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Archive: Rockabilly libertine Harry Glenn tells full story of Mar-Vel Records

In an interview from November 1981, Harry Glenn discusses the stories of Mar-Vel and Glenn record labels to a Goldmine reporter at a truck stop

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[The following feature was originally published in Goldmine November, 1981]

Harry Glenn. Image courtesy of Cary Baker

Harry Glenn. Image courtesy of Cary Baker

By Cary Baker

Date: Wed., Aug. 19, 1981 Time: 7 P.M.

Place: Truckstops of America, off 1-80 in Griffith, Ind. (conference room)

In all my years of interviewing. I'd never quite conducted a meeting quite like it. Yet this was the setting that veteran rockabilly and country impresario Harry Glenn, president of the Mar-Vel and Glenn labels, hand-picked.

The Chicago-based Goldmine reporter straddles into this trucking mecca (parking for 150 semis, restaurant, TV room, store, showers, and, yes, a conference room) about 20 minutes behind schedule having first entered the truck (rather than the auto) entrance of this oasis in an Oldsmobile Starfire.

A record by Moe Bandy & Joe Stampley plays over the jukebox as I scour the cafeteria for Harry Glenn. Cowboy Carl Schneider, president of the Cowboy Carl Records label that's reissued several of Glenn's Mar-Vel masters, makes introductions.

Glenn is a bushy-bearded cowboy with a hearty laugh, who looks you straight in the eye with horn-rim glasses that look four sizes too small for his face. Also seated at the table is Frank Frappier, manager of Truckstops of America's Griffith operation and country songwriter in his free time. Finally, there's "truckstop queen" Genie Mack, the embodiment of every aspiring country vocalist in the U.S., who's promoting a benefit for muscular dystrophy at a local auditorium.

Harry Glenn is an articulate man who rambles in a Hoosier drawl on subjects varying from record promotion to Barry Goldwater (who he supported in '64 to the extent of writing a campaign song). Cowboy Carl, it turns out, had actually undersold him as a character study-an eccentric, energetic hustler who wrote songs and sold records in his off hours as a welder in Hammond for 30 years. Although a couple of records actually did chart nationally, Harry always found a way to sell them through the back doors of the marketplace. Mar-Vel artists like Jack Bradshaw, Chuck Dallis, Bobby Sisco, Billy Hall and Shorty Ashford may not read like a Country Music Association awards list, but they left some truly Mar-Vel-ous records in their wake. To think of the Akron-esque city of Hammond. Ind., as the hotbed for this insular but hopping scene is mind-boggling to those of us next door in Chicago. Yet Hammond was the ideal breeding ground-a steel town across the state border from Chicago and from Calumet City, Ill. (a "suburb" laden with taps and burlesques). When the black migration brought the blues to Chicago, a Southern white migration brought a large working-class population to Northwest Indiana.

Harry Glenn understands that migration perfectly; he left Evansville on Indiana's Southern border for Hammond on Lake Michigan to court a job offer.

Glenn talked well into the night. Those tales vaguely relevant to the Mar-Vel Records story appear in the following verbatim interview. Others, untold for years (or in some cases, hours), were blue enough to make a Marlboro Country trucker turn chartreuse. Glenn avows the best of these "off the record" Items will appear in a forthcoming book about his life. The working title: Traveling Libertine.

Cowboy Carl ­– present at the interview – was helpful both an interviewer and one to jog Harry's memory with details an directions. And what a delight it was to encounter as lucid a source as Glenn. Although he truly doesn't remember all the sessions he's taped, all the discs he's released and all that main unreleased, he was as helpful and candid as anyone could have hoped. He showed up for the interview with a bulging dossier of photos, documents, charts. lead sheets, lyrics, newspaper clippings and a copy of New Kommotion fanzine from England with his story. From his pockets, he produced no fewer than three wallets filled with small photos, business card and miscellaneous memorabilia.

  

Cary Baker (CB): You were born where and when?

