Smokey Mayfield

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Arlie Vincent "Smokey" Mayfield, I
Born (1924-06-20)June 20, 1924
Dawn, Deaf Smith County, Texas, USA
Died September 11, 2008(2008-09-11) (aged 84)
Hutchinson County, near Spearman, Texas
Nationality American
Occupation Rancher; Musician
Spouse(s) Mary Keenum Mayfield (born 1934; married 1951 – his death)
Children

James Clinton Mayfield
Freddie Calvin Mayfield
Cynthia Arlece Knox
Harriett Palmer

Loretta Diane Reed
Notes

(1) Mayfield was a persistent bluegrass musician primarily in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas honored for his achievements by South Plains College.

(2) Mayfield played his fiddle in Lubbock and Amarillo as a warmup act for appearances by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Maddox Brothers and Rose, and Hank Snow.

(3) Mayfield was a ranch supervisor in Hutchinson County near Spearman for more than a half-century.

(4) According to his wife, Mayfield had "perfect pitch", could not read music, never had a music lesson, but could play anything he heard.

(5) The Mayfield Brothers inspired the later generation of musicians from West Texas, including Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings.

Arlie Vincent Mayfield, I (June 20, 1924 – September 11, 2008), known as Smokey Mayfield, was a ranch supervisor in the Texas Panhandle and a bluegrass musician. In the late 1940s, Mayfield and his brothers played warmup for Tennessee Ernie Ford, Maddox Brothers and Rose, Hank Snow, and other country singers.

Mayfield was born to William Fletcher Mayfield (died 1952) and the former Penelope Drake (died 1937) in rural Dawn in Deaf Smith County southwest of Amarillo. In January 1931, he moved with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters to Dimmitt, the county seat of Castro County near Lubbock in West Texas, where he attended school, having left high school before graduation. He served in the United States Army in the European Theater of World War II and participated, at the age of 20, in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in December 1944 – January 1945. [1]

A family of musicians[edit]

The Mayfields possessed a strong musical background. All played musical instruments, beginning with the mandolin. Mayfield and two brothers, Thomas Edward "Edd" Mayfield (1926–1958) and Herbert E. Mayfield (1920–2008), went on the Bluegrass circuit and opened in Amarillo and Lubbock for Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Maddox Brothers and Rose as the Green Valley Boys, named for their ranch. Edd Mayfield left the family band and played the guitar with a thumbpick for a decade with Bill Monroe, considered the "father of Bluegrass". Edd Mayfield was described as "a handsome, tough-as-barbed-wire cowpuncher, who literally grew up on a ranch, who could ride hard, lasso accurately, and literally toss and tie up a bull … and had the wiry strength of a gymnast."[2] While he was on tour with Monroe, Edd Mayfield died of leukemia in a hospital in Bluefield, West Virginia.[3]

Herb Mayfield recalled that he and his brothers enjoyed music so much that they would race home after doing their ranch chores so that they could practice.[1] Eventually, Smokey chose the fiddle as his instrument. He was, however, too small to hold a full-sized instrument under his chin. So he anchored the fiddle between his chest and the wall of the barn. He continued to play in that position, with the fiddle on his chest rather than under his chin, into adulthood.[3]

Smokey Mayfield resided in Hutchinson County near Spearman, which is the seat of Hansford County in the northern Panhandle. He and worked for a half century for the historic Turkey Track Ranch in Hutchinson County.[1] Herb Mayfield was born in Erick, Oklahoma, but lived in Dimmitt and graduated from Dimmitt High School. During World War II, he participated in troop lifts in Normandy and, like Smokey, the Battle of the Bulge. Thereafter, he was a welder for cattle feedlots in Dimmitt. He was for many years the president of the Dimmitt Rodeo Association and a member of the Panhandle Blue Grass Association. He died some three months prior to the passing of Smokey.[4]

Extended family[edit]

In 1951, Smokey Mayfield married the former Mary Keenum (born August 5, 1934), originally from Hale Center in Hale County. The couple met while Smokey was playing Bluegrass in Lubbock. They wed in Cleburne in Johnson County in east central Texas. Mary formerly operated a flower shop. Mayfield died of a heart attack at home after fighting a long battle against neuropathy. He was Baptist, but services were held at his wife's congregation, the Church of Christ in Spearman. Interment, with military honors, was at Hansford Cemetery in Spearman.

In addition to Mary, he was survived by two sons, James Clinton "Clint" Mayfield (born February 28, 1952), a United States Postal Service employee in Amarillo, and wife Eileen N. Mayfield (also born 1952), and Freddie Calvin Mayfield (born December 28, 1949) and wife Janice W. Mayfield (born 1955) of Spearman; three daughters, Cynthia Arlece Knox and husband Ted of Stinnett, the seat of Hutchinson County, Loretta Diane Reed and husband Roy of Chickaloon, Alaska, and Harriett Palmer and husband Charlie of Pleasanton in Atascosa County near San Antonio, and nine grandchildren, including namesake Arlie Vincent Mayfield, II (born 1988), a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; 14 great-grandchildren; and one brother, James F. "Jim" Mayfield (born 1917), a retired rancher from Playas in Hidalgo County in southwestern New Mexico. Fred Mayfield, a ranch manager himself, was actually the birth son of Edd Mayfield and his wife, the former Jo McLain, since Jo Butler of Atwater, California, but Fred was reared by Smokey and Mary Mayfield after the sudden death of his father.[1]

Mayfield's legacy[edit]

On May 6, 1989, Smokey and Herb Mayfield were honored by South Plains College, a community college in Levelland, the seat of Hockley County west of Lubbock, as "Pioneers of Bluegrass Music in the South Plains." They received plaques and belt buckles as "Honorary Bill Monroe Bluegrass Boys". The two played for decades in regional music festivals. Edd’s son, Fred Mayfield, joined his uncles for the occasion.[3] The Mayfields are also honored through the Mayfield Bluegrass Scholarship at South Plains College, 1401 S. College Avenue, Levelland, TX 79336.[1]

Mary Mayfield said that her husband "had perfect pitch, never had a music lesson, and couldn't read music, but he could play anything he heard." His last Bluegrass jamboree was in Amarillo in 1992. He also played in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, and Nashville, Tennessee in a reunion concert with Bill Monroe.[5]

The radio performances and personal appearances of the Mayfield Brothers in West Texas inspired Waylon Jennings, Sonny Curtis, and Buddy Holly of a later generation of musicians.[3] The International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, is preparing a documentary on the Mayfield family.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Obituary of Smokey Mayfield, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, September 14, 2008:
  2. ^ Richard Smith (27 April 2009). Can't You Hear Me Calling: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass. Da Capo Press, Incorporated. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-0-7867-3116-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d Joe Carr and Allan Munde, “The Mayfield Boys”, Hansford County Reporter-Statesman, undated
  4. ^ a b Obituary of Herbert E. Mayfield, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, June 1, 2008
  5. ^ Statement of Mary K. Mayfield, September 21, 2008