About The Artist
Da Costa Woltz led one of the first and best string bands to record from that musically rich area that includes such locales as Galax and Hillsville in Virginia and Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
The band included, in addition to Woltz who played banjo, Frank (Fiddlin' Frank) Jenkins; who also played banjo; Ben Jarrell played fiddle and rounding out the band was a twelve-year-old Price Goodson who sang and played ukulele. The band only did one recording session for Gennett in May 1927 and their original recordings are quite scarce, but most have been reissued on both LP and CD.
Also, in spite of his band's name, there is no evidence that the Southern Broadcasters ever did any radio programs.
At the time Mr. Tribe wrote this, he noted that not much seemed to be known about Woltz. But further research found a trove of newspaper archives for Galax, VA and others in that area. At one time, he was mayor of Galax and apparently was involved in manufacturing and/or promoting patent medicines. The group photo of the Southern Broadcasters show the three adults all dressed in business suits, Jenkins even in a tuxedo. Their repertory covered a wide spectrum of old time music and among their sixteen released numbers, Goodson, Jenkins and Jarrell all had some solo tunes. The group apparently broke up not long after their recording experience.
Since Mr. Tribe had written his article, research uncovered numerous articles in the Galax Gazette and Grayson-Carroll Gazette that shed some light on Da Costa Woltz' life in the political arena. On June 10, 1930, it was reported that Mr. Woltz was elected mayor of Galax over the incumbent, J. P. Carrico.
In May of 1927, Woltz and his group were reportedly given the opportunity to broadcast over a radio station in Cincinnati, OH. It was said to be "old time music such as is heard in the genuine old-time fiddlers conventions." The group was reported to be:
"The group giving the program is composed of Ben Jarrell, of this place, fiddler, Mr. Jenkins of Copeland, banjo player, DeCosta Woltz of Lowgap, banjo player, and Price Goodson of Galax, VA., who plays the ukulele and mouth organ. The last named player is only a youth of 15 years. They have named their company the Southern Broadcasters and have signed up with the Star Piano Company of Indiana to make records for the phonograph, their contract being for a period of two years. The program will be put on the air by the Star Piano Company, as a means of introducing their music to the public. The company sent one of their expert men to Galax, where he listened to the music made by the Southern Broadcasters before making the contract and feels sure this old time music will make a hit with the public."
But a review of radio logs for the Cincinnati stations for May 7, 1927 do not appear to show Woltz and his group that day/night, if one assumes the radio logs included the full schedule of programs in Cincinnati on that day. It seems to make sense they would appear on a Cincinnati station in this part of May 1927. Discography records, such as those in Tony Russell's book show that the Woltz group did recordings in Richmond, IN in 'early May 1927.'
On April 17, 1932, The Roanoke Times reported that he was going to run for re-election. His only opponent was the former mayor, J. P. Carrico who had only announced the day prior he was also a candidate.
The Loyal Order of Moose from Galax and the surrounding communities held a basket picnic at Norvale Crags, about five miles west of Galax on June 17, 1932. The following day, it was reported that Mr. Woltz, has mayor, had got 41 new candidates, the largest such class in the state in over a year. It appears there was a drive to make Galax the largest unit of the Bristol lodge - then said to have over 2,000 members.
The Grayson-Carroll Gazette in Galax ran a full page biographical history of Woltz. One small snippet was a Thumbnail Biography:
Let us dive into some of the details of his early life. His father had completed a post graduate course at one of the leading medical schools in the country. He was married. He had a young child, a chubby little boy aged two.
Claud Woltz married the former Lula Sandifur on February 12, 1885 in Low Gap, VA.
