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October 12th, 2017

Elvis Presley at Louisiana Hayride

Hank WIlliams and Henry Clay at KWKH-AM.


Featuring more than 25 hours of music, this unprecedented collection comes packed in an LP-sized package complete with a 224-page hardcover book with rare performances from stars like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Kitty Wells, George Jones, and Webb Pierce, as well as a previously unknown Hank Williams recording.

Rolling Stone Country premiered unheard Hank Williams track:

SHREVEPORT, La. — For more than two decades, the Louisiana Hayride radio show was a Saturday night staple for music lovers. Broadcast by Shreveport, Louisiana’s KWKH-AM from 1948-1960, Hayride stood as the chief rival to the now better-known Grand Ole Opry. While the Opry favored established Nashville stars, Hayride offered headliners and newcomers alike an opportunity to perform. It was this policy that led Hayride to say “yes” to a young singer from Tupelo, Mississippi after the Opry said “no.” That singer, Elvis Presley, debuted on the show in October 1954 and later made his first TV appearance on the television version in March 1955.

Presley’s 15 songs here (which include “That’s All Right,” “Baby Let’s Play House,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Don’t Be Cruel”) are just a fraction of the more than 500 tunes stocking At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight. Bear Family Records’20-CD box set holds a treasury of long-buried live Hayride performances — many of which have never been heard since the day they were broadcast — with perhaps the rarest of these rarities being the previously unknown recording of “I’m a Long Gone Daddy” by Hank Williams.

The compilation has been constructed in chronological sequence. Throughout the 20 discs songs are interspersed with the Louisiana Hayride theme tune (“…we’re gonna have a wonderful time…”), and with show announcements, intros, ads, comedy routines, and even mistakes, giving listeners a real sense of what it was like to hear the show on the radio, or to have plunked down your 60¢ (or 30¢ for children) for a ticket to watch it live in Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium. One of these stage announcements, in fact, is the old-time emcee Horace Logan making the now-famous proclamation that “Elvis has left the building.”

Eighteen of the set’s CDs cover the classic weekly Louisiana Hayride broadcasts that took place from April 3, 1948 until August 27, 1960. The other two CDs collect material from some post-1960 shows, along with commercial recordings made in the KWKH radio studios, promotional discs, and transcribed shows from KWKH’s early days. Among the studio-recorded commercial tracks are hits by Slim Whitman, the Browns, Mitchell Torok, Jim Reeves, Mac Wiseman, and Carolyn Bradshaw. Additionally, there are 11 “as live” studio-recorded transcriptions that feature selections from Kitty Wells, Johnnie and Jack, Hank Williams, and Curley Williams.

Louisiana Hayride was known as “The Cradle of Stars,” and At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight ’s lengthy track-list provides plenty of reasons for that. The CDs’ 167 acts reveal a who’s who of country music royalty (George Jones, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, June Carter, Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, Roger Miller, and Jim Reeves) along with regional heroes such as Cajun stars Doug and Rusty Kershaw, and California country stalwarts Rose Maddox and Wynn Stewart.The set serves as a reminder too that Hayride was about more than just country music. Presley obviously brought rock ’n’ roll to the show, but there was also rockabilly from Warren Smith, Werly Fairburn, and Bob Luman, bluegrass from the Louvin Brothers and Dobber Johnson, and yodeling from Slim Whitman.

At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight also spotlights the impressive group of regulars that included Jimmy Martin, Merle Kilgore, Charlie Walker, Red Sovine, and Johnny Horton, and emerging local singers Margaret Lewis, Jerry Kennedy, and Linda Brannon. The house band similarly was home to many highly-regarded sidemen, like Hall of Fame pianist Floyd Cramer, slide guitar masters Jimmy Day and Shot Jackson, guitar legend James Burton, and future Presley drummer DJ Fontana.

Besides presenting a wealth of little-heard recordings with stars singing their hits, the set also shows them playing cover tunes (Presley does “Maybellene” and “Long Tall Sally”), performing in a character (Ferlin Husky shows up in his comical persona Simon Crum), and doing commercials (Johnny Cash plugs Southern Maid Donuts as the “best in the world”). This extraordinary release also provides the chance to enjoy the other Johnny Mathis — “Country” Johnny Mathis — as well as to discover such lesser-known acts, such as Marlene Allen, Doug Bragg, Dean Evans, Fay Darling, and Joe Janka.