Harry Glenn (HG): And why? Anyway, It's my privilege to talk to an interviewer from…

CB: Goldmine

HG: I think I'm getting ready to strike a goldmine. I'll tell you when I was born but it would be hard to tell you why I was born May 4, 1917 in a little place in Perry County, Indiana, right near the Ohio River. A little two-room house and then we had a shed out there. There was nobody around but me and my mother. My daddy took my two sisters down to his mother's and went for a midwife. Hell, it was so poor down there. they called it Bald Knob.

Cowboy Carl Schneider (CS): (Removes Harry's cowboy hat to reveal Harry’s bald head.)

HG: It rubbed off on me. I really am a bald knob right now! Anyhow, when I got to be four years old, we left there and went to Evansville, to get my dad a job. I got out with some people and fell off a street car. A street car had stopped and I fell under it. I guess I was gawking around like I usually do and I stubbed my toe, fell down on the track and someone grabbed me and pulled me out, kept me from getting run over.

CS: Did you have a radio, Harry?

HG: At that time, we got some of the country music like the Grand Ole Opry, We'd pull in WEOA in Evansville, Ind. I had a friend, one of my neighbors who was a little older than I was; he played the guitar and sang and we'd look forward to hearing him ‘cause it was a thrill to have a neighbor who was on the radio. We had a 39-acre farm after we left the Bald Knob. We had a few cows there, some pigs, some chickens. We'd cut trees down for our wood so my mother could cook biscuits for me. When I started high school, I was helping my father cut some trees when I noticed something moving. It was four squirrels. I sold two of them for a dollar apiece. So, my freshman year, a fellow by the name of Don Anderson asked me if I wanted to take music. And I sald.” I don't have any money to buy Instruments.” And he said, 'Those squirrels you sold — you give me the $2 you got from selling the first two and give me the other two squirrels, I'll give you a cornet. I traded with him. I still have the cornet. and I think it's over 100 years old now. I studied under an Italian music teacher Don Marcato. I did take lessons from him one day a week for three years. But I'm glad I did now because that gave me a background that I still use when write songs. I wrote some then, but didn't know how to put them down to music. Later on, I got somebody to put them down.

CS: Wasn't a lot of it poetry?

HG: A lot of it was poetry. In 1934, they had a convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars and they wanted the Perry County band to go into Louisville, Ky., and play on the street. Clifford Cooper was a fine musician played the trumpet really good. didn't read music too fast. He asked me to play with the band. You can fake it a little. I'll cover for you.' Anyhow, I got lost in the Brown Hotel in Louisville. And I got scared "cause that's the first time I'd ever been in a town that big. I'd been in Evansville before, but never a town that big. I graduated from high school and then went into the Civilians Conservation Corps. I met a girl there in Tell City. Ind., we got married and I started to work at the furniture factory working for 25 cents an hour. I was out of work for a while. When I signed up to go in the Army, they said, “You can’t go, you’re married.” After Pearl Harbor was bombed, I had four girls.

I started writing (music) real serious while working at Republic Aviation because I got fired for playing craps. Then I went right over and took two weeks training  mechanical arts school for welding. Working in a shipyard and there I wrote one called “Down That Old Moonlit Trail"' and they used that to launch one old LST boats. Then I just forgot about it. Every once in a while I’ll find something that I wrote I don't know how many I've written.

I came to Hammond, Ind. in 1945. First I got a job with Inland Steel. If I worked for them for 45 days, I wouldn't have to pay them back for my bus fare. So I stuck my way up here and said that if I stayed for 45 days and they wouldn’t give me a welding job. In 1945, I wrote one called "Free & Easy” That was one of the best publicity things I've ever done. Bob Perkins, the Sax-O-Maniac recorded it on the Broadcast label.

I wasn't working too much at one point so I had enough money to take a bus to Chicago and I was very discouraged with my music. I went into a try to get someone to do something with my music. I was very discouraged, I went into a tavern and had enough for one beer. I was sittin’ there, sippin' on that beer. There was a drunk sittin' there by me. He was reelin' he was drunk. And I started pourin' out some of my troubles to him as you do in tavern. And he said. “Why don't you just start your own label?' And I said. 'I don't have any money and don't know how to do it.”

