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Riders in the Sky
Formed 1977. Beginning each performance with their trademark greeting "Mighty fine and a great big Western 'Howdy,' all you buckaroos and buckarettes," Riders in the Sky simultaneously paid tribute to and poked gentle fun at classic B-movie cowboy songs from the '40s and '50s, particularly the work of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. During the '70s and '80s, the group built a strong cult following in America, especially on college campuses. The Riders were comprised of lead singer Ranger Doug (born Douglas B. Green), Woody Paul (born Paul Chrisman) on fiddle and vocals, and Too Slim (string bass/guitar/accordion). Before forming the band, the Michigan-born Ranger Doug was a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys and was also a country music journalist, editing the Country Music Foundation Press and the Journal of Country Music. Prior to joining the Riders, Woody Paul played fiddle with Loggins and Messina, and Too Slim was a member of Dickey Lee's band in addition to being a songwriter. The trio formed in the mid-'70s, playing a weekly gig at a Nashville nightclub which led to a job with TNN's Tumbleweed Theater. In the early '80s, they released five albums, and in 1985, the Riders in the Sky appeared in Sweet Dreams, the film biography of Patsy Cline. The group signed to MCA in 1987, releasing their first album for the label - Riders Radio Theater - a year later. The record was a success, which led to the program Riders Radio Theater on National Public Radio. They recorded two more albums with MCA and in 1991 moved to Columbia where they recorded the children's album Harmony Ranch, which led to a short-lived CBS-TV Saturday-morning television show. The Riders in the Sky continued recording and touring throughout the decade, returning in 1998 with Great Big Western Howdy! Christmas the Cowboy Way followed a year later. In 2000, Woody's Roundup: A Rootin' Tootin' Collection of Woody's Favorite Songs was released. -Sandra Brennan
When Boots Randolph starts "tootin' his horn", he does more than just play the saxophone. More than just pop out music notes. And that's why his saxophone sounds like it can sing ... can talk ... can almost speak to deaf ears! His ability is awesome. His versatile style has no equal. And he's been bringing audiences to their feet ever since the early sixties, when his signature song- "Yakety Sax" - first hit the airwaves. It took off like gangbusters and turned the young musician into a celebrity, probably before some of his friends in the hills of Kentucky could have even spelled it! A native of Paducah, Kentucky, Boots ... whose real name is Homer Louis Randolph grew up in the rural community to Cadiz. His father also had the name of Homer, and obviously it created confusion 'round home! As a result, young Homer was tagged with the nickname "Boots" ... by his brother, Bob ... without dreaming it would one day be that of an International Star! The Randolph's were always a creative clan..rich in musical talent ... and their family band initially provided Boots with the first of his opportunities on stage. He learned to play a variety of instruments, but settled on the sax, at age 16. Years later, he was to make it his career choice ... while working for Uncle Sam ... during which time he was privileged to perform with the Army band. After his discharge in 1946, Boots Randolph began putting his "chops" to work professionally. However, it wasn't until 1961 that he moved to Music City-on the heels of his successful trademark tune-or, as he tells it, "that song (Yakety Sax) is what took me out of the hills of Kentucky and put me in the hills of Tennessee!"
The song served a multitude of purposes in kicking off his early career, not only by giving him the prestige of being a hit artist, but also by opening a lot of doors to other performers. Almost instantly, the Sax Man was seriously being sought after as a studio musician, and he was soon "picking saxophone on recording sessions for numerous stars. Boots Randolph was the first to ever play sax on recordings with Elvis, and the only one to ever play solo with him, in addition to recording on the soundtracks for 8 of his movies. Boots also played on such diverse recordings as Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman", Al Hirt's "Java", REO Speedwagon's "Little Queenie", and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' 'Round The Christmas Tree". In fact, he has a 30-year history of playing on records with her, including "I Want To Be Wanted" and "I'm Sorry". An array of other artists who have added the Yakety Sax touch to their recordings include Chet Atkins, Buddy Holly, Floyd Cramer, Alabama, Johnny Cash, Richie Cole, Pete Fountain, Tommy Newsom and Doc Severinsen.
His unique style of sax ... coupled with tremendous popularity on Music City sessions in the sixties..automatically made Randolph a major player in creating the now-famous "Nashville Sound". Without question, its was Randolph's particular blend of Dixieland jazz ... .along with some Swingin' honky-tonk ... which helped Nashville music makers turn hillbilly records into a hybrid sound that literally transformed Nashville into the Country Music Capitol of the world! And to this day, Randolph still has more calls for his "Saxy" sound at studio sessions than he can handle. While most people only associate Randolph with his self-written, multi-million seller of "Yakety Sax", he also had other big hits in the form of gold (a half-million in sales) on "The Shadow of Your Smile" in 1966. Plus, he "hit gold" numerous other times through recordings made with others, including "Honey In The Horn", "Java", and "Cotton" by Al Hirt, not to mention the countless consecutive Gold records by Elvis. In addition, Randolph had smash hit singles on "Hey, Mr. Sax Man" and "Temptation". He also has over 40 albums to his credit on the Monument label. On top of that, Randolph spent 15 years touring with The Master's Festival of Music, which teamed him with fellow instrumentalists Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer. Another version of that group ... called The Million Dollar Band ... .played for eight years on the Hee Haw Show. Members were Randolph, Atkins, Cramer, and Danny Davis, Roy Clark, Jethro Burns, Johnny Gimble, and Charlie McCoy. He's also taken his "Yakety Sax" to numerous network TV shows including the Ed Sullivan Show, Kraft Music Hall, Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin Show, Mike Douglas Show, Joey Bishop Show, Steve Lawrence Show, and the Boston Pops. He appeared 10 times on the Jimmy Dean Show, and also headlined two network Specials with Pete Fountain and Doc Severinsen. More recently, he's also made numerous TV appearances on TNN'S Music City Tonight and Prime Time Country. After performing all across the country in some of the most posh clubs ever built, Boots Randolph took the plunge in 1977 ... borrowed half-a-million bucks to restore an historic building in Nashville Printer's Alley ... and opened his own dinner club-called Boot's Randolph's. He performed there on a regular basis, and enjoyed a successful run with the club for 17 years, before he called it "quits".
When he closed the club, Randolph had vowed to "go fishing", but it was barely a year later - in 1996 - when he found himself back in business ... pairing up with Danny Davis ... as they embarked on a brand new venture in Nashville called The Stardust Theatre, featuring both artists in concert. Two years later, they each returned to their respective on-the-road schedules. Having headlined at almost every fair, jazz festival and convention in the country ... as well as performing throughout Europe ... definitely puts Boots Randolph in the category of being a saxophone player WITH EXPERIENCE! Over the years, this legendary musician has written chapter after chapter of music history ... forever etched in sound ... and to this day, he continues to entertain audiences with the same enthusiasm he's had since day one. It's in his blood! Boots is his name. SAX is his game! His horn is a Selmer Super 80 Series II. He uses a Bobby Dukoff D-9 mouthpiece, and a #3 Rico reed.
The Stoneman Family
Formed 1956. Group Members: Ernest V. Stoneman, Scotty Stoneman, Donna Stoneman, Jimmy Stoneman, Patsy Stoneman, Van Stoneman. The Stonemans (or the Stoneman Family) ranked among country music's most famous family bands, and were closely associated with their legendary father, Ernest "Pop" Stoneman, who played with them for a number of years. The core of the band was made up of six of Pop's thirteen children: Patsy, Scotty, Donna, Jimmy, Roni and Van. They were originally known as the Blue Grass Champs, and got their start after winning on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in the mid-'50s. They soon added members and gained a following in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area. Eventually Pop joined them, and they added television appearances to their live performance schedule, eventually getting their own television show. They debuted on the Grand Ole Opry in 1962 and throughout the decade they toured the country, playing regularly at the Black Poodle in Nashville. They also hosted a syndicated television show, shown on about fifty stations nationwide. In 1966, they had their first country hit with "Tupelo Country Jail," which made it to the Top 40. The following year, they made it past the Top 30 with "The Five Little Johnson Girls." Following Pop Stoneman's death in 1968, Patsy Stoneman joined the band. In 1968, they had their final chart hit with "Christopher Robin," which only reached the Top 50. They underwent several major personnel changes through the '70s and began recording less frequently, gradually easing into retirement. -Sandra Brennan
[Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers] Formed 1925 in Monroe, GA., Disbanded 1934 in Dacula, GA. The Skillet Lickers were one of the most important and influential string bands of the '20s and '30s. Led by fiddler Gid Tanner, the band combined old-timey country music with a wacky sense of humor and showmanship that made the group one of the most popular country bands in America. The original lineup of the band featured the dexterous and stunning interplay of Tanner, guitarist Riley Puckett, fiddler Clatyon McMichen, and banjoist Fate Norris. From 1926 to 1931, the Skillet Lickers were the most popular country band in the country. Following the original band's dissolution, Puckett and latter-day fiddler Bert Layne led various bands called the Skillet Lickers, but the group wasn't relaunched until 1934, when Tanner formed a new lineup that recorded one final session that yielded their biggest hit, "Down Yonder."
