Cliff got his musical start playing drums for his native Corland, NY
high school band and orchestra in the 1920s. Later on, he organized
such hillbilly / country and western bands as The Broncho Busters,
Saddle Pards, Rodeo Kings and the Western Aces. Be sure to read
The Broncho Busters
Cliff Japhet and the Western Aces
During those days of his career, he performed with some legendary artists
in the hillbilly music field. Most notable of these was Vernon Dalhart,
known as the "Grandfather of Country Music" and to whom credit was given
for having the first million selling country song ("The Prisoner's Song").
Cliff has donated several personal letters that Mr. Dalhart had
wrote to him in his own handwriting to the Country Music Hall of Fame in
Nashville, Tennessee. And from his own collection of music, several old
RCA Victor recordings by Dalhart to the museum.
Cliff was also at one time a member of the famous Polly Jenkins and her
Plowboys group. Polly's group appeared in the movies with another
legendary Country Music Hall of Famer, Gene Autry. While with Polly and
her group, they toured the United States and played the 'vaudeville'
circuits. They also appeared at various parks and fairs and appeared
with other famous Western stars as Tex Ritter, Smiley Burnette, Frankie
Darrow and Max Terhune.
Cliff was also a prolific songwriter, a member of ASCAP for
over 25 years. He has written or co-written over 1,000 songs.
Some of the people he shares
co-writing credits with on songs reads like a who's who of the hillbilly
music era. Folks such as Merle Travis, Ramblin' Bill Boyd, his brother, James Boyd,
Wally Fowler, Max Terhune, Elmer Wickham, Dallas Turner and
many others. In addition, he also collaborated with former Louisiana
Governor and Country Music Hall of Famer, Jimmie Davis.
The legendary female cowboy singing sweetheart and Country
Music Hall of Famer, Patsy Montana, recorded Cliff's song, "I'm Goin' West
to Texas" on the Vocalion label in 1938.
We found in the National Hillbilly News publication of May 1946 that he
was quite busy composing and collaborating on some tunes. And
found one his tunes in a WWVA Jamboree Song Folio. Among them were:
- Don't Be Jealous Of Me Darling (co-written with George A. Walker)
- I Won't Say Goodbye To You, Darling (co-written with George A. Walker)
- You Were My First Love (co-written with George A. Walker)
- When Your Kiss Is Given (co-written with George A. Walker)
- Jesus Loves You and Me (co-written with Jesse Ellison and Jim Boyd)
- There'll Come A Time (co-written with Wally Fowler of WSM in Nashville)
- A Cowboy's (Cowgirls) Lonesome Yodel To The Stars (co-written with
Chaw Mank and Judy and June of KMOX in St. Louis, MO)
- In the Valley Of Despair (co-written with Ted Conway, arranger and
accordionist with the Iowa Cornhuskers on WMT in Waterloo, Iowa)
- The Ole Swimming Hole (co-written with Eddy Johnson)
During World War II, Cliff did his part to help his country, working at the American
Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York. A company publication from
that time mentions that Cliff had worked for several years in vaudeville
and radio and had been heard over 150 different radio stations. They quoted
him as to his putting aside his musical career to help out with the war
effort as saying, "I'd much rather by bonds than wear them." But even still,
he found inspiration to write and publish a song that that captures a bit
of the patriotic feeling during that time called "Stick To Your Guns".
He used that song as his theme song while working on his weekly Friday
morning radio show at 6:45am, "Cliff Japhet and his Guitar". He worked
solo on that show and doubled up as announcer, doing his own ad-libs
and patter between tunes. He wrote the tune in tribute to and to inspire
his fellow war workers as sort of an anthem for them, similar to the tunes
that paid tribute to the armed forces during that era. A company newsletter
mentions that Cliff was the 'yodeling craneman in the Repair Department'. The final
chorus of the song was published in that article and went like this:
"STICK TO YOUR GUNS for it's your duty.
STICK TO YOUR GUNS for Freedom, too.
Ev'ry soldier, ev'ry sailor, ev'ry pilot and marine.
You bet they know their duty and they know just what it means.
To stick to their guns and fight for Freedom.
Fight for the Red, White and Blue.
If you're working in defencse you are helping them immensely,
So, STICK TO YOUR GUNS for Freedom, too.
Like many musicians, he grew up around music, at home and at school. His
father played the trumpet and piano. His step-mother, maiden name, Nellie Livermore,
played the piano. (His mother, Pearl Hulslander Japhet, died when Cliff was two.)
Her son by that previous marriage, Harry played the sax and trombone. Cliff's brother,
Leland, who was four years older than Cliff, didn't play any instruments.
He started singing publicly with the Boys Glee Club and the mixed chorus and for a while, he noted,
"four of us young guys" formed a boys quartet. He took trumpet lessons
at the Cortland Conservatory of Music from Nick Mayer.
Along about 1955 or 1956, Cliff recollects that Cliff along with Lyman
Meade and Pee Wee Arenault had a sponsored program that aired over WVMT-TV
out of Burlington, Vermont. They billed themselves as the Bunkhouse Trio. It
was on one night a week for a thirteen week run.
On August 8, 1983, Cliff Japhet was honored with the "Pioneer Achievement Award"
in appreciation of his contributions to the cultural heritage of country music by
the then Governor of Vermont, Richard A. Snelling.
Cliff shared some of his photos from his visits with artists
such as Patsy Montana, Pee Wee King, Grandpa Jones, Mac Wiseman
and Mel Tillis.