Dick Damron: The Legend and the Legacy by Gina Arnold - Biography of Dick Damron
Article properties: Dick Damron: The Legend and the Legacy by Gina Arnold - Biography of Dick Damron
More Than Countryfied
The Early Recordings Of Dick Damron, 1959 - 1976
Dick Damron is one of Canada's musical treasures. The pride of Bentley, Alberta has been a driving force in the Canadian country music scene for over 50 years and, even though he is now in his seventies, shows no sign of stopping.
Damron has recorded over 30 albums, written over 500 songs, and has had his songs covered by such artists as Charley Pride and George Hamilton IV. He has been named the BMI Best Canadian Songwriter seven times, and in addition to being inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall Of Fame, has won just about every other music award that Canada has to offer.
Despite the fact that he remains relatively unknown in the United States (he has won five Texas Music Awards, and performed for six years in Las Vegas), Damron has carved out a niché in Canada and Europe, through countless tours. He is also quite well known in his winter home of Mazatlan, Mexico.
This collection is the first time that his early recordings have been properly reissued. It covers the period of 1959 to 1976, from his first rockabilly recording of Gonna Have A Party to his classic 1960s country albums recorded at the Starday studio in Nashville, to his 1970s 'outlaw country' recordings that firmly established the 'Dick Damron sound.' This 3-CD collection is a much-needed retrospective on one of Canada's great honky-tonk heroes.
Dick Damron was born March 22, 1934 in the town of Bentley, Alberta, located almost exactly halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. Like most Canadians, he had an interesting family history with roots from Ireland, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Kentucky, Texas, and Cherokee Indian.
The Damron family wound up in Bentley, a remote town in one of the most remote provinces in Canada, where his father ran a Hereford cattle farm and worked as the principal of the Bentley High School. 'Dickie' Damron, as he was known as a child, was a holy terror that who kept his parents on constant alert through a string of runaway attempts, prairie fires, train trestle shenanigans almost resulting in death, mock hangings during cowboy games, and the like.
Music was always an important part of the family. Like many rural families, the Damrons listened to country music on their battery-powered radio. His grandfather played the banjo, and his father played the fiddle. When his Uncle Bud came over with a guitar that he played in the lap steel manner, Dickie was hooked.
Wilf Carter, also known as 'Montana Slim' and acknowledged as the father of Canadian Country Music, was a huge influence on the young 'Dickie.' The young Damron learned how to sing and play the guitar and began to memorize many of the classic cowboy and yodeling numbers.
Years later, when he returned to Bentley, an elderly woman introduced him at an appearance with a classic quote: "These days there are kids terrorizing the town with motorcycles and cars and trucks with no mufflers. I remember when 'Little Dickie Damron' did it single-handedly on horseback!"
He did indeed ride everywhere on horseback in his formative years, and began riding his horse into local taverns, much to the consternation of the bar owners. Damron's desire was to become a rodeo cowboy, a career path that he pursued for a time.
During his young adulthood, he rode in rodeos and stampedes, making a basic living for himself. The life was rugged and difficult, but thrilling for a young boy living a life he had dreamed about. Living as a vagabond with his fellow riding pals, Damron traveled to such events as the Calgary Stampede, getting to see city life for the first time.
When the rodeo career didn't pan out, he put his energies into music, forming a family band at the age of 15. He wound up marrying the piano player, Martha Ohlson, and in 1955 the couple gave birth to Damron's daughter, Barbara Jean.
After the birth of his daughter, Dick decided to get a 'real job,' and took a very dangerous job as an oil field roughneck for a while. After nearly getting killed and suffering long hours for little pay, he moved the family back to a trailer on the Damron family farm and focused his energies again on music.
When he and his wife Martha were able to assemble enough musicians to get a band together again, they began a popular radio show on CKRD in Red Deer, using the name 'The Musical Round-Up Gang' at first, as they were part of a popular local disc-jockey show called the 'Musical Round-Up.' Later, he would use the name 'Dick Damron and the CKRD Nite-Riders.' The radio show enabled them to get bookings all around the area, and for the next few years, he learned the ropes from the musical school of hard knocks.
As he wrote in his autobiography 'The Legend And The Legacy,' "Somewhere between 1956 and 1964, we made a long, slow transition from being an old-time dance band playing waltzes, polkas and square dances to playing Fifties rock 'n' roll."
As many young musicians discovered around the same time, the music that Elvis Presley ushered in to the public consciousness brought about more money, acclaim, and women, so it was a no-brainer for Damron to make the switch to rock 'n' roll and rockabilly. Unusually, though, he claims it wasn't Elvis so much as it was Carl Perkins that influenced him the most.
In 1959, Damron got the urge to record, and used the tiny studio at CKRD (where his band did their live radio show) to record two numbers, Gonna Have A Party and Rockin' Baby. He and his band subsequently released the two songs on their own Laurel label, named after his brother Howard's then-girlfriend. After they received the records, he and his brothers discovered that in the movie 'Jailhouse Rock' Elvis' character recorded on the ficticious 'Laurel' label. Despite their worries that Elvis' lawyers might sue them, the group never had any legal troubles.
The 45 was pressed by King Plastics in Ohio, a giant operation in Cincinnati that ran their own label, recording studio and record pressing plant, the latter of which catered to custom pressings like Damron's.
Dick Damron More Than Countryfied 1959-76 (3-DigiPac)
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