Your Wikipedia entry shows two different years of birth. Is there some reason why that can't be established?
Yeah, they put what they wanted to put and I just never changed it. It's 1937.
It's strange that they wouldn't correct that. That's sort of what they're meant to do.
Well I never tried to get them to correct it.
Did they get the birthday right at least? The 12th of August, is that correct?
August 12th, 1937 is the correct one.
Now, can you tell me this Roy, in your opinion, why do all the best guitarists come from Houston, Texas, or thereabouts?
Well, I have no idea about that, except T-Bone Walker came from Texas, and he was one of the leading players in the blues that led to jazz and led to royal blues, and led to all types of blues. T-Bone Walker started it. T-Bone Walker is from Texas. And I think everyone was trying to pick up on T-Bone, which made them just a tad better than the other blues artists, guitar pickers.
Do you remember seeing T-Bone Walker play live?
Yeah. He's in my career forever, because when I was 14, he heard about me duplicating him, and he called me on stage with him at a very prominent job, in Houston at the City Auditorium. And we played a song together. When he called me on, he said, "You play and I sing." And he put the guitar on my body and adjust the straps, and we played our song. Well I started it off, and he came in singing.
Do you remember what the song was?
Cold, Cold Feeling. And how was that for you? Were you nerve-wracked? Were you nervous or did you have enough confidence to pull that off?
I was amazed, but it was a song that I had been using on my show. So it was okay to do the song, but the idea that I was doing it with T-Bone Walker, was exciting. And we became friends, and I helped him in his last days, like I'm in now. I drove him to his jobs and I used to go to his home. And his family knew that I had been around him, in and out of his life all those years. So they accepted me at their home. And I would go drive him to work, because he didn't have managers and all the professional things he had not at that time. He didn't have his support team. So I helped him out.
What sort of a guy was T-Bone?
He was a family man. He had a family. He had two daughters, and one was policeman for the city of Los Angeles. I don't know what the other one was, I can't remember. And then he had two sons, one played guitar, but they never made it to any status like T-Bone. But they tried.
You said you were playing like T-Bone Walker when you were 14 and you got up on stage. How was it that you were having live gigs at 14 anyway? It's very young to be playing live.
Well, I started playing piano when I was six. So if you play piano, you play a concert instrument. The guitar is a concert instrument. So the notes on the staff is pretty much the same. And when you can read music at a young age like that... I had piano teacher that lived across the railway tracks from where I lived at six, and her name was Ms. Punch, P-U-N-C-H. And she taught me the basic music reading habits. So when I told my mother I was going to change to guitar at... It was 14, and I started telling her about it when I was 12, but she rejected the idea so forcefully. And then I had to tell her that I paid for my way in music with my paper routes, and that I had been paying her rent to the tune of $3 for rent, $2 for board.
So she still didn't like the idea. I said, "Well, I've been straight up with you, and I don't want to play piano anymore. I want to play guitar. And so I have a guitar that I want to buy, and I need X amount of dollars to go with, and I think you should give it to me, because I've been paying you rent for over six years." And so she told me, she said, "All the money that you ever gave me, is in that trunk in my bedroom, and you go over there and you go in that trunk, you can get all that money, but I'm going to tell you something. If you get all that money out of that trunk, while you get the money that you've give her to me and I've saved for you, you'll be broke the rest of your days. You will never know how to save any day." So that scared me.
So I wanted in that... All that I needed which was, I think, about... It was about $60 to go with what I had to buy the guitar and amplifier. It was an old Kay guitar, and I asked her at that time, could I go out and play jobs if I got some jobs. Well, it so happened I got a job with a drummer that played with BB King during the time of The Thrill is Gone. His name was VS Freeman. And VS Freeman was BB King's manager at that time. So I went to play with him.
I caught a bus with my new guitar and my new amp. And he had left because he was a real businessman. He left me because the bus was late, and it was dusk, dark, like seven o'clock. And I was scared, with my new guitar and amplifier, I got off the bus, and he was gone, and I'm standing there and a man came. The man said, "Hey young fella, why are you standing on the corner with a guitar and an amplifier? What do you want?" I started crying. I said, "I was supposed to play with VS Freeman, and VS left me. He's gone on to play the job without me. He said, "Well, let me tell you, I can take you on a better job." He was driving a new Cadillac. He said, "I live just across the street where you see all those cars." He said, "I'm a junk yard mechanic. I sell parts and all that." He said, "But that's from my house over there. You can see it from here." I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, you come over there and I'm going to get dressed, and I'll take you to a better job."
