Jack Rhodes, songwriter, sound engineer, and producer, was born Andrew Jackson Rhodes in 1908 in Van Zandt County. Reportedly, he dropped out of school. During World War II, Rhodes worked in the shipyards in Houston. A back injury on the job permanently sidelined him from his work, and Rhodes, almost forty, decided to embark on a career in music.
In the late 1940s he organized his own band, Jack Rhodes and His Rhythm Boys (also later known as the Lone Star Buddies), which sometimes included his stepbrother, songwriter and Bob Wills Texas Playboy Leon Payne. Rhodes performed on Louisiana Hayride as well as at clubs throughout Louisiana and East Texas. About 1953 he stopped performing and operated a small motel called the Trail 80 Motor Courts in Mineola, Texas. At some point he divorced his first wife, and in 1955 he married Loretta Williams. They had one son.
At his motel, Rhodes built a small studio and focused his efforts on songwriting and recording. He penned, individually and with others, a remarkable list of country and rockabilly songs destined to stand as classics in their respective genres.
He wrote (with Joe “Red” Hayes) “A Satisfied Mind” which became a Number 1 hit on the country charts for Porter Wagoner. Red and Betty Foley, Jean Shepard, Roy Drusky, Bob Dylan, and the Byrds also covered the song. Hank Snow recorded his song “Conscience I’m Guilty” as well as “Beautiful Lies.” With Dick Reynolds, he wrote “The Waltz of the Angels,” performed by Wynn Stewart in 1956 and later by George Jones and Margie Singleton. With Reynolds, Rhodes wrote another classic, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” which became a hit for the Springfields in 1962.
Rhodes signed a deal with publisher Central Songs which gave him access to have his material pitched to Capital Records. Consequently, such country artists as Sonny James, Ferlin Husky, Wanda Jackson, Jean Shepard, and Faron Young recorded his songs. During the mid-to-late 1950s, Rhodes also played a highly significant role in the development of rockabilly and in the writing of some of that genre’s most quintessential songs.
Rhodes wrote and/or co-wrote two of rockabilly’s most enduring anthems—“Action Packed” and (with Elroy Dietzel) “Rockin’ Bones.” He recorded budding rockabilly star Johnny Dollar in his Mineola studio and subsequently produced him in Dallas. Though the recordings were not released at the time, eventually rockabilly artist Ronnie Dawson had success with “Rockin’ Bones” and “Action Packed.” Rhodes also wrote and first recorded “Woman Love” at his studio, and the song was eventually covered by early rocker and Capitol artist Gene Vincent. Subsequently, Vincent recorded more of Rhodes’s songs.
Rhodes established his own record label, National Sounds, and continued to record musicians at his Mineola studio in the 1960s. Some of the recordings were released on other small labels and have since been highly-prized by collectors. Other material was not released. Rhodes died in October 1968. In 1972 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also received a BMI award for “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” which boasted more than one million radio broadcasts. For his groundbreaking and influential songwriting and promotion in rockabilly, he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009. The Mineola Historical Museum also had an exhibit on Rhodes. Thirty of his studio recordings, many of them unreleased, can be heard on the compilation, Gene Vincent Cut Our Songs: Primitive Texas Rockabilly & Honky Tonk.