A natural performer who could crack up even the most serious audience, Arval Albert Hogan hailed from remote Andrews, NC, where learning to entertain one's self was one sure way of avoiding boredom. He became half of the popular early country and bluegrass duo Whitey & Hogan, whose spirited reading of the outlaw spiel "Jesse James" was chosen for inclusion on the first volume of the Rounder label's important reissue series The Early Days of Bluegrass. The two singing partners met while working in the same cotton mill in Gastonia. Once the conversation got around to music, the new friends discovered they each had an ambition to perform. They began with playing in a series of churches in the Carolinas, building up the courage and the talent to audition for a new radio station when it opened its doors in Gastonia. The duo wound up with a program sponsored by a department store, which ran for 15 minutes during the midday. Another program featuring the duo was created as a remote broadcast from the window of a furniture store, where they would sit and pick. The talented friends picked up a loyal following in the Charlotte area with their expanded group the Briarhoppers, initially formed in 1935. Partner Roy "Whitey" Grant was skeptical and felt the listeners were there to get set and not miss a moment of the popular Lone Rangers broadcast, coming on moments after the duo was done. Nonetheless, the group became something of an institution in Charlotte that has lasted well beyond the popularity of the "Hi ho silver!" dude. The Cowboy label gave Hogan and his partner the first chance to record in the late '30s and despite limited distribution, the song "Jesse James" became one of their most requested numbers. It was a boost upwards for sure, leading to a chance to go to New York and cut for Decca, where a total of some 16 sides were eventually recorded. One of these records was one of the first versions of the old-time chestnut "Turn Your Radio On." Whitey & Hogan published their own song folio, Whitey & Hogan's Mountain Memories, in 1947. In 1949 and 1950, they also recorded for Sonora and continued a regular series of broadcasts and schoolhouse performances. Other gigs came via bookings by community groups and a theater circuit that sometimes engaged the group nightly for a month straight. The Briarhoppers finally broke up in 1953 after enduring a lack of much financial return for their barnstorming. Hogan said goodbye and moved to Florida, but after a period of separation decided he wanted to be back together with his old partner, but not on a musical basis. They wound up living next door to each other, both working as mail carriers for the post office. The resurgence in interest in bluegrass at the end of the 20th century has gotten these reluctant mailmen in its power, however, and by 1996, a re-formed Briarhoppers featuring Whitey & Hogan was busy touring and cutting new albums.
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