At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight is the latest in the Bear Family Records’ highly acclaimed series of releases exploring roots music. This collection, which comes in an LP-sized package complete with a 224-page hardcover book, not only takes a comprehensive look at Louisiana Hayride but also offers an exhilarating portrait of the American music scene during the late ’40s into the early ’60s.


Rolling Stone Country premiered an unheard Hank Williams track:

** Track listing for 20-CD set available here .

July 24th, 2017


For the first time, both the 1968 Carnegie Hall and the 1970 Hollywood Bowl shows will be released on separate discs, complete with 20 previously unissued tracks

Performers include Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Odetta, Richie Havens, Pete Seeger and more.

American Songwriter premiered a track by Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie

In 1972, Columbia Records and Warner Brother Records each released separate Tribute to Woody Guthrie albums — a rare cooperative effort between rival labels that speaks to the high reverence that Woody Guthrie was held. However, those albums (as well as the subsequent cassette and CD versions) edited and intermingled tracks from the two events. Now, exactly fifty years after Guthrie’s death, Bear Family Records will present what took place on those two iconic evenings in the original, scripted order.

Bear Family’s comprehensive three-CD box set Woody Guthrie: The Tribute Concerts, due out on September 22, 2017 , has one 33-track disc of the 1968 Carnegie Hall event, while discs two and three contain 45 tracks from the 1970 Hollywood Bowl tribute. The three-plus hours of concert material showcases most of Guthrie’s finest songs: “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You,” “Goin’ Down the Road,” “Oklahoma Hills,” “This Train Is Bound for Glory,” “Deportee,” and, of course, “This Land Is Your Land,” which closed both concerts. In addition to commemorating 50 years since Woody Guthrie passed away, this release marks the 50th anniversary of the Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease, renamed the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, founded by Woody Guthrie’s wife, Marjorie Guthrie in September, 1967.

Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger and Odetta all played at Carnegie Hall, where actors Will Geer and Robert Ryan served as narrators. Seeger, Havens, Guthrie and Odetta also performed at the Hollywood Bowl along with Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Earl Robinson; Peter Fonda shared narrator duties with Geer.

Dylan played three tunes (“Grand Coulee Dam,” “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,” and “I Ain't Got No Home”) at Carnegie Hall, and accompanying him was the Band, who hadn’t recorded their debut album yet. There were notable players too in the Hollywood Bowl’s house band, which featured then up-and-coming guitar ace Ry Cooder, Flying Burrito Brothers bassist Chris Etheridge and future Burrito Brothers Gib Guilbeau and John Beland.

Producers Nora Guthrie, Michael Kleff and Steve Rosenthal dug deep into the full story behind the concerts. Working with the original reel-to-reel concert tapes and concert scripts, business letters, and personal stories, they recreate and recount how, when and why these early tribute concerts are still important and reveal the impact they had on those who attended. The original Carnegie Hall tapes have been lost over time, so this CD comes from tapes that Columbia and Warner Brothers used to make their albums, as well as additional tapes from concert producer Harold Leventhal's collection.

The lovingly created box set offers two beautifully illustrated books containing historic liner notes, a Guthrie biography, and essays by Will Kaufman, Wenzel, and Sean Wilentz. There also is a reproduction of the original 1972 TRO Concert Book, which includes historic and concert photos with music notations and lyrics, along with original show reviews and photographs, attendees interviews, artists bios, and concert ephemera as well as never-before-seen stills from the Hollywood Bowl show film masters for a still-unreleased concert documentary.

“To listen to the recordings now is to reflect upon events from an earlier and simpler time, which were communing with a still earlier and even simpler time. But simplicity is not the same thing as innocence. Although times have changed, in many ways for the better, not so the good and evil, bravery and cowardice, generosity and injustice that Woody and his friends and followers sang about,” writes historian and author Sean Wilentz in his introductory essay. “What is so striking in these recordings, above and beyond the politics and musical styles, is the timelessness of what Woody was getting at in his deceptively simple art.”

L-R: Mike Bloomfield, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, backstage at Carnegie Hall.

November 10, 2015



This 1996 German TV show recording
contains several songs that never appeared on a BR5-49 album

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country-music renegades BR5-49 made their name as a live band in the mid-’90s, when their high-spirited shows at Robert’s Western Wear, a boot shop and sometime bar in the Nashville’s then-still dicey Lower Broadway district, turned them into the talk of Music City. Performing there several nights a week for tips, the band would do four- or five-hour sets loaded with country classics, rockabilly gems and their modern traditionalist originals.

