Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Music

“Meet Me in Dallas, On June the 23rd…”

jeannie-c-riley_flickrJeannie C. Riley

by Paula Bosse

Until last week, I don’t think I’d ever heard the 1969 song “The Back Side of Dallas,” sung by Jeannie C. Riley, who had had the blockbuster hit “Harper Valley PTA” the previous year. How have I never heard this? I was going to post it last week until I realized that it would be better to wait until today, because of this line from the song: “Meet me in Dallas on June the 23rd, his letter read.” And here we are, June 23rd.

The song, written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice was released in October, 1969. It wasn’t the huge, crossover, multi-award-winning monster hit that “Harper Valley PTA” was, but it did earn Jeannie another Grammy nomination (she lost to Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” — if you’re going to lose, that’s a pretty great performance to lose to!).

Like “Harper Valley PTA,” it was one of several songs of the era which brought country music into the somewhat seedy realm of 1960s American culture. “The Back Side of Dallas” is about a small-town girl who finds herself a lonesome “working girl” in Dallas, chain-smoking king-size cigarettes, drinking in dingy bars, and popping pills. This ain’t no Kitty Wells song, y’all. (I’d love to hear Miranda Lambert — who also has an incredible country voice — cover this.)

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Jeannie C. Riley — born in Anson, Texas in 1945 — was one of the first certifiable sex symbols in country music, always gorgeous, outfitted in miniskirts and go-go boots, with sky-high hair teased to a fare-thee-well. AND she had an absolutely fantastic voice. Below is video of a 24-year-old Jeannie C. Riley singing “Back Side of Dallas” on Del Reeves’ Country Carnival in 1969 (Del Reeves had some great songs in the ’60s, but his TV persona was a little too Dean Martin-wannabe for my taste … and … oh dear … that set!):

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I prefer the studio version, below. I’ve listened to this song dozens of times now, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet!

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And here’s Jeannie singing it in 2011, still sounding great! (Her thick Texas accent is the absolute best, and her laugh is fantastic.) She talks about the song a bit at the beginning with Jerry Foster, one of the writers of the song — the song itself starts at about the 3:10 mark.

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And, to round out this “June the 23rd” post, a few photos of Jeannie C. — surely one of the most photogenic faces and bad-ass vocalists in the history of country music. As my father used to say, “hot damn.”

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Sources & Notes

Most, if not all, photos of JCR from Pinterest.

Record label image found here.

A biography of Jeannie C. Riley is here.

“Harper Valley PTA” — you know you want to hear it. This is a great live version she did on, I think, the Wilburn Brothers Show, with Harold Morrison on dobro.

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Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Country Music — Every Saturday Night on Channel 11

country-music_saturday-night_channel-11_ktvt_1969The warm-up for wrestling…

by Paula Bosse

I have a surprisingly deep knowledge of classic country music. And it can all be traced back to sitting with my father every Saturday night as he watched the jam-packed lineup of country music TV shows on KTVT-Channel 11.

Followed by wrestling.

Which I also have a surprisingly deep knowledge of. If only by osmosis.

Thank you, Channel 11, for providing this bonding time with my father, which I didn’t really appreciate as a child, but I do now.

(And, yes, I’m happy that my antiquarian bookseller father and Comparative Literature-degree-holding mother often took our family to the Sportatorium to see both country music package shows and wrestling matches. You can’t say our family wasn’t well-rounded.)

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1969 ad from an odd little local publication (which probably used to belong to my father) called Country and Western — The Sound That Goes Around the World, published in DFW by PegAnn Production.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Whittle Music Building — ca. 1956

whittle-music_elm-and-murphy_flickr_red-oak-kidSouthwest corner of Elm & Murphy… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the very attractive home of the Whittle Music Co., which sat at 1108 Elm Street on the southwest corner of Elm and Murphy. It was built as a two-story building in 1892 for the A. Harris Co., one of Dallas’ earliest department stores. A third floor was added in 1899. A. Harris Co. eventually outgrew the building, and, around 1914, it moved into several floors of the Kirby Building. In August, 1941, the Whittle Music Co. moved in from their previous nearby location. The company which sold “everything musical” (instruments, radios, phonographs, records, sheet music, etc.) was happy to move into the larger building, which included a basement, an auditorium for performances, meetings, and recitals, and several large display windows to better feature their large selection of pianos (the building was apparently the first store in Dallas designed to include large windows in which to prominently display merchandise to passersby).

