IN MEMORIAM - FLOY CASE (April 20, 1911 - June 14, 1988)

Submitted by johnnycase on Thu, 06/14/2018 - 2:36pm

June 14, 2018 marks thirty years since the death of my mother, Floy Case. Her name is well known to scholars of early country music because she was a "Pioneer Country Music Journalist", as officially recognized in 1983 by the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, she wrote songs (one was recorded by Ernest Tubb for Decca Records) and she helped manage programs and fan mail for Bill Case and his Melody Boys, with whom my dad J.C. Case was mandolinist and harmony vocalist. In her writings she often praised young talent she heard on the live music radio broadcasts of the 1930's and 40's. She gave Hank Thompson his first publicity when he was still in Waco, Texas. He never forgot this boost to his career, which became among the biggest in country music history. In the 1950's her feature stories appeared in newstand publications such as Country Songs and Country Song Round-Up.  Again, Floy Case was the first to recognize a young talent when she wrote about Charlie Walker and correctly predicted that he would became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Other favorites of hers included Billy Walker, Justin Tubb (and his legendary father), Merle Travis, Jimmy Wakely, the late Jimmie Rodgers who had inspired a whole generation of performers including Gene Autry, Jimmie Davis, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and countless others. Through an introduction by E.T., my mom became a close friend of Carrie Rodgers, the widow of the "Singing Brakeman". Carrie lived to promote the work of her late husband Jimmie Rodgers, and to keep his name and career before the country music public. In her later years when illness prevented Carrie from writing all assignments (including liner notes and magazine articles) my mother became Carrie's ghost writer. Out of a sense of loyalty my mom never divulged this fact until the historian Ronnie Pugh virtually pulled the information from her in an early 1980s interview, more than twenty years after her friend's death.

My mom was a greater influence on me than I realized when she was alive. Now, I recognize that she still influences me a lot. It's a most positive influence and I am grateful that she loved music and was a source of encouragement for young aspiring performers. It was a gift she was known to give. 


A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Dec. 1 @ Arts Fifth Avenue

Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:19pm

The program entitled "REMEMBERING SARDINES", a fundraiser to help Kenny Hardee get a liver transplant, surpassed my hopeful expectations. The entire event was a great outpouring of love and support. All of the talented musicians played their hearts out with no monetary compensation. Every item in the silent auction was sold and numerous donations in addition to the cover charge totaled $4100 after venue expenses were subtracted.

Kenny and Adrienne Hardee are a very gracious young couple who are valiantly facing this life-threatening challenge. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who gave so generously to this worthy cause. My sincere thanks extends to those in the media who exemplified human kindness in publicizing this memorable event.  Donations may still be made online by visiting


Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 10/14/2017 - 12:39am

The event describled below is SOLD OUT !!   Many thanks to everyone who will attend and to those in the media who helped publicize this event.

ARTS FIFTH AVENUE, Fort Worth's premiere performance space, will present "REMEMBERING SARDINES" on Friday, December 1, 2017. The event will offer a night of live jazz and Italian cuisine in remembrance of the now defunct venue Sardines Ristorante Italiano, which was a Fort Worth landmark from 1979 through 2011. All proceeds from this event will go to help Kenny Hardee (one of Sardines' former managers) who is in desperate need of a liver transplant. Although Mr. Hardee is employed and has medical insurance, out-of-pocket costs for this operation add up to a daunting 100,000 (!). Please join Gracey Tune and Deb Wood along with pianist Johnny Case, multi-instrumentalists Joey Carter, Chris White, Keith Wingate and others for this worthy cause.

A silent auction will offer an impressive selection of collectible items: Tommy Tune Lithograph, Arts Fifth Avenue Django Reinhardt gift pack, framed 1989 Cliburn poster with artwork signed by Robert Rauschenberg, Sardines crew poster photograph by Michael Bodycomb, abstract oil painting by Johnny Case, sax player painting by Johnny Case, original line art drawing of bassist Charles Scott by Michael Pellecchia, Suzan England's flute, antique trunk owned by Suzan England, golf package donated by Colonial Country Club, a Sardines T-shirt, a gift pack of Sardines memorablia, and more.

Master of Ceremonies for this event will be Ray Conrow, assisted by Kitty Case. Guest musicians will include saxophonist Jeff Todd; trombonist Pat Brown; bassman Ray Conrow plus a few surprise guests. Gracey Tune, Deb Wood and Kitty Case will prepare Italian food for all attendees to enjoy in fond remembrance of a unique venue known for its fine acoustic jazz and romantic atmosphere as well as its Southern Italian food. Admission price is $25.00 each. Dinner is included in the cover charge. Please note: If you've not made reservations but plan to attend,  make your reservations ASAP.  The number of people expected to attend is important for food planning purposes. Call: 817-923-9500. Event hours are 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Arts Fifth Avenue, 1628 5th Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76104.

