Moments in Bluegrass BG75 #7 – Foggy Mountain Boys on TV

Following an invitation that the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) extended to its members that they share a memory from “75 years of bluegrass”, we thought that we would collect a few to share with you. 

Beginning in February 1981 when she started working with Sugar Hill Records, Penny Parsons has spent almost 40 years involved in bluegrass music, with roles in marketing and promotional work, as a publicist (at MerleFest and Rebel Records), in sales (at Record Depot and  C-15 Distribution), and as a Director of Public Relations at The Virginia Museum of Radio Entertainment. Concurrent with some of those she has run her own business that also included production and management. She is the co-author of The Bluegrass Music Cookbook (1997) and has contributed many articles to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. 

Penny Parsons has two IBMA awards – for Recorded Event of the Year (as producer) for the Classic Country Gents Reunion album (1990) and for the excellent Curly Seckler biography, Foggy Mountain Troubadour (Print Media Person of the Year, 2016), the high point in her career …….. 

Wednesday, February 2, 1955 was the first time that Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys appeared on their own television program. The live show aired weekly on WSAZ-TV in Huntington, West Virginia, from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m., and was sponsored by Martha White Mills.

Within weeks after this first appearance, the Foggy Mountain Boys had begun doing live programs in Knoxville, Johnson City, and Jackson, Tennessee. Over the next year and a half, they added Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Florence, South Carolina. Soon they were traveling a 2,500-mile circuit every week to perform live on TV, until they were finally able to record their programs at WSM-TV in Nashville for distribution in multiple markets.

Although there were many factors that contributed to the tremendous success of Flatt & Scruggs, television is certainly one of the most significant. TV gave them unprecedented exposure and name recognition and helped make them the most successful bluegrass band of their time.  

Before I Met You was recorded on January 23, 1955 at Castle Studio, The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Avenue North, Nashville, – Lester Flatt (vocals/guitar), Earl Scruggs (vocals/banjo) and The Foggy Mountain Boys – Curly Seckler (vocals/mandolin), Paul Warren (fiddle), Jake Tullock (bass) – with Eddie Hill (rhythm guitar). 

This TV recording features Josh Graves …

You Can Feel It In Your Soul was recorded at the same session. The video clip is thought to be from a 1956 Martha White Show

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.