Hillbilly-Music.com - Keeping Country Music History Alive
Hillbilly-Music Folio Display

Dolpha Skaggs
and His Mountain Melody Boys
Born:  January 16, 1889
Died:  February 25, 1942
WCHS Charleston, WV
WCMI Ashland, KY
WPAY Portsmouth, OH
WSAZ Huntington, WV

About The Artist

Promo Ad - Boro Week - West Hazleton VFW Big Street Carnival - Montana Paul - Mickey Denley and the Mello-Aires - July 1953 The Mountain Melody Boys were a group out of Catlettsburg, KY. They were led by Dolpha Skaggs, but he did not play a musical instrument or sing.

Dolpha was born and raised in the town of Red Bush in Johnson County. Dolpha called it "a little town nestled in the foothills of the Cumberlands." When he finished his schooling, he was a school teacher in Johnson County for five years. He moved to Catlettsburg and won an election as city clerk.

Dolpha worked first as a city clerk for Catlettsburg. Later, on he became their chief of police. Newspapers of that era do paint a glowing picture of Dolpha. When he won the nomination for city clerk in 1917, they wrote, "...Young Skaggs is a hustler from start to finish, besides being a clean, sober upgright citizen and is sure to win in November."

A reader wrote a letter to the editor of the Paintsville Herald and told readers a bit more about young Dolpha. He lost his father when he was young, but he went forward and scored a 92 percent on the State Board questions that led to him being a teacher for five years. The writer went on, "If elected as City Clerk in November, we feel assured he will conduct himself and do the work in a manner that the good citizens of Catlettsburg will never regret trusting him with the office."

Promo Ad - Boro Week - West Hazleton VFW Big Street Carnival - Montana Paul - Mickey Denley and the Mello-Aires - July 1953 In deed he did win the election in November as the Republican party made a clean sweep of the major offices of Mayor, Police Judge, City Clerk and City Attorney.

In 1928, he made the news as chief of police for Catlettsburg. He and a patrolman sustained gun shot wounds in a incident of trying to arrest someone.

In Decemember 1929, the Catlettsburg police arrested 90 people,including 55 on charges of drunkedness. Dolpha, the chief of police, reported $2,230 in fines were assessed to the city council.

Little is mentioned of his musical involvement except in promo ads or in short blurbs. The Skaggs family reunion in September 1931 was attended by over 1,500 at the Bethel Camp grounds, about 3 miles east of Louisa. It was the first such reunion. The article mentioned that Dolpha brought a string band from Catlettsburg as one of two musical groups providing entertainment.

In June of 1931, a local newspaper article tells readers that the group was organized by Dolpha Skaggs as a church orchestra and played at the Second Baptist Church in Hampton City. It was not long before the group's name spread. The group was given an opportunity to do a broadcast over radio station WSAZ in Huntington, WV. They were almost an instant hit with listeners and began to do regular broadcasts over that station. In 1931, a picture show the members at that time were Dolpha Skaggs, announcer; Marion McCoy, violinst and instructor; Ted Alley, guitar; Henry Alley, mandolin; Vernon Alley, tenor banjo; and, Charles Wiggington, guitar. All of them were living in Catlettsburg at the time. It should be noted that later research discovered that Charles Wiggington's name as spelled in this article and others was incorrect; his name was Charles Wigington.

Promo Ad - Boro Week - West Hazleton VFW Big Street Carnival - Montana Paul - Mickey Denley and the Mello-Aires - July 1953 In July of 1935, Ann Tenney provided insight into the early history of this group. She wrote that the group started in 1927 by Catlettsburg's Chief of Police, Adolpha Skaggs. He was serving as superintendent of the Catlettsburg Baptist Sunday School. Ann writes that the group then included Clarence (Slim) Clere as announcer and violinist; Henry Alley, banjoist; Charles Wigginton and Ruey (Curley) Collins, guitarists. Ann goes on to state that the group made their radio debut in February of 1928 over WSAZ in Huntington, WV and were on the air continously since that time.

