Book: The Phoenix Sound


Ted Simons: The Phoenix area made a significant impact in the early years of rock 'n' roll, it's a story that's told in a new book, "The Phoenix Sounds, a history of Twang and rockabilly music in Arizona." The book was written by a long-time local radio personality, Jim West, who joins us now. Welcome to Arizona Horizon.

Jim West: I appreciate it.

Ted Simons: It's a fun book. It's interesting. I thought I knew a lot about local music, why did you write this?

Jim West: Well, I was volunteering for a nonprofit called the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. And a lot of the early recording artists, not just in the country or rockabilly or rock 'n' roll but a lot of stars, Steven Spielberg is in the Hall of Fame, and I volunteered for that, and I was -- I got the idea that I am going to write a book and show about these people. The pioneers that recorded here back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ted Simons: As far as research, what kind did you do?

Jim West: Well, I went to the, to the sources, the majority of them, still with us, Jack Miller, a Grammy award-winning engineer, at Ramsey's audio recorders, interviewed him and Dwayne Eddie and several people that were part of the rock 'n' roll rockabilly country scene.

Ted Simons: We have got a number of music clips that I want to play. You mentioned Dwayne Eddie, Mr. Rebel Rouser, I mean, he changed the way that people thought about guitar. Let's go ahead and listen to a snippet of that.

Ted Simons: And this was -- this is a kid from Coolidge, who revolutionized the guitar.

Jim West: The Twang heard around the world.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

How did they -- how did he figure this out?

Jim West: Well, he worked with a producer named Lee Hazelwood who went on in the 60s with Nancy Sinatra and wrote, These Boots Are Made for Walking, but back in the mid-50s, in Coolidge, Dwayne Eddy got with Lee Hazelwood and they started recording in Phoenix with audio recorders at Ramsey Studio, and they decided to you know, to experiment with the guitar. And that Twangy reverb.

Ted Simons: And someone said I like how that sounds and let's find some place that echoes even more. Another person you profile is Sanford Clark, who I guess was stationed at Luke Air Force Base, and another Lee Hazelwood guy here, and let's hear a bit of his. I am hearing a bit of Ricky Nelsen, but I think this is before him.

Jim West: It was. I believe it was a bit before him. Sanford Clark was actually, the first person to have a top ten hit come out of Phoenix with the hit The Fool.

Ted Simons: Let's listen to this.

Jim West: Ok.

Ted Simons: Now, that was a nation-wide hit.

Jim West: A top ten hit in 1957, right here, out of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Did people start paying attention to Phoenix?

Jim West: They really did. I mean, a lot of the big music centers like L.A. and New York, started, and Nashville, places like that, started looking at Phoenix and saying wow, what's coming out of Phoenix? All this new music. Rockabilly and kind of a Phoenix sound type of Twang.

Ted Simons: And the old-time rock 'n' roll, we have another artist, ray sharp, and his song, Linda Lou, again, produced by Lee Hazelwood. The guy was everywhere.

Jim West: He was, and the Rolling Stones went on to cover that song years later.

Ted Simons: Linda Lou?

Jim West: Yes.

Ted Simons: Let's listen to a little Linda Lou by Ray Sharp.

Now, according to your book, Dwayne Eddie was on that particular recording?

Jim West: I think that he was either on that recording, or a guy named Don Cole played guitar, and either Don or Dwayne.

Ted Simons: And many of these songs, have Al Casey on the guitar?

Jim West: A great guy.

And Al Casey grew up here in Phoenix, and he was an incredible guitar player, became a part of the Wrecking Crew, of studio musicians in L.A., on a bunch of great big hits, so Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra songs, Harry Nielsen songs, but here in Phoenix, Al Casey, played on a lot of the session work that was done here, an incredible player.

Ted Simons: And it seems like every happy song seemed to happen, and I don't know if he's on the next one, this is Jimmy Del, an interesting character. He's a rockabilly guy. I'm hearing Jerry Lee Lewis. He wound up as an evangelist.

Jim West: He's a great guy, a good friend.

Ted Simons: So, we'll get to that story, but let's go ahead and hear a little snippet of him.

Jim West: Ok.

Ted Simons: Unfortunately that was not. That was not -- nothing like Jerry Lee Lewis. That was skip and flip, or flip and skip.

Jim West: Skip and flip.

Ted Simons: And who are these fellas?

Jim West: They were in college together, at the U of A in Tucson, and they ended up recording a couple of songs, and Gary Pasten was Skip, I believe, his real name, and he went on to be a producer, and writer and songwriter, and singer, and he did a variety of songs from country to rock 'n' roll to gospel.

Ted Simons: And now, the other guy, was I not mistaken, didn't he join the Byrds?

Jim West: He joined the Byrds. Mr. Baton joined the Byrds, later on in the 1960s.

Ted Simons: So Skip and Flip, both went on from being Skip and Flip to other things.

Jim West: Exactly.

