About The Artist
Carl Sauceman and His Green Valley Boys rank among the best — although not best known — pioneers of bluegrass music. Part of the reason for this is because they recorded more sparingly than the better known early groups and while essentially the same band, they were billed somewhat differently at various times: the Sauceman Brothers (together with brother John Paul or J. P. (B: March 7, 1928 — D: November 24, 1984) on Rich-R-Tone and the Hillbilly Ramblers on Mercury. From late 1948, the band was always the Green Valley Boys.
A native of the Bright Hope community in Greene County, Tennessee, the Sauceman boys came from a family of gospel singers where Carl learned the basics. About 1941, he joined a band led by Dudley Watson (formerly a Rambling Mountaineer) that also included Jack and Curly Shelton playing over WISE radio in Asheville, North Carolina.
When Carl and Curly left, they went to WHKY Hickory, but failed to do very well and finally went to WNOX Knoxville where they were hired by Lowell Blanchard to work at the Mid-Day Merry Go Round.
In 1944, Sauceman was drafted but was not called to active duty for several months so he went back to Asheville and worked at WWNC with Tommy Millard. At that time J. P. also began to work with them. By year's end Carl finally entered the Navy and so remained until late 1946.
Back in circulation, the Saucemans soon went to work at newly-opened WGVL in Greeneville, TN where their group took the name Hillbilly Ramblers. They did their first recording in 1947 for Rich-R-Tone with J. P. singing lead on a country number.
They next signed with Mercury but later came back to Rich-R-Tone.
When they left Greeneville for WROL Knoxville, they changed their band's name to the Green Valley Boys as Cas Walker did not like a band named "hillbilly" even though that was what music they played. Eventually, they left Knoxville and after a few months in Detroit, came back south and spent about two years at WCYB Bristol and the popular Farm and Fun Time. Band personnel changed often, but at times included Curley Seckler, Joe Stuart, Tater Tate, Carl Butler, Tiny Day, Larry Richardson, Tom Martin, Carman Freeman, and Fuzzy Chamberlain. In later years, material from WCYB radio transcriptions was released on record.
At the beginning of 1951, James Carl Sauceman opted to go south and went to new station WRAG in Carrolton, Alabama. He also signed a contract with Capitol, the largest label for which he would ever record.
At first his band was inadequate with only Don McHan (later known for his work with Jim & Jesse and Bonnie Lou & Buster) being of high quality, but he eventually got J. P. back playing bass and singing, Fred Richardson on banjo, Monroe Fields on mandolin, and Jim Brock on fiddle, the band becoming quite strong.
The new version of Carl Sauceman and the Green Valley Boys cut six sides for Capitol in March 1952, the most successful of which were the McHan-composed patriotic "Wrap My Body in Old Glory" and "Down the Road to Love." The next year, they switched to Republic where their one single, both McHan originals, probably represents his best work.
In addition to Carl's decade long radio work at WRAG, the band also did three TV shows weekly in regional markets and were busy doing personals.
The Green Valley Boys also did some singles on the N and also D labels in the late fifties and early sixties, the best known of which "Please Be My Love" was later covered by George Jones and Melba Montgomery. Ultimately Carl dropped out of music for a time helping take care of his terminally ill son Terry.
In early 1961, Carl and the Green Valley Boys' recording of "I Walk A Lonely Street" hit the top 50 in Cash Box magazine. The local Greeneville newspaper wrote a glowing article by Claude (Tiny) Day about the break through on the charts. It only took Carl 20 years to make the charts. It was number 41 on the country chart in Cash Box on January 28, 1961 and February 4, 1961. It fell to Number 43 on February 11.
In 1969, Carl bought radio station WLSG in Gonzales, Louisiana, and thereafter seldom played although he apparently did some DJ work. The station did well and he sold it in 1985 and retired.
Achieving some recognition as a bluegrass pioneer, he played a few shows and recorded again doing an album for his revived old label Rich-R-Tone, A Tribute to the King (Bill Monroe) and a reunion album Together Again with old band member Joe Stuart on Atteiram. Copper Creek released another album taken from WCYB transcriptions.
After Carl's death, Patuxent released an album credited to Monroe Fields as Monroe Fields with Carl Sauceman and the Green Valley Boys, made up of cuts on which he was featured when he was working Sauceman's group.
Credits & Sources
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