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Dan Hornsby

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Dan Hornsby
Background information
Birth nameIsaac Daniel Hornsby
Born(1900-02-01)February 1, 1900
OriginAtlanta, Georgia, US
DiedMay 18, 1951(1951-05-18) (aged 51)
GenresFolk music, pop music, jazz, Americana music
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, producer, musician, recording artist
Instrument(s)vocals, trumpet, piano
Years active1919–1951
LabelsColumbia Records, RCA Victor, Bluebird Records

Isaac Daniel (Dan) Hornsby (February 18, 1900 – May 18, 1951) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, recording artist, producer and arranger, studio engineer, band leader, artists and repertoire (A&R) man with Columbia Records, and radio personality.[1]

Hornsby began performing in the 1920s, and over the years, he formed or backed up bands. He often played multiple roles, from an idea for a song, to when it was produced. His songs were a combination of country and folk music. Hornsby acquired country, folk, and blues talent for Columbia Records and MGM, including Bessie Smith and Hank Williams.

The Grammy Museum had a display of his music archive artifacts for Columbia Records in 2013. Hornsby was inducted into the Atlanta Music Hall of Fame in 1986.

Personal life[edit]

Wife Louise (Wise) Hornsby
Granddaughter Nikki Hornsby, a singer-songwriter

Hornsby was born in Georgia on February 18, 1900.[2][3] His parents were Anna May Todd Hornsby, born in Kentucky, and Joe T. Hornsby, a painter born in Georgia.[3] His father was a contractor and a part-time Baptist minister.[4] Dan Hornsby spent most of his childhood in Atlanta, GA where he lived in 1910[5] with his parents and two younger sisters, Helen and Cynthia.[3] Joseph Thomas Hornsby, Dan Hornsby’s first born of five children, registered for the draft at age 18 and was a student at North Georgia College. He lived in Fulton County, Georgia, at that time.[2][5]

At 19, Dan Hornsby worked as a painter with the W.E. Browne Decorating Co. in Columbus, Georgia, and while painting a hotel, met Louise Wise of Little Rock, Arkansas. She sang and danced.[5] They married about 1920[5] and had three daughters and two sons.[6] Their children were Joseph, Dorothy, Helen, Robert, and Silvia.[7] Hornsby died on May 18, 1951,[6][8] and was buried at the Crest Lawn Cemetery in Upper Westside, Atlanta.[9]

Nikki Hornsby, Dan Hornsby's granddaughter, became a singer and songwriter in the late 20th and early 21st century. She inherited her grandfather's music archive after her parents died and has worked to keep the memory of his music career alive.[1]



Dan Hornsby (front row, second from left with a trumpet) with one of his bands
Skillet Lickers (without Hornsby)

Hornsby entered show business in the 1920s.[5] He formed the Dan Hornsby Quartet with Perry Bechtel, Taylor Flanagan, and Sterling Melvin.[10]

Of the performers:

  • Perry Bechtel played the bariton, banjo, and guitar[10]
  • Taylor Flanagan was a high tenor and played the piano[10]
  • Dan Hornsby, the lead singer, played trumpet and piano, and was the arranger[5][10]
  • Sterling Melvin played the bass guitar, guitar, and was a tenor banjoist[10][11]

The quartet became a trio in 1927 when Perry Bechtel left the group. The trio played on a WSB (AM) program in Atlanta.[11]

Besides his quartet and trio, Hornsby created or joined Skillet Lickers, Young Brothers Tennessee Band, Georgia Organ Grinders, Lowe Stokes and His North Georgians,[5] and Bamby Baker Boys.[10]


In 1922, Atlanta's WSM Radio went on air, making Bamby Baker Boys, Hornsby's group, the first commercial performers on the station.[10] In the 1920s and 1930s, Hornsby was a radio announcer in Atlanta.[8] He had his own program, sponsored by a bakery, on Atlanta's WSM Radio station where he acquired the nickname "Cheerful Dan". He sang in two octaves and had speaking roles under the name "Tom Dorsey" for drama shows. He also often wrote the scripts and performed for recordings with Gid Tanner and the Skillet-Lickers for Columbia Records.[5]

