Looks like we've been better served over the years as regards Spade Cooley's Decca recordings. In 1985, UK's Charly Records put out an excellent compilation of these sides, 'Swinging The Devil's Dream' (CR 30239) - with fine liner notes courtesy of noted Music historian, Adam Komorowski. Spade signed with DECCA in 1950 but didn't begin to cut songs for the label until 1951 ; he stayed there until 1955, although the session dates were few and far between. There's no question that the music itself retained its previous high standard of quality.
In effect, the chemistry was pretty much the same as with RCA Victor although the horns were less often present. Some of the early outings were billed as by 'Spade Cooley & His Fiddlin' Friends', but it was soon back to 'Spade Cooley & His Orchestra'. More vocalists appeared (like Betsy Gay or the excellent Phil Gray), but the first sessions still featured the talented Virginia 'Ginny' Jackson whose vocal in Hank Snow's 'The Rhumba Boogie' is a delight. The other side of that decidedly hot first Decca '45 was a cover of Billy Briggs's immortal 'Chew Tobacco Rag'. The guitar & steel guitar parts were super fine but who was that mysterious singer named 'Andy Klimax' ? Fortunately, collector/musicologist Jason Odd had the answer. It appears that he was none other than Del Porter AKA Delmar Smith Porter (04/13/1902-10/04/1977). A talented clarinetist, composer, arranger and singer, he exerted substantial influence on Spike Jones and had even been one of his famous City Slickers. He would sing again at Spade's next session (see discography below).
Three more singles were recorded and released in 1951, the best being #46355 which coupled 'Down Yonder' (full of wonderful barrelhouse piano playing) and the galloping, jumping 'Horse Hair Boogie' where fiddle, guitar and steel guitar breaks abound.
Cameron Hill joined Jimmy Wyble on guitar for a while and Noel Boggs stayed on board most of the time but Joaquin Murphey later returned for a few sides. Hank Penny, who was one of Spade's closest friends, explained to me that Cooley had a tendency to 'fire'em then hire'em back' !
Amazingly, only two singles appeared in 1952 but of course, Spade was busy with radio and TV shows, plus innumerable gigs at The Santa Monica Ballroom. One was composed of remakes of earlier hits ; both 'Crazy 'Cause I Love You' and 'Swinging The Devil's Dream' had been waxed for Columbia in 1946. This time though, singer Tex Williams, who had long left Spade's band and started his own succesful career, was replaced by a certain 'Careless Love' on the former title. As usual, we'll leave it to Jason Odd to solve the mystery surrounding that name. 'Careless Love' is in fact, Freddie 'Careless' Love, the Sailor Singing Cowboy (what else ?!). Courtesy of Jason, you can enjoy a picture of a September 1953 invitation card to the Santa Monica Ballroom where Spade Cooley was giving a party in honor of Freddie's birthday.
The other '52 release ranks amongst Spade's best ever. 'Carmen's Boogie' is an irresistably swinging arrangement of 'The Habanera', a well-known part of Bizet's opera. The fiddling is brilliant but it's Noel Boggs who steals the show with a stupendous 'block chords' steel solo. The blending of the horns and fiddles at the end of the track is also very clever. As for 'One Sweet Letter From You', sung by Phil Gray, it's a very fine swinger with tasty big band arrangements. At that time, Spade's horn section usually included three trumpets, two trombones and five saxes.
Even more amazingly, 1953 yielded only two recording sessions which produced four singles of hoedowns and square dances. All were certainly well executed but I guess Charly Records were wise to select only the pleasant 'Nashville Special' from that batch.
The next visits to the recording studios took place in September 1954 for a couple of memorable sessions, mainly composed of instrumentals (without horns). The first session featured a mighty attractive mix, from the sweet and reflective 'Down By The Pecos', the charming, accordion-led 'Anita', the stompin' 'Y'Hear' (one of Cooley's best in my opinion, with all band members allowed to cut loose !) to the funny 'The Cryin' Waltz' where the 'crying' vocals can only make one crack a smile ! The second date was just as good, especially thanks to the two songs which constituted single #29309. The lively instrumental, 'Break Up Down', featured another killer steel guitar solo from the incomparable Joaquin Murphey, while Betsy Gay took the vocal duties on 'You Clobbered Me' with aplomb.
