Blue Hen Records
About Blue Hen Records
On a recent and not so hot August day Michael Ace and I headed for Harrington Delaware. Harrington, the site of Delaware’s annual State Fair, is a really small town, with a short street with a few businesses; two antique stores, a hoagie shop, a couple banks, a couple churches, a boutique, a convenience store, a bar, and a post office. It had been reported that one of those stores had a sign in the window that read, “Former Home of Blue Hen Records.” It didn’t take Michael and me, after about an hour of diligent searching, to not find said sign. We asked a number of local merchants if they’d known the whereabouts of the former Blue Hens Records. None did. We went to the Harrington Town Hall. No one there ever heard of Blue Hen Records. However, some really nice folks there did give us some leads in the form of folks to call. One of those was a woman who ” . . . knew everything about Harrington . . . ” by the name of Vive Poore, and, indeed, Ms. Poore did and she was very helpful. The most promising lead was the phone number of a guy named Jimmy Stayton who actually recorded tunes at Blue Hen. I later called that number and Jimmy Stayton’s brother Tom answered the phone and informed me that Jimmy had moved to Kentucky, but couldn’t tell me exactly where or give me a phone number. The trail’s gone cold.
Here’s what we know about Blue Hen Records: the original owner and founder was Sam Short, who also owned a grocery store. He originally recorded country gospel songs onto 78rpm records, which he sold in his store. Michael and I concluded his store once stood on one of the vacant lots in Harrington’s business district, and was the place where that sign in the window had been. Sometime in the mid 1950s, Sam Short took on a business partner named Bobby Callaway, of Callaway Furniture, which still is located in the Harrington vicinity. Reportedly, one of their first mistakes was refusing to sign Patsy Cline to some recordings. Imagine where that could’ve gone. Nevertheless, Blue Hen Records had begun to record country bop tunes onto 45rpm records and began to garner a following outside of Delaware. They may have tried to pattern themselves after Sun Records in Memphis by slowly gravitating toward the rockabilly sound and going after the teen market. They formed two small subsidiaries: one was Del-Ray Records and the other was the shorter term World Records.
Blue Hen Records is an important part of the Delaware Rock & Roll story, and one that’s been nearly forgotten totally. Evidently, Blue Hen Records spanned the 1950s with no known recordings beyond 1959. A big thanks goes out to Michael Ace for preserving some of that history, procuring rare recordings and sharing them with our rock & roll fans. Below are nearly two dozen recordings arranged roughly in chronological order showing Blue Hen Records’ progression from country bop to rockabilly.
More can be found about Jimmy Stayton, Mort Marker and Blue Hen Records at the following website:
The Blue Hen Boogie
Hot Hot Mama
Tear Down The House
You're Gonna Treat Me Right
Eennie Meenie Miney Mo
Jumpin' The Gun
Jimmy Stayton was the most successful recording artist from Blue Hen Records in Harrington, Delaware. His 1956 recording of “Hot Hot Mama” was the earliest purely rock & roll recording made in Delaware. His band for the recording, called the Rocka-Bye Band by Jimmy’s then manager Reece Harrington, and consisting of Mort Marker on lead guitar and Honey Voshell on drums was not credited as such on the record label. After Honey left the band, Patsy Saunders became the drummer of the newly formed Country Cats. They recorded the next Blue Hen recording “You’re Gonna Treat Me Right.” Both songs were written by Jimmy Stayton. By the early 1960s, Stayton was invited to Hollywood where he composed “The Hep Old Frog” for a Hanna Barbera cartoon project for television that did not materialize. Disappointed, he return to Delaware and recorded the song for Del-Ray Records from Dover, Delaware in 1963. Jimmy Stayton currently lives in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, not far from Nashville. Mort Marker currently lives in Glendora, California and is still involved in the music business. Honey Voshell lives in Felton, Delaware, and operates his music shop, The Drum Pad. teaches and performs with his Honeycombs band. Patsy Saunders passed away in the early 1970s. For a whole lot more about Jimmy Stayton click here.