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Emry Arthur
Born:  September 17, 1902
Died:  August 22, 1967

About The Artist

Wayne County, Kentucky native Emry Paul (His World War II registration card shows "Penniecuff" as his middle name) Arthur was an old-time singer who became best known for being the first person to record the ballad "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow."

Unable to earn a living through music he moved to Indianapolis. He became competent at playing, but his guitar work was very limited as he had lost a finger on his left hand.

After living in Indianapolis for a time, he had an opportunity to successfully audition for Vocalion Records. He summoned his brother Henry from Kentucky to help and between January 1928 and June 1929 placed a variety of old ballads, turn-of the century Tin Pan Alley songs, and older hymns on disc.

Their most popular efforts, the sacred coupling of "Love Lifted Me" b/w "Shining for the Master," gained the best sales but the "Constant Sorrow" had the most lasting effect. He apparently had learned it from Blind Richard Burnett who never recorded it.

Arthur had personal problems. He lost everything he had in a divorce. He had married the former Florence Hayes on December 21, 1920 in Indianapolis, IN. Moving to Wisconsin, he went to work as a factory hand for the Wisconsin Chair Company and recorded for Paramount, owned by the Chair firm. He also picked up a new singing partner, Della Hatfield, who soon became his second wife. They were married on July 18, 1932 in Indiana. They remained with Paramount through 1931 which was about the time that the company went bankrupt.

Arthur had one more recording session, cutting eight numbers for the new Decca label in 1935. After that, he slipped into musical obscurity, dying in 1967. Della survived into the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Old Homestead released an LP of his early recordings and the later motion picture Oh Brother Where Art Thou revived interest in the man and his music.

Credits & Sources

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Decca
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5067 A The Broken Wedding
  5067 B My Own True Lover
  5068 A Rambling Hobo Blues
  5068 B Don't Get Married
  5085 A Look Out For The Window
  5085 B I'm Always Thinkin Of You
  5127 A Six Months In Jail Ain't Long
  5127 B Bootlegger's Lullaby
 
Lonesome Ace
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  3 A Sunshine And Shadows
  3 B True Love Divine
 
Paramount
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  3221 A The Broken Wedding
  3221 B I?m Always Thinking of You
  3222 A The Bluefield Murder (w/Della Hatfield)
  3222 B George Collins (w/Della Hatfield)
  3237 A Reuben, Oh Reuben (w/Della Hatfield)
  3237 B She Lied to Me (w/Della Hatfield)
  3243 A Bloodstained Dress (w/Della Hatfield)
  3243 B The Day I Left Home (w/Della Hatfield
  3249 A Jennie My Own True Love (w/Della Hatfield
  3249 B A Railroad Lover for Me (w/Della Hatfield)
  3289 A The Married Man
  3289 B I?m a Man of Constant Sorrow (w/Della Hatfield
  3290 A There?s A Treasure up in Heaven (w/Della Hatfield
  3290 B Short Life of Trouble (w/Della Hatfield
  3298 A I?m Going Back to the Girl I Love
  3298 B Careless Love
  3301 A I Tickled Her Under the Chin
  3301 B Got Drunk And Got Married
 
Vocalion
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  05208 A I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
  05208 B Down In Tennessee Valley
  05229 B The Little Black Train Is Coming
  05229 B Let That Liar Alone
  05230 B Going Around The World
  05230 B Nobodys Business
  05234 A Wandering Gypsy Girl
  05244 B Bring Back To Me My Wandering Boy (W/Frank Owens)
  05244 B Your Mother's Going To Leave You Bye And Bye (W/Frank Owens)
  05249 A The Rich Man And Joe Smith
  05249 B Ethan Lang
  05264 A Empty Pocket Blues
  05264 B Train Whistle Blues
  05288 A My Girl She's A Lulu
  05288 B Mary Don't Go
  05335 A The Wanderer (W/William Rexoat)
  05335 B The White Rose (W/William Rexoat)
  05340 A Frankie Baker
  05340 B Frankie Baker Part Ii
  05351 A Mountain Daddy Blues
  05351 B Prison Bound Blues
  05354 A My Mother In Law
  05354 B I Got Drunk And I Got Married
  05358 B Mother's In Heaven Tonight
  05358 B The Blind Boy
  05385 A The Bootlegger's Song
  05396 B Remember The Old Folks Back Home