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Homer and Jethro

"Jethro" (left) and "Homer"
Background information
Origin Knoxville, Tennessee
Genres Country, Parody
Years active 1932–1971
Labels King, RCA
Associated acts June Carter, Spike Jones, Chet Atkins
Former members
Henry D. Haynes
Kenneth C. Burns

Homer and Jethro were the stage names of American country music duo Henry D. Haynes (1920–1971) and Kenneth C. Burns (1920–1989), popular from the 1940s through the 1960s on radio and television for their satirical versions of popular songs. Known as the Thinking Man's Hillbillies, they received a Grammy in 1959 and are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Contents

History

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Early years

Haynes and Burns met in 1936 during a WNOX-AM audition in Knoxville, Tennesee when they were both 16 years old.[1] Known as Junior and Dude (pronounced "dood'-ee"), the pair was rechristened Homer (Haynes) and Jethro (Burns) when WNOX Program Director Lowell Blanchard forgot their nicknames during a 1936 broadcast. In 1939 they became regulars on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance radio program in Cincinnati, Ohio.

They were drafted into the US Army during World War II but served separately; they reunited in Knoxville in 1945, and returned to Cincinnati in 1947 and performed at WLW-AM on the station's Midwestern Hayride. They sang exaggerated hillbilly-styled versions of pop standards as their comedic hook, with Haynes on guitar and Burns on mandolin. They originally recorded for King Records, where they also worked as session musicians backing other artists until a dispute over song credits with label owner Syd Nathan led Nathan to release them from the label. The duo and other stars were fired by new management at WLW in 1948, and after a brief tour, they moved to Springfield, Missouri and performed on KWTO-AM with Chet Atkins, the Carter Family and Slim Wilson.[2]

Song satirists

Signed to the RCA Victor label in 1949, RCA's country A&R man Steve Sholes suggested they switch their comedy to singing parodies of country and pop hits. Most were penned by Burns, the humorist of the pair. Their parody of "Baby It's Cold Outside," recorded with June Carter, became a hit. The song's composer, Frank Loesser, gave them permission to parody the tune with the condition that the label read, "With apologies to Frank Loesser." It led to a spot on WLS-AM in Chicago in 1950, a tour with bandleader Spike Jones and a number of successful albums. They also served as backup musicians on a number of late 1940s and early 1950s RCA recordings by Chet Atkins and on many other RCA country sessions in Chicago and Nashville. Atkins was married to Burns' wife's sister.

They won a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance - Musical in 1959 for "The Battle of Kookamonga," their parody of Johnny Horton's hit "The Battle Of New Orleans." The majority of their recordings were similar parodies of famous old and new popular songs. One example was their treatment of the old romantic song "When You Wore A Tulip" (When you wore a Tulip--/A sweet yellow tulip--/and I wore a big red rose). While keeping that line of the chorus intact, the duo's version of its verse told of two lovers sleeping in a greenhouse, removing their clothes due to the heat and humidity, and then having to escape when the building caught fire. To cover their nakedness, the couple wore the flowers.

Later years

Over time, Homer and Jethro's patter became more sophisticated, giving them access to mainstream audiences on network television and in Las Vegas. In the 1960s they were hired as spokespersons and commercial personalities for Kellogg's Corn Flakes, their "Ooh! That's corny!" TV spots giving them exposure beyond country music audiences.

Both were also outstanding jazz musicians who were deeply influenced by the European gypsy string jazz of Django Reinhardt, a style that would influence their work until Haynes's death from a heart attack in 1971. Atkins produced many of their later RCA albums including two blazing instrumental jazz efforts: Playing It Straight and It Ain't Necessarily Square.

After Haynes' passing, Burns tried to maintain the duo with a new "Homer," guitarist Ken Eidson, but the effort was short-lived. Burns continued recording and performing solo and with Chicago folk singer Steve Goodman. He died in 1989 from prostate cancer.

Haynes and Burns were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Album discography

  • Homer and Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser (RCA)
  • Barefoot Ballads (RCA)
  • The Worst of Homer and Jethro (RCA)
  • Life Can be Miserable (RCA)
  • At the Country Club (RCA)
  • Songs My Mother Never Sang (RCA)
  • At the Convention (RCA)
  • Fractured Folk Songs (RCA)
  • Tenderly (RCA)
  • Zany Songs of the 30's (RCA)
  • Go West (RCA)
  • Old Crusty Minstrels (RCA)
  • Cool Crazy Christmas (RCA)
  • Something Stupid (RCA)
  • Wanted for Murder (RCA)
  • Ooh, That's Corny (RCA)
  • Cornfucius Say (RCA)
  • Nashville Cats (RCA)
  • Any News from Nashville? (RCA)
  • Live at Vanderbilt (RCA)
  • Homer and Jethro's Next Album (RCA)
  • The Far-Out World of Homer and Jethro (RCA)
  • Playing It Straight (RCA) (1962) (reissued on CD by RCA Japan) [jazz instrumentals]
  • It Ain't Necessarily Square (1965?) (reissued on CD by RCA Japan) [jazz instrumentals]
  • Songs for the Out Crowd"" (RCA) (1967)
  • America's Song Butchers: The Weird World of Homer and Jethro (Razor & Tie)
  • Homer and Jethro Assault the Rock 'n' Roll Era (Bear Family)

With the Nashville String Band

Singles

Year Single Peak chart positions
US Country[3] US[3]
1949 "I Feel That Old Age Creeping On" 14
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" (with June Carter) 9 22
"Tennessee Border—No. 2" 14
1953 "(How Much Is) That Hound Dog in the Window" 2 17
1954 "Hernando's Hideaway" 14
1959 "The Battle of Kookamonga" 26 14
1964 "I Want to Hold Your Hand" 49

Notes

  1. ^ "Homer and Jethro". Country Music Hall of Fame. 2001. http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com/site/inductees.aspx?cid=128. Retrieved 2009-09-10.  
  2. ^ Stambler, Irwin; Landon, Grelun; Stambler, Lyndon (2000), Country Music: the Encyclopedia, MacMillan, ISBN 0312264879  .
  3. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 192. ISBN 0-89820-177-2.  

References

External links


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