Narvel Felts' Merchandise Page
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Posted January 16, 2002.
Show at Bootscooters, Dryersburg, TN, Sat., Jan 12th
Narvel Felts at Star HallREVIEW by fan club member, Essie Shell
September 15, 2001
----6 years and one day following the anniversary of Narvel "Bub" Felts, Jr's fatal automobile accident ...
----4 days following the terrorist attacks on the Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. ...
----What a somber occasion it WA ... yet, life is for the living and it must go on ...
Corsicana's first Deer Hunters Ball was founded and produced by B. G. and Delia Williams, with Narvel Felts and Off The Record band entertaining us for the evening. Emcee, Joe Walenta, opened the program by leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and calling for a moment of silence for the victims and families of the terrorist attacks and hijackings of the past week. The band opened the show with a lively rendition of Under The Double Eagle and our host for the evening, B. G. Williams, sang Heartaches By The Number and Crying Time. Several door prizes were awarded, and before a short intermission, keyboard player, Aris Cook, sang America The Beautiful while everyone in the audience patriotically stood and softly sang with him.
Narvel took the stage to a standing ovation and sang Back In The USA, with some fine guitar pickin' too. After the audience gave him a standing ovation to his 1975 hit song Funny How Time Slips Away, he was presented a gold key to the City on behalf of the Mayor and City Council of Corsicana and a jacket from American RV of Corsicana. The audience respectfully and with much emotion, stood at attention while Narvel sang a beautiful acappella version of The Star Spangled Banner, as a tribute to the victims of the past week's events. This was the first time I had ever heard him sing our National Anthem and while I listened, it made me remember how precious our freedom is in this great country we live in.
Then Narvel took us from the cotton fields of southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, to the stage, with his international hit song Pink & Black Days. He got another standing ovation with Crying, a song that he recorded 20 years ago and one that was introduced as a single in Europe this year, reaching #10 on the charts. More of his hits, Drift Away, Somebody Hold Me (Until She Passes By), Lonely Teardrops, Fraulein and a medley of Blueberry Hill, which included I Don't Hurt Anymore, earned him two more standing ovations. Rockabilly songs, My Babe, Great Balls of Fire and I'm Heading Home rocked the audience. He sang High On A Mountain Of Love, a record he had cut in 1963 before the song became a classic, and My Prayer, a classic during his 70's hit streak. He sang Even Now in memory of his son, Bub, and also dedicated it to my brother, Mynard Smith, in memory of his daughter Gayle, Joann & Kenneth Samford, in memory of daughter Leigh Ann and to Dotty B (Publisher/Editor of Coast To Coast Country), in memory of her mother.
Narvel ended the show with his 1975 single of the year, Reconsider Me, which included May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You. As always, he got another standing ovation ... and the audience got an encore of Blue Darlin'. He was ready to head for the autograph line when B. G. Williams told him he had to sing one more song. Narvel's Grande Finale was a rockin' version of Shake, Rattle & Roll.
True to form, Narvel promised to stay in the autograph line until everyone who wanted to meet him had done so. It was while I waited in the autograph line that I met Nova James, a lady from Dallas who was Narvel's Fan Club †president in the 80's. I had some old vinyl records or LP's that I had purchased and the first one I asked him to autograph was a 33 1/3 RPM record titled Teen-Age Bop on Sun Record label and marketed by Charly Records of France. Narvel's song Kiss-A-Me Baby was on it and a picture of him from his early years was on the cover. Narvel was listening so intently to mine and Nova's conversation that he inadvertently autographed the record to her! So ladies and gentlemen, I have proof that Narvel indeed made one mistake in his life. †Not to worry Narvel, everybody is entitled to one.
It's now after 11:00 PM and nearing the end to one of the most tragic weeks in the history of our country. Thank you, Narvel, and all the members of Off The Record (Jodi, Tommy, Lex, Aris, Joy, Mark & Herschel), for entertaining us and being with us as the week ended. †Someone said: ≥We don't live in America ... .America lives in us.≤ †How true!
Here's a picture of Narvel Felts and two of his fan club members, Ina Lee Chafin (aunt to band member Jodi Chafin) and me. Ina Lee retired from the telephone company too. You're looking at over 60 years of Southwestern Bell employment here! --Essie
1000 MILE ROUND TRIP
TO SEE NARVEL "THE MARVEL"!!!
Narvel Felts at Music Ranch USA, West Point, KY - March 24, 2001
by: Adriaan Sturm
The appearance of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are amongst the first signs of spring in the Kentuckiana area and their bright colors liven up a still dull and somber landscape. Another sure sign of spring for music lovers is Narvel Felts appearing at Music Ranch USA in West Point, Kentucky. Advertised as his "45 Anniversary in the Music Business Show" his appearance drew fans from hundreds of miles away.
Narvel started his special show with a solid rocking version of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" followed by "Funny How Time Slips Away", the Willie Nelson classic and one of his top ten country hits during the seventies. The first indication this would be a different show came when a fan, some of whom were making over 1000 miles round trips to see Narvel, asked for "I Can Wrap My Arms Around The World". Most of the time Narvel politely refuses to play requests because he likes to give everybody as good a performance as possible, which includes a proper rehearsal with the backup band. Tonight he thought for a few minutes running a few verses of the song through his mind and than, to the fan's delight, said it would have to be just him and his guitar because the band did not know the song. Missing just a few words the audience rewarded Narvel's solo effort with a standing ovation and from that point on the show was as loose as I have ever seen Narvel perform.
Don't get me wrong he never lost control of the show and he sang several of his big hits. There was "Drift Away" the song which gave him his major break in the early seventies and "When Your Good Love Was Mine". The old Platters hit "My Prayer" delighted several fifties music lover's and a superb performance of "Somebody Hold Me" brought everybody out of their seats. And yes, there were "Pink And Black Days", a song which slowly but surely is becoming an anthem for rockabilly fans the world over, and "Great Balls of Fire" as flashbacks to his rockabilly days. All that fit into the script for a normal Narvel Felts show but at various points during his performance Narvel left the script to accommodate requests from fans as well as to give his audience a chance to hear something different from his 45 years in the business.
He spent some time talking about his first recording efforts followed by a blistering performance of Elvis's "Baby Let's Play House", the first song he ever performed in public. Then a rocking version of Little Walter's "My Babe" from his second session for SUN Records and finally "Foolish Thoughts" a song written by his buddies Leon Barnett and Jerry Tuttle in the fifties and recorded during his first audition for SUN Records. This nice rocking tune eventually became the B-side of his very first single on Mercury.
The inclusion of "One Run For The Roses" was not that unusual for Kentucky where the real run for the roses is only a little over a month away. But even the customary tribute to his late son Bub became a little more special when he also dedicated "Danny Boy" to the family and friends of a local fan who passed away earlier this year. "Danny Boy" is a great song but hearing somebody with a voice like Narvel's sing it is special to say the least.
Running well past his normal one hour show Narvel pulled out all the stops for a fantastic grand finale with his 1975 hit "Reconsider Me" and when he was called back for an encore he surprised the audience with an outstanding version of Roy Orbison's "Crying". A fitting end to his 45th Anniversary Show because it was Roy Orbison who back in 1956 helped Narvel get an audition for SUN Records and, as they say, the rest is history.
The show was over but Narvel's evening was far from done because the autograph line was long and each and every fan was ready to thank him for a great show and congratulate him for still hanging in there after 45 years. The country music business sadly ignores singers with great voices like Narvel but the true fans know where to find them even if it takes a 1000 mile round trip.
Song list : Maybelline / Funny How Time Slips Away / Pink And Black Days / Lonely Teardrops / I Can Wrap My Arms Around The World (solo) / When Your Good Love Was Mine / Danny Boy / My Babe / Baby Let's Play House / One Run For The Roses / Great Balls Of Fire / My Prayer / Foolish Thoughts / Drift Away / Somebody Hold Me / I'm Headin' Home / Baby Warm (solo) / Reconsider Me / Crying.
"Narvel The Marvel"
Returns to Mabank, Texas
Saturday, February 17, 2001
By Fan Club Member, Essie Shell
Narvel Felts once again gave an outstanding performance in Mabank. The show was sponsored by the Mabank-Cedar Creek Lake Lions Club at the Mabank Elementary School auditorium. This was the second time he has performed for the Lions Club and I believe the sixth time he has performed in Mabank. Narvel and his manager, Harold Boner, arrived at their motel in Gun Barrel City shortly after midnight on Friday. There was a bass tournament starting at Cedar Creek Lake and the motel was full of fishermen registering early for the tournament. I understand they were a pretty rowdy bunch and sleeping was difficult that night, but by Saturday evening Narvel had a rush of adrenalin and gave an extraordinary performance.
Emcee, Joe Walenta opened the show at 7:30 with a country song, backed by Off The Record band. Kenny Samms sang three songs, Karaoke style, and then the band entertained us with their fine music. Narvel took the stage at 8:30 to a standing ovation. He was very handsome in his black satin shirt, black jeans and red sport coat!
Narvel opened the show with Back In The USA, followed by his top hit Drift Away. He dedicated the next song to his son Bub, who at age 31 was killed in an automobile accident in 1995, and to Leigh Ann Samford of Mabank, who died in 1999 at age 34. Keyboard player, Aris Cook, started the introduction to Sonny Man, the song Narvel wrote July 3,1997 as he was driving home alone from Wheatland, Missouri where he had played an Independence Day celebration the night before. "Sonny Man" was one of the pet names Narvel called Bub. As always, the audience was spellbound and teary eyed through the entire song and everyone gave him a standing ovation afterwards.
Narvel has always appreciated his fans and he never fails to recognize them. Members attending were JoAnn and Kenneth Samford of Mabank, Lynn and David Goza of Mabank, Mynard Smith of Meridian, Oklahoma (Oklahoma City area), Ina Lee Chaffin of Seagoville/Dallas (aunt to band member and vocalist, Jodi Chaffin), Kim Wagerman, who had flown down from Nineveh, Indiana (near Indianapolis), myself from Kemp (only 7 miles from Mabank) and club member Connie Samford of Gun Barrel City with her husband Kenny. He then recognized a group from Corsicana, Texas who have opened a theatre there and he thanked everyone in the audience who had come to see him perform.
He sang several of his top hits and Rockabilly hits: My Babe, Blue Darlin', Great Balls of Fire, My Prayer, Everlasting Love, Somebody Hold Me (Until She Passes By) and Lonely Teardrops. There were two medleys, "Fraulein" (followed with Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Before the Next Teardrop Falls and I'm Thinking Tonight of my True Love) and "Blueberry Hill" (following with I Don't Hurt Anymore). All these songs were top hits with the Mabank crowd too. The auditorium came alive when he sang the song that was Number 1 in Europe last year, Pink & Black Days. Many in the audience were rocking and rolling in their seats. The last song, 1975 Record of the Year: Reconsider Me, followed with Until We Meet Again earned him another standing ovation and he sang I'm Headin Home for an encore.
