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Virginia Boys (Doc and Carl)
WCFL Chicago, IL
WHAM Rochester, NY
WHAS Louisville, KY
WKRC Cincinnati, OH
WLW Cincinnati, OH
WOPI Bristol, TN
WRNL Richmond, VA

About The Group

Carl Patton McConnell was one half of a duo. The other half was a cousin, Doc Addington, who was a brother of Mother Maybelle Carter. Together, they became known as Doc and Carl. Doc was known for his guitar playing while Carl played mostly the banjo. Carl left behind an essay that told of his early career and the roads he and Doc travelled together.

Carl Patton McConnell

Carl was born January 24, 1913, on a farm in Big Moccasin Valley, at the foot of the north side of Clinch Mountain. he wrote was born in an old log cabin that had been the birthplace of his mother and her four sisters and one brother. He was a Baptist by faith and the third child of a family of seven; five girls and two boys.

Music seems to have run in the family. He wrote,

"My mother could do a pretty good job at playing the auto harp and organ. She also sang soprano and alto parts. Three of my sisters could play the organ and sing real well. ... My mother’s parents were Mr. And Mrs. B. M. Francisco. My Grandma Francisco was an excellent old-fashioned singer, with a beautiful, loud, clear voice. She had the reputation of being able to do more good with her singing in the old revival meetings than a lot of preachers could do with their preaching. They sent for her and came after her from miles around to get her to help sing and take part in the old-time country revival meetings. It was well known in those days that she spent a large portion of her time in this manner.

My Daddy, was fairly good at playing the harmonica, Jews harp, and could plunk quite a few of the old tunes on the five-string banjo. He did some bass singing.

My grandpa, Patton McConnell, born February 2, 1846, was a top old-time fiddler and banjo picker. He was considered the champion fiddler of this area (Scott County, Virginia) for years, back in the days of about 1875 until about 1900. He had participated in almost all of the entertainments and exhibitions around this area in those days. "

Carl wrote that Grandpa Francisco was a farmer and owned one of the larger apple orchards in the area 'high up under the north side of Clinch Mountain. His grandpa Patton McConnell owned and operated a roller mill in MOccasin Valley, operating flour, corn and buckwheat mills. Next door was a saw mill and a planing mill, which used a turbine powered by water flowing by gravity from a concrete dam located just a couple hundred feet above the old mill place. In addition, there was a blacksmith shop, general store and a dwelling house. Carl described it as a "stomping ground and gathering place for all the surrounding neighborhoods."

Carl writes of his first musical instruments and his learning and style.

The first banjo that I ever owned was a little $9.95 Supertone five-stringer that I ordered from Sears, Roebuck and Company in January 1931. After a few days of plunking around, I learned to start a couple of tunes. The first one was “Goin’ Down in Town”. The second was “Down the Road”.

From there I soon learned a lot of the other old tunes; such as “The Spanish Fandango”, “President McKinley’s March”, “Arkansas Traveler”, “Cripple Creek”, “John Henry”, and many others. Those tunes I learned from my Daddy’s youngest brother, Uncle Pat. He was a banjo picker, first class, at the two-finger and thumb style, as well as the old “hoe-down” lick, which has lately been renamed the “claw hammer” style. To me it will always be the old “hoe-down” banjo picking.

As well as I have always loved the old “hoe-down” style of banjo picking; I never did put forth enough effort and time to master it. At that time, I liked the two fingers and thumb style much better and I put all my time in on trying to learn it instead. Now I regret that I didn’t learn both styles.

I also had a cheap Supertone guitar that came from Sears, Roebuck, and Company. It wasn’t a bad instrument for those days. For many years I did a lot of thumping on this guitar and others as well. The fact is, I did about as much guitar plunking, at times, as I did banjo thumping. No one ever called me a “Doc Addington”.

Doc Addington

Barnett McConnell, Jr. (stepson of Doc Addington) wrote an essay writing of Doc's early life.

Hugh Jack Addington, Jr. was born on November 2, 1913 in the Addington Frame community of Scott County, Virginia, the eighth child of Hugh Jack and Margaret Kilgore Addington. While still a very young lad, Hugh J. Jr. became known as "Doc", a nickname given to him by his Uncle Milburn Nickels who lived near his home on Copper Creek. Uncle Mil Nickels also had nicknames for Doc's brothers that followed them throughout their life - Dewey was known as "Duke", David J. was known as "D. J." William B. was known as "Sawcat", Milbern B. was known as "Toobe", and Warren was known as "Bug".