During its broadcasting infancy, the group composed what would become their theme song, "Big Sandy Train." How did that happen? The listeners. In that early era, artists would receive requests via mail at the radio station. Such was the numerous requests that came in for that song, it became their theme song.

The group finished in first place after an eight week contest over WSAZ between ten orchestras. Listeners cast their votes by mail. The Mountain Melody Boys got over 5,000 votes. The runner-up in that contest only recived about 3,000 votes. In June of 1931, they were being heard on Tuesday evenings from 4:35pm to 5:00pm on WSAZ. Ann Tenney wrote in July of 1935 that they got 5,652 cards and letters during the contest.

In 1934,they won one of the national titles at the Vanity Fair in Huntington and in 1935, their popularity got them a contract with the West Virginia Broadcast System.

The Mountain Melody Boys were one of twelve bands to compete in a contest sponsored by the National Fiddlers Association on October 28, 1934, run by Larry Sunbrock. The band fiddlers and yodelers contests were held at noon, 2:30pm and 8:00pm. The twelve bands were:

  1. Fiddlin' Farmers
  2. Mountain Melody Boys
  3. Southern Ramblers
  4. Kessinger Brothers Band
  5. Hoosier Hoe Downers
  6. Johnson's Merry Makers
  7. Skillet Lickers
  8. Mississippi Fire Crackers
  9. The Cotton Pickers
  10. Natchee's Arizona Indiana
It was reported that over 100 performers including Hoot Gibson, June Gale, Lazy Dan the Minstrel Man, the Three Docs andThe Harmonica Rascals were also on the entertainment roster. However, newspapers did not always publish the results of these contests as was the case for this one.

Ann Tenney wrote a "Radio Brevities" column in the Ashland Daily Independent that provided details of Chief Dolpha Skaggs' and his Mountain Melody Boys. When they were airing over WCMI, the group received requests from listeners by mail.

Chief Skaggs missed one of the radio broadcasts on July 3, 1935. But listeners were given a surprise when a new member was introduced. It was a gentleman by the name of Ed McCafferty, who had been playing the mandolin for "...a mere twenty-three years but is an expert nevertheless." Slim Clere handled the announcing chores in Chief Skaggs' place. The Mountain Melody Boys on this broadcast were Slim Clere, Charlie Wigington (they got his spelling right this time), Wimpy Alley and Ruey (Curley) Collins along with Ed McCafferty.

Ms. Tenney asked Dolpha if he had any hobbies. His answer was basically, "...if he liked any thing better than radio work and "gum shoeing" he didn't know what it was."

The Sandy Valley Grocery company sponsored a train to the 1934 Century Of Progress Exposition in Chicago, IL. Over 2,000 made the trip. It left Pikeville, KY at 8:00 on Wednesday September 5 and arrived in Chicago that night around midnight. It was said to the largest, private special train to go to the exposition. Radio station WSAZ reported the progress of the train each hour during the day. Additional coaches had to be added to the special train to accommodate the demand for tickets. The Ashland High School band with more than 50 members were on board. Earle Powell and his ten sons of Paintsville were on the train. There was to be a Sandy Valley Banquet on Saturday night at the Hotel Knickerbocker. The train to Chicago and the return trip on September 13 included Mr. McCarthy of the Axton-Fisher Tobacco Co. of Louisville who supplied cigarettes for all who cared to smoke. At the banquet in Chicago, a pack was placed to the side of each person's plate. William Wrigley, Jr. kept guests supplied with chewing gum as did the Orbit Gum Company of Chicago. Earl Powell and his Ten Aces of Paintsville, the Mountain Melody Boys of Catlettsburg, the Gibson Girls of Ironton and the Ashland High School Band provided the entertainment. A number of clowns were also on the train.

