TRAVIS AND BOB
Travis Pritchett, born 18 March 1939, Jackson, Alabama
Travis and Bob were one-hit wonders from Jackson, Alabama, a small town in Clarke County, with a population of 5,419 at the 2000 census. They attended the local grammar school together and had a common interest in making music. A DJ at WPBB, Jackson's hometown radio station, suggested that they go to Mobile to make a demo. A guy called Henry Bailey had a little sound studio there and was so enthusiastic about their song "Tell Him No" that he introduced Travis and Bob to Johnny Lee Bozeman and Paul Dubois, who owned the Sandy label in Mobile. Dubois and his brother Johnny recorded the duo in a garage in their hometown, Gulfport, Mississippi. "Tell Him No" was the first song Travis Pritchett ever wrote. The record took off immediately and the Sandy label, which had never had a hit before, arranged a deal with Randy Wood's Dot label to ensure that the record would get national distribution. By April 1959 the disc had climbed to # 8 on the Billboard charts. A cover version by Dean and Marc (the Mathis brothers, who had worked with Dale Hawkins and would later form the nucleus of the Newbeats) also charted, on the Bullseye label, peaking at # 42. There were other covers : by the Jackson Brothers (Atco 6139, issued in the UK on London HLX 8845*) and in the UK by the Mudlarks and the Lana Sisters, a trio that included a youthful Dusty Springfield. The Travis and Bob version was released in the UK on Pye Inter- national N 25018, but did not chart there, though it was a hit in several other European countries, like my native Holland, where it went to # 2.
The follow-up, "Little Bitty Johnny" (Sandy 1019) was issued in May 1959 and is arguably their best record. However, in Billboard it got no further than a "Bubbling under" position at # 114, and it spent two weeks on the Cash Box Top 100, peaking at # 95. "Oh Yeah"/"Lover's Rendezvous" followed soon thereafter, but sold even fewer copies and "Wake Up And Cry"/"That's How Long" (Sandy 1029, March 1960) was their swan song on Sandy, though an album's worth of stuff was recorded. "They had quit trying on us", said Travis. "They'd made some bucks, and they were satisfied. It woulda meant puttin' more money into us". Travis and Bob are sometimes compared to the Everly Brothers, but they were not in that league. A comparison to the Kalin Twins is more appropriate and for Mercury they cut one song by the Kalins, "The Spider And the Fly" (recorded prior to "When"). Wesley Rose, hot for a duo after losing the Everly Brothers, tempted them with 10 grand if they would sign to his Hickory label. But Bob Weaver had developed a deep mistrust of the music industry and would not go along with the plan. He and Travis parted ways, with Travis continuing as a solo act and songwriter. Travis Pritchett would later work in insurance for many years, eventually settling into the security business.
"Tell Him No" was the only hit Sandy Records ever had. The history of the label (1957-62) is told in some detail in the liner notes for the CD "Gulf Coast Grease : The Sandy Story, Vol. 1" (Ace CDCHD 595). The last sentence of those notes (by Ray Topping) is : "Sandy's hit makers Travis and Bob are not included on this collection as they will be featured on the next instalment of the Sandy story, with a whole CD of their own." That was in 1996. It is 2007 now and the CD still isn't there. One of several promises that Ace didn't keep. "Tell Him No" is available on an Ace compilation though, "The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll, Vol. 5" (Ace 600).
There is, however, a CD featuring 14 tracks by Travis and Bob, probably their complete recorded output. The title is "Takin' A Ride With Travis & Bob and Jim & John": http://www.gocontinental.com/cdlist/gs901124_travisand.shtml The CD also features 17 tracks by Jim and John (the Cunningham twins), who also recorded as the Twin-Tones. They wrote and recorded the original version of "Jo-Ann", a cover of which by the Playmates was a # 19 hit in early 1958. The Twin-Tones version was not released as a single in the USA (only on an RCA EP), but "Jo-Ann"/"Before You Go" was a single in Germany and Holland (RCA 47-9153) and I had that single 40 years ago. I remember that I liked the up-tempo "Before You Go", but not enough to keep it..
Acknowledgements : Wayne Jancik, The Billboard book of one-hit wonders (revised and expanded edition 1998), page 73-74.
* The X in London HLX 8845 is not a mistake (Atco had prefix HLE, later HLK). Apparently there was some involvement of the BigTop label.
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