35 years of Bear Family
  V/A 35!!!! years Bear Family
BCD 17035

With the time, the name Bear Family has become synonymous of top notch sound quality and thick booklet. This box set released for the label’s 35th anniversary makes no exception to the rule.
First you have the music: three cd’s filled with songs that have the word « bear » in common and exclusive to this set.
It may be a coincidence, I don’t know, but I preferred the ones that played the game and wrote songs about the labels (rather than just using the word « bear »). Thus Deke Dickerson offers a great talking blues à la Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette) with the hilarious Bear Family Talkin’ Blues. Rockabilly gal Kim Lenz tells us about a feeling we all know well here: waiting for the postman and the new Bear catalog – a winner. The real discover for me was Roland Heinrich. I remembered him from his psychobilly days with the Swamp Dogs. He made a long way since and reinvented himself in a Jimmie Rodgers meets Merle Travis style. I enjoyed The Ballad Of Pappa Bear and Mr Possum but most of all I adored the way he rewrote Sixteen Tons into Sixteen Discs. This guy translated onto tape the feeling of many buyers (like me, I’m afraid to say this).
The rest is of high quality too. Who would refuse unissued material from Paul Burch, The Sprague Brothers, Mike Sanchez, Little Rachel, Truly Lover Trio, Ray Campi to name but a few of the artists present here (68 songs in all).
The accompanying 208 page hardcover book is even more impressive. In the first part you can read the choices of music critics and experts who have picked their all time favourites. The second part is like a Deluxe Bear Family catalog with the covers of every album released by the German label (vinyls, picture discs, dvd’s, cd’s, box sets). Reading this I remembered the feeling that I had when I was a kid looking at my toys’ catalogs before Christmas. You almost want to buy each and everyone of them.
The bear Family quality is maybe the better answer to illegal downloading. A mp3 files could never match with those shiny silver disc, interesting booklets and beautifully packaged box sets.
Happy birthday Bear Family and here’s for another 35 years.

Fred "Virgil" Turgis

To join the celebration, I've picked 35 of my Bear Family cd’s. This is not a must have list or anything like that. It’s just a partial list made of subjective choices – my choices – of Bear Family releases I have acquired along the years and enjoy.
Jimmie Davies – Nobody’s Darling But Mine
BCD 15943

Jimmie Davis’ Rockin’ Blues was the first Bear Family lp I ever bought. At that time I didn’t know Jimmie Rodgers and that was totally out of hazard. I was immediately hooked by the sound, the voice, the songs, the yodel and Oscar Woods guitar. A brand new world opened its door to me. Years later, offered the box set

Jimmie Rodgers – The Singing Brakeman
BCD 15540
I can’t conceive the world without Jimmie Rodgers. I first started to buy Rounder serie, but I couldn’t find two volumes. It bothered me to say the least. The idea of Jimmie Rodgers’s song I couldn’t hear was torturing me. So I decided to make the big move and bought the Bear box-set (and gave the Rounder to my brother).

Marty Robbins – Rockin’ Rollins Robins
BCD 15566
Another one I first discovered on vinyl. For me Robbins is the more convincing country boy to play rockabilly (unlike Webb Pierce). And “I Can’t Quit” makes me cry almost everytime.

Jerry Lee Lewis – The Sun Years
BCD 15420
It may sound blasphemous but I’m not too keen of Jerry Lee’s hits and wild stuff (Whole Lotta Shakin, Great Balls Of Fire…). But he when he plays country numbers he’s got me in the palm of his hand. This 8 cd box set is full of those kind of little jewels.

Johnny Burnette Trio – Rockbilly Boogie
BCD 15474

What can I say that haven’t been said. This is rockabilly at its best. Thanks to the Stray Cats for turning me to this beautiful recordings.

Bill Haley – Rock’n’roll arrives – the real birth of rock’n’roll
BCD 16509
Bill Haley – The Decca Years
BCD 15506
Bill Haley – The Warner Years and more
BCD 16157

Bill Haley is my hero. Totally underrated and often ignored in rock’n’roll history Bill Haley is the man that started it all. For different reasons and because they form an incredible body of work this three box-set are essential. “Rock’n’roll arrives” shows the mutation of the country artist into the early rocker. Haley mixes his post war western swing with Rhythm’n’blues and the result still irritates the parents more than 50 years later. The box set comes with an impressive 100 page deluxe booklet.

