Liner Notes For:
Everybody Digs Sammy Masters

I realize calling this Everybody Digs Sammy Masters may be taxing credibility a tad, but Everybody Who Has Ever Heard Sammy Masters' Rockabilly Singles On 4-Star won't fit on the spine.

I first encountered those singles when Joey Altruda played "Some Like It Hot" for me. Knowing my affection for Jimmy Bryant, he played me the one Jimmy Bryant record I had never even heard of, let alone even heard. The guitar stuff blew me away. So did the vocal -- it had a booming, swinging quality to it, sort of like Tommy Duncan with a bigger ... source of manhood. I was hooked. Then Levi Dexter played me a couple other cuts, and I was off on another search for somebody who was presumed dead.

Sammy wasn't dead, just living in Orange County. If you know anything about Southern California, you'll understand the mistake.

As it turns out, Sammy enjoyed a fairly illustrious career as a stronghold of California's country music scene. He wrote songs that were covered by Patsy Cline ("If I Could See The World Through The Eyes Of A Child", "Turn The Cards Slowly", "Who Can I Count On"), and Eddie Cochran (again "Who Can I Count On"). He was the music director of the seminal local country music TV show Cal's Corral, a show that featured guests like Buck Owens, and dozens of other country music legends. In addition, Sammy wrote and recorded the commercial jingle "Go See Cal", probably the most-heard jingle in the history of California TV. Cal Worthington, as it seems, was more than just a used car salesman. His TV show was a way to sell cars, to be sure (re: block advertising time). But Southern California youngsters of the fifties, sixties, and early seventies were exposed to the best country music TV could show. Think about its affect on then-youngsters Dave and Phil Alvin, for instance.

Also, Sammy ran his own Galahad label, and several of his singles charted nationally. He also recorded for bigger labels, like Kapp, and had some chart success there as well. Through this whole time, Sammy made his way through the California country bars, playing and singing country music that sold beer and helped Long Beach oilfield workers forget the exhausting forty hours they'd just put in.

Personally, I couldn't see trying to make a straight-up all-the-way-through rockabilly record with Sam. He'd never been a Gene Vincent or a Johnny Burnette. He was country singer who rocked when he wanted to. So, when we were planning this, we decided to find some rockabilly songs Sammy hadn't heard (both old and new), a few country standards, and a Bill Monroe song. The obvious question, of course, is "What does Bill Monroe have to do with California rockabilly?" Well, nothing. But I produced this record, and I love Bill Monroe more than anything. If this bothers you, get a deal together and produce your own record.

After we picked a bunch of songs, we started putting the band together. Sammy wanted very much to meet Ray Campi when he found out Ray & I are close. So, Ray was a shoo-in. Howard Greene is a great brush-drummer, and I knew he would give the music some swing.

When Deke Dickerson heard about this project, he volunteered to do anything just as long as he could be involved. And this is how we got the greatest rhythm guitarist in the history of the sport. As well as he plays rhythm, I wasn't going to let him pick up an electric guitar and deliver crushing blows to my pride (one note at a time). Plus, Deke brought all his vintage microphones so we could get the nice, warm sound. Then, he brought his (enormous) two-track tape deck to the mix-down.

The sessions themselves were two five-hour rounds of live playing. We'd have a program of songs picked out, get the best takes we could, and finish off the evening with one or two old favorite standards that were decided on the spot. I think "Slippin' Around" was the best of these.

It was a blast, and to hear Sammy plowing through these songs with all the authority you can have only after nearly five decades of singing country music in all its forms through all its trends ... Wow.

This was a whole lotta fun. With any luck, we'll all be together again real soon.

Skip Heller
Los Angeles, CA