and Scrappy O'Brien
Cal West (Clem and Maggie)
|These pop bands will play our hillbilly songs when they cain't eat any other way.|
The Biography, By Colin Escott with George Merritt and William MacEwen
Doug Davis' Country Music Classics
—Story Behind The Song
What's New - Featured Articles
WSM Grand Ole Opry — WSM went on the air on October 5, 1925 to much fanfare. A fellow from WLS in Chicago, George D. Hay, came to Nashville to be a part of that first broadcast. What would become the Grand Ole Opry went on the air November 28, 1925 with nothing more than announcer Mr. Hay and Uncle Jimmy Thompson on the fiddle; he was accompanied by his niece, Eva Thompson Jones on piano. Our update of this program takes the Opry from its beginnings to about the 1950's. The radio logs in the Nashville papers were used to show readers who was appearing each week, though those logs did not show the 'guests' during a segment. Click away and take a look back at some of the names of the early Opry.
Lennie Aleshire — Born in Sparta, MO, Lennie went on to become one of the country music's great novelty musicians as well as being a comedian. As a teen-ager, he lost three fingers in a sawmill accident. But he went on to become a skilled musician. If that wasn't enough - he played by ear - if he heard the tune once, he could play it back without having to hear the tune again. He was even a professional baseball player - even after losing those fingers. He teamed up with Floyd Rutledge and was part of the Weaver Brothers and Elviry vaudeville troupe. Did we mention he was part of Grandpa Jones' act at WMMN in Fairmont, WV in 1941? Or being in the Lennie and Goo-Goo duo on Ozark Jubilee?
Red Belcher — The Old Redhead as he was sometimes called, wore bibbed overalls on stage instead of 'western' clothes; he projected a rural image. The native Kentuckian was a banjo player and a comedian as well. His parents were both 'hill musicians'; dad played fiddle and mom played banjo. His career took him to many radio stations around the country. He was also on the WWVA Original Jamboree in Wheeling for a time. If one listens to his recording of "Kentucky Is Only A Dream," you might find yourself playing it again and adding it to your playlist. An accident took his life at 38 years.
Shorty Fincher and His Cotton Pickers — Shorty led a couple of groups - The Prairie Pals and the Cotton Pickers during his career. He was heard on WWVA in Wheeling, WV. Then on WORK in York, PA. He first rented Valley View Park, then he bought it; he had an idea fans would take to it. He worked at WMMN in Fairmont, WV around the same time Scotty Wiseman was there and you'll read how he helped Scotty get to WLS. Then later, he tried his hand again at an outdoor venue - Deemer's Beach in New Castle, Delaware.
Hawkshaw Hawkins — His was one of the first biographies written when the site was started back in 2000 based on an email received. Over 20 years later, another email arrived that spurred the effort to do a more thorough biography of Hawkshaw's career. He was well liked by the audiences, but he never seemed to find the right 'sound' or 'song' that sold records. Ironically, his only number one record (Lonesome 7-7203) hit that spot several weeks after his death in a plane crash that took the lives of Cowboy Copas, Patsy Cline and Randy Hughes.
Goldie Hill — She started off singing with her brother, Tommy. Moved on to the KWKH Louisiana Hayride and worked with folks such as Webb Pierce and Billy Walker. Nashville beckoned and she was working on the WSM Grand Ole Opry. She married Carl Smith in 1957. She was also part of the Philip Morris Country Show that traveled around the country for over a year. She also appeared in a couple of movies as well — Country Music Caravan and Tennessee Jamboree.
Shot Jackson — As a fan of the steel guitar, this site likes to feature some of the great names associated with the instrument. Shot Jackson was known as an expert on the steel guitar and dobro. He even developed and manufactured several models of the instruments. He was also a backup musician for such folks as Roy Acuff, the Bailes Brothers, Johnnie and Jack and Kitty Wells. His career spanned over 40 years. He played on the KWKH Louisiana Hayride for a time. Then went to Nashville with Johnnie and Jack and played on the WSM Grand Ole Opry. He later joined forces with steel guitarist Buddy Emmons to form the Sho-Bud company.
Wanda Jackson — Wanda became one of the most popular female singers in the late 1950's and into the 1960's. She could sing straight-up country, lively rock-a-billy numbers and later, gospel albums. She became friends with Norma Jean while they were both on KLPR. She also met up with a young Elvis Presley and did several shows with him. She worked often at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, NV but through all of her career, Oklahoma is still home after retiring in 2019.
Norma Jean — She was known by many fans as "Pretty Miss Norma Jean." A native of Oklahoma, she was exposed to the western swing bands that worked around Oklahoma City and toured Merle Lindsay and Billy Gray. She developed a friendship with another local aspiring teen, Wanda Jackson. At one time, they each had their own 15-minute show over KLPR on alternate weekdays. It took her a couple tries to become a member of the Ozark Jubilee. She became the featured female singer on the Porter Wagoner Show.
