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OJ Sikes-Current Reviews


Cowboy Church: Narrations, Readings & Hymns

          Tex Ritter                                                                  Jasmine JASMCD 3754 


 sikes1-cb church        While this album of 33 tracks isn’t a Western album, most Western fans and performers enjoy inspirational music and poetry, so we thought it appropriate to review this particular CD, featuring “America’s Most Beloved Cowboy,” Tex Ritter. His distinctive voice and accent lend themselves perfectly to these hymns, recitations and readings, just as they made him sound so authentic as a silver screen hero in the 1930s and 40s.

        The material comes from Tex’s now rare Psalms and Lincoln Hymns LPs with bonus tracks added from his Hillbilly Heaven album and earlier recordings. There are a few songs “everybody” knows, like “There Shall Be Showers of Blessings,” recorded in 1952 with Wesley Tuttle and the Oklahoma Sweethearts, and “Rounded up in Glory” from 1946, with Merle Travis and Wesley Tuttle (guitars).   And you’ll remember narrations like “The Touch of the Master’s Hand” and “Deck of Cards.”  The rest may be new to many listeners, but for some, there are probably a few long lost gems in the collection, songs you haven’t heard in many years. In either case, if you enjoy inspirational readings and music, this disc is for you!

        The original Lincoln LP was recorded in 1961, the centennial of the start of the civil war, as explained in the interesting liner notes penned by music historian Paul Hazell. Available online and from your favorite outlets.

America’s Most Beloved Cowboy

          Tex Ritter

                                                                       Jasmine CD  3730/1


sikes1-tex ritter     Tex Ritter’s earliest recordings were probably no more numerous than those of his contemporaries, but in his later years, after the B-Western film days were over, his recording output was astounding. Interestingly, in recent years, much of that work has been easier to find overseas than in the US, and with this release, the Jasmine label has combined 4 of Tex’s LPs plus bonus tracks, in one 2 disc CD package. Two of the LPs represented here, HILLBILLY HEAVEN and BLOOD ON THE SADDLE, were readily available in the US for a long time, but the other two, SONGS FROM THE WESTERN SCREEN and STAN KENTON! TEX RITTER!, were not as easy to find. As far as I know, complete versions of none of them were available on CD.

    Three of the 4 original LPs were recorded in stereo, and the best available sources were used as masters for these CDs, so audiophiles will be pleased. And the 5 bonus tracks include several of Tex’s recordings from the 1940s, both country, e.g. “You Two-timed Me One Time Too Often” and Western, e.g. “Bad Brahma Bull.” In addition, three versions of “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)” are included.

    Widely available.

The Lost Masters

          Sons of the Pioneers

                                                                                 Country Rewind  Records CRR-216

sikes1-lost masters sons pioneers        Late last Winter, I heard a rumor about a mysterious new Sons of the Pioneers album containing “lost” tracks that hadn’t been heard since they were recorded. But none of the usual suspects in the world of Western CDs knew anything about it. Best kept secret in the Western world!  But it’s a secret no longer!

     The same label that released the outstanding Rex Allen CD early this year, has released this album by the Sons of the Pioneers, with 16 rare tracks.  Detailed liner notes by Dusty Rogers and John Fullerton explain, among other things, that the tracks are from three sets of recordings made for radio in 1957, 1966 and 1967. They do not appear in chronological order on the CD, but the listener can follow the changes by reading the liner notes.

     The disc opens with Ken Carson’s lively composition, “Cowboy Jubilee,” but it was recorded in 1966, long after Ken retired from the group. Lloyd Perryman, Dale Warren and Rusty Richards form the vocal trio, with Roy Lanham on lead guitar and Pat Brady on string bass. Track 2, a gorgeous rendition of “Blue Prairie,” dates back to 1957. The trio at that point was Perryman, Warren and Tommy Doss, with the Farr Brothers and Shug Fisher providing acoustic accompaniment, and the sound is very similar to their recording of the same song for the Smokey Bear transcriptions the year before. “Open Range Ahead” is next, recorded the same year, with a vocal solo by Tommy Doss.

     Track 4, “When Payday Rolls Around,” is from 1967, and is the only recording I know of that has Bob Minser singing tenor (with Perryman & Warren) and Billy Armstrong playing fiddle.  The next track goes back to ’57 with a beautiful acoustic rendition of ”Wind.” “Yippi Yi Your Troubles Away,” from 1967, includes Armstrong taking a solo as part of the vocal trio as well as being the group’s fiddler, and he plays on “Hold That Critter Down” and “Whoopie Ti-Yi Yo,” a little later on the disc.

