Following in the same vein as popular sibling acts such as the Delmore Brothers, the, Callahan Brothers—consisting of the duo of Homer and Walter (who later adopted the sobriquets Bill and Joe for the sake of brevity)—made a name for themselves in the budding country music industry of the Great Depression-era.
Hailing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, in the county of Madison, Walter Callahan, born January 27, 1910, and his brother Homer, born March 27, 1912, grew up surrounded by the rich musical culture of the mountain folks. As they were in adolescence, the soon-to-be-famous Jimmie Rodgers was getting his start singing on the radio in nearby Asheville, and in the year of the Singing Brakeman’s demise, 1933, the Callahans got their own big break in the very same town. While singing and yodeling at an Asheville music festival, the brothers were discovered by a talent scout for the American Record Corporation, who invited them to New York for a session. They obliged, and had their first record date on January 2, 1934, a session which produced a hit with “She’s My Curly Headed Baby”. With a two-guitar accompaniment and a repertoire consisting of old sentimental songs such as “Maple On the Hill” to hokums like “Somebody’s Been Using That Thing” to straight blues like “St. Louis Blues”, they were able to produce a string of decently selling records during the times of economic depression. In addition to their work as a duet, the brothers also each recorded solo. Around the time of their recording debut, the duo also began appearing on Asheville’s WWNC, soon moving to WHAS in Louisville, and then to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. Walter retired back home for a brief period in the late 1930s, leaving brother Homer to continue solo for a time.
Reunited at the end of the 1930s, Walter and Homer changed their names to Joe and Bill, respectively, and went to Texas to begin performing on KRLD in Dallas. There, they became early members of the station’s Big D Jamboree when it debuted in the late 1940s. They also recorded transcriptions to be played on the Mexican border blaster stations, bringing their music to an even wider audience. In 1945, they made an appearance with Jimmy Wakely in the Western movie Springtime in Texas. They continued singing on the radio and on records into the 1950s. Also in the 1950s, Homer/Bill worked as manager to Lefty Frizzell. Walter/Joe retired back home once again by the end of that decade, this time for keeps, and became a grocer. He died in North Carolina on September 10, 1971. Homer stayed in Texas and in music for the rest of his long life, which came to an end on September 12, 2002.
Conqueror 8274 was recorded In New York City on January 3 and 2, 1934, respectively, the Callahans’ first sessions. Homer and Walter Callahan sing and yodel, accompanied by their own two guitars.
From the second day of the Callahan Brothers’ first sessions, the duo sings and yodels the lonesome song “I Don’t Want to Hear Your Name”.
On the reverse, the brothers sing a hot hillbilly take on W.C. Handy’s famous “St. Louis Blues”, cut on their first record date.