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George (Speedy) Krise
Born:  May 7, 1922
Died:  June 9, 2011
WJLS Beckley, WV
WNOX Knoxville, TN
WOAY Oak Hill, WV
WROL Knoxville, TN

About The Artist

Speedy Krise is best known for playing Dobro on Molly O'Day's first two Columbia Record sessions in 1946 and 1947, but he was also a songwriter of note and worked in other groups as well.

Born near Hinton, West Virginia, George Krise fell in love with the Dobro as a teenager and after completing high school in 1940 soon went to WJLS radio in Beckley where he played with various other musicians including the Lilly Brothers, Jimmie Dickens, Walter Bailes, and other aspiring country stars.

He told an interviewer in 1975 that there was a radio station that carried into the mountains and they used a lot of live talent. He got the idea to put together an act that became known as Speedy Krise and His Blue Ribbon Boys.

In the early 1940's, Speedy was part of a group called the "Friendly Troubadours" and were heard over WJLS. Carl Barber was on mandolin, Roy (Beetle) Barber played guitar and bass, Bob Roseberry was a bass singer and the group's manager, Grandpaw Evans was the comedian and played 5-string banjo, Leslie Keith, trick fiddler, and on occasion, Speedy Krise on dobro.

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 - Rawhide - Sally - 1939

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

He credited Bashful Brother Oswald as his prime inspiration. His nickname came from slow mannerisms, not for his rapid dexterity on his guitar. A 1994 article reveals a humorous tale highlighting that 'speed'. His friends were in a cow pasture searching for wild grapes. A bull came charging at them. His friends ran; Speedy just kept walking.

He spoke to Mr. Zitlin of how he got his first dobro. He paid a kid $5 for a resonant guitar, the kid didn't know what it was. Speedy said he paid $10 or $12 to get it fixed. Now it's a collector's item. Originals he said are worth $1,000 and up.

Speedy does have a place in bluegrass music history. He played the dobro on a recording by Carl Butler called "Heartbreak Express", a song Speedy wrote. That recording was recognized at the time as the first use of a dobro in bluegrass which is now a common part of bluegrass bands and music.

After World War II service, Krise went to WNOX in Knoxville where the Lilly's and Lynn Davis and Molly O'Day had gone already. While his work with Molly and Lynn was most conspicuous, he also played and recorded with Bonnie Lou and Buster Moore, Archie Campbell, and Mac Odell among others. He was a regular band member for Jack Shelton and the Green Valley Boys.

While continuing to play on radio and personal appearances, and make recordings, Speedy also began to dabble in songwriting. Perhaps his most widely heard song was "A Plastic Heart" recorded by both Roy Acuff and Carl Butler. Butler did four more of Speedy's numbers in his early days on Capitol. Carl Smith, Don Gibson, Randy Hughes, and the Webster Brothers also recorded his songs. Mac Wiseman cut three of his numbers on Dot Records in the early 1950's: "Georgia Waltz," "You're Sweeter than Honey," and "Going Like Wildfire" which was covered by Jo Stafford and Frankie Laine in the popular field.

In an interview by Richard Zitrin in 1975, Speedy showed him the Billboard ad he had in his guitar case. He told Mr. Zitrin, "That song got me my best royalties. I still get statements every six months. Got sixty something dollars last time. About ready for another."

Promo Ad - Shorty and His Alabama Cotton Pickers 1938

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

About 1954 or 1955, Speedy and his wife Frieda moved back to West Virginia where he worked for a time as a featured artist with a twosome named Red and Billie Jean Lydick at WOAY radio and TV in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Since live radio was fading fast in that period, Krise left music behind and moved to Akron, Ohio following a path that many West Virginians took. He told an interviewer he moved to Akron to be near his sister.

He retired on disability in 1973 and slowly became more musically active again, even renewing his friendship with Lynn Davis and Molly O'Day although they never performed together in public again.

In 1994, a video premiered at the Mary Pickford Thearter at the Library of Congress. It was titled, "George 'Speedy' Krise: Country Music Pioneer." It was a 24 minute video and Charles Bean, co-producer stated, "He not only introduced it (dobro), he was the master of it."

Speedy did occasionally make a guest appearance but made no discs although he did preserve some of his music on cassettes and even sang some his newly written originals.

In his last years, he relocated to the Virginia Tidewater where one of his daughters resided.

He died in 2011. He had been married to his wife Freda Mae for 67 years.

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.
  • His life is like a country ballad; Richard Zitrin; June 8, 1975; Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • 'Friendly Troubadours' in 1940s November 14, 1975; Beckley Post-Herald; Beckley, WV
  • West Virginia Native Honored For Bringing Dobro to Bluegrass; William Hershey; November 20, 1994; Post-Crescent; Appleton, WI

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