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Bob Williams
and the Cumberland Mountaineers
Born:  April 28, 1927
WJZM Clarksville, TN
WKDA Nashville, TN
WLBJ Bowling Green, KY
WLAC Nashville, TN (1947)
WRNL Richmond, VA (1955)

Bob Williams was born near in Scottsville, Kentucky. He grew up on a small farm. When he was just ten years old, he started to sell garden seeds. One thing led to another and received a prize of his very first guitar that cost him all of eleven cents back then. The music inspired Bob and he began to think of himself performing for audiences on the radio.

In 1942, Bob and his two brothers, "Pee Wee" and Jimmie, enjoyed their first broadcast over the radio as guests on radio station WLBJ in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

In 1944, Bob organized his band, the Cumberland Mountaineers. Eddie Ford played fiddle; Slim Binkley was on guitar; "Pee Wee" Williams played Hawaiian guitar; brother Jimmie Williams was on mandolin and finally, Major Owens was on bass. The band was heard by radio audiences over station WJZM out of Clarksville, Tennessee.

But as happened for many young men in that era, Bob and a few members of the band had to set aside their musical journey to serve Uncle Sam in World War II.

When Bob and others were done with their military service in 1946, Bob reorganized the band and just about every one rejoined him except J. W. Gower was now on bass and Johnny Wayne was playing accordion.

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers 1948 Back in 1946, National Hillbilly News reported that Bob was then performing in West Virginia with his group. Prior to arriving in West Virginia, he had worked in Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. When a reporter showed in some of the letters fans had written asking of his whereabouts, he replied, "I thought my mother was the only one who was interested in where I was." He had been recording with the Diamond Record Company at the time.

His move to West Virginia seemed to have led to his meeting and working with Hawkshaw Hawkins. The article was not clear, but it inferred that Hawkshaw and possibly Bob were doing recordings for the King label that were to be released in the summer of 1946.

In March 1947, Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers began a stint on radio station WKDA in Nashville, Tennessee. In September 1947, the band moved to another Nashville station, WLAC.

We were able to get in touch with another early member of Bob's band, Gere Mullican, who played steel guitar for the band. He joined them in 1948 and stayed until 1952 when he enlisted with the U. S. Navy. He went to Hume Fogg High School with Jimmy Williams. Jimmy heard Gere play at an event at school and mentioned to Bob he should get Gere in his band. At the time, he recalls Delbert had a good job with the Norfolk and Western Railroad company at the time. Delbert and Georgia were living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. The band statyed with them when they toured the area one summer.

Gere recalls when he joined the band, it consisted of Bobby Hicks on fiddle; Milton Burton on guitar in North Carolina. In Nashville, the band had Tommy Litchford on guitar; Tommy Neblitt on fiddle; J. W. Gower on bass and Jimmy Williams on mandolin.

Gere tells us that Jimmy Williams was also the comedian of the group, playing the role of "Joe Binglehead". One night the band had a show at a one room school house. But Jimmy was on a date with his soon to be wife, Joyce and Gere was the only one in the band who could fit into the Joe Binglehad costume. He did so well, he played that role until he went into the U. S. Navy.

Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers

He released a version of the Hot Rod Race around 1952.

In later years he refurbished buses for the stars. and then went to work driving for the Temptations. He is retired now and lives in Camden Tn.

Delbert Williams was born June 9, 1924, in Kentucky He went to Nashville where he attended Draughans Business College. After graduation he went to work for the Railroad. He then joined Bob‘s band and played the electric steel guitar. His music life had to be suspended as the railroad transferred him several times, from Boston, to Charlotte, Birmingham, Louisville, and finally Cincinnati, where he retired after more than 43 years.

He moved to a farm he owned in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He would move to Florida for the winters.

Ed Litchford was born in Carthage, Tennessee on October 11, 1924, and moved to Nashville where he also worked for the railroad. While there, he met Delbert who introduced him to Bob and he started playing the fiddle with the band. He later worked for a chemical company where he retired in 1985. He died in 2003 at which time his wife Helen moved in with Delbert and and his wife, Georgia.

Jimmy Williams was Bob’s youngest brother and he played mandolin with the band. After graduation he went to work for a finance company, where he retired. He lived in Hendersonville, Tennessee on Old Hickory Lake. One of his neighbors was Johnny Cash. Jimmy passed away in 2005.

Johnny Wayne Tune was from Murray, Kentuck. Johnny joined Bob’s band playing the accordion. He worked for IBM. He eventually moved to Atlanta, Georia and has passed away.