As always, Narvel promised to stay as long as anyone was in the autograph line. He said, "Anyone who wants to meet me, I want to meet them." He had also told us that at age 24 he became a Father, age 42 a Grandfather and age 62 a Great-grandfather. He said if he lived another 20 years there was no telling what would happen. You know, I look forward to that next 20 year mark ... he will probably still be giving concerts and hitting those high notes with ease.
"Off The Record" band always does a great job backing Narvel when he is in Mabank and tonight was no exception. Band members are Aris Cook (keyboard & vocals), Lex White (lead guitar & vocals), Tommy Blanton (bass guitar & vocals), Joy Parish (rhythm guitar & vocals), Ricky Gonzales (drums) and Jodi Chaffin (vocals).
Review and photos courtesy Fan Club Member, Essie Shell
Posted November 13, 2000 - Courtesy Original Cool Magazine
Narvel Felts Talks About Ray Smith and More
(Unedited version) I imagine that most every locale in these great United States has its own legends and heroes when it comes to the birth and infancy of rock and roll. Having grown up in and around the city of Paducah (in the far Western corner of the state of Kentucky) my hometown hero is of course Rockin' Ray Smith. So when the opportunity arose for me to write some notes for the brand new Ray Smith CD on the Wix label, naturally I jumped at the chance. This was a very special assignment to me and I wanted to approach it from a fresh perspective, without covering the same old ground that has been covered several times before. Shortly after accepting the assignment and beginning to wonder what my "fresh perspective" could possibly be, I was blessed with a rare (for me at least) case of extremely good timing - Henry Harrison's Rockabilly Hall of Fame museum fundraiser in Jackson Tennessee.
One of the headliners at that show was none other than Albert Narvel "the Marvel" Felts. You see, Narvel's stomping ground of Southeast Missouri is but a stone's throw from Western Kentucky. Ray and Narvel covered a lot of the same ground back in those early days. The folks in Southeast Missouri, Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, West Tennessee, Northeast Arkansas and surrounding vicinities were mighty fortunate in the late 1950's to have both these talented rockers playing the local drive-ins, beer joints and gymnasiums. They played many of the very same venues so I knew that they had crossed paths more than just a few times. So it crossed my mind that Narvel would surely have some stories and memories of Ray, if I could just get him to share some.
On that April evening in Jackson Tennessee, after being treated to a damn fine performance, I stood in a very long line of autograph seekers and adoring fans to shake hands and exchange pleasantries with Narvel Felts. One thing that has become increasingly clearer to me of late is the fact that Narvel has a legion of incredibly loyal fans - and the reason for that is also clear... Narvel treats his fans with a level of respect and appreciation that is truly rare in this day and age. But I digress. When my turn in line finally came, Narvel signed my 8x10 and we exchanged hellos and had a brief discussion of geography. I felt so comfortable talking to the man that I almost forgot the main reason I had been standing in line! So I made with an "oh, by the way..." and when I told him of the project upon which I was embarking he unhesitatingly agreed to an interview AND he seemed just as enthused about it as I was.
The ensuing phone conversation that Narvel and I had served its intended purpose of providing material for my liner notes well. But after all was said and done and the conversation had been transcribed from micro-cassette to printed word, I thought it made for a very interesting read in its own right and I felt the need to share it. So if you are at all a fan of Narvel or Rockin' Ray or if you have an interest in what it was like to be a fledgling rock star from a small town in the 1950's or what the Canadian circuit was like for young American rockers or just how fast a '54 Buick convertible could go through the streets of Cairo Illinois then please read and enjoy my conversation with Narvel Felts.
SDL: I appreciate you taking the time to do this, I really do.Steve Lester
NF: I'm glad to do it. I always liked Ray and his wife. I'm glad to do anything I can do to kinda help keep his memory alive and keep history correct, about him.
SDL: I know you've done a lot more interviews than I have so to get us started I'll let you lead the way.
NF: Sure. Since I talked with you the other day I've been trying to organize my thoughts and memories of Ray. The first time I met Ray would either have been in late May or early June of 1957, when I was booked to play the drive in theater in Paducah Kentucky. During that time I was playing a lot of theaters. They would book us, me and my band, with rock and roll movies. There is one thing that really sticks out in my mind about that particular day. We were traveling in two cars then. I would always carry the PA set (which was a little fold up thing back in those days) and my guitar in the trunk of my car. For some reason I must have taken them out at home that week. I drove to Paducah, pulled up to the stage and opened my trunk, and to my surprise it was empty. I thought "my goodness what are we going to do? There's no way we can do the show 'til we find something." As fate would have it here came this tan '56 Cadillac Coupe DeVille with a dark top pulling up. It was Ray Smith. He got out and introduced himself to me. I told him our problem. He said "well I've got mine in my trunk." And so he got his PA set out and we used it and I played his guitar that night.
That was the first time that I remember meeting him. We became friends and wound up working the rest of '57 and on into '58 at a lot of the same places, only on different nights of the week. You know, teen dances, like at the skating rink in Dongola, Illinois and the American Legion in Sikeston, Missouri. During this period I also used to play the Paradise Club in Cairo, Illinois every Sunday. On Sundays we would have to play an afternoon matinee plus Sunday night for a total of about 7 hours. Ray had Sundays off. He would always come out and sit in the audience and listen to us, then he'd usually get up and sing a couple of songs with us. Usually, for his up-tempo song, he would do an Elvis song or something of that nature and his ballad would be a Dean Martin song.
SDL: Was this in 1957, prior to his signing with Sun?
NF: Probably 1958. I can remember that Dean Martin had a hit with "Return to Me" and I believe it was '58. Ray would get up and sing that and if you shut your eyes, you'd think it was Dean Martin up there singing it.
On one of those Sunday appearances, it was kind of funny, he got up there and he got to rocking on his fast song and he pulled this big German Luger out of his coat pocket and threw it on the stage. I guess it was weighing down one side of him while he was jumping around. When he left the stage he left it up there. My guitar player,
SDL: That's a great story.
NF: Then I remember when I was working the Canadian show club circuit in '59. Harold Kudlets, out of Burlington Ontario was booking that circuit. Conway Twitty had pioneered that circuit for Rock and Roll music. He was the first American rockabilly or Southern rock and roller or whatever you want to call us. It was a circuit of show clubs, you know, they didn't dance - so you had to put on a show and you did like 5 sets a night! So you had to be pretty much on the ball in order to happen in those places. Anyway, Conway had kind of pioneered that circuit and gone over really good for our kind of music. The second person into that circuit was Ronnie Hawkins, whom Conway had recommended to Harold. Then Conway recommended me. So I went up there and opened the first week of '59 on that circuit.
Charly Terrell, Ray's manager, called me one Saturday night at the Embassy Hotel in London Ontario. I was playing the "Brass Rail" and he asked me if I would put in a word for Ray with Harold Kudlets, to try to get him into that circuit. And I said "sure." Harold came by that night, I think it was his night to come by and check on us, to call on the club manager and so forth. So I talked with him about Ray and told him he has this great show running. So he wound up booking him something. Then Ray did go over really good on that circuit. I knew because I would go into places after he had been there and they'd tell me things that he did, like hanging from the ceiling by his feet. Stuff like that. At "Le Coq Dor" in Toronto, they had some kind of rafter like thing that went across the ceiling. Ray would climb up there and hang by his legs and sing. He put on a wild show!
SDL: What was the name of that place?
NF: "Le Coq Dor", which I think, is French for golden rooster or something like that.
So he went over really well on that circuit. And then "Rockin' Little Angel" hit. I wound up seeing him while it was a hit at the "Jewel Theater" in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Then sometime in 1960 I remember we followed him back to the place where I had first recommended him, the "Brass Rail" in London. He had a bus then, after "Rockin' Little Angel" had hit, that had writing on the side.
SDL: I know a gentleman by the name of George Riley who was one of Ray's buddies and very often the driver of that bus. He has got some wonderful stories about that old bus.
NF: I think he had gotten that bus from Jerry Lee Lewis?
SDL: It used to be Jerry Lee's tour bus.
NF: That night after playing the "Brass Rail", Ray was feeling pretty good. I remember Stanley Walker, Ray's guitar player, was worried. He said, "Oh my goodness, Ray's gonna want to drive the bus tonight." So I think when he had a few drinks too many he would develop a craving to drive the bus. They said he would drive it as fast as it would go meeting trucks on bridges and stuff, you know. They were pretty scared on nights like that!
I remember that a few years later, maybe '63 or '64 - something like that, I ran into him again when he was playing Poplar Bluff. I went over and visited with him a while at his motel.
Then again in '75, after my country hits came along. He and I both wound up signing with Cinnamon Records in Nashville in about 1973.
SDL: I was going to ask you about that. How did that happen?
NF: Well, Johnny Morris who had been a disc jockey at KWOC in Poplar Bluff, Missouri started that label. After he got the financial backing to start the label, Ray and I were two of the first artists he signed. They signed Ray before they did me because I was still under contract with Hi Records at the time. They brought Ray in and re-recorded a country version of "Rockin' Little Angel". It was still rockin', but with steel guitar on it. He did a song called "Tilted cup of Love" and a few others that they released. But they didn't use "Rockin' Little Angel" by him. I had been trying to get a release from Hi Records, which they finally agreed to give me. And so Louis Willis, who had produced me at Hi, also co-produced Ray. And he said, "Well, since we're not going to use "Rockin' Little Angel" on Ray's why don't we have Narvel put his voice on that track and let that be his first Cinnamon record." So I went into Nashville, and I actually sang, "Rockin' Little Angel" to Ray's track - the same key he did it in and everything. They released that as my first single on Cinnamon and it became my first charting country record. It didn't get into "Billboard", but it got to like 71 in both "Cash Box" and "Record World". My follow up was "Drift Away" which went to the top 5 and broke me through as a country artist.
SDL: "Drift Away" on Cinnamon was one of the very first records I remember buying with my own money.
NF: Is that right!? My goodness.
SDL: That's right. I've still got it.
NF: Well that's an honor to hear. So you are a young fellow then.
SDL: Well I suppose that's relative.
NF: (laughs) Everything is relative, I guess.
After "Drift Away", I had a nice streak where everything I did seemed to hit - for about 23 records in a row and 8 albums throughout the '70s. In '75 I wound up having the single of the year in "Billboard" and in "Cash Box" with "Reconsider Me."
SDL: Great song.
NF: But it was the summer of '75 and I was filming one of the Canadian network TV shows. And I believe that particular time it was "Funny Farm," which was the kind of like a Canadian version of "Hee Haw." I had the day off and for some reason, so I drove down to Ray's house in Burlington with my road manager Harold Boner. We had a good long visit with Ray and his wife that afternoon. Then there was one time later on, I'm guessing '77, I was in Hamilton at "Hamilton Place" with The Statler Brothers and Tammy Wynette. I remember Ray's wife came back stage and talked to me awhile but she said that Ray was in London at the time. I remember her and Lew DeWitt (one of the Statler Brothers) sitting there and talking with me for a while.
