Searching For Blue Hen Records
by Steven Leech
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
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: