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Entries - Entry Category: Country

Britt, Elton

aka: James Elton Baker
Elton Britt was a popular country singer of the 1940s, with a yodeling style most often compared to Jimmie Rodgers. His most popular song, “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere,” was the first country performance awarded a gold record for selling more than a million copies. Britt also was a heavy influence on most subsequent yodelers in country music. James Elton Baker was born on June 27, 1913, to James M. Baker and Martella Baker in Zack (Searcy County), a small community in the Ozarks. He was the youngest of five children and was plagued with heart trouble most of his life. Because he was not expected to live, his parents did not name him until he was a …

Brown, Jim Ed

Country and western music star Jim Ed Brown’s career spanned more than half a century since the early 1950s. He was a solo vocalist and a member of two singing groups: the Browns and a duo consisting of himself and singer Helen Cornelius. He performed on numerous radio and television programs, hosting some and starring on others, and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. James Edward Brown was born in Sparkman (Dallas County) on April 1, 1934, to Floyd and Birdie Brown; he had two sisters. He grew up in the timber country near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and his father hauled logs for a living and was also a farmer. Brown formed a musical duo with his …

Browns, The

A vocal trio from southern Arkansas, the Browns had several country hits. They were also instrumental in the development of the elegant, often orchestral “Nashville sound,” which replaced the string bands of earlier eras. The Browns began as a duo featuring Jim Ed Brown, born in 1934 in Sparkman (Dallas County), and his sister Maxine, born in Campti, Louisiana, in 1931. Their sister Bonnie, born in Sparkman in 1938, joined the group in 1955. The Browns grew up in the piney woods near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where their father, Floyd Brown, worked as a log hauler and farmer. The group began its recording career for Fabor Records in southern California shortly after Jim Ed and Maxine graduated from high …

Camp, Shawn

aka: Darrel DeShawn Camp
Shawn Camp is a singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer based in Nashville, Tennessee. His musical styles include bluegrass, country, and Americana. Shawn Camp was born Darrel DeShawn Camp on August 29, 1966, to Darrell Camp, who was an iron worker, and Betty Dickens Camp, a beautician. He was raised in Perryville (Perry County) until 1982, when his family moved to Bryant (Saline County), where he graduated from high school in 1984. His parents’ home was a gathering place for local musicians, and the family also attended bluegrass festivals, where jam sessions with young and old “pickers” were a regular occurrence. Camp started learning to play guitar at age five, mandolin at seven, and fiddle at fifteen. While he was …

Campbell, Glen

aka: Glen Travis Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell was a commercially successful and critically acclaimed entertainer whose career lasted more than fifty years. As a guitarist, Campbell appeared on recordings by a diverse range of artists, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. As a singer and solo artist, Campbell sold millions of recordings and earned many awards. He also starred in films and hosted his own television programs. Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, in the Billstown community, near Delight (Pike County). He was one of twelve children born to the farming family of Carrie Dell Stone Campbell and John Wesley Campbell. Many of his relatives were musicians, and young Campbell soon developed an interest in singing and playing. He received his first …

Cash, Johnny

aka: J. R. Cash
Johnny Cash was a world-renowned singer/songwriter of country music. With his deep, rich voice and often dark, often uplifting lyrics, he created a body of work that will be heard and remembered for generations to come. J. R. Cash was born on February 26, 1932, in Kingsland (Cleveland County) to Ray and Carrie Cash. He had six siblings: Roy, Louise, Jack, Reba, Joanne, and Tommy. In 1935, the family moved to Dyess (Mississippi County), where they lived modestly and worked the land. The tragic death of Jack Cash in a 1944 sawmill accident haunted young J. R. for the remainder of his life. His mother introduced him to the guitar, and the local Church of God introduced him to music. …

