, first with his family and then with various bands. He started his professional career in the mid-1960s while he was still in highschool in Midland, Texas and led several different bands, though his best-known group was the Reason Why, which was named after a song he released as a single a few years before. Although this album looks like it would be the ultimate country-rock hippiebilly set, with the band decked out in fringe-leather spaghetti western duds, it's actually a pretty straightforward set of folk-country/countrypolitan style music, with solid but understated backing by a Dallas, Texas studio crew that included superpicker Phil Baugh on dobro and guitar, Maurice Anderson on steel, old-timer Smokey Montgomery providing arrangements and Mickey Raphael on harmonica, several years before he hooked up with Willie Nelson. Roger Young had a fairly thin, unusual voice, cut from the same cloth as fellas like Bill Anderson or Dick Feller... He keeps things simple and sings his songs without much fuss or bother, but gets the lyrics to resonate nonetheless. All in all, a pretty groovy record and certainly worth tracking down, particularly if you're interested in the intersection of Nashville pop and outlaw twang.

Steve Young -- see artist profile

Dwayne Youngblood "...Salutes The Bicentennial: 1776-1976" (1976) (LP)
Fiddler C. Dwayne Youngblood (1935-2002) was originally from Idaho, but lived in Visalia, California during the 1970s, and trekked over to Bakersfield to record this instrumental set at the Buck Owens Studios. Mr. Youngblood was a devoted old-timey artist who competed in countless championships across the country, dating back to the early 1960s and contributed a version of "Jack Of Diamonds" to a compilation album called Fiddle Jam Session, that came out of these mid-'60s sessions. Although this solo album was pitched as a Bicentennial celebration, it includes no overtly patriotic material -- instead, it's mostly classic hoedown tunes like "Billy In The Low Ground" and "Blackberry Blossom," as well as an original composition, "Shirley's Waltz," which was written for his wife. Youngblood's son Rick accompanies him on guitar, and he plays some fiddle as well; Rick Youngblood went on to become a championship fiddler and attended the annual National Old Time Fiddle Contest forty-eight straight years in his lifetime. This album came out around the same time that Dwayne Youngblood won the California state fiddling championship in 1977. The Youngbloods also appeared on an album with Jim Carley, a banjo picker from Boise, Idaho.

Don Youngblood "For The Good Times" (Jewel Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York)

Piano plunker Don Youngblood was a hometown hero from Madison, Illinois who cut several singles and over a dozen albums, dating back to the early 1960s, right up through the the early 2000s. A devotee of Jerry Lee Lewis, Youngblood

Bill Younger "In Nashville" (Nugget Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Rice & Mark Tulbert)

A nice, humble little record featuring plainspoken (and thoroughly charming) vocals by the uber-obscure Mr. Younger. Backing him on nimble but not overshadowing guitar is session legend Fred Carter, Jr., who purchased the Nugget label in 1968, intending to build it from an indie into a major label, although apparently he got sidelined by running it as a custom/vanity press company. Although the album title suggests a slick, modern style, this record was a real throwback to the hillbilly stylings of the 1940s and early '50s, with simple ditties and modest novelty songs that would have been staples for artists such as Wilf Carter or Kenny Roberts back in that bygone era. Younger is not a powerful singer, but he is earnest and persuasive, and there's a lot to like in his old-fashioned repertoire. I haven't pinned down the year this one came out, but it had to have been between '68 and 1975, when Carter folded up the Nugget label, liquidating the whole business the following year.

The Younger Brothers Band "The Younger Brothers Band" (Montagne Records, 1979) (LP)
This group from Lancaster, Pennsylvania grew out of a mid-1960s highschool garage band called the Velaires, which featured guitarist Denny Sweigart and Terry Gehman on keyboards. They eventually moved from rock into country, forming the Younger Brothers Band in the '70s, and playing steady gigs for several years while Gehman and Sweigart held down day jobs as the visual arts instructor and music teacher (respectively) at the same local high school. In addition to several LPs, they also released a number of singles before disbanding towards the end of the '80s.

The Younger Brothers Band "Back Porch Singin' " (Fantastik Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by The Younger Brothers Band)

The Younger Brothers Band "The Younger Brothers Band" (HME Records, 1985) (LP)

Dale Youngs & The Country Rebels "Walking Down An Old Country Road" (Round Robin, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Drusky & Jim Pierce)

Dale Youngs was an East Coast, rust-belt country singer, born in New York state with roots in Pennsylvania, who made his way to Nashville where he landed a gig in Roy Drusky's band, circa 1975-78. He played on the Opry and recorded this album with Drusky's help around the same time. Drusky may have helped with the repertoire as well, notably showcasing a trio of previously-recorded Eddie Rabbit songs -- "Pure Love" (a hit for Ronnie Milsap in '74), "Do You Right Tonight" and "Hearts On Fire" (a #2 hit for Rabbit in '77) -- a nod to Rabbit's early years as a Nashville songwriter, when Drusky was one of the first artists to record his work. Curiously, Youngs also does a gender-flipped version of a classic western novelty oldie, sung here as "I Want To Be A Cowgirl's Sweetheart, along with covers such as Ray Price's "Burning Memories" and Marty Robbins' "You Gave Me A Mountain." I don't know the details, but Youngs died at age 32 (1951-1984) and as far as I know, this was his only album.