The next thing I knew he was gone. Initially I didn't even hear about his death. I went to Paducah to play a date in 1980 and I went out on stage and said "Well it's good to be here in Paducah, Kentucky home of my buddy Ray Smith." And then after the show someone came up and asked me if I had heard about Ray. I said "No". It was then that I learned that he had taken his life in '79.
That's basically an overview of my memories of Ray Smith from the years '57 on.
SDL: Thanks. That's a very interesting and educational batch of memories. I appreciate you taking the time to collect and organize those thoughts.
You mentioned my buddy Stanley Walker. I was going to ask you if you remembered him.
NF: Yeah, I remember Stanley.
SDL: Stanley's a great guy. I talk to him every now and then. He's still working - drives a truck or a tractor or something for the city during the day then gigs every weekend - and still fills the dance floor.
NF: That's good. It's been a long time since I've seen Stanley. I did work a show with him back in the '70s during my hit streak down on Kentucky Lake one time. He and his guys opened the show and I got to visit with him then. It's been a long time since I've seen him. Please tell him I said "Hello."
SDL: Do you have any interesting memories of Ray's other band members?
NF: Ray used to have a drummer way back then who was really wild. I don't know his real name. He went by a name, which wouldn't be very politically correct in this day and time, but it was the only name that anybody ever knew him by. I remember one time he came by the "Paradise Club". He had gotten him a '54 Buick Convertible and wanted to take me and a couple of my band members for a ride in it. Bob Taylor, my drummer was one of them. He took off right down through downtown Cairo. He just opened it up right! Those old Buicks had a red streak that went across the speedometer to show how fast they were going and on this occasion it just went all the way over! He was running red lights and everything like that, with the top down, driving about 120 down the streets of Cairo. He nearly scared us to death! Well, it made my drummer, Bob Taylor, mad and he was about ready to whip him when we got back. That's how wild and crazy some of us were back then.
SDL: So when you first met Ray, you had already done your Sun recordings, right? Did you have any record releases under your belt at that time?
NF: My first record had come out on Mercury along about the time I met Ray. I had recorded for Sun in early '57 but they didn't release anything at the time. Then about a year later his first record came out on Sun it was "So Young." What was the other side of that record?
SDL: "Right Behind You Baby"
NF: Yeah, "Right Behind You Baby". If my memory is correct some of his early things like that, Charlie Rich played piano on and he wrote some of those songs too. He came back from Memphis and told me about Charlie. I guess that would probably have been the first time I heard about Charlie Rich, before he had a record out himself. I wound up being good friends with Charlie and worked a lot of dates with him from about 1960 up until about 1972. Both of us broke through in '73, him becoming a superstar, and me becoming successful with hit records. The two of us were probably the biggest surprises that year. We had both been around a long time and finally broke through in a big way.
SDL: People have told me about how Ray would work in impersonations and comedy into his act. Did he do that when you observed him?
NF: I never did see him do that, but chances are, it was probably true. I had been to some of his shows before and he'd come to mine. Sometimes I would go to places he had just been and I would hear about the things that he would do on stage. But I do think that in the beginning, his biggest fast song influence was Elvis and his slow song influence was Dean Martin.
SDL: Did he do anything you would consider country back in those early shows?
NF: I don't remember him doing anything like that at that stage in his career. When I first met him he was playing guitar and he did go ahead and learn to play piano. And he played piano on some of his shows too. I guess Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich influenced him there. But he was very good at what he did.
SDL: Any other instances of you two crossing paths professionally?
NF: He recorded a song I wrote one time. "Four Seasons of Life."
SDL: You wrote that! I love that song.
NF: I had recorded it for Roland Janes. I wrote it in '63 but I recorded it in '64. I had a single on it and I think Ray did too.
SDL: On the B-C label, I believe.
NF: It was on some little label like that. Then later on up into the early 70's Jim Ed Brown recorded it and Hayden Thompson recorded it and then I did it again for a project that I called "Portrait of My Life." I wrote that song in '63 and the older I get the more sense it makes.
SDL: Well my compliments I really like that song and I didn't realize it was your composition.
NF: Thank you. I was honored that Ray recorded it. I think he did a great job on it.
SDL: Speaking of small labels, what about Celebrity Circle? Do you remember that?
NF: Yeah, that's right. He wound up on Celebrity Circle too.
SDL: That was a pretty small operation wasn't it? Can you tell me more about that?
NF: It was based out of St. Louis. I remember that now. He and I both were on Celebrity Circle at the same time, about 1969. A lady in Texas brought me a poster that had been a full-page ad in Billboard that she had bought on E-bay. It had an ad on me for "Welcome Home Mr. Blues" and I think on Ray for "I Walk the Line." I had forgotten about that and I'm glad you mentioned it. Irving Davis owned the label. He had a PR firm in St. Louis. Ken Keene ran the label. They got into the record business for a while. They released two records on me. Irving gave up real quick on the record business. But Ken is Frankie Ford's manager now. He was the one that was running that label. But I'm glad that you mentioned this, because I had forgotten that connection. So it seems like we both recorded for Sun, we both recorded for Celebrity Circle and for Cinnamon -- pretty much within the same time range. Celebrity Circle and Cinnamon were exactly the same time.
SDL: Lots of parallels there.
NF: Yeah, very much so.
SDL: We were talking a minute ago about Ray's piano playing and how later in life he worked that into his stage show. The Wix label recordings (recorded in Canada in 1978 and 1979) that we are re-releasing on CD are very piano based. That's part of the reason why those sessions were so important. He's not playing guitar, he's playing piano Jerry Lee Lewis style
NF: When I first met him he wasn't playing piano. He was standing up and playing acoustic guitar. Then he got into the piano. So that will be interesting to hear.
SDL: Any favorite Ray Smith records?
NF: Ray was a great singer and he made some great records. He had a great record of "Here Comes My Baby Back Again" back in the early sixties, about the same time Dottie West had it out. I really loved his version of "Maria Elena" on "Traveling With Ray." That album was where I first heard "Little Miss Blue." I wound up doing "Little Miss Blue" in '62. We did a Nashville session on it. I've had people ask me where I came up with that song. It was from Ray Smith. Yeah, I really liked Ray's version of that and I really liked the song that's why I wound up doing it when I had the chance to. This was along about January '62 and I had just gotten out of the Army and was ready to go back in to record again. I did that one and a song I wrote called "I Swear by Stars Above" at the same session, at which we used all of those Nashville A-team pickers.
SDL: We talked about how you played a role in getting Ray into Canada. Are audiences different up there? Do they appreciate different things? Was it Canada itself or was it the Canadian audiences that had such an impact on Ray that he lived the rest of his life there?
NF: What I observed when I first went up there was that they liked the fact that we were Southern and that we had the accent. They liked the way we talked. And they liked the music because there were not many people up North doing our type of Rock and Roll. So they liked that about us. Those of us that got into that circuit and really went over good; they were just wonderful to us. I guess Conway and Hawkins, myself and Ray - they were pretty wonderful to us. Some of the people went up there and it didn't happen. They didn't go over, you know and they didn't go back.
SDL: They must have really loved Ray because apparently he worked his last 10 or 12 years very steadily up there.
NF: Oh yeah! He did. I quit the circuit when it came time for me to have to go into the Army so I opted to join the Army National Guard so I went on active duty to the Army for basic training and so forth for 6 months. When I got out I had to do an every Monday night National Guard drill so that pretty much limited me to what I could do. I couldn't go stay 2, 3, 4 months without getting drafted you know? Because if you didn't keep up your drills, you would get drafted. I had to start going back out and doing weekends and one nighters and things like that, so I had to reschedule the way I did things. So I really couldn't go back to the Canadian circuit. But Ray really went over and was very successful in that circuit from 1959 on. I know he went out on the road when "Rockin' Little Angel" was a hit and went everywhere. But then after doing that he settled back into that circuit up there and stayed there for the rest of his life I guess. With the exception of going out and doing you know some different things here and there.
SDL: I really appreciate you talking to me today. I'm excited about getting to be part of a project involving my idol, Ray Smith. And since you probably knew him about as well as anyone still performing, your help is going to prove invaluable, I'm sure. And it's also a big honor, and very exciting, to get to interview Narvel Felts.
NF: It's my pleasure to do this. I always liked Ray too. And I always respected him as an artist, so just like I told you to start with - I'm glad to be a part of this. History tends to get distorted down through the years and I'm glad to be able to lend my memories to it. Maybe I can help keep things in perspective about him.
SDL: Right, especially when an artist passes away the way Ray did. Unfortunately that's all some people ever remember about him. I appreciate you focusing on the good times, when he was still around and the contributions that he made.
NF: He made a bunch of them. He was a very talented guy and a very likable person.
SDL: Very good then. Before we wrap up here, let's talk about Narvel a little bit. I'm sitting here looking at some of my CDs and one of my very favorites is the one with the old radio broadcasts that you did with Leon Barnett and Jerry Mercer.
NF: I'll tell you how that came about. I had entered a high school talent contest and a disc jockey had heard it in early 1956. I listened to the radio the next day and they said if Narvel Felts is listening please contact the station immediately. It was eight miles to the nearest phone back then. I went out and told my Daddy what they had said. He had to put water in his truck because it was wintertime and he didn't have antifreeze. He drove me out the gravel road to Bernie where the nearest phone was located. I called the station and they said to bring your guitar and come on up. So they gave me and a friend of mine a regular Saturday afternoon radio show called "Country Music Time." I was singing "Mabelline," "Rock Around the Clock," "Baby Let's Play House," "Blue Suede Shoes" and songs like that.
In late March, I believe someone told me it was March 24th; I had just seen Elvis for the first time on T V. He did "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Money Honey." Around that time I was hanging around the pool hall in Bernie with a friend of mine. This guy that was a neighbor of ours said I'm getting ready to go to the Four Way Inn do you want to ride over there with me? So I rode out to this little club in Dudley Missouri. When we got there we paid our admission, 50 cents to get in, and it was Jerry Mercer playing. I knew who Jerry Mercer was because he had a radio show on the Malden station. When he finished the set I went up and introduced myself to him and told him I had a show. So he got back up there he called me up to sing. I did a couple of songs and it went over really good. He invited me to meet him at Bernie the next night. So by the time school was out that year in May, people would say to Jerry, "Well, I'll hire you here if you'll bring that kid along." I started working a few isolated dates that I actually got paid for. Then one day I saw Jerry's '53 Chevy coming down that dusty road and he hired me full time.
