Monday, November 12, 2012

Bill Carlisle

I just wanted to take a moment and remember the late Bill Carlisle, who joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 14, 1953. Bill was a Grand Ole Opry member until he passed away on March 17, 2003, after 49 years of Opry membership.

Bill Carlisle was born in Briar Ridge, Kentucky but at the age of ten he moved with his family to Louisville. His father was a music teacher. Bill remembered listening to the Opry at an early age: "Dad taught do-re-me-fa notes in church, but us kids listened to the Grand Ole Opry on those battery-set radios with earphones. I don't know, to me it was always a great, great thing and I just felt that if I ever got on the Opry that was as far as I could go."

The Carlisle family band started on Louisville's WLAP radio. There was no pay involved and by the age of 22, he had his first record, "Rattlesnake Daddy" which was a hit on the Brunswick label. Bill worked with his brother Cliff and they moved around from radio station to radio station as they played out different areas. The journey ended at WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee as they became regulars on "Midday Merry-Go-Round." Bill had a comedy character called 'Hotshot Elmer' which he featured on the show.

In 1952, Bill recorded "Too Old to Cut the Mustard" which led him to receive an invitation to appear on the Opry's "Prince Albert Show." After that, this is how Bill remembered it, "From there is where we started negotiating for me coming to the Opry full-time. They set a date for me to come down here and I turned in my notice at Knoxville. But then they decided at the Opry that they were going to wait for a while. In order to save face, I couldn't go back to WNOX, I just started to write letters. I wrote letters to, like, Wheeling and Shreveport, and most of them said they weren't looking for anybody. I told my wife, I'm going to write a song called 'No Help Wanted' and sure enough, I did, only I mixed up a little romance in it, and we recorded it. We went to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport right after we recorded that song and in six weeks it was way up in the charts. Then we had 'Is That You Myrtle?' and 'Rough Stuff' and finally the Grand Ole Opry brought us in."

Over the years Bill would be known at the Opry as Bill Carlisle and the Carlisles, or as the Carlisles, depending on who was doing the announcing. His children Bill Carlisle, Jr and daughter Sheila were a main part of his group. In later years, Marshal Barnes would fill out the group. In the years after Marshall and Sheila, Joe Edwards and George Riddle would join Bill, Jr. to perform with Bill.

In September 2002, he along with Porter Wagoner, were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Bill's last Grand Ole Opry appearance was just 2 weeks before his death on March 17, 2003 at the age of 94.

November 18, 1978 would be the date for Bill Carlisle's 25th anniversary as an Opry member. Here is the running order of the show from that night.

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Stonewall Jackson (host): Washed My Hands In Muddy Water
Ernie Ashworth: The DJ Cried
Stonewall Jackson: My Favorite Sin

6:45: Rudy's
Jack Greene (host): Walking on New Grass
Jerry Clower: Claude Ledbetter Fishing With Dynamite
Jeannie Seely: Who Needs You
Jack Greene: Lord, I Need Somebody Bad Tonight

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Ole Slewfoot
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Billy Grammer: Kentucky
Charlie Walker: T for Texas
David Houston: Best Friends Make the Worst Enemies
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong with the Way that We're Doing it Now
Porter Wagoner: I'm Gonna Feed You Now/Big Wind's A Comin'/On A Highway Headed South

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball/Tennessee Central No 9/Sunshine Special
Jean Shepard: Saturday Night Sin
Charlie Louvin: Without Love, A Fancy Place to Cry
Vic Willis & Curtis Young: Cool Water
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan Dancers: Durango's Hornpipe
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For

8:00: Martha White
Grandpa Jones (host): Eight More Miles to Louisville
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya/Happy Cajun
Wilma Lee Cooper: I Shall Not Be Moved
Del Wood: Down Yonder
Grandpa Jones: Kitty Klide