Yukon Railroad Co. "Yukon Railroad Co." (Big Hole Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jeff Aronson & Mike Kicenski)

These lanky, long-haired party animals considered themselves strictly a "show band," i. e. a working band that played mostly cover tunes and performed for whoever would pay them... They had a few long-term bookings during the 'Seventies, including a stretch in 1975 up at the Pea Soup Andersen's restaurant in Mammoth Lakes, California, and a bunch of gigs in Colorado, where I believe they were from... They claimed both the Denver suburb of Lakewood, CO and the ski town Hideaway Park as their home base(s), and worked at a venue called Doctor Generosity's Hungry Skier Restaurant, in the Fraser Valley, just west of Boulder. They were pretty good, too! A shaggy, twangy country-rock group specializing in honkytonk oldies and West Coast and outlaw favorites such as Red Simpson's "Hello, I'm A Truck," Tompall Glaser's "Put Another Log On The Fire," they also wrote a tune or two themselves, much to the delight of their local fans. On this album, the boys all used goofy nicknames and aliases, though lead singer Ron Greensprings and bassist Joe Leonardi seem to have been core members, with Greensprings acting as the band's manager. Not a lot of info about these guys online, though I think this was their only album.

The Yukon Stars "The Yukon Stars" (CBC Radio International, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Edward Farrant, Gilles Vaudeville & Len Ewert)

On this album, two stars of Canadian country's '60s scene joined together as the "Yukon Stars" to play an October 25 gig at end of the '67 Expo, held in Montreal. Al Oster was a well-established artist, with a couple of hit singles and several CBC radio programs under his belt, while Hank Karr had been playing local shows up in the Yukon for years, though this album really helped him break through into a national solo career. Karr sings on Side One, generally sticking to a jovial set of contemporary-sounding Buck Owens-influenced honky-tonk with a pretty sharp band behind him. The songs are mainly covers, though there is one original, "A Minute Or Three" credited to Karr's real name, Henry Karhut. It's a harrowing and highly detailed account of the cataclysmic earthquake that trashed Anchorage in March, 1964... a nice slice of Northern history there! Sounding quite a bit like Hank Snow on Side Two, Al Oster sticks closely to folk-ish regional pride material, including several Yukon-related songs he wrote, some historical ballads and slightly more questionable material such as Hank Thompson's "Squaws Along The Yukon" which doesn't really hold up that well in our modern-day PC culture. In "Buckets Of Steel," Oster memorializes the last of the big gold-dredging operations, as Canada's gold boom wound to a close after the biggest mills and mines were no longer able to turn a profit. A strong album, showcasing two different strains of deeply authentic Canadian country.

Jim Yunek "Jim Yunek Presents The Jim Yunek Combo" (Unique Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Lodholz)

A regional band based in Wausau, Wisconsin, with a background in polka and ethnic dance music... Bandleader Jim Yunek was still playing an acoustic accordion when this album came out, though like many polkateers he later adopted an electrified approach. He's joined by band includes Wally Borth on guitar, drummer John Myers, and Jerry Reynolds on saxophone, working through a mostly pop and polka repertoire, playing standards such as "Elmer's Tune," "Harbor Lights" and "Spanish Eyes," though there are also some arguably twangy tunes int he mix, such as Jim Croce's "Bad Leroy Brown" and "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," which had been revived by Willie Nelson. There are a couple of songs that might have been originals, but no composer credits to confirm this. It's really Yunek's subsequent album (below) that qualifies these guys as a country act, though like many Great Lakes dance bands, they played what was popular, including a country tune or two.

Jim Yunek "Something Old, Something New" (Unique Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Kim Jensen & Jim Yunek)

On this album, Yunek and his band concentrate pretty exclusively on country material, including chestnuts like "Crazy Arms," "Green, Green Grass Of Home" and "You Are My Sunshine" along with newer material such as "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," "Never Ending Song Of Love," and Tompall Glaser's infamous male chauvinist anthem, "Put Another Log On The Fire." One song is called out as an original, Wally Borth's "I Just Can't Get Over You," and Borth once again helps anchor the band. The lineup changed a little, but the core members remain: along with Jim Yunek on Baldovox electronic accordion, the group includes Wally Borth (guitar), Tom Wakeen (guitar), Tom Wrysinski (drums and vocals), Jerry Reynolds (saxophone). I'm not sure if they made any other albums, but any info about these folks is certainly welcome.

Cousin Richie Zack "North Country" (Ricma Records, 19--?) (LP)
Born Richard Zacharian, "Cousin Richie" was a hillbilly singer from Rhode Island who -- along with his brother Eddie Zack -- recorded numerous 78s and singles for major labels and tiny indies alike, and in the early 1950s hosted a nationally syndicated NBC radio show called the Hayloft Jamboree. They started out in the 1930s, and moved through several styles of music -- cowboy songs, hillbilly boogie and honkytonk -- and remained popular regional figures for several decades. Not sure when this souvenir album came out, but from the looks of it, I'm guessing sometime int he 1970s or possibly early '80s; Mr. Zack passed away in 2002, at the age of 79.

