|Track||Singles / Album|
|Endless Sleep||Demon FF-1507|
|Tight Capris||Demon FF-1507|
|Fire Of Love||Demon FF-1509|
|Beaulah Lee||Demon FF-1515|
|The Storm||Demon FF-1519|
|(The Girl With The) Raven Hair||Demon FF-1524|
|Stranger In The Mirror||Titan FF-1736|
|Requiem For Love||Titan FF-1736|
|Robbin' The Cradle||Endless Sleep: Rockabilly Best|
JODY REYNOLDS: ANATOMY OF A ONE HIT WONDER #1
Contributor: Dave Stephens
Artists who flickered briefly then disappeared. One Hit Wonders, the media called them. Part of the fascination of fifties and sixties music.
And the greatest of them all? Jody Reynolds and Endless Sleep (in my humble opinion of course).
Deep reverb guitar and then …
The night was black, rain fallin’ down
Looked for my baby, she’s nowhere around
They’d had a row. He stormed out. There were footprints in the sand heading towards those breakers. You know the rest. Well, not quite. Reynolds had been persuaded to change the ending because as it stood, that demo record which he’d submitted to several record companies, wouldn’t get air time. The new climax has Jody saving his lady from endless sleep. The sanitised ending sits a little oddly with the build up but by then it didn’t matter. The listener had been sucked in and teen tragedy as a genre was up and running. I shouldn’t mock; it still sounds great today. The combination of guitar in anguish mode, the stripped back sound in general and Jody’s vocal which avoided over the top histrionics while still conveying heartache, and, dare I say it, managing to sound rather cool about it all at the same time.
The record came out in 1958, though Reynolds had written it two years earlier, inspired, he’s told the world, by the Presley recording of Heartbreak Hotel. The nearest parallel to that guitar sound was Duane Eddy whose hit run started early in the same year. It’s probably no coincidence that the axeman for Reynolds was Al Casey who was associated with Eddy. Casey also performed a not dissimilar role on Sanford Clark’s The Fool, produced by Lee Hazlewood. Looked at from a distance of over half a century, perhaps the main thing that’s surprising about Endless Sleep is that it wasn’t produced by Hazlewood. It reeked of his approach. No surprise though that Hazlewood does play a bit part in the Reynolds story, but somewhat further downstream.
THE BIOG BIT
Jody was born, Ralph Joseph Reynolds, on December the 3rd, 1932 in Denver, Colorado but was brought up in Shady Grove, Oklahoma. He started playing guitar in his teens and formed a band, the Storms, in 1952. By 1956 the band were operating on a professional basis, working in a wide area that included Southern California, Arizona and West Texas. Endless Sleep got included in a demo tape which he touted around music biz people. One such was music publisher Herb Montei, in San Diego, California. Largely based on the presence of that song on the tape, Montei managed to get Jody signed with the small indie label, Demon Records, owned by jazz musician Jim Greene.
Endless Sleep hit #5 in the US and went on to become a million seller. It did less well in the UK due to a version from local covers ace, Marty Wilde. Usually at this stage in the story, a much bigger label enters the fray and scoops up the hero. For reasons unknown to the writer, this didn’t happen with Jody. There were six more singles issued under his name for Demon through to when the label was wound up in 1960. Jody issued more records on a variety of small labels with his last single coming out under the name “Jody and Bobbie” in 1966. On that, more later.
He had largely given up the music business by the middle of the decade and settled down in Palm Springs as an estate agent with a family to look after. I say “largely” since he maintained a foothold in music via song writing and recording (using a home studio) and appearing in oldies shows. He died of liver cancer in 2008, at the age of 75.
It won’t be any surprise that Fire Of Love, the follow-up single from Jody, was a slow moody rocker with prominent guitar work yet again from Al Casey (though perhaps it was a surprise that this song was officially the B-side).
The fire of love is burning deep
The fire of love won’t let me sleep
Oh, my love, hear this my plea
Because of you, it’s burning me
The record made the US Hot 100 but disappointingly peaked at #66. However, it has achieved some level of resonance through the years with covers appearing as recently as 2009 (from Terminal Twilight). My preference is for the version that appeared as the title track on the Gun Club debut album in 1981:
Variants on Endless Sleep/Fire Of Love appeared over the next few years on Demon Records. None were without merit, though not one could be said to have matched either of those performances. I’ve selected (The Girl With The) Raven Hair and The Storm. The last named song had originally appeared on a single from the highly obscure Doug Harden in 1957. This was it:
The Reynolds version adds weather effects and turns the song sequence around so that the middle eight appears at the start. Both versions are effective and Harden deserves credit for producing or appearing on a Reynolds sounding single before the man himself had actually committed anything to wax.