Doc, as did many of his family, possessed a fine musical talent most likely inherited from his Kilgore ancestors. As a young boy, he learned to play his sister's guitar. By the time this sister, Maybelle, married Ezra Carter and started singing and playing her guitar at community socials, Doc was also an accomplished musician. As Maybelle became part of the Carter Family singing group in the late 1920's and early 1930's, Doc was singing and playing with a young banjo picker,

Carl wrote of how he and Doc first came to get together with their musical talents.

Doc Addington and I are close kinfolk’s. His dad and mine were first cousins. My daddy’s mother was a distant cousin to Doc’s mother, both being descendants of the Kilgore generation. That makes us even a little more akin.

We grew up about four miles from each other (the way the crow flies), with two ridges and about a couple of valleys separating us. By car, around the road, it was a distance of around ten miles and back. In those days, there were only a few miles of blacktop road in the mountain area, especially here in Scott County. These were mostly narrow, rough, dirt roads.

This being true, Doc and I never had met until the summer of 1932. Doc came over to my home one Sunday afternoon, with his neighbor and close friend, Lester (Groundhog) Addington, who was dating my oldest sister, Irene.

On this occasion, Doc didn’t come in the house. He sat out in the car, parked close to the front porch. I walked out and interrupted the little tune he was whistling, by saying “hello” and asking him to come in the house while he was waiting. He said that he would just sit there and wait on “Groundhog”, who was in the parlor with Irene. He right then started whistling this same little old tune. He seemed to be more interested in being left alone and in whistling than he was in talking to me. Ha!

It sort of worried me a bit because he wouldn’t get out of the car and come on into the house, so I thought I’d go into the parlor and see if I could get “Groundhog” to go out and try persuading him to come on in. Groundhog sort of laughed and said, “Ah, he is bashful and stubborn, too. Let him sit out there.”

This didn’t satisfy my mind and, pondering over the situation another minute or so, I made up my mind to give it another try. I walked back out to the car and found Doc still whistling that same tune. So, ill mannered me, I broke in on his whistling again to say “Doc, I wish you would get out and come in the house.” He said, “No, thanks, I’ll just sit out here.” Then, quickly, I asked him some other question, with the hope of getting him started into a friendly conversation.

He just answered back with as few words as possible, and instantly started right back whistling. To me, that was a pretty firm hint that he just didn’t care too much about getting any better acquainted with me. I hastily turned and walked back into the house. In about an hour, I saw “Groundhog” step off the front porch and crawl under the steering wheel of his 1923 Model T Ford Touring car. I rushed out to invite them to come back again. I got out on the porch in time to see them take off like a ruffled grouse and to hear Doc, still whistling the same tune. By this time, he was setting it afire. This was my first acquaintance and experience with Doc Addington.

But Carl and Doc would get together eventually. Carl writes of the first time he got to hear Doc's guitar playing.

"I had heard quite a lot about Doc’s fancy guitar picking for about a couple of years. Up until this time, I had never had the chance to hear him. The following fall, he and “Groundhog” dropped in one night at the home of our neighbors, Boyd and Will Quillin. A big bunch of us had gathered there for one of our usual musical parties.

After a lot of insisting from me and the rest of the musicians, (he kept saying that he couldn’t pick), Doc was persuaded to take the guitar and he picked and sang about a half-dozen songs, with me backing him with the banjo.

I will never forget the expressions on the faces of the crowd, (and especially the musicians looking on), as he was about the middle of the first song, “Coney Isle.” You talk about a display of raised eyebrows and staring eyes, with mouths half open, all set on Doc and the guitar. No doubt I looked even worse stunned than they did because I think that I even dropped out and forgot to pick the banjo at times. He also picked and sung “The Brownie Blues”, “My Dear Old Southern Home”, and one of Jimmie Rodger’s “Blue Yodels”.

When he had finished the 4th and last song, he handed the guitar back to its owner and requested a continuation of the music. If my memory serves me right, there was no response.

This was the beginning of mine and Doc’s musical career. I believe the next time we met was at Doc’s home place, in the month of May 1933, on a Saturday night. He had sent me word a few days ahead of time to come over on that particular Saturday night and bring my banjo. He said they were going to have a musical party, or a music making, I believe he called it."

Doc and Carl, The Virginia Boys

Kentucky Play Party Promo Ad December 1939 Barnett writes of the beginning of the career of Doc and Carl, the Virginia Boys.

As Maybelle became part of the Carter Family singing group in the late 1920's and early 1930's, Doc was singing and playing with a young banjo picker, Carl McConnell, who became his life long friend. Doc and Carl were third [third?] cousins and they first played music together at Uncle Mil's house on Copper Creek. Very soon after this singing debut, Doc and Carl began calling themselves "The Virginia Boys" and played together regularly at social gatherings throughout the area. Their reputation as musicians increased and soon they were playing and singing on WOPI in Bristol.

