This one has a lot more depth than previous entries in this series. In addition to the original song and the answer song, there a sequel to the answer song. And a sequel to the original. And, because I’m a lovely boy, or at least my mom always said I was, I’m going to throw in a parody.
This is, at best, a novelty song, that would probably never be recorded today, much less hit the charts. The title alone, “Mexican Joe,” with its hint of cultural insensitivity, would keep it out of the running, but not back in the innocent days of 1953.
The song is of historical intrest because it is the first song by Jim Reeves to chart. He had recorded before but this was his first “hit” and it could hardly be further from the smooth style that would later make him famous. The song hit number one and stayed on the charts for respectable 26 weeks. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even a performer. At the time Reeves was a radio announcer in Shreveport.
The arrangement sits somewhere between Western Swing and Honky Tonk with some pseudo Mariachi touches by fiddler “Big” Red Hayes. The other notable aspect of the accompaniment is the presence of pianist Floyd Crammer who, though very much in the Honky Tonk camp at this time, would later, like Reeves, contribute to the smooth Countrypolitan sound of mainstream Nashville.
The song was written by Mitchel Torok and was later covered by folks like Billy Walker, Bill Ring and Bob Luman.
The answer song was an obvious bag job. It was written by the same guy. The record was recorded by the same producer for the same record label. The artist is Carolyn Bradshaw who recorded two singles for Abbott and one for Chess (but not that Chess label) all before 1955. And now I’ve told you all I know about her.
The sequel to the answer song came from Mary Jo Chelette & The Western Cherokees. She was from Port Arthur, TX and started performing with two younger siblings as The Chelette Sisters. They achieved some notice, as many did, performing on the Louisiana Hayride. Mary Jo then went solo and got a record deal in Nashville. Her main claim to fame is that one of her records was the first released on the Starday label. It, by the way, tanked under bad reviews. Subsequent releases faired a little better but not much. This song opens by saying “You’ve all heard of the marriage of Mexican Joe” Since that song had sold poorly, I think this assertion is probably false. Way to set yourself up with a limited market.
This next one is kind of inexplicable to me. Hank Snow was already a major Country star recording for RCA Victor, one of the biggest of the big labels. Jim Reeves was a radio DJ recoding for the tiny Abbott label. Harry Chotes, recording for another tiny label, was having some success with “Jole Blonde” but mainly in his native Louisiana. I guess Hank decided to put the two together and see if he could get one plus one to equal three.
This song was written by Sheb Wooley, one of the funniest men ever. In addition to being a songwriter, singer, comedian, radio star and actor (TV and movies) his is the voice behind the famous Hollywood sound effects known as “The Wilhelm Scream.” You’ve heard it if you’ve seen any of the Indiana Jones or Star Wars movies. That is except for “Last Jedi” which I understand wasn’t that great anyway.
Pops Extra – What can I say other than “Here’s Homer & Jethro.”
Tomorrow – The Golden Hillbilly, Goldie Hill, introduces us to Yvonne, who cooked the Jambalaya for Hank Williams.