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Mary Jean Shurtz
Born:  June 17, 1906
Died:  July 20, 1964

About The Artist

Mary Jean (Graham) Shurtz was born in Byesville, Ohio to her parents, Wesley and Catherine (Walters) Graham. She was one of the earliest journalists in country music history, her columns documenting the names and the comings and goings of various artists that she encountered or got to know.

Her columns appeared in such publications as:

  • Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder ("I've Been Listenin'")
  • National Hillbilly News ("One Hillbilly Fan To Another")
  • Buddy Starcher Fan Club Newsletter ("That's What I Heard")
  • Jamboree Magazine ("Mary Jean Shurtz's Newsletter")
  • Cowboy Songs ("Between The Lines")
  • Country Song Roundup

She was known for writing poems that would appear in the various song folios and publications for country music artists in the 1940s. In 1942, she had a 60-page book published of her favorite poems. One of those poems, "Dad Gave My Dog Away" was said to be a hit for T. Texas Tyler and sold over a million records.

Her poems would be found in such booklets as "Lew Childre Memory Book Songs, Poems and Stuff", "Shorty Fincher and His Prairie Pals Heard Daily From Radio Station W.O.R.K.", "Toby Stroud's Hill Billy Song Hits Book Number Two", and in the magazines she wrote for during that era.

In addition, she was also a songwriter, composer of some well known country classics such as:

  • There Stands the Glass - written with Russ Hull and A. Greisham (Recorded by Webb Pierece)
  • Down In Nashville Tennessee - written with Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart and Chaw Mank (Recorded by Cowboy Copas)
  • The Highest Bidder - written with Hank Snow and Boudleaux Bryant (Recorded by Hank Snow)
  • Broken Candy Heart - written with Cliff Rodgers (Recorded by George Morgan)

We found a short blurb in one of the local newspapers that pointed a bit to the popularity of her writing in the 1940s. In one of those "20 years ago" columns, the Dover Daily Reporter stated Mary Jean was getting up to 50 cards and letters a day when her poems or songs were being played / recited over the air.

However, a 1964 newspaper article indicated that she benefited very little financially from her songwriting efforts.

It appears she was ill the last few years of her life. A 1964 article indicates during an illness in 1963, she received a radio that was signed by the likes of Webb Pierce, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Doc and Chickie Williams, Hank Snow, Grandpa Jones, Curley Miller, Tex White, The Harmony Twins, Danny Ford, Bill and Gene Murphy and Norman Senhauser (a promoter of the group).

It was said she had an offer to move to Hollywood to write lyrics for a leading publisher, but turned it down due to her desire to remain in Ohio.

She was a past secretary of the Southeastern Ohio Federation of Coon Dog Field Trials. She wrote a column for the "Full Cry Magazine" - Out Here In Ohio. According to the articles written at the time of her death, that columns was a poetry column. Her and her husband were "...active coon dog fanciers and had raised and trained several championship dogs."

In 1957, she was elected Financial Secretary for the Tri-County Sportsmen's League that met in Newcomerstown, Ohio. The group had saved funds and purchased the Roger George farm near Bernice, Ohio. The League decided it would sell bonds to raise the additional funds needed.

She married her husband, Robert Shurtz on July 28, 1928. They had one daughter.

Mary Jean passed away in Coshocton County Memorial Hospital following an extended illness at the age of 58.

Country Music researchers, writers and journalists owe a debt to these early writing pioneers for the historical content they left behind for us to explore and study as well as to the fans that kept those old publications in pristeen condition to be read again as if they were new.

Credits & Sources

  • Coshocton Tribune; October 4, 1953; Coshocton, OH
  • Cambridge Daily Jeffersonian; December 7, 1957; Cambridge, OH
  • Dover Daily Reporter; January 26, 1963; Dover, OH
  • Cambridge Daily Jeffersonian; April 2, 1964; Cambridge, OH
  • Cambridge Daily Jeffersonian; July 21, 1964; Cambridge, OH
  • Coshocton Times; July 21, 1964; Coshocton, OH
  • Dover Daily Reporter; July 21, 1964; Dover, OH

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