As the demand for the country music of the Appalachian area increased around the country, due mostly to the popularity of the recordings of Doc's sister, Maybelle and his cousin, Sara Dougherty Carter, and her husband A. P. Carter, Doc and Carl were offered work on WCFL in Chicago, Illinois by their new sponsor, the Consolidated Drug Company. Over the next few years, Doc and Carl also played on radio stations in Rochester, New York; Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Richmond, Virginia. Doc sang tenor and played lead guitar while Carl played rhythm on his 5-string banjo and sang soprano. As their popularity grew, they returned to WCFL in Chicago and recorded 84 individual 15 minute transcriptions that were sent to some of the more powerful radio transmission stations in North America, including XERA operating in Mexico across the border from Del Rio, Texas. Although Doc and Carl were very popular musicians who had consistent work, with the low pay and frequent travel, they soon tired of the "road life" and decided to find jobs outside the music business. Carl returned to Scott County and established a barbering business and Doc went to work for the Firestone Corporation in Indiana. On November 1, 1937 Doc married Leota Mae Rich in Indiana and they soon started their family. During the next eight years, they were blessed with 5 children: Shirley, Jack, Sue, Kay, and Dale.

Carl shed some light on how their working together began.

In the midst of all the corny mountain music making, Doc and Fiddlin’ Jimmy D. Cress spent the months of August and September 1934 at our home. They helped us work on the farm, and each night after supper, we would fiddle and frolic until late bedtime. Most of these nights, we had a bunch of neighbor visitors as an audience. This always stimulates a musician somewhat and makes him put a little more into his picking. As I have already stated, Jimmy D. Cress was a top old time fiddler on a few of the old tunes such as: “Cumberland Gap”, “Cackling Hen”, and others. He also had a couple of tunes on which he did some nice trick fiddling. These two tunes were: “The Drunken Hiccups” and “Pop Goes the Weasel”.

In the spring May 1934, Doc and I went on our first personal appearance. Sara Carter was booked for a Saturday night appearance at the old Odd Fellow’s Hall in Bristol, Virginia. She asked us to go along and share this program with her. Of course, we welcomed the opportunity. Sara opened the program by singing about six or eight of the old favorite ballads and hymns that she was so noted for singing. Then Doc and I came out and sang possibly a half dozen duet numbers. I don’t recall but a couple of these, the “Browns Ferry Blues”, and “I’m Goin’a Quit My Rowdy Ways”. We played a couple of f instrumentals, with Doc in the lead on the guitar. I sang a couple of sad songs. This was good experience for us.

Our first radio broadcast was on Station WOPI, Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee, the first part of the year of 1934, on "The Saturday Afternoon Matinee". We appeared on this program nearly every Saturday afternoon thereafter, until the early part of 1936.

Let's go back to a humorous episode Carl wrote of when Doc asked him to come to a 'music party' they were going to have and told Carl to bring his banjo. But getting to that part was quite the effort and perhaps typical of traveling musicians - they all have their road stories.

" My brother Kenneth and I saddled our dappled gray, half-percheron, work horses, old Frank and Bird, and started on the four-mile rough trail across the two ridges and valleys. At the halfway mark, across the first ridge and down into the valley, in the west end of Taylor town community, we stopped by Beacher Smith’s home place. He met us at the yard gate. He was headed for the party also. As we were approaching Beacher’s home, we noticed a black looking storm cloud rising from the west and coming in our direction.

I called Beacher’s attention to this bad looking thunder cloud and requested that we wait a few minutes to see if it was going to rain, before going any further. Beacher turned his head and looked back at the black cloud and said, “I declare, Carl, I don’t believe it’s going to rain here.” He repeated this statement at least three or four times, as I kept insisting that we wait there at his place until after the rain had passed.

I let him out talk me and against my better judgment, we started on toward Copper Creek Valley, about two miles away. Beacher was then and still is a good old time fiddler, but he taught me that night that he was a poor weather prophet. By the time we had gone half a mile to the top of the next ridge, (where Joe Addington’s new home place is now) the hard part of this rainstorm overtook us. We tried to keep under the biggest trees as much as possible so they might shield us, but to no avail. The rain was coming down like pouring out of a tub. All of us enjoyed a genuine drenching, including my old banjo, even though I tried to protect it.

When we arrived at the Addington residence, about 9:00 pm, we found a house full of neighbors and a host of musicians as well. The music was already going in full swing. I held my Supertone banjo over the globe of the old kerosene lamp. The calfskin head was soon dry enough to pick. I tuned up with the boys, and instantly the fiddler, Jimmy D. Cress, took off on the old tune "Cackling Hen". Then, without a pause, he tore right into another old tune, “Cumberland Gap”. Those old tunes were favorites of Jimmy’s and he could do a job on them, as well as many others that was second to no one else. Jimmy D. was a brother-in-law to Beacher.

