Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview
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Albert E. Brumley

In the years shortly before he died, in 1977, songwriter Albert E. Brumley took great pleasure in hosting his Hill and Hollow Folk Festival on the grounds of his publishing company in the hamlet of Powell, in southern Missouri. One day, the story goes, a group of locals were sitting with a group of visitors at a picnic table, exchanging small talk about the crops, the weather, and music. Finally one of the older men, dressed in khaki pants and baseball cap, muttered good-byes and wandered off. Talk continued for a while, and finally one of the visitors remarked, “You know, I came here hoping to meet Albert Brumley in person, but I haven’t seen a thing of him.” Another, more experienced visitor looked up and said, “Why, woman, that man who just left was Albert Brumley. He’s been sitting here talking to you for an hour!”

It is a typical Albert Brumley story. While many can easily recognize the legends of country singing, far fewer can recognize the great songwriters. And Brumley was certainly that; in the last decade of his life, he was honored about as much as any songwriter could be. He was in the first group of inductees to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was an early member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Festivals and singings were named in his honor, and his songs had been recorded by everybody from Elvis Presley to Ray Charles. Yet throughout all the hoopla, he remained an essentially modest man, with a gentle smile and mellow friendliness that made him look more like an accountant or a postmaster than the creator of classics like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Turn Your Radio On.”

He worked far from the glitter of Nashville or the bustle of New York’s Tin Pan Alley, choosing instead a beautiful little valley about seventy miles west of Springfield, Missouri, just a few miles from the Arkansas line. It was a place he could play checkers at the local gas station, or take an afternoon off to go fishing. It was this down-to-earth

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