ONE KEY MUSICIAN on the 1950's Sea-Tac country scene was guitar ace, Rivers "Jack Rivers" Lewis – the brother of famed hillbilly bandleader (the Lone Star Cowboys) and western film star, "Texas Jim" Lewis. In the '30s the boys had recorded for Vocalion & Decca Records – & in the '40s Jack recorded for Capitol Records; on scores of Hollywood film soundtracks; & picked some hot solos on many hits (i.e. "Easy To Please," "Milkcow Blues," & "Mine All Mine") as a member of Jimmy Wakely's Saddle Pals.
Along the way, Jack became one of the very first players to own an electric solid-body Spanish guitar. Custom-made for him circa 1947 by the fabled SoCal-based machinist, Paul Bigsby, Jack's unique – & recently discovered -- guitar seemingly predates the 1948 unit built for fellow Capitol artist, Merle Travis, which has often been credited as the original Bigsby.
In 1950 the brothers settled in Seattle where Jim soon gained further notoriety as the host of KING-TV's kiddie show, Sheriff Tex's Safety Junction & Rivers hosted the beer-fueled hillbilly music program, Rainier Ranch. But today's topic is the music Jack played during his Northwest years – and the local record companies that he recorded for. In time he would operate his own labels including Ranch, JR Ranch, NOW, & MRM Records, but probably the first Seattle label to feature Jack's guitar sounds was Listen Records which was based out of Oliver Runchie's Electricraft recording studio at 622 Union Street. Listen issued Jack's contribution to the then-popular topical saga first sparked by Bremerton's Arkie Shibley & the Mt. Dew Boys & their 1950 hit, "Hot Rod Race," & later taken up by Spokane's Charlie Ryan whose "Hot Rod Lincoln" broke out as a local hit in 1955. Issued between those two country-rap discs (around September, 1952), Jack's "Navy Hot Rod" single showcased the type of hot guitar licks he also played live at area roadhouses including Seattle's Circle Tavern (9602 E. Marginal Way) & Coe's Country Club (NE 110th Street & 10th Avenue NE) up into the 1960s.