Howard Vokes

"Pennsylvania's Mr. Country Music"
"The Kentucky Colonel"

  • C.M.A.A. Pioneer Award, 1994
  • King Eagle Award, Promoter of the Year 1992-1993
  • King Eagle Award, Outstanding Radio Music Promoter 1995-1995
  • Michigan Pioneer Award, 1993
  • T.M.A. Award - "Traditional Country Person of the Year" 1995

    One of Pennsylvania's major contributions to country music is a versatile man we all know as Howard Vokes. His devoted efforts to the field of music we all love so much is a never ending battle. The many, many entertainers that he has helped to get a start in the country music business reads like a "who's who".

    Howard's many successes include manager of several country artists, a booking agency, song-writer, music publisher, record owner, promoter, singer, and really anything else that might pertain to in country music circles. He has been involved with it all, and the name Howard Vokes is known all over the world. In Music City, U.S.A., Nashville, Tennessee there's probably not a minute goes by that someone doesn't mention Howard's name. Guess you could call Nashville Howard's second home since he does most of his recording there, and is generally in some way or another in contact with everybody in that neck of the woods. Artists he has helped in that city alone would fill a small tablet, and includes some big names.

    The entire story of this great entertainer would actually take many pages to write, possibly running into volumes. Howard will be the first to admit the road hasn't been easy, however he has accomplished his great success through plenty of hard work, faith, determination, and spending thousands of dollars. His deep faith in his convictions and in his Maker are apparent in his poised, yet humble approach to everything that he undertakes to do. His hands are always out to help country artists, especially the new ones just coming into the business. Many times Howard has taken a "back seat" to give another artist a better start.

    Howard is a stickler and firm believer in traditional country music and that is why the older artists such as Clyde Moody, Jimmie Skinner, Lee Moore, Doc Williams, Hylo Brown, Urel Albert, Rudy Thacker, Patsy Montana, Kenny Roberts, and many, many others have Howard to thank for booking them so often in his state, or else just putting in a good word to other bookers where they may be hired and appreciated. And like Howard states, "The traditional artists continue to be neglected and really, these are the real professionals that know the meaning of real country music. They know what it is to play in the worst of places in coming up, many times working for a few dollars and often for nothing. They did it for the love of it. The modern stars of today, many of them had it easy on the way up, smart managers and the like, several over-night successes and the majority not doing country music. "Howard continues, "Just give me the traditional artists anytime and believe you me, I'm one that will continue to book them, plug and promote them, and help in anyway I possibly can. They deserve it and if these older down-to-earth country artists received the attention today that the modern acts are getting, they'd be making big money, selling a lot of records, and getting the kind of attention that they so rightfully deserve, and naturally will appreciate. We need the radio stations for real help in that regard, and it's good to note that some stations are giving the REAL country artists their due again." Howard goes on, "I read back where a small radio station went full time hard-country with amazing results. That should tell everybody something. When stations go All COUNTRY and then won't play Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, well to me this is just plain nonsense".

    "I predicted things would start to change several years ago, and now I honestly believe the "brain-wash" is over. When our beloved music was losing it's identity and it was heading for the "grave-yard", well a lot of people started to wake up, and started to fight. Thank God for that. Really, the public is 'fed-up' with the confusion, trash and experimentation in country music. Those preaching, 'you must have progress' is the perfect example of why the human race is in such a mess as it is today. The older artists paved the way for what country music is today, and it makes my heart feel very happy that we're getting back to the fiddle and steel-guitar 'kick-offs' and 'turn arounds' on the country records once again. Good sign that the pollution in country music is slowly fading into the sunset. I've always fought for the preservation of my kind of music and spent a lot of money in that regard. With what radio, TV and records have been passing off as country music, maybe that's why the real country & bluegrass festivals have become so popular and drawing such huge audiences. Just goes to show that people have to go into the woods to hear their beloved type of music. Let's have the 'modern trend', however we as the record buyers and lovers of traditional music should never let down the fight to have and keep radio stations giving time to our kind of music, promoting it and taking a clear stand whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. Artists should record a country record making sure it sounds like one; producers should push it heavily via radio, TV, the distributors, juke box operators, etc. We're winning the battle. Can't be two sides of the fence - has to be one or the other."

