DALLAS HARMS, pictured during his heyday years of the late 1970's-early 80's as a recording artist and songwriter.
Story by Larry Delaney
Dallas Harms is the classic example of a guy who was ‘ahead of his time’ in the music biz. The veteran Canadian recording artist / songwriter / producer / must also rate as one of the most ‘overlooked’ contributors to the music scene in Canada… much of what he has achieved with his songs and recordings has gone relatively un-rewarded. Of course, the lack of recognition is more the result of the era that Dallas Harms came out of – the 60’s – 70’s, when the Canadian country music ‘industry’ was still in its ‘building’ stage… and not from a lack of acceptance from his fellow music makers.
Still, a check of the Canadian Country Music Association’s award winners list will only show Dallas Harms’ name on two trophies – Producer Of The Year award wins in 1983 and 1984. He was however duly recognized in 1989 when he was among the inaugural inductees into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, at a time when that organization had not yet merged with the CCMA’s Hall of Honour. Dallas Harms had also earned his share on nominations in the RPM magazine sponsored Big Country Awards during the 1970’s, the predecessor to the Canadian Country Music Awards.
What makes this general lack of recognition so surprising is the fact that Dallas Harms has contributed so much through the years… and is still doing so, especially with his songwriting.
Only months ago Dallas Harms collaborated with the late Gary Buck in composing the song Jammin’ At The Hall Of Fame, a story song capturing the spirit of the country music legends in Canadian country music’s ‘Hillbilly Heaven”. He has also composed an equally intriguing song with Rockin’ The Hammer, a tribute song to the legendary, Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, a music star who owes his Canadian music career breakthrough to Dallas Harms. That too, is a story that has been given little recognition.
Since many of today’s country music fans and the new generation of country radio DJ’s would be hard pressed to connect Dallas Harms to a “hit” song …let’s do a ‘refresher’ course.
Born in Saskatchewan (July 18, 1938), Dallas Harms moved to the Hamilton, Ontario area as youngster with his family. He played the local scene in the mid 1950’s and starred on the popular Main Street Jamboree. He released several singles on the Quality, and Sparton labels in the 60’s but it wasn’t until 1972, on Columbia Records, that he made his chart debut with the single, In The Loving Arms Of My Marie, a tune that peaked at #8 on the RPM charts. He would go on to chart another 18 singles for Columbia, Broadland and eventually RCA.
In 1975 Dallas Harms released the first of his five career albums. That package, produced by Gary Buck, was highlighted by the album’s title track tune, Paper Rosie, a song that would eventually open Nashville’s doors for Dallas Harms.
Through Gary Buck, the song Paper Rosie was pitched to Frank Jones, a much-heralded Canadian who had produced hit records for dozens of Nashville’s top acts. Frank Jones got the song to Gene Watson, who cut it in 1977, and had a #3 hit on the Billboard Country Charts with his version. That Dallas Harms – Gene Watson connection was only the first of an eventual six songs written by Harms that Gene Watson would record, including Top 10 chart hits with Cowboys Don’t Get Lucky All The Time and The Old Man And His Horn, as well as tunes like Mama Sold Roses, Get Along Little Doggie and Mr. Candyman, which was re-titled from it’s original Old Ira Gray.
A CLASSIC SONG
Paper Rosie has been a ‘career’ song for Dallas Harms. Not only recognized as Harms’ signature song, and Gene Watson’s third most successful chart single in his illustrious recording career; but it has also been covered by Nashville artists like George Hamilton IV, The Osborne Brothers and Don Walser. Gene Watson’s version of Paper Rosie can also be heard on the soundtrack of the 1990 Eddie Murphy / Nick Nolte movie Another 48 Hours. Watson’s version of the Dallas Harms song Cowboys Don’t Get Lucky All The Time can also be heard on the soundtrack of the movie Convoy.
(written by DALLAS HARMS)
The sun goes down in Calvin County
Neon lights from an old beer sign
Shone through the window out on the sidewalk
As I walked in to pass the time
I looked around, sat down at a table
Ordered beef on wick with a Ballantyne
And through the door came a little old lady
She was selling paper roses and they only cost a dime
Paper Rosie, Paper Rosie
She sold you paper roses, and they only cost a dime
Silver hair, that's lost its glow
trembling hands as she passed a rose
Red crepe paper made nature's bouquet
Help a little old lady and buy a rose today
I took the rose from her trembling hand
With eyes of age she smiled and walked away
Like a breath of spring, I could smell the rose
It came alive and I could hear her say
Buy my roses, pretty roses
They're only made of paper, but they only cost a dime
I went to look for her outside
A spray of roses by her side
The sky lit up and a choir sang
A thousand voices as the church bells rang
They sang Rosie, Paper Rosie
‘OUT OF HARM’S WAY”
She sold you paper roses, but they only cost a dime
Paper Rosie, Paper Rosie
She sold you paper roses, but they only cost a dime.
(written by Dallas Harms)
(Doubleplay Music (SOCAN)
(all rights reserved - reprinted with permission)
Dallas Harms’ four albums for Broadland Records, released from 1975-1979, were all produced by Gary Buck and all of the songs were composed by Dallas Harms. His fifth career album release was a bit of a departure --- Out Of Harms Way was released on RCA in 1982, a project that was co-produced by Harms with Mike ‘Pepe’ Francis; and featured a mix of Harms originals with material that was written by Nashville tunesmiths. The album yielded three Top 10 singles, and Dallas Harms’ only #1 single, Honky Tonkin’ (All Night Long) one of his original tunes.
