My favorite Albuquerque swing band, a selection from an album where they are performing the songs of Wiley and Jean. Who are they?
This duo are best remembered as the writers of the country standard ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again’, although both had solo careers before their successful partnership started in 1939. Wiley (b. Wiley Walker, 17 November 1911, Laurel Hill, Florida, USA, d. 17 May 1966; songwriter, vocals, fiddle, dancer) learned to play fiddle and buck and wing dance as a child, and began his career as an entertainer on touring tent shows in 1925. In 1932, he began working with Lew Childre in New Orleans (and later Birmingham) as the Alabama Boys. In 1937, they parted and Walker played briefly with the Swift Jewel Cowboys, before moving to Shreveport. Here, while working with the Shelton Brothers, he met Gene Sullivan (b. 16 November 1914, Carbon Hill, Alabama, USA, d. 24 October 1984; songwriter, vocals, instrumentalist). Sullivan was a professional boxer, but in 1932, he turned to country music. After learning guitar, he worked for a time with the Tune Wranglers, before joining the Lone Star Cowboys on KWKH Shreveport. When the Shelton Brothers left the Cowboys to form their own act, Sullivan went with them and first met and worked with Walker as musicians and comedians for the Sheltons. They eventually formed a duo in 1939 and worked radio stations in Fort Worth, Lubbock, and finally ended their careers in Oklahoma City. In 1941, they recorded ‘When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again’/‘Live And Let Live’ for Columbia Records. Their version achieved some local success but it would be the 1956 pop version by Elvis Presley that finally launched the song, which, in later years, has been recorded by numerous artists. In 1946, the duo registered their only chart entry, ‘Make Room In Your Heart For A Friend’, which became a number 2 US country hit. In the late 40s, they were regulars on Oklahoma City television but their careers ended in the early 50s. Sullivan enjoyed a solo Top 10 success in 1957 with his comedy number ‘Please Pass The Biscuits’. He had originally recorded it as a demo for Little Jimmie Dickens, but Columbia released his version in preference. Sullivan subsequently retired to run an Oklahoma City music store, but he made a few appearances with Walker until the early 60s. Walker died in 1966 but Sullivan, in later years, made a few solo appearances, outlasting his old partner until 1984. Some of their recordings were issued by Old Homestead after his death.