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Ray Campi Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap

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Probably the only tribute album that Jimmy Heap will ever receive! One vastly underrated musician... more

Ray Campi: Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap

Probably the only tribute album that Jimmy Heap will ever receive! One vastly underrated musician salutes another. Ray lovingly re-creates the western dance classics and ballads that Jimmy Heap recorded in the Fifties. The songs include 'Wild Side Of Life' (with the verse no one but Jimmy Heap ever sang), 'Dessau Waltz', 'The Woods Are Full Of Them Now', 'A Million Tears', and 'Butterball Bounce'. (See also our Jimmy Heap, BCD 15617).

Taylor, Texas, in the heart of central Texas, is surrounded by acres of cotton farms and in the 1950s was a hub of activity for farmers, ranchers, and their families. S. P.J.S.T. halls dot the countryside for miles and gatherings on weekends and holidays were common. In addition to cook-outs and barbecues these festivities were not complete without music, and dancing the waltz and polka were popular pastimes. It was in this setting that Taylor native James 'Jimmy' Heap learned his musical craft and in 1947 upon returning home from the service he formed his first band. Cecil 'Butterball' Harris, a steel guitar player, and 'Big' Bill Glendening, a high school acquaintance of Jimmy's were the first to join, with Bill taking up the bass fiddle. Soon a fine musician and composer, Arlie Carter added a piano to the band and Horace Barnett, a guitarist also with writing talent penned one of their early records to gain attention: the Dessau Waltz. Dessau dance hall was located near Austin and was where all the major country music stars performed. Along with Tom & Nat's club in Milano it was a regular venue forthe Melody Masters.

1947 marked the opening of radio station KTAE which is still in operation much as it was in the beginning years. Many bands including my first one, "Ramblin' Ray and the Ramblers," were to find a spot on KTAE as well as Sid King and the Five Strings, Gaylon 'Corncob' Christy, and Happy Dan and the Melody Boys, a polka band. But Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters were the most popular. Their live noontime program lasted forthirteen years. In 1949 recordings emerged underthe guidance of Lew Chudd and his newly formed Imperial Records and the Melody Masters helped to get the label rolling with local hits, the most notable being Curtain Of Tears, Haunted Hungry Heart and the now famous Wild Side Of Life.

Jimmy had a great sensitivity for spotting hit material and during these years. Arlie turned out some good songs as well as Jimmy, Bill, 'Butterball', Horace and Perk Williams. Vocal chores had been shared by Jimmy, Horace, and Bill on and off record until the chance hiring of a new fiddle player, Houston 'Perk' Williams, provided an unexpected surprise and opportunity. Perk was found to possess quite a unique and commercial singing style and he also co-wrote some very fine songs, like This Song Is Just For You. His vocal versatility ranged from the comic When They Operated On Papa They Opened Mama's Male, to the plaintive Carbon Copy. He even did some yodeling on Snakes In My Boots - a tune of his.

The band's musical direction preferred to complement song lyrics with simple electric guitar and steel back-up riffs rather than busy, jazzy solos. This 'commercial' approach stuck in the listeners' minds and 'Butterball's' steel guitar style with its use of foot pedal volume fading and slowly decending and ascending chords and chimes set the pattern for imitators, most notably, Slim Whitman's steel man, 'Hoot' Raines. Hank Thompson's hit version of Wild Side Of Life brought the Melody Masters to the attention of producer Ken Nelson who characterized Perk as the New Hank Williams, and a Capitol Records contract was signed. On November 17th and 18th, 1951 Jimmy and the band traveled to Dallas and recorded eight sides including the memorable Girl With A Past and Jimmy sang You Don't Kiss Me Cause You Love Me.

Their biggest sellers on Capitol were Release Me which exceeded 600,000 copies, and 'Butterball's' instrumental Butternut which climbed onto the pop charts - quite an achievement forthese country boys. Personal misfortune led to Perk's leaving the band in early 1956 and with the rise of Rock & Roll the group developed with the times by adding horns (Bill Taylor) and sax and comedy by Ken Idaho and a regular drummer, George Harrison. Also, young vocalists like rockabilly Dale McBride added spark to the show. Later recordings were released on Jimmy's Fame label. The group was quite versatile and played the Las Vegas hotels regularly. Tracks like Seben Come Eleben have appeared in Europe in the EMI Rockabilly series in recent years. Jimmy, Cecil, and Bill had invested in vacant land around Taylor during the late '50s and in the '60s they formed a construction company and built many homes in Taylor and Austin. The success of this venture became time consuming and Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters finally disbanded in 1977 after more than 30 years of music making.

