Roy Hall & His Blue Ridge Entertainers

Roy Hall ranks as one of the major figures whose band played music that formed some of the key roots of Bluegrass. Several Carolinians fell into a musical category that has been termed "pre-Bluegrass." Roy and his brothers Jay Hugh (1910-1972) and Rufus (1921-2015), along with the Mainers, Morris Brothers, and the Byron Parker group, all fit into this mold. Roy, part of a family of twelve, grew up in rugged Haywood County, North Carolina, near the Great Smokies, in a musically rich mountain culture. As they reached adulthood, the Halls, like many of their generation, went to work in the textile mills where Roy remained until he reached the age of 30. At that point he and Jay Hugh teamed up to form the Hall Brothers, broadcasting daily shows from WSPA Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The Halls cut three sessions for Bluebird in 1937 and 1938, recording a total of twenty- four songs (eighteen of them being released). Jay then decided to rejoin Clyde Moody (with whom he had worked before) as the Happy-Go-Lucky Boys, within Wade Mainer’s Sons of the Mountaineers. Roy then formed the Blue Ridge Entertainers with Tommy Magness on fiddle, Bill Brown on Dobro guitar, and Wayne Watson on bass. The Blue Ridge Entertainers soon left Spartanburg for WAIR Winston-Salem, where they did a daily show sponsored by the soft drink firm, Dr. Pepper. In fact, Hall remained associated with Dr. Pepper for the remainder of his career. In November 1938, the band traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, where they cut a session for the American Record Corporation under the direction of Art Satherley. The songs they waxed that day included Wabash Cannon Ball, The Lonesome Dove, and the first-ever recordings of Come Back Little Pal and Orange Blossom Special. Unfortunately, the latter was never released because of legal complications. In 1939, the Hall band added the duo of Clayton and Sandford, the Hall Twins (no kin to Roy), to their group and transferred their broadcast base to WDBJ. The Blue Ridge Entertainers attained a wide audience in the region, eventually forming two units and sometimes being booked a whole year in advance. Roy organized a Saturday night barn dance. In 1940, Jay Hugh rejoined Roy at the Virginia Jamboree at Roanoke. Other musicians who gained some experience with the Hall band included Woody Mashburn, Clato Buchanan, Jim Eanes, and a very young Andy Griffith.

The Blue Ridge Entertainers had two sessions for Bluebird in October 1940 and 1941. The songs they recorded included several that went on to become Bluegrass standards such as Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die, Loving You Too Well, Can You Forgive, and I Wonder Where You Are Tonight. Two Magness fiddle tunes of significance from 1941 were Polecat Blues and Natural Bridge Blues. Hall also had some appreciation for Western music, doing one of the first covers of New San Antonio Rose and often doing songs like South Of The Border, on radio. He had cowboy singers like Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter guest on the Virginia Jamboree and in fact I Wonder Where You Are Tonight had actually been done by Hall as a cover of Jimmy Wakely’s Decca disc.

Although the Blue Ridge Entertainers recordings show more Appalachian influence than anything else, there are also hints that their tastes were suggestive of the musical style mergers that largely took place after Roy Hall’s death. In June, 1942, during WWII, the draft took some of the band members and the two bands merged into one. Most observers of Roy Hall’s career believe that he stood at the edge of national stardom when the war broke up his band and a fatal auto crash took his life. After the war, Jay Hugh and Rufus Hall reassembled some of the band and carried on in radio for a time, but things were not quite the same without Roy. Finally they dropped out of music (except for Eanes and Griffith), but nonetheless fans in Virginia and the Carolinas treasured Roy’s memory and collectors everywhere sought his old records. A few of his recordings appeared on anthologies and in 1979 an entire album preserved his most memorable numbers. Another one documenting Country music on Roanoke radio contained a complete show from WBDJ in 1942 including the Dr. Pepper commercials.



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