D. L. Whittle (1879-1970) came to Dallas in 1912 and was involved in several businesses (including selling Wurlitzer pipe organs and co-owning the Crystal Theater). He became president of Western Automatic Music Co. (which sold electric player pianos) and eventually changed the name to the D. L. Whittle Music Co. A few years later he sold the business to Howard Beasley who decided to keep the Whittle name. (See the 1968 Sam Acheson interview with Whittle at the bottom of this post for more information about Mr. Whittle and his memories of Dallas in the ‘teens.)

Whittle’s became one of Dallas’ premier music companies, selling instruments and recorded music, offering lessons, hosting performances, etc. According to a Dallas Morning News article by Kent Biffle, customers included Van Cliburn and Arthur Rubinstein, and “Al Jolson once sold tickets to one of his own shows” at the store’s ticket window (DMN, May 31, 1964).

Business was flourishing and all was going well, until the early 1960s when it was announced that the block the building was on (as well as other adjacent blocks) was set to be bulldozed to make way for the construction of One Main Place. Interestingly, Whittle’s and the Dallas, Texas Corp. (developers of One Main Place) agreed to a land swap: the music company would get land in Oak Lawn and a fancy new building built on it in exchange for the Elm Street property. Only after Whittle’s had taken occupancy of their new home would the 63-year-old building be demolished. (Seems like a pretty sweet deal for the Whittle company — perhaps the fact that D. L. Whittle was a major stockholder of the Texas Bank & Trust Co. — which had ties to the One Main Place project — was a factor.)

Whittle’s moved into its new location at 2733 Oak Lawn in March, 1965. Not only was it a nice new building, it also finally had “ample parking.” Whittle’s ceased operations sometime in … the ’80s? … but the George Dahl-designed building still stands, here.

I’ve never been a huge fan of One Main Place, but it was a VERY BIG DEAL in the late ’60s. It was envisioned as an entire complex — One Main Place, Two Main Place, and Three Main Place — but only one building was ever built. Yeah, we got another tall building out of the deal (the symbol of “dynamic growth!”), but the view of the attractive three-story building in the photo at the top of this post is, let’s face it, far more aesthetically pleasing than the same view today. Sorry, little building. I wish you’d survived.

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Most images and clippings are larger when clicked.

harris_moving_dmn_112092Nov. 20, 1892

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1894

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1899

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1918

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1919

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1919

ad-whittle-music_1922-directory1922

ad-whittle-music_bryan-street-high-school_1927-yrbk1927

ad-whittle-music_tx-almanac-1945-461945

whittle_dmn_030765_final-week-downtown
March, 1965

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Sources & Notes

Original source of photo at top is unknown — I found it on Flickr, here. The Oliver Luggage Co. appears to have been a next-door neighbor for only a year or two, beginning in 1956.

I was one of thousands of school children who bought instruments and sheet music from Whittle’s on Oak Lawn. I always liked going into that cool building. I had no idea George Dahl designed it. It looks like the Dallas Historical Society has the Whittle Music Co. collection. You can see a ton of thumbnail images here. Here are a couple of those thumbnails blown up (apologies for the picture quality) — the Oak Lawn store:

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Too small? Click it!

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Tiny Tim — In Dallas (…Separately), 1969

jimi_wfaa_hamon_smu-1The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Love Field, 4/20/69 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

My Tiny Tim post from a few days ago has been surprisingly popular — who knew Tiny Tim was still so admired! I tracked down the original source of one of the clips I’d used — which I had stumbled across on YouTube — and found that the clip comes from a longer video of footage from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, housed at the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. Jeremy Spracklen — the Moving Image Curator — compiled the short video (see below) and posted it a couple of months ago on the Hamon Library blog. The Tiny Tim footage is great, but there’s also Glen Campbell (in a very short discussion on the importance of Tommy Smothers to his career), and… oh my god, footage of Jimi Hendrix, standing on the tarmac of Love Field with bandmates Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding on April 20, 1969, giving a great, relaxed interview to a very lucky Channel 8 reporter.

