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Shreveport Sounds in Black and White

Shreveport Sounds in Black and White

Kip Lornell
Tracey E. W. Laird
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Shreveport Sounds in Black and White
    Book Description:

    To borrow words from Stan \"The Record Man\" Lewis, Shreveport, Louisiana, is one of this nation\'s most important \"regional-sound cities.\" Its musical distinctiveness has been shaped by individuals and ensembles, record label and radio station owners, announcers and disc jockeys, club owners and sound engineers, music journalists and musicians. The area\'s output cannot be described by a single genre or style. Rather, its music is a kaleidoscope of country, blues, R&B, rockabilly, and rock.

    Shreveport Sounds in Black and White presents that evolution in a collection of scholarly and popular writing that covers institutions and people who nurtured the musical life of the city and surroundings. The contributions of icons like Leadbelly and Hank Williams, and such lesser-known names as Taylor-Griggs Melody Makers and Eddie Giles come to light. New writing explores the famed Louisiana Hay-ride, musicians Jimmie Davis and Dale Hawkins, local disc jockey \"Dandy Don\" Logan, and KWKH studio sound engineer Bob Sullivan. With glimpses into the lives of original creators, Shreveport Sounds in Black and White reveals the mix that emerges from the ongoing interaction between the city\'s black and white musicians.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-303-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)
    Kip Lornell and Tracey Laird

    Since minstrelsy swept the country in the decades before the Civil War, the South has dramatically shaped musical sounds of the United States. Genres as diverse as jazz, blues, and country emerged from the southern heartland in the early twentieth century, influencing music not only in the U.S. but eventually across Europe and then other parts of the world. Despite its origins on opposite coasts, even hip-hop, which today reigns as the most influential form of popular music on the planet, increasingly looks to southern cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis for up-and-coming artists.

    Southern music has been written about...

  5. Country

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 3-6)

      The term “country music” suggests a range of styles, most closely associated with Southern white working-class culture and evolving over the first two decades of the twentieth century. The pioneering “hillbilly” recordings that began in 1923 emphasized stringed instruments like the guitar, fiddle, and banjo, along with the harmonica. Within thirty years love, relationships, home, and nightlife had become staples in country music lyrics. Although contemporary commercial country features a slick pop and rock-influenced hybrid emanating from Nashville, country as a genre covers a wide variety of musical sounds: old-time, bluegrass, honky-tonk, western swing, new country, Bakersfield sound, progressive country,...

    • Introduction from Louisiana Hayride Radio and Roots Music Along the Red River
      (pp. 7-17)
      Tracey E. W. Laird

      This and many scenes like it played out across the nation during the golden era of the radio barn dance. KWKH’sLouisiana Hayridestaked its territory in the ethereal radio universe, one among many shows funneling live dobros and fiddles into parlors from the Gulf to the Great Lakes. The history of this radio genre reached back into the earliest days of mass broadcasting. WBAP in Fort Worth, Texas, created the prototype on 4 January 1923, when it broadcast a variety program led by fiddler and Confederate veteran Captain M. J. Bonner.² The next year, Chicago’s WLS christened itsNational...

    • The Grigg Family and the Taylor-Griggs Melody Makers The History of a North Louisiana String Band
      (pp. 18-29)
      Monty Brown

      On July 16, 1988, during the performance ofLouisiana Saturday Nightat the Natchitoches-Northwestern Folk Festival, Ausie Grigg, Sr., was presented an award in recognition of his place in Louisiana musical history. The KWKH Country Music Pioneer Award was presented by singer Dolly Parton on behalf of the Shreveport radio station, which carried the show “live,” and the Louisiana Folklife Center.

      KWKH holds a unique position in the history of country music in northwest Louisiana. During the late ’20s and early ’30s, pioneering days of radio, owner W. K. Henderson started to program local and regional musicians, most of whom...

    • The Cox Family
      (pp. 30-42)
      Susan Roach

      Carrying on a long family musical tradition, the Cox Family, from Cotton Valley, Louisiana, exemplifies the best of both the preservation and promotion of folk music. Echoing the old-time country sounds typical of the north Louisiana hill country, they draw on, as Nashville writer Michael McCall says, “the bedrock of American music, combining traditional country, Southern gospel, rural blues, and old-styled pop into a sweetly casual, homespun sound that is as refreshing as a soft summer breeze across a back porch.”¹ The family band includes father Willard Cox on fiddle and vocals; son Sidney on banjo, Dobro, and vocals; and...

