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Born May 19, 1940 in Houston, TX.
Along with fellow songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Tom T. Hall,
Mickey Newbury helped revolutionize country music in the 1960s and '70s by bringing new,
broader musical influences as well as a frank, emotional depth to the music - while at the
same time never losing respect for tradition. Newbury infused his country music with
haunting beauty and spiritual melancholy, creating an impressive collection of introspective,
emotionally complex songs that are more spiritual cousins of the work of Leonard Cohen than
that of Roy Acuff. (Newbury, in fact, calls himself a folksinger, and has never toured with a
band, prefering the ambience of a quiet coffeehouse.) The fact that many of his songs became
hits for singers from Don Gibson to Elvis Presley was proof that the industry and the public
were hungry for a change.
Like many of his generation, however - such as
his friend Townes Van Zandt Newbury is better known as a songwriter than as a singer.
Newbury has recorded 15 albums over a nearly 30 year period - right up to 1996's "Lulled
By the Moonlight, " a limited-edition release sold by mail order - but his soft, beautiful
tenor voice has rarely reached the charts.
Newbury spent his teens in Houston absorbing a wide
range of music, learning to play guitar, and writing poetry, which he began reading in local
coffeehouses. Folk music was on the rise at the time, and he soon turned to writing songs.
He sang in a vocal group called the Embers during this time (they were briefly on Mercury),
and played and hung out in Houston's black R&B and blues clubs, where he was nicknamed "The
Little White Wolf" by Gatemouth Brown.
Newbury joined the Air Force and was stationed
in England. After his discharge, he turned back to music. In 1963, a friend of his landed
him a writing job with Acuff-Rose, and Newbury moved to Nashville. During the next several
years, he became friends with such singers as Roy Orbison, Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson,
and Townes Van Zandt. He was also instrumental in getting both Kristofferson and Van Zandt -
among others - noticed in Nashville.
In 1966 Don Gibson had a Top 10 hit with
Newbury's "Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings, " and Newbury's writing career was off
and running. A long string of hit songs followed, recorded by such artists as Kenny
Rogers and the First Edition ("Just Dropped In"), Eddy Arnold ("Here Comes the Rain,
Baby"), and Andy Williams ("Sweet Memories").
Newbury's first album of his own was Harlequin Melodies
for RCA in 1968, recorded in RCA's big Nashville studio (it's an album he now detests). He quickly
got out of his RCA contract and instead turned to a small four-track studio run by engineer Wayne
Moss in a converted garage (becoming, before the word "outlaw" ever became fashionable, one of the
first Nashville artists to work outside the studio system). It was here that he recorded some of
his best solo albums, starting with Looks Like Rain for Mercury; this contained initial versions
of two of his most enduring songs, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" (which he's recorded several times
more) and "33rd of August."
But Mercury didn't support the album, and so Newbury
switched to Elektra in 1970. With this label, he released a string of superb albums, including
Frisco Mabel Joy, Heaven Help the Child, and the acoustic Live at Montezuma Hall; the latter was
paired with a rerelease of Looks Like Rain. These contained such songs as "Cortelia Clark" (about
a blind street singer), the almost painfully lonely "Frisco Depot, " and "Heaven Help the Child, "
a sweeping mini-epic of a song that makes references to Fitzgerald and Paris in the 1920s. In 1972
Newbury had a Top 30 hit with "American Trilogy, " a suite-like arrangement of "Dixie, " "Battle
Hymn of the Republic, " and "All My Trials." The song later became a major hit for Elvis Presley
and a standard in his repertoire.
Newbury recorded three albums for ABC/Hickory in the late 1970s, and was inducted into the
Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1980, but he was more and more becoming something of a
recluse. He had given up concert touring some years before, and also had moved to Oregon. In the
1980s, he only released two albums. In 1994 he resurfaced with Nights When I Am Sane, an acoustic
album recorded live with guitarist Jack Williams; Lulled by the Moonlight followed in early 2000.
Since he's been out of the spotlight for more than a decade, though, and his catalog is largely
out of print, he's little known in contemporary country circles. People familiar with his work,
however, recognize Newbury as one of country music's most inspired and moving artists. -Kurt Wolff
Poole & His North Carolina Ramblers were one of the most popular string bands of the 1920s
and had a great influence on the development of bluegrass music. Poole is largely responsible for
popularizing the banjo and created a unique playing style involving his thumb and two fingers.
He was born in Randolph County, North Carolina, and spent
much of his adult life working in textile mills. He learned banjo as a youth and also played baseball.
(It is believed that his playing style stemmed from a baseball accident involving his thumb.) When
not working in mills, he would travel from town to town across the country to play banjo and work.
He ended up settling in Spry, North Carolina in 1918 and married two years later. His brother-in-law,
fiddler Posey Rorer, would often play together with other local musicians and these became the
North Carolina Ramblers. Poole and Rorer teamed up with guitarist Norm Woodlief in 1925 and began
recording careers in New York for Columbia Records. There they cut four songs; all were successful,
including the bluesy "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," a country standard and Poole's signature song.
The Ramblers were suddenly a popular stringband. Though the personnel changed frequently over the
years, the band's unusual sound remained consistent. As vocalist, Poole sang with a plain,
uninflected style that complemented his complex banjo picking. The songs they sang were a
mixture of minstrel songs, Victorian ballads, and humorous burlesques all delivered with Poole's
straight-faced dry wit. Through the rest of the decade, the Ramblers released close to 60 singles
for Columbia. Like many country performers to follow, Poole lived a fast life; he was a hard
drinking man, rowdy and reckless.
When the Depression hit in 1930, Poole's career had
peaked and his popularity began waning - as did his self-confidence. As a result, he began drinking
even more heavily. Scheduled to appear in a film in 1931, he unfortunately went on a bender and died
of heart failure before he could get to Hollywood. After his death, Rorer (who had left the band
in 1929) and guitarist Roy Harvey (who'd replaced Woodlief around the same time), began leading
the North Carolina Ramblers. (The group continued to record and perform for a quite a few years
afterward.) Poole's music enjoyed renewed popularity during the folk revival of the '60s and in
1993, a CD of his best songs was released. Also, Kenny Rorer wrote and published a biography of
the great banjo player. -Sandra Brennan
Birth May 20, 1919 - Chicago, IL, death Feb 24, 1991 - Encino, CA.
"Lonesome" George Gobel was barely of voting and drinking age when he was first hired as a
musician/comic on the WLS radio Barn Dance in his native Chicago. True stardom eluded Gobel
until 1954, when he debuted in his own variety series on NBC television. Historians have compared
Gobel's low-key, self-effacing style to that of Herb Shriner and Johnny Carson, but anyone who's
ever seen him in action will agree that he was in a class by himself. Comporting himself more
like the studio janitor than the star of the proceedings, Gobel would quietly assume command by
wryly commenting on his surroundings ("You don't hardly get those no more," "I'll be a dirty bird")
feigning apprehension when confronted by such potential antagonists as his wife "spooky ol' Alice"
(played by several actresses) and dropping a zinger of a punch line when the audience least
expected it. Voted "outstanding new personality" by a committee of TV critics in 1954,
Gobel remained a ratings-grabber for five years, backed up by a topnotch writing staff
including James Allardice, Hal Kanter, Jack Douglas and Bill Dana.
During his first flush of fame, Gobel starred in
two theatrical features, The Birds and the Bees (1956) and I Married a Woman (1958), neither of
which captured his unique appeal. His NBC series having fallen victim to its competition
Gunsmoke in 1959, Gobel switched to CBS, alternating with Jack Benny on Sunday evenings,
but was unable to recapture his audience. He spent the next three decades as everybody's
favorite guest star, regularly appearing as one of the panelists on The Hollywood Squares
and showing up from time to time as Mayor Otis Harper Jr. on the TV sitcom Harper Valley PTA
(1981-82). He also made cameo appearances in such films as Rabbit Test (1978) and The Fantastic
World of DC Collins (1980). Undoubtedly the high-water mark of the latter stages of his career
occurred on an early-1970s telecast of The Tonight Show, where, flanked by inveterate ad-libbers
Bob Hope and Dean Martin, he brought down the house by muttering "Did you ever feel like the world
was a tuxedo, and you were a pair of brown shoes?" -Hal Erickson
Born May 22, 1892 in Kansas City, MO, died Jan 19, 1960 in Hollywood, CA.
Absolutely without a doubt one of the innovators and pioneers of country music, producer/engineer
(if that¹s what you could call it in those days) Ralph Peer is generally regarded to have presided
over the first country music recording session, laying down Fiddlin¹ John Carson¹s "The Little Old
Log Cabin in the Lane" b/w "The Old Hen Cackled" in 1923. Before that he was a pioneer in the blues
genre, recording the work of blues belter Mamie Smith in 1920 as a rep for Okeh Records. In an
absolutely unheard of arrangement then or since, Peer was hired by Victor Records in 1925 and
was paid by being given the publishing rights to any song he recorded instead of receiving a salary.
Encouraged by Peer to write their own music since traditional compositions paid no publishing,
Victor artists such as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family made Peer and his newly formed Southern
Music publishing company a mint. In the '30s, Peer saw the limits of C&W and branched out to sign
torch writers like Hoagy Carmichael before devoting more and more of his time to his true love,
horticulture, and deferring control of the business to his son. -Steve Kurutz
Jimmy Smart was born in Terrell, Texas, living there until the age of fourteen. After his father
passed away, he went to live with his grandparents in Windsor, Missouri. It was then he learned to
play the guitar and sing, along with his brother, Henry. The boys played at pie suppers, talent
contests, and were regulars on a weekly radio show at KDRO in Sedalia, Missouri.
At age nineteen Jimmy joined the Air Force. It was then he formed his first band, The Jimmy
Smart Band. Upon discharge for the service, Jimmy eventually moved to Marietta, Georgia,
where he married and raised three sons, Mike, Tony, and Terry. Mike and Sheila have a daughter,
Heather, and a son, Jimmy. Tony and Robin have a daughter, Laurel, and a son, Andrew. Terry and
Jenny have a daughter, Emily, and a son, Jackson.
Jimmy won a talent contest at the Georgia Jubilee which led to a recording contract on Peach Records.
They released two songs written by Jimmy, "Lonely Company" and "Don¹t Rush Me". They received great
airplay, which led to his next release "A Broken Dream", co-written by Jimmy, and "I Found Out Too
Late", also penned by Jimmy. "Broken Dream" charted at # 15 in Billboard for eight weeks.
Plaid Records was the home of his next release, "Shorty", which charted at # 16 in Billboard for
seven weeks. Jimmy then recorded on the Chancelor label, including two songs written by Liz Anderson,
"Tell Me What To Do About Today", which was nationally charted record, and "For Better or Worse".
Jimmy then signed with Cedarwood Publishing in Nashville, and had several releases on Jed Records,
at which "Try Crossing Over" charted , as well.
Jimmy continued playing clubs and concert dates around Atlanta, performing with acts such as,
Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Del Reeves, George Morgan, Dottie West, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce,
just to name a few. Later on Jimmy had a tv show with WJRJ in Atlanta ... (which later
became WTBS) The show, "JR Jamboree" aired for one year, with talent like, Conway Twitty,
Waylon Jennings, Jack Green, Bill Anderson, Lefty Frizzell, Little Jimmy Dickens, Roy Drusky,
and the list goes on ...
Jimmy¹s next release on Jed Records, was another self penned song called, "Forget You", which
also made the national charts. This led to an appearance on The Grand Ole Opry, and WWVA Barn
Dance in Wheeling WV ... along with several appearances on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree.
Jimmy and his band, Modern Country, played a lot of dates mostly in the southeast. Also,
Jimmy was busy producing sessions.
In 1986, the Jimmy Smart Fan Club was formed, and was a part of Fan Fair for five years,
with his wife Lorraine heading up the fan club. In 1987 Jimmy & Lorraine produced Jimmy¹s third
album, "Second Thoughts". They wrote five of the songs, three becoming nationally charted records.
Two more albums followed, with songs that they had written.
Jimmy and Lorraine own their own publishing company, Get Smart Music. Wonder how they came up
with that name ??? Hmmm..... In 1993 they began their tv show, Nashville Video Showcase, which they
tape once a week. Currently the show then airs the following week in both Nashville and Hendersonville.
Besides hosting and producing the show, they write together, and also write as a trio with Hank Sasaki,
a Japanese country singer/ songwriter. The trio wrote "Tennessee Moon" (among others) and,
so far, it has been recorded by Hank, Kim Anthony, Hanna Michal and Erin Hay.
Jimmy, Lorraine, and former co-host, Dallas Howard have written several songs together, including
"Somebody¹s Something", which is a heart warming family song. Both Dallas and Hank are good friends
of the Smarts. The couple stay busy producing sessions,and music videos.
