"I've Got A One Way Ticket On This Lonesome Railroad Track"
Bobby Crown
A Texas Rockabilly Prodigy
By Shane Hughes

Among fans of the Big Beat, Bobby Crown is revered. Even if his Felco disc was the only record he ever made, that reverence would still be justified, as that one release, One Way Ticket b/w Your Conscience is quintessential Texas rockabilly. Label errors aside, these recordings are primitive yet melodic, unrelenting yet pensive and effusive of the burgeoning Fort Worth/Dallas teen scene of the late fifties. The hillbilly element is conspicuous too, adding to the adolescent nature of these songs, but fails to detract from the aggression, particularly on One Way Ticket. Bobby wrote Ticket when he was fourteen, an astounding fact considering the lyrics hint towards a far more mature author. He was obviously progressive, as his subsequent recordings testify. But he also managed to keep in step with current trends. So, how could Bobby's records, more so his Felco release, have been so neglected by the record buyers of forty years ago? Certainly, One Way Ticket possessed qualities that should have drowned the other trite garbage on the market at the time out of the charts. Maybe Bobby was trying to appeal to the wrong market. After all, his record was pure teen angst before it was fashionable. The flip side, Your Conscience, did garner some local notoriety and piqued the interest of one budding label owner and entrepreneur, Jimmy Fields. Clearly, Fields saw nothing anachronistic in Bobby's music, as he pushed Your Conscience as far as any small time record company rep could and readily utilized the talents of Bobby's band, The Kapers, to back any other aspiring singer wanting to cut a demo at his Dallas studio. Notwithstanding Fields' efforts, Bobby cut a few more records for local concerns through the sixties and left a slew of quality demos on the shelf. However, it would be at least another twenty five years before Bobby finally began receiving the recognition he so rightly deserved.

Bobby's start in life was fairly typical of any young southern boy, as he relates, "Not much happened in my life before I was born March 7, 1941. I was born Robert Louis Krajca, the son of Leslie & Erin Krajca. My grandfather came to the United States from Czechoslovakia when he was 17 years old. He was a very good man". Bobby's father, Leslie Louis, was born in 1923 in Ennis and later married Erin Lorene Truelove. They initially moved to Crowley, Louisiana before returning to Texas and making Fort Worth home, where Leslie worked as a truck driver. By the mid-nineteen forties, Leslie was playing bass with local band The Trail Blazers, fronted by Ernest Winnett. The featured vocalist with Winnett's band was the enigmatic Ken "Pee Wee" Short, best known for his 1957 Cowtown Hoedown label release (Big Time Gal b/w Wanted, Cowtown Hoedown 777). It was Ken who first inspired the puerile Bobby to start singing. Bobby recalls that when he was five Ken taught him the first two songs he ever learned, Iwo Jima Isle and Remember Me. His mother would soon introduce him to the guitar, teaching him a few rudimentary chords, while he picked up further tips from another aspiring guitarist living close by.

By 1950, Leslie had quit the Trail Blazers. Knowing that his son was quickly becoming a proficient musician, he asked the twelve year old Bobby to join him on stage at the Cowtown Hoedown in '53 and also introduced him to the Fort Worth club scene. Performing as the Krajcas, Bobby was just 14 when he played his first club gig with his father, "The reason I could do this was because my dad was playing bass fiddle. My dad drank a lot when we were playing the clubs and sometimes I wondered if he was holding the bass up or if it was holding him up". During a recent interview with researcher Steve Kelemen, Bobby elaborated, "I was singing Jim Reeves, Mitchell Torok and Marty Robbins. We would also go down to a neighborhood bar and I would sing for tips that would amount to 7 or 8 dollars sometimes. That wasn't bad money back then. This was around the time we met a guitar player named Jay Cashion and a fiddle and guitar player named Bob Lumpkins".