Ye Olde "NEW THING" !

Submitted by johnnycase on Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:53am

The music wasn't unnamable because it was given many names. Among its listeners and critics there seemed to be no consensus of a universally accepted label to cover the varied innovative approaches to revolutionary jazz from the late 1950's through the 1960's. My awakening to the wide world of modern jazz occurred in my teen years. As a budding musician, I loved the preceding stages of this music's evolution and aspired to become adept at playing everything from 1930's "swing" through the early-1960's gospel-tinged "soul" jazz, with special emphasis on absorbing the most challenging 1940's "bebop" innovations of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. All the while, in keeping informed through incessant reading about jazz, I was fully aware that while the bebop revolution had been triggered by young musicians' dissatisfaction with their perceived creative limitations of the swing idiom, the music of my own era was entering another musical revolution by restless young musicians revolting against what the challenging bebop had become in its various descendant forms such hard bop, "mainstream" and "cool" jazz.

The introduction of modal jazz (favored by Miles Davis and John Coltrane) was a desire to push the boundries of jazz into unchartered territory. This produced some refreshing music different in nature to forms of jazz previously heard. Modal jazz was not, however, a true pathway to freedom, being more restrictive harmonically than some of the more adventurous bop. The music of Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Randy Weston exhibited greater rhythmic and harmonic diversity and freedom. As such, their music inspired a new breed of musicians seeking a manner of expression unencumbered by many of the rules inherent with all the previous developments in the evolution of modern jazz. My own goal was to learn the music I loved, which meant the music that the new breed was rebelling against, and as I progressed in my mission, I grew intensely curious about the exciting new development of "new breed" artists such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. I would soon be trying to grasp both the bebop concept and free jazz explorations, the latter of which were collectively most often referred to as "The New Thing".

The controversy created by the musical mavericks of the late 1950's and early to mid-1960's was astounding. Most established jazz artists were very outspoken in their negative reaction, to the point it seemed that some mainstream players must have felt threatened by any public acceptance of a music so radically different than that which they had spent so many years learning and honing their improvising skills. You could hear some say: "If what they're doing is the right way, then all the years I've spent learning how to play was all for nothing?!" I personally never saw the arrival of this startling new music as a "replacement" but as an alternative. I did not believe the choice meant choosing one approach to the exclusion of the other. As for the players themselves...yes, each approach required a serious commitment for the fullest realization in performance. Artists who embraced and sought to perform both mainstream jazz and avant garde were scarce indeed.

I learned to recognize references to this new musical development by many names: Avant Garde, Free Jazz, The New Music, New Black Music, Outside Jazz, Free Form, The New Wave, Energy Music, The New Thing, and, in certain musicians' circles, "Outside Shit". The most hostile reactionaries designated it "Anti-Jazz"!  The New Music was not based on standard songs, or song forms. Revolutioanary jazz compositions often had no conventional harmonic foundation, as in no chord progression. To improvisers of the earlier forms of jazz, this was a radical break and it created a dilemma for players at a loss for creating with no guiding framework. Among the more radical of new original jazz compositions were those with no key signature and no bar lines. The more open-minded musicians perceived new possibilities based on melody and rhythm and an organic development of those elements. The various innovators in this new realm found their own disparate and individualistic ways to play "free" music.

The Ornette Coleman concept is different from Cecil Taylor's, yet both composer-performers share credit as the pioneers of free jazz. They ushered in an era of exploratory inventiveness freed from restrictions applied to all the former stages in the development of modern jazz. One retained element in their music of the 1950's was the steady pulse, the swinging beat. Most listeners (especially musicians) were so shocked at the absence of chord changes, numerous jarring effects within improvised solos and abandonment of familiar tunes long favored by many jazz listeners, no one seemed to notice that the music still swung in the usual manner of conventional jazz.  That would change: In 1962, while playing in Copenhagen with a trio sans a bass player, Cecil Taylor opted to further free his music from past conventions. Cecil suggested to his drummer that he provide a textural rhythmic interplay rather than a stated tempo. Sunny Murray, who had played with Taylor's group for over a year, became the first jazz drummer to completely abandon time-keeping. He is the father of free jazz drumming and a master at his art.

