Comedian and banjo player Benjamin Francis “Whitey” Ford (b. 1901 in DeSoto, Missouri), aka the “Duke of Paducah,” appeared on the Grand Ole Opry from 1942 to 1959. Ford originally developed the Duke character on the air of KWK-AM, St. Louis in the early 1930s and carried the character over to his own show with Red Foley in 1937, the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Ford’s brand of folksy one-liners reached beyond fans of country music and he was just as popular on tours with stars of early Rock and Roll like Elvis Presley. The image above features the Duke’s signature tagline: “I’m going back to the wagon, these shoes are killing me.” The poster, call no. XOP-30021/144, is part of collection #30021: Southern Folklife Collection Posters, circa 1847-2008.
A young Porter Wagoner, standing in the in the spotlight wearing one of his many stylish “Nudie Suits,” gazes up at himself on the cover of this songbook from his first year on the Grand Ole Opry. Featuring “the songs he loves best,” including the excellent, “Let’s Squiggle,” this 1957 songbook, call no. FL-503, is part of collection #30006: Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios, circa 1882-1983.
Porter Wagoner: Country Music Favorites
Hill and Range Songs, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1957.
41 p. of music and illustrations.
“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Tomorrow You’ll Cry)”
“Itchin’ for My Baby”
“I Should Be with You”
“I’m Day Dreamin’ Tonight”
“Tricks of the Trade”
“Love at First Sight”
“I Can’t Live with You (I Can’t Live without You)”
“I’m Counting on You”
“Be Glad That You Ain’t Me”
“My Everything (You’re My Everything)”
The Southern Gentleman on the radio
Sonny James, best known for his 1957 hit “Young Love,” prepares for a radio broadcast. Photo from the records of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation.
Mother Maybelle (left) and the Carter Sisters (June, Anita, & Helen) performing at the Norfolk Municipal Auditorium in Norfolk, Virginia, February 12, 1956. They were the opening act for Elvis Presley that day. Photograph from the Raymond H. Pulley Collection.
The Hill Billies, ca. 1928. Left-to-right: Elvis Alderman, Joe Hopkins, Charlie Bowman, and Al Hopkins. From the JEMF Collection.
The stars of Stuart Hamblen‘s “Covered Wagon Jubilee” on KMTR Radio in Hollywood, California, ca. 1935. Standing, left to right: Darol Rice, Cliffie Stone, Jim Gummo, Joe Espetallier, Frank Liddell, “Herman the Hermit”, Vince Engel, and Stuart Hamblen. Kneeling: Wesley Tuttle and Skeeter Hubbard. From the JEMF Collection.
Fisher Hendley (center) and his Aristocratic Pigs in a late-1930s promotional photo for their daily broadcasts on WFBC Radio in Greenville, South Carolina. The group was sponsored (and named) by Greenville’s Balentine meat packing company. From the JEMF collection.
West Virginia fiddler Ed Haley (1883-1951), photographed ca. 1930s. Though a professional musician, Haley never made a commercial recording due his suspicion that record companies would take unfair advantage of his blindness. Home recordings made late in his life were issued on Rounder Records’ 1976 LP Parkersburg Landing and 1997 CDs Forked Deer and Grey Eagle. Photograph from the Guthrie T. Meade Collection.
Comedian Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, aka “Cousin Minnie Pearl, The Gal From Grinder’s Switch” in a ca. 1940s WSM Grand Ole Opry promotional photo. From the John Edwards Memorial Foundation collection.
Singer Molly O’Day, photographed in 1974. From the John Edwards Memorial Foundation collection.