The origins of Jay Cashion and Bob Lumpkins are uncertain, except that Bob had recently been released from serving a stretch at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. They joined with Bobby and his father in 1955, along with a long forgotten vocalist and took up residence at a notorious Fort Worth beer joint on the Mansfield Highway. Fate then dealt the young Bobby an unexpected, but fortuitous hand, as he recalls, "My dad, Bob, Jay and another guy formed a band and played a place called The Lavidia Club. It was a pretty wild club; I saw 'em fightin' with wire tools and stuff in there [!] The first night they were going to play, the singer didn't show up so they came and got me. We didn't have a telephone. I was about 14 years old at the time. I don't know how, but we made the night and started drawing some good crowds". Bob Lumpkins soon left the band, to be replaced by Bobby's cousin, rhythm guitarist Eddie Conley.

With the departure of Lumpkins the Kapers were born. Further changes were imminent, though. The early Kapers were primarily a country band, until they witnessed the phenomenon of Elvis Presley late in May 1955 during a show at the North Side Coliseum in Fort Worth. Sold on the new and flagrant rock and roll beat, and considering they were all still in their teens (except Leslie of course), they were eager to try their hands at cutting rock and roll. Late the following year, the Kapers booked time at Clifford Herring's studio on West 7th Street in Fort Worth and etched their first primitive offerings in wax. The choice of material for this demo session wasn't unusual and hinted towards the sound Bobby and the Kapers would evolve and refine over the next few years. Their rendition of the Charles Calhoun standard, Shake, Rattle And Roll is certainly energetic and was an impressive debut. Jay Cashion's lead seemed slightly restrained, but the performance was convincing. In contrast, their loping rendition of the Lawton Williams hit Fraulein is stark and placid, due almost entirely to Cashion's tick-tock type rhythm. Fraulein certainly wasn't as inspiring as Shake, Rattle And Roll, but was a prime example of the material the Kapers were likely used to playing in the clubs.

Gigs started to pick up for the band around this time, mostly throughout the south Fort Worth area. However, the original Kapers would not stay intact for long. Jay Cashion soon departed to care for his ailing wife and was replaced by guitarist Dale Morgan. Dale introduced a vastly different sound to the Kapers, with his searing lead evoking aggression with every lick. It was this lineup of the Kapers that first appeared on the Dallas television show, The Country Picnic. Produced by local entrepreneur Jimmy Fields, and associates Joe Bill and George McCoy, the show proved popular, spurring Fields and McCoy to launch the Felco label and subsidiary imprints Kicks and Jamaka based on Grand Avenue in Dallas. Bobby recalls, "We decided that we were as good or better than some of the talent, so we decided to try and get on the show. We got on pretty easy and we were regulars for a while. That's where we met the Beavers who sang background on Wait A Minute". Fields was impressed with Bobby's performance of Your Conscience on the show and was keen for Bobby and the Kapers to cut the tune for Felco. Written by Bob Lumpkins, the origins of the song are dubious, as Bobby explains, "As far as I know Your Conscience was the only song Bob Lumpkins ever wrote and there was some question about that. I remember my dad said that Bob stole that song from someone when he was in the pen". Regardless of who the true author was, Your Conscience possesses considerable merit and it certainly isn't surprising that Jimmy Fields, once an aspiring hillbilly singer himself, took such a liking to the tune.

Another year would pass before Bobby and his band were given the opportunity to record Your Conscience. In the mean time, Fields readily used the Kapers as a backing band for the many no name singers passing through his Grand Avenue studio with hopes of cutting a hit record. Fields was a songwriter of limited talent, and tried to push his own compositions when he could. Two tunes he co-wrote with Bobby and George McCoy were the superlative Lucky, Lucky Me and the banal A Chicken Is A Bird. He had Bobby and the band cut demos of both tunes and also tried local warbler Eddy McCall, in front of the Kapers on both tunes. Whilst McCall failed to lift the songs above his novice capabilities, Bobby expounded energy enough to transform Lucky, Lucky Me into a saleable item. The band was raucous, but this proved to be the appeal. Bobby's demos of these tunes were certainly raw and only remotely commercial, yet revealed the real Kapers sound and why Fields seemed to hold so much faith in the band.

