Opal Jean Amburgey (Jean Chapel aka. “Mattie” O’Neil-Holmes-Calogne) was born on March 6, 1925, the youngest of three girls, born in Letcher County, Ky. At the age of 10, Jean wanted to pick and play like her father and grandfather. Her first instrument was the mandolin. “She tuned that mandolin to make it sound like a banjo,” Minnie says, “and with your eyes closed you have thought it was a banjo.” The banjo was a favorite instrument for Jean, but money to buy one with was in short supply during the depression era. Her father made a considerable sacrifice by selling some of his carpentry tools to get money for a banjo.??In 1936, at age 11, Jean began her singing career with her two older sisters in the Sunshine Sisters Band. After two years of daily practice and countless public performances, the highly polished Sunshine Sisters were in great demand.At age 13, Jean would leave home with older sister, Minnie, 18; and sister, Martha,17; to perform daily at WLAP radio in Lexington, Kentucky. They would stay with the station for almost a year. Even at this young age, “She was the star,” says older sister, Minnie. “She sang lead on most of our songs; she had quite the personality.” At age 15, Jean had already performed at literally hundreds of shows, appeared daily on radio stations, sang on barn dances, became a member of the Coon Creek Girls, and was about to begin what she would be most remembered for–WRITING SONGS! When Jean passed away in 1995, she had written well over 400 songs with more than 170 songs recorded and released by major artists such as: George Jones, Jerry Wallace, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, George Morgan, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Connie Smith, Roy Rogers, and Sonny James, just to mention a few.
The Country Music Association would nominate Jean’s 1973 hit “To Get To You” as one of the top five songs in the country that year. Jean held seven BMI song writing awards for her song writing abilities. However, her song writing should not be overshadow the rest of her amazing career. As music historian Robert Oermann says “her saga encompasses virtually every major development in country music’s history – string bands, radio barn dances, television, rockabilly, and the Nashville Sound.” At age 15, “Jean could play anything with strings,” remembers Minnie. The three sisters would move to WSB Radio in Atlanta to set up a barn dance program under the direction of John Lair. Here, Lair would change the Sunshine Sisters’ names to Minnie, Mattie, and Marthy. Jean would take the name “Mattie” and use this name on and off throughout her singing and song writing career. For the next 10 years, Jean would move around from WSB in Atlanta, to WLW in Cincinnati, to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, to the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1947, Jean would marry Salty(Floyd) Holmes, an original Prairie Ramblers Band member, and a truly great entertainer of his day. The two would appear numerous times on the Grand Ole Opry as “Mattie and Salty” throughout their career.
In 1957, she sang « Ooh-ba La Baby » for the film « Untamed Youth ». A divorce, in 1956, from Salty Holmes would lead Jean to slow her recording career and begin more concentration on writing throughout the 60’s. Before long, dozens of Nashville artists were recording her works. The 1970’s would find Jean excelling as a songwriter and writing some of her biggest hits. Daughter Lana would also become a song writer with songs like, “Sweet Marilyn” recorded by Eddy Arnold; “Hemp Hill KY.” recorded by Hensen Cargill; “Kentucky Ridge Runner” cut by Lester Flatt; and “It’s For My Dad” recorded by Nancy Sinatra.Jean passed away in 1995. She had two children, Kenny Woodruff and Lana Holmes (Chapel). Her songs are still remembered by countless people, click here to see a list.
Special mention needs to be given to Floyd “Salty” Holmes, Jean’s former husband and partner on the Grand Ole Opry. Together, these two entertained thousands across television, radio, and personal concert appearances.
Individually, Salty had a long illustrious past of his own in the entertainment field. Born on March 6, 1909 in Glasgow, Kentucky, Salty was a harmonica “virtuoso” but could also play the jug and the guitar with great talent.