Jimmy and Lorraine take time out to visit some of the clubs around Nashville, and Jimmy is always
invited to the stage. He knocks the crowd out with his crooning ballads, then hits them with some
50's rock and roll. He entertains ... with "class" He is a great addition to any stage show.
Instruments Jimmy plays include the Guitar ... Fiddle ... Mandolin.
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan
The country duo of songwriter/saxophonist/keyboardist Jack Blanchard and his wife, keyboardist Misty
Morgan, placed 15 singles on the country charts between 1969 and 1975. The two were born (three years
apart) in the same hospital in Buffalo, New York, and both moved to Ohio during childhood, but met on
the club circuit in Hollywood, Florida, where Misty worked as a pianist and singer while Jack was
performing as a pianist and comedian. They were soon married, but did not team up professionally
for five years. In 1969, they made their recording debut as a team - Jack had begun a solo career in
1959 - with the Top 60 single "Big Black Bird." The next year they released "Tennesee Bird Walk," and
it not only reached the top of the country charts, but also crossed over and did respectably well on
the pop charts. Following the success of "Humphrey the Camel," which also crossed over to the pop charts,
the duo had a Top 30 hit with "You've Got Your Troubles (I've Got Mine)." Jack and Misty moved to Mega
in 1971 and scored such hits as "There Must Be More to Life (Than Growing Old)" and "The Legendary
Chicken Fairy." In 1973, the two moved to Epic and had their last major hit, "Just One More Song,"
before moving on to subsequent record companies. The duo eventually decided to do it themselves, and,
in the new millennium, enjoyed success on the Indie World Country charts as singles off of their
self-released Back from the Dead album hit #1. They also have a website at jackandmisty.com.
Born 1958 in Cleveland, OH. The daughter of the legendary Dottie West and her first husband Bill, a noted steel guitar player,
Shelly West was a popular singer of pop-flavored country tunes during the 1980s.
Shelly got her start at age 17 touring with her mother's show; she started out singing backup, but
was soon given lead vocal chores. While touring, she fell in love with her mother's lead guitarist
Allen Frizzell; they married and left the band in 1977 to move to California. Allen was the little
brother of Lefty and David Frizzell, the latter of whom had a regular gig in a neighboring town.
The newlyweds soon joined his band and played with him for a few months. They toured the Southwest,
and upon their return, David began looking for a record label. A demo of the duet "Lovin' on Borrowed
Time" featuring West and her brother-in-law impressed record producer Snuff Garrett, who signed them
both to Casablanca West. Unfortunately, Polygram took over the label and dumped the duo, who
unsuccessfully tried their luck in Nashville. Garrett still believed the two had potential and
eventually played their song and its follow-up "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" to actor
Clint Eastwood, who had just founded his own record label, Viva. Eastwood liked the latter
song and added it to his film Any Which Way You Can, and the song hit number one on the country
charts in early 1981.
Their next four songs, beginning with the Top Ten hit "A Texas State of Mind," were also successful,
and the duo's considerable success continued through 1985, when they split up. (They cited a lack of
good duet songs as their main reason; the fact that West and her husband had just divorced may also
have been a factor). West made her solo debut in 1983 with "Jose Cuervo," which hit number one and
provided a sales boost for the tequila company. Her solo follow-up "Flight 309 to Tennessee" made
the Top Five. Between 1984 and 1986, West had a string of solo successes that included "Somebody
Buy This Cowgirl a Beer" and "Don't Make Me Wait on the Moon." Later that year she had one more
mid-range hit, "Love Don't Come Any Better Than This," and then faded from the charts. She
basically stopped recording after remarrying, but did reunite with David Frizzell for a few shows
in the late '80s. -Sandra Brennan
Born May 23, 1951 in Riverside, CA. Singer/songwriter Judy Rodman was born the daughter of an air-traffic
controller and part-time bluegrass musician in Riverside, California. Rodman began singing at age
four and was a competent guitar player at age eight, when she debuted with her father's band at a
cruise ship party. During her family's many moves, Rodman developed an interest in different forms
of music ranging from classical to Cajun to calypso. At age 17, she began singing commercial jingles;
her voice was heard nationally on one for Jeno's Pizza. She later studied music in college, where
she and her roommate Janie Fricke became jingle singers at the Tanner Agency in Memphis; she also
sang with Phase II, a local nightclub band.
Rodman worked as a backup singer during the mid-'70s for country and soul performers. After
marrying professional bass fisherman and drummer John Rodman, in 1980, the couple moved to Nashville,
where she began singing jingles for national companies. She also sang backup for some of Nashville's
biggest stars, including Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, and Ray Charles. In the mid-'80s, she had a
Top 40 hit with her debut single "I've Been Had by Love Before." Her second single, "You're Gonna
Miss Me When I'm Gone," did better, and by the end of the year she had a Top 30 hit with the
self-penned "I Sure Need Your Lovin'."
In 1986, Rodman debuted on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded her debut album Judy which produced a
number one hit in "Until I Met You" and the Top Ten follow-up "That She'll Marry." Her 1987 second
album, A Place Called Love, featured several hits; singles from her upcoming third album were also
successful, but her label folded before it came out. She then went back to singing backup and
writing songs. In the mid-'90s, Rodman wrote for Warner-Chappell Music and began making plans
for another bid for a new label and stardom. -Sandra Brennan
Born May 23, 1925 in Waynesboro, VA.
Famed for his clear and mellow tenor voice, Mac Wiseman recorded with many great bluegrass bands,
including those of Molly O'Day, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and the Osborne Brothers; his command
of traditional material made him much in demand by bluegrass and folk fans alike. Wiseman was born in
Cremora, Virginia and grew up influenced by traditional and religious music and such radio stars as
Montana Slim Carter. Wiseman started out working as a radio announcer in Harrisonburg in 1944. At the
same time he worked as a singer with Buddy Starcher. He later formed his own group and continued
performing with others, including Molly O'Day and Flatt & Scruggs, through the '40s. In 1949, he
recorded a single, "Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road," with Bill Monroe. By the 1950s, Wiseman
was again leading his own band.
Possessing one of the best tenor voices in bluegrass, Wiseman differed from Monroe and Flatt &
Scruggs in that he usually sang alone, with little or no harmonizing. His band also employed two
fiddles to play contemporary songs such as Speedy Drise's "Goin' Like Wildfire" as well as adaptations
of standards such as the Carter Family's "Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home" and Mac and Bob's "'Tis
Sweet to Be Remembered." With the Country Boys, a band that featured such pioneering musicians as Eddie
Adcock and Scott Stoneman, Wiseman recorded many popular local singles, and had his first national Top
10 hit with his version of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett." The song's success steered Wiseman away from
bluegrass and more towards pop and country. In 1957, Wiseman began recording for Dot; he had a few major
successes for the label with such songs as "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy" before moving to Capitol in 1962,
where he recorded both country and bluegrass tunes. He began working for Wheeling's WWVA Jamboree in
1965, and also began to play at bluegrass festivals; over the next three decades, he became one of
he most popular performers on the circuit.
Wiseman moved to Nashville in 1969 and signed with RCA Victor. His first - and only - hit for the
label was the Top 40 novelty tune "If I Had Johnny's Cash and Charley's Pride." While at RCA, he
also recorded three well-received bluegrass albums with Lester Flatt. From the mid-'70s on, Wiseman
concentrated on bluegrass, becoming a fixture at festivals and releasing a series of records on
independent records that ran into the '90s. In 1992, Wiseman narrated the documentary High Lonesome,
a chronicle of bluegrass music, and in 1993 was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
-Sandra Brennan & David Vinopal
Born May 24, 1955 in Memphis, TN. The history of popular music is littered with the careers of the
children of famous artists, performers who manage to carve out some small measure of success based
far less on talent than on the recognition that their famous names afford them. Perhaps no greater
exception to this trend was Rosanne Cash, the daughter of Johnny Cash, whose idiosyncratic and
innovative music made her one of the pre-eminent singer/songwriters of her day.
Born May 24, 1956, to her father and his first wife, Vivian Liberto, Rosanne was raised by her mother
in Southern California after her parents separated in the early '60s. She was largely uninfluenced
by her father's music until she joined his road show following her graduation from high school; over
a three-year period, she was promoted from handling the tour's laundry duties to performing, first
as a backup singer and then as an infrequent soloist. Still, Cash remained unsure of choosing a
career in music, and took some acting classes; not wishing to succeed solely on the basis of her
family's influence, she also worked as a secretary in London and traveled extensively abroad.
After releasing an eponymously titled solo record - later disavowed - in Germany in 1978, Cash signed
with Columbia Records, and began performing with Texas singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell, who produced
three songs for her American debut, 1979's Right or Wrong. The record featured three Top 25 hits,
including "No Memories Hangin' Round," a duet with Bobby Bare. The same year, she and Crowell also
married. Cash issued her commercial breakthrough Seven Year Ache in 1981; not only did the album
yield three number one singles, the title track even crossed over into the Top 30 on Billboard's
pop chart. However, the follow-up, 1982's Somewhere in the Stars, was a rush job, recorded during
Cash's pregnancy. While failing to repeat Seven Year Ache's success, it did produce two more Top
Ten singles, "Ain't No Money" and "I Wonder."
After a three-year hiatus, Cash returned with her most significant artistic statement yet in
Rhythm and Romance, a deft fusion of country and pop that won wide acclaim from both camps.
The record earned her two more number ones, "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me" (co-written
with Crowell) and a cover of Tom Petty's "Never Be You." In 1987, she issued King's Record
Shop, a meditation on country music traditions which generated four successive number one hits
in John Hiatt's "The Way We Make a Broken Heart," "Tennessee Flat Top Box" (a hit for her father
in 1961), "If You Change Your Mind," and John Stewart's "Runaway Train." Also hitting number one
was "It's Such a Small World," a duet with Crowell from his Diamonds and Dirt LP; not surprisingly,
she was named Billboard's Top Singles Artist in 1988.
The next year, Cash assembled the retrospective Hits 1979-1989; one of the record's few new songs, a cover
of the Beatles' "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," pushed the consecutive number ones streak to five. By
1990, her marriage to Crowell was beginning to dissolve; Interiors, an essay on the couple's relationship,
was released the following year, and while the record was the subject of great critical acclaim, it was a
commercial failure that generated only one Top 40 hit, "What We Really Want." In 1991, Cash and Crowell
divorced; The Wheel, released in 1993, was an unflinchingly confessional examination of the marriage's
failure that ranked as her most musically diverse effort to date. After a three-year hiatus, Cash
returned with a vengeance in 1996; not only did she publish her first book, a short-story collection
titled Bodies of Water, but she also issued 10 Song Demo, an 11-cut collection of stark home recordings
released with minimal studio gloss. -Jason Ankeny
Born May 24, 1947 in Altoona, PA.
A former defensive tackle for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Reid was one of the most sensitive writers
of romantic songs in contemporary country music. He was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the son of
a railroad worker. Although he was a piano player from age six, Reid's real passion was sports; in
1969 he won the Outland Trophy as the best collegiate defensive lineman in the country. Reid also
began to develop his musical talents, playing with local bands and graduating with a degree in music.
He was drafted in the first round, and became the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1970.
In addition to playing football, Reid also played music with local bands. While recovering from an injury,
he met Larry Gatlin, who encouraged Reid's music and admired his song "Time Runs Away." In the off-season,
Reid performed as a classical pianist with symphony orchestras in Dallas, Cincinnati, and Utah. In 1975,
after undergoing knee surgery, Reid left football, joined the Apple Butter Band, and began playing
Colorado ski resorts. As a songwriter, he was inspired by Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman. One of his
songs was recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1978, spurring him to pursue a solo career. He signed
to ATV Publishing in 1980 and remained there for a year and a half. After meeting the head of Milsap
Music, Rob Galbraith, Reid moved to the label and penned a few songs which appeared on Ronnie Milsap's
1982 album Inside, providing Milsap with a number one single, "Stranger in My House." Sylvia also
scored a major hit with one of Reid's songs. He continued as a successful songwriter for other
artists as well, including Mark Gray, Marie Osmond, Tanya Tucker, and Conway Twitty, who had a
major hit with "Fallin' for You for Years."
Tom T. Hall
Born May 25, 1936 in Olive Hill, KY. Tom T. Hall is known as a storyteller, a songwriter with a keen eye for detail and a knack for
narrative. Many musicians have covered his songs - most notably Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 hit "Harper
Valley P.T.A." - and he also has racked up a number of solo hits, including seven number one singles.
