The One-Sentence Snub
Don Grashey's name gets a solitary mention in Loretta's bestseller Coal Miner's Daughter. The sentence reads: "There was one fellow named Don Grashey who had some business sense, and he ran the record company for Mr. Burley."
In fact, Grashey was the president of Zero Records when the company was formed in 1959. According to Grashey's 1995 autobiography, My Rambling Heart, he and his business partner Chuck Williams came to Vancouver from Thunder Bay, Ontario, to help start Jury Records. They soon left that label after butting heads with its president, Vernon Taylor. Grashey and Williams took Jury V.P. Ray Chamberlin with them and the three formed Zero. Chamberlin, a logger, convinced Burley and a dozen other investors to back the company. This gave Grashey and Williams $5,094 with which to begin scouting talent and record songs.
Grashey secured the rights to some songs by Orella Myers, a French Canadian singer he had met and recorded when she was still an usherette at Thunder Bay's Colonial Theatre. He also took Vancouver singer Buddy 'Brad' Reynolds down to Hollywood to record "Pretty Polly" and "Georgie Porgie" at Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard.
Orella's single, "Give A Little, Take A Little Love"/ "Gonna Spend My Time (To Make You Mine)" charted for eight weeks in 1959 and peaked at #27. Zero was on the board.
Grashey and Williams trolled Vancouver night clubs in search of more talent. When they heard that country music jam sessions were being held in a backyard in the city's working-class Fraserview neighbourhood, Williams went to check it out. The tip was courtesy of a teenaged pop singer they had recorded for Jury Records. Her name was Sandi 'Shore' Loranger, and her aunt and uncle owned the property where jams were held in a private party space that had previously been a chicken coop.
Williams went to The Coop and was impressed with a young woman who sounded like Kitty Wells. It was Loretta Lynn. She may have been invited to the backyard bash by Johnny 'Zapp' Zaplotynsky who organized the get togethers. Zapp was a Vancouver drummer and promoter who frequented the same clubs in Blaine, Washington that Loretta played.
When the next jam was held at The Chicken Coop, Williams invited Grashey. He too was impressed with the Kentucky-born singer's potential. Grashey writes that they introduced themselves to Loretta and that was her first contact with Zero.
Grashey signed Loretta to the label on February 1, 1960. Doolittle witnessed the contract, which today resides in the Canadian Country Music Association Hall of Fame in Calgary, Alberta.