About The Group
The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers was a string band that morphed from old time music to bluegrass and country, and finally back to bluegrass. Always led by bass fiddle player Ezra Cline, they existed from 1938 to 1968 with various personnel that often included his cousins Curley Ray, Ireland (known as Lazy Ned), and Charlie. The most significant non-family members were Paul Williams, Ray Goins, and Melvin Goins.
For brief periods Bobby Osborne and Larry Richardson played a key role in transitioning them to a bluegrass sound. Other noted members for a brief time included Billy Edwards and Udell McPeak. From the mid-sixties as a part-time group until they dissolved, Landon Messer and Lowell Varney worked with them.
Ezra Cline first organized the Fiddlers in 1938 consisting of his wife's brothers Curley Ray on fiddle, Lazy Ned on tenor banjo, and Gordon Jennings guitar. They played at radio station WHIS in Bluefield.
After the coming of World War II and gasoline rationing, the Fiddlers left radio and played only around Baisden and Gilbert until restrictions were lifted. Meanwhile, Ned Cline had been killed in the Normandy invasion and fifteen year-old Charlie Cline joined when they returned to WHIS in 1946. Ironically, when the band made their first recordings in 1950, the only Cline in the band was Ezra on bass while Ray Morgan played fiddle, young Bobby Osborne played guitar, and Larry Richardson played banjo. They cut four songs on Cozy, two of which were later released on Coral, one of which — "Pain in My Heart" — was covered by the better known team of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
The success of "Pain in My Heart" helped the Fiddlers secure a contract with RCA Victor as that label's first bluegrass act. Billboard reported their signing in June 7, 1952. The label "...considered to be the first new genuinely hillbilly group to be recorded in recent years." Meanwhile, Curley Ray Cline rejoined the band and Osborne and Richardson were replaced by two teenagers. Paul Williams (born Paul Humphreys) played guitar and Ray Goins joined on banjo. After two sessions of four songs each in 1952, they left WHIS first for WOAY in Oak Hill and then for WJR Detroit and the Big Barn Frolic program. Charlie Cline who had had been working with Bill Monroe replaced Goins on banjo. A Cline relative who lived in Michigan played mandolin on the band's six-song 1953 session. "Dirty Dishes Blues" recorded in this set became their best-known number.
By the end of the year, the group was back in Appalachia, going to WLSI Pikeville, Kentucky for a long stretch. Charlie Cline left to work with Monroe again. Ray Goins rejoined on banjo and Williams was replaced by Ray's older brother, twenty-year old Melvin. In 1954, they did two more RCA sessions with James Carson helping out on mandolin. The second one in September included another pair of their classic songs, "No Curb Service" and "Windy Mountain."
In 1955, first Ray and then Melvin left the Fiddlers. Among other things, Ezra did not pay much. Curley Ray received eight dollars per day when they worked on the basis of his seniority, while Melvin and Ray received five dollars each. In addition, they split the fifty dollars weekly payment for their radio show which amounted to an additional $12.50 per man. Even in money-starved Appalachia this wasn't much. "Candy Shows" where they sold boxes of candy during intermissions (one box of which contained a cheap wrist watch) was one source of income. However, the story goes if they accidently sold that box too quickly the crowd might drift away.
In addition, Ezra operated a restaurant in Pikeville and did not want to go to what might have been a better locale. According to one unconfirmed story, Melvin Goins claimed that Ezra turned down the offer to do the Martha White Flour-sponsored programs at WSM that would do so well for Flatt and Scruggs. At any rate, the Goins Brothers were replaced by young Billy Edwards on banjo and Udell McPeak on guitar. While they made no recordings in this period, they continued to produce quality bluegrass music.
After Billy and Udell departed from the Fiddlers about 1958, Charlie Cline and his wife joined Ezra and Curley and the band shifted more toward country and they added a weekly TV show at WSAZ Huntington to their resumes. However, while Flatt and Scruggs found this one of their most lucrative outlets, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers did not. As a WSAZ-TV watcher in this period I can vouch for Thursday at 6:00 PM that Flatt and Scruggs was watched faithfully. I never heard of the Fiddlers having a program there until Melvin Goins told me about it in 1974. By 1959, syndicated TV programs were replacing the live shows. After a time the Clines shifted back to bluegrass.
By 1961, Melvin and Ray Goins were back in the band and their TV work shifted to WCYB in Bristol. Don Pierce of Starday Records was signing traditional and bluegrass acts in this time, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers among them. Over the next couple of years, the Fiddlers did three long-play albums for Starday and did a fourth one with Hylo Brown. They also had five singles released on Starday.
After this phase of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers ended, the band had become pretty much a part time group. Landon Messer and Lowell Varney, playing respective guitar and banjo, helped out on call from Ezra. Melvin Goins worked with Ralph Stanley and then he and Ray formed the Goins Brothers. Curley Ray Cline soon joined the Stanley Brothers and then had a long career as fiddler with Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys.
Ezra Cline retired in 1968 and moved back to West Virginia and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers came to an end. At some point in the 1980s, Curley Ray and Charlie Cline plus Melvin and Ray Goins, with Curley's son Timmy on bass did a Lonesome Fiddlers Reunion cassette, but it had very limited distribution. More recently, only Paul Williams with his Victory Trio bluegrass gospel group survives in music with Paul now in semi-retirement.
Group Biographical Information:
Credits & Sources
Read More About The Group
Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.
It's about the people, the music, the history.
Copyright © 2000—2023 Hillbilly-Music.com