Recollections of Cecil Holifield Jr.

Back when the proceeds were still small, as were the venues, and artists were performing at human levels to intimate crowds in local theaters, school auditoriums and gymnasiums, many often were taken in like family by those that were promoting the shows.  In many cases they maintained these friendships, relationships and acquaintances for years afterwardsIn the 1950's thru the 1960's almost all of the artists playing and passing through the Odessa and Midland area of West Texas ended up at the Holifield's Record Shop, and in many cases their home.


Guestbook entries from the Holifield's home in Midland - Apr. 28, 1955
© Cecil Holifield Jr.

By 1955, Cecil Leon Holifield, "Pop," and his wife Beaulah, nee Baker, "Ma," had been in the record business for eight years.  With stores in Midland, where they lived, and nearby Odessa they also booked and promoted many of the local appearances in West Texas by most of the artists that came through, like Slim Whitman, Sonny James, Elvis, Scotty and Bill, and Johnny Cash to name but a few.  Pop was even instrumental in launching Roy Orbison's career.  


Scotty, June, Elvis, Shirlee Carroll, "Pop" and "Ma" Holifield and Bill - Apr. 28, 1955
Photo © Cecil Holifield Jr.

Elvis, Scotty and Bill had made their first area appearances in January, at Odessa and the Midland High School Auditorium. They were back again in February and April. Cecil Jr., the Holifield's son, remembers Elvis, Scotty and Bill visiting later that April and on that occasion they picnicked with friends and June Prichard, Miss Texas of 1955.  For years, Pop, and then Cecil Jr., kept many of the photos, guestbooks, cards, letters and other memorabilia exchanged in the early days with those artists.


BOB NEAL
WMPS    MEMPHIS, TENN.

May 7, 1955

Dear Cecil:

Got your letter with list of prices, etc., and it all looks good to me. I talked with Sam Phillips and, as I thought he might do, he doesn't want to run a special pressing deal. Claims he doesn't have enough good material available to pick two good sides and doesn't want to release anything not up to regular standard.

So, I have ordered a special batch of pictures of Elvis for us to use on the advance sale. It's a profile shot that hasn't been sold or used before, so it's brand new. They should be in here by Wednesday. I will send you 500 of them as soon as I get them. My cost is 6˘ per picture, so suppose you give them away, and we'll see how many you use, and adjust at the rate of 6˘ per pic from the advance sale tickets. However, I don't believe that that amount is enough to raise the price on the advance sale. Just ballyhoo what a terrific bargain they're getting.

As for the shows, probably would be best to open with Carlisles, then Martha Carson, then Huskey. A short intermission, and wind up with J .E. &Maxine, Onie and Elvis. As to the Mc'ing, what about using one or two of the best DJs in either town to work that?

Now, let me have all the dope on the whole thing so I can make the transcriptions. Also, if we should use posters, let me know number you want for each town. By the way, I have just made up a package of pictures, mats, stories,etc, and am putting it in the mall for you.

Regards,

BOB NEAL
ELVIS PRESLEY SHOWS

 

At the end of May they performed in both Midland and Odessa the same night.  Pop and Bob Neal exchanged several letters prior to those appearances.  In one Bob discusses with Pop the new promotional photos he had made up of Elvis and talks of the other artists that will be on the bill, that include Martha Carson and the Carlisles, Ferlin Husky (who also performed as Simon Crum, and recorded as Terry Preston), Onie Wheeler and Jim Ed and Maxine Brown.

 

WMPS
RADIO CENTER MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
TELEPHONE 5-2663
May 11, 1955

FLASH    FLASH    FLASH    FLASH

Dear Cecil:

I almost forgot to name one of our most famous stars who will be featured in the shows at Midland and Odessa on the 31st. None other than the famous personality - SIMON CRUM ! 'Course we had him all along in the person of Ferlin Huskey, but as big as the Simon Crum records have gotten, I think it would be well to publicize Crum.

I'm expecting the pictures in today or tomorrow and I will shoot them on. Also working on the Transcriptions. I guess I'll have a etter from you today or tomorrow about the number of ETs to send you.

Keep 'em goin'!

As ever,

BOB NEAL, Manager
ELVIS PRESLEY

Also Terry Preston

Scotty would also send postcards from the road.  One they have is from a show the boys played on May 14th in New Bern, NC.


