Odis “Pop” Echols – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

Odis Echols and his Melody Ranch Boys KWKH Car

This April the Crossroads Music Archive at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library is excited to debut their exhibit, “Odis ‘Pop’ Echols.” It highlights the life of the titular Echols, whose influence on music in the United States was tremendous.

Echols Brothers Trio

Odis Echols, known as “Pop,” was born May 7, 1903 in Enloe, Texas. In 1922 he moved near Clovis, New Mexico, with his bride Grace Traweek. There he taught shape-note singing, formed the Echols Brothers Trio, and joined The Plateau Quartet. In 1926 he won a spot with Frank Stamps’ original Stamps Quartet, which traveled the South singing gospel and popular music of the day (while selling Stamps-Baxter songbooks…) Echols often got standing ovations for his baritone rendition of “ol’ Man River.” In 1927 the group recorded for Ralph Peer of Victor Records and their “Give the World a Smile” became the first gospel record to sell one million copies! Echols formed his own quartet and opened a songbook store in Lubbock, Texas, organizing singing schools at churches across West Texas all the while.

Odis and Stamps Record Cover

Soon Echols had moved his Stamps Melody Boys to CBS affiliate WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky, where he convinced Mutual Radio Network to broadcast the first coast-to-coast gospel music show. In the meantime he built Hartford Publishing into the second-largest gospel publisher, sold his interest in the company, and moved to Shreveport, Texas, where his Melody Boys sang on KWKH’s Red River Valley Roundup, the forerunner of the Louisiana Hayride.

KCLV Building ADJ

He moved back to Lubbock, where he worked as a radio announcer at KSEL and mentored entertainers including saxophonist Bobby Keys and vocalist Charlene Hancock. Never one to stop pushing forward, Pop then purchased station KCLV in Clovis in 1953, and settled there.

Empire Room McGuire Sisters

In 1957 Pop appeared on national television’s This is Your Life at the request of teen idol Tommy Sands, who credited Pop with starting him in show business. But his biggest success came a year later when he met Charlie Phillips and collaborated on the song “Sugartime.” You know the song: “sugar in the mornin’ / sugar in the evenin’ / sugar at suppertime.” (Enjoy the earworm!) Released with McGuire Sisters’ vocals, in 1958 “Sugartime” went gold and reached Number One on the pop charts. Pop Echols continued to work in the music business until his death on March 23, 1974.

While the exhibit is only up from early April until the early fall, Echols’ Papers are forever available for research at the Crossroads Music Archive here at the SWC! Contact our ever-helpful Reference Staff if you’d like to take a peek at them.

– Curtis Peoples, Associate Archivist, Crossroads Music Archive

Advertisements

Women of Texas Music

Mary Jane Johnson fencepost

Mary Jane Johnson (photo courtesy of Texas Monthly™)

March is Women’s History Month, and in recognition of that the Crossroads Music Archive at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library has curated an exhibit entitled The Women of Texas Music.

Mary Jane Johnson La Fanciulla

The most prominent musician among those featured is Mary Jane Johnson. Counted among the great dramatic sopranos and considered one of opera’s premiere interpreters, Johnson has toured North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Among her many heralded interpretations, that of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West stands out. It has been heard on stages around the world including the Teatro Communale in Bologna, the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, on tour in Japan with La Scala, and with the Santa Fe Opera Festival. Her career went to the next level when she appeared with Luciano Pavarotti in a televised performance as Musetta in Puccini’s La Boheme with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

SusanGrisantiTexasMusiciansHallOfFame

Susan Grisanti, known as the “First Lady of Classical Guitar in the Southwest,” was a recognizable figure in Lubbock, Texas music for over four decades. A gifted guitar instructor, she taught over 5,000 students during her career and served as a resident house musician at local Lubbock institutions. The Crossroads Music Archive contains the materials donated after her death in 2013. In fact, the “Susan Grisanti Memorial Fund” was established to help preserve her music legacy at the Crossroads Music Archive.

Texana Dames CD front

Beginning in the 1950s, the Hancock Family helped usher in the era of modern Lubbock Music. The family has participated in notable bands from The Roadside Playboys to the Texana Dames. The Dames was an all-female trio, with mother Charlene Hancock and siblings Traci and Conni Hancock. Their career spanned some 25 years. The Dames music varied from cumbia to country, and was a favorite for dancers.

ADJ-Heartbeats-web

The Heart Beats were an all-female garage rock band based in Lubbock and founded around 1966. They were led by drummer and lead vocalist Linda Sanders, along with younger sister Debbie Sanders (guitar), Debbie McMellan (bass guitar), and Jeannie Foster (guitar and keyboards.) They attracted nationwide attention in the summer of 1968 when they won the battle of the bands on the popular ABC-TV variety show Happening 68, hosted by Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere of Paul Revere & the Raiders.

The materials documenting the lives and careers of musicians both female and male can be found at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library. In fact, our always-helpful Reference Staff would be happy to arrange for you to view them yourselves.

– by Curtis Peoples & Robert Weaver