Hall is the son of a brick-laying minister, who gave his child a guitar at the age of eight. He had
already begun to write poetry, so it was a natural progression for him to begin writing songs. Hall
began learning music and performing techniques from a local musician called Clayton Delaney. At
the age of 11, his mother died. Four years later, his father was shot in a fishing accident,
which prevented him from working. In order to support himself and his father, Hall quit school
and took a job in a local garment factory. While he was working in the factory, he formed his
first band, the Kentucky Travelers. The group played bluegrass and gigged at local schools,
as well as a radio station in Morehead, KY. The station was sponsored by the Polar Bear Flour
Company; Hall wrote a jingle for the company. After the Kentucky Travelers broke up, Hall
became a DJ at the radio station.
In 1957, Hall enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Germany. While in Germany, he perfomed at local
NCO clubs on the Armed Forces Radio Network, where he sang mostly original material, which usually had a
comic bent to it. After four years of service, he was discharged in 1961. Once he returned to the
states, he enrolled in Roanoke College as a journalism student; he supported himself by DJing at a
radio station in Salem, VA.
ne day a Nashville songwriter was visiting the Salem radio station and he heard Hall's songs. Impressed,
the songwriter sent the songs to a publisher named Jimmy Key, who ran New Key Publishing. Key signed Hall
as a songwriter, bringing the songs to a variety of recording artists. The first singer to have a hit
with one of Tom's songs was Jimmy Newman, who brought "DJ for a Day" to number one on the country
charts in 1963. In early 1964, Dave Dudley took "Mad" to the Top Ten. The back-to-back success
convinced Hall to move to Nashville, where he was going to continue his career as a professional
After Johnnie Wright had a number one hit with Hall's "Hello Vietnam," the music industry was pressuring
Tom to become a performer. He decided to take the plunge in 1967, signing a contract with Mercury Records.
His first single, "I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew," was released in the summer of 1967 and
became a minor hit. Hall followed the single with two other singles in 1968 that failed to
crack the Top 40. Then, in the late summer of 1968, Jeannie C. Riley had a major hit with Tom's
"Harper Valley P.T.A.," which spent three weeks at the top of the charts and was voted the Single
of the Year by the Country Music Association. Its success brought attention to Hall's own recording
career, which was evident from the performance of "Ballad of Forty Dollars." The song became his
first Top Ten hit, climbing all the way to number four.
Throughout 1969, he had a string of hit singles, culminated by the release of the number one
single "A Week In A Country Jail" at the end of the year. The following year was just as
successful, as "Shoeshine Man" and "Salute to a Switchblade" both hit the Top Ten. In 1971,
he had his second number one single and his biggest hit, "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,"
which was based on his childhood hero.
For most of the early '70s, Hall was a consistent hit-maker as well as a popular concert attraction.
Between 1971 and 1976, he had five number one hits besides "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died:"
"(Old Dogs-Children And) Watermelon Wine," "I Love, "Country Is," "I Care," and "Faster Horses
(The Cowboy and the Poet)." Hall was appearing on television shows with regularity during this
time, particularly Hee Haw. He also wrote a book on songwriting, which led to his authorship
of a pair of books in the late '70s and early '80s - the semi-autobiography The Storyteller's
Nashville (1979) and the novel The Laughing Man of Woodmont (1982).
Although he continued to have the occasional Top Ten hit in the late '70s - most notably the number
four "You Man Loves You, Honey" (1977) - Hall didn't deliver hit singles as consistently as he did
the first half of the decade. That patten continued in the early '80s, when he began having trouble
cracking the Top 40; only 1984's "P.S. I Love You," a cover of a 1934 Rudy Vallee hit, made it into
the Top Ten. After 1986, Hall retired from recording, although artists continued to record his songs.
In 1996, he delivered Songs from Sopchoppy, his first album in ten years.
-Stephen Thomas Erlewine
AKA : Mirriam Johnson. Born May 25, 1943 in Phoenix, AZ.
Perhaps best known in conjunction with her husband Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter was the only
significant female singer/songwriter to emerge from the mid-'70s "outlaw" movement. Born Miriam
Johnson on May 25, 1943, in Phoenix, AZ, Colter in fact affiliated herself with outlaw imagery
long before the musical movement blossomed, adopting her stage name in honor of ancestor Jess Colter,
a real-life train robber and counterfeiter who rode with Frank and Jesse James.
Raised in a strict Pentecostal home, Colter was just a teenager when she left Phoenix to tour as a
vocalist with twang-guitar innovator Duane Eddy, whom she met through her sister Sharon, the wife of
producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement. In 1962, she and Eddy married, and after several years of extensive
touring (mostly throughout Europe), the couple settled in Los Angeles in 1966. Under the name Miriam
Eddy, she wrote songs for Don Gibson, Dottie West, and Nancy Sinatra.
In 1968, she and Eddy divorced, and Colter returned to Phoenix. There she met Waylon Jennings,
who was so taken with her voice that he invited her to record a duet with him. After helping secure
Colter a record deal with his label, RCA, Jennings co-produced the tracks that would make up her 1970
debut A Country Star Is Born; by the time of the record's release, the couple was already married.
Under the name Waylon and Jessi, they also issued two Top 40 singles, a 1970 cover of the Elvis
Presley hit "Suspicious Minds" and 1971's "Under Your Spell Again." Colter's commercial breakthrough
came in 1975 when her composition "I'm Not Lisa," a single from the LP I'm Jessi Colter, hit number
one on Billboard's country charts while also making the Top Five on the pop charts; the album spawned
another hit in "What's Happened to Blue Eyes." In 1976, she released two more highly successful
albums, Jessi and Diamond in the Rough.
Also in 1976, Colter teamed with Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Tompall Glaser for the album Wanted!
The Outlaws, which at the time of its release was the biggest-selling album in country history, and
he first country album certified platinum in sales. In between spending much of the remainder of the
decade on tour with her husband and Nelson, she also released the albums Miriam in 1977 and That's
the Way a Cowboy Rocks and Rolls in 1978.
Colter and Jennings re-teamed in 1981 for Leather and Lace, an album of duets featuring the hits "Storms
Never Last" and the medley "Wild Side of Life/It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." In the same year,
she released the solo album Ridin' Shotgun, which produced her final chart hit in 1982's ""Holdin' On."
"As the 1980s progressed, Colter's success tapered off; 1985's Rock 'n' Roll Lullaby, produced by Chips
Moman, was released only on a small label. By the early '90s, she began directing her energies toward
performing children's music, and starred in the home video Jessi Colter Sings Songs From Around the World
Just for Kids, which featured a guest appearance by Jennings, who recited some of his
poetry. -Jason Ankeny - http://elranchowaylon.tripod.com/
Ernest V. Stoneman
Born May 25, 1893 in Monorat, VA. died Jun 14, 1968.
Ernest "Pop" Stoneman was one of the first, and most popular, early country artists. He was born in
Carroll Country, Virginia and raised by his father and three cousins, who taught him traditional
Blue Ridge Mountain songs. He married as a young man and, when not working various odd jobs,
played music for friends and neighbors. After hearing a Henry Whitter record and swearing he
could do better, in 1924 he set off to New York to get a recording contract and prove it. His
first single, "The Sinking of the Titanic," came out on the Okeh label later that year and
became one of the biggest hits of the 1920s. At first he was accompanied only by his autoharp
(his best-known instrument) and harmonica, but later switched to guitar; Stoneman was also
adept at playing the Jew's harp and the clawhammer banjo. In 1926, he surrounded himself with
a full string band, mostly composed of relatives and neighbors. His career reached its peak in
1927, when he became the top country artist at Victor and led the Bristol sessions, which helped
the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers gain renown. Stoneman continued to record through 1929,
setting down over 200 songs.
When the Great Depression hit in the early '30s, Stoneman lost everything and moved his wife and nine
children to Washington, D.C. They remained there in desperate poverty while Stoneman worked odd jobs
and tried to re-establish his career, finally finding work at a munitions plant. At the end of the
1940s, he and his talented clan began performing as the Stoneman Family. By 1956, he had earned
the moniker "Pop" and appeared on the NBC television game show The Big Surprise, where he won
$10, 000. Later, his children's band, the Blue Grass Champs, became the Stonemans, which Pop
himself joined after retiring from the plant in the late '50s. He continued appearing with
them and singing lead vocals through the early '60s. In 1965, the Stonemans signed with MGM
in Nashville and hosted a syndicated TV show. In 1967, Stoneman's health began to deteriorate;
he continued recording and performing through the spring of 1968, until his death in June. -Sandra Brennan
Born Mar 17, 1932 in Fort Fairfield, ME. Dick Curless was best known for singing truck-drivin' songs
such as "Drag 'Em Off the Interstate, Sock It to 'Em J.P. Blues; " a tall man with an eye-patch and
rich baritone voice, Curless was often called the "Baron of Country Music," after one of his popular
songs, "The Baron."
He was born in Fort Fairfield, Maine, and started out professionally in 1948 with the Trail Blazers at
a radio station in Ware, Massachusetts. While with the group, Curless was billed as the "Tumbleweed Kid."
In 1951, he was drafted, and while stationed in the Far East frequently appeared on the Armed Forces
Network, where he was known as "The Rice Paddy Ranger." He returned to Maine three years later
and began singing in Bangor clubs. He got his big break when he won on Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts.
Afterward Curless began performing in Las Vegas and Hollywood; a record contract followed, but his
budding career was interrupted by an illness.
He then returned to Maine, and soon was working with such stars as Gene Hooper and Lone Pine and Betty
Cody. He finally reached the country charts in 1965 with the Top Five hit "A Tombstone Every Mile,"
followed by nine more chart hits including the highly successful "Six Times a Day (the Trains Came Down)."
In 1970, Curless signed to Capitol and scored a Top 30 hit based on the classic "Wabash Cannonball,"
titled "Big Wheel Cannonball." The follow-up "'Hard, Hard Traveling Man," (1970) made it to the Top 40.
During his career, he had a total of 22 hits. During the '60s, Curless was a member of the Wheeling
Jamboree, and from 1966-68 he toured with the Buck Owens show. During the '70s and '80s, Curless
recorded infrequently, and eventually became a born-again Christian. He recorded an album in Norway
in 1987, and by 1992 was a regular at the Cristy Lane Theater in Branson, Missouri. Curless died in
1995. -Sandra Brennan
Born May 27, 1939 in Floydada, TX. With his laidback, straight-forward vocals and large, imposing build,
Don Williams came to be known as "the Gentle Giant." That nickname was bestowed on him in the early '70s,
when he began a string of countrypolitan hits that ran into the early '90s. Williams was never known as an
innovator, but his ballads were immensely popular - in the course of his career, he had a total of 17
number one hits.
Williams began playing guitar when he was child, learning the instrument from his mother. As a teenager,
he played in a variety of country, rockabilly, folk and rock & roll bands. After completing high school,
he formed his first band with a friend called Lofton Kline. Williams and Kline recruited another singer,
Susan Taylor, and formed the Pozo-Seco Singers, a folk-pop group, in 1964. The following year, the band
signed a contract with Columbia Records. In 1966, the Pozo-Seco Singers had a pop hit with "Time," which
climbed into the Top 50. For the next two years, they had a series of minor hits, highlighted by two Top
40 hits in late 1966, "I Can Make It with You" and "Look What You've Done." The group stayed until 1971.
After the Pozo-Seco Singers disbanded, Williams decided to pursue a career as a songwriter in Nashville,
since he wasn't convinced that he was suited for a solo career. He signed with Jack Clement's Jack Music,
Inc., initially just as a songwriter. By the end of 1972, he had signed with JMI as a solo artist,
releasing "Don't You Believe" as his debut. The song went nowhere, but "The Shelter of Your Eyes"
climbed to number 14 at the beginning of 1973. For the next year, Williams scored a string of minor
hits before he had his 1974 breakthrough, "We Should Be Together," which reached number five. The
single led to a contract with ABC/Dot.
"I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me," his first single for ABC/Dot, reached number one in the
summer 1974. The single launched a string of Top Ten hits that ran more or less uninterrupted until 1991 -
between 1974 and 1991, only four of his 46 charting singles didn't make the Top Ten. Instead of reaching
the top of the charts with his original material, most of his big hits were covers of other songwriters,
including John Prine, Bob McDill, Dave Loggins, and Wayland Holyfield.
During the '70s, Don Williams became the most successful country artist in the world. His country-pop
not only crossed over into the American pop mainstream, it also gained him a large following in England
and Europe. In addition to his Top Ten hits, Williams won several country music awards, highlighted by
the Country Music Association naming him Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978, the same year his number
one single "Tulsa Time" was named Single of the Year. In the late '70s, he began acting, appearing
primarily in the films of his friend Burt Reynolds, including W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings and Smokey
and the Bandit II.
In the early '80s, Williams slowed down the pace of his career slightly, as he was suffering from
back problems. Nevertheless, the hits continued to come and many of his singles reached number one.