Gid Tanner did have the right to the Skillet Lickers name - after all, he was the musician that sparked Columbia Records A&R representative Frank Walker to assemble the entire band in 1925. Prior to the formation of the Skillet Lickers, Tanner had worked his way up through the conventional circuit of festivals and travelling shows that fiddlers frequented. His first great success arrived in the middle of the 1910s, when he began to regularly win fiddling conventions in Atlanta. In addition to playing, Tanner was also an accomplished comedian, which meant he was an all-around entertainer, capable of winning audiences easily. Eventually, Columbia Records asked him to record for their label, and in early 1924, he travelled to New York with his long-time friend and accompanist ...
Born June 6, 1943 in Springhill, LA. Joe Stampley has had a career that spans the genres and styles of music and entertainment. Born in Louisiana and raised on his father's Hank Williams records, Stampley began playing piano before the age of ten, and by the age of 15 he was recording demos with a local DJ named Merle Kilgore. The demos went nowhere, however, and neither did a 1961 session with the Chess label, but Kilgore was able to score a smooth R&B hit with a group he had formed called the Uniques. The song, 1966's "Not Too Long Ago," was a regional hit in the south, but the group was unable to capture any momentum and soon Stampley was changing gears again and making in-roads into the country music establishment. A Nashville publishing house, Algee Music, gave Stampley a contract and Algee head Al Gallico helped get the singer a recording contract with Paramount. Blending country and soul, Stampley had hits with 1971's "Take Time to Know Her" and "If You Touch Me You've Got to Love Me." Though his smooth sound virtually defined the countrypolitan movement of the mid-'70s, Stampley changed gears once more when he started writing rougher, hard-edged honky tonk songs such as "Whiskey Chasin." Yet Stampley still had other tricks up his sleeve, and in 1979 he teamed up with Moe Brandy to form a tongue-in-cheek comedy duo. The pair, known as Moe and Joe, had hits with songs such as "Just Good Ole Boys" and the ridiculous "Hey Joe (Hey Moe)" before falling off the cultural radar. -Steve Kurutz
Born Jun 7, 1934 in Morrisville, MO, died Jul 17, 1985 in Hendersonville, TN. Wynn Stewart was one of the leading figures of West Coast country music, developing in the early '50s the style that would later become known as the Bakersfield sound. Along with Tommy Collins and Buck Owens, Stewart stripped down the sound of honky tonk, taking away the steel guitars and relying on electric instruments, a driving beat and loud, energetic performances. For most of the late '50s and early '60s, Wynn released a series of independent singles that performed respectably, yet failed to break him into the mainstream. By the end of the '60s, he had modified his sound slightly, bringing himself closer to country-pop territory. The shift in style was successful, resulting in his lone number one hit single "It's Such a Pretty World Today," but Stewart wasn't able to become a genuine country star, despite his steady stream of records during the '70s and '80s. At the time of his sudden death in 1985, he was preparing for another comeback, which may have resulted in some long-overdue critical and popular acclaim. Even though he never received those accolodes while he was alive, his early singles like "Wishful Thinking" and "Big, Big Love" clearly inspired contemporaries like Owens and Haggard, as well as '80s neo-traditionalists and alternative country musicians like Dwight Yoakam and k.d. lang, which guarantees him a place in the history of contemporary country music.
Stewart spent most of his childhood moving around the country with his sharecropping family. Following World War II, he spent a year working for KWTO in Springfield, Missouri, before moving to California in 1948 with his family. Originally, Wynn wanted to become a professional baseball player, but he suffered from a hand disease and was too short to play ball professionally, so he concentrated on a musical career. While he was still in high school, he formed a band and began playing clubs around California. Eventually, he met steel guitarist Ralph Mooney, who joined Wynn's band; rounding out the group's lineup were guitarist Roy Nichols and bassist Bobby Austin. In 1954, Stewart signed a contract with the independent label Intro, where he released "I've Waited a Lifetime" and "Strolling." The second single drew the attention of Wynn's idol Skeets McDonald, who was arranged an audition at Capitol Records for Stewart. By the summer of 1956, he had signed with Capitol and released his first single for the label, "Waltz of the Angels," which spent one week at number 14 on the country chart; the song was later a hit for George Jones and Margie Singleton. Subsequent singles were released on Capitol, but none of the records made any impact, and Stewart left the label.
With the help of Harlan Howard, Wynn signed with Jackpot, a subsidiary of Challenge Records, in early 1958. Occasionally employing Mooney on steel guitar, Stewart made a series of singles that explored a number of different styles, from rockabilly and pop to pure honky tonk. In late 1959, he finally had a hit with "Wishful Thinking," which climbed to number five early in 1960. Shortly after the success of "Wishful Thinking," he moved to Las Vegas, where he hosted a local television show and opened the Nashville Nevada Club. By the early '60s, Stewart's reputation, if not is sales, was considerable and he continued to have a string of moderate hit singles, including the Jan Howard duet "Wrong Company," "Big, Big Love" and "Another Day, Another Dollar." In 1962, Merle Haggard joined Stewart's band as a bassist, and Wynn eventually gave him "Sing a Sad Song" for his debut single.
After his Vegas ventures went bankrupt, Stewart headed back to California in 1965, re-signing with Capitol Records. Early in 1967, he had his first significant hit for the label, "It's Such a Pretty World Today," which spent two weeks at number one. Following its success, Stewart conceentrated on softer, more commercially acceptable material, and result was a string of hit singles that ran into the early '70s. By 1972, his sales were beginning to decrease and Wynn switched record labels, signing with RCA. Over the next three years he released a number of singles, none of which cracked the Top 40. In 1975, he signed with Playboy Records, scoring a comeback single with the Top 10 "After the Storm" the following year. He stayed with Playboy for two more years, which resulted in only one other hit single: his own version of "Sing a Sad Song."
Stewart launched his own independent label, WIN, in 1978 and his first single, "Eyes Big as Dallas," scraped the bottom of the Top 40. Though the musical climate of the '70s was changing rapidly, leaving Wynn behind, he also wasn't able to achieve more success because of his developing alcoholism. Eventually, he decided to step back from performing in the early '80s, using the time away from the spotlight. During the mid-'80s, Stewart decided to launch a comeback with an extensive tour and a new album on his Pretty World record label when he died suddenly of a heart attack on the eve of the tour. Following his death, the posthumous "Wait Till I Get My Hands on You" became a minor hit. -Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Born Jun 7, 1944 in Lewiston, ME, died Jul 14, 1973 in Palmdale, CA. Clarence White was a gifted guitarist who was one of the pioneers of country-rock in the late '60s. Although died young, his work with the Byrds and the Kentucky Colonels, among others, remained celebrated among country-rock and bluegrass aficionados in the decades following his death.
Born in Maine but raised in California, White began playing the guitar at an early age, joining his brothers' band, the Country Boys, when he was just ten years old. The band eventaully evolved into the Kentucky Colonels. Clarence left the Colonels in the mid-'60s, becoming a session musician; he played electric guitar on many rock and pop albums. He also began playing with the duo of Gib Gilbeau and Gene Parsons in local California clubs. Gilbeau and Parsons frequently worked with the Gosdin Brothers, so the duo was able to land a cameo appearance for White on the Gene Clark and the Gosdin Brothers album. Around the same time, Clarence recorded a solo album for Bakersfield International which the label didn't release.
In 1968, White joined Nashville West, which also featured Gene Parsons, Gib Gilbeau, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Glen D. Hardin, and Wayne Moore. Nashville West recorded an album for Sierra Records, but the record didn't appear until 1978. White was invited to join the Byrds in the fall of 1968. Roger McGuinn was rebuilding the Byrds' lineup after the departure of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, who went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Clarence White fit into the revamped Byrds' country-rock direction. He played on the group's untitled album, which spawned the single "Chestnut Mare." While he was with the band, he continued to work as a session musician, playing on Randy Newman's 12 Songs (1970), Joe Cocker's eponymous 1969 album, and the Everly Brothers' Stories Would Could Tell (1971), among others.
Once the Byrds disbanded in 1973, Clarence White continued his session work and joined Muleskinner, which also featured David Grisman, Peter Rowan, John Guerin, Bill Keith, John Kahn, and Richard Greene. Muleskinner only released one album, which appeared later in 1973.
After the Muleskinner record was finished, White played a few dates with the Kentucky Colonels and began working on a solo album. He had only completed four tracks when he was killed by a drunken driver while he was loading equipment onto a van; he died on July 14, 1973. Following his death, several posthumous albums of his work with the Kentucky Colonels and the Byrds appeared, as did various albums that featured his playing, including Jackson Browne's Late for the Sky and Gene Parsons' Kindling. -Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Dean Martin born June 7, 1917, died December 25, 1995. Dean Martin was born Dino Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, and grew up to become one of the most famous and beloved crooners in 20th Century America. He grew up in a home for orphaned boys in Steubenville, something he would later mention occasionally when he was the star of the Dean Martin Show, an NBC-TV series which ran from 1965-1974.