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Jimi Hendrix appeared at least 4 times in Dallas:

  • Feb. 16, 1968: Fair Park Music Hall
  • Aug. 3, 1968: Moody Coliseum, SMU
  • April 20, 1969: Memorial Auditorium (where he was headed after the Ch. 8 interview)
  • June 5, 1970: Memorial Auditorium

hendrix_dmn_072868
July 28, 1968

Two surprising errors (grammatical and factual) appear in a Neiman-Marcus tie-in ad (of sorts) which states that Jimi would be at Memorial Auditorium, rather than Moody Coliseum. Despite the error, it’s cool that Neiman’s was expanding its cultural horizons to include someone like Jimi Hendrix in one of its ads (which was featuring teen fashions, but still). N-M has always had its finger on the pulse of current fashions — and Jimi Hendrix was certainly fashionable.

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July 31, 1968 (ad detail)

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April 20, 1969

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Jimi & Noel Redding, WFAA-Ch. 8, April 20, 1969 (screenshots)

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June 5, 1970 — poster via

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Glen Campbell was in town for several days in June, 1969. He arrived at Love Field on June 15 and was met by a “high-spirited throng” of teenage admirers. He was here to promote the release of the movie True Grit (in which he appeared with John Wayne), as well as to perform at Memorial Auditorium on June 19, 1969.

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June 19, 1969

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WFAA-Ch. 8 interview, June 16, 1969 (screenshot)

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And Tiny Tim was in Dallas on June 17, 1969 to appear at a book-signing at the downtown Sanger-Harris department store.

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June 17, 1969

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WFAA-Ch. 8 interview (screenshot)

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Sources & Notes

Video is from the WFAA Newsfilm  Collection, held at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. (I have captured the color images from that video.) The video appeared in a post on the Hamon Library blog (its homepage is here); that post can be found here. Any requests to license these clips (or any of the other thousands at SMU!) should be directed to curator Jeremy Spracklen.

Hit the Dallas Morning News archives to find a little pre-Music Hall interview with Jimi Hendrix conducted by “YouthBeat Editor” Marge Pettyjohn: “A Real Experience” (DMN, Feb. 25, 1968).

While you’re in the archives, check out the interview with Glen Campbell at Love Field amidst the frenzied teenage girls: “High-Spirited Throng — Fans Mob Glen Campbell at Airport”  by Maryln Schwartz (DMN, June 17, 1969).

All photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Holy Blues: Blind Willie Johnson and Arizona Dranes — 1920s

johnson-dranes

by Paula Bosse

Today a little Sunday-go-to-meetin’ music, courtesy of two powerful singers who recorded at about the same time — late 1920s — and who both spent time in Dallas. Blind Willie Johnson was from Marlin, Texas, but he recorded much of his music in Dallas and regularly played street corners in Deep Ellum. Arizona Dranes, also a native Texan, lived in Dallas for several years and was, like Johnson, blind. Listening to both of them, you can hear their influence in the gospel and blues music that came after them. Read about the short life and career of Blind Willie Johnson here. Read about the life and career of Arizona Dranes from Michael Corcoran, here and here. And listen to their music below. It’s fantastic. (All of the tracks by Johnson were recorded in Dallas.)

blind-willie-johnson
Blind Willie Johnson, 1927-ish?

That guitar!

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Here he is with his wife singing behind him.

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Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was included on the Voyager Gold Record, a collection of music chosen to represent Earth’s culture and diversity, carried into space aboard the Voyager.

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Arizona Dranes in 1953

That voice!

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The song below starts off deceptively “plinky” but picks up considerably when Arizona starts to sing.

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Want to know more about Arizona Dranes? Michael Corcoran can tell you what you need to know.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Teen-Age Downbeat”

teen-age-downbeat_broadcasting-mag_051859_detWBAP’s “Teen-Age Downbeat,” 1959 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

“Teen-Age Downbeat” — Fort Worth’s answer to “American Bandstand” — debuted on WBAP-TV in January, 1958 — in COLOR. It featured teens from the Dallas-Fort Worth area (…or maybe I should say from the Fort Worth-Dallas area…) who would play and dance to their favorite records. The host was WBAP broadcaster Tom Mullarkey (seen above at the left, wearing the red vest). The show was quite popular and lasted as best I can tell, from January, 1958 until July, 1961 (the last mention in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was July 1, 1961). I’m guessing those kids danced to a lot of Fabian.

teenage-downbeat_fwst_010558FWST, Jan. 5, 1958

teen-age-downbeat_sponsor-mag_080860“Sponsor” trade magazine, Aug. 8, 1960

teen-age-downbeat_unt-lab-bandNorth Texas State College’s Lab Band with director Gene Hall

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FWST, Feb. 26, 1961

teen-age-downbeat_broadcasting-mag_051859
“Broadcasting” trade magazine, May 18, 1959

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Sources & Notes

The color photo (which appeared in a full-page WBAP ad in the trade magazine Broadcasting) shows non-teen Tom Mullarkey watching over the dancers from Arlington Heights High School, as the Polytechnic High School Stage Band plays some happenin’ tunes. (I do see two Dallas high school pennants in the photo: Crozier Tech and Sunset.)

