ARNOLD JOSEPH POOVEY was born in Dallas, Texas. His start in show business came at the tender age of 12. His parents had encouraged him to learn the guitar and by 1953 he was fronting his own country band, the Hillbilly Boys, and playing the prestigious Big D Jamboree where he was billed as Jumping Joe Poovey. The Jamboree was a regular weekly show similar to the Opry and was broadcast on KRLD for two hours every Saturday evening.
Joe died in his sleep October, 1998
Much of Joe's early enthusiasm for country music came through listening to local radio, a medium which was to develop into a fascination for him, and which was to provide employment in the years to come.
His first appearance on wax came in 1955. Earney Vandagriff and the Big D Boys were all set to cut a country number called 'Christmas Filled With Cheer' and roped in young Poovey to provide a recitation. The recording was made at Jim Beck's studio in Dallas and Joe was allowed to take the vocals on the flip side, 'Santa's Helper', a number penned by his father, Bernice Poovey. The disc was released on the Rural Rhythm label out of California.
The year of 1955 also saw the arrival of Elvis Presley at the Big D Jamboree. Presley was still some months away from international stardom but was working one nighters around the South and shaking up the country music establishment with his wild rockabilly show. The impact that he made was so sensational that Joe soon dropped the hillbilly numbers from his act and started to develop his own rockabilly style. Whilst at the Jamboree he had met a writer and producer called Jim Shell. They worked together on several songs in the new style and laid down some excellent recordings such as 'Nursery Rock', 'Sweet Louella' and 'My life's Ambition' which are now well-known to European fans but which at the time did not see the light of day.
Dallas Blue Cap guitarist Howard Reed, Groovey Joe Poovey and Big "D" Jamboree performer Lonnie Smithson, late 1950's, Dallas, TX.
THE FIRST JOE POOVEY ROCKABILLY RECORD to reach the shops was a real gem. 'Move Around' appeared in 1957 on Dixie, a subsidiary of Starday Records, and is top quality rockabilly. It was written by Les Gilliam who played rhythm guitar, and featured Joe on vocals, with Chuck Jennings on guitar, Mickey Jones (drums), Bobby Rambo (bass), Albert Talley (steel), C.B. Oliver (piano), Eddie McDuff doing the harmonies, and Orville Couch handclapping and stomping in the background.
The following year Jim Shell and Poovey returned to the Sellers Studio in Dallas with a Jerry Lee Lewis styled piano rocker that they had co-written, and came out with a record that even topped 'Move Around'. Part-time Blue Cap and part-time member of Johnny Carroll's Spinners, Howard Reed supplied the guitar work and C. B. Oliver scorched knuckles with a pounding piano solo. 'Ten Long Fingers' should have been a smash hit and elevated Groovy Joe Poovey into the Big League.
Instead, he remained very much a local artist continuing to work in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After one single on Azalea, he moved back into country music during the sixties and for a spell worked with Russell Sims as both performer and songwriter. Five singles appeared on the Sims label and during this period Poovey compositions were recorded by several artists including George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Wynn Stewart and Jimmy Patton.
By 1966 Joe was trying his luck with Little Darlin' Records owned by Aubrey Mayhew. Seeking a new image, he changed his name to Johnny Dallas and the fresh approach paid off with a chart record. 'Heart Full Of Love' entered the Billboard listings in December 1966 enjoying a seven week run. No follow-up hit was forthcoming, however, and after a final single on Media, Joe allowed his recording career to wind down.
He had been increasingly active in radio since the fifties and now concentrated full-time on disc jockey work. At different times he broadcast for KMAE out of McKinney, KJIM Fort Worth, KPCN Grand Prairie and KNON Dallas. Perhaps this is the way the Joe Poovey story would have continued with just the occasional country single to remind the public what a fine artist he was, but the resurgence of interest in rockabilly changed the script for him.
LEFT: An early shot of Joe as a kid performer at the famous McCords Music in downtown Dallas, TX. McCords was the premiere Fender dealer outside of California and the place musicians came for all of the latest electric guitar gear. Howard Reed ordered he special black Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster from J. Fred McCord himself, and Reed's (later) steel player Tommy Bolinger was a salesman there during the day. Poovey is shown here with an unidentified man (probably a salesman) trying out a new Fender Telecaster (w/price tag) in a corner of the store. In the backgroung are headshots of famous McCords customers, including many Big D Jamboree performers. I don't know if Joe's parents purchesed the Tele or not, but it may be the same one joe still has in his closet at home.
