About The Artist
George Vernon Riddle was an Indiana native who worked as a solo performer, sideman, front man for bigger name artists, and as sideman-straight man for Bill Carlisle. While he neither had the "big hit" nor achieved major stardom, he managed to find a niche for himself in "Music City" for over four decades. Ultimately he retired and returned to Indiana where he often emceed local shows.
Born in Marion, Indiana, George was the youngest of a family of ten children. He started singing in public as duet partner at age ten with his thirteen-year-old brother Walt. He got his start by entering a talent show that was sponsored by a touring Medicine Show. He won the talent show that began his musical journey. By 1953, he appeared locally on WBAT radio and toured throughout the Hoosier State.
The 18-year old George Riddle had his own show on WMRI and would play host to country stars when they made personal appearances in the area. In August, he had Texas Bill Strength and Lonzo and Oscar as guests on his show. In addition to his radio work, he was appearing on television at WLBC-TV in Muncie, IN. In late 1954, the WMRI (Marion, IN) disc jockey appeared on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree while in Nashville. He was reported to be returning in March 1955 to appear on WSM's "Mr. D. J., U.S.A."
He made guest appearances on such shows as the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, Tennessee Barn Dance and WSM's Grand Ole Opry.
He was one of the performers on the Horace Heidt Youth Opportunity Show. That led to his own show over WARU in Peru, Indiana and engagements at the better clubs in the area. He then joined the U. S. Army for a two-year stint.In 1954 he went to Knoxville where he worked on two radio stations and became acquainted with vocalist Don Gibson. He later returned to Indiana and worked at WARU Peru (possibly as a deejay) and served in the US Army. He came to Nashville in 1960 as a sideman for Don Gibson who found stardom in Music City.
In May of 1956, Billboard was reporting that George was entertaining folks with his personal appearances as well as working in the role of disc jockey four hours a day at WRHC in Jacksonville, FL. But by August of 1956, the magazine was reporting that George was back in Knoxville, as part of the Cas Walker show.
Cowboy Songs wrote of George's career trail in its Fall 1962 issue. It was not until after he finished his military service that his musical journey began to get him notice nationally. He had signed up for two years with the U. S. Army. He spent his service time at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Honolulu, Hawaii. When he came back from Hawaii, he toured around the country with various acts associated with the Grand Ole Opry. He then became part of the Don Gibson show as featured vocalist and manager of the show.
Not long afterward, George went to work for George Jones, working not only as harmony singer but organizing his band the Jones Boys, and serving as his front man. Riddle began his solo recording career for United Artists while in this role, cutting several singles including his best known number "She's Lonesome Again." He also wrote songs for Jones as well as other artists. These included thirteen for Jones, two for Melba Montgomery, and at least one each for Ray Charles, Mickey Gilley, Rose Maddox, Frankie Miller, Del Reeves, Margie Singleton, Tammy Wynette, and Faron Young.
After his work for Jones, Riddle worked solo in numerous package shows and on his own. His recording work shifted to Starday where he had several singles, none of which charted. George appeared in the motion picture Country Music on Broadway at the time he was a Jones Boy. After 1970, most of his recordings were on the smaller labels.
By 1991, George had gone to work with Bill Carlisle as one of the three members of the Carlisle's (apparently replacing Bill's deceased daughter Sheila). In his autobiography, Not too Old to Cut the Mustard (1999), Bill praises George's capacity to have virtually instant recall of events in Carlisle's long life, even for events that took place before Riddle became a band member.
In his role as a straight man to Bill's humor, a popular one was repeated in George's obituary:
Riddle: I saw you around Goodlettsville in the company of an attractive young woman.
George Riddle remained with Bill Carlisle as long as he continued performing which was shortly before his death. By 2005, he had returned to Indiana where in retirement he hosted a weekly Saturday morning radio program Classic Country Jamboree on WCJC. In his last years, he had throat cancer problems.
George married the former Diana Louise Smith on June 5, 1954. But it was not your everyday wedding ceremony. It was to be the first wedding televised on WLBC-TV in Muncie, Indiana.
A later marriage to one-time RCA Victor country recording star Norma Jean (Beasler) also ended in divorce.
Credits & Sources
Appearance History This Month
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