Nick Zane "Live In The Smokies" (Zane Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Zane, Lea & Spears)

Alex Zanetis "Ballads Of The Oil Fields" (RIK Records, 1964) (LP)
This is an entire album of songs about oil drilling in the American South and the Panhandle, penned by the then-unknown pop-country composer Alex Zanetis, with backing by several A-list Nashville studio pros, including the early-'60s edition of the Jordanaires. Zanetis certainly had a colorful career: he was born in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin and early in life sang baritone with the Chicago Metropolitan Opera. He abruptly changed gears in 1955 to devote himself to songwriting, eventually moving to Nashville. Mr. Zanetis had remarkable success, with numerous songs recorded by top Nashville stars including Bill Anderson, Brenda Lee, Jim Reeves, and Faron Young -- one of his first hits was "As Long As I Live," a Top Five duet recorded by Red Foley and Kitty Wells back in '55. His song "Snap Your Fingers" was a crossover success, first in the R&B/pop vocals field, later covered by various country artists in the '70s and '80s. Zanetis also was involved in Southern politics, working as a staffer for governors Jimmie Davis, George Wallace and Lamar Alexander. One odd footnote to this already quirky album: a decade later a guy named Sam Thompson would record a song-by-song remake, with one song re-credited to include the '70s-era producer. Go figure. Hmmm... maybe Thompson was actually Mr. Zanetis, re-releasing his own album incognito? Could be! Stranger things have happened.

Rex Zario "Rex Zario" (Arzee Records, 1966-?) (LP)
Born in Palermo, Italy, immigrant Philadelphia twangster Rex Zario (1925-1991) recorded a string of obscure hillbilly bop/rockabilly singles in the late 1950s, some of which are gathered on this later LP. According to the album's liner notes, he started his professional career in 1948 on ABC radio's "Hayloft Hoedown" show and later worked on East Coast radio and TV stations WHAT and WTEL. Although the music is good, I think Zario's actual success was pretty minimal -- the liner notes sound pretty noncommittal and puffed-up. Some of his songs such as "You Nearly Lose Your Mind" and "Go Man Go, Get Gone" have popped up on a few modern-day collections of hillbilly twang, and a full reissue of this album would certainly be welcome.

Bobby Zehm "Without Your Love" (Z Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Russell & Claude Hill)

A set of all-original material by a singer from Poplar Bluff, Missouri who recorded this album at Chuck Glaser's studio in Nashville. Not sure what the story is behind this one, but this album is packed with original material, most of it written by Zehm, including "I Wouldn't Have You See Me Cryin'," "Think Real Hard," and the delightfully-titled "Blow Me Down A Rat Hole Backwards." There are a couple of other songs also published by Chuck Glaser's publishing company, such Cal Cavendish's "Sitar Pickin'," and "That's The Way The Cookie Crumbles," by Dan Pate. Zehm seems to have been tapped into the old-school Ozark hillbilly scene: on his 7" single of "He Is My Dad" (sadly, not included here) the credits include hillbilly old-timer Zeke Clements(!) as producer... So this Zehm fellow must have know what real twang was all about!

Zeke's Band "Music Time Approved" (Dungeon Records, 197--??) (LP)
(Produced by Tim "Cousin Zeke" Cagle)

Singer Tim Cagle was part of the Branson-based Plummer Family variety show, playing the hillbilly character "Cousin Zeke." In addition to this album, he also recorded with the Plummer Family band, touring regionally throughout the Midwest well up into the 1990s.

Barry Zell "Modern Day Cowboy" (JSR Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Elliott)

This fella -- Barry Pagliaroli, aka Barry Zell -- was from Laurence Harbor, New Jersey, although he headed down to Nashville for a while to try and make it in country music. As far as I know, this was his only album, and it's packed with all-original material written by Pagliaroli. The songs include "Modern Day Cowboy," "Why Couldn't I Be The One (Who Wrote Knocking On Heaven's Door)?" and the equally-longwinded "Lady America (Dedicated To The American Hostages In Iran)". The band backing him was all-local, guys from the North Jersey Shore -- guitarist W. J. Grimm (Willy Sage), Ike Williams on bass and J. T. Callahan on drums. They were members of the North Jersey country-rock band, Lakota, which put out an album on the JSR label a year earlier, in '79.

Pat Zill "Sings Country Favorites" (QCA Records, 197--?) (LP)

Zion Mountain Folk "Grass Roots Music" (Light Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Joseph Puig)

An all-gospel folk-bluegrass set from a longhaired band from the Kona coast of the island of Hawaii. This group featured Steven Smith (guitar), Ruth Smith (mandolin) Harry Browning (banjo), Herb Melton (bass) and Jim Pennington (harmonica), with fiddler Byron Berline sitting in as well. Mahalo!

Hick Music Index

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