    After reading this far you know for sure Howard tells it like it is. They say and claim Howard Vokes is a "living legend", Pennsylvania's King Of Country Music", but he let's them say what they want. People say when Howard sings he sings with so much feeling at times that tears often roll down his cheeks. He is well respected throughout the world of country music, and many state, Howard Vokes is, 'Country Music'. He's probably done more for country music than he himself realizes. He loves people, the people love Howard, and their devotion to him is truly amazing.

    We're getting ahead of ourself. Let's go back when Howard Vokes was born, June 13, 1931 in Clearfield, PA. At a very early age he got interested in country music since his Mom and Dad always had either the Grand Ole Opry or the Supper Time Frolics on during the evening. The radio brought forth sounds that caught young Howard's ear and he soon was playing the harmonica at about six years of age, branching to the guitar at 11 years. The Vokes family was large, 13 in all, six girls and 7 boys, but all healthy through the hardships of life. One sister Betty Ann was killed in an auto wreck April 24, 1967 and this was one of the family's saddest moments.

    At 15 years of age Howard started singing at a lot of parties and working with different bands in places he wouldn't think about working in these times. Some of the spots were plenty tough and living and working around mining towns like Renton and Barking, Pennsylvania, you can about guess the rest. Guitar and Howard were constant companions and he sang over Radio WKPA in New Kensington, PA, WAVL Apollo, PA, and several other stations in the state. His sister Barbara used to help him sing and together they sounded really good, however she didn't take a real interest in the music as Howard did. In those days Howard was barn-storming all over the place, singing and playing for anyone that would listen. He was a great favorite at most local parties, etc. He was on the verge of forming a band when tragedy struck.

    A hunting accident put Howard in the hospital for 6 weeks. He was shot in the right ankle with a 30-30 high-powered rifle and the slug just about tore his foot off. He feared for the loss of the foot and doctors forewarned that even if his foot didn't have to come off, he would surely never walk right again. Howard did a lot of praying even while he took over 300 shots to save his foot. It was while in the recovery period that Howard wrote many songs and mastered the guitar. The story in regards to the accident is a long one, however it can be stated here that even though he suffers with it today, Howard only walks with a slight limp. His prayers and faith answered, Howard feels the 'accident' was a blessing in disguise.

    From that time on Howard dug into his song-writing, formed his now famous 'Country Boy' band and went to work at PPG Industries at Creighton, PA. At that time Howard's band was about the hottest in the area having more engagements than they could handle. Moving swiftly in the business, Howard was turning a helping hand to other artists. First in line was Hank King from New Kensington, PA. Hank looking to get a record out found it possible through Howard's efforts. Hank recorded two of Howard's compositions, "Atom Bomb Heart" and "I Want To Know Why You Don't Care For Me", and together they went on the road, doing rather well until Hank had to give up the business. Then Howard took over the management of Denver Duke and Jeffery Null, and here was the 'turning point'. The boys who at that time lived in Cicero, Illinois recorded Howard's tribute song about the late and great Hank Williams, titled "Hank Williams that Alabama Boy" and one of their own songs titled, "When We Meet Up Yonder" for the fast-moving Blue Hen Record Company out of Harrington, Delaware. The disc took off finding both songs in several charts, and finally the boys got so hot, manager Howard had his boys appearing in various states. The boys appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, WLAC Jamboree, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, WWVA Jamboree, and other important shows on radio and TV. Such a blazing path the boys were making Mercury records called, and soon Howard Vokes had his team of Duke & Null recording for that label. Out came another tribute song, "Hank Williams Isn't Dead", and back on the road they went again. Many recordings followed such as, "A Million Tears" - "A Babe, A Star, A Manger" - "Christ Who Came To Bethlehem" - "When The Snow Came God Called My Wife Away" - etc.

