Arnold Joseph Poovey was born in Dallas, Texas. His start in show business came at the tender age of 12. His parents had encouraged him to learn the guitar and by 1953 he was fronting his own country band, the Hillbilly Boys, and playing the prestigious Big D Jamboree where he was billed as Jumping Joe Poovey. The Jamboree was a regular weekly show similar to the Opry and was broadcast on KRLD for two hours every Saturday evening.
Much of Joe’s early enthusiasm for country music came through listening to local radio, a medium which was to develop into a fascination for him, and which was to provide employment in the years to come.
His first appearance on wax came in 1955. Earney Vandagriff and the Big D Boys were all set to cut a country number called ‘Christmas Filled With Cheer’ and roped in young Poovey to provide a recitation. The recording was made at Jim Beck’s studio in Dallas and Joe was allowed to take the vocals on the flip side, ‘Santa’s Helper’, a number penned by his father, Bernice Poovey. The disc was released on the Rural Rhythm label out of California.
The year of 1955 also saw the arrival of Elvis Presley at the Big D Jamboree. Presley was still some months away from international stardom but was working one nighters around the South and shaking up the country music establishment with his wild rockabilly show. The impact that he made was so sensational that Joe soon dropped the hillbilly numbers from his act and started to develop his own rockabilly style. Whilst at the Jamboree he had met a writer and producer called Jim Shell. They worked together on several songs in the new style and laid down some excellent recordings such as ‘Nursery Rock’, ‘Sweet Louella’ and ‘My life’s Ambition’ which are now well-known to European fans but which at the time did not see the light of day.
THE FIRST JOE POOVEY ROCKABILLY RECORD to reach the shops was a real gem. ‘Move Around’ appeared in 1957 on Dixie, a subsidiary of Starday Records, and is top quality rockabilly. It was written by Les Gilliam who played rhythm guitar, and featured Joe on vocals, with Chuck Jennings on guitar, Mickey Jones (drums), Bobby Rambo (bass), Albert Talley (steel), C.B. Oliver (piano), Eddie McDuff doing the harmonies.
The following year Jim Shell and Poovey returned to the Sellers Studio in Dallas with a Jerry Lee Lewis styled piano rocker that they had co-written, and came out with a record that even topped ‘Move Around’. Part-time Blue Cap and part-time member of Johnny Carroll’s Spinners, Howard Reed supplied the guitar work and C. B. Oliver scorched knuckles with a pounding piano solo. ‘Ten Long Fingers’ should have been a smash hit and elevated Groovy Joe Poovey into the Big League.
Instead, he remained very much a local artist continuing to work in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. After one single on Azalea, he moved back into country music during the sixties and for a spell worked with Russell Sims as both performer and songwriter. Five singles appeared on the Sims label and during this period Poovey compositions were recorded by several artists including George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Wynn Stewart and Jimmy Patton.
By 1966 Joe was trying his luck with Little Darlin’ Records owned by Aubrey Mayhew. Seeking a new image, he changed his name to Johnny Dallas and the fresh approach paid off with a chart record. ‘Heart Full Of Lo
ve’ entered the Billboard listings in December 1966 enjoying a seven week run. No follow-up hit was forthcoming, however, and after a final single on Media, Joe allowed his recording career to wind down.
He had been increasingly active in radio since the fifties and now concentrated full-time on disc jockey work. At different times he broadcast for KMAE out of McKinney, KJIM Fort Worth, KPCN Grand Prairie and KNON Dallas. Perhaps this is the way the Joe Poovey story would have continued with just the occasional country single to remind the public what a fine artist he was, but the resurgence of interest in rockabilly changed the script for him.
Joe died in his sleep October 6, 1998 and is buried at Grove Hill Memorial Park in Dallas TX.
Courtesy Rockabilly Hall of Fame.