Tommy Duncan: Beneath A Neon Star In A Honky Tonk
Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan were partners since 1932, when Wills hired him to replace Milton Brown as vocalist in the Light Crust Doughboys. When Wills left the Doughboys in 1933 to form what became the Texas Playboys, Duncan went with him. For the next 15 years, as the group´s fame mushroomed through New Antonio Rose, Roly Poly, New Spanish Two-Step and similar hits, Bob and Tommy remained a team. Finally, growing alienation between them led Wills to fire Tommy in September, 1948.
Duncan immediately formed the Western All-Stars, made up almost totally of topnotch Playboy alumni including pianist Millard Kelso, guitarists Jimmy Wyble and Cameron Hill, Noel Boggs on steel guitar and fiddlers Joe Holley and Ocie Stockard as well as Tommy´s brother, bassist-vocalist Glynn Duncan. Landing a recording contract with Capitol, he had a nationwide hit (his only one) in 1949 with a remake of Jimmie Rodgers´ Gambling Polka Dot Blues.
Even when Western Swing´s popularity began declining in the Southwest, Tommy stayed in the game. Even after disbanding the All-Stars in 1950 to work as a solo vocalist, Duncan continued to record backed by outstanding Western Swing musicians including members of Ole Rasmussen´s Nebraska Cornhuskers and the popular Texas group the Miller Bros. Though his records weren´t always consistent, he never quit performing. Except for a brief early 60s reunion with Wills, Duncan stayed active as a solo artist until his death of heart attack in 1967.
Bear Family has assembled Duncan´s complete January, 1949 through March 1953 recordings on two volumes. 'Texas Moon' (BCD 15907) features the complete Capitol recordings, Duncan´s one released single for his own Natural label, and his first two 1951 sessions for Intro Records. Also on the package are both singles Glynn Duncan recorded with the Western All-Stars for Cormac (with Tommy playing bass) in 1950. 'Beneath A Neon Star In A Honky Tonk' (BCD 15957) continues with his complete July, 1951-March, 1953 Intro sessions (two songs previously unreleased) including the first recording of Willie Mae Thornton´s R&B classic Hound Dog by a white singer. The set also contains Duncan´s later, ultra-rare single for the Bakersfield-based Fire Records, with Buck Owens on guitar.
Article properties: Tommy Duncan: Beneath A Neon Star In A Honky Tonk
|Duncan, Tommy - Beneath A Neon Star In A Honky Tonk CD 1|
|01||The Gossip Song|
|03||Got A Letter From My Kid Today|
|04||Jesus Is Mine|
|05||Take Your Burden To The Lord|
|07||Relax And Take It Easy|
|08||Move A Little Closer|
|09||I Was Just Walking Out The Door|
|10||I've Turned A Gadabout|
|11||I Hit The Jackpot (When I Won You)|
|12||I Don't Want To Hurt You|
|13||Excuse Me, I Gotta Go|
|15||Who Drank My Beer (While I Was In The Rear)|
|16||Where, Oh Where Has My Little Love Gone|
|17||It May Take A Long, Long Time|
|18||Grits And Gravy Blues|
|19||Beneath A Neon Star In A Honky Tonk|
|20||Stars Over San Antone|
|21||I Reckon In A Texan|
|22||I Guess You Were Right|
|23||Tennessee Church Bells|
|25||That Certain Feeling|
|26||San Antonio Rose|
|27||Daddyo Loves Mammyo|
|28||Crazy Mixed-Up Kid|
Vocalist Tommy Duncan was fired from Bob Wills' Texas Playboys in 1948 after working with Wills for more than a decade and a half. He subsequently toured as a solo artist with various bands that, at times, included Bakersfield pickers like Bill Woods and Billy Mize. As the popularity of Western swing fell out of favor in the 1950s, Duncan began experimenting with his sound in an attempt to stay relevant in a changing marketplace.
With honky-tonk and the emerging rock and roll sound capturing listeners' attention, he agreed to record this rocking Bill Woods original when Bill pitched it to him one night following one of Tommy's guest appearances at the Blackboard. It was almost certainly recorded at the same session as Woods' Go Crazy Man, and reunited Duncan with former Texas Playboy Johnny Cuviello.
Already 46 years old at the time, Duncan sounds only slightly uneasy with rock and roll material, delivering a reasonably convincing performance.