Founded in the mid-'50' and run by Wesley Rose, son of Acuff-Rose co-founder, Fred Rose, Hickory was a prime outlet for the publishing company's song catalog. The label scored country hits by Roy Acuff, Don Gibson and others, and rounded the bend into the '60's by taking on pop acts such as The Newbeats ("Bread and Butter"), Sue Thompson ("James Hold the Ladder Steady") and British troubadour, Donovan.
The 18 tracks of volume one combine country and pop, ranging from Doug Kershaw's cajun-flavored "Louisiana Man" to Neon Philharmonic's baroque rock "Morning Girl." Additional highlights include Bill Carlisle's hand-clapping "No Help Wanted," Gibson's 1971 comeback (and Eddy Raven's first songwriting hit) "Country Green," and a quintet of John D. Loudermilk tunes that include Kris Jensen's pre-Everly's recording of "Torture" and Ernie Ashworth's crossover hit, "Talk Back Trembling Lips."
Absent are tracks from Acuff (recently anthologized by Varese Sarabande), as well as early hits scored by Donovan (which, to be fair, were Pye UK recordings rather than Hickory originals). The liner notes focus more on Acuff-Rose than Hickory itself, and with no real background on the songs and singers, the tracks are left to speak for themselves. But speak they do, in surprising variety and vitality. As one of a handful of long-lived Nashville indies, Hickory's catalog of memorable gems makes for great listening.