James Calvin (Jim) Minor (1931–2009)
James Calvin (Jim) Minor was an American country singer/songwriter, producer, publisher, disc jockey, and record label owner. He recorded country music for labels including Mercury and United Artists and managed the careers of other significant recording artists. Minor recorded under the name Jimmy Minor until 1960, when he recorded for United Artists as Jim Minor.
Jim Minor was born on January 20, 1931, in DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). His mother, Margaret Meyer Minor, was a niece of noted photographer Mike Disfarmer. He learned to play the guitar and sing at an early age. When he was a teenager, he won a talent contest at what is now the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show; the prize was to go to KLCN in Blytheville (Mississippi County) and play on the radio with country stars Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper.
Minor served in the U.S. Army from 1947 to 1950. He was stationed in Washington DC and at Church Hill, Canada. In 1951, Minor married Gloria Faye Wells of Blytheville; they had six children.
In 1953, Minor and his wife were living in Evansville, Indiana, with Minor working as a disc jockey and playing in a local country band called the Ranch Hands. When Evansville got its first television channel, WFIE 62, the owners hired the band to do a live thirty-minute country music show, Jimmy Minor and the Diamond K Ranch Hands. The station produced twenty-six episodes of the show, which was the first country music television show in the state of Indiana. Minor had another television show, in Princeton, Indiana, on channel WRAY 52 called The Big E Jamboree.
On March 7, 1954, Minor opened a show at the Evansville Coliseum for country performers Kitty Wells, Jimmy Dickens, Johnny and Jack, and Del Wood. Minor also worked as a disc jockey in 1954 with rockabilly artist Joe Pennington (Joe Penny), later recording four demo songs for him. Later in 1954, Minor moved to Flint, Michigan, where he worked as a disc jockey at country radio station WBBC. He was Michigan DJ of the Year in 1955.
Minor made records of his own in 1955 and 1956 for the Chuck Wagon label in Flint. Minor’s up-tempo country song “Somebody Rustled My Sugar” (1955) was a regional hit, and he also produced records for country star Lonnie Barron (“The Mississippi Farm Boy”) and singer Sue Childers/Sue Childs (“Kiss-Mus-Tree”) in 1956.
Along with working for General Motors beginning in 1956, Minor also ran a talent and promotional agency, a recording company (Everest Recording Company), and a publishing company (Mayflower Music) and started to bring major talent from Michigan to Nashville, Tennessee, to record for Mercury Records. Minor published Narvel Felts for two years, 1957 and 1958. In addition, Minor started to perform shows with Pee Wee King, Tex Ritter, George Morgan, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, the Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb, Lonnie Barron, Casey Clark, and others.
In 1957, Minor heard a rockabilly song called “The Love Bug Crawl.” Knowing the song had Nashville potential, he took rockabilly artist James Bullington to Nashville (where Bullington’s name was changed to Jimmy Edwards) and redid the song, which became an instant hit. Minor and Edwards went on tour in January 1958 in a show starring Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, and the song landed Edwards appearances on The Dick Clark Show and The Louisiana Hayride.
Minor was owner of the Colt “45” label of Flint in 1959, which recorded such artists as Connie Dycus, Donna Chrysler/Donah Hyland, Paul and Larry, and Eddie and Don with the Louisiana Playboys. Dycus’s “Rock-a-Bye-Baby-Rock” is considered a classic by many rockabilly enthusiasts, while Chrysler’s “City Lovin’ Country Style” did well nationally. As an independent producer, Minor used the RCA Studio in Nashville from 1957 to 1961, using Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Junior Huskey, Bob Moore, the Jordanaires, Floyd Cramer, and Buddy Harman.
In 1960, Minor became the first country artist to record on the United Artists label, with his 1960 country hit “Reveille” achieving some success. That same year, Minor recorded “Death Row” for Mercury Records, a song about Caryl Chessman, who was on California’s death row for twelve years before being executed. Minor made a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry show on September 30, 1961, and then played at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree radio show.
Minor toured extensively in the United States and Canada. He made his last recording in 1965 for the Sound, Inc., label. He continued to perform through the mid-1970s. In 1978, he retired from General Motors’ Fisher Body Division Cadillac plant in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and moved his family back to the Idlewild community of DeValls Bluff, where he was known by his middle name, Calvin.
He died on November 7, 2009, and is buried at Peppers Lake Cemetery south of DeValls Bluff. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame on March 10, 2011, and was inducted into the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame on September 2, 2011.
For additional information:
“Jim Minor Country & Western.” Reverbnation. http://www.reverbnation.com/jimminor (accessed February 9, 2015).
Jim Minor YouTube Channel. http://www.youtube.com/razorbackman1 (accessed February 9, 2015).
“Jimmy Minor.” Hillbilly-Music.com. http://www.hillbilly-music.com/artists/story/index.php?id=12461 (accessed February 9, 2015).
DeValls Bluff, Arkansas
Last Updated: 02/18/2015