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Bailey, DeFord  

Charles K. Wolfe

musician, was born in Bellwood, Smith County, Tennessee, the son of John Henry Bailey and Mary Reedy, farmers. Bailey grew up in the rolling hills east of Nashville and as a child listened to what he later called the “black hillbilly music” played by his family. His grandfather Lewis Bailey was a skilled fiddler who won numerous local championships and a family string band often appeared at local fairs and dances DeFord s fascination with the harmonica an instrument that was especially popular in Middle Tennessee resulted from a childhood illness When he was three he was stricken with polio and was bedridden for several years to amuse himself he practiced the harmonica Lying in bed and listening to the distant sound of trains hunting dogs and barnyard animals DeFord became adept at working imitations of these into his playing creating unorthodox bent notes and mouthing patterns into ...

Article

Cooke, William E. “Washboard Bill”  

Jan Rosenberg

washboard musician, raconteur, and hobo, was born William Edgar Givens in the sawmill town of Dupont, Florida. His mother ran a “juke joint,” a tavern where the music and the liquor flowed. Little other information about his parents is available. As a boy, Givens would watch the dancing and listen to the music through a hole in the wall of his sleeping room. It was in this manner that he discovered rhythm. He practiced on buckets and pots around the house and gave little shows for his siblings and the neighborhood children.

At a young age, he was adopted by his preacher grandfather, who changed the boy's name to William Edward Cooke. He left his grandfather's home in 1917 and made his way to south Florida, working odd jobs, including clearing land for roads, among these the great Dixie Highway, U.S. 1. In 1931 he took to the ...

Article

Edwards, Stoney  

Ted Olson

country musician, was born Frenchy Edwards near Seminole, Oklahoma, the fourth of seven children born to Bub Edwards, a farmer, and his wife Red, a music teacher.

Stoney Edwards was named Frenchy after a local bootlegger, and received his better-known nickname as an adult. His father was of African American and Irish descent and his mother of Native American heritage. His parents had abandoned their children by the time Edwards was a teenager, and so the future country singer was compelled to serve in the role of caretaker for his three younger siblings. He never attended school and did not learn to read or write.

Because of his mixed race background Edwards experienced frequent discrimination during his early years growing up in rural Depression era Oklahoma and found that playing country music offered one avenue to social acceptance His first exposure to the genre involved listening to his bootlegger ...

Article

Francis, Cleve  

Pamela Foster

the only son and eldest of six children of Cleveland Francis, a janitor, and Mary Francis, a maid. While growing up Francis was inspired by the banjo, fiddle, harmonica, guitar, and other musical sounds he heard both in his neighborhood and on radio. He also was self-inspired to escape the poverty of his hometown any way he could.

Education would be his ticket out. After he built a guitar from an old King Edward cigar box and in 1953 asked for a twenty-five-dollar Sears Silvertone guitar, his mother knew that requiring Francis to keep up his grades in exchange for the guitar would ensure that he developed both his intellectual and musical skills. After high school in 1963 Francis enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge Louisiana as a pre med student where Dr Huel Perkins head of Southern s music department took an interest in his music This ...

Article

McClinton, O. B.  

Ted Olson

country music singer, was born Obie Burnett McClinton in the Gravel Springs community of Senatobia, Mississippi. Growing up on the 700-acre farm of his Baptist minister father G. A. McClinton McClinton picked cotton alongside members of his family which included his grandfather his father his mother three brothers and three sisters By the time he was a teenager McClinton would listen at night to radio programs broadcast from such stations as WLAC Nashville and WHBQ Memphis since his family did not own a record player or any recordings the radio was his only exposure to music that originated from outside his home community While he enjoyed several genres of music including blues rhythm and blues soul and rockabilly McClinton was particularly fond of country music and he regularly listened to the Grand Ole Opry concerts on WSB Nashville Not wanting to make his living through agricultural work he ...

Article

Pride, Charley  

Martha Wilson

country music entertainer. Charley Frank Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, fifty miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, to Tessie and Fowler McArthur Pride. He was the fourth of eleven children and picked cotton alongside his parents, who were sharecroppers. Pride learned to love country music by listening to the family's Philco radio, on which he heard Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and Pee Wee King. By age fourteen he had saved $10 to buy a Silverstone guitar from Sears, Roebuck.

Baseball was Pride's first love, and when he was a junior in high school his parents gave him permission to leave home and play baseball. In 1954 he signed with the Memphis Red Sox, a Negro American League baseball team. In 1956 he was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years and met and married Rozene Cockren They settled in Montana ...

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Pride, Charley Frank  

Born in Sledge, Mississippi, to a family of sharecroppers, Charley Pride spent his early years surrounded by Blues music, but chose to pursue country music professionally. Pride began his bid to be the first black to mount the Grand Ole Opry stage (the apex of country music performance) unconventionally—as a Baseball player in the late 1950s. Between innings as an outfielder for several Negro League teams, Pride displayed his sinewy voice and self-taught mastery of the guitar. Eventually, his nightclub singing was noticed and encouraged by Nashville producers. He gave up baseball for music in 1963. The popularity of his first hits, “Snakes Crawl at Night” (1965) and “Just Between You and Me” (1966), earned him invitations to perform at the Opry, the first black country music star to appear there.

Success in music and business followed He is a superstar singer composer of ...

Article

Riddle, Lesley  

Ted Olson

guitarist, was born in Burnsville, North Carolina. Forced at a young age to work as a laborer, Riddle had a limited formal education. While employed at a local cement plant, he had a serious accident in which he lost his right leg below the knee. Riddle spent much of the 1920s working as a shoe-shiner in the industrial city of Kingsport, Tennessee, where he also sang in churches and played guitar at house parties with other African American musicians. Nicknamed “Esley” by his relatives and friends, Riddle was a fingerstyle and slide guitar player.

Riddle learned his technique by listening to two other black guitar players based in Kingsport, Steve Tarter and Ed Martin. At a gathering in 1928 Riddle met A. P. (Alvin Pleasant) Carter a singer and the chief songwriter and arranger for the Carter Family the leading country music group of the late 1920s ...

Article

Thompson, Odell  

Leon James Bynum

banjoist, was born in Orange County, North Carolina. Although there is some disagreement about his name, most sources identify his father as Walter Thompson, a banjo player; little is known about Odell's mother.

The Thompson family settled near the border of Orange and Alamance counties, on a farm where they harvested tobacco, corn, cotton, and wheat. As part of a string band with his brother, John Arch Walter played a traditional repertoire that included waltzes reels and schottisches for square dances throughout north central North Carolina With the aid of his father Odell mastered the bygone picking techniques variably known as drop thumb thumping frailing and clawhammer which made him a much in demand banjo player before he even had reached adolescence He demonstrated further musical promise by effortlessly learning the guitar and fiddle as well Using the proceeds from selling chewing gum he purchased his first banjo while ...