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Callahan Brothers
WWVA Original Jamboree
KRLD Dallas, TX
KVOO Tulsa, OK
KWFT Wichita Falls, TX
WHAS Louisville, KY
WKRC Cincinnati, OH
WWNC Asheville, NC
WWVA Wheeling, WV

About The Group

The Callahan Brothers ranked among the more significant and popular brother duets of the 1930's and intermittently for some years afterwards. Natives of the Asheville, North Carolina area, Homer and Walter worked on local radio and at the folk festival managed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, securing a contract with the American Record Corporation. This led to radio work at such major radio outlets as WHAS Louisville and WWVA Wheeling, and eventually KRLD Dallas.

While Walter sometimes dropped out for brief spells, Homer continued in radio as a bass player or comedian in some musical capacity until his brother returned. When the Callahans went to Texas, they dropped their given first names and became Bill and Joe. In addition to their vocal duet, the Callahans were also well known for duet yodeling. After Joe retired from music in the early 1950's, Bill continued work as a bass player until he was past 80.

An appearance at the Rhododendron Festival at Asheville in 1933 attracted attention from both radio and record folk. In January 1934, the boys journeyed to New York for their first session and they did their early airwave work at local WWNC, but soon moved to the larger WHAS in Louisville. A popular early recording was W. C. Handy's "St Louis Blues," but their original "She's My Curly Headed Baby" became their best number. "Little Poplar Log House," which was covered by the Carter Family, probably ranked second. On their next session in 1934, sister Alma Callahan joined them on three songs which were released as the Callahan Family. The Brothers remained with the American Record Corporation through 1939.

Promo Ad - Paramount Theater - Asheville, NC - Callahan Brothers - December 1934
Promo Ad - Kings Mountain High School - Kings Mountain, NC - Callahan Brothers - October 1935

Promo Ad - Cochocton High School - Coshocton, OH - Frankie More Log Cabin Boys and Girls - Cousin Emmy - Little Shoe - Callahan Brothers - Shorty Hobbs - February 1937
Promo Ad - Liberty Bowl - Mangum, OK - Callahan Brothers - June 1946
Radio Log - KWFT - Wichita Falls, TX - Callahan Brothers - April 1941
Promo Ad - Woodland Auditorium - Lexington, KY - Callahan Brothers - Log Cabin Boys - Cousin Emmy - Bob Drake - Hoosier Maids - March 1936

Promo Ad - Schepps Palms Baseball Park - Corpus Christi, TX - Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys - Lefty Frizzell - Callahan Brothers - April 1951
Promo Ad - Caddo High School Auditorium - Caddo, OK - Callahan Brothers - February 1945
Promo Ad - James Theatre - Newport News, VA - T. Texas Tyler - Callahan Brothers - Aubrey Gass - Bobby Rinard - April 1952

In 1935, the Callahans moved to Louisville and station WHAS where they were managed by Joe L. Frank, later known for his relationship with Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys. The Brothers also made the acquaintance of Roy Hobbs who would play mandolin on their 1936 recording session. These later recordings included such songs as the traditional "Banks of the Ohio" and "Katie Dear;" covers of songs like Cliff Carlisle's "End of Memory Lane;" new ones of their own like "Gonna Quit My Rowdy Ways," a rewrite of Jimmie Rodgers' "North Carolina Moon" (from Mississippi Moon"); and the lesser-known team of Fleming and Townsend's "Gonna Quit Drinkin' when I Die" which showcased their duet yodeling.

After leaving Louisville, the Callahans spent a few months at WWVA Wheeling, West Virginia. Walter decided to take a leave and Homer went to WLW Cincinnati where he worked with Red Foley and some of the groups contracted to John Lair who was broadcasting his Renfro Valley Barn Dance complex while also working WLW's own Boone County Jamboree.

Some of the Lair contractees such as Violet Koehler and Daisy Lang of the Coon Creek Girls were becoming unhappy with Lair's low pay. Feeling less loyalty to him, the Ledford girls decided to leave and go west with the reunited Callahan Brothers first to KWTO, Springfield, Missouri; KVOO Tulsa and then to KRLD Dallas.

Once in Texas, Homer and Walter shortened their stage names to Bill and Joe and were known as such for the rest of their professional lives. Doing their last session for Columbia (formerly American Record Corp.), the Brothers were now managed by Gus Foster of Texas Roundup fame. They alternated broadcasting live from KRLD or from KWFT in Wichita Falls. They also made transcriptions for the Sellers Company in Ft. Worth.

The Callahan Brothers did their last pre-war recording session on April 22, 1941 cutting seven numbers for Decca, one of which was never released. Homer switched to bass on this session while 18-year old Paul Buskirk (newly arrived from West Virginia) played mandolin. Songs included "John Henry," a new unrecorded number by West Virginia composer Buddy Starcher (uncredited and probably learned from Buskirk), and "The're at Rest Together," a sad number about young lovers dying from consumption. It may have been the boys smoothest session.

