Interviews with Don Woody
Interview with Don Woody from english magazine "Now Dig This" issue nr. 280 (July, 2006) by Trevor Cajiao
Back in 1975, when MCA Records in the UK issued the legendary 'Rare Rockabilly' LP (MCFM 2697), not too much was known about Don Woody. His brief entry in Bill Millar's sleeve notes read thus: Until recently Don Woody was unknown to most collectors, but counterfeit copies of his solitary US Decca single - 'Barking Up The Wrong Tree' / 'Bird-Dog' - have created a demand for 'Morse Code' and Make Like A Rock And Roll', two previously unissued sides included here. Although respected enthusiasts detect a Burnette Brothers accompaniment, a likely Nashville locations for all four tracks make this an improbable choice. Woody also recorded for Arco, played guitar for Nashville country singers and wrote a number of songs, among them Bigelow 6-200' for Little Brenda Lee.
The following year, MCA issued 'Barking Up The Wrong Tree' as a 45 (MCA 240), hoping to follow-up the runaway UK chart success of Hank Mizell's Jungle Rock'. It bubbled under the Top 50, garnered lots of airplay and sold a lot of copies, but ultimately failed to score with the great unwashed. But at least it resulted in Capital Radio in London tracking down Don Woody for a telephone interview which shed a little more light on this elusive character. That interview, conducted by the late Roger Scott, reached a further audience when it was transcribed in issue 12 of the rock'n'roll fanzine, 'New Kommotion'.
In the years that followed, Woody's recordings continued to be popular among collectors, turning up on a slew of reissues. Unfortunately there were only half a dozen of 'em -one single on Decca, one on Arco and two unissued-at-the-time cuts from the Decca session. Unusually, however, all six are great sides. So although Don Woody isn't the most over-recorded of all artists, he still weighs in with a 100% record.
Just over thirty years on from all the initial reissue activity, it surprised me that no-one had ever tracked down Don Woody for a full-length chat about his career. None of the sleeve notes even told us where or when he was born (Tuscumbia, Missouri on June 29th 1937, by the way). So when Viva Las Vegas promoter Tom Ingram tipped me off about a Don Woody website, I set about contacting the man through it. I only hoped I wasn't barking up the wrong tree...
Trevor Cajiao: Isn't modern technology wonderful? It's 2006 and there's an Official Don Woody Website...
Don Woody: Well, that was put together by two ladies, Lotta and Kitti, and they are actually in Russia. They started that website some time ago and they had tried unsuccessfully to find me. Then back about five years ago, I guess, they eventually found me. I retired from Sears-Roebuck about 12 years ago and moved to San Antonio, Texas - that's where I currently live. I've been selling real estate and about five or six years ago I went to a company called Kuper Sotheby's Reality. Well they put me on the company's website and somehow Lotta and Kitti had a search out there and that's how they came across me - through the firm's website. That's when they contacted me and told me about the website that they had created on me. I was totally unaware of it until they told me about it. So since then we've corresponded quite frequently and they've done a marvellous job with it, it's really amazing.
T.C. When I first saw it I thought it might be an indication that you were planning to get back into the music business...
D.W. No (laughs). They're just very involved in rockabilly. They liked my old stuff so they created this website as kind of a tribute to me and it's really been fun.
T.C. When would have been the last time you actually performed?
D.W. Oh my goodness... You have to remember that those songs were done back in the '50s. So probably the last time was, maybe, 1960. Somewhere around there.
T.C. And have you ever been tempted to take it up again?
D.W. Well, you know, it's really funny because I'm getting a lot of requests now. There are a lot of promoters out there who are doing rockabilly shows and through the website they've contacted me with some very nice requests. There's one going on next spring in Green Bay, Wisconsin, then there's a rock'n'roll revue in Las Vegas, which is also next spring, and they've both contacted me and asked me to go and perform. But, you know, I haven't done it in so long that I'm not sure if I'd be very good at it.
T.C. There's a lot of people would like to see you...