Cash, Tommy

Tommy Cash is a musician and the younger brother of country music legend Johnny Cash. Although he was raised in Arkansas, he got his musical start in Tennessee—first in Memphis and later as part of the Nashville establishment. Often employing the familiar country music themes of Christianity, the blue-collar lifestyle, and patriotism, he has had numerous hit albums and songs throughout his career, among them the singles “Six White Horses,” “Rise and Shine,” and “One Song Away.” He continues to play music and give interviews about his career and life in the Cash family. Tommy Cash was born on April 5, 1940, in Dyess (Mississippi County) to Ray and Carrie Cash, both of whom were Arkansas natives; he was the youngest …

Cate Brothers Band

The Cate Brothers, identical twins Earl and Ernie (born Ernest), once exemplified the country-style rock and roll that flourished in the Ozark Mountains area of northwestern Arkansas, before adding rhythm and blues (R&B), soul, and funk to their approach in a distinctly unpretentious way. The Cates were born in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1942 and grew up in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties). Although not born to a musical family, the Cates taught themselves how to play their instruments and were heavily influenced during their teenage years by Ronnie Hawkins, whose ever-changing band, the Hawks, was at that time composed of the personnel who eventually became famous as Bob Dylan’s backup ensemble, the Band: pianist Richard Manuel, keyboardist Garth Hudson, …

Cotton, Carolina

aka: Helen Hagstrom
Helen Hagstrom is best known for her country and western swing music and yodeling, as well as her appearances in numerous television specials, radio programs, and films under the name of Carolina Cotton. Nicknamed “The Yodeling Blonde Bombshell,” Hagstrom was an entertainer and teacher throughout her life. Helen Hagstrom was born on October 20, 1925, in Cash (Craighead County), where her parents, Fred and Helen Hagstrom, and maternal grandparents had a farm, growing many crops, including cotton and peanuts. During the Great Depression, Hagstrom’s father moved his wife and two daughters to San Francisco, California. Hagstrom began performing in traveling stage shows with the O’Neille Sisters Kiddie Revue. Then, after regularly visiting KYA Radio to watch Dude Martin’s Roundup Gang …

Country Music

While the precise origins of country and western music are not entirely clear, it is thought to have its roots in traditional folk music of the British Isles. Once this particular sound was brought by British immigrants to the United States, country music began to change as it was blended with the music of immigrants from other places, as well as with traditional religious hymns and the music of African slaves predominantly residing in the southern United States. Arkansas has had a firm place in the history of country music from its very beginnings in the United States, and the state has been the birthplace of many well-known country artists, as well as particular style variations of country music. While …

Cramer, Floyd

Pianist Floyd Cramer was one of the creators of what became known as the “Nashville sound,” a style often seen as a forerunner of the slick, upscale pop/rock that emerged in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1990s. Cramer released fifty solo albums, had a classic hit in the song “Last Date” in 1960, and accompanied Elvis Presley on such rock and roll hits as “Heartbreak Hotel.” He was a longtime friend of producer and guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins and performed with other music luminaries, including Patsy Cline, Eddy Arnold, the Everly Brothers, Perry Como, and Roy Orbison. In the 1980s, he recorded a hit version of the theme from the Dallas TV series. Born on October 27, 1933, in Campti, Louisiana, …

Delray, Martin

aka: Michael Ray Martin
American country music artist Michael Ray Martin (known professionally as Martin Delray) is best known for his 1991 cover of the Johnny Cash song “Get Rhythm.” Michael Ray Martin was born on September 29, 1949, in Texarkana (Miller County). After graduating from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1972 with a BA in English, he served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. After he left military service at the rank of private first class, Martin relocated to North Hollywood, California, and began playing the West Coast club circuit, opening for such acts as Doug Kershaw and Juice Newton. Martin eventually became a staff songwriter at a music publishing company owned by Seals and Crofts. One …