As a young man, Dean tried a brief career as a boxer, under the name kid Crocetti. But he soon decided his future lay in music. He came to prominence in the late 1940's and early '50's with such pop hits as "That's Amore" and "Memories are Made of This". Later on, he would record Country as well as popular songs, bringing Country Music to an audience which had had very little previous knowledge of the genre.
The 1960's and '70's were possibly the busiest of Dean's career. Besides a successful TV and recording career, handsome Dean had found some success as an actor, starring in such movies as Five Card Stud, 4 for Texas, several comedy flicks with partner Jerry Lewis, and the Matt Helm movies. The Helm character was a lawyer with a persona somewhat similar to agent .007, James Bond.
The Dean Martin Show featured many of the Country songs Dean loved to sing, as well as many of his popular hits. Backed by Les Brown and His Band of Renown, Dean was a regular guest in millions of American homes every Thursday night. He was such a consummate professional that he could simply read the outline of his show every week and pull it off without even showing up for rehearsal, usually without a hitch. But on one rare occasion, Dean was doing the weekly sit-on-the-couch-and-sing-a-romantic-ballad portion of his show when he made a hilarious tongue-twist. The song he was singing contained the word "whisper", but when Dino sang the word it came out as "whipser". He tried to hold a straight face as everyone in the audience laughed, but finally he had to chuckle. Without missing a beat, he grinned and said "We'll just pretend I didn't say it".
In 1968, one of Dean's guests was Country legend Buck Owens. Dean also paid tribute to Merle Haggard when he recorded Merle's "I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am", which I personally consider to be one of the finest cover versions of a song ever recorded.
After the Dean Martin Show finished its run, Dino hosted the famous Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts periodically. His famous guests would poke fun at the guest of honor, who would get his turn at the end to poke some good-natured fun back at everyone else. As always, anything Dean Martin touched turned to gold. The popular Roasts were shown for many years in reruns.
In later years, Dean still played in Vegas, but slowly retreated from the public eye as his age began to show. His musician son Dino was training as a pilot when he was killed in a training crash, and it hit Dean hard. If tabloid reports are to be believed, Dean spent a lot of time immediately after the tragedy drinking and sitting in a bar saying he just wanted to die in his favorite bar with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. These stories were always by unflattering pictures on the front page of the tabloids making Martin look as if he were about 130 years old.
Then in the summer of 1994, one paper showed a picture of the 77-year-old entertainer with ex-wife Jeanne Biggers Martin, looking better than he had for quite some time. The small article beside the photo said that Jeanne had talked to Dean and led him to the Lord. Interestingly, this positive news never made the front page, but appeared at the bottom of page six.
After the news broke that this once wild-living member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack had found God, the press dropped Dean Martin like a hot potato. It seemed that if they couldn't print articles about him smoking and drinking himself to death, they didn't want to write anything about him at all. For the next year-and-a-half, I saw absolutely nothing about Dean Martin in the papers. The man whose golden voice had sold millions of records all over the world was no longer considered a newsworthy item by a secular press which seems to think that only negativity sells newspapers.
On Christmas Day, 1995, the world awoke to the sad news that Dean Martin had passed away that morning. Mourned by millions of fans the world over, it was one of the great ironies of show business that the man who recorded probably the most beautiful version ever of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" went home to meet his Lord on Christmas Day.
Born 1910 in Gwinnett County, GA, died 1986. Roba Stanley's few recordings, done in a two-year stretch beginning in 1924, resulted in her charming nickname of "the first country sweetheart," as well as some nine sides that have been reissued on various collections. As documents of the first woman soloist in country music to make records, these sides have garnered and are indeed worthy of considerable attention. Her version of the country standard "Single Life" got the jump on the better-known cut by the Carter Family by three years, and is different enough from that record to be considered an entirely original song. It also projects such a strongly feminist point of view that some listeners may wonder if country & western music was progressing backward, rather than forward, by the time it got to the '60s and "Stand By Your Man." As a child, Stanley would play guitar in her family's band, sometimes joined by famous old-time bandleader Gid Tanner, who was from the same region around the town of Dacula, GA. Her playing ability as a young teen was already quite phenomenal and while she was initially identified as being 16 years old when these tracks were cut, perhaps this was something of a ruse to throw off watchdogs of child labor laws. Research conducted on her background much later revealed the year of her birth to be 1910, meaning she was actually all of 14 when she recorded numbers such as the bluesy "All Night Long," thankfully no relation to the Lionel Ritchie disco hit. Her recording "Mister Chicken" is an honored part of the repertory of old-time tunes about chickens. She wound up in Gaineseville, FL, largely giving up music, but certainly making herself available to researchers from publications such as Old Time Music. -Eugene Chadbourne
Born Jun 8, 1941 in Rogers, AR. Vernon Oxford was a country artist with a traditional sound who found himself more successful in Europe than his native United States. He was born and raised the son of an old-time fiddler in Arkansas, and after his family moved to Wichita, Kansas, young Oxford learned to play fiddle and guitar and sing honky-tonk music. He made his professional debut in 1960 in a club in Utah, then returned to Kansas to play in clubs and at square dances. In 1964, he decided to try his luck in Nashville. but pop-country was all the rage and the labels weren't interested in such a traditional singer. Still, thanks to Harlan Howard, Oxford managed to land a contract with RCA Victor and made his recording debut in 1965. He recorded and released seven singles and an album over the next two years. Traditional country music fans loved his work, but nothing he released appeared on the charts. Eventually RCA dropped him and Oxford moved to Stop, again with no success until his old-fashioned sound was discovered in Great Britain. In 1974, RCA released a double album of his work, sent him on a tour of England, and offered to sign him up again. In the mid-'70s, he had his first U.S. chart entry with "Shadows of My Mind." He didn't score a major hit until later in the year, when he released "Redneck (the Redneck National Anthem)." He continued on with three more mid-range hits in the U.S. Meanwhile, his songs continued to sell well in the U.K., where he had such hits as "I've Got to Get Peter off Your Mind" and "Field of Flowers." Following 1977, Oxford vanished from the charts until 1981, where he reappeared as a "born-again" gospel singer. He continued to record and even preach around the country, and remained popular in Britain. -Sandra Brennan
Born Jun 8, 1951 in Danville, VA, Tony Rice is one of bluegrass' most inventive flatpicking guitar players. Although he's displayed a mastery of the genre's traditions, Rice set the standard for more contemporary styles. A former member of the Bluegrass Alliance, the David Grisman Quintet, J.D. Crowe's New South, and the Bluegrass Album Band, Rice has continued to reflect his eclectic approach on solo recordings, two albums with flatpicking guitar ace Norman Blake and two albums, recorded with his brothers Larry, Ron and Wyatt, as the Rice Brothers. In 1996, Rice joined with Chris Hillman, Herb Pederson and his brother Larry to record a tradition-rooted album, Out of the Woodwork.
Raised in southern California, Rice inherited his musical skill from his father who played with several west coast bluegrass bands and was heavily influenced by California-based bluegrass groups including the Dillards and the Kentucky Colonels, which featured influential guitar picker Clarence White. Moving temporarily to Kentucky in 1970, Rice became a charter member of the Bluegrass Alliance, one of the earliest contemporary bluegrass groups. As a member of J.D. Crowe's New South, along with Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas, in the early '70s, he continued to promote a new approach to the music of the hill country. After meeting imaginative mandolin player David Grisman during a jam session in 1975, Rice returned to California and helped to form the David Grisman Quintet. During the five years that he played with the group, Rice helped to lay the foundation for the "new grass" style that Grisman dubbed "Dawg Music."
Leaving the Grisman Quintet, Rice formed a bluegrass superband, the Bluegrass Album Band, with J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips. Although only a part-time venture, the group produced five memorable albums.
Rice's albums as a soloist and with his band, the Tony Rice Unit, have ranged from the jazz-tinged, "Mar West", which included bluegrass-style treatments of tunes by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, to singer-songwriter oriented albums, including Cold on the Shoulder, Native American and Me and My Guitar, which featured his virtuosic guitar picking and soulful vocalizing of songs by Ian Tyson, Phil Ochs and Gordon Lightfoot. Rice released an album-length collection of Lightfoot's songs, Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot, in 1996. Rice has continued to interpret the traditional bluegrass repertoire, as well, releasing an album of old chestnuts, Tony Rice Sings and Plays Bluegrass, the same year.
Although he's recently experienced vocal problems that have prevented him from singing, Rice continues to amaze audiences with his masterful guitar playing.