It was probably about the end of June that I went to work with him. I had to learn to play the bass to play behind him when he sang. And he would play bass when I sang. His bass player, Calvin Hamm, was getting so busy with his farming that he had to hang it up you know. So those radio shows wound up being cut in that era in time between probably the end of June, early July up until about December 1956. Jerry Mercer got married in mid December and he quit the music business. When I first went to work with him, they were called Jerry Mercer and the Roving Cowboys and so he changed the band name to Jerry Mercer and the Rhythm & Blues Boys. Not long after that the folks hiring us started calling us the Jerry Mercer Band - featuring Narvel Felts or featuring Narvel "Rock and Roll" Felts and stuff like that you know. And then it became Narvel Felts with the Jerry Mercer Band. It just kind of went like that for a few month period. Then he got married, into a marriage with which the music business didn't mix at all, and he quit. So then we, in the middle of December 1956, went into the "Blue Note" in St. Louis as Narvel Felts and the Rockets. We worked through the holidays that year and that's how that came about. The same band stayed with me then, Leon Barnett, Bob Taylor and Jerry Tuttle. J.W. Grubbs played bass.
SDL: I think my favorite moment on there is when you do Gene Vincent's "Woman Love." I love that.
NF: That's probably my favorite too. I do some stupid talking around it but as far as performance, "Woman Love" is, I think, probably my best performance from that era.
SDL: That's good stuff. You guys just sound like you're having so dang much fun doing that.
NF: Oh yeah, we were! That was something in those days.
So that's how that came about. All of those things that survived on tape, I didn't know that they had survived until something like 30 years later. Jerry came out to a date I was playing one night and he said "Man I still got some of them old radio shows." He said you're singing "Be Bop A Lula" and "Maybelline." I said, "Man, I'd love to hear them again!" A little while after that I was in England. My son and I had gone over for what wound up being my first Rockabilly festival or rock and roll show in England. I had been going over doing country festivals for my hit records. But this was different, they had hired me just to come in and sing my Rockabilly records from the 50's. That's what they wanted me to do.
Tony Barrett that has Rock Star Records went to my rehearsal. We actually did this show in Cardiff Wales but the rehearsal was in, I can't think of the name of the town in England right now. Anyway, Tony got back in the car and rode back to where we were staying with me and he said, "Narvel, do you remember if there are any old recordings back home, any old masters?" I told him what Jerry Mercer had said. His eyes lit up and he got very excited. He said "Why don't you check that out for me?" I got back home and Loretta and I contacted Jerry. Jerry gave me the tapes and what we were able to get from them became the LP and later the CD to which you were referring.
SDL: That's great. I'm sure glad that stuff survived.
NF: Yeah, they are a good documentary of the time.
SDL: They certainly are. So it was about 1986 when the popularity of your early rockabilly recordings began to escalate among fans?
NF: Well, it was the first time I actually did that type of show.
SDL: Have you been doing shows like that ever since?
NF: I'm doing country festivals and rock and roll festivals.
SDL: You do about 50/50 then?
NF: I would say so.
SDL: The tributes that you always do to your son are very moving and a fitting tribute.
NF: Thank you. It's something I have to do. We lost our only son 4 1/2 years ago in a car accident. He used to play drums with me. Every show I do a song for Bub. It's not always the same song. I've got three different songs that I go back and forth between. Usually if I have a rock and roll or rockabilly type of audience I do "Since I Don't Have You" because I know that's a song that audience will appreciate - and it also says what I need to say. When I do country shows there's a song called "Even Now" and also "Danny Boy".
SDL: Do you do more of the rockabilly type stuff overseas? Are you finding it more popular over here than it was a few years ago?
NF: It's creeping into America. I've only done two or three things in America that were totally devoted to that, like the Buddy Holly reunion. And I did a thing in Severna Park Maryland back in '89 and more recently a gig put on by Bob Timmers in Combined Locks Wisconsin and of course Henry Harrison's event in Jackson Tennessee in April of 2000. It's just so popular in Europe; in fact I was just over there the last week of February and the first week of March for a country festival in Sweden and then a rock and roll festival in Finland. I'd never been to Finland. The crowd over there was young, you know 20-35, it was wonderful. It was a rock and roll festival. At the country festival I drew people anywhere from 20 years old to about 70. Everything from the motorcycle gangs to people in suits and ties. So it's a little broader range of audience at the country shows. Of course the country audience also expects some of my rockabilly, you know, but more so in Europe than here.
SDL: Didn't you play Hemsby?
NF: Yes, I've done Hemsby twice, October '97 and May '99. Both of them just went over great.
SDL: Yes, I heard you went over big. Someone told me that you wound up on stage laying on your back belting out "Tongue Tied Jill." Any truth to that?
NF: Well at the end of it I laid down on the stage and kicked my feet. That's the first time I'd done that in years. And it really went over good. This last time I did Hemsby; I had the longest autograph line they had ever had there.
SDL: That's wonderful. It's nice of you to do that. Not every musician treats his or her fans with that much respect and we all think a lot of you for that.
NF: I appreciate the people that like me and if anybody wants to meet me at the end of my show, my autograph line, that's all a part of it to me and I look forward to meeting everybody that wants to meet me and to signing their autograph. You know I would feel like I was getting cheated too if I didn't get a chance to do that.
SDL: Well, when I saw you recently in Jackson TN, I'm certainly glad that I went through that line and asked you about Ray Smith. It was a terrific surprise to learn that not only would you be willing to share your memories about Ray Smith and help me with the liner notes, but also that you were down right eager.
NF: I was glad to do it and glad to hear that you were going to be writing some liner notes for a CD by him. I'll be looking forward to hearing it.
SDL: You'll be among the first to receive a copy, you have my word on that.
NF: I haven't heard anything by him later than the Cinnamon recordings.
SDL: Take another listen to the "Rockabilly Hall of Fame Volume 4" CD that Bob Timmers put out (the one with none other than Narvel Felts on the cover.) One of the songs is on there actually; it's track number 13. It's Ray's version of "Me and Bobby McGee." He's playing piano Jerry Lee Lewis style. That was mastered straight from the 45. The sound quality we're going to get on the upcoming "Wix Sessions" CD will be excellent. James Lott will master it, largely from original master tapes, at Sun studio.
NF: Well, I'll get my CD out and listen to that then!
SDL: One more quick question - Do you know anybody else named Narvel?
NF: (laughs) Not really. I've talked with Reba McIntyre's husband on the phone, Narvel Blackstock. He was interested in talking to me. He called me right back when I left a message. He said that for his whole life pretty much he's heard people say "You mean like Narvel Felts?" when he'd tell them his name. So, it's pretty unusual.
SDL: Do you know where it came from?
NF: Well, my Mama told me that she was reading a story, about the time she had me and the character in the story was named Narvel.
SDL: Well you certainly put the name on the map.
NF: Thank you.
SDL: Again, I appreciate your time very much.
NF: Well, you're welcome and should you talk to them please say "Hi" to Lillie and Ray Jr. for me.
SDL: I certainly will. Best of luck in your career and I hope that your success just keeps growing.
NF: Well, thank you so much. Best of luck to you too.
The Rockabillyhall of Fame's RAY SMITH Page
Narvel Felts, Sonny Burgess and Ace Cannon
Posted October 19, 2000
Fall Festival 2000 - Van Buren, ArkansasBy Fan Club Member, Essie Shell
I was fortunate enough to spend several days with a niece in Greenwood, Arkansas during October and attended two of the many festivals being held in the state. First was the Oktober Fest in Columbus Acres outside of Ft. Smith, which benefits children who are terminally ill. Although it was a fairly small festival, attendance appeared to be very good and everyone was having a great time dancing under the pavilion.
Second was the Fall Festival in Van Buren, which started on Friday, October 13 and ended Sunday, the 15th. My niece from Greenwood took me to Van Buren on Friday and we spent the afternoon browsing in the antique shops and boutiques up and down the approximately 6 block, beautifully restored, Victorian Main Street. We stopped by the Calico Goose to buy our tickets for Saturday nights show featuring the legendary Rockabilly and Country music super star, Narvel Felts. Before going back to Greenwood, we made our way to the historic Old Frisca Train Depot to see where they were setting up the outdoor stage, seating and sound equipment for Friday and Saturday's evening entertainment.
Finally, Saturday was here and although rain was forecast for the evening, it never materialized. A light jacket or sweater was comfortable in the outdoor theater setting. Vendors were set up in tents on both sides of Main Street with arts and crafts. There were rides and games for the kids. There was an aroma of smoked turkey legs, gator on-a-stick and onion blossoms in the air. The show started at 7:00 PM with 14 year old Myranda Noelle Weese, who sang music from the Sock Hop era. Then Sonny Burgess and the Pacers took the stage, a band that was formed in 1955 at Newport, Arkansas and performs 50 's music, including Kansas City and My Bucket's Got A Hole In It. Next on stage was the legendary Ace Cannon. Among the songs he entertained us with were Cotton Fields, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, and Yakety Sax.
Around 9:00 PM, Narvel took the stage to a standing ovation. His program included Rockabilly songs My Babe and Great Balls Of Fire. Top hits, Funny How Time Slips Away and Drift Away brought screams and cheers from the audience. At one point, he had some of the people on their feet dancing. He introduced another of his Top hits by saying "Imagine the one you love is marrying someone else and you're at the wedding," then he swung into Somebody Hold Me (Until She Passes By). The Pacers did an outstanding job backing Narvel throughout the show and also as the Shoobie Doo Wah's when he sang Lonely Teardrops. Requests were pouring in from the audience. Most of the songs were already in the script, but someone requested Raindrops and Narvel said it wasn't in the script. There were some sighs of disappointment, but then true to form, Narvel sang it anyhow, accompanied only by himself on guitar. His voice was beautiful and the song couldn't have been any better! Narvel sang Even Now in memory of his only son, Bub, who was killed in an automobile accident 5 years ago on September 14, 1995. The words "When will I see you again....come to my arms where you belong" brought tears to many in the audience. He sang My Prayer, Pink and Black Days and ended the show with his 1975 Single of the Year, Reconsider Me, following with "May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You."
Time had gone by so fast ... surely the show wasn't over! Tonight Narvel was at his very best. The audience gave him a standing ovation, wanting an encore, and he teased them with almost putting the guitar strap back over his head until everyone was yelling, "put it on, put it on." So he did, but not before he called Sonny Burgess and Ace Cannon back on stage to help him with a lively rendition of Shake, Rattle & Roll. It was a Grande Finale to an outstanding show.
As always, Narvel promised to stay until the last person had gotten through the autograph line. It was almost 2 hours later when he joined fan club members Judy Standige and daughter Amy from Muldrow, Oklahoma, myself from Kemp, Texas and Narvel 's longtime friend and fan club member Huey P. Long from Kansas City, for snacks and autographs. Several of my nieces and a great niece joined us as well. The time Narvel spends with us after a show is always a "special bonus" and something we never take for granted ... but we always look forward to it. We all appreciate him sharing himself and his love of music with us.
