Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
Dusty Ellison was on the Los Angeles country music scene as far as we can tell in the late 1940's, early 1950's.
We were provided a self-written biography / resume from Dusty's son that provides some insights into his career.
Dusty indicated that he started singing and playing the guitar about the time he was old enough to hold the guitar. He said his brother influenced him to learn the guitar or maybe it was more like his brother pushed him.
He joined the American Federation of Musicians Local 47 ("The Musicians Union of Hollywood") in 1944. This allowed him to start working professionally around the Los Angeles area. He indicated he worked steadily for ten years as a musician. He told of working engagements with such acts as Tex Williams, Spade Cooley, Merle Travis, Stuart Hamble as well as Bob Wills and other country entertainers in the area. He made several guest appearances with Cliffie Stone.
Sunny Ciesla reported in her Hollywood roundup column in 1948 that Dusty was appearing with the Saddle Dusters that included Buddy Woody and Hill Duffy as part of a trio act. They were entertaining folks over radio station KXLA out of Pasadena, California. They were on the air Monday through Friday at 7:00 pm. She mentioned that Dusty and the group had recorded some tunes for the Four Star record label that were due to be released in early 1949. She spoke of "Footprints In The Snow" being one of those tunes.
Dusty confirms in his bio that his group, the Saddle Dusters, worked around the area and also had a live radio show over KXLA for two years. (Note: In our research of other country music history, we found that the newspapers while they would list the station, they never listed which show was on the air at a given time.) Dusty indicated he also had an early morning show on KGFJ.
That Saddle Dusters group released a recording on the Crystal label (#167) that included the songs "Trail of Dreams" b/w "I Threw My Heart Away". Billboard magazine listed the recording in their August 1948 publication and did not exactly have good things to say. That magazine could be a bit harsh at times in that era.
Dusty stated that during those early years, he wrote several songs which were published by American Music Company. Hill and Range took over the publishing rights of those songs after American Music "sold out". But he may written songs after that affiliation for he indicated that "...I personally hold the copyrights."
Suuny Ciesla noted in one 1949 article that he was performing at the Dave Ming dances where Ole Rasmussen and Tommy Duncan were headlining.
In the summer of 1949, Ms. Ciesla tells the readers that Uncle Dave Ming had sold the 97th Street Corral and was working mainly at his ballroom in Anaheim. Ford Lewis and Dusty were said to be sharing the spotlight on the stage.
Billboard reported a June 4, 1949 press release in their June 11 issue from Ace Hudkins. He had created the Bob Keene "Artie Shaw" type band previously and was going to try the square dancing genre. The aim was for Hudkins to take over the Avodon Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles and introduce a series of Friday night square dances starting on June 10, 1949. They were to be called the "Red Barn Roundup", which was the same title of the show that DJ Tom Brennan used on his 10:30 pm to midnight show over KXLA in Pasadena. The Avodon Ballroom was located in the Garland Building at 117 West Ninth Street (at Spring Street) in Los Angeles. Click to view a photo of the Avodon Ballroom
Hudkins used three DJ's in the Keene's band operations - Bill Anson, Don Otis and Alex Cooper. It was stated that they 'reportedly' got 10 per cent of the gate take and were to get a similar arrangement for the square dances.
Hudkins was going to use Dusty Ellison and his Saddle Dusters at the hoedowns. Reportedly, the share of the gate was as follows: Brennan - 20%; Ellison - 30%; and Hudkins - 50%. The DJ's would get paid after the musicians were paid. In return, the DJ's would plug the Avodon dances over their shows. Bill Anson on KFWB appears to have started including western / hillbilly recordings on his show to help promote the Red Barn Roundup Dances.
During his stint at KXLA with the Saddle Dusters, Dusty helped another young singer get his start, Rue Barclay. Rue eventually had his own band, the Melody Riders.
In November of 1949, Billboard magazine wrote of events out of its Chicago offices. Berle Adams, who was London Records' hillbilly and blues and rhythm A&R chief had signed Paul Bascombe's combo to the label's blues catalog. Around that same time, he added Lulu Belle and Scotty, Jimmy Walker and Dusty Ellison to the country catalog for the label.
It appears at some point, he left Southern California and moved north. He wrote that he had recorded four of his "latest songs", which he indicated are "...on demonstration records", but were still distributed to the radio stations in Northern California. But radio station KFRE in Fresno was also playing the records and giving him a plug. He also said stations in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Billings, Montana were playing the records. He indicated that radio station KSOP was the station in Salt Lake City, but was unsure of the call letters for the station in Billings.
He ventured into other areas as well, writing some "Jingle" commercials for the Sacramento, California area. One as for the Par-Gas Company which aired over station KAHI-FM in Auburn, California. Par-Gas appears to be a retailer of Propane Gas. It also aired over station KTHO in Lake Tahoe. Another jingle was for a car dealer that aired over station KRAK in Sacramento.
His written biography ends with a note that he was playing professionally two nights a week in one of Grass Valley's night clubs.
Credits & Sources