Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

The Blue Sky Boys

It was a late spring morning on June 16, 1936, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Two teenage boys sat reading a newspaper in a waiting room in the old Southern Radio Building on South Tryon Street. Inside, engineers from the Victor recording company had draped the walls with heavy curtains to create a temporary recording studio. A big moon-faced man named Eli Oberstein was in charge, and he was making records for Victor’s new Bluebird label—a cut-rate record subsidiary that featured blues and country music, and sold in those Depression-era times for 35 cents apiece. He had recently discovered that Charlotte was a good location to find both kinds of talent—he had already recorded hit acts like Mainer’s Mountaineers and the Monroe Brothers there—and now he was racing through another marathon session, cutting as many as twenty or twentyfive masters in a day, and hoping that lightning would strike again.

The two teenagers in the waiting room were named Bill and Earl Bolick. They were from Hickory, North Carolina, and though they were only eighteen (Bill) and sixteen (Earl), they had been playing on radio stations in Asheville and Atlanta for a year. It was an age of duet harmony singing, and groups like the Monroe Brothers (Bill and Charlie), the Callahan Brothers, and the Delmore Brothers were winning radio fans throughout the South. Soon the Bolicks too had begun attracting fans, and while they were at Atlanta’s WGST an offer had come to record for Bluebird. Now that they were here, though, there seemed to be some confusion.

One hour dragged into two, and then three, and still nobody had spoken to the boys. Finally Oberstein brushed through the room and noticed Earl reading his newspaper. “What do you think this is, a reading room?” he snapped. “I don’t care what it is,” Earl snapped back. Oberstein than asked them what they thought they were doing there, and seemed surprised when they said their names were Bolick and they had been told to come and make records. “We understood that you had broken up,” he said. He had given their spot to somebody else. “You’re the boys who copy the Monroe Brothers, aren’t you?” he said. Again the brothers protested; they had replaced the Monroe Brothers on WGST,

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Classic Country: Legends of Country Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Part I - From the Hall of Fame 1
  • The Carter Family 2
  • Roy Acuff 19
  • Lefty Frizzell 27
  • Grandpa Jones 33
  • Pee Wee King 38
  • Bill Monroe 44
  • Hank Snow 50
  • Kitty Wells 56
  • Part II - From the Victrola 63
  • Fiddlin’ John Carson 64
  • Vernon Dalhart 70
  • Riley Puckett 76
  • Charlie Poole 82
  • The Georgia Yellow Hammers 85
  • Darby and Tarlton 89
  • Part III - From the Airwaves 93
  • Lew Childre 94
  • The Blue Sky Boys 97
  • Brown’s Ferry Four 103
  • Cousin Emmy 106
  • The Monroe Brothers 109
  • Wayne Raney 114
  • Karl and Harty 117
  • Bradley Kincaid 125
  • Part IV - From the Shadows: Unsung Heroes 129
  • Tommy Magness 130
  • Arthur Q. Smith 143
  • Zeke and Zeb Turner 146
  • Johnny Barfield 152
  • The Rouse Brothers 155
  • Seven Foot Dilly 165
  • The Jordanaires 175
  • Deford Bailey 178
  • Emmett Miller 182
  • Tommy Jackson 185
  • Jimmie Riddle 188
  • Part V - From the Stage: Classic Country 193
  • Curly Fox and Texas Ruby 194
  • The Delmore Brothers 197
  • Don Gibson 203
  • The Louvin Brothers 215
  • The Statler Brothers 221
  • Martha Carson 236
  • The Carlisles 239
  • Albert E. Brumley 243
  • Stringbean 247
  • Part VI - From the West 257
  • Girls of the Golden West 258
  • Billie Maxwell 261
  • Red River Dave 265
  • Skeets Mcdonald 268
  • Part VII - New Fogies 273
  • Hazel and Alice 274
  • Doc Watson 279
  • Roy Harper 285
  • The Freight Hoppers 294
  • Acknowledgments 300
  • Index 301
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