In 1986, he left MCA Records - who had acquired the ABC label while he was recording for it - signing
with Capitol. The change in labels didn't affect his career at all, as he continued to hit the Top Ten
with regularity. In 1987, he underwent back surgery, which cured his problems.
Williams signed with RCA Records in 1989. Initially, he continued to have hit, but his streak came
to an end in early 1992, following his last Top Ten single, "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy."
Although he continued to perform in the mid-'90s, he had effectively retired to his Nashville farm,
returning to recording in 1998 with I Turn the Page. -Stephen Thomas Erlewine
AKA "Round Mound of Sound". Born May 27, 1931 in Florence, KY, died Aug 4, 1987.
Six-foot tall, 300-pound Kenny "The Round Mound of Sound" Price was best remembered for his work on
the long-running television show Hee Haw; he was also a talented singer/songwriter and musician who
never quite made it to the big-time, despite having 34 chart singles over his 15-year career. A native
of Boone County, Kentucky, Price was raised on a ranch and began playing guitar when he was only five.
He got his start at age 14 playing on WZIP, Cincinnati, but music was only a hobby; Price really
aspired to be a farmer. From 1952 to 1954, Price was in the military; while stationed in Korea,
he auditioned for a USO show. By the time he was discharged, Price had decided to become a
professional musician and studied briefly at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Later in
1954 he began playing on Midwestern Hayride at WLW Cincinnati. Three years later he was appearing
on Buddy Ross' local televison show Hometown. His third single, "Walking on the New Grass," made
it to the Top 10 in 1966, as did his next single "Happy Tracks." Through the rest of the '60s,
Price had several medium level hits and in 1969 had a Top 20 hit with "Northeast Arkansas Mississippi
County Bootlegger." This was followed by two Top 10 hits including "The Sheriff of Boone County,"
which made a brief appearance on the pop charts. Through 1973, he had three more minor hits and
in 1976, joined Hee Haw. Price died of heart failure on August 4, 1987. -Sandra Brennan
Born May 27, 1921 in Ashland City, TN.
Singer Redd Stewart formed several bands in and around Louisville, KY, in the 1930s with moderate
success before meeting and teaming up with a brash young accordionist and bandleader named Pee
Wee King and achieving widespread popularity. Though the band did well in the late '30s, it wasn't
until after WWII that the group really hit full stride. It was during that time that Stewart began
writing and, inspired by his service time, wrote a smash hit for Ernest Tubb in the weepy "A Soldier's
Last Letter." And with King as a writing partner, the team churned out hits such as "Bonaparte's
Retreat" and the enduring country classic "Tennessee Waltz." The hits kept coming with "Slow Poke"
and "You Belong to Me" topping the charts in the early '50s, and the duo continued to play in bands
together throughout the '60s. -Steve Kurutz
Born Feb 8, 1908 in Braggs, OK, died May 27, 1971. Bob Dunn is an icon of Western swing music.
Dunn joined Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies in 1934. He electrified his guitar with a homemade
pickup in 1935 and electrified Southwestern audiences forthwith. He had a brassy sound and used his
guitar as a lead, not a chorus instrument. When Milton Brown's band broke up after his death,
Dunn served time with Roy Newman and His Boys, Cliff Bruner and His Texas Wanderers and the
Hi-Flyers. He formed Bob Dunn's Vagabonds with Leo Raley on electric mandolin, Mancel Tierney
on piano, former Blue Ridge Playboy Russell "Hezzie" Bryant on bass and Fritz Kehm on drums.
He kept himself busy with session work until the '50s. -Megan Lynch
As one of the premiere dobro players in bluegrass, new-acoustic, and country music, Jerry "Flux"
Douglas toured and recorded with everyone from Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, and the Nitty Gritty
Dirt Band to mandolin sensation David Grisman and banjo innovator Bela Fleck. Douglas' albums as a
leader fully exploited the dobro's resonant guitar sound, his aggressive touch, incredibly fast
finger picking and deft use of the steel bar giving the instrument a bright, cutting tone-quality.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, 1955, Douglas was eight years old when his father, a bluegrass musician,
introduced him to the dobro. He became further fascinated with the instrument upon hearing Josh
Graves play the instrument at a 1963 Flatt & Scruggs concert. By the time he was 16, Douglas had
been playing in his father's band for a number of years; when the group played at a festival
alongside the Country Gentlemen, the Gentlemen were impressed with the youth's playing and
invited him to join them for the rest of the summer. Later Douglas worked with J.D. Crowe and
the New South as well as David Grisman, and Boone Creek with Ricky Skaggs.
In 1978, Douglas made his solo debut with Fluxology. His next album, Tennessee Fluxedo came out two
years later. He began playing and recording with the Whites in 1983, and eventually left to focus
on his solo career and much sought-after session work. He recorded three albums for MCA in the late
1980s, most notably 1989's Plant Early, which marked a change toward a calmer, more textured direction.
In the early '90s, Douglas and guitarists Albert Lee and Tal Farlow embarked upon a European tour for
the National Council of Traditional Arts; he also began producing other artists and making regular
appearances on the TNN show American Music Shop. In 1993, Douglas, guitarist Russ Barenberg and bassist
Edgar Meyer released the Sugar Hill album Skip, Hop & Wobble. Restless on the Farm followed in 1998. Four
years went by before a new studio album was released, but in 2002 the critically-praised Lookout for
Hope was dropped in May. -Sandra Brennan & Linda Kohanov
Born May 28, 1945 in Letcher County, KY. While much of what passes for contemporary country music in
the '90s and 2000s sounds like reheated Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, what's really annoying is what
a youth-driven market it has become, leaving many great country performers of the '60s and '70s out
in the cold. This is especially irritating when considering the career of Gary Stewart, one of the
greatest of the hardcore-honky tonk school who, at his peak in the mid- to late '70s, could write and
sing circles around just about any contemporary country star you could mention. A native of Florida,
Stewart escaped a lifetime of working in an airplane factory in the late '60s by pitching some songs
he'd written to soon-to-be RCA country label honcho Jerry Bradley. At the time, Stewart (who was
composing with his friend Bill Eldridge) didn't aspire to more than being an in-demand Nashville
songwriter, but after a couple of years writing with some success, and through Bradley's continued
intercession, he was given the opportunity to record on his own. With his huge, vibrato-laden tenor
voice (which sounds a bit like Jerry Lee Lewis'), Stewart, with the inestimable help of songwriter
Wayne Carson, released 1975's Out of Hand, one of the finest honky tonk records of all time. Paced
by the hit "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)," Gary Stewart was quickly becoming a country
Although he composed songs for traditional Grand Ole Opry stars (Cal Smith, Hank Snow), Stewart
himself never emulated the traditional values espoused by the Nashville establishment; as one of
his song titles stated, he was more of a "flat natural-born good-timin' man." He hung out
(and caroused plenty) with Southern rock musicians, using them on his albums at a time when
this was still considered radical. He was a renegade, unwilling to play the Nashville game,
and his increasing success provided him with the autonomy he needed to do his own thing. However,
this generally meant conspicuous excess, especially when it came to substance abuse. Still,
from 1975 through 1980, Stewart's recorded work is mostly excellent, with a conspicuous high
point coming in 1977 with the release of Your Place or Mine. A hard-driving slice of aggressive
honky tonk, it was a rollickingly good piece of work, not the equal to Out Of Hand, but as
important an assertion of Stewart's independence from the machinations of country music's star-making
machinery. There were problems, however: Stewart was too country for rock audiences and too rock
for country audiences, and that limited any stab at broader appeal.
In 1980, he released Cactus and a Rose, with considerable help from Southern rock vets Gregg Allman,
Dickey Betts, Mike Lawler, and Bonnie Bramlett. It was a fine record, but attracted only Stewart's core
audience, and at this point in his career, that simply wasn't enough. Suddenly it seemed as if his
desire and creativity vanished. He hooked up with Dean Dillon and made a couple of terrible two-good-ol'-boy
records that made the redneck rowdiness of Hank Williams Jr. sound philosophical by comparison. Not long
afterwards, Stewart returned to Florida and stopped recording. After his alcoholism and drug use pretty
much canceled out a large part of the '80s, Stewart returned, clean and sober, with a strong comeback
record, Brand New, in 1988. It wasn't the Gary Stewart of old, but it was a respectable record, and
it was enough to propel a comeback that continued with I'm a Texan. Considering that most folks had
given him up for dead, this was a remarkable turn of events. His heyday was in the '70s, but Gary
Stewart deserves to be celebrated for his considerable talent, tenacity, and influence. -John Dougan
Born May 29, 1916 in Lenoir, NC, died Mar 30, 1995.
Fiddler Carl Story was a key figure in the development of gospel bluegrass music throughout his
decades-long career. He was born to musically-inclined parents, from whom he learned much about
playing guitar and fiddle; though his parents played traditional and square dance music, young
Story was most interested in the more modern sound of such groups as the Carolina Ramblers. In
the early '30s, he moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, and began hosting a radio show. In 1935, he
returned home, where he played with several musicians; eventually he and teen-age banjoist
Johnnie Whisnant moved to Spartanburg to play in the Lonesome Mountaineers. From there the
two founded the Rambling Mountaineers, playing at various radio stations and making the occasional
record until Story left to become a fiddler for Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. In 1943,
he left Monroe to join the Navy.
Following his discharge, Story reassembled the Rambling Mountaineers with Jack and Curley
Shelton, Hoke Jenkins and Claude Boone. As they moved from station to station, the membership
changed and many of the members, such as Tater Tate and the Brewster Brothers, went on to become
important bluegrass figures. Story and his group began recording secular and gospel songs for
Mercury in 1947, and remained with the label until 1952. He moved to Columbia the following year
and recorded over a dozen singles. Although his music was close to bluegrass, Story and his band
did not become full-fledged bluegrass players complete with banjo, mandolin and dobro until 1957.
Between the late '50s and the early '70s, they became fixtures on the bluegrass festival circuit.
Story began recording less frequently during the '70s, but still continued touring. On occasion,
he also worked as a deejay at WSEC Greenville, South Carolina -Sandra Brennan
Karl and Harty
Formed in 1930, Karl & Harty are more important for their influence over other groups such as the
Blue Sky Boys and the Everly Brothers (who recorded their "I¹m Just Here To Get My
Baby Out of Jail") than their own career. Though not related, Karl & Harty were a
psuedo brother act, performing regularly on Chicago¹s National Barn Dance in the '30s.
The performances led to a recording contract with the American Record Corporation,
where Karl penned his best work including "I¹m Just Here" and "Kentucky," a beautiful
ode to his home state. The duo later recorded for Capitol in the late '40s but soon
retired from music not long after. -Steve Kurutz
Born 1926 in Tyler, TX.
One of the most impressive fiddle players in country music's history, Johnny Gimble confounded
most of his rivals by using a five-string fiddle. He gained most of his early success with Bob Wills'
Texas Playboys, but Gimble has also recorded over ten albums of his own and picked up awards as
Instrumentalist of the Year (CMA) and Best Fiddle Player (ACM).
John Paul Gimble was born on May 30, 1926, in Tyler, TX. At the age of 12, he played in a band with
his four brothers, and in the early '30s formed the Rose City Swingsters with brothers Gene and
Jerry. The band played on local radio, but Gimble soon moved to Louisiana to play with Jimmie Davis.
In the late '40s he joined Bob Wills, playing fiddle and electric mandolin with the Texas Playboys.
From 1951-53, Gimble led his own group, which played as house band at Wills' club. He then returned
to the Playboys, but the decline of Western swing in the late '50s and early '60s forced him out of
Johnny Gimble worked as a barber and a hospital worker during the '60s, but returned to record with
Bob Wills in 1969. The experience primed him for heavy session work during the early '70s, including
Merle Haggard's 1970 Wills tribute album and Wills' final appearance on LP, The Last Time (1974).
That same year, he recorded the first of his many solo albums, Fiddlin' Around.
Johnny Gimble gained the first of his five Best Instrumentalist and eight Best Fiddle Player
awards in the late '70s, and performed with Willie Nelson's touring band from 1979-81. Gimble f
inally hit the charts in 1983 with his Texas Swing group and the added attraction of Ray Price
on vocals. The single, "One Fiddle, Two Fiddle," was taken from the Clint Eastwood film Honkytonk
Man, and it reached number 70. The B-side, Bob Wills' famous standard "San Antonio Rose," also charted.
The sidemen credits also continued to add up, and in 1993, Gimble was nominated for a Grammy
award in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category, for his work on Mark O'Connor's
fiddler tribute album, Heroes. Also, Gimble is often seen playing on Austin City Limits and
Garrison Keillor's TV programs.
Jimmy lived for many years in Waco, TX. That is where he worked as a barber.