Dodd, Bonnie Modena

aka: Little Blossom
Arkansas native Bonnie Dodd (a.k.a. “Little Blossom”) was a musician and songwriter best known as a steel guitar player in Tex Ritter’s country and western band during the 1940s. She also was a prolific composer of traditional country songs such as the genre-spanning recitation “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw,” which was recorded by Hank Williams in 1952 and by many others. The Staple Singers’ version of the song is included on the soundtrack of the film Bastard out of Carolina (1996). Bonnie Modena Dodd was born in rural Saline County on January 9, 1914. She was the fourth and youngest child of Elmer Pemberton Dodd and Louanna Iona Tillery Dodd. At the time of her birth, her family …

Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers

During the height of the great string band era of the 1920s, one of the largest and most popular string bands in Arkansas was Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers. Originally founded to promote tourism in the area of Izard County, the band went on to achieve a modicum of regional success before succumbing to the Depression. Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers was founded by Dr. Henry Harlin Smith, a surgeon for the Missouri Pacific Railroad who lived in the Calico Rock (Izard County) area. On his travels with the railway, he found that he was often working to dispel the backward image that many people outside of Arkansas had of the region. Smith thought that if more people …

Dunn, Ronnie Gene

With a slew of chart-topping singles to his credit as half of the duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Gene Dunn established himself as a member of the most award-winning duo in country music. Though Arkansas is not considered his home state, he has earned a spot in its musical history. Ronnie Dunn was born on June 1, 1953, in Coleman, Texas, to Jesse Eugene Dunn and Gladys Inez Thurmon Dunn. His father was a musician who also worked in the oil fields and drove trucks; his mother was a devout Baptist who, in the 1960s, lived in El Dorado (Union County) and worked as a bookkeeper at the First National Bank and then as a telephone operator at Warner Brown …

Endsley, Melvin

Melvin Endsley of Drasco (Cleburne County) was a musician and songwriter most noted for writing both the words and music of “Singing the Blues,” one of the biggest hits of the 1950s and one of the most recorded songs of the twentieth century. Nashville, Tennessee, recording star Marty Robbins, pop singer Guy Mitchell, and teen idol Tommy Steele in the United Kingdom all recorded versions of the song. Endsley composed more than 400 songs, many of them recorded by the top musical artists of the day, including Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, Ricky Skaggs, Stonewall Jackson, Black Oak Arkansas, Bill Haley and His Comets, and Don Gibson. Melvin Lorenzen Endsley was born on January 30, 1934, in Heber Springs …

Fairchild, Barbara

  Throughout her career, Barbara Fairchild has been an influential singer and songwriter in both country and gospel music. Barbara Fairchild was born in Lafe (Greene County) on November 12, 1950, to Opal and Ulys Fairchild. She was raised in Knobel (Clay County) until she and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, when she was thirteen. Fairchild’s passion for performing began early; she first performed in front of an audience at age five in a school talent show. Two years after moving to St. Louis, Fairchild released her first single, “Brand New Bed of Roses,” for the Norman label, and it appeared on local television channels. After graduating from high school, Fairchild moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a career in …

Faucett, Adam

Adam Faucett is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Benton (Saline County). With his trademark long beard and powerful voice, one critic called him an artist who “roams the backroads and gas station parking lots of some strange, haunted country, hinting at a terrifying truth behind mundane imagery.” By 2019, he had released five albums as a solo artist, the last two on the Little Rock (Pulaski County) label Last Chance Records. Faucett lives in Little Rock, but he tours regularly with his band, the Tall Grass, across the country and in Europe. With its often dark lyrics and subject matter, he has described his music as “Arkansas Gothic” and “swampy soul.” Adam Faucett was born on February 24, 1982, …

Felts, Narvel

Albert Narvel Felts is a singer and songwriter best known for a string of commercially successful country music recordings in the 1970s. Over the course of his career, Felts has been known for performing a wide range of music, including rockabilly, pop, R&B, soul, and gospel, but it is his traditional country and rockabilly recordings that gained him the most attention. Narvel Felts was born on November 11, 1938, near Keiser (Mississippi County) to Albert and Lena Felts. In 1953, when he was fourteen, the family, including Felts and his older sister Ogareeda, relocated eighty miles north to the community of Powe, Missouri. As a teenager, Felts taught himself to play a guitar that, he has said, “was held together with …

