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Glenn Watkins
Born:  March 8, 1926
Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame (2001)
WMRC Greenville, SC
WMVG Milledgeville, GA
WPAL Charleston, SC
WPAX Thomasville, GA
WRDW Augusta, GA
WSAV Savannah, GA
WTOC Savannah, GA
WFBC Greenville, SC (1943)
WMLT Dublin, GA (1945)

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.

Dixie Playboys circa mid 1940s

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.

The Dixie Sweethears 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".

Glenn Watkins circa 2004 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" bluegrass music.

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 photos.
  • "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)

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