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Chubby Wise
Born:  October 2, 1915
Died:  January 6, 1996
Bluegrass Hall of Honor (1998)
The National Fiddler Hall Of Fame (2011)
WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance
WSM Grand Ole Opry
WDAE Tampa, FL
WRUF Gainesville, FL
WRVA Richmond, VA
WSM Nashville, TN


About The Artist

Robert Russell "Chubby" Wise was one of the greatest country fiddlers of all time. Cutting his early professional teeth with a western swing-oriented group in his native Florida, he soon became a celebrated bluegrass stylist working in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Then Chubby spent about fifteen years with Hank Snow's Rainbow Ranch Boys.

In the 1970s, he recorded many albums with Western Swing backing on the Texas-based Stoneway label while continuing to be feted at bluegrass festivals. By the 1980's he was widely respected as the "Grand Old Man of the Fiddle" in practically any style.

Young Robert Wise was a native of Lake City, Florida. While his father had been a fiddler of some local renown, the youngster first developed an interest in banjo and guitar. By his early teens, he switched to fiddle, inspired by state champion Bryan Purecell. He was also inspired by such professionals as Clayton McMichen, Curly Fox, and Arthur Smith.

In early adulthood he moved to the city of Jacksonville. There he met young fiddler Ervin Rouse. Chubby always believed that he helped compose the classic tune "Orange Blossom Special." Others (chiefly Claude Casey) held that Ervin was teaching it to Chubby. Whatever, Chubby soon moved to Gainesville and joined the professional band, the Jubilee Hillbillies.

This group was one of the few full-time country groups in the Sunshine State and played everything from fiddle hoedowns to swing material, leaning more in the direction of western swing (perhaps in a manner similar to those of Clayton McMichen, Hank Penny or Claude Casey). Their radio base was WRUF Gainesville. Sadly, they made no recordings. Chubby remained with them until he joined Bill Monroe's band at the Grand Ole Opry in 1942. Chubby was a little uncertain that he could make the grade with Bill who had a different style, but eventually learned that he was just what Monroe wanted in a fiddler. Although he left the band a couple of brief times, he managed to be present in all of Monroe's Columbia recordings from 1945 through 1949.

One of his absences from the band came with his going with Clyde Moody to WARL in Arlington to work for Connie B. Gay. This allowed him to fiddle on the number he and Clyde had composed, "Shenandoah Waltz" in 1947. Chubby also worked with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and cut a session with them on Columbia. Wise also worked for a time at Richmond's Old Dominion Barn Dance at WRVA. In 1953, he returned to Nashville and with a few exceptions remained as fiddler with Hank Snow's Rainbow Ranch Boys. During this period he recorded many numbers with Snow for RCA Victor, did some session work with Mac Wiseman among others, and fronted the Rainbow Ranch Boys on Starday (SLP 154), The Tennessee Fiddler. Chubby also recorded a budget fiddle album for Guest Star. During one of his absences from Snow, he fiddled on an album for Hazel and Alice, now remembered as the first bluegrass album with only girl vocalists.

Promo Ad - Orange Bowl - Chubby Wise - Miami, FL - January 1945
Promo Ad - Sweetheart Skating Rink - Tampa, FL - Chubby Wise and his Florida Playboys - August 1945

Shenandoah Waltz - Clyde Moody - Chubby Wise - Roy Acuff
Shenandoah Waltz - Clyde Moody - Chubby Wise - Tommy Tucker

Promo Ad - Sunset Park - West Grove, PA - Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Chubby Wise - Jody Rainwater - Don Owens - May 1951
Promo Ad - Jackson County High School Auditorium - Bill Monroe - Bluegrass Boys - Cousin Wilbur - Clyde Moody - CHubby Wise - Lonnie and Tommie Thompson - December 1943

Although the work with Hank Snow was steady, it did not pay especially well and also had some embarrassing moments. One took place on stage at the Opry. Snow had something of an ego and not having much hair on his head, was especially aware of his toupee. One night Chubby knocked the hair piece off Hank's head during a performance. Snow leaned over and said, "Chubby, you're fired." Wise said Snow rehired him in a matter of days. Snow's detractors termed him "the Little Cowboy" which Bill Strength put into a song called "Hillbilly Hades," a parody of "Hillbilly Heaven" in which Strength impersonated Tex Ritter narrating a story about the night "Fiddlin' Chubby" knocked the toupee from the head of the "Little Cowboy" on stage.

Chubby left the Rainbow Ranch Boys in late 1970. From 1968, he had begun recording fiddle tunes for the Stoneway label of Houston. One was a cut of the old Bob Wills tune "Maiden's Prayer." It became regionally popular in the Lone Star State so that he could earn $250 a night for playing the fiddle and fronting a local band. Over a decade he recorded about 20 albums for Mr. R. M. Stone's firm including a couple with another fiddling legend, Howard "Howdy" Forrester. He also still played a few bluegrass festivals each summer.