And he did. He went and got dressed, and he took me to a place called The Whispering Pines. The Whispering Pines was owned by a man named Joe Oakman. And he introduced me to Joe Oakman, and when he did, Joe said, "Can this little fellow play guitar?" He say, "He play guitar and sing." And so he said, "Well, you sit in my office, and I'll call you on the show." He said, "We've got Matinees, which is a team of dancers, and we have Peewee, is the comedian, and we'll have you. And so you'll play with the band Otis Turner and it's... I forget what he called the band then, but it was his name first, OtisTurner, he was a piano player. So I waited until they called me on, in the owner's office. And when they called me on, the songs I played, everybody knew those songs. It was Coco Feeling by T-Bone Walker, and it was Boogie Woogie Rambler by Gatemouth Brown.
And so I played three songs, but I just remember those two. And when I went on stage, I was playing, Gatemouth Brown Boogie Woogie Rambler. And the people went crazy to see this young boy of there playing guitar and singing. So they started just throwing money on the stage. And when they threw money on the stage, the man that brought me over there, his name was [Hi Papa] ... Hi Papa reached into his pocket and got a hundred dollar bill and put it in the head of my guitar. And when they, the people saw that, they were throwing money, but they started throwing dollars, $5 and all that. And so, by the end of the night, Hi Papa carried me home and dropped me off. I had all his money. So when my mamma saw me, she said, "Get on in here boy. You stayed later than you said you would." And you get on here and put that guitar down, and get on dressed for bed." And so I stopped by her room. We was in a long shotgun house, they'd go straight back. So I stopped by her room and I threw all this money on her bed. And when she came in and saw all that money, she came and get me and she said, "Where did you steal all this money from?" I said, "I didn't steal it. I stole it with the same thing that you told me not to get, the guitar." And boy, she started liking guitars after that. It shows you how a woman feels about money.
You said that you started on piano. When you were playing piano, whose songs were you playing or who inspired you?
Well, I was mostly playing instrumental songs and I was reading music. I was learning the technique, but I played with my brother's band. And when he didn't have a piano... My brother's Grady Gaines. You ever heard of him?
I have, yes.
Well Grady Gaines is a very prominent saxophone player who played with Little Richard, and he played with Little Willie John, he play with Sam Cook. He play with some great ones, and he was a great soloist. And so what he did, was he hired me to play piano with him when he didn't have a piano player. And so that's the only experience I had playing songs by Fast Domino, and all the people that they were covering. They covered some [inaudible] songs, but mostly songs he covered was saxophone songs like [Big J Mac Kneeling] and all that. So there was all blues. So all I had to do was play the blues.
Your brother, didn't he lead the Upsetters, Little Richard's band?
Yeah, he was the leader of the Upsetters. He gave that name to the Upsetters before they got with Little Richard. And when they left Little Richard, they became the Upsetters again. That's where that happened.
How did you meet Chuck Willis?
When I was 16, I had been playing on my own for two years, and I had another teacher named Mr. Goodman. He came in town... He was a white man. He came in town with... Benny Goodman. So he taught me some things, professional things about guitar that you can only learn if you know how to read music. So I had been taking piano lessons from a very prominent lady, Ms. Punch. She was operatic singer and a piano teacher. So he recognized that, and he started telling me how to play the guitar with big bands, because that's what he came in town with. Benny Goodman was a big man.
So he saw I could read music and how I was a fast learner, so he taught me things that you will only know if you were in a big band setting. That's why the last part of my career, and the first part started off with Chuck Willis, I had an orchestra. And the orchestra, Roy Gaines Orchestra, with Chuck Willis. It was Chuck Willis and the Roy Gaines Orchestra. So I had orchestra, because when you got a orchestra, you attract musicians that can read music. And so that's the only time that I wanted, because I was only 16 and I was hiring musicians to play behind Chuck Willis, and to play in my orchestra.