                                                                                               UPDATE: December 19, 2017

Sunny Murray passed away in Paris on December 7, 2017 at the age of 81. Mr. Murray had remained active in Europe with concert appearances and recordings. In freeing drums from its traditional time-keeping role, he expanded the coloristic, textural and expressive possibilities of his instrument. Considering the immense importance of his contribution to the development of creative improvised music, his name and his work should be better known. If Sunny Murray had received the recognition he deserved I would not be writing a description of his attributes and accomplishments. Better yet, listen to his music on the innumerable recordings available from multi-national sources. Sunny Murray, who was born September 21, 1936 in Idabel, Oklahoma, USA - died in France, a citizen of the universe!  May he rest in peace. 

                                                                                                 more to come...

"More to come" proved an ironic and sorrowful prediction. In less than four months after the post dedicated to Sunny Murray, three other key figures in The New Music have passed: trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist Buell Neidlinger, and pianist/composer/poet/ New Music pioneer Cecil Taylor. With the passing of Cecil, who was the first true free jazz innovator (his record debut "Jazz Advance" on the Transition label was issued in 1956) most of the first wave giants are gone. Two notable exceptions: Henry Grimes and Archie Shepp. Now deceased are Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Roswell Rudd, Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray and Cecil. I consider Sun Ra part of the second wave although his quirky post-bop big band performances date back to the mid-1950's. His particular brand of weirdness gradually grew into a unique free jazz for large ensemble in the next decade, in the midst of a whirlwind of avant garde activity by the first wave innovators and the rapidly emerging second wave represented by artists such as Milford Graves, Don Pullen, Rashied Ali, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Marion Brown and Charles Tyler.

I will list the recordings that comprise my personal collection of avant garde-free jazz-New Music as performed by the original, innovative creators. 


JAZZ ADVANCE - Cecil Taylor  1956  -  In my collection is the Transition LP reissue on Blue Note CDP 7 84462 2

                              Cecil Taylor, piano; Steve Lacy, soprano sax; Buell Neidlinger, bass; Dennis Charles, drums

SOMETHING ELSE! THE MUSIC OF ORNETTE COLEMAN  - Ornette Coleman  1958    Contemporary LP C 3551 plus CD-R

                             Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Walter Norris, piano; Don Moore, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

LOOKING AHEAD - Cecil Taylor​  1958    Contemporary LP reissued on Contemporary OJCCD-452-2 (S-7562)

                                 Cecil Taylor, piano; Earl Giffith, vibraharp; Buell Neidlinger, bass; Dennis Charles, drums.

TOMORROW IS THE QUESTION - Ornette Coleman​  1959    Contemporary LP  M 356

                            Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Percy Heath or Red Mitchell, bass; Shelly Manne, drums.

LOVE FOR SALE - Cecil Taylor  1959     United Artists  UA   

                              Bill Barron, tenor; Ted Curson, trumpet, Cecil Taylor, piano; Buell Neidlinger, bass; Dennis Charles, drums.

THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME - Ornette Coleman  1959   Atlantic  1317

                            Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

CHANGE OF THE CENTURY - Ornette Coleman  1959    Atlantic    81341

                           Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

JAZZ IN THE SPACE AGE - George Russell Orchestra  1960     Decca  GRP CD  GRD-826

                                            Soloists include pianists Paul Bley and Bill Evans performing duets of free improvisations.

THE AVANT GARDE - John Coltrane / Don Cherry   1960   Atlantic LP    Reissue: Atlantic CD  7 90041-2

                                   John Coltrane, tenor sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Charlie Haden or Percy Heath, bass; Edward Blackwell, drums.

FATE IN A PLEASANT MOOD - Sun Ra and his Myth-Sciece Arkestra   1960    Saturn  LP SR9956 - 2 - B

                                   John Gilmore, tenor sax; Marshall Allen, alto sax; Ronnie Boykins, bass; Phil Cohran, trumpet; 

                                   George Hudson, trumpet; Eddy Skinner, drums; Sun Ra, piano and leader.

THIS IS OUR MUSIC - Ornette Coleman Quartet   1960    Atlantic LP 1353

                                     Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Don Cherry, trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Edward Blackwell, drums.

OUT THERE - Eric Dolphy  1960    New Jazz LP   ----      CD-R digital transfer

                        Eric Dolphy, alto sax, bass clarinet, flute, clarinet; Ron Carter, cello; George Tucker, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.

PORT OF CALL - Cecil Taylor  1960  Originally issued on Candid LP as The World of Cecil Taylor.  CD reissue: Past Perfect 220370-203

                             Cecil Taylor, piano; Buell Neidlinger, bass; Dennis Charles, drums. Also, Clark Terry, trumpet; Archie Shepp, tenor sax;

                             Roswell Rudd, trombone; Steve Lacy, soprano sax; Charles Davis, baritone sax; Billy Higgins, drums.