Postcard from Scotty in New Bern, NC - postmarked May 16, 1955

Hi Folks,
Great tour
Having fine time
Will see you soon,
Everybody sends regards.
Scotty

When they were back in Midland for the May appearance all of the artists stayed at the West Wind Motel on Highway 80 West.


Postcard of the West Wind Motel in Midland, TX
courtesy James V. Roy

Cecil Jr. remembers pushing Elvis in the pool there.  There was a Drive-In restaurant located across the highway and they sent out for a round twenty burgers for everyone and when the kids there found out who was staying there word soon spread and a caravan of cars and kids started circling the motel for hours.  Cecil doesn't seem to think Elvis or any of them went out after that point because of the large numbers.


The pool that Cecil Jr. pushed Elvis in
courtesy James V. Roy

When they were back in October to play Midland, Johnny Cash was also on the bill.  He had only recently started making appearances with them on these tours and his recording of Cry Cry Cry as Bob described was starting to head up the charts.  Strangely enough, Texas Bill Strength, whom they had all known and performed with in Memphis had also recorded a version of it that June for Capitol Records and it was released as the flip side of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."


Bob's letter with Pop's notes on upcoming show and who's performing

Elvis Presley
ENTERPRISES

September 5, 1955
 

Mr. Cecil Holifield
1508 North Grant St.
Odessa, Texas

Dear Cecil:

Glad to get your letter, and I'm sorry I've delayed in answering. However, I had been vacationing, and since returning have been getting the Fall schedule, in shape, etc.

On Oct. 8 we will be in Oklahoma City. So the 10th thru the 14th I am planning on touring that area again. I plan to play Abilene, Lubbock, San Angelo, Midland and Odessa. Naturally I want to set the Midland and Odessa shows with you. It's my thinking that we might be better to divide these dates - say play Midland on a Tuesday and Odessa on a Thursday with San Angelo in between. What do you think? As of this moment I have plans to bring out JOHNNY CASH, the new SUN artist whose "Cry Cry Cry" is the hottest thing here since "Blue Moon", WANDA JACKSON, and Elvis. I will use at least one more act, but I don't want to overload my show as I did earlier, with talent that doesn't mean too much to your area.
So, check available dates in Midland and Odessa and you call me or I'll call you about Thursday. Have a couple in each town so we can shuffle if the other towns are tied up.

Elvis is looking forward to the tour. He said to give you and Mama his best regards. By the way, I have a surprise for Mama (if it ever gets here).

Sincerely

BOB NEAL, Manager

 

It was on this October appearance that they met Roy Orbison for the first time.  Roy, who had seen them perform earlier in the year in Odessa and Lubbock had become a big fan and had wanted to meet them.  Rumor has it that Johnny Cash had guested on a local TV show with Roy prior to the show and had promised to introduce him to Elvis.  Cecil Jr., recalls though that they met at his home in Midland.  One of his prized possessions is the photo he took at that first meeting of Elvis and Roy together on his parents couch.  It is likely the only photo in existence, known or otherwise, of the two together and one he has refused to part with.



Letter to Ma Holifield from Scotty in Miami postmarked Aug. 3, 1956

Aug. 2, 1956

Hello there,

How's my girl doing? besides selling a bunch of hound dogs. Got your letter today when we got in town an was real glad to hear from you. we are playing here tomorrow and Sat., then up to Tampa, Lakeland, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Daytona Beach and close in Fla. with 2 days in Jacksonville 10th - 11th. then over to New Orleans. after that who knows. Everyone is well and the whole picture remains about the same.
Don't know when we will be back out there soon I hope.
Tell Mr. Holifield an all hello from all of us. Bills already asleep an D.J. is reading Elvis Presley magazines what else? Well Bye for now be sweet as always.

Love          
Scotty
&
Group

Pop would later play a recording of Roy's song "Oobie Doobie" over the phone for Sam Phillips which got him an audition and eventual contract at SUN. That October was essentially the last area appearance the boys made in Midland and Odessa though they would keep in touch with the Holifields for some time after. Scotty would write them during the following year while Elvis skyrocketed to the top and Ma Holifield herself would share a train ride on the leg from Big Spring, TX to Midland on one of Elvis' trips out to the West Coast.

Memphis, Tenn.
Feb. 22, 1958

Mr. & Mrs. Cecil Holifield
The Record Shop
Wall Street
Midland, Texas

Hi Folks

What's new out there? Sorry we didn't get to see you last trip there, but it was 3:30 in the morning.

