Saturday, March 7, 2009

A bit of a mystery here for all the Johnny Horton fans out there. Several really cheap LPs, two of which are pictured here, were issued in the 1960's featuring four tunes recorded Feb. 13, 1952 for Abbott records. These were duets with Billy "Hillbilly" Barton and two of the tracks featured some smoking hot solos by the inimitable Speedy West.
The budget LP versions of these recordings don't credit Barton, they were really trying to capitalize on Horton's name and later success. They even hacked up the titles ("Rhythm In My Baby's Walk" strangely became "Rhythm Baby Walk"). The later LP editions also suffer that lousy echo that all old mono recordings were inevitably treated with for such issues, and were generally pressed on the very poorest excuses for vinyl going. However, to those of us who go after such dimestore fodder, these lost gems with Speedy West were a secret treasure.
It was thus when I was listening to Bear Family's fantastic four CD set of Horton's "complete" early (pre-Columbia) recordings I listened with special attention when these four tracks came up (tracks 20, 21, 22 and 23 on CD one). I was very surprised to notice that Speedy's solo was noticeably tame compared to what I remembered. Upon comparison, the tracks "Rhythm In My Baby's Walk" and "Bawlin' Baby" on the Bear Family have completely different solos, and are presumably different takes. In both cases, the budget LP versions are way hotter. Were Speedy's solos too far out for the producers? Did they re-record the tunes and ask Mr. West to tone it down a little? As far as I can tell the remaining two songs, "Somebody's Rockin' My Broken Heart" and "Betty Lorraine" are the same takes on both the LPs and the CD. It must be remembered that the LPs are echoed and somewhat muddy while the CD from Bear is, as usual, pristine. Incidentally, the original issues were Abbott 108 and Abbott 109. If anybody has either of these for comparison I'd like to hear them (which versions were on the original releases?).
I'm looking forward to some input on this! Did the mighty Bear miss some really hot alternates that have long been in circulation? No disrespect, they're the world's greatest re-issue label, but it did catch my attention...

Click here to download CD 1 of the Bear Family set featuring the above mentioned songs from "Johnny One-Note's Earcandies"

The above link is now dead. The same folder can be downloaded here.

The download below features the versions from the LP "Johnny Horton & Sonny James", Custom CS 1018

Tracks: Bawlin' Baby, Betty Lorraine, Rhythm In My Baby's Walk, Somebody's Rockin' My Broken Heart

*download here*


Unknown said...

This site is just well just what you need .

the family cat said...

My penfriend Ginny Wright knew Billy Barton and told me he wrote the song Dear John Letter then modelled that on eht hit he wrote for her as a duet with Jim Reeves-I LOVE YOU.She also knew his wife also a singer-Wanda Wayne.
Fabor was started for Johnny Horton who came to nothing until he moved to Mercury.
Ginny told me a few times Fabor Robinson was no more than a crook who had a talent for alienating everyone on the label especially Jim Reeves

Lonesome Lefty said...

Thanks, Mr. Cat for the info. I have a 78 by Ginny Wright on the Quality label, a Canadian pressing of an Abbott (also a Fabor Robinson label). As I remember, it was "I Saw Esau (Kissing Mary Lou)". And yeah, I've yet to come across any flattering accounts of Fabor...

wbhist said...

I have a complete and accurate discography of all singles released in the pop "40000" series by Mr. Horton within the last years of his run with Columbia Records (unfortunately, I do not have specifics of his early releases for the label which were in the country "20000" series). This data I have compiled came directly from the archives of Sony Music which now owns Columbia, where I did research over a period of four years in the 1990's. The information includes: original release dates of 78's and 45's by catalogue number, matrix numbers for both 78 and 45 speeds (Columbia had different criteria for each speed), and recording dates for each side. If anyone is interested in obtaining any or all of this data for a minimal fee or stipend, please contact me at:

I have also written and published a comprehensive discography on every pop single released on Columbia Records between 1939 and 1974 - of which Mr. Horton's run with the label is a part.

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