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Jake Taylor
and the Rail Splitters
WMMN Sagebrush Roundup
WWVA Original Jamboree
WBOW Terre Haute, IN
WMMN Fairmont, WV
WPDX Clarksburg, WV
WWVA Wheeling, WV

Jake Taylor and his Rail Splitters were a part of the Wheeling, WV hillbilly music scene on WWVA's Jamboree in the late 1930s, 1940s. Jake was a bit of a songwriter and like many hillbilly artists of that era, published a few song folios for the fans. The ones we have found go beyond the normal pictures and give is some insight as to the folks in Jake's band during those times. However, personnel changes are seen in just the span of the two folios we have come across. However, publication dates are not known.

Freddie Hayes—Freddie said he started off his musical career by playing popular music. But he said that too much of it was 'here today, gone tomorrow' type music. But he found that Hill-Billy (as they spelled it then) music had a lasting effect - songs his grandfather had sung were still as popular as they were then. He started playing square dances while in high school and then went to Georgia Tech, where his radio career started. He tried to balance school and music life, but music won out and he went to Cincinnati and met and teamed up with Toots Hodge and became known as the "Southerners". Toots had met Jake first, but it wasn't til a vaudeville tour with Toots in the south that he met Jake who was on vacation and liked what he heard and then offered him a position with the Rail Splitters.

Little Shorty Sharpe—He was called Shorty, but he said it wasn't his fault. He had six other borthers always kept him beat up and away from the dinner table and that somehow stunted his growth. He was born in Union County, Tennessee, near Knoxville. His family liked music. He began playing guitar at an early age. All of his brothers played instruments, too. He said they had three guitars, a mandolin, four fiddles, six or eight harmonicas, a banjo, a ukelele and an old-fashioned organ. He had a hobby with automobiles and Plumer Sharpe said he was kind of reckless, but Shorty thought he was just scared. He remembers the first time he, Toots and Plumer were in a plane. He wrote that everything was fine til they came in for a landing and Shorty muttered, "Plumer, look how close we're coming to them trees" ... he nearly pushed Shorty out of the cockpit. He got introduced to Jake Taylor when Plumer brought Jake and Betty down for a visit. Jake liked him, too and he became part of the Rail Splitters.

Plumer Sharpe—Plumer was asked by Jake to write up something about himself for the latest folio but Plumer said he couldn't write too well, but if fiddlin' was writin', he could write a newspaper because he sure did like fiddlin'. He was born near Knoxville, Tennessee and started playin' the fiddle as a boy and had been playing it ever since. His full name was Plumer Columbus Sharpe. And we'll let you wonder whether it was a legit middle name. He said that one night they were playing a way, him and another feller when some of the boys got into a fight. Well, he hadn't ever experienced something like that, so seeing a window open and without any hesitation, he jumped right out of it into parts unknown. It was dark outside but that didn't stop him from running and didn't even slow up til he got home and out of breath with a blackberry vine around his neck that he had picked up on the way home. After that, they called him Columbus.

Toots Hodge—Toots was born on March 5, 1912 in London, KY. In his folksy way, let's find out a bit about him. As he said, glancing backward, he wasn't getting any younger, so he'd better relate a little bit before old Father time "...whacks me wiht his scythe again." When he was 14 years old, a troupe of native Hawaiians spent their vacations in his home town of London, KY. He heard them playing one night and decided he wanted to learn how to play the steel guitar or break an arm. He arranged with the hotel management to get himself introduced and got himself a few free lessons during their stay. And when they left, he left with them. He could only play two tunes, but it gave him his first job in music. He got pretty good at it after a couple months and still remembered his teacher, Moke Kawaii, as the greatest steel guitarist he ever heard. He was on the road from that point on and in 1933 teamed up with Fred Hayes and worked quite a bit together since then before both hooked on with Jake Taylor's Rail Splitters.

Mel Cass—A native of Terre Haute, Indiana, born on August 21, 1916. When he was 16, he decided it was time to get a violin. But he was still in school and didn't even think of the possibility of playing on the radio. About 1933 or so, his playing caught the attention of someone at the station later, when Jake offered him a chance to play with him over at WWVA, he accepted. Shortly after he joined the Rail Splitters, he took two days off and went back to Indiana to marry the girl he had known for years. He was six feet tall and weighed about 140 pounds and had curly hair that always seemed to be a subject of discussion among the Rail Splitters.

Bud DiCarlo—Bud was a native of Benwood, WV, born on February 18, 1918. This book seems to indicate in Bud's write up that it was 1938 we're reading about here. He first started playing the accordion around 1933 or so. He hadn't been in radio too long at the time, but had worked on a few other stations before coming over to WWVA and joining the Rail Splitters. He was five feet ten inches tall and weighed around 175 pounds.

Herman Redmon—A native of Paris, Illinois, Herman was born on January 1, 1912. He had always liked music, but it wasn't until 1928 that he was able to get himself a guitar. At that time he was living in Brazil, Indiana and soon also learned to play the banjo and bass fiddle. The fall of 1932 found him in Oregon, but five months later, he was back in Paris, Illinois. His first radio job was on a station in Tuscola, Illinois. He soon heard a fellow in Terre Haute was looking for a bass man. He worked with Jake until Jake went to WWVA in 1936. But on December 26, 1937, he met up with Jake again and wouldn't you know it, Jake needed a bass man again.

Raymond (Quarantine) Brown&151;We have more about this native of Palestine, Illinois elsewhere on this site. But we can tell you that he came to the friendly station of WWVA on March 1, 1938 when he got an offer from Jake Taylor to join him there.

Timeline and Trivia Notes Group members

  • Jake Taylor
  • Betty Taylor
  • Freddie Hayes
  • Little Shorty Sharpe
  • Plumer Sharpe
  • Toots Hodge
  • Mel Cass
  • Bud DiCarlo
  • Herman Redmon
  • Raymond (Quarantine) Brown

Credits & Sources

  • Jake Taylor and His Rail Splitters Looking Glass Intimate Glimpses into the Lives of the Rail Splitters, publication date unknown.
  • Jake Taylor and His Rail Splitters Log Book, Publication date unknown.

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Recordings
 
Mercury
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  6166 A Softly And Tenderly
  6166 B Whispering Hope


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