Hayden Thompson -|
Rockabilly Gal: The Sun Years Plus
BCD 16131 AH - Bear Family Records
Featuring blues-drenched rockabilly and honky-tonk heartache, this exciting 35-song collection spotlights the first 10 years of Hayden Thompson's career. Collectors will be delighted to learn that Thompson's only single for the Von label in 1954 "Act Like You Love Me" and "I Feel The Blues Coming On" is also included along with sides recorded for Phillips International / Sun Records, Beat, Profile, and Arlen. Of special interest, the Profile single debuted two songs Thompson penned himself, the Del Shannon styled "What'cha Gonna Do," and "Summers Almost Over." A pretty fair songwriter in his own right, Thompson crafted such fine country ditties as "Pardon Me," "Don't You Worry," and the stellar "Train From Chicago (16:88)."
However, it is Thompson's work for Sun that still garners the most interest and this comprehensive collection includes eight unissued versions of such cult favorites as "Fairlane Rock," "One Broken Heart," "Oh Mama (Mama Mama Mama)," "Blues Blues Blues," two versions of the title track "Rockabilly Gal" and his immortal remake of Junior Parker's "Love My Baby." Amongst the musicians that played on these legendary Sun sides are Roland Janes, Marvin Pepper, J.M. Van Eaton, Jack Clement and Jerry Lee Lewis. Both masters and alternate takes alike still cook with blusey ferocity and rockabilly drive galore.
The package is rounded out by excellent notes by noted Sun historian Martin Hawkins and nicely illustrated with photos from the era. Still very active, Thompson is highly acclaimed on the rockabilly revival scene and still producing top notch music. This remarkable compilation provides the best introduction to his work as a country singer and is a real treat for fans who want to hear how it all started.
- Johnny Vallis
1. Love My Baby 2. Rock-A-Billy Gal 3. Fairlane Rock 4. One Broken Heart 5. Blues Blues Blues 6. Oh Mama (Mama Mama Mama) 7. You Are My Sunshine 8. Don't You Worry 9. Congratulations To You, Joe 10. Call Me Shorty 11. I'll Hold You In My Heart 12. Goin' Steady 13. Kansas City 14. Frankie And Johnny 15. Brown Eyed Handsome Man 16. The Key To My Kingdom 17. Your True Love 18. Kansas City 19. I Guess I'd Better Be Moving Along 20. This Old Windy City 21. Lonely For My Baby 22. I Wanna Get Home 23. Train From Chicago (16:88) 24. Act Like You Love Me 25. I Feel The Blues Coming On 26. Love My Baby 27. One Broken Heart 28. Dream Love 29. Tom Thumb 30. Whatcha Gonna Do 31. Summers Almost Over 32. Queen Bee 33. Pardon Me 34. Love My Baby 35. Rock-A-Billy Gal
Sun Records rockabilly artist, songwriter, country singer, limo driver, son of Mississippi, adopted son of Chicago, a true original and a survivor: That's Hayden Thompson. Born a few miles north of Tupelo in the town of Booneville, Miss., on March 5, 1938, Thompson is one of the original rockabilly cats who recorded for Sam Phillips and his legendary Sun Records label in the mid-50's. His one and only Sun release was a cover of Junior Parker's "Love My Baby" (originally recorded and released by Sun in 1953 as Sun Record #192) recorded in 1956 and finally released in September of 1957 on Sun's sister label Phillips International (#3517). The record never charted and was eclipsed by sax player Bill Justis' semi-funky instrumental "Raunchy" (Phillips International 3519).
Thompson returned to Sam Phillip's famed Memphis Recording Service studio, but interest in rockabilly as raw and primitive as his was losing favor with an ever-fickle public. Tastes were turning to the safe-as-milk stylings of Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and a host of other fresh boy-next-door types whose talents were, to be polite, questionable.
Perhaps a combination of the lack of support from Phillips as well as a need for a change of pace prompted Thompson to move north to Chicago in 1958. He still resides, with his wife Georgia and son Keith, in the Chicago area, in the North Shore suburb of Highland Park. Despite his affiliation with Sam Phillip's highly acclaimed Sun Records and a long history of recording and performing. Thompson has never had a hit record in the U.S. Music has quite literally taken a necessary backseat to his day job as a limo driver. He periodically participates in short tours, mainly in Europe, and his recordings have been reissued by a number of labels.
Thompson occasionally records new material for his legion of worldwide, fans and a 1991 release on the Swedish Sunjay label, The Time Is Now (Sunjay JLP-589/SPARKCD-13), clearly demonstrates his voice is as strong as ever. Thompson can still tackle rock 'n' roll with the same enthusiasm he did as a teenager, as well as ballads and more contemporary material. He has mellowed with age, is still definitely a force to be reckoned with. He is a proud man who still loves to entertain and write songs ("I've got some pretty good original songs layin' around here") and with over forty years in the music business, he is quick to point out that "One hit record could bring it all to the surface." This is the story of a true survivor.Thompson's parents, Baxter and Thelma Thompson, were both active musically. His father played the guitar and his mother sang country and gospel and played the harmonica. As he puts it, "All Southern people play music." Hayden still retains a deep love for gospel, harboring a desire to someday record an album of this music.
