Warren Smith - Black Jack David + Ubangi Stomp SUN 250
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Uploaded on Jan 8, 2012
Smith was born in Humphreys County, Mississippi to Iola and Willie Warren Smith, who divorced when he was young. He was raised by his maternal grandparents in Louise, Mississippi where they had a small farm and dry goods store.
Smith took up the guitar to while away his evenings while in the United States Air Force stationed in San Antonio, Texas. By the time of his discharge from the service, he had decided to make a career of music. He moved to West Memphis, Arkansas and auditioned, successfully, to play the Cotton Club, a local hot spot. Steel guitarist Stan Kessler, who was playing at that nightclub with the Snearly Ranch Boys, immediately spotted Smith's potential and took him to Sun Records to audition for Sam Phillips, with the Snearly Ranch Boys providing backup.
Phillips liked what he heard, and decided that "Rock & Roll Ruby", a song credited to Johnny Cash, would be Smith's first record. (Smith later claimed that "Rock & Roll Ruby" was actually written by George Jones and sold to Cash for $40.) Smith recorded it on February 5, 1956. Phillips, who was hedging his bets over whether rock and roll would maintain its popularity, released that record with a country crooner, aptly named "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", on the flip side. By May 26, "Rock & Roll Ruby" had hit No. 1 on the local pop charts. Smith's first record for Sun went on to outsell the first Sun releases by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
In August 1956, Smith went back to the Sun Records studio to record his second release, "Ubangi Stomp". This infectious rocker had an incorrect lyric including an African chief with the syntax of a movie Indian. For the B side, Smith recorded the classic ballad "Black Jack David". This song, which originated in early 18th-century Britain and survived in various forms in the mountains of the American south, may be the oldest song ever recorded by a rock and roll performer. Although a resounding artistic success, it did not sell as well as Smith's debut.
In 1957, Smith recorded "So Long, I'm Gone", a song written by Roy Orbison, and it did become Smith's biggest hit at Sun, peaking at No. 74 nationally (Billboard). But Sun had no cash to promote it at the same time as Sam Phillips put every dollar Sun had behind Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On". Although Smith continued to make rockabilly records for Sun, including a cover version of Slim Harpo's "Got Love If Your Want It" (recorded in October 1957), these records did not do well commercially. Toward the end of 1958, Smith, seeing his future in country music, cut a final record for Sun, a cover version of Don Gibson's "Sweet Sweet Girl". In spite of a review in Billboard calling it "ultra commercial", this record also failed to sell. Like other artists such as Sonny Burgess, Hayden Thompson, Billy Lee Riley and Ray Harris, chart success largely eluded him. Smith then decided to leave Sun Records.
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