Founded around 1953 by W.O. Fleener, Sage & Sand is one of those indie labels which delight hillbilly and rockabilly alike because uptempo boppers and all kinds of rockers abound. First using the Sage & Sand imprint, the records were gradually issued either on Sage or on Sand (with several label color variations) as the accompanying discography will show.
The Sage & Sand office and studio were first located upstairs at 5653 1/2 Hollywood Boulevard.
At some point in the late sixties, they moved to 1526 North Wilcox Avenue but subsequently relocated to 1511 North Gordon Street, right around the corner of Hollywood Boulevard. Sage & Sand expert, Jonathan Smith, who provided me with much valuable info, is also a singer, composer and guitarist who had the privilege to cut a session at this last address in May 1972. The recording engineer was Jim Mooney. By that time, however, Smith is adamant that Woodie Fleener was no longer issuing records. Jonathan explains that the label had no national distribution but Fleener would sell his product via mail order. He also suspects that most of the artists produced their own sessions and leased the masters to Woodie - or perhaps worked out a deal to press a limited quantity of 45s to sell at personal appearances. When Jenks 'Tex' Carman briefly released some things on Rem Records, a Kentucky label, he noticed that one track which had appeared on Sage & Sand was also included on a Rem LP. He asked Bob Mooney, the owner of Rem, whether his label was connected in any way with Sage & Sand. He replied that Jenks recorded his own masters and leased them to various labels, and that the only musician he knew, who recorded on Carman's sides, was Roy Lanham. Whether Carman recorded at Sage & Sand's studios in Hollywood, in Roy Lanham's own studio (where Johnny Bond once recorded some demos) or in yet other places remains unknown.
In retrospect, the Sage & Sand label's roster of artists reads like some sort of dictionary of California country'n'western music ; its recorded output was consistently excellent but the big hits never came its way.
It took quite some time until some record company had the good idea of exploring its vaults : that honor falls to P-Vine in Japan, who released an attractive series of CDs in 1993, one of which was dedicated to Sage & Sand.
Titled 'Rock'n'Roll Cowboy' and sub-titled 'Sage & Sand Greatest Rockabillies' (PCD 2468), it remains a successful attempt at compiling the best of the label's productions.
Here are the contents of the CD - along with my comments.
& Holt : 'Hey
Baby' (Sage 287) Fast rockabilly bopper with two biting guitar breaks
and authentic hick vocals. Flip is 'Too Late To Cry'. 'Hey Baby' also appeared
on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.3' (Sage C-22) as well as a Crown compilation ('Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.3', CLP
5241). In late '57, they had a release on Starday (#328, coupling 'You'll
Never Find Another' with an instrumental titled 'Burning The Strings') where
they were billed as 'The Logan Valley Boys'. Harley Gabbard had one outing
on Arvis (#107, 'Quit Hanging Around'/'21 Years'). He kept on recording until
the '70s on labels such as REM and Vetco (where he cut an album produced jointly
by Rusty York and Lou Ukelson, both deceased and much missed).
Jimmy Patton : 'I'm Not Shucking' (Sage LP C-22) * 'Yah! I'm Movin' (Sage 261) Two wild sides, especially 'Yah! I'm Movin' which features some hammering piano and a couple of crazy guitar breaks by Roy Lanham - probably the fiercest he ever played. The hugely talented Roy Lanham was part of the house band at Sage & Sand (with Freddy Haynes on piano, Ralph Gleason on drums and Lawrence Wootten on bass) who will appear on many other cuts on offer here. Oscar 'Jimmy' Patton had been discovered by W. O. Fleener while playing Los Angeles clubs. Another song Patton cut for Sage, 'Let Me Slide', appeared on a Rollin' Rock EP (#001) in the seventies. 'I'm Not Shucking' was also on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.3' (Sage C-22) and on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.3' (CLP 5241). Of course, Patton later moved to the Sims label where he waxed several 45's including the ferocious 'Okie's In The Pokie' (# 117), albeit it was a re-cut of the top side of his rarissime Hilligan single (HC-001/002), a label situated in Phoenix, Arizona. He had an excellent LP in the '60s on Stereotone (# 1002), titled 'Take 30 Minutes With Jimmy Patton' (with Bill Woods on piano). Other LPs were issued on Moon (#101, 'Make Room For The Blues') and Sourdough.
Joanie King : 'OK Doll, It's A Deal' (Sage 258) A good jivin' rocker with some chorus. Good sound quality. Yet another song which was part of both 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.3' (Sage C-22) and 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.3' (CLP 5241). Original flip was 'History'. Recorded as Jo-Ann King for RCA Victor in 1958 ('False Alarm', #7302 and 'Bigger Than Texas', #7378).