Thompson recalls his first radio performance as a young boy. "I'll never forget this. I was scared to death and singing a gospel song. The only reason that I did this, it was Saturday and I wanted to go fishin' and my mother says 'Unless you do this (gospel) song on the radio show, you will not go fishin!' Y'know, so that was her way of telling' me I was going' to sing (the gospel song). I was just eight or nine years old. I entered many contests over the years, they used to have a lot of that back in the South. I won one third-place prize one time and it was a five-dollar bill and that was at the Tupelo Fair Grounds in Tupelo, Mississippi. I was very proud of that five-dollar bill!"
After the death of his younger infant brother, both parents directed their pride and affection on young Hayden, who was given a Gibson guitar at the age of five. He quickly learned how to play and music became his main interest, with the encouragement of both his parents. Also playing an important musical influence on Thompson was radio, especially the local Booneville station WHIP. He listened to such popular artists of the day as Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, Wayne Raney, the Delmore Brothers and the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Memphis stations WDAI and KWEM broadcast blues records and live performances by such musicians as B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf. And, of course, there was WSM's Grand Ole Opry.
"I never liked jazz," Thompson says today. In step with future label-mates Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, Hayden listened and learned from these great country and blues musicians, unaware that he, too, was unconsciously planting the seeds of rockabilly. While still a high school student, Thompson started his first band, the Southern Melody Boys, playing mostly covers of country hits, the lineup included Thompson sharing lead vocals with Cricket Grissom, Cricket's sister Marlin Grissom on bass, Clyde Hill on lead guitar, Perry King on steel guitar and Junior Johnson on fiddle. They soon attracted the attention of a new local label, Von Records. Thompson, a mere 16, and his band cut the single "I Feel The Blues Coming On" (Von 1001) in late '54. The recording was "total country!" Hayden says. He proudly points out the flip side, "Act Like You Love Me."
"If you listen very close to it you'll hear that I was throwin' in a little bit of rock 'n' roll in the voice," he says. But Thompson's new vocal stylings went over like a lead balloon with his new band mates. They adhered to the popular opinion that rock 'n' roll was "a passing thing," he says. "They had no use for it at all. Rock 'n' Roll would never last!" In support of the record, Thompson and the Southern Melody Boys soon began working Tupelo, Cornith, Ripley and New Albany. They even passed an audition for the popular Louisiana Hayride (which a young Elvis Presley would work as well). But various problems caused Thompson to part company with the Southern Melody Boys.
Around the time the film "Rock Around The Clock" was released, he began working with the Dixie Jazzlanders, whose only holdover from the Melody Boys was Marlin Grissom. The band was hired to tour with the Bill Haley flick, playing sets before and after each showing. But after a year of this and no record deal, the band split up. Next, Thompson became featured vocalist of the Slim Rhodes band. With Slim on guitar, Spec Rhodes on bass and Jimmy Van Eaton on drums, the band toured Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Road experience helped a still-teenage Thompson hone his vocal chops, but the band never recorded.
He began hanging around Sun Studios, hoping to generate interest from Sam Phillips, then just beginning to reap the benefits of the sudden regional (and soon national) success of Elvis'early records. In late '56. Phillips finally decided to record Thompson backed by one of the classic Sun studio bands: Roland Janes' blistering guitar over a foundation laid by Marvin Pepper and Jimmy Van Eaton. Sessions began with "One Broken Heart" and "Love My Baby" (which also featured a young and determined Jerry Lee Lewis, playing with reckless abandon on his Sun debut.)
More sessions followed in '57 including seventeen takes of "Rockabilly Gal" with the Slim Rhodes band, but it wasn't until much later in the year that Phillips released "Love My Baby" b/w "One Broken Heart" on his newly formed Phillips International label. The release fueled Thompson's determination. He soon hit the road on a Sun package tour that included Sonny Burgess ("Red Headed Woman" Sun 247) and Billy Lee Riley and His Little Green Men ("Flying Saucer Rock And Roll" Sun 260 and "Red Hot" Sun 277). It must have been one of the wildest touring rock 'n' roll tours ever, with the insane combination of Billy Lee doing his Little Richard-inspired shouting, along with Hayden's own special brand of mayhem.
