Fans of offbeat country music will be pleased to learn that Australia's Omni Recording Corporation label has just released a wealth of super-rare Nashville recordings from the 1960s and 70s made for Shelby Singleton's Plantation label (and a number of its off-shoots, such as SSS).
The recordings have been compiled on a two disc (58 track!) collection called Plantation Gold: The Mad Genius Of Shelby Singleton Jr. And Plantation / SSS Records 1967 - 1976. Shelby Singleton was born in 1931 in the tiny east Texas town of Waskom, about 20 miles from Shreveport, Louisiana. His ownership of a Shreveport record store gave him the contacts needed to land a job as a promoter for the Mercury label and by the time he was 30, he was a vice-president for Mercury's subsidiary Smash label.
By 1966, he'd departed Mercury/Smash to form Plantation records, the first of the several labels he had a hand in launching and running. Plantation's first and biggest success came in 1968, with Harper Valley PTA, Jeannie C. Riley's massively popular critique of self-righteous hypocrisy. The song, written by Tom T. Hall, topped both the Country and Pop charts. No doubt, Singleton used part of the proceeds in July 1969 when he purchased the Sun records catalog from Sam Phillips.
For the next 10 years or so, Singleton's various labels churned out a steady supply of singles and LPs, many of which were downright weird. Fortunately, the folks at Omni seem to have a real penchant for compellingly odd and/or offensive songs. This will be no surprise to anyone who's familiar with the Porter Wagoner re-issue they did a couple of years ago (Rubber Room: The Haunting, Poetic Songs Of Porter Wagoner), which compiled the best of Wagoner's many stark tales of murder, alcoholism, depression, and general lunacy.
Plantation Gold features a generous assortment of honky-tonkers, tearjerkers, quirky instrumentals, topical numbers, recitations, answer songs, yodel tunes, Japanese hillbillies, hyper-patriotic flag wavers and even some bona fide psychedelic and pop-flavored country tunes. The deluxe liner note booklet includes tons of period photos of the performers, label shots, and best of all, an extremely illuminating essay by Jason Odd.
Below are a few samples to whet your appetite.
Little Jimmy Dempsey - I Walk The Line (2:20) I find this guitar and organ based instrumental highly addictive. And since LIttle Jimmy is an Atlanta native (and therefore a hometown hero), I couldn't turn my back on him.
Johnny Moore and "Colonel" Tex Herring - Sold To The Highest Bidder (3:00) This weeper must be heard to be believed, as it incorporates the voice of Tex Herring, an actual auctioneer.
Marcie Dickerson - (I Want To Be) A Truck Driver's Sweetheart (2:10) This romp is an update of Patsy Montana's I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart.
Ray "Wong" Riley - Happy Valley CIA (3:14) The liner notes refer to this weird adaptation of Harper Valley PTA as "lysergic sitar-drenched bop" and that probably understates things a bit. If you're easily offended, you should probably skip this highly insensitive track.