Born William McCon Boatman Jr., 30 May 1936, Mineral Wells, Texas
Tooter Boatman recorded prolifically between 1957 and 1963, but only a handful of recordings were issued during his too short life. Thanks to Dutchman Cees Klop, who released three vinyl albums in the 1980s, the complete (or almost complete) output of Boatman has become available to fans of unadulterated rock & roll.
Boatman was born and raised in Mineral Wells, Texas, a small town (population 16,788 at the 2010 census) west of Fort Worth. In 1957 he formed his own rock and roll group, the Chapparals (also spelled Chaparrals). The original members were : Tooter Boatman (vocals), Bill Bland (guitar), Shorty Dinglar (slap bass), Charlie O’Bannon (piano) and Clay Glover (drums). Towards the end of 1957 they made their first record, “Poor Gal”/“Sweet Lies” (Rebel 108), which was credited to The Chaparrals. It was recorded at the Clifford Herring studio in Fort Worth, but after Danny Wolfe opened his own studio in Stephensville, Boatman and his group would hold almost all their sessions there. Danny Wolfe, a good friend of Tooter, was a songwriter / singer / pianist who went on to write most of their material. Wolfe’s songs have also been recorded by many other artists, including Gene Vincent, John D. Loudermilk, Pat Boone, Huelyn Duvall and Sanford Clark. Wolfe became the manager of the Chapparals and booked them in clubs and on TV shows all over Texas.
The second release was the one for which Boatman is best known. “The Will of Love” was released in April 1958 on Twinkle 501, coupled with “More and More (I Love You)”. Several sources claim that “The Will of Love” was coupled with “Thunder and Lightning” (another rockabilly classic from the pen of Danny Wolfe), but these two songs were not coupled until 1972, when they were issued on a UK repro single (Injun 108).
In 1959 Shorty Dinglar was replaced by Bill Graham on bass and guitarist Bill Bland was succeeded by Bob Milsap (not Ronnie Milsap, as has been alleged). The sound of the group lost its rough edge, to Boatman’s dissatisfaction. He temporarily left the group in December 1959, which also meant that no further recordings were made at Danny Wolfe’s studio. The Chapparals without Boatman recorded a good instrumental for Roulette Records in 1960, “Leapin’ Guitar”/“Beer Barrel Rock”. They also did session work behind other artists, such as Huelyn Duvall and, most notably, for the Commodores (the group that recorded for Dot in the mid-1950s), who were signed to Brunswick at that time. Pianist Charlie O’Bannon had two instrumental solo releases on the Gaylo label in 1961-62.
By 1961 Boatman and the Chapparals were reunited and touring across Texas again. They had one final single released in 1963, credited to Tutor Boatman, “Heaven For Broken Hearts”/“Lost Love” (Gaylo 117), recorded in Fort Worth. Compared to the earlier work, it was rather tame. Shortly thereafter, Bill Graham and Clay Glover left the group to play with Dean Beard’s band. This was the end of the Chapparals and Tooter joined the band of Willie Nelson as a drummer.
On August 1, 1964, Boatman’s life came to an abrupt end. A hit and run driver killed Tooter and his close friend Tom Putt on a lonely country road in California. The driver of the car was later found and arrested.
The full scope of Boatman’s musical achievements was not revealed until the 1980s when Cees Klop released three albums of his material in quick succession (1983, 1984, 1985), on his White Label imprint. A selection of the best tracks from these three LPs came out in 1992 on the CD “Rockin’ Tooter Boatman”. It looked as if the complete legacy of Boatman had been released, but this was not the case. His former drummer Clay Glover found four unissued early recordings in 2000 (the best of which is “The Striving Kind”) and included them on the CD “Clay Glover Scrapbook, Vol. 1” on the Zebra International label.
More info : http://www.rockabilly.nl/?artists/tboatman.htm
Discography : http://wdd.mbnet.fi/tooterboatman.htm
CD : Rockin’ Tooter Boatman (Collector CLCD 4408, 1992). 25 tracks, including some instrumentals and live recordings. Liner notes by Clay Glover.
Acknowledgements : Clay Glover.
Dik, February 2017
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