Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Cuerno Verde Ranch Presents Billy Thompson

In the early 1970s, Billy Thompson and his wife Katie were burned out from the daily grind of touring from town to town. Looking to settle down, after a country music career spanning some three decades, the couple moved to Colorado and set up shop at the King's Loft in Aurora.

After packing in crowds there (along with visually-impaired singer/guitarist Ray Cobb, drummer Mike Turner, Steve McCaskey on bass fiddle, and guitarist Ronnie Miller) they got the call from the Cuerno Verde Ranch to bring their act down south.

Located 10 miles south of Westcliffe, and sprawling across 4000 acres, the club attracted tourists to its sauna baths, tennis courts, rodeos and abundant wildlife. Known also for its nightly live music, nabbing Thompson, who was previously the longtime guitarist for Hank Thompson (no relation) and the Brazos Valley Boys, would have given the club a star draw.

Thompson started his musical career with the West Texas-based Melody Cowboys (along with Red Hayes, Troy Jordan, Donnie McDaniel, Bobby McBay, Havey Grosman and Lloyd Jordan) , who became regulars on the Wichita Falls-based Sam Gibbs Orchestra Service tour. The band (who later morphed into the Melody Ramblers), and Thompson as a solo act, recorded for the Odessa Bo-Kay label (104 - "Love Gone Blind" / "Waltzing with Sin" and 115 - "Oh Lonesome Me" / "Worried Over You"), and in 1960 on Slim Willet's Winston label (Winston 1048 - "I Should Have Told You").

(For a wonderful archive of Billy Thompson photos, visit Jim Loessberg's Pedal Steel Guitar site).

It was during this time that Billy met Katie Jean, who sang for Bob Wills - who at the time was managed by Sam Gibbs.

While his King's Loft bandmates Cobb, Turner and McCaskey decided to stay put in Denver, the couple enlisted Jimmy Dee on drums to accompany Ronnie Miller for the Cuero Verde Ranch gigs.

The Thompsons then re-released their King's Loft LP with a different album cover for their Cuerno Verde Ranch audience.

Both albums feature the same 14 song line-up, recorded live (at the King's Loft).

(Credits lead singer/performer)

Side One:
Betcha My Heart - Katie Thompson
Statue of a Fool - Billy Thompson
Satisfaction - Ray Cobb
Easy on my Mind - Steve McCaskey
Togetherness - Billy and Katie
I Can See Clearly Now - Ronnie Miller
Auctioneer - Ray Cobb

Side Two:
Walk on By - Billy Thompson
Sweet Dreams - Katie Thompson
Fishing Blues - Steve McCaskey
Singing my Song - Katie Thompson
She's Got to be a Saint - Ray Cobb
Isle of Golden Dreams - Katie Thompson
Behind Closed Doors - Ray Cobb

Billy Thompson died September 16, 1989.
He was inducted into the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.

Katie Thompson was inducted in the Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest Hall of Fame in 2003.

Ronnie Miller went on to play with Charley Pride.

Jimmy Dee was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, for his own 1950s and 1960s recordings. His whereabouts are unknown.

COMING NEXT POST: The Steel City Band

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ace Ball - The Pueblo Years

Thanks to Dorothy and Larry Balch.
Additional information used with kind permission from Peter Burg, Pueblo Songwriters and Musicians newsletter,
Notes (July-August 2003).
In 1968, Arthur Chester Balch, his wife Dorothy, and their young family packed up their belongings and left their longtime home in West Texas for Pueblo.

Billboard - May 23, 1953

The move had to have been difficult. Balch was a big fish in a little pond in West Texas. Known professionally as Ace Ball, he was a popular disc jockey (in Levelland, Lubbock, and Big Spring) and country music performer. For almost two decades previous he was a member of Hank Harral's Palomino Cowhands, recorded for the Dallas-based Star Talent label, a solo artist on the Okeh and Caprock labels, and shared the stage with Elvis Presley and Waylon Jennings.

His elderly parents had previously moved to nearby CaƱon City, and family obligations forced him to trade the West Texas arid plains for the Steel City. He took a job with local country radio station KPUB.

Billboard - October 30, 1976
While in Colorado he picked up where he left off and went back into the recording studio, producing songs on his own Ace-Hi and later Pedestal record labels. After almost 20 years at KPUB he moved across town to KIDN, where he hosted a weekly Saturday night show.

Peter Burg and Ace Ball (2003)
(photo courtesy of Peter Burg)
In 2004, after performing at a local senior center, he fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a fatal head injury. He was 84.

Ace Ball Discography:

Hank Harral and his Palomino Cowhands

Star Talent (1948-1950) 760 - Dream Band Boogie / Dilly Dally Doodle (NOTE: Please visit the excellent Lone Star Stomp blog. There you will find the story behind this recording). 764 - When They Raised The UN Flag In South Korea / You've Got A Sweetheart (I've Got Just A Friend) 773 - Red Barn Boogie / Dear

Little Oakie Darlin'
Ace Ball
Okeh (1953-1954) 18007 – Change of Heart / Home Isn’t Home Anymore 18019 – Homeless Heart / There’ll Be a New Day 18040 – Weeds of Hate / She’s Worth a Million to Me 18047 – One Armed Love / Lost

Ace Ball
Caprock (1959) 110 – I’ve Lost Again / High School Wedding Ring (NOTE: Please visit the invaluable Rockin' Country Style site to hear a sample of this song)


Ace Ball
Ace-Hi Records (1968-?)< 5464- I Cried at Your Wedding/Girls, Girls, Girls 215 - Homeward on a Hijacked Plane / For Old Times Sake 216 – Pretty is as Pretty Does / Country Boy at College 217 – The Last Rodeo / Little Red Sportscar 218 – I’ll Never Forget / Daddy’s Weakness – Cecilia Sisneros

Ace Ball
Pedestal Records (1978-1979) 1381 - Carolers Carolers / The King's Birthday (featuring Little Roy Wiggins) 1615 - Just a Little Time / A Big Hearted ET (Ernest Tubb) 1524 - You Can’t Take The Past Away / Blue Ribbon Girl 2160 - The Role Of a Step Son / There'll be a New Day Tomorrow (featuring Little Roy Wiggins)

Ace Ball
JB (1983) LP BJR101 - Ace Colorado Country - Ace Ball Sings Gene Bloomfield and Some of His Own

Ace Ball
Hornet (1984-1985?) HR 1016 - "Overnight Sensation"/"Thank You Darlin"