Saturday, December 31, 2011

D. A. Hunt and Sam Phillips

Sun Records owner Sam Phillips is best known for his role in promoting the emerging style of rock and roll in the 1950s.  The Sun sound which fused rhythm and blues with country was exemplified by stars like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Charlie Feathers, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison as well as slew of other less famous musicians who recorded equally great records at the Memphis studio.  Phillips started his career by recording blues artists for the Modern and Chess labels.  When business with those labels dried up he opened the Sun Studio and eventually began pressing his own records.

Like other southern studios, Sun recorded a range of artists and genres taking advantage of the abundant and diverse local talent of the time. Some went on to impressive recording careers and some, such as D.A. Hunt, remained obscure.   As far as we know, Hunt recorded exactly two blues sides "Greyhound Blues" and "Lonesome Old Jail" released in 1953 as Sun 183.  You can check them out on YouTube:

For more information on Sam Phillips see:

For more information on D.A. Hunt see:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dinky Harris - limited edition 45 rpm release

Thanks to the Birmingham Record Collectors and Dinky Harris himself, you can now get the official reissue of the 1959 rockabilly rarity by Dinky Harris and the Spades "She Left Me Crying" - a song once described as capturing "lightning in a bottle".  The other side,  "Think It Over Baby" a song written by Dinky is from a previously unreleased acetate. Dinky Harris and The Spades included Jerry Woodard, Bobby Mizzell, Johnny Carter and Frankie Benefield.

"She Left Me Crying" was penned by Jerry Woodard who Dinky first met at a race track. Jerry was a driver and needed some tools to get work done on his car called "TV6" the same station where Jerry played with Country Boy Eddie's band.  Dinky had the tools he needed and they became friends.

Dinky was born Derron Doyle Harris in Cordova, Alabama in 1938. "She Left Me Crying" was Dinky's first record, others followed under other names – Dinky Harris and the Nuggets, “Linda”, Dinky Harris and the Draft Dodgers, “Who’s Gonna Rock My Baby”, Dinky Doo, “Think It Over, Baby”, and Dinky Harris, “I Need You”.

In 1962 he went to France as a member the Air National Guard and after returning to the US he entered the ministry in 1965.  He continues his work as a pastor in Illinois where he has been living since 1977.

Dinky still appreciates his fans and personally directed this reissue project.  Copies of a promotional picture of Dinky are also available and he will autograph the 45 rpm record, the white sleeve as well as the photograph. 500 copies of the record were pressed and 200 were sold at the Birmingham Record Collectors show in August 2011.  This limited pressing is going quickly so don't delay getting your copy. 

You can purchase both the record and the photo from Dinky's friend and Birmingham Record Collectors member Johnny Powell on Ebay. All money goes to Dinky and all materials are shipped by Dinky himself.

Sound clips are included in the listing which you can find at this link:  Rare rockabilly - Dinky Harris on Fad - new repro 45

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alabama Musicians, Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie by C.S. Fuqua

Released in September 2011, Alabama Musicians, Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie by C.S. Fuqua is a welcome resource for anyone interested in Alabama's role in music history.  The book begins with an essay on the history of Alabama's musical contributions, including people who have been instrumental in the preservation of the state's musical heritage, beginning in the early 20th Century with folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt.  Fuqua gives us over 70 biographies that focus on Alabama-born musicians and music industry notables.  His profiles include early figures like the champion of shape-note gospel, Jesse Randall "Pa" Baxter and old-time music stars The Stripling Brothers; mid-century ground-breakers Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton and the Delmore Brothers as well as jazz luminaries Sun Ra and Cleveland Eaton.  Also included are some historically conscious contemporary figures like The Civil Wars and "American Idol" contestant Taylor Hicks. 

Particularly interesting are the combined biographies, like the one for Clarence "Pinetop" Smith and Charles Edward "Cow Cow" Davenport who each played prominent roles in the emergence and popularization of the boogie woogie style.   Alabama Musicians is illustrated throughout with photographs, some of which are from the musicians' own collections.   The book doesn't attempt to cover every aspect of Alabama's music history which would, of course, take many volumes.  At a concise and well-written 176 pages it does provide an excellent snapshot of the rich diversity and accomplishments of Alabama musicians, promoters and producers.  Alabama Musicians, Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie is both a good read and a valuable reference.  It's available thorough

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Alabama Music History

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by all things historical but especially rock and roll music of the 1950s and 1960s.  Though it was already considered oldies when I was growing up the energy, inventiveness and direct, visceral appeal of rock and roll spoke to me and made me want to move my feet. As I got older I learned about how rock and roll came about by drawing on the earlier forms of blues and country music.   I am especially intrigued by songs that exemplify the cross-over of those genres into what we now identify as rock and roll.  From Sam Phillips who launched the career of Elvis Presley to Birmingham’s Jerry Woodard to Mobile’s Marty Lott AKA The Phantom, Alabamians have figured prominently into that phenomena.  While rock and roll was my first love my musical interests are eclectic and include blues, jazz, old time, county, gospel, soul, R&B all of which have a distinguished heritage in Alabama. 

I spent the first 20 years of my life in Alabama after which I moved to New York City where I lived for over 15 years.  During that time I got to know a lot of people from all over who had the same love of music I did.   Often in discussions about great music would reveal connections to Alabama and I found that people generally recognized the state’s important role in music history.  I think it’s human nature for people to take their immediate surroundings for granted and often Alabamians don’t realize how great those contributions were, and still are, and many important stories are yet to be told.

This blog will be devoted to highlighting the musicians and others in the music industry who have played a part in the music history of Alabama and by extension that of the United States.  I will also be announcing live performances of historical interest at Alabama venues by local as well as out-of-state musicians.