Born Alvis Wayne Samford, 31 December 1937, Paducah, Texas Died 31 July 2013, Bacliff, Texas
Alvis Wayne is one of those obscure rockabilly artists from the 1950s who wasn’t discovered by European fans until the rockabilly revival of the 1970s. His brilliant recordings for the small Westport label (1956-58) were not released in Europe at the time, although one of them was belatedly issued in the UK in 1963, but in the midst of Beatlemania it was completely overlooked.
Alvis Wayne Samford was born in Paducah, Texas, but lived there only a few months. His family (Alvis was the oldest of five children) lived in several towns around San Antonio before settling in the coastal city of Corpus Christi (South Texas) in 1953. Alvis took an interest in music at an early age and received a guitar for his tenth birthday. In early 1956 he was approached by Corpus Christi musician Tony Wayne (Anthony Wayne Guion) who asked him to join his hillbilly band for a tour of South Texas. However, life on the road proved to be a bitter disappointment for the four band members and they soon headed back home to Corpus Christi. Next Alvis joined a Western swing band, Al Hardy and his Southernaires, but Tony Wayne wanted him back. He told Alvis “Hey, I got us a record contract with Westport Records in Kansas City and they want some rock ’n’ roll records.” Tony also said that he had already written five songs. All Alvis had to do was record them.
Kansas City was nearly 1000 miles away, but Alvis Wayne, as he now called himself, never had to make that trip. He did his first session in a makeshift studio in Corpus Christi, probably in July 1956. Alvis thought it was a merely a session to record some demos for Westport, so he was shocked when he found out that the label had issued two of the three recordings (“Swing Bop Boogie” and “Sleep Rock-A-Roll Rock-A- Baby”) as a commercial single. Both sides are great slices of authentic rockabilly. “Accompaniment by Tony Wayne and his Rhythm Wranglers” was printed on the label, though they never played on the session ; instead Al Hardy’s band did. The third song from that 1956 session was “I Gottum”, which stayed in the vaults for some 17 years.
The debut single must have sold in respectable quantities, for in 1957 Westport asked him back for a second session, which resulted in the single “Don’t Mean Maybe Baby”/ “I’d Rather Be With You” (Westport 138). This became his biggest seller, topping the local South Texas charts for six weeks without making a national impact. In 1963 it got a surprise release on the British Starlite label. The third Westport single, “Lay Your Head On My Shoulder” (1958), was recorded in Houston. Another great rockabilly side, but it failed to click and Alvis left the music business in disillusion. He spent four years in the US Air Force (1960-1964). After returning to civilian life, he formed his own country band and had singles released on two small labels, Kathy (1966) and Brazos (1969). But at that point in his life he was convinced that he would never hit the big time.
Then, in 1973, the British Injun label reissued “Lay Your Head On My Shoulder”, coupled with the previously unreleased “I Gottum”. Around the same time, Ronny Weiser of Rollin’ Rock Records in California reissued four Westport recordings on an EP. Alvis became a cult hero of the European rockabilly scene, although he didn’t know it at the time. Weiser tracked him down and recorded three new numbers with him in 1974, including the risqué “I Wanna Eat Your Pudding”. A legal repro of the Starlite 45 was issued in the UK in 1977 and “Don’t Mean Maybe Baby” became a hit all over again in the British rock n roll clubs.
An LP containing his entire rockabilly legacy was released in 1994 on the British Pink ’n’ Black label. In 1999 Alvis finally visited the UK (Hemsby) for the first time and was overwhelmed by the reception. He became a regular on the international rock and roll circuit. Also, he began recording again for the revitalised Rollin’ Rock label, which resulted in two well-received CDs, “Rockabilly Daddy” (2000) and “Proud Of My Rockabilly Roots” (2001). Alvis Wayne passed away on July 31, 2013, at the age of 75 at his home in Bacliff, Texas.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/AlvisWayne.html
Discography / sessionography (not complete) : http://countrydiscography.blogspot.nl/2011/03/alvis-wayne.html
CDs : “Rockabilly Daddy” and “Proud Of My Rockabilly Roots” are still in print. The seven Westport recordings are available on the 33-track CD “Rollin’ the Rock : Texas Rockabilly, Vol. 2 - The Roots Of Rollin’ Rock” (Rollin’ Rock, 2011).
Acknowledgements : John Kennedy, Dave Penny.
Dik, November 2016
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