George, and Eddie and Pearl

Eddie and Pearl Stephens
(From Hillbilly-Music.com; originally from Country Song Roundup, February 1952, No. 16))

Guest Post by Steve Bartlett

Back in the late 1940s—I was either in 5th or 6th grade—I discovered Eddie and Pearl, a married hillbilly duo on local radio station KRIC. Eddie had a 15-minute show about 1 PM 6 days a week.  He played a beautiful D18 with a harmonica clamped on top, that had left its mark on the guitar.  Pearl played bass.  After we got acquainted (I had shown that I would be QUIET), he let me sit in the studio during his broadcasts.  I was in Hillbilly Heaven. . .  Eddie sang old songs, including some Monroe tunes—it was not “bluegrass” then, just Bill Monroe hillbilly songs. He sang most of the new and old songs of that time.

That big guitar, played with a heavy thumb pick, and Eddie’s voice like a much richer and deeper Jimmie Skinner, made a solid sound.

Pearl was a tiny woman, played a big stand-up bass.  Her 1 chords were on target, but her 4 chords always sounded a bit sharp to me.  She would not lift her elbow out of the base of the neck of her bass, so her hand did not quite reach up to the required point on the neck.

During one broadcast, the station engineer, Karl Von Leeuwen, cut an acetate of one of Eddie’s programs—before tape or wire recorders.  I would love to hear it; it probably is long since lost to history.

Anyway, making a short story long, by the time I was in high school, I had less time for Eddie and the Saturday, Republic Western movie that had always followed.  I still listened occasionally, and he had somebody  with him whom he called “Georgie Boy,” who did an awesome and wild, rapid-fire flatpicking.  A high school buddy, Jerry Fox, who was a virtuoso steel player, told me it was George Jones.  I don’t think George kept that up, unless he might have done some on his stage shows, but I think he just quit the hot picking.  Jerry said George was all over the first three frets—that was where he did the work.

Jerry also told me that when George was married to his first wife, he cut some records for 4 Star, a well-known and well-distributed country label of the time, financed by his then father-in-law.  George got divorced and the financing disappeared, along with the 4-Star masters.

I never got to see George live, although I ran into him backstage at a Houston Jamboree while I was in a conversation with Billie Jo Speers one night.

George’s book tells of working with Eddie, and of Eddie having had too much to drink and driving them into the river on their way home one night.  I guess it is possible, but at his radio programs, Eddie always was sober, in control, friendly and professional.  He never messed up his program, and treated me like an honored guest.

Eddie gave me a few of his old harmonicas—he actually wore them out, at least as far as using them professionally was concerned.  They were Phil-Monets, well made in the US, and could be disassembled for cleaning (which I did).

—Steve Bartlett

Copyright © Stephen Bartlett 2013.  All rights reserved.

UPDATE (belated): I wrote to Hillbilly-Music.com for permission to use the picture of Eddie and Pearl, and received a nice note back from Dave Sichak, which I then promptly forgot to acknowledge; my apologies.  Here’s his note:

Hi Lynn,

Yes, you may use that picture. It’s actually from the February 1952 issue of Country Song Roundup (Issue No. 16).

Thanks for the email. I’m familiar with your show – so best of luck and continued audience interest!

Cheers,

Dave Sichak
dave@hillbilly-music.com
==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==
Hillbilly-Music.com
Attn: Dave
P.O. Box 576245
Modesto, CA 95357-6245
==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==-==
http://www.hillbilly-music.com
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One Response to George, and Eddie and Pearl

  1. Judy Butler says:

    Thanks so much for the wonderful post and compliments – Eddie & Pearl were my grandparents. They had a hard life at times but I loved them dearly.

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