I was hiring them to read music, because I had my arrangements written up by different first-class musicians. And during that time Count Basie and Duke Allerton was having trouble keeping their band. Not so much Duke Ellington, but Count Basie. And not a whole lot Count Basie, but they were having trouble keeping their bands together, because they were starting new, small bands. Like Louis Armstrong... Yeah, Louis Armstrong.
You mean Louis Jordan?
No, Louis Armstrong who replaced [inaudible]. He had a six-piece orchestra that played ragtime. He's from New Orleans and he played ragtime. And then there was new-ish journey that had a five-piece orchestra. Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. So those five musicians was the start of the small bands knocking out the big bands who had... that Count Basie, But they were knocking those big bands off the shelf. And they were turning into nine-piece orchestra, seven-piece, eight-piece. And there was a lot musicians didn't have jobs. So I called my small-band orchestra that I had behind until I was... And I was hiring guys that were 40, 50 years old when I was 16 to 18, in New York. Because I went to New York from Houston.
And that's where I met Chuck Willis. So I had the power of Chuck Willis having all those great records out. Like You're Still My Baby and there was a lot of them. And You're Still My Baby was one of the big ones. And Chuck Willis gave me the opportunity to put the band together, because how I was with Joe Morris and Faye Adams playing on the road, and we got to Buffalo, New York, and I gave Joe Adams the trumpet player that he used to play with. He had played with Lionel Hampton, which was a big band.
You get the picture, all these big bands were breaking up because they were hiring all small bands. So what happened was I had the opportunity to use orchestra with my name, and playing behind Chuck Willis gave me a big name for orchestra, because Chuck Willis had all those hit records. And he was a great songwriter. So he wrote all those hits he made. And we were on the road, working, an office agent called Shaw S-H-A-W, Shaw Artist Incorporated. And then Shaw was my agent, and we got the blues section of that company, of that agency. And that was for a man, Jack Allen, I think. Jack Allen was interested in me, and he let me sign to his part agent, because I came with Chuck Willis. Chuck Willis was already over there, at this agent Shaw, this agency.
So the agency was booking big bands, small bands, and all the groups, like The Midnighters and those singing groups. You know what I mean?
Yeah, the singing groups were being booked out of that orchestra again. There was a huge amount of singing groups in New York at that time, and at that agency. So they would give tours and they'll have big tours with maybe three or four singing groups on one bus, and two or three bands... Because the bands didn't have six and seven pieces, maybe three horns and like that for rhythm. So they would have two or three bands on one bus, and then they have another bus with all the singers, the artists. And that's the way they made tours then. So we would all be on different buses. So when we got to the area, we only got a chance to play two or three songs before they go to the next person. But the interesting part was the orchestra bands played behind all the groups. And whatever group that has practice with a band, that's the band they had to perform with. So it was a long show, but it was thought out because everybody had to rehearse with their perspective group, you see?
So that was the first part of then with Chuck Willis. And then it went on to where Chuck Willis made some substantial hits like CC Rider, It's Too Late Baby, Juanita, all those great songs that he made was during the time that my orchestra was with him, and he had signed to be with Atlantic Records. Atlantic Records was the number one blues record label at that time. They had a man over there, Ahmet Ertegun, that was a leader. He was from Europe, but he made that company with, along with two other people. The one I can remember, Jerry Wexler, W-E-X-L-E-R. The other one is his brother Nesuhi Ertegun, and there's a guy by the name of [Abrahamson], I think, as well. Yeah, that's right. You know the history that I'm talking about. So anyway, Ray Charles became very much part of the Atlantic Records. Ray made all those big hits. He had All right... No, what was that song?
I Got a Woman? It's All Right... Oh man, Ray Charles had so many hits.
That big one.
What'd I say?
What'd I Say? That was it. Thank you. And then that was Ruth Brown, and then all those people were on over there with Chuck Willis. Chuck Willis was with them, they were all together. And you named it right, Abraham, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun. And they had a great label, and they were very much a part of the history that came out of that era. And Chuck Willis fell right off in there, because he made some very big hits. And we worked as a team up until his death. He died at 32 and that was very tragic.
