This strange sounding unit was the brainchild of a dedicated, if somewhat eccentric man namely Henry Harlin Smith (b. 16 May 1881, Spring Creek, near Calico Rock, Arkansas, USA, d. 14 October 1931). Smith, a qualified doctor, lived in Spring Creek and made his living as a surgeon for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. A keen naturalist, he was always despondent that his local area and the local musicians never received the publicity he reckoned they deserved and decided to see what he could do to help alleviate the problem. He had an idea for a musical talent contest and in January 1926, he arranged a fiddle competition at the larger community of Calico Rock, some three miles from his home. After the event he organised his Hoss-Hair Pullers from the various winners (gaining the name from the horsehair in the fiddle bows) and also formed a vocal group to support the fiddlers, which he called the Hill-Billy Quartet. After hiring a theatre at Hot Springs for several concerts, he succeeded in obtaining radio work on the powerful KTHS Hot Springs station in March 1926. This lasted until December that year when the long (180-mile) trips to Hot Springs proved too much for the members. They played nearer home for local events and dances and also for the railroad’s functions and in September 1926, they recorded six sides for Victor Records in Memphis. The records sold well in their local area but received little distribution or publicity elsewhere. They finally disbanded in 1930. The line-up generally featured only eight members but changed regularly as and when various members were available. It is reported that in all there were 13 musicians available to Dr Smith, who never played in the band himself. He held other contests and winners were often given to chance to play with the Hoss-Hair Pullers. Regular musicians included fiddlers Bryan Lackey, James Duncan, Owen Hunt, W. McLeary (who also played guitar), Luther Walker, and George Dillard plus Leeman Bone (guitar/vocals) and Ray Marshall (mandolin). The vocal group featured Grayton Bone, Roosevelt Garner, Hubert Simmons and Homer and Odie Goatcher. When the enthusiastic Dr. Smith was driving to Little Rock on 14 October 1931, he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died. Two of the band’s six sides ‘Where The Irish Potatoes Grow’ and ‘Going Down The River’ were included on County Records’Echoes Of The Ozarks Volume 2.
Share this page