AN INTERVIEW WITH SAMMY MASTERS
by ANDY GALLAGHER (December 1999)
Hi Sammy can you tell me something about your Radio shows for KXLA in '57?
I was living in Oakland at the time, and KXLA came in strong after dark, so I
listened to it all the time.
Thank you for your inquiry about that radio show we had back in the 50's.
I did that from two different locations. First I did it from The Western Corral in Long
Beach and from Henry's Whip also in Long Beach. In total the shows probably
ran about a year. I also did a couple of radio things in the 60's one from the Panama Club in Long Beach and another with Texas Tiny. He was a DJ on KFOX in Long Beach at a club in Bellflower. I did a live show every morning from Worthington Dodge in Huntington Park. It was a combination live music show (me playing guitar and singing) and records from KXLA. This show ran for about 2 years. One Morning we had Bob Wills and His Band stacked into Cal's office and did a whole 1/2 hour of Western Swing live with one microphone! That was a real thrill. Unfortunately I do not have any tapes of those. I do have a few Acetate transcriptions with Bob Wills Band and Ole Rasmussen's Band plus some Cliffie Stone cuts.
Of course you probably know we all did the Squeakin' Deacon's Sunday show
which was on Sunday Mornings from the Riverside Rancho in Glendale and later on from the Eagles Hall in South Gate, that was quite a hoot!
These radio shows were live remote radio broadcasts from the clubs with a live audience.
Were there guest stars on the show?
We had guest stars on the radio shows when they were in town, Hank Thompson, Webb Pierce,
Ray Price, Buck Owens etc.
Could you give me some information about your band, the Chicken Pickers?
The members of the Chicken Pickers were Hank Cochran on Sax, Bass and Fiddle, Jimmy Randall
on drums, Billy Carter on lead guitar, and Larry Spears on steel
guitar. The Chicken Pickers became the Rockin' Rhythm with a few changes, George Tracy was on
bass, Jimmy Bryant on lead guitar, and Pee Wee Adams on drums. This was the group I used
on most of my records, especially Rockabilly, like Pink Cadillac and the other 4-Star tracks. Later on, Rockin' Rhythm became the Tulsa County Band
and we played more country and Western Swing, but always threw in some of our
Rockabilly, the fans loved the mix. Jimmy Bryant and Pee Wee Adams did a few of my club
dates but were used mainly on recording sessions.
What about your TV work?
From 1959 to 1972 I produced and MC'd several country music TV shows in the LA
area and most of the folks who did the TV show would also do the radio show. We had all the
Nashville stars of the era on our show except for Eddie Arnold; he was never available at the
right time. Cal's Corral ran for 13 years and Country Music Time ran for 6 years.
I also produced a Rock and Roll Show for several years, called Juke Box Saturday Night
hosted by Sam Riddle, a local DJ on KRLA.
Who knows, maybe someone taped those shows, and they might show up some
time! Do you have photos from that radio show?
I have photos from the TV shows, but the radio shows were never photographed
for some reason, guess the photographers were all busy on those days.
As a fan I am always looking for your records, especially the EP with
Wonderful Time Up There, several Galahad 45's, and of course the 4-Stars.
I have the Hydra LP, and the recent CD and also the EP on Eccophonic which
is really great, plus some, but not all, of your 45's.
I have copies of almost all my records from my 1st record on Cormac records
in 1949/51 to my Dionsyus CD in 1998. There are a couple of obscure ones I do not have copies of.
I also have a huge amount of material in my files that I plan to release in the near future.
Deke Dickerson told me he is releasing one of my singles on an Eccophonic compilation very
soon. Rhino Records also has a new compilation out called Hot-Rods and Classic Cars with my
Pink Cadillac on it. Bear Family Records talked to me about a year ago about releasing a
CD on me, but so far nothing has materialised.
It's great that you kept copies of all your recordings. I think a lot of singers didn't keep
theirs and they regret that they didn't.
