My Father: Andy Starr
By Linda Hone (posted January 22, 2004).
My father was born Franklin Delano Gulledge in 1932 in Combs, Arkansas. He got interested in music at a young age. He joined the Army at the age of 17. He served during the Korean War, When he got out of the Army, he formed the group known as "The Arkansas Plowboys," which consisted of his two brothers, Bob and Clark. This was sometime around 1952/1953, and only for a short time. Dad also recorded songs in the early '50s through the early '60s, on record labels such as: LIN, MGM, KAPP and HOLIDAY INN.
Dad worked in Alaska at a night club from 1859 to 1965, and did very well. I was a little girl at that time. We were there in the 1964 earthquake. Dad decided to leave Alaska in 1965 and signed on with Hollywood International Talents, Deville Recording Company, HIT Talent along with it. This was out of Hollywood, California on El Centre Ave. He was booked in Santa Barbara, California. He also had a booking in Las Vegas, NV, but for reasons only known to him, he never showed.
Dad then settled in Kingston, Idaho, and took up working at a sawmill while trying to raise a family. He never gave up his music. He would always be picking his guitar at home, that was his passion. He had a show he did on the radio in Wallace, Idaho. The station was KWAL. The station manager at the time asked my Dad to write a song for the valley we lived in. The valley during that time period was known as "The Fabulous Valley" from the latter '60s and early '70s. Dad wrote the song and called it, "The Fabulous Valley." It is a very beautiful ballad. It was recorded on a "45" and I an unable to locate a copy of it. It is my most favorite song of all that my father wrote.
The Valley here in Idaho is now known as "The Solver Valley." In 1972 a disaster happened. There was a fire at the Sunshine Mine here in Idaho, where 92 men lost their lives. Dad wrote and recorded a song called "The Tragedy at the Sunshine Mine." Also in 1972 Dad made his only Gospel album, It was titled "You Can't Disguise Religion" - Frank Starr with the Wilson-McKinley Jesus Rock Band and Neil Livingston on steel guitar. Dad traveled around to various churches, preaching and playing his guitar, singing Gospel songs.
My Dad then decided to go back out and sing for the public. In 1973 he recorded the album "Frank Starr Live at Wanda's Club." The drummer (Richard Ochoa) who was a friend of my Dad, and was playing on that album, recently gave me a copy of it. I listened to it and I must say, it sounded as if my Dad was having a lot o fun while singing it.
I wasn't of age to ever see my dad sing in public like that. I did get to watch him record the Gospel album in Spokane, Washington at the Sound Recording Studio. I also received another album from the same drummer, that I never knew existed. The album is "Frank Starr Sings Patterson & Starr." It's a collection of songs that Dad and his friend Harry Patterson had both written (with my Dad singing all the songs). This is about all I know of my father's music career, except that he did record a CD in Nashville along with two groups in 2002 called "Starr Struck." Gail Lloyd of the Tricksters did a duet with my father. The only known duet that I know of. She was very kind to me after my dad had passed, although I never met her personaly.
Frank when he was known as "Frank Starr and his Blue Notes.
Then man in the niddle is Buck, 86 years old in 2003.
Photo is from the mid to late '60s
Frank and Neil Livingston when they were recording the Gospel album
with The Wilson-McKinley Jesus Rock Band.
I'll always remember my Dad having his guitar on a stand in the living room, ready for him to pick up and play if the mood hit him. He was a man with great talent when it came to picking the guitar. He never could read music, he learned to play by ear and that takes talent. I'd like to think my dad made some people happy with his music. My father had five daughters and two sons. We will miss him always!! If anyone has memorabilia related to my Dad, please contact me. Thank you.
