Joe Maphis


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photograph of Joe Maphis

Otis Wilson (Joe) Maphis was born May 12, 1921 in Suffolk, VA. He and wife, Rose Lee Maphis during the 1950s and 1960s was ranked as one of show business' most successful husband - and - wife duos, due largely to Joe's distinctive, highly influential brand of guitar picking. His wife, Rose, was born December 29, 1922 in Baltimore, MD. Both became active in music at a young age: after playing guitar in a group with his family's group, The Railsplitters, at local square dances, in 1938 Joe became a full time musician, and not long after joined Sunshine Sue (Workman's) backing outfit, The Rangers, in Cincinnati, OH. With the group, he began to perfect his approach to playing, which favored hyperkinetic finger - picked melody lines over more basic chord accompaniment. Rose Lee, meanwhile, began singing on local radio in Hagerstown, VA at age 15 as a member of the girl group, the Saddle Sweethearts, and soon graduated to appearances in larger markets like Baltimore and St. Louis.
After serving in WWII, Joe returned to Virginia, where he briefly joined Sunshine Sue's radio jamboree, The Old Dominion Barn Dance, which also featured young singer Rose Lee Schetrompf, However, Maphis soon departed for Chicago; when he came back to Virginia in 1947, he took up the electric guitar and rejoined the radio program. He and Rose Lee soon began performing together on the air and on the road; however, in 1951 Merle Travis convinced Joe to move to California to work in television, and only after Rose followed a year later did the couple finally wed, In 1953, the couple cut their first sides, among them the self penned "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)", which has become a honky tonk standard.
Throughout the decade, "Mr and Mrs Country Music" (as they were dubbed) remained staples of the West Coast scene, and even as Rose turned her attentions to raising a family, Joe continued performing both as a solo instrumentalist and a highly regarded session musician. In 1954, he became one of the first performers to play a double necked guitar by adopting the Mos_ Rite Special, an instrument he helped design. Through his work on solo records like 1957 "Fire On The Strings" and on sessions for other country stars as well as rockers like Ricky Nelson and vocal groups such as The Four Preps, Maphis earned another nickname, "The King Of Strings." In addition to a number of duets with his young protégé Larry Collins of The Collins Kids, Joe also released a tenor banjo record, "Hi Fi Holiday For Banjo" in 1959. 2 years later, Rose followed with a self - titled solo collection of country standards.
In 1962, the couple joined with the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys for "Rose Lee and Joe Maphis", an album of bluegrass duets; later in the year, Joe released another solo effort, "King of the Strings." Two years later, he and Merle Travis teamed for a number of guitar duets, followed shortly by another collaboration with Rose titled "Mr And Mrs Country Music" along with another solo outing, "Hootenanny Star" In addition to a lucrative side career composing theme music for television programs, Joe released the solo offerings Golden Gospel in 1966 and New Sound Of Joe Maphis a year later.
The Maphis family moved to Nashville in 1968, and largely dropped out of music for a few years until Joe and the couple's eldest son Jody, released the LP "Generation Gap" in 1971. In 1977, He and Rose released two LPs and they were followed by 2 more albums in 1979 and 1980. Joe Maphis died from lung cancer in 1986 and his widow, Rose Lee Maphis left performing to work as a costumer at Opryland. Read more about Joe Maphis on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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