Ted Simons: And I did want to get to Jimmy, do we have him loaded up? Can we get to him real quick? Is that possible? Let's give it a shot. Once again, Jimmy Del.

Ted Simons: A preacher.
A preacher man.

Jim West: He grew up in Coolidge with Dwayne Eddie. They were running buddies and went to high school together, and he has a great faith of the Nazarene church today, and he was recording back in the 1950s and touring all over the country, on the Dick Clark road shows, on RCA Records for a short time. Right here out of Phoenix, started here in Phoenix.

Ted Simons: Was he conflicted at the time?

Jim West: Yeah, I believe that he was, after a while, he decided he wanted to be an evangelist.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Jim West: And that's what he's doing today.

Ted Simons: Does he still play?

Jim West: Occasionally he will play, and around the world in different places like in cruise ships, and in some shows. And he does that on the side, occasionally, but he also goes on, does a lot of evangelism and a lot of things along those lines.

Ted Simons: You can hear some Jerry Lee in that, and Ted Newman.

Jim West: Yeah.

Ted Simons: An ASU football player.

Jim West: ASU football player, working with Jack Miller, the engineer, and in Ramsey Studio, they called him up and said we have a song, and we want you to come and sing it and play it and record it. That hit No. 45 on the charts.

Ted Simons: Called Play Thing?

Jim West: Play Thing.

Ted Simons: Let's hear a bit of Play Thing.
I believe I read that someone else wound up recording, like Pat Boon.

Jim West: Pat Boon's younger brother, Nick Todd, who recorded the same song and decided to run it up the charts at the same time as well, and that kind of stole some of the thunder from Ted. Ted Newman's version, so it only hit up to No. 45 on the billboard charts in 1958, I believe it was, and he had a good run.

Ted Simons: The next song was a huge hit for Wilson Pickett, and people think, Broadway, in New York, and this song, by Dyke and the Blazers, Funky Broadway was written about our own road.

Jim West: That's right.

Ted Simons: And this is a great thing. This is good stuff.

That's our Broadway road.

Jim West: Exactly. And it proved that, you can also have a bit of R&B along with your country and your rock 'n' roll and your rock 'n' roll --

Ted Simons: A very diverse area.
Exactly.

Jim West: Sure.

Ted Simons: And Waylon Jennings is someone I want to make sure that we get to. And he was, I guess he's, his career, everyone knows about the story, didn't get on the plane with Buddy Holly. Afterwards, he kinds of what, went to Coolidge and tried to start all over again?

Jim West: He ended up in Coolidge with his first wife, I understand, and started working in radio in Coolidge at TCKY radio, the same station that Lee Hazelwood was at when he found Jimmy Del and Dwayne Eddie, but he was on the radio and played at the Gallopin' Goose, a night club in Coolidge and went on to Phoenix and started playing at J.D.'s Nightclub.

Ted Simons: It is a furniture store on the river bottom, on the east side of the road. It's still there.

Jim West: It is.

Ted Simons: Let's go ahead and Waylon Jennings, we have got a radio, an announcer introducing him there. It's a neat thing because it kind of notices how the Phoenix sound is making an impact. Here's Waylon Jennings.
Announcer: In the past few years, Arizona has produced more of America's top recording stars than any other state. Stars like Buck Owens, Marty Robbins and so many others. Presented here and now for your approval are what we truly believe will be some of the greatest stars of tomorrow, and now, introducing one of the brightest stars in Arizona, here's Waylon Jennings, to sing a song for a souvenir title, Rave On.

Ted Simons: Just fantastic stuff. Before we let you go, what did you learn writing this book?

Jim West: I learned the fact that there is a lot of great music that came out of Arizona that a lot of people don't know about. You heard of the Nashville sound, the Motown sound, the Memphis sound, with Elvis and so on. Phoenix, you did not really -- a lot of people don't know about the Phoenix sound.

Ted Simons: They do now because of this book. Great work. Congratulations on that, and thank you very much for joining us.

Jim West: Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons: Thank you. And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Former DJ Jim West has written a book that covers the trailblazing era of Arizona music. From Duane Eddy to Waylon Jennings to Stevie Nicks, West’s new book “The Phoenix Sound: A History of Twang & Rockabilly Music in Arizona,” tells the story of how music from our state influenced the national music scene. West will discuss his new book.

Sponsor message:

In this segment:

Jim West: Former DJ and Author

Sponsor message:

Sign up to receive the Arizona PBS Insider

Get up-to-the-minute information about your favorite programs and learn more about Arizona PBS news and events.

Watch Neil Diamond's 'Hot August Night III' concert Nov. 23

Celebrate the legendary singer-songwriter in this triumphant reunion concert Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. on Arizona PBS.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 30th anniversary concert airs Nov. 24

The late Tom Petty returned to where it all began in this classic concert live from Petty's hometown of Gainesville, Florida.

'Nature' explores successful squirrels, African dogs and snow bears

“Nature” shows the world from an animal point of view each Wednesday at 7 p.m.