This was rock 'n' roll, brother! But lack of interest on Sam Phillip's part failed to ignite any sparks for "Love My Baby." Still, Thompson continued to record and tour with other Sun artists until 1958, when he decided to move to Chicago. Thompson secured a steady gig at the Tally Ho Club in the tiny suburb of Highwood. He performed with various combinations of musicians until he eventually hooked up with guitar slinger Travis Westmoreland and drummer Bob Miller. This band went into the studio, producing its own recordings. As Hayden recalls, "back in those days, you'd save a little money, go into the studio and spend it all!"
A little later, the trio signed with B.E.A.T. Records and cut just one single, "Tom Thumb" (#1011). B.E.A.T. didn't promote the disc, and its fate was the same as the lone Phillips single. 1961 saw the recording and release of "Whatcha Gonna Do" on Profile Records (#4015). Profile is known among blues record collectors for its three outstanding Jr. Wells singles, but it was a small label on its last legs when Thompson recorded for it.Inexplicably, Thompson's recording career was in limbo at the same time he worked regularly. Appearances included Sam Scott's Big Shower of Stars, American Swing around and most importantly, the legendary WGN Barn Dance. With all this exposure, especially with WGN's wide audience, it's amazing Thompson wasn't picked up by one of the majors like Columbia or RCA. In the early '60's these and other labels were cashing in on country music with ex-Sun labelmates like Johnny Cash and Edwin Bruce.
In 1962, Thompson's former Memphis producer Jack Clement contacted him to once again record. Clement talked Thompson into journeying down to Beaumont, Texas, to record at his Hallway Studio. One single was completed and released, the Clement composition "Queen Bee," released as Arlen Records #728. Once again, the record wasn't promoted and it failed to chart. Thompson watched the public gobble up - then just as quickly spit out - whitebread teen idols. But he could continue to hold his head high, constantly working and periodically recording. Then the British Invasion, drawing heavily on '50s rockers like Carl Perkins and Little Richard, hit. With his heart devoted to rock 'n' roll and his feet always firmly planted in country, the next move for Thompson seemed to be the most logical.
With the help and encouragement of D.J. Don Chapman, Thompson earned a spot in the house band of a new country venue, The Rivoli Ballroom, a huge 1,400-seat room at Montrose and Elston in Chicago. The Rivoli booked some of the biggest stars of the day including Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Buck Owens. With more encouragement from Chapman, Thompson once again entered the recording studio and cut one of his compositions, $16.88," which helped put the ink on a contract with Kapp Records. These new sessions found Thompson not only in his element, but with a more mature vocal style suited to country music. The album for Kapp (Here's Hayden Thompson, Kapp # 1507) released in 1966 showed promise and got airplay. But being based in Chicago in a Nashville-dominated scene proved to work against Thompson and after three singles he was dropped.
During this period, Charlie Louvin recorded a song by Thompson, "Drive Me Out Of My Mind." Song writing seemed like another avenue for his talents. But cab driving was what brought home the bacon and music became secondary; Thompson was now married with a family to support. In 1967, the Rivoli closed. That didn't help matters, but Thompson continued to work, mainly performing country in package shows and occasional gigs in Chicago's suburbs. Brien Fisher, an acquaintance of Thompson's from trips to Nashville, was instrumental in his next single, "If It's Alright" (Brave #1015). It wasn't the elusive hit record that Thompson was still striving for, but he continued to persevere.
Fisher contacted him three years later and Thompson returned to the studio. These recordings were released between 1970-73 on Fisher's own Nashville North ("Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind" #300 and "Long Black Train" #303) and Extremely Brave labels ("Your Mama Won't Dance" BOS 346 and Nashville North 339 and "I'm Left You're Right She's Gone" BOS 346). Much like his Kapp output, these singles earned some airplay but never charted. "You're Right I'm Left She's Gone," backed with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," are wonderfully executed performances demonstrating Thompson's lifelong admiration for Elvis Presley and bursting with his own unique attack.
Two years later, Thompson decided to try it on his own with the single "I'll Kiss You Again" b/w "Tell Me That's The Way It Will Be" (H.T. 101). This was unreleased material from his Fischer-produced sessions, which Thompson then believed was some of his best work. In 1975, Thompson decided to call it quits with the music business. But by the late '70s, interest in rockabilly ws growing again. The Stray Cats were hot in England and Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins and Sleepy LaBeef were signed to European package tours as well as club dates in the U.S. Interest in these rockin' cats prompted booking agents to scour the country for just about every living musician who recorded rockabilly in the '50's, especially those who had recorded at the legendary Sun Records. It didn't matter whether they'd had a genuine hit record.