Did you play on any of those Chuck Willis sessions?
Oh yeah. I played on the most important ones, CC Rider, like that. But they had studio musicians that played. It wasn't essential that I was going to play them, because they would call Chuck back in to New York to do a session. And my orchestra was on the road. And they wouldn't bring me in just for that all the time.
He had a big hits. Tell me if you played on any of these ones. Did you play on Betty and Dupree?
Don't Deceive Me?
No, that was before Chuck and I met. Don't Deceive Me, You're Still my Baby and all that. They were the early songs that he did. He recorded those songs in Atlanta.
You recorded with him in New York, then what about It's Too Late?
I played on It's Too Late.
Keep A-Driving was another good one.
You played on that?
I played on most all those in one year, all those when he went with Atlantic Records.
Question for you, there's one song, which wasn't a hit, but it's one of my favorite Chuck Willis songs. I wonder if you were on this, it's called Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You?
Yeah, I played on that. (singing)
There's a steel guitar on that. Who's that? It's like a lap steel.
Yeah, that was a white man. They decided to put him on that the last minute.
Do you remember his name?
No, I don't.
It's all right. Now the bit you left out of the story, was why you were in New York in the first place. What made you travel all the way from Houston to the Big Apple?
Well, it was a logical move, because that's where everything was happening. Then I was with whoever it was at that time. And all I know, I was with Roy Milton. Do you remember Roy Milton?
Of course. Roy Milton and his Solid Senders.
There you go. And I was with him. We parted ways in Washington DC, which is 250 miles from New York. And it was a logical move for me [inaudible] I wasn't ready to come back to Houston, Texas, to move into New York. I moved into New York and I had a job with Joe Morris. That's when I first met him, Joe Morris.
How did you come to meet Chuck Willis, and him to hire you?
I was working with Joe Morris Band, Faye Adams. Shake a Hand, Shake a Hand? You remember that?
Yeah, and Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere?
Yeah. That's right. So when I was working with Joe Mars, I was also driving the equipment van, and it was extra money for me because in those days you didn't make a whole lot on the road, so if you could make extra driving or whatever, you made it. That's what I did. I was making extra money driving this utility car that you carry all the instruments in, and I was a singer that was singing Faye Adams's song. Her name was Ursula Reid. Ursula was riding in that utility car with the drummer, and that was a very distinguished drummer. I can't think of his name. I think his name was Jimmy something, but anyway, we got to Buffalo, New York where it came from; Florida, all the way up the Coast working, and we had to jump into Buffalo, New York.
We were playing at the auditorium there, and in this auditorium was mega names of artists, like Chuck Willis, and some singing groups. I can't think of their names now, but it was a variety of artists. When it come time to get paid that night, we had played. There was other artists had to play. When I was 14, 15, maybe 15, I had been playing about a year. I used to love to hear Chuck Willis sing some of those early songs, like You're Still My Baby, and Don't Deceive Me. There was a piano player named Clarence Johnson was in Houston at that time, who also felt very excited to hear Chuck Willis sing. He learnt to play and sing just like Chuck.
He played the piano with different bands, and he played behind me sometimes. His name was Clarence Johnson, and Clarence whenever we were working together, he would play those Chuck Willis songs that he knew, and that made me a fan of Chuck without even knowing him. When Roy Milton and I had a run in, in Washington, D.C., and I decided to go to New York... I didn't decide to go to New York. I was working with Joe Adams. When I was working with Joe Adams, we were getting paid off that night in Buffalo, New York, and this tells the story how I got to New York City. I was in Buffalo, New York with Joe Morris, and I was getting paid off, and Joe didn't want to pay me for the gas stops I made, and I told him, "If you're not going to pay me for the gas stops, I'm leaving you right tonight. I'm not going to work for you no more." I didn't know that if I went around and seen Chuck, so I just went around and hollered at Chuck, and tell him that I had been listening to his songs a long time, even when I was 14, and playing in Houston for Clarence Johnson, who was singing his songs. When I went to tell him that, I told him that Joe Morris didn't want to pay me for the gas stops that I made. I was hoping if he was going back to New York, I could get a ride with his band. He said, "I don't have a band here. I just have a piano player, and a horn player, and the horn player [inaudible]," and he said, "but to answer your question, yes. You can ride back with us." He said, "Give me your hotel," and I gave him my hotel. They came by and picked me up, and I rode into New York City with him, and that's when the saxophone player that was rehearsing this music with different bands were fed up, and he was going back to Atlanta, Georgia where they both came from.