And there you have it : apart from one last disc with Chuck Reed on vocals, that's all Spade Cooley released while with Decca. A rather small - but still essential - dose of Western Swing. Happily, a healthy number of superb radio transcriptions from that period had been preserved and have now been released on CD. And that was also the time when the record company used to label this music as 'Fox Trot' : they would soon apply the same terminology to Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock' !!
Here, for the first time, is Spade Cooley's complete DECCA
sessionography and discography.
Personnel details and other data are missing, thus I encourage all interested readers
to e-mail me with their additions and corrections. Thanks beforehand !!
© Paul Vidal * Privas, France * November 2000 - July 2007 - May 2014
L6138 Chew Tobacco Rag (Billy Briggs)* 46310
June 14, 1951
Vocals : Ginny Jackson *, Del Porter **
L6311 My Heart Is Broken In Three* 46376
Note : Decca 46339 issued on July 30,1951 ; Decca 46376 on November 5, 1951. 'Hitsitty Hotsitty' reissued on Charly CR 30239.
L6379 The Cowboy Waltz* 46376
Note : All three titles reissued on Charly CR 30239.
L6778 Crazy 'Cause I Love You (Spade
Note : Decca 28344 put out on August 25, 1952. Both titles reissued on Charly CR 30239.
Note : 'Nashville Special' reissued on Charly CR 30239.
January 7, 1953
L6988 Santa Monica Rambler 40237
L6989 Jersey Jig (Tempo 134) 40236
L6990 Seattle Square (Tempo 134) 40235
L6991 Y-Knot Rag (Tempo 136) 40238
Note : Decca 40235, 40236, 40237 and 40238 all released on November 16, 1953. Billed as 'Spade Cooley and His Square Dance Six'.
September 2, 1954
Steel guitar : Joaquin Murphy
L7841 Down By The Pecos ED-2226/DL-5563
L7842 Anita 29544
L7843 Y' Ready ED-2225/DL-5563/DL-8730
L7844 The Ping-Pong Song ED-2226/DL-5563/DL-8730
L7845 Y' Hear ED-2226/DL-5563/DL-8730
L7846 Yearning ED-2225/DL-5563
L7847 Not assigned ??
L7848 Sail On ED-2226/DL-5563
L7849 The Cryin' Waltz 29544
Note : Decca 29309 issued on November 15, 1954 ; Decca 29544 on June 13, 1955.
'Down By The Pecos', 'Anita', 'Y'Ready', 'Y'Hear' and 'The Cryin' Waltz' reissued on Charly CR 30239.
September 20, 1954
Vocals : Betsy Gay *
Steel guitar : Joaquin Murphy
L7906 Charmaine ED-2225
L7907 You Clobbered Me (Spade Cooley-Red Fox)* 29309
L7908 Break Up Down (Spade Cooley) 29309
L7909 Sparkling Silver Bells ED-2225/DL-5563
Note : Decca ED-2225 and ED-2226 are EPs in the 'Country'n'Western Dance-O-Rama' series. All tracks were in fact taken from Decca DL-5663, a ten-inch LP in the same 'Dance-O-Rama' series, which is billed under the name 'Spade Cooley With The Buckle Busters' ; like the two above EPs, the album was released on October 17, 1955. The 'Dance-O-Rama' series also featured 10" LPs (and EPs) by the likes of Milton Brown, Grady Martin and others. Decca DL-8730 is a compilation album titled 'Western Swing In Hi-Fi', originally published on August 11, 1958.
'You Clobbered Me ' and 'Break Up Down' both reissued on Charly CR 30239.
November 13, 1955
Vocals : Chuck Reed
88300 No Need To Cry Anymore 29788
88301 Seasons Of My Heart 29788
Note : Release date of the above single : January 9, 1956.
Spade & His Band, featuring Noel Boggs, Ginny Jackson and Billy Wright among others.
Here's an item which is worth considerably more than it seems ! Signed by both Spade Cooley & Hank Penny !!