And he said, “Well, I'Il help ya.” And I said, Well, OK.” And you know how it is. You listen to a drunk and maybe he's alright and maybe he isn't. I gave him the benefit of the doubt 'cause what did I have to lose? He gave me an address and I went there about a week later, and he was the owner of a pressing plant — Musical Products in Chicago. He helped me organize, and I went down to visit my arranger, Red Asbell in Evansville. He said. Well, if you're going to start your own label. I'll even give you a name for it-Mar-Vel. I was going to enter that in a contest, but I'll just give you that since we're going to be working together.' Anyway, started Mar-Vel in 1949, Bud Presser from Gary, Ind. made my first record for me.

CB: Country?

HG: No, it wasn't country at all. It was a Polish band. He had a song he wanted to put out on record. I went down to Santa Claus, Ind.-a little bit northeast of Evansville in Jasper County-and took some records and left 75 on consignment. Anyway, I got back and Bud had an interview set up for WWCA in Gary. So during the interview, Bud said, “My partner Harry sold 3,000 when he went down to Santa Claus. Ind. When we got off the air, I told him it wasn't so. And that we were going to have to dissolve our partnership. I'll keep my label and give him the masters. And he said. You got to tell 'em, make it sound big so they want to buy the record. And I said, “Well, I wasn't raised that way and I have to take it the honest way, the way that I was brought up.”

Bud Pressner has his own label now: Hi Hat. I met him over in the Harbor one time. When I walked in. He scooted over hoping I wouldn't see him. I walked up to him and he said “I don't patronize these places much. I just came in to see how the other half lives.” He acted like he was ashamed for me to see him in this little dump of a nightclub.

CB: What was your next record?

HG: I started recording country music then in 1950. I was working with a fellow by the name of George Wilson. He's still putting on shows in Portage (Ind.) with his wife, Patti. He pantomimes records. He can do a whole 4-hour show for $125. Then I had Buddy Hampton, who brought up here in 1946 and got him a job playing at the Ridge Tavern, and he wrote a song called "Indiana Harbor Blues." Then he wrote "'That Second Fiddle” and “One Eyed Sal." He even wrote a book of poems that he gave to me and told me l could use' em as my own. That's Buddy Hampton. I gave him that name. His name was Hampton Sugg. He used to sell them up there at the Ridge Tavern, and most of the time people would buy one and like it so well that they'd give him a $5 bill and tell him to keep the change. I was glad of that 'cause that'd give him more money and I could go out and press some more.

CB: Did you originally intend to record country music on Mar-Vel?

HG: Well, back in Evansville, they used big bands to do my stuff and liked the sound. But up here, I got in with the country music crowd. And I like that, too.

CB: Why is Hammond and the Northwest Indiana is a predominantly an industrial region such a hotbed for country?

HG: Well, I'll tell ya, there are a lot of people from all over the country who seemed like they wanted to come up to Sin City — Calumet City, Ill. — and they had nightclubs there that would often stay open all night long. Some at 4, then another close by on Burnham where they could stay the rest of the night.

CS: They used to have strippers and that was a big entertainment factor.

HG: Anyhow, they once had the fellow who recorded "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down." remember that song? He was a disc jockey down in Texas. He came up here for a show we had at the Civic Center. He wanted me to take him over to Calumet City to the strippers' place. He had a girlfriend with him too, and he brought her in there. And his girlfriend was nudgin' him, wanting him to pay her some attention too. (The bar) had this big long thing covered with glass, and when (the strippers) came by, you could see it real good! That was called the Rip-Tide Club. And I think a lot of ‘em got ripped!

CB: Or tied.

HG: Then there was a man by the name of Dixie Dunn who wrote "I Don't Mind Being In The Doghouse If I Get My Tail Outside.” He wrote several others — “Mom’s From Alabama,” “Let’s Get Together And Kiss, Kiss, Kiss.” So I got these songs played for him and he felt real good about it. But somehow, he got transfered over into Ohio, so we lost contact with each other.

