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Milton Estes
Born:  May 9, 1914
Died:  August 23, 1963
WSM Grand Ole Opry
WAGC Chattanooga, TN
WMAK Nashville, TN
WPTF Raleigh, NC
WSM Nashville, TN

About The Artist

Milton Estes was a WSM artist and Grand Ole Opry performer of the mid-1940s. Today, he is perhaps best remembered as one of the first, if not the first, country artist to be sponsored by Martha White Flour. He had other achievements but this one is best known.

Milton Estes and His Musical Millers - Song Folio - Circa 1946

In 1939, Peggy Stewart of Rural Radio magazine informed readers that Milton was working with the Delmore Brothers over radio station WPTF.

A native of Arthur, Tennessee, Milton first came to prominence as an early member of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys where he played a variety of instruments and also sang. By 1941 he had departed from King's employ to become a leader of the Stamps Quartet (there seems to have been more than one).

Promo Ad - Headland, AL - Golden West Cowboys - Pee Wee King - Milton Estes - Little Texas Daisy - June 1939
Capitol Theatre - Raleigh, NC - Crazy Tennesseans - Milton Estes - October 1939

Promo Ad - WAPO - Chattanooga - Milton Estes - May 1949
Promo Ad - WBAP - Ft. Worth, TX - Milton Estes - May 1949

In 1946, he returned to WSM as leader of the Martha White sponsored band, Musical Millers. Several noted Nashville musicians were part of the Musical Millers at one time or another over the next five years including Jimmy Selph, Tommy Jackson, Dale Potter, Clell "Cousin Jody" Summey, and Oral Rhodes. Over the years he cut records with Bullet, Decca, King, Coral, KGM, and Donna.

To give the reader an idea of the number of shows that Milton was doing over the air, Billboard reported that Milton Estes and His Musical Millers were featured on TEN billboards in Nashville. That was to promote the dozen programs they were doing every week on WSM.

Milton Estes and His Musical Millers - Song Folio - Circa 1946

Promo Ad - Milton Estes - Decca Records - December 1947

Milton Estes — Record Reviews From The Billboard
Date Label Rec No. Review
1/25/1947 Bullet 623 That's Why I Worry — Vocalist Jimmy Selph sounds a lot like folk tune topper Gene Autry, especially on the "Worry" side, where even Milton Estes and the Music Millers emulate the background that Autry uses. "That's Why I Worry" will tempt plenty of listeners. (Rating: B)

Say You'll Be Mine — Mating is a catchy lyric ditty with snatches of humor to spice the waxing. Selph again handles the lyrics capably. (Rating: C+)
5/1/1948 Decca 46128 ANswer To Drivin' Nails In My Coffin — Estes and gang carouse thru bill novelty-lament. Backing features haromonicas and accordion. (Rating: 73)

New Filipino Baby — Novelty follow-up of "Filipino BAby" folk fave. Competent twangy Estes piping and band instrumental antics.. (Rating: 78)
2/12/1949 Decca 46148 New Wabash Cannonball — Lively romp is raised on this sequel to the original "Wabash Cannon Ball." (Rating: 79)

The Almighty Dollar — Lively rhythm ditty with a religious twist which should do some biz in the country boxes. (Rating: 78)
11/19/1949 Coral 64023 Seems Like Yesterday — Respectable rendition of some routine country material. Trilling guitar helps some.. (Rating: 69)

The Waltz I Waltzed With You — Dancy, romantic waltz is warbled warmly and easily by Estes. (Rating: 73)
2/18/1950 Coral 64031 Thirty Pieces Of Silver — Poignant sacred material has wide market potential. Estes' clear, warm projection. (Rating: 83)

House Of Gold — Deep moralizer is delivered in popular, thythmically flowing country style by the excellent warbler. (Rating: 82)

Promo Ad - Lone Star Quartet - Milton Estes - Statesville NC - March 1944 Readers learned that Milton was the emcee for the Bailes Brothers' early morning show over WSM as well as for their transcribed programs.

Mary Jean Shurtz told readers that Milton made an appearance in a small town of Alabama that only had a population of 1,000. But when he got there, the hall could not seat the people who had shown up for the show. Milton had to put on THREE shows to entertain over 1,700 folks.

In 1947, mention was found of some large crowds Milton and his group entertained. They drew over 3,000 for the Flag Festival in Farmington, Missouri on June 28, 1947. A few days later, they drew over 6,000 on July 4th in Livingston, Tennessee.

Promo Ad - Golden West Cowboys Pee Wee King - Milton Estes - Louisville KY - January 1939 They had to rope off four blocks around the square to accommodate the crowd. In that time, Milton had a morning show over WSM. Just three months later, they were reporting Milton had 26 shows on WSM. His schedule was so crammed, he began flying his own Luscombe all-metal Silveraire to two dates; he had logged over 1,000 miles flying by that time.

In June of 1954, an article promoting the appearance of Red Garrett and Wilf Carter on a Canadian tour mentions that Milton was the personal manager for Red Garrett at that time.

He left full-time music after 1951 and completely in 1954.

Milton passed away at the age of 49. However, as the "Old Flour Peddler, he cut a wide swath. His Martha White commercials and the slogan, "Goodness Gracious, It's Good." have had a long and perhaps enduring life. All but two of his recordings have been reissued on the Cattle label in Germany.

Milton Estes and His Musical Millers - Song Folio - Circa 1946

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • South of the Mason-Dixon Line; Juanita Milligan; March 1946; Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.; New York, NY
  • Untitled Paragraph; July/August 1947; National Hillbilly News; Poster Show Print Co., Huntington, WV
  • I've Been Listenin'; Mary Jean Shurtz; January 1947; Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.; New York, NY
  • Red Garrett, Wilf Carter Team Up For Big Canadian Tour; June 12, 1954; Pickin' and Singin' News; Nashville, TN
  • Family Gossip; Peggy Stewart; January 1939; Vol. 1 No. 12; Rural Radio
  • American Folk Tunes; June 14, 1947; The Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
  • American Folk Tunes; September 27, 1947; The Billboard; Cincinnati, OH

Appearance History This Month

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  623 A That's Why I Worry
  623 B Say You'll Be Mine
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  64023 A Seems Like Yesterday
  64023 B The Waltz I Waltzed With You
  64031 A Thirty Pieces Of Silver
  64031 B House Of Gold
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  46075 A When The Fire Comes Down
  46075 B Swing Wide Your Gate Of Love
  46080 A Too Many Women
  46080 B Whoa Sailor
  46120 A Happy Birthday Polka
  46120 B Out In Pioneer Town
  46128 A Answer To Drivin' Nails In My Coffin
  46128 B New Filipino Baby
  46148 A New Wabash Cannon Ball
  46148 B The Almighty Dollar
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  A-1 A Square Dance 51
  A-1 B Enjoy Yourself Square Dance
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  798 A Keep a-Talkin? Baby
  798 B Red Rosy Cheeks and Big Brown Eyes
  820 A Hush, Somebody?s Calling My Name
  820 B I?m on the Battlefield for My Lord
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  10646 A E-A-S-T-E-R
  10646 B Calling You
  10740 A Wealth Won?t Save Your Soul
  10740 B The Man at the Table Asleep

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