Also see - Jimmy Lee Fautheree and Webb Pierce -
posted July, 2008
Courtesy of: The Steel Guitar Forum
Author: Walter Stettner
"Jimmy Lee" Fautheree passed away to be with his wonderful maker on June 29, 2004, at his home in
Dallas, TX., after a short battle with cancer.
Jimmy Lee Fautheree (James Walton Fautheree) was born April 11, 1934, in Smackover, Arkansas. When
he was 12 years old, his aunt bought him guitar and was fortunate that his parents wanted him to be
an entertainer, and an entertainer he was!!
He spent many hours and days practicing guitar and singing with two of his younger brothers, Lynn
and Jackie, both of whom in adulthood would follow him in musical pursuits. Their father was an
oilman and moved his family from town to town as jobs became available, but settled in Dallas in
1946. The family was very musical minded, so Jimmy came by it honest.
Jimmy liked and was around most phases of music, blues and hillbilly, were his favorites, but
country and gospel also fell into place. Ernest Tubb and Jack Guthrie were big influences, but Merle
Travis left a definite impression on Jimmy with his distinctive finger-picked electric guitar style.
Jimmy's performances started out in Dallas at the Big D Jamboree, went on to the Louisiana Hayride
with his friend Johnny Mathis (Country Johnny Mathis), and wasn't long till he was being booked there
for many performances. His first Capitol session took place at the Louisiana Hayride in 1951 in
Shreveport, Louisiana. Four songs were recorded - "Go Ahead and Go" (a Jimmy Lee original), and
here, was also renamed "Jimmy Lee". Jimmy Lee went on to be a great star in the Hillbilly field -
"If You Don't, Somebody Else Will", "Can't Find The Doorknob", "Sweet Love On My Mind", "Sweet Singing Daddy",
Later, he teamed up with his brother, Lynn (known then as Lenny), but kept the duo name as Jimmy and
Johnny. They were featured on Faron Young's band - Faron Young & The Deputies, on to the Grand Ole
Opry in Nashville, performing there many times on the famous stage. Jimmy was featured in many shows
of Elvis Presley's early years, with Elvis being Jimmy's opening act several times. Wow, how many
can say that has happened for them!!!
Jimmy produced several Gospel albums, his first in the late 1970's, but in 1995, Jimmy & Johnny again
performed again for the first time in 35 years, whe they recorded a gospel tune "It Won't Be Much
Longer", released on the Dallas based TIMA Records in 2000. It was their last recording as Johnny
became ill in 1999. On this TIMA CD, one track is "Golden Oldies" by Jimmy, is a great song well
performed. The CD's liner notes by Smokey Stover declare that Jimmy Lee Fautheree is one of the
original developers of the Rock-A-Billy style of guitar picking.
Jimmy was invited to come back for a reunion on the Louisiana Hayride show last June 27 & 28, 2003,
titled "One More Ride", at the original Municipal Auditorium, 706 Elvis Presley Ave., Shreveport,
Louisiana. Jimmy opened the Friday night show by singing one of his recordings - "Unknown Legends",
written by Johnny Mathis. That song was perfect for the night, and as many of the original
performers such as Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright, Bonnie, Maxine, and Jim Ed Brown, Billy Walker, just
to name a few were present to once again perform their talents, and could say, "we are home once
Also last year, Jimmy performed a Rockabilly Show, "The Ponderosa Stomp", in New Orleans, Louisiana,
backed by Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics Band. That performance went so well that Deke invited
Jimmy Lee to his Fort Horton studios in Austin, TX., to record with the band. The result is: "I
Found The Doorknob", Jimmy Lee's first recording in forty years! The new CD features the hit "I
Found The Doorknob" (answer song to "Can't Find The Doorknob"), and many others including "Gotta Get
You Near Me Blues", "Overdue", "Box Full of Gits" (Jimmy's admirous guitar picking), "I'm Diggin a
Hole", "Big Mamma Blues", "Nine Pound Hammer", and many more. This CD is Available through the web
site - dekedickerson.com.
Jimmy went to Rye Sussex, England, and performed the Rockabilly Rave Show on March 7, 2004, doing an
outstanding performance playing his guitar and singing to many a fan who never thought they would get
to see their favorite person. This was a first time ever performance in Europe.
Being a natural lead guitarist and singer, Jimmy will be remembered the world over with his wonderful
talent, and that he did have. So special!! Jimmy came home from England very sick with pneumonia,
was hospitalized several weeks, then was also diagnosed with cancer. His battle was a short time,
but his maker will reward him with flying colors, probably from the rainbow.