Mill Nickels, who lived just a hop and a jump across the field, was another old time fiddler, included in the crowd. He was an excellent, smooth, and a clear noting fiddler as you rarely ever hear, to say the least. He had a whole line of pretty waltz tunes that he played very beautifully, so as to almost make the hair stand on end.

After the three fiddlers had played about a couple of dozen tunes each, backed up by mine and Doc’s picking’, Doc’s oldest brother, Dewey, dug out his old five string banjo and rendered about a dozen of the old tunes in the old fashioned “hoe-down” way, which he is so noted for. He played such tunes as “John Henry”, “Cripple Creek”, “Sally Goodin”, “Sugar Hill”, etc.

Then Doc and I rattled off a few instrumentals with Doc in the lead on the guitar. Doc sang a couple, like “Coney Isle”, and the “Brownie Blues”. I tried singing possibly four or five of my favorite sad songs and tried to pick a couple or so, such as “Shortenin' Bread” and “The Spanish Fandango”.

The greatest thrill of all that I experienced at this particular gathering was the honor of seeing for the first time, the greatest country singer that this country ever had, in my opinion. She had the truest and most beautiful voice of all. The person that I am referring to is the great “Sara Carter”, of the famous Carter Family, who did all of the lead singing in the recordings and elsewhere.

By that time, it was getting near midnight and voices all over the house could be heard requesting Sara to sing. Doc handed her the guitar. Since I never had the pleasure of hearing her in person, but only on records, this was indeed a treat to me. It only took about a verse and the chorus of the first song of her singing to convince me that the old saying was true, in this case; she was the best there by ten country miles and was saved for the last.

Sara sang several of the beautiful old songs and hymns. I don’t recall all of them. To name a few, I do remember that she did sing the following: “The Last Roundup”, “Why There’s A Tear In My Eye”, “On A Hill Lone And Gray”, “When I take My Vacation In Heaven”, “One Step More”, “No Telephone In Heaven”, and “The Old Rugged Cross”.

I had never before heard these songs sung so beautifully and with such real true meaning, as their writers had intended them. I’m quite sure that this was another occasion on which I was caught with staring eyes and mouth half open. I was so carried away with her beautiful singing that I just forgot everything else.

Sara chose for her concluding number an old favorite sacred song that I thought was very fitting. Her choice was "Will The Circle Be Unbroken”. When she had finished the last chorus of this touching old song, the crowd began to rise, one by one, reaching for their hats and milling through the crowd to shake the kind hand of Doc’s mother, Mrs. Margaret Addington, and bid her good night and thanks for her allowing us to come into her good home on this occasion. Mrs. Addington was one of the kindest persons that I ever knew. She was as good to me as a mother. I felt perfectly welcome in her home. She was another good banjo picker, the old fashioned “hoe-down” style.

Now getting back to the breaking up of this musical party: It was then about 12:30 am, Sunday morning. After all well wishes and good nights were said, everyone was all soon making their way toward home on foot, through the fields and in the pathways. You could see the lights from the kerosene lanterns and flashlights going in several different directions.

In the meantime, Kenneth and I had already mounted our horses and were starting on the long narrow, rough trail across the ridges and valleys that would lead us back home. We were accompanied by Beacher and Jimmy D. Cress, walking along by our side. They said they would rather walk than ride.

Along the way, we were discussing back and forth the enjoyable time that we had just experienced with this group of wonderful mountain people. The sound of the good old mountain music, and the singing as well, was still ringing in our ears. We had thoroughly enjoyed all the music that had been produced in those short four hours.

At this time, we were passing by Beacher’s home and he and Jimmy D. left us for the night.

The thought also ran through my mind wondering if this would ever happen again, at the same place, and with the same people meeting back there together. I was just dreaming and hoping, of course. All of these pleasant memories seemed to help the time fly by. In no time at all, it seemed that Kenneth and I were riding up in the hallway of the old barn, at our old home place, in Big Moccasin Valley, at the foot of Clinch Mountain. It was then about a quarter until 3 o’clock, Sunday morning.

Doc and Carl began playing for the folks in their area at other musical gatherings. The newspapers of that era often contained little tidbits of the comings and goings of people and enjoyable times. In June of 1936, Doc and Carl visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Quillin in Lone Star. Other guests were present as well. Doc and Carl entertained the folks with their music and, "the music was enjoyed by all."

A couple of months later, they were playing for folks at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Moore. By this time, they were now known as 'radio musicians'. Again, the unnamed author noted, "the music was very much enjoyed by all."