D.W. Well, it seems to me like there's more interest in rockabilly in the UK and Europe than there is here in the US. I just did an interview with a magazine in France and it seems that my songs are played more all over Europe and some people actually know who I am there. It's not that way here in America.
T.C. But a lot of European fans travel to those shows in America...
D.W. Oh really? There's a group who have covered some of my songs called The Barnstompers, and they've contacted me and wanted me to do a show with them and they would play for me. It was somewhere in Europe but I wasn't able to make it. It's just amazing to me and very exciting that people still like my music.
T.C. So would you say that performing again is something you're seriously considering?
D.W. Well, if it was the right situation I'd certainly consider it. What I've told these guys is that I can't stand up there for 45 minutes doing 10 or 12 songs. But it's becoming more and more attractive because they're looking at me just coming on and doing two or three of my old songs. And that has some appeal to me.
T.C. Well, it's great to be able to talk to you after all this time. I was one of those people who first heard your records back in the '70s when MCA put them out here in England...
T.C. ...and you almost had a hit here with 'You're Barking Up The Wrong Tree' in 1976...
D.W. I remember that and it got quite a bit of attention - probably more than it did back when it first came out! It sold a lot of records over there
T.C. Perhaps we could go back to the beginning and talk about how Don Woody got into music in the first place...
D.W. I was a disc jockey and when I went to college in Springfield, Missouri I worked on a Top 40 station, playing all the popular songs of the day, it was a real rock'n'roll station. So I was doing that and I had a room-mate in college called Paul Simmons. He was interested in music too and we wrote some songs together and made some demos of those songs. At that time there was a national television show being produced in Springfield, a country show called 'The Ozark Jubilee', and the star of the show was Red Foley, a country singer. It originated there in Springfield and all the performers would come there to appear on the show; it was a very similar format to The Louisiana Hayride', The Grand Ole Opry' and other shows of that type which were around at that time. Well, in addition to being a disc jockey and stuff, I actually did a stand-up comedy routine and I would perform at various local night clubs around the area - not singing, but doing stand-up comedy. One of the fellas from The Ozark Jubilee' saw me at one of the clubs and I ended up going to the Jubilee and being the warm-up man there. Before the show actually went on the air I'd go out there and entertain the audience. As a result of that I got to know a lot of the people involved with the show, and another friend of mine named Gary Walker, who became kind of my manager, I guess, he also was involved with the show and one day they brought in this little 11-year-old girl named Brenda Lee. They called her Little Miss Dynamite and she was quite amazing. Of course, everyone knows who she is now because she became a very big star around the world, but this was when she was just starting out and she was brand new. Everybody was so high on this young gal and before too long Decca Records was gonna give her a record contract. So she was looking for material.
That's when my manager played some of our demo tapes and they liked the song 'Bigelow 6-200'. So she recorded that and it became one side of her very first record. 'Bigelow 6-200' was on one side and the Hank Williams song 'Jambalaya' was on the other side. As a result of the people at Decca Records hearing the demo of some of our songs, they came to me and wanted me to cut some demo records for Decca. The fella's name was Paul Cohen and he was the A&R man. So I flew down to Nashville on the basis that I was gonna cut a few demo songs, and I did four: Barking Up The Wrong Tree', Bird-Dog', 'Make Like A Rock And Roll' and 'Morse Code'. They decided to release two of 'em -Bird-Dog1 and 'Barking Up The Wrong Tree' (Decca 9-30277). And incidentally, when we wrote 'Barking Up The Wrong Tree' there was no 'barking' in there. At that time the song 'How Much Is That Doggie In The Window' by Patti Page was very popular, and it had some barking on it. So at the session we decided to put in the "woof! woof!". Since that sounded okay we added the whistle to 'Bird-Dog'.
T.C. That session was held at Bradley's Film & Recording Studio on December 21st 1956. What are your memories of that day?
D.W. Well, it was a different way of recording back then. We went into the studio and the band was Grady Martin & The Slew Foot Five, that's what he called them. I had the music but the musicians didn't really pay much attention to the music. What happened is that they had me sing the song and they would kind of start playing along with it, and then Paul Cohen, who was directing the session, would do some things and we eventually worked it up that way. It was pretty impromptu, the way they did it. We'd end up singing the song, they would play along and put the music to it, and then whenever we had it to where we wanted it, then we'd record it.
