Binkley Brothers' Clodhoppers

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One of the differences between old-time music, bluegrass, and country would have to be considered an element of timing, so who better to deal with this situation than a pair of watch repairmen brothers?…
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One of the differences between old-time music, bluegrass, and country would have to be considered an element of timing, so who better to deal with this situation than a pair of watch repairmen brothers? The Binkley Brothers' Clodhoppers were a popular and historic Nashville string band that came along in the early days of radio, perfect timing in terms of being on the steadily moving second hand of new musical developments. But many listeners might be attracted to this group not because of solid musical reasons, but because of the combo's ridiculous name, or even better, some of the totally bizarre photographs of the group that have survived. A photograph of Binkley Brothers' Clodhoppers throws down a definite challenge. Is there a photo of a group that is as weird-looking as this bunch in all the annals of outlandish '80s punk bands or far out and fruity '60s psychedelic bands? The answer would inevitably be: nay, nay. Beginning with guitarist Tom Andrews on the far left, we have a person whose face makes Rondo Hatton look like Cary Grant. Hatton was a low-budget horror attraction from the '40s, whose face was so horribly deformed from a disease that he saved the studio bean counters the cost of a makeup artist. Hatton never appeared wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat that looks like it had been run over by a wagon several times, however, and this just increases the gruesome effect. The Binkley brothers could be said to look like "normal hillbillies," if such an idea can be swallowed, complete with overalls, patched jeans, corncob pipes, and dusted-up chapeaus. Guitarist and frontman Jack Jackson doesn't seem to fit in at all, however. He is dressed neatly in a suit and bow tie, is seated while the others are standing, and in summation looks as if he was dropped into the picture by some kind of matter transformation device. Jackson was actually something of a hired gun, brought in to do vocals on all of the Binkley Brothers' Clodhoppers recordings, but appearing with the group live only occasionally. He was apparently popular on his own over Nashville radio in the early '30s and was known as "the strolling yodeler," although if the Binkley Brothers were any indication of Tennessee's population of that time, it might have been a wiser idea to run, not stroll. Amos Binkley was born in 1895 in Cheatham County, TN, and his younger brother Gale Binkley came along one year later. They formed their group and began appearing on the Grand Old Opry with it in 1926. The combo caught on solidly and remained popular on several competing Nashville radio stations, the musicians dashing back and forth across town to fit the needs of broadcasting schedules. One of the group's best records is the hilarious, pleading "Give Me Back My 15 Cents," a song that was quite popular in the late '20s and was performed by other early Opry groups as well, including both Uncle Dave Macon and the McGee Brothers. Another surviving vintage recording from the Binkley Brothers, with a vocal by Jackson once again, is "I'll Rise When the Rooster Crows," a ditty that has been known to get the most stubborn sleeper out of bed. The County label reissued some of these recordings on the series Nashville: The Early String Bands, other tracks are available on a Yazoo compilation entitled Cornshucker's Frolic, Vol. 1.