P.O. Box 924
Rathdrum, Idaho 83858
Photos in this block courtesy of Linda Hone
Posted: February 11, 2000 - by Shaun Mather
Born on a farm near Combs, Arkansas on 21st October 1932, Frank Andy Starr was never going to be any old southern kid, he was always destined to be a little bit different. Christened Franklin Delano Gulledge after the thirty second American president, he grew up during the height of the Depression, and from an early age showed he had a bit of fire in his belly. This kid was always gonna be more like Daniel Boone than Pat Boone! After pulling a gun on a teacher he decided perhaps school wasn't for him and left at the ripe old age of fourteen. After a couple of years riding the freight trains he was recruited into the Special Services and whilst serving in Korea, he formed The Arkansas Plowboys. After leaving the army he and his two brothers Chuck and Bob settled in California where the trio began a new band, again using the Arkansas Plowboys monikor. The band was short lived and Frank sold up and moved to Texas, stopping in Las Vegas for a long beer and a short wedding.
By 1954 the south was starting to hear the first strains of a new rockabilly sound, young hillbilly kids mixing their Wills and Williams with a bit of rhythm and blues. Along with Tennessee, Texas was at the forefront of this explosive revolution and it was only a matter of time before even the backwater towns got to hear it. Frank was now stationed in Denison, TX and found steady work in the many clubs which serviced the local Air Force base and also a daily spot on radio KDSX in Denison. The station manager persuaded him to audition for Joe Leonard, who owned the Gainsville based Lin label and KGAF radio. Leonard was impressed by the uptempo hillbilly stuff on offer and a session was arranged for early '55 at the Cliff Herring Studio in Fort Worth.
Dallas songwriters Mietzl Miller and Bill Baker were commissioned to write a couple of songs, the first The Dirty Bird Song is a catchy uptempo item, not a million miles from Marvin Rainwater. The second number, Dig Them Squeaky Shoes is a plodding country rocker, with some nice guitar work from Frank. The resultant single (Lin 1009) failed to click on the charts but was a more than decent debut. Tell Me Why is probably the best song from the session, a real chugger, Franks vocals still very rural at his stage and the band on top form. It was written by bass player Marvin Pace, a local car salesman whose band, including fifteen year old piano playing son Johnny Pace, backed Frank billed as the Rock-Away Boys. For The Want Of Your Love is a country weeper with backing vocals from the pen of W.D.Patty who supplied songs to other Joe Leonard artists, most notably the excellent Buck Griffin but when released as Lin 1013 both sides sank without trace.
Another session at the Cliff Herring Studio was arranged but sadly, neither song was released at the time, only seeing the light of day two decades later on Ronnie Weisers' Rollin Rock label. Do It Right is a nice hillbillish rocker and Rockin' Reelin' Country Style is a great mover complete with chicken picking and frantic vocals.
He was starting to show a real flair for the new rocking sound and if he was unsure what road to take with his musical future, his mind was soon made up following a local gig on April 14th 1955. The Elvis Presley freight train was building momentum all over the south including a week long whistle stop tour of Texas with the great Onie Wheeler in support. Joe Leonard, through Elvis' manager Bob Neal, put the duo on at the Gainsville baseball field Owl Park and arranged a spot for Andy Starr and the Rock-Aways. Arriving in town in a pink and white Cadillac, wearing pink peg slacks and an orchid shirt, the Memphis hot shot, just turned twenty, was pushing his new (fourth) Sun single, Baby Let's Play House/I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone but he was virtually unknown in Gainsville and only a handful of teens turned up. Those that did had a ball and both Elvis and Andy Starr went down well with the locals. Leonard lost money on the concert and Elvis, upset at the turn-out promised Joe that he would return and play for the original fee of $300. Elvis soon found Carny Tom Parker, who wasn't the type to let his boy do such a thing and the deal never materialised. Things calmed down for a while Leonard tried to get Starr hooked up with a lease deal. Via the influential Aberbach brothers, a deal was struck with MGM. From the outside it looked like a swell move, but MGM were still reaping the rewards of having Hank Williams stuff in the can and were therefore content to send out just 200 promo copies on new artists. Career wise the year with MGM was a flop, but musically it was anything but.