T.C. Decca put your record out in April '57; what kind of promotion did you do on it? Did you do any gigs?
D.W. I did some and, of course, I got it played a lot on the radio stations throughout Missouri. But what happened back at that time was that Decca, especially Paul Cohen, they were out signing up all kinds of artists. They were releasing lots of records by new artists every week. They were just kinda throwing these out there and if some of 'em caught on then that's the one they stayed with. If it didn't catch on they didn't bother putting out a second record. And unfortunately mine was one of those that apparently didn't catch on. I did some stuff locally around Springfield to help promote it, but not very much really.
T.C. Which other artists were you rubbing shoulders with at that time?
D.W. Well, some of the names are probably long forgotten today, but there was a performer who would come to The Ozark Jubilee' called Marvin Rainwater. He was a wonderful guy and we hung out a lot together. He had that big hit Gonna Find Me A Bluebird' and some others. Then there was Billy Walker, who I just read in the newspaper passed away the other day. I knew Billy from the Jubilee, and a young guy named Bobby Lord who had a hit called 'Hawk-Eye'. I got to meet lots of the country stars from that time who came in to do the show. Wanda Jackson was down there and she had some real rockabilly-type hits.
T.C. There were a lot of great records coming out of Owen Bradley's studio at that time by people like The Johnny Burnette Trio, Buddy Holly and Johnny Carroll - records that are now regarded as rockabilly classics. Did you ever run into any of those guys?
D.W. No I didn't. I never met any of those guys. You know, I'm not even sure that the term 'rockabilly' was what it was called then. I've thought about that a lot and I don't recall it ever being called 'rockabilly' back then.
T.C. The word 'rockabilly' was actually used a lot in 'Billboard' at the time. But you're not the first performer from the '50s I've spoken to who doesn't have a strong recollection of it being used.
D.W. Right. Well an interesting thing that occurred when my record came out is that The Everly Brothers released their song called 'Bird Dog'. And if you have any old copies of 'Billboard' from back then, you'll see that their 'Bird Dog' became a hit and at that time they used to list right underneath other versions, and they would list me under there as being another version. Of course, it wasn't the same song at all, but it made it look like mine was a cover of The Everly Brothers' 'Bird Dog'. So theirs went on to become a big hit and obviously so did The Everly Brothers, and mine wasn't a hit. As a result of that Decca decided not to release the other two songs we had done - 'Morse Code' and Make Like A Rock And Roll'.
T.C. Have you any idea what sales were like on your record?
D.W. I had royalty statements sent to me at different times but I probably threw them away. I can't recall what kind of sales it had.
T.C. Did the experience of the record not being a hit disenchant you with the music business in any way?
D.W. No, not at all. My manager, Gary Walker, moved to Nashville and went to work as a songwriter for one of the publishing companies down there, and he actually recorded a couple of songs too, I can't remember the names of them now... But he decided that we were gonna put out another record, so we cut two more songs - 'Not I' and Red Blooded American Boy'. We cut those independently and then he went out to sell 'em to a record company. We found a called Arco, which as I recall was located in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and they put out that record (Arco 4623). But they didn't really have any money for promotion or anything, they were a very small company, so that one faded away too.
T.C. Where was the Arco record cut and who played on it?
D.W. It was cut at a studio in Nashville which my manager rented. He rented the studio, the musicians and the backup singers, but I don't remember any names. It was all a long time ago! In the meantime, I was still at the radio station, which was KICK in Springfield. Then I went into the military and came back to the station. By that point I was married and had a child; that's when I decided that trying to pursue a music career probably wasn't the most lucrative thing I could do (laughs). So I went to work for Sears-Roebuck in 1961 and retired from Sears thirty years later in '91, as a regional manager for the company.
T.C. Did you never contemplate trying to make it as a songwriter?
