STARDAY RECORDS 561
May 56 (BMI clearance on 18th May 56)
45-561-A - Woman Love
(Jack Rhodes) (Central Songs BMI)
45-561-B - All Dressed Up
(J Rhodes / D Carter / D Nalls) (Starrite BMI)
Born in 1930 in Smith County, Jimmy Johnson played guitar, fiddle and sang in Jack Rhodes Ramblers (sometimes known as the Lone Star Buddies). Whilst appearing on RD Hendon's Western Jamboree Club in Houston, he was approached and offered a recording contract by Solomon Kahal, who owned the local Freedom label. ("Salt Your Pillow Down" being recognised as a classic example of East Texas honky-tonk/hillbilly.) After a couple of sessions, Jack Rhodes got him signed up for Columbia records where he recorded some great tunes ("Eternity" & "Mama Loves Papa" being the best of the bunch.) Then the Korean war came along and Jimmy was drafted. He came back a changed man, haunted by what he experienced on that war torn peninsula. He married Billie Jo Spear's sister (Betty Lou), had three children and worked for a local oil drilling company, with all the hopes of cashing in on his Columbia recording contract fading rapidly.
Like Jerry Hanson, Jimmy was frequently found recording at Jack Rhodes's motel in Mineola, TX. For the session (recorded probably in March 56), Jimmy sang and played lead guitar, his wife on rhythm and Leon Hayes played an upright bass. Jack Rhodes mailed copy tapes to Cliffie Stone who had acetates made up for Ken Nelson, A&R supremo for Capitol Records. Whilst impatiently waiting for Ken to put the record out by somebody - hell, ANYBODY, Jack got 300 copies pressed up by Starday, who put it out on their custom series instead of on their main series (where, in my opinion, it belonged). "Woman Love" was eventually recorded by Gene Vincent, although it was "Be-Bop-A-Lula" that became the hit, which brought in some nice royalty checks for Rhodes.
Johnson recorded many demos for Jack Rhodes but quickly faded from musical history. (Some of these demos appear on the ACE CD "Gene Vincent Cut Our Songs" (ACD CDCHD 1018). He passed away on Jan 8th 1980.
"Woman Love" is a brooding shuffler with Jimmy's deep and urgent vocals grabbing most of the attention. "All Dressed Up" is the faster side (but not by much) with Leon & Betty Lou joining in on the choruses. Quite why Jimmy didn't go on to cut more records with that great voice of his is beyond me really. Still, I suppose cutting one of the most famous "Starday Customs" is something worth being remembered for. For a fuller (and better written I might add) history of this artist, go to www.pinegrovepress.com and look out for "Taking Off - Musical Journeys In The Southwest And Beyond" by Andrew Brown - an essential read for anybody remotely interested in the music from this musically fertile part of the US. (MC / PJ Tricker / Al Turner / Rob Finnis / Andrew Brown)
Label Shots courtesy of Neil Scott.