Recording Labels Of West Texas
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While I am reviewing West Texas music I think that I should at least write about some of the record labels that originated from this region. Since only a few labels ever produced a hit, in the trade they are generally known as “trash-can labels”. However, from the following labels a number of collectible records do exist today and are quite rare. This is because some artist like Buddy Knox and Roy Orbison first had records on these “Regional Labels”.

Banner records of Lubbock, Texas

I should also ad that most of the labels (I will discuss) not only originated in our region but most never got big enough to ever leave this area. That is, perhaps the exception of Banner Records of Lubbock, Texas. This label seems to have originated either in San Antonio, Texas or Lubbock, Texas and Banner released a number of recordings by various Lubbock and area artist during the c.1965-1970s, before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. My intuition says Banner was probably associated with one of the local radio stations or record shops in Lubbock and was owned by Bill Crawford. I do know that Sky Corbin had one of the first releases on Banner Records and his family owned KLLL radio in Lubbock. Another disc jockey working in Lubbock also had a release on Banner in c.1965. Later he became a regular on the Ozark Jubilee. His name was Jack Reno and he was a country singer also.

Time Records Of Dalhart, Texas

Perhaps the oldest label from our region is the TIME label of Dalhart, Texas. Somewhere 1946 and 1951 this company released a number of 78s which were mainly by “Billy Briggs And The XIT Boys”. On at least one of these records it states: Allender’s Midwest Records, Dalhart, Texas. According to this notion I feel that the owner of the Time label was also possibly the owner of a record outlet in Dalhart and his/her name was possibly Allender. Anyway, Billy Briggs wrote “Chew Tobacco Rag”, which became a national hit during this same time frame and if it was on TIME Records (which I feel that it was), the Dalhart label cannot be dismissed as being unsuccessful and irrelevant! Nevertheless, another artist and band called “Tommy Elliott And The Line Riders” also appeared on the TIME label, during this same time period as did several other artist. Some of these same recordings (by both Elliott and Briggs) have recently been reissued on a modern CD called, “Texas Dance Hall Music”, which is a testament to their enduring quality. 

All That Music & Video


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Caprock Records of Big Spring, Texas

Another West Texas label (but from the later fifties) also deserves mention. A disc jockey names Hank Harral established the CAPROCK label down in Big Spring, Texas where he was employed. In 1958-59 he released a number of CAPROCK 45s by Texas musicians/artist from that area including Hoyle Nix, Jimmy Haggett, and Durwood Haddock (also known as Durwodd Daly). Hank Harral also appears to have been a singer/musician as he is listed on several of the releases himself. According to a discography of CAPROCK Records, there were at least eleven different artist who had releases on the CAPROCK label in 1958-59. At least one song, “Big Balls In Cowtown” by Hoyle Nix became a big hit, but perhaps occurred after another label picked it up or after Bob Wills had covered it? Nevertheless, CAPROCK was one of the most active (and successful) of the West Texas labels during the fifties, because of Nix’s country standard.

Je-Wel Records of Odessa, Texas

When Roy Oribson and his band from Wink, Texas (The Teen Kings) first recorded in Clovis, New Mexico in 1955 they couldn’t find a national label to release their songs. So, a businessman in Odessa, Texas decided to give the boys a hand and had the two songs (Ooby Dooby / Trying To Get To You) released on a private label which he named Je-Wel. The songs received some air play locally and this prompted someone to mail a record to Sam Phillips of Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. According to history, Phillips seems to have liked Orbison’s voice but not the band. He therefore offered a contract to Orbison if he would come to Memphis and re-cut his favorite of the two songs, Ooby Dooby. The short of the story is that Sun Recordings became a moderate hit for Roy Orbison and it launched his great career. So, thanks to the short lived Je-Wel Record label and the businessman that created it that the rock’n roller from Wink, Texas became an international star. Although I have found no indications that the Je-Wel label ever had more than one group (The Teen Kings / with Roy Orbison) or more than one release (Ooby Dooby / Trying To Get To You)  on Je-Wel is now the rarest and most valuable record of all of Orbison’s records.

Blue Moon and Triple-D Records Of Seminole, Texas

Another similar story is the Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen release on the Triple-D Record label. These two songs (Party Dolls / I’m stickin’ With You) were recorded in 1956 in Clovis New Mexico also with Norman Petty, but he opted not to accept them for promotion. He was stated to have been offended by the Party Doll lyrics (and I’ll make love to you). Since the Rhythm Orchards had no way to get a national release, a man in Seminole, Texas (Chester Oliver) arreed to release a single for them on his “Blue Moon” label. But, since two of the band members were from Dumas, Texas where the local radio station was K-triple D this may have encouraged Oliver to use the Triple-D label instead. Perhaps they thought the local station KDDD would then be honored to play their record on the air. Whatever the reason, that’s the way the record was labeled and after it received some good, local response, Lanier decided to send a copy to his sister in New York City, New York. I Think she worked for the newly founded company “Roulette Records” or nearby. Anyway Roulette liked the songs and decided both had potential. They split the songs apart on two singles and “Party Doll” went to #2 and Bowen’s song “Stickin’ with You” peaked at #14. So, the new  Triple-D label went on to release two singles by Hope Griffith who had a release on Oliver’s “Blue Moon” records also.