With Joe Leonard still in the producer's chair, four classics were cut, once more in Fort Worth. Definative rockabilly has barrels of bass, hot flashes of electric guitar and a squirrel headed singer - this session couldn't fail then. Rockin' Rollin' Stone, penned by Starr and Patty is pure rockabilly, a relenting double bass, Sun-style guitar, courtesy of Larry "Red" Adair, and energetic vocals, rounded off with nonsense lyrics - ah, heaven. Old Deacon Jones is a loping rocker with two more great guitar solos. She's A Going Jessie starts off with the immortal lines "I believe in girls 100%" before turning into more of the same. I Wanna Go South is a slower bluesy affair with Starrs vocal showing an Elvis influence and Adair again shining. Stone and South were chosen as the first single (MGM K 12263) and released at the end of May '56 to fairly strong reviews from Billboard who picked up on the Elvis influence and perceptively acknowledged that the sound could be limited to the southern states. No only did the Yankies show no interest but the sales in Dixieland weren't sufficient to hit the charts. Jessie and Old Deacon Jones came next (MGM K 12315) with more of the same from Billboard and more of the same from the public.
At the annual DJ convention in Nashville Andy was walking from his hotel to the Andrew Jackson Hotel, decked out in his best red and white stage suit when he was mobbed. The following ran in national press the following week: "(Nashville, Tennessee) - A group of squealing teenagers mistook a young country singer for Elvis Presley in Nashville, Tennessee Friday night. The youngsters nearly tore the clothes from the singer's back before discovering he wasn't their idol. The teenagers had congregated at a downtown hotel on a rumour that Presley would show up for radio station WSM's Annual Disc Jockey Festival. Andy Starr of Gainsville, Texas, came along. He has long sideburns and long black hair similar to Presley's. He promptly was mobbed by the screaming youngsters, male and female. The crowd ripped the pockets and buttons from his coat and shirt and even made off with his shoe laces. Policemen finally rescued him. Patrolman Ernest Castleman commented "This is the wildest thing I ever saw. If Elvis were here, I don't think these kids would be in any frame of mind to love him tender." Starr wasn't too upset by the publicity. As for Presley, he was rumoured en route to Las Vegas, Nevada - and not in Nashville at all."
Unshaken, not even stirred, Starr and Leonard headed back to Fort Worth on 9 September 1956 and cut four more crackers. This time Joe took his new Texan discoveries The Strikes as the back-up band and their sterling support maintained the standard. The first track cut was the moody mid paced Give Me A Woman complete with driving guitar and drums and plenty of oohs and aahs from the band. Round And Round is pure excitement, frantic vocals and the drums and guitars well to the fore. One More Time is a more controlled rocker, but none the worse for it. Although not the best of the MGM cuts it was perhaps the one with the most chance of commercial success. No Room For Your Kind was a rocker from the band but the strained vocals did little to hide the country side of Starr. Albert Branden Cornelius again plays some blinding lead guitar. Round And Round and Give Me A Woman opened the batting (MGM K 12364) and Billboard enthused that "Starr is one of the more noteworthy Presley disciples, and here he is blessed with a strong piece of material and a funky back shack backing that ought to inspire plenty of deejay play. The beat is solid and works on the nerves hypnotically". Of the flip it delared that it was "Also in the rockabilly vein and reminiscent of one of the Presley numbers". The pulses in the Starr camp must have been racing when Billboard finished the review with "He could break thru, if any of the Presley imitators can". MGM was so moved that they shipped 201 advance copies to the radio stations and again the failed to hit nationally. Strangely, Give Me A Woman clicked in Pasadena, California, and some TV and radio promotions were arranged. KXLA DJ The Squeakin' Deacon introduced him - "You've heard of Elvis The Pelvis. Now here's Andy The Dandy". Starr liked the sound of that and so he kep' it.
So after two sessions, four singles and eight glorious tracks, Starr and Leonard left MGM, proud that they had given more than they had received from the label. It had been a one sided love affair.