Were the Rhythm Rockers as stated on the Hydra LP? : Ralph Roe, Jimmy
Randall, and Jerry Miller?
I don't remember Ralph Roe being a Rhythm Rocker, he was on a couple of
things I did at 4-Star, but I don't recall which ones. He also played on a lot of
demos we made for 4-Star.
Can you give me some idea of the bands that you played with?
The Chicken Pickers name was used only for a short time. The Rockin Rhythm came along
when I started recording for 4-Star and I used that name until I started recording for Lode
Records. For several years I just went by The Sammy Masters Band. In the 80's my band became
the Tulsa County Band which I still use today.
I assume Billy Carter is the guy that did Summit Ridge Drive on Challenge, and Hank
Cochran was in your band before he hooked up with Don Deal's Moontars. Did you know
Don Deal? He was a fine singer but remains very obscure. I have never even seen a photo
of him! Do you have any pictures of Don?
Billy Carter, lead guitarist with the Chicken Pickers left California and went back to
Texas. To my knowledge he was not on Challenge Records. Hank Cochran played sax, fiddle,
and bass. He left shortly after I went with 4-Star; he may have gone with Don Deal's
Band. I did not know too much about Don Deal's Band.
I wish I had lived in the LA area at that time, as there was so much going on in C & music.
I didn't know you were so involved in the music scene there.
In the Bay Area there wasn't nearly as many Country shows. There was the California
Hayride; Hofman Hayride, Black Jack Wayne Show, Cottonseed Clark Show, but they
didn't stay around for years like the shows in LA.
Did you ever appear in the Bay Area?
I have never appeared in the SF Bay area but did go as far north as Yuba City,
and Stockton, California with Ole Rassmussen's Band. Ferlin Husky and I shared motel
rooms during the "Ole Tour".
How long were you with Ole Rasmussen's band, and Spade Cooley's band?
Were you on any of their recordings?
I sang with Ole for a little over a year. With Spade Cooley I just did a few guest
shots. I was not with either band long enough to get into recording, I was however approached
by Capitol Records about that time about making a few sides but the 4-Star thing came along
and I took it.
Do you have the Old Timey LP that has you pictured with Ole's band?
Yes, I have the Old Timey LP that has me pictured on the cover. I still sing a couple
of the songs from that album.
I also have a video of the Spade Cooley Show from '57 when he had an all-girl band.
Do any videos or audio exist of Cal's Corral? I know Glen Glenn had some live audio on a
CD a while back that included songs from Cal's Corral. I've been looking for a copy of
that Cal's Corral LP that has Through The Eyes Of A Child.
There may be a few tapes from Cal's Corral...I have a friend checking out the possibilities
of there being such tapes around. I do have two or three audio tapes of
Cal's Corral, also one tape of a half hour radio show I did with The Frontiersmen and
Joany, along with part of Spade's band. I have a highly treasured copy of the Cal's Corral
I think the flip side of the Johnny Todd Modern 45 is What's Up, but I've never
seen a copy of the record.
I think I have a copy of Johnny Todd's Modern recording.
Here's an oddity: Pink Cadillac made the #50 spot on top 40 KYA (SF) in July "59.
That's 3 years after it was released. I wonder if 4-Star re-released it in '59?
4-Star may have re-released Pink Cadillac in '59, they did a lot of things like that
without letting the artists know.
Do you have any radio station surveys that list your records? I kind of collect
those also, such as KFOX, KBBQ, etc.
I have some Cashbox Surveys from '56, '57,'58 and '59. I did a few DJ shows for KFOX in
the late 50' and early 60's.
Thanks again Sammy for all the information. I really appreciate it.
I hope these answers give you the info you were looking for.
Thanks for jogging my memory Andy it's nice that you, and people like you, have an
interest in my music.
God Bless to all my fans, have a beautiful Holiday Season and a super New Years.
Visit Sammy's Rockabilly Hall of Fame web page