Arlie was born in Jack's Branch, Texas and graduated from Nederland High
School, where "Pee Wee" Duff (as he was known then) was
an All-State basketball player his senior year. Later, he
served his country in the US Navy for three years during
World War II. After his discharge, He continued his education and earned a
Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Master of Arts in
Education degree from Stephen F. Austin State College in
Nacogdoches , TX. While attending college, he continued his basketball
prowess, being named to the All-Conference team while being
captain of the varsity team.
Arlie had written a number of songs - novelties, ballads and religious
numbers - but never took any of them seriously until he met
Gordon Baxter, a Port Arthur, Texas, disc jockey. Mr. Baxter, who
had worked with Arlie on college shows, encouraged Arlie to
keep on singing.
Arlie took his friend's advice. He did some singing with Blackie
Crawford and his "Western Cherokees," and soon became a regular member.
He was teaching school and coaching until he wrote the country classic,
"Y'all come" (originally, it was titled "You All Come").
Arlie Duff, was known as the "Singing School Teacher." His
recording on Starday of "Y'all Come," was the toast of the South
back then and its popularity spread far and wide. One of the first
name artists to record it was a Decca recording by Bing Crosby. Artists
who have recorded "Y'all Come" include:
- Bing Crosby
- Patti Page
- Bill Monroe
- Bobby Bare
- Faron Young
- Grandpa Jones
- George Jones
- Bobby Vinton
- Minnie Pearl
- Glen Campbell
- Buck Owens
- Porter Wagoner
- Cousin Herb Henson
- The Wills Brothers
- Arlie Duff
- Gene Pitney
- Pete Drake
- Little Jimmy Dickens
In the mid-1950s, Arlie Duff was making a name for himself
in the south, in states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. He was
said to have a big smile and a voice to match. They wrote that
every time he stepped on stage, audiences would commence to
clapping their hands and stomping their feet and start
shouting "Y'all Come" at the top of their lungs, singing along
to his signature song, "Y'all Come".
His daughter Becky related to us a story of one such incident she
saw as a youngster at one of Arlie's concert appearances, even nearly a decade after
writing and recording the song. It was in 1969 in Austin, Texas where
he was well known locally. Arlie was asked to emcee country acts
that performed at the Municipal Auditorium from time to time. On this
particular show, the stars appearing on stage were George Jones,
Tammy Wynnette and Jerry Lee Lewis. They had each performed several
songs and the crowd was really energetic.
While George was on stage, he yelled out to Arlie to come out and sing
"Y'all Come". Becky was backstage and could see the stage and the crowd.
She remembers: "When Dad started singing, the crowd was off their
chairs and went wild with cheering and clapping. There were several
encores with George joining in the second round."
She remembers being blown away by the enthusiasm and excitement of
the crowd, beginning to realize just how popular that song was.
It was the highlight of the evening, which said a lot considering
the talent that was performing on stage that night.
When Arlie was a part of the KNUZ Houston Hometown Jamboree in 1954,
they said he was the featured attraction of the show. His Starday recordings
and singing was gaining him rave reviews. "Y'all Come" was the theme
song of the Houston Hometown Jamboree and the audience always got into
it and joining in the singing of the chorus.
Arlie began singing with his father Adolphus and sister Lois at
a very early age. The "Duff Trio," as the group was called then,
were a group that were known for the gospel tunes they performed
and were quite popular at singing conventions and school shows
such as the Stamps, Hartford and Vaughn Music Company conventions
Arlie Duff married the former Nancy White after an 18 day courtship on
October 10, 1954. The wedding took place during the Louisiana Hayride. Red Foley
was best man and sang "I love You Truly" and "Every Step of the Way". It
seems that Arlie had just joined the cast of Red Foley's show, "Ozark
Jubilee" a few weeks before that. It was there he first met Nancy. The ushers
for the bridegroom included other notable members of the Ozark Jubilee radio
cast: Hawkshaw Hawkins, Porter Wagoner, Billy Walker and Tommy Sosebee.
They were married for 42 years and they had nine children.
Arlie's songwriting earned him awards:
- BMI Music Award for 'Y'all Come' 1953
- BMI Music Award for "It's the Little Things", recorded by Sonny James 1968
Arlie also appeared on Herb Henson's TV and Radio Show out of Bakersfield,
California as well as on the AV Bamford Tour.
Some of the other songs that Arlie wrote and the artists who recorded them:
- It's The Little Things
- Building Memories
- Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow
- Til I Hear It From You
- Another Story
- Alligator Come Across
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly and Cowboy Hit Parade No. 5 (Spring 1954) Capitol Stories, Inc.;
Charlton Building; Derby, CT.
- Country Song Roundup No. 34 (Sep 1954); American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- Country Song Roundup No. 33 (Jul-Aug 1954); American Folk Publications, Inc.;
- The Original Country Music Who's Who Annual for 1960; Cardinal Enterprises, Inc.;
Edited and Produced by Thurston Moore; 659 East 6th Street; Cincinnati 2, Ohio
- Portions of Discography Listing courtesy of Hillbilly
Reasearcher Team; Tricker, Turner and Sax