Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Pee Wee King

Pee Wee King, country music’s most famous accordion player, composer of “The Tennessee Waltz” and half a dozen other standards, vividly remembers his first night on the Grand Ole Opry. It was a landmark not only for his own career, but for the history of the Opry and even for country music. “We had been playing over WHAS in Louisville,” he recalled, “and our manager, J. L. Frank, said, ‘Let’s go to the Opry and audition.’ We played a theater at Horse Cave, Kentucky, on Friday, and on Saturday we drove on down to Nashville, to WSM. At eleven o’clock that morning we auditioned for David Stone and Harry Stone and an engineer named Percy White. And they said, ‘Gee, why don’t you just stay over and do the Grand Ole Opry with us tonight?’ This was about June 1, 1937. So we did the Opry that Saturday night—then we went back to Louisville, knowing that in two weeks, we were coming back as permanent members of the Opry.”

In those days Pee Wee’s band was called simply the Golden West Cowboys, and that’s how their name appeared in their first Opry radio listing. Almost at once, Pee Wee sensed that his act was different from anything else on the show. Neither Roy Acuff nor Bill Monroe had joined the cast as yet, and though cowboy music was the rage on radio and on movie screens across the country, the Opry hadn’t really fully embraced the trend. That summer of 1937, the show was still being broadcast from an open-air tabernacle in East Nashville, and people were still talking about the great Ohio flood and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. The show’s stars included old favorites like Uncle Dave Macon and the McGee Brothers and DeFord Bailey, as well as newer names like the Delmore Brothers, Robert Lunn (the Talking Blues Man), the Lakeland Sisters, Curt Poulton, and the Missouri Mountaineers.

What did the Golden West Cowboys bring to all this? “Organization!” laughed Pee Wee. “Most of them on the Opry were farmers and had jobs and did this on a Saturday night only. We were trying to make our living

-38-

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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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