Hillbilly Bop 'n' Boogie (King/Federal's Roots Of Rockabilly 1944-56) Various Artists (King)


Ace Records
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Much-respected in collector circles as a second-to-none source of R&B, Soul and Funk, King Records actually started life as a hillbilly label, with proto-R&B, gospel and jazz being very much the company's second-string and relegated (if that's the right word!) to his lesser Queen subsidiary. Long before Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown became the brightest stars to shine over Brewster Avenue, Hillbilly and Western Swing were Syd Nathan's schedule staple and his biggest money earner. No great surprise here, as his roster was crammed with some of the best known artists in both genres, and the equal (and quite likely the envy!) of anything the majors could offer at that time.

Even when the irresistible rise of post-war R&B shifted King's focus to music of a somewhat blacker nature, Syd carried on signing and selling records by a whole host of hillbilly greats. Ironically, he was to drop most of them, and to discontinue King's red and gold-labelled Hillbilly series, not long after the initial emergence of one E.A. Presley. But between 1944 and 1954, Nathan recorded and released some of the best country music ever to find its way onto 78 and 45 - a statement that Hillbilly Bop & Boogie more than qualifies...

Of course, Nathan also saw fit to cut and issue a good number of tearjerking ballads, topical songs and superb sacred sides in that 10-year period. But as well as these there's a truly phenomenal amount of uptempo material in the King 500" series, and a lot of it is blessed with hot solo work that provides a direct precursor to the rockabilly style Syd never employed less than the very best musicians. Thus his featured guitarists, for instance, were usually of the ultra-high calibre of the great Zeke Turner and Merle Travis (who was also King's west coast A&R man in the label's early years). He also gave a chance to fabulous - not to say unique - talents like Ramblin' Tommy Scott, Fairley Holden and (not heard here) Lattie Moore, all of whom can honestly be said to have a direct stylistic link to rockabilly as it came about in the wake of Elvis' unprecedented impact. (The best of King's actual rockabilly material can, of course, be heard on our rightfully acclaimed CDCHD 777 and its forthcoming second volume, currently being prepared by R. Finnis Esq.).

HB&B gathers up just over two dozen of King's finest pre-rockabilly boppers in a package that more than qualifies its subtitle of the "Roots Of Rockabilly". In his copious, intelligent annotation compiler Dave Sax takes you through a fully comprehensive guided tour of how hillbilly got to "there" from "here", and the marvellous music never does less than live up to any claims made on its behalf. As well as the acts already mentioned, there's great stuff here from early King mainstays Grandpa Jones (including two very different versions of It's Raining Here This Morning, each featuring scalding guitar work from the aforementioned Mr. Travis that totally belies their 50+ year vintage) and Cowboy Copas. Elsewhere in this set, you'll meet later label staples Charlie Gore (reworking a Champion Jack Dupree rocker!) and Louis Innis. The latter is a true unsung hillbilly hero, who was a King studio regular from the late 40s to the early 60s and whose rocking Sing Your Song Baby has more than a few hints of Little Walter's My Babe about it. Innis also wrote and recorded (albeit not for King) the original version of Wynonie's classic Good Morning Judge, by the way...

Other delights here come from Ann Jones, who led King's first and only all-cowgirl band and whose Hi Ballin' Daddy is also readily associated with the label's little giant of R&B, Tiny Bradshaw. And you won't want to miss the primitive uproar of Jack Cardwell's two untamed inclusions, one being quite the wildest version of Gene & Eunice's Ko Ko Mo that you're every likely to hear. Then there's the special bonus of King's house band, led by Zeke Turner, working out on an instrumental track to the unreleased (and possibly unrecorded) Hawkshaw Hawkins version of Rag Man Boogie. Plus much more, of course - but if you want to know about that, you're going to have to buy a copy of the CD (and who of you out there wouldn't want to?...)

This is just the first of some great Ace delves into King's hillbilly catalogue that will be coming your way fairly soon. Before the end of 2002, Delmore Brothers fans can expect to be buying our belated second volume of their best Kings, as well as - even more imminently - a whole CD's worth of terrific Wayne Raney tracks (on most of which Alton and Rabon also feature prominently). And the early months of 2003 should see the release of even more of this good stuff. For now, though, be prepared to be very entertained by what'll probably be the hottest, most boppin'est compact disc you'll hear all year...

By Tony Rounce"


Track listing


Side 1

  • 01 Preview It's Raining Here This Morning - Grandpa Jones

  • 02 Preview Beale Street Boogie - The Delmore Brothers

  • 03 Preview Rockin' Chair Money - Bill Carlisle

  • 04 Preview Papa's Getting Old - Fairley Holden

  • 05 Preview What A Line - Jimmie Widener

  • 06 Preview Four Or Five Times - Luke Wills' Rhythm Busters

  • 07 Preview She's A Backwoods Woman - Mel Cox & the Flying Ranch Boys

  • 08 Preview Three Strikes And You're Out - Cowboy Copas

  • 09 Preview Brother Drop Dead (Boogie) - Redd Stewart

  • 10 Preview Rockin' And Rollin' - Tommy Scott

  • 11 Preview You'll Make Our Shack A Mansion - Grandpa Jones

  • 12 Preview Tend To Your Business - Clyde Moody

  • 13 Preview Stop And Go Boogie (Rag Man Boogie Inst.) - Brewster Avenue Rhythm Boys featuring Zeke Turner

  • 14 Preview Goodnight Cincinnati, Good Morning Tennessee - Shorty Long

  • 15 Preview Grandpa Stole My Baby - Moon Mullican

  • 16 Preview (I'm A) Hi-Ballin' Daddy - Ann Jones

  • 17 Preview Money Bag Woman - Luke McDaniel

  • 18 Preview Day Done Broke Too Soon This Morning - Jack Cardwell

  • 19 Preview We Did - Herb & Kay

  • 20 Preview I Ain't Got A Pot (To Peel Potatoes In) - Louie Innis

  • 21 Preview What A Waste (Of Good Corn Likker) - Bill Long

  • 22 Preview Stumbling Block (Blues) - Charlie Gore

  • 23 Preview I Put My Britches On Just Like Everybody Else - Hardrock Gunter

  • 24 Preview Sing Your Song Baby - Louie Innis

  • 25 Preview Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So) - Jack Cardwell

  • 26 Preview It's Raining Here This Morning - Grandpa Jones

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