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Rope Burns » OJ Sikes-Current Reviews

OJ Sikes-Current Reviews


CD Review

Tex Williams: The Capitol Years 1946-51

          Tex Williams

OJ-Tex Williams CD Cover      Late in 2019, hot on the heels of its Spade Cooley and Jimmy Wakely CD sets, the Acrobat label released a 2 CD set of the “singles” (both A and B sides) Tex Williams recorded for the Capitol label between 1946 and 1951. The collection includes all of the 13 hits Tex recorded for Capitol during this period, including “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” but if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Tex Williams fan, you’ll be particularly interested in the other sides, i.e. those less well-known and harder to find.

     After parting company with Spade Cooley in 1946, Tex’s big break came with the introduction of his talking blues style in 1947. But he was doing quite well, right out of the chutes, with “The California Polka” (Capitol released a 78rpm album of his polkas), “I Got Texas in My Soul” and “Leaf of Love.” At the same time, Cooley’s record label held onto sides that had been recorded when Tex was still Cooley’s featured vocalist, and released them after Tex had formed his own band. So, for a while, Tex was competing with himself on two different record labels!

     The 23 page booklet accompanying this 54 song collection includes information on the recording sessions and a lengthy narrative by Paul Watts regarding Tex’s career. While all of his “top 15” hits during this period are included, the set doesn’t include all of his recordings, but there’s plenty to enjoy. Widely available online or from your favorite mail order sources.


Good Dog

          Dave Stamey

oj-dave stamey         Dave Stamey was inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame in 2016 after many years of winning numerous awards for his outstanding work, both as an entertainer and as a composer of Western music. Along the way, his fans found favorite songs among his vast repertoire and recently, they began asking when he was going to record one called “Good Dog,” a song he’d been doing in concerts across the country. He figured now’s the time, so this favorite of so many became the title song for this CD.

         The album has 12 tracks and each song will have its own admirers. The title song is #2. The lead-off song is one of my favorites, in part because of the Western movie & TV references. The title is ”Andy Devine.” One of these days I want to hear the story of how it came about, but for now, that will have to wait. I’m happy just to listen to it and let it bring back memories.

         You’ll find your own favorites in this set of music performed by Dave with his guitar and some sometimes understated but always beautiful harmony from Annie Lydon. Available from (or you can call 805-705-1329).


CD Review 

Red Egner & Others

– Red Egner   BACM. CD D 643


oj-Red EgnerWhen Tex Williams left Spade Cooley over a salary dispute in 1946, Columbia Records had just finished recording a number of sides by the band featuring Tex’s vocals. Shortly afterwards, Cooley changed record labels, moving to RCA Victor, so Columbia released those 1946 sides slowly, over the next couple of years. In the meantime, Tex Williams formed his own band, but Cooley needed to replace Tex and the band members who went with him. He chose a talented guitarist and fiddler named Red Egner.

     Egner didn’t sound at all like Tex, but he had been working with a group called the Saddle Pals and had recently recorded with some of Cooley’s sidemen, e.g. Tex Atchison and Noel Boggs, so Spade hired him. The sides Red cut with the Saddle Pals and the all-star group in 1946 make up the first 12 tracks on this CD. The next 8 are from 1946-47, recorded for small labels under Red’s own name. To close the collection, there’s a live performance from an AFRS Melody Roundup broadcast featuring Spade Cooley’s band with Red from the Fall of 1946.

    Detailed liner notes by historian Kevin Coffey fill lots of gaps for fans who might know Egner’s name but might not be familiar with his story. Available online and from or phone (678) 232-0268.


3-CD boxed set 

The Jimmy Wakely Collection***1940-53***

                                                                                                                        Acrobat ACTRCD9083

Jimmy Wakely, The Rough Riders, Margaret Whiting

Jimmy Wakely boxed set cover    Rex Allen used to say that, in his opinion, Jimmy Wakely was the most underrated singer in Hollywood.  You can hear the reasons Rex held Wakely in such high regard in this collection of 84 recordings, including all of his 24 hits and a variety of music (he was popular in the pop field as well as in the western and country genres). His Number 1 hits with Margaret Whiting are here, as are songs from his movie days, beginning with his 1940 recording of “Cimarron (Roll On)” with the Jimmy Wakely Trio, i.e. Dick Reinhart and Johnny Bond, who often called themselves the Rough Riders. The set includes movie song titles “Moon Over Montana,” “Oklahoma Blues” and “Song of the Sierras” (which was Jimmy’s personal favorite Wakely film and one Wesley Tuttle co-starred in), and an all-time favorite of many, composed by Smiley Burnette, “On the Strings of My Lonesome Guitar.”

   Wakely had several radio shows and used more than one theme song for them. Smiley’s composition was used for a while, as were “At the Close of a Long, Long Day” and “Tellin’ My Troubles to My Old Guitar.” All these are here, as is some of Wakely’s fine Western swing as well as the Western and pop ballads he was so well-known for. In addition, there’s some seasonal material and lots of the outstanding recordings he made with Margaret Whiting, not only the No. 1 hits.  Highly recommended!  Widely available online or from your favorite mail order sources.


