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Top 50 Groups/Duos: #45 – Homer And Jethro

April 4, 2009

Members: Henry D. Haynes and Kenneth C. Burns

If anyone is wondering where the concept of the parody really took off, it was with these guys right here. Henry Hayes and Kenneth Burns, aka Homer and Jethro, were famous for their satirical material throughout the 1940s to the 1960s. Now members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, this Grammy winning duo is considered to be one of the most effective acts of the time, adding not only a concept of enjoyment to country music for fans outside the genre, but also a feeling of humor and mutual respect among themselves and those whos material they decided to take on.

The comedic masterminds met when they were both 16 at a radio audition in 1936 in Tennessee. They originally dawned the names Junior and Dude (pronounced doodee) but were renamed Homor and Jethro by the radio station’s program director after he found their names forgettable. The duo eventually became regulars on the Cincinatti based Renfro Valley Barn Dance which helped their local careers take off.

After the two were separated by two different stands after being drafted in WWII, they eventually reunited in Knoxville, Tennessee in the late 1940s to rebuild their growing career, and it would in fact grow even larger from their. They began singing local radio shows, taking on hillbilly versions of pop hits of the time and earning themselves a reputation as a comedy/music act. Following several appearances they were originally singed to King Records working as both recording artists and backing artists until a controversy over song rights led them to be dropped. They were later fired from their radio program at WLW in 1948 and made the move to Missouri to try and recover.

While there the duo took a spot on KWTO-AM and joined fellow starts Chet Atkins and The Carter Family as regulars. The duo’s real move to parody singing came when they were signed to RCA Victor in 1949. At the suggestion of the labels A&R man Steve Sholes the duo moved their comedic program towards parodying popular songs of the time, most penned by Burns who was the real comedian of the duo. Their first parodied release was of the highly praised hit “Baby it’s Cold Outside”, with June Carter lending her vocals. The song’s original composer Frank Loesser gave the duo permission to take the song on, provided they release an apology on the label.

The duo’s career slingshotted from their, leading them to massive touring and several successful albums. They also served as backing artists for Chet Atkins on his major tours. One of the duo’s biggest highlights came in 1959 at the Grammy Awards. The duo took home an award for their parody of “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton titled “The Battle of Kookamonga”, an award that would bring their national popularity to new levels as they continued to take on popular new and old hits.

Their later career had the two becoming more sophisticated with their work, eventually landing them a gig with Kellogg’s where their coined the catch phrase “Oooh! That’s corney!” and earned a more expanded audience outside of country music. After Hayne’s passed away, Burn’s attempted to keep the duo alive with replacement Ken Eidson, which resulted in a short lives success. Burn’s would die in 1989. The comedic duo were officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, slating their place in the genre as one of it’s greatest duos not just duo to their popularity and musical prowess, but duo to their ability to blend humor and respect and music and comedy into such a flawless combination that to this day they remain an influential part of the music’s timeline.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul W Dennis permalink
    April 15, 2009 12:16 am

    I think this duo belongs much higher on the list.Both were superlative musicians, especially Jethro Burns and both were frequent session men for RCA. They issued several instrumental projects, both as a duo and as parts of larger groups

    Jethro Burns toured with Steve Goodman for several years

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