    • Remembering Hiter Colvin, the Fiddle King of Oilfield and Gum Stump
      (pp. 43-45)
      J. Michael Luster

      The great Hiter Colvin was born in 1900, one of nine children, on Boardtree Creek near the community of Fellowship, northeast of Dubach, Louisiana. His father, Thomas Mayberry Colvin, bought a fiddle at a pawnshop in Monroe and told the children that whichever one of them could play it best would get to keep it. Hiter earned the fiddle, and the fiddle would eventually earn him the only livelihood he would ever know. Hiter used the fiddle to follow the oilfield money, moving first to the country around El Dorado, Arkansas, where in 1926 he married Eloise Torrence, an eighteen-year-old...

    • Sing It Good, Sing It Strong, Sing It Loud The Music of Governor Jimmie Davis
      (pp. 46-57)
      Kevin Fontenot

      James Houston Davis is one of Louisiana’s most important contributors to the field of country music and, along with artists like Louis Armstrong, to American popular music in general. Throughout the 1930s and the 1940s, Davis registered hit after hit on the “hillbilly” charts and saw several of his compositions cross onto the popular charts as well. His songs, including “Nobody’s Darling But Mine” and “You Are My Sunshine,” became hits for artists as diverse as Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, and Satchmo himself. Davis has been honored with induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville...

    • Louisiana’s Honky-Tonk Man: Buddy Jones, 1935–41
      (pp. 58-62)
      Donald Lee Nelson

      As the first third of the twentieth century was drawing to a close, mountain music fans listened with relish as Jimmie Rodgers sang of rounders, fast women, gambling, and the generally rowdy side of life. Few who heard his mildly rakish style, however, felt that his songs were anything but stories and observations of others, gleaned from his railroading experiences. Some two years after Rodgers’s untimely passing, a young Shreveport resident began to record in a similar mode, but with more pronounced subject matter. He told of being staggering drunk, living off street women, nights in jail, and other wanton...

    • Interview with Horace Logan, October 13, 1976
      (pp. 63-73)
      Earl Porter and Horace Logan

      We initially began theHayrideby everybody in it sharing in what was left over after all the expenses were paid. After it was obvious, the first several weeks, and it was obvious that theHayridewas going to be a monetary success, KWKH then assumed the financial responsibility for the program and started paying the talent. Union scale at that time was $12.00 for a side man, $18.00 for a soloist, and $24.00 for the leader of a band. . . .

      Steve Grunhart was the head of the local union there in Shreveport when we started theHayride...

    • Getting the Sound Right Bob “Sully” Sullivan, KWKH, and the Louisiana Hayride
      (pp. 74-104)
      Steven Morewood

      Of all the thousands of words written about theLouisiana Hayride, famous “Cradle of the Stars,” too few have been devoted to one of its unsung heroes: Bob “Sully” Sullivan, a key KWKH recording engineer. Tillman Franks called him “the best radio engineer I have ever known” and “one of the best kept secrets in country music.”¹ He has still to be inducted into theHayrideHall of Fame and does not even warrant a mention in the memoirs of twoHayrideluminaries despite being closely associated with them.²

      And yet it was Sully who oversaw the weekly live radio...

    • Beyond Country Music
      (pp. 105-136)
      Tracey E. W. Laird

      On 16 October 1954 theLouisiana Hayridescheduled a guest appearance of nineteen-year-old Elvis Presley, calling himself “The Hillbilly Cat.” From that moment, in the fertile ground of a KWKH radio show, a new sapling was successfully planted, one that conspicuously exposed its country roots. On this autumn night during the dawn of nuclear anxiety, no one could foresee the megaton explosion of popular music aimed at teenagers. The mostly white audience at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium saw an unsung “cat” with herky-jerky legs sing a few quirky covers, including a high-octane version of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass standard “Blue Moon of...

  6. Blues

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 137-139)

      Blues emerged as a distinctive musical style, the product of polygenesis in the deep South (east Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama), around the beginning of the twentieth century. First heard on front porches and juke joints where black Americans gathered on Saturday evening, early blues was a synthesis of the traditions that preceded it: most notably country dance tunes, minstrel songs, secular ditties, spirituals, field “hollers” (aka “arhoolies”), and so on. Because of its dispersed origins, it is impossible to assign a specific date and geographic location for the first blues performance. By the early teens, however, blues appeared in...

    • Fannin Street
      (pp. 140-152)
      Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell

      By the time he was fourteen, Huddie had won a reputation for his guitar playing and singing, and was much in demand for the sukey jumps and house parties. Offers to play now arrived on a regular basis. Margaret Coleman remembered, “As the time rolled on, the white people with stores and drug-stores asked Huddie to play Saturday evening and nights at their places to draw the crowd. In that way he made nice change.”¹ Though he had grown up in an almost exclusively black community, he was getting a chance to perform for a wider audience, a different audience,...

    • Some Negro Songs Heard on the Hills of North Louisiana
      (pp. 153-177)
      Vallie Tinsley

      Almost all that I can say concerning the difficulties of collecting folk songs, has been said already by Miss Scarborough and other collectors. My experiences were similar to theirs. Collecting is a delicate task and requires a great deal of patience and persistence. . . .