The photo showing director Gene Hall with the North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) Laboratory Band was found at UNT’s Portal to Texas History site, here. The photo is not dated, but a blurb in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram mentioned that Hall and the band were to appear on “Teen-Age Downbeat” on Feb. 5, 1959.

All pictures and clippings larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Under the Paw of the Tiger: Taking the Cocaine, Morphine, and Opium “Cure” — 1890s

ad-dallas-ensor-institute_souv-gd_1894“No cure, no pay…”

by Paula Bosse

In the 1890s, Dallas had a big cocaine problem. And a big morphine problem. And a big opium problem. In fact, the whole country did. Before the over-the-counter dispensing of these drugs was made illegal, they were easily obtained in any drugstore. Cocaine was especially cheap: a nickel or a dime (the equivalent of about two bucks in today’s money) could get you plenty. Things seem to have hit the breaking point in Dallas in 1892, with scads of lurid cautionary tales about crazed and doomed hopheads filling the papers, but the problem had been building for a while.

With this sudden surge in readily available opiates came the surge in institutions attempting to help the addicted kick their habit. Between 1893 and 1895 or 1896, there were three such places one would could go to “take the cure” in Dallas: the Dallas Ensor Institute (which was located at what is now 1213 Elm Street, between Griffin and Field, where Renaissance Tower stands now), the Hagey Infirmary (in what is now the 2100 block of Main, just east of Pearl), and, most famously, the Keeley Institute (which for many years was on Hughes Circle in The Cedars, just south of Belleview, between S. Akard and S. Ervay). The first two  were gone after only a couple of years, but the Dallas branch of the then-famous Keeley Institute lasted in Dallas at a few different locations until at least 1936.

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The text of the 1894 Dallas Ensor Institute ad above:

No Gold – No Mineral
The Dallas Ensor Institute
For the Cure of
Liquor, Morphine, Cocaine
and Tobacco Habits
No. 287 Elm Street,
Opened in the City of Dallas on the 1st day of July, 1893, and has successfully cured Two Hundred and Sixty-Three people all told, who are to-day sober men with the exception of three.
We Guarantee a Cure in every case, to the entire satisfaction of the patient, or it COSTS HIM NOTHING
REMEMBER, NO CURE, NO PAY.
Consultation Free and Correspondence Solicited.
Address Lock Box 367.
C. B. BEARD, Manager
Call and see us

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The more widely known Keeley Institute opened in Dallas around 1895 (click ad for larger image).

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Dallas Morning News, Oct. 31, 1895

The text is worth a read of its own:

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It’s interesting that the Keeley ad and the Ensor ad both admit to being less than perfect in their success rate — to the tune of “three.” I wonder if they were the same three people?

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Even though the addiction rate was getting to be something of an epidemic — especially, it seems, among women — pharmacists were split on whether to appeal to the city council to ban sales of these drugs unless ordered by a doctor. While all of them saw first-hand the hopeless addicts who came in every day proffering scrounged dimes, many were loath to lose the steady business — they were making a pretty good living. According to the article below — which describes what was going on in Dallas at the time, narcotic-wise — it wasn’t until late 1901 that the city council outlawed the sale of narcotics unless accompanied by a prescription; the State of Texas enacted a similar law four years later. Not that that stopped people from continuing to “hit the pipe” (a phrase I was surprised to see was around in 1910), but it probably did save many lives in the days when addiction was not very well understood and was not very effectively treated.

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Sources & Notes

Dallas Ensor Institute ad from the Souvenir Guide of Dallas (Dallas: D. M. Anderson Directory Co., 1894).

Interested in more on a druggy Dallas?

  • See an ad for the Hagey Infirmary in my post “Hagey Infirmary, No Patient Too Frail — 1894,” here.
  • See my post “‘Delusions of Affability’ — Marijuana in 1930s Dallas,” here.
  • And, heck, see my other cocaine-related post, “New Year, New Teeth — 1877” — about a dentist who might have been dipping into his own medicine chest a little too frequently — here.
  • See the Dallas Morning News article “When Dope Sold Like Aspirin,” by Kenneth Foree (DMN, Sept. 5, 1951) for a really interesting look at Dallas during its first wave of drug problems. Imagine, if you will, the sight of a woman so in need of a fix that, despite having vehemently assured the druggist only moments earlier that the “medicine” she was purchasing was not for her, she began to lick the bottle before she even left the store. Cocaine is a hell of a drug….

