Boneyard Media

Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers – “Uranium Miner’s Boogie” (c. 195?)


[See an updated entry about “Uranium Miner’s Boogie” here.]

This is an extremely rare early Utah rock ’n’ roll treasure, and it comes to us courtesy of New Mexico record collector Jerry Richards. It was appropriately released on the Atomic label and recorded at Recording Arts, Inc. in Salt Lake City, the “Wall Street of Uranium Stocks” (RAI is no longer with us but until 1944 was run by future LDS church president Gordon B. Hinckley). It’s a great example of a record that spoke directly to its home region, which was Utah and the four corners area, and didn’t circulate much beyond that. It’s also high grade western swing-cum-early rockabilly featuring some of the sassiest of steel guitar riffage.

If you’re familiar with the Southeastern Utah area, you’ll catch the references to Grand and San Juan counties, which were true hotbeds of the post-WWII uranium mining industry, as well as Cottonwood, the southern canyon area near the Grand Staircase (not to be confused with Big or Little Cottonwood canyons, although they’d also work fine in a uranium mining context). And if you’re well-versed in atomic industry history, you’ll recognize acronymic nods to the Vanadium Corporation of America, the U.S. Vanadium Corporation, and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Richards found his own copies of the record in Helper, Utah, which makes perfect sense, as he puts it, “because Helper was, and still is, a mining town.” The record came out as a 78 and a 45, with the 45 version pressed in blue vinyl. Both came packaged in what Richards refers to as “brown paper bag sleeves.”

There’s still quite a bit of homework to be done regarding virtually everything else about this record and the folks who made it happen. The year, for example – I’ve seen it listed as anywhere between 1954 and 1957. The relaxed mastery of the musical idiom along with the casual appearance of “rockin” in the group’s name makes me assume it’s post-1956, but I’d absolutely love it if I were wrong. For now, though, strap on your rock ’n’ roll geiger counters and watch those needles fly.

Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers – “Uranium Miner’s Boogie”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

posted by Kim Simpson

9 Responses to “Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers – “Uranium Miner’s Boogie” (c. 195?)”

  1. Bill N. Says:

    Remarkable – thanks for posting.

  2. Uncle Gil Says:

    Whoo! You made my day.
Thanks for this and your blog!
 Very interesting
. Regards from France

  3. Jerry Walker Says:

    This is my oldest brother and his band. Recorded in 1954. My sister Belva Nielson is the piano player and Charles Gallagher a brother-in-law is the steel guitar player. Gordon Hawkins is the name of the bass player. I was knocked out by finding this posted. This record played on juke boxes around the area for nearly 40 years. Riley died on January 4, 2001. Thanks for Posting

  4. Kim Says:

    Thanks again for getting in touch, Jerry. I’ve gotten my hands on the Vogel piece and will be posting an update about this soon.

  5. Boneyard Media » Blog Archive » Uranium minstrel Riley Walker redux Says:

    […] a year ago I posted this rare specimen by Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers – a rollicking slab of very early rock […]

  6. Melissa Gills/ Walker Eaton reunion Says:

    Hi Jerry Walker I am related to Jerry Walker’s clan by the Eaton side. We have held family reunions and our whole family plays music and sings.
    I remember another song called, “She’ll be coming around the Mountain Charmin Betzy.” I have added two more courses to the song.
    My grandpa’s sister married into the Walker clan. We have our reunion in Utah. I live by Navajo Lake.
    Melissa Gills

  7. Dixie Hendon Says:

    Hi Kim, Riley Walker is my Dad and I just want to Thank You for posting this about him. He would have been thrilled. He never gave up his dream to make it big but never had the opportunity. He loved music and sang every chance he got. We really miss him. Thank’s again!

  8. Kim Says:

    Hi Dixie, Thanks for dropping a line. As far as I’m concerned, he really did make it big. All depends on how you look at it, I guess. We’re lucky to have such great records to remember him by. Best, Kim

  9. jerry richards Says:

    melissa gills, you say you live by navajo lake. i live by navajo lake new mexico. is this the same navajo lake? best —jerry

Leave a Reply