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 HayesFreddie 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
Little Shorty SharpeHe 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 SharpePlumer 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 HodgeToots 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 CassA 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 DiCarloBud 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 RedmonA 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
- 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.