The Decca Years gathers the golden years of Haley (starting with Rock Around The Clock) and his downfall. On five the cd, the material is uneven but remains fascinating. “The Warner Years” shows Haley in need of a second (even a third…) breath re-recording some of his older stuff, trying to come back to country music (with great musical – if not charts – success. It also first rate live recording. Hopefully Bear will make a fouth set as lots of material remains unissued.

Cliff Bruner & his Texas Wanderers
BCD 15932

This is for me the best western swing ever recorded (Milton Brown and Bob Wills being ex-aequo on the second step). I can listen to it from track 1 to track 123 without skipping ONE song. It’s an all in one, country, jazz, blues, ballads, you name it they play it.

Gene o’Quinn – Boogie Woogie Fever
BCD 16194

Hoped up hillbilly boogie with a characteristic nasal voice backed by Leon Rhodes, Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, Cliffie Stone, Merle Travis, Muddy Berry… Need I really say more?

Bob Wills – San Antonio Rose
BCD 15933

King Wills deserved this beautiful object: 11 cd’s and one dvd. Hours of some of the finest music ever recorded. It covers the best years in Wills career with the notable exception of the Tiffany Transcriptions (hopefully someday Bear will make a decent release of these recordings). The book is equally amazing with tons of pictures and impressive liner notes.

Glen Glenn – Rocks
BCD 16671

Yes he does and no one does that better than him.

The Everly Brothers – Outtakes
BCD 15931

First, as often with Bear Family, you have the object. It comes in a cardboard box like an old magnetic tape box with a thick booklet superbly designed and full of pictures. Then you have the music: 34 diamonds in the rough and they’re all as good as the definitive versions.

Tom Tall & Ginny Wright – Are you mine
BCD 16741

For some obscure reasons, I’m very attached to Ginny Wright. I discovered her with the Bear family lp “Whirlwind” back in the 80’s. I love the way she sings with all of her heart songs about Chihuaha dogs and Indian moons. I’m less interested by Tom Tall and would have included all of Ginny’s recordings instead. If you ask me I’d say that the world needs more Ginny Wright and less Taylor Swift.

Carl perkins – The classic
BCD 15494

He could sing, he could write songs and he could play the guitar, in other words he did alone what Elvis did with Scotty Moore and the best songwriters of the country. Perkins was the real star at Sun.

That’ll Flat Git It

It’s impossible to pick just one volume. That’ll flat git it is the most comprehensive serie of rockabilly compilations. Each volume comes with a thick booklet. Another high standard set by the German bear.

Ernest Tubb – Thirty Days
BCD 16866
The Texas Troubadours – Instrumentals
BCD 15946

I love Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours but Bear Family released 5 box-sets for a total of 30 cd’s which is more I can handle or buy. Those two single albums issued in the Gonna Shake This Shack serie were exactly what I needed. “Thirty Days” gathers the most uptempo numbers recorded by Tubb and “Instrumentals” is a collection of some of the finest hillbilly jazz ever recorded.

Little Jimmy Dickens – I’m Little But I’m Loud
BCD 16198

There’s not a weak track in Little Jimmy Dickens career, so just imagine how this “best-of” sounds. It’s filled with western swing), country boogie, proto rockabilly and frantic rockabilly. On all this recordings, Dickens leaves plenty of room for his musicians to shine, most notably a young Buddy Emmons on steel and the incredible pair of Howard Rhoton and James Wilson both on electric lead guitar. They are also featured on four amazing instrumentals. This great pieces of cowboy jazz equal the recordings made by Speedy West and Jimmie Bryant and are worth the price of this cd alone.

Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant – Flamin’ Guitars
BCD 15956

Talkin’ about hillbilly jazz, how about this one? On the four cd’s of this collection, I can easily live without one third of the songs (especially the Speedy West Hawaiian album that sounds very strange to me) but I sure can’t live without China Boy, Stratosphere Boogie or Water Baby Blues.

Faron Young – Hi-tone Poppa
BCD 16801

The early and uptempo sides of Faron Young still inspired by Hank Williams and a whole lot more. Excellent

The Treniers – Rock
BCD 16164

This is it!

