About The Artist
Although little known outside of northern West Virginia and parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Cherokee Sue and her husband "Little" John Graham became virtual legends in the upper Monongahela Valley.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Sue arrived at WMMN Fairmont in early September 1940 as part of a group called the Saddlemates with an Indian costume (one-eighth Cherokee according to her son) and a pleasant singing voice. The group soon moved on but Sue had her own-quarter hour program beginning on September 30.
In addition to musical talent, she proved to be equally good at selling products over the air, a skill shared with Cowboy Loye and Buddy Starcher; this was much prized at WMMN.
Sue also attracted the attention of "Little" John Graham, a quality vocalist and WMMN veteran since 1938. They married on June 22, 1941, and thereafter worked as a team, but each retained a quarter hour show as well as a duet program.
In January 1942, they relocated to WSAZ Huntington, but since John was soon caught in the World War II draft, Sue returned to Ohio until after the War.
Back in civilian life, they worked for a few months in Fairmont with Charlie Arnett and his Haymakers, but a new opportunity soon beckoned.
On August 18, 1947, a new station WPDX Clarksburg took the air, founded in large part on the WMMN model (i.e. PI accounts) and employed some of the old Fairmont radio veterans. They included in addition to John and Sue, Cindy Coy, Budge and Fudge Mayse, Dusty Shaver, sometimes Ray Myers, and most especially Buddy Starcher, a near superstar in West Virginia.
Starcher departed after a year, but the others remained, collectively known as the West Virginia Hillfolks.
In 1950, John and Sue received what they thought would be their big break—a move to 50,000 watt WWVA with its popular Saturday night Jamboree. But the results were not good because their early morning show came on too early to attract a wide listening audience. After three months they returned to the friendly confines of WPDX.
By that time, Sue had added a deejay program to her skills called The Record Bench and they continued the live shows as well in the dying days of live radio entertainment until about 1957 when WPDX discontinued them.
Sue later moved her deejay work to WBOY Clarksburg. John ran a successful plumbing business.
Sue ultimately got cancer and died in 1967. John lost interest in music, but eventually began to sing at an occasional local event and even recorded an LP.
He and Sue had recorded only four songs on the rare Cozy label about 1960.
He proved to be especially popular on the revived "Sagebrush Roundup," named after WMMN's old Saturday night barn dance program that flourished from 1939 until 1948.
John died at 88 in 2008. The memorable couple has been repeatedly nominated for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
Credits & Sources
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