Charlie Bailey

Half of the Bailey Brothers bluegrass duo who won a cult following
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Charles Bailey, singer, guitarist and mandolin player: born Happy Valley, Tennessee 9 February 1916; married (one son, two daughters); died Bear, Delaware 12 March 2004.

The Bailey Brothers, Charlie and Danny, were a guitar-mandolin duo who first emerged in the 1930s and went on to enjoy a 40-year career. The first act to record the country standards "The Sweetest Gift" and "Alabama", they successfully fused Bluegrass and Old-Timey sounds and developed a cult following.

Raised in the musically fertile Clinch Mountain area of Tennessee, the brothers came from a family renowned locally for its gospel-singing traditions. In 1936 Charlie made his professional début, playing alongside Charlie Cope of the Cope Brothers, and then teamed with Danny. Together they appeared on a clutch of local radio stations before, in 1940, heading to Knoxville where a local entrepreneur, Cas Walker, sponsored them on a number of shows on WNOX and WROL.

In 1941 Charlie was drafted into the army, an event that prevented him from attending a potentially important audition for Bluebird Records. It was left to Danny to develop the act, something he did by forming the Happy Valley Boys and, in 1944, joining the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1946 Charlie was discharged and, a year later, he and his brother finally got a chance to record, cutting eight sides for Rich-R-Tone, including "Rattlesnake Daddy", "I Will Never Marry" and "Happy Valley Special".

In 1949 the Baileys moved to WPTF Raleigh, in North Carolina, and brought the fiddler Tater Tate into the Happy Valley Boys' line-up. The addition of Tate and the banjo player Hoke Jenkins enabled the Brothers to adopt a more driving sound that owed much to the pioneering work of Bill Monroe. Over the next three years they recorded a series of sides for their own Canary Records and, in 1952, relocated to Wheeling, West Virginia, where they became stars of WWVA's famed Jamboree.

Health problems on Danny's part forced the act to split in the mid-Fifties, but Charlie continued to tour, record and make radio appearances. In 1960 he retired from music to run a pest-control business in Delaware. On occasion, however, he and his brother were reunited on stage, for example representing Tennessee at the Smithsonian Institution during the Bicentennial celebrations of 1976.

They were also persuaded to return to the studio, recording a pair of albums, Take Me Back to Happy Valley (1975) and Just as the Sun Went Down (1980), for Rounder Records.

Paul Wadey

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