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Lonesome Pine Fiddlers
Bluegrass Hall of Honor (2009)
WHIS Bluefield, WV
WLAP Lexington, KY
WLSI Pikesville, KY

About The Group

The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers was a string band that morphed from old time music to bluegrass and country, and finally back to bluegrass. Always led by bass fiddle player Ezra Cline, they existed from 1938 to 1968 with various personnel that often included his cousins Curley Ray, Ireland (known as Lazy Ned), and Charlie. The most significant non-family members were Paul Williams, Ray Goins, and Melvin Goins.

For brief periods Bobby Osborne and Larry Richardson played a key role in transitioning them to a bluegrass sound. Other noted members for a brief time included Billy Edwards and Udell McPeak. From the mid-sixties as a part-time group until they dissolved, Landon Messer and Lowell Varney worked with them.

Pvt. Ireland Cline - Killed in WW2 in Normandy - Dec 1944 Ezra Cline first organized the Fiddlers in 1938 consisting of his wife's brothers Curley Ray on fiddle, Lazy Ned on tenor banjo, and Gordon Jennings guitar. They played at radio station WHIS in Bluefield.

After the coming of World War II and gasoline rationing, the Fiddlers left radio and played only around Baisden and Gilbert until restrictions were lifted. Meanwhile, Ned Cline had been killed in the Normandy invasion and fifteen year-old Charlie Cline joined when they returned to WHIS in 1946. Ironically, when the band made their first recordings in 1950, the only Cline in the band was Ezra on bass while Ray Morgan played fiddle, young Bobby Osborne played guitar, and Larry Richardson played banjo. They cut four songs on Cozy, two of which were later released on Coral, one of which — "Pain in My Heart" — was covered by the better known team of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

The success of "Pain in My Heart" helped the Fiddlers secure a contract with RCA Victor as that label's first bluegrass act. Billboard reported their signing in June 7, 1952. The label "...considered to be the first new genuinely hillbilly group to be recorded in recent years." Meanwhile, Curley Ray Cline rejoined the band and Osborne and Richardson were replaced by two teenagers. Paul Williams (born Paul Humphreys) played guitar and Ray Goins joined on banjo. After two sessions of four songs each in 1952, they left WHIS first for WOAY in Oak Hill and then for WJR Detroit and the Big Barn Frolic program. Charlie Cline who had had been working with Bill Monroe replaced Goins on banjo. A Cline relative who lived in Michigan played mandolin on the band's six-song 1953 session. "Dirty Dishes Blues" recorded in this set became their best-known number.

By the end of the year, the group was back in Appalachia, going to WLSI Pikeville, Kentucky for a long stretch. Charlie Cline left to work with Monroe again. Ray Goins rejoined on banjo and Williams was replaced by Ray's older brother, twenty-year old Melvin. In 1954, they did two more RCA sessions with James Carson helping out on mandolin. The second one in September included another pair of their classic songs, "No Curb Service" and "Windy Mountain."

In 1955, first Ray and then Melvin left the Fiddlers. Among other things, Ezra did not pay much. Curley Ray received eight dollars per day when they worked on the basis of his seniority, while Melvin and Ray received five dollars each. In addition, they split the fifty dollars weekly payment for their radio show which amounted to an additional $12.50 per man. Even in money-starved Appalachia this wasn't much. "Candy Shows" where they sold boxes of candy during intermissions (one box of which contained a cheap wrist watch) was one source of income. However, the story goes if they accidently sold that box too quickly the crowd might drift away.

In addition, Ezra operated a restaurant in Pikeville and did not want to go to what might have been a better locale. According to one unconfirmed story, Melvin Goins claimed that Ezra turned down the offer to do the Martha White Flour-sponsored programs at WSM that would do so well for Flatt and Scruggs. At any rate, the Goins Brothers were replaced by young Billy Edwards on banjo and Udell McPeak on guitar. While they made no recordings in this period, they continued to produce quality bluegrass music.

