Posted June 16, 2003
A friend sent me all kinds of "stuff" on Sammy Masters, and I thought I'd write you because of the handy click-on to the RHOF. I am Jimmy Bryant's sister, Lorene Bryant Epps and anything with my brother Jimmy's name in it perks up my interest. You know Jimmy's musicwas referred to many times as rockabilly style, although we all know he was known as playing mostly country jazz. The friend I'm refering to lives in Estonia, Europe and the reason he contacted me was about the Biography I wrote about my brother: Jimmy Bryant, Fastest Guitar In The Country. He heard about my book word of mouth and looked up my website. I've been shipping the booksout to many countries. (They're selling well over here too.) The GMHOF and The CMHOF both are selling them, plus others like JK Lutherie. I thought you may be interested in spreading the word about Sammy Masters and also Jimmy Bryant. Great subjects. The Fender Co. is building a Jimmy Bryant Signature Telecaster that will be unveiled and presented to Jimmy's son in July at the NAMM Show, Nashville,in July this year. During that same period of time the CMHOF is having a book signing for me.Another thing that's being done this year is Sundazed Music Co out of NY is reissuing a three CD set that will be out in November this year. Jimmy's son is doing a CD featuring stuff that Jimmy never recorded. So much sincemy book came out. It seemed to start a landslide! I'm so glad because I've promoted Jimmy in many ways since he died in 1980. Thanks for "listening." All my addresses are below. Lorene
R.N.,Author,Publisher: LBEBooks
9050CoffeeRoad Hahira, GA 31632 USA
229-794-3547, 229-560-6863 - -

UPDATE: December 19, 1999

UPDATE: June 22, 1999
  • ROD PYKE e-mailed Sammy re the questions people were asking yesterday and Sammy was only too pleased to provide the answers. Sammy is very keen to do a tour of Europe and if anybody is interested in booking him please e-mail me and I will forward your e-mail address to him.
    SAMMY'S REPLY: Hi Rod, I would like for you to forward my answer re Pink Cadillac. I wrote Pink Cadillac in 1955 and recorded it for 4-Star records in early 1956. During that same period I wrote and recorded on 4-Star, Some Like It Hot, Whop-T-Bop, Flat Feet, 2-Rock-a-4, Angel, My Heart Is a Hobo, Jodie, If I could See The World Through The Eyes Of A Child, and Tall Grow The Sycamore. Prior to 4-Star I wrote and recorded on 78rpm, Lost Little Nickel In The Big Jukebox, May I Call You Darling, Crazy River, and Aint Got You. After 4-Star I wrote Rockin' Redwing, Lonely Weekend, Charlotte In Her Pink Corvette. I recorded these songs plus Never written by Terry Fell who owned Lode Records. Johnny Todd was an alias the record company wanted to use because of contractual concerns. Sammy Masters and Johnny Todd are one and the same.
    I am still playing and writing and have new recordings of songs I wrote in the 50's and early 60's.I hope to be able to tell you when they will be released in the near future.I am purging my garage files filled with many tapes and acetates from the 50's.I believe you will find them very interesting.Keep on Rockin' and keep on asking questions.. the answers you get may be good for your soul and great for rock'n roll (rockabilly that is). Best Regards, Sammy Masters

    Ian Wallis recounts the career of one of the great unknowns of rockabilly and country music who made his first visit to the UK in October 1998 to perform at the Hemsby Rock 'n' Roll Weekender.

    Apart from one medium chart hit in the 50s, Patsy Cline fans may recognise his name as the writer of If I Could See The World (Through The Eyes Of A Child) and Who Can I Count On.


    Over the last twenty years or so we have been fortunate to enjoy appearances in Europe by many of the original American rockabilly singers. However, one man who has remained elusive until now is Sammy Masters, one of the Great Unknowns, who is best remembered for one medium sized hit on the US charts and a fistful of red hot rockabilly tracks cut in the mid-Fifties for a small California label.

    Sammy travelled to England for the first time in October 1998 to participate in the Hemsby Rock'n'Roll Weekender. As more information about his career becomes available to us, we find him to be a talented singer and songwriter. His story should prove of interest to rockabilly and country fans alike. Born in Sasakawa, Oklahoma where his father was an oilfield worker, Sammy Masters was something of a child prodigy. Although the only member of his immediate family with any musical background was his grandfather, a violin teacher, he performed his first live radio show from the Cains Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1942 at the age of 12, along with the legendary Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

    The Masters family moved to California while Sammy was still in high school but he was soon singing with bands in the Los Angeles area. Around 1950 he recorded for the first time for Connac Records of Santa Ana. This resulted in a 78 rpm release, The Last Little Nickel In The Big Juke Box, an uptempo novelty that secured quite a lot of local radio play at the time. Both this and the follow-up, a country swing number titled Crazy River, are now almost impossible to locate, and it is unlikely that any copies ever found their way over to Britain.

    By 1953 Sammy had started making demos for Bill McCall's Four Star label in Pasadena and was also becoming a most proficient songwriter. One of his compositions, Turn The Cards Slowly, became a minor hit for Patsy Cline on Coral. Around this time he also joined Spade Cooley's western swing orchestra for a spell but, as Arnerica's musical tastes were starting to change, he adapted his style to perform the new rockabilly music which was catching on fast right across the nation.

