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Al Runyon
Born:  August 23, 1918
Died:  December 24, 1998
Renfro Valley Barn Dance

About The Artist

Al Runyon (the name he took to help disc jockeys pronounce his real name - Al Runions) came from the Appalachian area, in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

Early on in his career, Al was performing regularly during the heyday of John Lair's popular Renfro Valley Barn Dance, originating from Rockcastle County, Kentucky in the late 1930s, prior to joining the Army.

One turning point in Al's career was his work on the Cas Walker Radio Show, a popular show in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Over the years, this show helped many an artist from that area in their careers such as Roy Acuff, Archie Campbell and later, Dolly Parton. It was during the time Roy and Archie were working in Knoxville that Al was a regular on the show.

During the early 1960's, Al was a regular for two years (the entire broadcasting run of the program) of the very popular Corn Huskers Jamboree and also the Midday Merry-Go-Round, that were broadcast every week day over WCPO-TV out of Cincinnati, Ohio.

During this period in his career, Al was extremely busy doing the 16 Top Hits (recorded for Burkhardt Records in Cincinnati, Ohio), which utilized his talents for "covering" several popular artists.

The covers were played on radio station WCKY, who's signal at the time was strong enough to reach out to nearly all four corners of the continental United States.

It was due to this audience exposure that Al was a very popular recording artist, who was remembered by numerous fans during the Fan Fairs, held annually in Nashville.

Some of the covers recorded by Al were originally released on 78rpm vinyl and included hits by Roy Acuff, Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Porter Waggoner and Red Sovine including:

  • Great Speckled Bird
  • Sweeter Than the Flower
  • Wabash Cannonball
  • Little Rosa,
  • My Baby Left Me
  • These Hands
  • The Girl Who Invented Kissing
  • Pana Mama
  • A Fool such As I
  • When Mexican Joe Met Jole Blon
  • Uncle Pen
  • Folsom Prison Blues

Al also recorded and released a memorial album of hits originally recorded by the father of country music, the legendary Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers. The album sold extremely well and garnered positive feedback from the diehard traditional country music fans of Jimmie Rodgers. Some of the tunes on the Jimmie Rogers Memorial Album were:

  • Never No More Blues
  • Brakeman's Blues
  • Blue Yodel #6
  • I¹m Sorry We Met
  • California Blues
  • Jimmie's Mean Mama Blues
  • My Loving Gal Lucille
  • Evening Sun Yodel
  • My Old Pal
  • Daddy and Home

During the late 1950s, Al was signed to the StarDay Record label. He recorded "The Day Before The Night".

At about the same time, Coral Records also signed him up to record for their label. He recorded "Icicle Tears" b/w "Bonita Chiquita Señorita", a tune written by Al himself.

Al headed up two, five month long USO Shows overseas during 1958-59 with his country and western band—The Westerners.

Although Al did entertain the audiences a bit with his singing, his main focus during these shows was his comedy routines in the role of Uncle Elmer - an original piece based on a character stereotyped as the ultimate country bumpkin.

  • Original article: September 2004
  • Updated: November 2023

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciation to Mrs. Jan Runions, widow of Al Runyon for the additional biographical details and photos provided for this writeup.

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  64187 A Icicle Tears
  64187 B Bonita Chiquita Senorita
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1174 A My Baby Left Me
  1174 B Other Side by The Blades
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  4-543 A Sweeter Than The Flowers
  4-543 B Great Speckle Bird
  4-577 A Never No More Blues
  4-577 B The Brakeman's Blues
  537 A I'm Moving On
  537 B Just A Petal From A Beautiful Bouquet
  542 A Rhumba Boogie
  542 B Wreck of the Old 97
  543 A Lord I'm Coming Home
  543 B There's A Light Guiding Me
  562 A Death of Kathy Fiscus
  562 B Wabash Cannon Ball
  576 A Away Out On The Mountain
  576 B Blue Yodel (T For Texas)
  579 A Blue Yodel No. 6
  579 B Frankie and Johnny
  581 A Jimmie's Mean Mama Blues
  581 B I'm Sorry We Met
  582 A My Old Pal
  582 B Daddy And Home
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  45-676 A The Day Before The Night
  45-676 B Baby, Please Come Home