Promo Ad - Sunset Park - West Grove, PA - Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Chubby Wise - Jody Rainwater - Don Owens - May 1951


Promo Ad - Sunset Park - West Grove, PA - Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Chubby Wise - Jody Rainwater - Don Owens - May 1951
Promo Ad - Jackson County High School Auditorium - Bill Monroe - Bluegrass Boys - Cousin Wilbur - Clyde Moody - CHubby Wise - Lonnie and Tommie Thompson - December 1943

In 1982, Chubby and Mac Wiseman did a live album at Gilley's, Give Me My Smokies and Tennessee Waltz (Gilley's MG 5006), and continued in spite of increasing age.

A decade later, he did two compact discs on Pinecastle, In Nashville (PRC 1031) and An American Original: The '94 Sessions (PRC 1041, released in November 1995.

Two months later, the long-bearded, venerable legend passed away at age 80.

Credits & Sources

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Stoneway
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1024 A Maiden?s Prayer
  1024 A Maiden's Prayer
  1024 B Chubby?s Hornpipe
  1024 B Chubby's Hornpipe
  1026 A Sweet Georgia Brown
  1026 A Sweet Georgia Brown
  1026 B Whispering Hope
  1026 B Whispering Hope
  1027 A Orange Blosson Special
  1027 A Orange Blosson Special
  1027 B Stone?s Rag
  1027 B Stone's Rag
  1029 A The Pennsylvania Polks
  1029 A The Pennsylvania Polks
  1029 B Houston Schottisches
  1029 B Houston Schottisches
  1031 A Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
  1031 A Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
  1031 B Saint Louis Blues
  1031 B Saint Louis Blues
  1035 A Bonaparte?s Retreat
  1035 A Bonaparte's Retreat
  1035 B Lost John
  1035 B Lost John
  1040 A Corina
  1040 A Corina
  1040 B San Antonio Rose
  1040 B San Antonio Rose
  1043 A Precious Memories
  1043 A Precious Memories
  1043 B Dear Lord Forgive
  1043 B Dear Lord Forgive
  1047 A Alabama Jubilee
  1047 A Alabama Jubilee
  1047 B Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
  1047 B Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
  1056 A Waltz Across Texas
  1056 A Waltz Across Texas
  1056 B Bring It on In
  1056 B Bring It on In
  1062 A Faded Love (with Ron Knuth)
  1062 A Faded Love (with Ron Knuth)
  1062 B Take These Chains from My Heart
  1062 B Take These Chains from My Heart
  1063 A Big Beaver
  1063 A Big Beaver
  1063 B Beer Barrell Polka
  1063 B Beer Barrell Polka
  1070 A Little Box of Pine
  1070 A Little Box of Pine
  1070 B I?m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
  1070 B I'm Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
  1073 A Gotta See Mama Every Night
  1073 A Gotta See Mama Every Night
  1073 B Westphalia Waltz
  1073 B Westphalia Waltz
  1078 A Danny Boy
  1078 A Danny Boy
  1078 B Daddy Blues
  1078 B Daddy Blues
  1086 A The Spanish Two Step
  1086 A The Spanish Two Step
  1086 B Detour
  1086 B Detour
  1091 A Drinking Champagne
  1091 A Drinking Champagne
  1091 B Li?l Liza Jane
  1091 B Li'l Liza Jane
  1101 A Slippin' Around
  1101 A Slippin? Around
  1101 B I'll Be All Smiles Tonight
  1101 B I?ll Be All Smiles Tonight
  1106 A Out on the Texas Plains
  1106 A Out on the Texas Plains
  1106 B Blue Hawaii
  1106 B Blue Hawaii
  1114 A Chicken Reel
  1114 A Chicken Reel
  1114 B Florida Polka
  1114 B Florida Polka
  1119 A Casey Jones
  1119 A Casey Jones
  1119 B A Fool Such As I
  1119 B A Fool Such As I
  1126 A In the Pines (with Howdy Forrester)
  1126 A In the Pines (with Howdy Forrester)
  1126 B Cindy (with Howdy Forrester)
  1126 B Cindy (with Howdy Forrester)
  1136 A John Henry
  1136 A John Henry
  1136 B Oh My Darling Nellie Gray
  1136 B Oh My Darling Nellie Gray
  1143 A Sally Johnson
  1143 A Sally Johnson
  1143 B Flop-Eared Schottische
  1143 B Flop-Eared Schottische
  1146 A The Lost Indian
  1146 A The Lost Indian
  1146 B Hell Among the Yearlings
  1146 B Hell Among the Yearlings
  1149 A Lost John
  1149 A Lost John
  1149 B Wabash Blues
  1149 B Wabash Blues
  1152 A The Lost Highway
  1152 A The Lost Highway
  1152 B I Saw the Light
  1152 B I Saw the Light
  1156 A The Golden Rocket
  1156 A The Golden Rocket
  1156 B Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy
  1156 B Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy


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