CB: What kind of distribution did you have for Mar-Vel?

HG: Well. whenever I got vacation from General American — when I'd be off for a week or two weeks sometimes or they'd have a strike and that would last two or three weeks — I'd just hit the road, and sell 'em from the back end of my car, just like Leonard Chess did. I would go anywhere could get people to listen to it.

CB: Was your best exposure records coming from the speakers on your car, or from airplay?

HG: Oh, I would go into the radio stations. A lot of times. I'd meet some good disc jockeys who would put it right on while was there and interview me: One time down in Columbia. Mississippi, was going along. I hadn't shaved in a long time and had kind of a heavy beard. My clothes weren't up to date too good. I heard some country music being played so I walked into a station. I had a record out then by Bob Burton called “Tired Of Rocking.” And l thought I'd better go In there. It was early — around 5 in the morning. There was two disc jockeys in there and they was lookin' at each other and lookin' at me as I walked up to them and said. I'm Harry Glenn from Mar-Vel Records and I've got a little country record I'd like you to play.' They put it on and played it on the air and interviewed me on the air and said. That's pretty good.' And then they played it again and gave some kind of announcement like it was a big symphony record they were going to play. In half an hour's time I was there, they played it five times. I said, 'I sure appreciate that.' After they got off the air at 6:00, one of them said to me. l have to confess something to you. When you came in here we thought you was going to ask us for some money to buy a drink with. That's what you looked like. But being that you wasn't, we want you to go into the backroom with us here. So I went into the backroom and they had a fifth of whiskey in there. So they proceeded to try to get me drunk. And they said, “We're going to have a party tonight.” By that time, the offices had opened up. And they had a beautiful doll out there. I wanted to get in on that if I could. and they said she'd be at the party. But then I remembered that I had an appointment down in Florida and they didn't have a phone. So they were supposed to meet me at the post office at a certain time. I realized that if I stayed for the party, I'd miss the appointment and they didn't have a phone for me to call. So I said, “I'm SO sorry, but I don't want to miss my appointment.” So they said, “Okay, come on down, we're going to buy you a steak dinner.”

CB: A steak dinner won't buy you airplay today, if you buy it for the radio station!

HG: Right, but they were so happy that I brought them some records. See, a lot of smaller stations didn't get a lot of these records. They'd have to go out and buy them. So he appreciated that came through.

CB: So there you were in Columbia, Mississippi. How did you market a record?

HG: They could order — my address was right on the label. If anybody wanted my post office box, they could call in. That was the way we did it at first. Then later on I got U.S.A. Distributors — Paul Glass — through Chess Records. That was back in the late '50s. In fact, I had one they liked really good — 'Lookin' In From The Outside by Little Willie Parker. Lorenzo Smith played the background.

CB: Lorenzo Smith was on quite a few records as a sax player. What's his story?

HG: Right now, I think he's in Harvey, Ill.. strictly a religious musician. He plays his saxophone with a 43 piece choir. It’s a combination of two different churches.

CB: It seems you were pretty fluent with all styles of music.

HG: That's right. We did everything except the old Dixieland and almost got into that.

CS: On some of your road trips, didn't you take some of the artists along?

HG: Oh yeah. When Jack Bradshaw came up here from Lubbock. Texas, in 1954. he said he'd been trying to find someone to let him record. So he contacted me and he had one called “Don’t Tease Me.” I listened to it and it sounded good to me, so we went over to WWCA radio.

CB: You made your records at WWCA (Gary, Ind.)?

HG: And engineered them myself. On a mono board. And at the same time. there was Vivian Carter (former co owner of the Vee-Jay label) broadcasting in another studio. I took the record to Chicago and processed it. Then, I took it to Randy Blake of the "Suppertime Frolic" radio show. And he got to pluggin' it and got it in the top 18 across the nation in 1954 on the country charts. Then, I took a copy down to Carl Smith's secretary at the Grand Ole Opry. So he recorded it on Columbia! He thought he was going to get away with something so he put it out with just his name as a writer! And of course, when it came out, we knew that had to be corrected. I stopped the Columbia recording until they made a change. Anyhow, we got a lot of plays on the record.

