Al Runyon (the name he took to help disc jockeys pronounce his real name - Al Runions)
came from the Appalachian area, in Claiborne County, Tennessee.
Early on in his career, Al was performing regularly during the heyday of John Lair's popular
Renfro Valley Barn Dance, originating from Rockcastle County,
Kentucky in the late 1930s, prior to joining the Army.
One turning point in Al's career was his work on the Cas Walker Radio Show,
a popular show in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Over the years, this show
helped many an artist from that area in their careers such as Roy Acuff,
Archie Campbell and later, Dolly Parton. It was during the time Roy and Archie
were working in Knoxville that Al was a regular on the show.
During the early 1960's, Al was a regular for two years (the entire broadcasting
run of the program) of the very popular Corn Huskers Jamboree
and also the Midday Merry-Go-Round, that were broadcast
every week day over WCPO-TV out of Cincinnati, Ohio.
During this period in his career, Al was extremely busy doing the 16 Top Hits
(recorded for Burkhardt Records in Cincinnati, Ohio), which utilized his talents
for "covering" several popular artists.
The covers were played on radio station
WCKY, who's signal at the time was strong enough to reach out to nearly
all four corners of the continental United States.
It was due to this audience exposure that
Al was a very popular recording artist, who was remembered by numerous
fans during the Fan Fairs, held annually in Nashville.
Some of the covers recorded by Al were originally released on 78rpm vinyl
and included hits by Roy Acuff, Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash,
Porter Waggoner and Red Sovine including:
- Great Speckled Bird
- Sweeter Than the Flower
- Wabash Cannonball
- Little Rosa,
- My Baby Left Me
- These Hands
- The Girl Who Invented Kissing
- Pana Mama
- A Fool such As I
- When Mexican Joe Met Jole Blon
- Uncle Pen
- Folsom Prison Blues
Al also recorded and released a memorial album of hits originally recorded by
the father of country music, the legendary Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers.
The album sold extremely well and garnered positive feedback
from the diehard traditional country music fans of Jimmie Rodgers.
Some of the tunes on the Jimmie Rogers Memorial Album were:
- Never No More Blues
- Brakeman's Blues
- Blue Yodel #6
- I¹m Sorry We Met
- California Blues
- Jimmie's Mean Mama Blues
- My Loving Gal Lucille
- Evening Sun Yodel
- My Old Pal
- Daddy and Home
During the late 1950s, Al was signed to the StarDay Record label.
He recorded "The Day Before The Night".
At about the same time,
Coral Records also signed him up to record for their label. He recorded "Icicle Tears" b/w
"Bonita Chiquita Señorita", a tune written by Al himself.
Al headed up two, five month long USO Shows overseas during 1958-59 with
his country and western band—The Westerners.
Although Al did entertain
the audiences a bit with his singing, his main focus during these shows was his
comedy routines in the role of Uncle Elmer - an original piece based
on a character stereotyped as the ultimate country bumpkin.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation
to Mrs. Jan Runions, widow of Al Runyon for the additional biographical
details and photos provided for this writeup.
Related Web Links