Entries - Entry Category: Music

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; …

E&M Recording Company and My Records

aka: My Records
In the 1960s, Little Rock (Pulaski County) was home to E&M Recording Company, a studio owned by Earl Fox. The initials in the company name stood for “Earl” and “Myrna,” Fox’s wife. Through his two independent record labels, E&M Recording Company and My Records, which he established later, Fox provided a creative outlet and commercial venue for local singers and musical groups. My Records, in particular, played an important role in nourishing the creative energy released in the late 1960s profusion of central Arkansas rock and roll groups. In 1959, Fox built a sound studio behind his house at 1612 South Buchanan Street in Little Rock; this was an avocational enterprise, which he undertook for his love of music and …

Elton and Betty White

aka: Elton White
aka: Betty White
In the mid- to late 1980s, Elton and Betty White were highly visible Little Rock (Pulaski County) street musicians and eccentrics, recognized for their sexually explicit ukulele songs and their flamboyant wardrobe of sombreros and skimpy swimwear. Betty White was born Betty Crandall in 1927 in Mabelvale (Pulaski County), one of seven children of the town’s postmaster and his wife. In 1946, after graduating as valedictorian of Mabelvale High School, she married air force sergeant Scotty White, with whom she had a son, Sammy. Together, they traveled the nation and the world. After returning to Arkansas, she found secretarial work with the law firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, for whom Bill Clinton was then practicing. Following a diagnosis of …

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 …

Evanescence

Evanescence, a popular alternative rock band from Little Rock (Pulaski County), has brought new music to the world with its dark, lyrical melodies. Evanescence was established in 1999. Amy Lee and Ben Moody (former lead guitarist) had met as teenagers at a summer camp in Arkansas in 1995. They started writing music together, playing together, and recording at their parents’ houses. Eventually, the band grew into a world-renowned phenomenon. The name “Evanescence” means dissipation or a disappearance, as with vapor. Before deciding on Evanescence, however, the group went through several names, including Childish Intentions and Stricken. The lineup included Lee as lead singer and pianist, guitarists John LeCompt and Terry Balsamo, bassist Will Boyd, and drummer Rocky Gray. Ben Moody …

Evans, Dale

aka: Frances Octavia Smith
Dale Evans was an actress, author, and songwriter who was raised in Osceola (Mississippi County), where she attended school for the first time and met her first husband. She rose to fame as America’s “Queen of the West” (sometimes called “Queen of the Cowgirls”) alongside her fourth husband, Roy Rogers (“King of the Cowboys”). She starred in movies, television shows, and evangelical Christian programs. Evans wrote twenty-eight inspirational books and composed many songs, including the popular song of faith, “The Bible Tells Me So,” as well as the iconic American standard, “Happy Trails.” Dale Evans was born in her grandparents’ home at Uvalde, Texas, though her family lived in Italy, Texas. Her father, Walter Smith, was a middle-class farmer who …

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 …

Falco, Tav

aka: Gustavo Antonio Falco
Tav Falco is an innovative rock musician who combines rockabilly, blues, and fractured noise. He has created films and documentaries about musicians and the cultural scene in Memphis, Tennessee, in addition to touring across the globe. The New York Times describes Falco as a “singer, guitarist and researcher of musical arcane who hasn’t let his increasingly technical expertise and idiomatic mastery compromise the clarity of his vision.” Tav Falco was born Gustavo Antonio Falco on May 25, 1945, to Rita Rose Falco on the East Coast. After his mother married Horace Homer Nelson, a sailor from Arkansas, they settled in the rural land between Gurdon (Clark County) and Whelen Springs (Clark County), where Falco was raised. Falco moved to Memphis 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, …

Faulkner, Sandford C. “Sandy”