Back in the 1890's, country doctors often traveled on horseback. Dr. Woltz was said to be proud of his horses. He had just bought a new one, "...a spirited grey." He wasted no time to break the horse in and get a feel for handling it. He saddle up the horse, and started to work with it. He was happy. He called his wife to the porch to show off a bit. But to her shock, she saw the horse "...rear up on its hind legs in spirited frolic and fall over backward. The horse had pinned the young doctor/husband/father underneath. He was badly injured and he died three months later even though it looked like he was on the road to recovery. A young career had just begun - a long period of study, gathering the finest medical equipment for his field. The debt was there, but he felt the future was bright. But on that day, all of those plans for the future were lost. Dr. Claude E. Woltz died on April 13, 1930.
When DaCosta was about six years old, his mother remarried to a farmer named Jerry Galyean. They moved from Caps Mill, NC to a small farm owned by his mom at Low Gap, VA.
DaCosta attended school and finished the seventh grade. He took a job at the Galax Furniture factory which had just begun operations. It burned down prior to 1932. His wages? The princely sum of 90 cents each 10-hour day. He walked to work from home each morning and evening except with the weather interfered; he would stay in Galaz overnight on those occasions. That morning and evening hike was about 12 miles. He thought nothing of the view he saw in the surrounding hills during his walk, but in the future he would try to develop the area into a 'scenic wonder place.'
He worked at the furniture factory for two years. From his salary, he paid a girl one dollar a week to stay with and help his mother a salary comparable in that era for such services. He helped provide food for the family but he managed to be able to save some funds as well.
As noted above, at the age of 16 he took off for Indianapolis, IN. In that 1932 interview, he could not recall why he decided on Indianapolis. But Indianapolis was where he wanted to go when he left home.
He didn't ride the rails like a hobo might or even hitch hike as was common in later years. He rode a train via Cincinnati and arrived in Indianapolis at 4:00pm. The 16-year old only had $2.60 in his pockets. He told Mr. Hill, "...always been poor as Job's turkey." But it did not deter him. It was his first experience in a 'city'; he did find a boarding home which did not require advance payment. But he went through the school of hard knocks so to speak for the first three weeks trying to find a job. He was just a boy then, trying to get a job when the sity was full of strong, able-bodied men. He was met with rejection day after day.
Luck did eventually smile down on him a bit. He got a job in the tempering room of the Adkin Saw works, handling hot, molten steel, helping pour from the big ladles. That first day seemed like a nightmare to him, "...blistered from head to foot." He could have been rich if he was paid by the blister he thought. But he was grateful for the job - it beat the days of rejection trying to find work.
A side note for readers - the Adkins Saw Works would later get some fame - a musician by the name of T. H. (Thomas) Barritt gained fame for his work as an evangelist and also playing melodies on the musical saw made by the Adkins company. Mr. Barritt did appear on the WSM Grand Ole Opry on September 5, 1936.
His job was some 30 blocks from his boarding room. He took the trolley in the early morning, but he walked home each night. He did that to save the nickel fare. But he had another reason. He would stop by an employment office that was maintained by a Mrs. Lee and ask her if she had found a better job for him. She tried, but DaCosta had a handicap - he was just too young and the only way to get over that was to grow up.
But about four months - he got a shock but gave him an idea as well. Mrs. Lee had sold her agency to a couple of gentlemen named Mr. Metz and Mr. Beach, who worked for a railroad and wanted to use the agency to hire men for the section gangs and other departments. DaCosta got an idea - someone would have to manage that office and thought it might as well be him.
Mrs. Lee reluctantly gave him a letter of introduction to present - she thought he was too young. He put on his best clothes on Saturday, met with the two gentlemen and presented his letter of introduction. They, too, initially thought he was too young. But after three hours, he walked out of their offices with a new job. It would be a much better working environment and would pay more as well.
But he took another task during this time. He went to night school to finish his high school education. His new job allowed him the time to study since it was not as physically demanding. He finished his high school course in about 18 months after he was hired to work for the railroad, he quit his job and returned home.
He returned home 'richer' than when he left. Recall he had $2.60 in his pocket when he left home. After all his work and study, he had all of $4.00 when he went home.