JAZZ  ABSTRACTIONS - John Lewis / Gunther Schuller  1960  Atlantic LP   -----     CD-R digital transfer                                                                                                                This music exemplifies the genre known as Third Stream Music which combines classical and jazz musicians performing                                                   compositions of an advanced and experimental nature. Among  several jazz soloists featured on this recording are the                                                         avant garde musicians Ornette Coleman, alto sax and Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet.

FAR CRY - Eric Dolphy  1960    New Jazz LP  -----

                   Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute, bass clarinet; Booker Little, trumpet; Jaki Byard, piano; George Tucker, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.

FREE JAZZ - Ornette Coleman Double Quartet  1960     Atlantic LP   CD reissue: Atlantic 1364-2

                      Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Doncherry, trumpet; Scott LaFaro, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; Eric Dolphy, bass clarinet; Freddie                                           Hubbard, trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Edward Blackwell, drums.

                      Note: Eric Dolphy had a very busy (and musically rewarding) day in the studios, as both Free Jazz, and his own date Far Cry (the                                   previous entry)  were recorded on December 21, 1960.


more to come.....

ROY LEE BROWN: The End of an Era

Submitted by johnnycase on Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:58am

Roy Lee Brown passed away on Friday, May 26, 2017 at the age of 96, a few days after suffering a massive stroke. I had known him since the spring of 1987, when my wife Kitty and I attended "Brownie Day", held annually at the Gilbert Ranch west of Fort Worth. Why it had taken me so many years to attend I cannot say. I had known and loved the music of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies since first hearing reissued recordings on the Dance-O-Rama set Decca released in the mid-1950's. I will never forget first meeting Roy Lee, and being startled at the physical resemblance to his late brother whose photo was prominently displayed on the Decca record sleeve. Scholars of early country music acknowledge Milton Brown as the founding father of western swing music. In meeting Roy Lee, I already knew that he was the youngest and only surving brother of the great singer/bandleader whose vision and musical innovations in the mid-1930's would establish the model for Bob Wills and numerous others to emulate and reshape in correspondence to their own tastes, imagination and ambition. This was the beginning of a friendship and productive working relationship that would develop before the 1980's were gone.

My invitation to attend Brownie Day had come from my friend Billy Luttrell, a fine guitarist who owned and operated a music store in Fort Worth. He had invited me in previous years, but this time for whatever reason it felt right to go. The atmosphere: lively and friendly with a variety of scrumptious aromas emanating from the kitchen. A large table crowded with delectable food choices greeted all guests at this annual ranch house party. I recall sitting in for pianist Charlie O'Bannon, and playing with a small group of western musicians, but it wasn't until afterward that someone introduced  Kitty and me to Roy Lee Brown. He had perhaps sung before we arrived, but when we met him he was in an adjoining room to the one where music was being played. We were impressed with his warm smile and the apparent joy it gave him in welcoming us to the event, which had long ago been established to honor the memory of his brother and the enormous contribution made to Texas music by Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies. We also met Roy Lee's wife Ellen, whose manner was gracious and kind. They had been married for many years. Little did Kitty and I know that within a couple of years the four of us would become well acquainted, primarily from the shared desire to bring to the public an invigorated revisitation of the musical legacy that was Roy Lee's inheritance.

My mom, Floy Case, had recently become aware that Roy Lee sought performance opportunities, having retired from being a fireman with the Fort Worth Fire Department. He wanted to use his new free time to play the music he remembered so well from his teen years when he often accompanied his older brothers Milton and Derwood with the band on their numerous dance gigs. Roy Lee had served behind the scenes, changing strings for guitarist Derwood, as strings would invariably break during a long night of heavy playing. Floy Case encouraged her friend Johnnie High to book Roy Lee on his popular Saturday night Country Music Revue. Normally anyone desiring to perform on High's very professional show would be required to audition. My mom assured Johnnie that in this instance, no audition was nescessary!  Indeed, Roy Lee Brown performed in primo fashion, backed by the CMR house band including pedal steel guitarist Maurice Anderson, a masterful swing stylist in his own right. Needless to say, Roy Lee was invited back for future appearances on the popular opry-styled show. My chance to hear Roy Lee and to accompany his singing would be in a similar setting, when a special program entitled A Journey through Western Swing was produced at the Grapevine Opry a few miles north of Fort Worth. I still have a newspaper clipping (alas with no date attached) touting the event which featured Leon Rausch (who had gained popularity as a vocalist with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys) along with Roy Lee Brown, vocals; Tommy Camfield and Bobby Boatright, fiddles; Tom Morrell, steel guitar; Billy Luttrell, rhythm guitar;  Lanny Long, bass; David Brown, drums and myself on piano. During Roy Lee Brown's segment of the show he spoke on the mic, addressing the wide acceptance of Bob Wills as the "King of Western Swing". He asked that if we give that distinction to Wills, then consider the importance of the prior innovations of Milton Brown and acknowledge Brown as the "Father of Western Swing". There was no trace of bitterness in Roy Lee's message, simply an intense need to educate those born too late to have experienced the Milton Brown phenomenon, and to implore aficionados of western swing to give credit where it was due. I was impressed with his performance of songs from the Milton Brown repertoire, and with his commitment to this musical mission.