J.W. Gower lived in Nashville where his family made guitars. He played the bass fiddle with Bob's band. Georgia (Delbert's wife of 69 years) mentioned that they still have one of their guitars.

Bob’s band opened the day radio station WLAC at 6:00AM, and all members went to work after that except Jimmy, who went off to school. After they got off work they all met in town, including their wives, and went out to little country schools, churches or clubs to play. They would get home late at night and the next day their routine started all over again.

They did not do personal appearances every night but were kept pretty busy. Bob had a five-seate bus or limosine and that is what they travelled in. Of course, the bass was tied on the top of the vehicle.

During those times, Delbert and Georgia had two empty rooms in their home. But since they did not have much furniture, the band was able to practice at their home. Then J.W and his wife needed a place to live so they moved in the two rooms for a few weeks.

The house had only 1 bathroom so the Gower’s had to go through Delbert and Georgia's bedroom to get to the bathroom. You get the picture that this group was a very close bunch.

Later Ed Litchford and his wife Helen moved in the two rooms and stayed until Delbert got transferred to Boston.

In early 1955, Billboard magazine was informing readers that Bob Williams and the Cumberland Mountaineers had a 15-minute 'across the board' show over WRNL in Richmond, Virginia.

From the variou song plugging type columns of the early era, it seems Bob was writing some of the tunes he played. We've seen mention of tunes like "Letters From Home" (which was stated to be accted by the Hartman Van Horn Publishing Company), "Chalk Up Another Lie" (Note: The mention we saw of this tune also told us he was living in North Kansas City, Missouri at the time and written with John Bava. Another mention tells us it was recorded on the Cozy label and being played over stations such as WWVA and WCKY.), "Hold Me Close", "West Virginia Waltz" (with Tannen Music), "You Told Me So" and "This Could Be Our Last Good-Bye".

Another tune by Bob that got mentioned was "Tropical Island", co-written with Ray Meany and Johnny Smolen. It was published by Peer International. The tune was recorded by Bernie Kaai and the Island-airs on the Crystal record label. He also co-wrote another tune with John Bava, "Don't Give Your Love To Another."

On February 25, 2013, Delbert and Georgia Williams will have been married 69 years.

Timeline & Trivia Notes

Group Members over the years

  • Bob Williams
  • Delbert Williams (Pee Wee), Hawaiian and steel guitar
  • Jimmy Williams, mandolin
  • Eddie Ford, fiddle
  • Major Owens, bass
  • Slim Binkley, guitar
  • Johnny Wayne Tune, accordion
  • J. W. Gower, bass
  • Ed Litchford, fiddle
  • Gere Mullican, steel guitar
  • Bobby Hicks, fiddle
  • Milton Burton, guitar
  • Tommy Litchford, guitar
  • Tommy Neblitt, fiddle

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Georgia Williams, wife of Delbert Williams for contacting us and providing details about the group.
  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Gere Mullins, former steel guitar player for the Cumberland Mountaineers for responding to our inquiries and providing details about the group's history and his memories.
  • National Hillbilly News; July 1946; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; July - August 1949; Mr. and Mrs. Orville W. Via; Huntington, WV
  • Jamboree Magazine; May 1949; Drawer 1731; Ventura, CA
  • Jack Henderson's Song Book and Picture Album; Book No. 3; 1948; 24 pages
  • Jamboree Magazine; June-July 1949; Drawer 1731; Ventura, CA
  • National Hillbilly News; January - February 1950; Mr. and Mrs. Orville W. Via; Huntington, WV
  • National Hillbilly News; March - April 1950; Mr. and Mrs. Orville W. Via; Huntington, WV
  • The Billboard; January 8, 1955; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH
  • Country & Western Jamboree; March 1955; Maher Publications, Inc.; Chicago, IL

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Recordings
 
Tennessee
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  735 A Hot Rod Race
  735 B Morning After Blues
  756 A Hot Rod Race No. 2
  756 B So Don't You Weep
  770 A Pick Up Truck
  770 B Our Last Goodbye
  771 A Hot Rod Race No. 3
  771 B I've Lived My Life Alone
  834 A We're Stepping Out Tonight
  834 B Be Mine
 
Cumberland
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  106 A Hot Rod Race
  106 B Tell Rosalie Goodbye (Carl Chessman's Last Words)
 
Spin
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  SR989 A Hot Rod Race
  SR989 B Precious


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