AKA Lester William Poifus. Born Jun 9, 1915 in Waukesha, WI. Les Paul has had such a staggeringly huge influence over the way American popular music sounds today that many tend to overlook his significant impact upon the jazz world. Before his attention was diverted toward recording multi-layered hits for the pop market, he made his name as a brilliant jazz guitarist whose exposure on coast-to-coast radio programs guaranteed a wide audience of susceptible young musicians. Heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt at first, Paul eventually developed an astonishingly fluid, hard-swinging style of his own, one that featured extremely rapid runs, fluttered and repeated single notes, and chunking rhythm support, mixing in country & western licks and humorous crowd-pleasing effects. No doubt his brassy style gave critics a bad time, but the gregarious, garrulous Paul didn't much care; he was bent on showing his audiences a good time. Though he couldn't read music, Paul had a magnificent ear and innate sense of structure, conceiving complete arrangements entirely in his head before he set them down track by track on disc or tape. Even on his many pop hits for Capitol in the late '40s and early '50s, one can always hear a jazz sensibility at work in the rapid lead solo lines and bluesy bent notes - and no one could close a record as suavely as Les. And of course, his early use of the electric guitar and pioneering experiments with multitrack recording, guitar design and electronic effects devices have filtered down to countless jazz musicians. Among the jazzers who acknowledge his influence are George Benson, Al DiMeola, Stanley Jordan (whose neck-tapping sound is very reminiscent of Paul's records), Pat Martino and Bucky Pizzarelli.
Paul's interest in music began when he took up the harmonica at age eight, inspired by a Waukesha ditchdigger. Paul's only formal training consisted of a few unsuccessful piano lessons as a child - and although he later took up the piano again professionally, exposure to a few Art Tatum records put an end to that. After a fling with the banjo, Paul took up the guitar under the influences of Nick Lucas, Eddie Lang and regional players like Pie Plant Pete and Sunny Joe Wolverton, who gave Les the stage name Rhubarb Red. At 17, Les played with Rube Tronson's Cowboys and then dropped out of high school to join Wolverton's radio band in St. Louis on KMOX. By 1934, he was in Chicago, and before long, he took on a dual radio persona, doing a hillbilly act as Rhubarb Red and playing jazz as Les Paul, often with an imitation Django Reinhardt quartet. His first records in 1936 were issued on the Montgomery Ward label as Rhubarb Red and on Decca backing blues shouter Georgia White on acoustic guitar. Dissatisfied with the electric guitars circulating in the mid-'30s, Paul, assisted by tech-minded friends, began experimenting with designs of his own.
By 1937, Paul had formed a trio, and the following year, he moved to New York and landed a featured spot with Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, which gave Les nationwide exposure through its broadcasts. That job ended in 1941 shortly after he was nearly electrocuted in an accident during a jam session in his Queens basement. After a long recovery period and more radio jobs, Paul moved to Hollywood in 1943, where he formed a new trio that made several V-Discs and transcriptions for MacGregor (some available on Laserlight). As a last-minute substitute for Oscar Moore, Paul played in the inaugural Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in Los Angeles on July 2, 1944; his witty chase sequence with Nat Cole on "Blues" and fleet work elsewhere (now on Verve's Jazz at the Philharmonic: The First Concert) are the most indelible reminders of his prowess as a jazzman. Later that year, Paul hooked up with Bing Crosby, who featured the Trio on his radio show, sponsored Les' recording experiments, and recorded six sides with him, including a 1945 number one hit, "It's Been a Long, Long Time." On his own, Paul also made several records with his Trio for Decca from 1944 to 1947, including jazz, country and Hawaiian sides, and backed singers like Dick Haymes, Helen Forrest and the Andrews Sisters.
Meanwhile, in 1947, after experimenting in his garage studio and discarding some 500 test discs, Paul came up with a kooky version of "Lover" for eight electric guitars, all played by himself with dizzying multi-speed effects. He talked Capitol Records into releasing this futuristic disc, which became a hit the following year. Alas, a bad automobile accident in Oklahoma in January 1948 put Les out of action again for a year and a half; as an alternative to amputation, his right arm had to be set at a permanent right angle suitable for guitar playing. After his recovery, he teamed up with his soon-to-be second wife, a young country singer/guitarist named Colleen Summers whom he renamed Mary Ford, and reeled off a long string of spectacular multi-layered pop discs for Capitol, making smash hits out of jazz standards like "How High the Moon" and "Tiger Rag." The hits ran out suddenly in 1955, and not even a Mitch Miller-promoted stint at Columbia from 1958 to 1963 could get the streak going again. After a bitter divorce from Ford in 1964, a gig in Tokyo the following year, and an LP of mostly remakes for London in 1967, Paul went into semi-retirement from music.
Aside from a pair of wonderfully relaxed country/jazz albums with Chet Atkins for RCA in 1976 and 1978, and a blazing duet with DiMeola on "Spanish Eyes" from the latter's 1980 Splendido Hotel CD, Paul has been long absent from the record scene (some rumored sessions for Epic in the '90s have not materialized). However, a 1991 four-CD retrospective, The Legend and the Legacy, contained an entire disc of 34 unreleased tracks, including a breathtaking electrified tribute to the Benny Goodman Sextet, "Cookin'." More significantly, Paul began a regular series of Monday night appearances at New York's Fat Tuesday's club in 1984 (from 1996, Les held court at the Iridium club across from Lincoln Center), attended by visiting celebrities and fans for whom he became an icon in the '80s. Arthritis has slowed Les' playing down in recent years, and his repertoire is largely unchanged from the '30s and '40s. But at any given gig, one can still learn a lot from the Wizard of Waukesha. -Richard S. Ginell
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
The traditional sounds of the southern Appalachian mountains were echoed in the music of Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. In 1950, the Coopers and their band, the Clinch Mountain Clan, were named "the most authentic mountain singing group in the United States" by the music library of Harvard University.
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were born to sing traditional country music. Raised on a farm in Clinch County, West Virginia, Stoney learned to play mountain music and Elizabethan ballads on the fiddle as a child. At the age of twelve, he taught himself to play guitar and joined a traditional country band, the Green Valley Boys. Wilma Lee grew up singing with a family band, the Leary Family, that was one of the top-ranked Southern gospel groups. Her debut public performance came at the age of five. In 1938, she sang with the Leary Family at a national folk festival sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Stoney and Wilma Lee first performed together in the late 1930s, when Stoney was hired by the Leary Family to play fiddle for ten dollars a week. Married in 1941, the Coopers performed as a duo, the Musical Partners, while still touring with the Learys. After leaving the group, they performed on the Virginia and West Virginia circuit until Wilma Lee gave birth to their first child, Carol Lee, and Stoney took a job for a beverage distributor to supplement their musical income. In the early 1940s, the couple was heard often on radio stations in Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas and North Carolina. Moving to Chicago, Stoney worked for a defense plant in Gary, Indiana.
The Coopers' musical career began to take off shortly after returning to West Virginia in 1947 and becoming cast members of the WWVA Jamboree. They remained with the show for a decade, broadcasting every Saturday night over the CBS radio network. In 1957, they left the show, moved to Nashville, and became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They released the first of three Top Ten country hits, "Come Walk with Me," two years later. "There's a Big Wheel" and "Big Midnight Special" followed the same year. In the 1960s and early '70s, the Coopers appeared on numerous television shows in the United States and Canada and in the movies Country Music on Broadway and W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings. They remained active with the Grand Ole Opry until the mid-1970s, when poor health forced Stoney's retirement. The Coopers' last recording together was Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper Sing the Carter Family's Greatest Hits.
Following Stoney's retirement, Wilma Lee, who holds a bachelor's degree in banking from Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, continued to perform and record on her own. A few days before Stoney's death, she dedicated a performance of the Carter Family's "Little Darling Pal of Mine" to him during an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The Smithsonian Institute honored her as "the first lady of bluegrass" at their annual folk festival in 1974. Many of Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper's songs, including "Sunny Side of the Mountain," "The West Virginia Polka," "Thirty Pieces of Silver," "Wreck on the Highway" and "Legend of the Dogwood Tree," have gone on to become staples of country and bluegrass repertoires. -Craig Harris
Born 1952 in Fries, VA, died Dec 26, 1992. Although Jimmy Arnold was never well-known - during his brief life, he recorded only a handful of albums - he remained one of the most acclaimed bluegrass musicians of the '70s and '80s. As a child, Arnold became interested in music after hearing his friends practicing next door. His first instrument was a guitar, but he soon learned how to play the banjo and by age 12 had founded a bluegrass band, the Twin County Partners, with his cousin Tommy playing mandolin and his friend Wes Golden on guitar. The group became quite popular in their area, which led to appearances on local TV shows and even a single for Stark Records. They disbanded in 1965, and Arnold began performing at music festivals all over the South.
