Category Archives: First Wave

The Continued Saga of Bobby Wayne, Spokane’s Rockabilly Original

Wayne hauled around the 78 rpm records of his song Sally Ann with the flip side, Warpaint in the trunk of his car selling them at his performances. One of his paying gigs was performing live at a Spokane radio and television station. Like a few years before when he performed in a country and western band also on the radio entertaining for a daily or weekly show, adding in music for commercials, they advertised their weekend performances at nearby grange halls. Ron Livingstone, a close friend of Wayne at this time, explained that a band would arrange to play at a grange hall, splitting the money taken in with the grange hall owners, and advertising each new gig at the radio station where they worked. It was pretty much do-it-yourself booking and promotion for these young country bands in the Fifties. But Wayne got fired from his job at the radio station for playing too much rockabilly style music, or Elvis type music, for the station manager’s taste.

After this Wayne booked gigs in the Northwest and in the Los Angeles area. He soon became well known for his guitar playing contributing to demo recordings of other musicians. In addition his song Sally Ann was reissued as a 45 rpm disc under an obscure label, LJV Records, who had acquired the master tape.

Wayne also hooked up with his old musician buddies Neil Livingstone and his younger brother Ron to play on Charlie Ryan’s first version of Hot Rod Lincoln recorded at SRC Studios in 1958.

Over the next few years Wayne was contracted to appear on the Grand Ol’ Opry concert circuit as a guitar player backing such musicians as Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Lefty Frizell, Freddie Hart, Tex Williams, and Little Jimmy Dickens.

Locally, Wayne contracted with record label executive and producer Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records in Seattle. Wayne recorded Big Train with drummer Vince Gerber and bass player Delmar Hawkins for Jerden. The song was a regional hit in the Northwest, and in Canada. Columbia Records took notice because the style of music Wayne was recording had similarities to their star recording artist, Johnny Cash. Cash had not had a hit song with Columbia for some time in those years from 1961 to 1963, some of it because of his debilitating addictions to drugs taking a toll on his musical abilities. But his manager argued that Columbia Records should give him one more chance. Cash then recorded Merle Kilgore and June Carter’s song, Ring of Fire, and went on to become the legendary Man in Black.

Wayne signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1963, but because Cash found redemption with his new song, Wayne recorded with a subsidiary of Columbia, Epic Records. They rerecorded and released Big Train. As Wayne became known for his guitar playing, he recorded with Warner Brothers, A&M, Quality Reo, W&G, P.Y.E, Panorama, Piccadilly, Liberty and ABC Paramount. His  instrumental Tip Toes, reached #3 in Canada. And in 1966 Cash Box Magazine rated Wayne, Roy Clark, and Glen Campbell the top three Guitarists in America.

Wayne still recorded extensively with Jerden Records, and in 1964 released an LP, Big Guitar of Bobby Wayne. He then appeared in a band called The Hummingbirds, also recording with Jerden Records under that name. Dennon as well had Wayne take on the stage name Deke Wade to record some songs. In 1966 Wayne recorded a dozen songs that became the basis for the album, Ballad Of The Appaloosa. One of the songs from this LP was used by Walt Disney for the title song in the movie Run, Appaloosa, Run. In 1967 Wayne’s contract with Jerden ran out, and was not renewed.

Wayne in 1973 recorded with a woman named Guylaine from Canada producing an album of songs in French and English. Since then Wayne’s career slowed down considerably. He continued to play with friends in Spokane as much as he could. In 2011 he was diagnosed with a number of different diseases spending more than a year dealing with health issues. He died February 26, 2013.

Interview with Ron Livingstone, 5 May, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Interview with Marge Meyer, 5 July, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Wilkinson, Tony. “BOBBY WAYNE .“ Black Cat Rockabilly Web site.

Snyder, Robert Wayne. “Bobby Wayne.” Rockabilly Hall of Fame Presentation.

