The Willis Brothers

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The Willis Brothers
Also known asOklahoma Wranglers
OriginOklahoma, United States
LabelsStarday
Past membersJames Willis
Charles Willis
John Willis
Joe Willis
Webb Cardwell

The Willis Brothers were an American country music ensemble from Oklahoma, consisting of several brothers.

Group history[edit]

Early touring[edit]

Two of the Willis brothers (James, Charles) and Webb "Robber Baron" Cardwell, played together as teenagers from the early 1930s under the name Oklahoma Wranglers.[1] They were regulars on Shawnee, Oklahoma station KGFF through the decade,[1] but in 1939, Joe married and exited the group.[2] In 1958, Webb left the group and John (Vic) joined,[2] and soon after the group moved to Kansas City, where they appeared on the Brush Creek Follies through 1942.[1] All three members fought in World War II separately, preventing them from continuing as a group until war's end, but in 1946 they reunited and played the Grand Ole Opry.[1] They became members of the Opry in the 1940s.[3] Signing with Sterling Records,[2] they began recording both as the Oklahoma Wranglers, and as a backing band for Hank Williams.[2]

Later career[edit]

In 1949, the group left the Opry and toured nationally with Eddy Arnold through 1957.[1] They also performed in the films Feuding Rhythm and Hoe Down.[1] Following this they dropped the Wranglers name and became the Willis Brothers, and under this name recorded copiously for the labels Mercury, Coral, RCA, and Starday.[2] In 1964, they released the single "Give Me Forty Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)", which became a Top Ten country hit in the United States.[1] They were the first country music ensemble to perform at the Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.[1]

End[edit]

After the deaths of two of the brothers, Skeeter and Guy, the Vic Willis Trio was formed with C.W. Mitchell and Curtis Young debuting on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in November, 1980. The Vic Willis Trio remained a fixture on the Opry until 1995, when Vic died in a car crash near the Meriwether Lewis Park and Monument on the Natchez Trace, at age 73.[2]

Members[edit]

  • James "Guy" Willis – vocals, guitar (July 5, 1915 – April 13, 1981)[1]
  • Charles "Skeeter" Willis – fiddle, vocals (December 20, 1917 – March 1976)[1]
  • John Victor "Vic" Willis – accordion, piano, vocals (May 31, 1922[1] – January 15, 1995)[4][5]
  • Joe Willis – guitar
  • Webb Cardwell "Robber Baron" – accordion, piano, vocals

Vic Willis[edit]

Vic Willis was known as a practical prankster and loved a good joke, and was well known for those attributes during his time at the Grand Ole Opry. He served not only as accordionist for the Willis brothers' group, but also served as secretary-treasurer for the Musicians' Union in Nashville for many years.

Vic Willis served an unusual role in the Grand Ole Opry cast during the period throughout the period from the early 1960s through the 1980s, producing and recording commercial jingles from his home recording studio, recording hundreds of commercials featuring country artists and others, for local Nashville and national sponsors, such as Big Star Stores, Kellogg's (for which they also performed live commercial jingles on the Grand Ole Opry when they were in town), Fender Musical Instruments, Acme Boots, Lava Soap, Luzianne Coffee, Levy's Men's Wear, and others.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Album Label
1962 In Action Starday
1963 Code of the West
1965 Give Me Forty Acres
Road Stop
1966 Wild Side of Life
Goin' to Town
1967 Bob
1968 Hey Mr. Truck Driver
1969 Bummin' Around
1970 The Best
1971 For the Good Times

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1964 "Give Me Forty Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)" 9 1 Give Me Forty Acres
1965 "A Six Foot Two by Four" 41 Road Stop
1967 "Bob" 14 Bob
"Somebody Knows My Dog" 62 single only

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 456. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Willis Brothers | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  3. ^ "Opry Timeline -1940s". Opry.com. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
  4. ^ "Vic Willis | Artist Bio". Countrymusichalloffame.org. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  5. ^ "Vic Willis; Accordionist, 72". Nytimes.com. January 19, 1995. Retrieved August 12, 2021.