Not all Reynolds releases were doom-and-gloom slow rockers. There were more conventional rock efforts – see below – and a good attempt at a teen ballad a la Ricky Nelson circa Poor Little Fool. The record was Golden Idol and, while very typical of the era, it’s an excellent example of the genre and, as such, very nearly made my top ten:
Jody Reynolds usually gets categorised as a rockabilly artist though that is somewhat misleading. His efforts weren’t a million miles from the genre but they didn’t show their blues and country roots like early Elvis and Carl Perkins. I’d liken them more to mid-period Gene Vincent i.e. post Cliff Gallup, though lacking the exotic Vincent vocal. His very first one – Tight Capris on the flip of Endless Sleep – is a good example; a neat little tribute to his lady’s form-fitting trousers with excellent guitar work from Al Casey. However, if Reynolds was turned on by said trousers he doesn’t exactly show it. The vocal is almost disinterested and I do wonder if he was aiming for a Nelson semi-detached sound.
The oddly named Beaulah Lee, the flip of Golden Idol, is arguably Jody’s best rocker. The guitarist employs a sliding-up-to-the-bass-note technique that is also heard on some of the Eddie Cochran classics plus Sir Cliff’s Move It. Given the fact that Cochran was L.A. based, the former is more likely to have been an influence though Move It was released approx nine months earlier and it’s just possible it might have received a few listens in the Hollywood area. I should add that on this one the fret work came from Don Cole after Al Casey moved to more of a full time role with Duane Eddy.
I’d give an honourable mention to Daisy Mae, the A-side of Jody’s second release. It contains a melody line that’s sure to have you scratching your proverbial head, wondering where it came from. I can offer you the key line in Cash’s Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, or Holly’s Love’s Made A Fool Of You, but I suspect the source is actually earlier – it’s also akin to the “Bo Diddley buy babe a diamond ring” line in a famous single. It’s made more emphatic in the Reynolds record via broken time drumming.
… AND THE CURIOS
Two instrumental records were released by Jody and the band; Thunder b/w Tarantula and Makin’ Out b/w Shot Down. The first named has a curious history. It was released credited to “The Storms” on the Sundown label in ’59 while Jody was still contracted to Demon Records. Demon subsequently picked it up and released it with the credit “Jody Reynolds And The Storms” in ’61. The second of the pair was also released in ’61 but credited to “The Storms” (on the Titan label).
That was the boring bit. The considerably less boring bit was that all four sides were excellent examples of the sub-genre rock instros but ones that never got the public attention of the aforesaid Mr Eddy or, say, Johnny and the Hurricanes. They deserved more. I’d give them the highest accolade, the word “tough”, an adjective that implies strong favour from worldwide rock’n’roll instro fans. No novelty gimmicks, rebel yells or Benny Hill style sax, merely the boys themselves with the great Plas Johnson on tenor. I’ve selected Thunder wherein Plas excels himself on two solos, but he’s matched by the axe man who, I assume is Don Cole.
In ’63 Jody released a single on Smash, Don’t Jump/Stormy, produced jointly by Marty Cooper – see footnotes – and Lee Hazlewood. Cooper wrote the A-side – a typical theme for Jody – and Hazlewood, the flip. Other than the fact that both sides have much fuller, and indeed, more conventional arrangements than previous Reynolds singles, neither is particularly remarkable.
On Don’t Jump there must have been a feeling that they – Cooper & Hazlewood – were playing to Reynolds’ strengths; a dramatic intro, and then, “I had done my darling wrong, cheated constantly/Now she stands ten storeys up, looking down at me”. But the arrangement that follows has a bounce to it that largely destroys the mood that the lyrics were intending to create.
The flipside, Stormy, was the recycling of a song originally recorded by a gent called Donnie Owens in ’61. Owens was another one hit wonder albeit a minor one. His moment of glory came with teen ballad I Need You in ’58. His day job was rhythm guitar in Duane Eddy’s Rebels. Stormy was teen pop in style but very smoothly and professionally delivered – by now Jody had completely mastered the Ricky Nelson style though the record might have been aimed more at the Johnny Tillotson market. I should add that Stormy was the name of a lady, not a remark on the weather (even though Reynolds seemed to have an almost British trait of focussing on meteorological conditions).
Arguably, the most unusual release from Jody Reynolds was the one that came out in, I think, 1966 on the Titan label. I say “I think” because different accounts proffer different release dates, some stretching back as far as ’63. The original release was credited to “Jody and Bobbie”, though the 1967 re-release expanded this to “Bobbie Gentry and Jody Reynolds” which, of course, would have been shortly after Bobbie’s breakthrough with Ode To Billy Joe. Bobbie sang live with the band for a period. The record comprised two attractive Reynolds-penned numbers, Stranger In The Mirror and Requiem For Love. Both are in the West Coast folk rock vein which was kicked off by the Byrds in spring/summer 1965 Very unlike Jody’s previous work and well worth a listen. This is the A-side, complete with a variant on the Feel A Whole Lot Better riff.
But that’s not the end of the story in terms of curiosities and Jody Reynolds. The compilation album Endless Sleep: Rockabilly Best, available on Spotify, contains a number of tracks which don’t appear in any singles discography that I’ve seen on the man; the usually reliable Rockin’ Country Style lists them either as “Unissued” or “Need Information”. Amongst this grouping is an attractive number entitled Robbin’ The Cradle which seems to straddle the genres of teen pop and rock’n’roll. Listening to it does nag those memory banks though. Title wise it shares its name and first line with a number from another one hit wonder, Tony Bellus, from 1959. The melody and bulk of the lyrics do differ though. However, there is another song to which Jody’s Robbin’ The Cradle bears a strong resemblance both melodically and rhythmically. That record is Jack Scott’s Goodbye Baby, which was released in late ’58.