His band, the Kentucky Ramblers, were legendary forming back in 1930. By 1933 The band was playing over WLS Chicago under the name “The Prairie Ramblers.” They hired a new girl, Patsy Montana, to sing with them. Historian, Robert Oermann says about the band, “one of the hottest, jazziest, most accomplished string bands in the history of country music.”
At WLS in Chicago, Salty would become good friends with Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Red Foley. 1936 would find Salty and Gene Autry heading for Hollywood to make movies, and then a return trip in 1944. Salty would appear in several B-western movies such as: Arizona Days with Tex Ritter; Sagebrush Hero with Charles Starret; and Saddle Leather Law with Charles Starret.
From 1933-40, The Prairie Ramblers would cut over 100 sessions for Gene Autry and Patsy Montana. They appeared throughout the country with Patsy performing daily at many matinees.
Salty Holmes (with Joe Maphis) “Cannon Ball Special”
Salty and Jean Chapel were married in 1947 until 1956. His career in radio carried him from Chicago, to New York, to Davenport, to Cincinnati, to the Grand Old Opry. In the 50’s, Salty appeared in Las Vegas at the Showboat and the Sahara club in Reno, Nevada.
Floyd passed away in 1971 at Elwood, Indiana.
(biography from Don Chapel, All Music). Additions by bopping’s editor.
Sources: 78rpm-worlds (Ronald Keppner, as usual – many thanks to him), also “45stalker”; Notes and music from Cattle CD 289
Howdy folks ! Another selection concentrating between 1954 and 1957, but with the early odd side from…1929 and the latest from 1964.
Here we go with SKEETER BONN (born 1923 Junior Lewis Bougham) he had a long serie of sides cut early to mid-’50s for RCA. I’ve chosen the two-sider #(21-6352 from 1955) « There’s no use now », a good medium paced opus with a Bonn in fine extrovert and exuberant voice over a classic backing of discreet steel and bass. The flipside « Rock-a-bye baby » is faster, fine guitar, for this eternal kiddie (?) theme.
His next came in 1957, « Chained » has a harsh vocal and a lot of echo for a real fast song. I don’t know where it was first issued, on Admiral 1007 out of Wheeling, W.Va. or on Town and Country 129, a Polan Springs, Mo. label.
During the late 40s a basically Bluegrass group, that of the McCORMICK BROTHERS, originally from Westmoreland, TN. had their show on WHIN in Gallatin and WKYS on the Hayloft Jamboree. They (Harold, rhythm guitar – Haskell, banjo – Kelly, mandolin – and Lloyd, guitar – backed by Benny Clark on fiddle and Hayden Clark on bass) enjoyed so much success that in 1954 they entered Hickory studio on Franklin Avenue in Nashville to cut their first sides : « Red hen boogie » (# 1013), and later « TheBilly Goat boogie » (# 1024) are fine duelling banjo and fiddle tunes, largely inspired by the vocal harmonies of the Delmores. These quaint although swinging performances led straight to Rock’n’roll.
Another personality well-known during the ’80s in Europe was GLEN GLENN (rn Glen Trout). He had a few records in 1957-58 on Era in California, but managed to publish (in Sweden) earlier sides more in the Hillbilly vein. From 1957 came « I saw my castles fall today » recorded at Cal’s Corral from KCOP, Modesto, Ca.: a fine ballad full of emotion, with the guitar playing of Gary Lambert. Now to a demo from September 1956, « It rains, rains », a superb shuffler. Ralph Mooney is on steel. Finally on Doré (# 717), « I didn’t have the sense to go « is more of a Country-rocker from 1964.
Howdy folks ! This is the last post on bopping duets. As surely you did notice it, my English is far from fluent ; actually I don’t dream neither think « in English », because it is not my natural language. I really hope you can understand it, and excuse me for writing such intricate phrases yet very common. But I LOVE this bopping music, and let’s keep it first ! My aim is to figure the music posted with record labels and odds and ends on the artists.