RIGHT: A photo of Poovey with his parents, late 1950's Dallas, TX, which has been digitally restored from a fading Polaroid. His mother is deceased but his dad is still alive & kickin'. Joe did his first recordings as a kid with his dad in the early 1950s: "A Christmans Full of Cheer" b/w "Santas Little Helper" at the famous Jim Beck Studio in Dallas (Lefty Frizzell, Sid King, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, etc.).
'TEN LONG FINGERS' had belatedly gained a British release on the tiny Sussex-based Injun label and had become a firm favourite with the European rockabilly aficionados. In California, Rollin' Rock Records did a deal with Jim Shell in the mid-seventies and issued an EP with five previously unheard cuts from the fifties. Suddenly Joe found his career re-activating and, donning a distinctive blue cowboy hat, he became Texas Joe Poovey in the States with new singles appearing on the Carol, Donny and Leder labels.
In November 1980 Poovey made his first trip to Europe playing dates with the Blue Cats and recording an EP for Misty Mountain Records, which was produced at Regent Sound Studios in London by Dave Travis. A single, 'You Are My Sunshine', was issued in the UK by President. He returned to Europe in February 1984, this time backed by the Dave Travis Band, and split his shows between country and rockabilly.
Nearly five years elapsed before Joe Poovey's mot recent visit and during that time two albums appeared, his first in more than 30 years. Sunjay Records of Sweden issued 'The Two Sides Of Groovey Joe Poovey' in 1985 and the following year the German label Dee Jay Jamboree gave us 'Yesterday And Today'. They contain the early rockabilly cuts that were laid down with Jim Shell, and the German release also included some newer material recorded in the eighties.
"GROOVEY" JOEY POOVEY performing at the Bar of Soap, Dallas, Tx. 1997.
Ralph on guitar and Blackie on bass.
DISILLUSIONED BY THE RESTRICTIVE FORMAT of modern radio in the States, Joe had all but disappeared off the air waves. He dabbled with local community radio in Dallas for a short while and, at the time of writing, is negotiating for a two hour weekly show on Sunday afternoons with KNON which will again allow him to play his choice of rockabilly. One amusing incident that occurred in the last year was an approach that he received from a Texan entrepreneur who invited him to sign up as program director for a planned pirate radio station scheduled offshore in the North Sea - a new rival for Radio Caroline. Joe was initially excited by the possibility and put together a four hour pilot program. The Dallas papers were full of the project but proved to be a scam set up to extract a financial grant from the local authorities in Texas.
Since the slowing down of his radio career, Joe Poovey has worked intermittently for the Teamsters Union acting as a chauffeur on the film set of the Dallas TV series. His duties involved driving the show's stars, including Prisilla Presley. However, some people may be of the opinion that they should have been chauffeuring him, if talent was to be fair awarded.
About a year back, Joe teamed up with guitarist, Bryan Freeze, who picks in the old style and, after playing some shows together, decided to embark on a new recording project. Bryan operates his own Wolfpack Productions Studio in Fort Worth and they are planning two new Joe Poovey albums, the first a rockabilly offering which is nearing completion. Ten tracks are in the can and include a re-cut of 'Ten Long Fingers', a nice echoey version of Sanford Clark's 'The Fool', and an outstanding song called 'From The Jungle To The Zoo' which would make a great single.
There are two more tracks to complete including one previously unrecorded which Joe wrote in the fifties and which is described as a horror dream type of song called "The Haunted House Of Broken Hearts On Inner Sanctum Hill'! The second album was recorded in 1990 and was comprised of old country songs and is provisionally entitled 'Acoustically Yours'. Joe recently met up with Russell Sims again after many years. The Sims label is being re-activated and hopefully this will prove to be an outlet for the new material. There is also talk of a compilation album of Poovey's Sims cuts from the sixties which are now hard to find.
Bryan Freeze accompanied Poovey on his recent trip to England and on the Monday night following the Hemsby Weekender they were booked along with the Playboys to appear at a small country pub, The Royal Oak at Hurst Green. Dale Hawkins his co-star at Hemsby, made an unscheduled appearance along with his Nashville guitarist Joe Khoury and the black timber beams in the pub were soon creaking as the roof was nearly blown off with the energy and power of the music.
