b. Byron Harry Parker, 6 September 1911, Hastings, Iowa, USA, d. 6 October 1948. Parker’s career started as one half of the Gospel Twins, a duo who appeared regularly in the early 30s on a local station in Shenandoah, Iowa. Between 1934 and 1937, he worked with the Monroe Brothers, originally just as their programme announcer but he also sang bass in their gospel quartet. In 1937, he left the Monroes, and nicknaming himself the Old Hired Hand, he formed his Hillbillies, which included J.E. Mainer and banjoist Snuffy Jenkins, at WIS Columbia. Soon afterwards fiddler Pappy Sherrill joined but the group saw several changes of personnel. In 1940, he recorded 16 sides for Bluebird Records as Byron Parker’s Mountaineers and four further sides for DeLuxe in 1946. Parker mainly acted as announcer or MC and rarely performed but he was so good at selling things on the programmes that he was never without a sponsor. Someone allegedly once commented that if he had wanted, Parker could have sold used matches. His shows proved immensely popular and his regular closing ‘Goodbye, good luck, and may God Bless you everyone’ was known by thousands. Parker continued to lead a group until 1947 when, because of increasing heart problems, his doctor told him to drastically cut down on his workload and travelling. He finally settled for working as a station announcer at WFIX Columbia, which he did until his premature death at the age of 37. After his death, Jenkins and Sherrill, as a mark of respect to their dead friend, renamed the group the Hired Hands. Bill Anderson has always maintained that, as a boy, he was greatly influenced by Parker.
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