CB: You say that Jack Bradshaw came from Lubbock to Hammond. Ind. Again, why is it that Hammond bred such an active in the country music scene? Or was every part of the country like this?

HG: No, Hammond was like a magnet, I drew a lot of the country artists. They would leave-even some of them from Nashville — 'cause they heard this was a good place to get started. There was five other labels-Bud Pressner had Hi-Hat. There was Beaver Records and I'd often take records on Beaver on the road with me because the owner was working at General American with me at the time. I guess I'm the only one in the area now.

CS: But you were the most prolific.

HG: Yes, with something like 176 records altogether, and a lot of them on tape that haven't come out yet. All singles, but one LP until Cowboy Carl began to reissue, did have a novelty LP by Larry Womack. He recorded in Nashville and worked at the theater. So he got a bunch of 'em drunk one night and put out the microphone. And he did a lot of imitations. Bob Terry was disc jockey down thereand he asked me to put it out on my Glenn label (Mar-Vel's subsidiary). The LP was called "In An Egg Crate." I also had an album called "Harry Glenn Presents Country Music, Vol. I." and they released it on London and Starlite. I got royalties on that for about four or five years. There were three different covers. On the back of my version, plugged the Larry Womack novelty record and had down at the bottom: ”A $4.98 value for $5.” That drew attention. too.

CB: Sifting through Cowboy Carl's reissues, I've really become a fan of Bobby Sisco and Chuck Dallis in particular. Who are these artists?

HG: Well, let's start with Chuck Dallis. He was hitchhiking, and had jumped over a fence and tore his pants. And Big John Manningly was coming along in his car and picked him up, and told Chuck. I'll give you a job singing in my band.' Chuck got to be real popular, He'd do that "White Lightnin' with a special kick to it that I always liked. Then a he had a fellow by the name of Bill Murphy, who'd do that one about the "Old Gray Mule." He got killed in a car wreck down in Kentucky shortly after he made that tape. It's real good. He imitates a mule down on the farm.and the only thing that's lacking is the smell! Chuck later had a big hit with "Moon Twist."

CS: Did Chuck have a day job or was he a professional musician?

HG: don't recall him working, except for an odd job or something. He could keep playing six nights a week.

CS: A number of Harry's artists went on to major labels — Jack Bradshaw went on to Decca.

HG: They shelved him out there. See, Jack was doing so well on the Mar-Vel label that Decca figured. Whenever they're playing a Mar-Vel record, they're not playing a Decca record!" They figured if they signed Jack Bradshaw up and put him on the shelf then their artists would be getting played. So Paul Cohen called me from Decca in New York and said, 'I want Jack Bradshaw to record for Decca. If you bring him down to Nashville, I'II give you $200 to bring him down," I was his personal manager. So l called Jack and he said, I'd really like to be on a major label.' I said. Jack, it's against my better judgment. If you stick with me. we'll put out a record about every four months, and you're already getting known and getting your records played. So why don't you just stick with me? But if you think I'm holdin' you back, I'll just sit back and let them take you. Jack said. I'd really like to.' He paid me $200 to bring him down there. I was easy-going. Jack had a good time down there. On the way down, we had good time. We wrote a song called “Unfinished Love Affair." And he asked. 'What's an unfinished love affair?" I said. “You know, those times you'd hear a knock on the door or something and you didn't get finished. That was an unfinished love affair!' I wish | had a good recording of that, and he didn't record it for Decca.

CS: Chuck Dallis also had interest from other labels.

HG: Chuck was going so good that Nat "King Cole was starting his label and came to me and said. I'd like to use your masters of Chuck Dallis on KC Records, So they put out some records. Here, I promoted him and got him going and had him going to a record hop in Pittsburgh. Pa. He said, “I don't want to go there. I want to stay here and talk to Cole's manager.' He did that. And then when he put out his promotional pictures, he forgot all about me. When that popped out, he went back to me and said he wanted to make another record. And I told him. I'm going to make you wait a whole year.' And I did. I thought he should give me a little credit.

