Tuesday, September 13, 2011


THE SENSATIONAL GOLDEN KNIGHTS OF SHREVEPORT, La. – Thank You Jesus (Hosanna, circa 1965)

In 2009, I stumbled across a local gospel 45 that I’d never heard of before:

“Thank You Jesus” (songwriter: J. Richards)
“You’ve Been So Good” (songwriter: M. Peters)
(Hosanna 8024, circa 1965)

I’ve yet to determine the identity of the Sensational Golden Knights, but I did realize the Dallas, Texas, address listed on this Hosanna label also served as the home of Rapturea Records, who issued gospel releases, too. Perhaps one succeeded the other.

In 2010, I ran across a new piece of information about the Sensational Golden Knights after attending Ponderosa Stomp. One of the highlights of the show was catching a last-minute addition to the bill—The Relatives, who hailed from Dallas, Texas. That night the group put on an impressive set of gospel funk…something perfected during their heyday in the early 1970s.

Later, I picked up the group’s LP “Don’t Let Me Fall” released by Heavy Light Records in 2009. It contains each of The Relatives’ singles from the 1970s and five previously unreleased songs. While reading the liner notes this caught my attention:
After a stint as associate minister at a Dallas church, [Gean] West began touring with the Sensational Golden Knights in 1958 and a year later was singing with the Mighty Golden Voices. By 1961 the gospel group had settled in St. Paul, Minnesota and West hit the road with the Southernaires, a vocal group out of Shreveport, Louisiana.
It’s not clear to me if West actually appears on the Sensational Golden Knights 45 issued on Hosanna. I’m also not sure about the release date; circa 1965 seems about right. I had hoped to clear up some of these mysteries at the Ponderosa Stomp 2011. However, I recently learned that the Relatives are no longer on this year’s schedule. Perhaps others can shed some light on this situation.

While you're at it, check out Andrew Dansby's article "The Relatives: Earth-Shaking Gospel" published in August 2010.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

JOHNNY HARRIS – Ripsaw (Wanted, 1962)

Johnny ‘Ray’ Harris was born in Louisiana January 9, 1932. By 1960 he found himself a Shreveport fireman looking to crack the music business on his own. In February of that year he released “Tired of Crawling, Gonna Start to Run” b/w “When a New Love is Born, Does an Old Love Die” on his own Ray records via Starday records custom pressing “PD” series. On the night of July 30, 1960 he found himself performing on the famed Louisiana Hayride stage no doubt supporting his newly released “Dog Gone” b/w “Cajun Weekend” (Ray 601, 1960). This performance can be heard in the YouTube clip below.

Johnny’s third and final release on his own Ray label “No More Hurtin’” b/w “In Memory of Johnny Horton” (Ray 602, 1960) paid homage to one of the Hayride’s greatest stars, Johnny Horton, who had just passed away in a horrible car accident in November of 1960 while returning to Shreveport after a show in Austin, TX.

A few other unissued recordings from this period are gathered on the White Label LP “Rockin’ in Louisiana, vol. 2”. These sides show the incredible raw musicianship of players in the area and the varied influences they all draw upon. The sound is a blend of rural Cajun South Louisiana, sophisticated New Orleans, East Texas & Delta Blues combined with the raw yelp of Hillbilly Country & Western all up against the face of a burgeoning Rock n Roll scene.

Which brings us to "Ripsaw" b/w "Cajun Blues" (Wanted, 711) as twisted a piece of swampy-blues-rockabilly to ever step out of the region. The haunting harmonica and off kilter singing weren’t going to land it on the Billboard Hot 100, but something special was captured on this little piece of wax nonetheless. It’s some sort of twisted Davy Crockett tale through the lens of the swamp.

Everything here sounds a little later than 1960, and some clues pop out upon inspection of the label. The name Marais and La Dee Music point to Dee Marais, a local record man who recorded talent at local studios and sometimes in the back of his Bayou Records shop. Dee ran several great Shreveport labels including Murco, Hy-Sign and Peermont, which I’m sure we’ll dig into on this blog soon enough.

As for Johnny ‘Ray’ Harris, not much else is known. He died March 19, 1983 in Shreveport. A fireman and a singer, we have his self-released Ray records and the odd backwoods greatness of RIPSAW to remember him by.

Johnny Ray Harris & Dorothy Mae Raines Harris

P.S. - After seeing this post my buddy Chris Brown dug up this fantastic item - the original lead sheet for RIPSAW!