Did you get my last two Fernwood releases? We have leased Thomas Wayne's #106 "You're The
One That Done It" to Mercury. Looks like it's going to be big all over. I'm going to manage the boy, so help!!!

Ramon Maupin's #105 "What's The Use" has been slowly picking up speed here. I just signed a release on it to Sparton of Canada.

Any help you folks can give me will sure be appreciated. Tell Cecil Jr. hello for me. Hope to see you seen.

As always
Scotty Moore

Fernwood Records
158 Fernwood Ave.
Memphis, Tenn.

 

After Elvis went in the Army, Scotty kept in touch and enlisted Pop's aid promoting Thomas Wayne.  Like Elvis, Wayne was a graduate of Hume's High School in Memphis, only years after, and was the younger brother of Luther Perkins who along with Marshall Grant was a member of Cash's Tennessee Two.  Produced and managed by Scotty, who also played on the recordings, they had a hit on Fernwood Records with the song Tragedy in 1959.


Ma Holifield and Scotty (with local deejays and musicians)
at The Record Shop in Midland - 1955
Photo © Cecil Holifield Jr.

They kept in touch with the Holifields for several years after they stopped touring in that area.  Cecil Jr. said that Ma Holifield thought the world of Elvis, Scotty and Bill, and that she considered Elvis "her boy." Pop passed away in 1974 and over the years Cecil Jr. has sold many of his items to collectors. A great deal more was lost in a house fire in 2001. A few of these things he has remaining relating to Scotty and Elvis he was kind enough to share with us here.

Page added March 8, 2012
 

Special thanks to Cecil Holified Jr. and to his son Jay Holifield.  All photos, letters and postcards, except where noted, are courtesy of Cecil Holifield Jr.


A friend to Music Legends


Granite Shoals man called 'friend' to music legends

BY LYN ODOM
Daily Tribune Staff


Roy Orbison (center) was a frequent guest and personal friend to Cecil "Pop" Holifield, owner of The Record Shop. Orbison gave Pop the first vinyl record off the press of one of his records produced by Sun Records. Other band members include (left to right) Billy Pat Ellis, Johnny Wilson, James Morrow, Orbison, Jack Kennelley and "Pop" Holifield.

GRANITE SHOALS — To Cecil Holifield of Granite Shoals they were mom and dad. But to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and dozens of other budding superstars, they were "Mom and Pop Holifield."
Cecil and Carolyn Holifield have collected a treasure trove of personalized autographed publicity photos, newspaper clippings, magazines and family photos from some of the biggest names in the music business during the 1950s and 1960s —— musicians such as Cash, Presley, Orbison, Slim Whitman, Minnie Pearl, Louis Armstrong, Bill Haley and the Comets, Marty Robbins, Sonny James, Eddie Arnold, Ferlin Huskey, Jim Reeves, Earnest Tubbs, Billy Walker, Dinah Shore, Connie Francis, Hank Morton, Count Basie, Lawrence Welk, Faron Young, The Crew Cuts, Les Paul, Mary Ford well, you get the picture.
It's a heck of a collection, and here’s why:
Holifield's dad, the elder Cecil, and his mother Beaulah owned The Record Shop, with locations first in Midland and then in Odessa, back in the 1950-1960s. Those were the days when the big names of today were the unknowns of yesterday, many destined for eventual fame, fortune and immortality The Holifields, who knew a good thing when they saw it, sold their tire franchise and bought into the record business.
"Record shops were a hot movement back then and music was really coming around," the younger Holifield said. "It was booming. All I remember is that Dad had a Firestone franchise store in Eastland and all of a sudden he sold it and we moved to Midland when I was 15.
"It was the days of duck tails and low-hanging britches," Holifield recalls. "Cowboys didn‘t like us because the girls liked us. Me and 10 guys were ‘bodyguards’ for Elvis and Roy, friends really, but we hung out with them and looked out for them."
Relatively speaking, of course, because Holifield remembers, "One time while staying at the West Wind Motel in Midland, I threw Elvis into the pool. I didn't know he couldn’t swim and I had thrown him in the deep end. That was about the same time he got his first pink Cadillac."
Holifield said he remembers his mother riding the train with Presley from Big Spring to Odessa in 1960. Presley was a regular visitor at the Holifield home and he has an old photo of a backyard picnic that includes "Elvis, Mom, Dad, Miss Texas 1955, June Pritchard, Shirley Carroll, guitarist Scotty Moore and Bill Black who smoked cigarettes while he ate," Holifield said. "You can see the old metal tumblers, drinking cups and a table with plates piled high with barbecue."

