b. 10 May 1911, Jenkins, Kentucky, USA, d. 1986. Killen learned to play guitar as a teenager and influenced by recordings of Jimmie Rodgers, he began performing in the late 20s, both as a solo artist and with local groups. He eventually formed his Western All Stars and played for many years at venues in Kentucky and Virginia. Killen’s raw traditional country singing, in styles that bore touches, without ever being imitations, of Hank Williams and Mac Wiseman, with proper country backing may well have led him to great success had he recorded in the late 40s or early 50s. He made no recordings until he was 55, then between 1966 and 1969, following their newspaper advertisement for singers, he recorded 20 sides for Western Ranch Music in Clintwood, Virginia. He gained some local success with material that ranged from ‘Crying Blues’ and ‘Worried Blues’, through to country weepies such as ‘The Little Blind Boy’ asking God for his sight, ‘Will The Pardon Arrive Too Late’ and a crippled boy making excuses for his drunken father in ‘They Call Him A Bum’. He retired from public performances in 1969, but years later was persuaded to make further recordings. However, before they were made, depression, caused by his wife’s sudden death, saw his own health deteriorate. He died in 1986 and is buried at Clintwood. In 1989, his recordings were reissued in album form by the German label, Binge. It is no fault of the artist that even their remastering failed to completely improve the poor tonal quality of some of the originals but for containing the only Killen recordings available, the album obviously is collectable.
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