Jim Minor was born on Jan. 20, 1931 in DeValls Bluff, Ark. Jim comes from a family
of musicians. He learned to sing and play at a very early age. When he was just a young teenager
he won the Arkansas Livestock show talent contest and won to play with
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper at a radio station KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas.
Jim went in the army in 1947 and when he got out in 1950 he met his future
wife Gloria Wells in DeValls Bluff, Arkansas and they moved to Mount Vernon, Indiana and they
were married in 1951.
Jimmy moved to Evansville, Indiana in 1953 and played in a local hillbilly band called
The Ranch Hands. In 1953 Evansville got its first television station, WFIE over Channel 62.
The call letters stood for "Were First In Evansville".
In November 1953 a live 30 minute hillbilly
show titled Jim Minor and The Diamond Kay Ranch Hands aired. The show aired for 26 weeks.
The show was sponsored by Kay Jewelers, which is now a national chain of jewelry stores.
Jimmy's son Todd relates that his mother recalled Jimmy did some work as a disc jockey for a station
in Evansville, but cannot recall the name. He was also a part of the Big E Jamboree being held in
Evansville at the time over station WRAY-TV. The Big E Jamboree was held at the Legion Auditorium
in Evansville from 8:00 to 10:00pm on Saturday nights. After the show went off the air, dancing
continued up until midnight. Another act on the Big E Jamboree was the HIllbilly Playboys, Billy and Sherman Smith.
Jim heard that money grows on trees in Michigan and he took the hillbilly highway North
and landed in Flint, Michigan in 1954. One of Jimmy's first jobs in Flint was working at country radio station WBBC as a disc
jockey when he landed a recording contract with The Western Chuck Wagon Record Label. This label
was owned by Les Emery of Flint, Michigan who named the label after his Flint restaurant.
Jim produced all the records for the label. Jim had two records released by this label
and another was released by Lonnie Barron. Jim went over to Marine City, Michigan to the radio station
where Lonnie was a disc jockey. Jim went over on a Sunday when Jim and Lonnie knew the owner
would not be around. They recorded the sides for Lonnie's record and Jim’s record.
It should be noted that only three records were released on the Chuck Wagon label. His son
Todd recalls that his dad would tell him stories of going to the annual Disc Jockey convention
hosted by WSM each year in Nashville.
Billboard noted in 1955 that his release on Chuck Wagon was a '...brisk tempo item competently handled'
but noted that the other side didn't seem to have much conviction in his presentation.
In 1956, Lonnie Barron and Jimmy Minor took off on a trip that maybe was to explore other opportunities.
One stop was in Louisville, Kentucky. They met with William King of William H. King Enterprises. Lonnie
got an appearance on the Pee Wee King show over WBBM-TV in Chicago on January 28, 1956 along with
the female singer in his band, Ella Mae Ware. On their way to Louisville, Lonnie and Jimmy stopped off
in Cincinnati to visit with WCKY's disc jockey duo, Marty Roberts and Nelson King.
Jim went to work for Buick in 1957. Jim had some staunch fans in the GM hierarchy who
would let Jim take off for weeks to go to Nashville to record or to go out on a tour.
Jim was owner of Everest Recording Company of Flint, Michigan. Jim and Bob Cloud had a talent and
promo agency and a publishing company. They heard a local song by a guy named
Jim Bullington titled Love Bug Crawl.
They took Bullington to Nashville, Tennessee in 1958 and they change his name to Jimmy Edwards
and they redo the Love Bug Crawl. It becomes an instant hot 100 hit. Jim Minor
was Edwards Manager, a writer and his publisher. Minor and Edwards in Jan. 1958 went on tour
on Irvin Felds Greatest Teenager Stars Tour.
Jim and Bob Cloud in 1957 and 1958 published Narvel Felts on Mercury Records. Connie Dycus
was a Flint, Michigan entertainer and even had his own tv show. Jim took him
to Nashville to the RCA Studio b and they record 4 songs. Rock-a-bye-baby Rock
and Mind If I Cry were released by Mercury Records and the other two songs
Please Mister and I Know were released on Jim and Bob’s record label
Colt “45” records of Flint, Michigan 1959. This was a country and western label. On this label
were artists: Donna Chrysler/Donah Hyland, Connie Dycus, Paul and Larry and Eddie and Don.
