A Detroit discography of the York Brothers

 

Perhaps the most popular country singers in Detroit during the 1940s and 1950s, the York Brothers, George and Les, made the most important (and perhaps first) country music records in Detroit during the early 1940s. By 1942, the Yorks created a rocking sound with two guitars and bass, about a dozen years before artists such as Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded with the same instrumentation at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The York Brothers story appears in the book “Detroit Country Music – Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies.”

Universal 105, York Bros. "Hamtramck Mama"

Here is a discography of the York Brothers’ recordings on Detroit labels. The amount of music they produced before 1944 is staggering, and gaps of information in the list below suggest this may not be all the Yorks recorded in Detroit. Thanks to Cappy Wortman, John Morris, Tony Russell, Bob Pinson, Dick Grant, Al Turner, Prague Frank, and Dave Sax for research that contributed to this list. Feel free to add info by sending an email to Craig Maki.

 

1939, Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, acoustic take off guitar
Universal 105 “Hamtramck Mama” (Leslie York)
Universal 106 “Going Home”
Note: Universal 105 and 106 issued on a single disk together.

Listen to: York Brothers – Hamtramck Mama

1939, Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, acoustic take off guitar; unknown (possibly Les York or Taft “Rosebud” Blevins): Hawaiian steel guitar
Universal 107 “Highland Park Girl”
Universal 108 “Detroit Hulu Girl”
Note: Universal 107 and 108 issued on a single disk together.
Hot Wax 105 label
ca. 1940, Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, acoustic take off guitar
Universal 126 “Gamblers Blues” (York Bros.)
Hot Wax 127 “That Nagging Young Husey” (York Bros.) (backed with “Hamtramck Mama”)
Note: Universal 126 and 402 (below) issued on a single disk together. Same sides issued on Hot Wax label together.

ca. 1940, Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, acoustic take off guitar; unknown (possibly Les York or Taft “Rosebud” Blevins): Hawaiian steel guitar
Universal 402 “Conscription Blues” (York Bros.)
Universal 404 “Sweetheart Darling”
Universal 405 “It Tain’t No Good” (York Bros.)
Note: Universal 405 appeared on Hot Wax and Mellow labels backed with Universal master 105, as well as Mellow backed with Mellow master 1105 (see below).

[In 1941, the York Brothers cut three records for the Decca company in Chicago.]
Mellow 1621-A
1942, poss. Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, electrically amplified take off guitar
Mellow 1619-A “Blue Skies Turned To Gray” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1619-B “I Don’t Want No Part Of You” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1620-A “I’ll Be Happy Again” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1620-B “Goodbye And Luck To You” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1621-A “Long Gone” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1621-B “Just Wanting You” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1622-A “Hail, Hail Ol’ Glory” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1622-B “Riding And Singing My Song” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1623-A “Hillbilly Rose” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1623-B “If I Would Never Lose You” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1624-A “Going Back To The Sunny South” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1624-B “Life Can Never Be The Same” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1625-A “We’re Gonna Catch That Train” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1625-B “It Makes Me Jealous Hearted” (George York)
Mellow 1640-A label
1942, poss. Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, electrically amplified take off guitar, *acoustic guitar; unknown (poss. Jonnie Lavender), bass
Mellow 1105 “Hamtramck Mama” (version 2)
Mellow 1629 “In Old Tennessee” (Leslie York)*
Mellow 1633-A “Memories Of You” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1633-B “New Trail To Mexico” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1634-A “Rose Of The Rio Grande” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1634-B “York Brothers Blues” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1635-A “Kentucky’s Calling Me”* (Leslie York)
Mellow 1635-B “Got To Get Rid Of My Worried Mind” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1636 “I Told The Moon About You” (Click here for source.)
Mellow 1637 “Maybe Then You’ll Care”
Mellow 1637 “You Stayed Away Too Long” (Leslie York)

Listen to: York Brothers – A Merry Christmas To The Boys Over There

1942, poss. Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, electrically amplified take off guitar; Jonnie Lavender, bass
Mellow 1638-A “Going To The Shindig” (York Bros.)
Mellow 1638-B “Mother’s Sunny Smile” (York Bros.)
Mellow 1640-A “A Merry Christmas To The Boys Over There” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1641-B “Not Over Thirty-Five” (Leslie York)
Mellow 1642-A “I’ve Got My Eyes On You” (George York)
Mellow 1642-B “You’ll Pay For It All” (Leslie York)
Note: Mellow 1640-A and 1641-B issued together on one disk.
Mellow 1666-A label
ca. 1943, poss. Universal Recording Studio, 12942 E. Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan
George York: vocal, acoustic guitar; Leslie York: vocal, electrically amplified take off guitar; Jonnie Lavender, bass
Mellow 1662-A “Stars In Heaven”
Mellow 1662-B “The Execution”
Mellow 1664-A “There’s No Stars In Heaven”
Mellow 1665-B “Hula Girl Wobble” (instrumental)
Mellow 1666-A “You Lied To Me”
Note: These sides turned up as one-sided 78rpm disks with white paper labels and hand-written information (the matrix numbers were also etched into the deadwax of the records). It isn’t known if they were issued on Mellow as commercial records.

Listen to: York Brothers – I’ve Got My Eyes On You

1953 York Brothers promotional portrait

1953 promotional portrait. From left: Leslie York, George York, and Horace “Horsefly” Wilson

1940s
Rialto 118 “Calling Me” York Brothers [Note: Same as “Conscription Blues” Universal/Hot Wax 402]
Rialto 118 “You Are My Sunshine” Cliff and his Cowboys [York Brothers likely do not appear on this track]

1949, Fortune Records reissued Universal masters 105 and 107 together, apparently using the same metal stamper originally used for 105 on Universal and Hot Wax releases.
Fortune 120 “Hamtramck Mama”
Fortune 120 “Highland Park Girl”

1953, Fortune Records reissued Universal masters 106 and 108 together, apparently using the same metal stamper originally used for 106 on Universal release.
Fortune 180 “Detroit Hula Girl”
Fortune 180 “Going Home”

4 Comments to "A Detroit discography of the York Brothers"

  • George York
    June 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    I just found your website. The York Bros. were my uncles, my father’s brothers. Thanks to those who researched the information. I have quite a collection of York Brothers materials but unfortunately not many items from the early Detroit days.
    Thanks Again!
    George York

    • June 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      As you can see, George, many people still enjoy your uncles’ music. The early 1940s records they made in Detroit seemed years ahead of the industry, in some ways. And many of the songs they wrote sound timeless. Those are just a couple of reasons why they played such an important role in the country music scene of Southeast Michigan during the 1940s-1950s, and why they’re featured prominently in the forthcoming book.

  • Don Fodge
    August 3, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    The York brothers and Carl Perkins would join in some jam sessions at our house in Detroit. I was very young and just remember a lot of guys in the house playing guitars and singing. My older sister remembers them fairly clearly.

    • August 29, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Very interesting memory, Don! Was someone in your household a musician or supporter of the musicians you mentioned?

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