From the perspective of bluegrass music history, certainly the best known group with this name is the one that grew out of the musical partnership of two young men who played old-time music in the mid-'30s. Odus Maggard was born near Hazard, KY, in 1915, and played both guitar and banjo as well as singing. Woodrow Roberts hailed from Glaymorgan, VA, where he was born in 1912. Filled out by several different fiddlers, the Southern Melody Boys recorded for both Bluebird and Decca, the sides for the latter label originally released under the name of Odus and Woodrow. Some of the Bluebird sides were part of a series released by Montgomery Wards, distributed through both their stores and catalogs. The group performed material handed down from their parents such as "Wind the Little Ball of Yarn" as well as original songs such as "Down in Baltimore" and "Back in California," written by Maggard, who dropped out of performing in the late '30s, ringing the death knell for the band. He was not overly fond of their gigs and their boozy honky-tonk atmosphere, and wound up storming out of a Harlan County dance after a brawl broke out. Maggard became a barber but continued to play music whenever someone wasn't needing a shave, returning to recording during the folk revival of the '70s. His former partner Roberts went to work in the steel mills of Kentucky, then picked up the fiddle, which he has played off and on ever since. He also began playing electric guitar, but limited his playing mostly to church activities. Unfortunately for musical archivists seeking some sort of sensible conclusion to their research, this is a band name that has proven irrestible. Another well-known Southern Melody Boys which has absolutely nothing to do with the '30s bunch is the back-up band for rockabilly performer Hayden Thompson, but that's not the end of it by any means. A Texas swing band with twin fiddlers was touting the same name in 1931, perhaps inspiring the Michigan string band who used the name half a century later. But the group featured on a track on the highly-acclaimed Sing Out! CD-box set Rhythm of the Mountains is the band featuring Maggard and Roberts. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi

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