This album is a retrospective of some of the fine music they created on stage and on record. It is also my way of remembering some 'great guys', who were an inspiration to me during my earliest years in music.
Ray Campi, July 1989

Article properties: Ray Campi: Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap

  • Interpret: Ray Campi

  • Album titlle: Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap

  • Genre Country

  • Label Bear Family Records

  • Price code AH
  • Artikelart CD

  • EAN: 4000127154866

  • weight in Kg 0.115
Campi, Ray - Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap CD 1
01 Curtain Of Tears (& JON EMERY & ROSIE FLORES) Ray Campi
02 Haunted Hungry Heart (& ROSIE FLORES) Ray Campi
03 The Woods Are Full Of Them Now Ray Campi
04 Dessau Waltz (& JON EMERY & KIMMIE RHODES) Ray Campi
05 When They Operated On Papa Ray Campi
06 Butterball Bounce Ray Campi
07 Wild Side Of Life (& ROSIE FLORES) Ray Campi
08 That's That Ray Campi
09 A Million Tears Ray Campi
10 Honk Your Horn Ray Campi
11 Love For Sale (& KIMMIE RHODES) Ray Campi
12 Honky Tonk Women Ray Campi
13 Bermuda Grass Waltz Ray Campi
RAY CAMPI   April 20, 1934 – March11, 2021   RAY CAMPI OBITUARY The... more
"Ray Campi"

RAY CAMPI 

April 20, 1934 – March11, 2021

 

RAY CAMPI OBITUARY

The story of Ray Campi commenced in a most unlikely place for a proud rockabilly warrior: Yonkers, New York, a suburb of New York City. That’s where Campi was born on April 20, 1934, and he lived there until his family relocated to Austin, Texas in 1943. Once he got down there, Campi was sufficiently seduced by country music to make performing his life’s calling.

Campi, who died March 11, 2021 at age 86, caught the music bug early from his cousin, Harold Layman. “Harold was playing accordion and the guitar, and I got a guitar,” said Campi. “He was six years older than me, and we were growing up together. The music started to come out because we met other guys that played. We started those Sunday afternoon sessions at Harold’s house, in Harold’s room. And we’d listen to records.

“I started to hear songs like Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith on M-G-M and Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. He had Jimmie Rodgers records he’d collected. He liked bluegrass too. Of course, Hank Snow was our favorite, so he had many of Hank Snow’s records. He brought some of them from Newfoundland, where he was from. So I first heard Hank Snow with Harold, and he became my favorite artist of all time.”

By 1949, Campi and his young pals were experimenting with home recording, using a disc cutter to lay down his earliest country performances (Richard Weize Archives collected them on a 10” LP, ‘Austin, Texas 1949-1950,’ in 2017). Ramblin’ Ray and The Ramblers held down a couple of radio programs on Austin’s KNOW and KTAE in Taylor, Texas, but they broke up in 1952 when he graduated from high school.

Campi had become a dedicated rockabilly disciple when he cut his first single in 1956 for Bob Tanner’s San Antonio-based TNT label. Catapillar and Play It Cool were truly wild rockers, Campi backed by dazzling lead guitarist Johnny Maddox and bassist Henry Hill. “I just tried to think of funny things that would be a cute title that somebody could remember,” he said of Catapillar. And Play It Cool? “It was just an expression that young people used a lot. I just came up with the idea about situations where you had to play it cool.” Drummers were in short supply in Austin, but Doc Shyrock made them superfluous by contributing unique percussion. “He did finger snapping,” said Ray. “He used to do it for fun. I was always looking for different sounds.” Campi would seal off some rockers by replicating the crash of a snare drum with his mouth for a unique ending.