In Snowflake, VA, we read that 'quite a crowd gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Quillin on an August night in 1936. They were there to hear "Dock Addington and Carl McConnell make music."

Even when they were just visiting relatives, it made the local news. On one occasion in August 1936, the 'musicians of Maces Spring, VA' were visiting relatives in the section of Nickelsville, VA.

Doc and Carl were sent to WHAS in Louisville, KY for a time by the Consolidated Drug Company in February of 1939. According to Carl's essay, they were on the Early Morning Jamboree show from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. He wrote that the jamboree consisted of Uncle Henry's Kentucky Mountaineers, Sally and the Coonhunter, Sunshine Sue and Her Rock Creek Rangers, Gordon Sizemore and Little Betty, Joe and Al - The Chuckwagon Boys and Pat McAdary.

Kentucky Play Party Promo Ad December 1939

WRNL Promo Picture - June 1946 - Doc and Carl; Maybelle Carter; Carter Sisters

Carl mentions they were supposed to work at the station from September through May with June through August being a summer vacation break for them. The Kingsport Times in Tennessee documents occasions where Carl drove back to visit his family in Snowflake, VA. A search on Google maps shows that today it is nearly a 300 mile drive, taking almost 5 hours.

Radio Program Listing - WHAS - Doc and Carl Morning Jamboree - November 16 1939

Promo Poster - August 17 1940 Butler TN Doc and Carl; Mother Maybelle; Carter Sisters

Radio Program Listing - WKRC - Doc and Carl - May 8 1949

Doc and Carl were transferred Consolidated Drug Company to Station WKRC, Cincinnati, Ohio, They had two fifteen minute programs each day, until the last of May when the usual summer vacation season started.

A group of nine entertainers left Chicago in January 1939 to start a new program called the "Home Folks Hour" over radio station WHAM in Rochester, NY. The show was to air from 3:45 pm to 4:45 pm Monday through Friday. It was suggested by Art Kelly in Rural Radio magazine that 'down-to-earth' type of show were far and between. The show was to feature old time songs, hoe-downs, hillbilly ditties and ballads of the plains and hills. The appears to have resonated with the Rochester listening audience.

Mr. Kelly readers the ensemble included Doc and Carl, the Kasper Sisters, Chuckwagon Boys and Chuckwagon Joe, Barbara and Larry, Little Bett, Gen Kasper, Fiddlin' Larry Jeffers and Accordion Al.

He wrote that Doc and Carl hailed from the hills of old Virginia. Together they sang hymns and songs of the hill folks. Little Betty Jeffers, all of six years old, was considered the sweetheart of the gang and known for her yodel specialties. Barbara and Larry Jeffers were born in Jackson, Florida and had a 'colorful record' in both radio and vaudeville. Barbara and Larry were twins and Little Betty was their sister. The Kasper Sisters had previously been with the National Barn Dance, Pappy Cheshire'Barnyard Jamboree, vaudeville and had already been on nine radio stations. The girls, Betty and Gen did harmony, with Betty playing the guitar. Then Joe Franks who was from Chicago had the role of "Chuckwagon Joe" and had been on the radio for four years up to that point. He was said to play guitar and thumped a mean doghouse bass. Finally, Elmer Witte who was known as Accordion Al, was born in San Francisco, CA, had traveled with the WLS road shows and appeared on the Barn Dance with Hal O'Hallaran.

Promo Poster - August 17 1940 Butler TN Doc and Carl; Mother Maybelle; Carter Sisters

Radio Program Listing - WKRC - Doc and Carl - May 8 1949

Promo Poster - August 17 1940 Butler TN Doc and Carl; Mother Maybelle; Carter Sisters

Doc recalls that the first part of June 1940, Doc and Carl hooked up with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters - Helen, June, and Anita, along with A. P. Carter’s youngest sister, Sylvia, who was a good singer as well as a good guitar and auto harp picker. All summer long, they made personal appearances in the eastern half of Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and all down through North Carolina, clear to the coast, playing school houses, court houses, lodge halls, and an occasional theater. They continued making those shows, right on up into the month of September, when they had to quit in order that the Carter Sisters could attend school at Hiltons, Virginia.

Radio Program Listing - WKRC - Doc and Carl - May 8 1949

Valley View Park - Promo Ad - May 1946 - Doc and Carl

Valley View Park - Promo Ad - July 1946 - Doc and Carl

Carl's son, Ron, related humorous incident from his memories by email.

Sometime during 1944-1945 when Curley Bradshaw was a Blue Grass Boy, Doc Addington was in the military (Note: According to online records Doc registered in the U. S. Army on November 27, 1942 and was discharged on September 27, 1945), and Daddy was at his barbering, and Bill Monroe had a gig in Gate City, VA.

