|Tracy Pendarvis, Just A Little Too Late|
Tracy Perdarvis had the misfortune to arrive at Sun just a little too late. If he had arrived in 1956 instead of 1958 or early in 1959 then his career night have taken a different direction. As it was, he made some of the best records to appear on the magic yellow label as the new decade approached. Certainly, he was the only artist whose style harked back to the golden days of Sun Records. Tracy Pendarvis (his real name, incidentally) was born and raised in central Florida. Technically, Florida is part of the South but its music usually owed much more to the proximity of the Caribbean than the Mississippi Delta. However, WSM's clear channel brought the Grand Ol' Opry into Pendarvis's life and he developed a lifelong fondness for the music of Marty Robbins. He also liked gutbucket blues such as Jimmy Reed and, later, the raw sounds pioneered by Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Even Fats Domino was a little too smooth tor Tracy Pendarvis.
"My buddy Johnny Gibson played terrific blues guitar. We'd sit up until two or three o'clock in the morning, talking about how we were going to be big. We entered this contest on WDVH In Gainesville, Florida and won it." Their success in the talent contest got Pendarvis and Gibson a shot on the small Scott label. Both "It Don't Pay" and "One of These Days" got some local action but "It don't Pay" was more than a title, it was the watchword at Scott Records. Aside from a chance to meet Connie Francis, Pendarvis had little to show from his affiliation with the label.
By this point, Pendarvis had married and had started a career as an electrician, However, both he and Gibson together with drummer "Punk" Williams decided that they needed to be on Sun Records, so they got in Pendarvis's car and drove to Memphis without calling ahead to set up an appointment. They were met at the door by Ernie Barton who arranged an audition with Sam Phillips. The rawness in the group appealed to Phillips and he signed them on the spot. He also produced their first two sessions.
The three singles which were issued during Pendarvis's tenure with Sun met with scant acclaim. The musical climate was changing. Phillips own Carl Mann pointed the way towards the future with lightweight material and a smoother approach to singing. Pendarvis was virtually an anachronism and the short-lived vogue for the material he produced had just about passed. He also suffered from comparisons with Elvis Presley, whom he claims not to have liked. In particular, Pendarvis's voice made the strange transition from a deep and mature baritone to a high whine in much the same way as Presley's voice during the early years.
The end of Pendarvis's association with Sun is clouded in some mystery. Pendarvis claims that he left because his contract was not transferred to Smash at the same time as Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich but, if that was indeed the case, then there is a key piece of the puzzle missing because Pendarvis had long since ceased recording for Sun when Rich and Lewis departed in 1963. In any event, Pendarvis started his own record production company, Descant Records, that worked in tandem with Bill Lowery's NRC complex in Atlanta, Georgia. He worked on recordings by Lowery's proteges including Jerry Reed, Joe South and Ray Stevens.
After a year Pendarvis folded Descant Records and moved to Chicago while his divorce was in progress. He played the lowlife honkytonks in Chicago and Cicero, Illinois, before remarrying and moving back to his native Florida. For the last couple of decades Pendarvis worked in audio technology.
He installed a studio in his hometown of Tavares. He listened to modern rock music with something bordering on open contempt. What they call "rock" today has no connection with rock music. "These clowns like David Bowie don't know a thing about rock. It's a prostitution of it. Little Richard did real rock and what he didn't do, Chuck Berry did." Right on, Tracy!
Source: "Sun Records, The Rocking Years" by Colin Escott.
A note from Tracy's sister Jo Allie:
"Sountbound Line" always had a special meaning for me. When it was released, my husband was a member of the U.S. Army, stationed in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where we lived off-post. We were listening to one of the local radio stations when, much to my amazement, "Southbound Line" started playing. Prior to this, we had known nothing about its release date. Listening to it, I was struck with such a bout of homesickness that my husband was compelled to put in for a leave and take me back to Florida for a visit with family!
Sadly, Tracy passed away on January 25, 1997 in Cross City, Florida. To all of us, he was a great talent and is sorely missed.