Another legend of the golden age of Ozarks broadcasting has gone to Hillbilly Heaven.
Speedy Haworth died early Tuesday after a long struggle with Parkinson's
disease. He was 85.
Haworth spent his life picking, playing, and singing his way into the hearts of home
folks. He was one of the best, on par with Chet Atkins and Les Paul, but preferred to
stand out of the spotlight.
“Red Foley asked me if I ever wanted to make a record, and I told him no.
I was happy doing what I was doing,” he said in an interview in 2002.
Haworth made his debut on KWTO radio in 1932 with the Goodwill Trio, along with
Slim Wilson and "Aunt Martha." The group later became the Goodwill Family
when Guy Smith joined the group.
KY3-produced “Ozark Jubilee” on ABC introduced Haworth to a national television
audience in the late ‘50s. He also played on the Slim Wilson Show as a member
of the Tall Timber Trio with Wilson and Bob White.
Fellow performers like Porter Wagoner decided to go on to Nashville but
Haworth preferred Springfield. He did play some in Nashville alongside West Plains native
Porter Wagoner, Rex Allen, and Leroy Van Dyke.
“I was part of Porter's trio; then he traded me in for Dolly Parton,” he laughed.
Haworth started singing on radio with his mom, uncle and broadcast family in the ‘30s and was a
household name before he was 21 years old.
“Well, they were talent. They came in, the mike went on and they did their thing,”
said Fred Lynn, a former KWTO announcer and longtime friend.
Lynn recalls the crowds who came to KWTO's studios to watch Haworth play.
“He was the world's greatest guitar player,” Lynn said.
Who you heard and saw was who he was.
“When he played, he would lose track of his surroundings, abandoned in his music,” said
His daughter and fellow singer, Shirley Jean, remembers a humble man who
was happiest sharing the music his audiences loved.
“When he played, it was like angels fingers on the strings,” she said.
Almost exactly a year ago, Haworth fell in Bolivar while going to play his guitar
at a dance. He broke his hip and required several weeks of rehabilitation after
surgery. He was in hospice care for several weeks before his death.
Visitation for Haworth will be Thursday night from 6 to 8 at Rivermonte Funeral Home,
4500 S. Lone Pine Av. His funeral is Friday morning at 10, also at Rivermonte.
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