After the group — bassist Smilin’ Jay McDowell, drummer “Hawk” Shaw Wilson, multi-instrumentalist Don Herron and pair of singer/songwriter/guitarists: Chuck Mead and Gary Bennett — signed with Arista Records in 1996, the label released a live EP, Live at Robert’s. This six-song recording, however, only gives a glimpse of the band’s on-stage magic. The new Bear Family CD/DVD BR5-49: One Long Saturday Night, provides a broader picture of why they created such excitement on Lower Broadway. U.S. street date is set for November 20, 2015.

BR5-49: One Long Saturday Night captures the young band at peak form. Shortly after their self-titled studio debut, they toured in Europe, where their authentic brand of American roots music had already developed a following. In October 1996, they appeared on the German TV program Ohne Filter, which let bands play live in the studio. Chuck Mead states that this performance “really captured us at the top of our game and I look back on that time as an experience of a lifetime.”

For nearly an hour, BR5-49 tore through a spirited set where they mixed rejuvenated classic country hits like Johnny Horton’s “Ole Slewfoot,” Moon Mulligan’s “Cherokee Boogie,” Webb Pierce’s “I Ain’t Never” and even Gram Parsons’ “Big Mouth Blues” with their own timeless-sounding tunes, from Mead’s honky-tonkin’ “My Name Is Mudd” to’s country boogie number “Even If It’s Wrong.” The guys’ fun-loving sense of humor cuts loose on their punk-rock-girl-gone-country ditty “Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)” and “Bettie, Bettie,” their ode to a certain pin-up icon.

“We saw it as our duty to bring the spirit of Robert's Western World to every place we went,” explains Mead. “When I see and hear this DVD and CD set, it feels like we actually did that.” One Long Saturday Night , in fact, features several songs that were Robert’s show staples but never made a proper BR5-49 album. Hank Williams’ “Lone Gone Lonesome Blues,” Ray Price’s “Heartache by the Numbers,” Carl Perkins’ “Gone, Gone, Gone,” Carl Smith’s “Go Boy Go,” Hawkshaw Hawkins’s “Lonesome 7-7203” and a two tunes Bob Wills popularized — “Right or Wrong” and “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” There is even a previously unreleased Chuck Mead song, “Hometown Boogie.”

The DVD and CD both contain all 19 songs BR5-49 played on Ohne Filter, and the CD adds four soundboard recordings taken from a concert the band played in Japan one week after their German TV show appearance. These bonus tracks include three standards that were regulars in the BR5-49’s concerts — “Knoxville Girl,” “Settin’ the Woods on Fire” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” (the latter two are on a BR5-49 album for the first time) — along with Gary Bennett’s “Hillbilly Thang.”

BR5-49’s own “Hillbilly Thang” began after Bennett met Mead at Nashville’s Bluebird Café. While Bennett hailed from Washington state and Mead from Kansas, they found themselves to be musical compatriots. The two started playing at Robert’s Western Wear with a loose ensemble of musicians that formalized as BR5-49 with Mead’s old bandmate, drummer “Hawk” Shaw Wilson, Bennett’s roommate, multi-instrumentalist Don Herron, and “Smilin’” Jay McDowell, a buddy of Mead’s, on standup bass.

BR5-49 (their name taken from an old Hee-Haw sketch) made two studio albums and a live one for Arista before moving on to Sony/Epic’s Lucky Dog Records. After one album there, where they went by BR549, Bennett and McDowell left the band. Mead led the group through a couple more CDs before they went on hiatus, although they have had periodic reunions.

One Long Saturday Night offers a chance to why they were such a breath of fresh air in the country music scene when they appeared in the mid-’90s, and how they helped blaze the trail for the Americana music movement.


Roughstock premieres the track "Long Saturday Night":

August 6, 2015


Five-CD, 154-track musical selection
augmented by 124-page hardcover book.
Fall 2015 marks 60th anniversary of Ford’s iconic “Sixteen Ton


VOLLERSODE, Germany — Inarguably a major recording act, Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) sold an estimated 90 million albums worldwide, and charted 17 Top Ten country singles and four Top Ten pop singles over a 35-year recording career. And he played significant — and pioneering — roles in radio and television broadcasting.