Copyright 2013 © Robert G. Schoenberg


Native son Bobby Wayne brought rock ‘n’ roll performance to Spokane in 1955

The debate on when and who had been the first to rock ‘n’ roll goes on. Some are in favor of Saturday Night Fish Fry by the jump blues band Louis Jordan and the Tympani Five (1949), others look to Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and what they accomplished with electric guitars, and how his fast beat country and western swing music gently morphed into rockabilly by a younger generation of musicians like Bill Haley and his country and western band the Saddlemen, Elvis Presley, and a host of others at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Ike Turner in 1951 took his music, along with Jackie Brenston on vocals, to record the song Rocket 88 at Sun Records in 1951. The song gained the top of the Rhythm and Blues charts in June; Rocket 88 was then recorded by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen in June for Holiday Records. It became a regional hit for the young Haley and his band; this local hit eventually sent Haley on his recording career abandoning country and western for rock and roll in the music industry.

Haley broke into the Billboard Magazines Top 100 In April of 1953 with his band, now called the Comets, recording Crazy Man, Crazy for Essex Records, a song written by Haley that reached #12 on the chart that summer, a tune that sounded a lot like something Louis Jordan would do.

In addition to these songs, by the end of 1951, a Cleveland disc jockey at WJM, Alan Freed, is playing rhythm and blues records from black performers on his midnight radio show, and renaming it rock ‘n’ roll. Tapes of his show are rebroadcast in New York, where he eventually gets a job as DJ in 1954 playing his R&B records. It was unusual to play Black performer’s recordings on radio stations that at the time were segregated between White audience markets and Black audience markets. White audience radio stations played Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, or Doris Day. Sometimes a Black performer had a crossover hit, like Nat King Cole, or Duke Ellington, acceptable Black performers to White audiences. But in the 1940s and 1950s, for the most part, radio was segregated. Black radio stations generally played to their Black marketplace, and the White stations generally played to the White audience market. The music played was often very different. However, listeners were not similarly held to this segregation. Anyone could listen to the songs they played, White or Black. Some DJs played R&B on their White station’s shows whose marketing was aimed at teenagers; and, Black stations could be listened to as well by White audiences. A Spokane record collector, Jack Kendall told me that while his family was living in Indiana, his father would go out to the car to listen to the Black radio stations. He remembers seeing his dad bobbing his head to the beat, and smoking his cigarettes on warm summer evenings.

Record company producers, seeing a potentially huge market for their records with teenagers, were working to bring the two sides together, the potential exploitation of a the market, and the infectious, addicting beat of R & B. Elvis became that connection. His popularity rocketed beyond anything all the other performers, Haley, Turner, Richard Penniman, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Chuck Berry were trying to accomplish, in fact should have accomplished. But Elvis had the stage presence, the charisma. He had young Frank Sinatra’s appeal to teenage girls, he had popular hit records, he was highly promotable through his appearances in movies and on television. Rock ‘n’ roll was available long before Elvis came along, but it was Elvis that made it acceptable. He sold the rest of the world on it. He also opened the doors to the riches of the recording industry for the other rock ‘n’ roll performers. Good music or bad music, rock ‘n’ roll was now making people wealthy.

Like other performers in R & B—black performers who were popular on the smaller marketing footprint within the Black population areas surrounded by larger white populations, and in rural areas of the South—Elvis’ popularity was limited to certain areas of the the South based on which small market radio stations would play Sun’s 78 records of Elvis. In 1955, as Sun released his songs recorded with Scotty Moore and Bill Black, Elvis, with Moore and Black as his band, began to appear wherever they could get a gig.

The trio began performing at various clubs in Memphis. In August of 1954, they got one gig on the Grand Ole Opry show in Nashville, and eventually they headed out on the road for a stop in Atlanta, Georgia in October.

Elvis and his band got invited to perform on the Louisiana Hayride radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana, resulting in an invite to appear Saturday evenings on the Hayride show when they could get to town. After that they started playing gigs in Texas, with more stops at other venues in town, and stops in Memphis when they came home. Sun Records released another 78, Good Rockin’ Tonight and I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine on the flip side in September 1954.

In 1955 Moore, Black and Elvis made 249 appearances, all around the South at places like Eagles Hall in Houston, the Catholic Club in Helena Arkansas, Mayfair Building Fairgrounds in Tyler Texas, American Legion Hall in Carlsbad, New Mexico, The Cotton Club in Lubbock, Texas, West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, the Popular Bluff Armory in Popular Bluff, Missouri. The trio motored to gigs in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, but did not get very far north other than a couple of stops in Cleveland, Ohio. Elvis and his band were a Southern phenomena at this point. But, he had gathered in the interest of some big wheels, like Col. Tom Parker, and musicians from Nashville, as well as young musicians like Buddy Holly, who opened for Elvis at a pair of gigs in Lubbock, Texas during 1955.

