Riley Walker and the Rockin' R Rangers.
Atomic Record # 1003/1004 - 1954.
It's A Little Late / Windy Waltz
Photo shows Charles Gallagher (left) and Riley Walker (right)
More revelations from Peter Vogel: Atomic Records, incidentally, was Walker’s own label, and, as Vogel puts it, the label is “the exact yellow that gives refined uranium ore its name: yellowcake.” He distributed copies of the record to stores (where it sold for 98 cents) and jukeboxes all over the region. And its topicality and easy appeal had kept it in regular rotation in some of these jukeboxes for decades.
Walker formed the band in 1947 (the same year, incidentally, that Hank Williams’s “Move it On Over,” came out, which “Uranium Miner’s Boogie” will remind some listeners of), and it featured Walker’s sister Belva on piano, a brother-in-law (not Belva’s husband) named Charles Gallagher on steel guitar, and a bassist named Gordon Hawkins.
The Rockin-R-Rangers played frequently all over the region, including a dance hall Walker ran himself for awhile in Cortez, Colorado (a town in which he’d also been working as a part time disc jockey for local station KVFC). He called it the Rockin R Rancho, and booked artists like Jim Reeves, Billy Walker, T. Texas Tyler, and apparently Elvis himself who, according to Vogel, was opening up for Tyler at the time. I had no idea that EP had ever toured with Mr. “Deck of Cards” and none of my web searching or page flipping has borne this out. (Any Elvisologists care to step forward?)
Walker quit the music business for good when the band split up in ‘58, and he drove trucks until ‘84. But thanks to this record and the efforts of Vogel, we can safely add Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers to the very small list of real-deal rock ‘n’ roll pioneers from the Utah and four corners region. And to drive the point home, may I suggest playing the record again and listening while reading the following choice passage from Vogel’s article:
Vogel said : But it was out at the old rustic Buckhorn Club [in Cortez] in the west end of town where things got really lively. There was at least one fight every night and sometimes there would be as many as 20 or 30 people fighting on the dance floor, regardless of the season of the year.
It would be a regular knock-down, drag-out brawl because one guy who would be drinking wouldn’t like the way somebody else would be holding his wife or his girl and that would start the fight. Then friends on both sides of the dispute would jump in and you couldn’t any longer tell who was on which side. “There were too many fists flyin’ around to get very close,” Walker recalls.
All the women would get back out of the way and watch the fight sitting at the tables or they would run into the restroom. “But we’d just keep on playin’ and sometimes we might have had to sidestep in case they started fallin’ our way, but generally they left us alone since we weren’t involved. Then the management would call the police and wait awhile.
“Men were more quarrelsome in those days and liked a fight and there weren’t any regular police assigned to the Buckhorn Club, which was known locally as ‘The Bucket of Blood.’ But when the call finally went up that the police were pullin’ in, the men fighting on the floor would all disappear pretty fast so as not to be arrested and taken to jail and the police would arrest whoever was lying out on the floor knocked out.”