 

Doc’s percussive proclivities explained the name of Campi’s combo on his ‘57 single for Dot, pairing the self-penned rockers Give That Love To Me and It Ain’t Me. “I didn’t have a name for the band,” said Campi. “Dot Records, somebody down there figured out, ‘Hey, they’re snapping! Just call ‘em the Snappers!’” 1957 also brought a trip back Ea

 

st, where Ray spent some time at music publisher Hal Fein’s Roosevelt Music. “I stayed there a few weeks in New York, and I went to Roosevelt every day,” said Ray. “I wasn’t able to stay in New York. I had no money, and I didn’t have a job. He wasn’t paying me anything. But Jesse Stone was sort of my mentor.”

My Screamin’ Screamin’ Mimi, Campi’s next blistering rocker in 1958, was issued on the Austin-based Domino logo. “I wrote that thinking of Little Richard, who I met a couple of times,” said Campi. “A really nice fellow. I saw him play at The Brooklyn Paramount, a big Alan Freed show, and Richard was the headliner.” In the wake of the tragic plane crash that ended the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper in February of ’59, Austin deejay Jerry Green recruited Campi to cut a quick two-sided tribute to the fallen stars on ‘Pappy’ Daily’s D label, with Ballad Of Donna And Peggy Sue (A Tribute To Ritchie Valens And Buddy Holly) on one side and The Man I Met (A Tribute To The Big Bopper) on the other.

‘The Man I Met,’ I wrote that with Jerry, and the whole idea was to do something that sounded like the Big Bopper, like if a fellow met the Big Bopper and saw his show and was impressed and liked it,” said Campi. ‘The Ballad Of Donna And Peggy Sue,’ two girls lost their loves. See, I told Jerry, ‘I don’t want to write songs with angels flying around in heaven. It’s too corny.’ So it was about the two girls, Donna and Peggy Sue. They’re reflecting on their relationships with these two boys that aren’t there.”

Campi relocated to Los Angeles in September of 1959. He joined Perry Botkin, Jr. and Gil Garfield as The McCoy Boys on the 1960 Verve single Our Man In Havana and sang the flip, another novelty about habitual criminal Caryl Chessman called Reprieve Of Love, on his own. “As soon as the record came out, they executed Chessman,” said Campi. “The reprieve only lasted about two weeks.” His next single under his own name later that year for Colpix, pairing Hear What I Wanna Hear and French Fries, ostensibly had a slightly longer shelf life (Botkin arranged both).

Apart from an early ‘60s stint in New York, Campi planted deep roots in L.A., working a series of day jobs prior to embarking on a half century of teaching school and rocking up a storm on the side. He got in on the ground floor of the ‘70s rockabilly revival, recording prolifically for Ronny Weiser’s Rollin’ Rock label (Bear Family reissued two of his best albums for the label on its 1990 CD ‘The Eager Beaver Boy/Rockabilly Lives’) and perfecting the art of slapping some of the meanest upright bass in the genre.

Campi was a particularly potent draw in Europe over the decades, regularly touring Great Britain from 1977 on. Bear Family released several CDs of his contemporary work, notably tributes to too-often overlooked Texas country music pioneers Jimmy Heap (‘Taylor, Texas 1988’) and Jesse James and All The Boys (‘The Memory Lingers On’). A music historian when he wasn’t busy making music himself, Campi maintained a vast archive dedicated to his own recording legacy—a real rarity among musicians.

His was a dedicated rockabilly legacy well worth celebrating.
--Bill Dahl

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Tracklist
Campi, Ray - Taylor, Texas 1988 - Remembering Jimmy Heap CD 1
01 Curtain Of Tears (& JON EMERY & ROSIE FLORES)
02 Haunted Hungry Heart (& ROSIE FLORES)
03 The Woods Are Full Of Them Now
04 Dessau Waltz (& JON EMERY & KIMMIE RHODES)
05 When They Operated On Papa
06 Butterball Bounce
07 Wild Side Of Life (& ROSIE FLORES)
08 That's That
09 A Million Tears
10 Honk Your Horn
11 Love For Sale (& KIMMIE RHODES)
12 Honky Tonk Women
13 Bermuda Grass Waltz