More demos were laid down over subsequent months, this time at Cliff Herring's studio and included the impeccable Bobby Crown original I Gotta Hurry, along with the simple teen oriented Bouncy Beat (another demo of which, by an unknown vocalist, appeared on Collector CD CLCD 4482). The final recording unearthed from these '59 Fort Worth sessions was an early rendition of the supposed Bob Lumpkins original Wait A Minute. Bobby picks up the story, "At the time I recorded it [Wait A Minute], Bob Lumpkins was supposed to be my manager. He really never done anything for me, but he was a pretty good con man. I know I said the same thing about Jimmy Fields, but you meet a lot of them in the music business. When we recorded Wait A Minute, Lumpkins said to me, "You're going to have your name on the record as the singer, why don't you let me put my name down as writer". I didn't see it as a big deal at the time and I was young and wanted to get another record out, so I said O.K. I realized later that it was a pretty damn good song. Bob Lumpkins is dead now and one of the people that could verify it is Dale Morgan who played guitar then and figured out the chords on it. When I wrote it, I just sang it and Dale figured out the chords. I didn't even play guitar on the record and my dad had trouble with it. To tell the truth, I got a vague idea for the song from Glen Honeycutt's song I'll Wait Forever and I felt guilty for a long time thinking I had done something wrong". Whether Bobby had "...done something wrong" or not is arguable and from a retrospective point of view is irrelevant. These demos proved that Bobby and the Kapers had mastered the new sound and weren't superficial in their efforts. This fact alone may have been what spurred Fields to finally allow the band to cut Your Conscience for Felco.

By the time an initial demo of Your Conscience was laid down at Cliff Herring's, drummer Gilbert Gray and pianist "Butch" Evans had joined the Kapers. Their talents were used to good effect on the early '58 and '59 demos and would be used again, providing the propulsive back beat to Bobby's first rendition of Your Conscience. Fields was impressed with the result, but needed a second tune to use on the flip. Bobby dredged up a song he had written a few years earlier when he was fourteen, One Way Ticket. The lyrics were astoundingly emotive, considering Bobby had penned the tune at such a tender age. The Kapers backing was appropriately solemn, but maintained an infectious beat, due in the most part to "Butch" Evans resonating key thumping and Dale Morgan's searing runs.

Fields liked the demo and booked another date at Herring's to recut both tunes for release. With minor changes in composition and lyrics, Bobby and the band re-recorded Your Conscience and One Way Ticket with an even more aggressive feel than the earlier demos. Released as by Bobby Crown and the Kapers on Felco 102, initial pressings featured reversed writer credits. Fields attempt to rectify the printers ineptitude was thwarted a second time, as he told Larry Harrison, "I sent the master to this pressing plant in Indiana with the label info and they sent them back labeled Bobby LUMPKIN", continuing "I shipped the lot back to the plant in exchange for the correct "Crown" ones and they promised to destroy the "Lumpkin' ones". Label shots of all three releases, erroneous errors inclusive, are included in the booklet to the aforementioned Collector CD.

To promote their first commercial release, Bobby and the Kapers secured a spot on the famed Big "D" Jamboree held at Dallas' Sportatorium later in '59. Bobby has fond memories of his fleeting meeting with Gene Vincent when he first visited the Sportatorium to organize his spot on the Big "D", "When we went to see about appearing on the Big D Jamboree, I remember going down a hallway. I think it went all the way around the arena. They also had wrestling there on Tues. nights. Anyway, it was a Sat. night and as we were walking down the hall, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps came running down the hall towards and past us. I remember they had those golf looking caps on and Gene was limping. They had just finished performing and we never talked to them [!]". Soon after, Bobby and the band made their debut appearance on the show, pushing Your Conscience. How the audience reacted to their performance may never be known and any further chances to play the Big "D" dwindled, as Bobby recalls, "They didn't pay smaller acts like us money". More than enough money was to be made playing clubs like the 4010.