The piano player that was playing with Chuck named Jimmy Harris, and Jimmy said, "I don't want the job of leading the band." He said, "Give it to Roy," and so that's how I got to be Chuck Willis's band leader. I named the orchestra Roy Gaines Orchestra, and he carried me over to the Billy Shore Agency, and I got started working for Jack.
Didn't he also write your first recording, Loud Mouth Lucy?
Yeah. I forgot about that. When we were recording, he said, "I think this would be a good song for you." I put it on, man, and the rest is history. It was a good song for him.
Yeah. You recorded that for Chart Records in Miami, which was, I think, one of Henry Stone's labels.
That's right, Henry Stone and Chuck Willis is singing on that song with me. He sang in on the chorus. [inaudible] [inaudible] Loud Mouth Lucy. He would come in Loud Mouth Lucy, and then he would come in, also, "You just talk, talk, talk, pretty baby, talk"... He was singing up there and I was singing, "You just talk, talk, talk, pretty baby." That's Chuck Willis singing up there on that song.
That's amazing. I don't think anyone... I've never seen that mentioned anywhere that that was Chuck Willis on that. That's amazing.
When did you record Loud Mouth Lucy?
In Miami for the gentleman you just called-
Henry Stone, yes. That's why I did those first recordings that did a little bit for my career.
How did you come to be signed by RCA, Groove Records?
I was being managed by a man named Joe Tenaro. Joe Tenaro went and had a meeting with RCA. It wasn't RCA. It was one of those subsidiary labels.
It was called Groove Records, but it's a subsidiary of RCA.
Yeah. You're right. He went to talk with Groove about recording me, and then the idea came up with RCA Victor after he heard me recording for Groove that I'd be great on RCA Victor at the same time Elvis was over there, but I did [inaudible] for RCA Victor, and that's when I thought my career was going to be a longstanding career in Rock and Roll, but it didn't happen like that. I can't say it for sure that had Elvis Presley over there and a lot of white guys that were recording for RCA Victor, and that was their offspring into the Rock and Roll, and I think they held my stuff back because it started off to be really big, Skippy Is A Sissy.
Do you have any idea how many copies Skippy Is A Sissy sold?
No because it was a thing they shut it down in the beginning because it looked like it was going to really take off, and I'm saying they was trying to protect white Rock and Roll. Little Richard and all of them was shaking in their boots because Skippy Is A Sissy looked like it was going to really do something, but it got quietened down, and I never saw the like of what happened. Skippy Is A Sissy is being played today in parts of the world you wouldn't imagine it being played because it's got such a Rock and Roll beat to it. I would venture to say if Skippy Was A Sissy was mixed over for radio today, radio today, Skippy Is A Sissy would be an enormous hit record of Rock and Roll because it's got all the beats, but they wasn't mixing the drums up to where they're mixing them now.
They wasn't mixing the bass up. They wasn't mixing the piano up or the guitar up. Now, they got guitar, piano, bass, and drums up above almost everything. If they mixed it for radio today, it would be an enormous hit record.
You wrote Skippy Is A Sissy. Didn't you?
I wrote Skippy Is A Sissy. I got over 200 songs. After that happened, I decided I wasn't going to be with any more record companies, but I did go to a few along the way, but I own most of the publishing on all my songs.
That's good. That's good because many artists didn't own their publishing, and lost those royalties. Right?
Right. Right, but it hasn't done me any good, other than I get some some royalties, and I have 200 songs. I have 22 albums out, and 200 songs in my publishing company that mostly I wrote.
If you go on Spotify, you can hear all my stuff. It's being played on Roy Gaines Radio Spotify, and I got another radio station, Roy Gaines Radio Pandora, and you can hear all my stuff.
Yeah? What was your inspiration for Skippy Is A Sissy?
