CAPROCK RECORDS. Record label Caprock Records was established in Big Spring, Texas, about 1957, by Hank Harral. Harral’s desire to create and publish his distinctive style of music led him to launch Caprock Records. The Caprock label recorded at the High Fidelity House Studio in Big Spring, owned by Ben and Dina Hall. During Harral’s studio sessions, Weldon Myrick played lead and steel guitars, with Red Stone on rhythm guitar, and Dina Hall on bass guitar. Although Caprock Records was short-lived, (the last record was pressed in 1960), the label produced twenty-two discs, four of which were Harral’s. Some of Caprock’s recordings include “Fabulous Oklahoma,” “Picture in My Heart,” “Hellbound Train,” “D.J. Train,” “Tank Town Boogie,” “Sweet Memory,” “Oklahoma Land,” and “Mortgage on Your Heart.” Harrel’s “Tank Town Boogie” remains an international favorite among rockabilly fans and a record prized by collectors.
Harral was born in 1913 in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma, but moved with his family to Amarillo in 1926. He began performing at the age of fifteen on stations KGRS and KDAG in Amarillo. He eventually had his own radio show on KGRS, where he performed with the band, the Air Sweet Boys. Harral then moved to Clovis, New Mexico, where he appeared on KICA radio and performed with the Texas Wranglers and worked as a radio announcer. In 1947 he transferred to KSEL in Lubbock, where he formed his own band, Hank Harral and the Plains Riders. The band recorded six sides in 1947. In 1948 Harral formed a new group, the Palomino Cowhands, who recorded four songs in either 1949 or 1950. Harral also became program director and radio announcer at Lubbock’s KSEL. At that time, Harral and the Palomino Cowhands made several records for both the Star Talent label and the Dutch White label. It was while he worked for KHEM in Big Spring that Harral founded Caprock Records. After he shut down Caprock in 1960, Harral continued to work on radio until his death on December 28, 1985.
Hank Harral’s desire to record his own music may have been indicative of his affinity for the new country sound. As historians Joe Carr and Alan Munde point out in Prairie Nights to Neon Lights, “Harral’s music reflects the changing sound of country music during this period, from the western swing of the late 1940s to the honky-tonk sound of the early 1950s to the rockabilly beat of the late 1950s.” After World War II, boogie was extremely popular with country music fans. From the late 1940s to the 1950s, many country singers, such as Tennessee Ernie Ford and Red Foley, recorded boogie tunes. Ford had tremendous success with his “Shotgun Boogie,” as did Red Foley with his “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.” As music historian Bill Malone states in his book, Country Music, U.S.A., “Country musicians had long demonstrated an affinity for the blues and for other black-derived forms.” Malone also contends that this blending of country blues and boogie helped lay the foundation for the emergence of rock-and-roll.
Harral recorded several West Texas artists on the Caprock label. The first was Dixie Rogers, who, while still in high school, wrote her own music and recorded six songs, including “I Will Miss You,” “Our First Date,” and “World of Broken Hearts.”
Another Texas artist, who recorded six songs for the Caprock label was Hoyle Nix, a protégé and friend of western swing legend, Bob Wills. Nix’s Caprock recordings included “My Wasted Love,” “Comin’ Down From Denver,” and “Big Balls in Cowtown.” Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys included guitarist Eldon Shamblin, who had performed with Bob Wills for many years.
Harral also recorded fellow rockabilly musician, Durwood Haddock. Haddock made one record in 1958 for the Caprock label under the name Durwood Daly. This included “That’s The Way It Goes” and “I’m a Lonesome Old Boy.” Haddock, originally from Denison, Texas, played in honky-tonks in the 1950s and then became a disc jockey in West Texas. He was also a songwriter, who penned “There She Goes,” a major hit for Carl Smith in 1955.
Ace Ball (Balch) recorded the songs, “I’ve Lost Again,” and “High School Wedding Band” for the Caprock label. Balch backed Harral on rhythm guitar on his previous recordings under the Star Talent label, and he worked with Harral at KHEM radio station in Big Spring.
Jimmy Haggett, a country singer who also sang rockabilly, recorded on the Caprock label. Hailing from Illinois, Haggett played with several bands before forming the Ozark Mountain Boys. He also worked as a disc jockey for KBOA in Kenneth, Missouri, and WWYN and KLCN in Arkansas. Haggett cut records on several labels, including Sun Records, Meteor, Vaden, and K-Ark. His two songs recorded on Caprock include “All I Have is You,” and “Without You,” recorded in 1958.
Jimmie Simpson, country singer, disc jockey, and oilfield worker, was one of the most popular of the Caprock label singers. Simpson made appearances on the Louisiana Hayride, the Grand Ole Opry, and Big D Jamboree, and he worked for radio stations WDBL in Springfield, Tennessee, and later KBYR and KFAD in Anchorage, Alaska. Simpson cut records for several small labels, including Jiffy, Hidus, Big State, Republic, Starday, Sourdough, and one record with Caprock—“I’m an Oilfield Boy”/“Breaker of My Heart.”
Other Caprock label artists who recorded in 1958 and 1959 were Jack Tate, who recorded “Casanova” and “Maybe I Won’t Need You Anymore,” and Roy New and the Trans-Pecos Melody Boys with “Heartaches For Sale,” and “Blue Tomorrow.” Max Alexander, more of a rockabilly artist, recorded “Little Rome” and “Rock, Rock, Rock, Everybody.” The last record made by the Caprock label featured Jack Moore with “Here Comes the Dream Again,” and “Tell Me Why.”
Caprock Records aptly reflects the heyday of rockabilly music in Texas. According to The Encyclopedia of Country Music, “many of the best and rawest rockabilly singles were primitive performances recorded by obscure performers around the nation and released on tiny regional labels.” Rockabilly declined in popularity by the early 1960s, as the so-called “British Invasion,” led by the Beatles and others, ushered in a new era in the evolution of rock-and-roll.
45 Discography for Caprock Records (http://www.globaldogproductions.info/c/caprock.html), accessed October 10, 2010. Joe Carr and Alan Munde, Prairie Nights to Neon Lights: The Story of Country Music in West Texas (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1995). Paul Kingsbury, ed., The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Bill C. Malone, Country Music U.S.A. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968; rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985; 2d rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002). A.J. Nightingale, “Ramblin’ Blues” Rock Street Journal 7 (July 1984), reprinted as “Jimmie Simpson: The Oil Field Boy,” bopping (http://www.bopping.org/eng/?p=1136), accessed October 9, 2010.
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