Fiddlin’ Bob Larkan & His Music Makers

aka: Bob Larkan
aka: Bob Larkin
  Fiddlin’ Bob Larkan was a well-known country fiddle player whose Music Makers band played on the radio stations of charlatan medical messiahs Dr. John R. Brinkley and Norman Baker and made a number of recordings. The group’s song “Higher Up the Monkey Climbs” became notorious for its suggestive, ribald lyrics. Although “Larkan” was the correct spelling of Bob Larkan’s name, record companies and even his hometown newspaper in his obituary rendered the name “Larkin.” Robert William (Bob) Larkan was born on November 18, 1867, in New York City, his father having migrated from Ireland and his mother from England. A musical child, he learned the violin, banjo, and guitar. The family moved to Boone County, Missouri, by 1870. In 1888, he married …

Frizzell, “Lefty”

aka: William Orville Frizzell
William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell was virtually the prototype of what became known as honky-tonk singers—plainspoken vocalists whose regional roots were immaterial because they sounded as friendly as a storytelling neighbor. Willie Nelson remarked that “without Lefty Frizzell, a lot of us singers wouldn’t have a style.” Lefty Frizzell was born on March 31, 1928, in Corsicana, Texas, but he soon moved from one small town to another in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas as the son of an oilfield worker. Country singer David Frizzell is his younger brother. He debuted as a singer on radio station KELD in El Dorado (Union County) when he was twelve, and he acquired his nickname in a schoolyard brawl. He is widely regarded as one …

Glosson, Lonnie Elonzo (Marvin)

Lonnie Elonzo Glosson popularized the harmonica nationwide and had a hand in several hit songs during a time when radio stations employed harmonica orchestras. From a young age, Glosson’s ability and versatility on the harmonica stood out. Lonnie Marvin Glosson was born the seventh of eleven children on February 14, 1908, in Judsonia (White County) to Cora Busby Glosson and George H. Glosson. He later changed his middle name to Elonzo because he did not like the uncle after whom he was named. Glosson’s mother taught him the harmonica after he earned money to buy the instrument by picking cotton: “She showed me how to play ‘Home Sweet Home,’ and I took it from there.” His father owned a boat …

Holyfield, Wayland

Wayland Holyfield is a prolific country music writer and recording artist who wrote one of Arkansas’s official state songs, “Arkansas (You Run Deep in Me).” He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Wayland D. Holyfield was born in Mallet Town (Conway County) on March 15, 1942. He attended grade school in Springfield (Conway County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock in 1960—after attending high school in Mabelvale (Pulaski County) during the Lost Year of 1958–59 when Little Rock’s high schools were closed. He attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) on a basketball scholarship and then the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville …

Jewell, Buddy

Buddy Jewell is a country musician best known for having won the top prize in the first season of the reality television show Nashville Star, which landed him a recording contract with Columbia Records. His first major-label album, Buddy Jewell, reached gold-record status after being released in July 2003. Later projects have not been as successful as his debut, but he continues to make music and record in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2015, Jewell was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Buddy Jewell was born on April 2, 1961, in Lepanto (Poinsett County), the second of three children born to Leslie L. “Buddy” Jewell, a native of Louisiana, and Eva Lorene Harris, a native of Arkansas. For a time, the …

Lawrence, Tracy Lee

With rural Arkansas beginnings, Tracy Lee Lawrence took Nashville, Tennessee, by storm in the early 1990s to become one of the most popular country recording artists of that decade. Lawrence quickly gained a fan base with his physical appeal, vocal ability, good-guy image, and succession of hit songs. Tracy Lawrence was born on January 27, 1968, in Atlanta, Texas. Reared by his stay-at-home mother, JoAnn Dickens, and his stepfather, Dwayne Dickens, a banker, Lawrence had two brothers and three sisters. In 1972, the Dickens family moved to Foreman (Little River County), where Lawrence sang in the choir of the local Methodist church and learned to play guitar. While his mother wanted him to become a Methodist minister, Lawrence aspired to …