His son is one of the instructors at McLennan Community College in Waco and he comes
to Waco every year to play at free concert during the Summer.
The Crook Brothers
Formed 1920 . Group Members: Sam McGee, Herman Crook, Lewis Crook, Matthew Crook.
There are many "brother" duets in bluegrass music, but none with a name as evocative as the Crook
Brothers. The brothers Herman and Matthew grew up on a farm and were pretty much on their own from a
young age, when their father was killed by a tree falling on him. The youngsters were known to play
for social gatherings, building up a fan base that kept expanding through the state of Tennessee.
When the first radio stations went on the air, their type of old-time music was definitely in demand
and they soon had regular shows on three different Nashville stations.
This was the mid-'20s and
it was an exciting era that spawned the beginnings of the country & western music scene as it is
known today. Like the friends Kirk and Sam McGee, the Crook Brothers were approached by promoter
George D. Hay, nicknamed "Solemn Old Judge," to appear on a brand new show he was starting.
This "lil' old radio show" turned into the Grand Old Opry, eventually becoming such an institution
that for many people around the world it symbolizes country music. The Crook Brothers were an absolute
institution with the Opry, appearing numerous times and saluting the 10th, 25th, 35th, and so forth
anniversaries of their Opry debut with a shrug and another song. In addition to the Opry the band went
on the road regularly, sometimes in package tours with other legends such as Uncle Dave Macon.
The number of actual "crooks" in the Crook Brothers went up and down over the years.
In the beginning the group not only featured Herman and Matthew, but Herman's wife as well.
She dropped out, and then Matthew also had to leave the band around 1929. In 1930, Herman had
a stroke of luck and hooked up with a fiddler named Lewis Crook, who although no family relation had
the name for the job. Other regular band members included Sam McGee and fiddler Gerry Rivers, who was
also an original member of Hank Williams' rifting Cowboy Band. Old age eventually forced Herman to hang
up his harmonica. He died in 1988, at the age of 1999, 73 years after making his Opry debut. He is
remembered not only by old-time music enthusiasts who enjoyed the Crook Brothers' music, but by fans
of harmonica music, who credit Herman as one of the most innovative players of his time. -Eugene Chadbourne
AKA Cyrus Whitfield Bond. Born Jun 1, 1915 in Enville, OK, died Jun 12, 1978 in Burbank, CA.
Johnny Bond had several successful facets to a career that lasted over 30 years. As a member of
the Jimmy Wakely Trio and as a session musician, he was an important support musician in dozens
of B-westerns, working alongside Wakely, Tex Ritter, and Johnny Mack Brown. As a songwriter,
he was responsible for several compositions that became country standards, including "Cimarron," "I
Wonder Where You Are Tonight," "Conversation With a Gun," "Tomorrow Never Comes," and "I'll Step
Aside," which became hits for everyone from Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra to Johnny Rodriguez.
He also contributed mightily to the recorded music of Wakely, Ritter, and other country stars
of the 1940s and 1950s. And his own recordings - which included work with such luminaries as Merle
Travis - were popular from the 1940s onward, and included several hits, but it wasn't until the
1960s that he had the biggest record of his career, "Ten Little Bottles."
Cyrus Whitfield Bond was born in Enville, Oklahoma on June 1, 1915, to a poor farming family. His
first instrument was the trumpet, but as a boy he also learned to play the guitar and the ukelele,
and by the time he was a teenager he was entertaining at local dances - his main inspiration was
the playing of Jimmie Rodgers and Milton Brown and the Light Crust Doughboys. After graduating from
high school in 1933, he headed for Oklahoma City to try for a career on radio, first broadcasting
under the name Cyrus Whitfield, and later as Johnny Whitfield, before he settled on Johnny Bond.
In Oklahoma City he also hooked up with Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell (later replaced by Dick
Reinhart), with whom he formed a group, originally known as the Singing Cowboy Trio and later the
Bell Boys, in acknowledgment of their radio sponsorship from Bell Clothing. Their repertoire in
those days was influenced heavily by the work of Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers, and
featured many cowboy songs. They did their broadcasting on WKY radio, and cut transcription discs
at KVOO in Tulsa. By then Bond was already writing songs of his own, and in 1938 he wrote his
first classic, "Cimarron." Gene Autry saw their work when he was on tour late in the 1930s and
indicated his interest in using them on his Melody Ranch radio show, should they ever make it
out to California.
By 1939, they were brought out to Hollywood for an appearance, under the name of the Jimmy Wakely
Trio, in The Saga of Death Valley, starring Roy Rogers and produced by Republic Pictures. This taste
of movie work registered with Wakely and Bond - there was more film work being offered by Republic,
and Autry's offer was difficult to ignore. In May of 1940, Wakely, Bond, Reinhart, and their families
headed west in Wakely's Dodge. They immediately became regulars on Melody Ranch, and Bond continued
to play on the show for 16 years, until it was canceled in 1956. They also made their second film
appearance, in The Tulsa Kid, starring Don "Red" Barry, with the group credited as "Jimmy Wakely and
His Rough Riders." The group later moved to Universal, making their debut there in Pony Post (1940),
starring Johnny Mack Brown. And they played the usual concerts and ballrooms and clubs throughout
Bond, Wakely, and Reinhart - along with Scotty Harrell, who came out to Hollywood a little later
and was welcomed back into the fold - continued to work together in the early '40s in various
configurations, although the Wakely Trio had more or less ceased to exist officially after 1941.
Curiously, it was Bond - and not Wakely - who was the first member of the trio to get a recording
contract of his own. Art Satherly of Columbia Records, who'd previously signed Gene Autry, Tex
Ritter, Leadbelly, and a dozen other music legends to recording contracts, got Johnny Bond under
contract in 1941, and his first recording sessions were held in August of that year. The highlight
of those sessions was "Those Gone And Left Me Blues."
In April of 1942, he cut four songs, covers of the recent Carson Robison hits "1942 Turkey In the
Straw," "Mussolini's Letter To Hitler," and "Hitler's Reply To Mussolini," in an attempt to give
Columbia covers of the Robison hits, but the company decided not to release them. Bond also began
getting his own songs published during this period, most notably "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight"
and "Cimarron." In July of 1942, he cut another four songs, among them "I'm A Pris'ner Of War" and
"Der Fuhrer's Face," as well as the originals "You Let Me Down" and "Love Gone Cold," backed
by a band that included Spade Cooley on the violin. The wartime recording bans imposed by the
Musicians' Union, coupled with the shellac shortages of the era, interrupted Bond's career on
record until June of 1945, when he cut three originals, "Heart And Soul," "Gotta Make Up For
Lost Time," and "Sad, Sad and Blue." In addition to his appearances on the Autry show and other
radio programs, and performances on behalf of the war effort, Bond recorded many radio transcription
discs, and also worked in 38 films, either as a musical sidekick to the hero, in the case of Jimmy
Wakely or Tex Ritter, or in the musical sequences built around non-singing heroes such as Johnny Mack
Brown or Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and even showed up with his group in non-westerns such as the comedy
Six Lessons From Madame La Zonga, (1941), starring Leon Errol and Lupe Velez. He made a rare
appearance in a major film, as a supporting player in David O. Selznick's Duel In the Sun, during
1946, and his last movie appearance took place a year later in Jimmy Wakely's final western, Song
of the Wasteland (1947).
Meanwhile, Bond was also a member and leader of Tex Ritter's studio band, the Red River Valley Boys,
and was playing on his records as well as those of other West Coast country stars. The end of his
movie career in 1947 was more than made up for by his burgeoning success as a recording artist.
Bond had three top five country hits that year, "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed" (which sold
well, though not quite as well as the version by his friend Merle Travis), "Divorce Me C.O.D.," and "The
Daughter of Jole Blon." The next year, he had a top 10 hit with "Oklahoma Waltz," and in 1949 he hit
the charts in a big way twice with "Till the End of the World" and "Tennessee Saturday Night." He was
back in the top 10 again in 1950 with "Love Song In 32 Bars," and in 1951 he hit again with "Sick,
Sober and Sorry."
By the end of 1957, Bond had written 123 songs, several of which - "Cimarron," "I'll Step Aside," "Tomorrow
Never Comes," and "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" - were very heavily covered by numerous other
artists. The most successful version of "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" was the cover by Johnny
Rodriguez, but it was also recorded by Bobby Bare, Roy Clark, Flatt & Scruggs, Jerry Lee Lewis,
Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, Hank Snow, Red Allen & the Kentuckians, and even Arthur Alexander.
"Cimarron" was not only a country standard, with versions by the Sons of the Pioneers, Foy Willing,
Bob Wills, and Jimmy Dean, and concert renditions by Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins, but it was also
recorded by Les Paul and Mary Ford and as an instrumental by Harry James and Neal Hefti, with Billy
Vaughn and His Orchestra doing the biggest selling version of them all. "Tomorrow Never Knows"
was a hit for Glen Campbell, but was also covered by Lynn Anderson, Elvis Presley, Little Jimmy
Dickens, Loretta Lynn, the Statler Brothers, and Ernest Tubb. "Conversations with A Gun" was
recorded by Tex Ritter and Marty Robbins, among others, and "I'll Step Aside" done by Hank
Thompson, Ernest Tubb, and Marty Robbins.
Bond played with Autry on his tours during the 1940s and 1950s, and his place in the band was later
taken by Johnny Western, a younger singer with a surprisingly similar rich baritone voice. Unlike a
lot of country artists of his generation, he wasn't too threatened by the coming of rock 'n roll, and
even tried - in some cases successfully - to adapt his sound to the new beat, which, he was the first
to recognize, wasn't too far from country music. Additionally, much of Bond's music had a rollicking
sense of humor that made it closer in spirit to some early rock 'n roll than many other country
artists of the day. Despite his acceptance of changing tastes and trends in music, however, Columbia
Records declined to renew Bond's contract when it was up in 1957, at it seemed as though his career
on records might be at an end.
He spent a brief time on Gene Autry's Republic Records label, for which he recorded "Hot Rod Lincoln,"
a crossover record that did well and later became a rock 'n roll standard. Then, in 1960, Bond was signed
to the Starday label, beginning an 11 year relationship with the company. In 1964, he recorded a new version
of "Ten Little Bottles," a song that he'd previously done twice, as far back as 1954 - this proved to be
the biggest hit of Bond's career, rising into the top 3 and making it to No. 1 on some charts. Unfortunately,
none of Bond's follow-up records, including the comical "Morning After," sold nearly as well.
Part of Bond's problem may have been that either he or Starday evidently decided to continue trying to
hit with more drinking songs - the majority of his songs and albums during the middle and late '60s were
dominated by such songs, making him seem like a one-note performer and songwriter. Not even the presence,
albeit uncredited, of Tex Ritter on a song like "New Year's Day," recorded in 1965, could coax some major
chart action out of the public. His contract with Starday ended in 1969, and Bond immediately signed to
Capitol - where Ritter had been trying to get him a contract for more than 20 years - and Bond recorded a
Delmore Brothers tribute album with his longtime friend Merle Travis. It didn't sell, however, and by the
end of the year both Bond and Travis were gone from Capitol. He resigned to Starday and remained there only
for another two years before leaving permanently in 1971. He continued making records for the Lamb & Lion
label, and then moved over to his old friend Jimmy Wakely's Shasta label in 1974, where he did one session,
backed by James Burton and Red Rhodes, re-recording some of his best known records out of the past, including
his own "Cimarron" and "I'll Step Aside," as well as covers of Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" and a
reprise of "Hot Rod Lincoln."
There never has been a definitive collection of Johnny Bond's Columbia recordings. The company issued a
Johnny Bond EP in 1958 with "Sick, Sober and Sorry" and "Ten Little Bottles," but didn't release a full-length
LP on him until 1965, eight years after he left the label. That same year, Gene Autry decided to revive his
Radio Ranch series on his own station, and Bond renewed his weekly broadcasts on that show, as a musician,
singer, and script writer, for another five years, until it was canceled once again. Starday, by contrast,
released 14 albums by Johnny Bond between 1960 and 1971, which included various collections of hits and
recent singles as well as concept LPs (most of them after 1963 built around drinking songs), the best of
which was 1961's That Wild, Wicked But Wonderful West. Additionally, in 1969, he recorded one album, Great
Songs of the Delmore Brothers, with his old friend Merle Travis on Capitol, and cut individual albums for
the Lamb and Lion and Shasta labels, which also issued radio performances by Bond from Wakely's radio show
in the late '50s. -Bruce Eder
No one would deny the sincerity and authenticity of the folk and country music legend Jimmie Rodgers,
whose recordings were about as far from commercially concocted drivel as one could possibly get. In an
examination of his important collaborations, inevitably, the subject of this little old lady from
Mississippi comes up. She wrote, co-wrote, or provided the raw material for many of his most famous
songs and it proves true the old adage about not being able to go wrong with good ingredients. And
unlike any number of phony baloney songwriters cynically hawking their creations around the gang of
Nashville publishers, she wrote songs just to help out her brother in law, who wasn't feeling so
well at the time, was under a lot of pressure, and just might not come up with enough new songs
on his own for his next recording sessions.
