Glenn Watkins was born near the town of Kite, Georgia. Glenn found an early
interest in music. When he was around ten or eleven years old, he picked
up an instrument or two, usually the fiddle, and taugh himself to play
by listening to the music he heard over the radio. By the time he was
16, he was entertaining audiences with the local area musicians at
functions such as parties and dances.
In 1943, at the age of 17, he graduated from high school. Around this time,
he got his first radio job by playing fiddle with a group called The Hi Neighbor
Boys at radio station WFBC in Greenville, South Carolina. Glenn recalls
they were doing two programs a day over the Blue Ridge Network, a local
network that included radio stations in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee
and North Carolina.
During this early stint in his career, he got to do personal appearances
with many of the major acts from WSM's Grand Ole Opry at the time, including
Eddy Arnold, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Pee Wee King, Cowboy Copas, Rod Brasfield,
Minnie Pearl and many others. The folks from the Opry would do the local
radio programs on the Blue Ridge Network, then, would tour the areas using
the local bands such as The Hi Neighbor Boys as opening acts.
While at WFBC, he started to learn several more instruments (eventually he
learned to play a total of 17 instruments), including the electric steel
guitar, which was a relatively new instrument at that time.
After about two years at WFBC, a new radio station in Dublin, Georgia was
going on the air in 1945 - WMLT. The new station contacted Glenn and asked
him to come to their station and organize a country band.
In 1945, Glenn formed The Dixie Playboys and they entertained the listeners
for five years and was the most successful band in the entire broadcast area.
The talent of The Dixie Playboys of this time was such that three of them
were inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame and Glenn hopes
the fourth one would be inducted soon.
In reviewing those who were part of the Dixie Playboys, some notes should be
added to the listing below. Tommy (Skeeter) Harralson who played the guitar
and fiddle was inducted as a member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.
Another, A.J. (Smitty) Pope, who was later known as Fargo Pope, gained popularity
with the fans with his guitar and "fabulous vocals" as Gleen described him. Mr. Pope
was also inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame. John Olin (Jodie)
Joiner worked with the Dixie Playboys as a fiddler and did vocals. His fiddle
playing was perhaps the "most outstanding" in South Georgia at the time. He went
on to become the staff fiddle player for the Peach State Jamboree that originated
from Swainsboro, Georgia.
Comedy was also featured in their act as many of the acts did in that day. For
the Dixie Playboys, that role was filled by Glenn, too - he took on the role
of a 'rube comedian' that used the stage moniker of "Uncle Puney P. Stumpwater".
For a time, Glenn's wife Mary, was part of the group, doing harmony duets with
her husband and known as the Dixie Sweethearts.
"The Dixie Sweethearts Radio Song Book" tells us that Mary Helen Sammons
went through grammar and high school with Glenn, graduating in 1943 and marrying
in 1945. Mary made her debut in radio in early 1945. Their folio notes that they
were "...classed as the South's favorite Duet".
The made personal appearances throughout the WMLT broadcasting region - school
houses, theaters during the week, then playing the dances on weekends. Hollywood's
cowboy movies were popular then and many of the stars would tour the theaters. The
Dixie Playboys opened the shows for such Western stars as Tex Ritter, Jimmy Wakely,
Lash LaRue, Charles Starrett and others.
Glenn decided to leave the Dixie Playboys in 1949. Taking Glenn's place on steel
guitar was Bill (Lefty) Joiner, Jodie's brother.
The Dixie Playboys later left Dublin, Georgia
and moved to Florida, but broke up shortly afterwards.
After his successful run at WMLT, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina
and worked at WPAL with a new band.F
rom there, Glenn's career took him to Savannah, Georgia where he was
a member of The Trail Riders, a country and western swing band that
worked at radio stations WSAV and WTOC for three years.
During his time in Savannah, Glenn went to work with an insurance company.
After three years, he was transferred to Albany, Georgia. He was supervisor
for ten years then he decided to open his own Independent Agency. After 20
years in the insurance business, he decided to retire; well, from insurance
that is. He moved to Swainsboro, Georgia and began playing music again.
In a 2001 interview of Glenn for being honored for his Atlanta Country Music
Hall of Fame induction, Glenn talked about a fiddler who had an impact on
the early part of his career and the first inductee into the Hall of Fame -
Fiddlin' John Carson.
"I was country when it was still hillbily...I was about 11 years old
when I first heard Fiddlin' John. He' dcome to town to help Gene Talmadge
draw crowds while campaigning for governor. I knew then that music would
play a big part in my life."
A copy of the certificate award to Glenn for the Hall of Fame cites his
"...outstanding contributions and distinguished achievements in "The
Hillbilly - Country - Western Music Industry".
Presently (in 2004), Glenn has a country music school, a recording studio
and plays electronic keyboard as a One Man Band throughout the local area. Glenn
has found there is a deand for the 1930s and 1940s big band music as well
as the country music classics.
At his music school, he was teaching keyboard, fiddle, mandolin, bass and guitar to about
20 students, in 2001. He was optimistic in an undated 2001 interview that
"...the 'old time' country music is not gone for good.." and pointed to the new popularity
it was enjoying among the younger musicians who were playing the "unplugged"
Glenn notes, "In 2004 I'm still going strong at the age of 78, enjoying life
and helping others to enjoy and play the old Country Music."
Timeline & Trivia Notes
Group Members - 1945
- Glenn Watkins - steel guitar, fiddle, vocals, organizer
- Rosco (Bob) Smith - fiddle, guitar, vocals
- Warren (Whitey) White - piano, vocals
- Johnny (Shorty) Daniel - bass fiddle
- Leon (Bibb) Morris - guitar, fiddle
- Later members - circa 1946-1947
- Tommy (Skeeter) Harralson - guitar, fiddle
Member of Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame
- Buford (Boots) Skinner - guitar, vocals
- Jim (Stoney) Stonecifer - guitar, vocals
- GeeBee (Slim) Hicks - guitar, vocals
- Herman (Hank) Henry - guitar
Group Members - together for over four years - circa late 1940s
- Glenn Watkins, steel guitar, vocals and several other instruments
- Johnny (Shorty) Daniel - emcee and upright bass
- A.J. (Smitty) Pope (also known as Fargo Pope) - guitar and "fabulous" vocals
Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame
- John Olin (Jodie) Joiner - fiddle, vocals
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation
to Glenn Watkins for providing his with his career summary as well as accompanying
- "Local Musician Glenn Watkins inducted into
Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame Nov. 24; Undated; 2001; Newspaper source not known.
- The Devil's Box; "Wiregrass Fiddlers Add Musical Touch
to Living History"; By Wayne W. Daniel; Summer 1999; Volume 33 Number 2; Columbia, Missouri
- Glenn Watkins; Promotional Brochure; Swainsboro, Georgia
- The Dixie Sweethearts RAdio Song Book; Undated; (Copy courtesy
of Glenn Watkins)