Interview by Steve Kelemen
The word great doesn't do justice when talking about Larry Nolen. He is always
willing to go out of his way to help others when asked. His willingness to give
of his time and attention has made him well respected by those who know him. He's
a true blue gentleman with a voice as big and rich as the Lone Star State.
I was a very poor boy growing up, in fact I was the youngest of 6 children. My dad was
killed in a car accident when I was about 14 days old. After this, my mother moved to
San Antonio with all 7 of us.
I had a good friend who lived up the street named Gene Jacoby. He taught me a lot about
playing the guitar. He had a western group called "The Jacoby's Mountain Rhythm Band". His
mother was their leader. She thought I played nice rhythm guitar, so Gene asked me to play
rhythm guitar with them. I started playing in the group when I was about 12 years
old. I had a great time with those guys. Gene was my very best friend growing up.
After the Jacoby band I met Smiley Whitley who had one of the best bands around
Texas at that time. They had a radio show on K.O.N.O. in San Antonio. Smiley took a
liking to me. it was like a father and son relationship. he put me on his radio show.
I began getting a lot of mail and built myself into quite a popular performer in this
part of Texas.
Sarg Records/The Texas Top Hands
Charlie Fitch who owned the label contacted me and asked me to record for him. This
was shortly after I left Smiley's band. I was their featured singer at one time. This
is the reason I am in the Texas Music Hall of Fame.
I worked with virtually every artist on that label at one time or another. Recorded in Houston
for most of those sessions for Pappy Daily. We had very primitive recording equipment.
I remember recording on one track machines at that time.
Well, you call it Rockabilly. I didn't know what Rockabilly was or I'm not sure that I
still do. I was about 21 or 22 years old when I first met Elvis Presley. I was on a
couple of shows with him. Two of them were at the Municipal auditorium in San Antonio.
Elvis was a real nice guy. What I remember most about him was that if you were just
a little bit older then he was, even just a year or two, he would call you sir or
ma'm. he was a kind and polite young man. At the first show I played with him in
San Antonio he just tore the place down. We were all scared to death (the rest of
the acts) because...the audience wanted to hear him only. I was just a little older
and I had some records out so I did okay - I held my own with him.
When his part of the show was over they couldn't get the girls to leave. Charlie
Walker (who was the MC) came out and announced over the PA that if everybody would
go out the front door and come around to the side Elvis would sign autographs. Well
boy!! There was a big stampede and everybody ran out the front door. Elvis did go
to the side door, I was standing right beside him when the door was opened. The
crowd started filing by and he signed anything they would him (their arm or whatever).
I remember one little girl who looked to be about 14 or 15 years old. When she got
up to Elvis she fainted. So Elvis kneeled over her patting her cheeks and said "come
on Baby", "Wake up honey" etc. When she came to and started to get up she found
herself just inches from his face. She fainted dead away again. Elvis said' Ahh Hell'
got up and walked into his dressing room.
Dan Virva did not record 'The King of The Ducktail Cats". It was Gene Jacoby. Gene
wrote the song. Dan Virva released the song under his name - but it was not him
singing the song. I knew exactly what they both sung like.
I recorded my version at the Texas Sound Studio in San Antonio. This was actually a
demo session, but Pappy Daily heard it and decided to release it without my knowledge.
I just tried to cut something that the younger people would like.
We are good friends. Even though we did have a fight one night in California. I have
known George from way back in Houston when we recorded for Starday and played
shows for Bill Calley. I saw him when I went to visit my brother (who was in the
Marine Corps) in Anaheim. George asked us to come out one night to where he was
playing. George is a good guy but give him about three drinks and he's just like
anybody else. Not so nice after a few drinks. He was arguing with his bassman Donny
Young who later became Johnny Paycheck. I stuck my nose into their argument and said
'Ah, George you don't want to do that. We just want to have some fun'. Well he said
'Why are you sticking your nose in this? You want some of it'. I kinda laughed and
said 'Well, I'm here anyway, we might as well'. George took a swing at me and we
both fell down. My brother reached down and grabbed George by the belt bringing him
to his feet. George finally said 'hell, let's forget about it and have a drink'. So
that ended that. To this day, whenever I see George we still laugh about this.
I have had a good life. Have had a lot of fun. I didn't get rich and famous like some
friends of mine, but I'm not complaining. So many girls and so many good times and I
have had my share of all of them.
One of my highlights was getting to go to California to meet and sing with the great
© Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®