Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Vernon Dalhart

September 27, 1903, dawned bright and clear in the Blue Ridge Mountain cotton mill town of Danville, Virginia. It was a warm, Indian summer Sunday, and on nearby White Oak Mountain the maples were turning to their fall colors. It was a lazy morning, and many of the mill-workers were sitting on their porches or doing chores around the house. Coming into the town from the north were the tracks of the Southern Railway, which ran down the mountain, over a wooden bridge called Stillhouse Trestle, across the Dan River, and on through Danville to North Carolina and eventually Atlanta. For over a year now, the residents had gotten used to a new fast mail train that ran the route, a train called Old 97. This morning, some of the people were glancing at their pocket watches, and wondering why Old 97 was late.

So were the Southern dispatchers. Up the line, at the hamlet of Monroe, Virginia, they had put a new crew on Old 97, headed by engineer Steve Broady. He was a young, ambitious man, and when he found out his train was running late, he determined to make up the time. He decided to “highball” it. The problem was that Broady was new to the route, and didn’t know just how tricky the curve into Danville really was. As he came roaring along the river toward the trestle, his whistle screaming, something happened. Some say he lost his airbrakes; some say he was simply going too fast.

The people in Danville looked up when they heard the whistle and knew that the mail train was coming, but also that there was something dreadfully wrong. It was coming too fast. As they watched in horror, the locomotive and its five cars flew off the rails just before it reached the bridge and plunged seventy-five feet into the ravine below. Cars crashed into the timbers bracing the trestle, and the engine boilers exploded. People from the town raced over to the scene, trying to rescue anyone alive. Few people were. The conductor, the flagman, and both firemen

-70-

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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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