      I ran as fast as I could toward Aus and the wagon to get there before he finished his song, but I could never catch the words. And when I asked him what he was singing, he said, “Nothin’, Miss, jes’ holl’ in’.” I slipped along behind the oaks to catch Bob’s song while...

    • Jerry’s Saloon Blues 1940 Field Recordings from Louisiana
      (pp. 178-191)
      Paul Oliver

      Shreveport, Louisiana, lies in the “Tri-state” region where Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas meet. It’s the capitol of Caddo Parish, the most northwesterly parish in the state and one which has along its western border the mounds that marked the boundary between the United States and the Republic of Texas.¹ Like the parish, Shreveport has a large non-white population, a third of its people being black or Indian in origin, and the booming, hustling city has always attracted blacks from the Tri-State region who have sought to get some spinoff from its continually expanding economy.²

      Growth is a characteristic of Shreveport....

    • Jesse “Babyface” Thomas
      (pp. 192-203)
      Eleanor Ellis

      Jesse Thomas recorded for Victor in 1929, using the name “Babyface” Thomas. He made many recordings in the years to follow, but they were on small labels and didn’t receive wide exposure. In the 1980s some of these recordings, from the late ’40s and early ’50s, were included on the Nighthawk anthologyDown Behind the Rise. It was the first time in years that his music had been given national distribution and the impact, at least among certain other musicians, was considerable. I first heard a cut from this album on Steve Hoffman’s show,The Blues Experience, on WDCU 90.1...

    • The Flying Crow Blues
      (pp. 204-209)
      Paul Swinton

      When I first heard “Shetland Pony Blues” by Son House, the middle passage seemed to contain some loud swishing surface noise. With repeated listening, it became clear that these sounds were that of a passing steam train picked up by the original recording equipment. I cannot describe the pleasure it gave me, not only hearing this classic blues tune but also discovering this more than welcome intruder. The romanticism and pure nostalgia attached to vintage blues recordings and the steam train will always evoke thoughts of a bygone age.

      The steam train has always held an honorary position in the...

    • The Legend of Old Blue Goose
      (pp. 210-214)
      Dan Garner

      Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter is considered to be an icon of early blues, not only in the Shreveport area, but all over the world. However, many years before Leadbelly was recorded, other blues artists from the Shreveport area had already made records, and they all played music on the streets in a small area of town, which today is officially identified as Wilson Alley, but was earlier known as Old Blue Goose. In 1929, a teenager named Jesse Thomas recorded a song called “Blue Goose Blues “ in the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas. After many years and many roads...

    • Down-Home Postwar Blues in Shreveport
      (pp. 215-222)
      John M. Shaw

      The documentation of Shreveport’s blues scene began about four years after the close of World War II, with the bulk of the recordings done by independent companies (most notably Imperial Records) based outside of the Ark-La-Tex. Shreveport eventually spawned its own small record industry that looked to local country, pop, religious, and blues talent. Mira Smith’s Ram label emerged in the mid-1950s, while Stan Lewis began his Jewel operation a few years later. This brief article surveys the recording of local blues before Smith and Lewis started their own efforts, between the years 1949 and 1952.

      All the early recording...

  7. Radio, Records, and Rhythm

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 223-225)

      We devote this section ofShreveport Soundsto vernacular music that fits neither the broad categories of country or blues, as well as to the people and institutions that made the business of music happen in Shreveport. This latter group includes record company owners like Stan Lewis, Mira Smith, and Dee Marais. It also includes local disc jockeys like Don Logan, whose autobiographical memoirs are excerpted here. Other pieces in this section focus on individual musicians Gene Austin, Dale Hawkins, Eddie Giles, and Reuben Bell. We open with an excerpt from a dissertation that describes how radio station KWKH functioned,...

    • A Historical Study of Programming Techniques and Practices of Radio Station KWKH, Shreveport, LA, 1922–1950
      (pp. 226-236)
      Lillian Jones Hall

      When Henderson moved his station to Kennonwood, he hired almost anyone who asked him for a job. However, those employed were expected to perform any task connected with maintaining the station. The owner was a commanding person who demanded that the staff members be proficient in performing the many and varied duties assigned to them. Those persons who attained his high standards were paid well. The main staff of ten persons moved to Kennonwood, where facilities were provided them. The unmarried men and the unmarried women lived in separate “dormitories” in the main residence. Married personnel were assigned separate cottages...

    • A Friend in Las Vegas
      (pp. 237-247)
      H. Allen Smith

      In the developing folklore of contemporary America there is a story about a newlywed couple holding hands late in the evening on the front stoop of their home. Down the street a cat manages to claw the lid off a large garbage can. The lid hits the pavement with a crash and a clatter, the garbage can falls over, the cat lets out a few frightening shrieks and yowls, and the young woman says softly to the young man, “Oh, darling, our song!”

