Taking a Chance on Fayetteville’s Talent

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sam Phillips and Leonard Chess both started small record labels (Sun and Chess records respectively) that made big stars. Arkansas was filled with small record labels, too, such as Rimrock, founded by musician Wayne Raney, who was profiled the other day. Surprisingly, several of the small Arkansas record labels received press in Billboard magazine, the famous music trade publication.

A 1960 ad for a John Tolleson, who performed in the area throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s.
A 1960 ad for a John Tolleson, who performed in the area throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Fayetteville, of course, is a college town and, as it does today, had many rock ‘n’ rollers playing the local clubs and fraternity houses. In the early 1960s, a man named Phil Eagle took advantage of the talent by setting up shop on East Center Street in Fayetteville to form Chance records, which bore a pair of dice in its logo. His first featured artist was John Tolleson (listed as Johnny Tolleson), a musician so popular for his singing and piano playing that even Ronnie Hawkins was intimidated by him (Hawkins would gain much of his fame after relocating from Fayetteville to Canada, where he continues to live today). The result was a 45 rpm record with the songsĀ  “Summer Love ‘N’ Summer Kissin'” and, on the flip side, “You’re in Love with Yourself (And Not in Love with Me),” the latter of which is featured in the video above. A 1961 article in the Northwest Arkansas Times listed the musicians on the two songs to be drummer Charles Conine, guitarist Chalky Dearien, Ken Clark on bass and Troy Brand, a saxophonist who also “handles special effects.”

Ken Owens and the Del Reys Mhoon 71 ad
A 1962 ad for Ken Owens and the Del Reys, the latter of whom would evolve into The Cate Brothers Band.

It was also reported in the Northwest Arkansas Times that Eagle was hitting the road, promoting the record.

At least one other 45 rpm record was released a year later, and it was of Ken Owens and the Del Reys with the songs “You’re for Me” and “That’s Tough.” The Del Reys, which featured Earl Cate on lead guitar and twin brother Ernie Cate on the organ, would evolve into the widely popular Cate Brothers Band. Musicians also listed were Lonnie Watson on bass guitar and Randy Favorite on drums.

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