8:30: Shephens
Hank Snow (host): In the Misty Moonlight
4 Guys: Let Your Love Flow
Jimmy Dickens: Take An Ol' Cold Tater
Bill Carlisle: Jack of All Trades
Lonzo & Oscar: Family Bible
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Hank Snow: Storms Never Last

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Jimmy C Newman (host): Thibodeaux & His Cajun Band
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Jeannie Seely: Don't Touch Me
Stonewall Jackson: My Favorite Sin
Charlie Walker: Lucille
Ernie Ashworth: You Can't Pick A Rose in December
Jimmy C Newman: Diggy Liggy Lo

10:00: Fender
Porter Wagoner (host): Ole Slewfoot
Skeeter Davis: He Will Be There
Vic Willis: Shenendoah
Porter Wagoner: Your Old Love Letters/Big Wind's A Comin'

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
Minnie Pearl: You Are My Sunshine
Billy Grammer: Georgiana Moon
Roy Acuff: Don't Make Me Go to Bed, And I'll Be Good

10:30: Trailblazer
Grandpa Jones (host): Little Ol' Gal A' Waiting
Jean Shepard: Saturday Night Sin
David Houston: Best Friends Make The Worst Enemies
Del Wood: Cattle Call
Grandpa Jones: Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms

10:45: Beechnut
Charlie Louvin (host): Store Up Love
Justin Tubb: Cold Brown Bottle
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan Dancers: Arkansas Traveler
Charlie Louvin: Warm, Warm Woman

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Merry-Go-Round of Love
4 Guys: We Make Beautiful Music Together/My Special Angel
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Lonzo & Oscar: You're Not Musically Inclined
Kirk McGee: Milkcow Blues
Hank Snow: As Love Goes

11:30: Acme
Jerry Clower (host): A Chandelier for the Church
Wilma Lee Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith/Cheated Too
Bill Carlisle: Worried Man Blues
Marshall Barnes: Tender Years
Jerry Clower: Comedy

Lester Flatt was scheduled to host in both segments that Grandpa Jones was hosting. Thanks for taking the time with me to remember Bill Carlisle.


  1. Wonderful to see this lineup and memories of The Jumping One. If I'm correct, Lester had been seriously ill about that time, either right before or right after, because he died the following spring.

  2. "Tender Years" was kind of a Marshall Barnes trademark at the Opry. And the Bill Carlisle-Marshall Barnes vaudeville show that took place backstage every week was often better than the show that was taking place onstage...and I'm only exaggerating a little. Marshall was a fine jeweler and ran a small side business out of his backstage locker. Bill would be down in the reception area and Marshall would be at the other end of the hall and you'd hear, "Marshall!" "Shut up, Bill! I'm trying to sell down here!" "MARSHALL!" "Bill, if you don't shut up I'm gonna come down there and bust you!" "MARSHALL!" "SHUT UP BILL!!" And on it would go all night long. Marshall Barnes was a very funny man but he was also a very kind man and I was honored to know him.

  3. Barry,

    I have never said this but I appreciate your first hand accounts of Opry doings. It sounds like you were around during the time I was able to start listening every weekend which was around 1980. I've listened ever since about 1970 but around 1980 I began recording and collecting notes an items connected to the Opry. Thanks for the memories.

    I remember Marshall Barnes well but never met him nor did I see him with Bill. By the time I started going to the Opry regular around 1990 he wasn't appearing with Bill much or at all. I hate to have to ask this but has Marshall passed on and if so, when?


    Knightsville, IN

  4. There is a great clip on YouTube of Marshall singing "Lonely Walls", taken from the Porter Wagoner show.

  5. I realize now that Marshall passed away in 2008. Somehow I had lost track of his passing.


  6. Fred, Bismarck:

    It's neat to have the story behind "No Help Wanted," one of the classics and a longtime personal favorite. Thanks, Byron.

    I always admired Carlisle's showmanship. The music, stand-alone (as on CD), can get repetitious and is best in smaller doses. About the best thing out on him is a 34-track collection of his Mercury material by Bear Family, "Busy Body Boogie."