Mini Profiles on Traditional
Country Artists and Legends

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Mickey Newbury
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


Charlie Poole
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


George Gobel
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


Ralph Peer
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
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 -Sandra Brennan


Shelly West
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


Judy Rodman
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


Mac Wiseman
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


Roseanne Cash
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


Mike Reid
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 songwriter.
        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


Jessi Colter
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 -


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


Dick Curless
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


Don Williams
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


Kenny Price
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


Redd Stewart
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


Bob Dunn
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

Jerry Douglas
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


Gary Stewart
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 music star.
        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


Carl Story
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


Johnny Gimble
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 the business.
        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. -John Bush


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


Johnny Bond
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 Southern California.
        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


Elsie McWilliams
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


Johnny Paycheck
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
(Formed 1934). 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 until 1967.
        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


Red Rector
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


Carl Butler
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


Clarence Ashley
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 Shouns, Tennessee.
        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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