Dan Hornsby

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Dan Hornsby
Dan Hornsby.jpg
Background information
Birth nameIssac 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
Instrumentsvocals, trumpet, piano
Years active1919–1951
LabelsColumbia Records, Bluebird Records

Issac Daniel Hornsby (1 February 1900 – 18 May 1951) was an American singer songwriter, musician, recording artist, producer and arranger, studio engineer, band leader & band member. Discovered talent as A&R man with Columbia Records, and radio personality.

Before career[edit]

Wife Louise
Granddaughter Nikki Hornsby (also a lifelong singer songwriter musician)

His father Joseph Todd Hornsby[1] was a contractor and a part-time Baptist minister.[2]

Dan Hornsby (Issac Daniel) was born in Atlanta and later he was very proud of his first born son, Joseph Thomas, who attended North Georgia College. Earlier at the age of 19 Dan worked as a painter with the W.E. Browne Decorating Co. in Columbus, Georgia when he met Louise Wise of Little Rock, Arkansas. She sang and danced in a road show and they met at the hotel, which Hornsby was painting. They married and had five children. His oldest son, Joseph T., was a former US Marine pilot who married, Dorothea also a US Marine at Cherry Point Military Base in North Carolina. Joe then retired from military as a US Marine Corp Captain to work the rest of his life for the FAA Federal Aviation Administration US Federal government. They had children and a daughter Nikki Hornsby, who also became a full-time artist - singer, songwriter, musician, producer, arranger, and founder of CJP-NHRecords.

Beginning of career[edit]

After the marriage Louise quit the stage, but Dan drifted towards show business although he did not have any formal musical training. However, he enjoyed playing trumpet, piano, and singing with various dance bands in Atlanta in the 1920s. Hornsby formed his basic group Dan Hornsby Quartet: Perry Bechtel (banjo, guitar and bariton), Taylor Flanagan (piano and high tenor), Sterling Melvin (guitar and bass guitar) and Dan Hornsby (lead singer and arranger).

The Atlanta Baking Company asked Hornsby to do a show on WSM Radio in Atlanta, Georgia. The group name was changed to Bamby Baker Boys and Hornsby became the first commercial performer of the WSB radio station, which started airing in 1922. His pleasant disposition and sense of humor earned him a nickname "Cheerful Dan" "the man with the two octave voice". He discovered a great deal of American music talent like Bessie Smith and many others of that time for Columbia. He was a music engineer as well as producer of recorded music in Atlanta for Columbia Records being a popular singer songwriter and musician.

Main career[edit]

Hornsby's performance on radio was noticed by Columbia Records - the oldest record company. His main role was a sort of talent scout, but he had many roles at Columbia Records during the 1920s and early 1930s, including production of his own recordings like "On Mobile Bay" and "I Want A Girl" “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” or with Young Brothers Tennessee Band: "Are you from Dixie" and "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey, Bill Bailey, won't you please come home", "Oh! Susanna", "Little Brown Jug", and other classic American songs including a few original folk songs he wrote & sang for Columbia. For example, Dan Hornsby was the first recorded voice of the "Arkansas Traveler" and was the producer of the first recording of "You Are My Sunshine". His vocal style was pop to Americana novelty.

Hornsby worked with Gid Tanner and his group Skillet Lickers. Hornsby appeared usually in the role of city slicker, judge or sheriff, and he used the nickname Tom Dorsey.

On 28 August 1928 a building collapsed in Shelby, North Carolina killing six people and injuring twice as many.[3] Hornsby composed a song title Shelby Disaster:[2][4]

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

During the Great Depression this Hornsby song sold over 9,000 copies of his original song for Columbia Records. Together with Clayton McMichen Hornsby also wrote History in a few words[5] published in 1931 by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co.

In 1931 he recruited Alton and Rabon Delmore (later known as Delmore Brothers) for Columbia Records.


The Great Depression also affected the phonographic industry and Hornsby lost his job with Columbia Records despite selling over 9000 recordings of "The Shelby Disaster". He then went back to radio and worked with several stations including WGST, where his roles included announcer, continuity man and even a comic in programs like "Down to Unkle Zeke's".

For Bluebird Records, he sang with the big band of former Quartet guitarist Perry Bechtel, and he played Uncle Ned in a series of children's bedtime stories such as "Humpty Dumpty", "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod".

In 1939 he appeared in the first television broadcast in Atlanta. Later he joined RCA Victor Records and then moved to other stations like WATL and WCON.

In 1986 Dan Hornsby was included into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame, joining the names of some of his friends and associates: Gid Tanner, Clayton McMichen and Riley Puckett.

In 2013 Dan Hornsby was given a display in the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, CA, for the year-long Columbia Records 360 Sound event where his grand daughter, Nikki Hornsby, was invited for a private viewing with CJP-NHRecords staff.


Exhibition at The Grammy Museum related to Dan Hornsby Trio
Dan Hornsby (front row, second from left with a trumpet) with one of his bands
Skillet Lickers (without Hornsby)

During his career Hornsby both created or joined many music bands:

  • Dan Hornsby Trio
  • Dan Hornsby Novelty Quartet
  • Dan Hornsby Novelty Orchestra
  • Dan Hornsby & His Lion's Den Trio
  • Skillet Lickers
  • Young Brothers Tennessee Band
  • Bamby Baker Boys
  • Taylor Flanagan & His Trio
  • Georgia Organ Grinders.


Dan Hornsby during recording "Strolling Down The Lane"
Year[6][7] 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)
  • 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. ^ "Rex-Mclaurin - User Trees - Genealogy.com". familytreemaker.genealogy.com. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  2. ^ a b Bluegrass Unlimited, Jack Tottle, Dan Horsby, Jim Scancarelli, Hub Nitchie, August, 1989, p. 33-35
  3. ^ "Remember Cliffside". remembercliffside.com. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  4. ^ "Dan Hornsby - The Shelby Disaster : Dan Hornsby : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2009-06-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ http://honkingduck.com/discog/olds_search.php?cs=a&match=Hornsby&ctx=sV0&submit=Matching+Search
  7. ^ 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 2015-04-08.

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