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Bashful Harmonica Joe
Born:  March 25, 1912
Died:  June 21, 2000
WBZ Boston, MA
WHAM Rochester, NY
WHK Cleveland, OH
WJW Cleveland, OH
WSYR Syracuse, NY
WJR Detroit, MI (1949)

About The Artist

Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers 1938 Joe Troyan was a Pleasant City, Ohio native who became known as an expert harmonica player and spent many years as a professional musician, primarily in northern states.

His entry into a music career came through working a talent contest in Akron where he met young Marshall (later "Grandpa") Jones. They worked together on radio in Cleveland and Akron and also with Warren Caplinger's Pine Ridge String Band.

When that ended, they went back to working in taverns until the opportunity came to work with the well-known country radio star Bradley Kincaid beginning on March 6, 1935.

Troyan and Jones worked and traveled together for a year until Jones, who adopted the Grandpa image in that time, departed to work at WWVA in Wheeling. He and Joe continued to be lifelong friends.

Joe later joined forces with Claude Moye who was known to radio listeners as "Pie Plant Pete" (a term for rhubarb) and they worked for many years on the airwaves in Cleveland, Detroit, and Rochester, and for lesser periods in Toledo and Syracuse.

Pete (1906-1988) was an Illinois native and many of his songs dealt with agricultural themes such as "You Wouldn't Know the Whitewashed Stable Now."

Both spent time in military service during World War II, but then returned to radio until live programming was phased out.

Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers 1938 Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers - Rawhide - Sally - 1939

Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers 1938 Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers - Rawhide - Sally - 1939

Joe recorded a couple of tunes for the Process label around 1969. The tunes were recorded under the name Mr. Guppy and were "The House Inside of Me" b/w "Me and My Teddy Bear." Billboard magazine reported that Joseph Troyan produced the record for a company based in Franklin, PA. A Question and Answer column in an Akron newspaper tells readers Joe was known for his barnyard sound effects.

In March of 1985, a tribute show was held for Grandpa Jones. It re-united Grandpa with Bradley Kincaid and Bashful Harmonica Joe. The three of them recreated one of their old routines - "I Love My Rooster"; George R. Hubbard wrote in the Louisville newspaper that Joe was hilarious with his antics and sound effects as a rooster, duck and pig.

Pete had recorded some on his own between 1929 and 1935, but their only recording together was a series of discs for Norman Kelly's Process Label in 1947.

In his later years, one could find Joe still ever the entertainer showing up for gigs at nursing homes and other such venues, sometimes recreating his vaudeville act from the 1930's and spreading cheer among the folks.

In September 1991, Bashful Harmonica Joe was one of 18 broadcasters to be inducted into Akron's Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The inductees that year included such people as Chris Schenkel.

Research uncovered a small bit of trivia. When long time announcer for the David Letterman show Bill Wendell retired, some of the news accounts were reporting some tidbits. When Bill was at WHAM in Rochester, NY, he was introducing acts such as Bashful Harmonica Joe and that gig led to a job on NBC.

After the pair retired some years later, Joe returned to Cleveland where he passed away at the age of eighty-eight.

Pie Plant Pete and Bashful Harmonica Joe
— Read about their career together by CLICKING HERE.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Selling Sounds; October 25, 1969; The Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
  • Action Line; January 30, 1972; Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • Lonesome Pine Salutes Grandpa Jones; George R. Hubbard; March 16, 1985; The Courier-Journal; Louisville, KY
  • Nursing Homes Call Family Most Important; December 10, 1987; Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • Santa's Helper Makes Sure Party For Elderly Goes On; December 17, 1989; Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • 18 Broadcasters To Be Honored; September 13, 1991; Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • Voice of 'Late Night' Retires; August 13, 1995; The Dispatch; Moline, IL

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5027 A Show Me
  5027 B I Saw Her First