D.W. I actually continued to write songs and I had friends in the business in Nashville who I sent 'em to, and periodically they'd try to farm em around. When I was in the military I'd written a song and for a short time it looked like Marty Robbins was gonna record it. It made the short list but didn't make it. I was told that if he had recorded it then it would have been on the flipside of 'El Paso'. Had that occurred I probably would have pursued a songwriting career at that point. Maybe I would've moved to Nashville, I don't know. I did continue writing songs after that and I'd send 'em to friends in Nashville, but nothing ever happened.
T.C. Did Brenda Lee's management not ask you for any more songs after Bigelow 6-200'?
D.W. No. Once she became a star and moved to Nashville, she was besieged by songwriters.
T.C. There was a huge surge of interest in '50s rockabilly and rock'n'roll in Europe in the mid-'70s, and that's when MCA put out your four Decca recordings on the 'Rare Rockabilly' LP. What did you think about that and who told you about it?
D.W. Actually, a magazine much like yours tracked me down and wanted to know what I thought about it. Of course, I wasn't aware of it at the time so it kind of amazed me. When I checked it out I discovered that my songs were becoming popular over there, which was wonderful but also very strange all at the same time.
T.C. They pulled 'You're Barking Up The Wrong Tree' as a single and it almost made the Top 50... It's always been a very popular record on the rock'n'roll circuit here in the UK...
D.W. Well I appreciate that and I'm so glad it's been accepted over there as well as it has. There seems to be a lot of interest in those old songs over in Europe.
T.C. Your songs have also been covered by many bands from all over the world...
D.W. I really am amazed by that, and somebody sent me one the other day - a band had just covered 'Morse Code' again over there.
T.C. That would be The Skiprats.
D.W. Yes. I just thought that was terrific, they did such a good job on it. Obviously it's a thrill when someone does that. I just hope it does very well | for them I guess what's | really amazing is that these songs weren't big hits back at the time - Morse Code' wasn't even released back then. But here, almost fifty years later, I still get royalty cheques and statements from BMI and the record companies. They have a little sheet that comes with it that tells where they've been played, and on the latest one there's Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. Then it tells which songs have been played. It's really interesting to me to be able to see which ones are popular and where they are being played.
T.C. Do you have a particular favourite?
D.W. Well, I guess I've always liked Morse Code' a lot. But my favourite is Not I', one of the songs I did for Arco. I had singers behind me on that, I believe it was four guys, and I always liked that one, but it never caught on either...
T.C. Well your Decca sides, in particular, have proved to be immensely popular among rockabilly fans for many years now, especially 'You're Barking Up The Wrong Tree'. In closing, I suppose there's one final question I must ask you: have you ever owned a dog?
D.W. Yes we have - Golden Retrievers. Woof! Woof!
Interview with Don Woody from french magazine "Rock'n'Roll Revue" issue N38 (2006)
Long Tall David: Could you tell us about your childhood. Where and when were you born? How and When did you discover that you had some interest in the music? What kind of music wer you listening to (hillbilly or/and Rhythm and Blues)?
Don Woody: I was born in Missouri and obviously was exposed to a lot of country music. It was really in high school that I developed a real interest in music, I played drums in the HS band and my junior and senior years worked as a disc jockey at the local (small) radio station. Played a lot of country music and was able to meet and interview country artist who came to town.
L.T.D. Who were your major influences?
D.W. When I went to College in Springfield Missouri, I worked at a "top 40" Rock and Roll station and really loved all the early Rock & Roll artists. Mainly, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Buddby Holly.
L.T.D. How did you manage to become a disc-jockey?
D.W. As I mentioned in High School I heard about an opening at the local station, and got that job. Then when I decided to go to College in Springfield, I applied at sweveral stations, got the job at the one I loved and worked at that station for 4 years during College, went to the Army and then returned to the station for a couple of years afterward.
L.T.D. Tell us a little about the "Ozark Jubilee" program and the MC Red Foley. Who have you met over there and become friend with?