    And so goes the long, long story on Howard Vokes. He managed and prompted a number of artists, several in the big time. He also was a 'silent gun' behind several big selling country songs. Frankly we can't go into all the details because space is limited, and there's no doubt a book could be written about this aspect of the business.

    Up to this point we had Howard working for most everybody but himself. Let's get on to the story of how he first started to record. It was while in Cleveland, Ohio at the old Circle Theatre where Howard had booked his boys, Denver Duke and Jeffery Null. It was decided by MC Tex Clark that Howard should sing a couple of songs. And when he did sing he gave out with his rendition of the old Doc Williams song, "Willie Roy, The Crippled Boy", and literally 'tore the house down'. Tex Clark kept calling Howard back for encore after encore. After that episode, folks kept telling Howard to record, and finally he relented, took his Country Boy band and went into a Cleveland Ohio studio. Howard's first record, although it got good ratings didn't do much. Songs were, "This Prison I'm In" and "Ghost Of A Honky Tonk Slave". Only good thing that really happened was that Tex Williams covered it, and Howard was the publisher. Later, however, Howard released his version of his very favorite, "Willie Roy, The Crippled Boy" on Del-Ray Records which was a division of Blue Hen Records, Harrington, Delaware. The single mailed out to countless radio stations, Howard then made a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and appeared on a number of important shows. When he returned home to New Kensington, his home town, he walked into a mountain of mail, phone messages, telegrams, etc. It was now very clear that "Willie Roy" had caught on and was getting into numerous radio charts around the country. It wasn't too long after that it was the 'open road', at least 20 states with Howard and his band the Country Boys making numerous appearances, parks, schools, theaters, auditoriums, radio, TV, etc. The record of "Willie Roy, The Crippled Boy" was really hot. In fact, Howard has it recorded in 3 different versions, and in several foreign countries also.

    Other records followed, "Mountain Guitar", which started to get plenty of action, and then Roy Acuff covered it, "It's All Right Now" - "Forever" - "The Love I Once Knew", etc. Howard was so hot on records at that time Don Pierce called him to Nashville to do an LP for Starday Records. He recorded a winner in "Tragedy And Disaster In Country Songs" and a single in, "The Miner". Speaking of Don Pierce, he and Howard had worked closely together on a number of endeavors to preserve the much loved traditional style and Howard states that Don was a great person and honest. It really pained Howard to no end when Don retired from the business and Starday eventually went out of business. "It never was the same without Don," Howard states, and I somehow feel he really knew what was going to happen to our kind of music, and wanted out, so that he wouldn't be a part of the change, nor try to buck the system".

    Howard's various recordings are heard in a number of mixed albums. His label affiliation in USA has been with Del-Ray, Wasp, Starday and his own Vokes record label where he has released such good sellers as, "Old Shep", "Born Without A Name", "Empty Victory", "West Of The Yukon", etc. He is heard in Canada on Sparton, Acadia and Mountain record labels. In Norway he is heard on Triola, Australia, Hadley, Great Britain, Starlite, etc. His recordings are heard world-wide, getting into the hands of folks who really love the down-to-earth country sounds. In fact Howard gets a tremendous amount of mail from the foreign countries.

    Other records by Howard to name a few are, "Down In The Hollow", "Tears At The Grand Ole Opry", "The Great Titanic", "If This World Wants Peace", "Break The News", "A Plastic Heart", etc. He has written over 500 songs with more than half on commercial records. Major stars such as Wanda Jackson, Lonzo & Oscar, Skeeter Davis, Tex Williams, and others have recorded from the Vokes catalog. Howard owns Vokes Music Publishing Company (BMI) and he has top writers in his firm, including Louis Webb, Rudy Thacker and Billy Wallace, writer of many hits, including the standard, "Back Street Affair".

    Besides his nationally known Vokes record label, Howard also owns Country Boy records, named after his band. Country Boy, a division of the Vokes Music operations, will continue to give "breaks" to new artists in country/bluegrass/gospel field. The Vokes label will, of course, stay geared to name artists, including all future releases by Howard.