With Starr doing a daily spot on KWAL in Wallace, Idaho, a new label was needed. In early 1957 Leonard was a dinner guest of Nate Duroff who pressed Joe's record labels. Also at dinner was Dave Kapp who owned the poppy KAPP label whose roster included the likes of Johnny Cymbal. He wanted to branch out into rockabilly and agreed to pay for a session on Starr with a lease deal for a single. Leonard remembers "We had the session June 9,1957 at Herring Studio in Ft. Worth, and I hired some of the best players; Tom Gwin, drums; George Burns, Sax; J.B. Brinkley, guitar; Lonnie Mitchell,Jack Peterson switched around on instruments. Kapp released two sides,#190, "Do It Right Now"/"I Waited For You To Remember", but sales were so poor that he did not release the second, which would have been 'Somali Dolly"/"I'm Seeing Things (I Couldn't See)". Looking back,I can see that I was not too careful in my song selections for Andy,and we missed an opportunity with a solid guy who knew the record business, Dave Kapp." In view of Kapp's thirst for some rockabilly, it's a pity that the session drank from the cup of pop music. The four tracks were the weakest to date and even Elvis tunesmiths Aaron Scroeder and Ben Weisman couldn't up the standard with their awful composition Somali Doll, which was a forerunner for an Elvis '60s movie song. It's a shame one of the MGM sessions hadn't been for KAPP as they would no doubt of pushed harder than the major. Do It Right Now is by far the best, a catchy soft rocker that formed the only single (KAPP K 190) with I Waited For You To Remember.
After a club owner in Alaska bought Starr a T-Bird, he moved north, originally on a six month booking which stretched to a half decade. One night in '59 a couple of Anchorage women mobbed him and he ended up out of his stage suit and in his birth suit. It inspired him to add stripping to his act! The money was good and he wanted to do another session. He still kept in contact with Joe Leonard during this period, and on May 22nd, 1961 they both headed to Nashville where Joe produced another four song session. This time they used the cream of Nashville's rich crop of musicians including the likes of Harold Bradley, Ray Edenton, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman, Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph. Joe Laonard remembers it well; "I told him I was unwilling to make any further money advances on his cost of a session,but if he wanted one in Nashville with the very best musicians I would set it up and produce it. We agreed and signed a contract and I made arrangements through Bob Moore,leader,to get the RCA studio and same band which Elvis used. This was 1961. We liked the arrangements and results so well, that we went back for a second session in 1963". I'm not surprised they liked the session, it was a real return to form.
Little Bitty Feeling was a nice Bob Luman styled mover with some appealing vocals and a tasty Boots Randolph sax solo. Lost In A Dream was a typical early '60s ballad again aided by Randolph and more great singing. Next up was a rockin' take on Don Terry's Knee Shakin' with some nifty yakety sax and Starr showing he could Jack Scott with the best. A friend of Leonard's, Ed Carrell, a radio advertisement man from Dallas wrote the guitar rocker Evil Eye. Leonard approached the Holiday Inn label about a lease deal which was signed, resulting in two singles. Feeling and Dream (Holiday Inn 108) even ended up being released in Britain on the Londone American label (London HLU 9545), helped by the success of another Leonard production, Pledge Of Love by Ken Copeland.
Just under two years later on March 19th, 1963 Starr and Leonard went back to Nashville with the same A-team members plus Elvis's vocal group, the Jordaniares. Four more tracks were laid down, two of which, Pledge Of Love and Me And The Fool ended up on Leonards own Lin label (Lin 5033). Pledge was a strong remake of the Ken Copeland hit ballad with Starr and the Jordanaires working well together. Fool is a commercial pop rocker with plenty of Boots. The two unreleased cuts were Love Is A Simple Thing, an excellent mid tempo pop song, it's one of my favourite vocal performances by Starr and was the type of thing that was hitting at the time. Loverman is a bit weaker, a contrived popper again from the pen of Ed Carrell.