But his education was not done. He enrolled at the Mountain Park Institute, just opened at that time, to take up the study of medicine. He had left home thinking that the financial arrangements for his schooling had been taken care of. But when he arrived, he found that nothing had been taken care of. In a bit of a pickle, the superintendent of the school, C. W. Williams, came to his aid by offering him a job. But it was no easy job or as Mr. Hill wrote, "...no job for molly coddles."
Woltz teamed up with the superintendent's brother and occasionally a day laborer, cleared 40 acres of new ground so that tobacco could be grown. His next job was two years later, teaching the history course that he was also enrolled in.
After his second term at the Institute, he moved to Mt. Airy where he took on the job of night clerk at the Southern Railroad Depot. It was there he met his future wife, Corina Stewart. But after about a year, he decided he wanted to try his hand in the insurance business. He left to go to Martinsville.
He got an interview with T. G. Burch, the future Fifth District Representative in the U. S. Congress who was U. S. Marshall of the western Virginia district. Woltz convinced Mr. Burch, without any political influence, to appoint him to his staff. He became deputy U. S. marshall with headquarters in Roanoke, where they served 13 counties.
But after a couple of years, he used some political influence to get a promotion to the department of justice secret service, or as it was officially known then, the bureau of investigation. The job took him to 34 states. He served until President Woodrow Wilson left office and President Warren Harding became president. Woltz resigned since he knew that he would be let go as he the job he had was a political one.
From there, his career took him to Gastonia, NC. The area was experiencing a boom, so Woltz went into the real estate business. He got into several profitable developments, but perhaps did not sense when the boom was over. He decided to take his real estate expertise to Florida during their real estate boom. But his timing was not good; he arrived just a bit too late. The Florida real state bubble had burse and Woltz found himself wiped out financially. He moved to Galax, VA in 1925 with $6,000 in debt and paying 18 per cent interest on that debt.
Upon return to Galax, he once again tried his hand at real estate. He did make a few sales, but the local market had begun to slip and slow down. He bought part of the Norvale Crags property soon after he arrived in Galax and and kept adding parcels until about 1932, he owned 640 acres. However, the development of the property had been slowed down quite a bit due to a lack of financing, but work was being done seemingly a little bit at a time as 'conditions' (perhaps financial conditions) permitted.
But while waiting for that development to work itself out, he established the South Atlantic laboratories to manufacture Ru-balm and Rubi-tonic, salve and tonic respectively. He launched an ad campaign which brought orders from 43 states, Cuba and Canada. But at the time of the feature article on Woltz, the business was undergoing reorganization. It seemingly paid off a bit as orders were said to be coming in at bit "brisker."
Then came a turn in politics. He ran for mayor of Galax in 1928 but lost to J. P. Carico by only four votes. In 1930, he ran again but this time he won by 53 votes. The two men ran against each other again in 1932, but this time Carico came out on top by 49 votes. The final vote tally showed 444 votes for J. P. Carico while DaCosta Woltz received 395 votes.
He presided over his last city council meeting on August 15, 1932. One of the things he was proud of during his two year term was the harmony among the council members; he never had to cast a tie-breaker vote.
The feature article told readers that Woltz had admitted "the times" had put him in an embarrassing condition financially (as it probably had for many people in that era). But he had an unshakable belief that things would turn around in his business ventures. Not one to stand still, he was pursuing an extension course in law that was offered by one of the leading schools; he hoped it would help him prepare for the bar exam in the fall of 1932.
His political star apparently rose a bit in the Democratic party nationally. He was added to a list of speakers of the Democratic national committee. It was reported he was scheduled to give a seech sometime in August 1932 and it would be broadcast.
He did make a speech as a member of the national Democratic committee's speaking corps pver radio station WRVA in Richmond. The topic was to be "Cooperation," perhaps drawing upon his term as mayor which he felt was a time of 'harmony' among political factions. He was hoping to make a plea for harmony among the factions of the party, stressing the need to work together.