Wally & Don : 'Never No More' * 'Just Play The Juke Box' (Sage 308) A real rocker backed with a nice chugging country bopper. Roy Lanham shines on guitar again. Despite what's noted in the liners, these two tracks are NOT on Sage #308 which couples 'Please Don't' with 'Desirable You'. 'Never No More' did appear on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.3' (Sage C-20) and on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.3' (CLP 5241) while 'Just Play The Juke Box' was on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.1' (Sage C-18) and on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.1' (CLP 5213).
Whitey Pullen : 'Everybody's Rockin' (Sage LP C-22) * 'Walk My Way Back Home' (Sage 274) * 'Moonshine Liquor' (Crown CLP 5332) * 'Tight Slacks' (Crown CLP 5332) * 'Tuscalusa Lucy' (Sage 313) * A great selection of cuts taken from various singles and LPs. Alabama-born Dwight 'Whitey' Pullen had real talent. He wrote most of his songs, including all the above rockers. He became road manager for Gene Vincent ; not only that, he also penned 'Everybody's Got A Date But Me' and co-wrote 'She She Little Sheila' with Jerry Merritt for Gene's 'Crazy Times' LP (Capitol T 1342, recorded in '59 and released in '60). Jerry Merritt, who was Gene's lead guitar player at the time, told me in 1993 that Whitey even played a barely audible rhythm guitar on some tracks of this classic album. Here, Whitey's youthful vocals are the real thing and the guitar/piano backings and soli are of Blue Caps quality : 'nuff said. 'Walk My Way Back Home', featuring electric piano and steel, is an all-time classic. 'Moonshine Liquor', with a piano solo which bears all the Clifton Simmons trademarks, handclaps and a hiccupy chorus, is in the same league. 'Tuscaloosa Lucy' is also reminiscent of Gene Vincent while 'Tight Slacks' starts with a Buddy Holly-influenced but Eddie Cochran-sounding guitar intro. 'Everybody's Rockin' is a true frantic piece of Rockabilly. You'll also find it on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.3' (CLP 5241). Pullen could sing Country'n'Western with equal ease and style ; his posthumous Crown album, judiciously titled 'Country Music Star' (CLP 5332), contained a whole side in this vein. With some well dosed echo and a sparse backing led by the steel guitar, you'll be haunted forever by such distinctive tracks as 'Waltz Of The Blues' or 'I Won The Day I Lost You'. Don't be afraid to check out his lone Carlton single, 'Sunglasses After Dark' b/w 'Teenage Bug' (Carlton 455), issued as by Dwight Pullen - it's a monster ! Whitey seemed destined for success but unfortunately, he was another victim of cancer : he died on November 24, 1961. He was only 26.
Casey Clark : 'Lost
John' (Sage & Sand 220) With backing by The Lazy Ranch Boys and
a vocal by Barefoot Brownie, it's a much sought-after item from 1956, with an irresistible vocal by Barefoot Brownie & Quartet and punctuated with
three soli (steel, piano and guitar). I also think that Buddy Emmons plays
steel guitar on this early hillbilly bopper since he co-wrote the flip ('Pot
Of Gold', sung by Herb Williams, also on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.2', Sage C-20). Emmons recounted in a 'Guitar Player' interview
by Tom Bradshaw that he 'got a phone call from Clark to replace his original
steeler, Jim Baker, who'd gone into the service. I took the job and went to
Detroit'. He also mentionned that he took delivery of his Bigsby triple-neck
pedal steel, similar to Speedy West's, while with Clark and that he 'asked
Paul Bigsby to change one neck of his guitar to the 'Slowly' tuning',
so that he could emulate Bud Isaacs's sound with Webb Pierce. Casey Clark was a fiddle player
and a DJ on WXEL. He certainly had a knack for enrolling great steelers ;
Paul Franklin was the one who replaced Buddy Emmons after he was picked up
by Little Jimmy Dickens. Jimmy Day and Terry Bethel were also onboard at one
time or another.
Haven't yet heard his other offering on Sage 237 - 'Blues Stay Away From Me' b/w 'Much Too Much' -, neither side having been selected for this release. The Lazy Ranch Boys also backed up Okie Jones on Sage & Sand 221, 'Could You, Would You', and Evelyn Harlene on Sage 243, 'I've Got The Blues', both of which, incidentally, appear on the Japanese 'Crown Greatest Rockabillies' CD in the same series. 'Lost John' could be found on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.4' (Sage C 24) and on the early 60's Crown compilation 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.4' (CLP 5243).
Bud Titus : 'Hocus Pocus' (Sage 244) Super Merle Travis style number and Roy Lanham does another great job on it. Once again available on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.4' (Sage C 24) and 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.4' (CLP 5243). Flip was 'Tomorrow' (included on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.2', Sage C-20).
The Kellyes : 'The Great Foggy Mountain' (Sage 312) Ooh, Roy Lanham again and a bluegrass-gospel like male/female vocal. Written by Oscar Hart (of 'Fender Bender' fame) and his wife, Verna Pearl. The correct spelling of the group was, probably, The Kelly's : same outfit as on Republic ? Another song to be found on 'Country Music On The Go Vol.4' (Sage C 24) and 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.4' (CLP 5243). Flip was 'Blue Tears'.