After one too many parties and one too many pals Starr left Alaska and he spent years down the West Coast, before settling in Kingston, Idaho. The intervening years have seen him working in a sawmill, trying his hand as an evangelist, radio braodcasts, church assignments and some records on his own STARR label such as In Concert At The Idaho State Penitentiary and Tragedy At The Sunshine Mill/We Gotta Stay Together. An ill-fated religious album was also cut with help from Leonard. An X-rated album and a political one called Uncle Sam Sucks would appear to be it musically. Politically - that's another story. In '96 he ran for President, but his chance of succeding are remote, what country could have a leader who plays a rock'n'roll instrument and has more than an eye for the women. Give Me A Woman, give me a blues tune.
Thanks to Joe Leonard, a true Texas gentleman, for all his help with this article and pushing me to get it done. Thanks also to Wayne Russell, Bear Family Records, Now Dig This magazine and ole Uncle Phil.
February 11, 2000 - by Shaun Mather
A big thanks also to John Whittle for the scans.
Previously Posted, 1998
(Submitted by Andy, condensed from the Blue Suede News #36 story by Steve Kelerman)
I was born into an era of extreme poverty in America, what the history books call the Great Depression - no money to be made by anyone, especially the common people, and I was born into a family of extreme poverty. We were not the only family. There were plenty of other poor families close by. but we were one of the poorest because my parents were unable to work together for the welfare of the entire family. My mother and father should never have gotten married in the first place. It was just one of those things. They were together officially for 32 years. Mother finally divorced him and remarried. My father served some time in prison. I don't like to repeat that, but it's part of my childhood and it had a great resounding effect on me.
As I recall, I grew up on the head of Mill Creek where there were several hillbilly families close by all living in old clapboard houses. There was no electricity or running water. The creek ran by and that's all that ran. There was no indoor plumbing and no one even heard of electricity. In order for the family to have anything at all to eat my mother raised a garden with a hoe and she and the other kids would catch small animals out of the forest and a few fish out of the streams. There were no cars. There was an old wagon road that led into the head of Mill Creek. The mode of transportation back in these hills then was still wagon and teams of horses or mules. I recall as a young boy that word got out among the family that someone was coming to our house one evening in a car to court one of my older sisters. None of us had ever seen a car let alone ever heard of one. I found out that he would have to park the car about 1 mile from our house and walk the remaining mile (wading the creek and walking on foot logs) to get to the house. When the chap arrived, my older brother Bob and myself took off to see this thing called a car. We wound our way through the woods, across the creek like wild animals to sneak up on it like you would sneak up on space ship today. We looked it over on the outside, then on the inside. My what a strange thing!
I can't remember the family doing anything together other than struggling for daily existence. I do remember my brother Bob and I used to make our own toys out of scrap lumber like homemade little red wagons. There were no brakes on them, so we used to get hurt a lot falling out of them when we came down the hills. But we did have fun on our makeshift wagons. Poverty breeds a lot of things. I found out from the poverty in my life that it can do one of two things to an individual. It can make you determined (like it did me) to work your way out of it - overcome it - rise above it. Break the cycle you might say, like I did in my family. Or you can take the other attitude and feel sorry for yourself and no one would question your right to do so. But with this attitude poverty can kill you. Especially if you turn to alcohol and drugs. It will kill your soul and your spirit. I chose to learn a hard valuable lesson from it, and vowed to rise above it, and I did. I'm the only one I know in these hills that ever broke the cycle of poverty.
As I grew a little older the other kids left home. They had to leave home at 14 or 15 to find work of some kind in order to survive. My whole life has been based on the game of survival. One problem growing up in these old hills was the bootleggers. People made moonshine whiskey and bootlegged it. They would recruit young boys and get them to drink that stuff, along the same methods as drug dealers use now days I guess. Once you got young boys to drink moonshine you could sell it to them. So I got introduced to moonshine whiskey at an early age.
