ANDY STARR (a.k.a. Frank Starr)
Born Franklin Delano Gulledge, 21 October 1932, Mill Creek, Arkansas Died 12 September 2003, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Named after the 32nd US President, Franklin Delano Gulledge was born on a farm near Combs, Arkansas. He experienced a dirt-poor childhood during which the seeds of later difficulties were firmly implanted. He dropped out of school early after pulling a pistol on a teacher, and by fourteen he was hoboing around the country. The anger of his adolescence found an outlet in firing at Koreans during the Korean War (leading to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder). Back in the USA, Starr formed the Arkansas Plowboys with his brothers, Bob and Chuck. They played in California until Starr headed for Dennison, Texas, where he obtained a slot on KDSX. The station manager advised him to seek out Joe Leonard, who owned the Lin label in nearby Gainesville. Leonard was impressed and a session in early 1955 produced four songs.
The first two Lin singles, "Dig Them Squeaky Shoes" and "Tell Me Why", were credited to Frank Starr and his Rock-Away Boys, but Frank Starr became Andy Starr to avoid confusion with a country singer of the same name. The two songs from the second Lin session, including the country rocker "Rockin' Reelin' Country Style", were hidden away until Ronny Weiser issued them on his Rollin' Rock label in 1975.
After sharing the stage with Elvis Presley in Gainesville in April 1955, Starr changed his style from honky-tonk to rockabilly. Joe Leonard saw a promising future for Andy and tried to place him with a major label via a lease deal. He approached the influential Aberbach brothers, who took Starr to MGM. Four Lin masters were bought and released by MGM in April 1956, and another four in September. These four MGM singles are still revered today for the classic rockabilly they are. The first one to hit the market was "Rockin' Rollin' Stone", on which the lead guitarist (Red Adair) replicates Scotty Moore's licks on "Good Rockin' Tonight". Starr co-wrote the song with Oklahoma songwriter W.D. Patty, who also supplied the two numbers of the second MGM 45, "She's A Going Jessie"/"Old Deacon Jones". On the next two singles, "Give Me A Woman"/"Round And Round" and "No Room For Your Kind"/"One More Time", Andy is backed by the Strikes, a sextet from Graham, Texas, who would soon be making records of their own, which were leased to Imperial. These four tracks with the Strikes are wilder, the drumming is louder and Starr's vocals are nothing short of frenetic. In spite of all the raw energy, the MGM sides were not successful, perhaps due to a lack of promotion. MGM wanted their own Elvis, but didn't want to pay the price and sent out only 200 promo copies of each new release.
Starr had his own radio show on KWAL in Wallace, Idaho, and continued to record for Joe Leonard at the Clifford Herring Studio in Fort Worth. In June 1957 he did a session for Kapp Records, resulting in one single release and two tracks that were shelved until 1995. In 1959 he brought rock n roll to Alaska, doing riot-inducing live shows with his band The Blue Notes. The owner of the Hi-Hat Club in Anchorage booked him for six months, but Starr (now again calling himself Frank Starr) ended up staying there for five years. A strip act was incorporated into his stage performance. Occasionally he flew back to Nashville to record new material, first for Sam Phillips's Holiday Inn label in 1961 ("Little Bitty Feeling"/"Lost in a Dream" was even released in the UK on London HLU 9545 in May '62) and then for Lin in 1963 (a remake of Lin's biggest hit, Ken Copeland's "Pledge Of Love"). On these sessions (still produced by Joe Leonard) he was backed by the Nashville A-Team and the Jordanaires. Of course the rough rockabilly style had long been abandoned, in favour of a polished pop-oriented sound.
Back from Alaska in 1965, Starr spent most of the next two decades in a whirl of booze, drug abuse, sex (he claimed to have slept with more than 5,000 women) and quirky religion. In the midst of all this, he found time to cut a handful of records for his own Starr label, including a live album at Idaho State Penitentiary, a religious LP and an X-rated album. Known to his fans as 'The Ultimate Rebel', Starr moved into politics in the 1970s. He ran for Idaho State Senator in 1974 and, in 1976, 1992 and 1996, even for President of the United States, on his own ticket.
By the 1990s he was performing music in a costume resembling the Stars and Stripes and trying to rebuild his career as a longhaired, All-American macho Male. He has never appeared in Europe, in spite of attempts by European agents. His last recordings were made in Nashville in mid-2002. Four of these were included on the CD "Starr Struck" on the Wild Oats label in April 2003, five months before Frank 'Andy' Starr died of complications from pneumonia, at the age of 70.
More info :
CD : "Dig Them Squeaky Shoes" - Bear Family BCD 15845 (all the MGM, Lin, Kapp and Holiday Inn sides). 27 tracks. Released in 1995. Liner notes by Wayne Russell.
Acknowledgements : Wayne Russell, Bill Millar, Craig Morrison.
Dik, April 2013
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