Cecil Soil Magazine March/April 2010 : Page 46

county voiceS deacon Brumfield – virtuoso of the dobro By Ava Voshell “D eacon” Brumfield’s motto in life was, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” The principle behind this adage may have been responsible for his nickname. Although Deacon was laid-back and unassuming in daily life, he could be demanding of his fellow musicians. Pushing for a class act, he insisted on a dress code of more formal attire for his band. When one of the fans remarked that he looked like a deacon of the church, the name stuck. And then when the pressure and discipline for excellence got a little much, a member of the band humorously moaned that deacon was the original steel driver. That too stuck, and he was often referred to as “Deacon, the Steel Driving Man.” Deacon accepted the monikers heaped on him with the grace and humor of a professional. Someone noted that the push for a class act paid off when, at the end of a show, the audi- ence gave rousing cheers for an over-the-top performance. They also called him Dobro Deacon. “He was one of the best,” said Bill Harris, member of the band. “He could play anything with strings. Deacon excelled with the old-time fiddle and harmonica but was a true master on the dobro.” Deacon on-stage antics; Burl Kilby in background. John Clayton, critic and professional in the music industry, said of Deacon: “I have enjoyed Deacons music for more years than I care to tell, going back to the WWVA Jamboree in the 40s and 50s. In my opinion, this man is truly king of the dobro.” Deacon was offered positions with Pee Wee King and Lonzo and Oscar, Opry stars in Nashville, and top acts in Country Music at the time. He declined and returned to Rising Sun and continued with the Main Street barber shop, which he had owned and operated since 1940. About this time in his career, Deacon joined Alex, Ola Belle and The New River Boys. Although no longer part of the Wheeling scene in person, his talent was featured on the airwaves. The New River Boys & Girls were able to broadcast live from Campbell’s Corner, Oxford, over the powerful radio stations WWVA in Wheeling, WCOJ in Coatsville and various other radio stations. This was before the expansion of TV, so radio was king of the airwave audiences. Deacon was known as a great perform- er. His rhinestone-studded guitar, energetic stage presence and on-stage antics kept the audiences jumping, according to the fans. He was a recording artist on New River Records and Starday Records of Nashville, 46 Subscribe online today at www.cecilsoilmagazine.com or call 410-658-3286 to order by phone! Tenn. He and his band recorded six volumes of audio tapes, three albums, a VHS video and numerous singles. He was born Marion F. Brumfield on March 10, 1919, and was a lifetime resident of Rising Sun. At age 9, Deacon won a talent contest for his performance on the harmoni- ca. From there, he taught himself to play other instruments and joined with local musicians to perform on weekends and local festivities. In 1941, he began his career with the North Carolina Ridge Runners. Deacon married Veronica “Bonnie” Marone from Wilmington, Del., in 1941. By the time their son, Warren “Butch” was born in 1945, his career was in full swing and he was performing with Frankie Moore and the Log Cabin Boys. From 1948-1950, the band was a big item on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Va. The station reached 26 states and was often referred to as “The Grand Old Opry of the North.” Deacon’s career in bluegrass and old time country music spanned six decades. He spent ten years performing at the New River Ranch and was a steady performer at Sunset Park for 23 years. Music critics ranked him one of the best in the world on the dobro, an acoustic guitar similar to the Hawaiian guitar. He won numerous awards for excellence over the years. Bonnie, Butch, and Deacon Brumfield, circa 1950s

