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Interview By Steve Kelemen

I was born in Hamilton, Ohio on June 3rd, 1928. Both my parents were from Kentucky. When I was young we would visit my grandparents. All my dads brothers and sisters were talented musicians so I got to hear a lot of country style fiddle, banjo and guitar picking. We also listened to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. By the time I got to high school most of the music the teenagers listened to at the time was the big bands and I didn't get to hear much country music then. It wasn't until I got married in 1950 that I became interested in playing guitar and singing and song writing. A friend, who had been a buddy of mine in high school, had just returned home from the U.S. Army. He had been stationed in Texas and while there he learned to love western swing music. He's the one who talked me into playing the guitar. 4 or 5 of us friends would get together at each others homes and play and sing. Once in a while we would play at a small party or entertain at a firehall where one of the musicians was a volunteer fireman.

I started writing a few songs in the mid 1950's and the first song I ever wrote was for my wife - "I'm Leaving You The Key To My Heart". I'm still married to the same woman - 53 years this coming December 3rd.

The second song I wrote was "The Rock'n'Roll Carpenter".

We didn't call it Rockabilly at the time. We just thought it was good country music with a beat. At that time I heard there was a new recording company in Hamilton called Ruby Records. They were just getting started up. I went to talk to the owner Larry Short. I told him I had a couple of songs that maybe he could get someone to record. He said to bring them in and he would give them a listen. I had already recorded them on a tape recorder in my friends Orville Andrews basement. Clyde Markham was on lead guitar, Wayne Hargreaves on steel guitar and Adrian Cann on upright bass. Orville and I played rhythm guitar. We used only one microphone and bounced out the sound the best we could. The two songs I took to Larry Short to listen to were "The Rock'n'Roll Carpenter" and "I'm Leaving You The Key To My Heart".

Larry listened and said - well, let's put these songs on record. They are as good as anything I can record here in my studio. So I agreed to go along with his idea although I was more interested in writing songs than I was in singing.

Larry Short was a very enthusiastic kind of a guy. He did the best he could to get the records distributed but he just didn't have the kind of money it took to get Ruby Records going big time. Larry had a wife named Ruby and that's how Ruby Records got it's name.

Larry had his own studio musicians called 'The Rainbow Rhythmaires' so he said we'll just call your musicians 'The Rural Rhythm Boys'. My other two songs I recorded for Ruby that were released were "Your Broken Hearted List" and "Look What You've Done To Me".

"Your Broken Hearted List" was also recorded the same night using the same musicians as on the first two recordings. "Look What You've Done To Me" was recorded using some of Larrys studio musicians and some of mine. Carol Jones played electric bass. Gene Browning played a snare drum. Bert Jones played lead guitar and Orville Andrews and myself played rhythm guitars etc. These songs were all recorded in 1956.

I recorded 3 other songs for Ruby but they were never released. One called "Try, Try Again" which was recorded in Larrys studio and the other two were recorded in Chicago in a really big, fine studio. They were two of my better Rockabilly style songs called "Jitterbugging Baby" and "Oh, Honey". I only got to hear them a couple of times and then I never heard anything more about them. The reason I went to Chicago was to sing back up for my friend Stan Johnson. Stan and I did a few personal appearances together at dances or taverns. Another good friend of mine who recorded for Ruby was Pappy Tipton. He was better known around here as a fine disc jockey. One year he was voted DJ of the year by the Nashville DJs Association. He was pretty good. Pappy died a few years back after he moved to Tennessee. And I haven't been able to find out what happened to Stan Johnson.

In 1960 I recorded a couple of songs I had written for Arvis Records which was owned by another good friend of mine - Jimmy Skinner. He also had a record shop in Cinncinati. The songs were "I Feel Like a Million" and "I'll Bet You Wouldn't Care".

I recorded these two songs in a little studio I had in my garage. The musicians I used on these were Clyde Markham on lead guitar, Joel Stout on rhythm guitar and Mitchell Davison on upright bass. The songs got some play on local radio stations but they weren't distributed to many other stations or DJs. Jimmy Skinner used to come to my house a few times to listen to songs I'd written. He liked some of them but never did record any of them because he didn't think they were country enough.


I still like to play my guitar and sing when I get the chance. I sometimes sing country songs on a Saturday night with a group called 'The Country Legends'. Most of the musicians are former members of well-known artists bands. I have a group of fine musicians that I sing and play with in church also. The latest recording I released was a gospel album in 1981 with 12 songs on it which I wrote. It was on my own label called Believe Records.

My other interests are playing senior softball. I play about 3 times a week with men 70 years and older. In 1996 we won the senior softball World Series in Detroit, Michigan.

Page posted July, 2003

Rockabilly Hall of Fame