As the festival was beginning its last day Sunday, the rain had started. We knew Arkansas needed the rain and we were glad to see it, but also happy that it had waited until then. Narvel and his fan club members had breakfast together, said our good-byes, then we all went our separate ways home. I'm never quiet ready to say "good-bye."
Posted March 30, 2000West Point, Kentucky
NARVEL FELTS at MUSIC RANCH USA - March 25, 2000
Review by Adriaan Sturm
Narvel Felts returned to Music Ranch USA in West Point, Kentucky for the third time within a year with some very good news for his fans. As one of only a few artists with charted records in every decade since the fifties, his "Pink And Black Days" started the new millennium high in the independent country music charts in Europe, keeping his amazing streak alive. His show made more than clear why he has endured so long in a business that does not treat it's ageing stars very kindly.
The music business to Narvel Felts has always been a good job. It was a brand-new music called Rockabilly in the late fifties which enabled Narvel to leave the cotton fields and he has not looked back since. Performing to Narvel Felts is much more than getting on stage, singing a couple of old hits, taking the money and leaving town for the next gig. From the meagre times of the fifties and sixties through the hit streak of the seventies and the lean years since one thing has remained a constant in his shows; a genuine love for his audience. His fans understand and return year after year to hear Narvel's great voice belting out a mixture of old Rock & Roll tunes and his country hits from the seventies.
The show at West Point drew a very nice crowd of country music fans who were treated to some unusual songs. Sure there was "Drift Away" his break through hit from 1973 but by special request he also performed the b-side "Foggy Misty Morning" a song he had not done in over a decade. Going back to the fifties he did a great version of Jerry Lee's "Great Balls Of Fire" and a medley of "Long Tall Sally/Rip It Up" which brought him a standing ovation. In "Mountain Of Love" and "3000 Miles", Narvel touched on two of his major local successes from the sixties, both songs that eventually paved the way to his big hits of the seventies. Yes, there was "Lonely Teardrops" and "My Prayer" but also "One Run For The Roses", a song with a special meaning in Kentucky.
His fans know each show contains at least one song in memory of his son Bub who was tragically killed in a 1995 car wreck. This time the audience got a special treat when he decided to do "Danny Boy", the last song on which Bub played drums for his dad. Narvel's amazing falsetto voice easily handled the high parts of the song leaving a tear in many eyes.
The end of the show came much too soon with "Reconsider Me" the record of the year in 1975 and even though he finished the song with a verse of "May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You" it was not the end of the show. A standing ovation brought an encore of the song followed by a rip roaring version of "Heading Home", a throwback to his earliest recordings for SUN Records.
The crowd did eventually head home but not until everybody interested had a chance to meet Narvel for an autograph, a handshake or a picture. Somebody suggested for him to return soon because, "We love your show and nobody sings like you do!"
Roll Over Beethoven
Funny How Time Slips Away
Mountain of Love
One Run For The Roses
Lonely Teardrops ( Encore )
Foggy Misty Morning
Great Balls Of Fire
I'm Just That Kind Of Fool
Pink And Black Days
Long Tall Sally/Rip It Up/Long Tall Sally ( Encore )
Somebody Hold Me
May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You
Reconsider Me ( Encore )
Posted August 31, 1999Narvel Felts made his return engagement at the Music Ranch in West Point, KY on Saturday, August 28, 1999. Having played in the same hall to an audience of only 100 people in late April, this time a near capacity crowd welcomed Narvel to the stage.
Narvel Felts at Music Ranch USA
... STROBE LIGHTS, FALSETTO AND PUSH-UPS!
Review by Adriaan Sturm
After a set of country standards by The Country Classics, the house band at the Music Ranch, and a short intermission the crowd of generally older country music fans settled in to see and hear one of country music's all-time greatest voices. Having just returned from a three week tour of Austria, France and England the opening with Chuck Berry's "Back In The USA", was most appropriate, but the strobe lights used during the song had a lot of people wondering what type of show they were about to watch. Narvel immediately put them at ease by asking to turn the strobe lights off for the night. "That was not may era" he explained before going straight into "Funny How Time Slips Away" showing the audience the first glimpses of what they came for, easily shifting from soft almost spoken words to great falsetto highs. His 1973 breakthrough record "Drift Away" was next and it brought the audience right out of their seats. Genuinely surprised Narvel rewarded them with the first of several encores.
Since the early nineties Narvel's show has become an interesting and highly entertaining mixture of his country hits and songs from his rockabilly roots. Fans of the latter got their money's worth in a great rockabilly version of Little Walter's "My Babe", including some razor sharp guitar breaks and leg, hip and arm movements right out of the fifties. A short encore and a roaring version of "Great Balls Of Fire" were the reward for the second standing ovation of the night. With "My prayer" and "Lonely Teardrops" it was back to the seventies hit streak, showcasing one more time the full range of his incredible voice. Asking the audience for a hand for the band several times he showed his confidence in their abilities when he sang "When Your Good Love Was Mine", a song often left off his live shows because of the degree of difficulty.
After the always impressive "Somebody Hold Me", it was rockabilly time with "Pink And Black Days", the story of Narvel's start in the music business. Already a hit overseas several years ago the song is set for an official US release in September. The strobe light used during the opening number almost made a comeback during the performance of "Everlasting Love", "The only song I ever recorded with a disco flavor". Thanking the crowd for a great evening and "reconsidering him" he started "Reconsider Me", the final song for the evening, which resulted in a standing ovation. A short encore only raised the applause level and Narvel returned to the microphone with the rockabilly stomper "I'm Headin' Home", finishing a la Jack Palance with about 15 push-ups, guitar on back, leaving not only the audience but also himself gasping for breath.
The musical performance behind him, Narvel moved on to the trademark ending of his shows, an autograph party with the audience. "In Hemsby, England earlier this year I ended up signing autographs from 11PM till 3AM the next morning and you can be sure I will be the last one to leave here tonight as well", according to Narvel. It did not take quite that long at West Point but everybody left with the satisfaction of having heard and seen an original rockabilly pioneer and one of the greatest voices in country music.
Current country acts at the Kentucky State Fair, which ran this same week, may have attracted bigger crowds but THE BIGGEST VOICE was in West Point on Saturday Night, push-ups included!
Back In The USA
Funny How Time Slips Away
Drift Away (encore)
I Miss You Even Now
My Babe (encore)
When Your Good Love Was Mine
Great Balls of Fire (encore
Somebody Hold Me
Pink And Black Days
I'm Headin' Home
Posted August 12, 1999As we entered the VFW Hall Friday night right at 9 p.m., July 30th, 1999, 70 miles north of Memphis in Ripley, Tennessee, my two sisters -- Doris and Patsy -- and I separated. As there were no empty tables, we scrambled for seats with other fan club members on opposite sides of the packed dance hall We had travelled all day, close to 500 miles, to see Narvel Felts and anxiously awaited the first of his two shows scheduled for 10:15 p.m. and 12:15 a.m.
NARVEL FELTS SHAKES IT UP
IN BELIEVE-IT-OR-NOT RIPLEY, TENNESSEE
The Bootheel Boogie Band got things rockin' before Narvel arrived, and I was instantly mesmerised by the beautiful, distinctively different voice of Jackson "Jack" Seegraves as he poured his heart into one beautiful song after another including the classic "Last Date" and one of my all-time favorites, Jack Greene's "Statue of a Fool." There were only seasoned pros in this fine trio.
Only later did I learn that Jack had played on some of Narvel's HI recording sessions in the '60s and '70s and that he played bass on the 1997 recordings included on "Ode To Bub," Narvel's CD tribute to his only son Bub who he lost September 14, 1995, in a car accident.
Those recordings included the opening track, "Since I Don't Have You" which has also been released as a single and is climbing up both the U.S. and European charts, "Sonny Man," Narvel's nickname for Bub and a song which he wrote which has also charted, "I'm Headin' Home," the beautiful "Even Now," "Danny Boy," "Go Rest High On That Mountain," and "Ode To Bub."
Narvel began his opening show with a fast number, "Back in the USA." After the cheers, clapping and hollering died down, he told us that it really was good to be back in the USA and brought us up to date on his two-week European tour which included two shows in Austria, a show on the French Riviera, and two shows at the Americana Festival in Newark, England, one Rockabilly and one Country backed by the award-winning Wales group, The Rimshots. All shows were well attended by appreciative European audiences amazed at the unique voice and unbelievable range of Narvel the Marvel aft
43 years in, as Narvel often says, "this crazy business that I love."
Then Narvel took us back to 1978 for a great ballad, "One Run For The Roses," followed by the 1973 hit "Drift Away," which, as he says, "after 30 records and 17 years, it was like the impossible dream coming true. This song set up a hit streak for me which lasted throughout the '70s and somewhat even into the '90s."
Narvel then acknowledged his many fan club members in attendance from his home state of Missouri, from all over Tennessee, Louisiana, and his birth state of Arkansas. He called us all by name and also acknowledged fan club member and childhood friend, Bert McMinn, who had driven from Osceola, Arkansas, to attend.
A special introduction followed for a very special guest, Rosemary Feathers, widow of country legend, Charlie Feathers, who had ridden from Memphis with Shirley, former Charlie Feathers Fan Club President, to catch Narvel's show.
Narvel then remembered Bub as he sang from his heart, "Since I Don't Have You."
Back to 1963 we travelled for Narvel's recording of "Mountain of Love," way before Charley Pride did it. And while he had us out on the dance floor, Narvel took us down memory lane back to his first recording session at 706 Union Street in nearby Memphis on January 23rd, 1957, with the late great Roy Orbison in the control room, Conway Twitty, then Harold Jenkins, with a chair drug up next to Narvel, Johnny Cash and a new piano player, Jerry Lee Lewis, who was yet to have a hit.
With that introduction, we were treated to "Great Balls of Fire," as Narvel reared back and let it rip. How does his guitar take it?
Things were slowed down -- thank goodness! -- with his 1975 Top 10 Hit and the highest charted version of this great classic, "Funny How Time Slips Away." When Narvel ends this number throwing his right hand high in the air above his head, time stands still and the music stops, as he ends with the words a capella, "how time....slips....away." This alone is worth the trip for this Narvel fan.
Another Top 10 number followed, "Everlasting Love," Narvel's contribution to the disco era, with some fine guitar pickin'.
His most requested tear jerker followed, "Somebody Hold Me Until She Passes By." I ran into a lady at Fan Fair, Nashville, Tennessee, this summer, and when she saw my Narvel T-shirt she wanted to know if he "still did that wedding song." Of course I knew instantly she was talking about "Somebody Hold Me." Everyone can picture a jilted lover being tortured as he watches his sweetheart walk down the aisle into the arms of someone else and out of his life forever. What an MTV video this song would be!
Then it was back to 1957 and "I'm Headin' Home," which was actually re-recorded in 1997 as part of "Ode to Bub," having been influenced by Bub's upbeat tempo whenever he would back his Dad on the drums. Bub also used this particular song to "steal the show," dancing around his drums and playing them at the same time while Narvel sang.