The band early on was asked to appear a couple of Saturday nights of each month on the radio show Louisiana Hayride where the house drummer. D.J. Fontana sat in with them. Fontana’s playing added a R & B backbeat to Elvis’s music.

Presley, through Sun Records, released six more songs: Milkcow Blues Boogie, You’re a Heartbreaker, Baby Let’s Play House, I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone, Mystery Train, and I Forgot To Remember To Forget.

Early on in their career as a trio, Presley, Moore and Black played the Silver Slipper in Atlanta, Georgia the evening of October 8, 1954. Their records were for sale in the city’s record shops, and juke boxes carried their records.

Bobby Wayne Snyder, known in the country music and rockabilly circles as Bobby Wayne, was born in Spokane, Washington in 1936. His parents were Paul and Virginia Snyder. His father had some musical background, and Bobby started learning his way around the piano. While still a youngster, Wayne with his parents moved to California into a cramped mobile home. No room for a piano. The young Bobby switched to the guitar to keep up with his music. Sometime before 1952 the Snyders returned to Spokane. The now teenage Bobby got a job with the Western Union company delivering telegrams. He formed a friendship with a fellow delivery boy, Neil Livingstone, who also was interested in music, especially country and western music, and the steel guitar.  The next year, 1953, and all of sixteen years old, Wayne formed his first band, the Rocky Mountain Playboys. Bobby played rhythm guitar, while his buddy Red Adair played lead, and Bob Thames plucked out the standup bass. They snagged a weekly gig at the Woodland Beach Club at Hauser Lake up the valley from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In May the band felt together enough to book some time at Paul and Irene Carter’s Sound Recording Company (SRC) in the Symons Building, downtown Spokane, to record a couple of songs. They recorded Rocky Mountain Home, and There’s No Room In Your Heart.

The Rocky Mountain Playboys continued to play six days a week at the Jitterbug Club in Osborn, Idaho. While there Wayne meet Doug Dugger of the band T Texas Tyler and they rounded up a month long gig at the Moose Club in Missoula, Montana. Then the band brought in Jack Ackers for vocals, and Jack Evans, a fiddler. In the summer of 1954 the band scratched together enough money to travel to Los Angeles to find their break into the music industry, but because of restrictive age limits for musicians in bars where they needed to earn a living while in LA, the band went broke, and returned to Spokane a short time later. Soon afterwards the band split apart for good.

Wayne then hooked up with his old buddy Livingstone, who by this time had learned to play the steel guitar, and Livingstone’s younger brother Ron on fiddle With Thames on bass, Jack Curry on piano, they formed a new band, The String Dusters, and the band played local grange hall gigs through the winter of 1954-1955, as well as appearing live on a weekly local radio show.

Meanwhile, Wayne’s parent’s marriage had fallen apart and they divorced. His mother, Virginia, remarried and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. In the summer of 1955 she asked him to move down to Georgia to be with her. Arriving by Greyhound bus midday and hungry, his mother took him to lunch. It was while they were waiting for their meal that Virginia put a nickel in the restaurant’s juke box and played the song Mystery Train by Elvis Presley. While listening to Scotty Moore on guitar, Wayne immediately converted to rockabilly. He began buying up all of the 78’s Elvis released, and listened to any other R & B he could find. He had packed his guitar, and now practiced all day and into the night obtaining his rockabilly chops. He started hiring himself out for gigs meeting other musicians then in Atlanta playing the nightclubs. He met Roy Drusky, Jerry Reed, and Pete Drake. He paired up with Drake for gigs. But then his mother, another marriage on the rocks, headed back to Spokane taking young Wayne with her.

Wayne brought with him to Spokane his Elvis 78s, and all the other records he could find playing rock ‘n’ roll. He was so taken by the music he scrounged up a band and earned enough money to book more recording time at SRC. He hooked up with rhythm guitar player Harold Horn, and drummer Warren Waters to cut two sides, Warpaint, and a song about a high school girl he meet in Atlanta, Sally Ann. Wayne payed out of his own pocket to press 250 copies of the songs as a 78 rpm disc in December of 1955 hoping they would sell like hotcakes and he would get a recording contract with a national record company.

To be continued . . .

Bobby Wayne Snyder died February 26, 2013 in Spokane, Washington after a year-long struggle with illness.

Citations

Interview with Jack Kendall, 29 June, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Interview with Ron Livingstone, 5 May, 2013, Spokane, Washington.

Fontenot, Robert. Elvis Presley Concerts: 1954 Concerts and other on-stage appearances by Elvis in 1954.  About.com Guide.

- Elvis Presley Discography: 1954 A historical Elvis Presley timeline of single, EP, and album releases. About.com Guide.

-  Elvis Presley Concerts: 1955 Concerts and other on-stage appearances by Elvis in 1955. About.com Guide.

-   Elvis Presley Discography: 1955 A historical Elvis Presley timeline of single, EP, and album releases. About.com Guide.

Wilkinson, Tony. “BOBBY WAYNE .“ Black Cat Rockabilly Web site.

Snyder, Robert Wayne. “Bobby Wayne.” Rockabilly Hall of Fame Presentation.

Copyright © 2013 Robert G. Schoenberg


A conversation with guitarist Ron Livingstone

I sat down with guitarist Ron Livingstone Sunday afternoon to have a conversation that ranged from grange hall dances in 1954, at Spring Hill Grange, the grange hall at Waverley, and half a dozen others where his brother, Neil Livingstone, and their band, The String Dusters, played with various musicians from around Spokane, including Bobby Wayne, and stories about Les Paul and Chet Atkins, two of his guitar heroes.

We talked about the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll in Spokane. In 1955 his friend, song writing guitarist Bobby Wayne, returned from a stay in Georgia where he saw Elvis Presley and his band perform, and immediately ran down to a record store to pick up a handful of Sun Records 78s by the little known rocker who was turning the music scene in the South upside down.

Returning to Spokane Wayne and the Livingstone brothers incorporated rockabilly songs into their own performance. Wayne recorded a number of his own rockabilly songs in late 1955, some of them at Spokane’s Sound Recording Studios operated by Paul and Irene Carter.

Though it was a beginning for rock ‘n’ roll, it was not taken up soon by other musicians in Spokane. Livingstone said that the music scene in Spokane was Country and Western, and the musicians were not immediate fans of rock ‘n’ roll. It took a couple more years, and more Elvis, more Bill Haley, and a little bit of Buddy Holly to develop fully.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Schoenberg


Ron Livingstone – Spokane guitarist and a veteran musician in the 1950s

After five years playing Eastern Washington grange halls, honky tonk bars, and country & western nightclubs from here to Montana in the 1950s, Ron Livingstone came home for good. He still plays guitar, concentrating on gospel music

Brothers Ron and Neil Livingstone, Ron on guitar and Neil on a lap-steel guitar, began playing in the mid-fifties with their band, the String Dusters. The brothers played in a series of grange halls throughout Eastern Washington. Neil Livingstone told Frank Delaney in 1990, “The granges were dances that involved the whole family. Grandfather and grandmother came and the children and the grandchildren. Rock-and-roll kind of broke that up because the young folks wanted all rock-and-roll and the old people wanted no rock-and-roll.That kind of moved the bands into the night clubs out of the grange halls.”

Rock ‘n’ roll, though, had a close connection to country and western music. Before Bill Haley formed the Comets, he had a band called Bill Haley and the Saddlemen, the music they played was country swing. Elvis Presley’s session men for his first regional hit, That’s Alright Mama, a rhythm and blues song recorded by Arthur Crudup in 1946, were country and western musicians Bill Black and Scotty Moore. Buddy Holly grew up in Texas playing country and western music. The rock ‘n’ roll guitar band’s roots were blue grass string bands featuring guitars.