Whitey Knight : 'Another Brew Bartender' (Sage & Sand 205) * 'Big Glass Of Wine' (Sage 344) 'Another Brew Bartender' is one of my top favorites : a fine chugger with fiddle and steel guitar breaks. As for 'Big Glass Of Wine', some echo on the vocal and more great Lanham guitar give this country rocker a kind of Hank Thompson influence. Knight also had one release on the rare Lomita, California-based Nielsen label (#57, 'From An Angel To A Devil') as well as two singles on Dot (#15577, 'Blues Walked In' and #15630, 'Travelin' Blues'). 'Big Glass Of Wine' and another song called 'Happy Go Lucky' (its flip side, it would seem) were compiled on another Crown LP, 'Country & Western Jamboree' (CLP 5330).
'Another Brew Bartender' appeared on both 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.4' (Sage C 24) and 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.4' (CLP 5243).
Atchison : 'Tennessee
Hound Dog' / 'Mail Man' (Sage 343) Fantastic
!! A revelation !! Incredible breaks from Roy Lanham with those trademark
glissandi which give me chills every time. The good vocal back up on both
sides could be by The Frontiersmen (or The Sons Of The Pioneers ?). Tex was
no newcomer, having recorded in the '40s and '50s on Crystal, King, Federal,
Deluxe and Imperial ; he also played fiddle on a number of West Coast sessions
(for instance, with Johnny Bond in 1951, for whom he wrote 'Alabama Boogie
Boy' and co-wrote 'Sick, Sober & Sorry'). He had even co-written the jumping
'Some Like It Hot' for Sammy
Masters in 1956 (Four Star 1695, with Jimmy Bryant on lead).
Both sides of this now rare single appeared on 'Country'n'Western Jamboree' (Crown CLP 5330).
Williams : 'Cotton Pickin' Ball' / 'House On A Hill' (Sage 315) Another top double-sider
with more superb Roy Lanham stylings. 'House On The Hill' would have perfectly
suited Ricky Nelson's voice. Other Sage cuts included 'Playing Guitar &
Missing You' (Sage 291) and 'Goodnight Again'. This latter track, as well
as both sides of Sage 315, were compiled on 'Country'n'Western Jamboree' (Crown CLP 5330). 'Lorena',
the flip of Sage 291, was featured on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.1' (Sage C-18) and on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western
Vol.1' (CLP 5213) in or around 1961.
Lonnie Barron : 'Teenage Queen' (Sage 230) Strong Hillbilly rocker from a singer who was killed, following a triangle love affair, early in 1957. Awesome guitar and steel. Don't know whether the above recording features Casey Clark's Lazy Ranch Boys (Lonnie's early Sage & Sand outings did feature them on back up under the name The Farm Boys). The flip, 'Please Blue Heart', showed up on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.1' (CLP 5213). If you ever want to investigate The Mississippi Farm Boy's complete recorded output - and you'll be glad you did, trust me -, the best way is to grab a copy of the splendid 10" LP (on red vinyl) titled 'Don't Doubt My Love' and put out by Craig Maki on Woodward Records in 1997 (PO Box 494 - New Baltimore, MI 48047 - USA). By the way, Craig 'Bones' Maki has written a book on Detroit's Country Music. He also sang and played rhythm guitar with The Big Barn Combo whose LP, 'Coming All The Way From Detroit City' (Jungle Room JB 12001), comes highly recommended by Yours Truly !
Larry Thornton : 'Honky Tonk Queen' (Sage 335) A relentless stomper with good guitar throughout. It seems that there were different couplings for this '45 but 'Honky Tonk Queen' does appear on 'Country Music On The Go-Vol.4' (Sage C-24) and on 'Oldies & Goodies-Country'n'Western Vol.4' (CLP 5243).
Eddie Dean : 'Rock'n'Roll Cowboy' (Sage 226) One of Eddie's most uptempo songs, featuring The Cletro Combo as backing band (including a sax). Very funny (a put down on Rock'n'Roll, needless to say !) but nicely done nevertheless. Eddie Dean is a great ballad singer but hardly a rockabilly ; I had the opportunity to meet him in 1987 at Hank Penny's house and he sang 'Can't Help Falling In Love' as a tribute to Elvis : boy, was that good ! My favorite cut by him remains 'Impatient Blues' (Sage & Sand 188) with backing by The Frontiersmen featuring Marian Hall on steel. Please check out my Eddie Dean tribute.
Last, it can be said that the superstar of the disc is Roy Lanham whose confident and flexible playing greatly contributed to the excellence of the recordings. He will be honored on a page all his own on this site.
As with the other CDs in the series, the sound quality is extremely variable, so now that Bear Family has done the job properly - presumably, essentially from the original master tapes -, you won't have to look for that long deleted disc any more.
© Paul VIDAL * 1999-2014-May 2019
THE SAGE & SAND DISCOGRAPHY