BOBBY WAYNE (By Tony Wilkinson)
Born 10 September 1936, Spokane, Washington
A little while back Bobby Wayne wrote a letter to Now Dig This asking why those acts who recorded for Sun, but who never had a hit, are revered in Europe but artists such as he who did have chart placings are seemingly ignored. This naturally provoked a hostile response from many readers and, whilst Wayne was clearly out of order, it has to be admitted that he is a rockabilly original. Indeed, he virtually introduced rock 'n' roll in the North West region of the USA.
Born on 10th September 1936 to Paul and Virginia Snyder in the city of Spokane, Washington State, he inherited his musical talents form his dad as well as soaking up shows such as The Grand Ol' Opry and The National Barn Dance. Starting out on the piano, he switched to guitar when the family temporarily relocated to California and the family lived in a small mobile home with limited space.
However, come 1953, the Snyders had returned to Spokane and Bobby had formed his first band, The Rocky Mountain Playboys, with Wayne playing a mean boogie guitar and rhythm. With Red Adair on lead guitar and Bob Thames on upright bass, the guys soon landed a residency at the Woodland Beach Club, Hauser Lake, Idaho playing a mixture of Country, Hillbilly, Honky Tonk, Pop and Big Band tunes.
Along with Adair, Wayne visited the Sound Recording Studio, Spokane in May 1953, cut 'Rocky Mountain Home/There's No Room In Your Heart' but these still have to be commercially released.
After Hauser Lake, the band secured an engagement at the Jitterbug Club, Osbourn, Idaho, playing for six nights a week throughout the winter of 1953/54. It was around this time that Bobby met Doug Dugger who had been the bass player for T Texas Tyler. Doug got the band a month's work at the Moose Club, Missoula, Montana. When the guys returned to Idaho, Bobby, Red and Bob linked up with Jack Ackers (a vocalist and lead guitar picker) and Jack Evans (singer and accomplished fiddle player). These two new people were experienced in performing and taught Bobby a whole heap about playing music. The five piece played wherever they could obtain a booking.
However the band became hungry for success and so in the summer of 1954, they headed off to Los Angeles. Due to the strict liquor laws in California and the fact that Bobby was only seventeen, they were not successful and so caught the Greyhound back to Spokane. Upon arrival, Red decided to call it a day and the band disintegrated. Wayne formed a new outfit by the name of The String Dusters with Neil Livingston on steel guitar, Ron Livingston (Neil's brother) on fiddle, Bob Thames on bass and Jack Curry on piano. As a side note, I have been fortunate enough to hear some of Neil's recorded works and he makes that steel guitar sing 'n' talk, a superb player. This five piece got Saturday night bookings for several months, with each member averaging $55.00 each per night, which was more than most adults were making in a whole week at this time.
Unfortunately whilst Bobby was ploughing this furrow, his parents had divorced and his mother had remarried with a subsequent relocation to Atlanta, Georgia. She asked Bobby to join her there and come the spring of 1955, he hopped on the Greyhound bus. Meeting him at the depot, his mother Virginia took him for lunch and, whilst in the restaurant, she played him a record on the jukebox. This was 'Mystery Train' by the then up and coming Elvis Presley. Wayne was instantly struck and proceeded to obtain as many of Elvis's records as he could. He had taken his guitar with him to Atlanta and practised for seven to eight hours a day becoming proficient in playing in the rockabilly style.
Bobby Wayne was successful in obtaining musical work in Atlanta and one date was playing a senior high school prom. Here he met the home coming queen and they fell for each other. As a result, he wrote a song about her and this was 'Sally Ann', a title that was eventually to achieve cult status in Europe. Whilst in Atlanta, Bobby met up with Ric Cartey who subsequently went on to have the originals on 'Young Love' and 'Scratching On My Screen'. He also encountered country music legends Roy Drusky, Jerry Reed and Pete Drake. The last mentioned was working as a milkman and played in clubs at weekends at the time. Drake asked Bobby to audition for a local television show but before this could happen, his mother's marriage had problems that resulted in a return to Spokane.
Back in Washington State, Bobby set out singing and playing rockabilly music, including his own originals, thus becoming the first rockabilly singer in the North West part of the USA and Western Canada. He decided that it was time to make a record and so collecting the money together, he visited the Sound Recording Studio in Spokane in November 1955 and, along with Harold Horn on rhythm guitar and Warren Waters on drums, cut 'Sally Ann' and the instrumental 'Warpaint'. 250 copies were pressed up as a 78-rpm record only and issued on the SRC label (there was no catalogue number) in December 1955. This was one month before Elvis issued 'Heartbreak Hotel'.
