About the Group
The Drifting Pioneers started making music together traveling together
with various "Prairie Farmer" shows and other theater units throughout
the country. The began making radio appearances over a small station
in Illinois and soon were appearing on other stations in the midwest.
They stated at WLW in Cincinnati in 1937.
Upon hearing Judy Dell sing some of her mountain songs in an appearance
on WLW, the Drifting Pioneers decided they needed a female singer in their
act. Judy was just a teenager approaching twenty years of age and barely
five feet tall if that. The group also added Denny who provided the comedy
Walter and Bill Brown were brothers and were from Springerton, Illinois, a
small town in southern Illinois near the Indiana state line, just north
of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Walter was the younger of the brothers. Morris
Marlin was a native of Carmi, Illinois (just east of Springerton) and
did most of their vocal solos. Merle Travis, even back then was already
making a name for himself as a guitar player, was from the hills of Kentucky,
Drakesboro. Merle was also the youngest in the group.
They wrote in back about 1941 that "When Happy Hal introduces Merle Travis
and the Drifting Pioneers, you're bound to hear fiddlin', guitar-pickin'
or old-fashioned singin' done in true southern style." They sang as a quartet
and its said their renditions of hymns, gospel songs and spirituals were
hard to top.
Timeline and Trivia Notes
Group members included:
- Morris "Sleepy" Marlin, fiddle, vocal solos
- Walter Brown, mandolin, tenor vocals, emcee
- Bill Brown, bass violin, baritone vocals
- Merle "Pappy" Travis, bass vocals, guitar
- Judy Dell
Credits & Sources
- Drifting Pioneers Song Folio No. 1; 1939; American Music, Inc.; Portland, Oregon.
- Favorite Songs of the WLW Boone County Jamboree; 1941?; M.M. Cole Publishing
Co.; Chicago, Illinois.