The approaching summer of 1988 brought shock and sorrow to the Case family and to the many friends of Floy Case. She died suddenly in the early morning hours of June 14. The last several years of her life had been remarkably active, and her recently acquired friends spanned all age groups. Late in her life she told me that western swing was her favorite kind of music. I recalled that my mother attended the show I had played with Roy Lee Brown, Leon Rausch, Tommy Camfield and others. By mid-1989 I felt compelled to call Roy Lee Brown and ask if he would like to record a tribute to Milton. I got the sense that he'd been having similar thoughts. He and I agreed to do a co-op project and he kindly let me take responsibility for putting together the musicians I felt would be second to none !

Coincidentally, it was during this time period that mega-talented Tom Morrell had begun making occasional visits to my jazz gig at Sardines Ristorante Italiano. Morrell lived outside of Dallas, so whenever he was in Fort Worth for a gig or whatever purpose, he'd stop by. Most often it was on a night when I played solo piano, during the week. Tom would order an Italian dinner, listen to a set and then we'd talk on my break. I had known Tom since 1964. We'd first recorded together as sidemen in 1969, and in the 1970's I featured his jazz steel guitar styings on several albums on my own indy label, Priority Records. Ironically, it was because of my mom that I'd heard a recent (1980's) Leon Rausch album with some wondrous pedal steel guitar work by this masterful musician. I had long been aware there was no one better than Tom for western swing pedal steel. I also knew that he deserved to have his own album. The high regard with which I held his steel playing was such that my desire to record Roy Lee Brown was practically contingent on Tom's participation. I therefore asked Tom to cooperate with me on a 1989 co-op project between me and Roy Lee Brown with the understanding that the following year he and I would produce Tom's first album issued under his name. I assured Tom that it would be "his baby". He would be free to choose the musicians (with one stipulation for pianist!) and it would be his choice of tunes, arrangements,  tempos, sequencing, packaging...he would control all facets of the album. Tom agreed, so with assistance from guitarist Billy Luttrell, I began contacting the other players I had in mind to accompany Roy Lee Brown on his debut album.

During our phone conversations, it was clear that Roy Lee and I both wanted to approach the Brownie repertoire with a modern concept. After all, Milton Brown was modern in his day. Actually he was a musical trailblazer, and any attempt to "honor" him by playing in an "old timey" manner would miss the point or, worse... it would be insulting to Brown's innovative accomplishments.

There would be no attempt to emulate the original Brownies. The members of that historic assembly consisted of Milton Brown, vocals and band leader; Cecil Brower and Jesse Ashlock  (or later, Cliff Bruner) fiddles; Fred "Papa" Calhoun, piano; Bob Dunn, amplified steel guitar; Derwood Brown, rhythm guitar and harmony vocals; Ocie Stockard, tenor banjo and Wanna Coffman, bass.

Roy Lee advised me not to try to play like Papa Calhoun. He likewise did not wish for Morrell to play lap steel, which was Tom's inclination. Roy Lee was emphatic that his preference was for pedal steel, exactly as I had hoped would be the case. Twin fiddles (one of Milton's "firsts" in a western band) were of utmost importance. Also a two-four swing rhythm rather than the hard-driving four-four was a signature element in Brownie music. The easy, relaxed swing of the original Brownies could be quite hypnotic, and there's something magical in the chemistry of those particular musicians. The joy radiating from their unity is of a nature such as I've never heard in any other band. The primary point is: There will never be another band like Milton Brown's. The project ahead of us had another intent: Show that the music of Milton and his remarkable band is viable in today's context. I liked that this goal was important to Roy Lee, who so thoroughly knew this music and the men who had made it. The depression era needed a music that was uplifting, and its power to make folks temporarily forget their troubles may be at the heart of a musical freshness that remains unfaded by passing styles and trends through the subsequent decades.