Bobby set about promoting the release but encountered difficulties, as it seemed that the North West was not then ready for the new wave of music. Indeed, in 1956 Wayne got fired from a TV and radio station because its manager said the he was singing too much Elvis type music. Accordingly in the spring of 1956, he set out again for Los Angeles in another attempt to make the big time. It was on this trip that he made the acquaintance of Don Weise who was in the process of being signed by Speciality Records and its publishing arm, Venice Music and who has been the subject of a separate TIMS piece.
The years 1956 to 1958 were spent by Bobby playing music full-time in clubs of the North West area as well as Los Angeles, plus composing and laying down demo recordings. By 1958, rock 'n' roll was everywhere and the Spokane label LJV Records picked up the mater tape of 'Sally Ann' and reissued the record (#101). Bobby contests to this day that this was a legitimate issue of his recordings. The next four years were spent developing his reputation further. He was given a series of contracts to appear as a featured artist on the Grand Ol Opry concert circuit as well as providing the guitar backing to such stars Lefty Frizell, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Little Jimmy Dickens, Freddie Hart and Tex Williams.
The time was now ripe for Bobby's career to take off. Gary Todd, a top disc jockey in Spokane, bought Wayne's talent to the attention of Jerry Dennon who was a noted west coast producer. Indeed, it was Jerry who bought the song 'Louie, Louie' to the attention of the world via versions by Paul Revere and The Raiders plus the hit version by The Kingsmen, the latter first being issued on Jerden before being picked up by Wand Records. Dennon, along with Bonnie Guitar and one of The Brothers Four pop folk group, had first founded the Seattle based Jerden Records initially at the turn of the sixties but the label only saw a few releases prior to going into hibernation. It was reactivated by Dennon late 1962/early 1963 after he had returned from a spell in Hollywood and the Seattle area had sustained an economic revival after the 1962 World's Fair had been held there.
A contract between Jerden and Wayne was executed and in February 1963, the tracks 'Big Train/The Valley were recorded and subsequently issued on Jerden 709. Vince Gerber was the drummer on these sides and the stand-up bass player was Delmar 'Skipper' Hawkins. Skipper had been a member of The Sons Of The Pioneers but it is for his two off-spring that his better known in rock 'n' roll circles. These are Jerry Hawkins who cut some rockin' sides for Ebb Records and his brother Delmar Alan Hawkins who under his stage name of Dale Hawkins recorded the classic 'Susie Q' and many other superb rock 'n' roll tracks.
This disc started to make an impact in various markets in the North West and up in Canada. This did not go un-noticed by the major labels, especially Columbia Records, at the time were looking for a replacement for Johnny Cash who had been hitless for a little while. Bobby Wayne's voice had deepened somewhat and he naturally sounded in the same vocal styling. However, Cash resumed his hit making days with 'Ring Of Fire' and so Bobby's 'Big Train/The Valley' was released on Epic instead and, with little promotion, was commercially stillborn.
His next release, on Jerden, was 'Tip Toes/Bobby's Boogie #1' and this time it was leased to A&M Records. With good promotion, the disc went on to become a Canadian top ten hit. Jerden also rush released 'TV Dream/The Last Ride', which was a regional success. A&M called for another disc with the result that 'Twinkle Tows/Last Date' was released and it too became a commercial success. The latter side is a version of the Floyd Cramer hit. Also around this time, Vince Gerber, the drummer with Bobby's band, released the two instrumentals 'Cyclone/Torquila' on Jerden #726. These sides included Bobby on guitar and were subsequently included on the 1964 L.P. 'Big Guitar Of Bobby Wayne' (Jerden # 7003).
All of these titles had been recorded at the audio Studio, Seattle and the backing musicians usually included Vince Gerber and Dennis Roberts with Wayne playing guitar.