Kind Regards, Walter
Courtesy of Deke Dickerson
Rest in Peace ...
Jimmy Lee Fautheree
1934 - 2004
We are saddened to announce that our friend Jimmy Lee Fautheree died on Tuesday, June 29, 2004, in
Dallas, Texas after an extended bout with cancer.
We backed him up on his last show, at the Rockabilly Rave in England back in March of this year
(2004). He was already in advanced stages of cancer, and after his condition worsened, he had to
cancel appearances at Viva Las Vegas and the Ponderosa Stomp.
We are grateful that we had the opportunity to bring Jimmy out of retirement and record a new record
with him last year. Critics all over the world raved about the album and Jimmy Lee was very pleased
with his past-due acclaim. My biggest treasure is a letter Jimmy Lee wrote to me in April telling me
that the reviews for this new album were the best reviews he had ever gotten, and how happy that made
Although Jimmy Lee was a little-known figure in the history of rockabilly and country music,
everybody agrees that he was as talented, if not more talented, that some of the superstars that he
know and played with on the Louisiana Hayride (Jimmy was friends with everybody from Johnny Horton to
Hank Williams to Elvis, and played behind such legends as Webb Pierce, Faron Young, and Lefy
Frizzell). His guitar playing on his early Capitol recordings 1951-52 surely were the blueprint for
rockabilly guitar licks to come in later years (and James Burton told me personally "Oh man, Jimmy
Lee was my favorite guitar player, when I was coming up on the Hayride I just idolized him.")
Jimmy's biggest problem, self-admittedly, was that he was just too shy for the music business.
Whereas most country stars of the day would do just about anything to hog the spotlight, Jimmy Lee
would avoid it at all costs. Historians agree that if Jimmy Lee had been more extroverted, he would
be as well known as many of the Louisiana Hayride stars he rubbed shoulders with. His obscurity was
When I heard Jimmy Lee play a Telecaster guitar, I heard magic. He was the missing link between
Merle Travis and Lightnin' Hopkins. Nobody could play the guitar like he did. I felt honored to
play beside him. With Jimmy Lee's passing, a totally unique style of guitar playing died with him.
I am glad that Jimmy Lee got to live long enough to see that he was loved by a whole new group of
young rockabillies. I think he had no idea that a whole new generation of kids were listening to
"Can't Find The Doorknob," "Sweet Love on My Mind," "If You Don't Somebody Else Will," "Love Me,"
and others. I believe he was both shocked and overjoyed that 50 years later, his records were still
being played all over the world. I'm glad he got to see this firsthand, with an autograph line two
hours long after his show at the Rockabilly Rave.
We also want to extend our condolences to Jimmy's wife Nancy. They were married for over 50 years,
and I never once saw Jimmy without Nancy, or vice versa. Nancy always cooked a giant home-cooked
meal for us whenever we came through Dallas - I think she knew that a bunch of traveling musicians
could use a nice home cooked meal.
All the Ecco-Fonics and the other musicians who played on the CD would like to say, we loved
you Jimmy, and you will be sorely missed.
He finally found the doorknob. Rest in Peace Jimmy Lee.
Deke and all the boys
Jimmy and Johnny Discography
JIMMY LEE FAUTHEREE
"UNKNOW LEGEND IN THE USA"
"WORLDWIDE ROCKABILLY STAR"
Seems strange to hear the late great Jimmy Lee Fautheree singing "Unknow Legend" on the Louisiana
Hayride stage show in 2003 as he is rated among the finest Rockabilly/Hillbilly Bop singers
worldwide. For sure, many years have past since his 1954 hit on "Chess" with Country Johnny
Mathis and lot of his pals had left the building as Elvis, Hank Williams sr or Johnny Horton.
For sure, Country music had change and move away from the raw rural sound of those cotton
pickers, sharecropper, barefooted guitarists. For sure, the simple downhearted delivery is
no more in favour at a time were TV and video clips made the rule and the stars. But,
overseas, some people keep the 50's legacy alive since years. How come it?
In the mid 70's, many people in England asked to hear vintage R'n'R and Rockabilly on the radio.
These lead to a big manifestation in London and soon radio started playing' again those 50's
wonders. Real soon, "Jungle Rock" from 1958 (Hank Mizell) became a hit in Europe and "You're
barking up on the wrong tree" from 1957 (Don Woody) do the same in UK. Vintage labels as Sun,
Decca, Capitol or Chess were looking on them files and reissued fabulous recordings by Merrill
Moore, Faron Young, Johnny Carroll, Jerry Kennedy, Roy Hall, The Burnette Brothers, Wayne Raney
or Jimmy and Johnny. When you're 19 years old, ready to rock and you heard blowing from the
speakers: "Love Me" by Jimmy and Wayne, that's an experience you will never forget. If the DJ
is good and next spin "I can't Find the Doorknob" by Jimmy and Johnny, you left the dance
floor tore up with your boppin' shoes wrecked. Now, that sound had poisoned your soul and
you will search for records and performers until Lord call you. That's just what happened
to me in 1978.
