The Black Brothers Biography

The Black Brothers, Bobby (born - Prescott, Arizona - 1934) and Larry (born - Inglewood, California - 1936) were raised in Tucson, Arizona and later grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California in the Forties.

The profusion of western bands playing in the Los Angeles area during that time, with premier musicians like Joaquin Murphey, Noel Boggs, Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant, etc. influenced and inspired Bobby to take up the steel guitar and Larry the standard guitar at an early age.

Barely in their teens, they embarked on musical careers that have now spanned over five decades. They eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay Area where, working as a team, they played regularly on radio and television shows while still going to school.

It was during this period that Hank Williams offered Larry a job with The Drifting Cowboys. Only 16 at the time, Larry turned Hank down, explaining sadly, "my mom won't let me." A short time later, Patsy Cline made him the same offer, but Larry's mom, Ruth, still wouldn't hear of it.

In the early days, many country western artists did not travel with their bands, so as a team, The Black Brothers backed up many stars of the day on radio and television broadcasts, at dances and fairs. Their band also played some New Year's Day shows at San Quentin Prison along with Johnny Cash, Trini Lopez, Rowan and Martin, and others.

After graduating from high school, Bobby was the first to go on the road. Joining Blackie Crawford and the Western Cherokees (which later became The Cherokee Cowboys) in Oklahoma City, Bobby toured with Webb Pierce at the height of his popularity, played "battle dances" with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and Hank Thompson and The Brazos Valley Boys. After relocating to Beaumont, Texas, Bobby played on many of the early Starday Records including the No. 1 hit, "Y'all Come."

Returning to California in the mid-50's, he reunited with Larry to form The West Coast All-Stars - a western swing band that featured Pee Wee Whitewing (who had recently left Hank Thompson) and former Texas Playboy/Brazos Valley Boy Jack Greenback. Pee Wee's wife, Doye Ann, and Joan Blackman (Blackman later co-starred with Elvis in some of his movies) shared the spotlight as vocalists. The West Coast All-Stars was a great band with a weekly radio show, but the end of the Swing Era was at hand and, sadly, it all came to an end.

By this time, Bobby and Larry had families. Focusing on television and studio work, they opened their own recording studio and counted among their many clients Sammi Smith, Stoney Edwards, Sonny Throckmorton, and Cy Coben. The brothers, recording under various group names, were signed as artists with several major recording companies, and enjoyed some success. With Jack Greenback on drums, their very first endeavor, as The Triplets, hit the Top 40 charts with a steel guitar instrumental called "Gently, My Love" (Dore Records) - a "new" sound at the time. In the early 60's, as The Five Whispers, they again made it onto the charts with "Midnight Sun." It was a double-sided hit in some areas with its flip side, "Moon In the Afternoon" (Dolton/Liberty Records).

Rarely using their real names as recording artists, The Black Brothers continued to perform and record as The Tides (Dore Records), The U.S. Six (United Artists Records), The Green Beans, Kleen Green (MGM Records), and The Country Cut-Ups (Mercury Records). One of the few recordings as The Black Brothers was a collaboration with long-time friend and fellow musician, Hoyet Henry, on Little Darlin' Records.

In 1970, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen cut their second album at the brothers' studio and persuaded Bobby to join the group, and he went on the road again. For the next several years, Bobby toured and recorded with the Airmen, as well as Asleep At The Wheel, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Doug Sahm. His travels took him through the 50 states, Europe, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Africa and the Far East. During Bobby's absence, Larry opened "The Country Cat," a night club in San Jose, California. He booked artists into the club, as well as various dance halls in the area.

Tiring of the road, Bobby once again joined forces with Larry, who had stayed busy playing in California. Together they moved to Nashville where they were promptly hired by Barbara Mandrell. The move to Nashville also allowed them to renew many old friendships - particularly their friendship with Pete Drake. At "Pete's Place," Larry was fortunate enough to play rhythm guitar on the last album of his boyhood idols, Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant. Besides working as a studio musician, Larry also worked "behind the board" as a recording engineer on projects for Jerry Reed, Grady Martin, Freddy Fender and Little Richard, and many others.