After graduating from high school, Arnold was invited by studio musician Joe Greene to play with him in Nashville. He next teamed up with Wes Golden to play with the Virginia Cut-ups, with whom he cut an album for Latco Records. Subsequently, Arnold joined many bands, including Keith Whitley and the New Tradition, but was frequently fired from the groups due to his excessive drinking. He recorded an album of banjo music, Strictly Arnold, in 1974. In 1977, he released his second album, Jimmy Arnold Guitar, followed six years later by Southern Soul. None of his albums were commercially successful, and Arnold abandoned music in 1984. He opened a tattoo parlor in North Carolina, but he soon fell into drug abuse and used the parlor as a front for selling narcotics. In 1985, he was arrested and briefly served a jail sentence. Following his release from prison, he was the resident artist at Martin Community College for a short time, but he soon returned to performing music. In 1992, he became a member of the Pentecostal Church and went completely sober. However, his body was irreparably damaged - he died of heart failure on Christmas Day in 1992. -Sandra Brennan
Born Jun 11, 1936 in Jamestown, NY, died Oct 15, 1981 in Maine. Jud Strunk was a socially and environmentally conscious singer/songwriter and comedian. A native of New York, Strunk moved to Farmington, Maine in 1960 and started out singing at a local hotel. He then began a solo act on the U.S. Armed Forces circuit, appeared in the Broadway musical Beautiful Dreamer, and during the early '70s was a semi-regular on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He released his debut album, Downeast Viewpoint, in 1970 and three years later released his second effort, Jones' General Store. That year, Strunk had his biggest hit, "Daisy a Day," which made the Top 15 on the pop charts and the Top 40 on the country charts. In 1974 he had a hit with the dramatic reading "My Country." In 1977, Strunk and his band Coplin Kitchen released A Semi-Reformed Tequila Crazed Gypsy Looks Back; four years later, he died in a small plane crash in Maine. -Sandra Brennan
(Joe Val & The New England Bluegrass Boys). Joe was born Jun 25, 1926 in Everett, MA. Singer/songwriter Joe Val was a prominent traditional bluegrass musician and leader of the New England Bluegrass Boys. A native of Everett, Massachusetts, he was born Joseph Valiante, and his interest in bluegrass started in his early teens. He was influenced by fiddler Tex Logan, who had come north to study at M.I.T. and wound up giving the young performer his stage name. Val started out as a guitar player, but also mastered the banjo and the mandolin. He got his professional start playing with the Radio Rangers, and later joined the Berkshire Mountain Boys; with the progressive Charles River Valley Boys, Val recorded a distinguished album of bluegrass-adapted Beatles songs in 1967. Although Val played with progressive groups, he himself continued to favor a more traditional bluegrass sound; to this end, he founded the New England Bluegrass Boys in 1970 with guitarist Herb Applin, banjo player Bob French and bass player Bob Tidwell. The following year, they made their debut album. Although the group underwent many personnel changes over the next decade, Val was able to produce a remarkably consistent sound over the course of numerous albums. Sadly, Joe Val was stricken with cancer in the 1980s just as his band was beginning to achieve wider recognition; his last performance was in late 1984, and he died on June 11, 1985. -Sandra Brennan
The Crook Brothers
Formed 1920. Group Members: Sam McGee, Herman Crook, Lewis Croo,k 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 99, 73 years after making his Opry debut. He is remembered not only by old-time music enthusiasts who enjoyed the Crook Brothers' music, but by fans of harmonica music, who credit Herman as one of the most innovative players of his time. -Eugene Chadbourne
AKA Cyrus Whitfield Bond, born Jun 1, 1915 in Enville, OK, died Jun 12, 1978 in Burbank, CA. Johnny Bond had several successful facets to a career that lasted over 30 years. As a member of the Jimmy Wakely Trio and as a session musician, he was an important support musician in dozens of B-westerns, working alongside Wakely, Tex Ritter, and Johnny Mack Brown. As a songwriter, he was responsible for several compositions that became country standards, including "Cimarron," "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight," "Conversation With a Gun," "Tomorrow Never Comes," and "I'll Step Aside," which became hits for everyone from Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra to Johnny Rodriguez. He also contributed mightily to the recorded music of Wakely, Ritter, and other country stars of the 1940s and 1950s. And his own recordings - which included work with such luminaries as Merle Travis - were popular from the 1940s onward, and included several hits, but it wasn't until the 1960s that he had the biggest record of his career, "Ten Little Bottles."
Cyrus Whitfield Bond was born in Enville, Oklahoma on June 1, 1915, to a poor farming family. His first instrument was the trumpet, but as a boy he also learned to play the guitar and the ukelele, and by the time he was a teenager he was entertaining at local dances - his main inspiration was the playing of Jimmie Rodgers and Milton Brown and the Light Crust Doughboys. After graduating from high school in 1933, he headed for Oklahoma City to try for a career on radio, first broadcasting under the name Cyrus Whitfield, and later as Johnny Whitfield, before he settled on Johnny Bond. In Oklahoma City he also hooked up with Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell (later replaced by Dick Reinhart), with whom he formed a group, originally known as the Singing Cowboy Trio and later the Bell Boys, in acknowledgment of their radio sponsorship from Bell Clothing. Their repertoire in those days was influenced heavily by the work of Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers, and featured many cowboy songs. They did their broadcasting on WKY radio, and cut transcription discs at KVOO in Tulsa. By then Bond was already writing songs of his own, and in 1938 he wrote his first classic, "Cimarron." Gene Autry saw their work when he was on tour late in the 1930s and indicated his interest in using them on his Melody Ranch radio show, should they ever make it out to California.
By 1939, they were brought out to Hollywood for an appearance, under the name of the Jimmy Wakely Trio, in The Saga of Death Valley, starring Roy Rogers and produced by Republic Pictures. This taste of movie work registered with Wakely and Bond - there was more film work being offered by Republic, and Autry's offer was difficult to ignore. In May of 1940, Wakely, Bond, Reinhart, and their families headed west in Wakely's Dodge. They immediately became regulars on Melody Ranch, and Bond continued to play on the show for 16 years, until it was canceled in 1956. They also made their second film appearance, in The Tulsa Kid, starring Don "Red" Barry, with the group credited as "Jimmy Wakely and His Rough Riders." The group later moved to Universal, making their debut there in Pony Post (1940), starring Johnny Mack Brown. And they played the usual concerts and ballrooms and clubs throughout 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
Born Jun 15, 1954 in Augusta, GA. Singer/songwriter/keyboardist Terri Gibbs was raised on gospel music, and most of her country hits have been gospel-oriented. Born Teresa Fay Gibbs in Augusta, Georgia, she was blind from birth and began learning the piano at age three. Her early influences were the Everly Brothers, Patti Page, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Ray Charles; she also listened frequently to the Grand Ole Opry. As a child and young teen, she won several talent contests and sang in various choirs. Chet Atkins helped her launch her career after meeting her backstage at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta. At his request, she sent him a demo tape; he called her on her 18th birthday and suggested she go to Nashville, but the trip was unsuccessful, and she returned to Miami to become the keyboardist for Sound Dimension. In 1973, she left the group to attend college for two semesters, but dropped out to focus on songwriting. She founded her own band in 1975 and began playing at a restaurant in Augusta. In 1980, producer/songwriter Ed Penney, who had received two of her demos in 1979, came to Augusta to hear her and signed her to MCA. Her debut album, Somebody's Knockin', and the title single were well received, the latter becoming a major hit on both pop and country charts in 1981.
In 1980, Gibbs was named Best New Female Vocalist by both the ACM and Cash Box magazine. Record World also named her Most Promising Female Vocalist of Contemporary Music. In 1981, she had two medium hits and debuted on the Grand Ole Opry. That year she was honored with the CMA's first Horizon Award and was nominated for a Grammy. She released two more albums in 1981 and 1982 and began an extensive tour with George Jones, with whom she sang duets. She continued to make regular chart appearances through 1984. In 1986, Gibbs switched to gospel music and signed with Word Records, and the title track of 1987's Turn Around became a minor hit on the country charts. In 1988, Gibbs appeared three times on the contemporary Christian charts with the Top Five hits "Promise Land," "Comfort the People" and "Unconditional Love." In 1990, Gibbs released Great Day for Morning Gate. She has since temporarily retired from music to concentrate on raising her son, but does plan to come back. -Sandra Brennan
AKA Waylon Arnold Jennings, born Jun 15, 1937 in Littlefield, TX, died Feb 13, 2002 in Chandler, AZ. If any one performer personified the outlaw country movement of the '70s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late '50s, it wasn't until the '70s that Waylon, with his imposing baritione and stripped-down, updated honky tonk, became a superstar. Jennings rejected the conventions of Nashville, refusing to record with the industry's legions of studio musicians and insisting that his music never resemble the string-laden, pop-inflected sounds that were coming out of Nashville in the '60s and '70s. Many artists, including Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, followed Waylon's anti-Nashville stance and eventually the whole "outlaw" movement - so-named because of the artists' ragged, maverick image and their independence from Nashville - became one of the most significant country forces of the '70s, helping the genre adhere to its hardcore honky tonk roots. Jennings didn't write many songs, but his music - which combined the grittiest aspects of honky tonk with a rock & roll rhythm and attitude, making the music spare, direct and edgy - defined hardcore country, and it influenced countless musicians, including members of the new-traditionalist and alternative country subgenres of the '80s.
