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Joe Maphis


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Otis Wilson (Joe) Maphis was born May 12, 1921 in Suffolk, VA. He and wife, Rose Lee Maphis during the 1950s and 1960s was ranked as one of show business’ most successful husband - and - wife duos, due largely to Joe’s distinctive, highly influential brand of guitar picking. His wife, Rose, was born December 29, 1922 in Baltimore, MD. Both became active in music at a young age: after playing guitar in a group with his family’s group, The Railsplitters, at local square dances, in 1938 Joe became a full time musician, and not long after joined Sunshine Sue (Workman’s) backing outfit, The Rangers, in Cincinnati, OH. With the group, he began to perfect his approach to playing, which favored hyperkinetic finger - picked melody lines over more basic chord accompaniment. Rose Lee, meanwhile, began singing on local radio in Hagerstown, VA at age 15 as a member of the girl group, the Saddle Sweethearts, and soon graduated to appearances in larger markets like Baltimore and St. Louis.
After serving in WWII, Joe returned to Virginia, where he briefly joined Sunshine Sue’s radio jamboree, The Old Dominion Barn Dance, which also featured young singer Rose Lee Schetrompf, However, Maphis soon departed for Chicago; when he came back to Virginia in 1947, he took up the electric guitar and rejoined the radio program. He and Rose Lee soon began performing together on the air and on the road; however, in 1951 Merle Travis convinced Joe to move to California to work in television, and only after Rose followed a year later did the couple finally wed, In 1953, the couple cut their first sides, among them the self penned “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)”, which has become a honky tonk standard.


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