Sandford C. (Sandy) Faulkner is an iconic individual from Arkansas’s early statehood. Although he never held elective office, his political and economic activity made a significant contribution to the development of the young state. Moreover, Faulkner is largely responsible for the story of the “Arkansas Traveler,” which has shaped the image of Arkansas since the 1840s. Sandy Faulkner was born on March 3, most likely in 1803, in Scott County, Kentucky, to Nicholas Faulkner and Sally Fletcher Faulkner. Much confusion surrounds Faulkner’s early history; many sources spell his first name “Sanford,” and one researcher even suggests that at birth he was given the name “Sanderson.” The 1850 census appears to record his age as forty-four, suggesting that he was born …

Fayetteville Polka

“The Fayetteville Polka” was written by Austrian immigrant Ferdinand Zellner in honor of his adopted hometown of Fayetteville (Washington County). It was accepted for publication in 1856, becoming what is said to be the first published piece of sheet music by an Arkansan. Ferdinand Zellner came to the United States in 1850, when the showman P. T. Barnum brought Swedish soprano Jenny Lind from Europe to the United States on a concert tour that ran through 1852. Called the “Swedish Nightingale,” she was one of the greatest coloratura sopranos of the nineteenth century, possessing a voice of outstanding range and quality. Zellner, a young Austrian violinist, accompanied her on her prestigious U.S. tour. At the end of Lind’s U.S. tour …

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 …

Foley, Blaze

aka: Michael David Fuller
Singer-songwriter Michael David Fuller worked under the names Depty (or Deputy) Dawg and then Blaze Foley, being best known by the latter. His songs have been recorded by singers such as Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and John Prine. Blaze Foley was born on December 18, 1949, to Edwin Fuller and Louise Fuller in Malvern (Hot Spring County). His family traveled as gospel performers and were known as the Singing Fuller Family. Foley began singing with the group at the age of eleven with his mother, brother, and sisters. When Foley was a baby, the family left Arkansas for Texas, settling in San Antonio and later the Dallas/Fort Worth area. While an infant, he contracted polio, which was cured …

Folk Music

Folk music is part of a society’s “unofficial culture,” much of which is passed on through face-to-face contact among close-knit people. Early folk music in Arkansas falls into two broad categories: folksongs (which do not present a narrative) and ballads (which tell a story). Folksong collectors sought to record and preserve this traditional music in the twentieth century, with Vance Randolph, John Quincy Wolf, and others working in Arkansas. The lyric folksong form of the blues developed in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta regions in the late nineteenth century among the first generation of African Americans to come of age after slavery. Protest music of the early to mid-twentieth century, dealing with labor and social conditions—as well as war, civil rights, and …

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 …

Front Porch Stage

Located in Mount Ida (Montgomery County), the Montgomery County Front Porch Stage (MCFPS) is a nonprofit organization that produces free music concerts on the lawn of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Officially incorporated in 2013, MCFPS is governed by a five-member board of directors and raises money to provide musical instruments and equipment to schools in Montgomery County. The original idea for building a stage came from musicians and friends who were meeting on the courthouse lawn on Saturday afternoons to visit and play music. The stage started with a donated flatbed trailer, donated lumber, and volunteer labor in the summer and fall of 2000. Soon, a covered stage was constructed on the eastern side of the courthouse lawn, with a …

Garage Bands

With the arrival of the Beatles on American shores in 1964, the “British Invasion” became a national pop-culture phenomenon. Representing the second generation of rock and roll, wave after wave of English rock groups—such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Who—followed the Beatles during the next two years. Teenagers across the United States were inspired to form four- or five-member bands patterned after their British role models. Because they often practiced in garages, these amateur groups came to be known as “garage bands.” Like many mid-sized American cities, Little Rock (Pulaski County) witnessed a mid-1960s explosion in the number of neighborhood teenage groups, all competing for school, fraternity house, or country club engagements. Other cities and towns in …

Gilbert, Ollie Eva Woody

Both a local and national celebrity, Ollie Eva Woody Gilbert, known popularly as Aunt Ollie, performed with Jimmy Driftwood, Woody Guthrie, and many other folk musicians who have come to define the voice of the Great Depression. Venues ranged from friends’ and family members’ front porches and living rooms in the Ozark Mountains to Cow Palace in San Francisco, California; the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee; and Madison Square Garden in New York City. The eighth of thirteen children of James (Jim) Franklin Woody and Mary Minerva Balentine Woody, Ollie Eva Woody was born on October 17, 1892, in the Hickory Grove area of Stone County. Shelearned to play the banjo at the age of five. Her instrument was made …

Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters

Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters were an African-American gospel group based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At its artistic peak in the 1970s, the group’s adventurous, contemporary style put its sound outside the realm of traditional gospel music. The group—which included McFadden as well as Jo Dumas, Ann James, and Lorraine Leeks—was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Gladys McFadden was born on September 10, 1934, in Little Rock. Her father, Aaron Williams, was a pastor, and her mother coached their church choir. McFadden sang in that choir until age nine, when she founded a group she christened the Loving Sisters, as the group included one of McFadden’s sisters, as well as a friend who …

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 …

Gospel Music

Musicologists and journalists have often provided conflicting definitions of the term “gospel music.” Early African-American gospel was a blend of nineteenth-century hymns, spirituals, field songs, ragtime, and blues, while the religious music performed by white artists—an obvious antecedent to what would be labeled Southern gospel—incorporated folk, traditional hymns, and singing convention standards. Today’s Christian music is often categorized by genre, reflecting the social, racial, ideological, and generational diversity of the Christian community. This diversity is shown in a contrast of pervading traditions, varied approaches to lyric writing, and stylistic exchanges between the sacred and secular. Throughout the evolution of gospel music, Arkansas has remained at the forefront, producing noteworthy pioneers of yesterday and molding trendsetters of today. Several key figures …

Green, Al

Al Green is one of Arkansas’s best-known singers, with a career that has ranged from rhythm and blues (R&B) to pop to gospel and a combination. Green’s distinctive falsetto singing style continues to thrill fans old and young, and he remains an active soul singer from an era that also produced Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. Al Greene (he later dropped the last “e”) was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City (St. Francis County) and grew up in a large family that sang gospel music. When his sharecropper father moved the family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Green was only nine but sang with his siblings in the Green Brothers. When he began listening to the non-gospel …

Hamilton, Lawrence Olivier

Lawrence Olivier Hamilton was a Broadway star who appeared in such shows as Porgy and Bess, The Wiz, and Jelly’s Last Jam. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in 2005. Lawrence Hamilton was born on September 14, 1954, in Ashdown (Little River County), one of six children of Oscar Hamilton and Mae Dell Neal-Hamilton. He later lived in Foreman (Little River County). He attended Foreman Public Schools and took piano lessons from a woman who had been a friend of ragtime composer Scott Joplin. He studied music education (as well as piano and voice) at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia (Clark County), receiving a bachelor’s degree. In …

Hardin, Louis Thomas “Moondog”

aka: Louis T. Hardin
Louis Thomas “Moondog” Hardin Jr. grew up and learned to play the piano in Independence County. He later became a musician and composer admired in jazz, classical, and rock circles. He was also known for living on Manhattan streets dressed as a Viking and banging a drum. Louis Hardin was born on May 26, 1916, in Marysville, Kansas, the son of an Episcopal minister, Louis Thomas Hardin Sr., and Norma Alves, a homemaker and teacher. He had one sister and one brother. The family moved around the Midwest when he was young. Playing tom-tom at a Wyoming Arapaho dance at a young age fostered a life-long affection for Native American rhythms. As an adult, Hardin performed with the Blackfoot tribe. While …

Hartford Music Company and Hartford Music Institute

The Hartford Music Company, located in Hartford (Sebastian County), was founded in 1918 by Eugene Monroe (E. M.) Bartlett, a businessman from Waynesville, Missouri, who wanted to publish gospel music. Specifically, he was interested in teaching people how to sight read a song, using shape notes, which would enable them to read music and sing with or without an instrument. Hartford was the perfect location for a gospel music company; the railroad ran east and west through town, with connecting rails all over the United States, thus allowing the easy transport of paper and supplies as well as students. Bartlett, president of the Hartford Music Company, printed from electrotype plates for his songbooks, published semiannually. The books were shipped all …

