picture courtesy: Alton Warwick
Jack Ford had toured with Tex Ritter and worked as rhythm guitarist for Curley Williams’ Georgia Peach Pickers from late 1948 to 1949. He recorded with them in September 1949, "Fiddlin' Boogie" and "Shy Baby" (Columbia 20757) in Nashville before working with the Sunshine Boys and next Hank Williams. Curley Williams, when remembered at all, is known as the composer of the immensely popular and enduring song "Half as Much" (Columbia 20879) which is often erroneously attributed to Hank Williams who covered the tune for MGM. Hank Williams enjoyed a big country hit with the song in 1952 before it entered the pop field via renditions by Rosemary Clooney and Guy Lombardo.
Having a full time job with the Shreveport Police Department since 1950, it was not until late 1953 that Jack Ford became a regular member of the Louisiana Hayride. There was a real gang of musical policemen in Shreveport that included also Sgt Buddy Jones, Officers Ray Belcher who has played with the Bailes Brothers, Charlie Justice, J.A Jones and Sonny Jones. These guys played local charities at the Veteran's and Shriners' Hospital and other institutions. We know Jack Ford was married and had two children Sandra and Eddie Jack. Around April 1954, he was a featured act on Shreveport's KSLA-TV "Country Gentlemen" along with Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton and Jack Hunt.
Back in 1951, the Chess Brothers tried to set a Hillbilly Serie that lead to 4 records by Harmonica Frank Floyd and by Bob Price, all sides being purchased from Sam Phillips. In 1954, they made a second serious attempt purchasing a number of masters from Stan Lewis. The serie was numbered 4800 and Jack Ford opened the way with his first solo record "That's All You Gotta Do"/"I Understand (Just how you feel)" (Chess 4858) was issued in June 1954.
If the sales were modest, the next single issued on that short lived Hillbilly series was Jimmy and Johnny "If You Don't Somebody Else Will" that was a massive hit for Chess making n° 7 in the Top Ten Country Best Sellers in November 1954 and being covered by Wanda Jackson & Billy Gray but also Ray Price. Jack's single sold for the 6 first months at 1600 copies with 2 cents of royalties a piece. The session cost being over $ 280, it left something like $ 250 to collect before he could get money for that first record. An advert for the release was printed in the Billboard on July 24, 1954. On October 16, 1954 when Elvis makes his first performance at the Louisiana Hayride, Jack Ford was featured on the Jax Beer's segment singing "Pretty Words" and "I Don't Hurt Anymore". He also sang the theme song for Sal Hepatica in the next segment.
His second release "Yankee Dime"/"Teach Me To Love" (Chess 4364), probably still with Floyd Cramer on piano, was issued in April 1955 at the same time than the roaring Jimmy Lee and Wayne Walker "Love Me"/"Lips That Kiss So Sweetly" (Chess 4863). Jack's record was the last of the seven releases by the Chicago's record label. They don't find not enough money in the Hillbilly field just like it happened to "Specialty" a little bit earlier. On April 2, 1955, Jack Ford played with Elvis, Slim Whitman and few other Hayriders in Houston for a "Saturday Jamboree" held from the City Auditorium.
By then Jack was playing locally as in Magnolia, Arkansas, or at The Skyway Club and the Coronado Club, both located in Bossier City. On April 23, 1955 he played with Elvis and Jim Reeves in Waco, Tx, a Louisiana Hayride removed broadcast singing "That's All You Gotta Do" and "Teach Me To Love". The next Saturday the same unit including also Billy Walker and Jeanette Hicks was in Gladewater, Tx, and Jack sang "Teach Me To Love", "Standing in The Station" and "Love Must Be Ketchin'" in front of 2500 people. In May 26, 1955, he was at the third Jimmie Rodgers celebration in Meridian, Ms. In July 1955 with a Louisiana Hayride unit, he played at the Pleasure Acres Lake, near Tyler -Tx, and in Huntsville, Tx.
Very probably on November 5, 1955, he sang on the Louisiana Hayride "Your Good For Nothing Heart" from Webb Pierce's repertoire, "That's What Makes The Jukebox Play" borrowed to Jimmy Work and "Travelling Around" being backed by Hoot & Curley. Other artists were Elvis Presley, Jeanette Hicks, David Houston.
On July 28, 1956 being on stage at the Louisiana Hayride he sang "When You Said Goodbye" sharing the stage with Betty Amos, George Jones, Werly Fairburn and Lloyd McCullough to name a few. That night, David Houston has sung his fabulous "Sugar Sweet" recorded for RCA. On August 4, 1956, Jack performed for the show "How Much Do I Owe You" and "Lonesome". It seems he left the Louisiana Hayride late 1957.
Jack Ford was connected since long with Wilson Evans, owner of the label MOA (Music Of America from issue 1004 to 1021), and a song writer who shared credit with Carolyn Bradshawfor “I’m A Little Red Caboose”, recorded by Rose Maddox on May 19, 1953 (Columbia 21155), and for “Yankee Dime” recorded by Jack Ford. Carolyn Bradshaw is famous for her answer song to the Jim Reeves' hitsong "MEXICAN JOE", "THE MARRIAGE OF MEXICAN JOE" .
From left to right: Carolyn Bradshaw, Fabor Robison, Jim Reeves, and Mary Robison - picture courtesy: Dominique Anglares
His label was first located in 400 Mc Neil Street which was the location of the YMCA. After his marriage and for what sound like its last two releases, Wilson moved the label to 328 Wilhelmina Street in Bossier City. He used the Rite pressing facilities until the label flooded around 1970. He often use the same songs on different releases having faith on his work and its artists.
In 1959,Wilson rented Mira Smith's Ram studio in Shreveport to record John Gosey “I Lost My Baby (‘cause I Can’t Rock’n’Roll)/"Fools Will Take Chances" (MOA 1001), and several unissued demos. Alex “Snook” Jones and his Shreveport Nite Hawks did the back up on "Fools Will Take Chances", a haunting ballad, and “I Lost My Baby ('cause I Can't Rock 'n' Roll) ... A good advice for you cats! The next release offers “Honey, Why”, a good waxing with sax and strong guitar, and “It’s Natural” (MOA 1002) by John Greer not to be confused with Big John Greer who recorded for RCA/Groove.
In 1960, Wilson Evans produced more sides by Steve Newton, Mallie Ann and Doug Davidson, a local songwriter and DJ on KCIJ and KREB. He also recorded many sides by Jack Ford, that include a historical "John Lafitte (The Leader of the Buccaneers)" backed with "I Made a Mistake" (Music of America 1005 - issued in July 1961), "Club For Broken Hearts"/"You Introduced Me To The Blues" (Music of America 1007), "A Penny For Your Thought"/"Heap Big Indian" (Music of America 1010) and a fine tribute to Jim Reeves "Gentleman Jim" b/w "Dark Side of the Moon" ((Music of America 1012 - issued around October 1964). These artists were often backed at Mira's studio by the Lewis Sisters, Carol Williams, Billy Sanford and DJ Fontana. The last release on Music of America was "Goin' Back To Nashville"/"Dark Side of the Moon" (Music of America 1021) issued in 1970. At least 5 other sides by Jack Ford should have been issued on that label but it is a pretty hard challenge to try to build a more complete discography.
Wilson Evans passed away probably in the 80’s living in a nursing home in Delhi, Louisiana, and I don't know what happened to Jack Ford. Any complementary info should be welcome.
Dominique "Imperial" ANGLARES
November 08, 2014
Record labels: Dominique Anglares and Eimbert van den Oetelaar