D.W. Being in the radio business in the same town as the "Jubliee" I met some of the people involved. At the time, I was also doing a stand up comedy routine at several local night clubs. I was invited to do the "warm-up" for the Ozark Jubliee" and did that several times, performing to the audiance before the show started. I never actually appeared on the show live. Met a lot of artists who came to the show, most of them came for the show and went somewhere else on tour or back to Nashville. Was fairly accquatinted with a country singer named Marvin Rainwater who at that time had a big hit called "Gonna find me a Bluebird". And of course Brenda Lee who got her big break by appearing on the show.
L.T.D. Tell us about your touring with the Bill Wimberley's Western Swing Band". Was it exciting? Where have you been to?
D.W. Bill's band played for the "jubliee" and during the summer (school was out) I toured with the band during my stand up comedy routine. Bill had a bus and we toured the midwest playing county and state fairs. It was a lot of fun.
L.T.D. What were the first songs that you wrote with Paul Simmons? What were the first ones to be recorded as demos? Were they rockabilly songs? Are these demos still existing somewhere?
D.W. The very first one we wrote was called "Call of the Cat Man" referring to someone who thought he was a really "hip" cool cat. WE thought it was very good, but no one else did at the time. Then we wrote "Bigelow 6-200" I think I actually do have that orginal demo.
L.T.D. What kind of contract have you signed with Decca?
D.W. I signed a contract that at the time, gave Decca the right to decide how many songs and how many sessions we would do. Decca was signing a lot of artists, pushing the songs out and then waiting to see if any hit. If not, they dropped the artists pretty fast. There were a lot of singers at that time and not many (including me) made it.
L.T.D. How did you met Brenda Lee? What kind of little girl was she? (cause she was only a kid at that time!)
D.W. I was working around the "Ozark Jubilee" when she first performed. They billed her as "11 yrs old) although as I remember she was maybe a little older. She was an instant hit and they were looking for a song that would emphasize her unusual voice with the little "hic-cups" My agent was able to play "Bigelow 6-200" for her and her manager (who at the time was her step-father) and they all liked it. It was the first record she realeased, and Jambalya was on the other side.
L.T.D. Who are the other people you met at Decca?
D.W. Really can't remember.
L.T.D. Could you tell us about Grady Martin-the man and the musician.What kind of session leader was he?
D.W. Don't remember too much about him, but the session was great.
L.T.D. Do you remember the band that recorded the four rockabilly songs at the Bradley Film & Recording Studio, 804 16th Avenue South in Nashville (Tennessee). Were these songs done the way you wanted them to be or the way Decca (or Grady) wanted it or maybe a kinda mix of all?
D.W. Owen Bradley was the gentleman who signed me and who ran the session. Grady's band at the time I think was called "Grady Martin and the Slew foot five". The songs were done the way Owen and Grady wanted them. It was very interesting because they didn't worry about wriitten music, I would sing it and then the band would improvise with it, Sing it again, and something else.and so on. When we wrote "Barking up the wrong tree" We did not have a "barking sound" in it. Right about that time Patti Page had a hit called "how much is that doggy in the window" and there was barking on it, so Owen had me add that. We added the whistle to "Bird dog" also.
L.T.D. Who wrote these songs with you?
D.W. Paul Simmons who was my college room mate wrote all of them with me.
L.T.D. Why did Decca released only two of these songs and decided then to broke your contract?
D.W. As I mentioned above, Decca was throwing out a lot of artists and records. At the same time that mine was released, The Everly Brothers release a song called Bird Dog. Theirs became a big hit as they were already established stars and mine sort of got lost in the shuffle. Lack of sales and play time, made them decide not to do any more.
L.T.D. What happened after the Decca experience and before the Arco recordings?
D.W. I continued at the radio station and we kept writing songs.
L.T.D. After the two songs for Arco in 1958 why did you decided to stop?
D.W. I was about to graduate from College and had a committment to the Military thorough the ROTC program. Went to Ft. Bliss Texas as a 2nd Lt and when I got out of the Army, I went back to the Radio station, but was married and had a child, so I wanted more steady work to support my family.
L.T.D. What have you became then?
D.W. I went to work for Sears Roebuck and Com and became a store manger and then a Regional Vice Presidentg. I retired from that job , live in San Antonio, play a lot of Golf and sell Real Estate..
