Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Bobby Carter & Cardell Records (Bloomington)

Bobby Carter's two singles on Cardell Records are some of the finest examples of rockabilly to come out of downstate Illinois.  Released in 1960-1961 on an unknown label, both remain extremely rare and shrouded in mystery.
The first record however contained a few clues.  Printed on the label was "Bloomington, Illinois" as well as the names of some of the other musicians: H. Sherman, A. Miller and Johnny Lawrence.

Carter it turns out was a native of Danville, Illinois (not Bloomington). Born in 1935, William Robert Carter actually had a long career as a singer and musician, despite having one of his lungs removed as a child.  Carter claimed that singing helped strengthen his remaining lung.

In the 1950's, while still in Danville, Carter was a member of the rockabilly group The Varieteers.   Other members of the Varieteers at one time included: Arlie Miller, Jim Foley, George Foehrer and Curley Arnett.  

In a 2015 interview, Carter remembered playing in downtown Danville in the 50's for hundreds of people with some protesters carrying signs saying "Sinful Music."  Danville's WITY once billed Carter as "the Illiana Elvis Presley."  

In 1957, Carter moved to Phoenix, AZ for his health where he signed with Rev Records.  It is unclear whether he recorded for the label or not.  By 1960 Carter had returned to Illinois and settled in Bloomington.

It was during this time that Carter released his two singles:
  • "Before We Part and Go" / "If You're Gonna Shake It"  (1960)
"Destiny, I Love You" / "Run, Run, Run" (1961)
Both were released on Cardell Records.  While the second 45 listed Carter's backing band simply as The Spotlites, the first provided us with the names H. Sherman, A. Miller and Johnny Lawrence.

Given the Danville connection, it is likely that A. Miller is Arlie Miller who recorded his own single in Danville around the same time and like Carter had been a member of the Varieteers.   Miller's single "Lou Ann" / "You're The Sweetest Girl" was released on the Lucky label.  Jim Foley, another member of The Varieteers, also released a single on Lucky in 1960.  

Arlie Miller would go on to open the Midnite Sound Studio in Danville and start Milky Way Records with Arlie Neaville (aka Dean Carter) a few years later.   As for H. Sherman and Johnny Lawrence, it is unknown if they were from Bloomington, Danville or somewhere else entirely.  

For the next decade or so, Bob Carter's musical activities are also uncertain.  In 1973 however, he moved to Nashville and recorded a demo that eventually landed him a deal with Oweman Records.  It is not clear whether he ever released anything for the label.  He did however have one single released on the Royal American label:  "As The Fire Grows" b/w "Soakin' Up Suds."

While living in Nashville, Carter worked at various recording studios, label and production companies.  He eventually moved back to the Danville area where he continued to perform with area bands.  According to the Commerical-News, "when he wasn’t playing music, Carter worked numerous jobs, including selling shoes and managing stores. A barber, he also had several barber shops in the area, and started the Tilton Teen Club."

In 2015, at age 80, Carter was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Music in the Heartland Society.   Carter passed away in 2017.


  1. He was my neighbor for fourteen years and my grandmother’s for 26 years …. When he was in Nashville he worked for EMI I think, writing songs for premiere artists he always said Reba McEntire had a golden bull statue in her entryway..He was always proud of this Christmas song he had written …He was also on WDNL or whatever TV station they shot and broadcasted from breezy tower when he was 14 or 15 with his band back then

  2. He was a really great guy and I’m proud to have known him

  3. Bob Carter was my bus driver in 1975 in Westville, Illinois for a short time. I have 2 copies of AsThe Fire Grows / Soakin' Up Suds. He was a nice guy.