Dale Hawkins, whose set at Hemsby had been somewhat lacklustre, seemed more relaxed and confident at the Royal Oak. He is a class performer and after years away from the microphone had now completed a comeback album and is negotiating its release with a major label. He is presently producing an album called 'Risque Fifties' in the States. This comprises re-cuts of old R'n'B songs all of which were banned because of the questionable lyrics when they first came out. There will be a number of different vocalists including a guy called Lattimore Brown, and Dale himself on a couple of tracks. Joe Khoury played guitar on both projects and will be a familiar name to English country fans having toured here extensively with Joe Sun a few years ago. He has also recorded with Jerry Lee Lewis and worked with numerous country artists such as Rosanne Cash and Don Williams.
The Royal Oak gig was a fascinating contrast of styles. Joe Poovey wore his familiar blue cowboy hat and mixed his rockabilly tunes like 'Move Around' with the country music of his roots. He is equally comfortable with 'Lost Highway' and 'Wabash Cannonball." Dale took the stage and opened his set with Elmore James' 'Dust My Broom.' His influences all come from the blues, yet they meet where the music becomes rock'n'roll, and both men stood side by side rockin' up a storm on 'Johnny B. Goode' - a magic night for the fans.Above by Ian Wallis
"FINAL VINYL," 7" 33.3-rpm that contains the cuts:
"Deep Ellum Rock"
"Deep Ellum Blues"
"Rockin' Honky Tonk Fools"
Partial Joe Poovey Song List
Title, Author, Label:
Ten Long Fingers - Poovey/Shell - Starrite
Sweet Louella - Poovey/shell - Rebel
Careful Baby - Couch/McDuff - Starrite
Move Around - L. Gillm - Starrite
Part Time Hero - Couch/McDuff - Rebel
My Life's Ambition - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
Silence Baby - Poovey/Shell - Bayou Songs
Nursery Rock - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
Don't Blame It On Me - Poovey/Shell - Dream City
The Last Stroke Of Midnight - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
Dream Dream Baby - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
To Get From There To Here - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
Lost In The Shuffle - R Wisdome - Rebel
All Dressed Up For The Blues - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
Baby Let's Rock - Poovey/Shell - Dream City
Little Miss Linda - Shell/Curtis/Bass - Armo
A Cold Margarita - Poovey/Shell - Dream city
The Thrill Of Love - Poovey/Shell - Starday
Livin' Alone - Poovey/Shell - Rebel
You May Seek - Poovey/Shell - Rebel/Sun Rock
I Dreamed About The Blues - Poovey/Shell - Rebel/Sun Rock
Jamica Jill - Poovey/Shell - Rebel/Sun Rock
Two Young Hearts - Poovey/Shell - Rebel/Sun Rock
It's A Lonely Night - Poovey/Shell/Simms - Simms
What Have I Got To Lose - Poovey/Shell - Bolyou States
MORE on "GROOVEY" JOE POOVEYFrom the book We Wanna Boogie / September, 1987; Dallas, Texas
My neighbors came over the other night with a magazine. The story told about how most of the rockabillies never made it. They said, "Gee, Joe, it's such a shame that nothin' happened. Aren't you sad that you wasted your whole life?" Ha! I told 'em that it's probably best that not much happened. I've had a lot of fun. Seriously, I've always tried to stay active in the music business. I was a singer in the '50s and then I began my disc jockey career in '62. Did that till '84, when I got tired of radio and got into the union business as a Teamster organizer. I still perform and write songs, though. As a matter of fact, I'm playing this weekend. I'm from Dallas originally. I was on the "Big D Jamboree" in '53. Later, I played it some more, and I followed Presley on stage one night. Do you know what it was like to follow Elvis on stage in those early days? Well, it was tough. Anyway, Elvis performed and the crowd went wild over him. Those were his early days on Sun Records. Then, I went on stage. The 6,200 people weren't interested in anything but Elvis. His performance just stunned them. Anyway, I went on to meet a producer named Jim Shell, who got me hooked up with Starday's Dixie label. The company liked me so much that it paid for my releases, which it usually didn't do on its custom label, Dixie. I was just a hot kid around town then, and I was too scared to be bad. I recorded those rockabilly sides from the mid-'50s to about '58, I think. Cut "Movin' Around," "Ten Long Fingers," and others. I continued to sing and to write songs and I got into country music, where I had some chart records in the '6Os. I've continued to write, and I think I compose some pretty good country songs. But there's too much politics in the music business these days. I always say that you'd better enjoy the music business, because you can't make a living in it. I've enjoyed it, though. I have no intention of quitting. Of course, I have no intention of being a star, either.
Joe Poovey's Visit to Belgium
© Rockabilly Hall of Fame®