L.T.D. Have you ever been to Europe? Are you planning to come?
D.W. Have been to Europe several times, on one trip went in a music store and was suprised to find a tape with my songs on it. No plans right now for another tirp.
L.T.D. What do you think of the nowadays rockabilly scene and about the fact that your songs are today consider as real masterpieces that are covered by many bands all over the world?
D.W. It is amazing what has happened. To think that after almost 50 years fans are still enjoying these songs and my singing is a real thrill for me. I appreciate it very much.
L.T.D. Have you ever been contacted by people wantin you to perform again?
D.W. Yes, in the past year, I have received several requests. Some from Europe, as well as the U.S.A. That is also amazing to me, in that someone would actually want to see me perform.
L.T.D. And the last but not the least : When can we expect Don Woody on a stage again?? We are waitin for you!!
D.W. I have turned down all the requests so far, as I have not performed for many many years. However, a promoter of a show in Las Vegas for 2007 has stated that if I would come he would only ask me to do a couple of songs. I might be able to handle that.
Interview with Don Woody (2003)
It was taken by Lotta and Kitti specially for the Official Website in December of 2003.
Lotta & Kitti : Where were you born?
Don Woody : I was born in a very small town in the state of Missouri named Tuscumbia.
L.K. What college have you attended?
D.W. Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
L.K. How long had you been working as a DJ? And why did you choose this way after your graduation?
D.W. I started as a DJ when I was a junior in high school. After graduating from High School I got a job in Springfield, Missouri and worked as a DJ while I was attending College. It was a "Top Forty" Rock and Roll station. After graduation, I served in the Military and then returned to the radio station after Military duty for about 2 years.
L.K. What kind of music did you prefer that time?
D.W. I was a real fan of Rock and Roll, and rock-a-billy.
L.K. When and where did you meet your friend Paul Simmons?
D.W. I met Paul in college. We were fraternity brothers and room - mates.
L.K. Did he write some more songs? What he is doing now?
D.W. Paul was a star basketball player and when he graduated, he went on to get his Masters in Education and became a Supertindent of Schools. He wrote some more songs, but never seemed to get any published.
L.K. How did you start to work with the Bradley Film & Recording Studio?
D.W. I signed a contract with Decca records and Paul Bradley was the A & R man for Decca, he set up the recording session.
L.K. Can you play any musical instrument?
D.W. Sad to say, I cannot play any instrument, nor can I read any music. I would come up with the "melody" in my head. Paul and I would write the words and then we had a music student listen to the tape and put in down on paper.
L.K. Who were your influences in music?
D.W. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley.
L.K. Did you write your songs for yourself or did you plan that someone else would perform them?
D.W. I always thought that the songs would be recorded by someone else. But I sang on the "demos" for the songs. Paul Bradley heard the tapes when he was looking for a song for Brenda Lee and signed me to a contract.
L.K. Have you ever performed "Bigelow 6200" by yourself?
D.W. No I never performed it other than the demo tape.
L.K. How did it happen that Brenda Lee sang your "Bigelow 6200"?
D.W. I was working at a TV show with Red Foley called "The Ozark Jubilee". The show was produced and broadcast in Springfield, Missouri. Brenda appeared on the show at 11 yrs of age. My Manager thought that "Bigelow 6200" would be good for her and arranged to have it played for her manager.
L.K. How did you create your songs? Do your songs have some histories of their creation?
D.W. I'll have to answer that one later, I never really gave that much thought. Mainly the songs were just a reflection of what was going on at that time, "hip" slang etc.
L.K. Why did you decide to call one of your songs "Bird Dog"? Did you know that Everly Brothers "Bird Dog" was recorded around the same time?
D.W. Actually, our song "Bird Dog" was before the Everly Brothers recorded theirs. We had released my Decca record and about 2 weeks later The Everly Brothers record was released. Obviously theirs was a big hit. At the time, one of the teenagers saying was "Bird-dogging" it refered to a boy searching for a girl.
L.K. Do you have some more songs besides these six?
