Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Cousin Emmy

In 1943, the editors of Time magazine did something that for them was rare. They recognized a country music performer. In those early days, the big national periodicals preferred to ignore such topics, hoping they would go away, but in this case they could not. The particular artist in question, headquartered over KMOX in St. Louis, was reaching an audience of over two and a half million, and was recognized by most standards as the leading radio act in the nation. And this act wasn’t Bob Wills or Roy Acuff or Gene Autry or any of those slick-sounding country crooners who had a band full of muted trumpets and accordions. This was a high-spirited mountain performer who sang at full throttle, frailed the daylights out of a banjo, and played the blues by squeezing a blownup rubber glove. And this wasn’t some white-bearded old mountain man, but a vivacious blonde who blazed the trail for the Dollys and Rebas yet to come. Her real name was Cynthia May Carver, but all her fans knew her by her radio name: Cousin Emmy.

In the article from Time, Cousin Emmy tried to explain to the reporter just what it was that made her show so popular. “First, I hits it up on my banjo, and I wow ’em. Then I do a number with the guit-ar and play the French harp and sing, all at the same time. Then somebody hollers, ‘Let’s hear her yodel!’ and I obliges. And then somebody hollers, ‘Let’s see her dance!’ and I obliges. After that we come to the sweetest part of the programs—hymns.” It was the kind of powerhouse, in-your-face entertainment that never came across in records or songbooks. That’s why Cousin Emmy, like other country greats such as Lew Childre, Cowboy Slim Rinehart, Minnie Pearl, and Lazy Jim Day, never worried much about making records. She didn’t need them, not during her heyday. Unfortunately, people who rely on records for their history of the music hear about such stars and wonder what the fuss was about. Cousin Emmy was part of that fuss.

-106-

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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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