Talent scout[edit]

Hornsby began his career as a talent scout with Columbia Records, RCA Victor Records and then worked for MGM, during which he looked for talented performers — often in the country and blues genres — and signed those he chose to a contract.[1] Hornsby discovered Hank Williams for MGM[1] and Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers,[1][5] Riley Puckett, Bessie Smith, Clarence Ashley, and Charlie Poole at Columbia.[1] In 1931, he recruited Alton and Rabon Delmore (later known as Delmore Brothers) for Columbia Records.[5]

He recruited African American musicians, including Robert Hicks, a blues singer who played the guitar.[5] Hornsby, who met Hicks at a barbecue restaurant, named him "Barbecue Bob" and used an image of Hicks in a chef's apron and hat, by a barbecue pit of roasting pork for marketing.[5] He had white bands and performers in recording sessions with Black musicians, which was highly unusual at that time in the South.[5]

Williams in a promotional photo for WSM in 1951
Bessie Smith by Carl Van Vechten in 1936


Dan Hornsby during recording "Strolling Down The Lane"

Columbia selected a producer to record his songs, like "Dear Old Girl" and "O, Susanna". By 1931, he and his band recorded more than two dozen sides.[5] "Arkansas Traveler" was first recorded with Hornsby's voice.[10]

He then produced his recordings, such as "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", "I Want A Girl", and "You Are My Sunshine", for its inaugural recording.[10] He produced recordings with the Young Brothers Tennessee Band, like "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey" and "Little Brown Jug".[10]


He wrote, sang, and produced a few original folk songs for Columbia.[12]

On August 28, 1928, a building collapsed in Shelby, North Carolina, killing six people and injuring twice as many.[13] Hornsby composed a song, "Shelby Disaster":[1][4][14]

Let the tears of fond remembrance,
flow gently, full and free;
Let all who read my story,
extend their sympathy.

But the whispering hope of ages,
with true ambition shod,
leaps forth with reconstruction,
for hope is part of God.

And remember there's a city,
whose streets should be our goal,
where buildings never crumble,
that city of the soul.

— Dan Hornsby, The Shelby Disaster[1]

Great Depression and radio[edit]

The Great Depression (1929–1939) affected the phonographic industry, and Hornsby lost his job with Columbia Records despite selling over 9,000 copies of "The Shelby Disaster". Together with Clayton McMichen, Hornsby wrote History in a few words[1][15] published in 1931 by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co.[16]

Exhibition at The Grammy Museum related to Dan Hornsby Trio

He returned to radio and worked with several stations, including WGST and WSB, where he was a scriptwriter, announcer, and entertainer until his death.[5] For Bluebird Records, he played Uncle Ned in a series of children's bedtime stories[5] and sang with the big band of Perry Bechtel.[17] In 1934, he joined RCA Victor Records.[5]

Award and honor[edit]

In 1986, Hornsby was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame,[10] joining some of his friends and associates: Gid Tanner, Clayton McMichen, and Riley Puckett.[18]

In 2013, Hornsby was given a display for the Columbia Records display in the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, California, for one year. Other artifacts were donated by his granddaughter, Nikki Hornsby, including records, posters, and recordings of Bessie Smith, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, and others.[10]


