Cotton States Archive
Pickin' and Grinnin' . . . Live on the Radio!
Long before compact discs, broadcasting conglomerates and predictable radio programming (i.e.-top 20 play lists, etc.), folks seeking entertainment tuned into radio stations---some local, others perhaps hundreds or thousands of miles away---to hear their favorite show or recording artist. Besides technology, what distinguished the early programs from what we have today? The performances were live! And every now and then, the inevitable mistake would occur, but the spontaneity of live performances surely made for better listening in many cases.

Many old-timers have shared with me their fond memories of tuning into WSM's Grand Ole Opry each week, but local stations frequently featured talent comparable to anything coming out of Nashville. Wholesome and family-friendly, the programs often showcased versatile performers whose repertoires included country, folk and gospel. Positive role models to young listeners, for the most part, there were no offensive lyrics or crude remarks. Haven't times changed!

Sixteen-years-old at the time, my mother recalls living in the Madison community of Oconee County, South Carolina---just minutes from the Georgia state line. Her father worked for McClure's Dairy, and the family lived in a tenant house on the farm---miles from the nearest town. My mother would tune into radio stations broadcasting out of North Georgia and Upstate South Carolina, and her dad regularly listened to the Opry every week. Just as today's teenagers might join fan clubs or send correspondence to celebrities, Mom would write her favorite singers, requesting photos or autographs. The black and white images she received put faces with names she had come to recognize and associate with good music.

"The Earl"

Just 19 at the time, Earl T. Baughman, aka Country Earl, reportedly had 5,000 copies of this photo printed in 1953 and sold them at a dime each. Referring to the photo post cards on his website,, he says, "My mother addressed them." Baughman's country music and radio career has spanned over 50 years. He became a radio announcer in 1952, and was voted Greenville's top disc jockey in 1956. It's interesting to note that Greenville's WESC is now a Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc. station.

The Hillbilly Rebels

Comprised of two sets of brothers, Raymond & Clifford Fleming and Rollin & Eddie Ayers, these boys performed on WKLY in Hartwell, Georgia, around 1954.

Yet to Be Identified Group

Performers at WGGA in Gainesville, Georgia, this young group's post card is postmarked October 12, 1953, and has no return address or sender information. The handwritten first names, appearing to be by the same hand, identify these boys as Joel, Jack, Hoyt, Apple and Carl. Note their matching plaid shirts.

(Editor's note: Any information pertaining to the unidentified group from WGGA would be appreciated.)

Gerald, James and Bobby Findlay

Appearing to be a father and two sons, this was another WKLY act from the 1950s. Their names were penciled on the reverse.

Author:  Greg Freeman.  *Published June 19, 2006.

*Originally appearing in the Southern Exposure department, this article was relocated to the Cotton States Archive section on May 16, 2012 where its vintage photographs and reminiscences are more appropriate.

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