The song referenced in the Foree article mentioned above is “Take a Whiff on Me,” which Lead Belly — who played around Deep Ellum in the ‘teens and ’20s — recorded in the 1930s. One of the verses of the song sometimes called “Cocaine Habit Blues” has a Dallas shout-out: “Walked up Ellum and I come down Main / Tryin’ to bum a nickle just to buy cocaine / It’s oh, oh, baby take a whiff on me.” Hear his version of the song (and read the lyrics) here (the “Ellum” line is at the 1:29 mark).

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Mouse and the Traps: ’60s Garage Rock, Texas-Style

mouse_photo_5Mouse in the center, Bugs top right (click for even larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Last Tuesday, my old friend Carlos Guajardo and I were each asked to present a favorite vinyl album at the Tuesday Night Record Club, a monthly event organized by Brian McKay and held at the historic Texas Theatre. My choice was a French import called Public Execution by Mouse and the Traps, a collection of the Texas band’s singles issued during their fairly short career (roughly 1965 to 1970). I bought this at a time when all of my disposable income was going to alternative record stores Metamorphosis and VVV, and I feel fairly certain that I bought this album at Metamorphosis. ’60s garage rock may be my favorite genre of music, and Texas garage rock is, for whatever reason, usually the best.

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Mouse and the Traps was a band formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, with Ronnie Weiss (whose nickname was “Mouse”) on vocals and  guitar, Bugs Henderson on lead guitar, David Stanley on bass, Ken “Nardo” Murray on drums, and Jerry Howell on keyboards. Even though most of the band members grew up in Tyler and almost all of their singles were recorded there (recordings produced by the great Robin Hood Brians, who was only a couple of years older than the band), the band pretty much moved to Dallas when they began to get a lot of airplay on local stations, notably KLIF. I actually always thought they were a Dallas band, and, damn it, I’m still considering them a Dallas band.

Mouse and the Traps toured around the state feverishly, playing clubs, colleges, parties, and even proms. There were occasional forays beyond Texas, but, for the most part, they remained a (very popular) regional band. Their first single — the unapologetically Dylan-esque “A Public Execution,” was released at the end of 1965 on the Fraternity label; it was their only record to show up on the Billboard charts, as a “bubbling under” track, not quite reaching the Top 100. After a couple of years, Bugs Henderson (who later became “guitar legend Bugs Henderson”) left the band and was replaced by Bobby Delk. Their personnel history is a little fuzzy, but I think Bugs re-joined the band briefly before the group finally disbanded sometime in 1970, after releasing a series of well-regarded singles and after almost five years of endless live dates. For most bands that had found little commercial success, that would have been the last most people would have heard of them. But most bands weren’t “Nugget” bands.

In 1972, Lenny Kaye included Mouse and the Traps on his revered (and influential) “Nuggets” compilation, propelling the band from “slowly-fading memory” to “newly-appreciated cult band” and introducing them to a whole new international audience. The band is now regarded as “proto-punk” and an important Texas garage band.

Their garage recordings are probably the most admired, but they dabbled in every ’60s style imaginable, including psychedelia, folk rock, breezy pop, and West Coast country, with hints of Dylan, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, Them, Donovan, and the Sir Douglas Quintet. There’s even a “Get Smart”-inspired novelty song in there. My favorite song of theirs, “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice,” is generally considered their finest single, assuring them a place in the pantheon of great garage songs. The stinging, electrifying guitar of Bugs Henderson is fantastic.

The band re-formed for several reunion shows over the years, but, sadly, Bugs Henderson died in 2012. No more reunion shows featuring the original line-up.

As far as the Dallas connection during the height of their career, there is precious little I’ve been able to find, as far as contemporary local photos, ads, or newspaper mentions. Despite the cultural revolution that began with the explosive arrival of the Beatles to the U.S. in 1964, “teenage” music in the ’60s was not taken seriously enough at the time to warrant much coverage in the major newspapers.