Hawkins, Dale

aka: Delmar Allen Hawkins
Delmar Allen (Dale) Hawkins Jr., a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, specialized in creating a sound (called “Swamp Rock” by some) that helped shape rock and roll music. Hawkins was successful in many roles in the music industry: singer, songwriter, recording artist, producer, arranger, band leader, musician, TV host, disc jockey, and promoter. Billboard magazine lists Hawkins’s Suzie Q album in its Top 100 most valuable albums in the development of rock and roll. His first cousin, Ronnie Hawkins, rose to fame with the musical group the Band. Different sources have reported different birth dates for Hawkins (given the practice in the 1950s for promoters to alter birth dates to make their clients more appealing to a younger …

Hawkins, Ronnie

aka: Ronald Cornett Hawkins
Ronald Cornett (Ronnie) Hawkins, a rock and roll singer and bandleader, is known primarily for starting the group the Hawks, which later became the Band. Ronnie Hawkins was born on January 10, 1935, in Huntsville (Madison County). His father, Jasper Hawkins, was a barber, and his mother, Flora Cornett Hawkins, was a schoolteacher. In 1945, the family, which included Hawkins’s older sister Winifred, moved to Fayetteville (Washington County). Hawkins was educated in the city’s public schools, graduating from Fayetteville High School in 1952. During his high school and college years, Hawkins formed his first bands, which played such Fayetteville venues as the Tee Table, the Bubble Club, and the Shamrock Club. A physical education major at the University of Arkansas …

Hayes, Morris Kevin

Arkansas native Morris Hayes is a talented musician, producer, and band leader. As a keyboardist, Hayes has worked with superstars such as Prince, George Clinton, Elton John, Whitney Houston, and Stevie Wonder. He was one of the 2013 inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Morris Kevin Hayes was born on November 28, 1962, in the small town of Jefferson (Jefferson County), just outside Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He was inspired by the religious music he heard in church as a child. He majored in art at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). When a rhythm and blues (R&B) band on campus lost its keyboard player, Hayes—who had learned to play a bit in high school—offered to …

Hays, Lee Elhardt

Lee Elhardt Hays was a singer best known as the big man who sang bass with the folk-music group the Weavers. According to historian Studs Terkel, the Weavers were responsible for “entering folk music into the mainstream of American life.” Among the songs he is most known for are: “If I Had a Hammer,” “Roll the Union On,” “Raggedy, Raggedy, Are We,” “The Rankin Tree,” “On Top of Old Smoky,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,” and “Goodnight Irene.” Lee Hays was born on March 14, 1914, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to a strict Methodist preacher, William Benjamin Hays, and Ellen Reinhardt Hays. Hays’s father was serving as editor of the Arkansas Methodist at this time but later went back to the …

Helm, Levon

aka: Mark Lavon Helm
Mark Lavon (Levon) Helm was best known as the drummer and singer for the Canadian rock group the Band. Following the demise of the Band, he continued to have a successful career leading his own band, as well as acting in numerous motion pictures. Levon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, outside Elaine (Phillips County) to Nell and Diamond Helm. He had two sisters and one brother. He grew up in Marvell (Phillips County) working on the family cotton farm but was always encouraged to play and sing music at home and in church. Helm knew that he wanted to become a musician at age six, after seeing bluegrass musician Bill Monroe perform. He began playing guitar at age eight …

Hendricks, Barbara Ann

Barbara Hendricks is an internationally recognized leading lyric soprano. Whether performing light soprano roles in traditional operatic repertory, demanding premieres of twentieth-century vocal music, song recitals, or jazz, Hendricks has been recognized as a leading artist since the mid-1970s. In addition, she is recognized internationally for her work for human rights and world peace. Barbara Hendricks was born on November 20, 1948, in Stephens (Ouachita County). The child of a Methodist minister, she lived in various small towns in Arkansas and Tennessee. She graduated from Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She enrolled at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, and transferred to the University of Nebraska as a chemistry major. She graduated in 1969 with a BS …

