Sunday, May 23, 2010

Red Hayes on Starday 164

Red Hayes - A Satisfied Mind / Doggone Woman (Starday 164)

"A Satisfied Mind"

Am I the only person disturbed by the fact that Red Hayes' original version of "A Satisfied Mind" was last reissued when Lyndon Johnson was President? Apparently so. After his Starday single came and went in 1954, it appeared on a couple of various artists albums in the '50s and '60s, and then dropped off the map completely. This is partially due to the fact that it's not rockabilly, or even close to rockabilly, and therefore of no interest to the market driving reissues of '50s music; and partially because of the horrendous mismanagement of the Starday catalogue in the hands of its current Nashville keeper, the infamous used car salesman, Moe Lytle. There was a chance to correct this on a recent reissue of 1954-55 era Starday material, but "A Satisfied Mind" was left off in favor of its throwaway flipside, "Doggone Woman." I'm pretty sure Red Hayes is spinning in his grave.

Joe "Red" Hayes in the late '40s or '50s. Courtesy Kevin Coffey Collection.

This is particularly troubling because I believe that Red's original is the best version of "A Satisfied Mind." When Porter Wagoner covered it (making it a #1 hit in 1955), he introduced the vocal trio arrangement, deliberately trying to make it sound like a gospel quartet. Most subsequent versions have stuck to this idea, but I prefer Hayes's original treatment, sans the trio/quartet. There is a heartfelt simplicity to Red's vocal that I think is absent from all of the more famous renditions.

Adding insult to injury is the circulation of a completely spurious tale that involves Hayes, "A Satisfied Mind," and a UFO abduction. Colin Escott, writing about the song's origins in the recent Bear Family CD "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Hillbilly Music: 1955" (which features Wagoner's version), says that there are "at least two stories" about the song's genesis. "In one, Red Hayes had an encounter with a UFO. A quasi-magnetic force pulled his arm up against the extra-terrestrial object, inflicting a burn, and, after the burn healed, Red realized that the aliens had given him a song by way of compensation."

The "other" story was the one which Hayes himself related to a journalist in 1973: "The song came from my mother. Everything in the song are things I heard her say over the years. I put a lot of thought into the song before I came up with the title. One day my father-in-law asked me who I thought the richest man in the world was, and I mentioned some names. He said, 'You're wrong, it is the man with a satisfied mind.'" Colin concludes by stating, "It's hard to know which version to believe."

No, it's not hard to know which story to believe. The story Hayes himself told is the believable one. The "story" involving a UFO abduction is an imaginative variation on the eternal theme of bullshit tall tales that musicians of less truth than tongue love to circulate among the drunk and the credulous, and should be given about as much credence as some of the more elaborate 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Red Hayes and Johnny Manson in Dallas, March, 1951. An invisible alien from Mars, Xu'chin, stands directly behind them.

Colin speculates that Hayes recorded "A Satisfied Mind" at Jack Rhodes' motel, which is on firmer ground than the UFO story, but it, too, is incorrect. Red cut this at Gold Star in Houston with his old cronies Al Petty (steel), Freddie Frank (rhythm guitar), and Leon Hayes (bass), augmented by Sonny Burns (lead guitar) and an unknown studio pianist. Singer Gene Tabor drove down with the group from Odessa, and recorded his "A Real Gone Jesse (I'm Hot to Trot)" at the same session. (Gene remembered that Eddie Noack was also present, not recording, but observing in Gold Star's control room.)

Jack Rhodes, who wasn't at the session, received co-writer credit on "A Satisfied Mind," and has been referred to as the song's co-author in the literature for the last 55 years. But did Jack, in fact, actually "co-write" it? Probably not. "He didn’t write one word of 'Satisfied Mind,'" Freddie Frank told me in 1999, "but Red was broke, and I think Jack let him have $500." Red's little brother, Kenneth "Little Red" Hayes, agreed, stating in a 1995 interview that "Jack got credit for a lot of songs he didn't write. My brother wrote 'Satisfied Mind' back in about '52. He wrote it in 15 minutes." In his 1973 quote, Red himself gives no indication that Rhodes had any hand in writing the lyrics.

Unfortunately, we don't have Rhodes' side of the story, but it's known that he would often purchase songs from others, as just about every other professional songwriter did at the time. A great deal of unnecessary finger-waving has been expended in modern music journalism toward people who purchased songs in the '50s. There was nothing controversial or underhanded about it most of the time, and it only becomes an issue when the song in question was a hit -- which, most of the time, it wasn't. If Red sold Jack an interest in the song's ownership, he had every right to be co-credited. The writer's credits on records indicate who owned the song, not who wrote it. If only modern music journalists would learn this, we would be spared a lot of nonsense.

Hayes remained a full-time musician the rest of his life, but only put out a few more records as a vocalist. He was touring with Faron Young in England when he died in 1973. He was 47.

Now, will somebody give his original version of "A Satisfied Mind" the proper reissue it deserves?


  1. Amazing song... long loved. Though I wouldn't go so far as to call the flip a 'throwaway'. Just hard to stand shoulder to shoulder with "Satisfied Mind".