Having established their reputation as musicians, the Livingstone brothers were hired in 1957 to play at the Lariat, a country and western nightclub in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho. A bass player was needed for the band, and the owner of the club hired Charlie Ryan to join in. One night Ryan played a song he wrote to the brothers, and it was decided they would record it at Paul and Irene Carter’s studios, Spokane Recording Company in the Symons Building located at Howard and Sprague in downtown Spokane. After the record was pressed, Ryan formed a new band, Charlie Ryan and the Timberline Riders, with Ron playing lead guitar. Eventually the record, Hot Rod Lincoln, was picked up by a Canadian record company and released nationally. In the summer of 1960 the song began to chart on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100.

Ron eventually grew tired of the bars and honky tonks the band was playing. He came home to learn to be an architect. But, he didn’t give up on playing guitar. He has played in gospel groups all these decades since. I had a chance to see Ron play his guitar at a small rural church in Deer Park, Washington on a cold February Sunday morning. He was playing on a vintage electric guitar he was proud to say he got a good deal on in 1959, a Gibson. “It cost me $150. It was worth $200,” he told me.

In the video Ron is the distinguished white haired man in the white shirt. The band is playing a traditional gospel song, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Lynn Spivey singing vocals and on acoustic guitar, Rick Rex on rhythm guitar. In the background is Ron’s brother-in-law, Ken Campbell, who was delivering the sermon this morning and plays an acoustic guitar in the band.

You can see the video on the Robert Schoenberg/High Bridge Park Facebook page.

Livingstone, Ronald and Neil. OH-514. Museum of Arts and Culture, Archive. Interviewed by Frank Delaney on 3 June 1990.

Interview, Ron Livingstone, 10 February, 2013 by Robert Schoenberg.

Copyright © 2013 Robert G. Schoenberg


Ray Charles at the Spokane Memorial Coliseum, 1962

Some notes from my research: Ray Charles, Marty Robbins, and the Limeliters: Spokane Coliseum 1962 —

On March 23, 1962 the Limeliters came to Spokane for an appearance at the Spokane Memorial Coliseum. The Limeliters, Alex Hassilev, Lou Gottlieb, and Glenn Yarbrough, began their professional career performing at San Francisco’s Hungry i. Recording for RCA Records they had a string of hits, “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” “City of New Orleans,” “A Dollar Down,” “Have Some Madeira M’Dear,” “Lonesome Traveler,” “Wabash Cannonball,” and “Whiskey in the Jar.” They also recorded the advertising jingle “Things Go Better With Coke,” and made that a national hit. Yarbrough was to leave the group the following year.
Following the Limeliters on Easter Sunday, April 22, was a country and western blowout. Tour producers created themed shows that made a circuit around the country, including the Memorial Coliseum. This one was a stage show based on the Grand Ol’ Opry, and featuring Marty Robbins this year as the main performer.
That summer on June 8, Liberace brought his popular show to the Memorial Coliseum. His career as an entertainer was slowing down, and to reenergize it he began appearing live at a number of small to medium sized venues across the country, appealing to his fan base directly. Spokane was one of these venues.
At the time, the Memorial Coliseum was a publicly owned property. Anyone with the money could sign a “use agreement” with the city to plan an event at the Coliseum. Promoters held dances throughout the year for high school and college students, often featuring local musicians in battle of the bands.
In December of 1962, a man named Leonard Russell who lived on east Alice in Spokane signed a contract to use the Coliseum to have Ray Charles perform. The first date set for the concert was Thursday December 20, but it was soon moved to Sunday December 23. Charles was huge in rhythm and blues, and growing into a pop phenomenon with his latest hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” in 1962, and he’d released “Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music,” an LP, that year too. His road performances by this time featured a big band growing out of his initial small combo.

 

“Limeliters.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. March 23, 1962: 83.
“The Limeliters” Web site. http://www.limeliters.com/about.html. 5 August 2011.
“Grand Ol’ Opry.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. April 22, 1962: 113.
“Liberace.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. June 8, 1962: 160.
“Liberace.” 26 April 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberace.
“Ray Charles.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. December 20, 1962: 355.
“Ray Charles.” Perpetual Date Book, daily diary of the Coliseum Manager. December 23, 1962: 358.
“Ray Charles.” 26 April 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Charles.

Copyright © Robert G. Schoenberg 2012


Blue Jeans

Blue Jeans

The Blue Jeans were one of the first rock ‘n’ roll bands in Spokane as far as I know at this time.