I got to work on recruiting new "Brownies". In addition to Morrell, who would the other band members be? The great Tommy Camfield, fiddler extraordinaire (and perfect for this project) had recently passed away. My queries to Carroll Hubbard and Buddy Wallis were not productive. In the meantime, Billy Luttrell called to tell me that Leon Rausch would play bass and sing harmony vocals with Roy Lee. As rhythm guitarist, Billy Luttrell was an integral part of this emerging band. It was either Billy Luttrell or Roy Lee who suggested fiddler Randy "Snuffy" Elmore, whom I did not know. After Elmore confirmed his participation, he recommended Wes Westmoreland as his twin fiddle partner. Wes was also someone I hadn't known before, but the these two fiddlers provided the greatest and happiest surprise of the project. Randy Elmore and Wes Westmoreland play together as one, in their phrasing and with violin tones that are a perfect blend. There are no intonation problems with this team. I was amazed at how quickly they could create new arrangements for the tunes, some of which they had probably never heard before!  Elmore and Westmoreland are both lively and imaginative soloists. Elmore also plays great electric mandolin and contributes wonderful solos on both instruments.

David Brown (no relation to Roy Lee) was to be our drummer when we first began making plans, and I honestly don't remember exactly what happened. I remember that we had to find a drummer because David Brown was no longer in the picture.  When the name Bob Venable entered my thoughts, there was no need to look any further. I knew of him because he had sat in with my brother Jerry Case, who liked Bob's tasteful, swinging approach. Bob was from Chicago and had played a lot of dixieland jazz (including one night with trumpeter Bobby Hackett). After relocating in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he found work playing with tenor banjo wizard Marvin "Smokey" Montgomery. Some of that work was in a dixieland context, and some was with the Light Crust Doughboys on their dance gigs. Marvin, whose career dated back to the beginnings of western swing, was a friend of Roy Lee Brown. The fact that Bob Venable was Marvin's first call whenever he needed a drummer was ample verification that he'd be great on our upcoming tribute to Milton Brown.

Roy Lee selected all the material for the recording. One song written by Ellen Brown was the only exception to the otherwise Milton Brown repertoire. Those selections were drawn from the huge number of songs Milton had recorded for RCA Victor and Decca, the latter being the label on which the vast majority of his recordings had been issued. As an added treat for Browniephiles, Roy Lee chose to frame the program with the opening/closing theme song, just as Milton had done on his daily radio broadcasts in the mid 1930's.

Every conversation I had with Roy Lee yielded interesting facts from the era still crystal clear in this man's memory. He valued accuracy to the maximum degree. He often spoke of the numerous inaccuracies he found in the widely-praised biography of Bob Wills ("San Antonio Rose") by Dr. Charles Townsend. Upon meeting the professor, Roy Lee confronted the author and cited poor research for "lots of mistakes" pertaining to the era through which Roy Lee had personally lived among participants written about in Townsend's book. My own narrow time frame of admittedly limited expertise (1964-1966) provided a point of corroboration regarding poor research: I found two mistakes and an inexcusable omission with the information pertaining to a single photograph!  I see full justification for Roy Lee's staunch disdain for misrepresenting history in the fact that Townsend's book, in numerous printings, has not been revised and continues to misinform readers who rely on praise bestowed by others ignorant of historical facts. Admittedly, not everyone appreciated Roy Lee's candid comments. I appreciated his determination to correct errors regardless of negative reactions from some who preferred their long-held beliefs, even if based on falsehoods. To those, he was apt to respond: "I can't help it if you don't like the facts, but we're talking about history and I believe in truthful representation." This quote is mine, but I remember so well his convictions I want to say these are the words Roy Lee Brown would speak.

During the months of preparing for the release of Roy Lee's album, he often spoke of his strong desire to tell Milton's story, and the beginnings of western swing. He in fact was already working closely with the respected writer Cary Ginnell, a Californian who had made trips to Texas in pursuit of the treasured recollections, not only of Roy Lee, but of music fans from the 1930's who still lived in the Fort Worth area and were eager to share memories of those early years. Roy Lee knew the resulting book would reflect the times in an authentic manner, as it would tell the story through chronologically sequenced oral histories by the people who were present when the music was an exciting new phenomenon. 

The 1980's witnessed the demise of the long playing record, or LP. I had issued four during the decade, the last of which was "Solo Guitar Artistry" by Jerry Case. Its first test pressing was unacceptable because it contained pops and other surface noises. After several failed attempts I finally received an acceptable test pressing and gave the "okay" for production. By the late 1980's, when the Roy Lee Brown project took place, the most common medium for recorded music was cassette tape. The compact disc had been introduced, but the cassettes were extremely popular, and more affordable than the new digital discs such as I would have preferred. The vertical front cover includes a photo of Roy Lee Brown smiling above the title "Western Swing Heritage". On the j-card inside the plastic case, there is an inscription following the descriptive notes which reads: "This album is dedicated to the ones who have gone before."