However, by the late-80’s the times in country music were a-changing… and 50 year-old country singers were not in very high demand with the changing attitudes at country radio, and Dallas Harms slipped out of the mainstream spotlight.
PRODUCER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF CANADIAN ALBUM RELEASES
Unquestionably, he had made his mark – in addition to his own recording career Dallas Harms also produced albums and recording sessions for many of Canada’s top country acts of the day including packages for Cathy Chambers, Artie MacLaren, Larry Mattson, Glen Logan, Brent Williams; Wayne Rostad, Don Cochrane, Neville Wells, Lynn Dee, etc.; and his compositions were recorded by a legion of Canadian hitmakers including Orval Prophet, Johnny Burke & Eastwind, Wayne Mack, Honey West, The Post Family, Winston James, Jerry & Joanne, and many others.
Dallas Harms’ talents went beyond the studio – he also was a keen photographer and a gifted creative artist. Dallas designed album covers (photos and art design) for many Canadian country album (vinyl Lp’s) releases during the 70’s-80’s; including his own albums as well as packages for Orval Prophet, Cathy Chambers, Artie MacLaren, Lee Warren, and many of the other artists he produced.
All of these wonderful achievements during Dallas Harms’ many years in the music business seem to have almost been forgotten about in today’s world of “new country” music.
“ROCKIN’ THE HAMMER”
…THE RONNIE HAWKINS CONNECTIONS
Others are not so quick to forget. Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins, a true ‘legend’ on the North American scene for decades, has gone on record stating the key role that Dallas Harms played in his career.
That is a story in itself, and when CMN chatted with Dallas Harms about his newly penned tribute song to Hawkins, Rockin’ The Hammer, Dallas obliged by providing the following background information:
“Rockin’ The Hammer is the story about Ronnie Hawkins when he first came to Hamilton in 1958. Hamilton has always been a ‘steel town’, and it got its nickname “The Hammer” because of the lunch-bucket workers in the steel plants.
I had become friends with Conway Twitty and his band when they first came to Hamilton to play the Flamingo Tavern in 1957. I took a leave of absence from my job in January ’58 to go back with the band to Arkansas. I was a close friend with Jimmy Paulman, the guitar player in Conway’s band at the time, and he said he could get me an audition at Sun Records in Memphis.
We went to Arkansas. Conway then decided to quit the road; so I ended up accompanying his back-up band, as a "fan", while they toured the Southwest on a club tour. The band backed Billy Lee Riley, as The Little Green Men. I travelled with them for about three weeks touring clubs, high school hops and universities. The Sun Records thing never got off the ground; but it was all a big thrill for me.
All the while the guys in the band kept saying: “Wait Till you meet Ron !!”.
Ron had a club. It was near a university. You bought your booze at a nearby liquor store and brown-bagged it. Then paid $2 for pop and ice to mix. The place was packed with young kids from the university.
Then “Ron Hawkins” was introduced. When he stepped on stage and took hold of the microphone, the crowd rushed to the stage. I was sitting alone at a table, wondering what the hell is this all about !! The band kicked off Bo Diddley…Ron did a Camel Walk (like what Michael Jackson did with his “moonwalk” move). He ran up the wall at the side of the stage…flipped backwards, and even somersaulted across the stage !! The crowd loved it and so did I. I told Ron and the band, if they ever decided to come to Canada and put on a show like that, the fans would go crazy !!
In the spring of 1958 I was back at a day job in Hamilton when I got a phone call. It was from Jimmy Ray; he told me he had put a band together with Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helms, (drums), Willard “Pop” Jones on piano and himself on guitar.
He said: “Ron had called Harold Kudlets, the Hamilton agent who booked Conway Twitty into the Flamingo in ’57. Harold agreed to book the band for one week with a two-week option at The Golden Rail in Hamilton. If the option wasn’t picked up they wouldn’t have enough money to get back home”. I told them not to worry about it, I would round up enough people to fill the club.
Ron and the boys were a sad looking bunch when they arrived after driving all the way from Arkansas with no sleep and some hand-me-down tuxedos from Conway’s band.
During the sound check Harold Kudlets asked Ron: “Don’t You play a guitar ?” Ron replied: “If I owned one, I could fake it !!”
It was an hour before show time, so I went back home and got my Gibson 45.
Ron sang Lawdy Miss Clawdy and faked the rhythm guitar. Half way through the song Harold Kudlets shook his hands to stop the music and said: “It’s better without the guitar…it’s different”.
Harold Kudlets left before the first set at 9:00. Ron only had a few ballads in his repertoire, there were no more than 20 people in the club, talking and drinking. When he finished his last ballad, he thought, what the hell…time to rock. Levon counted in Bo Diddley and Ron went into action…back flips, somersaults, the whole shtick!!
The bartender was waving his hands…screaming to turn the music down…the people couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. The bartender grabbed the phone and pointed to the band, apparently trying to tell them he was calling the owners. Levon was laughing so hard he almost fell of the drum, and the people started running for the doors.
Unfortunately that night went down like the Titanic. Harold Kudlets smoothed it over with the club owner…and by the weekend the word was out. They were lined up at the door and half way down the street to see and hear this new wild and crazy singer…Ronnie Hawkins.
The following week I took Ron and the boys to Chuck Matchens Men’s Wear, the tailor who made my clothes and arranged for some new suits for the band.
I look back at my life today and I’m proud to know that I played a part in “The Hawk’s life and career. He’s a friend and the Grand daddy of Canadian rock ‘n roll…and he’s still Rockin” !!
.. and so is DALLAS HARMS !!