Friday, September 07, 2007

The Legend Of Thumper Jones

Back in 1956 a house painter from Beaumont Texas named Thumper Jones walked into Starday Records' makeshift studio and recorded two of the wildest, most unhinged rockabilly sides ever recorded. He was never heard from again.

No one knows for certain what happened to Thumper, but speculation abounds. Some say he went back to painting houses, others say he was drafted. One story has him finding Jesus and giving up rock and roll to spread the gospel. Still others claim he was shot in a barfight over a woman known as "Flirty Mirty." One thing is for certain: he never recorded again.

Perhaps the most fanciful claim of all is that "Thumper" was merely a pseudonym for Country singer George Jones. Usually I wouldn't repeat such hearsay and nonsense, but it should be noted that someone named "Geo. Jones" is credited as writer for both "Rock It" and "How Come It." Also, despite Thumper's over-the-top performance, his voice does bear a certain similarity to that of the country legend.

Whoever is responsible for the performance, the rarity of these sides has no doubt contributed to their legendary status. A copy of this single in good condition could set you back anywhere between $250 to $500. But if you manage to track one down, do not under any circumstances ask George Jones to sign your copy--he's been know to smash them to pieces.


Anonymous said...

Thumper Jones was also legengary for driving to shows on his riding lawnmower. The plot thickens.

There are some Thumper Jones tracks, alongside plenty of other unhinged rockabilly numbers, on the Rockin' Bones box from Rhino.

Crazy, man. Crazy.

The DoorKeeper said...

do not under any circumstances ask George Jones to sign your copy--he's been know to smash them to pieces.

Well that's a dead giveaway isn't it? Must be him LOL

great tracks

dean said...

Oh, that's definitely George Jones. Here's George in 1956 as "Hank Smith" doing Heartbreak Hotel (I found this at boogie woogie flu):

Hank Smith: Heartbreak Hotel - 2.56MB

Great post!

dan said...

How Come It is pretty good, but Rock It sounds forced. I have to say, it does sound more than a little bit like GJ.

Pete Bilderback said...

Dan, I agree "How Come It" is the better song. It seems like Jones hoped he might get a hit with "Rock It" by putting the word "rock" into the song as many times as it could possibly fit in 2 minutes. As a novelty it's amusing, but it's not much of a song.

"How Come It" is pretty good though. Perhaps the best "Thumper" Jones track is "Maybe Little Baby" which was recorded at the same time and in a rockabilly style, but was eventually released under George Jones' name.

The cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" that Dean linked to also suggests that Jones could have made it big as a rocker if he wanted to.

dan said...

I think he made the right choice. It appears that he has some contempt for the rock 'n' roll thing.

steve terrell said...

I'm only 6 years late to this conversation, but in his 1996 biography I Lived to Tell it All, George says he indeed was Thumper. Pappy Daley wanted to cash in on the rock 'n' roll market but didn't want to jeopardize George's country career.

George comments, "Through the years as I have encountered those records, I've used them for Frisbees."

Pete Bilderback said...

Hi Steve, thanks for the comment, I'm grateful that people are still reading. Just to be clear, this post was intended as a bit of a spoof. I was very aware these tracks were cut by George Jones under a pseudonym, and Jones' attitude toward them. The idea that there was some great mystery involved was my idea of a joke. R.I.P. George Jones.

steve terrell said...

Cool. I guess I was suffering irony deficiency when I read that. I enjoy your blog.

Pete Bilderback said...

Thanks Steve!