About The Artist
Although Mel and Stan Hankinson were not really twins and lived in Kentucky only in early childhood, they did exemplify the harmony duet tradition that characterized much of what country music fans loved about the sounds of that era.
Natives of Harlan County, Kentucky, father Walter Hankinson moved his family to Chambersville, Pennsylvania about 1925, where working and living conditions were better. During the latter years of the Great Depression, the brothers worked some for the Civilian Conservation Corps and sometimes made a little cash playing music for local square dances. Later they played a bit on local radio stations.
With World War II over, the brothers decided to try their luck in Nashville. While they had no luck at either the Opry or rival WLAC, they did land a spot at KMOX in St. Louis. In 1947, they tried Nashville again and making a favorable impression on Bill Monroe got a featured position at WSM on the Opry.
They also landed a contract with Majestic Records on the strength of an original song, "Tennessee Gambler," cutting a total of four songs for that label.
In 1949, they switched over to Capitol Records having twelve songs made in 1949 and released over the next year or so.
During the winter of 1949, they left the Opry for KWKH Shreveport, an unhappy move as events developed and they returned to "Music City," but to WLAC for six months.
Meanwhile, relatives back in Pennsylvania were urging them to come closer to home. Therefore, they secured a spot at the WWVA Jamboree where they spent a year working partly with Red Belcher who always loved duets, and also toured with Hawkshaw Hawkins and the Sunshine Boys Quartet.
However, their interest in show business and constant travel began to wane, so they moved to Michigan and played occasional weekends in the clubs.
In 1953, they were lured back into entertainment via both radio and television at WABI in Bangor, Maine. They seldom had to travel out of the state and encountered old friends from WWVA who toured in New England as did a few Opry acts.
By 1956, they decided to retire from the musical world. Mel returned to Pennsylvania where he worked in a steel mill for twenty-two years before retiring. Stan worked in Chillicothe, Ohio for eighteen years, and then with a coal renaissance in progress, went back to the mines of the Southern Ohio Coal Company for seven years retiring in 1982.
Both had long retirements, and occasionally got together to sing a bit. Mel died in 2000 and Stan in 2014. A guitar adorns Stan's tombstone in Hamden, Ohio.
Credits & Sources
Appearance History This Month
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