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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Joe Maphis born 12 May 1921

Joe Maphis, (b. Otis Wilson Maphis, 12 May 1921, near Suffolk, Virginia, USA, d. 27 June 1986, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.) was one of the most innovative and influential guitarists of the 1950s. The list of guitar pickers who underwent his influence includes Larry Collins, Jimmy Bryant, Dick Dale, Don Rich, Roy Clark, Albert Lee and Deke Dickerson.

His father taught him to play the fiddle as a child and he was performing at local dances by the age of 10. By the time he was 16, Maphis was a featured musician on WBRA Richmond, where he also played guitar, mandolin and bass. During the 40s, he starred on several top country shows, including Boone County Jamboree (later the Midwestern Hayride) (WLW Cincinnati), National Barn Dance (WLS Chicago) and Old Dominion Barn Dance (WRVA Richmond), where he first met his future wife Rose Lee (b. Rose Lee Schetrompf, 29 December 1922, Baltimore, Maryland, USA).

She was singing and playing the guitar before she reached her teens and at the age of 15, as Rose of the Mountains, she had her own show on radio in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1948, she met Maphis and they were soon married. They moved to Los Angeles in 1951, where they became regulars on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree and later stars of the televised Town Hall Party from KFI Compton.

Maphis' recording career took off after he was invited to come to Los Angeles in 1951 by Merle Travis. He made two LPs with Travis, recorded for countless country and pop stars and worked on many themes for television programs and movie soundtracks. Later based in Bakersfield, California, he rose to prominence with his own hits such as "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)" which has become a honky-tonk standard with numerous artists recording versions on the tune.
In the 50s, apart from their own recordings they worked as session musicians. 
Maphis, with his super-fast picking on his unusual double-necked guitar, was much in demand by both country and pop artists and he recorded with rockabilly singers such as Wanda Jackson and Rick Nelson, with whom he also toured. Maphis appeared with many of the major country stars, including Jimmy Dean and Jerry Lee Lewis on network television shows.

From the 50s, for almost 30 years, he and Rose Lee toured with their own show, joined later by their three children, Jody, Dale and Lorrie. During this time they not only played in every American state but also in Europe and the Far East. They made their home in Nashville in the 60s, where Maphis' multi-instrumental skills were much in demand for session work. 

(From left to right) Rosie Lee Maphis, Johnny Bond, Joe Maphis, Pee Wee Adams, Dale Warren, Jerry Lewis, Margie Warren and Mary Lou Nell.

He played the background music on several films and television series, including Thunder Road, Have Gun Will Travel, The Virginian and The FBI Story. Their abilities won them the nickname of "Mr & Mrs Country Music". 
Over the years, they recorded in their own right for several labels, including Capitol Records, Starday and CMH.

In 1960, Maphis gave 11-year-old Barbara Mandrell her first big break in country music when he included her on his show at the Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas (contrary to many reference books, although Mandrell referred to him as Uncle Joe, he was not her real uncle). Maphis, who was Bert Weedon's favourite picker, became known as the King Of The Strings and ranks alongside the likes of great guitarists such as Merle Travis and Chet Atkins.


In 1985, Joe's long-time cigarette habit turned on him when it was discovered that he had advanced lung cancer, which was the cause of his death on June 25, 1986 (aged 65). Rose Lee and their children keep his memory alive, as do all those fans and collectors who were instantly knocked out by his incredible musicianship.

His skills and versatility led to his ubiquity in the West Coast recording studios during the '50s, a most important period of transition ; therefore, it can be safely said that Joe Maphis strongly contributed to shape modern Country music. After Maphis' death in 1986, Rose Lee retired from the music business and went to work at Opryland. (info mainly The Encyclopaedia of Popular Music)


boppinbob said...

For “Joe Maphis – Flying Fingers” go here:

1.Flying Fingers
2.Lorrie Ann
3.Guitar Rock and Roll
4.Randy Lynn Rag
5.Sweet Fern
6.Twin Banjo Special
7.Fire on the Strings
8.Bully of the Town
9.Town Hall Shuffle
10.Floggin' the Banjo
11.Tennessee Two Step
12.Katy Warren Breakdown
13.Bye, Bye
14.Early American
15.The Rockin' Gypsy
17.Short Recess
19.Del Rio
20.Navajo (War Party)
22.Marching Through Georgia
23.Water Baby Boogie
24.Black Sombrero

boppinbob said...

Re-Up here;