The David Box Story — Vol. 2
Rollercoaster Records RCCD 3071
CD 1: She Does The Best She Can / Selfish / Lucky Penny / That’s Too Bad (Take 1) / That’s Too Bad (Take 2) / Getting’ In Good / Raining in My Heart / Peggy Sue Got Married (The Crickets) / Don’t Cha Know (The Crickets) / When You’re In Love / Laugh A Little Bit / If You Can’t Say Something Nice / Funniest Thing / Leave Me Alone To Dream / Happy Once Again / Crying Over You / Sweet, Sweet Day / Woody (The Bumper Jumpers) / I’ve Got A New Love / Waitin’ (So You’ll Be Mine) / You’ll Miss Her Smile / Mist of Blue / A Thousand Kisses /Rainbow Of Love / No One Will Ever Know / Little Lonely Summer Girl / Little Lonely Summer Girl (Alternate Take) / Apache /Some Sweet Day / Slippin’ And Slidin’ / That’s Too Bad (My Heart Cries For You
(Playing time: 60:19)
CD 2: Look At Me (The Ravens / The Rhythm Teens) / Ting A Ling (The Ravens) / The Rhythm Teens) / Don’t Cha Know (The Ravens) / Some Sweet Day (The Ravens) / That’ll Be The Day (The Ravens) / Well All Right (The Ravens) / Cotton Fields / Peggy Sue Got Married / Slippin’ And Slidin’ / An Empty Cup (And A Broken Date) / It’s So Easy / David’s Blues / That’s All I Want From You / It’s Too Late / Tell Me How / Valley Of Tears / Last Night / Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie / Think It Over/You Only Pass This Way One Time (Sydna Taylor) /Joy Of Love (Sydna Taylor) / Sometimes I Love Him, Sometimes I Hate Him (Sydna Taylor) / No One Will Ever Know / I Do The Best I Can / Sweet Sweet Day / Lucky Penny / The Other Side Of Me / Laugh A Little Bit / Somewhere In This Town / Don’t Leave Me Here / What’s Wrong With You
(Playing time: 57:54)
For a long time we knew very little about David Box. Back in 1960 I bought the Crickets’ ‘Peggy Sue Got Married/Don’t Cha Know’ and I read somewhere that the vocalist was a Lubbock boy named David Box. Four years later I heard ‘Little Lonely Summer Girl’ on the radio, and read that he had died in a plane crash, just like his idol Buddy Holly. Then nothing until the early ‘90s, and the issue of the compilation CD ‘Hep Cats From Big Spring’ (Rollercoaster RCCD 3003) which had four tracks from David and his first group, the Ravens (the CD was jam-packed with goodies including ‘Blue Days, Black Nights, by its composer Ben Hall, and the magnificent ‘Honey, You Talk Too Much’ by Orville Fox And The Harmony Masters). The sleeve notes by John Ingman included the first bio of David I had read. Ten years later in 2002, Rollercoaster issued ‘The David Box Story’, complete with a cover photo that looked like the cover of ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ (and a photo of The Ravens that looked like the cover of ‘The “Chirping” Crickets), and detailed notes by the project coordinator, John Davison-White. The 32 tracks demonstrated some of Box’s talent, as a singer, songwriter and guilarist.
Now, with this double CD (complete with a cover photo resembling the cover of ‘The Buddy Holly Story Vol. II), we have 62 tracks, none of which duplicate the tracks on Volume l (though there are some alternate recordings), and the opportunity to learn more about the range of his talent. Rollercoaster always produces high-quality work, and on this they have excelled themselves. There are almost 40 pages of notes, including interviews with many of those who played with, and worked with, David Box, though not with his producer, Ray Rush, who has made himself unavailable. It was Rush, another Texan singer/songwriter/producer who said, “I worked with Buddy Holly [he sang with The Roses], I worked with Roy Orbison, and I worked with David Box. Of the three, David was the most talented”. The notes makes lively reading: Ted Groebl, who produced some of these tracks, explains he has no photographs from the period because “My ex-wife burned my house down in 1974”.
The majority of the tracks on the first CD were recorded in Ben Hall’s Big Spring studio in 1962/’63/’64. One of the strongest tracks is ‘Sweet, Sweet Day’ (a great song, written by Box and Roland Pike) which was David’s second single on JOED (this is the mono version: Volume l included the stereo version). ‘Waitin’ (So You’ll Be Mine)’, his first single, written by Ray Rush and The Ravens’ bass player, Lynn Bailey (who later played on The Crickets’ 1965 single ‘Now Hear This’ and also on ‘The Tommy Allsup Songbook’ Rollercoaster RCCD 3048) is another excellent one. The Crickets’ ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ and ‘Don’t Cha Know’ are also included, with ‘full backing vocals’ (redundant on the latter track, in my opinion). Box’s vocal really was very cool on these. Another great Roland Pike co-composition is the opening track, ‘She Does The Best She Can’, which was later recorded as ‘I Do the Best I Can’: this really should have been a hit. I knew that Box had worked with Roy Orbison, and ‘That’s Too Bad’ (a Box composition) features Roy on some very tasty lead guitar. Orbison apparently said that Box was ‘the second best guitarist he knew’ (Roy was the first!). Sadly the rumoured Orbison/Box duet on ‘Maybe Baby’ has not emerged. The Orbison/Melson/Rush composition ‘If You Can’t Say Something Nice’ recorded in 1962, with all the great Nashville musicians (‘Pig’ Hargus, Buddy Harman etc.) is another highlight (it was a single on CANDIX). A year later Box returned to the RCA Studios in Nashville and laid down perhaps his greatest recording, ‘Little Lonely Summer Girl’, a Box/Pike composition, with Floyd Cramer on piano and Bob Moore on bass (in an interview in the sleeve notes, the arranger Glen Spreen rather oddly describes the background singers as ‘a group called The Jordanaires’ – as if they were unknown!).
