BURTON HARRIS
(This page also includes info on JERRY ARNOLD & BUDDY MILLER)


"Security Records"
INTERVIEW BY STEVE KELEMEN

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Burton Harris, a man highly respected among us obscure Rockabilly lovers and collectors. During the 1950's he recorded and released some of the best examples of the music on his Texas based Security Records.

I had already been playing and recording music working with and around many of the well known traditional country stars and musicians when I first heard Rockabilly. For example, Jim Reeves and I worked together intermittently over a period of three years.

From 1951 to 1953 I did a lot of demo recording trying to help Jack Rhodes (songwriter from Mineloa, Texas) get something going with his songs. We had a verbal agreement to split anything 50/50 that came from his effort. About 15 of these songs were recorded by major artists released on major labels and became standards which are still being performed today. One of these was "A Satisfied Mind" (Porter Wagoner's first hit). Another was "I've Lived A Lot In My Time" (Jim Reeves). Jean Sheperd, Ferlin Husky and Slim Whitman did several of them. Sadly, I learned from this experience that you cannot rely upon a verbal agreement.

I bought my first disc cutting mechanism from Allied Radio in the fall of 1946 and drove the cutting head with a homemade amplifier (about 15 watts output). Shortly after that I bought a wire recorder which I shortly sold because of it's poor audio quality. In 1949, I bought a Rex-O-Kut overhead lathe with an Audax record head and a 16" turntable which ran at 78 and 33-1/3 rpm. I acquired my first tape recorder in 1950 which was a Wilcox Gay. I purchased two Magnecord tape recorders in early 1954. I have been interested in electronics all my life (did radio and TV repair work as an occupation for 35 years). I learned to record mostly by doing it (experimenting) etc. My first commercial studio experience was at Seller's in Dallas starting in 1947. Jim Beck (who also had a studio in Dallas) was helpful to me after that.

When I first heard Rockabilly I didn't like it. I thought that it was rough and lacking in quality and refinement. Elvis Presley came to Mt. Pleasant in 1955. He was one of the acts in a stage show at the local armory and was not received well. Colonel Tom Parker was with Elvis that night and as they sat in a booth talking to a DJ friend of mine (Bob Dunn) Parker indignantly predicted that someday Elvis would be a star. Shortly after that Elvis had a flat tire on a highway near Shreveport and another DJ friend of mine (Jesse Pate) loaned him $5.00 to get the tire repaired. Many years later after Elvis had become a superstar Jesse called him when he was playing Vegas. Elvis exclaimed rather embarrassed "Jesse I never did pay you back that five dollars".

I had seen small record labels like Fabor Robison's "Abbott" and "Faber" get hit records and the owners go from bumming hamburgers to living high on the hog almost overnight. So, I started up Security Records. I would release records in hopes of stumbling upon a hit. The aspiring singer had to be willing to help out with such things as; getting the band together and helping with the cost of processing and pressings. He also had to help out with doing promotion, etc.

By about 1956 I had moved my makeshift recording studio to a converted embalming room (a funeral home had occupied this building just prior to me). I did not have a control room -- just used head phones. I used a Magnecord tape recorder with PT6A transport mechanisim. This recorder did not have a third head so in order to produce an echo I used a small VM (Voice of Music) tape recorder to produce this effect. This equipment sat on a small table near one wall. The mixer was a small MASCO tube type which would accommodate four mics. I mostly used one Shure 55 mic but I also had an Astatic A&A, two Electrovoice 636's and a ribbon mic (brand unknown). Perforated acoustic tile was installed on the ceiling, the walls and the door. The floor was concrete with one small throw rug in the center. The disc recorder was an overhead Rex-O-Kut lathe with an Audax recording head.

My pressings were made at various places. The first were done in Paris, Texas then a couple at Ralph's Records in California. But most were pressed by Monarch Records in California. The amount of pressings initially ordered varied from as little as 200 to as many as 1000.



JERRY ARNOLD & BUDDY MILLER

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In 1956 the parents of Jerry Arnold came to me wanting to put out a record of their son (and like all parents they felt that he had outstanding talent and possibilities). he had no songs and as I had been working with Riley Crabtree (who had been on Columbia), I picked out two of his songs which I had the publishing rights on. These were "Do I have to Be There" b/w "Blondes, Brunettes and Redheads". On this record we used musicians who just happened to be there at the time. It was done in traditional country style and, as expected, not much happened.

About a year later when Jerry was 17, he got together with another 17 year-old by the name of Bob Millsap who was a prolific songwriter and also Robin Hood Brains (who would later make his mark in the recording field).

They went in on their own to Paul Jameson's studio in Tyler and recorded two songs, released the songs on my Security label. Copies of this record were sent to Billboard and Cashbox for review and as a result of the high ratings given, Cameo Records called me and made a deal to lease the master and market the record.

Shortly after that I recorded several more songs at the KTBB radio studios and Paul Jameson's studio and in late 19576 "High Class Baby" b/w "Girl In The Mist" was released on Security.

We were then approached by Challenge Records (a Gene Autry Co.) who offered a recording contract to Jerry. I released him and his parents from the contract which I had with them as I felt that this would be beneficial to both Jerry and myself. Challenge was in a much better position to promote and market records than I was.

Buccy Miller came to my studio wanting to make a record in February, 1958. I recorded him although not too enthusiastically. I remember that he had some girls with him whom he said were going to sing background. I discovered quickly that they were not very good singers. I placed one microphone in the center of the room with more or less the attitude "well, there it is.....hit it! We did two singles for him on the Security label. The first one was "Rock & Roll Irene" b/w "I Got Me A Woman" followed by "I Found My Love" b/w "Little Bo Pete".

Incidentally, I am still very active in music. I am in charge of the band and all bookings at the Pleasant Jamboree here in Mt. Pleasant. We are in out 13th year of continuous operation. I still own and operate Security Publishing Co. I still pitch songs to people all the time. Last week I was finally able to locate and secure four missing recordings of songs which I played lead guitar on with Jim Reeves as vocalist in 1952. They turned up in Europe.




Rockabilly Hall of Fame