     Rusty Richards sings tenor again on “Cimarron (Roll On),” with Perryman and Warren completing the trio. Rusty sang with the Pioneers for many years, but his work during these early years was only recorded for radio series like those issued by the US Navy, and has not been available on CD until now, making this collection extra special for Rusty’s fans.

      “Song of the Trail,” from 1957, sounds very much like the Pioneers’ RCA Victor recording from a few years later, but here, the accompaniment is acoustic, without the orchestra provided by RCA. And it’s one of two selections (the other being “Chant of the Wanderer”) featuring all six Pioneers, divided into two singing trios!

      The trios that recorded all of these tracks were the touring group, i.e. the Pioneers we saw “in person” on the road and on tv during that time, rather than the group that was recording for RCA Victor. So if you were fortunate enough to see them “in person” during this period, this collection will have a special significance for you.

      There’s not a weak track on the disc. Each is a real gem! And the fidelity is awesome! The CD is available online, as is the download version, but prices vary widely, so shop around.

My Heart’s Across the Border

          Various (Rex Allen, Tex Ritter, Tune Wranglers, Ole Rasmussen, Tommy Duncan, Sons of the West, etc.)

                                                                                              BACM CD D 655


sikes1-heart across border        As radio host and music historian Paul Hazell says in his liner notes, this CD “is not only very entertaining to listen to, it also rescues from obscurity a whole set of wonderful recordings that almost certainly would otherwise not ever have seen the light of day again. Furthermore, it shows the link between the music of the cowboy, the Texas dance hall music known as Western Swing and the Spanish-influenced music of Mexico, tipping its hat to the polka along the way!” That’s it in a nutshell!

        This CD contains 27 tracks, most quite rare, and all reflect the album’s border music theme. The opener, by Don Pauli, is the title song and, while I’d never heard of the singer, I became a fan on the spot! Surprises like this abound, e.g. I don’t recall ever hearing Tex Ritter’s “Lo Que Digo” or the Tune Wranglers’ “Cielito Lindo.” Tommy Duncan’s band reprises his old boss’s signature song, “San Antonio Rose,” the Coffman Sisters sing “Rancho Pillow” (an old Gene Autry favorite), Red River Dave sings “Fiesta in Old San Antone” and there are three songs about New Mexico.  An enjoyable album of rare, vintage material! Available from British Archive of Country Music online or you may want to call Roots & Rhythm in California (888-ROOTS-66 ) as they sometimes carry BACM product.

DVD Review 

Showtime USA, Vol. 1

          Everybody’s Dancin’ fea Spade Cooley & the Sons of the Pioneers (1950)

          Varieties on Parade fea Eddie Dean, Lyle Talbot, etc. (1951)

sikes1-showtime     For years, Sons of the Pioneers fans have looked for copies of a movie titled EVERYBODY’S DANCIN’ which the Pioneers appeared in with Spade Cooley around the time they recorded a couple of sides with Cooley’s band, but for some reason it’s been very hard-to-find. Apparently, the company (VCI) that re-issued it on DVD didn’t bother to promote it when they released it in 2007 and they no longer list it on their web site. But you can find it on and it’s well worth looking for!

      Although the Pioneers (Lloyd Perryman, Tommy Doss, Ken Curtis, The Farr Bros. & Shug Fisher) only do two songs, the images are crystal clear (Jerry West, who told me about it, said “you can see the freckles on Ken Curtis’s face!” in the close-ups) and their performance is worth the price of admission, although the film itself is fun, if you like the light, period humor.  They sing “Room Full of Roses” and for me, it was fun to see Hugh Farr playing his fiddle in close-up shots. When they sing “Cowboy Camp Meetin’,” Ken Curtis takes the tenor part that Ken Carson sang on the original recording. He does it beautifully!

      Cooley’s Western swing band is in fine form and it was great to see Noel Boggs and Les “Carrot Top” Anderson in action. Interestingly, vocalist Ginny Jackson offers a beautiful rendition of “Foolish Tears,” a Tex Williams “hit” from a few years earlier.

