High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rat Ron's Retro Rock Reminiscences: Hickory Shtick, Part 1

Our good friend Dell Rat Ron is back 

to share more of his music and 


Today's topic focuses on Hickory Records, the Nashville based independent label. Hickory started out in the mid 50s as a country music imprint but by the 60s was producing some of the decade's most memorable pop and crossover country along with obscure garage and psych/freakbeat nuggets. Check out the fashions and the hair styles in this rare clip as teenagers of the mid 60s dance to a pair of songs by The Sparkles, a little known band that recorded on the Hickory label.

"The Hip"/"Oh Girls, Girls" - The Sparkles (1966, uncharted)

Now that I've set the stage 
I'll step aside and let Ron 
take it from here.

Ron, be my guest! 

When I was in 5th thru 
7th grade there weren't 
many kids my own age 
in my neighborhood, so
I hung out at a local 

furniture and appliance 
store. I followed 
Cashbox and Billboard, 
the music industry trade 
magazines, and helped a 
man in the record 
department order 
records to sell.

The man's name 
was Bill Mitzel and 
the store was Smith 
Village in Jacobus 
which had a small record department 
to add to the sales 
of their TV's and stereos.
I pushed the rock & roll, rhythm & blues 

(frequently not selling enough), while Bill
had probably the greatest selection of 

country music in the southern Pennsylvania, 
northern Maryland area.

If I may interrupt you, Ron,
I would like to mention that my parents were big country music fans and I grew up listening to the albums they bought, quite possibly at Smith Village. Patsy Cline was my mother's favorite country singer and Patsy's first chart hit was Mom's favorite song.

"Walkin' After Midnight" - Patsy Cline
(April 1957, highest chart position #17)

My dad loved country pianist Floyd Cramer who crossed over big time and nearly topped the pop chart with this evocative instrumental:

"Last Date" - Floyd Cramer
(December 1960, highest chart position #2)

I also remember this energetic toe-tapper produced by Floyd when he got Organ-ized:

"Let's Go" - Floyd Cramer
(February 1962, highest chart position #90)

I love to play six degrees and Floyd Cramer's organ workout "Let's Go" inevitably reminds me of "Let's Go (Pony)," a tune released later that same year by the instrumental group The Routers. The infectious clapping and chanting made this top 20 hit a favorite rallying call for cheerleaders and crowds at sporting events around the world!

"Let's Go (Pony)" - Routers
(December 1962, highest chart position #19)

Back to you, Ron.

At one time, Bill ordered a bunch of 
"party records", like Rusty Warren's 
"Knockers Up", Red Foxx albums, etc. 

I remember many of the 
album covers were a nude 
photo of the head and torso 
of a young lady, with 
removable pasties over her 
nipples. I was always trying 
to rub them off through the 

Bill eventually got himself
a distributorship with 

Hickory Records, and tried to promote 
some of their R&R songs to me to buy. 
I held out, though. Everything else they 
recorded was country, country, and more 

The R&R songs were Donovan's earliest, 
"Catch the Wind"... 

"Catch the Wind" - Donovan 
(June 1965, highest chart position #23) 


"Colours" - Donovan 
(September '65, highest chart position #61) 

and "Universal Soldier"... 

"Universal Soldier" - Donovan 
(October '65, highest chart position #53) 

Ron, excuse me while I butt in again. "Universal Soldier, the Buffy Sainte-Marie composition covered by Donovan, is obviously an antiwar song. I'm sure we all remember other war related chart hits such as "Eve of Destruction," "Dawn of Correction" and "The Ballad of the Green Berets." a song that was on Odie Langley's list of favorites. At this point I'd like to insert another song with a war theme. It's the only charting Hickory release by B.J. Thomas...a patriotic song that ends with a cruel twist.

"Billy and Sue" - B.J. Thomas
(July 1966, highest chart position #34)

And here's one other Hickory release by Donovan Leitch called "Hey Gyp." It's one of my one of my favorite songs and was covered nicely by The Animals and the Soul Survivors. Here's Donovan's original:

"Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)" - Donovan
(October 1966, uncharted)

Ron, I think you have one more Hickory release to tell us about today.

