Prettiest Smokey Mountain Boy Comes To Iowa

     June Webb was born into a musical family in L’Anse, Michigan.  At an early age, the family moved to Miami, Florida, at which time the parents got June and her siblings (Shirley and Ford) involved in singing, dancing, and playing various musical instruments.

     June teamed up with her sister Shirley, when June was only six, and were known as the “Harmony Sweethearts.”  They were very successful, and found themselves performing in some of the swankiest hotels and other venues in and around Miami.  Being a quiet, private girl, even at a young age, ‘fame’ was never a pursuit of June.  Good country music, and good country singing, however was her goal.  By the time she was fifteen, her family decided to make the difficult decision to go full time in the entertainment world, but kepp the famil together and perform as a family.  They toured the country, and started being opening acts for a number of Grand Ole Opry stars.

     As June emerged as a ‘solo’ act, she had many memorable experiences in show business, not the least of them being signed with Roy Acuff as the group’s lead feamle singer.  She recorded for RCA in the mid-50’s, and found herself singing on the Grand Ole Opry.  She was booked into the top venues of country music, and performed with the top country music stars of the day.  Roy Acuff took a special liking to her talent, and signed her to Hickory Records, his own company.  This led to her traveling around the world with Acuff’s show, even to Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.  It was at this time that June received Billboard Magazine’s prestigious “Most Promising Female Country Singer of the Year” award.

     Chet Atkins was June’s record producer, and part of the ‘package’ was going on tour with other stars to perform and promote her new records.  Some of her fondest memories was opening for Jim Reeves.  One of the other opening acts was Don & Phil Everly.  She made close friends with the Everlys, and in her own words, “Here’s something you probably don’t know about the Everly Brothers and ‘Bye Bye Love.’  The song was rejected by over 30 other recording artists, including Elvis Presley, but the Everly’s turned it into a 2-million sold hit for Cadence Records.”  June was the lucky female to sing that song with the Everlys before it was released.  After touring with Jim Reeves, and becoming good friends, June was asked to join Reeves on the “Country Style USA Radio-TV Show,” which was a country music variety program produced by the U. S. Army.

     Hank Williams, Sr., also played a role in June Webb’s career.  He did not make his New Year’s Evening show in Charleston, SC, in 1953 because of a terrible ice storm, the show was canceled.  From there he was to to go to Canton, Ohio, the next day, and that’s where his story, and his life, ended.  Both shows were booked together, utilizing the same performers.  On the bill with Hank was Homer & Jethro, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Autry Inman, Red Taylor, Jack & Daniel, and at the top of the list, the Webb Sisters.  Buddy Killen was Hank’s bass player, and the legendary steel player on these shows was Don Helms.  Helms recalls, he drove to Charleston on the day of the show, but there was also an ice storm in Nashville, and it took him all day to complete the drive.  He pulled up to the auditorium in time to see the other musicians packing up their equi9pment.  “You missed a good one,” he recalls one of the musicians saying, indicating to him that a performance had already taken place.  Don then got back in his car and continued driving to Canton, where he learned that his friend Hank Williams, had died in the night.  “It capsized me when I heard that Hank had died,” Helms said.

     Buddy Killen was scheduled to play bass on the two shows.  An Alabama native living in Nashville, Buddy was on his way to a very successful career in country music, first as a musician and later as a music publisher.  In 1952, Buddy was 19 years old; he had already played bass for Hank Williams many times, as well as with other artists.  In September of that year, he married 17-year old country singer June Webb.  June and her 15-year old sister Shirley performed as the Webb Sisters then, and A. V. Bumford had booked the sisters as part of the Hank Williams Charleston-Canton package.  The promoter asked Buddy to drive June and Shirley to the shows, as well as play bass.  to sweeten the deal, Buddy says, the promoter even bought a new set of tires for Killen’s 1951 Pontiac.  En route, Buddy and the Webb Sisters encountered icy conditions and freezing rain.  “We slid off the road several times,” Buddy recalls of that drive.  Arriving at the auditorium at around show time, Buddy recalls seeing the musicians milling around on the sidewalk.  He and the girls were told that the show had been cancelled due to bad weather, so they drove on to Canton, Ohio.  “The weather was so bad, only a few people showed up in Charleston,” Buddy said.  “The situation was even worse in Canton.  Hank Williams was dead.”

     June Webb’s life in country music is one of those we seldom get to hear about.  She’s a very ‘private’ person, and though she enjoyed her moment in the spotlight, it wasn’t until now that her music is available again.  Not only will she be inducted into “America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame,” in LeMars, Iowa, this year, CD Universe Records has announced a reintroduction of her work via a new CD release that contains many of her hits.  “A Mansion On The Hill,” “To Be Lonely,” “Conscience Set Me Free,” “Love Has Come My Way,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Sweeter Than Flowers,” and many many more.  June was also a very accomplished songwriter, and co-wrote many hit songs with Justin Tubb, son of Ernest Tubb.


About bobeverhart

A life-time devotee of America's old-time rural country music, performing, recording, preserving, promoting, and writing about it.
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