All the while, distribution was shaping up. Sometimes, distributors wouldn't believe a record was getting played, so I'd have my radio with me. He'd say, “ We're not going to buy any records — it's not getting played.” So I picked up his phone and called Bob Terry, a DJ friend, and said. “Hey, Bob, this distributor wants to know if my record is being played.” "I'll have it on the next record,” he said. I turned up the volume on that little battery set had, and the distributor would say. “Hey, that's pretty good! We'll take 500 of them.” And they paid me cash, which was very unusual. The trip was on — I'd left Hammond with $57 and was gone 13 days. And some of the disc jockeys in Nashville told me I wouldn't have the nerve to do that. I had about 4000 records altogether in the back of my 1962 Rambler wagon, I said, Well, I thought I might as well try.' Anyhow, I left with $57 for 13 days. having a lot of fun with these beautiful waitresses. I'd stop in and tell 'em about my music, and oh, they'd get excited. Several of them wanted to come back north with me and get a job up here. I almost brought a few of 'em back! I got all my expenses paid, and came back with $200 to put in the bank. And had a good time while I was doin' it.

CS: Another time, down in Huntsville, Ala., you had quite a story.

HG: Yeah, was almost to the edge of city limits. And one of these farmers was drunk and he had a flatbed truck. haulin' mash to the hogs. He had three barrels of mash on back of that truck. And he ran the stop sign going south on a four-lane divided highway. I was in my '62 Rambler. He turned me over. And when I got up out of the car on my own, I turned the key off and put it in my pocket. I looked over and the farmer was layin' on the ground. I guess he was unconscious. All I had was a bruise on my wrist. The truck driver needed 54 stitches. Anyway, I was in shock but I called one of my artists, Harold Allen, who recorded "I Need Some Lovin’” and before that, "I'm Settin' You Free” that the Wilburn Brothers recorded on Decca. The Amazing Rhythm Aces covered it too in 1977, and they paid me on 49.000 records the first six months it was out. Anyway I stayed with Harold for a few days, and then came home to get it straight and went to the Rambler dealer and he furnished me with different car but the same model. My speakers on the wrecked car had landed about 50 feet from where I did. We got all that back. Some of the records were broken, others spilled out, and some l gave away as souvenirs. And had one-sort of 3 party record called “I Just Got Some." It was some black guy playin’ and singin’. And those fellows down there just handed me $2 a record for it. I paid 25 cents apiece cause the pressing plant ran a surplus. It was quite a thing!

CB: We haven't even mentioned rockabilly, which was a Mar-Vel stronghold and the source of much current interest in this label. What was the market for rockabilly?

HG: It was pretty good because we were putting it out before Elvis really got popular. It was getting real famous up around here. WJOB (Gary. Ind.) was playing it a lot — Uncle Len Elli: played it a lot. Len was the one who led me to Bobby Sisco. And from Mar-Vel, Sisco went on to Chess where he recorded "Go Go Go" and "Tall, Dark & Handsome Man." "Honky Tonkin Rhythm" was a hit for me. We had Cigar McCoy playing wild steel guitar on that one!

CS: Sisco, in fact. recorded for Chess, Vee-Jay. Brave and others.

CB: Brave was a little label with a studio in Harvey, Ill. Brien Fisher, one of its founders, now produces for Ovation Records in Nashville. Did they ever record any rockabilly?

HG: It was partly owned by Bill Guest and Marvin Rainwater. Marvin called me one time from around Washington where he lived and wanted me to set it up So he could come to Chicago and record Bobby Sisco's "Blue Lights." He spent about two hours there in the studio, and called it "The House Of Blue Lights." “Another Bottle Of Beer" was the other side. We played it on the radio once on WLCL (Lowell, Ind.) where Cowboy Carl and I would interview artists.

CS: Some of which we picked up off the street.