Narvel closed out his first show with the 1975 No. 1 Record of the Year on both Billboard and Cashbox, "Reconsider Me" and -- are you ready for this -- he yodelled at the end of this great song. If you haven't heard Narvel Felts yodel, you haven't lived!
Off the stage Narvel dashed over to an autograph line that had already formed and would last until it was time for him to go back on.
His Owl Show started right on schedule with a fast number to get us moving, "Roll Over Beethoven," followed by "To Love Somebody." Narvel then announced that the Shoobie Do Wahs were there. And were they ever. The Bootheel Boogie Band did a great job backing Narvel on "Lonely Teardrops" sung to perfection as only Narvel can sing it.
Paying tribute to his late friend, Charlie Feathers, Narvel strayed from the script which the band had practised for a month, to sing one of Elvis's No. 1 hits which Charlie Feathers and Stan Caster co-wrote called "I Forgot To Remember To Forget." This is Narvel's favorite Elvis song and, believe me, if Elvis could have been in this packed audience, he, too, would have helped give Narvel the standing ovation he deserved for this one.
As Narvel sang this great ballad, Shirley, former Charlie Feathers Fan Club President, added to the atmosphere by proudly waving the sheet music for this song. Shirley has a great scrapbook of mementoes, photographs and letters that she is developing into a manuscript hopefully to be published as a book.
That great Charlie Feathers song, "Tongue-Tied Jill" followed. My sister Doris also thought to tell Mrs. Feathers that Narvel had opened his Hemsby, England, show this past Mother's Day with "Tongue-Tied Jill." She was touched to find out that he had done that.
Then it was back to the script for "I'm Just That Kind of Fool," which, Narvel told us, charted in the '90s and, because it did, it prompted Cashbox to put his picture on its cover. Having first charted in the '50s in 1959, I believe, with "Three Thousand Miles," on into the '60s, '70s, '80s and now the '90s put Narvel in the company of only a handful of artists to chart in five decades. Let's go for six, Narvel!!
The script didn't last long as the requests started pouring in for first a 1972 song, "A Little Bit of Soap." Next was a medley of "Fraulein" and "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes." Back to the script for a 1974 Top 10 Hit, "When Your Good Love Was Mine, which Narvel admitted he doesn't do much anymore because "it seldom ever works," but the Bootheel Boogie Band had done their homework to perfection and never missed a beat during this great number. Narvel congratulated the band on their fine effort.
All throughout the night I noticed that many times the dance floor was full, but sometimes a concert-like atmosphere prevailed when everyone just sat and respectfully listened to Narvel's powerful voice and his on-stage movements as he moved and swayed on stage jamming with each of the musicians inspiring them to give him a hundred percent as he himself gave us 200 percent.
We got to hear the beautiful "My Prayer" next. Then it was on to a request for "Johnny B. Goode," and a special request to do "Somebody Hold Me," with a favor to "do it right this time." Narvel repeated that quote for us, but added, "I thought I did it right the first time." But he sang it again, now way into overtime, but always aiming to please.
Then a grief-stricken couple approached the stage having lost their 16-year-old daughter Samantha in May of this year. With understanding sympathy, Narvel told them to "hang in there, God bless you," and honored their request to do "Since I Don't Have You" again, this time for both Bub and Samantha.
At this point, Narvel pondered out loud, if he had never stumbled from the cotton patch into the music business, would he have always lived in Powe, Missouri, still be picking cotton and still be a virgin. From the looks of the teenage photo of him during his first photo shoot on "Narvel Felts at Rollin' Rock, Those Pink and Black Days," we seriously doubt it. And with that intro, he made his guitar come alive with "Pink and Black Days."
This song takes us back to that era when Narvel's first tour package was performing with Roy Orbison and Eddie Bond. Narvel confided that on Saturday night, July 31st, he would be performing at Eddie Bond's Country Club in Big Hill Pond, Tennessee, east of Memphis and that during his show Eddie Bond was going to be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. I've heard since that it was an emotional night for Eddie and all the other Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductees and that Narvel performed for almost two hours non-stop to a packed house.
Remembering that Jack Seegraves recorded with him for HI Records, Narvel dug into that photographic memory of his and came up with "No One Will Ever Know," a song he hasn't sung since he recorded it. But Narvel, always up for a challenge, turned aside for a moment, strummed a few chords, mumbled a few lines, plugged that song into his photographic memory bank and gave it a whirl. And it was beautiful!! Thanks, Narvel.
When "Everything I Taught Her Was Bad" was requested next, Narvel asked us, "How does that go?" But gamely tackled it. Then chants were heard for "Starry Eyes." "What key did I do that in?" he asked. "I know I wrote it." Again, what a treat to get to hear a favorite song that I'd never heard him sing live in over 40 shows.
Way into overtime now, the Owl Show lasting an hour and 15 minutes, Narvel wrapped things up with "Red Hair and Green Eyes" which can be found on Rollin' Rock and the wonderful "Blue Darlin'" which always makes me think of Bub. Narvel included this classic on his "Ode To Bub" CD and left Bub's count on it. At first, when reading the 23-page booklet that comes with the CD, I didn't know what that meant. Bub's count? What's he talking about? Then as I listened, I could hear a distinctive male voice counting out the beat: "One, two, three, four." Thank you, Narvel, for being so wise.
"May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You" closed out this magnificent show
as we were now into the early morning hours of July 31st.
Narvel offered again to see us in the autograph line and vowed to sign anything we asked him to. The girls took him up on that offer and an hour later he had signed the usual -- CDs, photographs and T-shirts -- and the unusual, a white mini skirt worn by a cute blonde who promised "never to wear it again." Somehow I can picture it framed on her living room wall. And the bare skin of an attractive brunette whose spaghetti strap top had to keep inching down as Narvel wrote and wrote and wrote. What a fun night!!
Sadly, this review is dedicated to the memory of Bert McMinn, Narvel's childhood friend. Little did we know that we were sharing his last few hours on this earth with him. He and his sweetheart, Betty Pyland, returned to Osceola after the show, Bert had a massive heart attack Saturday morning and died at home. I didn't know him very well, but he was a friendly man with a big smile for everybody. Our prayers are with his family and friends.
Bert's son later confided to Narvel that if his Dad could have had one last wish it would have been to see just one more of his shows, which he got to do. He will be missed.
Posted July 20, 1999Hemsby, a sleepy beachside village 130 miles Northeast of London, rocks twice a year as gracious hosts Willie and Varik Jeffrey turn it into the largest Rock 'N Roll Festival in the world. Departing our shuttle bus from London on Thursday night, my three sisters -- Doris, Patsy, Judy -- and I were hurled back into the '50s: the cars, the clothes, jeans with three-inch upturned cuffs, the hairdos, the dancing and of course the Rockabilly music!! Had we stumbled onto the movie set of "Grease" or the TV set for "Happy Days" as we saw three Fonz's before we could even check in?
A CLASS ACT: NARVEL FELTS AND HEMSBY 22
A MATCH MADE IN ROCKABILLY HEAVEN!!
Rockabilly groups from all over the world graced the Hemsby stage from Wednesday night until the wee hours of Monday morning. Of course, the headliner and highlight for us was Narvel Felts who we had travelled thousands of miles to see. We had been fortunate to see many of his country shows in the States, but never a Rockabilly show. Narvel didn't disappoint any of the thousands in the, standing room only, appreciative and knowledgeable Hemsby audience.
Backed by the award-winning Rimshots from Wales, Narvel opened with "Tongue-Tied Jill" followed by a fine rendition of his first single, "Kiss-A-Me Baby and then "Cindy Lou" from 1957. Then onto "My Babe" as he took us back to Sun Records, 706 Union Street, Memphis, Tennessee, January 23rd, 1957 to his first recording session where Conway Twitty (still Harold Jenkins), Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash sat in.
Two of Narvel's six encores came during his powerful rendition of "My Prayer." Narvel, always in tune with his audience's response, repeated the final chorus not once, but twice, hitting those high notes in that beautiful voice of his over and over again.
Then we were treated to "Pink and Black Days" and "Do What I Do," both on his new Narvel Felts at Rollin' Rock CD released by Goofin' Records of Finland. From his Radio Rockabillies LP/CD, Narvel sang "Go Go Go" and blistered his guitar with some fine lead guitar pickin'.
Then it was onto "Headin' Home," one of my personal favorites, first recorded in 1957 and re-released as part of "Ode to Bub" in the late '90s. The two versions are quite different, his '90s release having been influenced by Bub, his son and drummer's fine tempo, who would steal Narvel's shows dancing around his drums while playing this song while his Dad sang. Sadly, Narvel and his family lost Bub September 14, 1995 in a car accident.
Having seen 40 of Narvel's shows in the States, I can tell you that Narvel never fails to remember Bub, speak his name and do a song dedicated to his memory. Sometimes it's "Danny Boy, " the last song they ever performed together in August of '95, in Dyersburg, Tennessee; other times it's been the beautiful "Even Now," both on Ode to Bub, Narvel's CD tribute to Bub. But at Hemsby it was "Since I Don't Have You," his opening track on Ode to Bub, which, incidentally, has been released as a single and is climbing the national charts in both the U.S. and Europe.
His love for a son that he would have gladly died for, had he been given the chance, is so evident and real as he brought tears to our eyes with the words, "I don't have happiness and I guess I never will ever again since I don't have you."
A hushed and respectful Hemsby crowd clapped for many minutes, the only way they could show their feelings until Narvel, on the verge of tears, repeated the ending. It was a touching moment.
Narvel then took us back to '57 and the flip side of his first single, "Foolish Thoughts." He followed that with a 1976 international hit, "Lonely Teardrops," always a crowd pleaser. Then with another Rollin' Rock number, "Shake It Up," Narvel had us all rockin'.
Then we went back to 1957 for his second Mercury single, "Cry Baby Cry," then onto "Did You Tell Me, topping it off with on-stage push-ups before abandoning us and his guitar to leave the stage waving, shaking and kissing hands as he went.
Thunderous applause brought him back; this Sun Records Rockabilly Legend Narvel the Marvel and we were rewarded with "Great Balls of Fire." Throughout the show an animated Narvel bounced around the stage jamming with the great Rimshots who never missed a beat and displaying more energy than men half his age. This is his 43rd year in, as he's said, "This crazy business that I love," and it shows!!
It seemed fitting to me that he both started and ended his show with what I call gibberish, unintelligible words in "Tongue-Tied Jill" and "Great Balls of Fire," after which he laid on his back and kicked his feet in the air. As someone once said in one of his reviews, "a demented upside-down beatle."