Hensley, Violet Brumley

Known as the “Whittling Fiddler,” the “Stradivarius of the Ozarks,” or more simply, the “Fiddle Maker,” Violet Brumley Hensley, a fiddle maker and musician most of her life, was designated as the 2004 Arkansas Living Treasure by the Arkansas Arts Council. According to the Arts Council, this designation recognizes Hensley as an outstanding Arkansan who has elevated her work as a fiddle maker to the status of art and who actively preserves and advances the art form. Violet Brumley was born near Mount Ida (Montgomery County) on October 21, 1916, to George Washington Brumley and Nora Springer Brumley. The Brumleys had two other daughters. She followed in her father’s footsteps as a musician, and at the age of fifteen, Brumley …

Hibbler, Al

aka: Albert George Edward Hibbler
Albert George Edward (Al) Hibbler, a pop/jazz singer, was the first African American to have a radio program in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was also the first blind entertainer to gain national prominence. He sang with the Duke Ellington Band for eight and a half years before he left to make five recordings as a solo artist; three became Billboard pop hits. Hibbler also became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. Al Hibbler was born on August 16, 1915, in Como, Mississippi, to Hubert Hibbler and Lucy Prokes Hibbler, a farm family; some sources have reported that Hibbler was born in Tyro, Mississippi, while still others report he was born in Little Rock, but he always claimed …

Hicks, Dan

Daniel Ivan Hicks was a cross-genre singer/songwriter specializing in a type of music he referred to as “folk jazz.” He served as front man for his band, the Hot Licks, off and on since 1968. Dan Hicks was born on December 9, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the only child of Ivan L. Hicks—a career military man—and Evelyn Kehl Hicks. The family moved to northern California when Hicks was five years old. The family settled in Santa Rosa, and Hicks resided in the area north of San Francisco for the rest of his life. Hicks started playing drums in grade school and played snare drum in his high school marching band. At age fourteen, he was accompanying high school …

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 …

Hot Springs Music Festival

The Hot Springs Music Festival is a non-profit organization whose dual mission is, first, to provide exceptionally talented young musicians with intensive mentoring to prepare them for the early stages of their professional careers, and, second, to have them share the music they make with people in central Arkansas. To fulfill its mission, the festival organization produces a two-week annual event by the same name every June in the historic downtown district of Hot Springs (Garland County). The festival was founded in 1995 by Richard Rosenberg, an orchestra conductor and music educator, and Laura Rosenberg, an arts administrator. Prior to founding the festival, Richard Rosenberg had been acting director of orchestras at the University of Michigan, associate conductor of the …

Howlin’ Wolf

aka: Chester Arthur Burnett
Chester Arthur Burnett, known as Howlin’ Wolf or Howling Wolf, was one of the most influential musicians of the post–World War II era. His electric blues guitar, backing his powerful, howling voice, helped shape rock and roll. Chester Burnett was born on June 10, 1910, in White Station, Mississippi, four miles northeast of West Point, Mississippi, to Leon “Dock” Burnett, a sharecropper, and Gertrude Jones. His parents separated when he was one year old; his father moved to the Mississippi Delta to farm, and he and his mother moved to Monroe County, Mississippi, where she became an eccentric religious singer who performed and sold self-penned spirituals on the street. Burnett got the nickname “Wolf” because his grandfather would scare the youngster by telling …

Hynson, Hazel Shanks

Hazel Shanks Hynson was a classically trained pianist who served as the choir director at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and taught many musicians in her studio who went on to be well known. Hazel Shanks was born on August 8, 1903, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Christopher Columbus Shanks, who worked as an insurance auditor, and Luna Craig Shanks; she had one younger brother. She attended private schools, studying music, and she received her bachelor’s degree in music, with a major in piano, from Atlanta University. She later traveled to England to pursue further musical studies at Oberlin College in Ohio and at the University of London. She also studied at the renowned Juilliard School in New …

Jackson, Joseph Walter (Joe)

