COVID-19: We have resumed very limited warehouse and shipping operations. Please see here for details.

Joe Maphis Biography

Otis Wilson Maphis, 12 May 1921, near Suffolk, Virginia, USA, d. 27 June 1986, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. His father taught him to play the fiddle as a child and he was performing at local dances by the age of 10. By the time he was 16, Maphis was a featured musician on WBRA Richmond, where he also played guitar, mandolin and bass. During the 40s, he starred on several top country shows, including Boone County Jamboree (later the Midwestern Hayride) (WLW Cincinnati), National Barn Dance (WLS Chicago) and Old Dominion Barn Dance (WRVA Richmond), where he first met his future wife Rose Lee (b. Rose Lee Schetrompf, 29 December 1922, Baltimore, Maryland, USA). She was singing and playing the guitar before she reached her teens and at the age of 15, as Rose Of The Mountains, she had her own show on radio in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1948, she met Maphis and they were soon married. They moved to Los Angeles in 1951, where they became regulars on Cliffie Stone’s Hometown Jamboree and later stars of the televised Town Hall Party from KFI Compton. Maphis also worked with Merle Travis on occasion and they recorded two duet albums together.

In the 50s, apart from their own recordings they worked as session musicians. Maphis, with his super-fast picking on his unusual double-necked guitar, was much in demand by both country and pop artists and he recorded with rockabilly singers such as Wanda Jackson and Rick Nelson, with whom he also toured. Maphis appeared with many of the major country stars, including Jimmy Dean and Jerry Lee Lewis on network television shows. From the 50s, for almost 30 years, he and Rose Lee toured with their own show, joined later by their three children, Jody, Dale and Lorrie. During this time they not only played in every American state but also in Europe and the Far East. They made their home in Nashville in the 60s, where Maphis’ multi-instrumental skills were much in demand for session work. He played the background music on several films and television series, includingThunder Road, Have Gun Will Travel, The Virginian andThe FBI Story. Their abilities won them the nickname of ‘Mr & Mrs Country Music’. Over the years, they recorded in their own right for several labels, including Capitol Records, Starday and CMH.

In 1960, Maphis gave 11-year-old Barbara Mandrell her first big break in country music when he included her on his show at the Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas (contrary to many reference books, although Mandrell referred to him as Uncle Joe, he was not her real uncle). Maphis, who was Bert Weedon’s favourite picker, became known as the King Of The Strings and ranks alongside the likes of great guitarists such as Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. After Maphis’ death in 1986, Rose Lee retired from the music business and went to work at Opryland.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

Filter Results