Bobby and the Kapers associated little with other acts on the Felco roster, like the Twisters, Billy Taylor and Irvin Russ. Bobby did attend the same school as future Twisters Robert Harwell, Billy Mitchell and Jimmie Evans and considering the time Bobby and the band spent at Fields Dallas studio, it's surprising that they were never forded the opportunity to perform or record with the other Felco acts. Billy Taylor saw the inaugural release on Felco with his Wombie Zombie and left behind a bevy of unissued sides (first released on Gulf Coast LP GCR 102), while the Twisters were primarily an instrumental band. Irvin Russ was an acquaintance of Fields and was originally from Georgia. Fields himself made a few more attempts at cracking the record market, cutting a hopeful demo at his Dallas studio and probably backed by the Kapers. Appropriately titled Birth Of Rock And Roll, Fields demo was as simple as the title suggested. He did eventually achieve a commercial release in 1960, when he cut I Have Returned for the Dallas based Autograph label as The Unknown, a paradox if ever there was one (Autograph A-60-206).

For Bobby Crown, club gigs were never in short supply. Eager to cut another record he managed to place two more of his songs (although Bob Lumpkin is the credited writer) with Manco. Based in Fort Worth, the label was run by a gentleman named Manning and his son. The pair operated their own studio in a building adjacent their home near the White Settlement Road on the outskirts of town. Bobby and the Kapers were one of the first acts to appear on Manco, with earlier releases featuring Howard Crockett, Vic Garcia and Marvin Shilling. Bobby's Manco sides, I've Never Had A Broken Heart and a reworked Wait A Minute were cut at Manning's studio. Long standing Kaper Dale Morgan was present on guitar, while Bobby's father Leslie was conspicuously absent, replaced by an unknown bass player. Bobby's younger brother Johnny was brought in on drums, with the piano stool held by "Butch" Evans. Vocal group the Beavers handled background vocals. For this, Bobby's second commercial release, the rock and roll element diverged to straight pop. Lyrically, both songs were superb. Musically, I've Never Had· and Wait A Minute was a far cry from his earlier efforts. Conversely, if any of his recordings to date had the potential to crack the charts, his Manco release was it.

With limited distribution, Bobby's Manco disc eluded success. A second attempt for a release on Manco soon followed, albeit proving even less successful. This second session spawned a handful of creditable sides, including a solid reworking of Johnny Horton's Sugar-Coated (noted for Charley Carey's sax), in addition to two lesser known tunes, I Know Heaven's Waiting and Billy Cate's Secret Dreams. Of these songs Bobby can only remember that "These were some songs that they had at the Manco studio that they wanted me to try". Obviously Manning had some faith in Bobby and his choice of material for release was wise. While the cuts from this unissued session were top quality rock and roll, by 1960 record buyers were leaning more towards the pop sound.

With two releases and no real reward from record sales, Bobby spent the next few years of the new decade immersed in the Fort Worth club scene. He regrouped the Kapers, with Dale remaining on guitar and brother Johnny on drums. Glen Clark was brought into the fold on piano and Clayton Cox on bass. Other musicians to breeze through the Kapers line-up during the mid-nineteen sixties included multi-instrumentalist Richard Teddle, guitarist Dickie Tennyson and sax player Jasper Benson. A few more sessions were held between '62 and '64 with no further releases until 1966, when Bobby and the Kapers began a three year residency at the Omar Kayham. Bobby's recollections of the Omar are clear, "A one-armed man named Eddie Stivers had it leased. He was a short, pudgy man, but tough as a boot. The girls that worked there wore the harem clothes and were pretty good looking. There is some stories there." No doubt Bobby has many entertaining stories from his time at the Omar Kayham. His band proved popular, constantly drawing good crowds. Stivers was the first to act on Bobby and the Kapers growing popularity, brokering a recording session in Fort Worth during '66. Bobby had quit writing songs by this time and decided to cut a few of the bands most requested tunes. The session was a veritable showcase of the Kapers vocal talents. With the Omar Kayham line-up of the band present for the date, Bobby handled vocals on the previously unissued Louis Prima associated cut Just A Gigolo, while brother Johnny exercised his vocal chords on the Bo Diddley Chicago classic Diddley-Daddy. Glen Clark hollered on a rousing rendition of Doc Pomus' Lonely Avenue and Dale Morgan rounded out the session on Just A Matter Of Time. Stivers chose to release the Johnny Crown vocal and Lonely Avenue on Omar 101. Both sides were typical of the period and were handled well by the band. Lonely Avenue was the more convincing tune, well suited to Clark's vocal, and the least progressive of the two cuts. Coupled together, Diddley-Daddy and Lonely Avenue was a strikingly contemporary record. The disc likely proved a prosperous publicity tool for the Kapers Omar shows, but did little to garner Bobby and the band any notoriety outside the confines of Fort Worth.

