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Primitive roots to r&r
on 16 October 2013
Starday Records, of Houston, Texas, offered a custom/vanity pressing service, starting in 1955, for any would-be artist or band. All you had to do was send them a tape, or acetate, of your recording and $115, in return you got 300 copies of your very own record, on your very own label - providing you were willing to give over the publishing rights to the songs/tunes to Starday's own publishing publishing arm. There was also the chance you might get signed to the Starday label itself. I guess most of these acts used the records for promo purposes, maybe sold a few at gigs. None of them went on to become household names (other than in a very limited locale) and as a consequence, on the rarity scale, think rocking horse droppings, accompanied by skyrocketing collector vales as time passed.
All the material here is country based, but that includes countrybilly, country/hillbilly bop, proto-rockabilly, country rockin', even a couple of country blues. (Did I leave a sub-genre out?). The overwhelming majority of names were unknown to me, so for me, it was all 'new'. What a delight! Here's a chance to hear what a gigging band sounded like in period. They may have been support acts to a 'name', or topping the bill at a local hayride, perhaps beamed over the airways from some remote radio station, whatever, they sure do give it their all. The first CD (1955/57) is fiddle heavy, with notable steel, eases off in CD2 (1957/58) and by CD3 (1958/62) we're off and running.
Some of the vocalists can't cut it, some lyrics are a little trite, but what always surprises me is the generally high standard of the backing musicians, particularly the guitarists. Hot solos abound, steel too. What happened to these guys? A few of the tracks are a bit lo-fi, which I suspect is down to the quality (or otherwise) of the original tapes/acetates supplied, not the mastering for CD. Minor quibbles really. Excellent note from compiler Dave Penny, label shots - Playboy, Cannon, Peach, Ozark, Mystic etc - and a discography (listing, really), relevant tracks highlighted. I've given this set four stars, gimme a week or so, it'll be five. (This is a follow-on to "It's Saturday Night! Starday-Dixie Rockabilly 1955-1961" which received wisdom tells me is better!).