His parents named him Horace Eldred Dill but country music fans
came to know him as Danny Dill. He was a native of Huntingdon, Tennessee. Opry fans of the 1950's will
remember him as part of the Annie Lou and Danny act that was on the Opry for many
years. Later on, country music fans would know Danny for some of the country classics
he wrote, tunes that one only had to hear the distinctive guitar intro or the
first line of the song and instantly recognize it.
Annie Lou was born in Bradford, Tennessee. Back then, one magazine noted she
was about five feet six and about 123 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
She was from a rather large family
by today's standards; she had two brothers and two sisters. Her first radio
experience was perhaps at WTJS in Jackson, Tennessee, a station that Danny
also worked at.
Back in 1946, Danny was said to be five feet eight and weighing in at 148 pounds,
with brown hair and brown eyes. He had one sister. An article in 1946 noted
that he enjoyed writing prose and short stories as well as going to movies,
fishing and meeting 'real people'. Prior to coming to WSM, he had worked
at WTJS in Jackson, KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas, WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee
and WMC in Memphis, Tennessee.
A Cowboy Songs magazine article in July of 1952 mentioned that "...for every well known
star in the country entertainment field there are five or even ten new-comers
to the folk music world." And in that issue, they wrote of the "clear-voiced" Danny
and the "sweet-voiced" Annie Lou.
Danny had been working on his musical career for a few years before he met up
with the Duke of Paducah around 1944. The Duke signed him up for a year as part
of his show. During that time, Annie Lou joined the team as well.
For a time, Annie Lou and Danny were a part of the Duke of Paducah's traveling
road show. And it was a show packed with some talent. In 1947, it included
a former WLS star, Salty Holmes. Barbara Jeffers, Jack Kenndal, Ralph Caputo
along with the Kernels of Korn band were a part of the troupe back then. Around
that time, the Duke was selling his joke book, "These Shoes Are Killing Me".
We had the pleasure and honor of hearing from Danny Dill himself and he said
that without too much fan fare after joining the Duke of Paducah's show, the Solemn
Old Judge simply introduced them to the Opry listening audience as "Here are some
new kids to sing for us." Thus, began their eleven year stint with the Opry. Danny
was twenty at the time and Annie Lou 19. Danny mentions that prior to that first
appearance they did do an audition for the Opry, which obviously did make
a favorable impression.
Danny has a nice sense of humor and perhaps we get a hint of what his on-stage persona
was like in these email exchanges. He relates like many a young singer and musician
did back then and probably still do today. He tells us,
"I had come to town with
four other mentally disturbed guys, thinking that 'to make the Opry would be easy'. But
we did meet the Duke of Paducah , who hired us to be his road band for some (tour dates that included)
Kemp Time Theaters. When we got back he needed a band for some later dates.
The "Kernels of Korn" didn't want to do those shows, but I did and I told him
about my new wife, who sang too. The Duke said "Bring her!"
Only now do I realize what a life changing event that moment was."
In April of 1946, listeners to WSM at 5:30am were hearing Annie Lou and Danny. One
columnist, Norma Winton (better known as the long time president of Ernest Tubb's
Fan Club) noted that Danny was the one playing the guitar and the two of them had
"...nice voices you'll enjoy hearing." In May of 1946, their show
was airing at 6:30am each day.
Danny told us that the picture we see was his "Texas Troubadour" shirt. Yes, Danny did
indeed tour with Ernest Tubb for a time. Ronnie Pugh notes in his biography of Ernest
that Annie Lou and Danny were part of Hank Thompson's Smoky Mountain Hayride show that
first aired in September of 1948. Ronnie notes later on, Annie Lou and Danny were an opening act
for Ernest for a time and after Annie Lou took some time off after the birth of their daughter,
Danny continued to work with Ernest including a Korea trip in 1953 and the first two Jimmie
Rodgers festivals in Meredian, Mississippi. Ronnie includes several other tidbits from
Danny in his book, which is an enjoyable read of one country music legends.
Along comes 1949, and Eddy Arnold has a show called "Hometown Reunion" that was airing
over the CBS network from 9:00pm to 9:30pm, EST. Annie Lou and Danny along with the
Duke of Paducah were part of the regular cast of that show supporting Eddy along
with the Willis Brothers and the Hometown Band and Choir. The show was to change
venues on a regular basis and originate from cities such as Memphis, Des Moines,
Louisville, Indianapolis, Mobile, Omaha, Tulsa, Wichita, Salt Lake City, San Antonio,
Rochester, Denver, Portland (OR) and Spokane. Floy Case termed Annie Lou and Danny
"...a grand harmony team." in her National Hillbilly News column where she mentions
the Eddy Arnold show.
