Entries - Entry Category: Music - Starting with D

Davis, Ellis CeDell

Ellis CeDell Davis was a blues musician and recording artist who helped bring blues from its rural Southern roots into the twenty-first century. He employed a unique slide guitar style and performed the traditional Delta blues he learned growing up in and around Helena (Phillips County). Although he was a longtime professional musician, recordings of his music were not available until 1983. In the late twentieth century, he recorded several albums and became a favorite with a new generation of blues fans. CeDell Davis was born on June 9, 1926, in Helena, where his mother worked as a cook but was also known as a faith healer. At age four, Davis went to live with relatives on the E. M. …

Deckelman, Gene Darrell “Bud”

Gene Darrell “Bud” Deckelman was a country and rockabilly musician who had brief success in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1950s. His most popular recording was “Daydreamin’,” which was issued on the Meteor record label in Memphis. While his output was relatively small, he toured with artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Wanda Jackson. Bud Deckelman was born in Harrisburg (Poinsett County) on April 2, 1927, to Louisiana native George Deckelman (1904–1984) and Arkansas native Lillian Agnes Ellezy Deckelman (1906–1999). He grew up in a poor farming family and with limited education in Scott (Poinsett County). He had four sisters and three brothers. According to the 1940 census, his father owned the family’s house, but it was valued at …

Deckelman, Joseph Dewitt “Sonny”

Joseph Dewitt “Sonny” Deckelman was a musician, songwriter, and record label owner active in the Memphis, Tennessee, and northeastern Arkansas rockabilly scene in the late 1950s and 1960s. While his artistic output was modest, his recordings were well received and have maintained a small but enthusiastic following. He is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Sonny Deckelman was born in Harrisburg (Poinsett County) on September 1, 1933. He was the son of Joe V. Deckelman and Nell Ellzey Deckelman, both natives of Arkansas. His father was a farmer and mechanic, and his mother was a housewife. Deckelman came from a poor family; the census of 1940 shows his father earning no income. He was the youngest of four …

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 …

DeMent, Iris 

Arkansas native Iris DeMent has used her distinctive voice to sing folk, country, bluegrass, and gospel music. She has written songs about family, religion, people, places, and political ideas in a time when few were doing so. Iris DeMent was born on January 5, 1961, in Paragould (Greene County), the youngest of fourteen children. Her parents, Patrick Shaw and Flora Mae DeMent, were farmers on an island in the St. Francis River outside Paragould. When Iris was three, her father lost his factory job after a failed attempt to unionize, and the family hit hard times, sold the farm, and moved to Buena Park, California. They lived there until she was seventeen and then moved to Sacramento, California. Eventually, her …

Diamond State Chorus

The Diamond State Chorus is the performance group of the Greater Little Rock Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA). The international men’s singing group, also known as the Barbershop Harmony Society, has more than 34,000 members. It was founded on April 11, 1938, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The local chapter is a grandchild of the Memphis, Tennessee, chapter. In 1952, seven barbershoppers from Memphis went to Stuttgart (Arkansas County) to start a chapter. The subsequent Grand Prairie Chorus attracted the attention of a quartet from Little Rock (Pulaski County)—The Four Specs—which made the 120-mile round trip to Stuttgart for a couple of years before deciding to form a chapter …

Ditto, Beth

aka: Mary Beth Patterson
White County native Beth Ditto is the singer and songwriter for Gossip, an indie, dance-punk band based in Portland, Oregon. Ditto is also known for being a model and fashion designer who promotes positive body image, as well as for her outspoken support of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. In 2006, she became the first woman voted “Coolest Person in Rock” by NME, a long-running British music magazine. She also released her first solo album in 2017. Beth Ditto was born Mary Beth Patterson on February 19, 1981. She was raised by a single mother, Velmyra Estel, and grew up in Judsonia (White County), near Searcy (White County); she did not know her father and was given the last name …

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 …

Dorough, Bob

Robert Lrod Dorough was a composer, lyricist, and musician best known for his jazz compositions and 1970s Schoolhouse Rock! shorts on ABC Saturday morning television. Bob Dorough was born on December 12, 1923, in Cherry Hill (Polk County), the oldest of four children of Robert Lee Dorough, who was an automobile and insurance salesman, and Alma Audrey Lewis, a housewife and Singer sewing machine instructor. Dorough’s unusual middle name was suggested by his aunt. He attended elementary schools in De Queen (Sevier County), Mena (Polk County), and Texarkana (Miller County) and graduated from Plainview High School in Plainview, Texas, where the family moved in 1934. The Plainview High School bandmaster inspired Dorough musically and gave him free lessons in harmony and …

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 …

Driftwood, Jimmy

aka: James Corbett Morris
Jimmy Driftwood was a prolific folk singer/songwriter who wrote over 6,000 songs. He gained national fame in 1959 when Johnny Horton recorded Driftwood’s song, “The Battle of New Orleans.” Even after Driftwood had risen to fame, he continued living in rural Stone County, spending most of his time promoting and preserving the music and heritage of the Ozark Mountains. Jimmy Driftwood was born James Corbett Morris in West Richwoods (Stone County) near Mountain View (Stone County) on June 20, 1907, to Neal and Allie Risner-Morris. He was given the name Driftwood as the result of a joke his grandfather had played on his grandmother. When the two went to visit their new grandson, Driftwood’s grandfather arrived first and wrapped a bundle …

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 …

Dusenbury, Emma Hays

Emma Hays Dusenbury was an outstanding traditional singer; her work is represented by some 116 songs in the nation’s leading folksong archive at the Library of Congress. Emma Hays was born on January 9, 1862, probably in Habersham County or Rabun County, Georgia, to William Jasper Hays and Mary Jane Pitts. She came to Arkansas with her parents and four siblings in 1872, staying first in Crittenden County but eventually settling in Baxter County, near Gassville. Sometime after 1880, she married Ernest Dusenbury, who was from Illinois. Two years later, they had a daughter. In about 1894 or 1895, she suffered a serious illness that left her blind. Before settling near Mena (Polk County) in about 1907, Dusenbury lived an itinerant life; …