D.W. I did write several more songs (even continue to do some today), but unless you are in one of the major areas such as Nashville, or New York or Los Angeles, it is very hard to get any one to listen to the demo tapes.
L.K. Why did you decide to give up your music career?
D.W. I was offered a job in Nashville at a publishing company to write songs. It was a small firm (just getting started) and I would have had to try to find another job on the radio to supplement my income. I was married, and we just had our 1st child. I felt I needed a more steady job to support the family. I didn't feel like my "music career" would bring in enough money at that time.
L.K. What do you think about the fact that many bands cover your songs? Have you heard them? What do you think about it?
D.W. Paul and I are honored that so many bands have "covered" the songs. I think they are all great!!! It is very interesting the interpretation they have given to the songs, and I love every one of them.
L.K. Dont you think that you are more popular in music now, than in 50s?
D.W. I didn't know I was popular now, until I received your e-mail about the web - site. Since then seeing the "Rock-a- Billy" Hall of Fame stuff and the letters from fans, I am truly amazed.
L.K. Thank you for your answers!
D.W. Thanks for the job you are doing, I appreciate it very much.
Interview with Don Woody from "New Commotion" (1976)
Don Woody's Barking Up The Wrong Tree backed with "Cast Iron Arm" by Peanuts Wilson was released on 09.04.1976 by MCA in the UK. The record received considerable airplay, especially on Capital Radio, and appeared bubbling under the British Top Fifty. In late May Roger Scott interviewed Don over the phone on the Friday Cruisin programme. By courtesy of Roger Scott and Capital Radio the contents of the interview are reproduced below:
Roger Scott : Right, three or four thousand miles away on the other end of this phone I have a fellow whose name is Don Woody, hello Don.
Don Woody : Hello.
R.S. Hi there! How are you?
D.W. Just great, how s everything in London?
R.S. Just fantastic, tell me, exactly where are you, where is area code 512?
D.W. In the great state of Texas, in town called Macallen, Texas which is down in the very tip of near Bronsville and just fifty miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
R.S. And awfully hot.
D.W. Yes it is very warm
R.S. Listen, as you know, we ve been playing that record that you made twenty years ago an awful lot.
D.W. I appreciate that very much, by the way.
R.S. Can you tell me everything that you can remember, I know it's a long time twenty years, you made that record in 1956, a lot of people are very interested to know exactly who else was playing on the record. Rumour has it that it was Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, in fact the Johnny Burnette Trio, is that true?
D.W. Not to my knowledge, actually the man that produced the sessions and the gentleman that played the guitar was Owen Bradley.
R.S. Owen Bradley was that?
At this point Don Woody's reply became almost incomprehensible due to interference on the line.
R.S. Hey listen Don, can you hang on a second. We ve got a terribly bad line here. Alright? We re paying for the call so hang on, while we go Barking Up The Wrong Tree .
D.W. Yes Roger.
R.S. Ah. Much better. Right, can you go over what you were saying before, about the session on "Barking Up The Wrong Tree"?
D.W. Well, as you mentioned, it was a long time ago, and to the best of my knowledge most of them were just studio musicians. Owen Bradley conducted the session and played the piano. The guitar player was a fellow by the name of Grady Martin who had a group at that time called Grady Martin and "The Slewfoot Five".
D.W. Played quite a few records for Decca, but as I remember it, most of the other fellows were just studio musicians, did a great job though.
R.S. What did you go on to do after that record, because it was notable for its lack of success at the time really although it's selling like hot cakes over here in England at the moment
D.W. Well, I understand that, and appreciate that very much, it s very exciting. Incidentally, I appreciate your playing on Capital Radio, playing it so much and I know you were instrumental in getting that released as a single, and I do appreciate that.
R.S. Don t mention it.
D.W. I made that record in Nashville, and it did not sell very well at that time, I made another record for Arco Records, couple of songs, one of them was called "Red Blooded American Boy" and the other side was entitled "Not I". Arco at that time was a real small company and unless you were with a major such as Decca, you really didn t get much distribution. And that record didn t do much either, so I more or less got of the performing business in that point. I was incidentally a disc jockey on a radio station in a little town in Missouri.