Thompson's wild and reckless cut of "Love My Baby," and his other gems like "Fairlaine Rock" and "Blues, Blues, Blues," appeared on endless Sun compilations being snapped up by this wider rockabilly audience. But for several years, he turned down all offers from promoters. Then some of his old Sun peers, namely good friend Roland Janes, talked him into working a few short tours of Europe. Wary and skeptical, the oft burned Thompson embarked on his first-ever tour of Europe in 1984. He was stunned, to say the least, when he first performed in front of thousands of enthusiastic hepsters who couldn't get enough of his music. Here were audiences that actually knew his songs.European record companies like Bear Family issued full-length Hayden Thompson albums of released and previously unreleased material. For the first time in his long career, things were definitely beginning to look rosy for the singer. His return to the music business still wasn't full time, and he continued to work as a limo driver. Thompson began performing again in the Chicago area as well, and local rockabilly fans who dug his '50s reissues discovered they had a genuine legend in their midst. Windy City combo The Rebel Rousers hooked up with him, backing him at area gigs. On occasion, he would show up at Rebels dates to belt out a few songs. Later, he played around Chicago backed by Bud Hudson & The Hornets. With this band, he recorded a single released on Sweden's Sunjay label, "What'm I Gonna Do" b/w "The Boy From Tupelo" (SJ-52). Thompson penned the B-side in tribute to his greatest musical influence, Elvis.
Despite constant reissues of old material and periodic releases of new recordings, the money from these products still isn't enough to support a family. In the 12 years since he ended his retirement from music, Hayden has continued to periodically tour Europe. In the early '90s he sat in with Ronnie Dawson and the late Johnny Carrol during their first Chicago appearances.
Thompson has appeared on "the Today Show," WGN's Steve King and Johnnie Puttman have had him on numerous times, and local oldies DJ Dick Biondi is a loyal supporter who spins Hayden's records. He is thankful for the exposure. "Nobody would've heard my records in Chicago if it weren't for Dick Biondi, who plays 'em once in a while, but can't that often because I never had a hit." Thompson doesn't have any delusions about his chances of making it big at this point, but still has the burning desire to entertain. "I would just like to be able to get back into it in some way in the States and get my records played, which is very hard to do, and be able to make a livin' doin' it. I haven't been able to do that," he acknowledges.
"People say "Why don't you move over to Europe?' I say 'Why do you think all of the European acts come over to the States? Here is where the money is at.' I could scratch out a livin' in Europe, but without the major record....Unless you can get your records played, unless the people can hear you, you're spinning your wheels. People reading this article might say 'What the Hell is he doin'?! Well, I've proved that I can still entertain and carry a tune, I proved that on my last album. When the time comes I'm not able to put a song over, then I'll know it's time to hang it up. So far, it's still with me.
"Sure, I'm disappointed. I should've been makin' my livin' twenty years ago playing the road ' doing the things that people do, but it just didn't happen. Why? Whether it's personality, showmanship or whatever, I have nothing' but encouragement from friends and people - 'Don't give up, keep hanging in there, keep trying. You would think that somewhere along the way that I could have connected with something, but it didn't happen. I have my health and I work a daytime job and keep going right along."
But despite his disappointment, Thompson also is clearly grateful for his second chance. "At my age, to get the chance to go over and relive some of this and turn back time has been very nice. A lot of guys never get a chance to turn back their time. And I've had a lot of fun - especially these last twelve years. The tours are a nice vacation and I don't make a lot money, but it's been fun. I'll keep hanging in there."courtesy: George Hansen, SCREAMIN' magazine
Notes on Hayden's GEE-DEE (#270131-2) CD "LOVE MY BABY: Of the 33 tracks on this CD, nine were recorded at Sun. Fairlane Rock, Love My Baby, Blues Blues Blues, Don't You Worry Baby, One Broken Heart, Mama Mama Mama, Rockabilly Gal, You Are My Sunshine and Congratulations to you Joe. Piano man on some of these Jack Clement produced sessions was Jerry Lee Lewis BEFORE he started recording for Sam Phillips. Also on this CD is two tracks recorded at the same studio the Big Bopper used, in Beaumont, Texas.
SUNJAY RECORDS: 7" VINYL SINGLE
HAYDEN THOMPSON with Bud Hudson & The Hornets (#SJ-52)
with "THE BOY FROM TUPELO" (an excellent tribute to Elvis written by Hayden) b/w "WHAT'M I GONNA DO."
SUNJAY RECORDS: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE LEGENDARY SUN ARTISTS PART 1
HAYDEN THOMPSON: One Broken Heart (alt. take) / Blues Blues Blues / Fairlane Rock / Mama Mama Mama / You Are My Sunshine / One Broken Heart / Love My Baby (alt. take) / Love My Baby / Rock-a-billy Gal / Don't You Worry / Congratulations to You Joe.
NARVEL FELTS and The Rockets: Lonesome Feeling / Lonely River / Did You Tell Me / Foolish Thoughts / Cry Baby Cry / A Fool in Paradise / Kiss-A-Me-Baby / My Babe / Your Touch / A Teen's Way.
RUDY GRAYZELL: Judy, Judy (alt. take) / I Think of You / Remember When / I Won't Be the Fool
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