Bailes Brothers

Listen to “Whiskey is the Devil in Liquid Form”

Bailes Brothers

Homer Bailes, 1922-2013, Kanawha County
Johnnie Bailes, 1918-1989, Kanawha County
Walter Bailes, 1920-2000, Kanawha County
Kyle O. Bailes, 1915-1996, Kanawha County

In 1944, the Bailes Brothers had the distinction of being the first West Virginia act to become regulars on the Grand Ole Opry. Prior to that, Johnnie and Red Sovine had played under the name of Smiley and Red, the Singing Sailors, and in 1939, Johnnie formed the Happy Valley Folks, which included Skeets Williamson, his sister LaVerne (who later became famous as Molly O’Day) and Little Jimmie Dickens (who was billed as the Singing Midget). During that time, the brothers worked in various combinations on West Virginia radio stations, notably WSAZ in Huntington, but also in Charleston, Bluefield, Beckley and Parkersburg.

In 1944, they traveled to WSM after being recommended by Roy Acuff whose company Acuff-Rose would publish their many original songs. In 1945, Johnnie and Walter began recording for Columbia where they recorded songs including “Dust on the Bible,” “I Want to Be Loved (But Only By You),” “I’ve Got My One Way Ticket to the Sky” and “Give Mother My Crown” (also recorded by Flatt & Scruggs) as well as the World War II classics “Searching for a Soldier’s Grave” and “Down Where the River Bends.” Over the next few years the Bailes Brothers recorded additional numbers for Columbia and also the King label.

In 1946, they relocated to KWKH in Shreveport, LA, where, along with Hank Williams, they became charter performers on the legendary Louisiana Hayride in 1948. By the latter part of 1949, the act had broken up, but various Bailes Brothers combinations continued to play together well into the late 1980s. In 1977, they recorded an LP which featured all four brothers and an older half-sister Minnie. At one time or another Johnnie, Walter and Homer all made solo recordings as well.

In June 8, 1983, the Bailes Brothers were inducted into the Walkway of Stars of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville, TN. Johnnie, Walter and Kyle attended the installation ceremony and reception. In 2002, Bear Family Records in Germany reissued all of the group’s Columbia material. Some of Johnnie and Homer’s transcriptions from KWKH are available on compact disc as well.