Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Zeke and Zeb Turner

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the general public became aware of an odd facet of country music that musicians had known about for years: the presence on most of the hit recordings of a shadowy cadre of crack musicians who were being known as “studio pros” or “A-teams.” These were artists, mostly instrumentalists, who never toured or performed on the road, and who made their living strictly by playing backup on records and radio shows. By the 1960s, everybody was talking about the “Nashville sound” and the rise of the Nashville studio system. This was a method in which the record companies insisted that an artist not record with his regular road band but with a unit of studio musicians—gunslingers who were used to the pressures of recording, who could adapt to a new song on the spot, and who could nail a cut on one take. The great Nashville A-team of that era included names like Chet Atkins, saxophone player Boots Randolph, pianist Floyd Cramer, guitarist Grady Martin, and guitarist Ray Edenton. Besides playing on the hits of others, some of them did create hits of their own, such as Cramer’s “Last Date.”

But there were earlier generations of studio musicians as well, and their largely uncredited contributions had a lot to do with creating the sound of modern country music.

As early as 1928, the versatile singer and songwriter Carson Robison was serving as a studio guitarist in Victor’s New York studio, and by 1930 the fiddler Lowe Stokes was working on a retainer from the Brunswick Company to back up any singer or group that needed a little extra punch. By the 1940s, crooner Eddy Arnold’s style was being largely defined by the mellow, elegant electric steel guitar work of Little Roy Wiggins—though his name seldom appeared on the record labels. And the first really full-time A-team was put together in the late 1940s to back up Red Foley, who was then the biggest Opry star and arguably the biggest star in the business. This band, which was with Foley from 1946 to 1948, included the

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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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