HG: I got letter from a local artist in Lowell. Ind. She's a singing nurse named Andrea and got her in a talent show. Now, she's been videotaped several different times. She's planning on maybe putting a record out of her song, "No. Don't Do It.'

CS: What was more popular the country stuff or the rockabilly stuff?

HG: Actually. the market went for both of it. It was sort of interchangable. I know that when I'd be travelling to a lot of these stations, they'd be asking me, 'What do you think of rock ‘n’ roll?" And one fellow said. I think it's on its way out.' And I said, I do too. I think it's on its way out to California now. I think it's here to stay.

CB: And how wrong you were!

HG: I wasn't wrong. It's still around. I heard on the news the other day that it's been around for 27 years! And they say the big bands are going to come back, that a lot of the nightclubs in New York are hiring big bands. think that was on the Paul Harvey commentary.

CB: What about one act on Mar-Vel called the Beverly Sisters. What was their story?

HG: That's a story too. They were the Gay Sisters.

CB: I wasn't asking about their personal life.

HG: No, that was their name! They lived up in Muskegon, Mich. They came down to Nashville, Tenn. One was 16, the other 23. They had their aunt with them — a real old lady. And they wouldn't let ‘em in to the Opry, so I said, "Come on, go with me. I'll get it played for you.” They were still the Gay Sisters. But they sounded so much like Don and Phil (Everly).

CS: They were even going under the name of The Secretaries for a while.

HG: That was right before being the Beverly Sisters. We leased them to Mercury as the Beverly Sisters. They sent me to Canada to tour with them and we stopped off at WOW, the "Summer Sizzle* program. They paid them $100 to sing two songs. There was one record called "Ooga Booga Boo-Boo," and a promotion man named Kit Wright leased it. He put it on the racks out East, and got two $500 checks inside of a week. Then I reissued it after their three-year lease was up.

CB: When, along the way, did you go full-time with the label?

HG: Well, after retired from my welding job at General American — I had 30 years in there you could say went full time at it.

CB: Before that, though, you worked 9 to 5 and then did your recording, promoting and selling?

HG: It was actually 7 a.m. to 3:30. A lot of times, I'd have two weeks off for vacations, or there'd be strikes for three or four weeks. Sometimes, I'd be off as many as four times a year. Sometimes more often than that. Other times, I'd just take off for a long weekend and maybe miss a day, and come back to the job. And I was one of the main welders there, so didn't have any trouble.

CB: So you worked out of your home the whole time?

HG: Most of the time, I worked out of home. Then, I had a storage place on Sommer Street in Hammond.

CS: Harry had that building for three years and then we got rid of it.

HG: The building got so run down that when they decided to sell it, I decided not to keep it any longer. Frozen pipes burst and the water just missed my tape recorder. They had an apartment upstairs with some Mexicans, and they let their children play with the faucets and they forgot to turn it off. It really was a mess.

CS: What role did your artists take in promoting their records?

HG: The artists would try to sell the records wherever they played. A lot of them did a good job of that and made extra money that way. I'd sell them the record for 50 cents and they sell them for $1, and sometimes they'd get a tip and make more than did. I took Short Ashford and Sherry Lee and got em show in Evansville. Sherry later changed her name to Jackie DeShannon.

CB: What was your association with Jackie DeShannon?

HG: I put out her first record as Sherry Lee I know the Cowboy Carl label has reissued.

CB: Is Mar-Vel still operative? Are you still issuing records? I know Cowboy Carl has reissued a lot of the old sides.

HG: I hope we'll be more active now. I just put out a new record of myself talking called "Men On Lonely Street" on my Mar-Vel label.

CS: But you had a slowdown period, when I first met you in the ‘70s.

HG: Right before Carl and I met, I put one out by Shorty Ashford that almost got on the charts called "Sweet Lucy." We made over to Brave Studios.

CS: Harry also worked with a black disco band called Vamp mainly working with the older stuff. Some of his more recent material, artists like Helen Lilly, Harry handles.

CB: Are any of the rockabilly artists still active and still in the Hammond area?

