About The Artist
Earl Jennings Shirkey's modest fame in country music derives from his skills as a yodeler on sixteen songs recorded with Roy Harvey — thinly disguised as "Roy Harper" — on Columbia.
Shirkey was a native of Wirt County, West Virginia. Some early reports indicate that he was the son of a Freeport, West Virginia physician and had been educated in Switzerland where he learned yodeling techniques. The reality appears much less exotic. He grew up with his mother and stepfather in Parkersburg and later Spencer in Roane County. Earl worked as a chauffeur and would also take a truck to South Carolina and/or Georgia and return to West Virginia with a load of fruit for resale.
Shirkey and Harvey recorded four sessions for Columbia, 1928-1930, two in Johnson City, Tennessee, one in New York, and one in Atlanta (which was never issued).
The first session produced a genuine hit, "When the Roses Bloom for the Bootlegger," which sold over 72,000 copies and inspired two sequels — "The Bootleggers Dream of Home" and "We Have Moonshine in the West Virginia Hills."
In addition to these parodies, the pair also did serious tearjerkers such as "Poor Little Joe" and "The Policeman's Little Girl" as well as topical numbers like "The Virginian Strike of '23" (in which Harvey had been a participant).
Earl gave his occupation in the 1930 census as "yodeler for phonograph and radio" although no evidence of radio work is available. Later he toured, as did Harvey, with Charlie Poole-related groups.
In later years, he lived with his wife Ethel in Fairmont, West Virginia until his death.
Credits & Sources
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