It took a couple of days to nail down, detective work in fits and starts with little to go on save for a blurry photo of an old label stumbled across on eBay. Not sure why exactly, but I got hooked on the hook. The title too: "East Side of Dallas," by Jack Neal. When I called him this afternoon, Casey Monahan, director of the Texas Music Office, got it right off: "Jack Neal? Ram Records? Out of Lubbock? He played with Buddy Holly!" Why, yes, yes he did: Neal, born in Fort Worth in 1934 and seen here with a young Buddy, was Holly's first collaborator, back in '53.
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"We had a radio show on KDAV Sundays," Neal says from his West Texas home. They were known, naturally, as Buddy and Jack. Neal says his family moved to Lubbock in '42; he'd leave a few times, but always find his way back. Neal still performs around Lubbock; says he's in the studio at this very moment finishing a CD he's hoping to get in time for Christmas.
Neals told me he cut "East Side of Dallas" in 1975 in Carlsbad for Ram, a legendary label out that way. They didn't press many copies, though, maybe a few dozen, if that. He's got one; far as he knew till I bugged him this afternoon, it was the only one left.
"It was just a thing," he says when asked about the title. "Somebody would say, 'Where'd you hear that?' And I'd say, 'On the east side of Dallas.' So I thought I'd just do a song called 'East Side of Dallas.' I never was in Dallas that much, but that's how it came about. It was just an old sayin'." I told him it's going for $20 on eBay. Didn't sound like he believed me.