Other highlights on CD l are an instrumental ‘Apache’ (not the Jerry Lordon composition, but not dissimilar), ‘Some Sweet Day’ (an earlier iteration of ‘Sweet, Sweet Day) which includes an overdubbed vocal from David’s sister Rita, who has kept the flame burning for her brother all these years, and a very effective version of ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’, based on the Holly ‘fast version’ and an alternate of what was one of my favorite tracks on Volume l. Holly and Crickets fans will enjoy his version of Raining in My Heart (just Box on guitar/vocal and James Shipley on drums), a very touching home recording, and ‘When You’re In Love’ a fine Allison/Curtis song that the Crickets recorded with Bobby Vee. ‘I’ve Got A New Love’ is a good, rather 60s song (Volume l included a version with an overdubbed vocal, which gave it an Everlies’ feel). ‘Funniest Thing’, ‘Happy Once Again’ (an alternate version of ‘I Can Smile Again’ from Volume 1), ‘Mist of Blue’ and ‘That’s Too Bad (My Heart Cries For You)’ are all excellent Box compositions. NDT readers are probably familiar with the Fred Rose song ‘No One Will Every Know’ through the version by Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, Don Gibson and Jerry Lee Lewis (among others). It’s a great song, and David’s majestic version certainly does it justice. Fans of West Texas music will be interested to see that Johnny ‘Peanuts’ Wilson (Roy Orbison’s Teen Kings, ‘Cast Iron Arm’ etc.) crops up as Sound Engineer on the fun David Box-Jack Smith instrumental composition‘Woody’, recorded in the Coronodo Studios in Odessa.
CD 2 is an interesting mix of recordings from throughout David’s career. His recordings with The Ravens (Lynn Bailey on bass, Ernie Hall, the co-writer of ‘Don’t Cha Know ‘ on drums), his practise sessions with James Shipley on drums, and his ‘having fun with friends’ sessions all feature songs that will be very familiar to Buddy Holly fans. ‘Ting A Ling’ has some good guitar from Box (I was sorry we do not hear that much solo guitar from him, since everyone praised his talent as a guitarist), and ‘Well All Right’ demonstrates a harder edge to his voice. This was recorded at Radio KLLL in Lubbock, where Holly recorded some jingles, and also ‘You’re The One’. The engineer was Bobby Peeples, the engineer who recorded in the Holleys’ garage some classic 1956 Holly tracks which are included in the ‘OHH! ANNIE – Buddy Holly ’56 Sessions’ (Rollercoaster RCCD 3056). (My interview with him is also included). Box and The Ravens also recorded some tracks at Mitchell’s Recording Studio, also in Lubbock: their original stripped-down version of ‘Don’t Cha Know’ is particularly effective. On some of the Holly tracks – ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’, ‘An Empty Cup (And A Broken Date)’, ‘It’s Too Late’ – he shows that he can soundly uncannily like the late, great. I really enjoyed his versions of ‘Tell Me How’ and ‘Think It Over’, both of which would have benefitted from a full-scale production.
Some people have speculated that Buddy Holly, had he stayed in Greenwich Village, would have become a prime figure in the ‘60s New York folk-rock movement. The same can absolutely be said of David Box: on some of these recordings he sounds not so much a rock ’n’ roller as a ‘60s singer/songwriter (think Jim Croce). This applies both to his versions of his own compositions (‘You’ll Miss Her Smile’ and ‘Rainbow Of Love’ on CD l), and to his covers (‘That’s All I Want From You’, originally recorded in 1954 by Jaye P. Morgan). The range of his talent is also demonstrated in the tracks by the female singer Sydna Taylor that he arranged: for example, ‘Sometimes I Love Him, Sometimes I Hate Him’ — a very powerful ballad, written by Box and Pike (I believe Roland Pike died in a fire in the late ‘70s).
CD 2 finishes with some alternate versions of previously-heard songs, and some demos. I’ve always liked ‘I Do The Best I Can’ since I heard it on ‘Hep Cats From Big Spring’ and the perky, poppy version of ‘Sweet, Sweet Day’ works well. There are alternate versions of two Box songs that are on CD I – ‘Lucky Penny’ (much better without the girls chorus), and ‘Laugh A Little Bit’. ‘Somewhere In This Town’ was recorded by David as a demo for Bruce Channel, who was looking for a follow-up to ‘Hey Baby’: his version follows David’s note-for-note. The final two songs (just David, and someone slapping his thighs), ‘Don’t Leave Me Here’ and the bluesy ‘What’s Wrong With You’ could both have been turned into hit singles.
Several of those interviewed about David Box say that towards the end of his brief career he was starting to wonder why he had not made it at the national level. The singles he had issued were all very strong, and it was clearly lack of promotion that resulted in their poor sales (with the exception of ‘Little Lonely Summer Girl’ which sold a respectable 60,000). Many more of the songs on these two CDs could have been turned into singles: David wrote some excellent melodies, and the songs he wrote with Roland Pike have certainly stood the test of time. He had a distinctive voice, with echoes of his two fellow-Texan idols, Holly and Orbison. And he played some nifty guitar licks. Certainly The Crickets recognized his talents, which is why they asked this 16 year-old to record with them. We all owe a debt of thanks to John Beecher at Rollercoaster Records, and to the executive producer/project director John Davison-White for bringing the full range of this huge talent to our attention.