Elsie McWilliams was the daughter of a reverend and grew up on a farm, learning music from a very early
age. She graduated from high school in Meridian in 1917 and then began teaching school herself until she
got married. Just as music had been a regular part of her home as a child, she and her husband provided
the same kind of environment for the family they began raising, including phonograph records and
involvement in church music activities. Her sister Carrie met Jimmie Rodgers in 1920 when he was
working for the railroads and they were married even before Elsie had a chance to meet him. Elsie
dabbled a bit in piano by playing in some of the ensembles her new brother-in-law got together around
the area, but tended to limit her involvement because of her religious upbringing.
Even though Rodgers was not in the best of health, he was still doing a great deal for work related
to both his music and the railroad job, his family traveling along with him. It didn't take too long
until he cut the sides for Victor which would become the first of his many smash hits. His voice became
a familiar sound on the radio. Just as this excitement was building, Elsie McWilliams received a letter
from Jimmie Rodgers in which he pleaded with her to come up with some original ballads, which he
spelled "ballards" for future record dates. Furthermore, "I am too tired and too busy trying to make
ends meet to do much about it myself..." he wrote her. What songwriter wouldn't have responded to
such an urgent request? She got into her notebook and pulled out one she had been working on about
a friend's dismal experience in the navy. The song would be called "The Sailor's Plea" and is a great
combination of the heavily sentimental, moralistic country & western song-story and churchy gospel
chord changes. She sent this ditty off to Rodgers and received word not to send anything else, she was
instead to head north where she could teach songs to him directly while she shuttled back and forth
between radio broadcasts in Washington and new Victor sessions in New York City and Camden, NJ. She
gathered up all the old ballads she could find from stacks of her mother's decaying sheet music and
packed them up along with her own verses, most of which she had already set to music herself. What
happened when they finally started getting together was described later as being like a song factory
of some sort. The results of their work were snatched up by a public that couldn't seem to get enough
of Jimmie Rodgers, despite the fact that even his record label thought he would be a one-hit wonder.
Part of the appeal was that a listener never knew what the next record he did would be like. On one
record he might be preaching to the audience from some experienced pulpit of wisdom, but on the next
the audience would find him locked up in the jailhouse. The next song might be a train song.
Rodgers found a great partner in his sister-in-law for such song maneuvering because her tastes were
eclectic and musical interests and capabilities broad. The practice sessions were difficult, as the
singer often had to take breaks for serious coughing spells. During this intense atmosphere, McWilliams
began to tell the publishers that she wanted no credit or royalties for the songs, she was doing her
work only for Rodgers, her sister, and their daughter. The publishers insisted she take credit, a
wise move, as her contribution to what Rodgers created was enormous based on the evidence of these
songs. There were benefits to her in the end, including some payments that she donated to charity,
a quite valuable guitar given to her gratis by the Gibson company, now on display in Meridian's Jimmie
Rodgers Museum, and most important in her opinion, the opportunity to travel to some interesting places.
Other famous Rodgers songs that she was involved in writing include "My Old Pal," "Mississippi Moon,"
"Daddy and Home," "Waiting for a Train," "Yodeling Cowboy," and the mighty "Hobo's Last Ride," many
listeners' favorite Rodgers song. McWilliams became part of the touring party that accompanied Rodgers
as he went around from concert to concert, now making as much as 1000 dollars a week, big money for
a country artist in the late '20s and still more than most punk rock sidemen made on tour in early 2001.
Being on tour was a bit of an eye-opener for the staunchly Methodist woman, and her experiences including
being dragged into a burlesque show by Rodgers and his rowdy friends in New Orleans.
The last songs of theirs on which she is credited as a co-writer were cut in 1931, and according to
interviews with McWilliams, the actual partnership came to an end in 1929. Now Rodgers himself had more
time to write material and was receiving more submissions from other writers than he could process,
since everyone wanted Jimmie Rodgers to cut their song. It was time for Elsie McWilliams to fade back
into her home and family, a development she couldn't have minded much having never had any great desire
for commercial success. Nonetheless, a list of her songwriting credits could easily whale the tar out
of many songwriting teams. Material she created completely aside from the relationship with Rodgers was
recorded by country great Ernest Tubb and Bill Bruner. Tubb, who had a close relationship with Rodger's
widow, also recorded several songs she wrote about the death of Jimmie Rodgers, including the "Last Thoughts
of Jimmie Rodgers," which an individual with a weak stomach might find verges on the morbid. Of course,
the Rodgers songs she helped write remained her gold mine, whether she wanted it that way or not. In that
capacity, she can make a claim that any songwriter would love to, mainly that her works have been sung by
the likes of Doc Watson, the Carter Family, the Blasters, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and Bob Wills,
to name a few. -Eugene Chadbourne - TWANGTOWNUSA.COM
AKA Donald Eugene Lytle, born May 31, 1938 in Greenfield, OH.
The first that many people ever heard of Johnny Paycheck was in 1977, when his "Take This Job
and Shove It" inspired one-man wildcat strikes all over America. The next time was in 1985, when
he was arrested for shooting a man at a bar in Hillsboro, Ohio. That Paycheck is remembered for
a fairly amusical novelty song and a violent crime (for which he spent two years in prison)
is a shame, for it just so happens that he is one of the mightiest honky-tonkers of his time.
Born and raised in Greenfield, Ohio, Paycheck was performing in talent contests by the age of
nine, and riding the rails as a drifter by the time he turned fifteen. After a Navy stint landed
him in the brig for two years, he arrived in Nashville, where he performed in the bands of Porter
Wagoner, Faron Young, Ray Price and George Jones. He recorded several singles under the name
Donny Young, then, in 1965, cut his first sides as Johnny Paycheck for the Hilltop label.
A year later, he and gadfly producer Aubrey Mayhew started the Little Darlin' label, for
which Paycheck recorded his greatest work. Marked by Lloyd Green's knockout steel guitar
and Paycheck's broad, resonant vocals (not to mention his rounder's sense of humor) his L
ittle Darlin' records of the 1960s have since become cult favorites. After splitting with
Mayhew (and after running his life into the gutter) Paycheck made a celebrated comeback
on Epic in the 1970s. "Take This Job and Shove It" was the most famous result, though
ballads like "She's All I Got" and "Someone to Give My Love To" are far more indicative
of his stylistic range.
Born Donald Lytle, Paycheck began playing guitar when he was six, and within three years, he was
performing talent contests across the state. When he was 15, he ran away from home, hitchhiking
and hoboing his away across the country, singing in honky tonks and clubs along the way. By his
late teens, he had joined the Navy, but while he was serving, he assaulted a superior
officer and was convicted of court martial. As a result, he spent two years in the brig.
Upon his release, he moved to Nashville, where made the acquaintence of Buddy Killen at Decca
Records, who offered him a contract. At Decca, Paycheck released two rockabilly singles on the
label under the name Donny Young; neither were hits. Shortly afterward, he moved to Mercury
where he released two country singles, which were also failures. By that time, he had begun
supporting other musicians, playing bass and occasionally steel guitar with Porter Wagoner,
Faron Young and Ray Price. He frequently moved between employers because of his short-fused
temper. Paycheck finally found his match in George Jones. He stayed with Jones for four
years, fronting the Jones Boys between 1962 and 1966, and singing backup on George's hits "I'm a
People," "The Race is On," and "Love Bug."
Toward the end of his stint with Jones, Donald Lytle refashioned himself as Johnny Paycheck,
taking his name from a Chicago heavyweight boxer. Late in 1965, he relaunched his solo career
with the assistence of producer Aubrey Mayhew, who produced a pair of singles - "A-11" and "Heartbreak
Tennessee" - for Hilltop Records. Though it only charted at number 26, "A-11" caused a sensation
within the country community, earning several Grammy nominations as well as reviews that
compared Paycheck to his mentor, George Jones. In 1966, he and Mayhew formed Little Darlin'
Records, primarily designing the label to promote Paycheck, but also recording Jeannie C. Riley,
Bobby Helms and Lloyd Green. That summer, "The Lovin' Machine" became Johnny's first Top Ten hit.
Also that year, he wrote Tammy Wynette's first hit, "Apartment #9," with Bobby Austin and Fuzzy
Owen; Paycheck also wrote Ray Price's number three hit "Touch My Heart."
All of Paycheck's recordings for Little Darlin' Records rank among his grittiest, hardest
country but they weren't necessarily big hits Between 1967 and 1969, Paycheck had eight
more hit singles, with each record progressively charting at a lower position than its predecessor - "Motel
Time Again" reached number 13 in early 1967, which "If I'm Gonna Sink" climbed to number 73 in
late 1968. Though "Wherever You Are" showed signs of a comeback in the summer of 1969, peaking at
number 31, the label went bankrupt shortly after its release, partially due to Paycheck's
declining commercial performence, partially due to his heavy drinking and erratic behavior.
Over the course of the next year, he moved to California and sunk deeply into substance abuse.
Meanwhile, Billy Sherrill at Epic Records had been searching for Paycheck with the hopes of
producing his records. The label finally tracked him down in 1971 and offered him a contract,
provided that he cleaned himself up. Paycheck accepted the offer and with Sherrill's assistence,
he kicked his addictions.
Like many of Sherrill's records of the early '70s, his Johnny Paycheck recoordings were
heavily produced and often layered with stings. Though this was a shift from the hardcore country
that Paycheck made on Little Darlin', the new approach was a hit - his debut single for the label,
"She's All I Got," became a number two hit upon its fall 1971 release. It was quickly
followed by another Top Ten hit, "Someone to Give My Love To," and Paycheck was
finally becoming a star. During the next four years, he had 12 additional hit singles -
including 1973's Top Ten singles "Something About You I Love" and "Mr. Lovemaker," and
1974's "For a Minute There" - with the more accessible, pop-oriented Sherrill crafted
for him, but Paycheck's wild ways hadn't changed all that much. In 1972, he was convicted
of check forgery and in 1976, he was saddled with a paternity suit, tax problems,
and bankruptcy. Accordingly, he shifted his musical style in the mid-'70s to put him in
step with the renegade outlaw country movement.
Johnny Paycheck's first outlaw album, 1976's 11 Months and 29 Days (which happened to be the length
of his suspended sentence for passing a bad check), featured a photo of him in a jail cell on the cover,
signalling his change of direction. Initially, his outlaw records weren't hits, but early in 1977
he returned to the Top Ten with a pair of Top Ten singles, "Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets" and "I'm the
Only Hell (Mama Ever Raised)." Later that year, he released his cover of David Allan Coe's "Take
This Job and Shove It," which became his biggest hit, spending two weeks at number one; its B-side,
"Colorado Kool-Aid," also charted at number 50. Soon, Paycheck's records were becoming near-parodies
of his lifestyle, as the title "Me and the I.R.S." and "D.O.A. (Drunk on Arrival)" indicated.
Nevertheless, he stayed at the top of the charts, with "Friend, Lover, Wife" and "Mabellene" both
reaching number seven in late 1978 and early 1979.
Shortly after the twin success of those singles, his career began to crumble due to his excessive,
violent behavior. In 1979, his former manager Glenn Ferguson began a prolonged and difficult legal
battle. In 1981, a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines sued him for slander after he began a fight
on a plane. The following year, he was arrested for alleged rape. The charges were later reduced and
he was fined, but by that point, Epic had had enough and dropped him from the label. Paycheck moved
over to AMI, where he had anumber of small hit singles between 1984 and 1985. Later in 1985, he had a
bar-room brawl with a stranger in Hillsboro, Ohio that ended with Paycheck shooting and injuring his
opponent. The singer was arrested for aggravated assault and spent the next four years appealing the
sentence, while he recorded for Mercury Records. None of his singles for the label reached the Top 40,
and he was dropped from the label in 1987. He spent 1988 at Desperado Records before signing with
Damascus the following year, following his conversion to Christianity.
In 1989, Paycheck's appeals had expired and he was sentenced to the Chillicothe Correctional
Institute. Johnny spent two years at the prison, even performing a concert with Merle Haggard at
the jail during his stint, before being released on parole in January of 1991. Following his release,
Paycheck kept a low profile, playing shows in Branson, Missouri and recording for the small label,
Playback Records. - Dan Cooper
The Sons of the Pioneers
Group Members: Roy Rogers, Ken Curtis, Hugh & Karl Farr, Billy Armstrong, Billy Liebert, Pat Brady,
Ken Carson, Tommy Doss, Shug Fisher, Rome Johnson, Roy Lanham, Luther Nallie, Bob Nolan, Doye O'Dell,
Lloyd Perryman, Rusty Richards, Tim Spencer, Deuce Spriggins, Dale Henry Warren, Sunny Spencer
Gary LeMaster, John Nallie, Ken Lattimore.