By the end of the war they were slowing down. They did make a motion picture for Monogram starring Jimmy Wakely titled Springtime in Texas (1945). Afterward, Joe worked less; Bill often played bass and did comedy with other groups not only in Texas, but elsewhere as well. Most notably he did a long tour with singing cowboy Ray Whitley during which time, he made a single on the Philadelphia-based Cowboy label about 1947.

When Lefty Frizzell found sudden stardom in 1950-1951, Bill managed him for a time and the Callahan Brothers toured with him as an opening act. They also recorded eight more numbers on Columbia. None were hits, but they demonstrated that the Callahans could adapt to changing styles.

After this Joe went back to North Carolina and operated a grocery store, but returned for a few shows in the mid-sixties. He died in September 1971.

Bill continued to do comedy and play bass in Texas although his main occupation was working for an auto parts firm. By the 1970's he worked as a photographer when John Morris of Old Homestead Records and I met him as he was photographing members of a church for a directory.

He and John were working on what became the first (OH 90031) of four reissue albums. The others were two on the German label Cattle and one on BACM. Bill would call us periodically thereafter for several years. He died in Dallas at age 90.

Promo Photo - KRLD Big D Jamboree - Callahan Brothers
Promo Photo - KRLD Big D Jamboree - Callahan Brothers - Spike Jones

Cover Photo - Song Exchange News - Summer 1940 - Callahan Brothers

Credits & Sources

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  20200 A Maple On The Hill
  20200 B Take The News To Mother
  20207 A Greenback Dollar
  20207 B Just One Year
  20212 A Cowboy Jack
  20212 B Freight Train Blues
  20216 A Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye
  20216 B She's My Curly Headed Baby No. 3
  20232 A She's My Curly Headed Baby
  20232 B Once I Had A Darling Mother
  20237 A Lonesome Freight Train Blues
  20237 B My Blue Eyed Jane
  20272 B Lord I'm Coming Home
  20881 A This Crazy, Crazy Feeling
  20881 B Blue Letters
  20946 A I've Had My Share Of Sorrow
  20946 B All Over You
  21001 A Bluest Blues On My Mind
  21001 B I Have Shifted Gears
  21047 A You Have Used My Heart
  21047 B Lips That Tell A Lie
  37601 A Take The News To Mother
  37601 B Maple On The Hill
  37608 A Just One Year
  37608 B Greenback Dollar
  37613 A Cowboy Jack
  37613 B Freight Train Blues
  37617 A Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye
  37617 B She's My Curly Headed Baby No. 3
  37633 A Once I Had A Darling Mother
  37633 B She's My Curly Headed Baby
  37634 A T.B Blues No.2
  37634 B Rattlesnake Daddy
  37638 A My Blue Eyed Jane
  37638 B Lonesome Freight Train Blues
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  8275 A She's My Curly Headed Baby
  8275 B Once I Had a Darling Mother
  8384 A New Birmingham Jail No. 3
  8384 B Little Poplar Log House On The Hill
  8389 A Take The News To Mother
  8501 A Rattlsnake Daddy
  8501 B T.B. Blues No. 2
  8627 A Browns' Ferry Blues No. 2
  8627 B Lonesome And Weary Blues
  8682 A Sweet Violets
  8682 B Green Back Dollar
  8689 A Maple On The Hill
  8731 A Freight Train Blues
  8731 B Gonna Quit Drinking When I Die
  8790 A Somebody's Been Using That Thing
  8790 B She's Always On My Mind
  8881 A She's Just That Kind No. 2
  8881 B Mama don't Be So Mean To Me
  8948 A She's My Curly Headed Baby No. 3
  8948 B Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye
  9144 A The Price I Had To Pay
  9144 B The Dying Girl's Farewell
  9145 A Asheville Blues
  9145 B Katie Dear (Silver Dagger)
  9222 A Best Pal I Had Is Gone
  9222 B I Want To Ask The Stars
  9223 A Lonesome Freight Train Blues
  9223 B My Blue Eyed Jane
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5952 A Sweet Thing
  5952 B They're At Rest Together
  5998 A A Jealous Woman Wont Do
  5998 B John Henry
  6045 A Sad Memories
  6045 B My Darling Little Girl
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  6-07-51 A Sweet Violets
  6-07-51 B Gonna Quit Drinkin' When I Die
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  04358 A St Louis Blues
  04358 B I Don't Want To Hear Your Name
  04359 A Once I Had A Darling Mother
  04359 B She's My Curly Headed Baby
  04360 A Little Poplar Log House On The Hill
  04360 B New Birmingham Jail No.3
  04361 A If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray
  04361 B Lord I'm Coming Home
  04362 A T.B. Blues No.2
  04363 A Sweet Violets
  04363 B Gonna Quit Drinking When I Die
  04483 A The Dying Girl's Farewell
  04483 B The Price I Had To Pay
  04716 A I Want To Ask The Stars
  04716 B The Best Pal I Had Is Gone
  04779 A My Blue Eyed Jane
  04779 B Lonesome Freight Train Blues
  04883 A Dovie Darling
  04883 B Oh Lord Show Me The Light

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