In 1980, Jennings was born and raised in Littlefield, Texas, where he learned how to play guitar by the time he was eight. When he was 12 years old, he was a DJ for a local radio station and, shortly afterward, he formed his first band. Two years later he left school and spent the next few years picking cotton, eventually moving to Lubbock, Texas in 1954. Once he was in Lubbock, he got a job at the radio station KLLL, where he befriended Buddy Holly during one of the station's shows. Holly became Jennings' mentor, teaching him guitar licks, collaborating on songs and producing Jennings' first single, "Jole Blon," which was released on Brunswick in 1958. Later that year, Waylon became the temporary bass player for Buddy's band the Crickets, playing with the rock & roller on his final tour. Jennings was also scheduled to fly on the plane ride that ended in Holly's tragic death in early 1959, but he gave up his seat at the last minute to the Big Bopper, who was suffering from a cold.
In 1980, Following Buddy's death, Jennings returned to Lubbock, where he spent two years mourning the loss of his friend and working as a DJ. In late 1960, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he founded a rockabilly band called the Waylors. Jennings and the Waylors began to earn a local following through their performances at the local club JD's, eventually signing to the independent label Trend in 1961. None of the group's singles made any impact and Jennings began wroking for Audio Recorders as a record producer. In 1963, Waylon moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a contract with Herb Alpert's A&M Records. By this point, Waylon's music was pure country, and Alpert wanted to move him toward the pop market; Jennings didn't cave in to the demands and his sole single, "Sing the Girl a Song, Bill," and album for A&M flopped.
In 1980, Following the A&M debacle, Jennings landed a contract with RCA with help from Chet Atkins and Bobby Bare, and he moved to Nashville in 1965. After arriving in Nashville, he moved in with Johnny Cash, and the two musicians began a long-lasting friendship, which eventually resulted in a collaboration in the form of the Highwaymen in the '80s. Waylon released his first single for RCA, "That's the Chance I'll Have to Take," late in the summer of 1965 and it became a minor hit. With his second single, "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," he had his first Top 40 country hit and it began a string of moderate hits that eventually developed into several Top 10 singles - "Walk on Out of My Mind," "I Got You," "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," "Yours Love" - in 1968. At this point, he was working with Nashville session man and developing a sound that was halfway between honky tonk and folk. As the next decade began, he started to move his music toward hardcore country.
In 1980, In 1970, Jennings recorded several songs by a struggling but promising songwriter called Kris Kristofferson, which led to a pair of ambitious albums - Singer of Sad Songs and Ladies Love Outlaws - the following year. On these two records, he developed the roots of outlaw country, creating a harder, tougher muscular sound with a selection of songs by writers like Alex Harvey and Hoyt Axton. During the following year, Waylon began collaborating with Willie Nelson, recording and writing several songs with the songwriter. Just as importantly, he also renegotiated his contract with RCA in 1972, demanding that he assume the production and artistic control of his records. Honky Tonk Heroes, released in 1973, was the first album released under this new contract. Comprised almost entirely of songs by the then-unknown songwriter Billy Joe Shaver and recorded with Jennings' road band, the album was an edgy, bass-driven and surly variation on stripped-down honky tonk. Jennings and his new sound slowly began to gain more fans, and in 1974 he had his first number one, "This Time," followed by yet another number one single, "I'm a Ramblin' Man," and the number two "Rainy Day Woman."
In 1980, Waylon's success continued throughout 1975, as Dreaming My Dreams - featuring one of his signature songs, the number one "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" - reached number 49 on the pop charts; he was also voted the Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year. Jennings truly crossed over into the mainstream in 1976, when Wanted! The Outlaws - a various-artists compilation of previously-released material that concentrated on Waylon, but also featured songs from his wife Jessi Colter, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser - peaked at number one on the pop charts. Following the success of Wanted!, Waylon became a superstar, as well known to the mainstream pop audience as he was to the country audience. For the next six years, Jennings' albums consistently charted in the pop Top 50 and went gold. During this time, he recorded a number of duets with Nelson, including the multi-platinum Waylon and Willie (1978) which featured the number one single "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Over the course of the late '70s and early '80s, Jennings scored ten number one hits, including "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" (which hit number 25 on the pop charts and spent six weeks at the top of the country charts), "The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You)," "I've Always Been Crazy," "Amanda," "Theme from 'The Dukes of Hazzard' (Good Ol' Boys)" and three duets with Nelson.
In 1980, By the mid-'80s, the momentum of Waylon's career began to slow somewhat, due to his drug abuse and the decline of the entire outlaw country movement. Jennings kicked his substance habits cold turkey in the mid-'80s and formed the supergroup the Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash in 1985; over the next decade, the band released three albums, yet none of them were more successful than their debut, which spawned the number one single, "Highwayman." Also in 1985, Jennings parted ways with RCA, signing with MCA Records the following year. At first, he had several hit singles for the label, including the number one "Rose in Paradise," but by the end of the '80s, he was no longer able to crack the Top 40. In 1990, Waylon switched labels again, signing with Epic. "Wrong," his first single for the label, reached the Top 10 in 1990 and "The Eagle" reached the Top 40 the following year, but after that minor hit, none of his singles were charting.
In 1980, Despite his decreased sales - which were largely due to the shifting tastes in country music - Waylon Jennings remained a superstar throughout the '90s, and was able to draw large crowds whenever he performed a concert, while many of his records continued to receive positive reviews. In 1996, he signed to Justice Records, where he released the acclaimed Right for the Time. Closing In on the Fire followed in 1998. His work was slowed by his health in the years following that album, as complications from diabetes made it difficult for him to walk. His foot was amputated in December 2001 because of his illness, and he died on February 13, 2002 at his home in Arizona. -Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Born Jun 15, 1917 in Alba, TX, died Sep 11, 1969 in San Antonio, TX. A popular singer and multi-instrumentalist of the postwar era, Leon Payne achieved his lasting fame as a songwriter whose most successful works - among them "Lost Highway" and "I Love You Because" - remain among the country music canon's most enduring compositions. Payne was born blind on June 15, 1917 in Alba, Texas, and until the age of 18 he attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. There, he was encouraged by teachers to begin learning music as a method of supporting himself, and became adept on guitar, piano, organ, drums and trombone. In the mid-1930s he began performing with a number of area groups, and began playing on radio in 1935.
Payne joined Bob Wills' Texas Playboys in 1938, and he remained affiliated with the group to some degree for the majority of his career. At about the same time, he began writing the first of the several thousand songs he would compose over the course his lifetime. In 1939, he cut his first solo recordings, including "You Don't Love Me But I'll Always Care" and "Down Where the Violets Grow," which evidenced his smooth, subtle vocal technique. After spending the large part of the next decade drifting through Texas performing under the moniker "The Texas Blind Hitchhiker," he hooked up with Jack Rhodes & the Rhythm Boys in 1948. He also played frequently with Wills.
In 1949, Payne formed his own band, the Lone Star Buddies, which guested on programs like the Grand Ole Opry, The Lousiana Hayride, and The Big D Jamboree. Two of his songs also reached the charts in cover versions: George Morgan scored a big hit with "Cry-Baby Heart," and more significantly, Hank Williams cut "Lost Highway," one of his most popular efforts. Payne's own recording of his "I Love You Because," penned for his wife Myrtle, became his biggest hit in 1950; in the same year, both Ernest Tubb and Clyde Moody cut their own versions of the song. Williams also had another hit with Payne's "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me." As the decade wore on, his songs grew even more popular among his contemporaries; among the most successful were Hank Snow's 1953 "For Now and Always" as well as a pair of hits for Carl Smith, 1954's "More Than Anything Else in the World" and 1956's "Doorstep to Heaven."
Payne continued to record through 1964; in 1963, he issued two LPs, Leon Payne: A Living Legend of Country Music and Americana, and at one point even cut a rockabilly single, "That Ain't It," under the alias 'Rock Rogers.' Still, he never repeated the success of "I Love You Because," which was later resurrected by Johnny Cash in 1960 and as a huge 1963 pop hit for Al Martino. A year later, it was also covered by Jim Reeves, who earned posthumous success with Payne's "Blue Side of Lonesome" in 1966 and "I Heard a Heart Break Last Night" in 1968. Also charting with renditions of "I Love You Because" were Carl Smith in 1969, Don Gibson in 1978, and Roger Whittaker in 1983; most importantly, it was one of the songs recorded by Elvis Presley during his legendary Sun Records sessions of 1954.
In 1965, Payne suffered a heart attack which forced him to curtail his touring; that same year, his "Things Have Gone to Pieces" was a hit for George Jones. In 1967, Gibson covered "Lost Highway,' and Johnny Darrell was successful with "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me." On September 11, 1969, Payne died following another heart attack. -Jason Ankeny
Born Jun 15, 1892 in Kileen, TX, died Sep 9, 1962. Best remembered today as the author of the Eddy Arnold hit "Cattle Call," Tex Owens was a fixture on local radio in Kansas City and the CBS network during the 1930s and early 1940s, and he was one of the first artists signed to Decca Records back in the '30s. He was the youngest of 13 children in a sharecropper family, whose musical interests began with his generation - his brother Chuck was a singer and songwriter, and his sister Texas Ruby was a performer with the Grand Ole Opry. Despite their musical activities, however, it took Tex Owens until he was nearly 40 to decide on a career in music.
