GROOVEY JOE POOVEY
Born Arnold Joseph Poovey, 10 May 1941, Dallas, Texas
Singer / songwriter / guitarist / disc jockey. "Ten Long Fingers" by Groovey Joe Poovey is one of my all-time favourites. Released in 1959, it went unnoticed in the USA and was unknown in Europe until 1969, when Dutchman Cees Klop acquired a copy. Rarely have I seen Cees rave over a record like he did over this one. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me that when Klop issued the first compilation LP on his own label in 1970, the album was called "Ten Long Fingers" (Collector CL 1005) and that Poovey's song was the first track on Side One.
Joe Poovey had his first music lessons on the steel guitar, but switched to guitar to be up front. His was a precocious talent, and his parents started teaching him about entertaining at age four. At the tender age of twelve he formed his first country band, the Hillbilly Boys. His first single came out in late 1955 ("Santa's Helper", written by his father) on the Rural Rhythm label from Arcadia, California.
In January 1956, Poovey started a 4-year run of regular performances on the Big D Jamboree (as "Jumping Joe Poovey") in front of three or four thousand enthusiastic country music fans. Like the Gran Ole Opry, the "Big D" was a weekly radio show, on KRLD in Dallas on Saturday evenings and a major focal point for aspiring musicians, writers, producers and entrepreneurs. After seeing Elvis's live shows in Dallas, Joe was converted to rockabilly. He dropped the hillbilly numbers from his act and began to develop his own rockabilly style, together with Jim Shell, an acquaintance from the Jamboree, who would become his producer and co-writer. Together they penned "Nursery Rock", "Silence Baby" and "Don't Blame It On Me", which were recorded in Jim Shell's studio in 1957, but they could not find a record label to release the songs. As a consequence, they remained unissued until Ronny Weiser released them on his Rollin' Rock label in 1974. But a second session in February 1958, this time at the better equipped Sellers studio in Dallas, resulted in the release of the 45 "Move Around"/"Careful Baby" on the Dixie label (a subsidiary of Starday Records), while the equally good "Sweet Louella" and "My Life's Ambition" were consigned to the vaults (also until their release on Rollin' Rock in 1974). "Move Around" (probably Joe's best known number after "Ten Long Fingers") was not written by Shell and Poovey, but by Les Gilliam, who played rhythm guitar on the session. It was a first rate rockabilly number, but failed to attract record buyers.
In 1959, Shell and Poovey returned to the Sellers studio with a new song they had written together. Clearly inspired by Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", both in lyrical content and chord structure, "Ten Long Fingers" (Dixie 2018) was a wild rocker about an imaginary piano wild man. Cees Klop thought that the song was about Jerry Lee Lewis and although Lewis is mentioned in the lyrics, I would say that the record is rather a tribute to Jerry Lee than a song about him. The piano intro by C.B. Oliver (a teenage keyboard prodigy) is one of the greatest intros in rock n roll and though the record lasts almost three minutes, it never lets up from start to finish. This should have been the breakthrough record for Poovey (now billed as "Groove[y] Joe Poovey"), but the single just came and went and Joe's celebrity remained confined to the Dallas area. As the first wave of rockabilly began to dissipate, Poovey drifted back to his first love, country music. The early 1960s saw him releasing a single on the Azalea label, followed by a four-year tenure with Sims Records where he had five more singles issued. During this period he also wrote songs which were recorded by major country artists like George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Wynn Stewart and Bobby Helms. By 1966 he had moved to Aubrey Mayhew's Little Darlin' label, still recording straight country. Under the name Johnny Dallas he scored his only chart entry, with the excellent "Heart Full Of Love", which peaked at # 62 on the Billboard country charts and at # 53 in Cash Box. The Little Darlin' recordings (most of them previously unissued) were assembled posthumously in 2004 on a CD called "The Late Great Me", which is available on Spotify. After a final single for the Media label in 1968, Joe allowed his recording career to wind down and concentrated on his work as a deejay, which he had already started in the 1950s.
Though the reissue of "Ten Long Fingers" on Collector in 1970 was a bootleg release and Joe didn't receive a penny initially, the European discovery of the record would reactivate his career. Following the Dutch release, "Ten Long Fingers" was issued as a single in the UK, on the newly-formed Injun label and the release of the 5-track Rollin' Rock EP in 1974 added to his fame in Europe. From 1976 onwards, he began to record again (this time as Texas Joe Poovey) and in November 1980 he made his first trip to Europe, reverting to the Groovey tag. He played dates with the Blue Cats (splitting his show between country and rockabilly) and recorded an EP for Misty Mountain Records in London, produced by Dave Travis, whose band would back him on his return to Europe in February 1984. Two albums appeared on European labels ("The Two Sides Of Groovey Joe Poovey" and "Yesterday And Today", both a mix of old and new material) before Joe undertook his third and last visit to the UK in October 1989, this time co-headlining the Hemsby Festival in Essex with Dale Hawkins.
Joe described to a Dallas reporter how he enjoyed his European trips, "Those guys treat you like royalty, sure different from here, nobody knows me here!" Back home he joined the Teamsters Union acting as a chauffeur on feature film sets, as well as the "Dallas" TV series. In the 1990s Poovey teamed up with guitarist/producer Bryan Freeze for a series of contemporary recordings, which included a fine remake of "Ten Long Fingers", as well as "Deep Ellum Blues", "From the Jungle To the Zoo" and "Deep Ellum Rock". In 1998 he worked with David Dennard on a career overview CD (see below), but before the album came out, Joe sadly died in his sleep on October 6, 1998, of a suspected heart attack.
More info :
Acknowledgements : David Dennard, Ian Wallis, Phil Davies.
Discography : http://countrydiscography.blogspot.com/search/label/Poovey%20Joe
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