About The Artist
Herman Yarbrough was a quality electric steel guitarist who became even better known for his comic alter-ego Roscoe Swerps. He was a native of Winston-Salem North Carolina.
At age seventeen he entered the entertainment world, first on radio in Sanford, NC with a country group called Smokey Graves and the Blue Star Boys.
They moved to several locales in the Carolinas ultimately working both radio and television on WLVA-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia.
A 1956 article touting an appearance of Smokey and his group at a movie theater provided information about the group. The Blue Star Boys included Chuck Accoree, Eddie Edcot, Lew Fields, Carroll Ray, Wilson Ray, Herman Yarborough and Vivian Armstrong.
Herman and more experienced show business veteran Jody Rainwater did a comedy act within the group. About 1949, he developed the zany character "Roscoe Swerps."
After a time the Blue Star Boys disbanded and Yarbrough went to work in a mental hospital in Stanton.
In 1958, Buddy Starcher organized a new group for both radio and TV at one of his stomping grounds, WSVA in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Two years later the whole band came to WCHS-TV in Charleston, West Virginia where Herman/Roscoe would remain for the rest of his life.
The Buddy Starcher Show and its successor the Sleepy Jeffers Show became one of the great success stories of local daily early morning television. It thrived for thirteen years and regularly outdrew the rival NBC Today Show in ratings.
Along with quality steel guitar work, "Roscoe Swerps" with his Bermuda shorts and sideways baseball cap became a long time favorite with local audiences.
After Starcher went to Nashville after the success of "History Repeats Itself" Yarbrough chose to remain in Charleston where the show continued with Jeffers at the helm until April 1973.
The ratings begin to slip a bit in the last year or so and the CBS network also pressured its affiliates to carry their morning show.
About 1975, the program was revived for thirteen weeks on WHTN-TV in Huntington, West Virginia, but the glory days were over.
Yarbrough had earlier begun to supplement his income as an automobile salesman.
He was still in demand for a show now and then and after he retired the comical steel player picked up his old career, but played gratis at the Elkview Community Center.
While often asked to record some of his material, he never did. His only recordings were as a steel player on some of Buddy Starcher's Starday recordings and on small labels with some of the other Buddy Starcher associates.
His widow, Edith (B: June 1, 1932 — D: May 25, 2019),
became the unofficial historian of the Starcher-Jeffers years in Charleston. She furnished
much information and many photographs for this writer's articles on them and also for the
book West Virginia's Traditional Country Music (2015).
Credits & Sources
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