      There must be fogey blood in me because I enjoy that story. I enjoy it because I...

    • Stan Lewis
      (pp. 248-255)
      Randy McNutt

      When [James] Burton was appearing on theHayridein the late 1950s, Stan Lewis was selling records across town and starting to build an empire of discs. He turned his record store into one of the South’s more prosperous music operations, then turned to releasing R&B, rock, and country hits on his own Jewel, Paula, and Ronn labels. Lewis also built one of the South’s larger independent distributors, which helped promote independent labels and regional sounds.

      The producer, publisher, label owner, and distributor was born near Shreveport on July 5, 1927, to hard-working Italian parents, Frank and Lucille Lewis. His...

    • “Reconsider Me” Margaret Lewis Warwick and the Louisiana Hayride
      (pp. 256-267)
      Tracey E. W. Laird

      Under the egg crates, two women write. In 1959, Margaret Lewis and Mira Smith composed “From the Cradle to the Blues” in Shreveport, Louisiana. Ten years later, in Nashville, the two women wrote “Reconsider Me.” There are several different ways that these two songs might be used to tell stories about country music. One story might tell of an invisible drain that sucked talent from Shreveport to Nashville throughout the 1950s. Like many musicians and musical entrepreneurs before them, Lewis and Smith honed their skills in Shreveport and then migrated to the citadel of country music, where success was more...

    • The Making of Dale Hawkins
      (pp. 268-301)
      David Anderson and Lesley-Anne Reed

      Beginning in early 1956, patrons of Stan’s Record Shop, a tiny shotgun structure that sat at the head of Texas Street in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, could make their purchases in quite the unconventional manner, thanks to Stan’s singing counter clerk. The clerk, a then-eighteen-year-old Delmar Hawkins—skinny and loud, with a mop of dark hair that never seemed to lie flat—sold the latest releases from independent rhythm-and-blues labels like Chess, Atlantic, and Aladdin, not by their titles, but by a lyric or a guitar lick that a customer recalled. “I could sing it, bam, I knew right what it...

    • The Life and Times of Dandy Don Logan
      (pp. 302-315)
      Don Logan

      When I came to Shreveport, DJs like Bill Randle, Alan Freed, and Dick Clark had already paved the way for rock-and-roll on radio and TV. Hollywood discovered rock and roll in 1955.Blackboard Junglefeatured “Rock Around the Clock” and because of the movie, it became the first rock-and-roll tune to reach number one on the charts. Gordon McLendon and Todd Storz had invented Top 40 radio and the jocks who had been at KEEL before me made the station number one in the market. They put a lady named Marie Gifford in as manager and she was top-drawer all...

    • Shreveport Southern Soul The Murco Story
      (pp. 316-322)
      John Ridley

      Murco and the other labels that form this compilation were the vehicles used by Dee Marais to bring his music to the public. From his base in Shreveport, Louisiana, like so many other southern record men, Marais issued most types of music from gospel through country to rock-and-roll. But between 1967 and 1973 he concentrated largely on soul, and this CD contains the best of his output from those years.

      This was essentially a down-home operation in the best sense of the phrase. Marais ran a local outlet for local talent, often using local studios and musicians. There aren’t many...

    • Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell Synonymous with Shreveport
      (pp. 323-337)
      John M. Shaw, Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell

      Shreveport, Louisiana, a town some 240 miles northwest of the state capital in Baton Rouge, is but a mere twelve-mile hop from the Texas border. Over the years, Shreveport has become famous in soul music circles for Stan Lewis’s Jewel-Paula-Ronn group of labels and distribution and a smaller group of labels owned by Dee Marais and Dick Martin, led by Murco. Acknowledging the latter, in 2000, Ace Records in Britain issued a compilation CD titledShreveport Southern Soul: The Murco Story[Kent Soul CDKEND 178]. Of the twenty-six tracks, seven were credited to Eddie Giles [either as Eddy Giles, Eddy...

    • Shreveport’s Pop/Rock Music Scene The 1970s and 1980s
      (pp. 338-348)
      John Andrew Prime

      While it managed to escape the worst of the violence and flux of the 1960s, Shreveport and northwest Louisiana had a reputation, deserved or not, with both residents and outsiders as being a conservative, sometimes reactionary enclave that did not welcome or want change. This was as true of the arts as in other areas of life, and so few people in Shreveport at the start of the 1970s would have predicted that decade, and the 1980s after, would leave the city with any measurable music and entertainment equity.

      To be sure, the 1970s and 1980s were marked by demographic...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 349-353)
  9. Credits
    (pp. 354-356)
  10. Index
    (pp. 357-358)
  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)