Promo Ad - Channel 6 - WHIS-TV - Cousin Ezra and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - April 1956
Promo Ad - Winter Garden - Elizabethtown, OH - The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - July 1965
Promo Ad - Mullens Drive-In Theatre - Beckley, WV - Hylo Brown - Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - Gons Brothers - August 1963

Promo Ad - Memorial Building - Hinton, WV - Grandpa Jones - Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - Clyde and Marie Dilleha - September 1947

Starday LP SLP 155 - The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - 1961
Promo Ad - Dino's Restaurant - Bristol, TN - Lonesome Pine Fiddlers

Promo Ad - Brown County Jamboree - Bean Blossom, IN - Ezra Cline and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - Hawkshaw Hawkins - May 1955
Promo Ad - Lonesome Valley Jamboree - Ole Jem Theater - Kingsport, TN - Goins Brothers - Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - May 1970

After Billy and Udell departed from the Fiddlers about 1958, Charlie Cline and his wife joined Ezra and Curley and the band shifted more toward country and they added a weekly TV show at WSAZ Huntington to their resumes. However, while Flatt and Scruggs found this one of their most lucrative outlets, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers did not. As a WSAZ-TV watcher in this period I can vouch for Thursday at 6:00 PM that Flatt and Scruggs was watched faithfully. I never heard of the Fiddlers having a program there until Melvin Goins told me about it in 1974. By 1959, syndicated TV programs were replacing the live shows. After a time the Clines shifted back to bluegrass.

By 1961, Melvin and Ray Goins were back in the band and their TV work shifted to WCYB in Bristol. Don Pierce of Starday Records was signing traditional and bluegrass acts in this time, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers among them. Over the next couple of years, the Fiddlers did three long-play albums for Starday and did a fourth one with Hylo Brown. They also had five singles released on Starday.

After this phase of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers ended, the band had become pretty much a part time group. Landon Messer and Lowell Varney, playing respective guitar and banjo, helped out on call from Ezra. Melvin Goins worked with Ralph Stanley and then he and Ray formed the Goins Brothers. Curley Ray Cline soon joined the Stanley Brothers and then had a long career as fiddler with Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys.

Ezra Cline retired in 1968 and moved back to West Virginia and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers came to an end. At some point in the 1980s, Curley Ray and Charlie Cline plus Melvin and Ray Goins, with Curley's son Timmy on bass did a Lonesome Fiddlers Reunion cassette, but it had very limited distribution. More recently, only Paul Williams with his Victory Trio bluegrass gospel group survives in music with Paul now in semi-retirement.

Lonesome Pine Fiddlers — Record Reviews From The Billboard & Cash Box
Date Label Rec No. Review
8/11/1952 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5011 Twenty One Years — The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers wax a quick beat country weeper in ok manner. Nasal fem vocalist handles the lyrics. (Rating: C+)
I'm Left Alone — The group drives out a quick beat country dance item with zest. (Rating: C+)
1/31/1953 (CB) RCA Victor 20-5128 You Left Me To Cry — The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers beat out a quick tempo item with sad romantic lyrics as the vocalist chants the vocal appealingly. (Rating: C+)
That's Why You Left Me So Blue — A similar item well cone by the vocalist and instrumental group. Comes out the better side. (Rating: B)
3/28/1953 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5235 I'll Never Make You Blue — Backwoods chanting by the team is well-suited to the demands of the market. (Rating: 69)
My Brown-Eyed Darling — Tempo is a little faster here but the style and performance are the same. (Rating: 69)
3/28/1953 (CB) RCA Victor 20-5235 I'll Never Make You Blue — The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers etch a quick beat item in accepted country fashion. Chorus chanting led by nasal voiced warbler rounds out the disk. (Rating: C+)
My Brown-Eyed Darling — Flip is a romantic middle beat handled in similar manner. (Rating: C+)
12/5/1953 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5526 Lonesome Pine Breakdown — The string group's guitars and fiddle sparkle in this brisk little instrumental item. (Rating: 71)
Five String Rag — More of the same here. (Rating: 71)
3/6/1954 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5660 I'll Never Change My Mind — Happy reading of a rural-styled effort that Could get spins in the hill country. (Rating: 68)
You're No Good — Another side that will appeal most in the Piedmont section. (Rating: 68)
9/11/1954 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5660 I'm Feeling For You — A bouncy little country ditty, with clever lyrics and peppy vocal. (Rating: 72)
Don't Forget Me — Same comment on performance. Good banjo and fiddle backing. (Rating: 69)
11/13/1954 (BB) RCA Victor 5913 A New Set Of Rules — The rural markets and the Piedmont area will go for this cute effort which features vocal plus some snappy guitar and fiddle work (Rating: 73)
No Curb Service — Same comment. (Rating: 73)
1/22/1955 (BB) RCA Victor 20-5979 Windy Mountain — Banjos and fiddles provide a tinkling background to this atmospheric chant. Pleasant listening. It should attract spins. (Rating: 72)
There's Just One You — Mountain folk should find some kicks in this brightly performed opus. (Rating: 67)
6/1/1963 (CB) Starday 631 Too Hot To Handle — The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers unleash their potent vocal and instrumental talents full-blast on this rousing, high-powered novelty-styled item. The group displays a fine traditional bluegrass style on the side. Deejays should come out in droves for it. (Rating: B+)
I Walked To The River — Slow-moving, country blueser rendered with loads of authority and polish. (Rating: B)

