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Thursday, January 29, 2009

And Even Something More About Jimmy Ballard

If this keeps up, I may need to rename the site to Jimmy Ballard Time.

During one of my periodic breaks from "real" work, I decided to do another hunt for info on Jimmy/Jimmie Ballard, and ran across the so-called "John Patrick Collection", a folklore collector whose main area of interest seems to be drinking and bawdy songs from various eras.

A page on the site features mp3 snippets from the 2007 CD compilation Griddle Greasin' Daddies and Dirty Cowboys, as well as a transcription of the liner notes. Griddle Greasin' Daddies includes two Jimmy Ballard numbers: Chicken Plucker, Birthday Cake Boogie, and another - straight country-western - version of She's Got Something. And according to the liner notes, Ballard is also the featured vocalist on two other numbers found on the CD, Butcher Shop Blues and T'aint Big Enough, making it nearly a Jimmy Ballard collection. Here's the relevant sections on Ballard from Al Turner's liner notes...

"...Charlie Aldrich's "Kinsey's Book" is not so much a risque song, more a commentary on Dr. Kinsey's weighty analysis of sexual behaviour in the USA. Whilst there is little to offend in Aldrich's song, many Radio Station's banned the record solely because of its reference to Kinsey's work. The Nov-Ettes, were an ad hoc ensemble put together for a single KENTUCKY session, this outfit appears to feature the doyen of Hillbilly Risque singers, Jimmie Ballard. That particular songster is also to be found as the vocalist on Buffalo Johnson's "Tain't Big Enough", the subject matter here one could, tongue in cheek, describe as a perpetual fixation of males worldwide....

...Cumberland Valley Barn Dance star Jimmie Ballard, was a veteran of the Country music scene. Born in Middlesboro, Kentucky in 1932, Ballard turned professional when he was eighteen. Whilst better known these days for his risque material, Ballard was also a devout Christian with a string of sacred recordings to his credit. Ironic perhaps, but Georgia Tom, whose early repertoire contained several risque songs, is cited by many as one of the founding fathers of contemporary Black Gospel music. Thankfully "Chicken Plucker" is a song that the Very Reverent Dr. Spooner was never asked to sing! Ballard has two further songs on this compilation, his original (Pre KING) recording of "She's Got Some Something", and his reading of Billy Hughes' "Birthday Cake". The practice of Hillbilly artists covering R&B numbers, and Visa Versa, was quite common place at KING records..."
[Photo: Members of the Cumberland Valley Barn Dance - 1950. Jimmy Ballard, who is listed as "master of ceremonies and popular singer" is in the center.] The photo and more information on the Cumberland Valley Barn Dance can be found here.

A bit more searching brought me to the 45 RPM Records site, specializing in local labels from the Ohio River Valley. And searching for "Ballard" revealed a discography of about 10 small label singles, ranging from Just A Closer Walk With Thee, recorded in 19 and 53 to the aforementioned T'aint Big Enough, probably recorded that same year. Note that Ballard did most of his recordings for the KENTUCKY label, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati was also the home base of KING records, which may be how Jimmy came to the attention of Syd Nathan.

So, more and more interesting. Risque songs. Sacred recordings. WMIK radio personality. Cumberland Valley Barn Dance star. Jimmy Ballard, country western renaissance man. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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