R.S. Weren t you a songwriter as well, didn t you write some songs, like Brenda Lee recorded one of them, didn t she?
D.W. Right, the first song that Brenda Lee ever recorded, one side was my song "Bigelow 6200" and the other side was the old Hank Williams tune Jambalaya and we did that, that was earlier, that was back in, I believe, in early '56 or '55, that she recorded that. Still...
R.S. Tell me, sorry, sorry go ahead.
D.W. No, I was going to say, she s still singing and I understand some of her albums have been released over in England and one of them has that number "Bigelow 6200" on it. (MCA MCF 2729 - Ed)
R.S. That's correct. Tell me it s an incredible thing to think about, right, you made that record twenty years ago obviously it was long forgotten, it was something you did in your past and you know, you hadn't thought about it recently, and then there must have come a day recently when somebody got you on the telephone and tracked you down and said Don, guess what?
D.W. Yes, that's exactly what happened and I wasn't home, but they had quite a time finding me 'cause the last known address was a town in Missouri and all the relatives and everything had moved out of there. There was quite an intensive search put on by MCA Records. Peter Robinson, over there, helped track me down and it took them about two weeks. And one day they called my wife at home and said exactly what you said: Guess what, this record's been rereleased and is selling well in England, of course she was... she could hardly believe it and she called me, and it's very exciting, it really is.
R.S. You're a rock'n'roll star at last, what are you doing these days, what's your business?
D.W. Well, I'm a stores manager for the largest retail organization in the world Sears Roebuck & Co, in the States here.
R.S. Do the staff at Sears Roebuck there in Texas know about you and your past or do you keep it sort of covered?
D.W. Well, I really haven't told very many people yet, because we really just thought we'd wait and see what happened to some of our friends, close friends around town, we dug out the record and played it for them, and told them about it, but no, not really the staff at the store, they don't know yet.
R.S. At the same session that you did or around the same time anyway, as you did Barking Up The Wrong Tree, it probably was the same session, but there was an other song you recorded "Morse Code" which was never released at the time it's come out now on an album called Rare Rockabilly, do you remember that one?
D.W. Yes I do, actually we did all four songs that are on that album at the same session. When I went down I thought I was only going to do two "Bird Dog" and "Barking Up The Wrong Tree" and they wanted to go ahead and complete four of them. So we kinda dug up these other two, these were some that I had written with another fellow and really hadn't been that excited about, but we went ahead and did them rather quickly. They were never released, actually I never heard them except for that day that we did them at the session, I had never heard them until Peter Robinson sent me the album last week and I got it out and listened to it for the first time that I heard it in twenty years.
R.S. Tell me 1956, briefly who were the other people you were hanging around with, were you involved in the music business at that time heavily, I mean did you know the people who were recording there at the same time?
D.W. Right, pretty much so, at that time I was DJ on a station in Springfield, Missouri and Springfield was the home of what was known as the Ozark Jubilee which starred Red Foley, and this was country show produced every Saturday night, live, and Red Foley was the star. And at that time I was hanging round with people like Marvin Rainwater, who had a big hit in "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird". Robby Lord and several other of the more and less country stars that were there at the time on the show.
R.S. What were the call letters of the station?
D.W. The radio station where I worked?
D.W. KICK, Kick Radio.
R.S. Ah! Perfect. Ok Don, listen I'm going to play "Morse Code". I won't take you away from your staff and your big store for any longer but thank you very much for talking to us.
D.W. Well I appreciate it very much and I said I appreciated the effort that you in Capital Radio have given it. It's very exciting for us and of course we're really looking forward, we're really hoping the thing does well and we might even dig up another old one somewhere to play.
R.S. And you might even get yourself a suit and get up on stage again.
D.W. That's right, talking about, you know, the possibility, we might come over and visit your country, we've never been over there, we would certainly look forward to do that.
R.S. We'd love to see you. Ok Don, thank you.
D.W. Thank you, Roger.
R.S. Many thanks, bye bye