One of the few mentions of the band I found was as a support act on a Sonny and Cher show at the Fair Park Music Hall in early 1966. Also on the bill: The Outcasts from San Antonio, and Scotty McKay from Dallas (who can be seen performing two pretty good songs in a clip from one of Dallas director Larry Buchanan’s “schlock” movies, “Creature of Destruction,” here).

mouse_dmn_022466_sonny-cherFeb., 1966

They also appeared on the TV music show “Sump’n Else” “Upbeat” (in 1968, post-Bugs). (Thanks to Jim for pointing out in the comments that these two color photos actually show the band on the Cleveland-based syndicated teen show “Upbeat,” hosted by Don Webster. TV listings show that the band appeared on the show in April, 1968, along with the Boxtops and several other performers.)

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sumpn-else_2Photos: Robin Hood Brians

They also played a memorable show at Louanns in 1966 where they appeared on a double-bill as two separate bands. In 1966 Jimmy Rabbit, a popular DJ on KLIF who was a big supporter of the band, asked them to perform as his backing band on a (great!) recording of “Psychotic Reaction” — a very early cover (perhaps the first) of the song by the Count Five. The song was recorded in Tyler by Robin Hood Brians with Rabbit on vocals and was released under the name Positively Thirteen O’clock. Unsurprisingly, with Rabbit a DJ on the top station in town, it became a huge local hit. Ken “Nardo” Murray talked about it in a 1988 interview (read the full interview here). Click for larger image.

mouse_FWST_051788-detFort Worth Star-Telegram, May 17, 1988 

And here they are at Louanns, with Rabbit at the mic, backed up by Dave Stanley, Bugs Henderson (he has “Bugs” and a picture of Bugs Bunny on his guitar!), and Jerry Howell:

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If anyone has any Dallas-related photos or memorabilia of Mouse and the Traps, I’d love to see them! I’d also love to hear from people who saw them perform in the ’60s.

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Billboard, May 21, 1966

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Waco Tribune Herald, Aug. 11, 1966

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Grand Prairie Daily News, May 9, 1968

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Weimar Mercury, Jan. 16, 1969

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mouse_campus-chat_NTSU_020769-captionNorth Texas State University newspaper, Feb. 7, 1969

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Waco Tribune Herald, Aug. 30, 1969

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Waco Citizen, April 13, 1970

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Sources & Notes

A few Mouse and the Traps tidbits:

The band was originally called “Mouse.” “The Traps” was added when the second single, “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice” came out in 1966.

The “Henderson” listed as co-writer with Ronnie Weiss of a few of the early Mouse and the Traps songs (including the first two singles) was not Bugs Henderson (who was born Harry Fisher Henderson but was known as “Buddy” in the pre-“Bugs” days) — it was Knox Henderson, a high school pal from Tyler, seen below from a 1955 John Tyler High School (Tyler, TX) yearbook.

henderson-knox_tyler-high-school_1955

More on the band — including photos and newspaper articles — can be found here. Also included is additional information on Robin Hood Brians who has produced artists as diverse as ZZ Top, the Five Americans, James Brown, David Houston, and John Fred and His Playboy Band (whose “Judy In Disguise” knocked the Beatles out of the #1 spot on the national charts).

Mouse and the Traps on Wikipedia, here.

More on Dallas-area ’60s garage bands on GarageHangover.com, here.

Thanks again to Brian McKay for inviting me to play these great songs at the Tuesday Night Record Club!

Pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Goodbye, Merle

merle_lefty_corsicanaMerle and Lefty, in Corsicana

by Paula Bosse

The great Merle Haggard died today, on his 79th birthday. My earliest music memories are hearing his songs on the radio. Even people who don’t listen to country  music know who Merle Haggard is (and are probably fans).

One of his idols was Lefty Frizzell, the Corsicana-born legend whose first hits were recorded in Dallas. Merle helped raise the funds in the late ’80s and early ’90s for the wonderful statue of Lefty which now stands in Jester Park in Corsicana. The picture above shows Merle visiting the statue. (Whenever I’m in Corsicana, I always drop by Jester Park to spend some time with Lefty.)

As far as Merle and Dallas, the earliest mention I could find was from January, 1965. Country music was covered only sporadically in the pages of The Dallas Morning News back then, but his early-’65 stop at the Sportatorium may have been Merle’s first appearance in Dallas — appropriately enough, it was at the Big D Jamboree. “California country music team” Merle and Bonnie Owens were guest performers, along with Billy Grammer and James O’Gwynn of the Grand Ole Opry, and the regular Jamboree cast of thirty, for the Jan. 30, 1965 Saturday-night Big D Jamboree show.