Manuel, Dean

Dean Manuel played piano for several noteworthy bands of the mid-twentieth century, on the West Coast and in Nashville, Tennessee. Most notably, he played with Jim Reeves and the Blue Boys. Manuel died in a plane crash with Jim Reeves after leaving Independence County, where he had been helping Reeves with a land purchase. Dockie Dean Manuel was born in Cleveland (Conway County), where his family was working, on January 1, 1934. His parents were Dockie Dickson “Doffie” Manuel, who was a noted fiddle player, and Josephine Clementine (Josie) Burks; he was the youngest of four children and grew up in Jamestown (Independence County). Dean Manuel learned piano on his own at an early age and devoted much of his …

Minor, James Calvin (Jim)

James Calvin (Jim) Minor was an American country singer/songwriter, producer, publisher, disc jockey, and record label owner. He recorded country music for labels including Mercury and United Artists and managed the careers of other significant recording artists. Minor recorded under the name Jimmy Minor until 1960, when he recorded for United Artists as Jim Minor. Jim Minor was born on January 20, 1931, in DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). His mother, Margaret Meyer Minor, was a niece of noted photographer Mike Disfarmer. He learned to play the guitar and sing at an early age. When he was a teenager, he won a talent contest at what is now the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show; the prize was to go to …

Montana, Patsy

aka: Ruby Blevins
Patsy Montana was a pioneering female country music singer whose signature song, “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” was the first record by a female country artist to sell a million copies. Patsy Montana was born Ruby Blevins on October 30, 1908, near Hot Springs (Garland County). She was the eleventh child and only daughter of farmer Augustus Blevins and his wife, Victoria. By the 1920 census, the family was living in Hempstead County. Raised on church songs, fiddle music, and the music of country star Jimmie Rodgers, Blevins headed to Los Angeles with her brother and sister-in-law in 1930; hoping to catch the public’s eye, she changed the spelling of her first name to Rubye. She studied violin …

Moore, Justin Cole

Justin Moore is a popular country music singer and performer from the small town of Poyen (Grant County). In 2009, his Arkansas-inspired song “Small Town U.S.A.” became his first breakthrough hit, landing at number one that year on the country charts. His self-titled 2009 album went gold, as did its follow-up Outlaws Like Me in 2011. In 2014, Moore was named Best New Artist by the Academy of Country Music. Justin Cole Moore was born on March 30, 1984, in Poyen to Tommy Ray Moore and Charlene Webb Moore. He has no siblings. Moore’s father worked for the local post office, and during his childhood, his parents owned a small restaurant. Moore worked most of his youth on his grandparents’ …

Morrison Twin Brothers String Band

The Morrison Twin Brothers String Band consisted of twin brothers and fiddlers Abbie Sherman Morrison and Absie Sherdon (or Sheridan) Morrison of Campbell (Searcy County). The Morrisons became part of the folk revival in Mountain View (Stone County) and played music with Jimmy Driftwood in the 1950s and early 1960s. Abbie and Absie Morrison were born on November 12, 1876 (media sources say November 11, but the Morrison family Bible has November 12) in Campbell to Lewis Calvin “Trip” Morrison and the first of his three wives, Rebecca Jane Denton. Trip fought in both the Confederate and Union armies, but his heart was with the Union. He earned the name Trip, according to family lore, from his many “trips” home …

Oslin, Kay Toinette (K. T.)