He gave his speech and the Galax Gazette dutifully reported on it. There was static caused by storms in the area that caused interference, but reception was fine for those who listened in. Some groups formed "radio parties" to hear the former mayor speak. Woltz "...denounced the Republican administration and made a strong plea for united action on the part of Democrats." He felt Roosevelt was the man for the job of president and urged the various factions of the party to "...forget any possible petty prejudices that might hold them apartand to unite to make possible an overwhelming and confidence inspiring victory at the polls in November. " Local folks by and large gave him a good review for both the substance and his delivery. The subject matter seems very similar to what voters here in the news even in this modern era.
DaCosta continued giving campaign speeches over the radio. Another one was heard over WBT in Charlotte at the end of September. In November, he gave a 30-minute speech 'under the auspices of the National Democratic Committee' over WRVA in Richmond.
A 1936 letter to the editor reveals another facet of Woltz's term as mayor. It was the beginning of the depression and during his campaign for re-election, he voluntarily cut his salary from $600 to $300. That got the City Council members to take action of their own as they were seen delaying a decision but they then voluntarily cut their salaries from $50 to $25.
In 1937, he was termed the "experienced real estate man" when several politicans got together to form the First National Realty and Investment Company. The two politicians that formed the company with Woltz were A. D. (Lon) Folger of Mt. Airy, NC and J. B. Roach of Statesville, NC.
In 1938, DaCosta Woltz took on a new position when he was appointed deputy collector of the field division of the North Carolina federal revenue department by Collector of Internal Revenue, Charles H. Robertson. At the time of the announcement, it was not known where Woltz would be stationed.
In 1942, DaCosta was visiting his son in Huntsville, AL. He suffered a stroke and died. His obituary notes he was "...one of the promoters of Norvale Crags, hear Lowgap." He was survived by his widow, Corinna Stewart Woltz and a son, DaCosta Woltz, Jr.
In spite of uncovering a lengthy biography of Woltz's life, it covered mainly his life in the public eye in politics and other ventures. It did not touch on his musical efforts. That leaves some things still unknown.
"Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that in the sudden death of Mr. Price Goodson, while in the youth of life the bar of Virginia has lost one of its leading members and his community one of its outstanding young attorneys, a man who was warm-hearted friendly and one with a pleasing and cordial manner. He made friends easily and was never too busy to give freely of his time and counsel to all who sought his services and particularly to the young people in his community; a lawyer who loved justice and equality before the law; always obedient to the interest of his clients which he represented faithfully and forcefully yet respectful and considerate of the rights of others.The resolution went on to speack of his birth, the schools he attended. He served as Commonwealth's attorney of Carroll County, Virginia, filling the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Goad. In April of 1942, he was appointed Trial Justic of GraysonCounty, Virginia and reappointed in 1946 to serve another four years; a position he held at the time of his death. He also served as the Town Attorney for Galax for more than two years. On June 15, 1932, he married Katherine Hall and they had two children, Michael and Rodney. The Grayson-Carroll Gazette announced he had passed the bar exam in Richmond the week of December 15, 1932, at the age of 19.
Jenkins who lived around Dobson, North Carolina and son Oscar later worked and recorded with Ernest Stoneman under the name Frank Jenkins' Pilot Mountaineers.
Ben Jarrell did not record again, but his son Tommy (1901-1985) became one of the best fiddlers of the last quarter century of his life, recording extensively for the County label. A grandson Benny played and recorded with Jim Eanes. As for Da Costa Woltz, little is known of him until December 1949 when he went to Birmingham, Alabama to visit his son. He became ill there and died on New Year's Eve. His remains were returned to Low Gap, North Carolina where he was buried. Most of his recordings have been reissued, originally on a County LP then on JSP compilations of Gennett material.
Biographical Details of Da Costa Woltz and his Southern Broadcasters:
Credits & Sources
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