Jimmy Blakley and his musician wife Dorothy began playing on radio in Oklahoma City in possibly the late forties. In 1950 Jimmy appears to have hooked-up with Cliff Bruner and Lee Bell who were playing in the Amarillo, Tx area with Rip Ramsey and a half-dozen other fine musicians. The band was so large that they soon decided to divide up. Lee Bell appears to have taken Jimmy Blakley (and wife Dorothy) and a couple other musicians to Artesia, NM where a job was open. While working at a club there Bell was approached by a Roswell businessman. This enterprising man M.C. Scott told him that he was in the process of building a big nightclub in Roswell, NM and he wanted to hire Bell's outfit. Bell appears to have talked it over with the rest of the band and when Scotty's opened in early 1951 the band moved to Roswell and became the house-band at Scotty's. The Blakeys played with Bell's band it seems until he had a couple of singles on RCA and eventually left Roswell. Then Jimmy seems to have taken over as band leader and probably had Dorothy or Cliff to front the band. At various times the band consisted of these musicians:
Jimmy Blakley-steel guitar & vocals/ Cliff Blakley- vocals & lead guitar/ Dorothy Blakley-piano & upright bass & vocals/ Red Pope & George Clayburn- fiddles/
Before Bell left the band he had established radio & televisions shows on KSWS in Roswell, for the band. These appearances appear to have continued for a number of years and it is stated that some shows were done on location, from Scotty's Club. Jimmy Blakley, Dorothy and Cliff had done some recording up in Clovis in the mid and later fifties and through his association with Norman Petty, Jimmy became interested in trying a studio in Roswell (c.1960) so he purchased a big, Berlant Broadcast recorder that Petty had retired from his studio and the Blakley's began producing their own recordings (and records) in Roswell, NM. Prior to this, between 1955-58 Starday records had already taken an interest in several of the Blakley's songs and released several 78's of them! The first record on Starday was released in 1955 and was by 'Jimmy and Dorothy Blakley'. The songs were: 'Take my heart' & 'You Left me with the Blues'. There were two more singles released by the duo on the label and one single by Jimmy alone before they were moved over to the D label. There were also two singles credited to Cliff Blakley on Starday of which one is a rockabilly collectible today. Harold 'Pappy' Daily & Jack Starnes had founded Starday records down in Beaumont way back in 1953. When he sold-out his share of the label in 1958, Daily started a new label and called it 'D' records. This Houston label wasn't anything fancy, it just had a big capital D at the top of each record which stood for Daily, I suppose. Anyway, more of the recordings that the Blakleys made during the later fifties seem to have been released on Daily's new D label including Jimmy's hit 'Honky Tonk Princess'. This song had been picked up by United Artist when it finally peaked in the country top fifty. Also, this song appears to have been recorded at Petty's studio in Clovis. By now the band was called 'Jimmy Blakley and his Western Swing Band'. They were still headquartered in Roswell but by now they appear to have traveled the tri-state area to play (Texas, NM and Colorado).
After buying the Berlant recorder from Norman Petty and establishing their own studio in Roswell, as early as 1962 Jimmy Blakley (as label owner) began releasing recordings on the Darsa & Midas labels. Also about this same time Jimmy Blakley came into contact with another musician in the Roswell area, Curtis Haskins. It is unclear (to the author) whether this new musician may have become a member of Blakley's band but could have. Nevertheless, it is stated that Haskins and his wife were both musicians and that Curtis had written a song for Hoyle Nix that did eventually become quite successful. Haskins stated in a recent interview that he had owned a record label in partnership with Jimmy Blakley of Roswell. It was called 'Midas' (Artesia News, April 6, 2008). This was possibly between 1960-65 as Haskins goes on to state that soon after his wife was killed in a car-wreck (in 1965) he took 100% interest of the label and Blakley departed the company. He continues to state that Blakley started the 'Darsa' label after their break-up. This obviously is an error and perhaps Haskins was just mixed-up on historical fact! The Darsa label was already in existence as early as 1962 as was the Midas label. A song titled 'Swamp Hop' dates to this year and was released on Blakley's Darsa label. While two songs by a doo wop group 'The Dellords' was released on the Midas label in the same year. (The guitar instrumental 'Swamp Hop' was re-issued on a compilation CD Germany in 2002 and was probably produced at Blakley's Roswell studio also).
It's difficult to put an exact date on when Jimmy and Dorothy Blakley moved from Roswell to Lubbock but it may have occured in the mid sixties. This could account for the break-up of the partnership in the Midas label between Jimmy and Curtis Haskins in 1965. Blakley had bought an interest in the Palm Room, a nite club on the east side of Lubbock and Jimmy, Dorothy and family left New Mexico and Roswell behind in pursuit of this new enterprise. Cliff would also move to the Lubbock area before the dust settled!
This move to Texas did not end the Blakley's ambitions of being recording artist however. The Berlant console recorder that Jimmy had purchased from Norman Petty (in c.1960) was soon installed in a private part of the Palm Room and made ready for recording. It is unclear if Blakley ever did any live recordings at the new club but he did record privately with his country-western band it appears. His band seems to have appeared weekly at the Palm Room and he ran a successful entertainment business. One such release from the Palm Room was put out on another of Blakley's labels.. PR International. We can only guess that the initials PR stood for Palm Room. Aside from crediting Jimmy Blakley as the artist, he is also credited as the producer. Blakley does a fine job of singing on this record but the music although very good seems rooted in the late fifties. But this is not surprising since Blakley's band had been playing western swing out in New Mexico for a decade before coming to Texas. It's only a guess as to how many members of the Roswell band had followed the Blakleys to Lubbock. We do know that at least three members of the old band played at the Palm Room including Jimmy, Dorothy and Cliff. Incidently, all three of these musician/singers were legitimate recording artist in their own right for all three of the Blakleys had the record releases on the Starday label!
