Tag Archives: Texas

78: “You’re Little But You’re Cute” b/w “Crawfish Crawl” by Link Davis. Okeh 18048. Recorded April 17, 1954 in Houston, Texas.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

 

Lewis Lincoln Davis was born in Sunset, Texas and raised in Wills Point, Texas—about 25 miles east of Dallas. He was one of eight children and his interest in music was strong enough that his father bought “Link” his first fiddle at the age of ten. It didn’t take long until he was playing with two of his brothers at local parties and barn dances. It also didn’t take long for Link to broaden his instrumental knowledge, learning to play the saxophone, piano, bass, and clarinet. He was a good singer too, employing a breathy hoarseness that would serve him well when singing the cajun songs that he’d become known best for.

Link’s very first recording was in the criminally overlooked genre of Western Swing, a wonderful mix of country and jazz styles that might just qualify it as the most quintessentially American genre of music ever. Here he is on vocals (not so hoarse yet—he’s only 23) and fiddle with Ft. Worth’s Crystal Springs Ramblers, in 1937’s “Tired of Me.”

 

Link continued to play with a number of different acts both live and as a session man in the studio, in particular with Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers. But it wasn’t until 1949 when Link would make his first significant solo recording, “Have You Heard the News?”

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78: “Lost” b/w “One-Armed Love” by Ace Ball. Okeh 18047. Recorded 02/08/54.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Not much could be found on Ace Ball’s early life. He was born Arthur Balch in 1920 in New Home, Texas. By 1948, he was playing guitar and recording with Hank Harral and His Palomino Cowhands. Here they are with the country artist checklist “Dream Band Boogie.”

Not bad. But by the early 1950’s, Ace was ready to strike out on his own. In 1953, he made four recordings for Okeh, none of which could be found online. The session in 1954 also produced four songs, and, fortunately, three of them could be found. Here’s “Lost.”

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78: “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine” b/w “Tip Toe Through the Tulips With Me” by Smith Ballew and his Orchestra. Okeh 41299. Recorded in New York City, 9/11/29.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Smith Ballew was born in Palestine, Texas in 1902—the youngest of five children. He studied music at the University of Texas, and while there he and his brother Charlie joined Jimmy’s Joys, a jazz group led by their friend Jimmy Maloney. They recorded some songs for Golden Records in California; the songs sold well, but Smith decided to form his own group, The Texajazzers. When that proved to be only a regional success, he joined forces with pianist Dick Voynow to form the Wolverines Orchestra. Ben Pollack, a more successful band leader, invited Ballew to join his group after seeing the Wolverines play in Chicago. It was only at this point that Smith Ballew was encouraged to sing; he had only played banjo until then.

An unfulfilled offer to play in Ted Fio Rito’s new group in New York City found Ballew stuck in a new town with no job and no money. While busking in 1928, he was discovered by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, who introduced him to other notables like Joe Venuti, and soon Smith was on his way to singing with Fred Rich’s orchestra at the Astor Hotel, followed by radio appearances and, by 1929, recording with his own orchestra for Okeh Records.

“Painting the Clouds With Sunshine” is a perfect example of the popular culture’s urge to always look on the bright side, of faking happiness until you make it. Continue reading

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