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Allen Doye O'Dell grew up on a Texas cotton spread and went on to raise his own crop of country hits. Uncle Tom Gregory* was one of the musical members of the family, packing his fiddle on every visit. This man was O'Dell's first music teacher, coaching him to the point where he could win a few contests. From there, O'Dell moved to the ever-popular guitar, which he played in high school. He joined a trio where he began singing, and this group played over WDAG radio in Amarillo. So began his professional career and from then on, he ditched the first name.
Our man Doye O'Dell went down to the Mexican border to work on XCPM, stayed there a year and then joined Doc Snyder's Texas Cowboys, a country vaudeville act with a wild stage show. It was O'Dell's fiddling abilities that got him this gig, but he switched to guitar when the group took another fiddler. Going on his own, he quickly scored an NBC network radio show out of New York, Doye O'Dell & the Radio Rangers. This program ran five years, after which he was based out of Connecticut where he combined more radio with live shows at theaters all over the East Coast.
During World War II, Roy Rogers was under threat of being drafted and fully expected to have to serve. Doye was being groomed to replace Rogers and was even being fitted for clothes at Nudies when the word came that Rogers' draft fell through. Doye then actually joined the Marines and served proudly.
He settled in Los Angeles following the second World War, where he took part in recording sessions as rhythm guitarist for many other artists. Fans of hardcore trucker country, for example, will enjoy his picking on 1947 sessions for deep-throated Johnny Bond. Shortly after these sessions, he signed a recording contract with Exclusive, who got one of his biggest hits at an early session. It was the maudlin "Old Shep," which had first been a smash hit for Red Foley six years earlier. Elvis Presley would also record the song in the mid-'50s. O'Dell was backed by Texas Jim Lewis & His Lone Star Cowboys on several of his Exclusive 78s. O'Dell cut many novelty songs, including "Give Me Texas," "Bath Tub Blues," "Lookin' Poor But Feelin' Rich," and "Blue Christmas." The latter song has received almost as much coverage as mistletoe, including Ernest Tubb, Linda Ronstadt, and Elvis again. Then there was "Dear Oakie," a song that was originally
This bio is mainly from All Music Guide because it covers Doye's career pretty well. Additions were made by myself.
written by seasoned cowboy star Rudy Sooter. O'Dell was so taken with what was once again an extremely sentimental song that he set up a session to record it well before the author had even finished the ditty. As a result, O'Dell and his producer pal ended up co-writers under pressure, putting the finishing touches to the tune before recording what would become a big hit. The effort was worth it, and not out of line: O'Dell wrote or co-wrote a lot of his own material. O'Dell next signed with Intro, a subsidiary label of the famed Aladdin Hollywood record company. O'Dell's second platter for this label was one of the hottest country records of 1952, the exciting "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves." This is considered a forerunner of the trucking genre of country songs, and this is no reference to R. Crumb. Sniffers of such diesel fumes also point to its influence on the genre of hot rod music, elevated into an art form in the '60s by steel guitarist Speedy West, who actually played on every single cover version of the O'Dell hit ever recorded. O'Dell wound up with a Mercury contract and also appeared in movies, including acting appearances alongside Tex Ritter, Ronald Reagan, James Garner, and Roy Rogers. He also had an impressive television career, including Western Varieties, at one point the highest-rated Western show in Los Angeles. He won two Emmy awards for Country Thrills, a country & western children's show. He also appeared on programs such as Maverick, Sugarfoot, Empire and I Love Lucy.
From the late '50s to the early '60s, he recorded for the Sage & Sand label, creating some of his most professional productions to date. The fine guitarist Roy Lanham is prominently featured on these sides. Later, O'Dell recorded for several smaller labels, including a final testament entitled Doye O'Dell Today released on Longhorn in 1983. Doye was still performing live into the early 90s. He had a stroke in 1995 and had to retire. Doye passed away in 2001 at the age of 89. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide
* Uncle Tom Gregory is buried in De Leon Cemetery in De Leon, Texas, about 4 blocks from where I live.