Indications are that the Blakleys operated the club for several decades and it would not be long before other members of the family would also perform at the club. Jimmy and Dorothy's sons (Jimmy Jr. and Ronnie) also became fine musicians and surely played there on occasion, as did other members of the Blakley family. Their daughter Debbie whose first record was released at eleven did a lot of singing/recording around Lubbock also. To describe the Palm Room as a 'honky tonk' would be inaccurate. Blakley's band played sophisticated country music, western swing and catered more to the champagne crowd it seems. Phade Vader (a Blakley relative) stated that during their ownership of the club there was never a disturbance in which the law or sheriff had to be called. Folks, this is a remarkable record for any public club or dance hall! The Blakley's finally sold the Palm Room in the 1990's but it has continued to operate as a dance hall & night club for a different crowd. One recent writer states this about the Blakleys and their club, "...Jimmy and Dorothy were revered musicians in Lubbock, Las Vegas and all over the West Coast....the Palm Room was the place (to be) in West Texas for many years. That was until Dorothy became ill and passed after a long fight with cancer!" This statement seems to indicate that sometimes the Blakley band toured while some other bands carried on at the Palm Room.
In closing, it should be stated that during his lifetime Jimmy Blakley appears to have owned an interest in at least three record labels Darsa, Midas and PR International. Aside from these labels and the two Pappy Daily labels (Starday & D) some of the Blakley's recordings also appeared on the mail-order label 'Dixie' out of Chicago. The releases on Dixie were from the Starday catalogue and appear to have been a compilation of current hits, as sung by Starday artists. Several of the Blakley's songs appeared on Dixie but they were not given credit except on those listed in the discography below.
Partial Discography of The Blakleys:
Starday #200: Artist: Jimmy & Dorothy Blakley / Songs: Take My heart / You left me with the Blues / year of release: 1955 / Possibly recorded in Clovis, NM
Starday #221: Artist: Jimmy & Dorothy Blakley / Songs: Ping Pong / Sorry for You / year of release: 1956 / Possibly recorded in Clovis, NM
Starday #299: Artist: Jimmy Blakley / Songs: Crazy Blues / Runaway Heart / year of release: 1957 / Possibly recorded in Roswell, NM
Starday #318: Artist: Jimmy & Dorothy Blakley / Songs: A Pair of Crazy Hearts / Making Beleive you are Mine / year of release: 1957 / Possibly recorded in Roswell, NM
Starday #369: Artist: Cliff Blakley / Songs: Get off my Toe / Not going steady anymore / year of release: 1958 / Recorded in Clovis, NM at N. Petty Studio. (source: John Ingman) /
Starday #352: Artist: Cliff Blakley / Songs: High Steppin / I want to be with You / year of release: 1958 / Recorded in Clovis, NM at N. Petty Studio.( source: John Ingman) /
Starday #594: Artist: Dorothy Blakley / Songs: Yodeling Ivory Waltz / year of release: c.1960 ? / Recorded in Clovis, NM /
Dixie #526: Artist: Jimmy Blakley / Songs: Lovesick Blues / My arms are a House / year of release: 1958 / Note: These two songs may be on an album with other artists included. / Possibly recorded in Roswell, NM
D (records) #1175: Artist: Jimmy Blakley / Songs: Island Paradise / Honky Tonk Princess / year of release: 1959--65 ? / Recorded in Clovis, NM
United Artist # ? : Artist: Jimmy Blakley / Songs: Island Paradise / Honky Tonk Princess / year of release: 1959--65 ? / Recorded in Clovis, NM /
PR Intermational #1001: Artist: Jimmy Blakley / Songs: A Tribute to Tex Ritter / Her House / year of release: c.1965--70 / Probably recorded in Lubbock, Tx / Note: PR stands for 'Palm Room' (Lubbock, Tx.) /
Releases by various other Artists on Blakley owned labels include:
Midas_ (label): location: 607 S. Aspen, Roswell, NM.. / original owners: Jimmy Blakley & Clyde Haskins / active date: c.1962--65 / Artists: The Dellords .../ songs: In Togetherness / September Song / Note: Alfay music is listed (and associated) with this label as well as other Blakley labels. Therefore Alfay (BMI) may have also been owned by the Blakley family. /
Darsa_ (label): location: Roswell, NM.. / owner: Jimmy Blakley / active date: c.1962 / Artists: Bob Buster , Debbie Blakley.../ songs: Swamp Hop (by Buster), Behind that Wall (by Buster), Teen Twistin Tommy (by Blakley), Tell Billy (by Blakley) / note: The 'Swamp Hop' instrumental was re-issued in Germany in 2002, on an album titled 'Jungle Rock'.
Note #1: Jimmy Blakley, Sr. was born probably between 1925--30. He died c.1996 while a resident of Lubbock, Texas.
Note #2: Cliff Blakley died in 1998 at Wolforth, Tx (Lubbock county) and was 63 yrs. old. His song 'Get off my Toe' on Starday is now considered a rockabilly classic!
Note #3: Cliff Blakley had his first session in Clovis in 1956. The unissued songs were: You have my Heart, I always Knew. Cliff also recorded in Clovis in February 1959 (according to John Ingman).