Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Grandpa Jones

It was a hot night at the Grand Ole Opry in the summer of 1995. Out front, the crowd in the Opry house was stocking up on Cokes and trying to explain to northern visitors what Goo-Goos were. Backstage the talk was about whether or not the Houston Oilers were serious about moving to Nashville. Announcer Kyle Cantrell was checking over his schedule and getting ready to introduce the host for the 8:30 p.m. segment of the world’s longest running radio show. He smiled when he saw who was up next.

Accompanied by his backup band of Joe Carroll and George McCormick, eighty-one-year-old Grandpa Jones came out of his dressing room. The backstage crowd in the hallway reverently parted to let him by, recognizing at once the familiar figure and costume: an old checkered shirt, red suspenders, porkpie hat, bristling white mustache, and big old leather boots that had been given to him in 1935 by singer Bradley Kincaid—boots that were already fifty years old by then. His banjo was strapped on, and he paused a minute to say to his boys, “Let’s see if we’re in tune,” and whammed out a chord almost loud enough to be heard out on stage. There’s nothing timid about Grandpa’s music—he has for the past two weeks been suffering through the agonies of a root canal, but he is a trooper of the old school, and the show will go on. Someone asks, “Grandpa, they want to know if you’re gonna need the drums.” “No,” he snaps, “we’re trying to keep it country!”

Then the big red curtain is rising and Cantrell is saying, “And now let’s make welcome a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, everybody’s grandpa, Grandpa Jones!” The band breaks into his theme song, “Eight More Miles to Louisville,” and the audience applauds in recognition. Newly energized, Grandpa struts on to the stage and tears into a song called “Banjo Sam,” an old-time banjo tune he first recorded back in 1961 and has recently resurrected. After singing the first verse, he holds his big banjo up to the mike and plays a chorus with an energetic downstroke style

-33-

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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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