Remembering Johnny Wright (May 13, 1914 – September 27, 2011) and Jack Anglin (May 12, 1916 – March 7, 1963) were one of the great duet acts in country music. Under the billing of Johnnie & Jack, they were popular throughout the south-eastern United States for 25 years, often united in broadcasts and on tours with Wright’s wife, the singer Kitty Wells. In hit recordings such as Poison Love, Cryin’ Heart Blues and Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight, they spiced country music’s plain cooking with exotic dashes of Latin American music and black doo‑wop vocalising, yet for a decade they were valued cast members of the conservative Grand Ole Opry.
Wright was born into a farming family in the small town of Mount Juliet, east of Nashville. By his early 20s he was singing on one of the city’s radio stations, WSIX, with his sister Louise Wright and his new wife, Muriel Deason, for whom he had suggested the stage name Kitty Wells, drawn from the title of an old song. In 1938 he met Anglin, who had been working in a trio with his brothers Jim and Red, and who soon afterwards married Louise Wright.
This close-knit group spent the next five years on various south-eastern radio stations before Anglin was drafted into the military in 1943. Re-forming in 1946, Johnnie & Jack recorded for the King and Apollo labels and had a brief spell on the Grand Ole Opry before moving to a rival station, KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, where they participated in the first broadcast, in April 1948, of the Louisiana Hayride, a show that would prove hugely popular for many years.
Remembering Jack Anglin (May 12, 1916 – March 7, 1963) was an American country music singer best known as a member of the Anglin Brothers, and later Johnnie & Jack with Johnnie Wright. Anglin was born on a farm near Columbia, Tennessee.
He worked at a local hosiery mill and became acquainted with his future wife, Louise; and through her, her brother, Johnnie Wright. At the time Wright, his wife Murial (Kitty Wells) and Louise were regulars on WSIX-AM as Johnnie Wright And The Harmony Girls. When the Anglin Brothers disbanded in 1939, Anglin joined Johnnie Wright as Johnnie Wright and the Happy Roving Cowboys with Jack Anglin. In 1940, they became Johnnie & Jack, who enjoyed success as a vocal duo until Anglin’s death in 1963. The duo became members of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1940s. Anglin married Louise Wright in 1933; they were 17 and 16 years old respectively. Their 30-year marriage ended with Jack’s death on March 8, 1963. The couple had a son, Terry. Driving alone to attend a memorial service for Patsy Cline not far from his home, he rounded a bend in Madison, Tennessee at a high speed and died in the ensuing crash.
Remembering James Gideon “Gid” Tanner (June 6, 1885 – May 13, 1960) was an American old-time fiddler and one of the earliest stars of what would come to be known as country music. His band, the Skillet Lickers, was one of the most innovative and influential string bands of the 1920s and 1930s. Its most notable members were Clayton McMichen (fiddle and vocal), Dan Hornsby (vocals), Riley Puckett (guitar and vocal) and Robert Lee Sweat (guitar).
Tanner was born in Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, Georgia. He made a living as a chicken farmer for most of his life. He learned to play the fiddle at the age of 14 and quickly established a reputation as one of the finest musicians in Georgia. Early on, he participated in several fiddle conventions together with his rival Fiddlin’ John Carson; what one of them did not win, the other would. Tanner reportedly had a repertoire of more than 2000 songs. Dan Hornsby discovered talents as an A&R man for Columbia Records in the south and often engineered plus added vocals to recordings in Atlanta in the 20s.
Tanner and Puckett traveled to New York City in March 1924 to make the first of a series of duet recordings for Columbia Records. The first recording made with the Skillet Lickers was “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” recorded in Atlanta on April 17, 1926, when the country music scene in Atlanta rivaled Nashville’s. It was released by Columbia on a 78-rpm disc, backed with “Watermelon on the Vine”. In the next eight years, the group recorded more than 100 songs. In 1934, Tanner and Puckett re-formed the Skillet Lickers, and several of their recordings were released by Bluebird Records. Tanner stopped making records in 1934 but continued performing into his seventies. He died in Dacula, Georgia.
Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988. Following his death in 1960, Tanner’s grandson and great-grandson continued performing as the Skillet Lickers. His grandson Phil Tanner hosts an open jam session on Friday nights in a refurbished chicken house on his father’s old farm in Dacula, Georgia. Tanner’s great-grandson Levi Lowrey, also continues in his footsteps as a country music artist, songwriting for Zac Brown and featured on Southern Ground Records in a multi-album record deal.