 

Johnny Cash was a friend of the Holifields while getting his start in the music industry. He often personalized promotional material for "Mom" and "Pop" Holifield, parents of Cecil Holifield, a Granite Shoals resident.

Guitarist extraordinaire Les Paul and vocalist Mary Ford traveled Texas, including visiting The Record Shop with locations in Midland and Odsessa, during their musical careers.

Holifield said Cash especially loved to eat.
"We'd have him out to the ranch house in Midland," Holifield said. "He used to travel with Luther Perkins, the guitarist. Johnny sure could put the groceries away."
Holifield recalls that, "Louie Armstrong always had a joke and was always trying to pull something on my daddy. They were friends ad really liked each other. Louis' voice was unmistakable. He'd call to play and joke and try disguising his voice, but it never worked." Holifield has all these memories because back then there was nothing around Midland-Odessa but tumbleweeds and sand. Hanging out at the record shop was the thing to do for local kids as well as musicians trying to get a start in the music industry.
"We lived at the edge of 'nuthin' else,"' Holifield said. "There was a big difference in the classes back then. You had the oil-field roughnecks, those born with a spoon in their mouth and the blue-collar workers. Money made a big difference in people‘s lives."
Holifield said The Record Shop in Midland opened four years before the Odessa shop.
"Mom ran the Midland store while Dad ran around doing business like getting records and stuff," Holifield said. "Then they opened the Odessa shop, which was 20 miles away and Dad ran that one."
Holifield remembers Orbison hanging out at the shops while he was was attending Odessa Junior College.
"Roy was just starting out and was always hanging out at the record shop," Holifield said. "Johnny and Roy were two of the nicest guys I ever met. They were respectful to my parents and I never saw either one of them do the things historians today said they did."
There are other memories, too.
"Count Basie was a good horn player," Holifield recalls. "But I didn‘t like piano, so I never went to any of his shows. Elvis and Roy hung out at the record stores the most. They played at the Ector County Coliseum and the Midland High School."
As a teenager, Holifield got to know the future superstars during a 10-year span.
“A lot of things were said about Elvis about being wild," Holifield said. "He didn‘t drink when we knew him. People say ‘He dated June Pritchard out of England.’ He never dated June and she lived in Midland. But Elvis did like the girls."
Holifield said Slim Whitman always sent the elder Holifields Easter and Christmas cards.
And he also remembers that Cash was never loud or boisterous and was not an abuser of drugs or drink when he knew him.
"Roy Orbison was the most polite person I have ever met," Holifield said. "He was from Wink. I met his brother last June. who told me three of the original band members were dead. One is still alive. Roy's brother has those thick glasses just like Roy did. I asked him questions only a family member could know, so I know that was his brother."
Holifield's home burned in 2001, and he lost a lot of the collection that he had inherited from his parents. But he has a few treasures left and is considering selling the collection.
"This stuff doesn’t mean anything to our kids." he said. "I think I'll turn it loose to someone who knows what they‘ve got."
Although the collection is kept under lock and key, Holifield enjoys retrieving the collection and sharing it with friends.


Country and western music star Slim Whitman noted the support the Holifields gave him when he was just starting out.

Granite Shoals resident Cecil Holifield enjoys his collection of 1950s-1960s music memorabilia, mostly because many of the recording artists were friends of his family.
 

Photo by Lyn Odom

"Those were great years," he said. "Mom and Pop Holifield sold their stores in 1967. We had a final farewell with all the guys and my parents gave tons of records away. They retired to a ranch in Oklahoma to farm and raise cattle. The old days were so much different than today The most we did was drink beer and have good times playing in the park."
Holifield hasn't been to the Midland-Odessa area in 20 years.
"Oh I've driven around it, but it’s sure not the same as the days of tumbleweeds," Holifield said. "There's a lot of memories back there and a lot in these photo and the things those guys wrote on them. It was sure different than it is today — it sure is."


Elvis Presley was a personal friend to Mom and Pop Holifield and their son Cecil, who was 15 at the time. Cecil and his wife Carolyn now live in Granite Shoals and treasure the music memorabilia the Holifields collected through their business, The Record Shop.
Photos reprinted with permission of Cecil Holifield

Copyright The River Cities Daily Tribune - January 14, 2007 and The Picayune - January 31, 2007, by Lyn Odom courtesy Jay Holifield

article added March 15, 2012
some photos added March 24, 2012

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

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