The finished product was issued in late 1989. News of its availability (in local record stores, or direct from its co-producers) circulated by word-of-mouth. This commonly ascribed "best advertising" brought in good local sales within the first weeks of the cassette's release. The print media in the city known as "The Cradle of Western Swing" chose to ignore Western Swing Heritage by Roy Lee Brown and his Musical Brownies. Although this dissappointed me, it came as no big surprise. I almost expected the slight even though a popular entertainment columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, prior to the album's release, had enthusiastically requested the copy we provided to him. I had already witnessed inexplicible behavior, some bordering on the bizarre, from this individual who was in a position to disperse, or withhold, music news pertaining to Fort Worth area performers. The lack of local coverage was nicely superceded by the glowing review that appeared in the March/April 1990 issue of Country Music magazine, with strong representation on the magazine racks in retail stores nationwide. Rich Kienzle, a noted music scholar and enthusiast, included Western Swing Heritage in the albums reviewed in his Buried Treasures segment of the magazine. Kienzle begins: "It's an established fact that Milton Brown and his band, The Musical Brownies, were the first real Western swing band. Their records for Decca through 1935 and 1936 were, in the eyes of many aficionados, better than Bob Wills' early recordings, since the Brownies included pioneer electric steel guitarist Bob Dunn and pianist Fred "Papa" Calhoun. This past summer Milton's brother Roy Lee, now in his seventies, recorded a Brownies tribute, Western Swing Heritage (Priority PTS-3001). This cassette-only release doesn't recreate The Brownies note-for-note, which would be impossible since most of its ex-members are dead, but even with its more modern sound, Roy Lee has revived The Brownies infectious joy and spirit".  Kienzle also acknowledges the individual participants and their respective instruments and cites some of the songs included, such as "Four or Five Times", "If You Can't Get Five, Take Two", "Texas Hambone Blues", Chinatown, My Chinatown" and "My Mary".

Roy Lee Brown assembled the same group of musicians for a second volume in 1991 and issued Western Swing Heritage II on his own label, Brownie Records. Some listeners prefer this release, as it seems to build on the strong group rapport that was very evident with the first album. Within the next few years, the complete works of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies were made available with the release of a five-disc boxed set of CDs. The Texas Rose label presented first-rate re-mastered original recordings with an accompanying booklet detailing the historical significance of the music. In 1994, the long-awaited book "Milton Brown and the Founding of Western Swing" by Cary Ginell (with assistance from Roy Lee Brown) was published by University of Illinois Press. It received an award from ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) in the music research category. The book remains in print and is available through the most popular retailers online.

Although his death was noted only in his hometown newspaper and music journals such as Western Swing Monthly, Roy Lee Brown's passing marked the end of an era, as he truly was the last link to the originators of western swing music.





New CD is among the 2017 AWA Annual Award Finalists

Submitted by johnnycase on Tue, 01/31/2017 - 9:30pm

Great News! Also, it's very unexpected news, as there were numerous nominees in the various categories. The CD (Johnny Case and his Texas Swingtet) was nominated in four categories, and has become one of five finalists in the Duo/Group category of AWA Awards. The Academy of Western Artists will present their awards ceremony and show on March 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. I hope to attend just to be part of this event. I'm grateful to have been nominated for this album of Texas Swing featuring two of my favorite veteran players, Billy Briggs and Walter Lyons.

List of Original Compositions

Submitted by johnnycase on Sun, 10/30/2016 - 9:43pm

Johnny Case is an ASCAP member who has recorded and issued numerous original tunes in three categories: Jazz, Country Music and Western Swing.
The following list applies only to notated music, not his works of Musique Concrete or spontaneous composition.


