Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Billie Maxwell

Throughout the 1930s, the image of the singing cowgirl was dominating popular old-time music. Millie and Dolly Good, the Girls of the Golden West; Patsy Montana; Texas Ruby—all dressed in fancy cowgirl outfits and sung of their love for the range or for cowboys. Few of these performers, excellent though they were, could really be called as authentic as the first singing cowgirl, a slim, dark-haired beauty from Arizona named Billie Maxwell. Though Billie only made a handful of records—in 1929—they are prized as examples of authentic western singing, and as instances of a woman creating her own highly personal and highly successful songs.

Until recently our knowledge of Billie Maxwell has been pretty much limited to the pages of the Victor Master Book and two old photos that were uncovered in an old Victor warehouse in New York and later published by Robert Shelton in his Country Music Story. Some recent research, however, has led to the discovery of Billie’s family, and telephone interviews have helped to piece together the story of this fascinating performer.

Billie Maxwell was born in February 1906 and died in 1954. She was raised near Springerville, Arizona, then very much a part of the real frontier, and part of the last vestige of the American West. Her father was E. Curtis Maxwell, known throughout the area for his fiddling. Curtis, in turn, learned many of his tunes from his father, William Beatty Maxwell, who had come originally into Nevada from Illinois; later in the 1800s he moved down into the old Arizona Territory. Curtis formed a band called the White Mountain Orchestra, and played throughout the country for cowboy dances. His son-in-law recalls: “He could play any tune those old cowboys called for,” and he often played at ranch dances that went on all night. Often the band had to travel to dances on horseback.

In addition to playing a lot of older fiddle pieces, Curt Maxwell was known for tunes he himself composed, including “Frolic of the Mice”

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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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