County Voices: Deacon Brumfield

Ava Voshell

“Deacon” Brumfield’s motto in life was, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” The principle behind this adage may have been responsible for his nickname.Although Deacon was laid-back and unassuming in daily life, he could be demanding of his fellow musicians. Pushing for a class act, he insisted on a dress code of more formal attire for his band. When one of the fans remarked that he looked like a deacon of the church, the name stuck.<br /> <br /> And then when the pressure and discipline for excellence got a little much, a member of the band humorously moaned that deacon was the original steel driver.That too stuck, and he was often referred to as “Deacon, the Steel Driving Man.” Deacon accepted the monikers heaped on him with the grace and humor of a professional.Someone noted that the push for a class act paid off when, at the end of a show, the audience gave rousing cheers for an over-the-top performance.<br /> <br /> They also called him Dobro Deacon.“He was one of the best,” said Bill Harris, member of the band. “He could play anything with strings. Deacon excelled with the old-time fiddle and harmonica but was a true master on the dobro.” <br /> <br /> John Clayton, critic and professional in the music industry, said of Deacon: “I have enjoyed Deacons music for more years than I care to tell, going back to the WWVA Jamboree in the 40s and 50s. In my opinion, this man is truly king of the dobro.” Deacon was offered positions with Pee Wee King and Lonzo and Oscar, Opry stars in Nashville, and top acts in Country Music at the time. He declined and returned to Rising Sun and continued with the Main Street barber shop, which he had owned and operated since 1940.<br /> <br /> About this time in his career, Deacon joined Alex, Ola Belle and The New River Boys. Although no longer part of the Wheeling scene in person, his talent was featured on the airwaves. The New River Boys & Girls were able to broadcast live from Campbell’s Corner, Oxford, over the powerful radio stations WWVA in Wheeling, WCOJ in Coatsville and various other radio stations. This was before the expansion of TV, so radio was king of the airwave audiences.<br /> <br /> Deacon was known as a great performer.<br /> <br /> His rhinestone-studded guitar, energetic stage presence and on-stage antics kept the audiences jumping, according to the fans.<br /> <br /> He was a recording artist on New River Records and Starday Records of Nashville, Tenn. He and his band recorded six volumes of audio tapes, three albums, a VHS video and numerous singles.<br /> <br /> He was born Marion F. Brumfield on March 10, 1919, and was a lifetime resident of Rising Sun. At age 9, Deacon won a talent contest for his performance on the harmonica.<br /> <br /> From there, he taught himself to play other instruments and joined with local musicians to perform on weekends and local festivities. In 1941, he began his career with the North Carolina Ridge Runners.<br /> <br /> Deacon married Veronica “Bonnie” Marone from Wilmington, Del., in 1941. By the time their son, Warren “Butch” was born in 1945, his career was in full swing and he was performing with Frankie Moore and the Log Cabin Boys. From 1948-1950, the band was a big item on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Va. The station reached 26 states and was often referred to as “The Grand Old Opry of the North.” <br /> <br /> Deacon’s career in bluegrass and old time country music spanned six decades. He spent ten years performing at the New River Ranch and was a steady performer at Sunset Park for 23 years. Music critics ranked him one of the best in the world on the dobro, an acoustic guitar similar to the Hawaiian guitar. He won numerous awards for excellence over the years.<br /> <br /> Deacon’s steel guitar was featured as theme music by David Brinkley in the 1960 CBS-TV Special for Minor League Baseball. In 1961, a pinnacle of his success was when his instrumental, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight” reached the top ten on country music charts and was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame.<br /> <br /> Deacon owned and operated the Brumfi eld Barbershop on Main Street for over 50 years, most of that time in partnership with his son, Butch. He retired in the ‘70s, but then returned to music to form his own group, The Deacon Brumfi eld Band. The band consisted of Deacon, on the dobro and the fi ddle; Bill Harris as emcee, vocalist, and guitarist; Carmel Coleman on the banjo; Wayne Wright as vocalist and guitarist; and Ray Cowan on the bass. The group included other local musicians from time to time. They appeared twice each month at the Epics Lounge, Rising Sun and performed at various shows over the tri-state area.<br /> <br /> Deacon died in 1997 at the age of 77, but his music lives on in memory and in his recordings. His son, Butch, still owns and operates the barbershop on Main Street in Rising Sun. Butch has led and performed with his own band, The Epics, for 33 years. He has three sons, Kirk, Anthony, and Brian, who, as of yet, have not followed in the generational footsteps of family music. —CSM

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