Ruff Records of Amarillo, Texas

In circa 1964 rockabilly singer Ray Ruff (aka Ray Ruffin) opened Checkmate recording studio in Amarillo, Texas. It was here that he began making ‘master tapes’ of his band and other local and regional rock groups. Groups as faraway as Colorado and Kansas traveled here to make recordings. One such band was the Trolls of Pueblo, Colorado who recorded her in c.1965. At about this time Ruffin started a new record label “Ruff Records” and became associated with Buddy Knox. It seems possible that Ruff had initially used the label in one of his previous releases before he signed Knox but, since Knox’s single (Jo Ann / Don’t Make A Ripple) is listed as Ruff-101 this might not be the case. Nevertheless, this label was used to release the several singles by “Ray Ruff And His Checkmates”.                                                            The Trolls who recorded at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico c.1966 may not have had a release on the Ruff label during this same time period but they did record at Ruff’s Checkmate studio. Also a Hayes Kansas group (The Fabulous Blue Things) signed with Ruff label and had a single or two released during these years on the Ruff label. Later, Ruff seems to have bought the Sully label and some Blue Things releases are on this second label also.                     One of Amarillo’s finest rock bands “The Illusions” (Mark Creamer - lead guitar and Johnny Stark -drums) also recorded at Ruff’s studio but their songs were not released under their own name. Don Henley of “The Eagles” has stated that he also recorded at Checkmate studio and possibly J. D. Souther of Amarillo did also. But it is unknown (by the author) if any of these recordings were ever released. Other local bands that recorded here also included the “Poole Brothers” of Canyon, Texas, The Viscounts, and the vocal duo of Robin Brown and Max Barton of Matador, Texas. Their two rock songs were not released during the era they were recorded, 1966. But if anyone recognizes the following titles please contact this web site. The two rock songs were: To Say No / Man Of Steel.

Ohn-J Records of Plainview, Texas

The Ohn-J label was the creation of Plainview, Texas businessman John Sands. He was a native of nearby Floydada, Texas and had begun writing songs as a child on his daddy’s farm. By the sixties he was a middle aged and successful businessman with money to spend. He began hiring various local singers and musicians to record his songs but he had trouble getting a national label interested in the recordings. Therefore, he launched his own label and in 1964 he released “Possum Hollar” as possibly the first single on the Ohn-J label (which is a pseudonym for JOHN). After the String-A=Longs broke up in the mid sixties, a new band was formed by Keith McCormack and somr of the Torres  brothers. They eventually called themselves “The Strings Of Fortune” and were also from Plainview, Texas. Sands soon approached this new band about also recording on his label. In c.1966 the “New String-A-Longs” then appeared on the Ohn-j label with two original rock songs Sands had a hand in writing. At least one of these songs “I Think It’s Gonna Rain” is a vocal and has an English influence.                                                                                                                           In about 1968 one of Sands’ original songs finally appeared on the RCA label but wasn’t a hit so he released an album (of his songs) on a new label “NORM”. It was by a female singer by the name of Wanda Conklin, I believe and it sold three thousand copies  Sands stated. Finally in the seventies this die hard writer sent a Trio from Plainview to Nashville, Tennessee to record a single for one of his labels. This was Travis and Amy Thornton (with Keith Longbotham) but their record was erroneously issued as being “The Thorntons” on the Norm label. This main song was titled “Do I Love You” and had some potential (I believe). Whether any further releases came from Sands’ label is unknown (by this writer), but in 1996 Sands was featured in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal and still hadn’t given up his song writing ambitions, at age 71. Unfortunately he died just two years later.

Ironstone Records of Plainview, Texas

This fly-by-night label was the brainchild of Robert “Robin” Brown of Plainview, Texas in 1977. At age thirty one he recorded a rockabilly oriented song titled “Barefoot And Pregnant” and decided to release a limited edition single. Only twenty copies were pressed. He stated about the record, “My intuition was that this garage studio recording would never be played on radio or jukeboxes and therefore it had no real real appeal to a national label, so I took the alternative course of releasing it on my own label. How I got interested in records and recording is something of a story within it’s self. In the early fifties as a small child I became intrigued when Tab Morrison, a family friend had demonstrated a portable ‘disc cutting machine’ in our living room one day. My family was something of a musical family and we passionately sang a gospel song into the cheap microphone while the turn table spun and Tab produced an acetate record for us. This whole process intrigued me so much that I vowed someday that I would be ‘on records’. I guess this was the beginning of my life long dream of being a ‘recording artist.”

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