The McCORMICK BROTHERS were a Tennessee/Kentucky family affair. Lloyd and Kelly held the guitars, younger Haskel was on banjo, Hayden Clark on bass and Charlie Nixon on dobro. They cut for Hickory in Nashville between 1954 and 58 a fine line of Bluegrass and Rockabilly boppers, among them this « Big eyes » (1958, Hickory 1080). Strong strumming boogie electric guitar and vocals in unison. They even had a full album, « Songs for home folks » on Hickory 102 (1961) and still are playing today.
Chester and Lester, the BUCHANAN BROTHERS were another duet group. They hit big in August 1946 with the pioneering « Atomic power » on RCA, and revived a similar theme in November 1947 with « (When you see) Those flying saucers ». (RCA-Victor 20-2385) « You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers, it may be the coming of the Judgement Day ». Good vocal and guitar duet. The song was used in 2009 in the animated release of « Monsters VS. Aliens ».
PAL (or Palford) BRADY (1922-1988) was a native of Tennessee ; himself relocated too in Michigan, where he had records on Lucky 013 (Cincinnati), Clix (Troy, MI), Bragg, among others (late ’50s to mid-60s). His « More lovin ‘ » (Conteste 45-2) from 1961 has two voices for a good « city hillbilly bopper ».
Charlie & Wallace, the MERCER BROTHERS came from Metter, GA and began a professional career during the late ’30s. After the WWII they had their own radio show on WMAZ before joining in 1948 the prestigious « Louisiana Hayride ». From 1951 to 1954 they cut a dozen sides for Columbia in Dallas, with their Blue Ridge Boys (Clyde Baum on mandolin and Doyle Strickland (fiddle) + Wayne Raney (harmonica). I chose from their equally constant in quality output « No place to hang my hat » (Columbia 20927, 1952-53), very Delmore Brothers styled. After 1954 they settled in Macon, GA, and WIBB radio station before completely disappear.
JOHNNIE (Wright) and JACK (Anglin) were regulars on the ’50s charts, before Anglin was killed in a car crash in 1963. Their «Oh boy ! I love her » (RCA 47-6932) from ’57 is an enjoyable jumping little opus. Earlier on they had cut the C&W classic « Ashes of love » (revived during the ’80s by the Desert Rose Band), and « Cryin’ heart blues » in 1951, supposed to have been recorded (but lost) by Elvis Presley on Sun Records.
“Oh boy, I love her”
On the Kentucky Dixiana label # 105 from 1954, CLIFF GROSS offer a sort of fast talking blues (with the band chanting in unison) with « Hog pen hop », probably recorded in Dallas. Gross was a mountain type fiddler, and Dixiana emanated from Bowling Green, Wayne County.
PAUL & ROY, The Tennessee River Boys, already discussed in another « Duet » feature (they had a two-sider on Nashville Pace label), have recorded for Mercury in 1953 « Spring of love » (# 6374) : it’s a fast Bluegrass influenced ditty – lead vocal & backing vocal.
Next track GOLDEN STATE BOYS‘« Always dreaming » was already posted here in April 2013. But I like very much this tune with its urgent vocal, the dobro part of Leon Poindexter, the vocal/mandolin of Herb Rice, and the energetic banjo of Don Parmley [personnel given by a visitor]. Date : early to mid-62, Shamrock 717, Artesia, California.
A solid rocker (with drums), « Good gosh gal » on the Nashville Briar label # 111 by PHIL BEASLEY & CHARLIE BROWN. Nice guitar and steel solo, 1961.
It’s useless to present the YORK BROTHERS (their story is on this site). Here is one of their rarest issues on their own York Bros. Records # 600Y-100, from 1963, and the great « Monday morning blues ».
We are going to the end with FRANKIE SHORT & DEE GUNTER on the Balto, MD Wango label (# 201) : again a solid version of Don Reno‘s « Country boy rock’n’roll » . Remember L.C. Smith and « Radio boogie » (2nd version) on this label.
