About The Group
This country and gospel music trio was the successor of two earlier bands organized by Warren Caplinger.
The latter, a native of Wood County, West Virginia, was born with the surname Pritchard, but used the last name of his step-father. When he registered for the World War I draft, he used the Pritchard name.
In 1920 he journeyed to East Tennessee where he later met a man named Andy Patterson who was a guard at Brushy Mountain Prison. Together, with three brothers named Rainey, they formed a stringband known as Warren Caplinger's Cumberland Mountain Entertainers.
In February 1928, they went to Ashland, Kentucky where they recorded nine songs for the Brunswick and Vocalion firms, all of them released.
About a year later, Cap and Andy relocated to Akron, Ohio, an industrial city where thousands of West Virginia and other southerners had moved to find work in the rubber factories.
They worked on local radio stations WADC in Akron and WTAM Cleveland and recorded twenty-three numbers for Gennett, fifteen of which were never released, altering their band's name to Dixie Harmonizers.
The twosome also made connections with the increasingly popular radio comedy team of Lum and Abner who broadcast their network program from Cleveland for a time. Among new band members were Caplinger in-law Dave West and brother Everett Caplinger and somewhat later Marshall Jones (later famous as Grandpa Jones). While playing on the Lum and Abner Show, the group used the name Pine Ridge String Band.
At some point Cap and Andy met young Alabama mandolin picker named Flip Strickland. They decided to form a trio and over the next several years returned to Caplinger's home state where they worked successfully at WWVA Wheeling (ca. 1934-36), WMMN Fairmont (1936-1939), and WCHS Charleston (1939-1949). The trio also made brief stays at Ashland, Kentucky and Columbus, Ohio stations.
The trio published five widely popular song books, all but one of which was titled "Fireside Melodies."
By 1938, they had become pretty much a sacred group. In 1939 and 1940, they recorded several numbers for a custom label called Fireside Melodies including the sacred song called "Television in the Sky."
Unlike many other acts, research does not show much in the way of promotional ads of their appearances. This may be due to the change in their music to sacred and perhaps only performing in front of audiences where that music would be popular. Often, these were just a paragraph or two by an organization indicating that Cap, Andy and Flip were doing the entertainment. Some examples are below:
And on occasion, most every artist or performer has a time when circumstances just would not let them make their appearance. It happened to them at the same venue, two years in a row! They were schedule to appear at the Herbert Buss American Legion headquarters at Stonecreek (OH) in March of 1936. But a snowstorm that week prevented their appearance. The year prior, extreme cold weather caused the cancellation.
Wrapping It Up
At the end of 1940, a big change took place. Flip, at the urging of his in-laws, left to enter the chicken farming business. He was replaced by Andy's sixteen-year-old son, Milton Patterson (1924-????). Sometimes they were joined by Cap's son Omer. This group remained active, based at WCHS, throughout the 1940s, published two more songbooks, and did a session for M & L. They retired at the end of the decade because of Andy's ill health.
After Andy died in 1950, Milt returned to Tennessee.
Caplinger turned increasingly to disc jockey work first at WKNA and then WGKV both in Charleston; he retired in 1956. He died in 1957 and was buried next to Andy in Cunningham Memorial Gardens in suburban St. Albans. He married several times, he was survived by seven children.
Further research of ancestry records he married Carrie Virginia Billes (B: July 12, 1881 — D: March 30, 1943) on December 25, 1907 in Mineral, WV — using the name of Samuel Warren Pritchard. His World War 1 draft registration indicated he had a two and a half year old child and wife to support. They had a daughter, Catherinem born in December 1909.
In 1912, ancestry records indicate he married Madie J. Stinespring in Wood County, WV.
One of his marriages was the subject of news reports when it came to an end. News articles reported that he was suded for divorce by his wife for abandoning her and their three children. They were married in Wartburg, TN on April 29, 1921. Caplinger evidently moved to Akron in 1928. When his wife followed several months later, she claimed that he refused to provide a home for them. They reconciled for a short couple of weeks, then Caplinger left them and had not lived with them since July 1929. She asked for alimony and custody of the children. Her name was Nevada (Vada) West Caplinger (B: June 20, 1904 — D: April 5, 1988). The divorce was finalized on Friday May 1, 1931 by Judge Oscar Hunsicker; it was granted on ground of gross neglect. Caplinger was ordered to pay $15 per week to support their children (Warren Leroy, Kenneth Keston and Omer Calvin).
He died of a heart attack in July 1957. His obituary noted he was known as "Mr. Folk Music" when he first arrived on the Charleston music scene in 1936.
Flip had grown dissatisfied with farming, returned to music briefly with Texas Ruby and Curly Fox, worked in Indiana, and then retired to his Alabama hometown of Hartselle. After his death on July 21, 1988 he was buried in his wife's hometown of Gallipolis, Ohio [Note: I (Prof. Tribe) attended his graveside service.] Research uncovered how "Flip" got his nickname in an old issue of Song Exchange News in their Winter 1939 issue. When he was just a youngster, his dad got him a new pair of slippers. He was very proud of his new "flippers" as he called them. It was at that point, folks started calling him "Flipper" and later, for the trio, "Flip."
Meanwhile, older fans in West Virginia continued to treasure memories of the popular trio.
Credits & Sources
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