By the late sixties, the Kapers residency at the Omar had ended and they embarked on a long stay at the Dunes. Further changes in their line-up ensued as well. Dale Morgan and Glen Clark had left, to be replaced by Donnie Stevens and Armondo Duran respectively. After six years at the Dunes, the Kapers split briefly, and not for the first time either. The group continued in one form or another, following Bobby from one club to the next until 1990, when Bobby decided it was time to call it quits. He had been active on the club circuit for more than thirty years and it was now time for a rest. Without such a hectic schedule, he had more time to concentrate on his renewed interest in songwriting. The demo tapes have piled high over the years and Bobby shows no signs of slowing his creative urges. Interest in Bobby's early career has increased during recent years too. With his Felco record fetching higher and higher prices on the collector market, Bobby decided to compile all of his vintage recordings and issue them on a self-produced CD released on the Texan label. Barely a year later, renowned Dutch collector and self-confessed rockabilly fanatic Cees Klop issued a compilation of Bobby's early cuts, with some later recordings thrown in as well. With exceptional sound quality, the Collector CD is a well rounded package, but with a few anomalies. Cees was fortunate enough to acquire a number of tapes from Jimmy Fields during one of his sojourns to the United States many years ago. Among these tapes were previously unissued recordings by Billy Taylor, Fields himself and other hitherto unknown artists. Some of these cuts were included on the CD, erroneously credited to Jimmy Fields and the Kapers. Bobby has since confirmed that take four of Bouncy Beat, Greeneyed Baby, This Feeling Is Killing Me, I'm In Love Again, Your Lover Man and Looking For Love are not likely Fields and definitely do not feature backing by the Kapers. Further, the inclusion of After School is most curious. This recording first surfaced on the Gulf Coast LP Texas Kat Music (GCR 102) credited to Billy Taylor. Aurally, this credit is fairly accurate, although the similarity to Bobby Crown's early recordings as I Gotta Hurry is close to uncanny. Nevertheless, the Collector CD is a must have purchase for any fans of Bobby Crown and his early recordings.

After a long career in the limelight with little monetary reward for the quality records he made, Bobby is now receiving the recognition his talent, hard work and perseverance deserves. With more exposure now than he has ever had, only good things are to come for Bobby. He has hinted at immersing himself in the European festival circuit at the instigation of certain Swedish and German rockabilly bands. He's also enjoyed success more locally in recent years, joining Wildfire Willie as a guest vocalist during a set at the Continental Club in Austin last October. Through all of this, Bobby has remained humble and philosophical, "I feel fortunate to be who I am, to have had what little fame I've had and to live to be 63 next month. A lot of this because of one little song. That was my Ticket".

Bobby Crown Discography
Fort Worth, Texas, Clifford Herring Recordings, 1705 West 7th Street.
Late 1956.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Jay Cashion - gtr, Eddie Conley - gtr, Leslie Krajca - bs.
          Shake, Rattle And Roll (Calhoun) - Texan CD no #
          Fraulein (Williams) - Texan CD no #

Dallas, Texas, Felco Studio, 5513 ¸ East Grand Avenue.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Eddie Conley - gtr,
Dale Morgan - gtr, Leslie Louis Krajca - bs, Gilbert Gray - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno.
          Lucky, Lucky Me (Fields/Krajca/McCoy) - Gulf Coast LP GCR 102
          A Chicken Is A Bird (Fields/Krajca/McCoy) - Gulf Coast LP GCR 102