RIP, Merle. Thanks for everything.

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The top picture is a photo I took of an original photograph which is hanging in the Lefty Frizzell Museum, which is also in Corsicana’s Jester Park (as part of the Pioneer Village).

Merle’s obituary in Variety — which includes entertaining salty quotes from the man himself — is here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Gypsy Tea Room, Central Avenue, and The Darensbourg Brothers

gypsy-tea-room_dallas-public-libraryThe 200 block of Central Ave. (click for larger image)/Dallas Public Library

by Paula Bosse

I’ve seen this photograph of Deep Ellum for years, and I’ve always loved it. But for some reason, I always thought this showed Elm Street — across from the Knights of Pythias Temple, just west of Good-Latimer (probably because that’s where a recent club with the same name was located). In fact, this scene was captured a couple of blocks west, just north of Elm, on Central Avenue, sometimes referred to as Central Track, along the Houston & Texas Central railroad tracks — a part of Deep Ellum that’s been gone for more than 60 years.

gypsy-tea-room-location_1952-map.jpgAfter Central Expwy. replaced Central Ave. (1952 Mapsco)

This area — which many have described as being the very heart of Deep Ellum in the 1920s through the 1940s (and which was somewhat ironically referred to as “the gay white way of the Negro in Dallas” by an uncredited WPA writer) — was demolished to make way for the construction of North Central Expressway (which closely followed the H&TC Railway tracks). This photo was taken in the 200 block of North Central Avenue, looking south toward Elm (the building farthest in the background, jutting out to the left, is across Elm, on the south side of the street).

You can see that the Sanborn map from 1921 shows that same building jutting out. (See the full Sanborn map here; it might be more helpful to see this detail rotated to show the same view as the photo, here.)

sanborn-map_1921_sheet-17-det1921 Sanborn map, detail (click for larger image)

Information about The Gypsy Tea Room is scant. The proprietor was a man named Irvin Darensbourg, whose family was from the black community of Killona, Louisiana in St. Charles Parish; they appear to have been of French Creole extraction, and the family’s last name was probably correctly spelled as D’Arensbourg.

The Darensbourgs were an interesting family (and not just  because their mother’s maiden name was Louise Jupiter!). There were several children, and at least two of them were professional musicians: Percy Darensbourg (1899-1950) and Caffery (often spelled “Caffrey”) Darensbourg (1901-1940). Both played with several jazz bands, and Percy even made a few recordings, playing banjo with various bands. Below are a couple of promotional photos showing them at work in the 1920s, when they still were based in New Orleans, before they settled in Dallas. (These are cropped details — click pictures to see the full photos.)

Percy Darensbourg, with Lee Collins‘ band, 1925 or 1926:

percy-darensbourg_duke_det

Listen to Percy on banjo, here:

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And, below, Caffery Darensbourg, with Manuel Perez’s Garden of Joy Orchestra (click photo to see full band — the other band members are identified here):

caffery-darensbourg_tulane-library

The first of the brothers to arrive in Dallas from New Orleans was Percy, in about 1929, and for the next few years he continued to make his living as a professional musician. Caffery followed in 1932 and opened the short-lived Frenchie’s Creole Inn on Boll Street. Their non-musician brother Irvin was here by 1935 and promptly opened the Green Tavern at 217 Central Avenue, just a few doors down from Percy’s drinking establishment, the Central Tavern Inn, at 223 Central. At about this same time, Percy was also running a club at 3120 Thomas called The Gay Paree — which The Dallas Morning News described as a “swanky negro night club” (April 12, 1938) in a short mention of Percy’s being fined for selling alcohol to an already-inebriated customer.

But back to that 200 block of Central Avenue — the one pictured in the photo at the top. Between 1937 and 1939, Irvin also owned/ran a small restaurant or cafe — and later a pool hall — out of 219½ Central. The Darensbourgs had that block locked up.