      The DVD is a “double feature,” with a vaudeville-type film, VARIETIES ON PARADE, being the second show. Eddie Garr and Jackie Coogan MC the “show” and Eddie Dean is one of the acts, performing 2 songs he apparently never recorded. One was a beautiful ballad, “Lazy Moon” and the other was  “Where Oh Where is My Darlin’,”a novelty tune.

America’s Last Singing Cowboy

          Rex Allen                                     Country Rewind Records CRR – 214

sikes1-rex allen last cowboy     Just when we thought there were no more treasures to discover from our Western music heritage, Rex Allen, Jr. found 15 of his dad’s old, in some cases “lost,” recordings, largely done for radio back in the 50s when he was at the peak of his popularity as a singing movie cowboy. At least 4 were recorded with the Sons of the Pioneers when they appeared together on shows for the U.S. Navy, and one of those, “Blue Dream,” is one of my all-time Rex Allen favorites. He also recorded it commercially, but in my view, this version is far superior to the commercial record. You may recognize the Farr brothers on this one and “There’s a Blue Sky Way Out Yonder,” “All Cried Out” and “Money, Marbles and Chalk.”

   The album opens with a superb rendition of “Texas Plains,” which includes an amazing fiddle solo, probably by Wade Ray, who worked with Rex in movies and on the road for may years.  Other songs include titles Rex also recorded commercially for Decca, Buena Vista and Mercury in the 50s and early 60s, but frankly, I prefer these versions, including a wonderful rendition of “Cowboy’s Lament.”  It’s also good to hear several songs Rex used as his theme songs over the years.

    In many cases, the source recordings contained background/surface noise, but all of these tracks have been carefully cleaned up, using the most modern equipment, and the audio is fantastic. This CD is, indeed, a real treasure. As Rex Jr. says, “The world needs to hear these songs.”  Available from

Yodeling Blonde Bombshell, Vol. 3

          Carolina Cotton


sikes1-carolina cotton  For Volume 3 in this series of albums, 22 tracks have been collected, the last of which is a complete Carolina Cotton Calls radio show. But the album is not available on CD. In line with more modern marketing strategies, this one is only available as a download, but there are several sources for it. You can learn more by visiting Carolina’s website, CarolinaCotton.Org or you may purchase the music from CDBaby, iTunes or Amazon.

  The tracks come from Carolina’s radio performances in the 1940’s and 50’s, and over that time, several musical groups backed her. She worked with Deuce Spriggens’ band in 1945-46, and the album opens with a couple of their songs, e.g. “When Payday Rolls Around,” and Foy Wiling & the Riders of the Purple Sage accompany her on several others, e.g. “Happy on the Prairie,” while Andy Parker & the Plainsmen, who had worked with Deuce Spriggens earlier, provided instrumental backing on “The Cowboy’s Life.”

   Track 22, the complete radio show, was aired by the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) in the early 50’s, and it had in its cast an array of some of the best western sidemen around, including, among others, a group called The Rhythm Riders. There were at least three groups that used a variation of that name around the same time (The Republic Rhythm Riders & The Roy Rogers Riders) and there were several musicians who belonged to all three groups, e.g. George Bamby, Darol Rice and Mike Barton. Joe Maphis was featured on guitar with the Riders who worked with Carolina on her AFRS shows.

   In sum, the fidelity of the recordings is great, and with such stellar musicians making the music, the collection is delightful, especially if you’re a yodel fan.

Jean Street Swing 1951-1962

          Herb Remington                 B.A.C.M. CD D 652


sikes1-herb remington    If you’re into Western Swing, you probably know the name, Herb Remington. You’ve heard Bob Wills call out “Herby,” referring to a steel guitar solo by Remington, on numerous recordings made when Herb was one of Bob’s Texas Playboys, 1946-1949.  The recordings on this new release, all but 2 of which are instrumentals, were made between 1951 and 1962, after Remington left the Wills band, but they offer the opportunity to hear Herb’s versatility.

    Several of Remington’s most famous compositions are included, e.g. “Remington Ride,” ”Station Break” and “Boot Heel Drag,” but the real attraction is the large number of songs that might be new to you, and with 31 tracks in all, there’s lots of variety to enjoy. Steel guitar fans will be able to add some fine, rare tracks to your collection.

    Historian Kevin Coffey, always a great source of information, provided extensive liner notes on Herb’s career and the musicians on these sessions. Available online  at


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.