BILL PARSONS (By Dik de Heer)
Born 8 September 1934, Crossville, Tennessee
Some people think that Bill Parsons was not an actual person, but a pseudonym for Bobby Bare. The fascinating saga of "The All American Boy" will be broadly familiar to most of our readers. Unfortunately, when it comes to detail, the info is highly contradictory. In my BTBWY piece about Bobby Bare, on April 7, 2002, I leaned heavily on Wayne Jancik's version of the story, as reported in his "Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders". This time, not wanting to repeat myself, I present a somewhat different version, taken from the liner notes (by Rob Finnis) of the CD "All-American Rock 'n' Roll : The Fraternity Story, Vol. 2" (Ace 822, 2001):
"In late 1958, future country star Bobby Bare fell in with Bill Parsons, an old friend from Coalton, Ohio, who was trying to get on record. 24 year-old Parsons had just come back from army service in Germany and was working in small Ohio night-spots for $10 a night. Parsons and a 40 year old half-Irish, half-Cherokee drifter named Orville Lunsford had penned "All-American Boy", a talking blues parodying Elvis' rise to fame and his subsequent call to duty. Parsons actually had greater faith in another song "Rubber Dolly", a trite rocker adapted from a folk song, and set up a session at the King Records studio in Cincinnati on 4th November, 1958. Thinking him better suited to the task, Parsons asked Bare to perform the drawling first-person narrative on "All-American Boy" while Parsons himself delivered the vocal on "Rubber Dolly". Fraternity purchased the masters but when the record came out, both sides were credited to Parsons. Bare, meanwhile, having reported for duty, was unaware of these developments. In the event, "All-American Boy" caught the public's imaginationand reached # 2 on the Hot 100, becoming Fraternity's third mega-hit in as many years - by strange coincidence, both "Ivory Tower" (Cathy Carr) and "So Rare" (Jimmy Dorsey) had also hit the # 2 spot."End of quote. Parsons should not be seen as an impostor, nor did Bare hold a grudge against him. In 1960, Bobby Bare testified before the Harris sub-committee (the congressional probe into payola) and declared that he had composed, arranged and performed "All American Boy" for the sole purpose of helping his friend, Bill Parsons, and that he had agreed to let Parsons put his name to it. Parsons and Lunsford has signed a contract with Fraternity Records on November 5, 1958; one of the clauses indicated that the two men had written "The All American Boy" and that the tape embodied Parsons' rendering of same. The pact also called for Harry Carlson (Fraternity's owner) to acquire the tape and publishing rights in return for $500 advance against future royalties. Following the record's staggering success, Lunsford and Parsons accused Carlson of withholding royalty payments. Carlson told the subcommittee hearings that Parsons had lied to him and that he'd known nothing of the masquerade until later. Indeed, he'd continued to record Parsons and was mystified when the musicians asked "Why can't you get the same sound from Bill Parsons as you have on The All American Boy?". Fraternity issued two further singles by Parsons (sung by himself), of which "Educated Rock 'n' Roll" was quite good, but failed to chart. Some unissued Fraternity material by Parsons first saw the light of day on the two Ace CD's "All American Rock 'n' Roll from Fraternity", including "Absolutely Nothin'". An abbreviated version of this song had been issued as "Guitar Blues" in 1960 on Starday 526 (c/w "Hot Rod Volkswagen"). After a second unsuccesful single for Starday in 1961, Parsons retired from the music business.
When Bobby Bare was discharged in 1960, he returned to Fraternity, and recorded a sequel to "All American Boy" called "I'm Hangin' Up My Rifle" (about Elvis' return to civilian life). He would even record a third instalment, "Brooklyn Bridge", for RCA, still using the same tune and accompaniment.
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at email@example.com