Well, I was working around Joe Tenaro, and we decided we was going to do the Rock and Roll bit, just a one-shot deal for RCA Victor instead of recording for Groove, which is a subsidiary of RCA Victor, so we thought we'd better get between Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Bo Diddley was out then with some great Rock and Roll. There was not a lot of great, outstanding Rock and Roll records out then, and then Elvis Presley was recording on RCA Victor, and so we tried to come in the middle somewhere, and that's what was the inspiration for Skippy Is A Sissy. But who was Skippy?
Skippy's a dog, but we made the dog look like he was a man, Skippy, Hippy, Dippy, Whippy, bark for me. Its like that. And you say you ain't nothing but a dog with fleas, right?
Right. You make a person look like he's a legitimate dog, and that's the way we did it.
Your guitar work on that is pretty insane. Can you remember thinking at the time, "Wow. I really nailed that"?
Well, everybody has a favorite solo. The solo played on Loud Mouth Lucy, people liked that for a reason. Solos I played on Gainesville, the solos I played on some of Chuck Willis's songs. I always had some hot moments because I learnt to read and I could make blues sound musically sound. You know what I mean by that?
Musically sound, otherwise, it was legitimate music.
Yeah? Some of your records, including Di Dat Dum Dum, and other ones, have a bit of a rockabilly country-western kind of feel to them. Is that the sort of music that you enjoy?
Do you enjoy rockabilly music and country, things like that?
Well, at the time, I didn't know I was doing rockabilly, but it turns out that after 29 years you can re-record all your records, and you can publish the music if no one published the music, if the publisher that had the music resigned; the music republished it. You can republish it as an artist, and they belong to your company. So I did that with all of my songs when I put them on my label. My label is Black Gold Records. When I put them on Black Gold, I republished them. I recopyrighted them because it's after 28 years. The 29th year you can republish your albums, and whatever, if you strategically go through it, and find out what songs has been published or recopyrighted.
Some of the songs that I recorded back then was never published. You know what I'm saying? So I republished them, and that's when I added Black Gal. I got Black Gal from... Black Gal was a song by... I can't think of it... I can't think of his name, but he was a big folk artist. He did Irene, Irene.
Are you talking about Josh White or Leadbelly?
Leadbelly. That was a Leadbelly song. Well, some of Leadbelly's songs have never been published after 29 years, so I put that one on my album sheet.
Can I ask you a question? My Isabella or Isabella, did you write that song? And if so, how did you write it?
Isabella came to me by Joe Tenaro when he was my manager. He was my manager when I did the RCA Victor thing. He was the Skippy Is A Sissy. So Isabella came by way of him. He found it somewhere. I didn't write it. He might have wrote it. I believe a guy called Roy Tan recorded it and wrote it. I've got that record by Roy Tan. It's the same song, but it's obviously very different.
Roy Tan, that's a Roy Tan song. You're right. That's [inaudible]. Like I said, if you're copyrighted, and you get to 29 years, and somebody happened to be copyrighted something, it's going to go to the world like a retired/unretired song, and anybody can claim it. That's what I did with some of those songs. I claimed them.
One song that you recorded, which I noticed the copyright... Well, the composer is Big Boy Crudup, was Worried About Your Baby, which is pretty much a cover of That's All Right. Isn't it?
That's right. Big Boy Crudup did that song, but like I say, when I went over years later, Big Boy Crudup he wasn't even copyrighted any of his songs back in that time. Most of those artists didn't copyright them. Who's going to get it? They'd pull it into a pool, and pay it out to whomever. I claimed it.
Elvis covered that, too.
Yeah. That's right.
I was playing that on the show yesterday, and I could hear Mickey Guitar Baker play on that one as well, I'm pretty sure. That's right. Mickey was on everybody's albums back then. He was the main person until he went to Europe to stay.
Yeah. Wasn't he just one of the most incredible guitarists? How did you rate Mickey Baker up there with all the great guitarists?
I think he was one of the greatest. He recorded on every type of record you can think of, from jazz to blues, to rock and roll, to rockabilly, country and western. He was just a phenomenal learned... He was a learned guitar player, who made use of his talent backing up people, and then until he decided to do one his self [inaudible] Mickey [inaudible], and then he had his own career for a while.
