(8-CD + 186 page hardcover book) We all know that the Grand Ole Opry wanted nothing to do with rock 'n' roll, while the Louisiana Hayride gave national exposure to Elvis Presley, Johnny Horton, and others. Well, the Hayride wasn't alone. The Big 'D' Jamboree in Dallas started with Texas country music but embraced the new music, giving an all-important break to Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and many, many more. In a nearly two-decade run that began in the aftermath ofWorldWar II, the Saturday night extravaganza packed the Sportatorium, a metal wrestling arena in a seedy neighborhood south of downtown.
Broadcast locally on KRLD and nationally on CBS radio, the Jamboree was an exuberant cross-section of the most vibrant country and rock 'n' roll music of the time, showcasing everyone from talented but largely forgotten singers such as Riley Crabtree, Orville Couch and Helen Hall to national figures, including Johnny Cash, Sonny James, Hank Locklin, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson and Gene Vincent. Rockabilly stalwart Ronnie Dawson got his start on the Jamboree, years before overseas fans revived his career. Charline Arthur, "a Janis Joplin before her time," leaped from amplifiers and belted out soulful, hard-core country from the arena's wrestling-ring stage before vanishing into a tragic obscurity.
This incredible collection had its inception in the mid-1990s when Dallas's David Dennard, inspired by Dawson's re-emergence, set out in search of recordings from the historic show. Everyone he spoke to said no such recordings were made, but Dennard found discs made for broadcast to American service personnel. He issued some on his Dragon Street label, but a more comprehensive collection was needed, and this is it: eight CDs, almost 300 tracks, most live from the show, along with bonus studio recordings. Writers Kevin Coffey, Stanley Oberst, Jay Brakefield and Alan Govenar, in collaboration with Dennard, produced the accompanying 168-page book rich with information on the times, the artists and the songs.