There was a one-hit wonder on that label 
also by Kris Jensen, called "Torture". 

"Torture" - Kris Jensen 
(October 1962, highest chart position #20) 

Thanks, Ron!  Stay tuned!  There's more of Ron's Hickory Shtick coming up in my next post, including some great sounds from my favorite Hickory honey...

and my favorite Nashville cats!

Have a Shady day!


  1. Hey look at that, I'm the first one, I feel so special :). Well any play list that includes Patsy Cline is okay in my book. I love her and her voice. I had never heard the original version of "Universal Soldier," only the acoustic version by First Aid Kit, which you might actually enjoy. Take a listen if you get a chance and have a splendid Sunday.

  2. Happy Sunday Shady. In case you haven't returned to my blog since your last comment the playlist I've added has 4 tunes on it that play through and one is dueling banjos and Floyd Cramer's last date.
    Ron, I really enjoyed your selections today hearing some names I was unfamiliar with but liked very much. The Sparkles was one and the Routers was another. I liked their version of Let's Go better than my #1 guy Floyd Cramer. I graduated high school at Nashville High School in Nashville, NC in 65 but can't say I remember Donavan but enjoyed listening to him today. All in all an awesome post so thank you Shady & Ron for another good one.

  3. Amber Blue Bird - The early bird gets the worm and you get my first reply. I was hoping you'd notice that I included Patsy in today's post. I promise to check out that acoustic version of "Universal Soldier" because I have learned that your taste in music is closely aligned with mine. Happy Sunday, dear friend Amber!

    Odie - I hope that I impressed you when I was able to name that tune "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" on your site. I'll be sure to swing by to hear the theme from Deliverance. My dad had just about every one of Floyd Cramer's records and I particularly liked his Gets Organ-ized album. My mom was a huge Patsy Cline fan. Have a wonderful day, good buddy!

  4. Wow! I certainly enjoyed this post, Ron & Shady. Donovan was one of my favorites and was very popular in California. His music was played all the time.
    Even though I was only 10 when "Last Date" came out, I remember it well. I don't remember "Torture" but I enjoyed it, especially with the pictures of the incredibly handsome Gary Cooper. Those eyes!

  5. Belle - It was hard to find Kris Jensen's "Torture" on YouTube. The only clip I could find used the song in that Gary Cooper tribute. Donovan's son, Donovan Leitch, Jr., starred in one of the best teen musicals ever made. The In Crowd (Orion 1988) centered around Perry Parker, a character based on Philadelphia broadcast icon Jerry Blavat who hosted a Bandstand style TV dance program in the 60s. Some of the movie's scenes were filmed on location in Wildwood, NJ, a favorite summer destination for many of us in Central PA. Thank you very much for your comment, dear friend Belle!

  6. Shady, I liked the way you augmented my memoirs with your interjections, songs, and the research you put into Hickory Records. It kind of blows me away seeing my reminiscences in print. I've always liked writing, but could count the short stories I'd written on one hand. Excellent research, Shady, as well as presentation. I'm glad that some people find interest in our collaboration, as well as your collaboration with your other bloggees.

    Regarding Patsy Cline, I never knew "Walking After Midnight" until a decade or two ago, but "I Fall To Pieces" was always a favorite of mine, ever since WSBA had it for Pick Hit of the Week. They also picked three of her other songs, "Tra La La La Triangle," "She's Got You," and another favorite of mine, "Crazy," only that's only been a favorite for about twenty years. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Floyd Cramer played piano on "I Fall to Pieces", and I believe I first heard of him with "On The Rebound", which I believe made it to WSBA's #1 position. I also believe "Last Date" later made it to #1 on the 910. I don't think Bill Mitzel ever would have imagined me PR-ing his exclusive York County distributorship for Hickory Records of so many years ago. Have a great week, Shady!