In 1960 Jim signed a recording contract with Mercury Records. That meant Jim had to make a trip
to Nashville. The recordings were done at the famed RCA Studio B. Since Jim always paid
for his sessions at RCA Studio B, he for most part got the services of the same "A Team" Nashville
musicians on his records. Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, The Jordanaires, Junior Huskey, Murray Harman, Grady Martin
and Hank Garland were ALL on his recordings in Nashville.
Jim had two 45 records released in May 1960 for Mercury Records. Billboard magazine did
a record review of these records in their May 9th, 1960 issue. The songs were:
Satan’s Chauffeur, So Doggone Lonesome, I'm a Fool For You
and Death Row.
The Billboard reviews give us some hint as to the vocal styling of Jimmy - comparing him favorably
to Johnny Cash. "Death Row" was cited as "...a slow, dirge-like tale of life behind the prison bars. Minor
offers it in heartfelt, Cash-like, country-oriented style. It's quite a telling tale, full of moral lessons."
Later, they wrote of "Satan's Chauffeur", "...sells it in mighty strong style over snappy backing by the
group and combo...has a style similar to Johnny Cash."
In 1960, Art Talmadge of Mercury records moved over to the United Artists record division and
took Jimmy Minor with him. Jimmy again went to RCA Studio B and recorded a
record for United Artists, Reveille and How Can I Be Best Man.
It turned out that Reveille was Jim’s biggest number.
But suppliers could not get enough copies of Jimmy's record because United Artists was busy
stamping out two number one hit movie soundtracks at the time. This created a situation where suppliers
would order 1,000 of Jimmy's record but would only get 50.
In 1960, Jimmy also took two other performers from Michigan to do a record for United Artists in RCA Studio B.
They were Vada Belle and Alice Berry; there recordings were released by United Artists in 1960.
While all the recording activity in Nashville seemed to have taken place in 1960, Jimmy seemingly \
made another trip to Nashville in October 1961 and made his first appearance on WSM's Grand Ole Opry
with Ernest Tubb and Billy Grammer. Jimmy later played on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree after the Opry
when it was being broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record shop on Broadway in Nashville.
Jimmy got to know Ernest Tubb a bit and in 1959 when Ernest and his Texas Troubadours were making
an appearance in Saginaw, Michigan, Jimmy introduced Ernest to a young female singer he had on his
Colt "45" label, Donna Chrysler. Ernest liked what he heard and even reportedly got Donna
a recording contract with Decca Records. But it appears that maybe Donna's parents interceded and
she did not get to record for Decca. She is probably more known to fans as Donah Hyland, a yodeler,
who was inducted into Michigan's Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 1965 Jimmy did his last recording and was for Sound, Inc. of Detroit.
The record was produced by Howard Walker and the songs were Jackson Prison Bars
(which was written by Jimmy) and Aggravatin’ Waitin’.
During the course of his musical career, Jimmy played one guitar - a Gibson J-185.
Jimmy had a heart attack and in 1978 he retired from General Motors Fisher Body Division
in Grand Blanc, Michigan. He moved back home to his hometown of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas.
Jim passed away in 2009 from congestive heart failure. He left behind his wife
of 58 years and 6 children, 7 Grand Children and 11 Great Grand Children.
Credits and Sources
- Hillbilly-music.com wishes to express its appreciation to Todd Minor, son
of Jimmy Minor for providing us with biographical information and photos from Jimmy's career.
- Cowboy Songs; No. 37; September-October 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Billboard; December 3, 1955; The Billboard; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Billboard; January 28, 1956; The Billboard; Cincinnati, Ohio
- Country and Western Jamboree; January 1956; Maher Publications, Inc.; Chicago, IL
- Country Song Roundup; No. 63; November 1959; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Billboard; May 9, 1960; The Billboard; Cincinnati, Ohio