Brother Duets in Country Music, 1920-1959

The focus of my investigation for vocal duos in popular music after the advent of rock and roll is the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil Everly recorded their first hit, “Bye Bye Love,” in 1957. The song made it into top chart positions on both the pop and country charts. They were essentially part of the brother duet trend in country music which began as early as the mid-1920s and saw its greatest flowering in the 1930s.

Below is a list of the brother duet acts in country music that I have found so far. I will keep adding to the list as I chase down all of the information. Here’s a map that pinpoints the birthplaces of these duets.

Allen Brothers
Austin Allen (b. Monteagle Mountain, TN, d. 1959, Williamston, SC)
Lee Allen (b. Monteagle Mountain, TN; d. 1981, Lebanon, TN)
First recording: 1926 or 1927, Columbia
Noteworthy songs: “Bow Wow Blues,” “Skippin’ and Flyin’,” “Jake Walk Blues”
Instruments: Austin on guitar, Lee on kazoo
Vocal style: Austin sang lead, Lee occasionally added tenor harmony above Austin’s lead
Read more about them here.

Delmore Brothers
Alton Delmore (b. 12/25/1908, Elkmont, AL; d. 1964)
Rabon Delmore (b. 12/3/1916, Elkmont, AL; d. 1952)
First recording: 1931, Columbia
Noteworthy songs: “Brown’s Ferry Blues,” “Big River Blues”
Instruments: Alton on guitar, Rabon playing lead on a tenor guitar
Vocal style: Alton usually sang lead; they would often switch high and low harmony parts; sometimes yodeled in 2-part harmony.

Shelton Brothers
Other performing names: Lone Star Cowboys, Sunshine Boys
Bob Attlesey (b. 7/4/1909, Reilly Springs, TX; d. 1983?)
Joe Attlesey (b. 1/27/1911, Reilly Springs, TX; d. 12/26/1980)
First recording: before 1933, Bluebeard (as Lone Star Cowboys)
Noteworthy songs: “Just Because,” “Deep Elem Blues”

Callahan Brothers
Homer (Bill) Callahan (b. 3/28/1912, Madison County, NC; d. 9/2002, Dallas, TX; obit)
Walter (Joe) Callahan (b. 1/27/1910, Madison County, NC; d. 9/10/1971, Asheville, NC)
First rec.: 1934
Vocal Style: Best remembered for their duet yodeling.

Blue Sky Boys
Bill Bolick (b. 10/28/1917, Hickory, NC; d. 3/13/2008 )
Earl Bolick (b. 11/16/1919, Hickory, NC; d. 4/19/1998 )
First recording: 1936
Vocal style: Earl sang baritone, Bill sang tenor.

Monroe Brothers
Charlie Monroe
Bill Monroe
First rec.: 1936
Noteworthy songs: “What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?”, “Nine Pound “Hammer,” “Feast Here Tonight,” “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “My Long Journey Home”
Vocal style: Charlie sang lead, Bill sang tenor (high) harmony

Dixon Brothers
Howard Dixon
Dorsey Dixon
Darlington, SC

Carlisles

Anglin Brothers

Bailes Brothers

Louvin Brothers
Ira Loudermilk (b. 4/21/1924, Henagar, AL; d. 6/20/1965, Williamsburg, MO)
Charlie Loudermilk (b. 7/7/1927, Henagar, AL)
First recording: between 1945 and 1949, Apollo Records
Noteworthy songs: “When I Stop Dreaming,” “Cash on the Barrel Head”
Instruments: Ira on mandolin, Charlie on guitar
Vocal style: Ira sang tenor, noted as being fairly high; Charles sang lead (melody tenor)
Click here for more information on the Louvin Brothers.

Stanley Brothers
Clinch Mountain Boys
Ralph Stanley (b. 2/25/1927, Dickenson Co., VA)
Carter Stanley (b. 8/25/1925; d. 12/1/1966)
Instruments: Carter on guitar, Ralph on banjo
Vocal Style: Carter on lead, Ralph on harmony with high tenor voice
Click here for more information.

Lilly Brothers
Lonesome Holler Boys
Everett Lilly (b. Clear Creek, WV)
Mitchell Lilly (b. Clear Creek, WV)
First recording: 1948
Instruments: Everett played mandolin, banjo and fiddle; Bea played guitar

York Brothers
Leslie York
George York
Vocal style: melody in lower part in the two samples I listened to
 

Sources:

 

All Music Guide

Malone, Bill C. Country Music U.S.A., 2nd rev. ed., Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

 

Last update: 24 July 2008

2 Responses to “Brother Duets in Country Music, 1920-1959”

  1. Brother Duets in Country Music, 1920-1959 « Musical Mutterings Says:

    […] updates to this list will be in the page […]

  2. Duos before Don and Phil « Musical Mutterings Says:

    […] before Don and Phil The Everly Brothers are largely associated with the brother duets in country music, most of whom achieved notoriety during the 1930s. In pop music, duos were less common and somewhat […]

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