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Fred Pendleton
Born:  February 24, 1904
Died:  December 29, 1972
WHIS Bluefield, WV

About The Artist

George Frederick (Fred) Pendleton was born to parents George W. and Matilda (Blankenship) Pendleton in 1904.

Fred Pendleton was a West Virginia coal miner who played fiddle with different musical groups in the general area of Princeton, West Virginia.

Promo Ad Fred Pendleton 1931 In September of 1926, Mercer County was holding their annual fair. One of the highlights was the old fiddler's contest held on Thursday night September 25. It was reported that it garnered the largest crowd of the fair to that point. Rain was a factor that perhaps limited the number of fiddlers who were able to enter, but the newspaper reported that enough entered to provide about two hours of entertainment for the fair attendees. Fred Pendleton, said to be of Oakvale, took first in the contest for individual fiddles. Dick Foley of Elgood finished second. Winning the group contest was L. A. Jones, Bill Jones and John McCung while Oscar Wright, G. F. (Fred) Pendleton and Jones second.

At different times, he worked and made recordings with Blind Alfred Reed's West Virginia Night Owls and the area's other noted blind musician Richard Harold.

In 1928, Fred and Clyde Meadows journeyed to Bristol and cut two sides for Victor, but neither was released.

Promo Ad Fred Pendleton 1934 A little later, he formed his own band, the West Virginia Melody Boys, and made discs under his own name. Their first session for Champion in 1930 consisted of several numbers that were rejected, but in April 1931, of several sides, four were released on Champion, but despite excellent quality, depression conditions caused them to sell poorly.

A topical song, "Wreck of the Westbound Air Liner," that concerned the death of noted Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne stirred the most interest. Coach Rockne died in the crash on a Transcontinental & Western Airline flight in Kansas on October 13, 1931.

In October 1932, the local Bluefield newspaper reported that Fred along with Henry Barley, Cline T. Jackson and Walter Humphries would be attending the Pittsburgh vs Notre Dame football game on Saturday, October 29, 1932. Pittsburgh did win 12-0.

Two of these numbers were also released on Superior. Six weeks later, Fred returned to the Richmond, Indiana, Gennett studio and fiddled on a session with neighbors Woody Leftwich and Roy Lilly, but only one number was issued. That ended his recording career, but many years later researchers located him and Alfred Reed's son Arville and they proved to be valuable sources of information.

In November 1937, Fred Pendleton and his Rhythm Kings had a 15-minute radio show on WHIS in Bluefield at 8:45 pm.

It is interesting to note the many different names attributed to the 'band' that Fred Pendleton headed over the years based on small articles and promotional ads seen. Some of these iterations included:

  • Fred Pendleton's West Virginia Melody Boys
  • Fred Pendleton's Orchestra
  • Fred Pendleton's String Trio
  • Fred Pendleton and Boys
  • Fred Pendleton's String Band
  • Fred Pendleton and his Mountain Boys
  • Fred Pendleton's Melody Boys
  • Fred Pendleton Rhythm Rangers
  • Fred Pendleton's Rhythm Kings
  • Fred Pendleton and His Rhythm Rangers
  • Fred Pendleton and His Lilly Mountaineers

Fred married Ethel Bray in 1927. She passed away on August 26, 1972. It appears the couple had one daughter, Betty Jean, born in 1928.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Exhibition Best Ever In History; September 25, 1926; Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV
  • Welch Personals; October 27, 1932; Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  16248 A By And By You Will Forget Me
  16248 B The Wreck Of The West Bound Airliner
  16457 A Down By The Hawthorne Tree
  16457 B Come Take A Trip In My Airship

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