The Sons of the Pioneers were the foremost vocal and instrumental group in western music, and the
definitive group specializing in cowboy songs, setting the standard for every group that has come since.
They were also one of the longest surviving country music vocal groups in existence, going into their
seventh decade. More important than their longevity, however, the greatest achievement of the Sons of
the Pioneers lay with the sheer quality of their work. Their superb harmonies and brilliant arrangements
delighted three generations of listeners, and inspired numerous performers.
The group's roots lay in the depths of the Great Depression, a time when the American spirit,
and the spirits of millions of Americans, had nearly been broken by physical, economic, and
emotional privation. Cincinnati-born Leonard Franklin Slye (b. Nov. 5, 1911-see separate entry
under Roy Rogers) had headed out to California in the spring of 1931 from his native Ohio,
working jobs ranging from driving a gravel truck to picking fruit for the DelMonte company
in California's Central Valley. By sheer chance, he entered an amateur singing contest on
a Los Angeles radio show called Midnight Frolics, and a few days later got an invitation
to join a group called the Rocky Mountaineers.
Frye played guitar, sang and yodeled with the group, and before long they wanted an additional singer
so they could extend their range. The man who answered the ad was Bob Nolan (born Robert Clarence
Nobles, Apr. 1, 1908, New Brunswick, Canada), from Tucson, Arizona. Nolan had lived the life of an
itinerant singer for a few years before settling down in Los Angeles, where he'd worked as a lifeguard
as well as trying to make a living singing. Nolan joined the Rocky Mountaineers, and he and Slye
developed a harmonious relationship that worked for several months, until he exited in frustration
over the group's lack of success. Nolan was, in turn, replaced by Tim Spencer (born Vernon Spencer,
July 13, 1908, Webb City, Missouri), who'd been earning his keep working in a Safeway Stores warehouse.
Slye, Spencer, and another singer named Slumber Nichols quit the Rocky Mountaineers in the spring of
1932 to form a trio of their own, which never quite came off. Instead, Slye and Spencer spent a year
moving in and out of the line-ups of short-lived groups like the International Cowboys and the O-Bar-O
Cowboys. The latter group broke up following a disastrous tour, and Spencer left music for a time.
Slye decided to push on with an attempt at a career, joining yet another group, Jack LeFevre and His
Texas Outlaws, who were fixtures on a local Los Angeles radio station.
In early 1933, things began looking up. He convinced Spencer to give up the security of a steady job
once more, and also recruited Bob Nolan, who was working as a caddy at a golf course in Bel Air. Weeks
of rehearsals followed as they honed their singing hour after hour, while Slye continued to work
with his radio singing group and Spencer and Nolan wrote songs.
The group was called the Pioneer Trio, and made its debut on KFWB radio, following an audition that
included the Nolan song "Way Out There." Their mix of singing and yodeling, coupled with their good
spirits, won them a job. Within a few weeks, they were developing a large following of their own on
Lefevre's show, with their harmony singing eliciting lots of mail, and soon they were featured on the
station's morning and evening line-ups.
The group in its earliest form consisted of Slye, Nolan, and Spencer on vocals, with Nolan playing string
bass and Slye on rhythm guitar. A fourth member was needed to firm up their sound, and he arrived in the
form of fiddle-player Hugh Farr (b. Plano, Texas, Dec. 6, 1906), early in 1934, who also added a bass
voice to the group, and occasionally served as lead singer.
The group's name was altered by accident on the eve of their going national. On one broadcast the station's
announcer introduced them as "The Sons of the Pioneers." Asked why he'd done this, the announcer gave the
excuse that they were too young to have been pioneers, but that they could be sons of pioneers. The name
seemed to stick, it fit well, and as they were no longer a trio, it made sense.
The Sons of the Pioneers' fame quickly spread well beyond the confines of Los Angeles, as a result of an
informal syndication project undertaken by their station, which recorded the group in 15- and 30-minute
segments for rebroadcast all over the country. It wasn't long before a recording contract with the newly
founded Decca label (now part of MCA) was signed, and on August 8, 1934 (the same day that Bing Crosby
made his debut for the label), the Sons of the Pioneers made their first commercial recording. The group
would cut 32 songs with Decca over the next two years.
One of the songs cut at the first session was a Bob Nolan original called "Tumbling Tumbleweeds,"
which he'd originally written on a rainy day in 1932 as "Tumbling Leaves." The group had introduced
it on the radio as "Tumbling Leaves," but later changed it to "tumbleweeds" as more in keeping with
their western image. It became their theme song, and was quickly picked up by singers and bands all
over the country. In 1935, the song was also licensed for use as the title of a Gene Autry western,
the first - but not the last time - that the paths of Autry and the Pioneers would cross.
In 1935, a fifth member, Hugh Farr's brother Karl (b. Rochelle, Texas, Apr. 25, 1909), who had
played with Hugh on the radio during the 1930's, was added to the group on lead guitar, bringing
the Pioneers' instrumental capabilities up to a par with their singing. Early that same year,
they began appearing in movies for the first time, initially in short films and also providing
the music for an Oswald The Rabbit cartoon, before making their first appearance in a full-length
movie, The Old Homestead. Later that same year, they appeared in The Gallant Defender. They followed
this with Song of the Saddle (1936), starring singer-turned-cowboy star Dick Foran, then with The
Mysterious Avenger (1936), and in the Bing Crosby vehicle Rhythm of the Range. That same year,
they appeared in a Gene Autry movie, The Big Show.
Tim Spencer left the group in September of 1936 and was replaced by Lloyd Perryman (b. Ruth,
Arkansas, Jan. 29, 1917), who was a fan of the Pioneers as well as a veteran of several singing
groups, and who had already served as a "fill-in" Pioneer on occasion. Perryman was later to
become a key member of the group, doing most of their vocal arrangements, serving as their
on stage spokesman, and handling the group's business affairs as well, and would remain with
them longer than anyone, 41 years. Their broadcasts, concerts, and film appearances continued,
with work in the Foran-starring California Mail at Warner Bros., and in Autry's The Old Corral
at Republic. Finally, in late 1937, the group was signed by Columbia to work in Charles Starrett's
western films on a steady basis, beginning with The Old Wyoming Trail.
It was the movies that led to the next major change in the Pioneers' line-up. Leonard Slye
had previously played bit acting parts in a handful of B-westerns, including an appearance in a
small role in a Gene Autry film, under the name Dick Weston. But in 1938, Autry and the studio
found themselves in a contractual dispute that they were unable to resolve, and the cowboy star
failed to report for his next movie. Autry was placed on suspension while the studio began looking
for a replacement that they could put into the picture.
Slye auditioned and won the part, and in the process was given a new name for his first starring
film: Roy Rogers. Under Western Stars, as the film was eventually titled, was a hit, and Leonard
Slye/Roy Rogers had a whole new career. In order to do the movie, however, he was forced to leave
the Sons of the Pioneers, who were under exclusive contract with Columbia Pictures. To replace Slye,
the group chose a friend of his, a singer and comic named Pat Brady, who played bass and handled much
of the comedy within the group, although vocally he was weaker than the others, which forced the
Pioneers to expand their line-up once more in 1938, with Tim Spencer returning to fill out the harmony
parts. The group continued to make movies with Charles Starrett, appearing in 28 movies with him between
1937 and 1941.
The Sons of the Pioneers' recording career kept pace with their movie and radio work. They left
Decca Records in 1936 to sign with the American Record Company (later part of Columbia Records),
and appeared on that label's Okeh and Vocalion imprints on 32 songs in two sessions in late 1937.
Although he'd officially left the group to pursue his film career, Roy Rogers returned to sing
with the Sons of the Pioneers on those sessions. The 1938-1942 version of the group, consisting
of Nolan, Spencer, Perryman, the Farrs and Brady, became the "classic" Pioneers line-up, the
version of the group most familiar to audiences, largely because of their screen appearances.
In 1941, the group's contract with Columbia was up and, after years of Rogers' entreaties,
Republic Pictures signed the Pioneers to appear in his movies, beginning with Red River
Valley (1941), in which they were billed as "Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers."
The same year that they signed their contract with Republic, the group also signed with Decca Records.
The American entry into World War II brough about the next change in their line-up. Perryman
and Brady were both called up for the draft. Perryman was replaced by Ken Carson while he was
fighting with the American forces in Burma, while Brady became a soldier in Patton's Third Army,
and was replaced by musician and comic (George) Shug Fisher.
In 1944, the Sons of the Pioneers moved to RCA-Victor, signed up by the head of company's country
music division, Steve Sholes (who was also later responsible for bringing Elvis Presley to the label).
They would be associated with RCA longer than to any other label, 24 years broken by a brief
one-year stint elsewhere.
The change in labels resulted in the first major alteration in the Pioneers' sound since their
founding. Previously, they'd been a self-contained outfit, providing virtually all of the sounds,
vocal and instrumental, needed on their records. RCA, however, saw fit to provide the group's music
with additional back-up in the form of fuller instrumentation, including small-scale orchestration.
At first, it worked reasonably well, as the Pioneers re-recorded several of their standards
(including "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds") with new arrangements that proved popular,
and many fans regard their mid-1940's versions of their classic songs as the best of the many
renditions that they recorded. They also recorded more gospel material, as well as many
pop-oriented and novelty songs. The Pioneers also provided back up for other performers
throughout their time at RCA, including Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Vaughn Monroe.
Amid all of this varied activity, which yielded hundreds of songs, they recorded a number of new
western classics during their stay on the label, most notably Stan Jones's "(Ghost) Riders in the
Sky" in 1949. Originally, Bob Nolan had passed on doing the song, but after it became a hit for
Vaughn Monroe, the Pioneers covered it themselves. The group had ceased appearing on screen in
movies with the end of Rogers' B-westerns at Republic in 1948, but two years later a new career
opened up for them in movies courtesy of John Ford, who used their singing in three of his most
acclaimed westerns, Wagon Master (1950)-in which they had four songs, including "Wagons West"-Rio
Grande (1950), and The Searchers (1956).
Perryman was back in the line-up in 1946, although his interim replacement, Ken Carson (who later
became a well known singer in his own right on The Garry Moore Show), continued to record with the
group for another year. During this era, the group made some magnificent recordings; Spencer
contributed more than his share of important songs, Fisher contributed as a songwriter, and Perryman
took the lead vocals on some numbers. Pat Brady also returned to the line-up later in 1946, and
the group continued working in Roy Rogers' western movies through 1948.
These were golden years for the Sons of the Pioneers. Their hits on the Country singles chart
included "Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima" (1945), "No One to Cry To" (1946), "Baby Doll," "Cool
Water," and "Tear Drops In My Heart" (all top five in 1947), "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool
Water" (both 1948), "My Best To You" and "Room Full Of Roses" (both 1949). It wasn't to last,
however, as time and changing public tastes were to take their toll on the group.
Spencer, who had written many of the group's more important originals, finally left the group in 1949,
after several years of worsening problems with his voice. He was replaced by Ken Curtis (b. Lamar,
Colorado, July 2, 1916), a former singer with Tommy Dorsey and sometime actor, who later became
immortalized on television as Festus, Marshal Matt Dillon's grizzled backwoods deputy, on Gunsmoke.
As a parting gesture, Spencer gave the group one of his best songs, "Room Full of Roses," which became
Curtis's first lead vocal with the group. Soon after, Roy Rogers began shooting his television series
and recruited Brady as his comic relief sidekick. He was replaced by his wartime fill-in, Fisher.
But it was the retirement of Bob Nolan in 1949 that caused the biggest change in the group's line-up.
Essentially, his exit came about purely for personal reasons. He was a very private individual to begin with,
and 16 years with the Pioneers, although rewarding musically and financially, had begun to wear on him.
He wanted more time to himself, and more time to write songs. But the gap he left was huge-apart from
having written many of the Pioneers' best known songs, Nolan had been the lead singer on many of their
hits. He did continue to provide them with songs after his retirement, and even rejoined them in the studio.
Lloyd Perryman stepped into the breech opened by Nolan's exit. He had been taking a leadership role
in the group over the previous few years and now took over leadership, recruiting a new sixth member,
Tommy Doss (b. Weiser, Idaho, Sept. 26, 1920). Doss was an excellent singer, and his voice meshed
beautifully with Perryman and Curtis, but within a year of his joining-through no fault of his-the
group's record sales began to decline. There was an overall drop of interest in cowboy songs and
western music, which resulted in RCA's attempts to push the Pioneers into the pop vocal market.