I (Ron) was between 3 and 4 years old. I heard the story many times from Mother. We lived in the east end of town. The show was in one of the three theaters in the west end. Daddy knew "Curley" Bradshaw, Bill and others.

After the show Daddy went backstage to meet his friends. Without asking Mother, Daddy invited them to breakfast and a jam session at our house the next morning. Daddy may have been carrying me home, so he lived.

Mother spent the rest of the night cleaning and preparing a big country breakfast for the band.

The next morning, 8:00 am came,
9:00 am came,
10:00 am came,
11:00 am came,
noon came.

Finally, maybe between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm, the BBGs showed up. They had slept late and had eaten a big breakfast at a restaurant downtown. Only Curley ate any of Mother's food. Curley could eat anytime.

For the rest of the afternoon the musicians jammed while Mother steamed.

Note: After reading that story, you wonder why the musicians would pass up a home cooked meal and instead pay for restaurant cooking.

Doc and Carl met up with Mother Maybelle Carter and her daughters again in the summer of 1946. The Carters had returned to Richmond and were being heard over WRNL. A promotional picture taken helps date the picture as it is advertising a movie called "Renegades" that was to begin showing at the Byrd and State Theater on Wednesday, June 19, 1946. The movie starred Evelyn Keyes, Willard Parker, Larry Parks and Edgar Buchanan. While the newspaper ads for the film do not indicate folks would see entertainment, the signboard in the picture indicates they were going to perform at 5:45 pm. Later, on November 30, 1946, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters (Helen, June and Anita) would debut as regular cast members of the WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance.

WRNL Promo Picture - June 1946 - Doc and Carl; Maybelle Carter; Carter Sisters

In September 1946, Doc and Carl returned to Scott County and after making a few local personal appearances with the Carters.

Doc and Leota and four of their children - Shirley, Jack, Sue, Kay, (Dale was born in October) - returned to Indiana where Doc resumed his job at the Firestone Rubber Company.

By then Carl and Mabel had also started a family with the birth of their son, Ronald, in 1941 and were hoping for another addition to their family. Theresa, their daughter, was born the next year in late 1947. Once more their music career was on hold and Carl returned to the barber business at the Scott Barber Shop in Gate City.

During the next twenty-five years, they only played together occasionally when Doc and his family returned to Virginia for brief visits with his kin folks. Carl would play three or four times a year with Mabel's brothers, Howard, Edd and Glen Moore.

Ron McConnell wrote of Doc and Carl,

"In the present era, the Doc and Carl songs might be called old-time country as contrasted to the Nashville country sound. June Carter referred to Doc and Carl as the "jazzy side of the family." It was pre-bluegrass since Bill Monroe was still working out his bluegrass sound during that time and had it essentially done by late 1946. Charlie Monroe was playing at another Louisville radio station and contacted WHAS to have Doc and Carl stop performing Monroe Brothers songs. They never performed them again. Some years later Carl invited Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys over for lunch and a jam session the day after their show in Gate City - much to Mabel's surprise."

In the 1950's Carl had filled a notebook of full of song lyrics that he had written and hoped one day to play and maybe record with Doc. Like many mountain musicians, neither Doc nor Carl read or wrote music. The melodies for their songs were all stored in their heads. But the notebook of song lyrics disappeared from his banjo case at a gig in Nickelsville. He never wrote the songs down again. One wonders what lyrics and tunes were lost that night.

The Barber / Dog Breeder

Ron wrote of his father's later years,

"Although his music career was on a long-term hold, Carl was a man with many other interests and those who knew him well were aware of his passion for breeding mountain cur dogs. But few likely know that Carl was one of the organizers of the Mountain Cur Club in 1957 or that he was a co-founder of the Stephens' Breeders Association. The Mountain Cur Club was later renamed the Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association. Carl is credited with being instrumental in helping to save these old mountain hunting dogs from extinction. These faithful working dogs were/are used to hunt raccoons and bears. His love for these mountain dogs continued throughout his life. Scott County is home to folks descended from immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany. There are also now many four legged residents descended from Florida immigrants. By the mid-1950's, after 150 years of hunting, raccoons in Scott County were rare. Carl and the coon hunting club purchased many crates of raccoons in Florida and shipped them by train to Gate City for release around the county. The great-great-grandparents of that raccoon in your backyard probably were some of Carl's Florida raccoons.

