Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old Dominion Barn Dance, pt 3

Continuing with looking deeper into who these people are in my old photos. Click photos to enlarge, then click again to zoom.
Wacky Red Murphy first saw the light of day in Hiedelburg, Ky. Started his radio career in 1932 in Covington, Ky. Since then has traveled all over the South on numerous major stations. He keeps the whole Barn Dance cast in good spirits--a likeable red head who radiates his happiness to others. From his role of comedian, he can change momentarily to serious singing. Joined the Old Dominion Barn Dance July, 1947.

Couldn’t find much on Wacky Red Murphy. He is mentioned in an account of the last night of Hank Williams (which is reposted a lot on the web), Murphy is not connected other than he performed in the same town, Knoxville, that night, New Year’s Eve.
New Year's Eve, 1952, was low-key by the standards of later eras. The Tennessee and some other movie houses were hosting midnight shows. But champagne was still illegal in Knoxville; you could only find it in private clubs. The city did sponsor a dry "Gala New Year's Eve Show & Dance" at Chilhowee Park, featuring Wacky Red Murphy and local comedian/politician Archie Campbell as "Grandpappy," plus the Cherokee Indian Square Dancers.



Ray Berry is a most likeable fellow, playing his own guitar while he blows on a harmonica, sings the ballads of the hills in the style that suits everybody. Born in Corydon, Ky. Started pickin' and singin' at the age of 16. Has played on major stations from Texas to Pennsylvania. The more the folks of the Old Dominion see and hear Ray, the more they like him. The youngins' especially like his "Popeye" and "Donald Duck" characters he imitates.
I couldn’t find anything on Ray Berry beyond what is in his bio there.
One of the newer members of the Old Dominion Barn Dance is little Nita Lynn, who stands just about 5 feet high, plays a "handfull" of guitar and has a distinctive style of singing and yodeling. Born in Middleboro, Ky. First radio work was in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1939. Nita will fast become one of your favorite entertainers on the Barn Dance.
Nita Lynn was born Juanita Earlynne Morris, and she was another child performer who grew up onstage. She is still with us, as far as I know, and hillbilly-music.com has a pretty in-depth writeup on her that they did with her assistance. She played with lots of folks then and later, including Paul Howard. She may or may not have been in his band for this recording, but here he is in 1947, with a cover of a Hank Williams song that was recorded by Hank the same year.
Paul Howard and his Cotton Pickers: Rootie Tootie

Listen to Hank Williams' version here


Bonnie, Bea and Buster, the Puffenbarger Kids, were born in the hills of West Virginia. Later moved to the Shenendoah Valley of Virginia. Started in radio about nine years ago in Harrisonburg, Va. They joined the Old Dominion Barn Dance in 1947. Bea and Buster both play accordion and Bonnie plays bass fiddle. Bea is also the organist for the Little Church Across the Way program.
I found some info on this band from a couple of obituaries (below), and Facebook.

"Buster" was Charles, and his sisters were Helen "Bea", Bonnie and Joan – so it looks like they later added one more sister to the band:
Charles E. "Buster" Puffenbarger - Died 2-16-2002 – Cancer. Born 6-17-1929 - Played accordion - He was one of the The Puffenbarger Kids who appeared on The Old Dominion Barn Dance variety show and a member of A Touch Of Class - Played alongside Chet Atkins, Mother Maybelle Carter and Grandpa Jones.

Stewart, Helen Elizabeth, 80, of Mt. Washington, died Wednesday, June 7, 2006. She was the former Helen Puffenbarger and began her country music career in the 1940's along with her siblings Bonnie, Buster and younger sister, Joan, under the Puffenbarger Kids) at radio station WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA. In 1948, the "Puffenbarger Kids" became members of the "Old Dominion Barn Dance" located in Richmond, VA. In 1949, the "Puffenbarger Kids" were invited to join the "Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round" on station WNOX in Knoxville, TN. Later that year, Helen was asked by Mother Maybelle Carter to join the Carter Family band as a regular on WSM's "Grand Ole Opry."
Helen's son left a comment on John Carter Cash's page about his mother's time with the Carter Family band, and how she had lived with June Carter for two years. There's a lot more, if you want to look up the junior Cash, it's all there.

Going to finish up this 3-part series with a Chet Atkins. I don't have his WRVA press photo, but I saw it in the Old Dominion video posted in part 1, where he was called "Chester Atkins." This is a tune off his first album, released in 1953, called Black Mountain Rag:

It's hard to just say a few sentences about Chet Atkins, so I will leave it there and let the guitar do the talking.

5 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Are you intending to write a book or article using all this research? Or are you simply doing it all for the benefit of your blog readers? If so, thanks!

Blueberry said...

oh no... this is it. I just get curious about some things and wonder how they got started. Details, trivia, faded glory!

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Love.

lindley09 said...

Hey, I was just google-ing my grandfather one night and came across your page. My grandfather was Buster Puffenbarger, of "Bonnie, Bea, and Buster". If you ever want anymore information just let me know! Thanks for doing this, it made my families night to read all your info :)

Blueberry said...

lindley: That is very cool! I love these old press photos and glad I could put something together about them. The pictures are all hanging on my wall. Thanks for stopping by!