Mary Ann Johnson — She came from Michigan, she was determined to make a living, she had five jobs - all at one time! Secretarial work. Worked at a record store; paid with 'records' - she needed to learn songs she said. Car hop at a restaurant. Sold tickets at the local theatre. Then Casey Clark hired her as the female singer for his band. But that wasn't enough. She decided to try writing songs. Read how she increased her "lung power" to help her singing. She met Pee Wee King and Neal Burris in Detroit and they listened to a song she had wrote. Neal was impressed and signed her to a contract to let him record it. Then she met Fred Rose, got a recording contract and then was working in Louisville with Randy Atcher.
Melba Montgomery — She was born in Iron City, TN. Her brother was a songwriter - Earl (Peanut) Montgomery. She won a Pet Milk Amateur Contest and an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. She was the featured female vocalist on the Roy Acuff show for four years. Her duets with George Jones, Gene Pitney and Charlie Louvin resulted in hit records. But it was her recording of "No Charge" in 1974 that reached the top of the Hot Country Singles chart and even got her noticed in the Pop field.
George Riddle — The Hoosier native had his own radio show over WMRI when he was just 18 years old. In late 1954, he made an appearance on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree show in Nashville. His career took him to Knoxville where he became a sideman for Don Gibson. In the early 1960's, he went to work for George Jones, helping form the band, The Jones Boys, as well as serving in the role of front man. Military service interrupted his musical journey. In 1991, he was working with Bill Carlisle as a straight man to Bill. He was once married to Norma Jean, but they divorced.
Jimmie Riddle — Jimmie was a native of Dyersburg, TN. Musically, he was known for his skill on the harmonica and accordion. His early career saw him recording with a Memphis-based group called the Swift Jewel Cowboys. He moved to Houston for a time and played with bands there. He initially turned down an offer to join Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys, but later changed his mind. But fans may remember him for his role on the television show Hee! Haw! — he and Jackie Phelps introduced an 'archaic' music art of eefin' and hambonin'.
Ricky Riddle — Ricky was born in Arkansas, but was raised in Detroit, MI. After his release from the military in 1945, he began to pursue a career as a singing cowboy. His first record was released on the Tennessee label in 1950. He was running a night club in Nashville in 1950 when he met Marty Robbins. Ricky bought the author rights from Marty for the tune "Ain't You Ashamed," which became his second release on the label. He tried to get the label to sign Marty Robbins. But they passed on Marty. And the rest as we say ... is history. His career also took him to the Village Barn in NYC as well as some time in Arizona.
Tommy Riddle — Tommy was born in Fayetteville, NC, but after his military service in World War II, his musical career was in the Virginia area. He was working in the Norfolk area and also working in Nashville. Eddy Arnold gave him his inspiration to keep at it musically. He appeared on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree three times. He was also honing his songwriting skills. In 1955, he became part of the WAVY Tidewater Jamboree.
Olaf Sveen — Olaf gained fame in Canada as an accordion player. But, he was actually born in Norway! He immigrated to Saskatchewan to help his brother on his farm. But he also came with a love for music. He became a member of Eddie Mehler and his Southern Playboys in the early 1950's. They got a program on CKRM in Regina. But the pickings were lean in terms of income and the life he led showed it. Read his description of what he found in the "rowdy dance halls." In a 1975 interview, he said he had sold over 200,000 records in the 21 years prior. Needless to say, not your everyday story, but in a sense, very similar to those who struggled early on and kept at it to become successful.
Karen Wheeler — A native of Sikeston, MO and the daughter of Onie Wheeler, she carved her own place in country music. She appeared on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance as well as the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, WV. She was an opening act for Conway Twitty at one time. Her signature tune became her own version of the Jimmie Rodgers' tune, "Mule Skinner Blues." She was part of an original group of country artists featured on Carnival Cruises.
Marc (The Cowboy Crooner) Williams — Marc was born in Midlothian, TX. He developed a name for himself as "Happy Hank," catering to the youngsters. Like many country performers of that era, he lived a nomadic life going to various radio stations. He published a series of "Happy Hank" slogan song books; his sponsor was Coco-Wheats. But while he was in Michigan, he took up studying and became a lawyer, practicing law in Michigan until he moved back to Texas in 1974 and continued. But he always kept his guitar in his office. How many performers can say their name headlined a marquee and below their top billing, "Also Presenting Bob Hope."
Billy Willow — Billy was born in Winchester, KY, but her musical career took her to the East coast. She met up with Smokey and Shorty Warren and often did personal appearances in the various night spots in the New Jersey area. She was known as "The Yodeling Cowgirl," and during a interview over the phone, she provided a short demonstration of her yodeling. Priceless. She also performed with such stars as Merv Shiner and Elton Britt. She was also part of the Garden State Jamboree.
Or let our Hillbilly AI technology pick a couple of biographies for you to read.
(Hillbilly AI is actual intelligence for generating random biograhies.) Keep clicking around - there's always something new
spopping up on Hillbilly-Music.com.
Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys
Empty Chair At The Christmas Table
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