On September 25, 2015, Bear Family Records will release Tennessee Ernie Ford: Portrait of an American Singer (1949-1960) . The deluxe 12x12x1.5-inch box set contains 154 tracks on five CDs including all of the secular-themed studio recordings from the first dozen years in the career of one of the most important crossover acts in the history of American popular music. The package also contains a 124-page hardcover book with newly written essays, track-by-track album notes, a discography, label scans, and many rare photographs and illustrations. The book was authored by three-time Grammy Award-nominated music historian Ted Olson, Ph.D., from the department of Appalachian Studies/Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies Program at East Tennessee State University. Olson also produced the reissue.

The set contains early country hits including the chart-topping “Mule Train” (1949) and the pioneering “hillbilly boogie” smash “The Shotgun Boogie” (1950), as well as Ford’s first major crossover hit, the 1950 duet (with Kay Starr) “I’ll Never Be Free.” There are classics such as “Rock City Boogie” (with the Dinning Sisters, 1951) and “Blackberry Boogie” (1952) as well as such overlooked delights as the train song “Tennessee Local” (1952), and Ford’s 1953 interpretation of Willie Mabon’s R&B hit “I Don’t Know.”

This boxed set includes a never-before-released song (“Slow Down”), numerous singles and album tracks not previously reissued on CD, and several rarities, including Ford’s 1955 recitations of Davy Crockett tales, as well as his 1958 public service jingles to promote the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots charitable program.

Ford’s hit “hillbilly boogie” singles from 1949 to 1953 — including “Smokey Mountain Boogie” (1949), “The Shotgun Boogie” (1950), “Rock City Boogie” (1951), and “Blackberry Boogie” (1952) — blended black and white stylistic influences and are widely considered to have been pioneering rock ’n’ roll records.

In the early months of 1955, Ford’s version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was a top five hit on the country chart as well as on the pop chart, foreshadowing the artist’s ultimate crossover achievement. Also that year, his hit “Give Me Your Word” was the #1 pop single in the U.K. And toward the end of ’55 , Ford’s smash single “Sixteen Tons” topped both charts simultaneously, and rose to #1 in the U.K., selling more than four million copies and proving to be one of the most influential singles of the 1950s, reaching #1 on the country chart for ten weeks, and #1 on the pop chart for eight weeks. Long considered Ford’s signature song, “Sixteen Tons” was eventually inducted into the GRAMMY® Hall of Fame and into the National Recording Registry.

This boxed set provides a thorough exploration of Ford’s first dozen years (1949-1960) as a recording act, and listeners today can marvel at the range of his repertoire and (considering that for much of that period he was a musician part-time and a television host full-time) at the extent of his productivity.

Although he spent his career in California, Ford was from Bristol, Tennessee, which has been called “The Birthplace of Country Music” for its role is hosting the legendary 1927 recording sessions in which Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were first recorded. (Bear Family Records released the definitive version of the so-called Bristol Sessions in 2011.)

In 1984 Ford became the first country artist to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest governmental award given to a civilian. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Hall of Fame in 1994.

The wide range of artists who have specifically cited Ford as a formative influence on their own music include American musicians such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Glen Campbell, Micky Dolenz, Odetta, Della Reese, Dolly Parton, Tom Waits, Steve Young, Tom Petty, Meat Loaf, and the bands ZZ Top and They Might Be Giants, as well as British musicians including John Lennon, Eric Burdon, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck, Billy Fury, Elton John, Nick Lowe, and the Clash.

Ford made innovative and influential recordings, all of which can be heard in Portrait of An American Singer.

According to producer Olson, “ In recent years Tennessee Ernie Ford has been primarily remembered for his mid-1950s crossover smash hit ‘Sixteen Tons’ and for some of his gospel records. But the singer made many other exciting recordings, and Bear Family Records and I decided it was time to showcase Ford’s influential early studio recordings in order to make a case for his enduring significance as a compelling popular recording artist. Presenting all of Ford’s secular-themed recordings from the most influential period (1949-1960) of his long career while providing a written and illustrated narrative of his varied and pioneering roles in the entertainment industry, this new box set, we hope, will help people realize that Ford was not only a figure of historical importance but also an inimitable American singer who left us many timeless and delightful recordings.”


**Listen now to a previously unreleased Tennessee Ernie Ford track via The Wall Street Journal's SpeakEasy:



Artist Photo