A 1952 Editor's column in the famed Country Song Roundup Magazine indicates that Annie
Lou and Danny were part of a large WSM Grand Ole Opry group that was
to appear at the Astor Roof in New York City during a period of 16 weeks starting in May 1952.
That 1952 Cowboy Songs magazine article mentions that Annie Lou and Danny delved a bit
with photography as a hobby and they particularly like the movies they took with their
16mm camera in Alaska in 1950 when they were on a tour entertaining the U. S. troops stationed
in that area.
In 1953, Jimmy Dickens wrote in an article for Country Song Roundup that the Duke of
Paducah had a new show called "The Duke of Paducah and the Nashville Gang" that featured
Moon Mullican, Annie Lou and Danny and the Kernels of Korn with a different guest each
week. The sponsor of that show as the Locke Stove Company.
The years turned their pages and in 1961,
a news article tells readers that Annie Lou and Danny had joined the George Morgan show.
We asked Danny what did fans get to hear when they saw Annie Lou and Danny in person.
He wrote and told us that at the time, it probably was a big thing, but he thought at the
age of 20, a step is a step to get going in the music business. Was he scared to join
up with the Duke and start doing the Opry? No, he said but the adrenalin was
sure pumping but he wasn't really nervous about it. He told us,
"I am never as calm, as comfortable as alive as when I walk before a mike,
and an aware, breathing feeling, living something that has many parts,
yet is willing to be molded into a single laugh or one, maybe a flood of tears
if you are doing it right and that is the thrill of it all.
To see if you can do it right. If you can 'fullness' if you don't
its as empty as a hotel room and me. Our act, he tells us, was a well chosen
collection of "mistakes". If we messed up and they laughed and reacted, we just
kept on doing it."
Do you think today's singers think about whether they are "doing it right"?
Danny's songwriting career seems to have started about the time he and Annie Lou
had divorced. Danny wanted to stay in the music business, but found that it was
hard to book just one-half of what had been a duet team. So, he started about
writing songs. He signed on with Cedarwood and said he did pretty good with them
right up to retirement age. As a matter of fact, Danny was the first songwriter
signed by Cedarwood.
He has written some well-known country classics. Perhaps the most famous would
be "Detroit City" as recorded by Bobby Bare or "I Wanna Go Home", the version
that Billy Grammer released. Another tune fans will recognize is "The Long
Black Veil" that was a classic hit for Lefty Frizzell. He wrote that with
Other tunes he is credited with is 'Cause I Love You, which Webb Pierce shares
songwriting credit with Danny; "If You Saw Her Through My Eyes", a collaboration
with Carl Smith; and a tune that we personally enjoyed from a Charley Pride
album, "I'll Wander Back To You", co-written with Mel Tillis and Fred Burch.
In 1975, the Nashville Songwriter's Foundation elected him to the Hall of Fame.
Danny told us the picture we have of him at the top of the page is in his "Texas
Troubadour" shirt - Danny worked with Ernest Tubb for about 7 or 8 years as well.
Now in his 80's, Danny has released a CD of tunes that's available on CD Baby - see
the link below.
We asked Danny about a tune he did on that CD - "Be Anybody's Darling But Mine" and
whether that was perhaps a parody of the old Jimmie Davis tune "Nobody's Darling But
Mine". He told us that he "came through the back door" to that Jimmie Davis song.
He was "...thumbing through his mind looking for something and actually anything,
and found he was humming that tune, "Nobody's Darling But Mine". As you might
expect, the tune came to him fast and easy. He says simple. But that's how good
songwriters make it - seemingly simple.
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Danny Dill himself
for contacting us, answering our questions and helping us document his career.
- National Hillbilly News; April 1946; Poster Show Print Co.;
- National Hillbilly News; May 1946; Poster Show Print Co.;
- National Hillbilly News; September-October 1947; Poster Show Print Co.;
- National Hillbilly News; January-February 1949; Mr. & Mrs. Orville Via;
- National Hillbilly News; May-June 1949; Mr. & Mrs. Orville Via;
- Cowboy Songs; Issue No. 21; July 1952; American Folk
Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
- Cowboy Songs; Issue No. 65; January 1961; American Folk
Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
- Country Song Roundup; Issue No. 19; August 1952; American Folk
Publications; Derby, CT
- Country Song Roundup; Issue No. 22; February 1953; American Folk
Publications; Derby, CT
- Ernest Tubb The Texas Troubadour; Ronnie Pugh;
Duke University Press; 1996
Related Web Links