Onie's Bop

Onie's Bop

by Onie Wheeler


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Onie's Bop

Onie Wheeler died on-stage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1984, a poetic end for a man who spent his life toiling in relative obscurity for country music. He barely even qualifies as a one-hit wonder, having charted only one minor country hit in 1973. He was, however, a unique performer and a talented songwriter whose first OKeh single, "Run 'Em Off," became a hit via Lefty Frizzell's cover version. A few years later his song "No, I Don't Guess I Will," with minor revisions to the lyric, gave Carl Smith a hit. Onie's Bop is a compilation of Wheeler's 1950s recordings for OKeh, Columbia, and Sun, including his original recording of "Run 'Em Off," a copycat follow-up titled "Tell 'Em Off," and 29 other cuts from the distinctive hard country of his early years to the rockabilly and hillbilly bop he later waxed at Sun. Colin Escott's liner notes correctly point out that Wheeler's idiosyncratic early recordings -- such as the oddly metered "My Home Is Not a Home at All" and his religious "mother" songs -- are the apex of his artistic achievement and tower above his rockabilly efforts, even though the latter may hold more appeal for collectors. The gospel-styled vocal trio sound Wheeler applied even to his honky tonk material is stirring, and the slow songs allow the strange flavor of his voice to seep through more than the uptempo material. It is almost always a mistake when Bear Family forgoes chronological sequencing, and the same is true of Onie's Bop; the 31 tracks are arranged mostly in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1959 and ending up in 1953, which makes no sense. Quibbles aside, some excellent music awaits those who want to dig a little deeper into country music's past.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/27/1994
Label: Bear Family
UPC: 4000127155429
catalogNumber: 15542
Rank: 252576

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Onie Wheeler   Primary Artist,Bass,Guitar,Harmonica,Leader,Vocals
Buddy Emmons   Steel Guitar
Floyd Cramer   Piano
Benny Martin   Fiddle
Grady Martin   Fiddle,Guitar
Harold Bradley   Guitar
Floyd Chance   Bass
Lightnin' Chance   Bass
Ray Edenton   Guitar
Joseph Edwards   Guitar
Bob Foster   Steel Guitar
Buddy Harman   Drums
Roy M. "Junior" Husky   Bass
Roland Janes   Guitar
Stan Kesler   Bass
Jerry Rivers   Fiddle
J.M. Van Eaton   Drums
Farris Coursey   Drums
Dale Potter   Fiddle
Earnest Thompson   Drums
Jimmy Wilson   Piano
Smokey Joe Baugh   Drums
Alden J. Nelson   Guitar,Tenor (Vocal)
Jimmy Smith   Piano
Jimmy Wilson   Drums
Doyal Nelson   Rhythm Guitar,Tenor (Vocal)

Technical Credits

Onie Wheeler   Composer
Bill Justis   Producer
Pee Wee King   Composer
Redd Stewart   Composer
Jack Clement   Producer
Colin Escott   Liner Notes,Reissue Producer,Illustrations
Don Law   Producer
Tom Lee   Composer
R.A. Andreas   Illustrations
Richard Weize   Reissue Producer
Charlie Terrell   Illustrations
Bill Starr   Composer
Wheeler Family   Illustrations
Jean Crowe   Composer
A.J. Nelson   Illustrations
Tony Lee   Composer
Doyal Nelson   Duet

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Onie's Bop 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect example of the Bear Family ethos: deserved attention lavished on a commercially marginal musical figure whose artistic output grossly overshadowed his popular renown. Wheeler was one of a number of transitional figures whose career spanned the country/honky-tonk period of the early 50s and onset of rockabilly in the mid-to-late 50s.

Though probably best known by rockabilly revivalists (especially for the sides he cut at Sun), his earlier sides, with their slower tempos, gave full range to his deep voice. Wheeler¿s harmonica (a war injury to his hand curtailed his guitar playing), his distaste for steel guitar, and his original songs gave his recordings a unique sound. Early experiments with Latin rhythms, such as ''Hazel'' and ''I¿m Satisfied With My Dreams'' showed off Wheeler¿s more far-reaching ideas.

Bear Family¿s generous thirty-one track compilation covers both his earliest sides, dating back to his first session for Columbia/Okeh in 1953 (''Run ¿em Off'' and ''Mother Prays Loud in Her Sleep''), as well as his mid-period rockabillies for both Columbia and Sun. Missing are later sides referred to in the liners, including an early 60s session cut with Wheeler¿s daughter, Karen, that yielded ''Sandyland Farmer,'' and his sole chart hit, 1973¿s ''John¿s Been Shucking My Corn.''

Wheeler¿s life story, perhaps not unlike so many other popular music figures (both major and minor), is a fascinating and complex construction of early inspiration, innumerable moves back and forth across the country, day jobs and night gigs, major label recording, failed singles, recordings held back in lieu of covers by stars (and co-writers tacked on as part of publishing deals), reunions with long-lost bandmates, work as a sideman, latter-day one-shot sessions, and eventual Opry and minor chart success. Colin Escott¿s liner notes, comprising perhaps the only detailed biography of Wheeler¿s career, capture the full flavor of Wheeler¿s professional life, and the accompanying session info is top notch.

Wheeler¿s lack of commercial success is variously attributed to his lack of aggressiveness (though the travails he endured to have a career at all certainly suggests he didn¿t take his work lightly), as well as an unwillingness to grease the wheels of radio. Timing and luck obviously played their roles, as well. As this collection shows, Wheeler certainly had the artistic goods, if the not the good fortune, to be a star.

4-1/2 stars, if B&N allowed fractional ratings.