My first paper about Jimmy Lee Fautheree and Country Johnny Mathis was published in 1982
and the last in 2004. I have learnt how he worked with Hank Williams sr, than Elvis opened
for the duo way back in 1954, than Jimmy Lee played his Fender on Webb Pierce's "Teenage
Boogie" or Faron Young's "Sweet Dreams", how "Sweet Love on My Mind" was written at Jimmy's
house but first recorded by Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. I have learned how you can be a
star on The Louisiana Hayride, staged the Grand Ole Opry with Faron Young and be back to
asbestos work few years later.
Through the years Jimmy Lee's recordings were issued on countless labels and a Swedish
musical magazine made a special issue on him in 2002. Since years, people fight for his
original singles. Some goes for such high price as $ 300 for an original 45 rpm's copy.
And that cat never had an LP issued in the USA except on his own label. Thanks to Deke
Dickerson, Jimmy Lee Fautheree had the opportunity to cut hot sides for a CD issued in
2004. This lead to a first European gig in March 2004 where some people had to wait
two hours in order to have them records sleeves autographed.
Unfortunately, fate hit him and his lovely wife when cancer was found. On 29th June 2004,
the story was over. Jimmy left the building and was enrolled in the upper choir singing gospel
with his old Shreveport buddies.
But in Europe, some people wanted to take care of his legacy and wished him to be inducted
to the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Bob Timmer's agreed to nominate Jimmy Lee and
few months later the Louisiana Stage of Stars Museum put Jimmy memorabilia in display
courtesy his widow. Old fans like me still play his recordings, collect memorabilia's
and write papers. Even a one hour radio broadcast is on the way in France. A legend never dies!
If somebody ever told you about an "Unknow Legend" ... He will talk about anybody but not
about Jimmy Lee Fautheree. Something was wrong in the song Jimmy Lee is a true Hillbilly
Bop star. Yes indeed! God called him to heaven but his music live on forever.
Dominique "Imperial" ANGLARES
Brest R'n'R Appreciation Society.
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James Walton Fautheree naquit le 11 avril 1934 en
Arkansas dans la même petite ville que Sleepy La Beef,
un "géant" du Rockabilly, Smackover. Son père
travaillant dans l'industrie pétrolifère emmènera sa famille
en Louisiane, en Californie, au Texas avant de se fixer à
Dallas en 1946. Attiré par le Blues, et encouragé par son
père, Jimmy se mettra à la guitare en écoutant une radio
noire de Nashville, la WLAC.
Il sera aussi séduit par le Hillbilly de Jack Guthrie (un
cousin de Woodie Guthrie), par le Honky Tonk de Ernest Tubb
et par le finger picking du guitariste Merle Travis
(compositeur de Sixteen Tons, entre autres). Il rencontrera Merle
Travis pour la première fois en 1950, à Dallas.
Jimmy Lee deviendra un habitué du Big "D" Jamboree
où il fera la connaissance de Country Johnny Mathis qui
deviendra son partenaire par la suite. En février 1951, ils
se rendront à Shreveport (Louisiane) pour tenter leur
chance au "Louisiana Hayride". Cette émission live
diffusée tous les samedi soir, concurrente directe du
Grand Ole Opry de Nashville, présentait des artistes tels
que Webb Pierce, Hank Williams, Faron Young ou
Johnny Horton. Parmis les spectateurs se trouvait le
jeune James Burton, futur guitariste de Ricky Nelson et
En 1951, Jimmy Lee fit l'acquisition d'une des toutes premières Fender Telecaster et signera un contrat
avec le label "Capitol". Sept singles suivront avant que son contrat ne prenne fin en 1953. En juin 1954,
il formera un duo avec Country Johnny Mathis et ils seront rapidement sur la scène du Louisiana
Hayride. Ils seront parmi les premiers artistes "Hillbilly" à être signés par le label de blues de Chicago «
Chess". Ce label ayant décidé de tenter l'aventure dans ce style musical utilisait son talent scout local
pour enregistrer des artistes populaires au Louisiana Hayride. Leur premier morceau "If You Don't
Somebody Else" entra aussitôt dans les charts et sera repris par de nombreux artistes. Suite à ce
succès, Chess sortira un deuxième disque et Capitol sortira des archives un enregistrement du duo datant
de 1952 resté inédit.
