Vaden Records, based in Trumann (Poinsett County), started as a mail-order company featuring gospel music. It soon grew into a regional studio that released music by such blues and early rock and roll artists as Bobby Brown, Teddy Riedel, Larry Donn, and many others who went on to regional and national fame.
In the early 1950s, husband and wife Arlen and Jackie Vaden of Trumann were singing gospel music all over northeastern Arkansas in a group called the Southern Gospel Singers. They also started singing on local radio stations in Osceola (Mississippi County) and Blytheville (Mississippi County) and soon branched out to stations in other states, such as XREF in Del Rio, Texas, and XEG Radio in Fort Worth, Texas; XREF and XEG broadcast out of Mexico and were much more powerful than U.S. stations. The Vadens taped their shows in Trumann each week and mailed them to radio stations. On the shows, they would offer records of their music for sale, as well as those of other gospel singers featured on the show. The mail-order company that became Vaden Records was a big business for the post office in Trumann, receiving orders every day.
With the advent of rock and roll, Arlen Vaden decided to branch out and release some other types of music. He met a young singer, Bobby Brown, from the Newport (Jackson County) area, who had just moved back to Arkansas and, with his band the Curios, had been playing the clubs in northeastern Arkansas. Vaden took the band to KLCN radio station in Blytheville, and they recorded “Down at Big Mary’s House/I Get the Blues at Midnight” (1958). As this started playing locally, Vaden began to book shows across northeastern Arkansas, finding other Arkansas artists wanting to release records.
Vaden released songs by Jerri Patterson and Ray Baker, as well as Teddy Riedel from Rose Bud (White County), who recorded “Knocking on the Backside/Before it Began” (1958). Riedel eventually had five releases through Vaden, with “Judy” (1960) being his most popular song; he later leased the song to Elvis Presley and put it on an LP with RCA. Other artists Vaden recorded were the Jimmy Haggett band featuring Johnny Moore from the Blytheville area and Joyce Green from the Searcy (White County) area, who had a release titled “Black Cadillac” (1959), which later became a big hit with collectors. Vaden also worked with Larry Donn in Bono (Craighead County), who had a record titled “HoneyBun/That’s What I Call a Ball” (1959). This would also become a collector’s item and got Donn some work in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Vaden released a single by Vena Townsend, “I Walked the Soles off My Shoes/Too-Lonesome” (1959). A young disc jockey, Chuck Comer, in Newport recorded “Shall We Dance/Little More Lovin’” (1960) with Vaden.
Most of the recording took place at local radio stations, but Bobby Crafford of Cotton Plant (Woodruff County)—the drummer for the Pacers who had never before recorded a vocal—recorded “It’s a Sin/Wee Wee Hours” (1961) at Hi Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Next, a young artist from Jonesboro (Craighead County), Bobby Lee Trammell, who had been living in California and had a popular record on the West Coast, moved back home and recorded “Hi Ho Silver/Been a Walkin’” (1961). Later, Vaden would release records from Bill Duniven, Onie Wheeler, Ray Baker, the Stewart Family, Hank Locklin, William Moore, Maddox Brothers, and Rose.
Jackie Vaden remained with the company until the couple divorced in the early 1960s. In 1962, Vaden Records stopped releasing records due to poor sales. Many of the artists had migrated to other companies. After the closing of Vaden Records, Arlen Vaden took a job with a radio station, though he returned to Trumann later with his new wife and opened a video store.
In 2010, a Vaden reunion took place in Trumann; performing were Chuck Comer, Joyce Green, Teddy Riedel, Bobby Brown, Larry Donn, and Bobby Crafford, as well as Sonny Burgess and the Pacers. A film crew from Europe filmed the sold-out show. This was released on DVD in 2011 by Collector Records in the Netherlands.
For additional information:
Randall, Mark. “Trumann Record Label Produced Early Rock N Roll Hits.” Poinsett County Democrat-Tribune, September 17, 2009. Online at http://www.democrattribune.com/story/1571333.html (accessed December 2, 2021).
Remaklus, Miranda. “Rockabilly Returns to Trumann as Vaden Records is Honored.” Poinsett County Democrat-Tribune, February 12, 2010. Online at http://www.democrattribune.com/story/1610433.html (accessed December 2, 2021).
In the early 1960s I met Arlen Vaden in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. I believe he was with a station in Illinois. He played tapes of our band live in clubs on his show. I also got to meet many artists through him and went back stage many times. Lots of great memories. Thanks for sharing this story. I’m eighty years old; seems like yesterday.
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