The next release appeared on the Warner Bros label and was Wayne's interpretation of the Marvin Rainwater hit 'Half Breed'. Back in Seattle, Bobby returned to the studio with his friend Dennis Roberts and laid down the tracks 'La-Den-Dada/Fern' (Jerden # 727) which appeared under the name of The Hummingbirds. This was a busy time for Bobby and was complete with extensive tours and heavy schedule of promotion appearances. The panel on American Bandstand selected 'Last Ride' as a hit, but unfortunately no personal appearance followed. This was followed by 'River Man/Ballad Of A Teenage Queen'; a release credited solely to Bobby Wayne (Jerden # 737) and was subsequently issued in the UK on Pye International.
An instrumental coupling with 'Wheels/Moonshine' (Jerden # 751) then ensued and it was around this time that Cashbox magazine voted Wayne one of the three most promising guitarists - the other two being Roy Clark and Glen Campbell. The next Jerden release was 'Hobo/Big Wheel' (#765) and this met with a degree of commercial success. Perhaps this was one of the factors that enabled Jerry Dennon to place the follow-up (Jerden # 786) with ABC Paramount for distribution, the latter's logo appearing on the label. The titles were 'The Letter/Uncle Sam's got My Number'. The topside is a different song to that by The Box Tops and the flip was released as a result of the then current Vietnam conflict. However, the song had first appeared far earlier as the b-side to Arkie Sibley's 'Hot Rod Race' with vocals by Leon Kelly.
This was also the time that the aforementioned 'The Big Guitar Of Bobby Wayne' album was issued. Overall, a considerable quantity of releases in a relatively short period. A tribute to both the artist and Jerry Dennon. There was to be a further release by Bobby and Dennis as The Hummingbirds with their styling of Gene Vincent's 'Lotta Lovin' and Ersel Hickey's 'Bluebirds Over The Mountain'.
Things then went a little quiet on the recording front by Bobby's standards. The next outing was under the pseudonym of Deke Wade and was his version of Dorsey Burnette's 'Tall Oak Tree' coupled with 'Sherry Won't'. The disc was recorded as a result of the popularity accorded the tune when featured in Wayne's stage act and was issued on Jerden's subsidiary Panorama label. (the original demo version of 'Sherry Won't' is included on the Bobby Wayne CD 'Go Rockabilly).
As it turned out, this was Wayne's penultimate release for the Jerden set-up. But the final release(s) were to be something else. He cut twelve tracks, all of which had a horse as the subject. This is the famed 'Ballad Of The Appaloosa' set and in reality was one of the first concept albums. Bobby laid down the lead tracks in Seattle, with vocal backing by The Jordanaires being subsequently added in Nashville but the recordings are seamless. The single 'Ballad Of The Appaloosa' c/w 'The Blizzard' was issued in November 1966 and was followed by an album of the same title, both of which appeared on Panorama. This title track was also used as the theme for the award winning Walt Disney movie 'Run, Appaloosa, Run'. The album was subsequently re-issued in 1981 on Piccadilly Records (another Jerden subsidiary) and later appeared on CD on the Wildfire label.
Bobby's five-year contract with Jerden expired at the end of 1967 and was not renewed. Indeed, Jerry Dennon elected to retire from the record business in 1970 but subsequently returned to the fold in 1976. He is still active to this very day and I have visited with him, a most interesting person.
In 1973, Bobby cut the album 'Nous Vivons Ensemble' with Guylaine that was released on TC Maximum Records. Guylaine is a French-speaking lady from Canada and at the time of recording, she and Bobby were an item and so they jointly decided to visit Nashville and record the album. Both sing in French and English on the recordings that, in essence, were aimed at the French speaking regions of Canada.
Since then, Bobby has resided in Spokane, Washington running his own auto windscreen replacement business and performing music, often up to three nights a week. He, along with Don Weise, played Hemsby a few years back and demonstrated a great guitar picking skill and good showmanship. He has also been in the studio and recorded some sides that subsequently appeared on the CD 'Hot Rod Motorcycles Volume One'.
Recently he has been rather quiet but I have no doubt that we have not heard the last of the rockin' talents of Bobby Wayne.
Suggested CD listening:
Wildfire 'Go Rockabilly' (includes the original recording of 'Sally Ann')
Wildfire 'Ballad Of The Appaloosa'
Wildfire 'Hot Rod Motorcycles Volume One' (includes tracks by Don Weise and Frank Andy Starr'
None of the Wildfire Label CDs (Bobby's own label) have catalogue numbers.
There has been talk of a CD compilation of Bobby's Jerden recordings but seemingly this has yet to come to fruition.
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