Group Biographical Information:

  • Ezra Cline (B: January 13, 1907 — D: July 11, 1984) from Baisden in Mingo County
  • Curley Ray Cline (B: January 10, 1923 — D: August 19, 1997), a cousin; fiddle
  • Everett Leroy (Lazy Ned) Cline (B: August 20, 1923 — June 6, 1944)
  • Gordon Jennings (October 21, 1916 — D: February 1982)
  • Charlie Cline (B: June 6, 1931 — D: November 19, 2004)
  • (Cecil) Ray Morgan (B: March 21, 1917 — December 15, 1990)
  • Paul Williams (B: March 30, 1935 — D: )
  • Melvin Goins (B: December 30, 1933 — D: July 29, 2016)
  • Ray Goins (B: January 3, 1936 — D: July 2, 2007)
  • Bobby Osborne (B: December 7, 1931 — D: June 27, 2023)
  • Larry Richardson (B: August 9, 1927 — June 17, 2007)
  • Billy Edwards (B: September 26, 1936 — D: July 11, 2005)
  • Udell McPeak (B: June 12, 1935 — D: December 16, 2009)
  • Landon Messer (B: April 25, 1940 — D: February 1, 1995)
  • Lowell Varney (B: September 21, 1936 — D: January 9, 2007)

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.
  • Around The Country; Al Hendershot; October 1945; National Hillbilly News; Huntington, WV
  • The West Virginia Encyclopedia
  • Country, R&B Pacts For RCA; June 7, 1952; The Billboard; New York, NY

Read More About The Group

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  64086 A Lonesome Sad And Blue
  64086 B Pain In My Heart
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  232 A Pain In My Heart
  233 B Lonesome, Sad and Blue
  272 A Don't Forget Me
  273 B Will I Meet Mother In Heaven
RCA Victor
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  20-4857 A Nobody Cares
  20-4857 B You Broke Your Promise
  20-5011 A I'm Left Along
  20-5011 B Twenty One Years
  20-5128 A That's Why You Left Me So Blue
  20-5128 B You Left Me To Cry
  20-5235 A I'll Never Make You Blue
  20-5235 B My Brown Eyed Darling
  20-5445 A Dirty Dishes Blues
  20-5445 B Honky Tonk Blues
  20-5526 A Five String Rag
  20-5526 B Lonesome Pine Breakdown
  20-5660 A I'll Never Change My Mind
  20-5660 B You're No Good
  20-5734 A Baby, You're Cheatin'
  20-5734 B Some Kinda Sorry
  20-5817 A Don't Forget Me
  20-5817 B I'm Feeling For You
  20-5979 A There's Just One You
  20-5979 B Windy Mountain
  47-5979 A There Is Just One You
  47-5979 B Windy Mountain
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  551 A Two Kinds Of Blues
  551 B Why Do You Treat Me The Way You Do?
  564 A Eatin' Out Of Your Hand
  564 B Lonesome Pine
  597 A Little Glass Of Wine
  597 B Mountain Flower
  614 A Coal Dust Blues
  614 B Hello Mr. Banjo
  630 A Too Hot To Handle
  630 B I Walked In The River

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