Hobart and Hugh, Ashley’s Melody Men and Brenda Lee

Thoughts on Sunday’s Rockwood Club posting continues, but it takes a little bit of a turn. Featured was a recording by Mike McAlister, who was one of many musicians locally and nationally to perform at Fayetteville’s legendary club. He also recorded on a Harrison label known as Hob Nob Records. Readers posted comments that the label was owned by Hugh Ashley, a musician and songwriter whose work was recorded by the likes of Porter Wagoner, Bill Monroe and Brenda Lee. Ashley also owned a music store that lasted many decades and served as Harrison mayor and a state representative. The Arkansas Times did an interesting write-up when Hugh Ashley died in 2008 at the age of 93. The article can be found here.

The Ashley family were interesting figures in Ozark music. Hugh Ashley was born between the Ozark towns of Marshall and Leslie in Searcy County. His father, Hobart Ashley, was a musician in a string band known as Ashley’s Melody Men and recorded for Victor (see video above), which featured other members of the family, including Hugh. Hugh’s musical journey included going to California as a teenager to seek a career in the music business, a stint in the military and returning to the Ozarks, this time Harrison, to settle and raise a family. He had a radio show on local station KHOZ where he picked and sang, often inviting others to perform alongside him. In addition to running a music store, he wrote songs. One of them, “One Step at a Time,” was singer Brenda Lee’s first hit song. It reached No. 15 on Billboard’s country music chart in 1957.

Though Hobart and Hugh Ashley are no longer here, their music can be found all over the Internet. Here is a rockin’ little number that helped establish Hugh Ashley as a capable songwriter as well as put Brenda Lee on the map:

5 thoughts on “Hobart and Hugh, Ashley’s Melody Men and Brenda Lee”

  1. Very cool. I love that you follwoed the trail and came up with this. Growing up in fayetteville when I did, the idea of a record label coming out of Harrison seems…odd.

    1. Part of the challenge here is to find out what existed beyond Fayetteville, the largest city in the Ozarks. I hope, as readership grows, people will be able to share where the music was in places like Harrison, Eureka Springs, Batesville, Mountain Home or wherever the music trail leads, as long as it’s in the Arkansas Ozarks. (A great deal has been documented in the Delta, which served as an inspiration to get something going in the Ozarks. It boasts two music trails at the moment and, perhaps, something like that could someday occur here in there Ozarks.) A lot has been documented on Ozark folk music, thanks to the likes of Mary Celestia Parler, John Quincy Wolf, Alan Lomax, Vance Randolph, etc. The goal here is to keep alive music from the 20th century, which is quickly fading from people’s memories.

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