    For years Howard has operated various jamborees in his area and booking as much traditional talent as he possibly could. His Friday night jamboree at the Edna Hotel in Arnold, PA was successful as was his Sunday jamboree at the Logans Ferry Heights Fire Hall in Plum, PA. Most widely known though is the Saturday night jamboree Howard held at the Griltz Hotel in Verona, PA for almost 16 years. The country spot is sold now, and Howard and his band are no longer there, but in those years the artists that graced the stage there reads like a "who's who in country music". Turn away crowds were the order of the night and such great traditional acts such as Clyde Moody, Jimmie Skinner, Hylo Brown, Patsy Montana, Lee Moore, Kenny Roberts, Urel Albert, Margie Lane & Sundown Pete, Jim McCoy, Rudy Thacker, and many others were booked time and again because of their popularity and drawing power. Howard has several scrapbooks now filled with publicity articles, photos and other important data in regards to all the shows and activities presented at the former Griltz Hotel, and to him it's treasures untold. Howard also operated Ravine Park, near Blairsville, PA and Frazer Twp. #2 Fireman's Farm, Tarentum, PA. Howard is proud of the fact he has been able to educate his mass following to continue to love the traditional type of music, no matter what certain radio stations were trying to pass off as country. Any new following at any Howard Vokes country show finally found out what real country music was all about.

    We should mention at this point that two of Howard's compositions are now titles of two albums, "Hank Williams That Alabama Boy" by Denver Duke & Jeffery Null via Heart & Soul Records #201, and "Tears At The Grand Ole Opry" by Wanda Jackson via Hilltop Records # 6182. Howard's latest LP is titled, "Howard Vokes Sings The Songs Of Broken Love Affairs" via Folk - Variety Records # 12012.

    There, then, is part of the Howard Vokes story, the legend as so many believe. Howard voted and tagged, "Pennsylvania's King Of Country Music" without a doubt proves it every time he walks out on any stage. His personal tragedies is another story and we certainly won't go into it here. We can, however, say that what has happened to Howard in his personal life, would fill a witch doctor's black book. Other important data can be found about Howard in the book, "A History And Encyclopedia of Country, Western, Bluegrass And Gospel Music", published by Clairmont Corp., Nashville, Tennessee.

    Howard has been married but not at the present time. He has, 8 wonderful children, Howard Jr., Benjamin, Martha, Victoria, Gladys, Agnes, Sharon and William Francis. Most of them are taking interest in or playing the guitar. Howard is hoping that one in the lot who loves his music will be destined to carry on the Vokes music heritage.

    Howard's band, The Country Boys lately has been getting an overhaul job. Original band members were Bob Rose, Skeets Martin, Johnny Drolz, Sam Hummel, Tex Belin and George (Kie) Frohnhofer. It was sad for Howard when "Kie" who played "country accordion" for 15 years passed away. Then Sam, the fiddle man of 24 years passed away. On December 28, 1992 Howard was devastated by the passing of his bass man Bob Rose who was with him for at least 45 years. Johnny the steel guitarist has been in and out of veteran's hospital. Skeets moved to Florida and Tex married Howard's oldest daughter, Martha. At this time Guy Stehle has been part of the overhaul and he plays a great steel guitar without pedals. More on Country Boy band at a later date.

    The Vokes country music show is hard-core traditional country at it's best and in that fast moving show one will hear ole-time singing, up to the present trend, gospel songs, yodeling, impersonations of the various country stars, comedy, comedy songs and various instrumentals and country polkas that show off the talent and versatility of the band. A slogan: "If You Haven't Already Seen The Howard Vokes Country Music Show, It Definitely isn't his fault" is generally seen in much of the advertising and posters.

    Due to constant worry through the years that the "powers that be" and others were out to destroy the roots of real country music, Howard at his own expense went on a very large campaign to help put "Country" back into country music. The campaign was very successful on a world-wide basis even to this day. Others borrowed the slogan "Help Put 'Country' Back Into Country Music" for their own use and advertising. Howard knows one word greed is the ruination of the entire world and that also translates into the music field. Howard's love for his music will never let the roots be pulled as to pull those roots has our music as we know it headed for the grave yard. Howard is always on his guard against the foes of real down-to-earth country music and knows that greed and the power that goes with it, could still destroy the foundation of our God given music in time.

