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Interview By Steve Kelemen

I was born near Mount Airy, North Carolina on the Virginia side of the line but I call Mount Airy my hometown because that's where I went to the movies, chased girls and played music. My granddad played the harmonica. I remember being impressed by that. Living close to me was a fellow that I don't know if could read or write but he could play the guitar Merle Travis style. He had a thing cut out from a slingshot shaft taped on the neck of his guitar so he could hit keys on the piano. He also had a bucket upside down with a peddle of some sort. He could really make some racket. I was impressed by his music because he played country with a beat. I imagine you would call it rockabilly. He was very good. I first heard people like Fats Domino and Chuck Berry playing what I called rockabilly because Chuck Berry songs have country lyrics and yet are called rock and roll. I also listened to Ricky Nelson, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and my favorite back then - Carl Perkins.


I recorded the song "We're Buggin' Out in the late 50's as you can tell as I mention ponytails and drive-in theatres and such.

I moved to New Jersey in my younger years and went to work at Westinghouse and played music at nightclubs etc.

Someone who knew I played music passed by this machine I operated and he asked me could I write a song for Ricky Nelson. I said I guess I could and wrote "We're Buggin' Out" in about 10 mintues and showed it to him. I was thinking about it and going home to visit my mother in North Carolina and decided to make a demo of it. I got together with Jack & Doug Flemming, two brothers who could play any instrument you could put in their hands. We went to Virginia to a radio station where Jack was the engineer and he had set up a tape recorder with some type of a moving head. It was one of the early tape recorders but a good professional one. He had fixed it so you could get a bit of an echo from it.

We recorded "We're Buggin' Out" and "Before We Say Goodbye" and some others that I lost the masters to. It came out pretty good. I sent the demo to Bla-Mar Music (Murco Records)who I thought could get it into Ricky Nelsons hand. They were in Shreveport, La.

I received a letter back wanting me to sign a contract. They wanted to release a record with me and said that what I sent them was good enough for a master. So I did. I was invited to be on the Louisiana Hayride. I never moved down there because my wife at the time wanted to move back to New Jersey from Virginia. So I didn't even consider going to the Louisiana Hayride. Maybe I should have.

27 years later I met a gentleman from England who had moved to the States and opened a used record store with his wife in Nashville. I was in his record store and mentioned my name. He recognized it and asked if I recorded a song called "We're Buggin' Out". I said yes and how did he know this. He said it was quite a successful record in England. I didn't make any money out of it so I don't know how successful it was. That's the first I knew that the record had gotten some play and this was 27 years later. I'm glad it at least got me some recognition.

I have also recorded for Spark, Granite and Surf Records in the past and still do. I have a new record called "Voting for God" on Surf at the present time. That's about it for my recording career. I did a stunt as a DJ in New Jersey because there was a shortage of country music up there. For a while I had a cable radio station in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. I did that for a couple of years. I also worked at a radio station in Long Branch, New Jersey for quite some time and also at WJRK in Ashbury Park.

Then I worked some for a radio station in St. Augustine, Florida and then back to Albany, New York where I stood in when people went on vacation. If the station wasn't country and didn't allow you to pick your own records I wasn't interested.I found this to be boring after the 3rd day. I would still do a show if I could go into a library and pick out my own records and know my listeners were listening to every song I played. I liked the radio back in those days. I did live broadcasts in Mount Airy. At one time I was on two radio stations doing a live show in the morning at WSYD and then go over to WPAQ and do another show with the band in half hour segments. I enjoyed it.

Some of the people I've been able to meet by being in the music business - As a DJ I was once invited to a Columbia Records birthday party for Johnny Cash in New York City. I had the chance to meet Jack Dempsey in person and talked to him quite a while. I enjoyed that because at one time I thought I could be a boxer but got whipped so many times I gave up that idea.

Down through the years I have met Jim Reeves, Hawkshaw Hawkins (one of my favorites), Clyde Moody and many others. I lived close to Tommy Collins. I helped him do his gardening. I used to love to listen to stories of his past in the music business. At one time Gerry Tallent played bass for me in New Jersey. He went on to be the bass player for Bruce Springsteen.

Eddie Rabbit used to come to the clubs I played when he was around 17 years old. He probably wasn't supposed to be in the clubs but he was a great musician. He would get up with the band and used my steel guitar player, Sparky Spurlock, to do demos with. I knew Eddie was going to be a big star from the first time I heard him. He could write a song in 5 or 10 minutes. I also met Faron Young who was one of my favorite singers of all times. I also had the pleasure of sitting in a dressing room with Lefty Frizzel while he played a whole upcoming album on just his guitar.

Some of the songs I have recorded through the years are "Don't Be Somebody Else's Baby" which got quite a bit of play. One of the most radio played in the U.S. that I did was a tribute to Johnny Horton - "So Long Johnny So Long". I did get a lot of radio play in the U.S.

I've always got good radio play overseas also. They still like pure country over there. I'm glad we still have a few outlets to be played in.

Page Posted September, 2004

Rockabilly Hall of Fame