Joseph Walter (Joe) Jackson was a talent manager best known as the father and manager of his children’s careers, including the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Joseph Walter Jackson was born on July 26, 1928, in Fountain Hill (Ashley County). He was the oldest of five children of Samuel Joseph Jackson and Crystal Lee King. His father was a schoolteacher. Jackson remembered that his father was one of few African Americans in the area to own a car. The elite status earned his father the nickname of “Professor Jackson.” Much of Jackson’s childhood was spent in Arkansas. However, when his parents separated, he left Arkansas at the …

Janes, Roland

Roland Janes was a well-known session guitar player who worked with Sam Phillips at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. He was elected to the Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of Fame and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. His guitar is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Roland Janes was born on August 20 ,1933, in Brookings (Clay County) to R. D. Janes and Mary Pearl Janes; he had three brothers and three sisters. Janes learned to play guitar and performed in country bands with his cousins while living in Arkansas. His parents divorced when he was about ten, and his mother moved to St. Louis, Missouri; he shuttled back and …

Jazz Music

  With New Orleans, Louisiana, and Kansas City, Missouri, emerging as the booming urban epicenters of jazz music and inevitably spilling this music and culture across interstate lines, Arkansas began to see a number of touring “territory bands” sprout up around the state in the late 1910s and early 1920s. Some of the first included Sterling Todd’s Rose City Orchestra; the Quinn Band out of Fort Smith (Sebastian County); and the Synco Six out of Helena (Phillips County), led by banjo player Gene Crooke. All three bands were at some point joined by Arkansas’s first major jazz musician, pianist Alphonso E. “Phonnie” Trent. Trent played with the Rose City Orchestra and the Quinn Band during his teenage years before eventually …

Jeffress/Phillips Music Company

The Jeffress/Phillips Music Company, located in Crossett (Ashley County), is one of the five remaining seven-shape gospel publishing companies in the United States and is the sole seven-shape gospel publisher in the state of Arkansas. While known best as a rural tradition, shape notes, sometimes referred to as character or patent notes, are visual cues that act as points of reference, creating a unique notational style composed of geometric figures. This teaching mechanism led to the development of a rich and varied canon of American folk hymnody notated and practiced in shape notes, of which seven-shape gospel music comprises one specific tradition. Successor to the Jeffress Music Company, Jeffress/Phillips Music is a family-run operation. William Nolin Jeffress, founder of the …

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 …

John, “Little Willie”

aka: William Edgar John
William Edgar “Little Willie” John was a powerful rhythm and blues vocalist and songwriter who recorded several hit songs, including the original version of “Fever” at age eighteen. Little Willie John was born on November 15, 1937, in Cullendale (Ouachita County). He was one of ten children. His father, Mertis, was a logger in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas; his mother, Lillie, played guitar and sang gospel songs, teaching them to her children. His sister Mable, also raised in Ouachita County, recorded as a Raelette for Ray Charles and solo for Stax Records. In 1942, the Johns moved to Detroit, Michigan, so Mertis could pursue factory work. The eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel quintet in the 1940s. A …

Johnny Cash Heritage Festival

The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival is an annual event held in Dyess (Mississippi County), the small town where Johnny Cash lived until he was eighteen years old. The festival, begun in October 2017, features several days of music, arts and crafts, scholarly lectures, and appearances by Cash family members and nationally known performers. The event is sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Program at Arkansas State University (ASU), headed by Dr. Ruth Hawkins. The festival is held in October, traditionally a month of good weather in northeastern Arkansas as well as the period when farmers are harvesting cotton. From 2011 to 2014, ASU held the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro (Craighead County), featuring concerts by such country music luminaries as Rosanne …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …

Joplin, Scott

Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin composed more than forty ragtime piano pieces, including “Maple Leaf Rag” (which sold more than a million copies) and “The Entertainer” (which was used in the 1973 film The Sting). He spent his formative years in Texarkana (Miller County), and his major opera, Treemonisha, is set in the plantation area of Rondo (Miller County) north of Texarkana. Scott Joplin was born on November 24, 1867 or 1868, near Marshall, Texas. His father, Giles, was a former slave, and his mother, Florence, was a freed woman from Kentucky. The family moved to Texarkana early in Joplin’s life so that his father could obtain work on the railroad. Joplin showed an early interest in …