Carl is probably best known in Scott County for working at the Scott Barber Shop In Compton's hotel on Moccasin Avenue across from the courthouse in Gate City. About 1980 he moved the shop across the corner on West Jackson Street ("main") to Dr. Grigg's old office with more space. Carl was not satisfied until every hair on a customer's head was the correct length. Rev. Paul D. Argoe, a friend for more than forty years said at Carl's eulogy that Carl was the slowest barber in Scott County. For Carl the barber shop was much more than a way of making a living after his musical career, it gave him a chance to visit with his friends and customers every day."

Doc's Return To Indiana — One More Round Music Making

After Doc left Virginia and returned to Indiana, music continued to be a dominant force in his life. When he wasn't working at the Firestone Rubber Company, his days off were frequently spent "jamming" with local musicians who were constantly dropping by his house to do a little picking and singing.

Doc and Leota divorced in the early 1970's. After Doc retired from Firestone in 1971, he returned to Scott County and he and Carl once again began to play together on a regular basis.

In 1973, Doc married the widow of Barnett McConnell, Sr., Georgia Hartsock McConnell, and they lived in the Addington Frame community near his birthplace.

In the early 1970's, Doc and Carl recorded an album at Johnny Cash's studio in Hendersonville, TN. However, the mix was wrong with Carl's banjo being prominent and Doc's guitar in the background. It was not the signature "Doc and Carl" sound and they were not happy with the result. Doc, Carl and Mabel recorded a gospel album, but the master tape was lost when the producer's studio was flooded and the record was never issued.

During the next few years in the 1970's, Doc and Carl played and sang with Janette Carter at the Carter Fold; The Smokey Mountain Folk Festival in Cosby, Tennessee; The National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap Farm, Vienna, Virginia; The Cumberland Gap Jubilee, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee; Clinch Valley College, Wise, Virginia; Blue Grass Festival, Nora, Virginia; and numerous family reunions, homecomings, churches, and parties throughout Scott County.

They also performed on Jimmy Smith's television program on Channel 19, WKPT, in Kingsport a nd Cas Walker's television program on Channel 10, Knoxville, Tennessee. Carl's wife, Mabel, an excellent vocalist, appeared with Doc and Carl on most of these programs.

Doc and Carl's last paid performance together was likely the A. P. Carter Memorial Festival in Maces Springs, Virginia in August 4 - 6, 1977. Coincidentally, that marked the 50 th anniversary of the Carter Family recordings with the Victor company.

The reader might wonder, 'whatever happened to those border radio transcriptions'? Ron shares the history behind it, pieced together over the years.

"The most that Carl could learn from his research was that the Doc and Carl Border Radio show recordings had been worn out in the 20 years they were played. The discs were thrown out and used for roofing shingles by the local folks. But some recordings did survive. Amazingly, some WRNL Richmond recordings from 1946 with Mother Maybelle, the Carter Sisters, and Doc and Carl were recovered from a garbage dumpster during a rain storm about year 2000, long after the families believed that all of the old Doc and Carl music had been lost forever. "

Doc and Carl - Wolf Trap Park - 1973
Scott Barber Shop - Carl McConnell - 1988

Bristol Barber College Diploma - Carl Patton McConnell - May 1938

Ron sent along some other photos during our email exchanges. One included Doc and Carl performing at the Wolf Creek Trap Farm in 1973. He also sent along a photo of Carl at his 'Scott Barber Shop' from a 1988 Kingsport Times-News promotional ad for the paper. The paper describes the four gentlemen as:

Carl McConnell and Tom Culbertson — Barbers and Times-News readers
Walter Peak and Clayton Williams — Well-groomed Times-News readers

The newspaper ad went on to further quote Carl's support of the paper.

"Of all the reading materials I've put out for customers here at "Scott Barber Shop," I'd say the Times-News gets more attention than anything else.

Lots of customers read it while they're in the chair — sometimes that gets a little distracting — and about all of them read it at home.

Of course, I'm just as interested as any of our customers, why I've been reading the Times-News myself for several years. I start my day with breakfast and the Times-News. I'd say no matter what time of day you read, the Times-News cuts it."

Ritz Theater Ad - Van Buren MO - Four Sons of the Prairie - Sep 1938
Showboat Ad KMOX Stars - Four Sons of the Prairie - Feb 1938

Ron also wrote of some of the options or choices that Doc and Carl made along the way that might lead to 'what if' or was it the 'right choice'. Doc and Carl felt they let two opportunities slip away that could have significantly altered their careers. In 1939 and again in 1940 they were invited to make some recordings for The Blue Bird Recording Company, later known as RCA. They declined the invitation.

Also, in the spring of 1940 they were invited to accompany Dick Hartman, originator and leader of the famous "Tennessee Ramblers", to Hollywood to appear in two movies; one with Gene Autry and one with Tex Ritter. Again they declined the invitation.