Fort Worth, Texas, Clifford Herring Recordings, 1705 West 7th Street.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Joe Ray Long - gtr,
Dale Morgan - gtr, Leslie Louis Krajca - bs, Gilbert Gray - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno.
          I Gotta Hurry (Krajca) - Texas CD no #
          Wait A Minute (Lumpkins) - Texas CD no #
          Bouncy Beat (Krajca) - Collector CLCD 4482

Fort Worth, Texas, Clifford Herring Recordings, 1705 West 7th Street.
Bobby Crown And The Kapers.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Eddie Conley - gtr, Dale Morgan - gtr,
Leslie Louis Krajca - bs, Gilbert Gray - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno.
          One Way Ticket (Krajca) - Texas CD no #
          Your Conscience (Lumpkins) - Texas CD no #

Fort Worth, Texas, Clifford Herring Recordings, 1705 West 7th Street.
Bobby Crown and the Kapers.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Eddie Conley - gtr, Dale Morgan - gtr,
Leslie Louis Krajca - bs, Gilbert Gray - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno.
          ZTSC 10364 - One Way Ticket (Krajca) - Felco F - 102
          ZTSC 10365 - Your Conscience (Lumpkins) - Felco F - 102
NOTE: Initial pressings of Felco 102 were issued with incorrect writer credits. Second pressings featured the incorrect artist credit - Bobby Lumpkins and the Kapers. Third and final pressings contained the correct writer and artist credits.

Fort Worth, Texas, Manco Studios.
Bobby Crown and the Capers.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Dale Morgan - gtr, unknown - bs,
Johnny Krajca - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno, (The Beavers) - b/gnd vcl.
          2005 - I've Never Had A Broken Heart (Lumpkins) - Manco ML1005
          2006 - Wait A Minute (Lumpkins) - Manco ML1005
NOTE: Although both compositions on Manco ML1005 credit Bob Lumpkins as the writer, Bobby Crown maintains that he wrote both tunes.

Fort Worth, Texas, Manco Studios.
Bobby Crown and the Capers.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Dale Morgan - gtr, unknown - bs,
Johnny Krajca - dms, "Butch" Evans - pno, Charley Carey - sax (-1),
(The Beavers) - b/gnd vcl.
          Sugar-Coated (Horton/Hausey) (-1) - Texas CD no #
          I Know Heaven"s Waiting () (-1) - Texas CD no #
          Secret Dreams (Cate) - Texas CD no #

Fort Worth, Texas, Oakridge Studios.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, (prob.) Dale Morgan - gtr,
Clayton Cox - bs, (poss.) Johnny Crown (nee" Krajca) - dms,
Richard Teddle - pno (-1)/org (-2)/hmca (-3).
          Fannie Mae (Brown/Lewis/Robinson) (-3) - Texas CD no #
          Henrietta (Fore/Hitzfeld) (-1,-2) - Texas CD no #
          Thirty Days (Berry) (-1) -Texas CD no #

Tyler, Texas, Robin Hood Studios.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl/gtr, Dickie Tynneson - gtr,
Dale Morgan - gtr, Bill Dato - bs, (prob.) Johnny Crown (nee' Krajca) - dms,
Jasper Benson - sax.
          This Lucky Boy (Krajca/Dato) - Texas CD no #
          I'm So Sorry (Krajca/Dato) - Texas CD no #

Fort Worth, Texas.
Bobby Crown and The Capers.
Robert Louis "Bobby Crown" Krajca - vcl (-1)/gtr,
Dale Morgan - gtr/vcl (-2), Clayton Cox - bs, Johnny Crown (nee' Krajca) - dms/vcl (-3),
Glen Clark - pno/org (-4)/vcl (-5).
          671 - Diddley-Daddy (McDaniel) (-3) - Omar 101
          672 - Lonely Avenue (Pomus) (-5) - Omar 101
          Just A Matter Of Time (Otis/Benton/Hendricks) (-2,-4) - Texas CD no #
          Just A Gigolo (Franke) (-1,-4) - Texas CD no #

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