New Oldies: Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues

Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues
Bill Hockett – Shirley Anne – Larry Peterson

This is your lucky day! You’re about to enjoy one of my favorite Teener records from the heartland of America, backed with a charming and fun-filled novelty song that features some very good yodeling and a chipmunk-style voice. Yah dere, hey – You read that right – Yodeling!!! Make sure your cheese-heads are screwed on real tight because here we go now…

Shirley Anne Hudziak was born 21 April 1942 in Oconto, Wisconsin, a small town on the western coast of Green Bay. When she was 18 years old, she began singing and playing rhythm guitar in a Country-Rock combo called Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues. The small band was led by her husband at the time, lead guitarist William (Bill) Hockett, along with bass player Larry Peterson. They were based in the western Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha, birthplace of legendary guitarist, Les Paul.

In 1968, the group went to Dave Kennedy’s recording studio in Milwaukee to cut their first record, a cover of Al Martino’s 1963 recording of Somebody Else Is Taking My Place, backed with a cover of Frankie Yankovic’s 1948 recording of Just Because. These songs were released locally on Tee Pee 71/72. Shortly afterward, they cut today’s New Oldie, Billy, an original composition by Bill Hockett, backed with a crazy cover of a song called Chime Bells, first recorded by Elton Britt in 1939. They made just one more record after this, Lonely Girl, backed with Baby Face, the classic tune first recorded in 1926 by Jan Garber.

Here’s Billy by Shirley Anne And The Country Rogues on Raynard 1094 from 1968:

While you’re listening to this, remember that “Billy” was Shirley Anne’s husband at the time, as well as lead guitarist and leader of the band. This might explain why Shirley Anne is so convincing when she sings these lyrics. She was clearly singing this from her heart, and that always makes for a fine piece of music.

Now here’s the really fun flip side of the record, a tune called Chime Bells:

The chipmunk voice was done by a guitar player from Oconomowoc named Dick Smith who is credited on the label as The Country Rodent.

I’m not sure this record is particularly valuable, but it’s certainly quite rare. In fact, it’s not even listed in any of my price guides. I really believe it should be in the Teen Collectors Record Guide by Jeff Kreiter, but it’s not. It’s not even in Jerry Osborne’s Rockin’ Records guide, even though he does list the Country Rogues first single on Tee Pee with a $5-10 suggested value. When customers came into my record shop looking for a record that was really tough to find, I’d usually insist on getting a higher price for it. If they tried to negotiate a lower price, I’d simply tell them to go look for another copy somewhere else and come back after they gave up the search!

Want some more fun? Here’s Elton Britt doing his own version of Chime Bells:

Before disbanding in 1971, a few other musicians passed through the group including Kenny Christiansen on bass, Carl Whitney on drums, Freddy Marcus on lead guitar, and Carl Jacobson on drums. They played gigs around southeastern Wisconsin, occasionally crossing the border into northern Illinois. At one point, they were lured to New York City by some TV producers for an interview. This led them to Nashville where a record producer tried to buy one of their original compositions, something called The Bitter And The Sweet. Despite several attempts, they never agreed to sell their song. The band broke up in 1971. Shirley and Bill eventually went their separate ways. She kept performing locally until about 2003, working in the 1980’s with a band called Gold Rush, and did some gigs with her daughter and son-in-law into the 1990’s. Shirley’s now married to Gary Bohlmann and the happy couple are still living in Waukesha.

I updated this post on 29 October 2013 to add scans of the labels after finally finding my copy of this single in my collection.

If you want to hear more music from America’s Heartland, check out MusicMaster Oldies. We’re playing thousands of songs like this from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Listen for a while and you’re bound to hear the Greatest Hits You’ve Never Heard!