Carl had another brush with Hollywood in 1983 when a scene for the movie The River starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek was filmed with Carl chasing away a drunk from in front of the barber shop. That scene ended up on the cutting room floor.

Had Doc and Carl pursued these opportunities their lives and those of their families may have been completely different, for good or worse, who can say?

Addington Siblings - 9 of 10

Last Chords

Doc's health began to fail in the late 1970's. When his wife, Georgia, died in 1981 he moved back to Indiana. Doc was living with his son Dale and his family in Bloomington, Indiana when he passed away on July 4, 1988. He was buried in the family cemetery near his boyhood home in the Addington Frame community, Nickelsville, Virginia.

Carl finally retired from the barber business in 1993 after he became too ill to work. He passed away on May 27, 1994 and is buried in the Holston View Cemetery in Weber City, Virginia.

Ron writes, Doc and Carl were humble men with kind and gentle personalities. They both loved life and they loved people and never spoke unkindly of anyone. In all their years of working and traveling together, they never had a serious disagreement. Many people throughout Virginia and numerous other States enjoyed the music of Doc and Carl over the years. Some of the "Doc and Carl" songs include

  • "Brown's Ferry Blues"
  • "Blue Railroad Train"
  • "Tell Me Which Way Red River Runs"
  • "Salty Dog Blues"
  • "The Weary Lonesome Blues"
  • "Home Coming Time In Happy Valley"
  • "Waiting the Boatman"
  • "Precious Memories"
  • "Just A Closer Walk with Thee"
  • "Now I'm Coming Home"
  • "I Have Found the Way"
Whenever these old songs are sung their fans will remember Doc and Carl, The Virginia Boys, and the entertainment and pleasure they brought to so many people.

Since this is about a tale of two storied families, it is appropriate to document the other siblings in Doc and Carl's family to show the family circle / ties.

The Ten Children of Hugh Jackson and Margaret Elizabeth Kilgore Addington

Names Date of Birth Date of Death
Addington, Dewey Lee (Duke) 12/21/1898 6/8/1993
McConnell, Ava Madge Addington 5/28/1902 12/20/1928
Addington, David Jesse (D. J.) 5/29/1903 5/24/1974
Addington, William Brooks (Willie/Sawcat) 5/2/1905 3/19/1971
Addington, Norma V Addington 2/18/1907 7/29/1979
Carter, Maybelle Addington 5/10/1909 10/23/1978
Fuller, Lyna Muriel Addington 8/19/1911 3/21/1982
Addington Jr., Hugh Jack (Doc) 11/2/1913 7/4/1988
Addington, Milbern Brooks (Toobe) 12/28/1915 10/18/1988
Addington, Warren McConnell (Bug) 2/6/1918 5/11/1989

The Seven Children of James Morris and Myrtle Lillie Francisco McConnell

Names Date of Birth Date of Death
Sweet, Edna Irene McConnell 9/19/1908 4/3/2000
Addington, Audrey Lee McConnell 9/21/1910 7/10/2003
McConnell, Carl Patton 1/24/1913 5/27/1994
McConnell, Veleta Jane 4/15/1915 5/22/2012
McConnell, James Kenneth 11/5/1917 4/15/1996
Moore, Geneva Mae McConnell 12/26/1919 1/25/2003
Thomas, Faye Marie McConnell 12/14/1925 2/12/1998

Credits and Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to thank Ron McConnell, son of Carl McConnell for contacting us and providing us with information and photos of Doc and Carl's career and of the Addington family, which included Mother Maybelle Addington Carter.
    • A Brief History Of My Family And An Autobiographical Sketch of My Musical Life; Carl P. McConnell; January 24, 1976; Gate City, VA
    • Doc and Carl, The Virginia Boys; By Ronald McConnell (Carl's Son) and Barnett W. McConnell, Jr.
    • Remembering Doc Addington; Barnette McConnell, Jr. (Doc's stepson)
    • Mabelle Addingston Carter Siblings; By Ronald McConnell
  • Wednesday Radio Program; May 8, 1949; Cincinnati Enquirer; Cincinnati, OH
  • Lone Star; June 18, 1936; Kingsport Times; Kingsport, TN
  • Snowflake, VA; August 5, 1936; Kingsport Times; Kingsport, TN
  • Snowflake, VA; August 12, 1936; Kingsport Times; Kingsport, TN
  • Nickelsville, VA; August 20, 1936; Kingsport Times; Kingsport, TN
  • Two New Acts To Be Added By Old Dominion Barn Dance; November 29, 1946; The Times-Dispatch; Richmond, VA
  • Home Folks On The Air; February 1939; Rural Radio Magazine; Rural Radio, Inc.; Nashville, TN

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