Les choses semblent aller pour le mieux puisque le 16 octobre 1954, ils demandent même à ne pas se
produire au Louisiana Hayride pour les 24 $ habituels, ayant un engagement pour 500 $ au Nouveau-
Mexique. Ils obtiendront l'accord et seront remplacés, grâce à leur manager Tillman Franks, par Elvis
Presley qui fera là sa première apparition au Louisiana Hayride. Il reviendra quinze jours plus tard et
restera deux ans. Quant au duo, il sera viré du Louisiana Hayride pour indiscipline la semaine suivante
et se séparera début 1955. Jimmy Lee fera un dernier disque pour le label Chess avec Wayne Walker, le
rockabilly classique "Love Me". Durant les annéees 54 et 55, le duo tournera souvent avec Elvis
Presley qui fit plus d'une fois leur première partie.
En 1955, grâce a Webb Pierce, Jimmy Lee décrochera un contrat avec le label "Decca", son frère Lynn
prenant la place laissée vacante par Country Johnny Mathis. Le duo continuera malgré tout à se
produire sous le nom de "Jimmy and Johnny" et sera en tournée avec Johnny Horton, Elvis, Wanda
Jackson et même Buddy Holly. "Decca" sortira plusieurs excellents singles du duo comme "Sweet
Singing Daddy" ou "Sweet Love on my Mind" qui sera aussi enregistré par Johnny et Dorsey
Jimmy Lee sera aussi le guitariste de Webb Pierce sur une version restée inédite de "Teenage Boogie".
Lorsque les Wilburn Brothers quitteront le groupe de Faron Young, Jimmy Lee et Lennie les
remplaceront. Ils tourneront avec Faron Young pendant près d'une année, se produisant ainsi au Grand
Ole Opry. A la fin 1957, le duo se sépara après deux années de tournées épuisantes.
Durant l'année 1958, le duo original sera reconstitué et gravera un des plus grand rockabilly de tous les
temps pour le label "D" : I Can't Find the Doorknob. Ce disque en pressage original se négocie
aujourd'hui à plus de 200 $. A l'époque, 90 cts suffisait pour l'acquérir !
Jimmy Lee aura un autre single de sorti en 1958 sous le pseudonyme de Johnny Angel. Cet excellent
disque sera enregistré à la Nouvelle-Orleans avec les musiciens qui accompagnaient habituellement Fats
Domino ou Little Richard.
Quelques disques sortiront les années suivantes avant que Jimmy Lee ne s'installe au Nouveau-Mexique,
prenne un emploi stable et ne fasse plus de la musique que pour le plaisir. Il sortira quelques disques
durant les années 60 et 70 mais sa carrière professionnelle avait pris fin. Un LP de gospel sortira en 1979
et sera suivit d'autres enregistrements Gospel, jusqu'en 2000, pour le label TIMA.
Jimmy Lee Fautheree sera de retour sur la scène du Louisiana Hayride en 2003 pour deux réunions
exceptionnelles. Il y chantera l'autobiographique "Unknow Legend", composé par son vieux compère
Country Johnny Mathis, devant un public comblé. Il se produira aussi au "Ponderosa Stomp" en
Louisiane et, en 2004, en Angleterre pour son premier concert en Europe. Cette venue en Europe avait
été précédée par l'enregistrement d'un CD fabuleux avec Deke Dickerson sur le label Ecco-Fonic. Le
titre de ce CD, "I Found the Doorknoob", était un clin d'¦il aux 50's. Ce disque fabuleux couvre tous les
styles du Hillbilly à la Country authentique en passant par le Rockabilly et le Honky-Tonk. A acheter
d'urgence, il y a toujours des copies en vente sur le net ou chez Bear Family Records. Si vous avez un
seul disque à acheter en 2006 c'est celui-là.
Malheureusement, Jimmy Lee nous a quitté le 29 juin 2004 après une courte bataille avec le cancer.
Depuis un single est sorti sur "Norton", plusieurs magazines lui ont consacré des articles, une
exposition permanente est organisée au Louisiana Hayride Museum et il a été nommé au Rockabilly Hall
of Fame. Lucie a découvert sa musique et lui consacre une émission radio. Jimmy Lee n'est donc plus
une "Unknow Legend" !
Here are the two brothers Jimmy and Lynn, wearing them Faron Young's
Deputies western outfit, at the WSM office in 1956.
Updated June 15, 2007
©Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®