James Joiner
(July 10, 1928-July 21, 2006)
1991 Inductee (John Herbert Orr Pioneer Award) Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Florence native James Joiner wrote and produced the first commercial recording to emerge from the Muscle Shoals music industry, the historic 1957 single “A Fallen Star.”

While working for his family’s bus company, Joiner Transit, Joiner noticed the quality and amount of talent displayed at fiddlers’ conventions and other musical gatherings throughout northwest Alabama.  “When I came home from the Army in 1953,” Joiner later recalled, “I began to see that nobody was doing anything with that talent – and that really got me thinking.”

In 1956, he and guitarist Kelton “Kelso” Herston – a fellow Florence native who had served in the Army with Joiner – formed the Tune Publishing Co. as an outlet for local musical talent.  Many other up-and-coming Muscle Shoals musicians made their recording debuts during after-hours demo sessions in the back room of Joiner’s bus station in downtown Florence.

In 1957, Joiner was driving the Rogers High School basketball team home to Greenhill after an out-of-town game when he noticed a shooting star sailing across the sky.  “It just went on and on – I thought it would never go by,” Joiner remembered. “When I saw it, it was like this song had been in my head, waiting to come out.  I had the whole thing finished when I got home – two verses and a chorus.”

Joiner quickly recruited seventeen-year-old singer Bobby Denton – a handsome, blonde-haired, blue-eyed senior at Cherokee High School – to record the song in the WLAY Radio studios in Muscle Shoals.  The total cost of that landmark session was $4.

Joiner and Herston had such high hopes for the song that they formed their own Tune Records label – the first record company established in the state of Alabama – and released the single themselves.  Denton’s recording proved to be a regional success, and fellow Florence native Buddy Killen published the song through Tree Music in Nashville.  Cover versions by country singers Jimmy C. Newman and Ferlin Husky transformed “A Fallen Star” into a major national hit, with Newman’s version climbing to No. 2 and Husky’s peaking at No. 8.

Joiner produced Denton’s follow-up single, “You’ll Be the Last to Know,” at the Ritz Theater in 1958.  After Herston moved to Nashville and Denton abandoned music to marry and start a family, Joiner joined Florence music enthusiast Tom Stafford to form Spar Music above the City Drug Store in downtown Florence in 1959.  Within a year, Joiner sold his shares to Stafford (who would soon partner with Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill to Florence Music Enterprises, better known as FAME) and continued concentrating on Tune.  He wrote and published Jimmy C. Newman’s Top 10 country hit “Lovely Work of Art” in 1960.

Two years later, Tune published the truckers’ anthem “Six Days on the Road,” co-written by Muscle Shoals songwriters Carl Montgomery and Earl Green.  Dave Dudley’s original 1963 version of the 18-wheeler standard rose to No. 2 on the country charts. The song has since been covered by more than 300 artists, including Steve Earle, Fairport Convention, George Jones, Taj Mahal, Hank Snow, Johnny Rivers and the Flying Burrito Brothers (who performed the song in the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter).  The country group Sawyer Brown recorded its own Top 10 version of “Six Days on the Road” in Muscle Shoals in 1997.

Joiner served on the board of directors for the Muscle Shoals Music Association and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.  In 1989 he wrote “Alabama Has It All,” a song recorded by Muscle Shoals musicians and members of the Alabama Legislature for the statewide Alabama Reunion celebration.  Joiner died of cancer in his hometown of Florence at the age of 78.

Chart Songs as a Songwriter:


Song Title Recording Artist Chart* Year
A Fallen Star Jimmy Newman 2 1957
A Fallen Star Ferlin Husky 8 1957
Lovely Work Of Art Jimmy Newman 6 1960

*Chart position is based on Billboard Magazine Pop, Country, R&B, & A/C Charts. Other music industry charts may have shown higher chart positions.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

More info: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100326/ARTICLES/3265038?Title=Musical-pioneers-inducted-into-music-hall-of-fame

http://www.timesdaily.com/article/99999999/ETS/70322005/1140

http://www.bobbydenton.com/20070221.html

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