Of Lost Legends and Found Heroes
The Golden Age of Dallas music rolls onward, with lesser-known legends dominating the spotlight as we creep from the '40s and '50s onward toward buzz-cut rockers and baby-step punks. --Robert Wilonsky
Frankie Lee Sims, "Home Again Blues": One of many Blue Bonnet releases that could have made today's list, this influential immortal's about as confessional and pleading as it gets; "God knows what more a black man can do," Sims wails to the woman he's wronged, who's having none of it. Said to be the cousin of Lightnin' Hopkins and a student of T-Bone Walker's; sure as hell sounds like it here. Sims, who died in Dallas in May 1970 after decades of slumming in low-rent nightclubs, cut at least two 78s for Herb Rippa's label, which split its time between hillbilly cuts (Hank Thompson, seriously) and blues numbers during its three-year existence from '47 to '50.
Sid King and the Five Strings, "Crazy Lil' Heart": Signed to Columbia in the early 1950s, these boys were turning country into rock and roll as much as anyone else beneath the rising Sun; when these boys shared the stage with Elvis, it was as much theirs as his way back when. This cut, repped by a swell demo released on a European comp only six years ago, ranks among the best of the band's modest hits. And last I heard, King was still cuttin' heads up in Richardson.
James Clay, "Come Rain or Come Shine": The saxophone colossus belonged, with David "Fathead" Newman and Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb and Herchel Evans, to that elite club known as the Texas Tenors--men who made what the Oak Cliff-born James Clay called "raunchy...straight-forward, with lots of emotion and few frills." He played with Ornette Coleman and Ray Charles (a few years after recording this Harold Arlen standard in 1960, actually), but was no mere sideman; he died at 59, on the verge of the comeback that would have shown them all.
The Nightcaps, "Thunderbird": So good that ZZ Top stole it for their Fandango album and gave themselves songwriting credit--and so good the Nightcaps tried to take it back in federal court, which didn't work out so well. Nonetheless, you lived in Dallas in 1960, you heard this song everywhere. Then you learned it well enough to start a band in which you played this and "Wine, Wine, Wine" till 2 a.m.
Red Garland, "Where or When": Red Garland was born here and died here, but damned if anyone had any idea he ever stepped foot in this town--a tragedy, which may be understating it. Consider: Before he was 26 years old, he'd played with Buster Smith, Oran "Hot Lips" Page, Coleman Hawkins, Billy Eckstine and Roy Eldridge--men without whom you couldn't write a jazz history book without leaving blank chapters. Then, from '55-'58, he played piano with Miles Davis and John Coltrane in Davis' first legendary quintet; damn right that's him on Round About Midnight, the Led Zeppelin IV of jazz. But he walked out on Miles, cut a few sides with his own trio (including this standard from 1961's The Nearness of You, a collection of ballads), then walked all the way back to Dallas to play with pals who never asked why.
Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, "Wooly Bully": Admit it, you had no idea Sam the Sham--Domingo Samudio, his mama called him--was born in Dallas, or that the band was once known as Sam the Sham and the East Dallas Pharoahs. From 1964, but still sounds like it's from the future for whatever reason; watch it, man.
Freddie King, "The Sky is Crying": Included here not because it's the guitar-slinger's most famous cut (that'd be "Hideaway") or even his best ("Have You Ever Loved a Woman," arguably), but because it links Freddie King to the scrawny Oak Cliff brothers named Stevie Ray and Jimmie who worshipped the hell outta him. From 1972's Texas Cannonball sessions, with Leon Russell on keybs--and some guys name "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson.
Bobby Patterson, "T.C.B. or T.Y.A.": Probably should have included "Quiet, Do Not Disturb" (as in, "while I'm makin' love"); "She Don't Have to See You (To See Through You)," sung by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy on Golden Smog's Down by the Old Mainstream; or even "How Do You Spell Love?" made famous by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. But those are later songs, from when Patterson recorded for Jewel/Paula straight outta Shreveport, Louisiana, in the early 1970s. This funky hornet's nest dates back to 1969, when he recorded for Dallas-based Jetstar and still managed to crack the Billboard R&B Top 40 with a song about taking care of business or tearin' yo' ass...pardon, turning yourself around, whatever.
Floyd Dakil Combo, "Dance, Franny, Dance": Maybe the best single ever to come straight outta...Highland Park High School. Dakil and some boys from Thomas Jefferson got together some 40 years ago to sing this raver about a good-lookin' girl down Dallas way, and rumor is it made it as far as San Francisco to become a minor hit shortly after its '64 release. Never heard it? Listen to it, and then never forget it.
Coming next: Acid visions and white dopes on punk
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.