ADRIFT Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
AMENDS Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD)
BIRDERIC Recorded 1975 - Eclipse LP (reissued on CD). 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
BLUES FOR TED CURTIS Recorded 1975 - Eclipse LP (reissued on CD).
CONTEMPLATION Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP
CRUDSCRAPER BLOOZE Recorded 2005 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
DAYBREAK Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
EMPATHY Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
EXCURSION Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
FIRE Recorded 1970 - Contrasts in Jazz LP.
FULL MOON Recorded 1974 - Contrasts in Jazz LP (reissued on Jazz Potpourri CD).
GLOBAL JUBILATION Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
HIGH STAKES Recorded 1977 - Jazz Potpourri LP (reissued on CD).
IN THE EAST Recorded 1974 - Serenade LP (reissued on CD).
LAMENTO (see: Love Astray)
LEWIS WORRELL Recorded 2003 - Waiting For the Moment CD.
LOVE ASTRAY Recorded 2008 - Strays...and Other Songs CD (reissued as Lamento on Revisitation CD).
LOVE'S BITTER RAGE Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
LOVE SURVIVES Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
MID-AFTERNOON Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP
MORNING SONG Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
NO LITTLE LAMENT (for Booker Little) Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD.
ODE TO JEAN GENET Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
ONE TOO FEW Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
THE OPEN SEA Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
PASSING THROUGH Recorded 1975 - Two Moods LP (reissued on Eclipse CD).
QUARRY'S PLIGHT Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SERENADE Recorded 1974 - Serenade CD (reissued on CD). 1975 - Two Moods LP (& Eclipse CD).
SONG OF NO RETURN Recorded 2005 - Love's Bitter Rage CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SONG OF SOLANGE Recorded 1991 - Jazz Journey CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).
SONG OF SOLANGE (vocal version) Recorded 1992 - Four Roses Suite CD, Spectrum of Specters CD, Revisitation CD).
STRANGE DREAM Recorded 1970 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
SUMMONS Recorded 1970 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
TURNING POINT Recorded 1971 - Pleasant Dreams LP.
THE VEILS Recorded 2001 - Last Nites CD.
WAITING FOR THE MOMENT Recorded 2003 - Waiting For The Moment CD (reissued on Revisitation CD).



COUNTRY WAYS Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.
DRIFTING BACK Recorded 2005 - Drifting Back CD. 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
A HEART TO STEAL Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.
JUST IN SONG (for Justin Tubb) Recorded 2003 - My Daze of Ways Bygone CD
ONE AMONG THE DALTONS Recorded 2003 - Country Ways CD.

W E S T E R N . S W I N G

BUCKBOARD BOUNCE Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
RANCH HOUSE RENDEZVOUS Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
RIDING HIGH Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.
WESTERN SAGA SWING Recorded 2007 - Texas Sunset Suite CD.

NEW CD RELEASE - Available from Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes

Submitted by johnnycase on Thu, 08/04/2016 - 2:36pm

The Johnny Case / Texas Swingtet CD has been nominated in four categories for the Academy of Western Artists 2016 Annual Awards
to be held at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas on March 16, 2017. The categories for which the CD has been
nominated are: Male Artist, Duo/Group, Album and Song (Corrine, Corrina).



Personnel: BILLY BRIGGS, tenor saxophone; WALTER LYONS, guitar; JOHNNY CASE, piano;
CHRIS CLARKE, acoustic bass; GREG HARDY, drums (plus vocals on 1,4,6,7 & 10)

Recorded December, 2015 at Patrick McGuire's Studio in Arlington, Texas
Produced by Johnny Case
Executive Producer: Patrick McGuire
Recording. Mixing & Mastering by Patrick McGuire

(Descriptive notes included with CD)

Case Brothers: Dual Inductions in Oklahoma

Submitted by johnnycase on Sun, 01/31/2016 - 3:22pm


The WESTERN SWING MUSIC SOCIETY OF THE SOUTHWEST will induct Jerry Case and Johnny Case into their Hall of Fame on Saturday, July 16 in Lawton, Oklahoma. Although the Case brothers are in several Halls of Fame relating to western music, this marks the first time for both to be inducted in the same year. Lawton has special significance for Jerry Case, and to a lesser degree for Johnny as well. Jerry Case can credit the inspiration and help of several musicians in Lawton, especially the late guitarist Bobby Davis, for advancing his career by arranging for his first truly professional gig: In late 1963 Jerry Case became lead guitarist for the ill-fated "Little" Joe Carson, a recording artist (Mercury, Capitol, Liberty) whose touring appearances included the famed Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. After Carson's tragic death in early 1964, Jerry Case went on to work with Judy Kaye, Bob Wommack, Billy Gray, Leon Rausch, and ultimately with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1965 and '66. With Wills, he recorded the Kapp LP "FROM THE HEART OF TEXAS" produced in Nashville, Tennessee.



NEW ON THIS WEBSITE: My Tribute to KERBY STEWART (1947-2008)

Submitted by johnnycase on Thu, 12/10/2015 - 9:22pm

Please read the newest Performer Profile by clicking on Music, then locate (and click on) Discography, Performer Profiles, etc.  Scroll down past the discography and find the Duane Durrett profile. It's followed by my most recent posting in memory of a great bassist, educator, and quality individual: Kerby Stewart