After leaving the stage once again, he returned to chants of, "We want more! We want more!" Narvel, always a crowd pleaser, came back on stage, plugged his guitar back in and pondered what to do for his second encore. He took an audience vote and treated us to his powerful voice one more time doing "Did You Tell Me." Then he really had to go, but not before he thanked us in seven languages for being such a receptive audience. He then went into overtime to please us with an 80 minute show rather than a 50 or 60 minute one. Narvel vowed to autograph "until the last person leaves," and did so for over three and a half hours until 3 a.m., autographed anything we asked him to, chatted with each of us from 17 different countries and learned how to say "thank you" in a few more languages.
Narvel Felts, a classy performer, and the Rimshots, an outstanding group in their own right, are a winning combination. Together they put on a truly flawless performance that won't ever be forgotten by this fan.
Thank you Hemsby for a lifetime memory and a chance to see our favorite country singer go back to his Rockabilly roots. This may have been my first Hemsby, but I can't wait to return. My only complaint is the Hemsby Flu, which struck me the day I got home and kept me down and out for a solid month, prolonging this review. But all is forgiven, Hemsby. I'd do it all over again.
At the UK Americana Weekend, July 1999:
Narvel with John Lewis of The Rimshots.
Posted July 13, 1999
A WEEKEND IN THE COMPANY OF NARVEL FELTS
Venue: Newark Showground, Nottinghamshire (UK)
Dates: 7 - 11 July 1999
BY ROD PYKE
Kathy and I left home at 12.30 on Friday 9th July for Newark. The 106 mile drive took about 2 hours. We booked into the Travel Inn, then headed for the Newark Showground to book in for the Americana. We were lucky enough to have been given press passes by the show organiser, Chris Jackson. The Showground was only 2 minutes from the Motel so we soon found the main office and Chris's wife Bev soon brandished us with our passes and security wrist bands. Having got all the formalities out of the way we had a quick tour around the Showground. It was a really beautiful sunny day and temperatures were up in the 80's. The site was a hive of activity, with vintage cars, motor homes, RV's, caravans, food stalls, merchandise marquees, music venues, 5 stages and children's entertainment etc. etc. etc.
An estimated 40,000 people were expected this year and I think most of them were there already. We soon found a programme seller and familiarised ourselves with the site layout and times that the artists were appearing. It was about 6pm now and the first band that we wanted to see were the Railmen who were on at the Lady Eastwood Pavilion (Stage 3) at 9.30pm. We decided to return to the Motel to change, freshen up and have our Evening meal. At 9.15pm we made our way to the Lady Eastwood Pavilion and found a spot close to the stage where I could get some good photos of the trio. The band from Wales consists of Ian Calford (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar), Steve Tomsett (Lead Guitar) and Mark Jones (Slap Bass). This Country/Rockabilly outfit was besieged with sound problems at the beginning of their act due to an inadequate sound person who could not get the sound balance and levels right in the groups monitors. Being true professionals the Railmen overcame their problems and won over an ever increasing audience with a varied mixture of numbers such as Wide Open Road, All Messed Up and Milkcow Blues Boogie. Ian, whose biggest influence is Johnny Cash gave a faultless performance as did Steve and Mark and will have made many new fans after a performance like that.
The next stop was the Main Stage (Stage 1), which was an open-air venue. The evening was cool but did not deter thousands of people from gathering for the night's top of the bill, England's own Cockney Rocker Joe Brown. Joe a favourite with the British public still looks as young as he did when he appeared with Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent in the 60's, I wish I knew his secret. Joe was his usual jovial self, cracking jokes and showing his versatility on guitar, mandolin, violin and accordion. Having recently been to Nashville he treated his audience to several tracks from a Country CD which he recorded there. I was not familier with this side of his act and was surprised at how well he adapted to this style. A lot of early American Rockers turned to Country in later life and now Joe is following in their footsteps. I am more familier with his 1960's material such as "Picture Of You", which reached number one in the charts, and his first album of the same title. I think I enjoyed this set more than when I last saw Joe at the Rockers Reunion in 1998. Backed by his Bruvvers comprising of Phil Capaldi (Drums) Neil Gauntlett (Guitar) and Dave 'Rico' Nilo (Bass), his mixture of Country and Rock 'n' Roll numbers was thoroughly entertaining and went down well with everybody. We all wish Joe luck with his forthcoming tour with Marty Wilde. It was midnight as Joe concluded his act and the long tiring but enjoyable day was now taking its toll on Kathy and I. As we headed back to the Car Park we were already planning our Saturday's itinerary.
SATURDAY 10th JULY 1999
Kathy and I went down for breakfast at 9am and about thirty minutes later Narvel Felts appeared along with his agent Willie Jeffery and Willies wife, Varik. Narvel spotted us and shouted a Hi Rod, Hi Kathy across the breakfast room. Once he had ordered breakfast Narvel came over and spoke to us for a few minutes, and invited us to join him. We finished our coffee and went over to sit with Narvel, Willie and Varik. Narvel told us that he had just been to Austria and France. In Austria he had to do five encores on both of his shows and in France four encores.
At 10.30am we left the breakfast room and went outside and there we met Howard Cockburn, President of the Narvel Felts Appreciation Society. Howard had travelled down from Whitley Bay for the weekend with his friend Stuart Harper. We chatted outside the Motel for a while and Narvel invited us all to his room. It was then that we discovered we were staying in the adjoining room to his. We spent about an hour in there with Howard and Narvel sorting out which songs would be best to perform. With it all sorted Narvel now wanted to rest up for a few hours before his first show, which was to be on the Rockabilly stage at 4.30pm. Kathy and I said our goodbyes and headed back to the Showground. We got there just in time to see what I consider England's rockinest band The Hicksville Bomber. This wild trio did not disappoint anybody and an enjoyable hour was spent by all. Don't forget to pick up their latest CD a must for everybody's collection.
The Rockabeats were next on and we just had time to catch a quick snack. The Rockabeats are a talented young Neobilly sounding band whose ages vary between 10 and 18. This 4-piece outfit have already made 2 albums and appeared on several TV programmes. A very good young band destined for bigger things. Pick up their recent Fast Forward CD and give it a listen. The oldest member of the band was 18 year old Slim Craig (Drums/Vocals) and the youngest was Little Red (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals) who is just 10 years old. The other members are Johnny B. (Lead Guitar/Vocals) and 16 year old Sugar Ray (Bass/Lead Vocals. Don't let their ages put you off they are one excellent group who belie their ages.
The stage was all set for the highlight of the afternoon; Narvel Felts backed by the award winning Rimshots. It was now 4pm as the Rimshots began their set. If it's Rockabilly, Country, Hillbilly or Rock Žn' Roll you want they provide it. Five talented musicians, John Lewis (Rhythm Guitar, Piano and Vocals), Paul Godden (Steel Guitar), Rob Nedin (Lead Guitar), Tony Biggs (Slap Bass) and Mark Kemlo (Drums). The outfit from Wales is one of the most popular bands in Europe and surely it will not be long before they get their chance to prove themselves in America. Their wit, versatility and artistry will, I am sure, make them popular with the audiences in the USA. With performances like this the chance will soon come. With a wide range of songs from Hank Williams ballads to Jerry Lee Lewis rockers they thrilled the audience. Well done lads.
Now for the big moment as Narvel came on stage wearing a grey jacket over his Rockabilly Hall of Fame T-Shirt. He waved to the crowd and went straight into Roll Over Beethoven. At its conclusion he asked everyone to congratulate the Rimshots on their CMA award. This sparked a large round of applause. It was back to music with Kiss A Me Baby followed by one of his Radio Rockabilly songs Go, Go, Go (Down The Line), next up was a Pink recording never before performed with the Rimshots called Cutie Baby. The audience was well behind him by now and he slowed the tempo down now with a 1976 country hit My Prayer. It was then on to an early Sun recording of My Babe. He then introduced the next song as one that he had never performed live on stage before, a track from his new Goofin' Records CD, Narvel Felts at Rollin' Rock. The track was titled Honey Bun.
Pink & Black Days was to follow, a song Narvel had kindly let us use on our RAB HOF label compilation. On its completion Narvel then told the crowd he would like to dedicate the next song in memory of his son Bub who was tragically killed in a road accident. Bub used to play drums for Narvel and the song Narvel dedicated was Since I Don't Have You. This brought a terrific reception at its climax. Things really began to rock with Headin' Home, which featured some fantastic solos from the Rimshots. Foolish Thoughts, one side of Narvel's first recording was next. Another Pink recording, Genevieve from 1959 was to follow, a number very popular in France. He once again got the crowd dancing with Shake It Up. A 50's ballad followed, Earth Angel. Only a short breather and then the place was rockin' again with the Jerry Lee song Great Balls Of Fire filled with several excellent solos by the Rimshots. It also gave Narvel the chance to show his mastery on guitar. It was now time for the Shooby Doo Wah song, Lonely Tear Drops, a big hit for Narvel around the world. He dedicated that to a friend of his seated in the audience, Bernadette. Narvel then took a short while to speak to the audience, explaining about his show on the Country stage on Sunday and saying he would be signing autographs after the show and Howard's Record Rack would be selling his CDs. The last number on this set was Did You Tell Me and as it finished Narvel took off his guitar and shook hands with all the Rimshots and waved goodbye to the audience but the crowd were not going to let him go that easy. He did not need much persuading to come back and do an encore, he chose the Charlie Feathers number Tongue Tied Jill. The show had now over run so there was no more time for another encore although it was being called for. There was just time enough for Narvel to do ten press ups to show how fit he was and then it was off to front of the stage to meet his fans.
When the autographs were all signed Narvel headed back to the Hotel and Kathy and I went over to the main country music stage to see two of my wife's favourite artists The Bellamy Brothers. They are still one of America's consistently popular country duos. Probably best known in the UK for their recordings of "Let Your Love Flow" and "If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body". Howard Bellamy often describes their music as ŽA sun and beach mentality mixed with country roots that has a little more of a laid-back feel to it. A blend no one else has'. Their relaxed and calm appearance and beautiful vocal harmonies capture the hearts of all their audiences. Mixed in with all their country hits they also put in a couple of numbers from their reggae country CD, these went over very well. As I had a backstage pass I was fortunate enough to go on stage and get a few photos from the back of the stage. Their show finished after 3 encores and they were finally allowed to leave the stage. I managed to get a few words with them and some photos signed. I asked them how Americana compared to Fan Fair in Nashville? They answered "The weather is better here for Americana". They were then led off to the autograph tent to meet their awaiting fans.
Food was our next priority so it was back to the Motel Restaurant to recharge the batteries. We joined Narvel and our friends who were already eating, as they had left the Showground earlier. Narvel was pleased at the way the show had gone and was looking forward to the big one on Sunday afternoon. After Dinner we hurried back to the Country stage to see the Amazing Rhythm Aces. This band that had disbanded in 1981, reformed again in 1995 to the delight of all their older fans and have since built up a younger audience with their story telling country style with a soulful groove. They are a very popular band in Australia, where they have just completed their 4th tour. We only managed to catch 4 numbers by them but the crowds were enjoying them. It was now time to rest these tired bodies and prepare for the final day.
