About The Artist
Blue Grass Roy was born about 1901 or so, on a farm in Christian County, not far distant from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. When he was just a tiny kid, he began to sing, gradually learning the old mountain ballads and folk songs of his home and surrounding area. Unbeknownst to him that many years later, with these same songs, he was to sing his way into untold thousands of hearts by way of something that hadn't even been invented yet, the radio.
It all started that happy moment in his young life when his father gave him his first guitar after returning from a trip to town. It wasn't long before Roy learned to play the instrument. He seemed to have a natural talent and an intense interest in the instrument and gradually he would sing along, too.
As is so often the case with many artists, Roy began to sing for the local neighbors. In the evenings, when the chores of the farm had been completed, friends and neighbors liked nothing better than to gather at his family's home, and with Blue Grass Roy leading the singing and enjoy these musical sessions.
He made a name for himself locally, but even at that point, he didn't think to pursue a musical career. When he was 17, he began to search for an occupation. He tried several jobs, but his heart always took him back to singing those old songs and playing them for people. In 1929 in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Roy had some free time and was curious to see a radio station. So, he visited the local WFIW studios. He listened to a few programs and the thought came to him that he, too could be singing on the radio.
He managed to meet and talk with the station's director, Plug Kendrick and after some conversation, asked permission to put on a program of his own. Mr. Kendrick promised to give him a trial and assigned a time for his program.
The fateful day came and Blue Grass Roy made his debut on the air. He had barely finished singing his first tune when the phone began ringing at the station. Folks wanted to know who was it, who sang those old songs so beautfiully and of course, would he be on again? He got not just a few, but over 30 phone calls that first program. The station knew what to do when faced with such popularity, they immediately scheduled Blue Grass Roy a regular daily time slot.
He was a regular feature of WFIW for a year, being employed by the station to advertise Hamlin's Wizard Oil. The famous product and the famous singer went so well together, that the management of the Hamlin Wizard Oil Co. employed Blue Grass Roy permanently, to advertise their product. Blue Grass Roy stayed at WFIW for four years before moving on to KRLD in Dallas, Texas in 1933. He went to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia in February 1935. He then went to WTIC in Hartford, Connecticut around February 1936 as he continued to gain fans all across the country and reportedly even in New Zealand where he was heard regularly.
Later on, we would find a note about Blue Grass Roy in a WWVA Jamboree Yearbook of sorts that mentioned that Blue Grass Roy worked on the radio there on early morning and late night broadcasts at the station. However, he only appeared once on the famed WWVA Jamboree. The reason they noted was that he didn't 'memorize' his songs and he thought it would be out of place to perform with a music stand on stage. Perhaps he was shy. But it contradicts what we learned in an old song folio that Roy knew hundreds of songs by memory.
He was said to be a friendly, lovable character, with simple charm that remained unspoiled by his tremendous popularity. He always got a great thrill out of his fan mail, reading them and kept them in enormous scrap booksevery letter and card that came to him from his listeners. He also enjoyed answering listener requests for songs they wanted to hear. It wouldn't have been unusual for Blue Grass Roy to entertain folks for hours on end and never repeat a song for its said he knew over 400 to 500 songs by memory.
Blue Grass Roy loved the audiences and they also gave their affection in return, too. Not just in fan mail of which he received thousands of letters, but also some of the gifts they sent him. Many were unique presents. One was a lovely flower, carved from a new tin can and shaped with unbelievable artistry. Another was a metal ring made from a pipeline off the Battleship Maine. Then there was a tiny hand-carved wooden guitar only six inches long that was inlaid with colorful beads in an intricate design. Blue Grass Roy was a pioneer singer of early morning and late night broadcasts over WWVA, from 1934 to 1935. However, he only appeared once on the Jamboree in a farewell appearance. The reason is that he didn't memorize his songs and he felt that a music stand would look a bit out of place on the stage of the WWVA Jamboree.
Credits & Sources
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