  7. Ron - I'm enjoying our collaboration! My personal memories only provide a tiny piece of the puzzle. When you and others share your memories here on SDM&M they help to form a clearer and more complete picture of what was happening back then and what was of value. I love anecdotes like the one about Bill Mitzel because they give me a chance to play "six degrees" and tie in other people and songs that are somehow connected. Thank you again, Ron, for your tremendous contributions and keep them coming!

  8. Most interesting about the Hickory Label. Who could watch 'The Hip/Oh Girls, Girls' video and not smile? I really loved this, the songs and dancing. (Anyone else detect an Elvis influence in 'Oh Girls'?) 'Walkin' After Midnight', a big favorite of mine, I have held onto a long time fantasy that Patsy Hensley Cline is a long lost cousin of mine since we have the same maiden name. :~) Liked the lively 'Let's Go' version by the Routers. The Gary Cooper images were perfect for 'Torture'.

    Thank you Shady and Ron:

    ¸.•´ ¸.•*´¨)¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•` . .A CLASS ACT! ¤~♥

  9. Cindy - I knew that a Tennessee girl like you would be able to relate to Ron's two-parter about Hickory Records. The Sparkles do have a Presleyesque sound now that you mention it and I always love those rare videos of 60s teenagers on the dance floor. Stay tuned for another vintage clip coming up in Part 2! You should trace your family tree to find out if you and Patsy Cline are related. You just might be! Thank you very much for setting aside some time to visit, dear friend Cindy!

  10. Oh, how I love to visit your blog, Shady! So much fun and fond memories!! Can I tell you how much I love that Ron and his friends hung out in a FURNITURE STORE, for crying out loud?!! That is just so awesome!! I miss those simpler days, don't you?

    Since I am a new resident of Nashville, I feel quite honored that my adopted hometown was the subject of this entry. And I'm with Amber, you just CAN'T go wrong with ANYTHING Patsy Cline! The woman had some CHOPS!!!

    Thanks again, Shady! Just LOVED it!!

  11. Joanie - I just love having you here! You're a sweetheart! When I was a boy I used to hang out in my dad's office supply store in York which also sold novelties. Imagine the hours I spent playing with such things as a fake ice cube with an embedded fly, fake spilled bottle of ink, fake dog poop, fake vomit and those "magic" 8 balls. Do you remember them? You asked the black plastic ball a question, shook it, looked in its window, and it "magically" gave you an answer. I never got tired of visiting my dad's store! I'm glad you got back to blogging in time to catch Ron's two-part article that has both a York and a Nashville connection. Please stay tuned for part 2! Thank you very much for your comment, dear friend Joanie!

  12. My mam is a huge Patsy Cline fan too so I grew up listening to her. I never really appreciated her music until I got older, but now I love her!


  13. Emma - I know you love movies and if you haven't already I urge you to see the Patsy Cline biopic Sweet Dreams starring Jessica Lange. I deeply appreciate you for taking the time to visit, dear friend Emma, and I hope you enjoy a wonderful evening in Dublin!

  14. I have a cold, and was just beginning to start feeling miserable.. But then I heard Floyd Cramer.. :D :D Of all the artists I've discovered through your blog, I liked him the best..(I think my cat likes him too.. :| ) :D :D
    So thank you for introducing us.. :) :)

    My blog address has changed, so find me now @Conquering the World

  15. PencilGirl - Nothing beats a cold faster than country keyboards and Floyd's the guy with the goods. I hope you're feeling better by now. Is your kitty a Nashville cat? (LOL) I unsubbed and resubbed to your blog. Lead and I will follow. Thanks for coming by and take good care of yourself, dear friend P-Girl!

  16. A DELL RAT ALL WAYSApril 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    My hang out was Dick Noles gas station , waiting for one of the older guys to say who wants to go to the Dell. Any one out there remember what a gas staion was ?

  17. Hi, Greg! I'm raising my hand because I remember gas stations. You pulled you car up to the pump and relaxed behind the wheel while a guy in a uniform filled 'er up, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield. You gave him money, he gave you green stamps, and you were on your way. I only wish "full service" would have included a ride to the Dell! Thanks for checking in, Dell Rat Always Greg!


You talkin' to me?