Bobby eventually returned to the West Coast and continued to play in clubs and casinos, as well as playing on movie and television soundtracks. Now semi-retired, Bobby occasionally plays Hawaiian luaus and special events.

Larry stayed on in Nashville working the studios by day and clubs such as Faron Young's Jailhouse and The Country Godfather by night. He also traveled on the road with Ray Pillow, Justin Tubb, Linda Hargrove and others. During the 90's, he hosted "Classic Country," a daily radio show on WJKM in Hartsville, Tennessee. He resided in Tennessee with his wife, Linda, at "Black Forest Farms" - a 15-acre horse farm - where they raise registered Paint and Quarter Horses. He continued to play and jam with his many musician friends until his passing in June of 2005 when he lost his battle with cancer. Please visit Larry's Page.

The Black Brothers were inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in 1992.

 



Artists that Bobby and/or Larry have backed up on personal appearances:

 

Merle Haggard Bobby Bare
Bonnie Owens Freddie Powers
Willie Nelson The Collins Kids
Merle Travis Del Reeves
Tiny Moore Lily Tomlin
Tommy Duncan Martin Mull
Rose Maddox Hank Williams
Louise Mandrell Spade Cooley
Curly Fox Bob Morris
Webb Pierce Diana Trask
Johnny & Joanie Moseby Billy Walker
Patsy Cline Floyd Tilman
Eddie Kirk Tommy Sands
Big Jim DeNoon Stu Phillips
Thumbs Carlisle Eddie Dean
Larry Gatlin Hank Cochran
Patsy Montana Eddie Cochran
Red Murrell Johnny Western
Mel Carter Guy Madison
The Coasters Blackie Crawford
Dick and Dee Dee John Lee Hooker
Gene Vincent Bill Drake
Bobby Freeman Cal Smith
Don Cox Ray Price
Jim Reeves Steve Wariner
Ray Pillow Rusty Draper
Foy Willing & Riders of the Purple Sage Tex Williams
Dobie Gray Leo Sayers
Charlie Pride Justin Tubb
Red Sovine Tex Jenks Carman
Skeets McDonald Martha Carson
Roy Drusky  


Artists that Bobby and/or Larry have recorded with:

 

Shorty Joe Blackie Crawford
Arlie Duff Patsy Elshire
The Triplets The Five Whispers
The U.S. Six Hoyet Henry
The Country Cut-Ups Commander Cody
The New Riders of the Purple Sage Asleep at the Wheel
George Jones Don Cox
Doug Sahm The Texas Tornadoes
David Rogers Linda Hargrove
Larry Ballard David Allen Coe
Norton Buffalo Robert Gordon
Jerry Shelfer Shelly Streeter
Sonny Throckmorton Tommy Cash
Melba Montgomery Cy Coben
Linda Henson-Black Stoney Edwards
Slim Whitman Dave Younger
Kitaro David Gans
Alice Stuart Carl Brouse
Bill Kirchen California Cowboys
Rose Maddox Link Wray
Jimmy Luttrell The Jordanaires
Gary Paxton The Hoopii Brothers
Don Burnham Charlene Arthur


Movies and Soundtracks:

  • Bay Area Backroads (Soundtrack)
  • Hollywood Boulevard (Appearance & Soundtrack)
  • Roadie (Appearance & Soundtrack)
  • Blue Thunder, White Lightning (Soundtrack)
  • Biography: Lady Bird Johnson (Soundtrack)

Radio Shows:

  • Grand Ole Opry
  • Louisiana Hayride
  • Big D Jamboree
  • Prairie Home Companion
  • West Coast Live

Television Shows:

  • Hoffman Hayride w/Cottonseed Clark
  • California Hayride
  • Talent Prospector
  • The Les Malloy Show
  • The Del Courtney Show
  • The Blackjack Wayne Show
  • The Wilburn Brothers Show
  • Frank Darien's Dance Party
  • The Grand Ole Opry
  • Don Kirshner's Rock Concert
  • Wolfman Jack's Midnight Special
  • Police Woman