    Many folks have stated that Howard Vokes is one of the most powerful men in traditional country music, not only in the USA, but overseas as well. They go on to say that Howard has helped more "ole timers" and new artists in the country music business than anyone. What he has done for those many artists and country music in general just stagers the imagination. Lately Howard has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers in various feature stories. He's been nominated for various awards winning a few along the way. One beg honor Howard speaks highly of is that Canadian Country star Gordon Wilcox recorded a "Tribute" song about him titled "The King Of Country Music In Pennsylvania" written by Fred Sollie & Ray Jones. The "Tribute" was heavily promoted and got into numerous independent charts in the USA and overseas.

    Howard at this time has curtailed many of his appearances. He keeps busy promoting records for the new and older artists, plus working on various overseas projects. Majority of the artists he's promoting are getting much air play, record sales and potential for bookings overseas where there are no closed doors. He operates special jamboree shows and appears on a once-a-month basis at the Narodni Dom Lodge 312 Arch St., in Verona, PA. Howard writes a new song every chance he gets and plans to get back into the recording studios again soon.

    And as John Atkins once wrote when ending a feature story on Howard for one of Great Britain's top country music publication. "This has been just some of the story about the legend, extraordinaire Howard Vokes and I certainly hope that in the years to come I'll be able to sit down and write many more chapters of a man that

    The mailing address for Howard Vokes is New Kensington, PA 15068. That is the way much of his mail is addressed. Through Howard's efforts and his love for traditional country music he has literally put his home town, New Kensington on the map, not only in U.S.A., but all over the world. His title, "Pennsylvania's King Of Country Music is well deserved, and no one else in the Keystone State has ever accomplished what Howard has been able to do.


    P.O. Box 12
    New Kensington, PA 15068-0012


    1. "Tragedy and Disaster in Country Songs" - Starday #258
    2. "Songs of Broken Love Affairs" - Folk-Variety #12012
    3. "Tears at the Grand Ole Opry" - Folk-Variety #12019
    4. "Traditional Country Music from the U.S.A." - Bingo #104

    Contact: Lou Deneumoustier
    c/o Disc Collector
    P.O. Box 315
    Cheswold, DE 19936 USA

    Howard Vokes - "Heartbreak & Sorrow"

    Cassette and CD - HCD 4444
    SONGS: Willie Roy The Crippled Boy - Plastic Heart - Tomorrow Is My Last Day - Keep Cool But Don't Freeze - Empty Victory - Break the News - West of The Yukon - It Takes Six Men to Carry a Man to His Grave - Judge of Hearts - My Weeoping Heart - Born Without a Name - I Was a Fool - Your Kisses and Lies.

    Contact: Mr. Jack Boswell
    c/o Heritage Music
    1111 Davis Drive, Unit 1, Suite 247
    Newmarket, Ontario
    L3Y-7V1 CANADA
    Phone/Fax # 905-989-0414

    Attention: DJ's, Distributors,
    Juke Box Operators and Record Shops

    International Marketing Group (IMG) has been releasing much of the old King - Starday record material and will be issuing much more of it in the future. Recently issued was a CD titled: "BEST OF THE SAD SONG," featuring HOWARD VOLKS - WILMA LEE COOPER - FERLIN HUSKY - GEORGE JONES - MAC WISEMAN - RED SOVINE - JIMMIE OSBORNE - GEORGE MORGAN, etc. The CD is now realizing air-play, especially from the traditional DJs -- record shops are now ordering it. Record distributors should check the CD out ... "BEST OF THE SAD SONGS" King #1454.

    Contact: Stan Harman
    c/o International Marketing Group
    1900 Elm Hill Pike
    Nashville, TN 37210 USA
    Phone: 615-889-8000
    Fax: 615-871-4817
    Tool Free: 1-800-251-4040

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