His work as a policeman also gained him some notoriety. He once travelled some 5,000 miles tracking down a murderer over five states that led to his capture and got him a big reward on his capture and conviction and life's sentence. That led to his picture appearing the April (1935) issue of the "True Detective Stories" magazine.

Mountain Melody Boys - Dolpha Skaggs - Morton McCoy - Ted Alley - Henry Alley - Vernon ALley - Charles Wiggington - Ashland, KY - June 1931

The Kettle Kutups - WCMI Radio - Ashland KY - February - April 1938

Promo Ad - Paramount Theatre - Ashland, KY - Old-Time Fiddler's Contest - April 17 1932
Promo Ad - Old-Time Fiddlers Contest - Paramount Theatre - Ashland, KY - Chief Dolpha Skaggs - Mountain Melody Boys - April 20 1932
Promo Ad - Old Time Fiddlers Contest - Paramount Theatre - Ashland, KY - Chief Dolpha Skaggs - Mountain Melody Boys - April 21 1932

Promo Ad - Grand Theatre - Ashland, KY - Joe Melvin - Mountain Melody Boys of WSAZ - Sugarfoot Evans - Dec 31 1932
Promo Ad - Grand Theatre - Ashland, KY - Dolpha Skaggs and his Mountain Melody Boys - October 1932

Promo Ad - Grand Theatre - Ashland, KY - Dolpha Skaggs and his Mountain Melody Boys - Popular Artists Of The Air - Oct 1932
Promo Ad - Grand Theatre - Ashland, KY - Chief Skaggs' Mountain Melody Boys - Square Dance - December 1933

Promo Ad - Palace Theatre - Ashland, KY - Square Dance - Mountain Melody Boys - Dec 20 1933
Promo Ad - Palace Theatre - Ashland, KY - Square Dance - Mountain Melody Boys - Dec 28 1933

Promo Ad - Colonial Theatre - Cambridge OH - WCMI Barn Dance Revue - Mountain Melody Boys - Harmie Smith's Ozark Mountaineers - Cousin Elmer - Cowboy Mack - Accordion Annie - Pappy Pinson - Mary Margarette - Juanita - June 1938
Promo Ad - Dixie Theatre - Olive Hill, KY - Mountain Melody Boys from WSAZ - April 1938

Promo Ad - Sipp Theatre - Inez, KY - Chief Skaggs and his Mountain Melody Boys - Oct 1932
Promo Ad - The Greenbrier - Charleston, WV - Ozark Mountaineers - Mountain Melody Boys - May 1938

Promo Ad - Village Barn - New York, NY - Mountain Melody Boys - Feb 18 1938

Promo Ad - Village Barn - New York, NY - Mountain Melody Boys - Feb 19 1938

Band members of the Mountain Melody Boys and the approximate years they were part of the band.

The Mountain Melody Boys
Band Members and Approximate Years Worked
Name Timeline Instrument Dates of Birth/Death
Dolpha (Chief) Skaggs 1927 — 1942 Manager, Emcee January 6, 1889 — February 25, 1942
Charles Wigington (Wiggington) 1927 — 1942 Guitar, Vocals, Bass January 4, 1914 — December 4, 1997
Ted Alley 1927 — 1931 Guitar, Vocals March 26, 1905 — November 3, 1992
Henry (Wimpy) Alley 1927 — 1931 Banjo, Mandolin January 14, 1911 — March 30, 1989
Vernon Alley 1927 — 1931 Tenor Banjo ? — ?
Marion (Mort) McCoy 1927 — 1931 Fiddle ? — ?
Ruey (Curley) Collins 1928 — 1935 Banjo, Guitar, Vocals July 28, 1915 — October 27, 1986
Mason Clark 1930 — 19335 Fiddle February 17, 1899 — February 12, 1961
Clarence (Slim) Clere 1934 — 1936 Fiddle July 11, 1914 — April 14, 2001
Pearl Davidson 1934 — ? Fiddle, Tenor Banjo ? — ?
Richard Blankenship 1934 — ? Piano December 27, 1891 — April 9, 1979
Johnny Willis 1934 — 1935 Piano, Accordion ? — ?
Ed McCafferty 1935 — ? Mandolin ? — ?
Lee Moore 1935 — 1937 Guitar, vocals September 24, 1914 — August 17, 1997
Charley (Big Foot) Keaton 1936 — 1939 Fiddle May 20, 1921 — January 7, 1983
Clyde (Curley) Wellman 1936 — 1939 Guitar, vocals March 2, 1918 — January 20, 2003
Bob Shortridge 1936 — 1939 Guitar, vocals May 31, 1918 — March 4, 1993
Georgia Brown 1936 — 1938 Fiddle ? — ?
Bob (Georgia Slim) Rutland 1936 — 1938 Fiddle August 29, 1916 — June 17, 1969
Virgil Adkins 1937 — ? Unknown October 28, 1905(?) — November 29, 1984(?)