Doye (some sources spell it Doie) Hensley Owens was born in Kileen, Texas, but the family moved to Cushing, Oklahoma while he was still a boy. The name "Tex" logically seemed to stick after the move to Oklahoma. Beginning when he was 15 years old, he worked lots of jobs, especially on ranches in the surrounding area, and even spent a stint as a chuck wagon cook. He did gravitate a little toward singing - he could play guitar well enough to accompany himself, and as a lanky 6' 3" vocalist, he looked natural enough as the center of attention. He made his first foray into music at a traveling tent show as a blackface singer, doubling as a hired hand, and spent up to a year with one such tent show. The life didn't appeal to him enough to stay with music, however, and by his late teens Owens was back working more conventional and reliable jobs. He was just young enough, having been born in 1892, to avoid being drafted into military service during the First World War.
Owens worked oil fields in Texas, and then jobs in Missouri and Kansas, and after marrying Maude Neal, he settled for a time in Drexel, Missouri. He worked as a farm hand and mechanic, and later even served as a lawman in Bridgeport, Oklahoma, before the family - which now included two daughters, Laura Lee and Dolpha Jane - moved west to Colorado. It was the combination of acute appendicitis and a freak blizzard in Lamar, Colorado that brought Owens back to music. While recovering from an appendectomy, Owens saw a group of school children (five of whom had frozen to death before being rescued) who had been stranded in a blizzard brought into the hospital, and he entertained them with some songs.
This proved to be the most appreciative audience to which Owens had ever played, and their reaction pulled him back into music for the first time in years. After the family moved back to Kansas, Owens began singing with his two daughters, including performances at medicine shows. Finally, in the very early 1930s, Owens got his first indoor gig, singing to audiences between features at a local movie theater. This led him to a radio audition at KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri, and his being hired full-time as a singer and general
He was billed as "The Original Texas Ranger" and performed regularly with two groups, the Texas Rangers and, later, the Prairie Pioneers. They were popular enough locally and regionally that the record industry beckoned - Gene Autry, another young Texan with roots in Oklahoma, was burning up the airwaves and selling millions of records, and every record company was looking for another Autry. In the summer of 1934, Tex Owens was signed along with the Texas Rangers to the newly founded Decca label. (Curiously, Decca had also signed another "Tex," by the last name of Ritter, around the same time).
They recorded a comedy single, "The Dude Ranch Party, Parts 1 and 2," on August 27, 1934, on which Owens sang a bit of "The Cattle Call" amid a series of songs that included "Git Along Little Dogies" and "Prance Along," plus comedy material. The Texas Rangers included Bob Crawford as leader, with the two Massey brothers, Curt (who later wrote much of the background music for the television series The Beverly Hillbillies) on fiddle and Allen on fiddle and banjo, respectively, Gomer Cool on fiddle, and Hugh Studebaker on guitar, with George Washington White doing comic relief, often in blackface.
It was Owens' full recording of "Cattle Call," made solo the following day, that ultimately proved more important, introducing a song he'd written and copyrighted in Kansas City that year. According to his wife, he'd written it ahead of a show during a snowstorm when they were stuck at the hotel where the radio station was headquartered, borrowing the melody from "The St. Paul Waltz." The song, one of four he recorded in Chicago that day, wasn't a success at the time, and Owens' relationship with Decca ended after that session. He next recorded ten songs for RCA in September of 1936, none of which - including another version of "Cattle Call" - were issued and all of which are lost today.
Most of Owens' career was spent not in the recording studio, but rather on the radio, performing with either the Texas Rangers or the Prairie Pioneers; he also made personal appearances and, on rare occasions, performed in movies. He began seriously writing songs in the early 1930s, more than a dozen of which were published by the radio station in a songbook in 1934. It is also rumored that Owens' KMBC show was telecast in experimental broadcasts by the engineering departments of Kansas State, Purdue, and Iowa State University in 1932. He was a star as a singer and storyteller on KMBC's Brush Creek Follies, which included in its cast comedy acts like Uncle Ezra and Aunt Faye, the hillbilly yodelers Bud and Spike, and the Fiddling Minstrels. He was popular enough that in 1939 the governor of Texas declared Owens and the Texas Rangers honorary Texas Rangers.
Owens' show on KMBC lasted for more than 11 years, a period during which he was also picked up by the CBS radio network and carried nationally. At the end of his time at KMBC, Owens moved to Cincinnati and a new gig at WLW, where he sang and also hosted a country variety show called The Boone Country Jamboree. In 1943, Owens moved once again, this time to Hollywood, and began making appearances in movies and short films.
He frequently appeared in a trio with his two daughters, and Laura Lee (1920-1989) later began a career of her own, leading a musical group called Laura Lee and Her Ranger Buddies. In 1943, she became the first female singer hired by Bob Wills for his band the Texas Playboys. Owens himself continued his work on radio and in movies, but his footage had to be removed from the biggest film in which he ever appeared. He was cast in a supporting part in Howard Hawks' epic western Red River, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, when his horse fell on him during the shooting of one scene and broke his back.
Owens spent a year recovering and never fully got over the injuries. He returned to performing with a new backing group, the Prairie Pirates, and cut a pair of sessions with them in 1953 and 1954. The four songs from these sessions were released on the Wrightman label but failed to excite any major public interest, despite the presence of such gorgeous songs as Alice Canterbury's "Give Me the Plains at Night," as well as the Tex and Chuck Owens-authored instrumental "Porcupine Serenade."
During this period, "Cattle Call" twice became a hit, but not for Owens. In 1944, Eddy Arnold cut a hugely successful single of the song, which became his signature tune; in 1955 Arnold had a chart-topping country hit with it again in an orchestrated version. Owens wrote more than 100 songs, but "Cattle Call" was far and away the biggest success he ever had. Unfortunately, he never achieved a fraction of the success as a recording artist that Arnold did during those decades, and by the time Arnold's second version was topping the charts, the author was past 60 and partly forgotten; most listeners assumed Arnold had written it.
By the end of the 1950s, Owens was retired from Hollywood. Now past 60, he'd seen his oldest daughter Laura Lee embark on a successful career as the first female vocalist ever hired by Bob Wills. He and his wife moved to Baden, Texas in 1960, and it was there that Tex Owens died of a heart attack in 1962 at the age of 70. His sister Ruby, a star of the Grand Ole Opry, died the following year in a fire. Nine years later, in 1971, Tex Owens was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame in recognition of his work as a composer. -Bruce Eder
Ernest V. Stoneman
Born May 25, 1893 in Monorat, VA, died Jun 14, 1968. Ernest "Pop" Stoneman was one of the first, and most popular, early country artists. He was born in Carroll Country, Virginia and raised by his father and three cousins, who taught him traditional Blue Ridge Mountain songs. He married as a young man and, when not working various odd jobs, played music for friends and neighbors. After hearing a Henry Whitter record and swearing he could do better, in 1924 he set off to New York to get a recording contract and prove it. His first single, "The Sinking of the Titanic," came out on the Okeh label later that year and became one of the biggest hits of the 1920s. At first he was accompanied only by his autoharp (his best-known instrument) and harmonica, but later switched to guitar; Stoneman was also adept at playing the Jew's harp and the clawhammer banjo. In 1926, he surrounded himself with a full string band, mostly composed of relatives and
neighbors. His career reached its peak in 1927, when he became the top country artist at Victor and led the Bristol sessions, which helped the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers gain renown. Stoneman continued to record through 1929, setting down over 200 songs.
When the Great Depression hit in the early '30s, Stoneman lost everything and moved his wife and nine children to Washington, D.C. They remained there in desperate poverty while Stoneman worked odd jobs and tried to re-establish his career, finally finding work at a munitions plant. At the end of the 1940s, he and his talented clan began performing as the Stoneman Family. By 1956, he had earned the moniker "Pop" and appeared on the NBC television game show The Big Surprise, where he won $10, 000. Later, his children's band, the Blue Grass Champs, became the Stonemans, which Pop himself joined after retiring from the plant in the late '50s. He continued appearing with them and singing lead vocals through the early '60s. In 1965, the Stonemans signed with MGM in Nashville and hosted a syndicated TV show. In 1967, Stoneman's health began to deteriorate; he continued recording and performing through the spring of 1968, until his death in June. -Sandra Brennan
Born Jun 14, 1909 in Huntington Township, Jaspar County, IL, died Apr 14, 1995 in Anacortes, WA. With his grandfatherly image, Burl Ives parlayed his talent as a folksinger into a wide-ranging career as a radio personality and stage and screen actor. After spending his early 20s traveling the country as an itinerant singer, Ives moved to New York City in 1937. By the end of 1938, he had made his Broadway debut, and he also sang folk songs in Greenwich Village clubs. In 1940, Ives began to appear regularly on radio, including his own show, The Wayfarin' Stranger, on CBS. Ives made his first records for Stinson, a small folk label, then was signed to Decca, a major label. He made his movie debut in Smoky in 1946. In 1948, his first book, Wayfaring Stranger, was published. In 1949, he had his first chart hit with "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)." The same year, he moved to Columbia Records. With the advent of the long-playing record, Ives suddenly had a flurry of LP releases from his three labels: The Wayfaring Stranger on Stinson; three volumes of Ballads & Folk Songs, Women: Folk Songs About the Fair Sex, Folk Songs Dramatic and Humorous, and Christmas Day in the Morning on Decca; and Wayfaring Stranger, Return of the Wayfaring Stranger, More Folk Songs, American Hymns, The Animal Fair and Mother Goose Songs on Columbia.