    In 1956 Sammy Masters and his Rocking Rhythm, comprising Ralph Roe (lead guitar), Jerry Miller (steel) and Jimmy Randal (drums) cut at least five rockabilly tracks for Four Star. At this time, Sammy had a day job working as a used car salesman in Los Angeles, and he wrote Pink Cadillac about one of his customers. This was a primitive piece of rockabilly with sparse backing and a driving beat. Coupled with the equally good Some Like It Hot, Pink Cadillac became Sammy's first release on Four Star.

    The label was well established in California with a roster of country artists that included Hank Locklin, Carl Belew and The Maddox Brothers, and this excursion away from mainstream country proved to be moderately successful for it.

    Pink Cadillac showed up in Cash Box regional charts where for a time it was running neck and neck with Roy Orbison's Ooby Dooby. It became sufficiently well known to attract a rather weak cover version by Rusty Draper on Mercury. Strangely, although neither version of Pink Cadillac charted nationally, Masters' track was leased to Modern Records a year later and re-launched with his name changed to Johnny Todd. The follow-up single, Whop T Bop, stayed with the rockabilly style. It was launched twice by Four Star, first coupled with Flat Feet, and then with 2 Rocks 4, maintaining the same high quality although possibly not commercial enough for serious chart potential.

    Sammy was working regularly on the West Coast. He recalls playing the Town Hall Party with The Collins Kids, the prestigious Jack Benny Show, and a lot of club work performing both rockabilly and country. His band, the Rocking Rhythm, shifted personnel but at different times included both James Burton and, later, Glen Campbell on guitar.

    Having failed to hit the jackpot with his rockabilly recordings, Four Star tried a ballad, Angel, and then a novelty rocker, Jodie, without success, although the flipside of the latter, If I Could See The World (Through The Eyes Of A Child), was recorded by Patsy Cline in December 1957.

    The last years of the Fifties found Masters working as a staff writer for American Music until Terry Fell, owner of Lode Records in Norwalk, California, took him back into the studio where they re-worked an old folk song which, with new rocking lyrics, became Rockin' Redwing. This time Sammy had found that elusive hit and when the record was picked up by Warner Brothers and gained the benefit of national distribution it climbed into the Billboard charts and, by May 1960, had reached a peak of #64. Rockin' Redwing fell short of being a major hit but nevertheless sent Sammy Masters on the road right across the States playing sock hops and dances as far as Delaware, and to Philadelphia for the Dick Clark Show, along with Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker. The record itself was a novelty rocker, very bouncy, with teen lyrics and some dirty sax work, every bit worthy of hit status and superior to much of the watered down pop rock that was being released that year. Ernie Freeman made an instrumental cover version. Unfortunately, it was to he only fifteen minutes of chart fame for Sammy Masters. His follow-up, Golden Slippers, was again leased to a major label, Dot, but neither this nor another novelty, Pierre The Poodle, made the grade.

    One day in 1961 Sammy was backstage at the Huntingdon Park Ballroom after a Sunday afternoon television show that also featured Johnny Cash and Ray Price. Willie Nelson was relaxing and picking his guitar. He had a new song, which was being offered to Patsy Cline, She badly needed something good to follow her biggie, I Fall To Pieces. Sammy took the opportunity to pitch one of his songs, Who Can I Count On. A few weeks later, Patsy's classic recording of Nelson's Crazy came out with Who Can I Count On as the B-side. It is estimated to have sold more than 5 million copies to date. Who Can I Count On was not a new song when Patsy recorded it. It had first come out on Silver Records by Jewel and Eddie a few years earlier, with Eddie Cochran playing guitar.

    It was later recorded by such as Bobby Darin and Wayne Newton. Over the next two decades Masters continued playing music in southern California. Records appeared during the Sixties on Kapp, Dot and his own Galahad label, including an album, May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You. One single on Kapp, A Big Man Cries, scored well enough to justify a British release on London - his only other UK record was Rockin' Redwing. During the Sixties and Seventies, however, Sammy concentrated mainly on TV production work. At one time he was producing as many as six different programmes in a week, including the popular shows, jukebox Saturday Night and Country Music Time. He has cut back on his television commitments in recent years but still plays eighty dates a year, including an increasing number of rockabilly gigs.

    A brand new CD, Everybody Digs Sammy Masters, has just been released by Dionysus Records of Burbank, California featuring an interesting selection of tracks including Sag Drag And Fall, Four Walls and Werly Fairburn's Telephone Baby. The musicians include Deke Dickerson on acoustic guitar and Ray Campi on bass.

    Accompanying Sammy for his first British show was his longtime guitarist Carl Walden with whom he has worked for a staggering 37 years. Walden has also played with The Collins Kids and written songs with Larry Collins. It is always a pleasure to welcome rockabilly legends on their first trip to the UK. A lot of people looked forward to seeing Sammy Masters on stage after a wait of more than 40 years. It turned out to be a night to remember.

    With kind permission by

    Rockabilly Hall of Fame