Mountain Melody Boys - Dolpha Skaggs - Johnny Willis - Curley Collins - Slim Clere - Henry Alley - Charley Wiggington - Circa 1934

Randolph (Dolpha) Skaggs died on March 1, 1942 due to coronary heart disease at the age of 53. News reports indicate he hdad been ill for two months prior to his passing. His funeral service was to be held at the Missionary Baptist Church in Hampton City, TN. He served two terms as Chief of Police (1928 to 1936). He served as city clerk for several years prior to that. In the years prior to his death, he was in the restaurant business. One article stated, "As organizer and business manager of a gorup of radio entertainers known as the Mountain Melody Boys, Mr. Skaggs travelled extensively throughout this section and was widely known." At one time he was married to Millie V. Skaggs; she passed away on February 8, 1920. He married again to Bessie Ward; she was married to James E. Stanley when she passed away in 1998. He was survived by a son, Emil Skaggs of Catlettsburg and a daughter, Erma Lee Skaggs. He was buried in the Catlettsburg Cemetery.

Chief Dolpha Skaggs - Circa 1937/1938

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Phil Collins, son of Curley Collins for clippings from the Ashland Daily Independent record.
  • The Mountain Melody Boys (An Overview); Phil Collins, son of Curley Collins; Letter to webmaster; May 4, 2023.
  • Nominated City Clerk of Catlettsburg, KY; August 9, 1917; Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • Red Bush, KY; August 16, 1917; Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • Republicans Carry City Of Catlettsburg; November 13, 1917; Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • 2 Cops Wounded By Catlettsburg Man; August 17, 1928; The Courier Journal; Louisville, KY
  • Nab 55 Drunks; December 18, 1929; The Messenger; Madisonville, KY
  • Mountain Melody Boys of Catlettsburg Have Won Wide Popularity Through Their Radio Broadcasts; June 7, 1931; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Hundreds Present At Skaggs Reunion; September 24, 1931; Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • Sandy Valley Special Train Left This Week For Chicago; September 6, 1934; The Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • Sandy Valley Train Returns From Fair; September 13, 1934; The Paintsville Herald; Paintsville, KY
  • Hoot Gibson Appears In Music Hall Show; October 28, 1934; The Cincinnati Enquirer; Cincinnati, OH
  • Radio Brevities; Ann Tenney; May 2, 1935; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Radio Brevities; Ann Tenney; June 22, 1935; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Radio Brevities; Ann Tenney; July 3, 1935; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Radio Brevities; Ann Tenney; July 16, 1935; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Skaggs Rites Friday, 2:30; February 26, 1942; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Three Died; March 1, 1942; The Courier Journal; Louisville, KY
  • Skaggs Funeral Held Friday Afternoon; March 1, 1942; Ashland Daily Independent; Ashland, KY
  • Obituary: Dolpha Skaggs; March 6, 1942; Big Sandy News; Big Sandy, KY

Printer Friendly Version

Artist Lists


Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.

Hillbilly-music.com ...
It's about the people, the music, the history.