About The Artist
Until a fatal auto crash ended his life at the age of thirty-six, Roy Davis Hall appeared on the way to becoming a major figure in the country music scene in southern Appalachia.
As it was, Roy and his Blue Ridge Entertainers still made a notable mark in what music historians now term pre-bluegrass. Songs that he recorded such as "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die," "Can You Forgive," and "I Wonder Where You are Tonight" have all become bluegrass classics.
Hall was born near Waynesville in Haywood County, North Carolina, a region only one county removed from the Smoky Mountain National Park. The family had another member with a country music career, Jay Hugh Hall (1910-1972), who recorded some with Roy and some with Wade Mainer and Clyde Moody.
The Halls and other groups such as those of J. E. Mainer, Wade Mainer, the Morris Brothers, and others played on various radio stations in the Carolina Piedmont from the mid-1930s although the chronology is a bit confusing as they formed, disbanded, reformed, and relocated frequently.
Roy and Jay Hugh as the Hall Brothers made their first recordings for Bluebird on February 16, 1937. At the time, they worked in a textile mill, but soon landed a regular daily radio show at WSPA Spartanburg, South Carolina.
They did a second and third session in Janurary and September 1938. In all, their nineteen sides ranged from old traditional ballads like "The Little Mohee" to comic novelties typified by "Whistle Honey Whistle."
Meanwhile Roy formed a new group called the Blue Ridge Entertainers. They had a radio program at WAIR sponsored by Dr. Pepper soft drink at Winston-Salem. They found modest success and recorded several songs for the Vocalion label on November 7, 1938. Eight numbers were subsequently released. Decades later a ninth number featuring Tommy Magness on fiddle, came out on a CD because it was the first recording of the classic fiddle tune "Orange Blossom Special." Several other cuts were never released.
His band at WAIR included Magness, Bill Brown on steel guitar, Clato Buchanan on banjo, Wayne Watson on bass fiddle, and Talton Aldridge presumably on second guitar. Aldridge, Talton, and Magness soon departed, and Saford and Clayton (the Hall Twins, not related to Roy,) replaced them. Magness later returned two or three times.
The Blue Ridge Entertainers made another move to WDBJ Roanoke, Virginia in April 1940 where their popularity reached new record heights for a regional hillbilly band. Dr. Pepper sales boomed and crowds flocked to their almost nightly shows.
Numerous small articles were seen in old newspapers while doing research on Roy. But once in a while, the description of the appearance / booking catches one's eyes. On Saturday July 6, 1940, Roy and his Blue Ridge Entertainers were booked to play at the Franklin High School in the Mount Airy area, sponsored by the local 4-H Club. Readers were promised "...a good clean show." Part of the fun for the evening would be the award of two prizes. The prettiest girl would be awarded a bed spread. The ugliest man would be gifted with a bar of soap.
Clayton Hall regaled audiences for years (including me via telephone) about being able to buy a new car with a week's earnings, paying cash for it.
For a time they even had two bands (the other led by Jay Hugh Hall) to satisfy the demand for their shows.
They had another record session-this time in Atlanta-where they recorded a dozen more numbers including their two sided hit, "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die" b/w "Can You Forgive."
The coming of World War II through 1941 and into 1942 curtailed and eventually ended the good times. Military service soon reduced available band members. The two bands merged into one. In October 1941 they cut another Bluebird session of eight more songs including "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" and some fiddle tunes by the returning Magness. By late 1942, enlistments and conscription had virtually decimated the Blue Ridge Entertainers.
Roy, newly married with one child, was not immediately drafted and all looked forward to regrouping after the war, but it was not to be.
In May 1943, his life ended in an auto crash. A news report indicated that a passenger in the vehicle had seen Roy's head slump forward and she tried to grab the steering wheel but the car crashed into a tree. Posthumously, he had a second daughter. In the postwar era some members including Magness and the Hall Twins continued playing music off and on.
Decades later, a grandson of Clayton Hall wrote a book about the Twins, If Trouble Don't Kill Me (2010), which related many colorful details concerning the Blue Ridge Entertainers.
Credits & Sources
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