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The Big "D" Live - Various Artists
The Big
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Reviewed by Jolene Downs

Dragon Street Records has released a series of CD's that feature artists of The Big 'D' Jamboree. The Big "D" was to Dallas what the Ryman Auditorium is to Nashville. It was wildly popular in the Dallas area and was the proving ground for many local artists. It also attracted such recording artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Ferlin Husky, Hank Snow, Cowboy Copas and many more. This particular release is called The Big 'D' Live, Vols. 1 & 2." It is a two CD set that has the "Hillbilly" songs on one disc and the "Rockabilly" songs on the other disc.

While The Big "D" may not have achieved the national recognition that the other radio barn dances received, it was a strong musical presence from the late '40's into the late '50's in the Dallas area. It was a hotbed of the rockabilly and early rock sounds. It was where people came to test out their new sounds on an appreciative audience. These albums have been carefully mastered from a surviving set of 16-inch vinyl transcriptions. This project is a treasured find because these are all original recordings. They are dated in a time period between late 1956 and early 1959. While they used today's available technology to improve the sound quality, they left it as close to the original as possible so as not to ruin the affect. The two discs combined have over 100 songs on them. I'm just going to touch on the overall feel of each album.

The Hillbilly disc was my favorite of the two. It features some established recording artists along with the local favorites of The Big "D." The Texas Stompers perform some great instrumental numbers that make you want to get up and dance along. There are some pure country ballads from country legends Cowboy Copas, Ferlin Husky and Hank Locklin. A young lady by the name of Sherry Davis did a song called "Chime Bells" that had some incredible yodeling. I have always loved to hear someone who can really yodel. Wanda Jackson was a leading force in the industry for women of that area. She was well known in the early rock and rockabilly field. She sang a beautiful ballad called, "No Wedding Bells for Joe." Charlene Arthur was a long time, regular performer on the Jamboree. She also acted as a segment host for several years. Johnny Cash closed out the musical portion of the CD with his trademark boom-chick-a-boom style and deep bass. The final five cuts on this album were from the Falstaff's Liberty Jamboree Show from 1950. The sound was a bit fuzzy, but it gave you the idea of what it was like to be a part of that show. It had great instrumental jamming and that overall old-time feel to it.

The Rockabilly disc started out by featuring the legendary Carl Perkins on a few songs. We get to hear "Blue Suede Shoes," which is synonymous with the name Carl Perkins. After Carl, the artists were all early Rockabilly artists and mostly local to The Big "D." Much of it is very raw sounding by today's standards. This disc is not for someone that does not like the early barn dance show style of singing. The raw sounds of the Belew Twins is mixed in with the old Rockabilly style of such people as Warren Smith, Jerry Reed, Orville Couch, Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps and many more. "Booger Red," is a fun song by Sid King and the Five Strings. You also hear some classic favorites such as "Hound Dog," "Great Balls of Fire," "Teenage Queen," Johnny B. Goode" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On." These are all from local Big "D" artists. Tennessee Ernie Ford closes the album with "Armed Forces PSA," a commentary.

Listening to this music brought back many childhood memories of listening to the old barn dance radio shows while, appropriately enough, finishing up the chores in the barn. They are just great old songs. This two-volume set is perfect for someone who really misses the good old radio show days. The Hillbilly disc is more mainstream country sounding. The Rockabilly is very much raw Rockabilly sound. It is just what you would expect to hear from the "boys" (and "girls") getting together for a jam session. This disc is not for someone who doesn't appreciate the true roots of country music. It is full of "twang."

Disc 1:

  1. Double Eagle Stomp - The Texas Stompers
  2. Tragic Romance - Cowboy Copas
  3. Aladdin's Lamp - Ferlin Husky
  4. A Good Woman's Love - Hank Locklin
  5. You Can't Never Tell - Hank Locklin
  6. Salty Dog - The Kentucky Mountain Boys
  7. Chime Bells - Sherry Davis
  8. I Love You Because - Leon Payne
  9. River Road Two-Step - The Texas Stompers
  10. No Wedding Bells for Joe - Wanda Jackson
  11. King For A Day - Orville Couch
  12. Overnight - Orville Couch
  13. Casino On the Hill - Lawton Williams
  14. Love Me Like You Mean It - Mitchell Torok
  15. Your Eyes - Billy Jack Hale
  16. Welcome To The Club - Charlene Arthur
  17. What About Tomorrow - Charlene Arthur
  18. So Doggone Lonesome - Johnny Cash
  19. I Walk The Line - Johnny Cash
  20. Get Rhythm - Johnny Cash
  21. Falstaff Beer Commercial
  22. The Devil's Dream - Billy Jack Saucier w/the BDJ Band
  23. I'm Movin' On - Jimmy Lee Fautheree
  24. Carbon Copy - Jimmy Heap and the Melody Masters
  25. If I Could Only Learn To Yodel - Ramona Reed

Disc 2:

  1. That's All Right - Carl Perkins
  2. Blue Suede Shoes - Carl Perkins
  3. Slippin' & Slidin' - Carl Perkins
  4. I Got A Woman - Carl Perkins
  5. Everybody's Trying' To Be My Baby - Carl Perkins
  6. Suzy Q - Johnny Carroll
  7. I'll Wait - Johnny Carroll
  8. Hot Dog Buddy Buddy - The Belew Twins
  9. Black Slacks - The Belew Twins
  10. Rockin' Bones - The Belew Twins
  11. Move Around - "Groovey" Joe Poovey
  12. Too Much - Tommy Mitchell
  13. Black Jack David - Warren Smith
  14. Hound Dog - Warren Smith
  15. Rock & Roll Ruby - Warren Smith
  16. Mr. Whizz - Jerry Reed
  17. Booger Red - Sid King and the Five Strings
  18. All By Myself - Werly Fairburn
  19. Great Balls of Fire - Johnny Dollar
  20. Teenage Queen - Orville Couch
  21. Easy Does It - Orville Couch
  22. 30 Days - Ronnie Dee and the D Men
  23. Johnny B. Goode - Ronnie Dee and the D Men
  24. Blue Jean Bop - Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  25. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On - Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  26. Dance To The Bop - Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  27. Lotta Lovin' - Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
  28. (Armed Forces PSA) - Tennessee Ernie Ford

Album cover, used with permission of Dragon Street Records.

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