Did you play guitar on that at all or did you just put the guitar down and let Mickey do it?
No. I played on it, but I didn't play the parts that Mickey played. I played the solo. I played other parts of the background, but I mostly became very visible because Mickey he couldn't play my style of solos. He played, but he had to respect what I did because it was me. It was my session. You know?
How did you come to be signed up to Deluxe Records?
Well, that was an interesting scenario. We was over there for the first time was the [inaudible]. I can't think of his name. I can see his face now, but he was outstanding. He was given me as an artist to record for the first time for Deluxe, and he had just started to write for Deluxe. He was more of a jazz-type writer, but he needed money so he was writing some rock and roll, and whatever he could write.
On that first session, he did the arrangement on Stolen Moments, stolen moments, [inaudible], only leads to a broken heart. That one. He did that and he did the one we're talking about. What's that one?
We were talking... Well, we were talking about Isabella, You're Right, I'm Left, Gainesville.
Yeah, but he didn't do all of those, but he did-
Stolen Moments was the B side of You're Right, I'm Left, so maybe it's that one.
Yeah. You're Right, I'm Left that's an interesting tune. It was the saxophone player that had that song. I can't think of his name, though, but he was big. Al something?
Al? Big Al Sears.
Big Al Sears. I'll tell you. You're right on it. You're right on it. I wonder how you got on top of this like that.
Did you ever play on a record with Bobby Blue Bland?
I played on his first hits.
Do you remember the specific songs?
Yeah. You'll have to name some of his first songs.
You're talking about when he was on Duke Records, right?
Yeah. See? Don Robey owns Peacock Records, and Duke Peacock, there was another one. It's where I was raised up, in Houston, Texas. It was the only record company down there.
Yeah? Right. So if we go year by year, so you're saying the 1950s you recorded with him, right?
Yeah, when he first came out of the Army.
So like I Woke Up Screaming?
That's the one. Ooo-we-baby, I had a real bad dream last night. Yeah. I played on that one. I played-
Sorry. Keep going. Yep?
I played on his first hits because I was in Houston, and could read a little music, and Joe Scott knew it. Joe Scott was the arranger for Bobby Blue Bland, and all of the artists on Duke Records. Do you get it?
Yeah. I'd love to get a list of you, the songs that you said that you played off with Bobby Blue Bland. Yeah. I've heard great ones, like I Learned My Lesson, Farther Up The Road, You Got Bad Intentions, Bobby's Blues-
I didn't play on Further Up The Road. I played on Bad Intentions.
That's with Bill Harvey's Band, it says.
Yeah, but Bill Harvey had to have whatever guitar player. They didn't want it. He might have had some great... I know he did, some great guitarists with his band, but when they went into the studio, they get people that made records with Bobby that was successful. Well, he had some great guitarists. He had Wayne Bennett played on some of his records as well.
Oh, Wayne was incredible. He played on that powerful version of Stormy Monday.
Just trying to think of the other guitarists that Bobby Bland had with him. Clarence Holloman.
Clarence Holloman taught me the first chord on guitar. He taught me that actual. I rode all the way over to his house, and he was waiting for me, but I put my amp, that same amp and guitar that my mother told me not to buy, I put it in my paper... I had a paper route. I put it in my paper, and wrote Baskin on my bicycle. Amp on one side, the guitar on the other, and I rode over to his house. When I got there, he said... I'm walking up to his house with the guitar. He said, "Bring them in and set them right there, and let's go play some ball." He wanted to play ball, so I didn't say nothing. [inaudible] guitar. So he wanted to play ball, and he had a huge dog. Like a Doberman. No. It was a Great Dane.
This huge dog came up. He said, "Oh, man, don't be afraid of my dog." He said, "Just don't move." So all the way over to his house to stand in front of a dog, and be told not to move. I'm thinking about guitar, and he's controlling my mind with a dog. [inaudible] was unique. Finally, I said, "Enough of this." I said, "Clarence, I got to go. I got to go take care of some business with paper route." He said, "Oh, yeah. Let me show you a chord." He showed me a B-flat chord with two fingers in the key of B-flat on the third, and fifth, and first. No, the third, and fifth, and tonic of the chord in B-flat. He said, "I'll see you."
