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Rocky Bill Ford: A Little Known Drunkard

For normal people, it seems odd for folks to believe that a career in music is anything other than a pipe dream. Even the most talented have a ridiculous journey to complete before being able to call themselves a musician and have it actually be appropriate. There’s surely someone right now, in some coffee shop, bookstore or bar figuring aloud that he’s a musician in order to impress whatever beautiful clerk is ringing up a purchase. It’s not a bad move, just completely disingenuous. That’s how life goes, but at least Rocky Bill Ford didn’t over compensate for his job as a barber in Texas.

During the early ‘50s, between doling out haircuts, Ford penned a few songs and began looking for a suitable band to back him up. Missing a finger on his hand probably didn’t make selling himself as a guitarist, singer and song writer any easier, but eventually Ford wrangled some local Houston players and headed into the ACA studios and cut “Beer Drinkin’ Blues” and “Aggravatin’ Women.”

While the latter track hasn’t transcended the decades, that first selection, “Beer Drinkin’ Blues” has become something of a souses anthem. Being included on countless compilations, Ford unwittingly and probably rather effortlessly crafted a minor classic. Of course, the song was only afforded local hit status upon its release. But even that didn’t deter the barber.

Ford hadn’t banked on making a career out of music – though, it would have been nice – and returned to the studio again a few months on to cut a few more originals. For whatever reason, there’s scant information about the dates of some of these sessions. What’s clear, though, is the fact that eventually, Ford would attempt to augment his sound a bit in order to appeal to a different and perhaps less rowdy listenership.

By the time he recorded “I Don’t Wanna,” the band that Ford was working with included piano, a pedal steel and a lead guitarist in addition to the song writer’s own six string. It wasn’t the fullest sound on the face of the earth, but comes off much less desolate than Ford’s earlier sides.

Collected on his His Complete Recordings are all of these recordings. The album isn’t exactly erratic as Ford’s vocals and simple compositions provide a through line for the entirety of the offering. But as the disc progresses, it’s interesting to hear how the music shifts through time. Again, there aren’t specific dates affixed to some of these tracks, but by the time listeners get to “A Message From the Tradewinds” it’s clear that Ford was getting into different stuffs.

The endlessly soloing guitar provides something of a vocal foil to Ford’s singing while the pedal steel illustrates what a silver moon might sound like. It’s a jaunty entry into the singer’s catalog, but seems to retain a certain sadness unique to those most special of country singers.

Rocky Bill Ford isn’t Hank Williams, Johnny Cash or the Blue Yodeler, but most of what he cranked out should provide ample background sounds for lonesome drinking.