Kay Toinette (K. T.) Oslin is a country music singer who skyrocketed to fame in her mid-forties with the hit album 80’s Ladies (1987). Her work is known for its humor and mature perspective, as she achieved success much later in life than most popular musicians. K. T. Oslin was born in Crossett (Ashley County) on May 15, 1942. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and then to Houston, Texas. Oslin considers Houston her hometown. Oslin initially performed as a folk singer with Guy Clark in the 1960s and then moved to New York, where she performed as a chorus girl on and off Broadway. She soon began doing advertising jingles, which led to appearances in …

Raney, Wayne

Wayne Raney was an American country singer and harmonica player best known for his hit song “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me.” Raney, along with fellow Arkansan Lonnie Glosson, played a major role in making the harmonica a popular instrument through their musical performances as well as through their mail-order harmonica business. Wayne Raney was born on August 17, 1921, on a farm near Wolf Bayou (Cleburne County), the youngest of five children of William Franklin (Frank) Raney and Bonnie Davis Raney. Due to a foot deformity, he could not do heavy labor. Instead, he pursued an interest in music, learning to play harmonica at an early age. He was drawn to the harmonica after hearing a street performer …

Raye, Collin

aka: Floyd Elliott Wray
With five platinum records and fifteen number-one singles to his credit, country star Collin Raye is one of the most successful recording artists to ever have emerged from Arkansas. Joining the ranks of acclaimed country performers Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and K. T. Oslin, Raye has proven to be a versatile performer, turning out diverse hits ranging from tender ballads to socially relevant tunes. Collin Raye was born Floyd Elliott Wray on August 22, 1960, in De Queen (Sevier County). His mother, Lois Wray, had achieved notoriety in the 1950s as a regional musician, opening shows for Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. Later in her solo career, Raye’s mother had Raye and his older brother accompany her on …

Rice, Wilburn Steven (Bill)

Wilburn Steven “Bill” Rice is an award-winning Arkansas musician and songwriter who, along with writing partner Jerry Foster, wrote hit records for some of the best-known figures in American music, including Elvis Presley, Charley Pride, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Conway Twitty. Rice has received many songwriting awards and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994. Bill Rice was born on April 19, 1939, in the small town of Datto (Clay County) to Arkansas natives Dewey Wilburn “Wid” Rice and Nova Stevens Rice. When he was a child, his family struggled to make a living in a tiny rural town in the throes of the Great Depression. According to the 1940 census, Rice’s father worked only twenty …

Rich, Charlie

Charlie Rich was a gospel, blues, and country singer and songwriter, and was probably the most musically gifted of the first generation of rockabilly stars. Charlie Rich was born on December 14, 1932, in Colt (St. Francis County), the only son (he had two sisters) of devout Missionary Baptist parents who sang in a church quartet; his mother also played piano. He grew up immersed in the whole range of southern music—along with the church music, there was the country music on the radio and the blues he learned from a sharecropper named C. J., who taught him piano. Rich played in his high school band in Forrest City (St. Francis County), where he was already known as Charlie Kenton …

Riedel, Teddy DeLano

aka: Teddy Redell
Teddy DeLano Riedel was a professional musician and songwriter. He toured widely throughout the nation and world, and his songs were recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley and country music star Sonny James. Teddy Riedel was born on June 7, 1937, in Quitman (Cleburne and Faulkner counties) to Ted Wilson Riedel and Mabel Quinn Riedel. His parents were farmers, primarily growing strawberries, which were a major crop in the region. Riedel graduated from Rose Bud High School in Rose Bud (White County). While in high school, Riedel played piano on KWCB radio in Searcy (White County) and became a member of radio show host Lloyd Sutherland’s band. He was befriended by the harmonica virtuoso Wayne Raney, who recruited the …

Shibley, Jesse Lee “Arkie”

Jesse Lee “Arkie” Shibley was a country singer best known for recording the original version of “Hot Rod Race” in 1950. The song is included in the book What Was the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Record? as one of fifty recordings that were influential in the origination of rock and roll. According to authors Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, its importance lies in the fact that “it introduced automobile racing into popular music and underscored the car’s relevance to American culture, particularly youth culture.” Jesse Lee Shibley was born on September 21, 1914, in Van Buren (Crawford County) to David M. and Prudie Shibley, both farmers. He was a cattle farmer himself and, on November 25, 1935, married Evelyn Marie …

