Hillbilly-Music.com—The People. The Music. The History.
Mozelle Phillips
Born:  May 20, 1932
Died:  March 20, 2014
WMPM Smithfield, NC

About The Artist

Mozelle Phillips was one of the early female pioneers of hillbilly music. Her distinction was being a female disc jockey in an era when it seemingly was the male dominion. She was known as the 'Darling of the Hillbillies' and in old personal appearance ads would bill herself as 'Your Hillbilly Gal'.

But before she began spinning records, she was leading a group called the Carolina Swingbillies.

She found herself being a DJ on radio station WMPM in Smithfield, North Carolina. She was doing two shows a day. She also had another uniqueness to her stint. She wrote and sold her own radio commercials as well as working the control board during her shows. As you might expect, she and her band were doing personal appearances throughout eastern North Carolina.

We found an old newspaper ad that indicated she was appearing with Jackie Butler at the Carolina Theatre in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on Saturday, March 1, 1952.

As a disc jockey, she made the annual trip to Nashville for WSM's Grand Ole Opry Birthday Celebration and disc jockey convention. One publication shows her joining in an impromptu rendition with Arlie Duff of his classic "Y'all Come" with folks such as John Banks of KRDU; Jimmy Thompson, WNPT; G. B. Mitche, WNPT and Mozelle.

A writer by the name of "Bud Ballad" told "Pickin' and Singin' News" readers about the first arrivals at the 1954 Convention that was held November 20 and 21, 1954. It seems that the first arrivals that year were two disc jockeys that spun their records 3,000 miles apart on opposite coasts. John Banks of KRDU in Dinuba, California and Mozelle Phillips from WMPM in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Mr. Ballad indicated that John Banks flew his own plane to the convention. Mozelle, who was billing herself then as "...the Minnie Pearl of Johnson County, N.C." was flown in by Myrtle Thompson of Selma, North Carolina.

She and Mr. Banks told Mr. Ballad that people wanted those country music disc jockey shows. She said she broke her own station manager's "no women" rule when drawing 145 letters from listeners in a twelve hour period.

That 1954 convention she attended got further notice for Mozelle and another female performer, Ann Jones. An article local Rocky Mount N. C. Evening Telegram entitled "How To Play Hillbilly Music" shed light on the bit of sexism that the female performers ran into.

"Sex and glamor are strictly taboo for the gal who wants to get ahead in hillbilly music.

That's the opinion of successful women who have invaded a field once reserved for men. This verdict was reached as disc jockeys from the United States and Canada met here (sic, in Nashville) for the National Disc Jockey Festival.

Ann Jones, of Vancouver, Wash., and Mozelle Phillips of Raleigh, N.C., who both spin records and sing country music were free with advice.

To be successful in country music, particularly as an artist, a woman should stick to ginghams and steer clear of fancy hairdoes and figure-revealing clothes, they agreed. If you've got glamor, play it down.

'It pays to be yourself. I'm a plain old country girl and I sing from the heart. There's nothing a fan catches quicker than a put-on and insincerity,' said Miss Phillips.

Miss Jones said she strived for warmth of personality while bringing to her programs a genuine love for country music.

In 1955, she became a member of the "Smile-A-While Boys" who were popular in the eastern North Carolina area. She was doing shows for WFMY-TV in Greensboro as well as WNAO-TV in Raleigh.

She later joined forces with Jim Thornton, a popular performer in that area.

On May 20, 1955, Mozelle broke the proverbial glass ceiling when she became the first female disc jockey to appear on WSM's Mr. D. J. USA show.

Timeline and Trivia Notes

Carolina Swingbillies Group Members:
  • Mozelle Phillips - Guitar, vocals and emcee
  • D. Johnson, fiddle
  • Thelbert Phillips, guitar and vocals
  • James Sullivan, bass and vocals
  • Ollie Johnson, piano and vocals

Credits and Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation to David Moore, son of Mozelle Phillips for helping us put together this biography.
  • The Rocky Mount Evening Telegram; March 1, 1952; Rocky Mount, NC
  • Hoedown Magazine; Vol. 1 No. 1; September 1953; Artist Publications, Inc.; Cincinnati, OH
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 31; May 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Charlton Building, Derby, CT
  • The Rocky Mount Evening Telegram; November 19, 1954; Rocky Mount, NC
  • Pickin' and Singin' News; December 14, 1953; Chas. G. Neese, Inc.; 303 Home Federal Building, Nashville, TN
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 34; June 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Charlton Building; Derby, CT
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 40; April 1955; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Charlton Building; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 41; November 1955; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Charlton Building, Derby, CT