SUNDAY 11th JULY 1999
After a hefty breakfast it was time to catch Narvel's country rehearsal with the Rimshots, upstairs at the Cedric Ford Building. It was a large room, which made it very comfortable for rehearsing, and it was nice and cool, which was needed on such a hot day. There were several tracks to run through, as they had never performed a country set together before. It was obvious after a couple of numbers that the band had done their homework and had the backing perfected. It didn't take Narvel long to realise this and you could tell he was happy with everything.
The highlight for me personally was to finally here Narvel sing the Roy Orbison number Crying and what a brilliant rendition he gave it. I think this should be included in his act more. All the songs were perfected in about an hour and so now it was time for a snack and to get over to the Country Music Stage to find a place to watch from. We took a slow walk taking and soaking up all the atmosphere of Americana. Believe me this is an exciting event on a massive scale. It is not just a Country or Rockabilly show. There is something here for all tastes and for all genres. Kathy went off to find seats while I took in the CD stalls and made a few purchases. It was gone 2pm when I met up again with Kathy and she had found a front row seat along with some other friends of ours. We managed to catch the end of the show by Fever a Norfolk based band with a rock edge to country and a huge local following.
The Rimshots were due to start at 2.45pm. It was nearly 3pm when they finally got to start their set and had to cut out several songs as the programme was already running late. Near the end of their set Rusti Steel joined them on stage and sang a Hank Williams duet with John Lewis from their award-winning album. At the conclusion of this Chris Jackson came on stage and made a presentation to them for their Tribute To Hank Williams CD. This was voted the CMA Country album of the year. This got an overwhelming response from the vast sunburned crowd. There was now only time for one more number, Pick A Bale Of Cotton, which started slowly and ended at a deadly pace. A short but crowd pleasing set that got the ovation it deserved. I had managed to put a chair inside the security barrier centre stage so I could video
Narvel's show and I eagerly awaited his appearance on stage. He came out to a great ovation wearing a red silk shirt, black trousers and black shoes. He went straight into I'm So Glad To Be Back In The UK. When the applause had died down he congratulated the Rimshots again on their award. He also told us how many years ago a group that backed him had gone on to great heights. That group of course was Alabama. He hoped that a similar thing could be happening for the Rimshots. He joked that if it did would they let him come and play rhythm guitar for them. Time for music again and the lovely, Funny How Time Slips Away. It was time then for his first big record, which he had waited 17 years for, Drift Away. A very popular song with the crowd who were increasing all the time as Narvel's beautiful voice was being carried on the breeze across the Festival site. The next up was a tribute song for his son Bub whose last appearance in England was just a few miles away at nearby Grantham. A gentle ballad, Even Now. A very emotional heart felt rendition was given by Narvel and everyone responded accordingly. A great favourite of the Austrian people followed, Fraulein. Narvel then reminisced a little about his first recording session at Sun Studios in 1957 and did a song by a then unknown piano player, Jerry Lee Lewis. The arena was rocking with Great Balls of Fire and the Rimshots were giving it everything. A well received number. Narvel then gave a few friends of his in the audience a mention myself included. Things then took a slower pace with Since I Don't Have You. The 1974 hit, When Your True Love Was Mine followed. Another of his hits My Prayer followed and because it received such a warm response he repeated the fabulous ending he gives it. Narvel then thanked the audience for their kindness. His 1973 hit Somebody Hold Me, a personal favourite of mine followed. It was time now for his world-wide hit record, Lonely Teardrops, performed to perfection again and on its conclusion he asked once again for appreciation for the Rimshots, which they duly received. Narvel also told the audience he would be happy to meet every one of them after the show and would be around until the last one left. This got a big round of applause from everyone. Now for the biggy, the Billboard and Cashbox record of the year, Reconsider Me, probably never done better by Narvel in its 20+ years. A standing ovation was given at the end of this number, a favourite with everybody. Time had run out and Narvel had to finish but the crowd was not going to let him go without one more number. He asked them which song to finish with. Crying was the shout, but Narvel asked if they would like a Rockabilly number and the response was an overwhelming yes. Rockabilly it was to be and you could feel the earth shuddering as Heading Home reverberated through the speakers. People were jiving and thoroughly enjoying themselves, but time had run out and this really had to be the end. This was a pity as he was also scheduled to perform Danny Boy and Crying. Before he left the stage Narvel made sure he shook hands and thanked John, Paul, Tony, Mark and Rob personally for their great backing. What a fabulous show, I don't think I have ever seen Narvel perform better and I told him so backstage afterwards. He appreciated these comments. The autograph queue was now growing so he didn't want to keep his many fans waiting. There were people from all corners of Europe as well as the UK waiting to greet him and he kept his promise and met every last one of them. The Rimshots who similarly were getting many well wishers also joined Narvel at the autograph table.
I suggested to John that he got the CMA award and that we photographed the Rimshots with Narvel and the award. This he thought was a good idea. It was about 6pm and time to find Chris Jackson to thank him for a wonderful weekend, made even better by the amazing weather. Chris told me that he has asked Narvel to return again for Americana 2000. So start planning for 7th, 8th & 9th July 2000 now.
We made our way back to the Motel for a final photo shoot and say our goodbyes. Howard and Stuart were the first to leave on their long journey North. Before we left, Narvel invited us into his room for a while to thank us for our support and talk over a few matters. We finally left at 8pm with such happy memories of an incredible weekend.
GENERAL THOUGHTS OF THE WEEKEND
This was our first visit to Americana and we would recommend it to everybody who hasn't been before. A very large site with ample parking and camping facilities. Close to the historical market town of Newark, which has numerous, Hotels, shops and restaurants. The organisation is first class and our thanks go to Chris and Bev Jackson and to all their hard worked staff for their efforts in making it a weekend to remember. With 5 stages there is no reason why you can't find something to satisfy your taste in Country or Rockabilly music. With hundred of vendors on site there is plenty of opportunity to browse or buy. Food stalls to satisfy all tastes. Adequate toilet facilities and first aid posts. A chance to dress up in your western gear or parade your American or vintage car. I could go on and on but it is better that you go and see for yourself in the year 2000.
GENERAL THOUGHTS ON NARVEL FELTS
Narvel is a person I have a lot of time for and he treats everybody as an equal. He always puts his audience and his fans first. He has his own set routine when preparing for a show and always sticks strictly to it. He always aims to give his best and does all he can to protect those unique vocal chords. Narvel is a very popular performer in Europe and is in great demand in the UK, France, Austria, Scandinavia and Switzerland. It is hoped that the excellent reviews that he is getting in Europe filter back to his own country and the American promoters realise what a home grown talent they have within their own shores. I predict that within the next year his services will be in great demand on the US scene.
Visit Narvel's Web Pages at: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/NarvelFelts.html
THREE LOOKS at Narvel rehearsin' those high notes ... man, what a voice!
photo courtesy Harold Hurtliner
Narvel with Paul Peek, at the Golden Fiddle Awards 29th November 1997.
(courtesy Faye Huffman).
REVIEW: Posted June 5,1999
Narvel Felts at the Music Ranch,
West Point, USA, Friday 21st May 1999
by Adriaan Sturm
On his way to AppleSock in Wisconsin, Narvel Felts made a stop at a country music barn just South of Louisville. Here is a review of the show:
In spite of good promotion, including interviews on local country radio, only about one hundred people found their way into the Music Ranch USA at West Point, Kentucky on Friday night May 21,1999, to see a performance by Narvel Felts, a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in Nashville recently.
Upon strapping on his guitar he immediately tore into Del Shannon's "Runaway", a song fitting his powerful high pitched voice like a glove. Several of his hits followed, including "One Run For The Roses", "Fraulein", "When Your Good Love Was Mine", "Somebody Hold Me" and "Drift Away", the country chart topper which opened the doors to country stardom in 1973. "Pink And Black Days", Narvel's tribute to the fifties was the first of several songs connecting back to his rockabilly roots, highlighted by a wild version of "Great Balls of Fire". Leaving instrumental solos mostly to The Country Classics, the local backup band for the evening, during the rockabilly songs Narvel showed his own guitar skills with a series of blistering rockabilly licks. When he ended one song laying on his back kicking his boots in the air he nearly brought the house down. The most touching moment in the show came when he sang "I Miss You Even Now", a song he wrote and recorded after his son "Bub", who played drums in his band, was killed in a car wreck in 1995. Prior to closing the show with "Reconsider Me", the #1 song of 1975, he included "Funny How Time Slips Away", "I'm Just That Kind Of Fool" and "Lonely Teardrops". His voice almost gone due to a bad cold he returned for an encore with one verse and the chorus of "You Gave Me A Mountain", dazzling the audience one more time with his amazing vocals.
After the show he stayed around for autographs, promising he would be the last one to leave and proving it by giving his undivided attention to each and every fan. From the grey haired grandmother who wanted a picture with him to the fifties rockabilly fan with an interest in his SUN days.
The Norwegian "Pink And Golden Days" CD which I handed him for an autograph really surprised him and when I told him about my friendship with Morten Reff, the owner of Fox Records which released the CD, going back to the late sixties and the Dutch Rockville-International magazine Narvel immediately answered with "Dank U Wel" (Dutch for "Thank You"). We talked for several more minutes about his rockabilly roots and his new CD on Goofin Records of Finland, which was recorded at Ronny Weiser's Rollin Rock studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. I wished him a good trip to his next performance at AppleSock in Wisconsin and asked him to say hello to Bob Timmers of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
It was a fitting end to a show by one of country music's outstanding vocal performers. Narvel Felts, now at age 60, can still out-sing and out-perform any act in country music. If you don't believe it, go hear for yourself next time Narvel Felts shows up in your town.
REVIEW: Posted June 6,1999
AppleSock '99, Combined Locks, Wis.
Sunday, May 23rd
by Bob Timmers
Despite a having sore throat and driving all through the day on Saturday, Narvel did a spectacular show for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame at Ryans Ballroom in Combined Locks, Wisconsin. Club owner Bill Verbruggen said, "This was the best show we've here had ever!" I had the priviledge of accompanying Narvel by playing acoustic rhythm guitar. We had put together some fine local musicians: Dave Hersmen, Ken Kliest, Dan Meredith and added Italy's super-picker Marco DiMaggio on lead guitar to back Narvel.
The unique thing about writing this mini review is that I saw and felt the reaction from the stage. The electricty Narvel gives off spreads not only to the audience, but to the musicians on stage with him. His mere stage presence raised the level of performing for all of us.
So much has been said about Narvel's warm personality and talent, it's hard for me to add to that. Thanks, Narvel, for coming to Wisconsin and giving us a show we'll never forget.
Rockabilly Hall of Fame Narvel Felts Site
Official Narvel Felts Homepage Off site
Narvel Felts, The Man And His Music. Get all the facts! Roy E. Combs, Fan Club President - email@example.com
E-mail the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Office
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