Twitty, Conway

aka: Harold Lloyd Jenkins
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Conway Twitty has sold over 50 million records. Twitty had anywhere from forty-one to fifty-three No. 1 singles on the country and rock charts, depending upon the industry source used. He recorded 110 albums. Harold Lloyd Jenkins was born on September 1, 1933, in Friars Point, Mississippi, and was named after the famous silent film actor, Harold Lloyd. Jenkins had an older brother and sister. He was given his first guitar at age four. The family moved to Helena (Phillips County)—now Helena-West Helena—when Jenkins was ten, and soon thereafter, he formed his first band, the Phillips County Ramblers. His father worked off and on as a Mississippi riverboat captain, though his …

Tyler, T. Texas

aka: David Luke Myrick
T. Texas Tyler, the charismatic Arkansas native with a growling voice, initiated a distinctive country and western musical style that made him a success in the recording industry and on stage in the 1940s, 1950s, and into the 1960s. He pioneered a storytelling style in which the performer spoke some or all of the lyrics, later employed by other country stars such as “Red” Sovine, Jimmy Dean, “Whispering” Bill Anderson, and others. Tex Ritter, one of Tyler’s contemporaries, often referred to the influence Tyler’s style had on him. Tyler was born David Luke Myrick in Mena (Polk County) on June 20, 1916. His parents were James E. Myrick and Ida Bell Cagle Myrick. He was the youngest of three brothers. His …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

Jimmy Wakely, an American country and western singer and actor from the 1930s through the 1950s, made several recordings and appeared in B-western movies with most major studios as a “singing cowboy.” Wakely was one of the last singing cowboys after World War II and also appeared on radio and television; he even had his own series of comic books. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Jimmy Wakely was born James Clarence Wakeley on February 16, 1914, in Mineola (Howard County) to Major Anderson Wakeley, a farmer, and Caroline (or Carolin) “Cali” Burgess Wakeley. As a teenager, he changed “James” to “Jimmy” and dropped the second “e” in his last name, making …

Wilburn Brothers

The Wilburn Brothers were among the most successful and influential sibling duos in the country music industry during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. Brothers Virgil Doyle (“Doyle”) Wilburn (1930–1982) and Thurman Theodore (“Teddy”) Wilburn (1931–2003), who hailed from Hardy (Sharp County), were stars of the Grand Ole Opry, recording artists with over thirty albums, recipients of the only “Lifetime Recording Contract” ever given by Decca Records, and hosts of their own nationally syndicated country music show for eleven years. In addition, they were talent agents who helped launch the careers of many other legendary country music stars, including Loretta Lynn, Patty Loveless, and the Osborne Brothers. Their Surefire Music, formed in 1957, is the only remaining family-owned music-publishing house …

Williams, Harold Gene

Harold Gene Williams was a promoter of country music, a radio and television personality, and a businessman, becoming the host of the most widely syndicated country music television show outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Gene Williams was born on January 3, 1938, in Tyronza (Poinsett County) to Abe Rubel Williams and Myrtis Elease Williams, both Mississippi natives. He was one of three children. His father was a farmer and carpenter. As a boy, Williams helped his family in the cotton fields. Williams and his family moved to Dyess (Mississippi County), where they had purchased land, in 1943. Williams attended high school in Dyess, where he began his lifelong obsession with music. He also excelled as a basketball player and wrote for …

Wootton, Robert (Bob)

Robert (Bob) Wootton was a musician best known for having been Johnny Cash’s backing guitarist for thirty years. In addition to having played on most of Cash’s albums made after 1968, he released music with other members of Cash’s band, the Tennessee Three. He also worked as a driver for musical acts and as a stunt man. Bob Wootton was born on March 4, 1942, in Red Branch, which is a part of the town of Paris (Logan County). He was one of eight children of Rubin C. Wootton, who was a coal miner, and Noma Lucilla Moore Wootton. His father, who also played mandolin, taught him to play the guitar. Wootton’s first musical performances were in church. Among his …