Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
Carl Tipton had some forty years of musical experience as a deejay and regional band leader of both a country and a bluegrass band. A native of Scott County, Virginia, Tipton absorbed much of the region's musical heritage. His family relocated to Murfreesboro, TN in the 1940s.
After a brief apprenticeship under Big Jeff Bess at WLAC Nashville, Carl organized the Mid-State Playboys at the new WGNS station in Murfreesboro. After many years there he shifted to record spinning in his adopted city, and took his band which moved into bluegrass to local television in Nashville, mostly on WTVF Channel 5.
Carl married Martha Evelyn Leonard in October 1949, who became known as "Little Sophie" on his programs and she often sang both solos and duets.
Band members over the years included Earl White on fiddle, Al Holderfield on guitar, Charlie Cushman on banjo, and Lonnie "Red" Murphy on bass and comedy. Jack Stoneman also played bass at one time.
While Carl Tipton never gained wide fame, he became a virtual institution in central Tennessee with both his deejay and band. Although he presumably cut numerous songs, for Sims Records, but the only one I have information on is The Carl Tipton Show (Sims LP 143). The Starday LP SD-987 The Carl Tipton Show released in 1977 is apparently different as the former has Stoneman on bass while Murphy is on the latter.
Carl's health deteoriated towards the end. A benefit was held by The Rutherford County Floating Gospel Singing Convention to benefit Carl Tipton at the Bellwood Christian Academy in March 1989. Performers included the Accords, Steve Peterson and the Gospel Lights and Sounds of Praise.
A day of entertainment and fellowship was held on Saturday, June 17, 1989 for Carl Tipton. The benefit was to "...help pay Tipton's large medical bills." All musicians, professional or amateur or solo or bands, were invited. Attendees were also asked to bring cakes, pies and other baked goods to be auctioned off as part of the fund raising.
Carl was ill in his last three years, passing on at age 66.
Upon his passing, tributes were written about Carl's life in his obituary stories or even in newspaper editorials. His forty year career as an entertainer touched people's lives. Sam Stockard wrote, "...was recognized as one of the most pure bluegrass musicians ever to perform." Charles K. Wolfe was quoted, "Nobody was more faithful to the old traditional style. Carl always felt bluegrass was fine just the way it was."
His television show, "The Carl Tipton Show" aired over WTVF (Channel 5) in Nashville, then on WZTV (Channel 17 and Channel 39) in Murfreesboro for nearly two decades.
His popularity was said to increase in the 1960's as he and his wife, MIss Sophie, began their long TV career in the days when programming was live and in black and white.
His sister-in-law, Louise Tomberlain and lead singer in his band said "Carl was always willing to help somebody get a chance." Mr. Stockard wrote that The Carl Tipton Band played a private show sponsored by the Cullum and Maxey Camping Center in Nashville for recreational vehicle owners around the country. Louise went on, "I remember Mr. Maxey asked Carl if a young fellow he knew could get up and do a number on the show." That young fellow was then working as a dishwasher — Randy Travis.
He was friends with Bill Monroe. One of Carl's sons was named after Bill. Carl's fans also elected him to the Bill Monroe Walkway of Stars at the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Nashville.
About ten years prior to his death, Carl's show represented Tennessee at the 42nd announal National Folk Festival in Washington, DC. The directors of the festival had a request for Carl - recreate a version of his live morning show. Charles K. Wolfe said, "They wanted him to recreate his show because they said it was one of the very last live television shows that was keeping bluegrass alive."
Readers learned of some of the stars that appeared on The Carl Tipton Show over the years: Johnny Cash; Dottie West; Lester Flatt; Earl Scruggs; Loretta Lynn and Bill Monroe.
The local Tennessean newspaper wrote an editorial summarizing Carl's life from Gate City, Virginia to the Walter Hill community in Rutherford County 43 years before his passing. They wrote:
"Mr. Tipton was a popular member of the music profession in this area, both with the fans and other performers. He had appeared numerous times as a guest on popular television and radio shows, bluegrass festivals and other entertainment. His death is a cause of sadness to his many fans and friends in this area."
An editorial in The Daily News-Journal in Murfreesboro wrote:
"He was recognized as one of the most purist of the modern bluegrass musicians — staying with the form during its roller coaster ride of popularity during his career, which lasted from the late 1940's to 1987.
Grant Turner, veteran Grand Ole Opry announcer, told of playing Carl's music during his early bird shows that was sponsored by the Martha White Company. He said, "My listeners wouild call in from near and far wanting more of Carl's music. There was just some message (in his music) you jus didn't get in other artists. It's hard to explain."
Grant also recalled one of Carl's last performances. "I'll never forget how bravely he tried to stand up and entertain in his weakened condition. He has been a great friend over the years."
Credits & Sources