The winners are:
It’s an “EP” or extended play 45 record, containing FOUR songs instead of the usual two
There is NO banjo playing on any of the four songs! Great banjoist that he was, Don Reno was an equally adept guitar flat picker (THIS IS THE KEY ANSWER!)
Reno & Smiley made 3 of these 45 EPs with no banjo, all at one session late in 1959.
The owner of the KING record label (Syd Nathan) harangued R&S into doing a full session with no banjo because he had had success making all-guitar records by the Delmore Brothers, Elvis Presley had killed bluegrass record sales, and Syd had talked the Stanley Brothers into dropping fiddle and mandolin and featuring guitar breaks on some of their records. He (Syd Nathan) told R&S “The Stanleys are selling records with guitar!” Only one song from this R&S session got much radio air play though, Eight More Miles to Louisville (a Grandpa Jones song).
A studio musician was playing snare drum. No fiddle or mandolin –only the Tennessee Cutups bass fiddle player was with Don and Red (John Palmer).
EPs were not common in bluegrass; they really only were put out by the King and Starday labels as far as I know.
Additional Bowden Comments
Speaking to the contestants’ replies: Yes, this is an “odd” product for those younger than a certain age. It is a 45 rpm Extended Play (EP). The huge hole in the middle marks it as nothing but a 45. Nowhere on the label does it say 45 (or 33 1/3). It was considered a “bargain” product; 4 songs instead of 2. King and Starday labels put out a fair number of 45 EP country and bluegrass records.
Yes, it is a bit unusual there is no A side nor B side. Again, mostly because of it being marketed as a bargain product, not something for radio airplay where A indicated the side the label considered more likely to be a “hit”.
Yes, the performers’ names don’t appear beneath the song title, but instead to the right of the big center hole. And some of the composers’ names are just plain wrong.
Now to some of the points I “hoped” folks might notice: the words “High Fidelity” on the label!! Nowadays that is the name of one of my favorite new traditional bands. “High Fidelity” was a marketing word that preceded the “Stereo” age. All it meant was much greater care and latest technology in the recording and record pressing process. Cleaner, more vibrant sound was supposed to be the result. Naturally a lot of very old recordings (pre-war!) got electronically re-processed and reissued with “High Fidelity” plastered on the packaging. (The same was done for old records never recorded in Stereo, but re-processed and reissued with “Stereo” labels. They sound weird.) Nowadays I suppose the relevant marketing term is “High Def” or “DDD”.
Now here’s the biggest trivia point. I had hoped some intrepid investigator would go to YouTube and LISTEN to these 4 records. Then the BIGGEST oddity would have jumped right out. First, they all feature a snare drum! Second THERE IS NO BANJO! And no bluegrass band other than bass fiddle and Red Smiley’s rhythm guitar. Yes, one of the greatest of all bluegrass banjo players, and here’s an entire record with no banjo. Don Reno displayed his stunning flat pick guitar skills on an entire 12 song recording session which produced an LP, and 3 45 EPs. This is pre-Doc Watson even. Even Earl Scruggs, as good a guitar soloist as he was, never did an entire LP session with guitar, and no banjo. I urge you to listen to these 4 songs to get an appreciation of Don Reno’s wonderful guitar solos. The owner of King records, Syd Nathan, thought guitar solos would sell more records than the standard bluegrass instruments. He more or less forced the Stanley Brothers to leave their fiddler and mandolin player at home, and feature Ralph’s banjo and George Shuffler’s guitar, on most of their later records. King had achieved a big hit and huge country record sales with the Delmore Brothers’ “Guitar Boogie” in prior years, and he kept trying to have another hit based on guitar picking. In fact, when he booked Reno & Smiley to do the all-guitar session, they couldn’t believe it. He told them “The Stanley Brothers are selling a lot with just guitar!” Not quite true, but you get his drift.
In the 1980s, Don Reno made one more all-guitar LP. I think it was titled “Don Reno and His Golden Guitar” or something like that.
In the late 1940s after Don Reno left the Blue Grass Boys, he played guitar almost exclusively. He taught guitar to youngsters. His star pupil was country and rock ‘n’ roll electric guitar wizard, Hank Garland.