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In 1935, a song called “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room” by Bob Crosby swept the country. It was a huge hit. Suddenly there were scads of places popping up all over calling themselves The Gypsy Tea Room or The Little Gypsy Tea Room. Some might have been actual tearooms, but there were also a lot of clubs and bars with the “tea room” name — the most famous of these was The Gypsy Tea Room in the Tremé district of New Orleans, at Villere & St. Ann, which opened the same year the song was being played incessantly by every dance band in the nation. This famous New Orleans nightclub booked the biggest jazz bands around and was a legendary musician’s hangout.

gypsy-tea-room_new-orleans_1942_tulane-libNew Orleans’ Gypsy Tea Room, 1942 (via Tulane University)

gypsy-tea-room_NOLA_myneworleansNew Orleans’ Gypsy Tea Room, 1930s (via MyNewOrleans.com)

The Darensbourgs most likely knew the club, its owner, its patrons, and the musicians who played there. Perhaps Irvin Darensbourg decided to name his own little Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas in honor of the New Orleans landmark. Whatever the case, Deep Ellum’s Gypsy Tea Room appears to have come and gone fairly quickly (and one assumes there was more than tea being sipped inside).

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The life of a tavern and club operator could be a hard one, especially in those days, especially in the black neighborhoods of Deep Ellum and North Dallas. Irvin seemed to forever be sleeping on a relative’s couch, with a different address every few months. By 1940 he had moved to Fort Worth to open another bar, and after that … I’m not sure what became of him — but one hopes that he met a less violent end than his brothers did here in Dallas. According to  Caffery’s death certificate, he died in 1940 after having been shot in the abdomen while “in a public place.” His death was ruled a homicide. Percy, who by all indications was the most stable and successful of the brothers, was also killed — in 1950 he was stabbed in the neck (!) while out on the street at 4:20 AM.

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As for the original photograph, I’ve pored over it and looked through directories, but I can’t pinpoint the exact year this photo was taken or determine what the actual address of the Gypsy Tea Room was. Since it was mentioned in the WPA Dallas Guide and History, which was written and compiled between 1936 and 1940 and contains the only contemporary mention of the Tea Room, my guess is that this was taken about 1937, as this was the last year that Old Tom’s Tavern (209 ½ Central) seems to have been in business (although the bar that replaced it was owned by the same person, and the sign seen in this photograph could well have remained up for a while).

Craig’s Cafe, at 213 Central, was in business between 1929 and at least 1946 when property began to be demolished in order to begin construction on the expressway. The Gypsy Tea Room looks to be either two or three doors down from Craig’s place. My guess is that it’s 219 Central. I don’t have access to a 1937 street directory, but Irvin Darensbourg (whose name is constantly mangled and misspelled everywhere) is listed in the alphabetical section of the 1937 directory as being the proprietor of an unnamed restaurant at 219 Central.

darnsberg_1937-directory1937 Dallas directory

Was this the Gypsy Tea Room?

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Sources & Notes

Photo of the Gypsy Tea Room at the top of this post is from the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library. The photo here (scroll to the bottom) identifies it as being from the WPA Dallas Guide & History Collection.

Thanks to Bob Dunn of the Lone Star Library Annex for deciphering “Darensbourg” from this badly garbled printed name on the Gypsy Tea Room sign.

gypsy-tea-room-sign

Here are a few of the numerous ways this Darensbourg’s family’s name is misspelled across the internet:

D’Arensbourg
Darensbourg
Darensburg
Darenbourg
Darenburg
Darnburg
Darnsberg
Darensborough

And I’m still not actually sure whether it’s “Irvin” or “Irving,” or “Caffery” or “Caffrey.”

When clicked, the photo of Percy Darensbourg above opens up to show the full band — the personnel is identified in a caption from the book Oh, Didn’t He Ramble: The Life Story of Lee Collins: “Lee’s band in Dallas, 1925 or 1926. From the left: Coke Eye Bob (Arthur Joseph?), Mary Brown, Freddie ‘Boo-Boo’ Miller, Octave Crosby, Henry Julien, ‘Professor’ Sherman Cook, Lee, and Percy Darensburg [sic].”

An example of the businesses in the 200 block of Central Avenue,  between Elm and Pacific, in the ’30s — this from the 1936 city directory:

central_1936-directory

A couple of other versions of “In a Little Gypsy Tea Room,” if you must:

  • The version by The Light Crust Doughboys (no strangers to Deep Ellum), recorded in 1935 in Dallas at 508 Park, is here.
  • The at-least-peppier version by Louis Prima and His  New Orleans Gang, also recorded in 1935, is here.

See what the area once occupied by the vibrant street life of Central Track looks like now, here. The expressway overpass is now planted about where the photo was taken. Pan right (east) and look at the blighted area which used to be Dallas’ second downtown.

 Click pictures for larger images.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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