CD Review


Ghost Riders in the Sky                          

  -Burl Ives, Stan Jones, Vaughn Monroe and others JASMCD 2651 

oj SIKES-ghost riders sky          

                  “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)” aka “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” composed by Stan Jones, is probably the most recorded song in the Western music genre. For this new CD, the Jasmine label has collected 30 recordings of this famous song, including the composer’s original recording for the Mercury label, and  Columbia’s recording by Burl Ives, which was on its way to becoming a hit before it was eclipsed by Vaughn Monroe’s record for RCA Victor, which is also here.

                 Jones, a Park Ranger in Death Valley, liked to play his compositions for visitors. He introduced this song to a movie crew who were in the park for the filming of  a Randolph Scott movie, The Walking Hills. Scott was especially impressed with “Riders in the Sky,” and encouraged Jones to look for a publisher. Jones played his songs on a little 4-string Martin guitar, and unless my ear deceives me, you can hear that little guitar on his recording of “Riders in the Sky.” When Burl Ives recorded the song in February, 1949, he used the same kind of arrangement he had heard on Stan’s demo record. But in March, when big bandleader Vaughn Monroe recorded “Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend),” with a slightly different title and a much more elaborate arrangement, it was rushed into production/circulation and made the Billboard charts by mid-April. It stayed there for 22 weeks, reaching the No. 1 position!

               Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, Frankie Laine and others recorded it later, and many of them had hit versions of the song. Those are among the tracks you’ll hear on this CD, half of which are instrumentals, the other half vocals by these and other artists. Interestingly, neither Gene Autry’s nor The Sons of the Pioneers’ recordings are included, but they are easier to find than most of those on this CD. Widely available. [Michael K. Ward has written an excellent book on the life of Stan Jones, GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY, available from RioNuevo.Com in Tucson]


CD Review 

Shame on You: Singles Collection 1945-1952 Spade Cooley                                                                                                Jasmine JASMCD 3704 

oj sikes-spade cooley      If you are familiar with Western Swing on the West coast, you know the name Spade Cooley well. He called himself the “King of Western Swing.” Not everyone agreed with his assessment, especially as the music of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys spread across the West. But Cooley did have a large, loyal following, and all of his single records for Okeh, Columbia, RCA Victor and Decca, including all of his hits, are represented on this CD of 28 tracks recorded between 1945 and ’52.

    Many different versions of Spade’s story have been told. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about his history to say what’s accurate in every instance, but you may find some discrepancies in the liner notes that accompany this CD. Still, the music is solid and some tracks are rare. For example, the two sides the Sons of the Pioneers recorded with Cooley in 1950, “Wagon Wheels” and “The Last Roundup,” are superbly done. The title track features vocalist Tex Williams and a number of outstanding musicians like legendary steel guitarist Joaquin Murphey, who would leave Spade in 1946 and follow Tex when he formed his own successful band.

   Cooley’s hits fizzled out after the last of the recordings on this disc were made, but in this collection, you’ll be hearing his most popular work. Widely available.


Bonanza-   David Rose & his Orch. Plus the Bonanza TV cast

                                                                                                JASMCD 3719


OJ-bonanza      BONANZA began its 14 season run on NBC-TV in 1959. It can still be seen on television around the world. In his liner notes for this CD, Roger Dopson points out that the show was so popular that even some of the actors’ horses received fan mail! While it was not a musical Western series, the show’s theme is instantly recognizable, even today. So it seemed logical to issue a composite album remembering the show, its theme and its cast.     

      This CD contains 2 LPs, both of which were big sellers when they came out, “Ponderosa Party Time,” a cast recording released in 1962, and “Bonanza, Original Television Soundtrack” by David Rose, the orchestra leader who composed incidental music for the show (the theme was written by Livingston & Evans), and whose orchestra played the theme on the soundtrack. The short, TV version of the famous theme is here, as is a full-length version by the same orchestra.

      The cast album includes vocals by all of your favorites, Dan Blocker (who sings Bob Nolan’s “Skyball Paint” and “The Hangin’ Blues”), Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and  Pernell Roberts, while the Rose album is all instrumental. The 6 bonus tracks include hit versions of the theme by Johnny Cash and Al Caiola. A “must” for any fan of the show. Widely available.


Away Out on the Mountain – Eddie Kirk, Vol. 2

          Eddie Kirk                                                              BACM CD D 602

oj-eddie kirk      The photo on the back of this new release may be more interesting to movie fans than the front cover! It’s a still from the 1946 Charles Starrett/Durango Kid film, Landrush. Eddie Kirk is pictured with Starrett, Smiley Burnette and others appearing in the movie.

       His name may not be familiar to many fans today, but he recorded for Capitol Records as a solo artist in the late 1940s and early 50s, the period reflected on this new CD. He also worked on the Town Hall Party in the 1950s.

     The bulk of the 28 recordings on this CD are of country songs, but there are two western songs on the disc and one of them, the title song from 1950, showcases Kirk’s yodeling ability. The other, from 1951, is the better-known “Driftin’ Sand,” a Buster Coward composition. This CD may be of particular interest if you remember the California country & western scene from the late 40s and early 50s. Contact or phone (678) 232- 0268.