About The Artist
Wayne County, Kentucky native Emry Paul (His World War II registration card shows "Penniecuff" as his middle name) Arthur was an old-time singer who became best known for being the first person to record the ballad "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow."
Unable to earn a living through music he moved to Indianapolis. He became competent at playing, but his guitar work was very limited as he had lost a finger on his left hand.
After living in Indianapolis for a time, he had an opportunity to successfully audition for Vocalion Records. He summoned his brother Henry from Kentucky to help and between January 1928 and June 1929 placed a variety of old ballads, turn-of the century Tin Pan Alley songs, and older hymns on disc.
Their most popular efforts, the sacred coupling of "Love Lifted Me" b/w "Shining for the Master," gained the best sales but the "Constant Sorrow" had the most lasting effect. He apparently had learned it from Blind Richard Burnett who never recorded it.
Arthur had personal problems. He lost everything he had in a divorce. He had married the former Florence Hayes on December 21, 1920 in Indianapolis, IN. Moving to Wisconsin, he went to work as a factory hand for the Wisconsin Chair Company and recorded for Paramount, owned by the Chair firm. He also picked up a new singing partner, Della Hatfield, who soon became his second wife. They were married on July 18, 1932 in Indiana. They remained with Paramount through 1931 which was about the time that the company went bankrupt.
Arthur had one more recording session, cutting eight numbers for the new Decca label in 1935. After that, he slipped into musical obscurity, dying in 1967. Della survived into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, Old Homestead released an LP of his early recordings and the later motion picture Oh Brother Where Art Thou revived interest in the man and his music.
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