Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Skeets McDonald

Greenway, Arkansas, is a small town nestled into the extreme northeastern corner of the state, next to the Missouri boot heel; eighty miles to the west is West Plains, Missouri, home of Porter Wagoner; eighty miles to the southeast is Memphis, home of the blues. It is an interesting musical climate, and was the home turf for one of the most underrated country singers of the 1950s, Skeets McDonald. Born on October 1, 1915, as Enos William McDonald, into a cotton-picking family of three brothers and three sisters, Skeets grew up on his father’s farm at a hamlet called Rector.

Early in life he acquired the nickname that would stick with him throughout his life. “We raised cotton down there,” brother Lynn McDonald recalls, “and he was the baby in the family, but he always wanted to go out with us. There was one day when we were out hoeing twenty acres of cotton, and he wanted to come and help; we said it was too hot, though, and the cotton was too tall—it was about as tall as he was. But he insisted, so we took him. Well, the mosquitoes were really bad that day, and they started getting after him. After a little of this, he shouted, ‘I got to go home! Skeets bite!’ My brother-in-law was with us, and he got a kick out of this, and started calling him Skeets. Skeets didn’t like the name at all, didn’t like to be called that, but it stuck and after a while he couldn’t do much about it. It was Skeets McDonald.”

Though none of his immediate family was a notable musician, Skeets learned traditional Ozarks music at the local “music parties” that still characterize Ozarks grassroots music. The older generation of pickers Skeets listened to included mandolin player Charlie Dodd, and guitarists Carol Hasty and Scott Bradford. By the time he was five, Skeets had a homemade cigar-box fiddle, and was trying to saw out the fiddle tunes he heard from the region’s premier fiddler, Elvin Burns. (In later life, Skeets would often call a set of square dancing on a stage show in

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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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