Go to a map of the U.S., search « Biloxi », and you’ll find this small city in the Harrison county, down south of Mississipi. That’s where the Fine label story begins. But before that and its debuts, we must look at its founders. Professor Marion Carpenter had a recording studio open to local facilities in Biloxi and was associated with steel guitar player Murphy Monroe « Pee Wee » Maddux (born 1923)[The visitor Linda Maddux corrected this: “He played the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and harmonica, not steel guitar”]. The latter’s name had over the years several changes : from « Pee Wee » to « Pee-Wee », even « PeWee ». He was also a songwriter (Kitty Wells in 1956 ; or « Fools like me » for Jerry Lee Lewis, or more « Rocky road of love » for Curtis Gordon, even Fats Domino : « What a price »), and his earliest efforts as recording artist (at least he is credited as such on the labels) are to be found in March 1952 on M-G-M records, cut in Nashville : « My hobo heart » and « Lover’s crime ». The vocals were done by a certain Al Britt for two average boppers. Maddux penned a good percentage of the songs on Fine, among them the Ernie Chaffin ones.
In 1954 the pair Carpenter/Maddux launched a microscopic label, Gulf Coast, which they issued a certain DAN SEAL on : « You gotta walk that line » (# 1012) is a lively little opus, but nothing particular, and it sinked into obscurity. But SEAL reemerged next year on the new comperes’ label, FINE for two ballads, « I wake at dawn (with you on my mind ) » being the best one (# 1003).
JIM OWEN then came with the rollicking « Sie Simon shuffle » (# 1004) : it’s a jumping hillbilly rocker with a fiddle solo and one from Pee Wee Maddux on steel well to the fore. Owen had late ’50s his own Owe Man label where he issued « The key’s in the mail box » (see below). On to JOHNNY BOZEMAN and the good « She’s my bayou babe » (# 1006). Bozeman went afterwards in 1957 on Mobile, Alabama, Sandy label, which he co-founded with Paul Bose, and saw a classic horror rocker « Rockin’ in the graveyard » by Jackie Morningstar in 1959. Bozeman himself had « Blues and I » (# Sandy 1001)(alas, unheard) and what is described in a sale list as « doo wop rockabilly », « How many ».
Other artists on the Fine label included ANN RAYE and his fine (co-sung with Jim Owen) bopper « Our wedding band » (# 1001). Raye had also had earlier 2 singles on Starday and 1 on Decca in 1956. Incidentally she was the daughter of local promoter Frank « Yankie » Barhanovich, and through her father’s activities, went on to share in 1955 some Elvis Presley shows in Biloxi. Moreover on Fine, HANNA FAYE had the ballad « It pays to be true » (# 1008). Other men : J. W. THOMPSON and the good honky-tonker « It’s your turn » (# 1007) – later he cut « When you’re honky tonkin’ » on the Toledo label (# 1003) out of Alexandria, Louisiana. Or B. F. JOHNSON : the fine bopper « I wish I could believe you » (# 1011)(great mandolin!).
Ernie Harvey on steel guitar (according to Linda Maddux)
The most important artist however was ERNIE CHAFFIN who made his recording beginnings on Fine with « The stop look and listen song »b/w « The heart of me » (1010), before Carpenter and Maddux went with him to Nashville to meet country promoter Jim Denny and A&R man Paul Cohen. A deal with Decca never concluded but Fred Rose took Chaffin on his burgeoning Hickory label. 4 sides were issued without success, then Chaffin came to Sun, and Maddux backed him on such a classic as « Feelin’ low » (Sun 262).
Ernie Chaffin’s two Hickory records come from a single session on May 5, 1954 and all the songs were written by Chaffin’s longtime buddy Pee Wee Maddux. Chaffin’s defining moment came with « Feelin’ Low » on Sun in 1956, and the Hickory singles are rather mundane in comparison, although there’s no disguising the quality in his voice.(more…)