He also recorded a series of albums for Encyclopedia Brittanica Films under the overall title Historical America in Song. In 1951, he hit the Top Ten with "On Top of Old Smoky." In 1952, he returned to Decca. While continuing to publish books and to act on Broadway and in the movies, Ives made a series of albums that included Coronation Concert, The Wild Side of Life, Men, Down to the Sea in Ships, In the Quiet of the Night, Burl Ives Sings for Fun, Songs of Ireland, Old Time Varieties, Captain Burl Ives' Ark, Australian Folk Songs, and Cheers, all released in the second half of the 1950s. In 1961, Ives oriented himself toward country music, resulting in the hit "A Little Bitty Tear," which made the Top Ten in both the pop and country charts. The single was contained on The Versatile Burl Ives. "Funny Way of Laughin'" was another pop and country Top Ten in 1962; it appeared on It's Just My Funny Way of Laughin' and won Ives a Grammy Award for Best Country Western Recording.
He turned his attention primarily to movie work from 1963 on, especially with the Walt Disney studio. But he charted with Pearly Shells in 1964 and made a children's album, Chim Chim Cheree and Other Children's Choices, for Disney Buena Vista Records. At the end of the '60s, Ives returned to Columbia Records for The Times They Are A-Changin' and Softly and Tenderly. He gave up popular recording, but returned in 1973 with the country album Payin' My Dues Again. He also continued to record children's music and also released several religious albums on Word Records. Turning 70 in 1979, he became less active and finally retired to Washington State. In the '90s, Decca and the German Bear Family label reissued many of his recordings. -William Ruhlmann
In 1969, his group Mercy, shared Billboard's Top 10 with The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Credence Clearwater Revival and Frank Sinatra with their million selling Warner Brother's smash hit, "Love Can Make You Happy." The Beatles were at number 1 with "Get Back", Mercy was at number 2, Elvis at number 6 with "In The Ghetto" and Sinatra at number 7 with his signature song, "My Way." CCR also shared that Top 10 with their classic "Bad Moon Arising." It was the only time that these pop legends shared the top 10 simultaneously. Marvell still can't believe he was part of history.
Fresh from their big hit, James Marvell and another Mercy member, Buddy Good, were feeling uncomfortable with the trappings of stardom. Drugs were everywhere and promoters weren't exactly paragons of virtue. Soon Marvell heard the call of another voice-the voice of Jesus. He decided to take His direction, devoting his life's work to Christ and arming himself in a war against drugs. "I felt the mission to go into Country Music and steer kids away from drug abuse." The new duo Country Cavaleers made up of Good and Marvell was an odity because of the members' long hair. "You've got to remember it was right after the movie Easy Rider," explains Marvell.
But they got the chance to perform with such major stars as Faron Young, Freddy Fender, Barbara Mandrell, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and many of the Grand Ole Opry legends. TV appearences included ABC's Wilburn Brothers plus several of the early morning Ralph Emery TV shows at WSM. Future stars Don Williams and Dickie Lee produced their first record.
The MGM recording duo Country Cavaleers disbanded in 1976. Marvell went solo but soon turned his attention to designing jewelry for country music artists. Thousands of country fans became collectors of Marvell's specialized turquoise jewelry throughout the 80s and early 90s which he designed for such legends as Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
The new millenium now finds James Marvell still at it with over a dozen christian hits and recent appearences on TBN, Nashville Gospel, Bobby Jones and The Pat Boone Show. "Prophecy", "NewAgeWorld" and "America You Must" by Marvell have been airing daily, as theme songs, on the worldwide prophetic radio and TV program NEWSWATCH MAGAZINE. James Marvell is currently crossing over to the traditional Country side of the industry with a Hero Record's chart topper titled "Only Country Music". Plans for a second release on Hero Records are now in the works for this fall. The new song, based on the book of revelation, will also be released on the Ready Records gospel label. Visit the new Marvell site at: http://www.geocities.com/jmarvell2002 - Country Cavaleer's story at: http://www.burningcountry.com/james/marvell.html
Billy "Crash" Craddock
AKA Mr. Country Rock, born Jun 16, 1939 in Greensboro, NC.
People often associate the "Crash" nickname with auto racing, but Craddock actually got
it as a halfback in high school, crashing into linemen who were twice his size. Growing up
in Greensboro, NC, he pantomimed Grand Ole Opry shows in the family's barn with a broomstick
as a microphone, alternately pretending he was Hank Williams, Faron Young, or Carl Smith.
But when he signed a recording contract in the late '50s, Columbia tried to mold him as a
teen idol, much like Elvis Presley or Fabian. It didn't work in the U.S., but "Crash"
did pick up a trio of hits in Australia. Fifteen years later, he finally got his chance
in country music when record producer Ron Chancey signed him to his Cartwheel label.
With a knack for making re-makes of pop hits like "Knock Three Times" and "Ruby Baby" -
and for adding a certain energy to the country idiom - Craddock picked up the nickname
"Mr. Country Rock." -Tom Roland
AKA Clyde Julian Foley. Born Jun 17, 1910 in Blue Lick, KY,
Died Sep 19, 1968 in Fort Wayne, IN. Red Foley was one of the biggest stars in country during
the post-war era, a silky-voiced singer who sold some 25 million records between 1944 and 1965
and whose popularity went far in making country music a viable mainstream commodity. Born
Clyde Julian Foley on June 17, 1910, in Blue Lick, KY, he began playing guitar and harmonica
at a young age, and by the time he was 17 had taken first prize in a statewide talent
competition. While attending college in 1930, he was spotted by a talent scout from
Chicago's WLS radio and was tapped to sing with producer John Lair's Cumberland Ridge
Runners, the house band on the program National Barn Dance.
After seven years with the Ridge Runners, Lair created a new show, Renfro Valley Barn Dance,
especially to showcase Foley's talents. The singer remained with the program until late 1939,
performing everything from ballads to boogie to blues. At the same time, he became the first
country artist to host his own network radio program, Avalon Time (co-hosted by comedian
Red Skelton), and performed extensively in theaters and clubs and at fairs. After exiting
the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, Foley returned for another seven-year stint at the National
Barn Dance show. In 1941, the same year he made his film debut with Tex Ritter in the Western
The Pioneers, he signed a lifetime contract with Decca Records. His first chart single, 1944's
"Smoke on the Water," topped the charts for 13 consecutive weeks; in 1945, he was the first
major performer to record in Nashville.
In 1946, Foley signed on to emcee and perform on The Prince Albert Show, a segment of the Grand Ole Opry program broadcast on NBC; his popularity with listeners is often credited with establishing the Opry as country's pre-eminent radio show. Beginning in 1947, he began recording with his backing band, the Cumberland Valley Boys, earning another number one single with "New Jolie Blonde (New Pretty Blonde)." With the group, he recorded seven Top Five hits between 1947 and 1949, including "Tennessee Saturday Night," a chart-topper in 1948. Again recording solo in 1950, he issued the song that would become his trademark tune, "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy," which stayed in the number one position for 13 weeks.
In 1951, Foley's second wife Eva Overstake committed suicide, reportedly over the singer's affair with another woman. In order to devote the majority of his time to raising a family, he cut back considerably on his performing commitments, although he continued to release hit after hit in a variety of musical styles, including rockabilly and R&B; "(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)," a 1951 smash, was the first record ever to sell one million copies on the gospel charts. In the same year, he also released his first LP, Red Foley Souvenir Album. After several years spent in virtual retirement, in 1954 Foley was named to host The Ozark Jubilee, a country showcase for ABC television; the show was a hit, and ran through 1960. Also in 1954, he recorded the chart-topping "One By One," the first of many duets with Kitty Wells.
After The Ozark Jubilee went off the air, he spent one season co-starring with Fess Parker in the program Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Although Foley continued recording throughout most of the 1960s, his hit-making days were largely behind him. In 1967, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. After a performance in Fort Wayne, IN, on September 19, 1968, Foley died of a heart attack. Among the survivors were his daughter Betty, a popular country vocalist in her own right, and another daughter Shirley, the wife of pop crooner Pat Boone. -Jason Ankeny
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