Part 2: The People Who Made the Music
Interview with Craig Maki about new book on Detroit country music.
Published: December 10, 2013
Maki: Not only is it a regional study, but people who read the book will find that it has to do with the greater tradition of country music. There’s a lot of history that we found by investigating these fellows that worked and settled in Detroit that they participated elsewhere in the country. And Chief Redbird is one of them. He was born in 1899 in Oklahoma Territory, before Oklahoma became a state, and wound up working with Otto Gray’s Oklahoma Cowboys during the ’20s and ’30s, and then wound up in Detroit doing his own shows and working in radio. I think when the war came around, he was working in a metal shop, but he continued entertaining until the end of his days in the ’70s.
MT: And that leads into another facet of Detroit hillbilly music, Tazewell, Tenn. A lot of guys came up here from this tiny little area in eastern Tennessee called Tazewell, and Joyce Songer was from eastern Tennessee, and later teamed up with one of these guys, Rufus Shoffner, and made a lot of great records with him. He’s kind of a towering, unique figure in Detroit country music as well. These guys all knew each other down there in Tennessee and they followed each other to Detroit.
Maki: And a lot of people came up from that area to Monroe, specifically. It’s interesting to go back and listen to some of these histories, because a lot of people from certain parts of the country would come up to specific places. A lot of people from Arkansas wound up in Pontiac. Whole families would come up, or people who knew each other in the same little towns would come up and create a new community up here in southeast Michigan.
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