These efforts failed, and simultaneously lost them part of their country audience.
Ironically, in 1952, the same year that the Pioneers got their first LP releases, the 10-inch discs
Cowboy Hymns and Spirituals (made up of recordings from 1947), and Cowboy Classics (made up of material
from 1945 and 1946), the group also left RCA, in the wake of their declining sales figures. They didn't
record at all in 1953, but at the end of the year the group signed once again to Coral Records.
Simultaneously with the move, Curtis and Fisher both exited the line-up, to go into television and
film work. They co-starred on one television series, and Curtis would later serve as co-producer
on a pair of low-budget horror films at the end of the 1950's, one of which, The Giant Gila Monster
(1958), would feature Fisher.
They were replaced by Dale Warren (b. Summerville, Kentucky, June 1, 1925), a veteran of Foy Willing
and the Riders of the Purple Sage, and Deuce Spriggens (born George R. Braunsdorf), a former member
of Spade Cooley's band. The group's one-year stay at Coral proved no more successful than the last
few years at RCA, however.
By 1955 they were back with RCA, where they stayed for another 14 years. In a major change of strategy,
RCA now wanted the old Bob Nolan/Tim Spencer sound. Nolan agreed to return to record with the group in
the studio, but Spencer was no longer in good enough health or voice to be part of the group, and so
Ken Curtis was also asked to return as part of the studio version of the Pioneers. Pat Brady also came
back as bassist in the studio. The Sons of the Pioneers, in effect, became two groups-Nolan, Perryman,
and Curtis were the studio vocal trio, backed by Brady and Hugh and Karl Farr, recreating the group's
classic sound on record, while Perryman, Doss, Warren, the Farrs, and Spriggens (who left soon after
this arrangement began) played the concerts. It wasn't until 1958 that the touring version of the
Pioneers began making their records as well.
By that time, more changes had overtaken the line-up. Nolan retired as a singer once and for all, and
Hugh Farr, who felt that his fiddle playing wasn't appreciated by the other members, quit as well in
1958. Karl Farr continued as a member, but on September 20, 1961, in the middle of a concert performance,
he became agitated over a guitar string that had broken, and suddenly collapsed and died of heart failure.
The same month, Roy Lanham (b. Corbin, Kentucky, Jan. 16, 1923), one of the busiest session guitarists
on the West Coast, joined the group as Karl Farr's successor. Pat Brady was also back in the line-up
by then, having rejoined to replace Shug Fisher, who retired in 1959. Brady remained with the group
The next major change in the line-up came in 1963, when Tommy Doss retired from touring with the group,
although he recorded with them until 1967. In 1968, Luther Nallie joined the group as lead singer, and
remained with the Pioneers until 1974. They were still very much a going concern, not only on the concert
stage but in the recording studio-over a 12 year period from 1957 until 1969, RCA released 21 albums
by the group.
Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer were both elected the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame in 1971. A 1972
gathering at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles brought together most of the surviving members of
the Sons of the Pioneers except for Ken Curtis, including a reunion of the original Pioneer Trio of
Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer. And in 1976, the Sons of the Pioneers were inducted into the
Country Music Hall of Fame.
This was a last hurrah for the original and early group members. Tim Spencer died on April 26, 1976,
and Lloyd Perryman, who had been with the group since 1936, died on May 31, 1977. Hugh Farr, who had
retired from the group in 1958, passed away on April 17, 1980, and Bob Nolan died almost exactly two
months later, on June 16, 1980.
After Perryman passed away, the leadership of the Sons of the Pioneers was taken over by Dale Warren,
who had joined in 1952. He carried the group into the 1990's. They continued to perform in concert,
and recorded as well, with a line-up that featured Rusty Richards (vocals), Doye O'Dell (guitar, vocals),
Billy Armstrong (fiddle), Billy Liebert (accordion), and Rome Johnson (vocals). These Pioneers, along
with younger country music groups such as the Riders in the Sky, were a constant reminder of the legacy
of this much-loved western group. - Bruce Eder
Born Dec 15, 1929 in Marshall, NC, died May 31, 1990.
Based for most of his career out of Knoxville, TN, Red Rector was one the great second-generation
traditional bluegrass mandolinists, which means, for one thing, he grew up listening to the sounds
of Bill Monroe. In his playing, there were almost as many individual strengths as there are strings
on a mandolin. He was known for a durable sound that could cut through whatever ensemble he was in,
even when a dynamic banjo player such as Don Stover was trying to drown him out. In a music the
uninformed listener might associate with "hicks," Rector played with a musical sophistication that
could make a hip jazz musician or studied classical virtuoso's ears stand at attention. He could
make an audience laugh with a mandolin solo, although he never got as deeply connected with humour
in music as his fellow mandolinist Jethro Burns. His playing could be as precise as a triple scale
session player, and as sincerely sentimental and moving as any mountain musician picking a tune on
someone's front porch. And, boy oh boy, could he ever play fast! When told by one interviewer that
his solo on "Blackberry Blossom" sounded like it was going at 6,000 miles an hour, Rector calmly
corrected him: "Maybe a little faster."
Born Eugene Rector in North Carolina, his early listening experience was dominated by the popular
sounds of Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. He was so quick to want to become a mandolinist that he
was even picking away on the little instrument for something like three years before he knew how
to properly tune it. Besides wanting to master the complicated art of tuning, his main motivation
was to sound just like Monroe. At 15, Rector was already playing in a group called the Blue Ridge
Hillbillies, which featured guitarist Red Smiley and fiddler Jimmy Lunsford. He even got some personal
advice from his idol at a festival where both their bands were appearing, Monroe telling Rector that
his wrist was too stiff. In late 1946, Rector went on tour with the old-time duo Johnny and Jack,
having worked all year on loosening his wrist. Now he was a bold and brave sweet 16, and the older
musicians around him began to try to assert some influence over his playing, steering away from copying
an established star and encouraging him to instead develop his own playing style. Rector resisted this
advice mightily, believing that there was only one way to do things on the mandolin, and that was the way
Monroe had done it. In this way, one of the many jokes in the "musician meets burned out lightbulb"
genre could have been made up about Rector. How many bluegrass musicians does it take to screw in a
lightbulb? A: Fifty. One to do the job, the other 49 to tell you how Bill Monroe would have done it.
Rector relocated to Knoxville, TN, as the result of a new job with Charlie Monroe. One of the first
concerts he went to there was a performance by the bluegrass comedy duo Homer & Jethro, which, needless
to say, introduced him to the mandolin artistry of Jethro Burns. Putting all the pieces together, Rector
recalls that by the age of 18, he thought he had finally gotten his own style of playing together. That
much is plainly evident from the ample documentation on record, with artists such as flatpicking whiz Norman
Blake, banjo man Bill Keith, fiddler Kenny Baker, and the previously mentioned Don Stover, with whom he
toured England in the '80s. Mandolin lovers are particularly fond of the album Old Friends which he recorded
with Burns for the Rebel label. But well before this type of artistic triumph from his mature years came
more than a decade of honing his talents with early traditional bluegrass outfits such as Hylo Brown &
the Timberliners and the co-operative band led by banjoist Don Reno and Rector's old buddy Red Smiley on
guitar and vocals. The mandolinist worked off and on with the latter outfit between 1951 and 1959, much of
the material collected on a CD box set released by the King label in 1996. Of course, when the city of
Knoxville created a mural dedicated to the players who had come out of its rich musical traditions,
Rector was given a prominent spot. In that city he is also remembered for his local activities, such
as the bluegrass comedy duo Red and Fred, as well as appearances on the Knoxville television series
the Farm and Home Show. Erudite listeners who might be taken aback by this type of exposure, bordering
on the Hee Haw mentality, can balance it out with an equally strong academic quotient to Rector's legacy.
His mandolin performances have been the subject of a doctoral thesis, as well as articles in scholarly
journals with titles such as Mandolins and Metaphors: Red Rector's Musical Aesthetics. But Rector never
became overly stuffy about his achievements or place in bluegrass history. He even calmly put up with
being introduced as "Red Rectum" by the multi-instrumentalist songwriter and old-time music enthusiast
John Hartford, with whom he recorded tracks for the 1971 Warner Bros. album Aeroplane, later reissued
on CD by Rounder. -Eugene Chadbourne
Born in Knoxville, TN, on June 2, 1927, died Sep 4, 1992. Carl Butler blended the popular honky tonk
style prevalent in
the '50s with the mountain harmony of his Tennessee upbringing. Though his early recordings were as
a solo act, most of his popular material was performed with his songwriting wife, Pearl. Carl grew
up influenced by the Opry's Roy Acuff as well as the old-timey music and bluegrass prevalent around
his home. He began singing at amateur dances at the age of 12, and after service in World War II,
he sang with bluegrass bands such as the Bailey Brothers and the Sauceman Brothers.
In 1950, Butler began singing as a solo act at a Knoxville radio station; he signed with Capitol and
began recording in his bluegrass style, but later changed to a honky tonk sound inspired by Lefty
Frizzell and Hank Williams, who were then tearing up the charts. Though the sides weren't successful,
he did meet Pearl Dee Jones at the time; she shared composing credits on his "I Need You So," and
the two were married by 1952. Carl moved to Columbia that same year, recording solo and with the Webster
Brothers throughout the '50s.
By the end of the '50s, Carl Butler still hadn't produced a charting single, though he had recorded
steadily for almost a decade. Finally, in late 1961, his single "Honky Tonkitis" made it to number
25 on the Country charts. The Butlers joined the Grand Ole Opry the following year, and the exposure
helped them push "Don't Let Me Cross Over" to number one. Their first single as a duet, it spent almost
three months at the top of the charts, and led to an appearance in the film Second Fiddle to a Steel
Guitar in 1963. Carl and Pearl continued to chart as a duo throughout the '60s, hitting the Top
Ten with "Too Late to Try Again" and number 14 with both "Loving Arms" and "I'm Hanging Up the
Phone." The Butlers had worked with Dolly Parton around Knoxville for quite a while beginning
in the late '50s, and they were her biggest initial supporters when she became popular in 1967.
They continued to release Columbia albums during the '70s and also recorded for Chart and CMH,
but retired in the '80s. Carl Butler attempted something of a comeback in 1990, two years after
Pearl's death, but it proved unsuccessful and he died in 1992. -John Bush
OFFICIAL WEB SITE
Born Sep 29, 1895 in Bristol, TN, died Jun 2, 1967.
A medicine show performer in the 1910s and 1920s, Clarence (Tom) Ashley influenced the urban folk
revival when his early recordings were included on the Folkways album Anthology of American Folk
Music in 1952. Although he had retired from the medicine show circuit in 1943, he made a successful
comeback in the early 1960s when he recorded a pair of albums that introduced influential flatpicking
guitarist Athol "Doc" Watson.
Ashley, who took his last name from the maternal grandfather who raised him, was inspired by the
jokes and songs that he heard played by transients who boarded in his family home. His mother's
two older sister taught him songs and instructed him on the banjo. Joining his first medicine
show in 1913, Ashley traveled by horse and buggy through the southern Appalachian region, playing
songs while "the doc" sold his elixirs. In 1914, he married Hettie Osborne and settled in
Although he supplemented his income as a musician by farming and working at a sawmill,
Ashley continued to perform. By 1927, Ashley was performing with numerous string bands
including the Blue Ridge Entertainers. He recorded as a member of Byrds Moore and His Hot
Shots and the Carolina Tar Heels. His solo debut came in 1929 when he recorded "The Cuckoo
Bird" and "The House Carpenter" for Columbia. Signed to a solo contract by both Columbia
(as Clarence Ashley) and Victor (as Tom Ashley), he recorded for both labels until 1933.
Retiring from the medicine shows in 1943, Ashley bought a truck and, with his son J.D.,
hauled coal, furniture and lumber. His performances were limited to working as a comedian
with Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners and the Stanley Brothers.
While his songs were revived by string band instrumentalists in the 1950s, Ashley disappeared
almost completely from the music scene. Attending the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers Convention
in 1960, he met folklorist Ralph Rinzler, who, with folk song collector Eugene Earle, set up a
recording session at Ashley's daughter's home in Saltville, Virginia. Ashley invited Watson to
accompany him on guitar. The session marked the acoustic guitar debut for Watson, who had previously
played electric guitar in rockabilly and country bands. Beginning in 1961, Ashley and Watson, joined
by fiddler Fred Price, performed at northern folk festivals, coffeehouses and clubs. Their concert
at New York's Town Hall was recorded and released as their second album. Ashley recorded an additional
album with fiddler Tex Isley. -Craig Harris
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