HG: Oh yes-once in a while, I run into some of the older ones like Billy Hall. Bobby Sisco

CB: Where does Bobby Sisco live?

HG: Hammond. Billy Hall lives in Hammond too.

CB: Do these guys still play the old music?

CS: Billy Hall is kind of interesting. I saw him recently playing a wedding. I was a little nervous about going to a wedding. The bride's father was looking at me a little bit weird. But anyway, Bill was playing old songs. Anyway. it was a typical modern audience. The kids were getting drunk and calling for Marshall Tucker, and he would turn around and play a song like "I'm Walkin' The Floor Over You" by Ernest Tubb.

HG: And Billy has recorded on tape for me, just him and his guitar. Just last night, I came across a little three-inch reel and played it to see what was on it, and it was Billy doing "The Demon In The Jug.” Now that is good! And my 16-year-old (laughter) who's a singer, has already copied the words down to another song from that tape, "You Turn Me On." and she's earning to sing it. It's a good one.

CB: You currently have a TV show or a radio show?

HG: Not now, he did have. Carl would come over and be my announcer, and we interviewed a lot of people.

CB: What is your relationship with Truckstops of America?

HG: I'm working with Frank Frappier — that's F-R-A-P-P-I-E-R ­— an old French hillbilly! And we put out his song on a tape (a tape-only collection of Mar-Vel cuts titled 22 Songs All Country. It's sold through the Truckstops of America. They've sold over 600 of them.

CS: There's one song you may enjoy that Harry does himself called "Two Minutes To Live that he used to play on his radio show. It's high camp!

HG: And then Frank Frappier's song, “Orlando" starts off side two. Hey, make sure you mention Helen Lilly. She came to me in Chicago and said, 'I'm a coal miner's daughter and I write songs, but nobody will help me. I said, ”I’ll help you." She recorded a song that I wrote called “After I'm Gone, Before I Leave." Vamp, the black disco band, covered it. (The song also appears on the 22 Songs tape.)

CS: Harry knows a lot of the big stars. Carl Perkins came through here recently.

HG: went down there and he said, 'I remember you, Harry.'

CS: Often, Harry was able to get Mar-Vel artists on the bills with big stars, like Bobby Sisco, Chuck Dallis, Jack Bradshaw.

HG: Rex Allen is another friend of mine. He did a song I wrote called "Down That Moonlit Trail." He used to wash dishes in New York to eat while he played a radio show for free. Then he finally started going pretty good with his music and Chicago to play WLS. After that, he went out to Hollywood and came to made seven pictures with Columbia. and was in a show at the Hammond Civic Center. Uncle Len had him on there. I’d just finished up in Nashville and broke the speed limit so I could see him. By the time I got to the Civic Center the show was over and there was big crowd standing around him while he signed autographs. He saw me and motioned for me to come over. Then he put his arm around me and said, “I’m so embarrassed. I forget your name.”

CB: Nashville session pedal steel player Buddy Emmons was a Hammond native, right?

HG: We didn't use him for session. The steel guitar players the played for me on Mar-Vel were Shorty Ashford, Cigar McCoy, and Basil Smith. Basil Smith is a truck driver between Evansville and Chicago.

CB: What's the local club scene like these days.?

HG: Would you like to go hear some of them? If you would, why, there's plenty of them. There's one called the Country Porch over on Columbia & 150th Street. Then there's one called the Waterfront Saloon, and many more.

CB: Do you still sell records out of the back of your car?

HG: Well, I haven't been lately, but I still have the speakers attached to it. The posters now advertise Truckstops of America.

  

Update:

Harry Glenn died of a massive heart attack on January 14, 1989 at the age of 71.

Cowboy Carl Schneider, whose Cowboy Carl Records released five volumes of Marv-Vel Masters, returned master tapes to Harry Glenn’s daughter following a Rykodisc repackage of Cowboy Carl’s Mar-Vel masters. He returned to his original vocation, teaching school, and left his longtime home in Chicago’s South suburbs for Texas.