SPEEDY WEST and JIMMY BRYANT. When Speedy West entered the scene in the 1940s, the steel guitar was an indelible fixture of country music. Wesley Webb West (or "Speedy") was born January 25, 1925, in Springfield, Missouri. Hearing the sound on the radio, he persuaded his parents to buy him a steel guitar for his 12th birthday.
His first job came in the mid-1940s when he joined Red Egner and his Shamrock Cowboys. Moving to California in 1947, he joined Spade Cooley's band and got hired for the "Hometown Jamboree" radio shows. Hosted by Tennessee Ernie Ford's manager, Cliffie Stone, it was natural Speedy would be featured on Ford's Capitol recordings and rado shows and get his own Capitol contract.
Six weeks behind Speedy West, JIMMY BRYANT was born in Mouthrie, Georgia, on March 5th, 1925. By five he was playing fiddle with his father and by his teens, now also playing guitar, they toured the Eastern states and earned a living from what bookings they could find. Jimmy's proficiency on guitar enabled him to work as a backing musician and he eventually got regular bookings on "Hometown Jamboree" where he met Speedy. The two worked well together and a successful recording duo was born.
On this collection, Speedy West seems at home during the amiable interplay with Tennessee Ernie Ford, of whose band he was a key member during the 1950s broadcasts. Speedy always got to play at least one solo, but Jimmy was an occasional guest and was heard less often. The other regular musicians, Billy Liebert on piano or accordion, Harold Hensley on fiddle, George Bruns on bass, and Billy Strange on guitar (when Jimmy was absent), all colored in the obvious fun which made the Tennseee Ernie Ford shows so popular.
LEAH RAY was assigned the important spot as the Phil Harris Orchestra's lead female vocalist during its early run at the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood. Thanks to Phil, this teenage beauty from Norfolk, Viringia (born Leah Ray Hubbard) was tagged "the dimples from Dixie." A season at The Grove helped Leah Ray's career in films. In 1933, she appeared with Maurice Chevalier in Paramount's "A Bedtime Story." From 1936-38, she appeared in 20th Century Fox musicials "Wake Up and Live" and "One in a Million." She gave up her promising career in 1938 in favor of marriage.
THE THREE AMBASSADORS were a trio of Hollywood High students - Martin Sperzel, Jack Smith and Al Teeter - that applied at The Grove to replace the popular "Rhythm Boys." They not only got the job, but remained in big demand for three years with the Phil Harris Orchestra. Jack Smith of the trio had an especially pleasing voice and was called on for solos with the Harris band. When The Three Ambassadors split in 1939, Jack Smith continued on radio as a single and appeared on "Your Hit Parade," his own radio program, and later hosted the TV series "You Asked For It."
These recordings survive thanks to transcription discs of broadcasts of the Phil Harris Orchestra from the Cocoanut Grove.