Born Johnny Ancil Wilson, 29 November 1935, Riversville, West Virginia Died September 1980.
Peanuts Wilson, apparently so nicknamed because he was a small man (5 feet tall), was definitely no midget in the talent department, with a career spanning from his teens to his death in 1980. Wilson was born in West Virginia, but his family moved to Odessa, Texas, whilst he was still an infant.
By 1956 he was playing guitar in the Teen Kings, which was Roy Orbison’s second group formed in Texas while Orbison was studying geology in college and working oil fields at night (Pat Boone was there at the same time, and soon left to start his own recording career).
The Teen Kings recorded Ooby Dooby, under their first contract with Sam Phillips, and for a brief time rode a decent-sized wave, touring with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, writing and recording Go Go Go (Down the Line) and (the great song) Rockhouse.
During the rehearsals for "Sweet And Easy To Love" and "Devil Doll" on December 14, 1956, Orbison split with the Teen Kings. "It happened right in the studio", recalled Sam Phillips. "They had some difficulty among themselves, and the band broke up then and there. Really it was nothing more than their being extremely young." The Teen Kings went back to West Texas and formed another group for a few months before Peanuts went solo in 1957.
Wilson's first solo session took place on May 26, 1957, at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, and generated two versions of "Cast Iron Arm", plus "You've Got Love", which was Wilson's first attempt at song writing. Two of the Teen Kings (Kennelly and Ellis) provided the accompaniment and the sax player is either James Morrow or Jimmy Seals. The lead guitarist is possibly Roy Orbison. "Cast Iron Arm" was released on Brunswick 55039 on November 27, 1957, and credited to "Peanuts Wilson", as there was already another recording artist called Johnny Wilson. The disc was also issued in the UK on Coral Q 72302.
There were two other recording sessions by Wilson, on November 10, 1957, and September 8, 1958. Four tracks from these sessions, which are not bad at all, finally saw the light of day in 1999, when they were released on the splendid Ace CD "West Texas Bop", which also includes "Cast Iron Arm" and "You've Got Love". Wilson's version of "Paper Boy" predates the Roy Orbison version, which came out on the B-side of Roy's first Monument single in September 1959 (recorded on April 23, 1959). The other three tracks are "I've Had It" (not the Bell Notes hit), "My Heartbeat" and "You've Got Everything". Four takes of "Silly Lilly" remain unissued. "This song has totally inane lyrics but is a superb rocker," according to John Ingman.
Peanuts recorded one more single, "Little Miss Fortune"/"Twi-Light Zone" for the small Odessa-based Coronodo label in the autumn of 1963 before establishing himself as a successful writer of country songs.
Among his compositions that made the country Top 10 are "Easy As Pie" by Billy "Crash" Craddock (# 2, 1975), "Roses For Mama" by C.W. McCall (# 2, 1977) and "It's Too Late" by Jeanne Pruett (# 9, 1980). Wilson died of a heart attack in September 1980, just when Kenny Rogers was providing him with his biggest ever hit composition, "Love the World Away" (# 4 country, # 14 pop). Other stars who have recorded his songs include Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Mickey Gilley, Faron Young, Bobby Vinton and Tommy Overstreet.
(Info edited from liner notes for "West Texas Bop" (Ace CD) & Speakeasy, a wordpress blog).