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Johnny Haynes
and his Melody Wranglers
Born:  March 16, 1924
Died:  April 17, 1979
WEBQ Harrisburg, IL
WJPF Herrin, IL

About The Artist

Johnny Haynes was on the music scene in the late 1940s. His band was known as the Melody Wranglers. They appeared to be a regional act that worked over radio station WEBQ in Harrisburg, Illinois. You could hear them every night for a half hour at 7:00pm and every Saturday at 11:30am.

From an article we found in 1948, the band members were all from Southern Illinois and pretty much grew up together.

Their sponsors were the Minton Electic and Musical Supply Co. in West Frankfort, Illinois.

Johnny Haynes and his Melody Wranglers 1948 We rediscovered an article Johnny's daughter had sent us in 2005 about the band's recording contract that appeared to get quite a bit of local attention. A 1948 article by Merle Jones gave the band a bit of a boost by introducing the article, "Hillbilly bands have been a dime a dozen around Southern Illinois radio, night club and entertainment circles for a number of years, but an outfit known as the "Melody Wranglers" is waiting anxiously the next few days to find out whether it is going 'big time'."

Mr. Jones also played up the aspect that some were afraid to admit they liked such music. He said in his article, "Most people say privately that they don't care much for the hillbilly music, but we'd venture a private guess that the "Grand Ole Opery" runs the "Hit Parade" a merry race on Saturday nights and that both attract far more listeners than the heavy opera programs on Sunday afternoon." The opera music mention is interesting in that The Solemn Ole Judge himself named the it the Grand Ole Opry because the show had followed a grand opera show on the radio from New York.

The excitement was around the recording date they had scheduled for Melody Trail Records (based in Palmdale, California) on May 10, 1948. We have found evidence of one of the recordings - "Mother, Say A Prayer For Your Son, Johnny" b/w "My Blue and Troubled Mind". Two other sides were to be recorded as well, "I'll Let Another Take My Place b/w "Lost On A River Of Dreams".

Mr. Jones indicated that the recording contract came about by 'accident'. In September 1947, Johnny and his band recorded several test recordings and sent them to Lancaster, California to see what 'big brother' thought of their efforts. That brother was Sidney Haynes. He liked them so much he played them for a few of his friends. One was Raymond Parker, who owned a recording company. Mr. Parker was said to have borrowed the records so he could play them for a few others in the recording industry to get their feedback, which was favorable and led to the contract. The recordings were made quickly before the big recording ban took effect in that era. Billboard magazine in 1948 was not too kind towards the two recordings issued. The first one, the magazine complained about surface noise and the murky recording quality. But they did mention that in spite of the recording flaws, "...Johnny sings well in deep folk style." On the second release in September, Billboard while it was an authentic hillbilly music recording, the reviewer thought it was a bit off-key.

Johnny got his start with the Sid, Verg and Johnny trio over radio station WJPF in Herrin, Illinois. He went solo when World War II broke the group up and then formed the Melody Wranglers. He later married the former Floella Rose Walker, of Herrin.

Group Members:

  • Johnny Haynes, guitar, vocals
  • Rocky Wohlend, fiddle
  • Harley Hicks, bass
  • Erny Hornby, guitar
  • Clarence (Spud) Haynes, steel guitar (Johnny's brother)

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-music.com would like to express its appreciation to Patty (Haynes) McClees-Banfield (daughter of Johnny Haynes) for providing us with details, articles and photos of her father.
  • Bill Boyd Ranch House News; Anniversary Issue; 1948; Vol. 5 Nos. 4-5-6; Bill Boyd Ranch House News; 3308 Townsend Drive; Fort Worth, TX
  • Murphysboro Independent; May 7, 1948; Murphysboro, IL
  • Murphysboro Independent; May 22, 1948; Murphysboro, IL
  • The Billboard; June 26, 1948; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
  • The Billboard; September 11, 1948; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Melody Trail Records
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  187 A Mother Say A Prayer For Your Son, Johnny
  187 B My Blue And Troubled Mind
  189 A Down In Nashville, Tennessee
  189 B Lost On A River Of Dreams

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