MY ROCKABILLY CAREER BEGAN ABOUT 1954, the same time as Bill Haley and the Comets. It was a year ahead of Elvis Presley. It started with "Dig Them Squeaky Shoes", which was recorded at the old Dave Beck recording studio in Dallas, Texas. It was the same small "hole-in-the-wall" studio that produced Lefty Frizzell's first hit record. At that time I worked with Joe Leonard.
"Dig Them Squeaky Shoes" and "Dirty Bird Song" were on Lin Records and got me enough attention to put me on some Grand Ole Opry shows with some of the Grand Ole Opry stars. The most notable one I recall was out of Des Moines, Iowa with Grandpa Jones, Porter Waggoner and Jimmy C. Newman. God, I can't remember some of them. I think that particular show was where I came face-to-face with reality in that I was different from the rest. The audience let me know that I was. I had one little ole record out on Lin and when I walked out on stage with those Grand ole Opry stars, I'd get more applause then all them put together. I knew then I was on to something good. I also knew that I was different from them because I did not sing the oldtime hillbilly stuff. I was doing something different - something new - rockabilly. I went on from there to St. Paul, Minnesota and did a show at a big city part with Carl Perkins back in his heyday. I think this was after Carl came out with "Blue Suede Shoes". I got tied up in Minnesota doing radio shows and show dates in school halls etc., all over the state. I worked out of a radio station about 20 miles out of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and it got to be kind of a wild thing. Later on in 1956''57''58 I did some real good stuff.
By 1956 my music had matured into full scale rockabilly/rock'n'roll. I pretty well left all the country behind. I toured into California. Somewhere in the L.A. area there was a popular disc jockey who called himself "Squeakin' Deacon". He put me on his stage show and when he introduced me he said, "You've heard of Elvis the Pelvis, well this is Andy the Dandy". That stuck with me for quite a while. Joe Leonard, what little bookings he did for me, could not make the change from country to R&R for me. He kept putting me on country shows and kept irritating me by doing so. I knew you couldn't straddle a fence, especially in the later part of the 50's. You were either one way or the other. So, I got with another booking agency and began to do pure R&R shows. It got pretty wild. After that I began making a name for myself. I was young, extremely energetic, and loved doing these R&R shows.picture of Andy, 1972
I have had a political career but it has not been the kind of political career that the normal run-of-the-mill politician has. They would say that I have been a complete failure but most of them don't understand me. Even though I have been running for public office since 1978, I have never held a public office. Yet, I consider myself extremely successful. You want to know why and how can I say this even though I've never won an election. Immediately preceding going into politics I was a pulpit type minister. At least I was preaching the gospel in the pulpits as an ordained minister in the various Protestant churches - conducting revivals, etc., on Indian reservations. I was a very successful minister. The good Lord took me out of there and began to point me in the direction of politics. I went to law school for 3 years at LaSalle Extension University out of Chicago in 1972 where I finished a 3 year course. I studied every major philosophy in the world - all of the brain-twisting things to help me understand the complexities of the world that I live in. You or anyone else will never understand my 20 year involvement in politics until you understand this. I have never ran for public office for the sole purpose of winning or gaining that office. I have used my constitutional right to run for public office to promote the welfare of what the bible calls the common people. To try to get a bigger piece of the political pie for the poor people of this world. That has always been the guiding light for all of my political activities and still is. You might say, "well, that's a big order for a hillbilly boy." But I'm not exactly just some backwoods hick as some people might think I am today. I have a lot of political power in the world (Third World countries/China) today and I intend to use it for the well-being of the poor people of the world. Not just the U.S.A., but of the world.
Frank "Andy" Starr - The Ultimate Rebel! in the summer of 1996 with his "new image." Truly "the man of a thousand faces," rockabilly to the core but "always modern and out front of the rest!"
Andy Starr's "Dig Them Squeaky Shoes" CD, and many other great titles are available from:
Bear Family Records
PO Box 1154