Year[19][20] Songs
  • Are You From Dixie
  • Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home
  • Dear Old Girl (Columbia 15769D)
  • The Banquet In Misery Hall
  • Cubanola Glide (Columbia 1268D)
  • Oh! Susanna (Columbia 1268D)
  • On Mobile Bay (Columbia 15276D)
  • I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad) (Columbia 15276D)
  • Goodbye Alexander
  • Oceana Roll
  • The Shelby Disaster (Columbia 15321D)
  • The Story Of C.S. Barnes (Columbia 15321D)
  • She Was Bred In Old Kentucky (Columbia 15381D)
  • Can't Yo' Hear Me Callin' Caroline (Columbia 15381D)
  • Ho! By Jingo (Columbia 1637D)
  • Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? (Columbia 1637D)
  • Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight (Columbia 15578D)
  • I'm Sorry I Made You Cry (Columbia 15578D)
  • Arkansas Traveler Part 1 (with Clayton McMichen, Columbia 15253D)
  • Arkansas Traveler Part 2 (with Clayton McMichen, Columbia 15253D)
Take Me Out To The Ball Game
  • The Vamp
  • Take Me Out To The Ball Game (Columbia 15444D)
  • Hinky Dinky Dee (Columbia 15444D)
  • Wynkyn, Blynkyn and Nod (Victor BS-037380)
  • All Alone
  • Lovin' Henry
  • Old Weary Blues
  • Four Thousand Years Ago
  • A Night In A Blind Tiger
  • History In A Few Words (Columbia 15628D)
  • The Lunatic's Lullaby (Columbia 15628D)
  • Katinka
  • A Sailor's Sweetheart (Columbia 15771D)
  • Three Blind Mice (Columbia 15771D)
  • So This Is Venice
  • Whoa, Mule, Whoa
  • Hinkey-Dinkey-Dee
  • Prosperity And Politics
  • Practice Night With The Skillet Lickers
  • I Found You Among The Roses
  • Little Brown Jug
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • Strolling Down The Lane


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "She wants Grandpa in hall of fame". The Charlotte Observer. February 12, 2003. p. 67.
  2. ^ a b "Isaac Daniel Hornsby", World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives and Records Administration, Imaged from Family History Library microfilm – via ancestry.com
  3. ^ a b c "Isaac D Hornsby, Fort Worth, Texas", 1910 Federal Census, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1910 – via ancestry.com
  4. ^ a b Bluegrass Unlimited, Jack Tottle, Dan Hornsby, Jim Scancarelli, Hub Nitchie, August, 1989, p. 33-35
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ward, Brian; Huber, Patrick (2018). A & R Pioneers. Nashville: County Music Foundation Press, Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 128–131. ISBN 978-0-8265-2175-0.
  6. ^ a b "Daniel Hornsby obituary". The Atlanta Constitution. May 19, 1951. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  7. ^ "Isaac D Hornsby, Fort Worth, Texas", 1940 Federal Census, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 – via ancestry.com
  8. ^ a b DePriest, Joe (February 12, 2003). "Granddaughter extols legacy of country music pioneer". The Charlotte Observer.
  9. ^ "Dan Hornsby obituary". Atlanta Constitution. May 22, 1951. p. 29.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bridges, Jackie (February 27, 2013). "Musician who wrote song about 1928 Shelby Disaster recognized by Grammy Museum".
  11. ^ a b "WSB Programs". The Atlanta Constitution. October 6, 1927. Retrieved June 28, 2023.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Minton, John (October 8, 2009). 78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South. University Press of Mississippi1-60473-327-6. pp. 169, 256. ISBN 9781604733273.
  13. ^ "Remember Cliffside". remembercliffside.com. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  14. ^ "Dan Hornsby - The Shelby Disaster: Dan Hornsby: Free Download & Streaming: Internet Archive". Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  15. ^ "3797441a227: History in a few words". Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  16. ^ Library of Congress (1959). Catalog of Copyright entries. p. 677.
  17. ^ Storyville: Issues 73-86. United Kingdom: Storyville Publications. 1977. p. 167.
  18. ^ Georgia Music Hall of Fame. "Georgia Music Hall of Fame Collection, Series 1: Administrative Files". Special Collections Library, University Libraries, University of Georgia. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  19. ^ http://honkingduck.com/discog/olds_search.php?cs=a&match=Hornsby&ctx=sV0&submit=Matching+Search
  20. ^ Russell, T.; Pinson, B. (2004). Country Music Records : A Discography, 1921-1942: A Discography, 1921-1942. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 442. ISBN 9780198032045. Retrieved April 8, 2015.

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