Monday, July 20, 2015

Goebel Reeves: The Texas Drifter

Goebel Reeves was an early American folk singer whose most famous song was "Hobo's Lullaby," which has been covered by a variety of singers, most notably, Woody Guthrie. A 2016 article in the Los Angeles Times said the song is "one of the most disarmingly endearing train songs ever written", and is "inextricably linked with American folk music icon Woody Guthrie." Other notables who recorded the song were Woody's son, Arlo, Pete Seeger and later, David Carradine and Emmylou Harris.

"Go to sleep you weary hobo
Let the towns drift slowly by
Listen to the steel rails hummin'
That's the hobo's lullaby"

Goebel's father, Icil Burchett Reeves, better known as Ice, was born in Clinton County in 1861. His father's first wife, Anna Wright, is buried in the Old Clear Fork Church Cemetery. His grandfather, Edward, died in Clinton County in 1841 and is buried beside his wife at Griffin-Lee Cemetery in the Lee's Chapel area. Geobal's maternal grandfather was Icil Burchett of Cartwright, who was killed by guerillas during the Civil War in 1862. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried at Icil Burchett Cemetery at Cartwright.

Goebel's mother, Alice, was a talented musician, who taught both piano and singing. Ice, his father, once a salesman, was elected to the Texas State Legislature, and son Goebel worked there as a page. When the family relocated to Austin, Geobal met a homeless man who made such an impression on the boy and Reeves became fascinated with the “hobo” lifestyle. While spending time around some of these homeless men, he met vaudeville artist Al Wilson who taught him how to yodel. Soon, Goebel moved on from piano and trumpet and began playing guitar and writing and singing cowboy songs. Many of his songs were autobiographical, drawn from his life as a hobo. After going through marriage and divorce in the 1930's, many of his songs recounted stories of loneliness and lack of family life.

Born in Sherman, Texas on Oct. 9, 1899, Goebel enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, where he served as a bugler. He was wounded on the front lines in Europe and, upon returning home, began living the hobo lifestyle that would earn him the nickname the “Texas Drifter." He made his living on street corners singing songs about traveling as a vagabond.

Did the son of a Clinton County, Kentucky Man teach the Father of Country Music how to yodel?

He travelled to Italy as a merchant seaman in the mid-1920s and toured Europe. When he arrived in Galveston in 1929 he heard a Jimmie Rodgers record playing in a store. His musical style resembled that of Rodgers, including his yodeling and his lyrics about life on the road. Now, Goebel was known to make up stories, but some proved to be true. His claim that he had taught Rodgers how to yodel as they traveled together in the 1920s was never disproved. Regardless of whether or not his stories were true or invented, they made him a popular entertainer.

Making records seemed like a good idea, so he swung up on the next fast freight for New York practicing yodels in the boxcar straw. Reeves walked into Long Island recording studio of the Gennett Record Company and told manager George Keats that he was an important recording artist from Texas.

Soon, his recordings began appearing on numerous labels, like Gennett, OKeh, Gennett, Challenge, Conqueror, Vocalion, Oriole, Banner and Perfect, and in the UK and Ireland on Panachord and Irish Rex, thirty-five recordings in all, mixing together yodeling, comedic pieces, romantic ballads and insightful hobo commentaries. He was known to go by other names on a few of his recordings. Names like George Riley (The Yodeling Rustler), The Texas Drifter and Bert Knowles. In New York he played on network radio as the Singing Bum. Reeves wrote most of his songs. Many were autobiographical, drawn from his life as a hobo. Married and divorced in the mid 1930's, many of his later songs recounted stories of loneliness and lack of family life.

He had one movie role; in the 1937 Western film, "The Silver Trail," playing a singer named Hank in an uncredited role, but after WWII, he began living as a recluse in Bell Gardens, a small suburb in Los Angeles and rarely ever performed in public. He died in Long Beach on January 26, 1959. It can be said that the Texas Drifter, Global Reeves, made an important contribution to country music. His style influenced many artists. A sampling of his recordings can be found on the third of a four-CD set released in 2005, entitled "Sounds Like Jimmie Rodgers," on which Reeves sings 19 songs. A 1994 release, entitled "Hobo's Lullaby," has Reeves singing 26 tracks.


OKeh (1929-30)
45365 The Drifter, pt. 1 / The Drifter, pt. 2 - 08-29

45381 I Learned About Women From Her / Tramp's Mother - 10-29

45408 Blue Undertakers Blues / When The Clock Struck - 02-30

45427 My Mountain Gal / Blue Undertaker Blues, pt.2 - 05-30 as by Bert Knowles

45449 Fortunes Galore / Texas Drifter's Warning - 08-30

45491 In The Land Of The Never Was / Song Of The Sea - 11-30

Gennett-Champion (1930)
CH-16139 The Hobo's Grave / At The End Of The Hobo Trail – 30 as by Texas Drifter

CH-16189 Station H.O.B.O. / The Hobo's Last Letter – 31 as by Texas Drifter

CH-45194 I Learned About Women From Her / The Hobo's Last Letter - 36 (released on Champion)

ARC (1931)
- Romeo -
5023 Texas Drifter's Warning / The Tramps's Mother – 02-31 as by George Riley (also Oriole 8023, Perfect 12653)

5032 The Grave By The Whispering Pine / The Railroad Bum - 03-31 as by George Riley (also Oriole 8032, Banner 32098, Regal 10304)

5037 The Last Letter / The Cowboy's Dream - 03-31 as by George Riley (also Oriole 8037, Banner 32099, Regal 10305)

539 Hobo's Last Letter / Station Hobo - 04-31 (released on Brunswick)

5051 My Mississippi Home / At The End If The Hobo Trail – 05-31as by George Riley (also Oriole 8051, Banner 32131, Perfect 12694, Regal 10309)

M12214 Little Joe The Wrangler / The Cowboy's Dream – 31 (released on Melotone)

Decca (1934)
5020 Reckless Tex / Yodeling Teacher - 09-34

5021 Cowboy's Lullabye / Meet Me At The Crossroads - 09-34

45181 The Drifter's Lady / Hobo's Lullaby - 36 (released on Champion)

- Panachord (UK) -
25768 The Wayward Son / Reckless Tex

25848 The Drifter’s Buddy / The Cowboy’s Prayer

25991 The Soldier‘s Return / Miss Jackson Tennessee

26018 My Mountain Girl / Cold And Hungry

26042 Meet Me At The Crossroads / Yodeling Teacher

ARC (1934)
- Vocalion -
02806 Hobo And The Cop / The Cowboy's Lullaby - 10-34

02828 Hobo's Lullaby / Cowboy's Prayer - 11-34

- Melotone -
M13276 The Big Rock Candy Mountain / The Cowboy's Dizzy Sweetheart - 02-35 (also on Banner 33309, Romeo 5415, Oriole 8415, Perfect 13099)

M13369 Reckless Tex From Texas / Where The Mississippi Washes – 03-35 (also on Banner 33402,Romeo 5454, Oriole 8454, Perfect 13132)

M350911 The Wandering Boy / It's True I'm Just A Convict – 09-35

- Conquerer -
8442 Cold And Hungry / The Hobo's Prayer - 02-35

8443 Reckless Tex From Texas / The Bar None Ranch - 02-35

8470 The Cowboy's Dizzy Sweetheart / The Big Rock Candy Mountain - 04-35 (reissue of 13276)

8517 Where The Mississippi Washes / Reckless Tex From Texas - 06-35 (reissue of 13369)

8565 The Wandering Boy / It's True I'm Just A Convict - 09-35

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