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Williamson Brothers and Curry

About the Group

About The Group

The Williamson Brothers and Curry was a Logan County, West Virginia-based fiddle band that played for local dances and other entertainments in southern West Virginia for several years from the mid-1920's. Personnel consisted of guitarist William Ervin Williamson (November 2, 1900 — March 29, 1972), fiddler Arnold Williamson (January 1, 1904 — 1998), and for some years Arnold Curry (1906 — January 21, 1935) who played ukulele (or banjo-ukulele) and apparently assisted on vocals. Sometimes Albert Kirk, the great uncle of latter-day researcher Brandon Ray Kirk, also was part of the group.

Like their contemporary Dick Justice, the Williamsons were natives of Wayne County, West Virginia and relocated to Logan County, attracted by employment opportunities during the coal mine boom. They worked in the mines and played music on the side for decades. Later Ervin drove a truck. Arnold later had expertise in refrigeration and worked for years at that trade for the Mountain State Packing Company, perhaps well into the 1980's, as he was the only man in the county who had those skills. He lived with his wife in the little town of Mt. Gay near Logan.

The Williamson's main claim to fame came from their six recordings made for OKeh in 1927. White bluesman Frank Hutchison had earlier (and later) recorded for that firm and the Williamsons and Curry accompanied him to St. Louis where they did their session. Arnold Williamson recalled some 54 years later that Curry's ukulele was of little value in the studio, but his singing may have helped, especially the falsetto on their signature song.

How long Curry remained in the band is uncertain, but he perished in an auto accident on January 21, 1935. News reports indicated he drowned when his car went over an embankment into a creek. He was driving home from the Baisend addition on Mud fork after dropping off a friend and was nearly home when the accident occurred. It was reported there was a heavy fog at the time of the accident. Their best-remembered number was their version of the traditional ballad "John Henry" which was released under the title "Gonna Die with My Hammer in My Hand" that also appeared on the 1952 Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music.

Arnold recalled in 1981 that Ervin's favorite song was another one of their recordings, "The Old Arm Chair." Arnold also played numerous dances supported by young Walden Whytsell (later better known as Don White). In 1997, their entire session appeared on the Document CD Old-Time Music from West Virginia (DOCD 8004) along with those of Dick Justice and the 1929 recordings of Frank Hutchison. In retrospect, the Williamsons were an excellent example of the type of fiddle band that could be found in dozens of local communities in their era.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Logan County Driver Drowns; January 22, 1935; Charleston Daily Mail; Charleston, WV

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  45108 A Cumberland Gap
  45108 B The Fun's All Over
  45127 A Warfield
  45127 B Gonna Die with My Hammer in My Hand
  45158 A Lonesome Road Blues
  45158 B The Old Arm Chair