That was the way it went, but that chord turned out to be the most important one for all the blues songs I played. You can do it in any key, and you can play a lot of blues with it, but we stayed friends until the end of his life because Clarence had a great brother named Sweets Harmon who played piano, and he sang like Charles Brown, and that's what made Clarence [inaudible] guitar player. He was interesting because he could play exactly like some of those guitarists that played with Charles Brown. I can't think of their names, though, but if you called-
Are you talking about Johnny Moore?
Johnny Moore did some stuff with Charles, but there was one other one.
They played with Charles Brown? There was an Oscar something as well.
Yeah. I remember him, but there was one that... I can't think of his name, but I can see his face. That's all right. It'll come to you. There were some great musicians that came along at that time. Like the first time I met Wayne Bennett, he was playing with Amos Milburn. He was playing with who?
Amos Milburn. Do you remember Amos Milburn?
Of course, Good, Good Whiskey, and all that stuff.
That's right. Yeah. That was great times for great musicians. As a matter of fact, I asked my mama could I bring Wayne to our house for dinner on Sunday, so I could just get around him.
Yeah, the great Wayne Bennett. Clarence Harmon I think went and married Carol Fran, who was a singer in the... What do they call it? Like on the border between Louisiana and Texas, the Gulf Port or whatever it is.
Yeah. That's right.
Yeah, they were a couple that did some touring together by way of festivals in Phoenix, Arizona, another part of Arizona, but Clarence and his wife whenever I would see them in Houston, they was like inseparable, and she was with him when he passed away.
When did you move to Los Angeles, and why did that happen?
Well, I had a sister out here, and I was doing papers, and playing guitar, and doing my show, and my sister lived out here said I could come out and live with her, and go to high school out here. That's what I did.
There were a lot of guitarists in L.A. at the time, especially from Texas. You had Peewee Crayton, and Johnny Guitar Watson, and I'm trying to think. He played with James Brown. Oh, my God. Anyway, T-bone, obviously, was living in Los Angeles. Can you describe the Central Avenue scene in the 1950s?
Well, it was kind of the end of it when I got out here, from what it was when it was at its peak, and so when it was at it peak, that's some great stories.
There's some great stories, like Nat King Cole, who was over here playing. He wasn't over here. I say over here because I still live on the side of town where the blacks; I bought a home here. I bought it four years ago. Central Avenue was the central located place on the street, and I can't think of all the hotels, but I got a book with all that information on it.
No worries. What was I going to say? There's a song that you and Chuck Willis appeared to have co-written for a guy called Joe Benson called Rock'N'Roll Jungle. Do you remember writing that?
What are you calling a jungle?
It's called Rock'N'Roll Jungle for Joe Benson.
Yeah, Joe Benson was an artist that I managed because I thought he was a great singer, and we put that song, and more together for him to do a session. That's all it turned out to be, a session. He didn't luck out and become a hit. Back in those days, if you didn't make a hit on the first session, you just about didn't get a second one.
If you had to reel off your favorite four records, what would they be?
Records that I recorded?
Records that you made.
Oh, boy. That's hard.
Well, let me ask you about one of them, which I'm not sure if it was even released at the time, but people love it now. It's a record called Alabama Sue.
Yeah. That was a song that was never released. Chuck Willis wrote that song, but that session was never released until later.
It's a great track.
I know Alabama, Alabama Sue. Yeah. That's a great one. I wished they had released that, and the other one that was on the flip side of that. You know which one I'm talking-
Well, if it wasn't released, I wasn't sure what the other side would be. Let's have a look. No. I'm not sure what that'd be. All My Life, maybe? No? No.
That was done on RCA Victor. No. It was done on Groove where I did the Groove session that turned out to be one session with Skippy Is A Sissy for RCA Victor.
I'll tell you what. Was the record Hoodoo?
That's it. You're smart. That's it.
That wasn't released either?
No, but it was sold to a company in Europe, in Germany I think, and that company released those records all those years later, and those records you can Google them, Hoodoo, and the other one-
Alabama Sue, on YouTube. Some of the best records I ever made never got released.