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The Starday Story

The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built

Nathan D. Gibson
with Don Pierce
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Starday Story
    Book Description:

    The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built is the first book entirely dedicated to one of the most influential music labels of the twentieth century. In addition to creating the largest bluegrass catalogue throughout the 1950s and '60s, Starday was also known for its legendary rockabilly catalogue, an extensive Texas honky-tonk outpouring, classic gospel and sacred recordings, and as a Nashville independent powerhouse studio and label.Written with label president and co-founder Don Pierce, this book traces the label's origins in 1953 through the 1968 Starday-King merger. Interviews with artists and their families, employees, and Pierce contribute to the stories behind famous hit songs, including "Y'all Come," "A Satisfied Mind," "Why Baby Why," "Giddy-up Go," "Alabam," and many others. Gibson's research and interviews also shed new light on the musical careers of George Jones, Arlie Duff, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, the Stanley Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Red Sovine, and countless other Starday artists. Conversations with the children of Pappy Daily and Jack Starns provide a unique perspective on the early days of Starday, and extensive interviews with Pierce offer an insider glance at the country music industry during its golden era.Weathering through the storm of rock and roll and, later, the Nashville Sound, Starday was a home to traditional country musicians and became one of the most successful independent labels in American history. Ultimately, The Starday Story is the definitive record of a country music label that played an integral role in preserving our nation's musical heritage.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-831-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)

    Country music and Starday Records were a labor of love for me from 1946 to 1970. I salute Nate Gibson and the publishers of this book for making the story available to country music fans.

    I put up $330.00 to form the Starday Company with my friend Pappy Daily in 1953 and I was made president of the corporation. We never borrowed a dime. I am indebted to Pappy Daily for providing my opportunity and for his contribution in getting Starday Records started.

    The story really starts when I associated with Bill McCall and 4 Star Records of Los Angeles...

    (pp. xi-2)

    The Starday story is the tale of one of, if notthe, most important independent labels in country music history—an empire based on East Texas honky-tonk, rockabilly, bluegrass, western swing, cowboy trios, old-time stringband music, Cajun ditties, jug bands, gospel quartets, square dance jigs, cornball comedians, polkas, and almost anything else that has, at one time or another, fallen under the mighty umbrella of “country music.” Among industry professionals, the story is legendary. Among performers, the catalogue is textbook. Among record collectors, Starday can be an obsession. Yet beyond these insider circles, the Starday story has largely remained cloaked...

    (pp. 3-23)

    Lefty Frizzell’s boyish good looks and quirky, swooping vocal style won him the hearts of millions of fans across the United States. By the end of 1951 he had appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride, had four songs inBillboard’s Top 10 charts simultaneously, and had just completed a nationwide tour with country music superstar Hank Williams. His #1 successes included “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” “I Want To Be With You Always,” “I Love You a Thousand Ways,” “Always Late,” “Give Me More, More, More (of Your Kisses),” as well as...

  6. 2 ROCK IT
    (pp. 24-48)

    The immediate success enjoyed by Starday was rare for an independent label, especially one devoted entirely to country music. At the onset of World War II, the American Federation of Musicians declared a nationwide recording ban, claiming that jukeboxes and radio airplay cut into a musician’s potential salary and that the recording companies should contribute to a fund to pay unemployed musicians. The ban began on August 1, 1942, and carried into November 1944, when Columbia and Victor reached an agreement with the musician’s union (Decca struck their deal with the AFM in September 1943). Although the recording ban ended,...

    (pp. 49-78)

    Irving B. Green founded Mercury Records in Chicago in 1945. Among the first country acts to record for the new label were Wally Fowler, the Oklahoma Wranglers (later known as the Willis Brothers), Carl Story, Rex Allen, and others. By 1949 Mercury’s country stable also boasted the likes of Dale Evans, the Masters Family, Eddie Dean, Bonnie Lou, Archie Campbell, and the legendary Flatt and Scruggs. Encouraged by Mercury’s early successes in the more lucrative pop and rhythm and blues markets, Green advocated for an even stronger presence in the country music market. In 1951 Green hired Walter David “D.”...

    (pp. 79-106)

    For Pierce, the decision to stay in Nashville was obvious. He loved the city. He loved the people. He loved the food. He loved the business. He had built a new home. Despite the sour turn of events, there was at least a bright side: Pierce kept the office building he had bought with Daily. He still had half of a very active publishing catalog and was contracted with George Jones for another year and a half. According to Pierce, he was optimistic about his situation from the very outset and knew he could be successful on his own. “I...

    (pp. 107-128)

    By 1960 Pierce had earned the esteem and admiration of music executives on Nashville’s downtown Music Row as well as fans and disc jockeys. Respect for Starday was further cemented with the grand opening of the Starday Sound Studios in May 1960. Prior to its opening, Nashville studio time was hard to come by. Pierce’s studio was soon booked solid as well. The studio quickly became one of the top four recording outlets in Nashville, alongside Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut (which was sold to Columbia Records in 1962), RCA Victor, and Fred Foster studios. Though the Starday studio had initially...

  10. 6 GIDDY-UP GO
    (pp. 129-151)

    Despite the recent tragedies, by 1964 country music was enjoying a massive surge in popularity, both within the United States and overseas. Once viewed as a small independent label on the outskirts of town, Starday was now considered to be one of the hot trendsetters during the resurgence. Yet even with the industry recognition and the growing success of their longplay albums, major labels still dominated the singles market. In the first eight months of 1964, 190 songs hitBillboard’s charts. Among those, 139 were released by major labels (Columbia, RCA Victor, Decca, Capitol, and Mercury), compared to only six...

    (pp. 152-170)

    Nineteen sixty-six was a good year for country music. Several of the trade publications declared it so and Pierce could certainly agree. With the successes of “Giddy-Up Go,” “Ten Little Bottles,” the various truck driving albums, Pierce’s side-project golf tournament and various business adventures, Starday experienced its most successful year. Yet, buried deep within the pages of the trade publications were several smaller, less noticeable articles about the decline of bluegrass music’s popularity. Though Pierce had played a significant role in promoting bluegrass music throughout the late 1950s, in addition to capitalizing on his stockpile of bluegrass recordings during the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 171-172)
    (pp. 173-176)
    (pp. 177-248)
    (pp. 249-256)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 257-265)