  2. Beautiful ballad, simple and sincere. I love this type of vocal, even if I don't understand every word (language barrier). Great record, altho' "That Doggone Woman" is good too. Actually I only knew the latter and would assume Red Hayes was a belter. But "Satisfied mind" is a real treasure. Thanks, Andrew, for the post.
    P.S. Jack Rhodes is a name I see for more than 20 years and indeed I always wonder how much songs he reallky wrote. Now I have a clue: probably he lent songs from others...Common practice the I'm told.

  3. Thank you Andrew for another interesting story.

  4. Re: the "throwaway" comment, I meant from Red Hayes' perspective, not ours.

  5. P.S. Jack Rhodes is a name I see for more than 20 years and indeed I always wonder how much songs he reallky wrote. Now I have a clue: probably he lent songs from others...Common practice the I'm told.

    I think Jack Rhodes wrote a lot of songs on his own. He also collaborated with others, and sometimes simply purchased songs, or was given part-ownership in exchange for promoting it or trying to get it recorded. This was indeed common practice back in the '40s and '50s. But it is usually misrepresented by modern music journalists because they don't understand the context.

  6. the 1957 "Starday (TX) LP - 102 Hillbilly Hit Parade Vol .1 has "A Satisfied Mind" as by Red "Joe" Hayes its the same version. The Drunken Hobo

  7. @ Anonymous: Starday put it on their soundalike LP because Porter Wagoner had a hit with "Satisfied Mind" in 1955 - so it was the most cheapest possibility to get a soundalike version of this on record. Starday simply used the original masters that were cut for them back in 1954.

  8. great post andrew. great song. wow... how 'bout that UFO story... not sure if i told you yet, but the Starday book is due out in January. i now regret not including that UFO story and the bit about Xu'chin. - nate

  9. Absolutely devastating. Great post.

  10. So good to see info on Big Red out there. I played music with Little Red for several years and he would say that his brother wrote the song himself. Thanks for the post.

  11. Great post, great song. As far as who wrote it we will never know the truth. Jack died around 1968 and according to many different sources, they both worked on the song. Jack may have never put pen to paper, he may have helped with the tune or cleaning up the meter. We will never know. I do know that Red was admired by Jack and his wife Loretta. He was always spoken of very highly and with much sentiment. I have come across some negativity about Jack around the net by two or three of the old timers that worked with him and were close to making it but never did. They blame him for this or that. We will never know how it all went down. All I'm saying is Jack Rhodes is in the Country Music Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Rockabilly Hall of Fame and he didn't get there without talent and working hard.

  12. This is not a UFO tale, but it does have a sort of eerie narrative. I first heard Satisfied Mind when I was 9. I was 9 in 1950, some four years prior to the first official recording of the song. It was on an old 78. The flip side had a piece entitled, "I'm Itching For My Baby".
    Can someone explain?

  13. I'm going to Red's daughter's 50th birthday party tonight. I'll ask her.

    1. Hi, my name is Bellinda Myrick-BARNETT & my Daddy was Bill Myrick who had TV, radio & stage shows in Odessa, Texas in the 1859's bringing Elvis to town the first time he performed n West Texas on Tuesday, January 4, 1955 and for other shows around West Texas with his band BILL MYRICK AND THE RAINBOW RUDERS" JOE "RED" HAYES & brother LEON HAYES were in Daddy's band and I used to play with Red's daughter CHERRY HAYES who would have to be your friends older sister as she would be in her 60's. I am interested in getting in touch with Cherry, if she is still living and her sister. My name is Bellinda Myrick-Banett at or on Facebook. Thanks. Bellinda

  14. My grandfather is Little Red Hayes. He bought and designed my very own fiddle. And the comment above me, Are you talking about my Aunt Jan? It's been awhile since I seen her. Anyway, I'm so proud to be apart of the Hayes family.

  15. so happy u shared this, i needed it for my blog today :)

  16. Satisfied Mind has been recorded by well over 300 artist through the years. last recorded by Willie Nelson. neither of the stories above are true as to how my father got the idea for this song.

  17. Your audio link no longer works, but the performance is on YouTube.

    To Lynda Hayes, what is the real story, please? This is one of my favorite songs of all time, by the way; my favorite versions are Porter's original and Glen Campbell's driving version.

  18. I didn't see all of what you had written when I commented earlier. I was a little girl around my Daddy Bill Myrick and his friends Red Hayes & brother Leon Hayes in Odessa when they would be rehearsing and shows at the ECTOR COUNTY/FLOYD GWIN PARK AUDITORIUM & other places. I heard discussions about two things mentioned. Jack Rhodes did not help Red write "SATISFIED MIND.". He bought into it with, I believe, $500. The "UFO" encounter had nothing to do with it but it DID happen. Red & brother Leon were driving back to Odessa from a gig and rather like that odd encounter in the pick up truck in "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS" they had a similar experience as they drove that empty open road on a hot summer night with their windows rolled down and each brother with an arm up on the open window and each came away with a different arm that appeared sunburned. If memory serves me, it was a green light from up above that engulfed their car.