Roy Orbison – The Sun Years
BCD 15461

Because “Domino” and Rockhouse” are two of the greatest rockabilly song sever recorded.

Curley Williams & his Georgia Pich Pickers – Just Pickin’ and a-singin’
BCD 16326
Curley Williams & his Georgia Pich Pickers – Half As Much
BCD 16666

Mostly remembered for writing “Half As Much” for Hank Williams (though the song is often erroneously credited to the Lovesick Blues boy), Curley Williams was a recording star of his own. He played a relaxed form (Williams had the reputation of being a slow talker and it shows) of western swing with honky tonkin’ bop. Included are two demos with Hank Williams.

Charline Arthur –Welcome To The Club
BCD 16279

Arthur was a precursor; Her attitude (smoking, acting wild, wearing slacks) probably didn’t help her career but she paved the way for all the rockin’ gals that followed. And had she been the tamest one, her music, a perfect blend of rock’n’roll, hillbilly and rockabilly would be enough to keep her in our mind.

Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons
BCD 15487

Ford is for me one of the best voices in country music. This collection gathers the best sides he recorded for Capitol in the 50’s. Uptempo numbers, mostly on a hillbilly boogie structure, with an impressive cast of backing musicians (Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Roy Harte, Merle Travis). Good time music.

Sonny Burgess – the Classic recordings
BCD 15525

More than Elvis, Burgess was the legendary “white man who can sing like a black man” like Sam Phillips supposedly said. And the Pacers approached to Rockabilly owned more to small Rhythm’n’Blues combo than bluegrass bands. The result is unique and, you guess it, essential. This 2 cd’s anthology is full of alternatives tracks and needless to say a very complete booklet.

The Collins Kids –The Rockin’est
BCD 16250

Sure an album can’t replace seeing the Collins Kids. You have to see young Larry acting wild with his too big for him guitar and turning around his sister that tries to keep her serious and Bear released a couple of DVD of their tv shows I warmly recommend too. But the fact is: this album rocks. It’s full of youthful and exuberant rockabillies. Many have tried to top Whistle Bait, Hoy Hoy, Mercy, but very few succeed.

Sleepy LaBeef – Sleepy Rocks
BCD 15981

First you have this voice. A deep voice. A you easily imagine that with a little help of destiny, Sleepy could have been a serious rival to Johnny Cash. This collection of recordings from the 50’s to the 70’s with a constant quality. LaBeef is not a songwriter but an interpret in the noble sense of the term. Everything he plays and sings instantly becomes his own (even when he recorded Johnny Cash songs for the budget market).

Robert Mitchum – That Man
BCD 15890

That Man is a collection of all commercial recordings made by Mitchum in the 50’s (Calypso Is Like So) and the 60’s (That Man). The former is a good tongue in cheek Calypso album and the later, a country pop album, proves that Mitchum was an above average singer. Take a drink, relax, and enjoy ol’ Bob Mitchum.
On a side note, I still don’t understand why Deke Dickerson never covered Ballad of The Thunder Road.

Lloyd Price - Lloyd Rocks
BCD 16999

The title says it all. Lloyd’s rockin’ tracks, groovy and full of juicy saxes. It features Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Just Because, I’m Glad, Stagger Lee and you’ll fing among others Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax. You can’t go wrong with that.

Kenny Roberts – Jumpin’ and Yodelin’
BCD 15908

If you are, like me, crazy about everything that yodels, this one is for you. You listen to this songs and you wonder “How can he do that without taking his breath”. Totally crazy. It’s also a good record to amaze your friends (though they’ll consider you insane right after the listening).

Sid King & The Five Strings – Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight
BCD 15535

A truly unique blend of rockabilly, doo-wop, honky tonk, rhythm’n’blues, hillbilly and western swing with a couple of odd things added for good measure. If you feel bad, ask your doctor for a dose of Sid King.

Johnny Horton – Rockin’ Rollin’
BCD 15543

Another one that don’t need a very long introduction, just read the titles: Cherokke Bookin, Honky Tood Hardwood Floor, the Wild One, I’m Coming Home, Honky Tonk Man and one of my favourite song ever Don’t Like I Did.