Here are the three. See what you think.
And if the YouTube cuts are faithful to the originals, the Reynolds recording and Goodbye Baby were actually recorded in the same key!
Putting thoughts of plagiarism to one side, I should own up to a liking for the Reynolds’ Robbin’ The Cradle even if I did come to it after the great Jack Scott’s “original”.
As a final thought, give Fire Of Love another play. Doesn’t that intro remind you of something/someone? People Are Strange from the Doors perhaps? Jim borrowed quite a lot from Jody and had a lot more success.
1. Whilst this might be a conceit on my part, I’d like this feature to be seen as “Anatomy of a One Hit Wonder #1”, i.e. as part of a series to which anyone can contribute. I have one or two others in mind but there must be loads more.
2. In his “1001 Singles Of All Time”, Dave Marsh rated Endless Sleep at 888, a ridiculously low position in my view. However, he coined the phrase “nightmare with reverb guitar” about the record so all is forgiven.
3. I’ve seen reports of Endless Sleep being written by Jody in the Backdoor Café in Yuma, Arizona (Ed Ward, Beyond Endless Sleep) and in Texas (Black Cat Rockabilly Europe), but what is common to such reports is young Jody being inspired by Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel – according to Ward, he “played it five times in a row and then went to his room in the adjoining motel and wrote Endless Sleep.”
4. Rather quirkily, Demon Records attributed the writing of Endless Sleep to Jody and a fictitious Dolores Nance in order to make it look as if Reynolds had been accompanied by another songwriter in the creation of the song – apparently pairings were seen as more likely to be professional. The flip plus both sides of the follow-up were given the same treatment but with a “Sonja Sturdivant” replacing Ms Nance.
5. I’m assuming that Duane Eddy and Lee Hazlewood need no introduction, but Al Casey who was associated with both of them, just might. He was mainly a session musician but also issued a number of records under his own name. As the sixties progressed he became part of the Wrecking Crew famed for backing not only the Spector artists but also a wide range of big and not-so-big names. His solo discs also met with some success. Surfin’ Hootenanny hit #48 in the US Chart in ’63 (source Wiki).
6. It’s entirely possible that the Storms instro singles were intended to catch the early days of the surfing craze but it doesn’t appear that much notice was taken of them unfortunately.
7. Don Cole, the man who replaced Al Casey on guitar, is known to rockabilly fans for his 1957 single Snake Eyed Mama. The single is actually credited in performance terms to Don Cole with Al Casey on piano, the song written by Lee Hazlewood.
Information on Cole is sparse but he was born Wendell Donald Cole in Phoenix, Arizona so is highly likely to have knocked about with the Hazlewood, Eddy, Casey, (Sanford) Clark crowd in the late fifties/early sixties. He released a handful of singles under his own name plus some under the alias of Tony Castle. Among the singles is a fascinating semi-novelty affair entitled Lie Detector Machine but I’ll leave the reader to dig that one out.
8. Plas Johnson is another celebrated session musician whose chosen instrument is the tenor sax. He started in L.A.’s Modern studios backing the likes of B.B. King and Johnny Otis but even before that he’d been on the road with blues pianist/vocalist Charles Brown. Apart from providing support for many of the classic swingtime singers he was also the go-to man for Capitol Records (Gene Vincent etc.) and Motown.
9. Marty Cooper who featured in a production/songwriting role on the single Jump Back/Stormy along with Lee Hazlewood was something of a backroom boy but appeared in his own right on a couple of albums in 1972 and 1979. He also co-wrote and produced Jack Nitzsche’s Lonely Surfer album in ’63. In addition, he was a member of a folk styled group called the Shacklefords from ’63 through to ’68. Other members included Hazlewood, Grazia Nitzsche (wife of Jack) and Albert Stone. They released an LP and had a minor hit with their first single release, A Stranger In Your Town.
10. Jody Reynolds wasn’t the only dinosaur rocker recording folk rock in L.A. in the mid/late sixties. Gene Vincent fans will be aware that their hero laid down a number of tracks for the Challenge label in that timeframe. Although these were varied in styling, at least a couple and possibly more could be viewed as folk rock. However, although I can’t be certain, it’s likely that Jody beat Gene to the punch in terms of date.
11. Jack Scott shouldn’t need an introduction but if any reader isn’t aware of him, check out My True Love and/or Leroy on YouTube. And it’s about time there was a Toppermost on the man.
12. Jody Reynolds didn’t release any LPs in his lifetime so all we have are compilations. Best of the bunch probably – I only say probably because I don’t actually own it – is the Ace Records collection, Jody Reynolds: The Complete Demon And Titan Masters. Alternatively, Spotify has a couple of comps, one of which I’ve referred to in the main text. That one is also available cheaply in MP3 format on Amazon.
Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is available as an ebook and is described by one reviewer as ‘probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across’. “RocknRoll” contains further reflections on One Hit Wonders in its 1,000+ pages. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX.